Tuesday, September 30, 2014

BRIN Races

Congrats and thank you to those who ran the BRIN Harvest Moon Hustle Friday night.  It was another great BRIN race.

It is not too late to sign up for the next one, the Cross Country Classic, a challenging, but fun 8K course 10/26.  See you there!!

#7--Stockholm Marathon

Stockholm, Sweden
June 8, 2002

My grandfather emigrated from Sweden in the early 20th century.  As a medical school graduation gift to myself, I wanted to visit my "homeland."  I spent two weeks in Sweden, with one week in the capitol, Stockholm.  Sweden is a clean, efficient, friendly, and beautiful country.  I met many relatives and made some new friends.  Of course, I had to squeeze in a marathon during the trip!

The Stockholm Marathon is considered by many to be one of the 10 best marathons in the world.  I would have to agree.  The scenery is breathtaking and the weather is usually mild.  The course included two loops through this great city.  The highlight was finishing in Stockholm's Olympic Stadium, site of the 1912 Olympic Games.  More world records have been set in this stadium than any other in the world.  I didn't set any records this day, but I did improve my time from Boston by quite a bit, finishing under four hours.

I am often asked which is my favorite marathon of all time.  I don't really have a favorite, but if pressed, I would have to say Stockholm.

Monday, September 29, 2014

#6--Boston Marathon

Boston, MA
April 15, 2002

This represented the end of a two year pursuit for me.  In 2000 I set a goal to qualify for Boston and reached that goal with the Twin Cities Marathon that same year.  The qualifying time is good for two years.  I was very busy with medical school, so I decided to run Boston the following year.

By this time I had met my wife-to-be and we spent several days touring the historic city.   This trip was more of a vacation than a race.  We walked on the Freedom Trail, went to a Red Sox game, drank at Cheers, and gorged on seafood.

I took a narrated bus tour of the course.  It was really cool to finally make it here and be surrounded by so many other runners who dedicated themselves to the same goal.  It can be argued that the Boston Marathon is the most famous and prestigious road race in the world.  The great thing about marathon running is the chance to compete in the same event as the best in the world.  Not many people can play in a Super Bowl with Tom Brady or a World Series with Derek Jeter, but I was able to "play in the Super Bowl of Running" for one day.

I was not in great shape for the race and labored to a 4 hr + finish time.  The course was 26.2 miles of history, and I didn't mind a single minute spent on the course.  The entire course was lined with enthusiastic spectators who are as much a part of the race as the runners themselves.  I took a disposable camera with me on the course and tried to capture what I could of the race.   For me, however, the race was fairly anti-climactic.  This was about the destination AND the journey.  To this date, qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon remains my proudest accomplishment.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

#5--Wyoming Marathon

Medicine Bow National Forest
Laramie, Wyoming
May 27, 2001

After I qualified for Boston, I took some time off.  Probably too much time off, in retrospect.  I was into my third year of med school and I really had a hard time finding time to train.  After basically taking the fall and winter off, I was ready to run again.

I've always been goal oriented, and I needed something to get me back on the road.  By now, I had started to think about running a marathon in all 50 states.  I did a family medicine rotation in Chadron, Nebraska in the spring of 2001.  The Wyoming Marathon just outside of Laramie was within driving distance, so I signed up for it.  My training was still somewhat sporadic.  I was limited by time and was having some leg and calf pain.  I later diagnosed myself with shin splints, or posteromedial tibial stress syndrome.  I tend to over-pronate some, and I was running in fairly old and worn out shoes.  Big mistake.  My biggest mistake, however, was just not having enough respect for the course I was about to run.  My previous races had been pretty easy, and I was a Boston Qualifier.  It should be easy, right?

The Wyoming Marathon is a trail marathon.  It was in Medicine Bow National Forest.  Very beautiful.  It is an out and back that starts at 8,500 ft elevation, downhill to 7,000 ft at the turn around, and then back up to 8,500 ft at the finish!  It was an incredibly hard course, and remains the one of the most difficult marathon I've ever done, even to this day.  At several points I wanted to quit, but that would have been tough.  You are basically stranded in the middle of nowhere.  The best thing to do is just keep moving towards the finish.  Relentless forward progress, as the phrase goes.

Well, I did finish, but in a record slow time of 5:20:19.  Since that race I've learned a lot.  Don't run a marathon you haven't trained properly for.  Don't run in old and worn out shoes.  Trail marathons in the mountain altitude are tough if you don't live and train there.  Finally, don't get too cocky.  The marathon can be a very humbling experience.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pictures from Little Run on the Prairie

#4--Twin Cities Marathon

Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
October 8, 2000

When I finished the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, I set my sights squarely on qualifying for Boston.  I had basically spent the last year training.  I was in great shape, and I thought a BQ was within reach.  I read everything I could get my hands on about running.  I was in marathon shape, I just had to get a little bit faster.  I took a week or two off after San Diego, and then began a fairly intense program to try to qualify for Boston.  I incorporated one of Hal Higdon's intermediate programs.  Each week I would do a track workout, an easy recovery run, a tempo run, a long pace run, and a long run.  Every run had a purpose.  The program was challenging but doable.  My peak weekly mileage didn't ever exceed 45 miles.  This was important, because I had just started my third year of medical school (the first clinical year and probably the busiest and most time consuming.  During my surgery rotation I would start rounds at 3:30 in the morning!)

After 18 weeks, I was ready.  I can't remember why I chose the Twin Cities.  Probably because it was within driving distance, and I had a friend that I could stay with.  Race day was clear and cool.  Probably high 30's at the start.  I was a little late getting to the start area, so I had to start towards the back.  There weren't any corrals that I remember.  Anyway, I knew I had to stick to a 7:15 pace at least.  After the first mile, I was already a minute or two behind.  I went to the side of the road and even on the sidewalk at one point in order to pass the slower runners.  I felt great and quickly got back on track.  I remember that I had at least one sub 6 minute mile during the race.  By ~ mile 19 or so I had a comfortable cushion.  At this point, however, the Twin Cities course becomes very tough.  Right after mile 20 there is a steep hill that doesn't end until about mile 23.  I had run plenty of hills, but none like this.  I did my best, but at the top of that climb, I had lost my cushion.  I was now well off pace.  I was crest-fallen, but I had come too far to give up.  The only thing I knew to do was keep running, which is what I did.  I remember looking down at my watch at mile 25.  Although I can't remember the exact time, I do remember thinking that if I had a strong kick, I might still be able to make it.  At that point I went into what was basically an all out sprint for the last 1.2 miles.  I crossed the finish line and looked at my watch.  It said 3:09:52.  I had just qualified for the Boston Marathon.

Friday, September 26, 2014

#3--San Diego Rock & Roll Marathon

San Diego, CA
June 4, 2000

After the Dallas White Rock Marathon, I just wasn't sure that my knees would hold up for another marathon.  I took several weeks off to rest.  I worked on some strength training (an area most runners, myself included, neglect) and did some biking.  My passion was now running, however, and I couldn't wait to get back on the roads.  I competed in more weekend road races, and even managed to place in my division a few times, winning a watch in the Mike Doucy Stars of Texas 10K.  It remains one of my proudest possessions!

I wasn't doing any speed work per se, but the road races were even better.  I was in "marathon shape," already, and just kept getting faster.  A friend of mine in Dallas mentioned that he was going to be running the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in June.  The RnR series were relatively new at the time, and the idea of being supported by 30 some bands on the course was appealing in the days before iPods were common or even allowed at races.  I had an old college friend in SD whom I had not seen in a long time.  I'd never been there, so it seemed like a great excuse to go.

The trip was great.  I went to the Zoo and Sea World, and my friend took me sailing the day before the race.  Race day was hot for San Diego, and the course was hilly in places.  There were nowhere near 30 bands as advertised, but the entertainment was fun.  I ran a very strong race from beginning to end, running the second half faster than the first.  Training all year in the Texas heat and running all of those road races had really paid dividends.  I felt like I had plenty of gas left in the tank at the end of the race.  Also, I had no pain anywhere in my body!  I looked down at my watch--3 hrs, 27 minutes, 55 seconds.  In just my 3rd marathon, I had cut nearly an hour off of my debut time.  I was starting to feel like a real marathoner!

I celebrated that afternoon by eating fish tacos on Pacific Beach (PB for those who live there).  I had always heard people talking about qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  I began to wonder, what would that take?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

#2--Dallas White Rock Marathon

Dallas, TX
December 5, 1999

I spent a year doing research between my second and third years of medical school.  I worked in a lab in Dallas, TX.  I enjoyed my time there and learned a lot (mostly that I didn't want to do research for a living--too slow).  I was still running 4-5 days a week, mostly for fitness and fun.  I joined the Cross Country Club of Dallas.  The Club was very active and sponsored races nearly every weekend.  I had nothing better to do, so I ran most of them.  I wasn't focusing on it, but I got a LOT faster.  One of my recommendations if you are trying to run a faster marathon is to compete in as many road races as you can.  You'll be doing speed work and not even realize it.  You almost can't help but get faster.

After Chicago, I really didn't think I'd ever do another marathon.  I had done it, right?  What's the point?  Well, the thought occurred to me, I wonder if I could break 4 hours?  With all the road races I was doing I was running sub 9 minute miles easily and my IT band issues seemed to be behind me.  I signed up for the local marathon, the Dallas White Rock Marathon.

Race day was very cool for Dallas, but ideal conditions for a marathon.  The course included a loop around White Rock Lake, my favorite training spot in town, so I felt like I had the home court advantage.  My pace was quick, and for the first 17 miles I was on pace for a 3:30 marathon!  Then, out of nowhere at mile 17, sharp pain on the outside part of my knee.  I knew exactly what it was--IT band syndrome again!

I didn't stop or even walk.  I just endured 9 miles of sharp, intense pain.  I finished in 3:41:06.  I was a little disappointed that I had to slow down, but mostly I was overwhelmed with a feeling of satisfaction.  I couldn't possibly have run even one second faster that day.  I gave it my all and was totally spent.

I really enjoyed both of the marathons I did and was proud of the accomplishments.  Unfortunately, it seemed that my old nemesis (IT band syndrome) would prevent me from doing any more.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

#1--Chicago Marathon

Chicago, IL
October 11, 1998

My first marathon (& last without body glide!)  I had only been running for a year and a half.  I had done a few local 5Ks and the Bolder Boulder 10K up to this point, but I knew next to nothing about distance running.  I was amazed that people actually could run 26.2 miles.  It seemed almost super human to me at the time.  I researched marathons some more and discovered that if you were in reasonably good shape and had a "base mileage" of 15-20 miles/week, the marathon was within your grasp.  With enough time and training (4 months on average) you can go from running 3-5 miles per day to completing the marathon.

I've always enjoyed testing myself and this seemed like the ultimate test.  I was a second year medical student at the time.  I would often have to run at 5 in the morning or 11 at night, but I don't think I missed a single training run.  The marathon consumed me.  In my limited free time, I read everything I could about running.  I've mentioned Hal Higdon's programs before.  His weekly novice program became my bible.  

Chicago was a great choice for a first marathon.  It's truly one of the great cities of the world, and was cheap and easy for a med student with limited time and money to get to.  I stayed with a friend from college who couldn't understand why the guy who used to go to Leavenworth Cafe every night after the bars closed was now running marathons.

Marathon day was perfect.  Mid 50's, sunny.  Chicago is a flat, fast, well organized and supported race.  My running had always been hampered by IT Band Syndrome, and this race was no different.  I held back for the first half of the race, running very cautiously.  If you've suffered from IT band syndrome, you know that the pain can come on very suddenly, and can bring your run to a screeching halt.  By mile 11, however, the endorphins started to kick in, my pace quickened, and my knee pain melted with the miles.

My time was slow, 4:23:59, but I finished.  That was my only goal.  I was sure I would never run another marathon. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Upcoming Races

Just a reminder about two upcoming races that I am sponsoring.

The RIN Cross Country Classic--fun an challenging cross country course.  10/26 at 2PM in Ashland.

Prairie Hill "Little Run on the Prairie."  One mile kids fun run.  This Saturday at PRAIRIE HILL Montessori School near Roca.

Hope to see you there!!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Marathon Count Down

As most readers of this blog know, I am on track to finish my 50 state quest this fall.  In the next 2 months, I will run marathons in Maine, New Mexico, and Nevada.  To commemorate the feat, and for a little bit of nostalgia, I am going to be re-posting the recaps from all of the marathons I've run, leading up to what I have called the "Las(t) Vegas" Marathon on November 16.

Look for the count down to start this week!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Marathon Cartoon

Readers of Runner's World probably have seen this cartoon, but I thought I would post anyway.  Anybody who has run a marathon will undoubtedly identify.