Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fatherhood and Running

With Father's Day 2008 now in the rearview mirror, I stumbled upon this story about Alan and Shayne Culpepper who are not only two of the most accomplished American runners in recent memory, but the proud parents of three children.

Being a parent is difficult work and sometimes it's very, very difficult to be a good father and still have the time and focus required to be a good athlete. I'm fortunate to have married the greatest woman on earth who has been supportive of me through the thick and thin of my brief running career.

I'm even more amazed when you look at the Culpeppers and realize they are both world class athletes who have made family THE priority above all else. It's so gratifying in these days of big money in sports, gigantic attitudes and dangerous and immoral lifestyles, that a couple as accomplished in their sport as they, are down to earth enough and focused enough to put their family before themselves. It's a breath of fresh air.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Race Report -- Fall City 10k

What a glorious morning for a run. The sun was out and the temperature was in the mid 50s. The only downer was a fairly strong breeze out of the north.

My goal going in was to break 32:00. It was somewhat random in that this was only my 3rd 10k and I didn't know how recovered I would be from my marathon two weeks ago. Winning the race was secondary although a time under 32:00 would usually be sufficient to win this race.

The start was late due to either an unexpectedly high number of people registering the day of or poor planning on the part of the race for not getting through the line quicker. We were almost 15 minutes late which pretty much makes an effective warmup impossible. Oh well.

When the gun finally went off, I and three other guys jumped out to an early lead. I crossed mile 1 in 4:58. A good start especially into a non-trivial wind. Our pack was still four at the one mile mark.

By mile 2, we had said goodbye to the 5k runners and our pack was down to three runners: me, Leif Kohler and Eric Garner, a former University of Washington standout. http://gohuskies.cstv.com/sports/c-track/mtt/garner_eric00.html

Mile 2 was a bit slower as we crossed in 5:06. The wind was far more noticeable on this stretch.
There was no mile 3 marker. I HATE this. How hard is it to freaking put a mile marker at every mile. So my lap split came at the turnaround spot. It was 5:38 for the 1.1 miles which equates to a 5:09 mile pace. I was excited to head back the other direction to get out of the headwind. The 1/2 way split was 15:42.

Since I've never run a 5k, I guess that is my new PR.

I was leading at the turnaround by a few seconds. This is when things got interesting. Leif began dropping off and Eric jumped out to the lead. It was clear he was making an effort to surge and see what I would do in response. For the first minute I tried to stick with him but I was concerned that the increased pace wasn't something i could maintain and I didn't want to blow up at the end. This was mistake #2.

I crossed mile 4 in 5:02 and was about 10 seconds back of back now and Leif was way back. This is when I started to realize I may have made a tactical mistake by not going with Eric when he made his surge at the halfway point. Barring a major injury or blowup, second was mine and so was a decent time. But, catching Eric, who is tall, long-legged and had great footspeed, was going to be infinitely harder now than if I had gone with him when he tried to surge.

With one mile to go, I was still about 10-15 seconds back and Leif was nowhere to be seen. There was a short window here where I thought I might be able to catch Eric but he is a short distance specialist and I would have never been able to take him if it came down to a sprint to the finish.
My last mile was in 5:02. So I finished strong but lost the race.

Race mistakes:
  1. Leif and I made things a lot easier for Eric by creating a great wall blocking the wind for him on the outbound half of the race. Eric was smart to stick behind us and let us do all the work.
  2. Not going with Eric at the halfway point. My inexperience at this distance gave me some hesitation as to what to do. I gave up too soon on trying to stay with him. Had I stayed with him, I may still not have won, but I would have known how much he really had left.

It's hard to focus too much on the mistakes when I PR'd by 1:35 and ran what would have been a course record if I had been the winner. Racing should always teach you something and make you a better and smarter runner the next time around. I need to be more confident in the strength that marathon training gives me and use that to my advantage.

I felt no residual soreness or fatigue from my marathon. That was a pleasant surprise.
As a side note, my 10-year-old son finished in 25:28, a PR by almost four minutes. I was very proud of him especially since he never trains.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Enough already!!! It's June and even by Seattle standards, this weather is awful. Every morning this week so far I have run in rain with temps in the mid- to lower 40s. At least my house isn't floating away...yet.

At least I am feeling good. Almost two weeks have passed since the Newport Marathon and I've definitely recovered much faster this time than ever before. I was able to run 55 or so miles last week and will hit mid 60s this week on my way back to the low to mid 80s. I would hit 18 this week if it weren't for the 10k I'm doing on Saturday in Fall City instead of the 18-mile long run I would otherwise do. It will be interesting to see if I have my race legs back yet. It's one thing to log a bunch of miles post marathon It's entirely different to run them fast.

But I am very anxious. My shortest race this year was my half marathon in Tacoma about six weeks ago. I crossed the 10k mark in that race at 33:00 flat which, sadly, was a PR. I would love to go sub-32:00 on Saturday. It looks like the weather will cooperate.

I've been asked by a few people to post some more detail into my non-running training regimen, meaning my core exercises, stretching and weight lifting. More to come on that soon.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I'm Back

For the three and one-half readers (Mara, my Dad, my Mom and anyone else who accidentally stumbles onto the site) of my blog, I'm sorry for the almost six months of silence on my blog. I'm still running but slacked. I'm recommited to making regular entries from here on out.

Newport Marathon -- Race Report

Race: Newport Marathon (Oregon)
Start Time: 7:01am
Weather: 47 degrees, heavy overcast, no wind. PERFECT.

Marathons are a funny thing.

I woke up this morning after getting a pretty decent night's sleep, a bit nervous...for the first time. I've never gone into a marathon with the expectation of winning. On paper, I was the favorite, but as everyone on this blog knows, a lot can happen over 26.2 miles. So I was a bit nervous.

My reason for running this marathon was to win. Period. I picked this one because it is flat and fast and because the course record was a respectable 2:26 so I wasn't picking a backwoods marathon that could be won in anything under three hours.

My second goal was to break the course record. My third goal was to go sub 2:24. Why? Well, I have this problem. My St. George PR is 2:18:57. My non-St. George PR is 2:29. That disparity has bothered me a lot and has made me wonder how fast I really am. So even more than the victory, I was anxious to get this dual-PR monkey off my back.

Mission accomplished on all fronts.

I finished in 2:22:47, winning the race by nearly 20 minutes and shattering the course record, which earned me a $100. (I put $95 of that into my gas tank in Corvallis on the way home). More importantly, I ran a very solid time, narrowed the huge gap between SGM and my "other" PR and did so doing it completely alone wire to wire. Going into the race, I would have said that winning would bring the greatest joy from this race. I would have been wrong. Don't get me wrong. Winning my first marathon is huge and a longstanding goal that has now been accomplished. But running a near-OTQ qualifying (old standard) race all by myself was an enormous boost in confidence that may carry me much farther than the victory itself.

Here are my splits:

I've thought a but about what made this race so much better than my previous PR in Eugene in 2007 especially since Eugene was not any more challenging than Newport and because I had a group of guys to run with the whole race there.

Two early observations: (1) Hydration. For those who have read any of my previous marathon race reports, you know that getting enough fluid in my body has been an enormous challenge for me at the marathon distance. I finally figured it out. The line between too little water and too much is very, very fine. I promised myself this race that if I went down in flames it was going to be because I drank too much fluid not because I drank too little. Today, I was able to manage that very tricky balance perfectly. I had a few stomach cramps and aches along the way, but nothing that slowed me down. Interestingly, the only fluid I took was water with NUUN tablets in it and just plain water. None of that HEED crap. I also took one GU at 17 which was perfect. So no sport drinks, only one GU (100 calories) seemed to do the tricks. I estimate I had 60 or so ounces of fluid during the race. That is a PR by more than double. Sad I know. (2) Strength exercises. I felt fantastic during the whole race. When I crossed the finish line, I didn't really feel all that tired. I kept waiting for the proverbial wall but it never happened. From Mile 18 on I just took it two miles at a time and it worked well. The strength exercises really conditioned me in a way that I have never experienced before. I suspect my post-race recovery will be easier as well. I have more work to do here but my legs have never felt better during a race.

The race course is stunning. It's beautiful and except for a few rollers in miles 1-5 and again on the 26th mile, it's as flat as can be. St. George is a beautiful course in it's own right, but this is classic Northwest beauty.

I should also mention that the race logistics were second to none. Given the new time standards and the elimination of St. George and other aided courses, Newport is a very good candidate for those wanting to try to qualify for the Trials in 2011. All it would take is a pack of 5-10 runners to push each other along.

Miles 1-4 run through a state park with a cool lighthouse and then winds through the neighborhoods of Newport before dropping down to sea level and running through the fishing district. At 4.5, there is a steep uphill that lasts for about .15-.2 miles. I took it pretty conservatively. At the crest you begin a gentle downhill back to sea level to Mile 5. From there all the way to Mile 25, it is as flat as can be.

At the halfway point I felt great crossing in 1:11:15, 45 seconds faster than planned. The turnaround at 15.2 was a welcome sight. I have come to love out and back courses. The runners are always so awesome to cheer those heading back to the finish. It's also nice to know what you have ahead of you.

At Mile 17, all was well but in the back of my mind I was worried about Mile 20 which has been the usual point of my demise. To help me get around that, at Mile 19 I did the "just get yourself to Mile 21 and you will be fine." It worked. I don't even remember Mile 20. At 21 I was well under course record pace and mentally pushed myself to work hard to Mile 23. At 25, I was still running at a solid pace and feeling great. Mile 26 was a gentle uphill and slowed me down a bit. Mile 26 would have greatly benefited from having someone to run with. Breaking 2:23 was the only remaining time goal to shoot for so I wasn't exactly killing myself up the hill. Right at the 26-mile mark you have a steep downhill which my legs did not appreciate.

What a day. It's not very often you run 26 miles and accomplish even the loftiest of goals you set for yourself.