Sunday, November 22, 2015

Reverse Before & After

In decent shape for a 46 year old
just before the Maui Marathon in September
Hello, my name's Jim ... and I used to be a blogger!  The three of you that still read my blog know it's been a while since my last post.  What have I been up to you ask?  Well, basically I ran a really great half-marathon to wrap up my racing season, went on a wild ride through the baseball Postseason as my Kansas City Royals won the World Championship ... and oh yeah ... um, gained A LOT OF WEIGHT!!!

I basically took the month of October off, partly by design to give my body a break from training, but also because of way too many late night Playoff games.  We're Royals season ticket holders, which gives us access to tickets for every Postseason game.
Definitely going backwards in November
And if you followed their Playoff run, you know there were several nerve-racking nights that kept us up way past our bedtime.  Most of the mornings after, I didn't run, and in fact at really really poorly.  I think I gained about 12-15 pounds during a month.  Like I said ... I ate REALLY poorly.  We're talking donuts & breakfast sandwiches every morning for breakfast.  What can I say ... when I crash, I crash!

Most people post their before and after photos on social media to show off the fruits of their workout labor.  Here is exactly that ... in reverse.  The first picture is me right before running the Maui Marathon in September. (my wife took the pic ... no, I typically don't take shirtless selfies ... but I did take the second one, ha)  The next one is me, about three days ago.   You can't see my face ... but I was laughing as I took it.  A little because I was taking a shirtless selfie of an out-of-shape me in our basement ... but also because, just look at that gut!!!  It's hilarious!!!

What won't be so funny is how much work it will take to get rid of that boiler.  It always amazes me just how fast we lose our physical fitness as we age.  It took me monts of miles and supplemental work to get into the shape in photo 1 ... but only one month of basically doing nothing, and eating like the rest of the world to turn doughy in photo 2.  It's just not fair.

So here we go again ... back to the old grindstone.  I figured posting an embarrassing pic would keep me accountable and focused as I move forward to what I hope will be a PR at Phoenix in late February.  I just have to make sure that I don't take another month off for the holidays ... or there might have to be more reverse before & after shots.
... Be Great  Today!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

2015 Kansas City Half Marathon Review

2015 Waddell & Reed Kansas City Half Marathon
Saturday, October 17, 2015
Kansas City, MO
Runners: 4,559  (1,825 men, 2,734 women)
Start Time: 7 a.m.
Course: Fairly challenging with rolling hills, about 700 FT of elevation gain over 13 miles, definitely not flat
Weather: PERFECT!!! 45 F, 53% humidity, 6 mph E wind
SWAG: Short sleeve dry-fit race shirt, free downloadable photos
Race Organization: Very Good
Crowd Support: Better than most races
Volunteer Support: Outstanding
Water Stops: Very well organized
Food: Typical post-race fare
Weight: 174
Health: Great no issues
Conditioning: Good, but really tired on dead legs and 3 hrs sleep
Age: 46
Finishing Time: 1:28:16
Average Pace: 6:45/mile
Place: 50th/4,559  5th/190 in 45-49 AG

Last Saturday, we ran one of my favorite races ... the Kansas City Half Marathon!  I think by now, everyone fully understands just how much I love my hometown of KC, and this race is a showcases much of the beauty of our wonderful city.  The challenge this year however, was running on dead legs from standing at the Kansas City Royals Playoff game the night before, and then getting only 3 hours sleep.  But it ended up being a great race, and I finished only 24 seconds off of my current half marathon PR!
2015 Kansas City Half Marathon Finisher Medal

The Kansas City Royals are in the Playoffs for a second year in a row, and as Season Ticket Holders, we're fortunate to have tickets to all of the Playoff games ... which is incredibly awesome!  But frankly, the game times have affected both of our work schedules a little, as well as everything else in our lives.  This was evident in getting home near midnight from Game 1 of the ALCS, waking up at 3 a.m. for the race, and then being back at Kauffman Stadium at noon for Game 2 immediately after the race.  Really exciting ... but a lot of hustling.
Free downloadable photos were a nice addition to this race - at Mile 4 in front of the Liberty Memorial here

If you've ever been to a Playoff game for any sport, you understand there's a lot of standing ... cheering ... and screaming!  So the night before the half marathon, instead of resting, we were shouting our fool heads off, as well as being on our feet for most of the game.  And my legs felt it the next day.  They were completely dead as I stood at the starting line.  Plus, I was soooo sleepy.  I felt like doing anything besides running fast.

When people think of Kansas City, first off ... they think it's in Kansas.  It's not.  It's in Missouri.  It's not that hard to figure out.  I mean, it's on every map ever.  But it's a common mistake by out-of-towners.  Secondly, they assume that since we're located in flyover country, it's flat.  It's not.  Most Kansas City race are some of the hilliest that I run all year.  Especially when running downtown, the course can be quite challenging.  And the Kansas City Half Marathon is no exception.  It's filled with one steep climb after another that really break your pace.  Frankly, it is not an ideal PR course.

As I stood at the starting line, I couldn't help but be encouraged by the absolutely perfect running conditions of 45 degrees, low humidity, and almost no wind.  Absolutely perfect man!  But I found myself wishing that I had more energy.  I was completely dead.  My legs didn't feel like moving and I was so tired.  I was in pretty good shape, but I knew managing any kind of pace would be a challenge.

The gun went off and I started pretty slowly.  The first mile is a long gradual hill from Crown Center toward the Power & Light district downtown.  I just wanted to get up the hill and make the turn downtown where we got to run down hill for a while.  But I was struggling.  My legs just wouldn't turn over and I found it difficult to even manage a 7:25 pace.  It felt like this was going to be a long race.  Just a few  hundred feet in front of me, I could see the 1:30 pace group, and I thought to myself that I'd just keep them in range for a while.  But I soon found that they were running much faster than a 1:30 pace.

2015 Kansas City Half Marathon Pace Splits
7:25         6:59         6:52         6:53         6:44         6:34         6:39         6:37         6:40         6:44         6:21         6:07         6:23

The first half of Mile 2 was downhill, but after that, we began a climb through Hospital Hill of 150 ft over the next mile.  That's a pretty good climb at race pace ... especially so early in the race.  This hill was added because the race was modified to avoid some downtown street car rail construction.

Michael and me after the race at Crown Center
Yes, she wore that crown durning her run!!!
I felt pretty good about my conditioning going into the race, and the early climb really didn't bother me.  After the long hill, we leveled off for a bit as we rounded the Liberty Memorial WWI Museum parking lot.  It's a half mile "U" shape that gave my legs a little break before another steep incline on Wyandotte Street adjacent to the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank ... Michael's former place of employment.

After the sharp uphill next to the bank, we got to run down hill for a while as we made our way toward Old Westport and the Country Club Plaza.  The changing trees made this already beautiful part of the city simply amazing, but I found myself already struggling to keep pace as we neared the half-way point of the race.  Ideally, I'd wanted to be firmly in the 6:30's by this time, but Mile 6 was my fastest so far, and it was only a 6:34.

I really began to fight  my pace a little during Mile 7 as we passed in front of the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum, and I knew there was a long three mile climb coming up that was only going to make things more challenging.  I just kept thinking, "Hold the pace until Paseo, then put the hammer down!"  Paseo Street meant Mile 10.  And at about 10.5, there was a long downhill until the end.  But before I could think about my pace on the downhill, I had to grind it out over the long gradual climb.  I stopped briefly to walk through water stops, which helped me catch my breath a little, but I knew by using that strategy, I was losing quite a bit of time.  Overall, considering the challenge of this stretch, I was pretty happy with averaging a 6:40 ... but now it was time to go!

Halfway through Mile 10 I caught my breath and really began to increase my leg turnover.  I was able to grind out a 6:21.  And as the grade sloped even more downhill in Mile 12, I sped up an ran near 5K pace and turned in a 6:07.  Mile 13 leveled off a little, and so did my pace, but I was able to run the final full mile 6:23.
Michael and me later in the day at Kauffman Stadium ... running on fumes, but ready for a Royals win!
I knew I was working hard, but since the course was so challenging, and my pace wasn't where I wanted it, I thought there was no chance of a PR.  But as I passed the Mile 13 marker, I knew I was close.  I wish I could tell you that I had a great kick until the end, but I hadn't ran the tangents very well, and what should've been the final .1 mile, turned into .23 ... and the result was 24 seconds short of a PR at 1:28:16.  But I really considered it great race all things considered!

One of the photos I took of Rawlee and Ryder on Sunday afternoon after the race
After the race, I quickly found Michael and we made our way back to Kauffman Stadium for Game 2 of the ALCS, which the Royals won.  Our legs and bodies were exhausted, still running on 3 hours sleep and a half marathon under our belts, but the game was awesome!!!  The next day I took family photos for my son and daughter-in-law, and the boys ... but my legs and energy were definitely spent.  I felt like if I'd had more rest, and the course would've been flatter, I might have been in good enough shape to PR.  But it was a great weekend though, and I can't wait to run the race again next year!
... Be Great Today! 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

2015 Maui Marathon Review

2015 Maui Marathon
Sunday, September, 2015
Lahaina, Hawaii
29th State Completed
Runners: 537 (281 men, 256 women)
Start Time: 5:00 a.m. HAST (Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time)
Course: Rolling, climbing hills the first half ... flat second half ... about 550 ft of elevation, but it feels like quite a bit more than that
Weather: 85 degrees & 88% humidity at times during the race, nearing 90 degrees at the end ... incredibly hot and humid
SWAG: Short sleeve dry-fit shirt
Race Organization: Very good
Crowd Support: None until the finishing chute
Volunteer Support: Exceptionally good, very kind & helpful
Water Stops: Really well organized and often
Food: Bananas, oranges, and gels along the course, with typical post race food
Age: 46
Finishing Time: 3:47:55
Average Pace: 8:41
Place: 40th/537 Overall, 5th/45 45-49 AG
Total Experience ... 1  2  3  4  5

I was dumping cups of water on my head to cool my body down at Mile 4 of the 45th Annual Maui Marathon.  It was raining, and completely dark like the middle of the night, and the narrow shoulder of Honoapiilani Highway, which served as as our race course for most of the race, was lit only by the headlights of oncoming cars.  I'd planned on pacing much slower than normal because of the brutal 80 degree & 88% humidity conditions at the starting line that would only intensify, but I quickly found myself out of control and running way too fast for this early in the race.  I knew before too long I would crash ... and probably crash hard, but I was going to push it as long as possible.  And after 31 previous marathons, this would prove to be though toughest, but most beautiful race, I had ever finished.
Full marathon participants received an orange t-shirt
with the race logo on the front and sponsors on the back,
I also bought this shirt that had the race logo on the front,
but also the names of all the runners of both races
encrypted on the back as part of the design ... cool!

I probably won't have as many race details with this marathon review as normal.  Also, I'll try not to bore everyone with every experience and all of the fascinating history we learned about Hawaii during our visit.  Instead, I'll mostly share some of the photos of the amazing Maui landscape that captured during our visit.

As far as the marathon,  I obviously didn't run the race I'd planned, but still finished with a respectable time considering the conditions ... and walking most of the last three miles. I also was "forced" into making my first ever Aid-Station Tent visit after crossing the finish line.  I just needed a little time to sit there and recover, but apparently I looked like I was going to die so overly cautious heads prevailed.

But our 10-Year Anniversary trip to Maui was way more than either Michael or I could have dreamed, and accordingly, the race took it's proper place as simply one of many activities we enjoyed while in the island paradise.  The race actually took place on the second full day we were in Maui, so we both had plenty of time to recover while enjoying an amazing vacation.  Honestly, I'm not much of a "vacation guy", but I could've stayed in Hawaii much longer, and can't wait until our next trip back. It was our second trip to Maui, but this time I definitely fell in love with the beauty of the island.
One of about a thousand absolutely perfect sunset pictures we took at the end of almost every day.
I love this woman more than anything and words can't adequately describe the amazing time we shared in Maui

(yes ... I'm well aware that my lovely wife is waaaaay out of my league ... but I'm obviously charming!!!)
The convenience of this race couldn't have been any better.  Our hotel location at the Sheraton was only about three hotels down the beach, and about a ten minute walk, from the race expo and finish line at the Marriott at Ka'anapali Beach in Lahaina.  To be honest, we'd booked our hotel months before we knew the location of the race festivities, so this was a mere stroke of luck.
Black Sand Beach, maybe the most beautiful place we visited on the island, it was simply breath taking
There aren't enough photos to adequately show the beauty of Black Sand Beach located just outside of 
the town of Hana at Waianapanapa State Park
The black sand, rocks, and cliffs are actually cooled lava.  The dark gray and black color set against the lush
green vegetation makes for seemingly unending picturesque views
A view from one of the many cliffs at Black Sand Beach
There were only about 500 runners in the Maui Marathon, so the Race Expo was appropriately small, and held in one of the meeting rooms of the Marriott.  The start and finish line for the half-marathon were located immediately outside the hotel on Ka'anapali Parkway at the base of the West Maui Forest Reserve and mountain range.  The full marathon also finished here, but started 26.2 miles away in Kahului at the shopping center.
Resort life ... we stayed at the beautiful Maui Sheraton at Black Rock on Ka'anapali Beach
Early morning walk with Michael on the beach at Black Rock
(not entirely sure if I had authorization to post this pic ... forgiveness is easier than permission)
Ka'anapali Beach is one of the busier destinations on Maui, 
but it's not too crowded for every to enjoy the warm sun and powerful surf
My friend, Bobby, and me at the Maui Marathon

Since the race started at 5:00 a.m., we had to be at the shuttle bus location at the finish line by 3:00 a.m.  I'm not joking.  This meant waking up at about 1:30 a.m.  I met my friend Bobby at the bus, who was also vacationing with his wife in Maui.  I met Bobby several years ago at the Myrtle Beach Marathon, where we instantly became friends.  He's a great guy who I always enjoy hanging out with, but unfortunately since he lives in North Carolina, I don't get to see very often.  He's a great runner who is also running a marathon in every State, but is going to finish way before me.

On the way to the starting line, we chatted and caught up a little, but also noted the hot and humid conditions outside.  It was the middle of the night and literally over 80 degrees, with a sweltering 88% humidity.  All of the locals kept commenting on how it was the hottest stretch they could ever remember.

While we were waiting at the staring line, we noticed what seemed to be an inordinately high number of Japanese runners compared to most races.  But the race was sponsored by the Japanese Travel Bureau (JTB), and judging by the perfectly synchronized warm up aerobics they were all doing, it was obviously a large group traveling together.  Shortly after their techno-music fueled dance with words neither of us could understand, it started raining.  Typically rain will break intense humidity a little, but I remember thinking to myself that the conditions weren't getting better, and now my shoes were soaking wet.  Plus the rain apparently cancelled the fire dancer ... bummer!
Hundreds of Japanese runners warming up with synchronized dancing before the Maui Marathon
After the national anthems of both the United States and Japan, we walked about a quarter mile in the intensifying rain to the starting line.  It was pitch black.  And after the starter counted us down from ten, we were off into the darkness.  We quickly ran out of the cover of street lights and took our place along the side of the highway where we would spend most of the race.  Separating us from traffic were orange cones, whose reflective bands would occasionally be illuminated by the headlights of oncoming speeding cars ... but other than that, you could barely see the hand in front of your face.  We ran like this for about an hour.  In the dark.  In the rain.
Probably the thing Michael was most excited about was seeing real-life wild sea turtles sunning themselves at Ho'okipa State Beach Park.  They were simply amazing ... and HUGE!!!  Green sea turtles are a symbol of good luck on the island, and are thought to live between 80-100 years.  A fact I found fascinating is that when they are first born, they feed on small fish, but as they age, their diet turns to strictly seaweed.  They convert from carnivores to herbivores.  
We watched as three turtles slowly made their was from water to the shore.  Apparently Pacific Ocean sea turtles are the only ones that come out of the water to sun themselves.  
The North side of the island is really known more for surfing, but we found a few surfers near our hotel, especially with active surf almost every day we were there.  A few folks asked me if I tried surfing.
My response is an emphatic %*&# NO ... I'd break my neck!!!
The oft cloud covered West Maui Forest Reserve mountain range, on the non-ocean side of our resort
Summers in Kansas City are incredibly hot and humid.  If you ask folks from the Southeast portion of the United States who visit, or have moved there, they'll tell you it's almost like being in Florida, Georgia, or Louisiana during the Summer.  For some odd meteorological reason, it just gets warmer in KC than a lot of places.  And while I knew that the Maui Marathon would offer it's own sultry challenge, I had no idea just how bad it would be.  After Mile 4, I was dumping cold water on my head at every water stop ... which bye the way, featured incredibly helpful and supportive volunteers.  The course was also a little hillier than I had anticipated.  To be honest, the course and conditions flat out kicked my butt!
We had the opportunity go to the Old Lahaina Luau, the oldest and most authentic Luau in Hawaii.  We watched and listen as the entertainers shared stories about their rich Polynesian heritage.  It was simply beautiful!
One thing that was kind of funny was when missionaries first visited the islands, they set up sugar cane manufacturing, but also banned the Hula Dance and made the island natives cover up with more clothing ...ha!
Apparently fire knife dancers and twirlers are not part of traditional Luaus, but have become a custom over the years.  The Old Lahaina Luau did not feature fire dancers, but the smaller Luau at our resort a few nights later did
Included in the price of admission were all the drinks, including Mai Tai Cocktails, that you could handle ... we had to cut Michael off after seven!
Since it was much hotter than most marathons I've ran, I planned on starting around 8:30/mile for first few miles.  I also planned on taking it easy until I got out of the worst of the hills, that ended sometime around Mile 14.  I didn't think a Boston Qualification was most likely possible, but I was going to go for it.  And until Mile 21, I was right on pace.  But like many marathons in the past, this Dummy started way too fast.  I averaged a 7:55/mile over the first six, which in those conditions was probably more like a 7:30 on a normal day.  Way too fast for that early.
Twin Falls on the Road To Hana.  This pair of water falls is normally much smaller, but the unseasonable recent rains made it a rushing river
Michael and me in front of the banyan tree at Lahaina Banyan Court Park.  This single tree was planted in 1873, and has grown so large that it's branches have actually grown down through the ground and sprouted back up, giving the appearance of several trees - but they're all connected as one ... really cool!
One of the beautiful mountains in Iao Valley State Park in Wailuki
As the clouded morning sun began to finally brighten the sky, the rain gradually ceased as well, and a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean seemed to appear out of nowhere.  It was amazing!  There were lush, green mountains on our right... and powerful white waves crashing against the rocks on our left.  I'd never experienced such a beautiful view in a race before.  The incredible surroundings helped to somewhat take my mind off of the concern that was building from the amount of fluids I was losing.  At about Mile 7, we began to climb rolling hills that frankly were a little tougher than I thought they'd be.  I managed to keep good energy through the ups and downs, but I was burning a lot of calories and fuel.  I could feel my pace inexplicably quickening a little and averaged a 7:37/mile from Miles 8-16 ... with a pair of 7:19's along the way.  I was way below my goal pace of 7:50/mile during the toughest race I've ever ran ... what in the world was I doing?
The Keanae Peninsula is one of iconic views on the Road To Hana
We both took a little detour from our diets while in Maui.  After losing almost 20 pounds for our trip, Michael enjoyed some gelato for the first time in a while ... her eyes looked like a crack-addict during her first relapse after rehab!
Michael and me at our favorite hangout on Ka'anapali Beach ... Hula Grill
What would a trip to Maui be without plenty of island-grown pineapple
At Mile 17 I knew it probably wasn't going to be my day, and my pace began to grind to a halt over the next few miles.  The splits were 7:36, 7:36, 8:00, 8:09, 9:26, 9:56, 10:15, 11:42, 13:55, 14:23.   I actually was still under my BQ pace until the middle of Mile 22, until I finally had to mix in walking and running, which finally gave way to mostly walking.  I was spent.  I'd crashed in marathons before, but never like this.  I actually bent over to adjust my shoe in Mile 25, and when I stood up, literally just about passed out.  It was so hot ... probably close to 90 degrees with no shade at that point. I literally kept chanting under my breath "Don't pass out!  Don't pass out!",  as tunnel vision narrowed like I was going backwards down a long tube.  I literally thought it was going to happen.
Receiving my finisher medal at the 2015 Maui Marathon ... not a great time,
but I was really pleased that I didn't pass out or give up ... and even more happy that it was over!
And that's when the authorities showed up ... I felt like I just needed a little time to sit and recover, but after unending prodding from the medical staff and my loving wife, I made my first ever trip to the post-race infirmary.  It was embarrassing.  Not because I was there, but because Michael kept laughing and taking pictures of me while I was on death's door!
Runners were passing me at a rapid rate during those last few miles, but I managed to finish with a 3:47, which placed me 40th overall, and 5th in my age group.  But as I sat, trying to recover after the race, I couldn't seem to slow my heart rate.  I never felt nauseated, I just couldn't get my body to cool down.  I don't ever remember being that over-heated.  A girl from the medical staff kept asking me if I was okay, and I kept brushing her well-intended but annoying questions aside.  But when my wife and in-laws, who were also traveling with us, joined in on her badgering, I finally gave up and went to the medical tent.  While I rested on a cot, they took vital signs and even a blood sample to measure my electrolytes or blood sugar or something ... all which checked out perfectly fine ... DUH!  And as quickly as I could move without cramping, we made our way back to the hotel to get some rest.
Michael and me, with our traveling companions, Kyle & Tracee ... GREAT PEOPLE!!!
We had a really fun time with them.   (Tracee is Michael's oldest sister)
Beautiful cobalt blue Maui sky under swaying palms
Another "post-card" location at Makena Beach State Park on the South side of  Maui
The end of another perfect day, with another perfect sunset with my wife on best friend at our favorite place in the world ... I've been truly blessed in my life and couldn't ask for more!
After the race I wasn't necessarily that disappointed with my time, but more the was I managed my race.  I'd once again, after 31 previous marathons, went out way too fast and crashed at the end.  Who knows, maybe with marathon 33 I'll learn my lesson ... but I doubt it.  But the disappointment of the race quickly faded as we melted into perfect sunset after perfect sunset, and enjoyed every second of our time in Maui.  It was truly an amazing trip, and on top of everything else ... I got to check one more State off the map in my quest for 50 after 40.
... Be Great Today!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

2015 Plaza 10K ... Unexpected PR!!!

Sunday morning run in front of the J.C. Nichols Fountain
5th Annual Plaza 10K
Sunday, September 13, 2015
Country Club Plaza - Kansas City, MO

Runners: 3,017
Start Time: 7:30am
Course: Mostly Flat, w/only 71ft elevation gain
Weather: 55 degrees, 73% humidity, 8 mph S wind
SWAG: Short sleeve dri-fit t-Shirt
Race Organization: Good
Crowd Support: Fair, good finish area
Volunteer Support: Great
Water Stops: Two, very well supported
Food: Typical post race ... bagels, bananas, water, etc
Age: 46
Weight: 174
Health: Hip flexors tight & a little sore, but overall good
Conditioning: Very Good
10K Time: 38:20 NEW PR!!!
Avg Pace: 6:10
Place: 60th/3,017 Overall & 1st/126 in 45-49AG
Comments: One of the best races I've ran, in total control

As I considered my race schedule for 2015, I targeted the Plaza 10K in Kansas City as a potential PR, and definitely one of my "A" races for the year.  I love running and racing in my beloved hometown of KC, and the Plaza 10K is one of my favorites.  But while my Summer marathon training has gone fairly well, I seemed to be a little deficient in foot speed and leg turnover as evidenced by my recent disappointing 5K results.  So standing at the starting line on Sunday morning, I really didn't know what to expect.

2015 Plaza 10K Finisher Medal, and Trophy for 1st Place in 45-49 Age Group
I usually get a "feeling" the night before, or the morning of running well at a big race.  And I told Michael on Saturday night, and again on Sunday morning that I was "feelin' it".  Something just felt right and I was in a really good mental place for the run.  My weight was good at 174.  I was almost 100% healthy with the exception of two slightly nagging hip flexors.  And I had made up my mind to be happy with the results no matter what, because frankly ... we were going to be in Maui before the end of the week!!! (we have a house sitter, an alarm system, active neighbors, and cops everywhere ... so don't bother trying to rob me)

Beautiful sunrise over the Plaza in the heart of Kansas City, Missouri
We arrived at the Country Club Plaza - a historic upscale shopping & entertainment area in the heart of KC - as the sun was coming up, and there were already people everywhere.  The race is the largest stand alone 10K in the Midwest, capped at 3,000 runners, so we expected a little trouble parking.  But we found a great spot about 200 yards from the starting line up the street from Cheesecake Factory, which made everything convenient.

Michael was running with our friend Joceyn, who she exchanged texts with and met up later.  I headed out to my two mile warm up, followed by a few short sprints.  During my warm up, I found my friend Isaac, who I've trained a little with this Summer.  Isaac is a 20 something elite level triathlete who has won events, and really pushed me in our last speed workout.  It was great to see him, but I didn't run with him.  After the National Anthem, and a few short announcements, the gun sounded and we were off.  The race started exactly at 7:30 a.m., and my typical pre-race nerves seemed to firmly in check.

I'd planned on taking the first mile slow, probably around 6:30, just to get loose and find out if my pre-race "feelin' it" prediction felt doable.  As we wound down Ward Parkway, westward out of the Plaza, I felt pretty good.  The weather was certainly helping.  After a summer of suffocating hot and humid runs, we were blessed with a beautiful 55 degree, 73% humidity morning for the race!  We couldn't have asked for better running conditions.  And as we approached the marker at Mile 1, my Garmin chirped and vibrated with a 6:32 result ... almost exactly where I planned on being.

As we rounded the mile marker and headed back East to make another pass through the Plaza, I noticed my fiend Isaac, and another friend from my hometown of El Dorado, Springs - Tim, about a quarter mile ahead of me.  As a rule, I NEVER race other runners.  Race times are simply a personal thing, and who really cares who is faster than whom ... this is just for run, right?  But knowing they are both very good runners helped me gauge my tempo, and basically ... I was feeling GREAT!  So I decided to pick it up a little in the second mile.  Mile 2 of the Plaza 10K has a couple of very short hills.  One is on 47th Street as you make the turn toward the J.C. Nichols Fountain, a Kansas City landmark.  The second is directly in front of the Nelson Atkins Art Museum.  I handled both with ease and don't remember ever changing my stride with the inclines.  Somewhere during the second mile, I passed Tim, and we exchanged "good lucks".  By the end of the second mile, I'd picked up the pace significantly and checked in with a 6:16 that felt completely free and easy.

It was somewhere during Mile 3 that I started really mulling over the thought, "Today might be my day!"  From running this race in 2013, and also training on the course from time to time, I knew there was a long, straight, slight descending down hill stretch over the next two miles.  In 2013, I'd ran them in a matching pair of 6:10's, and as I briefly tested that exact pace on Sunday ... it felt completely reasonable.  In fact, with the incredible 55 degree weather, just a tick faster felt absolutely in range.  I can't begin to explain just how in complete control I felt over this stretch. I was gliding with strong and powerful strides.  My form felt perfect.  And I was bubbling with confidence.  As a result, I passed the Mile 3 line with a 6:04, and a 6:08 at Mile 4.  I'd passed a ton of runners and I was moving at a pretty good clip for me.

Free Finish Line photo from KC Running Company - they do such a great job with local races
Just before you begin the fifth mile, you make a turn back West again, as you're about two miles from the heart of the Plaza at the Highway 71 ramp.  And during Mile 5, it begins to get a little real.  If you've gone out too fast in the 10K, this mile hurts!  You get most of the climb back from the two miles you just enjoyed floating down.  And if you're not ready for it, it can take you by surprise and be a real challenge.  In 2013 this was a real stumbling block for me, but on Sunday, I felt like an absolute "BEAST" (as my son would say).  I climbed the rolling hills adjacent to the University of Missouri Kansas City campus along Brush Creek, with little or no problem.  It was in this mile that I finally caught up to Isaac, and told him to keep climbing, focus, and finish strong.  I grabbed a quick mouthwash of Gatorade, and soon after tripped the Mile 5 wire with a 6:07 ... 13 seconds faster than I'd ran the mile in 2013!!!

When I saw my Mile 5 time, the thoughts of a new PR definitely began to dance in my head.  I was afraid to think about it too much because at 6:32, the first mile was a little slow, but I knew with a strong finish, I might be close.  So I locked in, and tried to maintain the current pace.  There's another little hill that runs by the UMKC Soccer Stadium headed South on Oak Street, that on any other run would be no trouble - but in the final mile of a 10K, it gets your attention. But it's very short, and as you round the corner, and head back North toward the Plaza on Brookside Boulevard, it's almost all downhill to the finish.  I couldn't help but glance at my Garmin as I made the turn and headed downhill.  It was reading 5:45-5:50 - which is a blistering 10K pace for me - but I'd slowed a little on the short hill and knew the final average pace for that mile would be a little slower than that.  And as I made the final turn back onto Ward Parkway where the race began, Mile 6 resulted in a 6:04.

Michael and me enjoying the post race Plaza experience
I had a quite a bit left in the tank, and at that point I could see the finish line clock which had just clicked 38 minutes.  With a strong push, I was definitely going to PR.  So I started sprinting and averaged a 5:40 pace over the last .2 mile for a personal best finishing time of 38:20 ... and a 6:10 average pace!!!  And as you can imagine ... I was elated!!!  I think I pumped my fist or something dumb as I crossed the line ... and even though I was out of breath, I was bursting with excitement!!!

After meeting up with my friend Isaac, and chatting with Tim for a few minutes - who both PR'd on Sunday as well - I checked out my finishing time at the results tent.  I knew this was a large race with about 3,000 runners, that always draws a lot of elite runners, and elite older runners, so I didn't even expect to place in my Age Group.  But when the volunteer handed me the grocery store receipt type of print out, she said "Congratulations, you were first in your Age Group!"  Bonus!!!  I was really surprised and really happy again!!!  After that I tracked down Michael and we exchanged stories from the race, and then pointed the car toward a big breakfast back in Lee's Summit.

Running's kind of weird sometimes, in that PR's sometimes come when you least expect them.  In no way, did I expect to run this well on Sunday.  I mean, I've been training really hard for the Maui Marathon, which is only seven days away - but I just didn't think I had this kind of race in me.  But sometimes everything falls into place, and you run really well.  Sunday was one of those days.  At 46 years old, I've never ran 6.2 miles faster ... and even though it was completely unexpected, it felt really really good!
... Be Great Today!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Passed 20,000 Miles This Week

I passed 20,000 miles this week.  At least miles I've tracked anyway.  I didn't start actively tracking miles until 2002 when I was training for a 5K, but since then, I'm at about 20,050 miles ran.  And I feel great!
Left, running my first half-marathon in 2008 ... about 205 lbs and wearing really baggy clothes.
Right, running today at about 173 ... stronger and healthier than ever, but the shorts are getting a little short there pal!

Usually, when someone finds out I'm a runner, the first thing they'll say is they used to run.  The second things they'll say is they "can't" run now because it bothers their knees.  And while it's true that running can create quite a bit of wear and tear on the body ... it's completely possible to do it without getting injured.  At least it has been for me anyway.  I'll be 47 years old and I've never felt stronger or in better shape.

The key for me over all the miles is supplemental workouts, stretching, and really really really listening to my body.  Have I had any injuries.  Sure, a couple.  I had an IT Band flare up in 2010 that forced me to walk the last 6 miles of a marathon.  My right groin was chronically tight and cranky for about 3 years.  Last Spring, a bout with hip bursitis was probably the most painful thing I've dealt with.  But for the most part, I've been extremely healthy!

So after getting married, graduating and marrying off two kids, experiencing the birth of three grand kids with another on the way, two jobs, two dogs, countless shoes, the Kansas City Royals actually playing in - and almost winning the World Series, a whole lot of early morning workouts, 31 marathons and a ton of other races ... I'm retiring.  Psych ... actually I'm just getting started, Here's to the next 20,000!!!
... Be Great Today!