Converting a Prius into a Mustang

Ford-Shelby-Mustang-GT500-Coupe_6 by Steve Sisson

You may not know it yet, but you are ready to fly. You’ve nearly completed Rogue’s training program for a marathon, and with some simple training tweaks you can CRUSH your old 10K PR. I am going to convince you that you’d be a fool not to take the huge gains you’ve earned over months of arduous training and capitalize on them in the Capitol 10,000 in April. Below is an argument for why a few more months of focused training can result not only in a huge 10K PR, but will also set you up for your next marathon performance.

Perfect Transition
What many beginner and intermediate runners do not realize is that the training for the marathon is an ideal foundation for faster running at shorter distances. The physiological adaptations that have been developed from the long runs, threshold runs and longer intervals you completed in the fall and winter have your body primed to strike like a cobra. Essentially, you have built a huge base with marathon training that has developed your cardiovascular system into a powerful, yet highly efficient engine. Exercise physiologists will explain in all the increases you’ve developed (mitochondria, capillarization, stroke volume, blah, blah, blah.) from a scientific point of view but I’ll just explain it to you in a simple analogy: you’ve developed the engine of a souped-up Toyota Prius but can convert that efficiency, with a little tweaking, into a Ford Mustang’s muscular power and speed. How, you ask? Well let’s give you a little preview of what an  eight week 10K program will do to help your transition.

Convert the Fuel System & Tweak the Chassis

The two most important differences between racing a marathon and a 10K are distance and pace. While this will seem obvious, what might not be apparent is what is happening in your body and how a training program should address these differences. When training for a marathon you are attempting to teach your body to use your fuel as efficiently as possible for the inevitable wall of low muscle glycogen and low blood sugar that hits late in the race. In the 10K, you aren’t in any danger of running out of fuel; instead, your body runs out of enough oxygen to use the fuel your body has available. Of course, the science is a bit more complicated and I am vastly simplifying for the sake of brevity, but the key distinction is that in the marathon you train aerobically and in the 10K you need to train anaerobically.

While this requires that you train to convert your fuel system to handling the new demands, it is also essential to prepare the body for the faster paces that you will be running in the 10K. Most people will race their 10K at between 40-45 seconds per mile faster than their marathon pace. The neuromuscular system need to be prepared for the greater power needed to initiate and sustain these paces. So training for the 10K means you need to tweak your body’s chassis to handling this different demand. The workouts you’ll be challenged with in the 10K program will be designed to teach your body to run faster and with greater ease anaerobically and to handle the load of running these faster paces.

One of the additional benefits of training these different systems is that, in gaining this greater facility, your body becomes more economical at marathon paces. For example, in adjusting two of my Team Rogue Dawn Patrol athletes’ (Bryan Morton and Marc Bergman) training over the last 18 months to move away from marathon specific training and toward 10K and half marathon focused training, they were able to run significant PR’s at the 3M Half Marathon. More importantly, I am confident that they will also run very well at the Boston Marathon in April now that we’ve transitioned back to marathon training. Keep an eye on their results to see how this plays out in reality.

Seize the 10K

So, are you ready to fly? You’ve already created the opportunity for a huge personal best in one of Austin’s iconic races. The marathon training you have suffered through and are getting ready to reap the rewards of on February 19th is the ideal springboard to an epic result at the Capitol 10,000 two months later. Join us for our 8-week training program and and convert that Prius into a Mustang.

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Steve Sisson is a beer connoisseur (read: snob), coach of Team Rogue: Dawn Patrol and the founder of Rogue Running. To pick his brain on all things running, drop him a line at stevesisson@roguerunning.com or stop by the Fuel Bar on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday night.

An Arbitrary Endpoint

by Bill Durbin, re-posted from his blog, Left Right Repeat (Again)

Well it’s 2015 (stating the obvious). It has been for almost a day now.

About this time, a lot of people like to look back and reflect on the past year and look ahead to the coming one. Some years I do that, and some years I just… don’t. Maybe there’s some other event in the year that makes me take stock and make the same kinds of observations… maybe I just get lazy. I’m going to do a half-assed job of it this time, because I had a nice chilly, damp run today with plenty of time to think about this stuff. But I’ve forgotten most of it in the meantime.

As far as this running thing goes, 2014 was a pretty good year. I ran a lot of races (for me) this year. Seven, if I don’t count relays and “fun run” events  – eleven, if I do. Among those seven, I set a personal record at every distance I raced – 5k, 10k, 10 mile, 1/2 marathon, and marathon. That’s a lot of really good races. I also had a really crappy 10k and a fairly poor 1/2 marathon early in the year, but we’ll forget about them for now.

Why was this year so good? I can point to some of the easy things – my training has been different, more miles, better quality work. I ran more miles between May and December than I’ve ever run in a full year. I could get all introspective and talk about finding my motivation and listening to my body and whatnot. I could point at the race-day conditions and say I just got lucky for every single race this year.

But at the root of it all, it’s people (not in a Soylent Green way). It’s the team. I have this awesome group of friends to meet with several times a week, and a great coach who invests in us and really cares about our success. They are the ones who make me look forward to waking up long before the buttcrack of dawn every Saturday to go run an uncomfortable number of miles. They’re the ones that motivate me to show up two nights during the week to run yet more miles at uncomfortable speeds. And on those cold, wet days where I am dragging my feet, I am fortunate enough to have a supportive spouse who is more than happy to kick me out of the house so I have to run around for an hour and a half to just stay warm. I can’t credit any of these people for race-day weather, but the motivation, accountability, and friendship (and of course, the happy office snacks) that they provide are what enables the miles, the quality workouts, the consistency. They are the real reason 2014 was a great year for running.

2015 is still a big unknown, but at least I seem to be starting the year off right.

NEW TO ROGUE Q&A

by Mandy Deen

Q: Where should I park at Rogue!?

A: I dunno, but for sure not across the street in the parking garage at Tacos y Tequila. They’ve sent letters.

Q: I want to be super cool and ride my bike to Rogue. Where I can park my bike?

A: I dunno that either, but for sure not on the handicapped parking spot sign post unless you’ve had prior approval from Dee. And don’t worry, you’ll know if you have her approval.

Q: I don’t have a running background. What are “quality workouts” and should I be scared?

A: It’ll all be explained by your coach. Save your fear for real things, like spiders or the lingering ambiguity about what you’re really doing with your life and whether everything is going to be okay after all (WHAT IF ITS NOT?!?)

Q: What’s the worst workout?

A: Yassos. Anything on the track kind of blows. Unless you like that flat and boring kind of thing. But it’s okay, we all have our faults.

Q: It’s raining and 50 degrees outside. Do I have to go run?

A: Cold rainy run = whiskey tea after! Unless it’s storming, then no, don’t go run. Safety first. Tree branches could fall on you! But be warned: at least five people in your group will go run in the storm anyway and post about it on Facebook later. So.

Q: What’s happening to my toenails?

A: Yep.

Q: Who are all those people on Saturday mornings!? Where do they come from? I’m not a social butterfly, I feel awkward, what do I do?!

A: Middle school awkward turtle playbook:

1) make a beeline for the map wall.

2) find a quiet corner and stare at your map whilst covertly scanning the room for someone you know from your group.

3) join a friendship circle for 16+ miles of complaining and delirious humor. Problem solved.

A2: OR you could do something mature and sign up for water stop duty now and again to interact with everyone and alleviate your social anxiety that way. Rogue also pays well for this.

Q: But I AM a social butterfly and I enjoy the energy of running and talking in a large group very early in the morning!

A: Please do not run up directly behind me and camp out there for five miles. #personalspacebubble

Q: On long runs, when I come into a water stop, I have noticed that some people will get a cup of water and then stand right in front of the cooler to drink it while everyone waits behind them. Is that a thing?

A: Nope. they’re doing it wrong. #waterstopetiquette

Q: What is ‘core class’ and should I go to it?

A: If you aren’t crossfitting or triathleting or yoga-ing or playing sand volleyball 3 times a week or commuting via kayak, then yes, you probably should. The main thing I hear about from people who attend is how sore they are the next day!

Q: What is that statue thing in the parking lot at Rogue?

A: It’s the petrified remains of a Rogue who happened to get caught by a basilisk. Next question.

Q: Who are those people that are always loud and drinking after workouts on Tuesday nights?

A: That’s Team Rogue, PM, Night Time is the Right Time. I would like to apologize in advance.

Q: Is it acceptable to sing during workouts?

A: Singing during workouts brings joy and amusement to the teammates around you during 100 degree evenings. It is considered a public service. Enthusiasm is valued over vocal skill.

Q: When’s the best time on a run or workout to ask involved philosophical questions?

A: Juuuuuuuuuust before a big hill.

Q: My _____ kind of hurts. Should I ignore it?

A: Probably not. You should email your coach immediately and use many superlatives. It’s better to find out you just need new shoes than to tough it out and end up with a stress fracture and 6 weeks in a boot.

Q: I just got a GPS watch for Christmas!

A: Congratulations! From now on, if you don’t wear it and log every single run on Strava and Facebook, it’s like it didn’t even happen. Also be sure to comment about your pace on each and every post! Otherwise people might not realize it was just “easy run pace” for you and think you’re actually some kind of slowbie. Also, if you happen to get a Strava Course Record somewhere in Austin, it just means Rogue AC hasn’t done a workout there yet. But they will. Eventually.

Q: Should I run the Austin Marathon?!

A: You live here, you know how these hills are! You decide. But, you should at least find a spot on the route with your other teammates and cheer everyone on. Those poor souls are gonna need it.

Q: Are people in my group secretly being competitive during workouts?

A: Hmmmmm. Maybe some of them. But don’t let it put you off, some people are just built that way! As the French say: “ne t’en fait pas” (don’t make any bile about it).

Q: I have questions about quality craft beers, good restaurants, or fancy kinds of baking recipes.

A: Great!! Someone on your team has the answers to those questions! Make use of your brain trust.

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Mandy Deen has run with Rogue since deciding to take on the Dallas Marathon in 2012. She is currently a proud member of Team Rogue PM, a professional librarian and is also the author of The Rundown’s most popular 2014 post, The Rogue Map of Austin.

The Day I Fell in Love with Cross Country

by Chris McClung

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I wish I were brave enough to let this photo stand on its own to tell the story. It so perfectly captures the essence of a powerful weekend at the USATF National Club Cross-Country Championships in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on December 13th. I have struggled to find a word or words to explain what the weekend meant to me, but when I look at this picture, I see it clearly. This picture whispers the messages of the weekend softly with each of its 1,000 words. I want to try and put those words on paper for you, though I will probably need a lot more.

In most of its 17-year history, Club Cross-Country Nationals (Club XC) has been the THE national cross-country team competition in the US beyond the high school or college level. It’s the only place where adults in historic running clubs like the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) get to face off on a level playing field with the Central Park Track Club from New York and the Bowerman Track Club from Portland along with dozens of other clubs from across the US. It’s a place where the elite or sub-elite runner can practice racing to build strength and fitness in the long off-season between outdoor and indoor track seasons. It’s a weekend with a cult following among cross-country geeks who might not be as fast at the elites but can’t help but put on the spikes for one weekend a year for love of the sport. It’s a place where everyday runners like me can line up on the same starting line as Olympians because your speed isn’t what matters at the gun, just your willingness and courage (or naivety) to toe the line.

I first learned about Club XC in 2010 when Steve began using it as a winter training tool for Rogue Athletic Club (RAC). I have followed the race since then if only to cheer on the men and women sporting the Rogue crown at the starting line. The RAC women have made a name for themselves at the meet, finishing on the team podium twice in 4 years (1st in 2011 and 3rd in 2014) and just off the podium in 4th place in the other two years. Perhaps most famous in the Club XC world, however, are Rogue masters running goddesses Chris Kimbrough and Carmen Troncoso. Chris was known in the Club XC world well before her Cap10k victory or Beer Mile World Record. She won the masters race in 2011 and this year as well (more on that later). For her part, Carmen is Club XC royalty. She won the masters race in 2008 at the age of 49 and has gone on to finish first in her age group of 50+ ladies in each of the last 6 years. “Watching” and cheering from afar has made me a fan of the weekend with a desire to get there to see it in person some day.

That day came this year when Steve (my coach) decided to have a group of us take a break from the rigors of marathon training cycles and focus on a season of speed. We would work on our weaknesses with the hopes of building to fast 10ks on the road and grass, capping our season at Club XC a few weekends ago. And what a weekend it was!

Back to the photo from the top: it captures an unscripted moment at the end of the day, when a group of us (RAC and TeamRogue athletes) were cooling down after all of the races were complete. We didn’t know the picture was taken until a few days later when a friend shared it with us. What you see in our faces and smiles that won’t be controlled is pure joy – the joy of running, the joy of doing it together as a Rogue family, and the joy of racing in its purest form on the grass and mud of an historic cross-country course at Lehigh University.

This joy and spirit was pervasive throughout the event as runners and fans gathered to celebrate the essence and purity of running for an afternoon in beautiful (and cold!), rural Pennsylvania. There were no mile markers or pace groups or water stops or bands on the course or medals at the end, just running and racing and teammates supporting each other. Now, that’s not to take anything away from the spectacle of a road race or marathon. All of those extras are fun and cool and bring energy to our sport in a different way, but it was very refreshing to see all of that stripped away and find our sport alive and well in its simplest form.

Some of my favorite moments:

Watching Chris Kimbrough, Carmen Henkiel, and Cassie Troncoso of Rogue Team Tronky win the Women’s Masters race. The weekend consists of four distinct races: open men (10k), open women (6k), masters men (10k) and masters women (6k), each with its own start. The fields in all four are usually competitive, but this year they were downright stacked with record turnout in every race. IMG_2248

The Women’s Masters race was never in doubt. The photo above was taken seconds after the start. If you look closely in the middle, you can see the lone figure of Chris Kimbrough with a 3-4 meter lead already. That was the closest anyone would come to her throughout the race. Like herds of cattle, fans (and runners racing later) moved around the loop course in groups to see the race as many times as possible. By 1000 meters, the gap was 30 meters, and it would stretch to 80 meters by the end of the race as Chris won going away with Cassie and Carmen to follow in 13th and 21st place, securing the team win. In the day and age of doping where you can’t trust the best of the elite athletes as heroes, I saw 3 women emerge as heroes more worthy to follow, support and cheer for. It was so inspiring to watch them all race with such fearlessness. I felt the same cheering on the Rogue AC ladies as they all ran strong races to finish third in the women’s open team race.

Cheering on the last place Male Masters runner. The 80-year-old Elliott Denman finished last place in his race, over 1 hour slower than the first place runner. He was still on course as everyone prepped before the start of the Women’s Open race. With the course looping back on itself, he was center of attention for a moment when everyone stopped their buzz of activity and preparation to cheer him loudly on as he ran by. At the time, we didn’t know that Elliott is a former Olympian from 1956, but as was so true throughout the day, it wouldn’t have mattered. This is/was the people’s race. Anyone can enter and line up, and though competitive, your time or speed only mattered on the results sheet. What mattered most was being there, supporting each other and, though it sounds cliché, simply giving your best, whatever your best was on that day. I am sure Elliott, as a former Olympian, is no stranger to that, and it was a special honor to cheer for him that day.

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My race experience. On paper, I got my butt kicked, finishing 485th out of 572 runners in the final results. But, this race was simultaneously the hardest and coolest and perhaps most fun experience I’ve had in running shoes (spikes). As someone who didn’t run XC growing up, this was only my second cross race, and I didn’t really know what to expect. The start itself was mind blowing. Instead of being seeded by pace from front to back, the cross-country start line is the most democratic in running. In XC, everyone lines up shoulder to shoulder on the same starting line. That makes the start line as wide for XC as it might be deep for a typical road race. Lined up a few meters to my right was 5K Olympian Matt Tegenkamp and between us a guy that would finish 2nd to last in the race.

When the gun went off, nearly 600 runners sprinted forward, jostling for seeding and positioning as the course gradually narrowed from a 100 meter wide start line to a 10 meter swath of grass about 800 meters ahead. I started right next to three other Team Rogue teammates who got out faster, and within seconds, I was separated from them by a sea of other runners closing in on us from the left and right. You could see nothing but bodies bobbing up and down between the lead pack of runners and myself. After 800 meters as the course looped around to the left, I looked over to see a snaking line of men stretched out like a creature with a mind of its own.

Per Steve’s instructions, I relaxed and settled into rhythm in the first 3000 meters (of 10K) and then, to use his pre-race words, began “goat-roping,” catching and passing about 50 runners in the latter parts of the race (including the guy in front of me in that photo!). I ran hard and went into a deep and dark pain cave as the legs grew tired from 10K of grass and mud on rolling terrain. There were certainly things that I could have done better. The time wasn’t fast, and my place isn’t impressive, but it doesn’t matter, I did what you do in cross-country… I raced. I raced and passed as many as I could until the final steps to the line, and even in the pain, I loved every minute of it.

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That’s what we all did. We ran. We raced. We cheered. We smiled. We laughed. We found joy in our sport. We did it together. But, I didn’t have to tell you that… the picture said it all. I can’t wait to do it again.

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Screen shot 2013-06-24 at 2.46.38 PMChris McClung heads up all things retail at Rogue Running, and coaches The Morning Show, a group for half marathoners and marathoners alike.

Chicago 2014: The time you want, and the time you get

by Minh Duong

Warning: The following race report contains a photo of a nasty, bloody foot at the bottom.  Do not scroll down all the way if you are squeamish. You have been warned.

First, let me start with the thanks.   Thanks to Team Rogue PM and coach Amy for a memorable, hot summer season. No, I’m not bringing frozen grapes this weekend, Brent. And thanks to Emily and her family for putting up with some crazy runners for the weekend.

Here were my splits:

Distance     Time       Split     Pace       Overall
5k              23:25      23:25    7:33         7:33
10k            45:37      22:12    7:09         7:21
15k         1:08:17      22:40    7:18         7:20
20k         1:31:38      22:39    7:18         7:23
Half         1:36:32        4:54    7:07         7:22
25k         1:54:31      22:53    7:22         7:23
30k         2:17:53      23:22    7:32         7:24
35k         2:47:12      29:29    9:30         7:42
40k         3:18:42      31:30  10:09         7:58
Finish      3:30:10      11:28    8:11         8:01

Chicago was a much larger race than my previous ones.  Most of it went by in a blur but I do remember Boystown, Greektown, Pilsen, and Chinatown. I especially remember Boys-town as there was a stage show during the marathon.  Sorry to the performers, but I was too busy to stop by and see it.

Running wise, Chicago wasn’t my race.  Looking at the splits, I ran the first 5k at my intended pace as thousands of runners around charged out of the gate. I definitely made a mistake the second 5k and ran too fast.  I settled in for the next 10k.  After the half I started slowing down a bit as my left pinky toe started to hurt.  That, and I was trying to work through a side stitch that lasted until mile 16.

Around mile 18 my legs didn’t feel right and it felt like I was getting micro-spasms. Sure enough, by mile 18, I was getting Charley Horses but I kept walking/running through them. By 22, I got groin cramps which made walking difficult as it was hard to bend my leg forward.

By this time I was in Chinatown and there are two things to note:

1) More than once, a Chinese person was calmly cheering and was taken aback when they saw me, then they started cheering loudly and pointing me out to everyone around them.  Apparently not many Chinese people run marathons.

2) As I was hobbling through Chinatown, I was getting all sorts of encouragement.  In Chinese. So I had to keep going or I would shame the ancestors!

Around mile 23, I was able to start running again, albeit slowly.  Here I saw a fabled marathon myth: A runner passed by and had sh*t all over his backside. Best case scenario is that he fell in a porta-potty. I was able to finish the last 3 running for most of the way.

After the race, my pinky toe was really hurting.  I removed my shoe and sock and there was a massive blood blister. My main concern was it might pop. With the Ebola scare, I didn’t want people to freak out if my shoe was bleeding.

So I went to Medical.  There were only a few people in Podiatry so they saw me right away. There were at least 4 people working on me, one getting me food and water,  and 10 others just staring at my foot. Maybe it was because it wasn’t busy, or maybe that toe was really something to see. “Pst. Look at that freaky toe. My God, it’s hideous!” In retrospect I didn’t realize until I left the tent that everyone working on me was an attractive female. I should have asked them to frond me and feed me grapes.

The last thing I want to discuss is will and attitude. Someone asked me recently why I didn’t stop and quit because of everything that happened, but quitting never crossed my mind as an option. It sounds weird to someone who doesn’t run that I was “only” 6 miles from the finish. Finishing was always the plan.  The only difference was the time I wanted and the time I got.

The other thing I also hear is that people tell me that they can “never” run a marathon.  As I passed a blind runner during the race, I am reminded that anyone can finish a marathon given the right training. The only difference is the time they’ll get and the time they want.

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My God, it's hideous!

My God, it’s hideous!

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

Lifecycle of an Injury

by Mandy Deen

Sometimes, when I’m out on a weekday run, I will notice a slight niggling issue crop up. I generally try and dismiss it from my mind, because lots of times after hard workouts, or higher mileage weeks, or tripping on the stairs at work in front of people, parts of your legs/body might feel twingy or different. It happens to everyone, and it’s just a part of the process. I generally try to refocus back on the Taylor Swift lyrics I’ve been re-writing/improving in my head for the past 2 miles and ignore it. Unless of course it’s one of the days where this issue keeps niggling and my level of sleep-deprivation anxiety is topped only by the humidity and temperature outside, and then I might have to conduct a series of calculations:

a) Where am I in my training program? Am I in the middle of a mileage ramp? Or is it a down week?

b) where am I in my neighborhood? How humiliating of a last x number of miles back is the walk? Do I still have water in my handheld? And if I short this run is it something I can make up or do I have to tell my coach/teammates about it?

c) what if something is REALLY wrong with me?!!?!? are there people around who will notice if I fall over? WHAT IF ITS A PULMINARY EMBOLISIM?????

By calmly taking stock of the situation I can usually be relied on to do the right thing and…just obsessively worry about it for the rest of my run.

Later I will consult one or two teammates about the issue, and they will either be very calming, and rational and suggest common courses of treatment, or they will confirm that it’s probably a goiter and then tell me to youtube goiters. And then tell me to NEVER YOUTUBE GOITERS. I still haven’t to this day, so you do what you want with this information. Send complaints care of Anna McGarity.

If the problem has not abated when I get up in the morning, I will then probably immediately jump to the worst possible conclusion and fire off a dramatic email to my coach containing everything little detail of this problem that I have thought about thus far and many phrases like: “I have broken myself!!!” and “this is all over, isn’t!?!” and the always applicable “BLERGPOCALYPSE!!!!!” Generally Coach Amy will respond very calmly, asking for further details and then giving a well-informed opinion that I just need to go easy/roll it out/take some ibuprofen.

However, occasionally the niggling issue is discovered to be something of consequence. This has only occurred once or twice in my running history, and each time it was like I had never been sick or injured before. The most significant time involved a diagnosis of a possible labrum tear in my hip and a month or two of physical therapy. There are certain things you realize, and then forget, and then re-realize every time you’re sidelined with injury.

There is NOTHING worse than having to argue with yourself about getting out the door and into a medium long run in 100 degree heat after an 8 hour work day, other than suddenly NOT being allowed to get out the door into a medium length long run in 100 degree heat after an 8 hour work day. Every single runner, cyclist, roller blader, or dog walker out on the sidewalks around 6pm is pretty much openly mocking you, especially because you’ll probably NEVER be able to run again.

Medicine is not an exact science.   I don’t mean this in a “Dr.” Leo Spaceman “we have no way of knowing where the heart is. See, every human is different” way. I mean that after several consultations and realizing how terrible I am at describing pain and symptoms, it is very likely that the medical professionals will simply begin running tests to rule out possible ailments. This also means that for a little while I won’t have a clear idea of exactly what is wrong with me, which as a big-picture type-A person, I will seek to establish a sense of control over the situation my researching the possibilities myself.

As a professional librarian, my access to academic and medical journals is far greater than the little voice in my head that says “you’re only going to scare yourself.” Think WebMD on steroids. Soon I will probably have located a general overview of one of the few conditions I have narrowed my symptoms down to, and I will be reviewing the diagrams of the surgery I probably need, and frantically searching for full-recovery percentages. This predictably will lead to another series of coach emails, and a general sinking feeling that I didn’t realize my last run was really the LAST run of my life while it was happening.

Physical therapy and injury recovery is very likely not a straight line and more like a nebulous cloud of confusing and ambiguous sensations that could seem to be progress but might still be signs of brokeness, depending on how much I’ve over-thought them. Also at a certain point I will have forgotten what normal feels like, which further complicates my understanding of my recovery.

Aquajogging always feels really dumb, and NEVER feels like the workout the internet says it actually is (I’m probably doing it wrong). Also, the little old ladies who run the pool in the early morning always want to share a lane with the aquajogger, and the fancy Ironman triathlete guys never do. And despite my best efforts, my calf muscles will deteriorate at an alarming and depressing rate.

When you’re not running 6 days a week, it is actually hard to remember to shower. This is proven, Mom, not just my inattention to details.

Physical therapy is complicated and my amateur attempts to both understand (I have a Masters of Science in Information Studies! That probably means I can understand REAL science things!) and therefore control my treatment leads to even more emails with my PT who through great personal willpower, restrains her likely exasperation with my clumsy meddling and simple analogies, and responds with enough information to make me quit obsessing, but not enough information that I get even more confused about what’s going on. At least until I start thinking about it again.

Eventually, I know I’ll end up harness jogging on a treadmill. My inherent level of embarrassment in PT (or in anything) always starts out pretty high, like right up there with being made to do step aerobics in middle school athletics during off-season. (THERE’S NOWHERE TO HIDE, EVERYONE CAN SEE.) When it comes time for the harness jogging it is indeed as uncomfortable, bulky and idiotic as it sounds, BUT this is generally the last step before I’m released back onto my own recognizance, which is enough to make it a sought-after experience.

Generally, despite my darkest fears and visions of a run-less future, my body does manages to heal itself, or at least reconstitute itself into a form that allows further training and running. After a few weeks, I will have completely forgotten about how I almost didn’t ever get to run again and resume taking running for granted.

But until then, I have some histrionic emails to send. Thank you.