Sunday, November 6, 2011

Savannah Rock n' Roll Marathon Race Report

Final time 4:43:42

Let me just say that it is good to have the marathon monkey off my back. I've been meaning to enter a marathon for quite some time, but waited and waited for the right circumstances to give me adequate time to train. When I found out this race was coming to Savannah and there was an extreme discount that showed up in my email, I committed to the race. I went into the race with the idea that 4 hours flat was very achievable. I had completed long runs at a 8 min mile pace and felt like I could go further if I could keep carbs in my system. On race day, I was close to that goal until after mile 15, when I became intimately acquainted with cramps. It started on a short uphill stretch when magically, Zeus, as it were, shot lightning bolts down my calf. As time wore on cramping was up and down both of my legs-mostly my quads and calves. This forced me to walk until the cramps subsided and then "run" for however long I could until the cramps returned. I was drinking a lot, mostly Cytomax (2-3 cups at each aid station) and eating a gel every 40 minutes or so. I resorted to salt packets at an aid station and medical tent. These seemed to help briefly, but I couldn't seem to stay ahead of the cramping. The last 10 miles of the race were slow and painful.

During the race, I had little motivation to ever run a marathon again. However, as time has elapsed and painful memories repressed, I can't wait to get out and fix the things that I did wrong. So here's a list of things that have been going through my mind concerning the race:

Things that went well:

Prerace meal-stomach/bowel situation. Ate 2 hours prior to start time, emptied the bowels (this is a big deal for a long race. The last thing I wanted was a repeat of past mistakes here :) )

Running my own race-I didn't chase anybody and was in my own little world most of the race.
Hydration-In past races I have not drank enough. This time I put in too much and had to pee pretty bad at the finish. I still see this as a success because I at least go enough fluids.

Carb intake-I had energy the entire race. In the past I have "bonked" because of inadequate carb intake. This time I had 4 gels total and numerous cups of Cytomax. Only had a side ache briefly and a touch of nausea on several occasions.

Morale-Most past races have some serious mental moments where all I can think about is stopping running. While I had those thoughts and did in fact walk a significant portion of the race, I felt much more positive, even as my lofty goals were passing me by. It was just a fun day.

Things that went wrong:

Lack of endurance/sufficient training-With significant work/family/church commitments, a serious training regimen was just out of the picture for me. My longest run prior to the race was 15 miles (which I might add is right about the point things started to come unhinged in the race). I simply did not have the endurance to keep a steady pace. I could tell my body was not in a position to perform at the level I wanted it too. How to remedy this? I'll put in the time I can, but I've come to the realization that I'll never be on a full-time training regimen. My hope is to consistently run, improve, and keep balance with life's demands.

Cramping-This problem was unique to this race and led to significant improvisation. I had twinges of cramping at the Tybee Half marathon earlier this year, but this time around I had the genuine cramping experience. These were the cramps that make you jump out of bed screaming in the middle of the night x 2.5 hours. I can't help but think what the outcome would have been had cramping not forced me to walk sections of the race. Salt. I thought I was consuming enough salt in my gels, Cytomax, and salt packets. Apparently not. Time for some research, but I will probably tote some salt tablets on my next long race and up the pre-race salt consumption.

In general, the race itself was great. The Rock n' Roll Series is the real deal, with great organization (minus the expo/packet pick up). By far the largest race I've ever run, with what ended up as being close to 20,000 runners. Bands along the way were a good way to keep morale, spectators were plentiful (minus several boring stretches on the freeway). I would recommend the Rock n' Roll Series to anyone considering a half or full marathon.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Weekend Update

Just about a month to go until Savannah Rock and/or Roll Marathon. Training has been hit or miss with this residency leaving me barely enough time to eat and groom myself. Have started to work up the weekend runs based on time, with the intent of building some endurance/getting used to being on my feet longer. Today did 1.5 hours which ended up being 9 miles. Each week I will go up half an hour for my long run and top off at 3 hours before tapering down. Today's run was a success, I had extra gas in the tank and held myself back so as to not overdo it. This leaves me confidence that I'll be able to hack it at longer runs and hopefully race day. Still feeling good about the Nike Free Run+ 2/DryMax Socks combo. As far as pace, I'm a little slower than I'd like on my long runs, about 10 min/mile including pit stops. I imagine this will improve working up to race day and on race day when I'm ODing on adrenaline. The goal is <4 hours or 9 min miles, which is lofty for an undertrained amateur's first marathon. If I can't make it happen, I won't be crushed. The event itself looks to be a lot of fun with live bands, tens of thousands of spectators, and a sold-out running field. It should be a fun day regardless of the outcome. I'm excited it's finally cooling off here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My solicited opinion

Skora Running blog just solicited opinions on a barefoot running injury article.

I weighed in with the following, which I think sums up my opinions on running footwear pretty well:

This article seems to weigh on the side of anti-barefoot running by throwing around the word “epidemic” in an inflammatory and possibly inaccurate fashion. I agree that the “surge” of injuries claim lies on a shaky foundation. I’m not sure why proponents of either side of the argument feel so comfortable asserting such claims in the absence of sufficient evidence.
The unintentional thesis statement that jumped out of the article was “The more barefoot runners there are, the more injured barefoot runners there will be.” Barefoot running is a trend that is gaining popularity. More people are running (regardless of how) and more people are getting hurt. I am underwhelmed by this revelation.
That being said, I appreciate this article calling out the nonsensical arguments of the barefoot dogma, such as:
“It’s totally misleading to tell people that when they get injured running in shoes, it’s the shoe’s fault, and when they get injured running barefoot, it’s the athlete’s fault. It makes no sense. You’re going to have injuries either way. It’s running.”
Barefoot runners may guffaw at the final assertion of guaranteed injuries, but as someone who developed shin splints for the first time in my life after switching exclusively to Vibrams, I’m annoyed by the tendency to write-off mounting anecdotal evidence or to always blame injuries on the runner’s form.
Equally irritating is the false dichotomy created by barefoot dogma proponents and barefoot haters; that there are two ways to run and one is correct. Running for me is not a moral choice between two camps of thought. Can I be so bold as to point out that both sides stand to gain financially from convincing consumers that their doctrine is right and the other is wrong? Those peddling these ideas tend to fall under the following categories: podiatrists, PhDs, big shoe companies, start-up shoe companies, authors, gurus, etc. The blatant conflict of interest forces me to take this information with a hefty grain of salt and pay more attention to information coming from runners who have no strings (or laces) attached.
I think that an honest and objective runner will take a moderated approach and tend to stay out of this usually pointless back and forth between the sides. False pretenses are perpetuated by both sides of the “argument” and I can’t help but feel like I’m participating in an advertising campaign when I weigh in with either side.
Ultimately I don’t care how the scientific evidence pans out. I will continue barefoot/minimalist running because I enjoy it. I will also run with heretical cushioned moon boots from time to time. However, I will not pretend that running barefoot is a magical injury force field/fountain of youth/nirvana. Minimalist footwear and barefoot running are new, exciting options that allow runners to choose what suits them best for a given situation or a desired outcome.
Apologies in advance for the extended rant/gripe. I appreciate your steps toward an open dialogue by posting this article on your blog.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Preparing for my 1st Marathon

As the namesake of this blog suggests, one of my long-term goals is to run in the Boston Marathon. To date, I have not run a marathon. Come November, this will change and I will run in the Savannah Rock n' Roll Marathon. While I haven't run the full 26.2 miles, I have a fair number of shorter races under my belt, including 2 half marathons. These races have suggested to me that the whole enchilada is it's own beast and I will need to prepare more intentionally than I traditionally have for shorter distances. I've been able to get away with a lack of preparation/ignorance in short races, which because of their nature are quite forgiving to the novice. With this in mind, I've identified some running challenges that could become pitfalls in a longer race:

1-Shin Splints. After subscribing to the minimalist footwear dogma I got shin splints, which I had never experienced before. Turns out cushioning on shoes does serve a valuable purpose and is not solely (pun intended) to rob one of proprioception and cause atrophy of one's lower limbs. I pounded the pavement on some long runs in my Vibrams one too many times and paid the price. As I've laid off the long pavement runs, switched to mostly dirt trails in the Vibrams, and allowed myself recovery days, this problem has been tenuously kept at bay. The problem I now face is the all-pavement marathon I must train for. After doing some research, I decided to purchase Nike Free Run+ 2 for my long pavement runs. Reviews like this one of  the first iteration of the Free Run, coupled with trying on pairs in-store, to news that the 2nd version had more toe room brought me to the decision. I bought a slightly used pair on eBay and took them on their maiden voyage through the ghetto today. I was not disappointed. While they are far from a barefoot experience, they maintain portions of experience that I want-ie a fast, lightweight gait. As I hoped, the cushioning is adequate but not excessive. There are more runs to do in these new kicks and I will make a full review in the future.

2-Blisters-My feet are not pretty. I've grown accustomed to allowing large calluses and blisters to form one on top of the other and have basically just dealt with them rather than actively trying to prevent them. This is fine while doing short runs. Normally I'll start feeling hot spots somewhere around the 4 mile mark, regardless of the footwear I don. The problem here is that these hot spots evolve into acutely painful and crippling blisters on longer runs, which could seriously hinder my training and ultimate race in November. Barefoot prophets tell me that if I had the right barefoot form, I could run barefoot or shod for hours and come out with baby-soft immaculate tootsies. I think this is horse crap. If I did adopt the barefoot form suggested, with no pushing off; rather a light, centaur-esque prance, I could probably reduce blisters. But I would be slow and I don't enjoy running that way. I want to develop speed and endurance, and I want to like my running. Therefore I reject that idea and will find another way to deal with blisters. Reason tells me that my footwear choices have as much, if not more, to do with blisters as does the force with which I push of the ground. That being said, I develop blisters when my feet become saturated in sweat-4 miles or 30-40 minutes into a run. It's hot in Savannah and I've heard good things about Drymax Hot Weather Running Socks. So I'm giving them an extended trial and as of now, they are my race day choice as my feet have had less hot spots and really are much drier than with other socks. The shoes I wear are also a factor here, for now the Nike Frees seem to couple nicely with the Drymax socks.

3-Chaffage-This became an issue especially since moving to Georgia and running exclusively in humid conditions. Bag Balm has become my lubricant of choice for extended runs. It is viscous enough to stick around for the duration of a long race, it works, it's cheap, and if it's good enough for udders, it's good enough for me.

4-Cramps-I have very little experience with cramps, in fact, the only real problem I have had was during the last few miles of a half-marathon in February. My legs got rigid and my pace suffered terribly as a result. The great collective runner's mind tells me that cramps are a result of dehydration. So I need to drink more (apparently a lot more because I drank quite a bit during that race) and probably turn up the salt consumption so I don't sweat out everything I put in. As longer training runs test my hydration limits, I expect to have more experience in this area and develop a specific plan for race day.

5-Fatigue-This goes without saying, but there are two things I plan to do here. One is figuring out how many carbs I can put in without making myself sick. I'll probably be using gels on race day. Two is simply training adequately. I plan to do 2-4 short runs during the week and a long run (taper up to ~20 miles) every Saturday.

6-Side aches-I'm still figuring this out, as I often can't tell if these are going to occur or not. The less I can have in my stomach while running, the better off I tend to be. On race day I will eat breakfast ~2 hours before start time and play the cards I'm dealt after that.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Tybee Island Half Marathon 2011 Race Report

413/1220 overall
60/97 division

My lovely wife ran the 5K, which started before the half marathon. She pushed the kids in the jogging stroller whilst rain was coming down steadily. The start of my race was pretty soggy, but dried up by the end. I was pretty bummed last year when I didn't finish this race due to shin splints, which literally stopped me in my tracks. Getting past the 4 mile mark was a big confidence boost, as this is where things went downhill last year. I ran without socks on a last minute decision on account of the rain and my feet held up pretty well. I was on pace up to beat my 2005 half time, then about the last 4 miles of the race, I was reminded that endurance racing is much different than quick, shorter runs. My form started falling apart and I was just pushing to keep going. I started cramping quite a bit the last mile or so and I think this would have turned ugly in a longer race. Finishing felt great-I had my family cheering me on the last part of the race and waiting for me at the finish. I ran it in Vibrams, which I don't plan on doing again for any race longer than a 10K.

The road to Boston is looking pretty long right now. I made a large mental accomplishment getting through this half marathon, though. The next step is to build my endurance for the full marathon in November, while juggling church, family, and pharmacy residency responsibilities. I won't be wearing "minimalist footwear" for this race, unless we consider the Nike Free Run+ 2 "minimalist." I like the free movement of these shoes, they feel like slippers instead of rigid running shoes, but have some cushioning, which I hope will keep the shin splints at bay, since the race and much of my training will be on pavement. Still planning on doing a good chunk of my training off road in Vibrams to maintain form that won't annihilate my knees.

Note: In an effort to post more frequently, I will be doing less reveiwing for grammar, flow, etc. In other words this will be a low quality, high(er) quantity blog-a recipe for readership expansion. The End

Among the Dead

Back to blogging after a school-induced hiatus. A few developments since previous posts:

-I finished the Tybee Island Half Marathon in FiveFingers in under 2 hours, successfully removing a large simian from my dorsal region after a DNF 1 year prior. (race report to follow)

-Traveled to distant lands, ran on Indian burial grounds(explanation to follow), and stopped running regularly with ridiculous schoolin'

-We moved across town, leaving behind my beloved running grounds.

-Have discovered greener running pastures fertilized with former inhabitants of ye ole low country-Bonaventure Cemetery, one of my new favorite places to run.

-Planned out next year of races-see right side of b-log.

-Stopped tracking miles religiously, now only tracking miles in a secular fashion.

Friday, January 7, 2011

2010 Running Summary

Miles Run:

  • 431.3
Average miles/run:

  • 3.85
Runs completed:

  • 112
Longest run:

  • 12 miles
Most miles run in a month:

  • 55.4

2010 runs w/ miles distances

Note first episode of shin splints feb-mar, then a minor flare up at the end of the summer

What I learnt:

  • running exclusively barefoot/with FiveFingers on pavement without rest days=shin splints
  • run on mountain trails=pure chewing satisfaction
  • stretching is stupid
  • I've been underweight most of the year (felt like a new man after gaining 5 lbs)
  • there are hobo campsites in virtually every wooded area