Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Race Weekend Tips I've Picked Up Along The Way, and Mojibijawe, God of Children Marathoners



My Race Weekend Reminders - Things I’ve Picked Up Along The Way
(26.2 of them)

There are very few new ideas, new knowledge is rare, and we’re all just standing on the shoulders of giants thinking we’re tall, or standing on third thinking we hit a triple, regurgitating old ideas and repackaging them and calling them our own.  And if you’re an obsessive marathoner, chances are you are an obsessive data-fiend as well, and have scoured for all the knowledge on running and marathoning and race day strategies for a great time or simply a great experience.

So, here are some ideas that you, the community of experts, have taught me about how to handle race weekend.  These are the things I tell myself when I talk to myself, and if you listened, here’s what you may hear.



1. Develop three goals for the event, only two of them being time goals.  Have a “if everything goes perfect goal”, an “I will be happy as hell if I get this time goal” and a process goal.  For example, A: Ideal: I want to hit a 3:20 to qualify for Boston, B: Also awesome: 3:25 would make me feel plenty Triumphant. C: Process Goal: during the race I want to: run negative splits, make sure to tweet as many times as possible, meet my sole-mate, see the face of God at the finish, whatever fits.  I just believe in having a tiered-approach, to reduce the risk of disappointment, and something that doesn’t’ even include time. 

2. Get to bed early, but don’t expect a big sleep the night before a marathon. Make sure you rest two nights before though. That way one sleepless night isn’t a big deal.

3. Nothing new:  eating routine, as with all routines, food, breathing patterns, nostril snot shots, and desperate prayers for mercy to the running gods – should have all been tried previously to marathon weekend.  Meaning long runs should mimic marathon day, even down to if you choose to have sex the night before the event (and studies show it can increase your chance of a PR. Link)

With all the stimulus at the Expo, it’s easy to get suckered in to thinking you need to try something different. I have found through experimentation that I need protein the night before a run as much as pasta, that chicken and pasta works perfect. Other things that I experimented with that I swear by: Pickle juice, S-Caps, and Compression Socks. 

3. On this same note, during the event, pass up the opportunity to eat that Twinkie or gummi bear or pinch of chewing tobacco or whatever other novelty is being passed out by bystanders, unless you have done so before.  Tried and true is certainly the rule, and while this makes perfect sense now, your head will be woozy and not so logical under the haze of a marathon run, so it’s worth reminding yourself.

4. Exception to number 3: if you aren’t worried at all about times (see the ‘process goal’ above) and just want to say you ‘did it’, then go ahead and do something spontaneous and crazy. Example “do you realize I did a jello shot off the navel of a homeless man at mile 23 while he was  looking for donations playing the Sax? Yes, it’s true.”

How could you not smile and throw him a dollar or two? Or do a Jello shot off of his navel.

5. Lay out your clothes, and put the body glide in your shoes, use a sharpie to mark the spots to cover, do something to make sure you don’t’ forget to lube up all over.  We’ve all seen him. Bloody nipple guy.  And you don’t want to be awake the night before thinking “remember to lube, remember to lube” and doing something like this will assure you you will not forget.

6. At the expo, or at home, do not put on the race shirt before you finish the event.  This may be one of those givens, and over-stated, but its bad luck, bad ju-ju, and sanctimonious.  Of course, exception is if you are trying on for size, but if doing so then, you can only wear for 88 seconds exactly, which is more than enough time to see if it fits. Any more and you are tempting fate and sure to be stricken down by metaphorical lightening during the event.

7. I believe in getting to the start line early but not too early.  Maybe it’s the nerves, but I want to pee twice at the start, once when I get to the area and another time right before I get in the Chute. But otherwise, being first in line just makes me nervous and anxious.  Never come close to missing the start gun.

8. I hate being uncomfortable waiting in the mass of the crowd waiting for the start, so even if its fifty degrees and not 30 I always Bring clothes to the start to shed. Being old sucks, shivering spends calories.  And the homeless man playing the Sax will end up with your discarded rags so its part of the circle of life.

When shedding such clothes, do so by putting at the side if possible and not in the middle of the road.  Poor race etiquette to trip the man behind you.

9. During the national anthem, make the sign of the cross, bow to Mecca, sacrifice a goat, and close your mind off and feel the humm of the universe… in other words, those last moments before take off can feel pretty sacred, so treat them as such and get ready to rock.

10. Once the gun shot sounds, I always walk to the starting matt from my position back in the pack, no matter what. Even if it’s an eight of a mile.  Something mental for me about making sure not to run early.  Its gets me in the right mindframe of preserving energy. Plus, the race hasn’t really started when people run, the mind game does, the strategy does, the race beginning is about saving energy.  Walking to the start while others start running gets it through your nervous skull that you don’t need to keep up with them; (the suckers running 26.2+) just run your own race.

Worth repeating this mantra: You run the first ten with your head, the second ten with your legs, the last 6.2 with your heart.

 11. Headphones. I train with them and am convinced I run events better with them. And most races now ‘suggest’ you do not use them yet do allow them.  Pick some slow songs for the start, and some inspirational ones to pick you up for the last ten miles.  My fear was they would disconnect me from the crowd, but I found this not to be true and that the run is still plenty interactive.

12. Bring some Gu’s, and memorize where the Gu spots are. Have both ready. You may drop a few while trying to open them, or you may pass up a free Gu giveaway spot in your running drunkenness. I’ve done both. Have two options.

13. Read over your running log up to the moment before you marathon. Take it with you to the hotel, to the bathroom, on the car ride to the event. Highlight the trainings where you kicked butt and remember that’s who you are. Write them in bold, wave them around and say “Here’s proof! Here’s proof!” and use them to fight back the doubts.

15. When traveling out of town, bring multiple possible running gear.  Weather and wind and precipitation can change so quick, so bring wet gear, hotter than expected gear, and colder than expected gear along with your main super-cool running gear.

16. When possible, cut the corners of the race, stay to the inside edge. (Otherwise, enjoy your 26.2 miles plus run.) and stay in the shadows when it’s hot.

17.  Pacing. My thoughts are: Run the first 1-5 slower than marathon pace, 5-10 at marathon pace, the next 10 to 15 a bit faster than marathon pace, and then MP or a little slower the way home.  Perceived effort, at least for me, is easiest during the middle miles, and it takes a bit to warm up fully.  This is basically an “even perceived effort pace” run. I didn’t come up with this, of course. More about this idea in a future post.

18. Pick a person in the race who has what seems like a close pace to yours, and use them for reassurance to run with, but be totally prepared to ditch them if they seem too fast or slow.

19. Aid stations - Since there will be a log jam at the beginning of the aid station. (especially at huge marathons, and towards the first miles) run towards the middle of the road, pass the initial pack, and then fall in towards the end of the aid station.  Of course, don’t risk passing, but it sucks to break stride when you don’t want to.
The aid station of those faster folks way ahead of us. 

 20. Grabbing a Gatorade; Always grab water, Gatorade, or other treats from the youngest volunteer possible. This will plant the seed in their little hearts of what an important job they are doing, and you’re creating a volunteer for life.  More importantly, you will be blessed, by Mojibijawe, God of children marathoners, and you will temporarily have tiny invisible wings on your head and travel light of foot. Try it. Grab the water from a youngster, look at their smile, and tell me if you aren’t lighter. Them there’s the wings on your head.

On this same tip, give as many fist bumps and slap as many hands as you can, as long as you don’t redirect your route and run an extra tenth of a mile or something.  If anyone reaches out a hand, and you touch it, that’s one tenth of a mili-second off your time. Hit enough, and you’ll certain to go .00002% faster. No, you’ll never see an elite runner doing this, but it’s one of the perks us regular folks have.

 22. Boston: Kiss a Wellsey girl if you can.  Question for the day: Does a spouse need permission to kiss a Wellsey girl?  Does it matter the gender of the runner?

 23. If you can, take the day after a marathon off work.  The whole world will be hazy and fuzzy, and plus kinda lame since you just ran a monster event and they did not. Plus, on the last few mental miles, you can remind yourself you are on the couch the next day.

24. The last bit of the race, think of a regular running route by your house that’s the same distance you have left in the race and use that to be your mantra.  “Just a run to the high school and back” “Just a loop to the gas station,” “I’m at the Belle Tire and just need to make it home. “ (that last one’s my own.)


25. Sometimes you’re the bug, sometimes you’re the windshield, but run enough marathons and you’re going to go Splat. Doesn’t matter your experience. Be easy on yourself, know that you will live to run again. The zombie walk to the finish is noble yet humbling and the medic van isn’t so bad,

26.  I’ve tried to remember the entire route of a marathon and study it pre-race, and yeah, it’s pretty much impossible with the mush your brain is in during the run. At least mine.  But a few landmarks help.  The CITGO sign at Boston is a special magnet that sucks runners into its gravitational pull. Find the magnet in your race at the end, something to look up towards knowing that it is your sign of the finish.

26.2  If anyone ever says a marathon is 26 miles, and forgets the .2, it is your duty to kindly correct them, because at 20 miles the race is half over, and at 26 miles you will have had everything squeezed out of you and all of it oozes out the last .2 miles. Remember, the zone you are in the last .2 is a rarity, an area few ever tread

I'm more amazed by his time than his headstand. You thinking he did the half? Yeah, maybe.
 Okay, that’s just me talking to myself.  We all have our nuances And of course there’s plenty more things that can be added here, but then it wouldn’t be a nifty list of 26.2

And yes, one more thing about making a list:  It’s always cool to have a specific number in mind when you make a list, because it makes you look like maybe you know what you are talking about, that you have it down to an exact science with a specific number,  instead of just rehashing things that were taught to you, and then finding your voice to pass it on. 


The Jade Rabbit, on amazon. The story of a miraculous marathon run.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Author Interview In Which I Say Some Stuff

Somebody asked me some questions a few months ago, and I answered.  Here's what I said:  (man was I foolish, young and naive back then.)

 Anyways, here it is: Author Interview

(Special Thanks To Amy Miles.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

The 2011 Detroit Marathon Expo "Yes, Those Gloves Are Extra Snot-Absorbent"




This weekend I had the pleasure of signing copies of The Jade Rabbit at the Detroit Free Press Marathon Expo.  It was flattering to be invited by the folks at Running Fit (certainly the premier running store in the Detroit Metro area), and the real pleasure was probably working the booth as much as in peddling the novel to would be runners.  Thanks to everyone who stopped by to say Hi and picked up a copy.

The folks at Running Fit were terrific.  It was a pleasure to hang out with so much running and fitness experience.  And you could feel the positive effects of years of pounding the pavement had upon their soles. It's hard to have that many runners' highs without a permanent buzz.  It's no coincidence that these are the folks who put on the three day music and trail-running communal adventure called Run Woodstock


Since it was difficult for customers to tell that I was the writer of the novel, I spent most of my time being a Pseudo Running Fit employee for the day.  Usually I am at the expo nervous about the weather, worried about being on my feet, and wondering what kind of triumph or travesty Sunday's run would bring. Not this time. I got to speak with new and experienced runners both, answer questions about gu, chomps, wind on the bridge, and what the heck is that skeleton toiler paper roll next to me. It is a price for winning the upcoming,  Run Scream Run, a spooky run through Wiards Orchard. Thus the spiderweb behind me.


Hi There
On my right is the bin of "Hi-Tech Gloves."  And why are these cotton throwaway gloves  "HI-Tech"?  They are extra snot absorbent, of course, was my answer. And no the gloves were not just bleached versions pulled off the streets from marathons past.

It was as great as a marathon weekend could be without actually running.  I woke up Sunday morning, warm and in my bed, right around race time. "Are you signing books today Daddy?" my daughter asked.  "No, I told her, I'm with you all day."
And she smiled and gave me a big hug. 

Flattered again.




The good folks at Running Fit doing their thing. Angela, in the pink, is still standing after a 100 mile run 6 weeks ago (she came in second and was one of only 4 woman who finished) followed by a marathon 2 weeks ago.  And yes, she also ran Detroit on Sunday. 
         



Copies of the novel.  Those not sold are now available at a Running Fit near you or on Amazon.







Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Either You're Going To Die Or You're Not. There's Nothing You Can Do - Dealing With Pre-Race Nerves

This is a reprint of one of the best posts I have seen about pre-race Nerves.  It is from Don Kern, director of The Grand Rapids Marathon.  If you have not run the marathon, I suggest you think about it.  Smaller than Detroit and of course Chicago, yet it is incredibly personable. You certainly won't be running alone. Check out the reviews on MarathonGuide if you want more info. The course is a great mix of terrain.  It is the site of my Boston Qualifier, and my favorite Shirt Color of all.  My daughter loves to wear it to bed as pajamas.

Re-Freakin'-lax!
I've told this story before, but I think it might help at this point:

A good friend was going to run her first marathon a few years ago.  I had referred her to the same hotel we were staying in, and when we went to her room, her fiance answered the door.  She was sitting on the bed with a pillow in her lap.  Her head down.  She was crying.

Too much stress.  All the things to remember.  All the advice, the coaching, the books, the "experts" words swirling around in her head.  Combined with the next day's venture into the unknown she was completly overwhelmed.

-------
I jumped off a bridge in New Zealand.  Don't worry.  I was connected to a big rubber band.  As I stepped off the platform into thin air, I discovered something in the next half-second.  There was nothing I could do.  Either I was going to die or I wasn't.  After that, my mind totally changed modes and I was focused on the experience, the fun, the adrenaline, the sensations.  IT WAS GREAT!! 
-------

I hugged my friend, told her to relax.  All that advice you've been listening to at this point is just extra noise.  Either you've trained enough, or you haven't.  It's too late to worry about that now.  We went out to eat, relaxed, and enjoyed the moment.  I saw her at the starting line, still a little nervous, but enjoying it.  On the out-and-back course, I saw her, still on her way out, a couple miles behind me as I was heading back.  She was smiling.  Enjoying.  I crossed the road and gave her a big smooch.  She was having a great time. 

Later as she crossed the finish line, I grabbed a medal from a race volunteer and put it around her neck.  The tears of the day before were replaced with joy.  Her first marathon. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Squeezing Me To Tears



Marathoning is such a grand event, and the way it takes place on the streets and the earth is nothing compared to the way it takes place in my mind.  It has taken on a much more spectacular event in my brain, my heart, and my soul, and has a deeper existential meaning beyond just a physical endurance event on a Sunday morning.

Sure it’s a run, a long as hell run, but more than that. It is me staring into the void, and the void challenging me back, asking me what am I made of? (how a void can challenge back, I don’t’ know). It is the eternal existential question: What's in your essence? What’s in your soul? Are you up to the challenge of being your best? Can you blast past previously self-imposed artificial limits?  Can you walk on water, part the Red Sea, can you not shrivel in pain and fear when the moment comes? Will you run on and endure or crumble into a fetal position and whimper with the challenges you face?

A marathon is the arena in which I prove myself worthy, that I am strong, a frigging fuckin warrior of life who will battle back, fight to the bone and not let blood or sweat or ripping muscles and tendons stop me.  It is life squeezing me and squeezing me to find out whats inside, what am I made of, and my essence oozes out and I bare myself for all to see, and I answer.  Hellz yeah, I got this. I got this and life is beautiful, I am beautiful, and I am Me, hear me ROOOOARRRR!!!! Fucking beast.


Just to show up marathon morning is to face the fear. Dreams of thousands hang on the precipice of that start line, and Fear is at the start of every marathon. I don't care if you have run fifty. There's fear that you won't run your goal, fear of that little injury in your calf since you know that if there's any weakness, the marathon that awaits you of you will exploit it to its core.  Fear of not finishing, fear of embarrassment, will it rain, will you be hurt, will your dreams be squashed, will you not be up to it? will you chaff, did you wear the right thing, you have to pee, you may throw up, you ate too much, not enough, will you curl up into your safe ball of comfort when that gargantuan test is put before you? How will you feel when the heat of the event starts to boil all of your fears and truths to the surface, can you hack it?  Its primordial and filthy stuff, and you won't come away unchanged.

And the power of thousands of people answering the challenge collides at every event, and there’s an unspoken connection.

Don’t you believe you can feel the people next to you in the last 6.2? That there’s a mystical and spiritual connection to thousands of other runners?  Hard to describe, but there is some odd connection that happens to people you never saw, may never see, but just to be near them and experiencing the same thing, all of you in your most vulnerable and stripped down moments. Because you know the person next to you at mile 24 has also been training for weeks, has been running many hours of the day and thinking about running the rest of the hours of the day, and now you have come together for the grand and ecstatic climax.

Whew, that’s a lot for just some training, but I have always made the marathon about way more than just training to feel fit, to give my life more purpose, clarity, and the lovely spiritual and emotional detox of a strong run. It does all of that, and more. It is an existential moment where I have to define myself and rise to the occasion.  And since there is such a build up, maybe that’s why I always cry. The moment I finish a marathon the tears flow, unabashedly, not because I am hurt, (because of course I am hurt) but because I am so alive at that moment, and everything I am made of is being squeezed out of me and I showed up, I did it, I am a Warrior, I felt the fear and did it anyways. 

This whole concept of the power of a running event was the guiding force when I wrote my second novel, The Jade Rabbit. I wanted to write a story that exemplified a complex character who was training for a marathon, and that her whole existence; emotional baggage, psychological fears, biological hopes (she’s been unable to get pregnant) were all played out in the drama of the marathon. The quest to run a sub 3 hour marathon is more than just an accomplishment and a medal, but would define her whole being.  That’s what a marathon does for us.  If the novel is successful in displaying this to the reader is yet to be determined, but the story is so personal, that every time I read it, I still cry.

I know, that sounds crazy. “You mean you know the ending but you still cry?”  my wife asks. Uh-huh.  Then again, same thing happens when I watch Terms of Endearment, Lion King (ya know, when Musafa challenges Simba that he is more than what he has become) and of course the movie The Champ has left a permanent mark.  No, those aren’t red boogers on my sleeve, that’s my heart. Well, maybe a mix of both. And all that stuff that comes out of you when your run-- that’s not sweat, that’s your heart and soul dripping out of every pore of your skin, cause you’re getting squeezed.

So, no, it's not just a run.  Don’t ever let it become that. It’s you against the negative forces in life, the voices in your head, that old teacher from seventh grade or the evil deities in your head all trying to make you feel and believe you are less than what you are. You aren’t, damn it, and you got your medal, your race day t-shirt, your appetite, and your tears to prove it.

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