After Action Review-Marathon

March 31, 2008

Way back when I was in the army, after field exercises and training, we used to have an AAR, After Action Review. This was a time to review what went right and what went wrong and basically, how can we learn from our mistakes. Back then, I didn’t appreciate them too much, I think mainly because at my rank, I was very unaware of the bigger picture.

ING Marathon finisher medal and shirt

Happily now, I can do an after action review on my own stuff and since I know the whole picture, I can pretend to be objective about it and critique myself. Normally, this is an internal dialog where I tell myself how great I am and never do anything wrong. However, in this case, I thought I’d continue talking about my marathon and share with you what I thought went right and wrong.

– I don’t think I’ll do a road race again with racing flats. I think the lighter shoes made a huge difference both in this race and the 17 road miles I did on Feb 29th. I’d recommend running a couple miles in them to get used to ’em before your race, because they do feel different. (If you’re a severe pronator, you’ll have to think about how to do this since these don’t generally have a lot of medial support.) Look for them on sale, since they’ll probably only last for a 100 miles.

– Dress for the weather. I thought about wearing a light sweater I have (made of suitably breathable material and all), but decided against it because I didn’t want to overheat. Given that I was expecting to get wet, I should have worn it and either tossed it or wrapped around my waist if I got too hot. My shoulders are about as sore as my legs today, I think mainly because I spent the entire race hunched up against the cold.

– Stretching and strength training. I used to think just running is enough to train for running. But over the last couple months I’ve realized other types of training, be it weights, cross training, stretching or whatever, it makes a big difference. Likewise, I’ll probable start adding in more standard running drills, such as fartleks and speed drills or sorts.

– Long runs. As I may have mentioned before, my training this time was completely different than a standard regiment. The longest run I did was around 13.5 miles. However, I was doing back-to-back runs. This meant I’d go do 10 miles one day and 8 the next. Or in the case of my longest one, I did 8.5+8.5 in the same day with a few hours in between and 13 the next. I like this routine. Time wise it’s easier to fit in and its a lot easier on the body. However, next time I’ll do longer ones (like 13+13, or 18+10). This should prepare me for the last 8 miles better than I was prepared this time.

– Take paper and a pen. I thought about it this time, but didn’t do it. Sometimes I want to jot down names or bib numbers so when I do a recap later I can remember who I talked to. Or even just to look up someone else’s finish time…there’s probably a better way to do this, or I should just stop being so social, but it’s part of what I enjoy.

– Try to hydrate better. I need to figure out how to do gels without getting that ball of sugar in my stomach. The pretzels helped, so maybe I need to carry a small bag of them with me to eat.

– One thing I am absolutely thrilled with is ending up with no chafing and blisters! Even after soaking my feet in a puddle before the race started, I had no problems. Yup, and to me, that makes for a successful race. One thing I did was carry a tiny container of vaseline and some paper towels, just in case. I actually stopped at mile 16 to put a dab on the the ball of one foot as preventative measures, but I don’t think I would have actually gotten a blister. When lubing up in the morning, I went all out. No skimping anywhere, and I think that’s the key.

That’s about it…

Oh, if anyone is interested, I was bib 2747. (If you want to go look at pictures or anything. They’re not posted yet, so I don’t have a link.) Feel free to say hi if you recognize me. 🙂


Ruhn! Rahn! Ruhn! – 2008 ING Georgia Marathon

March 30, 2008

Rahns bib

Sunday started cold and wet, about 43 degrees and raining as I left the house. The forecast was for the rain to stop by 7, then get colder for a couple hours (down to 38) then come back up to 43 or so. With that in mind, my wardrobe consisted of 2 technical shirts, my standard yellow vest and shorts. I also strapped on my new waist pack I got yesterday and my racing flats (which feel like they’re 1/2 the weight of my regular shoes). A lot of Powerglide and Vaseline, with my Injinji socks rounded me out. Ipod with Nike+ was my timer, sans headphones.

I took Marta down, catching a train about 6:15. It was absolutely packed with other runners and I had a good time socializing a bit. I was sitting with a bunch of gals doing the half, then one of them noticed my bib number was a different color, and was very thrilled that I was doing the full. She nudged her boyfriend and said “Hey, he’s doing the full” in reverent tones. I thought it was kinda funny, but hey, that’s cool.

Getting off the train a guy started talking to me who was doing the half. He asked a bunch of questions about training for the full and how does someone who’s uh, on the bigger side, do it. He was also well built, about 10 pounds less but a couple inches taller. After talking the whole way to the starting area, he was pretty motivated to give it a go. Good luck buddy. Again, I chuckled that here I was, being the role model as a runner.
Starting Area

We showed up a couple minutes before the start, as they were singing the nation anthem. I ran off to try to find the bag drop, hit a puddle that soaked my shoes, and ran probably 1/2 miles looking for it. Finally managed to find it, and got back to the crowd waiting to start just as the gun started. It took about 10 minutes to make it to the starting line, and we were off.

My plan was to take it really easy until the crowd broke up, then continue taking it easy. I’d do some preemptive walking when my legs started to tighten up in an effort to prevent it from getting bad. I’ve been training around a 11:45 pace, and would be happy to hold that for the first half.

The first few miles were a gentle downhill, and I thought I was on track. There was a guy dressed as Superman who passed me. I felt good holding speed for the next couple miles too, even on the uphills. About mile 5, I looked up and was surprised to see I was with the 4:30 pacing group! Holy cow, guess I’ve been going faster than planned. Especially considering I continued at the same pace and passed them up, still feeling good.

The first 7 miles were a lot of fun as we hit a lot of interesting areas of the city and the halfer’s were with us so it was a huge crowd. We saw all the Martin Luther King stuff, and the crowds were out in force. In one area, Little Five Points I think, there was a bunch of kids out playing brass instruments. Okay, they kinda sucked, but it was really cool that they were out there. Coming up on the split, they were playing Jenny’s Girl (867-5309) over the PA, which scared me because I thought I was going to have that stuck in my head the rest of the way.

After the split, it was less crowded and the wind picked up. Ouch, it was a little cold…the wind would stay with us all the way through Decatur until around mile 12. At points, it was more than just a little cold. The crowds in Decatur were good, and we hit Agnes Scott College and the coeds did a great job cheering us further. They had a band rocking away and everyone was having a good time.
Around mile 2

I hit the 13.1 mark right at 2:30. Way to go, I was on a 5 hour pace! I made my goal at this point to do sub-15 minute miles from here on out. This shouldn’t have been a problem, and I figured that will get me a 5:30-ish finish. (Yeah, I know the math doesn’t quite work out, but if I picked up 3 minutes a mile for 4 of the miles, it does.)

The next few miles were a blur. I was hurting a bit, but maintaining speed around 12 mpm. Around mile 17 I really started hurting. I felt the wall coming fast and furious. I’d been hydrating really well and taking a lot of gels, but it wasn’t really helping at this point . In fact, it felt like I had a huge ball of sugar just sitting in my stomach. Someone was handing out pretzels at one point, and a few of those helped soak some of that in.

Coming into Piedmont park (mile 22), I was struggling to run at all. I pretty much settled in to the mindset of walking the rest of the way and still meeting my goal. The 5:00 hour flew by at, which didn’t help. (I guess the 4:30 group passed me early and I missed them.) A guy whom I’d been pacing on and off with for that last five miles pulled a lead that I couldn’t catch up, and a woman caught up to me doing a serious power walk. We hung out for a couple miles, and her daughters came on course and walked with us for a while. They were funny as complaining teenagers because they couldn’t keep up with us! This made me feel better. I got the energy to start running a little bit on a downhill and took off.

The last thing of excitement was about 3/4 of an mile later after a uphill where I decided to run again on the downhill. Oh, it hurt so bad I yelled out. It motivated some kid running his first so he said “hey, I’ll run with you. Let’s go!” We motivated each other for a mile or two before my quads gave out. I had to pause to stretch, then eventually lost site of him. I think he was probably 5-10 minutes ahead of me to the finish.

The lady with the kids caught back up to me, I left her again, then she powered up for the last quarter mile and pulled ahead and finished just before me.

Whew! There I am. Chip time of 5:17, which beat my previous best by 22 minutes. Way to go!

Afterwards, as my tribute to Abebe Bikila’s first olympic win, I stretched and laid down on my back and waved my limbs around like crazy. Boy, it felt good.

EDIT (4/1/08): In case it wasn’t implied, I thought I should say it explicitly. Thank you very much to all the supporters out on the course. Hanging out in the cold is hard to do, but for the runners, it really does make a world of difference. Your ringing cowbells, offering food/drink, shouting and everything else helps make the magic happen.


2008 ING Georgia Marathon – Expo

March 29, 2008

This morning I headed down to the expo for the 2008 ING Georgia marathon at the Georgia Dome. (The location was changed last week after a tornado hit the original venue.) Getting there by train is no problem, and probably a lot easier than driving.I headed down relatively early, since there were some speakers at 11:00 AM and 12:00 PM I wanted to see.
The expo in the Georgia Dome
Packet pickup was near empty when I got there, which made it pretty quick. One interesting they did was have shirt pickup on the opposite side of the expo. I don’t know if this was a move by the marketing department or just an arrangement of coincidence due to the last minute changes. I almost ended up with the wrong shirt since I didn’t see the section for the full until the guy was handing me a shirt for the half. We got it all straightened out. The logo is pretty cool…it’s a bunch of runners legs, but the outline is building in the Atlanta skyline.
Rahn and Kathrine Switzer

After wandering around a bit, I went to the first speaker I was interested in, Kathrine Switzer. She was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon and broke the sport open for woman. Yay for girl-power! She was a real good speaker and also told about how she started organizing races and eventually partnered with Avon and started the first of their marathons. (31 years ago tomorrow, in Atlanta). She was also the major influence in getting the womens marathon put into the Olympics. (First run in Los Angeles in 1984, the first Olympic games that I really remember. I even went to an event.)

I bought a copy of her book, and she was kind enough to autograph it and pose for a picture.

The second person I wanted to see was Helen Klein, who is 85 this year. She started running when she was 55 and has completed over a 100 marathons and even more ultras. I didn’t know this going in, but she also participated in an ECO challenge, which is truly amazing for anyone. The majority of her presentation was actually a clip of Dateline where they were talking about her doing it. I think she was 72 at the time. I thought her talk was good…she was just the cutest little ol’ lady (who will blow my running away). Her husband was there also there, and from hearing her talk, her running is all his fault. (He signed them up for her first 10Helen Klein miler.) Her slogan is “I’d rather wear out than rust,” and she’s doing just that.

I also listened to a lecture on sports nutrition. There was some good information there, much of which I knew already, and some new stuff. Because a friend had recommended I do a sweat/hydration profile a few weeks ago, I was interested in how this stuff compared to that.

After the speeches, I hit a number of the booths. Bought some gloves so I’m ready next winter, and a small fanny pack that I think will work out well. It has an elastic band, so I won’t need to cinch it quite as tight to get it to stay in place, which is a problem I’ve had with other ones in the past. Testing it at home, it holds 5 gels and my license and keys, so it’s about the right size.

Time to go relax after our pasta dinner, for tomorrow we run.