Virtual 5k This Weekend, Plus Give me Your NYC Thoughts

First things first, The 2nd Annual Get Your Rear in Gear 5k virtual race is this weekend!  So pick either Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, get a group together and either walk or run 5k.  Take a picture and get it to me to be on the results post Sunday night.  Give in to peer pressure…Do It!

Next up, I’m going for an 8 mile run this afternoon to break my mileage total from September.  October will total 63 miles, a half-mile more than September on 11 fewer runs.  My average is creeping back up into the range that it has me thinking crazy things again.  For example…

I’m thinking about adding a marathon to the schedule in January.  My foot is really turning a corner and I’ve got the itch for 26.2 again.  It’ll still be a few weeks before I can make a decision on the possibility of this…but the fact that it’s even a thought is progress by itself.

 

OK, on to what I really want to write about.  This weekend isn’t just my virtual race…it’s also the scheduled date for the New York City Marathon.  As most of you know, NYC was pummeled with unprecedented weather earlier this week and is currently in the process of digging out.  Power is still out in many areas, people’s lives have been turned upside-down, it’s certainly not what organizers, sponsors, and those registered for the race expected to come into the picture during race week.

I can’t imagine the pressure on the race directors to make a “go or no” decision here.  There are so many arguments from both sides that I imagine the race directors decision will be met with no more than 50% approval no matter what (kind of like being a referee, you’re never more than 50% right).  Here’s a look at both sides:

Hold the race:
Should the NYRR decide to hold the race as scheduled, it’s been argued that a sense of normalcy returns to New York for the weekend.  Proponents of holding the race have sited the positive effects the race had on New York post-9/11 (although is should be noted the marathon was nearly 2 months after 9/11, not within a week).  There’s also a huge financial reason to hold the race given that it’s worth millions of out of town dollars coming to NYC.  Should the decision to move forward with the marathon come down…it adds the logistical challenge of getting the participants into NYC via limited flights, issues in getting runners to the start line on Staten Island with ferry service and subway service likely to not be operational at that point, and an issue with volunteer and police/fire department course support.

Cancel the race:
The calls to cancel the race are growing in number and center around what’s most vital at this time in NYC.  A concern that the race will take away emergency personnel helping with clean up efforts (or remove their needed day of rest for the race) and put strain on resources that could be going elsewhere, like food for the runners that could be re-routed to areas of need, is a major issue.  If parts of the city would remain without power and in need of basic supplies, it seems insensitive to hold the race.  While those of us that take our marathon hobby as seriously as we do, it’s still a hobby and the dire situation in NYC would feel largely slighted to let hobbyists take from needed resources less than a week after the disaster.

Given that I have two friends registered for the race (and this is marathon #1 for them, a special moment for all of us that have taken up this hobby), I’m torn in my opinion here.  I can certainly see the reasons to hold the race.  This race is one of the world’s marathon “majors” and is the equivalent of canceling golf’s US Open, tennis’s French Open, a race in NASCAR’s “Chase” Series, or a college football bowl game like the Rose Bowl.  I’ve argued in the past that despite Boston’s highly held place amongst marathoners, the press coverage around NYC is actually larger.  But at the same point, asking to take critical resources from recovery efforts for a race that over 99% of the field is just there for the experience is asking too much.  There are transportation issues without adding 47,000 runners to the city this weekend.  Adding strain to the situation seems wrong.

I do not envy the decision on the NYRR.  They cannot win in the court of public opinion here.  The decision to cancel or go forward will be unpopular either way.  If you hold my feet to the fire and ask me to make a decision here…mine is to cancel.  These are unprecedented circumstances and, in my view, seems wrong to hold the race.  So put yourself in the race director’s shoes…what’s your decision?  Leave me some comments.

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Race Report: Des Moines Half Marathon

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There’s probably a long list of things I’ve done wrong when it comes to racing and training. Trying the half marathon distance with just six weeks of training post-injury is probably somewhere near the top of the list. If someone were to ask my advice on how soon to race after rehabbing an injury, six weeks wouldn’t be anywhere close to my suggestion. If I were asked what distance to tackle for a first race back, the half-marathon is far longer than I would recommend. In other words, this was probably stupid to go racing the way I did on Sunday. Or just my style.

The goals for this race were simple…finish, enjoy yourself, try to post anything respectable in terms of time. If my legs felt great, make a slight push, but make sure to avoid a one-and-done scenario with the foot.

The Start – Lap 1
I once again divided the race into six equal sections (“laps”), 2.2 miles at a time. The first lap went fairly smooth and I was actually surprised by how quickly the race course warmed up. The temp was in the low 40s on the start line, but once the sun broke (and the fact that most of the wind was blocked by the downtown buildings), it was much warmer than I anticipated. This section I wasn’t worried about, I figured it would be this kind of start.
Time: 21:08

Questions – Lap 2
So after a nice smooth start, the questions starting ringing in my head. Just how much do I have in me to push this race? Should I ease up a little and try to push the finish? Should I try to stay this smooth and just see how far it takes me? Could this be a better performance than I initially thought? Was my six weeks enough to maintain this pace for five more laps? My mind started to race a little during lap 2. I stayed pretty smooth for Lap 2 and actually ran mile 3 as my fastest of the day at 9:26. I knew part of this was just race day adrenaline, but I was still feeling pretty comfortable 4.4 miles in.
Time: 21:45

Stress – Lap 3
There are two things that cause stress on a race course…being behind your expected time, and being ahead of it. I was honestly expecting two 23 minute laps to start so being three minutes in front kept my mind racing during lap 3. Mile 5 & 6 I ran in 9:59 and 10:00 respectively, and I continued the smooth start through the 10k mark on the course. I went through a mental assessment at this point that went something like this…”OK, my foot’s held up well. My heart’s not pounding. I’m not struggling for breath. Am I capable of continuing this for 7 more miles?” Since I hadn’t raced in five months and had only been back running for six weeks I honestly didn’t know at this point. I was probably as anxious to find out what was about to happen as I’ve ever been mid-race. I truly didn’t know what to expect on the second half, but was ready to see.
Time: 22:41
Mid-point time: 1:05:34

Sailing – Lap 4
During my six week training I only ran farther than 6.6 miles once, a 10-miler two weeks prior to the event. At this point, I didn’t know what to expect. I decided I was going to let the wind take my sails where they would (get the sailing reference there? I’m tricky!). During this lap my knees were starting to kill me and I could tell I wasn’t striding nearly as well as the first 3 laps. To put it simply, my form was starting to break down. With my form breaking down my foot was starting to act up and it was pretty obvious this wasn’t going to be a chase for my stretch goal of 2:10. As lap 4 closed, I knew two things were very true. Number one, this was clearly my worst lap to this point in the race. Number two, I was wearing down but still had an opportunity to run a solid finish with just 4.4 miles to go.
Time: 23:45

The Music Push – Lap 5
I’ve discovered the best strategy for me on race day is to alternate between silence from the headphones and music. I make a playlist that’s approximately as long as my goal time for each lap and will play it about every other lap, and then I’ll save one special playlist for the final push. During this race I went silent for laps 1, 2, & 4, and leaned on my lap playlist for laps 3, and 5. I thought maybe the music would help me put lap 4 behind, and maybe start a push toward the finish. Wow, was I wrong there. As much as I tried to pick up the tempo here, my legs just kept telling me they were too tired. I tried to will some life into them but just couldn’t find a way. It was obvious, six weeks of training just didn’t have me in good enough shape for a solid wire-to-wire race. By the end of these 2.2 miles I knew to just stay with what my legs had in them and make a respectable finish.
Time: 24:39

Quite the Anti-Climactic Conclusion – Lap 6
While my stretch goal was gone, my goal of staying under 11:00/mile was still obtainable. But I had one very specific goal for the last lap…don’t injure the foot any worse than it already is. My form had broken down to the stage of horrible at this point. And during the last lap my foot was just about numb. The fans that were on the last section of the course were really enthusiastic and were doing anything they could to help runners that were struggling. So as I was walking during the last mile, a group of about 10 people eyed me and gave me the “you can do this.” While I couldn’t stop and explain to them the reason I was easing up during the final mile, I kindly gave them a thank you and probably walked another 200 meters before a comfortable jog in to finish. I crossed the line, moved off to the side and quickly removed my left shoe to get my sore foot out of the shoe. I don’t think anyone ever pictures being pleased with this kind of finish, but I just felt back home as I hobbled over to get my finisher’s medal, left shoe in hand.
Time: 23:44
Overrun time (my GPS ended up closer to 13.3): 0:47

The stats:
Time: 2:18:26
Pace: 10:34/mile

This race was a classic case of not being in good enough shape for this distance. I knew that going in. I expected something along these lines and nearly split my goal and stretch goal times right down the center (2:24 & 2:10). Looking at my lap times, each lap got slower with the exception of the last. I kept wearing down as the race progressed.

The Event

Since I ran the full in Des Moines last year (and fell in love with it, see that race report here), I was anxious to run my first repeat event this year. Des Moines definitely lived up to the expectations I had from last year.

The Good

I didn’t have a lot to complain about last year. The timing chips that have to be accounted for were still in play…annoying but not going away. I remember in the survey they send to the athletes I made three very specific suggestions. #1 – A better speaker system for pre-race announcements. From the mid-point back in the starting grid you couldn’t hear them. #2 – Being able to hear the national anthem. A product of number one, but the anthem had almost finished by the time I heard any part of it last year. #3 – Tech shirts. The shirts last year were fine, but it they can be tech shirts, runners love ’em.

Des Moines nailed all three of these this year. There were added speakers throughout both sides of the starting grid, clear to the back. The anthem was well performed and heard by all. The shirts look similar to last year’s, but are the tech shirts that all of us run nerds love.

This speaks of the race organizers’ commitment to continued improvement of this race for the athletes. As someone who shells out the money to run, it’s encouraging to see that the race wants to take care of their patrons. For the second year in a row I’m walking (or I guess hobbling this year) away ready to come back for next year.

The Bad

There are two things I wasn’t particularly fond of. Number one, the half is a touch crowded. I’ll say this, I ran my pace all day, didn’t get cut off anywhere, the crowded path won’t affect your time here. But the half goes back past itself on a path that’s not quite wide enough for it. The motorcycle in front of the leaders comes up on you and suddenly there are lots of people realizing they’re in the way. Since I ran the full last year, the trails aren’t as crowded when I got to them a few hours later. They’re just about maxed out for the half.

Issue number two, the finishing lanes. I had the honor misfortune of watching the winner of the full marathon blaze past me in the last quarter-mile of my race. There were cones setup to try and separate the full and half finishers…yet no one was ushering the runners to the correct lane. There were two men having quite the dash to the finish, separated by no more than 10 feet (and probably much closer than that) and spent the last quarter mile dodging half runners who weren’t paying attention. I saw the second place runner go around a group and hurdle a cone trying to make his move, but this did him in. I don’t know whether this made a difference in the finish or not…but it might have, and that’s not acceptable for your number 1 & 2 finishers. This race was such a beautiful event, to have that happen was an unnecessary disappointment. (Note: I thought this was 1 & 2, a quick search of the race results indicates this may have been 2 & 3. Not sure how I would have missed the winner. Still money on the line there, disappointing.)

Hotel Kinley

My wife, sister-in-law, and I all ran this event last year and were fortunate enough to spend the weekend with my wife’s aunt and uncle just outside Des Moines. And we got round 2 this year. As good as they took care of us last year, this year was even better and I’m still puzzled how they got rid of me after the awesome time we had this year. Three spectacular meals, wonderful conversation…I said this last year and will say it again, I should have wrote a paragraph on the race, and the rest of this on our stay instead of the other way around.

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Erik, Emily, Rebecca, Mike, Michael, Genna, & Mary. They’re all smiles!

I wouldn’t be doing justice to this report if I didn’t add my wife and sister-in-law both ran PR performances. My wife Rebecca ran a 2:16:17 that not only was a personal best, but bested me on the course (which she is pumped about). I could tell on the start line that Emily was ready to hammer out a great performance and she broke 2 hours with a 1:58:40 time. After the race we ran into their cousin Abby who ran a 1:58:34 to make this an awesome race for the family. I’ve got to hand it to all of three of you…really well done.

Powder Blues, Race Week, and Cheaters

If you’re anything like me on Monday nights dinner is consumed in front of the television, a beer or two finds its way into your hand during the evening, and the weekly battle of 106 sweaty men called Monday Night Football keeps your attention for 3-4 hours.  This week was certainly no different than any other Monday night in terms of football…but one major development on the uniform front, San Diego broke out the powder blue unis!

San Diego wore the greatest jerseys in sports…but ended up with the powder BLUES by the end of the night. (Do you see what I did there?)

Since the powder blue shirt has become a race day obsession for me, I thought I’d give you a little background into why it’s become so important for me.  First off, I grew up playing any sport that was not exclusively running.  I was a baseball pitcher in my younger days, played basketball until I got tired of catching elbows on top of the head trying to haul in rebounds (who would have thought height is important in that sport?), and I tried my hand at a couple years of football until lack of overall talent caught up with me.  Bottom line when it came to my younger days of athletics…I always had a jersey.

Unless you’re a member of a running club that has uniforms it’s pretty much free-style when it comes to race day attire.  During my first marathon, I took the line with a few old dudes in way too short shorts, a few folks wearing long sleeves that you knew they’d regret as the day wore on, and one racer dressed as Elvis (jump suit, sideburns, and even an inflatable guitar).  Even thought there’s a freedom to dress nearly any way I want on race day…for me it boils down to that comfortable feeling of putting on MY uniform.  The same uniform just gives me that “gameday” feeling of old days of baseball, basketball, and football.

This week is race week and it seems it wouldn’t be a true Des Moines race week without some sort of issue.  Last year during the final week before the Des Moines Marathon I couldn’t get to mile 2 of one of my last training runs (my blog post for that can be found here).  Consequently, I had to completely regroup and make sure I was physically ready before I could even consider taking the line for Des Moines 26.2 last year.

Sure enough my foot has decided race week is the time to start acting up again.  The doc told me I’ll have some better and worse days with the foot for a while…just sucks that the worse days are surfacing now.  I’m probably going to make a shoe change for Sunday and go with a pair that I know what I’m getting, rather than the new racers.  I just like the feeling of my foot in the old shoes over the new right now so it looks like the Austin/Fort Dodge/Fargo shoes get one last trip before retirement.

And finally, while waiting for Monday Night Football to start last night, I checked my Twitter feed to find this tweet from Runners World:

While I do not know the angle the author is looking to take for this story (perhaps they’re trying to prove cheaters get no satisfaction from it?), my reaction to this is complete disgust.  It’s no secret that those of us who run are addicted to it that it’s nearly all we talk about.  Consequently, Runners World has a special place in all of our magazine racks.  Most of us would love for Runners World to chronicle some part of our personal running experience, the fact that cheaters are even thought to be invited onto the pages of Runners World draws an anger in me that I posted a reply to the tweet:

Not long after, I got a reply, and support, from another follower of Runners World on Twitter:

So a night’s sleep removed, and I’m still angry as hell that cheaters are even given the consideration to make their story public.  It’s the same anger I feel toward the steroid users that ruined Major League Baseball, or caused cycling to put a nice black eye on endurance athletics.  It’s the same anger I have toward coaches who refuse to take a knee with the lead on the last play of a football game.  It’s the same anger I have toward the one shooter who launches a shot at the buzzer to run up their winning score of a basketball game.  Or the runner who finishes with a stupid flag or some scene that ruins the finisher’s photo for someone who wants their memory of the race, not your ego in the snapshot of their greatest accomplishment.

I’m so mad I could smash something. Maybe like Gallagher at a Farmer’s Market?

I’ll leave this topic with one thought…I know my story wouldn’t be a must read within the pages of Runners World.  There’s nothing particularly unique to my journey that would make readers stop and take notice.  But just because cheating is a page turner, doesn’t mean it belongs within the pages of our beloved, runners only, publication.  It’s bad enough the cheaters crashed our running clubhouse, stole our awards, our prize money, and generally ruined our sacred race day experience.  Don’t give them a voice to brag, explain, or in any way try to justify it.  So what’s your take?  Give me your thoughts on cheaters.

Upcoming races…including “Get Your Rear in Gear 2!”

Another month between blog posts.  I’m about as good at this as I am at growing hair on my head.  But nonetheless there’s a tiny bit of news so let’s get to the good stuff.

After 35 days of getting back in shape, slowing rebuilding a base and gradually adding mileage, I’m happy to report a race is on the schedule.  I officially registered for the Des Moines half-marathon on Tuesday night and this marks the first repeat event for me (I technically ran the full last year, same start line, same finish…it counts).

The race goals aren’t as lofty as have been in the past.  I’m not back to top form yet…and won’t be for a while but feel pretty good going into Des Moines.  These are modest, but I think will be good for me:

#1 – Just Finish
Covering that distance on less than 50 days of training post-injury isn’t the easiest of tasks.  So just staying within myself to get to the finish line is goal number 1.  If I miss any time goals it’ll be ok provided I finish.  The day’s a success if a medal hangs on my neck at the end.
#2 – Time: 2:24
This would be my slowest half-marathon.  But if I can keep the race under 11:00/mile I’d be happy with the effort.  I don’t have the legs for an under 9:00/mile performance like I had at Fort Dodge in March, but I think they’re good enough to keep me in this range.  I’m hoping this isn’t an all out chase to break 2:24 but very well could be.
#3 – Stretch: 2:10
Kind of ridiculous to have a stretch that’s more than a minute per mile faster than the base goal.  But the stretch is only in place if I hit the half split ahead of schedule.  If I’ve got good legs with less than 7 to go, I’ll air it out a little.  I’ll be surprised if I have a chance at this next Sunday.
#4 – Enjoy it
Rain, shine, run into a jerk on the race course, or have a nice conversation…whatever comes on Sunday I just want to enjoy being out with fellow racers again.  Being able to put on the powder blue, lace up the new shoes for their first race…truth be told, I’m enjoying it already.

It’s come that time again for me to consistently post Facebook updates to prepare for another virtual race.  My third virtual race and the second running of the Get Your Rear in Gear 5k will take place the weekend of November 2-4.  This is truly one of the most fun things I’ve done with my blog and hope it encourages people to get out and active.

As a reminder or in case your new to my virtual races, here’s what to do:

Pick a day.
-First pick either Friday, Saturday, or Sunday on the weekend of November 2-4.  On that day either run or walk 3.1 miles (5 kilometers) on any darn course you chose, by any means you chose.  You can go down to a local track (12.5 laps in the inside lane), walk the sidewalks or roads in your community (be careful around cars), or even cover the distance by treadmill.  You can run, you can walk, you can hop, crawl, or barrel roll.  And don’t be afraid to take a friend with you as well.  If you’re training for another race or just feel the need to go farther, feel free to go as far as you like.

Yes you!  And don’t be afraid to take someone else along.
-I’ve had people in the past take friends, siblings, children…even unborn twins along for a 5k walk (well I mean they kinda had to come along for the ride but nonetheless impressive).  I’ve had everyone from ages teens to 70s, cold and hot climates, even had entries from both the northern and southern hemispheres.   You’ll be out and active with a virtual community all going at least 3.1 miles that weekend.

Let me know how it went (preferably with a pic too).
-After you’ve completed your 5k, take a picture to celebrate your accomplishment and either email it to me or tag me in it on Facebook (I’ll copy it and remove the tag).  You can feel free to give me a few comments on how the run/walk went…or if you have your own blog post a race report that I’ll link from my blog.  Feel free to include any details you want (time, odd occurrence during your run/walk).  At the end of the weekend I compile all the race reports into one summary and you can see how everyone did.

Get active.  Times don’t matter.
-The bottom line of this is encouraging everyone to get out and active.  Even though November will include some snow on the ground for some folks, it’s still a great time to get outside for some exercise.  I’ve trained snowy winter roads before, and will again this winter getting ready for next year’s spring races.  Just because the weather’s turning colder doesn’t mean we all need to pack in the exercising for the year.  Get out and enjoy the weather, cold or not.

So to recap:
-Pick a day
-Go 5k
-Give me your say
-Get out into the sun rays (or clouds whatever the weather is)

How about I go eat some hay, make things out of clay, lay by the bay? I just may! What’d ya say?

If you plan on participating give me a shout in the comments of this post.  I’m also up for any suggestions for a prize or two.  Just something I can give away to a randomly drawn competitor of the Get Your Rear in Gear 5k.

The race report from my last virtual race, this spring’s Powder Blue 5k, can be found here.