Saturday, September 14, 2013

Eat Your Veggies! What I've Been Eating:

Carrots glazed with maple syrup, garden fresh green beans, broccoli coleslaw, and baked potatoes with avocado.
Quinoa, lentils, mushrooms, garlic, onions, olives, avocado, sriracha and salad greens.
Vegan sushi and greens
Sprouted tofu scramble, garden tomatoes, greens, and Vitamix grapefruit juice
Tofu scramble, greens, fruit, roasted potatoes
Steamed veggies, sesame seeds, sprouted tofu, cashews, and kidney beans, over black and brown basmati rice
Quinoa/corn pasta salad and Kale
Vegan alfredo sauce over corn rigati and broccoli with mixed greens

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Heartland Half-Marathon Race Report

Waking up in the wee hours of the morning from an unfamiliar bed that cost nearly as much as my monthly mortgage, driving into a maze of concrete and stoplights, finding parking, standing around for hours in the cold, and then hoping to have some adrenaline left in my legs to race among a never ending sea of strangers is common for marathons and half marathons. However, I experienced none of this at the 2013 Heartland Half Marathon in Jasper, Indiana.

My family made the trip with me from Lexington to this small town in southern Indiana in less than 3 hours. The terrain was mostly flat, with rows and rows of cornfields. In addition to it conveniently occurring on Labor Day weekend, it was spot on the date scheduled for a tune-up race in my marathon training. What I did experience was a quality Sleep Inn motel room, one mile from the starting line, with a fridge and microwave for less than $60. A pool awaited us outside for a late summer swim, but we forgot our son's swim trunks, However, $1 and a Goodwill across the street remedied the dilemma. We also discovered a natural foods store next door, but unfornately missed it being open my 20 minutes.

Packet pickup was at neat little train depot, located next to the starting line and across a bridge and stream from a mill. In addition to the bib and tech shirt, swag included embroidered socks and a hat. To my surprise, it did not include a disposable chip timer, but did include a reusable chip and ties for shoes, along with a notice that it costs $35 to replace.

Everything went well the night before the race, except I didn't feel quite 100%. I had injured my chest a couple weeks prior, causing the same area on my back to be a little tender as well. Additionally, I felt a little fatigued, which I attributed to the injury and allergies. For vegan food options, a couple chain restaurants were nearby, Fazolis and Subway. However, before leaving Lexington, I stocked up on brown rice vegetable rolls and fresh spring rolls from the sushi station at Good Foods Co-op.

While not great, I got some decent sleep the night before, and woke up at 5:30am for a 7:30 start. I fueled up with a banana, water, and a small cup of hotel coffee. After a several visits to the hotel bathroom, we were off. Nearby the starting line, I used the bathroom again at a porta-potty. Despite the numerous encounters with the toilet, I wasn't terribly concerned. About half of a mile into a mile warm-up, weight in my stomach shifted, and I heard a swooshing sound. Now, I was a little worried.

Around 400 half marathoners lined up on the left side of the road and 5k participants, headed up by a group of eager kids, were on the right. I lined up near the front, but a few rows back.  My previous half-marathon, this past spring, was in 1:34 and change. For this race, I hoped to drop a couple minutes and run closer to 7:00 minute even miles. The first mile I started a little fast, but not by much. There were maybe a dozen or so runners in front of me, but not many, and most were in eye-sight. This continued for the first 7 or 8 miles. Then the sun began to warm up the morning, my stomach issues became a little more alarming, not helped by the overwhelming smell of cow manure and urine that filled the air, once leaving downtown and running by farmland, and I encountered a couple sizable hills, on an otherwise flat course. I probably could have overcome one or two of these obstacles, but combined they were too much and I began to gradually fade, exerting as much effort as I thought I could to hang on.

Running back into town, we made a left onto a wooded paved trail, that led to the finish line located in a park nearby the train depot. I was struggling to hang onto a 7:30 or so pace, lost the runners in front of me, and no one was in sight behind me either. I was disappointed to not be finishing stronger, but found the stamina to sprint the last half of a mile.

I've described this race as bittersweet. I beat my previous best half marathon, but only by seconds and the stomach issues that I experienced during the race lingered for a while after. I placed 2nd in my age group, oblivious during the race that I was only a few seconds per mile off pace from the winner. I placed 21st overall with a time of 1:34:26, averaging 7:12 miles. While nothing really stood out from the race that I feel makes it a must do again, it was well organized, hassle-free, and though somewhat vanilla at times, it was mostly pretty.

Friday, July 5, 2013

2013 Bluegrass 10,000 Race Report

For the past 37 years, Lexington's downtown 4th of July celebration has begun with the running of the Bluegrass 10,000. Its a race that I was familiar with before ever putting on a pair of running shoes, or even living in Lexington. At today's race, I overheard a couple experienced mature runners talking about a nearby 5k that has started to offer $12,000 in prize money and is attracting all of the "Kenyans", giving others the chance to win Bluegrass. I chimed in and said that if I had the speed, I would probably be at the 5k as well (I'm poor!). They swore they would still run the 10,000, because it has too much sentimental value to pass up. In other words, this is a marquee race that is very important to the Lexington running community.

This was my second time running the Bluegrass 10,000. I ran it last year and though I enjoyed it, I knew it wasn't my best race. It was less than a month after my first full marathon, which was in 80 degree weather in the mountains. Furthermore, last year's race day weather was hot and sunny, with the temperature soaring to near triple digits. This year, I spent the better of June training specifically for this race, building upon a local 5k that I raced at the beginning of the month, and hoped for more ideal weather.

I felt well prepared without being over-trained. I tapered and took a couple days off without any running. On top of the experience of running last years race, I joined the Striders this past weekend for a group run over the racecourse. My main concern was the weather, which I had no control over. Rain and thunderstorms were on the way. As long as there wasn't a monsoon, I'd be fine. My shoelaces might not have been tied (Velcro Vibrams), but my fingers were crossed.

On race morning, I woke up to near perfect weather: high 60's and an overcast sky, with occasional light showers. No near heat strokes this year. I drank a glass of water, ate a banana, and found parking a few blocks from the start, without about 45 minutes to spare. Last year, I arrived a little late, wound up stuck in the porta-potty line, and started the race too far back, despite being a seeded runner. I didn't repeat the same mistake this year. After a mile warmup, with a several strides, I was ready to go.

Last year, I finished in over 45 minutes and this year, I decided I'd be happy with anything less than 43. I planned to start conservatively, thinking a 7 minute first mile would be ideal. Ofcourse, most excited runners start too fast, and I let many pass me without worrying. I still managed to run the first mile a little faster than planned, but felt relaxed. Soon, we were passing mile 2, running away from downtown, and climbing a slight incline on Richmond Road. However, I still felt that I had another gear left that I could shift to later. Despite the rain showers, a number of spectators were out chearing, music was blasting, and fire hydrants and hoses were spraying water. I avoided the extra water this year as the roads were already wet and my wornout Vibrams have very little traction. The last mile I was actually thinking to myself, "OK, I'm good so long as I don't fall!"

After running away from downtown, the course loops with a 2 mile return to downtown for the finish. I began to see the front runners speeding back and a few minutes later I was following their footsteps. I still felt good, and at this point I was confident I'd meet my expectations. I was running
around a 6:30 pace and as I crested the last "hill" I dropped my pace closer to a flat 6 minutes, reeling in the runners within striking distance, until crossing the finish line.

Following this race, I am going to begin training for the Monumental Indianapolis Marathon in the fall, and probably throw in a half marathon in between. As far as future 10ks are concerned, I think sub-40 is a reasonable goal and plan not to miss the 38th edition of the Bluegrass 10,000 on July 4th of 2014.

Time:  41:12
Pace:  6:37 min/mile
Age Group:  15/139
Overall:  100/2863

Finishing in my new black No Meat Athlete singlet. Back: "Run's on Plants"

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

2013 Run For The Nun 5k Race Report

After running a spring half marathon, signing up for my 2nd July 4th Bluegrass 10,000 and registering for a fall full marathon, I felt that the beginning of June was a good time to race a 5k and it just so happened that one was held on June 1st in Lexington. Despite my relatively low weekly mileage lately, perhaps averaging 20mpw, and lack of speed training, my goal was to break 20 minutes.

Until registering a few days before the race, I knew little about Run for the Nun. It turned out that this happened to be the 23rd annual running of a popular early summer 5k race in Lexington. Its held in conjunction with the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Country Fair, put on by St Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, and proceeds from the race benefit a local food bank. The course, to quote the race's website, "follows rolling, scenic back roads in south Lexington".

The days leading up to the race were hot and muggy, especially while living without AC. This had been having a negative effect on the quality of my sleep. The night before the race, I got no where near a sufficient amount of sleep, but reluctantly got myself out of bed at 6 in the morning, drank a glass of water, ate a banana, put on a pair of Vibrams, my Vegan Athletes singlet, and Garmin. It was already in the 70s and the sun had just come up.

Parking was simple. A parking lot was available, but I used a nearby side street. I didn't pickup my race packet prior to race day, but had no issue getting it on race morning. I was actually glad that it included it a regular t-shirt, rather than another tech shirt that I typically don't wear.

A 1 mile fun run was held prior to the start of the 5k and I had ample time to warm up. I found a side street to stretch my legs on, for a little over a mile and a several strides. While warming up, I discovered exactly what sort of rolling hills I was in for.

I was a little late getting to the starting line and not looking forward to trying to weave my way towards the front. Besides feeling like the kid in school who cuts in line, I didn't have any issues finding an appropriate place to begin. A younger child or two might have lined up on the starting line, but I think most participated in the fun run.
 Almost immediately, the course turned and we were on a downhill. In retrospect, I probably could have run this part a little faster. However, I was concerned about the crash and burn strategy that is popular in 5ks. What goes down must come up, and soon enough we were going back up. I was on pace to break 20 minutes, but I wasn't sure how I would hold up with the relative heat and hills.

At two points, there were turn arounds where the police were parked to block vehicle traffic. This was my only true gripe with the race. The turns weren't very precise and probably could have been improved with a couple cones.

 About half way through the race, I was reminded of how intense 5ks can be, versus slower paced longer distances. While racing, 5ks always seem longer than 3.1 miles. About a mile or two in, I found myself in a pack with a girl that would wind up taking 2nd place overall female, and a guy who would finish directly in front of me.
Turning the final corner, running down the home stretch, and spotting the clock, I was surprised to see that it had just passed 19 minutes. I felt like I had struggled during the last mile, especially on the hills. Yet, I found energy to sprint past the finish line and was pleased to clock a 19:38 5k, placing 2nd in my age group and 15th overall.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

2013 Kentucky Derby Festival MiniMarathon Race Report

The Derby Marathon and MiniMarathon is generally regarded as Kentucky's premier foot race. With 18,000 participants, it is the largest running race in the bluegrass state. This was finally my first go at it. It was also my first half of the year, after reluctantly skipping Run The Bluegrass, due to injury. I was eager to toe the starting line, but also unsure of myself. A return to training in Vibram Five Fingers and barefoot running, with an added emphasis on form, had allowed me to resume running without aggrivating my IT bands, but I was well undertrained.

Louisville is only about an hour and a half away from Lexington, so getting up early Saturday morning, the day of the race, and driving west on 64 could have theorically been possible. However, being that there was no race day packet pickup, we booked a hotel north of downtown Louisville. After leaving work Friday afternoon, I drove straight home, carbed up on baked potatoes and veggies, and hit the road with the family.

Despite the relatively short distance between Lexington and Louisville, I don't frequent downtown Louisville very often. Yet, after a few wrong turns, we made it safely to the Kentucky International Convention Center for the expo. I am easily pleased with these events, so long as I can simply pick up my bib and shirt. Yet, I soon discovered that they were out of my shirt size. For the most part, the shirts I have received from races are in my closet collecting dust. However, considering that I registered months in advance, I was annoyed that they somehow did not have the shirt I paid for. On the positive side, I like race posters, and was pleased to see them passed out for no extra charge, plus free gloves.

On Saturday morning, I woke up in the hotel room at 5am, two and a half hours before race start. I didn't get the best quality sleep, but it was somewhat expected, since it was the night before a race that I was unsure of, and I was in a foreign bed. However, don't think it usually has a dramatic effect on my results. I drank a glass of water and ate a couple bananas, the usual before a morning run or race, and we checked out of the hotel before 6am.

Downtown Louisville nearly appeared to be a ghost town during our short commute. I didn't mind, but was surprised considering the size of the race. We were actually able to find parking within a block from the starting line. The weather was somewhat cool and overcast, but ideal for running. I wore a jacket for a while, but took it off before going to the start line, needing only shorts and a singlet.

I entered Corral A, just behind the elite runners, around 7:15. Most of the corrals further back were already full, but Corral A still had plenty of room. Music was playing and the announcers were preparing for the start, until a moment of silence was requested for the recent tragedy at the Boston Marathon. Soon after, the national anthem was sung and the wheelchair racers were off, followed by runners.

I managed to dial in a comfortable pace, without getting too caught up in the excitement of the start. I knew that I'd likely end up passing many of the early sprinters later in the race. We ran through downtown Louisville and then entered the urban neighborhoods. Spectators were scattered, but enthusiastic. In my last big city race, the Columbus Marathon, we ran through Ohio State's football stadium. In Louisville, the main attraction was running through Churchill Downs. Despite living in Kentucky and not being a fan of horse racing, it was interesting to have the experience of running through such a historically famous venue. 


Leaving Churchill Downs, I still felt pretty solid. I wouldn't exactly say that I felt like a well oiled machine, because I'd occasionally feel a quark or two that would cause me to worry, but I was doing as we'll as I could have expected. Headed back toward downtown, I encountered a fellow runner who noticed my Vegan Athletes singlet and introduced himself as a fellow vegan. It was a plant powered moment.

As we reentered Downtown for the last 5k, I found myself not only holding on, but seemingly picking up steam. I think this feeling was partially due to so many other runners fading, and I was able to pick off dozens, often 2 or 3 at a time. I'd eye down a runner in the distance, convince myself into feeling confident that I should definitely be faster for whatever reason, and then reel them in.

Approaching the finish, I still felt like some gas in the tank. I think wearing the Five Fingers and focussing on form really helped me run more efficiently. I repeatedly reminded myself to bend my knees, bend my knees, bend until I was running in a semi squatted position. Coincidentally, as I crossed the finish line, I was neck to neck with the only other runner that I saw in Five Fingers.

After finishing, I was given a medal, a space blanket, and had my picture snapped. After eyeing down the table of food, I passed on the dairy based smoothies that McDonald's was handing out, but picked up the healthiest vegan food I could, bottled water, Sun Chips, a somewhat ripe banana, and package of "dry biscuits". Within 10 minutes I was "reunited" with my family.

Time: 1:34:58
Pace: 7:15
Place: 302/11,484

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Cumberland Falls

Spring has finally arrived in Kentucky and we have enjoyed the the warmer temperatures and increased Vitamin D by getting out and hiking, which has been great cross training, while I tend to IT band issues. Yesterday, we drove south for a couple hours to Cumberland Falls, "The Niagra Falls of the South", and hiked Eagle Falls Trail #9, which was apparently voted the best trail in Kentucky. It was moderately strenuous, with a fair share of ascent and descent, but with our 3.5 year old son, we took our time, about 2.5 hours.

With Taegan @ Eagle Falls

Liane @ Eagle Falls

View from the trail of Cumberland Falls

Sunday, March 17, 2013

March 11 - March 17

The theme of this week's training was forced rest, due to illness. Like most people, I have my ups and downs, not always performing at 100%, but its rare that I get ill to the point of being forced to lie down and little else. However, after not being at 100% prior to and after the Railrunner 10 miler last week, but remaining on my feet, I was finally brought to a halt this week, missing multiple workouts. Fortunately, after a few days of rest, I seem to be back on the upswing and easing back into training for the Run the Bluegrass half marathon, which is only a couple weeks away.

Running Distance: 15.87 miles
Total Time Training: 2:16

Tues AM: Hilly Mile Repeats
1 mile warm up, 4 x mile w/1/4 easy running between
7:29, 7:51, 7:20, 7:33

Sat AM: Easy Return Run
After being sidelined for a few days, due to illness I was finally itching to get back outside. By Saturday afternoon, spring like weather finally convinced me that stretching my legs for a few miles would be a good thing.

Sun AM: Easing Back Run
I was scheduled to run for 2 hours, at near half marathon pace for the last 30 minutes. However, the weather did a 180 degree turn from yesterday's 70 degrees and clear skies to today's near freezing temperatures and rainy conditions. Additionally, I did not want to push myself too hard after a forced break due to illness. The end result was 45 minutes easy and 15 minutes at 7:50 pace for a total of an hour run. Not a perfect run, but not bad considering the circumstances.