Troy Conquers 26.2: Dopey Challenge Part 1

In case you were wondering, my brother on the run crushed his goal and was amazing during the Disney Dopey Challenge. I couldn’t be more proud or happier for him. He’s been blogging about the journey to his first 26.2 – here’s how it all went down, in his own words.

Dopey Challenge in 3 Parts – Part 1: Of Parks and Packets

Dr.Rachel always describes it as ‘taper madness’, the lead up to the race when mileage has dropped and the mind starts to waver. It was hard last year for the half marathon but so much harder this year. The last week or two leading up to the marathon had me driving the wife crazy with excess energy and nervous ticks. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t shake the feeling I was supposed to be doing something. I put all that energy to work in packing. We cleared the dining room table and laid out running kits for each event; individually packaged, the kits were my carry-on and the only thing that mattered.

Dining room table

We flew in on Tuesday afternoon, getting to Disney’s Pop Century resort in time for a quick dinner and beer with a work friend who was running his first half marathon. Wednesday arrived and like anyone who had plans to run 50 miles over the next four days, I spent the whole day walking around Animal Kingdom. Our Garmin Vivofit put us at 10-12 miles of walking. With the park relatively empty we did everything we wanted to and, since it was my first time at Animal Kingdom, that meant everything. I don’t think we skipped an animal or attraction. It was a great day and a great way to get acclimated to the Florida weather. It was just a lot of walking.

We left the park and headed to Disney’s Art of Animation resort to meet with Dr.Rachel and our parents for hotel check in. Both years we have stayed in the ‘Little Mermaid’ section of the resort and have been very happy with it. Quiet and a bit off the main lobby, it requires even more walking but is less crowded. After check in and unpacking, it was expo time. New this year was the requirement that each runner had to pick up their own packet with a photo ID. Last year Dr.Rachel had picked up my packet so I was not prepared. Chaos. I had no idea where to go or what I was supposed to be doing. Luckily Dr.Rachel shuttled us through the crowds and to each of the seemingly endless tables and booths to pick up our bibs and gear check bags. With pictures taken to prove we did run Dopey, we headed to the Expo to look over all the shiny merchandise. It was loud, crowded, and abuzz with excitement. Things were already selling out in the official merchandise area (this was towards closing) but I was able to find a shirt and magnet to take home.

Disney Expo

It was stressful and exhausting – too many miles at the park and too much chaos at the expo to be able to rest immediately on return to the hotel. We spent the night laying out our kit for the 5k and checking the weather report. While MI was a chilly -0oF, Orlando was expected at 35-40oF in time for the race to start in the morning. Arm warmers, trash bags, ponchos, extra layers were pulled from suitcases in order to set for a cold morning and a long day.

To be continued.

Troy Conquers 26.2: The Easiest Hardest Thing

In his newest post, my awesome running brother really captures something that’s true about running – it’s the easiest, and hardest, thing I do.

 

It is hard to explain running and the brain worms (the compulsive desire to run a stupid long distance and sign up for races).  I never thought I would be in the position to be a distance runner and still, I catch myself thinking ‘Well, I don’t need that.  That is for real runners.’ Only to realize that maybe along the way, I have become a real runner.  40 mile weeks and marathons; planning days and weeks around mileage; traveling with twice as many clothes so I don’t miss a workout — I didn’t plan this and it hasn’t come easy.  Though maybe it has…

Running, running long distances specifically, is the hardest thing I may ever have done.  It is also the easiest.  Running seems essential to human life in some way and something that occurs without ever thinking about it.
We as a species seem born to run.  I watch my three year old nephew and realize that he runs until he falls over, everywhere.  He doesn’t think about it and has no finish line.  He just runs as though it was the easiest and most natural thing in the world.  And really, running is easy.  It is just falling slowly but in a very rapid pace.  There is nothing magical about it and anyone, yes anyone, can run or work up to a run.  Running is easy.

Running, running long distances specifically, is the easiest thing I may have ever done.  It is also the hardest.  Running the long runs is just time, a decision to put aside 4 hours of my day to go out and enjoy nature.  To listen to birds sing and see my neighborhood or a park at a calm 5 mile per hour pace.  Getting to that point, getting to running 3, or 5, or 10 miles is hard.  It is hard to get out of bed and strap on shoes to run for 3 hours.  It is hard to push through mile 15 and 17 as feet and ankles and knees all seem to rebel against movement.  It is hard to face up to chaffing and consuming half your calories in paste form.  Running from mile 17 to 18 last weekend was one of the most physically and mentally straining things I have ever done but I did it.  It takes being more stubborn than smart.  Running is hard.

Troy on run

Maybe that is what is appealing about running or what draws people to run until they bleed and can’t walk another step.  While challenging, the challenge isn’t the activity. The challenge is to push yourself into something you never considered possible before.  Running is easy to do but incredibly hard at the same time.

Troy Conquers 26.2: Pushing Boundaries

Two weeks ago, I sat down to write about setting a new PR for distance: 14 miles.  Prior to that, the longest distance I had ever run was 13.4 miles during the Walt Disney World Marathon in Jan 2014.  Running the half hurt and I was not physically prepared for the run thanks to plantar fasciitis.  The DrRachelRuns training plan for Dopey obviously pushes beyond this boundary, so a few weeks ago I hit 14 miles and a new PR.

The week before (three weeks ago), I had limped home after running 12 miles and collapsed on the floor – much to the amusement of my wife.  I hadn’t run 12 miles since July and went out too far before fueling, didn’t carry enough water, and ran too fast through the middle of the run.  I took a day off to contemplate why in the world I was putting myself through such misery then got back to work.  The next weekend, I went out and put up 14 miles.  I was foolish though… again.  At mile 11, the cold and snow had set in along with desperation to finish before my Garmin™ ran out of battery power.  I sped up and lost all semblance of pacing during the last three miles.  I hit both a new distance and new half marathon PR (2:35 woot!!), but at the cost of suffering. These 12 and 14 mile runs were not great but they were done.  I couldn’t bring myself to finish the post as I went out to get ready for my next run; sure that it would be another complete study in misery. I was afraid that all I would have to say was how horrible running is and to abandon hope all ye who enter into this dastardly pastime.

Old Record

Old Record

New Record

New Record

Last week was 16 miles – new territory again.  I went in having learned from 12 and 14; a clear pace goal and fueling strategy based on the previous weeks failures.  As the miles piled up, I was amazed at how good I felt and how well the run was going.  I cruised through mile 10 and felt great through mile 12.  Even mile 14 was feeling pretty good.  The wheels fell off at mile 14.5.  I shuffled and moaned for another 1.5 miles to reach the finish line and immediately texted DrRachel that I would never run again.

Pace Map

I will be out there next week running again and this time 18 miles.  What I have come to realize, these long runs have really helped me to identify issues in my fueling and pacing strategies for long runs.  Each time I feel like death by the end of the run I can pick apart what I did wrong and where.  Going from 5K to Half changed my ideas about running kits and what equipment I need.  Going now from Half to Full I am learning more about strategy.  I had a good strategy to get to 14 and now need to revise to get to 18, 20, and ultimately 26.2.

Troy Conquers 26.2: Shut Up Legs

Here’s a great piece from my brother about his first run with me!

 

Mistakes were made – that is how I categorize more than half my running. Whether it is signing up for things I shouldn’t (Dopey 2015!), starting out too fast (4 minute miles are amazing!), or running too far out on an out and back. Mistakes were made and now I suffer.

I volunteered to help Rachel move to her new home in Connecticut a few weeks ago as any good brother would. I know how much work moving is and understood what I was signing up for in that regard. However, Rachel decreed that while I was in Connecticut, I would join her running group for a taper run and put up 12 miles. Ok. Fine. Moving is a tremendous amount of work but a decent run should still be possible.

I was wrong. Mistakes were made. While I knew how much work moving would be, I did not know that Connecticut had hills. No one told me about this. I expected gentle rolling valleys with beautiful trees just starting to turn colors. The hills, no these mountains, in Connecticut were more than I could handle and had no preparation for attacking. Behold my normal training run (11 mile in MI):

Michigan Run

 

Elevation change of 28 feet and that is because I purposefully ran down to the river and then back up a hill. I try to add in inclines whenever I do a treadmill workout but those are by no means a HILL workout. There is one course I like to run that does have some gentle rolling hills. But not this – this is CT and this was too much.

CT Run

Garmin tells me 401 feet of gain and 362 feet of loss.

After spending two days moving Rachel I was not able to tackle the mountains of Connecticut for the full 12 mile run. I had to drop out at 8.5 miles and was very thankful to the Fleet Feet coaches for getting me back to the store and helping on cool down. As someone who had never been to Connecticut, let alone run there, I have to give a lot of credit to the running community. Not only are there more runners than I am used to, they tackle these mountains (to me) with an ease I could not.

Next time I will know what I am getting into and come planning to run hills. I just may have to train to come to CT to train again.

 

Troy Conquers 26.2: Evolution of Running Gear

In this Troy Conquers 26.2 installment, my brother discusses the evolution of his running gear. From casual, any shorts will do running, to serious marathon training (and the gear to match!), he’s getting more serious. Here’s what he had to say:

While the marathon training is new to me and the mileage is something I have never seen before, ramping up distance is not. Ramping up distance is a learning experience for me and I learned a lot about clothing.  Long before the WDW 2014 Half, my wife and I ran a couple of local 5K events.  When we decided to sign up for these we went to the local sporting goods store to buy some clothes.  It is funny looking back and our choices.

I grabbed the long, heavy basketball style shorts – the ones with two thick layers that hang down past your knees.  For a shirt, whatever – grabbed one ‘tech’ shirt and one cotton tee thinking those would be just fine.  For shoes it was whatever was there and felt comfortable on my feet, but yet priced ok in case this whole running thing fell through.  This was what I trained in for that first race: generic shoes, cotton socks, cotton boxers, heavy ‘tech’ shorts, and a cotton tee shirt.  You can already see the issues in my gear choices.  These outfits were fine for short (mile or two) runs, but even then I started to have issues with chafing.  I was confused at first – I had running clothes so why did running suck so bad?  Besides running in a Gulf Coast Texas July, what I was wearing was hampering my run.

After moving to Michigan the training for the WDW Half started to pick up and it was time to get serious.  We visited the local running store, Runners, for the first gait analysis and shoe selection.  Shoes matter and there was a definite improvement for me and a whole new world of pain-free running for the wife once we had properly fitting shoes. Next was clothing and time to get a couple new running outfits. An assortment of true tech tee shirts and Feetures running socks were the first items purchased along with some wicking boxers.  Sadly, only one new pair of shorts as I yet insisted on wearing basketball shorts for the short training runs.  This was me learning about the right kind of gear for running distances.  At this point I had no idea what compression gear was.  This basic arrangement served me well doing the first half marathon.

Troy at Disney

After a year of running, and, now training for a full marathon, I have completely changed my outlook on running gear.  My outlook it is still changing as the distances have started to increase.  Now all my shorts are actual running shorts, even those nice ones that have a zippered pocket in the back.  I had no idea how much I needed that before hitting a 10 mile run and desperately needing a Gu.  All my running shirts have lost the graphics and screen print – just plain tech running shirts to prevent unnecessary chafing.  A multitude of socks reside in my drawer, all meant for running.  I have wool socks with toes, thick padded socks, thin socks, Elite version socks with arch support, and compression sock that go to my knees.

Troy's socks

Calf sleeves for recovery were new to me until after my first half and I can’t explain how much I love them.  So many things I didn’t know I would need when I started that have made the training so much better.

I am getting close to breaking 13 miles in training.  I have never run farther and don’t know what lies beyond.  Maybe I will need new gear, maybe not.  I have some fancy new Lululemon running shorts if nothing else!

Troy Conquers 26.2: Do Work

With the Warrior Dash done and training continuing to pick up, the miles are increasing and my weight is decreasing.  I am a bigger guy and not with the typical runner physique.   When I weighed myself in July I was at 255 lb.  255 is fine – if I could squat a VW Beetle or bench my refrigerator.  I cannot.  When I decided to sign up for this marathon I also decided that I probably should lose some weight. Maybe inspired by the distance or just deciding on a round number, I decided to lose 50 pounds before January; about 1 ½ pounds a week, so a decent amount but not out of the ball park for reasonable.  50 pounds at 3700 calories a pound debit is a lot of cupcakes I won’t be able to eat.

The exercise part is not an issue.  Looking at moving up through 10 to 20 to 30 to 40 mile weeks I will be getting in plenty of calorie burning miles.  Dr. Rachel was in town for a week and helped us with the diet.  We (wifey and me) aren’t giving up things we like but instead making better choices about what we are eating.  Maybe when we want a cookie we shouldn’t also eat a cheeseburger and French fries.  Having not tracked calories and fats before, I was amazed when I started to look up common foods.  Who knew that the amazing bratwurst I love are 200 calories apiece and a bun is 150?  Two of those things are 700 calories before you get to potato salad and beer.  How many times have I put down an entire day’s worth of calories in one meal?

The good news is I am already down over 15 pounds since starting this.  I feel lighter on my feet when the miles are racking up.  Between the diet changes, running, and adding calisthenics I have felt better on even the short runs.  I have talked about wanting to lose weight in the past but this run, the training, the impending doom, have actually gotten me to really do something about it.  The only thing to do about the situation is keep increasing the mileage and keep decreasing the weight by making better decisions on eating.  I still ate a whole Stromboli post-Volkslaufe and will be damned if I don’t gorge after the marathon.

I probably don’t have to drop all the weight to finish the marathon.  But I am pretty sure it won’t hurt.

Troy Conquers 26.2: BaNa Review

Dr. Rachel’s Note: My awesome brother, Troy, is training for this first marathon. You can read about how it started here. As part of his training, he’s trying new fueling methods and learning more about nutrition, hydration, and running. Recently, we were approached by BaNa rehydration with an opportunity to try their new product. Being the helpful sister I am, I offered the opportunity to Troy. Here’s his take:

BANa  – Review

This is not a new slang term for the delicious, ubiquitous post race treat of a partially green Banana (gre-nana?) but a sports drink I was voluntold into trying.  Sample bottles and pamphlet arrived at my door in the most unassuming of brown boxes.  BANa – ‘an IV in a bottle’ – so claims the pamphlet.  The drink is advertised for runners, outdoor workers, and those suffering from hangovers.  With a composition falling between Pediasure and a saline IV bag, the drink promises to replenish and refresh.  I am an engineer by trade and quickly devised an experimental plan to test this new concoction out.

BaNa

Test 1 – First Impressions

Rather than test BANa out on a long run and risk GI issues, I tried it at home and not even after a particularly grueling day.  The first sip caught me off-guard.  I had been expecting a tart and artificial berry flavor but instead was greeted by a mild berry taste.  The berry flavor worked but along with it came a strange sweet and salty mixture best described as very light syrup.  I struggled a bit and felt like I needed a water rinse when I finished the bottle.  I felt hydrated and continued to feel that way for a much longer time than I thought normal.  With no GI distress, the first bottle seemed to be ok … just a little syrupy. So, after this initial test, I had reservations about being able drink this without a water rinse (could be problematic during a workout) but was pleasantly surprised by the tasty berry flavor.

Test 2 – The Short Run

Basics out of the way, it was time to test BANa out during a workout.  My Tuesday training involves running 3 miles and doing 4 rounds of calisthenics for about an hour long workout and I thought this would be a great first test.  I wanted to try BANa in what I knew would be a tougher situation where I would really need to rehydrate.  I can’t explain what changed and I am not sure how or why it did, but my opinion of BANa drastically improved during that workout.  It was fantastic.  That sweet/salty syrup taste was gone completely and instead it was replaced by that pleasant berry flavor combined with fast hydration.  The consistency was not an issue at all.  Maybe it was my body craving the simple carbs and salt, but the BANa completely hit the spot.  One 12 oz bottle got me through the entire workout and I still felt hydrated when it was over.

Test 3 – The Long Run

I headed out for a 6 mile training run with a bottle of BANa and expectations of good things again.  As with the short run, BANa hit the spot.  The flavor, the mouth-feel, the hydration – all were perfect during the run.  Small sips were all that I needed to feel hydrated and keep me going through my workout.  I finished my run feeling hydrated and with BANa to spare.  Most importantly, no GI disturbance.  Additionally, when finished I wasn’t gulping down water which helped to avoid that “sloshing” feeling that everyone is so familiar with.

BaNa review

Overall

I am mixed here.  I don’t think BANa is something I would grab as a run recovery or hangover recovery when lazing about the house. The taste and texture just didn’t come across right to me when I am not in the middle of intense physical activity.  However, on a run or a workout, this stuff just hit the spot and was great.  I can’t explain it, but it was like a whole different experience while on a workout.  It was refreshing, mild on the stomach, and quenched my thirst completely.  Maybe next time I race, I will take a BANa water with me to keep from eating that gre-nana on the other side of the finish line.

Find them on social media at @BaNaRehydrates

Note: Free products were provided to make this review possible. No other compensation was provided and the opinions are our own.

Troy Conquers 26.2: How it All Began

The cardboard snack box of post race treats was the only thing keeping me moving.  After running 13.god-awful many miles, I could only curse my family for having the audacity to make me walk to them. That last half mile was harder than the previous 13.1 and all I wanted to do was eat a banana.

My first half marathon was the Walt Disney World 2014 Half Marathon and it didn’t end pretty.  I came in behind my desired time and with plantar fasciitis flaring up to the point of limping.  I swore off running as I hobbled through the crowds in search of a place to collapse and eat.

By the bottom of the snack box, I said I would do it again next year.  All 13.1 miles.

Troy at Disney

Two weeks later my sister, our own Dr.Rachel, was telling me that if I could finish a half I could finish a whole.  Somehow I believed her enough to agree and start planning the next trip to Disney.  A month later, it was the no longer just my first marathon but the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge.  Why not run a half and then full having only completed one of the former and none of the later?  I was in.

It took 71 days to go from finishing my first half marathon to asking Dr.Rachel one very stupid question – ‘if we are doing the Goofy race, why not just do the Dopey and run all four?’.  When running 39.3 miles already, what is another 9.3?  It took 71 days from swearing off running to trying to convince Dr.Rachel that a 48.6 mile challenge run was a good idea.  Brain worms.  It had to be some sort of cerebral parasite.

Since Disney, I have completed five more races including my first sub-30 5K and my second half marathon (20K but who is counting the miles?).  I am comparing the official WDW/Jeff Galloway running plan with races in my area.  A half marathon through scenic mid-Michigan on a long run weekend in October – sign me up.  40+ mile weeks through December in Michigan – better start trying out wool socks now.  A 50 mile week around Christmas – hope Santa brings me new shoes.  Brain worms.  Something is deeply wrong with me.

Troy's Fast 5k

Dr.Rachel has asked me to guest write on my experiences training for my first marathon and I have agreed.  Occasionally I will pop in and detail the horrors of my first marathon experience.  The official Disney Training plan started July 1st but thanks to Dr.Rachel I was already running a half marathon.  I dropped 2 min/mile off my time from 6 months previous and then set a 5KPR the next day.  Two weeks of mild rest later, I am ready to start serious  running again.  This weekend – Warrior Dash MI and a 5.5 mile training run.  Should be fun.