Thursday, October 31, 2013

Niagara Falls 2013

The Niagara Falls International Marathon is one of those destination races that just sounded like a great experience.  What other race offers such a finishing experience as having one of the seven natural wonders as a back drop. And as temping as it would have been to get lost in the destination, I was focused and determined to have Niagara be my first sub four hour marathon.

My first attempt at a sub four hour finish ended poorly when I succumb to the rising heat of mid-May and a pacer who went out hot during the Cleveland Marathon.  I crashed and nearly burned with a finish of 4:24:43.  Humbled, I rebounded over the summer running a string of 200 mile months in the sweltering heat, all with the goal of Niagara Falls.

But other than the increased miles…how would this sub four attempt be any different than Cleveland?

(RUN N FUN, it was all that
and a "Barrel" of Mouses)

#1 My Race Day Fueling Plan. 
I follow a lot of ultra, and marathon runners on Twitter/Facebook…and over the last few months leading up to Niagara, I asked questions about the best race day fueling plan.  With all of this insider information, I took the best advice from everyone and adjusted my plan.  During prior marathons I only used GU Energy Gels and water/sports drinks, this time I would hit a GU pack 20 minutes before race start, mix a GU pack in my water bottle and use one pack at mile 6, 12, 18, and 22.  And for the first time, I would use Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes for electrolyte replacement at miles 6, 13, and 19 to fight off any cramping effects.

#2 My Final Week of Taper. 
I had planned to run close to 20 miles the week before this marathons, same I had done in the past.  Heeding some advice, I changed my mind.  In previous races I ran high teens to low twenty miles the week before a marathon with my last run coming two days prior.  For Niagara I had 3 full days down and ran 6 miles on Monday and 2 on Thursday prior to race morning.

#3 My Race Day Pacing.
“Plan YOUR Race, Race YOUR Plan”  My best marathon times had come when I trusted my own pacing.  For some reason, I wanted to follow a pacer in to Sub four Nirvana, but my faith in pacers had gone out the window with two “hot starts” in prior events.  If the pacer took off (and he did) I would trust my own pacing.  I would NOT go out fast and I would RUN MY plan.

This was my first point to point race, and my first time dealing with being bused to the starting line and hanging out in a holding area prior to race start.  This messed up my entire pre-race routine, leaving me feeling a bit jittery all the way up to race start.  Race morning was cold and a bit windy.  This weather combination had me second guessing my race gear in the final minutes prior to turning in my drop bag.  I packed and changed tops a number of times finally going with:

(Course Map)

NIKE long sleeve shirt over my "ORANGE POWER" short sleeve shirt
Black Race-Ready long distance shorts
20oz hand held bottle and knee strap  
NIKE Air Pegasus w/tech socks
Wicked 10K beanie
Garmin GPS 201
White gloves 

(Around mile 9)

RACE: (messed up setting my GPS so I have no lap times)
I found the four hour pacer early on and talked with him about how he was going to run the race.  He confirmed what I wanted to hear, start slow and run a negative split. That was music to my ears as it mirrored my plan.

The gun went off a little after 1000 and the smaller crowd of just over 1000 runners was off.  By the end of the first mile I knew something was going wrong  Although I felt I was running a bit faster then I wanted, the pacer already had a 50 yard lead on me. Glancing at my GPS I confirmed that this pace was a bit hot for me.  From a 8:45 minutes per mile (mpm) pace I backed it down to a 9:00 to 9:15 mpm.  At the second mile post I was about 15 seconds off a 9:00 mpm target and now the pacer now had a clean 100 yards or more on me.  At three miles I was near on target for nine minute mile pace and still the pacer was way out in front.  I began to wonder if my GPS was malfunctioning or did I have another hot pacer on my hands.  I decided to continue to roll on with my pace plan and see where it left me.

Around mile 4 or 5 I ran alongside an older gentlemen and asked if he thought the four hour pacer was running "hot."   He confirmed what I had been feeling and we settled in for a nice 9:00 per mile pace for the next 9 to 10 miles.  At this point all my trust was in my GPS and my own sense of race pacing.

At mile 6 I hit my first GU and Endurolytes packs and rolled right along.

Up to the double digit miles, I could keep up with the math figured to determine if I was on pace or not. After that it got tough on my oxygen staved brain as my only thoughts switched to monitoring my leg turnover.

HALF WAY: 1:58:48
My initial goal was to hit half way around two hours with hope of running a faster second half. (Negative Split   Today I was a good minute ahead of my target…but I was feeling pretty good. 

Coming off a GU pack at mile 18 and a Endurolytes pack at mile 19 (long story but don’t store then in a pocket with velcro) I was feeling very strong and began to pick up the pace.  In the later stages of any marathon, a lot of runner begin to feel the effects, a lot begin to walk, some begin to fall away. And a lot of goals die at the wall.

Today I WOULD NOT VISIT the wall.  

20 Mile Time: 3:02:00
My recalling of this time hack is going off my fuzzy memory but I believe it to be really close.  My only thought at the mile 20 sign was “I’m not losing this run in the last 6 miles…NO WAY.” 

To counter act any lack of drive, I had a little mental game ready if I needed some extra motivation.  I wanted to pass 26 people in the final 6 miles…that game went out the window when I passed 26 runners during mile 21 and 22.  I felt like I was really hauling butt, then noticed I had only picked up the pace to near flat 9 mpm.  But at mile 20, 21, 22…..9:00 mpm is like Usain Bolt to a snail.  This race and a sub four hour marathon were coming to me.  And I was NOT going to let it get away.

Mile 25 and rolling into Niagara Falls, I remembered at some point in the race someone telling me that when you can see the mist….the mist coming off the falls, you are home free.  I believe I got my first glimpse of the mist at mile 25.5 and with a clear finishing target in sight, It was on like Donkey Kong.  

Looking at my GPS my legs were turning over some solid 8:40…8:30…8:15 mpm times.  At this point it was " go time" we made a few turns, crossed a bridge and the next sight was a sign that read .2.  I hammered that .2 like no other race I had run. When my eyes caught the official clock with 3:56 still displayed my legs went into overdrive.  I was so happy to see that clock and those numbers that I believe I flew down the last 150 yards or so, hammering home My First Sub FOUR Marathon.

(Hammering it home,
can ya tell I was pretty happy?)

If you want to know how much this marathon finish meant to me…take one look at my finishing picture.  As one of my friends said “That is the face of victory, right there.”

FINISH  3:56:57
Overall, 305/1055
Age group, 32/83
Gender, 225/553
Official Stats can be seen here

(Post Race it's all smile...
but boy my legs were screaming)

COURSE - Crossing Peace bridge connecting the US with Canada was very impressive, and the run along the Niagara river was very pretty, with wonderful views of the river surrounding homes.

EXPO was nice - Maybe a bit small but still had enough vendors to keep my attention

PRE-RACE STAGING AREA - Close to race start and had everything you needed as you readied yourself for the marathon

BAG DROP AND DROP OFF - Drop went off without a hitch, pick up....was a mess.  I stood in line for the better part of a half hour waiting to get to the head of the line, then waited another 10 to 15 minutes to get my bag, many of us were near frozen at this point.  There has to be a more organized way to get the bags returned.

VOLUNTEERS - WONDERFUL....everyone had big smiles and kind hearts, THANK YOU so much!

Overall a GREAT marathon experience!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Niagara Falls Trivia

Marathon, Running Sub 4 hour marathon, Ultra Running, natural wonder, Running Blogger, Blogs, 26.2, 13.1, Runner, Four Hour, Over the falls in a barrell, Annie Taylor

Leading up to running my 11th marathon, The Niagara Falls Marathon, I thought I would treat my readers to some trivia.

2 Days Until The Niagara Falls Marathon

What is the meaning of the word Niagara?

Answer: The word “Onguiaahra” (pronounced on-ge-a-ra) appears on maps as early as 1641. It and the later version “Ongiara” are Indian words usually interpreted as “The Strait” or “Great Throat”, although the more romantic “Thunder of Waters” is sometimes given. By the time the first white man arrived at the Falls, the name in general use was “Niagara”.

3 Days Until The Niagara Falls Marathon

Has the water flowing over the American Falls ever stopped?

Answer: Yes. In 1969, an earthen dam was built across the head of the American Rapids, de-watering the American Falls. For six months, geologists and engineers studied the rock face and the effects of erosion. It was determined that it would be too costly to remove rock at the base of the American Falls, and that nature should take its course.

4 Days Until The Niagara Falls Marathon

Who was the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel?

Answer: The first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel was a 63 year old schoolteacher from Michigan, named Annie Taylor, in 1901, and she survived.

5 Days Until The Niagara Falls Marathon

What Ocean does the water from Niagara River eventually flow into?

Water that flows over the Falls at Niagara ends up in Lake Ontario - from there, water drains by way of the St. Lawrence River into the Atlantic Ocean.

6 Days Until The Niagara Falls Marathon

How many people visit Niagara Falls annually?

Answer: Approximately 20 million people visit the Falls annually. (August 2008).

The 2012 marathon had 1043 finishers, 567 males, 476 females with a winning time of 2:26:04 and 2:51:57.

If you have not visited Niagara Falls, a visit there sure deserves to be on your bucket list.  Truly on of the natural wonders of the world.

Friday, October 18, 2013


1Hundred, A Film Review. (Leadville Trail 100, Ultra Marathon, Marathon, 1hundred, Western States 100, Leadville, Co, Adventure Runner)

Some movies make you laugh, some movies inspire you and some movies make you cry.

1Hundred, the story of the Leadville trail 100 Ultra Marathon; will do all three.

(order from their website)

(From their Web site 1hundredflim)
A concept documentary of the human spirit and one of the most extreme races on the planet.  Imagine running over 3 ½ New York City marathons in one 30 hour period.  Not to mention running at a starting elevation of 9,200 ft. and topping off at a towering 12,620 ft. Welcome to the world of Ultra Marathon racing in Leadville, Colorado. Each year hundreds of participants flock to the small town, to put their bodies through the unthinkable as they try to complete the 100 mile trek in less than 30 hours.

This documentary will follow 4 ordinary people on their journey leading up to and ultimately tackling this daunting race. The 4 runners are far from ordinary, a former 320 lb alcoholic, a 29-year old adventure addict, a nutrition coach, who is built to run, and a spunky and energetic first time Leadville runner.

Within the time spent with these runners, the film captures the essence of the human spirit that would propel someone to take on such an extraordinary task.

(My words)
This film did a wonder job of weaving the Leadville experience into a compelling story about the race and the lives of the 4 runners.  I was gripped by their drive, their personalities and the monster challenge known as Leadville Trail.  In all honesty this film sucked me in from the time I hit the play button.  And when it was over, I wanted more. I wanted to run Leadville.  I wanted to experience the challenge, I wanted to celebrate the highs and to even suffer through the lows.  After witnessing the climax of this great event from 4 different perspectives…I was in tears.

I highly recommend this film to anyone that wants to know what Ultra running and the Leadville trail 100 is all about.

A friend of mine ran Leadville this summer, read his account of this great race on his blog.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I should not run

I Ran My 12,000 Mile 
Since Aug of 2000

Now back to our Regular BLOG Broadcast.

A Humorous Look at Places I Should Not Run:

I should not run near any restaurant where food smell lofts to the outside world.  I ran the Myrtle Beach Half Marathon back in 2009, and had a great experience   The race was well organized and featured a great course, except for the part where we ran right into a wall of breakfast food smell.  Our senses were overloaded with the smell of bacon, pancakes, and coffee.   I’ll tell you that is not the smells you want to have to overlook when you’re hungry enough to eat the south side of a north bound skunk.


I should not run in the dark anywhere I had not run in the daylight.  During my military career, I was deployed to a few remote locations, my last deployment was to Al Udied Air Base, Qatar.  This deployment was right in the middle of training for the Marine Corp Marathon.  Despite missing out on the MCM and with a lot of grit, I kept running during the deployment despite the extreme temperatures and LONG duty days.  About a month into the deployment I needed a long run.  Up to this point all of my runs had been on the residential side of the base.  One night I ventured to the operational side of the base, an area I had never run.  Let’s just say my long run turned into a really, really, really long run when I could not figure out how to get back to the dorms.

I should not run near people who smoke, eat Krispy Kreme doughnuts and drive around looking to yell at runners.  On a nice quiet Sunday morning I went for a run on RAF Mildenhall, UK.  During this run part of the sidewalk had become a bit unstable under foot so I choose to run along the side of the road.  I figured this was a safe spot, I had not seen a car in miles, I was on base and certainly the military community would understand someone trying to stay fit.   Then I was passed by a car going the opposite direction, this car then turned around, and pulled up next to me.  Once along side the driver began telling me, in a not so pleasant tone, how unsafe it was for me to be running on the road.  I normally would have gotten upset, and maybe gave her an ear full, but the sight of this “lady” holding her smokes in one hand, eating a doughnut with the other and turning the steering wheel with her belly was just too much.  I laughed out loud and nearly fell over.

I should not run (race) on a course which is not clearly marked.  I ran a local 5k, more of a fun run, but still billed as a race where the route was a bit questionable.  The Race Directed greeted everyone and thanked them for showing up.  Then the RD thanked the sponsors, the city and his club for hosting his first race, then proceeded to give the count down. everyone ready.  4....have a good race.  3…be safe.  2..  1 GO.  In a blink of an eye we were off, half the field ran one way and the other half ran the other way.  No kidding, the race group took off in two different directions, it was nearly 100 yards down the road before both groups stopped turned around and looked at each other.  The embarrassed RD then pointed in the right direction and we took off…..again.  I’ll keep which direction I ran to myself.

What places should you not run?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

If They Could Talk

If they could talk, the TEN things my running shoes would tell me.

#10  Thanks for avoiding all the “doggie presents” all these years.

#9  Please don’t leave me out on the porch to air out, I get scared someone is going to steal me away.

#8  You need to continue working on becoming more of a forefoot striker…this heavy heel strike thing is wearing me OUT.

#7  The 20 pound weight loss, sure makes my job a lot more fun when there is less of YOU to haul around.

#6  You really need to start working on a new invention, sweat bands for your ankles.  Summer training in Virginia tends to leave my insoles squishing after 13 miles.

#5  The running thing isn't any easier on me…but I still love you!

#4  Are you going to respect me after 20 miles?

#3  What’s this whole “AIR” thing about…I thought I was going to fly!

#2  Oh no not the dryer…I don’t care if you do turn the heat off, I get so dizzy in there.

AND the number ONE thing my running shoes would tell me if they could talk:

I really enjoy the quality time we get to spend together…I’m glad I’m not, the AB glider, Buns of steel video, Slider shaper, Thigh-blaster, AB Force rower or the VHS Jane Fonda work out tapes.  In the name of Air Pegasus, those poor buggers are marooned on the island of mis-fit toys or lost in the dark, damp, and scary basement somewhere.

Now let’s go for a run!

What would your running shoes tell you? 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Crawling Crab Half Marathon 2014

Going into this race, I wanted the half to either be part of a 20 mile run or I wanted to post a good number and gain some confidence leading up to the Niagara Falls Marathon.  The week leading up to the race I decided I would go for the good time and maybe a PR.  My previous best time was 1:44:11, I planned to follow the 1:45 pace group and turn it on at the end.  The goal pace for the day was 8:00 per mile.

(Michele and I at the Expo)

Do not get this blog post wrong, I take full responsibility for my performance/time.  The pacers are like any training tool, they can help you achieve your goals, but you as the runner/racer MUST use them correctly.  I’m thankful for the time they give up to pace a race and this post is in no WAY blaming them.

(We decided to get crabby)

Warm up mile 1  10:41
Warm up mile 2  11:23

(Time to get to work)

Mile 1  7:47
My starting position for the day was in corral #1, starting up front like this always makes me feel excited.  After my warm-up, I made my way to the corral then noticed I was on the side with no openings,  UGH.  No way I had enough time to walk around the starting line to gain access from the “correct” side, so I became the climb over the fence guy.  Excuse me, pardon me…yes I’m a dork and I hope I don’t fall and bust my butt.  I made my entrance and found the 1:45 pacer and lined up right behind them.  Waiting for the race to start there was some good energy in the crowd and everyone was pretty happy and positive.  When the gun went off the group moved out pretty smoothly and within seconds was running down the opening mile without an incident.  The first mile felt great, my legs enjoyed the quick turn over and I was jockeying for a good position.  This mile was mostly flat but did feature a slight hill climb over the interstate.  Glancing at my GPS a few times I noted our pace was a bit fast, I normally like my opening miles to be a bit slower than goal pace.

Mile 2  7:48
It was hard to believe this was the first week of October as race morning was filled with bright sunshine.  The temperature at start was 73, everyone was commenting about how the temperature could turn this race into a brutal match against the 13.1.  I was feeling really good, we had settle into a good flow and my legs were drilling out the miles without much effort.  My only concern was the quicker than goal pace.  I suffer a bit from having the confidence to really push myself in races…I always fear the DNF and feel I run to conservative at times.  This race a wanted to run free, so it was at around this point I accepted the fast pace and decide I was sticking with the pacers.

Mile 3  8:01
Mile 4  7:57
Mile 5  7:35

Mile 6  7:47
We hit the halfway point (timing mat) around 49m 36s, a quick math check told me I was on target for a good run and PR was in the works.  My breathing was in check, my legs felt good…all was clicking along.  My goal time for midway was 52:24, we were about 3 minutes to the good.

Mile 7  8:02
Mile 8  8:18

Mile 9  8:38
Here is where I felt the first waves of fear I had went out to fast.  I started to struggle that the pace the pacers set was not right for me.  It was at a transition around a turn or through a water stop that I began to lose contact with the pacer.  And it was at this point that I noticed I could not get up on the front of my feet to put on a push to catch back up.  It was also around this point that it got a little warm.

Mile 10 8:46

Mile 11 9:29
This was the worst part of the race for me.  I was feeling zapped…my legs felt heavy, my foot turnover was slow and I was really fighting with myself that I had messed this race up.  It was humbling.  I’m an Ultra-runner and this half marathon was kicking my butt.  Up to this point I had ran thru all the water stops, drinking out of my hand held bottle vs. taking a cup of water/Gatoraide….but now I stopped grabbed a cup of water, dumped it over my head and rolled on.  This cooling effect helped…I felt a bit better and I pushed to pick up the pace.

Mile 12  9:05

Mile 13  9:18
The closing mile of this race has got to be one of the toughest for a half, two bridge climbs over local highways with the last climb being right at the last half mile of the race.  If you’re hurting like I was, and many around me, this interstate pass over can feel like Heart Break Hill or today, Everest.  I motored up it the best I could…never breaking stride but also never picking up the pace.  The downhill allowed me to run free again and make up a little time, but it was truly too little too late…this race finish was going to be ugly.

(Finally got a cool race picture...thanks Michele)

Mile 13.1  7:52
Turning for the finish line I saw what I knew in my heart was waiting for me…the timing clock ticking away the last few seconds of a sub 1h 50m half marathon.

Chip Time 1h 50m 01s
Over place 255/2352 (Top 11%)
Age group 25/135 (Top 18%)

(Get Well Soon, Lisa)

PACE, PACE, PACE…The right pace is everything in running and in racing.  I learned this lesson again.  In training I was not running a half marathon at sub 8:00 pace. Why did I think I could run it on race day?  I’ve run some fast closing miles of simulated race set ups, but only after I used a controlled pace to put me in the right position.  Why did I let myself get away from that…again on race day?  BECAUSE I got caught up in the race hype. 

NEGATIVE SPLIT...I firmly believe your goal should be to run a negative spilt, run the second half of your race faster than the first.  Many new runners believe the old adage “Get while the getting is good” or run the opening miles of your race fast, in hopes of holding on at the end.  I have learned painfully that this does not work (for me).  And I’ve read numerous articles supporting the advantages of running negative splits.   These articles quote studies proving you lose more time off a slower finish then you’ll gain by the fast start.  This point proved out again during this half marathon.  The fast opening half provided me with a buffer of 2m 52s, but you’ll notice I lost nearly 7 and a half minutes over the closing half of the race.  The NET results was a loss of 4m 34s…  I believe in the negative spilt race strategy. 
PLAN your race, RACE your plan.  I’ll use these missteps to refocus my plan for Niagara Falls and if everything falls right AND if I learn from the past, I’ll bring home a PR.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Looking Back

My Running Career

Other then a few and very shorts spells where I tried to be a was Aug 2000 when I started this journey.  Along the way I got distracted here and there, but I always returned to the road.  Looking back I'm amazed I've keep it up this long.  I'm shocked at the number of miles I've run, the races I've finished and the times I've posted along the way.  I'm surprised I became a runner.

Looking back at the miles, It's shocking to me how far I've come, how far the miles have taken me and how far I'm looking to go.  During this journey I went from wanting to complete a 10k, then a marathon and maybe an Ultra event.  This spring I'll attempt my first 100 miler in April, this adventure has taken me from being a runner to becoming a Ultra-runner.

What a wild run it has been..

This year is by far my best, I've broken the 200 250 mile month, the 60 mile week, ran more "long distance" events and gained a lot of good friends in the running world.  I'm in the best shape of my life, and I'm .05 of the way to the moon.  I am a Athlete.

AND we still have 3 months to go.'s #Runtober