Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ragnar - Northwest Passage, July 23 & 24

I figure I should finally post a race report, at least before next year's Ragnar!

In today's vernacular, the word "epic" is overused…in my opinion, anyway. But in describing my experience at Ragnar last Friday and Saturday, it would be my word of choice.

I'm going to post my (not terribly impressive) personal stats first, to get that out of the way, because this event was so much more about the team experience than our individual performances. Out of the 36 total legs, I ran legs 10, 22 and 34. Originally, I was scheduled to lead off with leg 1 (and run 13 and 25 after that), but due to my heel and subsequent lack of fitness, our captain (Lars) cut me some slack and gave me the shortest legs. According to my Garmin, they were 3.17 miles, 4.22 miles, and 4.16 miles. Here are the results:

Leg 10 - 3.17 mi (10:20pm) 22:05 (6:59 pace) 0 kills (but set up our first kill). Flat and straight.
Leg 22 - 4.22 mi (5:23am) 30:52 (7:19 pace) 2 kills. Some hills.
Leg 34 - 4.16 mi (12:45pm) 32:35 (7:50 pace) 6 kills. VERY hilly.

As you can see, my paces deteriorated pretty significantly - partially due to ZERO sleep and buildup of fatigue, partially due to the hills, and partially (okay, significantly) due to being a bit out of shape. The heat also came into play during the third leg. My average heart rate slowed somewhat from leg to leg. But even if the heart was willing, the legs weren't. By the start of the third leg, I knew I was about out of gas. My heel held up great during the first two legs, but started barking at me pretty noticeably during the third.

The Northwest Passage edition of Ragnar consisted of 187 pretty hilly miles, from Blaine, WA to Langley, WA. Our team consisted of 12 men, split into two vans (6 guys each); each man running their leg, then rotating through both vans in a set order. Our ages varied from late 20's to mid 40's.

If you're familiar with Ragnar (or other long relay events), you know what a "kill" is. It signifies passing a runner from another team. Several weeks prior to the race, each team had to submit an anticipated average pace for all of their runners. Our estimate put us in the last (fastest) group (Friday, 4pm start time). The slowest groups started at 7am. There were 4 other teams that started with us. Needless to say, they were impressive. We spent the first several hours in last place before we finally started picking off other runners in the middle of the night.

I could write a book about all the stories, both funny and inspirational, that took place during the race, but I'll refrain. It was an amazing and well-organized event, and it was great to have the opportunity not only to run it, but to hang out with a bunch of great guys and get to know them better. I'm currently working on a video, and accompanying original song, that will hopefully do justice to the experience. I will, however, give shout-outs to my brothers-in-vans by listing their names: (Van 1) Gus, Tony, Lars, Brian, Josh, Mike M., (Van 2) Mike T., Cris C., Dave, Me, Kris A., Garrett. We had some tough and speedy guys on our team! Overall, we finished 5th out of 208 teams, and 2nd out of 21 in the Open Men's division, both of which surprised us. Our total time was 22:16:14 (7:04 avg pace, by my calculation). Not bad for a bunch of guys who meet at a coffee shop every Saturday morning to run a few miles together.

As tough a time as I had, and even with a night of ZERO sleep, I would still do this again. Hopefully we can pull the same guys together next year and do even better…but more importantly, share another really cool experience.

And maybe I'll even be in shape next time!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I'll post the official race report later (this weekend continues to be busy), but briefly I'll say that my experience at Ragnar Northwest Passage was epic. I was surrounded by 11 amazing guys (6 of us per van). We ended up finishing 2nd out of 21 in the Open Men's division, and taking 5th overall out of 208 teams. I was in awe over the times my teammates were throwing down. I knew we had some fast guys in my little Saturday morning running club, but didn't quite realize just how fast some of them were. As I posted on my Facebook page:

I was honored to run with such a high quality group of guys - and I'm not just talking about running abilities (which were AMAZING). It was great to cover 187 miles with you and get to know each of you a little better. Thanks guys!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Well, Whaddya Know!

I just received email notification that this here little blog has just received a 2010 Top 45 Fitness Blogs award!

Online Nursing Programs

What this means, and where it came from, I still have yet to learn. I'd like to think that my leg lamp is on the way.

I did, however, attend the ceremony to accept my award. The video clip is posted below:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Another Week in the Books

Last week was another step in my careful return to running. The mileage was still low, and any attempt at speed proved to be pretty frustrating. I finished the week with a 6.5 mile run with my Saturday morning group. I hung with two younger & faster guys (Kris & Ruben) for about 4.5 miles, then had to back off. Sadly, we weren't laying down a blazing pace, either (I ended up with a 7:48 pace, which seemed much harder than it should have). I just don't have it right now. But I digress.

Here are last week's numbers:

Runs: 5
Miles: 23.6
Long: 8 mi
Time: 3:27:01
Avg pace: 8:46/mi
Avg HR: 136

For Wednesday's 8-miler, I ran in the afternoon to get a little "heat training" in. It was 80 degrees, which felt plenty hot, comparatively speaking. During the 20-minute drive home, I cranked my heater all the way up just to add to the effect. I was a slimy, sweaty mess by the time I got home.

Throw in a 13-mile family bike ride on Friday night, plus a little strength training here and there and that sums up the week.

I'll run short and easy today and tomorrow, then rest on Wednesday and Thursday before starting Ragnar on Friday.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Being "Okay With It"

If you've followed my running adventures recently, you know that I'm fighting a heel (and, now it seems, ankle) injury. I took the first three weeks of June completely off. I went through four weeks of physical therapy (and just got the bill...holy crap!) I'm still in the process of easing back into running. It's been a struggle, and I'm not just talking about the heel (which has its good days and bad days). Since I was running upwards of 50+ miles a week during my marathon buildup, I've continued to eat...and eat...and the same intake level as I was then. Consequently, I've put on some weight. Admittedly, I'm still underweight by non-runner standards, but I definitely notice it when I'm running. I ran my first race last weekend since a) the marathon and, b) the injury. While my wife scolds me for saying I'm not happy with my time, I still contend that it wasn't a reflection of what I SHOULD be able to run right now. Add to that a hot 8-miler that I ran yesterday, which was my longest post-injury run. The nine minute miles I was clicking off felt much harder than they should have, and my right hip & heel were barking at me a good bit of that run. My heart rate was high, too. Yes, I'm out of shape.

I spent seventeen months of my "running resurrection" basically injury-free. That doesn't necessarily mean that I was "due" for an injury, but I've never gone that long without one. It has set me back in more than one respect (as I mentioned above). The question is, how am I going to deal with it mentally? How am I going to handle NOT being able to put in the mileage and speedwork that I'd love to be currently running? How will I cope with the fact that I'll most likely be letting my Ragnar teammates down next weekend (in my mind, anyway) because I'm unable to bust out a good race pace right now?

I put a lot of pressure on myself...which is silly, frankly, since I'm a recreational runner. One that likes to compete...but definitely not a "contender" at races.

I've struggled with these thoughts the past couple of weeks. I've finally decided that this is just a down cycle in my running. I'm giving in to it, rather than fighting it. If I run slow, nobody is going to go hungry because of it. Nobody will lose sleep over it. Nobody will die of cancer because of it. It's a good opportunity to let my mind and body spin down and get ready to ramp back up later this year, when it's ready. I have a habit of forcing things - especially when it comes to running - so choosing this mindset is out of character for me. But I know it'll make the whole process more enjoyable and take a lot of self-imposed pressure off.

And if I get lucky and run a good race here and there, it'll be icing on the cake.

(Man, that was a serious post. I'll resist the urge to make a fart joke to lighten the mood.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

2 a.m. Brainstorm

I woke up at 2am this morning to a major "aha" realization (okay, and a full bladder). In previous posts about my heel injury, I've mentioned a muscle weakness on my right side (glutes, hip, quad) compared to my left side. While that may be contributing to the heel problem, it still didn't make much sense to me. Why would I be weaker on my "strong" side, since I'm right-handed and right-footed? Thanks to the middle-of-the-night wake-up call, I think I have the answer: bowling. For the last three years, I've bowled on a Thursday night men's league. My "finish" position, when I release the ball, is pretty exaggerated. I bend quite a bit at the knee and put a lot of weight on my left hip (and, to a lesser extent, on my left quad - see photo below). I'm reminded of this at the start of each season, when I haven't bowled for a few weeks. My left glute KILLS me for a few days, until I get used to bowling again. Multiply this "squat" by roughly 60 times a week, for 34 weeks each year, for three years and it only makes sense that my left side would be stronger than my right. During my rehab, I've been doing my single-leg squats and have been constantly surprised by how much stronger and stable my left leg/hip/glutes are. Now it makes sense! I essentially had a three year head start on 1-legged squats with my left leg!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Run of the Mill 5k Race Photo

There are WAY too many race photos of me getting ready to stop my Garmin.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Heat: Yes. Speed: No.

This morning I ran my first race since my marathon on May 15th: the Run of the Mill 5k, in Mill Creek, WA. How did it go? Ugh. 21:53 (my goal was 20:59). I'm going to blame the heat for my lack of speed (plus the heel injury and under-training). It hurt far more than it should have.

Splits: 7:06, 7:04, 6:54, [6:28]

Official results: 
Overall: 112/1711 (6%)
Age Group: 12/143 (8%)
Men: 103/707 (14%)

There was quite a bit of uphill the first half of the course. When I hit the downhills on the way back, I was too toasted to take advantage of them.

I ran a warmup mile before the race (7:48), which told me today wouldn't be my day. After post-race festivities, I ran 3.6 miles home and was starting to feel a little heat exhaustion, plus the heel was hurting (it felt fine during the race). Took an ice bath when I got home.

So...Ragnar is less than 2 weeks away. It could be rough. I'm running the lead-off leg, which starts at 4:00pm on July 23rd. All next week, I'm going to run during the hottest part of the day (even though it looks like a cooling trend is on the way). Still, that won't be enough time for heat acclimation. I'll just try to take the first leg (6.2 mi) slower than normal and save my energy for the final two legs.

I've never run well in the heat, and I'm not entirely sure why. For a guy built as slight as me, one would think it would be easier for my body to cool itself. Must be my Nordic heritage.

Here's how this week panned out:

Runs: 4 (6, including warmup and post-race run home)
Miles: 22.34
Time: 3:12:10
Avg. Pace: 8:36
Avg. HR: 130

Sunday, July 4, 2010

June Review

Happy Independence Day! Hope you're having a fun & safe time today.

June came and went quickly, even though I wasn't much of a runner the whole month. Due to my heel injury, I did no running the first three weeks of the month. Thanks to the layoff, plus four weeks of physical therapy and associated exercises, the heel is improved. There is still pain, though, which continues to limiting my running. Since my "comeback" on June 21st, I've not run longer than 6.2 miles. In fact, my longest run since my marathon on May 15th has only been ten miles...and that was my last run before my heel said 'no more' (May 31st).

Numbers-wise, here's how (pathetic) June looked:

Runs: 7
Miles: 24.7
Avg pace: 8:27
Long run: 6.2 mi
Avg. HR: 135

Bike trainer: 5
Total time: 3 hrs 55 min

Cycling outdoors: 1
Miles: 20
Time: 1:09:55
Avg. MPH: 17.2

My total June running mileage is about half an average week during my marathon buildup. Ugh.

I'm running the Run of the Mill 5k next Saturday. Not expecting to put up a great time. I'm using it as a little speedwork heading into Ragnar on July 23/24. Heel willing, I'd like to focus more on speed this month. After Ragnar, I'll switch back to longer, slower runs (with, hopefully some time on hilly trails) in preparation for the Baker Lake 50k. Here's hoping the heel holds up.