Monday, June 27, 2011

Intermediate Training Schedule

Many would think a novice training program would be used by a person preparing for their first marathon.

Or 2nd.

Or 3rd.

But not 4th.

So this time around, I'm training with an intermediate schedule.

What's the difference?

You run more. More miles during the week, more days a week and longer long runs.

Instead of doing 3-3 mile runs during the week, I'm scheduled to knock out 16 before an 11-mile long run this Saturday.


Because you can, and, for some reason, want to. You've at some point decided that the novice program isn't beating you up enough or that it's leaving you with too much free time. Hours spent sleeping or relaxing should be, of course, replaced with more running.  More running which will likely require more stretching with our favorite friend the foam roller, sleeping, and the best benefit of training, eating.

Now that I made the intermediate program sound so appealing, I am wondering why I waited so long to do it.

This year, many of my friends are running the Berlin Marathon which is two weeks before Chicago. They are all experienced marathoners who are masters of the novice program. The intermediate program will allow them to get a 20 mile run in two weeks earlier than the novice program and from there, they will taper for Berlin. Me on the other hand, I'll run 20 twice. That's my punishment for not traveling Berlin and repeating Chicago a 4th time.

This time I'll get it right (I hope). Whatever that means...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ragnar Recap

On Thursday, June 9th, a twelve person passenger van pulled up outside my house with a Scottish driver - Joanne. Don't let the driver position fool you, she's really a quite fast marathoner and a member of the Universal Sole team!

Joanne and I drove up the North Shore, picked up Jessica and Jackie, and then headed up to Madison. We spent the car ride getting to know each other. The fifth member of our van would meet us at the start line the next day. The sixth member of our van was Kim, who sadly couldn't participate in Ragnar due to a stress fracture.

We checked in to our hotel that evening, had a bite to eat and then headed to bed. Our van (#1) would arrive at the start at 8:30am for a 9:30am start. Van #2 arrived in Madison later in the evening and would not begin their legs until the afternoon. I had a hard time falling asleep. I had so many questions. How would this all work?

Friday morning we grabbed breakfast and headed to the start. That's when we saw the true size of this event. Hundreds of passenger vans, suvs, and mini vans were parked at the start, transporting their respective teams. The start line was staggered depending on your team's overall predicted pace. The faster overall pace your team had, the later you started in the day. We heard of some teams starting at 6:30am and others starting at 1pm.

After a few safety briefings, the gun went off and Jessica began her first leg of the race. Our van would meet Jessica at the first exchange point, where I would take the baton (er, slap bracelet) from her and run the second leg (in place of Kim).  The van would continue in this leap frog fashion until we reached exchange point 6 where van #2 would take over legs 7-12 with their runners.

I started leg two (my first run) around a lake in Madison. The 4.5 route took me through a few neighborhood streets and then in to a church parking lot where I passed off the baton. The first run felt good. I had about an hour and a half break before run 2 (leg 5) started.

Run two started at a high school in Cambridge, Wisconsin. The 6.4 mile run started down Liberty street in Cambridge. The street was lined with American Flags - fitting for a small town. Then I turned on to the Glacial Drumlin trail. After a short distance on the trail, I ran across the path of a possum.  No worries, he was more scared than I. Then on to country roads where I saw farms and dairy cows for a few miles. At one point, a cow ran along side me. This kind of stuff just can't happen running along the lake in Chicago!

At the conclusion of my second run, I took was was the first of many baby wipe baths of the relay. Let's just say I'm glad I bought the biggest container Target had. The bath made a world of a difference and I thought of how my brother went for weeks without a real shower the first time he was deployed to Iraq. Putting on a fresh pair of clothes seemed ok now. No point in taking a real shower anyway - I was running again in less than 12 hours.

After Jackie ran her first leg, we headed forward to exchange point 12 where we attempted to get some sleep. Trying to sleep outside in a sleeping bag in the middle of the day does have it's challenges, but we caught what little sleep we could, or couldn't.

It was reaching dusk when our team's runner came in to exchange 12 and Jessica was on her way again. This time, she was outfitted with a headlamp, tail lamp, and safety vest. By the time she finished her leg, it was dark out. As the night carried on, the relay became more challenging. Signs were harder to see. It was easy to lose sense of direction. Not to mention, we were sorta getting tired. But we pushed on.

Around midnight I prepared for a 4.3 mile run through a park in Greenfield, Wisconsin which would take me into Milwaukee. I have never had a run quite like this. This was the first time I was running with a headlamp. With no street lights. With no cars passing by or barely the sight of any other runners. I was scared. Scared of what else was out in the night and also scared of falling on my face. As I started running, all I could hear was the sound of my footsteps and the faint echo of other runners footsteps. No sirens, no horns, no crickets, nothing.  Weird.

After arriving at exchange 18, Jackie had to run one more leg before the van could rest for a few hours. When she finished, it was after 1am. We drove to a church somewhere in the Milwaukee area and parked in a field with hundreds of other vans. We tried to get comfortable in the van to take a catnap. I managed a short baby wipe bath and put on my compression socks. We had lights out for a about two hours, then it was time to pack up and head out to Racine where we'd meet up with van #2 again.

The sun had yet to rise as Jessica started her last leg. Once she completed her leg in Racine, Joanne ran two back to back 6 mile legs (one for Kim and one of her own). Amazing! Around 7:30 it was time for me to run my last leg, which was just 2.9 miles through Kenosha. The run was labeled 'easy' which, I would agree, it was the easiest of all my runs, but after the day I'd had, it felt like the last six miles of  a marathon. I think that's what kept me going - the debate of if the way I was feeling at that time was better or worse than the last few miles of the marathon. Then, somehow, I was at the exchange point and my part of the race was complete.

Later in the day, we met the runners of van #2 down at Montrose Harbor at the race's finish line. Our last runner was about to come in the home stretch of the race at 3:30pm on Saturday. As our runner approached, we jumped in with her and ran to the end. Volunteers offered us snacks and metals which double as bottle openers (now somebody's thinking!). We took a few photos, had a few laughs, said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways.

It's 4pm on a Saturday. I've run over 18 miles in the last 24 hours. I'm on about three hours of sleep in the last day and a half.  But I had a great time, and I can't wait to do it again.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Ragnar; It's like Bonnaroo...with Running.

After carefully reading through the Ragnar Relay Race Bible a few days ago, I've started packing.

So far my pile consists of:

• Sleeping bag
• Yoga mat
• Instant oatmeal
• Flashlight
• Cargo shorts
• Glow sticks
• Tarp
• Crocs
• Hand sanitizer
• Baby wipes
• Sunscreen

I pause for a moment realizing I've packed like this once before - for Bonnaroo.

Bonnaroo is a four day music festival held in Manchester, Tennessee. Two summers ago, I went with a group of friends. It was the incredible journey. In four days, we saw every type of weather possible - torrential downpours, tornado-like winds, blazing heat, and chilly nights. Oh, and we saw a lot of cool bands too.

Much like the Ragnar relay, we didn't get much sleep and we were camping.

One thing we certainly were not doing at Bonnaroo was running. I'll be interested to see how Ragnar parallels Bonnaroo...or doesn't.

[Ragnar Relay Chicago is a 200 mile relay race from Madison, WI to Chicago. My team will start at 9:30am on Friday and will run continuously until arriving in Chicago, sometime around 3:30pm on Saturday.]

Thursday, June 02, 2011

One Month til Ragnar

A month from today, I'll be one of twelve making up the Universal Sole team at Ragnar Relay. Ragnar Relay is a 200 mile relay race from Madison to Chicago (formerly called the Madison to Chicago 200).

Unlike a regular road race, there are thousdands of unknowns with a relay race and a million logistics. How can one even begin to strategize?

Here's what little I do know:

I will be in runner position 5. I will run 12.4 miles in three legs.

My first leg will be in the afternoon on June 10th.

My second leg will be somewhere around 2am on June 11th in a town nearby Milwaukee.

My final leg will be somewhere around 10am. I will run the team over the state line.

This morning I ran three miles. I plan on heading home this evening and running another 3 or 4, just to get my body used to the idea of running twice in a day. I'm not sure how much this is going to help me since I'm on a good night of sleep. I imagine it's the sleep deprivation that really gets to people. Oh, and I'm running a course I know very well. Unlike when I get dropped in Wisconsin. I'm about as familiar with Wisconsin as I am with Brazil.

Here's a cool video that one team did of their Ragnar Relay experience in D.C.

Excerpts from the Ragnar Relay Race Bible

The Ragnar Relay Race Bible (yes, that's it's actual title) is 22 pages long.

It contains a lot of good information. Especially for my team, since, well, none of us have done this before.

Page 9: 
Each van must have two flashlights or headlamps, six reflective vests and two LED tail lights.
Crap...We are running at night.

Slap braclets will be used as batons.

Page 13:
In the event of an injury, any of the remaining runners can replace the injured runner...If an IV is administered, the injured runner is no longer eligible to run.
Note to self: Don't trip over own feet.

If a runner gets off course, they are to return on foot or in their support vehicle to the point where they went off course and continue from there.
I hope we don't get lost!

Page 16:
Each van will be required to have a safety officer/navigator that is awake and alert at all times. The safety officer is responsible for helping the team behave safely during the race. He or she must be seated in the front passenger seat and must have the safety guidelines and rules within reach at all times.
Sounds like a lot of responsibility!

Page 18: 
If a runner encounters flooded areas that cannot be ran through, have your runner get into the support vehicle, drive the runner ahead where the road is no longer flooded and continue running his or her leg.
Good thing I know how to swim. Now.

Page 19:
If a runner encounters any wildfile that is aggressive on the course, get your runner off the road and into your support vehicle. 
Are we talking dogs or bears here?

One week from today, Joanna and I will be on our way in the van!