Marathon #20 is in the books. Yesterday I did the St. Louis Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon with Matt Shobe. The amazing Amy Batchelor once again sherpa’d for us. The weather was perfect, the course was pretty but hilly, the support was outstanding (as it typical of Rock ‘n’ Roll marathons), and I came in at a solid 4:51:26.
This race was an experiment – I wanted to see if I could do a marathon two weeks in a row while living my normal life. Last weekend I did the Amica Newport Rhode Island Marathon, ran out of gas around mile 16, and struggled home in 5:13:36. Prior to that marathon I had been on the road all week and crisscrossed the country (Denver to SF to Rhode Island). Last week was another heavy travel week – Boston to NY to SF to St. Louis. I did all the normal stuff I did with two exceptions – I didn’t drink any alcohol and I was obsessive about rubbing Purell on my hands throughout the day.
When I got to St. Louis Friday night I was tired and my left shoulder hurt. I always have pre-marathon hypochondria so I figured that since I don’t run on my left shoulder, that was as good a place as any to have some pain. Amy and I had room service, I went to sleep early, slept in, went to the marathon expo, took another nap, went out to Italian dinner with Matt and Amy, and went to bed early.
At 7:30 Sunday morning Matt and I were off and running. Well – not really – it was a 20,000+ person race so it took us 15 minutes to cross the start line. I felt tight and uncomfortable the first three miles but just let the crowd carry me along. We went past the St. Louis Ballpark which is a beautiful stadium, cruised through downtown, and by mile four I was starting to settle down.
My coach – Gary Ditsch – has regularly encouraged me to eat gels during a marathon. Up until now I’ve ignored him since I don’t want to carry anything while I run. This time I bought an iFitness pouch and filled it with six gels. There were two spots on the course where they were handing out gels so I decided to have one on every prime number mile. Rather than drinking Ctyomax (which I hate) I just did gels and water this time. As is typical, the coach is right as it made an incredible difference.
Our pace was incredibly steady for the first ten miles. At mile ten, I had to take a dump so we lost about three minutes along with a few pounds. Matt patiently waited for me and then had to listen to me rant about how relieved I was. He’s such a patient person.
We cruised through the half marathon in 2:24. This was faster than we expected as we figured we were on a 5 hour pace. Neither of us was watching out split times – I had RunKeeper going on my iPhone but no audio with the idea that we’d just run.
The course was a really nice tour through St. Louis. There were tons of hills – only one particularly long, but the endless undulation of the course started to get annoying around mile 20. Or maybe it was just that we were at mile 20.
Matt was the perfect running partner. He could have easily done the race 30 or 45 minutes faster but just hung with me. We talked a little on and off, but mostly told jokes and just chilled out running together. My dark miles on this race were 14 to 20. I was a little anxious about running out of gas like I did last week, but 17 passed, then 18, then 19, and I felt fine.
At 20, we decided to run solid for the next four miles and then push the last two. This was the strategy we used when we ran the Huntsville marathon together and it was an incredibly satisfying way to finish. We cranked on the last two miles, passing hundreds of runners, and feeling great as we crossed the finish line together.
I’m incomprehensibly tired this morning. As I wrap up this point, I’m heading to the airport to head home to Boulder for a week. Yay.
I’m running the Kroll’s Diner Bismarck Marathon on Saturday. This will be Marathon #18 in my quest to run one in every state. I’ll be there for a couple of days so I’m open to any restaurant recommendations y’all might have.
I’ve decided to try something different on this marathon. While I always wear a watch, I’ve never tried to instrument myself “real-time” for the race. Until recently, I’ve been using a Garmin 305, but it broke this summer when I was in Europe and I switched to RunKeeper on my iPhone.
I’ve really enjoyed RunKeeper and even started listening to music on some of my runs again since I had my iPhone with me. I signed up for RunKeeper Live and have been broadcasting my runs publicly to anyone who cared, which is primarily Amy.
The marathon starts at 7:30am Central Time on Saturday. I’ll be broadcasting my progress on this link – you should be able to pick it up after I start the race. Since I’ve always been running, I’m not 100% sure how the UI works on the “watching someone” end of things, but would love to hear feedback from anyone who takes a look. Oh – and cheer me on!
I’ll be wearing my Fitbit also (which I love – and am an investor in). It’s fascinating to me the step variance on the different marathons I’ve done – my stride length clearly varies with the shape I’m in and the shape (or hilliness) of the course. I’ll also check and see which is more accurate over 26.2 miles – the Fitbit or RunKeeper.
I might wear my new Nike+ SportWatch GPS, but so far the Nike+ website has been basically unusable due to performance issues so I don’t want to count on it.
Bismarck – see you tomorrow.
Confidence restored. After a shitty marathon #16 in Cincinnati a month ago (5:24) I cranked out marathon #17 in Madison in 4:47:27. I dedicate this particular effort to my co-runner TA McCann and my sherpas Amy Batchelor and Jessica Schallock.
For the first 20 miles the weather was perfect. Cloudy and 60-ish. TA lived in Madison for several summers in college when he was a mega-swimming stud so he kept me entertained with tails of training for five hours a day, every day, in a pool, over and over again – which made running a marathon seem relatively straightforward.
The first five miles were beautiful as we ran through the Arboretum. It’s a great way to start a city race – quiet, mellow, and loads of oxygen everywhere. There were only 1600 marathoners to they spread out quickly and TA and I felt like we were on a nice long run with water stops every mile or two. We went through the half at 2:20 and it occurred to me that we were halfway done and I was feeling better than most other marathons. I didn’t really notice our time again until when I looked at my watch at 3:12. By 20 miles it was pretty clear that we had 5 hours beaten and 4:45 was in striking distance.
The rain started at mile 20. So did the bicycles – there was a long stretch along Lake Monona on a running / bike path which was the only frustrating part of the race. Usually during a marathon the running / bike paths are closed to cyclists; this time they weren’t. And the rain just made it a total mess. So for about three miles we just hammered on, cold, wet, and mildly annoyed by the bikes.
At about mile 23 the 4:45 pace guy passed us once and for all. Now we were on the hunt for 4:50 which ended up being no problem. As we ran the last mile up a nasty hill to the Capitol we were both out of gas, but the end was in sight so like every good marathoner we just ground it out.
I’m now confident that I can do a marathon every four weeks. I wonder if I can do one every other week.
This morning, as I cranked through my 5am – 7am routine (which ends at 6am today because I have to leave the house at 630am to get to CU Boulder to give a keynote at the 2011 Boulder Economic Summit) I kept thinking to myself “deep breath.” If you do yoga you know exactly what I’m talking about – it’s part of Amy’s mantra for each of us to relax, slow down, and concentrate.
I’m in a particularly intense work phase that I expect will run through the end of June based on a few things that are going on that will happen between now and then. On top of it, I’m trying to run two marathons in May (Cincinnati, which I did already – and it sucked, and Madison, which is coming up at the end of the month.) Between all the work and travel, I’d probably already be pretty tired, but layer the running and the marathons on top of it and I’m physically exhausted.
While I contemplated punting on the second marathon, there are a few things driving me to do it, including really understanding my own recovery dynamics. I have a hypothesis about how I recover from a marathon (quickly) but I haven’t tested it. By adding a second marathon on top of everything else within 30 days, I’m suddenly learning some new stuff about rest, sleep, and weight. I’m also experiencing an interesting emotional spectrum that I haven’t experienced in a while (some good, some not good) that is clearly a function of the intersection of my physical activity and my work activity.
What popped out this morning is the need for more “deep breaths.” With my normal work / life rhythm, I get these on the weekend and then once a quarter when I go off the grid for a week. But given the daily work intensity combined with the physical fatigue, it’s become very obvious that I need something different during the week to sustain things at this level. Last night I blew off a dinner with a friend to just go home and lie on the couch with Amy all evening. That helped, although I spent almost all of it with an iPad in my lap sort of watching The Hangover, sort of catching up on email, and working on a few things that I knew I couldn’t jam into today.
Tonight, Amy and I have dinner alone. I’m going to shut off completely for a few hours and reflect on what I’m going through and learning about recovery. Fortunately I have a partner who puts up with this and lets me use myself as my own laboratory for these experiments.
I’ve now put together eight great weeks of running in a row. On Sunday, I finally had a long run to town (from Eldorado Springs to Boulder). This has been a long tradition of mine and Amy’s – I run to town early in the morning and she drives in later, we have brunch with friends, and then get massages in the afternoons. I also use this as a marker to measure my running – once I cross the “run to town barrier” I can start thinking about marathons.
2010 sucked for me. I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans and was optimistic about the year but then hurt my back in March lifting a box when in Dallas for my dad’s birthday. It was a perplexing injury – it seemed to get better but then I re-injured myself a month later and spent then next 60 days having trouble standing up. I thought I’d rest and work through it during July when I was in Alaska but that didn’t work out either. After an MRI and some vicodin, I ruled out the really bad stuff and then relaxed enough to get a massive self-adjustment in September which seemed to fix the problem. I’ve been pain free since then.
So I’m optimistic about 2011. Following is my current schedule:
I don’t have any particular time goals, although I’d optimally be in the 4:00 to 4:30 range as 5+ hours for a marathon is a long time and I’m getting tired of being slow. If I can drop another 20 pounds I’m confident I can comfortably run in that zone.
If you are a runner and want to tag along on any of these, feel free to reach out to me. While I like to train alone, I always enjoy having marathon weekends with other folks, even if we are doing them at very different paces.
Fred Wilson emailed me a link to Dennis Crowley’s post I’m running the NYC Marathon tomorrow! Fred knows my obsession with human instrumentation, marathons, and social media. And if you recognize Dennis’ name, that’s because he’s the founder / CEO of Foursquare.
As I write this from my house in Eldorado Springs, Colorado, I can see that Dennis is at mile 4.64 of the NYC Marathon via RunKeeper. He just checked in at mile 5 on Foursquare. And yes, Twitter and Facebook are active also.
While some people may not like this future, I love it. Yeah, it’s kind of a pain to carry a bulky iPhone around on a marathon, but there are armbands for that and – in a decade – it’ll just be a thing you inject into your arm under the skin. But for now, guys like Dennis are helping us create the future.
Oh – and he’s running a marathon. He’s now at mile 5.64. Way to go Dennis!
I had my first pain free run in five months. And I’m very happy right now.
In March, I hurt my back. This was my first real running injury since I started running marathons in 2003. I’ve had some ankle twists and some knee bruises from all the trail running I do, but nothing that kept me off my feet for more than a month. This time I lost five months ; the last time I tried to run was two months ago.
I didn’t get serious about figuring out what was going on until half way through July in Alaska when I realized I just wasn’t getting better. My pain on a daily basis never got below a three (on a 0 to 10 scale) and I often was in the six to eight range. If you saw we get up out of a seat in the last five months, you knew I had a lower back injury. The pain gradually settled at the very base of my spin in the middle of back – it was localized, but sharp and chronic.
So I stopped running completely, increased the amount I was swimming up to a couple of times a week, and started the process of getting professional help. My first big goal was to rule out something serious, so I decided to get an MRI. That took a while (doctor visit, referral, scheduling). I had two different doctors read the MRI – each told me that there was an issue, but there was no need for surgery and steroid injections would likely be useless. So, I started the “sign up for physical therapy process.”
In the mean time, my general practitioner gave me a prescription for vicodin. I’m very afraid of drugs and have always avoided them. I don’t remember if it was a movie I saw about drugs in elementary school (I saw movies on sex but never was afraid of it), my parents, or something else but they’ve just never been my thing. I am a Vitamin I users and I used it for a while to try to manage my chronic gout, but eventually gave up and went on Allopurinol. I’ve had other prescription medicines over the year, but I’ve stayed away from anything illegal, even our friendly herb which is basically legal in Boulder. So the idea of taking a narcotic sort of freaked me out.
I was in so much pain after the US Open (and sitting on the stadium seats for two days) that I went ahead and took one pill. The bottle said I could take four a day, so I figured one a day would help without being dangerous. Amy and I flew from New York to San Diego and I took a second one. On Friday I flew to San Francisco for the day and took a third one. When I woke up on Saturday morning I was pain free for the first time in five months. So I decided not to take another one on Saturday.
On Sunday when I was sitting at my computer I started to stand up and had an extremely loud “pop” happen exactly in the region where the pain has been. Amy heard it from across the room and immediately shouted out “are you ok.” My back then went into a spasm – something that’s only happened a few times – and for about ten seconds I couldn’t talk or breath. But, when it stopped, I still had no pain.
I flew back to Boulder Monday morning. I decided not to take any more vicodin until I had at least a pain level of three again. As the week passed, the pain didn’t reappear. On Wednesday I saw a spine specialist who works with athletes as part of the PT referral process. I spent 30 minutes telling him the story from beginning to end and then we went and looked at the MRI together. He again confirmed that surgery was unnecessary and – more importantly – that the MRI showed a few clear signs of distress that would explain the chronic pain, but that steroid injections would be useless. We did a few diagnostic things and then he gave me his hypothesis.
He suggested that it’s likely that the small amount of vicodin I took broke the pain cycle I had been stuck in. Once the pain was gone, my body was able to move in certain ways that resulted in a natural adjustment (the big pop) of an area of my back that was stuck. Having it adjust naturally was much more effective than if I’d gone to a chiropractor. It had never occurred to me that this would happen, but when I think about the number of times my back adjusts in other spots when it gets out of whack this made perfect sense to me.
I’ve now had a week of no back pain. I haven’t taken anything – not even Vitamin I – in a week. I went for a few swims this week and a short run today. I feel great.
For everyone out there that has been patient with me, offered suggestions, and provided help over the past five months, thank you. Who knows whether this really solved the problem or not but this is the first time in a while that I’ve been optimistic about it.
Marathon #15 is in the bag – I finished the New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon in a time of 05:15:05 yesterday. Here’s a video of me crossing the finishing line.
It was a beautiful day for a marathon – the temperature was 50 degrees and the sky was clear. There were about 18,000 runners (most for the half marathon) and like most Rock ‘n’ Roll races it was extremely well organized.
This was the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon in New Orleans. The course was great – it was flat, covered a lot of the city, and had some nice long stretches around City Park. The only downer was there were very few spectators on the course. Even with all the well known New Orleans spirit they haven’t figured out how to show up in force for an early Sunday morning marathon.
I was happy with my performance, especially given the symmetry of my finishing time (#15: 05:15:05). I was a little undertrained and, since this was my first marathon in a year, I didn’t expect to break five hours. I used an 8:2 run:walk pattern (eight minutes running; two minutes walking) as I’ve been training that way to build up strength in the second half of the marathon. It definitely paid off as I felt fine through 22 miles. I never really hit the wall, but I did run out of gas at about 22 and shifted into “one foot in front of the other” mode.
My only scary moment was a fall at about mile 16. I was stuck with a group of noisy people including a guy wearing headphones that would shouted random things every few minutes. He graciously thanked every policeman on the course and would follow it up with things like “wake up New Orleans” or “hey hey runners”. At some point a woman wearing a see through shirt fell in with him and he was screaming and pointing at her, which was a rallying cry for the few male spectators on the side of the course. I was thinking "all types show up for these things” when I tripped over something and hit the deck. Quick system check – burning hands and a little blood but no issues on my legs or back. I got up and put in a quick ten minute mile to put some distance between me and the chaos. I fortunately never saw them again on the run.
I had three fun company moments (for companies I’m an investor in) during the weekend: Impinj, Zynga, and Lijit. The race system used Impinj RFID chips, I saw Mark Pincus, the CEO of Zynga interviewed on Bloomberg yesterday, and this morning I noticed that Lijit is the search engine for the marathon site.