Saturday, November 27, 2010

"Hold my spot, Mom"

Something caught my (and David Willis') eye today while watching the races at the Foot Locker South meet. Immediately after one race would start, parents of the competitors in the next race would immediately rush to the starting line to hold their child's starting spot for the next race that would go off in 30 minutes. This was one time I wish I didn't leave my Blackberry in the car (to take a photo of the madness). If anyone did take a picture, please email it to me to add to the blog. Now while I didn't get close enough to see if any fisticuffs ensued for pole position, I wouldn't be surprised if some heated words were exchanged!

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Hobby Jogging: 11/27/10 - Charlotte, NC - Foot Locker Cross Country Championships

Being from Charlotte, during high school I either ran in the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships or worked at them from 9th grade on. I even did my high school senior exit project about the event as at the time it was the only true high school national championship. It was fun coming back and running them at 32, even though it wasn't really my day. I've been training pretty hard for the past few weeks getting ready for my last race of 2010, which is the Reindeer Dash for Cash 5k in Greenville next Sunday. Hopping in the open race at Foot Locker South seemed like a great idea...

It started off as a great idea. Felt pretty good after waking up at 6 to grab a shower, Powerbar and some water. Drove over to McAlpine Park and got in a good warmup with my buddy David Willis. Got lined up right in the "trail" section of the start and everything was looking good. Gun went off and I settled in to a good, but not too fast pace. Went through the 800 in 2:47-ish, 1000 in 3:28 or so and the mile in 5:37-38 and felt great. Was picking people off and felt well within myself. Kept cruising through the 2000 and that's when things got off on the wrong foot. The hill absolutely ruined my race. The insane drop off downhill at about the halfway point took a little bit to recover from. I ran the hill wrong and too slow and didn't get my way about me until about a k to go. If you look at the Garmin dump (and ignore where it dropped out of coverage), you can see I was rolling the first 2k and the last k. 2-4k were not my finest. Finished the last 200 strong to hold off a few challengers in a modest 18:26 (5:38, 6:05, 6:02).

That's ok. Just another piece of the puzzle. Had a good time watching the races with Dave after ours was done and was happy to see Raleigh's Wesley Frazier qualify again on the girls side as well as future Tar Heel Blake Williams qualify on the guys side (along with Scott Morgan and Thomas Graham). A strong NC showing. Now back to business for one more week before my last race of the year!

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hobby Jogging: 11/13/10 - Greenville, NC - Boys and Girls Clubs 5K

Last week was a short course and this week was a long one. Now it wasn't terribly long, but after driving the course a few times and racing it and then running it in reverse on my cooldown, it was a good 100 meters long (~20 seconds) if you cut the tangents as close as possible. Oh well, at the end of the day it's a race and that's truly all that matters unless you're on a track and you are told to run an extra lap (been there).

The Boys and Girls Clubs 5k was just another step in getting some speed back in my system after a summer and early fall of marathon training, with the goal to run some fast races in the Spring. I knew my legs would be a little heavy today after a race last weekend and a good 4 mile tempo on Wednesday with my friend Tyler Pake. All this in mind, I went in with a goal of 17:45-18:00, similar to last weekend. The race got out to a wild start as a high school kid sprinted off the line like nothing I had ever seen before. He had 100 yards on us within a quarter mile. Without racing the kid before, I had no idea what he was capable of, but kept it steady and watched him turn his head every 200 meters or so and look back (rookie mistake, but the kid was 15, so I'll give him a break!). Another guy was right on my shoulder and started to pull away from me a little before the mile mark. I went through in 5:39 or so and wanted to run a good sub 6 second mile. This course was out at Metrics Inc, which is some kind of industrial park in the middle of an old cotton field. It would be a good place for a tempo run, but not a great place for a race.

We had to run through a few parking lots and had to do a 180 degree turn right after the 2 mile mark. This being said, after running through a parking lot and by a cotton field I hit the 2 mile pretty strong in 11:32 (5:53 mile 2). The guy running with me earlier had just passed the high school kid and was pulling away with a very strong 2nd mile (about 100 yards up). Seeing this I made my goal to go get the kid. After the hairpin turn, the wind was right in our faces for the last mile or so but I was working it and caught the kid with about 600 left. I was really starting to dig in and the last mile kept going and going and going. I think the sponsor wanted to have it end at a certain place in their parking lot so that the finish would be right in front of the DJ and the moonwalk. This is Greenville, NC people!

No worries though, I finished strong in 2nd in what I though was 18:08, about 9 seconds back from the winner.  Another quarter mile or so and I would have gotten him as he was fading and probably didn't know I was coming after he passed the kid earlier and he was blasting his headphones. About the 18:08, or 18:10 officially: every East Carolina Road Racing race I have ever run has been 2 seconds off of what they tell you at the finish line (and what my watch says) and what comes out on the results sheets. Again, not a huge deal, but a little bit of a pet peeve. I am guessing it is a software glitch as everyone else that frequents these races acknowledges it as well! My old high school friend who lives in Greenville now, Brandy Gamboa (pictured below), who won the womens race joked about it before what she thought was a 19:48 PR quickly turned into a 19:51.

All nit-picking aside, this was a well put together race. Kip Sloan does a great job and was nice enough to email me the map this week (as he does with about every race I run down here so I can study the courses I am not familiar with). The post race spread was awesome with Jimmy Johns subs, Gatorade bottles, Powerade Bottles, Goldfish and Bruegger's Bagels. They also had great looking shirts (a rarity) and excellent awards, as I got a nice plaque to hang on the wall. They did have an interesting DJ at the finish, but that's a whole 'nother story I'll have to tell you about in person!

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Film Major: "Running the Sahara"

When I started running again in 2008, there was an article I distinctly remembered reading about a guy who had pretty similar high school running credentials to mine and then had gotten into some trouble while attending the University of North Carolina, ultimately getting back into running later in his 20’s with a great deal of success. This article was Jeff Pearlman's Runner’s World profile on Greensboro’s Charlie Engle. Now while my twenties weren’t nearly as wild as Charlie’s were, running was something that took a back seat to "socializing" and then came back into play around my 30th birthday. So when the opening scenes of the film showed Charlie running on Irwin Belk Track at Fetzer Field and in the Eddie Smith Field House, I was hooked.

All this being said, I found it shocking earlier this year when news surfaced that Charlie had been arrested for fraud as “IRS special agent Robert Nordlander began looking into Engle’s finances after reading a story about the ultramarathon across the desert and wondered how Engle could afford to pay for such an adventure.” This just goes to show, don’t try to cheat the IRS, “they read the newspaper.”

All this aside, “Running the Sahara” was an enjoyable documentary about Charlie, Ray Zahab, and Kevin Lin running over 4300 miles in 111 days across Africa, the equivalent of 170 marathons with no days off. Quite a feat to say the least! The cinematography was great as was the narration, which was done by Matt Damon, who also was an executive producer on the project. There were some expected testy moments as runners can get a little grumpy and running in sandstorms would likely make one extremely on edge. As you would expect, ultimately the three men and their crew soldiered through and they finished up at the Red Sea with a little daylight to spare (and with their friends and family looking on).

While admittedly I am a fan of the "bigger picture" Charlie Engle story and not just the movie, I can assure you “Running the Sahara” is worth a few hours of your time (and it is available on Netflix and on Showtime with regularity per the Track Superfan blog). Also, they started a charity, H2O Africa, that raises “awareness about the African water crisis, and facilitates cost-effective and impactful work that eradicates the problem in targeted regions of Africa.” They were able to secure a slot on the Jay Leno show to tell about their trek through Africa and to champion their noble cause.

And if you are interested in following Charlie’s case, he’ll be sentenced January 10th and has just written an excellent note over on his blog and tweets occasionally as well. Best of luck to him in a tough situation. It sounds like he is pretty remorseful of what happened and is doing his best to make the best out of a difficult situation.

Pick up "Running the Sahara" on here.

Pre-Sentencing Update: Quick update (1/9/11) from the Greensboro News & Record before sentencing tomorrow: Click here for the article

Sentencing Update: Charlie got 21 months today (1/10/11). Probably about as best as he could hope for. Here's the link to the story

Check out the trailer for "Running the Sahara" here:

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hobby Jogging: 11/6/10 - Raleigh, NC - Free to Breathe "5k"

The schedule I have been following post-marathon has been great. My legs are coming back to life and thanks to Heather at Back to Basics, my hamstring is too. I had a tempo on the schedule today, but opted to run the Free to Breathe 5k in Raleigh as I knew there would be some competition, being that it was part of the Second Empire Grand-Prix Series. Goal was to run a little faster than my last 5k and hopefully be in the 17:45-18:00 range. This felt like a safe goal considering I haven't done any real speedwork aside from a few mile repeats. I nearly missed the race...

I misjudged my warmup a little and found myself with 4 minutes to spare and about a half mile to the starting line. After finishing my strides and changing into my race gear and flats, I hustled over to the line, probably too fast, but made it about 30 seconds before the gun went off. I got off the line well (as my heart was beating fast for fear of missing the start) and then settled in about 200-300 meters in before the first hill. The first mile has 3-4 good climbs and I was hoping to go through around 5:45-5:50. Thought I heard 5:48,49 at the mile mark, but it was 5:28, 29. Ouch, too fast, but I was competing. This is where it got weird.

I rode the course 3 times last night to get a feel for the hills. I generally do well on hilly courses, but less than 4 weeks out from the marathon, I wanted to prepare myself mentally for where it would hurt. Right after the mile, I was probably in the top 15 or so and was ready to run the down and up part of Oval Dr. After running the tangents to the T on mile one, I angled to hit right and cut the corner perfectly. One problem, the police car went left and everyone followed him, cutting approximately 600 meters off the course. At this point, it was time to just compete and run well on the downhill section.

Went through the 2 mile in 9:29, a 4 flat second mile! I'm the man! Haha, I knew what was going on. Now my goal was to break 16. Was it really breaking 16? No, but sometimes you can get in the top corrals of other good races with times like these. Was it my fault they screwed up the race? No. Might as well take it for what it is. I paid $30 to run ~2.7 miles (UPDATE: Race Director remeasure was 4.34k)! With that in mind I rolled the next half mile and then hit the half mile to go sign with one final hill. This one hurt and I was competing with one other guy at this point. I was laboring and he passed me with 400 to go. I rallied and got it together for the last 100 meters to pass him back and finish 12th in 15:29. "PR"!

All the guys were kind of laughing it off in the shoot and no one seemed too mad. Seeing the joy on the masses faces when they came across the line was a lot of fun as I imagine most people aren't as geeky as I am and don't wear a Garmin to know something was up. "I PR'd by 2 minutes!" was heard often. 2 things I do know: I legitimately ran the first mile in sub 5:30 and the last 1.1 in 6 flat. The middle, who knows! Probably a 17:45-50-ish effort (UPDATE: A 17:50 effort according to race director remeasure).

After the race, cooled down with Aaron Hale and grabbed some bananas and bagels before throwing my compression pants and pullover on. It was pretty chilly this morning, but felt great to race in. Took 2nd in my age group on my last day as a 31 year old. Tomorrow will be my double sweet sixteen and I got an awesome cake of me sitting in a hot tub, one of my favorite pastimes!

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bookworm: "Run to Overcome" by Meb Keflezighi

November 1, 2009 is a day I will always hold special. The New York Marathon was the first marathon I had really trained for and it was on what would have been my Grandmother's 83rd birthday. She had just passed away the week before and I would be channeling her for strength in those last 5 miles. Luckily, I persevered and achieved my goal of qualifying for the 2010 Boston Marathon. Not long after I finished and got my phone from the UPS trucks that had our personal belongings, I called a friend of mine in Raleigh who had been watching the race on Universal Sports. "Who won?" I asked, being a huge fan of the sport. "The American!" he said. "Ryan Hall?" I thought? "No, Meb. He left Robert Cheruiyot at Mile 22 or so." I couldn't believe it. I was one of those that had all but written Meb off on the world marathoning scene, but after reading "Run to Overcome," I should have never doubted him.

"Run to Overcome" is a nicely put together biography written by Meb himself with the help of ex-longtime USA Today Track & Field contributor Dick Patrick that will please new runners and experienced veterans alike. It is a genuine account in the vein of Tom Jordan's "Pre" that starts with Meb's childhood in Eritrea and his family's difficult trek to the States. Being a long time fan of Meb, "Run to Overcome" does a focused job of telling the story of his rise through the ranks in the US running system, starting with his outstanding San Diego High School career that ended with a 2nd place finish at the 1993 Foot Locker Cross Country Championship and would earn him a full scholarship to UCLA, where he would meet his longtime coach, Bob Larsen. For those unfamiliar with Meb's college career, he would win 4 national titles including the 5k/10k double on the track in the spring of 1997, followed by the cross country title later that fall. He would also go on to receive a bachelors degree in Communications, something that he is very proud of, even negotiating with Larsen to let him retake a Calculus class over the summer to better his GPA.

Where the book will please more serious runners is in the later chapters where Meb divulges some of the tough aspects of being a professional runner and he pulls back the curtain a little to show how that side of the business works, and how he has been affected by it. Meb also shares what goes into a typical training week and some other key components (weights/core/diet/massage) that have kept him world class into his mid thirties. What makes this book excellent is the fact that Meb doesn't shy away from his failures and uses each of them as fuel for his next achievement. He mentions a goal that has eluded him is a Boston Marathon victory. I, for one, hope he lines up with me again in 2011 to take it to the Newton Hills one more time before preparing for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston!

Be sure to check out for more information and order your copy of "Run to Overcome" on here)

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