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 http://www.pntf.org/open/results.html.

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)
http://www.brooksrunning.com/prod.php?k=26482&p=BSIMP535. 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 Active.com 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 NBCSports.com. 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 http://www.nuun.com/.

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 http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/09/sports/othersports/09marathon.html?ref=us)

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.