Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the tag “marathon”

Weekly Roundup: 9/8-9/15

Yes, Virginia, there are four seasons in Iowa! This weekly recap is brought to you by cooler temperatures and fall football festivities. I love running year-round, but if I could find a home climate with lows in the 40’s and 50s, and highs in the 60s and 70s every day, I’d probably move sight unseen. Well, I suppose I might want a job…and a place to live…and I should probably ask the beautiful epicurean what she things too. I should probably just move to Rivendell.

If only...

If only…

Ok, so that magical temperate kingdom may be a dream, but I can at least embraces the glimpses of it that come with fall in Iowa. Since moving to Iowa, I have been amazed at just how unpredictable the weather truly is, regardless of the time of year. Don’t worry, though, global climate change is still just a rumor! *sarcasm* This week brought the lovely fall temperatures that I look forward to every year, and with them, perfect running weather! It was a bit hot at the beginning of the week, but by Saturday morning, I had busted out my arm warmers and I couldn’t have been happier.


After a heavy mileage weekend, I stuck to my training plan and utilized Monday as a rest day. I spent plenty of extra quality time with the foam roller though!


Temperatures were still in the low 90s at the beginning of the week, so this was probably the least “comfortable” run of the week. However, I met a friend for some early miles before meeting up with our running group for the regular Tuesday Vardo run, and I ended up with a strong run. My legs were a bit more tired than usual at the end, but nothing out of the ordinary. I was wearing my new pair of Altra Provision 1.5s for the third run in a row, and I think the necessary period of adjustment finally hit me a bit.

Distance: 11.7 miles

Pace: 8:44/mile


By this point, I’m pretty much done with the heat. Thus, it made perfect sense for me to wake up early to knock out a 10K before work. I’m about the furthest thing from a morning person that you’ll find, and getting up early on Saturday mornings for long runs is already pushing it. Thus, it was a pretty big deal that I got my butt out the door, but I was happy that I did, and felt even more energized and productive the rest of the day! Are you a morning or evening runner?

Distance: 6.2 miles

Pace: 8:30/mile


I have Thursday reserved for hill or speed work, and I opted for hill repeats after work. There aren’t many hills at my disposal, but there is a workable hill not far from our house, so I ran down to the base of the hill and began my repeats. When I’m by myself and I start tackling hills, it’s really easy for me to slip into “ultra hill” mode, which is simply code for “walk the hills, run the flats”. This is all well and good on a long run, but not terribly productive when I’m aiming to do hill repeats. Thus, the fact that this hill is on a busy road means there is just enough incentive, in the form of passing traffic, to keep me running! I ended up with 10 repeats, and felt great afterwards.

Elevation charts are always fun on hill repeat days!

Elevation charts are always fun on hill repeat days!

Distance: 6.3 miles

Pace: 8:17/ mile


It may have been a rest day on the calendar, but my energy was off the charts, so I ended up getting plenty of other things done, and felt great heading into the weekend. I love productive days!


In the back of my mind, I’ve continued to train such that I could run a marathon at any moment. This has fit very nicely with my more recent training, but served as an even better motivator earlier on in the year. As a result, I’ve made it a point to run at least one “marathon” every month this year as an added challenge to myself. These runs aren’t any more organized than any other training run, but I set out to push past the 26.2 mark, which I’ll be doing much more of in the coming months. Thus, Saturday served as my September marathon, and I couldn’t have asked for a better morning. The temperature was hovering around 45 degrees when I woke up at 4:30AM. I met a few friends at 5:00AM to beginning running, and we met up with the rest of the group at 6:00AM. I wanted to pull back my pace a bit since I know I’m going to need to slow down considerably in order to run for 24 hours. I probably should have pulled back even more, but I was feeling really good, and the weather was glorious. There was added energy in the air on account of the Iowa State vs. Iowa football game as well, so it was a great morning. It didn’t hurt that I knew I was returning to homemade peach crepes and the Everton v. Chelsea Premiere League game (on TV) with the epicurean as well. 🙂

Distance: 26.6 miles

Pace: 8:52/mile


We woke up and carried on our pancake Sunday tradition with a bit of a twist in the form of South-Indian idlis (steamed fermented rice cakes) with some delicious chutney and jam. After a lazy morning relaxing, I headed out the door for a comfortable Sunday run. The weather was once again glorious, and the run was calming to the point of zoning out and barely noticing where I was going. I still made it home, and had plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the weekend!

A delicious Sunday breakfast!

A delicious Sunday breakfast!

Distance: 12.2 miles

Pace: 8.38/mile

Total Distance: 63 miles

I know that the beautiful fall weather is going to be short-lived, but I’m excited to enjoy it for the next few weeks while it’s still here. Soon enough, we’ll be raking leaves and racing the snow! I hope everyone else had a great week, training and otherwise.

Looking Ahead: A Busy Fall Season!

It is once again in the 90s today, which a bit of relief finally on the horizon for next week. For many of you, I realize that these temps are either a) commonplace, or b) desirable out of a love for summer. Aside from the more relaxed pace and change of activities, summer has never been one of my favorite seasons. I tend to find myself more productive the busier and more structured I am, so seeing Fall right around the corner is quite exciting! Classes at Iowa State began this past week (hence the late post), and my independent summer gave way to quite a bit more activity. I’ll be defending my dissertation this semester (fingers crossed), as well as teaching two classes, looking for a job, auditing a course, and training for my first 24-hour event in December. It’s going to be a busy next few months, and I couldn’t be more excited!

Aside from the “race” to graduate, October appears to be a peak month for crazy, so I thought I would provide a bit of a preview. Over the course of 3 weeks, I’ll tackle 4 significant races, and log quite a few miles in between. Along the way, I have no doubt that I’m going to form some wonderful memories with great friends, and I can’t wait.

October 5th

This is the one weekend all month that I don’t have a race. However, I do have a 28 mile training run on the calendar, so I suppose I can call that an un-official ultra, eh?

October 12th

I’ll be traveling to Lincoln, NE to run the Market to Market relay- Nebraska. As you may recall, I ran the Market to Market Relay- Iowa earlier this year and had a blast. I’ll be joining several of the same friends, along with some new friends for 78 miles of running from Omaha to Lincoln. The segments are relatively short, so the day should fly by pretty quickly, and I’ll probably squeeze in a few extra miles as well. It should be another great relay experience!


October 19th

I’ve had the Indianapolis Marathon on my calendar the longest of my races this year. After running the Little Rock Marathon with a few friends, we decided we needed to do a fall marathon together so we signed up within a week of finishing Little Rock. The date and nice flat course must have looked mighty appealing, because close to 20 other friends signed up over the coming months, including the beautiful epicurean, who will be running her first half-marathon! The result will no doubt be an amazing road trip, a great race, and another state crossed off my list in my quest for 50!


October 20th

Indianapolis was going to be my last major race before Across the Years, but that was before my friends decided to challenge my crazy! Several of them have thoroughly enjoyed going down to the Des Moines Marathon to cheer on friends. This race has a history of being a first half-marathon and marathon for many folks in our running community, including yours truly. So, they decided we should drive back from Indianapolis after the race to be back in time for the race. They also suggested I just go ahead and run the Des Moines Marathon as well. Obviously I couldn’t say no to this challenge, so here we go!


October 27th

Nebraska is about the last “local” state I have yet to cross off my 50 states list, and I was eager to find a unique race to fit the bill. The G.O.A.T.z 50K was run on a series of trails near Omaha last year, and I had several friends who ran the race and thoroughly enjoyed it. I figured this would be a perfect opportunity to not only cross Nebraska off my list, but enjoy a trail race as well. Nebraska certainly isn’t a destination I would think about traveling to for any other reason, so it’s funny to me that I’ll be heading that way twice in a month!


So, there you have it. I’m sure I’ll sprinkle in some other adventures as well, but I’m definitely looking forward to the running memories that October has in store for me!

My 6-Month Reflection

It’s a bit hard to believe it’s July 1st already. The past 6 months seem to have flown by, and yet I find myself still wishing I had more time to get more things crossed off my ever-evolving to-do list. Regardless, this is as good a time as any to stop and reflect on the first half of the year as I look forward to the second half. I’ve had quite a busy winter and spring, and I’ve commented before on my period of goal-less activity. That being said, I’ve still accomplished quite a bit, and I’m really looking forward to the challenges that await me over the next 6 months!

It has already been a crazy 23, uh, I mean 2013!

It has already been a crazy 23, uh, I mean 2013!

31 in 31: I wanted to start the year off right by running every day in January, and it was certainly a successful start to the year! I also pledged to run 2013 miles in 2013 and I’m well on my way to that goal as well.

Marathon PR: My only major race during the spring was the Little Rock Marathon. When I initially registered, I was looking for an early marathon in the spring so that I could plan for multiple spring races. Although I didn’t get a chance to register for any additional marathons during the spring months, I was pretty darn happy about PR’ing in Little Rock! It was a great race and it left me hungry for more speed.

Speed Increase: Although I haven’t been as intentional about my speed work as I had hoped, I’ve still made some great strides has my speed and endurance have both increased. My average paces are continuing to drop, and I’m seeing times that I didn’t think possible even a year ago.

Nutritional Awareness: It can be easy to look to races when talking about goals, but I’ve been really pleased with the work I’ve put into my nutrition research as well. With the beautiful epicurean’s help, I’ve been experimenting with a lot of different foods, and exploring some great endurance nutrition substitutes as I work to remove the GUs and gels from my training.

Marathon Ready: My schedule was incredibly busy the first 6 months as I worked on finishing up my dissertation, and that meant not being able to travel to as many races as I had hoped. However, I pledged to keep my endurance up so I could run a marathon on any given weekend. I’m happy to say I’ve kept my training up, and have run an additional 5 unorganized marathon distances this year.

I’m A Maniac: I’ve talked about wanting to join the Marathon Maniacs since last year, and I hit my race goals to do so. However, I just recently took the plunge, paid my dues, and entered the InSane AsyLum. I couldn’t be happier! I can already tell that this group is a perfect fit for my brand of crazy, and I’m going to thoroughly enjoy meeting other maniacs throughout the country!

The 24-Hour Plunge: I may not have run this race yet, and in fact have many months of training left to go, but I’m pretty darn excited about simply registering! I’m going to voluntarily run for 24 straight hours around a 1 mile track. Brilliant!

Piling up the mileage in 2013!

Piling up the mileage in 2013!

As I look back on just the last 6 months, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have the support of family and friends, and the opportunity to lace up my shoes every day and see where the road or trail takes me. I hope your first 6 months have been full of memorable experiences and learning opportunities. Let’s make the next 6 even better!

A Quick Running Opportunity: Gray’s Lake

I’ve discussed the appeal of running in new locations before, and shared some of my wonderful running adventures. I’ve also mentioned the importance of mixing up your normal routes to re-energize and keep yourself mentally interested in your training. Yesterday, I combined the two for a “local” run that I’d yet to take advantage of for a training run. The beautiful epicurean was hoping on an afternoon flight and I thought I’d take advantage of being in Des Moines to throw in a quick training run in the city.

The Des Moines "skyline"

The Des Moines “skyline”

We end up making the 40 minute drive fairly regularly (although not as regularly as I thought I would when I moved to Iowa), but we are usually on a mission related to shopping or dining out. I’ve run numerous races in the Des Moines area as well, but I’ve never ventured down for a normal weekday run. My very first marathon was the 2010 Des Moines Marathon, and the course goes through Gray’s Lake. However, after 20 miles, I wasn’t exactly in a position to enjoy the scenery and view of downtown.

Simple scenery along the paved path.

Simple scenery along the paved path.

As we drove down, we were caught in a torrential downpour, complete with hail. The rain in Iowa over the past week has resulted in some serious flooding, so I wasn’t even sure Gray’s Lake would be open at this point, even if the rain stopped. Nonetheless, I remained optimistic and brought my running gear just in case. By the time we got to the airport, the rain had stopped, and I headed for the parking lot. The lake was fairly empty because it had just rained, so I pretty much had the lake to myself, which was great!

The swollen Des Moines River.

The swollen Des Moines River.

The full loop around the lake is a bit under 2 miles, so I decided to squeeze in a 10K before heading home for the night. Although it was rather gloomy, it was still a beautiful change of pace. The lake was relatively calm, and intense green hues filled my line of sight in every direction. The Des Moines River runs along the park area as well, and the most recent storms, combined with the earlier rain meant it was flowing quite vigorously, and was definitely more swollen than I had seen it in a few years. In all, it was just a very pleasant run and change of pace from my normal training routes. I really enjoyed being able to actually take in my surroundings, and appreciate the simple beauty of this park in the heart of Des Moines. Running around the lake itself brought a smile to this Minnesota boy as well!

Changing perspectives along the way.

Changing perspectives along the way.

Book Review: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

“Life is basically unfair. But even in a situation that’s unfair, I think it’s possible to seek out a kind of fairness. Of course, that might take time and effort. And maybe it won’t seem to e worth all that. It’s up to each individual to decide whether or not it is.”


I began reading Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running with a dash of excitement and a twinge of curiosity. I was familiar with Murakami’s impressive work,  but only in the way I’m familiar with many things through a passing discussion on NPR. Several of his books have been on my reading list for some time, but this wasn’t one of them. However, when I found out he was a runner, on top of being a prolific author, I got even more excited. It’s safe to assume that my entry into this text was more out of my love of running or it wouldn’t have skipped to the top of the list. A New York Times book reviewer summed it up well when he said “I’m guessing that the potential readership for “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” is 70 percent Murakami nuts, 10 percent running enthusiasts and an overlapping 20 percent who will be on the brink of orgasm before they’ve even sprinted to the cash register.”

Murakami-1 Murakami-2

I picked up the book more due to my love of running, but became quickly enchanted with Haruki Murakami and his consistent, practical, and philosophical approach to life, the universe, and running. He didn’t begin running seriously until he was 33, and now runs 6 miles a day like clockwork. He has competed in over 25 marathons, ran a 100K, and has recently entered the world of triathlons. At the end of the day, Murakami is your average runner, and you are likely to see him out on any given day putting in his miles, listening to his musical selection for the day, and taking in the scenery (well, if you happen to live in Boston or Tokyo that is). Throughout the book, his running consistency and the dedication he shares with you becomes a metaphor for his life and the many accomplishments he has earned throughout his career. He isn’t winning races but that isn’t the point. He simply loves to be healthy and active. He loves to run. I can understand that.

“…I didn’t start running because somebody asked me to become a runner…one day, out of the blue, I started to run-simply because I wanted to.”

He takes a calm, methodical approach to his writing and his running, and I felt a connection as I listened to him weave together stories of his running experiences, his training for races, his preparation for the New York City Marathon. He isn’t trying to sell you on a particular way of running, or a new amazing training routine. He isn’t making any bold claims about how running has completely transformed his life. He is simply sharing his thoughts on running, and in doing so, is demonstrating just what a profound impact it can have on a person without even realizing it. His dedication to running every day, just like his dedication to writing, stems from the realization that maintaining consistency in anything you do will lead to accomplishing the goals you are seeking. This is not to say that there won’t be setbacks, injuries, delays, or surprises, but that’s part of the experience. Ultimately, I’m not sure if his running is a metaphor for his writing, or vice-versa. In each, endurance is a prerequisite for success.

“…a person doesn’t become a runner because someone recommends it. People basically become runners because they’re meant to.”

His prose is conversational, albeit a bit redundant at times, and he meanders through his stories, loosely connecting them to each other but not entirely developing a theme for the book, other than the general relevance of running to his life. In some ways, the book has the same quality as a Sunday afternoon conversation with your grandfather, sitting on the front porch as a kid.


“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you start to think, Man this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The hurt part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand any more is up to the runner himself. This pretty much sums up the most important aspect of marathon running.”

I certainly find myself relating to him at points, and enjoying the lazy Sunday afternoon conversation. He gave me pause at many junctions to reflect on my own running (as well as my writing), and I enjoyed the opportunity to develop my thoughts. I suppose reading the book was much like any of my long solo runs. I took in the scenery and enjoyed the world around me but was still able to get lost in my head. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running isn’t going to motivate you to run or inspire you to run further, but if you are patient and wait for it, you may begin to seek out the kind of fairness you need.

“I’m often asked what I think about as I run. Usually the people who ask this have never run long distances themselves. I always ponder the question. What exactly do I think about when I’m running? I don’t have a clue.”

Running to (not from) Memories and Resilience

From a psychological standpoint, resiliency is the ability deal with stress and adversity, and eventually bounce back or at least return to a previous state. This week has given me pause to think about the connection between physical and psychological resiliency as it relates to my running and overall well-being. About six years ago, I still vividly remember watching the news flood in from the tragedy at Virginia Tech. I had left Blacksburg less than two years prior, and I still felt a very close connection to the campus community, and the many friends, former students, and colleagues I still had connections with on a regular basis. There is no way to try to make sense of a senseless act, which has always been a difficult reality for me to internalize. I am an analytical person, I structure my life around knowledge, so the inability to access the necessary knowledge can be hard. As a result, my resiliency manifests itself in attempting to understand, even though I know I can’t ever really know. Then, less than 24 hours before the anniversary of the VT tragedy, two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.


As a runner who spends a great deal of time thinking about the various aspects of the sport, Boston has a special place in my heart. Although my marathon times have been steadily improving, I’m nowhere near fast enough to actually find myself in a position to toe the line at the Boston Marathon. However, I delight in watching the coverage of the race, following the elite runners along with friends and acquaintances who do have the honor of running. The positive energy, excitement, passion, and commitment of those participating in any way (runner, volunteer, support crew, spectator) makes me proud to call myself a runner. I feel as though I am a part of such an amazing community of individuals, each of whom understands the concept of resiliency in a very unique way. No matter how many marathons you have run, the ability to remember each of them fondly seems to permeate the community. Whether it was a PR race, a first marathon, a local race or a national stage, the memory attached to crossing the finish line after 26.2 miles is strong. The way we call upon the emotional, psychological, and physical strength inside us to push forward combines to form a powerful and quickly committed memory. Sadly, the emotional, psychological, and physical trauma associated with these tragedies can have the same impact on those most closely involved.

However, after running 26 miles, those memories (good and bad) become our strength. The ability to summon those memories in order to handle the stress and anxiety of the next 26 is what keeps us bouncing back, year after year. Those same memories are what have kept the Boston Marathon going for well over 100 years, and those same memories are what will bring people back to Boston, more passionate than ever, in 2014. Those same memories allow me to honor the memory of those that lost their lives at Virginia Tech, as well as those that fell victim to the horrific events on Monday.

Runners truly are a remarkable bunch. The overwhelming sentiment following these attacks has been the strength and resiliency of Bostonians and runners to endure. That is what we do, after all. In the coming weeks and months, there will talk of strengthening security for future events, questioning if security could have been tighter on race day, and (hopefully) scrutinizing the motive(s) of the individual or individuals responsible for this attack. Changes will be made, reports will be written, trials will be conducted, and runners will keep running. As hard as it is for me to acknowledge, all of the discussion and investigation may placate the media and politicians, but it will never provide us with the answers we truly seek. As with so many tragedies that have come before, it isn’t the answers that get us out of bed in the morning. It isn’t the answers that allow us to rebuild. Our resilience as runners, and as human beings, is fueled by memories and a community that shares them.

3.2 for 32. neVer forgeT

3.2 for 32. neVer forgeT

On Monday evening, I headed out for my planned 3.2 mile run in remembrance of those that lost their lives at Virginia Tech. The run took on added meaning, and I repeated my distance in memory of the most recent attack. I didn’t have answers then, and I don’t have them now. What I do have is an amazing running community, my memories, and a pair of shoes…so I run. neVer forgeT.


My (Hesitant) Running Bucket List: The Marathon des Sables

It’s cool, overcast, and drizzly today, and has been for about the last week. Last year, the temperatures were 20 degrees warmer, and the sun had already assumed its permanent position in the sky for the next 4 months. As I was running, I found myself thinking about and talking with friends about future race aspirations, training, and our plans for the coming year. I’ve been lamenting the fact that I don’t have much on my schedule until July, and the reality is that races in June and most of July really aren’t of any interest to me anyway. It’s no secret that the sun and I do not have a pleasant relationship, and just as with a black bear mother guarding her cubs, I find it best to just steer clear. Thus, I am hesitant to publicly admit my fascination with this race, which has begrudgingly made its way onto my bucket list, simply because it stands in contradiction to most of what I know about my running preferences. Yet, I’ve been following the coverage of the race on and have been reading more about the challenge, and it has sucked me in. So, you can add the Marathon des Sables to my running bucket list.

mds logo

Now, I should start off by letting you know, in case you aren’t familiar with this particular race, that it takes place in the Moroccan Sahara. I complain when the temperatures rise above 90 degrees around here, and this race, even in early April, still makes those temperatures feel downright comfortable. The 28th running of the race has just completed, and the reports from the participants are downright inspiring. Over 1000 racers begin this 7-day, 6 stage, fully self-supported race through the desert. Runners are responsible for carrying everything with them, with the exception of water (which they receive at checkpoints) and shelter, which they receive in the form of a tent to sleep in each night. Over the course of those 6 stages, racers will cover 250 km, which works out to at least a marathon each day. You can read a full preview of this year’s race here.

mds- sand

Far from the Hilton but I don't think anyone cares after the days run!

Far from the Hilton but I don’t think anyone cares after the days run!

The preparation for this race will no doubt be extreme, and I’m certainly well aware of the work involved. Well, I’m aware in as much as I can be with having never actually attempted it. With most races I’ve done, the focus has been on training (mileage, speed, terrain), nutrition, and gear (minimally). With this race, not only will I need to be aware of those aspects, but I’ll need to prepare for the heat, the desert climate itself, and the fact that I’ll have a 25L pack on my back at all times during the run. Oh, and I’d be running as many miles in a week as I typically run in 3 weeks. All of this is to say that this is not a bucket list item I can quickly cross off my list without a great deal of consideration, planning, budgeting, and training. However, the amazing and unique experience promises to make all of that hard work worth it in ways I haven’t even begun to imagine!

A far cry from the corn fields of Iowa!

A far cry from the corn fields of Iowa!

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