Downward Dog

Now, I am good with doing some yoga.  It sure feels good.

But Skinny takes dog yoga to a new level.  An art form, if you will.

It’s a way of communication for him.

In this case, it’s “ummmm, pay attention to me.  I’m hungry and you need to serve me.  Now!”.

It’s usually accompanied with a large, loud stress yawn.

Meaning – “I am wasting away, about to turn to dust.  FEED ME!”

Downward Dog

Sometimes I just get lucky with the setting sun streaming through the window.

Well, That Was Fun!!!

If you look up at the top of the page, it says “Bill’s Racing, Rambling and Photos”.  For the past couple of years it’s been more like “Bill’s Photos and Rambling”.

That’s not to say that there hasn’t been any racing (which there really hasn’t), but there have been a few posts that leaned towards the athletic.

But if you look at my Races tab, the last race I have entered was back in January, 2010.  That was a great race in a blizzard – the Rodgau 50K.

Since then, it has mainly been play.  Fun runs in the Alps and fast stair climbs.

Then there was a grand bike tour.

But that’s not a race.  Although there was some racing.  Mainly me trying to catch up to the pack every time the road moved off of level or we hit a secteur pavé.

Although I could leave the fellas scattered by the wayside once I got the diesel engine wound up and started the sprint from a kilometer out.

And while that’s all great, great fun, it’s not an organized race.

And the reality was, as I posted in February of last year, I was athletically rudderless, not really interested in pursuing a specific athletic goal.  Mainly because most of the ones that interest me take so much time away from Goddess.  In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m quite keen on the Goddess.  That means I am quite protective of my time with her, so I wasn’t wild about the 4-6 hour (or more) weekend training days that marathons, ultra-marathons or grand bike tours require.

So I just kept an unfocused training regimen, focused on having fun and staying fit, while not demanding too much time from Goddess.  And I kept a thought in the back of my mind, which I did verbalize to a few folks, that I wanted to remain fit enough that I could fake my way through a half, whether that be a half-marathon or a half-Ironman triathlon.

That brings us to today.

On a lark a couple of months back, I signed up for the Heidelberg Half Marathon.  It was to be interesting, since I had no plans to specifically train for the race, just rely on my fitness and see how it worked out, since my training at the time was focused on a grand bike tour.  Plus, considering that I have not run greater than seven miles in the past two years, save for one other lark of a 14-miler that involved running straight up the side of the Alps, then back down, running 13.1 miles was going to be a stretch.  Especially this one, with some pretty steep sections and 3,400′ of cumulative climbing.

I was going to have to rely on the diesel engine and hope that the suspension held up.

Here’s the race map, overlaid on terrain:

Heidelberg Half Marathon
Heidelberg Half Marathon

That gives you an idea of the terrain.  But it doesn’t tell the truth like the profile does:

Heidelberg Half-Marathon Profile
Heidelberg Half-Marathon Profile

Like I said, this was a lark.  In the previous week, I had run three times, including a fairly fast 1.5 miles for my fitness test.  Before that, I had not run in a month, thanks to a combination of things.  I had injured myself playing frisbee, which halted any running.  Then I went on the grand bike tour and didn’t have time to.  Then I got back and came down with some crud that kept me down for over a week.

And that led into this week.  Monday was a slow 5-miler to make sure everything still worked properly.  Wednesday was a hill run which included the same set of stairs in PR; this time I set a new PR and ran up the entire set of stairs without stopping, although the pace was decidedly slower than 9:35.  Then on Friday was my PT test, so basically it was a short race.

In short, I didn’t train for this half-marathon, nor did I taper.

I was walking into it cold.

When I signed up, I took a stab at a finishing time and selected two hours.  I based that on the terrain and hope.  Unfortunately, hope is not a technique.

I seeded myself appropriately in my corral (#4 of 4), towards the back.  I cracked jokes with a few first-timers that I’m surprised we weren’t surrounded by people with walkers, complete with tennis balls.  We were only there a few minutes, then the gun went off for our group (some 850 people).  It was time to settle into a comfortable pace and see how the day worked out.

It wasn’t long before I was passing people.  That turned out to be the theme of the day.  I started out near the back of the 3,445 that finished and I finished 1,416 overall.  The math is simple – I passed over 2,000 people in 13.1 miles.  On this course.

Luckily a good portion of this run is on familiar ground, with the first large hill being part of our normal Monday run.  So I knew what to expect.  However, the course splits from where we normally head back down to the valley and continues upstream, then crosses further up than I am familiar with.  Then heads straight up the other side so that we can loop behind the Heidelberg Castle.  So after the midway point, it was all new territory.  And that kept my effort in check.

The only spots I walked were the water points.  No sense in trying to run and drink, instead sloshing water all over myself.  Although plenty of people did and gained nothing from it.  I did find it interesting that so many thought that they were saving time, although they had to slow down so much to prevent the sloshing that they might as well have been walking.

The flats were OK.  The uphills were great, probably because that’s where I passed huge chunks of people each time.  At one point, in the closing miles, we were climbing a series of cobbled switchbacks that were steeper than 20% grade and I had a flashback to the grand bike tour.  And the downhills were fun, cruising past many folks who just weren’t comfortable with letting go.  I was amazed at how many were walking the gradual downhills, even only halfway through the race.

As you can tell, I had a great time.

But there was one significant annoyance, for which I’m partially at fault.  The race is capped at 3,500 registered participants, mainly due to the narrow streets in Heidelberg as well as the narrow trails through the forest.  My fault was ignorantly seeding myself way at the back.  The annoyance were the many, many, many runners who could not hold their line while running, instead darting side to side even though they gained nothing from the maneuver.  I spent more time than I cared guiding people with my forearm, especially when their erratic movement threatened to push me off the trail and down the hill or into a ditch.  Or gently guiding someone forward who would dart into an open spot, but not overtake the people around him, while many of us were flying downhill at a much greater pace than they were.  But once we got past that section (and ran straight up a wall), the crowds were all but torn apart and the running became smoother.

My piriformis started talking to me at about the eight mile mark, but nothing more than a gentle reminder that I was abusing them.  In the closing miles, my calves started twinging, telling me that they were close to cramping up.  I’ve been there before, so knew how hard I could push it, keeping right at that point where they would twinge, but nothing more.  In the last half mile, a time where I’m usually flying past other runners, I didn’t.  But none caught and passed me either.

So the time?

1:58:03

Without training for it.

Just keeping myself fit with a good mix of high intensity and endurance training, mainly on the bike.  And that time fit nicely within the cluster of times for the half-marathons that I trained specifically for.

The trick will be seeing how I walk on Tuesday morning.

Now about that half-Ironman…

Surges

This weekend, watching the young men and women compete in their high school cross country championships brought back many great memories.  And certainly got the legs twitching, wanting to jump out there and join them.

I’m sure I could have held my own.

Today, flying through the forest, racing against only myself.  Dodging branches, wondering if roots were hidden under the fresh carpet of fallen leaves, wondering  if it’d all come to a crashing halt with a twisted ankle or busted knee.

But not spending too much time focusing on negative thoughts.

Relishing the burning of the lungs, the burning of the legs.

Reaching the next cross road, then turning to jog along it for a recovery stretch.

Not knowing when the next cross trail is going to appear, forcing a turn and bringing the searing lungs and legs back.

Surging

Smiling.

And it’s a shame that you can’t see the full sized copy of this image.  The sharpness of dirt being thrown up around those feet is pretty amazing.

Zoom

Those who know me well know that some of my greatest joy, complete separate from my Goddess, is derived from my commutes to and from work.

Especially if the weather is horrible.

Give me pissing down rain and 35ºF (+01ºC) or dumping snow and 27ºF (-03ºC) and a good, hard push on the bike and I’m grinning from ear to ear.

Hell, give me +10ºF (-12ºC) on a clear day and I’ll still grin ear to ear.

It’s all about wearing the right kit.

But regardless of the time of year, every day is still a great day to ride the bike to and from work.

Especially when you’re going faster than those that do nothing more than twist their right wrist or press down their right toe.

Place du Théâtre, Dijon, France.

Rule 9.

Immediately followed by Rule 5.

Oh, and Rule 58.

2009

Well, life’s mapping out the coming year.  It will be another year without triathlon.

About  a week after Son graduates, Goddess and I will pack up the house and move again.  This time we’re off to Germany for a few years (whoo hoo!).  That will take a huge chunk out of the summer, which negates any meaningful triathlon training/racing.

Over the past few weeks I’ve jealously watched everyone fleshing out their 2009 triathlon calendar.  No such planning for me.  Instead I’ll keep the run focus going.

So I’m sitting here this evening, enjoying a few very dark beers that are sliding down a bit easier than they should.  Goddess, fresh off a new 5K PR this morning (YAY Goddess!), is egging me on by reading through the Runner’s World’s 2009 Marathon Calendar and tossing out suggestions.  Very helpful suggestions, better described as schemes.  For example, Luxor (Egypt), the Great Wall, Belgium, Iceland, Athens and Switzerland.

Even a few in the states, while doable, would really throw a wrench in the moving works.  But of that list above, Switzerland may be doable. We’ll see.

So while she’s sitting over there giggling and throwing out locations, I’ve come up with a couple that I’ll consider in the coming days.  Once I decide for sure, I’ll post them to the left.

As of right now, I’m considering a 60K (37.2mi) trail run and two marathons, both of which will be held on adjacent weekends.  And the beauty is that all are a short enough drive from here that we could sleep in our own bed before and after.

So running it will be.  Now I’ve just got to make it through the year without any glute issues.

Waiting for the Shoe to Drop

Well, it’s now been over sixty hours since I finished my 41.5 mile run.  And I’m waiting.

Waiting for the muscle soreness.  Waiting for the pain.  Waiting for the stiffness.

Later that day, after a 4-hour nap, I walked normally to work.  Yesterday, I was bounding up the stairs, two at a time; doing it again today.

I did have a bit of tightness this morning, but I can attribute that more to sleeping on the concrete pad while waiting for the weather to clear so I could catch a helo ride back to my bed.

I even went to the gym today.  Rode the bike for 30 minutes, did some stretching and some strength work.

But when’s the shoe going to drop?

13.1 mile Train Wreck

Ok, maybe not all 13.1 miles, but a good chunk of them.

This morning was the Tom King 1/2 Marathon in Nashville. As forecast, we got there just in time for the thunderstorms to roll in. At 7am, in a driving rain and occasional clap of thunder, Goddess started her very first 5K, which she smoked with a 39:24!

While she was running, I warmed up under the overhang of LP Field, which is where the Tennessee Titans play. I’m not a football fan, so I won’t insert any comments about whether they play or not. If you do, I’ll shrug, since it doesn’t mean anything to me.

Lots of warming up, lots of stretching, then a run inside the stadium to watch her finish. For both races, the finish line was on the east side 50-yard line, after entering the stadium on the northwest corner and then running the perimeter of the field. Quite a unique finish, with everyone’s sprint displayed on the Jumbotron. Here’s the view, with the final turn before the final 50 yards:

tom-king-jumbotron-2-web.jpg

So at 8am we started the 1/2 marathon. A nasty start at that -> 48F, pouring rain and a good flash of lighting right before the gun went off, with the course turning into a 5-10mph wind after the first 1/2 mile. Good stuff! Starting off at a very comfortable 8:18 pace, I was right where I wanted to be, slowly warming up and then picking up the pace for a 1:45 finish, which needed a 8:00 average pace to pull off. That’s a pace I’m comfortable with for 10 miles on training runs, so I knew I’d have to push it a bit to go the full 13.1. But it’s a race, so isn’t that the idea?

I typically take several miles to warm up, often not feeling supple and smooth until the 5-6 mile range. Well, that never happened. For the next 10 miles, my average pace dropped a very even 5 seconds per mile, then I flattened out at a 9:02 average pace for the last 2.1 miles. I just never warmed up.

Before the start, I made the decision not to wear a jacket, since I heat up so quickly. So I was wearing an UnderArmour compression shirt under a long-sleeve technical running shirt. That wasn’t a bad decision, since I was pushing the arms up after mile 9 and was quite warm above the waist. Below the waist was where the train wreck occurred.

Down there I was wearing UnderArmour compression shorts under a pair of Nike running shorts. The quads were half-covered, but apparently not enough. I chose not to wear tights since I do heat up so quick; plus I didn’t want to deal with them soaking up water and making my legs heavier than my soaked shoes and socks (layered Injinji and Thorlo) would be.

For the first 8 miles, I wasn’t uncomfortable, but the legs were giving what they could (cue Scotty – “I’m giving it all I can, Captain”). At 8.1 miles, the fun began. The knee pain that cut short my run last Sunday reappeared. Luckily it wasn’t the stabbing pain that it was on Sunday, just an ache. Something to keep an eye on, so I pressed forward. Another mile or so down the path and I could feel both of my hamstrings start to tighten. Again, nothing significant, just something to keep an eye on. During these miles, my average pace was only dropping about 2 seconds/mile, so it wasn’t any significant discomfort.

As soon as the ache went away in my right knee, my left ITB started tightening up, which pulled on my left glute and made for a fun couple of strides. As fast as it appeared, it disappeared. And that’s when the right ITB pulled the same stunt. I tell you, I had a stinkin’ Rolodex of pains going on. The legs just spun the wheel and pulled whatever card showed. Fargin’ Bastages!

Like I said earlier, the goal was 1:45. Well, that slipped away. So I then hoped for a PR of faster than 1:49:38, which I set last October. That slipped away, so then I hoped to beat my January time of 1:55:46. Well, that slipped away, too. So then it was all out to come in under 2 hours. The trick was that I wasn’t sure what my time was. My Garmin turned off for about three-tenths of a mile between 9.5 and 10 miles, probably when I was pushing my sleeves up.

I snuck it in at 1:59:44. 60 of 91 in my A/G; 480 of 939 O/A. Here’s Goddess’ capture of me just yards out of the finish chute:

tom-king-half-marathon-finishing.jpg

Afterwards I told Goddess that I was going to change my tagline of “Races are a celebration of me being fit” to “Races are proof I’m too stupid to give up“. Quite a bit of frustration there, especially since I’ve been very diligent about stretching, especially my glutes, on a daily basis. But as the day wore on, my normal over-analysis of every run made me realize that I just never warmed up during the race, even though I did a warm up and headed out at a good clip.

The Good

– My Injinji. After first wearing them at my marathon last month and coming out completely unscathed, meaning absolutely no blisters at all, I bought another pair. Since my foot moved around so much during the marathon, I used the Injinji as a liner inside my Thorlos. Even with completely soaked feet, not so much as a hint of a blister today. Those socks ROCK!

– The fine gentlemen at the turn around point @ 6.21 miles. Runner’s choice of Michelob Ultra or Amber Bock. The bock for me, thank you. And since it was just an ounce or so, it didn’t impact my run. But it sure tasted good, even though it wasn’t even 9am yet.

The Bad

Did you not just read my post above?

The Ugly

– Not a single thing. Even the weather really wasn’t that bad. I don’t mind running in a driving rain. I just wish I had warmed up.

I’ll keep stretching and rolling and hopefully I’ll loosen up for the Country Music Marathon next month.  But I’m not betting on it.

Looking forward to tomorrow.  I’ll spend a few hours casting Wooly Buggers in front of a few browns and rainbows.  I may even catch one.

It’s All Coming Together

Well, the marathon was two weeks ago. The week after was rest. This week was slow, gentle running to get back into it and gauge recovery.

Tuesday’s run was surprising. Very easy effort, yet the HR was steady in the upper 150’s, which is Zone 4 for me. So I rested on Wednesday, mainly because of the late night Tuesday and the snow Wednesday.

Thursday’s run was again a very easy effort and the HR was lower, but still steady around 150, which is upper Zone 3 for me. Due to significant issues at work, I took Friday off, although we had a “smoke session” at work, which was ~50 minutes of focused calisthenics; 15 focused minutes on legs, 15 focused minutes on arms, 15 focused minutes on abs and 5 minutes of plank positions. Each section had 15 different exercises, each a minute apiece. Most were to muscle failure, so I was a bit stiff today.

Today was a scheduled 90-minute run. It was a beautiful day, with a high in the upper 50’s. Since it was so warm (relatively), I waited until later in the day when the temps would be dropping.

The first 4 miles were gradual warm-up then tempo., which was very comfortable at 7-minute pace. After the turnaround, I worked on a tempo/walk scheme, holding 8:30-minute pace for two minutes, then walk for one minute, a la Jeff Galloway’s method. All in all, it felt quite good, covering 8-miles in 1:18. Overall not too fast (9:45 average), but I was quite pleased with the tempo portions.

I followed up the run with a 35-minute yoga stretch session, at Goddess’ insistence. She sure rocks. Otherwise I would have done a very perfunctory 5-minutes (if that) and would be tighter than a drum right now.

I’m finally having to face my age and increase the time I spend stretching. I used to roll in from a 15-mile run, not stretch at all and be fine for another long run the next day. But since I’m not cross training as much this year and pretty much only running, I’ve tightened up quite a bit. That effects my runs and I’m spending a lot more time working on trigger points and lengthening these older muscles. Oh well, it happens to all of us.

Cranking up the intensity during the week and a longer run next weekend, getting ready for the Tom King 1/2 Marathon in two weeks.

Ass Sweltering Pain

Yep, that’s what I’m calling my race report. Three simple words, combined, encapsulate the week leading up to, and including, the National Marathon To Fight Breast Cancer, aka “Running with Donna 26.2″. Warning: This is a long, long, long post.

First off, the ass. I won’t include a link here, since most of you know what one is. Matter of fact, I’ve been called one from time to time. It’s even likely I’ve been called one in the past 24 hours. But I digress.

For those of you that follow this blog, you’ll know of my inability to run for the past month due to a very painful “calf pull” that I experienced in mid-January. A couple of weeks off from running, as well as stretching and massage, did seem to help. At least until I ran on it again. With only two weeks until the marathon, I was desperate to find something to fix my pain. So last week, while driving to the rodeo, I did some exploratory poking and squeezing on my calf (while driving, which I DO NOT recommend). The exquisite pain that shot up my thigh, into my glute and the small of my back got me to thinking and a bit of research once we got home that night. With the help of my Trigger Point Therapy Workbook and TriggerPoints.net, I was able to narrow down the culprit, which certainly didn’t cross my mind in the previous weeks.

Who would’ve thought that a debilitating calf issue would be caused by your butt? Even with my experiences and successes with trigger points over the past year, I certainly didn’t. In the picture below, my particular issue is the one on the right.

As you can see, the X’s mark the trigger points and the red areas mark the associated pain. I didn’t typically feel any pain in my hamstring area and had only felt the pain in my cheek area during my long runs leading up to my “calf pull”. The majority of the pain associated with this trigger point was in the area on the outside of my calf.

But that still wasn’t the “calf pull” area. That area was more associated trigger point #2 on the Soleus, but frequent massage and pressure on that trigger point did not solve the problem, so it had to have something else contributing. That turned out to be the Gluteus Minimus.

After referring to the book and the web site, it was time for a bit of exploration. For such a sensitive area, I’d normally turn to the Goddess for help, but one thing usually leads to another, so I had to do this one myself. Plus, since the gluteus minimus lies beneath the gluteus maximus, the probes had to be deep and forceful; not something she enjoys doing (she tells me “that’s your job”). The probes confirmed a line of large knots right where the muscle attaches to my pelvis. Let me tell you, there was no pleasant in this probing.

So all last week I massaged them by sitting on a tennis ball on the living room and slowly rolling over the muscle, working from one knot to the next. Quite a few times the pain took my breath away. Following each rolling session I’d stretch. I found the most effective stretch for me is the Prone Glute Stretch, which feels absolutely wonderful. By following this sequence on both legs last week, I was comfortable that I could start the marathon on Sunday.

In the final days before the marathon, I revamped my original goal (break 4:00) and came up with three separate goals, two of which I could fall back on if the previous goal was unattainable. They were:

  1. Break 4:00. Even with one month off, there’s always the possibility that the forced rest from the injury would deliver me to the line so fresh that I would comfortably crank out the required 9:09 miles (which I was doing with ease on my long runs leading up to my injury last month).
  2. Complete the race. With the most likely possibility that I would still be feeling the effects of my calf through the race, I would have to adjust my finish time goal on the fly and hold out for the finish.
  3. Stop the insanity, wait for Goddess and my sister to catch up, then walk the remainder of the half-marathon with them. The intent of this goal was to continue to heal and hopefully set myself up for April’s Country Music Marathon in Nashville.

The overarching goal was to not injure myself any more. But doesn’t that go without saying?

Goal number three was the only goal as recent as 7 days out from the race. I had resigned myself to not running the marathon and would enjoy the morning with Goddess and my sister. That certainly isn’t a bad thing, not by any means, but my goal signing up was to race the 26.2. But with the “discovery” of my gluteus minimus, goals 1 and 2 quickly became more attainable.

After a gaggle at the start area (see “BAD” and “UGLY” below), we were off. I was very comfortable at a 9:30 pace for the first few miles, figuring that if I was to achieve goal 1, I would warm up during the first few miles and then be able to slowly ramp up the pace. That’s my typical race strategy anyway, since I don’t typically warm up for 4-6 miles.

By mile 4, I could feel my calf. No pain, but a steady discomfort; enough discomfort to back off the pace and toss goal #1 out the window. At no point during the 26.2 miles did my calf hurt like it had during the previous month, so that was a huge success.

By mile 6 I had passed the turn-around for the half-marathon, so I was committed to the full.

At mile 10, my quadricep heads started to cramp slightly. Not a good sign, but a reality of the day.

By mile 13.1, I was a full 20 minutes slower than my half-marathon split at the Flying Monkey Marathon, which had over 2,000′ of climbing. This course was flat, with only 215′ of total climbing! It was a run-walk strategy for the last 13.1 miles.

Why so slow? Other than the leg issues, for me it was the weather. Over the past several months, I’ve been running in a Kentucky winter. Runs in the snow, runs in some pretty cold wind chills, runs in dreary overcast days with temperatures hovering in the 20’s. The morning we left to drive to Florida, it was 19 degrees. And that was after a couple of days of ice and snow. In Florida, by the time the race started on Sunday morning, it was 69F with 75% humidity and continued to get worse, settling at 75F and 65% by the time I finished. In other words, relatively oppressive heat.

Although I knew it was going to be warmer, I failed to properly build my hydration and electrolytes in the days leading up to the race. It caught up to me.

I inhaled my Clif Shot Bloks, wishing I had more than just one pack of the Margarita with Salt. I started gulping the Accelerade that they provided and even talked a First Aid tent volunteer out of his bag of Lays Potato Chips at about mile 20. I was able to keep the cramping at bay for the most part, but it would rear its head enough to keep me focused on sucking down as much electrolytes as I could.

Goddess called and told me that she and my sister had finished. I was (and still am) so proud of them; neither had done anything like that before, not even so much as run a 10K. They committed to walking the 13.1 with each other.

Between miles 20 and 21, I had the most amazing walk with a lady. I first approached her because she was wobbling like crazy and I was worried about her. The heat was definitely taking its toll on everyone. Turns out she was a 68 year old who was using the marathon as a training run for an upcoming 50-mile race. She was quite upset with her performance thus far because she knew she was fitter than that, just coming off a 70-mile training week and had run under 4:00 in the past year. She was from out west, so the humidity was definitely getting to her. I waved down medical support, who had a talk with her and let her continue. I was quite pleased last night to see that she had finished the race.

By mile 22, I did some quick calculations and realized that I needed to pick up the pace if I was to finish in under 6:00. With the heat and cramping, it was going to be a challenge. At this point, everyone was walking. Occasionally someone would shuffle for a minute or so, but it really was the walk of the dead.

I revamped my walk-run strategy and threw time out the window. No matter if I picked a 2:1 or 1:1 time strategy, I just couldn’t get the legs moving very well after walking. So I decided on a 30:30 strategy, not of time, but of foot strikes; 30 left foot strikes while running, 30 left foot strikes while walking. It kept me focused and moving relatively quickly at a 9:45 pace during the run segments. In the next two miles I figure I passed between 75-100 people. That was a huge confidence boost.

At a mile-and-a-half out from the finish, the worst climb of the day arrived as we had to climb a bridge that crosses the Intracoastal Waterway. Past the last water stop and starting to cramp again, it was back to walking. Turning the last turn, greeted by the sign “The last .2 mile will kick you in the ass” and seeing the finish line got me moving again. The cramping got me walking again. Even coming up to the timing mat that they had set up with 100 yards to go, my leg locked. Luckily that didn’t come through in the pictures. I was passed by quite a few folks at this stage, but I couldn’t have cared less.

Finish time – 5:57:14 by my Garmin, chip time 5:57:18.

The Good

  • I finished. Thanks to the lack of running over the past month, this entered back into my race goals.
  • I broke a rule of racing and was better for it. I wore my new pair of Injinji Toe Socks and they rocked! I had been wearing Thorlo‘s for the past year+ and had always had problems with blisters on the balls of my feet, no matter how much or how long I ran. The Thorlo’s are thick and have good padding while the Injinji’s are very thin with no padding. So I discovered that with the Injinji’s I’ll likely have to come down half a shoe size to make up for the difference in sock padding. With the thinner socks, my forefoot was sliding around a bit in the shoe box, but absolutely no blisters!
  • I had several mental breakthroughs during the race. Details are unimportant, but they happened.
  • The communities of Jacksonville Beach and Neptune Beach absolutely rocked! A significant portion of the race ran through neighborhoods, which effectively cut them off to all auto traffic. So the residents made the best of the situation and stood out in their driveways, sprayed the runners, provided oranges and cheered. One group of guys even provided shots of beer at the 21 mile mark (it was GOOD).
  • For a first-time event, the course was completely stocked with supplies on the course. There was never a shortage of water, Accelerade or Gu (I didn’t use it, but they had plenty). This was in sharp contrast to several of the more well-established events that I’ve participated in.
  • The support from the community and runners (I know I mentioned the community before, but this is different). Since this event was to raise funds for Breast Cancer Research, each of us could wear a sign on our back that said who we were running for. Mine said simply “Mom”, who is a survivor. I had many folks run past saying “I’m running for Mom too”. That was always a great boost. More humbling were the folks who ran by with 7, 8 or 10 names on their sign. More amazing was running and talking with survivors who were out there pushing themselves. The couple of times that I thought about folding I thought about what my Mom and all of these others had gone through; my discomfort paled in comparison.
  • The support and advice from those of you out in blogland. Thank you so much for the public and private advice and concern. That really means a lot to me.

The Bad

  • There weren’t corrals for the runners, just pacers with planned finish times, so you would look for your planned finish time and stand near that person. The gun went off and it took a couple of minutes to get to the start line (normal). But once we got moving, it was evident that several walkers had seeded themselves at the front, causing several traffic jams and collisions as the thousands of runners had to work around them. I applaud those ladies for getting out there and moving, but at the front of 8,000+ was not the place to be.
  • This also goes for the folks following the Jeff Galloway plan. Overall, I believe that this group did great things for thousands of runners at the marathon, but sticking to the plan in the first mile was a recipe for disaster as the pacer yelled “Walk” and groups of 60+ runners stopped to walk just 3 minutes out from the start line; again, they caused huge traffic jams and many collisions in a very crowded situation. Tempers were flaring already and I’m surprised no one got hurt.

The Ugly

  • The race started a full 30 minutes later than the 8am start time. They knew it was going to be warm and were announcing over the loudspeakers that folks need to adjust their pacing and not plan on a PR, yet still started it late. It looks like they’ve fixed this and have adjusted the start time for next year’s race to 7:30am. Hopefully they’ll start it on time.

Lessons learned

  • Electrolyte loading – I can’t believe I still haven’t figured this one out. I’ve known for many years that I’m a very heavy sweater and that I lose a lot of electrolytes during a race. Yet I never remember to load up on them until I’m in the race.
  • A stride-focused walk-run strategy is the key when I get to that stage. I was amazed at how easy it was to get moving once my left foot hit 30. And it was easy to hold an unflagging pace for “only” 30 strides.
  • The Base layer is crucial. What’s that? A base layer in 70 degree weather? Yep. After running the Monkey and chafing my nipples down a full 1/32″, I learned that I needed to wear a skin tight layer under my shirt. Let’s just say it was a good thing that I wore a red shirt for that race. Since then I’ve always worn a skin tight technical shirt and haven’t had any problems. I did the same for this race and it was a godsend. Once the heat got unbearable, I peeled my outer shirt and let the slight sea breeze cool me. The wicking effect really kept me cool, even though the shirt was black. I’d even dump a cup of water over me and get chilled, which was great! So if you look at my race pics, you’ll see that I’m wearing two different shirts.
  • Stretching, massage and cross-training. I need to do more of each to help with these injuries, all of which have been flexibility related over the past year. I’ve had much success with identifying the appropriate trigger point and relieving the pressure, but some have taken longer to solve and have kept me away from training longer than I’d like. So I now need to schedule more sessions each week.

Will I do this race again? Absolutely. The location was great, the community was great and it had the added bonus of allowing me to spend several days with my parents as well as my sister and her family.

From here it’s the Tom King Half Marathon next month and the Country Music Marathon in April, both in Nashville.