EnduroPacks Nutrition/Supplement Review

Over the past year I’ve placed a larger focus on everything that goes into my training regimen; weekly mileage volume, recovery, rolling out, nutrition, etc. Along the way I’ve recognized that each component will truly affect the next and you can’t skimp/skip any one of them.

When it comes to nutrition I’ve never been an athlete to take in vitamins, supplements or anything of that nature. Not because I was against it in any way. I simply didn’t know what to take and was getting by just fine with what I’d been doing thus far. In a way my nutrition plan is pretty basic; eat healthy/organic foods from the exterior of a grocery store, cook as much as I can so I know what I’m putting in my body, don’t fret too much about the cheat days and drink as much water as I can. And that’s worked pretty well.

However, as I bumped up my weekly volume to 100miles over the past 8+ months I’ve noticed it takes me a little longer to recover from workouts/races. That heavy feeling in my legs lingers for a tad longer than it did when I was averaging 20-25% less miles the year prior. This is what sort of kicked off my curiosity in what other endurance athletes were doing to speed up recovery. You know, beyond the ice baths, rolling out, massages, etc. Was there something else?

I consider myself lucky to be surrounded by a phenomenal community of athletes, doctors, physicians, dietitians/nutritionists, etc. down in Austin. All of which I’ve leaned on quite a bit throughout the past years. This past November I was introduced to EnduroPacks by one of my Skechers teammates and Team Rogue training partners, Gray Skinner. He’s been leveraging their suite of nutritional products and swore by their benefits in speeding recovery and keeping him hydrated as a multi-sport athlete. Naturally I wanted in on it.

EnduroPacks 30day Supply

EnduroPacks 30day Supply

I started adding in EnduroPacks to my daily routine back in November. In that short period of time I’ve already become a huge believer. The liquid multi-vitamin provides the nutrients I’m not getting from the foods I take in, the concentrated electrolyte spray keeps me hydrated in Austin’s heat/humidity and the amino recovery patch/glutamine pills aid in speeding up recovery. Since starting this regimen my legs have recovered far quicker from key races and workouts. This has enabled less time recovering between workouts and legs that are far poppier within those workouts. Oh yeah, and I’ve set a couple of new PRs throughout this stint to start my current training block leading up to Boston in April. Actually, this past week I dropped my half marathon PR down to 67minutes and was right back to training the next day with a key marathon race prep workout six days later in running 3x 30minutes at marathon goal pace.

If you’re like me and curious as to how EnduroPacks can help your training regimen I recommend giving them a shot. It’s been super easy to add their four products into my daily routine; tablespoon of their liquid mult-vitamin in the morning, electrolyte spray for hydration during runs or at night with dinner, amino recovery patch after key workouts and two glutamine pills just after brushing my teeth before bed. Super easy! Heck, they’ve even provided me with a discount code for you to test their monthly 30day supply of products, use AUSTINRUNNING for 20% off.

If you’d like to follow along with my training you can do so here (I promise to post more frequently this year) or follow me on Strava (link to my profile here).

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My Third Go: Cap10k

Last week’s 10k experience on the track at the Victor Lopez Classic was the first of a handful of races I have in-store over the upcoming weeks. Today I raced in my third Cap10k, arguably Austin’s largest and most competitive 10k with almost 12k finishers attracting speedsters both locally and nationally. This past week I was out in San Francisco for my company’s annual global sales conference. Training was a bit more difficult to fit in with sessions starting at 8:30am Monday thru Thursday and events each night. Outside of a late afternoon medium long run to the Golden Gate bridge and back all my runs were done on the treadmill at 5am. In prep for today’s 10k I needed to get a workout in. Would’ve rather been outside but it was absolutely pouring that morning and quite frigid. The workout was 8x 800m with every 200m in progression; :38, :36, :34, :32. Not ideal but lemme tell you that was quite hysterical to do on the treadmill and drew some looks from others in the hotel gym that morning. Luckily their treadmills went up to 14mph so I was able to get a workout like this in. For what it’s worth most tend to only go up to 12mph.

Going into the race this morning I sorta knew what to expect on the course; where to conserve, where to push, go out slow and make it up later, yada yada. What I wasn’t prepared for was the torrential downpour as I walked out the door at 6:30am coupled with pellets of hail. I won’t lie, I sat in my car looking at the forecast and for a brief second I thought, ‘yeah, it’d be nice to just slide right back into bed and race some other 10k next week.’ But this wasn’t any ole 10k. This was the one 10k most everyone looks forward to throughout the Spring season leading up to Boston.

Cap10k Course Map

Cap10k Course Map

Prior to the race my training group, Team Rogue, met over at the Rogue Running store to stretch, shake-out and yog on over to the start line together. Steve Sisson (our coach) gave a brief overview of the course and reminded us all to be patient. The first mile on Congress is straight uphill followed by plenty of rollers on 15th and Winsted. After racing on this course for the past two years and training on these very roads almost weekly I sorta already knew this would be my game plan. But the reminder cemented it all; go out easy-ish at 10-15sec+ 10k pace (5:25s), then run the next two miles through the hills comfortably hard, and by the time I hit the Rock (mopac pedestrian bridge along the Town Lake trail) I should be wired into an uncomfortable but sustainable pace. Negative splitting the race was the goal. Just like in 2013. Which was somewhere around 17min for the first 5k and 16:45 for the second.

Luckily the rain completely subsided by the time the race was set to go off. After 10min of drills at the start line and couple strides I was ready to go. Before I knew it the gun was going off and we were heading up Congress Ave. As we gradually climbed up Congress my goal was to keep a buddy of mine in sight (Jared Carson) in order to key off him. However, after the first 200m or so 15 guys darted well out ahead. I consciously allowed the break to happen just in front of me. I kept telling myself, ‘calm down. easy breathing. you got this. let ’em all go and you’ll catch on the back side.’ So that’s what I did. Moments later when I realized I was sucking in a pretty gnarly headwind I regretted the original decision to let them all go, but it was manageable. I knew I was saving more energy by decreasing the pace and taking in wind than increasing the pace early and drafting. Just as this was all playing out in my head I could hear foot steps behind me come around to my side. It was a guy from Mizuno who looked to be feeling pretty good. Immediately I thought why not let him take the lead and just tuck right in behind him. Thankfully he was going just at about the pace I wanted to so it worked out perfectly.

As we made the turn onto 11th the first mile marker clicked by, 5:25. Right where I wanna be. At that point the gradient of the incline increased and all of a sudden the Mizuno guy started to slow. Whelp, so much for that plan. I went around and never saw him again. At that point I was sitting somewhere around 13th-14th and started to look up at the next couple of guys in front of me. They couldn’t have been any further than 20-30 seconds up. Which I thought was manageable to make-up later in the race. Around mile two on 15th I saw my coach (Steve) and he asked how I was doing. Without hesitation I shot back a thumbs up and said I was feeling great. His advice….start working. Before I was too far he yelled that the guys in front were already looking a lil hairy with their early efforts. That was all I needed to start closing the gap.

On 15th it sorta rolls up and down the whole way. Locking into a specific pace is impossible so it’s all about efforts here. I took the uphills comfortably hard; up straight, off the toes, elbows back and swinging the arms to create forward momentum. It helped and they went by quickly. For the downhills I decided to charge. I wouldn’t normally do this in a longer race as you’d pay for the pounding on your quads but in a race as short as this and with my training miles spent on undulating roads I knew I could handle it. It worked. I made up significant time here. As well as ensuring I was looking up the road and cutting the tangents (straight shot to the apex of the next turn).

Leading into Cesar Chavez - 5th mile

Leading into Cesar Chavez – 5th mile

The first 5k split came just as we were turning South on Winsted and heading home. 16:33. Hmmm, solid. And the reason I say ‘solid’ is that I felt amazing at this point. I still had a ton left in the tank. So in that fourth mile I started to drop the hammer. The guys in front of me started to come back on that long stretch. As we made the chicane onto Lake Austin Blvd and then down to the Rock my watch clicked off the 4th mile split…4:55. Dayyyyummm, alrighty then. Legs are feeling great. I’m not breathing all that hard. All I could think was lets keep this going. I know this final stretch incredibly well and it’s mainly flat with some slight bumps. I know I can continue to push it here. That fifth mile is where the two guys in front of me started to come back. I clicked off another great split, 5 flat. As we headed home on Cesar Chavez I saw Steve again. He asked again how I was feeling. I couldn’t lie this time…I was feeling great. His immediate response, ‘well alright. start working. surge and catch the guy in front of you and then move onto Jared.’ Jared, at that point, was a lil out of reach but the two guys in front of me were easily catchable. Within a matter of 15-20 seconds I had caught the first guy. 30 seconds later I was on the heels of the next. He surged. I matched. He surged again. I tried. The turnover just isn’t quite there yet.

Final turn into the home stretch

Final turn into the home stretch

As I made that turn into the home stretch he had made up just enough on me coming down the 1st St bridge that he was out of reach. I wasn’t going to catch him. At that point I started to wonder what my time was going to be. While I’d peaked at some mile splits I hadn’t seen my overall time since the first 5k split. I thought in my head, ‘gosh, it’d be nice to be below 33minutes. was i really going that much faster than last year?’ As I was having that thought I came around the last little bend. Now with the finish line and clock in sight I sorta had to wipe my eyes to ensure I was reading it correctly. The clock was counting up 31:55, 31:56, 31:57…..wait, WHAT?!? I was shocked. Really?? Did I really just run around the same time I had a week prior in my first track 10k? In the end I crossed the line in 32:07. Only six seconds slower than the week prior. I was stunned. Some quick math in my head and I realized I ran a near full minute negative split from the first 5k; 16:33 for the first 5k and 15:34 for the second. That second 5k was 2seconds off my 5k PR from a month earlier. Ha! I’m still a bit dumbfounded by it all. In the end I finished in 12th place overall against a solid field of runners. This was the first year in the race’s history that the top 10 all went sub 32minutes. A true testament to the Austin running community overall pushing each other to greatness. For me, this was an almost two minute improvement from my 2013 Cap10k (previously 33:45).

After the race I cheered on the rest of my Rogue Running team and other friends within the Austin running community. It was pretty incredible seeing everyone surge for the finish lane. After that I ran into Sarah (my girlfriend) and gave her the biggest, sweatiest bear hug. It was a solid day!

Cap10k collage

Cap10k collage

So what’s next? I’m still deciding whether or not to race again this upcoming weekend. If I do it’ll either be the UT Longhorn Run (2mile or 10k) or the Austin 10/20 (10miler). From there I’ll head to Boston for the marathon. Not racing this year but I’ll put in a solid long run workout effort. The following weekend I’ll either come back to the track at Rice to race the 5k or do the 5k at the Silicon Labs Sunshine Run. Then, this long block of racing will be capped off by the Chuy’s 5k.

A big thanks as always to my sponsors who enable all the training that go into races like this; SKECHERS Performance, Rogue Running and Strava. For anyone interested in seeing my splits and pace throughout the race here’s a link to my Strava activity. If you’re ever interested in following along with my training progress simply follow me on Strava. I post every day.

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My 1st Track Meet: Rice University 10k

Earlier in the season my coach (Steve Sisson) and I sat down to talk about goals. My initial reaction was sorta mixed. I knew it’d be best to put pen to paper with either paces, finish times, etc. for races ranging from 5k to the half. However, I’ve never really been someone to define the success of my running to be directly tied to race times. That’s just not me. The overarching goal for the year is to get faster at the shorter stuff so that a more aggressive pace in the marathon feels a bit more comfortable. With that said, Steve and I decided to lay out some goals for the 5k, 10k and half. Beyond these goals Steve really wanted me to hop into a track race. Which the mere mention of made me uneasy. Why? Hmmmmm. If I’m being honest it’d have to be the fear of the unknown. You have to remember, I didn’t start running until I was 25. Steve mentioning that I should plan to race on the track against collegiates/post-collegiates (peeps who had grown up running on the track) sorta freaked me out. Do I really have the leg speed for this? Am I just gonna get shot out the back of the pack? Whelp, I’d soon find out.

Sarah’s Austin Track Club teammates were also planning to run the Victor Lopez Classic at Rice University so we all caravaned down together. The race was on a Friday night late in the evening starting with the shorter distances (400m, 800m, 1500m, etc.) leading up to the 10k to close out the night. The original heat sheet had me racing around 9:15pm or so. I’ve never really raced at night. Heck, my normal bed time is around 9-9:30pm. Ha! This should be interesting.

The plan for Sarah and I was to race and then drive back that night (2.5-3hour drive) to Austin as she had to work at Rogue Running the next morning. The timing of everything already had us getting back near 1am in the morning. Woof! I wanna say that when we showed up to the track that I got this jolt of adrenaline, surge of energy and couldn’t wait to get on out there, but I’d be lying. The drive was draining. I couldn’t stop yawning. So I laid out the camping chair and chilled. I had plenty of time before my race was gonna go off and I’d have to start warming up. Sarah’s teammate Natalie (1500m runner) was the first of our group to race. As she started her warm-up I started to get a lil excited. It was all beginning to kick off. The 1500m would go first, then the 3k steeplechase, followed by the 5k and then my race, the 10k. Natalie ran off to begin her warm-up. This was about the time I started to get my fuel and fluids in to get a good base for the race.

20 minutes later Natalie was back from her warm-up yog and beginning to do her pre-race drills; a/b skips, high knees, strides, etc. In the middle of all this I sat back in my seat, looked up to the sky and just at that moment a lightning strike lit up the sky. Hmmmmm, this all being new to me I wondered, ‘would they postpone, cancel or delay the race due to lightning?’ No one else seemed to be worried about it. So I headed on over to the bathroom prior to Natalie’s race going off. As I got out I heard a faint loudspeaker announcement, ‘tornado warning. we’re on a weather delay until the storm moves through.’ Ugh! Really? As I got back to the group Natalie was one 1500m heat away from going off in her race. And it was now being delayed. Welcome to track meets is all I could think. You just had to laugh.

Awaiting confirmation that the race would go on.

Awaiting confirmation that the race would go on.

The meet director and staff walked us over to a gym to take cover until they decided what was going to be done. Would they push the rest of the night’s races to the next day? Would they simply be delayed? If so, for how long? It was already nearing 8pm. Or would they just flat out cancel the rest of the night’s races? As we sat in the gym a number of us huddled around in a circle to pass the time. Our buddy David Fuentes was preparing to run the 5k, Mary Goldcamp was prepping to run the 3k steeplechase and the rest was our Skechers Elite team; Sarah Madebach, Natalie Picchetti, Danielle Burke and I. Luckily Sarah’s Austin Track Club coach (Noah Moos) knew the race director and others that were convening to decide the night’s fate. Throughout this time an absolute downpour of a storm rolled through. Noah came back a couple times saying he thought the race would still go off. So what was I thinking? Honestly, I was dead tired. My yawning only increased as we sat around. After about an hour Noah came back saying we’d definitely be racing if the lightning subsided. They hadn’t seen a new strike in over 20minutes. We were being told that the rain had stopped and if we didn’t see another lightning strike we’d go back out. An hour earlier I honestly thought there was no way we’d be racing. But here we go.

At this point we headed back out to the same point along the track in turn two. Doing some quick math in my head projecting how long each heat would take I came up with a rough guesstimate that I’d be racing somewhere around 11-11:30pm. HA!! Seriously? Enh, everyone’s gotta race in the same conditions under the same circumstances. And that’s what I was going to do. Race! Natalie’s race started shortly after things got back underway and she killed it. One of the better races I’ve seen her compete in. She won her 1500m heat. Off to a good start. Mary’s 3k steeplechase went off just after that. She won too. Then the 5k’s. Around this time I started my warm-up. I figured the men’s 5k and women’s 5k would take somewhere around 45 minutes in total. As I got back from my 2mile yog around Rice’s campus the men’s 5k was still going. Hmmmmm, did I misjudge this?? I really wanted to get back to see Sarah’s 5k race, but I was definitely back a little quicker than I would’ve liked. 10 minutes later the girls were taking the line for their 5k (the race just before mine). It was now somewhere around 10:30pm. Maybe, just maybe I’d be racing before 11pm. Ha, not even close. As the girls took the line (some 35+ of them) the race director pushed them back as the timing system wasn’t ready. This took about 10-15minutes to get settled. Whelp, the legs are no longer warm. But I got to see Sarah and Danielle’s start. To get warm again I decided to run backwards around the outside of the track so I could see them more often throughout the race and hopefully help motivate. No motivation needed though. Sarah killed it! She won her heat going sub-17minutes. Pretty much solo for the second half. As I watched I remember thinking, ‘yikes, that’s gotta be difficult to run on your own and stay motivated throughout.’

As the women’s 5k finished up I had just enough time to finish off some drills, give Sarah a big ole hug and make it to the start line just as they were checking people in. This all being new to me I had no idea where to line-up and what to do when I went out. Luckily, and fortunately, Steve was there to give me a little pre-race direction earlier in the day. He said go out comfortably hard but easy to let the legs open up and then get into your pace. His goal for me was to go somewhere around 31:30. Yikes! My 10k PR was at the 2013 Cap10k in Austin the week before racing the Boston Marathon, in 33:45. Could I really run in the neighborhood of 5:05’s per mile? He added that he wanted me to try and hit 75-76seconds per 400m lap. I tried not to think about it. 5:20 pace is pretty much what I ran in the Houston Marathon two months earlier and that felt pretty comfortable, which is 80seconds per 400m lap. Thinking it was just a couple seconds faster per lap I really convinced myself I could do this. That said, the only way to find out was to put one foot in front of the other. I got this! I can do this!

Just before the gun went off I took stock of those in the race. Sort of sizing everyone up to see who I may be able to run with. Steve told me I’d more than likely be on my own and running solo. With the late start and delay the race director decided to combine the men’s/women’s 10k into one race. Everyone who toed the line was a collegiate racer. Everyone but me. No post collegiate athletes. Just me and a bunch of ‘kids’ almost half my age. There were probably five other guys in the race and maybe eight girls. Not that big of a field. Just as I was telling the ‘kid’s next to me that I was dead tired and this was well beyond my bed time the gun went off. Here…..we……go!

I was lined up in the first lane and fortunately had the opportunity to hug the inside rail (the shortest route around the track). One guy from Texas Southern went out with me. We ran shoulder to shoulder for the first lap. I couldn’t really tell how quick we were going. One thing you have to know about me is that I really race/train off of feel. I rarely look at my watch. Why? Well, I truly believe runners come up with these perceived barriers; ‘I can’t run such and such pace. I need to slow down’, ‘this is WAY too quick for me. what’s his/her face is a lot faster than me and they run these paces’, etc. With that said I recognize that when races start you can’t let your adrenaline get the best of you and go out way too quick. Then again, I’ve only run road races. Was it any different in track races?

I came through the first 400m lap in 69-70seconds with the Texas Southern runner still on my shoulder. I could feel him pushing the pace and just sort of decided in the moment to go with him. Steve positioned himself in turn one (just past the start/finish line) to give me lap splits and direction throughout. When he yelled ’70’ I knew we had gone out super quick and that I needed to pull back a little to feel everything out. As we came through the second lap he yelled for me to let the other runner take the lead. So I did. I trailed right behind him for the next lap. At that point Steve yelled, ‘go around, you’re slowing.’ This was it. That moment in the race where you start to put in some work, dial in and rattle off splits. As evenly as possible. I went around the Texas Southern runner with a little surge. A couple seconds later I looked slightly over my shoulder to see if he was going with me. He wasn’t. I was now all alone up front. All I could think at this moment was, ‘lordie, a little over 20 laps to go. by myself.’ Then I started to think about all my training runs, workouts, races, etc. In all of these facets of my training I’ve been pretty much running alone. This is something I should be used to. In my mind I continued to keep thinking this was just another workout with Team Rogue (my training group back in Austin). Soon enough I’d be passing some of the women and at that point I’d have some competitors to pick off to keep motivation up. This wasn’t too bad.

Mile one went through in 5:08. A little slower than Steve was thinking, but I felt good. Mile two I started to pass some people. However, before the mile two split I made the decision to stop looking at the race clock and lap counter. 25 laps is a LONG time. I found it better to lose myself in it all and be sort of naïve to what was left. Steve being in turn one was monumentally helpful. It gave me something to look forward to every lap. Something to act on based on what he was yelling out; stay there, pick it up, look up and pick him/her off, etc. I became sort of reliant on this advice and coaching each and every lap. He asked me a couple times throughout the early stages of the race how I was feeling. Each and every time I’d throw back a thumbs up and a smile. Going through the first 5k this really didn’t feel all that difficult. My legs felt solid. My breathing was easy (something I know my team will laugh at…they’re convinced I don’t breath during workouts). I was really just clicking off laps. And as many of them similar to the one before as I could.

The first 5k was down. I rolled through in 16:01. Multiplying this by two I quickly realized I was gonna have to put some work in on the back half of this race to reach Steve’s goal of a sub 31:30. I’d essentially have to run my road 5k PR to reach that. Yikes! That’s gonna take some effort. Somewhere in mile 4 I ended up lapping the Texas Southern runner who pushed the pace earlier in the race with me. Thankfully I didn’t really recognize this. Had I known I wonder if I would’ve slowed down thinking an easy win was in the books. Who knows. At this point I started to think about random things to take my mind off the race. As I passed runner after runner I couldn’t help but notice they were all wearing track spikes. Should I have been wearing track spikes? Would these help me go faster? Would being way up on my toes propel me to a faster time? I’d never worn track spikes. I wasn’t about to try something new out on race day. The shoes I chose were my Skechers GOrun Speed 2s. They’re a super light race flat more for the road 10k up to a marathon. They were familiar to me and quite comfortable. I’ve raced every race in the past 2+ years in these and they’ve never let me down. So why would I change it up for this?

As I neared the 5th mile Steve asked me again how I was feeling. It took me a second to decide how I was going to react. If I was being honest with myself I felt okay. But then this thought crept in of, ‘wait, am I supposed to be hurting by this point?’ As that thought crept in I gave him the sign of, ‘enh, I’m okay but it’s starting to hurt.’ That sort of rolling of the hand/wrist meaning so-so. The next lap around Steve let me know it was now or never if I wanted to break 32minutes. Crap! Where had the race gone? Did I conserve way too much? Was I playing this all too safe? Ugh. With four laps to go I finally looked up at the race clock only to notice that I’d have to drop my fastest mile split of the race in order to break 32minutes. I needed a sub 5minute mile. As that final mile started I turned the dial on my effort. A bit. Not too much. Just a bit. That next lap was faster. The following was even faster. However, I was really worried that somewhere in here the legs would tighten up and it’d be a death march to the line. It didn’t happen. With one final 400m lap to go I had a lot more left in me. Did I conserve too much? With 200m to go I really started to pick it up. Coming out of turn four and into the home stretch I began to sprint all out with everything I had left in me. I lifted my head a little more towards the finish and noticed the clock counting up in the :50’s. CRAP!!! I gotta go. If I wanted a sub 32minute time I really had to move. It felt like I was going in slow-mo with the clock continuing to run in realtime. As I hit the line I saw the clock click over to 32:00. Then to 32:01 just as I crossed. I had just bagged a new 10k PR by almost two minutes. I should’ve been elated. For some reason I wasn’t. I’m not sure why, but I really wanted the clock to read 31:** something. As these thoughts started to creep in Steve fast approached and congratulated me on a solid effort. He asked how it felt. I couldn’t lie. I told him I kept waiting for that point in the race where my legs and breathing would begin to get heavier. It never came. Without hesitation I said that I’d completely sissied out. I knew I could’ve gone faster. Put in more of an effort. Really got to that point where it hurt. He stopped me. He said I raced it the hardest way I could’ve….solo. With a stronger field and people to run with he confidently told me I’d be down in the low 31minute range. Again, times don’t really matter all that much to me. I just want to improve and run happy. But I’d be lying if that didn’t feel good to hear.

The group post race

The group post race

As the race continued to wind down for the rest of the field it was nearing midnight. Yikes! This meant we’d be getting back to Austin around 3am in the morning. I got in a quick three lap cool down, stretched and we packed everything up. Before we headed out we took a great group pic of everyone. It was a successful night! Three wins for our Austin Skechers Elite team. I was walking away with a solid first track experience under my belt. This race really gave me the confidence that I can run with some of the runners in the Austin/greater Texas area that I’d always believed were at another level. With a year of solid workouts, focus and a fearlessness of running fast I know I can get there.

So what’s next? A LOT! Cap10k on April 6th, potentially the Austin 10/20 on April 13th, solid long run workout at the Boston Marathon on April 21st, 5k at the Rice Twilight track meet on April 26th and the Chuy’s 5k on May 3rd. Wish me luck. I’m gonna need it!

A big thanks as always to my sponsors who enable all the training that go into races like this; SKECHERS Performance, Rogue Running and Strava. For anyone interested in seeing my splits and pace throughout the race here’s a link to my Strava activity. If you’re ever interested in following along with my training progress simply follow me on Strava. I post every day.

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My first 5k: 8 years into Running

So two weekends ago I raced in my first 5k. Yep, first 5k ever. I’ve done 10k’s, halfs, plenty of fulls, some trail races but never a 5k. Actually, my first race ever was back in 2007. The Shamrock Shuffle 8k in Chicago. I chose it because a couple of my friends coaxed me into signing up for a half marathon a month later and I thought I should probably run something before then. From there I sorta set my sites on the marathon and never looked back. So a distance as short as a 5k never really appealed to me, nor did I ever really think I’d be any good at it. I was never really a ‘runner.’ I grew up playing soccer, basketball and just about any other sport that has you outdoors. Running simply never appealed to me. In college I got into cycling and competed in Indiana University’s Little 500 (that race from the movie Breaking Away).

Me leading the pack in the '04 SI on Campus

Me leading the pack in the ’04 SI on Campus

After graduating I came right back to Chicago. Continued cycling for a bit but sorta lost interest without an A-race to train for and the available routes in Chicago being limited to going North/South along the lake. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful. Just sorta boring after you ride it 10+ times.

Alrighty, back to the race. Luckily the weekend’s 5k race aligned with my girlfriend’s training/race calendar so Sarah decided to come along. Her plan was to put in a solid race effort knowing the course profile wasn’t exactly her fave; t-shaped out n’ back over rollers. Speaking of, really wishing I would’ve checked out the course prior to the day of. When I say ‘t-shaped’ it’s exactly that. You head down a long 400 meter drive take a right down a rural country road, make a u-turn, head back up said rural country road, take that uphill for about 1.25 miles, make another u-turn down that same rural country road and then a right back onto the same 400 meter drive you started on. Not ideal. Then again, everyone’s gotta race on the same course and in the same conditions. I had no idea what sorta time and/or place to expect.

Training up to the race had some specific 5k, 10k and half efforts prescribed. However, during this Spring training block, I wasn’t really focusing on any one or two races as I would with my previous training blocks. The plan for 2014 was simply to get faster over the shorter stuff so that my paces in the marathon could be brought down significantly, but feel comfortably hard. With that said, the goal is to open 2015 with a super fast marathon time. What sorta time? Yeah, again, no idea here. Definitely sub 2:30, and hopefully go mid 2:20’s. This year will be quite telling and directionally determine those goals for 2015.

Okay, so back to the race. I ended up registering the week of for this 5k. Given the race being on a Saturday morning my coach (Steve Sisson) and I decided to change up my Thursday quality workout to mile repeats at a steady half marathon to 10k effort. The mile splits in that workout ranged from 5:24s to 5:16s, and felt incredibly comfortable. Which was reassuring going into the weekend’s race.

The night before I grubbed on some salmon, brown rice pasta and some veggies. While I don’t really place a strong emphasis on my diet I do try and eat healthy with more organic and low gluten foods. My motto on the grocery store is to stay around the perimeters and outta the aisles.

The race start was at 8:30am down in San Marcos, which allowed for a pretty normal Saturday morning wake-up of 5am. I quick drive on down and we were warming up right at 7am with a light 2 mile shake-out, some drills and a whole bunch of nerves. I honestly can’t tell you why I was so anxious, but I was. Whether it was a new distance, the fear of running fast or something, my mind was racing.

Finally the start came and we rushed on over to the line. The ‘field’ was pretty much Sarah, our friend Katie (former Georgia teammate of Sarah’s), myself, two dudes from Rice University and a bunch of parents and their kiddos. We’re talking no more than 125 people at the start. Super small town race and exactly what I was looking for. Prior to the gun going off I started thinking about the paces/efforts I wanted to hit throughout. Steve had given me a goal of going out in just over 5 minute miles and gradually bring the effort down depending on how I was feeling. Seemed aggressive but manageable. Next thing I knew the gun was going off and it was all sort of a blur from there.

The guys from Rice were right next to me from the start down the long 400 meter drive. My only thought was to push the pace, be the aggressor and see who comes with me. I probably went out a little too quick in 4:45 pace/effort for that first quarter mile. As I made the right turn onto the rural country road I noticed it go downhill a little bit so I tried to lighten the effort a bit and see if I could hit right around 5 minute pace. As I came around the first u-turn I looked back to see who was near and there was just one guy there, around 10 or so seconds back. From there it was uphill and rolling for the next 1.25 miles. Not knowing how much to conserve versus how hard to push during the second mile I sorta maintained the same effort. Before I knew it the second mile marker approached. At that point I really thought I’d be feeling worse than I was. Did I conserve too much? Is this like being at mile 18 in a marathon where you feel great, decide to push it and then all of a sudden a mile or two later you’re in the gutter with a death crawl to the finish? I honestly didn’t know. Being completely naive at this distance I went with my gut and decided to push the last bit at 95% effort.

Somewhere in the 2nd mile...no man's land.

Somewhere in the 2nd mile…no man’s land.

Around this point I made the final u-turn on the rural road back to the 400 meter drive we started on. Ten or so seconds later I saw the guy behind me crest the hill before the u-turn and knew I had the win in the bag (assuming I didn’t completely implode, roll an ankle or stop for a coffee). While wins are always nice that’s not really what I was looking for here. I really wanted a solid 5k race effort. One that would prepare me well for Cap10k and some other Spring races down the road.

As I approached the 400 meeter drive we started on I knew I had a lot more in me that I could’ve used earlier in the race. In looking at the Garmin data post race I actually came in faster on that 400 meter drive than I went out, and it felt super comfortable. As I neared the finish line I was pretty shocked by the time, 15:32. Ha, really? I came into the race with zero expectations. Knowing that I was fit I thought I had the potential to go sub-16, but didn’t really expect a mid-15 minute 5k on a rolling, double u-turn course. Definitely happy with the result. Even happier with the direction my training is going and the potential ahead this Spring/Summer.

Sarah ended up with a great workout effort and took 3rd overall, 1st female. Our friend Katie took the 2nd female spot right behind her. All in all a pretty sweet low-key, small town 5k with gift cards to a local run shop for the top 3, both male and female. Oh yeah, the name of the race. Ha! Should’ve mentioned that earlier. Big thanks to those that put on the Master’s School Dash-4-Victory 5k! Very well organized!

So what’s next? Hmmmmmmmm. I’ll prolly do a number of 5k’s, 10k’s and even another half before the Spring is up. Races that are definite? At the moment, only the Cap10k is a definite.

Post race pics n' naps.

Post race pics n’ naps.

A big thanks as always to my sponsors who enable all the training that go into races like this; SKECHERS Performance, Rogue Running and Strava. I’ll leave you with two pics from Instagram post race; one of Sarah and I just before our shake-out run and the other after a big breakfast, tons of coffee and mid snooze mode on the couch with our lil guy, Pickles (the cat). Until next time!

For anyone interested in seeing my splits and pace throughout the race here’s a link to my Strava activity. If you haven’t signed up for Strava I highly recommend it. A great way to challenge yourself against friends, family members, athletes in your community and follow some of the world’s top runners, cyclists and triathletes. If you’re ever interested in following along with my training progress simply follow me there. I post every day.

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My 4th go at the Chicago Marathon

Wow, where do I start with this one?? It’s been quite the year for me. Personally…professionally…and all the while running became increasingly more of a focus in my day to day. Why? To be honest, I can’t say definitively. It’s tough to put into words. It’s sort of a blended concoction of living a healthy lifestyle, combined passion with my now live-in roommate girlfriend and introverted competitiveness to push my fitness limits and see how far I can take it.

Post Boston Marathon with Team Rogue teammate Marc Bergman

Post Boston Marathon with Team Rogue teammate Marc Bergman

Early on in 2013 I tasted a bit of success with my first dip into the ultra world with a 2nd place overall finish in the Bandera 50k (Strava pace analysis here), just behind two-time Western States winner Timothy Olson. Immediately following this race, I started to get the itch to be a tad more focused in my training. The Boston Marathon was next up in April. For anyone who trains with me in Team Rogue, or those who I’ve run across on a casual off day run, they’ll tell you that I’m pretty ‘meh’ when it comes to setting finish time goals. Any time people would ask what I’m training for next and what sorta pace I was planning to run I’d pretty much give the same unassuming shrug of the shoulders, hands in the air ‘Enh, not really sure. I’m just sorta having fun with everything now. We’ll see how it goes on race day when the gun goes off.’ For my then coach, John Schrup, this had to absolutely frustrate the crap out of him. Or, maybe not. Who knows. But it was after Bandera that I told Schrup that I wanted to focus in on training and go for it in Boston. What did ‘go for it’ mean? I had no idea. Again, I don’t really set time/pace goals. Why? I guess I’d say it’s because this can only set one up for disappointment. There are so many variables on any given race day that are out of your control; weather, untimely illnesses, getting tripped in a crowded pack, etc. However, I wanted to go into this race knowing that after I crossed the finish line I did everything I could throughout training to put myself in a good spot. What’d this mean? Well, for one, this meant cutting back on doing some of these training runs with my teammates in Team Rogue who I’d become accustom to running with. My new paces led to some lonely secluded runs on the roads around Austin. At the end of the day, it was worth it. I secured a new PR in Boston, 2:37:28, and came out of it with even more confidence and passion to focus even more the next go-around (Strava pace analysis here).

This next go-around would end up being the Chicago Marathon on October 13th. Why? Well, it’s sort of a hometown race for me, with a pancake flat course profile and one I knew quite well with racing it in 2007, ’09 and ’12. There was one issue though, registration for the race had closed. I continued training and focusing in on this race date knowing that it’d work itself out. Somehow I’d find a way to race in Chicago. Fast forward three months out from the race, I convinced my buddy Josh to run the race with me again, like we did a year prior in 2012. Somehow, someway, Josh and the incredible team at SKECHERS hooked up a complimentary entry into the race. Unreal!! Now, the only thing left, was to train my skinny lil butt off.

Around this time (in early July) my coach and running mentor, John Schrup, made the difficult decision to take a new gig with a run shop across town. While I was selfishly bummed I more than understood. For a couple days there, I didn’t really know what that meant for my training. However, that period didn’t last long. Steve Sisson swooped in on the opportunity and would become our new Team Rogue coach. Pretty interesting timing too. My girlfriend Sarah had been training with Rogue Athletic Club for two years under Steve and only recently around that time made the incredibly tough decision to switch things up a bit and train under the leadership of Noah Moos, and with her bestie Natalie Picchetti.

In no time, Steve and I hit it off, got into a groove and he began to challenge me to want more for myself. Coming off my race in Boston, Schrup urged me to up my weekly mileage if I really wanted to start seeing faster, more competitive times. To date, I’d been a pretty low mileage marathoner, keeping it consistently in the 50-60 per week mile range while taking a day off each Friday. Schrup’s advice stuck. I upped my weekly mileage to 70-85 with a rest day every two weeks. Some weeks this meant a daily double or two of 4-6 miles after work, while other weeks this meant increased volume for my daily morning runs.

Towards the end of the training block Steve had some pretty focused workouts for us in preparation for race day. One of which was a pretty gnarly Saturday long run with a double that afternoon. In total the day was looking to be around 28-30 miles. Pretty crazy! At first glance though, the 6 miles at 90%, 4 minute rest and then into 9 miles at 98% mgp didn’t seem all that difficult. What had me a lil’ anxious was the afternoon 6x 1 mile repeats on the track, at 105% mgp. What sorta paces do these efforts actually translate into? On that day, this meant anywhere between 6:15s and 5:30s. All in all, I’d say the workout went pretty well that day (morning session paces here and afternoon paces here on Strava).

The highlight of the day, for me, came in that afternoon session where Steve and I collectively decided to throw out the 105% paces and just go for it in those mile repeats. In my short stint of calling myself a runner I’d never timed myself for a mile. To be honest, it just never occurred to me to even try. The last time I’d timed myself for a mile was in middle school PE class where I clocked a ‘blazing’ 5:45. Beyond that my faster mile splits were in the middle or workouts and/or races. Probably somewhere around 5:02 or so. But I’d never broken that 5 minute flat barrier. In this afternoon workout that changed. In my 26th mile on the day I clocked a 4:58. My mind was sorta blown that I’d somehow pulled that off. Then, two miles later, in my 28th mile on the day I broke that short lived ‘PR’ with a 4:52. Ha! Still a bit dumbfounded by it all. This workout in particular is the one I look back at throughout the training block and think, ‘yeah, if I can pull that off race day’s gonna feel like a cake walk.’

Going through my pre-race checklist prior to bag check

Going through my pre-race checklist prior to bag check

Fast forward to race day, October 13th. My buddy Josh and I woke up with plenty of time to head on over to bag check, allotting for the amped up security checks due to Boston. My pre-race meal consisted of a banana at the hotel, half a cliff bar and a Vespa packet 45 minutes prior to the gun. The game plan for the race was to let the Vespa run its course and get me through 16, then take a gel at 16 and 22. This worked in Boston so I was confident it’d hold up again. Fluid wise, I don’t do the sugar water (gatorade/cytomax) as there’s no telling how much/little they throw in the mix. So I stick to one lil gulp of water at each aid station.

Alrighty, so now I’m in the starting corral. I snaked my way all the way to the front of corral A, right behind the elites and elite development runners. In looking up previous finish times for the past three years I was confident that being at the front of my corral would position me towards the tail end of the elite development men and right in the mix with some of the back of the pack elite women. In Chicago there’s no telling what the conditions on race day are gonna be. I wanted to ensure I was around enough runners at my pace that if I needed to I could tuck behind them, draft if there’s a headwind and save some energy for later in the race. A minute before the gun went off they let Corral A come on up to the elites. Oddly enough I picked out a couple familiar faces, Jillian (Moser Rogers) and Megan (Betts). I wished them both good luck. Told ’em they kill it out there, and to just f’ing run (a Rogue Running motto).

Before I knew it, and honestly I wasn’t even paying attention, the gun went off. As I expected, a flurry of runners went flying by me. I kept telling myself, ‘simmer down, stay in control and run your own race. it’s gonna be fun picking up the breadcrumbs later in the race.’ So that’s what I did. After the first mile I felt super loose, calm and began looking up to eye the tangents in the course. Tangents, you ask? So in a race like Chicago, with the number of turns all throughout the course, you can add an additional half a mile throughout a marathon if you’re not paying attention to cut every corner and cut the tangents going into the next turn. I was pretty conscious throughout the race to lift my head, eye the next turn and slightly cut to the other side of the road if needed to ensure I wasn’t adding any additional mileage.

Oh yeah, so pace plan for this race. I didn’t really have one. Steve and I agreed though that I should loosely go out 5 seconds per mile slower for the first 16 or so, pick it up to MGP then and with 3-4 miles to go push it in with everything I had left. For my half split I was roughly thinking high 1:16’s or so. This was a loose gauge if you will throughout the race to ensure I was on ‘schedule’ to be in the low 2:30s. While I didn’t have an overall time goal I felt pretty confident that I was in low 2:30’s shape.

Back to the race. Throughout the first couple of miles I was sorta running on my own. I had plenty of runners around me but it was a carousel of new faces as I passed some and others passed me. However, I seemed to be going around the same pace as a small pack of four runners 30-40 meters in front of me. In that pack were two elite women and two elite development males, one of which being Jared Carson’s twin brother. Knowing Jared’s brother was a collegiate runner I sort of psyched myself out in the early miles of the race thinking he was way outta my league and far above my fitness level on the day simply because he was a collegiate runner and I didn’t pick up running until my mid-20s. Whether he was or not really shouldn’t have mattered. Around mile 5, I made a decisive call to bridge the gap to this group, for a couple of reasons. The first being that running in a pack is something I was used to throughout my training and something I knew helped me personally throughout a race as long as the marathon. The second, and paramount to any other reason, was that I could already sense a slight westerly wind. So in that moment I moved on up, bridged up to their pack and tucked in behind everyone. Looking back this was easily the best move I made on the day. While the pace was a lil faster (marginally, not a ton) I was actually saving more energy tucking in and drafting off everyone.

Things continued without any highlights through the halfway point. The pack I was with cycled through taking the lead, the girls more than the guys looking back. Why? Honestly, they seemed to be more competitive with each other. It wasn’t that we (the guys) weren’t willing to take a pull in the front. They simply looked like they wanted to shake each other. Their lil cat n’ mouse game didn’t alter our paces at all, just slight upticks from time to time.

Nearing the halfway point with my mini pack

Nearing the halfway point with my mini pack

Sitting in patiently at the half

Sitting in patiently at the half

Through the half we came by in 1:16:20. Marginally quicker than I was thinking, but darn near the loose plan I had in my head. I felt great too! At this point we started to head out East and there was a noticeable headwind. Having this pack was perfect. I tucked right in, let everyone else suck wind and conserved energy. As we made the turn and moved into mile 17 I could sense the pack was sort of pulling back and slowing ever so slightly. Without a thought (knowing I still felt good) I made a move around the pack to see who’d go with me. I had the wind at my back so it’s not like I was wasting any energy going into a headwind. After about a quarter mile I looked back. The only one who really followed was one of the elite women from Brooks Hansens, Melissa White. As she came up along my shoulder we settled into 5:45 pace and cruised through to China Town. Around mile 22 she began to lift the pace bringing it down to the high 5:30s. This was the exact point of the race Steve and I talked about where we’d lift the pace and give it a go to the finish line. So with that, I followed her move. I let her take the lead and drafted for a bit to take stock of my energy levels and what I had left. All in all I felt pretty solid; breathing was calm, heart rate wasn’t really rising and my stride felt a-okay. Then all of a sudden she surged again annnnnnddd my left hamstring curled up. I couldn’t match her. This is where I entered no man’s land, all by myself.

As I made the left hand turn onto South Michigan Avenue, I immediately regretted not giving it my all to stay with her. A gnarly headwind pretty much zapped anything I had left in the tank to push it on home. Knowing that I was going to miss out on breaking 2:30 (which was never a goal, but I’d be lying if I said didn’t pop into my head after the half split), had a PR in the bag and would be somewhere in the low 2:30s I cruised on in. While I didn’t quite mail it in with a glacial cruiser pace it wasn’t anywhere near my average mile splits on the day. That last 5k inched just over 6 minute pace, and wasn’t enjoyable at all. In the moment I felt like I was going 8 minute pace.

As I neared the only uphill in the race (an overpass on Roosevelt) I began to look back on all the training runs, early mornings, diet and whatnot searching for things I could’ve done better. Honestly though, what did it matter? I was coming away with yet another PR (around 4 minutes), healthier than I’ve ever been and enjoying every moment of the ride. I was happy! The final time on the day was 2:33:40 (Strava pace analysis here).

Shortly after crossing the line I began searching for my parents, who I hadn’t spotted on the course throughout the race. This being the first time they’d ever come to watch me race all I wanted to do was give ’em the biggest hug. And I did. Somehow I still had enough energy to pick my Mom up and swing her around. She then showed me the video below of her yelling her lil head off as I neared the finish on Michigan. Hysterical! In the moment I couldn’t hear a thing.

Celebrating with my parents post race

Celebrating with my parents post race

Taking a load off

Lounge time!

There are WAY too many people to thank who contributed along the way (you all know who you are). However, I want to highlight my girlfriend Sarah. She’s hands down the most patient person I’ve met and I’m nowhere near the easiest person to deal with on early morning, and long runs. A big thanks as well to my sponsors for enabling what I do; SKECHERS Performance, Rogue Running and Strava.

Soooooooo you made it through this epicly long post. I’m not gonna attempt to guess what you’re thinking. However, if you happen to be thinking what’s next and where you might have the luxury of reading another post race novel, I’ll fill ya in. Next up will be the Bandera 50k in January, the Boston marathon in April and maybe some shorter races later in 2014. This race in Chicago gave me the confidence that I can be a 2:20 something marathoner and I’d be silly if I didn’t test it. With that, I’m out. Until next time y’all!

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Bandera 50k? Sure, why not?

That’s exactly what I thought when my friends Paul, Todd, Meredith and Kristal asked if I wanted to join ’em down in Bandera, TX for my first ultra marathon. This was back in October, 2012 shortly after I returned from the Chicago Marathon. Coming off a Summer of pacing Paul at the Leadville and Wasatch 100 milers (road to the Grand Kona Slam) I thought, ‘Sure, how hard could a 50k really be? It’s only five miles longer than I’d ever run (a marathon).’

Fast forward to my first trail race ever in December, Rogue’s El Sendero 30k. I went in with zero expectations! Simply wanted to get some trail race experience and have fun. Yeah, then the gun went off and all that changed. Those who really know me know that I can get pretty competitive with just about anything. Being my first trail race I didn’t have a game plan, zero pace expectations and didn’t know how much I could realistically push on the ascents/descents. From the start I decided to put in a couple solid miles to see if anyone was going to come with me. They didn’t. After three miles I knew I was off the front a bit and decided to just go with it, see where it takes me and how long I could hold on. By the third of three loops I was certainly starting to pay for those early efforts (not the wisest move) but I coasted into the finish line for my first overall race victory ever.

Finish of the El Sendero 30k.

Finish of the El Sendero 30k.

Shortly after Rogue’s El Sendero 30k I headed home to Chicago for the holidays and noticed a lingering achy/sore feeling in the ball of my foot. Nothing to phone a doctor about, more annoying than anything else. Turned out to be a deep bone bruise (self diagnosed of course) so I iced it pretty consistently and got plenty of iron and vitamin c to speed up the healing process. Seemed to do the trick as it got considerably better week over week leading up to Bandera.

The weekend finally came. My first ultra and second trail race. Was I prepared? Enh, didn’t really know. Then again, how do you really ever know until you toe the line and give it a go. Gear wise, I was all set thanks to SKECHERS Performance, Rogue Running and Strava. The night before I packed a couple drop bags to leave at the aid stations full of extra clothes, fuel and whatnot. Had no idea if I’d need any of this stuff but I learned over the Summer with Paul that it’s better to be over prepared than under in an ultra so I prepped it in the event I’d need it.

Race morning I woke up around 5am for the 7:30am start; got in a quick shower, some steel cut oats and packed up the car for the day. As I stepped outside in my puffy coat I fully expected it to be frigid. Not the case, it was in the upper 60s with sort of a sticky, humid mist coming down. Glad we left with enough of a cushion to get there as the line into the parking lot was ABSURD! Thankfully we got into a spot 10 minutes before the gun and I was already pretty prepped with race gear and whatnot. The last decision I had to make was what pair of shoes to wear, as I really hadn’t decided. In the trunk I had four to choose from; two I’d worn before and had no problem with, another I wore all Summer with Paul but worried they were beyond their expiration date (350miles plus) and the fourth were brand new and ones I was supposed to wear test for SKECHERS by the end of the weekend. With all that in mind and not a lot of time to decide I laced up the new wear test pair of SKECHERS GObionic Trails. The previous version I had wear tested were phenomenal so why should I expect any different with these? For anyone reading this I’d recommend never doing this, or anything different on race day than you’ve practiced throughout training. Looking back this was incredibly risky and not something I’d do again. But, I did…and here we go.

50k start

50k start

The start was pretty congested for the 50k up what I’d describe as a soggy n’ muddy jeep trail. After about a half mile it started to thin out a bit as everyone settled into a comfortable pace. Given some advice from friends who’d raced before at Bandera I knew I had to get out in front of the pack or I’d be held back trying to zig zag around folks going up the first climb. That being said I settled into third place while the first place guy went well off the front. The first climb went by pretty conservatively at an okay click. As we hit the first real descent I noticed the rock faces were glistening with the mist we were running through. Given this was my second trail race and hairy descents weren’t really something I practiced much I decided to let two guys go around and show me how it was done. I followed gingerly with every foot plant on the slippery terrain. As we approached the flat after this descent I felt pretty comfortable knowing how much I could push, where to plant and stabilize myself on the loose rock so I pushed back up front. Heading into the second of four early climbs I went by the two runners I had let by earlier and steadily made the climb at a controllable pace. One of the bigger lessons I learned from Rogue’s El Sendero 30k was that in a trail race you really need to be mindful to conserve energy early on. So that’s what I did. My legs felt great and breathing in the humid conditions was never an issue. My game plan for fuel was to take a gel and two metasalts an hour while taking down a full bottle of water between every aid station (spaced out by 5 miles or so).

As the first ten miles went by the four largest climbs on the course were behind me so I decided to settle in and just enjoy the day. Sitting in second place at the time I started to get word from the 100k’ers I was running into on the trail that the first place guy was just up on me by five minutes. Then three minutes. I thought to myself, ‘Could I really be running up on the first place guy who went out like a bat outta hell from the start?!? And, if it was true, did I really wanna put myself in that position being my first ultra? Was I pushing too hard??’ At that point I figured, enh lets give it a shot and see how I fair. At about the twelve mile mark I could see the first place runner just ahead of me. I steadily made my way up on him but decided to give him some distance and just hang back. As we approached one of the next aid stations I had already started to get closer so I decided at that point to join him. He looked back with sort of a shocked look and asked how far back the next guys were, said I didn’t think they were close at all as I hadn’t seen ’em since mile two or so. We exchanged names and hometowns while I tailed behind him into the aid station. I started to recognize it was nice running with someone again and he seemed to know what he was doing. Oh yeah, his name was Timothy from Bend, OR.

Timothy and I trudged through the wet, muddy n’ sticky course for the next 20 or so miles together. If you’ve been to Bandera to run on their trails before you know they’re already pretty technical without the added variable of being washed out with a week’s worth of rainfall. The trails are full of loose rock on all of the ascents/descents and lining the single track trail is type of cactus native to TX called Sotol. At first glance they appear to be a gentle, bushy type of plant that you can simply run through, which they are for the most part. Then, after brushing up against them (as they were unavoidable), you look down at your legs and you’ve got blood running down from what looks to be lash marks. The edges of these cacti are like grazing up against what I can only describe as a dull spork. Doesn’t hurt much but doing it over n’ over again can cause some damage. Then again, as the race went on I came to welcome the Sotol as I noticed they seemed to appear around the dryer areas of the course (logical as cacti tend to soak up moisture in the soil). For me, the overly muddy, can’t dodge the slop areas were the worst. Imagine with each foot plant attaching and detaching from velcro. That’s what it felt like. The soil down in Bandera is more clay based so when it gets wet it becomes incredibly sticky. In these areas, no matter what you did, you were pretty much running with three pounds of mud per shoe.

Back to the race. Timothy and I ran together for quite a while. As we passed through each aid station we waited for each other, ensured we each had what we needed and then headed back out. Certainly something new to me as competitors at a road race would never think to wait through a water stop. I could get used to this! The trail running community just seemed super down to Earth, welcoming and above all else, friendly. As Timothy and I passed other 100k’ers on the trail I started to notice that everyone seemed to know who he was. Finally, after about the tenth person mentioned his name it clicked that he was the previous Bandera 100k winner and the 2012 Western States 100mile winner, Timothy Olson. Thought to myself, ‘Dizzang, some nice company to have and certainly someone I can learn a thing or two from.’

As the final miles started to near I could tell we were both pretty ready for this thing to be over. My lungs and breathing were fantastic, but my legs were a whole other story. We got to the final steep climb around mile 28 and at about that point I recognized I didn’t have the stamina and strength in my legs to push it like Timothy was. So I started to do my best Kilian Jornet impression of power hiking up the climb but this only allowed Timothy to get further and further away. I yelled out to him to keep it up and that he looked strong. Around that point I knew I’d be coming in second on the day and brought it in at a moderate effort. Those last two or so miles weren’t fun or easy (as the mud picked up again) but I loved that with each step I was getting that much closer to the line.

Bandera 50k finish - 2nd overall

Bandera 50k finish – 2nd overall

All in all it was an incredible day, and one I’m beyond proud of! While the decision to run in a brand new pair of shoes was a dumb one it didn’t affect me at all. My feet have never felt better after a race; road, trail or otherwise. The lingering deep bone bruise wasn’t felt at all, and it honestly never crossed my mind throughout the race.

I wanna say thanks again for the incredible support and gear from SKECHERS Performance, Rogue Running and Strava. As well, I should thank Timothy for sherpa’ing me around the majority of the course, Paul and Meredith for the trail knowledge I’ve soaked up and (of course) my girlfriend Sarah for putting up with me that weekend🙂

Such an incredible race, and already looking forward to coming back again next year! For those interested, here’s a link to my splits and the elevation profile on Strava.

2nd place hardware

2nd place hardware

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Never again. Never again, San Antonio.

My Fall marathon came and went in October like a true lone Winter day in Austin, TX. All those early morning training runs and hot n’ humid temps of the Summer were a distant memory in the rear view. With my Fall marathon being in Chicago and one in which I didn’t get a chance to put in a true effort I decided so register yet again for the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Marathon Series. However, unlike last year, I decided to sign up for the half as I knew all too well of the hore-eeee-blay temperatures that this race can draw. And, I figured I’d be going down there any way to see my girlfriend race why not just race too and log some quality hang time post race with her and her team. So that’s what I decided.

My girlfriend and her Rogue Athletic Club team were heading down the day before to crash at their coaches mom’s house in San Antonio (a short jog to the start line) so I had a decision to make on whether I wanted to splurge on a hotel room for one night or wake up super early the morning of the race and drive down. In the end I decided the latter was more logical and economical. So I woke up that Sunday morning around 3am and hit the road for San Antonio at 3:30am. Without a driver on the road I made it down there in about an hour and WELL before her team was up and at ’em.

As her team got moving around 6am for the 7:30am start I putzed around taking in a Kutoa bar and a banana for my race calories. Once the guys and gals of her team were ready we jogged on over to the start where I tried my hardest to blend in with the elites and score a solid starting position just behind the lead pack. We got to the start line a solid ten minutes before the gun where I hadn’t yet decided if I was gonna race or just pace some of my girlfriend’s teammates. Pretty typical for me, non-committal and all! I can remember chit-chatting in the corral with one of my girlfriend’s teammates saying, ‘Hmm, I think I’ll go out around 6:15’s and then bring it down from there based on how I’m feelin.’ This aligned with her game plan so we agreed that we may just go out as a pack and then drop the pace down after the first 5k or so.

As the gun went off half marathoners and marathoners took off in dead sprint to gain position while others surged to the front for a couple strides with the elites only to fall back as the first incline began. In standard fashion I held strong to my game plan for a hot second until the lead pack of women passed. At that point I made a snap decision to go with ’em and see if I could hold comfortable at 5:45’s the entire race. So that’s what I did, 5:45’s the entire way.

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This pic was snapped by one of my Team Rogue teammates, Marc Bergman, as I passed through downtown San Antonio towards the start of the race. To say that I looked forward to seeing some familiar faces in the crowd would be a tremendous understatement. In the previous year’s San Antonio marathon I found myself in no man’s land without a cheer from the crowd to be had as we swung down South for the longest half marathon out n’ back ever. This year though I knew it’d be easier with having a crowd the majority of the way. Shortly after this photo was taken another runner joined me for a couple of miles to work together as his plan was to run around 5:45’s as well. I figured a little company wouldn’t be all that bad so I humored him for a while but as the miles went by I found myself growing a bit more annoyed by all the chit-chat. And, not to mention, when I say ‘working together’ that meant me taking the lead into all the headwinds and him pretty much drafting off me. Normally I wouldn’t mind this but the talking pushed me over the edge so I decided to put in a hard mile interval and see if he would go or not. He didn’t though and I found myself alone again like in the previous year’s race. However, this year I embraced it and lost myself in the pace.

As the ten mile marker approached I looked down at my Garmin and noticed I was about to set my 10mile PR at a little over 57 minutes. At that moment things started to ache a little more than normal and the heat of the day started to get to me. Up until that point I wasn’t all that aware that it was 70+ degrees out and super humid. Certainly a rookie mistake in knowing the temps would heat up and forgetting to take my metasalts as the race progressed! I took in water whenever it was offered and threw down a gel midway through, but the salts I forgot. Whoops.

To say the last three miles were laboring would be a complete understatement. I can honestly say I’ve felt worse late in a race, but I really wanted to see that finishing tape and get this thing over with. As the last miles clicked away I kept saying, ‘You’re almost there. Two more miles. One more mile. 800 meters.’ The final uptick on the backside of the Alamodome didn’t seem as painful this year as I powered on up it to the final right hand turn to the finishing straight. No one was around me. I wasn’t worried about my place. I shouldn’t have any reason to sprint. But, then I saw the clock and noticed I had a little under 15 seconds to break the 1:15 mark. So I dug in and trucked towards the line. As I crossed over the mats I was sure I had snagged a sub 1:15 halfie. Not bad considering I hadn’t focused on training for a half marathon in this block and the conditions being less than optimal.

I waited around in the finishing chute chatting with some other runners as I waited for my girlfriend and her team. It was at that moment when I saw the pale, lifeless looks on the faces of these finishers that I knew I’d never truly race in this marathon/half ever again. Sure, I’ll probably toe the line again and get a fun run in but a solid effort in these conditions is just completed wasted. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not disappointed in the least with my time, nor my overall place in the race. I simply don’t like suffering and knowing that if the conditions were a little better I could have brought that time down a bit. However, this race truly did teach me a valuable lesson. You train to race, not to finish at a specific time. As a runner you can’t control the conditions on race day.

A big thanks go out to Skechers Performance, Rogue Running and Strava for their continued support!!!

Link to my splits on Strava and my overall Results.

SA Results

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