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.

1 comment:

Trisaratops said...

Wow--is Grandma's next week already? That went fast!

Let's just say the M-Dot was the icing on the cake. A bright shining light and singing voices surrounded my computer screen. The 100 bucks off and good ratings were pretty sweet, too.

Matt also suggested that the M-Dot was my primary reason. hee hee