The Expo and Ryan Hall

Yes, it has been a over a week since the Arizona Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, but I promised I would write about my experience at the Expo (Phoenix Convention Center, above) and more importantly about getting to meet Ryan Hall, so here we go.

This was my first Rock 'n' Roll event outside of the San Jose Half Marathon that I have done the past 3 years (and have already registered to do again this year). But this was a much larger venue with many more participants. The numbers were 5,711 for the full and 21,462 for the half (finishers). Plus the participants doing the Dean Karnazes 50k and wheelchair full & half, so as you can tell... a much larger venue was in play compared to the 10,000 (give or take) that is at the RNR San Jose Half.

I absolutely love the official Rock 'n' Roll marathon attire. I have an RNR San Jose Half shirt and always find something I like at the expo (although rarely purchase). I know. I have a strong will and must resist ANOTHER tech shirt. After walking through the official race gear portion, we were sent into the general expo area where you can find the usual suspects in their booths. If you've been to an event, you know what I mean. Nissan had a huge display, complete with several cars and photo area where you could take a picture with a Runner's World Magazine backdrop. I organized our group and took a photo, but sadly on the website, they haven't been able to locate our photo. (insert sad face because it would have been a great one with our whole group). If I do receive it from Nissan's customer support team, I will be sure to share.

Later at that same booth, I saw a line forming and being a "Curious George" went to go see what it was. Sure enough, there was Ryan Hall doing a meet and greet at the Nissan booth. If you subscribe to Runner's World, you may be familiar with their ads (see above). I made line and stood in it for a few minutes, but decided it would take too long for me to get there and moved on. Although I did grab a photo (see below). Little did I know, this would by my first of three encounters with Mr. Hall.

I was not alone in that line either. A follower of the blog and facebook friend happened to be at the expo at the same time, so I took the opportunity to talk with her (and meet her). She was kind enough to give me some insight in what to expect the following day on the course and we shared in great conversation. It was nice to get to talk to someone outside of their facebook profile and status updates. Throughout the weekend I also had several text conversations with others also participating in the race and although meet-ups with them didn't work out with each other's schedules, it was nice to see the running community come together.

After the expo and the "gathering of free samples," I headed back to a friend's hotel/resort to relax before dinner and sure enough, there was Ryan Hall walking through the property. He was being followed by what appeared to be someone official looking with a hand-held camera, perhaps doing an interview. Deciding not to bother them, I took note of my "wow, that was cool" thought and continued on my way. And little did I know that this would not be my last encounter with Mr. Hall.

The following day, after the race, we went back to our friend's hotel/resort and as were about to enter the lobby there was Ryan Hall sitting outside alone enjoying some P.F. Chang's food (which is convenient considering it is the P.F. Chang's Arizona Rock 'n' Roll Marathon). See, it IS okay to enjoy food we like. My friend, Manny, said hello and asked him how he did in the race. Ryan replied: "Not so well." (Note, he took second, but I'm assuming that when you are an elite athlete and record holder, you strive for excellence, EVERY TIME.) I would have loved to have gotten a photo with him, or had him sign my bib (since I was still wearing it), but seeing that he was disappointed with his day and that he was eating, I decided just to shake his hand, tell him it was a pleasure to meet him and leave him be. I'm sure he would have been cordial and agreed, but sometimes you just go with your gut and think it may not be the most appropriate time, even if it is the only time. But the third time was a charm. I figured I couldn't see the man three times in 2 days and not at least shake his hand.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.


Room for Improvement

Coming off an 11 minute PR six weeks after a marathon is quite an accomplishment, so I definitely don't want this to come off as it sounding like I think I failed. I'm simply analyzing my recent event and looking at areas where I can improve. Here we go, let's start with the numbers:

First Half (minutes per mile)
1 - 10:09
2 - 10:10
3 - 9:58
4 - 10:04
5 - 10:00
6 - 9:50
7 - 9:54
8 - 9:44
9 - 9:43
10 - 10:26
11 - 10:24
12 - 9:27
13 - 9:40
13.1 chip time 2:10:44

That's pretty. Yea, I said it. At this point I was clearly on pace. I can't complain at any of these miles. I'd like to average 10 min. miles a little more consistently, bringing the 10+ down and slowing a bit on the 9:30+. But with the average at the half-way point essentially on pace. I was extremely pleased with my consistency. Going out too fast is always a concern and I was happy that this wasn't the case. 13 more miles just like this right? Let's take a look at the second half:

Second Half (minutes per mile)
14 - 10:42
15 - 9:39
16 - 10:24
17 - 10:23
18 - 10:34
19 - 10:41
20 - 10:40
21 - 10:44
22 - 10:52
23 - 10:51
24 - 11:16
25 - 10:08
26 - 10:14
26.2 chip time 4:29:13

The second half is a disaster in terms of keeping on pace at 10 min miles and as you can see, my time slows after that 9:39 mile at 15. There wasn't anything in particular that I can recall happened at that point, but I could definitely tell I was slowing down. Perhaps a little bit of over-confidence crept in after that half-way point, but I think that would have resulted in FASTER miles and clearly that isn't the case. I feel like my training regimen was strong, but we can always look back and wish we had tried a little bit harder on a long run or squeezed in another mile here or there. I had plenty of sleep leading up to the race and my diet was solid. I really don't have a cause for this dramatic change in pace, but I do know that it needs to be corrected. Negative splits (second half faster than the first) is what we all should be striving for. Finishing strong and pushing yourself towards the finish line.

As far a silver lining in the second half, when I got to mile 24, I knew I had to pick it up and couldn't afford to clock any more 11+ or worse. I tried to stay focus and was able to pick it up by concentrating on just two miles. That is the one thing I was proud of: my selfishness. I wanted sub 4:30 and I knew I had two miles to get it. Increased the volume in the iPod, found a song I wanted and went and got it.

Moving forward, I will be working on increasing my flexibility with yoga, strengthening my core to help maintain running posture and an efficient stride in later miles. I also already started incorporating more speed work. This past Saturday I started with a 4 mile hill run, and a fast 8 mile run to close it out. I was running with a (very fast) friend the last five miles and he kept the pace leading the way to some 8 min miles. And after already running seven miles, it was a challenge to keep up. On top of this, I'll also begin incorporating cross training, most likely on a stationary bike. I sort of stopped hitting the stationary bike for no reason in particular and I think it is time I re-introduce myself. It always helps to mix up the training schedule a bit. I'll let you know how it goes. Here we come 4:20!


Arizona Rock 'n' Roll Marathon 2010

The morning started off well as I boarded the shuttle bus to the start line with three friends that were also running the full. It's always nice to have great company before the start. As we talked about what our race strategies would be and shared in small chit-chat, I was asked "Why I was being so quiet similar to how I was before the Big Sur Marathon?" I smiled it off, and joined in on the conversation, but inside I knew it was because I was just as nervous for this race trying to break into 4:30 as I was 9 months ago attempting to break into sub 5 hours.

This race was going to be my test of readiness for 2010. The course was flat, ideal running weather and fresh off a PR six weeks ago, my training build up wasn't going to be an issue. As I have said before, if I didn't break into 4:30-4:39 I was going to be extremely disappointed in myself.

I started the race with my friend Manny (who has made appearances in the blog before) and we set out with a 10 min. per mile pace. As soon a I crossed the start line, my nerves went away and I felt really loose after the first mile. We stayed on pace together through the first 9 miles and enjoyed good conversation and observations of the course. After that point, I separated from Manny, (after he slightly tweaked his foot) but not by that much as I would later find out. At mile 10, I put in my ear phones and let the music keep my attention on what is commonly described as a "not-so-scenic" course. Fortunately my outlook is: great course scenery helps, bad course scenery has no negative effects. It's all new to me, so that's a plus I guess.

I was exactly on pace with 10 min miles through the first half crossing 13.1 at 2:10:44. Knowing I had 10 mins. in the bank for my 4:30 goal was nice, but also knowing that I always cramp somewhere after 18 in races is not so comforting. Training runs, not an issue. Make it official and it's gonna happen.

After 15 my pace started slowing and I could tell. My legs felt heavy, but I just told myself to keep moving forward. I continued to clock above 10 min miles, but never reaching 11 min. I was already starting to feel salt residue on my face after the halfway point, so I started to increase my sodium intake by putting salt packets in my water. As I got closer to 18, I could feel the legs tightening up and I kicked the salt intake into double mode. I was staying well hydrated, but it began to get warm as the sun crept more and more out.

At the 20 mile mark I was still on pace at 3:23:05 and I started to feel really good, but in the back of my mind I kept waiting for the legs to cramp. There were a couple close moments where they got really tight, but I just kept moving forward and focused on (even if I slowed down) taking one mile at a time. The music pumped, I sang out loud (sorry for those around me) and kept moving.

A couple miles away from the finish line, I knew I had sub 4:39 in the bag barring any serious injuries, even if I began to cramp. The question was: "How greedy was I going to get?" If I could clock low to sub 10 min miles, I could break into sub 4:30 territory. I decided to go for it and started picking up the pace. As I looked at my watch heading into the finish line, I saw 4:28 turn into 4:29 and was pumping my fist in excitement that I had not only reached my goal, but surpassed it. Official time: 4:29:13 — 11 minutes off my previous PR six weeks ago in Sacramento.

When I reached our group of friends and family, everyone joined in on my excitement and coupled with their own personal success in the full and the half, it was smiles all around. Breaking into 4:30 has been a goal of mine for some time and to accomplish it surrounded by wonderful people made it even better. Thank you to everyone that was there with me and to those on facebook that sent out well wishes. You all crossed my mind more than once throughout the course.

Coming up this week: Room for improvement and a recap of The expo and Ryan Hall.


Dear 4:30

I'm not sure if you'll remember me. Well, honestly we've never met, but I was less than a minute behind you in Sacramento last month. It was at the high end of the 4:30-4:39, but I was still disappointed we didn't meet.

You may get this a lot, but it would be an honor to meet you and I have been a fan of yours for some time. Introducing myself to you has been my goal and I've been striving towards your direction for the past year. Please don't think I am 'one of the crazies' or a stalker... I am just simply a goal oriented person.

On Sunday, at the Arizona Rock n Roll Marathon, I will attempt to formally introduce myself to you. I feel like I have a great shot and am as prepared as I can be to enter into your presence. Okay. That sounded stalker-ish, but I'm alright with it.

You know what? Let's drop the dog and pony show. If we don't meet this weekend I'm going to be flat out disappointed. There I said it. I want it so bad, I can taste it. I can see it, heck, I don't even want to wait until Sunday. Bring it. I'm ready right now.

I'm even ready to skip you entirely and introduce myself to your better looking sister, 4:20. I'm sorry. That came out wrong. Please don't be hurt. What I said earlier was true (the big fan, honor to meet you part... not the sister line — even though both are true). I've been waiting to meet you for a long time and would be thrilled to see you on Sunday. My goal is to eventually move on and continue to improve my time, but you are a goal I must accomplish before I can do that.

I'll be in downtown Phoenix on Sunday starting around 7:40 a.m. Would it be too forward to agree to meet at the finish line at 12:10 p.m.?



A Look Back at 2009

In getting ready for my first event of 2010, I thought it would be appropriate to recap 2009. I'm sure you've read many lists recapping the events of last year (or the last decade), so hopefully mine will not disappoint. Here is a rundown (pun totally intended) of what to date has been my most successful and busiest running year. Enjoy.

February 1, 2009
Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon (San Francisco, CA)
Time: 2:07
Quick Recap: On pace to to break my previous best (1:59) until mile 8; energy was zapped after that and couldn't recover. Still had tons of fun and burned off enough calories to thoroughly enjoy a great Super Bowl.

April 26, 2009
Big Sur Marathon (Big Sur, CA)
Time: 4:52:56 (PR)
Quick Recap: First time running this beautiful, hilly course. It is a must-run for all marathoners. Set a PR on a difficult course and broke into the 4-hour mark by shaving 26 mins. off my previous best at marathon distance.

May 2-3, 2009
The Relay (Calistoga to Santa Cruz)
Time: (as a team) 28:36:26 (62 of 225)
Quick Recap: 12 runners running 3 legs of various distances apiece over 2 days and covering 199 miles from Calistoga to Santa Cruz. This coupled with my previous success at Big Sur the weekend before makes it the best 2 consecutive weekends of my life. Hands down.
Full Recap: The Relay

June 7, 2009
Hit The Road Jack 10k (Sonoma, CA)
Time: 0:50:45 (PR)
Quick Recap: I'm not much of a 10k runner (although that will be changing in 2010), but this was fun. I did some speed training on the track to get ready for the faster pace. Tried to come in under 50 min and just missed it, but my fastest mile was that last mile at 7:31 and set a PR for the distance.
Full Recap: Hit the Road Jack 10k

July 3-5, 2009
Triple 10 Mile Run; made that up myself (Clear Lake, CA)
Time: 1:30:31, 1:24:34, 1:24:30
Quick Recap: Challenged myself to run 10 miles three days in a row July fourth weekend. Pretty much an experiment to see what the results would reveal and surprisingly, I got faster each day.
Full Recap: 3 Day Results

July 26, 2009
San Francisco Marathon (San Francisco, CA)
Time: 4:45:24 (PR)
Quick Recap: One of the toughest races I have ever faced mentally. I've never experienced wanting to give up mid-race... well there is a first time for everything and this was it. But I managed to set another marathon PR on this oh-so-familiar course.

September 5, 2009
Redwood Park 50k Trail Run; just over 31 miles (Redwood City, CA)
Time: 7:33:04
Quick Recap: My First Ultra (any distance over a marathon). Time was never a goal, as you can tell. But I had a great time and accomplished my goal of finishing injury free.
Full Recap(s): Ultra-Recap, Ultra-Recap 2.0

October 4, 2009
San Jose Rock n Roll Half-Marathon (San Jose, CA)
Time: 2:17
Quick Recap: Decided to run in costume as the late Michael Jackson. The King of Pop outfit was a success and ran without a care for finishing time. Had a blast.
Full Recap: Smooth Runner

November 26, 2009
Turkey Trot (Walnut Creek, CA)
Time: Don't recall, but it was mostly a 10 min. per mile pace
Quick Recap: Ran this local race with friends to burn off some calories pre-turkey. Was thinking of trying to run this course fast, but change of plans at the start and changed to time not being a goal, just great conversation over 6 miles.
Full Recap: Sorry, there was none.

December 6, 2009
California International Marathon (Sacramento, CA)
Time: 4:40:41 (PR)
Quick Recap: To date, the race I am most proud of. After taking 3-weeks off for vacation a month prior, it was a quick rebuild to marathon distance. The most consistent race I have run to date in terms of time and provided tons of encouragement and anticipation for 2010.
Full Recap: CIM Marathon Recap

There it is, my 2009 recap. Marathons (3), Half Marathons (2), 10k (2) a Relay and an Ultra. My busiest running year to date and 2010 doesn't look to be slowing down. It was my first injury-free year and I shaved around 38 mins. off my marathon time in 2008. Sets up quite lofty expectations for this year... so here it is:

Main goal for 2010:
In Marathon distance, break into 4:30 (and better) in the first half of the year and low 4 hours by the end of the year.

Tentative Schedule: (unless noted, these are all races I'm thinking of running)

Jan: Arizona Rock n Roll Marathon (Registered)
Feb: Ultra Marathon (31 mi.)
April: "Other" US Half, Ultra Marathon (50 mi.)* Participation based on success in Jan/Feb
May: The Relay (committed to team already)
June: San Diego Rock n Roll Marathon, Seattle Rock n Roll Marathon
July: San Francisco Marathon (registered)
October: San Jose Half Marathon (registered)
November: NYC Marathon (if selected in Lottery), US Half Marathon
December: Las Vegas Rock n Roll Marathon

Thanks for following along in 2009.


Comrades, Pizza, Karno and California

Pure Fit Radio: Week of January 3, 2010

Talk about starting off 2010 with a bang. The second installment of Pure Fit Radio came out of the gates swinging... or running may be a better word. This week's show (available on podcast online) contained conversations with the usual suspects and the topics were phenomenal. It was almost as if they opened my head and said: "hey, this guy has a question, let's answer it for him." Here is a rundown of the show:

Hosts: Eric Bernard (in for Jimi Minnema) and Katie Carpenter-Rosa; Eric is recently back to the active-sport lifestyle and in his words: "represents a portion of the audience who plod and struggle and try real hard..."

The first conversation is with Bart Yasso, a member of the Running USA Hall of Champions among other things. With Bart's running 32 year running history (and stature), you would think he would have run every race he has ever wanted to... well news to me, there is one race he has always wanted to run. Bart is preparing to run The Comrades Marathon in South Africa. This 56 mile (and oldest) race is considered the "greatest" in the world among the running community and it was great to hear the passion in Bart's voice about an upcoming race. I can only hope after 32 years of running, the fire is still there. Run Strong Bart!

The next interview is with Patrick Rizzo, who is quickly gaining notoriety in the running world. He finished first in the Chicago Half-Marathon in 09 and was the third US male finisher in Boston (09) placing 15th overall and get this... eats deep dish pizza as a pre-race meal. "I'm the worst example of a diet." A really solid interview that is light hearted, yet very informative including Patrick's Olympic aspirations and experience last year when he was struck by a car and ran Boston eight weeks later.

Stretching! Love it or hate it, Injury Prevention Specialist Terence Reuben's segment takes a look at questions concerning stretching, when and why it is important and how to properly stretch. Flexibility is always a concern on my end and I was thrilled to get some advice on this matter. I enjoy stretching before and after a run and hearing Terence's recommendations and tips were helpful.

DEAN KARNAZES. Enough said (but I'm still going to say more). You can't miss an opportunity to hear Dean speak, especially when he is talking about what he is currently aspiring for... World Records! Yep, he is eyeing setting WR's in a sport you might not be familiar with and as we make goals for 2010, he has a goal in the works for 2011 that will encompass the entire year. I'm not going to spoil the fun, check it out online, its a great interview.

A second segment is held with Bart Yasso as he talks about new gadgets you may have received for the holidays and running books that are currently hot. He also reads a short section from his book: My Life on the Run.

The show closes with Athletic Gear Specialist Ben Pickel discussing the latest updates and innovations in the 2010 running footwear and the influence that the "barefoot running movement" is having on the industry.

Endurance State Reports: Throughout the show there will be short 2 minute reports from individuals around the US covering upcoming events held in a particular state. This week there were 3: Ohio (around 9:10), California (around 23:00) and Hawaii (around 32:00). Wait, what was that middle one... California? That's right. That's my voice. Imagine my surprise when I heard it the first time within the show (I record a report each week for the state, but each week a few states are selected and intertwined within the show). Don't forget each report can be listened to individually here and they are updated weekly. You can even view past reports. Most events that are covered are upcoming events, so you may find races that are still open for registration in past weeks. Simply click on the state and see what's going on in your neck of the woods.

Some of the people involved with the show experienced a recent loss of family and/or friends. Please keep kind thoughts and wishes for everyone that is placed in such an unfortunate circumstance. Thanks.


First Run of 2010

Happy 2010!
Is that still cool to say or was that "so four days ago?" Either way, I decided to start off the new year with a run and with a game.

On Facebook Sunday morning I threw it out there for people to guess how many miles I would be running and reveal it in this morning's post. There were some very creative guesses. There were a couple 20.10 mile guesses to commemorate the new year, a guess combining the month (January = 1) and the date (3) to make 13, and a single guess that included the entire date (1+3+2+0+1+0) to equal 7 miles. While all those were creative guesses, sadly my goal distance was much more simple (and compared to those, mine seem lame). Similar to Price is Right rules, whoever had the closest guess without going over would win a prize. And the winner that came the closest without going over was... a past guest on the blog, Diana Pacheco. My total miles ran Sunday morning was 22.3 finishing slightly under 4 hours. With her guess of 22 miles, she is the winner. Congratulations and thanks for playing everyone.

Rationale behind the distance: 
I have the Arizona Rock n Roll marathon in less than two weeks and although this weekend should have been my taper run (nice guess Principessa, you would have been right) of 14 miles, but since my last long run had to be cut short to 18 miles, that left me with a 20+ run remaining. The run had some rough patches due to recent lack  of sleep, and there were some hills climbing up to 450 ft., but I was able to tough through it and log over 22 which was my goal. 24 would have been nice (and you would have had it Hannah), but cold weather, tired legs and a race coming up quickly resulted in better judgment.

Thanks for playing everyone. Hope you had fun. For those of you that missed out, check the blog's page out on Facebook (link to the right). Sometimes I have give-aways there that don't always show up on the blog. And again, Happy start to 2010.