Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Made My Day

Whoever worked the front desk at the Peak on Sunday made my day, possibly my week.  The Peak is the gym that I go to when I'm feeling frisky, however on Sunday I just went there to change into my running clothes before my horrible 20 miler.  I put my bar code in front of the reader, the computer beeped, and I went on my way.  That is when I heard the front desk girl say "um, can you come back here please!".  I thought I was in trouble or my $20 bills that I used to pay my membership dues bounced.  I mean, nobody ever gets good news when they are called back to front desk right?  Right?

Not this time, my friends.  Not this time.  

"Can I take another picture of you?", she asked.  You see, every time you check into the place, their nifty camera takes a picture of you to compare to the picture on file.  I don't remember the last time my file picture was taken, but it was probably at least 3-4 years ago.  She turns the computer screen around to show me my profile picture and I said "yeah, that picture was taken awhile ago, and I'm bald now, so it may not look too much like me".  She says, "well, maybe, but you've lost a lot of weight and you are looking good today".  

Made my day.  

I never really had a problem with my body image.  I mean, I thought I looked pretty decent.  I have a pretty muscular frame, although I have always wished I was a little bit taller, but what you gonna do.  The  main reason why I started running again was my ex-girlfriend, in one of her many fits of rage, boldly claimed that I was "fat".  Well, after the term ex was applied to the term girlfriend, I decided I needed to show her what was what*.  That's pretty much when I started running again.  

So having a complete stranger tell me I've lost weight and look good made me feel pretty good about my workouts and training.  I know there are things I need to work on *cough* diet *cough*, but I'm feeling pretty good.  I've lost 7 lbs. in me and Amy's contest.  Not great, but after winning the last contest, I wasn't too confident about this one.  I would like to lose 1-1.5 lbs./week until the marathon.  7 more lbs.  Just gonna keep running and lifting.

All of you look beautiful how you are.  Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  Screw 'em.

*She hasn't seen me since and hopefully never will, but if that day ever comes, I'll be all slim.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pity Party

I had a few blogs in my mind to write this week as I was running yesterday.  I have pushed those back so I can feel bad for myself.  This is going to be a downer blog.  Boo.

This past weekend had a grand total of 35 miles ran.  Yep, 35.  I'm trying to get two big runs in a row to train for my marathon and the secret project (shhhh).  Saturday I ran 15 of the crappiest miles ever, but that had nothing on Sunday's run.  

The plan was to just get an easy 20 miles in on the River's Edge Trail in Great Falls.  Almost 8 miles are paved, while there are countless trail miles after the pavement ends.  I had two plans in mind in order to get twenty:  run to the end of the pavement and back and get four more miles somewhere along the route (there are arteries that go off from the main route, so this would be easy to do) OR run a 4 miles on the trails.  

The run started at 2 PM after Mass and some lunch with the fam.  I had my tunes, my camelbak, and my watch.  I was ready to go.  The weather was 75 and cloudy with approaching thunderstorms in the distance.  I needed to get out and done before I would get electrocuted.  The goal pace for this run was to be 8:45-9:15, not too fast, not too slow.  I hoped to get into some sort of rhythm where I didn't think about it too much and I just kind of floated.  Well, that didn't exactly happen.

The first few miles were good.  Fairly slow and easy.  Tons of people outside hanging out in the parks and pools, having picnics, drinking beer.  They seemed to be enjoying themselves and laughing at me for running on a lazy Sunday.  I was having fun, bopping to my tunes, drinking some water every now and then.  This run has a great view of the great Missouri River.  It takes you past two dams and countless falls (get it, Great Falls?) so there is no shortage of views on the run.  I was taking all of this in when I hit the end of the asphalt.

There was a sign at the end of the trail telling us that Cochran Dam was open for crossing that day.  This is only open for 5 days of the summer for pedestrians and bikers to cross, so I was excited to get a chance to cross it and be on the river, even though I'm afraid of water.  The problem was I didn't know how far along the trail the dam was, but I feared it was over the two I needed to get my four miles out and back.  I took the trails nice and easy, which made me feel pretty good.  There are some good uphills and such, but nothing too difficult.  I reached the 10 mile mark of my run and was still a mile from the dam.  I considered running to the dam, but considering it was 400 feet below me, I knew I'd have a tough climb plus an additional 2 miles.  Nope, Craig is not doing that.

I turned around and started to head back to the vehicle, which was imperative as the clouds, I thought, were getting a little closer.  Now to this point, I had rationed my water fairly well, but after hitting the asphalt and going uphill aways, it was clear the heat was going to get to me and I would NOT have water soon.  Uh oh, trouble.  I knew there were some bathrooms along the route, but didn't know if any, or where, there could be water fountains, even though I've run this trails many times.  I figured if I could get to the Fish and Game building, I could probably at least get a drink in there.  I just had to make it 2 miles.  This, my friends, was the longest two miles of my life.  I tried to ration the water better, but I had an unquenchable thirst.  Then, about 100 yards out was my salvation, a water fountain.  I then prayed that it was in working order.  IT WAS.  That could very well have been the best water I have ever tasted.  I drank a few gallons, it seemed, filled my camelbak, a mistake, and was on my way.  I say filling the camelbak was a mistake because the added weight seemed to hurt my feet.  This was the common theme for the last five miles.

I was beginning to think WAY too much about how my legs and feet hurt and how many miles I had to go.  I began to count down every half mile, then quarter mile, then tenth.  This seemed like it would last forever.  I then slowed down to a walk with 4 miles to go.  I pointed out a bench 100 yards out and decided to start running ahead when I got to that bench.  Then a mile later, same thing.  Walk, then run.  With 3 miles to go I told myself I could run the rest of the way as long as it was slowly.  This was successful, until a mile out when I saw a bench and had to sit down, my feet hurt a little too much.  I sat for a minute and ran back to the truck.  I hurt all over and needed some electrolytes, as I had become somewhat nauseous from, what I thought, was too much water and not enough salt intake.  I had taken a GU at the halfway point, but it wasn't enough.  I speeded to a gas station and got a vitamin water and a wild cherry pepsi.  Yum Yum.  I then called Amy and cried on her shoulder about my miserable runs.

Oh, and my left foot hurts right at the ball of the foot in front.  Can't seem to find any info on it, but I'm sure it may have something to do with running 35 miles in a weekend.  

Rest rest, blah blah blah.

Hopefully this will get better, this running thing.  

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Running Technology

When I first got into running, all I thought I needed was a pair of running shoes.  That was NOT the case.  First came the running shirts, then the shorts, then I had to have some long spandex because of FPS (frozen penis syndrome.  OUCH).  

Now, I'll be the first to admit, I'm a nerd.  My ex-girlfriend gave me a Nike + for Christmas a 1.5 years ago (which is odd, because she is Jewish.  I don't get the whole Jewish giving gifts on Christmas thing.  But, then again, I gave her a gift on Christmas.  Sooooooo complicated.).  I loved the Nike+.  Lance Armstrong told me every time that I went longer than my previous long run.  'Congratulations, you have completed the longest run of your training!'

So that was good, but then I realized that GPS was the way to go.  4 years ago, my parents gave me a timex GPS watch, but I had to wear the receiver on my arm that would send signals to my watch.  I ran with it on one of my half marathons, in which it was off by more than 5%, and it also took more than two minutes to lock onto the satellites.  The Nike+ was more accurate, but seemed to be a little off when I mapped it on runningahead.com.  At the time the timex was an expensive watch, so I felt very bad when I replaced it with the Garmin 305.

I did tons of research before I bought the 305.  The 405 had been out for a couple of months, but most of the hardcore runners believed the 305 was superior, except for the looks of it.  (The 405 actually looks like a watch, but has less front area than the 305).  

I bought the 305 for $160, which is STILL a good price (go buy one...AMY).  So for the past 6 months I haven't gone running without it.  Amy loved that I had it because she would know exactly how far we ran (she had Nike+, but it was, as we found out, a little off).  I LOVED it.  I could import my run into runningahead and think nothing of it.  It knew my route, my elevation, everything.

Fast forward to last Saturday.  I hoped to run 13 miles in the city of Great Falls.  It has  a route along the river that is meant for only runners and bikers.  I try to run it twice a week.  It has very little elevation change and a great view of two dams.  (We are THE great falls of the Missouri river, look it up)  This run is 30 minutes driving time from my house.  I was out the door and halfway to town when I realized I didn't have my watch.  Would it have been that bad if I didn't have it?  No.  Who cares if I didn't have it?  I could have known my total time and distance (the course has mile markers), but I NEEDED to know my splits.  So I turned around and got my watch.  My dad shook his head as I explained I wasted a gallon of gas to get my watch.

I started the run in rain and 40 degree temperatures (June in Montana is CRAZY).  I had to wear my winter running shell, which meant I covered my hands.  That's right, I ran without looking at my watch the entire time!!!!!  I didn't look at it at all.  I ran based on effort.  I also had to run in efforts to get back to the truck in time to circumvent the entire FPS syndrome, as I had  a mild case, even in June.  I ran 13 miles in 1:46, which was the same as I raced the half the week before.  How did that happen?  I wasn't that tired.  I ran this WAY too fast, yet didn't look at the watch.  But you know what?  I'm glad I didn't look at it.  It was very freeing!  The next day I ran 17 and didn't look either.  Even as a nerd that likes numbers, it was refreshing.  I'm sure I can't do it much more, but my next marathon (August 1st) I'm gonna try not to look at my GPS.

Technology may rule, but it may not help.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Random Things About Craig

I've decided to do a running column with random facts about me just so you guys can get to know me just THAT much better.  

Here goes.

  1. I hate airing up tires, even though I've done it hundreds of times.  All it takes is that one bad tire to blow up in your face.
  2. I have FOUR middle names.
  3. I hate Duke, Florida, Kentucky, and Tennessee more than all other universities combined...oh, and don't forget Montana State.
  4. I knew how to drive a stick shift and a tractor before I knew how to ride a bike.
  5. I hate it when people use their fingers to do quote marks.  Don't do it in front of me.
  6. I am afraid of any body of water that is deeper than my head.
  7. I went 13 years at the same school growing up.
Cool, well that's it for now.  I can't exactly give everything away all at once, now can I?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ulm Half Marathon Race Report

The time had come.  It was time that I finally run a race here in Montana.  Ok, ok, I had planned this half marathon for the past few months, but it kind of snuck up on me.  I hadn't pre-registered and didn't carb load, or abstain from alcoholic beverages the two nights beforehand.  I didn't have a plan for the race, I just kinda figured I'd get some miles in.

This particular race is held outside of the bustling metropolis of Ulm, Montana at the First People's Buffalo Jump.  You know, a buffalo jump, where Native Americans would herd buffalo and run them off of cliffs.  My dad made the joke that they were gonna run us runners off of the cliff.  He's very funny once you get to know him.  It's located about 30 minutes from my house via 10 miles of gravel road and some local paved roads.  The plan was to get up about 6:30 for the 9:00 start time, however that got changed a bit since I didn't get to bed until 1:00 AM.  I was out the door by 7:40 after eating a banana and drinking some water.  I also stole a powerade from my folk's fridge.  I decided to take the backroads to the race instead of going into Great Falls and the interstate, even though I would get my newly washed truck a little dirty.  The reason for this detour will be the subject of an upcoming post (teaser anyone?).  

I arrived at 8:15 AM and only 10-15 people were milling around the visitor's center.  I registered (40 bucks!!!  Little pricey) and waited around for the start.  They also handed me a map of the course as if I would be out front leading this mania.  I checked it over and got my phone to take some pics, since I don't have Amy around anymore to take pictures for me.  

This was from the edge of the parking lot looking back to the start/finish line.  Notice how smallish the parking lot suggests this race is.  This race was a fundraiser for the University of Great Falls cross country team, so there were a lot of skinny, pale white dudes running around the place.  The one thing that was great was that this was the FIRST race of 2009 for me where it wasn't raining!  It was great except that it was 80+ degrees outside by the end of the run.

Start line...or shall I say, start cone.  I liked it.  

Finish cone.  Shortest half marathon I'd been to as they were only 10 yards from each other.  Hee hee.  Notice how crappy of a photographer I am?  Stupid pudding head can't get his own shadow out of a picture.  What a dork.  

This is my attempt at getting the mountains.  A bit of a failure.  I guess I should try to get a real camera instead of my stupid camera phone.  As you can see, bright and sunny!

So after waiting around for 45 minutes, the RD lined us up at the start cones and gave us some pre-race instructions.  Here they were:  
  1. There is a baby antelope on the course.  The mom only comes around in the afternoon.  Please don't disrupt the baby antelope.  
  2. (The following was after a short exchange between the RD and the worker at the State Park)  Oh, yeah.  There are TONS of rattlesnakes in this area due to the number of gophers.  Please stay on the roads.
  3. Course description.  Including the words 'gradual hill'.  I'll get to this gem later.
So after the warnings about snakes and angry antelope mamas, the RD said go and off we went.  The first 4 miles or so are downhill on pavement leading into downtown Ulm.  These miles were fairly uneventful except for my 'are we done yet?' joke.  No chuckles.  I'm a dork.  The race then takes a sharp left hand turn in Ulm and goes from pavement to very loose and large gravel.  This is the best maintained country gravel road in Cascade county, I swear.  Most of the time the roads are made up of hard dirt and potholes.  I need to figure out how they get good maintenance and the roads in my part of the county suck.  This gravel was not good for running, however, and there were many slippages.  Halfway between miles 4 and 5 was the 'gradual hill' that the RD mentioned.  He seemed to shrug it off as this harmless little bump in the road that isn't that hard.  I know the first 4 miles we lost a ton of elevation, so I knew there would be hills, but I didn't think we'd gain it all back in one mile.  Yes, this stupid hill was a mile long with at least a 4% grade the entire way.  Also, to make things a little tougher, we were going into a 12 mph wind.  Nothing like going up a hill and into the wind.  There was also the whiff of some sort of carcass that wasn't too pleasing.  

Look at that damned hill.  Gradual my ass.

The course leveled off and turned into some rolling hills, although the footing didn't get any better.  It was difficult to find the most compacted route to run in.  I kept weaving from the left to the right and back to the left of the road.  I did have to negotiate passing a tractor that was out spraying some wheat.  It was a mighty game of chicken, but in the end I dodged.

As there were only about 50 runners, it was a little lonely out on the course.  I did talk to a dude that passed me at about mile 9.  He seemed to be a little less stressed as I was and he ended up going ahead of me, but it was nice to chat it up with someone after not seeing too many people.  

The course headed back to the state park, but first it had to do a loop up the hill that leads to the top of the buffalo jump.  This can be seen by the little blip right before the 11.5 mark.  This, my friends, was almost the end of Craig as you know him.  I was sweaty, hot, thirsty, and tired.  I did not want to go up this hill, but the site of more runners (the 10 k started at 10 AM, and we shared the final part of the course) gave me a boost.  I like passing people and this was my chance.  We headed back down the hill and towards the start of the race.  A 10k runner passed me and I noticed he didn't have a shirt on.  I thought this guy knows what he's doing, so for the first time in a race, I ran shirtless.  It was very liberating.  I especially liked that a photographer took a picture of this pale skinned, farmer-tanned, white boy as he finished.  Awesome.  So, in the end, I finished in 1:45.  Not a PR by any means, but good enough for 4th overall and a decent training run.

Now I have to complain about the water stops.  This race started in 75 degree heat, so we need water and gatorade.  The first station at mile 3 had two people handing out dixie cups of water.  These cups held about TWO ounces of water.  I needed some water and I got TWO OUNCES.  I learned my lesson and the next water stops I actually stopped, chugged water and refilled while chatting with the kids that were manning them.  Much nicer.  Oh, and no gatorade or anything, just water.  

So, there, I'm done.  First race in Montana.  I'm glad it didn't rain, didn't like the heat, but all in all a good small town race.  There is another half in a month I may run.  It's along the river, so it's very flat.  We'll see.  

Sunday, May 24, 2009


First I would like to congratulate the Vandy baseball team for getting into the championship game at the SEC tournament.  I'm a little upset because it's a double elimination tournament and we only lost in the championship game to LSU, who we beat the in the first round.   Shouldn't we play another game?  I think this should be changed...I guess I'll do it when I'm commissioner of the SEC.

So, this is about my latest plateau.  I just posted this in a thread at Runningahead...

I think I've hit a running plateau as of late.  I feel more fatigued, I can't keep my +30-60 second marathon pace for as long as I could in the past, I'm not having as much fun, and I find it a struggle to get out and run.

There are a few things that may have played a part in this plateauing...
  1.  I recently moved from 500 feet in elevation to 4,200.  Not only do I have this altitude change, but the wind blows CONSTANTLY and the first mile out of my house has a 300 ft. elevation increase.
  2. I gave blood three weeks ago before the move.
  3. I lost my training partner and have been running alone the past three weeks.
  4. My headphone wires keep getting caught in the wind and my camelbak, resulting in me having to adjust my headphones constantly.  I may have to quit running with music.
  5. I went from a pretty sedentary job (grad research) to a vigorous job (ranching, thus lots of physical labor, and the hours are long).
  6. I've started to lift weights.
  7. I run/lift after work.
Does anyone have any suggestions about how to bust through this?   You can take a look at my log.  I have a marathon on August 1st and am trying to get in a lot of 50-70 mile weeks the next few weeks.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rooney Rule

Disclaimer:  This post is NOT about running or wine. 

I am not a fan of the NFL's Rooney Rule.  This rule states that a team, when in the process of hiring a head coach, must interview a minority candidate.  On the surface, this may make me out to be racially insensitive, but let's take a look at it from a different angle.  

Let's say that you are the owner of the Oakland Raiders.  You haven't had a winning season since you went to the super bowl in 2003.  All of a sudden Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots, becomes available.  Not only do you want him as your head coach, but he wants to coach the Raiders as well.  This dude has won 3 super bowls, so you KNOW he is qualified to be the head coach of an NFL team.  Instead of just offering him the job, you have to interview a minority candidate in order to fulfill the Rooney Rule.  I think this is degrading to the person in which you interview.  Do you keep an African-American coach on speed dial for these occasions?  I understand that there are very few African-American coaches in the NFL, however I do not think that instating a mandatory interview process will accomplish the goal that the owners think they will achieve.  I, maybe a bit naively, think that a team will hire THE BEST COACH POSSIBLE, whether he be black, white, green, or purple.  I know there is racism in the 21st century, but a team that does not hire the best head coach possible will have very little fan support.  Persons wishing to become head coaches in the NFL must pay their dues and progress at a rate that makes them stand out in the eyes of the owners.  (As a side note, I do believe there is a problem in the number of minority assistant coaches in the NFL.  I do think owners need to somehow think of solving that issue)  

Now to why I'm posting this.  The owners are about to expand the Rooney Rule to General Managers.  Thus, when hiring a new GM, teams must interview a minority candidate.  I think the same rule applies here.  I have no idea as to how many black (and let's face it, we are talking about African-Americans rather than any other minority group) GMs there are in the NFL, but I don't think a mandatory interview process is going to work.  I know there are qualified black candidates out there.  I mean if the Lions can go with Matt Millen forever, then they sure as hell can find a qualified minority candidate.  

I don't support the Rooney Rule, I don't support term limits, and I sure as hell don't support Tom Cable as the coach of the Raiders (At the powerhouse that is the University of Idaho, he obtained a record of 11-35, where he lost to Montana 4 times).  

I think there should be a Montana rule that states a team, when searching for a new QB, should have to try out at least one runner/wine drinker/rancher.

Sorry about this vent.