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Running 26.2 miles in over 80 degrees

This year’s Boston Marathon could be another high heat race. Be prepared. Thanks Danya


ImageDanya Crawford – ran the Boston Marathon on April 16, 2012 with a finishing time of 3:21:00
“I don’t blog and very rarely post on Facebook but I ran a marathon today, the temperatures were in the high 80s the entire time. I feel like it would be fun to share what I learned, so for all you runners out there here are the things I did and as a result had a really good time.” – Danya
  1. Hydrate and consume more salt then usual the couple days before the marathon.
  2. Adjust your goals pick another race a few months down the road and use this one as a training run.
  3. Adjust your pace, I went just over a min slower than race pace and it felt really good.
  4. Walk through EVERY water stop and consume a little Gatorade and water. P.S when you feel like the Gatorade is going…

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Bellingham Bay Marathon 2014

My marathon finish results were still pleasant despite coming up short!

This year the Bellingham Bay Marathon was near perfect conditions for each of the 5K, half marathon and full marathon courses.  I had personal set a goal to run the full marathon under four hours.  The day shaped up with an excellent temperature and no wind conditions to speak of.  As the race took place, I only faced a couple factors that influenced my performance that could be identified in a way where it’s worthy to take note and learn for future performances.

My basic plan was to go out slower than race pace for the first 10k.  My idea was to finish the last 32K with a strong race pace.  I took the time to print out my split times to wear on my wrist for easy reference.  I had calculated to the very minute for each of the water/hydration stations along the course. BBM 2014 boulevard park

I use a Garmin FR70 runner’s gps wristwatch.  I had calibrated the device on a short 3 mile course at my local school track.   At the beginning of race day I felt confident everything was set up for a perfect run.  I did start out slow as planned with some early jitters and nerves that caused me to want to run faster than my planned slow start.  But all in all, I kept my pace under control.

As I checked in with each of the mile banner markers set up along the course, I begin to notice that my calibration was off just a little.  My gps was indicating that I was making more distance that actual mileage.  So, in a best case scenario I attempted to compensate for the difference in calibration.  It wasn’t until I reached the 10K flag that I realized that I had not compensated accurately and had completed this split faster than I should have. BBM 2014 mi3

By the time I reached the 13.1 midway maker and read the course timer, I realized that I had governed my pace according to what I thought was appropriate but was actually well over 6 minutes ahead of my desired time.  This was a daunting realization that I knew would wreck havoc on my last half of the marathon course.  I had left too much effort on the first half of the course and would not have the strength to finish as strong as I had hoped to finish with.

Mile 22 was when I had very little strength to contend with the race pace I had desired and knew at this point I was not going to gain any of the lost time that had slipped away to my diminishing pace that I was able to maintain.  I had slipped to being over 6 minutes behind my planned race position.

At the finish I crossed the finish line at 4:09:55.  I was near 10 minutes over my goal time.  This was disappointing for me, but in comparing my time with the previous year’s PR, I had cut 22 minutes off my PR time so that was still very pleasant for me.

Take away lessons:  Take extra measures to ensure the accuracy of the gps calibrations.  Maybe consider running with a pacer, to ensure a more even pace throughout the course.  What about you?  What have you learned from one of your recent performances?

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May 10, 2014 – Race Start: 8:00amImage

First, I have to say that I was encouraged to hear so many people speak with such respect about this race course as I waited for registration and then at the starting line. There was a number of veteran trail runners who’d volunteered to help, so I asked them why they weren’t participating this year. They simply replied,” It is too tough of a course.” Gulp.

I was pretty confident that I could run this course with over an 8,000 ft. elevation gain, but those pre-race jitters definitely encroached on me. My strategy was to give respect to the elevation gain of this race and start out at a controlled pace.  I felt good during the first 8-10 miles.  I felt no pressure to exert the race effort to improve my standing in the race.  I ran my race and didn’t let my heart rate increase to that point of no return. 

It was just after this point in the course that I came upon a couple guys who were enjoying the trail and their conversation. The trail was rather technical and I’d run this section many times.  I followed tightly behind them and waited for a side trail where I could pass the runners.  But during this time of running with the two fellows, they engaged me in their conversation.  They wanted to know if this was my first 50K, where I was from, my age, etc.  Typically, runners will size up those running around them so they know where they stand in either keeping up with that runner or passing them by.  I didn’t mind answering their questions but I knew my pace was faster. I was so much more familiar with the course and knew where I was going; so when the opportunity presented itself, I confidently darted around the two runners. 

I felt good stretching out the distance between myself and the two I overtook. Five to six miles later, I started to hear their voices off in the distance.  Within the next two miles the runners that I overtook had caught back up to me.  I could feel that I had expended the energy distancing myself from them at the expense of eventually slowing my pace. At this point, they not only caught up but overtook me; and they were on their way to a slow steady pace that left me behind.  There was a point later where I caught up to them as I approached a long hill.  I made the mistake of thinking I could surpass them on the hill.  But, the cost of energy and fatigue that it cost for this short burst to pass them on the hill caused me to drop considerably in my endurance strength, and I severely slowed down in my race pace with no hope of recovering soon enough to catch back up. 

One comment I recall hearing on the steep hills was, “It makes more sense to walk the hills. I’m keeping up with your jog pace and I’m walking and conserving my hamstrings.” After a number of days of reflection on this trail running truth, I’ve realized that I could have engaged the strength of my gluteus.  With such drastic elevations in a race like Lost Lake, you have to be ready to engage all your muscle groups to sustain you for the long haul.

During the second half of the course, I recovered by focusing on nutrition and proper electrolyte intake. It was in the 28th mile that I tested my marathon pace on a long level trail.  I felt good about the ability to run at a fairly strong pace.  I did not have the strength or energy to slow jog on the last elevation gain at mile 29 but did make pretty good time downhill to the finish line.   I look forward to seeing how this translates into my road races later this year. 

My time: 8 hrs 22 mins.  Two words:  Brutal Course.

What’s the toughest race you’ve ever ran?


Lost Lake 50K Race Elevation Profile



Image– Crossing the Finish Line

It was a day for Course Records and PR’s!  This year Max King had a 3:35:42 finish, setting a new course record by four and a half minutes. Temperatures in the upper 40s Fahrenheit, overcast skies, no precipitation, and tacky trails made ideal conditions. I ran the course with a 6:33:55 finish, setting a new PR by 54 minutes! If you have to run in the windy weather, it’s not too often that you only contend with a tailwind.  But, I definitely enjoyed the boost that I received when the wind blew on my back for the last leg of the course.  It was a great day for racing with only four participants with a DNF.

In the endurance sport like a 50K race, a catch-22 situation for amateurs is the issue of going too fast too early.  You want to go fast to keep up with your goal pace, but if you go too fast too early you will pay for it at the end of the race by not having enough stamina to finish strong.  This catch-22 is also referred to as the “too early too fast danger” in endurance sports.  Elite athletes train hard to address this factor and are able to use their experience to cope with the stamina factor, rendering the catch-22 situation less of a detrimental threat.  I fall into the amateur ultra runner category, and consider myself a beginner with three 50K races under my belt now.  My stamina level for a 50K race is like a jig-saw puzzle without the corner pieces in place yet.  But, I know in time, I will have a good framework in place for my racing experience.

What was my game plan?  I decided not to monitor my pace or times this year.  Just let my training carry me through the course.  I decided to monitor my nutrition and timing of nutritional intake as close to schedule as possible.  I monitored both course times and nutritional times during my training runs; but  I wanted to free myself up as much as possible from things that would hold me back on race day.  So, I only wrote down my timed intervals for when I would refuel, and I kept the timed list in my pocket as I ran the race. However, I found it interesting that I did not once refer to this list during the race.  Apparently, with that singular focus on my nutritional timing it simplified things enough that I was able to glance at my watch throughout the race and keep track of when to refuel. My fueling never got out of control and I did not make the mistake I did last year by neglecting my nutrition.  I actually felt strong and nutritionally vibrant all the way to the finish line this year.  As I reflect back on things, I feel my game plan was successful and I will be able to fine-tune this strategy to incorporate other simplified factors in my game plan for future races. 

In the course of the race, I reached the midway point in three hours.  I wondered if the midway timer was working correctly.  I was a good 15 minutes ahead in my quick calculations of where I should be.  I felt good about my perception on how the race was going for me and it spurred me on as I continued along the Lost Lake Trail.  This section of the course is where I was able to pick up my pace and the terrain is less technical, which  allows for the opportunity to maintain a consistent running pace. 

 As I drew closer towards the end of the Lost Lake trail, the hills became more challenging to me.  It was at this section of the course last year that devastated my overall race pace.  This year was a much better race for me.  The same hills that handicapped me last year felt easier for me to ascend this year.  I noticed that I was making better time than some of the other runners on the hills.  I could see that I was shortening the distance between myself and those walking the hills ahead of me.  These types of gains spurred me on as I pushed through the mental challenges of this endurance event.  While my muscles appreciated the short breaks that I gave them along the way, the monster of acids taking over my muscles resulting in fatigue was still the inevitable enemy to conquer on the course ahead.

Fatigue prominently showed its ugly head when I ascended Chinscraper/Double Black Diamond trail and began my descent down the mountain. This is the steepest section of the course that required me to power hike the majority of the 1.1 mile stretch. After cresting the summit, I looked forward to some downhill running. I have acquired the technique of opening up on downhill runs, but my breathing became labored and I knew that my heart rate drastically increased.  I made the decision to slow down my downhill pace, and it wasn’t too long after this decrease that others started to overtake me and pass by me.  I knew that this more conservative approach with my heart rate would reserve some heart beats for the 6 mile stretch that lie ahead leading to the finish line.

The final aid station is located at the base of the mountain at the Fragrance Lake trailhead.  When I reached this station, I did a quick mental/body/system check.  How was I feeling?  I realized the muscle cramping indicators were beginning to show-up.  I wasn’t cramping yet, but I knew that somewhere along the 6.5 mile home stretch, I would most likely feel the impairing cramps in my hamstrings.  So, I asked for salt or sodium capsules from the volunteers, grabbed some Red Vines, refilled my water bottle and was off running again.  I purposely started out at a very slow pace.  I mentally knew that I could easily poise myself for a quicker pace down the trail but wanted to make sure that I had the capability to do so especially during the final couple of miles.  Some of the more athletic runners were beginning to pass me.  I stuck to my plan and kept my pace under control.  When I did a time check, I realized that I was a good 5 – 10 minutes ahead of my estimated finish time.  I had a scheduled rendezvous with my wife, daughter and friends at different points between the last 3 miles of the course.  I calculated that I would pass these points outside the window of time I’d given them, so I decided to incorporate some intervals of recovery walks and slow jogging paces.  Hindsight on this decision tells me that I would have been better off if I didn’t have to slow down.  The walking segments slowed my circulation and oxygenation rate down and this allowed the acids to capacitate my muscle stores.  Fatigue is the only option at that point. Note to self: if I would have scheduled each rendezvous with a wider window of time, I could have kept my pace and not slowed down and would have been better off.  I still made sure I thanked my friends and family for supporting me during those last couple miles.  I finished strong and felt elated with finishing close to one hour before my previous year’s time. 

I know now what I can do for next year to make the same kind of gains and improvements.  Every race teaches me something new, and the 2014 Chuckanut 50k definitely taught me a few lessons. If you are an endurance athlete who races, what do you do to improve your running and finishing times?

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Chuckanut 50K


Pre-Race T-Minus 17 Days (Race: March 15, 2014; Start: 8:00 am)

Approximately 24 hours after the Chuckanut 50K (the Chuck or Chuck) opened on Ultrasignups, I discovered that the race was full. I decided to add my name to the waitlist, hoping a spot would open up. What a bummer it was to have this thorn in the flesh.  Ultra runners from around the country repeatedly enter for this annual spectacular event course, but I never imagined it would fill up so quickly.  I found myself listed number 18 on the waitlist.  The thought of not being entered due to my procrastination with the registration was difficult for me to swallow.  This year would be my second Chuck and I’d looked forward to improving my time for over 9 months.  Needless to say, the Chuck is a highlight in my runner life that had just become tentative. 

I feel it is critical to keep a good frame of mind while training for a race in which I have been waitlisted.  I train as if I am already a race participant so I can be ready no matter what. A friend of mine decided that he was too far down the waitlist so he let his training go.  He didn’t bother training for the course or mileage for this 50K.  Now, he won’t be ready for the Chuck even if he does make it into the race. 

Early on I decided that my training for this race was crucial for this year in order for me to reach my goals for other races down the road.  I plotted my training plan and selected some specific benchmarks along the way in my training.  I planned to train for the Chuck and if I did not make it onto the roster, then I would run a slight variation of the course start/finish on race day so I could run still run the 50K with a race atmosphere.  This would give me an opportunity to gauge my yearly improvements and opportunities.  This way, I would also be ready on race day if I was in fact selected as a registrant. 

Along with plotting my training plan, I also read a number of blog posts of other Ultra runners.  I learned the tactics of gorge running to be better prepared for the steep section of the course, known as Chinscraper.  I also learned about doing what I call “Daily Doubles,” which includes a morning and an evening training run.  I also focused a number of training runs on the technical section of the course to see if I can improve on my technique on the more difficult trails. 

I wanted to shift my focus of my waitlist status to measuring various aspects of the race to monitor specific gains.  I knew by doing this, I would not get discouraged along the way.  Sure enough, as I carried out this training while on the waitlist, I reached levels that indicated huge gains with increased speed and stamina.  An example of this improvement is with my time on training runs of the “middle 18.”  This section of the course is entirely mountain running in the middle of the 50K race course.  My first attempt of the “middle 18” took me 5 hours and 22 minutes.  On my third attempt, my time was reduced to a crushing, 4 hours and 28 minutes!  Ironically, it appears to me that my training while on this year’s waitlist is far more effective than last year’s training when I was not on a waitlist. 

17 Days before the Chuck, I did my morning online check on the waitlist status and discovered that I was accepted to be added to the race!  That got the victory hand raise from me.  One of my co-workers laughed out loud at me.  Typically one does not see the spirit of an athlete in the office at work.  I was absolutely thrilled when I saw my name on the accepted list.  Following a few high-5s, I went to my email and found the acceptance link.  I made it official with a little click on “the mouse” on my computer.  The thorn was removed!

This year, I have decided to use a similar strategy for the race as last year.  One adjustment will be my printed plan that I carry with me on race day will only focus on my nutrition.  I will exclude my mile post goal times.  By simplifying this plan for race day, I will have fewer things to focus on when I become really fatigued near the end of the race.  My intent is to make it as easy as possible to keep on track nutritionally throughout the whole race.  When I run these distance races, I’ve noticed that my plan becomes hazy and blurred as my fatigue increases near the last few miles of the race.  I want to set myself up for success by avoiding any type of hydration or nutritional issues along the way.  I’m pretty confident that my training will take care of my race times along the way this year. 

Last year’s Chuck was a pretty stormy day.  A lot of rain fell before and during the race, making the course like soup in some sections.  I am hoping for better race conditions this year.  Regardless, once again I find myself with that competitor’s attitude toward the Chuck’s challenging mountain run:  Bring it!  (I intend to post a post-race report.)

If you’re an Ultra runner, how do you prepare for the big day?

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Really?? #YouWillNotBeTakenSeriouslyIf

funny runner 001

iPhonics: You’re singing louder than you think you are while running in a race, belting out the chorus from your playlists.

Because I’m still relatively new to the sport of long distance running, I find myself taking my performance gains pretty seriously. I collect and study as much data and information as possible in order to make it easy for me to reach my personal record (PR) at my races. I am always looking for ways to improve my time and enjoy myself to the fullest.
Running with music can be a strong motivating force for some runners. I do not typically listen to music while I run, but I have recently started compiling a playlist that I think could be fun to listen to as I run. This playlist project of mine started with some recommendations from fellow bloggers and articles that were contributed on such websites at RunnersWorld.com, etc. Due to the ongoing challenge of finding the right fit for music BPM with the pace that I want to run, I have yet to do a run with my iPod Shuffle. But, I intend to give it a try in the near future.
As I continue to build my iPod Shuffle playlist, I’ve observed other runners in a number of races I’ve run, and I’ve noticed that the faster runners who inevitably become top finishers are not wearing earbuds during the race, and thus not listening to music. In contrast, some of the runners further back in the pack where I find myself do listen to music while racing. So, does this mean that listening to music while I run is actually hindering me instead of motivating me? No doubt you can see my dilemma.
On the one hand, running can get kind of boring and listening to music is a convenient way for many runners to take the edge off. In addition, there are several articles that claim that listening to the correct type of music can improve your running by 10%. But, on the other hand, runners with ear buds can lose touch with their surroundings and ultimately endanger themselves. Is running with music worth the risk it can cause?
A top factor in runner safety is being aware of what’s happening in our surroundings. The car traffic that runners contend with on their course is not the only danger. Along with traffic safety is our personal safety from those who would do us harm.
One of the country roads that I’ve used for my training runs is the location of a recent account of a brutal attack of a runner. There’s an article that you can read about a man whose road rage led him to beat a jogger so viciously his face will need surgery. (Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com)
How many posts do you think you’d find if you Google: “Assault on Joggers”?
Assualt on joggers
A “Self-First” mindset forces us to ask ourselves, “What’s best for me?” If you don’t think of what’s best for you, I can guarantee you won’t come across others ‘out there’ who will be better at watching out for you.
Some of the best practices I’ve noticed include:
• Not running on the roads in the same direction ‘with’ traffic while listening to music
• Only listening to music with one ear bud while running on the roads
• Setting the volume for music at a safety level
• Listen to music on your ‘Easy’ run days
• Develop a rubberneck or swivel head and be more alert
• Choosing to appreciate nature and not listening to music
While writing this blog, I asked myself why I bother writing about the safety of other runners like you. I attribute it to my affinity I feel for those who are a part of my running community. It is a sport I am passionate about, and a community I am proud to belong to. My heart went out to the runners and victims of the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013. Likewise, I feel sympathy when I hear about a tragic story of a runner who became another victim. So, please, be safe out there.

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My Next 5K PR? Haggen to Haggen 2013

haggen to haggen 5k
My Next 5K Race was the “Haggen to Haggen” The start was at the south end of Bellingham at the Sehome Haggen store and the course zig zagged through the streets of Bellingham to the north end Meridian Haggen store. There’s a good mile at the beginning of the course that is downhill. It was my hope that this would afford me the opportunity to use less effort to accomplish the faster pace I needed to help me PR.
As I was driving towards the race venue, I noticed that I had forgotten my Garmin wristwatch. That meant that I would not have it to gauge my running pace. I would have no way of knowing if I was on track for running the quicker pace that I was gunning for.
I found the freedom from the Garmin watch enjoyable. I was able to enjoy the exciting of the anticipation of the race as we seeded ourselves at the starting line. After the race started and we were jocking for positions on the streets, I could hear the other runners watch beep at them. That’s when it dawned upon me that those beeps made for great indicators for me to attempt to pick up my pace.
Right when I was feeling good about my race pace at the midway point, on avid runner that lives in my neighborhood cruised right past me with a very comfortable pace. I’ve seen this guy on this pace pass me at several races before. This guy is going to be my new target. I will train to reach his pace and watch for him in future races.
In the end I time chipped in at 22:59 which calculates to a 7:25 per mile. My PR still stands at 22:33 from the December 2012 5K Race.
The post race refreshment area was HUGE. Haggen had arranged for so many company’s to giveaway samples of their healthy snacks and drinks. I filled a grocery bag full of various items and then caught the shuttle bus back to my vehicle. It was a great day for a race.
How about you?  What do you look forward to that’s in your near future?  Something that might make you a little excited, nervous?  Go to: Leave a Reply… and tell me about it.