Thursday, June 30, 2011


I’m up to 48 miles in the last 7 days. Nothing spectacular, but I have to start somewhere. The important thing is to build off of it. When training isn’t going that well, I find it very easy to skip the only hard workouts that I typically do; tempos and marathon paced runs. Once that cycle starts, it’s easy to continue. Usually, I’m able to justify it by tell myself I’m not fit enough to do a workout. I figure if I can’t improve upon the last workout, why do it. Well, now I don’t care how bad my workout times are, I need to start somewhere. So this week I did a 3 mile tempo at 6:54 pace. Sure, that’s a lot slower than “normal”, but things haven’t been “normal” for awhile. This is the new me for right now and, as with my mileage, I’ll build off of it.

Last weekend were the U.S. Track & Field Championships. I really didn’t follow along until the meet was over. Then I went to for their recap and was able to watch some videos. Here are my random thoughts. Jen Rhines continues to impress. I don’t have her info handy, but she must be 36 or so. She been an Olympian at 5K, 10K and the marathon. Last weekend she made like her 10th U.S. team. She never seems to get a lot of recognition, perhaps because she’s always solid, but never spectacular. Just looked it up, she’ll be 37 tomorrow. Happy Birthday to one of my favorite runners!

On the other hand there’s Christin Wurth-Thomas. I don’t know a lot about her, but every time I see her race she zooms right to the front and then gets passed by everyone. Last weekend was no different. She built a HUGE lead and then was passed by 3 women in the last 100 meters. She finished 4th, 0.01 seconds from qualifying. What really bugged me was summed up nicely by Pre’s Mustache. In her post race interview she talked about food poisoning and lack of sleep and then said “But I’m not making excuses.” Umm, yes you are.

With sites like Flotrack, Runnerspace, etc. all interviewing these runners after their races, fans are getting a lot more exposure to these athletes. Of course, this can be either good or bad and what they say can leave lasting impressions on the relatively small fan-base surrounding track & field. While runners like Wurth-Thomas and Will Leer made excuses, youngster Matt Centrowitz said all the right things and made some fans along the way.

Quote of the Day;

"I don't think it's set in yet. Taking a victory lap with guys like Lagat and Leo Manzano is just exciting and just to be running alongside of them and to be mentioned with them is an honor. I'm pumped." – Matt Centrowitz, after winning the U.S 1500 meter title

Monday, June 27, 2011


First off today, happy 13th anniversary to my wife – that means we’ve been together 16 years total. Hard to believe anyone could put up with me for so long. Even my parents could see the light at the end of the tunnel after 16 years.

I’ve talked about being fired up lately and getting more serious about my training. As always, it all starts with getting out the door on a consistent basis. Luckily, my knee is feeling better, so that makes being consistent a little easier. Who would have thought running 26.2 miles would help make the pain go away?

Since I don’t have much going on right now, I wanted to share a couple of other websites that you might enjoy. Dave Elger’s site is one of those sites I always forget I have saved in my favorites. Yet every time I go back, I tend to find some little nugget. Toni Reavis is one of the best promoters of our sport around. You may happen to remember the Runnerville Podcast that I enjoyed awhile ago. Toni was a big part of those.

Big weekend in running with the U.S. Championships as well as Western States. I hope to share some thoughts on those later this week.

Quote of the Day;

“There's something intensely satisfying about racing and pushing yourself as far as you can but it's not necessarily fun at the time, especially if you fail at your goal, whatever it may be. That's why I couldn't let the hard day's work go to waste.” - Ian Sharman talking about his 10th place finish at Western States

Friday, June 24, 2011


I'm going to close out the week by sharing an article I recently wrote for MDRA.

On the beaten path by Chad Austin

For as long as I can remember I’ve been a road runner. Sure, I do a fair amount of my training on trails and I’ll jump in a trail race or two during the year. But for the most part I stick to the roads and races ranging from 5K to marathons. Like most roadies, thoughts of running an ultra marathon have been the furthest thing from my mind. I’ve been too consumed with finding flat, fast courses in order to lower my times as far as possible. However, somewhere along the line the order of importance for me has shifted from setting PRs to experiencing new things. I’m guessing this is a natural progression that occurs as we age and PRs become fewer and farther between. One thing I haven’t experienced is running more than 26.2 miles. So now that I’ve set the last of my road PRs, I find thoughts of trying an ultra marathon creeping into my head.

Over the last couple of years I’ve had the pleasure of running once a week with some of the best local ultra marathoners. Earlier this spring I was fortunate enough to travel with many of these guys to Arizona where we ran the Grand Canyon. While this wasn’t a race, the experience gave me an inside look into the ultra world. During this trip I couldn’t help by think about the difference between roadies and trail runners. For example, road racers put a lot of emphasis on their pace per mile. In fact, as little as 5-10 seconds per mile, faster or slower, is often the difference between a great race and a terrible race. Given the variability of trails, little to no importance is placed on mile splits. Instead, these runners focus more on being in-tune with their body and how it’s responding to the stresses placed upon it. Another example, marathoners try to avoid bonking at all costs. We know once a bonk arrives, it can be a miserable shuffle the rest of the way. The only thing we can do is watch our mile splits get slower and slower. The ultra marathoners I ran with know a bonk, or two, is coming and they almost look forward to them. They place bets on who will reach Bonk City first and joke about 3 bonks and you’re out. Their lighthearted approach is due to the fact that they know they have time to refuel on the run and can pull themselves out of a bonk. Finally, I even think the camaraderie between the two groups is different. Post-road race conversations are typically about finish time and place. Roadies will go into minute detail about ever mile split along the course and tell you who they beat and didn’t beat. On the other hand, the trail runners seem more genuinely concerned with everyone’s experience; how they felt, what they thought of the course, how was their nutrition, etc. It’s hard to explain, but it reminds me of my time in boot camp where everyone looks out for everyone else.

I’m not sure what each group thinks of the other, but I get the sense that roadies think they are better runners. The sheer number of roadies almost guarantees that they’re faster, however, the trails have their fair share of fast runners too. For example, three-time XTERRA Trail Champion, Max King has run 14:23 for 5K. And earlier this spring California resident Ian Sharman ran 100 miles in 12 hours and 44 minutes, that’s 7:51 pace. Another way to look at it, he ran 24:20 for 5K 32 times in a row.

Of course, the two groups aren’t mutually exclusive, former Team USA Minnesota runner, Chris Lundstrom who boasts a 2:17 marathon, is also one of the most successful trail runners around. As for Lundstrom’s love of the trails, he says, “Trail races, particularly ultras, are less about competing with other runners and more about testing yourself and your own fortitude. There are a lot more variables than in road racing. You may encounter a wide variety of conditions and challenges, such as poor footing, down trees, heat and humidity or snow and cold, dehydration and energy depletion...the list goes on and on. Ultimately these events are about continuing to move forward to the best of your ability, despite the challenges. They're also about appreciating some of the beautiful natural areas that we have around us. A great trail race is one where you aren't thinking about racing, but rather are simply cruising along, enjoying the trail and the natural surroundings.” For more reasons to hit the trails, see the sidebar.

If your interest in trail and/or ultra running is piqued, you can learn more on the Upper Midwest Trail Runners website. There you’ll find at least a dozen ultras between Minnesota and Wisconsin. They also have a variety of different series events that you can enter. Two consist entirely of all ultras, another ranges from 10K to the marathon, and they even have a 5K trail series for those looking to get away from the roads and on the beaten path.

My buddy Joe Uhan is fairly new to ultras. He recently posted the top 10 reasons he loves ultra marathons on his blog.

10. Best of All Worlds - It combines my three favorite things: running, being surrounded by nature, and eating!

9. Nutrition, Hydration, Electrolytes - It's more than just running. You ultimately have to manage these things well in order to do your best.

8. Youth - In a sport where the average competitor is 40+, it's fun to be "the young guy" again.

7. Resiliency & Forgiveness - The ability to run a hard 50-mile race, then be able to come back the next day and run an "easy 14" without consequence.

6. Race Reports - In what other sport does the individual competitor provide their blow-by-blow account? Reading their blogs is a fascinating perspective into their race.

5. Sustainability of pace, of training, of body - Success, both short and long-term, in ultra running depends on sustainability, of the stride, of fueling, of training. To learn sustainability is to learn to love the feel of effortless running.

4. Race Dynamics - The marathon comes close, but only in ultra running can you be at death's door and be resurrected. The ability of both body and spirit to "turn the tide" makes the battle, of the competition and of self, so rewarding.

3. It's a "Pure Sport" - Challenging oneself, and challenging your competitors by giving them your best. Your best is achieved only through your competitor giving their best.

2. Mentorship & Stewardship - The sport has plenty of guys who are not only mentors to us "young road guys", but models for stewardship of the competition, the arena, and the competitive spirit.

1. Camaraderie & Community - Pre-race, post-race and in-between. Top guys will hang around at the finish to ask us middle-of-the-pack runners how it went. The true spirit of running, as a sport, is through community, including communal sacrifice, support, and celebration.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Too many people ran well at Grandma’s to cover them all in one post. Congrats to Erin who inspired this article. I don’t know if she followed my advice or not, but I’m happy to take credit for her 11-minute, Boston-qualifying PR. While Kelly didn’t inspire an article, her 1:15 (that’s 1 hour and 15 minutes) PR is nothing short of spectacular. Had I know she’d run 3:27, I’d have been looking over my shoulder. Finally, congrats to my roommate for the weekend, Jared. The 69-year-old negative split a 3:17 and won his age-group by 27 minutes. That’s not supposed to happen when you’re at the far end of your age group.

As I alluded to in my last post, I’m feeling pretty fired up lately. Maybe it’s because I got to hang out with so many people that had such great performances on Saturday. Thinking about it some more, I really miss the whole process of setting a goal and training for it. I miss everything from planning tune-up races, dealing with nagging injuries, trying to peak on race day, worrying about the weather, developing a race strategy and then watching the race unfold in front of you. At the end of the day, this is what I really miss – the race times are just the icing on the cake.

With all that said, I’m going to see if I can become a “competitive” runner again. For me that means getting back into to a lifestyle that involves paying attention to weekly and monthly mileage, taking planned days offs, setting some goals, blogging regularly and so on. I don’t know if they body can hold up, or the mind, but I’m willing to give it another shot.

I haven’t set any goals yet but I’m kicking around the idea of jumping in a shorter race, just so I’m able to see some improvement between now and the fall. Perhaps I’ll find a fall half marathon to run too. We’ll see…

Before I forget, here’s a nice Q&A with Matt Gabrielson who always provides good quotes. With all the talk of Grandma’s lately, here’s a nice video by Carrie Tollefson that summarizes the weekend in a nutshell.

Quote of the Day;

“This most recent run on Old Hwy 61 [Grandma’s Marathon] has revitalized my entire career. It's like I've been given a fresh shot.” – Matt Gabrielson

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Well, that didn’t last long. Three days after posting that I may not race in 2011, I jumped into Grandma’s Marathon. At the time I knew I was going to run it, but I didn’t plan on racing it. NOTE: I use the term “race” VERY loosely here. This was my 17th marathon and only 2 have been slower.

My plan was to meet up with a friend at the start and run with him while he tried to keep his string of running every Grandma’s intact. Since I couldn’t find him, I decided to run with Jared for as long as possible. That lasted until about mile 11 when I had to stop and go to the bathroom for the third time. The first two were quick pee breaks alongside the road and I was able to catch back up within a mile or two. This time it was a full on stop with sitting involved. There was no catching up after that.

During that stop the 3:20 group went by and I decided to hang a little ways back from them. I went through the half in 1:40:43 and was pretty confident that I would not be negative splitting. About 3 miles later I could already feel the pounding in my legs. I have 3 reasons for this; 1) lack of mileage, 2) long runs being on dirt, and 3) wearing too light of a shoe. I thought about wearing a heavier trainer, but all my non-trail trainers have 500+ miles on them. I didn’t think it’d be smart to wear them in a marathon.

Grandma’s is far and away my favorite marathon. I especially like the section from just after mile 18. From that point there’s a long gradual downhill and then there seem to be plenty of key points to look forward to; London Road, mile 20, the college kids with their beer, Lemon Drop Hill, Superior Street, Fitger’s, Lake Street, and mile 25 before making that final turn towards the DECC, William Irvin and the finish line. During this stretch I told myself to keep things under 8:00 pace for as long as possible. This lasted through mile 22, before Lemon Drop resulted in an 8:05. I think 24 and 25 were slightly over 8s too. At mile 25 I was pretty confident I could sneak under 3:25. I seriously couldn’t remember if my BQ was 3:20 or 3:25 (it’s 3:20), so I thought I’d at least try to get under 3:25. Yes, I know Boston gives you an extra 59 seconds. I hung on and crossed the line in 3:24:43.

If you haven’t heard, conditions were nearly perfect. Temps never got much over 50 degrees and it was cloudy with a nice tailwind. As you can imagine it was a regular PR-fest. Congrats to Matt on his 4-minute PR (2:13:28) that earned him 7th place, Jennifer who dropped dropping roughly 90 seconds to lower her PR to 2:33:01, Jenna on her 2-minute PR (2:40:45), her fiancĂ© Chris who PR’d by 6 minutes (2:38:27), Nichole who’s dropped her PR from 3:03:08 to 2:44:46 in the last 2.5 years and earned a spot in the Oly Trials, and all the other runners that had great races.

I will say, while I’m more sore than I’ve ever been after any marathon, for some reason I’m feeling more fired up than I have in a long time. Maybe it’s due to the fact that so many people ran so well on a day when I didn’t. Whatever the reason, I’m going to see if I can feed off of it and get back into the swing of things – after I recover, of course.

Finally, as promised, here’s my latest interview.

Quote of the Day;

“As luck would have it, the year when I don't feel like I'm in the best shape is the year with the best conditions you could hope to find.”Chris Lundstrom

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I've been joking that I need to find some slower friends before I run the Grand Canyon again. However, really I just need to put forth a little more effort in my training. Sure our group included awesome runners like Brian, Joe, Tony, and John who's won this event three times, but I should be capable of hanging with the other guys in the group.

I wrote an article recently where I stated, "somewhere along the line the order of importance for me has shifted from setting PRs to experiencing new things." That's all fine and good, but that doesn't mean I can't try to excel at these new things too. I've been at this long enough to know you can't force motivation. I don't know how to get it back, but I know you can't force it.

All of this is moot right now as I try to figure out my right knee. It's to the point where I either want it to break or heal because it's in just enough pain to make running no fun. I was considering running a 50K and 50 miler this year, but now those are out the window. 2011 could seriously be the first time I don't race in like 15 years.

I will end with some good news. Frequent commentor, Double, who I interviewed here has (finally) started a blog. If he blogs like he comments, I think you'll find it enjoyable. And, finally, speaking of interviews, I'm happy to announce that they'll be back shortly. I can't believe it's been over year since my last one. There are too many interesting people out there to let it die. So I'm hoping to pump new life into the site.

Quote of the day;

"When all is said and done, I believe I am a 2:12 marathoner on my absolutely greatest, most perfect day. That result may or may not happen in a week, but I will go into this sucker with a smart race plan and nothing but positive energy flowing through the veins." - Matt Gabrielson