It’s the beginning of December, which normally represents the “slow” season in the running world. I’m working on my race schedule for 2008, which should be interesting. Most people go inside for the winter, with travel and family responsibilities taking precedence. While I have many of the same responsibilities and time constraints, I don’t want to lose the training base which I’ve developed. I also don’t want to just stop running, which during the sometimes stressful holidays can provide a quiet rest bit. Besides, I’ve always loved the feeling after a hard run in the cool winter when your breath looks like smoke and your exposed head and arms steam.
Last year, I ended the year with a flurry with the Quad Dipsea and the California International Marathon (CIM) in back to back weekends. This year, I skipped the Quad Dipsea so that I could just focus on CIM and not leave myself with any residual tiredness before the race. I’ve not really focused on marathons over the last couple years, instead using most of them as training runs for longer races. A couple times, I’ve tried to run Boston Marathon qualifying times, but the lack of consistent speed work left me tired during the home stretch at the end and in the end I failed. The Boston Marathon was always an eventual goal of mine when I started running marathons in 2001, so doing CIM was a way to get back to the matter and try to deal with some unfinished business.
Well, I finally did it. I ran the 2007 California International Marathon (www.runcim.org) last Sunday and came away with a 3:07 finishing time. It was just a great moment, an opportunity to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Over the last 0.2 miles, I got a little emotional, thinking of how far I’d come in my running career and how I had finally achieved a long term goal that I had set aside for a time.
I’d been feeling rather lethargic the last week and a half, when I tweaked a muscle in my right lower back. It was so bad, that I could barely get off the couch at Thanksgiving. I even thought I might be at least 5-7 lbs over what I need to be to compete with those real skinny dudes. But, over the last 5 weeks since the Javelina Jundred, I honed my speed work in addition to the speed work I started in early October. I made the commitment to go to the track at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco and run 800m intervals on a consistent, weekly basis back in early October. The crazy thing about the race was that at one point I was almost 5 minutes ahead of 3:10 pace and if I hadn’t slowed to ensure I wouldn’t pull a hamstring I could have done a 3:05. It was by far the best long race of my life; With a 1:31:31 first half and a 1:36:20 second half, this was by far the most consistent long race I had completed. The first half of this race is always a little faster with the downhill sections. There will always be a decrease in performance from the first half to the second half of a race. But by aiming for negative splits (from the first to second half of races), I was able to produce a disciplined performance that was consistently under the goal pace. I do have to say that I was a bit surprised later to find out there was over 4100 ft. of elevation drop and 3800 ft. of elevation gain. That is still a significant amount of change, despite its reputation as a faster course.
It has been a long journey started when I trained for 6 weeks to run my first marathon (which was the first time over 4 miles in 11 years) in 2001. Now, I’ve done it and it felt incredible….and I’m ready go for sub-3, when I’m not running 50 or 100 milers! No Western States for me next year (didn’t get selected in the lottery, but Boston and Badwater in 2008 make for a mighty fine start to the 2008 Race Schedule. Remember to always run hard, stay strong, and God bless all who have made 2007 a great year, and 2008 a year I will never forget.
Since it is the Thanksgiving season, it’s only appropriate to give thanks for the things which we all enjoy. In running, our gear can make a world of difference, particularly when you’re doing a marathon, 50k, 50 mile or 100 mile run. It keeps our minds on the trails rather than our waist pack slipping or the nagging blisters in our shoes. I’m most thankful for my following Top 9 gear/grub list (in no particular order):
Injinji Socks (www.injinji.com)
These things come in all sizes and materials (coolmax and nuwool). I ran marathons and ultramarathons. My feet tend to sweat a lot, so getting these socks in time for my first Badwater Ultramarthon in 2006 was definitely a lifesaver. The only time I got a blister in them was when I ran in a shoe 1.5 sizes too big.
Brooks Cascadia (www.brooksrunning.com)
The best part about being a part of the ID (Inspire Daily) Program with Brooks is the opportunity to work with their new products. When I was looking for a trail shoe which ran more like my road shoes, I developed an affinity for the Cascadias. I’ve used my current pair for three 100-mile races last year, and they’re so comfortable that I might be using them for my first 100-miler of 2008, Rocky Raccoon (www.tejastrails.com/Rocky.html).
While I know many people who stay exclusively on the trails (because of wear and tear), I still love a good road marathon. I don’t use these shoes all the time, because the cushioning is less than what I normally need (at 175 lb.). But these have worked great for me, including during my marathon PR. They’re light enough to not drag me down, but just enough cushion to race without knee problems.
Garmin 301 (www.garmin.com)
I know many people have upgraded to the 305, but my 301 works just fine. I like the way the 301 fits on my wrist compared to the 305. The heart rate monitor, GPS system and other nice features keep my training on track. Plus, it fits just fine on my wrist.
CamelBak Classic 70 oz. (www.camelbak.com)
Some people like using waist packs with multiple water bottles. While this works well for convenience to refill them at aid stations, the CamelBak takes the pressure off my lower back and puts it on my shoulders. With frequent muscle tightness in my lower back and my shoulders strong, this is the perfect long run tool. It works well in mountainous races where the distance between certain aid stations is over 7 miles.
Timex IronMan Watch (www.timex.com)
This is an interesting one, I know. I also listed the Garmin, which gives a runner a tremendous amount of feedback about their running. Sometimes, though, it’s nice not to be “tuned in” to all the data. Especially during a marathon, it give me just enough information to keep me going. It can help me learn to listen to my body and adjust the pace accordingly.
Hammer Gel (www.e-caps.com)
Nasty tasting? Sometimes. Do I prefer GU? Sometimes for shorter races (marathons). Despite what are its drawbacks are, I can’t deny that the stuff flat out works. While I do have to be careful how I use it because I do need to take solids with it for my stomach during ultras, it is the one thing that will get me going instantly “on contact”.
Jolly Ranchers (www.hersheys.com/jollyrancher)
Who can resist Jolly Ranchers? They give me the pep I need when my blood sugar level drops later in a race. An added bonus is that by letting one of them dissolve in my front lip, it keeps the salivary glands pumping to keep my mouth from going dry.
NUUN Electrolyte Tablets (www.nuun.com)
I’ve been having problems taking in electrolytes, dissatisfied with the various electrolyte pills out on the market which have started irritating my stomach. The NUUN tablets work great and make my water more like a fizzy flavored soda so I can take in electrolytes gradually.
Two Crazy Uncles
Honestly, I almost consider these two as performance enhancing drugs. Everybody should have a couple of crazy uncles willing to follow them to some pretty interesting locals (i.e. Death Valley). Where others won’t go, they’re there.