Friday Featured Athlete: Marsden of RunningLonely.com

Let’s face it, if you’re running a 24-hour race, crazy is kind of an assumption–Marsden of RunningLonely.com.

When the clock neared midnight on New Year’s Eve, I spent the last moments of 2014 stuffing my face with Bull Frog Bagels. Meanwhile, Marsden of RunningLonely.com had already completed more than 62 miles. In fact, when midnight hit, he still had several hours left of running to go in a 24-hour race.

Marsden was competing in a series of timed multi-day ultramarathons held near Phoenix, Arizona on New Year’s Eve called Across the Years. The event consisted of a 24-hour race, a 48-hour race, a 72-hour race and a six-day race.

The race was one of many #ChallengeYoSelf challenges Marsden conquered since last spring. And prior to Across the Years, Marsden hadn’t run more than a 50k, which was just one month before the 24-hour race.

“Most people can’t go off practicing 70-mile runs, but you can do back-to-back long runs reasonably well,” Marsden explained to me about his training for the timed race. “So I did a series of those and it worked reasonably well for me.”

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Locked In

The event took place at the spring training facilities for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox. Only 1.05 miles long, Marsden said the course was mostly flat and filled with crushed grave, similar terrain to the C&O Canal in Washington, D.C.

“You keep doing that loop over and over,” Marsden said. “Then after four hours, you turn around and run the other direction. My experience with timed races…is you get locked in to what you’re doing. If you’re running a marathon or half, you’re very interested in your split times and you’re looking very carefully at them. I don’t have that in timed races–I just kind of run (or walk, as the case may be) and all of a sudden ‘oh, I hit 50 miles, that’s kind of cool.’ If I was running a 50 miler, I would agonize over each mile time throughout the course.”

While running the same loop over and over again doesn’t sound ideal for an entire day (or longer), Marsden said there are numerous benefits to a small course.

“It was short enough to get support,” Marsden said. “In fact, they had an aid station halfway through, so you weren’t more than half mile away from an aid station to get water or anything if you needed it.”

Runners had access to their crew every lap, which meant they didn’t have to worry about carrying anything. They were never more than a mile away from a change of clothes or a pep talk, if they needed one. Getting lost, a nightmare for some first-time ultra runners, was nearly impossible on the one-mile course.

Being “locked in” to the timed race eventually led to Marsden to crossing the finishline (for the last time) at 85 miles after 24 hours of running–50+ miles more than Marsden had ever completed before.

Run the Race You Want to Run

“One of the reasons I like timed races is that I feel less pressure,” Marsden said. “If im going to be out there ‘X’ number of hours, you just go out there and do what you can do.”

Marsden added timed races are a great way segway into ultras because you can run as much or as little as you want.

“I think timed races are a great way to put your toe in the ultra water without signing up for some really hard ass trail race that may or may not be your cup of tea,” Marsden said. “There’s nothing wrong with those things, but I think timed races are a great way to get started. You can even try a six-hour race and then go from there. A 24-hour race sounds daunting on some level, but it’s not like everbody is forcing you to run the full 24 hours. Ya know, there were some people who’d go for 12 hours, sleep for a few hours and come back. It’s very flexible. You run the race you want to run, which is kind of fun I think.”

80-miles-1024x1024Photo courtesy of RunningLonely.com

Insider Tips from Marsden

Timed races can vary in scope but like most other races, there’s numerous ones to choose from throughout the year. In fact, Running in the USA lists more than 150 timed races on the 2015 calendar that range from three hours to six days.

Here are some tips Marsden for runners considering a timed races:

It’s Okay to Walk: From Marsden’s website: “Don’t underestimate the walking.  Unless you are one of the top runners, you are going to spend a good chunk of time walking.  Given that, add this to your training.  I didn’t do enough of this and it does stress different muscle groups than running.  Although I could keep a good pace walking, I didn’t have the experience trying to keep that pace for hours on end.”

Ultra Brain is Real: After telling his readers a hilarious story about dropping his gloves on the floor of a porta potty but visioning he was in the middle of the race, Marsden told his readers about an article he read about ultra runners losing six percent of their brain grey matter during an ultra race. From his website: “Around midnight I stopped at my table to grab a gel and wondered why some guy I didn’t recognize was at my table and why my table didn’t have my stuff.  After an uncomfortable 5 seconds I finally realized it wasn’t my table.  I looked at the guy and said, ‘Oh not my table.  Sorry, I’ve got ultra brain.'”

Be Strategic on Stopping: “I will think more about when I need equipment changes versus things that are convenient. One of the risks you take with timed running events, is it’s so easy to stop and do something. I would have five laps where I would change gloves. Each time [you stop], you’re taking a few minutes and if you do that enough, it starts adding up.”

Dunk Your Gu in Warm Water: “Putting your gel in hot water, it warms it up nicely and makes it far more palatable in cold weather. Salted carmel [gu] warmed up, good stuff.”

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How a Stress Fracture Cost Me $300

Earlier this week, I went to see a doctor because I’ve been dealing with pain on top of my foot. The pain wasn’t enough to stop me from running and walking felt fine, but it was enough to be concerned about.

A few X-Rays later, the doctor came in and told me I had a stress fracture. He showed me the fractured bone, which was the fifth metatarsal, and said I’d be looking at four to six weeks of no running (at least).

Hearing news like this would have typically made me sad and angry. But instead, my immediate reaction was confusion. My eyebrows furrowed at the doctor and I said, “really?” I told the doctor my mileage has been very low compared to normal since my previous injury. I’ve been stretching. Taking days off. I’ve been doing everything I could do in hopes of avoiding an injury.

The doctor suggested an MRI to confirm the fracture. But he also suggested the fracture could be related to my Vitamin D levels, which allows the body absorb calcium and promote bone growth. According to WebMD, little vitamin D results in “fragile, misshapen bones in adults.” After I received my test results back, the doctor informed me that the fracture could be attributed to my Vitamin D levels, which were extremely low. I was put on prescription Vitamin D supplements and will do another test in a month to see if my levels come up. In other words, this fracture was not my fault (in terms of running).

Staying Sane

With nearly every other injury, I’ve always been told swimming, pool running and other low-impact cross training exercises are completely fine. But swimming, pool running and other low-impact cross training exercises won’t actually give the metatarsal time to heal. “Then what can I do to keep me sane,” I asked. “Stationary biking (with the boot) and upper body.” This was NOT music to my ears.

That night, I finished off an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s and at least half of a bottle of wine–I had been here before. Just a few months ago, I went through these emotions that made me felt useless, regretful and impatient. And I knew I couldn’t take another day of that again. That’s when I decided to skip those emotions that got in the way of me keeping in shape and focused on the positive ones.

I dug up some old but reliable P90X upper body workout DVD’s. I borrowed my sister’s road bike (another perk of living in Madison is being close to family!) and purchased a bike trainer. And I also made a few changes to my diet.

For a moment, I had a quarter-life crisis. I realized that I’m not going to be able to run forever. I’m only 26 years old and I already have 20 years of running under my belt. My legs and feet have to give out at some point. But that’s way down the road. A few months ago I set a goal for 2016: The Ironman. In order to achieve that goal, I’ll need to ramp up my endurance in the pool and on the bike.

But I know myself, and I’m going to skip those activities if I don’t have an immediate goal to work towards–so I made one.

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And that’s how a stress fracture cost me $300. I signed up for the Ironman 70.3 to help see the bigger picture. The registration was a reminder that if I work hard, I’ll be ready in six months for a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run all in one race.

To get there, I’ll need to take this time to build up some endurance on the bike and gain upper-body strength that will become useful in the water. So while this stress fracture is frustrating, I’m forced to start laying the groundwork for my Ironman 70.3 training plan in a few months. I’m also forced to remind myself that these bumps in the road shapes our perspective as athletes. These struggles we go through gives us a reason to strive towards goals beyond what we know we’re capable of doing and shoot for something bigger.

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Race Lotteries to Mark on Your 2015 Calendar

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It’s a brand new calendar year, which means it’s time to start planning out your 2015 race calendar. While there are plenty of marathons out there that don’t require entering your name in a lottery, many of the large marathons do. In fact, there are lottery registrations for 2015 races that are happening right now!

Marathons

Marine Corps Marathon on October 25, 2015
Lottery dates: Opens March 13, 2015. Closing date TBA.

More information

TCS New York City Marathon on November 1, 2015
Lottery dates: Opens January 15, 2015. Closes on February 15, 2015.

More information

Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 11, 2015
Lottery dates: As of January 5,  Chicago Marathon lottery date has not yet been announced but you can most likely plan for sometime in April (2014’s lottery opened on April 7, 2014).

Here’s a response from the Chicago Marathon after an inquiring about their 2015 race lottery: “Thank you for your email and interest in participating in the 2015 Bank of America Chicago Marathon which will be held on October 11, 2015. Registration information is not yet available. We will have a lottery again and will be posting information in the early months of 2015.”

More information

St. George Marathon on October 3, 2015
Lottery dates: Opens on April 1, 2015. Closes on Monday May 4, 2015. (note from the website: “residents of Washington County are guaranteed a place in the marathon if entry is submitted by the May 4th deadline.”)

More information

Ultra Marathons

Bull Run Run 50 Miler on April 11, 2015
Lottery dates: Opens February 2, 2015. Closes on February 8, 2015.

More information

Massanutten 100 on May 16, 2015
Lottery dates: Opens Jan. 1, 2015. Closes on January 8, 2015.

More information


Marathons Without a Lottery to Consider

There are several popular marathons without a lottery to consider and if you register now, the prices will be dramatically lower than if you wait a few more months.

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Erie Marathon at Presque Isle on September 13, 2015
Registration open now. Registration fees are as follows Note: Registration sold out for last year’s race in May)

Thru 6/1/15- $70
Thru 8/1/15- $85
Thru 9/1/15- $100
Thru 9/12/15- $120
Race Day- $125

More Information

Fox Valley Marathon on September 20, 2015
Registration open now. Registration fees are as follows:

Thru 1/31- $105
Thru 3/31 $115
Thru 5/31 $120
Thru $130

More information

*According to MarathonGuide.com, more than 60 percent of race participants qualified for Boston last year in this race.

The Madison Marathon on November 8, 2015
Registration open now.

11/9 thru 1/31- $75
2/1 thru 4/30- $85
5/1 thru 5/31- $95
6/1 thru 7/31- $105
8/1 thru 8/31- $115
9/1 thru 9/30- $125
10/1 thru 11/5- $135
Expo- $145

Wineglass Marathon on October 4, 2015
Registration open now.

1/1 thru 1/31- $95
2/1 thru 3/31- $105
4/1 thru 5/31- $115
6/1 thru 7/31- $125
8/1 and after- $135

More information

Grandma’s Marathon on June 20, 2015
Registration open now. Registration fees are as follows:

1/1 thru 3/31- $105
4/1 thru 5/31/15- $115

More information

The Eugene Marathon on May 10, 2015
Registration open now. Registration fees are as follows:

thru 1/31/15- $95
thru 4/14/15- $105
thru 5/4/15- $115

More information


Photo attribution: “Running around Chicago” by Flickr user Steven Vance. License.

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14 Lessons Learned in 2014

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2014 was a year full of hard but valuable lessons. I had to miss out on eight weeks worth of running due to an injury. I spent hours after a marathon in a medical tent hooked up to an IV. I got my bike stolen all because of my laziness. And the list goes on.

There’s no doubt this year can be labeled as an annoying one for me when it comes to running. That said, the lessons I learned are incredibly important ones. And I plan on taking these lessons I’ve learned in 2014 and applying them to 2015.

  1. A foam roller should never stay unused.
  2. Gawker doesn’t understand the importance of bagel sandwiches.
  3. Fuel (and LOTS of it) is the key to avoiding the medical tent after marathons.
  4. Don’t waste anytime getting to a doctor.
  5. Take extra care of my immune system with high mileage.
  6. Never leave my bike locked up outside.
  7. Take time for runs not centered around technology.
  8. Set new goals.
  9. Never leave the house without a water bottle.
  10. Limiting out of town marathons will save me hundreds of dollars.
  11. Spending the extra time for strength exercises is worth it.
  12. Don’t skip long runs.
  13. One of the fundamental components of any training plan is patience.
  14. Don’t be afraid to say ‘yes.’

 

Happy New Year!

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First Impressions

Since moving to Madison, first impressions have been part of my daily routine. Whether it’s a job interview, meeting new friends or greeting a neighbor, it’s hard not to take first impressions seriously.

When I set out for my first few runs in Madison, I knew this was an opportunity for the city streets and trails to welcome me with open arms and prove its worth as a running town. These first few runs were going to set the tone for my experience as a runner here in Madison.

From the several paths lining the lakes to dirt trails in the city’s Arboretum, Madison’s running infrastructure couldn’t have made a better first impression on me.

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Even when it snows, the city prioritizes bike paths just as much as they do the roads. I hardly ever find myself running alone along these trails and nearly every single runner that goes by says “hi” or gives a friendly smile.

But the fitness community in Madison goes beyond just runners. Yoga studios have a spot in nearly every corner of this city. When temperatures are in single digits and snow is falling from the sky, runners, bikers, ice skaters and unicyclists are outside with no complaints–only smiles. It seems most residents not only value the importance of exercise but are committed to staying fit all year long.

This positive reinforcement from the rest of the community will be among the main building blocks of my motivation this winter. While I’ve lucked out so far with very little snow in my first month here, I know I’m in for a rude awakening the rest of this winter. And I’ll be looking to the rest of the city to help keep me in shape.


My Madison Scorecard

I’ve decided to breakdown various items of importance to give you a better idea of my first impressions of Madison.

Paved Trails in Madison

First Impression: B+

With several paved trails along numerous lakes, Madison is an ideal spot for running loops ranging anywhere from 4 to 20 miles. In addition, there are several commuter paths that runners can also take advantage of. But none of this matters if these trails aren’t taken care of during the winter time–good thing they are! Madison has a very dedicated biking community, which benefits runners in more ways than one. Some of these benefits include reaping the benefits of clear trails all year long and having well-lit trails even when it’s dark outside.

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Dirt Trails in Madison

First Impression: B

Let me be clear, there is nothing close to Rock Creek Park here. Unless I lived in Portland, I’m not sure I’ll ever find something close to Rock Creek Park nestled in a city. With that said, I’m mostly satisfied with the dirt trails here. These trails will be more difficult to enjoy when we get more snow but it has been a mild winter so far and I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy the dirt trails in different spots. I still have plenty more dirt trails to explore but here are a few worth noting:

Picnic Point- Hiding along Lake Mendota’s south shore, this local gem is nearly a mile long and offers some incredible views of the city and of nature. I know there’s other gems in/around Madison like this one that I haven’t discovered yet but after exploring this spot I’m more motivated to find what else is out there.

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Arboretum- My only hang-up with the arboretum trails is that I can’t take Raven along with me when I choose to run over here. But I understand why. I’ve spotted a fox, several deer and have shared the trails with wild turkeys. There’s no way I’d take Raven out here even if I could just because the abundance of wildlife that’s out on these trails deserve to be undisturbed.

Beer in Madison

First Impression: A+

Beer will always be a very important component of running for me. Luckily, I’m in the right spot. The local craft beer is not only affordable–usually $3 at restaurants–but ridiculously delicious. My favorite so far has been the Amber from the Capital Brewery. And my beer consumption has been good motivation to keep my mileage fairly high even when it’s freezing cold out.

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Other Stuff in Madison

First Impression: A

From ordering a veggie burger with fried cheese curds on it to affordable rent prices, my first impression this progressive town full of nature has been a damn good one. I’m not saying this town is perfect, because there’s lots I’d like to see different (I literally  haven’t seen the sun in more than 10 days), but this city feels like home after just one month of living here.


A New Direction

My running routes aren’t the only things that are taking a new direction. I’ve contemplated a direction for this website for a while now and have finally made a decision. I’m going to continue telling my own stories on this domain but also going use this site as a place to tell stories of other runners out there. Once I start rolling out these stories, I’ll look forward to hearing your first impressions of the new direction.

Stay tuned and Happy Holidays!

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Taking a Leap

I’ve taken lots of leaps this year–personally and professionally–but one of the biggest leaps I’m taking this year is saying goodbye to a city that I’ve called home for the past four years.

One week from today, my running shoes and I will be taking our miles to Madison, Wisconsin.

use this oneWisconsin State Capitol. Photo Credit: Greg Larson

I’m extremely eager to explore a new city by foot but leaving the District will be challenging in more ways than one. Not only do I have to say bye to friends that I consider family, but I also have to part with my favorite trails, races and a running community that has stuck with me through the thick and thin.

If I numerically measured my time in D.C., it’d look like this: I’ve covered 20 races; written 10 magazine articles; competed in 15 races in the area, four of which were marathons; visited 10 different yoga studios and swam in six different pools (some awesome, some not); ran thousands of miles; and discovered at least a dozen trails.

But the numbers don’t sum up my life for the past four years in the least. There’s no measuring my experience of learning about every angle of this city by foot (I can still remember the day I was running north from Dupont Circle and discovered Adams Morgan was right next door–I had no idea). There’s no measuring the interviewees that have given me goosebumps by just listening to their stories. And I can’t begin to measure the amount of bagel sandwiches I’ve consumed even if it I tried.

I started this blog a few years ago to share my unique running experience in the District. I thought my only niche was running in the District specifically, so I was worried about what would happen with my writing when I made the decision to move. But as it turns out, my niche is actually much bigger than that: it’s my appreciation for a running community.

Through the many stories I’ve written and miles I’ve run, I’ve discovered that our running community is large, but it’s also small. We share miles and miles of trails. We drink from same fountains. We pee in all the same places. We see all the same monuments.

Moving will not take away this appreciation for a running community. In fact, moving will give me the exciting opportunity to discover a new one. I will always cherish my D.C. memories, and can’t wait to lace up my running shoes to create new ones in the Badger State.

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Starting Over

photo(My first “runfie” since returning to running after two months off)

Nearly eight weeks ago, I was told that I couldn’t run anymore due to a hip injury. I vented on this blog about losing out on marathon entry fees and walked you through the crazy emotional roller coaster I dealt with. Today, however, I’m excited to write that I’m running again.

I have a long road ahead of me. Taking nearly two months off of running from this injury put me back to square zero. It’s going to take a long time to get back to 60-mile weeks. And I don’t plan on putting any marathons in the queue anytime soon. But with all that said, having the opportunity to start all over isn’t actually all that bad.

The bad was when I couldn’t run. The bad was when I just wanted to give up on exercise all together. The bad was when I was constantly on verge of tears from the time I woke up to the time I fell asleep. The bad is now finally over. And now that I got through the bad, I can finally enjoy the good again.

In my 20 years of running, I’ve never actually started from scratch like this before. I will be given a unique opportunity to re-envision my running all together. I will set new goals and take a different approach to this sport.

Below are some  guidelines I’ll follow along the way:

Think Gradual

Just because I can run again, doesn’t mean I can run every single day and pick back up from where I left off. The first few runs were a walk/run combination. The next few runs were just trying to run without walking. Right now I’ve reached an every other day schedule and will work up to back-to-back days of running further down the road. Most importantly, I’ll follow the rule of thumb that I learned in my RRCA coaching certification: the 10-percent rule. In a nutshell, the rule is to NOT increase mileage more than 10 percent every week. That means I’ve got a long road ahead of me, but I know the patience will be key in avoiding injury again.

Find a New Routine

Prior to getting injured, I ran six days a week. Some strengthening exercises. Little stretching. And ZERO cross-training. But now I’ve returned to running with a new routine: Swimming. Biking. Arms and back workouts. Yoga. All of these regiments will continue to find a place in my new exercise routine as I continue to build my mileage gradually. I’ve learned from this injury that I can’t pound my body running six days a week, so I really don’t have any choice other than to find a new routine that will keep working different muscles and will make me a stronger and healthier runner.

Start (& Keep) Good Habits

One good choice leads to another. And same goes with bad choices. That’s why starting and sticking to good habits, like stretching and foam rolling, are crucial for me in these first few weeks. The more I keep practicing good habits, the more I won’t be tempted to skip those good habits down the road. Part of the reason I was injured was because some good habits faded away in my training. Another reason I got injured, according to my doctor, was my form. As I continue to build back up to decent mileage again, I will also be practicing good form every step along the way.

Readjust Goals, Not Giving Them Up

Readjusting goals shouldn’t be seen as throwing them away all together. Chicago may be put on hold for another year or so but I’ve got numerous short-term goals that I’m going to conquer as long as I stay healthy. And that’s my main goal. I want to enjoy the good from here on out. In the meantime, as I mentioned in my last post, biking and swimming will be a priority to prepare myself for an ironman in a few years. Until 2016, triathlons will be added to the short-term goals!


My Injury Prevention Survival Kit

These are the items that got me through my injury. But these items will also be essential in preventing injuries.

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Foam Roller: I had no idea how to use a foam roller until my physical therapist showed me how but I’m so grateful she did. This affordable item may be the solution to all your aches and pains. They work out the kinks in ways you didn’t know were even possible!

Thera-bands: Putting on some resistance to strengthening exercises makes them harder, essentially making you stronger. My go-to exercises I use them for are clam shells and sidesteps. Note: the different colors represent different levels of resistance. Purchase each color mindfully.

Yoga Band: There are dozens of stretches you can do with a yoga band. Lots of these stretches are actually safer and more effective when using the band.

Yoga Mat: I use my mat nearly every single day. No, I don’t practice yoga every day. With hardwood floors in my apartment, it’s been useful when stretching and completing exercises where I’m laying on my back. Feel free to splurge on one you love. Who knows, that may give you a reason to use it more often.

Goggles/Bathing Suit: As I mentioned earlier in my post, swimming will be in my training to help me prepare for future triathlons and the Ironman down the road. In addition, swimming is also an excellent cardio activity that doesn’t require any pounding on the legs! If you’re not a swimmer, purchase a buoyancy belt and go for a pool-run. If you’re new to pool running, check out my Active Life DC article on how to get started.

 

How have you dealt with coming back from an injury? Are there any other items you’d add to either of these lists?

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