Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Hopefully Back In The Saddle

Crossing the finish line at the Colfax Marathon, ready to turn the page
One of my character strengths, that can also at times be a weakness, is that I'm an "all or nothing" type of guy.  There is basically very little middle ground with me.  This serves me well when it comes to a "stick-to-it" and "get the job done" attitude, but unfortunately it makes me a little closed-minded on some issues.  (But as I get older, I seem to notice a lot of that fading away)

And when it comes to working out, this "all or nothing" approach is also often conflicted.  If I'm feeling healthy and things are good in my life, I absolutely kill it in my workouts and diet.  I'm focused on every facet of training and really get in great shape.  But if I lose focus from an injury or life distraction, I can go off the rails fairly quickly.  And usually if there's an issue in my running, I have trouble maintaining the other areas of training, like consistent core work and good eating habits.  Before long, I'm overweight, under-trained, and out of shape.

After about 16 years of running, and almost 7 years of racing, I've really haven't had many injuries slow me down.  Sure, I've had little aches and pains along way.  Light IT Band issues, minor knee soreness or tightness, small bouts with Plantar Fasciitis, and some periodic aching in the upper hamstring and lower glute have all been occasional distractions, but for the most part I've been able to "run through  them".  However, the hip bursitis that I experienced this Spring after the Phoenix Marathon is probably the single biggest running issue I've dealt with to date.  And while I was able to run through it for the most part, it really slowed me down.

Most of the aches and pains I've experienced have been specifically muscle related.  This meant that after a little slow running or warming up, the affected muscle seemed to loosen up a little, and I could complete the workout at a normal pace or distance.  But the hip bursitis was different.  I felt it at the top of my femur, where it inserts into the hip, and with every stride, it seemed to get worse.  It drastically slowed, and shortened workouts, and literally cut my running in half.  It was so frustrating.  And for some deep seeded psychological reason, I'm sure, when my running slowed and at times came to a halt ... so did my diet and core work.  I basically eliminated most of my core work, and ate like crap.  And in no time at all, I was out of peak shape. In the words of Ron Burgundy, "That escalated quickly!"

But I think I'm finally over the hump and ready to tackle summer training.  The hip is still a little tight, mainly from being a little weaker than normal, but it really feels much better.  I'll spend quite a bit of time strengthening it again with supplementary workouts, and start slowly.  But with the improved hip health, I seem to be eating better ... and holy cow, I've actually completed three core workouts this week.  So hopefully I'm back on track and can train for some fast upcoming fall races. Staying healthy is obviously the key.  I'll keep you posted.  Have a great week.
... Be Great Today!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Colfax Marathon Performance Summary

2015 Denver Colfax Performance Summary
Personal Stats & Analysis
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Denver, Colorado
Official Time:  3:54:09
Pace: 8:55/mile
Place: 336/1,419 Overall,
67/213 40-49 Age Group
Weight: 182
Calories Burned: 3,392
Pre-Race Health: Hip Bursitis all Spring during training, so nowhere
near peak marathon condition, also over race weight
Post-Race Health: Good, no new issues
Course: Elevation of 5,280' and a 350' climb from miles 5-15, mostly
rolling hills with long flat stretches
Elevation Gain: 584 ft
Elevation Loss: 584 ft
Total Distance Ran: 26.2
Start Temperature: 45 degrees
Finish Temperature: 62 degrees
Sky Conditions: Overcast
Wind: 11 mph SW
Humidity: 61%

I went into the Denver Colfax Marathon, not in "terrible" shape, but probably the worst marathon distance shape I'd been in, maybe ever.  I just wasn't ready to run a full 26.6 miles, much less at the 5,200 feet of elevation of Denver.  So I knew it would be a struggle, and the only real result I was concerned with was crossing the finish line.

I had a pretty lengthy bout throughout the Spring, after the Phoenix Marathon, with bursitis in my left hip.  The results was a drastic reduction in my mileage leading up to the race.  In the last six weeks before the marathon, the time when I'm usually hitting 75-80 mile weeks consistently,  my mileage was as follows ... 47, 45, 39, 12. 39. 13.  In fairness, two of those weeks were the week before my Spring Half-Marathon, and the other was a taper week.  But the bottom line is, I didn't have a strong enough base to run a good race from start to finish.   But I've ran enough marathons, that I figured I would most likely complete it, but that was about it.

The altitude really didn't have much of a noticeable effect on me at Colfax.  It's been my experience that I really don't start struggling with it until about 6,000-6,500 ft.  I'm sure there was more of a cumulative effect than I realized, but I never remember being "short of breath" at easy paces.

I knew I could run a 7:45'ish fairly comfortably ... but for how long was the question.  In hindsight, if I'd kept my pace closer to 8:15 or so, I might not have had to walk as much at the end.  But at the 7:45-8:00 pace through most of the early race, I never really felt like I was pushing it.  In fact, on several occasions, I held back a little.  So who knows.  I figured I had a pretty solid 18-20 miles in me, but after that, all bets would be off.

I actually ran the first 20 miles at a 7:56 average pace with a couple of pee breaks, and also walking through every water stop, but at mile 21, I started having stomach issues.  They're something I'm definitely going to focus on this summer during training, as I've experienced them in two out of the last three marathons I've ran.  My legs were actually fine at that point, but I just kept having feelings of nausea, which actually might have been from the elevation.  And as far as my legs go, I have very little soreness in the following days after the marathon, so I was probably in a little better shape than I thought I was. In some marathons, my legs have started aching from about mile 16 on, mainly from over-training during the training cycle.  But in Denver, I actually felt like I could have gone a little further at a 7:45 pace if not for the stomach issues.  These stomach issues at Denver were probably from a weak core, and poor fueling leading up to the race.

When I started feeling the issues about half-way through mile 21, it made me walk most of the remaining mile. I never thought about quitting, it just bummed me out because I knew the remainder of the race would take forever if I had to walk it.  At about mile 22, I started feeling a little better and was able to put a 9:21 in the bank.  But then I started feeling them again decided to walk/run the rest of the race - which was fine, I really didn't care.  I really just wanted to make sure that I felt okay for my 9 hour drive back to Missouri immediately following race.  I figured driving 9 hours while holding back vomit might not be a great thing to experience.  If we had been staying in Denver one more night, I might have pushed it a little, but probably not.  Like I've written before ... if I realize at some point during a race, I'm not going to PR or place in my age group, I have A LOT of "quit" in me.  Ha, and that's what happened at this race.  During mile 22, it just became a game of get to the finish line, get the medal, and get out of here.

Hopefully most of the hip stuff is behind me, because trying to train for a marathon when being only about 50% healthy sucks.  If I can get the hip stuff completely resolved, it should be a fairly fast rest of the year, but we'll see.
... Be Great Today!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

2015 Denver Colfax Marathon Review

2015 Denver Colfax Marathon
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Denver, Colorado
28th State Completed
Runners: 1,419 (805 men, 614 women)
Start Time: 6:00 a.m. MT
Course: Urban tour of downtown Denver with an
elevation of 5,280' and a 350' climb from
miles 5-15, mostly rolling hills with flat stretches
Weather: 46 degrees and sunny at start, 65 at finish
SWAG: Short-sleeve moisture wicking shirt and free
downloadable race photos
Race Organization: Good pre-race and at Expo,
some issues during race, and poor post-race
Crowd Support: Non-existent until the end of the race
Volunteer Support: Outstanding support from local
fire and police officers, good - but very limited other
volunteers, especially at water-stops
Food:  Bananas, bagels, BBQ
Age: 46
Finish Time: 3:54:09 (5th slowest ever)
Average Pace: 8:55
Place: 336/1,419 Overall, 67/213 40-49 Age Group

If I only had one word to summarize our trip to Denver, Colorado to run the 2015 Colfax Marathon, it would probably be ... DICHOTOMY.  I found it to be true, not only of the beautiful "mile-high" city, but also the 10th annual marathon and race weekend.  From the social conditions that seemed in direct contrast each other, to portions of the race weekend that were flawlessly organized, while others were poorly handled, to even my personal race result which was on the opposite end of the spectrum to where I usually finish, there were just a number of things that seemed to be polar opposites.  But even with the contradictions, we still had a great time a nice event.

Beautiful view of the snow-covered Rocky Mountains in mid-May as we approached Denver
My wife, Michael, and I drove from Kansas City to Denver a few days before the Sunday race. Thursday was our 10th wedding anniversary, so we had planned on using the trip not only as an extended race weekend, but also a brief getaway and celebration.  The 9 hour drive was a somewhat boring and uneventful trek, out of Missouri, across Kansas, and into Colorado.  Although on Friday afternoon we narrowly missed a hazardous storm cell that produced a couple of tornadoes in Northeast Denver, which are fairly uncommon to the area.

Colfax Avenue in the heart of Denver, Colorado
We stayed at the Hampton Inn in the Cherry Creek area.  And upon arrival, I immediately noticed being surrounded by an unusually high percentage of Mercedes, Range Rovers, BMW's, etc. in the bumper-to-bumper traffic of Colorado Boulevard.  The $80,000 SUV's quickly made sense when I realized that our hotel was located next to Cherry Hills Village, Denver's most affluent community.  The Hampton Inn there was in the middle of a major remodel, which made the stay less than optimal. However as luck would have it, it was directly across the street from a Whole Foods Market, which has become my pre-race "go to" for nutrition, so the location ended up being perfect.

Michael and I enjoyed Bastien's Steakhouse and Marco's Coal-Fired Pizza in the LoDo and Colfax areas

Colorado State Capital Building on Colfax Avenue
While in Denver, we spent a lot of time on Colfax Avenue and in the LoDo area, which is the "nickname" given to Lower Downtown.  LoDo is the location of earliest settlers and establishment in Denver, and has been restored over the years with urban reinvestment. It's now known for it's vibrant nightlife, shopping, eateries, at community, and eclectic lifestyle.  It's nestled in the heart of the city near the Colorado State Capital building, Coors Field, University of Colorado at Denver, and Union Station.  There are also several well manicured city parks sprinkled throughout the metro area that seemed to be great recreational and gathering places.  Over the past few years, Michael and I have really tried to eat at unique local places when we travel, and a couple of our favorites this trip were Bastien's and Marco's Coal Fired Pizza.  The steak at Bastien's was one of the best ribeye's I've ever had.  And the pizza at Marco's was awesome, although the crowd at 6 p.m. on Saturday night was a little too "Jersey Shore" for my taste, bro ... but admittedly I'm old and lacking style.  The whole area really had an "artsy" feel that was unique to Denver, and I wish we would have spent more time to experience all it had to offer.  It would be fun to visit again while not prepping for a race.

But it was in this financially booming and bustling area that we first noticed the most obvious socially confusing, economically polar, and frankly heartbreaking trait of Denver ... it's overwhelming and growing homeless population.  There were literally homeless and transient people wandering around everywhere.  I travel for a living and have been all over the country, and I've never seen anything like it.  Based on news and published reports, the problem is apparently very concerning to city officials, but there doesn't seem to be a consensus on the reason why it's happening.  However, the most popular public opinion is that homeless folks are flocking to Denver because of it's lax laws on marijuana use.  The juxtaposition of so many downtrodden people against the backdrop of neighborhoods representing wealth and privilege was almost a little surreal.  While we were out and about in the area, I wouldn't say that we ever felt "unsafe", so I certainly don't mean to discourage visiting the area, but it was definitely one of the most lasting impressions left on both of us from the trip.

B-52 Strategic Air Command bomber at the entrance of Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum
2015 Denver Colfax Marathon Race Shirt
The Race Expo was held the day before the race at Wings Over The Rockies Air & Space Museum.  And quite simply ... it was AWESOME!  It was one of the most unique Race Expos I've ever attended.  Michael and I spent quite a bit of time checking out all of the displays housed in the giant 40,000 sq. ft. Hangar #1 built in 1939 on the former grounds of Lowry Air Force Base.  Parking was a little congested at the event, but with almost 10,000 runners for the 10 miler, half and full marathons, it was to be expected.  There seemed to plenty of friendly volunteers waiting to point the way and assist with information, however this wasn't the case all race weekend.  The Expo was an unexpected opportunity to see many of the military aircraft used over the years up close.  The largest and most impressive aircraft was the B-52 Strategic Air Command Bomber sitting right outside the front door of the museum.  There were several smaller fighter jets on display inside the hangar dating from early century fighters to current day jets.  But by far our favorite was a scaled version of a Star Wars X-Wing Fighter with R2D2 in the cockpit.  And even though there were no signs of Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo, or Chewbacca, we had a great time at the event.

Michael and me at the Denver Colfax Marathon Expo - one of the coolest packet pickups I've ever attended

The Race
If you've read my blog for a while, or know me in "real-life", you'd probably figure that finishing the Colfax Marathon with my fifth slowest time ever of 3:54:09 was really disappointing or upsetting ... but surprisingly, you couldn't be more wrong!  After dealing with a mild left hip injury all Spring, I wasn't anywhere near peak marathon shape and I knew a marathon literally a mile above sea level would most likely be a struggle.  So leaving Denver healthy and with a finisher medal from my 31st marathon were the only two objectives.  And fortunately, it was mission accomplished for both.
Denver City Park (photo from race website)
I woke up at 3 a.m. to be at the race an hour before the early 6 a.m. start time.  Michael was running the half-marathon, which started about an hour after the marathon, so she had a bit of a wait in the car.  But at larger races, I always like to be at the event early to avoid parking issues, which was a good idea at this race.  Spaces were limited and congested in the parking lot shared by the Denver Zoo and Denver Museum of Nature & Science at City Park.  There were a few parking lot volunteers with yellow vests ... talking on cell phones and sitting on the curb visiting with each other, not directing traffic ... so it was basically a free-for-all for parking spots.  It was good of them to volunteer (or possibly be "volunteered" judging by their interest in being there), but I'm not sure what there job was supposed to be.  It wasn't a great first impression for the event on race day.

Thatcher Memorial Fountain in Denver City Park
The race started in City Park, a beautiful and spacious urban park surrounding a small lake.  In the minutes leading up to the race, I found that there were plenty of Port-o-Potties, a convenient bag drop area close to the starting line, and details about the race being communicated over the PA system by the race directors.   It was a nice pre-race environment, with plenty of room to warm up.  The race actually started about five minutes late, which is personal pet-peeve of mine. I just hate waiting around at the start as my legs get tight because someone can't manage a watch.  But it wasn't a big deal on Sunday since I wasn't running the race for time.

Runners were lined up in alphabetical corrals by projected finish time.  When I signed up for the race back in January, I figured my finish time to be around 3:15, which put me in Corral A.  So on Sunday, I just tried to stay out of the way as the faster runners whooshed by me and my slower than usual plan of attack at the outset of the race.  The first mile was spent exiting the green-grassed park adjacent to the lake, and circling two of the beautiful statue monuments, before heading West on Colfax Avenue, where much of the race would be spent.

Colfax Avenue was empty on Sunday morning.  It was in complete contrast to the thick traffic congestion we had sat in only a few hours prior, and reminded me of one of those movies where aliens have abducted everyone and the city streets are left vacant.   I don't think there were more than three or four people out watching the race for the first six miles, which was understandable considering the early start.  Considering the size of downtown Denver, it just seemed strange to be out there without any of the typical fanfare.  It was almost a little weird.  Literally the only people out and about - besides runners - were police officers and firemen, and homeless people gathered here and there watching as we ran by.  And at times, especially during those early miles of the race, it felt a little shameful to simply be passing by, enjoying life, as they looked on.  I can't really explain it, but in many ways, it didn't seem right.

A few miles into the race, I fully expected the "mile high" altitude to be sucking the wind out of me.  But I can honestly say it was never an issue on Sunday.  I just tried to keep my pace at a nice comfortable 8:00/mile, and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the Denver metro.  And around Mile 4, those surrounding became really cool as we got to run through the open doors of a Denver Fire Station.  There were several firefighters standing there cheering and supporting us, and I thought it was an awesome added feature.  Shortly after leaving the fire station, we ran under a huge American flag that was pulled tight by two fire truck ladders, and waiving in the light Sunday morning 50 degree sunshiny breeze.  The conditions were literally perfect.

Colorfully decorated manikin at the
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design
Around Mile 5, we turned off of Colfax and were directed by a clown on a unicycle and a juggling mime to make a right turn - at least I think that's what the mime said.  From there, we made our way along the concrete paved South Platte River trail for about a mile.  The trail was a viaduct type of structure with a concrete wall on one side, and the gently flowing river on the other.  There were also signs placed every twenty feet or so that told the story of how the area had been restored only a few years earlier.  Just before we exited the river walk, we saw an acrobatic gentleman on a kayak doing tricks on the flowing water, and cheering the runners as we headed toward Elitch Gardens.  Elitch Gardens is a botanical/amusement park with several rides and roller coasters.  We would pass this park again on the way back into town, but I can tell you I felt much better at this point than I would later.

Just past the park as we were making our way out of downtown Denver, Sport Authority Field At Mile High came into view.  It's better know as the home of the NFL's Denver Broncos, and on the marathon course, we passed through the stadium and actually ran on the field ... twice ... on the way out and on the way back.  And even though I'm a lifelong Kansas City Chiefs fan, I have to admit, I was looking forward to running through the stadium.  I'd ran through Kauffman Stadium several times at the end of the Kansas City Royals 5K, but I'd never been on the field of an NFL stadium.  Just like at Kauffman, we entered through a tunnel at the end of the stadium.  Once we were inside the stadium, we basically ran from end zone to end zone.  The Bronco's groundskeepers had the field roped off to keep us off of the grass, so we basically ran around the perimeter of the field.  But I couldn't help but notice how perfect and green every blade had been manicured.  I slowed my pace a little the first time through the stadium, and stopped to walk the second time through so I could fully enjoy the unique experience.  Being on the floor of an actual NFL stadium was one of the really cool things about the race.

The marathon course takes runners through Sports Authority Field at Mile High, twice
Running through the stadium
After the first trip through the stadium, we began climbing the only real ascent during the race.  It's a gently rising 350' over the next several miles, that frankly, never seemed that unmanageable.  Miles 8-10 are spent circling the beautiful lake in Sloan Park.  It was by far, my favorite stretch of the race.  The water on lake was calm and soothing, with the snow-covered peaks of the Rocky Mountains as the backdrop.  It was simply perfect, and I found myself wishing we could run around it again.

Ten of the next eleven miles were spent going still further West on Colfax past typical rural businesses and apartment complexes, turning around in a neighborhood near Morse Park, and then retracing our steps back to downtown on a nice gradual decline East on Colfax.  It was still early on Sunday morning, but to this point, there were still very few folks out watching the race.  About the only crowds that gathered were at the end of the race, and at the post-race party.  However, just before Morse Park, we ran through Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design where several colorfully decorated male and female manikins lined the parking lot to greet us.  But despite the nonexistent supporters, the course was lined with law enforcement officers. There seemed to be three or four officers at almost every intersection.  In fact, it seemed they outnumbered the volunteers at this event. The volunteers in attendance were helpful and did a great job, but there just didn't seem to be enough of them, especially at the conclusion of the race.  At some of the water stops in particular, they seemed to be a little disorganized and scrambling because they were undermanned.  Michael told me that at one of the water stops in her race, there was one person trying to get water to everyone.  And at another, they ran out of cups and were pouring water into the hands of runners.  For a race that was celebrating it's tenth year and has rave reviews on Runner's World and other websites, it seemed a little below average.

Local firefighters handing out medals
at the finish line, really cool

I went into this race fully aware that I would most likely have to walk/run the last few miles.  Although I'd ran a good half-marathon a couple of weeks before, my legs weren't conditioned for the full marathon distance.  So after the second trip through Sports Authority Field, I pretty much shut it down.  It wasn't completely by choice mind you - for about three of those last miles I really fought stomach issue.  But if I would have been a little more focused and committed to running the whole thing, I might have been able to push through.  But I had about five miles left in the race, and a nine hour car-ride back home immediately after crossing the finish line, and I really didn't want to be sick, sore, or even worse, injured on the trip home, so I began a combination of walking and running. Up until about Mile 21, my average pace was a respectable 7:55/mile.  But for the last five miles, it dropped off to about 12:30/mile.  Quite a difference.  I finished the race just under four hours ... a pretty significant contrast to the times I'd been running lately.  But it was just one more thing over the course of the weekend that just didn't seem to match.

Most of the race organization had been pretty good, with a slight hiccup here or there, up until this point.  But unfortunately, I would give some of the post-race organization a "fail".  The best part about the post-race was the firefighters who handed out medals.  That was really cool.  But the bag drop area seemed really far away from the finish area.  Plus, when I  got to the bag drop pickup, there was a line of about 100 people, with only two or three volunteers doing the best they could to retrieve the bags as quickly as possible.  I stood in line for about 10-15 minutes after the race waiting for my bag, which, on tired marathon legs is a long time.  There was the exact same experience at the results tent.  I waited about 15-20 minutes in the results line before I just gave up.  There were more tents than I'd ever seen at a post-race party and literally people everywhere.  Plus, I wasn't getting a signal on my cell phone, so it made finding Michael a little more difficult.  At any other time, these things probably wouldn't have been a big deal, but standing around and dealing with the clusters of unorganized people on exhausted legs kind of left a bad lasting impression to an otherwise good race weekend.

After I found Michael we hurried to the car, got back to the hotel and showered and packed, ate lunch, and then I headed back to KC.  She stayed in town for a couple of more days visiting a friend.  The nine hour drive back to Missouri wasn't as bad as I thought it would be because I'd ran at a comfortable pace.  Plus with the much slower pace int he final miles, I didn't feel too bad at all.
Tons of people gathering at the post-race party
9 hour drive back home across Kansas immediately after the race
We had a great time, as always, just being together in Denver.  And I'm very fortunate to get to share weekends like this with the person I love.  It's great to have my wife's support in running, because she loves it as much as I do.  And I don't take it for granted - I know a lot of folks don't have that same opportunity. I would probably recommend the Denver Colfax Marathon to anyone who asks, but it's definitely not one of my favorites.  But it's a good race, and the few organizational details wouldn't be enough to keep me from running it again.  I felt like we really got to see a lot of the uniqueness of the city and really enjoyed the experience.  But even though I was able to finish the race without the elevation affecting me this time, I'll probably be keeping it at sea level for a while just to be on the safe side.
... Be Great Today

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Possibly My First DNF

One of my favorite pics from the Prairie Fire Half-Marathon
(because my legs look strong ... ha)
Like many runners who've been running a while, I'm occasionally asked for running advice.  Usually it has to do with types of shoes, different body parts that are giving the inquirer problems, or marathon training tips.  And just like everything I write on my blog, I preface it with, "Well ... I'm not an expert ... but what works for me is ...".  But I'm about to try something next weekend that I would NOT advise to anyone who asked ... run a marathon!

No, I'm not talking about just running any marathon.  I'm a firm believer that almost anyone can train to the point of being able to run 26.2 miles, regardless of ability.  No friends, I'm talking about trying to run the 2015 Colfax Marathon in Denver next weekend while being out of shape, and borderline injured.  It goes against everything I would recommend, and it's definitely against my better judgement.  And I'm being 100% honest when I tell you that a DNF would be embarrassing, but not surprise me at all.

Here's why I'm really really really scared about this one.  As I've written repeatedly, I've dealt with left hip bursitis all Spring. It had pretty much died down, but is giving me a little tightness and minor soreness after last week's race in Wichita.  As well as making my hip a little weaker than normal, the hip inflammation really cut into my marathon training mileage.  In fact, in the last month, I've only ran in double digit mileage six times.  Six.  And since my last marathon in February, my only long runs have have consisted of 16, 18, 20 and 16 miles.  That's it.

I usually pride myself in keeping in good enough shape to be able to run a marathon pretty much anytime I want, but with the hip injury, I'm nowhere near that conditioning.  I struggled with ten miles this morning.  Granted, it was the week after a pretty fast half-marathon, and literally 90% humidity ... but it was only ten miles.

So why am I still going to try to run the race?  Eh, mainly because Michael and I had scheduled it around a trip to Denver for our 10 year anniversary.  If not for that, and the fact that we're meeting some friends there, I'd probably just cancel it.  Plus, I really want to check another State off my map, and I haven't done Colorado yet.

Now I know what you're thinking ... I've doubted myself on marathons in the past, and then "magically" ran a BQ or at least, a good race.  But not this time.  No way.  I'll keep a close monitor on how I'm feeling at the halfway point, and I might be taking the "chicken exit" to the half-marathon.  After Denver, I plan on taking about two weeks off from running to get my hip right.  But who knows, maybe I'll need longer than that.  We'll see.  Have a great week!
... Be Great Today!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

2015 Prairie Fire Spring Half-Marathon Review

2015 Prairie Fire Spring Half-Marathon
Sunday, May 3, 2015
Wichita, Kansas
Runners: 1,576
Course: Flat, 167 ft of elevation gain ran along Arkansas River
Weather: 65 degrees, 18 mph S wind, 68% humidity
Start Time: 7:30 a.m. CST
SWAG: Short-sleeve moisture wicking shirt
Race Organization: Good
Volunteer Support: Very Good
Crowd Support: Sparse along course, but good finishers chute
Water Stops: Good
Food: Gels along course, typical post-race food including pizza & beer garden
Weight: 179
Health: Very weak left hip, but fairly healthy
Conditioning: Left hip bursitis for about two months prior to race
Finish Time: 1:29:34
Pace: 6:49
Place: 9th/1,576 Overall, 1st Pace/55 runners in 45-49 AG

Have you ever felt like you were running a really good race ... battled through fatigue ... made your way toward the front of the pack ... only to see your time on the clock about two minutes slower than expected as you approached the finish line?  Well that was my race at the 2015 Prairie Fire Spring Half-Marathon.  The finish time was pretty disappointing, but all things considered, a top ten finish in a mid-sized half-marathon was one of my better results, and I was very proud of the way I ran.
Starting line photo from The Wichita Eagle
The Prairie Fire Marathon and Half-Marathons are a series of races ran in Wichita, KS in the Spring and Fall each year.  I'd ran the Fall Marathon in 2012, but had never ran the Spring Half-Marathon.  So when I was looking for a fast and flat Spring race, Wichita was my logical conclusion.  With a pancake flat winding route adjacent to the Arkansas River, and only 167 ft of total elevation gain, I knew it was my best bet for a good Spring race.

2015 Prairie Fire Spring Half-Marathon Finisher Medal & 1st Place Age Group trophy
My initial plan for the Spring race was to run a PR.  My current PR is 1:27:52, which I set last Fall in Minnesota, but I've felt for some time it should be in the 1:26 range.  So I began hitting my training fairly hard.  But after the Phoenix Marathon at the end of February, I began experience quite a bit of pain from inflammation in the Bursea Sac in my left hip.  And unfortunately, this Hip Bursitis put a huge dent in my training for this race, limiting not only my training speeds, but also my weekly training mileage.  It became very evident during my training that a PR was most likely out of the picture.  I probably should have shut my training down completely, but I push through it, hoping to still run a solid race at Wichita.

The biggest thing I noticed while running through the injury was my leg turnover just wasn't there.  I routinely struggled to maintain 6:30 paces during my Tempo Runs, which usually required a full day of recovery afterwards.  The drop in training speeds and weekly mileage left my left hip much weaker than normal, and really not ready for a fast race.  But other than the hip, although a little over race weight, I was healthy and ready to give it a shot.

I love Wichita, Kansas.  It's part of my sales territory and I have friends and family that live there.  So a race through the river city feels familiar and friendly.  The expo was held the day before, on Saturday, in conjunction with a Kid's Festival.  Packet Pickup was held downtown at the Century II Building and was quick and seamless.  On race day, parking was a breeze!  I got to the race about an hour early and parked at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, the former Double-A stadium for the Kansas City Royals.  It was literally across the street from the starting line, only about 400 meters away.

2015 Prairie Fire Spring Half-Marathon Pace Chart
As usual, I kept an eye on the race day weather leading up to the event.  I'd been training in 45-50 degree temps most of the early Spring, but race day in Wichita was supposed to be about 65-70.  However the additional 20 degrees in temperature wasn't what concerned me ... it was the 15-20 mph South wind we would be running in.  And I knew that based on the layout of the course, we'd be running the final three miles right into the teeth of the Kansas gusts.

Miles 1-3
I had really tried to focus on not starting too fast in this race, but I would have to give myself a big fat "FAIL" in this category at Prairie Fire.  At 7:30, the first mile was right where I had planned it, but the next two were a little too fast.  I've just found in races, that if use the first 3-5 miles to catch my breath and loosen up, then the last 3-5 miles are ran with acceleration, and not fatigue.  But even though 6:58 & 6:51 probably seem about right, they were too fast, too early.

We made our way down Maple Street in the early miles where we would circle Friends University, and head back toward downtown.  During Mile 2, I noticed that I was really beginning to sweat.  It was really windy, so it didn't seem exceptionally warm, but it was much warmer than I'd been training in up to this point in Kansas City.  Plus, with rain clouds looming and 68% humidity, the air seemed a little thick.  They weren't what I would call "tough" conditions, but they seemed to be slowing everyone down a little.

Miles 4-6
I felt like I controlled the mid portion of the race fairly well.  As we ran back through downtown along the Arkansas River, through Riverside and Oak Parks, I stayed at the pre-programmed pace and didn't get too fast.  But even though I was only running at about a 6:40 pace, I seemed to really be struggling with the speed.  I think part of the reason was there was absolutely no decline in elevation ... just flat, flat, flat ... which kept my legs supplying 100% of the energy without the help of a downhill for a breather.  A flat race always sound great in advance, but usually somewhere in the middle, I find myself longing for a change in elevation to change up the muscle fibers being used.  But those same muscle fibers would have to continue firing to the end of the race as there was no hill in sight.

Miles 7-10
Miles 7-10 continue along the Arkansas River, through Cowtown, before circling Sim Park. I grabbed a gel to hold onto from one of the many helpful volunteers during this stretch.  And speaking of volunteers ... they were GREAT ... especially with the traffic control.  They were there at every intersection to point the way and really made the course easy to navigate.

The plan during this stretch was to really "put the hammer down" and pick up the pace to 6:25-6:30.  But I just couldn't make it happen.  I'd been able to manage the pace fairly well during training, but on this race day, there just wasn't much there when I hit the gas.  I hit a 6:31 & 6:34 in Miles 7-8, but really just found myself holding on after that.  I seemed to be losing a lot of fluids, we had consistently been running in 15-20 mph winds, and my energy just seemed to be gone.  Miles 9-10 slipped to 6:44 & 6:42.

Free race pics were a really cool feature from
the Prairie Fire Spring Half-Marathon
Miles 11-13
In the last three miles of the race, I started doing "finish line math" in my head.  I would have been very disappointed if my time was over 1:30, so I started calculating just how slow I could run and still make that happen.  I figured if I could keep the last three miles close to 7:00, I should finish in time.  But here was the problem ... these last three miles would be ran directly into an 18-mph headwind.  And let me tell you ... it was very unpleasant.  It just took so much energy to keep my legs churning.  Everytime I neared a group of runners, I wanted to stop and walk, because I knew that once I passed them, my pride would keep me running.  I just felt like my legs had nothing left.  The wind made it seem like I was running in place ... but I kept grinding.

I passed Mile 11 with a 6:52, and Mile 12 with a 6:55.  But the last mile down McLean Street really tested me.  As I hit the Mile 12 marker, I noticed that I had added about .14 miles to the course by not running good tangents, so I knew my time might be a little slower than I had hoped.  But I also knew that based on all the runners I'd passed, and the fact that the only runner I could see in front of me was the women's 2nd Place finisher about a half mile up the course, I was pretty close to the front of the pack.  I looked over my shoulder to find out if I could throw it into "cruise control" for the remaining mile ... but of course not.  At that point I noticed a runner bearing down on me about 50 meters back.  So I tried to keep pace.  I've always heard that a runner who looks back over his shoulder is a runner that's in trouble. This was true on Sunday for me.  I was hurting, but I really didn't want to get passed by this guy ... so I kept him in view until we turned onto Maple Street to run over the Arkansas River Bridge for the final 200 meters of the race. I looked back one final time and saw the runner about 25 meters back, and gaining on me.  But at that point I found a pretty strong kick and finished without him passing me.

I turned to him at the finish line and said, "Good race, I didn't think I could hold you off!"  He said, "Yeah, great job, I thought I could catch you, but you finished strong!"  I felt really good about the way I battled on Sunday, but when I saw my finish time of 1:29:34, I was really disappointed.  Even though I'd struggled with the hip injury all Spring, I'd really hoped to be in the low 1:28's.  But when I took into consideration the extra .14 I ran during the race, plus the tough headwind we ran into, especially in the final three miles, I figured I would've probably been close to my projected time.

But I was really surprised when I went to look at the final results after the race.  I figured that my 1:29 time in a 1,500 person race would've put me in the top 50.  But when I viewed the final results, I found that I finished 9th overall!  While I was running, I knew I was getting close to the front based on the spacing between runners, but I had no idea I was in the Top 10!  I was elated!  Plus, I won my age group, which was something I really didn't think I would do on Sunday.  As I waited around for the awards ceremony, I visited with several runners who said their times were "WAY DOWN" based on the conditions as well.  At first glance, the weather doesn't seem like it should have been too difficult, but I can tell you the temperature & humidity, and especially the wind slowed everyone's time considerably.  As a comparison, there were about 300 more runners than the previous year at this race, and my time on Sunday would have placed me out of the top 20.

Of course I was happy with the race result on Sunday, but more than anything, I was really please that even though I didn't seem to have my "A Game", I still went out and battled, didn't quit, and fought the wind for a strong finish.  And my perseverance was rewarded with a Top 10 finish in a mid-sized half-marathon.  My hip was a little sore after the race, but hopefully with a little rest, the Prairie Fire Spring Half-Marathon will springboard me into faster races in the Summer and Fall.
... Be Great Today!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

4 Hot Dogs = Bad Run

By far, the worst and least disciplined area of my training is my diet.  I really struggle to maintain healthy and clean eating 100% of the time.  Don't get me wrong, I eat clean about 95% of the time, but I probably don't eat enough calories ... which leaves me hungry ... which leads me to supplementing ... with Cheetos, Honey Buns, Doritos, Chick-fil-A, Pizza and occasionally HOT DOGS!!!

Friday night at beautiful Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri
On Friday night my friend and fellow marathoner, Bobby, was in town to run the Garmin Marathon.  So along with another friend, Matt, we went to the Royals game where it was Buck Night.  Every Friday  night at Kauffman Stadium is Buck Night, where peanuts and you guessed it ... hot dogs ... are one dollar.  Now usually when I go to a game, I'll enjoy one hot dog, and maybe some nachos.  But when we got in line for the dollar dogs, there was a sign that read "Limit four hot dogs per visit", to which my friend Matt commented, "Ya know we've gotta get four ... right!"  Well, it didn't take much arm twisting for me to follow his lead.  I ordered four hot dogs, loaded them up with sauerkraut, and had them in my belly before the National Anthem.  (For those scoring at home, I later added beef nachos and a Dr. Pepper)

As I was getting ready for my 18 mile run on Saturday morning, I surprisingly felt like crap. Sarcasm.  My stomach wasn't upset, which actually did surprise me, but my energy level was about as low as it's been in a while.  Combined with pouring rain outside, I knew it was going to be a tough long run.  I fought the lack of energy all morning.  And it rained harder in a run than I've ever experienced before.  I cut the run short at 16 miles and went inside to take a nap and sleep off the hot dog hangover. 

The poor long run, and slightly below average tempo run really have me questioning my half-marathon in two weeks, and marathon in four weeks.  It's not just the hot dogs ... I'm just really struggling with my running right now.  The hip is finally about 90-95% healthy, but it's still pretty weak, and it put a huge dent in my training this Spring.  Combined with my lack of motivation, I'm just not where I thought I'd be going into my Spring events.  I'll still run the half-marathon in Wichita, but at this point, I don't really see me getting a PR.  But the race really weighing on my mind is the Colfax Marathon.  I don't feel anywhere near marathon ready, and I can foresee a complete disaster at that one.  But I'm trying keep my focus positive.

So I need to kick it into gear.  I need to find some motivation to lock down on my training.  But most importantly, I think I should stop eating four hot dogs the night before long runs.  I was considering using this as my marathon fueling strategy, but I'll probably just stick to chicken and rice.  Hope your training ... and diet ... are going better than mine! 
... Be Great Today!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Speed Ladder

Good speed run after a fairly fast 20 mile run on Saturday.  We won't rehash the details of that run here, some of you know what I'm talking about.  I was wrong, plain and simple.  But word to the wise, if you're gonna throw stones ... probably better make sure you don't blog in a glass house.

I ran a structured ladder workout this morning for the first time.   I've ran variations of this workout in the past, but this morning I was diligent with the distances and the paces.

2 mile warm up
400M @ 5:19 pace
800M @ 5:30 pace
1200M @ 5:42 pace
1 mile @ 5:41 pace
1200M @ 5:42 pace
800M @ 5:35 pace
400M@ 4:56 pace
2 mile cool down

Pretty good workout, although I'd like to be a little faster.  I'm about 7-8 pounds over race weight right now, so that's not helping.  Plus, the hip is probably about 90%, although I didn't feel it all this morning during the workout.  I also got in a good leg strengthening workout after the run.  So, it was a good morning.  Have a great week.
... Be Great Today!