Friday, October 29, 2010

Welcome to Ironman Access - NOT!

As a marathon runner with a bicycle in the garage and memories of competitively swimming in High School I've long been tempted to try an Ironman. While I've been dissuaded by the staggeringly high registration fees ($600 to $1,000!) as this NY Times article points out the demand for Ironman slots continues to grow nevertheless.

The following PG-rated animated video which I found on Iron Brandon's site humorously ridicules the World Triathlon Corporation's attempt to bridge the supply-demand imbalance to their singular profit via their "Ironman Access" program (which, interestingly, was rescinded the day after its launch due to negative feedback):

Regardless, I sincerely respect anyone who can even finish an Ironman event, and even more-so with an incredible time in the marathon after having just completed a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike leg. Here's a great video recap of Australian Chris McCormack's recent second Kona win; note his relaxed form while completing his 2:43:31 victorious marathon:

More Ironman humor:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Endurance Relay Tips

I enjoyed participating in the latest Runners Round Table episode focusing on endurance relays. Dr. Dave ( hosted, as he'll be running RAGNAR Florida Keys. I co-hosted along with Colin Hayes (, Chris Russell (, and Amanda Lanza (

In advance of the show I put a few top-of-mind thoughts tapping my two prior years experience running the Texas Independence Relay (in 2009 and 2010). If you're looking for a unique racing experience you should give an endurance relay a try!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Boston Marathon Filled - Now What?

Having absolutely loved the unique experience of qualifying for then running the Boston Marathon in 2009 and 2010 (I'm hoping to run it again in 2012) I watched with interest on Monday as the BAA opened registration for the 2011 race. While I anticipated that the race would sell-out far sooner than last year, I did not expect it to fill-up in eight hours!

The BAA's Executive Director Guy Morse had the following to say afterward, and I am glad to hear that the BAA will seriously consider changes for the 2012 registration process:

While it is increasingly common for major metropolitan marathons to be filled on their initial registration day, leading race organizers such as New York's and Houston's to move towards a lottery system, I hope that the BAA does not follow this path. Three key elements significantly differentiate the Boston Marathon:
  • Boston's long-time history of the marathon - the 2011 race will represent its 115th - is truly a national treasure;
  • Boston's unique and beautiful course provides an awe-inspiring experience from its small town Hopkinton start to its dramatic Boston finish, frequently along narrow and scenic two-lane country roads lined by hundreds of thousands of exuberant, enthusiastic and noisy New Englanders;
  • Boston is uniquely positioned as the only world-class marathon whose tough qualification standards define those runners who are the most dedicated and strongest.
As well summarized by Dr. Dave in his blog post, should the BAA in response to the rapid sell-out of the 2011 race:
  • Have lots of people qualify but only a fraction who get to run - or fewer qualifiers that everyone can run?
  • Implement a hybrid qualifying time and lottery, or would that diminish the cachet of the race?
  • Increase the field, and what does this do to the quality of the Boston experience?
Pending the BAA's eventual decision regarding almost certain changes for the 2012 race I hope that the running community coalesces upon a consensus to assist the BAA in its ongoing deliberations. In that regard, though risking being excluded I feel that in lieu of adopting a hybrid qualification and lottery system that the BAA should instead strengthen its unique athletic tradition by uniformly tightening qualification standards - though using a more rational basis such as outlined in this Running World article.

To fully address the Boston Marathon's supply-demand imbalance the bib supply should also be reviewed. In doing so the BAA must first acknowledge that it has encouraged the continued growth of bandits on the Boston course (of which over 6,000 are now estimated) via not enforcing a prohibition against runners who have not registered.

While I concede that the narrow country roads east of Hopkinton are not conducive to a substantially increased number of runners, through a rigorously enforced exclusion of bandits the BAA could easily add an additional 6,000 runners to the course. In addition, 15,000 runners could be safely added through excluding bandits and by adding a third ~15,000 runner wave (with each wave separated by 45 versus the current 30-minutes to minimize congestion).

I reject many runners suggestion to substantially reduce the 20% allocation of running bibs currently provided to non-qualifying athletes (i.e. sponsored/charity individuals). The losers of such a move would be needy clients of the many worthy charities throughout New England, and the loss of good-will to the BAA by the many communities, agencies and corporations which directly or indirectly support the Boston Marathon.

The future of the Boston Marathon is at stake in the BAA's ongoing deliberations. While simply adding a lottery system to restrict entrants to those runners who have achieved the current qualification times would be the easiest to implement, doing so would fundamentally transform the Boston Marathon to merely another running event versus the race which defines the world's strongest runners - as it consistently has for 114 years.

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Houston Hopeful Women Interviewed on Runners Round Table

    Be sure to download from iTunes or to listen directly to Runners Round Table episode 103 featuring Julie Threlkeld, who spoke with the talented and driven Jaymee Marty (her blog), Julie Wankowski, Jill Howard, Lori Kingsley and Jen Hitchings.

    Julie T. writes for Running Times and maintains the RacesLikeAGirl and Houston Hopefuls blogs. In the latter she interviews Masters women aiming for - or having since completed - an OT marathon qualifier requiring a finishing time of 2:46:00. Tonight's Runners Round Table discussion was interesting and a lot of fun since this incredible collection of strong women runners had much to share.

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Chicago Marathon Race Report

    I tapped my running watch as I quickly crossed the half-way marker of the 2010 Chicago Marathon, happily noticing my half-marathon split of 1:35:14. This was right where I'd hoped it would be, and I was impressed that had the race just ended I would have easily set a new half-marathon personal record. However, my confidence was fading with the sweat pouring down my back and I was beginning to question my judgement in joining the team.

    The day had started well. After my wonderful wife dropped me off at Grant Park I had ample time to prepare. Standing next to the beautiful Buckingham Fountain I contemplated the great city and reflected favorably on my prior four Chicago Marathons. I was happy that I'd avoided last year's nearly calamitous late arrival to my assigned starting corral, so had ample time to meet the 3:10 pacing team leaders and the other runners who shared my goal. I felt comfortable with the team since the leaders were extremely experienced and as its members were generally runners like myself - Boston qualified marathoners with comparable prior finishing times.

    With growing excitement and the sound of the starting gun ringing in our ears we excitedly began our race. After two miles of the expected weaving around erratic and suddenly slowing runners I felt comfortable with the team as it assumed its 7:15 pace. My breathing was in control in the morning air, and I successfully repeated my mantra to relax. However, beginning at the second fluid aid station I noticed the pacing leaders dramatically speeding-up afterward for a mile which was both annoying and somewhat worrisome. Ultimately I accepted their approach comforted that if I remained with them through the half that I could then drop away and self-manage a 7:35 pace through my hopeful P.R. finish.

    Despite my doubts upon crossing the half I successfully followed exactly that strategy until just after the twentieth mile. At that point the strong sun and climbing temperatures - ultimately reaching a brutal 80°F - exacted their harsh toll. I was astounded to see just how quickly my apparently inadequate consumption of fluids and electrolytes caused me muscle cramps, a headache, lightheadedness and general weakness - which in combination forced me to a walk.

    In retrospect it was fortunate that I yielded to these symptoms. During the subsequent miles walking through the remaining aid stations and slowly jogging between them I drank amply and took some extra Succeed Electrolyte Caps to restore my fluids and electrolyte deficit, and began feeling much better. Upon seeing the 3:30 pacing team pass I sped up in the final mile and ran through the finish line to the loud shouts from the crowd of tens of thousands. Though disappointed with my 3:38 time I was happy to finish healthy and to learn many lessons:
    1. When the predicted temperature plus dew-point is more than 120°F (Chicago's became 80°F+50°F=130°F) to back-off my target pace by at least 20 seconds per mile per 5°F above that point;
    2. A recent study found that marathoners slow by 19 seconds per degree over 55°F. As the average temperature was predicted to be 74°F, which translates to a six minute slow down, I should have reset my goal finishing time accordingly; 
    3. Not to allow worries of losing the pacing team to inhibit my:
      • Obligation to fully satiate my thirst (in retrospect I should have drunk three versus two cups though most of the aid stations); 
      • Consuming electrolytes per my prior hydration and fueling plan.
      Nevertheless, despite the weather induced mis-judgement I had an absolutely great experience, and highly recommend the Chicago Marathon!

      Friday, October 8, 2010

      My Chicago Marathon Plan

      Well, the big day is almost here! It has been a long six-month marathon dry spell since Boston.

      Six weeks ago I announced my goal Chicago finishing time of 3:10, predicated upon ideal weather. However, as the date draws near it's clear that the conditions will be decidedly sub-optimal. The temperature will be warm, from 64 to 79°F, sunny, and somewhat humid with a dew point of ~50°F.

      Nevertheless, my plan remains to run with the 3:10 pacing team. I've trained for this race in comparable, and even warmer conditions. I'm ready to follow my hydration, fueling and electrolyte plan while taking into account the advice provided by the Chicago Marathon staff.

      At every 10K marker I will gauge my exertion level at the pacing team's 7:15 pace. If I feel that I'm excessively pushing or straining I will bid adieu to the group and gradually ease-up a bit on my pace. It'd be great to knock down a 3:10. However, if it isn't the day then I'm OK. Wish me luck!

      Wednesday, October 6, 2010

      Remember for your Marathon: Discussion on Runners Round Table

      I just completed hosting a Runners Roundtable with our topic: "Things to Remember for your Next Marathon". Co-hosting were the extremely talented and experienced Chris Russell (, Colin Hayes (, Stephen Tarleton (, and Pete Larson ( I was delighted to coerce the creative Colin to play a couple of his compositions, and I encourage all runners to check-out his complete collection via visiting his humorous blog.

      This show was very topical given the flurry of fall marathons on the immediate horizon (in my case Chicago on Sunday). I encourage you to listen to the podcast via downloading from iTunes or listening directly. Let me know what you think!