Week ? - Veni Vidi Vici

Monday, April 26, 2010

What can I say? The 25th annual Big Sur International Marathon lived up to and even exceeded all the hype: terrific organization, great volunteers, interesting workshop speakers, pristine weather, killer hills, brisk headwinds, and unmatched energy. If the agonizing hills don't take your breath away, the scenery will. You'll basically find those same exact things written in blogs and race reviews of The BSIM every year.

I showed up in Monterey at about 4 PM and immediately went down to the expo to pick up my bib number and sweats bag. The place was full of vendors and booths featuring other upcoming racing events. The Cliff Bar pace team had bracelets with mile split times for different paces. I picked up a 3 hr 40 min bracelet... and my wife just gave me a look like "get real dude!". That's when I also grabbed the 3 hr 50 min bracelet, which was what I eventually went with.

The next day I spent several hours roaming among the vendor booths and sitting through workshops featuring various esteemed speakers. Dean Karnazes was the headliner and I found him to be a genuinely nice and down to earth guy. He receives some flak from other elite runners, but I bet it's mostly due to sponsor envy mixed with bitterness that they can't properly ingest pizza while running 100 miles like Dean boasts about. The speaker who really stood out to me was Charlie Engle. I could write an entire blog entry on how he successfully kicked a cocaine/alcohol addiction and replaced it with ultra running and other more healthy, yet potentially destructive, habits. Charlie hit "home" with the crowd when he mentioned how great it is to hear everyone say "you're crazy" when you tell them that you're running a marathon. Can't wait to see his movie Running the Sahara.

On Saturday evening, we had about a dozen people come by the apartment for a pre-race feast. My wife made delicious byrani, and her friend from MIIS (Jorge) made 3 giant pans of gourmet lasagna. Before I knew it I eaten so much food that I appeared to be in the 3rd trimester. The meal was so delicious that I forgot about the bread being toasted under the broiler.... that was until someone said those famous words "Do I smell smoke?" The bread was literally on fire. Flames were flying out of the oven and I had to throw a damp towel over the molten magma that was once a buttery french roll. After that I also managed to break the upstairs window in an attempt to let out all the smoke. Was this to be taken as an omen? I came way too far to even consider giving clout to such a ridiculous idea.

The buses took off right on schedule at 4:15 AM on Sunday. I was excited to ride in a nice charter bus with a restroom and reclining leather seats. Jose later told me that his bus was of the shorter yellow variety. Deanna from Atwater sat down next to me we spoke for the duration of the hour long journey. By speaking, I mean that I listened to her for about 80% of the time. She took up running marathons after a doctor wanted to fuse a few vertebrae in her back together. Rather than deal with a lifetime of rigidness, she decided to give exercise a shot. Now she claims to be pain free and more motivated than ever.

We stepped out of the bus at 5:30. The sun hadn't even considered rising yet and I needed to find coffee for warmth and a jolt of caffeine. Several announcers were already running their mouths at marathon pace. Among the interesting facts they mentioned, I was surprised to hear that there was someone there who would be running their 3rd marathon in 6 days. Psycho. I began to zone out when the aging speakers started up their anti-i-pod rant and proceeded to state how barefoot running is too dangerous for most people. Jose was nowhere in sight, so I just stood there staring at thousands of shivering runners hoping to pick him out of the crowd. Eventually my coffee was gone and my bladder was full. The lines for the green rooms were ridiculous, as with most races. When I was finally nearing the front, I heard Jose shouting my name. Turns out that he finished his 3rd cup and was also in need of relief.

After taking care of business, I stripped down, slathered on some sunscreen (turns out that I should have used more), and tossed my sweats-bag on the pile. It was GO TIME! Man... somewhere around 4000 people were packed into a very small section of highway 1. Jose and I found the 3:40:00 pace group and placed ourselves nearby. I think this is when I told him that it'd never be the same. Meaning that any future marathons won't have this epic aura about them. Not only were we attempting our 1st, but we were also running in one of the most acclaimed marathons out there. This was special. Charlie Engle touched on this yesterday when he said "there's always something special about 1st times"... first car and first love were among specific examples.

The starting gun sounded like a golf clap from where we were standing. Slowly the crowd began to inch forward, and we were off! Starting with a downhill was nice and I was pleased to notice that our first mile (8:20) didn't suffer at all from the congestion. Jose and I located ourselves close to the 3:50 pace team and locked into cruise mode. Many runners were already jumping off into the woods to relieve themselves. Must have been nerves.

I was amazed to exit the redwoods as quick as we did. The weather was already warm, so I took off my t-shirt and dumped it at an aid station. Pinning my number to my tank-top and wearing it over an old shirt worked like a charm. Each mile seemed to be going by faster than the previous. The rocky coast was gorgeous, and so far the dreaded headwinds were nonexistent. Jose took out his i-phone and snapped a few photos. I managed to get a nice one of him in front of the Point Sur lighthouse. Our mile pace was in the low to mid 8 min mark.

Knowing that the 2-mile climb up to hurricane point was imminent, I pushed the tempo a little to avoid being left behind by the 3:50:00 pace team. This is about the time when I slurped my first gu-pack. The Taiko drummers were beating out an ominous rhythm as we neared. Despite the goosebumps and adrenaline, mile 1 on the hill took 10 minutes. My legs were in good shape, however, and the second mile was rolling and less steep. Reaching the top was a remarkable feeling. Runners were stretched out ahead of me for miles. I don't remember any winds at the point, and certainly not the hurricane force gusts that were expected.

The mile-long drop from the point to Bixby bridge was quick. I focused on making short choppy steps to avoid injury, but also tried to gain some of the ground lost during the climb. Upon crossing the bridge and passing the grand piano, I glanced over my shoulder to see thousands more runners still coming around hurricane point. This view was more enjoyable than the one from the top. My legs/shins were still feeling great. I stopped to refill my water bottles around mile 14 and lost sight of Jose. This convinced me that he must have surged ahead, so I hit the road to cover any lost ground.

Most the next few miles are just a scenic blur. There were finally some powerful gusts of wind in spots. Throughout the journey, I consumed a gu-pack every 45 min or so along with plenty of water. I came across an older man wearing a "grizzled vet" shirt somewhere around mile 15. He confirmed that this was his 25th consecutive BSIM. I exclaimed "Impressive!" He returned the gesture after I told him it was my first marathon ever. This was also about the time that we passed someone playing the theme from Chariots of Fire on their electronic keyboard. Thanks for another needed boost of adrenaline.

My quads began to get tighter from mile 17 onward. Each rolling hill proved more painful to summit, yet I kept the motor rolling. Something else happened around this mark as well. A voice behind me started getting louder. Some annoying clown was not satisfied with running, but had decided it was his role to tell everyone else how to run as well. That was my first impression, but then I still had enough sense about me to consider other possibilities. Oh crap! It donned on me that the cushion between me and the 3:50:00 pace team must have eroded. Sure enough, when I glanced over my shoulder my suspicions were confirmed. The guy was just doing his job, but I found his encouragement unbearable after so many hard fought miles. The only voices I wanted to hear were the ones inside my own head.

I pushed myself beyond earshot of the guy who I despised for trying to help everyone out. In a crazy way he was extremely motivating. My quads were seriously tight now as I entered the Carmel Highlands around mile 22. Most the other BSIM bloggers and runners all talk about this portion of the course as the real test and I was determined to overcome the challenge. With mile splits around 9 minutes, I slogged through the section. I kicked it up a notch each time I heard the voice behind me.

Somewhere along mile 23-ish was "strawberry hill". The locals set up shop here every year and dish out fresh strawberries to the weary runners. It's difficult to imagine that they're this friendly. I'm sure they get some sort of sick pleasure at seeing our pain... but anyway, those were the best tasting strawberries that I've ever devoured.

The Carmel Valley came into view a short while later. I convinced myself that the mile 25 hill must be a myth. I must have already completed the final hill and the glory of finishing was just a few lighthearted steps away. Yeah right. The course dropped back down and I could see that final hill staring me right in the face. This was it! My water bottles were empty so I made a B-line to the final aid station. Tossed a cup of water over my head before making my way to the BYOB (bring your own bottle) table for a refill. What!?! The poor volunteer had just emptied his water jug and saw my look of desperation and rage building up... No WATER! ME ANGRY! Actually I couldn't help but feel bad for the kid despite my own pain at the moment. Too stubborn to walk 10 steps backward, I decided to charge on without H2O.

Mr. Helper was back again and chirping in my ears as I pathetically walk/jogged my stiff quads up the hill. He encouraged me. I grunted some sort of response and slowly built up a little momentum which carried me over the crest. Finally, no more uphill! I shuffled as quickly as I could down the slope glancing around for the few hundred supporters that must be in attendance. Didn't recognize a face. Truthfully, my vision was pretty blurry and I had difficulty focusing on much more than the inflatable finish banner ahead.

As I crossed the bridge, I managed to pass the 3:50:00 pace runner. Some familiar voices yelled out and I saw it was my wife's friends Elizabeth and Jorge. Ironically it was those two who ran the Big Sur Half Marathon last November which motivated me to sign up for today's run. I raised my arms high as I crossed the Finish.... holy cow, I just ran 26.2 miles!

Staff members gave me a sweet medal and emergency blanket. A young woman who I had noticed run/walking at about the same pace as I was cruising at came up and high-fived me. She said she was trying to beat me, but came up a little short. We exchanged congratulations and I waived at my wife and parents who seemed genuinely thrilled to know I was still alive. After downing a few cups of water, I stumbled over and enjoyed a free massage. There was beer and plenty of food to be eaten too. Jose was just behind me and he opted to skip the massage for a cold brew. Both of us had a blast. My only gripe is that we may have started with the best Marathon out there and now everything else is likely be a let-down in comparison.

Week 22 - Final Pre Race Entry

Friday, April 23, 2010
Welcome to my very last blog before race-day. After planning for and thinking about the BSIM for over 5 months, I can hardly believe the moment of truth is just days away. At night I lie awake trying to recall every turn and hill of the course, thinking this will lull me to sleep while mentally preparing me for the long run. All it does is slowly take my resting heart rate up to fight-or-flight pace. Each morning this week I've woke up prior to 5 AM to adjust my body for Sunday's 3:30 AM wakeup. I'm thinking that I'll let myself sleep in on Saturday.

Last week was when most the marathoners probably began to taper off their training. Even though I haven't been able to accumulate loads of miles, I backed off a bit myself by ending the 3 hr cardio circuits. Continued Yoga, ran a handful of treadmill miles, and powered up a 1 mile hill next to wifey's apt in Monterey.

This week I focused on staying injury free and maintained a healthy diet. I ran a brisk 45 minute treadmill session on Monday without any issues. The weather was cool and windy on Wednesday, so I was inspired to run outdoors in the Big Sur-like climate. Several months have passed since my legs felt this strong and pain free.

My parents are now beginning to get excited about spectating. Just as I was getting comfortable with the 26.2 mile challenge, and thinking that I'll just give it my best shot... Dad calls up saying how proud him and mom will be to see me run across the finish line. Stupid loving parents with all their added pressure! Oh well, guess I shouldn't complain... ha. Hopefully I'll be back to give a post race assessment. Looking forward to checking out the Vibram booth at the expo and maybe getting a photo with Dean Karnazes.

PS: I've developed this genius strategery to handle increasing temperatures along the course. Going to wear an old t-shirt beneath my fleet feet tank-top. Will affix my bib to the tank and ditch the t-shirt somewhere along the course. Who cares if I look like a clown for the first 10 miles?

-Apr 12: 20 min run on treadmill, half hour bike.

-Apr 13: 1 hr Yoga.

-Apr 14: 20 min run on treadmill, half hour bike.

-Apr 15: 1 hr Yoga.

-Apr 16: Ran from Monroe St up to Veterans Park twice. Hill has roughly 350' gain along the 1 mile route.

-Apr 19: 45 minute run on treadmill. Maintained 7:30 min/mile pace.

-Apr 20: 1 hr Yoga.

-Apr 21: 2 mile run along the levees. Cool, windy, felt fast and smooth.

-Apr 22: 1 hr Yoga.

-Apr 23: Plan on running a short 2 miler along Monterey Bay.

Week 21 - Holy S***, It's April Already!

Thursday, April 15, 2010
The days and weeks are flying by at a blinding pace... If only I could run 26.2 miles so fast. By now it’s too late to really make any measurable endurance gains before the April 25th race-day. Last week I was driving all over Northern CA again, but did manage to get some cardio work in.

Friday was my big workout: 1 hr 10 min of running, an hour on the elliptical hill trainer, and another 40 minutes on a stationary bike. I pressed the throttle down pretty hard to make sure my heart rate stayed at or above 160 BPM (my planned BSIM HR). To my surprise, I didn’t hit any kind of a wall, and actually wanted to keep going during the final running session. The powerbar goo packs that sucked down every 45 minutes must have really done the trick. I had so much energy left over that the missus and I headed straight to the MIIS follies talent show afterwards.

This next week will be full of pampering, preparing, sleepless nights, and some short bouts of physical activity. I’ve already begun to wake up earlier each morning so that the 3:30 AM wake-up call for the marathon won’t be too big of a shock. Oh yeah, and I ordered a shorter pair of shorts (5” inseam instead of 6”) for the big day. If my calculations are correct, a 15% decrease in shorts length should translate to a 15% reduction in my finish time.

-Apr 5: Sparticus circuit, 20 min on treadmill, and 30 min on bike.

-Apr 6: Sparticus circuit, and 30 minutes on bike at hotel in McKinleyville.

-Apr 7: Poked around Willow Creek and didn’t get much of any workout in.

-Apr 8: 1 hour yoga.

-Apr 9: 3.0 hr cardio circuit at gym. Two 20 min treadmill sessions, a 30 min treadmill session, two 20 min bike sessions, and three 20 min elliptical sessions. Still sweatiest and stinkiest guy at gym.

Week 20 - Gym-athon

Sunday, April 4, 2010
T-minus 3 weeks and counting now. The cycle of nerves that I have experienced since registering for the marathon has been notable:

•I was scared 's'less in November.
•December and January that fear was turned into motivation.
•February and March were filled with ups and downs between decent race performances, and battling shin-splints.
•Now I've come full circle, and April's emotions closely match those of November.

I find myself lying awake at night wondering what I got myself into, and what led me to register in the first place (other than Jose's jab about Oprah and P-Diddy being able to pull it off). There's no single answer to the question. Bravado, testing my physical abilities as well as my wits, clinging to youth, wanting to achieve a long term goal, the BSIM being a world-class event, and insanity all played some part in the decision.

I put in some decent mileage again this week and my legs are feeling strong. I had planned on doing a 3 hour cardio circuit at the gym on Friday in an attempt to keep my HR above 160 for the duration. That workout was shifted to Saturday when scotched-up Keith agreed to go for a 5 mile run with the MIIS running club. Grad students are fast. They took it pretty easy on me too. Despite half the run being on Del Monte Beach, our pace was somewhere around the 7 min/mile mark.

My cardio circuit had another setback on Saturday when I neglected to notice that the sports center closed at 5. I was only able to get in 2 1/2 hours of the scheduled workout consisting of 20 min treadmill, 20 min elliptical, and 20 min bike (repeat). I forced myself to maintain at least 160 bpm heart rate while eating/drinking consistently. All systems were functional throughout. The last 10 minutes were a slight test, but I pushed through to keep up pace. Sunday brought very little muscle pain. I will try to get the full 3 hour circuit in next Friday before beginning to back off leading into race-day.

-Mar 29: Sparticus circuit, 20 min on treadmill, and 30 min on bike.

-Mar 30: 1 hour yoga during lunch. Sparticus circuit, 20 min on treadmill, and 30 min on bike after work.

-Mar 31: 1 hour run on soccer fields in riverfront park.

-Apr 1: 1 hour yoga.

-Apr 2: 5 miles with MIIS running club along coastal trail and back to campus along Del Monte Beach. Fast, 55 deg, headwinds on return, and had a decent hill.

-Apr 3: 2.5 hr cardio circuit at gym. Three 20 min treadmill sessions, and two 20 min bike and elliptical sessions. Sweatiest and probably stinkiest guy at gym today.

Week 19 - Ian's B-Day

Friday, April 2, 2010
This week was mostly comprised of cross training again. I may not be able to control when my shins will be back to 100%, but the rest of me is going to be prepared for 4 hr of pain when we line up on April 25. My lovely wife was home for spring break, but she let me get a couple 2-a-day workout sessions in. She's probably going to be happy when the BSIM is over and I am a little less obsessed. There was also an opportunity for work to interfere with training when I had to travel to Eureka for a field review. I made the best of the situation,though, by busting my tail in the hotel fitness area.

My buddy Ian had a get-together for his upcoming 27th B-Day on Saturday. Part of the extravaganza was a 4 mile jaunt through Clearlake State Park. Jose was there too and three of us ran at an easy pace and discussed the meaning of life and stuff. Running with other people always seems to make the time fly by for me. I have to admit that the hill winded me, but recovery was quick on the long downhill section. Weather was gorgeous. Afterward I celebrated with beer, burritos, and some good bullshitting.

-Mar 22: Spartacus circuit at gym, followed by 1 mile on treadmill, 16 min on elliptical, 30 min on bike.

-Mar 23: 1 hr yoga during lunch. 20 min on treadmill, 30 min on bike after work.

-Mar 24: Spartacus circuit, 16 min intervals on elliptical, and 30 min biking.

-Mar 25: Drove to McKinleyville for work, circuit training in weight room, 30 min biking.

-Mar 26: Walk/jogged up and down 3 miles of State Route 96 in Humboldt county while taking inventory of damaged pavement to address on project.

-Mar 27: Ran 4 miles through Clearlake State Park with Ian and Jose. Run was easy compared to the drive from Eureka to Monterey that day.

Week 18 - Freakin' Out

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Only 5 weeks left till D-Day as I write this. I hit the gym with a vengeance these last few days. Monday was supposed to be a short run, but I felt the shins tingling and cut it off after 5 minutes. Walked my sad sack butt to the club and put in about 1 1/2 hours of hard cardio work. What began as another epic shin failure turned into a victory for Team Keith. Weight is down to 173 lb, and I'm wearing size 32 waist shorts for the first time since 2004. At this point I'm going to call the marathon training a success even if I wind up in a mangled heap somewhere along the climb to hurricane-point (see image).

Legs are feeling good. Plan to do some running around the grass soccer fields here in Riverfront Park. Doing another long distance run before the marathon may not happen. Instead, I am conjuring up a plan to run some middle distances (6 milers or so) followed up immediately by lengthy cross training at the gym. This should keep my shins in top shape leading into the 26.2 mile course, help me shed a few more pounds, and get my cardiovascular system prepared to endure 4 hours of headwinds and hills.

-Mar 15: Ran to gym, 30 min biking, 20 min on rowing machine, 16 minutes of interval training on elliptical machine.

-Mar 16: 1 hr yoga during lunch. Jogged to gym after work, dumbell bench/flies, medicine ball crunches, sidebends, pullups, 30 min on bike, 16 min intervals on elliptical.

-Mar 17: Wussed out at lunch, ran to gym after work, 30 min biking, 20 min on rowing machine, 16 minutes of interval training on elliptical machine. Downed Irish-car-bombs, green beer, and way too much deep fried bar snacks in celebration.

-Mar 18: 1 hr yoga during lunch.

-Mar 19: Bosu dumbell curls and military press, medicine ball squats on Bosu ball, leg curls, leg lifts, calf raises, 20 minutes on bike, and 5 min on elliptical. Plans to swim were cut short by running around trying to score GaGa tix for the better-half.

-Mar 21: Kicked my own butt with the Spartacus lifting circuit from Men's Health, 30 min on bike, 25 min rowing, 16 min intervals on elliptical, 20 min on reclined bike.

Week 17 - Recovery

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Following Saturday's half marathon, my first, I decided to take most of the week to recover. My plan was to run a 4-miler on Weds and then put in a nice 6-miler in Monterey on Friday.

I began to feel the familiar twinge of shin splints less than half a mile into Wednesday's run. The pain was mild, so I finished the course at an easy pace. Was I disappointed? A little bit. However, I did just surpass my personally longest distance ever ran by more than 3 miles. The realist in me dealt with the facts and decided to ease up on running for the rest of the week.

Friday's run turned into 1.5 hours of playtime at the Monterey Sports Center. That place is awesome. Great cardio and lifting equipment, not to mention the huge pool. Next week I plan on taking a dip while Sabina works in the morning.

On Sunday I was hanging out with the missus at Borders. While thumbing through the UK version of Runner's World, I came upon 10 Must Do World Races. Guess which California Marathon was on the list? The one and only BSIM. Everyday I become more amped-up to test myself against the 26.2 mile set of hills and headwinds. Hopefully next week I can plunge back into some serious road work.

-Mar 8: Legs tight from Saturday's race. Limited to 30 minutes on stationary bike, dumbell flies/bench, and crunches.

-Mar 9: 3 sets of 20 step-ups (each leg) with 20 lb dumbells, 10 minute hill routine on elliptical, 30 minutes on stationary bike.

-Mar 10: Lazy slug at lunch. Drank some coffee in the afternoon and did a 4 mile "recovery" run around the levees before sundown.

-Mar 11: 1 hr Yoga.

-Mar 12: 15 min elliptical, 20 min biking, bosu dumbell curls and military press, calf raises, leg curls, leg lifts, dumbell bench and flies.