Saturday, March 16, 2013

Columbia, SC Marathon

Columbia, SC State House
So I travelled to Columbia, SC last weekend for my sixteenth full marathon. Yep, sixteen of them in the books.  One might wonder if doing so many marathons would get boring, or if I might be a bit crazy.  The answer, at least in my mind, is a resounding no.  Four years ago when I started this journey I never thought I would complete one marathon, much less sixteen. Each one I do teaches me a new lesson and reminds me of how blessed I am to be able to even run a single mile.  Running, especially distance running, has changed who I am and how I view the world around me.  

In my opinion, a marathon teaches you a lesson each step that you take.  It teaches you so many life lessons.  The main lesson I have learned from running marathons is that you should never give up.  When it looks and feels like you cannot take another step, you can.  When you are at mile 20 and your mind tells you that you could not possibly do six more, you can. Another lesson that running full marathons has taught me is that we spend too much time with "noise" around us.  We take no time to sort things out in our minds. We are easily amused, which actually means to "not think", by televisions and so many other distractions.  We never take time to think about life and what it is teaching us.  We never take time to just be quiet and listen. Distance running has taught me that just getting out and getting alone makes a world of difference.  Many times I run for miles with no music, no conversation, and no outside distractions.  It has changed me.

This marathon was no different.  It taught me lessons.  The main lesson this time was that no matter how confident we get and no matter how prepared with think we may be, the marathon reminds us that it is still a tough feat to run 26.2 miles and sometimes, it beats us.  

Suzy, Brian, and Me.
The weather was beautiful for the race.  It was a bit cold at the start but it warmed up nicely.  As a matter of fact, I was overdressed for the last half.  I had to roll my sleeves up as I got hot.  Overall though, it was sunny, not windy, and about perfect temperatures.  As I do most times, I ran this marathon with some great friends. For this race, both Suzy Spiceland and Brian Mount were in Columbia with me.  Both are members of the Anniston Runners Club and represent the club well.  The three of us met up with the Marathon Maniacs for the group picture.  Here we are just after the group photo on the steps of the State House in Columbia.  I was also blessed to be able to stay with a friend in Columbia, Patrick Cleary.  I met Patrick through his Dad, Tim.  Patrick and I ran the Disney Marathon together in 2012.  It's awesome how I have met so many amazing people through running.  Tim and I met in Chattanooga and have been good running friends since.  Thanks Patrick for letting me stay with you and for being so hospitable.  

As I began the race I had the goal of 3:45 as my finish time.  That time would have been a six minute PR.  This double loop course had other plans for me this day though.  I felt great as the race began.  My heart rate settled down nicely and I was running at a very nice pace of about 8:10 per mile.  As I made a turn up a hill at about mile 2.3 I hit a raised spot on the pavement and turned my left ankle.  When it happened it was as if everything was in slow motion.  I felt it roll and thought to myself that I was going to have to drop out. It rolled that bad.  As I regained my balance I realized that my ankle itself wasn't hurting.  Only the outside of my foot where it hit the pavement pretty hard.  I credit the lack of pain in my ankle to the fact that I have pretty much no ligaments on the outside of my left ankle from football, baseball, and softball injuries.  It took me a bit to get everything back under control and begin to asses what I needed to do.  After a few miles the pain went away but as I realized later, I was favoring the ankle a good bit.

This marathon was another hilly adventure.  The great thing about hills is that there is always a downhill.  The problem is that in this one, the last two miles of the loop were a huge hill that just flattened into the finish.  I kept a solid pace on the first loop as I climbed it.  For anyone who has run the Georgia Publix Marathon, the hill reminded me of the one at mile 23 there, just longer!  I made the turn at about a minute half marathon PR time.  I still felt confident in my 3:45.

Another lesson that I am still learning is how to pace correctly with my relatively new HR training.  I am being too conservative on the second half of these marathons and I have too much left in the tank at the finish.  Even though my ankle bothered me on the last half, I still had a good bit left at the end.  The rolling neighborhoods on the second loop were not that hard.  I felt strong but I started thinking about that hill at mile 24 and backed off on my pace.  I took the hills slower and kept my heart rate down when I could.  I even had a conversation with a Marathon Maniac at mile 21 about my pace.  He asked me flat out why I was slowing down because I looked too strong to slow down.  I told him I was conserving for the big hill and he laughed and told me that I would be fine.  I wish I had listened.  I slowed down too much and it cost me in time.

The finish was in a cool spot.  You ran down the main street in downtown Columbia which was lined by a farmers market.  All of the people were very supportive as they cheered us into the finish.  I crossed the finish line relatively strong at the clock time of 3:51:02, a minute PR.  I was disappointed in my performance and tried to beat myself up about it.  Patrick quickly reminded me that I had just finished 26.2 miles in less than four hours.  Not many runners can claim that accomplishment.  I was pleasantly surprise when my official time posted at 3:50:25 which was a 1:20 PR!

As I drove home that afternoon, I thought about my race and what I could have done differently.  Could I have run harder?  What if I had turned my ankle?  What if?  What if?  I came to the realization that "I did".  I finished another marathon.  Sixteen of them.  I still have to pinch myself as I look at my medal display each day.  I'm a marathoner and the great thing is that I lived to run another day.  April 27th is the next day I challenge 26.2 miles again.  We will see what the future holds!

Smart training, great nutrition, and amazing supplements have been a huge advantage for me.  I am doing heart rate training now with PRS Fit and Coach Glenn McDaniel.  You can find out more about them at  I use Advocare Supplements and wouldn't do a workout without them.  To find out more about them visit

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Alabama 3N3 Challenge

There is something inherently crazy about someone who wants to continually run full marathons.  My goal last year was to run 12 full marathons in 12 months.  Due to some much needed life changes, I was not able to compete that goal.  This year I want to do 13 full marathons in 2013.  I have my double month (January) out of the way so I am on track so far.  One of the things that I did want to do last year was to do the Alabama 3N3 Challenge.   I did it this year! 

The State of Alabama has three major full marathons: Rocket City in Huntsville in December, First Light in Mobile in January, and Mercedes in Birmingham in February.  If you complete all three races in the consecutive months, you receive the medal you see on the top left along with the finishers medals for each race.  When I decided to do Rocket City very late last year, I wasn't in full marathon shape and really had no idea why I was signing up other than to get myself back into marathon shape.  My buddy Brian Mount mentioned that I should go for the 3N3 since I was planning on running Mercedes anyway, so why not run Mobile too?  One catch though, I was already registered for the Mississippi Blues Marathon in Jackson, MS  the week before Mobile.  I've never been one to shy away from a challenge so I signed up a little late and got on the waiting list.
Just for signing up I got a cool training shirt and hat which you see on the right.  Thanks to Kim Gillikin, one of the co Race Directors at Mercedes for getting me on the list.  I received word after I finished Rocket City that I was now on the real list because enough people didn't finish it.  I never wish injury or bad luck on any runner but I was glad to know I was now eligible for the medal.

Rocket City is always a great event and I love running it.  This year I was again overweight from football season and I knew I wouldn't be running it for a PR or anything.  It is a flat course and the weather is always cooler so it makes for a great running day.  I finished it in about 4:41 which was even better than last year's Rocket City time by about 6 minutes.  After I finished Rocket City I actually trained pretty hard for Mississippi Blues but at the start I wasn't quite in marathon shape.  I finished it in 4:20 and felt really good about where I was headed.  

First Light Marathon in Mobile was the very next weekend.  I developed a cold during the week and didn't run much but the no running was already planned.  I had done my "long run" the week before in Jackson and felt confident that I could finish Mobile.  I definitely had no expectation of posting a great time at Mobile.  I just wanted to finish.  I had heard that Mobile was a flat course so I fully expected it to be so.  Let me just say, it is not flat!  It is relatively flat in miles 1 through 10 but miles 11 through 18 are one continuous hill, or so it seemed.  At mile 12 I really questioned the sanity of running full marathons on back to back weekends.  I wasn't in that great of shape and I thought to myself that I might not finish.  As I continued to run I waged that mental battle that we all fight when we are tired physically.  My body was telling me to stop and quite frankly my mind was also.  I plodded through the hilly miles and it seemed that at every one there was someone saying, "the hills are almost over!".  I got to the point where I quit listening.  At mile 18 a guy midway up the hill started a conversation with me about my shoes.  We got to talking and he told me that the hill we were on, which was the worst yet, was it.  No more.  I flat out told him that I didn't believe him and laughed.  He laughed back and said "you'll see".  Sure enough, I got to the top of the hill and started what seemed like a continuous 8 mile decline to the finish.  It did get pretty hot during the last few miles but at least I wasn't climbing hills.  It was so warm that I ran through several sprinklers in yards on the course.  Weird for January!  I finished strong in about 4:31.  The highlight of the finish for me was to see Torie and Miller and Bella about a tenth of a mile from the finish.  I didn't see them at first but heard Bella yelling, "Daddy!" and found them.  

My race recap of Mercedes can be found on my previous post but to sum it up, it was a good race and great event as usual.

Each time I reach another running goal or get another medal I am always amazed at how far I have come.  Four years ago I would have laughed at you if you had told me I would ever run a 5K.  Three years ago I would have laughed at you if you had told me that I would ever run a marathon.  Two years ago I would have laughed at you if you had told me I would ever do more than one marathon a month. Last year I would have laughed at you if you had told me I had a shot at a 3:45 marathon.  This year, I will laugh at you if you tell me I can't.  That's what running has done for me.  It has changed me mentally, spiritually, and physically.  I challenge you to do like I did four short years ago.  Start doing something.  Get active.  Do Couch to 5K.  Something.  It will change your world.

To find out more about my running and my journey to a healthy lifestyle follow me on twitter (@mrhump), Facebook (, or visit my nutrititional site at  Thanks for stopping by my blog.  Please share if you like, subscribe to it, or leave me a comment with your notes.

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mercedes Marathon 2013

When I logged into my blog the other day it dawned on me that I had not written anything about my running in almost a year. The last race recap came from the Go! St Louis Marathon last April. So many things have changed in my life over the last year. My family moved from one of the most beautiful places in the world, Chattanooga, TN, to one of the other most beautiful places in the world, the Alabama Gulf Coast. I've had a career change. And finally, I've come full circle in my spiritual journey. The one thing that has remained a constant, outside of my beautiful wife and children, has been running. I would love to blog more about my running and it is a self discipline that I am working on building. To me, recapping a race not only helps me think through the events and learn from them, but hopefully it will inspire someone else to start running and change their life for the better!

Six days ago I ran the Mercedes Marathon for the third time. I also ran the half in 2011 making this the fourth year in a row that I have competed in this great event. Just four short years ago I ran my first full marathon at Mercedes. Every time I run this course I can remember what was going through my mind in 2010 as I passed each mile marker. It's really quite amazing the difference in what I was thinking then and what I was thinking last weekend. For example, in 2010 I can remember thinking at mile 21 after just coming out of Five Points, "How am I going to even walk to the finish?!". This year, I was thinking, "Ok, if I can maintain an 8:15 mile for five more miles, I can finish at 3:50!". What a difference! I love this event and even though I tell myself every year that I'm going to run a different one next year, I always end up back at Mercedes.

One of the reasons I love running Mercedes is that I get to see so many of my running friends. Many of them were there for me when I first got started and kept me encouraged while I was struggling through the Couch to 5K program. Others, like Tara Bates and Bobby Bellew that you see in the first photo, have been lifelong friends. We grew up together and it always seems that life keeps us in touch with each other. I'm glad running has found a way for us to all connect again. Still, there are others that I have met on my running journey that have really been an encouragement to me.

In this picture on the right you see my buddy Michael Gann with me. I met Michael through social media and since have run many marathons and other races with him. He is a huge encouragement to me on so many levels. He is an amazing runner but more importantly, he is a great Husband and Dad to a wonderful family! What a great example he is. He is also like many fellow runners that I know, he often raises funds for so many great causes as he runs. At Mercedes he ran the relay on Team Daniel and the Dynamites. Here is the link to their site: They are almost at their goal of $10,000 raised for the Bell Center in Birmingham!

There are so many others that I could talk about seeing at Mercedes but one group I cannot leave out is the Anniston Runners Club. I have been a member of ARC since I first started running and I will always be a member no matter where I live. In my opinion, it is the best running club out there. It has some really amazing people in the club and they are all so encouraging. It seems that no matter where I go to run a race, there is some representation for ARC. (Of course, that could be due to the fact that I run so many races with the Bullet Brian Mount, Paula Roberson, and Erin Thielker but that topic is for another blog post!) Here is a pic of the ARC group in our annual pre Mercedes photo!

Now for the brief race recap. In the past month I have shifted my training method and started training to HR instead of pace and distance. I am working with Coach Glenn McDaniel with PRSFIT (@mcdnielg) and it has made a huge difference. It has been a mental struggle for sure with all of the "slow" runs but it is working. In the past, as some of you know, I have employed the "walk/run" method supported by Jeff Galloway. Though it worked for me in the past, on Sunday I did not have to walk to keep from fatiguing. I kept my pace at a steady upper Zone 2 and moved into Zones 3/4 towards the end. I finished the race at 3:51:42 which knocked a huge 8 minutes off of my PR for the marathon distance.

As I started the race I had one "real" goal in mind, it was to stay under 4 hours. I really felt like that was in the bag without any major complications. I guess "secretly" I had a goal of finishing at 3:50. My mind ws telling me it wasn't going to happen but I knew from my training runs that the pace was something that wasn't a struggle for me on longer runs now. Knowing the course well always helps but this race felt different. After messing up before the start and having to retrieve something from my already checked bag, I settled into a groove pretty quickly. I had to start in the corral with the 13 min mile pacers making me have to weave through traffic a bit longer that I am used to doing. It all worked out though because I feel like that traffic kept me from bolting out too fast like I normally do.

By about mile 6 I knew I had a good shot at my 3:50 goal. I was into the first loop of the hilly part of the course and I was able to keep my HR steady for the most part. It is always fascinating to see so many folks ruin their entire race in this section. They run all out on the hills and they are spent for the next time through. I paced myself well and came out of 5 points feeling really good. At the half I was on a pace that was a bit quicker than I expected. I was averaging 8:41 miles and still felt fresh.

As I made my way back into the hilly section of the course on the second loop I made a huge strategic mistake which ended up costing me the 3:50 mark. I felt like I could make up some time coming out of the Highlands if I slowed down a good bit on the hills. I made myself slow down big time. Coming into mile 22 I still had a shot at hitting 3:50 but I never could maintain the pace necessary to make it back up. I finished strong and felt good about my effort. A finish time of 3:51:42 is something that I would never even imagined a year ago. I had a long term goal of finishing Rocket City in December in 3:45. Obviously, I need to stretch that goal a good bit. The new goal is 3:15 at Rocket City. and yes, that would be a Boston Qualifying time for me!

With the new training method, a healthy diet, and a continued use of great nutritional and supplement products (Visit  to see what I am talking about.  Email me at if you have questions) I really feel like a BQ is in this year's cards. Only time will tell but I am sure going to try. #commitmenttoconsistency

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Quest for the Sub 4 Marathon: Go! St. Louis

When I decided to run my first marathon back in 2010 I had no expectations of ever running marathons for time. I only wanted to finish one and I was done. Reading back through my blogs you will see that not only did I run more than one marathon, I quickly became frustrated with my times. I finished marathons but in my mind I wanted to get better, not just finish. I trained harder each time to no avail. After running Disney in 5:02 in January I decided I was going to change my training, my nutrition, and my attitude! Sub 4 was the mark. I wanted to get there. In my mind sub 4 made me a "real" runner. Though I had finished 10 marathons I wanted to prove something to myself. I wanted to prove that I could overcome that barrier. At St Louis last week, I finally did!

This race was my original choice for my April marathon. To be honest, looking through the marathons in April, I liked the medal better than any of the others that were an option. I know, other things should be more important in deciding on a marathon to run but I like the bling!

After running the marathon and exeperiencing the event, I have to say I am glad I chose this one. It was a great event. It wasn't so large that you felt overwhelmed but it wasn't so small that you missed out on the excitement of a larger event. The expo and packet pick up were set up well, the course wasn't too hilly, and most importantly, the crowd support was great! I would recommend running this event to anyone looking to check Missouri off of your 50 State list.

Brian and I made the six hour drive to St Louis on Saturday making it in plenty of time to get our packets from the expo. We stayed about six miles out of downtown to save funds on a hotel room. We were glad we did it that way. It was easy to hop on the Metrolink and get right downtown to the events. On Sunday morning we got off the Metrolink about a block away from the Start Line. We couldn't have asked for a better drop off spot.

As the race started I knew my strategy. I had practiced it at Knoxville and I knew exactly what I wanted to do. As I had in my previos three marathons, I was going to run the first three miles at about an 8:15 pace and then move into a 4:1 walk/run ratio. As soon as I started running I knew I felt good. I tapered into this race which I hadn't done in a while. It was quickly evident that my legs were fresh. The first few miles were relatively flat so holding my pace wasn't that difficult. I finished up my three miles right at 24 minutes and felt confident that I could hit that 4 hour mark.

I really enjoyed this course. We obviously started within eyesight of the famous St Louis Arch.
I ran through the Budweiser facililites where they had one of the Clydesdale's out. I also ran by the new Busch Field, home of the Cardinals. Finally, the course took us through several parks and neighborhoods. In most marathons there is a section of the course that is just boring. Outside of a few stretches of road between parks or neighborhoods, this race was interesting most of the way through. They had entertainment at about every mile and the crowd support was great. There were very few areas that didn't have spectators cheering you on. One highlight was the Priest showering Holy Water on runners as they passed. I ran to the left to catch a few drops myself when I saw him. And no, it didn't burn me as it hit me!! I'm not that bad! :)

Though this course wasn't hilly at all compared to either Knoxville or Atlanta, it did have a few inclines that were lengthy. There weren't any massive hills but when they did come, they lasted a while. Considering I had some good hill training under my belt, I handled these hills relatively well. One of the things that really affected my running was the wind. There were even a couple of downhills where it was harder running downhill than uphill. Luckily, it was an off and on deal. The wind didn't blow the entire time.

My body responded really well to my training and my nutrition plan. I felt good the entire race and my legs never felt fatigued during the race. I guess one of the big battles that I have always fought during a marathon is the mental battle. The last couple of marathons have been a different story. I haven't struggled with the "Will I finish?" question. Knowing that I am in no danger of not finishing, helps me concentrate on strategy and form. I have a plan and I am sticking to it. So much different than in previous races. It paid off big time on Sunday!

There was one glitch in the process in St Louis though. At mile 14, I had to stop to pee. I couldn't hold it any longer. That one glitch cost me a full two minutes! I have never really struggled with potty breaks but I guess I've never really worried about a two minute stop either!

Finishing Go! St Louis in 3:59:36 is a huge accomplishment for me. I told my buddy Adam before the Flying Pig last year that I wanted to break 4 hours someday so I would feel like a "real runner" in my mind. I broke that barrier Sunday and for some reason it feels like I am. I know 11 marathon finishes does that in and of itself but it was just a personal mental thing for me! I finally did it. The big negative about it is that I now own a PR under 4 hours. That means I have to work that much harder to PR now. I'll take that negative though! Also, if you had asked me two months ago if I had ever thought about Boston and I would have laughed at you. Now, I look at my times and I see the imoroivements over the last few months and I see a glimmer of hope. My qualifying time for Boston after October 15th will be 3:15. Though it is a stretch, I really feel like it is in range. I'm going to try my best to get there in the next year or so. It's gong to take hard work, mental toughness, and a continued commitment to my nutrition plan but it's now a thought at least!!

Shout out to Brian who also finished his sixth marathon in six months. Brian is a machine and he is on this journey of one marathon a month in 2012 with me. We both moved to the second star level of Marathon Maniacs by finishing this race! Thanks Brian for keeping me going!

One last thing. As I did back in 2010, I will be a St Jude Hero this year. Take a look at my page and donate if you can. It's time to beat childhood cancer once again!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Knoxville Covenant Health Marathon: A Training Run?

On Sunday I ran the Knoxville Covenant Health Marathon, as a training run.

Yep, I said a training run. Is that possible? Can you run a full marathon as a training run? After Sunday, I truly believe that you can do so!

On my quest to do a full marathon a month in 2012 I have been through the ups and downs of training. Admit it, you have to be completely out of your mind to "enjoy" a 20 mile training run. I know I do not enjoy 20 mile training runs, especially one by myself. That mileage was the exact mileage that I wanted to run on Sunday. The family was going to be out of town so I figured I had plenty of time on Sunday morning to get 20 miles in for the day. The more I thought about it, the more I dreaded it. Why would I want to run 20 miles on the same roads I always run? I wouldn't have crowd support, I would have to worry about water supplies, and I wouldn't get to hang another medal on my rack.

As a result, on about Thursday, I decided to run the marathon in Knoxville. I had wanted to run it in the past and had discussed it this year. A few weeks ago I decided against it and opted for the Go! St. Louis Marathon on April 15th as my full for April. So I went to Knoxville on Saturday and registered.

I guess a definition of a "training run" would be appropriate to have this post make sense. To me, a training run is any run that helps you get better in the future. It could be a physical training run or it could be a mental training run. Either way, a training run, simply put, is one that helps you get better.

The way I look at things is that if I stay registered for a bigger race, I'll keep training. On Sunday, I wanted to accomplish a few things. I have been working really hard on stopping my heel strike. I also wanted to tweak my run/walk ratio a bit to see if I could get a better feel for a faster pace. I also think that every marathon that I do teaches me to stay mentally focused on the run the entire time. Sunday helped with that task also.

To me, 26.2 miles is more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge. True, it is tough physically. There is no arguing that point but I have personally struggled with the mental side more than the physical side. After ten of these things, I won't say it's any easier but I will say I have learned a ton that helps me tremendously.

So what did my "training run" do for my 2012 Marathon quest? First and foremost, the Knoxville Marathon helped me with the mental aspect of running in the heat. As many of you know, it has been really warm this Spring. When I ran the Publix Marathon in Atlanta two weeks ago, it was 87 degrees. Sunday wasn't much better. It was about 84 degrees at the end of the race. The huge positive is that it was foggy and cloudy until the mile 16 mark for me. It was humid, yes, but it was bearable. At 16 though, it changed. The sun seemed to burn off the clouds almost instantaneously. It got warm quick. Running in the heat isn't really that bad. Again, it's a mental thing. I began to wonder if I needed to slow down to save energy. I also began to take on more fluids. This one action cost me a good bit. I took on too much fluid which caused me to have that feeling where your belly is completely full but you think you need more water. It also caused me to get a bit nauseous if I picked up the pace too much. I finally adjusted my fluid intake about mile 19 to the point where I got a good balance going. A huge lesson for marathons later this year. The other thing about the heat and sun is the fact that you can get sunburned quickly. I made sure to put suscreen on that morning but it didn't stop the burn completely.

My quest to stop my heel strike has been tough. I really enjoy my new Newton Motion shoes and they have helped. I do really good at staying on my forefoot until I get tired. As I began to tire on Sunday, I struggled to stay focused on staying off of my heels. I don't think that I mastered it by any means but I did make progress to the goal of eliminating it completely!

This marathon was also a bit hilly. I heard from several runners pre race and they all said that it was maderately hilly. That was about right. There weren't any hills that were crazy like mile 23 in Atlanta but you consistently had to climb every few miles. There is no doubt that running hills in heat helps. I made sure to push through each hill hoping to capitalize on the training for St. Louis.

Another learning lesson for me on Sunday was the fact that I need to stick to my 5 to 1 run/walk ratio. I began this race by doing 5 miles at about an 8 minute pace. I found that I was a bit more tired at miles 15 to 20 than I have been in the last few races. I will shift back to doing 3 miles at an 8 minute pace and then immediatley move into my 5 to 1 ratio for the rest of the race. My legs were more fresh and I felt stronger at the end when I stuck to that plan. The only thing that I might need to adjust is my pace during my run phase.

Another thing that I learned from this race that has nothing to do with running, is that it's cool how Auburn and Alabama runners get along well. Because I was going to finish on the 50 yard line of Neyland Stadium, I ran in my Auburn shirt. Apparently, all of the Bama fans in Knoxville had the same idea! I got several good hearted "Roll Tide" yells and had some good converations with a few of them as we ran. Apparently, Auburn and Alabama do share a mutual understanding, they hate UT!

Auburn was represented well. I saw several fans on the course and I also saw several runners with shirts or hats on. I'm not sure there is a better feeling than hearing "War Eagle" at mile 20 of a marathon! One great story from the race was at about mile 8, if I remember correctly. As I ran by a band playing the lead singer stopped singing mid sentence and yelled, "War Eagle!". Good stuff for sure!

As I wrap up this post, I look back and see that I didn't really recap the race. There was really no highlights to this one. It truly was a training run for me. I want to PR the Go! St. Louis Marathon on April 15th and I know this marathon helped with that purpose. I really just ran a consistent race that got me another medal.

If there is anything that I can take away from this race that might be helpful to others is this: Running is 99% mental. If you train smart and get a good mileage base under you, you can do whatever you set your mind to doing.

Keep running!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rock Creek River Gorge 10.2 Mile Trail Race

I typically reserve my blog race recaps for Marathons only but today's race deserves a wrap up.

One of the great things about living in Chattanooga is that there are literally hundreds of places here to run. There are over 50 Trail Heads within just a few miles of downtown Chattanooga. Another great thing about living here is that there are tons of different events in which a runner can participate. Rock Creek, an outdoor store here in the area, hosts a yearly trail series and this race was one of those events. I have run three previous events in the series and they have all been great. They are organized well, provide great schwag, and they all offer challenging but fun courses to run. The River Gorge 10.2 Mile Trail Race this morning was no different. It was by far the most difficult of the ones that I have run but probably the best scenery I've ever seen while running.

The race started on time which is atypical for most smaller events that I have run but very typical of Rock Creek Events. The course started on an uphill road which turned into a trail about a mile in. As I moved through the course, my legs felt good and I felt fresh despite running a full marathon last weekend. A hilly one at that.

As is the case with most road races, nearly all of the runners are courteous and helpful on the trails. It has to be that way on trails because of some of the techinical things that you have to do and the trail is often times single track. I did notice today that many runners were wearing headsets which kind of caught me off guard. Two things that I observed when noticing this today: one was that they were missing a ton of great nature sounds as they ran and the second being that it can be very difficult to pass someone courteously when they cannot hear you asking to pass.

At the first aid station at about mile 4 I still felt good but the trail was beginning to takes it's toll on my body. Each trail race that I have done I have noticed that they typically keep your heart rate at a much higher level than even a hilly road race. Often times, walking is necessary to get back down out of Zone 4. I had to walk several times today to accomplish just that. One cool thing for me today was that I didn't fall once! A first for me on a trail. I nearly fell several times but avoided it once by slamming into a tree, ouch. Another time that it is almost inevitable for me to walk in a trail race is on inclines, especially switchbacks. This course offered very few times where you could gain time back on your pace. There were a couple of areas where you could but they didn't last long and they came right after an incline so steep it took a few minutes to get your heart rate down to an acceptable level.

At about mile 7 you began an incline that led you to the aid station at about the halfway point of the climb. This hill was intimidating. You can see the aid station and people are cheering you to the top but you just couldn't seem to make yourself move any faster. The really bad part of it was that just after you got an orange and a banana, the incline became more steep and moved into a switchback. For some reason I hate those things. You're looking up and thinking "those people are just right there but I have so far to get there".

It's important to point out at this point that the volunteers at the Rock Creek Races are amazing. They are always cheering you on and greeting you with a smile. These folks probably would rather be running the race but are spending their time helping folks like me finish. It's also really cool to see the kids out helping. They will have a lasting impression on their minds that they will never forget. Runners being trained well!

At about mile 8.5 I reached the Rock Garden which my buddy Tim had warned me about. I need to point out here that my buddy Tim, aka @abueloruns, couldn't run this one because he has a broken collar bone from a fall while running. Weird not having Tim around so I can chase that backwards hat that I always have to see! The Rock Garden was an area so technical that I really do not know how the top trail runners actually run through it. The main thing that is different about trail running for me is the mental aspect of it. You have to constantly watch the trail a few feet in front of you or you will bust your rear almost immediately. My ankles and legs are so sore after a trail raise because they spent the entire race trying to stabilize so you don't turn an ankle. Each step in the Rock Garden was slow and precise. Moss was all over many of the rocks so even when you picked a good spot to land on, your foot would still slip. This area of the course slowed to a crawl for me. If not for this area I could have come in under 2 hours but hey, it didn't happen that way.

At about 9 miles I moved out of the Rock Garden and started the final climb to the finish. The last mile was a gradual incline that led to the finish line. The one positive of that last mile is that I could hear the announcer announcing finishers and it kept me focused on finishing strong. I finished a tough race, in one piece I might add, in 2:09:56. To kind of let you know how difficult this course was, that time is almost a full twenty minutes more than my half marathon personal best time. I am proud of that time though. I finished!

I encourage any one out there to start trying to do some trail runs, especially Rock Creek events. Trails remind me that I am not in as good of shape as I thought I was. I'm in realy good condition right now and I worked hard in this race. It pushed me to my limits. I ran a hilly Georgia Marathon last weekend and I promise you that I didn't get as tired as I did today one time in it. This trail also helped me tremendously, There is nothing the Go! St Louis Marathon can throw at me that I didn't battle today.

Thanks Rock Creek for putting on these events, the volunteers that make it happen, and Tim for turning me on to trail running. I am a better runner because I run trails!

If you are interested in running the Rock Creek events visit them at and click on Trail Series.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

2012 Georgia Publix Marathon Race Recap

When I started running three years ago I really only had one expectation. It was to get in shape and lose weight so I could play with my kids without passing out. Not only did running help me lose the weight and get me in shape, it has done so many other things for me. It has taught me how to be more self disciplined for one. A day like Sunday was where that trait came in handy. The other thing that running has shown me is how cool the comraderie is among runners. It doesn't matter what your running ability may be, runners have fun together! I watched two of my Anniston Runners Club friends finish their first full marathons on Sunday. Both Paula Roberson and Erin Thielker did great and I know they will never forget that moment. I know I'll never forget my first full! I also met Stefanie and Jennifer from Birmingham who are running on my team for the Dixie 200. My friend Paige finished her second marathon and took an hour off of her time. Finally, Brian Mount also finished another marathon. This guy is doing more marathons than I am. I could stop here because watching friends accomplish goals with their running is awesome to me! This picture is of Brian , Erin, Paula, and me at the Start/Finish Line.

When I decided to do a marathon a month I wasn't sure which ones I would run but this one seemed like a no brainier. It was close to Chattanooga and I had a few friends running it. What I didn't know when I signed up was that it would be 87 degrees when I finished and I guess I didn't listen when folks told me it was hilly. Well, I should have because it was!

I got to Atlanta on Saturday afternoon and met Brian at the expo. I thought the expo was set up pretty wel. The traffic flow was great and the vendor selection was good too. I bought me a pair of Newton Motion shoes there and I absolutely love them. I also bought me another RUSeen short sleeve shirt to run in at night. After the expo we went to dinner and tried to settle in a little early. We stopped by the Start/Finish line on the way back to the hotel and took a few pics.

On Sunday morning we met up at the corrals. I love this part of a marathon. You can see the excitement building and being with two first time marathoners, it was that much more elevated. I was assigned to Corral I but I have to admit, I moved up to G with Brian to get a little bit ahead of the crowds. This one was nothing like Chicago. My buddy Michael was in Corral D with me and they absolutely would not let you move up! The gate was even guarded. A highlight for me now is to meet and see Marathon Maniac runners in the corrals. I met two in the corral on Sunday. Of course I am horrible with names but I did talk to them!

As the race started I had a specific strategy in mind and I got to it. I wanted to do 3 miles at about an 8:30 pace and then move into my 4/1 run/walk method after that point. Brian and I weaved through the crowds at a pretty quick pace. At mile three I was about where I needed to be on pace and eased into my walk/run method. From the start you could tell that this course was going to be a bit more hilly than I had experienced before. There were several gradual inclines of .2 to .3 miles long along the way. As was the case with Mercedes, I was very surprised at how well I felt. I began clicking off the miles at a pretty good pace.

At about mile 7 when the half marathoners split off we were once again at a hill. Seemed to happen often Sunday! I commented to a few people that I couldn't remember ever running a race where hills seemed to never end. Each time I would look up ahead to a turn and think that it had to go downhill there, it didn't. Right turn after right turn led to another hill. Obviously, the major upside to that point is that there had to be downhills too. That was the case and I took advantage of them when it gave me the opportunity. I made up time often by running some pretty good paces down hills. At mile 9 my IT band started to give me some trouble. I have been battling my right one for a few weeks now and it started hurting pretty bad. I made up my mind right then and there though that I would win the mental battle and I did. Though it bothered me, I never let it get into my head that I couldn't run fast. What's ironic, is that I have found that it bothers me less when I pick the pace up a bit.

At mile 14, Stephanie, a friend of ours that we met at our Auburn tailgate, was there cheering runners on. She had bananas, oranges, and gave me some of my Spark and NUUN. Most importantly she was there with her Auburn stuff on. Another runner passed and yelled "War Eagle" and we both responded in kind. Those little things are what make marathons special. Meeting new folks, hearing your college teams battle cry, and seeing folks cheering you on!

At mile 15 I was on a great pace which was going to put me way under the 4 hour goal mark. I made the decision there to back it down somewhat so I could take on the hills that I had heard were coming around mile 16 or so. I settled into a 3:55 or so pace hoping for the best. I was glad I did. At about that time the temps really started becoming an issue. It wasn't unbearable by any means but I could feel it draining my body. Well, the hills came on at a vengeance. Each mile that passed seemed more hilly than the last. I trudged on trying to make the best of it holding to that 3:55 pace. At mile 22 the course took you out and back in a big park. Out and backs are tough for me. Seeing runners considerably ahead of me right beside me discourages me for some reason. It was also a paved path with very little shade. The sun was beating down and it was really noticeable at this point.

After making it through the park holding my pace I came to mile 23. Let me just say, the hill at 23 was a doozy. It was probably .4 miles to the top and it was a decent incline. About midway up the hill I made a conscience decision to back it down again. I had PR'd Mercedes by 22 minutes and I was on pace to do the same Sunday. I decided to back it down to a PR pace and conquer the 4 hour mark another day when conditions were better. I probably could have held the pace I was on but I really didn't want to end up in the OR as Brooke Nelson inadvertently put on my FB page! A lesson I learned not too long ago was that you listen to your body and pay attention to conditions for your own sake so I did it here. I also have to admit that I was thinking it would be much easier to PR at St Louis with a 4:10 mark instead of a 3:55 mark!

Miles 23 through 26 were really not eventful other than the fact that I knew I was on a PR pace and I knew I was about to finish my 9th full marathon. The crowd support was great as it was for most if the entire race. The event coordinators did an excellent job putting it together in my opinion. The City of Decatur deserves a huge shout out. They went all out in their efforts to support the runners!

I came to the finish a little slower than expected but well within PR time. As I made the left turn to the line, I thought about all of my previous finishes to date. This one was special because I knew then that all of my hard training, base mile building, and my change in nutrition had worked. I am really coming around as a runner and I love it. There are so many folks to thank for that fact and I would leave out a ton if I tried to list them all. I do want to mention Adam Swan though. The guy is an inspiration and he helps motivate me with his attitude and his guidance!

Next up is the Go! St Louis Marathon on April 15th with Brian Mount. Hope to see you out there on the trials or on the roads!

My updated medal rack by @ironsportworks