I joined a running group to make friends, and instead I found a family

by Jordan Cooper

In August 2014, I decided to join a training group at Rogue Running in Austin, Texas. I had just gotten engaged to my now wife, whom I met on Tinder (which is a story for another time), and was coming to the realization that as I had grown in my relationship with her, I had lost some of the friendships I had previous to meeting her.

Although I graduated from college about a month before moving to Austin, my first four years in the Violet Crown could be viewed more as the “party” portion of my life than the four years I spent in college in my hometown in East Texas. However, most of the friendships I had made during that time were based more around going out and drinking than on something I could consider a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. As I moved down the path towards marriage, my time spent on the bar scene lessened, and I realized I needed a way to meet people that would be a little more conducive to my new, attempting-to- be adult lifestyle.

I learned about Rogue from a friend who had successfully run her first marathon while training with one of their groups. Previous to joining, I had casually trained for and successfully run a number of 10k’s and half marathons, which I did as almost a form of justification for my indulgent lifestyle. It was also somewhat meditative for me, the solitude of pounding the trails or pavement, so I was a little hesitant about running in the Texas heat with a bunch of strangers. I tried to maintain a positive attitude, especially considering I had at times in my life experienced the infamous “runners high” and figured if I could catch that sense of euphoria occasionally, that surely I could meet 1 or 2 people I might be able to bond with.

What happened over the course of the next few weeks, months, and now years is a laundry list of life lessons in connecting with people. Running in a group appealed to my competitive nature in a way I had not seen coming, and also reminded me of my past growing up playing team sports including soccer and basketball. I had not imagined a sport as considerably “solo” as running could be groomed and improved thanks to having a team or group around you, taking pleasure in your progress. I also learned that misery truly loves company, and that “embracing the suck” with fellow runners allowed me to overcome mental barriers to run distances I never could have imagined on my casual solo runs of the past. The accountability these connections provided gave me strength on those early Saturday mornings when I did not want to get out of bed to put in the work I had signed myself up for. Regardless of how I felt along the way, at the end of every one of those runs, I always felt accomplished and grateful for the kind words received from the cheerleaders around me.

Post-run stretches turned into hang outs, dinners, happy hours, holidays, and life events. I even took my turn at assistant coaching for a season. The bonds forged on the roads of Austin have turned into lifelong friendships and a sense of community and family I could not have imagined. As I spent the Fourth of July with over 50 runners who woke up early to run in the hills of West Austin before enjoying some amazing food and fellowship, I could not help but be grateful for the family I have come to feel a part of. As I train for the New York City Marathon this November, I know that I have the support of hundreds of runners who truly want to see me succeed, and it will be those smiles and handshakes, likes on Facebook, and good luck filled text messages that keep me going. I didn’t need an app to find friends; I just needed to go Rogue.

2016 Prep & Pump Recap

preppumpAustin runners packed the house on Friday night for our third annual Austin Marathon & Half Marathon Prep & Pump and came away with a toolkit of mental tricks from coach Amy Anderson, rock solid race strategy from coach Chris McClung and words of wisdom from coach Steve Sisson. Though we cannot recreate the magic after the fact, we can share notes and, perhaps most importantly, the course breakdown. If you missed out or simply want a refresher, you can find the slides from the event here:

Austin Marathon & Half Marathon Prep & Pump Recap

Austin Marathon Pace Chart

Thanks to all who came out, and best of luck to everyone this weekend – we’ll see you out there!

Rogue Tahoe Triple 2014

 by Steven Hamilton

Chapter 1- Incoming!

It began simply enough:

Pssst! Can I interest you in a Triple?

A triple? Like espresso?

No. A Triple – Marathon!

When asked this question, the sane person should respond No! Or even, “Hell-o No!” But there are some for whom this question begs a different answer. And so the story picks up on September 10th as a group of Rogues converged on the idyllic town of South Lake Tahoe. We arrived solo, in pairs, and in a large group; in some cases, even arriving at the wrong airport. But, as Rogues, we persevered, and managed to arrive in one piece; healthy, caffeinated, and ready to run.

Somewhat craftily named, South Lake Tahoe is a small town at the south end of Lake Tahoe, straddling the California and Nevada state line. It hosts the gondola and ski lifts to the nearby Heavenly ski resort. When we arrived, the weather was beautiful, with lows in the 50s-60s and high in the mid-80s. As a group, we stayed at the Aston Village, shared several condos, and had our own private beach. After finding our rooms and unloading our vehicles, we headed to the local supermarket where we bought everything. Luckily, that included coffee and fixings.

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Our first full day started bright and early with Carolyn leading us all on an “easy 2 miles around Spooner Lake.” As you can see, Spooner Lake is very pretty. While situated at a good 7000 feet in altitude, the couple of miles were deceptively easy. The scenery was lovely. And everyone unwound from the previous day’s travel. Our shake-out run was followed by breakfast at Zephyr Cove – home of the bear-coffee-mug – and which offered a darn good cuppa joe, as well as a breakfast that would fill a starving lumberjack full up.

Packet pickup was at the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel, where Rogue promptly showed up (on time!) early and were kicked out of packet pickup while organizers figured out last-minute details. Many of us walked away with our sweet duffle bags and singlets. As you can see, many of us showed our team spirit, but somebody failed to wear his Rogue Tahoe t-shirt!

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Carbs were consumed; beer drunk. And before too soon, our weary group turned to their early-morning preparations. Singlets and shorts were laid out with care. GU and Shot Blocks were neatly stacked and stored. Shoes lined up like sentinels by the door. Lunches made. And alarm clocks set. The coffee pot was primed and ready to fly.

Chapter 2 – Who’s On First, What’s on Second?

Before covering the 3 days of running, I want to introduce the cast of our Tahoe tale, as well as define some of the terms used by our runners. Tahoe weekend consists of a variety of races and combination of races. As the name implies, the Tahoe Triple is three consecutive days of marathons sequentially circling the Lake. The Tahoe Trifecta is three consecutive days of Half-marathons, aligned with the marathons. The first two start with the marathoners, while the last day’s Half is staggered in time and start location so that everyone shares the same finish line. The Tahoe Super Triple consists of two consecutive days of marathons (the same two as the Triple) BUT with an all-the-way-around-the-lake ultramarathon of 72.6 miles thrown in at the end. Runners of the Super Triple start their second day with the other marathoners. Then that same evening close to dusk, they gather to complete the ultra marathon distance through the night and into the next day. This is timed to have the marathoners and Ultra runners on the last 26.2 mile course at the same time!

There were several teams of Rogues covering the various distances:

  • Trifecta – Jenny Bowden, Angela McKnight, and Denise Ewers
  • Triple – Carolyn Mangold, Victoria Nickell, Caitlin Rogo, Natasha MacNevin, and Steve Hamilton
  • Super – Michael Wedel

Additionally, Coaches Amy Anderson and Mark Enstone supported the runners as crew for the first two days of running, and then they both raced the last Day 3 marathon.

Michael brought his own crew of Rachel Theriot, who raced the first day marathon with us and won first female (her third ever marathon!) and Chris Chuter, a Rogue working in the Bay Area, who gave freely of his time to support us all on the last day of racing.

Each and every one of these Rogues proved just how AWESOME they are, so many times over, that it is hard to capture in words.

Chapter 3- The Race is On

(Race maps are here: http://runtahoe.com/content/marathons)

Day 1 – Emerald Bay Marathon: http://runtahoe.com/sites/default/files/eb_marathon_map.pdf

The first day started early with The World’s Best Crew Ever™ (coaches Amy Anderson and Mark Enstone) driving us to the Emerald Bay starting line, at the top of (again, very appropriately named!) Inspiration Point. Located at approximately 6850 feet above sea level, it provides an awesome view out over the Lake. In the cool darkness under an almost full moon, we took some pretty amazing pictures.

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I eyed the other runners: “very competitive and intimidating,” I thought. “A lot of Marathon Maniacs shirts,” I thought. Many seemed to know each other, and were back for their fourth or fifth year in a row. “Who would do that to themselves?” I asked myself.

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The start of the race leads to a quick and steep descent through a couple of sharp switchbacks, dropping approximately 500 feet in the first three miles. Quickly, we transitioned from road to a quiet trail through the forests around Camp Richardson and Pope Beach (finish line area for Day 3) and into the picturesque residential area around Tahoe Keys and South Lake Tahoe proper.

As a True Believer in negative splits, I enjoyed stopping off to capture photos (along with Jenny, Natasha and Caitlin) of some truly important landmarks (e.g. Texas Avenue). The day was warming nicely as we pulled into Lakeshore Blvd, where the Half finish line along the beachfront looked decidedly inviting.

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As we pulled out of the half-way point, we started slowly to climb and crossed into Nevada. As the day warmed, we worked our way along the Lincoln Highway, and passed the previous day’s (and soon to be team favorite) breakfast joint at Zephyr Cove. As we climbed away and up, I started to feel the effort. I was somewhat surprised (!!) to find that my body was not responding as usual to my level of effort. By Mile 24, I was not a happy camper. But thanks to the super-human support (and red cheer leader outfits – or was I hallucinating?) of The World’s Best Crew Ever™ and the encouragement of my teammates, I finally made it to the finish line at Spooner Junction; a climb of approximately 700 feet in the last four miles to an elevation of 7067 feet.

Ok, thank goodness that is over! Surely this was my worst day? It could not possibly be worse than that in the future, could it?

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As we returned home, we divided up the chores: dinner, laundry, etc., and I made my peace with Day 1. If I was really lucky, I would sleep through the next 48 hours and magically awaken on the flight home, I thought.

Day 2 – Cal-Nevada Marathon:

http://runtahoe.com/sites/default/files/cn_marathon_map.pdf

By some miracle, I woke up the next morning not dead, donned my running shoes, and headed out with the rest of the team to take on Day 2. Luckily for me, the Cal-Nevada marathon is the easiest of the three marathons. We are all familiar with “recovery” runs. But if there is there such a thing, this was our “recovery” marathon.

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Starting at the finish line from Day 1 at the same 7000 feet mark, the course takes a nice, easy downhill for the first 13.1 miles into the town of Incline Village. As we clicked off miles, we not only enjoyed the views and took some happy-looking pictures, we whiled away the miles with alphabet games to take our minds off the distance (“A is for Alice, an architect, who dates Adam, who lives in Alaska …”) and must have discussed the finer points of my imaginary lunch – macaroni and cheese – for at least a 100 miles.

As we rounded the corner and headed into town, we had to dodge falling pine cones (seriously – the size and weight of coconuts) and headed to the Half finish on … (yes, you guessed it) Lakeshore Blvd (a different one.) By now, I was beginning to recognize the pattern in naming conventions around the Lake.

Lakeshore Blvd, it should be pointed out, is the Waller of Lake Tahoe. It just seemed to keep going and going. And again, the happy smiling Half finish line by the beach was very inviting.

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As we pulled away from the Half finish, we encountered today’s first hill at Mile 14, and I felt so much better as I passed one of those Marathon Maniacs shirts. As we passed the last few casinos (on the Nevada state line) I crossed back into California, and passed the only Tex-Mex restaurant I saw the entire trip. (Sure, I thought how great a margarita would taste right there and then, but decided that running was my job for the moment.) The next few miles took us through some rolling hills, more reminiscent of Austin, and several small towns. I finally settled into leap-frogging back and forth with one of the other Triplers, Mario from Mexico. Every mile, I would see his wife sitting in her car waiting to offer Mario some water or snacks … and we passed each other multiple times along the next several miles.

People are quite friendly to runners on this route. I often got asked what this “Rogue running thing” was all about, and a young lady and her son (eating ice-cream) asked what race we were running. I felt obliged to catch my breath and explain in detail, all the while eyeing the ice-cream and plotting an exit route should the temptation to grab it out of his hand become too great to resist.

Ice-cream free, I headed into the bustling home stretch along Commons Beach and into the parking lot that marked the finish line for Day 2.

Day 3 – Lake Tahoe Marathon: http://runtahoe.com/sites/default/files/ltm_map.pdf

The Lake Tahoe Marathon is the largest and best-supported marathon of the three-day event. Today, we were crew-less, as Amy and Mark were also racing. Also, it differed in that the Half started 2 hours later at the midpoint. The idea is that everyone will run the same last 13.1 miles to a common finish line on Pope Beach, with the time delay giving the marathoners a chance to see the Half marathoners arrive at roughly the same time. Another interesting twist was that today, the roads would be closed – which we later saw as a huge line of cars and trucks backed up when we got close to the finish line. And last but not least, the course was way harder in the second half than in the first – with two very large hills leading into mile 20, and cresting back at Inspiration Point. (See the course profile below.)

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Before starting, we called our missing team-mate who had broken her ankle and was struggling to recover in time to join us in Tahoe. Unfortunately, despite an amazing effort and spending hours aqua-jogging every day, the doctor forbade her from coming back in time for this event. So, just to make sure she knew we missed her, we gave her a call before the start on this last day.

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We started on wet grass amid sprinklers … and headed out to the Mile 26 marker. What? Oh, yes, on the last day, mile markers count backwards J Actually, I now wish this was true on all future marathons. This was such a great boost at mile 20.2 when I saw the Mile 6 marker. (Backward math, at 7000 feet, and after running up bloody great big hills during your last marathon, is quite difficult I will have you know!) The first 13.1miles was cool and shaded. I had a great race plan: run the fun stuff, and walk the big hills! So I stretched out and ran the first Half at a nice pace, passing many of the marathoners along the way, and knowing they would probably pass me as I struggled up the hills.

At about the 18 Mile marker (about 8 miles in) I saw Michael and Rachel, with crew member Chris. It was great to see Michael who was into the last portion of his all-the-way-around-the-Lake ultra. I got to hear about the bear adventures and catch up with how things were going. Soon after, we parted ways, and while I could not see Michael, I knew he must have been close, as I saw Chris at the side of the road with his buffet of snacks and drinks many times over the next few miles. Thanks Chris for the potato chips and ice! Screen shot 2014-10-22 at 11.42.59 AM

The first climb comes with warning signs and bagpipes. And as I got to the top of the first hill, I saw Denise and asked how the other Trifecta ladies were doing. Then it was down the hill to Emerald Bay and the Castle, with some amazing photo opportunities along the way. This part of the course is probably the most scenic, and hardest, as it leads back up the second hill to Inspiration Point at about mile 20 (or Mile 6). Again, I stopped at the top to take photos and eat some jelly beans.

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While the last six miles of any marathon is tough, I thought that it would be literally downhill from this point to the finish line at Pope Beach. I slowly worked my way down the switchbacks that had been so much fun the first day, and made it to the trail. Very luckily for me, both Natasha and Caitlin caught up with me over this fairly flat last portion of the course. It seemed to me that random people would shout, “Triplers coming through!” as we slowly closed those last couple of miles.

As we turned onto the last-last-last “just around the corner”, it was such a relief. We crossed the finish line holding hands … and then had to back up and do it again for the photographer to catch the moment!

Ahead of us, Amy, Mark and Michael had great finishes. We all regrouped on the beach, cooled off our sore feet in the soothing Lake, and gathered our bling before heading back to the condo and started to celebrate.

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That evening, we headed out to celebrate with pizza and beer (and there may have been several cookies too!) We all ended up by the beach around an open fire – the perfect ending to Day 3.

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Chapter 4 – Au Revoir Lake Tahoe

If you have run a marathon, you are probably familiar with the thought process that I now went through: I am never ever doing that again! And just as I did after my first ever marathon, I thought I would never want to train or race another marathon ever again, no matter have the desire to improve my time or train for one with hills! But, as you all know, those fleeting thoughts are quickly replaced with, when can I do that again? I could have done X so much better. And I could train like …. So, as we packed up and made ready to leave – after one last, HUGE breakfast at Zephyr Cove – I slowly realized that I would be back one day. Recovery has been slow, and so far, I am feeling great. And the response from the rest of the Rogue community has been outstanding. No, I really do not feel #badass, but sincerely, thank you for that anyway. I am more amazed by the accomplishment of everyone else who ran; the smooth execution and planning by our Fearless Leader, Carolyn; and the amazing support form Mark, Amy and Chris, without which everything would have been impossible. Even as we talk about the trip among ourselves, it still feels somewhat mystical and dream-like. “Hard to believe” just seems too flat an expression to capture the totality of the experience. And, importantly, it has reset expectations on my own capabilities and limits.

So, if someone offers you a “triple” one day, I hope you will stop and take the time to seriously consider it. Sure, it requires a little specialized training. But I believe anyone in the Rogue community is capable of training for and running a Triple. Yes, you. I mean you.

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Twin Cities Marathon 2014

 by Bill Durbin, re-posted from the Team Rogue PM Blog

Well, I gave myself a week to write this one, because the last one just took way too long. I started writing in the same second-person-present voice I was (attempting) to use in the past few posts. It’s kind of half “the story” written that way, and half just me interjecting random stuff. It’s a little disjointed, but less long-winded that usual. If you go for this kind of stuff then read on. If not… well, do whatever the opposite of reading on would be. Read off?

Before
It’s a crisp, cool, dry morning. Perfect running weather. In fact, all the usual things that nobody ever has any control over seem to be going perfect today.

The start line is up ahead, and everyone is loosely corralled by their bib numbers. It’s light out. It’s nice to be able to see everything. Usually, these things start just a tad darker. Brent is standing on a gate looking for Ashish, who in turn is looking for a last-minute bathroom break. Taryn and Cam are nearby. One last round of good-race-mojo encouragement as the announcer gives a 3-minute warning, ramps up the energy, and crowd close to the start.

The nerves never go away until you get to the other side of that line. You can’t help bouncing around a bit. Those three minutes seem to pass in just a few seconds, and then the race begins. The kickoff music turns out to not be Prince after all… Instead it’s that dynamite song.

For a couple seconds I was disappointed that my Prince-music prediction didn’t come true. I half expected him to come tearing around the corner on a purple motorcycle with a starter pistol. A guy can hope, can’t he? But then I had an image of my daughter Penelope singing the dynamite song and it made me smile (I don’t actually know the name of the dynamite song, I assume it is ‘Dynamite’ though).

TRPM Twin Cities Runners (and special guest!) before all the stuff above.
Photo ©2014, Ashish. Used without permission.

Easy on the Front
Crossing the line, it’s a little over a minute behind the gun and that glorious race-start calm descends. You’re no longer thinking about what you have to do – now you’re doing it. That changes the whole situation.

The first task is to run easy. Don’t get carried away. Amy has said it a million times, Steve reiterated it on Thursday, you’ve repeated it to yourself over and over again… DFIU in these first few miles. Starting further back turns out to be a good thing as far as that’s concerned. The road is wide here, but the crowd is pretty thick. There’s not much point in weaving around people. Just wait for the gaps and shoot through. The first mile is over before you know it – a quick sanity check on the time – close to seven minutes… Good. Mile 2 requires a bit more focus to stay on target. You pass Ashish and exchange some encouraging words. The miles start flying by… 3, 4, 5… Almost time for the first real checkpoint.

Mile 6. 41 minutes even. One minute behind target. That’s about right.

It felt like I did an awful lot of watch-gazing during this race. I made the mistake (???) of picking a goal time with some super easy-to-remember intervals. 20 minutes for every 3 miles. And at most of those 3 mile intervals, right at the marker, I was checking to see where I was at. Quite a different feeling from my previous race.

Now it’s time to really start focusing on getting light and efficient as possible. The watch is already reading a little extra mileage. It’s been a bit more crowded than expected. You’ve been doing an ok job of running the tangents, but with so many people you can’t really do it without cutting people off or getting pinched in a corner. You’re gaining on a group that must be the 3:00 pace group. They are packed four or five people deep and taking up the whole road. When you see that the sign says 3:05 it’s startling. They have to be going way too fast!

It isn’t until I did the math afterwards that I realized, if these guys started near the front then they were probably on an exact even split. I think that is what they are told to do.

The next thought is “How am I going to get around all this?” The road is very curvy through this section, and it is obvious the pack has the tangents on their mind as well. The runners on the edges are having to slow down each time the road curves their way. “Do I try to worm my way through the middle, or wait for a straight stretch? When even is the next straight stretch? You realize you have no idea where you are or what comes next on the map.

That’s not entirely true. I was somewhere south of and/or still in Minneapolis. I knew that much.

You studied the course so well preparing for this day and it’s just been a blur of twists and turns since leaving the city. You haven’t even been paying attention to the corners. It’s billed as the most beautiful urban Marathon in the country, or something like that. That might be true, but ever since leaving the city streets a few miles back not a single building, lake, or street sign has registered in your mind. All you see is road, trees, runners, more road, more trees, and more runners. Apparently, some of these houses along the course are amazing, but…

FWIW, I thought Philly was more interesting. Then again, I wasn’t really at either location to appreciate the scenery.

You are hugging a left-hand corner when the choice becomes obvious. The road curves in a big arc to the right and the pack goes with it, leaving a few feet of open pavement to their left. It’s an extra wide corner, but by the time the road turns left again, you’re ahead – they are behind.

Steady and Strong
It’s like the pace group was a cork in a very twisty-necked bottle. Everything has thinned out and now it’s road, trees, and spectators. Lots and lots of spectators. Good ones at that. They aren’t saying stupid things like “only 19 more miles!” They’re giving words of encouragement in vaguely-stereotypical regional accents. “Goh Red!” “Way te goh Rogue Running! Lookin’ strong there!”

I never heard any ‘You betcha’s, but of course the situation didn’t warrant any. Again, I wasn’t really looking around much, but I do remember one sign that amused me.

It is finally possible to run straight from one corner to the next and hug the insides. You establish a comfortable pace that feels about right and just settle in.

There’s a familiar shock of blond hair up ahead. It looks like it might belong to Kirk, a fellow Rogue, and he’s running strong. You aren’t actually sure he knows who you are, but you say “Hey Kirk” and utter some encouraging words as you sidle up to him. If it turns or to be a stranger, no harm done. But it’s him. The conversation is brief, but the familiar face is welcome.

A few more miles slip by. You pass the 13 mile marker and the timing mat for the halfway point is just ahead. Everything still feels ok – smooth, relaxed, light… but now its time for that check-in.

The watch says 1:27:58. It’s pretty close to where you expected to be at the half – you’ve gained about 30 seconds and you still have about 30 to make up. Really, that’s perfect. But then the math starts messing with you.

Running math is hard, and Marathon math is damn near impossible. But there is one math problem that’s simple to do at this point in the race: multiply by two. I don’t know a single Marathon runner who doesn’t do that math problem at the halfway point – Everyone is thinking “If I run the second half exactly the same as the first half…”

Well, ok.. I’ve never actually asked another Marathon runner if they do that math problem. It’s just… come on! Everyone really does this, right?

The other you (I) obviously got off on a tangent there. You were saying that the math started messing with you… “Wait… That’s like 1:28, and 1:28 times two is 2:56, and that means it’s still a minute to make up? Right?”

It takes enormous willpower to keep the mental train on the rails. There is no room in your brain right now to reason it out and identify why it is wrong. It just is. You just have to trust that, and banish the demon. You yell the expanded and uncensored version of “JFR!” at nobody in particular, and it seems to do the trick. 28 seconds. That is the right answer, and if it isn’t the right answer, we’ll find out soon enough.

I didn’t actually yell that. Not out loud. I might have muttered it under my breath, but I was screaming it in my head. That’s what counts.

Maintain
The 15 mile marker is coming up soon, and it’s almost time for another gel. The problem is, you really, really don’t want one. Really. Everything else feels great right now, except your stomach. You pull out your remaining selection of Gu and take stock of what’s there. Vanilla Bean, Salted Caramel, and Salted Watermelon. Yuck. Just looking at them makes your stomach roll.

Most gels taste pretty nasty to me. Vanilla is kind of the base option that seems to be the lesser of all evils. It is the “natural” Gu flavor… If you were to actually go out in the wild and find a guberry bush, and pick a bunch of fresh guberries and mash them up into a paste, that’s what they would taste like. All the other flavors are just trying to mask the guberry-ness. But you can’t ever really mask it. 

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, not only do they taste kind gross, but it usually gets more difficult for me to stomach them as the miles get longer. However, the two “salted” options actually invert this fundamental law of Gu, and seem to taste pretty decent once I’m tired enough. They are both pretty much just guberry plus salt before you get going though.

And (no, I’m not done with this aside yet… hang on) I don’t know what was going on with my stomach. This wasn’t even my last scheduled gel, and it wasn’t so late in the race that I should be feeling so hostile towards the little packets of vile. Maybe the pasta at dinner had something to do with it? I normally go more for veggies and protein the night before a race. It’s something to think about next time – maybe try a few new dinner options in the shorter races this fall and winter. Enough of the note-to-future-self…

You put your gels away and vow to revisit the decision somewhere before the next water station. A couple miles later, and it’s been decided that salted caramel actually sounds pretty good right now. You dig in your gel pouch and pull out vanilla bean. Nope… return that one and grab one of the others – salted watermelon. Dammit! Keep that one in your hand and grab the others from the pouch to see them all at once… Wait.. there’s only two in here! Crap! I must have dropped the other one! Watermelon is the choice – probably because it has “salted” in the name. You must not be tired enough. It tastes disgusting.

I didn’t drop it. My race brain must have decided it was special or something. Apparently I went through the trouble of tucking it into the back zipper pocket on my shorts and zipping it up when I put them all away at mile 15. I don’t remember doing that at all. I was already back at the hotel and showered when I found it there.

It’s not so much your stomach objecting to the Gu now – your brain simply does not want the guberry-watermelon-flavored gunk. That first taste brought a shudder. You just hang onto the rest until the water tables appear up ahead. The blue and red cups at each station have some Powerade concoction that you’ve been avoiding like the plague all race, and now is no exception. You want water. This stop, however, obviously didn’t get the memo on the cup-color-codedness and flags thing. The water has been in the white cups after the Powerade and after the blue “water” flags at every station so far. The first white cup you grab is full of a Windex-colored substance that isn’t water. You drop it and grab for a real water, wash down the remaining Gu, and feel a little better.

I realize it sounds like I am complaining about the water station. I’m really not. I completely appreciate all the volunteers that come out and make these events happen. I thank them when I’m passing the tables whether I am getting something or not.

Mile 18 – you take a quick survey and see how everything is holding up.

Of course, it was a 3-mile interval so I looked at my watch, too. I don’t remember my split at this one though.

Still have the hat, gloves, and makeshift arm-warmers. Hands are icicles but arms, head and everything else is doing ok. The arm warmers (old socks with holes in them) are kind of wet and bunching up in the crook of your arms though. You decide to take them off. They decide to stay on. Pulling on them from the bottom isn’t working. You start to roll the left one down from the top, but it just gets stuck at your elbow. You have a sudden fear that it is going to get snagged on your watch and then just flap around, dangling off the end of your arm for the rest of the race. You win this time, silly am socks. As for the hat…

The Almost Last Part
The scenery is still just whizzing by, oblivious to you standing there. Or maybe it’s the other way around. But there’s one landmark you’ve been waiting for – the bridge over the river. Because Gabe said he’d be somewhere after that bridge on the left-hand side of the course. It’s also a mental thing. It is the place to start thinking strong thoughts.

You can hear Gabe before you know it’s him. He’s ringing his cowbells and cheering on the runner up ahead in the green shirt. He’s by far the loudest spectator you’ve seen on the course, but when he sees you his eyes get wide and he turns up the volume even louder. As you planned (just a few minutes ago), you grab your hat and toss it straight up in the air. Except… it doesn’t go straight up, it goes straight at Gabe! Oops!

I wasn’t the only person to throw clothing at Gabe this day. It sounds like he turned into quite the coat rack. But I wasn’t exaggerating when describing how loud he was. Maybe it was just amplified by the personal connection. Who knows. At any rate, seeing Gabe there definitely gave me a boost. And he kept my hat and returned it! Gabe deserves some special credit thanks. He was supposed to be out there running the race alongside us, but he was sidelined with an injury. That didn’t stop him from coming out and freezing his butt off to cheer the rest of us on. 

Gabe and I. Believe it or not, I stopped and had a beer with him there between mile 19 and 20.

At mile 21 another time check, and you’re only 14 seconds off target! Slowly but surely whittling away at that remaining time. You’re actually going to make it!

The Part Between “The Almost Last Part” And “The Last Part”
There are conflicting reports about the hill. The monster one on the map that looks like it just keeps going up from about the middle of Mile 21 to the end of mile 23. There have been a few short but steep hills sprinkled throughout the course. Ones that made you think a little. But none of those even registered on the elevation map. There’s a short and steep part at the beginning of “the hill” as well. That one really is a bit of a challenge, especially at this point in the course. Once past that, you discover that for the rest of these miles there really is no hill.

Ok… so there may or may not have been a hill. My mind was reading that whole section as being too flat to care. Others felt differently. And my splits indicate that yes, there is a hill there. Perhaps it just has something to do with your mental state. My mental state was still stuck on “I’m actually going to make it!” and I was pushing myself pretty hard.

The miles are beginning to feel very, very long. It’s that weird end-of-race twilight zone where everything starts to happen in slow motion, probably because everything hurts so much. You have started questioning your motives for pretty much everything, but especially for this race. You’re thinking of cancelling the next one on your calendar.

“GO ROGUE!” The shout comes from behind. You haven’t heard anyone say that today… that is not a cheer from here. That is someone from Austin, and that shout was for you. A quick glance over your shoulder, and it’s Steve and Ruth! More familiar faces are exactly what you needed at that moment. Despite the pain and mental issues, you are still running strong, and now you are determined to finish that way.

The Last Part (Except For The Part(s) After The Last Part)
The mile 24 marker kind of rains on your little “finish strong” parade. You’re expecting to see that you’ve knocked more time out, or maybe, just maybe you’re even ahead of the game now. But it says 2:40:23. Hrm.

This was tough, because I was completely convinced I had sped up since mile 21 and was going significantly faster than my goal pace. I was working really, really hard at this point, and I did not have a whole lot left to give.

Hang on. Hang ON! You’re so close! Just be strong and finish it! On the edge, yes, but not falling apart. Past mile 25 now (FIVE LAPS!)… past that subtle left turn in the road…

You keep waiting to see the church. The church (so it’s been written) is what signals the imminent end of this race. And, like the museum at the end of Philly, it supposedly sneaks up on you. Looking for the church, looking, looking… and there’s the Capitol building off in the distance. But the capitol is like… past the end of the course. Isn’t it? Wait – maybe that’s not the capitol. Maybe that’s the church? You turn to look over your left shoulder and Oh, no… that’s the church!

It’s pretty obvious that my brain is scrambled eggs and toast.

Your head swivels back to the front and now, you can see the capitol, the 26 mile marker, and the finish line! Glancing at the watch again it’s at exactly 2:53.

Two minutes. I can make it there in two minutes.

The Marathon is a funny race. It beats the crap out of you physically and mentally. It takes you right to the edge. Then if you are lucky, it will nudge you over the edge and show you something amazing there. I was lucky this time. I got nudged. All of the pain vanished at this point and I had one purpose. Get to that finish line in two minutes! As I can now see from the data my watch collected, the finish line was about 1/3rd of a mile away at this point.

Time is going fast again. It doesn’t feel like two minutes. You’re at the finish line with your hands in the air. You eventually stop running, then stop your watch and take a look to see where you landed.

The Aftermath
This is the first time I’ve ever laughed at the end of a Marathon. I laughed and laughed, and someone handed me a medal, and I laughed some more. When the woman with the space blanket came over to me, she said “You seem like you had a good race!” Like a dork, I showed her my watch and said “That was my goal, right there!” And I started thanking her and all the other people who were handing me the post-race stuff.

Somewhere in there, I shed a few tears. Maybe it’s the first time I laughed at the end of a race, but it’s not the first time for the waterworks. I’m already kind of an emotional guy. Then I put myself into a situation where I’m mentally and physically exhausted, I just finished doing something I wasn’t completely convinced I could do… the faucet comes on.

I retrieved my dry bag and futzed with it for a couple minutes. I couldn’t get it open because my fingers were frozen, numb, and basically useless. Finally I used my teeth to rip a hole in the bag so I could get at my junk. I donned some warmer clothes, found my phone and tried to call Stephanie. I knew they were going to be out, so I left a message. Decided to try the other phone too, and left another message.

I saw Cam, Brent and Flashish then. (That’s not a typo, it’s his new nickname.) We all exchanged some congratulations and they went to grab their bags. I called coach Amy. She said we were rock stars, and told me my official time was 2:54:56! And then I started to choke up again.

The Bragging and Thanking Section
The stuff up there was fun and all, but I need to get my brag on. Of course, I also need to say the obvious thanks to my wife for putting up with this running thing once again and still supporting me (as usual), my coach for believing I could do this before I ever did (as usual), and the Team Rogue PM crew for allowing me to suffer alongside them through the steamy summer (we’re all unusual, so I won’t say “as usual”).  Did I mention Steve and Ruth? and GABE? Friendly spectators? Thank you!

You all can leave now. I’m just going to do my normal little victory lap and be done with this one.

Time: 2:54:56  (3:41 PR!)

Placing:
Everyone, 164 / 8852
Age group, 16 / 707

Official half splits:
First, 1:27:57
Second, 1:26:59 (that’s an unofficial half marathon PR!)

Geekometer Splits:
1.   6:56
2.   6:59
3.   6:38
4.   6:39
5.   6:44
6.   6:40
7.   6:39
8.   6:35
9.   6:36
10.   6:33
11.   6:31
12.   6:31
13.   6:37
14.   6:36
15.   6:31
16.   6:34
17.   6:39
18.   6:44
19.   6:39
20.   6:29 <- Gabe
21.   6:36
22.   6:46
23.   6:46
24.   6:30 <- Steve + Ruth
25.   6:42
26.   6:42
26.36 2:08 <- Me

A 2-second Story

by Allison Macsas (re-posted from her blog)

Last weekend I toed the line of the US Marathon Championships in Minneapolis, ready to race 26.2 for the first time in two years. First and foremost, I was there to run sub-2:43 to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials, a goal that I made known. I had other hopes too: I wanted to break 2:40, and I wanted to finish top 10. The combination of two years away from the distance, a very different sort of training scenario and the fact that I’ve never finished better than 24th at a US Champs race gave rise to a healthy dose of self-doubt and caused me to keep those thoughts largely under wraps.

In the end, the race was a big, big success, the result of a long journey and some new ways of doing things. Here is the story:

QUICK BACKGROUND

The 2012 Olympic Trials was the best race of my short-thus-far marathoning career. I had qualified with a 2:44, then had a spectacular day in Houston, running 2:40:47. Before that race, I had declared that it would be my grand finale, the end of professional racing and of my spot with RogueAC. I was too burnt out, too tired of balancing huge training weeks with full time work and coaching on top of that. Though I did leave the team, I knew the moment that I crossed the finish line that I wanted to be back in 2016; I just needed some time away.

Against my better judgment, I raced Philly that fall and fell apart at the end, the result of rookie mistakes and a summer of unenthused training. I really stepped away from road racing then; 2013 was all about enjoying my runs with Team Rogue, training for and running the Leadville 100 and then being injured (hello spin class!) after said race. I’ve run some lowkey half marathons since then, and knew I was really back and excited again when I hit a new PR in Vancouver this past May. I was ready to think about the marathon again. I chose Twin Cities mostly because of timing; I leave for Africa at the end of October and will be guiding trips, so I needed the race to be done beforehand. Plus, Minneapolis tends to be cold, and cold is my secret weapon.

THE TRAINING

My training was very, very different from anything I’ve done before. As you may know, I moved into an RV at the beginning of June and took off for a summer of working remotely, guiding trips and escaping the oppressive Austin heat. Steve Sisson, who has coached me for the better part of the past four years, agreed to write a loose schedule for me and serve as a sounding board as the summer progressed.

The workouts themselves were not too different from what I’ve done before. What was different was that I rarely had marked routes, so other than a few track workouts and one big race prep a month out, everything was effort-based with no hard numbers to analyze. Another big change was that I ran trail, a LOT. Like, 5 days a week, if not more. Trail running is something I’ve never been able to love in Austin for a variety of reasons (takes too long, requires driving to a trail head, bad falls on rocks, etc), but out on the road in the beautiful American West, I was HOOKED. While I felt sure that these trails were making me strong, and definitely more resilient, I couldn’t help but wonder if the drastically slower pace would hurt me on the road. But when I saw that I was running some of the fastest track workouts of my life, alone, at altitude, I stopped worrying so much.

Another change? Running late morning and midday. I’ve always run early mornings, and always believed that I feel best at that time, but I quickly found that with a flexible schedule and cool weather, 4-something (and 5-something) alarms were history. Sleeping 8-9 hours every night was a game-changer when it came to recovery and mood and mental focus.

I also had no routine to speak of, as we moved so frequently. Between June and the end of September, I found myself running in Angel Fire NM, Durango & Colorado Springs CO, Moab UT, Ely NV, Soda Springs, Truckee & Lake Tahoe CA, Crater Lake, Bend OR, Kelso, Seattle & Bellingham WA, Vancouver, Coeur d’alene ID, Whitefish, Bozeman & West Yellowstone MO, Jackson WY and Denton TX. I rarely knew exactly where I’d be going when I walked out the door, a big change for someone that’s always been a bit of a control freak about when and where I get my mileage in. And of course, I didn’t have a crew, or anyone at all, to train with. I only had myself to meet for workouts, and only had myself to push through the hard parts.

All in all, I felt strong and fit going into the race, but there were a lot of unknowns in play.

PRE-RACE

We’d been staying at my dad’s house for a few days, and had the RV parked outside. On Thursday I went out to begin packing, starting with the most important part: shoes. I’ve been supported by Skechers Performance since the spring, and had a lightly used pair of GoRuns that I’d been saving for the race. I opened the closet and found…one shoe. So I dug everything out of the closet, then from the storage compartment under the bed, then from the storage compartments under the RV; I found tons of running shoes, but not THE shoe. Eventually I had to accept that it was gone and that my only option was to race in a very old, very trashed pair of the same shoes. I threw them into the bag, and crossed my fingers.

I had an easy flight in from Dallas, and was so happy to be back to fall colors and cold, gray weather. That afternoon I met up with former teammates Scott and Jeff for a (fast!) shakeout run followed by dinner with their families. Saturday was all about killing time. A morning run with the guys and Alli, organizing water bottles for drop off and one of those elite technical meetings that never fail to put butterflies in my stomach as I size up the field of very fast-looking people. The afternoon dragged; I finished a book, organized my gear, and even did some design work to pass the time and take my mind off of the race.

Finally it was late enough for dinner. We all met up with Steve and Ruth and headed to a brewery where I spent the whole time fighting nerves and half-wishing I was one of the relaxed, beer-drinking spectators. But, overall the energy was good and the nerves weren’t overwhelming; I was just ready to go get this thing done. Finally it was an acceptable bedtime, and go time was near.

RACE MORNING

The alarm went off at 5. My roommate and I made our respective breakfasts, grabbed coffee from upstairs, got dressed and boarded a bus at 6. We were taken to a hotel next to the start where we had a big ,warm ballroom to wait in. I wished Alli good luck in the 10 miler, then sat on the floor with Scott and Jeff and continued to kill time. Eventually the three of us went outside to run a few laps around the building; It was very cold and overcast, and I wondered if I should wear arm warmers before remembering that I didn’t bring any. A singlet, gloves and very old shoes it was! At 7:30 we began the procession to the starting line; by the time we got there it was time to strip down, put our bags in the back of a truck and line up. I didn’t get a chance to do any of my normal warm up drills, but for some reason it didn’t bother me. I did one stride and felt fast. I was ready to go.

THE RACE

The gun went off, and the crowd surged forward. I knew the pace would be fast at first, due to starting line excitement and the cold temps, but I restrained any urge to go after the flood of girls ahead of me – it’s a long race. I wanted to go out around 6:10-15, settle in at 6:05 and try to get faster at the end. The first mile came in at 5:58; too fast, but not dangerously so. I backed off a bit, relaxed, settled in.

Somewhere within the second mile I found myself next to Ruth Perkins, whom I’d met at a half marathon in Seattle last month. We knew that we had similar goals, and she suggested that we work together. I always find myself alone in races, to the point that I’m convinced I must be subconsciously separating myself on purpose. The only time I’ve ever teamed up and worked with others in a race was at the Trials, and that was of course my best race, so I agreed to give it a shot.

We decided that we’d take turns leading a mile at a time, and quickly settled into a rhythm. She was running a bit more aggressively than I’d planned to do so early on, hitting 6-6:05 for her miles, and I was running a bit more conservatively than she had been planning on, hitting 6:05-10 for mine. Our averages were coming out perfectly though, the rhythm was good and it was so nice to have someone to trade encouraging words with.

The miles were flying by; I saw Steve a number of times, and around mile 10 he told me that Ruth and I were in 10th and 11th place. Really?!? I felt like a ton of girls had gone out ahead, and I really didn’t believe that I could be that far up in the field. It provided a good boost, and we kept on. A number of guys came in and out of our little group as we went along. At times it was a bit too much of a crowd for me and I had to fight the urge to just break away and claim some space, as I knew that it was helping to run with others.

10632761_866134283420033_893951132770705449_nSomewhere after the half marathon point we came up on another woman and passed her; now we were 9th and 10th. The pace remained steady, we were able to grab our water bottles with no issues and I felt very, very strong as we approached and passed mile 18, then 19. I knew there was a three mile climb ahead, but I wasn’t worried. Mile 20 came along, and the climbing soon began. It wasn’t steep at all, but it was certainly noticeable. We passed more girls, some of them passed back; I switched between 6th and 9th place quite a bit, but was able to continue pushing and run more aggressively than I’d expected.

I saw Steve a final time at mile 22, and that was about the time that the marathon decided to show me who was boss. That too-familiar feeling of numb legs and desperate thoughts set in; it was like a switch flipped and I instantly went from heroic strength to wondering if I could make it to the 23 mile marker. I’d lost contact with Ruth – she was behind me, but I didn’t know where – and any concept of paces or splits. I took a deep breath and told myself to calm down, it’s just running, keep going. One foot in front of the other.

Scott had made it sound like we’d hit mile 23 and then it’d be a downhill homestretch, but that was far from reality. There were some down hill stretches for sure, but also an uphill to go with each one! I silently cursed the climbs, the happy comfortable people on the sidelines and Scott for those false hopes, but kept moving forward. Two girls blew by me, putting me into 8th place. I sternly told myself not to lose a top-10 finish. The Sharpie splits on my arm were still visible, and as I passed mile 25 I knew that I had my qualifier in the bag by at least 2 minutes, though I wasn’t so hopeful for a PR anymore. 1.2 miles seemed almost insurmountable at that point, but I’ve been there before and always made it through; it was time to shut my brain off and go.

At mile 26, I saw 2:38:xx on my watch. My brain had truly shut off, and I could not figure out for the life of me how long it would take to run .2 miles. 30 seconds? 3 minutes? No clue. Luckily, the finish line was visible – and down a hill – at this point, and the sight of a finish line can bring out superpowers. I ran as hard as I possibly could, half convinced that I was going to fall onto my face. Soon the finish line clock was visible, 2:39:50 and ticking forward quickly. I gave one last push, and saw 2:39:58 as I crossed, convinced from past experience that the official time would be several seconds slower.

POST-RACE

10653421_726424947425699_6493222970184888746_nI stumbled through the chute, hardly believing that it was over, and luckily had a volunteer lead me to the elite tent where I first found Scott’s dad, then Scott himself and Alli. I learned that Scott nabbed a top 10 finish, Alli won the 10 miler and then, via a text from Steve, that I’d done it! 2:39:58 officially!! Sub-2:40, 8th place at a US Champs race and of course, an Olympic Trials qualifier.

I looked for Ruth but never saw her, and worried that she’d fallen apart at the end. But, I soon saw that the exact opposite had happened – she finished just four seconds behind me, in 9th place with a nearly 4 minute PR! Teamwork indeed.

The rest of the day was pure, exhausted contentment. We veeeery slowly shuffled a mile back to the hotel, where I showered, packed up and went through a deluge of congratulatory texts and Facebook posts. I marveled at how my feet were in near-perfect shape despite the pair of old, tread-less shoes that I’d raced in. Skechers FTW! I joined a big group of Austinites for brunch nearby, where I had little interest in food but lots of interest in beer. Although we were the only people there, the service was mind-blowingly slow and I seriously contemplated lying on the floor for a short nap.

After that it was already time to move to the Happy Gnome, where a Rogue-wide party was happening. It was wonderful: food, drink and a ton of great people that I hadn’t seen since May, all of whom had fantastic races! Eventually I had to leave for the airport where I boarded one of the most uncomfortable flights ever (note to self: never, ever leave the same day you race), but not even that could wipe the smile off of my face.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Could I have finished stronger and faster? I think so, had I stuck to my start-conservatively plan a bit better. Do I regret how I ran? Absolutely not. My big goal and my secret goals were all accomplished and I now know for sure that I’m back in the game. I know that taking two years away was a smart decision. I know that doing things differently can yield great results. I know that not only is it possible to mix competitive running with this unstructured, nomadic lifestyle, but that I’m actually better for it. Most importantly, I’m excited about all of it, and excitement is key to success, whatever the endeavor.

A Taper Madness Flowchart

A race report from magical and exotic Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Part 1

by Mandy Deen

Screen shot 2014-09-08 at 6.23.00 PM

Get it guys? Guys, guys, do you get it? IT”S A TAPIR!!!

But seriously. The flowchart.

Should I go run?

Down_Arrow_Icon

I don’t HAVE to, tapering is about rest, right? I can’t gain any fitness here.

Down_Arrow_Icon

Maybe I really should go run, I haven’t been running much at all lately.

Down_Arrow_Icon

You can’t seem to motivate yourself to run lately, I bet there’s something really wrong with your head. And you don’t want your body to get TOO relaxed before the race.

Down_Arrow_Icon

No, You need more sleep, everything feels really draggy, and there’s no way you can sustain MGP for 8 miles much less 26.2 if you feel this way in a week!Stay in. Don’t run.

Down_Arrow_Icon

Holy crap, you’re probably completely losing your ability to motivate yourself to go run, I bet you never have a consistent training program again and in fact stop running all together, but only due to incredible mental weakness. You big weakling!!!!

Down_Arrow_Icon

Untitled1

…but I mean, I don’t feel too bad about these crazy thoughts and emotions, we all have them during a taper, right? Right?? RIGHT??? Just me?

That’s all for now, Part 2, The Pre-Race, to follow.

The Rogue Map of Austin

by Mandy Deen

We’ve all seen them, the hilarious google maps of a city, with quirky/snarky descriptive names written over neighborhood locations. Things like “Mall Zombies” and “Ex-Frat High-Rises” and other, much less PC things.

So, I had an idea.

SOUTHWEST AUSTIN:

   swaustinrogue(1)

NORTHWEST AUSTIN:

NW

RUN FROM HELL:

rfh

EASTSIDE:

eastside

Im sure I’ve left out a lot, despite being quite scientific about it. But it’s the best I could do.

Cheers!

-Mandy