Saturday, May 31, 2008

1:15:00 :: 10.3 miles

Easy run. Ran a couple of miles toward the end with Rick and Earl.

Friday, May 30, 2008

1:00:00 :: 9.2 miles

Easy run. Stopped my watch with a bit over a mile to go (black lab catch and release), and forgot to restart it. Mostly hitting mid-6:20s comfortably. Feeling good today.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

1:18:30 :: 12 miles

Easy run. Feeling very good the last few days. Heart rate moving a bit high toward the end of longer runs (151), but still feeling comfortable.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

1:04:00 :: 9.5 miles

Easy run. Feeling good, no problems, HR is starting to come back to normal levels, but still a few bpm high.

Monday, May 26, 2008

1:08:30 :: 10 miles

Easy run. Longest run since the marathon. Felt really good, legs feeling strong again at normal easy pace (6:40ish).

Sunday, May 25, 2008

45:00 :: 6.9 miles

Easy run. Quad was fine, back to normal. Legs feeling pretty good.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008

30:00 :: 3.9 miles

Easy, easy run. Quads tightened up after about 15 minutes. Felt better later in the day.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Difference...

What a difference one place makes. I've spent the morning doing interviews for three radio shows, and I've got another one scheduled for this afternoon (1:10pm US Central time, live feed if you want to listen), local TV tonight, and five more radio shows on Wednesday...this is NUTS!

I'm as anxious to write the race report as you may be to read it, so I appreciate your patience. I hope to have a copy of the live radio broadcast of the race to post here soon. I heard a 20 second clip of the finish call, and it about brought me to tears.

More soon. Thanks for sharing this with me, everyone!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Recovery :: No Runs 5.18-5.22

Took five days off following the marathon. Soreness in the calves and quads for Sunday, Monday, and a bit on Tuesday, then completely fine for Wednesday and Thursday.

Victory !

What a day, what a race! I'll have a proper race report in the next day or so, but for now, i'm just relaxing, and trying to take it all in. Thanks so much for all the comments and your support throughout my preparation. I've had so many people tell me what a source of motivation this blog, and others like it, are for them, and I want to let my readers know that you are a huge source of motivation for me as well.

A very special thanks goes out to Mystery Coach, who, through his mysterious ways was actually able to coach the top TWO runners at yesterday's race! Brian Anderson told me at the awards ceremony that doing the back to backs mentioned in my blog finally made marathon training 'click' for him. Great job coach! Thanks again for everything you've done for me, and for sharing your advice and wisdom through the intertubes.

Time for breakfast and then heading home. Hope you all had a great weekend. I'll write again soon.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Persistence of Memory

Almost immediately, I resolved to come back to try for the win next year. The people of Fargo were amazing, and as a lifelong resident of North Dakota, I'm particularly excited about the prospect of winning its biggest and best marathon. Hopefully it's more competitive next year, and there will be a fight to the finish in course record time. I can't wait.

--from the 2007 Fargo Marathon race report, written one year ago yesterday.

Fargo Marathon 2008 :: Part 2 of 2

Brian relaxed the pace briefly as we continued past the Concordia campus, but it wouldn't be long before the gap built up again. We broke from the half marathon course for a few precious miles, and once again became lonely racers.

I fought hard to stay within striking distance, trying to convince myself that my tactical preparation would pay off in the last five kilometers. All the same, I was getting a bit irritated with the growing gap, waiting to feel better, and, to a great extent, the whole race to that point.

I had bought a pair of $.99 gloves the night before at the expo, and worn them throughout the race, even though it had been plenty warm. I can say this: I did not have cold hands the entire race. That counts for something. But now, I needed some inspiration. A physical representation of emotion. What better cliche to invoke than taking my gloves off and throwing them down on the ground! That'll work!

After throwing down the gauntlet, well, the gap got a little bigger, about 30 meters at it's longest. We were back with the half marathoners again by mile nineteen, fighting through the crowd at some points, and making the best of a bad, bad situation. This is not how anyone wants to run a competitive race. It was made more difficult by the fact that we didn't have a race official with us. Up ahead, Rotich and Thull had, I believe, four cyclists between them. The rest of the top ten had zero, and we were navigating the crowd on our own.

The half marathoners would be a steady stream for the next several miles, an almost straight shot north, into a strong, steady wind. As much as I wanted and hoped that the half marathoners would block some of the wind, it didn't happen. I watched Brian have a couple of close calls up ahead, and tried to avoid my own, especially on the few turns we had to take. One positive aspect of the situation for me was that it took my mind off the pain for a while, as my singular thought was stay out of trouble.

I didn't know it at the time, but as we made our way past the mile 20 water station, we were also making our way past the last elite station, with all of our drinks, and the most critical ones at that. The last elite station was supposed to be at mile 21, as it was last year. To make it even worse, I passed my wife just before mile 21, and, thinking that I wouldn't need it due to the upcoming aid station, refused one of the insurance bottles she was carrying!

Now, what would a thinking man do in this situation? If you answered, take the bottle just in case--that's why it's called an insurance bottle--then I'd like to have you stand at mile 21 next year and yell at me next year to take the damn bottle. Seriously. I'll pay your way out (okay, fine, I'm joking). After missing my bottles at 21 last year, this was poetic. Like a really bad poem. By a really bad poet.

In my defense, I was less than a minute away from passing Matt Thull and moving into third place. Again, like last year, I made a tactical error while making a late-race pass into a significant position. An epic, terrible poem.

I said a few encouraging words as I passed Matt, who seemed to be suffering from the heat and a lack of fuel as well as the early pace. I saw him drop off his fluids the night before at the expo, and noticed that he didn't bring much for calories. Also, knowing that this was his first marathon, I thought there was a good chance that an aggressive, front-running race could produce a bad result. Unfortunately for Matt, that's exactly what happened.

After moving in to third, I was worried. Last year I slowed to over six minute pace by 23 miles after missing my fluids. The last bit of racing in 2007 was incredibly tough. This year, I used a bit different strategy by taking my fluids almost continuously, with the last bit around mile 20. I could still feel some in my stomach, so I felt comfortable that I was in better position fuel-wise than last year, but I was also planning some hard moves late in the race, and didn't know how those would affect my reserves. By mile 22, I knew. I was running out of gas.

Brian was still ahead, less than 30 meters away, but still running strong with four miles to go. I was freaking out, because I could feel that familiar tickle in my legs--the tickle you get about ten minutes before you bonk (no, not that kind of bonk, Ewen). I started to think about the finish, and what it would take to get there in second or third place. Rotich was two minutes up the road, Brian was still looking strong, and I was running out of gas. I suddenly had the opportunity I prepared all these months for--I was racing for a top three spot, and to preserve my place in my current situation, the time trial had to be over. Sub-2:30, one of my top few goals, was out the window.

And then, an epiphany. I had put a gel in my shorts pocket before the race. Dummy, I forgot about it! Genius! I remembered!

I tore into it--Powerbar Vanilla with 1x caffeine. I had used several brands of gel in training, so I had no worries, and I knew that it worked. I downed the whole thing over the next half mile, and grabbed a cup of water to thin it out. In less than a minute, everything turned around. Not only was I excited for the race ahead, but I couldn't wait to tell Tim Noakes that I had just proved his central governor theory. There's no way that I digested that fuel in a useful way, but here I was, one moment in the throes of utter fatigue, and the next moment, jacked up, feeling good, and closing the gap.

I pulled even with Brian around 23. I don't remember there being much time between pulling even, and Brian telling me he was cramping up (maybe that's why you pulled even, genius? -ed.). I told Brian to hang tough, work through it, and finish strong, and suddenly, I was in second place. Again, I entertained thoughts of conserving to maintain my place. Those thoughts didn't last long, though.

Within one or two minutes of passing Brian, I heard someone along the road say, "He's just two blocks ahead." Who's this then? Second place? I just passed second place. I'm in second place. I asked one of the guys on the bikes, who joined up with us just after 21 miles, where Rotich was. I don't remember him answering my question. Instead he just looked at me and said, "He's fading. Pretty bad."

The previous two miles had gone by in 5:56 and 5:55. They were tough, as any miles late in the marathon will be, but I was well within myself. I was feeling better and better all through mile 23, after the gel pack, but I was still hesitant to crack it open with second or third place on the line and what I thought was a big gap to first.

And then the leader was in sight. We hadn't crossed over to the half marathon course yet, which would happen at just about mile 24.5, so there were just a few dozens of people on the side of the road, watching the race as I slowly but surely rolled up on the leader. He had the same effortless stride as he had earlier in the race, but it was moving him down the road a full minute per mile more slowly. I, on the other hand, was moving as quickly as any other time during the race.

When he was still several blocks away, I said out loud, to no one in particular, "Do you think I can get that guy?" No one answered. Again, another block up the road, I said, "I think I can get this guy!", and again, no one on the side of the road said a word. I admit I sounded a bit loopy, but come on! Let's get fired up people! Finally, when it was obvious I was within 100 meters and closing fast, I said, "I'm gonna get this guy!" and started blasting down the road.

As I pulled even with Rotich, I turned to look at him. I mentioned before that I had been practicing some simple Swahili words, like 'habari' (hello), 'asante' (thank you) and a phrase or two like 'Nimefurahi kukujua' (pleased to meet you). So, with my weeks of practice, I looked over and said...'Good morning'.

I couldn't remember a damn thing! I must have looked at him blankly for two full seconds before saying 'good morning'. At least it was actually morning. Fueled by complete and total embarrassment, I took off down the road, covering mile 24 in 5:38, and picking up steam.

At this point in the race, I was running scared. I had no reason to believe that Rotich wasn't coming back, although it didn't seem likely. Paraphrashing the great line from the Blues Brothers movie, it was two miles to the finish, I had a full tank of gas, one aid station to go, it's hot and sunny, and I left my sunglasses in the car. Hit it.

Mile 25 was a blur of spectators, music, half marathoners, cyclists, flashing lights, and pace cars. I was running hard, putting down a 5:32 mile, but still holding back a bit, still afraid to chance blowing up with over a mile to go. I don't know when the first time was that I threw up my hands and celebrated a bit, but I'm pretty sure it was somewhere around half a mile to go. I remember asking a few times how far back Rotich was, and I got one audible answer early in mile 25--75 meters. Not much, I thought.

I hammered for a couple of minutes after that, and then asked again. But, by the time I was close enough to ask and be heard, a person couldn't reply before the howl of the crowd drowned them out. I couldn't listen for the sound of cheers, because no one I passed over the last mile ever stopped screaming! The crowd was going nuts! Nobody could believe that some guy from North Dakota was going to win this race, and they were coming unglued!

With about half a mile to go, I saw Pat Mahoney, a friend from Grand Forks, and a member of the UND track team. He stood out in the road and gave me a big high-five, and that's when I knew I had it won. I let loose everything I had left, and tore down the road in full flight. One turn on to University a straight, and then another quick turn into the Fargodome lot. I knew that at race pace, it would take me just under two minutes from this point to the finish line, and a quick look at the watch confirmed that the sub-2:30 was gone. The realization that there would be another time for that came and went in an instant.

I was about to win this race against long odds, and I intended to charge into the Fargodome like a man possessed. After six months of brutal training conditions, and assorted ups and and downs, it was all gathering to the finish in flash of white hot effort. Mile 26 in 5:21. Three hundred fifty meters to go!

As I turned the corner and went down the ramp into the belly of the building, my knees lifted, my stride lengthened, and my eyes fixed on the finish line. Just as I had practiced in my 'mind movies' dozens of times in training, I calmed my expression, stretched out my arms, and crossed the finish line. First.

What a feeling. What a feeling. Yes, I typed that twice.

Immediately after the race, I felt great. Much much better than last year. That said, last year I didn't run a 2:29 final half mile into the finish! I was about ready to throw up, and it took a minute or two of concerted effort to keep my stomach in check. There had been a live broadcast of the race taking place, and Dan Hammer was at the finish waiting to talk to me. I think I started talking, and then the nausea came back, so I asked for 'three minutes' (not sure why I was so precise), walked around, and took a couple of drinks of water. Brian came in while I was waiting, and we talked briefly, and got him some water. He looked like he was feeling the heat, and seeing him take the water and dump it over his head confirmed it. After suffering through two other hot, humid marathons, Brian pulled together a great race in Fargo, setting a marathon PR by 15 minutes! An incredible day for him, and a tough, gutsy performance.

I was able to see John Rotich finish as well, and went to congratulate him, but he kind of walked right by. He appeared to have bonked pretty hard, and seemed a bit out of sorts. I'm not sure how much English he speaks, but he didn't say a word to me either time I engaged him. I was hoping to interact with John and the other Kenyans more, but unfortunately they left shortly after the race.

Feeling somewhat settled, I went to do the interview, and talked and fought through several bouts of acute laryngitis and waves of nausea. More than once, my voiced trailed off to a whisper as I continued to talk, which I'm sure was interesting to listen to.

I was brain dead to the possibility that people could be listening to this from anywhere, and I would find out later that Mystery Coach had been able to listen to the entire race from his secret lair! Crazy! One difficult thing about coaching from long distance is, not only do the coach and athlete not get to visualise training, they also miss out on experiencing the fruit of all their labors! Imagine if you had to wait for one of these race reports to find out what happened! haha. I was so excited to find out that Coach was able to listen in on the plan coming to life. The plan we had spent weeks discussing. It was all happening as he listened, he knew what was about to happen, and he got to hear the reporters confirm it!

Another great story that was taking place at the same time centered around my high school buddy Tim. This year, just like last year, he was out golfing with some friends. They had been listening to the radio feed and had gotten to mile 23 or so without having heard a word about me. They were about to turn of the radio and head for the links, thinking I had had an off day and wouldn't be in the mix. Tim called his wife to ask her to let him know if I was mentioned, hung up and started walking back to his clubs. Just before turning off the radio, he started to make a joke like, "wouldn't it be funny if all of a sudden, they said 'out of nowhere, here comes...'", and at that moment, out of nowhere, there I was. Picture four guys jumping around like little kids in a candy store. Tim was nice enough to put the description of that event in a card, and sent it off to me, which was incredibly thoughtful, and very much appreciated. He also does the best pre and post-race interviews! Thanks, Tim!

After the interview, I made my way around the Fargodome floor, got hugs from my family who had come to see the race, shared some moments with my wife and my dad, and spent some time accepting and offering congratulations to other friends and runners. I talked with Chad Wallin briefly, and he mentioned he will be running Grandma's Marathon in June, so I'll look forward to seeing him have a great race, and hopefully get under that 2:30 barrier.

All in all, an incredible race, and an incredible experience. Six months of training, planning, and dreaming, and 150 minutes of execution. Such an amazing thing.

Thank you all for your support, your inspiration, and your kind words over the last two and a half years. I hope you'll all continue to follow the story with me as I continue to write it. Cheers!

Fargo Marathon :: 2:30:34 - 1st :: Part 1 of 2

Ah, the race report. Here we go. So, I was up at 4am, as you saw from an earlier post, and got down my last tiny meal, just enough to get rid of the hunger pains. I spent the rest of the morning in the room, trying to stay calm and off my feet. Around 7:15, we headed out to the course, where I met up with my Beyond Running mates. I did my well-practiced six minute pre-race routine, and finished with about fifteen minutes to race time.

The wind was almost non-existent, and the temp was about 50F, but it was sunny, so there was no chill at all. Very nice conditions to start. Mystery Coach and I had talked about avoiding adrenaline rushes and really conserving mental energy leading up to, and during the race, so I had to laugh when 'Beautiful Day' by U2 came up on the sound system, and I got a huge chill up my spine! It didn't get any better, as they played clips of a couple of great Coldplay songs before the start, as well.

Looking around, I could see two of the taller Kenyans, but I didn't get a look at their race numbers to see if they were in the half or the full. I didn't see John Rotich until the race got underway. Nobody really knew who was running as far as the Kenyans, because they had changed their entries multiple times. As it turned out, only one had entered the full, and two were scratched (one of whom would end up running the Green Bay CellCom Marathon the next day). Chad Wallin, the defending back-to-back champion, was there, as were all of the contenders. I didn't see Matt Thull at the line, but he was right there when the gun went off.

The goal for the first few miles was to be as conservative as I could without giving away a gap that I would have to surge to cover early. The plan on paper was 5:50, 5:46, 5:42. Mile one went by perfectly in 5:51, with Rotich, Wallin, and Thull just a few strides ahead. By mile two, the gap was growing a little bit more than I liked, so I partially abandoned the conservative start and went right to race pace, turning in a 5:40, and a 5:42. Everything felt good at that point, and there was a nice pack formed.

I took my first fuel of the race around four miles. Coach and I had talked about taking a small amount of my drink at the start line, like last year, or waiting until around 35-40 minutes in to allow the fat burning mechanisms to establish before the insulin surge from the sugary sport drink kicked in. I decided on the fly to split the difference.

Our big pack wouldn't last long, as Rotich and Thull asserted themselves around mile six, and began to open a gap that would span over one minute by the halfway point. That left five of us in a group behind the leaders. Chad Wallin, Brian Anderson, Eric Loeffler, John McEvoy, and I followed, making some small talk about the leaders, and generally just trying to stay relaxed.

Coach had told me to dole out my mental energy in thirds over the race course: the first third by mile 15, the second third by mile 22.5, and the last third for the push to the finish. I wasn't doing so well with that directive. My first and second mental shocks of the race came at miles seven and nine. At mile seven, to put it clinically, I had an overwhelming urge to urinate. I couldn't get myself to go, and it hurt. There were people everywhere, and just couldn't make the magic happen. Mile nine is out on a bike path that is pretty well devoid of people, so I thought I would be able to go there, but I was wrong.

This had happened to me one other time, at the Beardsley Half last year, and it was awful. It was even worse there as it was raining. I had no idea what to do, other than suffer through it and hope it went away as I dehydrated. I briefly entertained thoughts of dropping out, which is not a great way to be thinking at any point in a long race, let alone a third of the way in.

The second mental shock: Chad Wallin pulls off the course at nine miles. This was devastating. He and I were in the back of the group just past mile nine, and suddenly he said, "I have to use the bathroom", and pulled off the course. He had been ill, and unfortunately it hung around for race day. He would return to the course, but having lost over two minutes to the stop, and still not feeling well, he decided to drop around the halfway point.

One of my top few goals for this year was to give Chad a race, and of course I wanted to win, but more importantly, he is the defending champion the last two years, and he has become a Fargo favorite, I suppose a bit like Grete Waitz was at the New York City Marathon, or Bill Rodgers at Boston. It was really an unfortunate turn of events to have him out of the race--for both the spectators and the competitors.

As our pack moved on through ten miles, I started to realize I was not feeling as well as I had in training. I was breathing a bit harder than I expected to be before the half, and working a bit harder than I wanted to keep pace with the group. At this point in the race, the wind was in our faces, and had kicked up to a steady 9mph. Also, unknown to me, it was warm--61F, and getting warmer. Physically and mentally, it was an off day, and I was getting concerned.

I had planned to hit halfway in 74:15 to 74:30. It was another mental hit to see 74:57 on the clock. It was windy, warm, I had to pee, and the pace felt too fast. Things were not going well. I was able to convince myself that I just needed to tuck in and focus, and let the next ten miles just take care of itself. "Wait to feel better" became my new mantra.

More drama would unfold in the next hour, as the temp rose to 68F and the wind started to howl, blowing 20mph steady, with gusts up to 27mph. Fargo's famous north winds were back, and this time we were being baked as well as buffeted. It took all my concentration to stick with Brian as he separated himself from our pack, and pulled me through some really tough miles. Over mile fourteen and fifteen, we were nearly alone on the course, and there were no signs and so few people, we were very worried we had gone off course. Mile sixteen in particular was memorable for a couple of reasons. We had crossed over to share the half marathon course, and unfortunately had to battle for our share of the road. At one point on this stretch a pair of little kids, maybe 6 or 7 years old, ran out in the road and got a little too close for comfort. This was the last straw for Brian. As the anger got the better of him, the pace escalated, and he tore off a 5:33 mile, gapping me by a few seconds.

I caught back up with him as we headed through the Concordia College campus, and practically begged him to relax and slow down--for his own sake as much as for mine! There was a lot of racing left, and I knew if he had that in him, and I had it in me, it was no use squandering it together over some minor frustrations with almost ten miles to go.

Tomorrow--missed bottles at mile 21 (AGAIN!), and the gloves come off...

4 hours

Found out this morning that the Kenyans are here, and there are three instead of two in the full marathon. Tuwei is fresh, Serem ran Little Rock on March 2 (2:25), and Rotich ran Lincoln just two weeks ago (2:28). The pack of sub-2:30 hopefuls is still about six strong, so if the Kenyans are up front it should be irrelevant to my race plan.

Eating a light breakfast of bread, crackers, and drink right now, studying a bit of Kiswahili (just in case), and trying to chill. Weather looks substantially better than last year. We should escape the worst of the wind and heat. 45F and 10mph at the start, 62F and 15mph at the finish.

Friday, May 16, 2008

16 hours

Here is a look at some race prep. Mixing up the drinks, light on the vodka. At least tonight...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Game on!

Hey all you lurkers! Thanks for the comments! Sorry I haven't been writing as much as I would like to. It's been a very very busy and stressful week, but I'm done working now and I can get down to relaxing and thinking about the race more than thinking about down servers and other nonsense like that.

I'll write a bit more when I get settled in at the hotel. Lots to talk about as far as the field, the preparations, the tactics, the fueling, the coaching, and lots more.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Monday, May 05, 2008

1:01:00 :: 9.1 miles

Easy run on the treadmill. Watched the Stanford 10000m races. Good times.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

1:00:00 :: 8.1 miles

Recovery run. Felt really good, held back a lot to get a good recovery in. Resisted multiple urges to take off at 5:00 pace!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Friday, May 02, 2008

50:00 :: 8.5 miles

MP-10 run. Cool and windy (40F, 15mph N). Two mile warmup, then six miles in about 33:00. Half mile cooldown. Very similar recovery to last week, a few seconds faster overall, with less variation in HR. Cold bath after. Good run. Ready for 10/10 tomorrow!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

55:15 :: 8 miles

Easy run on the treadmill. Ready for the first part of the last back-to-back workout.