2012 St George Marathon Report

Before I finished my first marathon I had already entered and won the lottery for the St George Marathon. I was pretty excited about moving from South Korea to Utah and having already had a few races under my belt I knew that I wanted to keep running. Since the St George Marathon was still a few months out I had plenty of time to get moved and trained well enough to do this race.

The St George Marathon would be my 2nd full marathon. So I had a few lessons that I had learned in Seoul that I was going to use to improve my performance in Utah. The first thing that I learned from the Seoul Marathon was that I wanted to have more long runs before race day. At the time of the Seoul marathon I had only gone above 20 miles once and got up to 18 miles one other time. The rest of the training runs were all less than 15 miles or so. I wanted to have more long runs to learn more about how things feel once you have that many miles on your legs and also to help with bonking. I bonked (that feel of total exhaustion that some people get after about 20 miles) hard and wanted to know more about what to do and how to pace myself so that I could avoid bonking or at least learn more about how to deal with it.

The other thing about Seoul that I learned was that my desire to run faster was hindered by my weight. How much faster can a person run if they have 20 less pounds to haul around? So soon after Seoul I started paying attention to my calories and eventually lost about 20lbs. I knew that had to make me faster and put less stress on my joints – so it was win win.

For training I focused on running between 30-40 miles a week and ran long runs on the weekends.
Race day came and I was hoping to run about 3:40. I had run a 3:52 in Seoul and didn't want to set my sights too high. It was a completely unknown course and the overall elevation would be much higher than Seoul.
The St George Marathon offered a good expo as far as expos go at least. I have strong opinions about expos that I’ll keep to myself at this point in time. But the bib pick up was easy and I was back to my hotel to try to get some rest in no time.

I got up the next morning and had my brother take me to the buses. The bus system was excellently run and the length of the bus ride seems just about right to me. Before I knew it I was standing outside around a fire in the town of Central, Utah anxiously waiting for the race to start. This year was pretty cold and I wasn't as prepared as I could have been. The drop bag system was new to me so I was worried about my stuff getting stolen or lost so I didn't pack anything that I thought was very valuable or could live without while I was standing in the cold for about an hour.

I eventually ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich that I had brought and a banana and then got in line for the porta-johns. Despite having so many bathrooms I was surprised at how long the wait was. By the time I got out people were lining up to get ready and I dropped my off my bag and made my way over.

Up to the point of writing this I've ran 5 full marathons. If running a marathon in Afghanistan is the least beautiful of all of them so far then St George is the most. Starting the run in the dark is definitely cool and there is little light for a the first few miles. As the sun rises it gives way to the beauty that is southern Utah.

Aside from the grand views the race is also very downhill. There are some portions that climb but overall, there’s a lot of elevation loss between the start and finish. For this race I was heading for a 7:45 pace which at the time was fast for me. But the weather was perfect and I was feeling pretty good.

The first big hill is the climb out of Veyo, Utah. There's an aid station just at the bottom where you can fuel up and get ready for the grind. It is not a small hill by any means. I think everyone has to slow down a bit and tough it out. The top levels out slowly where I was able to return to a normal pace.

Each of the aid stations were very well stocked and I had no problem getting what I was looking for. The volunteers were excellent and I was never slowed or hindered by them.

The weather this day was just about perfect. I think that the people finishing in about 5 hours were probably pretty warm by the end, when I finished it was perfect.

The foremost thing on my mind was pacing myself correctly. With the excitement of the race some have a tendency to run too fast and then paying for it later. This exact thing happened to me in Seoul so I was determined to maintain negative splits (gradually increasing speed). So every 5k I would monitor my pace and adjust accordingly.
The downhill helped me out a lot and I was feeling pretty good. I remember thinking about mile 20 that it was easy because I was feeling great. No less than 2 miles later I was not thinking the same thing but I was able to maintain my pace and finish in 3:34.

The aftermath wasn't pretty though. My lack of running downhill during training meant I paid dearly for several days afterwards. By Monday, walking was difficult at best and going downstairs? Forget it. But I still loved the race and plan to do it every year I can. It is probably the best road race in Utah.

If you can, run the St George Marathon. You can even use it as an excuse to go to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.


The Red Hot 55k

I've signed up for the Red Hot 55k. I'm very excited to run this race.

Last year I kept seeing posts about this race and having just come back home from overseas, I was itchy for a race that was sooner than later in April.

The distance and location were two of the major factors in making my decision. Moab is amazing and 55k felt about right.

After doing a little research there doesn't seem to be about of climbing or descending (a lot being more than 3k ft of climbing). So I'm hoping that it'll be kinda fast. Fingers crossed that the weather will be nice.

There are also some big names that have run this race in the past which makes me pretty sure it's going to be a well marked and supported choose.
I can't wait.

The Salt Flats 100

I’ve just signed up for my first 50 mile marathon. The Salt Flats 100 offers a 50 mile event and that’s the one I’m going to run.

The plan I have had since 2013 was to work my way up gradually to a 100 mile race. I figured that I wasn't done running yet and that running is a lifestyle for me and not just something I am interested in doing for a few months and then quitting. So, why rush to get to 100 when I can have fun and learn along the way? So I decided that in each successive year I was going to run a longer race than the previous year and finish with a 100 mile race. So last year was my first 50k race (and it was my first trail race, too). This year, a 50 miler and then a 100k a year after that and a 100 miler the year after that. Who knows if I’ll stick to this exactly but sticking to it isn't the point. The point is to have fun running. 

This particular 50 miler intrigued me because of its location mostly. If you didn't know, west of the Great Salt Lake are some of the largest salt flats anywhere. It is also pretty very remote. The nearest city, Wendover, is little more than a town that offers the closest gambling to those who live in and around Salt Lake City area. The Bonneville Salt Flats, as the area where the race is located is called, is where land speed records of many kinds have been set. And on race day will be the location of the start and finish of my first 50 mile ultramarathon.

The first 13 miles or so takes place on the salt flats and is essentially an incredibly flat, straight run until you reach the bottom of some mountain “islands” that rise out of the flats. The race then takes a turn and follows the base of the mountains before going around and up a pass and then back down on to the flats to the finish.

In the coming months I have to train to run this race. This will involve back to back long runs in which a 30 mile run on one day is followed up by a 20 mile run the next day (or some variation of this theme). The intent of the training is to get the body and mind used to staying on your feet and moving forward for greater lengths of time. The training is also an opportunity to find out what works nutrition-wise when your body has 30 miles on it.  Sometimes, with that many miles, a stomach can get picky and cranky  so it’s important to know as best you can what works and what doesn’t. One of the most important things involved in an ultramarathon is drinking and eating along the way.

I finished my first ultra last June. It was a 50k race (about 33 miles) and I finished feeling pretty good. Pacing myself was perhaps the most important thing that I did second to drinking and eating at regular intervals. The nutrition part of that race was according to my intent. I knew what I was going to eat and when I was going to eat it. The pacing, however, was thanks to a buddy that I ran into. My body wanted to run faster and more often but he kept me in check. I believe had I not let him slow me down I would have had energy problems near the end of the race and ended walking a lot and not finishing as strong as I did.

I might be crazy, but no more so than all of the other ultra runners out there, so that makes me feel good. I can’t wait to experience a 50 mile race and spending, I don’t know, something like 10+ hours on my feet moving forward.


Product Review: Princeton Tec Remix Headlamp

This Princeton Tech headlamp has served me well since November 2009. Yes, for the last 5 years I have been using this headlamp for running, reading, cooking and numerous other mundane activities. At one point, the battery cover broke, a call to the company had a replacement in the mail and at my house inside of a week. I’ve since looked for other headlamps but haven’t found a reason to replace this faithful provider of light.

With 3 AAA rechargeable batteries I can run for just less than an hour a day and have this headlamp last good enough for 2 weeks. I keep the unit running during the entire run most of the time with the exceptions being when there’s a full moon or the sun has already come up before I get done. And please don’t think I’m using this to augment some existing streetlights, after about 1 mile, my runs are usually on completely unlit paths or roads.

The light has 4 different settings across 2 different lights. The 3 led cluster provides a bigger splash of light and a choice of high or low while the “max bright” LED provides a longer narrower throw and also has a high or low setting. I love to have these choices available to suit the situation. While running I usually use the highest of the 4 settings as it provides the most light to the ground so that I can see what’s directly in front of me. The lowest setting is the one that I like to use to read or to do various other activities in the dark. The strap is adjustable and is comfortable enough for long term wear and the angle of the light can be adjusted (but not easily with one hand) to meet the need.

I have also used this light in a variety of conditions that range from about 7 degrees Fahrenheit and above 100 degrees (Like running at night in Qatar). If I use it while it’s snowing some snow might accumulate on the lens but a quick wipe fixes it right up. I keep the bright light on when I’m running against the traffic and always get a good sense that other drivers approaching me can see me fine (this isn’t the only indication they have, as I wear reflective stuff too).

I’m still kind of amazed that this light has lasted me so long and still does what I need it to without any problems. But, I am kind of a minimalist and cheap (kind of) and if it isn’t broke, then why fix it?

For the price and the service this headlamp has provided me I am completely satisfied. Recommended.


2,228 Miles under My Shoes in 2014 . . . Give or Take

I always feel like declaring a new year on a certain day is kind of arbitrary. I mean, yes, it's the same point in the orbit of the earth around the sun, but for us it's just another day that will come and go. We sure do put a lot of effort into parties and stuff to celebrate the same day every year, don't we?

I like tracking how many miles I run--every day, every week, every month, and for the whole year. I busted out 2,228 miles in 2014! (My wife is very proud of me.) I do wonder what the margin of error is on this kind of distance.

I ran a lot of treadmill miles while I was in Afghanistan and usually I took the total mileage from the treadmill and considered that as miles run. My GPS watch was always way off as it was trying to guess my pace from my arm swing. And then there's the error that GPS watches have in general. I don't run a certified course every day, so maybe at the end of every run there's a difference between what my watch records and what I actually did.

Well, anyway. I could analyze numbers to a crazy degree but that wouldn't be very helpful. It is interesting to look back and see how far I've come . . . literally. Yes, I do recommend tracking your miles, however suits you. Just log your miles and time right after each run, before you forget. My favorite tracking tool is a good old spreadsheet I created in Google docs.