Featured Post

Uhan Performance - Physiotherapy - Running Analysis - Coaching

Come see us at  Uhan Performance ! On July 1, Joe opened his own private physiotherapy practice in Eugene, Oregon! Located in a quiet, ...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Poorly-Activated Muscle -> A Weak Muscle -> An Injured Muscle

With just days to go in 2011, I recently took stock of my training for the month of December.  What a blank-ing JOKE.  A collection of half-mile, or one mile runs.  ("All I ran was ONE ******* MILE?")

After ignoring pain signs through mid-November -- and, arguably, ignoring my calves and heels altogether since last spring -- I became "officially injured" on November 24th.  Since then -- over 5 weeks -- I've run a total of 30 miles -- most of which ran the gamut between "tight" or "sore" and bonafide pain in the left calf/heel. 

I've been stuck in a cycle of "It hurts, it feels a little better, let's run a little*, it hurts...", from which I've yet to emerge.  As a runner, coach and physical therapist, it's downright embarrassing.  Here's where I've gone -- sometimes right, sometimes wrongly.  

(*a little = as little as four minutes, a maximum of 18 minutes.  Never longer than 7 minutes consecutive, over the past month)

My treatment approach has been thus:

1. Do Nothing. Irritated muscles get overly-irritated by excessive stretching, strengthening, massaging and attempts at running.  So do nothing!  Well, this did not work.  I had a severely dysfunctional muscle -- so bound up by thousands of miles of running since last spring that my lower leg was one big grisley chunk of tissue, not a smooth supple muscle-tendon.  Every attempt to run on this clunker resulted in a straining on the same weak segment that gave way to begin with.

2. Tissue Remodeling.  My boss Jeff began to intervene around 12/8 -- pointing out that I had to remodel that healing, dysfunctional tissue.  According to the Tissue Healing Model, all tissues heal with fresh collagen fibers that grow irregularly -- into a jumbled mass, rather than organized fibers.  It's up to ME to "re-organize them" -- via stretching, massage, and occasional "challenges" to the tissue -- strengthenen, hopping/light plyometrics, and yes, running.

So that's what I did: three terrific professional massages that clearly pointed out how incredibly dysfunctional BOTH calves were, along with a regular regimen of stretching and hopping.

The problem: BALANCE.  Some days -- more often than not -- I over-did it.  Soreness crept into a session (usually running), then persisted.  And with soreness came favoring -- or BABYING, as I'll call it: me -- either consciously or unconsciously favoring the left leg in EVERYTHING -- standing, walking, and most definitely running.

Which brings me to the third progression in the treatment:

3. SYMMETRY.  I met on Christmas Eve with my boss at work (for our under-the-table "coaching for treatment" scheme!) so he could work with me.  What he found: egregious favoring of my left leg, with walking, squatting, heel raises, and hopping.  Ridiculous! 

Our focus NOW is on equal firing of the left leg.  And here's why that's important: A poorly-activated muscle is a weak muscle.  

Muscles are NOT all-or-nothing.  Their degree of strength depends on the number of "motor units" activated.  A motor unit represents one nerve fiber that innervates a collection of muscle cells, or a "bundle" -- of which there are hundreds if not thousands per muscle).  This is a requirement of life -- otherwise our physical response could not vary.  Ever lift a very light object that you thought was heavy (with any ensuing comedy?). 

For something as "challenging" to tissue as running -- the constant hyper-loading -> storing -> and releasing of energy that goes into every stride -- you have to have FULL motor recruitment -- or ALL the motor units being activated (to some extent) in your legs.  This is doubly important if you're dealing with a muscle-tendon unit that lacks full strength and resilience.

A weak muscle-tendon needs 100% full power, otherwise the pounding forces with excessively strain, resulting in more injury.  BUT, if one is tentative, guarding, or "babying", you're telling your brain to DE-ACTIVATE, thus giving LESS power.  The muscle-tendon is now weakened further!

And round and round we go:  A weak muscle -> an injured muscle -> a favored muscle -> a poorly activated muscle -> a weak muscle...

The answer: Go Hard, or don't go at all.  You either make that leap with 100% confidence -- and with it, full muscle-activation, without fear of pain -- or you'll land flat on your face.

And that's where I find myself, for the time being.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

"Mind the Exit Wound"...and the .44 Magnum on June 25th.

Welcome to my Page!  For Coaching Information, click HERE or on the tabs at the top of the page. 

*****
November, and the aftermath of my first ultra on 10/30, has gone by quickly.  The restful weeks following the 50M went quickly and easily -- as I've been busy with work, education courses, and coaching.

Initially, I was far less sore after Autumn Leaves than Twin Cities -- no hobbling or aberrant stair-stepping. If anything, my only soreness was due to my own mechanical flaws -- overloading the left side, lacking push-off on the right, and chronic under-pronation on the right side.  I had some left lateral knee soreness for about a week, then a touch of heel pain on both sides for another week.

My college coach, friend/mentor and distance running mega-guru Sean Hartnett has a saying, "Mind the Exit Wound".  In other words, be mindful of not just the initial soreness, but the lingering after-effects of a hard race or workout and how they can affect your body.  

I did not heed this advice as I should have; the left heel pain, which I thought might've been lumbopelvic or ankle joint referred pain, turned out to be a significant musculo-tendinous strain.  It took a good two weeks of "barking" -- and pain escalation -- to make that clear.  And since then, I've run only twice in the past two weeks.  It's improving, but SLOWLY. 

It IS irritating, though: I should've been wiser.  I THRASHED my calves at Twin Cities (my left worse than the right), then did not sufficiently work them out prior to Autumn Leaves.  Then, when Lefty began barking, mid-November, I ignored it, thinking it was just "joint stiffness".  So, as it turns out, I've been pissing it off for a month.  It could take another week or more to heal sufficiently to begin training.

And train, I must, because on Saturday I Won The Lottery. I was among the 10% of the applicants lucky enough to win the privilege pay $370 to run 100 miles through the mountains on June 25th, 2011 -- my mom's "29th" Birthday! 

I have mixed feeling on this "win".  One one hand, winning a spot in the 2011 is a shot at achieving a lifetime goal of finishing an event I thought was completely impossible when I first heard of it.  I remember being at my mom's house in the summer of 2004, reading an article online about a Northern Minnesotan who was in the midst of a six-year streak of complete domination of an event I thought was "punishment for shoplifting in some countries".  Yet it intrigued me to the Nth Degree.  A ten mile trail run can be tough, but 100 miles??

On the other hand, I feel as though I haven't earned this spot -- I wish I was forced to win a Montrail Cup race in order to gain a WS100 berth, because that'd be more evidence that I was prepared and deserving of a spot in the "Boston Marathon of Ultras". 

Back in 2004 I remember poring over the WS100 website and the participant guide -- the maps and pacing and crewing...  Since my pacing experience at the 2010 event, I've pored even more, nearly to the point of obsession.  Now that I'm IN FOR SURE -- I am equally excited and frightened.

Some thoughts:
  • I'm definitely less scared about 100 miles than I was before Autumn Leaves.  And much less scared than my first impression 6 years ago.  However, I do remember being "several kilometers" into the 50M, thinking, "There's NO WAY I'm gonna even apply to Western States!"
  • I'm nervous and anxious about this Achillies -- heal, already!
  • I'm flattered and excited about having a burgeoning crew comprised of friends and family, that will add a sense of meaning to the event that would far exceed a solo endeavor
  • I firmly believe that the key to ultra-marathoning success is Biomechanical Excellence.  And I have a plan to make my own mechanics as excellent as possible, this involving maybe one of the most skilled and experienced "sports medicine movement experts" in the US.  Thankfully his office is a mile away from mine
  • I've got some fun and exciting training ideas already, my favorite being HERE
I've been telling people that Ultra running combines three of my favorite things: running, the outdoors, and EATING.  So, if nothing else, I suppose I can try to eat $370 worth of Mountain Dew, M&Ms, brownies, and PB&J sandwiches, come June 25th!  

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

RACE REPORT: 2010 Autumn Leaves 50M -- Champoeg State Park (Newburg, OR)

Pre-Race
Woke up at 4, made some tea, packed up my gear and was on the road by 430 to Champoeg State Park for the Autumn Leaves 50M, my first ultra.  I didn't have any expectations -- other than to finish, in order to notch my 2011 Western States qualifying mark before the November 6 deadline.  Without that motivation, I would've still been in bed.

I arrived shortly after 6AM, in the pitch dark, to find a slew of runners shuffling along on an early-start to the race -- a stream of bouncing white orbs piercing the darkness along the first 400m of the course.  Conditions were satisfactory, if not favorable: cool, with intermittent mist and light rain.

In the dark, I prepped: olive oil "lube" on the arms and legs, and the usual gear -- short tights and Strands T -- along with a pair of trainer shoes (Mizuno Wave Riders).  And, for the first lap: a light jacket and a headlamp.

Minutes before 7AM we assembled at the start -- on a slight uphill ridge near the parking lot, at the head of what would become a very familiar stretch of paved bike trail.  We received some last minute instructions, then "toed the line" -- definitely the least-crowded start line I'd seen in a while.  And then we were off.

Lap 1
Down the decline along the path, it was me and just one other guy: "Matt".  We talked over the first few miles.  He's a 2:25 marathoner, running his first race in 4 years, albeit the 50K version of today's event.  We were cruising along at 6:40s so we hung together on that first loop:  eastbound on the bike path -- the first 2 miles flat, then a mile of twisting, rolling path into the woods along the banks of the Willamette River, before turning 180 at a cone at 5K.  Westbound, we ran the same way back until 4.5, then picked up a "single track" trail in and out of woods, back to the start line. 

When Matt and I hit the trail, we went single file.  At this time, I took some fuel -- some Clif Blok mega-salt gel blocks.  I slowed a bit, and Matt began to pull away.  Knowing his 2:25 ability -- and that he was running only 50K -- I made no effort to reel him in, but I kept him in my sights.

A half mile later, into the woods, I felt like I needed to pee.  Without much thought, I decided I'd try "not stopping": I won't go into great detail the process, but let's just say it was effective at disposing of the liquid -- with only maybe a quarter of it winding up on my legs! 

The wooded loop was not fast: it was a mixture of wet grass, leaves, and mud, and the "single track" was a collection of multiple, uneven "tracks", making it difficult to keep footing, especially when the rains increased mid-morning.  Despite the relatively slower, winding trail segment, it was by far my favorite -- harkening back to Hoffman Park Trails or the Kinni Trails back in River Falls. 

Before long the trail spit us back onto the bike path heading up to the start/finish -- another 180 turn and home to an aid station.  I stopped long enough for two cups of fluid -- water and HEED -- and then I was off again.

(I would've had 10K splits, but my watch DIED overnight, and all that info is lost!)


Lap 2
Matt was only several seconds in front so I kept him in sight during the opening mile of Lap #2.  However, as I was running along, the pace and breathing felt slight efforted.  The mile 1 split: 6:09!  Oops!  Not good (given our split on Lap 1: 6:48!).  I slowed up a bit, but the remaining miles on Lap 2 were in the 6:20s and 6:30s.  By then, Matt was long gone, and I'd see him only on the out and back segments (around miles 2.5 and 3.5) when he'd double back on me.   From there on, I was running solo.

Lap 3
 I peed again in the woods on Lap #2, which was a good sign.  At the beginning of Lap 2, I ditched my coat and lamp at the car.  At Lap 3, I had my first Boost, which I'd set on the bumper of my car -- literally inches away from the course.  I downed that in the first mile.  What a terrific high calorie, high-electrolye drink!  It's the equivalent of a Clif Bar's worth of calories -- and half a S-Cap's worth of salt -- in an easy to drink volume.  And it was TASTY. 

I looked at this race -- eight times 10K -- in the same way I would an indoor mile (8 x 200m).  And it played out that way:  the first two laps were quick and easy, then reality sets in.  By mid-Lap 3, the running became more tedious -- and I settled into about 7:00 pace.  No significant pain, other than some occasional sharp stabs from my left toes -- mostly from the night before.

The previous night I was in the bathroom getting stuff.  I was near the door, so I shut the light off and swung the door open a bit before exiting.  However, the door rebounded to a "half-open" status -- wherein I promptly WALKED INTO THE DOOR -- hitting both my head/chest and stubbing toes 3 and 4 on my left foot, significantly.  They were very stiff and sore upon waking, but were thankfully "fine" in running shoes.  However, I began to feel them on the uneven trail of Lap 3. Thank God that pain subsided with some adjustment within my shoes, or that could've been my undoing.

Lap 4
Lap 4 was all about getting halfway done.  I didn't pee on Lap 3, but just before the mile mark I had to go -- and knowing that soon I'd be in a high-traffic area (miles 1.5 - 4.5 was the two-way segment of the loop) -- I figured I should go while there was "nobody" around.  After passing an older guy and getting about 100m ahead -- and with no one else in front -- I "proceeded".  Right after I finished, I heard him yell,

"That was awesome!  Nice job!"

to which I responded!

"I know!  I just learned that TODAY!"


The middle laps -- the Sustaining Laps -- were all about mechanics: focusing on efficiency, not only for speed but for minimizing tissue stress.  In my mind was "Flick and Pull" -- the extension of the leg forward (slight hip drive and foot in front), then a "forceful" (relatively) extension behind.  This was very effective at keeping an "effortless" 7:xx pace going, really the entire day. 

Mid-Lap 4, the stomach began to turn a little: excessive salt.  This worried me, because when my gut goes, my my legs go.  So at the end of Lap 4 -- the halfway point -- grabbed my second boost at my car, then I climbed the hill to the Start/Finish, checked in, and ran an extra 75m to the Porta to "do some business".  I also multi-tasked by downing the Boost.  I probably lost 2 minutes there, but still clocked in at 2:51 for my 25 mile split, which I split after the bathroom on my way down the hill to start Lap 5.

Lap 5
My gut was a little irritated at the start of 5, but felt much better as I went along.  I was mid-7s for the first mile -- this meant I ran <3:00 for the [unmarked] marathon split, which was cool -- especially since the course record was about 6:30 and, if I kept it up, I'd crush that time.  However, in the back of my head I knew it would mean nothing if I was crawling the last 10-20K. 

In researching ultra running strategy, people talked about "hitting the wall" at 50K.  This was not the case for me, which was great.  After the deuce and my 2nd Boost, my legs felt the best since Lap 1.  I cruised along at low to mid 7:00s, just trying to cover the distance, focusing on mechanics and trying to keep a fuel schedule -- taking "some" liquid each stop (3 per lap) and energy twice per lap. 

The only trouble I ran into was having to deuce AGAIN, this time near the end of Lap 5.  And rather than have to run an extra 150m -- with no guarantee that the bathroom would be vacant -- I pulled off the trail in the woods and "popped a squat", wiped with some leaves, then kept going!  Who knew all my trail running experience would pay off like this.  Again, another minute+ lost, but I felt better by the end of 5.

Lap 6
Interestingly, through 50K I had no caffeine -- other than my morning tea.  So at the start of Lap 6 -- the dreaded "Misery Lap" for the indoor miler -- I took a cup of "Coke" (Shasta Cola) with water.  It tasted pretty good but I didn't notice a benefit. 

Lap 6 was, indeed, among the toughest.  Like the indoor mile, it represents a critical point -- far into a race to feel true pain, but still too far from the finish to be "almost done" -- a painful place, indeed.  My legs were still feeling "OK", and though definitely slowing, I was still running mid-7:00s -- not including brief aid station stops. 

At the end of Lap 6, I took my first caffiene shot -- a Clif Shot Espresso (100mg caffeine) right before the Start/Finish aid station.  And then there I took another coke shot, along with water or HEED, and was off towards the real pain -- lap 7.

Lap 7
The first half lap of #7 marked the only time I was in any serious "danger".  Three things occurred to me in the middle goings of The Penultimate Lap:
  1.  The hamstring and adductors of my left leg were in pre-cramp mode.  This was in part due to my anomalous "side-glide left" gait abnormality that I've somehow picked up in the past year +, and that I was short on fluid or salt.
  2. I forgot about my 3rd boost bottle (my plan was to take on on Laps 3, 5, and 7).
  3. I had not peed since Lap 4.
This highlights the added challenging of marathon and ultra running: hypoglycemic brain fatigue!

All of this occurred to me in "No-Aid Land" -- the stretch of the course from 1.5 - 4.5, where there was no aid station, but plenty of small, rolling hills just ripe for cramping. 

There was no one around, so I "tried to pee" -- and it was a very light brown.  I got worried.

I did my best to "Lean Right" and "Pull Right", which was to correct my sideglide left and engage my right leg more.  That helped the left cramps, but there was no way around the fact that I needed fluid in a bad way. 

Down the trail, I ran past several people before coming across a guy walking with a bottle.  I approached from behind and "begged" for some fluid, which he gladly and generously provided, even offering for me to take his bottle, outright.  I may have, but I didn't want to carry it!  He also mentioned getting some more on the way back (when I'd double back on him). 

So I did.  I hit the 5K mark, then a half mile later found him again, where I stopped for 3 more pulls before thanking him and getting on my way.  That helped a lot.

What helped even more: at the 1.8 mark there's an access point to the State Park campground.  At that point there's a fence, where someone had put two half-liter bottles of water.  They'd been sitting there untouched for 3 laps.  Not knowing if they were deliberate "crew supplies" or simply a "trail angel" leaving them out, I stopped and grabbed one, cracked it, and drank half, then kept going.

I thought about how I might've just "stolen fizzy-lifting-drink" from someone else, but, given the fact that I was on CR pace, yet on the verge of "muscle-siezing death", it was an "emergency situation" -- even though I was maybe a K from the real aid station.

By the time I got to the Aid Station, I was already feeling better.  But I still took two waters and a HEED before hitting the trail section for the 2nd to last time.  The rolling hills of the trail segment became somewhat challenging, but I continued to "Lean Right, Pull Right"

This mantra, in the brain-drunken state of hypoglycemia --  was soon paired, inevitably, to the classic Barney tune, "Clean Up" over those last couple laps. 

I hit the Start/Finish for the penultimate time and had refueled.  At each of these stops, the aid workers would "take my order", as if waiters at a bar or restaurant:

"What do you need?"
"I'll take two HEEDs and Coke".


This, of course, led my mind HERE.

"Huh-HAAA!  Well I AIN'T PAYIN' NO FIFTY CENTS FOR NO COKE!"


Lap 8
And that's how I started the final lap: quoting Caddyshack to myself.  Lap 8 was all about survival, if not a bit of enjoyment.  I was now thoroughly hydrated -- and without gut-rot, so it was all about maintaining a consistent stride and the "thunk-thunk-thunk" of my feet on the bike path -- the sound a tennis ball makes on a racquet -- over that final ten kilos.  At the half way point, and at each of the final aid stations I thanked the volunteers because, frankly, the only thing worse than running for six hours in the rain was sitting or standing in the rain for twelve hours.

I broke down the last half-lap into digestable nuggets: "the winding chunk", "the straight chunk", and "the trail" -- and methodically consumed them.  The trail segment, as were the previous seven, was my favorite -- knowing that the toughest parts were over and -- barring a crippling spill over mud or tree root -- I was about to win my first race since at least 2005.

With 600m to go I ditched my jacket in order to proudly display my Strands shirt over the last quarter mile, down the bike path and up the incline to the finish at the parking lot.

When I crossed the line, I think I surprised most, if not nearly all, those in attendance.  In a race of this format -- multiple laps with a 50K and 50-mile going on at once -- it's difficult to gauge who's leading or almost done, unless you were lap-counting.  Indeed, I had no clue who was in second (and still don't).  So when I finished, unofficially in 6:03.xx, I surprised most everyone there.

I staggered around a bit, then went after a few cups of "broth" (undoubtedly some MSG concoction), if only to have something warm.  I thanked the volunteers and chatted, then sat down with my MSG broth in a wet lawn chair, in the mist, before staggering to my car before hypothermia set in. 

Unofficially, I finished in first place at 6:03 and change.  I also broke the course record by roughtly 22 minutes.  Overall a terrific debut where I learned a lot.

THE GRADES

Pacing: B+. Pretty solid. Lap 2 was too fast, but otherwise my pacing -- for having no clue how to run over 26.2 -- was solid.  And, best of all, I NEVER WALKED outside the aid stations.

Mechanics: B+.  Big picture, mechanics were the key to success -- it's what kept the pace at 7:xx's all day.  Interestingly, I never felt quad fatigue or soreness, EVER.  Glut and hamstrings-o-plenty, but that's exactly what should be tired -- the Propellers.

NOT GOOD: on-going sideglide L trunk.  It was the reason for my left-sided near-cramping, as well as the lingering L knee pain -- overloading the L leg.  I need to fix this, and soon.

Hydration/Fueling/Electrolytes: A-.  It went nearly perfect -- I took fluid and fuel regularly.  Deductions for the gut-rot and for the 7th lap brain-fart.  Bonus points for learning to pee on the run!

Mental Toughness: A-. Overall excellent -- good focus on mechanics and staying positive at all times.  Slight deduction only because I never truly pushed myself (nor did I want to in this non-competitive debut).


THE BRAIN iPOD -- tracks for the day:

Lap 1
Lap 2
Lap 3
Lap 4
Lap 5-7
Lap 8

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Move It to Prove It!"

Welcome to my Page!  For Coaching Information, click HERE or on the tabs at the top of the page. 

Between now and July of 2011, I'm out to prove (or disprove) the following:
  1. That the most important element of ultra running (or ANY running, for that matter) is Biomechanical Excellence.
  2. Second most important is "Fuel, Hydration, Electrolytes".  Third is training.
  3. You can be a top-level ultra runner and still run fast:  <2:30 marathon, <32:00 10K, <26:00 5-mile, <16:00 5K. In fact, it may be required.
  4. Maybe the WORST TWO CONVENTIONAL WISDOMS floating around the ultra world are:
    1. That you need to FLY on downhills in a trail ultra in order to "save your quads".
    2. That you should "sit back" (in a posterior pelvic tilt) for maximum stride "efficiency".
I believe I have science on my side, but it will be a laboratory experiment (n = 1) over the next few months to test these hypotheses.

Stay tuned.
-J

2010 Twin Cities Marathon (USATF Men's Marathon Championship) Race Report

Welcome to my Page!  For Coaching Information, click HERE or on the tabs at the top of the page.


2010 Twin Cities Marathon (USATF Men's Marathon Championship) Race Report

PRE-RACE
Woke up just before 5AM.  I made some tea and immediately ate my pre-race PB&J to make sure it got in the gut.  Prepped the gear and was out the door of the LivInn Suites with Matt and Britt in tow at 0620.  Stopped at SuperAmerica so Matt could get a Gatorade, then drove to the start area.  I parked the car across the street from the First Covenant Church -- the elite runner staging area -- and bid farewell to both Britt and Matt. 

The basement of the church was a great place to stay warm and relaxed: chilled out with Reneau and Hooley, along with Josh Moen and Chris Lundstrom -- I think I was slowest of the 5 by about 20 minutes!  Just after 7AM I snuck out solo for a light warm-up. 

The weather was INCREDIBLE: classic, beautiful Midwest fall morning, that I miss so much.  40 degrees, crisp and clear.  I jogged down to the river and along the parkway to the Central Ave Bridge, bid hello to the Hennepin Ave Bridge, then back.  Once back, I put on my race gear and shoes, then packed up my gear onto the transport truck.  Just outside the church was a parking lot where the elites -- men and women, open and masters -- were buzzing around, striding every which way like a colony of bees trapped in a glass jar.  I got in one last swig of Powerade, ditched a few mLs of pee, and then -- after the wheelers started, with just minutes 'til gun time-- the start line was opened for us.  I got "the shivers", big time, on that first stride -- with a crowd 3-4 deep cheering loudly. 

MILE 1-6
After a few strides and a Sign of the Cross ("Oh, NOW you come around!  He's not FOOLED!"), we were OFF down 6th St past the Dome, heading toward Hennepin Ave.  Stride felt good early -- it damn well better -- as we strode down the rough pavement.

Getting comfortable in a marathon is so difficult because everyone feels different, and everyone (not in the lead pack) is running a different race plan.  As such, I never know what pace I'm running -- it could've been 5:20 or it could've been 5:50.  Without a GPS watch, there's no way of knowing.  Nevertheless, I felt very relaxed at the first mile, and was pleasantly surprised to see a 5:37-change first mile. 

About this time, I was rolled up by the top two women -- both African.  I hung in with them as we wound our way down Hennepin and south on Lyndale.  Just before the two mile, Jim Parejko rolled up beside me (Menomonie HS 2003; Wisconsin-La Crosse 2007).  We exchanged greetings and I watched as he slid past me, up the hill.  Mile two split was another 5:30....OK, I guess -- I felt fine.   But not exactly comfortable; as such, I hung back.

Turning off Lyndale, the course dumps into a neighborhood. Thick crowds, including my cousin Matt and his wife, Megan. It was great to see them, and to hear Matt's loud "choppers" clapping! 

From 2, onward I tried to get comfortable but I could not.  No matter how big the race, I'm always getting GAPPED.  It happened again: there was a nice pack of guys 25m ahead, then me all alone.  As such, it was hard to find a relaxing rhythm in a group, and I found myself trying to reel them in. 

Moreover, splits were ALL OVER THE BOARD.  Talking to others after the fact, they were clearly mis-marked.  I'd run a 5:30, then a 5:50, then a sub 5:20, then nearly 6:00!  WTF!  What resulted was a subtle but significant inconsistency in effort: speeding up, slowing down.  It sucked.  The road surface in these neighborhoods north of the lakes -- and around Lake of the Isles/Calhoun -- were also sucked -- a lot of potholes and cracks to dodge. 

The "East Lakes" went by pretty fast, despite the disjointed splits.  Before I knew it, were were at 10K.  Ran it in just a shade under 35:00. 

5:38
5:34
5:50
5:30
5:18
5:58

Miles 7-13.1
After seeing Matt an Meg-o again and hearing some unexpected boisterous cheering from Hoff on the east edge of Lake Harriet, the course turned due east onto Minnehaha Parkway, for the "long, lonely run of loneliness" across South Minneapolis towards the Mississippi.  I tried some more to settle in, but I forgot how ROLLING the course gets along this stretch.  From Calhoun to mile 8 there was a string of single runners among me; on Minnehaha, they dispersed.  On this stretch it was me, the eventual 3rd place women (who faded after the 8th or 9th mile) and one other guy. 

As we negotiated the rollers, he pulled even and spent enough breathe to ask, "What pace are you shooting for?" 

This seemed to be an odd, if not obtrusive, question for this point in the race.  Wouldn't our current pace be an indicator?  Despite this -- and despite my fading confidence in my race goal -- I responded with, "sub 2:30".

He immediately faded back.  Guess that wasn't his goal!

After 8 miles, things started to go downhill -- not the course, just my leg feel and energy.  Moreover, I began to get some gut-rot -- too much salt, likely. Gut-rot always make my legs feel worse, as well.  By 9 or 10 it felt like I was at 17 or 18...and I felt like I had to "go".  Not good. 

I was also running alone -- my "guy" and my "girl" had dropped off, and the next runner was 100-200m up.  So it was just me, rolling along the meandering Minnehaha towards Nokomis.  I was not in good spirits. 

However, once at 11, I got a much-needed uplift seeing the "road crew" -- which included Monnnnty/Megan, Hoff, and Haus.  Definitely key.  About 100m later, on the other side of the street, I saw Britt.  I was thinking about her quite a bit (probably more than I should have for a competitive championship), since she was navigating the Cities and the race course solo, when a whole mess of "my crew" was right nearby.  While running by, I "suggested" she "find my friends back there".  Hmmm...didn't really work. 

After 11, I tried some "negative-positive self-talk" to snap out of my self-pity thoughts, which was effective.  But it did nothing to quell my desire to DEUCE.  As I rounded Nokomis, I was to the point where I was scoping out trees to squat beneath when I hit the halfway mark. 

I split a 1:14 and change, but it meant NOTHING to me, because I was running mid to high 5:40s and feeling "crappy".  Moreover, I was already feeling both quad and calf soreness.  Not great. 

5:30
5:49
5:48
5:41
5:45
5:50
5:48 (1:14:xx HALF SPLIT)

Miles 13.1-20
However, I caught a break when the deuce urge subsided near the end of Nokomis.  There, I got another pick-up from the road crew, who I'm sure were surprised to hear me say: "Hey, find my girlfriend!  She's...short...and had blonde hair". 

OK?  :|

I took another half-sleeve of Clif Bloks, which by that time might as well have been throat plungers.  I could feel myself slow trying to chew and swallow those damn things.  I rolled along back on Minnehaha -- alone -- approaching the Ole Miss. 

By the time I got on River Road in Minneapolis, I felt BAD.  Not just, "not great", but BAD.  I saw Monnnnty and his choppers a-choppin' at 15 or 16 and felt bad, knowing I looked and felt like shit, and that I might be in big trouble.  I tried to put on "my best stride" as I rolled past. 

I was waiting for the other shoe to drop -- for the pace to bottom out like it did back in 2005...but it didn't.  In fact, I was buoyed by a [now abberent] 5:34 split for the 17th mile, which was a huge lift: "I might be feeling like shit but I'm still motoring!  KEEP IT GOING!"  Right about this time a crew of guys caught up to me and I actually stayed with them for the length of River Road.

After 17, I would not see the 5:30s again for the rest of the day.  Or, as it turned out, the 5:40s.  At 18 I took my "salty bread" fuel -- the piece of bread + butter I prepared, that included a dissolved "S-Cap" and an "Endurolyte" capsule.  Talk about tough to swallow -- a large piece of WHEAT BREAD -- I'm certain this is why I split a 6:06 for the 18th (that and, once again TCM, a poorly marked split!)

The "hill" going under Lake St was terrible, yet...seemingly, those ~2 miles to Franklin seemed to go by fast.  I climbed pretty good up onto Franklin and saw "some dude" cheering for me on the bridge.  Took my hypoglycemic brain a few seconds to figure out it was Behrs.  I rolled over Franklin and on River Blvd.  I was really trying to stay positive -- a lot of aloud self-talk about form and toughness, which helped those irritating "Minneapolis Miles" pass by on the East side. 

5:50
5:44
5:46
5:34
6:06
5:53
5:52

Miles 21-26.2
Shortly before 21 miles, rolling up and down the rollers into St Paul City limits, I ran into some serious trouble: a NASTY L diaphragm/abdominal cramp -- what I worried would happen since the bike trip.  I thought it was gonna stop me in my tracks (like it did just yards away, during the '04 Human Race).  I kept pushing up the hill (the uphill being a disguised blessing, preventing the tissue from being over-stretched) and at the next aid station I slowed enough to take THREE fluid cups.  And within minutes of the posture adjust and fuel, I was "OK" again. 

But that didn't help the legs much.  No pop.  Nothing left.  I would split a woeful 6:23 for the 22nd mile up that hill.

I passed 21, on my way up "the hill" approaching St Thomas.  I remember back in 2003, when I floated up this hill, whimsically passing guys.  I felt more than seven years older this time around.  I thought to "pull" but it helped very little.  I did get a nice boost from the full road-crew (and some rando in some sort of rodent pelt!) at the corner of Cretin and River Blvd.  I don't think they realized how SLOW I was running, or they wouldn't have been as excited.

I turned onto Cretin and began to "Long Lonely Climb of Loneliness" up Summit Avenue.  Again in 2003, this was a time of great excitement: the legs felt solid and I felt strong and competitive.  In 2010 I was trashed and flat -- it was survival mode.

I took one last gel right before 23 (at Snelling) and continue to take fluid, passing only on the final stop.  It wasn't cramp -- just dead-leg.  Over the last 3 miles into Saint Paul, I was passed by one guy and I passed a different guy.  Not terrible, considering I was struggling to maintain 6:00 pace. 

Over those remaining miles, I just focused on the mechanics to get me home.  "PULL", I said to myself, without enthusiasm or urgency -- thus were the last few miles of a poorly-executed marathon race.

The descent to The Capitol was, nonetheless, exciting.  It felt GREAT to be done, and I knew my friends and family were there.  AND I knew, barring disaster just steps from the finish, that I gutted out an "OK" race -- without either blowing up or giving up. 

With no significant gear-shift, I pulled along the John Ireland Bridge to the finish, in a lackluster but SOLID 2:32:46. 50th place male (overall female DID beat me).

6:00
6:23
6:07
6:04
6:09
5:59
(1:16)
--- 2:32:46

Post-race:  I went hands-on-knees mode, but was otherwise fine.  Finish line staff, bless their souls, always think you're having cardiac arrest.  I was escorted by the arm to the elite tent under high alert due to my duress.  Once there (and convincing said staff that this was a typical presentation of a gassed marathoner), I was released to my own supervision.  I entered the small tent and looked around for my stuff.  Ahead of me on a table was Reneau getting stretched and massaged.  We chatted, then I promptly laid prone on the ground -- no longer interested in being on my feet. 

Family filtered in and out; it was great to have those Elite passes for them to enter while I could lay around and relax!  After a quick massage/stretch, I chatted with several more people in the tent -- including Sean Hartnett, who had that day became a Grandpa for the first time! 

Once I gimped outside I reunited with the whole "Road Crew" -- friends and family.  It was awesome!  That's what ultimately made that an overall TERRIFIC day -- having friends and family there. 

Notable: My roommate Matt, running his first marathon (and only 4th organized road race), clocked a 2:57.  Impressive indeed and worthy of celebration as well!

THE GRADES
Pacing: C-.  TERRIBLE.  I will take majority blame, but c'mon TCM -- the mile marks were simply AWFUL early.  I asked every runner I could about their splits the first 10 and they were all over the board.  I could never relax or settle in, and I paid for it. 

Mechanics: C+.  The stride did not feel good -- and the SIGNIFICANT calf and quad trash tells me that my pawback mechanism was greatly lacking.  However, bonus points for those mechanics keeping the wheels on (at least) over the last 10K.  NOT GOOD: SEVERE sideglide L trunk noted (in pictures, videos) over the last 10K, at least.  This undoubtedly is the cause for the R ab cramp, as well as a myriad of other things.

Hydration/Fueling/Electrolytes: B-.  A- for keeping a good schedule and preventing a "bonk" or cramp episode.  Deductions for lost time due to swallowing -- I slowed significantly each time I took something.  Also points off for having gut-rot midway.

Mental Toughness: B-. My head was not where it should've been.  I NEVER got comfortable, my mind was elsewhere early, and I was negative early.  However, I had moments of toughness and perseverence...and I didn't F-ING drop out. 

LESSONS LEARNED:
1. I need to correct that sideglide L -- that's likely the cause for any/all back pain I have with running, definitely caused the cramp, and is probably resulting in significant power loss in my R leg.
2.  I need to get back to leg weights.  I had very little quad or calf soreness with regular (2x/week) weight training.  Trashed quad/calves were pace-limiting today.
3.  I need a GPS watch.  I'm tired of horrible mile markers.  I can no longer trust major (even championship) marathon courses to have CONSISTENT (let alone accurate) mile markers.
4.  I need to abstain from "jumping the gun" on salt.  Nasty gut rot is not a whole lot better than leg ache/cramping. 
5.  I need to continue to work on hip strength/mobility and the pawback mechanism.  When I lose it, not only do I slow, but I trash out my legs.  Double edged sword.