Saturday, June 24, 2017

Hawaii 5-0! And The 2017 RunLairdRun Fundraiser

Aloha from the 50th state where I am about to run (sort of, see further in) my 50th state marathon just as a I turn 50 in less than 3 weeks. 50-50-50! This culminates one of challenges I set for myself 5 years ago after competing my 7th state and will cap slightly more than 10 years of marathon running (from March 2007 to June 2017). What a week it has been here in the Aloha state with a number of days when I thought I would not be able to participate in the Kona Marathon; I could barely walk! (as I noted, see further in.) But first...

Just 1 more state to go...

As I do every year to celebrate my birthday and running, I ask you to support some amazing charities focused on kids. I do the running (this year, sort of; again, see further down the post), you donate a bit of money and send good wishes and cheer, and then we double what you give 1:1. We all win. So, here's the link to the giving page:

If you prefer to donate directly to these charities and skip the aggravator site (which does charge a fee), feel free. Just send me an email to "run at" with your receipt, and I'll make sure to do the match at the end. Although the race is Sunday, June 25, the fundraiser goes until July 12 - my 50th birthday. 

Two of our charities return from last year where we raised $50k together. Thank you!

The California Science Center houses Endeavour, one of our remaining space shuttle orbiters. The museum is a free facility, home to so many great science exhibits, from the space vehicle to a living rain forest to traveling exhibits to displays on computers and everything else science. I used to go with my grandfather to the museum when I was little. I am a trustee member since last year, and I have enjoyed being on the board with so many great people and staff. All of your donations will go to support scholarships to our science camp programs to bring kids to the museum from all over Southern California. 

Children International has been on our donation list since the very first fundraiser in 2008. Rebecca and I have sponsored a number of girls in poverty-struck areas in the Philippines. CI focuses on education and health programs around the developing world. I visited their amazing site in Chile in 2011 after I finished my seven continent marathon quest. Last year, our donations created the RunLairdRun recreation and sports room in their Delhi, India facility. I am hoping to visit that in the fall. This year, our donations will go towards HOPE Scholarships. HOPE (Helping Overcome Poverty through Education) scholarships help pay for extra education when a family can’t afford it such as vocational training and post-secondary school (including tuition, books and transportation).  The HOPE scholarship program is a competitive scholarship program where youth are required to apply for the scholarships and must meet certain requirements in order to maintain the scholarship, such as minimum grades, completion of the academic year and volunteer service hours.  Scholarships range from $150-$500. So, even small donations to the RunLairdRun fundraiser can add quickly add to impact a child.

New to my donation list this year is the non-profit iCivics. I was appointed to the Governing Board this past February and have attended two meetings thus far. iCivics was started by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. The non-partisan approach to teaching civic education through games and teacher curricula is the heart of what we do. Both in class and at home apps and web experiences bring the topics to our students. Justice O'Connor has said “The practice of democracy is not passed down through the gene pool. It must be taught and learned anew by each generation of citizens." This is what iCivics is. The programs are great and have received numerous awards. Your donations will go to help develop more teacher guides, update our website for better discovery and help bring new and updated games to middle and high schoolers.

Our total goal is to raise together a total of $50,000 given how nicely that ties to my birthday year. Whether you can donate $10 or $50 or $500 (or any amount), you will have my appreciation as well as those of the charities. Everything is tax deductible, and you'll get the appropriate paperwork for your taxes as applicable.

Here's the link again.

Now, what's going on with my leg? And why am I posting this just hours before the actual marathon? (June 25 5:30 AM HST start - 8:30 on the west coast, 11:30 back east and 5:30 pm in Europe.)

Here's a nice photo from my 7-mile run last Saturday in Honolulu. Rainbows are good luck, right? Double ones, double the luck?

Well, apparently not. Following that run, I tightened up and could barely walk, even with a pronounced limp was painful. Blah! I had not hurt at all while running. I just came up lame.

This week in paradise has been filled with going to the chiropractor three times, a deep massage "Rolfer" experience, a normal massage, trying a whole bunch of different shorts options (the issue is in my left hip), Epsom salt baths, magnesium rubbed into my hip and anything else we can think of. I took a bunch of days off running (4 days - longest break in I don't know how long), did some bike work, have walked waist deep in the ocean and lots and lots of stretches. Super healthy diet - no gluten, eggs, dairy, nightshades (mostly). Lots of fish, fruit and veggies with some rice at times. 

Happily, I really have not dwelled too much on what happened to cause this. Over use? Maybe? Stress, probably? Bad diet (way too much gluten for sure), likely? The plane flight from Seattle, almost 100% that pushed me over whatever edge I was perched upon. It's probably a combination of factors. I managed to clip our couch about 3 weeks ago and really bruised my right small toe. It hurt like the dickens, and I am sure that twisted me up with the impact and sudden stop. I then probably severely favored it when walking and running.

It's important to have some sense of the why, but I am more focused on the how - how to keep my date with completing state 50 before I am 50. (There is a marathon in Oahu on July 22, but that's after my birthday.) And I need to do this without seriously injuring myself. 

Aloha means more than hello and goodbye. The sense of aloha combines a relaxed attitude with a friendliness and warmth. I can imagine a week somewhere else before some other marathon when every other thought would be a remonstration of myself for whatever caused this mess so close to my big 5-0 goal. The irony is that I have been cautious this year. I've only run 2 marathons in 6 months (compared to 8 in the previous 6). While May was my biggest running month ever, I did a lot of it on crushed gravel. June has been a much easier month in terms of mileage and pace with only one super long run (20 miles in London two weeks ago). With aloha in mind, I've been much more calm and collected. 

The good news, is that after all of this focus on getting better, I am actually better. I put in nearly 8 miles on Friday. To be candid, it was painful. However, I know I could complete 26 miles over probably 5-6 hours. Happily, today's smaller 3 mile run was pain-free! I was just tight and unable to get a lot of left leg extension. My pace was a tad quicker (30 seconds). 

Even with a bunch of my family here (and 5 of them doing the 5k on Sunday), I am content to let things happen as they do. If I cannot run or I start running and feel like I have to stop, then that's life. I'll still complete the 50 states at some point. 

If I can run this one to completion, it will be super slow. My current aim is a 12-13 minute pace (my normal is 8-9) with a 30-second walk break each mile. This is the run-walk method espoused by Jeff Galloway, and his books were the first that I read when I started running. Since then, I've shared moments with Jeff and his wife in corrals at RunDisney events. He's genuine and friendly, and I love the circularity that my 50th state will be attempted with the same strategy, albeit a lot slower, of my 1st state.

These wild goats, seen on a training run, are going to be a lot faster than I will be!
Ironically, I wrote about goals and their potential dangers just this past month! You can read it here. Time to read what I wrote.

My lil sis Jen has started a Facebook group with lots of people cheering me on and running with me virtually. Take a peek and join if you want. 

And if you run/bike/swim/hike/walk/whatever, take a photo and hashtag it #RunLairdRun!

This journey has been shared with so many people. The Kenlines (who are running the 5k together), my parents and Rebecca are all here to cheer me on, and I know you will too wherever your are. 

Thanks everyone for all the support over the years. Here's the donation link one more time.

Updates to follow post race

Friday, May 5, 2017

Amerithon Challenge Completed! And some thoughts on goals.

Today, May 5, I completed my biggest target yet in terms of mileage. Run The Edge has been offering up the Amerithon Challenge - 3,521 virtual miles from San Francisco to Washington DC. While taking on their 2,016 miles in 2016 challenge last year, I received word to this additional quest and signed up. The Amerithon Challenge includes all forms of movement, so I counted runs, bike rides, swims and hikes (the latter two accounting for very few of the total miles). 

It works by running, riding, etc wherever you are in the world. You then go onto the update page and tap in your results for the day. This is an honor system. I chose to not link to my Garmin or Strava accounts due to bugs with the system early on. Instead, I have a spreadsheet that pulls that data and gives me lots of stats and info.

With 10 miles today (8 riding, 2 running), I passed 3,521 and virtually sped to the foot of the obelisk honoring our first president. The challenge commenced on July 4, 2016, so 10 months and 1 day elapsed before I finished.

I started this crazy tracking of miles with 5 coworkers from Oculus. As a team, we hit the goal back in late November. While I counted for 40% of those miles, this was really a team effort and we daily pushed each other along. I decided to continue on my own to keep that momentum going.

Some stats on this run/cycle craziness:

Total miles: 3,521
Elapsed days: 306
Total workouts: 405
Running: 2262 miles
Riding: 1247 miles
Other: 12 miles (mostly swimming)
Miles/wk: 81
Miles/day: 11.5
Avg workout: 66 mins
Avg pace: 7:35 mins/mile = 7.9 miles/hour
Total time: 445 hours, 22 mins

This leads me to write a bit about running/exercising goals. As a very goal oriented person - I think dopamine fires off in my brain whenever I complete any task - these make total sense. If you look back at my posts last July (herehereherehere and here), I set out a number goals for my 49th birthday, 2016 overall and part of 2017. I'll update those below.

The good part of goals is that they motivate you. Those achy or rainy days cannot keep you inside. Every run, ride, swim, whatever counts to some outcome or another. There are almost no "bad" days when you wish you had just binge watched Netflix instead of pounding the pavement. Every life coach and motivational guru will tell you when you have goals, life gets better. Many of these people attribute this to a study done on the 1953 graduating Yale University class. Some 3% of these seniors had written down life goals. When they were queried later in life, those 3% had significantly out earned their goalless classmates. Goal setters 1, undecideds 0.

All good. Everyone reading this go write down some life goals!

But wait...

No evidence has found that this purported survey and study ever occurred. None. Zero. Zippo. No Eli graduate admits to being asked anything about goals at the time. In fact, some "sources" attribute this study to the Harvard '53ers. Yale even has a page on their library website given how often pings land on their desk asking for the raw data. ( The verdict: The "goal study" belongs with other urban myths. 

But who cares if the study happened or not. We all know goals are good for us. Right?

Not so fast.

There is a real downside to setting goals. While studying people and their goals, LA King and CM Burton argue for a narrow use of goals. "The optimally striving individual ought to endeavor to achieve and approach goals that only slightly implicate the self; that are only moderately important, fairly easy, and moderately abstract; that do not conflict with each other, and that concern the accomplishment of something other than financial gain." (American Psychological Association, 2003.)

Why is this the case? Shouldn't we have big dreams and big targets? Max Bazerman, Harvard professor and author of "Goals Gone Wild," found a number of negative side effects. These include:

  1. Goals force people to narrow their focus. The goal takes over everything else.
  2. Short term thinking reduces long term strategy and the ability to react to changes.
  3. People who are missing goals are more likely to make unethical decisions and even lie about completion (Enron, Wells Fargo and other companies provide numerous case studies of this).
  4. In organizations, competition can be overemphasized despite often needing to favor collaborative behavior for real success.
Even worse, missing goals can have terrible ramifications on people's brains. Disappointment can lead to a lack of confidence and a lack of motivation for future choices. This can create a downward spiral of retrograde motion so that the end point is actually backwards from the starting state at the time of picking goals. Why do so many people set New Years resolutions but rarely expect them to last beyond February?

In a running or exercising scenario, goals could lead to working out when you are physically unable or pushing too hard leading to blowing out a knee or some other part of the body. I certainly have been guilty, but fortunately not seriously punished, for pushing too hard. I remember deciding at the last minute to get just one more marathon done and then sitting sick for a week. Running mentors always advise against "junk miles" when you add just more mileage to a hard workout instead of stopping and resting. The extra miles are usually performed in worse form, another reason for injury. 

So, now that I have argued the dangers, how do I reconcile this information with my own various goals:

  • 50 states by 50: 49 complete. Hawaii, the 50th state, is June 25, 2017. 17 days before my 50th birthday
  • 2017 running miles in 9 months of 2017: On track to finish by late September
  • 2620 running miles in 2017: On track to finish in mid-December
  • 1380 riding miles in 2017: On track to finish in late December
  • 49 races while 49: On track. 42 races completed, 3 more planned, 4 to schedule and do before July 12 (my 50th birthday)
Just 1 State to Go

One of the keys is to make and complete goals is to focus on process rather than on results.

For example, in my 50 state goal, the action for that goal was to run 10-12 marathons per year. What's the difference? First, there are smaller wins possible (annual goals). Goal experts recommend this type of approach. Smaller wins are more rewarding and lock in success along the way rather than needing to get all the way to the finish line.

Second, there is an implied consistency to this way of approaching goals. Goals that are based on process are far safer than goals based on outcomes. For instance, the goal "I want to get fit" is not helpful. It's too vague and subject to definition slips. Even, "I want to lose 10 lbs" is not wonderful. You can lose 10 lbs by skipping a bunch of meals. In fact, that's even more risky since losing weight too fast is bad for the body and unlikely to be kept off the waist. The best goal is something similar to: "I want to eat healthy at least 6 days a week and to work out 3 days per week." Short term success and long term behavior improvements lead to true results. (Examples adapted and expanded from For me, I kept myself from running a marathon every weekend even if it had led to finishing my 50 state goal sooner than now. More than likely I would have gotten serious injured if I had pushed harder. Part of the reason I have a run and a cycle goal is to keep me cross-training.

More specifically, I have some big mileage goals, but really behind the scenes, I have consistency goals. I want to actually hit my goals on schedule - not massively ahead of them. This keeps me from just going nuts with tons of 10 mile+ days. I also set monthly goals. For example, during this month of May 2017, I want to average 8 running miles per day and climb 3500 meters over the 31 days. However, I have no speed goal. I'm fine to do this slowly or quickly depending on how I feel. Since this will give me 20-30 miles extra to my overall 2017 year goal, I plan to keep December to closer to 6.5 miles per day. I'm pushing myself in May with its good weather and long days as a trade against a chilly dark December.

And for me, the goal is really to just stay healthy and have fun. Sure, I have a target time when I run a marathon, and even a back-up time. But behind that is a simple one: Just finish and be healthy. 

What's right for you? Maybe it's just getting a walk no matter the distance? Maybe it's completing the Amerithon Challenge like I did? Or maybe it's some combination of behavior changes like eating well, getting great sleep and healthy doses of exercise. Whichever the answer, I wish you success in adopting new behaviors that lead to your intelligently chosen goals.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

I was on TV! State Marathon 47 in Mississippi!

State 47 is in the bag with the Magnolia Marathon in Meridian Mississippi! A great 3:29:16 in hilly, windy and chilly conditions, and my 2nd Boston Qualifying time in 4 weeks after the Grand Rapids Marathon 3:23:17.

One thing I love about these small marathons (I came in 3rd out 33 and won my age group) is that you get to talk to people. I chatted with the winner Melanie and 2nd place finisher Jack before the race at the start line. We were all too timid to actually start in front but ultimately we were the first 3 to bolt out and first three to finish. The race directors were great (Marathon Maniacs), and while the course was pretty empty and challenging, everything went well.

Melanie, me and Jack bolt out in front

Down a bit, up a bit. Repeat.
My goal for the day was 3:30, so I hit it perfectly. This took a lot of effort because of the up and down nature of the race. Shorten the step up the steep bits; don't let the heart rate go crazy. And use the downhills to pick back up the pace, but do not go crazy either since your quads will hate you.

The temperature was nice - in the 40s to start and in the 50s at the end. But we had about 10 miles/hr headwinds for a good part of the course. Not fun! Happily, those were tailwinds for the last quarter, but you never get an equal payback for the pain. After the first half, the course was deserted for anyone cheering except at the aid stations. I was glad to have my Star Wars marathon playlist.

Did I mention I was on TV?

I wanted to share this link of me on TV for the local news station. Alas, my hat's visor shadows my eyes! Oh well. And they spelled my first name wrong. Oh well again! But I was on TV!

3 States to go! (Tennessee, North Carolina and Hawaii)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

King Salmon (Marathon) Caught Hook, Line and Sinker! 3:39 in Cordova Alaska for State 41!

Birthday 49 challenge updates (2 pm, July 25 update):
Marathons Complete! Read below about Alaska. Utah coming soon.  Fundraiser going strong - just over $23,500 at and with personal checks being sent in. (The justgive site only shows the total through them.) We match ever $, so that’s $47K - less than $2K away from the $49K goal. Only $1000 more since we double it!

3 complete which was the July goal. Need 3 more in August!

Alaska was 41. Smashed Utah today in 3:41:04 time - state 42 done!

Still going strong! Currently at 1,279. After today's running. I am 25 days ahead of schedule.

The team is nearing 550 miles complete - over 15% and on track for a November 22 finish, 6 weeks ahead of our schedule!

Onward to the post itself…

Looking out of Anchorage into the Bay
After sparkling blue skies in Anchorage, Saturday, July 16 dawned with a light rain and overcast conditions. Little of the natural beauty of the Cordova area showed itself as I walked from my basement apartment rental to the gathering point for the King Salmon Marathon. Prepared for the possibility of moisture, I had with me a rain cover I could run in - Cordova is in a rain forest area - and rather than be disappointed, I was excited what cool temperatures and a lack of direct sun could offer.

Blue and white skies from the plane
A bus ride and less than 5 hours later, I found out. My best time in nearly 3.5 years and in 30 marathons: 3:39:17 and state 41 completed and in the books. I also found the charm of this small town running event and the people it attracted to the mouth of the Copper River.

At the end of this post, I’ll go into the combination of factors why I feel I did so well. In short, the conditions were perfect (weather, course), I was well trained and once I decided to aim for 3:39, I ran the plan perfectly. Let’s focus on the people - all 18 of us in the marathon - instead of the statistics. 

Cordova (left), Eyak Lake (middle) and the Copper River Delta (right)
Cordova sits in Prince Henry Sound about 200 miles SE of Anchorage. Plane and boat (a 5 hour ferry ride from Whittier, itself a 1.5 hr drive from Anchorage) provide the only scheduled access; there are no roads to area. In fact, one of the key people involved in building Alaska Airlines, “Mudhole” Smith, was from Cordova and his small carrier became part of the group that formed the state named airlines. He ran the combined company for many years. His name adorns the large shack that serves as the gateway to Cordova.
Merle "Mudhole" Smith
The area is famous for the Copper River which provides exceptional salmon to around the world. Spanning nearly 20 miles at its widest, the Copper River Delta sits a few miles from the town center of Cordova. Cordova itself is a harbor and town built up a slope of a steep hill. That hill and another form the edges of Eyak Lake, a Y or T shaped body of water between Cordova and the Delta.

Roll Call
Runners were asked to gather at the local hospital on the banks of the lake. Kristin Carpenter, the race director for the last 10 years, took attendance. To my delight, I found that I was not the only person celebrating a birthday. Michelle, originally from Kansas, but now living in LA, turned 30 on the race day, Jennifer, from Arkansas, turned 39 the same day I notched 49 on July 12. The other 15 runners were silent as to their birth anniversaries, so I think 17% of the field was enough above expected averages.

For some reason, I through we would have about 40 people in the race based on previous years, but actually when I looked at past results, I am not sure where I found that assumption. In any case, the 18 of us plus 4 half-marathons who were starting early so they could walk their 13 miles, boarded a school bus for a 45 min ride to the start.
Jennifer (left) and Michelle, fellow birthday celebrants

The Marathon route begins 15 miles past the airport at the far end of the Delta. Almost entirely run on Alaska 10 (Copper River Way), the nearly straight and flat gravel road becomes paved near the airport and then rises slowly to get over Eyak River as it exits the lake. The last few miles curve slightly around the lake edge before the one 90 degree turn of the race turns into the finish area at the local hospital.  

Expecting the Star Spangled Banner and a big balloon arch for a race start? Not here. How about a small orange cone with the word “Start” on it? Need a port-a-potty. Try one of the myriad of bushes. Easier for men than women but equal all the same. Pomp and circumstance were reduced to a handful of instructions and then a “Go.”

And here we are with our "start cone" on the left 

And we were off. Despite the cloud conditions, the scenery was great. Splashes of water from the river coursing through the marshland. Views of distant peaks and the Childs Glacier. At one point, I ran over one of the dozen bridges and felt a blast of 10 degree cooler air that could only be blowing off the ice. The water was so blue too. Birthday girl Michelle confirmed she felt and saw the same, so we were even equally hallucinating or the experience was real.

Turquoise blue water from the glacier
Later, when talking to my landlord for the weekend, Bill, I learned that Cordova has gone three winters without much snow. The 4th year back had 30 feet of snow. From eastern Washington, Bill had chased adventure up to Alaska 38 years ago, and he has not looked back. He now splits his time running a very successful boat salvage and rescue business and serving as mechanic on ships and vehicles. He likes anything big and bigger! His wife Shelly works on road construction projects as a flagger - she is one of those people flagging traffic along. They actually end up spending a lot of summers apart because she goes off to these projects, and he gets called to weeks long rescues or salvage operations. He told me about a 6 week project were they raised a boat out of the water, got it on a beach and then camped amongst bears and wolves while they dismantled the boat for a 10 mile sledge to the only nearby airstrip. A WWII era DC-3 was used to fly loads away. Bill was never far from his shotgun in case of animal attack. Bill told me all this without any desire for the experience to be different. Growing up in LA and living in big areas like London, San Francisco and Boston, these stories sound like modern adventure tales.

Click to read!
With only 18 people in the race, it’s easy to include here the full finisher list. 5 of the 18 were from Alaska and only 1 from Cordova. I spoke to John, the winner, and his wife after the race. No one disappeared quickly from the finish area so in fact I pretty much spoke to everyone! John and I will be running the Desert News Classic in Utah tomorrow as I type this. John blasted the sub 3 hour mark. Even with the straight road, I never really saw him. His wife, also a runner, had decided to only do the 1 mile race (more of a kids affair), and John joined her after his finish. Another runner, Rick Wood finished his 49th state. He’s running his 50th in Hawaii next June in the same race I am planning. Jim Moore from Illinois finished his 50th in Alaska. Jessica Glass, who I ran with for about a mile, finished her first marathon in style by beating 4 hours and winning the woman’s side. (I was 4th for the men as well as overall.) Vincent Ma, another Marathon Maniac, and I chatted on the flight from Anchorage and on the bus. He and I have run at least one other race toughener but neither of us could remember which. I spoke with everyone in this paragraph and others as well on the bus, during the race and at the airport the next day! It was as if a small community had formed.
Wild flowers along the road
As we ran back in from the start (the drizzle had stopped so we could strip down to basic running shirt and shorts), we occasionally saw the bus bringing out people for the shorter distances all of which started on the same route but at closer in points. The half marathon bus was pretty full and a second smaller shuttle followed. There were multiple buses for the 10k and 5k. They all cheered us as we passed them driving out. Around mile 19, I caught up with the four people walking the half who had ridden with us and then been driven back 13 miles to that start point. I chatted with them for about a minute. We commented how much we were enjoying the natural scenery.

Normally in a race, you see mile markers telling you how far you have run. Here, the markers were counting down how many clicks were left. This made sense for all the race distances. No matter which you were commencing, the distance to the finish would always be correct since the races shared the same end point. Initially finding this odd, I actually enjoyed the set up.

A mobile water stop
The only “hill” in the race came as we neared Eyak Lake. Interestingly the humidity was noticeably higher by that large body of water, and I had to push air in and out of my lungs with more effort. But I talked myself through the brain telling me to slow down and take it easy. Then I turned onto Chase St and into the parking lot of the hospital finishing ground. The person tracking times showed me what she had written down to confirm my ok. (I did so as the total amounted to within seconds of my Garmin GPS watch.)

Despite the fast time, I did not feel too badly. I was tired but was quickly revived by post race food. Later that day, I took a short 2 mile hike up above Eyak River into a meadow in the hills. With little wind, it was so quiet I could hear my heart beating. The sun was making some appearances finally revealing more of the natural beauty.
The trail through the woods, high above Eyak River
The next day, I did a final 10k run along another side of Eyak amongst crystal clear skies glad to have those conditions on the shorter day than during the marathon.
Sunny Sunday Run along Eyak Lake
I am often asked which is my favorite marathon. I’ve just about enjoyed almost all of the 67 to date. My fastest, the Lost Dutchman in Arizona and the one in Antarctica rank at the top. New York, Boston and London were amazing. But Cordova is one I would do again. I have run smaller races - but only in and around LA with local run organizers. This area and the state of Alaska gave me a sense of the adventure Bill had sought when he moved there. Certainly the race provided plenty of excitement for me due to the great time, but I think what turned effectively a solo run into a strong memory was the sense of people involved and getting to know more about each of them.

41 Complete! 9 to go!

Why did I run so well?

My PR (personal record) happened on my 3rd race - the 2008 Lost Dutchman in Arizona. That 3:19 time qualified me to run my one and only Boston Marathon in 2009. I have said for years that conditions that day were just right. My next fastest time was my 4th race, this one in Japan, at 3:25. Then it’s 2010 Adelaide Australia one at 3:31. Cordova’s 3:39 was my fastest since a 3:37 in New Orleans in February 2013 - 30 marathons ago.

So what worked? Was it my birthday inspired 2649 bib? Probably not as any marathon race goes well due to any number of factors. Here is a list of the perfect combination from last week, some of which cannot be controlled.
Shirt and medal

1. Perfect Weather
While not great for the photographs, the cool 50 degree Fahrenheit weather with no wind and no sun is just about perfect running weather. The body is very comfortable at that level. It does not expend extra energy to stay warm (the run does that enough) and does not have to overly sweat as it does with the weather going into the 60s and beyond.

2. Straight, flat course, over half off pavement
Again, not a course people look at and go “neat!” The effectively straight line though means I did not lose distance (and hence time) to turns which are difficult to take perfectly to keep to the 26.2 miles. My total count that day was 26.25 miles. I have run marathons with over .5 miles extra on my watch. Each .1 mile takes about 1 min to cover. So, I only lost 30 seconds to the measured distance in Cordova. While a gravel road is not as nice as a dirt road, it still is softer than concrete or asphalt saving wear and tear on the body.

3. First marathon in 10 weeks
Because of my work and race schedule, I had not run a marathon since May 1 in Ohio. For me, that is an entirety! But the body likes the time off!

4. Great tune up races and training
I ran a number of tune up races since May 1 starting with a 10k and half in Disneyland, followed by a few other 10ks and a hilly half marathon. I also had been working on hills and longer distances a lot on my training runs. Hills are great for endurance because you can gain a lot of cardio without running as far. The work comes from the elevation gain. And finally, I've seen my training pace drifting down to 8:05-8:10. I'm not sure why, but if I don't think about my speed, I find myself running in that range.

5. Lots of sleep and decent food and the right supplements
I made sure to average 7 hours per night the week of the race. This was despite traveling to Alaska and getting up early a number of days to run and bike. 8 is the official goal, but I don’t seem to find much difference between 7 or 8 per night. I also took off July 13 and avoided email that day for a real day off as I flew to Alaska and explored a bit of Anchorage. Separately, I’ve been working with a chiropractor to keep the body set right and taking in the right vitamins etc.

6. I made a plan and went for it
My goal in any marathon is between 3:45 and 4:00. To get to the lower number, I know I need an 8:30 min/mile pace. So, with the conditions in great shape, I went out at 8:30 for the first half. I stuck to this plan and in fact hit the first half in almost exactly 1:52 - just under a 3:45 time. This is where I turned it up a notch. To beat 3:40 (as I was now wondering if I could), I ran from 13 miles to 19.2 miles - a 10K - in a sub 8:00 min pace. Basically a 49 min 10K (6.2 miles) in the middle of a marathon. I knew from my recent races that I could do a 45 min 10K (separate from a marathon), so this longer goal seemed doable and was. Once I hit 19.2 miles (and took that 1 min walk break with the half-marathon early crowd mentioned above), I then aimed for about 8:20 to close out. I had to push through miles 22-24 dealing with the heavier air, but I stayed with it. In short, 67 marathons will give you a lot of experience to know what you can and cannot do. I went for it.

7. Buoyed by your goodwill and wishes
Being my birthday week, I received an abundance of good wishes and cheer from all over the world - I think I got messages from five continents! Plus the fundraiser has been going well. In short, all of your put me in a great mood! Thank you!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Birthday 49 Challenge 5: Cross Country Team Effort

The 2016 Fundraiser website: We passed $14K today! Read more about the charities here

Remember back to that post from oh so long ago - yesterday? The one where I wrote about 2016 miles in 2016? Well, the company behind that, Running the Edge, unveiled a new gauntlet a few weeks ago, and it kicked off on July 4. But instead of tackling this alone, I teamed up with 5 others from Oculus to show our determination and stamina.

The goal is a 3,521 virtual run across the US from the Golden Gate Bridge to the National Mall in Washington DC. While the “Amerithon Challenge” has no official time maximum, the guidelines strongly suggest to complete the miles within a year. Our team, Stephanie, Hala, Andrew, Ruben, Matt and me decided we would do this in just 6 months.

Matt, Laird and Andrew at a recent Facebook race
This is not a strictly a running event. Everything can count - bike rides, hikes, swims, elliptical machines and even walks. So, now nearly two weeks into the event, I can happily report that we are well on our way with over 250 miles in 12 days. Our projected finish is December 14 - just 5 months from today.

Hala and Ruben
What is so much fun about this is that we are doing it as a team. We get notifications when any of us finishes an activity and then we give kudos on Strava and likes on MapMyRun. In fact, I would say that all of the running I have challenged myself to do this week has been greatly enhanced by these social platforms. Besides tracking my data and giving analysis, the sites connect me to friends so i can see their successes and send accolades and messages. Strava includes an option to add photos, and I find myself looking for opportunities to get shots to enhance my logged workout and then I look to see what other people posted. Of course, the six of us work for the biggest social media company in the world, but for some reason this is different and does not feel like work.

Stephanie and Laird in the Weifang China Gym at 6 am!
I think it also helps the everyone on our team went through the Rift launch with many of us spending time in China together including at the gyms of our numerous hotels around Asia. It’s great to be teamed up again on something just for us.

So when I run those 49 races or finish my 50 state quest or cross 2,016 miles, I know my running/biking/swimming friends will all be cheering me on even if they are not present to see the actual finish line. And I will do the same for them on their goals.

And likewise, we’re all ensuring The Rifters (as we have fashioned ourselves) will get those 3,521 virtual miles from SF to DC. As we say at Oculus: “Team Effort!”

Go Rifters!!!

Hala and Laird Guarantee Victory!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Birthday 49 Challenge 4: Going the distances

The 2016 fundraiser is going strong! Thank you!

As I have been doing this week to celebrate turning 49 (see post 1, post 2 and post 3), I’m challenging myself to finish a number of running related goals while trying to raise $49K or more for charities I support.

Challenge 4 actually started in January. My friend and coworker Andrew put me on to this one - running 2016 miles in 2016. I think I have done this many annual miles before - maybe once. So, I bit at the challenge. There is an org called Running the Edge that offers up a website for this virtual event.

What I liked about the idea beyond just having another test of my fitness is that it starts to move me toward that third 50-50-50 goal - the goal of running across the US from the west to the east coast. That distance is about 3,100 miles from either San Francisco or Los Angeles to New York. Apparently, to be officially recognized as running across the country, one has to run from one of those city halls to the NYC one. I have no idea why this is the official distance, but at least it is not Seattle to Miami! Or Nome to Key West for that matter!

It's a long way across the US!
Marshall & me with my friend Steve
[Side bar: In fact, there have been a number of cross country events held in this past 100 years - some even as multi-day races. The world record is something like 50 days. Harry Abromowitz is thought to be the only person to run east one year in 1928 and back west in 1929 in the two “Bunion” Derbies and perhaps be the only person to run twice across the country in any distance. He finished 11 of 55 the first year and 9th the next year. I met the masters record holder Marshall Ulrich in Colorado and read his book about his successful but hellish 52.5 day journey.]

My guess is that I need to plan to take 120 days to do this trying to average 6 days running out of every 7. That’s basically 6 marathons a week! So, I have a lot of running to do to bring me up to that level. This 2016 in 2016 challenge seemed the perfect way to start!

2,016 miles equates to 5.5 per day. I am averaging 6.0 so far this year, so I will actually reach 2,016 early in December with my weekly 42 mile average. I’ve pounded out 1,172 as of this writing.

So, what happens next year? 2,017 in 2017? Well, next year turning 50, my plan is to aim for 2620 miles - or ~50 miles per week. A lot of this will depend on how running is in the winter months in Seattle. 50 per week is 7.2 per day.

When then do I think I can attempt the cross-country personal cannonball run? Right now my thought is to look at between 2020 and 2022 and try to leave from Los Angeles around March taking advantage of the warmer souther route to cross the Rockies and to hit New York around my 53rd birthday.

A lot will depend on logistics for this effort. I suspect besides getting my running up to enough miles that the logistical prep itself will take a good year. I will need a support crew, and I will be running to raise money plus hopefully I will have sponsors. Lots to think about! Quite a project and frankly, I really don’t know what this will be like.

That’s partly what makes it an interesting challenge. I knew I could run 50 miles (or at least run most of it). I feel good about the 50 state marathons. I’m close enough to get it done and there is no real consequence to missing by even a few months should that happen. The deadline is arbitrary. I will still have run all 50 states.

Yet, if I step a foot towards the Big Apple with the intent of showing up there in 4 months, it’s go time. I don’t get to reach Missouri and then decide to finish next year. I either fail or succeed. Not much wiggle room. No one cares if I run to Kansas City (sorry my KC cousins!). Running 1,500 miles sounds hard enough and if that were my goal (how about Vancouver to San Diego?) then it would be achieved, but if I say I am going 3,100, I better be prepared for it. Rain, wind, maybe snow. On the road. 5 hours of running a day. For 120 days.

Sounds wonderful!

Anyway, first things first. 2,016 miles in 2016. 26.2 of those will be Saturday here in Alaska.

And in 2017, 2620 miles!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Birthday 49 Challenge 3: 50 State Update

Greetings from Alaska!
This is challenge post 3 of 5! Read the first and second, and please consider supporting my fundraiser. Thank you to those who have already been so generous. We’ll be matching every dollar donated. We passed $13,000 today and that is pre-matched.

Today’s challenge post is about one I put out in my 50-50 post in 2011. Back then I declared I would run a series of three 50 related questions. The first which I finished in November 2012 was a 50 mile race - the JFK 50 in Maryland.

The third is to run across the 50 States from the west coast to the east coast. That is still in my plans, and I’ll have more on the multiyear prep for this in tomorrow’s and Friday’s blog posts.

Miri and me at a marathon
So, today, we’ll look at the middle goal of running a marathon in all 50 states. My friend Miri first seriously put my mind towards running a marathon every state in the union. She invited me to join her running in Fargo in May 2012. She did the half, and another friend, Heather, and I ran the full. I think I had been planning to run at least a 10k in every state, but North Dakota (my 7th state) gave me the bug. Shortly thereafter in July 2012, I declared my 50/50/50 goals.

Going into Saturday’s marathon here in Alaska, I am sitting at 40 completed states. This year has only had me find time for 3 so far. That’s what happens when you ship consumer virtual reality devices to the world. With now under 12 months, I still need 10 states. But I have a plan!

As you know if you have been reading this weekend, states 41 and 42 (Utah) are planned for July. I then take August off (not many marathons in August) and look after Wyoming and South Dakota in September. Right now, it looks like those will be followed by New Mexico, Michigan, Mississippi, Tennessee and North Carolina. Hawaii has always been planned to be last as the 50th state is a favorite for people to finish their quests. No reason that should be different for me.

Team L in Denver: Lyndsey & Laird
But what’s the point of all this flying and running around? I’ve never really had a marathon I severely Mad Marathon in Vermont) and supposedly flat piece-of-cake ones that sucked all my energy (Turkey Swamp 50k in New Jersey). Yet in each case, I can think back to an interaction on the course or prior to the race that made each one special. For example, I ran the Spinx Marathon in South Carolina with my friend Thomas. He landed a PR! How awesome is that - I got it all on my iPhone as we finished. Or finding a place at Churchill Downs in Louisville to get a good shot with the spires and helping a fellow runner do the same? Or running with my awesome Fort Collins buddy Lyndsey on a number of races in two different states! And I didn’t mind seeing “Laird Street” when running in Omaha.
disliked. Rain, sun, wind - I’ve run in it all. But the change in scenery and people is worth it. Sure, there have been courses such as in Portland Oregon that I thought were going to be prettier. And there have been hard hilly races that turned out easier than expected (

Thomas and his PR - just after finishing the Spinx Marathon together
Cordova, home of the Copper River Wild Festival and the King Salmon Marathon will be interesting. Only 40+ people ran the full marathon last year. I’m ok with small races - I run ones with as few as 5 although never to complete a state. However, I think being in the town for it’s annual celebration of fish could only be fun. I will be slightly disappointed if I don’t get handed salmon in some form on every block.

Some marathons take you off the urban highways
Ultimately, running events are a great way to see cities. You run through a big portion of them. 26 miles is a lot of ground to carry in most urban areas and in rural ones you get a lot of countryside thrown in. And you meet fellow runners often from the local town but often fellow road warriors like myself.

Do I have any worries about finishing up the 50 states in a year? I feel this is totally doable, and barring crazy things like races being cancelled do to weather or some other such thing, I should be ok. Even then, other than Hawaii, I think every state I am doing has another marathon between my target date for each state and me turning 50. In other words, I have back up plans! The key will be staying healthy and able to manage the travel while still doing my new job.

Here’s the state map (I showed this on Monday’s post) - this time with the expected order of finish.

Click for a bigger version
See you on Laird St, Omaha NE!