Marathon Recap

Here's my attempt at giving you a flavor of what my race was like, how I was feeling at the time, and what my lessons learned were.

After experiencing many pre-race nights I know well that I should not expect to get a good night's sleep. Or much of any sleep for that matter. I don't try too hard, I just take what may come my way in the form of shut eye and I don't worry. I know that I will get some sleep, but more importantly I know that I have what it takes to complete my race. Of course sleep is important but not as crucial as a beginner thinks. I guess that I get about 3-4 hours of broken up sleep the night before a race and have learned that for my body, the thrill, excitement, and energy that will accompany me the next day is all I need to see me to the end.

I got out of bed at 5am and ate my regular pre-race meal; Grape Nuts Flakes, milk and half a banana. Although I am a big morning coffee drinker I do not drink coffee before a race because the extra liquid is not a good idea. My daughters and I started our 80 minute drive to Lansing around 5:30 and had a nice drive. Found parking in the same spot as last year, right down the block from packet pickup. Packet pick went smoothly although they did not have shirts for us. They were taking runner's address information to mail them at a later date. Oh well, it's not like I need another race shirt. I remember when I first started racing how important those shirts were, simply because I did own any decent running clothes. Now I'd just as soon save on the race price by foregoing the shirt.

With bibs in hand we could rest easy and relax our minds before the race, As if? As you sit in your car waiting to walk to the starting line your mind is itself racing with anxious thoughts about the 26.2 mile run your are about to embark on. Am I ready? Will I finish? Will I get injured? Will my known running issues rear up and destroy me? And on and on. Not much you can do about this except to meditate on the positives.

So how do you mentally prepare in the last moments? Most runners have put in a lot of time and effort preparing for their race. So this is what you tell yourself, " I'm ready, because I've done the work. My body is capable of this feat and my mind is focused. " that's it, now go run!

About half an hour before race start I eat a chocolate leben (kinda like yogurt, kinda) and a caffeine pill. Remember I am a a big coffee guy and appreciate my jolt of a legal stimulant. Caffeine also helps mask pain during endurance sports. Now it's off to the race. The National Anthem was sung (pretty nice job I might add), about 7 minutes before the gun and we stopped to pay our respects. It's gratifying to see everyone stop what their doing, bow their heads and meditate on country. We then walked to the starting chute and found what we thought would be our pace, 9:00. The runners of the half were the overwhelming majority of runners. I still find it quite amazing to be in the company of thousands of people who are just like you - where running is concerned. There's loads of excitement at the start and it's electrifying. Every so often you get that twinge of fear about what's ahead but it's quickly squashed by the hooting and jostling of runners.

Maybe there was a gun shot at the start or maybe there was not, in any case the mass of us surged forward. We were off on our 3rd marathon!

I run with my phone for the Runkeeper app and Amazon Prime music. A fitness client of mine gave me his PowerBeats earbuds to use and I really enjoyed being wireless. The most useful feature of Runkeeper is that it tells me what my average pace is. I have it set to announce this every 5 minutes and every .25 miles. I can then easily correct my speed. Probably the most common mistake that runners make is starting their race too fast. If you use too much precious energy early on you may not have enough late in the race. I'm a believer in maintaining a constant pace throughout. 

Since my daughter had a scaled back training cycle I thought she would need encouragement from me during the race. So I would announce to her our running stats every half mile or so. She's a fast runner so I knew I would have to hold her back early on. She later told me that she could barely hear me over her music. Oh well, I had good intentions.

The first 5 miles are kinda boring for us because the course follows a major street. I much prefer quiet, closed in, tree lined bike paths to an urban environment. Also we were running due East right into the sun. We finally turned off and the next section was much nicer. The run is going great and we're averaging 8:40 - 8:45. We feel good and think we can sustain this pace. We ran together with the half marathon runners and this can pose a mental challenge to us. We need to remember that they have half the distance to run and and are probably going to do it much faster than we should be running. Know your pace - stay with your pace!

I remember running the Detroit marathon a few years back. At the half way point the runners of the Detroit US half marathon begin their race. Now, they are fresh having just started and full of vigor. You have to ignore what they are doing and do not follow them. The same is true in the reverse. I once ran the Detroit US half marathon and wanted to do my best so I had to ignore the runners of the full who were already tired and moving a lot slower than I who just started would be.

The sun was out and it was getting warmer. We bring our own Powerade and kept hydrating throughout. We bring 3 gels (I like the Clif Shot Double Espresso. It has 100mg of caffeine!) We eat our fuel every 6 miles starting at mile 6. You have to get the fuel in you before you need it. When we hit some farm country around mile 11 the scenery got pretty boring again. There were gentle rolling hills that still take extra energy to crest. At mile 15 I'm beginning to feel discomfort in my right hip. I'm afraid that I'm now in for another challenging 11 miles. I am right!

The pain in my hip caused a cascade of issues all the way down to my right foot and over to my left foot. Pain on one side can cause you to make changes in your gait and thus a problem elsewhere. I knew from past marathons that I was in for a difficult second half. We kept pushing mile after mile until 22.25 where I had to stop. I have never stopped during a race. We welcomed a short walk and started up again. We were a lot slower now but still looking to make good time. In the back of our minds we just could not see finishing in anything less than 9:00min/mile. We were struggling, there was no doubt about it. We had run out of Powerade so at the mile 24 water stop we took 4 cups of water each to fill our own water bottles. Then it was back to grind out 2.2 more miles.

The last mile was torture for me. At this point I'm telling my daughter to run ahead by herself so she can achieve better time. She refused to leave my side and instead encourages me to keep going. About .5 mile from the finish we can hear the music, announcer and the cheering. What wonderful sounds. It did not alleviate any of my pain but it lifted my heart. Up one small bridge, down the chute and across the finish line.

3:55:27 an average 9:00 minutes per mile

Lessons learned:

- A long run (preferably 2), of 18 miles is the longest you need to prepare for the marathon and those long runs are best run the day after a medium length run. This strategy teaches you to run long on tired legs.

- If you know that you have a specific muscle issue, (such as my self diagnosed HIRD - Hip Internal Rotation Deficit) don't ignore it during your training cycle. I got it under control for my last marathon and finished in 3:42 but did not give it the attention it needed this time around. I suffered for it!

- Even after a less than stellar training cycle you can still do well in your race. I finished in the top %25 of all finishers and 6th in my age group. My daughter finished 1st in her age group!

- Most people run and race solo. Be forever grateful if you have a partner in this endeavor and all the more so if you have someone like my daughter who sticks with you to the end!


After the Capital City River Run Marathon, September 18, 2016. All smiles but dying on the inside.






1 Comment

Runners Angst

After I ran the Detroit Free Press Marathon in October 2015, and finished in 3:42, I set my sights on running my next marathon to finish in under 3:40. This would qualify me for the 2017 Boston Marathon at age 55. Shaving 2 minutes off my time would take a thoughtful approach to my training and of course great effort. I felt that this was all within my reach.

Well it's been an eventful year and much has transpired. My training partner and I started the Spring running season with a really cool half (Rock CF Rivers) that ran the circumference of Grosse Isle, a large island not far from Downtown Detroit in the Detroit River. Being that it was a March race it was challenging to get our long runs done outside do to weather constraints. I ended up running a 12 miler on the treadmill and suffered for it. We did not feel truly ready for this race but I ended with a 1:42 finish which made me happy. My daughter won her age group! I came in 13th in mine.

In May we ran the Back to the Beach half. This one was unique to us because it included trails. Of course trail running requires more energy and concentration so it had a couple added challenges. I finished at 1:46 and 6th in my age group.

The next week we tried out one of the Run Michigan Cheap runs in Northville. Its definitely a bear bones event. Don't run these if you're looking for race bling, chip timing, and lots of volunteers to cheer you on. The course is nice, (Hines Drive) and so are the people. It was kinda hot and for half the race I ran with some run clients. I finished in 1:50.

I also ran the 8 mile perimeter of Mackinac Island and the next morning I ran across the Mackinac Bridge. (The post picture is of me at the finish.)

In June we started our marathon training schedule and this where things start to breakdown. My training partner/daughter got engaged and was married in mid June. Her availability to run with me was severely diminished. Add to that her demanding college schedule and you can see how running will take a hit. Couple this with the hot and humid summer and you find yourself missing valuable outdoor running.

I am disappointed but I'm not complaining. I still ran 71, 46, 90, 100 miles May-August, so it's not like I sat around all Summer. I got in two 18 milers one of which I ran solo.

So where does that leave me? Well, on Sunday September 18 my daughter and I will run the Capital City River Run Marathon. Although one should not say never, it's doubtful either of us could sustain a 8:24/mile for the the full 26.2 (this would qualify me for Boston). That said we will take what comes and do our best.

Remember fellow runners and those who care about this stuff, anytime you complete 26.2 miles of non-stop running you are a winner!



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King Squat


King Squat

Yes Yes Yes, I love squats. As a fitness coach and guide to many people with varied fitness levels and goals, I keep one exercise constant. SQUATS! Nobody is spared from this activity for a very simple reason. Squats are the single most important and relevant strength building exercise you can do.

If you search the web for benefits that can be attained from doing squats you will find lists from 5 to 20. I've read many meaningful and some bizarre benefits attributed to the squat. Much is written about how it will shape your backside, and even increase hormone production. I have a very real life gain that can be had after performing squats regularly. It's quite simple - you will be able to get in and out of a chair.

So most of you who read this blog are thinking that I have lost touch with reality. Surely the majority of readers have mastered this activity and find no challenge whatsoever in siting into a chair and standing up from it. I can certainly agree with your thinking, but what will you say when you're 65 or 80. Since humans loose %1 of their muscle strength starting at age 50, that puts you at a %15 strength reduction by age 65. That's significant. So when will you start working on your upper leg strength? When you find it challenging to go up a flight of stairs, or getting in and out of the car?

You know that you want to keep your independence and to hold on to the ability to take care of yourself. A large part of the equation that will keep you in control of your life is having muscular strength and in particular, lower body strength. My recommendation is to start doing squats today and to continue doing them every day for the rest of your life. I am not suggesting that you spend lots of time on this endeavor. 3 minutes a day is enough time to do 2 sets of squats. Start with 10 repetitions per set and work your way up to 20 per set. 

There is a lot to talk about how to do a squat with the proper form, but for now just start and make fitness squatting a regular activity and you will reap the awesome benefits.


But I'm Tired


But I'm Tired

Everything in creation has its limits. From the most basic elements to the highest of all beings - man, all have something that limits growth or action. This fact does not detract from the greatness of this universe nor the mind boggling complexities within it. Humans are the one phenomena that may take exception to this truth. As thinking beings, humans want more for themselves, be it physical or spiritual. Man does not want to be held back from his desires or dreams. 

Claiming that the creator has placed limits on man's potential is just an excuse because man can reach most of what he wants. It is truly remarkable what people can accomplish when real commitment and perseverance are put into play. Most of the limits man has are self imposed.

As a fitness trainer I encounter this often. The clients who put the time and sweat into their sessions absolutely see results. Because of the effort they expend, they get stronger, increase their mobility and most importantly, feel better and are happier. These people come to their session even though they are tired. They come even though there is a distraction that day, or some other excuse to cancel. 

I too have this challenge in my own workouts and running. I know well that I will have to work hard to get myself to where I want to be with my fitness in general and specifically with my running. I know that I have to get the miles behind me or I wont reach my goals. So I push myself and I am happier for it.

So stop making excuses. Push yourself. Reach your goals. You are human and capable of great things!