Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Day 2,923: A banner year

Oh, be something you love and understand.
 -"Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
I'm making my way through the Pentagon parking lot, slowly and painfully back to the hotel. A woman walks by me, sees the marathon medal around my neck and notes my painful gait.

"Was it worth it?" she smiles and asks.

Now that the year is over, I look on it and almost feel sad as I don't think the circumstances will align again to have this kind of year.

My 2014 was marked with:

1). The birth of hopefully a future runner!
2). My first sub-4 hour marathon in the Oct. 26 Marine Corps Marathon
3). Crossing 10,000 miles for my running streak on Aug. 9.
4). Finishing this year with 2,104.33 miles, the most I've ever done in a calendar year
5). Continuing my daily running streak past eight years.

And it all started with a $55 marathon entry fee.

All the training and putting in the miles was fun, but I couldn't have done it without the help of the wife, who even altered some of her work schedule so I could put in morning tempo and speed/strength workouts. Even on the weekends, having to put in 2 hour + long runs really put a cap on activities for the day.

2015 will definitely have less mileage and no long races of any note. I don't even think that mentally I could do a half-marathon right now. The only race I've signed up for is the Dec. 13 Galloway 13.1, but only because I'm a cheapskate and could not pass off a race of that length for only $45.

I guess I shouldn't count anything out, since after 2010 I never thought I'd run a marathon again.

Back to that woman's question, she totally caught me off guard. I was just trying to amble back to the hotel the best I could. I remember still being in shock that I managed to do something that I couldn't do in three previous marathons.

But I looked at her and laughed. "Yeah, it was worth it."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Day 2,906: The Honolulu Marathon

HONOLULU -- The middle-aged Japanese guy turned his head, incredulous that someone would be outkicking him at the end of the marathon.

That person would be me, who somehow found great velocity in the last mile of the race, even after feeling like I might have to walk at Mile 23. After the huge hill on the road to Diamond Head near Mile 25, the course is all downhill for a screaming finish. I felt like I might blackout but I kept pushing as hard as I could.

I'd always wanted to run in the Honolulu Marathon, a race that my aunt has run about eight times in her life. But I'd never really had the time -- or the training.

But this year I had a shot at it. Sure, I had just run in the Marine Corps Marathon seven weeks before and really could not train until two weeks before this race, but I thought some training at the end of a long running season was better than nothing.

So I cashed in some frequent flyer miles and off I went.

This marathon is so interesting on so many levels. First, it's a true community race -- locals can buy into it for a mere $26 (you see their reviews on Yelp talking about "it's only a dollar a mile") and there is no time limit so people can walk it, take breaks, or whatever.
Then add the element of thousands of Japanese marathoners (they often are the majority of runners in this race at about 51 percent representation) and you have a very interesting dynamic. It's the first race I've been to in which signs are in two languages:

For me I just wanted to run in it -- and tweak a few things in my marathon experience, namely getting calf muscle cramps late in the race.

Because it's so hot (for running) in Honolulu, it starts at 5 a.m. So you have to get up at like 3:30 a.m. and make your way to the starting line. For an East Coaster like myself, it's not that bad, because a 5-hour time difference makes getting up that early actually reasonable.

This year it actually rained. It was more of a mist -- I tossed the trash bag that I was going to use as my windbreaker at the start of the race, but it was more than enough to be in for more than four hours. (My shoes days later still are wet).

Anyway, I made my way to the starting line. I saw right away what people also mentioned in reviews -- the portapotties have men/women signs on them. There were two "women" portapotties to each one for men.

At the start of the race they sang the National Anthem and I think Japan's. Then we were in for a treat -- a fireworks barrage as the race started! It gave me something to do for the five minutes or so it took for me to reach the starting line from my group.

It was interesting running with so many people in the dark. I put my right shoe in three holes in the first few miles of the race and thankfully did not twist my ankle when I was avoiding tripping another runner and my right shoe skidded over the top of a plastic stick-like road barrier. The movement was akin to my running shoe being a skateboard over a handrail.

The course got congested with narrow roads in spots and so my first few miles were slower than I would have wanted. But I told myself I was doing this for fun so I didn't worry.

It finally got light around Mile 10 and from there to about Mile 16 the misty rain and a headwind belted my face and body. I thought it was slowing me down but I was confident I could pick up the pace after the second half.

But I noticed after 13 miles my pace was slowing down, just as it did in 2010 when I ran in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. I wasn't really worried about it but I found myself totally hitting the wall around Mile 18. After Mile 20, something interesting happened -- my pace returned to normal and I wondered if this was what it was like to be breaking through the wall.

But no, after Mile 23, my pace slowed again. I was going so slow that I told myself I was just pushing the kids in the double BOB stroller. I even contemplated walking but somehow just accepted the shuffle I was doing. Then finally the huge hill at Mile 24 was over and I joined others for a screaming finish.

I brought a CamelBak on this race just as I did in the Marine Corps Marathon but thought I probably wouldn't do so in a similar situation in the future -- from about Mile 18 on I was just drinking gatorade from the water stations like everyone else. I took GU gels about every four miles.

I wore for the first time in a race my cep compression calf sleeves. These things were worth the money. At several times in the race I could feel my calf muscles acting like they were going to cramp but they never did. Each time it happened, I would take an S! Caps capsule and one time I even ate a mustard packet, emulating high school football players. I felt like the mustard really worked right away, it was crazy.

The other thing that helped were my midfoot-strike running shoes. I could tell that these contributed to not having cramps during the race because as I was running downhill I forgot about my stride and could feel my calf start to cramp as my right heel hit the ground.

After the race, I wandered around the park to get my finisher's T-shirt and medal. The reviews I read raved about the malasadas they gave out. They are a kind of Portuguese donut. I got one and liked it but to be honest I wasn't crazy about eating something deep fried right after the race.
The race had one more novel thing to offer -- they had a huge screen set up in the park showing runners crossing the finish line. What was neat about it was they time-delayed the feed so you could watch yourself crossing the line (as in the picture at the top of this blog).

All in all a really great experience and I'm glad I did it!

Time: 5 a.m.
Temp: 70 degrees, light rain mist
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (2014 Publix Georgia Half Marathon), shorts, Skechers Go Run 3.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Day 2,897: 2,000 miles for the year

In the middle of it all, I ate a giant burrito and two beers. Then I went an found a geocache.

By the time I got home, I ran seven miles and crossed 2,000 miles for the year, something I've never one before.

I knew that with all likelihood I'd cross this mark for the first time, what with almost being in a perpetual training mode that has lasted the entire year.  I thought I would cross it during the Dec. 14 Honolulu Marathon but being able to ramp up my running for the last few weeks did the trick.

My legs were pretty tired from the 12-mile run the day before. I broke out my Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 31s -- which I hadn't used since the Oct. 26 Marine Corps Marathon -- to give me a little more traction on all the wet leaves around town.

Plus the shoes offered a little more support -- I gave my right ankle a little twist after running my Skechers Go Run 3s on a small rock while running around Piedmont Park yesterday.

Time: 11:42 a.m.
Temp: 55 degrees
Gear: T-shirt, short (Inman 5K 2009), shorts, Nike Air Zoom Pegasus+ 31.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Day 2,896: Turns out, Piedmont Park is a public park

First there was the helicopter.

I don't know about you, but it's extremely annoying to run with chopper blades overhead. It's distracting and you don't need to be looking above you when you need to be paying attention to the ground.

I was on mile 6 of my last 10-mile tempo run (12 miles total) before the Dec. 14 Honolulu Marathon. I basically wanted to bore myself by running 10 times at marathon pace around Lake Clara Meer.

Turned out it was anything but boring.  On my seventh lap, still having to deal with the noise from the helicopter overhead, I made my way around past the Park Place bridge. There had been a few young women and a dude mulling about with an orange cardboard sign the last few times I passed by.

This time, right as I ran by, one of the women said, "Excuse me sir, can you run over here?"

Huh? I pretended not to hear her and just ran by. It wasn't like there were any signs or any indication some commercial event was happening.

When I turned the corner, coming from the other direction was another young woman with neon blue shoes running toward me. After I passed, some guy who was hiding behind a tree with the orange sign said, "Go!"

I thought at first maybe she was doing some kind of interval.

But near the other side of the lake, I saw a security guard in a golf cart. I got his attention and said, "Hey, is there filming going on? Some lady tried to make me go the other way. They need a permit right? Last time I checked this was a public park."

He agreed and drove out the way I came. I met him near the entrance of the pool. He said he saw the women but really nothing else. I told him I'd let him know if I saw anything else.

When I got to where the other women were, the one who tried to get my attention actually stood in my way and tried to get me to run along the path.

I cut her short -- "You got a permit? I already talked to security." Her colleague said "Huh?" in the absolute dumbest matter possible. I continued on, saying "I got two laps left and this is a public park."

They couldn't say anything. They let me go on.

When I passed them the third time I just kept running. The model was running toward me again but the guy behind the tree had her turn around and run the other way.

She wasn't running that fast so I easily caught up with her. I asked her, "You filming a commercial?"

She turned and said yes. "Just running around crazy."

I felt sorry for her, wished her luck and continued on my way. By the next pass, the helicopter had left and the group was conferring in between the path and the lake. I continued on and then finished my 10th tempo mile and ran home. The fact that they stopped me got me fired up and I ended up breaking my marathon pace, easily sliding into splits that I ran in the Marine Corps Marathon.

Yet the run was great. I don't know how I will run in the marathon but at least I know I will be able to run half of it?

Time: 3:01 p.m.
Temp: 64 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Marine Corps Marathon - "Mission Accomplished", shorts, Skechers Go Run 3.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Day 2,894: A (half) sockless run

My schedule didn't let me get to my 4 x 1.5-mile intervals (1/4-mile recovery) until the middle of the afternoon. This was good, since the temperature was 70 degrees by then, giving me another warm weather workout.

But when I got to the park, my left foot felt funny in the running shoe. I stopped off at a picnic table and tried to adjust the shoe. When that didn't help, I removed the sock and then put the shoe back on, hoping it would have a little more space.

That seemed to work so I did the rest of my workout that way. When it was finished, I came back to the picnic table, picked up the sock from its hiding place and then ran home.

I did pick up a blister on the inside of my left foot from where it rubbed against the shoe stitching. Also, oddly enough, I got a couple of hot spots on the small toes of my right foot. I'm hoping this is the right shoe for 26.2 miles.

Time: 2:37 p.m.
Temp: 70 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Marine Corps Marathon, "Mission Focus"), shorts, Skechers Go Run 3.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Day 2,893: The logo goes in front

After suffering from calf cramps in all four marathons that I've run, I've done a bunch of reading about what causes it and how to prevent it.

So naturally this road has led me to compression socks. The scientific research only goes so far as to say that there is evidence that these kinds of things help in recovery, not actively during a race.

But there is still a belief out there that they do help in the middle of a run and since I can't just do a bunch of calf-strengthening exercises just two weeks before the race, I'll take what I can get.

The local running store was helpful and so I bought a pair of calf sleeves, pictured above. The benefit with these is that they don't extend all the way down to the toes so you can wear the socks you'd normally wear on a run.

I didn't get out for my scheduled 8-mile run today until mid-afternoon, but that was perfect. The weather was 70 degrees and I ended up lucking out with yet another hot weather day for my workout. I even lugged my amphipod water bottle (and drank it during the run).

I wore the new sleeves for the first time. At first they felt like they were impeding my running but gradually through the run they felt totally fine.

When I got home I noticed one potential logistical problem -- they are so snug they were really difficult to get off my legs! I had to prop up my foot and then really push to get them off. I'm pretty sure I won't be able to do this after a marathon, so I might have to just keep them on for a while.

And now that I have the box in front of me, I can see I was wearing them wrong. The logo goes in front.

Time: 3:20 p.m.
Temp: 70 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Doug Kessler 10K), shorts, cep calf sleeves 2.0, Skechers Go Run 3.