Friday, June 29, 2007


Well it feels like I’m coming around a little more every day. Yesterday I ran a very easy 6 miles. This morning was supposed to be 5 easy miles without a watch. Once I got going I found myself moving pretty well. I decided to time a mile just to see how fast I was moving. I ended up with a 7:40, that’s a about MP + 60 seconds, which is pretty good for me on a solo run.

My right leg felt awesome. The back of my left leg feels about 80%. So I was running around in circles. Just kidding. The left leg hurts the most when I go up hill, so I’ve really been backing off on the hills. I’m thinking about running on the treadmill for a few days in a row to see if that helps speed up the healing process.

Focusing on Grandma’s Marathon did set back my interviewing schedule a little. Now I have a bunch in the works, so I should be posting quite a few in the near future. I think today’s interview is great. If you’re curious about what it takes to drop your 5K time from sub-27 to sub-17 in “less than 2 years”, you may want to check it out.

Quote of the day;

“My times did improve rapidly but it wasn’t because I was “gifted” or “naturally talented.” I was very dedicated from the get-go. I started reading about training, talking to people, and working out my own training schedules almost from that very first run. I worked very hard at improving and developing what ability I had to the highest level.” - Kelly Keeler-Ramacier

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Here was the conversation last night as we put the girls to bed – keep in mind that my daughter Kinsey is all about princesses and falling in love.

Kinsey (in her best princess voice): I’m so excited for tomorrow.

Amy (my wife): Why?

Kinsey: Because it’s your anniversary.

Amy: Oh.

I’m missed the rest of the conversation because I stepped out of the room. When I returned, I asked Kinsey if mom was excited about tomorrow.

Kinsey (now sounding extremely disappointed): Not really.

Sorry to burst her bubble, but if it were up to her (and Disney) she’d be married this weekend. Anyway, Happy 9th Anniversary to my wonderful wife. It’s hard to believe anyone would stick with me for that long.

Does anyone else find it weird when other people send you anniversary cards for your anniversary? Or father’s day cards from someone other than your kids (or wife)? Send me a birthday card or Christmas card – that’s fine. But the other holidays seem a little more personal.

Back to running. I think I’m making progress. I managed to run an easy 7 miles this morning. The legs were feeling pretty good. I could still feel the pain behind my knee, but it was more of a nuisance, especially when I was going up hills.

Quote of the day;

“As we become increasingly involved in technology, science, and business, we should not lose that instinct, that feeling for the earth. Running is a very beautiful way to bring out those healthy feelings.” – Bill Rodgers

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


A day later my legs feel way better. Of course, not running this morning probably has something to do with that. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Awhile ago I posted an interview I did for Twin Cities Sports. Here’s the edited version that made it into the publication (and online).

Note: I didn’t write the “Find everything there is to know about the Twin Cities running scene at a new blog” quote. That’s way over the top.

Locally, Down the Backstretch does a much better job covering the entire local scene. I’m curious if any other bloggers, from other states, have anything similar out there? There definitely has to be a market out there for real-time coverage of other local and regional areas.

Thanks to DtB for pointing me towards a brief chat with Katie McGregor. I thought a couple of the questions were interesting, or should I say odd. For example, “Can you see a situation in which you and Kara Goucher might train with each other, that she might say ‘why don’t you come out to Oregon and train with me in preparation for Osaka?’” Let’s see, Osaka is 8 weeks away, Kara trains with the Oregon Project, Katie trains with Team USA Minnesota, they have different coaches, different workouts, different philosophies, etc. I mean it’s not like they’re both running by themselves and just training together would just lead to better results.

Quote of the day;

“Yeah, you know…I don’t know. I mean, I guess you never know. I’m not too sure…” – Katie McGregor, doing her best to respond to the question above

Monday, June 25, 2007


The last time I ran Grandma’s and TCM in the same year I ended up setting PRs each time. Let hope that trend continues. Right now we’re 15 weeks ‘til TCM and mind and body are NOT one. When I’m sitting around day dreaming, I’m eager to get back to training and take another crack at the marathon. When I actually hit the roads I feel like crap. My legs are still heavy and a pain I had in the back of my leg, where the knee bends, after the race still bothers me a little when I run.

Friday I ran a very easy 5 miles. Saturday I did a small group run for 6 miles. Drinking coffee afterwards took longer than the actual run. Yesterday was an easy hour with Evan. And this morning was 4 very easy miles. No real goal for the week, but I’m thinking 30-40 miles.

I spent part of the weekend watching/reading about the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships on TV as well as through the web with sites such as, Down the Backstretch and Flotrack. Good stuff. Lots of athletes with Minnesota ties performed really well. Congrats to them.

That’s all I have – the marathon sucked me dry.

Quote of the day;

“The first thing the TV interviewer asked him when he won was ‘Who are you?’ He wore his MSU jersey and everybody wanted to know where Mankato, Minn. was.”coach Mark Schuck referring to Jim Dilling’s upset win in the high jump

Thursday, June 21, 2007


My legs are finally pain-free, but they’re still tired. Still no running, but I managed to mountain bike for 40 minutes this morning.

I forgot to mention that I finished 168th out of 6,998. Based on history, I thought top-100 might be realistic. However, that wasn’t taking into account the number of top runners that come to Duluth to try and qualify for the Trials.

Thought I’d congratulate a few of the people I’ve interviewed recently.

Angie continues to run well. She finished as the 17th woman in 2:54:49 and knocked 3:24 off her PR.

Jenna overcame a heel injury that forced her to cross-train for three weeks and still managed a 7th place 2:47:44 – making her $2,500 richer.

“Race of the Day” goes to Melissa who finished 8th in 2:47:59. Given that her PR is 2:45:55, that might not sound that impressive. However, keep in mind she was “only” racing 1:22 – 1:23 half marathons 4 and 5 weeks before the race.

Other people I've interviewed ran too, but they probably don't want me calling any attention to their race results.

Speaking of interviews; I spent last night compiling all the interviews I’ve conducted into one document. I’m wondering if there’s a cheap way to get them published. I know my wife has created a book of photos using My Publisher. I need to do a little more research to see if it’s feasible and to see if people would even be interested in purchasing such a book. If anyone has any other ideas, let me know.

Quote of the day;

“Passion/Drive/Determination/High Energy Level/Spirited: I do really well in longer events and have the drive to follow-through with my goals.”Melissa Gacek describing her strengths

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Imagine what I would've looked like if I wasn't feeling good. These were all taken between mile 24 and mile 26. Thanks to Derek for the first two and Amy for the second two. The last one is of Katie and Kinsey icing down in Lake Superior after a tough day - notice the clear blue skies.


If you’ve been following along, you probably realize that I run a race, write a report and then end up writing 2-3 more posts about the race throughout the week. I’m sure this race will be the same.

So when someone basically writes that they don't see any way that they won’t run 2:55 and then they go out and run 2:57, they must be pissed. Right?


After reflecting on this race some more, I’m happier with my performance than if I had run 2:55 on an ideal day. I definitely learned more about myself on Saturday than I did when I ran my PR when it was 40 degrees out.

Of course, now the problem becomes I don’t have an excuse for not running well in the heat.

The more I read about the race the more I try to figure out how the hell I ran so well. I’m sure fitness played a huge role. The pack through 17 helped a ton too. Another thing was I was pouring 2-3 cups of water over my head at every water stop. I can’t remember the last time I did that in a race. And once I got past 20 miles, I started seeing familiar faces out cheering; Pat, Heather, Evan, Tracy, Derek, Kevin, Jim, Ed, my family, etc. Even the people I didn’t see, I knew they were out there.

Anyone else notice the weather in Duluth on Sunday? At 9 AM (what would’ve been 90 minutes into the race it was 55 degrees, cloudy, with a strong wind out of the North (i.e. tailwind). A day late!

Bonus: while it’s always nice to meet new people at an event, I was able to meet 2 people whose names I knew only through the results, Mike and Tom. I also met a guy whose face I knew, but not his name, Steve.

Overall it was a great weekend. On to TCM! No running this week, until maybe Saturday. I’m using the time to focus on doing some more interviews. I got a lot of positive feedback over the weekend (and realized that there are about a zillion other great Minnesota runners out there), so I want to keep the momentum going.

Quote of the day;

“I'm scared for those guys.” - Chad Johnson, commenting on the heat the marathoners would be facing, after winning the half marathon

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Oh man, where to start? As with most marathon race reports it’s not about the 4:30 AM wakeup calls, hill repeats in the dark on slippery paths, 2 hour runs in minus 30 wind chills, weekly mileage, etc. It’s about the weather on race day.

Let me just say right now, if I EVER look at the weather forecast prior to Grandma’s Marathon again, someone please come and give me a smack alongside the head. I swore I wouldn’t look until Wednesday or Thursday, but caught myself sneaking a peak on Tuesday; low 60 and high 80 – I started to worry. Wednesday it was 58 and 75 – a little better. Thursday it was a little better yet. Pretty soon the forecast was almost perfect; 55-60 degrees at the start, cloudy, 30% - 40% chance of rain and a tailwind.

I went from Plan A (thoughts of sub-2:55 and possibly sub-2:52 on an ideal day) to Plan B (running conservatively and trying to pick off as much carnage as possible without worrying about my time) and back to Plan A.

Riding the bus to the start, I knew perfect conditions were not in the cards. It was probably already 60 degrees 90 minutes before the start and what few clouds we had were burning off quickly.

To get a better sense of what was to come, I’ll just share a few sentences from today’s paper;

A race that has built an international reputation for speed and cool conditions was on the burner for a second-straight year. It was 66 degrees, sunny and humid at the start and 74 at the finish for the winner. At the 4-hour mark, it was 84 degrees. The warmest run in Grandma’s Marathon history probably was the inaugural race in 1977 when it started at 11 AM. This year’s race may rank second.
I hate to spend too much time talking about the weather (I know, it’s too late.), but the reason I bring it up is because I don’t run well in the heat. So at the start, I’m still not really sure what my plan was. I knew Plan A was highly unlikely, but the conditions didn’t seem bad enough to switch to Plan B. I guess Plan C would be the way to go - wing it.

Miles 1-3
Before I get started, let me set the stage by saying that I happened to be sitting in front of Jason, a guy who finished about 30 seconds in front of me at a recent half marathon. We were talking pacing and I said I'd like to go out around 6:50-7:00 and work down from there. I’d rather be “too slow” than “too fast” during the first 2-3 miles.

As usual, during the first mile I’m looking around for familiar faces, seeing who I can use to gauge my pace. About 5 seconds ahead of me I see Sonya, Heather and Laurie. These women are steadily around 3-hours, give or take two minutes. I figure they’ll go through the mile around 6:50. So I stay where I’m at and come across mile 1 in 6:34. Yikes! That turned out to be my third fastest split of the day – not how I typically start my marathons.

Luckily I’m able to slow to a 6:50 second mile and end up going through 3 miles in 20:02.

Miles 4-6
The course provides little shade and the road curves a lot, so the question arises; Do I run the tangents or do I stay to the left of the road and run in as much shade as possible? I opt for the shade. At mile 5 I take my first gel and learn a valuable lesson; Do not put gel in your mouth unless you have a cup of water in your hand to wash it down. We’re less than 20% into the race and I nearly gagged myself to death.

During this stretch I’m still within 5-10 seconds of Sonya, Heather and Laurie (and the pack of men that are following closely behind them). After seeing my first three splits bounce around, I finally settled in a little and ran 20:25 for this stretch. Somewhere around this time Kyran and another UW-EC graduate pull up alongside me for a few miles.

Miles 7-9
While headwinds are not normally wished for during a marathon, we have a slight headwind that actually provides a little relief from the heat. Add in a little shade and water over my head every two miles and I wasn’t feeling too discouraged about the weather.

I finally moved up into a group of about 6-8, including Sonya, Heather, Paul and Kevin. I know Sonya, know of Heather, and “met” Paul and Kevin during the race. These three miles turn out to be a tad quicker; 20:19.

Miles 10-12
While my miles have all be 6:51 or under I really have no idea what pace I’m running. I’m eager to get to mile 10, so I can do the math and figure out where I’m at. I pass by in 1:07:18 and am happy with the 6:44 pace. That’s not far from my original goal of 6:40 pace.

At mile 11 I take my second gel and tell myself to get to the half and see how I feel. With the help of a downhill 10th mile (6:33) I run these three miles even faster; 20:08.

Miles 13-15
Originally my goal was to pass the half in 1:27 +/- 30 seconds. I roll through in 1:28:19. Rather than being bummed out, I tell myself that that’s only 50 seconds from goal. Come to think about it, I believe that is fastest I’ve ever run for any half of a marathon.

At this point I’m still with the pack of 6-8 that I mentioned earlier. In addition, Jason, from the bus, has now joined us. I’m not sure what happened next, but the 14th mile turned out to be my fastest of the day, 6:27. That led to my fastest 3-mile stretch of the day; 19:51.

Miles 16-18
During mile 16 I’m thinking to myself, man this pack is really solid. We have a nice number in the pack, we’re consistently hitting 6:40-6:50, there’s some friendly banter going on, etc.

Next thing I know we go through the mile 17 aid station and the pack disintegrates. I took my third gel here and when I came out the other side it was just Kevin, Jason and me. Kevin looked around a little and asked if we had picked up the pace or something. None of us thought we did and our time of 20:20 for these miles shows we’re staying around 6:45 pace.

Miles 19-21
Up until this point the aid stations have been at the odd mile markers. I tell myself just to make it to mile 19 because that’s when they start providing aid at every mile marker. During this mile it’s starting to feel hard. I’m still with Kevin and Jason, but it’s starting to hurt. I feel a little better when I noticed we ran a 6:41. I back off and let them go.

As I approach mile 20 I still remember my 10-mile split of 1:07:18. I'm curious to see what my second 10-mile split is for two reasons; 1) I want the feedback on my pace and 2) the ability to still solve math problems at this stage of the race provides feedback on my mental state. I hit 20 in 2:14:40 and math couldn’t get much easier; 1:07:22.

I’m not exactly sure when I pulled away from Kyran but it had to be prior to the half. I was surprised, but happy when he came by me again. He got about 10 feet ahead of me and I just stayed right there. I run these three miles in 20:25.

Miles 22-24
Mile 22 is at the base of Lemon Drop Hill. I’m happy to see Evan standing right where we cheered together last year. This is where I take my fourth/last gel. It’s also where I see my third consecutive 6:5X split. The goal now becomes; Keep them under 7:00.

Lemon Drop is no Heartbreak, but it’s still a hill. So getting to mile 23 in 6:56 is a victory. In the process I passed Kyran. Now, as they say, “It’s all down hill from here.” The course is a gradual downhill for most of the next 2 miles and if you’re quads aren’t shot, you can take advantage of it. My quads were okay and I took advantage of the terrain, as well as the crowd support, by running a 6:53 24th mile. While 20:39 for that stretch makes it my slowest such 3-mile stretch of the day, it’s miles 22-24 for god sake.

The finish
Prior to mile 24 I thought about calculating what I thought I needed to run for the last 2.2 miles in order to PR, but decided against it. As I approached mile 25 I needed to know how close I was to PRing. I gave myself a conservative 9 minutes for the last 1.2 miles. Given that my PR is 2:58:10, I told myself that I needed to be under 2:49. As I passed mile 25 in 6:49 I saw 2:48:58. Unless the wheels completely fell off, I’d have a PR.

For me, the hardest part of this course is just after mile 25. You go down a short steep hill, up an overpass and down another hill. Then at 25.5 you can practically see the finish line. However, you have to loop away from it and back again.

Just before mile 26 I see my family and I’m able to wave and smile at them. Maybe that’s what caused me to miss my goal of keeping my splits under 7:00, as I hit mile 26 in 7:01. I soak in the tremendous atmosphere during the last .2 miles and cross the line in 2:57:29 – a PR by 41 seconds. Not bad for someone that doesn’t run well in the heat.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


It’s probably no surprise that just the hint of warm weather on the day of a marathon can lead to some scattered thinking. I already mentioned coming up with a Plan B and buying new shorts (although not really weather related). I’ve also had thoughts of changing shoes – going with trainers if I’m going to be running slower than I originally planned. Today I’ve decided to go with my original shorts and shoes. If it’s warm/hot on race morning, I’ll just go with Plan B at that point – shorts and shoes be damned.

Just an easy 3 miles this morning and it felt pretty good. I probably won't run tomorrow, but I may do some walking/jogging after I get to town, seeing that I'll have to spend about 4 hours in the car getting to my parent's house and then another hour to get to Duluth.

Since I don’t have anything else to say, I thought I’d share an article written by Coach Matt. I trained with Matt and his training group for the last 2 years. Although I’m not training with them right now, I attribute much of my success this spring to Matt and his training group and the year-over-year training we did together.


I LOVE TO RACE, and I LOVE TO WATCH THE RACES of athletes that I coach. Each race has a unique appeal, whether it be the splendor of the venue, the challenges of the race course, or the chance to witness athletes reveal their skills and desire. I have learned to appreciate races as a performing art, where an arena defined by a measured distance becomes a showcase for the freedom of expression, the exhibition of inspirational feats, and the display of passion.

BUT LET’S GET TO THE NITTY GRITTY; we all race to attain a degree of personal fulfillment and satisfaction for our efforts and our results. After all, we train for hours each week to race well, and we race with a mindset that hopes for a personal best time or an acceptable ranking within our division. As performing artists, we love to chase the internal and external prizes that await us at the finish line.

IT CAN BE TOO EASY to transform into an athlete who measures their race efforts and level of success by a results page that lists the facts: finish time, race splits, and finish place. I know from both racing and coaching that the higher you climb on the results page, the easier it becomes to narrow your definition of acceptable results to personal best times, trips to the top of the awards podium, and the appearance of your name in the media.

I THINK WE EASILY BECOME PRISONERS to the timing chip and the finish line clock when we race in endurance sports. A focus on finish time, average speed, and race splits can distract us from not only enjoying the race, but from unleashing our personal best performance. Too often I hear athletes focus on finish time and place, when they should take pride in their ability to push themselves to a challenging level of discomfort for the duration of their event.

THE MOST EFFECTIVE RACE FOCUS is not on the finish time and place – it is on the present moment on the race course. Athletes who do their very best minute-by-minute are those who get absorbed in a flow state that adds up to a personal best effort. They are successful because they direct 100% of their focus to overcoming the current challenge that the race presents, which helps them to climb higher on the results page.

EVERY ATHLETE FINISHES IN 2 PLACES at the end of each race: on the results page, and in the venue. Remember to savor both to fully enjoy the racing experience that includes pre-event training, fellow competitors, supportive companions, race day challenges, the pride associated with pushing your mind and muscles to new levels of discomfort, and the post-race festivities.

Don’t be a prisoner to the timing chip or the finish line clock. When you finish your race, ask yourself, “Did I give my best effort for the entire distance? Did I meet or surpass my standards for race day mental toughness? Did I overcome in-race challenges by remaining persistent? And did I maintain a positive mental focus?”

As you approach or reflect upon your next race, realize that in the end, we are all fortunate to still be “doing it.” Sport competitions are, after all, a celebration of fitness, desire, and good old head-to-head competition. Always give thanks for the opportunity to toe the line as you chase your next goal – before and after you scan the race results page.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


It's kind of weird, my legs have felt a little sluggish running lately, but they feel really good just walking around the office. Ran an easy 4 miles today.

Still busy at work. Gotta be careful and make sure I at least stop to eat. Actually, I'm more of a "grazer", especially in the afternoon. I munch on carrots, pretzels, fig newtons, apples, etc. all afteroon. Lately I've been so busy that I end up bringing some of my food back home. Not a big deal unless you have a marathon in 3 or 4 days. Oh wait...

I did manage to make it to the running store over lunch. I ended up buying a new pair of shorts and am considering racing in them. I know, I know...don't try anything new on race day. But they have a pocket in the back that would allow me to carry my gels in a flask - rather than pin them to my bib number. Decisions, decisions...

No surprise - after being nice here all spring, it has decided to heat up. For us that means upper 80s to low 90s for the highs. The last few mornings have been around 70 degrees. At least the dew points have been low. Of course, who knows what that means for Duluth. We're 150 miles south of there. And let's not forget the big body of water next to Duluth that tends to cool things off.

Anyway, this wave of hot air has me thinking that I should have a Plan B in place in case it's hot during the race. I don't run well in the heat, so the possibility of running sub-2:55 if it gets above let's say 65 degrees are slim to none. So do I set another goal of something like sub-3? Or do I just make it a race and try to place as high as possible, like top-100? Whatever I decide, it'll be run off a much more conservative first half pace. Going out at goal pace on a hot day because you didn't realize it was hot until mile 8 doesn't work. I tried that at TCM in 1997 and I still remember it. A goal of sub-3 turned into 3:26.

In any case, today's quote of the day gives me some hope;

“Less-than-ideal conditions are always less of a factor when you are feeling strong.” - Mike Reneau

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


I suppose being swamped at work the week leading up to a marathon is a good thing. There’s no time to check the weather, read other blogs, stop by the running store over lunch, etc.

This morning was my last “hard” run. It was 7 miles with 4 x 4:00 at tempo pace with a 2:00 jog in between. I felt alright. My legs were a little heavy, which is normal for me at this stage. Come Saturday, I’ll be fine.

Since I don’t have any time, I’ll just take this opportunity to post my latest article for the MDRA magazine.


My friend Eric Paulson has a motto that probably applies to most of us, at least at one point or another; “Live and don’t learn.” Unfortunately, this motto applies to my running more often than not. However, after 27 years in this sport, believe it or not, some things have actually sunk in. This article describes eight lessons I’ve (finally) learned, when it comes to running.

One of the first running lessons I ever learned was “Your results may vary.” It’s been over 20 years but I still remember his name. Keith Franzen. Keith and I were the same age, but we didn’t go to the same school and we weren’t even in the same conference. Yet I remember his story. Keith started running the summer before his sophomore year and he decided to go out for cross country. He achieved immediate success and missed qualifying for State that year by just one place. Having already been a runner for five years and not having nearly the success as Keith, it was right then that I realized that all runners are not created equal. While it’s nice to be able to compare our performances to our peers, at some point we need to realize that running is about competing against ourselves.

If, like me, you’re not fortunate enough to have similar results as Keith, take solace that we have our own axiom, “Patience is a virtue.” In a Minnesota Running & Track interview, Dennis Barker, coach of Team USA Minnesota, talked about the importance of patience saying, “People are too impatient. Running this year isn’t just about this year. It’s about last year. It’s about the last four years.” Barker went on to say, “People want to be good – right now. They think, ‘Well gee, I trained hard during the summer for three months. I should run a great Twin Cities Marathon.’” That reminds me of another guy I know. Whenever someone runs a good marathon, he’ll ask, “How many miles did you run in the 12 weeks prior to the marathon?” It’s like he thinks it okay to sit around all winter, as long has he has 12 solid weeks of training before his goal race. He’s from Wisconsin, so I’ll cut him a little slack.

While patience is very important when it comes to distance running, it’s even more valuable when it’s mixed with consistency. Whenever someone asks me for advice on how to improve their running, my answer is almost always, “Be more consistent.” That doesn’t mean having to run every day, never cutting back your weekly mileage or never taking any downtime. Those things are key components in any program. Even with those components mixed into your training plan, my guess is that most runners could find ways to improve their consistency.

Consistency also ties in nicely with another lesson I’ve learned; “It’s easier to stay in shape than get in shape.” Since every runner has probably missed or skipped out on running at one point or another, we’re all probably aware of this lesson. Of course, sometimes maintaining consistent training can be a difficult task. However, if you’re able to mix consistency with patience, you will amaze yourself by how much you are able to improve.

Keep in mind that consistency can also be a double-edged sword. Being a math guy, running appeals to my love of numbers; miles per week, month and year, number of days in a row, pace, splits, intervals, etc. It’s very easy to quantify this sport, which makes it easy to think that more is better. As a result, “Gotta get my miles in.” has probably hurt more runners than it’s helped. Sure this is a great slogan when you’re feeling good and everything is flowing smoothly. However, it’s not so great when you have an ache or pain or when you know something is not right or when you’re just dog-tired and you continue to press on just to make your logbook look good. Now that I think about it, I can’t remember showing my logbook to anyone – EVER. And it’s not because it’s top secret. It’s because no one cares. Think about that the next time your body is telling you to get some rest, but your mind is telling you to be consistent and get your miles in.

I love hills. I don’t actually love running up hills, but I love what they do for my running. I’m not talking about developing strong leg muscles or mental toughness. The main reason I love hills is because I’m a head-case and as Frank Shorter said, “Hills are speedwork in disguise.” When I run speedwork on the track, I always end up comparing one workout to the next. As soon as I get home, split after split is compared to the previous workout. That’s great if you’re constantly improving or if other factors like weather, diet, sleep, stress, etc. don’t factor in. But they do. Hill running allows me to get in quality running without worrying about my splits. Instead, I’m able to focus on effort without all the mental baggage.

The one lesson that I wish I had learned when I first started running is the “10% rule”. This is the “rule” that states that you shouldn’t increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% from week to week. It goes hand-in-hand with having patience. But while this rule of thumb comes in handy for beginning runners, I feel it needs to be amended for more experienced runners; “If you’ve been there before, you can get there again – quicker.” By this I mean, if you’ve been at a certain mileage level recently and then back off for awhile, you can build back up to your previous mileage more quickly than by adding 10% per week.

One final lesson was actually taught to me by a basketball coach, but it applies to running just as well; “Always be happy but never satisfied.” I think of this lesson any time I hear someone say, “I ran a PR, but…” But nothing, be happy, but don’t be satisfied. Maybe their statement hits home with me because I can remember back to my best year of running. I was setting personal records at every race, yet still disappointed because I wanted to run faster. Unfortunately, an injury ended my season much too soon. I went from being disappointed with a PR to being happy because I could run pain-free for 20 minutes. It took me two years to regain enough fitness and confidence to set another PR.

I’m sure after all these years in this sport, I’ve forgotten more than I know. At least I’ve remembered eight key lessons along the way. Your results may vary. Get fit by being patient. Stay fit by being consistent. More experience allows you to ramp up your mileage quicker, but beware of just making your logbook look good. Head for the hills. Be happy. And, your results may vary or as Dr. George Sheehan would say, “We’re all an experiment of one.”

BIO Over the years, Chad Austin’s patient, consistent, hilly mileage has allowed him to get fit, stay fit and even run fast enough to make him happy. But he’s not satisfied, so he continues to seek out new lessons, which is usually forgets.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Not a whole lot going on, which is probably a good thing, since I’m 6 days from the race. Friday was an easy 6 miles with strides. Saturday was 13 mile around the lakes. It was a nice morning, so everyone and their brother were at the lakes. That gave me 44 miles for the week. Yesterday was a day off.

This morning I ran an easy 5 miles. My legs were a little sore – probably from running alongside my daughter while she learns/learned to bike. When I ran with her last weekend, it was a slow jog. This weekend I was basically doing strides to keep up. Anyway, the good news is she can practically ride by herself now and my legs feel great just walking around the office.

Normally, I get stir-crazy during the taper and I end up starting all these manual labor projects around the house. This time around I’ve been good, limiting myself to pruning some bushes and taping off a room that we’ll paint next week.

Other than that, I’ve been resisting the urge to check the weather in Duluth. I did happen to see the local news this morning and although the high is going to be in the mid-80s here today, it’s only going to be in the mid-60s in Duluth. Let’s hope that trend continues.

Quote of the day;

“You can actually suffer a little bit more going slowly than when you’re going really fast. A faster marathon might even be easier than a slow one, in terms of what it takes out of you mentally.” – Frank Shorter

Thursday, June 07, 2007


The taper seems to be “kicking in” as my first phantom injury appeared after yesterday’s run. My right knee was sore as hell, but luckily it only lasted about an hour. This is the same knee that’s been aching off-and-on lately, but this was a different kind of pain. No problems with it since.

This morning’s run was brutally sluggish, especially the first half of my whopping 4-mile run. I’m sure having a thunder storm (with warning sirens) and hail at 2:00 AM didn’t help my sluggishness. Hopefully none of that will occur next week.

Not much else to report, so I thought I’d post the latest update on the 7 runners I’ve been tracking for the MDRA.

Reality Runners by Chad Austin

This is part two in an ongoing series where we’re following a group of seven runners during the year. In each issue we feature one or two of the runners and give brief updates on the others. This issue focuses on two runners on opposite ends of the running spectrum. Keenan Robbins walked onto the University of Colorado’s cross country team and has since taken a job with Nike. Marc Windahl weighed as much as 335 pounds before discovering running. While they’re different in many ways, they both share the same passion for our sport.

Although Keenan Robbins had been running for a couple of years, he didn’t get serious until the summer before his sophomore year in high school. That was the summer he attended a running camp in Eugene, Oregon. The camp was put on by Bob Kennedy and Todd Williams and was held in conjunction with the U.S. national track and field meet. It was during this camp that he really opened his eyes to the wider world of distance running. “Surrounded by other athletes that were excited about training hard and running fast gave me a new perspective on what it took to get to the next level. Simply put, I caught fire,” he said.

After graduating from high school, Keenan headed West to the University of Colorado where he walked onto the cross country team. In 2005, after a couple of injury plagued seasons, he took a job with Nike’s Long Hauling program where he drove around the Midwest and talked with high school kids about distance running. He said, “Being on the road that fall crystallized my focus and made it clear what I want to do. All I want to do is run and help the sport. I love this sport and will be involved with it forever.”

After touring the country, Keenan returned home to Mankato and made an attempt to finish up school. However, his heart wasn’t in it, so he took a job with Nike and moved back to Oregon. He stated, “Moving the sport forward and celebrating just how cool it is to be part of a really close team that sweats together, suffers together, lives together. Things have truly come full circle as I’m back in Eugene, except hopefully this time I’ll be the one helping a few kids find the fire.”

Keenan went on to talk about his passion for running and his job at Nike, “When I’m on the road, all I want to do is get kids excited about cross country. It’s as simple as that. It’s hard to realize that while you may be on the lunatic fringe of your high school or town, you’re actually part of this huge brotherhood of distance runners all over the country and the world. What these kids do is so hardcore and so real, it’s incredible and it deserves to be celebrated. They’re passionate about taking themselves, their team, and their sport to the next level. It’s all about progression, evolution and constant improvement. There are great things happening in our sport right now. These kids are part of it and these kids will be the ones to perpetuate it ten years down the line. They are the future of our sport. They need to know that and get fired up about it. Even more important than talking to the high school thinclads is listening to them. Helping the sport, helping the athletes, that’s the goal. The people that truly know the sport are on the roads, they’re doing long runs in the rain, they’re staying late after practice to do drills and sitting in the ice bath, they’re keeping it real. The athletes are the ones that need to determine what comes next for the sport. Believing in high school cross country ensures that this happens.”

As for his own running, it’ll have to take a backseat until after Nike Team Nationals in December. But he says, “Part of the job is to run and you can’t help the sport if you don’t know the sport, and you can’t know the sport if you haven’t trained your ass off at some point. You have to know what it’s like.” As summer approaches, there’s been talk of running around the rim of Mt. Hood or Mt. St. Helens and running the Hood to Coast Relay. Long term, Keenan still really enjoys running and plans on finding out how good he can be. Why? “Because I like the process and I have to know,” he says.

When Marc Windahl was three years old his father died of leukemia at age 39. When Marc turned 39, he also had a three-year-old son. Needless to say, it was a very emotional summer for him. It didn’t help that Marc weighed 335 pounds. He knew he needed to change, but he didn’t know how.

That spring the seed was planted at the first Scheels Fargo Marathon, when Marc listened to Dick Beardsley speak, watched the runners, and took pictures of the joy and emotions at the finish. However, it was another year before he actually started to workout, usually lifting weights, biking or walking. In July of 2006 Marc completed his first 5K. He says, “I ran some of it, walked most of it, and finished. I was hooked.” He attacked running like he does everything. He read books, searched the Internet, and studied everything else he could find. That fall he ran his first 5K. Next up, the marathon.

While Marc originally thought of running a fall marathon this year, he changed his mind and decided to run the Scheels Fargo Marathon this spring. It’s probably not surprising that his training was interesting, starting with blood in his urine. Given his family history, the unspoken worry was cancer. After a tense month of waiting for test results, it turned out to be kidney stones, which caused some minor cutting and the bleeding.

Two weeks after passing a stone, the blood came back. Through his own research, Marc discovered Exercise Hematuria, where the walls of an empty bladder rub together, causing abrasions and blood in the urine. The weight Marc was carrying in the front of his abdomen didn’t help matters either. Research showed that better hydration would alleviate this problem.

While the problem was “solved”, the setback did not help Marc’s confidence as he had missed some training. To make matters worse, he bonked on his first 16-mile run. However, Marc realized that, given his weight, he needed more energy than “normal” runners. With new hydration and nutrition plans in place he was able to complete a 21-mile run.

Like most first time marathoners, Marc was a basket of nerves leading up to the race. Every muscle twitch and small ache caused a huge panic. While he hoped to finish in less than six hours, he simply wanted to finish. He used his GPS watch to help slow him down and stay within himself. He was also able to follow his hydration and nutrition plans, for the most part. And although his feet and thighs started to ache by mile twenty-two, thoughts of the things he wanted to do with his son, that he never got to do with his dad, kept him going to a 5:46 finish. At the finish someone hung the medal around his neck and he was filled with emotions. He hugged his family, kissed his wife, called friends and sent emails to family and friends with the news of his finish. Marc sums it up simply by stating, “It is something I will never forget.”

Braden Beam is currently training for his first Ironman, which will be in Louisville in August. He continues to focus on building his cycling base, having completed his first century (100 miles) ride in mid-May. While the ride wiped him out, it also taught him a valuable lesson; pay attention to your nutrition, which is the fourth discipline in triathlons. It’s no surprise that nutrition, along with injury avoidance, remains his biggest concerns.

As for running, Braden completed the very hilly Trail Mix 25K in 2:12 and ran 14 miles while traveling to Tampa Bay, Florida. The humid conditions in Tampa Bay will most likely come in handy in Louisville. He plans to add in some track and hill work with the Minnesota R.E.D. club soon.

While Braden is looking forward to getting out of the pool and into the open water, he doesn’t focus on his swimming too much. He’s been a competitive swimmer all his life and the intense training needed to significantly improve his time isn’t worth it. That time can be used to improve his biking and running, which make up the bulk of an Ironman.

When Kerry Rosane contacted me about this project she stated that she felt in better shape than ever, despite giving birth to her first child, Jamison, just 6 months before. She seems to have backed up that statement by chopping nearly two minutes from her 10K PR. Her time of 43:20 was the first time she’d run sub-seven minute pace for a race of any distance.

Kerry is also a triathlete, training for two half Ironmans. She says the hardest part is finding time to bike. Fortunately, she’s usually been able to get outside once a week for a long ride. She also tries to manage her time by training before Jamison gets up, while he naps or even taking him along in the jogging stroller. Kerry’s husband James is also an athlete, and they manage to take turns working out and doing races. That’s great, but they miss being able to do those things together.

The last time we checked in with Angie Voight she was dealing with some knee pain, yet she still managed to run a marathon PR of 2:58 in January. Since then, Angie has been busy, having just finished up medical school in the spring. Before starting her residency, she has her sites set on dropping her PR even further at Grandma’s Marathon.

Angie’s knee pain seems to be behind her and she’s been able to get in some high mileage weeks, which for Angie means about 80 miles per week. Whatever she’s doing seems to be working so far this spring as she’s run PRs at 10K (36:54) and the half marathon (1:21:47). Needless to say, those performances have her excited about Grandma’s Marathon as she works towards her long-term goal of running 2:47 and qualifying for the Olympic Trials Marathon. Next time we’ll be featuring Angie to find out how she did.

In our last issue, we featured Karen Spandl prior to her first Boston Marathon. Of course, we left you hanging regarding how she did and what she thought of the experience. Let’s see, cancelled flight, wind that turned her umbrella inside out, standing 45 minutes in the rain to get bussed to the start only to sit around for two hours before the start of the race. Any one of these things is hard enough to prepare for, let alone all of them happening in the span of one day. Yet Karen did not let any of these things dampen her enthusiasm.

While the weather did not cooperate, the crowd support and the excitement of running Boston were enough to help overcome the conditions. One of the most amazing things was seeing the road in front of her full of runners for miles and miles. Karen was actually on her goal pace through the half marathon. However, the multiple hills between miles 15 and 21 soon took their toll. Karen stated, “This was the worst I had ever felt in a marathon.” She hung tough and although she missed her goal by four minutes, she finished in 3:51:47, which is good enough to qualify for next year’s Boston Marathon.

We also featured Amanda Bowman in our last issue. After sitting out all of the 2006 racing season due to a multitude of injuries, Amanda seemed to be on the road to recovery two months ago. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. While Active Release Technique (ART) sessions improved her right quadricep and iliotibial band within two weeks, her left knee began to hurt. Doing her own research, Amanda figured she has patellofemoral pain syndrome or patellar tendonitis. Changing from a neutral shoe to a stability shoe helped a little as Amanda was able to run seven miles. But as any marathoner will tell you, that’s a long way from 26.2 miles.

Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for herself, Amanda has become a more serious bike rider. She has averaged around 150 miles a week and even done a couple of races, including a century ride. While it’s not running, biking has saved her sanity. However, she’s not ready to give up on running yet, saying “I've registered for TCM so I'm in for the long haul."

Check back in our next issue as we feature two more runners and give updates on the others.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Right after posting yesterday’s entry, it occurred to me that it’s more of a lack of doubt. Of course, there’s doubt surrounding what the weather will be like, how my legs will feel on race day, how my stomach will handle breakfast, what my nerves will be like, etc. However, right now, there’s no doubt that I can handle 6:40 pace. Again, at Chicago I wanted to run 6:40 pace, but I had doubts. So when I ran 6:50 pace, I basically said, “See you were right all along. You can’t handle 6:40 pace.”

Now whether or not I run 6:40 pace on June 16th is a different story. But at least I won’t go in doubting that I can run that pace.

I forgot to mention that yesterday was an easy 6 miles with some strides. This morning I ran another tempo workout. When I started the workout, I was planning on running 3 x 2 miles around 6:15-6:20 pace with 2:00 rest, similar to last Thursday’s workout. However, I wasn’t feeling it. Right before crossing the first mile split, I changed the workout to 6 x 1 mile with 1:00 rest. I figured the way I felt, it’d be easier to focus for 1 mile than 2 miles. The workout turned out to be a ladder and not the kind I prefer to run, as my times got faster and then slower; 6:26, 6:20, 6:17, 6:19, 6:22, 6:32. I will admit I lost focus the last two repeats.

This workout had me wondering if this is an area that I could work on. It was suppose to be at tempo pace. Given that I’ve raced 10K at 6:05 pace and a half marathon at 6:15 pace, my tempo pace should be around 6:10. Yet I can’t even run mile repeats at 6:20 pace.

Quote of the day;

“You’re bound to have days when everything seems sluggish and ungainly and you’d just as soon not be training at all. That’s a good time to persist.” – James Fixx

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


I usually don’t have an agenda for topics I want to blog about. Usually whatever pops into my head during my morning run makes it here during my lunch hour. Being 12 days out from my goal race, you can imagine what most of my thoughts have been about lately. As a result, some of the topics lately may be rehashed over and over. And while that may bore my readers to tears, it’s important for me to write what I’m thinking during these last few weeks so that in the future I can look back and say, “Yeah, that’s the feeling I’m looking for. That’s the level of confidence I need in order to run a great race.”

I’ve mentioned all factors are pointing to a sub-2:55. Sure I’ve listed all the workouts, races, times, etc. Those things are easy to quantify. But explaining this level of confidence is very hard. Sure a lot of the confidence stems from all those things mentioned above. It’s like the “chicken and the egg” question. Am I confident because of my training/racing or am I training/racing well because of my confidence? I imagine they go hand-in-hand and feed off of one another.

I’ve had decent marathon training in the past. I’ve written 2:55 down where I could see it every day – and I’ve come up short every time. So what’s different this time? Why the confidence? I don’t know the answer. All I can do is compare it to past races. In 2001 and 2002 I ran 3 marathons between 3:00:55 and 3:03:15. Then in my fourth marathon during those years I had a similar level of confidence and ran a still-standing PR of 2:58:10.

Last year at Chicago was a lot like that string of 3:01 – 3:03s. I thought I could run 2:55 but I just didn’t have the confidence. So when I was running 6:50s instead of 6:40s I just accepted it and was content to run 2:58:57. Now I find myself in a similar situation as prior to my PR; calm, confident and looking forward to race morning.

Alright, enough about me. If you have a chance, check out my most requested interviewee.

Quote of the day;

“I usually train on a treadmill at a decent pace, and the only speed work I do is the race itself. I run what I feel like doing for that week. If I am feeling good, I run a little more than if I’m feeling sore. I also mix in a bit of biking. Some may think it sounds like a weird way to train, but it keeps running enjoyable.” - Amy Lyons

Monday, June 04, 2007


I guess I’ll be doing a 2 week taper this time around, seeing how I finished the week with 58 miles. I ended the week with a nice 17 mile group run, which started at Ft. Snelling and included lots of trails, including Pike Island. Our weather has been pretty amazing this spring. I can only think of a couple of hot days and that's because I waited till after work to run. And I think the dew point has only been over 60 once. Can it hold out 2 more weeks?

Yesterday was an off day, but I actually ended up putting in 2-3 unplanned/unlogged miles as I ran alongside my daughter while she learns to bike. Our neighbors loaned us one of those bars that attaches to the back of the bike and allows you to hang on without having to bend way over. I was wearing some Nike Frees at the time. Normally this kind of stuff this close to a marathon would get me all worked up, but it doesn’t bother me anymore. You gotta live life and if she’s ready to learn to ride, I’m willing to help her.

This morning was another no watch 5 miler.

This is kind of ironic. I’ve mentioned before that last year started out really well with a lot of miles, but then I got hurt in mid-April and ended up missing Grandma’s. This year I was more conservative, but more consistent. Well this morning I added up my year-to-date mileage. In 2006 I’d run 1,416 miles and this year I’m at 1,409.

Recently I mentioned that our new manager is a triathlete. She’s trying to find places to do some open water swimming. I couldn’t help but send her this link. Now whenever she goes swimming outdoors, she’ll have something to think about.

Finally, congrats to Evan for defending his dissertation last Friday. I assume he passed. The only problem is now we have to ship his ass back to New Zealand.

Quote of the day;

“I leave my watch at home. Otherwise, it’s a lost cause.” – Todd Williams on what it takes for him to have an easy day