October
09
Posted on 09-10-2017
Filed Under (Races) by Brian

The company for which I now work offers an incentive program for charity events. By participating, I get points that I can use for paid time off. Dan and I were looking for a way to get back into racing, so we signed up. One of my co-workers had an extra bib, so Raffi came along to walk with her. In retrospect, we were all pretty nonchalant leading up to the race. We didn’t give ourselves a lot of time to get to the course and the road leading to the parking lot was closed by the time we arrived. This led to some creative navigation to get parked and we arrived at the starting line just minutes before the gun went off.

Queue present tense race report voice (it’s been so long)…

Dan and I walk along the crowded starting corral. There are metal barriers and no obvious way to enter. The horn blows and the first wave accelerates across the timing mat. We find a gap in the barrier, but realize that it’s behind another barrier, so we back out and move forward to where the first wave has vacated the starting corral. The race director announces that everyone with a pink bib should have already started. We look down, note that our bibs are pink and find another gap in the metal barrier just as they lower the rope to let the next wave through. We slide into the front of that wave and we’re off!

I realize that Dan is running right next to me and briefly consider just sticking with him for the whole race. I decide to test my fitness surge ahead. The initial portion of the course runs alongside Raymond James Stadium (home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). The course is crowded, but the pathway is very wide, so it’s not too difficult to move around the other runners without a whole lot of weaving. Without too much urgency, I methodically make my way through the pack, getting used to the pace of a race again.

Exiting the stadium grounds we make a right turn on to a major road, then another right. We approach the one mile mark surrounded by Buccaneers cheerleaders dressed in pink. The clock is approaching 9 minutes as I pass. It’s decent. Without a watch, I don’t really know the difference between the clock time and my chip time, but I’m estimating about 45 seconds.

I’m feeling good, so I go to work picking off runners in front of me. I accelerate, catch a runner or group of runners, hang with them for a while, then accelerate forward to the next group. The breeze feels nice and I’m breathing pretty well. We make another right turn, then a right onto a sidewalk and into a grass parking lot. As I pass the 2 mile mark, the clock is just under 17 minutes so I’ve run the second mile in under 8 minutes. With a goal of 25 minutes, I know I’m pretty close to the mark.

My breathing is still fairly steady, but my legs are starting to feel the pace. I haven’t even done a speed workout in over a year. Eventually, the loose sand of the parking lot yields to an asphalt path and this helps my legs. The pathway just makes a big loop through the parking lot, encompassing most of the third mile. As I round the loop, I see Dan entering the loop. He’s just a couple of minutes behind me.

“Go Brian,” he says.

“I’m tired,” I reply.

I’m in the home stretch, though. The pathway is heading back toward the stadium. I briefly consider going full bore, but decide to hold back a little. I’m not looking to break any personal records today. I just want to get the race feeling back. I surge past a few more runners and head into the tunnel entrance. I’ve always daydreamed about running through a tunnel into a crowd filled stadium, but today I’m just glad to be finishing. As I exit the tunnel, it is kind of cool to run out onto the field, make a right underneath the goal post and head straight to the finish line at the 50 yard line. The clock is under 26 minutes as I finish, so I know I’m pretty close to my goal time of 25 minutes.

After finishing, I grabbed some water and headed back to watch other runners exiting the tunnel. I expected to see Dan, but 10 minutes after my finish, I still hadn’t spotted him. I started to get worried. He was no more than 5 minutes behind me when we passed during the third mile. 20 minutes later, I knew he could have crawled the rest of the way on his belly and still made it in. After 30 minutes, I started to listen into other runners’ conversations, wondering if anyone was talking about some guy who collapsed on the course.

Dan trotted in about 10 minutes later. He thought we were running the 10K. Kudos for the extra distance and welcome to the blog. It’s an inauspicious debut, but better than the Restroom Relay, I suppose.

While Dan was letting the race directors know he ran a different race than he signed up for, I checkout my chip results. 24:50. Goal achieved. What’s next? I don’t know, but it felt nice to be out racing again. Dan and I have talked about a half marathon in the spring. If we can get our butts in gear, we’ve got time to make that happen.

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December
06
Posted on 06-12-2013
Filed Under (Races) by Brian

In 2013, DigitalRunning.com hosted 1 challenge. 150 people signed up for the 2013 Interstate Challenge and 126 people have completed it to date. I’m not one of them.

hattrick-medal-actual

I might have 500 of these stored away, but I’m actually going to earn 1 of them!

I did run a full marathon and a half marathon in 2013, but they were both in Florida so I didn’t qualify for the challenge. In 2014, I’m going to change that. In fact, I plan on completing all of the 2014 DigitalRunning.com Challenges.

I’ll need to run a 5K or longer race every month March 2014-February 2015 (for reasons that have not yet been announced), I’ll need to run a marathon or half-marathon in two different U.S. States or Canadian Provinces to earn the Interstate Challenge medal. I’ll need to run a 5K, 10K and a half marathon to earn the Hat Trick Challenge medal and I’ll need to add a full marathon to those three to get the Grand Slam Challenge medal.

Now, a little known fact is that races can count for multiple challenges. So, the half marathon I run in Florida in January counts toward the Interstate Challenge, the Grand Slam Challenge and the Hat Trick Challenge. Here’s my current plan to complete all of the challenges as efficiently as possible:

January 11th: Walt Disney World Half Marathon – Lake Buena Vista, FL

2010-half

The last time I ran the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, it was 30 degrees and sleeting.

March 1st: Suncoast Classic 10K – St. Petersburg, FL

April 19th: Hare Racing Experience 5K – Tampa, FL

May 10th: Miles for Moffitt 5K– Tampa, FL

June 1st: Bay 5K for Kids – St. Petersburg, FL

July 3rd: Kiwanis Midnight Run 10K – Dunedin, FL

August 18th: Sea Dog Brewery 5K – Clearwater, FL

September 6th: Miles for Men 10K – Clearwater, FL

October 12th: Chicago Marathon – Chicago, IL

November: Disney’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon – Lake Buena Vista, FL

December: Ties & Tennis Shoes 5K – St. Petersburg, FL

January: Walt Disney World Half Marathon – Lake Buena Vista, FL

February: Best Damn Race 10K – Safety Harbor, FL

Of course the schedule is subject to change but assuming I complete all of the above races, I will complete the Hat Trick Challenge and Mystery Challenge #1 in May, Mystery Challenge #2 in August, The Grand Slam and Interstate Challenges in October, Mystery Challenge #3 in November, and Mystery Challenge #4 in February 2015. I’ll also receive something special for completing all of the Mystery Challenges. That’s all I’ll say for now about the mystery challenges, except that we will reveal them in January 2014!

If I don’t get into the Chicago marathon, I’ll likely replace it with the Rock ‘n’ Roll St. Louis marathon on October 19th.

What do you think of my race schedule? Who wants to join me?

 

 

 

 

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May
20
Posted on 20-05-2012
Filed Under (Races) by Brian

It’s difficult to write about a Ragnar Relay without writing a whole novel so I won’t try to describe everything that happened in minute detail. The 2012 Cape Cod Ragnar Relay was my 6th Ragnar Relay, my 5th as a team captain and my 4th as a runner. Going in, I was a little worried about how I would perform as a runner. After a two month hiatus, I’ve only been back to regular training for about a month now and I’ve just been building my mileage gradually with easy runs. Overall, however, the experience was awesome and I ended up running better than I thought I would, thanks in large part to the cooler weather in New England relative to Florida.

Running Betty and I flew up to Providence, RI Thursday morning and met up with runner #5, Devin. We drove about 45 minutes to Raynham, MA and checked into our hotel before making our way to Boston for the team dinner. After an adventure driving the 12 passenger van through crowded Boston streets and tunnels, we arrived at a wonderful Italian restaurant where runner #9, David and his partner Steve treated most of the team to dinner.

I briefly thought Devin’s dinner might attack me.

After dinner, we all headed to Mike’s Pastry where we were wowed by the large Thursday night crowd and I thankfully did not notice that rum cake was available. With plans to meet up at our hotel in the morning, we all parted ways before 10 PM.

Running Betty and I woke up at about 8 the next morning for a Wal-Mart run and the whole team began to assemble at about 9:30.  The gradual assembly of the team on race morning is probably one of my favorite parts of the relay. It’s fun to see who is bouncing off the walls excited, who is quietly nervous and who just hasn’t has enough coffee to be completely functional. We loaded the vans and headed for the starting line at 10 AM. Once we arrived, we completed the van 1 safety briefing and the decorated the vans.

Runner #2, Robin draws the halibut on van #1

At noon, it was time to start and first time Ragnarian, Brian L. led us out of the gate. After a quick bathroom break, we all jumped into the van in hot pursuit of the runners. As we drove along the course, it was creepy that we didn’t pass any runners. The further we went, the more worried I became. Finally, we arrived at exchange #1 without passing any runners. They had all vanished!

Slightly chagrined at the odd start to the relay, we eventually learned that the entire noon starting group (25 runners) had made a wrong turn just a few hundred meters from the starting line and run 2 miles out of their way. The 6 mile leg turned into a 10 mile leg!

We jumped back into the van and headed back toward the starting line, hoping to give Brian some much needed support. As we began to encounter the runners along the route, they didn’t look happy so we rolled down the windows and cranked up the radio. Once we found Brian, we stopped the van and danced for all the runners because we’re “Ragnarians” and that’s what we do for our fellow runners.

Brian arrived at exchange 1 about 25 minutes late with a smile on his face. His first Ragnar leg in the books, he already had one heck of a story to tell. Robin was off in a flash, so we headed to exchange #2 where she handed of to Kelci and I got dressed for my first leg.

While at exchange 2, we learned that the course had changed. The original exchange #3 was to be at a high school, but it got moved apparently due some shenanigans that the high school administrators did not approve of. That extended Kelci’s leg 0.8 miles and knocked my first leg down to 5 miles. Feeling good about the shorter distance, I took the bracelet from Kelci and sprinted 25 meters to a traffic signal.

...because getting hit by a car during your first leg = major buzzkill

Once through the first traffic light, I started off pretty fast. I thought there were some people trying to “roadkill” me so I took off downhill and nabbed my first road kill about a half mile into the leg. The road curved back uphill to another stoplight where I just missed the signal and had to wait for quite a while. I looked back and saw a guy in a red shirt about a quarter mile behind and impatiently waited for the signal to turn. It did before he reached me and I did my best to put as much distance between us. My last stoplight behind me, I settled into a pretty solid pace heading into historic Plymouth, killing 5 more runners before finally getting caught and passed by red shirt guy within view of the Mayflower and just before the finish of the leg. I charged into exchange #4 ready to hand off the bracelet to Devin, but the chute was empty. Bewildered, I spotted the van heading quickly toward me. Seconds later, Devin popped out and I handed him the  bracelet.

An interesting leg with an average moving pace under 7 minutes per mile.

After Devin and runner #6, Anna finished their legs, we handed the reigns off to van #2 and promptly got caught in horrible traffic heading across the bridge to Cape Cod. Local, Robin, steered us to an Italian restaurant where we filled our bellies before heading to exchange #12. In true Clark Griswold style, I parked in the back of the parking lot and pulled out the Christmas lights.

Tip: LED lights will save your van battery.

As the sun set, we watched runner #12, Luis take off on his 6.5 mile loop back to the same park he started in. An hour later, he handed off to runner #1, Brian and the madness started all over again. The main difference was that this time, Brian ran his prescribed number of miles and handed off to Robin right at the expected time. Robin traversed the Sagamore bridge and brought the team onto the Cape where she finished her leg with a quarter mile of sand running and handed off to Kelci who waited for her wrapped in a sleeping bag in the cold night air.

I received the slap bracelet for my second leg in a Walgreens parking lot. The nighttime legs are always my favorite and this one didn’t disappoint. I tore through the parking lot and spotted another runner behind me with a glance over my shoulder as I maneuvered onto a sidewalk. Not wanting to get killed again, I maintained a healthy pace, but could spot no runners ahead. Without carrots to chase, the leg started out a little on the boring side, but I held onto the pace and my persistence was shortly rewarded with three blinking red lights in the distance. I slowly pulled them in and van #1 pulled alongside on the road, slowing for a few cheers and some cowbell. The extra motivation gave me a little boost and I passed the three runners ahead. The night was peaceful and the natural smells emanating from the woods and creek beds I passed through relaxed me even as I pushed to turn my legs over at a faster rate. By the end of the leg, I had racked up 8 road kills without being passed myself.

Not as fast as leg 1, but still satisfying.

 

Devin also had a short leg, but Anna’s leg was a little longer. Her leg headed through some neighborhoods and as we made our way to exchange #18 we noticed some people sitting on lawn chairs at the end of their driving drinking beer and cheering for all the runners as they passed – an awesome way to spend a Friday night, I think.

We were tired when Anna arrived at 24 to end our second stint on the course, so we navigated immediately to exchange #24 where Raffi and I found a quiet spot to pitch our tent and get a few hours of sleep. The rest of the team opted to remain in the van. Following the Del Sol Ragnar Relay in February, Raffi and I invested in some warmer sleeping bags and we were rewarded with actual sleep. It was only two hours, but it was enough to perk me up and I was ready to go when Luis arrived at the exchange to hand off to Brian.

Brian ends his first Ragnar with a somewhat fumbled handoff to Robin

Brian knocked his last leg out with gusto and handed off the Robin. That’s where the trouble began. We hopped back into the van and followed the directions to the next exchange. As I was driving and Running Betty had her head buried in the directions. Devin pointed out that we had passed a bunch of vans parked along the roadside. Briefly worried that we had passed the exchange point, we encountered a parking lot down the road that was full of vans. We pulled in and waited for Robin to arrive.

She was late…very late. Eventually, Kelci figured out that we were at the wrong exchange point. The spot 200 yards up the road was in fact the relay exchange 26 and we were waiting at exchange #27. Kelci and Raffi jogged up the road to exchange 26 to meet Robin. Meanwhile, Robin came running into exchange #27. The course had been changed and I did not receive notification. There was no clear sign pointing out the new location of exchange #26 and Robin ran right past it, continuing on to complete Kelci’s leg of the relay.

Leg 28 begins with a hand slap.

Fortunately, Kelci had her cell phone so I called her, told her to run her leg and we’d wait for her at 27. 25 minutes later, she arrived, slapped my hand (I was already wearing the bracelet) and I took off on my last leg of the relay. I jetted across the road and onto the “rail trail” with the thought that I might be able to break 20 minutes in this 5K leg. I spotted my first potential kill in the distance and glanced down at my Garmin which indicated I was running at sub 6 minute mile pace. I eased back on the pace and passed the woman ahead.

Each time I passed someone, I was able to spot another runner in the distance and that kept me “racing” the whole time. The 6:20 pace was a little too much for my legs, however, so I began to back off before it became a real problem. Each time I encountered a runner, I’d accelerate past them, then back off the pace a little to recover. I passed 8 runners by the time I hit the three mile mark and knowing I was almost done with my final leg, I let it all hang out fore the last tenth of a mile. When I arrived at 3.1 miles, all I was greeted with was a big 7% incline up a bridge. Fortunately, the exchange point was at the top, but Devin was not!

A nice finish

Five minutes later, Kelci arrived with her husband and Devin jogged up the hill behind her. I handed the bracelet to him and headed back to the van where I learned they had all gotten lost. Fortunately, the next two legs went by smoothly and we handed the reigns to van #2 at exchange 30.

Mimosas are a refreshing treat to celebrate the completion of a Ragnar Relay

We were hungry so we headed to breakfast at Laura & Tony’s kitchen – a small spot with a great breakfast buffet. Some of us enjoyed mimosas and others opted for coffee. We relaxed and lingered, happy for a nice place to sit an fill our bellies. Afterward, we headed to Provincetown and killed some time by tagging other vans. We had a couple of beers in the beer garden and van #2 arrived after a couple of hours. As David approached the finish line, a couple of people helped him into his fish costume and he led us across the line.

Though we were a few hours short of actually winning the race, we did take home the “Nom de Plume” award for Best team name. We’re all very proud.

The team at the finish line.

Up next for me? The Chicago Ragnar Relay. I’ve just found out that one of our runners is injured so it looks like I’ll be filling in again!

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May
03
Posted on 03-05-2012
Filed Under (Races) by Brian

Most people who regularly read this blog know that (among other things) I’ve been spending the last year putting together teams of complete strangers to run Ragnar Relays. Usually, I don’t plan on running the relays. I only serve as the captain and a support staffer for the team. Sometimes, however, there’s a last minute cancellation and one of the runners is unable to run due to an injury or some other reason. In those cases, it can be pretty difficult to find a replacement last minute so I step in as the emergency replacement runner.

Just this week, one of the runners on my Cape Cod Ragnar Relay team, “Running for the Halibut” dropped out due to some IT band syndrome in both knees, so I was thrust into the position of runner #4!  Now as most of you already know, I’ve only recently started up with regular training since a roughly two month hiatus following the St. Petersburg Rock n Roll half marathon. So, I’m probably in the worst shape I’ve ever been in prior to a Ragnar Relay. Here’s a look at my legs:

Skinny? Yes, but I'm fond of them.

Seriously, though, leg #4 is described as “the heart of history and downtown Plymouth”. So, that sounds kind of cool. Here it is in map form:

Very historical and mostly down hill!

That’s the longest leg and probably the one I’m most looking forward to in terms of scenary. Leg #16 will be around midnight. It doesn’t look all that special on the map, but I always love chasing those little blinking red lights (other runners) in the middle of the night. I’m expecting some cool temperatures and an enjoyable run:

Bonus! Another mostly down hill leg.

Leg #28 is my shortest leg and it’s almost entirely on a “rail trail”.  After the two longer legs, I hope I have the legs left to really kill this one. It’s always fun to finish strong.

Short, sweet and another net elevation loss!

This will be my 6th Ragnar Relay. It’s my 5th as a captain, but only the 4th I’ll actually be running. While I’m not in the greatest shape, it is the shortest total distance I’ve ever run in a relay. So, I’m pretty psyched about this surprise race next weekend and I’m looking forward to many road kills!

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December
11
Posted on 11-12-2011
Filed Under (Races) by Brian

The annual Wednesday night Jingle Bell run has become a tradition for our family and I think I’ve run it for the last four years straight. I’ve taken it fairly seriously in the past, but there are no race numbers, no clock at the finish, and often times several walkers lining up right on the starting line. The run starts on the St. Petersburg Pier and was probably 5K at one time, but as it became more popular, I think they moved the start/finish line further toward the base of the pier to accommodate more people. Thus, I’ve learned to look at it for what it is: a fun run and after a day of reviewing health insurance quotes for my company, I was ready for a fun run.

Still, with the knee on the mend, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to test it out before giving myself the go ahead to start speed workouts in preparation for the 2012 Rock and Roll St. Petersburg half marathon. So, I chatted with a few friends in the crowd at the starting line before moving up closer to the front of the pack as the jingle bells signified the start.

I went out at a brisk, but comfortable pace, not going out of my way to pass people, but accelerating whenever there was an opening in the crowd. Less than a quarter mile from the start, I heard my name called and turned around to see Meredith. I ran backward for a few feet as we briefly chatted, then turned and made my way ahead. There were still people walking on the course as I rounded the corner at the base of the pier, but I soon broke free of the pack. The knee was feeling good, so I started to pick runners off one by one.

I made it through the 1 mile mark in about 6:45, which I thought was pretty good all things considered. My legs were feeling a little sore from the week’s weight training but I was otherwise comfortable. I made my way toward the Northshore pool, passing a few runners along the way and I rounded the halfway point still feeling comfortable.

Gaps were starting to develop between runners, but I wasn’t really very concerned. I was just running on the edge of discomfort. I would accelerate past a runner, then back off slightly, revving my engine into the red briefly, then coasting for a while to recover. When I made my way past the two mile mark, my legs were beginning to feel tired but my breathing was going well, so I passed a few more runners.

When I made it back to the base of the pier, the half a pizza I had eaten just an hour before was starting to weigh on me. I was developing a side stitch, but I knew I only had a about a half mile to go. A police officer walked the median of the road and yelled out our placements. I was in 21st place, which I figured was decent, but in the back of my mind I figured I could probably pass one more person for 20th.

Although I felt myself continue to “stitch up”, I drew close to the runner in front of me, then hammered a hard acceleration. He immediately responded and we both passed the runner in front of him. Content with 20th place and not wanting re injure my knee in a fun run, I let him go and crossed the finish line in 18:47. Had it been a 5K, I would have been ecstatic, but my Garmin read 2.9 miles. The pace was still good for a sub 20 minute 5K, so I was happy with that. Better yet, my knee felt okay (and still does) so it looks like I can give myself the green light for some mile repeats next week.

It was a nice week of training:

Monday: 3 miles easy + lower body weight training

Tuesday: 4 miles easy + upper body and core weight training

Wednesday: 3 miles hard

Thursday: 3 miles easy + full body weight training

Friday: Off

Saturday: 10 miles

Sunday 3 miles easy

Total: 26 miles

 

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November
16
Posted on 16-11-2011
Filed Under (Races) by Brian

I think the last time I posted about a Ragnar Relay, I used 3 full posts. Don’t worry, I’m not going to do that this time. After all, I didn’t really run this one. I was just the captain. As most of my loyal readers know, I’ve dedicated my life to bringing runners together for social running opportunities. While I’m always open to suggestions, the thing that has worked the best is getting a bunch of strangers together to run relay style for 200 miles in some of the most beautiful places in the country.

The 2011 Tennessee Ragnar Relay was my first such attempt and it couldn’t have gone much better. I announced that the Digital Running Club was putting a team together way back in June. Interest was slow at first and I started to doubt whether I might pull this off. By the time we reached the early bird deadline for the relay, we had 5 people signed up for the team. I had also promised all those people their money back if the team didn’t fill up by October 1st.

So, I took a very deep breath when I forked over a non-refundable $1200 to register the team for the relay. Fortunately, interest grew after the early bird deadline and the team filled with all 12 members only a day or two in to September. Now, you might think that putting a team of 12 strangers together could go very wrong. I was worried, for instance, that one or more of the team members would not show up. I figured that if that happened, I would just fill in. Then, of course there’s always the worry about how people will get along. Would there be drama in the vans?

Everyone got along great and they all became fast friends. Here’s how it all turned out in video form:

[youtube]5mBdhtOBFCY[/youtube]

If you like that video, please, please, please vote for it by clicking HERE, scrolling past the sign up form (you don’t need to fill it out) and clicking the little “vote” square underneath our video. We’ve got a solid hold on second place, but we need to catch the Trunk Monkeys for the win. If we win, we’ll get a free entry into next year’s relay and I’ll sweat much less when I register the team. Go. Do it now. You can come back and read the rest of this later.

I did manage to get an 8.2 mile run in during the middle of the night. I decided I was going to escort John, our fastest runner through his nighttime leg. I followed him closely for about a mile and then he turned it up and dropped me. He ran that leg in just over 53 minutes. I think I squeaked under and hour. If it had been my leg, I would have been happy with it, but it’s always pretty sobering when they guy you’re pretending to escort comes in 8 minutes before you.

It was funny later when I heard people talking about the “young sleeveless guy” passing everybody on that leg. Sleeveless me passed 6 people. Fully sleeved John passed 11. Clearly they did not even see him run by.

I’m so excited that this relay went off so well, though I did learn a few things for our next relay. The Florida Keys Ragnar Relay team is full and it’s only a month and a half away from lining up at the starting line in Miami! We’re headed to Arizona for the Del Sol Ragnar Relay in February and we’ve still got a few spots left on that team, so be sure to sign up if you’re interested.

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November
02
Posted on 02-11-2011
Filed Under (Races) by Brian

Tonight, I’m packing for a trip to Tennessee for the 2011 Tennessee Ragnar Relay. I’m not actually running, but I’m very excited about experiencing the event as driver of van #2 for Team 196 Proof. It’s the first of many overnight cross country running relays that I get to participate in over the next 12 months. I’ve been planning this relay since June and it’s kind of hard to believe it’s actually going to be happening on Friday morning.

Tomorrow morning is the district championship meet for the cross country team I coach. Both the boys and the girls should easily make it through to the regional championships and both teams have a pretty good shot at being district runners up. Who knows, if the day goes well, perhaps one of them might even pull out the district championship. The meet is at a very familiar course and the weather looks to be perfect. It should be fun.

So, after packing tonight, I’ll be coaching the district meet in the morning, then hopping on a plane to Nashville, then driving to Chattanooga. On Friday morning, the relay will start and we’ll run 196 miles to Nashville where we’ll celebrate Saturday night. On Sunday morning, I come home. I call that a fun weekend.

After that, time will undoubtedly speed up as Thanksgiving comes and goes, then Christmas and New Years and on to the Florida Keys Ragnar Relay. The next two months are going to rock!

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October
05
Posted on 05-10-2011
Filed Under (Races) by Brian

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that I didn’t feel horribly prepared for this race. Where previous half marathon training plans had me comfortably getting up to 15 miles several times, I failed to get past 12 miles this time around and I was completely drained at the end of both those runs.

So, I showed up in corral A at the ESPN Wide World of Sports with low expectations. I had a few good runs with the kids on the cross country team during the prior week, but those were only 3-4 miles. Based on the 12 mile runs, I was just hoping to get under 2 hours, but cool air came in Friday evening so I thought I might be able to squeak out a 1:45. I decided to run the first few miles at an 8:30 min/mile pace and see how things went from there.

When the fireworks went off, I jogged across the start line just behind Sandy. I had instructed her to go out with 10 minute miles and a few yards down the road, I surged through an opening and left her behind. I didn’t bother to look at my Garmin. I was perfectly comfortable traversing this start since I’d run it twice before in the Race for the Taste 10K. When I reached the 1 mile mark, it read 9:47. I quickly guessed that it was the wheelchair time and glanced at my Garmin to see that I had completed the first mile in 7:47.

“Too fast,” I scolded myself but another voice kicked in and told me I could break 1:40. Conceding that it was too early in the race to start thinking about that mark, I slowed down and decided to just run a comfortable pace for the next mile. I’ll admit that I was a little thrilled when I came through the 2 mile mark in just under 15 minutes. I hadn’t been paying much attention to my pace. I was just running comfortably, but I had sped up in the second mile.

With thoughts of 1:40 in my head, I calmed myself and slowed down. Instead of 8:30 miles, I began to allow myself the goal of 8 minute miles. When I passed the 3 mile mark, I had slowed down, but I was still well under 24 minutes. I focused on putting up a nice 5K split for my text update and Twitter fans. I came through in 23:39 and it was then that I allowed myself to go for 1:40.

Shortly after the 5K mark, the course made its way through the Animal Kingdom parking lot and into the park itself. The entrance was lit by large lamps that looked like tusks on either side of the course. African music played as we wound our way through the jungle like entrance toward the tree of life. The atmosphere had a calming effect and I was able to take several deep breaths and relax. I could feel my pace quickening.

Looking like and animal at the Animal Kingdom. The lady behind me is not amused.

The four mile mark bought me into the Asia section of the park, which was quite dark. Spooky music played in the background as I rounded a corner to see Everest lit in the distance. It was eerie, but cool and I was most definitely enjoying myself. We exited the park through Dinoland USA and traversed some backstage areas before emerging back into the Animal Kingdom parking lot where the course erupted with music and sound at the relay exchange point.

The crowd noise gave me a huge amount of motivation and I surged past several runners toward the 5 mile mark. I started to feel the effort and glanced at my Garmin to see that I had dropped below 6 minute mile pace. I quickly slowed back to a more manageable pace and grabbed some water on my way out of the parking lot.

Back on the roads, I focused on putting up another good time at the 10K mark. A few people passed me near the 6 mile mark, but I just assumed they were fresh runners who had just started out of the relay exchange. I held my pace consistent and crossed the 10K mat in 46:24. I was well under the pace required to break 1:40 for the race and that had most definitely become my goal.

I took a moment to think about the situation. I had bonked in a half marathon back in December because I went out with too ambitious a pace in the beginning. I was afraid of making the same mistake now. I thought back to how I felt at the 10K mark of that race and realized that I was feeling a lot of strain in that race before 6 miles. Tonight, I was just cruising along. I decided that I wasn’t going to bonk, but vowed to remember to get a gel at the fuel station.

I enjoyed the music and watching the slower runners on the other side of the road through 7 miles. Eventually, I passed the back of the race and an overpass where I was able to see how far ahead the leaders were. I figured I was just over a mile back from the leaders as I approached the 8 mile mark and that felt pretty good. I made a swift left past a few runners and headed down an overpass toward the 8 mile mark and the fuel station.

In the darkness, I was unable to see what people were handing out and nobody was announcing flavors so I grabbed the first gel I could. Luckily, it was vanilla – a flavor I can handle. Without time to open the gel, consume it and grab some water, I just held it in my hand as I climbed an exit ramp, made a right turn and headed into the Disney Hollywood Studios.

Focused on the trip through Hollywood Studios with gel in hand.

Through 9 miles, I was below 7:30 minute per mile pace and feeling good except for a twinge in my left knee. I’ve been battling tendonitis in that knee since trying to out sprint one of my high school cross country runners at the end of practice one day. I was starting to get worried the knee would give out on me like it did in the Gasparilla 15K back in February.

I made it through 15K in 1:09:16 a faster time than Gasparilla and crossed my fingers that the knee would hold up for 4 more miles. The pain really kicked up as I passed a few runners in the tunnel next to the wardrobe department of the studios backlot tour. I ignored it and adjusted my stride slightly, but had to focus on an upcoming water station. I thrust the gel into my mouth and ripped it open a little too low, spewing gel all over my hands and my face. I squeezed what was left in the packet into my mouth, then licked my hands and as much of my face as I could.

Who's having a good time? That guy!

I grabbed a water as I sped through the water station and sloppily threw it into my face, both hydrating myself and washing my face at the same time. I felt like a mess, but I was feeling good. Through 10 miles, I was still under 7:30 pace and growing more and more confident in a sub 1:40 finish. I sped through the studios, past Darth Vader and into a backstage area near the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. I grabbed another water near the 11 mile mark and used it to get the rest of the gel off my face.

My knee in pain, I followed the runners in front of me across the front of the park and out the main entrance. I coached myself through the pain as I maintained my pace.

“Nothing drastic,” I thought. “Steady pace all the way to the finish”. I squeaked by a couple of runners and onto the narrow pathway between the Studios and the Boardwalk resort area. I kept pace with the runner in front of me down the path and hit the 12 mile mark without any increase in pain.

With my confidence surging, I climbed the bridge next to the Swan and Dolphin resorts, then back down onto a boardwalk lined with spectators. Their encouraging yells propelled me forward past a few more runners and my face became like stone as I focused on the runner in front of me.

We traveled around the lake and up an incline near the International Gateway to Epcot. I knew it would be the last hill I’d have to climb and I gingerly made my way down as the course wound into a backstage area behind Epcot. I began to increase my pace.

Putting on the brakes at the finish line

The theme from Rocky played and I could not help myself. I began to kick up my pace significantly and started passing runner after runner. I cruised over a sign that read “400 meters to go” painted on the ground, then past the 13 mile mark and wound around a few corners right across the finish line in 1:36:44 – a pace of 7:23 min/mile. So much for 8:30’s! I was 108th overall and the 98th male finisher.

Although I only beat December’s time by 3 seconds, I felt so much better about this race. It’s all about perspective. That day, I did worse than I was hoping to. This time, I did better. That day, I started fast and finished slow. This time, I sped up throughout the entire race. I was jubilant at the finish. I grabbed water and a Powerade, then headed straight to medical where I thanked my left knee for holding out with 20 minutes of ice!

Happy and ready for some ice and a cold beer!

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June
02
Posted on 02-06-2011
Filed Under (Races) by Brian

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I hope everyone had a great National Running Day yesterday. I celebrated with a 4 mile run downtown on the water and by announcing the Digital Running Club’s Tennessee Ragnar Relay Team. As part of that launch, I spent the afternoon contacting the list of runners looking for a team. One of those runners happened to be Ragnar Tennessee Race Director, Leslie Keener. She said she’d love to run with us, but she’d be a little busy during the race. That’s absolutely understandable, though I wonder why she was on the list in the first place.

Anyway, she’s very nice and brought up a good point (which I have to admit I’ve thought of a few times myself). Here’s what she said:

I would love to chat with you a bit more about some ways to make sure that the people that you are contacting can be assured that you are legitimately trying to put a team together.  Please know that I do not think you are running a shady operation at all…I think it is really cool what you are doing.  I have just gotten a few emails already from runners that received an email from you asking if I knew if you were legitimate or not.

Obviously, the best way is for her to just tell everyone we are legit, but how does she know? I mean her credibility and the credibility of the relay series itself is certainly on the line if she vouches for us and we turn out to be scamming people. If we are scamming, then each person who signs up is out a few hundred bucks.

Does anyone out there have any ideas? How can we inspire confidence in potential team members? Should we take a lesson from MC Hammer and name the team “Too Legit to Quit”…or the even trendier, “2 legit 2 quit”? I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments.

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February
27
Posted on 27-02-2011
Filed Under (Races) by Brian

I don’t mean to be negative, but this was a pretty crumby race. I knew going in that I wasn’t exactly in peak physical condition. When I set forth my race calendar back in the summer, this was supposed to be my goal race.

Actually, that’s only partly true. I was going to run the half marathon and I was going to do it in 1:25:00, bettering my half marathon PR by a little over 4 minutes. By mid December, I was smart enough to know that I wasn’t going to pull off that particular feat. By mid January, I knew I wasn’t really in shape to run a half marathon at all. I knew I’d be lucky to hold 7 minute miles in a 15K.

The day started out okay. I ran into Drew at the start and said hi to Bret. On the way to the starting line, I was walking behind a group of older runners. After a minute or two, I realized the group contained Olympic gold medalist, Joan Benoit Samuelson and 4 time Boston marathon winner, Bill Rodgers. Joan looked relaxed, though she didn’t have a race number. Someone in her entourage called back to the expo and they had someone run one out to her – must be nice. “Boston Billy” was jumpy. He kept doing a series of “butt kicks” every 2 minutes on the way to the start.

Eventually, I left the celebrities behind and worked my way to the starting corral. I timed things pretty well and got all the way to the gate and the front that separates the wheelchair participants from the actual runners. I found my marathon pacer, Chris from last year. He was pacing the 7:30 min/mile pace group for the 15K, so I just settled in behind him, planning on getting a relaxed start in the first mile of the race and then figuring out what I was going to do from there.

Once we were off, I was quickly ahead of Chris’ group, averaging somewhere between 7 and 7:30 min/mile pace. I crossed the 1 mile mark in 7:10 and didn’t feel great, but I wasn’t exactly hurting either. I maintained that pace through the 2 mile mark, figuring I might just warm up into a more respectable pace. I was through 2 miles in 14:20, but didn’t feel much different. I wasn’t horribly excited to be there. I just couldn’t wait until the turn around.

I had slowed my pace a little when we turned off of Bayshore Blvd. just after the 4 mile mark. I was still running about 7:15 pace, but wasn’t exactly feeling it. I was just going through the motions of racing. Although the field was still pretty crowded, I heard another runner come up on my left shoulder. I glanced over and spotted Bill Rodgers.

Given my slow pace, I figured Boston Billy was probably way ahead of me. The site of the running legend gave me renewed vigor. I let him pass me, then pulled up right behind him and let him pace me. I figured a four time Boston marathon winner would probably have a pretty good sense of pace.

Unfortunately, Boston Billy appeared to have been feeling the effects of the rough northeast winter. He was doing a lot of grunting and spitting. His breathing was surprisingly loud. I stuck with him through 5 miles, then we hit a water station and I accelerated through while he grabbed a cup.

I was feeling pretty good about myself. I wasn’t having a great run, but hell, I was beating Bill Rodgers. Nevermind that he’s 30 years older than me. I had made the turn and was looking at the clogged course on the other side of the road. There were still 6500 people way behind me. It wasn’t so bad.

Around mile 7, I felt a slight twinge in my knee. I’ve been feeling this off and on for the last 2 months. It feels like runner’s knee. Whenever I feel it I exaggerate the bend in my knee on one stride to check things out. Generally, if it really is runner’s knee, that exaggerated stride will hurt pretty bad. It didn’t.

Unfortunately, the twinge kept coming back. That was different. It got more and more painful as I went along. It was runner’s knee. I soldiered on for about a half mile, thinking about how bad this was because it would prevent me from running with the kids at track practice and if I can’t run with them, they can’t run off campus, which means doing long runs on the track.

I stopped so that it wouldn’t get any worse. I pulled over to the sidewalk, debating whether I should rip off my number and walk back to the finish, or try to continue on. Bill Rodgers passed me. Without another thought, I hopped back onto the course and got right behind him again. My brief break had alleviated the pain, but Boston Billy seemed to be feeling a little better now. We were pulling just under 7 minutes per mile and the twinge was coming back rapidly.

Boston Billy veered off to the last water station and I kept running through, allowing me to pass him once again. I slowed my pace a little, but he was now back on me and passed me again. I picked it up to match his pace, but every time I pushed off my left leg, my knee felt like an old rubber band ready to snap. My right leg was fine. I was generating enough power there, but my left leg was little more than a crutch. With only one good leg, I watched Boston Billy pull away.

Shortly, afterward, Chris and his 7:30 pace group passed me. This was a familiar site. I was almost in the exact location on Bayshore Drive where last year, Chris and the 3:20 marathon paced group dropped me while I was stretching out my cramping calves. Mercifully, we soon pulled into the finish chute and the crowd carried me the last quarter mile to the line. I finished in 1:10:16.

I’ve got quite a bit of work to do. I’ve got to rest my knee for a few days and then hit the gym to get my leg strength back up. Since I only ran on the bum knee for about 2 miles, I don’t think I did too much damage to it. It’s just a matter of getting the inflammation back down and then strengthening things so it doesn’t happen again.

Of course, I can’t totally blame my performance on the bad knee. I clearly wasn’t in top form even before my knee started hurting. The irony is that as running has become a bigger part of my life over the last few months with the launch of digitalrunning.com and my new position as assistant track coach, my own training has suffered. I need to figure out a better schedule so that I can train myself in addition to those I’m coaching.

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