Friday, October 11, 2013

#14 is in the books

Well, the Twin Cities Marathon has come and gone for 2013, and my 14th career marathon is complete. The legs are mostly recovered, but the body is still physically tired. Sunday was certainly a memorable day. As with any marathon, it wasn't easy, I was challenged physically, mentally, spiritually, but I am so glad that I had the opportunity to step onto that 26.2 mile course and test my limits.

The day began as every Twin Cities does for me with a ride to the Dome with my parents and my wife. I met up with my friend Justin and his wife, Kristen, who was also running, and their entire family support crew. They accompanied us to the start, which was great to have those familiar faces around. Once the race got going, a thought that kept finding its way into my head was that this truly feels like home. It seemed like every mile I encountered someone I knew cheering on the sidelines. From Eric and 2 and 7, Jason at 3, 7 and 17, my family crew and friends at 7, 11, 17 and 21.5, Anders at 4, Mark at get the idea.

My true physical test came around mile 12 when I was making my way around Lake Nokomis. I had gone out a little quicker than originally planned but I was still very much under control and felt good. However, at 12, I began to feel some rubbing on my right foot at the top of my arch. I stopped to adjust my shoe to see if that would fix the problem. It did not. By mile 17 I knew I had a full blown blister on the arch of my foot and it was going to be a painful struggle to get through the remaining miles. I also developed a blister on the other foot in almost the same spot. These proved to be my downfall on this day. Prior to mile 18 I had been maintaining a solid pace averaging between 6:40 and 6:50 per mile. After 18, I couldn't muster anything faster than 7:00 from there on out.

One of the most pivotal moments of the race came as I was climbing the St. Thomas hill at 21. I was struggling physically and mentally at this point, doubting myself and feeling the pain of 21 miles and a couple nasty blisters. I knew waiting at the top of the hill would be my wife, my parents, and many more of my friends. I was glad to see my mother-in-law (who had run the 10 mile earlier) and my brother-in-law. To get myself up that hill, I began chanting to myself, "Gracie Strong." As I approached the top of the hill I had planned to come over to my family to have them start chanting the same thing, but I never had to...they were already chanting it for me! It was very emotional at that point, but it was incredibly uplifting when I truly needed it. No doubt, God was in that moment and Gracie was with me helping me fight through those tough miles.

Unfortunately, it did not get any easier. Summit was brutal on my body as it always seems to be. I looked forward to getting to mile 24 where I would be met with a crazy crowd of spectators led by TC Running Company. There would be a lot of Wayzata supporters there, and with me decked out in Wayzata gear, I knew I'd get a jolt of energy! And I was right! The crowd went nuts! I got a loud shoutout from the TCRC store owner on his sound system and I was filled with a new level of adrenaline.

I finally reached the last mile and came upon a friend of mine from church who had been on our summer Nicaragua missions trip with me. She ran with me for a block or two and just kept me positive. It came at just the right moment again. In that final mile, I passed 3 college teammates all cheering for me and then the Capitol came into view. The final half mile, I just kept saying to myself, "Gracie Strong. Gracie Strong. Gracie Strong." It kept my legs moving and driving to the finish. I crossed the line in a time of 3:09:55. It was not my fastest day, but it was without a doubt one of the most memorable marathons I've ever had for so many reasons other than my final time. I laid it on the line, pushed myself, hit moments where I doubted I could get there, but I fought through and made it.

In the days since the marathon, I have been tired and sore most of the time. I've been treating my blisters and getting back to full health to eventually start running again. I intend to take the remainder of this week off just for the sake of giving my body a break and then gradually resume regular running. In the fall after a marathon, I typically will run a few 5Ks for fun, to see how fast I can go. I don't yet know how many I'll do, but I know of at least 2: The 5K at the Nike Heartland Regional Cross Country Championships in Sioux Falls, SD and the Turkey Day 5K in downtown Minneapolis on Thanksgiving. These have become staples in the fall for me (with the exception to an injury year last fall).

And I've already made my decision on marathon #15. Most marathons can attest to the addiction that this kind of race puts on you. I have committed to returning to St. Louis in April 2014 to run the St. Louis Marathon for the second time. I am going to be training with one of my college teammates for this one throughout the winter and we both intend to go after P.R.'s on the streets of St. Louis in the spring! Until that training begins in December, I'm going to simply enjoy running and the fact that I have the opportunity to do it to enjoy the beautiful running we are spoiled with here in Minnesota each fall.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

My Marathon Journey: #14 Twin Cities 2013 - TOMORROW!!

Tomorrow is the day. I've been counting up to it over the last 2 weeks with memories, thoughts, and growth over the last 9 years and 13 previous marathons. As I've run, I've grown, I've matured, I've gotten faster (in general) and I've become a whole lot smarter. By no means have I got this whole thing figured out and I don't intend to ever completely conquer this marathon distance. That is what makes it a challenge to go after...there is always an unknown. Will my body be ready on race day, will the weather cooperate, will the course allow me to run a fast time? So many unknowns and the only way to answer those questions is to toe the starting line and when the gun goes off, get out there and give it everything I've got and see what happens.

For tomorrow's Twin Cities Marathon, I have set forth a few goals for myself. First and foremost, I want to run in a way that glorifies God. He blessed me with the passion and the desire to do this crazy thing in the first place, so I want to honor Him as best I can. Second, I want to run a smart race. By that, I mean not going out too fast on the first half of the race. Twin Cities has a pretty fast first 13.1 miles (really the first 17-18 miles are pretty easy) and I have a history of going out too fast and dying on Summit Avenue over the last 5 miles. My goal is to be no faster than 1:29 at the halfway point and to begin picking up the pace on West and East River Roads. I want to set myself up for a fast finish on Summit Avenue where I am the one passing runners that are hurting as opposed to me being the one getting passed.

Finally, tomorrow I will run GRACIE STRONG. This is my first marathon since my niece, Gracie, passed away last October. It's been nearly a year since we lost her and she is all certainly a part of each of us who were impacted by her short 82 days on Earth. I think about her everyday and I keep her on my mind with each run that I go on. Tomorrow will be no different. My shoes continue to say GRACIE STRONG and they always will. This race tomorrow will be in her honor.

With that, I end my journey (of writing at least) to marathon #14. I will post sometime next week my thoughts and results of how the race went. If you are out there on the course tomorrow, send a cheer my way. I'll be wearing BIB#1913 and will be decked out in Wayzata attire (bright blue, gold and white).

The scripture I've been clinging to for many months now, and what will be on my heart during this race is this (it was also Gracie's life verse):

Isaiah 43:1-3
"Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
    I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."

Friday, October 4, 2013

My Marathon Journey: #13 Chicago 2012 - 2:54:51

Following the 2011 Boston Marathon, I went 18 months before I would race the 26.2 mile distance again. I had already registered for the 2011 Twin Cities Marathon, but because of my ankle injury, I could not run. It was a long slow recovery process. I was frustrated. I was lacking motivation for a long time as well. When I finally reached the point when I could begin running again, it was like an incredible weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I proceeded to spend the entire winter of 2011-12 getting back into shape and in February, a group of my running buddies all decided to sign up for the Chicago Marathon. It's a marathon I'd always wanted to do, but it was always around the same time as the Twin Cities Marathon (in 2012, it was the same day). Having a bunch of friends to train with, with a similar goal to shoot for made training significantly easier, especially from a motivational standpoint.

We got so focused that we began meeting every Sunday morning in February to do our long runs together, and as the winter turned to spring we began doing occasional tempo workouts together as well. I was quickly shifting from getting into shape to preparing to RACE a marathon. By the time the summer rolled around, I was putting in more miles per week than I had ever done before, and I was so focused on each of my key workouts that it seemed as though every workout was awesome. It never seemed like I had a bad day. My body responded well to my tempo runs, my threshold workouts, intervals, long runs, everything.

In August, as my mileage reached its peak (90-95 miles per week), I gained a new motivation. It also reminded me of what was truly important. Running was something that was fun. It's merely a game. God, faith, family and friends are what matter above all other things. On August 2nd, my niece, Gracia Lorraine Hunt, was born. She was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a condition that meant she only had 2 developed chambers of her heart. We knew months earlier that she would be born with this, but it was all real now that she was here. 5 days after she was born, she had her first surgery to begin repairing her heart. It went well, but it was the beginning of a lot of difficult challenges that Gracie would go through. Prior to the school year beginning, Jen and I took every opportunity we could to be with Gracie and her parents, my sister Becky and her husband Shawn, at the hospital.

When the school year began, we tried to be there each weekend as Gracie grew stronger and we soon hoped she would be able to come home. I found myself taking time on each of my training runs to say a prayer for Gracie and to remind myself that any pain I may be putting myself through in a race or a workout was insignificant compared to what Gracie was going through with all kinds of machines attached to her, helping her just to be able to have her heart function normally. As Chicago approached, I decided that each time I had a moment of self-doubt or began feeling sore and tired during that race, I would make myself listen to and feel my heart beat, and that would remind me of Gracie.

The Chicago Marathon weekend arrived and we flew in on Friday night. We were staying with some great friends of ours only a mile from the start/finish of the marathon, which was great. We took in the expo and had a great pasta dinner the night before with all of our friends that would be cheering me on the next morning. On race morning I got up early, ate breakfast, and spent some time in prayer before I left to walk to the starting line. On my Facebook page that morning, I posted this:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us." (Hebrews 12:1 NLT)
Race morning is finally here. The race has been laid out before us, so let's run. God, you have guided me through every step of this journey so far, I know you'll guide me through the final 26.2 miles in Chicago. It's time to give God the glory and run to praise Him for the gift He has given me.

That verse has long been one of my favorites from the Bible, which should not be surprising. But the part that stood out to me this time around was the "strip off every weight that slows us down..." part. There was so much on my mind entering this race, some good and some bad. I just needed that reassurance that for 26.2 miles, the only thing that I needed to worry about was honoring God by running this race.

I ran the Chicago Marathon with endurance and with some speed. Chicago is known as a fast course and with a perfect weather day, it was a P.R. kind of day for many runners, me included. I rolled through the half marathon mark in 1:23:40, big time P.R. pace. About 3 miles later, my foot injury flared up (later ended up finding out it was plantar fasciitis for the 3rd time), and my pace slowed. I never let up and I fought through the pain. Gracie was on my mind a lot throughout the final 10 miles to the race. Seeing my friends cheering me on at mile 17 and 25 was huge to keep me going. Having friends like Jason, Ross, and George on the course around me when I was hurting kept me going. I finally reached the finish line in a time of 2:54:51, a new P.R. by over 3 minutes. Knowing the foot injury slowed me significantly, it was a bittersweet result. I know I was in shape to be much faster, but I still ran with everything I could that day.

A week after the marathon, Jen and I were back at the hospital to see Becky, Shawn, Gracie, and my parents. It was a family party in Gracie's room that day and I finally got to hold Gracie in my arms that afternoon. It was great to hold her and to have a little conversation with her. You could tell she was comfortable in her uncle's arms because she filled her diaper a mere 5 minutes after she got into my arms!

Unfortunately, this was the only time I got to hold Gracie. 10 days later, on October 23rd, she passed away due to complications with her heart condition. It was a truly tragic and terrible day for all of us. Gracie had been so strong for so long, but it was just too much for her little body to handle. For as difficult as all of this has been for our family, we knew that Gracie is looking down upon us, healed and having a full heart. Still, we miss her every single day.

In 2013, when I recovered from my injury and began to run again, I began writing "GRACIE STRONG" on each pair of my running shoes. It's my reminder to be strong just like Gracie was for her 82 days on Earth. She's my constant motivation whenever I run and race. She will be my motivation this Sunday when I take my first 26.2 mile journey since losing Gracie. She will no doubt be on my mind and in my heart. Through all of this, God has strengthened my faith. There were so many little miracles that he gave us in Gracie's short life. And he has reminded us of who he is and that he is always with us so many times in the months since her passing.

I can't wait to run my favorite marathon again on Sunday, and run it to praise God and to remember my niece, Gracie. On Sunday, I will be GRACIE STRONG.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

My Marathon Journey: #12 Boston 2011 - 3:22:23

I made my return to the Boston Marathon in 2011, six years after my first attempt at the legendary race. The road that led me to this were challenging, but I was on a mission to prove I could take on the Boston course and have success.

After Twin Cities 2010, I took some time off to let my body get completely healthy before making the decision to run Boston. I registered for Boston the day that registration opened and got in a mere 15 minutes before the race filled on the same day! This is what ultimately led to them changing the registration and qualifying process. Originally, about 8-10 of us from UWRF were going to go out to Boston together, but only 3 of us got in as a result of the craziness in registering.

In mid-December, I began my official training for Boston. It proved to be a difficult winter for training in Minnesota. It was very snowy and frequently very cold, much more than it had been in recent years. Getting motivated to step out the door and run when it's regularly -10 degrees and there is 3+ feet of snow around everywhere is a challenge itself. I found myself taking days off too often and I never surpassed 60 miles in a week throughout the entire winter. Entering Boston, I knew I was not in the best shape of my life, so I was realistic about my expectations. The first thing I knew was that I was much smarter than I had been 6 years earlier and approached the trip to Boston very differently.

My wife and I flew out on Friday night and took Saturday to go to the expo and do a little sightseeing, and then law low and relax for the day on Sunday so my legs would be rested and ready to go for the race on Monday morning. While at the expo I had the great opportunity to meet up with Dick Beardsley and Greg Meyer (1983 Boston champ) and hang with them. Dick is a Wayzata graduate and holds the Grandma's course record still today.

Monday finally came and I was ready. I knew there was no way I wouldn't blow my 2005 Boston performance out of the water, and I felt confident in my ability to get back under 3:10 with the ideal conditions we had been provided. I ran the first 5 miles with my buddy, Kyle, before he took off ahead of me. I maintained a solid pace all the way through the halfway point before I started to hurt. The Newton hills of miles 17-21 took everything I had out of me and it was a struggle to the finish from there. As I had said before, I knew I was not in the best shape I could have been in entering this race, so I wasn't completely surprised by my body's response at that stage of the race. So much of the success of a marathon performance is contingent on the preparation of months prior to the race. I knew that by marathon #12 and I accepted that.

Coming home to the finish line on Boylston Street was still a great feeling. The picture of me nearing the finish with my arms raised up pointing to the sky was my moment of saying thank you to God for guiding me this far and running with me stride for stride on that day. I was beginning to understand more of what it meant to worship God with everything. God blessed me with a joy and passion for running (and some talent) and I wanted to be sure I used it for His glory and not my own.

Ephesians 1:4-5 puts it in a great way: "Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure." God takes great joy and pleasure in us, those who He calls his sons and daughters. God has chosen us and when we choose to live our lives for Him in everything we do, God smiles!

Since Boston 2011 I have only run one other marathon, the 2012 Chicago Marathon. I went 18 months without racing a marathon because of my most serious injury I've ever had to deal with. In June 2011 I fell while climbing down a mountain in Colorado and messed up my left ankle really badly. I had to hike/climb 5 hours just to get out of the remote area we were in. I was unable to walk for 3 weeks and spent additional time in a walking boot after that. The rehab was a long, slow process, but I was motivated to get back healthy and just run again. All of this I would soon learn was preparing me and my family for something even more significant than any injury or race could do...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My Marathon Journey: #11 Twin Cities 2010 - 3:19:16

After a great but very busy summer, I began the fall of 2010 at a new school for teaching and coaching. It almost felt like I was a brand new teacher all over again, having only taught in Watertown for 2 years. However, I felt confident in what I was doing because I had learned so much in my short time at Watertown. Much like my confidence in my job, I had gained a lot of confidence in my marathon running with the success of St. Louis and a great pacing experience in Stillwater. I was optimistic with my training up until mid-August for Twin Cities.

I began feeling a significant pain in my left heel, which turned out to be my second stint of plantar fasciitis. For anyone that's had this injury before, it's very frustrating and takes a long time to recover from if you don't catch it and treat it early. In the summer of 2010, I had become so focused on my workouts that I tried to push through the pain, which ultimately made it worse. I eventually gave in and took a couple weeks off in August and cross-trained in the hopes that the pain would subside and I could resume running in September to be ready for Twin Cities in October.

The good news is that the pain did gradually subside and I was able to resume running. However, the cross-training was inconsistent and I lost some of the fitness I had built up in June and July. Ultimately, this cost me another marathon P.R. The part of my fitness that hurt the most was my endurance. I still had some good foot speed, but I couldn't keep it going for a long period of time.

Summit Avenue proved once again to be my downfall. However, this time it was not because of the difficulty and positioning of the hills in the race, it was simply that my body couldn't keep up its pace for 26.2 miles. I began to break down around mile 19 and had completely fallen apart by mile 22 on Summit. Frustration and disappointment set in as I spent a lot of time on Summit walking and just trying to keep my legs moving. I eventually reached the finish line exhausted and disappointed. It ended up being my slowest Twin Cities Marathon in my 5 attempts at the course, running 3:19:16. Perhaps the hardest part was knowing how well my training had gone and that I couldn't take advantage of it because of an injury.

James 1:2-4 says, "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." Troubles with my running came my way this time around, and I was tested. Ultimately, my literal physical endurance grew out of this disappointing race, but so did my faith. The next 2 years (and my 2 most recent marathons) would be testimonies to that fact. At this point, I could not have envisioned all that would transpire in my life over the next 2 years, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Stay tuned for the final 2 marathon entries, Boston 2011 and Chicago 2012, these are stories that have shaped me more than I ever could have imagined.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My Marathon Journey: #10 Stillwater 2010 - 3:45:05 (PACER!)

Less than 2 months after I ran my P.R. marathon in St. Louis, I embarked on my 10th marathon, with a decidedly different feel and approach...I was a pacer. Many marathons hire pacing teams to run the race at a specific pace for competitors to run with so they can achieve a specific goal time. Typically, pacers are experienced runners that are assigned to run a pace slower than what they would be racing at so that they are assured of hitting the goal time.

I had run 3 shorter races as a pacer during the months of April and May (2 half marathons and a 30K) and hit my goal pace right on with each of those, so I felt pretty good entering the Stillwater Marathon. This was a relatively new marathon (only its 3rd year...and it no longer exists) so it wasn't a large field of runners, but I had a group of runners go with me at the start of the race. I was supposed to run 3:45, which was much slower than what I was accustomed to, which presents its own challenges. The other challenge of this pacing role was that Stillwater is a very hilly part of Minnesota, so it was a very tough course. The weather was warm, so it certainly didn't help many of the runners trying to keep pace with me.

I managed to stay right on pace through the entire race and came across the finish line in 3:45:05, only 5 seconds off of the goal! By the final 10K of the race, only one runner was still with me, and he never once said a word to me, so I hardly knew he was there until the end. Despite being a very different experience, it was still a lot of fun. I know the people that I helped pace for however long they stayed with me appreciated it, because I got a lot of thank you's at the finish line. I've never been an official pacer in a race since the Stillwater Marathon and I don't envision doing it again. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the races I paced and the people I got to run with, but there is something about toeing the starting line of a race where you know you are going to give every ounce of energy you have to see how fast you can run. Being a pacer, that feeling just isn't there. You have a prescribed pace and can't go ahead of it, even if you're feeling good.

After the completion of Stillwater, my focus turned to some incredibly important moments in my life beyond running. The summer of 2010 was certainly a great summer of running, but so much outshone that. I took a new teaching job at Wayzata High School, where I currently teach and coach today. I moved back to the Twin Cities metro area in Plymouth. Certainly the best part was getting married to my best friend, Jen, on July 30th!!!

Monday, September 30, 2013

My Marathon Journey: #9 St. Louis 2010 - 2:58:15

1 Corinthians 9:24-26 - "Don't you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing."

St. Louis 2010 gave me a taste of 2 firsts in my post-collegiate running career, both equally awesome, but in very different ways. The first was that I earned myself a spot in the "Elite Starting Area" for the St. Louis Marathon. I was quite excited because we got a little special treatment and were guaranteed a spot at the front of the starting line of a race of over 17,000 competitors (only 3,000 in the marathon, the rest ran a half-marathon). Granted, a sub-3:00 marathon was all it took to get a spot, but when I picked up my race packet the day before and saw my BIB number was 10, it was exciting! I ran that race thinking to myself, "I'm one of the best runners in this race. WOW!"

The other was perhaps more significant in the grand scheme of things. I had decided to run for a charity organization for the first time. I was running for the Hall Steps Foundation, an organization started by elite American distance runners, Ryan and Sara Hall. They are setting the marathon goal of ending world-wide poverty one step at a time. I raised money prior to the race for their organization, and kept the kids and families that could be positively impacted by my fundraising on my mind and in my prayers all throughout the race that day.

With these two new things as a backdrop to this race, I did have one additional new experience in this dad would not be on the sidelines cheering me on for the first time. No doubt it was different not having him there, but I did have my soon-to-be-wife, Jen, and her mom with me on the trip, so I still had some familiar voices on the course cheering me on.

The race went by quickly, at least the first 17 miles did. Around that point, I started having some negative thoughts creep into my mind and some self-doubt surfacing about whether I could keep my fast pace going. For the first time ever in a race, I began audibly singing worship songs to get me going. The 2 songs I sang are at the bottom of this post, "Stronger" and "Mighty to Save." These songs spoke to God's mighty strength and power, something I truly needed to get me through the part of the race I was in at that moment. I was so glad I did that, because there was a boost of energy I got from that, something I'd never felt in a race like that before, at least not that late into a race.

I reached the finish line with a new P.R., something I hadn't done in almost 4 years, running 2:58:15, to finish 25th overall. I was extremely happy with my race and how I had made it through some tough spots along the way. My first phone call was to my parents after I got my bag back, and they were great voices to hear. They had said they were cheering from all the way back home in Minnesota, and it could be felt by me!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Marathon Journey: #8 Twin Cities 2009 - 3:06:56

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 - "Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body."

2009 was the first time in my life where I really understood what it meant to honor God with everything, not just when you show up to church on the weekend. This included how I treated myself physically. I've always cared about my physical health, but this scripture really changed things. In all I do, I needed to honor God. I took this to heart in my training for Twin Cities 2009 and I saw the fruits of what I had been doing. My training was the best I'd ever had. I was completely healthy when I toed the starting line. The weather was literally PERFECT.

I ran a P.R. on the Twin Cities course in 2009, 3:06:56, something I plan to beat in less than a week. My one downfall on the Twin Cities course each time that I have run that marathon has been Summit Avenue. The hill that begins the final 5 miles of the course leads up to St. Thomas and onto Summit. Every year, my parents and my wife are cheering for me at the top of that hill. They get a pretty good indication of how I'm doing when I get to the top of that hill. In 2009, it was probably the best I'd ever looked and I ran 4 minutes faster than I had in the rain of 2008, but I was still hurting bad at that point. Now, typically at 21.5 miles of any marathon, you are typically hurting, but on Twin Cities, the challenge of the course is just beginning at that point. I had yet to figure out how to get to Summit Avenue in a position to finish strong. Despite my best TCM performance I still walked on Summit.

However, I made it through and I had an overwhelming sense of elation as I came down the final hill past the Cathedral to the Capitol, and I let it out! It was so much fun! I couldn't help it! I also couldn't have predicted how my next marathon journey could have gone. No doubt I was happy with Twin Cities 2009, but it was a mere stepping stone to what was to come in 2010.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

My Marathon Journey: #7 Fargo 2009 - 3:01:40

Being done with college and in the working world full-time truly allowed me to begin focusing my training solely to marathon training in 2009. Being completely healthy made that more doable as well. I lived on my own from 2008-2010, so my days were pretty simple...get up and go to school to teach, coach, workout and go to bed so I can do it all over again.

By the spring of 2009, this was quite literally how I lived during the work week. It was great but it got to be a bit boring all on my own. When I decided to run the Fargo Marathon that May, I wanted to be able to share it with people I cared a lot about. It would give what I was doing meaning and significance. I was able to get my dad to join me on the trip as well as my girlfriend, Jen (now my wife!), and her mom even decided to run a marathon again (first time in about 20 years for her).

Knowing all these people were going to be a part of this kept me motivated to train throughout the winter, so I could have a great race. My training was more focused and I was learning what my body responded well to and what didn't necessarily work as well for me. My most memorable training run came in February. The school closed early that day because of an impending snowstorm, so we all got home before the snow started to fall hard. I decided I had to get my workout in, so I stepped outside after I got home and went out on the Dakota Trail (a paved trail from Wayzata to St. Bonifacius). I ran to St. Bonifacius from my apartment in Mound and back, which was about 12 miles round trip. Within about 4 miles the snow was falling pretty heavily and I couldn't look up easily because the flakes would hit me in the eyes. I remember when I got back looking in the mirror and seeing the icicles off my eyelashes like I had never seen them before. Admittedly, it was one of those moments as a runner where you look at yourself and say, "Yeah, I'm a beast and I'm pretty tough!"

The marathon itself went fairly well. I ran what was my second fastest time of 3:01:40 and I finished 31st out of over 1,500 runners. I was 14th at the halfway point and then had a hamstring issue flare up which slowed me considerably on the final 10 miles. What I'll remember about this race are some of the conversations I had with my dad and Jen at their spectating spots. It was a 2 loop course so they got to see me many times. The pictures in this post say it all. I went out a little quick in the first few miles and let them know with a signal with my hand and a slight grimace on my face. I also had some energy gel issues later in the race as evidenced by a sticky jersey and a sticky BIB number (still sticky to this day 4 years later!).

Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." Living on my own doing what God gifted me to do (teach, coach and impact students in a positive way) and being able to use my passion and joy of running to worship God was almost more than I could have asked for at that point in my life. It wouldn't be long before God blessed me beyond measure even more...

Friday, September 27, 2013

My Marathon Journey: #6 Twin Cities 2008 - 3:10:52


These 3 words have entered into my mind so many times in my life as a runner, I've lost count. This was my high school coach's favorite saying. Don Timm has now coached at Coon Rapids High School for 40 years and I was fortunate enough to be around to learn from him for 4 years. This saying was simple but said what kind of mentality we should have as doesn't matter what the weather is like, today is a perfect day to run.

From Grandma's 2007 when the heat took me down to Twin Cities 2008 when I thought I was going to freeze to death from the cold driving rain and wind, what a difference a new mental focus can bring. I was easily beaten by the heat in 2007, but in 2008, the rain did not stop me.

Leading up to the race in October 2008, I had been preparing for quite some time. I spent 10 months just getting healthy and pain-free after the debacle in Duluth, dealing with hamstring and back issues. I was finally healthy and had a great summer of training and had even gotten my first teaching job straight out of college. The Twin Cities Marathon came a mere one month into my career as a teacher. It had been a stressful final month since I was so new to where I was living and working, but I came into the race knowing I was ready, and I came in with a mentality that I wasn't going to let any little things prevent me from giving my all.

The race began like most Twin Cities Marathons do, nice and cool, a lot of energy at the start. About 3 miles in though, the rains came. And shortly after the wind picked up. It never let up until well after I had crossed the finish line. Most of this race is a blur to me, but I do remember the constant sound of my shoes slapping the soaking wet pavement under my feet, step after step, for nearly 3 hours.

I came across the line exhausted in 3:10:52, requalifying for the Boston Marathon, and only 5 seconds off of my best time on the TCM course. The exhaustion soon turned to literal sickness. About 3 days later, I became very sick, something I dealt with for well over a week after the race.

The scripture I had kept in my mind leading up to this race and throughout the race itself was Philippians 4:13, which says, "I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength." If I am committed to God and trust Him with everything I do, the same power that raised Christ from the dead, dwells inside of me...that's pretty powerful stuff if you ask me. I worked hard during this time in my life, not just for this marathon, but to finish college, to get a teaching job, etc. Putting my full trust in God led me to this point, and I was so thankful.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Marathon Journey: #5 Grandma's 2007 - 3:48:57

After the success of the 2006 Grandma's Marathon, I was very optimistic about the upcoming year of cross country and track. The 2006-07 school year was my last full year of NCAA competition as I finished classes after the following fall semester. It ended up being a great year of running and being a part of a team of great guys. My best friend and fellow marathoner, Justin, decided to run Grandma's at the end of the school year, much like I had done the year before.

I approached the race much the same way as I had done in 2006 at the end of the track season. All seemed to be going well until about a week before the race when the heel of my foot began to flare up with a lot of pain. It ended being the beginning stages of plantar fasciitis, an injury I would later deal with 2 other times. I caught it very early and took the entire final week before the marathon off of running. It relieved the pain and I was feeling pretty good going into the marathon.

The morning of the race arrived, and the weather was not cooperating like it had the year before. It was hot, humid and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. This proved to be my downfall on this day. Justin, his brother, and I began the race together but the heat split us apart very quickly. Justin responded well to the heat and had a great race. The heat destroyed me and I ran my second slowest marathon of my life. It was a frustrating day knowing the weather was out of your control and you were in great shape to run a great race. Perhaps the hardest part was knowing how well I had done on the same course a year earlier and that being in as good of shape (or better) and I performed so much worse.

Having a horrible race can feel like the end of the world (at least in the moment) and I know a few years earlier this is exactly how I would have felt. Having a better, more mature understanding of the important things in life, I took a different perspective after this race. Certainly, I was very disappointed, but a lot of what went wrong was out of my control. I looked at what had come from that race: I got an opportunity to test myself on one of the greatest physical challenges someone can put themselves through and I got to share it with a great friend on the course, and my entire family cheering me along even though they knew it wasn't what I had hoped for. I no longer would allow a single race to define me as a person, good or bad.

Romans 8 is a phenomenal chapter in the Bible that so clearly defines this. Some of my favorite Bible verses come directly from this single chapter, but one that seemed very fitting to me after this race was Romans 8:38 which says, "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love."

Paul (the author of Romans) is saying here that once we are alive in Christ by accepting Him as our Savior, nothing can ever separate us from that identity. We are identified by God as one of His adopted children. If we have a bad day, get angry with someone, stress out about a big test or meeting or presentation or race, these things ultimately do not define us. We are His sons and daughters and nothing can ever change that. That is where I found comfort in that understanding that I belong to God and a bad day on a race course in Duluth, Minnesota would do nothing to change that.

What I didn't yet understand was the challenging time ahead of me over the next 16 months before I would be healthy enough to run another marathon.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Marathon Journey: #4 Grandma's 2006 - 2:59:01

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take." - Proverbs 3:5-6

After finding joy in simply running healthy in 2005, I turned my focus towards some different goals in 2006. I joined the UW-River Falls track team that winter and ran the 5K and 10K throughout the indoor and outdoor seasons. It was fun being around teammates and friends each day as opposed to running tons of miles solo. However, the itch to do a marathon was still inside of me, so I signed up for Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN that season and prepared for it at the end of the track season since the race wasn't until June.

I found that my long distance training for track actually suited me well in preparing for this marathon. The only piece I had to add myself were a couple of longer 18-20 mile runs in the final month and a half of training once track ended. I was in the best shape of my life, having run P.R.'s in the 5K and 10K during the track seasons and ran a half marathon P.R. 2 weeks prior to Grandma's. I was feeling prepared and confident that I could also get a new marathon P.R.

Grandma's Marathon is a great race...if the weather cooperates. I had spectated up there many times before and had seen what a June heat could do to a person's race. I came in prepared for heat and I lucked out by having a cool, cloudy day. It was still very humid, but the cloud cover kept me from getting too warm during the race.

I took a patient approach in this race and started out conservatively. I want to be able to do this every time I race, but it's really hard! My patience paid off this time as I ran the most evenly paced marathon I have ever run! One of the best moments came at mile 25 when I ran by my parents. They had been waiting there all morning (it's a point to point course, so a little challenging to spectate in many places) and as I went by I flashed a big thumbs-up, and they knew I was flying that day.

As I rolled into the final stretch in Canal Park, the crowds were huge, but they weren't very loud (not many runners had come through at that point) so I did something I had never done...I started raising my arms encouraging them to cheer louder! They responded and I flew over the final couple hundred meters to a new P.R. of 2:59:01. It placed me in the top 130 out of over 6,000 runners. I was completely and utterly exhausted at the end, so much so that both of my legs cramped up so badly that I fell over shortly after crossing the finish line. My mom actually found me laying on the ground with a complete stranger holding my legs up for me! I'm sure to the outsider it looked really sad, but I knew that I had given it my all, I had prepared, and I had accomplished something special.

As I continued to learn more and more about the marathon, I knew I was getting stronger and smarter, but I now know I still had a long way to go. God showed me through Grandma's 2006 that if I truly prepared myself as best as I possibly could, I could accomplish great things. God will guide you where he wants you to go if you put your full trust in Him and prepare yourself to be open to wherever he may be leading you.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Marathon Journey: #3 Twin Cities 2005 - 3:15:06

John 10:10 - "The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life."

From the end of the 2005 Boston Marathon until the Twin Cities Marathon in October 2005, a lot changed in my life, good and bad. First, the bad. I was so motivated to redeem myself from the debacle that Boston had been that I signed up for Twin Cities right away and started training hard. I began training so hard that I developed a stress fracture in my shin (2nd time I've done this). It set me back a lot and I had to stop running for over a month in the heart of marathon training. I knew that if I was going to be able to race in October that I would not be setting a P.R. Accepting that fact was probably a blessing in disguise.

The good that happened goes back almost a year to my first marathon. I had begun to really explore who God is and in July 2005 I accepted Christ into my life. This was a huge shift in my life. It didn't change overnight, but pretty soon I was changing my priorities and a lot of my decisions were affected by this (in a positive way). It led me to a new church that to this day has truly allowed me to grow in my faith, and I have found so many of my best friends through this church. It's also a place that my entire family has come to find God and develop a relationship with Him. I could never have dreamed of all of this. Honestly, I don't know if it would have happened if I had spent the entire summer of 2005 singularly focused on my marathon training. If you've trained for a marathon before, you know how easily it can consume you...your time, your thoughts, everything. Without that injury, I don't know if I would have been able to turn my focus to other things like God. Today, I'm able to use my marathon training as a way to worship God (more on that in my future marathon posts).

Twin Cities 2005 was truly a moment of running with true joy. I knew I wasn't going to run a super fast time (relatively speaking, I know) but I was going to enjoy the race on the greatest marathon course. I truly did enjoy it. I felt God's presence throughout the race. Coming across the finish line in 3:15:06 was exhilarating, knowing how much I had gone through just to get healthy again.

Monday, September 23, 2013

My Marathon Journey: #2 Boston 2005 - 4:00:08

After the qualifying success of my first marathon, I quickly made the decision to experience the grandaddy of all marathons, the Boston Marathon. Qualifying on my first attempt was exciting and encouraging to me and I knew I could do much better. I figured what better place to race better than Boston. I signed up right away and began my training shortly after my recovery from Twin Cities had concluded.

Being a marathon runner in college was very strange because I was surrounded by my friends running cross country and track at UW-River Falls. The challenge of the marathon was just so significant for me that it overshadowed my desire to race at these shorter distances. A year after running Boston, I would change my mind and take advantage of my opportunity to run at the collegiate level, but I was still glad I took the winter and early spring of 2005 to go after the Boston Marathon.

The training was tough. I had never trained for a marathon in adverse weather conditions before, and the winter training was tough. I hate treadmills. I hate indoor tracks. Given the choice, I will run outside every time. I would rather run when it's -10 degrees and a -20 wind chill outside than be stuck inside staring at the same walls for an hour or more on a treadmill or going in circles in an enclosed space.

When the Boston Marathon weekend finally came, I felt as ready as I could be. It was a great weekend even though the race didn't go according to plan. My dad flew out with me and it was a guys weekend. One of the best parts about the Boston Marathon is how the city truly welcomes all of the runners into their city. You are treated like royalty that weekend. My dad watched the entire race from the finish line and the local fans took great care of him and showed (as so many of us have now seen in light of the 2013 marathon bombings) how amazing Bostonians truly are.

One thing I now wish I would have done differently was to get more rest prior to the race. We did a lot of walking around the city the day before the marathon...DON'T DO THIS!!! Granted, it's a great city to walk and see, but not the day before the biggest race of your life.

The race finally came, and it was a hot day. I don't react well to heat, and it affected me very early on. I entered this race thinking it would go just like Twin Cities had gone 6 months earlier...get out to good start and roll through my pace. If I hit a rhythm my body could keep going. That was not the case on this day. Blisters developed 10 miles in and progressively got worse. Diarhhea came at mile 18. The finish line arrived 4 hours after the start, and I was so glad to be done.

As I look back on it now, I was entering this race with a certain level of expectation that because it went well in my first marathon, that all of my marathons would go this way. I firmly believe that God allowed this to happen to allow me to see that I can't just take things like this for granted. As our pastor at Eagle Brook Church, Bob Merritt has said, "Promises are no substitute for preparation." I felt I was prepared for this race because of my prior experience. I was not prepared in the way I needed to be and I was humbled by the Boston Marathon course, as so many before me have. I knew right away I would get back to Boston again, but I was going to do it differently the next time around.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

My Marathon Journey: #1 Twin Cities 2004 - 3:10:47

As I look back at all of my marathons over the next 2 weeks leading up to my 14th marathon, I have realized just how much the marathon has made me into who I am today. Even more importantly as I look back, I have seen how God has used the marathon to grow me physically, mentally and most importantly, spiritually. Each day over the next 2 weeks, I will share the story of one of my previous 13 marathons and how each of these have led me to where I am today.

My decision to run my first marathon came out of a very difficult first year at college. I spent the year injured and unable to compete in cross country and track, and academically, I was struggling for the first time in my life. I was questioning my major and ultimately, in the spring of 2004 I decided to change majors and to change schools. I wanted a clean slate and the same went for my running as well. A high school teammate of mine encouraged me to sign up for the Twin Cities Marathon in October and he and I could train together over the summer. It sounded like a great idea, so I jumped at it.

Having no idea how to train for a marathon, I sought out advice from anyone who had run one before and tried many things I hadn't done in my running before. Some worked, some didn't. Eventually, the taper period came and I was really getting excited. However, a week before the marathon, some of the worst news I have ever received came to me...a high school teammate of mine had passed away very suddenly. I was in shock. I couldn't believe it. The next morning I skipped classes and just went for a long run (probably too long for it being 6 days before the marathon, but I needed it emotionally) to clear my head and let some of my frustration out. I was mad. Specifically, I was mad at God for taking my friend away like this. However, that run sparked an idea in my head of how I could still run this marathon.

I made the decision to sow a patch onto my jersey in honor of my late teammate and I wrote his name on my shoes. Every step I took would be in his honor. The day before the marathon, we laid him to rest, and I began to turn all of my thoughts to the marathon.

The next morning when I arrived at the Metrodome, I was nervous and didn't really know what to do. It was such a different atmosphere (in a good way!) from any other race I had been a part of. I took the advice I had been given and got into the starting area with a good chunk of time to spare and waited for the gun to go off. Just before the start, I did something I hadn't done on my own in quite some time...I prayed. The 26.2 mile journey I was about to embark on would ultimately set off a greater journey that brought me back to God and back into a relationship with Jesus Christ, something I had never truly had before that.

The race itself was a bit of a footnote after all that had transpired but a moment I'll never forget came at mile 17 on West River Road, I yelled out to my parents that I wanted to go to Boston. I knew I was running well and was on pace to qualify for the Boston Marathon on my first attempt, something not many people are able to do. Perhaps I spoke a little too soon, because the run on Summit Avenue was brutal. However, I reached the finish line in 3:10:47, a time that qualified me for Boston by a mere 12 seconds!! As I crossed that finish line, I threw my hands into the air and I cried. The tears were more about the emotional journey I had been on over the past week than it was about the race, but it all culminated in what is now one of my favorite places in the entire world, the Twin Cities Marathon finish line.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

TCM Training - Week #3 (Extreme Heat & Humidity!)

It was one heck of a weather week here in the Twin Cities. High heat and humidity throughout the first 5 days of the week made for one challenging week of training. Combined with a lot of busy days of preparing for my upcoming trip to Nicaragua and this week was tough.

First, the details:

Monday - Easy 7 mile run
Tuesday - Easy 5 mile run
Wednesday AM - Easy 4 mile run
Wednesday PM - Torchlight 5K race in Minneapolis (17:42)
Thursday - Easy 9 mile run
Friday - Hill repeats
Saturday - 9 mile run over hills
Sunday - 17 mile long run (6:56 pace)

With even the mornings starting out hot and sticky, I tried to make my easy runs very relaxed so I didn't overheat. It worked until Thursday morning when I bonked on a recovery run. Running with a couple of my high school runners at Hyland Park in Bloomington that morning, I fell apart after about 7 miles. Most likely due to the heat and the fact that I was worn down from a hard, hot race the night before, it was a rough morning.

Back to the race on Wednesday night...the Torchlight 5K is quickly becoming a tradition in July in Minneapolis. It's part of the Aquatennial celebration in mid-July. It is run through the heart of downtown Minneapolis and makes its way to the Mississippi River and crosses it on the famous Stone Arch Bridge. Over 4,000 runners participated this year and it was a scorcher. I managed to run 17:42 which I was happy with considering the conditions. It was nowhere near my PR, but running a 5K in that heat and humidity in the midst of marathon training, I'm relativity pleased with this performance. Periodically pushing my legs at a faster pace like this is really beneficial because it allows my marathon pace to seem that much easier.

That brings me to today's workout. I went down to Lake Calhoun to run a portion of the Twin Cities course from mile 5 to 14. It totaled 17 miles when including the return route back to the lake. I ran with Jason and Paul, two training partners of mine. We were greeted by a steady rain that lasted for the first 10 miles of the run. We decided to keep a steady pace for this run, as opposed to pushing it real hard (we were all a little exhausted). In spite of that, the run was a solid pace, averaging 6:56 for the run. It felt really good overall and the rain kept the trails relatively clear for us the whole morning.

This coming week will be very different as I will be leaving for Nicaragua on Tuesday morning on a missions trip with my church, Eagle Brook Church. We will be there for a week and will return home late the following Tuesday. While we are down there, running will not be happening. The part of Nicaragua where we will be is very dangerous so I will not be running for 8 days. It's going to be difficult going without the training, but my safety is more important. It will be interesting to see how my body responds from a week off when I do return home. You never know, it could be a great little break to keep me from overtraining, something I failed at last year.

We'll see...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

TCM Training - Week #2

Week 2's workouts are complete. Here are the details:

Monday - Easy 7 mile run
Tuesday - Threshold workout on track (10 minutes @ 5:47, 6 minutes @ 5:58, 8 minutes @ 5:56, 2 minutes recovery in between each)
Wednesday - Easy 8.5 mile run
Thursday - Up tempo 7.25 mile run (6:41 pace)
Friday - Hill repeats (6 x Providence Hill)
Saturday - Easy, slow 6 mile run
Sunday - Marathon pace workout (15 miles, 2nd half at MP)

Tuesday was a tough night of threshold work. I ran with the cross country team and we took the pace out a little too strong on the first 10 minute segment and it set us up for a difficult remainder of the workout. We eventually backed off the pace and the amount of time running at threshold pace (original goal was 3 x 10 minutes with 2 minutes in between). It was a warm evening which certainly affected it.

On Thursday, I led a run at Elm Creek Park for high school runners from around the west/north metro. The pace got faster as the run progressed and we ended up running 6:41 pace for a little over 7 miles. It felt pretty good, but I suppose that's what happens when you run with ambitious high schoolers!

Friday was a great hill workout. I progressively ran faster up the hill each time I went up it. I began at 1:59 for 0.35 miles and ended at 1:46. I felt really good the whole workout and I know hills are going to be key in my preparation for Twin Cities.

Saturday was downright sluggish and slow. Looking back at it, it was exactly what I needed. I was exhausted on Friday afternoon and evening (probably from doing a lot of yard work on Thursday and Friday!), but after Saturday's run, I suddenly felt very refreshed and had some renewed energy. It led me into a great workout this morning.

I ran an out & back route on the Rush Creek Trail all the way to the Coon Rapids Dam from home (7.5 miles one way). At the turn around, I shifted pace and the goal was to run 6:40 pace on the way back. I ran 7:07 pace on the way out and ended up running 6:31 pace on the way back! It stayed cloudy and cool throughout the run, which certainly helped. The Rush Creek Trail is a great trail to do workouts like this on. It's very flat and no stoplights to hinder the workout. There are only a couple of residential roads to cross so you can really get into a good rhythm.

It's been a good week of training and a somewhat trying week for just about everything else. Well, maybe not everything else, but it was a challenging week with some of the things going on with my summer job. I've had moments where I felt all the work I've been doing has gone completely ignored. I was e-mailed and asked to do a couple of tasks that I had already completed 2 months ago and had e-mailed those completed tasks to those in charge and they were literally ignored or forgotten. Just a little frustrating. It appears as though things have been cleared up but with a busy week coming up, we'll see how far things go. It has left me feeling very excited to get back to my full-time job of teaching and coaching in August. God constantly reveals to me more and more instances of why I am a teacher & coach and why I love it so much. Deep down, I'm hoping I may be able to go without a summer job next year and enjoy more of my summer break. It's a big prayer of mine and we'll see where God leads me down the road.

This coming week is my final full week of training before I leave for Nicaragua. While I'm in Nicaragua, I will not be running because of safety concerns with where I will be. This will be a big week. I'm aiming for about 70 miles and it will include a 5K race on Wednesday night (Torchlight 5K) and a 17 miler on Sunday which will primarily be a marathon pace workout.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

TCM Training - Week #1

The first week of official marathon training is in the books and it was a great week. First, here are the workouts:

Monday - Easy 8.5 mile run
Tuesday - Threshold workout: 2 x 2 miles w/3 minutes recovery in between
Wednesday - Easy 7.3 mile run
Thursday - Interval workout: 8 x 3 minutes @ 5:30 pace w/4 minutes jog recovery on TCM course
Friday - Easy 7.2 mile run
Saturday - Easy 9.5 mile run on hilly trails at Afton State Park
Sunday - Long run (16 miles @ 7:07 pace)

The total for the week was 67 miles, my highest of 2013. Tuesday was my first Threshold workout of the training. These workouts are the key to just about everything I do in my marathon training. Nearly every week will include one of these workouts. Typically the segments are 1-3 miles in length with a short recovery time in between. The pace for the segments is at Threshold, which is the point where the body begins to struggle processing oxygen through the bloodstream. For a majority of people, this would be around your 10K race pace. On Tuesday, I ran 11:45 and 11:53 respectively for the 2 mile segments. The pace was right where it should be (5:52 - 5:56).

Thursday was another day involving a workout I plan to do on the TCM course. For this workout, I covered the course from 14.5 to 21.5 (Minnehaha Parkway to St. Thomas hill). Getting familiar with the course will be vital to having a good race plan in October. My goal is to get on the course somewhere once each week.

Finally, today's long run was a great workout. I ran around Elm Creek Park Reserve on the paved trails early in the morning. Despite that, it was still hot and humid, so running at the pace I did made me feel very good about where I'm at right now.

In terms of my preparation mentally and spiritually, the two videos below will be helpful in understanding where I am at and what I am aspiring to do this summer and fall. The first is a video of Ryan Hall completing a workout leading up to his run at Boston in 2009. His explanation at the beginning of the video of the chant of "Ole!" and its significance of when it was used is phenomenal. The second video is of a performance by Hillsong United of a song called, "Go!" in which they use that same chant of "Ole!" in parts of the song. Much like Ryan Hall's prayer in leading up to Boston in 2009, my prayer is that my running of the marathon and the training leading up to it would be glorifying to God and that my running may be a way that people would see God working in the gift he has blessed me with. I know I won't be running anywhere near as fast as Ryan, but I know that if I can be running at my best, God will be glorified.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Journey #14 Begins...

Beginning this week, I embark on my 14th journey of training to prep for a 26.2 race. It was a decision that wasn't made until just 2 days ago. It had been in my mind for quite some time but finally made the commitment on Sunday. I registered for the Twin Cities Marathon, which will take place on October 6, 2013. A lot went into this decision.

After a successful but taxing journey to Chicago last summer, I spent nearly 6 months recovering and rehabbing my injured foot. This initially made my decision to take 2013 off of marathoning easy. However, as I've come back strong from the injury, the marathon bug was starting to bite at me. I also was beginning to struggle with the training I had been trying to put myself through. Training for shorter, faster races led me to quickly realize that many years of marathon training left me unable to get the necessary leg turnover to be competitive in these races like I thought I could be...needless to say, my body thrives on running long distances at a steady pace!

The biggest reason that led me to this decision was the fact that I was struggling to keep myself motivated to get out the door each morning without a race or goal to completely focus on. Having a marathon to prepare for keeps me focused, gets me excited, and especially doing my "home" marathon for the first time in 3 years is really motivating me.

Only a few days in to the training and things are off to a great start. Today, I ran a Threshold workout of 2 x 2 miles at a goal of 6:00 per mile pace with 3 minutes recovery in between. I ended up running 11:45 and 11:53. The pace felt good, right about where my Threshold pace should be.

As my marathon training progresses throughout the summer, I will share different workouts that I am doing, many of which I have experience with and have worked extremely well for me, but I also intend to try a few things differently this summer as well.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Why Do I Run?

It seems like I go in blogging spurts. There are times when I love blogging and make time to do it regularly and then there are times when there isn't enough time in the day to do all the other things I need to get done.

In light of what has happened in the last couple of days, and with all that has happened in my life since the last time I blogged (now over a year ago!), it was time to get back to it.

A quick rundown of the major events of the last year (both good & bad): lots of running, moved into a new house next to my favorite park in the world (Elm Creek Park Reserve), ran a personal best of 2:54:51 at the 2012 Chicago Marathon, injured my foot as a result of that race, tragic loss of my niece (more on that shortly), got tenured at Wayzata High School and becoming a full-time physics/astronomy teacher next year, got healthy from foot injury, lots of involvement at Eagle Brook Church, prepping for Nicaragua missions trip with my wife in July, and the list could go on.

Why am I blogging today? One word...Boston. I wouldn't say I've been an emotional wreck the last couple of days since the horrific events at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, but I've been close to that. First of all, I was not there this year, and I will not pretend like I was and I know how everyone who was there is feeling, but each year on Patriot's Day, my heart is in Boston, even if I am physically not there.

I have run Boston twice before, in 2005 and 2011. Both were incredible experiences, ones I will never forget. I've had the great fortune to share those days with my dad (in 2005) and with my wife and her parents (in 2011). Marathons are not just for the runners, it's for their support team as well...something if the general public didn't understand before, they unfortunately know now.

Each year on Patriot's Day, I take time at the beginning of each of my classes to share a little bit about the uniqueness of the Boston Marathon and to show a little bit of the race that day. It is one of my favorite days of teaching each year. The best part is sharing the story of Dick & Rick Hoyt (father-son team that competes each year). Even if you're not a runner, you are inspired by them. My students love it and so do I. That's why what happened this year was so difficult. Only 2 hours after I finished telling my last class of the day about Team Hoyt and seeing the excitement of the elites crossing the finish line, I was rocked by the news of the explosions at the finish line.

I returned home that evening to find my wife having an equally hard time dealing with this tragedy. Only 2 years earlier, she had been cheering for me no more than 100 yards away from where the first bomb exploded. It was way too real. I checked on friends who were there to make sure they were okay, and likewise many of my friends were texting and calling me, not knowing if I was running there this year. I had Facebook posts from people I rarely talk to who said I was the first person that came to mind when the heard the news (thank you to all of you for making sure I was okay and home!).

In the time since the events in Boston, I have dealt with feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, helplessness, but also hope. The first feelings are obvious to anyone who has run a marathon before. We feel like this was an attack on our friends, on our brotherhood or sisterhood of fellow runners. We may not know a single person directly affected by the bombings, but we were all affected because it felt like an attack on us. However, the feeling of hope is one many are not feeling right now, and this brings me back to the title of my blog post today.

Why do I run? Every runner has been asked that question and have certainly asked themselves that question at some point in the running life. My answer hasn't always been the same. At points it was simply to get faster, to be good at something, to de-stress myself, and so on. My answer now simply is HOPE. That word has taken on new meaning in recent months for me. Some of you know that I lost my niece tragically on October 22, 2012 after only 82 days of life. Gracia Lorraine was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a condition where she essentially only had half of her heart when she was born. There are surgeries to make life very normal, but Gracie had too many complications and she went home to heaven after 82 days. Those 82 days with her were some I will never forget. Her room was a place filled with joy, laughter, tears, time with family, and a place where God was truly present. We may never know why this happened to her or why it happens to anyone, but what we were blessed with while she was here and what she has already given to us since she has left, we will carry with us forever. My faith and trust in Jesus has never been stronger and I have Gracie and the rest of my family to thank for that. I have an unshakeable HOPE that I will someday see Gracie again in heaven and she will always have a small piece of my heart.

Since I have resumed running, I have decided to run in honor of Gracie. All of my running shoes bear her name, and I will be running a 5 mile race this weekend in her honor. It is a race in Blaine to raise money for an organization called Hope in Grace (another Grace who was lost to a similar heart condition). My entire family and some of our church family will be joining us to honor Gracie and to celebrate and remember. For the first time, probably ever, I will be wearing pink! Only Gracie would get me to wear pink, and my goal on Saturday is to win that race for her.

Lastly, back to Boston. Runners are a tough, resilient group. We don't back down. We are not shaken. We carry on. We push forward. We fight through the pain, both mentally and physically. What I saw on Monday after the explosions happened were countless runners forgetting about their race (even as big an accomplishment as finishing Boston is) and coming to the aid of their fellow humans. Runners understand that running is simply something we do. It does shape who we are as well, though, and that's a good thing. The sport of running teaches you some of the greatest values in life that many other things don't. An event like a marathon shows us those great aspects. Courage, toughness, not giving up, accomplishing a difficult task and taking joy in putting forth that effort. Boston 2013 also showed us that runners (and all humans) have the capacity to provide HOPE to a broken, dark world. Selflessness, sacrifice, bravery. There is HOPE in this world because the good truly outweighs the bad. My prayer is that more good from this tragedy would be shown on TV and through social media. That's what our world needs to hear about. I have a HOPE in things not of this world because of what my savior, Jesus Christ, has already done. It gives me HOPE in this world in knowing that it will not always be this way, and there are millions of us around the world who feeling the same way.

So, why do I run? I run for HOPE. I run because I have HOPE in something beyond this world. I run because God has blessed me with a passion and a joy to run, and through running I can provide HOPE to others who may not have it. I will be in Boston again to compete in the next few years because I have HOPE in the people of Boston and those Boston Marathoners. We will not be shaken. We will not be scared away. We will push on. WE WILL CONTINUE TO HAVE HOPE.