Archive for April, 2014


SO, WHO’S UP FOR RUNNING THE BMO VANCOUVER MARATHON?

04.29.2014
IMG_3673 (800x393)

Start of the BMO Vancouver Marathon – 2013

Well, me for one, and some 4,999 others according to the closed registration (capped at 5,000). Alright, so we all know that marathons being marathons, all 5,000 aren’t actually going to step up to the start line. Things being what they are in marathons, some of those who registered all full of hope, just won’t get there. That’s racing. Most of us will though, and it is looking like  it should be a good one. The week ahead is apparently going to be sunny and warm, but heading into the weekend it is expected to cool and cloud up a bit for what could be ideal conditions. Hint: I need all the help I can get!

Vancouver Marathon 1988 (near finish)

Vancouver Marathon 1988 (near finish)

This will be my fifth Vancouver Marathon. Fifth Vancouver Marathon on THREE different courses. In fact, I once vowed I would never run Vancouver again, after my third run on the ‘old’ course. My first was 1988 and much of the route was in Stanley Park. We didn’t start there, didn’t finish there and did one little dash out and around Gastown, but otherwise it was about 2.5 laps in the Park. I still consider (well, know 100% for sure) that it was my best marathon and quite possibly my best managed race – ever. The other three had their pluses and minuses and were more or less the same as far as the course goes, other than the odd tweak here and there. Those were run in 2004, 2006 and 2008 on the route that was retired a couple of years ago.

Naturally, 2008 was a nod to the fact that it was the 20th Anniversary of my first one. It turned out to be one of my worst at that point in time. Less than a week before race day, I slipped getting out of the shower and wrenched my back. Fortunately, training was not an issue. That was done. Not being able to really stand straight or walk without pain, was a bit of a problem though. On the Friday I was still sore enough that even though we had a booth at the Expo to sell the Running in the Zone book, I had to bail and go home, leaving poor old Steve King, co-editor, to man the booth, as if he didn’t have enough other things to do. I took a hearty dose of ‘Vitamin I’ and tried to rest. I got a pretty good sleep that night and woke up feeling semi-so-so. At that point, because it was the 20th, I vowed to complete the thing even if it meant walking. I spent some time at the booth on Saturday, but took it really easy, got home early, more Vitamin I and off to bed. Sunday morning dawned a beautiful day. At the time, we lived on False Creek,

Almost Done - 2008

Almost Done – 2008

just a little more than 2km from the Start. I actually felt quite good. I decided to walk/jog to the start and see what was what and if there was any running in my legs. That went OK, so I set out to do whatever I could. Remember, except for the pain of the sore back, I was trained to run the marathon. Although I never really suffered during the race, I guess the week of emotional strain was enough that although I got most of half way feeling OK, I just lost steam from there.  I finished and was happy to have done so on the 20th Anniversary of my first marathon and first Vancouver marathon.

While I have competed on the current Half Marathon route, I have not run the Full Marathon course. OK, that isn’t quite true. I lead a pace group for the Forerunners training clinic and our training routes have encompassed at least 75% of the course, and more importantly, the more testing parts. I regularly tell anyone who asks, that the marathon route is amazing, beautiful and even spectacular. I don’t tell them it is easy. Nope. Never tell ’em it is easy. Partly, that is because I really don’t know. The route offers potential if run well, strategically. The hardest part is before about 11km. There are a couple of bits later that could kind of ‘mess your mind’ if you want to let them. That has more to do with where those somewhat challenging parts of the course are, rather than that they are really awful in and of themselves. There are also some major sections that offer the possibility of going quickly or at the very least of coasting and recovering.

This blog is quite personal. It is really all about me and this race. Technically, it is my ’25th marathon or greater’. There is one 50K ultra in there, but I do like symbolic events, so I think I’m going with “25th” as a psychological tool to pump me up. I can also possibly quit running marathons and use that for my career number. Do I intend to quit after Vancouver? No, probably not!  But, then if I do run another one, IT will be my actual 25th Marathon and I can use the motivation one more time.

I am looking at this particular marathon with some uncertainty – not fear, uncertainty. My recent best marathon was almost exactly one year ago. ‘Best’ is kind of a relative term, as I would describe it more as ‘OK’ or acceptable. I was training for the Eugene Marathon, but doing so with the Forerunners clinic, as usual. I realized that I was one week out of synch for Eugene as it was a week earlier than Vancouver (the race the clinic was geared for). Either I went ahead and ran the longest LSD session of 36km, with a week less taper, or I called 33km long enough and tapered from there. I opted, with advice from Coach Carey Nelson, to go with a little less training distance and do the race rested. Eugene turned out to be a good race for me in relative terms looking at the last couple of years (filled with injury and careful healing/recovery). My time would not seem spectacular, not even good at essentially 4:55. But, on my good old and much loved, Age Grading system it came out at 3:41:12, a time good enough to still put it at my 7th best out of 23 actual marathons to date. My best, done in 1988 had a raw time of 3:25 and a graded time of about 3:15. My true recent best time was done at Eugene in 2010, when I recorded a time of 4:28 with a graded equivalent of  3:27 and my second best graded result. That even earned me a 3rd in age group out of a field of sixteen. All of that said, I spent most of last year chasing Marathon Maniac ‘stars’ and while I ran a lot (six marathons and the 50K), that required a slower pace in each event. The uncertainty factor comes from not having actually raced a marathon since 2010 where I felt fully trained and unhampered by any outside factor. Training has been good and unlike last year when I trained ‘short’, this year I actually used a marathon race as a training run, so have trained ‘long’.

At the end of the day, I have a plan to follow. I will finalize my pacing a day or two before the race, although that is only going to be a matter of some minor tweaking in terms of seconds/km. The biggest thing I intend to do is to try with all the mental might I have, to keep a steady pace, or more correctly, a steady effort. There are some truly fabulous downhill sections on the course, but even going down, we must still run. Running hard on an easy section is always sooooooo tempting, but we are still running and if you run hard to ‘bank’ time, when you hit the flat, or maybe the next up-hill section you will already be tired and the cost is often more than the gain realized by running faster on those easy bits. There are even a couple of short sharp up-hills where I am planning to ‘surrender’ from the start and accept the time penalty in hopes that conserving the energy will serve me well in the later going. Even Effort is going to be my mantra on May 4, 2014. The times I’ve been able to pull that off, the result has been spectacularly successful in my own little world of running. The concept is to maintain what feels about right on neutral ground, whether you are pushing up a hill or gliding along a down-slope. Naturally, you will lose time going up and gain time going down, but with any luck, it will come out ‘even’ over the whole course. The last time I pulled this off was the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Half Marathon in 2012 and it is hard to tell you how great I felt about doing it. So, you really want to know how great? Well after my first marathon in 1988, I count the Victoria 2012 Half as my second best managed race, ever. That is saying something. My Athlinks record says Vancouver will be Race #102, but that doesn’t even begin to tell the tale. That record only goes back to about 1998 and even then, there are a small handful of events where the results are not reported/recovered by the Athlinks system. The races that happened prior to 1998 and particularly the heavy running period I had from 1985 to 1990, are nowhere to be seen. I estimate that my real race total is in the range of 160 or more. So, to designate those two specific races as my best run/managed races is kind of saying something. To be clear, I’m not saying they were best results, raw or age graded (actually the Vancouver Marathon was), but rather that they were my best managed races.

Here I am then: contemplating an event that should be over in less than a week, an event I have trained for since November of last year. As I write, I have realized I am more ‘alive’ about this race than any I have done recently. I was going to say nervous, but that isn’t the right word.

The Taper is Always a Challenge!

The Taper is Always a Challenge!

We all know that no matter what, you can’t totally predict how a marathon will go on the day. So many things come into play, weather not being the least of those factors.  Right now, the weather is looking good for running, but all it would take is for the high pressure ridge that is building in with some pretty nice warm and sunny weather, to hold a day or two longer than currently predicted and it is going to be hotter and sunnier than you would ideally want for running a marathon. Can’t do anything about that but deal with what comes and run smart. The list of potential issues goes on and is about as long as your paranoid imagination will allow. All I can do now, is calm myself in the knowledge that I have trained well and am prepared. I can keep talking to myself about executing my race plan and reminding myself that such a plan truly does work, and HAS worked for me, not just in theory. The truth is, writing this particular blog post is very much part of that process of mental preparation, so I will thank all who have read this far, for your support.

I will wish all the other runners the very best in executing their personal races and realizing their personal goals, whether it is a marathon PB, or simply to finish. Without doubt, there are going to be a good many, maybe hundreds, who will be completing that first magical marathon. In some way I kind of envy those first timers in the realization of their momentous achievement. It only happens once. There is very little that feels like crossing that first finish, when you are instantly transformed from a runner into a marathoner. Of course, I wish nothing but the best to fellow clinic members. There are a small number of friends who might look like my competition, but I wish each of them the very best too, because above and beyond all other events, the marathon is always ‘personal’. We run against ourselves. What we achieve is measured more on that scale than any other, at least when you run as we do.

Only thing to do now: “Stay Calm and Run“!

BOSTON MARATHON 2014

04.24.2014

I would imagine (not to mention hope and pray) there will never be another Boston Marathon like it. The first one after the horrific events of 2013, had to be packed with emotion and importance for those who actually ran as well as a good many more. I think that all aspiring Boston Qualifiers, previous entrants and for that matter, most people into distance running including those who volunteer and spectate, could not help but feel the impact of this race in our community. The people of Boston are a whole other category in and of themselves.

The most striking thing seemed to be the ‘not a chance’ attitude that immediately sprung up, where it came to intimidating people not to run or cheer on participants. Next only to the 100th Boston Marathon, 2014 saw the largest field ever. If the terrorists of 2013 somehow thought their senseless acts would strike fear into Boston or the running community and somehow diminish this iconic event, it looks like the effect was the total opposite.

In my own experience, there was a quiet determination among runners both to qualify so they could go in 2014, or to take up the chance to finish for those who got stopped in 2013. In the marathon clinic I train with there were at least eight, including our coach, who qualified and went to Boston. He even spearheaded a fund raising effort for the Boston One Fund. A funny side of this is that although the coach is a Canadian Olympian distance runner (twice) he had never run Boston. Now he has. I raise the matter of the fund raising effort to point out that way out on the west coast of Canada, the running community was engaged. Although in some way the dollar amount is not as important as the idea, in this one highly local effort nearly $2400 was raised for the Boston One Fund, and the cheque presented by the group when they arrived in Boston.

Watching the coverage of the race and tracking my own favourite athletes, including my clinic friends and almost as many again from other running communities, my mind was drawn constantly to the motivation of the day. There were heroic efforts, as always, on the course. For the first time in decades, an American man won. An American woman took the women’s race out at record pace and even though her own time was good enough to win in other years, she finished in seventh while four of the women in front of her broke the previous course record. Was it her plan all along, to lead those other women to such great finishes? Hardly! But, it is what racing is about and it was a brave effort. It could have worked.

I tracked a friend, one recently featured here in a guest post, as she ran her first Boston Marathon. Her journey epitomized the spirit of the marathon, starting just in January of 2011 when she struggled to walk a half marathon within the time allowed by her chosen race. Here in April of 2014 she completed her 20th marathon and first Boston Marathon. Hers was a personal victory, but the significance of this particular Boston Marathon was hardly lost on her.

Some I watched had PB’s while at least one worried me quite significantly as I saw his splits drop and drop to where I am pretty sure he was walking. In this case he had a chance of actually winning his age division or at least a podium finish. He is in the M75-79 category and not given to easing up. I since found that he just wasn’t feeling right and knew it wasn’t ‘his day’, so instead of walking off the course to fight another day, he pressed on to the finish. I assume, although I have not had a chance to talk with him yet, that his reason for taking it very slowly (for him) to the finish was that this was not just any old marathon, not even any old Boston Marathon (it was not his first and he more than qualifies every time he runs a marathon). This one required honouring the importance of this particular Boston Marathon. It had to be finished.

These are just some of the stories for some of the people I know. I have intentionally used no names, because I am well aware that every person out there had a special reason for their race that day and their own story. Even the women’s winner, who set a course record with a time under 2:19, made note that although this was a repeat win for her, there was no joy in winning in 2013. The events of the day took all the glory from everyone. Although she didn’t say it, Boston 2014 was a return to the glory of a good race (for everyone, not just the winners).

I think this subject deserves a simple treatment. It was so very special to witness and I am certain far more so to experience. The heart and soul of it was acted out on the streets of Boston on April 21, and along the fabled route from Hopkinton to Copley Square. That said, an international community of running enthusiasts and our supporters watched from afar and were moved by the spirit that was so evident leading up to and all through April 21, 2014.

THE ALL NEW BOSTON MARATHON

04.16.2014
The magical turn off Hereford onto Boylston for the dash to the Finish!

The magical turn off Hereford onto Boylston for the dash to the Finish!

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the terror filled tragedy of the ‘old’ Boston Marathon. TV and other news has been full of file footage of that terrible day and the anniversary ceremony at the finish on Boylston Street on April 15, 2014. We have also been seeing some amazing stories of the survivors and how they have coped and fared in the past year, and of the heroes of the day, doing what they could to help those who so desperately needed that help on April 15, 2013. Sadly, while it would be nice to put the horror behind and follow the idea of Boston Strong, the truth is the surviving terrorist is still awaiting trial. Even more sadly, so many people are going to live out their lives with the real physical consequences of that day and those acts of small-minded destruction. The story is not yet fully written.

The only thing I knew when I started writing this piece was that as a runner, a marathoner and an aspirant to one day be a Boston Marathoner, I had to say something. What I would say was another matter. Please do not get me wrong when I say I don’t want to ‘join the chorus’ of commentary and commemoration. Mostly, that is because so many have already said it so well. As I sat at the keyboard trying to order my thoughts enough to start writing, the title came to me. I believe it has meaning on a number of levels. Hopefully, what follows will do justice to the idea.

In a sad and awful way, the ‘OLD’ Boston Marathon ended, died if you will, last April. In what follows, there should be no confusion over the fact that a number of people and their families were personally and directly impacted by the events of the day and the several days following the actual bombing. But, beyond that and among those who had not a hair physically disturbed, there is a huge community that has suffered an emotional blow of great significance. I count myself among the members of that community even though I have never run Boston, and truth be told, likely never will, personal aspirations notwithstanding. For all marathoners, Boston stands iconically before us. I suppose that the closer we are to the Boston Qualifier line, the more special and iconic it becomes.  What I have been, is a spectator as I stood along the finish stretch on Boylston Street, waiting for my daughter to complete her first Boston Marathon. So, while I haven’t run Boston, I have definitely experienced it. Although I’ve never seen the need to plot out exactly where I stood relative to where the second bomb exploded, I just know that I was close enough to have seen the mayhem up close and way too personally.

Flashing back to even a moment before that first cowardly explosion, the ‘old’ Boston Marathon was in the process of continuing the happy and glorious tradition of delivering another Boston finish to thousands of people, including a great many who were about to become Boston Finishers for the first time. For well over 100 years the tradition had continued on fair days and foul, hot and cold, in sunshine and from time to time in sleet and snow. Of course, in the earliest days it was a runners’ race (as were all marathons), but since around 1970 it had become a mass event that caught the imagination of all serious marathon runners. There are people who have run the event multiple times. Among them are even past elites and winners returning for whatever personal reason, to do the race one more time. As with all such events, there are probably as many reasons and stories out there as there are runners. That said, I am ready to assume that in almost every case the motivation was/is positive and the fulfillment happy and satisfying.

The ‘All New’ Boston Marathon can no longer be that simple and innocent. It now exists in a different light and circumstance. Naturally, there is still the BQ to be achieved, a personal accomplishment worthy of satisfaction in its own right. In fact, if you are near the cut-off line, the BQ is no longer a guarantee of an entry, yet it is still a most satisfying achievement. That has changed only perhaps in the sense of a renewed resolve by so many runners to strive for that mark, and a desire to show we will not be deterred by a couple of cowards.

Although I have heard some non-running folk wonder how we can still aspire to run Boston, I have not met one marathoner who would not jump at the chance to go. And, even though I have no direct knowledge of what is happening on the streets of Boston, I get the impression that the City is not about to let the events of 2013 bow the spirit of this signature event.

And, speaking of marathoners jumping at the chance, I have a personal ‘tracking list’ of runners I know and will be following on Monday April 21, 2014. That list is the longest it has ever been. At least one of those is someone with whom I run in a training clinic and who was stopped just short of her finish after the bombs went off last year. She, like so many others, is going back to finish what she started. Clearly, Judy is NOT alone. Our coach here in Vancouver, BC, a Canadian Olympian at marathon and 10,000m, decided he would run and fund raise for the Boston One Fund. He and some eight or nine runners from our clinic will be running and Carey will be bringing a nice cheque for the Fund. And, perhaps in keeping with this renewed spirit, and notwithstanding that he is an Olympic athlete, this will be his first Boston.

Elite Male Leaders (2009) pass crowds of thrilled spectators near half way.

Elite Male Leaders (2009) pass crowds of thrilled spectators near half way.

Back in November I hosted a guest blogger, Jetola Anderson-Blair, who recounted her road to running in one of the most popular posts I’ve put up on this site. She will be running her first Boston Marathon on Monday. But, she and all those other people will run the ‘All New’ Boston Marathon. Usually, “All New” goes along with “and Improved”. I cannot think there is any way to claim the enhanced security is an improvement to the nature and quality of the event. Even though the push-back and defiance of both runners and spectators will be inspiring, something will be lost. The whole thing must lose spontaneity. I remember watching for daughter Janna, near half way. As always, the members of the crowd watched and cheered for all who passed, but we also craned necks to spot our runners and inevitably, the sideline would push onto the course as everyone tried to see past the others standing ‘up-stream’ from us. The army reservists would order and push us back, yet always with a smile. The ‘order’ to move back was always good natured, firm but good natured and it was just a happy party with cow bells and balloons and lots of signs. Not so far down the road the runners would encounter the famous (infamous?) Wellesley Girls and all their whooping (a wall of high pitched sound that can be heard blocks before they’re seen) offering of kisses to worthy runners. The party at the roadside meant people had lawn chairs and coolers with snacks and beverages. Flags and signs abounded. That was the ‘old’ Boston Marathon. Near the finish, where I stood with her now husband awaiting Janna’s grand finale, there were virtual encampments of people, well supplied and settled in for the day to cheer every random stranger. I fear too that will now be part of the ‘old’ Boston Marathon.

We are told there will be many, many more and new security arrangements this time including more soldiers on the course, CCTV surveillance of every inch of the course and strict rules about what both runners and spectators can have by way of ‘baggage’ to carry clothes (for the runners) and supplies for the day (for spectators). That alone is going to change the tone of the event. It has to. Will the participants and spectators let this stop them? Hardly. Will it change how things work? Most likely.

How the finish should be. Canadian flag, sign "Auntie Janna Rocks"

How the finish should be. Canadian flag, sign “Auntie Janna Rocks”

Remember those soldiers who were keeping us firmly yet gently under control out along the route? Do you suppose they will be feeling quite as relaxed this year? Do you suppose they will feel a huge sense of responsibility to be vigilant and in control? Do you think orders to ‘move back’ will be given in quite as good humoured a way as when I was there in 2009? Is there much of a chance of a repeat of 2013? Probably not. However, this is the very nature of the terrorist act. As awful as it was for those directly harmed, it is ultimately the impact on so many more going forward that is the goal. It is the loss of innocence and sense of comfort and well-being in our normal life. Every bag left on a curb while someone finds a washroom is now a threat. Every person looking out of place, nervous or uncertain is no longer a lost tourist, but rather a potential suspect. Still, organizers and officials cannot ignore the responsibility to ensure, as much as reasonably possible, the safety of everyone involved, and thereby will emerge the “All New Boston Marathon”.

For my part and (sadly) from afar, I will be concentrating on the positive human spirit that will certainly be on display. In time, I believe that spirit will triumph over terror. For 2015, I know there is going to be a tangible show of strength, a refusal to bow down or cower at home in fear of what might be. Oh yes, there will be visible and much expanded security provisions. That will be a reality that cannot and will not be ignored, but I am equally confident that the Spirit of the event and the determination of everyone involved will ultimately define the day. Not by choice (rather be there running) I will be home, glued to my computer screen as I follow the elite races and track my friends. While there is one Canadian woman with a chance to do well, almost all those I will be cheering for are just going to be running for personal satisfaction and their own moment of glory. I will be cheering for them as I watch and tick off each one as she or he finishes. I will not be alone, I know. I will watch the elite coverage and maybe almost as much as the amazing performances of the runners, I will take note of the crowds along the route. Those are special people and April 21 is going to be a special day.

QUADZILLA (PART 1)

04.14.2014

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Jordan Myers. The back story is mostly explained within his writings. Jordan does not really qualify as “Seasoned” in the context of Running in the Zone, but he will one day and so much of what he has to say, rings true for serious athletes of any age. Enjoy!

9 WEEKS TO RUNNING 4 MARATHONS IN 4 DAYS & BECOMING

MARATHON MANIAC #8254/ HALF FANATIC #5819

INTRO

Jordon Myers

Jordon Myers

I asked Dan several weeks ago about his current training progress on his long runs for the upcoming BMO Vancouver Marathon [or as I like to refer to it VIM not BMO]… which then resulted in a few interesting back and forth comments and questions regarding training… & even traditions in prep for a big event. It got me thinking about my own [somewhat] recent race experience and thought process approaching an event and thought I would contribute to the discussion with a guest blog post.

I was so excited to see so many familiar faces out this last weekend on the Sunshine Coast April Fools Run and to see Dan’s pictures from the Yakima River Canyon Marathon (& subsequent reports from marathon maniacs) I knew I needed to finish this tonight.

I’m dividing this guest blog now in 2 parts as I realized my thoughts rambled on way too long for a normal blog post and I rarely write… not that I have little say… far from it… the truth of the matter is I rarely write reports… and I think that’s because like many of the people I keep company with or admire, their deeds are in a bit of “a hermetically sealed world.” It’s not really the failure to get our deeds or names known to outsiders or that some of our best achievements athletically (or otherwise) were not recorded in a race (or recent race) or not searchable “online”…. I think because, there is a tribe of people that are the custodians of their own honor, their own record-book keepers, and don’t need the validation beyond their peers.

…runners (like the maniacs & fat asses), ultra-distance cyclists / triathletes I think pass down their stories and lore from race (or run/ride) to another – just like ancient myths – and we are content with impressing only one another.

 

BACKGROUND

Never met an event he didn't like!

Never met an event he didn’t like!

As some of you may know, I’m a “carny.” I work on special projects, concerts and events for a living, and some of those events are sporting related. I get the opportunity of seeing a lot of people at their best, or doing something they enjoy [concert, festival, ride, run, etc] and also the privilege of working with a lot of passionate event people [volunteer & otherwise]. Although my professional involvement in sporting events is usually with the larger scale marathons, triathlons, and cycling events, many of us in the industry, including myself, volunteer a lot of our spare time to support the community (sporting & arts/music), clubs, our colleagues and/or friends.

Quite often I don’t have the time or opportunity to participate in a sporting event I would like to do locally, as most weekends, especially from April-Oct I’m volunteering or working in some capacity on these events. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I’ll be asked to be a pacer, and get to participate in an event… usually after I’ve been up really early [or through the night] setting up the course.

More often than not, I will take time to preview the event by running or riding the course… once in a while final decisions are made based on some of my input on where or how a course’s assets should flow… granted, I could just do this in a car, but there is a certain quiet sense of satisfaction of “doing” the event just prior and then seeing people’s faces on race day… knowing you’ve shared that course “experience” …you know how difficult the wind is in the afternoon… or that hill just past the aid station… you can empathize and relate to their struggle and that experience.

So basically all that background is to say November – February are my prime months to choose an event I want to “race” as it gives me time to prepare after I’ve thrashed myself over the event season. So while scanning the upcoming events in late November early December, just after the Eastside 10k, I saw a comment in a blog about a Seattle “Quadzilla”.

For those that don’t know (I didn’t) the “Quadzilla” is 4 marathons in 4 days. It’s an event put on by the Marathon Maniacs. There is also the “Quadzuki” 4 half marathons in 4 days if you’re so inclined …if you are unfamiliar with the Marathon Maniacs or , or if you’ve not followed Dan’s blog Running in the Zone, you wouldn’t know then that Dan spent 2013 pursuing Maniac fame & glory… through the trials of miles. The Fanatics & Maniacs are an amazing, fun group of runners who create, advocate, and support these challenges and track/ verify individual accomplishments as people push and pursue ever further horizons…events “for maniacs by maniacs. Getting into the “asylum” is a bit of badge of honor & there are a tremendous number of these individuals at races all over the word… making it happen.” For a full list of their criteria I’d suggest you check out their respective websites.

The Seattle Quadzilla happens on American Thanksgiving [or 2nd Thanksgiving as we refer to it in our household], conveniently a 4-day weekend for those south of the border.

Marathon #1 – Thursday, Nov 28, Wattle Waddle

Marathon #2 – Friday, Nov 29, Wishbone

Marathon #3 – Saturday, Nov 30, Ghost of Seattle

Marathon #4 – Sunday, Dec 1, Seattle

 

WHY?

Reaction of MCB to Jordan's plan!

Reaction of MCB to Jordan’s plan!

As soon as I came upon the Facebook page & read some of the comments and posts from Steve Walters, one of the marathon maniacs, it was something I wanted to see if I could do… & really I knew anything this foolish and on this condensed timeframe was a personal dare.

Would I be able to run four marathons in a row with an 8 week focused block of training and a week-long taper from my current fitness after a punishing event season? I knew I’d have to ask the advice of a couple veterans as well as friends I train with to understand the scope of my undertaking & the possibility of doing it without injuring myself… badly

…I think because these type of events are so hard to relate to for the vast majority who don’t compete in ultradistance races, athletes like myself that take on these experiences can seem masochistic, even nihilistic. But I think we keenly want to be understood as fully realized individuals… the sociological explanation for why ultradistance athletes do what they do goes something like this [this is summarized from a TIME article]: “…in our modern age-plugged in age, we yearn for authentic experiences where our courage must be summoned. One way we do this is by willingly undertaking extreme physical challenges. Through these experiences we drop our pretenses, ego, and arrogance in favor of truth and transformation… we fulfill our intention to be authentic.”

I would say it comes from an intrinsic pressure or drive…these experiences are sought out because they are when I feel most forced to be absolutely “present” …it’s because the absurd distance/ time/ elevation/ terrain & weather (combination of) requires all your mental and physical focus at the task at hand… you are laid completely bare… you are reduced to basic functions of survival & drive… a raw experience that really beats the bull shit out of you… and leaves you sometimes… beaten, but also richer for having the experience. Some claim to experience powerful spiritual moments of transcendence… all of this is to suggest I suppose that for ultradistance experience seekers like myself… the balance between pain and pleasure might not be as out of kilter as it first seems.

 

HOW?

Once committed to the idea/ goal, the mechanics of training for a longer endurance event are pretty straightforward. I think many seasoned athletes have their quiver of training protocols, training partners to consult, and they can truthfully look at themselves in the mirror and know what it will take to get them to the start line prepared… some focus, a lot of work, and on some days a large can of toughen up.

Many athletes are so obsessed with structure, the plan, and the number, whether it be power, heart rate, km’s completed or training cycles, that they forget the entire purpose of training is to be your best on race day. I enjoy these discussions with a handful friends and it really solidifies my shared belief that many athletes can get so caught up in the training process that they neglect a big-picture focus on the outcome… the experience or the race. 

Without getting into too many more details regarding my specific Quadzilla training I will simply diffuse my training habits into a handful of truths for Part 1 of this blog to add to the Discussion I started with Dan:

  1. Base everything on feel – always go back to how you’re feeling, not what a power meter, heart rate monitor, or other gadget is telling you… this goes for training and for racing. Training is the process, the preparation, for a race, but you must be able to be fluid with life demands or even your body from being tired or sore from the previous workout… always be mindful of the outcome/purpose of your training. This goes for racing as well… go with the flow… there is always a silver lining to having things not go “according to plan.” One of my most disheartening race experiences was also one of my most memorable… and still provides me with perspective and experience to know and feel how my race is progressing
  2. Trust the Grey hairs – pounding iron in the dungeon with Turbo & Frenchy every week, talking with my Dad regularly makes me realize I have another 30-40 years of adventures ahead of me. Ask the veterans for advice. Ask lots of questions & listen to the stories. There is nothing new under the sun… what is old is new again. Many training principles are variations of what was done in the past. Every BODY is unique and individual. Treat your race goals & body with that overall respect of balance and perspective that you always have more adventures ahead of you than behind you.
  3. Learn how to rest – sleep = naps are good – this has taken me years to realize as I burn it at both ends often. Respect it. Get sleep, at the very least 8 hours when training heavy and take naps… recovering from the workout or even knowing when you’re doing too much too soon and just going easier in a workout. Knowing not to schedule a long drive or flight right after a long effort (race or training). Too many people don’t trust in their experience or their own body feedback and come hell or high water, regardless of work/life commitments or the weather they’re getting the prescribed distance in… all of this is a game of balance, you need to put in the training, put in the time… but also be aware enough to know when you’re fried and your work is sub par & when you shouldn’t be in a car for 2hours after a 6hour ride. How do you know? If you’re grinding out a few days in a row of workouts, chances are you need to back off… being mentally “into” it [back to truth #1]
  4. Food = Be like a truck – If you eat garbage = you will perform like garbage… general nutrition is an obvious limiter to your fullest potential… I tend to keep things simple in terms of eating. Moderation. I have friends who eat healthier than anybody, but it takes them all day… everyday. And if they don’t have their sprouted, organic, gluten free whatever, they go into seizure…  I eat an Egg McMcuffin on big events when I’m up for 48hrs. Like always. Sure it’s a greasy, salty, toxic goodness wrapped in waxed paper from my friends at the golden arches, and sometimes I need a donut from Tim’s. I’m not always going to love that I ate it, but it won’t put me into toxic shock. I like bacon occasionally and am going to keep eating it. Food is supposed to be enjoyable… but food is definitely individual and each person’s diet and what they perform best on is often trial & error… it’s like if a car is too high-performance… then it’s sensitive to any kind of fuel. I like being more like a truck. If a little diesel gets in there, maybe a little water, it’ll cough and burp a bit, but it’s gonna keep running… that’s what you want in a race… and life. Espresso – Although not really food, it’s part of my routine. It makes me purr like a Ferrari… the tradition & artistry, the different styes and taste… just goodness. Two words: Mario Cippolini. [Italian. Cyclist = Style] Drinks espresso every day. Need I say more?
  5. Be scared but not afraid – Fear can be a great motivator but also freeze people in their tracks, especially a start line…you see it on faces of triathletes on a beach before a mass start. Understanding fear is important. If you commit to something it’s important to acknowledge that you’re scared, you respect the challenge. If you’re not scared you’re being ignorant of the risks and the mechanics of it all… nothing goes according to plan, and you must be prepared. However, fear cannot prevent you from entering the ring. You are powerful beyond measure.
  6. Volunteer for a race/ be a pacer &/or support crew – if there is one thing that will truly take your mental strength/ clarity-purpose of training and racing to the next level it’s volunteering and supporting others to reach their goals. Not only do you value and respect the race director/ organizing committee but you also gain tremendous insight into other ways to succeed in a race and you gain a sense of community… there are kindred spirits…tribes of people that seek and need these experiences to feel alive but also feel a part of a community. I know I’m one of those people. I have learned more about what it takes mentally to survive 24-36hr epic adventures by pacing someone for 12-15hrs and then volunteering at the finish line for another 5, than I ever have from doing any of my own workouts. To see the grace, the flow, the humor, the bonding and human connection, and the sheer tough as nails tenacity to overcome are all truly inspiring and reservoirs of hope I feed off of…
  7. Schedule/ Do workouts early, consistently… keep a minimum level – if there is anything I can tell people it is that getting to the gym, yoga, out for a run, an early swim or ride before your day starts, consistently, week in/ out is the single most important thing you can do. The ability to continue to keep a minimum level of fitness even when injured will provide tremendous confidence in considering your next goal. Many people want a 6 week program for this or 10 week program for that… quite often after a layoff. It’s the quickest way to burnout or worsen injury. Focus on the overall year and identify the ebbs and flows of your whole life picture to target races… true fitness will often come from being mentally strong more than physically… that comes from a quiet confidence of consistency.
  8. Can of Toughen Up – Training is going to be hard. Being consistent is going to be hard. The weather, work & family are all going to be unpredictable… open up a can of toughen up and deal. I have 3-4 quotes/ poems I reference for strength. Quotes by Churchill, Mandella & Muhammad Ali as well as the poem “If” by R. Kipling are my faves. The best & only race day advice I give is this: First Half – Don’t be an idiot/ Second Half – Don’t be a wimp.
  9. Smile – this is easier than grimacing, grunting, or straining… it’s a bit disheartening for your competitors or training partners (so I’ve been told)… but it’s also the easiest way to make all of those around you happier… including yourself… & when you’re 4 days into an event & hitting a “rough patch”… or coming around that corner to see that the hill just keeps going up into the mist with no end… you can control how you frame that moment… start it with a smile.
  10. Happy Place – You ever see that Adam Sandler movie Happy Gilmore? When Chubbs is telling him that he needs to find his “Happy” place? I think everyone needs to have a “Happy Place” or a mantra…I like to reference/ quote comedies: Caddyshack. Old School. Fletch. Breakfast Club. …just before &/or during an event… I like to recite these quotes especially out loud to others because it makes others laugh, which makes me laugh. The other thing I find I need is a song… I don’t ever run/ ride with headphones, but I do need a song or two focus on… I’m keen on James Brown & Johnny Cash, but have sung a wide range of complete albums to complete strangers over a 24-36hr event. Everything is better with a soundtrack… but having this arsenal of fun, helps me re-set & re-focus when the inevitable “rough patch” will hit.  

…to be continued: stay tuned same bat channel same bat time next week for the details on how I specifically managed my race. Thanks for reading.

Editor’s Note: Now that we know HOW Jordan handles his athletic (and life) challenges, stay tuned to see how he tackled his Quadzilla!

 

A NEW/OLD PERSPECTIVE ON RUNNING MARATHONS

04.09.2014
The Banner Says It All.

The Banner Says It All.

This past weekend I took myself and my lovely wife off to the Yakima River Canyon Marathon. I’ve known about the event for years, but it never quite seemed to fit my schedule. The reason I have known of the event is that it is organized by Team Dolphin (aka Bob and Lenore Dolphin). Bob wrote for Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes and was the first to ‘introduce’ me to Marathon Maniacs. Every ‘Maniac’ has a number. For instance, mine is #6837. Team Dolphin is a bit unique in that it/they hold #32 and are the only twosome member(s). Long story, but the Maniacs accepted that Lenore’s contributions and support warranted recognition. When I first met Bob, he was already somewhere north of 350 marathons, but it was changing so fast it was hard to keep track. He both inspired me re the Maniacs and intimidated me. He was the only Maniac I knew then and my main response to his records amounted to: “I’m not worthy!”.  This weekend, Bob did #502. He is a bit easier to keep track of these days in regard to his totals. It seems at 84 he has slowed down a bit in events run per year, as well as pace.

Knowing there would be a gathering of people this year to celebrate the 14th Yakima River Canyon Marathon, I decided I would put it on my to-do list. Then, having decided that at least for now, Two Stars was enough for this Marathon Maniac, I resolved to not run as many this year as last (six marathons and an ultra). One or two – that would be it. Then I started leading a pace group with Forerunners (again), but the target race is the BMO Vancouver Marathon on May 4. Timing was off re training for an early April marathon. I decided that maybe this wasn’t my year for Yakima. THEN, I got ‘talking’ with Roger Robinson and realized I needed to find a way to make it work. Wouldn’t you know it, when something is supposed to happen, it just seems to work out. My clinic pace group is all half marathoners this time. I’m the only one training for the ‘full’. Our long run of 36km is next weekend. And, well, 42km isn’t that much farther (ok, yes it is) than 36km. I realized I could go enjoy Yakima and everything related, take an easy pace and call the race a training run (of sorts), then take an easy week with our half marathoners and slide back into the taper program for Vancouver. That was it then! Signed up and headed for Yakima.

A Drive-Through Preview of the Route.

A Drive-Through Preview of the Route.

The route is precisely Canyon Road and it pretty much follows the Yakima River, starting just outside Ellensberg, WA and finishing near Selah. It is a beautiful route and the road is closed to pretty much all but very specific local traffic. Since you are going down river, naturally there is a net drop in elevation. The views along the river range from pretty to pretty spectacular. I would not say it is an easy course. There are two testing hills and the worst of those comes at about 22 miles or so. Good thing I was using this for training!  Don’t get me wrong. I paid the fee, ate the pasta, got the shirt and finisher medal and attended all the related events. Hey, the prizes go five deep in this race, so I even got a fifth place prize in my age group. All in all, a pretty good weekend, I’d say.

This is a bit of purist event and old school, too. It is a MARATHON. Period.  There is no Half, no 5K/8K/10K, kids’ fun run or anything else. It is a MARATHON.  Don’t get me wrong. There were a good many first timers. That said, there were a whole lot of Seasoned Athletes and because of the status and stature of Bob Dolphin as a multi-marathoner, there was a huge contingent of Marathon Maniacs and members of the 100 Marathon Club. The official Maniac count (according to the Race Calendar page) was 86. There were 395 finishers, so almost 25% of the runners were Maniacs. I have run a lot more marathons than a lot of people, but my effort this weekend was number 24, kind of puny in this company! Among those in attendance were Maniac #1 (Steven Yee, aka Main Maniac) and #3 (Tony Phillippi).

Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer - Q&A Session

Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer – Q&A Session

One of the big draws and a sign of the respect this event and these people garner, the featured speakers were Kathrine Switzer and Roger Robinson. Joe Henderson was there. Joe and Roger are also contributors to Running in the Zone (the book). A major contingent came in from Vancouver, with a couple of Lions Gate Road Runners, Frank Stebner and Margaret Buttner doing the honours to introduce Roger and Kathrine. The fearsome threesome of Frank, Margaret and Geoffrey Buttner were joined by Marty Wanless (all LGRR folk) who operated a major support team, especially for Kathrine and Roger. She, arriving from Mallorca and he from New Zealand just in time for the big event, and both jetting off to other distant locations the day after the race. The people in the room represented a rich cross-section of running people. Another notable was Martin Rudow, editor of Northwest Runner.

While I doubt there is anyone out there (at least who would be reading this blog) that doesn’t know who Kathrine Switzer is, it never hurts to understand her contributions to women’s running in particular, but the modern sport in general, by quietly taking a spot in the 1967 Boston Marathon. The young women running today, at all distances, but particularly marathons and more, probably have little or no idea what women faced, even in 1967 when it came to attitudes to the risks they faced should they DARE to venture beyond 800m of so. Roger talked about some of this in discussing his brand new book, “Spirit of the Marathon, which was launched at Yakima. The whole story can be found there but while women were running all over the world, it wasn’t until 1960 that the 800m was to become a turning point for women’s elite racing and was introduced to the Olympics after a one-shot trial in 1928. The women’s marathon was unthinkable. It did not make an entrance in the Olympics until 1984. Kathrine Switzer had no small part in bringing that about, but if you want more on that story, you’d best pick up a copy of Marathon Woman or visit her web site. She explained that she just wanted to run and meet the challenge of Boston. She did not intend to make a statement, but the furor her presence caused spurred her to make good (my words) on the promise of finishing that first Boston Marathon. And the rest, as they say, is history. But what a history. To be clear, the ‘girl’ that finished Boston in an unremarkable time of 4:20, went on to win the New York City Marathon and to record sub-three hour marathon times including a return to Boston to post a 2:51. Along with everything else, Kathrine Switzer is a serious runner in any context you want to apply.

It was fascinating to listen to Roger, the historian, renowned sport commentator and writer (and very fine runner in his own right, having set Masters records at Boston, New York, and several other races incuding my personal favourite, Vancouver, a record that still stands at 2:18:43) and Kathrine, very much a part of women’s marathon history. Any time you get a chance to hear either of these two, or even better, both at the same time, grab it. The audience was enthralled. We were all marathoners or friends and family of marathoners and we knew what we were being treated to in having this dynamic duo right there with us. Still, I can’t help think how normal it now seems for women to run and run long distances. Boys, in case you don’t know it, there are more of them than us these days. Generally speaking, the only event in which there are still more men than women is the full marathon. Kathrine warned us that while men still have the power factor and will be faster at the standard distances, women have an endurance factor that lets them keep going.

'Repeat Offenders' Being Gifted with "26.2 Marathon Stories" by Switzer and Robinson

‘Repeat Offenders’ Being Gifted with “26.2 Marathon Stories” by Switzer and Robinson

This did not start out to be a report on the main speakers, but it was something that could not be missed out either. The big story is the community of runners and supporters present for that weekend, and the unique nature of the Yakima Marathon. I would say that while many races lay on a full weekend of ‘action’, few are quite like this one. It is not to say the Yakima River Canyon Marathon is better than others, but it IS truly one of a kind. I posted on the Marathon Maniac Facebook page that this is not to be looked at as what you might call a ‘hit and run’ event. In other words, you really shouldn’t dart in, do your race, and dash off. You would miss too much. The Maniacs are renowned for doing lots of marathons and sometimes that means doing two per weekend! I’m sure there may have been one or two that did do the fast in and out, but most people in attendance knew this was a full weekend affair. There was even a Sunday breakfast where there were a good 50 or so of us still around.

Near Mile 3, Encouragement from KV Switzer (261) Herself.

Near Mile 3, Encouragement from KV Switzer (261) Herself. (Photo courtesy of M. Buttner)

Now what of this “New/Old” thing in the title. Pretty simply, if you haven’t already figured it out, it was a ‘new’ look on my part at an ‘old’ or more traditional way of staging an event. In some ways it was kind of bare bones and purist in nature. Everything that had to be done right (safety, course measurement, traffic, volunteers, timing) was done right. That happens when runners organize the race. But, the shirt is cotton and the medal is basic with not a hope or intention of keeping up with the bling you get from some races today. Don’t get me wrong, I love my tech shirts and fancy medals as much as anyone, but the charm of the Yakima River Canyon Marathon is that it is by runners for runners and is community. This year was ‘bigger and better’ with Roger and Kathrine in attendance, but you could tell there were a good many regulars who would be there regardless. I believe there were some 17 who had done all fourteen of the races to date, but a relative few who were there for the first time. There were families with as many as three or more members doing the marathon, some of the younger of them running their very first. Finishers ranged from 15 to 86 and times from 2:47 to just over 9 hours. My own category of M65-69 had twelve finishers and the M70-74 included another twelve. In fact, nearly 11% of finishers were senior citizens (over 65). This event recognizes the spirit of the marathon and provides a big enough time window to let those who want to do so, to take on this distance at whatever pace they need to do.

Lenore and Bob Dolphin, April 4,2014

Lenore and Bob Dolphin, April 4,2014

Bob and Lenore are not just the Race Directors, they are your hosts, and gracious/welcoming hosts at that. Lenore started it all off at the Friday pasta feed, giving out accolades and recognitions, and finished it Sunday with more of the same at the breakfast wind-up, not to mention the actual awards dinner on Saturday. Don’t think you are getting in and out of those events quickly either. How she does it, I’m not sure, but there is a story about each and every person mentioned. Talk about personal. Talk about family or community.

The race itself is as good as any, technically speaking, but the EVENT is unique and outstanding. If you want a marathoning experience that will really tell you what the heart and soul of distance running is about, put the Yakima River Canyon Marathon on your list. Do it NOW. The next race is scheduled for March 28, 2015. You need to be there. You need to plan to take the full weekend and experience all of it.