Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bix 7 Race Report

As long as I have been involved in the running community of Quincy, I have heard "you have to run the Bix!" from my fellow runners.  This year, we made it happen.

My wife and I drove to Davenport, Iowa on Friday afternoon.  Our first stop was the race expo to pick up our bibs, chips, shirts, and race-day manuals.  Our "goodie bag" was a virtual one; we received an email with links to discounts at local businesses among other things, the usual.  Walking around the expo, we saw a line of people waiting to get autographs from Joan Benoit Samuelson, Meb Keflezighi, and Bill Rodgers.  I knew (basically) who they were, but I do not get too excited about getting autographs or meeting celebrities.  So, I snapped a photo and moved on.  We did not need anything and we were hungry, so we did not linger at the expo, although it rivaled the marathon expos I have been to.  We found our way to the Clarion, checked in, and had dinner on site.  (Side note: the hotel was okay but, I cannot recommend eating in the bar--horrible service.)

As is usually the case the night before a race, I slept poorly and was up early.  I made my cup of caffeinated coffee and forced down some Pop Tarts--the hotel's breakfast buffet did not start until 7:00, about the time we would be leaving.  I just piddled around the room until it was time to leave.  I thought we would have loads of time, but there was a lot of traffic heading downtown and we had to rush a bit to make it through the porta-potty lines and get to the start early, according to our instructions.  Of course, we still had to wait a while...with over 15,000 of our closest friends.  After a very tasteful singing of the Star Spangled Banner and a flyover of four T-6 Texans, the starting gun fired and we were off!  At a very slow shuffle to the starting line about a block away. 

As I neared the actual start line, I was able to begin jogging, starting up Brady Street Hill--7-9% grade for about one third mile.  This did not thin out the crowd as much as I would have expected.  I was ready to run, but had to weave around slower runners, frequently jumping onto the sidewalk for short stretches at the rare spots where there were no spectators, dodging the occasional walkers.  This set the stage for the whole course.  

Hilly:  According to my Garmin (for what it is worth), the elevation gain for The Bix 7 was 376 feet.  For comparison, my Garmin measured the Hannibal Cannibal 5k at 333 feet, the Raider Classic 5k at 155 feet, the Hannibal Cannibal 15k at 676 feet (which should be just a little higher than the 10k), and the Raider Classic 10k at 321 feet.  Regardless, it was a hilly course.  After the first big climb, the course flattened and then, we descended for a while.  There were a few bumps on our way to the turn-around at the halfway point.  Then, we got to climb back up again, with short respites after each of the few rollers.  Of course, we got to descend the big hill where we started; I flew down this hill, passing loads of people.  At the bottom, we turned toward the finish for our final three-block sprint.

Crowded:  As I said, there were about 15,000 racers at the start.  Some only ran the two-mile event and they turned off before the top of Brady Street Hill.  10,790 of us continued on.  I did not really notice their exit.  We continued to fill the entire street--four lanes, perhaps?  At our first turn, there was a little bottle neck as we entered a divided boulevard with a grassy median.  We were able to take up both lanes of traffic initially, but then, we had to make room for the elites on their return and move out of their way.  (It was cool to see Meb and his peers doing what they do best.)  There really never was a point in the race that was not crowded.  I was weaving in and out of traffic most of the race.  I spent a lot of time on the grassy median too.  I am certainly not complaining.  It reminded me of running trails, where you have to watch where you put your foot on nearly every step.  As a result, your mind is occupied and time passes quickly.  I looked for my friends, my wife, and fellow Quincy-area runners throughout the course.  But, I only saw one person, a former trainee, I knew on the course until another Quincian tapped me on the shoulder about a half mile from the finish.

Spectators:  There were spectators throughout the entire route on both sides of the road.  It was the most festive event I have ever run, I think--more rock and roll than the Rock N' Roll San Antonio half marathon I ran.  People everywhere, a lot with signs.  Bands every quarter to half mile, there was rarely a moment when a band could not be heard either in front or behind.  Davenport really supports the event.

Fun:  In addition to the spectators with their signs and the music, there was plenty of other entertainment.  I saw lots of costumed runners: many super heroes, a group of Marilyn Monroes and a group of Elvises.  There was also a slip and slide set up on the median at one point.  I thought about it, but...  I realized early that I was not going to achieve my time goal.  So, I just continued at a comfortably hard pace and enjoyed the moment.  Toward the end of the race, there was a guy singing Baby I'm a Star by Prince, a song I have always enjoyed.  Initially, it sounded okay, but then he started screaming and sounded just like Prince; totally nailed it!  I was impressed and loved it!  I wanted to go back and listen, but I had a race to finish.  Overall, I would certainly consider going back just for the fun of it.

I felt pretty good most of the race.  Around the five-mile mark, I started to tire a little.  That was during the climb back up to the top of Brady Street Hill.  But, I soldiered on, enjoying the experience.  Despite the challenges, I still managed to finish in the top 20% overall and for master's men.  So, not a bad performance.  I was pleased.  But, for me, The Bix was all about having a good time, at least after I got started.  By the way, they also had nice tech shirts and finisher medals.  I generally am not a fan of finisher medals for shorter races, but I see this medal as a memento for a special event--something to remember the experience.

So, to my fellow runners: YOU HAVE TO RUN THE BIX!!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

2014 Raider Classic & Hannibal Cannibal 5k Race Reports

Having already run a marathon and a half marathon in 2014, I have changed my training focus to running 5k races.  I am enjoying running short and fast!  Also, as my wife and I plan our move to Scotland next year (to be near her family), I am running--no pun intended--out of opportunities to participate in local events.  So, if we are able to stick to our plan, this year may be my last chance to run two of my favorite local races, at least for the foreseeable future.

The 13th Annual Raider Classic was run on June 28 in Quincy.  It was a relatively cool morning for late June, overcast and a little breezy.  For a summer morning in Illinois, no one could complain.  The cannon sent us off promptly (as always) at 7AM.  According to my plan, I took off fast to take advantage of the mostly downhill first mile.  With 250 participants and two turns in the first quarter mile or so, it was a bit crowded initially, but the field soon thinned out.  Just after the first mile marker, the course made a u-turn and it was time to ascend for a while.  Another quarter mile took us to the 5k/10k route split, sending the 5k runners off the street.  We ran along the creek and under the stone bridge, then up a short, but steep dirt path to the South Park duck ponds.  The section from the u-turn to the main part of South Park is mostly uphill; I planned to give a little time back there.  That was easy to do.  From the duck ponds, we climbed some stairs (or took the faster, dirt path right next to the stairs) up to South Park proper and back onto pavement.  Here is where I started to increase my speed again, taking the loop around the park that is mostly downhill or flat for about a half mile.  In this case, however, what goes down must again come up.  So, we climbed the steep hill, taking us toward the park exit.  Then, down again and out of the park, crossing the street to another dirt path and some grass taking us back to the streets, where we turned back toward the start/finish line and sprinted the last block or so.

I ran the race at my limit, finishing first in my age group and 18th out of 167 5k runners, five seconds short of my course PR.  I was pleased with my performance.  As I have come to expect from Andy Edgar's Raider Classic, it is possibly the best-organized race in the area.  Specifically: the course was clean and well-marked; there were ample volunteers; the race started precisely on schedule; results and awards were prompt.  Also: the award tiles are unique; a very nice, technical t-shirt; and, they have door prizes!

The 19th Annual Hannibal Cannibal was held on July 5, 2014.  It was also a nice day for the time of year--cooler than usual, overcast with a light wind; certainly not the norm for the Cannibal.  As usual, there was a big crowd: nearly 1100 runners and walkers across the three events, 5k, 10k, and 15k.  The size of the crowd always adds to the race day excitement and indicates that the planning committee knows how to organize an event like this.  I took off fast again on the opening, flat quarter mile or so, banking a little time before the hills.  We turned onto 79 and started our first hill over the bridge still somewhat crowded, but the hill started to slow down a few people and thus, spread us out.  After a flat-ish section past the bridge, I bombed down a short decline before starting the first big climb--there are really only two on the 5k course.  I settled into my pace, slowing down a bit.  The crowd certainly thinned out as we climbed for perhaps a half mile.  The 5k runners turned around near the top of the hill as the runners going longer continued on.  Then, we were able to enjoy descending for a while before we started the second major climb of the 5k course--Lover's Leap.  I think it is about two tenths of a mile up, averaging 14% grade, peaking at around 20% at one point.  The majority of participants walk up Lover's Leap; I always refuse to.  I just shortened my stride and leaned into it, slowly passing people as I climbed.  I am sure my heart rate was maxed out at the top, but I kept going, making a u-turn at the top and trying hard to keep my feet under me as I headed back down the relative mountain.  After Lover's Leap, the route is nearly all down hill, so when I returned to 79, I just relaxed and leaned forward, flying downhill.  I made up a lot of time descending, but not as much as I lost going uphill.

Again, I was racing at my limit.  I finished eight seconds off my course PR and apparently earned second in the master's men division.  I was 39th out of over 800 racers.  It was another satisfying performance and an enjoyable Cannibal.

Over the years, I have been involved in many discussions comparing these two events.  Here are my conclusions:

1.  Both races are tough.  When you cross the line at either event, regardless of the distance raced, you cannot help put feel an enormous sense of accomplishment.  All finishers have risen to and conquered a significant challenge.  The question often discussed is: which is tougher?  I have run all distances at each event at least once.  I believe the Cannibal 5k is tougher because of the two hills.  My Garmin told me the elevation change is three times greater on the Hannibal course.  Conversely, I think the 10k course in Quincy is tougher.  It has more total elevation change (I could not find my Garmin data to quantify it) and you are always running up and down and turning.  You cannot get into a rhythm like you can on the steady climbs in the Cannibal.  The off-road sections in Quincy also add to the challenge.

2.  Both races have been around over a decade and overall, have their processes honed.  As a participant, both events seem to run quite smoothly for the most part.  I do have one complaint regarding the Cannibal though.  Last year, I ran the 15k and received a medal for third place in my age group.  I later realized that I had actually earned fourth place--no medal for me.  This year, I received a medal for third in my age group, when the official results show me at second place in the master's division.  (I am awaiting confirmation from the race director and/or the timing company.)  The awards were relatively prompt, considering the size of the event, but accuracy should be the highest priority.

3.  Both events have their unique character.  The Cannibal is big, at least for a small town race.  It has the mythic climb of Lover's Leap and the local novelty of a 15k event.  While the Raider Classic is nearly perfect in its execution and has a cross country feel to it.

Personally, I like them both for several reasons, but mostly for the significant challenge of each of them.  If I never run them again, I will cherish the memories I have from them both.

ADDENDUM:  After emails to the timing company and the race director, I received this in the mail.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Jens Voigt Doesn't Get Road Rash...

...the road gets Jens rash!  Ha!  (For those not familiar with road cycling, Jens Voigt is the Chuck Norris of the professional racing peloton.)

I, however, am not that tough.  Last Saturday, in my tenth year as a regular road cyclist, I experienced my first major crash.  I have had others of course--it is not a matter of if, but when bike accidents will occur--but, my previous accidents where at less than 1 mph...and there certainly was a component of humor in each of them.  This was different.

Here is what I learned:

1.  I was lucky!  My only injuries were superficial--road rash and bruising.  I did not hit my head and nothing was broken.  At around 30 mph, it could have been much worse.

2. Gloves are important!  They may help with cushioning during the ride and wiping away sweat, but they will certainly prevent road rash on the hands.  I am missing a few small chunks of flesh on my left hand--probably due to sharp rocks--and in areas that were not or were barely covered by the glove.  But, the area that took the most force in the fall on my palm is fine.  It was sore and red initially, but has no broken skin.  As I have heard, the hands take quite a long time to heal from road rash, but that has not been an issue for me.

3.  Bikes are tough!  I only had to adjust my front brake a little for the twelve-mile ride back to my car.  Otherwise, my bike only had superficial damage:  a spot on the rear tire I will have to monitor, some torn bar tape, and some broken plastic on the shifter.  A few screw turns and minor adjustments and I am good to go for another ride.

4.  My wife's knowledge of aromatherapy and herbal medicine has been invaluable!  With her help, I am healing quickly with no apparent complications.

5.  Beware of new routes!  We were riding a route new to me and relatively novel to the rest of the group, descending a significant hill that curved to the left.  There were five of us and we were fairly spread out.  I was fourth in line and was trying to widen the gap a bit because I could not see very far ahead, but the turn kept getting sharper and I was catching up as they decelerated.  While I was a little nervous, I think we would have been okay except for the...

6.  Gravel!  Sometimes s**t happens.  New route, old route, whatever!  You can never predict accurately what you will find on the roads.  Unfortunately, we cyclists are sensitive and vulnerable to imperfect road conditions.  In this case, a little gravel, possibly washed down the hill from a recent rain, threw two of us from our bikes and sent us sliding off the road into the poison ivy and a guard rail.

As I said, I was lucky.  So was my fellow rider, though he was affected more than I by the poison ivy, adding insult to injury.  However, it was a learning experience, one that will not soon be forgotten, even after the road rash has healed.

Side note: although I did not need it because I did not hit my head, I am glad that I had my helmet on.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bridge the Gap To Health Half Marathon Race Report

After having a great 2012 race year, then struggling in 2013 because of a foot injury and its subsequent effects, I have big goals for myself in 2014.  In general, I want to return to my 2012 form--my fastest year ever.  More specifically, I have already run my first marathon this year, albeit slower than intended.  Another of my big goals is to improve my 5k time later this year.  I also set a goal to meet or beat my half marathon PR from 2012, which brings me to Bridge the Gap.  Considering the timing and the fact that it is in my hometown, the Bridge the Gap To Health half marathon seemed like a good fit for my training schedule.  It also happens to be my half marathon PR event.

After my marathon training, I had a good endurance base, so I emphasized speed work and race pace workouts.  This seemed to be working for me.  I felt strong.  I was enjoying my workouts.  I gradually worked up to eight miles at my goal race pace.  However, I had at least two challenges to contend with.  First, my body weight, while healthy, still is not ideal for racing.  I would prefer to race five to ten pounds lighter.  I am still working on this; I think the key change I need to make now is more strength training to develop more lean body mass.  I apparently lost a lot of this during 2013.  Second, the course changed for this year.  Previously, after a few hills during the first three or so miles, the course was almost completely flat.  This year, the course has about 50% more elevation change (per my Garmin 310XT.)  So, while training was going well, I knew matching my PR would be very tough.

Race morning was cool, nearly perfect for running.  I arrived early, posing for a few photos with friends, the Bridge the Gap training group, and the Heartland Road Runners and Walkers Club.  I kissed my wife for luck--she was running the 10k.  Then, I took off for my warm up jog and dynamic flexibility routine.  I arrived at the start line, lining up in the 8:00 or 8:30/mile area which happened to be in the second wave.  I thought that would keep me from starting off too fast.

I took off easy--it was hard not to do so up the first hill which began less than fifty yards from the start line.  It was a beautiful spring morning and a nice view from the bridges.  I tried to thank each of the volunteers on the bridges, protecting us from traffic.  I said "hello" and chatted to a few friends during those first two miles.  Then, I returned to Illinois and had to get to work climbing the hill to Washington Park.  Several friends at the side of the road cheered me on.  I paced myself well, not expending too much energy.

Six-minute PR for Sarah!
Then, at Washington Park, the course leveled out to slight undulations.  With the new course going through town, I expected more spectators.  It seemed most of Quincy was still in bed.  However, I saw a few more friends, coworkers, and acquaintances along Maine Street.  As this was the first of three out-and-back sections of the course, I started to see the front runners as well.  I had my iPod on, but found myself turning it off to say hello to and cheer on my friends, trainees, and fellow club members...and to stop and kiss my wife.  I started out over my goal pace with the plan to start decreasing my average pace--the only number on my Garmin I monitor during the race--after the hill back into town.  I was doing just fine with this, calculating the seconds per mile I needed to gain as I passed each mile marker on the course.

Just before the six-mile marker, I returned to Washington Park and was rewarded with a steep downhill to Second Street and a few more descending undulations leading up to the final hill through Riverview Park.  It is a tough one, but I knew this was the end of the significant climbing.  The view from the top, overlooking the river is always nice too.  Then, after the peak, I had another fast descent to the final, flat-ish six or so miles.  My average pace continued to decrease according to my plan.

Soon after exiting the park I caught up to a pair of guys I chatted with as we matched paces.  One in particular, I knew on sight, but had never met.  I also knew he was typically faster than I was.  I thought if I could hang with him, I would be doing pretty well.  I continued to lower my pace.  I wondered if he started in the first wave; if so, and if I could just keep him in sight, I would have a better time--we also happen to be be in the same age group.  Although I am almost always primarily racing the clock, I will take motivation where I can get it.

Throughout the race, I had been drinking water at the aid stations according to my thirst.  I had also been eating my Kendal Mint Cake at regular intervals--seems to work as well as gel for me.  So, nutrition and hydration were good.  I was dressed appropriately and the weather conditions were nearly ideal.  The fact that around the nine or ten-mile mark my pace stopped decreasing could only be due to decisions I made during training--my fitness level.

Still PR, but I had run to my limit
At the last aid station, I stopped for water.  My fellow age-grouper did not and I could not catch up to  him.  My average pace was constant despite my efforts to decrease it over the final miles.  I was at my limit.  I felt like I sped up a bit over the final half mile or so, but my watch did not show it.  So, I finished strong, but I was hurting.  Jackie Joyner-Kersee medalled me and I saw my wife near the finish.  After leaning on the barrier for a minute, talking to her, I limped over to sit down under the shade of a tree.  I finished at ten seconds per mile over my goal pace, but I could not have gone any faster.  I was spent and my legs felt it.  I also had earned two blisters, causing the limp.

After recovering on the ground for a while and cooling off, then warming up, I needed real food.  With a burger in hand I chatted with fellow racers, volunteers, and spectators, exchanging race day stories.  I also welcomed my good friend and trainee, Sarah, across the line with a six-minute PR in the half!  Then, home to recover.  I felt about as rough as I had after the marathon in March.  In fact, my four-day soreness was comparable too.  Obviously, I had pushed myself hard.

Although, I had wanted to finish faster, I left it all on the course--I could not have performed better on that particular day.  It was a good measure of my training and my form is returning.  All is well.  Disregarding time, it was a great day.  I was able to see a lot of my running friends and make new ones.  One of my athletes PR'ed and I did finish faster than my fellow age-grouper.  Upon reflection, I think I really like the new course route.  While it is tougher and probably not as fast, I enjoyed seeing and interacting with all the other runners on the out-and-back sections.  It seemed more like a group run that way instead of an individual's race, more social.

Now, I will focus on a 5k PR, maybe some 10k's, and The Bix.

Here is another perspective on this year's Bridge the Gap to Health half marathon.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Marathon PR!! My EPIC Little Rock Marathon Race Report

Okay, so it was my first marathon and this year's theme was "epic," but anyway...

Due to several factors, my training did not proceed according to plan.  Modifications are always necessary, but I had several major challenges to face during this training cycle.  Getting the flu (or food poisoning) and two colds caused interruptions.  I also had some knee pain during my longest training runs that slowed me down significantly at times.  The biggest challenge was the weather, specifically the bitterly cold temperatures and heavy winter precipitation.  Oh, and my refusal to run inside on treadmills or eleven-laps-per-mile tracks.  I did actually run on a treadmill for an hour on a particularly icy day.  It. Was. Agony.  And, I was actually sore the next day; so sore, in fact, that I had to cut short that day's run.  I braved the cold temps and wind and snow and ice and slush when I deemed it safe.  I am sure non-runners who saw me thought I was absolutely crazy for being out (that usually just encourages me.)  Heck, a lot of runners thought I was crazy!  Even though I was out on the road getting the time and miles under my feet, my pace was much slower than I had hoped, ultimately limiting the resulting training effects.  So, overall, I did not complete the total volume of running at the desired intensity that I had planned.

Carb-loading at Big Whiskey's
Regardless, I was committed.  Nearing race day, I just modified my goals, increasing my desired finish times and thinking maybe I would be satisfied to just finish, which is totally uncharacteristic of me.  I generally was not concerned about the distance.  I knew it would not be easy, but I trusted my training which included five runs over eighteen miles/three hours.  My recent knee pain had me worried though.  My last long run, I actually limped due to the pain.  As we entered the ten-day weather forecast window, I checked it daily through several outlets.  The expected temperature looked good--50s (ideal, by the way,) but rain was predicted.  As we neared race day, the forecast became more consistent: mid to high 50s to start, cooling to 40ish by midday; 50-100% chance of rain, turning to sleet later. 

Pre-race dinner at Copper Grill
We (my wife, Pat, and I) arrived in Little Rock around midday on Saturday, the day before the race, and went directly to the expo.   There, we were able to visit with several members of Heartland Road Runners and Walkers Club, two of whom were volunteers at packet pick-up.  After a short walk around the expected running and race-related booths, we walked to nearby Big Whiskey's for lunch.  Afterward, we checked in to the hotel and relaxed for a while.  I took this time to get my race day gear and clothes ready as well.  In the evening we joined a group of Heartland Road Runners for a leisurely and entertaining dinner at Copper Grill.  There, we were also able visit with another group from the club and learned about Black Girls RUN! from another diner.  Great meal by the way--I would return to Little Rock just to eat there again.

The calm before the storm
Race morning, after a decent night's sleep, I was up around five to get an early breakfast in the hotel lobby.  It was quiet initially, but I was soon joined by other runners including some Quincy folks.  An early start gave me plenty of time to prepare for my race, reviewing the weather forecast and radar and finalizing my clothing and gear selections.  The forecast had not changed much and the radar looked clear for now, but the green areas kept getting bigger.  I opted for shorts, t-shirt, rain jacket, and a cap to keep the rain out of my face.

Gearing up
A little after seven, Pat and I exited the hotel to a light rain on our way to the River Market to meet our fellow club members for a group photo.  After chatting for a while and making my final gear preparations and handing off my extra stuff to Pat, we then stepped outside as a group and took a few snaps.  I dropped Pat off at the Perks Pavilion where she would get VIP treatment as she waited for me to finish.  Then, I headed to C corral at the start.  By the time I got there the corrals where quite full and I only made it up to D.  The rain was picking up and I started to notice the wind.  Volunteers were passing out trash bags as makeshift raincoats. I was cool, but knew I would warm up when I started running.

Heartland Road Runners ready to (Little) Rock it!
I think I arrived in the corrals at about 7:50, thinking that I would be starting soon since I was in one of the early corrals.  As I said, I made it to D, so I thought I would be fourth to go.  However, they were separating the starting groups in some other manner, into apparently smaller groups, so I was in the seventh or so group to start, taking off about 16:30 after the elites, I think.  Finally...after several months of training including lots of solo miles, I was starting my first marathon with about 15,000 of my closest friends on a cold, wet, and windy late winter's day in Arkansas.

I started off a bit fast as so many of us are wont to do.  During the first one to two miles I slowed down to around nine minutes per mile and settled in.  Considering my training, I thought that was a reasonable goal and I really wanted to stay under four hours (9:09/mile).  I ran alone most of the time, I could not seem to find anyone who was staying at my pace.  Even when I encountered the four-hour pace group, we seesawed back and forth.  That was okay for me most of the time; I am usually lost in my thoughts anyway.  I continued solo, taking a Gu every thirty to forty-five minutes, drinking a little water every time it was offered, and visiting nearly every porta-potty I saw!  I tried to thank as many volunteers as I could and encourage fellow runners when it seemed they needed it (when I could spare the motivation.)

The course had a lot of turns and a lot of rolling hills which, I suppose, broke the monotony.  I do not recall thinking the hills were too tough; I guess I trained appropriately for them.  On each out-and-back section, I scanned the crowd for my fellow Heartland Road Runners, cheering them on when I found them.  Because of the weather, the crowds seemed small, but the folks who were out certainly did not lack enthusiasm.  There were numerous home-made posters that made me laugh.  One guy, I saw every few miles with a different sign.  Apparently, he was there to cheer on his wife.  I saw him at the finish line and thanked him for all his signs and accompanying giggles.  One of his signs is my all-time favorite marathon sign: "WORST PARADE EVER!"  Always gives me a chuckle.  Another was "PEE NOW, POOP LATER.  NEVER TRUST A FART."

Feeling good!
I found little interesting scenery on the course.  Perhaps it was just a result of the dreary day.  There were some interesting architecture and homes at times.  The capitol building was impressive, of course.  We also ran past the historic Central High School.  The one memorable hill--I think it was Kavanaugh Boulevard--which is a two to three mile climb, was in a nice neighborhood with interesting shops and restaurants and homes, paralleling a wooded area.

That describes the first twenty miles or so of my race.  However, somewhere between fifteen and eighteen miles, my knees started to hurt.  It was not bad initially, but was irritated by the long hill, reinforcing my suspicion that the cause is IT band.  I maintained my pace on the climb and accelerated on the descent afterward, still on target for a four-hour finish.  At around mile eighteen, the course starts a long, flat, out-and-back section through a park up to around mile twenty-four.  This was where my race and, I suppose, everyone's race got interesting.  The pain that was alleviated by the downhill returned on the flat and increased in intensity.  I had been staying close to the four-hour pace group, but at around twenty-one miles, I watched them slip away along with my sub-4:00 finish.  My knee pain was forcing me to walk quite a bit.

Soon after, word came to the course that storms containing high winds and hail were nearing and the course was closing.  We could seek shelter there in the park or continue on to Wal-Mart where buses would take us back to the start.  I continued.  Later, a police officer was repeating an announcement that the race was cancelled, that buses were coming, and that proceeding would be at our own risk.  When I first heard the message, I had mixed feelings.  Part of me said "I can stop!"  The other part said "What a waste of my time and effort!"  Anyway, I continued running/walking as well as I could, looking for Wal-Mart and waiting for some official person to force me off the course.

We made it!
Somewhere around twenty-four miles, Claudia, a fellow club member, caught up to me.  Unsure whether we should stop or continue, both of us hurting, we soldiered on together along with most of the other racers.  We never saw Wal-Mart and kept getting closer to the finish.  Also, the conditions had not seemed to worsen.  So, we struggled onward.

Apparently, the message of cancellation was a miscommunication.  When we arrived at the finish line, while it may have been a bit quieter due to the conditions, it certainly was intact.  We crossed together arm-in-arm, all smiles.  We finished a marathon!  What a relief!  Although I had been cool all morning, I was not very uncomfortable.  However, once I crossed the finish line, I immediately started shivering uncontrollably.  Somewhere near the finish I had seen a sign with the temperature: 37 degrees!  We got our big-ass medals, some snacks (that we could barely hold on to with our numb hands), and a space blanket each.  We quickly found Pat at the Perks Pavilion and made our way back to our hotel, limping and shivering.  After a hot shower, a quick rub-down from my physical therapist wife, dry clothes, and about an hour buried under the covers in bed, I finally stopped shivering.


After a little recovery time in the room, the seven of us from Quincy who were staying a second night in the hotel basically took over the lobby.  We shared our race stories.  All of us had finished (other than Pat, of course) and Mindy even qualified for Boston!  Several took turns with the foam roller and we laughed at each of us trying and failing to rise from chairs and walk with dignity.  We shared snacks and drinks, later ordering pizza and watching the Oscars.  Other than actually finishing the race, this was the highlight of my Little Rock weekend.

Pizza and The Oscars
Our epic continued the following day.  Little Rock and the surrounding region received about two inches of ice and sleet overnight.  We soon discovered that the state of Arkansas apparently is not equipped to handle frozen precipitation; I40 was basically untouched.  It took us over seven hours to travel the 120 miles to the intersection of I40 and I55.  Then, Pat started feeling ill, so much so that we stopped in Memphis for the night.  Of course, we couldn't have traveled much farther anyway.  Pat was still ill in the morning, so we stayed another day.  While Pat slept, I was able to explore Memphis a little.  On Wednesday, Pat was ready to travel and we headed north through Tennessee, traveling on mostly clear roads, arriving at home that evening and ending our five-day adventure.

Most of the Heartland Road Runners who ran Little Rock, back in Quincy
I am pleased to have completed a marathon, albeit slower than planned.  It certainly was a learning experience as a runner and as a coach, which was a primary goal.  I have no current plans to do another, but I have learned not to say "never."  I may want to go faster!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Yurbuds Inspire Pro Earphones Review

I wrote previously about Yurbuds.  As I stated then, I had been so pleased and impressed with my Yurbuds that I contacted the company and offered my services as a brand ambassador.  They accepted and subsequently sent me another pair of earphones to try.  After a few months of use, here is my review.

In the box, you will find the ear buds and their cord, two pairs of different sized "enhancers" to customize fit, a wire clip to attach the wire to your clothing, and a carrying pouch.

This particular pair of ear buds fit me right out of the box; no adjustment was necessary.  However, if another user required a different fit, the silicon "enhancers" can be rotated upon the ear bud.  Also, the "enhancers" may be removed and replaced with the alternate size.  Based on my experience with my Yurbuds Focus sport earphones:  it may take a little fiddling to install them, but it only took me a minute or so.  And, they stay in place once adjusted.

Yurbuds guarantees their earphones "never to hurt or fall out."  Thus far, I cannot dispute this.  They are comfortable.  I have felt little need to adjust them during any particular use.  I frequently use them while running and during my current marathon training they have remained comfortable during the long runs and in place during the intense runs.  The same has been true for weight room workouts (many CrossFit-style) and with casual use.  They have not fallen out once.

Speaking of running, some might find these a bit cumbersome: on the outside of clothing, the bouncing of the controller might annoy.  Personally, I usually just let my music play and do not need much access to the controls during a run.  So, I usually run the cord under my shirt.  However, a runner who wants to utilize the controller may effectively utilize the included clip to stabilize the cord/controller.

The three-button controller can be quite useful, especially if using the ear buds with a phone.  With the new mobile phone law for drivers in Illinois, this will probably be my primary use for this set.  The top button increases volume and the lower button decreases volume.  The center button has multiple uses.  One click will start or stop a song and will also answer or end a phone call.  Two clicks will advance to the next song.  Three clicks will return to the beginning of a song.

Just like with the Focus earphones, in my uneducated opinion, I think the overall sound quality is good.  But, what has really impressed me is the volume.  Yurbuds are loud.  So, these are a good choice for anyone who wants high absolute volume.  For me, I like the control it gives me.  I have a wider range of volume to use based on conditions.  By the way, most of the time, I can still hear ambient noise even at higher volumes.  That is important to me as a road runner.

As for overall durability and general usefulness: the cords are easily untangled if you find them in a nest.  After hours of sweaty training and at least one hour-long, rain-soaked run, they appear to be waterproof.  My previous non-Yurbuds earphones sucked the life out of my music device batteries within 1-2 hours of use.  Now, I can get 5-8 hours of music with the Yurbuds.

Summarizing, I am pleased with the Yurbuds Inspire Pro.  After using behind the ear earphones for about a decade, I did not expect to like them.  I expected them to fall out and be uncomfortable, but that has not been the case.  They are durable and sound good.  They have effective and useful features.  I will continue to use my two pairs of Yurbuds until Yurbuds improves them.