Emerging from Hibernation #HHRAMBASSADOR

Spring has finally sprung in Kansas City! Late last week the polar vortex finally receded and our extended February finally gave way to some warm temps and the barest emergence of green. I know, it’s not really Spring yet, but it finally doesn’t feel quite so much like winter.

It was a tough winter for me. A fall on the ice last year meant I was a lot more careful about what conditions I would run outside in this year. I cobbled together a variety of treadmill and 1/10 mile indoor track sessions to make it through, along with as much running outdoors as possible. Don’t get me wrong. I was out there – I’d much rather run in the cold than on the hamster wheel.

If you’re thinking about the Hospital Hill Run in June, what better time to get into a training plan (they have 6 different plans, something for everyone) and get out there for some beautiful spring running! In fact, come join us for a training kickoff fun run tonight – check out their Facebook page.

This post doesn’t have a lot of substance, but I’ve been in a bit of a blogging funk lately. My blog “drafts” folder has several unfinished posts including one on running in the dark (I got discouraged after a great article by RW’s Mark Parent totally stole my thunder, substantively and thematically. We were definitely thinking along the same lines). Spring has rejuvenated me – more to come soon!

Training + Racing = Tracing? #HHRAMBASSADOR

I listened to a podcast interview of Greg Meyer recently, whose claim to fame has recently been amended to “the last American to win Boston before Meb.” It was a different world back in the 70s and 80s, where Greg and other elites routinely raced on multiple consecutive weekends, sometimes even in close proximity to their goal races. Nowadays, training schedules are carefully calibrated to peak for major events, with a lot less racing in between.

None of us mere mortals will ever have to answer the question: “how did you keep up your 100 mile training week while winning that indoor mile?” However, some of the more general things that Greg had to say have some application for us as well. Basically, Greg liked to race. He was competitive. Who knows if he would have had the same level of success in the modern model of less racing? Maybe he would have lost motivation.

I tend to agree with him. I’m not racing every week, but I do think it helps me stay motivated to always have something to be looking forward to. Every year, I target two or three key races I’d like to participate in, put them on the calendar, sign up to commit, and adjust my training schedule around them. But that leaves wide open expanses of months at a time. Filling in some of those gaps, for me, is a great way to stay motivated and have something to look forward to. An added benefit is that you develop a baseline of how your training is going, and you can use that to adjust your training for your goal race. For instance, if you’re training for a half marathon, like, just say, for instance, Hospital Hill, (click here to register!) you could race a 5K, then use any number of online pace calculators to convert your 5K performance into an expected finish time and pace for the 13.1 mile distance. Of course these calculators aren’t perfect, your results may vary, etc., but they are kind of fun to tinker around with. Some of the better ones can adjust for temperature, elevation change, and other variables.

I love “tracing” – racing during training. (It helps if you say it like Tony the Tiger saying “They’re grrrrrrrreat!”)

So, what have I been doing to practice what I preach? I signed up for and ran the aptly-named “Commitment Day 5K” on New Year’s Day. First, shout-out (do the kids still say that?) to my niece, Kaitlin, who knocked it out of the park singing the National Anthem prior to race start. Bummed there’s no picture! Unfortunately, all I’ve got to offer are pictures of me. Also, I got to meet fellow Skora Ambassador Sarah, who snapped a shoe selfie of us that I can’t seem to locate any more. Pretty cool that in the whole country, two of us are running some of the same races!


If I was wearing my Mizzou gear, I might be as happy as Bib # 951!


Yep, it’s cold. 25F, but a brisk wind.


Finished! No PR, but not bad on a hilly course on a windy day.


More of the same…


Bear with me…


Okay, last one. Happy tracing!

@skorarunning FIT: The 900 mile exit interview

I recently had to retire my first pair of Skora FITs. At just over 900 miles, they finally suffered a failure that compromised the “structural integrity” of the shoe. Yes, that’s right, shoes wear out. But at 900 miles, I feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of a pair, don’t you? (Disclaimer, the shoes I’m talking about were advance samples provided to me free of charge to review, so more accurately I should say I feel like I’ve gotten the manufacturer’s suggested retail price out of them). The big running shoe companies all tell you to abandon your shoes at 6 months or 300-500 miles. That recommendation is primarily based on the compression of the thick wedge of EVA foam they use to cushion the shoe. In shoes with minimal (IMO, adequate) cushioning, you can pretty much wear the things until you actually perceive a failure – not based on a guess.

My FITs had a job to do for me as a runner: provide as little interference as possible, while ensuring comfort and control during my marathon road training and racing. My full-blown review of this shoe can be found here. Let’s talk to the FIT on the way out the door:

Tad: Did the job match your expectations?

FIT: Definitely. Your marathon training and racing are what I’m made for.

Tad: Do you think you met my expectations?

FIT: Yes, I’d say so. I can tell you’re a minimalist runner who strikes the ground naturally with the mid-foot, which meshes well with my zero-drop design. I put in 900 miles, giving you lightweight cushioning and staying out of your way. That’s pretty much what you asked me to do when I started. I thought we worked well together – also, you didn’t usually run me on consecutive days, which I think contributed to my longevity.

Tad: Did you feel like the work you were doing aligned with your personal goals and interests?

FIT: Yes, I’m an all-purpose training shoe, built for a wide variety of surfaces and light enough to race in. Like Frank Shorter says, running fast is more fun than running slow!

Tad: Did you have the tools and resources you needed to effectively do your job?

FIT: You bet, I brought all that with me. Here’s my resume.

Tad: Describe the workplace environment.

FIT: Almost all outdoors, pavement and concrete, I saw all four seasons. Thanks for taking me to the track occasionally!

Tad: What do you feel good about accomplishing in your job and in your time here?

FIT: I was thrilled when you asked me to run the Boston Marathon with you after a few weeks of training. I appreciated the confidence you expressed in me at that distance and I know how much the race meant to you. Other than that, we put in a lot of training miles together. As you know, there’s just no substitute for wearing out the rubber:


Tad: What factors contributed to your decision to retire?

FIT: Well, as you know, the place where the airmesh upper connects to the sole separated:


That was on my right. If I say so myself, there wasn’t an identical failure point on the same outside face of my left – in fact there wasn’t even one developing. However, there was an area developing on the inside of my left:


This is basically what I looked like on the right side for several hundred miles before the hole appeared. I don’t feel like this compromised my function at all up until the very end, which is why I decided to hang it up.

Tad: What are your future plans?

FIT: Well, I’d like you to re-use my insoles in your FORMs. They’re a little bit thicker than the stock FORM insole, so you might like a bit more cushioning on occasion:


Also, don’t forget to take off your LED light and my laces:


Tad: Would you recommend this place to work to one of your friends?

FIT: Yes, and I understand you may already be employing some of my colleagues…

DSC_2527 - Copy

In fact, you had me train my replacement, remember?


Tad: Thanks for your year of service to the company!


This “0” is Royal: 3:09! – “seeking the uncomfortable” in Chicago @skorarunning

The 3:09:33 I ran at Chicago last weekend just might be the running accomplishment I’m most proud of. I ran my first marathon in 2011, and for it and each of the nine subsequent marathons I’ve run, I’ve been chasing the “0.” The “0,” as in Three-o-nine. The Royal reference is to Jeremy Guthrie’s t-shirt! You could also say the “o” is a Skora “o”! Like this: skora_fw14_fit_m07_mens_quarter_views_1 I went out with the 3:10 pace group at my very first marathon. It wasn’t realistic, but I wanted to BQ in my debut, and there was no 3:15 pace group. I failed. Pace group or no, 3:10 has been the goal in every race since. I’ve come close in a couple – a 3:11 and a 3:12, but each time I found myself going out at or above pace, then slowing towards the end and holding on for dear life. What was the difference this time? I was really ready, and I really wanted it. The key to how both of those things happened was what I call “seeking the uncomfortable.” That’s my way of describing how you have to find that place where you’re uncomfortable while you’re running – both in training and on race day. Once you reach a certain fitness level, it’s not too difficult to go out there and put up miles. However, most schools of thought about training alternate hard days with easy days. A common mistake we all make is running the hard days too easy and the easy days too hard. It’s that middle ground of “comfortable” that some people call junk miles. They might not be totally worthless, but you get the idea. When you’re training, running several consecutive miles at your goal pace is uncomfortable. Intervals above your goal pace are uncomfortable. If you’re not seeking that uncomfortable during training, you’ll never find it on race day, and you certainly won’t hit your goal pace. I joke about being nauseous during the marathon . It sounds like something Pre would say: “If you don’t feel like you’re about to barf, you’re not trying hard enough.” Seriously though, nausea is your body’s way of telling you that you have reached the edge. I’ve felt it when going out too fast. I’ve felt it when trying to maintain a pace above what I have trained to. I was really mindful of seeking the uncomfortable during the training cycle leading up to Edmonton and Chicago. Knowing that Coach Kyle  would be looking at my paces helped me to push harder during training. How many times have you slacked off during a hard training run because you knew no one would ever see your Garmin data? Running with talented friends (Nelson, John, Jeremy, thanks!) can also help you seek the uncomfortable. As a result of all that “uncomfortable” I was hitting target paces more often than not in training. I also threw down my highest mileage month ever in September – 191.36. I boldly tweeted before the race that I was ready to cash that check. I was more relaxed than usual for this race, knowing my preparation was so good. My travel plans threw a small wrench into the works – I couldn’t follow my typical carb-loading regimen because I was flying to Chicago the day before the race with the RHSW. That meant no gels or liquids through security, so I improvised. I decided I was going to load with candy. Smarties are good, but I decided on something a bit more seasonal. That’s right, candy corn! I took some inspiration from a very amusing twitter war . 20141011_115608 The details: 1 package of S’mores flavor (yum); 1 package of carmel apple (meh); about half a bag of “traditional” (yum). Twenty-four doses of 19 candy corns, spaced at half hour intervals. Locked and (carb)loaded. I also sprinkled in a few low residue/low fiber items throughout the day. I couldn’t resist a small piece of steak that my friend Spencer grilled up for us. I can’t say no to USDA Prime. We had great race support – my friend’s wife picked us up from the race expo after we took the train from Midway and a taxi to the expo. Planes, trains, and automobiles – check! In the morning, my friend’s wife and the RHSW dropped me off at a Starbucks just to the west of the course start in Grant Park. I hung out there to stay warm for about a 15 minutes before walking into the park, a runners-only restricted area. This part of the race was pretty well organized in terms of letting me know what I needed to do to get into my start corral (A!) and hit the porta-potties before. If you don’t think an empty colon is essential to race day success, you didn’t run behind the guy I caught up to around mile 17 or 18. Let’s just say white shorts were not a good wardrobe choice for him that day. Anyhow, I got to my corral with plenty of time to spare, and only a few runners clustered around the 3:10 pacers, a great group of guys who paced the whole race (!) – no halfway switch for these guys! Kenny, one of the pacers, had come in from St. Joseph, MO answering a last minute call. I became his “Mizzou buddy” thanks to my sweatshirt. I had plenty of time to warm up – so much so that I hit my Garmin too early and it timed out before the start, so a few aggravating minutes stripping my glove and getting it going during the first mile. I have been in some crowded races before, but nothing like this. I know they try to handle the volume with two waves and corrals, but there was still a crush of runners far past any mile marker I’ve ever perceived it at before. The first few miles were the worst of course, but it just never seemed to thin out – kind of like Boston. I witnessed two runners go down hard after getting their legs cut on corners. I also had a guy go down in front of me trying to get through an aid station. From his exclamation, I’m pretty sure he thought it was the other guy’s fault. The other guy really took off – perhaps fearing a confrontation, but who has the time or energy to throw down during a marathon? The pacers were talking about yet a fourth runner in the closing miles of the race who we caught up to – a girl with some serious road rash on her elbow and knee. I’m not saying I could design a better course, and I love the way this one comes through so many distinct neighborhoods. However, it has a lot of turns, and taking a few of those out in the first few miles might help. My perception of crowding was heightened by running with the pace group. I never really got a count, but I’d say they carried at least 20-30 people through the halfway point. Usually when I run with one everybody sorts out where they are going to slot into position. The pacers did their best, spreading themselves out a bit, but there was just far too much jockeying for position. I don’t want to worry about people throwing elbows when I’m at goal pace. The course is fun, coming through 29 neighborhoods. I won’t try to describe the whole thing – just a few highlights with pictures supplied by my chase team. The RHSW took the first set of shots from one of the many bridges over the river. However, I never saw the RHSW along the course. The crowd wasn’t as bonkers as Boston, but they were loud enough that she wasn’t ever able to get my attention. I’m fairly certain that these are on the Franklin Street Bridge, just past mile 12 coming out of the River North area into the Loop, just before the course turns west into Near West side coming over the Chicago River again. Even before this point, I had decided to get in front of the pace group because I was wasting energy with all the extra shuffling around. DSC_2489 - Copy DSC_2498 - Copy DSC_2499 - Copy DSC_2500 - Copy DSC_2501 - Copy DSC_2502 - Copy DSC_2503 - Copy DSC_2509 - Copy The course comes through Greek Town just past the halfway point. I wish I had worn a Greek soccer jersey to feel the love from my people. Instead, I ran through anonymously Greek, a little intimidated that if I self-identified, someone would speak Greek to me and I would be unable to respond! As to my other people, sadly, the course comes near — but not through — Polish Downtown near the Polish Triangle. Skora is a Polish word that means “skin” or “leather.” As long as we’re talking Skoras, I have to mention that my Skora FITs performed great at this distance once again. There is no shoe I’d rather run a road marathon in. I prefer their slightly thicker outsole and insole to the PHASE and CORE at this distance for two main reasons. First, big city marathons mean big city roads, which aren’t exactly virgin asphalt, i.e., they’re torn up! Second, although I am a forefoot/midfoot striker, there are times at the end of a marathon when I mix in a bit of heel striking, especially if there is a slight downhill. I found myself doing this unintentionally in this race, but I came back out of it when my energy picked back up and I could re-focus my form. I’ve also done it intentionally before to ease calf cramps, but I didn’t have any muscle cramping whatsoever on this course – calf or quad – which I attribute to the flat course and good training. It  wasn’t too hard to identify the location of the second set of on-course photos, taken just before mile 20 on 18th Street in Pilsen, Chicago’s largest Latino community. You can see the Dia De Los Tamales storefront! DSC_2521 - Copy DSC_2522 - Copy DSC_2523 - Copy DSC_2524 - Copy DSC_2525 - Copy DSC_2526 - Copy DSC_2527 - Copy DSC_2528 - Copy DSC_2529 - Copy DSC_2530 - Copy DSC_2531 - Copy DSC_2532 - Copy DSC_2533 - Copy DSC_2534 - Copy DSC_2535 - Copy Btw, Dia De Los Tamales has a pretty cool logo: Dia De Los Tamales Almost home. From here the course comes into Chinatown. At this point the pace group had caught back up to me, and I needed them. I was in mile 22, one of those final 6.2 hard miles that makes the marathon different than anything else. It was great to see a dancing dragon at the turn! I held on to the pace group as we came through miles 22 and 23 and finally made the turn on to Michigan Avenue. This long straightaway heads north for a little more than two miles. At mile 24 I decided I was going for it and dropped the pace group to make sure I hit my target. It worked, and I stayed in front of them through the finish, but around mile 25 or so I had a wave of nausea that had me wondering how long I was going to have to stop to barf, or if I could manage to barf and keep running at the same time. Thankfully, backing off for about 30 seconds cured it, and I was able to start running hard again. I just kept concentrating on what I had been doing the whole race when I wasn’t running with the pace group: picking off and passing runners in front of me. If you’ve never run Chicago before, and you’re like me and didn’t study the course map in too much detail, you should know that the course has one evil trick left up its sleeve for the finish. As I came down Michigan Avenue I kept wondering when I was going to see the finish line, especially since there was a “1 mile to go/25.2” sign on the straight. Cruelly, though, the course makes a sharp right turn on to Roosevelt Rd. just before you hit mile 26. Mile 26 is on a hill! Wait, I thought this course was flat! Well, it’s really just as bridge or overpass, but at that point in the race it might as well be Everest. They even have a huge sign (I think it said 500m or 600m) so you won’t get discouraged and collapse. That turn to the east is a short uphill stretch before you turn left and come north for the real final straight on Columbus Drive. I managed to run that stretch hard, but not anywhere near my usual kick, for fear of barfing again. I could see the clock in the 3:10’s, so I knew I had PR’d, but it took a pacer coming up behind me to reassure me that I’d broken 3:10 on chip time. The RHSW confirmed with a “you did it!” when I got through the finish chute to the reunite area. DSC_2538 - Copy DSC_2539 - Copy DSC_2540 - Copy DSC_2541 - Copy DSC_2542 - Copy DSC_2543 - Copy At this point I picked up a funny look on my face – I heard the RHSW call my name, but I couldn’t locate her! Of course she stopped shooting and let me off the hook, but you can’t see that moment here – I saw her face, not the camera lens! DSC_2544 - Copy DSC_2545 - Copy DSC_2546 - Copy DSC_2547 - Copy DSC_2548 - Copy Here’s a few of the skyline – facing north: DSC_2549 - Copy DSC_2550 - Copy DSC_2551 - Copy DSC_2552 - Copy DSC_2553 - Copy I was satisfied that I had spent most of the race seeking the uncomfortable. There were a few times when I let myself relax and just run with the pace group. However, once I left them the first time I spent the second half of the race pushing, trying to pass and not be passed. I think that this process of continuing to seek the uncomfortable is what led to my first ever marathon negative split – on my tenth try! Simply put, a negative split means you’ve run the second half of the marathon faster than the first half. It’s hard to do, as I can attest. I have a personal nickname for our Great Dane, Ellie: “negative split.” It’s because whenever I take her on a run, it seems like she’s always so eager to get back home that she runs faster on the way back after the turnaround. (“Running, my favorite thing!” “Home, my favorite thing!”) Anyway, the implication of a negative split is that you have trained appropriately to your goal pace, which you’ll be able to hit by running a negative split. Really, mine wasn’t much of a negative split – thanks to the flat course it was almost an even split – both were 1:34 and change. I’ll take it though. It’s a great feeling to know that I can still improve after running marathons for 3 years. I love the Olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius. It’s Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” If I keep repeating it and seeking the uncomfortable, I’ll get that sub-3:00 yet. Now that I’ve got the “0,” I’d like to get rid of it!

Review: Bearded Brothers Bars – yummy energy, no chemistry degree required! @beardedbros

I got my hands on a sampler pack of Bearded Brother Bars  (hereinafter “BBBs”) recently. After trying my first one, it was all I could do to not go Cookie Monster on the lot. I’ve always been into fueling naturally, but I have also tried a lot of the mainstream bars out there. Typically, my reaction has been “Blech! How am I going to choke the rest of this thing down?” Not so with BBBs.

A few disclaimers – I was provided these samples basically for the cost of shipping them too me. If you think that clouds my objectivity, you don’t know how cheap I am. I’m not a nutritionist, or even a supertaster (although my wife is). So, this isn’t going to read like some pretentious Wine Spectator review. I typically train “fasting,” but I do eat at other times. I will take in some calories before a hard and/or long run (18+ or lots of goal pace miles or both).

I am not going to make any outrageous claims about the performance-enhancing benefits of these bars. I’m kind of a “one carb is as good as the next” kind of guy, although that’s not an entirely accurate description of how I fuel. Do BBBs work? You bet. Each bar gave me about 200-250 calories. So why BBB? Simply put, they’re yummy. You can’t say that about very many energy bars. If you can’t gag it down, you’re not fueling.

What’s in ‘em: dried fruits and seeds generally. Some varieties have nuts, some are nut free (because sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t … feel like going into anaphylactic shock).

Here’s a representative nut-free flavor, “Radical Raspberry Lemon”:

20140804_160133 20140804_160140

What ain’t in ‘em: non-organic ingredients, GMOs, soy, animals and animal products (things that vegans don’t eat), gluten, un-raw things (that have all their goodness cooked out of them), unnatural stuff – no unpronounceable names here – no chemistry degree required!

How did I use them? Like I said, I typically train in a fasting state. That’s a fancy way of saying that I don’t eat anything before I go for my morning run. Given that most training runs are less than 15 miles, you are never going to run out of glycogen at those distances. Thus, all the fuss about fueling is usually much ado about nothing. I tend to scoff at people who are headed out for a 5 mile run while carrying a half gallon of Gatorade and 5 GUs (umm, net gain?). On the other hand, replacing glycogen stores after training is a good thing – I usually take in some carbs as part of my post-training meal, usually in the form of fruit. However these BBBs are a delicious and convenient alternative. That’s when I ate most of them – right after getting back from a run. Mmm-mmm good.

The most challenging test for any “fuel” is how your body will tolerate it when it’s in your gut during a run. I put both the “Mighty Maca Chocolate” and “Bodacious Blueberry Vanilla” BBBs to this test. I ate one bar right before each of two different challenging long runs and I’m happy to report that my tummy didn’t complain a bit. If anything, it said “thanks!” Each BBB was joined by a double espresso with heavy whipping cream and a glass of water pre-run. I felt great on both runs.

Oh yeah, what’s maca, you ask?


Maca powder is claimed to have certain *ahem* benefits as a supplement, although the BBB folks aren’t making that claim on their packaging, so don’t misunderstand me or them. Nevertheless, being the curious sort, when my copy of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology came in the mail recently (kidding!) I noticed a article titled: “A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen.” Here’s a link to an abstract. Male cyclists completed a before-and-after 40km time trial, and also a sexual desire inventory. Supplementation improved both. Since it’s a natural and somewhat obscure supplement, the mechanisms of action are as of yet unknown. Your results may vary.

Anyhow, if you’re not into that, this is the only flavor that has the powder, if I’m not mistaken. It was my favorite though, with blueberry nearly tied for the top spot.

I also quite enjoyed the “Colossal Coconut” and “Fabulous Ginger Peach” (probably the most flavorful – I love ginger!). I even liked the “Outrageous Orange Kale” but it doesn’t seem to be available at the moment. Maybe it’s not kale season in TX right now.

Apparently, I liked them so much that I forgot to take a picture of one of them before consuming them all. I’ve just got wrappers. However, the sense they appeal to is not sight.

How much did I like these?

  • I wanted to consume all of them at once.
  • I wanted to ration them out so they would last longer (yep, I’m an enigma).
  • I didn’t share.
  • After they were gone, I found myself checking my pantry to see if perhaps I missed one.

I’m going to have to get some more!

If you’re going to print up t-shirts… Edmonton Marathon race report #runreal

My neighbor, John, and I  both ran the Boston Marathon this spring. He surprised me with some cool t-shirts for me and my family. Of course, I had nothing for him. Sigh. So, when we decided to take one last shot at a BQ before the window closed (with registration opening September 8th) by heading up to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada for their marathon, I thought I would return the favor:


Yep. “Kohler-Kardis International BQ Project.” If you’re going to print up t-shirts, you’d better deliver. It’s not going to make a top ten list of victory guarantees … but for comparison, here’s a few famous ones, both successful and unsuccessful.

  • “We’re going to win Sunday. I guarantee it.” – Joe Namath (FTW)
  • “One hundred-percent, sterling silver victory. The Lombardi Trophy” – Ryan Kalil (FAIL)
  • “We want the ball, and we’re going to score!” – Matt Hasselbeck (FAIL)
  •  “I’m not the greatest; I’m the double greatest. Not only do I knock ‘em out, I pick the round.” – Muhammad Ali (FTW)

So, I wore my shirt on the plane to remind myself what I was going there for. My training had been going well and I felt like I had been progressing as Coach Kyle helped me to push harder during my hard workouts. Knowing someone is looking over your shoulder at your stats after you’re done with a workout is very motivating. Also, props to John and Nelson for doing several of my hard workouts with me – it’s easier to go fast when you have someone else pushing you. It was great having the RHSW along for support (all kinds!) and photography. When we got off the plane in Edmonton and made it through customs (I declared my foodstuffs – energy gel) there were two baggage carousels in the international part of the terminal – one decorated with life-size Edmonton Oilers (NHL, duh) mannequins, the other with an Edmonton Eskimos theme (CFL, a bit more obscure – fun fact, their uniforms are pretty much the same as the Green Bay Packers).

I went for a nice shakeout run through downtown as soon as we got to our hotel, since I’d been up since 4am. Four easy miles, with occasional nice views of the Saskatchewan River. Edmonton reminded both me and the RHSW of Kansas City a bit – river town, similar population and geography. Mosquitos.

We ate at a great restaurant that evening with John & his wife, Katie. “Woodwork.” John and I have similar “tastes” and we had both picked it out independently before travelling up there after reading reviews of Edmonton restaurants. Ok, it was also RIGHT across the street from our hotel. Unfortunately, we neglected to get a shot of us walking out the front door so I could caption it “coming out of the Woodwork.” Use your imagination. Perhaps I was harboring some latent resentment for a little GI distress that I was attributing to my meal there. It happens. Signs point to whatever John and I both ate and the ladies didn’t.

The day before the race I did my carb-loading workout and started loading right after. I felt great on the run. Slight modification to the magic elixir – I purchased sucrose in Edmonton (table sugar) because I didn’t want to put dextrose in my checked bag (it’s more powdery than sucrose, if you know what I mean). I also mixed it with grape juice instead of lime juice. The result was extremely sweet. I felt pretty blah most of the day thanks to the GI distress the night before.

We did have a wonderful breakfast at De Dutch. I was almost tempted to try the Pannekoeken but stuck to my Paleo guns. There was a GF version, but sometimes that stuff bothers me almost as much as wheat. I had a nice omelette with Edam (think swiss) and DeBakon (Dutch bacon, a pork product). Then we took a bus to the West Edmonton Mall – which really gives the Mall of the America a run for its money – if not surpassing it.

Here’s a description from their website:

The Mall’s stores, attractions, and services combine to form the most comprehensive retail, hospitality and entertainment complex on Earth. … West Edmonton Mall’s concept is inspired by the traditional urban bazaars of Persia, where shopping and entertainment were plentiful and operated in tandem, fulfilling a variety of consumer needs all in one place.

Man, I wish I could write copy like that.

A quick snapshot for comparison:


  • WEM 800
  • MOA 400

Attractions (all indoor, of course):

  • WEM (amusement park “world’s largest”; water park with wave pool “world’s largest”; bowling; aquarium with amphitheater for sea-lion and penguin performances; full size hockey ice rink (duh, Canada); two 18 hole miniature golf courses; life-size replica of the Santa Maria)
  • MOA (nickelodeon-themed amusement park; aquarium; American Girl; Lego store; flight simulator; miniature golf; mirror maze; Barbie Dreamhouse; Star Trek and Beatles exhibits)

You be the judge. So of course, with all that set out before us, all we actually went there for was the Roots store. Seriously. The only store we walked into. Mission accomplished. From WEM, we decided to check out the “Fringe Festival,” billed as “an 11-day event … showcasing a variety of independent theatre performances from more than 1,200 local, national and international artists.” It was a bit underwhelming. I did see some jugglers, and we didn’t stay long enough for our bus transfer to expire, so there was that.

I was still a bit green and watched everyone else eat dinner. After we got back to the hotel I got my courage up and headed downstairs to the hotel’s restaurant for an omelette and some ice cream. I tolerated it. Our friendly British (!) waiter chatted us up about my race. Like several other people we had talked to around town, when I told them I was in town for the marathon, they all assumed I was in town for the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final, since teams had started to arrive for that. Apparently several were staying at our hotel – there were posters. It’s a good thing I wasn’t full of hubris. “No, I’m just doing the marathon.” I’ve never been a “just a half” or “just a 5K” guy, and it’s a good thing because I would have been put in my place several times! There are people who excel at some distance or event but not others.

On race morning I awoke feeling MUCH better. Whew. Do I look relieved? New blue/silver Skora FITs are ready to roll!



The race setup was really convenient. Huge conference center right at the start/finish line, so I ditched my sweats and we waited inside before the start. Here’s John and I right before we headed out:



At the start line, they asked us to raise our hands if there was anyone from outside of Canada. That’s us! (and 10 more from the US – mostly Texas, for some reason)



Then they asked, is there anybody that came farther than Bangalore, Indonesia?


Nope, can’t top that.


This was my first race where “O, Canada” was played before the start:


That lady is not honoring Canada like I am.



Do I look nervous?



And we’re off! Perfect conditions for most of the race. Temp at start was 52F and was supposed to drop before heading up. Nice and cool, overcast skies (good!) for most of the race with only a peek of sun for a few minutes. Virtually no wind at the start, a bit of a breeze by the end.

The course is an out and back and out and back. First we headed northeast out of downtown past some apartment high rises, then into a residential neighborhood with kind of a Brookside feel. I knew I wasn’t going to be keeping pace with John (running about 25s a mile faster than me) so I settled in with several runners who seemed like they were competent enough to keep a steady pace. Mind you, there were no pace groups, and I wasn’t pacing off them in the truest sense of the word. However, after you get several miles into the race you’ve weeded out anyone who has absolutely no idea what they’ve gotten into. Actually, there were two of those guys – one of which I have my doubts as to whether he was a legitimate finisher. *cough* Rosie Ruiz *cough*

The course is marked in kilometers, of course. It was funny hearing everyone’s watches beeping off the kms. Hardly any milers out there. I was tempted to switch my Garmin over, but resisted since I think in miles and it’s important to me to know how far above or below mile pace I am. I could have easily figured my km pace, but since a km is shorter than a mile, I was concerned I’d deviate too much by thinking I was closer to on pace than I really was. My Garmin had the last laugh – when I pulled up my data at home, all my lap and pace data was in km. Weird. It’s back to normal now.

The course was nice and flat. The first half featured a dip (barely noticeable) and an actual hill down into and then coming back out of the residential area. There was a checkpoint and a turnaround at the 1/4 mark (halfway through the out and back half). That was the last time I saw John until he was waiting for me at the finish! Flat is really nice for hitting a pace. This is by far the flattest course I’ve ever run. My splits for the first half were all within a few seconds of goal pace, 7:15. I went out a little hot, but not sub-7 or anything. I was 44 seconds ahead of pace at the halfway mark (well, not exactly – at the 13 mile mark). I still felt great at this point coming through the start/finish line headed west for another out and back:


I love educated race fans, and Edmonton had them! Not that I don’t enjoy “yay” and “way to go” or “you can do it” but it’s nice to hear something a bit more specific. Now I didn’t for a minute think that these compliments were carefully crafted just for me, but they are the kind of thing a runner loves to hear:

  • “You look strong!”
  • “Great pace!”
  • “Here comes a marathoner!” and “Way to go marathoner!” (as you are passing the slower pace half-marathoners at the end)
  • “Nice form!”
  • “He makes it look easy!”
  • “Your flow is awesome!” (not exactly sure what that mean, but I enjoyed it.

There was definitely a mental hurdle to jump coming through that start/finish line at the halfway point. It was momentarily thrilling to see the RHSW and hear the crowd, but the course definitely had a “back to work” feel after getting through the downtown area. It was cool to see some blazing 5K or 10K elites come at me through this section.

I waited until halfway to start hitting my extra calories. If I had it to do over again, I think I’d start that sooner, maybe at mile 6. I have done this differently at different races. It’s hard to say what works best for me. I didn’t feel nauseous at the start like I have sometimes.  I don’t think I even made it halfway through my 400 calorie flask. I like the stuff and had tried it out before a couple of times, but it’s really hard to put anything in my gut at that point in the race.

There was a nice crowd gathered at a pinch point about 3 miles after halfway – I think it was at a college campus – we were ever so briefly on kind of a trail/sidewalk before coming back out onto the road. Not quite Wellesley but pretty good volume! The first 3 miles after halfway were pretty good, but I noticed I was starting to slow a bit around mile 17. I was about 5-10 second off pace until mile 23 – and that’s where the suffering began. I don’t want to overstate it, but it’s something you go through at the end of a race. Thanks to the cool weather, I had done pretty well, but I did have a pretty good sweat going. I didn’t really feel like I was taking in enough fluid. I wouldn’t say there weren’t enough aid stations, but the cups were tiny – and I don’t take time to stop and take several. As a result I was probably only getting a swallow of fluid every other mile. I was running for a while with a guy who had a CamelBak – maybe that was a clue. I can’t say this is a legitimate criticism as opposed to personal preference. Not everything on course is going to be tailored to your needs.

Back to the suffering. I had a really painful stitch in my side for the last 3 miles – easing up a little in the final half mile. I gritted my teeth and just tried not to let the wheels fall off. I’m not great at running math, but I know that I had enough of a buffer against 3:15 that I’d be ok for a secure BQ as long as I didn’t start letting it creep up over 8. I was 30s slow on miles 23 and 24, then my worst split was mile 25 at a 7:56. I got a boost from the mile 25 completed beep on my Garmin, and an even bigger one from 26. I then found I had a kick for the last several hundred yards. There is nothing like seeing that clock and knowing you’re going to bring it in on time! Here’s the joyful expression on John’s face as he meets his goal:


I didn’t put up his “angry face” picture. It’s pure adrenaline. I’ll show you mine in a minute. Here’s the kick, such as it is:

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…and the finish:


I acted a little goofy at the finish, but the lady handing out medals was the catalyst. I run through the finish line, not to the finish line. She was only a few steps beyond trying to put a medal round my neck, and I certainly wasn’t going to put the engines in full reverse to stop for her so I ducked my head and ran into it. We both had a laugh about that, but I hope she backed up a bit after me.

It was great to have the RHSW as well as John and Katie at the finish line. I’m still in the moment here:


But then I started to get (1) cold; (2) nauseous. I thought I was going to barf, but managed to keep it in.

110 111

I’m not holding up two fingers for “two” or “peace out” – I was about to put them up to my mouth to feign the puffed cheeks of someone about to blow. I guess the worst was past. Then we went inside the convention center for a full breakfast. I was shivering at this point and got my sweats back on and drank two cups of herbal tea, which got me back to normal. Then some fruit, ham, juice, coffee and I was back to normal. We stayed for the awards after seeing that John placed second in his age group!


John’s in the ORFB hoodie. “Indiana Football” guy is not from Indiana – John and I were the second and third Americans, and this is his age group podium, all faster than me. The race winner hailed from Chicago, although he’s Latvian. Does anything about this quote make you want to root for him? Not me:

“(Sunday) was sort of a training run for me, I’m getting ready for the Frankfurt marathon,” [he] said. “It was a good effort to practice and run close to – about five minutes off – of what I’m trying to do in Frankfurt, so it was OK. I think it was right about 22K. We were all running together, and then I felt like the pace was slowing down a little bit, so I picked it up a little and I just kind of cruised the whole way. I was in full control. If somebody was to come up, I could respond if I had to, but there was no need, I just wanted to enjoy the training run.”

Humility is a way better PR move.

Here are my final stats and splits. I don’t see a 21.1 (km) split, which is the one I would have liked to see the most. That was the start/finish line – maybe they didn’t have it set up because of the other races coming back from the other direction. Who knows.

My average pace was 7:20.5 min/mile (or 4:33.7 min/km to continue the metric theme). Just another 5.5s per mile and I’m at 3:10! I was thrilled with the time – a pretty safe BQ-2:39. Not as much buffer as I had for last year, but well above the BQ-1:38 last year that was the toughest cutoff in Boston history.

If you’re going to print up t-shirts… that talk about a BQ you’d better hit it! So glad John and I both did.

A final note on gear before the numbers. I can’t say enough good things about the Skora FIT. Just my favorite road distance shoe. Light, zero drop, and just enough cushioning to take the edge off of the crummy uneven pavement that’s inevitable on any road course.

Thanks Edmonton! On to Chicago!

Place Name Residence Bib # Time Chip Pace Category Cat. Place Gender Place 10 km 21.1 km 35 km
Theodore Kardis Olathe, KA, USA
Male 40-49
44:23 2:37:49