Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How many distances have you raced?

I have thought about this topic for a while, and am curious how many of you have "raced" all the standard distances there are to race (and the not so standard).

I think back to when I started running races outside of just constantly running around the neighborhood. One of my first races was the Chicago Distance Classic 20k in 1991. Still to this day, I have not run that distance as a race since. I can't even remember seeing a 20k in the Twin Cities at all. I heard about a 15k somewhere this year, what an odd distance to race.

So chime in with a comment. Start with a distance no shorter than a mile, and go as far as you have gone (are there any 150 mile runners out there?). Name the race too, most recent if you have done it multiple times.

Mile (college games)
5k (Arena 5k, Minneapolis)
8k (Human Race, St. Paul)
10k (Get in Gear, Minneapolis)
10 Mile (Fred Kurz, Minnetonka)
20k (Chicago Distance Classic)
Half Marathon (New Prague)
25k (Trail Mix, Bloomington)
30k (Northwoods races, White Bear Lake)
20 Mile (Bear Water 20, White Bear Lake)
Marathon (Whistle Stop, Ashland, WI)
50K (Superior Trail, Lutsen, MN)
50 Mile (Superior Trail Races, Lutsen, MN)

I think that is all she wrote.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Back in the sadlle again

What a difference a week makes!

Last weekend I was complaining about my complete lack of energy, enthusiasm, and inability to run over a couple of miles. I made plenty of excuses (my specialty), but did give a lot of credit to Whistlestop recovery.

Thursday I went out for 8 miles, and it felt comfy and where I should be. To my surprise, I did it in 58 minutes. Cool. I felt I was back.

I ran Afton this morning, hoping to run into someone I could run with for a least a little bit. It was pretty quite at 7am, but I knew Karen was out there somewhere.

I decided to do the loop as a nice "solid" run, not pushing, but not holding back. I was hoping to do a little more than the 25k loop, maybe getting 20 miles in.

What a spectacular sunrise! That was worth the trip.

I only looked at my watch at my usual "waypoints" to see how I was tracking. Hmm, going faster than I thought, no pain, whatever. After the campground hill, I still felt fresh (I had run the entire course so far). I used the flat river stretch to get to a "good" pace, while leaving some on the table for the meat grinder. I got through all of that to my next waypoint (out of the woods before you head off to the snowshoe loop), and I was about 1 hour 53. Damn, I felt good.

The snowshoe loop was mowed, and the fallen trees have been cleared, so I started putting on the speed.

The loop was fun. Got to the bridge and.. if I push it, I can pr this baby. Two minutes later I see Jeffrey doing the loop counter clockwise. I say high, but am on pace to pr. I will try and comeback around to see him.

That last hill seems to be getting easier, as I was able to run up it with only heavy sucking towards the top.

I came in at 2:22:50. Sweet! my pr by about 30 seconds last time I was there. This was huge for me as I had a lot left in the tank. I hope to get that time down before the big races next year, but I need to run with someone who is faster to show me where to push and where to back off, and how much. I kind of know, but feel I am still kind of green at that type of running.

I looped back around to hook up with Jefferey and finished out my 20. We saw Karen and Bryan down by the river, and she was looking strong. She is doing her first 24 hour next month. Good luck!

Now I am pumped to see what I can pull together before the winter consumes me and my running (my goal is to not let that happen).


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Racing vs. Pacing - cast your vote

I have been thinking about this subject for years, and figured it would be a good blog post to genereate some discussion.

I remember reading Pete Pftizinger's book years ago and recalling him describing two types of runners, racers and pacers. Racers are competing against other runners on the course, or themselves. Pacers go out for a certain pace and/or time, and maintain it (or attempt to).

I think most of thee two terms not as race vs. pace, but "goal race time" vs. "just finishing the race". To me, this is an accurate simile.

Ask any distance runner weeks before a big race what they hope to run it in, and you will get one of two responses
"I hope to run in x time"
"I jut want to finish".

While this does not seem like a good comparison, to racing vs. pacing, the metal approach is the same. Every marathon I have entered in the last 6 years, I have had a specific goal that was agressive. The training in the following months often altered the time goal, in the original intent was almost always the same.

Ultra running was a little different this year. With my first 50 mile (Ice Age), finishing was a big part of it. The more I trained and became comfortable with agressive terraine and longer disctances, I began to set a goal time. For me, I have to set a goal time to keep the training focused. The problem was, my range was two hours, versus 5-10 minutes for a marathon.

While I do not consider myself a racer, my training and preparation is similar to one. Once the race starts, I am a pacer. At Superior Trail Races this year, there was about 8 of us leaving the first aid station together. Everybody had to take a "bio break" at the same time, and everybody was in the bushes every 50 yards or so. I kept telling myself "run your own race". When I was done, I ran alone for the next........ 9 hours. When I passed people, I was not trying to pass, I was just pacing. When I was passed, it was the same situation. Racing only came into play when I could see in the last 4 hours that I could break the 11 hr. time. I "raced" when stopping at the aid stations, preparing to get me through the next leg without crashing. I kept tabs on my time, realizing my margin of time was shrinking.

The last 4 hours of Superior, I was racing, albeit the last 3 legs were slower splits than the outbound.

Now, compare this to the two types of responses to "I am just trying to finish"
1 - "I am just trying to finish" - Translation - "I have a goal which I am not sharing with you"

I saw Wynn Davis a few weeks before Superior (he won the 100 mile race) training at Afton. I was stupid enough to ask him the question "what are you hoping for?" His response was the number 1 above "I am just trying to finish".

2 - "I am just trying to finish" - Translation - "I am just trying to finish" (within the cutoff time).

For many, just completing the course is the goal, although there is a cutoff time they have to achieve. So, in some way they are racers as well. I think for many, the time is meaningless. I think the longer the race gets, the more it becomes apparent.

Anybody who can make the cut at Superior 100 is a stud (studette?). PERIOD. One can not cheat the training to get trough that. (or any 100).

My friend Dale claims to hate running, but continues to run Grandma's and TCM every year. I think his motivation is to stay fit while growing old, and this is a good way to do it. I think he would say he is a pacer. My guess is he does not like "racing". But he always gives me a goal time he is going to finish in.... Maybe a little of both.

Just to be clear here, I do not look down on one style or the other. I am a combo of both. I usually set my goals higher than I can achieve, but that is my personality. I set a goal 15 years ago to run a sub 3hr marathon, a goal which 7 marathons later I have still not achieved. But, the prospect of trying and going for it gets me going.

If I run Ice Age next year, I am thinking of a sub 8hr goal. Agressive? Yes. Out of reach? probably. But, that is what gets me out of bed to train.

This leads me to think of a couple of styles of runners.

My friend Joe, Mr. 2 speeds (racing and sleeping), will give you a time when asked the question, but he will tell you the slowest possible time he could run (which is still way faster than me). If he set out to run a 2:55 marathon, he will be mad (very mad) if he runs a 2:56. He even DNF'd once when he saw he was over the 3 hr pace. He is a very humble runner thoug, he just is very agressive. He is a racer. I am not in this camp.

My friend Jim, started distance running because his doctor was about to put him on a drug regemine to lower cholesterol. Jim told his doctor to give him a few months first. Jim changed his diet, and signed up for Grandma's. We trained together (with speed man John Aikins). The doctor was so impressed with the results after a few months, he did not put him on any drugs. For Jim, any time was a win, even with John and me getting him to shoot for a certain time. Jim is a pacer, but has some racer in him.

I have met countless people who just getting to the starting line of a marathon is a victory. They truly do not care about their time. They had to overcome their own deamons, challenges, physical and mental limits to get there. The finisher medal is their race.

Where do you fit in here?

As I have aged, I have become more of a pacer. But the racer stirs in me as an alter ego. He gets me in trouble. I call him my shadow.

Vote your opinior on the right and/or leave your comments

Monday, October 22, 2007

........Still recovering..... blah

I forgot how much of a toll "racing" a marathon takes on one's body.

The last 3 days I was zero energy (maybe a little sick, and down from the constant rain). I ran on Saturday, made it 3 miles, and the body shut down.

Today I managed to get 6 in at 8min pace, but it took a lot of work to get it done. My legs felt like tree stumps.

That's what I get for "Going hard". Speed kills!

It's amazing how a different pace for a certain distance can greatly affect your physiology.

At Ice Age, there was an aid station at mile 26.2. I still felt fresh, focused, and was still having fun. I was almost exactly an hour slower than I ran that same distance last weekend, and boy what a difference.

At Superior, when I got to Cramer road (mile 25), I still felt pretty good and strong. I was able to run the next 8 exactly the same as the previous 8. I was about two hours slower at that point compared to last weekend. (But, there is no comparison to of Superior Races to anything in the Midwest.

I wish I had a race coming in the next month to get me focused. I guess I can call the November 10th Fat Ass a race.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Cross Training

Today will be a day of cross training, as there is still some recovery from Whistlestop.

We are brewing a Fat Tire Amber Ale clone. 10 gallon batch (splitting it with my neighbor).
Since it is brew day, the cross training will involve the following:
Lifting full 6.5 gallon carboys full of water.
Lifting a picnic cooler full of mashing grains.
Running back and forth to the hose to regulate the counterflow wort chiller.

I will also get my heart rate up (in anticipation) right before I check the specific gravity to see how the brew session went.

That is a serious workout kids!

I will post photos as well as a link to the newly created Runner Brewer brewery blog.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Brew for the November 10th Fat Ass

You can just smell those Cascade hops!

MMMMMMM...... Beer

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Why is a marathon harder than a 50K?

Try this next time you are out in public,

Play "Jaywalking", and ask 5 random people on the street the following question;

"Which distance is the longest, a 5k, 10k, 25k, 50k, or Marathon?"

I bet 5 out of 5 will say a marathon.

Let's face it, the marathon has become ubiquitous in our society. For many, it's a notch on their belt. For others, it's a goal to loose weight and get off the couch. And for some, it's conquering inner self esteem demons.

Most of us probably have a little of each inside of us, but the "marathon" has become more than one distance of a race, it has become a pop-culture phenomenom.

For you distance runners out there, how many times have you trained for a 10k, 1/2 marathon, or 25k and have people ask "how long is that marathon?" The marathon has become less of a 26.2 mile basis point, and more of a status symbol. I am just as guilty as the next person.

Why do I care if I do or do not qualify for the Boston Marathon if I never intend on running it? (well, never say never)

It's ego... self worth.... or a benchmark to see if we are still warriors in a society that does not allow us to be.

So how does relate to the title "Why is a marathon harder than a 50k?" Well, because we make it.

The marathon has every mile marked, pacing charts, and a log of time stigma attached to it. It's very hard to go out conservative in a marathon because you have so much feedback.

On the other hand, 50k's are less of a media and circus event. How often do you see mile markers in a 50k (if ever). Usually they are trail races too, so pace just does not factor into. And, to top it off, nobody knows what a good 50k time is! I mean really... is there a Boston qualifier equivalent for the 50k? I think not.

So, we go out like we should in a 50k, relaxed and easy. We stay under our Lactic Acid threshold. We run smart.

The people at the water cooler on Monday ooh and aahh at the marathon finisher from the weekend, but could care less that somebody ran a 50 (or 100)k.

After Superior last month, I ran into countless people who said something similar to "I did not even know there was a distance longer than the marathon!"
I guess I did not either until a few years ago.

So conclusion,
The Marathon is harder than the 50k because we are bunch of narcissistic neanderthals. (at least the men are).

Monday, October 15, 2007

Whistlestop Pictures

A view from the cabin we stayed on on race day morning. This is Delta Lake. Way better (and cheaper) than a hotel.
Wild turkeys on the race course. Where is that race course management?
Some of the spectators along the way. I think they are saying "moooove, runners, mooooove"
Yes, these are hunters with live firearms walking down the race course. Hey guys, there is a marathon coming. I am just glad I was not the lead runner... I was not wearing blaze orange.
A new event in ultra running. The porta potty shuffle.
A rare photo of me at mile 26

The boys and me at the Bayfield marina after the race.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Whistlestop Marathon Report

Whistlestop you ask?

"I thought you vowed to never run a road marathon again?"... you say.

"I didn't know you were even planning on running this?"... you say.

Well, truth be told, it's not a road marathon. It's all crushed limestone with a mile on each end of pavement.... that's a trail in my book. (although, if I ever run TCM again, I will run on the parkway on Summit Ave and call it trail running.

The other piece of truth is, I miss walking downstairs backwards.

It all started with the cancellation of the Eddie Fitz. Twas' to be my first 100k. But, once canceled, I bagged the last long run (50k or so at Afton). But, watching TCM, and all of the great discussion around what happened at Chicago, I was like meth-head at a looking to score (okay, real bad metaphor).

I decided Wednesday night, found a cabin Thursday night, and thus, the start of another great family outing.

My plan was to take full advantage of the flat course and weather (forecast high 53) Yeah baby!

My rationale (since I had not trained specifically for this race) was that I had solid legs in me (Superior 50), and that extra muscle mass could compensate for the lactic acid buildup one gets when "racing" a marathon. I had not done many long tempo runs, so this conclusion sounded good, albeit stupid.

Could I PR? (3:08, Chicago '92). I figured if I went out on the 3:10 plan (5% pace variance) then I can see what happens.

So, to the start line. On the way, bald eagle flew over our car for a quarter mile. It was huge. Good omen?

The colors were spectacular. It was cold. Perfect.

I saw Kurt King at the bus, found out his wife's maiden name is my name too. Whenever I go out, the people always shout..... Could I be related to Kurt?

I met up with Wayne Nelson at the start, and we got psyched together. Karen Gall was there to with her game face on. It's always good to see fellow ultras.

I lined up right by Allan Holtz, and wished him luck on his warm up race (this one) to his next day 50 mile (Glacial).

And we were off. 1 mile on pavement, then all crushed limestone.

This is probably the "easiest" course I have run, since it is soft, no hills, and no crowds. If anything, it can be hard when you are looking a half mile ahead at complete flat. Many times it looks like you are running uphill (seriously). The optical illusion fooled many runners around me. I told them "trust me, we are not running up hill at this pace".

This time I did something I have never done in a marathon, carry stuff. I carried my own aid station. One Ultimate direction belt with 20oz bottle, plus a hand held strap Ultimate dir. with 20oz. I used to think carrying stuff would slow me down. I also used to believe in Santa Clause.

I took S-Caps every 1/2 hour and had Succeed! in the bottles. My family swapped me two bottles at the 1/2 point, and I was good to go until 20. I had some shot blocks and Cliff Shots in my belt, so I was ready.

For the first time ever in a Marathon, I had ZERO signs of dehydration, not even slight swelling of the hands. I had minor upset stomach, but that was due to Cliff, instead of Hammer Gel.


My first half, textbook.

I saw my wife exactly when I said I would for the pace.

I was with a pack for about 10 miles. We had one newbie in there, 22 years old, strong runner. He did not wear a watch because he did not want the distraction of thinking he had to speed up. I told him the watch was to tell you to slow down. He learned that later.

After the refill from my wife at the half, reality set in.

I fell off almost 20 seconds per mile. Luckily I was smart enough not to try and regain it. I could already feel the Lactic Acid building in my legs. HMMMM. Maybe those hills didn't help as much as I thought they would.

So I just let it happen.

Yup, 5 - 10 seconds slower each mile. It was okay, since we banked 5-10 seconds of the first six or so.

I never hit the wall. I was just a battery running out of a charge, slowly.

My mobile aid station maid all of the difference in the world. I will never run long again without full hydration and supplement with me.

I saw the newbie puking at 16 or so. He said the Cliff shot was not setting well. I tried to tell him that he was actually dehydrated, and he needed water. I am not sure the words came out though.

By 20 I was quiet and just trying to hold a decent pace. I kept telling myself that 6 is a peace of cake.

I forgot how hard marathons are when you push yourself. I got cocky thing my 50 milers this year made me tough, but as many people have quoted Bob Glover recently "the marathon will humble you".

I don't remember much until we hit pavement around 25. I just know I never stopped running.

My family was cheering at mile 26, and I got the smile on. I hammered to the finish line, which I had to myself for a short time.

Final time 3:19 and change.

I was happy, because my last two marathons were warm at Grandma's, this was a redemption compared to those.

I also forgot the immediate pain of running the marathon. My cardio was fine, but my legs hurt more than any ultra made them feel.

I rode my bike today to get them moving. I got a flat tire. In honor of that, I am brewing a Fat Tire Amber Ale clone this week.

Thanks for reading.


P.S. pictures on another post

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Chicago Marathon - The start of a new era?

I threw out some questions for my running email group, and thought I would throw this out there for anybody fishing this topic.

After reading countless race reports, and reading many media reports, I have come to these conclusions about Chicago (and big fanfare marathons).

1 - The race director for Chicago bears the responsibility for what happened there on Sunday. They willingly accepted 48,000 entrants (although they only admit to 40,000) at $110 each. At 40k, that is 4.4 million dollars. A minimum expectation for any race is that the course is marked, there is some method for official timing, and the advertised aid stations are sufficiently stocked. The rest, in my opinion, is non-essential. At $110, there is no excuse for running out of water.

The race director claims this did not happen, but also says the runners took more than expected water (for showering themselves), depleting stations. So which is Mr. Pinkowski? Did you or didn't you run out of water? There is enough evidence that they did.... big time.

2 - This was bound to happen eventually. This event has been marketed as a spectacle ever since LaSalle Banks purchased it (and saved it) in the 90's. Their goal has been to be the biggest, fastest, and most prestigious. They still might have the first two, but it will be a long time before they claim (or reclaim) the third.

With this many runners, they need more than just elite and seeded bib starts. They should have a wave at least every hour (2-3 hour pace wave, 3-4 hour, 4-4.5, 4.5-5, etc.). Qualifying for each wave would be a necessity. This would not only spread the race out, but make it quicker. When I ran it in 2002, I ran a sub 7 min. pace, and was still passing 9-10 minute milers at mile 7. This messes up the fun of the race, as well as the aid station flows. This would help them stage the aid stations better. (a 5 hour runner will consume more water at mile 20 than a 3 hour runner)

3 - With qualifying waves, possibly have a color for "never run a marathon before". These runners would be more subjected to EMT's pulling them off the course, removing their chip and bib. This way, if they have pushed themselves past a realm of physical safety, it is easy for race officials to fix it, instead of spectators encouraging them to keep going and telling them it is only mental. I.E., if you puke, and you are wearing that bib, you are done. EMTs teams maybe should cover a mile each.

4 - If it is warm, have shower apparatus BEFORE the aid stations and immediately after. This will discourage aid station showering. If it is going to be warm, have sponges and ice.

5 - Instead of letting a lot of the silly stuff be showcased at the expos, ensure there are products like Succeed! (s-caps) or Hammer Nutrition (e-caps). These would have prevented countless "runners down!" if used properly. (in conjunction with the missing Gatorade).

If the running community is not careful, the sport will be hijacked by the same people who cancel ice fishing events when it is too cold, canceling cross country ski events because of snow, and recess when it is windy.

The new era quite possibly could prevent people from exploring the outer limits of their physiology which they may have never experienced.

My thoughts anyway.

Whistlestop Marathon


After discussing the Chicago debacle all week, and watching Twin Cities Marathon, I could not resist.

I ran 8 miles on Monday, at what seemed like an easy pace, and clocked 7:20 miles. Even splits. I figured I am still in shape to possibly pr a marathon.

After all of the discussion this week, I am in.

I am shooting for a pr of under 3:08, which might not be realistic, but something within reach since my legs have tons of hill work on them (2 weeks ago I was able to do the Afton 25k loop in 2:23).

So, its off to Ashland for the weekend.

Friday, October 5, 2007

First post on new running blog

I switched to this forum so I don't corrupt the family blog.