2012 Mississippi Blues Marathon

Mississippi Blues Marathon
My next big race will be another marathon. I’m officially signed up for the 2012 Mississippi Blues Marathon and I’m looking forward to it. This is a great race with thousands of runners and lots of things going on throughout the entire course. My first half-marathon was at this race last year. I’m more experienced and in a lot better shape today!

Run for Life Marathon Recap

marathon finishAccording to my mom, my horoscope for the day of the marathon read: …

“Aries: Your chances of achieving one of your ambitions before the month is over are quite good. Much depends on the work you do today and your ability to repeat this work.”

Things that went well:
I finished. I am extremely proud of the 26.2 decal on my car. (Yeah, I am THAT guy.) I felt great and completely enjoyed the first 20 miles. Absolutely no injuries. No IT band pain, no patellar tendonitis, no strained hip flexors…all issues I have previously experienced when pushing the distance. The Kinvara 2s rocked. I didn’t even have a blister! I was stiff the day after and only a little sore the next but I ran three miles after work – no problem. I’m ready to sign up for another marathon. Soon.

Things that didn’t go so well:

I’m happy that I finished but I’m kind of bummed about the 4:54:30 time. I was on track to break 4.5 hours at mile marker 22 but things really fell apart after that. It took over an hour to “run” the last four miles.
I severely underestimated the difficulty of the last 6 miles. Pretty much everything I had read about marathon training said “Don’t worry about the last 6 miles. The excitement of the race and the crowd of runners will encourage you.” Maybe so in Chicago or New York. There were 216 registered for this marathon and I finished behind 41 of them. Except for one water stop and a mobile medical crew, I saw two people the last 4 miles. There was NOBODY to rely on for motivation.

Looking back, I made some big but correctable mistakes. The biggest, I let myself get dehydrated. I’m very cautious of hyponatremia so I was taking endurolytes and drinking a little conservatively. Starting about mile 22, I had all the symptoms of dehydration…or hyponatremia…I wasn’t sure which so I erred on the side of not dying and tried to drink even less. I chose poorly. I weighed about 4 pounds less after the race and that was after rehydrating with 24 oz of water and even post-race pizza. That’s less than 2.5 percent of bodyweight. Not dangerously dehydrated, but enough to cause performance problems. It got up to the high 80s almost as soon as the sun came up but since it was so cool at the start, it didn’t really register with me that I should treat it as a summer run. I ditched my shirt at mile 13 but that was because I didn’t want pictures of bloody nips all over the Internet. Besides, I have abs like Jersey Shore’s “The Situation”.

Another mistake I won’t make again is using caffeinated gels. I know from past experience I can’t tolerate them on long runs but I was SURE I would need the boost so I brought three caffeinated and three regular. I finished the race badly needing carbs but I couldn’t stand the thought of taking the last caffeinated gel so it went unopened. As I think about it now, the severe nausea was probably from dehydration and not so much from caffeine but I know that at the time I could have taken a regular gel if I had one but wouldn’t touch the caffeinated one still in my belt.

No doubt about it, finishing a marathon is a major accomplishment. It is way tougher than I imagined. I can empathize with the people that give up with less than two miles to go…it crossed my mind. I have great respect for anyone that has gone the distance no matter how long it took.

Still, I can’t help thinking how much better I will do if I can figure out how to actually run the last six miles.

Custom Race Belt

Custom RacebeltHow do you carry 6 gels, 12 Endurolyte capsules, an iPhone and a race number bib for 26.2 miles? You COULD push a shopping cart but the race director might frown on that. A better option is an elastic race belt with lots of extra gel loops sewn in. Might as well get one with a special loop sized just perfectly for the small pill bottle that you’ll also want to include. Oh yeah, you’ll also want a neoprene pocket that is perfectly sized for your iPhone.

If you’re having trouble finding something that will do all of that, welcome to my dilemma. If you’re amazed beyond belief at the awesome contraption in the photo here, welcome to my solution.

No one would accuse me of being a seamstress, even if I do own a sewing machine. Really, I do. It’s cheap. It’s purple. It’s called “Pixie” something or other. It’s really hard to thread the needle (THANK YOU Google!). It’s not meant to sew two pieces of neoprene but why should that stop me? See, I’m a GUY with a sewing machine. Guys can make stuff work. Even purple pixie sewing machines.

Anyway, here’s my improved custom race belt. It holds 6 gels, a small pill bottle for E-caps, an iPhone and a race number bib. I torture tested it fully loaded for a full three miles. I think I’m set.

What do YOU carry on a marathon and how?

Marathon Race Strategy

26.2As I write this, it is about 15 days until the third annual Run For Life Marathon. I have been training for this race, my first marathon, for the past 6 months. I only have a few more good runs left in the next few days before tapering off and nervously resting my shin splints. This late in the game, there’s no point continuing to train hard since any performance gain wouldn’t be realized until after the race. So, now, it’s time to focus on nailing down a race strategy. Specifically, I want to set a few overall goals, finalize a fueling plan, and really think hard about pacing.

Putting Marathon Pace Calculators to the Test

How can I set a realistic goal without prior marathon experience to base it off of? I know how long it takes me to casually run 16 – 20 miles in mid-summer Mississippi heat but does that translate to a marathon race in October? Luckily, people smarter than me have figured out how to predict marathon race time based on previous times from shorter races. A Google search for “running pace predictor” and a previous half marathon time (or two) are all that’s needed to get started.

For this experiment, I’ll use my most recent half marathon times. These races were run two weeks apart in April and in very different conditions. The Pensacola Beach Half Marathon was flat but hot and very humid… 2:06:16 9:33/mi. The Renaissance Half Marathon was hilly but the weather was great. I also had the benefit of running the last 7 miles with a faster friend pacing me… 1:54:33 8:45/mi.

Plugging in my times, I get:   Continue reading

Obligatory 20 mile marathon training run

20 mile marathon training runUnderneath my keyboard at home, I keep two important things. A well-worn printout of Hal Higdon’s “Novice 2” 18 week marathon training schedule and an equally worn Runner’s World “SmartCoach” marathon training schedule. From these two sources, I have created my own customized marathon training program.

If I were sticking strictly to the professional training programs, I’d be a week ahead of schedule. They both have long run mileage peaking at that magic 20 miler NEXT week. I like to do things MY way and now I can say I’ve been there and done that. I’ll probably not do another 20+ miler until the marathon on October 15. I’m not quite ready to taper yet so I think I’ll just keep my next few long runs comfortably under 16.

Thanks to the law student that ran along with me somewhere around miles 15-17. It was nice to talk with you and a welcome break from the solitude of the previous few hours. Good luck with the adventure races.

Also thanks for the encouragement from random bicycle guy who obviously noticed how incredibly hardcore I am. Actually, he probably noticed how incredibly pitiful I am (or was at the time). As he rolled up beside me, our conversation began something like this:

“Hey, what are you training for?”
“Oh, I’m doing my first marathon next month.”
“You’ve been out here a long time. I saw you a few hours ago in Madison.”
“Yeah, its been about three hours now.”
“I thought you might be training for the Badwater Ultra-Marathon…”

Don’t worry, Robin. This doesn’t make me want to actually race 135 miles across Death Valley in mid-July. But I’m ok with getting mistaken for someone that hardcore. Truth is, I might as well have been in the middle of the world’s toughest footrace. I was about to push farther than I had ever gone before, and win.

Twenty miles is a long way to run. I haven’t even ridden my bike that far yet. (I know, I need to ride more.) Needless to say, I’m very proud of this accomplishment and I’m really looking forward to my chance to join the ranks of the marathoners in just a few weeks.

Camelbak Hydration Pack For Runners

Camelbak Hydration Packs
Rogue vs. Octane XCT

Back when I was training for my first half-marathon, I quickly realized the single handheld water bottle I was using worked great up to 5 or 6 miles. If I was going to go farther, I was going to need a better system.
My solution (We’ll call this version 1.0) was the Nathan Speed 4 Waist Pack. Version 1.0 worked well enough to get me through the Mississippi Blues Half-Marathon and through all the long training runs leading up to the Pensacola Beach Half and Renaissance Half.

There were a few technical issues with the 4 bottle belt that I’ll cover in a separate review. Probably the biggest issue for me was the coolness factor. If I ask, I know I can trust my family to give me an honest assessment of my poor style decisions. When I displayed my new neon green Kinvara shoes, Robin smiled and exclaimed “Wow! Those are … really … green!” When I proudly showed my daughter the crudely made (but highly functional) guaranteed-not-to-fall-out-of-your-ears wrap-around headphones I had fashioned out of coat-hanger and 5 minute epoxy, she asked “Are you going to go outside with that on?”

 

Maybe I value function over form or maybe I just have bad taste. To my credit, I knew better than to ask anyone’s opinion about how the bottle belt looked. But, I didn’t make it out of the house unseen. Somewhere in the midst of Robin’s hysterical laughter, was the comment “You look like you’re going into battle.” From that point on, the cool sounding “Nathan Speed 4 Waist Pack” has been known as “the grenade belt”.

 

While on a business trip to Atlanta, I was browsing through a Sports Authority store and came across a deeply discounted Camelbak Rogue hydration pack. I judged this to have a much higher coolness factor than the grenade belt and the price was right to give it a try. Welcome version 2.0. Where have you been all my life?

I love having the ability to carry a lot of fluid, a lot of gels, my cell phone and practically any other small item that might be necessary for a self-supported long run. I love the convenience of the always ready drink tube. I love the streamlined feel of a small backpack. I love that fluids stay cool inside the semi-insulated pack. I love the coolness factor. I love my Camelbak(s).

There is one big issue with the Camelbak Rogue that drove me to search for an even better system.   Continue reading