Wednesday, November 12, 2014

2014 Pensacola Marathon Race Report

My first Florida marathon is in the books! It was definitely an interesting journey, and not exactly what I planned when I set my original goals, but I really wouldn't have it any other way. When I signed up for the race, my plan was to set a new marathon PR. My first 26.2 is still my PR, so I felt like it was time to finally beat that. I set the goal of running a 4:30 to beat my PR by just over 6 minutes. I knew it would require really great training and I would have very little margin for error, but I figured I'd be settled in my new home of Pensacola, FL well enough by then to really focus on training.

Terri (L) & Janee' (R) Johnson at Casino Beach after the race
Another fun piece to this puzzle was that Janee' & Terri Johnson were going to come down and visit us! They are two of my best friends from Kansas City, so I was excited to have them come visit and run their first marathons with me. I've been working on getting Janee' to run a marathon since I first met her shortly after my first back in 2011. I was impressed with her toughness as a runner even back then when she had never run more than about 4 miles. I knew she could get there and she had expressed that she wanted to eventually run one, so I started encouraging her. Shortly after that, she ran her first 10k, then her first half marathon. Eventually when Kristy & I decided to move to Florida, I was able to talk Janee' into signing up for the marathon and visiting us. Terri was quite a bit easier to convince.

The 5 hour pace group led by my buddy Jamie Knight
My training didn't go as well as I had hoped. I was enjoying discovering the restaurants of my new city, so I was gaining a lot of weight. Also, it was taking me a lot to adjust to the differences in the weather. The temps and humidity during the summer aren't a lot different, but the effect is much different. I was, for the most part, hitting my runs, but I wasn't able to hold the paces I needed and they were wearing me out more than they should have. Eventually I decided to stop training for a 4:30 and start focusing on a 5 hour and run with the Johnsons the whole way to help them through their first marathons. The Running Wild store here in town does the pace teams, so I was able to start doing some long runs with the group. The group was led by my good buddy & fellow Marathon Maniac, Jamie Knight. It was great because they are awesome people and I was able to make some new friends.

Marathon Maniac group picture at the Pensacola Marathon
Finally, race week arrived and Janee' & Terri were flying in. Unfortunately, Terri was having some issues and would have to drop from the race, but she still came to visit and to support Kristy (running the half), Janee', and me. Saturday (day before the race) the Johnson sisters flew in to Pensacola. After picking them up, Kristy, the Johnsons, and I went over to P'cola beach for some Surf Burger and to show them around before heading to packet pickup. At the expo, I bought Janee' a 26.2 sticker that had Pensacola, FL on it to commemorate her first marathon adventure. I also got a great deal on a Running Wild tri top and some Running Wild logo'ed Injinji socks. We then headed back to Kristy & my house to enjoy a little pre-race pasta dinner together and enjoy good company. It was so great to spend some time with two of my favorite people after not having seen them in the 5 months since we had moved.

Pre-race with Janee'
On race morning, we got up early, got all ready to go and headed out to Veteran's Park where the race was starting from. I had my Team RWB shirt, Marathon Maniac Buff, VFF Bikilas, Injinjis, American flag calf sleeves, Mizuno shorts, Marathon Maniac arm sleeves, throw away gloves, sunglasses, handheld bottle with G2, a couple GUs, a couple Honey Stinger chews, and Garmin 610. Ready to go for a nice day out running with great friends through my new home city. I was excited for the day. It was a gorgeous morning. It was cool, but certainly not cold. It was 48* at the start, but set to warm up throughout the morning. Hence the arm sleeves and throw away gloves. We found the 5 hour pace group and I introduced Janee' & Terri to the group, including Angie and Richard who were also running their first marathons, Jamie (the leader), Amy, Megan, and Greg (who had run his first marathon at MCM two weeks before). It was going to be an awesome group to run with. They are all very fun, friendly, positive people, so I knew running with them would be fun and a great way to keep Janee' positive throughout the race. As anyone that has ever run a marathon knows, it really helps to have people there to keep you mentally engaged since there are some dark down times during every marathon.

Finally it was time to go and we got started. I was ready to finally get the show going. We headed off for the short loop around the park before heading down Bayfront and on to 17th St. 17th St. is the first hill of the course. Compared to running in Kansas City, this is an unbelievably flat course. There are only a few hills and even they are not much. 17th St. is the first one. It's short and not too steep, but for Florida it is a pretty big hill. At barely a mile into the race, it was not much of a challenge to climb this hill. We were all still having fun, chatting about various things, and enjoying the day. After 17th St., we headed down Cervantes and up Scenic. It was gorgeous, as always. The Sun was coming up over the water, giving us a great view whenever there was a clearing in the trees. All of the runners, not just our group, were having fun, joking around, and encouraging one another. For the most part, the first 9 1/2 miles were pretty uneventful. Just a bunch of friends running, enjoying a pretty morning, and chatting. I lost my gloves fairly early on since it was warming up fairly quickly as the Sun was coming up.

At about 9 1/2 miles we came to an aid station and Janee' needed to stop and use the porta potty there. I stopped and waited for her so she wouldn't end up solo. When she was done we sped up just a bit to catch back up to the pace group. We caught up fairly close behind them after about a mile, but never completely caught back up. At about the half way point, Janee' wanted to take a short walk break. I could tell it was starting to get a little warmer than she liked. I had even pulled my arm sleeves off by that point. I know heat gets her more than it does for me, so I knew she was probably starting to struggle. We got back to running a little slower than our 5 hour pace, but still running plenty strong and she was still for the most part quite positive.

At around 15 miles we started taking a little bit longer walk breaks, but still only at the aid stations. At one point, we started to come up on a very small aid station with only a few people working it. It had a sign that said "No water", but they were handing out cups. Weird. Then as I got closer I realized they were handing out small cups of beer! YAY!! I love beer during a run. It was crappy beer, Bud or Bud Light or something of that sort, but beer all the same. I was happy to have it. We continued on coming up to the biggest hill of the course; the 12th St. hill. It is about a 100 ft. gain in a little less than a 1/2 mile. Not terrible, but quite a hill for Florida. At this point in the race it was fairly warm and Janee' was losing steam, so we both wanted to just go ahead and walk this hill, which we did.

A poster for the race that we got at packet pickup
Once we got to the top of that hill we got back to running and only walking at aid stations. Janee' was starting to complain quite a bit, but was still going really strong and doing well. I just tried to encourage her and keep her as positive as I could. The runners, aid stations, police officers, course monitors, etc throughout the course definitely helped a lot in this aspect. They were all having fun. I was really enjoying the run, so I was talking and joking around with all of them. They were all happy to joke back and offer lots of encouragement. It was a gorgeous day full of fun people, which really helps.

Janee' & Terri at Surf Burger the day before the race
At about 19 miles we came to the last big hill of the course. It's not that big, it's just an overpass, but it's out in the open Sun, and at 19 miles we were both a little low on steam anyway, so again we walked the hill. Janee' & I were expecting to see Terri & Kristy at about mile 18, but they were not able to make their way there in time due to road closures for the race. I wasn't all that surprised when we didn't see them, but it kind of took a toll on Janee'. She and Terri are very close, so she was looking forward to getting a boost by seeing Terri. When we didn't see Terri, she got a little distraught. She kept powering through, though. She was doing what I've always known her to do. She thought she was doing terrible, but really she was powering through really strong and doing pretty well.

Somewhere around mile 20, we came to another fun aid station. They were dressed up with 80's wig, playing loud hair band music and having a lot of fun. They also had beer! Good beer this time! I grabbed one and drank it. By this point, it had really become a struggle for Janee', as one would expect for a first-time marathoner. She was hitting me from time to time when I was encouraging her and joking around. It's all good, I knew she would hit a point that she would have a point somewhere when she would really start to struggle and maybe not be the happiest with me for talking her into this. At about 21 miles, we came to the intersection of Palafox & Wright. There was a photographer there and I started joking around doing stupid poses trying to get Janee' to laugh a little. Janee' come over to me and says she has a great pose and started to choke me! It was a funny moment and I really hope to have this picture become available soon. It was a really fun moment and it was good to see her smile and laugh again. We continued on and I started telling her about downtown as we ran past it, the farmer's market they have every weekend on Palafox, and how close we were getting to the end.

As we went down Garden St., we passed a young man who really appeared to be struggling as we ran by. He was fairly young, wearing military boots and looked exhausted. He asked me what the time was and how far we had left to go. I told him we had about 4 miles to go and plenty of time to get there and not to give up. He told me he was struggling with some cramps and felt dehydrated. I asked if he had any S-Caps and he didn't even know what that was. Janee' had some, so I asked her if she would give one to him and she did. I told him what it was and told him it would help with his cramps. He thanked me and kept moving with us. He said he was in the military (Air Force, I think), so I thanked him for his service and told him not to give up as Janee' and I got back to running. Just after mile 24, we got to the intersection of Barrancas & Main and saw Terri running toward us. Janee' perked up almost immediately on seeing her. Kristy was with her as well. I hugged Terri, then continued over to Kristy and Janee' ran over to Terri. I handed my arm sleeves to Kristy and asked how her half had been. She said she did really well and really enjoyed it. She really kicked ass, so that was a nice boost to hear. I told Janee' we just had a couple miles left and we got back moving.

At this point we were mostly walking with a little running here and there. But Janee' was going strong, and that's what mattered. I told her she was about to be a marathoner and we just had a little bit left to go. I was getting REALLY excited to see her cross that finish line. As we came back into downtown and turned onto Romana, we had about 3/4 of a mile left and the finish line was actually in sight. There were a couple girls that passed us, walked, passed us, walked, and with a half a mile left they commented that they would run to a certain point, then walk, then finish running. Janee' wanted to finish and had the finish line in sight, so she started running and didn't stop. We were coming through runners that had already finished, saw an RWB member (who I didn't know) standing with a flag who started yelling when she saw me, and Janee' was moving pretty good toward the finish. This was it! We saw Terri & Kristy as we got close. Janee' and I ran through the finish line side by side and she started crying and I was all smiles. We got our medals and a bottle of water. I gave Janee' a big hug and told her congratulations and how proud I was of her and how glad I was that we were able to run the whole race side-by-side. She was still crying. As we walked down through the finish area to find Terri and Kristy, I passed Paul (RD & owner of Running Wild) and said hi to him. He had seen Janee' and asked me if I had paced her. I told him I had and he said that was great and told me to congratulate her for him. He was really excited to see her finish her first. It wound up being 26.52 miles in 5:46:17 (13:04 avg pace).

After finding Kristy & Terri, we walked over to the finish festival and found Angie & Richard from our pace group. I was really excited celebrating with Janee' and Angie. Unfortunately, I had not realized that it was Richard's first, so I neglected congratulating him. I felt pretty bad about that. We also got to chat with Jamie and his family. There was a table from Subway there, so I grabbed a much needed sandwich. We all sat around chatting, telling stories, talking about how the race had gone for all of us, and just enjoying recovering a little on a beautiful afternoon. Eventually we headed out. We went home, cleaned up a little, then went to the Fishing Hole for some blacked Mahi Mahi tacos. Then I had a promise to fulfill. I'd promised Janee' that if she finished her first marathon I would buy her drinks on the beach. We went out to Casino Beach and got Bushwhackers. The water was too cold to get in, but Kristy, Terri, Janee', and I all enjoyed sitting down by the water, enjoying our drinks, and time with friends. \

I wish I were a more creative writer. This was such a fun and emotional adventure. I am only really able to put down the facts of what happened, I wish I were a good creative writer so I could better capture that story and the feelings that were really involved in this race. I really enjoyed it and I cannot wait for the next adventure. **Hopefully there will be more pictures too come, but below are some more of what I have now.**

Angie from our pace group. She's always
all smiles!

The 5 hour pace group.
Jamie doing his pacing duties.
Angie from Team RWB running her first marathon.
My new tri top.

Monday, June 23, 2014

"Mid-Year" Summary 2014

Playing with my dogs in a KC snow storm (2/4)
Okay, so it isn't technically mid-year yet. I know that. This year, it seems appropriate this year to do my mid-year breakdown slightly differently than I normally do. Usually, it is a summary of what has gone on from Jan-Jun. Makes sense, right? Well, this year on 6/10, I moved from the Kansas City, KS area to Pensacola, FL. That is so close to mid-year that it seemed logical to me that I do my summary as the part of this year that I lived in Kansas. That said, this is going to seem like a list of failures since I had some tough times with my running during this period for various reasons. But don't think that I see this part of my journey as a failure. I learned a lot, I worked hard, and I made sacrifices for what I want. That makes all of it a success.

Katya & me at Run Toto Run
The first part of the year was the conclusion of my training for the Run Toto Run 50k and the subsequent race. The training was amazing. I worked very hard, lost a ton of weight, gained a ton of speed, endurance, and even managed to adjust to running in ridiculous cold. I felt like unless the conditions on race day were unbelievably bad, I would be set for a great race. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened. Just a couple days before the race, we got about a foot and a half of very powdery snow. The type of snow that doesn't pack down, rather it gets even harder to run on as people trample it. At the race, I ended up twisting my ankle countless times, and I ended up dropping out after about 21 miles.

The awesome workbench my dad & I built at my house
After that race, I took some time off running very much to work on getting the house ready to get on the market and to recover physically and mentally from the rigors of the race and the tough training that led up to the race. This time was pretty good for me. My body recovered pretty well, and getting the house ready for sale took up most of my time. Once we finally got the house back on the market, showings took up most of the times I would plan a run. I ran very little for several weeks. I wanted to be able to run a little more, but I needed to relax my desire to run in order to accomplish my desire to move to Florida. It was a worthwhile sacrifice.

Coming to the finish after pacing Will at Prairie Spirit
Eventually, I got back to running. It started with pacing my friend Will at the Prairie Spirit 100. He's a very inspirational guy, and joining him for the last 50k of that race was a true joy and pleasure. I was honored that he even asked me. He accomplished a huge PR at the event and was able to honor a family friend of his that had passed away at a young age due to cancer. The things that Will does to honor and support other people is so awesome. The world needs more people like Will. I really enjoyed the hours we spent on the trail together in the dark working our way toward his goal. When others slow down so much at the end of a 100 miler, he keeps trucking along so strongly. Incredible.

After pacing Adama for a few miles at Free State
I then was going to run the Rock On! Lake Perry 50k. It was a bit of a last minute decision to run it, I signed up about 4 weeks before race day. I had a couple pretty good training runs, but knew I'd taken too much time off after Toto. I figured I'd give it a go anyway and just see what would happen. After doing a pretty nice 20 mile training run with my friend Sophia, I decided to run the first half with her. She's a pretty bad ass runner, but I figured what the hell. Running the first half with her would either get me a huge PR or kill me.

Rock On! Lake Perry
We did start out together and we were having a nice run and some good conversation, as we always do. Within about 6-6 1/2 miles, I knew that I was not going to make my PR and I dropped back from Sophia. She was actually running even faster than her planned pace and ended up having a heck of a race. No way I could have kept up. By the time I got to the half way point and picked up my pacer and amazing friend Janee', I was exhausted and overheated from going out way too fast at the start. I did the best I could to keep moving, and Janee' did a great job encouraging me, but we both new I wasn't going to make it, so I dropped out at about 21 miles. I didn't mind dropping this one too much since it just meant more time back at the start/finish line spending time with many of my great friends, who I would be moving away from soon.

Justin Chockley & me before Rock On! Lake Perry
I spend the next few weeks getting in runs with my friends whenever I could and getting the house ready for our move. I wanted to spend as much time out enjoying running with my friends as I could. Race-wise, the first half of my year was pretty much a failure, but in reality, it was a great success. I finally accomplished my goal of moving to Florida, I spent time with friends, and I got in some pretty good training. I'm pretty pleased with how it went and what I did. Now, as I'm writing this, I am living in Florida and training for the Pensacola Marathon and maybe even the Croom Fool's 50 Miler early next year. As many of you know, I'm a business analyst, so here's a bunch of data & graphs that probably none of you but me will care about...


Friday, May 23, 2014

A Big Move....

Me running at the Rock On! Lake Perry 50k
Well, I actually came to the blog today to write my race report from the Rock On! Lake Perry 50k that I DNF'ed, but I have my big move on the brain and can't really focus on anything else without posting about this first. Hopefully soon I'll get that report written, but right now, I just have to post about my big upcoming move. For any of those that are not already aware, on June 10th my wife & I will be leaving our home in Gardner, KS (suburbs of Kansas City) to move to Pensacola, FL. Moving half way across the country, about 900 miles. A whole new world.

Pensacola Beach, FL
Why are we moving? A few reasons, really. One reason is the fact that I've been trying to get out of Kansas City for many, many years. It's a good place to live, I just really hate fall & winter. I do not like cold. I've wanted to get away from the cold weather for years. That also plays into one of the other reasons for the move. I've lived in Kansas City since about 1983, 31 years. That's a long time, especially when you are 36 years old. My wife has lived here her entire life. We both decided it really was time to try something different.

A nice view of the water and bridges in Pensacola
My wife has an aunt & uncle that have lived in Pensacola for many years, and their two sons have lived their whole lives there. My wife, Kristy, has been visiting the area fairly often her entire life to visit these family members, and she's always loved it down there. I visited with her about a year or so after we started dating (the trip was probably about 12 years ago), and I was in love with Pensacola immediately. I wanted to move there then, but she didn't want to. We visited again last year and both felt like it was the right time to make a change and try life down on the Gulf coast.

Goofy times with my Mud Babe/Trail Nerd friends
So now we've sold our house and it's almost time to move! I'm super-excited about this move, but there is one constant thought about it that makes me sad. My friends. Having lived basically all of my life here, all of my friends are here. I've made so many absolutely amazing friends here. Especially all of the awesome people I've gotten to know over the last couple years as a runner. Some I met through the Olathe Running Club, many through the Trail Nerds and Mud Babes, some through Facebook or even this blog, and some just randomly met various places. I have great friends here that I will miss desperately. They are fun, kind, awesome, inspiring, great people that I'm lucky to have in my life. I know we can all keep up together through the Internet and visiting one another, but it won't be the same not seeing them and running with them regularly. I will miss each and every one of them.


Running at Blackwater State Park NE of
Pensacola with my friend Jamie
I am very excited to make new friends, find new races, race new routes, explore new trails, etc. I have a couple runner friends in the area, so I look forward to getting to know them better, along with meeting some new people. Also, I have been keeping up with a couple running groups in the area, including the Pensacola Team RWB chapter, that I am looking forward to getting more involved with. I know those will be great ways to meet new people and make new friends. It really is a beautiful area, and for someone like me it seems like a runner's paradise. I like hot, humid weather. It'll probably take me a little time adjusting to the increased humidity, but I think I'll adjust just fine and come to love it. I certainly am excited that I won't have several months of blistering cold, ice, and snow to run through every year! Another big advantage will be my asthma situation. I have cold-induced asthma, so it doesn't even start to become noticeable until it gets below 40*, and really doesn't cause any problems until it's below 32*. Probably not a lot of days per year that I'll have to worry about that down in Florida. I look forward to that!

So the first event I have planned down there is the Pensacola Marathon in November, which I am SO excited about! It will not only be my first marathon in the state of Florida, but it will be my first marathon as a resident of the state of Florida! It will also be a great chance to see some friends. My friends Jamie will be pacing the the 4:30 group, which will be my goal time for a PR, so I'll get to run with him. Also, my friend Janee' Johnson is already signed up to come down and run with me as her first marathon, and I am working on getting her awesome sister Terri, and her boyfriend Brian to join us as well for their first marathons. I've also discussed it with a few other KC runner friends. I'd love to have a good group of KC friends joining me. What better sales pitch is there for a race than good friends, and drinks on the beach after we're done?? It's going to be great fun!!

So as of this writing, this is the countdown to our move on 6/10. It's going to be an exciting new adventure that I am very much looking forward to!!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Next Steps...

Well, it's been a week now since the epic adventure of the Psycho Wyco Run Toto Run snowy insanity. It certainly took its toll on my body, so this week has been interesting. When I woke up Sunday morning (the day after the race) I was quite sore. Ironically, my left ankle (the one I twisted countless times during the race) felt perfectly fine, but my right ankle was quite painful. My quads, calves, shins, hamstrings, hips, back, and shoulders all felt the strain of the beating they took in the race. Seriously, that 20.7 miles in the snow took a greater toll on my body than any 50k I've ever completed.

Luckily, I'd had the foresight to set an appointment with my chiropractor and ART specialist, Jared Wisner at Wisner Chiropractic. Jared is an accomplished marathoner and a good friend. His knowledge of what distance running does to us has been beyond helpful to me. He did an excellent job straightening out my issues and really helped with my recovery. He even fixed the right ankle that was hurting me so much. I've said it before, and I'll say it again; Jared is the greatest thing to ever happen to my distance running. If you live in the Kansas City area, I highly recommend checking him out. I didn't do much working out this week, just some walking, weight training and yoga.

Now that my recovery week is behind me and I'm feeling pretty good, it's time to set my eye back on the future. So I need some new goals and a new focus. I've spent the last 27 weeks training for, running, then recovery from the race. So basically, 6 months of focusing on cardio (running) workouts. I want to switch up that focus for a while. Of course, I love running, so this time has been great, but it's important to change up the routine from time to time, so it's time to transition to a different focus. My next target race won't be until the Pensacola Marathon on Nov. 9, so I have more than 5 months before I'll even start training for it. Until then, I want to put my focus on the following: 1: Strength training/core training; 2: General fitness; 3: Get back to running in my VFFs; 4: Focus on faster, shorter runs. I'll detail my plans for each of these goals so that I can be successful. By implementing this focus, along with continuing to watch what I eat, I will be able to ensure that I am in excellent condition when I start training for Pensacola. My first marathon (2011 Napa Valley Marathon) remains my PR at 4:36:19, so I would like to break that PR finally. I need to be in better overall shape when I start training to make that happen.

#1: Strength / Core Training: This is going to be a huge key to my success and probably the most challenging part of my plan. I enjoy strength training, but I always struggle with doing it consistently enough to see the results I really want. I'm hoping to finally change that. The plan is to start the Strength Training II Plan that I got from the JCCC Weight Training class I took a few years ago. It was designed by Istvan Javorek, who is the school's head strength training coach and a former Olympic coach. It is a 3 day per week plan that I will start tomorrow (Mon. Feb. 17) and will do Ab Ripper X with each of the workouts. Also, one additional day a week I plan to do one of these P90X videos on a weekly rotation: Chest & Back, Legs & Back, Shoulders & Arms. On Friday, I did the 5 rep max test to get my starting points since the Javorek plan is based on percentages of max. This is an excellent strength training plan and in conjunction with Ab Ripper, it will really get me into outstanding condition. I don't want to become a big, muscle-bound guy, and that's not what this is designed for, but good muscle tone will help drop some of my fat and really does help with distance running.

#2: General Fitness: This is kind of a broad category, but all distance runners know "cross training" is critical to success, even if they don't do it they still know how important it is. The plan is going to start with yoga. I've set up (on the urging of a friend) a 30 Day Yoga Challenge starting Mon. Feb 17. The idea is 30 days straight of yoga, at least 10 minutes of stretching poses, or up to a full class/video. After the challenge I plan to continue doing yoga at least twice per week. I also want to incorporate cycling, P90X Plyometrics, hiking, walking, etc. Doing these things will help my balance, endurance, explosiveness, and strength.

#3: Get Back To Running In My VFFs: For those that may not be aware, VFFs are Vibram Five Finger minimalist shoes. When I ran in them, I felt light, fast and mentally strong. I stopped wearing them early in 2013 because I had a few triathlons on the schedule and I wanted shoes I could slip on and off faster than I can the VFFs. It takes some transition time to go from regular shoes to VFFs, so I'm going to start transitioning back into them. It won't take long since I've done over 1600 miles in VFFs in the past, I just need to re-acclimate. I have VFF Bikilas for paved runs and VFF Treksports for the trails. I'm VERY excited to get back to running in them regularly.

#4: Focus On Faster, Shorter Runs: Sure, I've worked on and been successful at getting faster since I started training for the Toto Run, but I still have a ways to go. I'm really not going follow a running plan, just trying to run regularly. I'll still do some long-ish runs, but the primary focus will be trying to run faster. If I want to PR the marathon I need to get faster. It's cliche', but the only way to run faster is to run faster. I will try to maintain around 20 miles per week, and at least one speed-oriented run each week. If I stick with this, I will definitely be in good position to be faster when I start training for the race.

If I stick with this plan and follow through, I will be in pretty great shape. I'm excited for the change in focus and I'm hoping my friends will help hold me accountable to these plans. Looking forward to an awesome rest of the year!!