Not Your Average Ironman

16 03 2009

By F4 Coach Michael Stone

My Dear friends and family!

What an experience this was! For once, this was a relieving “not about the race” experience. This was never my intention. In fact my intention was to only tell a few of my friends and family. The very day prior to my leaving Boulder one of my swim lane mates asked me what my race plans were for ’09. I told him Canada. Here I was leaving the next day for an Ironman and I didn’t even mention it. If it were not for Facebook I would not be writing this report. All said with a smile.

As most people close to me know, I have a very special relationship with a young lady (now 17). I met her just after she turned 12 when I decided to race Ironman New Zealand in 2004. Her name is Kimberley and she has the dreadful disease of Cystic Fibrosis. We were “buddied” up and I began fundraising for her cause. Who knew this would become one of the most special relationships of my life. Not just with her, but her mom and sister as well. Seldom a day goes by without at least some contact between us. They really have become family and I am beyond blessed for this. In fact I am finding it difficult to share the proper words that describes the love we all have for one another.

As life had taken a significant change for me personally over the past few months, the nice folks at Ironman NZ gave me an entry to the race. Kimberley’s mom had decided to race this year for the cause and share the experience with her daughter. They asked me to join them a few months earlier, but said my ankle probably wouldn’t allow it and I had more personal things to attend to. I have had the pleasure of crossing the finish line with Kimberley twice before. It makes for a long day for person who spends most of her days in a hospital bed. She has a severe case of this disease and I will spare you the details other than she is fed through a feeding tube in her stomach. She as very little capacity in her lungs for breathing and it shows. We all know how challenging it is on our supporters, but she goes beyond the call of duty.

This was the year I decided I would battle my fear of the snow. If you are reading this, you already know what this means. As a former avid skier it was a painful decision to stop. I did re-start skiing this year by skate skiing and will be hitting the downhill slopes when I return. Now that I know why skiing became so painful for me, I can now enjoy it without the fear of crashing and not knowing why. Again, if you are reading this, you already know this, so no more needs to be said on this. I really am loving skiing again!

It wasn’t until late January that I decided that I would try to race.
I had done almost nothing other than skate skiing, the occasional swim, bike and run since Ironman Canada in late August. I had an ankle injury and I spent months sorting that injury out without doing any training. I used a mid-February one week camp in Palm Springs to test my fitness. If I could handle the volume of that week I would race, but left it out there that I probably wouldn’t. To my surprise I was able to handle the training in California and made a promise to myself that I would simply rest until the race. I had no intention of doing something destructive.

I had no idea what to expect of myself and tried to keep my promise that it could NOT be about the race, but sharing the experience one last time with Kimberley. I didn’t even know what to expect from that as she had been in the hospital for the past couple of months. I arrived in Taupo to a hand written letter from Kimberley awaiting for me at the motor lodge where I was staying. I will share it with you although a few of you have seen this: “Dear Michael, I just wanted to write you a little something for you so you know exactly how much you mean to me and whenever you’re feeling down you can read over this and I hope it makes you feel better. You are such a generous man, you give so much and never ask anything in return. You have changed the lives of hundreds of CF children in NZ because of your willingness to give and most important you have changed the life of me and my family. You go through so much yet you let nothing hold you back,
you’re an inspiration and you’ve made me feel that I can do anything.
We may live on opposite sides of the world yet I feel that you are a life friend and that no matter what happens I know I can always count on you to be there to crack a joke just to make me smile. You have changed my life and I love you for that. Some people spend theri whole lives looking for a friend as good as you. I am just glad I found you. You’re my inspiration. I just wanted to say that to the
world you may be one person, but to one person you mean the world.
Your Kiwi family will always be here. Love you more than you’ll ever know! Kimberley”

Needless to say this started the tone for the week that I really needed. No secret to most of you that I had been really beaten down for the last few months. For some of you it seems even longer. Of course her letter sent me right to tears.

My swim went alright as I came out around 1:09. Still can’t figure out how to get away from slower swimmers that start off so strong and just die. I actually swam relatively straight for a change. I had a really bad vision day, actually all week was rough. Not sure why other than the fact that I was probably just overly tired. The T1 is long and they add this to the swim with a long uphill run and then a staircase to the Transition area. First, they couldn’t find my bag, then I couldn’t find my bike. I asked for help and the lady lead me to the wrong bike rack. 🙂 Normally I have a great system for finding my bike by counting the racks from the changing tent. This time I believe they added a rack from the prior night as I am sure I counted right. Oh well just a little time and it didn’t matter.

Through the rain I rode the first lap through the rain nice and easy.
Just after the start of the second loop is a fast short downhill to the main section of the course. My rear derailleur cable snapped as I tried to move down the gears and was therefore stuck in my biggest gear. I couldn’t just go to the small ring in that gear as that would have stressed the chain even more so I just moved from the big ring to
the small ring. The bike was JUST re-cabled by CMS. So here I am
mashing away, my legs were already cramping. After about 90 minutes of riding this way I finally found bike support and stopped. It took them just over 30 minutes to totally “MacGyver” my bike. I will show you photos of what they did, but it was amazing and gave me a few more gears by taping a new cable down my frame. Time to ask Ivy to make things right! I know how much he loves working on Guru’s internal
cables. 🙂 I hammered the best I could back without being entirely
stupid, but it wasn’t all that smooth sailing as the gears were so so, but it got me to T2. I really thought my day was done out there while bike support was trying sort this out. The quote, “we are not letting you off that easy mate, might just take awhile”. I also might add watching Susan Davis in Wisconsin with her bike drama came to mind rather often!

My legs were just thrashed as I had to stand for much of the bike just
get up those hills with that big gear prior to being “fixed”.
Kimberley was waiting for me just as I started the run and I told her that I was sorry, but I don’t think I have it today and I was asking too much of myself. She told me that her “Mum” was just ahead of me and could run with her. I knew what that meant, so I was thinking “duh, she wants you to finish this race genius”! I saw her mom at the first little out and back and she was about 2K ahead of me. I kept going with no intention of catching her and then ran into Fiona and told her about the bike thing and she made me laugh about my Mike Reilly crack of “you are an Ironman AGAIN”. I kept going. It was so incredibly painful, but I gained on her mom (she’s about the same age as I am). I had to make a decision as she was just in front of me and I didn’t have the heart to pass her. I figured I could just run with her and it would be fun for us all to cross together. Then I thought maybe she wants her own race so I just kept the distance. She was
running really well and having the race of her life. This race meant
nothing to me other than the time here with her daughter and her mom knows this. My relationship is with the whole family, but it is based around the relationship with KLady. 🙂 It was fun to run with someone without running “with” her. As we approached the finish I had to make the decision of going with her and have Kimberley run the finish line once or wait and have her run it twice. Our little run here over the years has become kind of famous in her community as we have both been on TV, the newspapers and the radio. It has become part of her Cystic Fibrosis world as well and she talks about her friendship with her American friend. At 5K to go I literally stopped and let her mom go and we would run the finish line separately. That was the original plan, but we assumed that I would be first. Just goes to show you how difficult it is to make a plan for these events. The bike thing kind of changed that plan. 🙂 I enjoyed my little stop and looked out at the lake and had a little balling time. It just occurred to me that I was at that same spot in 2003 just about to finish my first Ironman and that my identity would be changed forever. I was thinking about how lucky I was just to be here, right now and I kind of didn’t want it to end. Of course I did and we had an amazing little finish. Her mom didn’t know about my bike drama and would have been floored had I passed her as she was having the race of her life. Later on she said it would have been fine if we ran together, but I could see it in her eyes that I made the right decision. Of course I didn’t share with her what I shared with you. Our little secret. I know it all this sounds funny and just to make it clear that this was not as altruistic as it might seem, I really never had any intention of being behind her in the first place and found the whole thing rather confusing, and I must add physically painful. Believe me it wasn’t like I was feeling great. I enjoyed not having the pressure for a PR.

I promised Fliegs when I decided to do this race that it would be nothing more than a training day and I would only even attempt this if we do not make it about the race. I used nothing more than a watch and that was more to help me during the morning. No computers, heart rate or power. I know very few people that pay attention to what is going on behind them even when they have money on the line. We tend race our own race and Kimberley’s mom knew I was behind her, but didn’t know exactly where. As I said this was never about the race.
Had it been, I am quite certain that most of you reading this (and I am sharing this with only a few) would not have let me go without properly training.

It is coming close to giving this distance a little break. I plan to finish out the year as planned and make it an even 10 Ironman races in
6 years. Nothing special about that number, but I am looking forward to Canada with some very special friends!

I can’t thank you enough for your support. I know it has been really rough on all of you seeing me go through rather rough times. I feel so blessed having you all in my life. This time out here was rather special and unique. I hope that I am now on the mend. I most certainly could not be so without you!

With much love and gratitude, Michael


The happiest race on earth or my road to the Walt Disney World Half Marathon

16 01 2009

By Dave Kellermans- F4 Athlete

This is my first race report so bear with me. First of all I really have to give props to all the coaches and the other runners of the various groups (especially the run for fun group) – I’m the back of the pack guy, the one that collects the cones – but they were there with advice, tips and tricks and most importantly patiently waited for me on the long runs.

disney_001 My wife and I arrived in Orlando on Thursday packed with gels, Salt tablets and my own stash of Gatorade (Disney only serves diluted PowerAde, so my first bottle was going to be the good stuff). One memorable thing is that Disney puts on a great program around the races with a great expo and a lot of guest speakers – we listened to Dick and Rick Hoyt (Team Hoyt), Jeff Galloway, John Bingham and Coach Jenny Hadfield.

disney_002 The race was Saturday morning with a wave start. We woke up at 3am and took the Monorail system to Epcot to join over 12,000 runners to the start. The race started by fireworks and we were off towards Magic Kingdom. The first mile was slow, very slow – even for my standards – as it was quite crowded. This is one of the problems – in quite a few places you are running on a one lane road with a lot of people around you. Also a negative was the lack of entertainment outside the parks themselves. When you are running thorough Magic Kingdom or Epcot, there is lots of music, Disney characters (runners stand in line to have their picture taken …) and spectators, but outside the parks there is hardly anything.

I settled into my race plan, which was to split the race in thirds – the first third run five minutes and walk 30 seconds, the next run five minutes, walk 45 seconds and the remaining third to run 5 minutes and walk one minute. I had done my home work and programmed my Garmin to beep at these intervals. The plan worked out great, helping me to maintain my pace and still have short periods to reset my body.

I had a nutrition plan that differed from my first Half Marathon in Moab – eat less. I had 4 gels for my journey, plenty Salt Stick tablets and I drank 1 bottle of Gatorade and two (diluted) bottles of PowerAde.

I used the Salt Stick tablets to avoid / cure cramps and muscle aches. During the race I was generally fine – at mile 9 my shoulders started tensing up and two tablets did the trick to relax them.

The planning worked out great and I finished the race happy my performance, but just like Moab – I would have not been able to turn around and do it again (at least not yet :-).

After the race I raided the ice machine in the hotel and carried three hotel room size trash buckets to my room. The joys of an ice bath for tired legs – I was able to walk the next day without problems.

Here are the stats for my race

5K 00:45:12
10K 01:29:35
15K 02:15:23
Finish 03:16:12


Avg HR 142 bpm
Max HR 159 bpm

Overall it was a fun race, but due the lack of entertainment between the parks, I probably won’t be back. Personally I am happy – I finished 2 minutes 47 seconds faster than The Other Half in Moab and slightly faster than planned with Coach Pam before the race.

A big thank you goes to my wife, who decided to run the race with me and entertain me.

Also thanks to everyone running with me, the coaches and everyone at FastForward – I’ll see you in March for the Triathlon program.

North Face Endurance Challenge 50-mile 2008 Race Report

16 12 2008

By Jorge Rufat-Latre

Epic is the word that best summarizes this race for me.

The North Face Endurance Challenge – San Francisco includes a 50-miler that takes you through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It alternates ocean, forest, and mountain landscapes through 8 major climbs and descents that add up, according to my GPS, to 15,500 feet of elevation gain and loss. The longest, the 5th, about 1800 vertical feet and 17%, comes at mile 21. The steepest climb, the 7th, about 900 vertical feet and 25%, comes at mile 39. The lesser climbs and descents are comparable to Shanahan Ridge.

Here’s my race plan (D’s refer to drop bags):


I did not feel ready – I had only run an average of 27 miles per week, I had a cold, I was recovering from a metatarsal injury, I had not seen the rather complex course, and paper descriptions were sketchy. During the race, I got lost (adding 1.3 miles to the 50), I injured my ankle at mile 4, my shoe lace broke at mile 10, I twisted my other ankle at mile 27, and I knocked myself off to the ground by hitting my head on a branch at mile 28 (to be clear, not on purpose).

And yet, it was the most wonderful and fun race I have ever experienced.

Training was already epic for me. Having never run a marathon distance – The Desert Rats ’08 25-miler was my longest race – I suddenly found myself running marathon after marathon week after week. I realized that the most important part of an ultra is not the running, but rather the ability to keep digestive system, kidneys, and the endocrine system in line with the demands of the race. The second most important part is energy management – teaching the body to burn fat, and fine tuning the heart rates that will keep the running going for 10 hours or more.

My support team made an already incredible experience into a once-in-a-lifetime one. They prepared the race by surveying the aid stations the day before – and it took most of the day as each station stood at the end of windy and narrow mountain roads. They equipped themselves into the finest cheerleading racing team. They were with me way before the crack of dawn; they were with me at aid stations and, later in the race, on the course itself. The positive energy of Wendy, Alison, Kevin, and Jan turned an adventure into a life celebration.

Up bright and early at 2:30am (isn’t this epic already?) we all got ready and drove to the shuttle parking, where large school buses took us to the start line. Everything went smoothly as we made the last preparations. The port-a-potties were perched on the edge of a steep incline. It was my first taste of difficult balancing acts to come…

Part of my strategy was to load up on calories before the start of the race, which tempted me into eating a race-supplied bagel right before the start. It had some preservative that made sure I tasted that bagel throughout the first quarter of the race. I had broken the rule of not doing anything different from training on race day but thankfully the price was manageable.

At 5am 172 runners took off for the mountains in the dark. Very soon you could see a long procession of tiny flickering lights up the slopes. The course was marked with white ribbons doubled with Chemlites. Only a couple of miles into the race I noticed pain in my left ankle. It was unexpected, and it was to accompany me and to get worse all through the race. I completed the race even though descents became more and more punishingly painful. I thought of Della and kept going.

Early on, and in spite of the clear course markings, a large group of runners had got lost. I took some perverse pleasure in that – bad karma I balanced out shortly thereafter when I got lost too!

We made it to the top of the first hill and we enjoyed an incredible view in the twilight – the San Francisco Bay engulfed in clouds, only the big tower in South San Francisco and the tippy-tops of the Golden Gate bridge were visible.

Peak 2 was also easy in spite of its 17% grade – it was only 800 feet up. On the way down, I saw several people get injured on the narrow, steep trail. Everyone else had one headlamp only to light their way; I also had an Innova 4.6W in my right hand (per BTR recommendations) which made my night running extremely easy. I spent some time with Theresa Uhrig, who injured herself during this descent. She routinely trained in the LA mountains with 70-mile runs – awesome. She endured until mile 13.

As I descended rapidly towards aid station Tennessee Valley, at mile 9, I heard my support team cheering for the first time after the start – what a sweet experience! The support team took care of replenishing water, Perpetuem and Endurolytes, and off I was to the next climb.

At mile 10 I felt my right shoe come lose – the unbreakable Kevlar Solomon shoelaces had broken! I now had to consider running through very technical descents with a loose shoe. I kept going.

Peak 3 was easy too, except for the fact that I made a wrong turn and climbed more than necessary. I was regaled for a while by Chuck Wilson’s stories. Chuck has run along these trails for 20 years, and has even been “attacked” by a large buck along the climb before. Chuck was keen on enjoying the views and talking to other runners and he finished the race next to last. The descent from Peak 3 took me to Muir Beach, a gorgeous sight.

At the mile 13 aid station, Muir Beach, the team replenished my consumables and I tied my broken shoelace. The shoelace would come apart twice more, and then hold after mile 26. The team’s enthusiasm turned the demanding race into the funnest experience.

Shortly after Muir Beach, I got to run through the most magical forest I have ever seen – dark, criss-crossed with fallen giant redwoods, and in complete isolation. I can’t find words to describe how out-of-this-world that forest felt. And I’m sure my endorphins at the time also help explain how deep and meaningful the experience felt!

Peak 4 did not look like much – it was described as 7% climb. But it was 1500 feet high and considerably more than 7% in many spots. It was sobering but ok. At this point I became very confident – the ghosts of impassable mountains had dissolved through experience. Colorado’s topography had served me well.

At the top of the climb, my excellent team regaled with a regal reception at Pan Toll aid station, mile 18.

The descent was a sensational sightseeing trip – the Pacific Ocean was breaking into big waves on Stinson Beach, the next aid station, at mile 21. It was so beautiful I couldn’t help but holler in enthusiasm all the way down. Fortunately, there were no other runners in sight.

The fifth climb was very long, but far from a heart breaker. More like the steeper climbs into Mesa multiplied by two and with lots of hairpin turns. It did take a lot of freshness off my legs, though. I saw many people lose their spirit along the long climb too.

And then I got to feel psychological pressure too. Miles 23 through 29 were a lollipop stick – everyone turned around at mile 26. It was a narrow, mostly climbing single track over steep terrain, and I jumped repeatedly to the side to let people ahead of me returning from mile 26 pass by. It was hard on the mind to see all these people ahead of me on the descending direction.

I savored the midway point, mile 25, and the turning point aid station, McKeenan Gulch, at mile 26, perched high up the coastal hills and with gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean. It seemed as if we were at the end of the world.

After mile 26 the track was mostly downhill. It was a happy-puppy part of the race – until I hit a tree branch with my forehead and found myself staring at the sky. No blood, no bones sticking out, so I just picked myself up and kept running. From that point on, I was passing more and more people – race strategy was working beautifully. I felt great!

At mile 30, back to Pan Toll aid station, my support team greeted me again delightfully. My pacer Kevin, a Boston marathoner, joined me. We started on a very technical, steep, and long descent from peak 6. It was so steep we even had to go down a ladder! I was once again deep into the redwoods, surrounded by the majestic giants. At mile 32 I was able to celebrate running further than I had ever run before. My knees and my left ankle were shocked and dismayed at my insistence to keep running. C’est la vie.

Race documentation did not describe the climb to peak 7, so I didn’t know what to expect. I was hoping for mercy from the organizers. I couldn’t have been more wrong – that’s where they were to prove truly sadistic. After the descent from peak 6 ended, we ran over fairly flat terrain – fast and happy miles me and Kevin thoroughly enjoyed. We went by the Old Inn aid station, at mile 36, in good spirits.

But the next aid station, Shoreline Highway, at mile 41, was fast approaching, and that station was supposed to be 1000 feet above us. How much horizontal distance would we have left to make up for that difference? As it turns out, very little! Remember the last 2 miles to Imogen Pass? Or the climb at mile 18 at DRats? Here was a similar climb, going on for 1000 feet. Parts of it were just one deep rut with no horizontal room for my feet to land. Colorado altitude and hill training coalesced to make short of that challenge – I was really pumped up and overtook quite a few people up that crazy climb. My pacer, however, could not follow and I chose to go it alone.

I savored reaching the aid station at mile 41 – peak 7 was clearly a make-or-break proposition and I had summitted with flying colors. And the organizers held a nice surprise: the distance between this station and the next – Tennessee Valley again – was not 3 miles; it was only 2.5 miles. Believe you me, at that point this felt like winning the lottery. Great vistas for most of that distance; the clouds had cleared across the whole bay. The ocean was sparkling blue. We were on a broad, high unpaved road.

I was worried about Kevin and stopped to wait for him, but was advised – very sensibly – by my support team to go on. Soon, a very steep descent that tortured my ankle and knees more than I care to explain took me down peak 7 into the aid station Tennessee Valley at mile 44.

At mile 44 Wendy, Alison, and Jan were there with their best reception yet. With only 6 miles to go I ignored any further nutrition concerns. Wendy and I started on the eighth and last peak. I had been looking forward to run the last leg with Wendy, so much so that mile 44 almost felt like the end of the race. I had been counting down miles-to-Wendy to get there!

So the mild Shanahan Ridge-like climb between miles 44 and 47 was a tough slog for me. I was having trouble getting my heart rate up to race pace and my legs were nothing but pain. Wendy kept me motivated with a well-chosen mix of ego boosters, zingers, and distractions. But shortly before mile 47 the terrain started alternating between short climbs and flat spots, I saw a competitor ahead with a large target on his back – so to speak – and I got a second wind.

I never looked back from that point on – it was a race to the finish, clocking 7:10 pace at times and passing many slower runners. I had trouble controlling the overflowing emotions of the moment as I realized I had made it, to the point where I couldn’t breathe during the last hundred yards.

Wendy and I gloriously crossed the finish line hand in hand and we scared the locals with a triumphant celebratory embrace thereafter. I had finished my first 50 miler, a crazy eight-peak course, in 10 hours and 52 minutes. It was one of the most fun and elating things I had ever done.

137 runners completed the course – 35 started but did not finish. The last finisher crossed the finish line after 13 hours and 59 minutes; the winner, well-known Matt Carpenter, polished off this monster in a mere 6 hours and 49 minutes!

Lessons learned and relearned:

– Something unexpected will happen; thinking of all scenarios and preparing for them will make for a simpler race. Salomons are great, but their unique lacing approach makes repairs more difficult. And apparently, 300 miles is enough to break one of those babies. Next time, I will run with newer shoes identical to the “old” ones. And I might pass on the Salomon lacing system. Extra shoes might be a good addition too.

– Training without pain killers was a great thing to do. There was a lot of pain during the race, but I completely disregarded it. Given how my ankle hurts now, and how I can barely hobble, I can’t believe I pounded on it for 45 miles of rugged terrain. Descents, the places where you must recapture time lost climbing, were particularly challenging.

– Discipline pays off. After mile 20 I did nothing but pass other runners. I had stuck to my cruise heart rate (155) through thick and thin early on and I had energy and glycogen all through the race – unlike many of the people I passed, whose faces looked like graphic descriptions of defeat. At least for me, the psychological satisfaction of passing others vastly compensated for the pain and fatigue that kept knocking at my brain’s door.

– The third part of the race is truly about HEART. Incessant forward motion is good advice, but it is a desperate mantra. Instead, taking in all the glorious elements of the situation (landscape, crazy course, music) and transforming them into happy running generates incessant energy. Purists might not like the idea of running with music, but in my humble opinion it is as important as the soundtrack is in a movie. So much so that I carried a backup player and lots of extra batteries.

– My Garmin was a great friend. Its ability to display 12 variables across 3 screens enabled me to know how I was doing throughout the race at the tactical and at the strategic levels. One screen was dedicated to whole-race data (time, distance, pace, heart rate), another to lap data, and the last one to current, instantaneous data.

– I didn’t think I was going to be able to enjoy the race because I was cutting it so close. I was wrong. I enjoyed myself immensely. Every aspect of the race was a high I won’t soon forget. Every mishap and obstacle did nothing but highlight what a great race this was. When my shoelace broke, I visualized the headline “Completes 50 miler in spite of broken shoe at mile 10.” And so on.

Some training statistics:

I started training on June 2, after total rest recovering from an injured knee at Desert Rats.
Total mileage: 716
Max weekly mileage: 48
Min weekly mileage: 0 (foot injury)
Avg weekly mileage: 27.5
Longest runs: 1×23 miler, 4×26.2 milers and 1×32 miler. The 23-miler was supposed to be 26.2, but I capsized due to the wrong approach to electrolyte replacement (too much sodium per ingestion).


Approach to nutrition:

Overall philosophy: Hammer argues that it is not possible to replace what is lost during a race – only to minimize the losses. This advice was key for me, because there is only so much my stomach can absorb per unit of time. Water is essential to keep kidneys happy.
I took an Endurolyte every 15 minutes; twice my right half started cramping, and I took 2 Endurolytes each time. At mile 44 I also drank some “magic” chicken soup. I drank 2 scoops or Perpetuem in 17 ounces of water every hour or hour and a half. And I drank between half a quart and 1.5 quarts of water every hour. No solid food.

Weight lifting:

Each time I had a body pain during training I increased my weight training in that area and was able to eliminate the pain – I interpret the pain as a signal that the area muscles are not big enough to put up with the demands of the effort. Lower back, hamstrings, and adductors were the main beneficiaries of this approach. It paid off handsomely.

Wayne’s World- Part Three

9 12 2008

Over the past year or so, F4 athlete Wayne Itano has shared a few of his race reports that are filled with great insight, wit, struggle, and success.  Now, as Wayne and his wife Chris get ready for a one-year trip to the other side of the planet, read Wayne’s latest submission…

My California International Marathon Report

The CIM (California International Marathon) on December 7 in Sacramento was my primary goal race of the year. My initial goal, early in the year, was to break 4 hours. This would be a PR by a few minutes. However, by the time of the race I had settled on a “Boston or bust” strategy. Unfortunately, the result was the latter. I didn’t meet any of my goals, but I did learn a few things.

To BQ (qualify for Boston) is, for us average runners, the highest running goal we can imagine. At least it is for me. It’s our holy grail, our personal Olympics. For a young male, it means running a marathon in 3:10. For a 57-year-old like me, the qualifying time is 3:45. For an 80+ male, it is 5:00. For women, the qualifying times are 30 minutes longer at every age. For most of us, qualifying is pretty darn hard at any age.

I started training for this marathon in June, after the Bolder Boulder 10K. In addition to my primary goal of peaking for the CIM in December, I had a secondary goal of PRing at the Denver Half Marathon in October, 7 weeks before the CIM. My plan was to follow the FastForward marathon plan up until a bit before the FastForward goal marathon in early October, then continue doing long runs on my own on weekends, mostly joining FastForward during the week for tempo runs, hills, and intervals, and still tapering for the Denver Half. In addition, I would be doing the Outer Banks Half Marathon with Chris and our daughter Michelle, 4 weeks before the CIM. I planned to do this as a marathon-pace training run. This left time for another long run the following weekend, followed by a 3-week taper. In the 3 months preceding the CIM, I did 4 long runs of 20 miles or more, one of them on pavement, 2 half-marathons, and various medium long runs. This seemed like a reasonable plan. Later I’ll go into detail about what went wrong and what I would do differently next time.

I had reasons both for optimism and pessimism about my BQ goal. My 1:45:23 half-marathon PR in Denver seemed like cause for optimism. Various tables and formulas yielded predicted marathon times of around 3:40, even without any allowance for the fact that the half-marathon was at 5,000 feet, while the marathon would be at sea level. On the other hand, the mileage seemed low. Only one week had over 40 miles, and the average was more like 30 miles. Objectively, the odds did not look good for a BQ. Still, I tried to put my doubts aside and try anyway. Before I left Boulder, Chris told me to not be so nervous. She meant well, but that’s kind of like telling someone to NOT think about an elephant.

I stayed at the marathon headquarters hotel. This was very convenient, since it was across the street from the Expo and from the buses to the race start and just a few blocks from the marathon finish.

I didn’t sleep well the night before the race. I woke up from a bad dream that had nothing to do with running. It took a while for me to remember where I was and what I was doing there. Clearly I wasn’t properly focused on the race. But when I started thinking about the race, it was all pessimism and doubts. Now, I have an ability to replay movies in my mind, kind of like a tape. It saves money on video rentals. So I started playing the mental “tape” of one of the Steve Prefontaine movies. It picked up where he had just returned from the 1972 Olympics at Munich, where he had gone all-out for the Gold in the 5000 meters, when he could have played it safe and taken a Bronze. He came back without any medal, crushed and doubting himself. But he picked himself up, had a great senior year, won races, took another NCAA title, and so on. Pretty inspiring. And then he died. Oh, right. I forgot about that. I actually hadn’t seen that coming when I started the “tape.” I made a mental note to find an inspiring running movie in which the hero doesn’t die at the end. I also tried not to think about the original marathoner, Pheidippides, who died after HIS run. Kind of like trying NOT to think about an elephant.

I got up at 3:30 AM, had some coffee and ate a little. I caught a bus to the start. The weather was fine for a marathon – around 40 at the start and warming up to around 50. My plan, which I had written out in advance, was to stick to an even pace of about 8:35 minutes per mile, which would bring me in at 3:45. I would make use of the 3:45 pacer, provided he was actually on pace. Sometimes pacers go too fast. However, if my heart rate went above 149 in the first 10 or 13 miles, I would slow down. After that, I would let my heart rate go up a bit, to account for “cardiac drift,” but no higher than 155 until mile 20, and then try to hang in there as best I could.

I found the 3:45 pacer, who was carrying a red sign and tried to stay close to him. There was a big clump of people around him. He did a good job of keeping the right pace, mile after mile. I noted the time he passed the half-marathon marker, and he was within about a minute of the ideal time. The 3:50 pacer was not so competent. He ran off ahead of the 3:45 guy. We passed him at about the 5 mile marker.

The CIM is advertised as a fast course. It has a net drop of about 300 feet, but actually has a lot of rolling hills, rather than being consistently downhill. The following shows my times per mile and average heart rate:

1 8:36 142

2 8:30 149

3 8:24 147

4 8:21 146

5 8:35 146

6 8:40 147

7 8:28 146

8 8:40 149

9 8:32 150

10 8:25 150

11 8:29 150

12 8:34 149

13 8:34 151

14 8:28 154

15 8:34 158

16 8:39 159

17 8:35 159

18 8:50 159

19 9:02 158

20 10:14 157

21 14:10 145

22 10:04 153

23 10:14 156

24 14:31 153

25 14:09 139

26 11:43 147

26.2 2:13 151

I was able to stick pretty close to the plan for about the first 13 miles, and I hit 13.1 miles at 1:51:36. Half of 3:45 is 1:52:30, so this was less than 1 minute off of BQ pace. I was able to keep on pace until about mile 18. Although I don’t remember it feeling so hard, my heart rate had shot up to 159, so I must have been working harder. Here is where I deviated from the plan, since I wasn’t supposed to let my heart rate rise that much. Next time I’ll know to slow down if that happens.

Somewhere around mile 18, I could no longer keep on pace. I watched the red 3:45 pacer flag and the clump of people around it disappear into the distance, and I knew I wasn’t going to BQ. Oh well. Nothing else to do but push on as best I could. Around mile 20 I calculated that if I could maintain around a 10 minute pace, I could break 4 hours. Unfortunately, my legs were shot by then. My quads were cramping, and several times I had to stop by the side of the road. There were rock-hard knots in my quads that I would try to massage and then get going again. I saw the 4:00 pacer go by, and then the 4:05 pacer, and I knew that I wouldn’t break 4 hours and I wouldn’t PR. So I wasn’t going to make ANY of my goals, but I just kept going as fast as I could. I must have looked pretty bad at the finish, because people were asking if I was OK. I picked up the medal and walked very slowly back to the hotel, since there was nobody there I knew. Two days later, it still hurts to walk.

I’ll never know for sure, but I THINK that if I had played it safe (or safer), and run at a steady 9:09 pace, I could have finished in 4:00 and PRed. Instead I went all-out to try to BQ and wound up with nothing. I felt like I was stuck in a Prefontaine movie, with the Munich Olympics and all that. By the way, I don’t mean to be sacrilegious. The ONLY thing I have in common with Pre is that we were born within a few months of each other and started college the same year.

The lesson I learned is that there are no shortcuts to qualifying for Boston, at least not for me. In retrospect, I think I needed more of everything – more mileage, more long runs on pavement, more fast-finish or progressive long runs, more tempo runs, more track intervals. One reason this would have been difficult was that I had 3 week-long international trips during the summer, one in June, one in July, and one in August, during which I was able to do little or no running. When you take a week off, it takes time just to get back to where you were before the break. If you try to rush it, you can get injured. Also, the 2 half-marathons, together with the taper and recovery periods, could have detracted from my marathon training.

Getting consistent training in 2009 is going to be hard, since Chris and I will be overseas, in Australia and New Zealand, and maybe Japan, and doing a lot of traveling in those countries. However, after we get back to Boulder in 2010, I hope to try again. This time I want to avoid ALL interruptions, build up the mileage, maybe get a personal coach, and train as hard as I can while not getting injured. I’ll avoid races that don’t serve a specific training purpose. This might mean running half marathons at marathon pace or slower and then adding on 6 miles or more to turn them into long runs. Then I will try to BQ at a late fall marathon, maybe the CIM.

There are a couple of rules on Boston qualifying that make it most favorable for me to qualify in late fall 2010. The first one is that your age at the Boston Marathon, not at the qualifier, determines the required time. My birthday is in June, so the first Boston Marathon at which I will be 60 and can thus use the 4:00 qualifying time is in April 2012, when I will be almost 61. The other rule is that you can qualify up to about 18 months before the Boston Marathon that you want to run. This means, if I understand the rules, that I could qualify for the 2012 Boston Marathon by running a 4:00 marathon in late fall 2010, at which time I will be 59 1/2 years old. On the other hand, if I wanted to run in the 2011 Boston Marathon, I would still have to use the 3:45 qualifying time. The odds are that I will try to go for 4:00 in 2010, since going for 3:45 could be too risky. If 3:45 is hard now, it will be even harder when I am 2 years older. But 4:00 might be quite possible if I train properly.

Does anyone know a good running movie, one where no one dies at the end?

Wayne Itano December 9, 2008

Camp Diabetes

1 10 2008

My Time at Camp

by Karen Lipinsky

I recently attended Diabetes Training Camp in Snowmass. No, this wasn’t a camp to train us to become diabetics, but rather a sports camp for diabetics. Those of you who run with me probably know I’m diabetic because I mention it often, you’ve seen me check my blood sugar during long runs, or you’ve heard me complain about being ‘high’ (not the good kind) or ‘low’ (not the depressed kind). I’ve been a Type 1 diabetic since the age of 27, and wear an insulin pump.

Type I diabetes is a disorder that results when the body’s defenses go haywire and kill all the insulin forming cells in the pancreas. This destroys the body’s ability to process carbohydrates into cellular energy and leads to an excess of glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream. Type 1 is the less common form of diabetes, often diagnosed in childhood, and all diabetics with this form of the disease are on insulin.

The truth is that diabetes is an added wrinkle in the whole exercise dynamic. It’s difficult to try and mimic the body’s expert endocrine system with exogenous insulin. There’s a very real danger of having low blood sugars during a run, and a chronic risk of having high blood sugar. Ultimately, for the sake of performance as well as health, I try to keep my blood sugar as close to normal as possible. I often miss the mark, and was hoping that Camp would give me some tools to get things under control. I was also looking forward to working out with other Type 1 diabetics, who would share the same challegnges.

What camp was like

We campers were a group of 20 Type 1 diabetics and one Type 2, a brave soul who was using Camp to kick start his exercise program. Each day we had two workout sessions, when we could choose to bike, run, swim, or go to a class in the gym. We also had medical lectures, talks on nutrition and sports psychology, and the chance to meet one-on-one with any of the medical or coaching staff. We could get hooked up to a continuous glucose monitor for the week, which measured blood sugar (or rather, delayed blood sugar, since it was measuring glucose in interstitial fluid) every five minutes, a potentially valuable tool since this gives you far more data than pricking your finger and testing n times per day (where n is some number, but always less than the number you’d get by testing every 5 minutes!).

I ran three times at camp, two longer runs and some drills. Although Snowmass isn’t that much higher than Boulder and I knew that other campers would be there from sea level, I sadly didn’t lead the group on any given run. I did get some tips from our running coach, who actually is from Boulder, and my best personal moment at camp was when she told me I had potential. She may’ve just been being nice, but I still flushed with pride.

I road-biked twice. Did you know that Snowmass Village is up a steep hill? I’m here to tell you, it is. One ride was mostly handling drills, and I’ll need some more of that in my future, as my skills are not impressive. In one drill, the cycling coach placed a water bottle on the ground, and we were supposed to ride by and pick it up (without crashing). That time I was with a group of less experienced riders, but a few were successful in this endeavor. I didn’t even touch the bottle.

The newest thing for me at Camp was the swimming, which I did 4 times. Because I was such a rank beginner in the pool, I found that the insignificant distances I was covering in the water affected my legs much more than an hour-long run. Swimming crashed my blood sugar quickly, maybe because it was so new to me. Near the end of one swim practice, we had to retrieve a GU from our suits and eat it while treading water, an important skill for the diabetic swimmer.

I learned a lot in the lectures, and need to go back over my notes so I can commit more of it to memory. I had a one-on-one with the doctor who runs the camp, and he gave me a lot of suggestions for my long runs. Sadly, one of the main suggestions involves waking up 3 hours before the run to eat breakfast so that the insulin I take for the meal isn’t affecting me (much) by run time. I’ve tried it twice so far, and am working with him on fine-tuning my strategy.

Diabetic athletes

Most of the other campers were experienced (amateur!) athletes, some of whom did races and others who were just really active on their own without the need to sign up for a race for motivation. There were marathoners and triathletes. One woman who does the Pikes Peak Ascent shared an unconventional secret nutrition tool she uses to fuel her climbs: previously-cooked and frozen meatballs in the pocket, which are thawed and ready to eat by the time she reaches the half-way point on her climb.

We heard about the Triabetes team, a group of 12 Type 1 diabetics (11 of whom finished) who did IM MOO on the day that camp started. A few days into camp, one of the Triabetes athletes joined us for the day (his wife was the camp PT on the medical staff) and gave us his race report. It was full of details we as diabetics latched onto: he went dangerously low in the water and almost fell asleep, but was able to lay on his back and consume GU until his blood sugar came out of the basement (without touching the boat! Evidently, you don’t touch the boat or you get disqualified – I’m not a hardcore enough athlete to have known this J). He had problems with the infusion set for his pump on the ride, and was unable to take in the carbs he needed to fuel the ride because his blood sugar kept climbing, until he reached his special needs bag at the midpoint of the ride and could change out the infusion set. Despite these things, he finished and considered the experience a success. He seemed to consider the diabetic glitches similar to a mechanical – certainly unfortunate, but to be expected and planned for. I hope to approach my own diabetic mishaps when exercising similarly.

What I took home from camp

A lot of the people at camp had been diabetic since childhood, and had experienced the diabetes camps for kids. Some campers work with other diabetics, as nutritionists and certified diabetes educators. Most of those there had at least participated in a Tour de Cure or two. I’d had none of these experiences, and it really was great to be around other diabetics. It was eye-opening to be out on a run and realize that everyone else there (except the coach – the medical staff for that run _was_ diabetic) was dealing with the same issues I was; we could compare notes, suggest strategies to each other, and commiserate on the various problems we’d had. I also was honored that many of the campers were so willing to open up about themselves from the first night and discuss their struggles with this disease.

One of the women at camp was putting together a triathlon team of diabetic women, with a goal of having all members of the team do a half-Ironman next September. Unlike the Triabetes team, this would be composed of athletes who hadn’t done this level of endurance event before. The biggest thing I took home from camp was membership on this team! This is a HUGE leap for me — did I mention I’m a beginner in the pool? The team members are scattered in various parts of the country, so some of us will be training with local tri groups. Guess who’s joining the Fast Forward Triathlon training next year?

Edward’s First TRI

25 09 2008

Below submitted by F4 TRI athlete Edward Dageforde

Also, see IM MOO link for recently added race reports

I finally did my first triathlon!

But the real story starts earlier. Last year I joined F4 to train for duathlons and get comfortable on the bike. Earlier this year I poked at the idea of joining the triathlon training but I was hesitant. I am not a very good swimmer and I just could not see myself swimming in the open water.
Then during a winter training run Doug had the bright idea that I should just sign up and get the swim training if nothing else. And so I did.

The first swim in the pool wasn’t that easy. Within a few weeks we did a 15 minute time trial and I know I took a lot of breaks. Then after the Bolder Boulder we got a special F4 open water swim opportunity. I rented a wet suit and joined the crowd.

My group started easy. We swan in the waters close to shore. I got a chance to see how much buoyancy a wet suit provided. Then we were offered the chance to swim in the open water out to a buoy. I was not expecting to do that, but yet the wet suit gave me a sense of confidence knowing I could take a break at anytime and not sink. The wet suit became my walls in the pool, and so I went for it. I did take a lot of breaks, but there was no fear of the open water.

A week later I did my first open water swim in race conditions at the first Stroke and Stride of the season. It took a while but I was able to complete the swim with a number of breaks. The running afterward was easy.  Just a week later the 5430 Sprint was here. By this time I knew that it was a race that I could have done but the race was full. In just 3 months of training I was ready to do what I did not think I could do until next year.

The summer went by and I completed 3 more Stroke and Strides. I was getting better at swimming and needing fewer breaks. I completed the Mile High Duathlon Series but had yet to sign up for a Triathlon. Finally I picked one, and it turned out to be full. So I picked another later in the season, Crescent Moon Sprint. It was around my birthday, a fitting time to take the plunge so to speak, just as my first half marathon was two year ago.

Just 12 days before the race I sprained my little toe (don’t ask). It turned black and blue and I had it x-rayed. Luckily no fracture was seen, but still it was tender. After a 1 week break from running I tried on Tuesday with success. Mild discomfort but it was tolerable. I knew that I would not be denied my opportunity.

The day of the race was beautiful with a bright sun and hardly a cloud in the sky. It was a bit cool at 7 in the morning, but it would warm up nicely.
A dip in the water at 8 revealed water that was a bit cold at first but the feeling quickly passed. Once I started swimming by 8:10 I never even thought about it. I never took a break along the 750m course and even passed some people who were in the wave 5 minutes before mine (love the color-coded wave caps).

The first transition was rather slow with a long run through transition to my bike, trying to get my wet suit off, struggling to get my socks and bike shoes on, and then another long run to get out. Four minutes later (this is something I shall have to work on) I was finally headed out on the bike and passed quite a few people, some in my age group. I did not feel at all cold like I thought I would, being wet and it early in the morning. It was a beautiful ride around Cherry Creek Reservoir.

The second transition had that same long run, halfway with my bike and halfway without. I took little time changing to my running shoes and soon headed out. The run was a bit hilly in parts and I had a slight pain in both hips for some reason, something I had not experienced before, but there were also some nice downhill runs include one at the finish. As I flew toward the finish line I heard the announcer state that I was representing Fast Forward Sports (yes, I had on the gear) and then called out my name. It was a great finish.

The distance of the triathlon was only a sprint. Nothing too momentous especially compared to the recent Ironman Wisconsin participants.  Still for me it represents a starting point, not an end point, and I am looking forward to more next year including perhaps the 5430 series.

Scott says there is a time to train, and a time to play. With my last race of the season behind me it is time to play (and do a little recovery). See all of you next training season.

Last Forward

28 07 2008
Submitted by veteran FastForward runner, Vince Kiel, who has moved to Thailand and is working hard on spreading the F4 word.

Hi Scott,

I imagine the summer distance program is in full-swing right now. But I have gained new perspective while here in Thailand…

While on a diving trip I noticed that my Thai friend (he lived in Boulder for 7 years) had not moved for hours. He was laid back in a lounge chair on the deck of the boat, smiling and listening to the reggae music playing over the sound system. I shook him and said “Bob, are you OK? You haven’t moved a muscle in over an hour!” He just smiled and said, “You Americans are so silly. When will you realize that happiness does not come from running about! It takes much practice for those of your ilk….but if you dedicate yourself to the goal of relaxing a bit more every day, life will take on a new, much deeper meaning. Of course everyone has different physical limitations. Maybe you must start with only one minute of quiet meditation at a time. The next day try 70 seconds. However, if you persevere, you will be as calm and relaxed as I am now. The Buddha spoke eloquently of this when he famously stated “When you are pre-recorded to rest, just press stay”

And so was born “Last Forward”, my training group for hyper-active Americans, Japanese and Europeans. So far I have only one member besides myself. But I sense this could be big!! I have identified a few people that I believe will be great coaches, every bit as inspirational as the Fast Forward coaches have known and loved over the years.

I miss you all!


Last Forward Coaches

My first training club member
Our Tom Watson Park