Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Here's my latest MDRA article...

Fall is right around the corner. As a runner, that means two things to me; cross-country season and fall marathons. We put in a lot of time and effort training for these types of races. And there’s no doubt that a lot is written about how to get the most out of ourselves on race day. But what about our friends and family members that will be out there cheering for us? We want them to get the most out of race day too, rather than being bored to tears watching a running race. Believe it or not, running can be spectator-friendly, especially if you follow these tips.

The first step to spectating actually should take place before race day. You need to determine how active you want to be during the race. Remember, other than track meets, we’re not talking about your typical sporting event where the action is confined within a stadium, making it easy to watch. Even the shortest of cross-country races can span an entire golf course in less than twenty minutes. Therefore, there has to be some level of activity, even for the spectators on race day.

I would say there are generally three different levels of activity for watching a race. First, are the stationary spectators. These are people that want to find one spot and sit there for the entire race. This group includes people that are lazy, have a difficult time getting around, or find it hard to move the keg of beer they brought to the event. Hey, I told you running could be spectator-friendly.

Second, are the people that want to see as much of the race as possible, but move around the least. Parents with younger kids would typically fall into this category. They want to cheer for their spouse or friends as much as possible, but are also responsible for getting 2 or 3 kids and a dog around the course too. This requires more time and energy, so they have to be smart about moving from place to place.

Third, are the people that want to see as much of the race as possible and don’t care how much blood, sweat or tears it takes to do so. If someone in the race gets a side stitch, dry heaves or pukes, they want to know about it. No, no, they want to see it happen. This is the group that thinks nothing of driving six hours to watch a 25-minute race. They want to be sure they get their monies worth.

After determining your level of activity, you need to decide how you want to get around the course. Obviously, if you’re going to sit in one spot for the race, this is not much of a concern. However, if you fall into the second or third group you need to think about your best course of action for getting around. For cross-country races this is typically by foot. Unless the race is on a golf course and you’re handy at hot-wiring golf carts. Because of the sheer length of the marathon, they offer more options. In addition to getting around on foot, bikes and cars are good options too. Even public transportation can be used, just ask Rosie Ruiz, the initial first place woman of the 1980 Boston Marathon who was later disqualified for taking a train. Since the use of a car requires extra time for battling traffic and finding parking places, I always opt to use my bike whenever possible.

Once you know how you’re going to get around, the number one rule for spectating becomes “know the course”. This is very important because you can’t watch what you can’t see. I only need to share one example to explain how important this rule is. During college I made a road trip with several teammates to Charlotte, NC to watch the men’s Olympic Marathon trials. We hauled our bikes halfway across the country in an effort to see as much of the race as possible. After biking along during for the first half of the race, some of us decided to cut through a neighborhood in order to get ahead of the runners. Instead of jumping two miles ahead of the runners, we accidentally ended up eight miles ahead of the runners. By the time we saw them again all the key moves had been made and the Olympic team had basically been decided. We kicked ourselves for not understanding where the course went.

If you plan on cheering for a specific person, it’s helpful to know the answer to a couple of questions before the race starts. First, what pace do they plan on running? This is especially helpful for longer races because there’s a big time gap between the first and last place runners. And there could be thousands of runners in between. Having an idea of their pace helps determine when they should be passing you. Of course, be sure to leave some wiggle room for the time needed to cross the start line, bad days, and other unforeseen events.

Second, what do they plan on wearing? Again, there could be thousands of runners on the course, so knowing the color of their shirt and shorts can help you pick them out of the crowd. When it comes to cross-country, keep in mind that many schools share the same colors. Therefore, parents should take this a step further and be able to pick out their runner’s exact uniform. Knowing that your son or daughter is wearing red and white might not be enough to pick them out of a big race.

These last two tips have more to do with your comfort level than they do with watching the actual event. I think it’s important to pack light, however, you also want to bring along a variety of clothing options because we know the weather around here can change quickly. And if you’re biking around the course, the chances are that you’ll work up a sweat, so it doesn’t hurt to have a spare shirt with you.

Finally, and this is good for all occasions, bring snacks. In your excitement to get out the door, there’s a good chance that you may have rushed through breakfast. You don’t want to be searching for the nearest McDonald’s when your girlfriend is expecting to see you along the course. So bring along something to drink as well as a few things that won’t melt in the heat or get smashed in your bag. That means leave the chocolate bars and bananas at home.

There you have it. Pass these tips along to your friends and family and hopefully they’ll be clamoring to watch your next race.

Monday, September 28, 2009


I didn’t mean for my posts to become weekly occurrences, but that seems to be the case lately.

T-minus 12 days till Whistlestop and I’m not really sure what to expect. I’m guessing I’m in about 3:10 shape. However, with the addition of cross-training into the mix lately, I’m not really positive.

It’s a catch-22. I feel better when I run, but it always seems like the cross-training makes me slower.

Saturday’s run included a couple of miles around 3-hour marathon pace. Although they felt comfortable, I was thinking; “There’s no way I could hold this for 26.2.” At least based on today’s QOD, I should be able to run 4 hours.

My new typical week looks something like this;

Sunday – bike 90 minutes
Monday – roller-ski 50 minutes in the AM, run 5 miles in the PM
Tuesday – run 50 minutes with 5 hill repeats
Wednesday – roller-ski for 60 minutes
Thursday – run 63 minutes
Friday – run 65 minutes
Saturday – run 2 hours
Yesterday I dusted off my mountain bike and joined Rick for a 75 minute ride in Lebanon Hills. Every time I ride my bike, especially my mountain bike, I think; “That was fun, I need to do that more often.” Of course, now the season is almost over so we’ll have to wait and see what next year brings.

Quote of the Day;

“Cross train once or twice a week.” - Dave Kuehls, 4 Months to a 4 Hour Marathon

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Tap… tap…

Is this thing on?

Long time no blog.

It’s been over a week and I’ve made drastic changes to my training. I figured when thoughts of my upcoming marathon didn’t get me excited, but thoughts of The Birkie did, then it was time to do something about it. So I went ahead and purchased a pair of these;

For those of you not familiar with snow, they’re called roller skis and they’re designed to mimic the feel of being on snow. I’ve been on them twice a week for the last three weeks. And I’ve even incorporated some bike rides into my training.

I’m not sure if it’s the cross-training, the hint of fall in the air, or the fact that I’ve removed all the pressure of trying to run fast at Whistlestop, but I’ve been feeling pretty good lately. I am looking forward to running the race and then being able to add in even more roller skiing.

I just re-read last year’s race report and what I wrote is still true;

"The Birkie makes me want to be a better athlete. The Birkie makes me want to work on my core strength. The Birkie makes me want to eat my fruits and vegatables. The Birkie is enough to make winter my new favorite season. The Birkie is an event I can see planning my entire season around. And maybe the best compliment of all; I can't see not doing this race in the future."

Quote of the Day;

Monday, September 14, 2009


Friday morning I did manage to register for the City of Lakes 25K. Based on how things heated up over the weekend and how crappy I felt on Saturday’s 8 miler, I really had no time goal. I don’t think my training partner, Scott, believed me when I said I was going to go out at 7:00 – 7:30 pace, since he was planning on something closer to 6:45s.

This is actually a pretty easy race report to write. The first mile came and went in 7:15, the next 9 miles were all probably +/- 3 seconds of 7-flat. From mile 10 on I ran 6:50 pace (except for one more 7-flat). Results have me finishing in 1:48:16 (6:58 pace). McMillan coverts that to a sub-3:10, which is kind of surprising. I don’t think my training has gone well lately, so to see a 3:10 “on paper” is somewhat encouraging.

Sunday was also the day of Ironman Wisconsin. It feels like more than 6 years since I did that event. I still find it amazing to think about at times. I mean that race started an hour before mine. After my race I went and drank some coffee, drove home, showered, ate, and watch the entire Vikings football game. When that finished the leaders still had about an hour of running left. Of course, age groupers had up to 9 more hours to finish. Congrats to all the new Ironmen and to those that can’t get enough.

Today’s QOD is a sharp contrast to my last QOD. Can you tell who’s the 40-something veteran and who’s the 20-something up-and-comer?

Quote of the Day;

“I can’t imagine not competing right now. I just love the thrill of competition and the feeling of success. I just believe that I have faster times in me, and I can’t wait to see what they actually are.” - Laura Januszewski (formerly Hermanson)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


I closed out last week with a 22 miler, giving me 80 miles for the week. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to carry that momentum forward into this week. I started off by doing a little cross training on Sunday and followed that up by skipping the Victory 10K that I was thinking about running.

It used to be that Labor Day weekend was one of my favorite running weekends. My college alumni meet is always on that Saturday and Victory is always on Labor Day. The long weekend always gave me the opportunity to race and get in a long run for an upcoming marathon. Or I could even race twice with a recovery day in between if I wanted to.

This year I’ll have to be content with just running a long run over the weekend. Maybe this weekend I’ll convince myself to run the City of Lakes 25K. While it could provide a good indication of my fitness level, I’m not sure I want to know the answer.

Quote of the Day;

"Sometimes the training gets a little bit old." - Colleen DeReuck

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Less than 24 hours after posting about how trying to run fast takes too much work, I joined Scott at Hyland for 6 x 1K repeats. This workout and the terrain reminded us of our time in college together. Maybe that helped cut down on the “sucking the enjoyment out of running” aspect. That, combined with the fact that my legs felt pretty good today, definitely helped. So after a 15-mile week, I’m on pace for about 75-80 miles this week.

While in Disney World I made the prediction that within 25 years we’ll all be riding around in battery powered scooters. Seriously, they were all over the place. I think people rented them and just drove around the park because they were too lazy to walk. And half of the kids getting a ride in a stroller looked like they were over 10 years old. So I’m pretty sure we’re eventually going to get to the point where no one wants to walk.

Quote of the Day;

“If you talk to an elite or near-elite American distance runner today, they’ll tell you that the primary aim of their training is to avoid injury. If you had talked to a similar athlete 25 years ago, he’d have told you the idea of training was to run fast.” – Tom Derderian

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


The other day I was trying to figure out if I liked being fit more than being fast. You have to be fit to be fast, but you don’t have to be fast to be fit. It seems like trying to be fast takes too much work and it ends up sucking the enjoyment out of running. I’m not sure it’s worth it any more. Or maybe I just haven’t figured out how to periodize my training so that I’m not struggling through August every year.

My friend Eric has asked if I thought x-c skiing during the winter helped my running this year. Although I came into the season slower than normal, I thought I would make up ground as the season progressed. That never seemed to happen. And I thought not running as much in the winter would leave me eager to run more throughout the summer. That did happen, at least for awhile. But once August rolled around, running was still a struggle.

I’ve always had this fantasy of being more than “just a runner.” I dream of being more like Jan Guenther and being able to excel at everything from tris, skiing, mt. biking, snow shoeing, kayaking, etc. It’s not even really about excelling at them. It’s just about getting out and doing them without worrying about losing running fitness. Even within running I find myself thinking about trying different things like trail races, ultras, relays, etc.

It’s too early to tell where all these thoughts will lead me right now, but I’m sure I’ll have more to share in the near future.

Quote of the Day;

“The key is that I control my life; my life doesn’t control me.” – Gabrielle Reece