Sunday, June 19, 2011


Dear Mark

Next weekend, on June 25th, I'll be running my first marathon. After years of shunning runners, making fun of them as I rode by with my shaved legs and color coordinated advertising cycling kit, believing that 180+ mile rides were the epic thing, I must admit to finally deciding to give this a thing a try. The hours to get on the bike and ride have not been readily available to me, as I prefer to spend my time with Lavi and Jack these days more and more. I miss my rides though something fierce and I needed to find a way to exercise so I could get back that stress reliever. Plus, I needed a goal beyond drinking cocktails and gaining weight. As you are quite aware, our genetic back story is not a body type that is predisposed to being thin. On the contrary, I've ridden my bike over a 100 miles and still gained weight, but I digress. Let me just say that the weight was not jumping off my body like lemmings on a cliff as I sat in my office. Enter. Stage Left. Running.

Like all things in life I like to set my sights on a big goal. I mean why run 5 miles when you can run 26. Why have 1 beer when you can have 3. Why write a blog by yourself when you can invite your brother to join you. As you can see, not all goals are good for me, some should be avoided and some don't really materialize as you would hope. But goal set I did. I chose to run a marathon. I believed that I could find the time and accomplish this.

The Rock n' Roll marathon in Seattle was a good choice. The traditional Seattle Marathon is in November and I hear it is not a great first marathon choice due to weather and the hilly course. June seemed a good chance to have some warm weather, although this year is challenging that for sure. So I'm all set. I'm running a marathon on June 25th. I've been running a good steady mile pace on my runs. I was around a 10 minute mile at first and now I see a consistent 9:35 mile on my long runs, and better on the shorter runs.

You ask if it has been all aces during the training? No, not even close. Running is just terribly hard on the body. I always liked cycling for the lower impact (some may argue the crotch area impact but I won't go there.. oh wait I just did, but I digress). The bicycle holds you up. You get a chance to coast if you are tired. You can more easily eat while you ride and carry water and host of things. If you are tired while you run, then you fall down. You don't coast, you don't slow, your legs just stop and you stop, falling usually follows. I have had runs where I've been at the last mile, I've pushed it hard, I'm ready to be done and a traffic light is having me stop to cross a road. I tell you that stopping and waiting is often the hardest thing to do. Sum it to say that training each week has been a hard thing.

Early on I had a pair of shoes that gave me a "hot spot" on my feet. I realized the shoes were wrong for me. I was able to return them and with a little help found a pair that has been working well, the Brooks Ghost 4 has worked quite well. I will recommend Road Runner Sports and their VIP program. I was able to return 2 pairs of shoes that were giving me the hot spot just shy of 90 days. This saved me a lot of money. Since picking up those shoes I've been quite happy.

Shoes were not the only item to be purchased. Cycling is expensive. The bike alone to start with, but even the clothes, shoes and other accessories cost. Running is not nearly on par, but don't let it fool you into thinking it is a cheap alternative. Individuals that take running cheap end up with feet that hurt, parts of their body that should never be chaffed and wearing fanny packs that would be in the free table at a garage sale. Having been a cycling fashionista I know about clothing that performs. I've made an investment in some good shorts that eliminate the chaffing, along with some shirts that will not chafe and a healthy investment in Body Glide.

Another thing that I have encountered is the muscle fatigue, recovery and maintenance. I hate the phrase "as I get older" but it has been used often with running. The first part of training was not bad. I eventually ramped up my mileage on the weekends. The shoe/foot hot spot was disconcerting and I was glad to discover that I could buy a solution to that. Some where after 12 miles I had a bad issue with my new. Essentially inflammation and not stretching well right away left me with a very stiff and sore left knee. I did some research and learned about Ice Baths. Now an ice bath sounds almost as archaic as running a marathon I admit, but stay with me. After my long runs on the weekend I've been taking an ice bath. Essentially for me this is a bath tub of the coldest water I can get in there. Individuals will eventually dump in buckets of ice to keep the temperature low, but I have not done this yet.
  • The Ice Bath is called Cryotherapy ("cold therapy"). "It constricts the blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown." The bath helps flush out the toxins that build up in the muscles from the hard effort.
The first time I tried this I lasted only 3 minutes in the tub. Yesterday I took a 15 minute bath to aid my recovery. I've actually started looking forward to the ice bath they have been so helpful. As much as they sound idiotic and down right unpleasant I highly recommend them.

Ice baths are not the only recovery item I've discovered. At work we have a Massage Therapist visit 2x a week and they take our health insurance (brilliant business differentiation point btw). I've been getting a massage once a week and it has helped a lot. The Massage Therapist talked me into a blue foam roller that I use to stretch my IT Ban.

I guess all in all you have to take care of your body when you are punishing it during training. That sounds silly and stupid but it's the truth. All of this effort and care makes one wonder why even do this at all I know, but I'll admit that I'm enjoying it. The running has given me a goal, some mental alone time in my head, and has helped me keep a few pounds off. The biggest thing is that it got me to work out during lunch time which was a perfect win.

Running 30 minutes is fine but after you ramp up your time you need some tunes to run with. Early on I had my own playlist. A mix of Van Halen, Lionel Richie, Billy Idol, Megadeath, Survivor, etc. It begins to look like a playlist that you'd find on Scrubs at times, on in our cousin Katie's ipod. I found that certain songs would make me run faster. The Rocky theme music for instance is a terrible song to listen to when you need to choose between running the proper 4 miles or "pushing it" to 6 miles. Twice I made the wrong choice. Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself" would get me to run about a minute faster than I should. My friend Joey turned me on to PodRunner. PodRunner is a free podcast that puts together ambient techno music at beats per minute. The steady beats per minute really helped me run at a consistent pace. Not one that was up and down like a kangaroo in the mating season (red dwarf prop). I will say that by this time in my training I'm quite sick of the music, but I will recommend it to any one.

The other indulgence is my Garmin 410. It records real time pace time, distance and time, along with a ton of other things. It's a good indicator of how the run is progressing.

The time running lets me think about things. I think about work and what I'd like to accomplish that day. I puzzle on things that have been bothering me. I think about Lavi and Jack a lot. People running by me must see my Chris Horner-ish pain and suffering grin and wonder what drug I'm on, as I jog by grinning wildly. A buddy of mine at work doesn't use the phrase "jogging" but opts to say "I'm going out for a struggle" at lunch. Struggle being the word he describes his jogging style. At times for me that is quite appropriate. A lot of times I'm thinking up twitter posts for my @TdF_Dadna twitter account, which I promptly forget when I finish.

I think it is interesting that I disclaim that this is my first marathon. As my brother you very well know that I've never accomplished such a run and why should I need to point it out? I think that the counting of marathons begins before you even run your first. There is some point in the training, in the mental prep and the dreaming that this is just the first of many. That you are going to get a good time and finish and then work to get a better time. Who knows? Boston Marathon even? Maybe an endorsement deal, etc, etc. It snow balls from there. But the core is that possibly this is just a first marathon and that others will follow in order to make the training effort of the first more of a value. For me… we'll see.

Next Saturday I set out to accomplish 26.2 miles of running. I'm pretty confident that I'll finish. I'm reasonably expecting a 4:30:00 finish time. I'm hopeful that I might land a 4:15:00. I'm 100% sure my body will hurt so much I'll swear off every bad thing I've ever eaten, drink or done to my precious temple. I'm equally sure that after a day and a night of Lavi's wonderful pampering I'll start dreaming big again.

On your left, running