Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Week 0 Take Two

Well, it appears that the creeping grunge is making it’s way out of my system. To be honest, it’s been a relaxing week in a strange sense – seems like I have time on my hands in the afternoons and evening. Oh yeah! That’s because I’ve been a good boy and haven’t run! Silly me!

What I’m going to do at this point is reset my Post Marathon Recovery clock and treat this week like Week Zero. Which means I’ll be lacing my shoes up tomorrow:

  • Thursday: 3 miles easy
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 6 miles easy
  • Sunday: 30 minute tempo
  • Total: 12 miles (or there abouts)
  • Also, I’ll be adding a new section on my weight loss challenge every Friday. I’ll be passing new info as I learn. Come join and learn through my trial and (mostly) error.

    Monday, March 29, 2010

    Time to Learn

    It’s time for me to turn back to my fellow bloggers and start learning again. Learning about how I’m going to crack this weight nut so I can change my name.

    On the surface, losing weight is pretty easy. You burn more calories that you take in. Every time you hit 3500 on the counter you subtract a pound. And you know what? It works if you’re not worried about whether you are losing lean muscle or fat. Which I was not worried about two years ago when I lost some major weight.

    This time, I want to try to drive my fat percentage down. Right now, it’s sitting around 29% based on my Omron Fat Loss Monitor (note – that’s not my reading):


    The American Council of Exercise says a fit male should have a body fat percentage somewhere between 14% and 17%. So, if we I target pretty close to that at, say, 19%:


    Fat %

    Fat Weight

    Lean Weight









    Pretty interesting huh? By dropping my fat percentage 10 points, I will lose 25 pounds of my 30 pound goal without losing lean muscle mass!!

    Now comes the hard part. Figuring out how to do this with a standard sensible diet. Time to read away! (Thanks for opening my eyes to this Greta! I’m starting with your blog.)

    Sunday, March 28, 2010

    Shifting Focus A Little

    I mentioned on Friday that I will be getting more serious about losing some weight in 2010. That is going to require some discipline. The kind that is much harder for me than putting some shoes on and pounding the pavement….

    In case you’re wondering about The Running Fat Guy, my story is in this blog post. In the abridged version, suffice it to say that I was a lot pudgier and rounder back in 2006 when I hit 18.5 stone (sounds sooo much better than 260 pounds) on the scale. It was a ironic, because growing up, my problem had always been the opposite. I was a fledgling athlete in High School, but at 5’ 11” and 133 pounds, I had a difficult time competing with the more athletically gifted.

    Well, it was through hard work on the rowing machine followed by miles on the pavement that has me back in shape enough that I can take my shirt off at the beach.  But to be honest, the gains (or actually losses) have been minimal for the past year and a half. I’ve been in a narrow +/- 10 pound range around 215 for that time. Well, it’s time to buckle down.

    Why has this been the case? Well, it’s really pretty simple. When I first started my journey as The Running Fat Guy, I was pretty anal about watching both sides of the caloric equation. As I got further along, I chose to ignore the part that was giving me the bad news. The part telling me that I couldn’t have that second bagel, or that extra slice of cheesecake. The bottom line is it is only because of all the miles on the pavement that I’m not back to resembling the Running Fat Guy of 2007.

    Just like getting into shape takes some hard work, shedding those pounds do too.. Time to dust off the calorie trackers, and make the Running Fat Guy a name of the past.

    Saturday, March 27, 2010

    Wow. Where Did THAT Come From?

    Yesterday I was talking about my plans for the coming week. Today everything has changed. Remember that cold I had a week and a half or so ago? Well, it’s back with a vengeance. I just got back from the urgent care center and pharmacy where I loaded up on the antibiotics (doxycycline and zithromax) and cough syrup (yeah – the good stuff with the codeine). The doctor said it was okay for me to continue my recovery plan, but to be honest with you, since I can’t breathe, I’m not sure what I’ll get out of it. So, I think I’ll be down a day or two and try to get better.

    I’ve also been getting questions about what I use to take my photos and videos, so since I have nothing to report on the running front, I thought I would share my tools of the trade.

    Just before running the San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon in 2008, I decided I needed a camera to document what would become my first brush with SPD (slow painful death – yes – I stole that one from Chicrunner). I picked up an Olympus SW790. It fits in my hand (and I don’t have big hands). Here it is next to a car key:


    My reason for this camera is because it satisfied three criteria: (1) It is waterproof (to protect from the copious sweating that I usually do), (2) It is shockproof (to protect from the frequent dropping as I try to run and photo at the same time), and (3) It takes both photos and video (yeah!). And if you need proof that it’s waterproof and shockproof, you need look no further than last weekend, when it was soaked by my body fluids and dropped at mile 6.

    It’s not the fastest camera around, but it’s lasted two years of my abuse. There’s got to be something to that…

    (If you are wondering the other cameras I considered, check this blog post. It’s a couple years old though, so it is dated.)

    Friday, March 26, 2010

    What Now?

    Okay. So that’s over. What’s next?

    I need to say – the awesomeness that was finishing the L.A. Marathon hasn’t worn off yet. Neither have some of the pains. I went out for a quick and easy 3 miler last night and managed to strain a muscle in my back. Go figure. I can hack 5 and a half hours of beating myself up, but 200 feet from finishing up three easy miles, I land weird on my heel and wham! Oh well. At least the pain is localized to one area on my back and is feeling much better than it was last night. I’ll just add Motrin to my diet.

    As far as “What Now?” – for the short term I’ll be on a marathon recovery plan to get my mileage back into the mid to upper 30’s. This week is pretty pedestrian:

    • Monday: Rest
    • Tuesday: Rest
    • Wednesday: Rest
    • Thursday: 3 miles easy
    • Friday: Rest
    • Saturday: 6 miles easy
    • Sunday: 30 minute tempo
    • Total: 12 miles (or there abouts)

    I’m kind of looking forward to getting back to a more “normal” life for a while:

    It’s also time to get serious about one of my other goals – dropping 30 pounds. I hate to say this, but I just finished a marathon training cycle – 536 miles on the pavement and 82 miles on the rowing machine, and dropped a total of 4 (count ‘em) pounds.That really means that I need to attack the intake side of the equation. Dang.

    One thing for sure – I’m over marathons for a while*….

    *Note: Ms. V and I have decided that we’re going to be the baby boomer equivalents of LARunner and Chicrunner at next year’s L.A. Marathon. If you haven’t already done so, you NEED to go read their blogs. My experience pales in comparison. Ms. V had to tell the paramedics to sod off when they pulled the stretcher out for her. Linda – they were going to give you a free ride! And Chicrunner is always full of bubbly smiles. Well – I’ve never seen so many forced smiles on your face Danica! Ever. So – come join us! Next March. Through the streets of L.A.! We’ve got scores to settle…..

    Thursday, March 25, 2010

    I’m Still in a Haze

    Well, it’s Wednesday night. I’m still in a bit of a haze about Sunday. I’m not quite sure what happened. There was this event on Sunday where a bunch of us went from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica. One minute I’m doing okay. The next not so much….

    The day started early. I know I had said that I was going to get up at 2:30 to start things. I lied. 2:40 AM. Not that I could sleep anyways. Got my coffee, got my bagel, got dressed and was in my car on the freeway by 3:15. AM. Early. Even the party animals were asleep.

    Less than an hour on the freeway, and I’m in my parking spot in Santa Monica. I grab my bag and walk the 50 yards to one of the dozens of busses waiting to cart us the 20 miles to Dodger Stadium just north of Downtown. Before I know it, I’m sitting in Dodger Stadium. Not *at* Dodger Stadium, but *in* Dodger Stadium. I look up at the clock. It’s 4:56 AM. Out in the parking lot there were bananas, bagels, juice, coffee and water. The best part? No porta potties! How cool is that? (Note: Things got much worse the closer to the start it got. If you’re running this race next year, heed the advice of the organizers and plan on getting to the race *at least* two hours early).


    A few minutes later my phone rings. It’s Kathleen! (Write Sizing). I move over a few sections to meet. On my way over I run into Bob (Run Bob Run). Let’s get this party started! A few minutes later, my phone rings again. It’s Linda! (MsV). While the gang was sitting around talking, Sheila (Sheila’s Page) walks by. I think you’re getting the idea. It was tough to walk around and not run into someone you knew. The whole City was out for this one!

    About 6:45 I left my seat and made my way out to the start line. Complaint time! “Corral management” was non-existant. Think a long chute. Think a card here and there with an anticipated pace. Think the only way to enter the chute was at the rear. Think about people trying to get to the front of the chute to get to their anticipated pace. Think about those anal retentive folks who think they have to be at the front of the line even though they are 13:00 milers. In a 5K. Oh well. I made the best of it. All I’ve got to say is there are a *lot* of sub 4:00 marathoners in L.A.!

    I knew I was ready for this race. Even though things were supposed to be off at 7:24 AM, the start was delayed (Evidently traffic had gotten so bad that the last shuttles were not able to get to the stadium. See my note above!). How long? I don’t know because it didn’t matter. Eventually we got the horn we were off to the sound of “I Love L.A.”! According to my Garmin we hit the start line at 7:52 AM.

    My goal was to stay with the 4:30 pace group as long as I could. We’ll, that got dashed pretty quickly when, on our first circuit of Dodger Stadium I realized that I was well hydrated, if you get my drift. I peeled off and hit the porta potties. It was roughly 8:20. It would be the last time I peed until after 4:30 that afternoon….

    As with any mega event, the first mile was slow:

    Mile 1: 11:20
    Mile 2: 10:12
    Mile 3: 9:48

    Oops! I settled down and slowed myself as we hit the streets of Silverlake and moved East toward Downtown:


    At mile 4 we hit the only significant “hill” on the course – a 90 foot “behemoth” leading up to the Disney Concert Hall and the Music Center. We had the energy of Taiko drummers pulling us up the hill.

    Mile 4: 10:19
    Mile 5: 10:55
    Mile 6: 10:58
    Mile 7: 10:29

    I was already slowing. Turns out that the course was far from flat. Once past the hill at mile 4, it occurred to me that we were on another incline. In fact, the one thing about this course is that it really hits home that all those earthquakes we have leaves the landscape tilted and folded! Hills! Nothing huge, but just a constant series of inclines and declines. It was not a big deal. I knew that sub 5 hours was in me.

    Mile 8: 10:41
    Mile 9: 10:15
    Mile 10: 11:16

    It was here during Mile 11 that I first started seeing some signs of distress. I was tiring, but still felt pretty good. I had been taking my regularly scheduled Hammer Gels and Endurolytes. This had never happened on training runs. I realized then that I had no urge to pee, and that I had stopped sweating in my normal sweaty streams! Not good! I started supplementing my water station stops with water that I was carrying. But my stomach started rebelling and cramping! What’s with that? Well, it never occurred to my that maybe it was getting warm. The skies were overcast and the temperatures in the upper 50’s at the start (I would find out later on that the humidity was around 75% at the start and never went down). The sun wasn’t really out, but the clouds weren’t very thick either. In short, things were turning into a bit of a sauna.

    The next few miles were the coolest on the course (no pun intended). We were on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, passing landmark after landmark. The Pantages. El Capitan. The Kodak Theater. The Whiskey a Go-Go – the birthplace of West Coast Rock n’ Roll. The Comedy Store.

    P3210202 P3210192 P3210194

    Mile 11: 11:01
    Mile 12: 11:39
    Mile 13: 13:12 (!!!!)

    At mile 13 something happened that set the tone for the rest of the day. We had a hill. A little hill. Like 60 feet tall. And I had to walk. I watched as the 4:45 pace passed me by like a ship in the night. No problem. Just average an 11:27 for that 5 hour milestone.

    Mile 14: 12:03
    Mile 15: 12:32
    Mile 16: 13:33
    Mile 17: 13:36

    Uh oh.

    Mile 18: 13:44
    Mile 19: 15:10

    The wheels were off the bus. I’m not sure what happened. My legs were really really tired and fatigued. I spent the next mile in deep thought. Literally asking the question on my bib.


    I suffered a mental letdown like I’ve never experienced before. All of a sudden somewhere between Miles 18 and 19 that magical 11:27 pace passed me with the other runners that were still plodding along. By the end of mile 19, I was at an 11:44. Crap. Why am I out here suffering through this? The letdown was complete and total. I quit shuffling. I started walking.

    I tried to get a handle on myself. I kind of realized what was happening at this point. I has already stopped once to fill my *entire* water belt – 40 ounces. And I was out again. And I wasn’t sweating. I carried a few extra Endurolyte capsules, so I popped an extra six of them at the water station at Mile 19. I filled my water bottles and quaffed 4 or 5 little cups of water and a couple Powerades. Then I set off for my next goal – Mags (Love2Mags) at the Mile 20 water station.

    Mile 20: 14:15

    It was somewhere in this part of the race we moved off the streets and onto the grounds of the Veteran’s Administration in Westwood. For the first time I realized something. There weren’t any spectators! For the last 20 miles the community was out in force. Cheering us on. People were passing out oranges, bananas and candy. Mariachis were serenading us. Kids had drug their drum sets and guitars out to play for us. Aspiring DJs had their turntables out and to entertaining us. The drag queens and Gay community was out in force in West Hollywood cheering us on. Shoulder to shoulder. It. Was. So. Awesome. At mile 20 I realized that this is the type of stuff that I just kind of take for granted. Damn. That’s what I get for being born in Los Angeles. For the first time in my life I think I realized what kind of community we live in. Through thick and thin and through the hugeness of the Los Angeles Metropolitan area (driving from the furthest South to the furthest North points takes almost two hours on the freeway) – we are a community. No wonder an earthquake or a fire or a flood doesn’t beat us into submission. We are the best!

    Then, my mile 20 goal appeared. Just like the rest of my day though – she was the last person handing out the liquid love.


    If I thought that my meltdown at mile 19 had been total, what was waiting for me next was even worse.

    Mile 21: 17:08
    Mile 22: 16:00
    Mile 23: 16:35

    Somewhere after mile 22 I couldn’t take it any more. Not one more step. I stopped. Not just shuffling. Not just walking. I stopped. Took a seat on the curb. Started looking for a golf cart. I was cooked. 5:16 (my old PR) was now gone. I didn’t need this shit any more.

    It seemed like I was down for several minutes. I was pulling grass out of the parkway and throwing the little blades into the street. I was like the kid on the Little League team that never got to play because I was so inept. This was a total mental meltdown like I never had experienced before.

    Then something happened while I was sitting there. Or more like something didn’t happen. For the past couple of miles I had seen the golf carts and ambulances moving back and forth as people started wilting in the heat and humidity. But, just when I wanted one, none appeared! Not only was I a loser at this race, I couldn’t even get karma when I needed it. And then they showed up. The 5:30 pace group. I had no choice. If someone wasn’t going to give me a ride to the finish, I was going to have to do this myself. I got my sorry ass up off the curb and joined them.

    I don’t know who the pacer was. But what a God send! Singing songs! Keeping us focused on the next walk break. Tell us what to expect next. I need to find out who she was and send her some flowers! Maybe it was the extra Endurolytes that I had taken about 30 minutes earlier. Maybe it was the water and Powerade I had been judiciously throwing down the hatch for the last 5 miles. Definitely the spirit of the pace group had me pumped. But all of a sudden I started believing again. I knew I could. Somewhere in there I may have even cracked a smile. Time to HTFU and get this bad boy over with!

    Mile 24: 12:23
    Mile 25: 12:24

    By now we had turned onto Ocean Blvd and were within striking distance of the finish. Our pace leader was imploring us to move on ahead. 5:30 was *her* goal. 5:28 should be ours. I’m not sure I could have been so unselfish.

    Then it hit me again. The crowds. I thought the crowds at the finish in Long Beach were supportive. I realized that this time though – there were thousands of people. The roar of the crowds started a mile from the finish line. It was noticeable. Not just a person here or there. But like being at a baseball game.There were thousands of people who had braved the gridlock on the freeways. Who paid their $20 to park. Who had waited 5 or more hours for us to finish. They didn’t leave when the elites passed the line 3 hours earlier. They were there for us. For me. I was in my personal version of Dodger Stadium. It. Was. Awesome. Crap. I’m choking up right now just thinking about it….

    Mile 26: 12:47

    The FINISH LINE! It was there. In front of me. My thoughts? Head back. Arms up. Stand up and be happy!!!!

    3-25-2010 5-40-33 AM

    Then it was. The toughest race that I’ve ever run.

    L.A. Marathon 3-21-2010

    And remember the hills? How about 2,000 vertical feet gained, 2,400 lost? At least it was “net downhill”!

    L.A. Marathon 3-21-2010, Elevation - Distance


    P.S. – I have no official time. This race made use of a new B-Tag technology where the timing chip is glued to the back of a racer’s bib. Mine quit working somewhere after the 10K split. You can see the clock above shows 5:36:46 clock time. My Garmin shows 5:27 and change, but that was for 26.2, which I hit before the finish line. And of course, in my state of delirium, I didn’t turn my Garmin off until after I was in the finisher’s chute, and my final Garmin time is 5:33. So – my time is somewhere between 5:27 and 5:32.

    P.P.S – Remember my comment about peeing? I hit the finish line. My water belt was again empty. That means at least 100 ounces on the course. I had 3 half liter bottles of water. I went down and grabbed my gear bag. Had another half liter. Climbed in my car and drove home and had another half liter. Then, finally at 4:30PM, I felt this urge that I hadn’t since 8AM. I found out that at the finish line the temps were in the lower 70’s with 82% humidity. I’m getting an inkling into what happened….

    P.P.P.S. – My video says my sitdown at Mile 22 was 10 minutes. After looking at the data (believe me – this is the first time I’ve looked at my splits) it was obviously less. But it sure seemed like a long time in the grass.

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    The Weekend that Was

    I’m going to go slowly as I unwind this past weekend. I’ve got to be real careful to separate the awesomeness that was the Los Angeles Marathon XXV from the disappointment that was The Running Fat Guy’s performance.

    About L.A. Marathon XXV – awesome awesome awesome. The best organized race I have ever been part of. My fear going into this was that this would be a clusterhump from the get go. I mean we had to park in Santa Monica and be shuttled to Downtown. That meant lines and traffic and …

    Well, I was more than pleasantly surprised. I left home early anticipating trouble. As I approached Santa Monica on the freeway, the overhead freeway signs were on and directing us to off ramps and which way to turn based on your prepaid parking permit. I pulled onto the onramp in the left lane, turned left, turned right and was parked in my spot 50 yards from the shuttles by 4:20. I got my gear squared away and walked over to the shuttles. Wow. Dozens of busses waiting for us. They were loading three at a time. No lines. I walked up and boarded a motor coach. 25 minutes we were on the off ramp to Dodger Stadium.

    Then, to add to the fun – Dodger Stadium was open to us! Grab a bagel, a banana, some water, and sit in my cushioned box seat along the first base line. All before 5AM! Wow! The rest of the day was pretty much the same. The start was delayed about 20 minutes, but for a race this size that wasn’t too bad.*

    As many of you may know, I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I never moved away – not even for my college and advanced degree years. I signed up for this marathon because I thought it would be a great way to see the sights of the place that I grew up in. And the race organizers didn’t disappoint me. What a great race through a great city!

    And to anyone that says L.A. is cold and lacks spirit – I challenge them to run this race next year. The community support was AWESOME! All along the route people from the community cheered us on. And they didn’t go away just because the elites passed. They were out for us back of the packers too. What an awesome awesome show of spirit and support. Believe me when I say that it was the crowds that pulled me across the finish line 5 1/2 hours after I started (more on that tomorrow).

    I wish a video could adequately express my feelings about this race. It chokes me up still to think about all the people that stuck around and cheered me on through the thick and thin of it all. Here’s my take (Note: this video is almost 9 minutes long. Normally I try to keep it as short as possible, but I’m going to be selfish this time. Believe me – after you read my report  tomorrow I hope you’ll understand why. Thanks for your patience!):

    *Note: Just in case you are thinking about doing this race next year – be aware – this is Los Angeles. Some people who tried to cut the time too close ended up parking their cars on the freeway (I’m sure they were towed) and had to run up to 2 miles to get to Dodger Stadium. Sorry folks – the organizers warned you to arrive 2 hours early!!!!

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    An Update to A Quick Update

    Now that I’ve had a night to sleep on it and quit hating life in general, a few quick points to anyone contemplating next year’s L.A. Marathon:

    • The. Best. Course. Ever. The organizers promised an icon a mile. They delivered and then some. What a great city I live in!!!
    • The. Worst. Course. Ever. There weren’t any flats. We were either going up an incline or down an incline. Even the finish was 300 feet downhill over the last two miles.
    • Who says Los Angeles has no community spirit? Twenty Six point Two miles and the only place there weren’t people cheering us on was on the grounds of the Veteran’s Administration in West Los Angeles. And I mean shoulder to shoulder the whole freaking way. Even for us back of the packers. No other race I’ve been to has come close to delivering.
    • Entertainment like no other! I didn’t use my iPod. Where there weren’t official bands, DJ, or radio station entertainment, the community was out in full force. Kids drug their guitars and drum sets out on the street to play for us. Mariachis serenading us. Korean drummers send us good vibes. Dancing to the beats of the boom boxes. Absolutely amazing.
    • Volunteers. Water stations every mile. No shortage of water, powerade and a friendly smile. It was all there waiting for us when we needed it. No water stations out of water or out of volunteers. Thank you folks!
    • Have I said community? Oranges, bananas, candy, pretzels, snacks. By the cases. People from the community. No doubt out of their own pockets. Thank you!
    • And the finish. Wow. There were thousands at the finish. Starting from a mile out. The. Whole. Way. In. Like a big vacuum sucking us into the finish line.

    And one final thanks to the leader of the 5:30 pace group. Just when I was ready to throw in the towel and start looking for the golf cart ride to the finish, she came along. Mile 22. Thank you for pulling this one out for me!

    More to come. In the meantime, just a few photos to keep you hooked:

    Waiting for the start. Inside Dodger Stadium. In a comfortable seat:


    At the start line a couple hours later:


    And we’re off:


    Nothing else needs to be said:


    The streets of Hollywood:


    Welcome to Beverly Hills!


    For my LDS friends:


    The finish:


    Sunday, March 21, 2010

    A Quick Update

    Well, my day pretty much sucked. I’m still waiting for the official results, but I’m somewhere between 5:27 and 5:35. Details to follow – but suffice it to say the wheels started coming off the bus around mile 17 or so.

    But – this much I will say. In my opinion, this was the. best. course. ever.

    Once again – more to come in the next day or two.

    Saturday, March 20, 2010

    One Final Thought

    Through the day I’ve been receiving good luck wishes by blog, email, text message and twitter. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!! Runners are the greatest community of people that I have *ever* run into!

    I went to the marathon expo today. If the race is anything like the expo, we are in for an EPIC race!


    P3200133 P3200134

    I mean, where else but L.A. would they have the red carpet out for us runners?


    I just leave you all with one question:


    To bed! As akaAlice just reminded me – I need to be up at the buttcrack of dawn. Maybe even earlier!

    See you in the morning Blue Heaven!


    Friday, March 19, 2010

    Going to be a Warm One

    We’re coming down to the last few hours (hey – I can be hopeful) before the Big Day. I put in a quick easy three miles last night and felt great. Like really great. Like it was no effort to push out three sub 9:00 miles.

    A few other things going on as I wind down:

    • Phantom pain was here full bore this week. If I hadn’t been here before I would have been real concerned. Sore knees. Sore hips. Dead legs. I know it’s a sign of recovery. If I hadn’t been through taper before I would have been concerned.
    • That cold I caught last week is still going on. I’m not real excited because it has settled into a nagging scratchy cough. The interesting thing is that when I’m running everything is good. As soon as I stop it sounds like I’m having an asthma attack. I’m hoping it behaves itself for 4 to 5 hours on Sunday.
    • The obsessive checking and rechecking the weather forecast has begun. The problem is every time I look, the news does not get better. Last week we started out with partly sunny skies with temps in the low 50’s at the start and mid 60’s at the finish. That has now morphed into sunny skies with temps in the low to mid 50’s at the start and upper 70’s to almost 80 for a high. The only saving grace is we’re running toward the ocean where the temps are 6 to 10 degrees cooler. I better pack some sunscreen. And I better run fast before it gets hot!

    All that’s left is a night of sleep followed by a night of anticipatory terror. Tapir! Oh Tapir! Where are you?

    P.S. – If you have friends running the L.A. Marathon (it *has* sold out at 25,000), you can track them here: Once you set up an account, you can track multiple participants. Among some fellow local bloggers that I know are running – check out Ms. V, Bob, anotorias, chicrunner, and L.A. Runner. Also, kudos to the volunteers like Love2Mags who will be at the 20 mile point catering to our needs. I hope we don’t scare you Mags!

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    T Minus Four Days

    The planning is done. All that’s left is the execution. Four more days of taper. Then it will be back to life as it should be.

    Speaking of taper, I’m keeping my running light this week:

    • Tuesday: 30 minute tempo run. (Done. 3.3 miles).
    • Thursday: 3 miles. Stretching.
    • Saturday: 2 miles with Cal Coast.

    That will add to last week’s cutback of 26 miles. My legs should be fresh on Sunday. Everything felt pretty good during yesterday’s quick tempo run. Taper is going quite well!

    I wanted to thank everyone for all the comments and ideas of the last few days. Anyone who doubts the value of blogging – send them my way! Just the ability to share ideas makes every minute I spend here worth it! I thought I would share a few answers and ideas today:

    • AZ and Brian asked about my normal race day breakfast. Ha ha ha! If you are new to my blog, my “normal” race day breakfast is a gooey apple fritter. Yum! The heavenly mix of carbohydrates and sugar eaten about 30 minutes before a race is guaranteed to deliver a sugar high at the start line.The problem this time is that 2:30 AM thing. Sorry. No Dunkin’ Donuts here on the West Coast. Most donut shops are small mom and pops and don’t stay open 24 hours. That doesn’t mean I won’t try. I’ll drive past the local donut shop in search of my sugary gooiness, but I’ll pack the bagel just in case.
    • Jeri mentions that there is good chance that she’ll still be out when I’m rising and she would send a virtual shout to me. Jer – you realize that’s like 4:30 AM your time. Man. I’m hanging with *your* friends if I ever make it to the Dakotas!
    • Tea Time mentioned her challenge of fumbling for the Endurolyte capsules on the run. Here’s an idea. Go get some blue painter’s tape and tape the capsules to your gel packets. Then, to get to your capsules, just grab a gel packet! Works like a charm. Here are some before, during and after pictures:


    • Steel Springs asked about my choice of gel flavors. I’ve sampled many gels and fueling options and have pretty much settled on Hammer Gel. It’s consistency is a little more liquid, which means it goes down a lot smoother. I’ve pretty much settled on three flavors – Apple Cinnamon (nice and tart), Tropical (sweet and tart) and Espresso (bitter for the latter stages of a race when sweet is not so appetizing). The latter two are also spiked with caffeine (Tropical – 25 mg, Espresso – 50 mg). And as Jill mentions – even if the pick me up is mental – any little bit in the latter stages of a race helps!
    • A final note about sodium intake. Some were a little surprised about the link between sodium intake and fatigue/cramping. I’m still trying to get my hands around this as well. I’ve spent a little time doing research and can’t find anything that unequivocally shows the link between sodium and cramping. There are some studies that claim the reduction in sodium (Na+) affects the ability of nerves to communicate with muscles, thereby allowing them to contract uncontrollably. Other studies say that that is poppycock – that our bodies store about 80g of sodium and is very effective at regulating sodium levels. But, one good piece of information came in yesterday from my friend Lori (an ultra runner) - “one of the interesting things was that the difference in the 100K runners(the DNFers, myself included) and the 100M finishers was the amount of sodium ingested. The finishers consumed alot more than the non finishers.” There you go. Real world data.
    • Speaking about sodium, Brian pointed out that each gel also includes sodium. I had ignored that earlier. So, with my 6 Enduolytes and 2 gels every hour, my sodium uptake will be about 350 mg per hour. That’s closer to the 500 mg per hour suggested.

    Thanks again everyone! Just a couple more runs to go until my victory lap!

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    Pre-Race Plan

    So now that my race day plan is in place, it’s time to remember to do all the little things the day before and the morning of the event. These are the things that, if forgotten will leave me a little stress puppy.

    Day Before the “Big Day”

    Only three things to do on Saturday:

    1. Stay off my feet as much as possible
    2. Check to make sure I have adequate supply of Hammer Gels (9) and Endurolyte caps (27). If not, hit up the Nutrition Superstore in Costa Mesa.
    3. Head over to Dodger Stadium for packet pickup around noon.
    4. Grab lunch/dinner in Chinatown. Mmmm. A big plate of lo mein sure sounds good!

    Then Saturday evening:

    1. Prepare my Gel/Endurolyte packets. Put the Espresso packets in my Nathan belt. Put others in my Spibelt.
    2. Program the parking lot I’ve purchased parking in in Santa Monica into my GPS.
    3. Charge camera
    4. Charge cell phone
    5. Transfer important things to the gear bag provided at the expo.
    6. Lay out clothing, socks, shoes. Make sure I have hat (supposed to be sunny and in the 70’s on Sunday), sunglasses.
    7. Pack change of clothes. Nothing worse than cold wet clothes.
    8. Set alarm for 2:30. AM. Jeesh.
    9. Hit the sack. Hopefully sometime around 10 PM. Toss and turn all night.

    The BIG DAY!!!!

    1. Up at 2:30. AM. Jeesh.
    2. Grab a cup of coffee (as large as possible). Thinking Super Big Gulp size here.
    3. Make a bagel with cream cheese. Put it in my bag for consumption later.
    4. Get dressed and grab gear bag. Be out the door no later than 3:00 AM.
    5. Drive up the freeway to Santa Monica.
    6. Fire up the GPS and get to parking lot. Should be somewhere around 4:15 to 4:30 AM.
    7. Get in line for shuttle bus by 4:45 AM. Get on shuttle to Blue Heaven at 5:00 AM
    8. Get to Blue Heaven around 5:45 AM. This gives me about an hour before I start execution of my start line plan.
    9. Eat bagel. Drink water. Take three Endurolytes.
    10. Execute start line plan.
    11. Execute race plan.

    Wahoo!!!! If half of these things don’t go as planned this weekend I still can’t help but have fun!

    On a related note – I want to thank everyone for all of your comments and tips. I’ll address a bunch of them tomorrow. Tea Time – tune in – I’ll give you an idea on how to deal with those gels and Endurolyte caps!

    Monday, March 15, 2010

    Race Plan – Part 2

    Yeah yeah. I know. This was supposed to be posted Saturday. But hey. The weather in Southern California is beautiful, so I took some time to enjoy the outdoors. Well – okay. I had to work. Boo hoo!

    On Friday, I posted my starting line and pacing plans. Today I’m discussing my fueling plan. A good fueling plan needs to take three things into account: (1) what should I eat, (2) how much should I eat, and (3) how often should I eat it?

    The best resources I’ve seen that discusses this issue are this one and this one from Hammer Nutrition. These are *excellent* technical articles. I would highly suggest that when you have time, follow the links and learn more than you’ll ever want to know.

    Without getting overly technical (which means that I’m not going to defend these numbers here), here is what we burn and what we are able to replace during exercise:

    Fluids (ml) 30-90 oz 17-28 oz
    Sodium (mg) 2000 500-700
    Fuel (carb cell) 700-900 240-280

    The goal of a fueling strategy replace is to replace what we can assimilate. Less and you will visit the wall. More and suffer a whole host of issues – from swollen hands to gastric emptying (yucko!).

    The last time I ran one of these abominations called a marathon, I fueled every three miles. This had a couple of positive side effects:

    1. Psychologically, I broke the race down into a series of 3 mile segments. My focus was short term (3,6,9,12,15,18,21 and 24 miles). I never got overwhelmed by the thought of 26.2.
    2. I downed one Hammer Gel and two Endurolyte capsules every three miles – about 260 calories and 80 mg of sodium an hour. I suffered no ill effects.

    While my fuel situation was okay (I finished coherent and standing), my legs were fatigued by mile 14. Interestingly enough, on a couple of longish runs this training cycle (out beyond 12 miles) I also suffered leg fatigue. Reading through the articles, what appears to be happening is I’m just not ingesting enough sodium. So, on my last longish run, I up’ed the amount of electrolytes that I took by 50% with no stomach issues, and didn’t suffer the same fatigue that I had a couple weeks earlier. So with that in mind, here’s my fueling strategy:

    • One Hammer Gel every three miles. That will equate to about 240 – 260 calories per hour. I’ll be using some caffeinated Hammer Gel (Espresso – 50 mg of caffeine) for the last three fuel points for that little added “boost”.
    • Three Endurolyte capsules with every gel packet. That is about 6 Endurolytes an hour, which equates to about 250 mg of sodium. If I start feeling more fatigued, I will increase my sodium uptake using salt packets (assuming they are available on the course).
    • Water. Often. About 30 ounces per hour. The small cups typically used are 3 ounces. I’ll supplement from my water belt as necessary. This should make for an interesting juggling exposition.
    • I’ll stay away from the Powerade (course supplied drink) unless I just feel like I want something sweet. I usually get that craving toward the latter portions of the race. I’ll stay with small swigs.

    So there you go. All that’s left is the Big Day. Oh. And the day before and the morning of. Remember how I said I like plans?

    Friday, March 12, 2010

    Race Plan – Part 1

    Nine days. Count’em. That’s one day less than ten days. Drumming my fingers on my desk…..

    Okay – so honestly – it’s time to start filling in the blanks for race day. There are two things that are missing right now – my race plan and my evening before and morning of plans. today I’ll make an attempt to tackle the first half of my race plan – the Start Line and my Pace Plan.

    First things first. I’m old enough now to realize that once you get out of school, plagiarism is acceptable. Interestingly enough, have you tried to Google “Marathon Race Plan”? Nada. No wonder marathons are getting so popular. You can’t go anywhere and see all those things you really need to think about before tackling one.  There’s a lot out there on race strategies, training plans, and the like, but nothing that succinctly puts it together in one place. Even though my marathon experience is limited, now that I’ve done it a couple times I know there are a few things that I can do to (a) reduce my pre-race stress, and (b) maximize my intended performance. Here goes:

    Start line plan: I am the type of person who really needs to start the day out right. If I stress myself here, the rest of the day will be hell. But, this is a delicate balance. If I arrive too early, then I spend my time thinking about what is about to happen. If I arrive too late, then I stress about not having enough time to properly prepare. Here is the plan for this marathon:

    1. Arrive in my corral 20 minutes pre-start. This means I need to be in the start area with my pace group at 7:05 AM. This also means that I should be in the porta potty line around 6:45 to make sure I am adequately “watered”.
    2. Find somewhere to sit. Stay off my feet. Find the pace group. then find a place to sit.
    3. Relax. Visualize. At least try to relax. Visualize the proper pace. DO NOT start thinking about the course, mile 3, mile 6, etc.
    4. Stand up 5 minutes prior to scheduled start. 7:19 AM.

    Race pace: Lots is written. Execution is the key. The big question here of course is the proper pace and the proper pacing strategy. My first marathon doesn’t count because I had no idea what I was doing. My second marathon I tried to keep an even pace from start to finish. That lasted about 14 miles.

    I’ve been talking to a lot of people in my running club about this point in particular. There are two schools of thought. One says stay slow for the first half, then pick up just a few seconds per mile. This camp says I should pick the 5:00 pace group and go with them to the half, and then pick it up from there. The second camp says run comfortably for the first half and then decide what to do from there.If my goal is 4:30, then run with the 4:30 group and see where things lead you after the first half. The one thing they both agree on is that if the first half is uncomfortable, then rest of the race will not be better.

    The best pacing plan I’ve seen lately was one done by Lisa (Discovering the Meaning of Stonehenge (a runner's journey)) for her recent sub-4 PR at Surf City. The key quote:

    “Yes, there is the chance that I could have gone out at 8:50 and continued to be strong throughout and gone on to hit my BQ time of 3:50.  But I didn't want to chance it.  I have no regrets on how I ran this race.”

    Wow. There it is. My entire professional life I’ve been trained in the discipline of the plan. Make a plan and stick with it. Don’t make a plan and deviate, unless you have planned the contingencies. A marathon is tough enough. To have to think about contingencies on the course won’t make it easier.

    So here is my pacing plan:

    1. First half: I have signed up to go with the 4:30 pace group. Start. Cruise. Slow down. And then when things feel okay, slow down more. Keep the pace group in sight. DO NOT get out in front of them.
    2. Second half (up to 20 miles): Keep the pace group in sight. Cruise some more. At mile 15, focus on 3 mile segments. Make it through the 18 mile distance that was problematic in training (Yikes! How did that doubt filter itself in?)
    3. Third half (past mile 20): HTFU. Push just a little bit. Let the pace group go. Focus on turnover and breathing. Focus on the next three mile segments. Only two left – miles 21 and 24.  Don’t focus on the Garmin. Don’t focus on other runners. Don’t focus on those passing me or those I am passing. Focus on the feel. Daniel-san. Booleezoo in. Booleezoo out. Koolozoo eyes. Relax.
    4. Finish strong. Arms up. Shoulders back. Don’t forget to SMILE!!!!!!

    Tomorrow – food and drink.

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    An Immune System Side Effect?

    I can’t believe that I’m writing this this late in the game. Ten days until the Big Day and my body is trying to fight off a cold. I feel like a truck has hit me. Apparently I’m not the only one – check out this blog post from KNBC News Anchor Chris Schauble: He writes today he’s feeling better. I can only hope the same….

    So this got me thinking. I’ve been running for 18 weeks through cold, wind, rain (well okay – rain a couple of times) and I’ve been pretty healthy. So what gives? I slow down one week and whamo! Well, it happens there may be a link. From an article on Runner’s World Online:

    “One possible reason: A major mileage cut can signal to the immune system that it's okay to back off. But by maintaining volume, your immune response remains constant.”

    I wouldn’t think that I would be susceptible. After all, the article says a “major mileage cut.” Face it – my first week of taper was greater mileage than the week prior! Ha ha ! Whatever the reason – I’ll be attacking it with the zinc lozenges this week.

    This raises another interesting debate though. On the one hand, the current body of knowledge says maintain intensity but reduce volume. On the other hand, this article says reduce volume, but not too much. As with the rest of life, there must be a delicate balance here. Oh well. Time to pop another Zicam.

    Speaking of reduced volume – last night was a nice easy 4 miler. I’m digging this taper stuff!

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Taper Week 2

    Okay – I made it to week 2. Some of the things that I will be thinking about and doing this week:

    • Taking it eas(ier): I’ll be maintaining intensity but cutting back on volume.  Last night I pulled off 6 miles at an average pace of 9:28. My longest run will be this weekend at 8 miles. Nothing else over 6 for the week. Sunday’s run will be in the two mile range. I could get used to this.
    • Eating: I’ll be putting a little greater emphasis on carbs this week. But – I’m not going overboard! Instead of chicken and rice I’ll have rice and chicken. (YESSSSS!!!!) I’ll be limiting some foods high in saturated fats like  ice cream that my body will glomp onto. (NOOOOOO!!!!) Oh well. The added weight certainly won’t help on race day.
    • Race plan: It’s time to formalize my plan. I *think* I know why I’m doing this. Time to be held accountable. Look for this by the end of the week.
    • Day before and race morning logistics: This will be done solely for reduction of stress. My stress. I love a planned world. I don’t deal too well with surprises.

    It’s nervous time. I think I’m a lot more nervous than the last time around in October…

    Oh – an answer to a question that I asked yesterday about B-Tags. A comment posted by WadiaSoft directed me to ChronoTrack’s website:

    “If you are using the single use ChronoTrack B-Tag as a timing device for your event, please ensure the following in order to receive an accurate time.

  • Race bib is clearly visible on the front of the torso
  • Race bib is unaltered and unmodified (Do not fold or wrinkle)
  • Race bib is pinned in all four corners
  • Race bib is not covered (jackets, runner belts, water bottles, etc.)”
  • So now you and I know. I feel sorry for anyone who won’t get a start time because it’s cool and they decide to wear a jacket….

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    Tuesday, March 9, 2010

    Nervous Time

    So, I was watching the hockey game last night (L.A. Kings (yea!) 6-0 plastering of the Columbus Blue Jackets), when all of a sudden, Marathon (my new pet) jumped up and made a beeline for the underbrush. Something had spooked the crap out of him. Poor fellow.

    Here’s the deal. The Los Angeles Marathon sent their official “Final Race Instructions” email. Anyone who has not grown up or lived in L.A. for a while might be a little intimidated. Some of the gems:

    • “You must wear your Bib on the front of your shirt and leave the B-Tag attached to your bib. If you do not wear the Bib and attached B Tag, your marathon time will not be recorded properly.” I wonder how the B-Tag works if it’s under layers of clothing? How many will I see duct taped to a shoe? I wonder how many will be disappointed that their start time isn’t recorded?
    • “The ChronoTrack Timing System uses the disposable B-Tag which is attached to the runner’s race bib. You will not need to remove the tag from the bib to put on your shoe. The timing device remains ON YOUR BIB.” I wonder how many people won’t read this?
    • “ARRIVE EARLY, ARRIVE EARLY, ARRIVE EARLY!!! Let’s face it folks, this is Los Angeles, so even though it is a weekend and you will be leaving your house or hotel before the crack of dawn, you have to factor in traffic, congestion and crowded parking lots. We strongly advise all participants to arrive at the Stadium a minimum of 60 minutes before the race and 90 minutes is even better!” Anyone who has lived in L.A. for any length of time gets this. Sorry tourists!
    • “ARRIVE EARLY, ARRIVE EARLY, ARRIVE EARLY!!!” So, let’s see. I’m on the 5:00 AM shuttle to Dodger Stadium. I probably need to be parked about 15 minutes before that to make sure I get to my shuttle. 30 minutes of traffic once I get off the freeway to get to the parking lot. One hour drive to Santa Monica. Hmm. Leave home at 3:00. AM. No wonder Marathon jumped!
    • “Running 26.2 miles in and of itself is fun” Hooohooohooo! When was the last time *these* folks ran 26.2?
    • “The Honda LA Marathon has stocked the race course with TONS of excitement to keep your energy level up and lots of fun things to look forward to throughout the race. There will be 25 entertainment centers, 4 City Block Parties, Cheer Alley, and over 50 additional entertainment sites located throughout the course.” Like I care? Hey dudes! I’m running a race! There better not be a block party at mile 23….
    • “Please situate yourself in the start area according to your anticipated minute pace per mile, i.e. ten minute miles. This system is for your safety and the safety of other participants. Pace per mile signs will be hung along the sides of corrals, starting with a 9 minute pace all the way through 13 + minute pace per mile.” I read this as self policed corrals?  For 20,000 runners? I spell that C-L-U-S-T-E-R-F….
    • “Diversified Paratransit shuttle vans will pickup runners who are unable to complete the Marathon starting at the Mile 7 water station and continuing through mile 23 and transport them back to the Runner Drop Off location at 2nd Street and Broadway in Santa Monica.” Bwahahahaha! (Ugh……)
    • “If you want to store anything, there will be a bag check located in Lot G at Dodger Stadium.” Cool. “Due to heightened security reasons we will only accept the clear plastic bags of runners belongings. Non-transparent bags or back packs will not be accepted.” Hmm. Now that’s different. I wonder how many people won’t read this? I hope they have extra clear plastic bags at the bag drop!

    No wonder Marathon is hiding! Maybe I can entice him: “Don Francisco will be providing coffee throughout the day for spectators and participants.” Here boy! Here boy!

    Hmm. I wonder if I should be concerned that the title of the pdf they sent is “2010/03/10-Race-Instructions-revised.pdf” “Revised”? Make some room there Marathon. Where’s the mud pit?

    Monday, March 8, 2010

    Taper Day 6. Running FAIL.

    Life sometimes has a way of conspiring with our wishes and desires to make things happen. Such was my day yesterday. I needed to (well maybe not *needed*, but definitely *should have*) hit the trails for a 6 mile run. But, one thing led to another led to another, and before I knew it, it was late in the day. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned here before, but one of the things I do to keep the peace in the Jones household is cook dinner on the weekends. (It’s not really that bad. I love cooking….)

    Long story short – if I would have tackled my run, there would have been no peace Sunday evening. I’m not going to stress about it. As I’ve said before, I’ve been running pretty consistently for a while now. Plus or minus six miles isn’t going to make a whole hill of beans.

    I wrapped up last week with 30.25 running miles. Got a hill workout done midweek, and a medium long run on Saturday.

    Coming this week:

    • Monday: Rest.
    • Tuesday: 6 miles general aerobic. Stretching afterwards.
    • Wednesday: 30 minute tempo run.
    • Thursday: 6 miles general aerobic. Stretching afterwards
    • Friday: Rest
    • Saturday: 8 miles. Slow and easy.
    • Sunday: 2 miles general aerobic.
    • Total planned miles: 25 miles.

    My new pet should have nothing to hide from this week. He’ll be wallowing in the mud….

    Sunday, March 7, 2010

    My Last Double Digit Run

    Twelve nice and easy miles in the books. My last double digit training run before the Big Day. I took the opportunity to check out a couple things from my list:
    • Clothing: Apparently my body is still changing. My favorite marathon shorts (Adidas with built in compression shorts) fits a lot looser that I remember. I had a problem with the shorts riding down on my hips and the compression shorts riding up into my nether regions. I fixed it by cinching the drawstrings a little tighter. Ouch! I need to remember that on race day....
    • Fueling on the run: I was able to rip the little top off the Hammer Gels and get them down while moving. This is a big deal given my highly evolved sense of balance and coordination. The only thing I didn't practice was throwing the finished gel pack on the ground (shame shame!)

    So far so good. Today is a six mile race pace run. Time to figure out how that feels....

    Saturday, March 6, 2010

    Tapir Madness - Day 4

    I adopted a pet today. His name is Marathon:

    He will be my constant companion for the next three weeks. Some of his endearing qualities:

    • Tapirs near a water source will swim, sink to the bottom to allow small fish to pick parasites off their bulky bodies.
    • Along with fresh water lounging, tapirs often wallow in mud pits.
    • The thick skin on the backs of their necks helps to protect them from threats.
    • When threatened, the creatures are able to run fairly quickly, considering their size and cumbersome appearance, and find shelter in the thick undergrowth of the forest or in water.

    I think Marathon and I will get along quite well....

    Friday, March 5, 2010

    Taper Madness - Day 3

    Let's see. Where do I start. First off, something that Adam (I Am Boring) left in a blog comment yesterday about taper time makes a lot of sense:

    "...most people will say to keep the same intensity (speed) as before just reduce the volume. I like that a lot - keep you legs moving at the same speeds that they are used to."

    That makes a lot of sense in a lot of ways. I mean it takes doing something for 20 days to make it habit, right? Can you forget a habit by *not* doing it for 20 days? 21 day taper? Hmm.

    So, I kept my date with the hills yesterday and did my final hill repeats before the Big Day. Two mile warm up, 6 hill repeats (1/4 mile, 110 foot gain, followed by a walk/slow jog back down) and a 1 mile warm down. Oh yeah. Remember that stuff I wrote about yesterday? About watching my pace? I'm thinking 10:15 - 10:30 pace for race day. Pace on my first two miles? 9:30. FAIL!!!! Well - that's what these couple of weeks are about.

    Today's taper gem - diet. The first week of taper means protein should be making an appearance in our diets. Time to fuel to repair damage from what should have been a hard final week leading to taper. Let's see - Monday dinner - pasta with meat sauce. Check. Tuesday - roast chicken and broccoli. Check. Wednesday - barbecued tri tip. Check. Thursday - soy chorizo with eggs and refried beans. Check. So far so good! (Of course, I fail to mention the ice cream that has been inhaled as well.....)

    I have a rest day on the schedule today. I seem to have quite a few of those recently. Well, maybe not. I think the butterflies are starting to appear. This is common for even seasoned marathoners. The best advice for dealing with the butterflies came yesterday from Jill (Run With Me):

    "What helps me is to make a list of all my anxiety and list who has control of it and how I can control what I can."

    I've got my pen and clipboard out. Thanks everyone for putting up with me for the next three weeks!

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    Taper Madness - Day 2

    I got out for my planned six miler late in the afternoon yesterday. I was pretty sneaky. The wind was blowing onshore (happens a lot in the afternoon as the rising air over the land draws the cooler air off the ocean). In my earlier days I would have put the miles in. Screw the wind. But demonstrating my higher intelligence (well, okay, the fact that it took me about a year and a half to catch on), I headed up the road so that I would be running the first three miles into the wind, which of course meant that the way back to the car would be with a tailwind. I'm not sure it helped that much, except to make it feel like the second half of the run was easier. Ah - the power of the mind. Final stats - 6 mile at an average pace of 9:29, 78% of MHR.

    Speaking about the power of the mind - it's time to exercise mine a little during taper madness. This will be my third time doing 26.2. The first time was pure hell. The only thing that I was sure about was that I needed to do another to get the monkey off my back. The second time was better, but there was still a lot of experimenting going on right up to the start line (and maybe even beyond). I know I could have benefited from more planning. Anticipating what could go wrong before the race will leave you more prepared to deal with catastrophes during the race. Anyone who has been there knows what I mean. So, what I thought I would do here for the next couple of weeks is, with the help of yesterday's article and my own experience, show you how I am dealing with taper madness.

    As we wind down the miles in week 1 of taper, there are a number of things we can do to get mentally ready:

    1. Weather - It's time to start watching the weather. March weather can be such a crap shoot here in L.A. Average temperature is 70. Record for March 21 is 93. Rainy season won't quite be over. Um yeah. The start time is late (7:30 AM), and by the time my wave hits the start line, it's likely to be 7:45 or 8:00 AM. This means that I will be finishing around 12:30 to 1:00 in the afternoon. The last thing I want to do is be overdressed at the start and suffer later on as the sun comes out and the course heats up.
    2. Goal pace: I'm going to start practicing running at goal pace if I'm not doing a tempo run. I need to run by feel. Right now I don't know that feel. Starting Sunday, if I'm too fast, I *will* slow down. No reason to be setting practice records at this point. It's always too easy to get caught up in the excitement of the moment and to go out way too fast. Believe me (experience speaking here) - it will come and grab you in the butt later on.
    3. Clothing and gear: The carnal sin on race day is to be doing the race in something new. This weekend's long run will be done in the same shorts, shirt and socks that I used for Long Beach - not because I'm superstitious, but because I need to check them out to make sure that nothing has changed (either my body or the clothing) that is going to result in chafing. Believe me - I will be in enough pain. Chafing is the last thing I need.
    4. Shoes: This is also the time to take stock of my shoes. My race day shoes currently have 271 miles on them. I have 95 miles left on the plan (including race day). I alternate shoes during training, which means I'll have around 320 miles on my race day pair. I typically put about 400 miles on shoes, so I should be safe.

    So there you go. Enough to keep me busy for a couple days. On the schedule today - hill repeats. Six of them. Hey! Aren't I supposed to be tapering?

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Counting Down to Race Day - Taper

    Less than 20 days until The Day. March 21st. That means the bane of most marathoners has begun - taper. Most of us hear about "taper madness" - that time where we are told by our training plans to run less to prepare for running more. It seems counter intuitive. It's tough to cut a run short at 6 miles when you used to run 10. Most of you have been there before. And even though this is my third time, I've got to admit this whole taper thing is still a bit of a mystery.

    I spent some time yesterday researching the value of the taper. There are tons and tons of articles on the Internet that tell you what to do, but very few that actually explain why. I found this gem at Runner's World that does a decent job of discussing the whys. In a nutshell:

    "The primary aim of the taper should be to minimize accumulated fatigue, rather than to attain additional physiological adaptations or fitness gains."

    In other words - what's done is done at this point. After 15 weeks of training, there is very little that I can do over the next three weeks that is going to enhance my physical preparation. But, push myself too hard though, and the consequence can be a Long Beach repeat - where I was dust by mile 13, or worse yet - injury. The goal now is to maintain my current level of fitness and to give my body ample time to heal before the big day.

    So, over the next three weeks, I'll be doing slow easy miles. Like the 6 I did last night (10:32 pace, 73% MHR). I'm going to treat the next three weeks like a big dress rehearsal. Now that I've been through this a couple times, I know what *can* happen. Time to figure out how to recognize and fix issues before thy become big problems. Over the next few days, I'll be attacking the checklist that comprises the *rest* of taper (Oh my! What a pun!)

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    February Wrapup and Another Taper Begins

    It's hard to believe that we are already in the first week of March! Wow! That means it's time to put the wrap on February and look forward to this month.

    Bottom line is February went out like a lamb. Part of it was a little too much racing - three races this past month - Surf City Half on the 7th, WTRS 21K Trail race on the 20th, and the Firecracker 10K this past Sunday. With all the mini-tapering that went on, that definitely put the kibosh on serious mileage:

    • Week ending 2/7: 28 running, 9 rowing - 37 total
    • Week ending 2/14: 41 running, 10 rowing - 51 total
    • Week ending 2/21: 29 running, 9 rowing - 38 total
    • Week ending 2/28: 23 running, 5 rowing - 28 total
    • Total: 121 running, 33 rowing - 154 total

    That's about 25 to 30 miles short of plan when I started the month. Oh well. Consistency is really the name of the game. Or so I convince myself that it is.

    And now? Nervous time begins! The L.A. Marathon is less than 3 weeks away. Gulp! That means that I start taper this week. I'm going to forgo the rowing machine for the next few weeks and put my mileage in on the roads and trails. For this week:

    • Monday: Scheduled rest.
    • Tuesday: 8 general aerobic miles
    • Wednesday: 6 general aerobic miles. Stretch and core workout.
    • Thursday: Hill repeats. 6 miles total including 6 hill repeats.
    • Friday: Scheduled rest.
    • Saturday: 12 miles general aerobic.
    • Sunday: 4 miles general aerobic. Stretch and core workout
    • Total plan: 36 miles

    This time around I am committed to not showing up at the start line tired. So while this week's schedule is a medium effort for me, next week and the week after will be rather pedestrian - 25 miles next week, and 8 miles (plus the marathon) the following week. My challenge will be to not *eat* like I'm still running 40 miles.....

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Another Race in the Books

    I'm back from another race! You know what that means! Another (not so) short video:

    Yesterday's race was the Firecracker 10K. Last year I gave this race a pretty negative review. All I've got to say is what a difference a year makes! The race organizers listened to criticism and made this a truly memorable event.

    Sunday morning broke cool but clear. It was shaping up to be one of those spectacular days in Southern California.

    Traffic is always a crap shoot in L.A., so I left with plenty of time to spare. I got to Chinatown a little early and snagged a parking spot right around the corner from the start line. I got my bib and goody bag. Wow! A reusable tote bag with more than just race fliers!

    One thing that is *very* important if you do this race. You *need to get here* early. Not because of parking, or crowds, or anything like that. But for the opening ceremonies! Gung hay fat choy!

    At this point it became *very* apparent to me that the race organizers took last year's criticism to heart. This year the organizers blocked about a half a city block so that everyone got a great view of the festivities. Way to go Race Director!

    Since I had about 30 minutes until the 10K started, I headed back to my car, ditched my coat and pants, used the porta potties, and then roamed around a bit. Yes - all in 30 minutes. And yes - at a race with 4000 plus runners plus friends and families. Ever go to a race where you can't find water before the race? Not so here! Excellent Mr. Race Director!

    This is not an easy course. The elevation profile tells the story:
    The course is a steady uphill 2.5 mile climb, a little level off at the top of Los Angeles's Elysian Park, followed by a steady downhill back into Chinatown. This requires a pacing strategy (something that I am still struggling with) to keep from blowing up.

    I often read about races with thousands of runners going different distances all sharing the same course. Not so here! There were 2400 5K runners and 2000 10K runners. It would have been easy to put us all on the course at the same time and then split the 5K runners off at some point. Instead, the 5K runners started half an hour earlier. This made all the difference when it came to some of the narrow points on the course. Kudos Race Director!

    We started promptly at 8:30 AM. It took a couple minutes to hit the start line and activate our timing chips. I tried to hold back as we headed toward the steeper uphill portions of the course.

    In about 3/4 a mile we turned left off the city streets and stared climbing in earnest. I shortened my stride, but as I hit some of the steeper parts of the trail, I still had to slow down to a brisk walk. My pace was almost pedestrian at times:

    Mile 1: 9:16
    Mile 2: 10:49
    Mile 3: 10:44

    As I moved up the hill, I couldn't help but notice the views where phenomenal!!!! Miles 2 and 3 actually include time stopped (yes stopped) to take photos and to take photos for others running the race. One *really* nice touch were the signs letting everyone know what they were looking at. Nice touch Race Organizers!

    Here's the view to the Northwest:

    Here's one that I didn't need a sign for - Dodger Stadium! (Oh - with Downtown L.A. in the background):

    I started downhill. Unlike last year, I was not sporting a stiff, painful back, so I was able to let it rip as I headed down the hill.

    Mile 4: 8:01

    At mile 5, I had to stop again. Yes - that's right. I said STOP. We were entering BLUE HEAVEN!!! I am a *huge* baseball fan, *and* I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I had to pay homage to my beloved Dodgers.

    Mile 5: 8:49 (Three stops included - video of Taiko drummers, photos of Dodger Stadium)
    Mile 6: 7:55
    Mile 6.2: 1:39 (7:11 pace)
    Final time: Garmin: 57:16, Official: 57:30.4

    In the end, I was satisfied with my effort. The uphill climb was a big challenge last year. This year not as much. I may have left my PR in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium (actually not -I wasn't stopped for 2 and half minutes). But what better place to leave it? I was pleased with my first time ever sub-8:00 miles (even though they were downhill miles).

    I finished up the day with dim sum at Ocean Seafood in Chinatown! I met up with some of my Twitter friends for a delicious tweetup!

    Pictured are @biblio_phile, yours truly, @nicolapiggott (standing), @ridgeley and @anotorias. Great way to wrap up a great day and great race.

    Bottom line? I will definitely be back next year! If you are in Los Angeles in February, you should too!