It was a beautiful weekend in Chicago. The weather was finally cool and crisp and perfect for a long run. We just launched our Winter Warriors half marathon training program with a record sell out crowd and it is nice to be back on the trail this time of year. The path is peaceful, the weather is perfect and there are hundreds of new runners all training for their first half marathon. There is nothing like your first...
I remember my first race. I coudn't believe I finished 3.1 miles. I remember my first half marathon. I couldn't believe I ran 13.1 miles. And I won't ever forget my first marathon. I couldn't believe I finished a marathon with a smile on my face and in 20 degree weather.
The magic of slowly unveiling the runner inside is the ability to believe. "Couldn't" soon became "could" and my life changed with every finish. Every time I launch a new training program I see the dreams in the eyes of all the new runners. Then I get to watch them progress from couldn't to could and cross that finish line. It's simply the best job in the world.
If you are considering running a race, register. If you think you can't, you can. The hard part is starting. The easy part is running. Give it a shot. The next finish line could change your life.
One of things I love most about my job is wear-testing new running and adventure racing products. For a runner, there is NOTHING better than to try out new running shoes. Especially when they are way "out of the box" in terms of technology and innovation.
I've had the pleasure of taking a few test rides in Newton Running Shoes or what I am calling "The New Shoe In Town." Newton shoes were designed by runners for runners to mimic the advantages of barefoot running. Although I've only run barefoot a few times in my life, I can clearly understand it translates to efficient running. It picks up were the Nike Free shoe left off and just keeps running.
The real difference in the shoe is in the sole of the shoe, which mimics your foot and allows your foot to more freely and promote forefoot stride. It feels a little weird when you put them on but because I naturally land on my forefoot and have since I started running, the Newton's felt very natural out of the box. The concept is developed from Sir Isaac Newton's third law of motion...
" It states an object at rest remains at rest and an object in motion remains in motion at constant speed and in a straight line unless acted on by an unbalanced force."
This is also true with runners. Heel strikers are actually stopping motion every time their foot lands on the ground and thereby disrupting the "equal and opposite force". They then have to re-create motion again after every time they land. Not to mention the added impact forces from the heel strike.
I'm no scientist but I love biomechanics and learning how to improve performance via training methods, energy efficiency and form. It took my body a good 2-3 weeks to adapt to the shoe style and in that time I've noticed my effort level is lower at my normal pace and my body doesn't ache as much post run which are signs that they must have helped me run more efficiently.
I give the Newton's a BIG thumbs up and can't wait to see what else is on the horizon and in the mailbox.
I ran my first Ultra-Marathon last Sunday and I'm still on a high. It was a 50K [[The Glacial 50 Trail|http://badgerlandstriders.org/GT50/]]]] on part of the 1,000 mile Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin. First-time experiences have a way of unleashing new energy and excitement. I remember my first race, my first marathon, and my first Eco-Challenge. The mystery of the event keeps a constant flow of motivation to train, prepare and of course, obsess.
Although I trained well for the Ultra, I had no idea what the race would bring and that is what makes the journey so darn exciting. It was an out-an-back course on a very technical single track trail full of rocks, roots all covered in the fall's leaves. I tend to like technical trails better because they demand your constant attention. One look at your watch and you could be flying through the air and down on your face.
I love large running events, but I love the serenity of a trail even more. There is also an honesty about Ultra's that I found refreshing. But then again, that could be more about it being my first. Firsts are always refreshing because they're new! Collectively about 105 people towed the line and the race was started with a shout out from the director. No chips, no music, no pace teams. Just 100 or so people looking to tackle 31 miles on a tough trail. It reminded me a lot of my first few adventure races. The races are out there for the experience, not the swag.
As we set down the road towards the trail, I positioned myself in the back of the bubble. Since this was my first one, I wanted to pace wisely so I would look good for the finish (good meaning vertical). I was surprised at how "friendly" the runners were and listened to them chat for the first few miles. I met a runner with a picture on his back and asked him who she was. My running partner of 12 years," he said. He went on to tell me all they had done together and how she was in her fourth round of chemo for breast cancer. For me, it really put perspective on the day. I thought of my dad, who we lost last year from a brain tumor and his journey. It was the first time I could talk about him without falling into sadness. The miles went by as we discussed her spirit and the hope to some day find a cure for all cancers. My dad was with me every step...
As I reached 15.5 miles and the half-way turn around point many of the lead runners were coming back on the trail. The course is set up as an out-and-back. The competitor inside me starting tapping on my shoulder. "I know you are out here to just finish this thing, but if you push a little harder you can pass some of these nice runners." The first half of the race was all about conservation in the hopes of finishing and as I passed the half-way mark, the race became all about picking off runners (nicely) along the trail. There is nothing like being strong enough in a race to be able to pass people.
As the course rolled up and down the rocks seemed to multiply and the hills grew steeper. (Total elevation gain is about 6,000 ft) I didn't remember that many rocks on the way out! It started raining and it quickly became more difficult to navigate over the slippery roots and rocks. My mind was growing tired of looking for the next spot to place my foot. One false step on a rock or root and you're down on your face. In fact, falling is a big part of ultra-running, especially as you fatigue.
Surprisingly, I was able to pass a few runners as I counted down the miles and then something kicked in. The song "The Fire Inside" from Bob Seger came on my ipod and all hell broke loose. It is one of those songs that motivates me to leap tall buildings in a single bound. My arms started moving faster and my legs followed. I passed a hiker with a cute dog and he yelled out, hey, you have about 7 runners just ahead if you push you can catch them. That is like telling me, hey, there is a sale going on at my favorite store and if you get there early enough you'll hit all the good stuff! I kept hitting the repeat button on my ipod and kept passing runners. What a high! As I finished up running my fastest mile of the race, I saw three men and a truck which for this race was the FINISH and couldn't believe it was over already. Don't get me wrong, I was ready for it to be over at about mile 25.
It was a great race and a breaking moment in my life. I've been stuck in a fog the past few years dealing with the loss of my father, grandmother and dog. Running this race cleared the fog and unveiled the trail ahead.
Getting off the beaten path unleashed the fire inside and for that, I am grateful.
Whooo, what a weekend! Unless you've been on a week long expedition in the wilds of the outback, I'm sure you've heard about the Chicago Marathon. I had over 400 runners participating in the event [[Chicago Endurance Sports|http://www.chicagoendurancesports.com%5d/]] and for me, it was like letting your kids go play in the middle of Death Valley in July. I couldn't help but be concerned for everyone. Outside the troubles with fluid on the course, it was an absolute brutal day to run a marathon. 70 degrees is considered hot for a marathon and running a marathon is hard enough without the heat. It was 88 degrees, 90% humidity!
I've crewed for a friend at the Badwater Ultra-Marathon which is 135 miles in Death Valley in JULY. The temperature at the start is typically near 130 and it is unbelievably extreme. So I knew people could tackle the distance successfully. The difference is that many of the runners at Chicago weren't acclimated to the heat and the humidity was at its highest -- a deadly combination. The only way you can get through it is to throw out your plan A, B, and C, and go with the Doomsday Scenario. That may sound negative, but running the marathon Sunday was all about surviving the heat. And our runners did just that.
They carried their water bottles, they brought money just in case and they slowed their pace. I am pretty darn proud of them. Although they are quite disappointed they didn't finish 26.2 miles (some did but slowly) they did finish the event on the day. Although it wasn't a traditional race, it WAS a marathon of an event.
So for those who ran or attempted to run the Chicago Marathon just remember this...
A marathoner is not made in a day.
A marathoner is made like a fine wine.
From long runs on the weekends and fartleks during the week.
From weeks and months of preparation and early Friday nights.
You were all aged to perfection and ready to run.
What makes a runner a marathoner is the will to prepare and the courage to show up on race day.
Hold your head high. There are plenty of marathons to tackle.
I'll be the first to tell you I am surprised to be here. I was not an olympic runner. I didn't run on a collegiate team. In fact, I could barely run down my block when all this started. Running changed my life. And I haven't been the same since...
I was doing an internship at a corporate fitness center in Milwaukee post college. Every fitness center employee was a runner and I must admit I found it intimidating, yet exciting. As runners do, they spent the first day of my internship not teaching what to do, but trying to convince me to run a local 8K in the fall with them. Runners can be very convincing people:) So, although I was about 30 pounds over weight and couldn't run to the end of the block, I agreed. I was terrified because running was always a painful and humiliating experience. But, I did show very early signs of success. I went shopping for shoes and cute running apparel:)
Long story short, we trained at lunch 3-4 days per week. They never laughed and never judged. They only guided and encouraged me. I fell in love with the process of training and was amazed at my transformation that summer. I went from struggling to run down my block to running that 8K that fall. I didn't win of course and I was beaten by a 72-year old man and they announced it over the PA system...but none of that mattered to me. I trained. I ran. I got the t-shirt.
Crossing that finish line made me realize anything was possible. I went on to run races all over the world, qualify for the Boston Marathon and competed in three Eco-Challenge Expedition races. Running released the athlete in me. Running that one race opened a whole new world for me. I fell in love with the process of training and racing. So much that I began helping others learn to run and discover their inner runner. Stay tuned for upcoming blogs on training and racing tips, Q&A and my journey. Have a question? Post it here.
Running is all about the journey. Please tell me about your journey.