Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Letter to Colin

Dear Colin,

The other night I received a phone call that no one; parent, friend, sibling, coworker, coach or anyone wants to receive. It was Coach Oumama with the news of your horrible accident, I was devastated just like everyone else. I could picture your father as she told me, "Pat does not want you to be sorry for Colin but to remain positive and strong, that's what will get him through". At first I was consumed with details of the accident and your condition but slowly drift to my memories of you as a fifth grader.

To me you will always be that little fifth grader, the special one, the one with all the heart and talent. The one with a constant smile, a shyness, but drive in your eyes that turned your small physical presence in to one larger than life. It was so special to be a part of this time in your life, to have some impact and guidance, it gave me purpose and maturity. It was even more special to watch you race this year as a high school senior, to see that you had carried on with even more dedication and passion for the sport. While you have grown a few feet taller, legs hairy, and even a some teenage attitude you are still that little 5th grader to me.

Thousands have come together in prayer for you to recover. I read your parents updates daily, following the ups and downs of your condition, wishing I could be there. I can't imagine how tough it is on them but at the same time they are taking advantage of being able to hold on to their baby boy, something no teenager lets their parents do! You have brought people together as we wait for your eyes to again open, we will wait forever if we have to.


I have to say I'm not much of the praying type, but then again maybe I am- this is the story of my last run in the Sierra Nevada mountains, these places always give me energy and vivid thoughts and this time I send them your way, is that prayer?

I stare at the moon, tonight is a rare "super moon"- full and closer to Earth than normal, tonight I run through the night in your honor. My coach drops me off on a mountain pass between Reno and Lake Tahoe, its almost midnight but the air is still warm and the moon and stars capture all our attention. I gear up and ensure my safety, this mountain ultra trail running is bizarre to purists of the sport.

"See you in Reno tomorrow, sometime..." I set off along the Tahoe Rim Trail, a section of the 165 mile loop I know well enough to run at night, the moon is so bright I don't even use my headlamp. The trail is clear and sandy but not to difficult to run, the tan color of the path shines bright around my moonshadow and the angle of the bright light casts shadows off the few rocks I need to avoid. I climb higher and higher over the next five miles through forests and past waterfalls, carving windy single track and on to dirt roads that bring me to a ridge line now over 10,000ft high. I can see the city lights of Reno (primarily casinos), the entire rim trail surrounding the lake, and small cars along the highway now far below. My first summit, Relay Peak, is the highest along the rim trail at 10,338'  but I want to get closer to the stars, my energy is still strong, legs fresh, and its too cold to stop.

I'm now bombing down technical trail, my headlamp still off, surely I'm not moving as fast as I think I am but the night adds a speed factor. My goal is to follow the ridge line to a second summit but I'm soon cut off from the path and am left descending a steep bowl of loose rocks. The moonlight continues to disguise itself, I have to turn and check that there truly is no car with its high beams behind me or another person with a light. I safely find my way to a trail junction, sometimes using the clearly visible North Star and the Big Dipper to keep going the right way. I am now familiar with my location, a saddle between Mt. Houghton and Mt. Rose where nine years ago I had guided a few boys your age on a trail run, during the day of course. Looking back at the steep cliffs of Mt. Houghton I decide it was a good summit to skip and begin a one mile long climb of 2000 feet to the summit of Mt. Rose.

The trail is a series of rocky switch backs slowly leaving the trees and becomes exposed on the backside of the mountain of bare rock. The higher I climb the more I wish you were with me to experience the moment, the more I think of how much you would enjoy this place, and the more upset and angry I become that you can't be here right now. By the summit I am cursing and questioning everything that has happened out loud, at what and to who I yell, I don't know. "Why?!"

On the summit I find a horseshoe shape wall of rocks that has built up over four feet high and provides a great wind block out of the cold air. After a moment of regrouping myself I take in the world below. Reno is off in the distance, colorful casino lights and houses still bright, the highway winds from the city up the mountain pass between Mt. Rose ski area and the true Mt. Rose summit where I stand. The ski runs and lifts are clearly visible and my eyes follow the highway over the pass to Incline Village and Lake Tahoe. The entire rim is jagged along the horizon with large snow capped California mountains and the lights from other cities like Squaw Valley, start of the Western States 100 mile ultra marathon. The moon drowns out the stars but they're still more impressive than what we get in Houston. Constellations, planets, and moving satellites fill the sky.

I stick my bright orange jacket on one of my hiking poles in the rocks and it whips and cracks like a flag as the sweat dries off in the wind. It's now two o'clock in the morning and I decide to sleep here, at 10,800 feet. After crawling into my sack of a bed I pull out my multi-tool and begin to carve your name into a flat stone. "Colin".

I wake around 5:30 to a burning red sunrise and the super moon just setting. After packing up in the cold I place your stone on top of the wall as if you were here on the summit with me. My fingers brush over the rough surface of the rock and your carved name. Before I run off, I speak to you to come back, open your eyes, and stay strong.

I will see you soon.

Love,

"Coach Cal"

 
To all of the Thompson's, I send my love during this tough time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Enchanted Solstice



The weekend of the Summer Solstice was spent camping out at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area with a group from the Houston Area Trail Runners for a solid few days of training.

Enchanted Rock, or "E Rock" for short, is a massive granite batholith- the third largest in the world with Ayers Rock (Uluru) in Australia being the largest. The park is located four hours from Houston, two hours North West of Austin in hill country (Bucees is exactly half way.

In addition to camping there are over 600 trad, sport, and bouldering climbs along with miles of trail for hiking and running only (no mountain bikes). Both the main dome and the smaller summit "little rock" are an absolute free for all for open "adventure" running on granite around pools of water, boulders, and cactus. This provided a great training ground to get some vertical running in, something we are greatly deprived of in Houston! The summits have a loop trail which also loops a third rock and two canyon single track trails link in-between providing enough running to keep any ultra runner happy for a lifetime.

Rock Climbing: Climbers need to check-in at the park headquarters and sign the book where there is also a guide book available for under $20. There is really not a lot of good beta online, from what I did see gave me the impression that this was a trad climbing area only (hence the 30lbs of protection I hiked with), this is not the case as we ended up climbing only sport for two days! The best online/app and free source is The Mountain Project (mtn project app) sponsored by Black Diamond which compliments the guide book well for extra photo's and descriptions.

We stuck to the backside of main dome which consisted of classic slab climbing- no hands, all palms, and feet on the smallest of any indentation you could find. The favourite climb of the trip was "A Walk in the High Country" as it provided an easy but exposed warm up. This is a fun route that starts far left of most the climbs on top of a boomerang shape ledge that wraps around and crosses the rest of the routes on the backside, sharing anchors, and eventually topping out on the summit. We did this again on the second day simul-climbing.

Trail Running: As mentioned there are a few main trails and lots of off-trail running that has zero environment impact as its all on rock. Note that there are pools of water on top of the rock that carry a miniature shrimp that they suspect survived since the ocean once covered the rock- when the pools are dry the eggs still exist for the next cycle so try and avoid trampling through! Leave no trace!

The trails range from fast and wide pea-stone gravel on the outer loop to and incline grade selection you want (way better range than a treadmill!). Some area's can be very technical and obviously so much so that safety gear would be required. Bring lots of water as it can get hot. The showers are open for everyone and are very refreshing, unfortunately no swimming in this park.

In addition to looking at the official park map for trails I suggest bringing up Strava to see the popular trails, this also provided some fun of going after the summit records. Enchanted Rock Climb starts at the base of where the actual elevation begins which is rocks steps, boulders, and single track before hitting the granite rock to the summit- the record is now set at 4 minutes and 35 seconds for half mile with 420ft of climbing on an average grade of 16% = leg & lung burner!!! The more official Strava route is "King of the Rock" which starts at the trail head, down the steps and across the creek before starting up the same route described above- the extra portion only adds 35 seconds.

Can't wait to get back to this beautiful park with the family and explore some more (we never ended up doing the cave). There is also a race in the fall which loops the park and finished on the summit which looks great.

This trip was also a bit of a last hurrah for our friend from France, Kevin, bon voyage and I'm sorry for the midnight beating, I thought you were a possum in the tent!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Spring Training Update

Wow, where did May and June go!?!?

Following the Wings for Life World Run I had planned to take it easy for at least a week which turned into more like three weeks due to a viral infection that knocked me out with sweating chills and full body cramps. But at least this gave my knee and calf that had been bugging me leading into the WFL race a chance to fully recover and I have not had any issues since returning to training.

Keller Williams 5k
The final week of May I kicked it into full gear again, running 63 miles and started getting familiar with the treadmill incline and stairmaster again. This is also the same week where the Houston heat really started to turn up and will be here to stay for the next three months. Most afternoon track workouts I have been doing in 90F with high humidity.

That last Saturday of the month was very special as I finally had the chance to run a race, an actual fun run, with Aley in the running stroller. Luke's Locker was great to give me a free entry into the Keller Williams 5k, a local race in Katy, and I discussed with the race organizers during packet pickup that I would be more dangerous starting at the back (as recommended). They were okay with me at the front and I tried not to be in the way although there was some close calls after the start with two people sprinting off the line and cutting me off. Our new friend Matt lead the first mile which must have been fun for Aley drafting behind an elite runner at 5 minute mile pace. I loved watching her hair blow in the wind as we cruised past cheerleaders yelling "Go super Dad!". The halfway U-turn up on two wheels went fine and we flew back in the lead. It was a hot and muggy morning but Aley and I were able to run away with the win in a time of 16:08!



Upper: The Luke's Locker Racers- Peter, Cal, and Rich.
Lower: The clock just going over 16 minutes, oh so close!
Thanks to Luke's Locker for the race entry and Bob & Chris for the photos.
Testing out The Altra One2

June has been FULL ON with a week still left in the month I've already put in over 200 miles, over 30 hours of training including some rock climbing and other strength exercises, and best of all I've been able to log over 18,000 feet of elevation gain, not bad for Houston! I have been in a good rhythm of meeting Matt for a track workout on Tuesdays and going super long on adventurous weekends. I've been putting myself through "hell week" training blocks, sometimes running hard four days in a row. My body survived despite going through serious shin splints or calf strains that now heal in two days if I push through some pain and keep going. These issues are all attributed to fast workouts on the track.



Long Runs: I have been having some good weekend adventures lately, trying to keep the mileage interesting and explore different areas (which means a lot of driving!). I have also not been worrying about pace or distance and just getting the set routes done and spending lots of time on my feet in very hot conditions. Early in the month I ended up running a full marathon on a mix of single track and rolling country roads by running from Buescher State Park to Bastrop State Park and back again. A gorgeous run I highly recommend, here is the route. On this run however I decided to just see what happens when I don't follow my typical, over prepared, thought out, Excel spreadsheet of a nutrition plan and just run, carrying about a liter of water. I had my first taste of Ucan just before starting out and the next 3 hours in 80+ degrees of thick humidity I was completely comfortable. The final 3 miles however was an absolute death march, something I have never really experienced! That cold Coke from the ranger station was a great way to finish off nearly 4 hours of running!


Torchy's Taco's Katy Grand Opening!
My next long run got nasty. Matt and I headed straight to Huntsville State Park (home of Rocky Raccoon 100) after dropping my girls at the airport for their trip to Canada. We were in the park for about a total of 10 minutes during the 3 hour run, spending the rest of our time fighting ticks, Texas size horse flies, spiders and webs along the thistle and poison ivy overgrown track of the Lone Star Trail. We tried looping back to the park via some private deer hunting land but could never quite get through (turns out we came within 100m of the park multiple times). Out of water, having only carried a hand held bottle each, I once again really enjoyed a cold Coke, this time from a lake house cooler along the way- FYI this cooler is stocked just after the Camelia Lake spillway crossing on a picnic table, nice gentleman to talk to over a cold drink. Do not do this run.

To aid in my recovery and maintain some amount of body fat I have been hitting up the brand new Torchy's Taco's in Katy. I've just about completed the entire menu including the not-so-secret-secret- menu with only a few items remaining. This place is dangerously good, damn good as they say. Don't go here, the line is long and I need my tacos.


Off to the races again, the Altra One2
 I would like to thank Altra for keeping my feet happy this year with an abundance of shoes. I recently received the brand new One2 and Paradigm, two road shoes I was much anticipating, I was not disappointed.

The One2 is a super light, streamlined racing and training shoe. It does however pack a lot of cushion so I wouldn't go as far to call it a racing flat. The construction is extremely well done with no seams and slick material. In general people are finding this shoe runs a half size too small but expect some pressure on top of your toes even when sized properly- this shoe does not have a vertical toe space like other shoes, rather the upper material meets the bottom of the shoe in a  >  shape. It can take some getting used to but it does no damage. You should also transition into these shoes just as the "Learn to Run" booklet, included with every pair of Altra's, recommends. These shoes are extremely soft on the bottom and have a lots of flex along with a wide toe box for natural foot positioning and motion.


Embrace the Space! Natural foot shape shoes by Altra.

The Paradigm's are the max cushion road version where as the highly regarded Olympus is the trail counterpart. I'm still adding some mileage to this pair of shoes but so far they feel great, very light, firm but cushy, and a nice rocker feel. I would be torn between The One2 and the Paradigm for a marathon race shoe but certainly anything longer, especially concrete with downhills, the Paradigm would be my shoe of choice.

Amazing and impressive to see a relatively small company, and still very new, able to produce such a high quality of product. The development of the shoe line is completely different than last year so be sure to get into your local store (like Luke's Locker!) to try the new Altra's out. Knowing that I have a stupid amount of shoes in stock, for me to get excited about a shoe pulling it out of the box like I did for The One2, says something. They also have camo soles and that my favorite color.

Thursday night All Comers Track Meet at Rice for a "race workout": one mile in 4:36 followed by the 3000m in 9:36






Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Wings for Life World Run

 

Last to finish and the biggest win of my life- the story of The Wings for Life World Run, a race dedicated to my dear friends Marc and Stewart.

Be sure to check out my previous post to learn more about the unique format of this race if you don't know how the Wings for Life World Run  was organized. My family and I spent an amazing week in Southern California leading up to the race in Santa Clarita which included Laguna Beach, Laguna trail run, sailplane soaring, a trip up Mt. San Jacinto, lunch in Big Bear and trail run at 8000', flying a small plane around San Gorgonio Mountain, Disneyland, and much more. Taper vacations are the best! 

My dad dropped me off at the start line around 2AM and I felt like I just walked into a rave, the atmosphere was like any red bull fueled club with dance music booming, black lights, spotlights, flashing lights, young people in party mode covered in glow sticks, and remote control cameras buzzing overhead. This sure made up for the fact that I barely slept all night from pre-race jitters.

I never saw anyone that looked like a competitive athlete, making my pre race ritual of drills and running look completely out of place. The bars in California get out at 2AM so the food trucks, music, and lights acted like a beacon to the after party of all after parties, I even heard rumors of some of these party goers just jumping into the race which would have been a bit of a shock when there was no finish line! Not to say there wasn't any runners there, turns out the local running store, Runners Lane, had a really good showing and the second place finisher, Kyle Robinson, ran amazing even splits for just over 30 miles.

All Photo Credits | Garth Milan | Carlo Cruz | Red Bull Content Pool | © Red Bull Media House

The music switched over to Pantera as we started loading into the chutes and I weaseled onto the front line in time for the pre-race wheelchair dance show and national anthem. There was supposed to be pre-determined chutes based on pace/marathon PR but it was an absolute free for all. It was a little frustrating as I had a difficult time getting on the front line which was completely taken up by a group of women taking selfies and posting to Instagram, but I quickly realized I was one of a handful of people that were there to actually race and decided to relax a little. The wheelchairs in the race along with a dude on a skateboard (pushes along with his hands) started one minute ahead of us and bang on 3AM we were off.

Start of The Wings for Life World Run in Santa Clarita at 3AM, catcher car on the right ready to start in 30 minutes.
The first few hundred meters were spent holding off a drunk Australian and weaving through the wheelchairs. Soon I was right on the tail of the lead truck, decked with a large LED light stand pointing directly on me, a mic boom, and camera man- the truck crew along with the cyclist, Chris, would be my company till the end.

The pace was way faster than I planned as I tried to pull the reigns in and get the 5:40 min/mile closer to 6:20. One guy lead for a couple miles, I think he was even wearing a Mexican wrestling mask for the first few minutes, and a local college freshman ran with me till around 10km. We were passed by the skateboarded as he flew by on a downhill stretch, unbelievable to be running six minute pace and get passed by a guy kneeling on a skateboard pushing with his hands. Unfortunately the next uphill portion killed his pace, It was great catching up with Jesse Swalley after the race, turns out he made it 15 miles/25 kilometers on his skateboard! Check him out on Instagram at "icantstandskating".

At eight kilometers the hills began, tough climbs through Santa Clarita streets, up interstate over-passes past Magic Mountain Six Flags, the hard work was repaid nicely with long downhills as my pace dropped comfortably under 6min/mi.

I was running on a full bladder but my every step was being broadcasted worldwide under a spotlight, a little camera shy I asked for some room which kind of broke the ice with my new friends for the next 4 hours. They gave me some room but it was still completely obvious I just wet my pants on worldwide TV! At half marathon I got in nice and close to the truck and did a shout out to my friends Marc and Stewart, discussing why I was running, and this amazing event. This was my highest point in the race.

After half marathon things got a little more lonely, the sun still wasn't up although I should have been wearing sunglasses with the spotlight. I just focused on my nutrition and pace, one gel every 30 minutes, a salt pill every 90 minutes, and whatever I could grab at the aid stations which included water, cytomax, and Red Bull of course! But the aid stations became further apart and I even passed the course cone setters at one point. My knee and calf that had been bugging me the last few weeks started to flare up and I began doubting whether my body would hold up, aerobically I was completely fine.

Sunrise finally came after about 3 hours of running.

When things got tough my thoughts turned to Stewart and Marc, their injuries are so much more than paralysis- imagine leg cramps you can't shake out, body functions you can't control, so much more we just can't imagine- my discomfort was minimal in comparison. While there are solutions to paralysis coming out through technology, like exoskeletons, these don't address all the other complication of the injury so its critical that events like this happen so there are funds to find a real cure.

I came through the marathon around 2:45 after quite a long section of fairly easy road except one significant climb, the road I was now on was through a canyon- twisting and turning and sure enough the hills were serious back there. By now my aid stations had switched to Chris and the camera crew as nothing else was available, fortunately I was fairly self sufficient and had brought extra EFS powder to add to water. My dad was also able to cheer me on from all over the  course and once on the back canyon section the updates started coming in from the truck- only 150 people left in the whole world, top ten in the world, last man standing in California... thing were getting exciting and I still had a good gap on the catcher car.

Running on open highway, no more course markings, with my private escort down the road.

I was working hard now, holding on to 7 min/mile pace was tough, up hills brought me to a crawl and down hills were the most painful with every step shaking my quads to painful exhaustion. I switched my watch display over to a custom app I created for my Suunto Ambit that would tell me how far back the catcher car was- two miles and closing fast!

If you have a Suunto watch and want to see how far you would have made it, check out my app here, load it up and go for a run: http://www.movescount.com/apps/app10032463-2014_Wings_for_Life_World_Run

I went into survival mode, pure guts running, fueling and electrolytes were over, it was all or nothing. I rounded the final corner out of the canyons and my jaw dropped- before me stood one of the biggest hills I have ever seen. After living in Houston for the last eight months it was terrifying! The hill was a perfect constant grade around 6-12 degrees that ran for over a mile. I laughed. "You have got to be kidding me!" Chris and the truck knew how close I was against Mike Wardian in Florida, I had no idea that I was closing over a mile gap on him, the crew urged me on. The race director met me in the middle of the road and handed me my last bottle of water, I power walked with hands on quads as I sucked it back- game on!

My police escort building as I climb the final hill
 Suddenly I was smiling, big, challenge accepted. I was going to take this hill with everything I had. Short quick steps, three quick steps- get it going again, pump arms, and smile! The crest was nearing and my watch now read only 400m lead on the catcher car, I was not going down without a fight! My hardest effort of the day paid me back with what would be my winning kick, a painful steep downhill where I would hold off the catcher car just a few more agonizing and never ending minutes.

The catcher car finally catches up with me after 4:01 of running 58.52km/36.36mi
I was happy the race finally ended, a little shorter than I had hoped but with my less than perfect leg conditions on the day and a course resembling more of an (unexpected) mountain race, I had given it everything I had. The catcher car crew had to tell me to stop, it was over. I turned around to a caravan of red bull vehicles, motorcycles with camera men on the back, the final shuttle bus and my dad. It really did resemble that point in Forrest Gump where he finally stops running. I was presented flowers, a sash, and the heaviest glass trophy with a crystal globe on top. Camera's filled my face as I tried to comprehend what they were telling me, I was the last man standing out of all three US races just edging out Michael Wardian in the final stretch. Apparently the radio playing live coverage in the shuttle bus for 2nd and 3rd place was quite dramatic "California, Florida, no California, Florida leads...California takes it!".


The final results showed it wasn't that close (I had gone over half a mile further than Wardian) and even my original place of 9th in the whole world slipped back to 22nd after all the locations had their official reports in. My biggest goal was still accomplished though- the last man standing in all of North America, earning my spot to any race worldwide next year!

Upon finishing there was a little celebration right in the middle of the road where I had finished, lots of interviews and pictures. When it was time to head back to the start they were about to put me in the yellow school bus shuttle when I looked up to see the custom made Red Bull truck "I want to ride in that!" and after a big climb up I was rolling down the road in style with a fresh can of Red Bull in my hand. We pulled up to the finish and the red carpet was rolled out and a small gathering of people were still left, people who had stuck around to watch the live worldwide coverage on the big screens. We did a few more photos and interviews while I waited for the family to show up, it still wasn't even 8AM! It was awesome, being a rock star for 10 minutes, what a race, what a day!

Race Facts:

Total money raised for Wings for Life: Over 3 Million Euros! Thank you to everyone who donated! You can still donate here!
Total Runners in 2014: 35,397
Countries: 32
Race Result: 1st in North America (Canada, Mexico, California, Florida, and Colorado races), 22nd in the world! Full race results can be found here.
My Time Running: 4:01
My Distance: 58.52km, 36.36mi
Elevation Gain: 2,837ft
Average Pace: 4:07/km, 6:37/mile
Splits: 5:56, 6:14, 6:09, 6:14, 6:23, 6:15, 6:25, 5:49, 5:26, 6:05, 6:08, 6:19, 6:08, 5:57, 6:11, 6:22, 6:24, 6:30, 6:47, 6:43, 6:58, 6:50, 7:11, 7:24, 6:53, 7:31, 7:33, 7:34, 7:41, 6:58, 6:31, 7:12, 7:35, 9:48, 6:26, 5:51
Strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/137751780

Elevation profile for the Santa Clarita Race from my Suunto Ambit, tough course!!!

Gear and Nutrition: Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin Belt with soft flasks and S-Lab Sense Hydro Set, CEP Compression Sleeves, Wright Socks, Suunto Ambit, EFS First Endurance Solution, GU Roctane Gel, Hammer Gel. Unfortunately the Altra One2 and the Altra Paradigm shoes which would be by shoe choices for this race were not released yet so I decided to run in the same shoes as my marathon but I hear they are now on their way and available.



Women's Winner Jeannie Rutherford and I back at the start line.

Here is a great video recap of the race from COC Cougar News:









Following the race we all had a nice big breakfast then headed to Santa Monica pier to hang out before we flew home. On the pier there was a Bubba Gump restaurant and outside was the Forrest Gump bench with a pair of Nike's and a feather resting on the toe. Pretty much the perfect quote to end the day:

"I think I'll go home now" - Gump, Forrest Gump









Race you next year? www.wingsforlifeworldrun.com/


Photo Credits | Garth Milan | Carlo Cruz | Red Bull Content Pool | © Red Bull Media House

Monday, April 28, 2014

Wings for Life World Run - Preview

I have arrived in Southern California with the family to visit with my Dad for a week leading up to one of my most anticipated races of the year, the Wings for Life World Run. If you have not heard of it yet I will explain the unique format of the race below but first let me explain why this is more than just another race.

Stewart and Marc, this one is for you. My two friends who survived terrible accidents and now live every day with a spinal cord injury. The Wings for Life organization is trying to find a cure, one I strongly believe and hope exists. There are not many people in this world that have changed my perspective on life the way you both have. The way you have continued through life with success in education, personal relationships, community involvement and support, remaining physically active, getting through some serious low points, and just the day to day extras you endure are amazing. You are amazing. This Sunday I run for those who can't, in hopes they will one day run again.

Visit my personal athlete tracker page during the race for live updates and it's where you can also donate to the Wings for Life foundation via my own donate button.

http://live.wingsforlifeworldrun.com/en/locations/USACAL/c2aa813cb4654762a68a7fe891393eac

Wings for Life is a not-for-profit spinal cord research foundation. Our mission is to find a cure for spinal cord injury. We fund world-class scientific research and clinical trials around the globe aimed at healing the injured spinal cord.

It's rare to find a race these days where 100% of the entry fee goes to the beneficiary organization, the WFL organization will receive all entry money! 

Making this race even more special is the format: there are 36 race locations around the world starting at exactly the same time. No matter what timezone you are in, what time of day, every runner will begin at exactly the same time.

Thirty minutes after the runners start, a "catcher car" sets off down the course to catch the runners on a set course that has no finish line. Once the car passes a runner, that is where they are finished and they get a shuttle back to the start. The catcher cars around the world are synced up on a set pace schedule that accelerates every hour. The slowest runners/walkers should have no trouble completing a 5km before they get caught while the competitive runners will max out around the 70km mark. The last man and women standing at each race, country, and worldwide will be the winners.




My training for this race has been interesting as I've been racing a lot of 5k's on the track the last few months in addition to a tough 25km trail race and a fast 10km trail. Unfortunately I had both my knee and calf flare up the last few weeks that really hampered what was supposed to be my key training weeks for this race. But this has also caused me to just take it easy for once which may be  what I need rather than more miles. We have been having a great family vacation in California- getting up to the mountains, beach, Disney, trails, sun, picking fresh fruit, flying sailplanes with Dad, seeing my Uncle Buck, and letting Aley visit her California grandparents. 

This Sunday my race starts at 3AM and if I'm having a good day I think I can last almost four and a half hours for about 70km of running. I hope to be very competitive on the local, national, and worldwide level though I have heard of some elites, world ultra champions, and ultra running world record holders competing at various races around the world. Staying on top of my pace, knowing that I'm racing people I can't see with no updates on their progress, and running with my friends in mind will keep me going.

Please think of donating via my page and if you're up early Sunday morning tune in to watch the world race, I will be running from 3AM to ~7:30AM Pacific (West Coast) time.

http://live.wingsforlifeworldrun.com/en/locations/USACAL/c2aa813cb4654762a68a7fe891393eac

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Four Weeks and Forty Kilometres of Racing


It has been a very busy and satisfying last month of running with four weekends of back-to-back racing in addition to some big training weeks gearing up for the Wings for Life World Run in May. I've suddenly found myself deep into an outdoor track season as if I were still in college, complete with running faster than ever and top placings amongst competitive fields.

To begin this latest stretch of racing we actually have to go back six weeks to March 1st where I ran the Houston Rodeo 10km road race. I had a fourth place finish and a great head-to-head battle the entire last mile with Maximo Mendoza, that is until he laid a fierce kick on my legs that had still yet to do any actual speed training. I was extremely happy with my time of 32:37 as it was my first glimpse at getting back to full speed and right amongst regular training weeks. More impressive was the ages of the top two performers, both masters!

2014 ConocoPhillips Houston Rodeo Run - March 1st
1st - Sammy Kilplagat Cheptoo - 30:42 (age 40)
2nd - Kevin Castille - 30:50 (age 41, well known Cajun runners from Lafayette)
3rd - David Fuentes - 31:42 (would later beat at the Rice 5000m)
4th - Maximo Mendoza - 32:20 (former HBU- coached by former UH coach T. Fuqua)
5th - Calum Neff - 32:37


TSU Relays 5000m

Starting off the four weeks of fury was the Texas Southern University (TSU) Relays 5000m event. The relays is more known for their prominent high school and college sprinting competitions with stands packed full of culture. Coming to this meet is always a lot of fun, its just across the street from UH in the neighbouring 5th ward area of Houston. Julie and Aley really enjoyed taking in this wild new environment of exciting races and local vendors around the track, the BBQ smoke is not so great for the distance events! This meet reminds me of a Southern version of the Drake Relays where people are walking around chomping on massive turkey legs! One of the best parts was catching up with some familiar faces, coaches from around Houston and USATF official Marion Jones who snapped some great pictures.

The TSU 5000m had been one of my last descent performances on the track in 2007 when I won with a new personal record of 15:06. I never ran a good 5k on the track throughout college which is disappointing considering the potential. This years race was really gearing up to be a fast one with Harvard on their annual spring break trip to Houston expected to race. Back in my day they never really had a good distance group but this year included four guys under 15 minutes with their top guy  (Canadian) holding a sub 14 seed time from indoor season. Unfortunately they no showed for the hot, humid, and windy race so I was left out there fighting solo against some local college athletes. My final mile was a little weak except a descent kick in the last lap with my second (middle) mile being the fastest. Another step closer to my old (younger) self with a time of 15:22 and first place finish (forty seconds ahead of the next athlete). I enjoyed the commentary during the race "and here comes Calum Neff, University of Altra/Luke's Locker, chasing the chase pack"


Rice University Distance Carnival - Victor Lopez Classic

 Just seven days later I was really excited to get on the track for my first ever track 10,000m race, but it would never happen. With an already late night schedule a massive storm delayed the Friday night races by two hours so with a last minute decision and generous Rice/meet staff I was into the 5000m once the meet restarted.

Around 10:30PM we finally got lined up for the 5000m, all 46 of us (combined two heats to condense schedule) I was position 17 out of about 30 on the first row with the 2nd waterfall start position holding the rest.

You know it's a distance event when you can fit nearly four athletes per lane!



The thought of 92 feet wearing spikes in such a small area is certainly daunting. But as soon as the gun went off I had one of my signature starts, as if I jumped the gun I was immediately outfront and out of trouble. As we came out of the first curve the second group off the other start began merging in with us. I began to relax and settled in to the back of the lead pack where I would remain for the next 12 laps.


The night was gorgeous, although it could have been cooler the air had been washed clean by the rain and even though the puddles on the track reminded me a bit of cross country, as my face was sprayed by the rooster tails of front runners, the track was fast under my spikes and I felt good.


I didn't look at my watch or even bother to record splits, I just ran. I could feel it was one of those races that only come ever so often, the ones that feel easy yet break a barrier never before touched. The atmosphere under the lights formed a tunnel around the inner two lanes; fans in the stands down the homestretch, the clock and officials at the finish, coaches and athletes screaming the entire back stretch, and an even bigger pack at the 200m mark where we had started. Coaches barked orders and rattled off split times while banging their clipboards, this section of the track was almost too much energy, I'm accustomed now to disappearing into the empty forest and returning hours later to an awaiting race director. 

As the race went on the 46 athletes surrounded the track, I was still up front a moving past both people who were falling of pace and those being lapped- I was completely lost in my position or who was first and last. The pace was uncomfortable, don't get me wrong, but I could turn off the doubt and the questioning of wether it was too fast. I just kept pushing and before I knew it was into the final two laps, not wanting to finish with any regrets, I began changing gears and trying to make moves on those in front. Seeing that clock read 13 minutes with a lap to go and gas left in the tank was exciting. I didn't even realize how far up I was and that the leader finished just over seven seconds ahead, I was too thrilled with my new personal best time of 14:47.29! That was good enough for a third place finish amongst the open devision behind Kiya Dandena (14:39.46) and Adam Saloom (14:43.8 - of Team Green, brothers old coach).

Friends Marcel and Heidi had stuck out the long night, long after Torchy's Taco's had closed, to watch me race and having them there was perfect. I think Marcel was more excited than I was but then again I was dealing with the tell tale signs of a great race- letting my stomach out on the infield.


Hells Hills La Sportiva Cup Series 25km

Gearing up for an ultra I needed a long run with roughly four weeks of training left, races can work out great for training as you can treat them as fully supported long runs. Hells Hills lined up well for timing and they had 10/25/50km and 50mi options but the 25km caught my eye as its part of the La Sportiva series and there was guaranteed to be some fast guys coming in from out of town.

I caught a ride out to Rocky Hill Ranch with a group of friends from Lifetime Fitness and the Houston Area Trail Runners, it was about an hour and a half from Katy and we made it just in time for packet pickup. I also squeaked a couple mile run in on the course before it got dark. Really nice to hang out and meet some more MUT runners but was surprised at how tame everyone was (except Jose's pleasure palace, but thats another story) going to bed early and complaining of noise... I didn't get a great sleep in the tent and by the time I did finally fall asleep the 50 mile race started up and came past my tent like a stampede, followed by the 50k an hour later.

The race started with a rather awkward u-turn inside the finish/lap chute but was wide open dirt road for the first few hundred meters till we hit the single-track. With some confidence coming off the track the last two weeks I put the peddle to the floor and just hammered- my race strategy for trail running is when the conditions (trail, weather, you, etc.) allow for fast running you hammer cause the hills, technical sections, feeling like shit, and weather (heat) is going to kill your average pace. Of course you need to keep something in the tank but I decided to just let it all play out. I dragged the two Sportiva guys out way harder than they were expecting, I could hear them struggling behind me. Just when they would creep up on me we would hit extremely technical downhill sections and I would sail ahead, unfortunately there just wasn't enough of it.

The lead between Ryan Woods (course record holder) and me traded off a few times, I much preferred being chased than being behind. We were competitive but polite with the passing and it lasted about the first 5 miles where I made the mistake of letting a small gap form. This gap remained the rest of the race and ranged between 20 seconds up to about a minute or more. The back side of the course kind of dragged on for me after a mishap at the first aid station shook me up, no water was out and I grabbed coke eventually finding gatorade which I barely got down before I had to throw it in a mandatory garbage bin (the aid station was more setup for ultra running rather than the speed we were going and was an awesome ultra aid station at that). I carried a few gels and popped them a little early in anticipation for the 10 mile aid station (for some water to wash them down). Coming back in I started feeling better and better the closer I got to the finish, at this point we were passing a lot of ultra runners and seeing people I knew really got me pumped up. Ryan and I started seeing each other  on the tight technical switchbacks which were really hard to make any significant ground up on but once we opened up on the last 1.5 miles of less technical course I was shortening the lead. In the end Ryan (1:36:16) was 17 seconds ahead of me (1:36:33) and he wasn't too far off his course record (1:35:22). Of note, that same year the record was set (2012), Robert Krar placed third in 1:35:53.

Shortly after finishing I got together with the 5th place finisher, 17 year old Ford Smith (1:49:19) from Austin. He's recently started doing ultras in addition to his high school track and XC commitments so he was happy to join me for a second loop. Race director, Joe, was super nice to let us use all the aid station during our "cool down" loop and while we cut out a few switchbacks on the in the daily total with warm up was right around 50+km. The two loops were done in about 3:50 without the gap in the middle which would have been an outright winning time for the 50k race. Great having some company out there, Ford's going to be a someone to keep an eye on in the ultra world. Just under a week later he took the districts title in the two mile on the track in Austin!

Post race I enjoyed the company of other racers, watching friends run 50 miles, a visit to Bucee's in Bastrop. So impressed by all the ultra runners, the course was tough, not your typical forgiving trail- racing on the rocks and tight twists were like being in a car wreck!


UALR Open 5000m

Finally, before I take a much needed weekend off from racing, I took a road trip up to Little Rock with my little girl Aley. It's an eight hour drive from Houston including a few stops. Fortunately we have a DVD player in the car which came pre-installed with Dumb and Dumber stuck inside. We watched it three times on the way there and four on the way back! UALR is where I first went to school before transferring to Houston. They never had a track so we always worked out on neighbouring high school tracks but finally their new facility was ready and I was invited up to be part of an Alumni breakfast, unveiling, and be one of the first to race on the track.

Typical Southern conditions- hot, humid, and windy made for an easy race tactic decision to just race and not worry about time. Except for maybe one lap of someone else breaking the wind I ran solo up front most the race with one UALR athlete drafting. I had no problems with it and really wanted to see him run under 15' and did my best to keep us on pace waiting for his kick. Unfortunately he fell off in the last mile and ended up third to another UALR athlete. I felt comfortable the whole race and really enjoyed seeing my little girl on the side watching me go around. Leah Thorvilson was nice enough to watch her and said every lap Aley would say "buh bye" and wave. My calf seized with around 150m to go, had it been any earlier I would have probably pulled the pin as running on it cramped up is when most the damage is done. Really frustrating to have this injury continually pop up. But I slid into home with the rest of the field closing quickly behind, fun to return as an alum and win their first meet.

The rest of the weekend was spent visiting friends. Little Rock is really cleaning up nicely and being around familiar faces really made me miss being there. Having kids Aley could play with and people to visit like we would in Canada is something we don't really have here in Houston yet. Will definitely be making my way back there soon, maybe for the Go! Mile in June.

I plan to have a a blog post soon covering all my training this year, training to be competitive in races from one mile to forty miles and also breaking my 5k personal best time are really making things interesting. This week I'm taking it fairly easy with my calf feeling bruised, lots of cross training and easy runs as part of Boston Marathon tributes (bombing anniversary today), also have a trail run organized for Easter Sunday morning leaving from Luke's Locker Katy at 7:00, open to all.

Boston Tribute


Today is the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, I found the below paragraph sitting in the draft folder of my blog, never published. Tonight and Thursday I will be joining my run groups for tribute runs and wishing those off to race Boston this weekend to have a good race. This year will be bigger than ever which is great to see, unfortunately the terror still looms. I remember being at the Houston marathon, despite tons of police and military presence, feeling completely vulnerable packed into a large group. It sucks that such positive events have that feeling attached now.

I had many friends in Boston last year and have since met many more that were there and they all have been scarred like a soldier from war. Before tonight's run at the gym we had a large gathering of people and one of my new friends Sarah spoke to us about her experience last year and her feelings about going back to Boston this Friday. She had finished her marathon an hour before the bombings but had made her way back towards the start looking for her Aunt. She says sirens, loud noises like fireworks, and helicopters will never be the same. The faces full of fear of injured people, look of complete terror, still haunt her today. But amongst the horrendous scene she witnessed true love and compassion as people helped each other. This weekend she goes back to run for everyone part of last years events and take back the the true Boston Marathon and marathon spirit that was stripped away from us all. Best of luck Sarah and everyone else in Boston.

I wrote these words one year ago today but never finished/published:

Today's tragic events at the Boston Marathon have struck sadness deep inside me. There is a lot of news that commonly passes by me in this overloaded world with little to no emotional reaction but not this one. I was not at the Boston Marathon, I have never been to Boston, and I have never even officially run a marathon race but my love of running and the realationships I have made because of it connected me (to the race) more than I realized until the tragedy.

Reading that reminds me that running really is the foundation of who I am and the many connections I have throughout this world.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools Compilation


While I have some great pranks of my own in mind I didn't have time to do the necessary preparations so while I leave those in my back pocket for next year I share with you some of my favourite online pranks I've seen today: 

From the recently formed Skyrunning Canada- a series of mountain running events that has been popular in Europe for quite some time is now expanding around the world. Canada is lucky to have Adam Campbell leading the charge on the series (and i'm sure he's behind this latest post). 

"In order to properly showcase the topography of allparts of the country,Skyrunning Canadais pleased to announce that we've been given special permission from the International Skyrunning Federation to host the first ever horizontal kilometre in Skyrunning history. The first race will take place in Beaver Flat Saskatchewan on August 24th. I hope you will all join us for this historic event."
Skyrunning Canada's Horizontal Kilometer Race

From Slowtwitch.com comes a new study revealing that leg hair, when shaved in aerodynamic patterns, improves performance over going completely clean shaven. Something that I like to call HAIRODYNAMICS! 

"Shaving patterns that allowed more robust turbulent boundary layers to form were better at delaying flow separation, which significantly reduced drag!" 




Photos from new study on hairodynamics by Slowtwitch (click for article)

USATF announces new 2 x 100m Human-Canine Relay You can check out the video here, my favourite has to be the addition of Nick Symmonds rabbit, literally, for the races. 


Mortimer Symmonds will the pace rabbit for the Human-Canine 2 x 100m relays at the 2014 outdoor nationals!
Other notables include the popular Alberta ultra Sinister 7 announcing their move to Sinister 8 with an additional 22km (like it wasn't hard enough!). "In order to take advantage of the amazing terrain along the Continental Divide, we are recreating the race as the Sinister 8 Ultra! This will mean the addition of 22km and an extra stage" 

Dynafit announces it will no longer produce bindings "With the lack of demand and the fading 'buzz' around backcountry skiing Dynafit will no longer produce bindings... It was a good run!" 

Arc'teryx announces name change to Archeopteryx! And don't worry, if you already own clothing with the old Arc'teryx logo, they will be recalling all items worldwide to change to Archaeopteryx, see the video below on how the hell to pronounce the new name and some genuine Canadian feedback on the change. To take up slack on the missing apostrophe, Gripped Magazine came to the rescue and will now be Gripp'd! 



The pranks just keep rolling in, Letsrun.com announcing bankruptcy due to Obama and on and on... maybe I will update this at the end of the day but lunch time is over, back to work!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

On the Road - Salomon Running TV S03 E05

Check out the latest Salomon Running TV series on the Canadian Death Race record holder, Rickey Gates, as he runs and motorbikes between Colorado and California.



Sunday, February 9, 2014

Apparently, Spikes Are (Not) Scary

Late last year my friend and fellow post-collegiate runner, Collier Lawrence, wrote on her "Steepling in the Sierras" blog about dreadfully returning to spikes after a long, injury induced, break. "Apparently, Spikes Are Scary" While it was very motivating it didn't make me want to immediately overcome all my own fears and hesitations and hit the track. That is until recently I decided its time, after a long preparation period, my body (and mind) are ready.

Like Collier I suffered an injury, mine happened during a cross country race (Canadian Nationals) and was partly due to being in spikes and not being used to wearing them. Spikes are very minimalist shoes with a plate allowing for varying lengths of spikes to be screwed into the bottom giving better traction on almost all surfaces softer than concrete. With improved grip and near zero weight the shoe allows for faster running than any other option but it comes at the cost of little to no support or impact resistance (cushioning). The spikes promote "running on your toes" and even seasoned track stars can have major issues with achilles and calf strains by doing too much volume in them. Since my injury I've attempted to wear spikes multiple times with each session ending almost emmedietley in a calf cramp or tear. This is also just a huge part of getting older, if a high school athlete ever read this blog I'm sure they would be laughing- sure when I was 17 I could have run a road race in two inch spikes and probably still be fine but give it ten years and see who is laughing!

While my only road shoe lately has been the complete opposite of a spike (the humongous Hoka One One) I have been prepping myself to finally put the spikes, with now aged and yellowing glue at the seams, back on. Here are a few of my preparations and recommendations to easing into a pair of spikes for the first time (or after a long break):

Let injuries heal: If you have suffered an injury its going to need time to heal, that is time where you are not re-injuring yourself or changing the way you run that causes a secondary injury. To properly heal I recommend the Graston technique to decrease scar tissue and allow proper healing (muscle fibres in right direction: uniformed and aligned). Graston is basically like taking a soft edge knife to your soft tissue, sound painful? Yes it is (sometimes/some places). Be sure to take care of this within the first two years after an injury otherwise the mess of tissue, depending on how it healed, is pretty much there to stay.

When you're ready for strengthening there are plenty of drills everyone should be doing for core and stability. For calfs specifically I find the heel drop program to work great. Start with both your heels hanging off the edge of a step, raise slowly up on toes and drop down quickly with a little bounce at the end- repeat. You can do this everyday for rehab or a few times a week for maintenance, build of number of repetitions and sets, 2-3 sets of 10 is plenty. Once you are comfortable there you can move to single legs but start with low reps and sets, I find the single leg can be a little too much and usually just go with the doubles.

In addition to heel drop I really like skipping with a jump rope- great for cadence and proper foot landing but also starts getting your lower legs ready for impact. Easy barefoot running on a safe and soft surface to build foot and lower leg strength, I like to cool down on the infield of a track.

One of the biggest factors I neglected for so long was my choice in the everyday shoe, its great to be in the right shoe for your running but thats only 30-60 minutes a day, we are all on our feet much longer than that. I have found that low heel drop (up to 5mm height difference from heel to toe) or zero drop shoes (the heel is at the same height as the forefoot) to be the best for my lower legs especially. The bigger the heel lift in your shoe the less range of motion of the achilles. Check out Altra footwear, they have a full range of road, trail, and even some dress shoes that have zero drop and a comfortable toe box.

Once you have a solid base of running and strength and your ready for workouts go ahead and hit the track, but not so fast- stay in the same shoes you have been doing all your normal runs in. Keep the pace controlled and the volume low, increasing intensity and track mileage over a few weeks. Start with some longer repeats and finish off with some strides, your body needs to get use to the corners and running faster.

Introduction to spikes: Alright, you've made it this far but don't blow it now or you have to go back to the start (believe me). I started off with a mile of in-and-outs: stride the straight aways and jog the corners. Once this workout eased my mind and the calfs didn't revolt I started putting my spikes on during the last rep or two of a full track workout. A couple weeks of low spike volume and keeping up all the above exercises should allow for a seamless transition.

I found this article by Running Writings also very helpful regarding achilles tendonitis but applies to other lower leg issues.

Stay healthy my friends.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Houston Marathon Race Review



Wow wow wow!!! So excited!

This was the biggest race I have been in by far and it was run (by all the organizers and volunteers) incredibly well.

Pre-strart: Really late dinner at an Italian restaurant, lots of bread and an aglio olio style pasta- woke up just reeking of garlic! Had a pretty good sleep at my moms place closer to downtown Houston, despite a very early morning I felt rested and ready to go. Started hydrating with First Endurance EFS solution and had a pop tart and a honey stinger waffle on the drive in.

Security was hefty but no delay getting in using the provided clear bags. Throughout the day I saw police, bomb squad, lots of dogs, and uniformed military personnel. I'm sure there were way more involved than what we could see. It was hard not to think of the events from last year in Boston, I can't even imagine something like that happening. Being amongst so many people despite the security presence brought on a feeling of extreme vulnerability, pitty such a gathering of high, positive, energy can be tarnished.

Once inside the convention center I met up with the Lifetime Fitness gym group and got geared up:

  • Head band for the sweat out of my eyes, only a problem here in Houston.
  • Tifosi sunglasses with UV reactant lenses, started before sunrise with clear lenses and finished into the sun, lenses magically turn dark.
  • Altra jersey! New for this year, I have teamed up with the shoe company Altra as an ambassador, stay tuned for more about this as its still in the works (hence not wearing their shoes).
  • Arm warmers, first time wearing but perfect for the day.
  • Gels stuffed in short pockets and arm warmers.
  • Compression sleeves on the calves, great for circulation and 26 miles of shock.
  • Hoka One One shoes, great for 26 miles of concrete!

Bag drop was smooth and I tried to get a warmup run in while being herded into the "A" corral. Managed some drills and got into an extremely long line for very few portopotties- this would be my only complaint of the day, the map showed the entire fence line was toilets but this was not the case. I managed to get out of there just ten minutes before the start and then had to work my way to the front including a stop for the national anthem, had it not been for the maple leaf on my back I probably would have pushed through that too. I took a gel with 45' to go and a caffeinated gel 15' to go washing it down with a random water I found left on the ground as mine had been kicked away at some point. Ahh to be elite and have all the amenities!

Two minutes before the start they shuffled the A corral up to the elites and I was able to get 3rd row in great placing amongst the elites. I felt 8 feet tall standing behind all these tiny Ethiopian women (I was pretty close to that height wearing my Hoka's). The weather was perfect! Cool all morning with only light wind felt in a couple places around the course.

Start: Along with the race coordinators and two soldiers, my University head coach, Leroy Burrell, started us off with a canon blast and I just tried to pull in the reigns as the pace groups started to organize themselves in the pre-dawn light. After the first mile around 5:20 I was already 40" faster then my planned pace but was feeling relaxed and easy. I let the women's pack go (had planned on staying with them) and was on my own with huge gaps, "no mans land", running solo for the rest of the race except a few passes late in the race. I was completely comfortable alone but certainly not why I signed up to race with 25,000 other people!


The next 8 miles flew by like a breeze, no complaints, holding ~5:35 mile pace! Unbelievable, how this felt so easy, it's incredible based on everything leading up to the race (training, mileage, race performances, etc.). That is what a proper taper and more so, race day vibes can do. I knew I was running a little too fast, knew I would likely pay for it later, but the rhythm was so natural and I was building a nice time bank for later. I couldn't help myself- I spent my time rousing up the crowds lining the street. A lot of people were obviously waiting for there own friends or family members so they were quite (and it was early in the morning!) but I got them all cheering loud! So much fun to be part of.

There were very few unattended areas along the route, my previous manager/CEO from work was at mile 3, new CEO at mile 8, mom, wife and baby at mile 14 and finish, that bastard Marcel missed me at Rice but made up for it being the first person I saw at the finish. DJ's, signs, live bands, girls, parties.. the whole time.. made it really hard to pee my pants! "Seriously, you did?!" Yeah, of course! It would have meant the difference between making my goal and missing it completely. I did it at the most opportune times after a water stations where you get soaked anyways, and the next water was only 10 minutes down the road.

I took in all the Gatorade and water I could along the way with a gel each 30-40 minutes. This was smooth until about mile 15 when I actually inhaled a drink and just like that 50k last summer was dealing with sports-drink-induced-pulmonary-edema, try running full out with pneumonia, awesome. This was really my only big issue other than fatigue and going out too fast, felt the cramps starting up late in the race and was loosing my grip and getting sloppy but I just kept thinking about quick feet, fast cadence and that would get me going again.

Around 20 mile I knew the cramps were starting up and not just in the legs but some of the worst pain was in my arms on the inside elbow joints! My body would have the overwhelming waves of complete numbing exhaustion that felt totally paralyzing but I was getting so close to the finish I would just try to keep the rhythm and feed off all the crowds energy and eventually linking back up with the half marathoners gave a boost too. With the body starting to rebel I went into a bit of a panic mode of combating it with all the water and electrolytes I could throw at it including my backup salt pill clipped to a safety pin on my bib. I had a hard time ripping the tiny corner of the bag it was in and it ended flying into the air in slow motion, I went to catch it but I bounced it back in the air left, then again right, and miraculously landing in a water cup I was holding, gulp!

With a mile to go I started getting back on to the ~6 min/mile pace after a few slower miles, the rhythm was back, that was until out of no where an older couple spectating stepped from the very busy half marathon side of the road and right into my empty path. With no time, coordination, or strength to dodge them I yelled "get out of the way!!!" by which time I had already ran smack into the lady planting an elbow directly to her jugular, ouch (for her). I heard a horrifying scream and accelerated back on to pace after coming to nearly a complete stop, not easy to do at mile 25! I looked back with some choice words for the lady and could not see her condition, I hope she is okay and also hope she looks both ways when crossing the street from now on (and stays off closed race courses).

In my previous blog post I picked a goal time of 2:36, while if I ran smarter I know a few minutes off were doable I was stoked to run under that finish line clock at 2:35:11! 

Below are all the numbers from the day. Having never really run a 10 mile race, or a road half marathon (only two on trails last year in ~1:24) it was really cool to be setting personal best times at all the distances along the way. Came through 10 mile in ~55:31 and half marathon in 1:13:44! That also means my second half was in 1:21:27, +7:43, ouch!

Official Race Splits from http://results.houstonmarathon.com/2014/

SplitTime Of DayTimeDiffmin/milemiles/h
5K07:17:17AM00:17:0617:0605:3110.91
10K07:34:48AM00:34:3717:3105:3910.65
15K07:52:06AM00:51:5517:1805:3510.78
HALF08:13:55AM01:13:4421:4905:4610.42
25K08:28:07AM01:27:5614:1205:5210.25
30K08:46:39AM01:46:2718:3105:5810.07
35K09:05:53AM02:05:4219:1506:129.69
40K09:26:26AM02:26:1420:3206:379.08
Finish Net09:35:22AM02:35:1108:5706:349.15

Data from my Suunto Ambit GPS


ActivityDurationHeart rateDistanceSpeedPaceascentdescentTotal distance
1
0:05'27.9176 (80-190)1.0011.0 (0.7-12.8)5'20 (8'56-89'24)331.00
2
0:05'31.0159 (153-186)1.0010.8 (10.1-12.1)5'32 (5'57-4'58)002.00
3
0:05'29.0159 (153-164)1.0011.0 (10.5-11.6)5'28 (5'42-5'09)003.00
4
0:05'27.0158 (155-172)1.0011.0 (10.1-13.4)5'26 (5'57-4'28)004.00
5
0:05'36.0158 (155-164)1.0010.7 (9.8-11.6)5'35 (6'05-5'09)005.00
6
0:05'32.0157 (154-163)1.0010.8 (10.1-11.6)5'32 (5'57-5'09)006.00
7
0:05'32.0158 (155-163)1.0010.8 (8.7-12.3)5'32 (6'52-4'52)007.00
8
0:05'37.0158 (156-162)1.0010.6 (9.2-11.6)5'38 (6'32-5'09)038.00
9
0:05'41.0157 (154-167)1.0010.6 (9.8-11.9)5'40 (6'05-5'03)039.00
10
0:05'38.0156 (153-161)1.0010.6 (9.8-11.6)5'38 (6'05-5'09)0010.00
11
0:05'42.0155 (153-160)1.0110.6 (10.1-11.6)5'40 (5'57-5'09)0011.00
12
0:05'45.0155 (153-159)1.0010.4 (10.1-11.2)5'44 (5'57-5'21)0012.00
13
0:05'42.9155 (152-161)0.9910.4 (9.4-11.4)5'44 (6'23-5'15)9613.00
14
0:05'45.1156 (152-160)1.0110.5 (9.8-11.9)5'43 (6'05-5'03)7714.00
15
0:05'46.9157 (153-160)1.0010.3 (8.9-11.0)5'48 (6'42-5'28)0315.00
16
0:05'53.1156 (154-159)1.0010.2 (9.2-11.0)5'53 (6'32-5'28)0016.00
17
0:05'51.0156 (154-159)1.0010.2 (9.4-11.2)5'52 (6'23-5'21)0017.00
18
0:05'52.0157 (154-160)1.0010.3 (9.2-11.2)5'50 (6'32-5'21)0018.00
19
0:05'58.0157 (155-161)1.0010.0 (8.5-10.5)5'58 (7'03-5'42)0019.00
20
0:05'58.0158 (155-159)1.0010.0 (8.3-10.5)5'59 (7'15-5'42)0019.99
21
0:06'11.0157 (153-161)1.009.7 (9.2-10.7)6'10 (6'32-5'35)0021.00
22
0:06'19.1157 (154-167)1.009.5 (8.9-10.3)6'18 (6'42-5'49)0822.00
23
0:06'24.0158 (153-170)1.009.3 (8.3-10.5)6'25 (7'15-5'42)6622.99
24
0:06'36.0154 (149-164)1.009.1 (6.9-10.3)6'34 (8'39-5'49)61624.00
25
0:06'43.0155 (152-158)1.008.9 (8.1-10.1)6'44 (7'27-5'57)7325.00
26
0:06'09.9157 (154-160)1.009.7 (6.7-11.4)6'09 (8'56-5'15)6326.00
27
0:03'06.3159 (157-161)0.509.6 (7.8-11.9)6'13 (7'39-5'03)0326.50

Above: Course map with mile markers, route colour indicates my heart rate. Below: Graph of heart rate BPM (orange) and pace min/mile (white) 

Learned a ton from this race and certainly have some tweaks to both training and race day that will ensure some faster times are still yet to come. Looking back I would have been better off to have tried to stay on my goal pace which would have also given me some people to run with, I was both physically and mentally tired after 20 miles just from being on my own. I need to be more careful drinking, when the respiration rate is high its difficult to have time to breath never mind drink, getting fluid into the lungs causes a ton of problems- the coughing really cramps the entire body not to mention the decreased breathing efficiency and dangers associated with it. Elite water stations where I can use a straw bottle would probably help.

Training needs a lot more tempo's (barely did any other than fast finish long runs and a 10k). But I'm obviously touching on training that is right for me and shouldn't forget it. Arriving healthy and fresh on race day is key.

Race night was spent hanging out with friends Leah Thorvilson and Joe Gray who were both in the half marathon championships running superbly. Also spent a majority of the night with the race director, Brant Kotch, and the rest of the crew. Great being able to tell them, straight to their faces, what an excellent job they did. If you are looking for a fun and fast marathon- as I told Brant, its the best one I've ever done!