Friday, September 30, 2011

Travel Tips

Running a marathon in all 50 states means a lot of traveling.  To that end, there are some tips to make travel more enjoyable and economical.  Here are a few.

1. Use frequent flier miles-I have a credit card with travel rewards.  I accumulate miles each time I use it.  Since I began using it in 2006, I have earned 17 free flights.  Look for one with a low or no annual fee, with few restrictions on travel.  Some also offer companion tickets.

2. Economize on hotels-When I travel I rarely do more than just sleep in the hotel.  I don't need much, so I usually try to find the best deal. is a great way to book a hotel.  You can choose the dates and location that you want, and "bid" on hotels in the area.  When I ran the Boston Marathon I stayed in a downtown hotel for $75/night for 5 nights.  Most rooms went for three or four times that amount.

3.  Yelp!  I love Yelp.  Before going out to eat or entertain in a new town I will always consult this website, which offers user generated reviews of bars, restaurants, & shopping.  I have never been let down by one of it's reviews.

Monday, September 26, 2011

#9--Country Music Marathon

Nashville, TN
April 24, 2004. 4:42:00

As a medical student, I did a rotation at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.  I really liked the city and hoped to get back.  When I saw an opportunity to run the Country Music Marathon there, I jumped at the chance.

Roxane decided that she would try this whole marathon thing, too, so we trained as a couple.  I generally prefer to run and train alone, but of course I couldn't say no, even if I wanted to.  Besides, this was something that I wanted to share.  If she caught the marathon bug, all the better!

We would do our long runs on the weekend together.  We weren't great partners on the road, I found out.  She is a much more explosive runner, doing better at short distances, while I did better at longer, slower runs.  I don't talk much on a training run.  If anybody knows Roxane, enough said.  In the end, we worked out our "differences" and completed the 4 mos training program.  She was bothered by blisters and poor fitting shoes during much of her training.

The start of the race was delayed by thunder storms.  The clouds eventually lifted and the race started.  Many of the bands didn't show up or stopped early because of the weather.  It was fairly warm and humid by the end, and the course was fairly unremarkable.  Roxane did great.  At mile 19 or so she was smiling and chatting up the other runners.  She said to me, "I feel great.  I'm already planning my next one!"  "Easy, trigger," was my reply.  No sooner had we passed mile 20 when she crashed right into the wall.  Our pace slowed, but we finished together.  Her feet looked like hamburger afterwards, and I am still amazed that she was able to finish.  We enjoyed a post race meal of sweet potato pancakes at The Pancake Pantry, a Nashville treasure.

I was very proud of Roxane for training for and finishing the marathon, and I was happy to share something that was such a big part of my life with someone who is the best part of it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Blisters 101

Blisters can be the bane of the runner's existence.  The cause of blisters is too much friction, usually the result of poorly fitting shoes.  Before you buy a new pair of shoes have your feet measured and examined by a professional shoe salesperson.  Readers of this blog know that I recommend The Lincoln Running Company, or whatever your local running shoe store is.  It's also important to wear clean, dry socks.  My two favorite pairs of socks are Wright Socks, which have two layers that reduce friction between your feet and socks, and Injinji, or so-called "toe-socks."  These are particularly helpful if you are prone to blisters on the toes.  If you develop a blister it's important to keep it clean to prevent secondary infection, and you need to modify your activity to let the blister heal.  I've had good luck with the Spenco Second Skin Blister Kit.

WebMD has a nice article on blisters, here:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

New York State of Mind

I've fully recovered from the marathon in Colorado Springs over Labor Day.  My attention now turns to one of the so-called "Marathon Majors," the ING New York City Marathon.  It's one of, if not the most popular marathon in the world, with hundreds of thousands of applicants per year.  I've applied for entry every year for the last four years through the lottery system.  Runners who don't get in the first three tries are guaranteed entry the fourth year. This is my year.

The other "Majors" are Chicago, Boston, Berlin, and London.  Of these, London is the only one I haven't done.......yet.

I've looked forward to running NYC for a very long time, and hope to run my best race in a while.  I'm shooting for 4:00, which will mean I'll have to cut an hour off my Labor Day time.  Lots of intervals, tempo and pace runs between now and the first Sunday in November!  Yesterday I did a nice 6 mile pace run at 9:15/mile and I'm heading out to to an easy 12 today.  NYC, here I come!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

#8--Lincoln Marathon

May 4, 2003. 4:21:54

I found it very difficult to train during my intern year.  There are now work hour regulations that limit the hours that residents can work, but these hadn't gone into effect yet.  100 hr work weeks were fairly common on surgery rotations.  Needless to say, my fitness had to take a back seat to patient care.

Things slowed down some in the spring and I was able to resume training.  By now my peers knew that I ran marathons, and a couple of fellow residents, Dave and A.J., were interested in training with me.  They were both good athletes, but novice distance runners.  I really enjoyed "coaching" them and sharing what I had learned.  We had hectic schedules, but were able to get together for long runs on Sundays.  I had never really run with a group before, so it was a nice change of pace.

Race day was rainy and cool.  I didn't know it at the time of course, but at one point I ran right by the house I live in now.  Lincoln is a great 1/2 marathon, but the crowds and enthusiasm fall off quite a bit once the half is over.  My friends and I ran together until the last couple miles.  Dave got this unbelievable burst and pretty much sprinted the last three miles or so.  No wall for him.  He was hooked and has gone on to do more marathons and has even done at least one ultra.  A.J. told me to go ahead and kick the last few hundred yards without him.  Well, with about 5 yards to go he came screaming past me, not leaving me enough time to catch up.  I had been suckered.  There is a very funny picture with two slow pudgy guys leaning across the finish line.  I can't find it but will post it if I do.  A.J. bested me by one second.

It was nice to finish a race in my home state.  The most rewarding thing, however, was running with Dave and A.J. and helping them reach their goal.  I hope I've inspired more along the way.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Running Gear, Vol. II

One of the most valuable tools for a serious runner is a GPS enabled watch.  Most of us are fairly detail oriented and want to try to stick to a plan.  We also love numbers and love gadgets.  If a particular program calls for a 5 mile run, most runners want to run 5 miles exactly.  Not more, not less.

A GPS enabled watch allows you to stick to your program, even if you are running a new route or even in a new town.  Some of the most memorable long training runs I've done have been when I've been out of town at a meeting or on vacation, turned the GPS on, and headed out the door.  My Garmin has taken me around Central Park, over the Golden Gate Bridge, and through cornfields in Western Nebraska.

In addition to distance and elapsed time, there are typically many features such as pace, laps, and splits, etc., all of which can enhance your training.  I know I've only scratched the surface of all the capabilities of my watch, the Garmin 310XT.  I think it's worth getting one with a heart rate monitor, too.

GPS enabled watches can be pricey, but I think they are worth it.  I almost feel naked running without mine now.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

#29--American Discovery Trails Marathon

Colorado Springs, CO
September 5, 2011. 5:00:49

Over the weekend I checked Colorado off the list.  I've put it off to avoid hills and altitude.  Well, I had to do it sometime.  The ADT Marathon was a good choice because it was pretty easy to get to and not as challenging as some races in Colorado.  Although it was a trail marathon, it was not technical and had a net descent from 7000+ ft to around 6000.  With this altitude, one would expect a 5-10% slower time, and that's what I got.  I was very surprised to finish in 5 hrs.  The altitude was a factor, but the biggest thing was I didn't taper real well.  My legs were pretty sore and tired from boot camp the week before.  Downhill races are very tough on your quads, and mine are still very sore.

I posted a picture from the course at the bottom of the page.  The scenery was beautiful.  There were only about 400 marathoners and very few spectators, so there was a lot of time to run alone.  That's fine with me, but not real conducive to running a great time.

I was disappointed in my time, but glad I finished.  I didn't really have any other goal.  I viewed this race as a long training run for the big one this fall, the ING New York City Marathon.  I'll rest this week and then get into a New York state of mind!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

#29 in the books

I did the American Discovery Trails Marathon in Colorado Springs yesterday. #29 total, 27th state. I'll have a full report later this week.