Daytona 50 Recap

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I spent most of March and April working on heart rate training, designed to help me keep my heart rate down as I ran at comfortable speeds for longer distances. In effect, this was the beginning of my training cycle for a December race, the Daytona 50. I had previously run 6 marathons and 15 half marathons but had no idea what to expect in nearly doubling my longest run ever.

Fast forward past several months of training, back-to-back long runs, 3am alarms, on-course training, and over 1400 miles run since May 1st. On December 10th I drove to Ponce Inlet to meet up with my friend (and crew for the race) Denny Krahe. We left my car at the race finish line and drove to the start in Marineland, FL for the 11am runners meeting with race organizer and ultra-runner Dave Krupski. Besides the meeting, the final hour gave me the chance to get my final preparations ready and familiarize Denny with my plan. I was ready. At least I thought I was. Just before noon we heard the National Anthem (with an impromptu flyover from about 15 geese in a perfect V-formation) and then counted down to the start, exactly 6 hours after the 100-mile runners started their race 50 miles away in Jacksonville Beach.

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The 2016 Daytona 50 is under way!

About 0.02 miles into the race I realized that I had everything I needed EXCEPT my nutrition items for the first 11 miles. I had left those items in the cooler in Denny’s van. Lucky for me the very start of the race circled the parking lot so when I got close I dropped out of line and ran to the van to get my food. We’re off to a smashing start! I settled in and headed into the wind for a little less than a mile to the turnaround point, gave Dave a high-five and headed south for the next 47 miles. It didn’t take long to shake the crazy start, and I just stayed at a pace that felt comfortable. I did vary from my training pattern in the first 11 miles because I skipped my every-other mile walk breaks for 1 minute. I was running at a good heart rate (130-135) but my pace was slightly faster than I planned.

After about 3 miles I saw Denny next to the sidewalk trying to get my attention. I didn’t expect to see him until the first aid station around mile 11. While driving by he had noticed that I put my sunglasses on top of my head and was there to swap out the glasses for my hat that I had kept in the van. Awesome idea! Wait, if he could pick up on simple clues like this I think I’m in good hands for the rest of the race. I stayed pretty steady with my pace, liquid and food intake through the first aid station, hitting ten miles in 1:40:03, right at 10 minutes per mile and about 5 minutes ahead of expectation. I gave the credit to the tailwind. Denny was waiting for me with a fresh Gatorade bottle and a fresh Propel water bottle for my hydration belt, as well as a quarter of a PBJ sandwich. I told him I was good and was quickly on my way, hardly even breaking stride.

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From the aid station we had to cross A1A as the Flagler Beach to Marineland Trail (pronounced sidewalk) continued from this point on the inland side of A1A. The next aid station was about 9 miles away and I had everything I needed with me so I had told Denny to meet me at that aid station. Here I returned to my tried and true run/walk plan of walking for a minute to start each mile. At around mile 17 I saw my dad standing next to where we were running and stopped to say hi for a few seconds. From the start through the second aid station that was my slowest mile because of the stop, but still under 11 minutes. I was feeling strong and running ahead of expectations. That can’t be good.

The second aid station had a timing mat and was somewhere around mile 19.5-20. I crossed the mat at 3:15:12 and quickly caught up with Denny. I swapped bottles, grabbed a sandwich and fresh bags of jelly beans and Combos, plus a small cup of Coke from Dave’s wife Alex who was (wo)manning the aid station. I told Denny that my back had started to tighten up a little and that I needed to catch up with him at some point before the next aid station because I would need my nighttime gear. We agreed on meeting 5 miles down the road and I was off once again. My legs felt good but I knew my back would present an issue before long. Still, I kept to my plan of walking for a minute of each mile and kept a pace of just under 11:00 per mile until I crossed mile 25 in 4:20 and met up with Denny soon after. It wasn’t time for the night gear yet so he gave me fresh bottles and a sandwich and we agreed to meet around 5pm. During mile 27 I started adding additional walk breaks as I was having more back problems and some unsettled stomach concerns just to add to the drama. At some point during mile 28 I saw Denny again and he helped me put on my reflective vest equipped with blinky lights and handed me my headlamp. I went on my way, planning to meet him again at the third aid station, still 3 miles away.

Not long after leaving Denny I found a gas station and headed for their bathroom hoping to fix my uneasy stomach. Mission unsuccessful. I decided to cut back on the liquids and stop eating sugar for a while, thinking I might give my stomach a chance to settle itself. I pulled into the next aid station in Ormond Beach just before mile 31 and took off my hydration belt and tossed my headphones into the van. Perhaps losing the belt would ease the pressure on my back. I wouldn’t be needing the headphones in a few miles because Denny was getting ready to park the van and pace me to the finish. I had a mini orange from the aid station selections and headed back out on the course after crossing A1A for the final time, now carrying my belt bottles. The plan was to make it to mile 35, resupply with Denny and then have him join me running. My pace was now in the 14:00-14:20 range so he had plenty of time to get ready.

The mile 35 meetup went as planned and he dropped off the bottles I had, handed me a sandwich, and we were off. We had about 3.5 miles to go on A1A before we started the first beach segment. It was good to have conversation, but these first couple of miles with my pacer is where I dipped into the dark area of uncertainty. I’ve never run 32 miles before and now I’m past 35, so how far can I actually go? Maybe I can make it to 50, but maybe I can’t. I even had a thought of “maybe I don’t want to,” but I knew that there were a handful of people tracking my progress and cheering me on and I really hate the thought of letting other people down so I pushed through.

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We stayed around 15:00 miles from mile 35 through the final aid station at mile 43 where we left the beach and returned to the roads. All that we had left was about 3.5 miles south, a mile around the lighthouse, and then 2 miles on the beach heading north to the finish line. I was feeling more comfortable about finishing, but not yet convinced it would happen. We stayed at the aid station for about 3 minutes. I didn’t get any food, but they had Mountain Dew! A shot of that and we were off. It was now about 8:40 and I was gaining on 9 hours running. I’d never done 6 hours before so I was testing myself pretty well. We came across a couple of people in front of their homes offering us water bottles, which was quite nice to see. One asked us, “How many more of you are there?” I told him that there might be another 150-200 (including the 100-milers), but that some might not be around until tomorrow morning. By his reaction I knew he wasn’t expecting that answer!

Around 9:30 we first saw the lighthouse up close. At this point I knew that I could finish, I just didn’t know if I could continue to hold the blazing 15:20 pace that we were putting down. Denny stopped at one point to top off my bottles (he was carrying extra liquids in his back pack) and he quickly caught up to me. He also mentioned from time to time that he had extra Combos and I should be eating. I didn’t feel like eating but knew I needed the calories. Mile 48 brought us back onto the beach for the home stretch.

Since it was just after 10pm we could only see lights here and there along the beach but couldn’t tell where the finish was. We knew it was in front of us somewhere. After a half mile I saw a red light and announced that the red light might be the clock at the finish. When Denny agreed that it could be I got an energy boost and our running segments got a little longer and a little faster. I started getting butterflies in my stomach because I was nearly done with a 50 freaking mile race! Denny looked at his watch and realized that 10:30 was a possibility for my finish time if we picked it up a little. He said, “Stay with me and you’ll make it” and was I just out of it enough to go along with whatever he said. The 50th mile was faster than any mile I had run in the past 5 hours! I crossed the finish line in 10:30:15 and was greeted and given my finisher’s medal by Alex Krupski. I was slightly disappointed that I failed to meet my best-case scenario goal of 10 hours, mostly because I didn’t follow my own plan, but I was overall thrilled that I finished and overcame my obstacles.

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Without the help of Denny Krahe I can’t say for sure that I would have finished this race. I can say that I would not have finished it in the same time or condition that I did. Thank you Denny for giving up your day with your family, driving my supplies around, making the stops quick and easy, and, of course, pacing me when I needed it most. Thanks also to Dave and Alex for putting the race and training runs together. Also, a big thank you to the volunteers and others that helped make this race a reality, and the amazing experience that it was. I’m no world-class ultra runner but I finished what I started – I am an Ultra Runner!

 

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The morning after, sunrise at Ponce Inlet, FL

 

Ultra training part 2

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Long runs. Just mentioning them leads to a variety of responses, depending on who the runner is, their ability, and their goal. As I prepare to enter the ultra world, there really isn’t any part of my training that is more necessary than the long run, especially since I didn’t do enough of them before any of my marathons, and in my opinion, paid for it.

As discussed in my last post, on August 27th I ran with some of the people signed up for the Daytona 100 and Daytona 50 on the actual course. It was later in the day than I normally run (a big deal in the Florida summer) and it may have been tougher on me than necessary, simply because I have done many of my long runs on the treadmill. I have since reconsidered the value of training in the heat and have been doing more of just that.

However, my first long run following the debacle that was the on-course group run needed to be a solid effort in order to boost my mental strength. After all of the struggling that I did on A1A and on the beach I spent way too much time questioning my ability and my desire to press on for the 50-miler that was just 3 months away. I felt that a solid treadmill long run would confirm that I could indeed complete this mission that I’ve signed up for. A week after the group run I climbed on the treadmill, equipped with water, Gatorade, PBJ, and Swedish fish. Doesn’t everyone do that? I ran the first hour at 6.2 mph all the way through. For the second hour I stayed at 6.3 mph, and for the third hour I sprinkled in a few minutes of 6.4 here and there as I was feeling like I wanted to go faster, but even by the end of three hours I was only at 19 miles (too early to push). For the 4th hour I stayed at 6.3 mph, putting me at 25.3 miles in 4:02. I was nine-tenths of a mile from a bunch of things I had never accomplished before.

I restarted the treadmill again and ran another 8:56, completing my first treadmill marathon in 4:10:56. This was the first time I stayed on the treadmill over 4 hours, the first time I did a training run of 26.2 miles, and the first time I ran 26.2 without taking walk breaks. I did have to stop every hour to reset the treadmill, but honestly that’s more of a nuisance than a break. Oh, and my marathon PR is 4:31:37, and this run was 20:41 faster than that PR! Mission accomplished: I managed to turn my thoughts in a positive direction and felt a renewed confidence that I might actually be able to complete this craziness.

Fast forward one week to 9/10. My return to doing long runs outside started at 4:45am. I had made a plan to take a bottle of water, a bottle of Gatorade, 2 Clif Shots, and some Swedish fish with me and keep backup supplies and additional food in a cooler by my front door. I knew my pace would need to be slower than the treadmill marathon because of the extra heat and humidity so I settled on about a 10:15 pace and decided that after each mile I’d walk for one minute while I took on fluids and calories. This seemed to work really well and I made it back to the house after about 90 minutes and 8.5 miles. I swapped out water and Gatorade bottles and grabbed a quarter of a PBJ sandwich and headed back out.

Another 6 1/4 miles and 70 minutes or so and I was back at the house for more fluids, more PBJ, more fish, and some ice water over my head. The sun was just starting to come up and it felt like the temperature was jumping every minute. Back out there I went, running for another hour, now taking walk breaks after each half mile. In total I ran 20.05 miles in about 3:45, a pace of over 11:20/mile. A week ago I ran 6.15 miles further at a pace that was more than 1:40/mile faster, and felt so much better after. It’s amazing the extra toll that 75-80 degrees and 95% humidity will take on the body. I did, however, learn some things about my “aid station” setup that I could improve upon and I learned that the run/walk schedule that I was trying seemed to be good for me; I think I’ll stick with it.

One more long run to add in here and then I’m pretty much caught up. Last Saturday had the same basic plan: Running near the house with my own personal aid station set up at the front door. I wanted to get out there closer to 4:15, but managed a 4:30am start, and this time I was running with my new headlamp for the first time. I usually run on sidewalks under streetlights so a headlamp isn’t critical, but I know I’ll need one during the 50-miler as I’ll be running on the beach at night and there just aren’t enough streetlights on the beach!

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For this run I decided to go two miles before my first walk break, and kept the pace at 10:13 for those first two. Perfect! I stayed with walking for one minute following each mile from that point on and returned to the aid station after 90 minutes. Swap, sandwich, and go! This time out was about 85 minutes and I was right at 16 miles when I made my second aid station stop. Back out on the road and watching the sun come up I knew that things were going to get more difficult. After about mile 18 I started taking walk breaks after about 3/4 mile running. Around mile 20 I was down to 1/2 mile run to 1 minute walking. I stopped back home for a quick refill on my water at about mile 21 and then managed to run another mile-plus without stopping (only because I knew this was the end). In all I did 22.36 miles in 4:06 (11:00 average pace).

The bright spot here is that I can do long runs in this heat, just not quite as well as I’d like to. Considering this 50-mile race will be in December I’ll have the chance to do several more (and longer) long runs, and the weather should start to become more conducive to running soon, in theory. For my long run this week I’m going to try an earlier start and a longer run in the neighborhood since my second on-course group run was cancelled. Next group run will be in 4 weeks and it’ll be 30 miles of the 50 that I’ll race in December. That could prove to be my most important training run of the year!

Ultra Training part one

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It’s been a while since I’ve really had anything to post but I think it’s time to get back behind the keyboard and document this process called ultra training. It’s new territory for me, and from the reactions I’ve seen across social media, it’s not familiar territory for very many people. A few months ago I decided to jump into the ultra world when I saw a race advertised that looked too good to pass up. When I signed up for the race, the hardest part was deciding between the 50-mile and 100-mile distance. Seriously, I was just seconds away from clicking on the 100-mile option for my first ultra, but I opted to play it safe and chose the 50. Now race day is less than 3 months away and I’m getting into the meat of my training.

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The lighthouse in Ponce Inlet

The race I’m training for is the Daytona 50 (part of the Daytona 100), which is a point-to-point race down the east coast of Florida. The 100 starts in Jacksonville at 6am, while the 50 starts in Marineland, FL at noon. The finish line for both races is on the beach in Ponce Inlet after circling the second biggest lighthouse in the country. 50 miles…. sounds like an enormous undertaking, but by race day I will have devoted close to 9 months getting myself ready for it. This post covers part of the experience, and once I get caught up then I’ll try to be a little more timely with my posting.

My training started in March with a long stretch of heart rate training. You can see my updates here, here and here. Much of the heart rate training was done on the treadmill simply because it was easier for me to track progress if as many factors as possible are consistent from day to day, and being inside was my way to control the weather differences. In May I started bumping up my long runs and my weekly mileage, first hitting 40 miles per week in early May and 20 mile long runs on July 23rd. By the time it’s May in central Florida the heat and humidity are already off the charts (even before dawn) so I continued most of my long runs inside while moving about half of my short runs outside. Here’s the reasoning: I needed to stay outside regularly in order to stay used to the heat and humidity, but I found it difficult to make it to 20 miles or more in those conditions. Knowing the troubles I experienced in my six marathons I felt that becoming comfortable with the distance was top priority and I could move the long runs outside if/when it cools down. I also kept one 5-6 mile run inside every 10-14 days for a progress update on the heart rate training.

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Now for the fun part: On August 27th there was an opportunity for anyone registered for the Daytona 100 or 50 to run part of the course as a group run. There would be aid available on the course to help out as well. Even though the selected part of the course covered in this run is not part of the 50-mile race, I signed up and made my way to St. Augustine on the 27th, parking at the designated end of the run. We carpooled up to Jacksonville and started our run at the race’s actual start line. I quickly learned that I was the only member of the group with no ultra experience. There was good motivation to do well on this run since my car was parked 28 miles away. The bad part of this experience was that the start time was 9am. In August. In Florida. It was 82 degrees and cloud-free when we started running. Here’s the part where running more outside would have been beneficial.

I ran fairly conservatively (I thought) through Jacksonville, around 10:10-10:40 per mile. Since my long runs for the past three months had been in the 9:30-9:40 range and I had done so much heart rate training, I assumed that taking this run about a minute per mile slower would be about right. You know what happens when you assume, right? By the end of the 4th mile I was averaging 165 bpm and peaked over 170. I still have 24 miles to go and it’s going to get hotter? I’m in trouble. For the next couple of miles I stayed with someone who had run this course last year and was taking walk breaks. I’m not a run/walker, more of a run until you’re dead and then walk as needed, but I needed to find a way to survive this run. We were doing 5/1 and after 3 miles of that I slowed it down even more and let the veteran run ahead of me. Mile 8 was 14:03 with 14:46 at mile 9.

This was exactly why I wanted to do this run. Not to destroy myself physically, but to learn what’s working and what’s not. The hard part is going to be applying things I’ve learned about running in August to a race in December, assuming that it won’t be quite as warm. So I continued down the road under the impression that this road would never end. Around mile 12.5 I saw a friendly face, Dave Krupski’s (race director) wife. She was at the edge of a parking lot with a cooler full of water, Gatorade, some snacks and ice. Lots of ice. I explained to her that I was struggling with the heat and she said that they weren’t worried about how long they’d be out there and that I should keep going as far as I could. I started through the parking lot and just before crossing the bridge onto the beach I spotted a couple of showers intended for rinsing off after being in the ocean. I spent a good 30 seconds letting that water cool off my head, and soaking the rest of me pretty well.

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Sunscreen wasn’t working, still 2 hours to go!

Next up was the bridge to the beach. There were quite a few people walking on the bridge and most of them looked at me like I had lost my mind. I wasn’t prepared to argue. Onto the beach I went and headed south. The sand here was very well packed and was almost as firm as running on the road. After the first quarter mile there was no one on the beach in front of me as far as I could see. And the sun was still blazing away.

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Hello? Anyone there???

 

I’ve been in a place during a marathon where I was physically spent and questioning my ability. After about 2 miles of beach isolation, seeing no one in front of me and no one behind me I was in a place mentally that I had never imagined. I was not only considering giving up the run, but dropping out of the race as well. This was crazy. And it looked like it would never end. I was just about out of food and each mile was taking about a year. From miles 12-16 I ran only mile 14 in less than 15 minutes. Mile 17 took me over 20 minutes. I was seriously out of gas. At about 18.3 I saw Dave’s wife again, waiting next to another cooler. I explained my situation and again she gave me some positives to look at and told me that the tide was on its way in so the course was being adjusted back out to the road (we were supposed to stay on the beach until we finished, mile 28).

 

I let her talk me into continuing over another bridge and back to the road. She said that the next cooler was 4 miles away and if I was still in bad shape that I could wait at that cooler and Dave would take me back to my car. I regretted my decision after about 5 minutes. The sun was relentless. I kept up a pace of one minute run and one minute walk as best I could. About 2 miles after I got back on the road I started wondering if a person would find me before the vultures did. I needed to stop and kept hoping that Dave would drive by. Eventually he did, just before I got to that cooler, just before mile 22. He asked how I was doing and I replied with “front seat or back?” I packed it in and gave up for the first time ever. As we drove Dave said a lot of things that I will try to remember and incorporate in my continued training for the Daytona 50 and beyond. Dave would know what works and what doesn’t after all, he’s run 25 races of 100 miles or more, including Badwater twice. The thing that Dave said to me that stuck with me the most…. If you can last 5 hours in this heat you’re doing well. Apparently the same training run last year had two finishers out of about a dozen people.

Final numbers for the day: 21.93 miles, 5:06:57, end of run weather:

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Distractions

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One of the aspects of training and racing that I consider to be key is keeping focus. Whether the focus needs to be on a specific workout, recovery, tapering, or ensuring that nothing is forgotten on race morning, focus can be the difference between going through the motions and actually accomplishing something. However, life doesn’t always make it easy to keep your focus where it needs to be.

Tomorrow and Sunday I will be running the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World, with the half marathon on Saturday and the marathon on Sunday. I completed the Dopey Challenge a year ago (Goofy plus a 5k Thursday and 10k Friday) so I am familiar with the demands of completing such a challenge. Even so, I feel completely unprepared for this weekend’s races. After finishing Space Coast Marathon six weeks ago and Best Damn Race Cape Coral marathon 4 weeks ago, I have been in the in-between state of recovery and taper at the same time and not really pushing any workouts. And not really pushing the mileage either. At the same time I feel like I’m rested and unprepared because I haven’t been running as much as I’ve wanted to. But this week I have had little opportunity to worry about my preparation level. Life has happened.

Monday I started off the week with a consultation with the dentist and a deep cleaning with the hygienist. It’s been a couple of years and I have sensitive teeth so this wasn’t the highlight of my week. Tuesday I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor and I finally got a prescription for anti-anxiety medication. After running a few dozen tests trying to determine the cause of my increasing heart rate, the latest possibility is anxiety and a few panic attacks. With this news I was sure that Tuesday was going to be a great day. And it was, until I left work. About 4 miles into my 35 mile trip home I went from smooth sailing on a toll road to parked in the median with a destroyed car in a matter of seconds. Someone changed lanes in front of me and then came to a complete stop just a few seconds later. I couldn’t stop in time and hit that SUV at somewhere around 25-30mph. As an extra bonus I was awarded a ticket for following too closely because the trooper determined that I had enough time to put the necessary space in front of me after the other driver pulled in front of me.

A short time later I was dropped off at a McDonalds where I called my insurance company and was told that Enterprise would come “pick me up” sometime soon. An hour later I called the insurance company back and was told that I wouldn’t hear from Enterprise until the next day because they close at 6 (accident was at 6:15). I just wasted an hour. With few options to get back home I called a friend for a ride and finally made it home around 10:45. The next morning it took about 7 phone calls to get my rental car because I live outside of the 10-mile radius that Enterprise locations use for picking people up. That’s enough for one week, right? Nah, that’s only Wednesday morning!

After making it to the tow yard to sign an insurance release I went to work for the second half of Wednesday. Thursday was work until 3:30 and then back to the dentist. The new experience for the day was installing a temporary crown and being fitted for a permanent one. I had no idea that this process would take close to two hours! So now my face hurts and I have this “thing” in my mouth where there has been a broken molar for about five years.

So today I’ll get in my rental car and go to work, have difficulty eating because of the pain in my jaw, and I’ll make lists of everything I need to remember to do before I go to bed at (hopefully) 8:30-9:00 tonight. I’ll have to drive to Disney and be headed to my corral by 4:30 for the half marathon, so I’ll need to be up by 3am at the latest. I wonder if anything I’ll need for the race is in my car that I no longer have? Isn’t life fun?

Don’t do this during a race

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There is definitely a learning curve when someone decides to take the plunge and start racing. There really are a lot of things that you need to learn in order to make the most of your experience, and in some cases, make it through the race. For example, I had been a runner for just a couple of months when I ran my first half marathon. I had never run more than 10k, and I had only done that twice (once was the day before the half). I remember asking my friend Steph about the concept of eating while running, how to do it, what food would be available, if I should stop to take in the food, etc. Of course, this conversation took place in the starting corral so my options were limited.

If you’re not familiar with the answers to these questions then you may not know about a handful of other topics that I witnessed during my marathon a week ago. They may seem so obvious to an experienced racer that these items might get overlooked when a veteran gives a few tips to a new runner. For example, be aware of where you’re going on the course. I’ve run 44 races and have yet to find one that is without a challenge or fifty within the course itself. Some have you going on and off of sidewalks, running on the road and then on a trail, running alongside traffic, or even running on 100 year old brick streets in downtown Orlando. In last weekend’s race there were 30-inch tall orange cones set up about 100 feet apart which were meant to mark the left edge of the racing lane. At least one runner didn’t see one of these cones, ran into it, and was knocked to the ground. She was about a tenth of a mile into the race with several hundred racers behind her. Luckily she was not seriously hurt and was able to keep going. Tip: Look where you’re going!

Three other things that I noticed during this race were all done by the same runner. “Jerry” went out pretty quick, though the first time I saw him was when I passed him around the 1.5 mile point when he slowed to a walk to catch his breath. He soon passed me back. Then I passed him again. I didn’t catch him every time he walked, but I did pass him for good around mile 4. It was the eighth time that I passed him. I’m hoping that this was a new racer mistake and not his racing style. He finished his half in just under 10:00/mile pace and the reason I know this is because he wore his bib on his butt (mistake #2). Most racers that you pass (or pass you), you never know their number because they wear their bib so it is visible from the front. This is so racers can be identified in race and finish line photos. Unless someone was taking pictures of Jerry’s butt, all of his free race photos will remain unidentified.

Jerry’s third mistake happened at a water stop. He grabbed a cup of water from one of the volunteers and quickly drank it without stopping then crumpled up the cup. He held onto the cup until he reached a trash can set up by the volunteers, then threw the cup on the ground right next to the can. Really? It wasn’t like he missed, he practically laid the cup on the ground next to the can. Please remember that these races would not happen if it wasn’t for the volunteers that support them. We don’t need to make their jobs any harder.

The final tip that I have for you also deals with the water stops. In any race longer than 10k you should be hydrating during the race. If you can’t run and drink at the same time then walk for 15 seconds and drink. Last week’s race was very hot and humid with temps in the lower 80s by the time I finished, and half of the marathoners were still on the course when I finished. Right at the finish line I saw paramedics working on someone who had finished just before me. I’m guessing it was some form of heat exhaustion just because of the weather. Even if it wasn’t, the reminder is a good one: consume fluids while you’re running long distance.

What other things have you seen runners do during a race that are easily avoidable mistakes?

Race recap: Space Coast Marathon

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Ten months ago I was set on the idea of qualifying for Boston with this race. A week before the race I was in the ER to try to find a reason for my recent spikes in heart rate while running. I wasn’t sure that this marathon was even going to happen, let alone what pace I could maintain. Add to it the fact that summer really hasn’t gone away yet in central Florida and I was seriously entertaining the idea of running at a snail’s pace.

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Once I figured out that either the Zyrtec or the Albuterol (or both) were at least partially responsible for the heart rate spikes, I stopped using both and saw my heart rate drop, but still not to where it was two months ago. Race time (6am) temperature was forecast at 70 degrees, but weren’t we pleasantly surprised when it was only 68 at the start of the race! Even with the cold front I was still using a conservative race plan (BQ was definitely out of the question) and expected that I’d have to adjust my plan along the way based on how I felt and my heart rate, something that I failed to do 5 weeks ago at the Lighthouse Loop half. I decided to start the race with the four-hour pace group and even managed a few miles just in front of the pacer. Due to the congestion near the start our first mile was a little slower than it should have been (9:22) but not bad. After the second mile (9:06) I decided to jump in front of the pacer in order to grab some room to move.

I am able to know that I’m comfortable with a run when I can run splits that are pretty even without the use of a pacer. The next three miles were done in 8:57, 8:55, and 8:56. I like it! What I didn’t like was that the sun was up and so was my heart rate. For the fifth mile I averaged 165. Miles 6 through 14 were good as far as pacing goes, averaging 9:05, and I crossed the halfway point in 1:59:31. Mission accomplished for the first half, except for that pesky heart rate. Mile 14 averaged 180bpm. At this rate of increase I would have 3-4 miles left before I maxed out. I started working in some walk breaks which worked well for about 4 miles. The problem with walk breaks for me is that my legs don’t want to start running again once they have tasted the glorious feeling of walking. Miles 15-18: pace 10:23, HR 175.

 

By the 19th mile the bottoms of my feet started hurting and I could feel the burning start in my calves. I was not used to either of these sensations coming from long runs, but I knew that I didn’t like either one. I forced myself to run more than I wanted to and tried to keep the walk breaks relatively short. Miles 19-26 varied from 11:16 to 13:04, with an average heart rate of only 165. I could have pushed harder from a heart rate standpoint, but I just didn’t have any more in me. For the last half mile I used the support of the crowd to keep me running and sent my heart rate to its highest point for the entire race (183), but I finished the race running. I also finished it with a PR at 4:31:37, 16:02 faster than I finished the same race last year.

Medal 1 SC

There were several similarities between this year’s race and last year’s version, and one major difference. I felt aching in my back both years so I need more gym time! I went out faster last year, reaching 13.1 in about 1:54 and I started slowing down about a mile sooner than this year. This year I had only 1 mile over 12:45, where last year I had six in a row over 13:45. This tells me that I have made improvements and I have better self-control, but I still need long-run work, especially at or near race pace. In shorter races the finishing time might tell a large part of the story, but in a marathon what happens along the way tells so much.

And for the race highlights that weren’t about me: My friend Christin drove to Cocoa from Orlando on race morning to see me finish, which I appreciate so much! I got to see some other friends set PR’s. Because of this race I have a new favorite spectator sign: Is that a gel in your pocket or are you following a hottie? Very nice. And if you missed it, consider yourself lucky because the guy who likes to run this race in just a speedo (shirtless too) was back again this year. And thankfully so were the people who live along the race route who take pleasure in spraying runners with a garden hose if they want it. I thoroughly enjoyed being sprayed! I will be back for this race again next year, better prepared and ready to collect my 3-year Milky Way Challenge finisher medal.

Medal 2 SC

Adios from Cocoa Beach!

Ups and Down in August

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      Another month of training is in the books and my first full marathon is approaching that much faster. August breezed by in the form of two halves, the first half being my favorite by far. August 1-16 proved to be an incredible training time for me. By the 16th I had logged 91 miles, including my first 16-miler and my first 18-miler. While the 16 was a little difficult, the 18 felt much better – I only stopped once to walk and that wasn’t until I had successfully completed 17 miles. Needless to say, my confidence was up, my legs felt great, and my training plan was still in tact. 

     So what changed? Of all things, my shoes. I got a new pair of Reeboks and became a Reebok ambassador in the first half of August. I could not wait to try these things out – so lightweight, looking sharp, and felt great when I tried them on. The last pair of shoes that I got would have been broken in on a long run of 6, maybe 7 miles. The new ones this time? I broke them in on the 18 miler. Yeah, NOW I know that you don’t do that. My previous post gives more specifics on this catastrophe, but suffice it to say I haven’t had the comfort level to run like I want to and I’m torturing myself by taking days off to let the muscle in my foot heal. Hopefully this is about over.

     My mileage post-wrong-shoe-choice-long-run-day was 37 miles spread out over 15 days. True, 127 is not a bad month, except when you’re on pace for 175+. The other bright spot for August was my one race, The Stone Island 10k. My foot felt good during the entire race, but I pushed it as much as I could and probably more than I should have. I finished the 10k in 49:13, a PR by 1:42, but I know I left some out there. I went out too fast (again) but caught myself at about 1/2 mile in. 

    August also began with two challenges, both of which were affected by my foot problem. One challenge was to run at least a mile for 30 days, and the other was a #30DayPlankChallenge which started with 20 second planks and went up to 5 minutes. Based on the advice I was given about getting my foot healthy again, I parted ways with these challenges.

     September holds more 30-day challenges (planks, push-ups, squats, wall sits) and more new barriers to break through once I get back on the road. I’ll be doing 30 miles in a weekend for the first time, my first 20-mile run, and a mini Dopey Challenge simulation, where I’ll run increasing distances four days in a row. I also have two races scheduled for September, including a 5k and the Miracle Miles 15k to benefit the neonatal wing at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies. My daughter spent her first 3 days in a NICU, so this race is just as much a giving back effort as it is a race. If you’d like to make a donation to the hospital for their “Tiny babies. Big miracles” campaign, please click here and enter my name (Bill Culver) in the search bar. Any help is appreciated. 

     I guess that about wraps it up, have a great September…. fall race season is almost here!