category : ‘Training and Racing’


EVERYONE SHOULD RUN NAKED (SOMETIMES)

06.18.2015
The 'ancient' form of "Run Naked"

The ‘ancient’ form of “Run Naked”

OK, we’ll get the obvious out of the way first. There is running naked (as in nude, as in ancient Olympics) and there is the current catchy term of “run naked” (as in no electronics, gadgets or similar).

Personally, I have done both; and while you can do the one just about anywhere, the other demands just a wee bit more discretion. Let me just say that if you aren’t clear which is which, you may want to go review your local civic bylaws before continuing here. I take no responsibility for anyone getting these two mixed up!

I’m not really sure who is hoping for what from this post, but the bulk of it is about the gadgetless form of ‘running naked’. If you were hoping for the other, maybe I’ll deal with it first and then you can go do something else.

Wreck Beach Bare Buns - Start

Wreck Beach Bare Buns – Start

I happen to live where there is an organized, timed, prized, nude race and in the interest of full disclosure, I have done it a number of times (5 or 6 I believe). This is the Wreck Beach Bare Buns Run. Because it is held on a tidal flat, the date and time depend on a suitably low tide to expose the course around the middle of the day. Generally it is near the beginning of August to max out the chance of warm sunny weather. The distance is 5K, but since the exposed beach is relatively small, it requires three laps of a somewhat zig-zag course. The sand is always a little bit different year to year. Depending on the winter storms, you may or may not encounter low spots and ‘puddles’ and in some areas there may be accumulations of sand that can dry out as the tide recedes, becoming interesting obstacles along the way. The wet sand is pretty firm and easy to run on. Wet spots (ankle deep’ish) are also easy enough, but hitting one of those sun-dried soft sand sections, or a deep ‘puddle’ can just kill your legs. Fortunately, it is all for fun, but it is timed and does attract some pretty fair runners. I think the record is about 17 minutes, which is pretty speedy over the course I just described with many tight turns thrown in just for fun. But, “You can leave your shoes on!” (Think Joe Cocker – You Can Leave Your Hat On.)

To run so, is quite liberating, not unlike the other kind of ‘run naked’ which I am about to get into. You can run ‘shy’ but you can’t win unless you go bare. Frankly, when everyone around is in their birthday suit you feel more conspicuous being clothed. A contributor to Running in the Zone (the book), Bart Yasso, has a fabulous chapter in “My Life on the Run” on running a sister race in Washington State.

OK. That’s it. Naked ‘naked running’ is done with now.

Running at Coolangatta, QLD

Australian beach run – Queensland

Seems to be all the rage now to ‘run naked’. That is, to run without a watch or gps system, without music, or any other distractions from JUST RUNNING. One of my favourite vacation things is to run barefoot on a beach, so not even shoes!

Early Morning Beach Runners - Negril, JA

Early Morning Beach Runners – Negril, JA

I suspect there are a lot of relatively new runners out there who may not realize that you CAN run without a Garmin or other gps device. I’ve been thinking about this topic for some while now, but was moved to do something by two things that happened this weekend. One was my own inadvertent naked run, followed by a Facebook post about running naked. And no, it wasn’t from one of my BB Run friends, so it was the non-tech-naked kind of running naked.

I have, for years, been a pace group leader for the Forerunners half and full marathon clinics. Generally, I do run with my trusty Garmin to ensure that I am keeping a proper pace in relation to the group I am leading. It is important to keep the advertised pace, not the one I feel comfortable doing on any given day. These runs are on Saturday mornings. This past Saturday I was up in plenty of time, but somehow got rushing around as the moment of departure neared and off I went, sans-tech. I don’t live anywhere near Forerunners, so once I realized I did not have my little digital friend, there was no going back to get it.

Typical route view on our clinic long run.

Typical route view on our clinic long run.

As it happened, there wasn’t anyone needing my ‘expert assistance’. (Happens this time of year as races start coming fast and furious.) However, the owner of the store who was once Canada’s premier marathoner, wanted to run with me. Off we went with me more than a little apprehensive about how this was going to go. Peter is a lot younger than me and even though his competitive years are well behind him and he endures the aftermath of the rigours of elite racing and training, his comfortable pace is generally not MY comfortable pace. Off we went. We ran, we chatted, sometimes he chatted while I huffed and puffed up a couple of very sturdy hills at the beginning of our 15K route, but I kept up and we ran on.

He is a fountain of historical info on the elite running days of his prime, but he keeps a close eye on the youngsters currently emerging. He knows who they are and what they are doing, and who coaches them and how ‘healthy’ they are at any given moment. Even though I don’t have anything like his wealth of knowledge, I love that sort of thing and he doesn’t usually leave me wondering what he’s talking about. The point is, neither of us had any technology with us while running. We ran and we talked. We knew where we were starting and finishing and that was it.

While it is hardly the first time I’ve ‘run naked’, it really made an impression on me because it was just so free and easy, and kind of pure. Peter still trains to  goals and so do I, but not this past Saturday.

Then, on Sunday, while roaming about on Facebook, a young woman I know posted about how glorious it had been ‘running naked in the sunshine’ of a fabulous late Spring day in Vancouver. She also quickly clarified the tech-free nature of what she meant. Several people chimed in and that was probably when I decided I needed to write this piece.

I guess there are people out there who run naked all the time. Those people just run. They generally don’t race. It is much easier when the whole point is just running for the pure joy of it. With a goal, the dynamic changes. PR, BQ, Podium. Those don’t happen without some attention to detail. Technology can help. I’ll get back to that in a minute.

One part of technology enhanced running that I don’t understand is music. I have never run with music. I so much prefer the idea of listening to the sound of my surroundings, my own breathing, footfalls on road or trail. I gather that some use music for the very purpose of obliterating some of those things – a distraction. I judge not, but feel that where safety is involved (in traffic or crowded race fields) music represents a danger. ‘Nuff said on that, except that when it comes to running naked, the music needs to stay home too. If you must ‘tune out’ from what you are doing, trying letting yourself slide into a meditative state (my topic in the Running in the Zone book).

Even a watch is kind of a tech tool, but is not of much use if you don’t have external distance markers, or even milestones to use it against as a form of pace monitoring. I do know people who run for a pre-determined time rather than using a route or distance. They just run out for Xhr/2 and then turn around and run back. For that you need some kind of timing device, or you will actually be running to distance. Otherwise, these folks pretty much run naked.

Running the forest trails.

Running the forest trails.

For the most part, I have a bunch of known training routes, so if I’m running on those routes, I’m probably using my technology. When I want to ‘just run’, there are some really nice wooded trails near here and I will just go for a lope through that bit of “urban forest”. Nothing like a quiet forest for a peaceful run.

So, getting back to the time and pace technology as promised above, truth be told, (and I’m not sure how many others do this), I don’t much consult my gps while running but rather after I get home and download to the computer where I can review what I really did. There are two times I do watch my Garmin. One is when I am pacing the training group. The other time is early in a race where I have a terrible tendency to start too fast.

Finishing in front of the 'Leg'

Finishing in front of the ‘Leg’

We tend to think of ‘run naked’ as a non-race thing, but that isn’t necessarily the case. The last best race I ran was the Victoria (Half) Marathon in 2012. I did have the Garmin, but I ran as much as I possibly could to a constant effort – that is, how I felt. When I reviewed the race later, I saw it was the closest I’ve ever come to the mythical negative split. Think there was maybe 10 seconds difference between the first and second half splits, and the time for last mile was almost identical to the first. This was probably as close as I come to “Racing Naked” these days! Got me thinking that maybe I should wear the gps unit in my next race (for the post-race records) but tape over the display and just run on feel. Hmmmm. Well, if I do, you will be the first to know.

So really, it is not hard to see how you can get caught up with your technology. As I said above, and just a little tongue in cheek, there are probably some relatively new runners that don’t know you CAN run without these things.

There is a school of thought that using the technology reduces our natural ability to sense pace. I’m not sure about that. At one point, I could ‘feel’ my pace very accurately. However, as I got older and well before we had gps devices to guide us, I started to feel that my inner sensor just wasn’t doing it. I kind of assume that when you can sense pace intuitively it is because you are fit and strong and know what it feels like to do a certain pace. As I have aged and as it gets harder to do the same things, abilities for sensing pace seem to diminish. One commentator on the running naked post on Facebook, a friend and good runner, offered that relying on technology may be stripping us of that inner sense. I’m sure there is some truth to that point of view, but I also think a lot of it is done on how it feels, so if it just becomes harder to do the same things, then you can’t go quite as accurately ‘by feel’. As you age, it seems there are more unexpected ups and downs that may not even be related to running as such, but which certainly impact how you ‘feel’ at any given time.

I often counsel my clinic charges that the best way to race a longer distance is to try to maintain a constant effort as I mentioned above re the Victoria Half Marathon. That isn’t quite the same as knowing your pace. For constant effort, use your comfortable pace on the flats. Maintain how that effort feels while going up a hill (you WILL go slower) and down the other side (you will go faster, but not as fast as you could). That is NOT even splits or pace, but rather even effort. Unless you are truly ‘one with your Garmin’ it can’t help you measure constant effort.

Another reason I use my Garmin is it represents an easy way to record and track my mileage. It also lets me chronicle my races for detailed review and instruction for future races. I am all for progress and modern technology as long as it enhances and doesn’t take over.

Charlie celebrates running into new territory (distance)!

Charlie celebrates running into new territory (distance)!

As I have written this and thought about it, I probably actually run ‘semi-naked’ most of the time. Huh?

Unless I have a very specific reason for consulting my tech device mid-run, I do run a lot on feel, regardless of whether I am as good at it as I once was. I won’t say I don’t sneak a look sometimes to see how far I’ve gone and/or how far I have to go. Generally that isn’t necessary in races, as they have distance markers but on training runs it is sometimes good to know. One exception was about a week ago when I ran my first race with our oldest grandson. Charlie had never run more than 2km and he was stepping up to 5K, actually 5.4K. As we passed the 2K point I let him know he was in new territory and that I was very proud of him. As each K ticked off, I announced that he had now run 3K, 4K and even 5K, because we were still 400m from the finish as we went through 5K. I think it gave him motivation and we finished strong!

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has discovered the joy of just running, but if you’ve been caught up in training and the technology to enhance it, including music, give a thought to getting out there now and then with just the bare minimum and run in the moment.

So. Who is up for a bit of naked running?

Your choice. Either kind. Actually, you COULD do both at the same time as long as you pick the right place. Now THAT would be liberating!!!

DOES ANYBODY EVER RUN 5Ks THESE DAYS?

03.16.2015
Probably my most significant 5K Medal

Probably my most significant 5K Medal

Reverse side tells WHY. Inaugural BAA 5K.

Reverse side tells WHY. Inaugural BAA 5K.

The title is a question (or something close to it) that appeared on the Marathon Maniac Facebook page. I think it may have been ‘how many of you run 5Ks’ or something like that. I will admit that the Marathon Maniacs aren’t your average cross-section of runners. They are MARATHON Maniacs. I get some interesting ideas about topics from that page though.

When you spend a lot of your time and money training for and getting to marathons some might not think there is a place for the lowly, perhaps ‘puny’, 5K. Some did feel that way, but I was pleasantly surprised how many extolled the virtues of the 5K, both as a race in itself but also as a powerful tool for improving speed and strength while running our beloved marathons.

The 5K is often the ‘go-to’ distance for charity runs. Nothing wrong with that. With a little slack on the time, most people can cover 5K one way or another and it suits the purpose.  But, it may give the wrong impression regarding what a killer distance the 5K can be. So many people, and not just my Marathon Maniac friends, say things like, “You run marathons. How hard can a 5K be?”  The answer is plenty tough, depending of course on how hard you run. Naturally, if you run 5K at marathon pace it would be pretty easy. The thing is, if you are a serious runner (and that does not necessarily mean blazing fast), you will not be running at marathon pace. You will be running at 5K pace, YOUR 5K pace, but for any given runner, by definition that will be HARD. That pace is different for each person, but sort of like the table of Boston Qualifier marathon times that are all over the map depending on gender and age, if you do your 5K all out, it will be hard! Speaking of the Boston Marathon, I have alas been unable to nail one of those BQ’s (OK, maybe on my first, but that was a long time ago and a long story). Whatever, I’ve never run Boston. I did accompany our daughter Janna when she did it in 2009, so was thrilled to be able to run the Inaugural BAA 5K, held the day before the big event. That is the story behind the photographs at the top of the page.

The 5K is hard physically AND mentally. There is no rest phase (for the weary).  Mentally, you need to be strong and keep the accelerator down. In a half or full marathon there may well be a time when you can back off the absolute edge and catch a little rest. As some people in the Maniac discussion commented, you need to warm up almost as far as the race distance in order to run a 5K well, not to mention actually TRAIN for the distance. Again, in a marathon, for most people, there is no real reason to warm up beyond stretching out your legs. The early part of the race let’s you get into a rhythm and pace zone. No such luxury in a 5K. You’d better be ready to rock it from the gun.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that you should or must run a 5K this way, but if you are a serious runner looking for performance in your races, I guess I am. Then there is the elite end of things. Watching the truly fast 5,000m runner shows what speed and endurance is really about. It is nothing short of breath-taking – literally! The World Record for 5,000m on track is an average pace of 2:32/km or just around 4:05/mile. Recall that within my lifetime it was said that if anyone ever ran a mile under four minutes they would die. [Ed. Note: This turned out not to be true at all!]

My competition at the Giants Head Run in June!

My competition at the Giants Head Run in June!

I have run more than one 5K just for fun and I have just committed to another one in June. That one will be with the older of my two grandsons. And, it will be a full circle return to the first race event I ever did as an older runner (older, as in not a teen). It is the Giants Head Run 5K in Summerland, BC. Charlie hasn’t done 5K yet, but is getting there and says he will be ready for June.

I just want to do it with him. He wants to do it with me. Time doesn’t matter. I’ve heard he might be a bit nervous because he knows I’m a long-time runner, which he seems to be confusing with being fast! He loves triathlon and has done a number of ‘mini-tri’ events. His Mom made me promise we’d go easy because like all kids, he might take off like he was only going 100m (and because I’m old?). Could be. We’ll see. Frankly, that ‘start too fast’ trait is hardly reserved for kids, as all runners know all too well! Youngsters develop so fast. He may already be able to whup me if he just paces himself a little.

Hmmmmmm. Go Charlie! Go! Run like the wind!!!  He, he, he,  – atta’ boy!

It reminds me a little of a time when my brother was a teen and working out a bit. He came up from the basement one afternoon and challenged our Dad to arm wrestle.  They struggled a bit and then my brother took the win. Not much was said, but off he went back to the basement (to work out a bit more?).  My Mom scolded my Dad and said, “You really shouldn’t let him win like that!”  My Dad paused and looked at her like only he could do and just replied, “I didn’t.” (Oh, and for the record, my Dad was no push-over.)                         Go Charlie!!  Run!  You can do it!

Actually, there is no reason his Mom and Dad couldn’t run too. Make it a real family affair. Maybe we could have a team shirt! Three generations. I like it!!

[Editor’s Note: Just checked that the GH Run ‘5K’ goes where I thought it did.] Turns out it is actually 5.4K! At least they now declare that right up front. I am quite pleased about the ‘full disclosure’ because with the extra 0.4km I would have been wondering. Now we know.

article-2211641-1548A2EB000005DC-773_634x420Speaking of running 5Ks for fun I was honoured to be asked to run a 5K as part of a local support group when Fauja Singh came to Surrey, BC and ran the Surrey International World Marathon Weekend 5K. You might remember him as the amazing 100 year-old runner who was even doing marathons up to that age. When we ran in Surrey I think he was about 102. Frankly, we were asked to kind of form an ‘invisible protective shield’ around him to make sure he didn’t get bumped or anything. HA! First of all, he ran it in 35 and change and when he saw the finish (and heard the dulcet tones of Mr. Steve King), he picked up the pace. I had to shift gears to keep up! It was a truly inspirational day. He had many family members around him including, I imagine, some great grand-kids. The whole time we were running he was making comments and even if I didn’t understand what he was saying, it seems by the way the people around him kept cracking up, that the old boy was being pretty witty while he clocked off a very respectable 5K.

Getting back to the matter of the 5K as race and off of the 5K as a family affair, it is a fun and demanding distance. Not only that, but as many in the on-line discussion pointed out, it is an integral part of a good marathon training program. Naturally we all run various distances in training for a marathon but some racing will sharpen you for the longer distance. Few can push in training, the way we do in a race. A number of races interspersed in the training schedule will put you in peak form. Some feel that if you are working up to a serious target marathon, a good half marathon a few weeks before will set you up very well. My half marathon PB came just that way, as I trained for what was to be my marathon PB. That said, a couple of short fast races add another dimension to your preparation.

The Marathon Maniacs are an interesting group among which is a crowd who do crazy numbers of marathons, running one every week and some will do a couple of a weekend. That said, and while some Maniacs count hundreds of marathons in their totals, the average is something like 3.25/year. Some just don’t care how long it takes as long as they cross the start and finish and get an official time. Nothing wrong with that. Some appear to be ‘bucket-listers’ that have set a goal to become a MM member and maybe never do another, or certainly not at the pace that you might imagine a Maniac would do. Mixed into this now 11,000 strong crowd are some very fine and competitive runners who take every race and every step very seriously. I am guessing that #1, #2 and #3 (the club founders) can still rip off a 3 hr marathon whenever they please.

So, it was interesting when this discussion of 5Ks started, it seemed like it flushed out a lot of serious runner types because most of the comments swirled around the value of the speed work and how it was great training and prep for serious marathoning. I certainly believe it, even if what I do these days doesn’t look like the work of any kind of speed demon!

Finishing the Canada Day 5K (2014) for an age group podium place.

Finishing the White Rock Canada Day 5K (2014) for an age group podium place.

One of the personal issues I have (and maybe others of my vintage) with racing shorter distances – 5K, 8K and 10K primarily, is that pushing that hard (training and racing) tends to bring on injuries. Running for endurance also has its challenges for me, but I am far less prone to injury. Even though family members are promoting that I should shorten my racing distances, I am not quite there yet. Fewer marathons? Yes, I can see that. Zero marathons?  I’m not sure. Not yet. After a really bad one at Vancouver last May and a pretty good one (for me) at Salt Lake City in September, I thought maybe it would be good to let the Big Cottonwood Marathon be my 25th (it was) and final marathon. That MAY be how it does turn out, but some new projects have been popping up in my head and as long as the last marathon I do is a great experience, I am feeling OK to go on for a bit. What is a great experience? Either a good ‘pure’ performance or a very satisfying event where I did not necessarily run for time but rather the experience.

Will 5K races be part of that? You can bet your booties (or racing flats) on that! Will the 5K be a satisfying and serious race for me in the future? It sure will! Hey, now that I’m in a new age group, if I choose races carefully, I might even win a few (age group), or at least place.

WHAT? IT’S 2015? ALREADY!?

01.04.2015
Dawning of a New Year!

Dawning of a New Year!

Gosh, I was kind of enjoying a quiet time there (as were my loyal readers, likely). But, here it is a brand spanking new year! Well, it is actually just a wee bit used. It is the 4th of January and I’ve already had a 16K run at the Forerunners “First Half” training clinic. (No, I’m not running the First Half Half Marathon, but I am leading a pace group of people who are. I will be back as MC for the big event and looking forward to it, but more on that at a later time.)

So yes, this post is pretty much about me, but maybe there will be some useful thoughts for others to ponder in relation to their own running and racing and the plans related thereto.

I will have a new age category in just a couple of days. It is nice that my birthday is in early January, as my whole year is always at the same age, which only matters when you change categories, but this is one of those years. Crazy as it may seem, what with a new age group and a chance for setting new (personal) age group PBs all over the place, I do not have even ONE race lined up as yet. I guess I should find one quick, just so I can say I was still racing when I was 70. One I might have done is the Steveston Ice Breaker, but I will be out of town meeting our newest grandkid (who hasn’t even been born yet, but soon, very soon). Still, there must be something doing that I can get into and get the year started, as far as racing goes.

I do have some ideas for a big project, which I alluded to in an earlier post, but think I shall keep my big mouth shut on that until I’m really ready to ‘pull the trigger’.

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

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

2014 turned out to be a good and fun year of running. I ran at least one more marathon than I intended, but the ‘extra’ one was the Yakima River Canyon Marathon and with all the folk in attendance, I wouldn’t have missed that for the world. Somewhere along the way it was supposed to be the ‘Year of the Half’, so I did manage four of those. When all was said and run, I realized I had not done even one 10K, the base to which many (most?) of us refer with regard to our running prowess. Guess that will have to be fixed in 2015. Yakima was a slow marathon for me, but then I promised myself it was ‘a training run’ for the BMO Vancouver Marathon, which was my primary target race early in the year. Don’t know what happened with that one, but it wound up being a couple of minutes slower than Yakima. If I’d known that was going to happen, I would have pushed it harder at Yakima! Fortunately, there was the Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon in September where everything got sorted in my personal world of marathons, with a time that was a recent PB (last three years or so) and it being my 25th marathon. Now, I have to decide if it will be my last marathon (finish on a high note, ya’ know). But, that brings us back to the big project mentioned earlier, so we’ll have to see.

Not that there is some kind of ‘cliff’ associated with my upcoming birthday, but I think it is time to adjust my thinking on running and racing. I’ve noticed for some time that training for and racing the shorter distances makes me more prone to injury than the longer ones, but the longer ones tend to be getting harder to do in terms of training (total effort, and tiring/straining my aging body) even if I seem to suffer less from traumatic and injurious events. I ran 10 races in 2014, but seven of them were half marathon or more. My total racing distance was 238km with a total distance run in training and racing of just over 1500km. Perhaps there is a happy medium to be found. Still, it is rather unwise to race without effective training. That WILL lead to injury.

Morning Beach Scene - Negril, JA

Morning Beach Scene – Negril, JA

I have to admit that some of the best running I did all year was in the week after the Reggae (Half) Marathon in Negril in early December. Why? Because I just didn’t care about anything other than getting out and enjoying the easy run along the beach. Longest of those runs was 5K and I think the shortest was maybe 3K. The point is that the only focus was the doing of it. And, it was so easy. Get up, put on shoes, shorts and singlet, step out door, run. It was early enough that I didn’t even need sunglasses or a hat. A few times I didn’t bother with the shoes and if I weren’t worried about frightening the ‘natives’ with my beluga-like white body (I don’t tan well), I didn’t really need the singlet either. So, technically it could have been as simple as “Get up, put on shorts, step out door, run”. In winter, in Canada – even in Vancouver, it isn’t going to ever be that simple. And, when I’m home I always seem to have a goal to my running. As a result I always seem to have a distance or pace goal to achieve, depending on whether I am doing a LSD run on the weekend or a speed, tempo or hill session during the week.

The thing is, I still like racing. I like the focus that target races give. I love the vibe of races, especially marathons. Maybe what I should do is think about a handful of Spring events and likewise a small number of Fall events and just let the Summer be a time for that easy goal-free running that was so great in Jamaica. I suppose that while my looming birthday is something I will welcome as a special milestone or badge of honour, the number attached is such that without being morbid about it, there is not much doubt that there is some kind of approaching limit to what I am going to be able to do. I mean, good grief, I have some pretty awesome examples of running friends who are going strong and are much older than me. That said, a lot of the people I have run with over the years have stopped running and if not running, definitely racing.

I suppose this musing about stuff is a way to get to a sort of New Year resolution about running.  Too bad it doesn’t seem to have worked yet!

Big Cottonwood Marathon Expo

Big Cottonwood Marathon Expo

In a way, I wish I could get my head to where so many of my fellow Marathon Maniacs are – basically that the doing of it is all that really matters. I still don’t seem to be able to comfortably (mental comfort) enter a race just to finish it. Gotta work on that! I really don’t have too much to prove after all these years. Let’s face it, a lot of times now, just showing up is going to get me a podium place in my age group. But really, what glory is there in being 1/1, other than the fact that you are still out there doing it. THAT is a worthy accomplishment, but finishing first when you are the only one to show up, is not really that remarkable. I have a friend who, when he isn’t all that happy with his performance, will say he finished 2nd out of one! I already get the point of that.

I did just have a small revelation that, at least in some instances, it may be my Scottish blood that says if you are going to spend a bunch of money to travel to and do a race, you better do it well. Value for money and all that. I mean you couldn’t go to a destination race ‘just because’, could you? Well, in a sense, I do that with the Reggae Marathon. Regardless of which of the three events I run, I am under no illusion that my time is going to be in any way remarkable. It is just too hot. Perhaps there is hope yet!

One race I want to do soon, maybe in 2015, is with our grandson, Charlie. He will be nine this year, so it is time to be looking for a 3-5K event we could do together. I’ve raced with his Mom (Danielle) and his Dad (Greg),  also with our other daughter (Janna) and her husband (Jason) and with our son (Cam). The new grandkiddly may be too young for some while, although I suppose if push comes to shove (literally) I might be able to do one with him in a stroller. I was thinking that might be with his Mom or Dad pushing, but I suppose there is nothing stopping me from being the push-OR while he is the push-EE. In fact, conceptually, it might be best if I was the one doing the pushing. Guess we’ll let his parents have the final say on that.

That seems to be enough musing and personal chat for today. 2015 is shaping up to be a fun year and I am really looking forward to it.

Happy New Year to one and all, and all the best with your own personal running goals and plans!

See you on the roads!

“I’M LEAVIN’ ON A JET PLANE……………”

12.04.2014
Perfect Sunset

Perfect Sunset

Yes, I AM going off very soon to Negril for the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K, and NO this post isn’t really about that.

I will happily admit that I was packed and ready to go as I looked at the November drizzle with promise of heavy rain later in the day, I was eagerly anticipating warm sunny beaches. I will also happily admit the Reggae Marathon weekend has become an annual favourite for this Seasoned Athlete. I have said lots about this race favourite and I assure you I AM going to say more once I’m in Negril and the event is unfolding.

However, this is really about the whole idea of destination racing. I’m not going to say the Reggae Marathon ISN’T going to get mentioned again, but for the rest of this it will only be an example.

The ultimate destination racer is the Marathon Maniac, and maybe more so  the 50 State marathoners. Of course, you don’t have to run marathons to be a destination racer, but these two groups MUST do destination races to achieve their goals. I know a few people who have made it a life mission to run the Marathon Majors, meaning a lot of travel. Yes, you can get three of them while staying to the USA, but then there is London, Berlin and Tokyo.

With that last example,  the question arises quickly as to just what a ‘destination race’ really is. I suppose in simplest terms it is one held where you don’t live and perhaps where you must travel far enough to need at least one night of accommodation. One thing I’m pretty sure about is that the destination event need not be huge (like NYCM). It can be like my first noted destination race, the Reggae Marathon, which is modest in size when you figure plus or minus 1500 participants are spread over three separate events (full marathon, half marathon and 10K). In fact, technically speaking, as long as the race is ‘away’ it could be pretty small if numbers of entrants is what you are counting.

Personally, I like the ‘runcation’. We won’t ask my wife about this. She does attend a fair number of my runcations but for her the destination better have something going for it beside the fact that someone is putting on a marathon or something. What is a runcation, you ask?  A vacation that involves a race, of course! I have done a LOT of destination races, including the vast majority of my marathons. I have done shorter distances as destination events and once or twice completed a race where the race was a happy accident that popped up during travel for some other reason.

While there are many single events that have every right to be on the top-flight list of destination races, we have seen the advent in recent times of corporate event organizers who market the destination event, such as the Competitor Group and their Rock ‘n’ Roll series, Destination Races (Wine Country races) and Revel which is specializing in downhill events in the very mountainous western states. The advantage of the corporate races using a branded name is that runners come to know what to expect. To be clear, that isn’t always good, but you do know what you are going to get. Event organization is built on the idea that a lot of the participants will be traveling in for the race. So, if you want to try out destination racing one of the purpose built events might be a good place to start. Or not. They will almost always be at least a half marathon and probably a marathon. To be fair, a good many do also have a shorter distance event packaged in, but most people seem to have a mind-set that to travel, you must at least be heading for a half. That really isn’t so, but what has logic got to do with anything?

One of the best destination races I did was one of the ‘accidental’ ones. We were helping our daughter move to Winnipeg, by delivering her car to her (I like long-distance driving; she doesn’t). Just happened that there was a great little 10K happening that also just happened to be the Manitoba Provincial 10K Championship. I (we, ’cause this is one of the trips my wife definitely wanted to do) got to visit with our daughter in her new home and to run with her, our son-in-law and also a friend from BC. There was even a bonus! I came third in my age category, so for a year was the M65-69 Manitoba 10K Bronze Medal Champion. Pretty neat, eh? Who asked how many people were in your age group? Who? What does that matter?  You really insist on knowing?  Well, there were three. So what is your point?

Running is not a terribly expensive sport. You really should wear decent shoes, and they are admittedly not inexpensive. You don’t have to race and if you do, nothing says you need to enter the big expensive events. However, if you want to run the destination races, it does cost some money. That makes these events more accessible to the young singles with a decent income AND to the ‘seasoned athlete’ who has moved on past some of the more demanding (time and money) family years.

There are ways to keep costs down, at least to some extent. You can organize groups and share driving and related costs. You can at least share accommodation and when traveling to far places at least consider local resorts vs five star, all-inclusive international chain resorts. If you can work it right, you can sometimes use a vacation package deal with flight and hotel at a place you want to race, although I have never pulled that off myself.  A couple of clubs I have belonged to have designated certain events as the ‘club event’ of the year and encouraged members to enter and then organized large group accommodations at the site of the race. And, what do you think airline or other rewards points are for??? We happen to own a time-share week and more than one destination race has been done using our week or some bonus offer (including Napa, Maui and Las Vegas marathons. just off the top of my head).

One of my favourite races is actually a relay, the Hood to Coast Relay, and at least during the race itself you don’t need accommodation at all – you just keep on running and sleep in a stinky van (if you can). Most times I’ve ever done this one, the total for a four day weekend, three races (legs) covering a total of 200 miles, including the entry fee has been less than $500 per person. As such things go, that is really pretty good!

If you are really dedicated to a destination race, you can save money with planning. Enter at the earliest opportunity. Watch for flight deals if you have to travel by air. Gather your points and use for hotels or trips. The older I get, the less I do this. Why? Well, it sure isn’t because I have unlimited money. No, it is because a lot of events and cheap air-fares aren’t so cheap if you have to cancel due to an unexpected injury. At my level of ‘seasoning’, waiting (even if it costs a bit more) is a kind of insurance against losing it all. Everything considered, I run pretty healthy, but every once in a while, there is enough of an injury that a given race may go by the wayside. Actually, this is a good reason to really concentrate on the ‘runcation’. If you are going somewhere for a great vacation and you have to scrap the racing, you still have a wonderful vacation and the only loss is (maybe) the entry fee. For instance, one of my runcations was Maui, for the Maui Marathon. If I had to (I didn’t) cancel the marathon race, I would still have had two fabulous weeks in Hawaii. Same is true for the Reggae Marathon. I left nearly 10 days ahead of the race, but even though I am registered for the half marathon, I still haven’t 100% decided if I will run that distance, the marathon, or the 10K. I have reasons to do all of them, but the big reason to go is to participate and to have an amazing vacation. It is fairly hard to lose on a deal like that. So, while the trip is not inexpensive, I will still get a great vacation whether I run or not, and no matter which of the race distances I finally choose.

There is something about being in a given place with the sole intent of participating in a race. For those who haven’t ever tried it, there really is something about just being there to run/race. Frankly, even on a runcation, for me the vibe is the same either way. One of the things I love about the Reggae Marathon is that for the few days around that event, most of the people you encounter are there for the same reason. It creates an energy you won’t find any other way.

If you haven’t got the idea by now that I really like this kind of running, well I can’t help you. If you’ve been thinking about making your first destination race or runcation, what are you waiting for? Well, actually, I can tell you one reason you should wait. Unless you have unlimited travel and running budgets, planning is very important. Do take the time to select a few races that really appeal. Take the time to figure out the logistics of training, time of year, other priorities in your life and the overall destination as a place you want to go. Then, if you do need to watch the pennies, take the time to organize something you will enjoy at a price you can afford.

Warning: This kind of thing can be quite habit-forming.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon - My most recent marathon.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon – My most recent marathon.

TO (P)B OR NOT TO (P)B? THAT IS THE QUESTION

11.16.2014
Vancouver Finish May 1988- My first marathon.

Vancouver Finish 1988 – My first marathon.

And, an interesting question it is if you are the least competitive of spirit.

Get yourself around some runners for a bit and inevitably somebody starts talking about PBs (Personal Bests). Then of course, there is the PR (Personal Record). Some use them interchangeably and others don’t. I used to be one of the former but may be becoming the latter. Why? Because I’m getting old. Some might say I AM old. Some days I feel old, but others I feel remarkably young. STOP LAUGHING!

Where it comes to running – old, young or indifferent, I AM slower. Anybody who has read this blog more than a couple of times will know of my interest in, perhaps love of, Age Grading. Plus or minus, I have been running for over 30 years. There have been a few ‘down’ times in there where it was hard to get a regular run in and I definitely wasn’t racing. As a result of that I really have two distinct racing phases. When I got going at about 39 I did a couple of races, but over the next few years I ran a bunch of them (40 or so). As I ran more, I also ran faster. I kind of peaked when I was 43-44. Except for distances I didn’t run until later/recently, all my PRs came in that 18 month period in 1988-89.

I had back surgery in 1990 and missed some running before and a little after that, but by the next year I was racing again. While the back was actually pretty good, work and life just got in the way of much racing. I was still running, but did not have the time to really train for racing. Around 1998-99 I wanted to race again and wound up with a big focus race in October of 2000, my second marathon. From there I ran more and raced some. One strange thing was that I lived in Malaysia for most of two years in the early 2000s and ran maybe five days a week, but never raced in SE Asia. (Now, I keep asking myself: Why? Why? Why?) I started really picking  up the racing again in the mid-2000s and have continued steadily with some really big years of racing in the last few. Unless I quit in January with my next (70th) birthday (and why would I with a brand new age category to race in?) I see no great drop in races for the next while. That is, I expect to do 10-12 per year.

Who cares?

Why did I lay all this out?

Well, my main reason was to create context for the discussion of the PB/PR and because I try to use personal examples to illustrate my points. I have run for 30 years and while I am nearing 200 individual races ranging from 1 Mile to a 50K Ultra, my racing career is anything but a smooth or steady progression. Because it isn’t a smooth and consistent record, I have had a few relatively good years later on compared to earlier ones. I have had some very satisfying races such as my third best ever marathon run in 2010, 22 years after my first and best and 10 years after my second best. Age-Graded, that marathon comes pretty close to being #1. But, 2010 was a very good year. I was training hard and running well.

Some people say you can’t be trying to beat yourself of 20 years ago. For goodness-sake, that was the essential basis of Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes. ‘Those people’, some of them anyway, like to use and cite 5-Year PBs. It does kind of make sense. Except that race record keeping is done on five year age brackets, there is actually nothing magical about specific five year groupings. It is convenient to use the ones the races use and I can’t generally think of a good reason to do otherwise, but if you wanted to, you could.

In my own case, I just happened to really start running when I was 40-44. Before I was 45 I suffered the back problem that required surgery. So, there I was with a nice neat personal five year package that just happens to fit with conventional groupings. I was even clever enough to get born in early January so I always get the full year (first/last) within these nice groupings and within the calendar year. As I said, I ran all my best times at conventional distances during that time. As a result, ALL my PRs came then, too. As previously noted, the only races where I had PB/PR results after that were of distances I had never run: a 30K in 2010 and a 50K in 2013.

I ran a few races in the 45-49 and 50-54 age categories, but only really started hitting it harder for 55-59, then really hard for 60-64 and most recently 65-69. Just this year I reworked all my race stats and broke out my 5-year PBs. I had kept a race result chart for years with a single category section devoted to PBs for given distances, which were really PRs as they were my bests ever at any given distance. Now, at the end of each 5 year age category I have recorded the regular distance PB stats for that age group.

When you have a competitive nature and the times gradually keep getting slower and slower it is not hard to feel like you are ‘fading away’, especially if you are comparing to the best you ever were. If you look at the last five years, the picture sometime looks a bit different. I have certainly found that in my personal performance. The ‘best’ year in the last five is not necessarily the first/youngest year. Within any given five years it can be a lot more about how hard you have trained, injured/healthy and how motivated you have been to race, at least where it comes to the PB result.

Young folk don’t really get this because sometimes, even though they may be getting older they ARE getting faster in absolute terms. I mean, I even did that myself when I was in my early forties. My earliest 10K times, when I was getting started, were just under an hour. By the time I was 44 I was at a 42 minute 10K time. Young folk often seem to think age-grading is funny and don’t really get it. Until you are around 35 it makes no difference. If you are younger than that the big issue is probably how hard you are willing to work at it. As noted above, within reason training hard even works at my age, but not in the absolute sense. The idea that I might run a marathon under my PR of 3:25 next year, when I’m 70, is just silly. The idea that I might run one that age-grades to a similar or better performance is something else, maybe something achievable. It would be far from a PR. In fact, on raw time it would be almost an hour slower! It would have to be just a wee bit better than the marathon I ran in 2010 and which is now my third best raw result. Clearly, that is not a PR result, but it would certainly qualify as some kind of recent PB and thus, we have the argument for looking at PBs and PRs a little differently.

Eugene Marathon - 2010 - Recent PB race.

Eugene Marathon – 2010 – Recent PB race.

Simply to put the last comments into context, consider that my PR marathon was done at a time of 3:25 when I was 43. Age grading can help that time too and to make a fair comparison, both times should be age graded (if it makes a difference). So, that time grades to one of 3:15:08 (64.1%). My recent PB in 2010 at age 65 with raw time of 4:28:15 grades to 3:27:18 (60.3%). So now, and very much in theory, at age 70 I would need to run a raw time of 4:42:00 to grade to 3:27:21 (60.2%) and be as ‘good’ as in 2010. To be better than my absolute best race from 1988, I would need a raw time of 4:25:00 (which would also theoretically be a BQ). That would result in a 3:14:51 (64.1%) age-graded performance. Now you can see how I might set some realistic goals for a satisfying race result without being held back by a clock time that doesn’t look so impressive in absolute terms. To better my 2010 self, I would need to run only 8 minutes faster than my running time for my last marathon, done this past September. That sounds rather realistic, I think. Can I do it? Will I do it?  Will I even run another marathon? Those are all different questions, but it is good to know that if I decide to try, the goal is achievable. Is the twenty-five minute differential between my best ever age-graded performance and my last best marathon doable? Maybe. Would it be hard? Absolutely. Will I go for it? Well now, that is a horse of a different hue, as my wise old uncle used to say.

The only reason I have taken all this time to lay this out is to offer the concept to other seasoned athletes who may still be where I was even just a year ago. We all do what we do and look at things our own way, but separating your PR and PB performances into quite different things will give a new perspective. For the competitive, it also gives a more realistic goal to be achieved. In my own case, largely because of my birth date, the conventional five year categories work exceptionally well, but there is nothing to stop you from using “the last five years” and just keep it rolling forward. There is also nothing magical about five years for that matter. Unless you happen to be REALLY good and chasing single age records, it is all just for your own satisfaction in any case.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon - My most recent marathon.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon – My most recent marathon.

I was going to leave it at this point, but if you do get into age-grading your results, some feel (might just include me) the % Performance stat is more meaningful than the converted time. The age adjusted time is simpler to understand since we are used to looking at our finish times. If my raw 10K time is 59:30 and the age-graded time is 43:21, there is an easily understood relativity. However, if your best 10K time was 40:00, run when you were 40, it might come out at around 70% Performance. But, if you run 50:00 at the age of 70, your Performance might come out at 73%, indicating that in relative and competitive terms the ‘slower’ time is actually superior. In many ways that says a lot more about the relative quality of your performance than does the converted time. In fact, I now train and race to the %P standard and aim to get all my best results for any given year to be stable at the chosen level(s).

This turned out a bit longer than I intended, but hope it might help runners with a competitive spirit to put long-term performance into a meaningful and hopefully, satisfying context.

DOWN IS THE NEW UP

08.30.2014
Running Down Mount Seymour - Training

Running Down Mount Seymour – Training

Everybody likes a good downhill every now and then, especially in a marathon. Well, I do.

Some people really like downhill runs. I DEFINITELY DO!

My favorite ‘race’ has long been Leg #1 on the Hood to Coast Relay. I’ve done this fabulous event EIGHT times and five of those were Leg #1. It represents the fastest I have ever run over a significant distance. That was the very first time I did Leg #1 in 1989. It was slightly different from today (mostly where it finished – just a wee bit shorter than the current segment). Still, it was close to being a 10K and I sustained an average pace of 5:59/mile. In the dark. Start process was a bit different back then and we were a pretty good team starting in the second last group at 10:30 PM, as I recall. Did I mention it was dark? Boy was it dark. No fancy headlamps in those days, just a so-so hand-held flashlight. The road was not as nicely paved as today either. With only a very close perspective of what was around us, it felt like I was flying down that mountain! Between the relative speed and the risk (of stepping in an unseen pot-hole) that was the most heart pounding run of my life.

So what does that have to do with the title?

Well, anyone who has run a sustained downhill race or course will tell you that the fun part soon wears off and if not during the race, soon after many body parts will be informing you of their displeasure at what you have just made them do! Depending on the runner and his/her gait, you can pretty much start at the ankles and work your way up to the hips. Depending on the individual, quads and knees are almost sure to be #1 source of aches and pains.  A bit of down is fun. A LOT of down is hard work. And that dear reader, is whence comes the title.

OK, fair enough, but this can’t be about Hood to Coast because it is just finished for 2014 and this runner didn’t get a team in this year. It is about the Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon and Half Marathon in Salt Lake City, UT. When I heard about it from a friend and fellow Marathon Maniac, I only resisted for a day or two and then I signed up. (Me and 115 other Maniacs, as it turns out.) The race claims to be, and I believe them, the most down-running Boston Qualifier out there. From top to bottom there is an elevation loss of over 4,000 ft!

While the total descent is 4,200 ft, plus or minus, the slope is greater than that because there is a ‘flat’ out and back of about 7 miles, coming just around 15-16 miles, before runners finish the downward dash to the finish. Give or take, there is a drop of about 4200 ft over about 20 miles. That is a grade of about minus 4%, or a bit more than 200ft/mile. Oh Yes!  Bring it ON!!

But wait a minute old feller, that glory run down Mount Hood was a long time ago! Better get some training in unless you want your quads to seize up about half way down.  Good advice.

Some Locals Watched My Training Run

Some Locals Watched My Training Run

Fortunately for me, there is a local mountain called Mount Seymour, which has a ski area up top and a road a lot like the Big Cottonwood Canyon road. The grade is very similar although the down section ends at just over 8 miles. Still, it is great for working on proper pace and technique and toughening up those lower limbs. The first time I tried it out I wanted to see what it felt like to ‘run easy’ down that slope. Wouldn’t you know it, I had forgotten to check the battery on my gps and it quit about half a kilometer into the run! Well, so much for keeping a close eye on my pace. I really did want to keep the pace easy and not push too hard even if that was what the conditions tempted me to do. Fortunately I had my trusty Timex Ironman sport watch, so I could time the run and happily, the Park authorities had thoughtfully provided a marker at every K. Wasn’t the same as glancing at my Garmin but better than nothing. The end result though, was pushing much harder than intended. Remember, I was trying to sustain a pace I might be able to do over the marathon, not a 10K. Felt good when I finished, but payback was only about 24 hours away. OW!

Next time, you better believe the Garmin was fully charged. Even still and although I did go slower, it was hard to hold back as much as I really should have. But, the aftermath was far less and I know that Big Cottonwood provides pacers that run ‘constant effort’. They even have a facility that lets you estimate constant effort pace for a particular finish. Even for a personal BQ, the pace on the long downhill will be almost 30 seconds/mile slower than what I ran. Yahoo! While I’m not getting my hopes up for the BQ, the race has a pace group that will be running to the standard for my age, so I should be able to forget my gps device and stay with them until we exit the Canyon. After that, who knows?

As may be obvious, I am pretty excited about this new adventure. If nothing else it will be my 25th actual marathon. I can then put my one and only 50K ultra over in its own category. And, BQ or not, I anticipate that a well run and strategic pace will give me a satisfying finish time. Stay tuned on that matter.

I do want to say some things about the race that already impress me before I’ve even done it. If they prove out as they sound, maybe a few other events could learn from them.

There are two races, the full and half marathon. They have a transfer, and withdrawal policy that is very fair. There is a modest cost, but you can change events, transfer your entry to another runner of even drop out should you need to do so.

Entry fees are comparable to other similar sized events and you get the usual souvenir shirt and finisher medal, but you also get race photos and a customized video with your images cut into the tape. No charge. (Well, OK, for the cynics out there, technically ‘no extra charge’ – it is part of the entry fee.)

Being a Marathon Maniac and a whole whack of Maniacs having decided this is a go-to race, there will be a TEAM of 116 Maniacs. More races are offering team status these days, but Big Cottonwood is right in there with things like a tent space at the finish (you have to provide your own tent) and an optional (modest cost) custom designed team shirt.

Talk about creating an experience! Will it live up to its potential? Only time will tell. I’m betting yes. It is a relatively new and fast growing event, so not sure how many to expect nor how well they can handle things like start-line transport, porta-potties, etc. Those are often issues as races grow rapidly.

As I write this, I have just completed my last long training run and the race coming in just two weeks to the day. Guess we won’t have to wait too long to see how this all goes.

Did I mention that I am pretty excited?  Oh yeah, I guess I did.

RUNNING IS PRIMAL

06.19.2014
Running the forest trails.

Running the forest trails.

Interestingly enough, this thought came to me while I was walking. But, I had been running!

Had to have a tooth pulled the other day and it was a big’un. Couple of stitches to close up the hole it left. I hadn’t run for a couple of days and was out with friends from Semiahmoo Sunrunners for the weekly Saturday Morning Run/Walk and Breakfast Bash. About 3K into this I realized my poor wounded gum was throbbing with each foot strike. I bade my running friends a fond farewell and assured them of my overall good health, and commenced walking back to our starting/meeting point. This run is pretty much always through forest trails and it is a truly inspirational route. Since I was neither worry about keeping up with the others nor about the twists and turns and rocks and roots, I was able to think deep thoughts. Out of nowhere came the title of this piece.

I hang out with a lot of very good runners and know many current and former elite runners. When we put Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes together I sent around a little survey to the contributors, just about the time when the book was released to the public. One of the questions was: “Why do you run?”  To my surprise, although the wording varied a bit, I got more or less one answer: “Because I love it!”

What each person loved was probably rather different, but cutting through everything was this one pure idea.

In some ways, running is what makes us what we are as humans. It was the key to our early hunting/survival in many instances, suggesting it is in our genes or that we are ‘hard-wired’ to run.

I know that when I’m not in deep hurt late in a race, there is a joy and peace in my heart. For that matter, even when there is physical stress you can be feeling deeply that you would not rather be anywhere but where you are. When you finish, even if (and maybe especially when) it has been hard, you feel immense satisfaction, elation even.

Manning Park Trail

Manning Park Trail

Many of my running friends who have taken to the trails, pretty much abandon the roads because of how it feels to ‘run the woods’. I only just this second recalled this, but I do remember long ago times when I was in the woods of Manning Park with friends for a camping/fishing/hiking trip.  I needed to go back to our camp-site to get something, so I ran. As sometimes happens, this has flashed back to me with amazing clarity. I was young (19?) and very fit. I ran easily and effortlessly with the smell of the pines and maybe wild berries or something in the air. It was magical then and almost as much in the remembering of it. I had a mission, but there was no watch on me and nobody to beat. I could have hiked, but I ran because I could and because I wanted to. That simple. It was MAGICAL.

Running the track or roads has a charm too and frankly, I’m still there more often than in a forest. Although I (and most of the people I know) do race, there is nothing that says you have to race to be a runner. A lot of the Sunrunners used to race but haven’t done so in years. Some of my friends in the Pacific Road Runners are the same. Haven’t raced in years. Don’t need to. BUT, they still run. They do it because they like it.

Dogs run happy, but mostly they are goal driven – chasing a ball or stick, maybe another dog (play version of the hunt) or a mail carrier (oh wait, they aren’t supposed to do that, cars either).  I have no idea whatever, why they chase their tails! The only animal that I’m pretty sure runs for the fun of it is the horse. At one time they may have had to run to escape predators, but not so much these days. That said, stand around and watch a horse or a bunch of them in a pasture and at some point one of them will just up and start to run. Often they will kick their hind legs and dash around in what looks to me like pure joy. I’ve never discussed the matter with a horse directly, but that’s how it looks. Jockey’s of big time race horses often describe it as the horse wanting to run and race, with them just up there to steer and help control the pace so the horses get to a finish-line set by the humans, not the horses.

There is a saying that when the African antelope wakes, he just knows he must run faster than the fastest lion and when the lion awakes, he knows he must run faster than the slowest antelope. I concluded that humans find running primal because we don’t have to do it, but we do it anyway and most of us will say it is ‘just because’, because we love doing it.

Eugene Marathon - Passing Hayward Field

Eugene Marathon – Passing Hayward Field

As already noted, you certainly don’t have to race to run, but lots do. So what about all those racers, from the top elites to the weekend warriors? I asked a couple of runner/coaches about racing to running ratios within the programs of a wide range of runners. Consensus seems to be about 2-5% racing, depending on level. For instance, an elite marathoner will likely only run 2-3 marathons per year, possibly with a 5 or 10K thrown in here and there largely as ‘speed training’. Those folk often run 100 miles (160km) per week while in full training mode. The percentage of racing is a measly 1.5%! Top age groupers often run about 40-50 miles (65-80km) per week and if they are marathoners, will also run 2-3 per year. That makes their racing (including a few shorter distance races as part of the program) something in the range of 4%. When you get into the group of runners where I live most of the time, we tend to run less total miles/km and may actually race just a bit more, coming out at around 5%. This wasn’t meant to be highly technical, or complete (all forms of racing) or even perfectly accurate. I just wanted to point out that most people who race spend 95-98% of their running time, NOT racing.

There is another subset of runners to which I belong that clearly loves to run – the Marathon Maniac. We are different though and you maybe have to create a new definition of racing when it comes to the Maniacs. There are a good many of the now almost 10,000 Maniacs who are very good runners (if you are counting time). That said, the Maniac goal is completion of marathons, lots of marathons. Your recognition in the form of ‘Stars’ and levels such as Bronze (1 Star), Silver, Gold…….Titanium (10 Stars) depends on how many marathons you’ve completed, not how fast. This race/run ratio thing I introduced above gets all out of whack when talking about Maniacs. Last year, while pursuing a mere 2 Star rating, my racing hit nearly 25%.  That’s right, I ‘raced’ nearly  25% of the total distance I ran. Part of the reason is that your races become your training when you do the Maniac thing. Even at the lower end of things where I was, it is all race, taper, race. Not much long distance training between the races. So, for the racing purist the question quickly arises as to whether or not you ran your very best in all those races. Well, I can say for myself that I ran the best I could under the circumstances, but can’t really say I did my absolute best. I didn’t train to that goal. Maniacs have a competitive spirit, but their prize is not one fast time, a new PR. It is a new level in the Maniac pecking order. It is a mighty undertaking, but just not in the sphere of racing as most define it. Still, how can you possibly run 4 marathons in 4 days (called a Quadzilla) or 52 in 52 weeks, and not love running?  How? Although the situation is different, I think my thesis still stands.

Lead Women - Boston Marathon 2009

Lead Women – Boston Marathon 2009

Of course, elite runners have a lot of motivations to train hard and run fast, but in the greater scheme of things only a tiny handful are making big money, so that can only be part of the driving force. When you consider the costs of following this path at the expense of other careers, few make back the difference through winnings. Here we are then, back at the question of ‘why do you run?’. I know a fair number of older, once world class runners, who with the perspective of time seem to look back on how running made them feel and the great experiences they had, even in defeat and hardship. And, before someone says: “Well it is the competition!”, I consider the competitive aspect to be part of the joy of running. It feels good to be fast, and for some, to be first.

It seems like the answer comes down to there being something (maybe even different for each person) that makes running satisfying and produces joy in us. We run because we can, and maybe for some, because we must! I tell you, it is primal.

THE MARATHON – A REFLECTIVE PERSPECTIVE

05.30.2014

 

The Magical Distance of the Marathon

The Magical Distance of the Marathon

“I’d say that on any given outing you’re going to get in maybe 22K of glory. Then there is going to be 10K of blah, 7K of agony, 3K of…well let’s not talk about that 3K.”

Hands up, those who don’t think this is about right!

I didn’t create that opening quote.  For proper attribution, the opening is a quote by Rob Watson, taken from the print edition of “Canadian Running” (May/June 2014).

But, I COULD have said it. I really, really could have!

For anyone who doesn’t know, Rob Watson is one of Canada’s pretty spectacular current crop of top flight marathoners and trains with the BC Endurance Project. Frankly, Canada may never have seen such a concentration of long distance running talent as we enjoy right now: Dylan Wykes, Eric Gillis, Reid Coolsaet, Kelly Weibe, and do not for a minute forget Lanni Marchant, Krista Duschene or Natasha Wodak, not to mention Kim Doerksen who just served notice of intent at the last BMO Vancouver Marathon.

But, let’s get back to Rob and his quote. Rob has lots of quotes to quote. Rob is colourful. Rob tells it how he sees it! If you watched the 2013 elite field of the Boston Marathon, Rob was the tall skinny white guy in the black New Balance gear who was in the lead for a LOT of the first half. When I saw him later, after congratulating him on his 11th place finish, I ventured a question to the effect of why didn’t you let some of those tiny dark hued chaps from Africa lead the way? His answer was something along the lines that they were all playing ‘silly bugger’ and messing up his pace. They were going slow, then fast, then weaving across the road. You know, racing. He said he just decided to run as he had trained and let things go as they might, remarking that inevitably he was “passed by eight angry Africans” and that was that. I don’t believe they were actually angry at all, but I doubt I will ever forget Rob’s description of the moment! Oh yes, he also describes his racing strategy as ‘Fade from the Front’.

Enough of that though. What about his description of the basic marathon?

Rob Watson at the Ottawa Marathon

Rob Watson at the Ottawa Marathon

The reason I was so taken with it is that a guy who I consider to be one of our best, described the marathon pretty much as I experience it. And, we all know I am nowhere near where Rob and his friends are running.

What struck me about his summary was that when you put everything into your training (in context), then take the race seriously and go out to do the best you can, THAT is pretty much what you experience. I’ve heard other elites express similar ideas. In a way, it seems to confirm that the marathon is mostly between our ears. Mostly, Rob describes feelings: glory, blah, agony. OK, agony could be physical but it is also a perception (as in “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”) and includes the raging self-doubt that kicks in when, as hard as you try, you can’t push any harder.

Reading the whole (relatively short) Canadian Running article on the marathon, he hits so many ‘nails’ on the head where it comes to the why’s of pushing ourselves to and through this possibly un-natural activity. It was so great to hear that mentally or psychologically, even this old back of the packer, perceives the marathon more or less the same way as a front runner, notwithstanding the two hour time difference. The relativity of our pace can never be denied, but the similarity of experience is amazing – to me, anyway.

What is it that draws or drives us to the marathon?

There is doubtlessly a mystique to it. It has symbolically become significant to legions of runners and even non-runners who take on a long-term quest to complete a marathon. I have run a 50K Ultra, mostly because I desperately wanted a new PB and at my age, there is no standard distance at which I could possibly go faster than I did some 25 years ago (whence come all my pure PB results). This only matters in that I vividly recall taking note as I ‘crossed’ the marathon threshold, into new territory. I felt a sense of elation as I recognized both that I WAS in said ‘new territory’ and that I had a mere 7.8km to go to reach the 50K finish. Even though I was running my first ultra, the marathon was still the bench-mark.

When first I started this relationship with the marathon, it was more for the serious runner. The clock in that first race came down at four hours. Before I ran my second, some twelve years had passed. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to run another one, as much as it was that other things got in the way and at least in the earlier years of those twelve, there just weren’t as many opportunities as we have today. I did start out to run #2 a couple of times, but failed to even reach  a start line until October, 2000.

Absolute finish time hasn’t generally been a big issue for me, as long as the effort was the best I could muster. I think a lot of people run that way. None of us controls the weather and no matter how hard we’ve trained, we can only optimize our outcome ‘on the day’. If you expect to run between 10C and 15C and it is 22C at the start, you are already into Plan B, maybe even Plan C. Courses are different too. When you have run for as long as I have, especially when you were already about 40 when you started, age becomes a factor. Your goals must reflect this reality, a primary reason that I love Age Grading. It allows us to make our performances relative over a long period of time. In that respect, it is more important for me to hold my age-graded % Performance constant than to run any particular time, pure or age-graded. Naturally, one can backtrack from the Performance Standard to a goal time for the purposes of pacing and such. As I said, I hardly think I am alone in this.

There is no doubt that it is legitimate to have a goal to simply finish a marathon. For various reasons at various times, I have had that kind of goal. Most of what I’m saying here though, is related to training well and running as well as you can, whatever that might be. At one time that meant 3:20-3:30 for me. Now, it means under 5:00.

Me, faking it in those "3km" at BMO Vancouver Marathon 2014

Me, faking it in those “3km”

Rob Watson and his marathon buddies probably can’t imagine ever running at that pace, maybe not even my best pace. Of course, I sometimes wonder when I could run 3:24 at the age of 43, what I might have done at 30! BUT, I wasn’t running at 30. That said, if I truly believe in the magic of age-graded results, I could estimate that my PB-30 would have been around 3:14, but that also assumes that my first marathon was actually the best of which I was capable (rather than the best I ever did), and while respectable, it is not amazing. That isn’t really the point anyway. The age grading tables, reversing the process, would then say for me to match what I did in 1988 would require that I run 4:24:45 today. Given that I have a (well documented in these pages) physical issue over and above simple aging, it is probably more fair to make the comparison to what I did in 2010 at age 65, which grades out as my 2nd best marathon effort. On that basis I need to run 4:40:20. That sounds more or less right, everything taken into account. And remember, at all times we compare apples to oranges because there are course and weather differences, both of which are outside our control. The assumption also includes good training, good health, good rest, good nutrition and race prep, or at least that all of these would be the same. Naturally, they never are.

Anyway, let’s get back to the deep subject of the ‘Meaning of the Marathon’. There is still this thing that makes us dig down for our best and dig so deep that we are willing to deal with 7K of agony and that 3K we aren’t even going to talk about. At the front end, we sometimes see races where the object of the exercise is to win and others where the object is to obliterate the course, national or world record. Our Rob was in one of those this past Sunday. It was the Canadian National Marathon Championship at the Ottawa Marathon. Rob came in as defending champ, but left #2 behind the above-mentioned Eric Gillis. If you want to read about it, Rob describes it at Le Blog du Rob #113. The marathon record BY a Canadian was never threatened by either, but the marathon record ON CANADIAN SOIL was not only challenged, it was hammered down to 2:06:53. However, the winner Yemane Tsegay of Ethiopia had been aiming to go 2:05’ish. He seemed almost apologetic in his win and record. It wasn’t what he intended/hoped. In this case it was probably mostly weather – just too chilly for him in the early going. That’s racing!

Now let’s get back to ME!  By ME, I mean all the people like me, and by that I mean the me who could run under 3:30 at one time and who are now pushing the 5 hour barrier. I’ve gone through some real soul searching in the last 18 months or so on my marathoning and the future thereof. Rob will probably never know how much his little article in Canadian Running influenced my present state of mind. If the reader has followed this blog at all, it will be well-known that I spent 2013 ‘playing’ Marathon Maniac. By that, I mean I joined the Maniacs (based on a qualifying set of races in 2008), then decided it was insufficient to just sit there on what I did five years back. With a conscious decision, I set out to qualify to be at LEAST a Two Star Maniac. Although there are a couple of ways to achieve this, I elected the six marathons in six months route. I did it. I got my second star. Yay me!

You would assume that would make me happy, and you would be right on one level. I set a challenge and achieved the necessary goal. There is just one thing wrong with my friends over there at the Asylum”. They don’t officially care about time (a good thing re my Two Stars). Turns out, I DO.

Except the first marathon of 2013, which I guess I did run to my best on the day (turned out to be 7th best age-graded and under five hours), all the rest I did were something over 5 hours. I knew from the start that this was part of what would be necessary. No regrets at all. However, what I did learn through that stretch was that I do not like running below the standard of which I feel I am capable. At my most recent marathon in early May 2014 (BMO Vancouver Marathon) I REALLY experienced that 3K that shall not be mentioned.

On the day, I was incapable of processing two things that should have let me off the hook, at least a little. My ‘marathon mind’ wouldn’t have it. The weather was crappy (I believe that is a meteorological term). And, through some strange mental process of denial, I had magically erased 2013 from my memory (and the 8 marathons, 50K ultra and couple of each of half marathons, 10K’s, 8K’s and 5K’s I had done in the 12 months leading up to Vancouver). It had not been erased from my body. So there I was grinding out those last few kilometres toward the finish line, thinking I was glad it was raining so nobody could see my sad, frustrated tears as I thought about this as the last marathon I would even enter.

It only took a couple of days and a couple of kind friends to help me sort through it a bit, and then on Sunday at a race of a mere 8K, I ran into my ‘arch rival’ Ben. I think that really cemented everything in place in terms of context and expectation.  Of late, including Sunday, I have been able to outrace Ben, but on May 4 he nailed me by a good five minutes, but at a time that I couldn’t imagine he would be all that thrilled about. Was I ever wrong. I have no idea if he thinks he could run faster under different circumstances such as training or course difficulty, but in this instance he evaluated his realistic goal and then did better, and was thrilled! I (apparently) over-estimated my capability in the circumstances and ‘failed’, or at least thought I did. Thanks for the perspective, Ben!

The marathon is magical. It is demanding beyond the imagination of those who have never tried it, and can be cruel. It is rewarding beyond the imagination of anyone who has never finished one. It offers infinite possibilities to runners. We are only as good as we are. Running a marathon to our potential is always fulfilling (a word that is insufficient). I am actually now looking at my extreme disappointment re my run in Vancouver as a sure sign that I have not lost the mystique of the marathon in my heart and my soul, a sure sign that as slow as I might be now, I am still a serious marathoner. I have written this in hopes that others might ponder and be inspired by the words of Rob Watson that formed the lead for this essay and my perspective from the other end of the spectrum.

I think much of this just affirms my long held belief that: The marathon is more a state of mind than a distance. (Oh, and that one is mine!)

Good running!  Good marathoning!

 

STATUES MAKE ME RUN BETTER!

05.12.2014

Good grief, what is he talking about now?!?

Harry Jerome - Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

Harry Jerome – Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

I realized lately when a Facebook page I ‘belong’ to posted a cover photo of the bronze statue of Harry Jerome in Stanley Park, that ‘Harry’ has inspired me a good many times, including in the closing stages of the just completed Vancouver Marathon. The way the ‘new’ BMO Vancouver Marathon and Half Marathon courses go, both routes pass right by Harry in his eternal lunge for the tape. At that point there is about 3km to go to the finish of both events. It might be a bit early to be thinking about ‘chesting’ the tape, but it is a sure sign that you are almost there; a sure sign that it is time to dig down and put everything out that you have left.

When I had that deep thought, it made me realize there is another statue that has often given me a shot of courage to bear down to the finish of a race I often do.  It is Terry Fox, at ‘Mile Zero’ at the corner of Beacon Hill Park in Victoria. The distance to the finish of the Goodlife Victoria Marathon is coincidentally just about 3km from the finish, but when you are running the marathon, you are indeed ‘almost there‘.

Now, I don’t really care who you are or how fast or slow, when you are that close to the end of a long race (both the half and full marathon routes in both cities, pass by Terry and Harry), you do need inspiration to take it home to the finish. I have certainly had that inspiration a good many times.

Terry Fox - 'Mile Zero' at Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, BC

Terry Fox – ‘Mile Zero’ at Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, BC

Terry Fox is an inspiration to all, and although I never met him personally, I have met several members of his family (more than once) and I know Doug Alward, his friend who drove the van for Terry and who also contributed to Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes.

Harry Jerome is also an inspiration to a great many, but maybe less generally known and more a hero in running circles. The difference is that I did know Harry from way back in my own track and field days when we were both running with the same Track Club.

I don’t know how many others use these two guys (or at least their iconic images) the way I do, but if you don’t, maybe you should. Terry Fox has definitely helped get me to the Victoria finish a good many times. There is even a coincidental matter that the statue was officially dedicated the same day that the book, Running in the Zone, was officially launched at the Victoria Marathon Race Expo.

It is pretty hard to feel sorry for yourself as you pass that statue just off to the right and are reminded of what Terry took on with his Marathon of Hope, and what he has inspired afterwards. Still, when I go by that corner with muscles burning, back stiffening up and my head once again reminding me that only some kind of idiot would be doing this, seeing Terry there, ‘frozen’ in the middle of his ‘hop-step’ running technique, I have called out for his help to dig down for those last couple of K’s. It works pretty much every time!

Harry Jerome’s story is less known, especially to the younger folk, but if you need to brush up on his history, find the movie ‘Mighty Jerome’ and be prepared to be amazed. Harry also died young, but not in a similar way to Terry Fox. Still it was a shock. He also overcame severe physical trauma to run fast enough to set a world record. Doctors said, after basically ripping his quads to shreds, that he would never run again – maybe never walk properly. Although I truly did know Harry as a kid, I am not going to tell you I knew him well or that we were buddies. Still, watching him train and the work ethic he displayed, it was not surprising to see him refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer and to come back so strongly that he did set another world record AFTER he recovered. Harry had another physical handicap. He was black. We don’t like to think that is an issue here, but watch the documentary ‘Mighty Jerome’ and you will understand how he was also an inspiration in the world of racial equality, in most cases with a quiet determined approach, yet relentless. Harry Jerome was a man who made a difference.

So, you can see that it is not difficult to find inspiration from that bronze sprinter, forever leaning into an imaginary tape alongside Coal Harbour. The location is very appropriate because while there is still a modest little track at Brockton Point, back in the days when Harry was ‘the man’ in Canadian sprinting, Brockton Oval was the place where it all happened here in Vancouver. My own school (King Edward High) had no track so we would find our way to Brockton Oval, one way or another, for track workouts. I have a long personal history with running in that end of Stanley Park, and apparently so did Harry, even if that is not where I actually ran with him on Club nights.

In any case, now that the BMO Vancouver Marathon and Half Marathon (Seawall and road, respectively) pass right by Harry, I am thrilled to have another inspirational statue to get me through that last bit to the finish. It has certainly helped twice now (the Half in 2012 and now the full marathon just a few days ago, in 2014). That is not to say that I’ve not been motivated by Harry a good many times on training runs often done in Stanley Park, but a race is different!

These are just some personal ramblings, but I wanted to say something both about personal motivators and in this case about those who have provided me with that motivation. I wonder how many others are motivated exactly as I am by these same two memorial statues? How many have their own similar motivating symbols on these or other race routes? I guess you really don’t have to have a physical thing like a statue, it could be something in your head – a person, a memory, whatever, but today I’m on about emblems or images like the Terry Fox and Harry Jerome statues, which were actually not placed where they are to motivate anyone to a particular race finish, but now can serve to do so. And, just to be clear, those statues are the reminder. It is what/who they represent that is the source of motivation and inspiration.

Run on!

QUADZILLA – PART 2

05.01.2014

JOURNEY INTO THE ASYLUM – BECOMING MARATHON MANIAC #8254/ HALF FANATIC #5819

[Editor’s Note: We Marathon Maniacs (I’m one too – 2 Star/Silver) describe ourselves as ‘members of the Asylum’. There are now something approaching 9,200 Maniacs (hard to keep up with, as so many are joining – I am Maniac #6837 and I only joined just over a year ago). Maniacs display various levels of crazy, starting with ‘one star’ or ‘bronze’. Jordan decided to start in the middle by banging off a Quadzilla (4 in 4 days) for SIX Stars and an Osmium level. The top is 10 Stars and Titanium. Don’t ask what you need for that!]

Only Real Maniacs Can Explain the Cat.

Only Real Maniacs Can Explain the Cat.

The Quadzilla is something I knew immediately that I could do. 4 marathons in 4 days… It’s like drinking 4 pints in a row immediately without stopping. You know its possible… but will likely be a struggle, and something not repeated in the immediate future.

Below are the hard #’s and very brief nuts & bolts of what transpired over 4 days. I decided to remove what I had originally written as I felt the performances could speak for themselves…

I wasn’t the fastest or the slowest… but am certainly proud to be part of the asylum as maniac #8254.

RESULTS: http://seattlequadzilla.com/2013results.pdf

TYPICAL QUADZILLA DAY [Repeat X 4]:

6:00-6:30    wake up, oatmeal & a cuppa

6:45             leave for the race

7:30             arrive at race

8:00             race start

8:15             1 mile [bathroom break] – I didn’t want to wait in lines at the race start

9:15             finding a comfortable spot in the race after passing a portion of the field for the last hour

9:30-45                 halfway

11:30-45     finish & proceed to stand in lake or ice in parking lot

1:00            shower, some food, bodywork, maybe a nap

2:30            out wandering | expo | random restaurants, beer?

6:00            dinner and beer

8:00            12hr to race, nothing new (food or booze]

9:00            asleep

 

MARATHON # 1 | Wattle Waddle – Thursday, Nov 28

  • http://www.wattlewaddle.com/home/results
  • 3:23:20
  • 3rd overall
  • Great first run, damp & foggy, gave it too much gas in the middle of the run, in part because of nerves, intentionally slowed at the 20mile from a 3:05 pace to “rescue’ the weekend, my favorite race of the weekend, most thoughtful shwag, it most felt like an ultra, and it was on [2nd] Thanksgiving. Enjoyed lots of turkey and beer

 

Finishing the "Wishbone"

Finishing the “Wishbone”

MARATHON # 2 | Grampa’s Wishbone – Friday, Nov 29

  • http://www.wishbonerun.com/results-1
  • 3:35:52
  • 3rd overall
  • Stiff in the morning, felt great as soon as I was moving, ran in brand new pair of shoes, pace felt awkward entire race,  Newton paced me for 10miles. Loved the fresh blueberry pancakes at the finish. Dropped into the Seattle Marathon Expo, saw friends, ate lots of random food, wasn’t following any of my own race advice I give to others or my plan

 

MARATHON # 3 | Ghost of Seattle – Saturday, Nov 30

  • http://www.nwultras.com/results/Seattle%20Ghost%202013%20Marathon%20Results.pdf
  • 3:28:11
  • 9th overall
  • “Groundhog day” by Saturday, beautiful but a touch windy, mentally my strongest and most rewarding day. Newton dropped in and paced me for 8km [5 miles] at 4:15/km at the 20mile mark, just enough to get me in under 3:30. Very happy with the effort & pacing, felt ready for Sunday. A well organized race – had an amazing dinner with family.

 

MARATHON # 4 | Seattle – Sunday, Dec 1

  • http://www.seattlemarathon.org/marathon/results.php
  • 3:32:18
  • 251st overall
  • Largest crowds, my Achilles was on fire after the first mile bathroom break. Questioned if I should run through the pain. Felt a bit weird to be running with so many people after 3 small events. The hill at mile 20, I was prepared for, the wind on the I-90, but especially on the last 5km destroyed me, lost 90sec for each of the last 3mi (5km), just over 3:30.

 

The "Evidence" of a Quadzilla

The “Evidence” of a Quadzilla

PARTING THOUGHTS

Some people think getting up with a coffee and cigarette in the morning is insane. For others, running seems ludicrous. Some runners might think sitting on a bike for 8 hours is just pain. Marathoners think people who run ultramarathons (over 26.2min | 42.2km) are slightly off-kilter…4 marathons in 4 days is just asking for an injury. Everything is relative.

There is always a line for people. Always something longer, tougher and more challenging… Norseman, Furnace Creek, Barkley… I’ve hoped would all draw my name [still do]… the point is, that most weekends, [this weekend, in this town], someone, somewhere, will be on a start line, & someone will do something they may not have thought possible… something powerful beyond measure.

Inspiration is cliché in endurance sports. We’re all looking for that boost to lace up our shoes, climb aboard the saddle or get to the pool/ gym/ Pilates and get out the door when the legs ache and the weather grumbles. But a group of 40 regular runners attempting multiple marathons in a single holiday weekend… shifting the paradigm of how a marathon goal is viewed, pushing their own personal boundaries— that’s inspiration. I consider myself inexplicably lucky to have joined the Marathon Maniacs I’m own journey into the Asylum. I left the Seattle Centre on Sunday with an incredible sense of inspiration — from the veterans like Steve Walters, Super Sabrina, and Brad, who I wanted to mimic, to the working moms and dads, retired couples who ran more that weekend than they had all year; from the support crews of the smaller races, to my family, which included Andrew, Janine, their kids Hailey & David, my folks who offered a place to sleep and familiar faces at the finish, to Turbo & Frenchy for kickin’ my butt at 5am 4days a week for 2 months with weights & yoga, and to the creative mind I bounced my run training off of, and paced me in two of the marathons, Newton Hoang.

Female, male, young, old, it doesn’t matter. Tackling 4 marathons or just over 100 miles in four days is a feat. Simulating many challenges I suspect Tour riders or multi-stage desert marathons have… and gave me a tangible perspective on what we ran, and furthered my belief that the current local talent like Ellie Greenwood, Gary Robbins, Rob Watson [& too many locals in a variety of sports to name in this blog], and veterans like Jack Taunton, Ean “Action” Jackson, & Jim Swadling, are, well… superhuman, and have my sincere respect. Jumping in head first into this challenge, travelling solo, despite not knowing anyone in the races, or knowing the courses, or who I could run with, the atmosphere at each start line every morning, and the finish lines midday, created a camaraderie that could not be simulated in any other capacity.

I hope the experience, that start line is a driving force for every athlete. Whether you’ve just bought your first bike to start commuting to work, or you’re thinking of riding your first century, or doing your first triathlon, or running your first marathon this weekend, or even those of us who have been around the block with multiple disciplines of racing, but never made it beyond “seasoned local” … no matter what your goals may be, they are possible. Whether you’re male or female, there is no real difference between the beginner and the elite in the grand scheme of it all. At the end of the day, it’s “all good compadre”, the time on that clock doesn’t matter… we can still enjoy a beer together…. intentional or not, the instances in which we come together, push each other, gasping for air, and ignoring the inevitable burning in our legs, are the pinnacles of the experience.

[Editor’s Final Notes: Jordan Myers is far more than an athlete. He is thoughtful about it and always has interesting perspectives. He lives in the world of events, both officially and formally (making an income that way) but also as a frequent volunteer, as a competitor and sometimes both. More than a lot of people, he really seems to get that running, biking, triathlon are a continuum of effort/performance from the very best of the elites to the very last life experience participant. And, he openly and enthusiastically celebrates and supports all those levels of effort.

Jordan, like many others, is a “Double Agent”, that is both a Marathon Maniac and Half Fanatic. If you think you might be either/both and want to find out or set a goal for yourself, just follow the links. You can find out what all those levels and criteria are about, too. Although there are some excellent runners in both groups, there is a different approach. Nobody cares how fast you go. Let’s face it nobody can do PB’s AND volume at the same time.]