Monday, April 26, 2010

Answering your running questions!

Most people arrive at this blog searching the Internet for answers to running related questions.
Well, I am here to help!

Google provides me with the list of phrases that people are searching for, and from this I will chose some of the most common questions and answer them here.

(Note: these are actual search terms. I am not making these up.)

Q: "how hilly is boston marathon"?
A: About a 3 on the hilly scale.

Q: "whats is a fast men's 5k time "?
A: To find what would be fast for you- Take your age, multiply by your weight, and then divide by the color of your shoes.

Q: "blister on my foot"?
A: Pop it, put a band aid on it, and quit being a baby

Q: "biting flies in umstead park raleigh nc"?
A: Oh, God yes.
To avoid biting flies:
1) Mix 2 parts vinegar to 1 part tomato juice.
2) Apply to all exposed skin.
3) Don't leave the house.
Q: "hilliest marathon"?
A: If it isn't Pike's Peek, let me know.

Q: "are dog allowed in the uwharrie national forest"?
A: Yes. But put an orange collar on them during hunting season

Q: "running 5k with runners knee"?
A: Yes, go ahead

Q: "best shoe to cure runner's knee"?
A: Probably the ones you don't wear

Q: "softride bike for sale"?
A: Sorry, sold it.

Q: "runner knee quick fix"?
A: small steps

Q: "running knees 'days in a row'"?
A: I have no idea what you are asking, but I am going to say 5.

Q: "below 13:00 5k"?
A: In your dreams.

Q: "strollers" "city of oaks marathon" ?
A: Yes. Make sure you start in the front.

Q: "bad trots all day post half marathon"?
A: I'm so, so sorry to hear that.

Q: "amount ibuprofen chondromalacia runners"?
A: Exactly 2 metric handfuls per knee, or 4 pills per mile.

Q: "belch felt so good"
A: Glad to hear it!

Q: "my knee is cured"
A: Congratulations!

Q: "anthony corriveau ruggedly handsome"?
A: Of course. (Wait. I think this was me ego-surfing.)

Well that's it for this weeks installment.
I plan on making this a regular feature, so check back soon.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Boston Marathon Tips

Here is my 2010 Boston Marathon race report.
Also some from the expo and Boston are here.
I learned a few things about running the Boston, and I will provide my tips for others running it the first time.

Boston Tip #1 - Bring a duffel bag
... filled with your life savings in cash, large and small bills. Boston is an expensive town. You will need it for the $400 hotel, $18 hamburger and $45 official Boston Marathon tooth brush.
The expo was very crowded, with people trying to squeeze by each other in random directions. There was all kinds of "official" Boston gear, sales pitches for the latest running snake oil, and stuff you can find in a running store. I was getting claustrophobic and wanted to escape, but Shannon wanted to see how many free sample snack bars she could collect. Finally she let us go, as I nearly collapsed from dehydration.

Boston Tip #2 - Dress for an Arctic Expedition
For running, dress like it is 20 degrees warmer. For sitting outside for 3 hours waiting to run, dress like it is 70 degrees colder. So if it is 45 and sunny, it will feel like -25 and you will freeze to death
I get a kiss from that Minnie Mouse
guy who is everywhere
Monday morning we took a van shuttle from our hotel in Newton to the start in Hopkinton at 6:30 am. The race didn't start until 10:00 am, but because there are 26,000 people funneling into the tiny town there is no way to know how long it will take to get there, so you have to leave very early.

The driver took some back roads to avoid the traffic jams, almost getting lost. Unfortunately we got there very quickly, meaning we had to wait in the cold for 3 hours. Many people we there in winter coats and sleeping bags. I just had on 4 throw shirts. Shannon and I passed the time taking pictures, talking with folks, and shivering.

Shannon, me, my sister Monique, and Laura

As we walked to the start, we ran into my sister Monique and her friend Laura. They had spent over 2 hours on the bus, stuck in traffic, and had to get out and walk into Hopkinton. As we walked the half mile to the start, we heard the gun go off for the elite women's start. We went to see the elite men at the front, but they were still hiding.

We scored a porta potty with 5 minutes to spare and then went to our separate corrals.

As I stood in the 4000 corral, it felt odd knowing that the 1000 runners crowded shoulder to shoulder had the same qualifying time as me, and would be all running the same speed. Shannon was back a few corrals, and I wondered if I should have started back there and ran the race with her.

Massaging my sore calves, I thought this might be the first marathon I didn't finish. It is common for my calves to start cramping up the last few miles of a marathon, but this was the first time they hurt before the race even started.

Since February Shannon and I had run 8 races, including a marathon and 2 ultras, which obviously was too much. We had managed to only do some slow recovery runs in between, so we hadn't done any actual "training" in a long time. We both felt beat up and out of shape. I remembered the boast I made a year ago of a PR, but that seemed crazy. My only goal for the race was to finish.

Boston Tip #3 - Have fun
Slap some hands
The race started and big cheer went up, "Yea!" and we surged forward. A little too quickly I guess, and we ground to halt, "Oooo". Finally, we started running again "Yea!". The course was lined spectators cheering and holding out their hands. There were a lot of little kids, and the first mile I slapped many hands.

There were guys playing bongos, and I added some geeky dance moves to my stride as I passed by.

After resting for 5 days, traveling, and waiting, I was finally running. And it was wonderful. My legs felt great.
Boston Tip #4 - Take small steps
Small, quick steps will save your quads on the downhills.
The first 4 miles were mostly downhill, and I was just rolling down them with my "small steps". It seemed effortless. I pace myself by monitoring my breathing, and it was very slow and easy. The road was very crowded with runners going a little slower, so I was passing and dodging people, moving from one side of the road to the other to get ahead.

Around mile 3, I started to get cocky, "Hey, maybe I could PR... ".
To PR, I needed to average a 7:05 pace or under. I glanced at my Forerunner watch to see what my pace was. But the screen was blank; it had malfunctioned and shut itself off. I laughed, and took this as a sign from the running gods to forget about PRs and just relax and enjoy the run.

The next sign came about a mile later, when my calves started to tighten up. My left one, which had temporarily abandoned me 6 weeks ago, was starting to make creaking and pinging noises. My thoughts changed from a PR to "I am not going to make it".
Boston Tip #5 - No. Wait, don't take small steps.
Just run your natural stride, and don't think about it. Relax!
Ever since I had declared myself cured of runners knee, I have been having calf problems. There at mile 5, I had to accept that I still had not mastered my new "small steps" stride. It wasn't smooth and relaxed. Instead my legs were very tense, and that was tearing up my calves.

"Relax. Relax", I repeated to myself. I tried to let my legs just swing loose and stretch out. I was taking longer strides, and it felt good. Amazingly, my calves started to recover.

"Hey, a Godiva hat!", I heard from behind. It was a guy named Bart from Durham, NC who was also in the Godiva running club. I had seen his name in the results of a lot of races but never met him. We was on the Godiva Masters Team that ended up taking 3rd place in Boston.

We talked for mile or two, until he told me he was going for a sub 3:00 hour time. The thought of trying to run it with him entered my head for a second, along with visions of wheelchairs and ambulances. "I'm going to back off. Good luck!", I said.

Boston Tip #6 - Kiss the girls
This is the best thing about running Boston. The girls of Wellesley College actually want you to kiss them. Really. You won't get arrested this time, I promise.
There are people cheering the whole 26.2 miles, but it really picks up around mile 12 at Wellesley College. I stopped and kissed two girls. They both accepted a peck on the cheek, but declined an extended Casablanca reenactment. This really energized me and I picked up the pace into Newton.

Later, I learned that Shannon kissed a girl too, and that is simply awesome.
Boston Tip #7 - Watch for the Newton Hills
They may be very helpful
My quads in action
At mile 17, one of my quads seized up for a second.
I had been ignoring the fact that my quads were being pummeled into hamburger, but now my right one was defending itself and was about to curl up into a little ball like an armadillo.

Fortunately I started to hit the "Newton Hills", and the uphill running was a temporary relief to my quads.

After all I had heard about the hills, I was very disappointed. It was just a series of slight inclines for a few miles. No huge banner, no choir of school children singing "Welcome to Heart Break Hill", nothing.
"Congratulations! That was Heart Break Hill!", I heard a guy say about mile 21, otherwise I would not have known it was there.
Boston Tip #8 - Sorry! Try small steps again
Did that long stride trash your quads? Sorry about that. Small steps! Small steps!
"I'm not going to make it", I thought again.
After "Heart Break", it is all down hill for the last 5 miles, but my quads were done for the day.

I had run 2 much hillier courses in Uwharrie and Umstead, without trashing my quads at all. It had to have been the "small steps" strategy that worked there. So I adjusted my stride again, back to the small steps, trying to turn my feet over quickly while still trying to relax.
It seemed to work, letting me roll down the hills without using my quads much.

As the miles ticked by, my hip flexors and hamstrings also started to hurt. I wasn't really tired, but my legs were simply falling apart. I felt like an old bicycle careening down the hills out of control, with bent rims wobbling and nuts and bolts flying off. I had to keep alternating my stride as my quads, calves and hamstrings all teetered on the edge of cramping.

Boston Tip #9 - Enjoy it while it lasts
It goes by quickly
While all this was going on, I sneeked a peek at the clocks that were at each mile marker. Since my watch wasn't working, I had to do a lot of advanced math to figure out my pace, and this distracted me from the pain. At mile 25, I figured out that if I could just maintain the pace, I could actually get under my 3:06 PR.

The last mile into Boston was lined with cheering and screaming people, and I slapped some more hands. With the sight of the finish line I picked up the pace, in disbelief that I had made it. After I crossed the line, I was really, really done.

The 3 months of racing had drained my tank to zero; there was not even fumes left. I shuffled through the gauntlet of volunteers who handed me a blanket, recovery drinks, food, and my drop bag. I stopped at meeting place "M" to wait for Shannon, my sister and Laura. Every single muscle in my legs immediately cramped up when I stopped.

Shannon had a good run, finishing in 3:35. Half way through, she was not feeling a PR, so she stopped and took lots of pictures, making this blog post possible. No one believed she carried a camera with her.

My sister did an amazing 3:23:32. Amazing for the speed as well as consistency. She missed her 3:23:31 PR by 1 second. But beat her last marathon in Detroit by... 1 second (3:23:33).

It has taken 5 days for me to just start walking normally again. But that's OK. I plan on taking a few months off...

Thanks to everyone for reading this far!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Boston Marathon Smackdown... a year later

About a year ago, I was making fun of the Boston Marathon's reputation as a "hard" course, even though I had not even qualified for it, let alone run it. So I got this anonymous comment:
You're foolish to blow off Boston like you did, which is why it turns "tough" course runners into mints meat EVERY year-don't be fooled by it's profle! Even Ryan Hall who ran it in practice, trained for it after, still said aftward, "It's much harder a course than I thought." It's harder on your legs to run down hill than up, especially at the marathon distance
The anonymity of the Internet makes people ignorant jerks, and I am no exception. So in my response, I made several boastful predictions. That in the following year, I would:

  1. Qualify for Boston
  2. Run a PR in Boston
  3. Feel great at the finish
  4. Run up and down 12 flights of stairs screaming "Ryan Hall is a weenie!".
The bragging was really just a joke, because I am not confident of anything. Hell, just trying to open a can of soup fills me with self doubt. But I did have an unfounded belief that I could run down-hills relatively well, so I thought the Boston course wouldn't be that hard.

So how did my predictions pan out?

1. Qualify
Success. I had tried in 2008 to qualify in the local City Of Oaks, but that was a colossal failure. But I am lucky enough to have the time and money to travel to nice flat and easy marathons. So I ran the Bayshore marathon in Michigan, and managed to eek out a qualifying time. I improved on it a little in Detroit in the fall.

2. Run a PR
Success, by a mere 43 seconds. I will provide details in a race report tomorrow, but it was so improbable that I still cannot believe it.

3. Feel great
FAIL. I have to eat my words here. Mr. Anonymous was right, Boston did in fact turn my legs into "mints meat". More accurately, the muscles in my legs have the consistency of overripe bananas that have been pummeled with a wooden mallet.

4.Run up and down stairs
FAIL. Right now stairs require both hands on the railing, and the way I am waddling around, I can't call anyone a weenie. My next run is in the distant future.

I guess the "Smack down" was on me.

A full race report and Shannon's pictures coming up next...

Shannon took this picture of a pummeled banana as we waited
for the start, foreshadowing what was to come...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Night before Boston

Shannon and I are here at the Mecca of marathoning, Boston. It is kind of strange being in a town with 25,000 people who devote so much time and money running marathons.
As I stood in line at the expo buying my $40 official commemerative Boston marathon roll of tiolet paper, I became annoyed with all these pretentious and obnoxious runners. They probably all have blogs, posting pictures of themselves in Boston.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My prayers have been answered

I love riding my bike, and I love running, but I hate having to choose between the two.
Finally, my prayers have been answered. Next time you see me, I will be on this:

I'll be ordering mine today from The Bicycle Forest

Cannot wait to set up a ramp in front of my house! Check out the jumps!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Boston Marathon Makes You Hungry

In 8 days I will be running my first Boston marathon.
From everything I have heard, Boston is an extra special marathon, different than all the others.

My sister alerted me to this list of very important tips that was sent out to all participants:

2010 Boston Marathon One Week to Go Tips & Strategies

Apparently, one special thing about Boston is that it will make you very, very hungry, because 6 of the 9 tips involve eating. These are great tips, because it provides a lot great facts I didn't know.

For example:

Tip#5 - At what point of the marathon are you at great risk of getting hungry and dehydrated, and should carry fluid and fuel with you?
Mile 22? After the race?
NO. At the marathon expo! That's right you should make sure you wear your fuel belt, and pin several Gu to your clothes before you go to pick up your race bib.

Tip#2 - The week before, carry food with you at all times. I plan on getting a tray I can strap to the front of me so I can continue to eat my pasta dinner as I go to the bathroom.

Tip#3 - What's the first thing to do when you arrive in Boston? Relax? See the sites? Pick up your bib? NO! For God's sake, find a grocery store!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cary Road Race 10K PRs!

Shannon and I ran the Cary Road Race 10K this morning, and we both set a whole bunch of new PRs!
I set a personal record by eating 8 slices of bread from the Great Harvest Bread Company.
This breaks my previous record of 5, set last year. What makes this more astounding is that I also ate an apple, a banana and almost 2 bagels.
Our friend Bob Sites took this great
picture while he was running the 10K
We also set a record time of 4-1/2 hours for a 10K, spending almost 3 hours hanging around afterwards for the awards ceremony and catching up with friends.

Shannon had a great race, setting a PR of PRs. Her time of 43:51 for the 10K ranked a 70.2% on the age graded scale, breaking 70% for the first time ever! 

I did not do so well. Out of the 3 guys wearing the Brooks Launch red and orange shoes, I came in last place. I will be going out today to find those Hello Kitty racing flats.

I did, however, set a new PBOR (Personal-Body-Odor-Record) , managing to offend even my own dull senses.

Shannon took a bunch of pictures of the 10K and 5K which are here.