Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 Running Highlights

I reached out to runners on Twitter and asked them to share their running highlight(s) from the year. Below are their inspirational responses. Looks like everyone had a great year! Here's to another good one in 2014!

I completed my 6th and 7th marathons.  Ran a marathon with my aunt and cousin (their firsts), and ran Nikewomen's Half Marathon in San Francisco with Team Turtlez.
Elizabeth, @turtlegirl00

My highlight was definitely the half/full combo I did back in May. Ran the Cap City half, then did the Flying Pig full the next day. However, there is a second highlight: doing the Detroit half with my wife in October. We had the exact same start and finish time.

I've had a good year. 2013 was my first "post ultra marathoning" year, where I've gone back to focusing on improving myself at the 5k to 13.1 mile distances before moving back up to the longer events. It took me 55 weeks to get back to my pre-ultramarathon 5k pace and I ended up with a new 5k PR of 17:41! I also broke my old half marathon PR by three minutes along the way with a 1:23. 2013 may also be my highest mileage year ever, with about 2500 total!

Our happy and healthy girl joined us on July 23rd. I am easing back into running but I feel strong and happy. I am thankful to be able to run again even if only for short distances. My highlight this year has been every single run as I just keep getting better. If I had to pick one it would have been last week when I braved the cold with what little fitting gear I had and went outside. I ran through the neighborhood and looked at all the Christmas lights. My lungs burned the whole run and my legs ached the next day but I really felt like a runner again.
Kourtney, @KourtBranagan

My 2013 running highlight is probably cheesy, but I ran Boston, which was impossible for me to even imagine when I started running in 2009. 2 marathons and 3 years later I started adding speed work and qualified with a 3:32. Being in Boston this Spring with all these amazingly dedicated runners was an experience I'll never forget! It was also the hardest race experience I ever had with limited hill training in cold, flat Chicago. It was the most mentally challenging and physically challenging race I've done. I had to force myself not to walk the entire last 6 miles, which ended up being critical to me finishing well before the bombings.
Jessica, @BibRave

2013 was actually a pretty big running year for me (two half marathons, two full marathons, two ultra marathons). I ran the Boston Marathon in (a few seconds over) three hours and, more importantly, escaped the bombings with my family and friends unscathed. I also completed my first two 50-mile trail ultra marathons, and the second one I came in first place overall! This was incredibly exciting for me, as I'd never won a race of any kind before. Launching was a huge running event for me and my wife. With SO MANY races these days, we really wanted to give runners a voice when it comes to race feedback. Seeing reviews come rolling in has been really exciting, and we're stoked for 2014!
Tim, @BibRave

Throwing out my run streak. Since taking one day off a week (and more time off if I'm sick or feeling an injury sneak up on me), I've noticed a dramatic improvement in my times and overall mental health. Training smart and avoiding burn out has made me wonder why I even considered a run streak in the first place! 
Jamie, @DCRunster

My running highlight from 2013 was the Philadelphia Marathon. I have run more than thirty half marathons since 2007 but just started tackling the full distance in the last year. The Philadelphia Marathon was my second marathon and now I am hooked on this longer distance. I have run so many half marathons that I can do them in my sleep with zero training. I am not saying they are easy, I am just saying that they are no longer challenging. The full distance is very challenging because I am one of those people who dislikes training but who LOVES racing. So I race almost every weekend from spring to late fall. As a result, I don’t spend much time training because I am taking a (brief) recovery from whatever weekend event I did. The full marathon distance is challenging because the last 10K is difficult...just like the last 5K of a half marathon used to be. I love that feeling of being challenged and trying to get my race times down. I cut off 20 minutes from my first marathon so I am making progress! 
Jasica, @JasciaRed

I tried (and completed) the three way challenge at the Flying Pig in Cincinnati. I ran the 10K immediately followed by the 5K on Saturday and got up and ran the half on Sunday. I was in only my 4th year of running and doing multiple, back to back events was definitely a different challenge than the full marathon I ran the previous spring. Some of the difficult elements were - pacing, not just for the immediate event but keeping in mind there would be another. Ending the 10K and not getting cold while getting back around to the 5K start. Replenishing was a big one! What to eat and drink and when so that I'd be fueled and hydrated for the current and upcoming events.
Kathleen, @Katrobbr

My running highlight would be running my third marathon (Des Moines Marathon) at goal pace and getting a PR of 4:18. This was the first time I trained with speed in mind and not just worrying about getting the miles in. I finished over an hour earlier than my very first marathon last fall in Wichita!
DeEtta, @DeEttaLBohling  

My 2013 was highlighted by running my local marathon and the Marine Corp Marathon.  I ran my local marathon in a huge PR for the course and a personal PR by a few minutes. My favorite thing about running this marathon is that I get to do it in front of my wife and kids. Marine Corp was so much fun. We took my father-in-law since he is a former marine. We visited so many places that I was glad he got to see and experience. It was a tough training cycle and I had some injury issues with my hip. The race wasn't great for me personally but I got to enjoy seeing DC and experiencing the sights during the race. Getting my race medal from a marine at the finish was first class. I was so proud to be an American. The final highlight to the year was running the local YMCA Turkey Trot with my kids. My 6 year old daughter and I ran the 1 mile.  She was as excited as was I. Running has taught me so many things and I can't wait to teach her along the way. We ran the whole race and had fun! My 10 year old son and I ran the 5K.  It was so cold that morning but it was a great way to start off our thanksgiving.
Chuck, @clswannie

My BIGGEST highlight was running my first half marathon. Of course it wasn't just any marathon, it was the Disney Princess Half. On a more serious note. When I was 15, I was told never to run again. I was a sprinter at the time and loving it. Then issues with my leg arose and I was told to 'hang up' my running shoes and pick a new hobby. Please, like running is a hobby. Obviously the doctors weren't runners. Anyway, I still ran when I could but not very long distances. Then I found out about the Disney races in 2012 and immediately registered for the Princess Half Marathon. Being a huge Disney fan, it was kind of a no brainer for me. I trained for a year, working my way up from running 1 mile to the full 13.1, and finally, at 5:45am that February morning, I ran with 15,000 of my closest female friends. All the support from everyone along the route was amazing - especially for that early in the morning! - and the best part was how I felt at the finish line. I was a smiling fiend. I couldn't help myself. I did what a lot of people told me I couldn't do and I felt great. Probably the best part about the whole race? Getting a hug from Minnie at the finish line!

I would have to say that the most major thing that happened to me this year, running-wise was my first 10K in June in Grand Forks, ND.  At the time, it was the longest run I'd ever done, and I did it alone.  My friend had just started running again and ran the 5K, but I was shuffling along for 6.2 miles by myself.  The weather was miserable, windy and rainy - the canopy covering the after-race lunch nearly blew over before the race even started.  But, as happens, half a mile in, I was fine.  Great in fact.  The race wound through some really pretty residential streets, probably the wealthiest, quietest area of town, and then down the trail by the river.  The wind and rain died down about a quarter of the way through, and I was able to do the whole thing without walking once.  In fact, the only time I really had to fight the wind was during the last tenth of a mile, as I raced back to the finish line.
Margie, @margie311

My running highlight from 2013 is finishing my first - and my second - marathon! My first will always be a highlight of my running journey as I ran it at Walt Disney World in honor of my grandfather who passed away. It was hot, but I pushed through and finished with a smile on my face! My second marathon was special as I ran in my home state of Michigan underneath the beautiful fall leaves. I worked hard for that 51 minute PR!
Megan, @Megan_Biller

My running highlights for 2013 were The Boston Marathon and discovering trail running. First off, let me start with Boston. This was special for several reasons. My childhood was spent in Boston during the 1970's. My love for running was not evident while I was growing up and did not appear for nearly 35 years. I did, however, acquire a love for The Boston Red Sox and the great city of Boston. Kind of special that it all came to a head this year for many fine folks who share similar loves. It was a short trip that was made even more strange with all that happened. But, I will be back in 2014 to enjoy and create more memories. The discovery of trail running made an impact on my running year. Although I have yet to run a trail race, I did find a unique place to get away, take it slow, save my legs, and begin to meet a brand new kind of people. I believe this friendship will continue to blossom. The slower pace.  The shade. The natural beauty. The workout. All are reasons I am so glad to say, yes, I am a trail runner. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

6 years ago today

The other day I came across something I wrote back on December 24, 2007. It was weeks before my first marathon and I was sharing my thoughts on how running had impacted my life. It was cool to relive some of the emotions I felt then and I thought I would share a small part of that post here. It's clear to me from the words I wrote then that this was the turning point in my running life.

The human body is an amazing machine and sitting on the couch and letting it go to waste is a terrible thing. Funny thing is, a year and half ago I was doing exactly that...sitting on my ass, eating whatever I wanted, drinking whatever I wanted, and for icing on the cake, I was smoker. Then, last summer, when I stepped on the scale and saw that I was 210 pounds, I realized I needed to make some changes to my lifestyle. In July of 2006, I quit smoking, which I found surprisingly easy to do. Then, in the fall I joined my school's crew club. Outside of crew, I slowly picked up running and started entering 5K races in the spring. Soon, I began to enjoy the aspects of running far more than crew, so I quit and fully committed myself to running. Long story short, here I am, 3 weeks away from my first of what I hope to be many marathons! I've lost 30 pounds and I'm in the best shape of my life. Most importantly, I feel the best I've ever felt in I don't know how many years, physically and mentally.

I'm starting to enjoy long distance running and I see this as something I'm going to do for the rest of my life. I like seeing how far I can push the limits of human endurance. I have all these wild ambitions that I'm not even gonna get into cause people would start to think I really am crazy. Hopefully, I will be able to achieve them someday! 

6 years later, running has become such a passion of mine. I've run further than I ever thought was possible in some of the most gorgeous places in the US. Along the way, I've met so many inspirational people. Their stories have fueled my own desire to better myself. I'm grateful for every step I take and try my best not to take anything for granted. Running is a journey that has no finish line, which is good, because I never want it to end.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Running Year Review: 2013 (In Pictures)

Another fun year of running has come to a close. Instead of blabbing about my year, I thought it would be fun to share it in pictures. So, without further adieu...

Ice formed on my water pack hose at the Icy-8 hour ultra. 
A fun race that lived up to its name! 40 miles in 7:32:36.
Valentines Day 5K with friends.
Became an Ambassador for Nuun! RnR DC Half.
New Jersey 100 Mile.  Me at mile 50. Ended up dropping out at mile 70 because I was frozen to the core. Hoping to finish my second 100 mile attempt in June!
Course was a little muddy for the 100 miler
Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run with friends

Flying Pig Marathon. Definitely one of my favorite races of 2013. Highly recommend it!
Maine Coast Marathon. Small marathon just south of Portland. Was a lot of fun!
The North Face Half Marathon DC with friends.
Bastille Day 4 Miler with DC Road Runners
The North Face Georgia Marathon with my friend Cathy. I was also a North Face blogger for this event.
Wineglass Marathon
Ragnar Trail AZ with Team Nuun. So much fun!
Team Nuun
Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis. PR'd - 3:42:48
Veteran's Day 50K
Rolled across the finish line. PR'd - 5:13:47
Turkey Trot 5K with friends.
Capped off my year running at The North Face 50 Mile in San Francisco. Awesome race!
2014 promises to be another fun year for me. I recently found out that I will be continuing my partnership with Nuun Hydration as an Ambassador, so I'm looking forward to working with them again. I will be blogging for The North Face again at one of their 2014 Endurance Challenge events.  I've also dipped my toes into writing and will be contributing articles to Trail and Ultra Running in the new year. Be on the lookout for my first published article soon! Be sure to browse their site, too. Pretty cool content.

Training for my next 100 mile attempt starts in January. I'm going to be running the Bryce 100 in Utah in June. I'm certainly not doing myself any favors of guaranteeing a finish at this race, as the course looks pretty killer. But, I look forward to the challenge as well as the beauty I will get to see! 

I hope you all had great a 2013! I wish you a safe and wonderful holiday and a strong 2014 running season!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Race Recap: The North Face Championship 50 Mile - San Francisco

Note to readers: LONG post. Grab a beer before you start reading.

"I finally feel like myself." That's what I said to my friend Cathy right before the start of my 50 mile journey through the Marin Headlands in Northern California. Leading up to this race, I was a nervous wreck. I wasn't nervous because I didn't feel prepared. I was ready. I had put in 3 hard months of training to make sure of it. I wasn't nervous because of the distance. I had been beyond the 50 mile mark twice in my crazy running life. I was nervous because this was going to be the hardest course I've ever run on. 10,000 feet of climbing. 10,00 feet of descending. Aka, The Quad Destroyer (for me, at least).

But, once I had all my running gear on and was making my way to start line, my attitude changed. I was no longer nervous. I was calm. Confident. Determined.

Marin Headlands in the distance

Course profile
At 5am, me and about 400 other kickass runners set off into the darkness. For the moment, all we could see was what our headlamps illuminated ahead. Yet, we knew that once the sun came up, we would be treated to some awesome sights.

Pre race 
I settled into a comfortable pace and focused only on reaching the first aid station, which was a little under 6 miles away. Thinking of only 6 miles to go instead of 50 did wonders for me mentally. It was a technique I used for the duration of the race. All I cared about was getting to next aid station.

As I headed out of Tennessee Valley (Aid Station 2), I no longer needed my headlamp. After a short climb, the trail dropped steeply down into a valley along the coastline, known as Pirates Cove. Seeing the vast Pacific and hearing the waves crashing into the seawalls was awesome. The trail along this section was pretty technical, so I couldn't look for too long, unless I wanted to face plant into the trail.

Once I made it to Muir Beach (Aid Station 3), I had about a half marathon under my belt. I was feeling strong, but knew that the next 15 miles or so would be the hardest part of the course for me. From Muir Beach, it was a steady 1,500 foot climb to the next aid station, appropriately named, Cardiac.

The stretch of trail from Muir to Cardiac was fantastic. While I had to walk most of it, the views kept on getting better the higher I got. The sun was now out in full force and the visibility was unlimited. If I looked left, I could see the Pacific. If looked ahead, I could see the runners in front of me snaking their way up the trail. To my right I could see the peaks and valleys of the headlands. If I looked behind, I could see the trail I covered, which make me think, "Wow, have I really climbed that much?"
Climb up to Cardiac (Photo Credit: The North Face ECS)
I was happy to reach Cardiac because that is where my drop bag was. I looked forward to ditching my shirt for a nice, dry one. I took my time at this aid station. I even sat a for minute or two to rest. I made sure to refill my water pack and restock my Gu and Picky Bars stash. I also carried a 20 ounce bottle that I would put my Nuun tablets in.

Once I left Cardiac, the trail took me into a heavily wooded area that was absolutely gorgeous. A few rays of sunshine were able to sneak their way through the tree branches, illuminating the moisture that was hanging in the air. It was hard for me to believe that I was running in such a beautiful place.

After reaching McKennan Gulch (Aid Station 5), I was starting to hit a wall. From McKennan Gulch, it was very steep 1,800 foot decent to the next aid station, Stinson Beach. The decent to Stinson really jacked up my quads. If I have a running weakness, it's running downhill. I'm horrible at it. It was something I worked on during my training, but I'm far from perfecting it. Once I made it to Stinson Beach I felt like shit...not the way I wanted to feel a little over halfway into the race. To make matters worse, it was another steep climb out of Stinson back to Cardiac.

It was during this portion of the race that I started to question if I would be able to finish. My legs felt so depleted. "How can I run for another 20 miles feeling like this? I'll never make it back." I'm usually pretty good at keeping negative thoughts like these away, but I was hurting bad and it was hard to ignore them.

It was a slow, SLOW climb back to Cardiac. It was only a 3 mile stretch, but it probably took me an hour to get there and I don't recall running much during this part. I was relieved when I finally reached Cardiac, but I thought I was in big trouble. I still had 20 miles of climbing and descending to go and I felt pretty shitty. I took my time again at Cardiac. Every aid station had nice, hot chicken broth and I helped myself to two cups. While it might not sound too tasty, during a race it is euphoric. I remember hearing one race volunteer say that they are no longer going to call it chicken broth, because nobody running this race was chicken.

Leaving Cardiac, I thought I was destined for a long struggle back to the finish line. However, about a mile out from the aid station, I started to knock down my wall. I felt the strength returning to my legs. The length of my stride began to increase. I was bouncing back and I couldn't believe it. The run from Cardiac to Old Inn (Aid Station 8) was probably the most enjoyable part of the race for me. Upon reaching Old Inn, I downed a couple cups of electrolytes, ate a handful of M&Ms, and continued on my way. I had about 13 miles to go and I was feeling great!

From Old Inn it was another 3.5 miles back to the Muir Beach aid station. This section of the course was probably the flattest and I was able to put in some strong miles. I flew into the Muir aid station and took a short break to get some food in me. I overheard one of the volunteers say that we had another steep climb ahead, but not to let it discourage us. When I left Muir I had just 10 miles left. I could start counting down the miles on my hands!

The climb out of Muir was definitely steep, about 1,000 feet. But, the trail offered amazing views of the Pacific. Upon reaching the top of this climb, it was fun descent back into Tennessee Valley. I was still feeling strong.

When I reached the Tennessee Valley aid station, Cathy joined in to pace me to the finish line. All that stood between Tennessee Valley and the finish was 6 miles and one last climb. As Cathy and I headed out I told her that I hope she didn't mind walking the hills, because running them wasn't an option for me.
Stretch of trail between Tennessee Valley and the final aid station. (Photo Credit: The North Face ECS)
Once we got to mile 47, it was all downhill to the finish. I pushed myself as hard as could in the final miles. I ran my last two miles in 10:10 and 9:37, respectively. Having Cathy's company was much appreciated. We cracked jokes and chatted with the runners around us. The last few miles of race reminded me why I love trail running so much.
Last downhill on the course. This trail brought me home. (Photo Credit: The North Face ECS)
As Cathy and I neared the finish, I told her I was gonna hand her my pack. A month ago, I had rolled across the finish line of my 50K and I wanted to do it again. Finish line in view, I tossed her my pack. I stopped just short of the finish line, dropped to my knees, and gracefully rolled across. Race done! What an epic journey! Race time, 12:00:32. Whew!

For years, I've flipped through running magazines and seen pictures of runners running in scenic places. I always wondered when I would get the chance to be the runner in those photos. Today, I no longer have to wonder. The beauty that was around me during all 50 miles is hard to describe. I decided to run without my phone, so I unfortunately don't have any pictures from the course to share. However, it was probably best I didn't have my phone, cause I might still be out there on the course taking pictures!

I've never been disappointed with any North Face Endurance Challenge race I've participated in. I still haven't done their New York or Wisconsin event, but I'm pretty sure that this course is their most scenic. I highly recommend any of their events, with strong emphasis on this race if you want to challenge yourself and see some of the most beautiful sights you will ever see!

Garmin Upload

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Planes, Trains, and Running Shoes

The last 3 weeks have been quite a whirlwind for me. Lots of traveling and lots of running. November was all about getting in some key long runs before I entered my taper for The North Face 50 Miler this weekend in San Francisco.

Following the 50K I did a few weeks ago, I headed out to Philly with some friends to run in the Philly Marathon. I had never run Philly, but heard good things about it. I had no time goal for this race. I just wanted to get out there, log some miles and enjoy the marathon. In my opinion, the course was so-so. I will say, the first half was good. I would recommend the half to anyone. However, for the full, the second half was one huge out and back, something I'm not a fan of. While the scenery was pretty, it's tough to have something like that the last 13 miles of a marathon. Don't get me wrong though, the race staff did a great job and it was a very well managed race. However, it would be hard for me to sign up for the full in the future, unless they redesigned the course.

Following Philly, I headed to Boston for a business trip. While the biz trip was blah, the runs I went on at night were amazing. One night a ran through Harvard and along the Charles River. Another night and ran through Boston and retraced the last mile or so of the Boston Marathon course. I stopped a few times along Bolyston Street to take some pictures. It was bitterly cold both nights I went running and I was in heaven. Love me some cold runs. What a great city Boston is to run!
The weekend before Thanksgiving I was finally around to join my running club for a Saturday morning run. It was good to catch up with many running friends I hadn't seen in over a month. The next day I ran in a 5K hosted by my friend, Michael Wardian. Michael had just come off a 3rd place finish at the JFK 50 Mile the day before, but unless you knew, you wouldn't of been able to tell. He always looks so fresh. I don't know how he does it. The 5K was a lot of fun, albeit pretty cold and windy. Mike won and I finished 13th overall and 2nd in my AG, so I'll take it!

Then, like many runners across the country on Thanksgiving Day, I ran in a turkey trot. I was in my hometown for Thanksgiving, so a few of my friends joined me as well. Now, whether they wanted to hang with me or not at the race was another question, as I was dressed in a head-to-toe turkey costume. Gobble, gobble. I had never run in a costume before and it was loads of fun. Many runners got a kick outta me wearing such a ridiculous outfit and some even wanted their picture with me. The last 100 yards of the race was an all out sprint between me and a friend determined not to lose to a turkey. Turkey won. Mwahahaha!
After the race I did what every turkey does, grab some Starbucks.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend I decided to go for a trail run in the Hoosier National Forest. It was an absolutely perfect day for a trail run and I was loving it until I rolled my right ankle 3 miles or so from my car. I rolled it pretty good, but thankfully I was able to run/walk back to my car. It definitely swelled up, but it seems to be getting better as the days go by. Hopefully it will be good to go for Saturday. Fingers crossed!
Speaking of Saturday, I cannot wait to get out to San Francisco! I've never been and I look forward to checking out the sights. This race is gonna be stacked with some of the best ultrarunners in the business. On the women's side you've got Rory Bosio (2013 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc Champ), Ashley Arnold (2013 Leadville 100 Champ) and Emelie Forsberg (2013 UROC 100K Champ), to name a few. On the men's side, there's Dakota Jones, Max King, Rob Krar, and many more phenomenal male runners. To get to participate in a race with so many runners I look up to is pretty awesome.
The race course looks wicked. I'd be lying if I didn't say it's scaring the shit out of me, but I think a course like this is suppose to. It's gonna chew me up and I can only hope it spits me out near the finish line! Minus my ankle, I have a lot of confidence going into the race. My fall training went well and I feel prepared. I just need to run my race, take care of myself, and get to the finish. Follow me along on my weekend adventures on Twitter. I'll be using #westcoast50.


Monday, November 18, 2013

2014 Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Social Media Runner

I was stoked when I learned that I was selected to be one of two social media runners for the upcoming Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run in April! I, along with my new friend and fellow social runner, Fran, are looking forward to connect with everyone! The lottery for the race opens in 12 short days! Be sure to follow the official race twitter account (@CUCB) as well as myself and Fran (@Flash_Fran) to get all race-related updates. We hope to see you on race day! Also, I'm planning to host a course preview run(s) at some point, so be on the lookout for that!

Preparations for the 2014 race are already well under way. On Friday, Fran and I attended the Cherry Blossom Fall Kickoff party in DC and we had a blast! There was a wine pull, silent auction, and the race t-shirt design was revealed. Thanks to all that attended! I recently learned three thousand dollars was raise from the wine pull and silent auction, all which will benefit the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals! Thank you everyone for your generosity.

The fun is just getting started here in DC! Talk to you all again soon!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

My thoughts on a WSJ article about running

I enjoyed Mark Remy's article on Runner's World so much in response to a Wall Street Journal article on running, I decided to do one in a similar format. Recently, in case you missed it, a Wall Street Journal opinion article written by Mr. Chad Stafko, was published. The first word that popped into my head when I read it was, "Ignorant." Chad, an apparent non-lover of the running community, decided he had enough of runners bragging out their running feats and took to the reputable fitness journal, Wall Street, to share his thoughts on how self-centered and silly us "runners" are. Below is his article with my thoughts in bold.
Ok, So You're a Runner. Get Over It.  By: Chad Stafko
There is one kind of bumper sticker I see almost daily here in my small Midwestern town: a small oval printed with "26.2" or "13.1." In case you're lucky enough not to know what these numbers represent, let me explain: They indicate that the driver or someone in the car has run a marathon (26.2 miles) or a half-marathon (13.1 miles).
First off, my 26.2 bumper sticker is a magnet.
There is only one reason running aficionados display the stickers. They want the rest of us to know about their long-distance feats. So let me be the first to offer my hearty congratulations. I'd even offer to give them a pat on the back—once they're done doing it themselves.
Thanks, Chad. For the record, I've only patted myself on the back a couple times. It's difficult to do.
What's with this infatuation with running and the near-mandatory ritual of preening about it?Almost every day I see people running: in the city, through subdivisions or out on country roads. They're everywhere and at all times, from dawn until dark, their reflective gear flickering along the road.
Sorry our reflective gear annoys you. It's to protect us from getting hit by people like, well, you.
I thought I was imagining this spike in running's popularity, but that's not the case. According to the group Running USA, there were some 15.5 million people who finished running events in 2012, compared with approximately 13 million in 2010. These 15.5 million are hoofing it through marathons, half-marathons, 10Ks, 5Ks, fun runs, night runs, charity runs and what can only be labeled as insane ultramarathon runs of 50 miles or more.
Incredible, isn't it? Our inactive country is becoming active.
When they're not out there sweating through the miles, they can relax with a running magazine. There is Runners World, with its 660,000 subscribers, but also Running Times, Trail Runner, Runner's Gazette and several others. Reading. About running.
You're probably a subscriber to NASCAR Illustrated. A magazine. About racing.
Or these runners, when they're not running, can go shopping—at a running store. There's one such store less than 15 miles, or better said, just a bit over a half-marathon, from my house. It sells only running equipment and apparel. The store has been in business several years, so apparently it is making money.
specialty retail store? I've never heard of such a thing.
This "equipment," of course, is nothing but shoes and clothes. You can buy these same shoes at a sporting-goods store or online, probably for much less.
Actually, I find much better deals at my local running store. Friendlier/more knowledgeable staff, too.
But the clothes—well, that's a different story. Many of the shirts on the racks have running logos, motivational slogans and images of stick people running.
Of course they do. Why would I go to a running store to buy an "I'm with stupid" shirt?
Like the 26.2 and 13.1 bumper stickers, this apparel serves a clear purpose: We can look at them and immediately know that the person wearing it is a runner—perhaps even an accomplished one.
Yup, that's exactly why we wear them. In fact, I'm going to put a call into all the major sport leagues to inform their respective commissioners that no championship winning player is allowed to wear a "Champions" shirt or hat after winning a title.
I have several friends who are runners, or at least I did before writing this. Some have completed marathons in Nashville and Washington, D.C. One even ran the Boston Marathon.
Yep, they are not your friends anymore.
A few days ago, one of these running friends said, after describing a recent run: "Why do I keep doing this?" I have no idea.
Every runner says this. It's a rhetorical question. I can tell you that we DO know why we run and sadly, it's something you'll never understand. Unless, you start running.
Why would someone want to get up at 5 a.m. and run 10 miles adorned with fluorescent tape to avoid being struck by someone who has the good sense to use a car for a 10-mile journey?
Dedication, my friend. Also, why would I go for a 10 mile joyride over a run?
I have a theory. There is no more visible form of strenuous exercise than running. When runners are dashing down a street in the middle of town or through a subdivision, they know that every driver, every pedestrian, every leaf-raker and every person idly staring out a window can see them.
If you really think that's why we run, you're dumber than I thought.
These days, people want more than ever to be seen. This is the age of taking a photo selfie and posting it on Facebook with the announcement that you're bored—in the hope that someone will "like" that information. People want attention and crave appreciation. If you're actually doing something like running—covering ground, staying healthy, almost even having fun—what better way to fulfill the look-at-me desire? The lone runner is a one-person parade. Yay.

Hey now, I post my pictures on Twitter and Instagram, too.

OK, I know, this isn't the case for all runners. Many of my friends who regularly run have done so for years, decades before there was a thing called social media to put humanity's self-absorption in overdrive. These folks also tend to be infatuated with fitness anyway. If they're not out on the streets showing the sedentary world how it's done, they're at the gym or in a spinning class.
Just so we are clear, I enjoy using social media to share my running accomplishments with my fellow runners because they GET IT! If a family member or close friend happens to read my post and it inspires them to get out the door, awesome, but that's not my goal. Most importantly, my post are never written in a way to demean those that are not active, EVER!
But what about the others? You can spot them, wandering through the mall or killing time at Starbucks proudly wearing their "[Fill in the blank] 5K Run" T-shirts. They're getting what they want, without losing a drop of sweat.
I prefer Dunkin' Dounts coffee.
I saw a great new bumper sticker the other day. It read 0.0. I'll take one of those, please.
Haha, that's awesome! Where can I get one?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Race Recap: Rosaryville 50K

There's something to be said about small, local races. As I continue to evolve as a runner, I've grown more fond of the small, no-frills races as opposed to the huge, big city runs sponsored by some financial or consulting firm I've never heard of. Logistically, small races are so much easier and a heck of a lot less stressful. No long lines at an expo. Pick up your bib minutes before the race starts. No race t-shirts handed out to add to my piles at home (I really need to stop by a Goodwill). Most importantly, no stampede of runners you find yourself in at the start of a big race. Don't get me wrong, I still run in my fair share of big city races (in fact, one of my favorites is Chicago), I just prefer smaller races.

All this to say that the Rosaryville 50K was exactly the kind of race I needed this past weekend. Hosted by Annapolis Striders, the race consisted of running three 10 mile loops around the Perimeter Trail of the Rosaryville State Park in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. The race accepted 200 entries and while it did sell out, only 150 runners or so turned out.

It was cold and frosty on race morning, but the sun was shining and runner enthusiasm was high. When the race director asked how many were running their first ultra, quite a few hands popped up. I loved it! Nothing beats running a race knowing many are about to get their first taste of ultra running. In my opinion, the 50K is the 101 of ultra running. It's a great way to break into the ultra world and you can easily train and prepare for one by following a marathon training program.

Anyway, my goal for Rosaryville was to use it as a training run in preparation for my 50 miler next month in San Francisco. After coming off my PR marathon last weekend, there was no need to run this hard. I was happy to run easy, take in the sights and enjoy a morning on the trails.

The race got underway without a hitch. However, when I went to start my Garmin, a message popped up saying my keys were locked. Hmmm? You can lock your keys on a Garmin? Since I didn't know how I locked them in the first place, I couldn't figure out how to unlock them. After messing with it for about 5 minutes, I gave up. Running by feel it is!

The trail was a flat, non-technical single track. The only difficultly I and other runners faced was trying to spot the roots that the fallen leaves had covered up. And if you're wondering, yes, I fell. Twice. The course had two aid stations, spaced about 5 miles apart. The first aid station had your drop bag, if you chose to leave one. I was definitely glad to have one because as race wore on, the temperatures climbed and a wardrobe change was needed.

The first two laps were uneventful for me. But, even running at an easy pace, my post-marathon legs were starting to fire up on my final lap. I didn't mind, though. I like to train on tried legs. It's good practice for how my legs are gonna feel in my 50 miler. However, it was my tired legs that led to my graceful Superman of a fall on the last lap. One second, I'm shuffling along, the next, I'm flat on my back staring at the canopy of trees above. I even had a small audience of runners to show off my impressive Superman skills to.

As the finish line came into view, I decided I wanted to roll across the finish. Why? Why not? You can't take running too seriously or you'll begin to hate it. After my graceful roll across the line and a quick pose for the cameraman, I hopped up and was greeted by a smiling volunteer placing a finishers medal around my neck. My time was 5:13:47, which was actually a new 50K PR for me. But, if you compare the difficulty of this course to my previous 50K PR, you'd see why I able shave off some time. Nonetheless, it was a PR run, so I'll take it! My thanks to Annapolis Striders for a fun race!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Race Recap: Monumental Marathon

Finally, I got the chance to pound out 26.2 miles in my home state of Indiana! The Monumental Marathon, situated in Indiana's capitol of Indianapolis, was a great race to be a part of. The weather was perfect, the course was flat, and speedy times were up for grabs.
Riding a lion outside the expo

I had circled this race on my calendar as one where I wanted to try and break my PR, but in the weeks leading up to the race, my runs were pretty sluggish. I just didn't seem to have much energy. Because of this, my confidence level going into the race weekend was certainly not were I would of liked it to be. It was going to be an in-race decision as to whether I was gonna go for a PR or not. If I felt strong, game on. If my legs were still feeling blah, I would run it easy.

The marathon was on Saturday, which I prefer. I arrived in Indy on Friday and my sister, Katie, who lives in the area, picked me up at the airport. From the airport, we headed straight to the expo so I could grab my bib.

It's always nice to run a race in the same town where you know someone, especially when it's family. My mom even drove up from southern Indiana, which made the weekend even sweeter. I've grown accustom to traveling to many of my races alone (not that I mind), so it was nice to have some family with me.

M4M medal collection table at the expo
The marathon had a generous start time of 8:00am, so I was able to get some decent sleep the night before. Katie dropped me off around 7, which gave me plenty of time to check my bag, hit the porta pots, and roam around near the start and soak in the marathon environment that I love so much. The charity I volunteer for, Medals4Mettle, is based out of Indy and was a partner for the event. I was able to meet up with the founder, Steve Isenberg, before the race started. We chatted for a few minutes, wished each other well in the race, and headed to our respective corrals.

Start Line
The race got underway and I immediately settled into an 8:40 pace. The first few miles of the course gave you a great tour of downtown Indy before it turned you north and sent you into the suburbs. For the first 7 miles or so, the course was shared with the half marathon runners. Once the course split, it thinned out and let me focus more on my pace and less on finding gaps among the runners around me.

Right before the halfway point I ran past a woman who had a bib attached to her back that read, "1st timer". I looked over at her as I ran by and said, "Careful, these things are addicting." She smiled and said she was feeling great. She looked great too, so I'm sure she ended up having a great first marathon!

I crossed the 13.1 timing mats in 1:52:21 and my legs were still feeling fresh. I began to realize that breaking my PR was a real possibility.

The next 10 miles were great. The course wound around a lot of different neighborhoods, past the campus of Butler University and through the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Crowd support was sparse, but I didn't mind. Hats off to the Indy Police; they did a great job keeping the course clear and safe for the runners.

Nearing the finish
When I hit mile 23, my legs started to remind me that I was running a marathon. I was beginning to hit a wall, but it was a very soft one. My pace fell to about an 8:45 for the final stretch. Thankfully, I had enough time in hand and was still on track for a PR. I put my head down and kept moving. The finish was near, but those last 3 miles seemed to last forever (as they always do).

As the mile 26 came into view, I picked up my pace. As I rounded the last corner that led to finish line, I spotted my mom and sister off to the side. I ran towards them to give them high fives, but at the last moment I decided to stop and give my mom a kiss on the cheek. Yea, I'm a momma's boy. My mom has always been so supportive of my running goals. Words will never be able express my gratitude towards her (but hopefully a sweaty kiss does).

I crossed the line and looked skyward, thanking my dad for keeping me safe. After catching my breath, I glanced at my watch and saw a time I'd never seen next to 26.2 miles, 3:42:48! A new PR by almost 3 minutes!

Family + Marathon in Indiana + New PR = Best marathon weekend ever!

Garmin Upload

Indiana spinner! HOOSIER PRIDE!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

NYC Marathon Preview with Ali Hatfield

Some of you might remember Ali from a feature I did on her last year. If you haven't read it, I suggest you do (she's pretty awesome). Ali is running in the New York City Marathon this weekend and kindly took some time to answer a few questions for me about her upcoming run.   

Q: You were supposed to run NYCM last year, but then Sandy hit. What was it like to put in all the preparation for such a big race only to learn it wasn’t going to happen?
Ali Hatfield (AH): The 2012 race was such a mix of emotions for me. I was sad for the victims of the hurricane, and so torn as to whether I wanted to do the race with everything going on. After I decided to go to NYC, and the race was canceled, I was pretty upset. I immediately signed up for the Dallas Marathon the following month with the hope I could use my current fitness level there and reach my goal.

Q: What did you end up doing in NYC that weekend?
AH: We ended up having the best weekend in NYC! We went to see a show, explored the city, met some of my blog friends, and learned different ways to help out the Sandy victims. One of my favorite memories from the weekend was running in Central Park with a slew of other runners that were supposed to run that day too. The atmosphere was one of happiness and determination. The thing I love most about being a runner and about other runners is that we don’t give up and we don’t give in. We were supposed to run our marathon that day, and you bet we still ran!

Q: I remember how excited I was to run NYCM in 2010. Just waiting those few months after learning I got in was so hard! You’ve had to wait almost 2 years for this moment. What are your emotions going into the race weekend?
AH: This race is extremely emotional for me! I have never been so excited for a marathon than I am for NYC 2013. After the cancellation in 2012, and the Boston Marathon bombings this year, I really feel like this race will be such a celebration for what we have all overcome. I feel so thankful that I am able to run this race.

Q: How has your training gone? Any goals?
AH: Training has been fantastic this year. To be honest, I have never had a better training than I have this year. I just feel “on”. So in tuned to my body, and so motivated to conquer this thing!!!!  I have SO many goals for NYCM. Where to start...first goal is to finish (which is always my goal when you run 26.2 - respect that distance!). Second goal is a PR, which is anything under 3:32. Third goal is 3:25!!

Q: Running along First Ave in Manhattan was certainly the highlight for me when I ran. Is there a particularly section of the course you look forward to running along?
AH: Honestly I am excited for the entire thing. I want to soak it all in and enjoy every step. The last couple weeks I have really been envisioning the finish line and crossing it with the amazing spectators cheering loud and proud!!

Q: Any of your (Twitter) friends running? Gonna get the chance to meet up with anyone?
AH: I have so many friends running, it is awesome!! We are planning a tweet up at 10am on Saturday at the Eatery. Join us!!

Be sure to follow Ali on Twitter, @AliHatfield. Also, check out her blog, Miles With Style.


Update: Ali crushed it at NYC! Read all about her race weekend here. Congrats Ali!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Race Recap: Ragnar Trail Relay Arizona w/ Team Nuun

This past weekend I got the chance to run with Team Nuun at the Ragnar Trail Relay at McDowell Mountain Park, which is just northeast of Phoenix. In the process, I got to meet some awesome runners, bust out some miles on some of the most picturesque trails I've ever been on, and share my love of Nuun with everyone that stopped by our tent!

Nuun Tent
The race began at 12pm on Friday and went through the night and late into the next day. Teams of 4 (ultra-teams) or 8 runners set off to complete the 132 mile trek. Each teams predicted pace determined their starting time, so while the race started at noon, my team didn't set off till 4pm. Each runner was required to run each of the 3 legs. Each leg was a different distance and each had their own challenges. The green leg was 4.6 miles, the yellow was 4.3, and the red was 7.6...for a total of 16.5 miles per runner. The order in which you ran your legs was determined by your team assignment. As runner 1, I ran my legs in the following order: green-red-yellow.

The sun was hanging low in the west and the temperatures had begun to cool when I set off on the green loop. The leg very enjoyable and after standing around all day waiting for the start, it felt good to be running. The trails we ran on were primary used for mountain biking, so they were fairly wide and well groomed. While the elevation gain on each lap wasn't huge, the rolling nature of the trails kept you on your toes. The Ragnar crew did an excellent job marking the trails, which let me focus more on running and less about going the wrong way. Garmin Track - Green Loop

As I came into the transition area, I handed off our timing bib to Megan, who was running the 2nd leg. Megan is a member of the Nuun staff who, among other things, was responsible for managing the Nuun tent during the event. She also was the one that organized our team. Megan works closely with the Ragnar staff and attends many of their races throughout the year to run the Nuun tent as well as participate in some of the races. Needless to say, her hard work was very much appreciated by not only our teammates and I, but all the race participants as well. I can't tell you how many times I heard a runner tell her throughout the race weekend how much Nuun had saved them.

Day turned to night, but I still had a few hours to kill before my next leg. A pasta dinner was provided by Ragnar and I took full advantage of it. I ate a couple hours before my leg so it had some time to digest. The beer garden had also opened and as tempting as it was to grab a cold one, I stuck with my water and Nuun. Beer could wait until the finish.

Headlamp donned, I set off for my second leg around 10:30. This was by far my favorite leg. Running under a blanket of stars and a full moon in the Arizona desert was absolutely amazing. The first half of the leg was uphill, but the second half was all downhill and my legs responded with some quicker miles. I was feeling awesome and was a little bummed when I completed my leg, as I wouldn't of minded running a couple more miles in such a peaceful place. Garmin Track - Red Loop

After my leg, I chatted with a couple of my teammates, Sean and Kristina, near the bonfire the Ragnar crew built. Sean was runner 8, so he was the one that exchanged the bib with me when he would finish his legs. We discussed how Kristina would come wake me up in the morning when it was my turn to run. They then headed off to their tent for some shuteye. I stuck around the bonfire for a little while longer before heading to my tent to get some sleep as well.
I wasn't expecting to sleep much during the night, but as soon as put my head down, I was out until I heard Kristina calling my name to tell me Sean was on course. I collected my running gear and performed some minor acrobats to climb over my teammates, Caitlin and Sarah, that were sharing the tent with me. I was surprised to find it was still dark out. I was expecting to run my third leg at sunrise, but we were running much faster than expected.

Caitlin, me, and Sarah
I headed down to the transition and it wasn't long before Sean came flying in. I clipped on our timing bib, flipped on my headlamp, and off I went on my final leg. As soon as I started running, I knew it wasn't going to be a fast one for me. My legs felt heavy and no matter how hard I tired to push, my legs politely said, "Uh, hell no." Apparently being on my feet for the better part of a day and not sleeping much had finally caught up to me. As I neared the completion of my leg, I was treated to a beautiful horizon as dawn crawled out of bed. The sun, still hidden behind the dark silhouettes of the desert mountains, was simply breathtaking. As I entered the transition one last time, Megan was there waiting for me. While my running duties where over, we still had 7 more legs to complete. Garmin Track - Yellow Loop

I spent most the morning helping out at the Nuun tent and hanging with my teammates. I ordered a breakfast burrito from a food truck and drank copious amounts of coffee. It didn't take long for it heat up and judging by the looks on some runners faces, I was glad I didn't have to run anymore.

Our team continued to crush it on the course and before I knew it, Sean was preparing for his and our team's final leg. Shortly before setting off, Sean removed his running shorts to reveal some rather stylish Superman undies, complete with a cape. He was also wearing Superman socks (which also had capes). He would go on later to say, "You can't take running too seriously." I can't agree more. My teammates and I awaited his arrival and when he came into view, we cheered loudly and joined him to run across the finish line together. It was an awesome way to end an amazing race.

Afterwards, we all received our finisher medals and posed for a team photo in front of the Ragnar truck. Everyone did an absolutely stellar job! We completed the 132 mile course in under 21 hours! This was my first Ragnar event and I had a blast. Running is all about camaraderie and there was certainly plenty of this within our team. I was honored to be part of such a fun group and I look forward to possibility of running with them again!
Team Nuun
Me, Megan, Caitlin, Nicole, Tomas, Sarah, Sean, and Kristina