Saturday, August 31, 2013

Breaking Down Barriers

Angel voices singing "Aaaaaaahhhh!"

Yesterday was a huge milestone for my wife who logged her first 20 mile run. We have been training together for what will be her first marathon in Portland.

There was a time not long ago when my wife would say "I cannot EVER see myself running a marathon!" and she meant it. Look at her now conquering a 20 miler. In order to accomplish this feat, she decided to train running 4:1 intervals and following the Hal Higdon Intermediate 1 training plan with one modification. She decided to do a 23 mile final long run instead of 20. That's coming up in two weeks.

So far so good. It's been great motivating and running with her throughout her training. We're looking forward to Portland!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My 2013 Ragnar Northwest Passage Video

Here's a video I put together to capture and document the AWESOME experience I had with my van 2 buddies at this year's Ragnar Northwest Passage Relay. 12 friends run 196 miles in Western Washington from the Canadian border to Whidbey Island. It was quite the adventure and I look forward to doing it for the third year next year. Enjoy!

Have you done a Ragnar? If not, why not? It is Soooooooo fun.

Learn more about Ragnar and find a relay near you.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

2013 Ragnar Northwest Passage Relay

12 Runners, 2 Vans, 196 miles in 29.5 hours!!

July 19-20: It was another AWESOME Ragnar NW Passage this year with team "Pain Now...Beer Later" with lots of craziness and memorable moments once again. My highlight was my surreal 6.5 mile run across the Deception Pass bridge at 2AM. 

Too busy now to do a race recap, but I'm working on a video of our VAN #2 experience. Stay tuned.

Here are some awesome pics from our 30 hours of madness.

Our Van 2 crew: Christie, Ginger, Sharon, Jeff, Suzanne, Brian and Melissa
Our route from Blaine to Langley
Ginger and Sharon

Ginger killing it on her first run. Go Brooks Running! 
Melissa and I. Great to be on the same team this year!!

Trying to rest for an hour in La Conner
Night crew
Runnin through the night

Uh oh...who's driving
Post race with Jeff in our team shirts
Ginger Sportin her blinking bling

Me demonstrating proper technique through the power arch...Nailed it.

And at the finish.....BEER!

More to come....

Sunday, June 23, 2013

2013 Seattle Rock N Roll Half Marathon - Four Years and Counting

It was an amazingly gorgeous day with great running buddies, good times, a new PR. But we almost missed out... 
Photo by Rob Mar
For the last few years, logistical issues associated with this event have steered us away from registering for the Seattle RnR. Somehow though, my wife and I always manage to get signed up at the last minute (last week actually). Deep down, we know this race has special meaning for us and is an annual reminder of how far we've come.

It all started back in 2010. As total running "noobs", we had never run any further than five miles (even that was tough). So when we showed up for the 2010 Seattle Rock N Roll Half, our plan was to run a couple miles, then walk a mile or so, then repeat until it was over. We got  totally caught up in the crowd energy and overall vibe of this giant event. As the miles ticked off, we found ourselves running, running, and still running. When we reached mile 10, we were struggling but realized that we could NOT stop. That last mile was a killer, but we were so elated when we actually ran through the finish. Of course we were walking around like we'd just crapped our pants after that, but we had done it. We ran 13.1 miles and we were hooked.

I did not realize it at the time, but that first RnR Half in Seattle was a life changing event for us. Now with thirteen half marathons and two full marathons under my belt, I love reflecting back on that first race and just laugh. We really had no idea what we were doing, but it sparked a fire in us that is still burning strong today.

New Logistics
Last year, the the Competitor Group changed the marathon and half marathon route to start and end in downtown Seattle. This was great for us coming from across the water on the Olympic Peninsula. We could now catch an early ferry to Seattle and walk to the start...Seattle parking nightmare problem solved.

At 4AM Saturday morning our alarms went off. We groaned, got out of bed, grabbed our prearranged running stuff and were out by 4:40AM. Having run so many races now, we know exactly how to get ready quickly. As long as we can get to the start on time and claim a Honey Bucket, we're good to go and ready to run. We boarded the 5:20AM ferry to Seattle and were on our way. Phase I complete.

The ferry was full of runners. After all who else would be on a 5:20AM ferry on Saturday morning. Nobody. The cool part about a ferry ride before the race is that it gives you time to take care of the pre-race bodily purge. This is definitely NOT something you could get done if driving...not intentionally anyway.

We arrived in Seattle with plenty of time to make it from the ferry terminal to the Seattle Center, the start of the race. We ran into some friends, Melanie (running her first full marathon) as well as Eileen and her husband Lee. Together we walked up to the Space Needle and arrived at 6:30AM. The race started at 7. There were so many people and I had my doubts we would have time to check our gear and make a deposit in the Honey Bucket before the start. It all worked out though.

Unfortunately, I was not able to make it to any planned pre-race photo ops with friends. Sorry guys. It was just too crowded, plus getting to the #9 coral after my pit-stop was challenging enough.

A Change in Course
When reviewing the course map prior to race day, I realized that the course had changed a bit since last year. The race would start down 5th Ave in downtown instead of 3rd and they had taken out steep hill around mile 5. There was still a lot of elevation because, hey, this is Seattle. I would find out later in the race that they added a long uphill trek up 3rd street near mile 11.

New route with elevation

Of course, they left the nasty and annoying uphill finish. That last 1/4 mile I highlighted in yellow sucks and I would love to see that change in the future. Just sayin...

Race Go Time
I made it to corral #9 just before the start. I couldn't actually get into the corral as there was a mob of people trying to squeeze in. Eventually the mob started moving and I could squeeze in. I was looking for my friends Sharon and Erik who were determined to pace me to a sub-two finish. I couldn't find them in the crowd though. Nevertheless, I had a plan also and knew I had to keep my average pace around 9 minutes or better to have a good chance.

At 7:13AM we moved up to the start and with a "3-2-1 Go!" our corral was off and running through downtown Seattle.

The first few of miles through downtown had a mix of flat, downhill and uphills. Everything was clicking for me. I was determined not go out too fast like I did at the North Olympic Discovery Half Marathon 3 weeks ago. Instead I tried to find a good pace that I could sense, stick with and not have to always be looking at my watch. After a few miles, I settled in at around 8:55ish and felt I could hold it there. Of course there would be a little slowing on the uphills.

Mile 1 - 8:48
Mile 2 - 8:36
Mile 3 - 9:11

After mile three, I checked my pace and saw that I was holding a 8:52 average. I was a little ahead but felt good. I was going to try and keep it there.

Mile 4 - 8:57

Somewhere between 4 and 5 I heard a voice behind me calling my name. It was Sharon. They had found me. We tried to stick together but would lose each other off and on over the next few miles. No problems though...I was feeling great and holding my pace.

Mile 5 - 8:56
Mile 6 - 8:52

Photo by Rob Mar
I then heard another voice up along side me. It was another friend, Errol, who was running the full marathon. We chatted for a little while before hitting Lake Washington. He had gotten a quick start and was trying to slow down...a good plan. The marathoners split off at that point and I would not see him again.

Route along Lake Washington. Photo by Rod Mar
Mile 7 - 8:57
Mile 8 - 9:02

I held the pace nicely along Lake Washington. There is always a section of this part of the route manned by veterans and families of fallen soldiers which is very touching.

Mile 9 - 9:06

We left the Lake shortly after mile 8 and started the uphill climb through the tunnel and back over to downtown Seattle. The tunnel was really warm and had a thundering sound of DJ music. I grabbed a cup of water in the tunnel and dumped it on my head. Escaping the tunnel I was met with a refreshing breeze which cooled me right down.

At this point, the downtown skyline was in sight. It was the final stretch.

Mile 10 - 9:17
Mile 11 - 9:05

Passing behind Centurylink Field we started the trek uphill on 3rd Avenue. This part of the route was different from last year and I wasn't expecting it. It felt like about a mile of uphill and I felt I had maintained a decent pace up the long climb. After peaking the hill, it leveled off a bit then went downhill towards the waterfront and the Alaskan Way Viaduct. When my Garmin beeped my 12 mile split, I was surprised at the pace. I had lost about a minute on on the climb. I know the GPS gets a little confused downtown with all of the buildings, but I knew I was still ahead of schedule and wasn't too worried.

Mile 12 - 9:57
As I ran out on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, everything opened up. All I saw was water, sky, and the beautiful Seattle waterfront. I actually said "Wow" out loud. It was breathtaking for a moment. I think it's one of those "had to be there to experience it" moments.
It was time for the final push. With a little over a mile to go, there were a couple more uphills to tend to. Exiting the Viaduct towards the Seattle Center was slightly uphill. Then there was a tunnel and a couple more turns. I didn't remember this part of the course and wasn't sure how much further I had to go. I knew the end was near...or was it?

I remembered from last year that there was a short, but painful, hill at the finish so I prepared myself for that. I got to the hill and glanced at my watch which read 1 hour 58 minutes. I knew I had to push it up the hill and the finish would be right there.

As I got to the top of the hill, I realized that the finish was NOT right there. In fact I could see the 13 mile marker ahead. WHAT!!! My Garmin had already beeped 13 miles a while back. I realized at that point that I wasn't going to make my sub-2 hour goal. I told myself that was okay and, really, it was.

Mile 13 - 8:44

The final 0.1 mile was still on a slight uphill which makes for a pained finish. Push, push, go, go, then pose for a strong finish photo. Cheese!!

Mile 13+ - 9:22

I reached the finish and checked my watch which read 2:01:39. I was done. Here are the official stats:

Erik was waiting for me just inside the finish and we compared watches and finishing stories for a few. Our Garmins all read around 13.45 miles. Could it have been the buildings goofing up our GPS or was the course a little long? Dunno and it didn't really matter. It was a great race.

Despite not making it in under 2 hours, it was still a PR and I very happy with my performance. It was a tough course and I ran it just as I had planned to. I have no regrets.

My friend Sharon, Erik's wife, came in just a few minutes after while we were chatting with another friend, LaRee, who was volunteering at the finish. Unfortunately, LaRee had to back out of the marathon due to injury. It was great to see her there cheering us in.

We chatted for around 30 minutes until we got booted by security and told to move on. We had not even gotten our medals or bottle of water yet. We were having too much fun I guess.

Having a little fun with race photos

Gangsta Sharon (front) and Crazy Erik (Top left)
We got our medals and moved up further near the race photo area for a while waiting for my wife to finish. She was in corral #22 which probably didn't even start until 20 minutes after us.

We met up with my wife who also had a great race. We shared more stories on the lawn in the sun.

My wife and I
At gear check, we picked up our stuff, got cleaned up and headed to the Beer Garden to claim our free beer. We also ran in to friends Eileen and Lee.

Eileen and Lee

After a beer or two, we headed over to wait for our friend Melanie to come in for her marathon finish. I snapped this photo of her near the finish as she crushed her first marathon at 4 hours 35 minutes.

Melanie finishing her first Marathon. Go Melanie!!
It was time to head back to the ferry and go home. On the way we stopped at the Pike Place market and bought some flowers.

It was an incredible, exhausting, beautiful and fun-filled day with friends. I'm so glad we decided to participate. I know we would have had regrets sitting at home watching from afar.

We have realized that RnR Seattle is a race we must run each year, we have already signed up for 2014. Hope to see you there!

Want to hear about another great race?
Read my 2013 North Olympic Discovery Half Marathon Race Recap.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

2013 North Olympic Discovery Half Marathon

The North Olympic Discovery Half Marathon (NODM) has been on my race wish-list for the last couple of years. The NODM route follows a portion of the North Olympic Discovery Trail on the northern coast of Washington between Sequim and Port Angeles and has a spectacular finish along the water.

The final 4 miles are along the water. Here are some pics I took of the last half mile. 

Final 4 mile waterfront stretch just before the finish
Looking out at the bay at the finish line
Unfortunately, my wife had prior commitments for this weekend so I decided I would fly solo on this one. I opted to take the RV and camp out in a nearby parking lot near the finish. The alternative would be to wake up really early and drive an hour and half or book an expensive hotel. But why do that when I have an RV with a bed, shower, and kitchen. I didn't have to ponder that one too long. 

The weather forecast called for a nice sunny weekend and things were looking very nice as I arrived on Saturday in time to catch the expo and pick up my race packet. I found a place where I could park overnight, put my money in the box and walked to the Red Lion to pick up my race packet.  

After picking up my race packet I went downstairs to the bar. There was a guy talking about the course. Having no first hand knowledge of this course, I figured I'd stay and listen.

Introduction to the course

Kids Marathon
Later I noticed a bunch of kids outside in yellow shirts and found out that they were getting ready to have a Kids Marathon. It wasn't an actual marathon, just a 1.2 mile down and back along the waterfront. This was cool and the sun was out, so I grabbed my camera, found a good spot and took some pics. Here are a few. I'll post more later and put a link here.

I loved watching and cheering on those young runners (big, small, walking, running and handicapped). It was very inspiring.

Kid Marathon Medals...really cool
At the finish, every runner got a popsicle and a medal...a cool one too. Those medals are the real deal and even cooler than some half marathon medals I've gotten.

Race Day 
That night, it was the usual pre-race ritual of pizza and beer followed by gear prep and a good night sleep. A few other RVs came into the parking lot for the night. In the morning I noticed about 3 others nearby.

My alarm went off at around 6:30AM which gave me enough time to get my stuff together and head towards the shuttle bus area a couple blocks away.

The starting point for the race is actually at a park near Sequim. The shuttle bus dropped us off a good hour before the start. I scoped out the starting line (below) and started looking for my friend Sharon who had signed up to be a half marathon pacer.

Before the race, Sharon asked me "Are you going for a sub-2?" I replied "Well...I'm going to try." Yup, I was going to give it a go. More to come on that.

Selfie at the starting line
No line when I showed up. But it was super long just before the start. 
As the start approached the clouds cleared and it was starting to warm up. I could feel the humidity rising as well. It was going to be a beautiful sunny day as promised. 

We all lined up at the start and before we knew it, we were running. I spotted the 1:55 pacer and thought I would stay near him. I knew I wouldn't come in at 1:55 but as long as I stayed between him and the 2:00 pacer I might be ok. 

I'm usually a start out slow kind of guy but this time, I was going to try and start out a little faster. For the first few miles, I took a pretty fast pace (for me) at between 8:15 and 8:45 pace. I figured I could bank a little time, taper off in the middle, then have a strong finish. It was worth a try. Well perhaps this was my fatal mistake. 

Mile 1 - 8:58
Mile 2 - 8:15
Mile 3 - 8:46

As it turns out, there are more hills on the course than I had planned. The heat and humidity was proving to be a factor as well. Within a few miles, I was sweating much more than normal but still determined to push it. 

At around mile 4 there were some hills and I was starting to slow down, as I had planned. I walked the short steep uphills hoping I would get it back later in the race. This is when the 1:55 pacer passed on by. This was not a problem since I wasn't planning on staying with that group. 

Mile 4 - 9:21
Mile 5 - 9:31
Mile 6 - 10:12

By mile seven, I was really getting tired. I started thinking that my initial plan was failing. There were more hills around mile 8 that I just decided to walk. Tired was turning to exhausted. 

Mile 7 - 9:44
Mile 8 - 10:22

I felt that once I hit the waterfront, I would pick up the pace and try to get some time back on the final stretch. I got a little push through the wooded part of the trail and held a good pace for the next mile.

Mile 9 - 8:37

When I finally reached the waterfront. I was pooped. I still had a few miles to go and there was very little left in my tank. I remember the last few miles having that typical battle between my brain and my body. It really felt like the last 4 miles of a marathon. No kidding. I could hear a group of people coming up behind me. Then....there goes the 2:00 pacer.

Mile 10 - 9:27
Mile 11 - 9:32

With just about a mile and a half remaining I checked my time and realized that there was no chance to get close to 2 hours. With that plan shot, I decided to walk a little and get some energy back before heading into the finish. Then I pulled up my britches and finished. Ugh!

Mile 12 - 10:20
Mile 13 - 9:50
Mile 13+ - 8:47

I was finished and exhausted. 
My official time:

Tired, hot, but finished!

The finish of this race was pretty unique. As you come through the chute, you get a personal escort to get you water, ask how you feel and if you need medical attention, then they tell you about where to get food and refreshment. That was pretty cool. 

As you can see the medal (shown below) is best viewed back lit by the sun. Also pretty cool. 

I wandered around for a bit, got some refreshment and a little food. Then I ran into Sharon who was the 2:20 pacer and shared my tale of my post-2 finish. It was great to see a familiar face in Port Angeles (the only one).

Quick photo with Sharon before heading out. 
I went back to the RV, took a shower and rested a little before starting the drive home. I planned to hit a popular burger joint along the way called Fat Smitty's. This was post-race ritual...a big ass burger and fries.

I decided to order the Fat Smitty's Burger thinking "Hey, I'm at Fat Smitty's so order the Fat Smitty Burger." When the burger showed up, I literally gasped. This was Frickin HUGE!!

I gave it a go, but eventually the Fat Smitty Burger did me in. I accepted my defeat with honor and headed home. 

Lessons Learned
What I learned on this race is to not go out of the gate fast or you'll burn out. I always advise people against it and now I know from experience that it's totally true. Also, don't underestimate the heat. For those of us Northwest runners, that means above 65 degrees. 

Second Chances
Even though this race ate my lunch, I loved the course. I highly recommend it and may even sign up for the full marathon one day. Unfortunately this time I did not enjoy running it, but hey that's my fault. It's a beautiful course if you take the time to enjoy it. I didn't. I will definitely be back next year with my wife to just run and take in the scenery. Maybe I'll see you there.  

Want to hear about another great race?
Read my 2013 Seattle Rock N Roll Half Marathon Race Recap.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Poulsbo Viking Fest Road Race

This morning, my wife and I ran the 5 mile Road Race in Poulsbo, WA (where we live). This is our third time running this local race. It's cheap and fun...just like me. We didn't run it last year because we were in Portland running the Rock N Roll Portland Half Marathon. It's always nice to do a race so close to home because your back home for breakfast and we always seem to bump into folks that we haven't seen in a while.

The 5 mile race is part of a local festival called Viking Fest...and yes you may see a few Vikings and their wenches.
"I was able to beat my last time here by a couple of minutes and finished in 42 min 16 seconds" 
Lack of posts
It's been a while since I've posted anything here. I've been so busy with other things. Check out the Twitter feed on the right to get more frequent updates. If you want to know about my running schedule, check me out on Dailymile. I have a pretty regular schedule of long runs each weekend and try to get in at least 20 miles overall each week.

I'll probably do a practice half marathon tomorrow morning in preparation for the North Olympic Discovery Half Marathon coming up in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Long Run With No Mojo

Drive and determination battled my body today and won!

A beautiful day. Why did I have to be so tired. This was taken at around 8 miles in.

This morning I was really tired and my motivation meter was reading about a 3 on a scale of 10. Struggling to get my ass out of bed, I thought "I know it's long run Saturday, but why do I have to go? Maybe I'll skip today." Then I pulled it together, moped around, got ready, crawled into my car and headed out.

The weather was perfect. It was a cool 45 degrees and sunny with a light breeze. I should have been pumped to be out enjoying a run on such an awesome day. But today it just wasn't in me.

Within the first 3 miles I was feeling so lethargic. I just had zero energy. I've been having trouble sleeping which may have something to do with it. I though that maybe I would quit after 4-5 miles and call it a day. After all, I'm not training for anything so no harm right? Then I kept thinking "I can't give in to this and quit." So what if I have no energy. My legs are fine. I must keep going. Challenge accepted.

My chosen route was a very familiar 11 mile loop around town with some elevation. At around 4, 5 and 6 miles there were opportunities to cut it short and head back. After the 6 mile mark though, I would have to commit and complete the 11 mile loop.

After passing through the first shortcut at 4 miles, I decided to take it one mile at a time. I passed the other two shortcuts and kept powering through it to the end.

Whew! No runners high today, but I'm claiming this run as a victory.
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