Monthly Archives: April 2015

A Tale of Two Toenails

There is a certain rhythm that develops after you run a lot of races. Just a natural order of things. Carb-load, packet pickup, eat and walk too much at the expo, join overly ambitious pace team, go out too fast and leave pace group in the dust, hit the wall, get passed by same pace group, get passed by subsequent pace group, shuffle as fast as possible to prevent next pace group from passing you, get passed by next pace group, cross finish line, get medal, “oooo…purdy medal…my precious”, shuffle slowly to finishers photos, try to pretends for the camera that I can still stand up, get post race food, eat too much post race food, wonder how I am going to get back to my car, shuffle slowly to vehicle, get home, take long shower and eat too much, hang medal and file bib/results, and go to sleep. A few days later, I forget about the pain, write a blog report about how bad-ass I was crushing the course and all my rivals as I (again) missed a new PR, and I then lose a toenail, and start training for my next race.

It is the same story with every marathon. Three to four days after the race, one of my toenails decides that it has had enough and just jumps ship.

Yesterday, this whole comfortable routine was upended. Two toenails abandoned ship at the same time….during the taper. It’s like they finally figured out what was coming and decided to head for the hills before the toenail carnage could begin…

…or I am just getting old, and a slow 5k taper run is more then my feet can handle.

Hoping that this is a good omen for Sunday’s Pittsburgh Marathon, but I have a sneaking suspicion that my toenails are trying to tell me something…


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Tapering With Uncertainty…

Yesterday, I ran 10 miles. That should be the last long-ish taper run of my marathon training.

I just don’t know which marathon I am running (if any)…

There are a lot of non-running life events that can affect running plans. Mine is the severe illness of a beloved pet (Peanut…one of my two “fur-babies”). This dog has had a lot of health issues in her life, and she has scared us more then once. She is thirteen now, and I didn’t think that she would pull through this time. She was started on THREE different antibiotics, THREE other stomach medications and had her high dose steroid (for a different health issue) cut down. I was doubtful that any of it would make a difference.


Meanwhile, I was scheduled to fly home to Canada next weekend to visit family. Pittsburgh was a short (ish) detour on my way to Canada and I was scheduled to run the Pittsburgh Marathon next Sunday (along with the 5k the day before to complete the “Steel Challenge”). A few days ago, I decided that I might have to reschedule the trip and would have to cancel Pittsburgh…my first DNS. Since I was trained for a marathon, I started to look around locally for alternatives. Fargo is having their marathon the following week. It would be a three hour drive and an overnight stay…a much shorter trip if I could not get to Pittsburgh ( and if if her health was stable enough that I could safely book an overnight trip). I have not yet registered but I did find a motel room and booked it as a back up.

I told my wife about my proposed change in plans. She told me not to be so hasty. Having a plan B is fine, but to see how Peanut responded to treatment before canceling the trip.

She got better…fast. Twenty-Four hours after starting the treatment, she was our old dog again.

So, plan A is still a go but subject to cancelation. I am holding my motel and watching the registration cap at Fargo to be sure I don’t get shut out of that one, and will watch my little girl and hope that she continues her miraculous recovery…


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Running and The Travelling Road Show…

Yesderday, I ran my first “Travelling Road Show” event.

This is how I refer to events that just load up their equipment, travel from city to city, and put on the same event over and over again.

Usually, I avoid these types of races (I am thinking of you “Rock n Roll Marathon”), opting instead for the local events.

There is something impersonal about these traveling circuses. There is no connection to the community. I could be in any city and get the same experience. Most larger cities have a local running club that hosts a yearly marathon, as well as many smaller events throughout the year. In many cities, these marathons have been held annually for over 25 years. Thousands of runners participate. Hundreds of thousands of spectators show up. The expo is the social event of the year for many runners, the marathon is the event of the year, and the city has no issues shutting down many of its more scenic routes for most of the day to host this event.

You can feel the connection to the community.

I always felt that the Travelling Road Show missed all of this. It was a for profit organization that would feel generic and without a soul.

But, for some reason, the Travelling Road Show is my preference in the world of triathlon.

As I went to packet pickup the other day, I started to reflect on these prejudices and wondered if they were fair. I also wondered why I came to such opposite conclusions for running and triathlon events.

I guess that the difference is that Triathlon is a much newer sport. Very few races have been around 10+ years. The locations where triathlons are held are also different. They need an area by a body of water that can host a large scale swim and a field/parking lot that can serve as transition. It also needs a lot of usable roads. Even an olympic triathlon needs more road access then a marathon does. An Ironman needs 100+ miles. For these reasons, triathlons tend to be held in the middle of nowhere . There are exceptions to the rule (Chicago, Minneapolis, NYC triathlons come to mind), but most are in rural setting where there are not as many people to develop or grow these types of events. There are also a lot more logistical issues when putting together a swim and bike event then just a running event. A company like World Triathlon Corporation (Ironman), Lifetime Fitness, Challenge, or Rev 3 can easily drive into town, get everything set up and add a certain amount of polish to the whole affair. Indeed, the only locally produced triathlon that I have participated in seems quite amateurish in comparison. I only saw 2 or 3 lifeguards on the swim for example. I doubt that I would have traveled to Benton Harbor, Racine, Lawrence, or Muncie for a local tri. But seeing the name Ironman made me confident that they would be top shelf events….and they were. However, all these events have blended together in my mind. The swag, the registration, the merchandise tent, even the medals looked alike. I could easily lose track of where I was. However, the course was always the highlight. Each had their own nuances, charms and challenges.

So, if I accepted this in triathlon, why didn’t I care for it when running.

I don’t really know.

Certainly, for travel purposes, I will participate in the biggest race the city has to offer…which has always been a local race. For whatever reason, we don’t see many Traveling Road Shows in Minnesota. Rock ‘n Roll doesn’t come here. But I tried the Hot Chocolate run yesterday. It was well done. It was organized, and it was easy to see that this had been done on a weekly basis for the last few months. It was quite enjoyable, but I see no point in travelling to another city to experience this again.

If Rock n Roll ever came to town, I would likely take their Half Marathon for a test drive. I doubt that I would travel for it, but I would not avoid either.

As I reread this post, I can see that my initial prejudices are still holding on strong…even though I am having a hard time explaining why…even to myself. Next up…Pittsburgh Marathon (created and curated by the running community of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania). Should be a great day…



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Race Report: Hot Chocolate 15K-Minneapolis

April 18, 2015.

It was a beautiful day for a run.

I should probably just end the race report right there.


It states everything that was important to me today.

The sun was out. Tempuratures in the low fifties to start, climbing up to about sixty. There was a slight breeze.

I ran in shorts and a t-shirt. I never felt cold. I never overheated. Sweat evaporated quickly since the air was dry. I never had to poor water over my head.

The race race was well organized. Plenty of aid stations and porta-potties. Volunteers were abundant, helpful, and in good spirits.

The expo was small, but energetic. I got in and out quickly (although I wish they had a mail out option…driving an hour each way is a hassle…). They included a very nice full zip hoodie (that will make for a nice pre/post run layer), and a hat that states “Will run for Chocolate” (which is very true, but I cannot see myself ever wearing…)

The course was flat. The roads were in rough shape from the winter (especially the last mile).

The “chocolate” on the course was disappointing (marshmallows, tootsie rolls, chocolate chips that tasted like wax). The chocolate at the finish line was awesome (hot chocolate and chocolate fondue in an oversized bowl with lots of dunkable goodies).

The finishers medal is one of the most unique that I have seen…it looks like a chocolate bar with a wrapper indicating the city and the race. The “foil” is partially pulled back and a bite has been taken from the corner. Bonus points for creativity. It is what got me to register for this event.


I got a PR for the 15K. This was not a surprize since this was my first race at this distance. It was a decent time-1:22:55 (8:54/mile) which placed me in the top 19% overall (474/2491). Considering that 1) this was a taper run and 2) I have been struggling with speed and endurance all season, I was quite pleased with the outcome.

But, most importantly, I enjoyed this event. I enjoyed the freedom of running on a beautiful day, at whatever pace that felt right, and surrounded by so many others who are passionate about the sport.

It was a beautiful day for a run. That is really all that needed to be said…

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Is It Too Early To Be Planning 2016 (or 2017)?

I am determined to complete everything on the adjenda for 2015…but there is far too much on the schedule this year. I have 5 marathon and one ultra planned. I am extremely relieved that I could not get a 70.3 on the schedule anywhere. I intend to learn from this mistake.

My future plans are to move away from long distance events to get more balence in my life (no more Ironman’s, 70.3’s, or century rides). I am undecided about ever running another marathon, but I am certain that the “marathon season” will not be repeated. The ultra long training days will be behind me, as will most of the travel and expense of out of town events.

I have started looking at 2016, trying to see what it would look like. So far, I have come up with the following basics:

1) I will continue with a local half marathon series, but will change from Team Ortho (I have been running their races for 4 years now) to the MN Running Series just for a change of pace/scenery.

2) The Twin Cities Marathon Weekend is still the biggest event on the local calendar…and I will continue to participate…but will limit myself to the Loony Challenge (5k, 10k, 10 miles). I will still get to be involved and participate on the corporate team, but three times running the full marathon is enough for now.

3) Continue running the local Lifetime Triathlon races (Minneapolis, Maple Groove) as they are world class events close to home. I may stretch the Minneapolis race to the Olympic Distance.

4) Limit myself to no more then ONE destination race/year.

Destination races are fun, but expensive. They also are not as enjoyable as they used to be. Limiting them will make me more selective, and I will likely enjoy them more.

As I decided on that last point, at looked at all of my races in the “Parking Lot” and decided against tomato of them. When I was done, only two events remained…

1) Chicago Marathon. I have not run any of the World Major Marathons, and Chicago would be the easiest to register for. It is also in driving distance. Having a single fall marathon would be something that I would more likely be able to get excited about and train for. Besides, my marathon career is scheduled to end in Des Moines…and that just seems just so anti-climactic.

2) Disney/Star Wars Half Marathon/Rebel Challenge. I love Disney, Star Wars, and Running. I HAVE to do this sooner or later. The timing sucks for my schedule, and I figured this would have to be on the back-burner for awhile. I just got a tentative spousal green light for this event next year. If I do it, it would be my reward to myself for all the hard training over the past 4 years. All would be fun-runs with plans to stop at every photo opportunity at the 5k, 10k and Half Marathon. It would also be the ONLY destination race of 2016 making that year “marathon-free” with no option to throw my name in the hat for the Chicago Marathon until 2017.

The more I think about it, the more I like option 2. Going almost two years between Des Moines and Chicago would likely recharge my enthusiasm for a really big race. And the thought of returning to DisneyLand and running some Star Wars events just seems like too much fun to pass up…

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The Last Long Training Run…

…for a little while.

The Pittsburgh Marathon is coming up way too fast, and tapering will now begin. I am very undertrained for this race, but I still got a 21 miler in today (a VERY slow and painful 21 miles, but at least I cracked the 20 mile barrier once before race day). The good news is that my foot and ankle issues were almost non-existant during this run (although they were a little grumpy post-run). The pain I felt was just the standard quads and hamstrings stiffening up and voicing their displeasure about running so far. That said, it was a beautiful day for a run. Temps were in the low sixties and sunny. The wind was again an issue, but I’ll take it over the alternatives (artic temps, snow, sleet, etc). Nothing beats running in shorts, t-shirt, and sunscreen…

Spring marathons are tough for me. Unlike some of my peers (looking at you Rod!), I do not have the motivation or the courage to run outside in the ice and cold. I am still dealing with ankle pain from a winter related injury in 2012. So I stick to the treadmill through the winter months but can rarely motivate myself to go over 5k. By the time the weather even starts to behave, I am far behind on any marathon training plan.

I think that I just have to accept that spring marathons just are not for me. That is a shame since there are some great spring races out there…Boston (I would find a way to train for that one!), Big Sur, Los Angeles, Little Rock, Flying Pig, Goodlife Toronto, Fargo, and Pittsburgh. I am very glad that I got to experience the Flying Pig last year, but I was undertrained for that one as well.

Next week, I will start the taper with the Hot Chocolate 15k (cool metal, cool hoodie, and lots of chocolate during and after the run!). After that, a brief glide down into race day.

Once that is done, I have two events at the opposite end of the spectrum:

1) The TC 1 mile
2) The FANS 24 hour ultra marathon (realistically, this will be a 50k).

After that comes a brief triathlon season (all sprints) which should leave me plenty of time to properly train for my October races.

Prediction for Pittsburgh…I will hit the wall at mile 18, and will do the death march the rest of the way. My very weak marathon PR will not be in jeopardy…


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My “Ultra Training Plan” (or something vaguely resembling one…)

Although this is my final marathon “season”, I do have a few “bucket list” items that I want to check off before I hang up the sneakers.

As I stated before, I intend to continue running. But the long distance training is burning me out mentally and my chronic foot/ankle problem is serving notice that I should not plan on continuing this indefinitely.

Bottom line, if I walk away from the marathon, it will be on my terms.

I will likely complete another marathon or two down the road, but no more then one in a year with no sense of obligation to run any at all. I just can’t see myself ending the marathon career in Des Moines (as it is currently scheduled to end).

The bucket list includes one ultra (coming soon), one back-to-back marathon challenge (end of season) and one of the World Major Marathons (likely Chicago in the next couple of years…assuming I get selected via lottery).

But, the most imminent is the ultra…and I am starting to wonder how to train for it…no rush, since the race is 9 weeks away!

Aside from last year (Ironman scared me enough to force me into a real training plan) this is pretty typical for me…I sign up for whatever sounds cool, then I look at the calendar and wonder what the heck I just got myself into.

And everything looks so far away on the calendar…until they sneak up on you.

Yep, that’s me this season.

After running the Houston Marathon in mid January, I have done little except treadmill 5k’s (I am a fair weather runner, and I hate running more then 5k on the treadmill). I emerged from hibernation mid-March and ran a sub 2-hour Half Marathon (thank goodness for muscle memory).

I planned a rapid mileage ramp-up from there…except that it hasn’t been that rapid. The following week, I planned an 18 mile run (and…I did 15 miles), the following week would be 21 miles (and…I ran 18 miles). This weekend would be 24 miles (yep…I ran 18 miles…again).

This isn’t working out as I hoped (shocking).

So, how do I hope to pull this off? Well, I have been staring at the calendar all morning…and there is still a glimmer of hope.

Next week (week 1): 21 mile run (psychologically, I need to break 20 miles at least once).

Week 2-Hot Chocolate 15k (starting the taper, need a fun race to motivate me…and they feed you lots of chocolate at this one…and they give you a chocolate bar shaped medal).

Week 3-10k taper run

Week 4-Pittsburgh Marathon

Week 5-15 k recovery run

Week 6-27+ mile long run (I can dream optimistically…right?)

Week 7-15 mile taper run

Week 8-10k taper run

Week 9-FANS Ultra (minimum 50k)

Week 10-Start training for my summer triathlon season…

Yep, everything is under control. No problems here…

Expect I won’t have the base training, the endurance, or the weekly mileage to reasonably pursue an ultra. And, I am dealing with a nagging ankle injury.

Fortunately, this is the most beginner friendly ultra around. Go as far as you can (or want to go) in 24 hours. Stop anytime. 2 mile loop with two aid stations. Take a nap and come back if you would like. No such thing as a DNF…

That said, I look at my training plan and wonder what the heck I am thinking.

“May fortune favor the foolish…”



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Forces of Nature…

Two long runs left on my “rapid ramp up” to the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 3rd.

I am a fair-weather runner. I cannot get out in the winter and I limit myself to short bursts on the treadmill. The spring marathon always sneaks up on me and I typically end up doing an abreviated training program and struggle the whole way.

This is just my way of saying that my training is right where it always is this time of year.

With the spring weather being unpredictable at best, I tend to watch the weather reports before selecting the day of my long run. This weekend, I had flexibility in my schedule…always a good thing.

Wednesday got hot…84F hot. But lots of lightning. Pass.

Thursday was cooler, but still well above average. Low 60’s expected. The wind would be the issue.

The rest of the week would be below normal…highs in the low 40’s with a “real feel” in the mid thirties.

I am tired of layers. So Thursday was the day.

I had run 6 laps of 3 miles last week. I was hoping for seven (21 miles) this time. If I could get 21 this week and 24 miles next week, then I would go into the race feeling as ready and as confident as I could imagine. At some point, I would need to crack the 20 mile mark. I was hoping that this was the day.

The winds had other plans. It had been a long time since I faced winds like these. 30 mph sustained winds. Gusts up to 41 mph. When I ran into a headwind, I was barely going at a walking speed. The cross winds knocked me around, and sometimes onto the shoulder of the road. This took it’s toll quite quickly. I almost packed it is after one lap, but decided this was good training, so I forged ahead. Besides, this was running in shorts, a t-shirt and sunscreen…which I have not done in a long time.

Ultimately, I fell short of my goal. I stopped after six laps (18 miles) of very slow running (3:23). It’s ok. I am still building my base. One more chance at 20+ miles next week before I taper down.

The downside is that my foot and ankle were giving me some issues during this run (they were not last week). My left knee was also not happy…and threatening to buckle out on me at times. These are reminders that I am injuring my body and that my decision to stop marathon running after this season is a wise one. But, I still want to wring out a few more before I hang up my marathon shoes for good…

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