Inspiration

Clarence DeMar Marathon

“I’m back”, he said, and he was, in a big way – Clarence DeMar

“Can’t keep a good man down.” – Alabama 

Clarence DeMar is another great runner of our past. His “intermittent” domination of the Boston Marathon a century ago is unmatched to this day. Overall he won the infamous hilly race 7 times, but what is more awesome, is that he did it over a span of 20 years. His story is one of repeatedly returning to greatness.

DeMar was born in Madeira, Ohio and that’s where he found his love of running. Walking is boring and so as soon as he began going to school, young DeMar used to dogtrot to get himself there. The quick but easy gait was a great foundation for getting through the trials of marathons.

He entered his first Boston marathon in 1910 and got 2nd place. This is a also a time when doctors tell him that he has a heart murmur and he should quit running within a year or two. He comes back a year later to claim his first victory in Boston. He came back a year later and won again – this time setting a new course record of 2:21:39. Having used up his last 2 years of running, DeMar hung up his serious running shoes and focused on his studies at Harvard and Boston University. But since he was in the neighborhood, he entered the 1917 Boston Marathon and finished third despite lack of training. Later that year he was drafted to the army and sent to Europe.

After returning from the army, and 11 years since he first won “Boston” (and was told about his heart condition), he entered and won the race three times in a row. Setting new records and almost renaming the race to “DeMarathon” along the way. He then took a breather and placed 2nd and 3rd in the two years that followed. After the rest – he went ballistic – completely dominating every race he entered across the US, and again taking first in Boston 2 more times.

Being true to this blog’s favorite motto “You don’t stop running because you get old. You get old because you stop running!”, DeMar raced his last Boston Marathon at the age of 65 and a 15km race at the age of 69. He died of cancer one year later.

He rests in peace, but his memory continues to inspire runners. If you are ever in Keene, New Hampshire in late September, consider joining the race named in his honor. More details here: http://clarencedemar.com/

 

 

 

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Done with Ironman

I run what – Thoughts and Reflections on First Ironman

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”  ~ John Wooden

The big day was April 19th, 2014. The place Taitung, Taiwan – headquarters of triathlons on this lovely island. The event – Challenge Taiwan Ironman – 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and 42.2 km run at the end to finish it off. But as with anything else worth doing in life, this date and event were just a period at the end of a sentence, the real work and the real reason for celebration took place in the months of training before it.

I’ll start with a short recap of the event itself, stay tuned on this blog for the journey leading up to it.

I arrived in Taitung on Wednesday to give myself plenty of time to get comfortable in the lake where the swim took place, to get used to the warmer weather, and to try and get comfortable in the hotel to get good sleep in the nights leading up to the race. I also had never swam that long of a distance before in my life and was kind of cramming before the big test (more on that later).

Day before race

Trying to look brave in front of nemesis number 1 – Flowing lake. It’s 1km long and you swim to just about the end and come back and then repeat.

 

After a practice swim on Thursday morning, I was invited for a run by a couple of ironman amateur veterans, they told me some elites were leading a recon mission on the course. I didn’t know it at the time but the guy leading the run was Chris McCormack (AKA Macca), a two time champion at Kona. We joked about not having to run on Saturday if we had run the full 42 on that Thursday – no such luck.

Tom-Macca-Run

That’s me with thumbs up. Macca is the dude with the good posture. (I think I could have taken him on this practice run, but didn’t want him to look bad in front of his fans (that is a joke))

Friday was butterflies in the stomach day. Swam about 1.5km, 5km run, and maybe 10km on the bike – just to let the muscles know what is coming up on the next day. Tried to relax all day long, do everything a little slower and reflect on life. I hydrated throughout the day, ate pizza, bread and lots of fruits – tried to make sure I have maximum vitamins in my body and max water (without having to go to toilet every 5 minutes – it is a careful balance). I watched a Kona ironman video on YouTube before going to sleep – last minute mental preparation. Went to sleep around 9PM and surprisingly slept pretty good.

Saturday was THE day. Woke up around 3AM, way ahead of the 3:45 wake up alarm clock. Ate my bowl of oatmeal with chia (this is my staple pre every race). Put on the tri-suit, calculating in my head that I was going to be wearing it for the next 15-18 hours, grabbed my swim goggles, hugged my wife goodbye (she was gonna meet me at the venue a bit later), and stepped outside where my taxi was waiting for me. First stop was 7-11 for a hit of coffee, and then the venue. When I arrived at 5AM, it was already buzzing with competitors doing last checks on their transition bags. I added a few more gels and beverages to both my transition areas and dropped of extra sunscreen for the bike part – it was going to be a sunny day.

I went over to the start area at about 5:30AM, got in the water and swam about 100 meters just to get myself comfortable in the water. Got out and joined the rest of the 380 sheep waiting for the slaughter to begin. I was trying to find someone big, whom I hoped would be slow, to draft behind in the swim. But it is impossible to tell the swimming capabilities of people when they are standing on terra firma. I gave up and just told myself that I’m just going for a little swim that might take 2 hours or so.

The cannons went off at 6AM sharp – marking the start of the elites. They looked like speedboats cruising away from the start line. We also got a cannon, yay I’m just like the elite athlete, at 6:02 AM – and off we went. The swim was surprisingly comfortable. It was kind of like a long meditation session. I recalled words of advice from a friend who helped me get ready for a swim part – “You should feel like you’re skating” – describing the action of rotating from one side to the other. I zigzagged a little bit, adding unnecessary mileage to the 3.8 km race. Occasionally, I was lucky enough to draft behind a few large swimmers, which really really helps (and is legal). I got out of the water at 7:44, so 1h:42m swim to kick of the race – the first elite finished the swim in 46 minutes.

taitung area

Taitung region where the bike part took place. This was the view on one side occasionally with the ocean on the other.

I was happy and feeling good as I ran over to the bike transition. I had just completed the longest swim in my life (I didn’t have to use the entire 2h:20m allowed for this part of the race) and felt strong. On to the 180km road race.

Drank a bottle of water, ate a banana, put on shoes, helmet, hydration pack, sunglasses and off we went. I was on the road at 7:50. In my training I did two rides of just over 200km – that was about 2 months before the race. In the months and weeks just before the race I never exceeded 130km, but it was all in the mountains, whereas the ironman course was mostly flat. As I got going, I estimated to be going at about 30km/hr and felt comfortable at this pace. However, I knew that feeling ok after 20 minutes doesn’t mean that I will feel ok 100km later, 130km later or 150km later. Nonetheless, I told myself I had a date with my running shoes in 7 hours and pressed on. During the ride I drank about 1.5 gallons of water, 1 liter of a caffeinated sports drink, 3 liters of other sports drinks, 1/2 liter of sugar cane juice (i had a liter but it wasn’t going down too well). I also consumed 3 bananas, 5 gels, 1 snickers and 2 oranges (water, sports drinks, and bananas were provided by the organizers.) One thing I neglected to intake enough of was salt; My body delivered this message to me via a strong headache at about 120km into the race. I started eating pinches of salt provided at the refreshment stands thereafter and the headache was gone by the end of the bike part. No drafting in the bike part (that is illegal) – finished the 180km in 6h:32m and was about half an hour early for my date with my running shoes.

I grabbed my transition bag and started looking for my running shorts and shirt, however, I was disappointed to find out that I didn’t pack them. Running in the tri-suit was meant to be. Quick hydration, socks, sneakers, amino-acid pills (not sure if these things really help but what the hell), and off we went. I had been racing now for over 8 hours, and was surprised to find myself running at about 5min/km pace. I attached myself behind a dude who looked strong and told myself I’m sticking with him no matter what. About ten minutes into the race I passed one of my ex-coworkers who had already done a few Ironman events in the past, I gave him a nod and he returned it, everybody in this race was on the same team. I kept the pace going for the first 2 hours and actually thought that I might finish the marathon part in under 4 hours, and then ….

My body started saying enough is enough. I was tired, really tired and my body was no longer happy with the fuel I had been giving it throughout the day. No more gels and sugar crap it said – I complied as I had no choice. My stomach started turning and at some parts of the run I thought I was going to have an accident – the kind usually reserved to babies who at least have the decency to wear a protective diaper. I just stuck to water, salt and fruit for the rest of the race. I had to walk a little bit too. The race started to feel long. To add insult to injury, the run was a loop that took you past the finish line twice before turning in for the tape crossing. You could also hear the party going on and the announcer congratulating the finishers. He also said some encouraging words to those of us who still had a lap or 2 to go. As I ran past, he gave me some very much needed words of encouragement. Also, too, there were tons of volunteers and local people keeping the energy high and giving you JiaYo’s along the way (JiaYo – literally meaning “Add Oil!”, is equivalent to “Keep It Going Dude!”). As I got close to the end I had my third ever endorphin explosion in my head which caused me to tear up a little bit. I crossed the line at 7:37PM, or 13 hours and 35 minutes after first jumping into the water.

The announcer told me that I was now IronMan.

Done with Ironman

So happy to not be moving any more.

Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused.

I found my wife waiting at the finish, I told her that I would be taking a break from hard core competition for a while and sat down for a nice long rest and reflection.

It’s been two weeks … I think it’s time to start thinking about what is next.

 

 

super hero edition irunwhy

IRUNWHY Recap – Superhero Edition

Life is locomotion… if you’re not moving, you’re not living. But there comes a time when you’ve got to stop running away from things… and you’ve got to start running towards something, you’ve got to forge ahead. Keep moving. Even if your path isn’t lit… trust that you’ll find your way. — The Flash

They’ve inspired us and they’ve motivated us, today we ask (and answer) – what if our hero runners were superheroes? What would they look like? What would they use as their secret weapon? Without further ado, here we go:

THE FIRST MARATHONER – PHEIDIPPIDES

He was the man who started this whole Marathon craze taking over the world.  As a superhero, he brings good news from far away in a timely fashion. You won a battle in a far away place – he’s there to tell you about it. His special weapon – perseverance.


Pheidippides - Marathon Man


STATUS QUO BUSTER! – KATHRINE SWITZER

She stood up to the ignorance and injustice of how women were treated (not so long ago).  As a superhero, she seeks out ignorance and wipes it off the face of the earth. Her special weapon – will and determination.

Switzer (1)


THEY RUN AS ONE – TEAM HOYT

In their path – where unbreakable walls once stood – there now is a pile of rubble. They are the classic dynamic duo and inspiration is their weapon of choice. Marathons, Ironman Triathlons, running and biking across the US – they’ve done it all and with very impressive times. (Special congrats on finishing Boston Marathon a few days ago)

Team Hoyt


HE RAN LIKE A DEMON … AND IT STUCK – JACK KIRK

He is responsible for the best quote in the history of running, always worth repeating:  “You don’t stop running because you get old, you get old because you stop running.” He not only spoke wise words, but proved them to be true by running cross country races well into his nineties. His superpower – running circles around young runners.

Jack Kirk


RUNNING OUT OF CHALLENGES – KEVIN LIN

“He is the king of distance,” is an understatement.  He has ran across every major desert on this planet and he continues to defy what we think of as possible.  His special power is turning back time (superman style – by circling the globe at lightning speed).

Kevin Lin


HE ZOOMED BY WITH A SMILE – HAILE GEBRSELASSIE

“Hard work, grit, determination and composure are the ingredients to his success.  He has moved the goal posts in competitive running by adjusting world records in all of the distances he’s competed. His special weapon is the smile that turns his competitors – and all evil doers – into stone statues.

Haile


“NO!” IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE ANSWER – TERRY FOX

His fight was an inflection point in the battle against cancer. His run across Canada inspired an entire nation and raised millions of dollars to fight Cancer – all this as he was suffering from the disease himself. His superhero weapon is: being there, whispering in your ear: “You can do it!”, when doubt creeps into your thoughts.

 

Terry Fox

 


HE SHUFFLED PAST THE COMPETITION – CLIFF YOUNG

He waited until he was 61 to show the young ones what long distance running is all about. His record breaking race from Sydney to Melbourne – leaving all the competitors half his age in the dust – taught us we can learn something from the wise mature men. He trained while chasing sheep on his grazing fields, his special weapon are the magic gumboots that let him shuffle past the competition.

Young


STALLION AND BUTTERFLY – ROCKY AND ALI

Only Ali gets a superhero for this post (Rocky is already fictional). He gets the highest honor possible on this blog – he is here and he is not even a pure runner. His training and mental attitude inspired thousands of runners around the world. His special weapon needs no explanation – dancing like a butterfly and stinging like a bee.

Ali


THE MIGHTY CZECH LOCOMOTIVE – EMIL ZÁTOPEK

He ran not with money in his pocket, but dreams in his heart. He was a runner’s runner – loved by all lucky enough to have met him. He raced with the most contorted grimace but with the most domineering results of the time. His special weapon – inspired by his grueling training techniques – is picking up the evil doers and running them to the end of the earth on his back (coming back and repeating if there are more there).


Zatopek


More running stories coming soon.

Special thanks to the artist behind the superhero drawings – Rob. You can find more of his work here: http://lovekillsslowly.thecomicseries.com/

The Queen of New York … From Norway – Grete Waitz

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” ~Leonardo da Vinci

Bare with me for a bit here as I get to the point in a little round about way. Recently I was thinking about a graphic I once saw about how much a PHD student expands humanity’s realm of knowledge. It looks something like a little pimple sticking out of the circle. The circle represents all that we know.

PhD Knowledge

 

There are only a few people in the history of the world that really have an impact bigger than the pimple in growing our collective knowledge (Newtons, Einsteins are most notable).

The same can be applied to running: very few people have advanced the sport further than a little bump. Grete Waitz is one of those people. Her contribution can be visualized as the following (an all around expansion across the realm of running) :

Grete-Contribution

 

When we talk about Grete Waitz, we have to go back to that shady time not so long ago, when the accepted belief was that women were not quite on par with men when it came to long distance running. We’ve already talked about Kathrine Switzer’s bold stand against the status quo. While Kathrine challenged what was being said and thought at the time, Grete unequivocally proved again and again and again all those thoughts were myths. Grete won the New York marathon not once, not twice, but 9 times in her career.

She was invited to participate in her first NY marathon in 1978 by Fred Lebow, one of the race founders. She not only won on her first try, but took 2 minutes off the women’s world record. Her path to becoming the queen of NY began. Over her nine NY victories, she reset the world record three years in a row and lowered the total time by nine minutes.

Grete Waitz Winning Her Marathon

While reigning over the five Burroughs of New York City, Grete also showed how it’s done in the old world. She won and set new course records in London and Stockholm. She also won Gold in the 1983 World Championship in Helsinki. In other words, she owned the marathon for a decade.

In the early days of women’s long distance running, Grete showed the world not only that it is possible for women to compete, but that it is possible to be a bad ass woman runner. She inspired legions of new runners to participate in the sport and thereby expanded the realm of running.

Grete ran her last NYC marathon slowly. She ran alongside Fred Lebow who was fighting brain cancer but was determined to finish the race with her now old time friend. They both finished in 5 hours 32 minutes, more than twice as long as Grete’s first marathon in NYC.

Lebow and Grete cross finish line

Sadly, Grete herself died of cancer at the young age of 57 in 2011. She was buried with honors by the government of Norway – only the sixth woman in the countries history to be so honored.

She is missed, but she still remains the queen of NY.