Jun 04

2014 Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Preview by RJ

I’ve been fortunate enough to run the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon each of the last four years and was able to pace Steve for the first 12 miles in what would be a new PR for him in 2013 (which he then lowered in Pocatello later in the summer). Unfortunately 2014 will not be my fifth due to schedule conflicts, but with the race less than three weeks away now, we wanted to give a brief overview of what to expect on June 21st.The folks at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series changed the course in 2012 and it has remained the same ever since. In my opinion there’s good and bad tradeoffs to the changes, but they are what they are, so here we go:The race starts in the heart of the Seattle Center, home to the Space Needle, Key Arena (may the Seattle SuperSonics rest in peace) and a ton of museums, carnival rides and other activities for all ages. It’s also convenient to use the monorail to get to the starting line if you don’t want to walk from a downtown hotel. Which brings me to the downtown hotels. If you haven’t already booked one, good luck. I hope you have a steady income or available credit. And be sure to budget for parking if you drive.The starting area is a good set up. Lots of port-o-potties in different locations to move people through as quickly as possible and nice open areas to walk wherever you need to go. Get yourself to the starting corrals and get ready.

The first 2-3 miles are run through downtown Seattle. Growing up in a small town and now living in a city where the tallest building is seven stories, I love this part of the run. Lots of people line the sides of the road and there’s a great atmosphere. Don’t be surprised if your GPS starts doing weird things as the height and proximity of the buildings cause your satellite reception to go in and out.

After a few more miles through some neighborhood streets you’ll hit the shores of Lake Washington at about the 10k mark. Enjoy the next 12 miles. They. Are. Awesome. At Mile 8 you’ll enter Seward Park and take a loop around the perimeter. At 10.5 miles you’re out of the park and running back up Lake Washington Blvd the way you came, This is a nice shady tree-lined bike path with the water to your right. Out in the distance is the I-90 bridge you’ll be crossing in about 5 miles. But before you get there, there’s something you need to see and experience and feel. Turn your music off, take your earphones out and appreciate this (take a minute, grab a tissue, and watch…I’ll wait):

 
You can also go HERE to learn more about Wear Blue: Run to Remember (watch the video on their home page also…but be sure to grab another tissue).Back to the race. After a short out and back, you’ll make your way onto the I-90 bridge around mile 15. Have I mentioned yet that the race has basically been flat to this point? The bridge run is approximately three miles out and three miles back in and for me, it’s been the make or break section every year. So much can happen here because it’s so unlike the rest of the course. A few things to be aware of:First, the weather. Up until this point you’ve been running through downtown or along tree-lined streets and paths. You’re completely out in the open on the bridge. Second, if it’s a sunny day, you’re going to be hot. If it’s windy, there’s no hiding. There’s downhill and uphill sections on each side of the bridge and before you hit the turnaround point and immediately upon arriving back at mile 21 you’ll run through tunnels which have a terrible camber to them. There’s no hiding from that either.Running back towards downtown you’ll see (and then come up on, and then pass by) CenturyLink Field (home of the Seahawks) and Safeco Field (home of the Mariners) and then you’re in the final stretch to the finish line. But don’t think you’ve made it yet, because when you make the final turn to the finish line you get to run up one of the steepest hills of the entire course before crossing the tape and receiving your medal. Really, I don’t know how or why they can’t find a better way to finish.

The finish area is not set up as nicely as the starting line. You have quite a long way to walk to get food, meet up with family in the reunion area, buy overpriced gear and listen to a band who was popular, well…back in the day, let’s say (wow, did my personal opinions just get exposed there? My apologies).

Overall, the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon is an above average race to run, if you don’t mind sharing the course with 25,000 runners and can put up with a few less-than-stellar characterists that have been mentioned here.

Good luck, have a great race, and let us know how it went. We’d love to have you submit a post-race review for us!

Below is the official Course Tour video (ignore the mile markers in the video. I don’t know who put this together, but they’re not even close).

May 12

Labor of Love Marathon Recap by Steve

I approached this marathon much differently than the others. First of all, I ran this marathon on a whim. I was originally planning on a Saturday long run. However, I thought it would be nice to have a new course safely laid out, fuel placed along the way, and a few extra miles. I showed up on race day with cash in hand for the marathon. 

It’s nice to add spontaneity to life. 

This race takes place in Lovell Canyon among the Spring Mountains. If you enjoy desert mountain scenery, you will appreciate the views. I thought it was actually quite lush as far as a desert setting goes.

The course runs along a winding and hilly paved road. The road wasn’t shut down but there were very few cars using it. It’s mostly an out-and-back course with an extra turnaround near the halfway point to round out the mileage to 26.2. The road could use a repaving but that isn’t a big a deal to me. Overall, it is a tough course with over 2,000 feet of elevation gain. The high temperatures (80s/90s) didn’t help either. It probably isn’t going to be your PR course, but I don’t think the goal always has to be a new PR.


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My goal for this race was simply to get in a good workout. I strapped on my heart rate monitor and did my best to keep it in a low zone throughout the race. Keeping my heart rate in a low zone was tough on some of the climbs. I forced myself to slow down or walk to get my heart rate back down. Mentally, I couldn’t let it bother me when people passed me or get lured into racing hard. In the end, I accomplished my goal of getting a good workout. I didn’t push too hard and felt great the next day.

Calico Racing always puts on a solid event. Everything flowed well logistically. The volunteers and support were great. It’s not a huge event, so if you prefer races with fewer participants, this is a good one. I really like the shirt and medal too. 


If you’re looking for a well-organized, challenging, low-key marathon in May (and in Nevada) this one is a great choice. Other distances offered for the event include 5k, 10k, half marathon, 50k, and 50 miles. 
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As always, if you have questions or comments about this particular event, feel free to post something below.
May 02

Snowed Out at Ragnar Trail Relay – Zion by Steve

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The above picture is joking a bit. Nonetheless, the Ragnar Trail Relay in Zion was quite an experience!

I previously shared some thoughts I had about the Ragnar Relay series on this blog. I wish to add the unique experience I had at the 2014 Ragnar Trail Relay in Zion.

I wasn’t planning on participating in this event but a friend (that works with Ragnar) of mine had a free open spot on his team. It’s hard to pass up a free race (Thanks Joseph!), especially an event like Ragnar.

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The drive up through Zion National Park was gorgeous as always. You do have to pay the $25 park fee just to drive through, though. 

They changed the logistical setup of unloading gear and shuttling people. Previously, you shuttled gear and people. This year, you dropped your gear at one of the multiple drop-off points, drove to the parking area, and were shuttled back to the campground. Ideally, you should travel to the event as a group to do this more efficiently. Since I went up by myself, I had to leave my gear with a volunteer. Once I got back to the campground, I had to carry my gear searching for my team. Keep in mind there is very limited cell reception. It was nearly impossible to get a message through.

 
I went to the village because eventually everyone has to go there for the exchange and found my team there. Upon reaching our camp site, I begin to set up my tent. I laid out the tent.

Then… I realized there are no poles. No stakes either. Crap.

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I had borrowed a small tent from a friend and neglected to double check it before leaving. This was poor planning on my part.

Normally, I would just sleep under the stars. However, the forecast showed 100% chance of rain. I decided to turn the tent over, using the bottom tarp to cover me from the rain. I borrowed a cot from someone on our team to keep my sleeping bags off the ground. It actually turned out to be quite warm, like a little cocoon. 

The trails were the same loops as last year. The scenery is beautiful. I ran the red loop first and had a blast. Last year, I did this loop in the dark so I enjoyed running it during the day this year.

PictureCompleting the Red Loop

I had a bit of foot pain from a foot bone issue and some peroneal tendonitis. I was able to run, just a bit slower and with some discomfort. Fortunately, one of the vendors, Mountain Land Rehabilitation, was providing round-the-clock physical therapy. They really helped me by massaging and wrapping my foot.

The rest of the Ragnar Village was much like last year, which was great. They had some great vendors, including Salomon shoe demos, free Nuun refills, and many others. I love those campfires.

By the time I ran my next loop (yellow), a light rain had begun. During the run, the rain picked up. Fortunately, I was still warm throughout the run. I was just wet. Upon finishing, I grabbed a s’more and huddled into my makeshift cocoon for some rest. I was kept nicely dry and listened to the relaxing noise of the rainfall. 

PictureShortly after I woke up

I was awakened to some commotion. People saying, “Are you seeing this?” “Can you believe it?” I realized the tarp was pressing against me, weighed down by something. I looked out of my covering and it was snowing! There were big flakes coming down thick and it was sticking.

To our alarm, we realized the runner after me was still out there! A loop that should have taken about 2 hours, took her about 4 hours. After my run, the trails had gotten much worse due to the rain and snow. The footing was sloppy, slowing down many runners. Runners slowing down coupled with the plummeting temperature and snow caused runners to become hypothermic. 

Runners and Ragnar were expecting rain and cold. I don’t believe anyone was expecting so much snow! Many groups were discussing how safe it was to continue sending runners out. There was an awkward period of time where people were unsure what to do or what Ragnar would do. Once the trail markers became covered with snow, causing runners to get lost, Ragnar decided to call off the rest of the race. 

 
 
Picture I believe this was the right decision. Ragnar had to send people out to find the lost or unaccounted runners. Fortunately, everyone was recovered. Thank goodness.

Ragnar distributed the medals. Many runners were uncomfortable with the medals since they didn’t really “complete” the race. However, I feel they survived this unique experience, so they earned it.

It was a bit sloppy with everyone trying to pack up and exit on muddy/rainy/snowy roads. I was impressed with how things went given the conditions. Fortunately, Ragnar got the shuttles running quickly. I was glad my snow-covered car didn’t get stuck!

Overall, I did enjoy myself and it was certainly a unique adventure! 

The drive back through Zion was beautiful with the snow and rain flowing down the rock formations.

Feb 22

My Respons to Steve’s Hansons Marathon Method Review by RJ

67, 72, 83, 93, 60, 114, 90, 101.

Those were my monthly mileage numbers in the eight months prior to running the 2013 St. George Marathon.  That’s nowhere near as many as I was running in training for, and setting a PR at, the 2012 Denver Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon, yet my St. George finish time was just two seconds slower (I really wish my watch hadn’t died around mile 10, I had no idea how close I was to a new PR).

Three weeks after St. George, I took more than 20 minutes off my 50-mile PR from the previous year and nearly 80 minutes off of my time in the same race in 2011.

Steve has previously posted about his experience using the Hansons Marathon Method as he trained for the 2013 Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll and Pocatello Marathons. He did amazing in those races, setting huge back-to-back PRs. If you’ve read his post though (If you haven’t, HERE it is. I’ll wait…), you’re already familiar with three pillars of the method which I have issues with in my own training:

1.      The weekly mileage. The Hansons method training increases the weekly mileage up to approximately 60 miles a week on the beginner schedule. That’s not a number I’ve ever hit for a week. Ever. Even in training for 50-milers. Heck, even in weeks I ran a 50-miler.

2.      Six days a week running. That’s also not a number I’ve ever hit for a week. It’s not that I don’t like running, obviously I do, but I don’t want to do it that much.

3.      The Hansons method is very pace-based. Each workout is run at a specific pace for a specific reason. Surely there is genius in this and, if done correctly (meaning, have a realistic goal, among other things) it can produce a desired result. Ask Steve. Maybe I lack focus or discipline, but some days I want to run faster than others and I don’t want a schedule to dictate that to me (maybe that’s why Steve’s PR is 25 minutes faster than mine). I was discussing this with another runner friend of mine a few years ago, someone who also keeps to a very strict pace schedule and my thought then as well as now is that upwards of 90% or more of my runs are not races. If I’m not enjoying the non-race runs, then why am I doing it?

One of the most irritating things I hear people say when they tell me all of the reasons they could never run a marathon is that they either can’t, won’t or don’t want to put in the huge mileage that certain monthly publications geared towards Runners and their World (as well as other sources) tell them they must meet in order to be “prepared.” Bull. Loney.

So how did I do it?

Distance running is, in large part, aerobic. Sure, some would argue that maybe Ryan Hall is not running aerobically when he clocks a 2:10 marathon. I don’t know if that’s true or not and I hate to be the one to break this to everyone, but with very few exceptions, none of us are Ryan Hall. So back to this aerobic thing.

Training the body to withstand long periods of aerobic exercise doesn’t require 20 hours a week exercising. Surely someone putting in that sort of time is going to benefit, but all I’m saying is that it’s not a requirement. It really doesn’t even require three hours or more in a single workout (again, you really want to go knock out two or three 20-mile training runs for confidence sake, go for it). In fact, some studies show that workouts of around three hours or more offer little additional benefit over a two hour workout and greatly increase the risk of injury.

This was the basis for my training as I entered 2013. After three years of doing nothing but running, my focus changed and I set my sights on training for a couple of half-ironman distance triathlons. So when I put my training schedule together it included just three days of running along with two swim workouts, a short bike ride (an hour or less) and a medium length ride (1-2 hours) per week. With only (only) a half marathon run in mind, my run workouts never exceeded 10 miles and my total weekly workout time averaged around 6-8 hours a week (I doubled up my workouts on some days, combining a swim with a short ride, a medium ride with a short to medium run, etc).

The importantly thing was that those 6-8 hours a week were nearly all aerobic. If I had been running aerobically for the full eight hours each week, I’d be right around 50 miles. See where I’m going with this?

My monthly mileage in June (114) spiked only because I decided to run the Seattle marathon with Steve at the last minute (by last minute I mean 60 hours before the race began and by “with Steve” I mean the first 11 miles before he left me in the dust—it wasn’t an aerobic pace for me). It was a bit of a stretch, but I finished that race right around my average marathon time. And I was fine the next day. Because it was aerobic. Readers of Rich Roll’s Finding Ultra will recall that as he religiously spent the bulk of his training time in his Zone 2 heart rate zone (an aerobic state), his pace while in that zone gradually increased. All he did at the end of his training was complete five Ironman distance triathlons in seven days, one on each of the Hawaiian islands.

By the time the end of the year came my body still felt fresh. There wasn’t the wear and tear on it that there had been in previous years. And so when I hit the starting line 26.2 miles away from Worthen Park in downtown St. George I felt great. And I ran great. And afterwards I recovered quickly and lined up to run 50 miles three weeks later – feeling great (I won’t tell you how I felt AFTER running 50 miles…but not so great).

My point is that there are probably as many training programs and philosophies as there are runners. The Hansons Marathon Method is one of them and many runners have had great success using it. There is certainly a place for more rigorous training programs. But if you’re thinking about running your first marathon, or maybe running another marathon but don’t feel you have the time or can’t run 50 miles a week please don’t be discouraged as you look at various training schedules. Keep it aerobic. Keep it simple. Enjoy yourself. Finish with a smile on your face.

Dec 27

Stepping Away by RJ

PictureI went from non-runner to marathoner to marathon maniac to ultra marathoner to multi ultra marathon and half ironman triathlon finisher over the course of about 48 months. 16 marathons, three 50 milers and three half Ironman triathlons in 40 months to be exact (plus dozens of shorter races). It was hard, I pushed myself beyond limits I thought existed, it wore me down and I fought through a couple of injuries here and there. The one constant through all of this was that I was always motivated. There was always the next race, and thus, the next workout. Every one of them mattered and I took every one of them seriously. Put the time and effort in now, was my thought, or you’re going to have regrets on race day.
 
I can’t think of too many races, any really, where I felt unprepared on race day. Well, maybe the 2013 Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon that I decided to run 72 hours prior to the event, but that was purely for fun and not one I had planned on running until my wife decided she would be unable to run it on Wednesday night of race week. That’s not to say that all of the races went how I had hoped they would, certainly many of them did not, but I never felt like it was a lack of preparedness. I was always motivated.

The end of 2013 has been different. After pulling off a 50 miler/trail half marathon combo on consecutive weekends for the third straight year (and destroying my 50 mile PR from 2012 in the process), I had a pain in the arch of my foot that lingered. Week after week I felt it with every step and it hurt. I took time off from running and hit the gym, participating in a weights class and a core class. Running was out and cycling aggravated my foot even more so there was none of that either. Even the light kick in my swim stroke aggravated it.

My foot eventually healed as I knew it would. But it’s been eight weeks now since that half marathon and I’ve run exactly three times. Three easy 5k runs. And while it felt great to get out and run again, and while I do miss it somewhat, there was no motivation behind it. There still isn’t. It might be that I’m not signed up for any races so there’s nothing I’m working towards right now. But I’m not even motivated to think about looking for a race to sign up for. It’s just not there.

Perhaps this is my body’s way of telling me it’s time to rest and recover. To really rest and recover. To recover from the stress of going from nothing to four consecutive years of go go go, pounding out the miles, treating every workout like it was a race, putting in the time and stringing together as many endurance races as I could fit into my schedule and budget. That doesn’t even include the mental energy used to prepare for each race, put together training schedules, learn about nutrition or pace strategies and doing all of it while juggling a family and full-time job. Perhaps this is my body telling me it’s time to rest and recover, not for a week or two weeks or even a month, but as long as it takes. Toss out the calendar, it means nothing. 

I trust that when my body has healed and rested sufficiently, physically and mentally, that I’ll know. It might be that a particular race catches my eye, or I may see someone running along the road as I drive to or from work, or someone may post something about their latest workout on Facebook. Something will happen and the motivation will return. I’ll be excited to set the alarm for 5am the next morning and anxious for it to go off. And then I’ll hit the road and start moving again, realizing very quickly that If I’m going to do this I’m going to have to start back at the beginning. But I’ll be motivated to do so. 

In the movie “Searching for Bobby Fisher” there is a principle that the Ben Kingsley character tries to instill in the child chess prodigy that he coaches. “Don’t move until you see it,” he tries to drill into him. “Don’t move until you see it.” Make a move too quickly without being absolutely sure of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and the consequences that will follow, he taught, and it could be disastrous. 

For me the principle is similar: don’t move until you feel it. Don’t move until the motivation is there and I’m absolutely sure I’m ready to take on the challenge and stress and work of preparing for and completing 26.2 miles, or 50 miles, or an Ironman, or whatever it may be. 

I’m looking forward to that motivation returning. In the meantime I’ll rest, recover, sleep a little more, eat a little less and wait patiently for that moment to arrive.