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.

I Found My Walls

My first full marathon is now only seven weeks away. Training consistently has been difficult in this brutally hot summer. At this point, I know I’m half-marathon fit, but I’m worried that I’m not marathon fit. After today’s long run, I’m pretty sure a DNF is not in my future but the last ten miles are going to be an awful struggle.

Today, I hit mile 16 at the base of a long demoralizing hill. I had already taken my last gel one mile back and it was doing nothing for me. So I walked, and walked, and walked. I couldn’t even motivate myself to pick up the pace (and pretend like I’d been running all along) when I saw cyclists heading my way. I don’t know if I ever really “broke through” the wall. I was able to get myself running again but it seemed like the walls were lined up every quarter mile or so. I should add that the temperature was around 97 and shade was non-existent.

Salt crust was thick on my clothes and skin so there’s a good chance my electrolytes were low. I like my current fueling strategy of drinking only water and getting electrolytes and carbs from PowerGel but I may need more than just the gel – at least in the summer heat. I think I’ll check some ultra-running blogs for advice on getting additional electrolytes. Hopefully, that will be just what I need to get me through the wall. Suggestions, anyone?

Trail Running in Chattahoochee National Recreation Area

I spent some time in Atlanta recently. When I wasn’t working or training, I was running. My big idea to run all over Kennesaw Mountain didn’t quite work out since the trails closed too early each day. I found a few other interesting places to run instead. The network of trails known as West Palisades was less than a mile from the hotel. Most of the area was runnable, if you are into running straight up 200′ hills. There were parts where the trail was just a little too narrow, a little too steep and a little too high to run but the views from there would have made you slow down anyway.

West Palisades trail network in the Chattahoochee National Recreational Area
West Palisades trail network in the Chattahoochee National Recreational Area
Rottenwood Creek
Rottenwood Creek
Chattahoochee River
Chattahoochee River
Cochran Shoals at Chattahoochee River
Cochran Shoals at Chattahoochee River
Cochran Shoals at Chattahoochee River
Cochran Shoals at Chattahoochee River
New Footbridge
New Footbridge
Marked Trail
Marked Trail
Rottenwood Creek
Rottenwood Creek
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My Latest Long Run

Getting ready for a long night runI have read most of ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes’ books over the summer. If you don’t know who he is, Google. He may be a shameless self-promoter, but I like his sense of adventure. One of the quirky things he does frequently is put the family to bed and then go out for a run…until sunrise. It just happens that, like Dean, the best time for me to go run is after everyone else has done their thing and gone to bed. I haven’t run all night (yet) but I have gotten in a few late night long runs.
My neighborhood is next to a multi-use trail that circles an area of the Ross Barnett Reservoir known as Pelahatchie Bay and this is my usual route for a long run. The loop, beginning and ending with my driveway is 11.5 miles. For your enjoyment, I share a few highlights of my latest (as in most previous and also as in the latest I have ever
left for a run) long run.
Saturday, my wife and daughter went to see the late showing
of “The Help”. My 10 year old boys put themselves to sleep the same way they
always do…fighting over the XBOX because “He won’t let me win” with me yelling
at them to stop yelling or else I’ll come in there and … do … … … something.
In between refereeing arguments, I watched the beginning of a really old and
not so really good movie called… “Running” starring a very young Michael
Convinced that any average Joe would be able to make the
Olympic trials in the marathon event (but apparently after his marriage falls
apart and his kids lose respect for him), I was all ready to go out for a run.
If only someone were home to make sure the boys don’t get up and start yelling
at each other…or at least to yell at them to stop yelling whenever they do.
Robin got home in time to save me from watching the entire
movie (and from finding out whether Michael makes it to the Olympics…don’t tell
me if you’ve seen it, I recorded it for later.) I explained that I was going
for a long run and would be back in a few hours. Of course, my wife volunteered
to stay up for me in case I needed someone to fix a Ovaltine/protein recovery
shake and massage sore hamstrings. At least, I think that’s what she meant by
“Don’t wake me up when you get back.” That’s when it occurred to me that I
didn’t have a clue as to what time it was. 11:30 pm. At least it’s still
Oh, almost forgot Robin’s other words of encouragement…”It’s
raining.” “It’s what? Raining? Like, with thunder and lightning or just with
drops of water?” No matter, I’ve got my gear on by now and ready to hit the
road. As hot as it has been this summer, a few drops of rain will be welcome. A quick check that I have everything I need, including a ziplock bag to keep my phone dry in case I need to call from, I don’t know, Vicksburg or something (You never know, I might
feel like running ALL night) and I’m out the door to discover…the rain has
stopped and it didn’t cool anything off.
I click on my headlamp, reset the timer on my Garmin watch
and Olympic trials, here I come.   Continue reading