Sunday, March 29, 2009

Watch Out for Falling Ice!

This morning my alarm went off just as it had yesterday morning. Today was different though. Instead of being greeted by early morning snow, ice, and wind, the pre-dawn sunlight was peaking over the horizon with renewed vigor. By some magic, the ice was gone off of the streets and some of the yards. However, as I started my 20 mile run, I noticed that the ice was still holding a nervous grip on the power lines.

I have always been amused by the road signs in the mountains that warn us of "Watch for Falling Rock Ahead". It's been my opinion that when you see that sign, It's too late. The rocks aren't going to comply with the request of a sign. Plus, I'm not going to stop and watch. Doesn't make sense to wait to be crushed. Seems I always drive a little faster during those stretches.

Anyway, today as I ran, I was bombarded by large ice chunks falling off of the power lines. There were no signs along the way that said "Watch Out for Falling Ice". I did run a little faster however. The ice was losing its grip. I was paying for it. Then it took on a whole new meaning as it hit me for maybe the fourth time.

The ice breaking away from the power lines was somewhat symbolic of many of the things that we are all going through right now. As the ice breaks away, it leaves the lines free. The ice is symbolic of things holding us back. When the ice breaks away it releases the lines back to regain strength and work harder to do what they are there to do.

It's kind of like us as we start a new season of running. Many of us have run all winter and even run races. Others are now starting to get their training programs underway for a future race. And some are in training to gain fitness with no desire to race. All of us have the common thread of needing to break free of some things. What's holding you back? You can form your own list, but just like the power lines, it's time to regain our strength and work even harder towards our goals.

The sign should say, "Watch Out for Runners Breaking Free".

Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Running or Not

The alarm went off this morning as scheduled. Knowing the possibilities that existed with the weather, my first glance was out the window to see if the forecast had actually come true. It had to a certain extent. It was raining and freezing on just about everything and there was a very strong wind. The strange thing was that in some surrounding cities the weather packed a different punch. Some had all rain and some had drifts of snow above 12 inches. Some even had dry pavement. I went ahead and ate a pre-run breakfast of 2 pieces of Ezekiel bread with peanut butter (natural and ground myself at a local store) with a bowl of tart cherries and a soy protein drink.

Then I really looked outside as the rain grew heavier and the freezing intensified. A coating of ice was now on just about everything. It was at this point that I thought to myself I was still going. Got all the gear on and shoes tied and went downstairs. And stopped.

What was I doing? An Ultra-Marathon next weekend. Ice everywhere. Surely I could just step around all of the bad spots and make my 14 miles ok. Surely it wasn't as bad as it looked. I've run in rain before many times. Then it hit me. What if I slip? What if I do take that chance and pull something? I know many of you out there would say "go" and maybe many of you have. Well I have too. But today was different. My body said "no". My mind said, "go for it".

The decision was a tough one. But I decided to take a rest day and be safe. I know deep down that the bulk of my training for the ultra is complete. Now is really taper time. A day off will not be bad. So I didn't run this morning.

The earth didn't shake. My shoes didn't vaporize and disappear. My running clothes are still waiting for me for tomorrow. I think that I did ok today. Had a good nap and watched some NCAA basketball. In past years I would have gone ahead and forced a low quality run for no reason other than just being stubborn. So hopefully tomorrow's weather will be better and I can get me run in. I know the surface might still be a little questionable but it should be better. I hope so. I don't know if I can make two good decisions in a row.

Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy an safe!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Marathon- Little Rock Style

The Little Rock Marathon in Little Rock, AR was fantastic! It was a great marathon race put on by an amazing group of staff and volunteers from the Parks and Recreation Department and local community members. It was a welcomed surprise to my marathon schedule for the year and a "must go back" for next year. I would have to rate it as one of the top five marathons that I have ever done. Very well organized and plenty of things to do before and after the race. One of the things that impressed me the most was just how glad they were that you were there and had chosen to run in their race. It was mentioned several times from hotel staff to the restaurants that we went to. Organizers wanted everyone to have a great race and to have a fun time in their city. It was also designated as a "walker friendly" race. Many people took them up on the walker invitation which included a two hour early start option.

We stayed at the Peabody Hotel which was an incredible experience. Wonderful service and the outstanding food at the Capriccio Grill Italian Steakhouse was a big plus. If you ever get a chance to stay there, check out the duck parade. From the minute we were picked up at the airport by the hotel shuttle to arrival at the hotel, we were treated to a historical conversation from the driver about the sites and sounds of the city. We were greeted upon arriving with cold, rain and wind. Yes, I was worried at that point and it was just Friday night. Rooms were large and like I said before, the food at the hotel was amazing. Hotel: A+

Registration and Packet Pick-Up was very easy as it was located next to the hotel at the Expo. Packet pick-up was well organized and fast. All directions were spelled out clearly and the tickets for the Pasta Dinner and Post Race Party were easily purchase without any hassle. Participant shirts and timing chips were easy to get and check out. Volunteers were very informed about the race course and gave me very worthwhile tips on navigating the hills and out and backs. Registration and Packet Pick-Up: A

The Expo was not large but there was enough there to get you by and also be able to purchase things that you might have left at home. Vendors were not especially energized to be there though and a few looked like they were just waiting for Saturday evening to come. There were only a few booths with really good sale deals on merchandise. Others seemed a little high priced. Some shoes were half price. There were no major vendors there from running related companies though. That to me is a real negative. Expo: B

The Pasta Dinner was catered by the Peabody Hotel and it was simple yet very good. The buffet set-up provided an easy access to get seconds and also to get in and out of the dinner if you wanted to get back and rest. The bread was fantastic! It was great to have runner/author Bart Yasso there to say a few words of encouragement and to recognize a few groups and individuals that deserved the recognition. It was my first introduction to the Marathon Maniacs group of which I sent in an application today to become a member. Pasta Dinner: B+

The race day organization was very well done. This was the first year that they used the corral system and it worked very well. Everything (Information signs) was very well marked and there were plenty of porta potties available. The start was smooth and with the cool temperatures and overcast skies, it was a great start. Starting Area: A

The race course was hilly and challenging. After saying that though, it was strangely fast. There was some circling around downtown around historic sites and then off we went over a bridge to North Little Rock where we did and out and back kind of circle thing and then back over the bridge where we then did a true out and back with a turn around at about mile 21. The course was beautiful in many paces and also very normal "city looking" in others. The aid stations were staffed with very good volunteers that really knew what they were doing. Lots of on course support: people giving directions and medical staff. Race course, aid stations, and volunteers: A+

Finish Line events were excellent with a band playing, a pre-made goodie bag of food plus other food items available to choose from, plus getting the biggest marathon medal I have ever seen. The really amazing thing is that Bart Yasso and another person announced every finishers name as he or she crossed the line. He was there at the finish line to high five and greet everyone. The local FOX network station also provided finish line footage of each finisher and can be accessed by anyone wanting to see people finish that they knew. It was really a great finish area. Finish Area and Volunteers: A+

The Post Race Party was held at the Clinton Presidential Library with BBQ and Bands plus a free tour of the museum. If there was one glitch in the whole experience, this was it. People had to wait in line for food from an hour to an hour and a half. There is nothing worse than making marathoners and their families have to stand for that amount of time. It was really not a good situation at all. I hope that they reconsider for next year. The BBQ was outstanding but too little to late. Post Race Party: D

Monday was a travel day and with a late afternoon flight departure we were able to just have a great time in the River Market area and sample great food and have a great walk to stretch out my sore legs. We toured the Old Statehouse Museum which was interesting. Little Rock has so many things to do. It is really a great area to visit and also a great area to race.

I had a great race experience and enjoyed every minute of the trip. I qualified for the Boston Marathon for the second time this year with a time of 3:39:00. The course was tough and hilly as I said, but my race strategies, training, and Hammer Nutrition supplements helped pave the way to a strong race. These are all important components of my preparation. But like many other runners, my faith also provides me strength and endurance.

Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

2 Longs Each Weekend

As I prepare for a 44 mile ultra race in April, I have adjusted my training plan the past month or so to include two long runs over 20 miles on Saturday and Sunday. Midweek training includes two 9 milers and a 6 usually throwing in fartleks, tempo, or hill runs with those miles as well as three nights of Cross Training. Needless to say, there have been many good runs but also a few clunkers. It never stops amazing me how the first mile of some of these runs can seem like the hardest. Especially when the winter wind blows hard at you from the north for that first one. I have also run a few marathons during the training schedule to break the routine and get into some racing conditions. The upcoming Little Rock, AR., marathon will be one of those. I am looking forward to Little Rock as I have heard many good things about the race and the people that run it. Even with the "hills" they talk about.

Today as I was running my 26 miles several things came across my mind as I was running. Yes, there were buds on some of the trees. And yes, where I live it was 70 degrees today and will get cold again next week...but I was thinking of some Spring Cleaning things that we should all be thinking about:
1. Register for some races coming up in the next few months and set some training goals to get you there.
2. Shoe check. Take a look and also take a run in the shoes you have had during this winter and see if it's time to get new ones. Remember I recommend to buy two pair at once so you can rotate them and keep a good bounce to them.
3. Gear check. Same as the shoes. You deserve some new running gear. Go for it!
4. Donate. If you have a bunch of shoes around that are good for wearing but not for training, consider donating them to a local organization that might need them.
5. Check out your nutrition and training plans. If you don't have one, consider putting together some ideas and set goals.

I'm looking forward to the race schedule that I have the next few months and will keep you informed of how things are going. You can check out the races that I have coming up on the side of my blog.

Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!