Since Fort Dodge, my body seems to want no part of recovery.  I haven’t hurt this bad post-race EVER!  Austin’s hills didn’t beat me down this bad.  Even last year’s Des Moines half off of my foot injury (where my foot went numb) didn’t leave me in this kind of post-race pain.  I feel like a great big knot, and still need some time to mellow out before getting back to the trails.

To kill some time (and honestly keep me from going crazy), I’m going to fill in a survey I’ve found a few other bloggers posting.  It’s like those annoying things we get on Facebook, or used to mass email back in the day.

Best Run Ever
Tough not to go with Fort Dodge 2012; my half-marathon PR that propelled me to my marathon PR.  I ran a really even, end-to-end race at a pace that raised the bar for me.  I had some adrenaline flowing as I crossed the finish line of that race.  It was a tremendous day.

Three Words That Describe My Running
Unlikely.  Slow.  Personal.

I’m seriously one of the most unlikely people to have turned into a marathoner.  The longest I ever ran before starting a marathon training schedule was 1.5 miles.  Seriously, longest run ever…1.5 miles.  The journey still surprises me.

I chose slow because I’m routinely among the last few of my age group at every race.  I do compete in one of the more competitive age groups, but I’m still not the quickest of runners.  Boston will likely never be a race I get to run, I’m just not fast enough.

Lastly, personal.  The entire journey is very personal to me.  I rarely run with anyone.  I don’t stay with groups (pace groups or otherwise) on race day.  It’s my race, it’s my run.

My Go-To Running Outfit
Seriously?  Umm, I think it might have something to do with powder blue.

I Won’t Run Outside When…
Lightning!  I’ll run the snow provided I can get some sort of decent footing.  I’ll run the rain if it’s not completely pouring.  If it’s bitterly cold then I’ll head inside for the treadmill.  But really lightning is the only complete chase off.  Probably had too many close calls with lightning on the golf course and at baseball games when I was younger.  No more.

Worst Injury – And How I Got Over It
Plantar Fasciitis, and I’m not really over it…I deal with it.  My foot is a lot better than when I originally injured it, but it still bothers me frequently.  I’ve recently purchased a night splint to see if that has any effects, but I’m at least to the point where I can live with the odd feeling in my left foot.

I Felt Most Like a Badass Runner When…
I crossed the Fargo Marathon Finish Line.  I finally put together a complete race at the distance I love…then had nothing left for a celebration.  That was what did it for me.  I knew I’d left it all on the race course and it showed in the result.  It was also the first marathon that I finished in the top half of those that started (although I was not in the top half of the finishers due to the DNFs).

Potential Running Goal for 2013
Marathon PR.  It sucks that a thousand miles of running could come down to running 26 good miles at the right time to make the year…but all I want this year is to knock down my marathon PR.  Specifically I want to take it under 4 hours, but anything better than my current 4:13:53 would make my year.

My Next Race is…
the run for the tulips.  The Orange City Tulip Festival 10k in May.  After that it’s back to the site of marathon #1, The Marathon-to-Marathon, for a shot at that PR.

Race Report: Fort Dodge Half

There are days when you have it.  The first strides of the race are effortless, the miles click by, the pace on your watch is surprising even you.  As the race continues you plot your late push, you pick out unsuspecting souls in front of you that will watch you stride past them on the final mile while they can’t catch you.  When you finally call on everything from your legs…it’s there!  They take off and as your favorite song goes through your head (even though you may not be wearing headphones), it all clicks.

This was not one of those days.

I felt off my game from the start as I forgot to link my GPS watch before the start of Sunday’s Fort Dodge Half Marathon.  As Amber, the race director, counted down to start the race, I realized my mistake and had at least 100 meters in before I was connected and ready to track.  Oh well, mistake made, lesson learned, moving on.

I got off the line well.  Legs felt good and the lone into-the-wind section of the course I clicked off in a hurry.  Turned the first corner and then my body told me…’this ain’t your day.’  My legs were suddenly struggling to turnover, my chest already hurting, my heart rate and breath were too fast already.

I completed the opening mile in 8:09, and went to my music early.  Perhaps a chance to distract myself and just forget about my body’s now sluggish tempo.  I was grinding early and that was a problem.

I knew the next five miles were downwind (for 2) and downhill (for the following 3) so perhaps I could save this over those 5 and have a chance to attack late.  I call this kind of racing the NCAA basketball strategy…survive and advance.  Just get to 6 and see what will happen.

0 to 2.2 miles: 18:43
2.2 to 4.4: 20:06
4.4 to 6.6: 21:30
1st Half Total: 1:00:19

On the third lap (4.4 to 6.6) I had something happen that has never happened to me during a race…I had to pee.  Four marathons, three previous halves, 5ks, never once have I had to stop for a bathroom break.  Luckily the course is in a pretty wooded area at this point and there were zero fellow competitors around so I hopped off the trail for a little relief.  Told my wife this after and she couldn’t believe it.

After the mid-point, I did my usual assessment.  Legs: Jello and starting to get tight.  Breath: Struggling  Heart rate: OK  Mind: Not there  Anything hurting?: Chest + my right foot on and off.

I told myself to keep plodding and maybe there willl be a chance late to break 2 hours.  I was only 19 seconds off the pace.  If I dropped 30 seconds on laps 4 & 5 I could run an everything-I-have finish for a chance at 2 hours.

From 6.6 to 8.8 is a gradual uphill, only gaining about 50 feet of elevation.  I ran this well considering my assessment at the mid-point.  But 21:24 wasn’t good enough to have a chance at 2 hours.  I could feel my disappointment kind of take over here.

Lap 5 (8.8 to 11.0) shows it too.  I had to walk a couple times, my leg turnover felt in slow motion.  My legs were starting to get tight, and hard as I tried to kick start a chase towards the end, I was still in survive and advance mode.

The final 2.1 miles I chased a fellow competitor that I thought I’d have a shot at.  They put me away before the final half mile.  Then, out of nowhere, I was the one being caught on the last half mile.  I tried to pick up the pace, but she clearly had better legs for the last 800 meters to the finish.

I really want to call bullshit on being caught the way I did late.  The gal that caught me had two friends that met her about 0.75 miles from the finish and then proceeded to pace her in.  I realize this is a small race, and it’s not like I’m fast enough to contend for any prizes, but still pissed me off.  Her pacers were encouraging me right along (and had done so the entire race), but I felt a little ganged up on over the last mile.  This is an individual sport, run your race, and if you want pacers…pay their entry and put a bib on them so they’re official entrants in the race.  Probably didn’t effect my time, just put a sour taste in my mouth.

6.6 to 8.8: 21:24
8.8 to 11.0: 22:57
11.0 to 13.1: 19:34
2nd Half Total: 1:03:55
Finishing Time: 2:04:14

Last year was the inaugural run of this event and was good enough to get me to return.  This year was even better.  The t-shirts were a huge improvement, the course no longer had gravel road on it.  The start location was improved.  Chip timing was implemented.  Seriously, in a word, AWESOME!  I really don’t know why this event doesn’t get 500, or more, competitors.  It’s affordable, everyone super friendly, not too easy or too hard course.  And the race director has proven she’s committed to continuing to improve this race.  If you live anywhere near Fort Dodge, RUN THIS RACE.  It probably slides comfortably into the #2 slot of my favorite races (sorry, the Des Moines Marathon will be tough to budge off of #1).

Given how I struggled for 12 of the 13 miles of this race, I’m actually very pleased with the end result.  I was more than 8 minutes slower than last year in very similar weather, but I really had to fight for this result.  This race was progress…I’ll take it.  Next up: The Orange City Tulip Festival 10k in four weeks.

It’s about people, not running

First off, I’ve internally debated about whether to even post on the subject…I am, just to help myself deal with what happened.

We all know what occurred on Monday.  We all know how it happened.  We know lives were lost, forever changed, or otherwise affected.  It’s horrible, simply horrible.

I’m reminded of the phrase that all of us that have conquered the 26.2 mile journey offer to first-timers, “Welcome to the Club.”  But as I look at it, it isn’t inaccurate.  It should read, “Welcome to the Family.”  Marathoners, in particular, seem to share a family bond.  From the first finisher to the last, we all go through the same journey.

Over the last two days I’ve had a hard time coming to terms with what happened.  I wasn’t there, my friend that was is safe…but I’ve felt a deep sadness as if this were my own family effected.

Within the social media era we live in, people are using a variety of ideas to pay their own tribute to the victims.  From suggestions of running a few miles to “finish” the race for someone who was stopped shy of the finish line, to running a combined 26.2 over the next two weeks, or simply wearing a race shirt to work as a sign of solidarity…honestly, I think they miss the point.

In my opinion, this is not about running.  There are too many that are making it about running.  Running was not attacked Monday…people were.  The is not about the runner who was stopped at mile marker 25.  This is about the three families that will have one less person at the dinner table.  This is about the number of people that lost limbs.  This is about the first responders who won’t be able to shake the image.  Forget running.  There are far more important things.

I did go for a run on Tuesday, stopped after 1 mile.  The sadness overwhelmed me.  I felt horrible that I was out running while those that were cheering on family, friends, and complete strangers at the Boston finish line were in hospitals.

I’m supposed to race Sunday, a half-marathon in Fort Dodge.  I am going to the race, will start, but don’t know how I’ll react once the gun goes off.  But my race on Sunday doesn’t matter when it comes what happened.  Monday’s tragedy isn’t about running, and I beg people to stop making it about running.  This was not an attack on our sport.  This was an attack on innocent lives, lives that are forever changed.  Rather than tributes related to running…how about tributes related to people?  Lend a helping hand to neighbors and friends.  Spend more time with family.  Make sure to hug and kiss your spouse everyday before you head off to work.  Appreciate what we have…because running doesn’t compare when measured against the important things in life.

Inspirational Moments #2

As I continue my series on the moments that inspire me, I can’t help but look at the things in our lives that we accept as “impossible.”  I hear it a lot from people who discuss my pursuit in endurance athletics with me…”I could never do anything like that.”  Those two words make me cringe…never and anything.

Had I listened to those words, I never would have found the 26.2 mile race that I give so much of my time and effort to.  I never would have traveled to Texas and North Dakota last year and got to catch up with family in addition to run the marathon.  It’s something I enjoy looking at, what can I never do anything like?  What is it that I’m being told by myself or others that I can’t do?  And how do I break through that?

For me, the shinning example of busting through never came at the 2009 Open Championship.  Tom Watson, at age 59, entered the week with fewer expectations than some of the first timers in the field.  A 5-time winner of the tournament, Watson’s odds to win were set at 1000 to 1 by a bookmaker before the tournament.  One thousand to one.  Watson was there ceremonially more than anything else.  A celebration of the rich past of the event while the current top players in the world battled it out.

Watson himself couldn’t have given much thought to what was about to happen over those four days at Turnberry.  Prior to the tournament, he had agreed to be on the ESPN/ABC broadcast for the weekend coverage.  It was largely assumed that he would either miss the cut, or make it near the number and be amongst the first tee-times on the weekend.

Thursday’s round changed all of that.  Watson fired an opening round 65 to be within one of the lead after 18 holes.  However, it wasn’t just the total that made Watson’s presence known, it was the fact that the 65 was bogey-free.  Not a single blemish on the scorecard of a 1000 to 1, 59 year old, former champion, who’s supposed to be on the weekend broadcast of the event rather than still playing.  But it’s just one round right?  That’s why they play four at golf events, because anyone can catch lighting in a bottle for one day.

Watson’s score did rise on Friday…to even par 70.  It was good enough to share the lead after 36 holes.  The course conditions got tougher, and so did Watson.  As the field continued to back up, Tom posted a Saturday 71 and held the lead by himself headed to Sunday at -4.

Sunday is what sticks out to me.  Watson seemed to soak it all in on every hole.  Where most golfers seem to march down the fairway toward their next shot.  Watson seemed to stroll.  Almost as if he didn’t have a care in the world.  It all came down the 72nd hole of the tournament, 18 on Sunday, where Watson stood on the tee with a one-shot lead.

After a dead center tee shot and another carefree stroll down the 18th, Watson hit an 8-iron right at the flag.  Had it landed a foot shorter, it might have held the green, been an easy two putt par, and the most unbelievable of unbelievable moments.  Instead it escaped over the green.  Watson failed to get it up and in, bogeyed the hole and was left with a four hole playoff to try and capture The Claret Jug.

Unfortunately the four hole playoff didn’t hold the drama that the previous 72 had presented.  Watson came up short, Stewart Cink won the title in one of the oddest championship moments I’ve ever witnessed.  Cink was not the bad guy, but he wasn’t Watson whom we all were rooting for.

I keep going back to the odds…1000 to 1.  Such an unlikely story, yet Tom still had a putt on the 72nd hole, at age 59, to win the Open Championship.  And that’s really what does it for me.  Who cares if he didn’t win, he’s the only 59 year old to ever have a putt to win the Open.  That alone is remarkable.  The fact it took golf’s version of overtime to pry the trophy from Watson’s grasp, amazing.  As Watson said after the tournament, “the old fogey almost did it.”

Still makes me smile.  A great show Mr. Watson...Well Done!

Still makes me smile. A great show Mr. Watson…Well Done!

Race Prep

For the first time in 11 months, I’m in final preparations for a distance race.  It’s been since May and the Fargo Marathon since I’ve prepared to race any distance longer than 5k with the thought of a personal best.  In just 12 days I’ll finally get the chance again when I take the line for the Fort Dodge Half.

The feeling is both weird and familiar.  With four marathons, and three halves under my belt I’ve been through race prep plenty of times…but never with this large of a layoff.  Even from the time I started training for my first race, I took the line in less than six months.  To have almost a complete year between hard distance races has already made this a unique experience before I even get there.

My goals for Fort Dodge depend a little on the conditions.  Since this is a point-to-point course, the wind direction will play a big part.  For now, I’ll assume neutral-to-favorable conditions for my list of goals.
1. Smooth opening half.
– One of the biggest keys to my 1:56:08 performance last year was a really smooth first six miles.  I set a faster pace on the first couple miles than previous races, but I kept myself very calm and collected through the mid-point.  If I do that again, I’ll have a great day.
2. Base goal, 1:59:59.
– If the course ends up into the wind then this will change, but if not I’m targeting sub-2 as my base goal.  I ran a 2:02 training half in February and would be disappointed to not better it by 2 minutes on race day.
3. Step goal, 1:56:07.
– The step goal is a new PR and my foot is healthy enough for this.  I had a great winter of training and have thought about knocking out new PRs at both the half-marathon and marathon distances this year.  I’ll think about this number from the moment the gun goes off.
4. Stretch goal, 1:49:59
– I nailed my stretch goal at last year’s Fort Dodge Half.  Crossing the finish line in front of that stretch goal was a huge adrenaline rush and this one would be no different.  Going sub-1:50 would be an outstanding run.  It would be as good as anything I’ve put together.  I know it’s a long shot, but I’ll chase this number with all I’ve got if given the chance.
5. Fastest two mile finish.
– One of my focuses this spring has been the fastest mile finish.  I’ve historically been a quick start and try to hold on kind of racer.  I know, as I chase my marathon PR, that I’m going to need to put down a great finish to secure the time I’m looking for.  This is a chance to start putting it into race execution.  I want my last two miles to be my best of the day regardless of my total time.
6. Thank all the volunteers.
– There are times I’m better at this, my first Des Moines Marathon I thanked every volunteer I encountered.  Last year at Fort Dodge I don’t recall thanking a single volunteer.  I got a little wrapped up in my race and just put the figurative ‘blinders’ on through every aid station.  A little reminder to myself to be gracious to those who have to deal with runners invading their city.

I’m ready to get back to racing, it’s been too long.  Fort Dodge…here I come!

Race Report: Powder Blue 5k

The last virtual race I hosted featured the four-person group in a lot of the entries.  I learned that lots of you like to get out together, motivate each other, and make running or walking as much a social activity as a health & fitness activity.  Because of this I expected lots of group photos this time…and then I went and scheduled the race on a weekend that was far too cold for the groups we saw last time.  Lesson learned, not everyone is a lunatic like me that gets out in the freezing cold for a 5k (but a few of you are!).  Consequently attendance was down for this race, but great stories to share nonetheless.

Race Background: Why this is the Powder Blue 5k
Plain and simply, I named this race the Powder Blue 5k after the only color shirt I wear on race day.  But there’s a reason I don’t deviate from powder blue…

In 2011 I took up running with one goal and one goal only, finish one marathon.  I had never been a runner throughout my entire life…as my father used to joke, they used a sundial to time me in the 100 meters and a calendar for the mile.  So to go from complete non-runner to marathoner was quite the task to undertake.  In fact, the furthest I had ever run in my life to that point was a mere mile and a half.  There was one thing for sure, I was completely out of my element.

I started my training on January 1, 2011 and started with one ridiculously slow mile.  I followed it the next day with one more.  By the end of the month I’d run a 5 miler.  The target was the Des Moines Marathon in October, a chance to have a few setbacks but really get into shape before my first attempt.  But after an 8 miler to close February, a 12 mile run in March, and a complete lack of patience, I fast forwarded race day to June and the Marathon-to-Marathon.

At the time I truly didn’t know if I’d run more than one marathon.  I didn’t have a schedule full of races like I do now…I actually had never scheduled a single race before.  My first race was the big one, the 26.2 mile test, the marathon.  Given that this might be the one and only time I’d do this I wanted a new shirt for the big day, I saw a powder blue shirt in the workout section of Target that spoke to me.

That race day wasn’t exactly well executed.  I completely crashed on the second half of the course, my time was horrendous, I certainly had thoughts of one-and-done before I reached the finish line.  But as I trudged on and eventually crossed the line of marathon #1 I immediately started to think what I’d do differently in training and race execution for #2.

So back to the point, why powder blue?  Preparing for marathon #2, I decided to run a tune up at the Omaha Half three weeks before race day in Des Moines.  Going through my workout clothes to pack my bag for race day I looked at my red shirt, then dark blue…none of them looked right.  I threw all of them back in the drawer and went on a hunt through the dirty laundry for the powder blue shirt.  It became a symbol of accomplishment, perseverance, or just simply a reminder that I can do this.  With the same powder blue shirt on my back, Omaha was a confidence boosting race.  Des Moines followed and it’s snowballed since.  I hope just by naming this race the Powder Blue 5k that some of that “I can do this” is transferred to any of you.


Holli didn’t send me a pic last time, so I Facebook stalked her but I found one anyway.  This time she sent the best pic of any I got for this year’s race, on the beach in Florida.  And bonus points for a powder blue entry!

Holli and her daughter enjoying much nicer weather than any of the rest of us saw.

Holli and her daughter enjoying much nicer weather than any of the rest of us saw.

Mike and Julia have already kicked off the 2013 racing season with a February trip to Fort Worth.  They followed up their early season kick off with PR performances in Des Moines for the Powder Blue.  Mike in 16:43 (not a typo), and Julia is 26:43.  Julia notes that their dog Miles ran with both of them, notching a 43:26 10k.

PR x3!

PR x3!

My sister-in-law Emily was in the Dominican Republic on race day…but I didn’t tell her about the race soon enough so she ran her 5k once she was back stateside.  A solid 26:34 performance from Emily…and she left me free reign of photo selection again.  I selected one that I took the last time she was up to visit.

I didn't realize my kitchen was so well lit to need sunglasses.

I didn’t realize my kitchen was so well lit to need sunglasses.

Since I scheduled races with potentially crappy weather in Iowa…my aunt Peg seems to always get crappy weather in northern Minnesota.  So a 5k of snowshoeing was in order for Peg and Ronny, along with the dogs.  I think the pictures speak for themselves.

This ain't the beach, that's for sure.

This ain’t the beach, that’s for sure.

Who schedules races for this time of year anyway?

Who schedules races for this time of year anyway?

Powder blue shirt sighting!

Powder blue shirt sighting!

My sister Laurie just had her first child in December, nephew #5 for me.  She was grateful that my modem needed replaced and I was late getting the race report together, because she forgot to tell me until Monday.  Either way, baby Jackson already looks good in powder blue.

Yeah, my mom went 5k...she's awesome!

Yeah, my mom went 5k…she’s awesome!

My mom Deb decided to avoid the cold and go the treadmill way for her 5k (why didn’t I think of that?).  Because she stays ridiculously busy, she went for a Monday version of the Powder Blue 5k.

5k complete...Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner.

5k complete…Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner.

Amanda decides to go racing elsewhere every time I schedule a race.  I think she’s avoiding me because she knows I want revenge for outrunning me with a jogging stroller the first time we met up on the running trail.  She ran a surprise PR 2:04 half marathon in Dallas on a cold 33 degree morning.

I love race photos that are snapped at the perfect time when both feet are off the ground.

I love race photos that are snapped at the perfect time when both feet are off the ground.

You may be able to escape the home race, but you can't escape the cold.  That'll teach ya for thinking Dallas is better than Kingsley.

You may be able to escape the home race, but you can’t escape the cold. That’ll teach ya for thinking Dallas is better than Kingsley.

Julie decided to come freeze at the home race.  I think she felt bad for Rebecca and I and thought, “those two idiots shouldn’t freeze alone.”  After 5k, she decided to keep on going.  Well done!

The brave souls that took to the cold home race.

The brave souls that took to the cold home race.

My wife Rebecca was having withdrawals from not racing for three months.  She completed a 12-for-12-in-’12, one race every month last year.  The Powder Blue equated to a training run for the upcoming Fort Dodge half for Rebecca.

Down the final hill.

Down the final hill.

I went out with the simple goal of running the best 5k I’ve put together.  This isn’t a distance I run too often, and since I spend so much time marathon training it’s a pace I’m not exactly comfortable with.  I set my watch for four 1.25km laps (I always break a race up into smaller pieces, helps me focus) and as I said go to start the home race I shot up the opening hill.  It’s honestly the best my legs have ever felt.  I knew this one was good from the start.

As the opening quarter of the race closed, my watch beeped a time of 4:58 back to me.  WHAT!?!  I’m on sub-20 pace!?!  My mind starting racing with thoughts of what’s possible after I saw that.  And I held on to good pace through the second quarter of the race and hit the mid-point in 10:36.  But I still had the uphill portion of my course to come.

The third quarter of the race was the hardest for me.  My legs no longer felt fantastic, my lungs were exploding…but I still ran the third quarter in under six minutes at 5:54.  The last quarter was primarily uphill, with a one block downhill finish.  I felt better here than the quarter before but my time was a little slower.  Either way I smashed my PR and crossed the line in 22:42, 7:18/mile pace, a PR by nearly two minutes!

Still huffing and puffing here.  5k's are tiring.

Still huffing and puffing here. 5k’s are tiring.

Maybe next time, I’ll wait until the weather warms up a little more before scheduling a virtual race…to those of you that got out for it, a virtual high-five or fist bump to you.  Hope you had fun!

Powder Blue 5k This Weekend!

My spring virtual race, The Powder Blue 5k is this weekend. A quick overview:

-Either run or walk 5k (or more) on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
-Cost: Absolutely Free!
-Take a pic and send it to me via Facebook or Twitter (@thomasp22).
-Share any info you like (time, anything unusual you see during your race).
-Check back Sunday to see the race report.
-Wearing Powder Blue is optional, but the powder blue addicted race director does encourage it.

Happy Racing Everyone!