What is your favorite Fall Marathon?

As the Summer scorches on heading into July, my thoughts are on Fall racing.  I think many of us train hard during the Summer months in hopes of at least one awesome race in the Fall.

I love race planning.  Planning though, for runners, often is months in advance of a race.  My Fall schedule is already in place and includes several first time races, and some old favorites.  It gets the heart pumping just thinking about toeing the line at some of my choices this Fall.  Big Cottonwood Marathon in September, Chicago Marathon in October, City of Oaks in November.  I have a great line up.

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I recently looked up some info on the best Fall marathons, and I have to tell you, there are some amazing races to run.  A few that made the list of the top 15 Fall marathons are- Anthem Richmond, Chicago, Steamtown, Jackson Hole, NYC, and Las Vegas.  The only race on the list that I have run is Rock ~n~ Roll Las Vegas.

My question for you today is this…..  Do you have a favorite Fall Marathon or race that is a must run?  I ask because it’s never too early to start planning.  My race calendar is full this Fall, but I need a few suggestions to start looking at for next year.  Which ones are your favorites?

A car, A phone and a run

Objectives of the day…..

Big deals to me.  My car lease is up in a few weeks, time to get really serious about car shopping.  Looks like today will be a good day for that.  It’s got to be affordable, and great on gas.  Don’t think I will lease again, so I really have to like this one.

My phone won’t maintain a charge longer than eight hours anymore.  It’s going on three years old.  Time for a new one.  iPhone 5s?  Droid Maxx?  Not sure.  I need a new one, and I have to decide soon, and purchase it so I don’t extend my contract.

Five mile run… Where and when will I be able to squeeze this in today between the rain storms?  I have been hill training all week, and it’s time for a little distance run.  I figure five miles is a good start for today, and want to follow it up with a 5k, or four miler tomorrow before work.  Those runs will help to alleviate the stresses of big purchases.

Do you struggle when long term choices are beckoning?  I find marathon training easier than car shopping.  I don’t know about you.  My weekend looks full, how about yours?

What? Qualify for two Boston’s at the same race? Yes, please….

The Boston Athletic Association has announced registration periods and dates for the 2015 race which will be held on April 20th next year.  They have also now announced when the qualifying period for the 2016 Boston race will start.  Drumroll please…….

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The Big Cottonwood Marathon in Utah, as promised, becomes a race you can run on September 13th, and qualify for two Boston Marathons.  That’s right, two!  September 13th is the opening day for qualifications for the 2016 race.  It’s also registration week for the 2015 event.

Two for the price of one, as they say.

Buy One Get One.  BOGO!

I am extremely excited to hear this news.  Not that a Boston Qualifying time is a sure thing, because for me, it certainly isn’t.  My best marathon finish thus far is seven minutes off my BQ standard, so I have work to do.  I have a training plan in place this Summer, which will hopefully put me in good standing for a wholehearted attempt.  I plugged my marathon best into a calculator which predicts finish time at the Big Cottonwood, and it puts me well under my standard.  So, if I have a great race, I can register for Boston.  You see, the Big Cottonwood marathon is not a flat race, it’s mostly downhill, and has a great record for qualifying runners for Boston.  This is the original reason I signed up for this race a few months ago.

Why don’t you join me in Utah this September?  It’s a fast, and beautiful course, with an amazing atmosphere from what I’ve read.  Great race medals, and swag, and for heavens sake, a shot at two Boston’s?  Who wouldn’t want to run this race?

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Go Big at the Big Cottonwood marathon with me this September 13th.

It’s all downhill from here, literally!

With five marathons and a few other races behind me so far in 2014, my focus now shifts.  My plans for this year were really two fold, and I am now on to the second part of 2014 plans.  What does this mean?  After a few weeks of recovery, well really a month of lower mileage, the hills are beckoning my name.

This Summer is all about hill training.  Why?  I have an amazingly different sort of marathon to run in September.  A marathon quite unlike any other I’ve run in my 13 attemps.  In September, I will hop on a four and a half hour flight to Utah for an amazing adventure.  An adventure to a new state, a place I have always wanted to visit but never have.  An adventure of epic proportions, and mostly downhill.  I am running the Big Cottonwood Marathon by Revel.

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I have already begun the training regime that I believe will get me to that starting line as prepared as possible.  I’ve heard that this marathon can be a killer on the quads, so my workouts over the next two months will be all about building strength.  Squats, leg presses, hill workouts, and the like are in order.  Luckily I have a few decent sized hills right here at home to test and retest my quads.  I generally incorporate hill training in my everyday marathon plans, but this time around I need to focus more on the downhills.  Sounds fun, right?  Who wouldn’t want to spend extra time doing that?

I began a week ago, and if all goes according to plan, my legs will be stronger and ready to tackle 16 miles of descent.  This race starts at a ski resort in Utah, and traverses through the canyon down to a mostly flat finish.  I have always taken hill grades seriously, and try to practice ahead of time.  I believe this will be critical to maximize my success chances in Utah.  For weeks prior to the Blue Ridge Marathon last year, I worked on hills.  I did the best I could, but those were not hills, they were mountains.  My preparations helped, but weren’t maximized.  This time around I will prepare better.

I am going to work on the downhills.  Work on my speed, and pacing.  I will work on my breathing techniques to maximize my downhill pace, and really stretch my stride to get further in a shorter amount of time.  I remember a few massive downhill sections on the Blue Ridge course, and it takes a lot of effort.  Different effort.  You are almost forced to run faster, to move better with gravity.  It’s fun, but taxing.  I remember hitting a flat section after a mile of downhill at a significant grade, and thought my Achilles’ tendons were going to snap.  I remember the quad burn, the adjustment you had to make back to the flat surface.  It’s not easy.  I am preparing better this time.

I can’t wait to #GoBig in Utah this September.  Hopefully my body will be ready, and will take me down that canyon at Boston Qualifying speed.  That is the goal after all.

Do you have any good training tips to share?  Good workouts for quads?  Good experiences with downhill races to share?  Please do!

Boston Announcement

The announcement has been made.  The formal announcement for registration for the 2015 Boston Marathon.

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Registration will begin on September 8, 2014 for those runners beating their age group time standard by 20 minutes or more.  Following that, on 9/10, those more than 10 minutes better than qualifying time.  Then on 9/12, those qualifying by more than five minutes better than standard are able to register.

What does this mean to me?  My Boston Qualifying goal race is 9/13.  During registration week.  My qualifying time standard is 3:25:00.  That means that if I run a 3:20:00 at Big Cottonwood, I could register for Boston right after I finish the race.  If I meet my standard, but not by 5 minutes or more, I could register on 9/15 if space remains.

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The B.A.A. has not yet announced the size of the marathon field for 2015, or the percentage of that field which will be designated for time qualifiers, so a lot remains up in the air.  It would be amazing to qualify in Utah on 9/13, but only time will tell.  I will make sure that I have my IPad and credit card to register provided the marathon goes as planned, but I will also have a box of tissues just in case I’m crying at the end out of disappointment.

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First things first though.  I have a Summer chock full of training ahead of me, and to get to Boston will take one training run at a time.

Anyone out there shooting for a Boston Qualifying time this Summer?  Where and when is your race?  Are you ready to take on the challenge?

Father’s Day Donut Run

To my Dad:  I love you, and thank you for loving me unconditionally for 44 years.  I thank you for the lessons in life, and I thank you for your often times quiet support from afar the last 33 years.

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To my kids:  Thank you for allowing me to love you unconditionally.  Thank you for loving me through thick and thin, and for becoming great young men under my guidance.  When I’ve made mistakes, we’ve both learned from them.  When you’ve made mistakes, I’ve tried to give you a better path.  I hope I’ve given you the tools to become great fathers one day.  A Dad is very important, and I am thankful that I went down the path of fatherhood.  Oh, and thank you for the donuts, too!

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Because of my early morning breakfast treat, I am going to partake in one of my favorite activities while you do the dishes and clean the bathroom today.  After all, I can’t eat donuts without trying to work them off this aging body.  A four mile run is in order.   Hold down the fort, I will return…

Happy Father’s Day to of all the awesome Dad’s out there!  Hope you get to enjoy some of your favorite things today, including the kids.

Marathon training in the Summer

I knew it would arrive.  Officially it still hasn’t arrived, but it sure feels like Summer.  Yesterday was in the lower 90’s, with oppressive humidity.  Today, much of the same.  It’s time to start planning that training plan for Fall, and how to have a successful cycle and beat the heat at the same time.

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When I look back at last years training, I am amazed.  One good thing about keeping a running log is being able to gleen some knowledge from what you have done right and wrong in the past.  From daily workouts to total monthly miles, keeping track of your workouts is important.  I’ve tried to adapt training plans from several I’ve seen online or in magazines because I just don’t believe that any one plan is better than the other.  You have to be able to mold and manipulate a plan so that it works around your home and work life, vacations, appointments, etc.  I feel this is especially important during the Summer months.  Sometimes it just doesn’t make any sense to run a 12 miler for instance, on a 100 degree day.  A Summer training plan must be kept fluid, to be successful.

Dont ask me how I did it, but last year my training in the Summer was amazingly successful.  It led to great rewards in all three marathons I ran last Fall.  After a lackluster training cycle this past winter, I have to figure out what I did differently last Summer that really set me up for success.  My running log sheds some light…..

Monthly mileage last Summer:  June 71, July 108, August 122, September 131.

All good numbers.  My conclusion?  More daylight during the Summer = more opportunities to run when it fits into my schedule and when the weather is more prime for getting that workout in.

Monthly mileage last Winter:  December 77, January 74, February 67, March 63.

To me that really tells the story.  I think commitment to getting in those miles is what held me back, and affected my race performance this past winter and Spring.  I really hate getting all bundled up and run in the dark.  I am much less enthusiastic to train in the winter.  Today’s brutal heat and humidity have me wishing for those days again.  I vow to change my strategy this year.

Mixing in some recovery this week, I really need to get started with training if I want to have a successful Fall.  I’m going for that BQ in September, with a back up race (Chicago) in October.  Let’s see if I can learn from my mistakes and grow as a runner and finally get myself to Boston.

Good luck with your Summer cycle.  How do you beat the heat and maintain your enthusiasm during the Summer months?  Any tips or tricks?  Please share….

Run the Quay 10k & 5k – Race Recap

My hometown event.  Run local they say, and that is just what my 16 year old son and I did on Saturday morning.  After celebrating my older sons graduation from High School on Friday morning, it was a jam packed weekend.  We have only run this event one other time.  Three years ago we ran the 5k, which was the only distance offered for the first nine runnings of this race.  This being the 10 year anniversary of the event, they added both a 10k, and the 15 Quay Challenge (running both the 10k and 5k).

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I do love a challenge, so I signed up for the 15, and my son signed up for his first 10k.  Saturday morning came early, but I dropped by the Chamber of Commerce on Friday afternoon during packet pickup, so we were ready to roll.  We arrived about a half hour before the race start, such an easy 5 minute drive from the house.

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We both felt pretty good that morning.  Albeit a little tired, especially my son.  I actually ran the full “new” 10k course once in training just to familiarize myself with the course.  They described this course as hilly, challenging and full of turns.  30+ turns on the course exclusively run in historic downtown.  I wondered how many folks would miss turns and get lost on the course come race day.  I have to say, they did a great job keeping us on the right track. They color coded the miles, and had signs denoting turns as well as volunteers.  It was a great course, but tough.

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The gun went off.  The start is downhill which is part of the reason why my 5k PR of 20:45 in 2011 still stands today.  Going out strong, my son and I clocked the first mile in 6:56.  I didn’t want to tell him that so I kept quiet.  Right then though comes the first hills, and my son dropped back a bit.  He never caught back up to me, but was never that far behind.  We wound around the hilly and twisty turny course at a good clip.  Volunteers and signage made it easy to stay on course.  I concentrated on just enjoying the run.  I wasn’t trying to set any records, but did want to not have a personal worst.  I was shooting for sub 50 minutes, but knew I had the 5k directly afterward so wanted to leave a little gas in the tank for that.

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Me in purple shirt, son next to me in red.

There was a big crowd, and quite a few spectators all along the route.  The miles ticked by quickly.  Mile 3 then 4 then 5.  I knew the finish was uphill but tried to stay strong for the final push. I haven’t run a 10k race in almost two years, so of course I was surprised by how quickly it was over compared to a Half or Full marathon, which is pretty much all I’ve run the past two years.  I crossed the line in 48:25.  By far not my best, but also not my worst.  I was actually surprised that I finished as high in the standings as I did.  I finished 32/205 overall, and placed 8/32 in my age group.  This event is the only one I’ve ever run where the age groups are 10 years instead of 5.  As I’ve said before, and will continue to say, the 40-50 year old male age group is extremely competitive.  I would have placed higher in both the 20-30 and 30-40 age brackets.  Oh well.

I moved to the side of the street to start watching for my son.  Not long afterward, I saw my sons red shirt off in the distance.  He was chugging along nicely.  As he made his way up to the finish, the hill was taking its toll.  As he neared the finish, we cheered him on.  One guy, probably in his 40’s overtook him just before the finish, and I yelled out to my son “strong, finish strong”.  He turned up the heat, and passed that man and finished just in front of him.  Huffing and puffing, he was proud of his finish and so was I.  His first 10k, and he turned in a fantastic time on this difficult course.  Overall he finished 43/205, and WON his age group!!!  His time was 51:16.  Quite the honorable debut!

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My son with his first medal, and first running trophy for first place in Age Group!

As we celebrated his age group win, I had to remind myself that I had to run again.  The 10k started at 7am, and based on my finish time, I had about 40 minutes rest before the 5k began at 8:30am.  I drank an entire bottle of water without even really realizing it, and also ate a banana.  I hoped I wouldn’t cramp up during my second race.  My son stayed with family while I lined up for the 5k.  A lot more people in this event, the crowd was deep for a local event.  I wished I had brought a second race shirt, because I was still soaking wet from the 10k, but the gun went off and here we go.

Making my way on the 5k course I was familiar with, I felt good.  I wasn’t overdoing it though.  I wanted a respectable time.  The course is hilly like the other, but has a different route.  Ups and downs and some turns, I was hoping for a pace quicker than the first race.  That was my one and only goal.  Did I have enough left in the tank?  Turns out I did.  No cramping, either.  Legs were ok.  My son and friends were at the finish cheering me on as I ascended the finishing hill.  Chip time was 23:45.  Not great, but my goal was met.  A pace quicker than the 10k.  I finished 36/430 overall, and 7/41 in the 40-49 age group.

I felt good after running both races.  Not overly tired, but still have it a good effort.  My efforts that day led to an overall finish of 6th place in the 15 Quay Challenge.  There were only 28 people that opted to take the challenge of running both races.  So I guess sixth place isn’t too bad for this old timer.

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The Run the Quay Race Events is a great locally run event.  Plenty of food and water at the finish, they even had photographers there this year.  Will wait to see how those photos turn out.  More than likely horrible like most others.  We had a great time at the race, and will surely return to run it again next year.  The next race my son and I will run together will again be a new distance for him.  We are already signed up to race the City of Oaks Half Marathon in November.  Can’t wait, it’s always great to run with my kids.

Commencement 2014

It all happens so quickly…. almost without being aware of it.  One day your child is born, your entire life changes.

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Acts of selfishness are now acts of selflessness.  It’s really quite peculiar how things happen at such lightening speed.  I remember cutting the cord and welcoming my first born son into the world.  I remember changing his diaper and feeding him for the first time.  Then he took his first steps, and got his first haircut.  Sucked his thumb.  Had his first Birthday.

I blinked and he was on the bus to kindergarten.  Joined his first soccer team.  Played a video game.  Sang a song, and laughed and loved.  Won an award.  Cried.  Rejoiced.

Went to his first dance, had his first date.  First kiss.  Got his drivers license.

Blink again, it’s graduation day.

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Where has all of the time gone?  He grew up and is ready to head out into the world on his own.  I can only hope that the lessons I taught him on life and love and learning will help.  I am turning him out into the world to succeed on his own.  Head to college.  Live a successful and productive life.  Relax son, although you are entering a new phase in life, I will always be your Dad, and I will always be here for you.  To lean on, to learn from.

Congratulations son, on a very successful High School career.  NC State awaits, and will be lucky to have you.

Run your heart out! Today is our day!

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Happy Running Day to all of my readers!  Did you get out there and run?  Let’s face it, you don’t have to express your love for running just today.  I am taking the day off today so that I can run tomorrow.  Still recovering from my lackluster Half marathon on Sunday.  Still nursing the hamstrings.  I have back to back races in three days, so I am trying to do what my body needs to be able to perform at my best this weekend.

I really just wanted to wish you all happy running.  It doesn’t matter if you run today or not, or take advantage of race discounts today or not.  The true spirit of runners doesn’t just happen on one specific day of the year, it happens every day.  As long as you run happy, and run with your heart, our sport will be long lived.

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If nothing else, enjoy your running and run to inspire.