Monday, December 24, 2012

Breaking News: Santa Banned from South Pole Marathon

Santa Claus has been banned from the South Pole Marathon after testing positive for a banned substance.  race director and real estate mogul Penguin Cornelius, brother to Santa's close friend Yukon Cornelius, claims Santa tested positive for banned amphetamines and sites Santa's drastic weight loss as additional evidence.

Before Positive Drug Test
After Positive Drug Test

Santa's lawyer, Jack Frost, denies the charges, claiming Penguin Cornelius is still upset about Santa's choice to choose the North Pole over the South Pole as his base of operation, a choice that cost Penguin billions of dollars in lost property value.  When asked about the drug test, Frost claims an over-the-counter stimulant caused the positive drug test.  "Santa's under a lot of stress," says Frost.  "He's downing a case of Red Bull nightly in order to see you when you're sleeping and know when you're awake.  Last time I checked, Red Bull was not on the International Track and Field's banned substance list!"

Penguin Cornelius concedes that Red Bull is not on the banned list, but speed, cocaine, ephedrine, and crystal meth, all which showed up in large amounts in Santa's blood, are.  Cornelius adds, "There have also been damning photos of Santa commiserating with the Devil.  This is not the kind of publicity the South Pole Marathon needs."

Santa's relationship with this man has rumors of devil worship swirling throughout the running community.
Santa's team of lawyers plan to appeal the decision as soon as all gifts have been distributed on Christmas Eve, none of which, incidentally, will be finding their way into Penguin Cornelius's stocking.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

12 Days of Fitmas Update

The 12 Days of Fitmas have been quite the success. Here's a recap.

Day 1: One new workout video. I tried the P90X 2 P.A.P. upper body workout. After the first exercise, I thought about calling it quits and making the first day of fitmas one exercise. That would have defeated the purpose of this incredibly clever gimmick, so I stuck it out.

Day 2: I skipped two meals. This didn't really have anything to do with fitness. It was a monthly religious observance. If you'd like to no more about the law of the fast, go to

Day 3: I denied myself a Snickers bar three times. The original plan was to do 3 sets of achilles heel exercises, which I did. At the end of the day, however, it was the 3 Snickers denials that had the larger fitness benefit. And no, there wasn't a fourth temptation. I fled the Snickers faster than Joseph fled Potiphar's wife.

Day 4: I did the X2 P.A.P. upper workout, which just happens to include 4 sets of 4 different exercises followed by another set of 4 exercises done four times. I highly recommend P90X 2, especially if you enjoy humiliating yourself in the living room as your kids stand in awe of Tony Horton's incredible physique.

Day 5: I ran five miles. It was the first time I'd run in nearly two weeks.

Day 6: I did six pushups every minute for 1/2 hour. Not a bad way to spend my lunch break and it's something you can do in a pair of dress pants and a button up shirt.

Day 7: I did an extra seven seconds on my final plank of the day. It doesn't sound like much but considering the amount of discomfort my abdominals were experiencing, it was a lot.

Day 8: I ran eight miles. Not the most creative use of day 8 but effective.

Day 9: I woke up at 7:09 and ate about 99 pieces of candy and other assorted junk foods. Not exactly what I had in mind for my fitmas gimmick.

Day 10. Blasted out 10 power jumps at the end of a seven-mile run. It would have been a lot easier to just run 7.10 miles instead. I'll remember that tomorrow.

Only 14 days left. Let me know how your 12 Days of Fitmas are going.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The 12 days of Fitmas (x2)

It's the holidays and that means it's time for a gimmick; otherwise, I'll be waddling through the holidays at around 380 lbs. Unfortunately the not-weighing-380-lbs-dying-of-Type 2 Diabetes-at-47-and-contracting-heart-disease gimmick never seems to work (for me or millions of Americans).

So I'm going with the 12 Days of Fitmas (x2) gimmick. It started today and runs to about 4:00 P.M. on Christmas Eve. On day 13 I'll start over at one. The program is simple. For each "day of Christmas" I'll do something fitnessy for that day matching the number.

For example

  1. Day 1 - Do one new workout video.
  2. Day 2 - Eat two servings of vegetables before lunch.
  3. Day 3 - Run three extra miles.
  4. Day 4 - Do four extra pushups on each round of exercises.
  5. Day 5 - Add five pounds to each exercise.
  6. Day 6 - Add six minutes to evening run.
I think you get the point. You don't really have to plan it out in advance. Figure it out as you go along. The key is to have fitness in the front of your mind instead of having it crowded out by egg nog and candy.

Share some of your 12 Days of Fitmas ideas or share what you do to stay in shape over the holidays in the comments section.

Friday, November 30, 2012

We have a winner!

We have a winner in the free trip to Las Vegas and free entry into the Las Vegas Rock-n-Roll marathon. All you need to do is contact the person in Arizona or Missouri who won the Superball Jackpot and see if they'll spot you a few bucks.

For the record, I flipped a coin and if I'd have won the lottery, Terzah would have had a free trip to Vegas.  And there's a good chance I'd have thrown a free trip in for Arthur too, since he lives here. Alas, I didn't win so you guys will need to pony up the cash if you want to drink tainted water at next year's race and fight ridiculous crowds on the strip, all for the low, low price of a lot of money.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Win a Free Trip to Vegas and an Entry into the 2013 Las Vegas Rock-n-Roll Marathon

I live in Las Vegas.  I don’t gamble. When I say I don’t gamble, I’m serious. I haven’t stepped in a casino in years unless I’m headed to the buffet. I love sports, but don’t bet them. When March comes around and people are filling out brackets, I keep mine in my office drawer and keep my money. Raffles? No thanks. 

Only idiots buy lottery tickets.

This will all be mine some day!
On Monday, I officially became an idiot. But I’m not a gambler. In fact, not buying the lottery ticket would have been the real gamble. I’ll explain.

My coworker was planning an excursion to Arizona to “invest” in Powerball tickets. If any of those tickets were to win, everyone would receive a proportional amount of the winnings, so when my colleague approached me about the investment, I initially said no. Then I realized that if the winning ticket were purchased by my coworker, I would work at a place where everyone but me was a millionaire. That would ruin my life. So I bought a ticket as  life insurance.

And if we win? I guess we can all quit our second jobs.

And if we win, I'll hold a random drawing for anyone who follows me (those are good odds, by the way, much better than the odds of us actually winning the lottery, since I have very few followers). The lucky winner will receive a round trip flight to Vegas a 5-night hotel stay, and a paid entry into the LV Marathon in December 2013.

I don't exactly know when this drawing is, but I'll probably know if I win since I'll be the only one at work the next day.

Hopefully, the water won't be tainted this year.  Nothing sucks more than hard core vomiting and violent diarrhea after running 26.2.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Miracle of Heart Rate Monitor Training: Really Big Free Half Marathon Review

Some thoughts on the Really Big Free Half Marathon at Lake Mead in Nevada

The Miracle of Heart Rate Monitor Training

I read a book about a middle-aged guy who wanted to get in shape and complete amazing feats of endurance. To build his endurance he started training with a heart rate monitor, keeping his heart rate in the aerobic range. The slowness of his training runs frustrated him. But it worked.

I did a little research on the topic and came across The Big Book of Endurance Training by Phil Maffetone. It talked about building an aerobic base by running with your heart rate in the aerobic zone. I was convinced. It was frustrating at first because I was running 2-3 minutes slower per mile than I was used to. After about a month I couldn’t take it anymore. I was tired of running slow, so I participated in The Boring Runner’s Virtual Sweat Your Thorns Off 5-k. It was in the high 90s and the course was hilly.

I set a pr.

For two months more I ran at my aerobic heart rate. I set another 5-k pr. The question that remained, however, is would it work at longer distances. I had to wait a month to find out. The Really Big Free Half Marathon was coming up.

I set a pr.

The Results

Official Time: 1:49:13
Overall: 85/1119
Men: 63/437
Age Group: 11/67

I’ll put this in perspective. This is the first time I’ve finished in the top half of men and top half of age group. My best overall finish before Saturday was 866 out of 2100.

What I Really Liked about the Experience
  • I passed so many people during the last half of the course. Usually it's the other way around.
  • I felt really good when I finished. Usually, I'm about to implode by mile 13.
  • Did I mention I finished in the top 100. That means I could have gone out with the first wave and not finished in last.
  • I saw some acquaintances and friends. I never run with friends. OK, I don't really have any friends.
The Significance of this PR

I can’t put into words how awesome I feel about this result. On the surface, I only improved my half-marathon pr by 42 seconds, no big deal. Consider, however, the following.

My unofficial pr was exactly 13.1 miles; that is, as soon as the Garmin said 13.1, I stopped. 13.1 at the end of the RBHM was 1:48:22, over a minute-and-a-half better.

This course was tough. My previous pr included only small hills and six miles on a flat surface.

My training was…enjoyable. Most of my training runs were slow and enjoyable. In the four months leading up to the race, I ran “fast” about six times.

The Race

The race began with a steep half-mile incline, one which I’d run many, many times. I knew once I got to the top of the hill and turned right I’d have a nice half-mile downhill. I made darn sure I didn’t overdo it for the first mile. I kept checking my heart rate monitor to make sure that didn’t happen. The next 2.5 miles were hilly—more up then down—and I made sure my heart rate didn’t get out of control. This took patience and discipline. After three miles I was at 26:40, about on pace with what I wanted to run the first half. This was good news insomuch that I hadn’t expended much effort. It was bad news because the most difficult part of the race elevation wise was the next three miles.

By the end of mile five (the steepest and slowest mile of the race), I was at 44:15, an 8:51 pace. I had a decision to make. I had to pick it up for the steep 1.5-mile incline if I were to reach my goal. Because I had run this distance twice in the last month, I knew I could finish. In other words, just finishing didn’t matter. It was time to increase the effort. If I crashed and burned, oh well. I got through mile 6 in just under nine minutes, a good accomplishment considering the elevation increase.

I hit the halfway point in 58:07, seven seconds more than I wanted, but well within reach of a pr and accomplishing my race goal. I turned around and began increasing the intensity. I looked at my watch at the eight-mile mark. I had over forty minutes to finish the last 5.1. I smiled. I celebrated by ticking off a 7-minute mile followed by a 7:35-mile. The last two miles had some nasty uphills but I was so close to reaching my goal, I just powered through.

When I reached the turn at the top of the hill with about a half-mile left, I knew, barring a face plant, I had done it. I sprinted with a smile and crossed the finish line in 1:49:13. I let out a hoot, a whoo, high-fived a stranger, made a complete ass out of myself, and sauntered down to Lake Mead.
Mile Splits: 9:24, 8:40, 8:34, 8:18, 9:15, 8:58, 7:46, 7:53, 7:00, 7:35, 7:58, 8:08, 8:11, 1:29 (.24 miles).

Keys to Success
I’ll make this applicable to the four people who read this. Here’s what allowed me to improve.
  • Heart Rate Monitor Training.
  • Eating Well. Read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, if you want to improve your diet.
  • Race Specific Training. The course was changed three weeks before the race. I was familiar with the course and aware of its hilly nature. I also knew there was a similar hill I run regularly, so I jogged up it and sprinted down it (about 2.5 miles one way) to figure out how fast I could run down. I used the results to devise a plan, which I executed perfectly.
  • I had a plan and executed it. I didn’t panic because I knew exactly what I had to do to reach my goal.
Race Review

I want to emphasize that the Really Big Free Half Marathon was free. I paid a $50 deposit when I signed up. All I had to do was start the race to get it back.

If you’re into getting a super nice t-shirt and a sensational medal with a bag full of stuff you’ll never use and a half-pound of paper that will never be recycled then you’ll not like this race. If you like spending hundreds of dollars on overpriced merchandise at a race expo, you’ll not like this race. The t-shirts were lame. Did I mention the race was free? The medal was basic. Did I mention the race was free? The food at the end was water, Gatorade, bananas, and oranges. Did I mention the race was free?

I could personally care less about the t-shirt and the medal, and bananas and water is what I normally eat after a race.

If you’re into the camaraderie and motivation that comes with running with others, you’d love this race. If you enjoy running on a beautiful course, you’d love this race.

There were some organizational snafus. The course was changed twice and it started a half-hour late. These are things that the organizers will fix for next year. Did I mention the race was free?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Half Marathon PR

I did exactly what I said I was going to do. 1:49:17.  58:07 out. 51:10 back. Race review coming soon. I bet you can't wait. I'll include some different training I did that helped, if you're interested in such things.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Really Big Free Half Marathon Preview

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Exclusive Interview with Marathon Legend Trent Lorcher

In honor of me signing up for the Utah Valley Marathon, I thought I would share this exclusive interview. My wife shot it. It's exclusive because I finished 866th and the elitist Utah sports media only cares about runners who finish in the top 865.

This video is about a minute long, which is 4 hours and 12 minutes shorter than the marathon (not shown). There is a 30-second clip of me running, but I look so stupid that I felt we'd all be better off for it to remain private.

Note how my two older kids are old enough to not want to hurt my feelings and how the younger kids don't care that I just ran a painful 26.2 miles.  The baby I'm holding is mine.  My accomplishment would have been more impressive if I'd carried her the entire distance. I did not.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Some Benefits of Getting Old

There are some benefits of getting old.  Here are my top two.
  1. I'm not dead.
  2. I no longer "need" to prove I'm a man by doing some great athletic feat, which is good because I'm not really capable and never have been.
There was a time, however, when I felt it was necessary to prove my manliness while running.

My wife is a runner. She's fast. She's also injured, which means I no longer run with her. And we have five kids. When we were first married, we ran together almost every Saturday, and by together I mean she'd wait up for me.  I, on the other hand, was racing. I beat her twice.  The first time I beat her, she thought I was hurt and ran back to look for me.  I had taken a shortcut.  The second time I chased her down at the end of a five-miler.  She didn't know we were racing...and she was seven months pregnant. 

I used to occasionally enter local races.  One such race occurred on New Year's Day. I don't recall the year. I do recall feeling a tweak in my calf muscle about half way through. I kept going. About six really old guys passed me. I couldn't hold back any longer. I just had to beat the octogenarians, so I sprinted the last mile, injured my calf, and couldn't run for another several months.

Then there were all those morning or afternoon runs in the park or on the streets where I just had to "race" everyone I saw. That's just stupid.

Those people behind me eventually passed me.
Now, I don't care. Maybe it's that completing a marathon gave me the self assurance that I'm good enough or maybe I'm an adult now.  Of course, that doesn't stop me from swimming in alpine lakes for no apparent reason. Looks like I might need to do an Ironman.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Random Unofficial 5-k PR

Went running the other day.  Thought it'd be a good day to set a pr, a 10-k* pr.  I'd been running slow to get fast.  Some heart rate monitor guru said so in a book, so I'd been running slow to get fast, although--to be honest, I didn't think it would work.  It sounds stupid.  Really stupid.  How the heck am I going to get fast by running slow--although, truth be told, while training for my first and only marathon to this point (I've another one coming soon.  I bet you can't wait to find out about it), I trained fast and got slow.

Every now and then, human beings lack the faith necessary to follow through on their plans.  My plan was run slow to run fast.  The theory, espoused by Phil Maffetone in The Big Book of Endurance Training, says that if I run with my heart rate in the aerobic zone, I'll build my aerobic capacity, allowing me to run faster at the same effort and to run faster at faster efforts.  As I said, I didn't really believe it, but I was actually enjoying the more relaxed paces.  It's like running was actually fun.  But I'd lost faith in the concept, despite ample evidence to support it, such as MAF test #3, the details of which I will not bore you, and I thought I'd better test the theory before my half marathon in a couple of weeks.

So I thought Monday would be a good, albeit random, day to set a 10-k pr.

I failed.

Instead I set a 5-k* pr.  It had been so long since I'd really tore loose that the concept of pacing didn't register and I ran a 7:21 first mile, which is fast (for me). Mile 2 was also a little faster than I should have gone.  It was 7:28.  Mile 3 was at 7:31.  These are close to times I was running 1-mile repeats at last January.  I realized after about 2.5 miles that I wouldn't have enough left in the tank for a 10-k pr, so I settled for a 5-k pr of 23:06 (a full 36 seconds faster than I'd ever run the distance befor), jogged a recovery mile, and called it a day.

As it turns out, you can get fast by running slow.  Who knew?

Here's part of the Sunset Dunes running trail in Las Vegas where my historic run took place.

*My current 10-k pr is 48:02.  I plan on breaking that before the end of the year.
*You could argue I actually failed since the plan was to run a 10-k pr.  I don't care.  Nobody was there but me.  Besides, in the Olympics, you can set the 5,000-meter world record during the first half of a 10, 000-meter race and it still counts.  If it's good enough for Mo Farah and Galen Rupp, it's good enough for me.

Monday, August 20, 2012

My Favorite Olympic Moments

After watching several hundred hours of athletes doing things I can't and some things I'd never heard of, the least I could do is turn it into a blog post on my favorite moments of the Olympics.

These are completely subjective based on how I felt when I watched them, whether it was live, where I was, how annoying my kids were, and how annoyed my wife was that I was watching 12 hours of TV each day.  I plan on doing zero fact checking, so if I make a mistake on a detail or two, so be it.

Men's 10,000 meters.  This is hands down my favorite Olympic moment in 2012.  I didn't even mind that Galen Rupp got beat by a Brit.  Considering an American hadn't medaled in this event since 1964, a silver one is worth celebrating, and if the British start bragging about this victory, I'll just bring up the American revolution and tell them to shut up.  By the way, I really like that Mo guy who won the 10,000 and 5,000.  His looks of disbelief as he crossed the finish line along with his smile displaying either intense pain, extreme jubilation, or both makes him the most likable English guy since Adam Ant.

Other men's distance events.  The United States usually sucks at any event more than 400 meters, all of which happen to be my favorite events and the only ones where there's at least a chance that more than half the field isn't on steroids, HGH, or EPO.  Along with Rupp's silver in the 10,000, Manzano got silver in the 1500 giving the U.S. second and fourth in another event an American hadn't medaled in since 1964.  Bernard Lagat also got 4th in the 5,000.  I don't care that he's from Africa.  He's American now.

The men's gymnastics high bar.  The odds of this being my third favorite event of the Olympics before the games started were about the same odds that none of the Jamaican sprinters took performance enhancing drugs within the past year.  At the time of the men's high bar, the U.S. was battling China for medal dominance, so when Chinese gymnasts grabbed the top two spots due to spurious judging, all I could do was root for Germany.  Although it was difficult putting aside my bitter feelings from World War II, I had to.  And the German delivered the second best high bar routine I'd ever seen.  The best high bar routine came next.  Some guy from the Netherlands pushed the sport to new levels.  Gold: Netherlands; Silver: Germany; Bronze: China.  The Netherlands' gymnast buddy who hugged him after winning the gold just might be the ugliest Olympian in history, making the victory even sweeter.

Classy American athletes.  These athletes comported themselves with class and dignity (with the exception of the U.S. women's soccer team who comported themselves like 1990s U.S male sprinters mixed with the 2000 Olympic basketball team).  You gotta love the decathletes paying homage to past American champions and to the greatness of their country without being arrogant.  I love the female sprinters and their appreciation for the opportunity to compete.  The swimmers were obviously having fun while destroying the rest of the world.  The basketball team, now led by classy athletes like LeBron James and Kevin Durant have made Olympic fans forget about the me first elements of past teams (with the exception of Kobe "Ball Hog" Bryant who still thinks he can hang, but can't).

David Boudia.  He was the last diver to qualify in the men's 10-meter springboard (the only diving event worth watching), finishing 18th in the preliminaries.  He fixed whatever was wrong in the semifinals and easily qualified for the finals.  He nailed dive after dive, put pressure on the Chinese pair who couldn't handle it, and finished the round with a flawless dive to shoot ahead of the British pretty boy and narrowly beat some Chinese guy who was obviously worried about his family getting shot by an angry Chinese Olympic Federation official.  Luckily for him, he had already won a gold medal and would probably be let off easy with a few lashings while being forced to watch human rights violations the Chinese government is so good at.

Michael Phelps.  Just when we thought Michael Phelps wasn't the dominating swimmer of the past, he made us all eat our words.  Hopefully, he'll celebrate a bit more discreetly this time or at least find a designated driver.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sweat Your Thorns Off 5-k Race Report

The concept is to train slow to run fast. I'll admit it sounds least I thought it did until I set a 5-k pr on a hilly course in 95-degree heat.

Result: 23:42 (Technically, it's five seconds slower than the first half of a 10-k I ran back in January on a flat course in 60 degree coolness.  I used that as part of my 10-k pr though.).

Average Heart Rate: 171

Maximum Heart Rate: 194 (I didn't know my heart could beat that fast)

There were two options for the race: (1) Hang out in the back of the pack with my virtual friends; (2) Set a pr against my virtual friends.  Because I didn't get out of the house until 9:40, it looked like option 1 was the choice.  In fact, when you're doing aerobic base training, you're not supposed to do any anaerobic runs.  When my feet started moving, the plan was to run it slow.  About .1 miles in I changed my mind.

I have three months until the Really Big Free Half Marathon in Henderson and I plan to do only aerobic base training until then.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

How to Lose Five Pounds in a Week

First of all, I'm not calling you fat.  I'll leave that to your mother-in-law.

I weighed 178 when I started marathon training.  I weighed 183 during the marathon.  After numerous weeks of summer travel, I weighed 186.  It was time to lose weight.  Training for another marathon was obviously not the answer, at least not the way I was training.

If you're like me (and for your sake, I hope you're not), your marathon training encompassed fast runs, long runs, and recovery runs that weren't really recovery runs because you ran them as fast as you could but were too tired to run within 2 minutes of your hoped for time.  If you're like me, your training runs--especially the long ones--were followed by gorging on refined carbohydrates and sugary treats.

I gained weight because I was training too hard, too much and eating like a four-year old without parental guidance.  Here are the changes I made.

  1. If you follow this blog (I'm speaking to all three of you), you may remember I started using a heart rate monitor to slow myself down.  Other than one race, I've kept my heart rate under 142, which has forced me to slow way down.  It's also taught my body how to burn fat instead of sugar for energy.  I've also incorporated some P90X 2 workouts in as well because I need to feel like puking during workouts at least once per week.
  2. Because I'm not completely exhausting myself every run, I don't feel it necessary to pig out every meal.  I have seriously reduced my intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar.  I still ate a cupcake and had pasta at three meals last week, so by significantly reducing I mean not eating refined carbs every meal.  I also ate a cupcake on my daughter's birthday and a chocolate covered banana on mine.
  3. Because I didn't eat refined carbs every meal, I needed to replace them with foods that filled me up.  This was accomplished by drinking more water,  eating more vegetables, and consuming better fats.  After workouts, I drink a mixture of this green powdery substance made from vegetables, chia seeds, and water.  That's the only loopy kind of thing I do.  I follow this mixture up with two fried eggs a couple hours later, a decent lunch in the afternoon, and pretty much whatever I want at dinner.
  4. Because accountability leads to success, I keep track of what I eat.  It's a simple system based on Weight Watchers.  I get a certain number of points per day + whatever I earn from exercise.  I chalk up a certain number of points after EVERYTHING (I've never done all caps before.  This is exciting!!!!!!!!!!!) I eat.  I tally each 16-ounce cup of water I drink until I reach 8.  I tally up every serving of vegetables until I reach 10.  I just mark it on the white board next to the telephone in the kitchen.
  5. I eliminated diet soda.  That was tough.
I have no idea if this will work for you.  It's worth a shot.  At the very least, you won't be tempted to click on the "How to eliminate belly fat" ads that appear all over the web.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Race Report: Rock to Pier Run in Morro Bay, California

It looked to be the most loaded field in Rock to Pier history.  Past champions, my nephew, my kind-of nephew, and my wife were slated to toe the starting line at the fourth annual Family Reunion 6-mile Rock to Pier run on July 17, 2012.  My wife and I started the tradition at our family reunion after running the actual live event in 2008.

In addition to these past champions, athletes from the other two houses involved in the beach side reunion were scheduled to give it a whirl.  An early starting time, tons of children to tend, and a rumor of rum drinking, however, limited the participants to only 3--me and 2 brothers-in-law.

I was very confident of a top 3 finish.

I'm on the right. Race Champion Kearby is on the left.  Parry is in the middle.
My goal was to come in under 50 minutes.  I ran the first two miles in 16:07 and felt very confident in not just a sub-50, 6-miler, but perhaps a sub-49.  Then mile 3 happened.  Mile 3 contains a 50-yard rocky surface to traverse during low tide.  We did not begin the race at low tide and the 50-yard rocky surface became a 100-yard rocky surface, 100 yards that slowed me to a 9-minute pace and threw me out of rhythm.  At the half way point I was a bit over my 50-minute goal pace and mile 4 did little to improve my confidence, an 8:22 mile that left the end in doubt.

That's when my improved aerobic capacity made an appearance.  I ran the next mile in 8:12 and the 6th mile in 8:01.  If the race distance were actually six miles, I would have easily come in under the 50-minute time goal I had established (as you may have deduced by adding the six times together).  The race distance is not six miles.  It's 6.04 miles.

Since I sprinted the last half-mile, I didn't bother to look at my watch, so when I crossed the finish line, I had no idea if I'd achieved my goal.  I hit stop on the watch, looked down, and saw...


I'd done it.  I set a personal course record (it's the 6th time I've done this race) by 3:29 and beat my goal.  Unfortunately, I finished seven minutes behind my brother-in-law who shattered the family reunion record by over four minutes.  I finished second for the second straight year and crushed my other brother-in-law who beat me two years before.

We left the two babies at the beach house (supervised) and celebrated ocean style.  I'm back row left next to my lovely wife.  The three children are ours: Savannah, Trenton, and Mazie (from right to left).
We decided to move the race time back to 10:00 next year to increase participation, regardless of tides, which means I'll really have to train to procure a top 3 finish.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Heart Rate Monitor Training

My coach, who also happens to be my wife, came up with the ridiculous notion that I shouldn't be completely thrashed after each run. I told her she was stupid (under my breath). I agreed (out loud) and continued thrashing myself for several months, culminating in my earth-shattering 4:13 marathon during which I felt pain in every cell of my body.
All those people behind me eventually passed me.

As the summer temperatures settled around 105 degrees (quite cool for Vegas in the summer) every day, I decided on some cross-training. At the same time, I began reading a book about this middle-aged guy (I'm turning 43 soon) who became this mega-runner/triathlon guy. I have no desire to become a mega-runner/triathlon guy, but I have a strange fascination with mega-runner/triathlon guys. I even have a picture of Dean Karnazes and Scott Jurek naked. (I really don't. I'm just trying to lure visitors to my site and I'm sure "naked picture of Dean Karnazes and Scott Jurek" are immensely popular Google search terms.)

As I was reading the book (an incredibly tantalizing book review is coming up (the guys name is Rich Roll (I'm not kidding))), he talked about how his endurance training began with using a heart rate monitor. Even though he was used to busting out 2-hour runs all out 3-4 times per week, his coach would make him run without allowing his heart rate to exceed 140 beats per minute. He protested because all he could do were 10-minute miles. Before long, however, he was able to run 7-minute miles with the same energy output.

I love gadgets.  I now own a heart rate monitor.

I've used it twice and its excruciatingly tough, tough to the tune of 11-minute miles. It's kind of nice though. I'm not thrashed like my wife/coach tells me I shouldn't be (which leaves energy for a little night-time exercise, if you know what I'm saying). I could run for hours in the heat at 142 bpm. I have another gadget and more numbers to fiddle with. Since I'm doing P90X 2, I can go all out on those workouts without worried about being too sore to complete my 11-minute mile runs (I'm giving it 60 days and if my efficiency doesn't improve, I'm ditching the new gadget).

At my next marathon, I'll be as happy as this 80-year-old who narrowly defeated me last time.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Ultimate Endurance Test

Apparently there are illegal immigrants who have obtained Social Security cards.  If this is true--which it probably is since I read it on the Internet--these people need to be found and interrogated.

I was born in this country.  I'm a United States citizen.  I pay taxes.  But for the life of me, I can't seem to get a social security card.  Perhaps these illegals can help.

It all started a couple weeks ago when my wife suggested I get my documents together in case I need a passport.  "Sure, no problem," I thought. I headed to the local Social Security Administration Office to acquire a replacement card. This particular office, unfortunately, didn't distribute Social Security cards.

I ventured to the correct office, nearly an hour drive, a few days later. It was closed.  Due to a power outage. There wasn't a single building on the street other than this office that suffered the same fate.

I'd like to interrupt this post an offer a book review of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (And It's All Small Stuff): This book is stupid. Not a single thing in it prepared me for my feelings at this moment.

I needed to renew my driver's license too, so I thought I'd take care of two fun activities at once. I found a DMV in the same neighborhood as the aforementioned Social Security Office. Four years ago when I last renewed my driver's license, it was a much simpler world. You just showed them your license, paid some money, got your picture taken, and received your brand new license before you left.

That system was much too convenient.

A stereotypical DMV visits involves an interminable wait. This stereotype exists for a reason. "Hooray," I thought as I plucked a number from the information desk. "Only 113 people in front of me." Luckily I had my Kindle and could read about how we can control our anger.

After a couple hours, I entered the DMV worker's desk, showed her my license, paid my $22, and watched as she hole punched my old license, handed it back with a temporary license, sent me to the photo booth to get my picture taken, and told me I'd get a new license in the mail in 7-10 days.

I then ventured to the Social Security Office.  The power was back on. "Hurray," I thought as I plucked a number from the automated machine. "Only 84 people in front of me."

I sat around for a couple hours. My number arrived. I handed the government bureaucrat my driver's license. He told me it was no longer valid. I smugly handed over the piece of paper the DMV lady gave me. He told me it was no longer valid.

I'd like to interrupt this post an offer a book review of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (And It's All Small Stuff): This book is stupid. Not a single thing in it prepared me for my feelings at this moment.

I will not reveal what conversation transpired at this point. I don't seek to excuse my actions, nor am I proud of the verbal abuse launched on the automaton government bureaucrat, but come on!

I'm really excited about these people being in charge of my health care.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Places to Run in Las Vegas

I've lived in the Las Vegas area for nearly 25 years.  Why people come here on vacation is beyond me. But they do.  Some who visit enjoy running.  Here are some good running spots.

Your Hotel Treadmill

Running outside June-September is not recommended unless you go early in the morning (before 7:00) or after the sun sets.  It's too darn hot.  Make use of your hotel treadmill.  Find one overlooking the pool if you want some refreshing scenery.

Red Rock Canyon - $7.00 per vehicle

Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock--as the locals call it--involves a 17-mile drive west on Charleston, if coming from the strip.  The 13-mile one-way loop is the only way to get to the canyon's hikes and vistas.  It also makes for a great impromptu half-marathon.  I'll warn you before you choose the impromptu half-marathon option: The first five miles involve a serious incline.  The remaining eight miles involve hills, most of them going down.  Red Rock hosts a half marathon and marathon in March as well as a five-mile ascent run in January.  If you prefer trail-running, there's plenty of trails.  Just don't get lost and require getting airlifted out.  Not only will you feel stupid, but you'll unnecessarily burden Southern Nevada taxpayers, including me.

Valley of Fire - $10.00 per vehicle

Valley of Fire
Take I-15 north for about 45 minutes and enjoy one of Southern Nevada's hidden treasures.  Valley of Fire features the same type of red rocks as Red Rock Canyon but has better hikes and a longer road on which to run.  The Valley of Fire is way too hot in the summer and is best enjoyed in spring or fall.  Winter's not bad either.  If you're feeling up to it after a night at the tables, the Valley of Fire Marathon is held annually in mid-November.

River Mountain Loop

The River Mountain Loop is accessible from numerous locations in Henderson, Boulder City, and The Lake Mead National Recreation Area (which charges a $10.00 fee per vehicle).  The loop is a paved 35-mile path that goes through Henderson, Boulder City and Lake Mead.  The easiest way to get there from the strip is to take I-15 south to I-215 east until it turns into Lake Mead Parkway.  Go about six miles and right before you enter the recreation area, there's a parking lot on the right.  If you're a triathlete and wish to get in some training, enter the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and head to Boulder Beach.  Boulder Beach is home to several triathlons, including the Pumpkinman in late October-early November and Showdown at Sunset in April. By the way, Boulder Beach is not a good swim beach.  It's main purpose is for triathletes and people too cheap to rent jet skis.

Mt. Charleston

Mt. Charleston in Winter
This is about the only place you can run in the summer with a reasonable expectation of not getting heat stroke.  The main problem is if you start at the top of Mt. Charleston, the descent goes quick and it will be hot soon.  There are, however, plenty of high elevation trails for hiking and running.  Try the Lee Canyon side if you desire an elevation over 7650 feet.

Sunset Park

If all you're looking for is a regular old run, then head south on the Strip, turn east on Sunset Road and drive about five miles.  The park is huge and you have several options: (1) Just park anywhere and run your little heart out; (2) Find a trail at Sunset Regional Park, just after McCleod on the right; (3) Run the 1-mile or 1.5-mile loop.  The entrance for this loop (my preferred running spot) is just North of Warm Springs on Eastern.  As you're coming down Sunset, turn right on Eastern and go about 3/4-mile.  Turn left.  The loop is on the right and is impossible to miss if you're in the correct parking lot.  If you reach the train tracks you've gone too far. The small loop is a mile. The extended loop is 1.5 miles. This loop hosts occasional Saturday morning fun runs and, if you're lucky, you'll see me slogging around the track.  By the way, beware of coyotes at night.

The Strip

It sounds glamorous, but running on the Strip is annoying.  The Las Vegas Rock-n-Roll Marathon and Half Marathon is held here in December.  It's an annoying race.  You'd have more fun at the Red Rock or Valley of Fire Marathon.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Utah Valley Marathon Race Review

Editor's Note: The URL for this blog is  The author's time for the Utah Valley Marathon is 58 minutes away from being fast enough for the Boston Marathon.  This is probably not the first time you've been mislead by Internet claims.
Let’s start with the good. I finished. It took 4:12:54. It was about 23 minutes more than my goal time and about half the field passed me in the last three miles, but I didn’t care and I still don’t care. I was extremely happy when I finished and I’m extremely happy now.

I'm awesome
That being said, it definitely was not a peak performance. I made a lot of mistakes.
  • I'm too fat.  183 pounds is a good weight for regular people, but not for marathoners (I'm 5 feet, 10 inches).
  • I started out too fast. Not a huge surprise, since everyone starts out too fast in their first marathon. The crazy thing is I consciously tried not to go out too fast, but I did. 
  • The race start area was a bit chaotic. Between port-a-pottie lines and U-hauls backing up and buses barreling up the canyon, I was completely out of my routine. 
  • I was having stomach issues. Part of the pre-race chaos stemmed from stomach issues, issues caused by nerves. It was my first marathon, after all. 
  • I got no sleep the night before. The last bus left at 4:15. I went to bed at 9:30. I left my bed at 10:30. I went back to bed at 11:30. I stared at the ceiling until midnight. I woke up at 1:00 A.M. I stared at the ceiling for 15 minutes. I woke up again at 2:00 A.M. I stared at the ceiling for 15 minutes. I woke up at 2:55 A.M. I never fell back asleep. 
  • I didn’t sleep enough the entire week. My mama was in town (I'm blaming my slow performance on my mom?  That's weak). It was the last week of school, a hectic time for teachers. 
  • I didn’t drink enough the day before. When you’re driving from Las Vegas to Provo (a 5-hour drive) with five kids (9, 6, 4, 2, 10 months), the last thing you want to do is have to urinate every three miles. For that reason, I drank very little the day before. Even though I drank at every single water stop and multiple times at some, I was still peeing rust afterwards.
There were some other things, out of my control, that may have slowed me down.
  • The hills—as one might expect—were a lot more daunting in person than they were on the website elevation profile. 
  • There was a headwind. I’ll be honest. The headwind didn’t really bother me, although every other person I’ve talked to who did the race complained about it. I didn’t think much of it. Of course, just because it didn’t bother me doesn’t mean it didn’t slow me down.
More random positives
  • I’m a competitive person, which is why it’s so surprising how uncompetitive I was during this race. At no time did I ever feel I was competing against anyone but myself. I never tried to real anybody in. I didn’t feel bad after anyone passed me (and there were literally hundreds who did). I was just so appreciative that all those people showed up to support me as I attempted my first marathon. Some even gave me stuff to drink and eat (My Boston Marathon veteran wife, by the way, suggests that if I had been more competitive I wouldn't have embarrassed the family by getting chicked several hundred times). 
  • I don’t know who the Utah Marathon Pacers are, but they deserve a hardy pat on the back. I used them at a couple different points to get my legs moving again. Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep up with them for more than a few miles each time. 
  • Whoever decided to put creamsicles at the end of the race deserves an award—a Nobel Prize or something. I ate four of them. And let’s not forget about the chocolate milk people. Heavens to Mergatroid! I chugged about five of those. I also wolfed down a couple of oranges and pounded five or six cups of Powerade.
These are two of my five kids enjoying a delicious creamsicle.
The Actual Race

Miles 1-7. 58:35. This isn’t as fast as it seems. The first seven miles were mostly downhill. I felt good. The top of my foot began to hurt at about mile six.

Miles 8-11. 36:19. Miles 8 and 9 had some serious hills. Once I got over them, I settled in at a pretty good pace. I tried the sideways run for extended periods going up the steeper hills and was pleasantly surprised at its effectiveness.

Miles 12-13. 20:05. I started feeling pretty bad for some reason and slowed down considerably. The curvature of the road didn’t help matters much and there was some hilliness and headwinds. Luckily there were numerous porta-potties set up for the half marathon. The pit stop added a minute-plus to my mile 13 time.

Miles 14-16. 27:18. I stumbled out of the port-a-pottie and felt pretty good. I was at slightly under 1:57 at the halfway point and latched on to the 3:55 pacer for a couple miles. I slowed at mile 16. My right Achilles had started to hurt prior but it had stopped by mile 16. Mile 15 would be my last sub 9-minute mile.

Miles 17-20. 40:30. I had lost the 3:55 pacer by this point and was hurting significantly. I knew if I made it past the last uphill around mile 18 that I would finish. The expected burst at mile 18, unfortunately did not happen.

Miles 21-23. 28:12. Two things occurred as I passed the mile 20 milestone: (1) I ate some Gu and pounded half a banana; (2) The 4:00 pacer jogged by. I had a decision to make. I could either slog it out and finish at around 4:05 or I could go for 4:00 or flame out. I went for the glory. The most enjoyable 2.5 miles occurred here. I felt strong. I felt happy. I had not run into the infamous wall at mile 20 like everyone said I would. I felt myself tire just before the 23-mile mark right before my family cheered me on. Mile 23 would be my final sub 10, 11 or 12-minute mile at 9:55. 

Miles 24-26. 37:50. I hit the wall right after passing the 23-mile mark. Every cell in my body wanted to quit. My left quad started cramping up. Half the field passed me. I even stopped to walk two times for about a 100 yards. But I kept going. I was too tired to do anything but set one foot in front of the other. I knew I was going to finish and I no longer cared how long it would take. The words of Dean Karnazes inspired me forward: “If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. Just don’t quit.” Luckily, I didn’t have to crawl. Both walks were very short. I took short strides to prevent the quad from locking up.
This is mile 23. That's my baby on the right.
The last .35. 4:19. You can strategize all you want about running tangents and all that crap, but putting it into practice is a different story; hence, I ran 26.35 miles. There were two chutes at the end. Those who ran the half marathon to the left; those who ran the marathon to the right. When I entered the right hand chute, I was the beneficiary of a burst of energy and a sense of exhilaration that I do not recall ever experiencing. I could have cared less about my goal time, who beat me, whom I beat, who was watching. I raised my arms triumphantly, crossed the finish line, bent over (I may have wept for a few seconds), and shouted as I pulled at my shirt. I couldn’t believe I had actually finished. I was just so proud to have accomplished a goal that had been in the back of my mind for over 15 years.

I did reach one goal. I had never finished in the top half of a race before. I was 866 out of over 2,059 entrants. I finally finished above the mediocrity line. Next time I’ll finish in the top half of my age group.  

Looks like I'm still running from mediocrity.