Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Frustrated and Sorry and Selfish

I went to see a doctor today. I've been carrying a temperature since Sunday night, aching, and coughing. I have not been able to run or work. The visit was less helpful than I had hoped. I've had symptoms for over 3 weeks which make one think its bacterial, but because of a terrible training mishap on Sunday night (stranded in cold/rainy conditions for just under 4 hours in my running shorts) the doctor thinks this could be new and unrelated and viral. This means he prescribed antibiotics for me, but I'm not supposed to fill the prescription until Monday (If I stay sick) or tomorrow if I wake up feeling even worse.

I understand there is nothing he can do. And I know there is not a wonder-drug he can prescribe. But, its very frustrating to a runner to take days off during the peak of training. And, while I can stomach that, not being sure when I'll return is hard to take. If I was taking meds and expecting it to disappear by the weekend I could handle it a lot better.

Doc told me no running for 14 days. But, that's why I always wish that I could see a doctor that an elite runner would see. No way they would say that. I'll be back on my feet when the fever has gone.

I know I need to be strong, and patient, and that in the grand scheme of things my overall running won't be affected, especially all season long when you look how early we are into everything. But, I have a half, a 5k, a trail-10k and full marathon all within 8 weeks. I've paid to do them, to travel to them, to have a place to stay while racing, and now it might all be money lost. That's hard to stomach for a person without insurance living check to check.

Next time I write, I hope to have much better news to share. I'll certainly be sharing an article from the most recent Running Times when I'm feeling good enough to touch the scanner.

And I feel selfish complaining about being sick. It happens to everyone. The great champions I admire have dealt with broken bones while training and they've bounced back! I need to learn from them. But, I also have to explain that almost all of my decisions are based on how I can improve as a runner. I make sacrifices every day that make my life less fun in the short-term because I find the long-term payoff to be so sweet, and then in looking back I usually realize how much fun I had getting there. I guess I need to remember that there is no promise that hard-work will pay off in terms of faster times. If it was that simple, then it would make the amazing feeling that comes with improvement less exciting and special. It is very hard to keep that perspective and not feel owed a reward at the end.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

10k Race Report and Round Valley in the News

Sage to Summit Winter Race 2

The second race in this winter series proved to be very challenging. If you take a look at the topographical course map you'll notice that the path goes over several lines. And with an out-and-back course, this means you have to go uphill in one of the directions. The 700 ft climb was made more difficult by the fact that it was done over a very sandy trail. I don't know how trail runners can stand the soft stuff, I'll take the roads any day.

I was hoping to get the 2nd win and be 2/3 or a way to a sweep of the series, but I had to settle for 2nd place as I was absolutely no match for Dan Yarborough who lead from the gun. I went off slowly from the gun and sat in about 5th place for the first half mile. I picked it up just before we left the harder park surface for the sandy trail. I didn't want to pass on the soft ground and risk having to leave the groove (the area of the path that was most packed and easiest to run on), however I quickly found that there was absolutely no groove. I entered the trail in 2nd about 10 yards behind first. I kept him in striking distance for much of the first few miles, but each time I planned to surge to catch him he simply put more space between us.

At the turn-around he flew past me and I knew it would be an almost impossible descent to catch him. I watched my competition after the turn and had a good 10-40 second gap on the next 4 racers. After running 7 minute pace up the hill I was now moving along in the mid to low 5's. Near the end of the race I heard the steps of someone behind me. I made a quick glance, and my heart sank when I saw my coach Andrew. He must have been absolutely flying, because I had a decent gap on him at the halfway point. I glanced at my Garmin (I don't usually wear this during a race, but there are no mile markers on this course) and saw there was just over a mile to go. At that point I felt I didn't stand a chance to hold him off. I began to push much harder in the hopes that he would tire.

I hit the hard ground again at the half mile to go point and I put in a surge. At the next 90 degree turn I took a quick glance and saw that I had opened the gap a bit more. It was certainly deflating to lost by such a wide margin (I'm not sure what it was as results have yet to be posted) but it was nice to hold of Andrew, who has out-kicked me in many a mile repeat.

Its hard to measure my performance in this race considering the conditions, but I'm happy to say my pace was a few seconds faster than race 1 and this course was certainly much harder. Next up: The Chico Half Marathon two weeks from today.

NBC article on Ryan Hall highlights Area Locales

I did a double take when I saw the byline on this article about Ryan Hall's current training. Round Valley is a very tiny place, and imagining a reporter there gave me a good smile. Having done several of my recent workouts there it was fun to read the article and glance at the accompanying photos.

ROUND VALLEY, Calif. -- It is lonely and harsh out here in the high desert of eastern California. In the winter months, it is cold and it snows, the wind howling across land so remote and forlorn that just a few miles to the south the U.S. government set up internment camps in the 1940s.

One main highway, U.S. 395, cuts through here, interrupted now and then by service roads, strips of asphalt laid down to access huge pipes that carry water far south, to Los Angeles.

This is where Ryan Hall comes now to test himself, in thin air, on high ground, on roads with no names, readying for the Boston Marathon this spring, hardening himself to the elements and the doubts and the question whose answer, as yet, remains uncertain.

While I don't relate to the religious aspects of Hall's running, I really appreciate his attitude and he carries himself very well.

From the time he had started running, more than 10 years before, Hall had dreamed of his approach to Olympic Stadium, and the tunnel, and the roar of the crowd. In his dreams, of course, he was first.

That day in Beijing, bound for tenth, he nonetheless experienced an epiphany.

"I remember thinking, 'You can choose now how you want to live this moment. Do you want to feel disappointment or do you want to pout? You can. Or you can enjoy it.' I just felt like I had this voice from God: 'This isn't everything you wanted. But it's everything you need right now.' "

A nice section about the effects of training around other great runners and a good thought on race strategy and the mental warfare all competitors enjoy.

Every day, too, Hall can see in and around Round Valley and nearby Bishop, Calif., in the high desert, and in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., in the mountains that rise to the west off the valley floor, the evidence that what he's aiming for is possible. Meb Keflezighi, the silver medalist in the Athens 2004 men's marathon, lives and trains in the area. So does Deena Kastor, the bronze medalist in the Athens 2004 women's marathon.

"His form now is right on," Kastor said of Hall. "He is looking so impressive for so early in the season."

Mahon said of Kastor, and of the lesson her medal-winning tactics offers, "Deena makes you hurt as soon as the gun goes off," Mahon said. "If you're going to beat her, she's going to put you through an immense amount of pain. Why? Because she knows you're going to question that pain and question your will from the get-go."

Snow is Gone

Hello brown one, hello blue one
Last night's feathers exchanged for new ones
Hello blackbird, hello starling
Winter's over be my darling
It's been a long time coming
But now the snow is gone

-Josh Ritter

The blizzard from last week is done and the snow is beginning to melt here in Mammoth, but unfortunately it won't actually be gone for quite some time as its supposed to return tomorrow evening.

One last time...

Be sure to check out Jason's blog for pictures and a great story about his time in Austin.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Blizzard in Mammoth

Mammoth Lakes is supposed to see around 22" of snow today. This evening I'm running in the gym, but before it piled too high I had to go have some fun. I had the same trouble seeing through the ice that was forming on my eyebrows and lashes. But, the ice that formed on my legs was unlike anything I've experienced before.

Happy Presidents Day!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Batman, Mr. Wiegand, and Chico Carlsbad


Many of my running friends are headed to Austin, TX this weekend to race there. I'm anxious to hear about their results on Sunday morning. My friend Jason's latest blog entry does a great deal to explain why my running friends are so fun. Check out this excerpt:

My race is on Saturday morning and is supporting the women's soccer team at Texas State. I've always been a huge supporter of their program and I know that my $12.50 will make a difference. So in honor of the women bobcats I am going to sport my Batman costume during the race. Worst case scenario, T-Bud said it best. I wear this ridiculous costume yet still take the race seriously (this is possible) and lose to some 16 year old in training shoes. I agree, that would be pretty embarrassing. Luckily, my costume comes with a mask and my identity will be protected.

And while I know some very fast times are to be turned in, and Jason is helping to pace some folks on Sunday fun will still be had. As evidence I quote his blog again.

Also, to make sure that us northerners fit in with all these Texan cow herders we went out and bought the finest and most authentic western wear we could find. By that, I mean we went to Alcala's. Hats, shirts, shoes and most importantly a good belt buckle. Yes, I fully expect that we will not be welcomed with open arms.

Mr. Wiegand

He is a man that goes by many names. Rabbit, RH, Ashley Boyle's facebook picture boyfriend, Roberto, and abs just to name a few. Robert Wiegand is someone I've mentioned here numerous times, a friend and teammate I've finished behind in many races, and now you can read about his training and experiences with running at his new blog, Coursing. We'll be facing each other once again in Boston, and that will only feel natural as he's been at my side in my two previous marathons. Pacing me over the last mile in Chicago and keeping on a solid negative-split pace for over 20 miles of NYC.

Chico Carlsbad

My winter/spring race schedule has filled out quite nicely and I can't believe how quickly its all coming up. I'm still focused on the Boston Marathon on April 20th. But, I have a few prep races coming up between now and then that will be quite exciting. Besides the two 10k's that are part of the Sage to Summit Series I've written about, I will also be participating in the world-famous Carlsbad 5000 and the not-so-world-famous 33rd annual Bidwell Classic (aka Chico, CA Half-Marathon).

The Carlsbad 5000 (which is a 5k, a simple fact that our American non-metric minds often don't seem to get) has seen 16 world records set over its history. This is an extremely fast course that will allow me to put in a great speed test just two weeks before the Boston Marathon. Hopefully I'll set a new PR in the distance while I'm at it. I'll be racing with my friend James. Interestingly enough we'll actually be in different heats as the races are divided by age groups. We'll be able to cheer for one another.

The Chico Half falls 6 weeks before Boston and will offer another gauge for me to see where I'm at when at sea-level. This should allow me to spend my last few weeks of training with a great idea of what my goal pace will be in Boston. Running at altitude all the time has caused me to be completely clueless about whether I'm getting faster or slower. And, best of all, Ashley will be joining me to do the race. I'm picking her up in Reno on the way to Chico and then she is spending a few days with me in Mammoth. The trip is sure to make her wish to never return to Chicago.

Tomorrow brings a 2:20 minute run, which should give me some idea of where I'm at. Updates on Austin coming soon!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Losing Myself in the Moment Six Times

Today's schedule called for two runs. A workout in the morning consisting of 6X1 mile at 5:25 at altitude (meaning a lengthy 3 minutes rest between intervals) and n easy 30 minute run in the afternoon. Sounds simple enough., but it ended up being very strange.

The snow has been falling like crazy in Mammoth the last few days so I decided to get up early and head south to clear roads in Round Valley. This is about a 35 minute drive and about 25 minutes in I tried to turn my Garmin on to check the altitude. But, as has happened now and then lately it refused to turn on. I quickly realized I had no watch with which to do the workout. I said a few curse words and contemplated turning around.

Luckily the road at Round Valley is marked with spray paint every 100 meters. I had both of my iPods with me and came up with a plan to time myself. I only had about 25 songs on my Shuffle so I looked at them in my Classic to find out how long they were. Turns out the song that was closest to 5:25 was "Lose Yourself" by Eminem (don't ask why it was on there in the first place). It clocked in at 5:20. "Anything" by 3EB followed so I listened to it on my classic studying the time. Stephen Jenkins' takes a deep breath into the mic 5 seconds in and the guitar starts at 11 seconds. These were my cues. I needed to finish each repeat on that breath, or at least beat the guitar to the finish line.

Next, I needed a way to time my 3 minute recoveries. "Anything" is exactly 2 minutes long, so I listened to the first minute and 5 seconds of "Wounded" also by 3EB which followed to find my cue for thee minutes passing.

I was feeling proud of myself for coming up with a system. I set up my water bottles at both ends of my one mile run during my warm-up as usual. I usually have 20 minutes of music on my iPod that is relaxing to enjoy during my warmup. This usually means 4 or 5 songs. I often pick the last of those to be a little more up beat, or something that will get me excited for the workout. Often times this last song is "Stars of Track and Field" (Belle & Sebastian) or "I Feel it All" (Feist) or "A Year Ahead... & a Light" (Richard Buckner) just to prove that I don't always listen to dorky music.

As a side note, It's amazing how nervous I feel just before and during these workouts. I'm running by myself in front of no one (although once again today I passed several members of Running USA as they did their workout) and yet I'm on edge and scared that I won't be as fast as I need to be, or that it will hurt too much.

It was sometime during that first mile when I realized the flaw with my plan. I would be listening to the same two songs, six times each in 48 minutes. And not just any two songs, but songs by Eminem and Third Eye Blind. I thought it would be terrible, but I have to admit it turned out pretty well. I began trying to get to a stop sign before Eminem would say "Spaghetti" or try to pass the final 100 meter mark before he says "You can do anything you put your mind to" which is really an ideal thing to hear when trying to push it over those last few seconds.

It also brought great memories from Little 500 practice my junior year at Indiana U. They played the same mix-cd at every practice and Lose Yourself played each day. My teammate Andrew and I made fun of it, along with other tracks most of the time, but we also loved it in a sick way. And I have to admit that I have positive feelings every time I hear a song that was on the mix.

And for the record, I beat the 3EB guitar to the 1 mile mark 5 out of 6 repeats.


Two additional notes. After watching the Lose Yourself video, it is my opinion that its a GREAT song. Something that deserves respect and something that will stand the test of time. I have to admit that even though it is Eminem.

Also... I mentioned Belle and Sebastian's "Stars of Track and Field", and I just have to post this small chunk of lyrics.

Could I write a piece about you now that you've made it?
About the hours spent, the emptiness in your training
You only did it so that you could wear
Your terry underwear
And feel the city air
Run past your body