Sunday, November 28, 2010

SometImes Life Gets in your way

The great Wall marathon was such a high for me! Months of training finally coming together in the race of my lifetime. After the race I was in the best shape of my life and I felt like I could accomplish anything! With this enthusiasm  I started towards my next goal.  A Triathlon.

To complete a triathlon meant I had to start two other sports that I've never competed in. Road cycling and swimming. Luckily, I have had already been running with several triathletes so I had some great teachers.  I started swimming laps in the pool and managed to do pretty well with my breathing technique. The next thing I needed was a bike.  My friends help me pick out a road bike that was good to train on and was a better option than a straight Tri Bike when your budget only allows for one.  I ended up with this SWEET full carbon Cervelo S3!

I actually got the bike before the Great Wall run but waited till I got back before I started training.  I went out a couple of times with my friend Peter before I started some group runs and he assured me I would be able to keep up.  Then it happened.  I was headed out for a three man ride.  My foot slipped on the pavement while I had to put it down during a steep hill and I ended up falling off my bike  The full force landed on my left hand.  I think the reasons were:

- My lack of experience with clip-in shoes
- My lack of experience with changing gears for hill climbing.
- Learning to ride in a crowded metropolitan area.

Regardless.  CRACK!  I fractured my the metacarpal of my left hand.  Commonly known as a brawlers break because it's the bone that usually breaks when you hit something hard with your fist.

Well that was it for now. My triathlon training came to a screeching halt.  The cast meant I could no longer swim laps in the pool and could also no longer ride my bike.  So once again I had to focus all my energy on my running.

Shortly after getting the cast on I noticed something weird going on with my left foot.  When wearing flip flops I noticed the left foot was slapping the ground loudly.  Then every now and then I would just trip for no reason and go tumbling.  Admittedly kind of funny to see a guy with a cast doing a somersault  on the pavement but still.  Then my foot started getting numb on top and I noticed I could not flex my left foot upward.  I looked it up on the net and then had it confirmed by the neurologist.  The diagnosis was Poreneal nerve damage, commonly referred to as "Drop Foot".   I was told the injury was probably not from running but from sitting for longs periods of time with my leg under me.  The doc felt that in time the functionality may return but there was no guarantee.  That was it.   I was completely sidelined.   I was unable to run, bike or swim or even do most other strength training activities.

So, as the title says, life some times gets in the way.  Of course this did not mean the end of  my training. It was simply a set back.  Some may have looked at it as a sign or excuse to hang it up.  No me.  I will keep going one way or another.

Many times I hear people say something like  "yeah, I used to run but then my legs started to give out" or "I injured my (fill in the blank)" or "When I was younger I could...".  I don't mean to belittle other peoples injuries but I do believe that people sometimes sell themselves short and they don't see their potential.  Just this weekend I saw a women that was at LEAST in her 80's out running.  She was slow but steady.  After she finished I heard her talking with a friend about her 9 different New York Marathon. 

 I hope I'm able to keep her pace when I'm her age!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My Great Wall of China Marathon Experience

After months of preparation, I set off for Beijing China on 12 May to attend the Great Wall of China Marathon.  I was one of over 1,500 individuals that did the same.  Runners traveled from all over the world making this a truly international event.

Our first glimpse of the Great Wall came on 13 May, two days before the actual marathon, for the pre-inspection.  This was the first time I had to inspect a course before running it and afterward I was very glad I did.   The inspection started in YingYang Stadium which is the start and finish for the race.  From there we were bused to the top of a hill where we would be entering "The Wall" on Saturday.  Early into the journey I realized that this was going to be even more difficult than I anticipated.  I was thinking to myself, "man, I wish I had done more hilll training".  Talking to several people along the way I realized many people were thinking the same.  I soon came to  realize that everyone was probably thing the same thing.

Did I mention the trail was steep and treacherous?   This fact hit home when one of the female participants on the inspection trail stepped into one of the many stone ditches along the wall and severely injured her leg.  I'm not sure how bad it was but it was enough to take her out of the race.  What a blow to come this far and have that happen

It was a beautiful day and the views were incredible!  See for yourself:

Earlier I mentioned that there were over 1,500 participants but only 500 of those brave souls were signed up for the full marathon.  Others were signed up for either the half marathon, 10K or 5K.  Regardless of the length of the race, all individuals were in for a challenge on 'The Wall"!

On race day you could feel the excitement in Ying Yang Stadium. It's an experience I have trouble describing.  Here were nearly 2,000 runners from all around the globe meeting in communist China to run the race of their lifetime.  It was crazy!  All around me I  heard different languages and I started to wonder if we were at the Great Wall of China or the Tower of Babel.  Close to the race start time two local aerobics instructors came out and pumped up the crowd with a workout routine. Good fun and lots of laughing at this point. I chose to wear my DEVO hat for the race for several reasons. 1. I'm a big fan.  2. It makes me easy to spot in the pictures 3. I'm a big dork.

The Great Wall Marathon also drew the local government officials out for the opening ceremonies.  To alleviate congestion on the narrow portions of the wall this year, the 5K participants were bused to the top of the hill and started their race early while the full and half marathoners were broken down in two groups.  One for faster runners and the others for the slower runners.  The faster group was to leave 10 minutes earlier.  Finally, the starting gun was was fired.  We were off!

The course started with a short flat stretch of road before the course veered off and headed up the moutain for about 4.5km.  This was a nice steep hill but I was prepared for it.  It was almost identical to climbing to Namsan Tower here in Seoul Korea. I powered up it easily and entered the Great Wall for the first time.

I passed a large statue on my left and entered a large gate that read "Welcome to the Great Wall".  This is where things got interesting!  Almost immediately the stairs start to wind up.... and up... and UP! My strategy is to go slow and steady on the extreme inclines and cautiously pick up the speed on the decline.  That turned out to be easier said than done.  The stairs were very steep with great variance in size.  You can only take them so quickly.  The end of this stretch of the wall was extremely steep but after 3.2km  I was on the strech of road outside YingYang Stadium once again and headed out into to local town.

This was a very enjoyable part of the run.  It took me outt into the local towns where people were lined up waving and cheering.  I must have given a couple hundred high fives to the children as I passed through the towns.  This is where I picked up the pace a bit. I felt great at this point. I was doing it!

What I didn't realize was there was another hill to climb up and down before we started back towards the wall. The course also  took us on some very rough trails.  Uneven ground, large rocks, ditches... this was a trail run to be certain.  I saw several people tumble on  the way back.  I lost my footing a couple of time s but managed to recover.

Eventually I was headed back into town and a left turn took me into the stadium where everyone was cheering!  Unfortunately the celebration had to wait for the full marathoners. We were given a green wristband to show we had returned from the village and it was time to face the toughest portion of the race.  The Climb back up the wall!

At this point I had traveled over 22 miles. If you have ever ran a marathon you know  this is the point that things start to fall apart for some runners. Your energy reserves have been depleted and everything starts to cramp up.  It's almost unimaginable that you would be headed back up the wall at this  point.  It's amazing what you can do when you set your mind  to it.

The climb back up the wall was grueling and one of the most difficult challenges I have ever faced.  At times I was literally crawling up  the stairs on my hands and feet. At times there were ropes that I pulled on to  help me along.  The day was sunny and this is also where things started to get very hot.  I started feeling very nauseous and it kept me from taking anymore of my gels but I managed to drink some water.  The stairs seem to never end but finally, after over an hour, I was off the wall!

From this point things should have been pretty easy.  It was almost all down hill from here traveling back down the mountain we climbed at the beginning of the race.  Looking at my time I realized that was close to completing the race in under 5 hours so I picked up the pace down the  hill.  I don't know if was the heat or the air conditions but as I headed down the hill I started to have trouble breathing.  I just couldn't get a full breath of air in my lungs and started wheezing. It forced me to slow things down at the end and as I entered the stadium for the last time I crossed the finish line and got my medal. I ended up finishing in a little over 5 hours.

I did  it.  I finished the Great Wall Marathon.  It was amazing.  Worth all the preparation, worth all the $. A challenge of a lifetime completed.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I'm Ready for "The Wall"!

I went for my last 20 mile run on Saturday Morning.  When I showed up one of my friends said  "Ken! You have a runners body now!"  I shrugged the comment off but it was quite a compliment.  My training has gone extremely well these past few weeks.  I've been concentrating on the last two goals I set out earlier this year to complete. Get my weight down to 190 and complete the Great Wall of China Marathon.

I'm happy to say I've finally gotten to 190 and i've been able to sustain it over the past week.  I owe it to lots of good training and a diet of mainly fish and vegetables.   I also checked my body fat percentage with the fancy machine they use at The Point fitness club and it reported my body fat 10.2%.  That's a level I've never been able to sustain.  I'm very happy with that!

Now it's all about the wall!  This is what I've been working towards for the past 6 months.  I'm in the best shape of my life.  I'm ready.  Deep down I guess I wish I would have concentrated more on hill and stair climbing but I think I'll be ok.  No matter what I would have done I would have doubts.  I guess it's natural.

Many people have asked me. "What's your goal for the Great Wall Marathon?"  Quite simply my goal is to finish and enjoy the run.  I already know this will be the most demanding race of my life with a massive hill profile and over five thousand stairs.  There will be no personal records for time this day.

The experience of running the race is enough for me and I can't wait.  Less than two weeks till I face THE WALL!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gettin Lean by Always Having a Goal!

As I said in an earlier post, "running is easy, losing weight is hard!" . I'm getting there though.  Several months ago I set a goal to get my weight down to 190 pounds in time for the Great Wall Marathon.  It's not been easy but I'm almost there.  My weight has been hovering around 195 this week so I only have 5 pounds to go. This will put my BMI at around 23 which is a pretty comfortable running weight and will allow me to be competitive for my age group.

I've kept up my strength and core training over the winter and it made quite a difference. Not only am I lighter, I'm leaner as well.  My body fat is actually getting low enough for me to see some actual definition in my abs. Something I've never been able to achieve in the past. A 20 something six pack? Well no, but maybe an old man 3 pack?  I'll take it!

I'm eating less and enjoying it more. My new Weber Q grill have been a godsend.  I love it. Grilled fish every other night.  Grilled veggies, pineapple.  I enjoying  natural foods just a much if not more than the processed junk I used to eat and I feel much better about it.

I haven't been at a weight of 190 in decades and I've never been able to sustain it.  This time it's going to be different.  I'm going to reach the weight and continue my training for numerous new goals over the next year.  "ALWAYS HAVE A GOAL" is my new motto.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

My best run ever at the Seoul International Marathon

Wow, what a great experience the Seoul International Marathon was.  This was my third full marathon and I have to say it was the most enjoyable.  For my first marathon I traveled 8 hours by car and ran by myself.  For my second, my wife was able to be there to cheer me on  at the end.  For this race I only had to travel for a few minutes by cab and had the support of many runners that I know and sharing that experience with others made all the difference.

The race had over 20 thousand people all running a full marathon.  That's just crazy!  The races in Korea are well organized.They give you a bag to put all your belonging in and you can pick it up after the race.  It's so nice to have some dry clothes to change into. It's also customary for everyone to line up and do some stretching. This is followed by giving a little back rub to the person in front of you, then you turn around and  they return  the favor.

My goal for this race was to run my first marathon in under 4 hours. A goal that I was pretty confident I could attain based on the amount of training I had put in.  Secretly I also had another goal brewing in the back of  my brain.  Boston.  The Seoul International Marathon is one of only two Boston qualifiers and the other one is not until October and I'll be out of the country by then.  I started plugging my training into some online pace calculators and I found  that I should actually be in the ballpark for qualifying for Boston. So I printed the pace chart for 3 hours and 30 minutes and that's how I started my race.

The race start was broken down into 5 sections to space out the start of the race. Unfortunately my friends and I got placed in the last section.  This meant we spent most of the race dodging in and out of people.  It was still a wonderful experience. Hundreds of people lined the streets as we took off from the city center of Seoul in the shadow of General Lee's Statue.

I was using my Garmin GPS to help me keep pace and at the halfway point of the marathon things were looking good.  I was almost a full minute ahead of my Boston qualifying time.  I was feeling great!

About 18 miles in  I realized I had lost that extra minute and was actually a few seconds behind.  From that point on I kept slipping and I never really regained the momentum I needed.  About 23 miles in I realized I wasn't going to make the Boston time.  That was a little disheartening and the last 3 miles were grueling.  At the end I was spent. I can truly say I gave it all I had.  I felt miserable right after the race.  Every nerve in my leg muscles were firing.  I never have an enjoyable time right after a race.  I just  want to get my medal and get out of  there.  In the perfect race I would have a limo with a jacuzzi waiting for me but this is never the case. There is always that zombie walk back to the car/taxi/bus.  I hate it.

After getting home, taking a shower or soak I usually feel much better and this was the case for the Seoul international Marathon.  My official time was 3 hours 40 minutes 43 Seconds. 10 minutes and 43 seconds slower than I needed for Boston.  The real news is that I beat my previous marathon time by 42 minutes with just 6 months of training.  THAT'S A HUGE ACCOMPLISHMENT!  It's empowered me. I know I can make up those 10+ minutes.  Just you wait and see!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Before the race...

So here it is, the night before the Seoul International Marathon.  This will be my third full Marathon and it has  been 6 months since my last one.  Since then I've trained consistently and I've seen steady improvement in my speed as a result.  I am very confident that, barring any accidents, I will successfully meet the goal I set months ago: "Run a marathon in under 4 hours".

Now it's time for the race jitters.  Worrying about eating enough to have strength but not too much to be bloated the next day or even worse.  P.O.T.  (Hashers will know this as potty on trail).  After writing this I will start to get my things together in a ritualistic fashion to make sure I have everything. gels, glide, clothes etc.

Being away from my wife and children has been difficult these past months. Running is what I have used to focus my mind and keep balanced.  I read about running to gain knowledge on how to become a better runner.  I watch videos and listen to advice from other runners.   No matter what the outcome of the race, at the end of the day I will be able to look myself in the mirror and say "It was worth it. I gave it my best shot".

Truth be known, I hope to do better than just under 4 hours tomorrow.  How much better?  I'm keeping that to myself for now. Time to lay out my race gear for tomorrow, lie down, and try to sleep.  I seldom do the night before...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Running is Easy. Losing Weightt is Hard!

It's about a month before my first Marathon of 2010 and training is going well. I Just recently found a burst in speed I didn't have in the past. I participated in a 5K and finished with my best time ever and even managed to cut my time by a full minute and come in 5th!

To be honest, training has been easy. I thoroughly enjoy getting out and running with my group. It's the highlight of my day. The thrill of running with others and the little mini races that go on are exhilarating. Even the times when I really kick it and my lungs are burning and I can feel the pulse in my temples is a welcomed feeling. If I don't make a run I regret it. I never get finished and say, "wow, that sucked, I wish I wouldn't have done that".

Another reason it doesn't feel like work is that I only run 3 times a week. Many articles I have read lately have been about "training less and training smarter" I like that and I think it's best for me. As I get older, it allows a full day of rest between my runs. It makes me fresh for the next run and gives my body time to re-coup which means less chance of injury.

Now about that extra weight I've been trying to lose. That has been the tough part! I've managed to shed the extra few pounds I gained during the holidays but I'm still hovering around 205-210. To those runners who can eat whatever they want, I hate you. To those who say if I run I can eat whatever you want, it's not true.

The reality is I'm not trying hard enough. Even though I've been monitoring my weight, I haven't gotten serious about losing it. That changes today.

What I've been doing right: I've cut soda out of my diet almost completely. I also recently started drinking more V8 juice instead of sweet juices. I've been eating lots of seasonal fruits lately which includes, banana's, strawberries, and LOTS of tangerines. I've also tried to snack on veggies during the day and evening. Baby carrots and Sugar Snap peas mostly.

What I've been doing wrong:  I'm a night eater! Always have been and it's a hard habit to break. I have a habit of skipping breakfast and even Lunch and eating most of my calories once I get home. Also, since I don't monitor it closely enough, I end up taking in too many calories in the evening for this reason I've started a food journal and will track my calories and when I eat them.

Yes, it sucks but that is the discipline I need right now. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Headed to China to Run the Great Wall Marathon!

I've been planning this one for awhile now.  When I first got to Korea, some people I ran with mentioned an adventure marathon in China on the Great Wall.  I looked it up and showed the link to my wife Jenn to see what she thought.  Her response during one of our may Skype calls said it all.
"You gotta do it"  "It's a chance of a lifetime!"

She was right.  As my years in the military wind down, the chances of being back in Asia are not likely.  Even if I did, who knows how old I would be or what condition my body will be in.  There are those who will say "Maybe sometime I'll..."  Well, my sometime is now.  I'm here now, capable of running the Great Wall Marathon and that's what I plan to do.

This won't be an ordinary run and will involve traveling 26.2 miles over a wide variety of terrain and elevation.  Then there are the stairs. Literally thousands of them of varying sizes and height!  I can expect to add at least 25% more to my marathon time to complete the Great Wall Marathon.

Although I've continued to keep my training up over the past few months, the new year triggers me into action and I'll be stepping up my game.  This means lots of extra miles, dropping some pounds, and lots and lots of stairs.  I'M PUMPED!

Enjoy the promo video and website link below.


Great Wall Marathon Website

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 Wrap up. Big Plans for 2010!

Nov 2008

2009 was good to me.  I made a commitment for what I hope is a lifelong change to take better care of myself.  It started on Dec 26 of 2008 and I'm happy to say I'm still going strong a year later.  No need to rehash everything for you.  It's all here in the blog if you care to read it.  Weight loss, Marathon, Korea, it's all there.  I do feel that it's a good time restate my goals, re-evaluate where I am, and where I'm going.

Back in October I set some short term and long Term Goals.  Lets see how I'm doing:

Short term goals:
1. Compete in a half marathon before the end of the year and finish in under 2 hours. 

PASS!  I Completed the Saber Run Half Marathon in 1:47.

2. Get my weight down to 190 lbs and maintain it through the holidays to  Jan 1st. 

FAIL! Even though I have kept up a nice running/workout routine, I've managed to put on about 5 extra pounds during this holiday break.  This means that I'm about 20 Lbs above my lightest weight which was a week or so before the Air Force Marathon.  I'm not too worried. I'll simply re-state this goal and work harder.  It means that I'll have to shed about 25 pounds now but I know I'll make it.  My goal will be to get there before my next big race.

Long Term goals:
1. Finish a marathon in under 4 Hours. (I need to shave 24 minutes!)

ON TARGET: I have a great training group in Seoul Synergy and a great support system.  My plan is to run the Seoul Marathon in March and meet this goal.

2. Compete in a triathlon!  (This is a big one!  I don't even have a bike here.)
ON THE SCOPE: I will start training for this one in the spring of 2010.  I'm really looking forward to getting a road bike and enjoying the rides through the Korean countryside.  The swimming will be the biggest learning curve I believe.  Sure, I can swim, doing it correctly for a race will be totally new.  

Oh Yeah!  One other thing :)

My next post will be dedicated to a special sports event that I will be participating in soon.  I consider it a once in a lifetime experience. 

Thanks for stopping in,


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Winter training is not always fun

That's right, I admit it.  I don't enjoy every aspect of running.  Especially in the winter months.  The shorter days means there is less sunlight and many times you're running in the dark. The cold temperatures require you to carefully choose how many layers you need to be warm enough but not too cold. Dodging ice patches and snow drifts is tough and no matter what you do it seems that some part of you is cold while the others are sweating. 

Many people choose to stay indoors and train during these harsh months and log their miles on a treadmill or cross trainer.  I used  to do the same thing but there are many things you  miss out on.  Treadmill  miles are not trail miles and, for me, that matters.  If I spent my winter months inside I would be at a major disadvantage at the beginning of the spring.  I have some big  plans and cannot afford that.

So whats makes winter running in sub zero weather in the dark worth  it?  So many things!  The exhilaration and sense of accomplishment is there no matter what the temperature. Above all else, that's makes it worthwhile.  Personally, my body performs better in cold temperatures than hot.  Long distances are much easier in the cold than in the hot weather and there is alot less problems with keeping hydrated. 

Running with a group makes all the difference as well and the Seoul Synergy team pictured above has been my running family of choice these past few months.  Sometimes meeting for coffee before, catching a bowl of steaming korean soup afterwards, it truly does make all the difference.  I know I preach "Integrity First" but  there is no way I would push myself this hard if no one else was around.  The comradery, the natural and friendly competitiveness, you just miss that when running by yourself.  Although I enjoy the meditation of a long solo run every now and then, I much prefer the company of the group.  Thanks guys and gals!

That's it for now.  Let's bundle up and get some miles done!