Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Social Running

Now before you get all excited thinking that this post will either be a)witty, b)educational, or c)spiritual, please don't get your hopes up. In fact, if you are thinking along those lines, please be prepared for disappointment. As you all know (I think there are more than 2 of you now), I am none of those things. And no, I am not being facetious. I understand and embrace my limitations. To do otherwise would be to suffer a life of failure and that is something I am not psychologically prepared to do. I'd rather be the King of Mediocrity (in my own mind) than the guy who tries so hard to be so good, but it just never really happens, unless he gets really lucky, which doesn't happen all that often (I can count two times - 1)Liz agreeing to be my wife (I read a book on trickery) and 2)Conning my way into my current job, although really is it that great of a job? Well for the average/mediocre person that I am, as long as I can continue to talk a good game and pass responsibility and blame on to others, then yes, it's a swell job.)

Anyways, sorry for the rambling. I just wanted you all to be prepared for a very average, very dull Salt Lake City Marathon report.

I finished in 3:26:32 or about a 7:54 average mile. Now using average pace per mile is pretty deceitful when it comes to this marathon. I'm not actually sure if I ever ran anything close to a 7:54 mile. That's the thing about averages. If you're performing during the same race as two distinctly different runners, who are running two very different paces, you end up with a skewed average result that really reflects nothing about your race.

The first thing you need to know is that I knew 11 people who ended up running this. 11. Yea, I know. Did I ever think I would personally know 11 marathoners on a personal basis? Nope. I grew up thinking that my father and the people he ran with were 100% crazy and that they were few and far between. Little did I know that marathoning would become the phenomenon it is today. It has come to the masses, which is hard for the King of Mediocrity to accept, but at least the King has more subjects now. Sorry for the slippage into the 3rd person. It's annoying, but it seemed appropriate given my Royal Majestyness.

Anyway, 11 people I knew ran the race. I planned on pacing three of the runners to 3:30, which for two of them was their Boston Qualifying time. However, it was not to be so smooth. I went to the designated area after dropping my stuff off and making a port-o-jon run, but nobody was where they were supposed to be. So I stood in place for 5 minutes after the gun went off watching everyone I knew run by and then at last one of the 3 appears. Do not fret faithful readers. Although the clock had started, there are these magic things called mats that are able to magically sense when your shoe, which has a little chip in it, crosses it and your official start and end times are tracked by this chip. Chip time. It's wonderful. So I didn't lose 5 minutes, except for being 5 minutes behind the other two who were going for 3:30.

I really wanted to push it and make up the 5 minutes, but I also didn't want to kill the other guy shooting for a 3:30 in the process. As a primer for the unmarathon initiatied, the marathon is broken in three phases. First 10 miles - very social, everyone is happy, talking, blah, blah, blah. Second 10 miles - less social, people still feel good, running strong. Last 6.2 miles - no talking, serious pain, survive.

So back to me and my friend. I could tell immediately that it wasn't his day. He was just tired. His muscles were fine, no pain, but he wasn't going to be able to average the 8:01s necessary to make a 3:30. We had spoken prior to the race about our strategy around this considering that there were other people running that I wanted to support and had said that if we fell off pace for two miles that we would have an honest discussion about if he could make it up or not. If not, I would go and support the other two.

Before we get to where we separated, let me just say that starting 5 minutes after the gun was in all respects, except for one, outstanding. I saw everyone else, including my dad and a friend from Kansas that I hadn't seen in a year, as we ran by. We would run a few steps together and then push on. It was very nice. I'll get to the one non-outstanding moment in a minute.

At about mile 9, we fell off pace. Two miles later, we had our discussion and he told me that he just didn't have it. It was time to go. I told him to have a good race, passed two others in our group who were close by and told them to have a good race and then I was off. Now at this point, I estimated that I was 7 or 8 minutes behind the other two, so if I wanted to catch them and I did, I really did, that I was going to need to run swiftly. You know, like a deer. So run swiftly I did. 6 minute mile after 6 minute mile. I passed the 3:40 group after about a mile. The 3:30 group based on where we were in the race was only about 5 minutes ahead. Charge, charge, charge. Well, making up those five minutes was the one unoutstanding thing about starting the race 5 minutes behind everyone else. It was tough. It took me another 5 miles to catch them, with some of my miles being in the 6s and some of them being in the low 7s. By the time I finally caught them at mile 19, I was done. (And by the way, for those doing the math. Don't. This race report is all about perception. It's my reality. It's mediocre. Don't challenge it or I'll just need to point out just how mediocre you are as well.)

But, I had finally caught them. However, I was spent. I had not trained to run 6s for that far. I had trained to help my friends to run 8:01s. When I finally caught the other two, I didn't have much left. And we hit concrete. Let me tell you about running on concrete. It sucks. Particularly when the majority of the time you run on trails and asphalt. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. While I'm here, the course was forgettable, although the post-race party and food was outstanding. All marathoners should expect pizza and wings after running a race. The King of Mediocrity will now declare it so. It is so.

I hung on for five miles until mile 24. At that point, I let one of my friends go. After another mile, where I think I ran an 8:38, I let the other runner go. Although as I did that I smiled to myself a little. I had a little surprise for them at the end, which was the fact that I started five minutes after the gun and hence after them. Once I finally dragged myself across the finish line, we hooked up and of course the first guy to finish asked my time and I told him. He was confused and asked how I had gotten in front of him. When I told him that I had started five minutes after the gun, he looked a little crestfallen. Hey, I wasn't going to say anything, but he did ask. Such is the life of a super-competitive average person. I think it was even better when the paper and web site published results according to chip time. I know. I'm not very nice. Sorry. Most average people aren't very nice. We're too busy being angry about being average.

On Saturday if you had asked me about running a sub-3 hour marathon this year or ever, I would have said no way. Now, after much reflection on my training and how I should approach a sub-3 hour attempt, I have changed my mind. The #2 will appear at the beginning of a marathon finish time. Probably even this year.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Get A Move On

That was one of the phrases that came out of my mouth this morning as I ran around Briones Reservoir alone. Apparently the ranchers have moved their cattle to the reservoir as they felt that there wasn't enough cow dung along the path to fertilize all of the thorns and briars.

It was pouring rain this morning and yet I went out. I hadn't run all week due to work being a little more crazy than usual. Remind me to tell you what it is like working with a team that consists of the client and four different consulting firms. Lots o' fun.

The rain didn't bother me too much as it was a warm rain (50s). The hills bothered me a little and I just decided to relax and go slow. The mud really bothered me. The clumpiness factor on a scale of 1 to 10 was a solid 7. The only solution was to run through the grass, which of course has thorns. Fun stuff.

At about mile 7, I started noticing many piles of fresh cow crap. I wish I had had my camera as there is nothing quite like clumpy mud, fresh cow poo, and rain. I guess it was kind of like running in diarrhea.

About half a mile after noticing the diarrhea mud, I encountered my first herd. Probably 30 or 40 cows. No bulls. However, there were about 10 calves. Remembering the lessons learned from Grandma F's ranch back in the day, I knew that just trying to run by them wouldn't work. I had to scare them off. It was at this point that I started shouting, "Yeaaawwwww! Get a move on! Yeaaawwww!" and waving my arms. I almost took off my hat, but due to the rain, I decided against it. Also, I was looking ridiculous enough. Adding a waving white running hat would have been too much.

The cows moved aside and as I ran by, they all mooed at me. I was a little tired at this point, so I didn't moo back, but believe me, next time I see that herd, we're gonna have us a moo-down. About a mile later, another herd. Only this one had about 60 cows and one bull. Fortunately, the bull decided that I was pretty scary and just took off. I hope the cows remember how he wussed out against a skinny pale white guy dodging cow patties.

I thought I was done with the cows, but at the top of a ridge about two miles later, I encountered a very large herd. Probably a 100 or so cows. The problem with these cows was that they were on the trail and there was nowhere for them to go. Both sides of the trail were just too steep. So here I go with my arms waving and my "Yeeeaaaawwwww!! Get a MOVE ON!!" routine and the only place they can go is right down the trail. We did this for about a half mile before the ridge flattened out and they were able to bolt to the side. Seriously, there needs to be a camera crew following me around when I run. I was herding cows. It was somewhat ridiculous, but at least they didn't slow me down.

It reminded me of when I begged a cowboy at Grandma F's ranch to let me ride a horse when I was seven or eight and he said he'd get a horse ready, but only if I chased all of the cows in another field down a path to another field. Sure, I said just wanting to ride a horse. So he saddled up a horse for me and off I went to the field to chase cows. The problem is that I had no idea how to chase them in an organized fashion so that they would all go down the path. I spent about 30 minutes chasing individual cows across the field before the cowboy came riding up to me on his horse asking me what the hell I was doing. I of course told him I was chasing cows. He spit, told me to go back to the barn and then proceeded to chase the herd down the path to the other field in less than ten minutes.

As you can tell, I remembered that lesson today. All the cows went where I directed them. That cowboy would have been so proud.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Fast and Furious

That's our team name.

Where to start? I'm not sure, as I'm still on a little bit of a high from the whole event. This is definitely going to be a stream of consciousness post.

It was nuts. I'm still sore and it is Wednesday. Here's the setup:

- 12 person team (6 women, 6 men)
- 188 miles from Wickenburg to Scottsdale
- Two cars, six people in each car
- The first six runners are in the first car and once they finish running, they go somewhere and take a break for 4 or 5 hours while the next car with the next six runners does their thing. Repeat 3 times for a total of 36 legs that were between 3 and 8 miles.

My first leg was around 3:30pm. It was 6 miles, with the first 3 being a gradual uphill. I was too anxious and tight the whole time being amped up for the race, but I did decently and averaged 6:51 miles.

After our team finished the first six legs, we went to a high school, which was where the next major exchange was and ate and relaxed. I paid $5 to take a cold shower and use a wrestling mat to lie down on. Cold shower. Not happy. Oh, did I tell you that my main source of food was Diet Dr. Pepper and Ruffles Masterpiece BBQ chips? I also ate some good salami and cheese.

My next leg was at 1:30am and was almost 7 miles along a gentle downhill the whole way. I felt great, especially because it was nice and cool and I averaged 6:33 miles. I was pretty impressed with myself until I stopped and felt my hamstrings tighten up immediately. They are still tight by the way. I felt even less impressed with myself when a guy came in about 5 minutes after me having averaged 5:42 miles. Wow, that's smokin'.

After we finished our second leg, we went to a member of our team's house and relaxed. Notice, no sleep. We layed down and relaxed. No shower this time.

My last leg was at 8:30am. It is considered the hardest leg out of the 36 legs of the entire race. Only 5.5 miles, but the first 3 are uphill and the last 1/3 of a mile there was a 300 foot elevation gain. It was brutal. Hot and no sleep made me completely exhausted. It was out in the middle of the desert, which was pretty, but i was totally dead. I ended up averaging 8:00 miles.

I was just glad to run as early as I did. It was only in the high 70s when I ran. The rest of my teammates had to run in temperatures that reached 93. Ouch and ouch.

One of my favorite legs that I didn't run was Richard's second leg. Dirt roads at midnight through what appeared to be a very posh neighborhood. I'm sure all of the people loved hearing the roar of the Escalade as it powered over some of those hills. The funny part is that might be the first time that that particular Escalade has ever been on dirt. I think I also enjoyed it because Richard has some power and overtook some people as we went through some slow rollers (hills).

Overall, it was totally fun. I ended up riding the bike with Julie Ann, Lisa, and Melanie while they ran, which was nice and relaxing. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Everyone did great. Out of 73 total teams, we finished 27th. In our division (Mixed), we finished 9th out of 31, averaging 8:32 miles.

Here's a link to some pics. Unfortunately Richard, our fearless team captain, was also our photographer, which means there are not any pics of him, primarily because I'm a slacker. Actually, his leg was right before mine and because I was busy skipping, warming up, and getting myself psyched to kick some butt, I forgot all about pics. Such is the mindset of the insane runner.

The moral of the story is that running two times within an 8 hour period, including the middle of the night, just isn't that tough. Running 3 times in a 16 hour period, with only about 90 minutes of quasi-sleep is very difficult. The clincher is that there really isn't a good way to train for that.

Next year, we will decorate our vehicles and maybe even have a more clever team name. Any theme ideas?

Oh, I forgot to tell you, my middle leg is the hardest. And, "Who's that coming down our chute? It's Amy! It's Amy!"

Thank you to our volunteers mom, Erin, and Kevin, as well as to Chris and Anne for seting up our living quarters.