Monday, November 22, 2010

Outer Banks Marathon Recap - Making a Long Story Long

Now that the dust and Advil have settled, and stairs no longer mock me at every turn, I can objectively say that race day at the Outer Banks Marathon turned out about as well I could have hoped.  Not that there weren't some rough moments along the way, but stepping away from the microscope and just using the naked-eye, this was a good one.

Buckle up …. This is going to be a wordy ride.


The whole family packed into the Family Truckster Friday night for the drive to Kitty Hawk, which is less that 4-hours from Evolving World Headquarters.  The last 20 miles of the drive pretty closely follows the marathon course, just in reverse, so I got one last chance to see just how much more sense it makes to drive it.  I tried very hard not to think about how far it felt while in the car, since there would be no car to be found on Sunday.  The wind was blowing VERY hard throughout Nags Head and Kitty Hawk, gusting to 40 mph, and I did a little prayer to the wind gods that they would get it out of their system.  There’s a reason the Wright Brothers brought their flying machine to the Outer Banks ….. wind.  It’s almost always windy there, sometimes brutally so.  I have years of cancelled or ill-advised fishing trips to prove it.  Forecast was for the wind to lay down by race time.  Was keeping my IT-Bands crossed that the forecast would hold up.

Saturday was lots of stretching, icing, and generally worrying about how my knee would respond.  My dad and I hit the Expo after lunch, which was a little disappointing.  It was well-organized, but very little of it seemed to be about the race itself.  Limited marathon gear, no pace groups, etc.  Plenty of running vendors and samples.  We got out of there fairly quickly since I wanted to go check out a particular part of the course.  From about miles 10-13 the race goes through Nags Head Woods, which seemed like the most likely place I would run into trouble with my leg.  Unfortunately it didn’t disappoint.  The first couple miles cover a fairly hilly dirt road.  Good footing, but more up/down hill than my knee wanted to see.  The last stretch of this section turns off the road and heads onto a narrow trail that is VERY hilly, with sharp up and down grades.  Just walking the first hill, especially the downhill, was getting my knee a little cranky.  The run through the Woods would definitely make the second half of the race more interesting.  I felt better knowing what was coming, so I could get my head ready for it.

Saturday night was spent planning the dropoff plan for the morning, and a main and fallback spectator strategy.  My dad was walking the half-marathon, which started at 7AM from the halfway point of the full-marathon, so we all end up finishing at the same place.  The half started at 7:00, and the full marathon started at 7:20.  Plan was that my dad would drop me off far too early for the full, then drive to the start for the half.  One great thing about this race is the start is only a couple miles from my parents’ house.  Major downside of this is that the road in and out of their neighborhood, the only road, is closed from 6-9AM on race day since the race actually goes down that road.  I ran the whole race with my Fuel Belt, since I like to drink/eat/gel on a schedule that matches my training, rather than rely on water stops.  The plan was that my family would meet me at the halfway point, with high-fives, hugs,  and a fresh batch of Accelerade bottles for the Fuel Belt.  If the road stayed closed until 9AM, this wasn’t going to work, since they wouldn’t make it to the meeting spot by the time I got there.  We decided to go with this plan, hope the road opened earlier, and I would bring my Blackberry with me in case we needed to change things up.  Seemed simple enough on paper.

Race Day:

3:45AM .  Rise and Shine.  Needed plenty of time to eat, shower, stretch, and get rolling by 5:20AM.  Dad and I both got geared up, double/triple checked we had everything, and headed for the starting lines by 5:30.  When my dad dropped me off on his way to the Half start, I was, in fact, the first runner there.  I was actually the second person of any sort there, as there was a woman setting up a table with water near the start.  The weather was great – upper 40s, some humidity, very little wind.  I had my pick of a sea of pristine portable toilets, but once that was done I had a lot of waiting to do.  Fortunately folks started showing up soon after I got there, and by 6:30 the place was buzzing.  I spent most of the 2 hours leading up to the race pacing, trying to keep my feet and knee loose, stay warm, and hold on to as much of the stretching as I could.  There were no pace groups for the race, so I settled into the 7:00-9:00 Mile corral, and after a long prayer and an impressive National Anthem, we were off.

Miles 1-4 ….  Too fast by design
I knew the first few steps would set the table for my knee for the day.  I did some light jogging before heading to the corrals just to see how my leg would feel, and I was encouraged.  As we got underway with the race, I was once again encouraged when the pain was less than I expected, and it settled down very quickly.  Knowing that my knee would tighten up after the first couple hours, and knowing that the mid-race woods section was going to be rough, I decided I would go out fast if my body was cooperating.  I was still determined to go under 4 hours, and I knew I’d need some banked time at the end.  The runners’ energy was great, the weather was ideal, the spectators were doing their thing, so I went with the flow for the first 4 miles.  Didn’t even turn on my iPod during this time.  I really wanted to focus on reading how my knee felt, and wanted to really concentrate on the runners around me so I didn’t get tripped up and do any damage.  As I came up on the sign marking Mile 4, still focused on sub 4-hours, I said to myself ‘You’ve got this’……


Miles 5-10 …. Settling in
Once I hit mile 5 I tried to slow down a little and really focus on mid-foot strike as much as possible.  The better my knees-up, pop-pop-pop form, the better my knee felt.  This is a very flat stretch of the course, which winds through neighborhoods, does a picturesque half-lap around the Wright Brothers Memorial, and leads up to the stretch through the Woods.  Fired up the iPod during this stretch, followed my plan for Hammer Gels and Accelerade, and generally felt pretty good.  The knee had a tightness/ache to it, but no shooting pains and no feeling of instability.  Thanks to the lingering PF issues in my feet, they were starting to feel a little sore, but this was less than expected as well.  Temps were well into the 50s by the end of this stretch of miles, and the weather felt great.  There are various points that take you right along the sound, and the views were fantastic.  I can confidently say, however, that had the weather been bad, those stretches would have been brutal.  This is a beautiful course for a beautiful day, but could be very challenging in foul weather.  We made our way onto the dirt roads somewhere around mile 10 ……


Miles 11-14 ….  Into the Woods
Aside from the bridge at the end, I knew this would be the toughest part of the race for me.  After checking it out Saturday, and not knowing how my knee would respond, I had thought this might be the end of the race for me.  Race day, however, I knew this would just determine how much the rest of the race was going to hurt.  There was no way I wasn’t going to reach the finish line.  The dirt road portion was tough, but not too bad.  This was the first stretch where several people were walking parts of the course.  The footing was a little loose, so I was really concentrating on form and watching my step.  At the sharp left turn between Lap 12 and Lap 13 in the picture above, we left the road and followed a narrow path until leaving the woods.  This started with a steep uphill, and a very steep downhill, both of which put a beating on my leg.  The uphills and downhills continued, and I really had to overstress my left leg to do most of the work, and step lightly with my right leg.  Not ideal, but workable.

The exit from the woods was (hopefully) the point where I’d meet my family for some refueling and smiles.  I had my phone with me, with the plan being my wife would call me if they were NOT going to make it in time.  Good plan, but this didn’t account for the fact that I had no cell phone signal from about mile 9 until we left the woods.  So, did they make it in time??

You bet they did.  Got lots of hugs and high fives all around, a much-needed kiss from my wife, reloaded the Fuel  Belt better than the pit crews at Talladega, took stock of the knee (recovering well from the hills), and headed out for the second half of the race.....


Miles 15-18 ….. Paved Paradise
At just about the halfway point we hit our first stretch of the course on the main road through Nags Head, 158.  The road is 2-lanes both ways, and they had closed one of the Southbound lanes for us to run/walk.  Up to this point there had been plenty of shade, and the weather was a non-factor.  On the road, however, the temperature jumped noticeably, and the sun was shining strong.  It took a little while for my knee to settle down from the prior stretch, but it was still more ache than pain, so no big worries.  I could feel the knee brace rubbing the skin off a small section above my knee, but I expected some of that.  There were lots of signs and a few groups of cheering people along this stretch, and it was very flat and happy.  Still on-target with drinks and gels, still concentrating on form, and still maintaining a decent pace, although moving a bit slower – partially by design, and partially because I was getting a little tired….


Miles 19-21 ….. Fore
Fairly uneventful stretch, half of which winds through a golf course, and half of which is back on 158, leading up to the crossing of the Sound and the fun-filled bridge.  The sun was working hard, and the temps were rising.  Started seeing a scattering of folks who were obviously battling cramps, which started getting in my head and getting me prepared for the possibility of hitting the wall or cramping.  I hadn’t run much over the last couple weeks, so my legs were well rested, but they also didn’t feel like this was part of the routine like they had on the longer training runs.  I was starting to feel a little overstuffed on gel and Accelerade, so I started grabbing water at the water stops and dumping it on my head.  At the turn at mile 21 it was time to cross the water….


Miles 22-25 ….. A Bridge Too Far
This stretch takes you across the Currituck Sound, moving from Nags Head into Manteo and the finish line.  Unfortunately, if you’re not in a boat, then you’re probably going to have to cross a bridge to get across the water.  This is a very straight, very long, and mostly uphill stretch, including a big climb over the highest part of the bridge.  No real place for spectators in this area, so this is you against your mind.  I was definitely tired, my knee was aching, my feet were sore, my stomach was begging for mercy from gels, and it was all good.  This was what I had dragged myself out of bed for.  This was why I went to Physical Therapy.  This was yoga, stretching, foam roller, ice baths, blisters, and blood.  I was tempted to walk, and would have had lots of company, but I knew I would kick myself for it later.  My pace was dropping, but I knew I had time banked, so I let it slow enough to help my leg without threatening 4 hours.  Once we got off the bridge, the water stops returned, as did a scattering of spectators.  I forced down a last gel around mile 24, and made the turn for Manteo…..


Miles 25-Finish – Dragging it in
The last 1.2 miles are mercifully flat and straight.  Unfortunately I passed someone getting EMT attention, but he looked to be mostly OK.  I walked through the last water stop, double-fisting it with one cup to drink and one cup to dump on my head.  My stomach was a little queasy at this point from all the Accelerade and gel, so a big drink of water helped.  My knee was VERY tight at this point, and I knew my form was suffering, but I didn’t have a lot of life left in my legs to keep my steps as high as they should be.  Manteo is a pretty small town, so the spectators were packed into a fairly small area, which made the crowd look great, and sound very loud.  Spotted my family cheering at about 26.1 miles, which was GREAT to see.  Caught my first glimpse of the gun-time clock reading 3:56, which brought a big smile to my face.  Crossed the line, got my medal, and limped through the blankets and food to wait for my family.  Official chip time, 3:54:22.


Got some pictures with my dad, who kicked butt walking the half-marathon, got some pictures with my kids, roamed through the crowd and festivities for a while, then headed out for a much needed ice bath.  My legs were crazy tight, my knee and feet hurt, my stomach was shaky at best, but my 3:54 chiptime was about as best-case as I could have hoped for, took nearly 20 minutes off my prior marathon time, and I was still able to do this:

I would HIGHLY recommend this marathon to anyone considering it.  Very well organized, great job with water/gel stops and volunteers, beautiful course with stunning views of Kitty Hawk and Nags Head, and VERY well supported by the local community.  Can’t comment on the accommodations or the transportation, but I didn’t hear anyone complaining.  We didn’t stay in Manteo long afterwards, but there was plenty going on there, including a band and folks dancing in the streets, so the after-party looked like a success as well.

Most of the soreness is gone now, and my knee feels no worse than it did before the race, and isn’t bothering me at all walking around.  Haven’t tried running again yet, and won’t for at least another week.  I’m without a ‘next race’ right now, and that’s OK at the moment.  Just enjoying a great experience, and a great memory for me and my dad.  Planning to live vicariously through my blogging friends for a while before I get back to business.

I recognize it may have taken longer to read this entry than it took to run the race, but Shannon from ‘Running Injury Free’ has posted her recap of the OBX Marathon, and she took a BUNCH of pictures while running.  If you want to read a great recap, and see just how nice the weather and the course really were, I’d highly encourage you to check out her recap here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

OBX Marathon Results and Ryder/Gu Giveaway Winners

Full race recap to follow, hopefully later this week, but here are the important details.

Contrary to what most folks with any common sense would do, but I suspect in line with what most folks afflicted with a love of running would do, I took my busted knee, wrapped it as tightly as I could in a brace, and hobbled to the starting line for the marathon.

After much pain, much gel, much Accelerade, and many mental battles...

Official chip time of 3:54:22.65.  I like the looks of a finishing time that starts with a 3.

VERY happy with the result considering 2 weeks ago I was doubting if I'd be able to make it to the starting line.  Thanks to the many bloggers who passed along encouragement along the way, especially those over the last couple of weeks.  I thought of many of you when the going got very tough at the end.

I'm in a world of sore today.  Some normal sore, some injury sore, but the overlap is significant enough that I can't really isolate anything.  I'll give it a few days to settle down and then take inventory.  No pain, no gain.

Those who subject themselves to my blog on a regular basis know that one of the reasons I chose this marathon is that it starts about 2 miles from my parents' house, and my father, who has never done any sort of distance racing, trained to walk the half while I ran the full.  His target was to complete the half in under 4 hours, and he rocked a 3:36:59 chiptime.  4 hour times didn't stand a chance against the Stallman men on Sunday.

Now, for the real reason you tuned in today - the giveaway winners.  Ended up with 190 entries total, which included some great stories about fueling gone wrong, and fond stories of sunglasses from the past.  Courtesy of, here are the 2 winners (along with their comments) of the Ryders/Gu combo prizes:

Winner #1 (Canadian runner of 'Running Adventures'):

Winner #2 (Karen of 'Just me and my Running Shoes')

Thanks to all of you that entered.

Karen & Canadian Runner - please email me your addresses at, and I'll get your prizes shipped out so you can put them into action.

Time to hit the Advil again.

Friday, November 12, 2010

OBX Marathon Go Time - Hurts So Good

The journey of a crapload of pain begins with the first step.

Bright and early Sunday morning I’ll set off on my second attempt at the noble pursuit of marathoning.  Weather looks good, gear looks good, execution on training plan looks good, knee looks bad.  Per the vast majority of advice, I have not run since Sunday.  Tuesday and Thursday I hit the gym for some light lifting and 30 minutes on the stationary bike at minimal resistance.  I’ve been icing 2-3x daily, putting a hurting on a monster bottle of Advil, doing my PT stretching every day, and rolling around on the foam roller whenever the spirit moves me.  I know this is going to hurt, but I’m pretty sure I can push through the hurt as long as I’m not doing any long-term damage.  Unfortunately I wouldn’t say I’m looking forward to this one as much as I’m looking forward to it being over.

I’m confident in my preparation, and confident in my fueling strategy.  The will is strong, but the confidence in the knee is shaky.  Not quite sure how this one is going to play out, but there’s only one way to find out.  I still want to come in under 4 hours.  We’ll see if want is enough.

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to enter my Ryders Eyewear / Gu giveaway.  Still taking entries until midnight Sunday (11/14).

Good luck to all that are lacing them up this weekend.

Run swiftly my friends.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

This was supposed to be the post where I revealed my marathon goals.  This was supposed to be the post where I recounted my positive changes in this training cycle.  This was supposed to be the post where I talked about tapering and how much I missed the grind of training.  This was supposed to be the time of positive anxiousness, where I knew I had the fitness covered, but respected the fact that you never know how your body will feel on race day.  This was supposed to be fun.

Plans change.  Mine changed at the 7-mile mark of my run last Sunday.  My right knee is not in a happy place.  Apparently my knee bone is connected to my pissed-off bone, but I’m trying to keep both in check.  Per my new plan, I gave my knee a test this morning.  There were no miracles.  No sudden, mind-blowing recoveries.  No confidence-boosting improvements from Wednesday’s run.  I didn’t expect much, and I got what I expected.

I bought a Cho-Pat strap for my knee, the kind with a strap above and below the knee, and wore it on this morning’s run.  The first half mile was pretty brutal.  Lots of tightness and pain where the quad meets the inner kneecap.  Once that loosened up a bit, it mostly settled into a dull ache, with an occasional shot of pain on the outside or inside of the kneecap.  I tried to mix surfaces, and hit some hills, to see if anything made things better or worse, and nothing really jumped out as good or bad.  I also made sure I went at least 7 miles, since that’s where the Cobra Kai decided to sweep the knee last time.
Ended up going just over 9 miles, followed by much Advil and ice.  And perhaps a beer or two.

Net result – disappointment that the rest and ice didn’t seem to make a discernible difference between Wednesday and Sunday, with slight encouragement that I got through 9 miles.

Bottom line – unless something gets considerably worse over the course of the week, I’ll be standing at the starting line Sunday morning ready for 4 hours of hurt.  Also, my knee can suck it if it thinks it’s going to make me throw out all my goals and just be happy to finish.  My goal is to go sub 4-hours.  My original goal, pre knee flop, was to run an 8:45 average pace, finishing around 3:50.  I’m still clinging tenuously to that goal, and will hold that grip until my body tells me otherwise.

Without an actual medical opinion on this, I’m not quite sure what to do this week.  Total rest?  Try another short run Wednesday to keep things loose?  Cross-train to try and kick my quads into gear?  Maybe a couple long walks?  I’ll definitely be stretching every day, icing multiple times daily, spending some quality time with the foam roller, and taking anti-inflammatories like Brett Favre on a Monday morning.  I may try and get to my orthopedist, but my work schedule isn’t making this very likely.

Time to start getting my mind ready for an unhappy body one week from now.  Time to channel a combination of Willis Reed, Jordan with the flu, and Kerri Strug on the vault.  Or maybe Rocky Balboa, since Clubber Lang summed up my prediction for this race....

Don't forget to enter my Ryders/Gu giveaway.  Entry deadline is less than a week away.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Busted. Marathon gone?

10 days until the marathon, and what should be a blissful taper full of well-trained confidence has turned into wondering if I’m going to be able to run.

This past Saturday I set out for a 14 mile long run to kick off the 2-week taper.  At about the 7 mile mark my right knee started bothering me.  Generally tight, and just a little ‘off’.  Not the IT Band type issues from before, but something different.  Over the next 3 miles the tightness got more pronounced, and a little past 10 miles pain set in below and beside my kneecap.  Gutted out the last 4 miles to get back to my car, but something was definitely wrong.  Rested, iced,and fretted for the next 3 days, skipping my run on Tuesday, and headed out Wednesday morning for 5 miles to see how it felt.  Unfortunately the answer was tight, sore, and painful.

Today it’s very sore, clicking more than usual, hurts below and beside the kneecap, and just generally crappy.

Not quite sure what this is going to mean.  Definitely not going to run Friday, skipping my Saturday run, and hoping to try it out Sunday to see what’s going on.  Lots of stretching, ice, ibuprofen and profanities in the meantime.  Looking like this marathon may be slipping away.  After all the IT Band and Plantar Fasciitis battles, I may be wiped out by a rogue kneecap.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Big Old Giveaway: Ryders Eyewear and Gu … Times Two

Crossed the 500 miles of training mark over the weekend, down to less than two weeks to marathon #2, so it seems like time to give some stuff away.  Thanks once again to my good friend Devon from Outside PR, we’re going to go BIG with this giveaway.

If you read my recent review of the Ryders Eyewear VTX Sunglasses, you know that I’m a big fan.  They’ll be crossing the line in the OBX just slightly behind my nose, but well ahead of my ears, unless I manage some sort of epic finish that they’ll be talking about for years.  As I mentioned in my review, I’m digging the red pair I’ve got, but have much love for the metallic white VTX frames…..

If you’ve read some of my earlier blog posts, you may recall the unfortunate incident of the Cliff Shot Blocks.  In a moment of weakness I opted to stray from my trusted Gu Chomps and try the Shot Bloks, and was rewarded with a mouth full of fail.  The grass was decidedly browner on the other side.  Gu and I have since made up, and I shall stray no more.  In fact, I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony, I’d like to buy the world some Gu, and keep it company.  So that’s exactly what I’m going to do…..

The winner of today’s giveaway will score him/herself a shiny new pair of White Mettalic Ryders Eyewear VTX Sunglasses:

AND, a GU Performance Energy Sampler, which includes:

  • 9 GU Energy Gels - includes each flavor of the workhorse of endurance nutrition 
  • 3 Roctane Gels - when you really need to dig deep on that long training run, ride or race 
  • 2 Chomps Packets - mix things up a bit with this delicious and chewable form of energy
  • 2 GU Electrolyte Brew Packets - a great tasting, balanced electrolyte mix to improve hydration 
  • 1 GU Recovery Brew Packet - use after workouts to recover faster and perform better the next time out 

And looks a little something like this:

But wait….there’s more.  To really go big, I’m going to award TWO lucky winners with a Ryders/Gu combination pack to help kick up their workouts.  Somewhere out there Billy Mays is nodding approvingly.

Still the King

I’ll take entries up until midnight on 11/14, the day of the Outer Banks Marathon, and will walk gingerly to my computer on the 15th in an ibuprofen-induced haze to select the two lucky winners via

You’ve got 6 different ways to enter, so leave a separate comment for each to serve as your virtual entries.  I hope the winners like these products as much as I do.  GOOD LUCK!!

How to Enter (6 entries possible – separate comment for each):
  1. Become a follower of my blog, or let me know that you already are a follower.  If my rapier-like wit has distracted you from joining the ranks of the followers, now’s the time to join the revolution.  Follow me to freedom.
  2. Link to this giveaway on your blog, and leave me a comment letting me know
  3. Like Gu Energy Labs on Facebook, and leave a comment letting me know
  4. Leave me a comment with your worst ‘fueling’ experience while training.  I’m still emotionally scarred from the cola Shot Bloks.  Oh the humanity.
  5. Follow Ryders Eyewear on Facebook, and leave a comment letting me know
  6. Leave me a comment about your all-time favorite pair of sunglasses.  I still remember my Vuarnet shades from high school.  Matched up with some nice acid-washed jeans and maybe a popped collar.  So money ... and I didn’t even know it.