My first DNF

May 26, 2008

This morning, I attempted to run the Darkside Running Clubs 3M marathon. This is a small (~15 people) race in Peachtree city. The 3M stands for Monday Morning Marathon, and they have one on Memorial day and another on Labor Day. It’s billed as race where you show up, they give you a course.

I’ve been looking forward to this for a couple months, since it just sounded exciting and the Darkside members sound like interesting folks. This proved to be true, as we pulled up and noticed on Scott’s truck there was “134.4” sticker. Roman asked, and he responded with “I got tired of seeing all the 26.2 stickers, so I had my own made.” Hilarious!

We hung out for a few minutes, the course was described and we walked to the starting line. It was low key, where everyone looked at their watch and someone said “lets go”. So, off we went.

I hung with the lead group for the first couple miles, not so much because I wanted to go fast, but I was afraid of getting lost and I wanted to try to make one lap with someone in site. Eventually I decided they were going too fast, and I dropped down to my speed.

The course was very comfortable…it was all flat, something I didn’t know was possible in this state. It was along a multi-use path that would throughout the community. Peachtree City is a golf cart community, and there were plenty of golf carts cruising around. At one point, I saw a caravan of about 30 of them heading towards the city center for the Memorial Day parade. The course was marked with chalk, and I managed to not get lost.

One neat thing was little tunnels going under the roads. I couldn’t help myself for a while, and felt the need to talk in them just to hear the echo.

A tunnel going under a road.

There was plenty of little lakes we went around, and lots of people fishing. In the morning, it looked nice with steam coming off the water.

The lake.

Okay, enough of the site seeing and back to the race. The course was 5 laps. The first one we all went the same direction, and the others everyone could go either way. This provided us a chance to have a change of scenery, and high-five each other as we saw each other. Everything was on the honor system. (Number of laps completed and time. Grab a finishers medal if you complete them all, and leave your name.)

Now, as I mentioned in the title, I didn’t finish this race. That’s okay, I didn’t think I would. Due to the knee problems I’ve been dealing with, I haven’t been training much. (I think for this month until today, I only had 48 miles logged. That’s definitely not the type of miles to complete a marathon.)  My plan was to do as much as I could, and finish about the same time as Roman (whom I carpooled with). I was hoping he wouldn’t lap me too many times, and was successful there, since he only passed once. I managed to finish lap 3 about 5 minutes before he finished his last one.

My first lap, after running the first couple miles (at about 9 minute miles), I slowed and started mixing in walking. I finished in 1:07, which isn’t bad for just over 5.2 miles. Overall, I felt pretty good during this one.

The second lap, I mainly race walked, and mixed some running in as I needed to stretch my legs. It took me just a little longer, at 1:15. Toward the end of this, my knee started hurting, but not too bad of a slow down.

My third lap was race walking the entire way. (Until I had to slow down for moments because my knee was hurting.) About half way around, my knee felt pretty bad and I definitely slowed down. Amazingly to me, I did this lap in 1:15 also, only 8 seconds difference from the second lap. (But to be fair, some time was wasted in lap 2 looking for an appropriate bush to borrow.)

I\'m at the rest stop

I was real happy with these times. If I come back for the next one, I may consider race walking the whole course. Because it’s so flat, it’s a perfect course for it.

One thing I tried new this time was using a “Buff” to keep the sun off my head. I thought it worked good, and I got the cool pirates look, which is almost like having a costume. Even through they are known from Survivor, at no time during this race did I have to win immunity or eat bugs.


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.

The story of my shoes

March 11, 2008

March Runners Fit Newsletter article. Recently, I was talking to a friend about shoes. He couldn’t understand spending a lot of money for shoes when he could go to the local budget sports store and buy a pair for $25. It reminded me of when I thought the same thing, and the events that led to my change of heart.

It was the summer of ’02 when I decided to run my first marathon. My big adventure was starting. Seattle Marathon 2002, here I come! After telling my wife about my brilliant idea, I drove down to the local sports store to get shoes. Lucky me, they were having a sale.

I spent an hour or more grabbing whatever was on the shelf in my size -trying them on and pacing a back and forth in them. I focused on the $15 – $20 shoes (I did say they were having a sale). I had to find shoes that fit OK and were a good color (because I am so well known for my fashion sense). Finally, I found the perfect pair, or so I thought. Off I went, $26.93 poorer, thinking I was a great bargain shopper.

Immediately, I laced up and headed off for my first run. Almost immediately, I realized that wasn’t going to make it to the end of the block. My feet hurt, but my lungs hurt worse! Gradually, as the weeks turned into months, I was putting in some pretty good miles. My lungs stopped hurting, but my foot pain persisted. I had regular blisters and hot spots. But, I assumed that was just part of running.

Three months before the marathon, I decided to run a local half-marathon. By this time, my long Sunday runs were 14-15 miles, so 13.1 miles should be a breeze. The first few miles were fine. It was interesting to have all those people running with me. After those first few miles, my foot pain was getting really bad. Ugh, it was awful. I managed to finished the race, but when I took off my shoes, I saw that my left foot was one big blister – from my big toe all the way to my heel – and the toes on my right foot were all blistered. At that point, I decided that enough was enough.

A few days later, when I could finally walk again, I headed to a local running store to buy new shoes. I was smart enough to take my old ones with me. The beauty of a running store is that, even when they are busy, someone is usually able to able to spend a bit of time helping you out. The salesperson who helped me looked at the soles of my used shoes to see the wear pattern and then put me on a treadmill with a video camera to watch my form. He listened to my woes and helped me pick out some shoes that worked – I mean really worked. And, thankfully, he never laughed at me for buying the bargain shoes in the first place. In addition to helping me find the right shoes, he taught me several other things, including how to pick out the right socks, what to put on my feet to prevent blisters, and how different lacing patterns can help make shoes fit even better. He spoke, I listened, and it changed my perspective entirely.

As with my bargain shoes, I immediately laced up my new shoes and went running. It was heavenly. It took a mile or two to adjust to the shoes and the fact that they forced me to use better form. Other than that, they were amazing. I went on to finish the marathon, and as far as I recall, I haven’t had any serious blisters in the years since – not even while training for the NY marathon or any of the other half marathons I’ve run. No more bargain shoes for me – except maybe for doing yard work.

Spirit of the Marathon

February 22, 2008

Last night, some or our jolly gang ventured to the movies to see the encore presentation of The Spirit Of The Marathon.
Back in January when this movie was shown as a one time presentation, it got great reviews and was sold out across the country, so naturally, they did an encore presentation. It’s a look at 6 people getting ready to run the Chicago marathon, from first timer’s to world class elite runners.

Ah, where to start…To get in the right frame of mind, three of us met for pizza and beer. I know all my friends from Seattle will never speak to me again, but we drank Bud Light. I can’t even remember if it had any flavor, but at $5 a pitcher, I guess the price was right. On a side note, one thing that makes me laugh every time I go out I ask what’s on tap. The response I get is always some mass produced beer spoken of reverently, like it’s the best in the world. I’m sorry, but 95% of the time, it the choices just don’t make the grade and I end up getting a diet Coke. Anyway, we hung out for an hour talking about running and other stuff. Roman had just run the Myrtle Beach marathon the weekend before, so we spoke of that. If it fits into the calendar next year, I think I’ll have to do it. (I’ll let him post is race report to give the reasons why.)

After rushing over to the theater, we met up with the other 2 members of our group and proceeded to the theater. A couple girls were handing out some Team In Training brochures. Cool, but some coupons for or something would have been great, since we walked into an Active commercial playing. Our noble leader led us to the nose bleed seats and we settled in. The theater wasn’t more than 1/2 full and no one else was too close to us.

The movie itself was good. Better than other marathon documentaries that I’ve seen and a full gambit of emotions came through. I’ve seen other reviews where people got choked up during certain scenes, but I never did. But that could be because we were having too much fun with our own running commentary. Sitting with a group of runners, we’ve all been through everything they’ve shown, so we felt free to inject appropriate comments as needed.

The race coverage was good, including some great shots of the start.

After the credits, they showed some extras (that I suppose will be on the DVD). Most of the people had left, so we had the place mostly to ourself. Without ruining anything, we now know Deena Kastor’s secret ingredient for avocado enchiladas. (Deena, just to let you you, it’s not a secret anymore. Sorry.)

The “rock throwing” deleted scene was great, possibly one of the best parts of the movie in my opinion.

Overall, I’d say to go see this movie in a theater where you have a mass of people around you to get into the mood. Or if you rent it, be sure to invite your friends over to watch it so you can talk and enjoy it together.