Aug 03

BMO Harris Bank Phoenix Marathon: Your 2017 Winter Marathon (or should be)

Its August. Summer is in full swing and the Fall marathon season is nearly upon us. I hope that your training is going well and that you are feeling confident for your upcoming races.

But it’s August. And that means is time to start thinking about a Winter 2017 marathon, which is a short four to six months away (even if it seems the heat you are enduring these days may never end). It means the very best races are starting to fill up. Prices are starting to increase. And training plans are coming together.

Let me make a simple suggestion: Make a date in Phoenix, AZ the last weekend in February and sign up for the BMO Harris Bank Phoenix Marathon, to be held February 25th, 2017.

It’s a no-brainer, really.

Full disclosure: I’ve been selected as a 2017 Race Ambassador. Basically what that means is that I can offer a discount of $10 on your half/full race registration by using the discount code “Rychen10” (and you can save a few more bucks by posting to Facebook after you’ve registered).

But Ambassadorship or not, Phoenix is on my calendar every year. And you should seriously consider putting it on yours as well.В It has everything you expect from a big-time race without the big corporate-run, cookie-cutter, cattle-herding feel of some other races, as it’s locally owned, supported and operated.

There’s the huge expo, the swag, the fireworks display before the starting gun, an early start time, the gradual downhill course through orange and grapefruit tree-lined streets full of community support, the morning sunrise, plenty of well-stocked aid stations exactly where you expect them to be, the multiple pace teams, a unique heavy-duty medal, the free 1k kids race, the huge finish line festival and of course…the PR bell.

All in all, it’s a party, you’re invited, and you should be there with us in February.

Don’t wait! The next price increase date is September 11th and this race sells out every year. Get registered now! (And be sure to use the discount code “Rychen10)

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PR Bell

Jul 12

Trails of Fury 50k by Steve

Trails of Fury 50k by Steve

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This year (2016) is the last time Desert Dash will be putting on the Trails of Fury races. I guess May is just so jammed up with trail races in Las Vegas. I was happy to be able to be a part of this race one last time before it’s gone.

I took a group out to preview a bit of the course a couple weeks before the race.

I took a group out to preview a bit of the course a couple weeks before the race.

The day before the race I was out marking the course and the wind was fierce! There were huge gusts that would nearly blow me off the trail. The 50 mile race was scheduled to start Friday evening because this time of year is usually quite hot in Las Vegas. However, it turns out the weather would be unseasonably cold with lots of wind.

Trying to mark the course in crazy wind

Trying to mark the course in crazy wind

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Little birdy sheltering from the wind. It let me get close!

Previously, I wanted to run the Trails of Fury 50 miler. With my Squaw Peak 50 mile race coming up a couple weeks later, the 50k made more sense as a last ‘long run’ before the 50 miler. With how the weather turned out, I was glad I registered for the 50k. As I was marking the course, I was coming to terms with the fact that it was a possibility that I wouldn’t be able to finish the 50k if the extreme weather kept up. Apparently, the weather was so bad that all the 50 mile runners ended up dropping.

Fortunately, the weather had calmed down by the time I arrived the morning of the race. There was still a good amount of wind but not unbearable. There were only ten of us running the 50k that day. It seems the 50 miler and 50k split the ultra field because normally there would be more runners at that distance. Maybe the weather scared people off.

Lately, I’ve had quite a bit of fatigue in my calves and quads. I could feel it at the very start of this run. It’s been a huge frustration for me lately. I just took a deep breath and pushed on. Two runners got out in front of me early in the race. They looked much looser than me, so I was fine with not leading. It’s a long race.

As the race progressed, I eased into it. My body (particularly my calves and quads) started feeling better. I wanted to keep a relaxed pace to give it a solid effort without overdoing it. I knew that there were two big climbs in this race for which I needed to be ready. Going out too fast could make things disastrous for those sections of the course.

Running away from the cabin

Running away from the cabin

At about mile 9, I had climbed a trail called “Satan’s Escalator,” which wasn’t too bad. There was an aid station there and the volunteers told me one of the runners ahead of me had gotten lost. I guess I was in second place now. I continued on to a climb up to an abandoned cabin on Mt Potosi. I had never seen the cabin before and it was just as creepy as people said. My friend Eric was camped near the cabin as a volunteer to help runners and give them wristbands after ensuring they made it to the location.

Junction near Bird Springs

Junction near Bird Springs

After the cabin, I had a nice downhill cruise until I got close the Bird Springs Peak. This would be a 1,700 ft climb in 3 miles with grades near 30% towards the top. The climb was just as tough as advertised. I saw the first place runner coming down on my way up. He wasn’t too far ahead but I would need to pick up the pace to catch him. At the top, the views were fantastic. I had never been to this peak so even mid-race I had to stop to sign the registry and take some pictures!

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Register!

Register!

After returning to the bottom, I felt good and knew the toughest climbs were completed. It was getting hot out so I tried to make sure I kept hydrating. Shortly after this, I saw a herd of wild horses not too far off the trail. I tried to get a couple pictures of them but they were too far away to get a decent picture with a phone camera.

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Getting hot outside!

Getting hot outside!

Wild Horses

Wild Horses

Soon after that I came into the Wilson’s Tank aid station and a group of guys with their Jeeps that looked like they were out off-roading in the desert started cheering. They said, “There he is! We’ve been waiting for you!” They cheered and then drove off. I was a little confused but thought that was really fun and appreciated it. I talked to the awesome aid station volunteer later. She said she had helped them out and in return asked them agree to wait until the next runner came in to cheer for him or her. I was that next runner!

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For the rest of the race, I cruised along the beautiful scenery and finished in second place. It wasn’t easy but it was a really solid 50k. I was really happy I chose to do it because it would be such great preparation for my next race, the Squaw Peak 50 miler. Too bad Trails of Fury won’t be around anymore. Fortunately, Trails of Glory takes place on many of the same trails in the fall and will be expanded in the future.

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2nd!

2nd!

Nutrition: Nuun electrolyte tablets, Honey Stinger waffles, GU gels.

Gear: Altra Olympus 2.0 shoes, Injinji trail socks, Patagonia Strider Pro shorts, InkNBurn shirt, Ultimate Direction SJ 2.0 pack with soft flasks, and Desert Dash Trail Junkie trucker hat.

Schwag

Medal & Award, nice chunk of hardware

Jun 24

Running a Marathon Injured by Steve

Running a Marathon Injured

Earlier this year (yes, I know I’m blogging out of order), I was set to do the Blood, Sweat, and Beers night trail marathon with Desert Dash. I opted for the night marathon because spring is my busiest time at work. This way, I could get in a workday then run a marathon. It helps keep me balanced.

A few weeks before the marathon, I was feeling really good fitness-wise. Then, all the sudden I felt pain during a run in my lower back/glute area. I looked into and it turned out I had a piriformis injury. Lousy timing.

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The evil desk that may have injured me! So evil!

I speculated that this injury may have come about from a quick transition from a very active lifestyle to a busy time at work, sitting in an office for 13 hours+ per day. I started foam rolling and doing self-massage with a lacrosse ball. I even purchased a standing desk to avoid sitting so much! The hard part about working so much during business hours was that I struggled to find time to get an appointment with someone for a professional massage, active release technique (ART), or FST.

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This thing is awesome!

The injury slowly got better, but I am not a very patient person. I heard it could take weeks to fully heal. I took a full week off then trudged through some lousy training the week after. ART (once I was able to get in) really helped. The marathon was fasting approaching and I had to make a decision.

As a stubborn person (and you probably surmised from the title of this post), I decided to run the marathon. Yeah, it was a stupid choice but it was my choice.

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What am I doing here? :-/

The evening of the race turned out to be a beautiful one to run, the atmosphere was fun and friendly. There weren’t many of us running the night marathon. Some of us were fresh and others had run the day marathon and wanted to do a double (props to them!). As I started, I knew my piriformis wasn’t 100% but I hoped any discomfort would remain tolerable. The frustrating thing was that usually I love to pound the downhills, but I couldn’t because the piriformis helps stabilize you when the foot plants on a step. Oh well, I kept telling myself that being out there was better than being stuck in the office.

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Think happy thoughts…

At the start of the race, I felt really good, but after about four miles, I knew my piriformis would be an issue. Fortunately, the pain remained tolerable. I ran up a tough group of switchbacks and felt really good. It was nice to be strong on the uphills. I just couldn’t make up time on the downhills. My body just wouldn’t let me. That was okay. I knew I would be limited and I was happy how things were going at that point. Then throughout the race, I got a side stitch. That was frustrating to add on top of the current situation. Then, my stomach started acting up. Then, I got a side stitch on the OTHER side. Sheesh.  I thought it’d be nice if I only had to deal with the piriformis.

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A pic of the switchbacks during the day

I rolled into an aid station about mile 23 and I think I was pretty grumpy by that time. A friend came up to check on me and ask me questions. I think I just mumbled some answers and his wife pulled him back a bit and kindly said, “Give him space.” I laugh about that now. I think I was within myself at that point. I was inside my own personal pain cave getting through this tough trail marathon.

I ended up finishing. Finishing was an accomplishment in itself for me that day. I ended up taking 2nd place out of the small field of runners.

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Yes, it was still better than a day at the office.

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Swag!

Update: I got through the piriformis issue shortly after that. I’ve been feeling great and hopefully it doesn’t come back. I look forward to dealing this race again next year (healthy)!

May 11

Inaugural REVEL Mt Charleston Marathon Review by Steve

Inaugural REVEL Mt Charleston Marathon Review

Many marathons I have done have left me saying, “I loved that they did this…” or “This was a nice extra item they gave us.” When you do a number of races, you notice the little things, the extras that runners come to appreciate at races. Maybe it’s an extra piece of swag, a quality race shirt, free photos… the list goes on. The REVEL Mt Charleston marathon had ALL of those little things in one race.

In full disclosure, I am a REVEL ambassador. I will do my best to give an objective review.

The race is located in Las Vegas, NV. It is predominantly run down Kyle Canyon road, just outside the city among the Mt Charleston area. It’s a great downhill marathon for runners hoping to get a new PR or qualify for Boston. I was hoping to qualify for Boston myself. I need to run a marathon under 3:10 in order to qualify. I knew going into the race this would be tough but I felt it was within the realm of possibility. I was going to go for it.

Volunteering at the Information Booth at the Race Expo

Volunteering at the Information Booth at the Race Expo

The pre-race expo was small and efficient. You get to test your chip at the expo to make sure everything is working properly and to work out any kinks. There were a number of visual aids with information about the race. I was working the information booth for part of the expo to assist folks with questions. There were some nice vendors at the expo as well. They have some fun photo backdrops at the expo for people take pre-race pictures with their bibs or signs saying things like “26.2”, “13.1”, and others.

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The swag was excellent. The t-shirts are great quality and you have the choice of tech shirt, tri-blend, tank, short sleeve, or long sleeve. They also included a nice REVEL beanie, gloves, and a mylar blanket in the bag. Those are more of those little things that they did to make the race more comfortable for the runners. Your check bag was already tagged and ready to go. Very efficient.

The next morning, the buses were on time and the loading was smooth. The buses were really nice actually (more little touches). The start area wasn’t as cold as I anticipated at the upper 30s. Leading up to the race, I was actually more worried the temperatures would be too hot. The sun was coming up and the scenery is beautiful up there in the Mt Charleston area. It was perfect to get more of those pre-race photos.

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George, Rychen, and I at the start. The scenery makes a nice background!

As the race began promptly at 6:30am, snow flurries began to fall. I couldn’t believe this was Las Vegas in May! It was beautiful and the temperature felt great. I settled into a comfortable pace on the downhill. I didn’t want to push too hard while also not actively trying to brake. I wanted to keep loose within the pace I needed to BQ.

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Snow Flurries! Photo Credit: George Okinaka

There were some great motivational signs along the way. There were also plenty of race photographers to capture those race moments. By the way, they give the race photos for FREE! I love when races do this. The photographers get paid, runners get great photos, they share those photos on social media promoting the race, and everyone wins. A number of people got a kick out of my race singlet, hehe.

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Rawr! Run for your life!

The first half of the marathon has quite a bit of downhill with some small inclines (I can’t even really call them hills) at miles 1, 4, and 12. The second half of the marathon is mostly smooth downhill to the finish.

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I was moving along great through the race. I kept my pace where I wanted it. I saw my friends from Desert Dash and Triple Dare race companies at a couple of aid stations along the way. Seeing them really lifted my spirits. I hit mile 20 at the time I wanted to be there. Unfortunately, that’s where things went bad. I was fading. I made it through miles 21 and 22 decently but the next few crushed me. My quads were destroyed. I couldn’t get them to move how I wanted. It was a bit demoralizing to see the BQ time slip away. At that point, I just wanted to finish. I knew I had a PR and that was great but I wasn’t super concerned about losing a minute here or there.

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I ended up finishing the marathon in 3:15. This is a 10 minute PR for me. It was a great feeling. I wasn’t too down on myself about not getting the BQ because I knew it was going to be tough. My plan going into the race was to go hard for the BQ at the risk of possibly blowing up. I still finished with a great time (for me) and I’ll give the BQ a shot again in the future.

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Picture taken in front of their cool backdrops

At the finish, the announcer was outstanding. He had tons of energy trying to motivate and cheer on runners across the finish line. The medal for the race is really great quality. It’s a nice big piece of bling! Runners that really love the medals should look into adding this one to their collection. The race also provides a cool little postcard showing your time and placements (more little things). They had the fun backdrops again at the finish to take post-race pics. They also had pizza and pie (I love pie!) at the finish! Seriously!

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For now, I’ll be recovering my sore quads and getting ready for the next race! I’m also enjoying the REVEL race pics. They got those out to the runners fast (another little perk)!

If you’re looking into doing this race, it could definitely be a PR course for you.  Make sure you’re ready for the downhill. Train it! You’ll have a great race with all the little extras REVEL provides. From beginning to end, the organization of this event was excellent. Hopefully you don’t think my review is overly biased. I have been actively checking on feedback from runners about this race and it has been overwhelmingly positive.

Apr 25

Get outside and run!

We all need to get outside and run! рџ™‚

On average, Americans spend 91 percent of their time indoors or in a vehicle. Just 7 to 8 percent of their time is spent outside. These were the findings of The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS) which measures variation in human exposure to pollutants.

The findings do not bode well for Americans’ health because levels of pollution indoors are a lot higher than those outside and can cause serious health issues. They also are notable because researchers believe being outside has positive health effects:

“Research published in the Journal of Aging Health shows that getting outside on a daily basis may help older people stay healthy and functioning longer. Participants in the study who spent time outdoors every day at age 70 showed fewer complaints of aching bones or sleep problems, among other health-related problems, at age 77 than those who did not head outside each day.”

Being outside is thought to have benefits for people of all ages. These may include:

Greater optimism
Enhanced mental health
Improved attention spans
Stronger immune systems

getoutandrun