Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Half

“I don't run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run towards it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your foot” ― Nadia Comaneci

I haven't talked much about the Halloween Half this year in my blog other than mentioning that I was training for it and it was coming up.  Last year, it was my first half marathon ever and I was running (pun?) a little scared leading up to the race.

This year was quite different.  I had already run the Hobble Creek Half in August and I wasn't going to run the Halloween Half this year but after a couple of weeks of recovery runs, I was ready for another challenge.

There were a few things that happened that made me wonder if I had made a mistake.  I chose a different training schedule to work off of.  My previous two halfs were based on Hal Higdon's training schedules. He has generously provided training tips and schedules at no cost.  You can pay for additional help, but this is a great resource for runners who want to run anything from a 5K to a marathon.  This time, I used a Runner's World schedule.  In all fairness, I used their beginning schedule since it was about were I was in running when I decided to run this one.  The longest "long run" was 10 miles and I was struggling on the long runs just a bit.

Packet Pickup for Justin Bieber Fans
Most of my reservations were pre-race experiences however.  The first was at Packet Pickup.  They only had one day to pick up your packet.  I went Friday night about 5pm to a local mall and we had to stand in line for an hour and a half to get our packets.  I talked with others later who waited 2 hours!  That's a long time to stand in line the day before a race.  The line went half way through the mall.  I tried to tell curious mall shoppers that we were in line for Justin Bieber, but no one fell for it and joined the line. :)

Morning Fun
They had us get up nice and early to catch buses at the same mall to drive us up Provo Canyon and then head up past the Sundance Ski Resort to the race start.  Even though the race started at 9:00, they had to get the buses up the canyon early since it impacted traffic.  The only problem was is that the race starting point was at a new place this year and the first buses up didn't know exactly where.  The bus driver asked for help to get where we needed to go.  I was on the front seat behind the bus driver and knew where the start of the race was supposed to be so I was his Garmin voice giving him turn-by-turn directions.

When we got to where the race was supposed to start, I could see some starting gates, but the "heated tent as big as a football field" was not seen from the road.  There wasn't anyone from the race there either.  The bus driver got off and asked the bus drivers behind him if they knew where to let us off.  On of them told him there was a drop off point ahead.  So off we went up a narrowing road with barely enough room for one bus.  We soon were stopped by a bus load of people walking down the same narrow road.  On runner said, "He nearly drove off a cliff so we got off."  Our bus decided to take the same action.  Soon we were traveling in the pitch dark down this narrow road with four other bus load of runners going back to where we saw the starting gate.  It was about a half mile back to there.  For about 10 minutes, we gather in the cold (20*) while someone tried to figure out where we were supposed to go.  Finally someone finds and empty lite up heated tent behind some buildings so we headed en masse to our temporary shelter.

I won't say much about the tent experience except to say there is nothing like sharing a tent with thousands of other runners who are dressed up in Halloween costumes for about 2 1/2 hours.

The Race Itself
The Tail End of Last Years Start (Halloween Half Web Page)

When we actually got going, I purposefully got way back it the start.  I knew it would help me not to go out too fast.  I was lined up a ways behind the 3:00 hour pacer.  It was a good strategy except being near the guy dressed as a cow.  The costume wasn't that bad except for the cow bell that he had hung around his neck that clanged for miles.  His race strategy was fun/walk.  Every time he passed someone, he would say "MOOO!"  This went on for miles and was only slightly irritating. :)

Race Pace
I thought my race pace was good.  The first part of the race is really steep.  I eventually caught up to the 2:40 pacer (dressed as a gorilla) and stayed with him through about mile six where he went a little ahead of me.  I thought this was great and I wasn't really that tired yet and felt I had reserves.  I stuck to my nutrition plan fairly well.  My only problem was the early steepness took a bit of a toll on my calves which felt like they wanted to cramp, but thankfully never did during the race.

During the last part of the race though, my pace kept slowing.  I didn't have to walk except when I took some water and Gu's, but I couldn't keep my pace up.  The way my long runs had gone before, I was afraid I was going be right around three hours to finish.  Toward the end, even though I was running (shuffling), I would have trouble passing power walkers.  But I never really thought about quitting, I knew I just had to go at my pace and keep after it.  I know if I would have pushed any harder, I would have cramped up big time.

The Finish
I don't run from a challenge, I run through it.

I saw this on the back of a shirt as I was headed down the stretch. This race was definitively a challenge, but I was close to the finish.  Right after mile 13, with only .1 miles to go, I got a huge cramp on my left inner thigh, I had to stop, massage it out, and then headed for the finish line.

Post Race
I will save until next week what my next plans are, but I would like to suggest a challenge that comes from my work that fits right in with other challenges you might have.

Maintain your weight during the holiday season!
To complete this Wellness Challenge:
1. Maintain (or lose) weight during the coming
holiday season
2. Begin with an initial weigh-in around
November 1, 2010 (the last day to join this
Challenge is Monday, November 15)
3. Have a final weigh-in on January 2, 2011
4. Use the same scale for the initial weigh-in
and your final weigh-in
5. You’ll be weighing yourself. So be honest
6. Keep records of your completed challenge
Maintain, don’t gain!

I'll be weighing in tomorrow and promise to report on my loss/gain on  Monday, January 2, 2012.  Feed free to join in!

Hang in there and I will too!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fall Break and General Weirdness

Sorry to be late this week.  Busy, busy, busy!

Fall Break Scout Trip

The kids were off school for a couple of days last week so we planned a camping trip for the scouts.  Normally I just take the scout troop out, but for this one we had the Varsity team and Venture crew join us as well.  The 11 year old scouts joined in the fun so we had 13 scouts and 8 leaders and fathers along.

Goblin Valley is a State Park in southern Utah.  Most people are familiar with Moab because of the great mountain bike trails along with Arches and Canyonland National Parks.  Goblin Valley is about 50 miles or so west as a crow flies from Moab so you know it is in some fun country.  

Goblin Valley (Utah State Parks Site)
Goblin Valley is filled with "hoodoos" which are unique formations created through years of wind and water erosion.  The great thing about this state park is that they allow you to go all through and all over the formations.  It is fun for all ages.  The next day, we hiked Little Wild Horse Canyon which is an easily accessible slot canyon that provides a ton of fun.  No worries about flash floods as the weather was perfect.

Little Wild Horse Canyon (
Half Marathon Prep
With the Halloween Half Marathon this Saturday, I needed to get my long run in.  It was another 10 miler.  I was scheduled to run this on Saturday, but being that I was with the Scouts I knew it wouldn't work so I ran on Friday morning before we drove down.  I read about a trick to help your legs be less sore.  Lay on your back near a wall and rest your heels on the wall.  I did this for about 10 minutes.  It really helped.  When I dropped my legs back down, I could feel a rush of blood going back to them.  I was able to drive for about four hours and hike a little in the evening and my legs held up just fine.  I'll have to remember that one!

Weird Things!
Do you ever have weird things happen when you are out exercising?  This morning I took off a little later and walked two miles (taper week).  As I was walking down the sidewalk next to a busy street, I noticed someone cross in front of me into our church parking lot.  As I got closer, I saw an old Volkswagen bug halfway on the grass and half way into the parking lot.  During the week the gate to the busy street is closed. He was attempting to push it off the grass into the parking lot.  I helped him get the car off the lawn and asked if everything was alright.  He said that he was worried leaving his stalled car on the busy street so he was attempting to get it into the parking lot.  I walked away thinking that was weird.

A couple of blocks down the road, I saw something lying on the grass in between the sidewalk and the street.  As I got closer I saw an 8x11 picture of Jesus.  There was nothing but businesses on this side of the street so I figured it had blown over here from somewhere else.  I didn't want the picture to get wet or mangled any further so I carried it home and found a place for it in my garage.  It will serve as a reminder each time I back out of the driveway to be a better person.

I've had many weird and funny things happen while I have been out exercising.  Any of you want to share your experiences in the comments?

Hang in there and I will too.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How You Can Become a Runner - Part 2

Runner's World Quote of the Day
Every time I go out there, I win. Every time I finish the task that I've set before myself, I win again.
- David James Elliott, actor
David James Elliot (Netflix)

Last week, I talked about building up a good base and running at a good heart rate.  Today I'll finish up with three more things that I feel are important.

Don't forget to rest
Proper resting!

Even elite runners know you need to have rest days when you run.  You might be inclined to think that the more often you run, the better you become.  There is some truth to that as far as building up mileage, but it's important to let your body recover as well.

Most training schedules include days off.  Some have up to three days off of running.  As with any form of exercise running breaks you down a bit in order to build you back up.  That's why regular rest days from running are important.  Does that mean you can't exercise?  Not at all!  You can do something different, even walking is usually okay because the way you use your leg muscles walking are different than when running.  Other popular ways to cross-train are weight lifting, biking and yoga.  I often use rest days to work on my core strength.  Keep your core strong and you can prevent a lot of problems down the road.

Don't go all out every run
Usain Bolt

You might be tempted to think that the harder you go on every run, the quicker you will improve.  I found in previous attempts at running that doing this leads to an eventual burnout where you break your body down and are forced to take a break from running.  Unfortunately that break can be for years as I found out.

Just like you should have rest days, some of your runs will be "easy" runs.  What this means is you don't push it on these days.  Your pace and heart rate need to be slow.  Often an easy run is the first run after your "long" run.  An easy run helps your body work out some of the stiffness or soreness from either longer miles or from speed work.

"Long runs" are also usually runs that you have to back off a bit.  Your goal on a long run is to build up endurance.  It just won't be a good experience for you when your mileage picks up if you start out too quick.  You need to hold some of that extra energy for the last part of the run.  Ever heard the term "negative-splits"?  That is where the first half of your run/race is slower that the last half.  You know you have done it right if you reserve some of that energy for the last part of the run.  It's harder than you might think.  It is great training for a race as well.

Good form
Good running form cannot be over-emphasized.  Make sure you are not hunched over.  There should be a straight line from your shoulders, through your hips down to your ankles.  Keep your arms at about 90 degrees and keep those shoulders relaxed.  Lean forward from your ankles so you are letting gravity help propel you forward.

Heel Striking (Image from
Don't be a heel striker!  Heel striking occurs if you let your foot land too far in front of you.  Why is this so bad?  It's because it causes your heel to absorb a lot of impact which transfers to your knees and hips.  It also slows you down because it causes a bit of a braking action when you land on your heel.  Make sure you keep your feet underneath your hips and let the natural action of pushing off propel you forward.  You should be landing somewhere from mid-sole to the balls of your feet.  There is a big push towards bare-foot running.  I won't get into the pros and cons here, but just be aware that if you were to run barefoot, you probably wouldn't land on your heel.  You would naturally run further forward on your foot.  Being aware of this one fact will probably save you a lot of injuries.  I find I do better at the first of my run.  When I get tired or push my pace, I tend to get sloppy and land further back on my foot.
I hope these little tips I've learned help.  There are pretty fundamental, but when you are first starting out, you just get out there and try to move.  Keep these thing in mind will keep you running longer and with better results!

A quick shout-out to Mark for running 6 miles!  Great job Mark!

Hang in there and I will too!

Monday, October 10, 2011

How You Can Become a Runner - Part 1

This quote from Runner's World Quote of the Day fits perfectly for today's post.

My goal has always been to introduce other people to running. They might accomplish something they never thought they could. 
 - Grete Waitz, Norwegian marathon runner and former world record holder 
9 Time New York Marathon Winner Grete Waitz Dies Aged 57
Grete Waitz 1954-2011 - 9 time winner of the NY Marathon

Thanks for all the great comments and encouragement last week.  I wasn't sure if there would be any interest in my take on how to start running.  Once again, I am not an expert, but I have learned a lot along the way.  Some things I have learned the hard way and other things I have learned by applying advice I have picked up from other runners or articles.

Not sure if you should run?
Often there is concern if you would put to much stress on your knees and back if you start running.  It's a valid concern.  The best thing is to see your doctor and get his/her opinion.  I was worried about this myself.  I have had back problems before but I found out that my problem was muscle related, not joint related.  I just needed to strengthen my core.  My knees were holding up with the walking and hiking I was doing.  As I became more fit, I got the urge to try running a little and see what would happen.  I found that I could do more than I thought.  If I remember right, I was about 250 when I started trying running.

Build up a good base
Start with walking.  Keep walking a little further each day until you can walk at a good clip for at least 30 minutes.  Don't be discouraged if it takes a while to get up to 30 minutes or more.  Just do a little more each time you go out.  When I started out, I could hardly go a quarter of a mile before I was wiped out.  I would just add a little more each time out and I made progress.

When you get to the 30 minute mark, try short, slow intervals.  I think a great way to do this is either by heart rate or perceived effort (see below).  You want to challenge yourself a bit, but don't feed like you have to go either hard or long.  You may only be able to jog for 15 seconds at first, but hey, your doing it!  Slow back down to a walk and recover.  When you get your heart rate back down or your breathing is back to where it is comfortable, try another interval at the same pace and time.  I could make it about a block before I had to stop, but I was proud of myself and was able to that several times during my normal walk.

Heart Rate Zones and/or Perceived Effort
This is a lesson I learned the hard way.  When I started out doing intervals, I would go until I my heart was pounding and I was out of breathe.  Talking with others, I found out that a heart rate monitor would help.  Last week I mentioned that I bought a Garmin 305.  It not only tracked distance, (which at the time I was most interested in), it also tracked heart rate.  I didn't know if I would use it much, but I spent the extra money for it.  In hindsight, I am really glad I did.  When I charged it up and took it out the next day I just let it track my progress as I did my usual intervals.  When I got back home, I loaded the data into the Garmin software.  When I saw what my heart rate was doing, it was obvious that I was running way too fast.  My heart rate was spiking at the 90% level and I would have to stop.  The very next time out, I slowed down the running portion and doubled my running time/distance.

There is a lot of info that you can read if you google heart rate zones, but in a nutshell, when we workout at about 60% of our maximum heart rate, we can go for much longer because our body can produce the energy we need much easier and for a longer time. It is the aerobic part of exercise.  When we go at a higher heart rate 80-90%, the body has to produce the energy needed less efficiently.  This is the anabolic part of exercise. It is the state the body gets in when we hit the weights hard.  One of the by products of this is lactic acid.  So the idea is to run at a pace that your body can keep up better.  Most of the heart rate monitors will walk you through what you need to do to set things up for your age.  It isn't completely accurate because the   numbers are based on averages. But it is a good start.  on most monitors, heart rate zone 3 is where you want to be.  Most monitors can be set up to warn you if you go above or below your target heart rate zone.

A lot of runners can also "feel" when they are in the right zone.  I can to some extent, but it is rare that I notice that I my effort is a little too high before the heart rate alarm goes off.  You might do better than me in this area, but I find that a heart rate monitor is a great tool.

In Conclusion

I have gone on too long as it is, so I will save the rest of this for next week.  Hope this helps and gives you some confidence that you too can become a runner!  It has made a world of difference for me.

Hang in there and I will too!

Monday, October 3, 2011

How I Came to be a Runner

When I started getting serious about losing weight again, it all started as a Three Peak Challenge.  I have written about this challenge several times before.  In a nutshell, I got inspired to get back into hiking shape by choosing three mountains to climb that I either hadn't done before, or it had been decades.  I spent a lot of time getting back into shape to get to the top of the first mountain, Big Baldy.

When I didn't make it to the top by the end of fall that first year, I had to wait until the snow melted off.  I spent the winter trying to get off the extra weight and building up my endurance.  A few months in to the next year, I was ready to try a walk of significant distance for me.  I went on what I call my Riverwoods Route which I enjoyed in the past.  When I was able to walk the 4.5 mile loop, I was really excited.  When I started out, I had trouble covering a quarter of a mile.

As I kept walking and also dedicating my Saturday mornings to longer walks/hikes, I wondered if I could run a bit.  I started out slowly running a block and then walking to catch my breath.  It was fun to go faster than I had gone in a long time.  I was making progress, but it was slow.

Fortunately, I have a cross country coach (Andy) and a long distance runner (Bill) in the neighborhood who had noticed that I was dropping weight.   They were both very encouraging to me.  I told them about what I was doing in trying to run.  The both told me that they used a Garmin to track their running.  I liked the idea because I often would go out but not know how far I had gone.  After researching, I found one that also had a heart monitor.  I didn't know if the heart monitor would be that big of a deal but I decided to get that model.

Garmin Forerunner 305 Variation Parent
Garmin Forerunner 305

When it got delivered, I got it set up, charged it and the next morning strapped on the heart monitor and headed out for my walk/run.  When I got back, I loaded the data.  It was interesting to see how far I had gone, but I was surprised when I looked at the heart rate chart.  It was easy to see why I had to stop and walk.  My heart rate would build up quickly to a level where I had to stop and walk.  I learned that I was pushing too hard.  On my next time out, I ran slow and steady and as a result immediately was able to run almost twice as far.

Things improved rapidly.  My weight continued to drop.  I was getting more bang for my buck during my exercise time and before long I was able to run most of the way.  Gradually I was able to build my mileage to where I was running about 6 miles twice a week and then hiking 10 or so miles on Saturday mornings.

As I would talk to my running friends, they kept encouraging me.  Bill told me I should run a 10K.  He knew I could do it.  I felt so great to have a runner that I admired telling me I could do something that I never though I would be able to do.  I ran the Freedom Festival in 2010.  I was so excited when I finished.

Image ID: 00312-49-1736
Freedom Festival 10K 2010

I kept running.  I began to wonder if I could even go further.  Both Andy and Bill had full confidence in my ability to run a half-marathon.  I found an online training schedule and a fall race that fit with the schedule.  Before I knew it, I was at the starting line of the race and ran the 13.1 miles down to the Riverwoods.  It finished up on the route that got me started!  My wife and daughter were there to cheer me on at the finish.  I had a hard time not getting emotional as I crossed the finish line.  I did it!
Provo Halloween Provo FaceBook Promo
Sorry no personal photo, but here is the poster from this year.  (I am running this again)

I still love hiking and now I love running.  It's not easy, but I have overcome so much and learn tons from it.  I never knew there was so much more beyond just getting out and running.  Heart rate, different distances, speed training all play an important part.  I am still learning a lot.

I hope this long post captures just a bit of how much I have come to love running.  If there is any interest, I would be willing to post a few of the tricks I learned (and am still learning) about running.  Let me know in the comments if you would like to hear more.

Hang in there and I will too!