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.

 

Big City, Big Running

This weekend I headed to New York City for some training (professional type training not running type training). Despite a rigorous schedule that had me indoors 9am to 10pm, I managed to get in a few workouts and a lot of city walking.

First, walking around the city is a workout in itself. Getting from one end of the city to the other takes a long time and inevitably involves lots of walking. And stairs. Stairs into the subway. Stairs from train to train. Stairs out of the subway. Then walking blocks and blocks. The city has everything you could ever want. Provided you want to walk there. Being in the city also skews one’s impression about how far is a long walk. At home, I wouldn’t walk two miles to get to a better sandwich shop if there were a sandwich shop right in front of me. Not in New York City. 20 blocks? We can walk that. 20 blocks to get to the diner we like better. Sure. I definitely got in my walking.

I also got in a great deal of NYC-style “trail running”. Part of what makes trail running great for injury prevention is the side to side motion and the unpredictable nature of the terrain. Walking in New York is great for this. Uneven sidewalks. Trash. Puddles. Scaffolding. Tourists (now, I know, technically, I’m a tourist, but I think there’s a difference between being not from the city and being a tourist). I walked around the city efficiently and definitely got a good workout for all those stabilizing muscles.

My first morning in the city, I went for a proper run. Despite high humidity, the threat of rain, and some serious pollution problems, I got out for a great run. I zipped down a few streets and hopped on the Greenway bike path near Lincoln Tunnel. The bike path is paved, smooth, and popular. Loads of runners and cyclists were zipping down the path. There were helpful crosswalk signs at many intersections and a few areas where plants had been planted. Of course, there was the usual New York assortment of trash, mysterious puddles, and homeless men. Nothing out of the ordinary. Overall, the path was a quite nice place to run. It was certainly much smoother and nicer than running on streets so I got in my miles much more efficiently.

Central Park Reservoir

Right before I left the city, I got in a great run in Central Park. I love Central Park and running through the park on a perfect day was wonderful! All in all, it was a great weekend in a fun city.

Pure Michigan Running

Over the Fourth of July, I headed to my home state, Michigan, for a quick visit. While in town, I couldn’t resist a few races. First up was the Volkslaufe. Volkslaufe (German for “the people’s race” is one of my favorite Fourth of July traditions. What started as a small, hometown race has grown over the years. This year, the race was featured in Runners World Magazine. What I love about the Volkslaufe is that, despite its growth, it hasn’t lost the hometown charm. For example, a giant tractor greeted runners at packet pick up, held in a local event hall.

Volkslaufe packet pick up

My siblings and I were able to easily pick up our packets without waiting in line, and quickly made our way through the tiny expo. The Volkslaufe includes 4 races, a 20k, 10k, 5k, and 2k children’s race. The races are all held on July 4th every year.

This year I chose the 20k, with a course that winds through some of the best Michigan farmland. The weather was perfect, about 75 degrees and sunny. I had on my Fourth of July best, and was ready to run with my sister-in-law (who raced her way to a HUGE PR, by the way).

Volkslaufe

Runners exit town almost immediately and head out past corn fields, soybean fields, and pretty much every other crop Michigan has to offer. The views are stunning and the farmhouses are well-maintained. I loved running through the countryside. The breeze was blowing, the birds were chirping, and the course was smooth. The course began to loop back towards town, over a gorgeous old bridge and along a short dirt road. About 10 miles into the 20k, the course heads back in towards town and through lovely, mature neighborhoods. Spectators were few and far between, but those that were out were enthusiastic. Running behind the classic restaurant, Zehnder’s, the course geared up for its big finish. The last mile or so is run along the Cass River, over a classic, wooden covered bridge, and into Heritage Park. The course is one of my favorites and this year was no exception. The weather was perfect, the course was pretty, and the small-town hospitality was in full effect. It was a great day for a run!

Volkslaufe 20k Elevation

Volkslaufe 20k Elevation

Running Around the Beehive State

I love to travel, and, luckily, I get to do it a lot. I recently headed to Utah (the Beehive State) for a work meeting and got an opportunity to try some mountain fitness. Utah is a pretty cool state. I had been to Salt Lake City briefly (also check out my cool Temple pictures), but had only explored the city. This time, I stayed with a local friend and toured lots of Utah landmarks. Altitude training is no joke!

We got things off to a great start with a visit to a local gym for cycling. The Ultimate Peak Crossfit gym, owned by Coach Keena, is a great little spot. It offers a variety of classes and full triathlon training. My friend and I visited the cycling class, which included some drills, hill work, and even some interval running. Coach Keena was upbeat, and created a great workout.

Later that day, we went hiking near Sundance. The ground was dusty, but the sun was shining and the the breeze was soft. It was a gorgeous day for a hike. We went up to a waterfall and enjoyed the mountain views.

Sundance

 

 

Race Recap: Run for the Red Pocono Marathon

One of my greatest joys as a runner is pacing for races with MarathonPacing.com. I love helping others achieve their goals and pacing is a great way to see runners doing amazing things. This spring, I was selected to pace the 4:45 group at the Run for the Red Pocono Marathon. I was delighted to prepare for a new marathon.

The race wound through a number of Pocono towns, ending in Stroudsburg, PA. Packet pick up was at a local school. I met up with my fellow pacers at the expo. We greeted runners, handed out pace band temporary tattoos, and talked running with eager runners. It was great!

Run for Red expo

Race day was bright and clear with perfect running weather.

Run for Red flat runner

The day started cool and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I got lined up in my starting area and met my pace team. I had some great runners. Mostly new marathoners, a woman running her first marathon in anticipation of a milestone age, and brothers who had trained together. We got started running in Pocono Summit, PA along rural roads. The course began flat and roads were wide and free of traffic. The water stops were well-staffed and organized. After the first few miles, the course started to decline – as in the elevation. The course itself has a significant downhill trajectory and that started in the early miles. My pace team and I were feeling great and loving the downhills.

Run for the Red elevation profile

The roads were lovely – well paved, wide, and free of debris. The scenery was gorgeous. We ran past pine forests, deep woods, and across wooden bridges. I loved the beautiful countryside. Halfway through, the course began to roll. The hills were minor, but challenging for legs tired from the downhills. My team was great! We had fun telling stories, cheering for our fellow runners, and exploring the Pocono area. The course finally made its was into Stroudsburg and along neighborhood streets with cheering spectators. We made our way through the historic downtown and on to the school grounds. The race finished in the track stadium at the local high school.

Photo credit: Elaine Acosta, the awesome 4:30 pacer

Photo credit: Elaine Acosta, the awesome 4:30 pacer

I loved the race and would highly recommend the Run for the Red Pocono Marathon. The course was well designed, scenic, well-marked, and staffed by a great group of volunteers and staff. The race overall was well organized and supported by a strong race committee.

 

Ragnar Cape Cod 2014

No one loves an overnight relay more than this girl, so I jumped at the opportunity to run Ragnar Cape Cod this year. Most of my team from last year was back, and we were ready for fun! This year, there were some changes to the course, including a super long “Wicked Hahd” leg that I was set to run. To make things even more interesting, our team was running short a few runners, so we each had 25 miles or more to run.

We got the van packed up at our rental house and we got to decorating.

Ragnar decoratingI was in a van with three boys and lots of food. We were ready. Since we were Van 2, we had a nice leisurely morning, then got running. I had the “Wicked Hahd” leg, a 12.8 miles jaunt on the worst road ever. The first 7 miles of the leg were on sand. Not sand as in this is a sandy beach, but sand that had been pushed to the side after being used in the winter on the road. It was rocky, loose sand. My poor calves were killing me. Then, we headed uphill. The last four miles of this crazy leg went uphill. And, to make it more interesting, nearly all of it was on a very busy highway. It wasn’t my favorite leg ever. In appreciation of my efforts, the nice Ragnar people gave me a medal.

After our first runs we ate a nice dinner and prepared ourselves for our night runs. I love night runs and was thrilled with my quick, four miles that I had planned.

Night run

My night run was over quickly and we were off to the rental house for a rest. I got three luxurious hours of sleep. It was wonderful. In no time at all it was time for our third run. I was scheduled to run two legs, running through the exchange. Luckily, my runs were partly through the Cape Cod National Seashore. I was treated to gorgeous views.

Cape Cod views

At the end of my runs, I found myself on the most wonderful beach. We were almost to P-Town!

Cape Cod finish

I was having a great time. I loved being in Van 2 and loved my runs. Even though we were missing a few runners, I found the mileage manageable. Our last runner was out and we were tired, hungry, and ready to see the finish line. We pulled up to Provincetown and found our way to the finish.

Ragnar Cape Cod finish

The energy was great. There’s nothing like a Ragnar finish line – the spectators, the teams, the fun atmosphere. It’s great! We finished as a team and had a great time at the finish line party. Overall, it was another great Ragnar. I love Cape Cod and this year was no exception.

 

RRCA Annual Convention

A few weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in the RRCA Annual Convention. Each year, the Road Runners Club of America hosts the convention in a different city. The convention is an opportunity for running professionals to gather, share information, and contribute to the running community. The convention features workshops on best practices, running coach continuing education, the RRCA Annual Meeting of the Membership, the National Running Awards Banquet, and super fun social networking events. I was lucky enough to be selected for a RRCA Leadership Scholarship to attend the convention. 

This year’s convention was in Spokane, Washington. I had never been to Spokane so the whole event was a new adventure. I got to Spokane on a Thursday and the festivities kicked off with a welcome reception. I enjoyed meeting fellow runners, particularly Bernard Legat! He was kind and welcoming and even posed for a photo with me.

BL photo

There were several social receptions, each with interesting people from clubs across the country. Each morning the day started with a run hosted by the Bloomsday Road Runners running club. Given that this was a running convention, there were large groups.

RRCA morning run

The first morning, we ran through a local park, across several bridges, and up some hills with great views.

RRCA bridges

Other morning runs featured Spokane sights, including Gonzaga University.

RRCA run Gonzaga

I learned a lot in education sessions related to club leadership and organization. I met leaders from other clubs who were more advanced in their process than I am as a club president and got to learn how they had made their clubs a success. The convention was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about my role as a club leader. I also took in a session of continuing education for running coaches to learn more about developing training programs. I enjoyed the educational sessions.

The highlight of the conference was the Bloomsday Road Race. The 37th running of the Lilac Bloomsday Road Race happened the Sunday after the convention and convention attendees had an opportunity to participate. This great 12k runs through the streets and parks of Spokane. The highlight of the run is the Doomsday Hill, an epic, mile long climb up the biggest hill in Spokane. It was such a worthy hill that there was a buzzard at the top waiting for those of us who were struggling.

Doomsday race

I chose a leisurely running strategy and interacted with the amazing spectators along the route. I accepted all the food offered to me, including donuts…

Bloomsday donut

Otter pops…

Bloomsday otter pop

And many other tasty treats. The spectator support was wonderful and the whole city seemed to come out to support the Bloomsday runners. I loved the course and enjoyed the opportunity to see Spokane. At the end, I got my official finisher shirt and hustled off to the airport.

Bloomsday finisher

Overall, I enjoyed the RRCA Annual Convention and the Bloomsday Road Race. Next year the events kick off April 22-26 in Des Moines and feature the Drake Relays and Hy-Vee Road Races.

How To: Travel to a Race

I love travel and I enjoy traveling to destination races. If you’re been following along, you’ll see that I run practically everywhere I go and I’ve been all across the country for races. I get a lot of questions about how to travel to a race. Specifically, what runners can and should pack to ensure race-day success is a source of confusion. Here are a few of my best travel tips for runners.

What can I carry on? Tips for air travel.

Bring a small roller or a stick. You can carry on your Stick. You might get some questions from the TSA about the Stick and it’s purpose, but you can bring it in carry on luggage. The travel size Stick is perfect. It fits in standard roll aboard bags and can be placed along the supports in the back of the bag, or on the side of the bag for limited TSA scrutiny. The TSA might ask to see it (and one agent once asked to try it), but generally, it passes without a problem. Another option is a travel sized roller, such as a the Grid travel roller by Trigger Point. The travel Grid roller fits easily in a carry on bag, and is easy to pack around. This one generally results in more questions from the TSA, but putting it in a visible spot in my carry on has resulted in easy passes through security. I use my travel roller to roll out as soon as I get to my destination and again before and after each run. Rolling helps loosen muscles that have tightened from travel.

Gels count as liquids, gels, and aerosols. If you’re flying, they’re subject to the 3-1-1 rules. This means you’ll have to put your gels in your checked baggage, or in a quart size resealable baggie in your carry on. Remember to take it out when passing through security for separate inspection. Chews, and things that are the consistency of gummy bears or jelly beans (think Clif Blocks, Sport Beans) are not a liquid, gel, or aerosol and can be carried normally, as you would any other food. They do not need to be separately inspected.

Body Glide can be carried on separately like deodorant – it isn’t a liquid, gel, or aerosol, so feel free to bring the big stick.

You’re allowed to bring food for your personal consumption. Bring your snacks, race day bars, and any food you like. As long as it doesn’t look like your important protein bars, you’ll be fine through security.

If you’re planning to bring a hydration belt or handheld bottle, make inspection easy for the TSA to speed time at security. Be sure the bottles are empty and separate them from the belt if possible. Remove the caps from the bottles so that it’s clear the bottles are empty. I bag my bottles and caps in a resealable gallon size baggie so that can just grab one bag and toss it in a bin. It also ensures that I don’t lose a cap along the way.

After the race, the easiest way to transport your medal home is around your neck. Just take it off at the security checkpoint and put it in a bin. Think that’s uncool? Wrap your medal in a napkin or sock and place it somewhere accessible in your carry on. If you’ve traveled to a big race and practically everyone in the airport is a runner, you’ll be safe to leave the medal in the carry on. The TSA will be familiar with its size and shape. If you’re traveling from a smaller race, or aren’t sure, remove the medal from the bag and place it in a bin to be separately scanned by the medal detector. Don’t be surprised if the TSA officer asks to see the medal and offers you congratulations. If you’ve earned multiple medals, like during runDisney challenges (Dopey or Goofy), keep your medals separate. A big stack of metal is going to attract TSA attention. Separate the medals into separate wrappings and lay them out in a row in the bin for xray inspection.

General packing tips.

Wear your running shoes. That way, you ensure they make it to the destination with you. Not only are they the most important, they’re also the hardest to replace on short notice in an unfamiliar area.

Before your race, experiment with different combinations of gels, hydration drinks, and  foods. You’ll be in an unfamiliar area and may find yourself without your familiar foods, gels, and drinks. If you have more than one go-to solution for fueling, you’ll be much more likely to find what you need. Believe me, it’s very difficult to find a specific flavor or a particular brand of gel at a small race expo. Know what works for you, and what will do in a pinch.

Bring Immodium or other product for digestive upset. You never know when you might need it.

Bring ear plugs, an eye mask, and a sleeping pill. All hotels aren’t equally quiet or comfortable. Be ready.

Consider wearing compression calf sleeves or socks during travel. Not only will the compression provide relief for stiff legs, but it will lessen lower leg swelling and discomfort. Some also say that wearing compression socks or calf sleeves reduces the risk of blood clots during air travel.

Pack your race day outfit together. I use two gallon resealable baggies for this. I put everything I need for my race in one baggie, label it, and zip it up. Then, I pack a second, back up baggie that includes a second full race outfit and associated accessories. Finally, a pack a third baggie that includes incidentals I might need like a rain shell, or a warmer option. I never assume the weather forecast is right and bring extras. This technique ensures that you have everything you need handy when you need it – and that you don’t have to think about it early in the morning. It’s also especially good for multiple race events, Ragnars, and other overnight relays like Hood to Coast or Reach the Beach. Once you’re done with your race, just pop the sweaty clothes back in the baggie and zip it up. Perfect to avoid contaminating the rest of your luggage.

Be sure to pack something else to wear immediately after the race. While you may use the race’s gear check, not having to sort though all your luggage to find something is a wonderful thing.

Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water during your travel. Pack your own snacks so you don’t have to rely on fatty or salty travel snacks.

If you’re traveling internationally, plan ahead for how you will use your cell phone, charge your devices, and eat your meals.

Bring hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and extra paper towels. Sanitize your hands before eating and use wet wipes to clean your travel area.

If possible, travel to the race location before the actual race. Take the route you will take before the race. Estimate and record how long it takes to get there, get organized, and get ready. Look around. Find landmarks, parking, and other important necessities.

Bring small accessories you wouldn’t mind throwing away in case it’s cooler than anticipated. I buy magic gloves (the stretchy cotton kind) in bulk and toss them once I warm up. I also like to use socks as throw away arm warmers. Get some knee high socks and cut the toes off. Instant arm warmers. Finally, a black trash bag makes a great cape/blanket/seat cover in bad weather. I always have one with me.

Finally, remember that luggage gets lost. Make sure your race day essentials are snug in the overhead bin, or in a bag near you.

Looking for a list of things to bring for a relay, race, or other endurance event? Check out my packing list.

Happy travels!

Race Recap: First Watch Sarasota

Now that mom’s a half marathoner, we’ve been on a quest to find interesting races that we can to together. Given that mom is a walker (granted, a fast one, but a walker), we are always searching for races that advertise as being walker-friendly, or that have a good cut off time suitable for walkers in interesting locations. In our quest to find interesting races that fit the criteria, we identified the FirstWatch Sarasota Half Marathon as a contender. Once we leaded about the area, we signed up immediately. A run over a bridge, on a key, and through stately homes, all ocean-front? Yes, please!

Mom and I decided that the best plan was to stay overnight in a hotel in Sarasota (terrible, I know) and enjoy the area before the half marathon. We found our place easily and set off to check out the area. It’s gorgeous. For those of you who haven’t been to Sarasota, look it up on a map. The whole city is right on the water, with keys along the coast. It’s amazing. The city also seems to enjoy art, as evidenced by the amazing art installations all along the city sidewalks.

art

After enjoying some time in the city, admiring the enormous statue of the kissing sailor, it was time for our early bed time. Race morning dawned early, with clear skies and crisp air. It was approximately 68 degrees at race start, perfect racing conditions. Mom and I snapped a few quick pictures, then set off.

Before Sarasota

The course went along Route 41, the waterfront main drag and immediately headed out toward the Ringling Bridge. The view over the bridge was amazing – stately homes, bobbing boats, and water as far as the eye could see. Next, the course wound through St. Armand’s Circle, the little shopping area and center of St. Armand’s Key. It was lovely, old Florida style. Next, it was back up and over the bridge. By this time the sun was up and the day was bright and clear. The course continued back along the main drag, past several well-staffed aid stations, and right past the Ringling art museum. It’s a funny pink building nestled in the midst of a small neighborhood. The neighborhood was an eclectic mix of beach cottages, vacation homes, and lovely waterfront mansions, complete with their associated compound behind firmly closed gates. Each section of the neighborhood had its own little park, all of them water front. As we wound through the homes and past the parks, we were treated to great views and friendly spectators. About halfway through the neighborhood, we passed a fabulous art deco school. Sadly, I wasn’t fast enough to snap a picture, but it was a great piece of Florida architecture. The neighborhood section was calm, quiet, and shady. All along the way we encountered great characters – only in Florida does a race marshall bring his own parrot.

Parrot

Once out of the neighborhood, it was just another mile or two to the finish line. Both mom and I loved the course. It was perhaps the best designed course I’ve ever run. It was just perfect. The hills were manageable, even for Floridians, the views spectacular, and the shady neighborhood positioned at just the right spot. There were cheering fans, great water stops, and friendly people all along the way.

At the finish line, volunteers greeted us with our medals (a lovely abstract dolphin) and water. There was a huge finish line party with a live band and tents on the water’s edge. Perhaps the only thing not wonderful about the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon was the post-race food. It was not good at all. There were bagels (plain and raisin), a few muffins that looked like they wilted in the heat, and a disgusting-looking melted yogurt parfait. There were lots of parfaits left over. The yogurt was warm and runny and even these starving half marathoners couldn’t bring ourselves to eat it.

It’s worth note that the race really was walker friendly. Mom and I were far from the last walkers and the spectators and water stop volunteers were cheerful, plentiful, and happy to see us. We enjoyed all the same amenities as runners. I felt welcomed and encouraged as a walker.

Overall, I loved the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon. Not only would I do it again, I would recommend it to anyone looking for a well designed course with great views. And though it’s hilly for Florida, anyone who conquers the bridge is rewarded with a great view.

Sarasota Half Marathon Elevation

Sarasota Half Marathon Elevation

Sarasota Half Marathon Course

Sarasota Half Marathon Course

 

Runner on the Road

Lately I’ve been traveling a lot. Some travel has been work and some has been personal, but I’ve been away from home a lot. I normally enjoy travel, but I think I’m reaching my travel limit. I’m reliant on my routine to get in my runs and to follow my nutrition plan. Those runs and meals are what keep me on track, organized, and sane. Without my precious fitness routine, things start to get off track. I’m doing my best to stick to my routine. I’ve been running and working out in all variety of hotel gyms. Some were excellent…

Marriott gym

And some were not. I’ve run in industrial areas, commercial office parks, and along residential streets. I have devised airport fitness routines and even do squats while I’m on breaks in meetings.

I have had amazing, delicious food in wonderful restaurants. I’ve partaken of many of my favorite treats, including fabulous barbecue at Jim N Nick’s in Atlanta.

Biscuit

All in all, it’s been fun. I’ve been lucky to make it home despite pretty difficult and snowy travel conditions.

Snowy airport

I’m home for a while and glad to be back in my own house. Today I’m back on my routine. I am headed to the gym to visit the treadmill tonight, and crossing my fingers spring comes quickly.