Monday, December 31, 2007

When You Stop You Slow

It's been a great holiday filled with visits by friends and family. It's also been one of over-indulging in calorie-rich foods. Can't wait for those temptations to go away on Wednesday.

After taking a full week off the week of the 10th, I put in a lowly 30 miles the following week and then 54 last week. I ended the week with a pretty difficult speed workout, my first hard running since CC Nationals on December 8th. Going from zero miles one week to 54 miles two weeks later was easy.

The week off had little if any impact on my endurance, but I did notice during Saturday's workout that taking time off will impact your speed much more than endurance.

I hooked up with coach Tom and Mike Sayenko and Mike Heidt, the other two Trials qualifiers from Washington for a tempo run around Green Lake in Seattle. It was a late start for me -- 3pm. Literally as I pulled into the parking lot ay Green Lake it started to rain as if on queue.

Our workout was a 10-mile tempo run witht he first 7 miles at 5:25 pace and the last three in 5:15s. Not having run hard for three straight weeks I didn't know what to expect. The wind was gusty in places and the rain was pouring. Temps were in the high 30s. A very chilly run. At mile 3 my shoelace came undone. So I reluctantly stopped to tie it and spend the next four miles catching up to Heidt. That meant running 5:12-5:15s from mile 3-10. While I was tight due to the cold and working harder to hit those times than I would have had to normally, I felt strong and felt stronger as I went.

I hit or beat all my splits and was very happy with the workout not to mention tired. The worst part was the two-mile cool down in the bitter cold. I had shed my jacket at Mile 7 and didn't get it back until I reached my car.

It was great running with the Mikes. They are younger and more talented but it serves as a good measuring stick for me.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Running Again

After taking a full seven days off from any and all running, I'm easing back into things this week. I feel completely refreshed and re-energized both physically and mentally. The key will be to not go crazy and truly ease back into things. I'm treating this week as basically another rest week. I ran 4 miles on Monday, rested yesterday and ran 6 miles today. I'll keep alternating days of running and resting and increasing mileage each day by two miles. That will put me at 28 miles for this week and 44 for the next.

Once the New Year hits I'll be running 6-7 days a week again buliding mileage back up into the 70s and 80s.

First race of the year will be the Club Northwest Resolution Run 5k on New Year's Day. I haven't run a 5k in more than 15 years so it will be interesting to see how that "sprint" goes.

So far this break has really provided me the renergizing that I needed after a very long and challenging season of running in 2007.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ragnar's Del Sol Relay

I know it's my rest week but I can't help but think about the 2008 season.

I've committed to run the Ragnar's Del Sol relay in late February as part of the Fast Running Blog (FRB) team ( They finished second in last year's race but they've put together a team this year that should make a serious run at victory and a course record.

I loved the 2007 Hood to Coast relay so much that when the FRB approached me about running on their team for the Del Sol, I couldn't resist.

Ragnar's has four relays they run throughout the country including one they just started this year here in Washington. They operate much like the Hood to Coast relays do and serve as a great relay opportunity for the myriad teams who get turned away by Hood to Coast each year.

If nothing else, these relays serve as very good back to back to back speed workouts and great prep for the upcoming spring track season. It's also a great opportunity to spend 24 hours with a bunch of freakish runners like myself.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Time to Rest

There is a time to run and a time to rest.

I've been running non-stop for more than 2.5 years. During that time I've run eight marathons, two half marathons and numerous shorter races ranging in distance from 8k to 15 miles. Just in the last 65 days, I've run two marathons plus two cross country races. I am spent physically. More imporantaly, I'm spent mentally.

I have not enjoyed running for the last few weeks. In fact, there were several days since the Trials that I ran simply out of discipline and not out of desire. That's not a great thing.

The good news is that I'm going out on a high note after a solid CC race in Ohio over the weekend. That's much better than going into a rest cycle on a down note or injured.

My last day of running was Sunday when I ran 15 miles in Ohio before flying back home. I won't run at all this week and next week I won't run hard and I won't run more than 10 miles in any one outing. I'm thinking maybe 30 miles next week, all of them nice and easy.

Assuming that is the rest and refreshment I need, I will start building up the miles again and slowly work in some faster workouts. So far, I haven't missed the daily run but it's only been a day and a half. My hope is that by next week, I'll be itching to get back out there again.

To really train hard and improve, you have to hunger. Right now, I feel like I just ate Thanksgiving dinner. And that is OK.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Race Report: 2007 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships

I've been a blogging slacker but who knew Ohio wouldn't have internet access. I just got back to Seattle late last night from West Chester, Ohio where I ran for Club Northwest in the USATF Club Cross Country National Championships. Here's my race report:

So this was my second cross country race in 17 years. Now I remember why I enjoyed cross country so much more than track in high school. Too bad I only had one year of CC in high school.

We previewed the course Friday and it was covered with 2-3 inches of snow which had been packed down by hundreds of other runners who had previewed the course earlier in the morning. But the temperature warmed and it rained all night long.

When we arrived this afternoon at around 12:30 the course was a disaster. It was windy, 35 degrees and threatening to rain. The Men's Open race was the last of four races and the frozen tundra of Friday was the sloppiest, muddiest thing I had ever seen. Pigs would have thought it too messy. Fortunately I bought a pair of spikes and put some 1/ 2 inchers in for good measure.

The course was two full laps around Voice of America Park in West Chester, Ohio plus a third lap that was slightly shorter. The start and the finish were slightly uphill, although uphill in Ohio is basically flat.

We warmed up as a team which is something I really enjoyed and missed from my high school CC days. An easy three miles was plenty. I joked with the rest of the guys that we marathoners aren't used to such a lengthy warmup. I felt pretty good during the warmups and the strides felt fine as well. But, I was a bit nervous. It had been so long since I ran CC in high school that I had forgotten a lot of the strategy that made it so much fun. Plus, every other guy on my team had run collegiate cross country, most of them for the University of Washington. So I was an old rookie.

One big difference from high school was that we had nearly 500 runners who started the race. The start must have looked like a scene out of Braveheart when the gun went off. Another first was that I didn't even wear my watch so I have no idea what any of my splits were. Time is irrelevant in cross country so it seemed pointless to wear a watch. With all the mud, I wouldn't have been able to see it anyway. Plus, I wanted to run off of feel.

By race time, it had warmed up, the wind had died to just a light breeze and the sun was trying to peek through. I ditched my skull cap but stuck with my gloves and the long sleeve tech shirt underneath the singlet. Good choice.

My goal was to finish in the top 100. That was a fairly random number and I picked it before I found out there were so many runners. My strategy from the start was to stay in the back of the front third and just pick people off who thought it was a good idea to sprint the first 800 meters. My marathon strength and endurance was going to be a huge asset on this course so I just needed to run smart and be patient. Any race that becomes a track meet will always be to my disadvantage.

When the gun went off, it was a crazy scene. The first 800 meters was nearly 100 yards wide but closed quickly after that to a pretty consistent 10'-12' wide. For the first mile or so it was so congested in the middle of the pack that I had to really slow down to avoid barreling into people. That was kind of distressing as it certainly impacted my time without saving me much energy.
By mile 2, it was still crowded but you could pass people if you were sneaky and determined. It was at mile 2 that we encountered our first hay bale. Yes. We had four hay bales we had to jump over each lap. Since they don't have hills in Ohio, they decided to make it a Midwestern steeplechase to add a little excitement. I only saw one person bite the dust on the hay bales. I guess running in muck for six miles can make hay bales look like brick walls.

At the end of two miles, I was starting to feel stronger. I had passed all of my teammates except one (he being Mike Sayenko who finished 29th in the Olympic Trials) and felt like I was at a pace I could easily maintain. I kind of wish I had worn a watch only so I could look back and see how consistent I was thorughout the race. I felt like I was getting stronger throughout which of course is the opposite of how I feel in a marathon.

I continue to be amazed at how many really good runners don't run the tangents. This course has many twists and turns and provided ample opportunity to make the race muh longer than 10k. The mud made tangential running a bit more challenging but the toll this course took on the body made it all the more important to make it as short as possible even if it meant running through a mud puddle. Fortunately, by running the tangents I was able to find what precious little grass there was left to run on.

At mile 4.5 you start the final, shorter lap to the finish. I was feeling very strong until I rolled an ankle in a mud hole. It sent a pain all the way up my leg but I kept going as the pain was brief and I didn't appear to have actually hurt anything.

By now the field was thin enough that you could pass anyone you had the energy to pass. With a mile or so to go, I felt fantastic and really focused on reeling as many people in as I could. I saw two guys in blue jerseys ahead of me and that they were two guys from a rival running club in Oregon so I passed them only to realize they were two guys from Boston Athletic Association. Oh well. A double pass is a double pass.

Then I saw one other guy I knew from the Seattle Running Company. He beat me at the Super Jock and Jill and there was no way I was going to let it happen again. However, I have a rule. I don't pass anyone unless I can keep them behind me so I waited for about a quarter mile and then blew by him. He put up no fight.

The finishing chute was nearly 400 meters long. This was new territory for me. Kicking at the end of a race was a distant memory from my high school track days. So I had no idea what I would have left. So I let it all loose with 400 meters to go and wound up passing ten guys in that final 400m. The last guy I passed tried to take me with about 10 meters to go but I found an extra gear and my chest crossed the line before his. One problem though. My time chip was on my back foot and his was on his front foot so while my chest crossed first, his chip beat me by .1 of a second. Now I know why they had us wear a chip on each foot. Oh well.

Using that extra gear I had came at a price. After crossing the finish I laid down and tried to catch my breath. I had all the energy in the world left but that last kick really put me in oxygen deprivation mode.

I finished in 34:13 which was good enough for 97th overall and 76th among scoring runners. I was the second scorer on my team beating out three guys on my team who are sub 30-minute 10kers. The winning time was 31:46 and then the rest were all in the 32s and higher. The slower, more tactical race definitely helped me out. I think if there had been hills it would have helped me even more but I gained a renewed love for cross country and a bunch of fresh experience.

I was very happy with my race. Cross Country is a very unique animal and I ran as smart as I did hard. In hindsight, I could have gone out faster and quite easily dropped my time into the high 33s, but experience will help me recognize that sooner and have greater confidence in my kick. I would also like to further test my ability to start a bit faster to get farther up in the pack, but do so without jeopardizing the rest of the race.

I'm taking two weeks off. I need a break. Two marathoner and two cross country meets in 65 days is a lot. The good news is that I'm finishing a training cycle that has lasted 2.5 years and I'm doing it on a high note.

I'm looking forward to Cross Country Nats next year as they will be just a few hours from my house in chilly Spokane, Wa.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Unfortunate Reality of Olympic Trials Changes

So I had the chance to think about the changes a bit more and after more thought, here's my take on each of the USATF changes:

Eliminating the 5k Standard -- It was a dumb move to add them in and a great move to take them out. The 5k distance has absolutely no relevance to the marathon. I would have liked to see them kill the 10k standard as well because I'm a believer that you should have to run the event you are qualifying for. But at least the 10k has a slightly greater predictive value to the marathon than the 5k.

Adding the Half Marathon Standard -- While this does go against my argument that you should have to run the event you qualify for, I'm supportive of this largely because a) it is much more predictive than the 10k and b) it is consolation to the marathoner who may not be able to make the new marathon time standard. In other words, it may be easier to make the 1:05 standard than the 2:19 standard.

Eliminating Aided Courses -- Despite the fact I qualified for the Trials on what the USATF has deemed an aided course (St. George), I agree with the decision. HOWEVER, I think it's wholly unfair to make some courses that don't meet the USA/World Record standard (limits net elevation loss and requires start and finish be within ~7 miles of one another) exempt from this new rule. The course either meets the record criteria or it doesn't. But instead, the USATF is playing god by picking and choosing which courses will be exempted from the list of non-qualifying courses. Already on the exemption list are Boston and New York. I'm certain the Twin Cities Marathon, site of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 US Marathon Championships will get an exemption as well? The explanation from the USATF is that NY and Boston don't generally yield fast times. That is actually a true statement, but let's be real. This is about money. I am no fan of a few people sipping mai tais at a meeting in Hawaii making arbitrary decisions as to which marathons are in and which are out.

Although they haven't named the courses on the complete exemption list you can almost guarantee that St. George, Top of Utah, Ogden, Deseret News, California International, Los Angeles, Grandma's and San Diego Rock and Roll will no not be on it. I'm no lawyer, but it will be interesting to see if anyone challenges this under antitrust laws.

Lowering Time Standard to 2:19:00 -- Any time standard is arbitrary by it's very nature. 2:19 is no less arbitrary than 2:22 except for the hundreds of marathoners who are close to 2:22 but nowhere near 2:19. On one hand, lowering the time standard could be an indication that US elite marathoners are simply running faster and therefore qualifying times are lowered to reflect that. But before we all get too excited about how great of a marathon nation we are, let's not forget that only seven years ago we qualified only one man (and only one woman) for the Olympic Games marathon. A good couple of years and a fantastic Trials do not a marathon nation make. Under the new marathon qualifying time, Brian Sell, now an Olympian, would not have qualifed in 2004 and would have likely given up running altogether. Jason Lehmkuhle, the 5th place finisher this year and second alternate for the Olympic team, would not have qualified for this year's Trials under the new standard. His time in Twin Cities in 2006 was 2:19:03. He would have had to either appeal or run another race to qualify. Trent Briney is the poster child for "sub-elites." He qualified for the 2004 Trials in a pedestrian time of 2:21:10 and finished in 4th place that year in a truly remarkable time of 2:12:35. He was one second per mile away from being an Olympian.

My point is that I hope we aren't raising the bar too quickly. As a country, we've had a couple good years and one great Trials. Perhaps we should get a few more under our belt before we start dismissing the Brian Sells (3rd place), Jason Lehmkuhles (5th place) and Trent Brineys of the world.

Monday, December 3, 2007

2012 Olympic Trials Marathon Qualifying Standard Tightened Significantly

Big news out of the annual USATF LDR meetings in Hawaii last week.

The committee has made four significant changes:
  1. Gotten rid of the "A" and "B" standards and moved to one standard. All who make the one standard get expenses paid for just as "A" standard athletes did in years previous.
  2. That new standard for men is 2:19:00
  3. "Aided" courses will no longer be considered qualifying races for the Trials. Basically, all eligible courses will have to be American-record eligible which means the start and finish must be within 7.9 miles of each other and courses that are signficantly net downhill courses will be excluded. There are two stated exceptions to this rule: the New York and Boston marathons since they rarely yield fast times. Ineligible are courses such as St. George, Top of Utah and the International/Sacramento Marathon. A complete list of exceptions will be published by the USATF soon.
  4. They dropped the 5k qualifier and added a half marathon qualifier of 1:05.
As a guy who qualified for the 2008 Trials on the St. George course, I will repeat what I have said elsewhere: I am completely fine with this. As long as the rules are fair and reasonable and well documented in advance, then I am completely fine with it.

More than anything, this change is an indication that American distance running has reached new heights. Ryan Hall and many, many others proved in November that this country is back on the world marathon scene. The Trials is a reward and an opportunity for the country's best to have a shot at running in the Olympics and the field of runners who qualify should always reflect that. With improvement in the overall US distance running field comes with it a need to tighten the standard it is measured by.

I have no idea if I am capable of a 2:19 under the new guidelines. I am not right now and don't know if I have the time or, frankly, the desire to put in the work necessary to *maybe* yield a 2:19. What may be more likely is a 1:05 half marathon esepcially since I am trying to focus the next six months on getting faster at shorter distances.

My friend and fellow Trials qualifier Paul Petersen has posted his thoughts on this as well:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ryan Hall Journal

I have been a major slacker when it comes to posting on this blog. The holidays and work and family have had me all tied up, but in a good way.

I was on the NYRR site this morning looking to buy some Trials gear (all sold out) and found a great journal posting from Ryan Hall. In this day in age of cocky, overpaid, self-centered athletes, it is a breath of fresh air to read such an entry from such a talented individual. Keep in mind that Ryan is the king of our sport right now. Name one other king of sport who has the humility, focus and gratitude that this young man has.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Josh Rohatinsky Podcast

Josh Rohatinsky recently did a podcast on a popular running site, I think Josh's story is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, we both graduated from BYU and second he was the top debut marathoner in this year's Olympic Trials and one of the few guys to even finish the race who qualified on a 10,000 meters time. He was the 2006 NCAA Cross Country champion. He is has PRs of 13:25 in the 5,000 meters and 27:55 in the 10,000 meters.

In this podcast, he talks about his young professional running career, his training with two of the most heralded coaches in running -- Alberto Salazar and Ed Eyestone -- and how his faith and family help him run.

There is also a good write-up on what inspired him to run when he was young.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Golden Gate Bridge

I've been dleiinquent in my postings. Something about crazy travel and lots of work to do. Speaking of travel, I spent the last two days in San Francisco and had the opportunity to run along the shores of the Bay this morning. I ran along Embarcadero all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. It was about 6 miles out and 6 miles back. It was a gorgeous morning except for the bright yellow booms along the entirety of the shoreline mopping up after the unfortunate oil spill that happened recently. Really sad to see all the beaches closed. But SF is a beautiful place to run. I expected more hilliness but I managed to find the flattest part of the city. The best thing was that I escaped the dreaded hotel treadmill. Oh how I hate treadmills.

Still no word on the Ryan Shay autopsy findings. It has crossed my mind a couple of times whether or not I shoudl get tested. I'm trying not to get caught up in the media hype about testing athletes but at the same time, it scares me a bit. My dad, a physician, has told me what tests I would need to get. I haven't decided what to do.

I'll be better about my posts the rest of the week.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

5th and 50th

As I was walking in NYC this evening looking for a place to eat, I found myself a block away from Rockefeller Center where the Trials began on Saturday. I took the opportunity to retrace the morning from the time I got off the bus to the time the gun went off.

I eventually got to the starting line at 50th and 5th Ave. where the white tape still remains. It was cool. But I again thought of Ryan Shay and how this was the last starting line he ever crossed. I stopped at the spot where I saw my father-in-law who took a redeye flight to arrive from Spokane on Saturday and flew back that night...just to see me. So many great memories.

I was also looking more closely at the splits data from the race. I actually held on longer than I had originally thought. Here are my splits for each 5k, my overall pace and my overall place at each 5k.

5k Segments Cumulative Place
5k – 17:04 (5:29/m) (17:04) (5:29/m) 75th
10k – 16:23 (5:16/m) (33:27) (5:23/m) 101st
15k – 16:50 (5:25/m) (50:17) (5:23/m) 102nd
20k – 17:07 (5:30/m) (1:07:24) (5:25/m) 103rd
Half – 3:44 (5:28/m) (1:11:08) (5:25/m) 103rd
25k – 17:01 (5:28/m) (1:24:25) (5:26/m) 101st
30k – 17:24 (5:36/m) (1:41:49) (5:28/m) 90th
35k – 18:00 (5:47/m) (1:59:49) (5:30/m) 85th
40k – 20:42 (6:40/m) (2:20:31) (5:39/m) 88th
26.2 – 10:10 (7:28/m) (2:30:41) (5:45/m) 90th

It was really not until the final 7k where i reallt fell apart. Through 35k I was still on pace to finish in very respectable 2:24. That still would have only been good enough for 85th. The more telling piece of data is that my meltdown over the last 7k cost me only 5 spots. Plenty were melting behind me.

Teammate Mike Sayenko ran an unbelievably steady race. Here are his splits:

Mike Sayenko
5k Segments Cumulative Place
5k – 17:02 (5:29/m) (17:02) (5:29/m) 56th
10k – 16:00 (5:09/m) (33:02) (5:19/m) 52nd
15k – 16:12 (5:13/m) (49:14) (5:17/m) 53rd
20k – 16:25 (5:17/m) (1:05:39) (5:17/m) 53rd
Half – 3:33 (5:11/m) (1:09:12) (5:17/m) 53rd
25k – 16:19 (5:15/m) (1:21:58) (5:17/m) 48th
30k – 16:24 (5:17/m) (1:38:22) (5:17/m) 36th
35k – 16:27 (5:18/m) (1:54:49) (5:17/m) 31st
40k – 16:33 (5:20/m) (2:11:22) (5:17/m) 27th
26.2 – 7:13 (5:18/m) (2:18:35) (5:17/m) 29th

Amazing steadiness.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Central Park -- Lap 6

Crazy thing happened on Sunday. I woke up and was able to walk. In fact, I was able to go up and down stairs with ease. "Wait," I thought. I just ran the hardest marathon I've ever run, where I absolutely blew up in the final five miles and here I was ready to run the New York City marathon the next day. Normally, it's at least four days before I'm able to run again and that is very gingerly at something like an 8:30 pace. I resisted the urge to run Sunday and spent the day with the family.

But yesterday there was no holding me back. It was still dark when I woke up so I ran on the really nice, but still really lame treadmill in the hotel. I hate treadmills...even ones with 13-inch TV screens that have Sportscenter showing on them. I started slow but within the first half mile was running at 7:00 pace and by mile one, I was running in the 6:30s. What? Are you kidding me? What gives? What I would have given to have four or five 6:30s in the final lap on Saturday. I even threw in a few quarters and a half mile at marathon pace with ease. Slight soreness in my left hamstring, but other than that I felt really good. Makes no sense to me.

So today I woke up early again and repeated the same run. Another 8 miles with a few quarters thrown in at marathon pace. But the treadmill is just awful. I have no idea how people run consistently on those things.

This afternoon, I said goodbye to my family as they headed back to Seattle leaving me in NYC to finish up my week-long business trip. I miss them. After about 30 seconds of being alone in the hotel room, I laced up the shoes and ran toward Central Park. I now know how these young, unmarried/childless runners have the time to run 120-140 miles per week. If I came home to nothing every week I'd run morning and night.

So I headed toward Central Park from my hotel on 42nd and Madison. The only bad part was running in rush hour traffic. I actually found that dodging people was way harder than dodging cars. I also found the bus lanes to be express lanes for runners.

Once I got to the park, I ran the Trials 5-mile loop backwards (counterclockwise). I seriously don't remember any of the landmarks from the run on Saturday except the Museum of Art. During the race on Saturday I never saw the ballfields or reservoir. Not sure how I missed the two biggest landmarks in the race. Oh well. I guess I'm supposed to be concentrating on the race.

The run tonight did have a somber moment. I passed the boathouse where Ryan Shay collapsed and died. My heart skipped a beat. I am happy for him because he left this life doing what he loved most. But my heart continues to ache for his new bride and his parents and seven siblings. The boathouse was another landmark I never saw during the race and it was sad to pass by it once again.

It was nice to run around the course again. I guess five laps on Saturday weren't enough. Central Park will always have a special place in my heart.

I did the loop in 6:30s with little effort. It was weird passing through the finishing area with no one there. Eerie silence.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Race Report: 2007 US Olympic Marathon Trials

I'm not even sure where to begin. Maybe Mile 5.5 is the most appropriate place to begin. What a tragedy. I did not know Ryan Shay but we shared a common bond, the one everyone on this blog shares. We are runners. The added bond was that we were both OTQers. Ryan had just married his wife three months ago. I learned at the Brooks party today that he and his wife were to leave this morning (Sunday) for their honeymoon. Ugh. I cannot imagine what his wife is feeling right now. There was a fantastic tribute to him during the awards luncheon and again on NBC. There was a visible somberness at the awards banquet but the program did carry on as I'm sure Ryan would have wanted. I learned a couple of lessons today from this experience: (1) you just never know when; (2) what an honor it would be to die doing something you loved. God bless Ryan's wife and family in this extremely difficult time.

So here's the race report....

This was my first race that I went into without any solid goals. I didn't want to get lapped (mission accomplished) and I didn't want to finish last (mission accomplished). Beyond that, I didn't really have a time goal or a place goal. I kinda sorta wanted to be in the 2:25-2:30 range on time. I knew going in that getting a "requalifying" time would highly unlikely given the course, the wind and the short recovery from St. George. So I had the attitude that anything 2:25-2:30 would be satisfying. Place I didn't care about because it has so little to do with my performance and far more to do with the performance of others.

So the day started in earnest around 4:30am when I rolled out of bed after getting a suprisingly good night's rest. I got dressed, packed a few things into my clothes drop bag, kissed my slumbering wife goodbye and headed downstairs to grab a bagel and a bit of water. I went up to the lobby around 5:00am and waited to load the buses. At 5:20am we rolled out to the buses and what was only 20 minutes seemed like an hour before the buses headed toward Rockefeller Center. We had police escort but it seemed for for show than anything as we still had to wait at all the stoplights. After about a 15-minute ride we arrived at Rockefeller Plaza. It was one of those times where I wished I had brought a video camera. The winds were gusting pretty hard, it was cold, but the trees were lit up with Christmas lights and it just seemed to amazing.

We quickly entered Rockefeller Center and headed downstairs to a staging area with food, drinks and therapists. I saw my coach there and a couple of the Northwest runners I know as well as Paul and Logan. We were there for about an hour before it was time to head upstairs, back into the elements and begin our warmup. It was a bit too early for my liking -- 30 minutes before the gun -- but I just went along for the fun ride.

When we emerged on 5th Ave it was simply awesome. The wind was still howling but it didn't seem as cold as when we got there. But most impressive were the crowds. 7:00am on a Saturday morning in NYC and the streets were packed with people.

Brian Sell has quite the contingent there. Probably 75 or so Sell fans had yelow sweatshirts with his effigy on the front. I don't recall seeing any sweatshirts with mine on it. After walking around a bit trying to soak up the experience, I ran into my father in law who took a red-eye in from Spokane and landed at JFK at 6am and made it to the starting line at 7am. He flew home the same day at 5:30pm. What a trooper. Anyway, I talked to him a bit and then started my warmup in earnest.

Warming up for a marathon for me is a pretty uneventful affair. Four to six strides and a few hops, skips and jumps and I'm ready to go. No sense in using prescious energy when it doesn't count. We all lined up right at 7:30 for the 7:35 gun. It was the smallest marathon I'd ever run: 130 starters. It was also the most cramped start given the number of elites in the group crowding for position.

Gun went off at 7:05:35.

Since it was on TV, I knew it would start on time. After about four hundred meters down 50th Ave, we turned onto 6th Ave, then a hard right onto 44th Ave. The turns were a bit challenging because we were a pack of 130 runners all jockeying for position. Then we made the final turn outside of Central Park down 7th Ave and befor long, we were running down Times Square. I've been down that road many times before but never like this. It was awesome. It was still dark enough that the lights were brilliant. About 1.25 miles into the race is when we entered Central Park, never to leave it again. The crowds again were sizeable and full of energy. At about 1.75 miles in, you cross the "finish line" the first of five times. The crowds were especially thick and loud from the point we entered the park through the finish line. It was amazing. The first two miles were very slow: 5:35 and 5:33.

Through three miles we were still one pack except for some guy who was looking for a bit of camera time. He wound up finishing after me. Mile 3 came in at 5:19 putting the pack almost back on "B" pace. At about the 5k mark, the pace really started to pick up and smaller packs were forming with the lead guys making their first run, Mile 4 was 5:09 which was pretty fast considering it was on the uphill (west) side of the course. I settled in nicely behind 6-10 guys and let them break the wind to help ease some of the wind resistence.

Mile 5 marked the turn south onto the east side of the course and the only straight and flat stretch on the course. It was also the first time I took a bottle from the special fludis station. I completed Mile 5 in 5:25 putting me and the pack I was in about 2 seconds under "B" pace and sending us into a fairly continuous downhill stretch of the course. I was feeling pretty strong at this point and was hoping that our pack could stay together for the bulk of the race. At about the 5.75 mark, we turned right onto the 72nd Ave transverse, the only time we would run this stretch. This short loop we did once and then the larger 5-mile loop we did four times. It also has a weird jaunt off the road and then back onto it to account for 80 yards they needed to add to the course to certify it. I'm glad we only did it once.

Mile 6 came in at 5:13 which was about right considering the more downhill nature of that stretch. The pack was still well intact.

Miles 7, 8 and 9 are a bit of a blur. My splits were 5:27, 5:25, 5:25. This may have been where Paul passed me for good, but again it's a blur so it could have been at a different spot. The pack really started to break up at this point. Some dropping back and some picking up the pace a bit. With the wind a factor even in the densely treed park, my coach had encouraged me before the race to really stay with a pack even if it meant going a little faster than I wanted to. This would prove to be harder than I thought.

Mile 10 was mostly downhill which made my 5:20 split feel a bit slower than I had hoped but at this point I was running alone and all I really wanted to do in this race was run strong.

Mile 11 marked the second time we would cross the finish line. Really the whole mile was lined with huge crowds will large vocal chords. It was awesome to see so many people out so early cheering us on. I'm sure 2004's Trials in Birmingham had nothing like this. The Mile 11 split came in at 5:29. It's a relatively flat mile until the last quarter mile which "features" the infamous uphill finish that greets the New York Marathon. I felt really good for the first two laps which was through Mile 11. The only problem I had was that I wasn't taking in enough fluids. I felt bloated all week and probably had too much to eat Friday night. In fact, I didn't even have my customary bagel on race morning to leave room in my tummy for fluids.

Miles 12-19 were very consistent..all in the 5:33-5:35 range with one exception...Mile 15 where a small pack started to form and I was trying to keep up and dropped a 5:23 for that mile. But I couldn't hold it. While this stretch felt OK, I knew the end was nigh. I had consumed maybe 14 ounces of fluids to this point and was beginning to feel the inevitable side effects of dehydration.

The nail in the coffin was at Mile 19, the next to last time I would pass by the special fluids station on the east side of the park. I grabbed my bottle and took a small sip and couldn't get my stomach to take in any more fluids with having it just slosh around. Everything I had done right at St. George I did wrong at the Trials. The problem with a marathon is you simply cannot fake hydration like you can in a 10k or even a half marathon. You simply can't cheat it and 14 ounces through 19 miles is cheating it. So even though I was still hitting respectable splits, I knew I was in trouble and I also knew I still had almost a lap and a half to go. This was a situation in which I didn't like the lap contruct of the course.

Mile 20 was the biggest downhill stretch of the east side yet I was only able to manage a 5:41 split. Yes...the lugnuts were loosing. The Mile 21 marker came a couple hundred meters before the finish line. I looked at my watch and saw 5:50. It felt like 7:50. But the cheers of the crowd were helpful, at least briefly.

As I began my last lap I looked up at the Jumbotron and saw that Ryan Hall was crushing everyone. I knew the last lap was going to be lonely. But, I crossed the finish line in a high 1:56 so I was still hopeful that with even a mediocre final five miles I could beat my Eugene Marathon time of 2:29. All I needed to do was average 6:30s.

I did get a good laugh during Mile 22. As I headed north through the west side of the park, the throngs of people were running -- seemingly faster than I was -- toward me...ummm...I mean toward the finish line. My first thought was that this must be what it's like when a golfer is 10 or 12 over par and everyone is bailing to watch Tiger Woods finish on the 18th green. I actually wanted to join them, but instead, pressed on. Mile 22 -- 6:13. Felt like 8:13.

This is where wearing a watch, or at least looking at your watch, may be counter productive. If you have the strength and energy to make up for a bad split, then it's a great idea to look at your watch. But if no matter what the split says, there's nothing you can do to improve it, then maybe it's more demoralizing than helpful. Something to think about for future races.

(As a side note, this race must have set a record for timing mats. We crossed mats 52 times during the 5 lap race. 52 times! I can still here the chirps in my head. All the more reason to not pay attention to my watch. All the data I over-analyze was going to be available to me after the race anyway.)

Mile 23 was 6:17. I actually felt good about this because it was about the same time as the previous mile which gave me some hope that I could hold on and break 2:29.

Miles 24 and 25 were probably the hardest miles I've ever run. At one point I was cresting a small hill on the east side and felt like I was going to collapse. There were a couple of points that I didn't really know where I was. Never in the race did I seriously consider dropping out. I had come too far to quit. But after passing several guys who were walking, it took everything I had to keep running and not join them.

I do remember laughing to myself about the crowd. People were yelling, "Go look great." "Sundwall, dig deeper." "#44 you're in control." Clearly these weren't the "tell it how it is" New Yorkers I was familiar with. I looked like death on two jello sticks. Mile 24 came in at 6:55. Mile 25, aided by a bit of downhill came in a tad better at 6:48.

The final mile felt like the death march that it was. The crowds were really thick for the final 1.2. In some ways that helped but in other ways, I was embarrassed by how poorly I was finishing the race. It's kind of like being 80 years old and not being able to control your bladder. You just wish someone would save you further embarassment and push you and your wheelchair into traffic.

Mile 26 was 7:29.

With .2 miles to go, I was at exactly 2:29. I knew my shot at beating my Eugene time were hopeless. Doing .2 miles in 17 seconds was not going to happen. So as I headed up the hill to truly thunderous crowd noise, I spotted my wife in the VIP grandstands and with about 50 feet to go, jogged (literally) over to her, gave her a kiss and then finished the last few feet of the marathon in 2:30:41.

I only vaguely remember the trip from the finish line to the aid tent. I just know I had two guys helping me along and a reporter from Northwest Runner Magazine (the Seattle running magazine) interviewing me. I honestly have no idea what questions he asked me or what my answers were. I guess I'll find out next issue.

About 7 minutes later I looked at my watch which was still running. Forgot to stop it at the line. I was trying to pour fluids down me but couldn't. I got a brief massage and stretch and headed for the bus to get back to the hotel and get cleaned up before the awards luncheon. I was really cold and shivering pretty badly.

I lost 9 pounds during the race or about 6% of my body weight. Not a good weight loss program.

The luncheon was pretty somber. The news about Ryan Shay dominated the entire room. It was pretty hard to get too excited about the three winners and celebrating any personal victories when one of your own died a few hours earlier doing exactly what you were doing.

So the first question someone is probably asking is whether or not I am disappointed. Certainly I wish I had finished stronger and with a better time, but if someone had told me 2 1/2 years ago, when I started running, that I would be the 90th fastest marathoner in America and run on the national stage in the US Olympic Marathon Trials in New York City, I would have died laughing and then asked him or her to give me some of whatever they were smoking. Two and a half years ago I wanted to run a 3:10 marathon and qualify for Boston. How could I possibly be disappointed? I ran 87 seconds slower than my Eugene Marathon effort in April on a much, much more difficult course, with worse weather conditions and no pack to run with. All this just four weeks after running the race of my life in St. George, an admitedly aided course, but probably the toughest course in America to recover from. Disappointed? No way. In fact, I'm probably hungrier now than I've ever been. And it's not a hunger for any kind of revenge. There's no revenge to be had. It's a hunger to further refine and magnify this talent I've been given.

I don't know if this means I'll be back in 2011 for the next Olympic Trials. I will be almost 39 years old then. Hard to look that far ahead. But I do feel like I have plenty to improve upon and I look forward to wherever that that takes me.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

It's Showtime

4:45am Race Day Morning

Friday was a busy day. I sent the family off to the Empire State Building and the WTC site while I went for a run around Central Park to get a feel for the course. It will be very challenging. I ran with Mike Heidt, Mike Sayenko, Nick Schuetze and my coach Tom Cotner.

It was windy yesterday and the forecast calls for remnants of the hurricane to bring rain and sustained winds of 20+mph with gusts of 40+.

We then had a mandatory luncheon where they went over all the details of race morning. Sat with Paul Petersen from the St. George Marathon. It was unbelievable to be in a room with so many runners. It is such a rare opportunity to have all of America's finest in one room and one race.

I then ran over to Columbus Circle to the NYRR store and picked up a ton of awesome gear from Jesse Williams of Brooks. I know Jesse from Seattle and he is the pro athelte rep for Brooks.

After that I was feeling pretty tired so I went back to the hotel to take a nap. Whatever. That didn't work out so I got my special water bottles loaded up and labeled to turn in at 5pm.

I fell asleep right about 8pm and didn't wake up until about 3:30. Just laid in bed until 4:15 and got up for good.

I feel pretty good this morning. A daunting course and less than ideal weather await me outside but it's really no different than running in Snoqualmie Ridge this time of year.

It's Showtime.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Meb, Ryan and Me

No, this isn't the title of another bad Hollywood comedy. It's the story of my life here in New York today.

I arrived at the Trials hotel (Upper East Side Courtyard Marriott) today around 2pm after a long wait at Newark to catch the shuttle into the city. We got up to our room and got situated.

On my way down to pick up my bib number and goodie bag, none other than Sara Hall (formerly Sara Bei), husband of Ryan Hall and a decorated runner herself, stepped onto the elevator.

An hour later, I was down getting a massage. There are three tables in the room. I was laying on the center one and Meb Keflezighi was on the table to my left and Ryan Hall was on the table to my right. There's a lot of things they are better at than I am. Add flexibility to the list. Then Abdi Abdirahman walked in to yack it up with Meb. Just as I was getting up from my massage, in walked Dathan Ritzenhein. Crazy. I felt like an extra in a blockbuster movie.

After pinching myself, it finally started to sink in that I'm not an extra in a movie but in fact a regular dude who met the high bar required to run in the Olympic Marathon Trials.

A couple of observations. Meb is short. Very short. It says 5' 7" on the USATF web site but there's no way. I'm 5'7" and I felt quite tall next to him. Ryan is also shorter than I imagined.

One other thing of note. Some trainer/doctor type person came in to examine Meb's ankle. The diagnosis was that "everything seems to be holding up OK." I don't know if he had a previous injury or something but it will be interesting to see if this is an issue on Saturday.

Anyway...enjoying myself here in NYC and trying to adsorb everything and recognize this for what it is...a once in a lifetime opportunity for an average Joe to run on this country's biggest long distance stage.

In New York City

I just landed last night with the family in New York City. I went for a 5.5 mile run around 6pm last night to shake the cobwebs out from the long flight. Unfortunately, my hotel in Newark is surrounded by three freeways and a penitentiary so I was stuck with doing a half-mile loop eleven times. Oh well...running loops will be the story of my life on Saturday.

I'm not sure the whole Trials thing has sunk in yet. I think it will today when I arrive at the HQ hotel, get settled in my room and go to pick up my race packet. I'm excited.

Weather forecast for Saturday calls for sunny skies, 41 degrees at gun time and won't reach 50 degrees until I'm done.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Meb and Khalid Press Conference

I read an interesting transcript from a press conference held by two of the leading US Olympic team contenders, Meb Keflezighi and American record holder Khalid Khannouchi. While the sport is very competitive, it's also very collegial.

They both talked a lot about how competitive this year's field is and some of the challenges of this particular race and course. A short and interesting read. Here's a link to the transcript:

Note: Tomorrow morning my family and I head for NYC. I don't know how frequent my posts will be over the next several days but I will provide a detailed race report no later than Sunday evening.

Monday, October 29, 2007

PNTF Cross Country Championships

Yesterday was the 2007 PNTF Cross Country Championships at Woodland Park in Seattle. It's the same site where the regional championships will be held in mid-November.

I wasn't able to attend the event but in talking with a few people and looking at the results, the turnout wasn't as good as I would have hoped.

Club Northwest emerged victorious on both the men's and women's side but Seattle Running Company's Uli Steidl won the overall open men's 10k race in a time of 33:11. Sarna Becker won the women's 6k race in 22:32, a full minute off her winning time from last year.

The men's field was a bit depleted this year due to the fact that three CNW guys, including myself, are racing this Saturday at the Olympic Trials. We've also had quite a few local elites either move out of the area or "retire" from racing since last Fall.

The regionals are November 18th. I would like to run there but just don't know how ready I'll be after the Trials. I would like to run at Nationals in Chester, Ohio the first weekend of December. I love cross country and haven't run it since high school.

First things first, though.

Full results are available at

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Great Pair of Running Pants

Today was my first cold run of the season. Temp was 32 degrees at 7:30 when I started my 15-miler and the first part was also foggy. I had just picked up a pair running pants at Super Jock and Jill. I normally don't bother with pants but it was just plain cold this morning so I'm glad I had them.

The pants I ran in were the Brooks Vapor™-Dry 2 Stadium Pant (Product #MP535) I loved them.

They breathed really well, were light, yet kept me plenty warm. If only I had gloves that warm. Still working on that part.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A New Running Shoe Find

Don't tell my running friends at Brooks, but I went to Super Jock and Jill this morning to redeem my gift certificate that I won at the half marathon on Labor Day and decided to try on a couple of different shoes just to make sure the Brooks Trance 7s are the right shoe. I tored the Kayano from Asics and hated it. The arch was to high and it felt like I was running on shortened 2x4s.

The they fitted me with the new Adrenalines. They now have Mogo in them and they actually felt way better than the Adenaline 6s. Much softer with the same stability.

Then I tried the Adidas Supernova. Wow! They fit like a glove -- or a sock i guess -- and they are soft yet seem to provide the support I need. They also were very light.

I get a free pair of shoes because of my third place finish at St. George so I think I will use that to try a pair of these Adidas.

I'll report back once I get them and run on them for a couple hundred miles.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Beauty of Running

I've spent five of the last ten days traveling for work. One of the things I love about running is that you can take it on the road with you. A pair of shorts, shirt, socks and running shoes and you're set. If I was a biker or a triathlete, getting my training in on the road would be much more difficult.

I was in Los Angeles last week for three days and ran along Manhattan Beach each morning and it was a thrill. It was sunny (this was a day or two before the fires broke out) and pleasant. I love running along the ocean.

Late last night I returned from a quick trip to Palo Alto where I got to run around the Stanford campus for ten miles at 5:30am. It was such a breath of fresh air to be running somewhere I had never run before and to be in an area where I was completely safe.

Earlier this year I got to run for four days in Central Park, not knowing then that I would return in November to run the exact same course for the Trials. It's such a blessing to be able to travel and enjoy so many parts of God's creation while staying fit.

My next trip is actually to the Trials, but after that, I have several more coming and my running shoes will be coming with me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Great Story on the History of the Trials

I've been traveling and busy with work so I've been delinquent in posting to this blog. I was reading a fantastic story today on about the Olympic Trials process that builds on and adds a ton of color to the whole process.

I hope you enjoy this.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Day After Your Marathon

I know how I feel the day after a marathon, but now I know how I look. Yikes. What a great video.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Olympic Marathon Trials on National TV -- Sort of

Running hasn't exactly reached the level of TV supremacy that the NFL enjoys, but you have to start somewhere.

The start of the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Saturday, November 3rd, is in Rockefeller Plaza and will be televised live on NBC’s Today show. The entire race will be streamed live on Additionally, a half-hour highlight show will air nationally on NBC that afternoon (subject to local listings).

This is a pretty big step for the sport and is perhaps a reflection of how popular the marathon has become in the US. It still has a long way to go, but an exciting race on November 3rd followed by a strong American performance in Beijing could do wonders for getting greater exposure for American long distance running.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Disastrous Olympic Trials of 2000

As I continue to train for my upcoming race at the Olympic Marathon Trials in New York City on November 3rd, I've spent a lot of time reading up on the history of the Trials trying to gain a better appreciation not just of my accomplishment, but of the sport itself.

I was immediately drawn to the disaster that was the Men's and Women's 2000 Olympic Marathon Trials.

Some background first. Some countries, like Germany, simply take their three fastest athletes from a specified time period and send them to the Olympics with no Trials. If we did it that way in the US, then the team would already be set and we would be sending Khalid Khannouchi (2:07:04), Ryan Hall (2:08:24) and Abdi Abdirahman (2:08:56) because they have the three fastest times among Americans. There would be no Trials.

But, since the 1960s, the US has essentially had a playoff system -- the Trials -- in which there is one race and the top three from that race, regardless of past performance, represent the US in the Olympic Games.

There is one caveat to this. There is an Olympic qualifying standard also to keep pedestrian marathoners like myself out of the Olympics. :-) For the men, the "A" standard is 2:14. Any country can send up to three marathoners to the Olympics as long as they meet the 2:14 standard. If none of the Trials finishers meet that standard then only the winner gets to go. (There is actually a "B" standard but it's so ridiculously slow it's not relevant to this conversation.)

I should also add here that the Olympic "A" standard does NOT have to occur at the Trials. You could theoretically have the top three finishers cross the finish in 2:30 and as long as they had a qualifying "A" time within the allotted time window, then they would be allowed to run in the Olympics.

Well, in 2000, the top three finishers in the Trials were Rod DeHaven (2:15:30), Peter DeLaCerda (2:16:18) and Mark Coogan (2:17:04). Notice the times. All of them were well off the Olympic "A" standard which meant that for the first time ever, the US would be sending only one marathoner to the Olympics. In the context of marathoning, that was a disaster and revealed how far American distance running had fallen.

To make matters even worse, the exact same thing happened in 2000 on the women's side. Trials winner Christine Clark missed the "A" standard of 2:33 and the US, also for the first time in history, sent only one female marathoner to the Olympics.

To be fair, there were some difficult circumstances in 2000. First, both races were run on challenging, hilly courses in unseasonably hot and humid weather. There isn't much you can do about weather, but one should wonder why such courses were chosen. Second, the IAAF changed the Olympic "A" standard from 2:16 to 2:14 for men and 2:35 to 2:33 for women in the middle of 1999, roughly one year before the Olympics were to begin. Why does this matter? Well first of all, if the tie had remained the same then the US would have sent three men and women to the Olympics because DeHaven would have met the "A" standard which automatically means DeLaCerda and Coogan would have gotten in because they met the "B" standard. Same on the women's side. Second, the timing of the change was very unfair. As I mentioned previously, the qualifying time doesn't have to occur at the Trials. But by announcing this change with only a year to go and the Trials date and course already set in stone, it did not allow for the qualifiers to run a race afterward on a course that was faster. It also didn't allow them to run one prior to the Trials because that would have hampered their performance at the Trials.

2004 was much different. The top four male athletes finished 2:12:35 or better meaning the US returned three marathoners to the Olympics in Sydney where Meb Keflezighi won a silver medal. The women also sent three.

2008 looks even brighter on the men's side. It's perhaps the most talented field in American history. The top eight runners at next month's Trials already have qualifying marathon times well below the Olympic "A" standard of 2:14. So Ryan, Meb, Khalid and Abdi, Brian, Alan, Peter and Mbarek don't need to care about time. That's a good thing because this year's course will be very challenging.

So don't be surprised to see a "slow" winning time. The true Olympic hopefuls have already met the time qualification. Their focus is making the team. It's all about place not time.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Running While Healing

I'm in a bit of a precarious and unfamiliar position right now. I just finished a punishing marathon nine days ago and I have to train for another in less than three weeks. I have never had fewer than 11-12 weeks between marathons and I prefer 4-6 months.

It's important to let your body recover, but at the same time, I really don't want to bonk at the Trials. I don't expect a PR at the Trials, but I would like to run a respectable race.

So I'm walking a very fine line with admitedly little experience in tha matter. Run enough to maintain a high level of fitness but not so much that your body can't continue to heal from the punishment it took from the recent marathon. Too much running could lead to injury or overwhelming fatigue at the Trials. Too little training leaves me "out of shape" for the Trials which would likely mean a slower than acceptable finishing time.

If I was ust preparing for the Trials and hadn't run nine days ago, yesterday would have been my final long run day...probably 22-23 miles and the weekly mileage total would have been in the low to mid 70s. I got 20 in last week with 10 of those coming on Saturday and a rest day Sunday.

So I'm hoping that this week I can get 60-70 miles in with a speed workout on Saturday or as part of my 18-miler on Sunday. We'll see.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Back on my feet

After not running for four straight days, I hit the roads early this morning to see how my legs were doing. I did a two mile jog to my PT, used his elliptical for 10 minutes and then ran two miles back to the house. I have a massage later on today and one again tomorrow morning. All in all, the run was OK. My pace was a ridiculous 8:20/mile but my goal was just getting time on my feet not trying to break any land speed records.

The problem with where I live is that it's impossible to go a tenth of a mile without either going uphill or downhill. Tomorrow morning I'm going to try and go six miles but drive down to the flat lands to avoid additional aggravation to the calves and quads.

I'm definitely not 100% yet but I need to get some miles under my belt before beginnning the regular routine on Monday. I'm planning 6 miles on Friday, maybe 8 on Saturday and either rest on Sunday or go another 4-6. That would give me 20-25 miles for the week. I'm hoping for closer to 50-60 next week with a speed workout on Saturday.

I'm drinking lots of water and upping my protein intake to help the body repair itself. I've felt a lot better each day. The consequence of St. George is it's always a day or two longer recovery.

Hopefully I'll be 100% by the middle of next week. I feel like I need to get at least four speed workouts in before the Trials.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

High Nuun

I've mentioned in previous posts that staying properly hydrated during a marathon has been a big challenge for me. It cost me an Olympic Trials qualifier in Eugene last April and it even had a negative impact on me at the Super Jock and Jill half marathon on Labor Day.

Prior to Eugene, I never took water with me on my training runs except for the long runs. Pretty hard for my body to get comfortable taking fluids on the run when it has little practice. So I started carrying water with me on any run 10 miles or longer, which is basically every run.

But what was even more helpful was the discovery of a very cool and decent tasting electrolyte tablet that helps replace the electrolytes (read: salt) that I seem to lose faster than most.

It's called Nuun (pronounced "noon"). They come in a tube with about 10-12 tablets. You drop one tablet into a 16 ounce bottle, let it dissolve for a couple of minutes and you're good to go. The company was even clever enough to make each tablet easily breakable into two so you can put a half tablet into more manageable 8 ounce bottles.

I've only used the berry flavor. It's tastes fine. I noticed after this last marathon that I was way better hydrated and much less salty. I swear by this stuff. You should give it a try. You can find it at any decent running store or online at

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Chicago Marathon: When Is It Just Too Hot?

By now even non-runners have heard the horror stories coming out of Chicago where marathoners yesterday were greeted with deadly heat and humidity. (New York Times

So I ask myself the question: At what point is it just to hot, humid and unhealthy to hold a marathon? At what point does the race director, despite all the planning and expense organizers, volunteers and participants have put into training for and executing the race, do you simply call it off or postpone it? We postpone baseball games for rain because balls are hard to throw and players can slip and injure themselves. We don't play football games in lightening.

The forecast several days out was predicting exactly the weather Chicago got yesterday. Anyone who says they were suprised by it is either ignorant or rewriting history.

Believe me. I know delaying or postponing a marathon is a huge decision with incredible ramifications. In the case of Chicago, 40,000+ runners have trained for and tapered for the race to occur on a specific date. They have paid good money to enter and travel to the marathon. And of course, organizers and volunteers have done much of the same.

I have run two "warm-weather" marathons. The first was the Seafair Marathon in Bellevue, WA in July 2006. Even in the Northwest, July is no time for a marathon. Temperatures we in the 70s before the halfway point and even though there was very little in the way of humidity, the skies were clear and the sun was beating down as ther was very little shade. I made the mistake that day of finishing the race. Not only was my time ridiculous (3:00), the recovery was a nightmare. I was beyond dehydrated and there was nothing I could do about it.

The second warm marathon was this past 4th of July on Sauvie Island just outside Portland, Oregon. The race started around 6:30 but temps were already at 70 degrees. To make matters worse, it was unusually humid and skies were crystal clear. It was a beautiful day to watch a marathon and a terrible day to run one. But I had prepared for it and it provided me another shot at qualifying for the Trials. Fortunately for me, it was a two-lap course. After feeling at Mile 15 like I should at Mile 24, I pulled out and hitched a ride back to the finish. It was the smartest thing I ever did. It was just too hot and not only was I not going to qualify, but the recovery, had I continued on, may very well have jeopardized my qualifiying race at St. George.

I think everyone can agree that there is some point where you simply can't run the race. I guess the disagreemnent comes on where that point is. Is it 80 degrees? Is it 100 degrees? Is it 95% humidity? Who makes the decision. My fear is that if there are many more races like Chicago, the courts may be making those decisions rather than the race directors or health officials.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Olympic Trials Here I Come

There is something about the St. George Marathon that will always be special to me yet I can’t put a finger on it. Maybe it’s because it was my first ever marathon. Maybe it’s because of the stunning beauty that greets you at Mile 14 as you enter Snow Canyon. Maybe it’s the world-class volunteer support and flawless execution of race logistics. It’s all of those things and more.

This year’s race was particularly special as I was attempting to qualify for the US Olympic Trials held in New York City on November 3. The “B” Qualifying time was 2:22:00 (5:25 pace) and the “A” time was 2:20:00 (5:20 pace). I had spent hours in the days leading up to the race pouring over last years’ splits (5:48/mile avg; 2:31 time) figuring out where I was going to pick up the 23 seconds per mile improvement I needed to qualify for the Trials. After studying the maps, my previous year’s splits and general knowledge of the course, my projected time, best case scenario, came out to be 2:20:04. Well under the “B” time of 2:22 giving me a buffer that I was mentally hoping for. That seemed too fast but those were the numbers I used on the wristband I created. While it seems tedious if not anal to micromanage splits over a 26 mile distance, it’s incredibly important when a specific time is desired and on a course as unique as St. George.

Race morning temperature at Central (5,200 elevation) was 36 degrees with a 10 mph wind mostly out of the west. The skies were clear with just a sliver of the moon and billions of stars. I got off the bus at 5:45 giving me one hour to ponder, pee and freeze…and then pee again. This was really the first year I took advantage of the bonfires. The bit of wind was just enough to make standing elsewhere completely unbearable. It’s fun to gather around the bonfires in the pitch black night listening to people talk about the upcoming race. Something I learned too late this year is that the elite runners not only get their own porto-potties, but they get their own fire pits. I noticed this only after throwing my clothing bag into the U-Haul. But it did help keep me warm in the final minutes leading up to the start of the race.

I exchanged pleasantries with the guys I would spend most of the next 2 hours and some minutes and then right on time, the starting horn went off at 6:45 am MDT. That first quarter mile into the early morning chill is always breathtaking. This year I decided to start with a long-sleeve technical shirt, a cap and gloves to help my body warm up. Man it was dark but I’m used to running in the dark winter morning of the Pacific Northwest so it wasn’t anything unusual.

First quarter mile felt pretty slow but came in at 81 seconds. Exactly on pace. There were probably 20 or so of us in the lead pack. Me and David Danley shared the early (meaningless) lead.

Mile 1 came in at 5:17. A bit faster than I wanted but not surprising given the adrenalin that comes with the start of any race. It definitely wasn’t silly fast like a 5:10 or something.

Mile 2 split was 5:33 which made me wonder whether or not the first two mile markers were placed precisely. But the average of the two miles had us right on 5:25 pace.

Mile 3 was 5:25. It marked the first water station as well as the first elite hydration table. I had hoped that someone would be there to hand us our bottles as they saw us come up but no such luck. I lost five or so seconds STOPPED at the table looking for my bottle. The good news is I got a good five or so ounces of electrolyte water into my system which is so critical. At the Eugene Marathon in April, I hadn’t put 5 ounces of fluid into my body until mile 7. But, next time I’ll be sure to attach something silly to my bottle to make it more easily visible. Shame on me. I quickly jumped back up with the main pack and this time stayed behind a few of the guys to draft behind them and benefit from the headwind you create when running at almost 12 mph. I still had the warmer clothes on as temperatures still felt a bit too nippy although a few of the guys had shed the warmer clothes including one guy who got rid of his plastic garbage sack that was making a ridiculous amount of noise.

At Mile 4 the pack was still largely intact. The split was 5:14. It was a bit of a drop in elevation and I knew I needed to take advantage of it with the mile-8 hill at Veyo. I was just about back on 2:20 pace by Mile 4 which felt good. No problems to speak of. The first signs of daylight were in the east but temperatures were still cold.

The Mile 5 split was 5:25 and it marked the next water station. It was time for some Gatorade. I grabbed two cups of it from the faithful volunteers and drank them both gone. As I’ve been able to increase the speed at which I run, I’ve learned that when grabbing a cup at the speed from a volunteer standing still, some of it spills out so it’s important to grab two cups to ensure you get enough fluid. I’ve also learned to make eye contact with the volunteer that I’m going to take the cup from so they know I’m coming. I even point right at them. While I had hoped for a faster split, I had five miles in the rear view mirror and I’m feeling great, I’m well hydrated and tolerating the cold.

Mile 6 has a pretty decent downhill. I knew from my race preparation that this needed to be a fast mile to take advantage of the downhill. The split came in at 4:58…the first of what would be several sub-5-minute miles. It was fast but it needed to be. I could ill-afford to stroll through mile 6 with the daunting uphill miles of 8-12 still to come. So I was very pleased. Cumulative time was 31:52. I was 20 seconds ahead of my wristband and 38 seconds ahead of OTQ “B” pace with one more downhill mile to go before the dreaded 8-12 stretch.

Mile 7 was in 5:05. Another fast mile that had to be. I shed my hat and long-sleeve shirt and threw them to my dad who was standing alongside the road as we entered the town of Veyo. This was also the second elite water station and this time my water bottle was handed to me. I drank 5-6 ounces of electrolyte water and was feeling very good about my hydration so far. Veyo is an important landmark in the race. Despite its tiny size, the town always manages to have people out cheering at 7:15 in the morning. Perhaps there are people crazier than marathoners. It also marks the end of what I consider to be Phase One of the marathon. The course has shed 787’ of elevation at this point and over the next four miles, we will have to gain 249’ feet of that right back, nearly 100’ of that coming in less than one mile. Miles 8-12, in my estimation, are where you have to be very smart about how you run and be patient or you will ruin your chances for success. I believe the race cannot be won from 8-12, but can absolutely be lost.

As we started Mile 8, which is almost entirely up Veyo hill, the pack had thinned. There were really only five or so of us with David Danley still courageously out in front of us all by probably 20 yards. I had planned to give back some time to Mr. Veyo Hill and run about 5:45 up it. As a pack we reminded each other to take it easy up the hill which we did. I crested the hill having finished Mile 8 in 5:54. It was a bit slower than I planned before the race but was exactly where I wanted to be when I assessed the situation entering Veyo.

While Veyo is pretty steep hill, I actually think the next three mile are harder because they give a false sense of security. They aren’t steep but their climb is steady and it’s really easy to run them too fast. Mile 9 came in at 5:45. I was aiming for 5:30 so this was the first mile I completely “missed.” However, I also was feeling very good and knew that I had run Veyo properly and that my time would come to make up for the uphill stretch. I was also able to get a good swig of Gatorade at the aid station.

By Mile 10, there were basically three of us, me, Nick Scheutze and Paul Petersen in the main pack with David Danley still braving it on his own 10-20 yards ahead of us. Mile 10’s split was 5:32, very close to the 5:30 I had down from my pre-race planning.

Miles 11 and 12 combined I had planned to hit in 11:05. I missed hitting my lap button at Mile 11 because I had to once again stop at the elite table to find my water bottle. I quickly recovered and rejoined Paul and Nick. When I hit the lap button on my watch at Mile 12, it read 11:22 for the two miles so I had given back 17 seconds more than I had wanted. Cumulative time at this point had reached 1:05:35. This was 35 seconds slower than Trials “B” pace and 16 seconds slower than my pre-race planning. I was slightly concerned but certainly not panicked. I knew the back half would be a negative split, I just didn’t know by how much.

Mile 13 is pretty flat. I picked up the pace a bit after being off pace through the toughest stretch of the race and wound up with a 5:10 at 13. At the half way point I crossed at 1:11:25 only about 6 seconds off OTQ “B” and now slightly ahead of my wristband.

With the toughest and slowest part of the race behind me, I was feeling as good as you could feel after running half a marathon. I knew my best was yet ahead. I had run the first half almost at OTQ “B” pace and didn’t kill myself doing it. But, another 13 miles is still a long way to go.

Mile 14 marks the end of Phase 2 and the beginning of Phase 3. It features the most beautiful stretch of running I have ever witnessed and at about the time I first saw the sun. At Mile 14 I’m still seeing my breath and I have my gloves on. Mile 14 is a slight downhill and I checked in at 5:11. I was three seconds faster than my wristband and six seconds slower than OTQ and closing fast.

Mile 15 and 16 are stunningly beautiful but brutal downhill stretches. Running the tangents on these two miles is critical unless you want to end the race having run 27 miles. You lose 450’ of elevation over these two miles. I missed the lap button on my watch at 15 because I was focused on the elite water station. Got my bottle and chugged another good dose of electrolytes in water. Threw the bottle down and bolted for two very fast miles. If remember correctly, this is where Paul and I finally reeled in David. The two combined miles came in at 9:48, way faster than the 10:20 I had planned for. My hill training was paying off as was my decision to take it easy from miles 8-12. All of the sudden I was now on pace for a 2:21 finish. But more goodness was to come.

Miles 17 and 18 were blistering as well. I grabbed Gatorade at 17 and plugged along. These two miles drop another 282’ in elevation. Mile 17 comes in at 4:58 and mile 18 at 5:06. I was now one minute ahead of my wristband and nearly on OTQ “A” pace with 8 miles to go. It was at this point where I started to feel the effects of the punishing downhills. The calves were aching which was good because it meant I was pushing off on the downhills rather than braking. But the pain in my quads and calves was beginning to make me feel limited in my ability to take a full stride without compensating for the pain. This was a point where I really relied on Paul to pull me through the next mile.

Mile 19 drops a modest 43’ feet in elevation and I could feel the pain and the lactic acid buildup try and slow me down. Mile 19 came in at a very respectable 5:14. I was thrilled because it was the first mile that felt like I was running 8-minute miles.

Miles 20 and 21 combine for a drop of 392’ in elevation drop. I didn’t take very good advantage of it on mile 20 managing only a 5:26. I knew I had to do better. I picked it up a bunch and turned in a 4:45 for Mile 21. That was a huge mental boost because it showed I still had something left with only 5 miles to go. Paul and I had reeled in David a few miles back and Nick had left us several miles ago and was in complete control of the race. I was now 1:15 ahead of my wristband and 2:30 ahead of OTQ “B.” I was now on pace to go sub 2:20 with 5 miles to go at a cumulative 1:51:14.

Mile 22 was a huge gut check. I was really hurting. Paul had pulled ahead was was still very much in reach. I knew he was probably going to beat me, but I really wanted to let him pull me through this very difficult time so I hung close. Thoughts of my intense training, my kids rooting for me at home and the people I had met virtually on the marathon chat page all helped me through this tough time. The thought of not having to pay for my trip to the Trials also helped. “A” qualifiers get all their expenses paid for by USATF. Mile 22’s split was a very hard earned 5:15.

Mile 23 was just as difficult but this is where you enter the city and from here, the crowds are constant and increasing in volume. It was also the next chance I had to see my dad and brother in law. I finally shed my gloves and gave them to my cheering father. Paul was very much in charge of second place at this point but he had really helped me through a very difficult stretch for which I was grateful to concede second place. The split was again a very hard earned 5:10. I was really, really hurting. The quad and calf pain was excruciating and I still had 3 miles to go. But I was reaching the point where only disaster would keep me from NYC. My main motivation now was two things: get the “A” qualifying time and break 2:19 which would give me the fastest marathon time for any Washington runner this year. While the “B” was getting closer to a sure thing, these last two goals were far from guaranteed. There was just too much race left to think I had these in the bag.

All I remember about Mile 24 is it sucked but I somehow managed a 5:09. I have no idea how. With two miles to go, I was at 2:06:48, 1:29 faster than my wristband and 3:12 below the “B” standard on pace for a sub 2:19 marathon. NYC was all but certain, but I had to fight to hold on to breaking 2:19 and not do anything stupid that would jeopardize 2:20. Nick was assured victory. Paul had locked up second and I had locked up third. I just needed to hang on and hang on is what I did.

Miles 25 and 26 were 5:27 and 5:26 respectively. Acceptable. As I turned on to 300 South to complete the last quarter mile of the race I began to really appreciate my accomplishment. The thousands of onlookers were cheering. I pumped my fist and they cheered louder. I was on my way to NYC. I managed to finish the last .21 miles in 74 seconds…pretty quick despite letting off the gas pedal a bit once I knew a sub 2:19 was assured. Finishing time was 2:18:55. Miraculous. I can’t even describe how I feel even two days later as I write this. It was a personal moment like none other and my proudest athletic achievement ever. 29 months after beginning my running career anew, I was on top of my marathon world, achieving something I hadn’t thought possible just 12 months earlier when I crossed the same finish line in 2:31. A PR by 11 minutes, a course PR by 13 minutes, about 30 seconds per mile.

And then to greet Paul and Nick at the end and see how happy we were for each other and the other four Trials qualifiers who followed was something I will never forget. And then to see my dad, also a marathoner, and my mother, sister and brother-in-law waiting there for me was something I simply can’t describe. They were so proud.
This race was perfect in every way. The weather was sublime. Finishing temperature was around 49 degrees, a far cry from Chicago’s weather the next day…the race I was originally going to use to qualify.

I am so blessed. God has blessed with a talent AND with the mental and physical toughness and determination to make that talent into something. I am so blessed.

I will be back next year. I think there is room for improvement. I’ll be 35 next year when I run St. George, but I’m going to add some weightlifting and some additional tempo running during my long runs to further condition my body and take a run at the amazing time Nick put up this year.

I am very grateful to the organizers of this race and particularly to the volunteers. There is no finer run marathon in America.

Unfortunately, my wife and four beautiful kids couldn’t join me on Saturday. But they will be there in NYC to cheer me on as I toe the line with this country’s finest marathoners…the ones we all read about.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

2 Days 15 Hours

That is the amount of time before I begin a very defining 26.2 miles. My most defining. In a little more than two days, I will toe the line at my third St. George Marathon. For me, running is always about improving my time. This marathon is no different in that regard. What's different with this year's goal is that achieving it gets me more than a PR.


That is the time I must achieve to qualify for the US Olympic Marathon Trials in New York City's Central Park on November 3rd.

It's a crazy, silly fast time. It's a pace of 5:25 per mile for 26.2 miles. When I started training more than two years ago, I couldn't run one mile at 5:25 let alone 26 of them. My goal then was to qualify for Boston in a time of 3:10:59 or better.

A lot has changed in those 30 months. I've dropped my time to 2:29, I have a coach, I've increased weekly mileage to the point I exceeded 100 miles in preparation for this marathon. I'm in the best condition of my life and perhaps the best condition my aging body is capable of.

All that's left is to run the race. I've run 1,640 miles since May 3rd prepping for this moment. Add the five more I will run Friday morning and that is 11 miles longer than the distance from my house in Snoqualmie, WA to where my parents live in Minneapolis. Crazy to think about.

The interesting thing is that I don't feel that much pressure. If I don't make it, it surely wasn't for a lack of effort. It's OK to not be good enough, fast enough, smart enough, good-looking enough to accomplish certain benchmarks in life. All that matters is that you challenge yourself and work your hardest. That's what I've done for the last year or so and that's what I will do on Saturday. Don't get me wrong. There will be plenty of disappointment if I don't make it, but no regrets. Disappointment is not being happy with the result. Regret is knowing there was something you could have done to change that disappointing result.

An interesting sidenote. One of the reasons I love running is that it's all so relative. Just this past weekend, the world record was set at the Berlin marathon by Haile Gebrselassie from Ethiopia. His time? 2:04:26. Any idea what mile pace that is? Just a hair faster than 4:45 per mile. Remarkable from no matter where you sit. I look at that with awe. I can probably run two consecutive miles at that pace, but 26? Are you kidding? Everything is so relative.

Unless you are Haile Gebrselassie, someone out there is faster.

I don't really know what my plan is for this blog. I will post pretty regularly highlighting training efforts, things I've heard, seen and learned. Hopefully it will help someone. If nothing else, it's therapeutic to me and my kids will think it's cool I have a blog.