Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Millisecond Trail Running Adventure:

Or, How a Runner Defies Gravity Mid Stride

There's a county-maintained trail just a few miles from my house that serves as my go-to spot for a Saturday long run. It's my favorite run of the week. And, I'm always looking forward to it the night before. The trail terrain is a mixture of wide, loosely packed rocky roads and some technical single-track. It's not an especially challenging trail. But, it's near my house and makes for a very enjoyable run. Despite being so close to area subdivisions and a highway, the fact that the trail follows a portion of the Neuse River makes the trek feel comfortably remote.

As a kid growing up in Colorado and, for a couple of years anyway, North Carolina, I spent countless hours exploring the fields and forests near my parents' home searching for wildlife. Yes, I was a geek. I memorized field guide images, watched nature shows on PBS, and, before I entered adolescence, I'd aspired to be all kinds of -ologists (marine biologist, herpetologist, ornithologist, etc.).

So, being out in a natural area nowadays always brings about the nostalgia for my exploratory days of childhood. Obviously, that's one reason I find trail running so appealing. My senses are challenged in a pastoral manner, a welcome contrast to my weekdays in front of the computer. This all proved doubly true on a particular Saturday last April.

It was a crisp morning after a week of unseasonably warm days. I was running along the technical portion of the path, leaping rocks and roots, listening to the rustling leaves, and really enjoying mile four of my nine-mile run. The early morning sun shined intensely through the tree canopy, creating areas of intense contrast on the forest floor. I allowed myself to take in the scenery, glancing from the trail to the forest, being distracted by the lizards and squirrels dashing through the leaves.

Copperhead (not my photo)

I passed a clearing to the left and looked from there to the trail again. My eyes adjusted to the contrasting shadows among the leaves. And, I suddenly recognized the shape of a snake stretched out across the trail beneath me. It wasn't just any snake. It was a big, fat copperhead!

The ideal image of a runner in action would show the runner with both feet off the ground—one leg bent with the knee pointing forward, the other leg extended behind the runner just after the toe pushes off. This is the sought-after "floating" picture described and appreciated in many running groups. Imagine me in this position, floating above the ground between strike and toe-off. Now imagine me lifting both legs from the knee up to my hamstrings, thereby increasing the distance between me and the snake by at least twelve inches. I didn't know I had reflexes like that.

Given my history of seeking out and catching snakes when I was a kid, I'm not bothered by snakes. I wouldn't even be bothered by a venomous snake like the copperhead I met on that trail. But, the fact that I didn't see the snake until I was right above it really alarmed me. Hence, the rush of adrenaline and miraculous levitation over the trail.

When I finally landed on the ground who-knows-how far away from the copperhead, my pace increased a bit. I was thankful that I'd not had the misfortune of actually stepping on the snake. But, I was concerned over the fact that I would have to return over that same portion of the trail in just a few minutes so that I could get home.

I kept thinking, "I'll be such an idiot if I get bitten by this snake on the second pass. I'll be such an idiot, such an idiot..."

Luckily, the snake wasn't there on my return trip. Perhaps my heavy stomping on the way back scared it away. Perhaps it was just as scared of being stepped on as I was of stepping on it. Either way, I'm glad he moved. And, I'd rather not see him again.

So, what have I learned from this little adventure on the trail? Watch out for snakes. But, don't let it keep you from running!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The 12th Annual Inside-Out Sports Classic 10K Race Report

Note: This is an archive-edition race report for the May 16, 2010, Inside-Out Sports Classic 10K in Cary, NC.

I set a time goal for this 10K: Run it in under 50 minutes. I failed. And, I realize that there's a lot to learn about how to run a race. That's probably a good lesson for first race, right?

I arrived early at 6 AM, an hour and a quarter before the 10K start time. It was no problem to arrive early, because I'd been lying awake in bed since just after 3 in the morning. (I was more than a little excited about my first race) The sun was rising in an overcast sky, giving the morning a blue hue with a touch of crispy humidity from the evening rain. I parked in a shopping center approximately a half mile away from race headquarters in order to have a nice warm-up run with purpose before the start time.

The bulk of the participants hadn't arrived yet as I picked up my race materials: Bib #1020, the green tech shirt, my timing chip, and a course map. I wanted to take a few photos before the races. So, I'd brought my phone in an arm band on my trek to the race area. But, after that half mile warm-up, the arm band was already getting on my nerves. So, I walked back to the car and tossed the phone, arm band, and race shirt inside. By the time I returned to the race area, the crowds had arrived. I attached my timing chip to the black laces of my Mizuno Elixirs (the IVs for anyone who cares) and watched everyone go through their various pre-race routines for a few minutes.

It was around 6:40 when I decided a bathroom break was in order. Unfortunately, a few hundred other people had the same idea. The line for the porta-potties was long! Luckily, the 10K start time wasn't until 7:15. But, the half marathon was scheduled to start at 7. And, the half marathoners in line with me were getting antsy. One of the girls forgot to lock the porta-potty door. (I don't think there was enough time for that to be awkward, though)

I walked up to the starting corral and placed myself towards the back third of the pack, as the rest of my fellow 10K runners listened to the race director describe the challenges of this course. There was something about hills. The runner in front of me was wearing a pair of Puma street shoes. I wondered whether he knew exactly what he was doing or vice versa.

The starting horn sounded and the pack began shuffling across the starting line. I kept telling myself, "Start slow. Start slow. Start slow...." And, I must say, I managed to start out marvelously slow! Perhaps that warm-up run helped dissipate some of the jitter-induced adrenaline.

So, there I was, embarking on my first race, comfortably jogging at the back of the pack while the sun gradually turned the sky from blue to orange. The humidity hung in the air like cigarette smoke. I maintained my conservative, easy pace for at least a mile, passing people slowly and watching for hills. It was fantastic!

The course took us down a rural road leading into Umstead State Park on gravelly bridle trails. After about three miles, we turned around, only to diverge from the first mile point and follow Black Creek Greenway to a longer finish than I'd anticipated. (Why couldn't they have made a race map to scale?) Due to park restrictions, there were no mile markers posted. And, since I don't have a GPS device, I found myself holding back most of the time out of fear that I'd not covered as many miles as I thought. Yet, I gradually moved forward in the pack, distributing the good-works and great-jobs at random. It felt great!

The last mile and a half was the most challenging for me, because I found myself feeling almost lost (no, not literally) due to not knowing how much further to go until the finish. "Do I hold back some more or start sprinting? Hold back? Sprint..?" I really wished I'd known the course better.

I saw the lead runners pass by in the other direction, which meant they'd reached the final turnaround. But, where was that turnaround? Oh, there it was! The volunteer there said we were at about mile 5.5. So, I started picking up speed. Somewhere behind me someone screams an expletive in rage. I'm glad I wasn't right next to the guy.

And, then, there was a hill. No, not a big one. It was small, but steep enough to put a kink in my otherwise even pace. More critical, though, was that this hill made me realize I was more tired than I thought I was a few seconds ago. And, this little climb, followed by another little climb, really hit my legs where it hurt.

I passed a guy who was walking. Told him, "Good job, man." And, he replied in kind. Then he sprinted ahead of me! I could hear the cheering just yards ahead and picked up my pace as much as I could. Another volunteer was guiding Mr. Walk/Sprinter and me toward the final right turn, which would lead us downhill across the finish line. (Note to race directors: A downhill finish is awesome!) I tried to catch up to the walk/sprint dude before crossing the finish, maximizing my stride and ignoring the slight discomfort in my left knee. But, he beat me by a few seconds.

In the last few meters I suddenly remembered that there'd be a photographer around. I saw her just as she focused on the person behind me. Hope I didn't look like an idiot.

My official finish time was 53:13, an 8:34 pace. I'd really hoped to finish in under 50 minutes, especially on such a relatively easy course. But, perhaps that goal was a bit uneducated. I'd never actually timed myself on a 6.2 mile course. So, the 50 minute goal was really just me choosing a nice round number that seemed reasonable for a first 10K. I mean, it's my first race, and I had no real idea how I would run in it. I'm just so glad that I ran at all! It was fun!

Thanks to all of you for the tips you provided while I obsessed about this first race in the days prior. And, thanks if you've read my babble up to this point.

The weapon of choice: Mizuno Elixir 4

Mizuno Elixir 4 photo

Friday, October 29, 2010

Rock2Rock 10K Trail Race Report

Note: This is an archive-edition race report for the May 28, 2010, Rock 2 Rock 10K Trail Run near Asheville, NC.

When a race director's course description bluntly states, "You will not run this entire course," believe it! The Rock2Rock Trail Run was an enormously challenging race! With more than 2000 feet of climbing in the first half of the race and trails that epitomize everything in the word "technical", this course kicks any runner's glutes. Damn it was fun!

See photos of the 2010 Rock2Rock Trail Run on Flickr

The family and I began planning to visit my brother and his wife in the NC mountains a little over a month ago. When I read that the Rock2Rock Trail Run would be taking place on the very same weekend I planned to be in the Asheville area, I was ecstatic. The race description had me at "trail run".

This was only my second experience at an organized race. And, it was the first time I ran in the mountains. I knew the air would be thinner and the hills would be higher than anything I was used to. After seeing in last year's results that the majority of the participants were from the mountains, I knew I would be out of my league in this race. The other bit of advice in the race description, "add about 60% on to your usual 10k time," pretty much convinced me of the fact that I wouldn't be setting any records for myself here. But, I was sure it'd be fun.

I arrived at the race site later than I expected, just a half hour before the 5:00 PM start time. But, it was a fairly small race with less than 200 participants. So, I didn't have to wait in line to register. Set in a traditional summer camp at the base of a mountain with a small lake, the race site couldn't have been more beautiful. Runners were accompanied by their families (well, not me, unfortunately) with little kids playing on the lakeside beach and doggies running around greeting the runners. We all parked in a soccer field and warmed up by running the few hundred meters between it and the registration table.

The swag was nice: A nifty visor, a sport bottle, and a tube of lip sunscreen stuff from Gore-Tex. La Sportiva had a tent set up with shoes available to try out during the race. I resisted the urge to try the new shoes, reminding myself of the cardinal rule: Nothing new on race day. Besides, my Inov-8 Flyroc 310s really needed this experience.

The director called for us to line up in the starting area, a flat, grassy space beside the lake. There were not mats. We just stood in a bunch behind a line of really fast-looking runners. I stood very close to the back of the pack. After a few introductions and warnings about the steep climbs in the course, we were off!

Several of the runners took off quickly, some of which I ended up passing in the first quarter of the race. The initial climb was pretty easy over a wide, gravely trail. After a few 160-degree turns, the incline became almost twice as steep. A few people who were ahead of me started power hiking. The trail leveled out for a few meters at 15 minutes (my time of course) into the race, taking us through a clearing with waist-high grass on either side of the trail. But, we were soon vertical and under the cover of treetops again.

At almost 19 minutes into the race, I decided to take a turn at power hiking. It was strange to pass people while hiking. And, I found myself wondering whether I was going at an appropriate pace, wondering if I was conserving enough energy.

I was able to run again when the hillside became less vertical. Others did, too, of course. Then the trail turned into a single-track, seemingly-75-degree cliff face for too many meters to count (not that I could have counted).

We moved in small batches, each group held up behind a leader until someone broke free to advance toward another group of hikers. We huffed. We puffed. We sweated. We made sure the people who'd stopped were okay. There's a genuine comraderie among this bunch of trail runners. Perhaps it was because the race was a small one. Perhaps it's just because we're runners.

Each time the incline became rockier and more mountainous, I thought I was near the top. But, no. This single-track climb went on forever. I second-guessed my ability to finish the race, wondered what happened to people who DNF this thing. Do they take a nap before walking back down the trail?

My quads were tingling with each step over the rocks. Fallen tree limbs were true obstacles. And, I couldn't even imagine running again. But, what's this? The trail is leading down hill?

I told my legs to act like they were running. And, they did, in fact start to run--fast! I knew that the downhills were key to gaining an edge in this race. And, I did my best to avoid busting my rear while weaving around tree trunks through chest-high vegetation. I couldn't believe I was actually running again. I heard footsteps behind me, keeping pace with my footfalls as I navigated the trails and followed the orange flags. As the trail leveled out, the fellow behind me passed by and said, "thanks for the pace! I don't know what I would have done."

"No problem!" I replied.

Then, after just a few meters of downhill, we were hiking uphill again.

That first incline must have been the first "rock" in the race. I hadn't yet reached the second "rock", the highest point in the race, which is where the water stop would be.

So, I again found myself pushing harder than ever in an effort to scale the trail. Time passed slowly again, each big rock fooling me into thinking that the water stop was just around the corner.

Finally, I heard someone encouraging another runner up ahead. The encourager sounded like he had far too much breath in his lungs to be a runner in this race. So, I knew it must be the water stop.

I was right! Located on a large rock formation with a view of the lake and surrounding mountains far below, the water stop was a welcome site. I've never been so happy to hold a little Dixie cup in my hand.

The water stop guy told me that there was just 200 more meters of uphill trail. The rest of the race would be downhill. Awesome! I thanked him and hurried on my way, looking down at the ground just as the race photographer snapped my picture.

When I reached the second summit, I again made my legs run. The momentum was easy to build as the trail dropped steeply downward. The single track through a perilous tunnel of azaleas and fallen trees and over slippery, steep trails was an exciting start to the final descent. I felt certain that I'd end up injured by the end of this race. But, I ran downward as fast as I could, half sliding as if on skis, half propelling from tree trunks.

Someone was behind me and keeping pace well. I debated moving to the side and letting him pass right away. But, I was having too much fun racing through the tree tunnel without slowing down for someone. He seemed to be cool with it. We passed several runners who were clearly uncomfortable with the angle of the descent. I encouraged them as I went by. Although, I'm sure it sounded something like, "hhhwhwhwgohood jobpffpfp!"

Eventually, I slipped and swung to the right on a tree trunk in order to stop myself from falling down. This gave my pursuer the edge he needed to pass me. So, he was ahead now. No problem. I'm not competing here.

The trail changed to what appeared to be a dried up, rocky creek bed for the remainder of the last mile or two. The incline was less steep. But, dodging and jumping the rocks made for some interesting footwork. I kept thinking, "This is gonna hurt tomorrow. That's gonna hurt. Ooh, that's could have really hurt!"

A stream crossing allowed me to test the drainage capabilities of my Inov-8s. I guess they work fine for that. The cool water felt good on my feet.

Suddenly, the rocky trail opened up onto a gravel road. Not only that, but the incline was more than managable. I sped up, following the orange shirt in front of me. We rounded a corner onto soft mulch and were faced with one more small hill. People were cheering and clapping, urging us toward the finish. A little girl stood a few meters from the finish line saying that we just have to round the tree and we'll be golden!

And, just like that, my run was over. The volunteers at the finish tore the bottom portion of my bib for timing (No chips in this race). My finish time was 1:16:22. I was 84th out of 130 runners. Like I stated earlier, these mountain runners know how to run!

I walked around a bit, eating a banana and helping myself to the water in the refreshment tent. My legs were hot and numb. I marveled at the workout I'd just completed. As more runners approached the finish line, I clapped and cheered for them. I stretched, cooled off, and watched the award ceremony before a thunderstorm started dropping rain on us. It was a fantastic experience!

The weapon of choice: Inov-8 Flyroc 310

Inov-8 Flyroc 310 after the race

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Inov-8 f-lite 230 Shoe Review

The Reviewer

weight: 153 lbs
height: 5’ 11”
Avg MPW: 30 - 35
Foot strike: Mid
Recent Shoe History: Mizuno Nirvana 5 (size 11.5), Mizuno Elixir 4 (size 11.5), Inov-8 Flyroc 310 (size 11.5)

The Shoe

Inov-8 f-lite 230 in the boxThe f-lite 230 is a great, lightweight shoe. I won’t repeat what you’ve likely read about the f-lite 230 on the Inov-8 website. I can confirm for you that the shoe is every bit as blue as it is in the pictures (unless you buy the black ones). The mesh upper material stretches nicely, which is one of this shoe’s best features. And, it truly has a slipper-like fit, seeming to wrap around my foot rather than encase it. The transition from mid-foot to toe-off is smooth and comfortable thanks to the shoe’s flexibility. In short, the shoe fits and rides wonderfully.

I was nervous about buying the f-lite 230, because it is a rather narrow shoe. I certainly didn’t want to have another cramped shoe that gives me black toenails (I should have ordered a half size larger in the Flyroc 310s). But, I’d read somewhere that the mesh upper is flexible enough to allow for a greater feeling of freedom than one might think. This is true.

I was surprised at how comfortably my average-to-wide forefeet fit into these shoes. When I first put the shoes on, they definitely felt snug. But, after walking around and going for a run in them, the f-lite 230s proved incredibly adaptable to a wider average width foot.

The Reason

Buying the f-lite 230 was a pretty big step for me (no pun intended). After running primarily in heavy stability shoes for a long time, I knew that picking up a pair of neutral flats would be risky. I’d been working my way from the hefty Mizuno Nirvana to the lighter Elixir while running my long trail runs in the Inov-8 Flyroc 310s. I chose to work towards a lower profile shoe after reading about the perceived benefits of running barefoot or in minimal shoes. And, the f-lite 230 had been lauded by minimalists for it’s 6mm heel-to-toe drop and flexibility. So, I went for it.

The Performance

Inov-8 f-lite 230 on my feetI transitioned slowly into these shoes. I first used them for short, three-mile runs on pavement. They felt great. And, I suppose my time in the Flyrocs conditioned my achilles well enough to handle the lower profile midsole. After a few short runs, I took the f-lites out for a long run on the trails. They were perfect the whole time. I’ve managed to go as far as 18 miles (on trails) in the f-lites before feeling like I could use a bit more support for a longer distance. (Enter the Inov-8 Roclite 285)

As one might expect, the f-lites have a relatively minimal tread. The shoes handle pavement and hard-packed trails perfectly. I’ve worn them over technical single-track trails, too. And, I’d pick something else for that kind of terrain if you’ll be running on it for a long time. The shoes handle the surface well. But, you definitely feel the pointy rocks jabbing into the thin outsole. Having slightly bigger lugs on the bottom is better for the technical trails.


I love the f-lite 230. Their flexible upper and slipper-like feel make them a pleasure to wear. Try a pair on if you can find them anywhere.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Xterra Fisher Farms 10-Mile Trail Race Report

This is an archive-edition race report for the September 5, 2010, XTERRA Fisher Farms 10-Mile Trail Race.

The Fisher Farms Trail Race was the final event in a series of four NC trail races sponsored by XTERRA. Dirty Spokes Productions organized each race. And, from my experience at the Fisher Farms race, they did a nice job of it. (Although, it is odd that they didn’t have a race photographer. But, those pictures usually suck, anyway) The race offered a 5-mile and 10-mile option. The 5 miler consisted of one loop around the course, and the 10 miler doubled that. I chose the latter.

Fisher Farms Landscape
Fisher Farms is a recently developed park near Davidson, NC; an area with pleasantly rolling hills and lots of horse farms. The well-marked course utilized a series of mountain bike trails. So, there were plenty of moderate drop-offs, switchbacks, and jumps on this otherwise well groomed single-track trail. Much of the trail terrain was quite technical and offered a few rolling, decently steep hills. Thus, even running the same trail twice, I was never bored with it.

I rationalized my selection of this race based on the fact that it was less than three hours away from home. That is, I wouldn’t have to impose my overnight absence on my family, because I could surely wake up early and drive three hours to the race.

But, my wife told me that rationale was silly and urged me to just spend the night in a hotel near the race. So, I did. I found the cheapest hotel on the internet within a 30-minute drive from the race, and spent a very uncomfortable, sleep-deprived night there.

As many of you know, lack of sleep on the eve of a race doesn’t stop us from racing. So, I was energized when I woke up (for the fourth time) on Sunday morning. I dressed quickly, checked out of the room, and walked out into the cool morning air. It was still a bit dark at 6:45 (I wanted to get there early). And, traffic was light, which made my slight detours on the way to the race less frustrating.

Arriving an hour early, I picked up my packet and noted the rather simple, yet nicely crafted New Balance tech shirt in the bag. I stayed in the car to keep warm while other racers drove into the lot. I listened to my iPod for the first time in months.

Approximately thirty minutes before race time, I chewed a couple of shot bloks, put on my shoes, and did a few strides on the gravel road. The sun glistened on the dew-dotted hills. People stood in line at the port-o-potty. And, a Dachsund pranced around the parking lot proudly, because he was the only dog there. I laughed to myself when I noted that the "barn" of this race was actually across the parking lot from a real barn.

The RD called us to the starting point, which was a few meters from the starting line. He instructed us to follow him for about a tenth of a mile on the gravel road before turning around toward the starting line. This helped distribute runners into more manageable pacing groups. As we began our steady run, I saw the second-place winner of my last trail race. So, I figured my chances of being the overall winner this time were pretty much nil (read with ironic tone).

Upon entering the trail, I settled in behind a pair of Asics. This one didn't like running down hills. So, I passed at the first convenient opportunity. I'd forgotten my watch this time. So, I had to run on pure perceived effort, which is pretty much what I do all the time. So, running along at a comfortably fast pace for the first mile felt like a great way to start the race.

I ran behind a rather chatty, energetic fellow who seemed to want to coach me while we passed people. Shortly after mile 2 (I knew the distance because he provided reports from his Garmin every couple of minutes) I realized this guy was actually running the five mile race. So, I stopped keeping up with him in order to conserve my energy.

The question of whether to pass or pace kept cropping up in my mind during this race. Being that the course was predominantly single track, there were few convenient points at which to pass people. And, given my somewhat anti-competetive nature, I found myself settling on the pace of the person in front of me for a while. I wondered if I was being rude. Then I wondered if it would be more rude for me to pass the person right away. Then I wondered if it would be even more rude if I'd been running behind this person for a while only to spring past them when I decided to do so. (You see why I have very few friends)

The first five-mile lap was over much more quickly than I expected. I felt great. I grabbed a cup of water from the friendly aid station dude and set it down on the ground. (I know. You're supposed to throw it)

The last five miles went quickly, too, thanks to a very accomplished 60-something-year old runner. (He placed second in his age group. That's how I know) I was really impressed with this guy, not because of his age, but his size. He was at least as tall as I am (just shy of 6') and rather stocky on top. But, he knew how to move. And, that sort of thing is inspiring to me. So, I kept up with his pace for around two or three miles before finding a wide part of the trail at which to pass him. And, then I used as much of my energy as I knew how to use to race the last mile or so to the finish.

I placed second in my age group, 16th overall, with a time of 1:29:xx. But, then, it was a pretty small race. So, that's not a huge deal to most racers. But, it feels good to place, because I've never received an AG award before. The medal is neat. And, my four-year old claimed it as soon as I arrived home.

The weapon of choice for this race: Inov-8 f-lite 230

Inov-8 f-lite 230 after the race

Brief Interview with a First-Time Marathoner: A Medoc Trail Marathon Race Report

Note: This is not a real interview. I decided to have a little fun with the format of this race report. So, I composed it as if I were being interviewed by a running magazine.

After completing his first marathon at Medoc State Park in Hollister, NC, on October 16, 2010; AshwynGray (Ash) discusses his experience with Imaginary Running Magazine (IRM).

photo by Ron FlemingIRM: So, a trail marathon. What made you choose the Medoc Trail Run as your first marathon?

Ash: Since getting serious about running this past spring, I realized that I like running on trails more than roads. So, it seemed logical to choose my preferred terrain for my first marathon. I knew I wouldn’t be running a fast race. So, why not run a trail where I’d have fun navigating the rocks, roots, and hills?

IRM: Did the course meet your expectations?

Ash: The Medoc course is fantastic. The marathon consisted of three loops on a relatively runnable trail. I’d thought the course might consist of one big hill surrounded by flat terrain, since the park is called Medoc Mountain State Park. But, there were quite a few more hills than I anticipated, which proved more challenging and painful in the end. However, there were some very decent, flat portions that offered relief from the climbing. There were stairs, too. And, the loose, rocky areas didn’t disappoint.

IRM: And, for our gear junkies out there, what were your weapons of choice?

Ash: Ah, well, I ran in my Inov-8 Roclite 285s.Inov-8 Roclite 285 They were perfect: Lightweight, excellent traction...And, I didn’t suffer a single blister. I wore a Puma tech shirt and shorts, both lightweight and comfortable items, and a standard type of running hat to keep a little warmth in my head.

For hydration and holding my Clif Shot Bloks, I carried an Upward Direction 20oz bottle in a Nathan handheld strap, because the Nathan bottle tends to leak.

IRM: What was your frame of mind just before the race?

Ash: Well, of course, I was incredibly anxious. I’m just that way anytime I do something unpredictable for the first time. I’d spent the previous five days being very conscious of my nutrition, eating more carbs and protein per serving than I normally would, avoiding high-fat foods, etc. And, I thought I was sufficiently carb-loaded. Also, the weather was perfect (mid forties), and the atmosphere around the starting line was relaxed. So, I felt good. I was excited.

‘Course, my penchant for lateness caused me to have to run to the finish line from the parking lot, because I took forever when pinning my bib to my shirt. I took my place in line just eleven seconds before we were told to go. That made the start interesting for me.

starting the race

IRM: And your feelings afterward?

Ash: I was happy and disappointed at the same time. I mean, I’d secretly hoped to finish the race in four hours. I had no factual information on which to base this wish. I just thought that four was a nice round finish time for a first marathon. So, finishing in 4:55:xx was a bit upsetting. But, the timing aspect was secondary to the experience. So, I was ecstatic over the fact that I’d just completed my first marathon. I didn’t walk, shuffle, or hobble across the finish line. I ran! Then the nausea set in.

IRM: Ah, yes, your blood sugar was low. How long did it take for you to feel less nauseous after the race?

Ash: I ate some beans and rice, a banana, and drank a coke with water while resting in the grass for a while--maybe half an hour. Once I’d finished the coke and started driving home, my stomach felt better.

IRM: You trained for this marathon by using the Higdon Novice II plan, right? How did that go? And, how well do you think the training plan prepared you to run a race of this distance?

Ash: The plan seemed like a good one for someone who’d never run more than ten miles before. So, I definitely think it’s a great plan for a beginner. I bonked a couple of the long runs during the hot summer. But, I also had some very successful long runs, too. I figured that kind of imperfect training was normal. So, I didn’t let it get me down.

I’ve read comments by others about the Higdon plans being designed only to get a runner to the finish line. And, I agree with this. If I’d had a greater base and more endurance, I think I would have had a better time. The peak week in the Higdon plan was 35 or 36 miles. That’s really not much when training for a marathon. In the future, I’ll definitely base my training on a program with higher requisite milage.

IRM: Do you have any specific marathons on your calendar right now?

Ash: No, not really. The amount of time I needed away from the family on Saturday mornings was not ideal. Plus, at some point around mile 21 of this race, I thought to myself that it would be nice to just be done. I was hurting, tired, and thinking I’d been out there far too long. Those last five miles were the longest I’ve ever run.

I think that, if I had the ability to cover the distance more quickly and confidently, I would be more enthusiastic about the full marathon distance. So, I want to get a better handle on my endurance level and speed before planning to run another marathon.
Of course, that could all be done within a year’s time.

IRM: Would you run Medoc again?

Medoc 2010 Marathon SwagAsh: Yes, absolutely, even if it was the 10 mile race instead of the marathon. The race directors were really great about communicating with the runners prior to the race. Aid stations and race swag were top-notch, too. (There were boiled potatoes at the aid stations. And, I loved them!)

The finishers of the marathon received a nice medal and running vest in addition to the spiffy long-sleeve tech shirt.

IRM: Before you go, do you have any specific memories from this race that stand out in your mind?

photo by Ron FlemingAsh: Well, I ran with a couple of awesome ladies for the first several miles. This was their first marathon, too. And, they really helped me to remain conservative with my pace. When I ran ahead of them in the latter third of the race, I felt a little selfish. But, that changed when one of them chicked me in the last three miles and finished around four minutes ahead of me.

Also, while I was resting in the sun after the race, I was cheering other runners on as they ran toward the finish line. And, I saw one guy running to the finish as his two young kids (around 5 and 7, I’d say) came bounding over to him saying that they wanted to run with him. He gave each of them a high five, and the three of them ran to the finish line together. It was touching. I missed my family a lot at that point.


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