Monday, April 26, 2010

Sales Engineer

I'm a sales engineer. I've often been asked what that is. Are you a sales guy or are you an engineer? Well, you see, I'm sorta both.

I have to communicate technical information in a not so technical way to non-technical decision makers with money. Often, this means that I give a view from 1000 or 1500 feet (you'll see why I chose those numbers in just a minute). I have to smooth out some of the details. We call this a "Sales Presentation".

I also have to communicate technical information in a very technical way to the people who will actually be making the stuff work. This means that we get down to the details. We look at it closely enough to see the whole picture while seeing the rough edges of the details. We call this the "Engineering Presentation."

What does this have to do with running? Check out the Sales Presentation of the elevation profile of the Country Music Marathon. This is what I downloaded from their website. They are trying to get people to sign up at the website.

Now, check out the Engineering Presentation of the elevation profile of the Country Music Marathon. This came from my Garmin and is synced up with actual government provided elevation data. This is how I would describe the course to someone who was actually preparing to run the course.

Don't let anyone tell you that this course is easy.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Country Music Marathon - The Race

I started a post ranting about the event, but decided that I'd rather talk about the race. So, here goes with the race report. If I get around to it, I'll talk about the event (mis)management later.

First I want to give a shout to my companions for this trip. Great job Jeff! He ran a 2:19 in the half, beating his goal. Nice job! Great work and determination leading up to this race!

Second, Shane O'Neill ran a blistering 1:21:33 to set a half PR and win his age group. Setting a PR on that course is huge! Winning your age group in a race that large is pretty sweet.

And thanks to Lori and Leigh for supporting us before and after the race. We had some logistical difficulties caused by the race (dis)organization. I don't know what we would have done without them! I really enjoyed all of the company on this trip!

You can view any combination of the marathon and half marathon results at the Country Music Marathon website. I ran a 3:07:29 which was good enough for 43rd overall. (Though I'm not sure how 2 people with that exact same chip time but with a higher gun time get ranked ahead of me. Further evidence of the mismanagement of this race.) That's another BQ time, and that's a BQ no matter what my age is. I didn't back in to a BQ.

I heard lots of people yelling, "Go Fleet Feet!" as I was running the second half today. It really feels great to be part of a team that people recognize! I hope I can continue to represent. When I heard the cheers, I always picked up the pace a few steps.

I've carried a water bottle in every marathon I've run to date. After dinner the night before, Shane told me that I'm too fast to be carrying a water bottle during a race like this. Hmmm. I hadn't thought of that before. There is aid nearly every mile, so why do I need it? I lost about 2 pounds preparing for this race, so why would I add 1.5 pounds back carrying a bottle? Makes some sense. So, nervously, I ran this one with no bottle in my hand. That worked out pretty well. I got wet at every aid station, but with today's heat, I didn't care.

I chose my Nike Lunarelite+ for today's race. I REALLY like that shoe better every time I run in it. I think I'm ready to make it my regular trainer. It was just a comfortable ride. If you've tried Nike and passed before, but haven't tried anything in the Lunar line, you owe it to yourself to try the Lunarelite or Lunarglide.

The Start
The start was early, at 6:45 AM much to my (and everyone else's) surprise. I met my friend and Ragnar team mate Justin Hulsman in Corral 1. I was a little surprised that they put me in Corral 1, but learned soon enough that that was the right place for me to be. We both were thinking 3:00 or bust, so we were planning to stay together as long as we could. Our secret plan was to stay with the 1:30 pace group until they split at about 11 miles and then just HOLD ON!

The First 10k
Yep, I was thinking 3:00 or bust. And I started that way. 6:45 and 6:48 seemed plenty fast, but the 1:30 group was way out front! Apparently, the leader knew what he was doing, because miles 3, 4, and 5 are doozies. I maintained what felt like a 6:50 pace, but ended up running them all over 7:00. And even though those miles are absurdly early in a marathon, I just never recovered from the time lost there.

Justin stayed with the pace group, and I didn't see him again until a few yards before the finish line.

I hit the 10k mark in 43:26, nearly a full minute behind plan. I knew that would be difficult to make up, but I was going to give an effort at making it up a few seconds per mile.

On to 13.1
I hit the 10 mile mark at 1:09:35, and 3:00 didn't seem so unreasonable any more. I honestly felt GREAT! I ran miles 9-11 with a guy who had just run a 3:09 the Saturday before in Indiana. He really didn't need to be running a marathon this weekend, and it showed after a couple of miles together. Maybe one day I'll be as good as Marty Clarke and run 3:15 in back to back weekends, but I'm nowhere near that now.

After 10.8 or so miles, where the courses split, the company dwindled significantly. I was cruising from miles 7 to mile 14, hitting mostly 6:47-ish miles with a 6:40 thrown in for good measure. I just felt good. I hit the half split at 1:31:11. Because I have marathon experience, and I know what awaits me in miles 22, 23, and 24, I knew that 3:00 was not going to happen today. It really doesn't matter how good you feel at 13.1. The race doesn't begin until mile 20. Maybe 3:05 is attainable.

On to Mile 20
Because I was discombobulated at the start, I didn't quite get emptied in the portapotty before toeing the line. During mile 14, I realized that I was not going to make it to the finish without stopping. Ugh. And I was in such a groove, too. Nailing miles between 6:48 and 6:55. Ugh.

I stopped just before mile 15, and that caused me to turn in a 7:45. There was no recovering from that. And I never hit that same groove again after that. This was officially the beginning of the end.

I grunted out a couple more 7:00 miles, and then mile 18 hit. Mile 18 was far and away the most difficult mile on the course. It was one long uphill. It just kept on going up and up. 7:30. Ouch again. I didn't get another mile below 7:00 for the rest of the day. Yuck.

As you're nearing the 20 mile mark, the half and the full courses merge. Miserable. It was a little confusing for a brain that had been running for nearly 20 miles. Should I be on the right or the left? Add to that, there are some 12 minute milers trotting along and getting in front of 7 minute mile marathoners and it's just not good. Am I going the right way? Sentries here would have been a good thing. The cones were insufficient. This REALLY slowed me down and I ran a 7:36 20th mile.

Even so, I hit 20 miles at 2:21:33, knowing that if I run the last 10k as fast as I ran the first 10k that I would break 3:05. That was the goal.

The Last 10k
When I hit 20 miles, I was going to try to just push as hard as I could. I was planning to make myself hurt. Mission accomplished!

I started getting a side stitch during the 21st mile. Surely, if I breathe deeply and ignore it, it will go away. Nope. Can I live with this for 40 more minutes? Maybe. Ok, no, I can't. It HURTS. I try speeding up to see if that helps. Ouch, that made it worse. I try slowing down, but got no relief. I tried to just gut it out again, and did so for another mile. But ouch. My only option was to walk. I walked until the pain was bearable, then started my 7:00 pace again. That meant a 7:55 23rd mile. OUCH! That hurt worse than the stitch. 3:05 is gone.

Also, this out and back from mile 22 to mile 25 is downright sadistic. You run right by the finish and then run away from it. You see the 24 mile marker, but know it's not for you, yet. And there is this NASTY, short but very steep hill in the 24th mile. Then you see the 24th mile and think about how long you ran out before you saw it.

I was digging deep, but sub 7:00 just wasn't in my legs at this point.

After crossing the 26 mile marker, I saw Justin Hulsman ahead!!! I wanted badly to catch him, but there just wasn't enough time. I didn't want so much to beat him, I just wanted to see a friend again! I was tired of fighting this battle alone! I didn't catch him, but I did close the gap some.

Post Race
I was not as miserable as usual. Stopping hurt worse than continuing to run did. I hate the way they herd you through at this race. I was stuck in a crowd, barely moving. About the worst thing you can do after a marathon is stand still. I needed to either continue walking/jogging or I needed to lie down. Standing and barely moving was miserable.

I had some serious spasms in my calves and quads. Strangers looked on in amazement as my legs just twitched and twitched. When I finally was able to find my family, I had to lie down in the grass. My daughters really thought the twitching in my legs was funny. I had to ignore the pain to find the humor, but it was great to laugh with them!

Closing Thoughts...
As always, I think I could have run this faster. However, I am very pleased with my race today. I accomplished some things I needed to accomplish. I had enough energy to enjoy the moment. I don't know how many people I high fived on the course. I don't know how many thank yous I said. I don't know how many bands I heard. I truly enjoyed the surroundings. I fed off of the cheers of the crowd.

It's another marathon on my resume. I'm learning more and more what the last 10k is all about. Respect the distance. I need to get a little bolder earlier and a little tougher later.

I thought my taper worked very well this time. I waited until about 12 days before to reduce the mileage. The carb deplete and load cycle also seemed to work well. I don't know that I'll make that a habit, but if I'm targeting a big race and I'm looking for every conceivable advantage, I'll definitely do it again.

While I didn't have any breakthroughs in training, I was clearly in better shape on race day this time. I ran 4 minutes faster on a hotter day on a hillier course. I think that's the proof. Sub 3:05 is next, then sub 3:00. I will work and work and work until I reach the sub 3:00 mark. I will get there.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Eve

The day before a big race drives me crazy! I have a lot to do today, so that is keeping me from going too crazy. Country Music Marathon, here I come!

I feel very good. My legs feel fresh and not stale from the taper. Subjectively, I feel better than I did the day before Rocket City. But I know that sheer misery awaits me tomorrow! I know what the last 10k of a marathon feels like. I'm hoping I can grit this out, relish the experience, and find some new toughness and strength that I haven't found before.

I've never been in a race this size. So, I don't know what to expect at the start and along the course and at the finish. I'm excited about that. I'm excited to have live bands and a crowd with energy cheering us along.

I'm nervous about the weather, but I certainly understand that is completely out of my control. I need to concern myself with things I can control, like attitude, relaxation, diet, and rest.

I plan to be aggressive tomorrow. I plan to take chances that I haven't taken in a race before. I'm ready to pay the price if those gambles fail. I'm ready to learn from the experience. This will either be my best marathon experience yet or my worst marathon experience yet.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

One Week!

One week remains until the Country Music Marathon. This is my big spring race. Everything else has been leading up to this race. Honestly, I'm not as prepared for this race as I was for the Rocket City Marathon in the fall. I don't have quite the weekly mileage as I did then. The work stress has definitely been higher during this preparation. I haven't had any breakthrough performances like I did leading up to Rocket City. But for some reason, I have some confidence. Irrational, I know.

A couple of more experienced runners have been talking to me about something that was in vogue in the 70s and 80s. No, not jogging, but carb depletion before carb loading before a marathon. You can read more about carb loading strategies here.

I know that the latest research shows that there is nearly negligible advantage to depletion before loading. However, I think are a couple of advantages that haven't been mentioned in the studies. One is weight loss and another is adaptation to using fat as fuel. Besides, I'm experimenting a bit with this race. I plan to go out a bit harder than I have in the past and I'm doing a deplete before the load. I'm willing to take some risks with this race since I have a BQ under my belt.

One thing is sure, I simply could not maintain a low carb diet for any length of time. It's only been 4 days, and I'm dreaming about milk and cereal! Oh how I'd love to have a big Chinese stir fry with rice. Mmmmm fresh bread! Ugh. Don't get me wrong, I like meat and cheese and veggies, but I also like milk, cereal, bread and fruit! I can't wait for the loading days, which start Tuesday!

I'll report back on the results after the race. Here are some notes about carb depletion just a few days in.
  1. I love milk and cereal. I like eggs and fish and chicken, but not as much as I thought.
  2. A low carb diet will take off pounds, but it's mostly water at first.
  3. There is NO energy for hard workouts on a low carb diet.
  4. You will be irritable and a little light headed on a low carb diet.
Enough for now. I may ramble a couple more times before the race.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


The schedule called for track work today. Well, the race is less than 2 weeks away and track work has really deflated my confidence lately. The workouts have felt hard. I've wanted to quit every one of them early. The numbers have been ok, but they have just felt hard. Hard. I still may do a track workout this week. I don't know.

Anyway, I decided to go with a workout that I knew I could just nail today. I need a dose of confidence much more than any potential physiological gain that a set of repeats would give. So, I chose to do a 6 mile tempo run. It turns out that I could nail that workout. It turns out that it felt quite good.

I'm chasing Matt right now, which is fine with me. He pulled 15 seconds or so ahead over the last mile and a half of today's tempo run and I let him go. Man, he's getting stronger and stronger.

These splits are based on my auto lap on the Garmin rather than the markings on the track. I believe the track is just about 0.05 miles longer than marked per 3 miles. The goal was 6:32 per mile. Going by the marks on the track I was just a bit slower. Going by auto-lap I was just a bit faster. Close enough.
  1. 6:32
  2. 6:34
  3. 6:23
  4. 6:28
  5. 6:30
  6. 6:25
  7. 0:41 (0.1 miles)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sunday AM Run

After Saturday's Chick Fil A 5k, I needed some mileage. I ended up with a total of 12 miles on Saturday, with 3.1 at 5k pace (obviously, duh!) and about 3-4 more at marathon pace. It ended up being a somewhat hard day, but not quite the mileage I need for a Saturday during marathon training.

So, Sunday morning I woke up a little earlier to get a few miles in before the start of the regular 10 miler. There were 7 folks there this week. Spring must be here! Three of the group opted for an easier 6 miler, which is good. I'd like to get more folks involved, and 10 miles in less than 1:20 is a very hard effort for most folks. So, I'm happy that there are folks wanting to do less. I'm one of those folks some Sundays!

The four of us ended up progressively picking up the pace on the last 5 miles, 7:30, 7:26, 7:23, 6:51, and 6:34. After that, I added about 3.5 more miles to get 16.5 for the day.

Now, it's taper time. I'll probably do more quality miles this time around during the taper. I'm also considering a carb depletion before my carb load phase this time around. I'm trying to decide if the irritability is worth the couple of pounds I'd lose and the possible gain in glycogen storage.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Chick Fil A 5k

WOW!!! The Chick Fil A 5k blew away my expectations. This was as successful of an inaugural event as I have ever seen! Congratulations to the city of Athens and thanks to the key sponsors, Chick Fil A, Fleet Feet Huntsville, and Athens Limestone Wellness Center. I hope this generated a good income for Jessica Elkins Meningitis Awareness.

This was my first race as a member of the Nike Fleet Feet Racing team in Huntsville. It was my first race in Nike shoes, and I really liked the ride. I ran today in the LunarElite, which is the lightest shoe I've worn to date. I'm working toward running 5ks and 10ks in the LunaRacer, but I figured it wasn't a good idea to jump to such a light weight shoe with minimal support just yet. I'll graduate to those.

Quick Results
Results are already available on the HTC Website! Nice work, Jim!

The winner was Brandon Mader of Huntsville in 16:12. The female winner was Brooke Pruitt of Huntsville in 20:04. The masters division was 70 and over (maybe by typo, but it was 70), and I don't know if there was a runner in that division or not. I ran a 18:50 which was good enough for a 2 second PR, 4th overall (of 418) and 1st (of 40) in the 31-40 age group (again, maybe a typo, but it was 31-40). That was also good enough for 6 months of free Chick Fil A!

I love just leaving the door of my house and doing my warm-up run on the way to the race! The run to the start was about 1.6 miles, which wasn't quite enough. When I got there, there were tons of people! I hung out and chatted with all the Athens folk. Athens needs more races! I am directing the Duck and Run 5k on September 18, so come join us then! I ran into Fleet Feet Racing team mate Madelyn Patton and we did a mile of additional warm up. She was in rare form, and she smoked the 5k in 21 and change.

The Race
The start was a little unusual. There were a couple of Chick Fil A cows standing at the start line with a banner, and they were kinda in the way. The audible sound of the start was a ringing cow bell. I think the start surprised several people. The PA wasn't really directed at the starting line. But off we went!

There were the usual kids and beginners in a race this size who jumped out to a sprint start. They were off the pace soon enough and there were just 8 people in front of me. Two were Brandon Mader and Donald Bowman. The others I caught and passed before the first turn on Bullington. Then, Justin Pruitt passed me just before the turn and I settled into 4th place, where I would remain for rest of the race. I had no idea what was going on behind me. I never looked back.

I ran on Justin's shoulder for most of the race. We hit the 1 mile split in 5:46, my fastest mile ever. Apparently, that's just a tad too fast because I wasn't able to hold that. After the turn on West Hobbs Street, there is a very slight incline. I was sure to stay close to Justin on this incline. I even made a surge to attempt to pass him, but he covered it, so I stayed behind and waited for another opportunity.

Just before the quick turns on Hine and Market streets, there is a downhill. Justin did not know the course and I didn't see any sentries here, so I helped him out a bit by giving verbal directions. "Left! Then quick right! Yeah, that's it!" I stayed with him along Market Street and we hit the 2nd mile in 11:50. That was too slow for that second mile. Just past mile 2, I made another surge to pass and pulled even, but he covered it and pulled ahead. While even with him, I got a good look at him and knew he wasn't in my age group! He was way too young to be competing with me for the free chicken!

As we reached the courthouse square, he made a surge and pulled ahead by about 5 seconds. I did not cover and I don't know why. I guess I still race like a girl. I was planning to surge on the downhill on Washington Street between Jefferson and Houston. I did, but so did he and I lost more ground on him. As we started up the hill, I was pushing, and I could tell I was losing my ability to maintain this pace. I should have pushed harder earlier. I should have covered all of Justin's surges. This isn't a difficult hill, and I run it multiple times per week. However, it sure seemed harder today!

As we turned into the parking lot, I had no idea where the finish was. I never saw the clock! But I was in the finishing chute, so I assumed I was finished. After the race, I met Justin and Brandon and confirmed that they were younger than me. :)

Obviously missing from the lead pack was Josh Whitehead. He ran along with his wife today and that explains why he didn't win. Another thing, today is the first time I ever remember seeing Donald Bowman after the first few hundred yards of a race! To be sure, I didn't compete with Donald's 17:11, but I did keep him in sight until the end. Part of that is the layout of this course, but still, I saw him!

Post Race
WOW!! Starbucks, Chick fil A sandwiches, water, gatorade, bananas, oranges, pastries, etc. The awards presentation was done by none other than Mayor Dan Williams. There were several Fleet Feet team mates getting some free chicken! Madelyn won her age group. Donald Bowman won his age group. The two of them would have taken masters honors if the masters division had been the normal 40 and over.

I did a reverse run of the course with Barry Pugh and Jordan Paul to cool down. It was cool seeing the mass of people in the streets of my hometown and to have the opportunity to encourage them and hear their congratulations.

It was a great day to be in Athens. I really hope we can leverage this success to grow the attendance at the Duck and Run 5k in September. Visit for more information about the Duck and Run 5k.

Congrats to My Friends
I'd like to take some space to give a shout out to some of my friends.

Lance Perry ran his best race yet today breaking 22 minutes. He'll be below 20 minutes with continued training. Tim McNeill turned in a solid race today after recovering from injury. David Quinn is coming on strong. Will Ogles is just now getting back into running and ran well today. It was good to see Mark Swanner coming back from injury and breaking the 8:00 mile solidly. Troy Coneally ran today in his comeback from injury. I could go on and on. I didn't mean to slight you if I didn't mention you by name.

And Jeff Mooneyham ran his best race to date. This was a tune up for him for the CMM half in two weeks. He's ready. This guy is usually already halfway through with his runs when I see him on the track at Athens High before 6:00 AM. I've seen him running 10+ miles alone in the rain early in the morning. He got up early enough to get his run in before attending a sunrise service on Easter Sunday. He's a poster child for no excuses, just miles.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Crazy Week!

My resolve was tested yesterday. Work has been absolutely crazy since last week. I had a quick, one night trip to Denver Monday and Tuesday. There was simply no time to run. There was barely time for 5 hours of sleep. Usually, if I have to choose between a recovery run or adding sleep up to 6.5 hours, I'll take the sleep. The work madness continued all day Wednesday. I think I finally have it somewhat under control.

Anyway, that's my excuse for not running this week. I needed to do a track workout, but it was 9:00 PM. Ugh. What to do. Put the kids to bed and go to the track. That's what I did. I ran 9 miles total and 5 x 600m intervals. I'll take some confidence away from this workout. I believe I'll be racing against folks who wouldn't have done that workout under the same load of stress and fatigue I was under.
  1. 2:07
  2. 2:07
  3. 2:05
  4. 2:09
  5. 2:07

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Training for Nashville hasn't exactly gone by the plan the way that training for Huntsville did. I've raced instead of doing the true long run mileage a couple of times, and my weekly mileage hasn't been quite as high. I've been aiming for 70+ miles per week and I've really been hitting 60-65. I have a couple of 70+ mile weeks, but I have a couple of 50- mile weeks to balance it out. I've been less motivated, more stressed (external factors), and less disciplined. I figure that will show up on race day.

Friday was supposed to be a holiday at work. Well, my work is customer driven, and my customer wasn't off, so I wasn't off. It's part of the business. Anyway, I planned to work the 8k Fund Run on Saturday and take advantage of the holiday to run a 20 miler. But I had to work. I figured I'd get everything done by lunch, 2:00 PM at the latest. But no. I absolutely worked until 5:00. Yuck.

All of that babbling is to set the background for this. I wasn't going to miss or shorten this week's long run, no matter what. I had planned on leaving work at 2:00 Friday and just running on the Monte Sano trails until I couldn't run anymore or 20 miles, whichever came last. :) Well, there simply wasn't time to do that before dark. Ugh.

So I drove back to Athens and ran one of the most boring 20 milers imaginable. There is a 1.5 mile walking track at Athens that has a couple of out and backs that are 0.6 and 1.2 miles each. The track is lit and the out and backs are not. So, I ran the out and backs until dark. I had about 10.5 miles done when dark hit, so I did 6 laps on 1.5 mile track to get to 19.5 and then did a quarter out and a quarter back to get 20 in for the day.

Friday's run was fueled by grit and determination. I didn't want to run it, but I didn't want to skip it, either. I'm not an evening runner, so it was uncomfortable. I had a boring route. I just ran 20 miles an wore a smile on my face for most of it. I'm glad that's over. I hope that pays off.