How to prepare (Mentally) for the big race

So you have a race coming up.  You did the training, maybe you missed a day or two, but for the most part you followed the plan and now your a week away from the race.  You started tapering back the miles.  Now your starting to wonder, starting to doubt if your ready for this.  Does this sound familiar?

So what do you do?  Well first of all don’t panic.  It is normal to start to get the jitters before a race and doubt if you can run the race you have trained for.  Everyone, and trust me I mean everyone does this.

First of all look back at your training.  Remind yourself that you put the miles in.  Every training run did not have to feel good, the important thing is that you finished them.  It is important to stay positive.  Do not let that little voice in your head tell you your not ready.  Tell yourself you trained, your ready for this.

Review the course, study the turns, hills, possible wind direction.  Come up with a plan for each.  Do not let the race surprise you.  I am always amazed when I talk to other runners after a race and they say “wow, that had a lot of hills in it”.  As if they grew as they were running.  The elevation is posted for the race as is the course.  Look it up, study it.  Everyone has to run the same course.  If there are two big hills, know what miles they are at, expect to slow down a bit going up them.  Have a target in mind and remember what ever goes up, will come back down.  So after the hill and your on the downward slop, pick up your pace a little and it will all balance out.

Review everything for your run.  What are you going to wear, what gels are you going to take.  How much water are you going to carry, or what water stops are you going to use.  An old saying works very well, “prior proper planning prevents poor performance”  Go over how your getting to the race, if your driving and parking and you can, drive the route the day before. Know if the parking has a fee.  I like to use the race shuttles if they have them, that way there is no thought involved.  Just be there and put on the head set and get in the zone.

Ok, now figure out what is your goal for this race?  Better yet, have three goals.  Goal #1 this is a perfect race, I feel great, wind is at my back and weather is a perfect 55.  Goal #2 This is my main goal, not unrealistic.  If I run my plan and have an good run, I should get this goal no problem.  Goal #3  I call this my catastrophic goal.  You fall and tweak your ankle.  You can still run, but in order to make sure you can walk tomorrow, your going to slow down and be smart.  Or lets say your running a marathon, at the start the temperature is 75.  Or any number of other things that can go wrong that you have no control over.  Maybe goal #3 is I just want to finish.

I wish every race was perfect, but trust me they are not.  And if you expect them to be, you will be disappointed more times then not.  One of my favorite races I ran (and yes it was a PR), the race was 42^ at the start and rained the entire race.  I was numb in my toes and hands.  I did not plan for a cold race, and only had shorts and a tee shirt.  Ended up buying a poncho and running it it the whole way.  And knowing it was not going to be a great race I was ok not getting my goal #2, I was just going to enjoy the race and finish.  Have fun and run in the rain.  With no pressure and only expecting to have fun, I PR’d and even though it was cold I would put it right up there in the top 5 races that I had a blast.

Last but not least, keep in mind that with one week to go, there is nothing you can do that will change your race but make it worse.  If you think you did not train enough and decide to run a long run and increase your miles the week before the race to make up for it.  Well your not helping.  Set your goals and be realistic.  Run your best race for that day, that race, and remember no matter what happens, there will always be another race.  Live, Learn and run…..repeat 😉

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Boston Marathon 2013


Before this week, I planned for this post to be much different then it will be.  This was my first Boston Marathon, and was to be the best day of my running life.

The day started off great. I arrived in Hopkinton very early, around 7am.  Most of the runners were bussed in from Boston at 6 am.  The waiting area at the starting line was like Woodstock. People everywhere, sleeping, sitting, resting.  There was water, food, and of course, a lot of Porta Potties.

Waiting to StartI put out a blanket and laid down to rest, got up to get in line to use a Porta Potty, then got some water, took off my warm up clothes, and gave them to the donation tent. I then headed for the starting line, getting a picture with the Boston Marathon back drop on the way and dropping off my check-in bag.

Getting to the starting line was much farther than I’d thought.  I stopped at the Porta Potties one more time and got to my corral (wave 2, corral 2) just as it was starting the race. There were so many people, by the time I arrived at my starting corral, I had to run, as my start time was fast approaching.

For the first 10-15 miles it was like no other start of a marathon that I had run.  First of all there were just so many people.  Normally this congestion lasts about the first mile in other races. But in this race, it just went on and on.  Then there was the people cheering you on.  Every town that we passed, every single person in that town was at the street cheering you on.  It was amazing.

We went through Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and then entered Boston. I think it was in Framingham that I saw a large sign in front of a house that said “Short cut.” Wellesley was by far the loudest and craziest town.  Wellesley is an all-girl college town, and they were all lined up for miles with signs, that said, “Kiss me,” “Marry me,” “I’m single, call me.”  The one sign that made me laugh the most, “Smile if you’re not wearing any underwear.” It took everyone’s (well at least all the men’s) minds off of running for those few miles.

It was the biggest race of my life.  I finished 3:19:55, a PR for me by 3 minutes.  For the half hour that passed after I finished, it was a perfect day.  I had just finished the Boston Marathon, ran my best race.  Nothing could ruin that feeling. It was a great day!

Bill Finish 1

Well I was wrong, I met with my wife after getting my medal and checked bag.  We were walking to our car and we heard a loud “bang.”  I turned and wondered what that was, first thinking it was just a garbage truck dropping the large container after picking up the trash. Then a second bang a few seconds later.  I turned to look in the direction that I thought I heard it from, but did not see anything.  In the next few minutes, the streets filled up with  police, ambulance, fire trucks, and every other emergency vehicle heading in the direction of the noise.  At that point we knew something was very wrong.  We got to our car and turned on the radio to hear the horror.  I went from having the best day of my life, to having the worst.  It was like the dream turned into a nightmare in an instant.

After a few minutes of crazy traffic and more emergency vehicles passing us.  We arrived at our hotel about 11 miles north of Boston and turned on the TV.  Seeing the images and pain that was caused by the that evil started to sink in.  My wife had been standing right at the site of the first explosion as I was finishing.  Luckily I finished 29 minutes before the explosion and she left that area to go meet me at the end of the runners chute by the bag-check buses.

My wife’s first response was that this is my last marathon.  “You’re done!”  Honestly at that point I didn’t have any desire to run again.  Racing seemed so insignificant.

Leaving Boston Marathon 2013I flew out the next day, taking a last picture of Boston.  With one thought: “I will be back to run the Boston Marathon again.”

I will honor/remember those killed or injured.  Evil, and I can’t think of any other word to describe the things that caused this horror, will always be pushed back with good.

Today I plan my first recovery run since the race.  That term recovery run, means more now than it ever has.

I don’t think we will ever understand the reason for such evil.  But I know in my heart that good will rise above this evil and humanity will show that love and life is what matters the most.

I will never forget those who have been hurt from this evil.  Every training run, and every race leading up to next year’s Boston Marathon, I will be thinking of them!

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Disney 2013 Marathon Weekend

Well the fun race that I have had on my bucket list is over. It was a crazy 4-day trip. Every morning I was up at 3 am and running at 5:30 am.

We (my wife and two adult sons) ran the 5k on Friday. Dressed in my Dopey hat, it was just a pre shake out run. I ran alongside my wife. It was a fun race. The times were not meant to be impressive, but you don’t run a Disney race for a PR, you run for fun.

20130111_044337      20130111_043323

After the 5k it was time to meet old friends for dinner. It was fun talking about old times and catching up on the last few years. Maybe we should not have had the few beers we had, but it was worth it.

On Saturday we all ran the half marathon. Up at 2:30 am, driving at 3 am, made parking easy with little traffic. We sat in the car till 4 am and then made the 1 mile walk to the starting corral. With 25,000 people doing the same race, it was a bit crowded. Again I ran along side my wife and two sons.  This was the first half marathon for each of them, but for me it was #17 or something like that. They were my pace setters so I could run the marathon on Sunday without too much pain. We started in corral F, so the 5:30 start was really 6:10. And talk about crowded. There were a few spots on the course where it was just like a traffic jam. Going through the Magic Kingdom castle was the worst. Then it was not much better after the castle on the long stretch next to the speed way. Half the street was for runners, the other half for cars. Again too many people in one place and not enough space. A few runners tried to zig and zag their way to the next character photo spot and one of them stepped on my wife’s shoe, knocking it off. The woman who stopped on her heel didn’t even stop to say she was sorry. I would have understood if we were in the lead pack trying to win the race, but we were running a 14-minute pace and there was just no reason for people to try pass anyone. You have to expect some of the runners in any Disney race to not know how to run and be polite to other runners. (Note from Karla: I know how to run! I was all the way to the right with the other slow pokes and that woman was just rude!)

20130112_053047 20130112_071348 20130112_072530  20130112_075757Disney half medal 2013

We all survived the race and were under the 16-minute pace limit (actually more like 14:30), so Donald Duck did not have to remove us from the course. After the race, the plan was to go to a park. We decided on the Magic Kingdom. But the 2:30 am walk up and running a half for the first time was enough fun for one day for my wife and two sons. So we took a nap and later went on a timeshare presentation to get some $$$ to buy Disney tickets and see what Marriott time share had to offer. (We didn’t buy.)

So Sunday morning, 2:30 am came fast. I hit the alarm and rolled over. My plan was to leave at 3 am, and this time I would be the only one going. I woke up again at 3:20 am and jumped out of bed, got my coffee and ran out the door. The traffic was crazy. I was not sure I would make it to the starting line by 5:00 am. The last 4 miles to the parking lot was bumper-to-bumper traffic. I arrived at 4:20 am and walked to the starting corral and was ready for the 5:30 am start. This time I was able to be in corral A, so 5:30 start was a 5:30 start. It was a bit warm, but not to bad since the sun was still a few hours away. I would guess it was ~68 degrees.

20130113_053454 20130113_062137 Castle 20130113_083720 mile 20 20th Dopey Mile 25

The Marathon took us from the start near Epcot to Magic Kingdom, through the castle and (basically the same course as the half so far). Then we ran to the Speedway and made a lap around the track. That was a first for me. Cars were lined all round the track with a few engines running and revving for effect. After the Speedway, we ran through the Animal Kingdom. By now the sun was up and it was starting to get warm. The bathroom stop in the Animal Kingdom was refreshing–the AC felt great. Then it was off to ESPN World Wide Sports complex. We ran all over this place, including running through the main baseball stadium with all of us runners displayed on the big screen TV. From ESPN we ran through Disney’s Hollywood Studio. A few more stops for photos and it was off to Epcot for the finish line. Last stop for a photo was the best one: Dopey just after mile 25.

I made about 15 stops during the marathon, 13 for photos with Disney characters and 2 for pit stops. The miles passed with ease. For sure, this was the easiest marathon I have run. I was waiting for the cramps and the pain in my legs, but they never came. Most marathons seem to go on forever, but this one had so much to see and do, and the Disney charactor support along the way, it was over before I knew it.


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5 Keys to reaching your potential on your next race

I have written about these individually in different posts.  But I think it is important to tie  them together into one.  I’m not going to go into as much detail in this post on each one.  Instead I will try to keep it simple and cover the basics.

What are the five keys to reaching your potential?  Improving in these five key running areas: V02 Max, LT (lactate threshold), run economy, easy runs, and nutrition.  There are more than five key areas of running, but these five can be improved by proper training.  The other keys are given to you by your DNA, and there’s not much you can do about them.  But by improving the keys you can reach your goals and win your age group.  There are a lot of people out there training and working hard, and a lot of that hard work goes for naught because they’re either running too fast or too much, or not running the right run.  Of course if you just want to finish a race and are not worried about a PR, then maybe this is not for you.

By improving these five areas in your training, you will ensure that you are reaching your potential in your next race.  So let’s talk about each one a little and go into how you can improve them.

1)      VO2 Max (Aerobic Capacity) – The max amount of oxygen you can take in, transport, and utilize.  It is affected by: Heredity; Gender; Age; Body composition; and Training.  With 12 months of training you can expect an 28% increase.  The average untrained male 18-22 has a V02 max of ~43.  The average trained male 18-22 has a V02 max of ~57.  As we age V02 max goes down.  After age 30, we will lose ~1% a year or 10% every decade.  It is easy to get tested and find out what your V02 max is. The cost is ~$100-150 and takes about 15 minutes on a treadmill.  Ask your local running store where you can get tested.  To improve your V02 max, you simply need to run.  Put the miles in, and as you progress in your training, add speed work (intervals).  Speed work will improve your V02 max the most.

2)   LT (Lactate Threshold) – The lactate threshold is a point during exhaustive, all-out exercise at which lactate builds up in the blood stream faster than the body can remove it.  As your LT increases, so  will your performance.  You want to run at a pace that you consume as much lactate as you produce so your blood lactate levels do not rise.  Training to improve LT is best done around 75% of max HR.  A simple way to figure you Max HR is 220-age.  This is a rough guess, but it can be used if you have not been V02 tested.

3)   Run Economy – Run economy is optimizing all the energy you’re using to move you horizontally.  I could write a whole post on this, and I have.  But to keep it simple I will only cover a few things to watch for.  Posture – lean at your ankles and keep your body straight.  Arms should be bent 90 degrees at the elbow and move front to back and not cross the body.  Cadence should be 180 steps per minute.  Short steps, your leading foot coming down mid-foot (not the heel), directly under your center of gravity.  Arms, shoulders, hands, face muscles should be relaxed.  Any tensing is wasted energy.  Your face, hands, and shoulders should flop as you run, relaxed.  If you feel tension in your shoulders or arms as you run, focus on relaxing that muscle.  Use caution when changing how you run, though.  First study how you’re running and work on small changes.  If you feel uncomfortable with the change then don’t change it.  Find what works for you.

4)   Recovery Runs – What is an recovery run?  Well it is a run day that you don’t overload.  It is really not a specific area of running, but it for sure is something that we as runners can all improve on.  After a hard workout, the recovery run is how you loosen up the muscles, put the miles in and improve your slow twitch/fast twitch muscle usage. When you are running fast, you use your fast twitch muscles in the first few minutes of that run, maybe in the first few seconds.  Normally, this is done when we are anaerobic, meaning no oxygen. For example, most, if not all, of a 5k is run anaerobically.  When all of your fast twitch muscles are used up, your slow twitch muscles take over and you are forced to slow down.  This is why we feel so great for the first mile or so of a run, then all of a sudden have to slow down because we feel like crap.  So now you’re running along on your slow twitch muscles.  What happens when your slow twitch muscles are gone?  Well most of us that have been there know what happens.  Now imagine you start out slow, using only your slow twitch muscles. And after a while when they start to get worn out they (slow twitch muscles) send out a call for help.  The fast twitch muscles hear the call and join in.  The only difference is now you’re running aerobic and there is plenty of oxygen to fuel the fast twitch muscles.  When this happens you get a burst of energy, some of us would call it our second wind.   So the more recovery runs you do, the more your training your slow/fast twitch muscles to work together and produce a strong finish.

5)   Nutrition – It is important when you’re training to fuel your body correctly.  The first step is to figure out how much you should be eating.  To understand what your daily calorie needs are figure out what your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) is.  Use the following simple formula to compute your BMR.  Keep in mind this is just a good guess.  If you want to be more exact there are other formulas that can be used.

  • Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)
  • Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)

Next account for your activity.  BMR x (activity factor)

  • Activity Factor:
    • Sedentary (little or no exercise): BMR X 1.2
    • Lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week): BMR X 1.375
    • Moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week): BMR X 1.55
    • Very active (vigorous exercise/sports 6-7 days a week): BMR x 1.725
    • Extra active (very hard exercise/sport & physical job or 2x training): BMR X 1.9

Now that you have figured your calorie needs, what should you eat?  Well USDA recommends the following.  Again, this is a rough guess and everyone is different.  Contact a CSSD nutritionist to get the best advice.

  • Carbohydrate
    • 55%-65% of Calories
  • Fat
    • <30% of Calories
    • <10% from saturated fat
  • Protein
    • 12% – 15% of Calories
  • Vitamins & Minerals
  • Water

Ok, so what does all this mumbo jumbo mean?  V02 max; Run Economy; Lactate Threshold; recovery runs. How the heck does that help me run?  Well it is very simple.  There are four key runs that if you do each week, you will reach your potential at your next race.  What are those key runs you ask?

  1. Interval (speed work) – You run relatively short distances of 400 meters to 2000 meters repeatedly.  Between each short distance is a brief recovery.  Track repeats improve maximal oxygen consumption (V02 max) and forces you to run more efficient (run economy).  Interval runs should be about 22.5% of your weekly miles.
  2. Tempo/pace Run – You run at a steady pace for one hour.  The pace for this run is about the same as your 10k pace.  If you’re not sure what that pace is, start off running a comfortable pace, and then pick it up just a bit.  So the tempo run is just a little faster than comfortable.  You can maintain the pace (for an hour), but you would like to slow down a bit.  This run improves Lactate Threshold.  Tempo/pace run should be about 22.5% of your weekly miles.
  3. Long Run – The long run is in my opinion the most important one.  Especially for marathon training.  Your pace is slow, about 75-90 seconds per minute slower than your 5k pace.  If you’re not sure what that pace is, you should be able to have a normal conversation without having to gasp for breath. The long run should be 35% of your weekly mileage.
  4. Recovery Run – The recovery run is the most forgotten run.  For this run you run slow and easy.  You could do cross training on this day.  Either way, whatever you do keep your heart rate low, below 65% of max.  I recommend two recovery runs a week, each run should be 10% of the weekly mileage (so a total of 20% over two runs for recovery runs)

It really is that simple.  Remember that as you train and do intervals, tempo/pace, and long runs you are overloading your body.  The gradual increase of training will allow the body to adapt to that overload.  These adaptations occur at the cellular level.  This change to your body will continue as long as the overload doesn’t overwhelm your body.  So it is important to listen to your body.  You can run every day, but you cannot overload every day.  Each of the above runs only work if you allow enough rest or recovery after them and before the next.  So never run any of the above runs on consecutive days.  After each of the above runs either rest the next day or do a recovery run (heart rate below 65% of max). Increase your weekly miles no more than 10% a week.  Before you know it you will be leading the pack to the finish line.

Posted in Advanced Runner, Beginner Runner, Half Marathon Training, Marathon Training, Nutrition, Running Coach | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wineglass 2012: My Boston Qualifying Race

Training for this race included a combination of races and training over the last four years. With the Olympics in 2012, I would think to myself, this is my Olympics. I can’t imagine competing at an Olympic level, and the training it would take to be at that level. But for me, this was as difficult. It would be my fourth marathon, and everything from the 18-week training plan to the race was hand picked to qualify for Boston.

Wineglass course map

I had handpicked this race for one reason. It was one of the top races to qualify for Boston. The course was flat, has a 250-foot decline from start to finish, and is relatively a small race with only 2,500 runners. It was a long journey to this marathon: 16 half marathons with a PR of 1:33 (Feb 2012 Cowtown), and 3 marathons with a PR of 3:33 (Oct 2011 Detroit).

During my training, I built my base weekly mileage to 60 miles for 5 weeks. I ran 5 days a week, did speed work, pace runs, and of course the long runs. My long runs were 20 miles, 26 miles, 31 miles, and then another 20 miles. I did one half marathon during the training plan. For sure I had trained harder than I had for any other race. I was hopeful I was going to finish under 3:25 (the time I need to BQ). But I have learned from other over-confident goals set in other races that no matter how sure you are that you’re going to reach your goal, you have to run the race and will never know for sure you can do it until you do it.

5K course

I signed up for the 5k shake-out run for Saturday. This was a first for me and I was not sure it was a good idea. All the other races I have run, I always rested two or three days before the race. But since I had not BQ’d in all the other races, I figured this might be the missing piece. The 5k was great because my training had been in 80+ degrees during the summer. I was eager to see how it felt to run at 48 degrees. So with the advice from a coach, I ran the first mile in my zone 1 HR (70% of max heart rate). Then I ran 90 second intervals at MP (7:30 min/miles) with 120 seconds RI (rest interval) at zone 1 HR. It felt great to run in the cool weather again. The last interval I figured I would go all out. So the last ¼ mile I ran @5:30 minute/mile pace. My first shake-out run was a success.

Joan Benoit Samuelson

“GO for Boston”

I also got to meet 1984 Marathon gold medal winner, Joan Bennet Samuelson. She also ran the 5k (way ahead of me) I asked if she would autograph my bib and explained that I was trying to BQ in the marathon tomorrow. She wrote “Go for Boston” and autographed my bib. I felt like a school kid. It was the last bit of motivation I needed, and wow, what a boost it was.


I tried to get to sleep early, but didn’t fall asleep till about 8:30 pm. I planned to get up at 3:30 am and do a short warm up easy pace 10 minute run to wake up. I was up at 3:00 am way before the alarm had a chance to wake me. I ate a banana and half a bagel with peanut butter. Then I put on my running shorts and shoes and went to the hotel exercise room. Time to the blood flowing and wake up. I figured a treadmill run would be OK for an easy run. Eleven minutes (1.1 miles) later I was done with my warm up or shake out.  By now the coffee and shake out run had done its job and I went to the bathroom 😉   Not sure how to add that, but if you’re a runner, you know it is important.  Nothing worse than having to stop and use a port-a-potties during a race.  I took my shower, and was back in running gear ready to go. At 4:50 am I left the hotel and drove to the finish line to get the bus to the start. (Wineglass is a point-to-point race). I had thought the buses started at 5:00 am, but they didn’t start until 5:30 am. Oh well, better early than late. Another runner walked up and sat down waiting for the bus.  I recognized him and he said, don’t I know you?  We talked for a bit and found out we were both from Texas

Staging area

and had met in a race in 2011.  Small world, he was also running Wineglass to qualify for Boston. We got on the first bus to the start and arrived at the staging area at 6:10 am. The race didn’t start until 8:00 am.

They had a nice garage set up with tables and chairs with a heater blowing. It was about 48 degrees and even though I had warm up pants, long sleeve shirt, gloves, and a hat, I was still shaking from the cold. But the weather was perfect and I would not have wanted it any other way. I made a few trips to the port-a-potties. Then at 7:30 am I took off my warm up pants, shirt, gloves, and hat and checked in my bag. I was ready.

Starting Line

Everyone moved up to the starting line. My plan was to start out slow for the first 2 miles at a 7:45 minute/mile pace. Starting out too fast has been one of my (and most runners’) problems in the past. So I was going to make sure this time that didn’t happen. Giving up 30 seconds was not going to be hard to make up. The first mile was downhill, this made it even harder to start out slow. But at mile 1, I was right at 7:45. I found myself inching to go faster, and at times I did get to 7:00 pace, but I throttled back and at mile two I picked up my pace to 7:30.

The course was breath taking, small towns, rolling hills in the distance, and the trees in full fall colors. In no time Bath (first small town that the race started in) was behind me and the rural road stretched out. I remember passing a farm on the side of the road. Dogs were in the front yard barking, and the family was out and cheering all the runners on. It helped pass the miles. The miles came and went. “Just get to 20 miles,” I kept telling myself.


The next small town was Savona, It seemed like the whole town was out and cheering us on, with kids reaching their hands out for a high five as we ran by. I put my hand out and I could see the smile on the kid’s face. I’m sure I had a smile on my face too. Running is an individual sport, I have said, and no one can run for you. But for those few moments when the town was cheering and the kids were slapping my hand, and seeing the elderly couple holding the American flag, that certainly was helping me run.

I was taking a sip of water with Nuun every 5 minutes or so. I was carrying two 10oz bottles and figured I could go at least 10 if not 20 miles on them. I was also grabbing a cup of water at the water station and drinking what I could without slowing down. The plan was to take a GU at 10k and 20k, and at every hour take an S-cap and a bite of Cliff bar (peanut butter).

At 45 minutes, about 10k, I took my first GU. At one hour, I took my S-cap and bite of Cliff bar. Everything was going to plan. I got to the split, 13.1 miles, at 1:39:45, and was hoping to have a faster time for the second half. I was right on pace and still just telling myself to get to 20 miles. There were a few gradual hills, nothing too bad, and the down hills that followed more than made up for them. The miles continued to pass. I was counting down from 8, breaking the 26.2 miles down into 5ks. Just before the 5th 5k, I started to feel a little tight in my legs (around mile 15). No cramps, but noticed I was starting to feel the run sooner than I had expected to.

But “Only three more 5ks to go,” I told myself. I got to mile 20 and was still on pace. My time was 2:31 (4 minutes faster than my last marathon (Detroit) at 20 miles). I took my 3rd and final gel at 20 miles; it was a Honey stinger with caffeine. I was hoping the caffeine would give me a boost to the finish. If it did, I didn’t notice it.

1 mile


I’m not sure the exact mile, maybe mile 21, I remember seeing a sign posted on the street that said, “Medical Tent 1 Mile ahead.” I almost laughed out loud as I thought to myself, “If I needed the medical tent; I think a mile of running would be a bit far.”

By now we passed Campbell and were on the way to Painted-Post, the last town before Corning and the finish line. Painted Post was tough.

Mile 21.3

The course left the street and had two steep drops. At one point we turned north and the 3 mph wind that had been at my back the whole race, was now in my face. It was a tough 3 blocks, then we winded around and over some train tracks and back onto the street. Weaving up and down streets added more turns and I was starting to struggle to keep up the pace. I had slowed to an 8-minute pace, and it was not by choice. I was still OK and figured my finish time would be around 3:21 if I could just hold 8:00. The course was well marked with mile markers and arrows painted on the street. At most mile markers they also had a large flag with the number of the mile on it. The last 6 miles were difficult. The energy to keep an 8-minute pace seemed 10x harder than what it took to run 7:30 for the first 20 miles. There were a few times I looked at my Garmin and I had slowed to over 9:00. I forced myself to get back to 8:00 and knew I could not afford to give up any more time. I had to finish at an 8:00 pace if I wanted to BQ.

Mile 25

I passed mile 25 and had finished my 5k count down. Now was the last 1.2 miles. At this point I knew I just had to make one last push and my four-year journey would be over.

The Bridge

The street seemed to go on forever. “Just don’t stop,” I kept telling myself. As I turned the corner of the last long street, I could see the bridge. I had passed that bridge a few times in the last few days before the race and knew the finish was close. Going up the bridge was tough, but the thought of the finish line and knowing I was going to BQ kept me going.

Just over the bridge I turned left and there was the finish line. Finally!

Finish Line!

I gave the thumbs up as I crossed the blue strip.  My time was just under 3:23. It was not the finish I had hoped for but I made it under my 3:25 goal. I got my medal, a bottle of water, and some chocolate milk. I started to feel sick. I was happy it was over. I had qualified for Boston and I felt like throwing up. I thought to myself, “Why in the world did I do that? I never want to do that again.”

I drank as much milk as I could without throwing up and tossed the container. I finished the water and wandered around the finish line. They had cookies, bagels, bananas, pizza, even chicken noodle soup. But I could not eat anything else. I found a bathroom; this was the first Marathon I had not stopped to go, I guess the shake-out run worked, after taking care of that, I struggled to walk.  First I needed to sit down and rest. I overheard someone saying, “They have massages over there.” I struggled to stand, and move in that direction.  I made it to the tent and put my name on the list. By now I was shaking, I could not open my check-in bag and asked the lady at the massage table if she could help. She opened my bag and I got my warm up pants and hat out. I figured, “OK, just take off my shoes and I can put on my warm ups, seems easy enough.” I think it took me about 20 minutes to take off my shoes and get my warm ups on without falling. In a few minutes, I heard, “Bill, are you ready?” I struggled to get on the table, and the volunteer helped stretch out my legs. Then my foot started to cramp, and she let my leg back down. She helped stretch out my IT band, calf muscles, and quads. I crawled off the table. She said, “Don’t forget your medal,” and I picked up my medal, my shoes, and bag. Now I just had to get my shoes on. It was almost harder than taking them off. But I managed to get them on with only a few more cramps. I was starting to feel better, so now I could get some food. The chicken soup hit the spot. I think I went back for seconds. Then I grabbed some pizza and started to feel better. As I walked to the car to head back to the hotel, I passed two people sitting on a bench. One said, “I think I fractured my foot, it hurts so badly.” I asked her if she was ok. She said this was her first marathon and everything hurt in her legs. I told her that’s normal. Her friend was also in a lot of pain, “Everything in my legs hurt.” I laughed, “Yep, now you understand all the advice everyone gave you about running a marathon. You have to finish one to understand.” They both were saying, “Never again, never again.” I laughed, “Yep, that was the same thing I said after my first marathon. This was my fourth. Give yourself some time to feel better and then you’ll want to run another one.”

Now I’m home and I’ve signed up for Boston 2013. I can’t wait to run another one. I will finish in 3:15 this time!

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Why do I run (part 2)

Why do I run (part 2)

It has been a while since I posted.  Training for a Marathon can be very time consuming.  As I sit on the plane going to my Marathon I have time to reflect and relax a bit from the hectic life of a runner.  The question keeps popping up in my head, why am I doing this again?

Why have I spent the last 18 weeks running sometimes in the rain, or at midnight, or for as long as almost 6 hours?  The funny thing is I don’t really know why I run.  It is like asking the question, why do we watch the sunset? Why do we sit on the beach watching the waves?  Sure, the easy answer is to relax, but running is not very relaxing.  Although I do find a sense of peace running that I can’t get doing anything else.  Ok, how about to be healthy, that might be it. For sure it is why I started running.  But now that I’m in shape, why do I continue?  To stay in shape?  Maybe, but I certainly don’t have to run a marathon to do that.

So why do I have such a desire to run, and not only run, but run faster in this marathon then the last.  Why do I feel such a need to hit a number to qualify for another Marathon (the Boston Marathon)?  I still can’t come up with an answer.  But I do know that it is important that I do it.  I suppose the best answer is I run to live.  To push myself and do something I never thought I could or others would not even want to try.

It still really makes no sense.  All I know, I have to do it, almost as much as I have to breath, I feel the need to run.  I know it makes no sense.  If you’re a runner, then you understand.  If you’re not a runner hopefully, someday, you will be.  Maybe you will be the one to answer the question.

Why do I run?

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Running Gadgets Updated 2015

I first wrote this in 2012.  A lot of new products are on the market now, plus I have learned a bit more over the last few years on how to manage my gear.  First a bit about me so you know my back ground.  I’m 51 years old.  Started running when I was 18, mostly just to impress girls, like most 18 year old.  I didn’t start really training and getting into running until I was about 44.  Ran my 1st Half marathon and have been hooked ever since.  A few years later I took a RRCA coaching class to learn more.  I have not pursued coaching for $$$ because my real job’s schedule is crazy and does not fit, but if I could make enough I would rather coach then work.   I have run 109 total races, twenty six of them 5k (19:01 PR), twelve 10k (40:32 PR), thirty half marathons (1:28:42 PR), ten marathons (3:16:44 PR) and three 50k trail ultra-marathons (4:52:12 PR).   The rest of them were anything from 7k to 20 miles.   Keep in mind my racing life didn’t really start till I was 44.  As you can see I like running half marathons the most.   OK, now that you know I’m a running geek, let’s move on to the gadgets.  Oh, one last comment, all of the gadgets list are ones I have tried and like.  No one has paid me any money to recommend them.  Trust me if I had a sponsor for any of these I would let you know, and everyone else that they were paying me.  The only money I make from running is the occasional change I find on the road, and it is not much, but I still pick it up.  So yes I am a paid runner, in a way J

Running Gear

Shoes—this is a no brainier.  The most important piece of equipment for a runner is his shoes.  But how do you find the right pair?  I recommend going to a running store and get fitted. They will watch your stride, measure your foot and recommend a pair.  Try them out and if you like that brand, stick with them; if not try again until you find the one that works.  Consider buying a pair of racing flats.  Flats are light weight and have a low heel-to-toe drop, normally zero.  Start slowly with the flats, as you have to adapt your body to them.  But they will help prevent injury and improve your gait.  I switched to Newtons about 2 years ago and love them.  These shoes are not for everyone, I went to a running store and was able to demo a pair for a week.  The price is at the top end for sure, but they last a lot longer than any other shoe so really you will save money buying fewer shoes.   I have retired 4 pairs of Newtons  and averaged 800 miles on the training shoes, 500 miles on the racing pair.  I recommend you have a pair or maybe even two pair (rotate them every few days) to train in.  Then have the same brand, maybe a lighter version to just race in.  You don’t want to be in a race and have a worn out pair of training shoes that fall apart before the finish line.  Plus if you only race in one pair, when you put them on, you know it is game time.

Shoe insole – Yes you spent a lot of money on the shoes, and they have a cheap insole in them that provide no support at all.  Get a good insole with some arch support.  Again, ask at the running store what they recommend.  I like the Sole brand.  Again they are pricey, but if you get them on sale they are not too bad.  Plus they last a long time, I use them in 2 or maybe 3 different shoes.  I never use a new shoe with a new insole.  If I buy a new insole, I put it in a used shoe.  And same goes with the new shoe, I use a used insole.

GPS Watch—I can’t image running without one.  Next to shoes, I would have to say this is the most important piece of equipment I have.  We are so lucky to live in a time that we have all this technology to help us run and train.  There is no way I could do my interval training without this piece of equipment.  Listed below are the watches my wife and I have tried.

Garmin FR70 $79

Not a GPS watch, uses a foot pod (optional), buttons are hard to push, wife used for a week and sent it back. I would not recommend.

Nike plus Sports Watch $179

Pros – Wife uses and likes it.  Screen is customizable. Has back light and large numbers/letters. Online software, works with Nike+ foot sensor (included with watch). Software tracks shoe’s mileage, post for Facebook or Twitter.  Links to Plugs in to USB to charge. Charge lasts a long time.

Cons—USB plug looks like it could corrode, being exposed to sweat.

Garmin 305 forerunner $278 (w/HR monitor)

Pro’s – easy to use.  Can customize screens, large screen if you need glasses and don’t run in them.  Has online software “Garmin Connect” or can use “Training Center” software on your computer.

Cons—Battery life only about 6 hours at best. After about 2 years of use, mine only lasted about 1.5hrs.  Not waterproof; no swimming in this watch.  Charging stand corroded and needed to be cleaned to get a good connection.

Garmin 310XT $299 (w/HR monitor) – This was a great watch, water proof and improved battery.  I have always used Garmin because they were the first to make GPS gear.  I am used to using them and like the software that comes with them.

Pro’s – Battery life 20 hours, have not had it ever turn off because of a dead battery.  Waterproof;  you can swim with it. Large customizable screen, not as bulky as the 305, but same screen size. Charges with a clip and plugs into USB port. Has online software “Garmin Connect” or can use “Training Center” software on your computer.

Cons –Ant+ wireless protocol is used to transfer data to your computer; sometimes works right away, sometimes it takes a while and a bit of tinkering.

Garmin 910XT – This is a great watch.  I never had problems with it, lasted 2 years and then I sold it to buy the next model.  I ran over 3,500 miles with it.


Pro’s – Batter life 20 hours, waterproof, charging connection improved over the 310XT.  Looks a little more like a watch, but still large enough to see the numbers.   Customizable screen, same functions as the 310XT.

Cons – None that I can think of, at least until they came out with the 920XT.

Garmin 920XT – I have had for about 5 months now and ran about 700 miles with it.  Of course it is expensive, but if you run a lot this watch is worth the cost and then some.


Pro’s – With the HR monitor (new for this model only “HR run”) you get so much more data.  Cadence, vertical oscillation, ground contact time.  The 910XT had Cadence if you used a foot pod connected to it (wireless), but the 920XT HR monitor has it built in.  It also gives you (if you train with HR run monitor) predicted VO2 max, which is very accurate (My tested VO2 max is 57, watch predicts 56).  The watch will also give you race prediction times based on your train.  Also it gives you recovery time after your workout, this will keep you injury free and help you improve by not over training.  Most of us have done that, I know I have.  It also connects by Bluetooth to your phone and can give you alerts when you get emails, phone calls or text.  It shows who is calling, emailing or texting and a bit of the text or subject of the email.  I have not used this but the phone app can be installed on family and friends phone and they can track you on your run real time.   Really this watch has so many features I don’t think I will ever use them all.  Like the 910Xt it is made for tri-athletes and has a swim, bike and run mode.  The battery life is a week or more in watch mode, while running I think depending on Bluetooth and what accuracy it is in can last at least 24 hours, or in the battery save mode up to 40 or more hours (I have not used for that long so I’m only going by the book here)

Cons – If there are any, I can’t see them.  Maybe it is still a bit big, but again, I like a larger watch screen to see more information.

Heart Rate monitor—A must to give you quick, effort-level feedback to make sure you’re training in the right zone for the run you’re doing.

Foot pod—Another must; works with various GPS watches, most of which are proprietary (Garmin Pod for Garmin, Nike Pod for Nike etc…) If you are concerned about your run economy, knowing your cadence is very important.  Not needed for the 920XT

Compression sleeves arms/legs/pants/shorts

Arm sleeves—I have used once during a marathon and they worked OK.  If you need a little extra warmth, they are nice to use and as you warm up you can roll them down and use them as a sweat band.

Leg sleeves or socks—I use both socks and sleeves.  Both are great and I recommend them.  I have used before a race to help reduce any inflammation and I have used during a race to help keep the legs from cramping.

Pants—These are great if you run in cold temps.  They are a must to bring along to a race if you’re not 100% sure of the race conditions.  It is always better to be prepared for a cold run and have these packed, just in case.

Shorts—I use these for all my runs and find them to be very comfortable.  The keep you from chaffing and help keep you cool by pulling sweat away.

Water containers—This is a necessary evil; if I run for less than 60 minutes, I don’t use them.  Mainly a must for long runs and races.  If you think you’re going to save time not having the weight from the water in a marathon, you will pay the price in the last 6.2 miles with leg cramps—at least I did.

Amphipod Water Belt—I like this one the best.  You can have as many water bottles on the belt as you want, just buy more and install.  I think my belt came with two 8oz bottles and I bought 4 more 10oz.  I normally use 2 10oz bottles for my long runs.

Nathan Water bottle (hand)—I have used one, and just don’t like the hand holder.  I try to relax my hands on my runs to ensure I’m not wasting energy holding on to a water bottle.  But I do know a few runners that like this type of bottle, so it is up to you. Try them and form your own opinion.

Nathan Intensity Vest—A water bladder in a vest with pockets in front.  This one is made for females; my wife uses and likes it.  Reflective for night running, and allows her to carry her phone and music player. There is also a larger pocket in the back, in front of the bladder, that could hold a towel, or clothes that you take off mid run. I don’t like using water bladders because they slosh around too much, and set up/storage is more work. (Wife says, “If you wear ear buds, you don’t hear the sloshing.”)

SPI Belt (small personal items belt)—Not a must have, but helps you carry your car keys, GU, and bib all in one easy belt.  Zipper pouch is large enough to put a cell phone in, but I don’t use it for that.

Road ID—If you run alone, I would recommend having some type of ID band.  Most of us don’t carry ID when we run.

Cool towels

Endruacool—I just got this and have used it a few times in 95+ degree runs.  They work, but I am not a big fan of carrying more stuff with me.  It also dries out fast on real hot runs and when it is dry, it does not cool.

Cool Towel

Sweat band—I like using a good sweat wrist band to keep the sweat out of my eyes.

Reflective vest – A must if you run at night.  Get one that reflective and has lights.  It might not be cool to wear one, but being alive is way cool compared to the alternative.

Elevation Training—I have not tried this.  Seems like it would work, but running in 95 degree temperatures is enough extreme training for me.

Training Mask 2.0—People I have talked to that do use this say to get the 2.0 model, not as restrictive. I just got one of these, have yet to use it.  From what I have read they don’t work, but I am going to give it a try.  Certainly not something that is needed.  Just if you want to take it to the next level I guess.

Fitbit—There are a few different models of these now.  I use the Fit Zip, small water proof and only counts steps.  Cost is about $50, they have others that are $99 and can track floor climbed, your sleep, and then even more expensive ones $150+ that have HR and other high tech stuff.  These are the latest fad I would say.  I use mine to get points for a wellness plan at work.  With the points I get reduced health insurance cost and get free stuff (like a Garmin 920XT, Trek 1.1 road bike, or Ipad air 2).  I figure I’m doing the work so might as well take advantage of the free stuff.  Check to see if your company has a wellness plan available, it might be worth it if they do to have invest $50 in a fit bit.


After-run equipment

Ice Packs—A must for any runner.  Ice is the best prevention to an injury.  Don’t wait for the pain; ice after long runs and reduce any inflammation before it becomes and injury.

Moji Knee Ice Wrap—This is by far the best ice pack I have found for the knee.  It conforms to your knee, stays cold just the right amount of time.  It is only takes a few seconds to put on and you can move around while it is working.  A must if you have any knee pain.


Rollers—I’m just starting to learn the benefits of SMR (Self-Myofascial-Release)

Foam roller – You will need to do this at some point.

Marathon Stick—I have this, but prefer the foam roller.  This is more a compact roller to take with you in your bag on trips.

Roll Recovery R8 – Just saw this at the last expo I was at and tried it.  No sales pitch required I bought one and love it.  If you find using a foam roller is difficult and time consuming (get out a matt, have to support yourself as you roll over it causing more pain in other spots) like I do then you would enjoy this product.  It is fast, simple, easy to use and feels like a deep tissue massage.


Running Apps and software

Runkeeper—This is a great app that you can use on your smart phone.  It turns your phone into a GPS watch.  Set up a group of “street team” from your friends and motivate each other to reach your goals.


Endomundo—Another smart-phone running app. My wife likes this one better than Runkeeper.

Runner’s Studio—A software program that you use on your computer.  Tracks all your runs, helps you manage equipment (mainly for tracking your running shoes miles).  Set goals and monitor your progress.  Track all your past and future races.  Can import GPS data (.gpx, .tcx, .fit, .pwx files), Polar data (.hrm files) and text delimited or comma separated data.

run studio

HIGI (formally called Earndit)—Great online site that lets you earn points as you work out and get in shape.  You can earn rewards as you get points, compete against others in challenges, and earn prizes.  I have won a few and used some of their coupons to save money.  They are fun and motivating to help me work out. Earn reward points and use them for discounts, like 2-for-1 deals.  If you are in a location that they have a Higi station you can earn points for getting you blood pressure and heart rate checked also.  Nothing in Texas though, I have not used them L


Running simulation equipment (when you don’t or can’t run outside)


NordicTrack T7SI $1300

Elliptical—A great low impact machine, that simulates running.

Precor $4500 – A bit pricey, but Precor equipment is the best out there and will last forever.  I bought mine after knee surgery to rehab.  I got a prescription from my doctor for a low impact exercise machine and bought this tax free (medical prescriptions are not taxed).  These are also great for losing weight: set the machine in front of the TV, put it on HR program, and do one hour 3-4 times a week and you will lose weight.

Supplements – Listed below are just a few of the supplements on the market and the ones I have tried.  I would recommend talking to your doctor about any supplement you want to try.  There are lots of claims out there by a lot of products.  In general, I do not believe there is a pill that I can take and then run a marathon.  You have to train and work hard.  Having said that, there are products out there that will help you with that training.  Never try something new in a race; always use a product in a training run first to see how your body will respond to it.

Gels packs– These are great for long runs and/or races.  A must for marathons.  Make sure you try them out; never try something new in a race that you have not trained with.   I have used them before and during a race.  If you take them before a race, do not take them until 15 minutes prior to the start.  They can spike your blood sugar levels and trigger your body (pancreas) to produce insulin.  So you will get a boost (spike) in energy, then a crash when your insulin is produced. GU is the most popular brand and I like them. They have two types of packs: One is just carbs and cost is about $1 a pack.  The other “Roctane” has electrolytes, carbs, and caffeine are more tailored for marathon or longer runs and cost about $2 a pack.  They also have “chomps” that are like gummies if you prefer that.  I have also tried “Honey stingers” and like them.  My advice is buy a single pack of any brand and test it out.  Some people like them, some don’t.  Experiment and find what you like on your next training run.

UCan—I have tried this product a few times.  It seems to work. It is not a quick boost like the GU packs, but if you get an upset stomach from the GU packs, you might want to try this and see if it works better.

MRI Black Powder— Pre workout powder drink mix that will boost your intensity.  I started using this after trying a few different brands.  For me it works and I have continued to use this as a pre-run (on my interval and tempo runs) and pre-race ritual.  I would recommend getting an individual pack and try it out.  If it is not for you, then you are not out a lot of money.

ON Amino Energy – Another Pre workout powder drink mix that will boost your intensity.  I like this better then Black power, but they both work.  Might depend on what flavor they have and your taste.  Again try a sample to make sure you don’t have a full tub of something you don’t like.

GI Nutrition—They have protein, pre work out (pump), and post work out (recovery).  I’m on my first tub of pump and recovery and like it so far (I used my earndit points to get the recovery free for buying pump).  Pump is similar to the black powder product.

Protein Powder shakes—These are great for after work out recover drinks to make sure you’re getting enough protein to rebuild your muscles after a hard run.  I have used Muscle Milk  Muscle milk taste good but is not the best.  The one I like the best is ON 100% Whey Isolate.  It’s a bit more $$$ but worth it.

Electrolyte caps—These are a must if you’re doing a marathon or longer.  I have tried two different pills.  “S-caps” seem to be the most used and talked about  I have also tried the “Salt Stick” brand  I like both; the Salt Stick has a dispenser that is easy to use.

NUUN – Electrolyte, caffeine, and B vitamins.  Much better than using Gatorade.

Posted in Advanced Runner, Beginner Runner, Half Marathon Training, Marathon Training, Nutrition, Running Coach | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment