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Thoughts from my first Marathon

ImageMarathon number 1 is done.  I did it! I made it to the finish line.  Somewhere around mile 21, I had serious doubts. I thought the race was never going to end. But I gutted it out and finished. It feels good to have that behind me.

Some highlights:

I met, and got an autograph from, Marshall Ulrich.  I’ve been reading his book Running on Empty.  It’s a fantastic story that recounts his run across America.  I can’t really wrap my mind around how he was able to run 60-70 miles every day for more than 2 months straight, but I have tremendous respect for his will and determination.  It was a real pleasure to meet him.

Saw my first Cirque De Soleil show. Everyone should see them in action, at least once.  All of the dancing and storyline aside, these are some incredible athletes. They make very difficult positions and movements look entirely too simple.

Was front and center, snapping pics, while Casey Abrams warmed up with the band. For anyone who missed it, he was on last year’s American Idol.  He plays a mean bass and is equally talented vocally.

Saw the strip, the hotels, the lights…and LOTS of people! If you are a people watcher, Vegas is THE place to be.

Hooked up with the Cheribundi crew at the race expo.  Got a fresh supply of Tart Cherry Juice for pre and post race (Thanks guys!!!). Was very happy to finally meet the folks that made my first marathon possible.

The Race:

I’ll start by saying it was a great experience.  It had both high and low points. I learned a lot and there are definitely some things I will do differently next time. Overall, I am VERY glad I did it.

The first half of the race was very good.  There were a lot of twists and turns down less-than-desirable side-streets, but the on-course entertainment kept things lively.  By the end of mile 13, I was pacing better than my targeted 4:00 goal.

Mile 13 was a turning point. This is where the marathon merged with the half. 6000 marathon runners were then forced to share the road with 38,000 half-marathoners. Needless to say, it was crowded. There was no possible way to keep up the pace. I was literally squeezing past walkers and moving others aside so I could continue down the road. It was really very frustrating.

Mile 18 brought new challenges.  By 16, I had started to slow just a bit, but 18 is when the leg cramps set it. I spent the next 8 miles battling spasms in both my quads and my hamstrings. At times, I was reduced to walking or pulling to the side of the course to stretch my legs before continuing.  It quickly became apparent that I was not going to finish under the 4-hour mark.  It was disappointing, but I knew I still needed to get through it.

The last few miles went slowly. Water stations had been completely depleted. Runners were falling. It was quite a site. As the finish line approached, all I could think about was how glad I was that I didn’t have to go any farther. Emotionally, I was finished. Physically, I was exhausted.

I dragged myself across the line, collected my finisher’s medal, re-united with my wife, and made the long journey back to the hotel room.  A shower, some food, and a few Advil helped immensely. Once I got over my initial frustrations, I was very happy to be able to say that I was now among the tiny percent of people who can claim they’ve finished a marathon. It was a good trip, despite all of the challenges.

Things I learned:

People wear compression tights for a reason.  They are not pretty, but supporting your leg muscles and increasing blood flow has great advantages.

Bananas are a must. Not only will I be adding fresh bananas to my diet in the days before my next marathon, I’ll also be adding sodium and potassium supplements. And one more plug for Cheribundi Tart Cherry Juice…tart cherries help reduce inflammation and support healthy sleep. Two great benefits after intense physical exertion!

Water, water, and more water. Just because the course is supposed to have a water station doesn’t guarantee that there will be any left when you get there. If in doubt, pack your own.

Stretch. Not just right before or right after a big race. Stretch daily. Work on getting more flexible and keeping your muscles limber and healthy. It helps prevent cramps and eases recovery.

Have fun. Don’t let a certain goal or milestone prevent you from enjoying the race. Someone much smarter than me once said, “If running isn’t fun, you’re probably doing it wrong.” That is wisdom to run by.

Final Thoughts:

Everyone says “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Guess what…they are liars! When you run a marathon in Vegas, it still hurts when you get home.

Now, I have a new goal. I want to run my second marathon faster than my first. I’ve got about 5 weeks to get ready for it, so it’s back to training for me. I have no doubt that I can improve my time by adjusting a few tactics. January will come quickly, so be looking for future updates.

On your mark, get set…

Wait for it…

Time slows down. Anticipation builds. Adrenaline rushes. The race you’ve been preparing for is finally here. Just a little more waiting before that starting gun goes off.  Wait for it…

It’s been a long few weeks (months really). I’ve run hundreds of miles. I’ve tested and tried several different hydration and fueling plans.  I’ve set a goal to finish my first marathon in under 4 hours.  I’ve fought through some pretty incredible foot pain. I’ve even finished a couple of tune-up races along the way.  This was just the preparation.

But now, in just a couple of days, prep time is done and it’s on to the big race.  There is no going back now.  No way to fit in an extra long run or modify my diet. No more pacing or tempo runs. Nothing I do today will change how I’ve prepared. On one hand, that is scary.  Did I do enough? On the other hand, what a relief. All I can do now is my best and I trust that it will be good enough.

Subject change.  I had the privilege of spending about an hour on the phone with world-famous ultramarathoner Scott Jurek last night.  What an honor. He’s truly a legend within the sport. We talked about hydration and pacing and recovery and ultra-distances. We even talked a bit about minimalist running and his thoughts on barefoot v. Vibrams v. racing flats. In all of our conversation, one thing struck me more than any other. Scott Jurek is…a regular guy. Sure, he can run 150+ miles at a time, but that doesn’t make him any more or less human than the rest of us. When discussing body weight and training distances, his basic rule always came back to “do what feels right”. Sometimes wisdom can be found in simplicity. If running stops being fun, you’re probably doing it wrong, or for the wrong reasons.

Well, I need to get packed. Gu, shirt, shorts, socks, sleeves, hat, registration…check, check, check. So much still to do.  Just a little more preparation.  And then “On your mark, get set…”

It’s gotta be the shoes

Long time, no post.  Sorry about that.  A LOT has happened in the last few weeks.

First of all, I ran Hood to Coast.  I was able to finish leg 1 and will say right now that I NEVER want to do that again.  I’ve felt like a walking injury ever since.  6 miles of steep downhill is to much.  Maybe if I were 50 pounds lighter and 10 years more experienced.  For now, I can say that I did it and that is good enough for me.

I battles very tight calves after Hood to Coast, followed by some slight foot pain.  For the first time this year, I went into the local running store looking for a SHOE.  I wanted something that I could recover in.  I ended us buying a pair of Saucony Hattori’s. Still super minimal, but they do have a bit of a foam sole.  They were pretty comfortable over the couple of weeks that I wore them.

Still had some residual pain, so I took a few days off.  Ran 3 miles on Wednesday, sat out Thurs, Fri, and Saturday.  Then, out of nowhere, full blown Plantar Fasciitis on Sunday Morning.  Foot pain to the point that I could barely take a step.  If you’ve never had it, count your blessings.  I’ve never felt anything so crippling.

Was it that Hattori’s? I’m not really sure what else it could have been.  It’s been almost 2 weeks now since my last run and my foot is slowly improving.

I’ve been pretty aggressive with ice, stretching, massage, ultra-sound, etc.  Its been a week and I can now walk without a limp.  I am probably still a week or two away from my next run.  I could survive a few miles now, but I’m not going to risk aggravating the soft tissue.  I picked up a spin bike on Craigslist that will provide my cardio workouts while I recover.

Well, that’s my running update…not ideal, but I’m back on the mend.  I am still confident that I’ll be able to run my winter marathons.  Hopefully, there will be no additional setbacks.

Non-running news – I started a new job.  Still recruitment advertising. Working for Vestas American Wind Technology.  They put up wind turbines all over the world.  It’s a good gig, but its just one more piece of the craziness that has been my life lately.

Well, I’m off to ride the bike, and hopefully watch the Yankees lose!

Running: Alone or in Packs

I usually run alone. When I started, it was because I was so unbearably slow. I didn’t want a running partner to have to wait for me. Honestly, I would have had a tough time keeping up with a walking team. So I set out on my own, iPod blasting, dead to the world. I’d get my miles in, return home, and continue with my day.

Things are changing for me. I’m in better shape, but I still do not consider myself a speed demon. My pace is, at best, respectable. I’ve entered a few local races and for some reason I tend to consistently finish second in my age bracket.  I never win, but I’m not in last place, either.

One thing that I like about racing is the crowd. Its one of the few times when I run in a pack. I feed off of other people’s speed. Adrenaline rushes and my average pace increases. Racing pushes me to be a better runner. Even if I don’t win, I know that each race marks a new accomplishment.

Aside from the competition, racing breeds relationships. I am not a first-name basis with any of the competitors, but there are at least a few guys who I now recognize by face and we exchange greetings when we see each other. Usually, they remember me as “the barefoot guy”. It’s nice to be recognized and to share the road with someone you feel a connection with.

Last weekend, I was out on a long run and saw a guy from our church. I am not sure how far into his workout he was, but I sped up a bit so that I could catch him. We ran together for about five miles, at which point I had to break away and head home. It wasn’t the fastest I’ve ever paced a long run, but the time went by very quickly. We discussed runners and books and diet. It was nice to engage the brain, instead of just my legs.

This weekend, a friend is coming into town who has invited me to join him on his Saturday run. For the first time in a very long time, I am REALLY looking forward to the long run. It can become a chore, but having someone to share it with changes everything. I’ll push him to go farther, he’ll push me to go faster. I have no doubt that we’ll both be very tired afterward, and both better runners because of it.

I am beginning to see why so many runners prefer to run in packs. Bring on the weekend!

My 15 Minutes of Fame

Today, I feel famous. I won a contest. I get to meet a running legend. I get to go to Las Vegas to run my first marathon. I’m almost a sponsored athlete. I wonder if this is what college athletes (the unpaid ones) feel like on draft day when all of their hard work finally turns into big payouts. Sure, mine is on a significantly smaller scale, but I’m living my dream and you can’t take that away from me.

Today, Cheribundi announced that they selected ME to be their Marathon Challenge Contest winner! It’s SUPER exciting and it marks another huge milestone in my efforts to get healthy.  Two years ago, I was 340+ pounds.  When I started running, my chest felt like it was ready to explode after waddling about 40 yards. This summer, I finished my first half-marathon and I am ready for more. I’ve got my weight and health under control and I am loving every minute of it.

As I reflect on the last year, one thing sticks out more than anything. Success comes to those who DO. When I was overweight, I complained. I hated being so heavy. I had tons of excuses. I knew I was killing myself, but I didn’t do anything about it. I sat, and ate, and whined. The day that changed my life was the day I decided to get up and move. It wasn’t pretty, but I was DOING. Doing something, anything, to get myself moving forward.

If I hadn’t started moving, I would have never got back in shape. If I didn’t get back in shape, I wouldn’t have run a half-marathon. If I didn’t run the half, I would have never entered the Cheribundi Marathon Challenge. If I had never entered, there is no way that I could have won. So, ask me why I feel famous today…it’s because a year and a half ago, I got up off the couch, put on my big boy pants, and started moving forward.

When all else fails, it’s time to DO.

On a side note, I want to say a sincere thank you to everyone who voted for me in the contest.  Not only did you help me win, but you have given me encouragement along the way. The contest isn’t really over yet. Now, I have to run. I GET to run. Knowing that I have more than 200 people cheering me on is an amazing feeling. You all make me feel famous!

Cheribundi 4-Day Results

I’ve had a Cheribundi Tart Cherry Juice every day for the last four days. I maintained my running schedule with daily runs ranging from 4 to 7 miles.  My average pace was a little quicker than usual and I’ve felt relatively good.  I’ve been able to run early in the day and still participate in the rest of the planned events on our family camping trip.

To begin the challenge, I rated my baseline as follows:

Sleep: 7

Athletic Recovery: 8

Aches and Pains: 7

Sleep: So far this week, I have slept like a rock. This is especially impressive considering I’ve been in a tent on an air mattress.  For me, this is a lot like sleeping n an unfamiliar hotel bed.  Usually it takes a few nights to get settled in. This trip, I have had absolutely no trouble getting to sleep, and I have felt well rested in the mornings.  I’ll rate my sleep as a 9.

Athletic Recovery: My recovery ha been really good.  I’ve been able to add some additional mileage and have incorporated more hills that what I a used to.  I did have one day where my legs felt pretty heavy, but my average pace stayed on target. I’ll rate my athletic recovery as a 9.

Aches and Pains: I’m still waking up with some soreness in my left ankle, so there was no 4-Day miserable.  However, my back has stayed pretty loose (a minor miracle considering the air mattress). I still have some of the usual aches that come with increasing distances. In all, I have felt really good all week.  I’ll rate my Aches and Pains as a 6 (6 being lower on the pain scale than the original 7, meaning just a bit better).

Final thoughts: Cheribundi tastes really good.  Don’t be afraid of the “tart”.  It has good flavor, not just a mouth puckering sour. If you have trouble getting a restful night’s sleep, this juice is for you.  If you want to ensure that you’re rested and ready for daily workouts, try Cheribundi. If you just really like cherries and want a healthy juice to add to your diet, get this stuff. The health benefits and taste make Cheribundi hard to beat.

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