Sunday, April 24, 2011

It's official. I am a (Marathon) Maniac

Should I feel worried that being part of an online club confirms what many of you already know?

Many of my friends and co-workers continually point out that my sanity cannot be confirmed due to the number of marathons I run. The past 2 months which found me doing three in six weeks certainly convinced people to evaluate admitting me to a medical clinic. And now, thanks to the power of the internet, my confirmation has arrived.

Marathon Maniacs is a site run out of Washington that is a club of sorts for people who run a lot of marathons - particularly in great volume. My 3 marathons in 42 days scraped me into the lowest level - Bronze. (2 Marathons within a 16 day time frame OR 3 Marathons within a 90 day time frame.) In fact, we have 10 levels with Gold being third (4 Marathons within 37 days OR 12 - 18 Marathons within 365 days OR 4 Marathons in 4 different US states, Countries or Canadian Provinces in 51 days) and Titanium being tenth (52 Marathons OR more within 365 days OR 30 Marathons in 30 US states, Countries, or Canadian Provinces within 365 days OR 20 Countries within 365 days). The complete list of qualifications can be found here.

Besides the cool bragging rights, why would anyone start such a club or even join one. Well, for one, the site contains a list of upcoming races. Members can lodge their planned events as a way to connect with others; people who run a lot of marathons tend to travel and knowing people at a race is much more fun than being completely solo. Second, by creating criteria for various running accomplishments, a standard of marathon achievement can be followed. Besides running 3 marathons in 42 days, I also did that in three different locales (2 US states and Antarctica - three areas). Is that nuts? Yes, but not Maniac nuts. (If I had run a 4th marathon in a different state or country within 51 days, I would have made it to Gold level. Maybe next year.) Third, one thing that runners like to do is to talk about races they have run. I would say this is more than just bragging. Runners talk about the bad races as much as the good ones. So, I think the community aspect of having a forum to post in is another lure.

Of course, all good clubs have dues. Mine were $35 to join and I am on the hook for $10 per year. Show me a psychiatric ward that provides better rates!

I aM haPPily InSanE!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thoughts on the Boston Marathon

If you do not follow Olympic Sports, you may not have heard about the spectacular 115th Boston Marathon this past Monday.

Geoffrey Mutai ran the fastest marathon of all time - a blistering 2:03:02. That beats the previous record of 2:03:59. You can see the second place finisher just seconds slower in the above picture. Technically, the run does not count as a world record because the Boston course is point-to-point with a net elevation decrease. Plus, the day featured a strong tail wind. However, I will tell you as someone who has had the honor to run Boston, the course is not easy. That downhill slope can sap your quads long before the Newton Hills play tricks with your hamstrings.

But I think the whole debate on the world record misses the point. This race and its heritage deserves to have memorable runs. The women's race equaled the excitement of the men's, and I know my two friends who ran (one sub 3 hour and the other at 3:15) enjoyed it as if they had actually won it.

I did not actually view the finish live. When I got to work, the race was about 10 minutes from completing. Universal Sports Online offered it but only for $4.99 - not for free. Being somewhat of a cheapskate for online videos, I declined to pay that for ten minutes of viewing. Instead, I "watched" the finish via Twitter. How did I do that? Well, I follow a number of runners and running sites on Twitter. Every few seconds, one of them would post an update on the race. Believe it or not, this was actually very exciting to experience. In some ways, this parallels how people "listened" to baseball and other big events prior to radio. Fans would gather at bars and barber shops that had telegraphs. They would receive updates and then post scores and stats on big chalk boards for everyone to see.

However, after "hearing" the race, I decided that I wanted to watch the whole thing from the start. So, in the end, I dropped the $4.99 to buy the replay broadcast. Funny, I still wouldn't have traded watching it live for my Twitter experience because it was more like having people I know tell me about the race than strangers on TV. And $4.99 for 3 hours of total content doesn't feel like a big rip off.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Antarctica Log Last Chapter Posted

Although the big news today was the super fast 3:04:40 at the London Marathon and the big news tomorrow is the Boston Marathon, this evening I'm promoting my big news. I've finally finished my adventure log for Indiana Jones in the Classroom. That was a great ride, and I hope to use the writing to put together a photo book of my adventures later this year.

In the meantime, enjoy: Chapter 18

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mt Si 50k ultramarathon in the books

I ran under my target today in a strong 4:39:21 for the 31.1 miles. The day started rainy but abated about halfway through the race. I negative split the course with 2:23 out and 2:16 back.

More thoughts and feelings to follow but I wanted to share the good news.

State 13 (10k or longer) completed. Updated list:

ST: Longest Race (year)
AZ: Pemberton Trail 50k (2010)
CA: LA Marathon (2007)
CO: Fort Collins Mini-Marathon 15M (2007)
ID: Zeitgeist Half-Marathon (2009)
MD: Nike+ 10k (2008)
MA: Boston Marathon (2009)
MN: Suburban Challenge 10k (2010)
NY: New York City Marathon (2008)
SD: Spearfish Canyon Half-Marathon (2010)
TX: Bold in the Cold 15k (2007)
VA: Marine Corps Marathon (2007)
WA: Mt. Si 50k Ultramarathon (2011)
WI: Kini River Trout Trot 19M (2007)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cross Training and Cross Talking

I wrote about an aspect of the recent trip to Antarctica that hanging out with the other passengers topped the list of great things about the southern adventure. In that case, the manifest list specifically comprised runners. So, talking about different marathons that we had tackled (bragged about) or hated (commiserated about) or wanted to attempt (fantasized about) filled much of the lounge's air space.

Today, I again experienced the phenomenon that this type of chatter is not limited to adventurers of the same species. While visiting our hardware team (RO Design), discussion did not stay for long on work because three of the four of us have races in the next 2 weeks. Yet, my guys up at RO tend to hit the dirt trails not with their feet but with their wheels. I'm speaking about cycling up intense inclines and then down at maddening speeds. Long road races and short sprints. And while I cycle only occasionally for cross training and they rarely run (although they have done marathons), speaking across sports seemed natural and fun. I know enough to keep up about cycling, and I find their adventures as interesting as I hope they find my own. Perhaps, the bond of the crazy?

Where we all completely overlap is on tracking data. Tim showed me a site which professes to be the coolest online cycling club. One neat aspect is that the site can determine from GPS data portions of rides that other people have tackled. Say you rode from Half Moon Bay to Big Basin? Well, if a number of people had done the middle ten miles of that ride, the results for that section will show a ranking table. You can then virtually race against people based on rides you or they have done. Very cool. The site doesn't seem set up for runners, but I sense that it could be easily expanded. Given what I have observed about athletes loving to swap stories no matter the sport, I suspect more sites like this will sprint to get online.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Thoughts from my 5 mile today

Due to needing to be at work at (*gasp*) 8 am, today's training run started before the sun popped over the eastern horizon. The temperature hovered in the high 50's, so I only donned the basic shirt and shorts. As I started to bang out the last five miles before Sunday's Mt. Si 50k (31.1 miles) Ultramarathon, my mind wondered in two different directions.

I will often visualize an upcoming race even as I am going through a training session. The Mt. Si course follows a river trail out and back. The first 25k leads gently upward (1000 ft - about 65 ft per mile), and then I will turn around and come back down the same path. My plan consists of running about a 9 minute/mile pace out and hopefully about an 8 or 8:15 back. That will put me in a 4:30 - 4:45 total time. Last year I ran Pemberton in 4:43.

When running, I think through these things. Sometimes I talk out the plan. (Goodness knows what people I pass think if they even hear me.) Perhaps I have read too many books about World War II or am just too anal for my own good, but I see every race as a preset plan - an assault on the course. Like on the battlefield, race day requires me to adjust to the actual conditions (weather, terrain, muscle pain, food intake) and that makes the outcome uncertain. However, I feel more confident going into an event with some sense of what to expect.

Today, I found my first few miles rather slow - north of 9 mins. After 18 minutes, I had barely covered 2 miles. So, doubts float into my head naturally. "Am I too sore after the last two marathons?" "I'm running in my trail shoes on pavement; is my body rebelling at that? Do I want to use my normal shoes on the trail instead?" "Maybe this is a good thing - keeps me from going too fast out the gate." Yet, as I loosened up, my speed increased and I ran the 5 miles at an 8:43 total pace - perfectly in the sweet spot for Sunday. That realization at the end calmed any doubts.

But my thoughts did not linger all 44 minutes on Mt. Si. My mind wandered to post-Sunday. First up will be the Fort Collins Half-Marathon on May 1. I feel that will really be much more of a casual run for me. When not in hard training mode, I try to average 30-35 miles per week. So, 13.1 miles on a Sunday is below my normal 15-17. Thinking further out, next up in my mind is the Will Rogers Palisades 5k on July 4. I ran part of that course today (it's my normal short run spot), and here I wondered if I could complete the lap in under 20 mins. I ran the 2009 5k in 19:22. With good speed training in June, I should be able to beat that. (The Will Rogers race is a 5k or a 10K. I tend to alternate, so this year is a 5k for me.) My goal for training in May is to just take it easy! June I will think about the Will Rogers race. I hope I am not planning too far ahead.

(Of course, after July 4, I ramp up for my two fall marathons in Chile and New York City! And those thoughts have started too.)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

50 State Goal?

So, as I near wrapping up my goal to run on all seven continents, other ideas form in my crazy brain for new metrics of running. One that I have been planning involves all 50 states. While some people try for 50 marathons in 50 states, I just do not think I am keen on that - at least for now. Instead, I think 50 10ks or longer in all 50 states suits my desires and can be finished more quickly than 50 marathons (which would likely take four or more years). I think I should be able to hit 50 states with 10k+'s in two years or a little longer. Through the past 5 years of running, 12 of the 50 state goal has already been achieved.

State: Longest Race
Arizona: Pemberton Trail 50k 2010
California: LA Marathon 2007
Colorado: Fort Collins Mini-Marathon 15M 2007
Idaho: Zeitgeist Half-Marathon 2009
Maryland: Nike+ 10k, 2008
Massachusetts: Boston Marathon 2009
Minnesota: Suburban Challenge 10k 2010
New York: New York City Marathon 2008
South Dakota: Spearfish Canyon Half-Marathon 2010
Texas: Bold in the Cold 15k 2007
Virginia: Marine Corps Marathon 2007
Wisconsin: Kini River Trout Trot 19M 2007

However, against this goal is that I like running in certain places. I will pick up Washington next weekend, but after that Colorado (May 1, Fort Collins half-marathon) and New York (NYC Marathon, Nov 6) are repeat states. So, I'll have to scour for some more events.