Friday, July 24, 2009

Run SMART Retreat, Flagstaff AZ

I spent the last week in Flagstaff at the Run SMART Retreat, running, learning and making new running friends. We started off the week with a few runs around a 2 mile loop in Buffalo Park. Left to right, below: Tom Podell, Jane, Bill Risch, me, KC, Casey, Erin Strout, Tom Bane and Mike Smith (Run SMART coach):

The trail was fairly easy and level, only a hill at the 1.75 mile point. I was worried about the altitude and took the first loop uber slow. I was pleasantly surprised to find the second loop very easy, and ran the last loop at 8:00 pace when Vince (my coach) joined me. I was so happy after this run, and had hope the week was going to go well.

While in Sedona, we took a dip in the cold waters at Alligator Point. I sat and let the waterfall pound on my shoulders a bit. That's Vince on the left, his wife Sarah's legs on the rock above and Everett Hill to the right.

I should mention the shotgun van ride back to the hotel for about 75 minutes with the A/C on high. I had no dry clothes. I was blue when we arrived back in Flagstaff.

This was a stop to hook up with the Runner's World photographers who spent the day with us in Sedona (and then the evening in Flagstaff). Quite a warm run as we trotted past Bell Rock. Check out the sweet Run SMART Retreat jersey. Vince and the guys really hooked us up with some great swag.

For me, the highlight of the trip was the hike down and back up the Grand Canyon. Mike Smith and the rest of the coaches did a good job putting the fear of Mother Nature in us.

Here I am, just before the hike. Please note I was frightened enough by the lecture to fill a camelback and actually wear it for the entire hike. Imagine my surprise to find it bone dry, only 1.4 miles up from the bottom. Whoopsie.

Vince mugs it for the camera, probably wondering if I was going to survive not only the heat, but actually carrying several pounds of fluid on my back.

My good friend Everett Hill, whom I am especially privileged to know. He is definitely a hero to me! He's overcome a significant health issue and keeps running strong and is truly an inspiration. Some day, I will be as brave as he is and tell my own story.

A breathtaking view into the Canyon, pre-hike.

The motely crew before the hike, this is a fantastic group of people:

Nearly at the bottom, Tom B. (shown below), Tom Podell and I just couldn't help ourselves when they told us we would turn around at mile 3. We bolted to the bottom, figuring it was better to beg forgiveness. Luckily, we didn't get in TOO much trouble.

Tom Podell and I at the bottom. What a fun hike back to the top! I actually negative splitted the Grand Canyon, making it down in 1:36 and all the way up in 1:28 at a 14% average elevation grade. Can't wait to do it again next year! It's 100 F+ in this picture.

The last night I was there, we experienced a restorative yoga session to relax and help our bodies recover. Oh yes, I was paying for that Grand Canyon stunt.

This was really a great trip, and I look forward to attending next year. I really look forward to following the progress throughout the year of the many new running buds I met. Thanks to the Run SMART team, what a classy job you guys did!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Flagstaff, Day 1

Got out for my first run today in Flagstaff, here are some quick pictures of the trail. I have more to post but for some reason Blogger isn't happy with me this evening.

The bad news is, I just didn't have anything. Not sure if it was the hard run yesterday, or the high altitude today. But, nothing was in the tank. The good news is, I had a camera, so was able to thoroughly enjoy the run anyway :-)

Tomorrow, we head to Buffalo Park for a run.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Because I Want It

"Choosing a goal and sticking to it changes everything." --Scott Reed

Saturday July 11 marked three months until Chicago '09, where I will make what I believe will be my successful attempt to qualify for Boston. In fact, I not only plan to make it in the required time of 3:50:59 or less, but I plan to train, prepare and pace it so as to have a significant buffer in case anything goes wrong (like it did last time and I missed it by three minutes).

I love the journey as much as achieving the goal. It gives my life meaning. But that does mean I have to make sacrifices and tough out times when it would be so much easier to wobble on the training. I get up hours before my comfort zone to run, shun extra portions and junk food that tempt me, go to bed early and skip late-at-night social activities, avoid other exhausting activities. And of course, many more little sacrifices along the way too numerous to mention. It's costly. Period.

So many well-meaning people have discussed with me ways to scrape by my goal, shown me miracle training plans running just 3 or 4 days per week, or otherwise ridiculed my singular obsession with this goal or roll their eyes at how much I'm putting into this.

But the goal is two-fold. I wouldn't miss a step of the hard work that I am doing and am going to take. If that means toughing out challenging circumstances, running through the agony of wanting to quit; so be it. I relish the journey; I want the goal. And that's really my best answer to people who look at me like I'm crazy for what I do. "Because, you see, I WANT IT."

"In this life we get only those things for which we hunt, for which we strive, and for which we are willing to sacrifice." --George Matthew Adams

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Heat Training

In 2007, The Chicago Marathon reached record heat levels. In 2008, by three hours into the race--although officials were much better prepared than the previous year--the alert level was changed to red and runners were encouraged to walk it in due to the extremely hot conditions (although a couple of degrees cooler than '07). I was there, and can attest that it was a cooker.

I picked a Fall marathon for many reasons, but one of them is the generally more predictable weather of the season. Nothing wrong with toughing it out in windy, rainy, cold or generally lousy conditions that befuddle Spring marathon racers, but I'm after one goal this season: Qualifying for Boston. I picked Chicago, well, because I absolutely loved it! But I am counting on one thing: A doggone hot race. And I have a nice long, hot, humid Midwest summer to prepare for it.

There are several obvious things you can do to avoid training in the heat if that is what you're after. Use the gym's treadmill, run at 4 AM, wear light colored clothing, etc.

But, if you suspect that your biggest obstacle in a goal race is going to be how hot it is (and I do); I would recommend embracing the heat. Learning to live with it. Your body is an amazingly adaptable machine. And over time, it can be taught to adapt and perform better in hot conditions.

I don't hydrate well on my runs. In fact, I despise carrying fluid at all. For extremely long hot runs, this is not the wisest decision, and I'll usually circle back to a point every 4-5 miles to pick up something to drink. I don't have the benefit of a large training group where water stops are frequent, so I've learned to adapt--if you have that kind of support, great, it's probably not a problem for you.

One of the key hydration techniques I've learned is to begin the hydration process the day before. But, you can't just drink water, you'll interfere with your body's electrolytes. I use Endurolytes, and continue taking them as appropriate for my body weight, water intake, miles to cover and sweat levels. If done measurably well, I can manage almost any training run. The other thing that I struggle with is there comes a point when training hard on a long run, my body will simply not absorb what I need, and I will become extremely nauseated with the water sloshing around. Being a little super-hydrated (with the appropriate electrolyte balance) going into the run is the best tactic I have.

Get Hot.
Yeah, it's really that simple. Learn to be hot. Learn to process the fluid and adapt to what you need. Some people will wear an extra layer when training. Others will even sit in saunas, though that is a bit extreme, in preparation for extremely hot races such as Badwater. Sit in the sun or be outdoors for periods of time. Don't always use your car's A/C. It's funny, I used to be accused of needing the temperature in the house and in the car at 60 F at all times. Just the other day, I was in my car with mid-80s F temps and the windows up, and others were complaining how unbearably hot it was in the car. Wow, I was really comfortable and not even sweating.

The take away message here shouldn't be one to overdo the heat training, please exercise caution. Overheating, dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are all very real dangers to us runners out there. But, I do want to point out that you can learn and your body can adapt to training and racing in the heat. And if you are going to run a hot race, it's better to train in hot conditions.