Buff® Headwear is the greatest thing in the world

Disclaimer: I received a Buff® Full Headband to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

The title might give it away, but I am absolutely in love with Buff® products. I have about 8 (9?) Full headbands and 2 half UV Buff®. I wear them constantly. It is probably the most versatile piece of equipment in my exercise arsenal, as I use it for not only keeping my copious amounts of hair out of my face when running, but as a protective layer under my helmet for biking, around my wrist to wipe excess sweat off if I choose to wear a hat while running, around my neck to dump ice into during really hot runs, and as a covering if I happen to fall on the trail and bust my leg open on some gnarly rocks. I even used it the last couple nights as an eye covering to sleep with. My wife was watching a movie when I went to bed and instead of burying my face in a pillow, I thought I’d fold up a Full Buff® Headband and cover my eyes and ears with it. It worked great! At least for my eyes, I would not recommend Buff® Headbands as ear protection for noise reduction.

While this is all information you could garner from their website and superb sponsored athlete videos, I also think that it helps to hear how amazing Buff® products are from a regular consumer, who even prior to testing this new Full headband, had already purchased and used more than half a dozen of the things. I bought several a few years back when they had a big sale at REI and have used them almost exclusively since. Even in the cold North Dakota winter, I tend to use a Buff® underneath a trucker or other running hat and that works just great to keep my head warm enough while also letting heat out. This is perhaps the only downside I have concerning Buff® products, my head does tend to get very warm and when a Full or even half band is wrapped around my head, I stay very warm. Great in the winter, not as much when the temps creep close to triple digits. Go to http://www.BuffUSA.com to check out these amazing products!


BibRave Ninja


    • Disclaimer: I received a stick of Bodyglide to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!


Chafing. The bane of all athletes existences. Except for maybe a few who enjoy it, in a weird, creepy way. But we won’t speak of them. I chafe when I run. Particularly in the summer when I exist in singlets or without a shirt. The skin on skin rubbing on my arms and chest inevitably becomes chafed as the miles grow. I sort of assumed that it was just how it was. I’d heard of this “Bodyglide” business, but hadn’t really given it much thought.

I didn’t know anyone else who said it was a useful tool. They all just joked about the chafe. And I suffered silently. And occasionally bloodily. And blistery.

I was sent a stick of Bodyglide to test as part of my participation as a BibRave Pro, and don’t know why I never tried the stuff before, but am so glad I finally did! Admittedly, adding something new into my routine is always hard as I usually just want to rush out the door and get moving.

But once I started putting the stick right next to my shoes, I used the stuff. And instantly, literally just like that, no more chafe under my left arm. At All!


Yeah…that’s the spot!

Since that day, no more chafe! And I plan to keep it that way. Forever.

Another awesome thing about Bodyglide is this. For a while now, I’ve been dealing with hot spots and blisters on my feet from my shoes. Didn’t matter what shoes or socks, I got blisters. So I figured, what the hell, why not try this stuff down there too? And you know what? No more issues!

Sure it’s weird putting something that kind of looks like deodorant on your feet, but if it works then so what?  I’ll spare you a photo of my feet as they’re truly horrendous looking. But trust me, the stuff works wherever you put it. At least the places I’ve put it. Totally recommend it for every runner, biker, hiker, cyclist, dancer, yoga-ist, and professional napper. Amazing stuff.

Buff UV Half

    • Disclaimer: I received a Buff UV Half to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!


When I started running a few years ago, I figured there were only 2 choices for head coverings, hat or visors. Since I still have nightmares of doofuses wearing visors backwards and upside down, hats were the way to go. And things were OK.

Until I realized that I really don’t always like hats, particularly in the warmer temperatures. My hair is fairly thick, and there’s a lot of it. As such, I found myself in need of something that would keep my hair and sweat out of my eyes, so my search began. Fortunately, I found a solution!

It was around this time I also got into ultramarathons and looking into running one of those one day. And quickly, I came across Anton Krupicka, who I came to (and still do) revere as an amazing athlete. And these weird things he wore on his head. A bit of research and low and behold, I found http://buffusa.com/. Well, actually I found them on REI.com and ordered about 4.

Time went by, and I loved my Original Buff. And the 1 Half Buff I had. However, recently, my love for Buff has increased tenfold. I was given the UV Half to test out, and holy moly is it stupendous! The Buff products already do just about anything you could want for running, biking, hiking, fishing, probably cooking, anything.

But the UV Half does even more! Designed not only to help wick away moisture from your face (which it does), it also has added sun protection to help keep your forehead from getting burnt when you’re out running in the ridiculous hot summer temperatures.

To make a long story short, it works well. It works really, really well. I was already sold on Buff’s products, but the UV Half is just super. I do have one complaint, and that is that I do wish there was like a 3/4 length UV Headband, because the half isn’t quite enough to stay totally dry on my head, but the full is a bit too much to wear in the summer. I am personally a heavy sweater and get really warm really quickly, so it could be a personal thing, but that would never stop me from buying another one (or 15). IMG_1004

Generation UCan SuperStarch

Recently, I was selected to be a Bib Rave Pro for Bibrave.com. From this, I had the opportunity to try a product, Generation UCan (https://www.generationucan.com/). In a world of fantastical powders and drink mixes, would this be any different?

In my shipment, I was given a shaker bottle, literature detailing the benefits of the product, all of which can be found on the website as well, and 6 packets, 2 Cocoa Delite, 1 Cran-Raz, 2 Tropical Orange, and 1 Lemonade. The timing perhaps wasn’t the best as I was tapering for a marathon, but I was happy to get to try this stuff out. That Saturday before my 10 mile run, I chose for my first flavor Cocoa Delite.

Usually, I love chocolate or cocoa flavors. And I was happy to find that this was no different. The directions for use are pretty loose, basically as much water as you want (the recommendation is between 8-12 fluid ounces.) I went with about 12 ounces and shook it up with the aforementioned shaker bottle. The taste was, not that awesome. Not bad, but definitely different. Clearly this would take a bit of getting used to.

But did it work?! Heck yeah it did! It was a 10 mile taper run the week before a marathon, and at no point did I feel any bonk or crash coming on. I felt good the entire run, and had sustained energy throughout. And I didn’t even have a growling stomach after, which is usually a problem for me. I was pretty ecstatic with the results of this first trial.

Tempted though I was to use GenU for my marathon, I didn’t for the sake of not trying something new on race day. So it wasn’t until the next week that I got to give it another go. For my second, I went with lemonade after a 20 mile bike ride. The lemonade did not taste that great to me.

I’ve never been that impressed with gels or powders that attempt fruit flavors, and the trend continued with the flavors of Generation UCan. They all tasted just a bit off. I only tried mine with water, and I would imagine that if you substituted almond milk or something else, you could definitely find one way or another that worked for you. The Cran-Raz and Tropical Orange were the same for me. Flavor-wise, they didn’t do it for me. But I will say, the stuff works, and works well. I would imagine that given a bit of time, I could get used to the flavors, but for now, Cocoa Delite is my jam.

Disclaimer: I received a Generation UCan to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

END-SURE 50K 3/19/16

It’s easy to forget how much 31 miles hurts. It’s easy to forget how cold it can be when you get outside habitation. It’s easy to forget. Until you remember, usually in the middle of it all.

Getting out of the car ten minutes before race start, and I was shivering. I jogged to a fence line to pee quickly, and ran into a friend, Paul. We shook hands, wished each other well, and he went off to warm up. He also eventually won, but that’s beside the point. I was at the start, and ready.

Now let’s rewind, just a few hours. Sitting around home with my wife Bre and her dad Jim, we chatted and drank some coffee, relaxing before we drove out to the Sheyenne Grasslands for END-SURE, a 50K trail race; my second ultra, and the first in my home state. It was 8:34am; the race start was at 11am. Time to go. I had figured an hour or so for the drive.

8:45am. After packing the car, starting it, stopping it, and running inside to grab things forgotten, we hit the road. I turned on some Phish to try and calm my increasingly anxious nerves. Once we hit the interstate, I calmed down a bit. For about a half hour I felt good.

By 9:25am, we were still about 40 minutes away from a coffee shop in Lisbon, ND. The vans left the finish line at 10am to get to the starting paddock before 11am. I inevitably felt rushed. The thought running through my mind the whole time was just go to the starting area. But not knowing if there was a race day check-in, I felt a persistent urge to get to the van loading area.

After a pit stop and a wrong turn, it was 10:15am or so, and I was behind the vans taking the runners to the starting paddock. Man how I wished I could’ve been in there. I had friends to run with, Maggie, Eric, Terry, and Paul. It would’ve probably helped immensely to have people to talk to and calm myself around. Instead, I was a bubbling cauldron of anger because I was “late”. I hate being late. Not an ideal way to start the race.

Standing around shivering in shorts with a bunch of people dressed for cold weather running, we listened to Tim Bauer, the race director, give out instructions, tips, and a phone number to call in case we decided to drop at some point. I noticed I was the only one in shorts. Soon enough, the hounds were loosed.

A first, this year the 50K race started at the West trailhead, meandering through the pastures, before eventually making it to the sand hills and woods. This led to a decent amount of fast running to start, which was great for the beginning. I managed around an 8:35/mi pace to start, which was what I was hoping to maintain throughout the entire 31ish miles.

This was the first race I’ve ever run where I had ear buds in from the start. During my last (and first) ultra, I used music after the 30-mile mark to hopefully be a tool for my mind to focus on and avoid focusing on the inevitable pain. After 2 races of using music, I can definitively say that I will never use it again. It can be awesome for a tempo run or other speed work, but during a race, I can’t get into my head and keep it together with music. I focus on it too much and use it to dictate my mood. And apparently, I like really sad, albeit uptempo, music.

And we raced; through a bunch of flat, pasture land with no cows. It was pretty dull, honestly. I prefer hills and technical trails, otherwise it feels too much like road running and my brain just shuts off. Although in this case, there were plenty of holes and cow pies to dodge. It was fun to be able to see the runners in front of me racing away (like Paul), and as the trail is barely marked, it helped to be able to know where to go other than a vague wooden post. But eventually, we hit the woods. And it was goddamn glorious.

The first patch of woods, after maybe 3 or so miles, was pretty brief but quick rollers. It was but a taste of what was to come and exactly what I needed. I ran through the first self-help aid station, stopped briefly to pet my dog Skeeter and say hi to Bre and Jim, and continued. The next AS was about 9 miles away. It was time to get moving. I followed a couple runners back through so hills before some more pasture.

While I had stood chatting with my wife and her dad, a few runners scampered passed and I tagged along, following them through the hills just beyond Highway 27. Continuing north, my legs still felt good, and I stayed on top of my nutrition and water. My Orange Mud VP2 pack worked phenomenally well for a race of this distance. I carried a 20oz bottle of water, a 20oz bottle of Hammer Perpetuem, a carbohydrate beverage that I relied on in place of gels for the most part.

At around this point, mile 8 or so, the first racers in the 100K started showing up. They had started at the 50K finish, and did an out and back along the entirety of the trail. A nice morale booster, a couple “good jobs” and I continued on my way. Slowly, the terrain began getting hillier. Mentally, at this point I noticed I began to drop a bit.

I’ve always prided myself on having a really strong sense of mental positivity and ability to endure, so the fact that my mind was starting to go less than halfway through the race concerned me. In hindsight, I would’ve ditched the music and focused much more on my surroundings and tried to gain joy from that. But those flat pastures really were unpleasant. If only I’d known how bad it was going to get.

Fortunately, there was time before that. Once I cracked the double digits, it didn’t get easier necessarily, but I almost slipped into a flow state for a bit. By this point, I was totally alone on the trail. I knew there were people in front and behind, obviously, but moving dots were the only signifiers of the other runners. That’s one of my favorite parts of trail running, the reminder of how small we really are. Road races, there’s always spectators and people cheering. Here, the only spectators were the aid station volunteers, my two family members, and a couple other people.

The halfway point was a godsend. Mentally, I was cracking. I think I was probably low on calories at this point and really needed some food and a friendly face or two. Fortunately, after a handful of peanut M&M’s and a banana, along with new bottles, and seeing my wife, dog and father in law, I felt better. I also saw that at this point, we were headed to the woods. I don’t know if it was the terrain or the banana, but at this point, all the lows I had been feeling disappeared. At the halfway point, I felt great and ready to make up some time.

Getting into the woods, the trail closed around like a comfortable blanket. Suddenly, everything was clicking. The music worked, the mood lifted. Pacing wise, I was still comfortably in a 9-10min/mi range, hiking up the hills and bombing down. One of the mantras I was told before my first ultra, “don’t be an idiot, don’t be a wimp”, echoed through. The first half of a race, I try to not overexert, and the second half, all bets are off and do your best. At the halfway point, I cut myself loose.

And then it all came crashing down. Pain and the acceptance of it is a huge part of racing, particularly longer races. I expected and anticipated mental and physical pain, cramps, maybe a blister or two, general foot and muscle fatigue, it’s going to happen. I did not expect for my left quad to almost completely shut down at mile twenty or so. We’re talking “I can hardly walk, let alone run” kind of pain.

At this point, I had hoped that I was going to be a bit over five hours in finishing, which was a little slower than I originally anticipated, but expectations are going to be altered when you delve into the unknown. Around mile twenty-two, my friend Terry came running by and I tagged along with him for a bit as best I could. We chatted a bit about races from last year, he asked how my first ultra went, and plans for this year. Eventually, he skipped ahead, leaving me to do my own thing. It was a nice mental boost though. And talking helped drown out the screaming in my quad.

Then it was back to the long slog to the finish. Relentless forward progress, as some call it. I don’t know how many times at this point I kept wishing I had put that phone number in my phone because I felt completely done in. But I hadn’t, so I didn’t have options other than stopping someone and asking them for it, which was out of the question, whether because I was suffering from an intense case of being male (stubborn and unwilling to ask for help) or because I didn’t want to slow anyone down, I’m not sure.

Maggie and Eric, another couple awesome trail friends, came by at this point, checking in. I let them know what was going on and we wished each other good luck. Walk for a bit, run for a shorter bit, stretch.

That was the best I could do. It sucked, a lot. But every time my mind went to cursing myself for not having that phone number I kept thinking, “Well, if you’re going to drop, you’re still going to have to walk out to the stupid finish, because they can’t exactly drive a vehicle in here. So you might as well see how you do.”

At one point, I almost totally lost it, a first for me. I’d never been that exasperated from being unable to do what I knew I could. But then, when I started feeling bad, on the verge of tears, I thought of my friends. My FSR friends; those I’d met through running, my brother, who’s going through some struggles. Anything I could latch onto to make myself realize what I was willfully putting myself through wasn’t that bad.

Five hours turned to five and a half, then to six. I had hopes of finishing in six hours. Continually getting passed at this point, by both 50K and 25K runners, people checked in as to how I was doing, “Left quad’s shot,” was the constant refrain. About the 26-mile mark, a runner I had passed about mile seven came upon me. He asked how I was, I told him about my quad, and he said he glutes were doing the same thing. We both ran a bit before I had to stop and walk.

And then the course did the thing I hate the absolute most, and I’m sure race directors LOVE doing. It went right passed the finish line. Except we still had four miles to go, beginning with cutting through a marsh that had no trail, just a few sticks with some pink ribbon on top. Anecdotally, apparently one 50K runner took a wrong turn here, finished, and proceeded to scream at the race directors about this before getting into his truck and speeding away (don’t be that person, please).

By this point, I had basically been walking for 8 miles. I was sure I was dead f’n last. And I was totally fine with that. I knew I was going to finish. I figured if I could still walk then whatever was going on with my quad wasn’t that bad. Sure, I couldn’t really run, but I could hobble and occasionally get some speed, if only for fifty feet. More runners passed, a few more hills.

Finally, I decided that I was done with the walking though. My mind had gone through the wringer, and so had my body. I was so ready to be done. So I started running. And immediately got passed by another runner, “Shorts? Respect, man.” The grey-haired older gentleman who blew passed gave me a thumb’s up as I barely kept from shivering. This being North Dakota in pre-spring, pretty much every season showed up, now, it was heading towards winter again.

I barely remember the final mile, to be honest. There are brief clips in my mind, a cattle gate, one of the runners that finished ahead of me out running with his dog (because 50K just isn’t quite enough for one day), and a last bit of woods. Finally, the finish was in sight, and naturally, I took a wrong turn.

After a brief detour through the campground, I touched the pole that marked the end of the course, shook the race director’s hand, and was done. After a quick, delicious beer, bag of chips, and brat, we hopped in the car and headed home. At that point, I swore I would never run this race again. For what it’s worth, I finished in 6:23:xx.

Naturally, that changed after a day or two and I’m planning on running it again next year. I have unfinished business with that course. I haven’t pushed myself as far as I can there yet, and I hope to next year. That’s why I run. If you aren’t pushing yourself beyond what you think you’re capable of, you’ll never know. And I might never find out, but I’ll never stop trying.






Getting Brain Beat

Yesterday was my first ultra distance run, as in longer than a marathon. I’m trying really hard not to add the caveat that it was only a 28 mile run, and therefore BARELY longer than a marathon, but with enough repetition I think I can silence that little voice. But it’s hard to be positive sometimes, even when it’s something to be proud of. I mean, I ran 28 fucking miles yesterday! And then biked to work. Someday I’ll be able to do my long runs and then have the day to relax and recover…

Anyways. I hit some country roads on a route given to me by my friend Rachel where she has done some of her 50K length runs. The positive side, country roads are amazing for their almost exact length. I didn’t even have to check my watch all that often, I just knew when I hit another road marker, that it had been a mile. Very helpful, especially when I began to drag a bit in the high teens. The rollers out there should be really good practice for Lean Horse, as that’s mostly crushed gravel, country road type terrain so it was good to get my feet on that. I should get out there at least once more before the race for another long run.

For some reason, the first seven miles were just horrible. Maybe it was the four hours of sleep I’d gotten the night before, but they just were not very fun. On a side note, I don’t know how excited I am to be getting comfortable doing long runs on basically no sleep. On the one hand, I think it simulates pre-race day quite well as at least for the marathon I slept like crap, but in the back of my mind I always wonder, if I can do 28 miles on 4 or so hours of sleep, how well would I have done on a full 8? But I digress.

The second seven miles were fantastic. Partly because I was rushing to get back to my car as I had promised my wife that I would text her when I was done with each loop so she wouldn’t worry. I really don’t like carrying a phone with me when I run, although if I ever get around to getting a pack then that will probably change.

Other than having to send a text with wet hands, I think the stops at my vehicle went pretty quickly, grabbed my PB&J burritos and water and headed out in a couple minutes. I was surprised at how well I did without gels, relying only only peanut butter and jelly wrapped in a tortilla, and 1 Clif bar on my final few miles.

My pace overall was nice and slow, hovering around 10-11 minute miles, which seems really slow to me, but I felt good for almost the whole run, until I was running out of water and the sun got real high. When I first got to the church I parked at, and was grabbing my gear, I noticed my handheld had leaked out completely all over the floor of my vehicle. Guess how much water would have probably been just enough to hit 30 miles? (hint: about 16 ounces). But that’s the nature of running, learning to adapt.

Which is where I dropped the ball BIG TIME. I can pinpoint the moment actually, when my mind just collapsed. I was running on what was supposed to be about an 8 mile loop. I hit 8 miles and was not where I thought I should be. Which is odd as I’d never been out there before so really had no idea where I should be. But, I kept moving forward, figuring I just had a bit more to go. The road I was on was really terrible, a low maintenance one, with massive puddles and ruts and stuff. If it’d been earlier or I was more cognizant of what I was doing, it would’ve been really fun to run and splash through those puddles. Instead I slogged,  trying to convince myself that it was just a bit further. Which it was.

But by that point, I had walked several miles  and time had taken its toll. And I had to get back to town so my wife could take our car and get to work. On the plus side, the 8 miles had turned to 10, so I really only had 6 more to go. A quick out and back I had figured. 2 miles out after stopping the car and my mind had turned to soup. It was hot, I was almost out of water, and I wanted to be done. It was horrid.

But there’s lessons to be learned here. As Rachel pointed out, it was my first long run of this type, and this far. So I need to be proud of what I did, even if it wasn’t what I had hoped for. 28 isn’t that far from 30. And my hope, the one that I had almost immediately after I stopped my watch, was that this will hopefully be a push when it comes to Lean Horse that when I hit a low spot, I won’t quit. In the mean time, I need to work on my mind and embrace positivity. On the plus side, I have a new keg of homebrew and I’m done with Hell Month, so things are looking up, I just need to recognize and accept that. Here’s hoping…

This should make me happy.

This should make me happy.


I’m terrible with directions, even when it’s only 4 turns. Permanent is relative.

Been a While (Is Anybody Out There?) Ultra Training

It’s been a hectic few months. School, work, running, work, other realities…There’s never enough time to get it all done no matter how well you think you’ve planned. And as someone who can’t plan for shit, it probably makes it harder. Anyways, as this is intended to be a thing for me to ignore about my running and training for various endeavors, let’s get into that. I ran my first marathon in May (see the one other blog I’ve posted), then took about a week off completely from running. However, in that time I was still bike commuting to work and school, which ends up usually being not too many miles.

Then my feet started feeling better, and I got back to it. Nothing grueling, mind you, just out for a nice hour or so, or 6.5-7 miles a time. I had a hard time during this point really setting up my training program for my upcoming ultra, the Lean Horse 50 mile ultra marathon (www.leanhorse100.com). We’ll see how well what I had set up works next month…

I’m unsure what to actually say about the training, maybe I’ll put up what I have in an excel spreadsheet at some point. I can’t fathom it’s interesting to the two people who (accidentally?) actually read this. However, I do have some thoughts.


Photo courtesy of Rachel U.

I am realizing that I have a really hard time getting in the longer runs (18+ miles) by myself. It’s totally possible, but my mind really has to be into it. Which is really hard after 6 hours of class right now. I haven’t tried before class yet, but I might next week. The one saving grace is getting hooked up with some ultra runners in the area (Thanks Rachel!) to get out and see how gorgeous Maplewood State Park is.

IMG_0480 IMG_0481 IMG_0482 IMG_0483

I was there, at one point.

I was there, at one point.

Anyways, I had my first four-hour run out there. It was amazing. I really should have brought more than 2 gels, but that’s what I had at home. Had a mild bonk towards the end and had to walk it in, but that’s all right as it gave me time to hang with some people and just look around. I’ve been out there once since, which is where most of the pictures are from. I think that even after this ultra, I’ll make time in my life for getting out to that park at least once a month.

Other brief notes from the past few months, holy shit have I randomly won a bunch of crap in contests! Like a lot of people, I NEVER win anything, which I don’t mind. A few years ago I won a yoga board that simulates SUP yoga which is great, but I don’t have the space to use it very often. But as of May I won 2 Garmin Forerunner 15s, one of which I gave to my wife on her birthday (the day I won it), it was pink, which is why she wanted it. The second I won along with an awesome pair of Skora Fits (www.Skorarunning.com) and some Nuun Hydration electrolyte tabs and water bottle for a National Running Day give away, which was amazing. Those shoes are fabulous, they felt like they were already broken in when I got them. And the electrolyte tabs are really great, a very subtle flavor in them so it doesn’t get cloying in my mouth. Haven’t used the water bottle yet…

I also won ANOTHER Simple Hydration water bottle (www.simplehydration.com). These are really great bottles as I’m not a huge fan of handhelds. The only problem is they are both single-walled and when they sit against your ass on a long run in the heat, they don’t really stay that cool. Haven’t figured out how to wear them with a pack yet, but that’s on the agenda. And finally, although I don’t know yet how I’m going to get there, I won a race entry to The North Face Endurance Challenge in Park City, UT in September (https://www.thenorthface.com/get-outdoors/endurance-challenge/utah.html). It looks like an amazing race. I signed up for the 50K because if I’m going to make it down there, then I’m going to do a big damn race. And 2 50 milers in 2 months is just too much. I’m not Mike Wardian…

So that’s the bit of bragging I have I guess? Twitter has turned out to be pretty great for me in the winning stuff regard I guess. Also meeting awesome runners from around the world. Now I just need to figure out how the hell I’m going to hydrate for this ultra, as I just don’t have enough time (or money) I think to get a pack and adequately break it in. I really want one from http://www.orangemud.com, but it’ll probably have to wait until I can afford it. Two handhelds sound awful, so I imagine that I’ll do either my two Simple Hydration bottles if I can get my shorts to stay up, or one of those and the sixteen ounce Nathan handheld I have. The electrolyte tabs work better in 16 oz. of water than  13 oz, so that might be my best bet. 4 more longs runs to test this stuff out and then it’ll be time to freak out. Just realized I need to make a hotel reservation for down in Custer, SD for the race…Never enough time! If anyone actually read this, thanks. If it bored you to tears, I apologize. If neither, then that’s fine too. Back to homework…

The First One (Fargo Marathon)

I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that I finally ran a marathon. After 5+ months of training and thinking about it on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, it’s all over now. For all the suffering and painful moments, it was absolutely worth every minute of training and I can’t wait to do it again.

Initially when I had begun my training in earnest with the FSR (Faster, Stronger, Runner) group back in January I had reservations about all the banal minutiae that doesn’t really apply; things like pace and the training plan. These were things that would just naturally fall into place for me later on. The training plan was always, and continues to be, one of the more worrisome aspects for my next race, which perhaps contributed to it being an issue with this marathon.

Initially with training, I was running 4-5 days a week, with three days of core work and one day of “hill” (parking ramp) repeats. This then foolishly turned into back-to-back long runs weekly. With the hills in between. So not truly back-to-back, but by the time Saturday long runs rolled around, my legs were pretty destroyed. On top of that, the four or so hours of sleep I would get due to getting home from work at around midnight contributed to all around tiredness. To a degree, I hope that it helps in the future, if only for the knowledge of running on tired legs.

As I stated, the back-to-backs of a sort were on a weekly basis, which naturally led to overuse injury. Granted, I’ve only been running for about two years so I haven’t gotten things figured out quite yet. If I would’ve kept to every other week B2B’s, I think I would’ve been OK. Lesson learned.

I never went to see anyone about it, but I did do some research on the internet concerning my injury. I knew it wasn’t cancer, so I avoided WebMD.com, and after reading through a variety of websites about running injury, I’m fairly certain that it was my IT band. This was the point when my pace work went to hell. I had been running perhaps a bit slower with a group on the long runs, but it was fun. I did pace work earlier in the week, but with my leg going south that went out the window. I took about ten days off from anything strenuous running-wise, although I did still manage to get the long runs in, or at least a portion of them. I did have to cut one short, but otherwise struggled through.

This then led to the use of naproxen prior to my long runs, and the marathon for that matter. I don’t know how I feel about taking an NSAID before that kind of exercise, as I know it’s really not very good for the body. However, stubbornness wins out usually with me. As such, popping pills it was. And it worked. My hope is that these two weeks between the race and my next training block will give things time to heal and get back to relative normal before I start training for the Lean Horse 50 mile race coming up in August.

One of the big things I realized during the end of the training block is that I hate the taper. I truly, truly hate the taper. Or at least how I feel during it. The lethargy really got to me, just ended up feeling antsy the whole time. Roughly like how I feel right now. The only difference being I’m still struggling to walk up stairs now so running is absolutely out of the question.

Photo courtesy of Jacob Cobb

Photo courtesy of Jacob Cobb

Race week I finally felt OK with the taper, though. I finally accepted it for what it was, which was rest. And I took full advantage, even skipping a workout. Race week coincided with the end of my semester at school, so there was fortunately throughout the taper enough for me to keep busy, although sitting and writing papers doesn’t do much for getting rid of being antsy. Anyways, it was finally race week!

Wednesday was the last workout with FSR prior to the marathon, although they did meet the Friday before for one last shake out run. I wanted to go, but was signed up for the “Tailgate 5K” that night, and didn’t want to overdo it. So the 5K rolled around, and it was miserable out. Thursday had been spent pinning my bibs onto my singlets and getting the rest of my gear at least close to being ready. We had gone to the expo, been accosted by a guy named Bear, and checked the rest of it out. I forget how much I don’t really like those things. The high pressure sales really turn me off from wanting to be there. I get the principles of it, but I already have enough on my mind that close to race day, I don’t need some dude trying to push a massage device on me.

Anyways. The forecast for Friday (the 8th) was in the 40s with 16-18 mph winds. And yes, I wore shorts and a singlet. Why? Other than because clearly I’m an idiot, and stubborn (the bib was already pinned on!), I knew it was supposed to be cold the next morning at the start of the marathon, so I thought perhaps there might be some use in dressing similar for both races.

I ended up driving myself to the 5K instead of getting dropped off, which was fine, except then I had car keys tucked into my shorts’ pocket. Luckily, I had experienced that during early morning runs on Wednesday before work outs so it wasn’t a big deal. And then I stood around and froze. I did a bit of a warm up, kick backs and high knees, but nothing much. I was concerned that if I did too much the night before, my legs would be garbage come the marathon.

The course started on the west side of the Fargodome and basically looped around and through a portion of NDSU, using a section of the marathon course. It was actually a nice little jaunt. Fortunately they had folks out holding up pace signs so people could theoretically line up where they thought they should be, although I personally didn’t see a lot of movement. Lots of folks with backpacks, headphones, a ton of compression gear, one guy with a bladder bag, and lots of kids. In other words, a lot of people who had perhaps not run many or any races before. Which is AWESOME! It made me happy to see that many people out, something like 8000 ran. For the record, it was also my first proper 5K. There was one last October, but it came about 20 minutes after my second ever half marathon, so the time was horrible and I’d rather not count it.

The only issue then was the same that are in most races, the slipping around people moving slower than you to get to a comfortable place. I had lined up in the 25:00-30:00min group, hoping genuinely to finish a bit under a half hour. I wasn’t there with the intention of racing, but just a decent shake out to get my legs moving. Naturally, that didn’t happen.

I don’t entirely know if it was because I was cold, or because I wanted to get away from the people I was close to, but I took off at a pretty good clip. The one time I checked my watch I was moving at about a 6:24/mi pace, which is 30 seconds or so faster than the fastest mile I’ve ever run. It took genuine effort to slow myself down and try to hit a comfortable pace. This ended up being somewhere around a 7:24/mi or so. I finished in 24:42, which felt really good. A bit faster than I had wanted, but I just went with it and hoped it wouldn’t cause problems the next day. I picked up my medal, grabbed a bottle of water, and headed home to eat.

Bath, food, bed. That was the intention. I had gotten really good sleep on Thursday, knowing I probably wouldn’t sleep well Friday. But man was I tired after that 5K. Which I thought would help. Ate a big plate of pasta, with a pork chop, and brussel sprouts, and drank some gatorade. We had company coming the next day, my friend Jake and his girlfriend Marissa, so I ended up sleeping in the guestroom because we wanted them to have the queen size bed when they were here. I took a melatonin pill, drank a cup of sleepy-time tea, and rubbed some sleep-inducing essential oil on my feet to assist my slumber.

I laid down at about 8:30 with a book, book 5 of the Wheel of Time series, and by 9 had shut the light off and was trying to sleep. By 1:30am I was wide awake. Getting up to pee every hour or so didn’t help matters, but I contented myself by saying at least I knew I was hydrated. I tossed and turned, played dumb games on my phone, and followed iRunfar’s coverage of Transvulcania until about 4:30 when I decided to just get up.

Went through the usual morning business, food, coffee, etc. in record time, and still had an hour to kill before I needed to be at the Fargodome. So I watched the last half of Unbreakable, a marvelous documentary about the Western States 100 mile Endurance Run from 2010. It’s one of my favorite documentaries, and super inspirational. And suddenly, it was time to go. Past time, actually.

Traffic was terrible, as could be expected. They always say to arrive early, but no one ever seems to listen. I got dropped off, put on my headphones, and went to stand in line for the bathroom. I didn’t have to go, but figured by the time was shorter, I would. After that, I walked in a loop around the concourse to find the bag drop, zoning out to Coheed and Cambria. Saw Joan, well, she saw me and came over to wish me luck. I did likewise and continued on. I arrived at the bag drop, stuffed my coat and iPod into my bag and handed it over to the UPS lady. They really have a great system worked out for that.

At this point, it was just past 7am, the race started at 7:30. So I went and stood in line for the bathroom again, just to make sure. Ran into another person from FSR, who’s name I never actually caught, and we discussed the lack of sleep the night before we both had. Went outside afterwards to get my GPS set up and check the weather. It was gorgeous. The sun rising, not much wind; it was going to be perfect. Then it was back inside and down to the main floor to line up.

The time I hoped to run in had been something gnawing away at me for over a week. I knew that my initial goal of 3:30 was out the door due to my injury. I had been flopping around between 3:45 and 4 before finally (arbitrarily) settling on 3:38. I had a suspicion I could bang out a 3:40 if everything worked out so knocking 2 more minutes off didn’t seem like a stretch. I made my way through the corral to the 3:40 pace group.

There I ran into some FSR pals, Brandon, Cam, Jamie, Adam, Bethany, and one more who’s name escapes me (sorry!). We chatted a bit, asked each other what we were hoping to run in, and then we all dispersed as it was 7:25 or so. There was some talking, the mayor said some stuff, and then we were off.

I had no idea how the indoor start was going to work, only knowing how bad it had been last year with the half marathon and taking 10 minutes to hit the first timing pad. But man, did it go smoothly. I don’t know if they’ll do it again, as they change the route every single year, but starting like that seemed to eliminate all hassles. I tucked in with the rest of the 3:40 group and we shuffled on out the door to head up north.

The first five miles are a blur, to be honest. I remember bits and pieces, but I think a large portion of the time was spent just calming my nerves, and zoning out while the pacer chatted, telling jokes, and generally kept us entertained. I don’t know his name but he was great. Then the first water station hit. I pulled out the first of my GUs, as I had a tentative plan to take one about every 4.5-5 miles, since there was supposed to be the first of a couple GU stops at mile 9.

The big highlight from up north was hitting a new park, Trefoil, that had just been established. It was a marvelous, peaceful place that I think will be absolutely gorgeous in ten years when the trees fill in a bit. The crowd had really thinned there, although a few people here or there cheered us on. After that we went back to the road, passing the civic center. We met up with the half marathoners at this point, with the road being split by concrete barriers. However, there was nothing demarcating the split, so some people, such as the pacer, got stuck on the side with the halfers, of which there were substantially more.

After this, we crossed the 1st Ave. bridge over into Moorhead to go through the two colleges over there, Concordia and MSUM, where I go. Those were fabulous, the support and cheering were really helpful. I had not expected to literally run through the middle of campus, but that’s what we did which was cool. At this point we passed the halfway mark, and I was still hanging in with the 3:40 group. I felt great, mostly.

The GU station that was supposed to be at mile 9 wasn’t there, which was a huge thing. Fortunately I had decided to grab an extra GU before I left in the morning so I was carrying 4 with me. So at this point, every mile I kept looking for people handing out GU. After going through both campuses, we headed south towards Gooseberry Park. Through there and back into Fargo over the suspension bridge into Lindenwood.

At this point, I started to fall back a bit. After 13 or so miles of running on relatively flat pavement, my legs were not ready for the up and down, wacky camber of a bicycle trail. I also think maybe I hadn’t had enough water or powerade. Whatever it was, something was slightly amiss so I started falling back, just a bit. At this point, Adam met up with me, we chatted a bit about how we were doing and he commented on how well the pacer was maintaining. Slowly, the group started to pull away from me.

And thus began my slow descent. I made it through Lindenwood as we headed back north to do the 7-8-9th street slalom. This had been a portion I was looking forward to, as these older neighborhoods had loads of people out ready to cheer. And I knew my wife with Jake and Marissa as well as my parents were going to be around somewhere, and I was getting to be in need of a friendly face. As we looped back around, passing mile 14 I saw Jake. I flashed a devil’s horns at him, he waved. At this point, I noticed my right hand was almost completely covered in blood. Awesome.

Apparently it had been cold. My skin cracks horribly in cold weather, and that was the only thing I could think of that happened. I didn’t consider it to be a big deal except if a water stop was on the right side. I really didn’t want to bleed on some poor volunteer. Luckily, by this point the full and half marathons had merged, with aid stations on both sides of the street so I could pop over to the half side to grab a water. Or, as the case was, slow down to a walk and grab with my non-bloody hand. Finally, at about mile 15, they had GUs. I took 2, and kept on. By this point, I was down to just 1 left of my initial stash, so I was going to be in need very soon.

In hindsight, training with GUs was not something I had done very well. Or at least I had not trained my body to maintain without them. Might mean a look into the method of using body fat instead of carbs…but I digress. As we looped back up north on 9th street, the 3:40 group was still within eye sight, but gaining ground away from me. “Oh well, maybe 3:45 isn’t out of the question,” I remember thinking. In the back of my mind, all I knew I wanted was to do sub-4.

When I had been deciding my time, 3:30 had stuck in my mind because for whatever reason, that appeared to me to be within sniffing distance of a Boston qualifier. Yet, I really have no interest in running Boston, ever. It’s just too many people. So why I used a BQ time as reference, I’m not sure. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll decide I really want to run Boston and try to qualify.

At mile 18 or so, I ran past my parents, which was awesome. They had missed me last year when I ran my first half. The elite marathoners had been been approaching as I was coming up on them, so understandably, they had focused on them. I would’ve too. In here I had taken a few walk breaks. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t maintain. Maybe it was nutrition or hydration, but I took a couple quick strolls.

At one point, Adam showed up again. He’s diabetic and had slowed down earlier because he needed to test his blood sugar. He came up on me, made sure I was taking GUs and water and then blasted ahead. The dude’s a beast.

We headed into downtown for miles 19 and 20, going up Broadway. 1st Ave. N was great. A lot of people out, there was a construction company that had inflated a giant thing with the phrase “Break through the wall” written on it. And Drekker Brewing was out too. That put a smile on my face.

Once through downtown, we headed to 10th Ave. and the first of 2 underpasses. I had to hike up the hills as my legs were dying quickly. It was after the first one, when we hit 6th Ave. that my left quad started seizing. From there, it turned into a battle of running as far as I could before the cramps kicked in. This lasted for a mile or so before my right calf started spasming as well. So from there it was run, run, run, then SPASM, and I’d almost fall over. Then I’d walk a bit, and repeat. I was long out of GU at this point. All I craved was salt. There was no convenient place that I could grab a salt packet from, and none of the lovely people that had food for us had anything salty. So it was a matter of walking through the aid stations, knocking back a couple cups of powerade and water, and hoping for the best.

But boy did I suffer. The last 5 miles or so were probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Strangely, at about mile 22, I clearly remember thinking something like, “Holy shit this sucks. But I can’t wait to do it again!” And truly, I can’t. But the last four miles were a walk-run.

As we came back up north, connecting with that 5K route I had run the night before, Cam came up on me and said hi. He was all business at that point, which was interesting to see from a guy who had spent every other long run chatting and joking around. I said to him, “Man, this really hurts.” I got a “Yep”, and he kept on. It was nice to see him, and I tried to then keep him in view the rest of the race. Survival was the name of the game at that point.

We looped up into NDSU at that point. There wasn’t much of a crowd presence, although the people that were there cheered loudly. As I ran around a loop, I saw my wife driving up to where she was going to pick me up. It gave me a bit of a badly needed boost. Passed mile 25 at this point and I knew the end was nigh.

And was immediately hit was cramps and spasms, reducing me to a walk. With the dome in sight, I was hurting. Yet another one of the FSR  members was waiting on the side of the road. She’d run the half and was there to cheer people on. She saw me and started yelling, motivating me to run. I really am horrible with names. I want to say Amy but I honestly don’t know. But she yelled, and it worked. I ran in the last 3/4 of a mile or so and finished my first marathon. I kept checking my watch on the way in, knowing that sub-4 was going to be cutting it close. But as I crossed that finish line, I looked at the race timer; 3:56:31. And it was over.

I had thought it might be more emotional of a finish than it was. There was a moment where I thought I might lose it, but didn’t. I would’ve been OK if tears had come, it was a big deal. As I walked back through the corral, Adam saw me and congratulated me, and I him. I picked up my medals and made my way over to the chocolate milk and pizza. Cam saw me, came over, fist bumped, and said I did great. We chatted a bit about the race, walking towards the water. Someone from the photo company took our picture. It looks nice and I really like it, but I can’t justify paying $18 for a 5×8 photo.

I saw a few more FSR people, we chatted a bit, everyone happy. And then one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. If you ever want to see something close to a look of defeat on a bunch of people who just ran 26.2 or 13.1 miles, make them climb stairs to get out of the building. God it was horrible. And funny. And I hope I get to do it again next year.

photo courtesy of Jacob Cobb

New car magnet!                           photo courtesy of Jacob Cobb