How to Maintain Fitness and Wellness Habits: Tips and Techniques

How to Maintain Fitness and Wellness Habits: Tips and Techniques

Maintaining your fitness and wellness habits can be challenging, especially when life gets
busy. However, developing simple and effective strategies will help you stay on track and
keep your health a priority. This article will provide you with a comprehensive guide to
staying fit and healthy, complete with tips and techniques that you can implement in your
daily routine.

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6 Tips For Quality Run Training

6 Tips For Quality Run Training

Tips for Quality Run Training Train no faster than one pace quicker than the race you are training for. For example, 5k pace is good for an Olympic-distance race, while half-marathon pace suffices...

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NYC Marathon: Goof Recap

NYC Marathon: Goof Recap

If you didn’t have an opportunity to read the epic writing in the previous post, I discussed the reason “why” I ran the NYC Marathon, then I highly recommend that you do.  Not just because the writing was fantastic, but it is my hope that the recap will be more emotionally moving.

Delta carried us to New York City and back with no issues.  I was upgraded to the business class on my departing flight, and returned to Tampa in economy class.  Even with my average size, I felt extremely cramped in economy.  Scott and his six-foot-one-inch frame looked extremely uncomfortable.  It is obvious, that Delta increased their upgraded business class at the expense of the comfort of the economy class passengers.  My suggestion to anyone flying Delta to the NYC Marathon, just include the cost of the upgrade if the flight it over 3 hours.

The plans were made well in advance for room and board.  After each of us declared our opinions for a hotel of choice, one of our teammates found a condo in Chelsea that would accommodate all of us comfortably and provide a full kitchen to save a little money on meals.

Per an email from VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) we were to pick up the keys at a local pizza restaurant located next door to the building housing the condo.

Team Tampa PKD arrived around 4 pm and the employees working that afternoon had absolutely no idea what we were talking about.  Of course, we called the management company and were basically told they did not receive the contract.  When we had the contract in hand we called the agency back but no one would answer our calls.

Here we were, in New York City, on marathon weekend, not to mention the third and fourth game of the World Series, homeless.

Teammate Kevin O’Brien to the rescue.  Kevin works for a landscape development company and happens to travel quite a bit, which was lucky for us.  With his Hilton Honors status we were able to procure two rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn located in Tribeca.  Thank you Kevin.

The rooms were updated, immaculate and comfortable.  Another, nice little value add of the Hilton Honors was the choice of extra points or free breakfast.  Kevin being the generous person he is, opted for the free breakfast for us which again helped save a little bit of money.  Again, Thank you Kevin.

With all of us now settled, we headed to the Javits Center to pick up our NYC Marathon packets.  The bibs numbered up to 72,999.  It still amazes me how easy it is to retrieve a bib, swag and t-shirt at the expo.  It runs like a well oiled machine.

NYC Marathon The Javits Center

The Javits Center

There is a booth for every few thousand bib numbers.  The athlete walks up to the booth that includes their bib number, shows ID and their registration card.  Then they receive their NYC Marathon bib and other instructions, verify their info and then walk towards the t-shirt area where on the way, they pick up a plastic swag bag that also serves as the gear bag for the race.  The official NYC Marathon t-shirt area is well-marked with a line for the different sizes and within a few minutes of walking into the expo, the athlete has bib, swag and t-shirt.

NYC Marathon The Expo

That isn’t the most exciting part of the  NYC Marathon expo.  There are vendors from all over the country whom give runners have the opportunity to try and buy the latest gear and gadgets.

One aspect of the expo I really enjoy, is the aura and feeling of the environment.  There is an excitement in the air of the larger expos that increases my heart rate a little and excites me to race.  It is probably one of my most favorite parts of any race weekend.

NYC Marathon Team Tampa PKD minus Karen

The following day we made another visit to the expo simply to walk around and make some purchases.  I found a couple of vendors that I had met at other races  and made some new contacts for product reviews.  Stay tuned.

I have loved New York City since the first moment I stepped into Manhattan years ago.  I have a lot of friends here, and I just really enjoy the pace and excitement of the city.

NYC Marathon NYC Times Square

There is always one place, that is mandatory to visit, at least once, every time I am in town.  John’s Pizza.  I couldn’t believe my ears, when Rich and Kevin decided not to partake.  It was their loss, so Scott and I headed over to John’s for lunch.  Carb loading, baby, I just love it.

I could write a full post on John’s, so I wont go into the heavenly scrumptiousness of their pizza here, but trust this self-proclaimed, pizza connoisseur, when I say the explosion of flavors that emanate from each bite, redefines the word delicious.

NYC Marathon Brad & Scott at John'sNYC Marathon Brad digging inNYC Marathon The Pie

Saturday night, we were scheduled to have dinner with the PKD Foundation and the other runners from different areas at Carmine’s.  Scott, Kevin, Karen and I were all pretty familiar with the city and had even known of Carmine’s as it is pretty well-known.

That night we entered the subway and got off at 42nd street in order to head over to 44th where Carmine’s was located, as we started up the stairs from the station, Scott mentions the address which made Kevin and I do a double take.  2400 W Broadway, which was Broadway and 90th street.  At the moment we were on 44th st which means we were 46 blocks away.  That was a few miles from where we were at that point.

Of course like men we decided that maybe the address was wrong and went up anyway.  As it turns out, it was correct.  There was a newer Carmine’s uptown and we were in the wrong place and already fashionably late.

It ended up working out for us again.  We caught the subway up to 86th and when we arrived, food was just being served.  How long could this luck hold, right?

The dinner was fantastic and we met a bunch of really amazing people who were just as passionate about running for PKD as we were.

NYC Marathon PKD Runners NYC Marathon Carmines Table

Like good little runners we went back to the hotel and retired for the night in anticipation for the NYC Marathon the next morning.

NYC Marathon The Night Before clothes layout

As I mentioned both in the last post and in my NYC Marathon recap from last year; the logistics for this race are not the most convenient.  It involves a ferry to Staten Island then a bus to security, a decent walk to the assigned village and finally another walk to the specific corral.

An announcement came out from the NYC Marathon staff, about two months prior to sign up for transportation to the start and of course we all missed and ended up getting assigned the 5:45am ferry to Staten Island.  Since three of us had already experienced the ferry and knew that there was no accountability, we decided to just take the 7am ferry instead, not only giving us a little more time in the morning, but also keeping us out of the chilly temps for a couple of hours.

The lesson I learned here was there are two choices, either go by the scheduled time and arrive with a lot of time to spare, sit around have some coffee and bagels while waiting for the start, or go a little later and hope to make it to the corral at the time of your scheduled start.

We took the latter ferry and ended up having to wait for two ferries to get over to the island and then when finally getting on the bus, the traffic was so heavy we ended up having to rush to the corrals in order to make the 9:40 start.  It was probably perfect for the rest of the team that had later starts, but for Rich and I it was a little tight.  Personally, I do prefer the latter.

NYC Marathon Statue of Liberty from Ferry

I found my green village, dropped off my gear bag with my long sleeve shirt and pants, and headed to the corral just prior to the 9am cut-off to enter the corral.  Now I had about half-an-hour to stretch and use the portlet one last time.

I was talking to a woman from Basel, England when I heard my name being called.  Ryan Wallace, was a Facebook friend and runner I met at last year’s race.  A really fun guy to hang with, so after chatting for a bit we found we were looking at accomplishing the goal of 3:50 or better.  Score!  Someone to run with.

NYC Marathon Start Corral

In the Start Corral

They opened up the corral to head closer to the start line around 9:30am, and just after the final note to one of the most beautiful renditions of our national anthem I have ever heard, sung by opera singer (and runner) Susanna Phillips Huntington, and announcements by the executive director, the gun went off and we were running.

The NYC Marathon is the largest marathon in the world.  Largest meaning the most athletes run the course of any marathon in the world..  This year there were over 50,000 finishers.  It boasts spectacular views, fantastic support from the spectators, and a challenging course.  The route takes the runners through all five major boroughs of the city, starting in Staten Island, crossing the Verrazano Bridge to Brooklyn, heading north into Queens crossing the 59th St bridge, then into Manhattan crossing the Queensboro Bridge, north into the Bronx over the Willis Ave Bridge, turning south back into Manhattan over the Madison Avenue bridge and then finally the incline to the finish line in the heart of Central Park.

The experience this year was better than last, as the temperatures were much better as we started around 55 degrees Fahrenheit  and just a little breeze versus the 30 degree temps and 33 mph winds from 2014.

Ryan, his friend, and I started the NYC Marathon conservative for the first couple of miles, but as we rounded the first 5k I noticed we started to increase our pace.  I only was witness to it due to calculating my 5k under 27 minutes, which being under a 9 minute mile that soon, concerned me a little, but I was feeling really strong.

The spectators in the NYC Marathon are everywhere and they clap, yell and scream not only for their family and friends, but for any one they seem to be inspired by.  Statistics pretty much show, that even know there were over 50,000 athletes running this race, and hundreds of thousands of finishers in marathons all over the world, less than 1% of the population has finished a marathon.  In other words there were a lot of people to be inspired by during this race and the spectators expressed that.

NYC Marathon brad behind ryan

The Goof peeking out behind Ryan

Ryan and I ran together up to about mile nine, constantly telling each other to slow down, yet neither of us could hold a slower pace for very long.  About that point, a pressure emanating from my bladder was increasing to a point where I was just not comfortable any longer, so I speeded up to the mile 10 aid station to relieve myself.  My thinking was speed up, use the facilitates and then speed back up just enough to catch Ryan again.

Unfortunately, we didn’t cross paths again during the race.  I was out there on my own, all by myself.  It was just me and 50,000 of my closest friends.

There was plenty to see as I continued on my NYC Marathon journey.  Achilles International volunteers were out in droves this year with guides helping blind and other challenged runners through the race.  Guides would run in a formation with one tethered to the blind runner and then three-to-four others running on each side of them constantly helping to clear a path through the crowd.   It was so motivating, that I knew somewhere down the line in my own journey I would have to help like that in some way in the future.

As I crossed the 13.1 mile marker of this NYC Marathon, and saw the clock I realized that I had been running for an hour and fifty minutes.  That for me was fast, but I was still feeling really strong.  The sights of the area’s architecture, parks, people and the smells of the local restaurants were consistently keeping my mind occupied as I just let my legs decide what they were going to do.

I was concerned though.  I know enough about myself, that keeping this pace would have it’s consequences toward the final miles.

My favorite bridge on NYC Marathon course is the Queensboro bridge.  It feels like it never ends, but the view of Manhattan and the Hudson is spectacular.  Not to mention, the completion of the bridge is a u-turn with a horde of spectators that it feels like a roar of excitement is exuded from them.  I felt a boost of energy when I crossed mile 16.

I was actually a little impressed with myself as I hadn’t really slowed as of yet.  It is usually around this mile marker that begins the stiffness of the previous miles.

The next checkpoint for me is usually mile 18, but that too came and went without any real pain.  My inner dialogue started having delusions of grandeur of possibly finishing the race around the 3:40 mark which be a huge PR for me.

As I crossed the Willis avenue bridge, I felt the start of a twinge in my left leg and a smile crept across my face and out loud I said to myself,”There it is.”

The NYC Marathon mile 20 clock showed I was two hours and fifty-two minutes into the race, which was already better than last year.  My thinking at that point was that I could pretty much slow to a ten minute mile at this point and still cross under four hours, but that didn’t happen.

Mile 21 came at just three hours which was a first in a while for me.  I am usually only at 20 by three hours and here I was a full mile closer to the finish.  My period of optimism was cut short by a stiffness in my right leg that quickly became painful.

NYC Marathon Starting to hurt

I walked though the next NYC Marathon aid station and grabbed a banana from the hand of a volunteer thinking just get some more glycogen to my legs so I finish this last five miles.

What little stride I had became periods of walking between miles 22 and 23 as the pain started to sear and engulf the rest of my leg.  It was getting harder and harder to bend my right knee as the stiffness was setting in.

Central Park came and the crowds were getting louder and more dense.  I did not want to walk through the park with all these people.  I wanted to run in strong, but the pain was getting more and more intense.  I actually yelled at myself, “C’mon legs.  WTF are you doing!!!”

NYC Marathon Almost There

My mind drifted to Erika at that moment.  As I was trying to run stiff-legged and just suffer through this intense pain, I thought that this frustration and uncomfortable feeling must be what Erika feels all the time.  The disappointment at feeling run down, the pain that comes with these huge cysts on her Kidneys and the eternal uncomfortable feeling that keeps her from sleep and just enjoying life, must be one hundred times worse that what I was feeling.

If Erika had to continually go through this pain, then I could at least endure it until I reach the finish line.

I didn’t stop running, no matter how much it hurt.  I thought about Erika and the last couple of years of misery she must have been going through, and how Jennifer would also have to also have a painful times ahead through her recovery from donating a kidney.  It kept me going as I really felt like I was going through it for them.

I am not a totally idiot, I know that running the NYC Marathon of which I enjoy doing, really would do nothing for either of them.  It was the fundraising and support where we as a team were doing the most good.  Maybe it was for me.  Maybe because I was not able to donate my kidney, that I the pain I was feeling now was so that I could empathize with both of them.

NYC Marathon The Finish

The NYC Marathon finish line was just as glorious as the other marathons I have completed.  I was extremely happy to cross in 3:56 and at least beat my time from last year by about 10 minutes.

My official NYC Marathon finisher was medal handed to me, I was congratulated by a volunteer and ushered through to take continue the long mile walk to retrieve my gear bag.  I was engulfed on all four sides with athletes as we all did the marathon shuffle through the park.  There was a sense of peace and a little giddiness that filled the air.

NYC Marathon Medal FInish

We all did something extraordinary today.  Whatever the reason “why”, we were bound at that moment by the accomplishment and conclusion of a journey that started with the decision to embark, the hours of training and the final step across the NYC Marathon Finish LIne.

NYC Marathon Stepping Across the finish

Once dressed in dry clothes, I found Rich and we headed out to The Keg Room which was where Team Tampa PKD would gather back together.  As Rich and I were in the first wave, where he PR’d at an incredible time of 3:27, we arrived first.  Kevin, whom was actually in the last wave to take off, showed up next followed closely by Karen and finally Scott.  Everyone finished and accomplished what they set out to do, but I was most proud of Scott.

NYC Marathon Keg Room

Scott had micro tears in his gastrocnemius muscle (Calf) and had been trying to rehab it for the last couple of weeks.  I really didn’t think he would finish the NYC Marathon and we all told him it would have been ok if he didn’t .  He did though and under 5 hours with walking.  He also said that he felt like he didn’t feel like he did anymore damage.

NYC Marathon

Scott Bragan

I am proud of the whole team.  Team Tampa PKD was able to raise over 20,000 for PKD, finish the NYC Marathon and, most importantly, find a kidney donor for Erika.

NYC Marathon

Team Tampa PKD – (L to R) Scott Bragan, Rich O’Dea, Karen Dempsey, Brad Minus, & Kevin O’Brien

 

What kind of challenge are you partaking in or plan to journey towards?

Carpe Vitam!

How to Run Faster by Running Slower

How to Run Faster by Running Slower

I can hear it now….”Know wonder they call you a Goof…you are crazy.”, “So, if I run slower I will get faster?  You are out of your mind.”  It was not to long ago I used to think the same thing, but as with everything I post, there are reasons and science to back it up.

Let’s face it, logic would dictate that pushing the pace of your easy days, as close to race pace as possible, would help you get fit faster and help you speed up, right?  A lot of coaches, including myself, will tell you to run slow on your easy days, and easy days should be making up anywhere from 50-75% of your weekly mileage.

I have clients continuously asking me, “why are my easy days so slow?”  The latest is my famous sit downs with my runners telling them to slow down after examining their data and finding them running tempo speeds during an easy day.

The answer to the question is what Arthur Lydiard and most other coaches would call the aerobic system.  The aerobic system, or aerobic development, is the one of the most important fundamentals into unlocking your true potential.

Let us first check the stats on the energy contribution the aerobic system provides for races.  As you can in the chart below, even the shorter events like the mile, over 80% of the energy required to run the race is produced via the aerobic system.image

 

Aerobic System?  What is it?

Aerobic training is the scientific fact that to move your body at higher intensities, the body needs to break down sugar and convert it to glycogen so it can be used as energy.

The aerobic system plus oxygen starts a chemical reaction known as Aerobic Glycolysis which continuously powers continuous endurance activities.  In the aerobic system energy ATP is produced through Pyruvic Acid and Lipid/Protein fragments entering the Kreb Cycle and the Electron Transport Cycle.

Uh…what?

During aerobic respiration (yeah, that’s breathing) the body uses all the oxygen it needs to power the muscles.  When you are running in your “aerobic zones” (easy runs), your muscles have enough oxygen to produce all the energy they need to perform.

See?  Improving your capacity to transport and efficiently use all the available oxygen to produce energy will enable you to race faster since this makes up 85-99% of the energy needed to race.

Since running easy is aerobic development, what better way is there to train the aerobic system?  There is none.

What goes on in the body during aerobic development?

Capillary development – capillaries are the smallest of the body’s blood vessels and they help deliver oxygen and nutrients to the muscle tissues while exporting waste products out.  The larger the number of capillaries you have surrounding each muscle fiber, the faster you can transport oxygen and carbohydrates to your muscles.

Aerobic training (easy running) increases the number of capillaries per muscle fiber, thus improving how efficiently you can deliver oxygen and fuel to your working muscles and how quickly they can clear waste products.

Myoglobin Increase

Myoglobin is a protein in the muscles that binds the oxygen that enters the muscle fiber.  When oxygen becomes limited during intense exercise, myoglobin releases oxygen to the mitochondria to produce more energy.

The more myoglobin you have in the fibers of your muscles, the more oxygen is transported under aerobic stress.  Like, uh, during a race.  Aerobic training increases the amount of myoglobin you have in your muscle fibers.

Mitochondria creation

Mitochondria are microscopic organelle found in your muscles cells that contribute to the production of ATP (energy). In the presence of oxygen, mitochondria breakdown carbohydrate, fat, and protein into usable energy.

Therefore, the more mitochondria you have, and the greater their density, the more energy you can generate during exercise, which will enable you to run faster and longer.

Aerobic training increases both the number and the size of the mitochondria in your muscle fibers.

Suffice it to say that aerobic development is the single most important factor to long-term development.

Of course, track workouts, VO2 max sessions, tempo runs and cross training will increase your fitness and are still incredibly important to racing faster.  However, nothing will help improve continuously like developing the aerobic system.

Aerobic development is dependent upon running in your aerobic zones (for my runners Zones 1-3).  This is why running faster on your easy days develop the aerobic system.  Once you step out of those aerobic zones, on easy runs you diminish development of your aerobic system, but you also increase the chance for injury.  Nope, two negatives do not make a positive in running.

This is one of the single biggest mistakes runners of all experiences make in their training.

As a coach and trainer I have always distinguished myself because I am always able to give my clients and readers the “why”.  (Sometimes my clients end up telling me to just shut my mouth. when I am training with them because I am continuously telling them why they are doing each movement of an exercise or workout.  I guess it may not be an advantage all the time.  Go figure.)

Optimal Aerobic Development 

Scientific research has been able to identify how the aerobic system adapts and responds to certain training paces.  Physiologically we know:

  • Capillary development appears to peak at between 60 and 75 percent of 5k pace.
  • Maximum stimulation of myoglobin in Type I muscle fiber (Endurance Muscles) occurs at about 63-77 percent of VO2max. 63-77 percent of VO2max is about 55-75 percent of 5k pace.
  • Two researchers, Holloszy (1967) and Dudley (1982) published some of the defining research on optimal distance and pace for mitochondrial development. In short, Holloszy found that maximum mitochondrial development when running at 50-75 percent of V02 max. Likewise, Dudley found that the best strategy for slow-twitch, mitochondria enhancement was running for 90 minutes per outing at 70 to 75 per cent V02 max.

optimal-easy-run-pace

It is pretty clear now right?  Your optimal easy run pace for aerobic development is between 55 and 75 percent of your 5k pace, with the average pace being about 65 percent.

It’s also evident that running faster than 75% of your 5k pace on your long run has very little additional physiological benefit.

In fact, the research indicates that it would be just as advantageous to run slower as it would be to run faster.  Running around half of your 5k pace is pretty easy right?  Wouldn’t you know it, the evidence is clear that it still provides near optimal aerobic development.

Feel free to let me hear your feedback.  I welcome any other case studies, personal experiences and other research as I am always learning.  I provide you with the best content I can, but I have an open-mind and know that there may be other research out there that may negate information I post.

Carpe Vitam!

~IronGoof

How to Improve Nutrition During Cancer Treatments

How to Improve Nutrition During Cancer Treatments

I personally have been involved with charities that specifically relate to Cancer for over a decade now.  With that in mind and the fact the my friend Ben Mena has taken on a challenge with the The Little Things for Cancer and created a team to run the Marine Corps Marathon, I thought this would be an appropriate time to incorporate a guest post by my friend David Haas.  His bio is at the bottom of the post, but he is very active in creating awareness and outreach for Mesothelioma.  Enjoy this great article and pass it on to anyone you know that cane be of benefit.  Carpe Viam!

How to Improve Nutrition During Cancer Treatments

Nutrition plays an important role in helping to prevent many types of cancers, but it also plays a major role for those going through cancer treatments and therapies. Eating the right foods can help you maintain your energy levels, gain needed strength to go through treatment and improve your quality of life. However, vicious side effects such as nausea, loss of appetite and extreme fatigue can seriously affect your ability to eat.

Learning how to side step these problems and improve your nutrition can make cancer treatments easier to handle.

Nausea

Common cancer therapies such as surgery, radiation or chemotherapy often result in nausea. Since weight loss can lower immune system function, sap your strength, and lower your vitality, it’s particularly important to learn how to improve your nutritional condition when nauseated.

Start by eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. Sipping carbonated beverages, using foods or drinks that contain ginger; sipping clear soups and avoiding spicy foods can also help. It’s also important to stay hydrated, so focus on foods that contain plenty of liquids such as puddings, custards and creamy soups.

Loss of Appetite

The stress and emotional upheaval that comes with a cancer diagnosis can seriously affect your desire to eat. Uncertainty, fear of the unknown and strained family relationships only adds to the burden. Even if you don’t feel hungry, it’s important to eat a balanced diet that’s high in protein, fruits and vegetables. The University of Arizona Cancer Center suggests you take advantage of the time of day when your appetite is best.

Focusing on higher calorie foods for both meals and snacks will help because you won’t need to eat as much volume. Try adding fortified protein powders to milkshakes, snack on cheese and nuts, and add sauces or extra fats to your vegetables. Making sure you exercise everyday can also help to increase your appetite.

Fatigue

When you’re tied and worn out due to anxiety, medication, or treatment, poor nutritional practices only makes the depression or dragged out feeling worse. Getting plenty of liquids, exercise, and nutrient-dense foods in the form of colorful fruits and vegetables are important to keep the fatigue from getting you down.

While some causes of fatigue from cancers can’t be avoided, like the symptoms of mesothelioma, make sure you’re eating plenty of iron-rich whole-grain cereals, getting adequate sleep and eating enough protein foods such as eggs, beans and dairy. While paying attention to nutritional details can feel like it’s more trouble than it’s worth, keeping your nutritional intake high during cancer treatments can give you that extra edge you need to survive.

David Haas
Joining the MCA in 2011, David Haas is the Director of Awareness Programs. In additionDavidHaas to researching much of the information available to our site’s visitors, David often blogs about programs available and campaigns underway at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. David is a fitness enthusiast who frequently runs, climbs, and bikes for enjoyment. He is also very involved in outreach associated with awareness about the dangers of asbestos for many different organizations and groups of people.
Read more: http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/david/bio.htm#ixzz2PVMlj2OR

Clearwater Halfathon: Race Report

The windows were open in my Mini Cooper Clubman as I drove down Rte 60 in order to take part in the Clearwater Running Festival’s Half Marathon. The cloudy and sixty-one degree temperature was preferable for me, but for some as the temperature was known to rise, it may have felt even a little warm. I was not sure about this race. I hadn’t run anything over four miles since Ragnar, and even the ten mile leg I did run was a little more difficult than I thought it would be. This race would turn out to be no different.

Interesting enough, if it was possible to rewind as little as two months, and I was asked about doing a race of 13.1 miles, I would have said, “A half marathon? No problem.” As the duration of my running workouts continued to be reduced due to my self-prescribed “off season”, I didn’t realize how fast my endurance would decrease as well. All the research I have read has indicated if endurance training is halted completely, only 10% of the capacity is lost at the end of the first week, but up to 35-45% is lost by the end of the second week. By the end of this race I could prove this theory personally.

Arriving at Coachman Park was easy, and parking was abundant. There was plenty of parking, packet and chip pick-up were well organized, and the announcements were clear and informative, not unlike every other event that race director Chris Lauber is involved with. The only drawback, as with every race, was the line at the porto-lets prior to the race. The irony is that it does seem to the best place to find runner friends also taking part.

Cheryl & I at the Start

The start line was filled with hugs and handshakes from friends, clients and acquaintances sharing the nervous energy common to most long endurance races. I was lucky to find my friend Cheryl who was attempting her first marathon, in order to wish her good luck and to enjoy the race. The Clearwater Running Festival included a total of four different races. A 5k, a 5-miler, a half marathon and a marathon, all of which started at the same time with the turn-around points specifically marked for each race. After a beautiful, operatic version of the Star Spangled banner, a cannon boomed signaling the start of all four races.

The first mile was light and easy and took the athletes through downtown Clearwater before making the way up and over the Clearwater Bridge. The advantage toward heading toward the beach was the grade on the bridge was slight, but long. As long as the runner bends from the ankles it is possible to push the hips into the bridge causing their momentum to be provided by gravity which is much more efficent. I coach what I personally do, so as I as fresh and pushing my hips into the bridge, it was very easy for me. The second and third mile led us through downtown Clearwater Beach which was gorgeous. It was slightly overcast, there was just a slight breeze coming over the water, the air was crisp and it was, well…perfect. Nothing changed as we trotted over the Sand key Bridge, which again, while running South the grade was slight and long. The aid station at mile 4 was my strategic walk station, so I grabbed a Honey Stinger Gel, from my belt, washed it down with a little Gatorade and kept going. Up to this point I was running right around 7:55 minute/miles and I was feeling really good.  Ahead of me was a friend of mine, and amazing runner, Pila Cadena and while I knew she had put in a lot more miles than I did running over the last couple of months, she turned out to be the mouse to my cat. We exchanged leads around Sand Key Park and then back south on Gulf Boulevard.

As we approached mile 7 which was the turn-around point, I started to worry about Cheryl and how she was doing, so while running north on Gulf Boulevard, I started looking at the runners traveling the opposite direction. The breeze had picked up a little but I didn’t really notice it because I was concentrating on finding Cheryl. I ended up noticing a bunch of other friends though, Teresa, Holly, Hugo, Nicole, and Bjorn, but I didn’t see Cheryl. Finally, as I was coming upon the 8 mile mark I noticed her running and chatting with a friend and she looked strong, so with that out of my mind I focused on the music in my ears and the last five miles. That was short lived when Parks came up behind me and struck up a conversation. To be totally honest, it kind of irked me a little. Parks is an amazing athlete, but he is a little older,  so of course my ego took a beating when he decided to pickup the pace. I already felt I was at max speed if I was going to finish the race with a little bit of energy left, so I let him go, even though my ego was saying the opposite. Pila was in front again, and as I was determined not to get “chicked”, by this four-foot-eleven, wonderful woman, whom also has a couple of years on me, I picked up the pace. First, the opposite side of the Sand Key Bridge, which graded much steeper than the front side. I increased the angle of my body and pushed my hips into the hill and my speed increased on my way up, however, for some reason the spring was gone in my step. I realigned myself, but it felt more like I was super speed walking than running. I was passing runners, which was fine, but I had no bound whatsoever. As momentum carried me over the top of the bridge, I tightened my core and let me legs go, which opened up my stride and on the way down my speed increased and it felt like my spring was back.

Pila was in my sights and started to close the gap. At mile 11 we could see the Clearwater Bridge coming up which meant the end of the race was just over the bridge, down the twisted ramp and across the finish. Prior to the beginning of the bridge two younger runners overtook me, and as I tried to keep up with them, I noticed for the first time, my legs were not cooperating. I wasn’t in pain, but my legs would just not take the messages I was giving them from my brain to pick up the cadence and move faster. The two gentlemen kept moving past me, but I had a weapon per say. The bridge was steep and no one is better on hills than me either running or biking. My legs while continuing to defy me still were consistent so again, all I had to do was tighten my core and my legs would continue in the consistent pace they were moving. I did just that and whizzed by both of the runners with the thought of putting enough distance between us in order for them not to catch me on the other side of the bridge. At the top I realigned myself, squeezed every last bit of strength I had left in my core and let my legs take me to the twisted ramp in order to finish the course. I hesitantly looked back and noticed both of them slowing on the backside, because the were putting on the brakes, while I was letting gravity take my legs to whatever stride they wanted. There was only Pila now in my sights.  As we hit the twisted ramp and I looked over the banister I saw her just below me, with Dawn just in front of her. Now I wanted Dawn too. I increased the angle and started to pick up speed, but of course just like most other runners, they saw the finish line too and increased their pace as well. The three of us hit the last tenth of mile, 1–2–3, but I could not make up the distance, and I saw Dawn cross, then Pila before I finally came to a halt across the finish line.

After crossing

I was officially “chicked” by about 20 seconds which is not necessarily a bad thing. While I could rationalize that our strategies were different as I walked through aid stations four, seven and nine, strategically, and Pila never even grabbed water, there is still no denying the results. Obviously, as Dawn and Pila were in different age groups, they both ended up on the podium, which made me feel a little better. I, on the other hand, ended up 14 out of 38, which left me at least in the top 50% which is normal for me. It wasn’t a PR, by a long shot, but it was a fun race.
Afterwards, I decided to hang out to see the awards for the Half Marathon because so many of my friends and acquaintances ended up on the podium. The presentations were nice with Suzanne Henslee on the microphone and Chris Lauber presenting the awards. It was great to see people I have trained with up on the podium.

Pila on the Podium

As the wind blew through the car on my way home, I recollected the race and how I felt. My body felt beat, but not in pain and my mind was racing on what the future would hold. There is a lot of training ahead of me with plenty of testing along the way with different races. There was one thing that was bothering me. Two years ago I decided to do a couple of races where I just didn’t care about my times or performance and those races were a lot of fun. I am obsessing more about my times lately which is a different kind of fun, but I wonder if that will be a means to an end. I have the knowledge and the experience to complete all of my training without, (or at least with minimal) injury, but will I sacrifice that to increase performance? At this point I would say no, but when push comes to shove, and I am participating in a race, will I let my ego takeover and increase my chances to DNF a future race? Only time will tell.

Whit and I 
Carpe Viam!

Bjorn and I after the race