Distance Challenge Continues Sunday With Inaugural Rogue 30-K

The Rogue 30-K, which will be held this Sunday (January 27th), is a new race that’s been added to the  2012-13 Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge series, but it’s not a new distance. The 30-K distance (18.6 miles) has been part of the DC series for many years, most notably with the RunTex 30-K, which was held for seven years on the rural country roads in Buda.

But after the RunTex 30-K disappeared from the Distance Challenge in ’05, the distance and its venues have been spotty. The last 30-K was five years ago and for a couple years the RunTex 20-miler took it’s place. An out-back race in Georgetown on similar country roads, the event featured a 10-miler but was dropped in ’10. Two years later, the Distance Challenge is back up to full capacity with six.

The Rogue race is the fifth of the six races with the big enchilada—the Livestrong Marathon and Half Marathon—coming up on February 17th.

Coming two weeks after the 3M Half Marathon and three weeks prior to Livestrong, the Rogue 30-K and accompanying 10-K will start and finish at Cedar Park High School (2150 Cypress Creed Road in Cedar Park). The 30-K will start first at 7 a.m.; the 10-K will begin at 7:20.

Both races will be held on loop courses and neither course is exceptionally hilly. Says Danny Spoonts, who measured and certified both courses: “I would characterize the 30-K course as relatively flat with some hills. There are a lot of tight turns, but since it’s such a long race the turns shouldn’t be a problem. The first 3-4 miles of both courses are almost entirely flat and since that’s the first three miles of the 10-K course, that race is really flat. From miles 8-10, there are some uphills, but none of them are very difficult. Certainly not as tough as the hills on the Decker course or even Livestrong. So I think it’s a fair course with some rolling hills that really shouldn’t be much of a problem.”

The size of the fields shouldn’t be much of a problem. Ruth England of Rogue expects about 500 runners in the 30-K and another 400 in the 10-K which is sold out.

There is still time to enter the 30-K. Packet pick and registration will be held Friday (10-7) and Saturday (10-6) at both locations of Rogue Running. The downtown location is at 500 San Marcos Street and the Cedar Park store is 2800 East Whitestone Blvd.

The weather for Sunday morning should be ideal with temps in the mid-40s.

Cheptoo, Kelly Williamson Dominate 3M Half

Mid-winter racing weather in the ATX is notoriously fickle. Especially for the 3M Half Marathon, the crème de la crème of winter races, which either has great racing weather or rotten.

But on Sunday morning, the confluence of chilly temps, overcast conditions and a howling north wind made for the Perfect Storm. Temps at the start outside the Gateway Shopping Center were in the high 30s, but once the race began and the pace picked up, the brisk tailwind provided a lift for the 6300 runners.

Quickly establishing themselves at the front of the pack, on the smoking fast north-to-south course were 39-year-old Sammy Cheptoo of San Antonio and 25-year-old Chass Armstrong of Austin. Armstrong, who is from Boerne, went to school at Trinity University in San Antonio and was well aware of the Kenyan.

“He’s a very strong runner,” said Armstrong who has been dealing with a chronic anemic problem.

The two ran side by side for the first five miles but on Shoal Creek, Cheptoo lowered the boom with a 4:40 mile and left Armstrong to fend for himself.

“Sammy’s tough and once he threw in that big move, I just couldn’t get back up with him,” said Armstrong who would finish second in 1:06:54 to Cheptoo’s winning time of 1:06:05. Jared Carson of Smyrna, Georgia was third in 1:07:02 and Paul Morris, a former Columbia University star who now lives in Austin, was fourth in 1:07:34. Jeremy Daum of San Antonio was fifth in 1:08:35. Defending champ Scott Rantall was ninth in 1:10:35.

Armstrong was mildly disappointed he didn’t better his PR of 1:06:46 which he set three years ago in San Antonio. “I came close to it,” said Armstrong,” but I really only had four solid weeks of training under my belt. Right now, I’m just excited about going into my 2013 season healthy.” Up next for Armstrong is the Livestrong Austin Half, the Statesman 10,000 and then a few 5000s on the track.

Kelly Williamson knows what’s in her immediate future: More triathlons. The 35-year-old pro from Austin easily defended her 3M title on Sunday, but her winning time of 1:16:19 was much slower than her PR from last year of 1:14:42.

Williamson and her husband-domestique-coach Derick Williamson spent the Christmas and New Year holidays back in her native Indiana. But the weather was so bad and there was so much snow, “I barely trained at all,” she said. “I don’t want to make excuses, but I’m just not as fit as I was last year at this time.”
She proved to be fit enough on Sunday as Williamson took the pace out with a series of miles between 5:40 and 5:45 which opened up a gap between her and Amy Shackelford of San Antonio and Kit Hoang of Flower Mound.

“I knew I wasn’t ready to run sub-1:15,” said Williamson who will do her first triathlon of the year in Panama in three weeks, “so I wanted to run under control.”

Williamson was able to hold onto her 5:45 pace through about 10 miles, but then the tough  11th and 12th miles took their toll. Just for this year, the course veered east up Dean Keeton up a test of character and then headed south on Red River for a difficult series of ups and downs on Red River before the final climb back to the Bob Bullock Museum off MLK. Next year the course will return to a more friendly final three miles, but the final hilly two miles certainly slowed times this year.

“Those last couple of miles kicked my ass,” said Williamson who lost about 45 seconds in the final three miles. “I was running as hard as I could, but they sucked the life out of me.”

Even so, said Williamson, “I was happy with how I ran. You can’t always run a race in your best shape—and I wasn’t—but I was glad I could compete and run solid.” Williamson, who is one of the best runners in the pro triathlete ranks, will probably run just one other race this spring, possibly a half marathon in The Woodlands in March.

Following Williamson to the finish, were Shackleford who finished in 1:17:06 and Hoan in 1:19. Lauren Barrett of Dallas was fourth in 1:19:05 and Ashley Johnson of Dallas was fifth in 1:19:50.

The masters were led by Jose Garcia of Richardson. The 40-year-old ran 1:17:45 to beat out Michael Budde, 45, of Cedar Park who ran a brilliant 1:18:35. Phil Oldham, 45, of Lincoln, Vermont was third in 1:21:06.

The old guys were paced by 51-year-old Scott McIntyre who ran a solid 1:21:39 with the amazing 56-year-old Greg Baxter next in1:23:20 (when is this guy gonna slow down?) and James Potts of Mesa, Arizona third in 1:23:52.

The really old guys were dominated by 60-year-old Doug Pautz of Blanco who ran a super 1:29:29. Charles Will, 61, of Strausberg, Pennsylvania was second in 1:31:28 and 61-year-old John La Claire was third in 1:31:42.

Jennifer Fisher, 45, led the masterly women with a fine clocking of 1:24:28. Amanda Marks, 44, of Lafeyette, Colorado was second in 1:25:57 and 47-year-old Jamie Patterson was third in 1:26:10.

The top 50-year-old on the morning was 51-year-old Audrey Herold who ran 1:38:51.

The 3M Half was the fifth of seven races in the Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge Series. Next up is the Rogue 30-K on January 27th.

Beginner’s Corner: Beating the Blues

It happens to all of us sooner or later. Especially newbies. The excitement of starting a running program has begun to wear off and all of a sudden, you feel tired and bored with running. Every time you even think about going for a run, you come up with plenty of  reasons not to go.

The alarm goes off and instead of hopping out of bed, you roll over. Or you come home from a long day at work and instead of a rejuvenating run, you grab a beer and head for the TV for Seinfeld reruns.

Sound familiar? It should. The motivation to run is something that comes…and goes. It could be seasonal (it’s especially tough in the summer) or you’re just plain tuckered out. Or, you feel stressed by the job or the screaming kids at home. It’s hot and humid and some days even a short run feels unbearable some days. Or maybe you’re just bored silly staring straight ahead day after day on the treadmill.

Whatever it is (or isn’t) staying motivated to run 12 months a year is tough. Maybe even impossible. Beginners and experienced runners all lose their mojo at some point.

The key is recapturing it so you can keep going and improve. And the key to recapturing that motivation, is to make changes in your running. It doesn’t matter what you change as much as simply making a change.

Switch your goals, plan for new ones. Instead of training for a marathon, set your sights on getting faster in a 5-K. Add more speed days. Reduce the length of your long runs or go much longer. Or substitute a strength training workout in the gym for a hill day.

Maybe you need to add an extra rest day to your schedule. Start taking a yoga or Pilates class. Maybe add a spinning class or try pool running. Or find new running routes around town. Possibly, you need to hook up with a different training group and meet new training partners. Run at a different time of day. Make plans to go to a new race in a city you’ve always wanted to visit.

There’s all sorts of solutions to break the ho-hum routine of running. You may not need to make major changes, but some change is good to shake up the routine.

Here are some tips that will help you stir the mix and get you fired up again about running this summer:

O Develop new training routes. Too many of us stick with the same roads. Even the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail, the Scenic loop or Speedway gets old after awhile. Seek out a new course in a different part of town—even if it means driving. A change of scenery can make all the difference.

O Make new running friends. Join a different training group to do long runs or speed work. Or do different workouts with your regular training partners. If you only do long runs together, try just doing shorter, easier runs with your group. Or meet at the track once a week.

O Run earlier or later. If you’re a morning runner, switch to the evening. Or vice versa. If you can’t make such a radical switch, run a half hour earlier or later. Or go for a noon run, rather than eating lunch.

O Replay great movies in your head. What’s your favorite? Spinal Tap or To Kill A Mockingbird? It doesn’t matter. While running, entertain yourself by replaying the classic scenes in your head. Or replay your life. Pick a year and rehash everything (no matter how minor) that went on, but stick with that year.

O Buy new shoes or a new running outfit. A simple investment in new running gear might be just what you need to get excited about running again.

O Sign up for a new class. Learn how yoga, Pilates or kick boxing. If Tai Chi looks interesting, give a try. Ever tried deep-water running? Go for it. Can’t swim? It’s about time you learned.

O Leave your watch or GPS at home. Don’t time your run. Just run in any direction your feet take you and for any length of time which feels reasonable. Be spontaneous.

O Take five. If you’re still having a difficult time finding the motivation to get out the door, tell yourself you’ll only run for 10 minutes. Usually after just a few minutes of running, you’ll forget all about it and keep going.

Sometimes that’s all it takes to get a new ‘tude about running. Change your routine, make new goals, take a class and you’ll be back to your old self in no time.

If not, it might be time to take a break from running. That’s fine to take a week or two off. That’s usually all it takes to find your inner mojo again.

Long runs: How far and how many you should do

The twin objectives of every marathoner (or half marathoner) are to train his or her best to cover 26.2 miles on marathon day while reaching the start and finish line healthy and injury-free. The key is finding the right balance between doing enough training to run well and yet remain free of injury.

Why this is tricky is simple: The more you train and the longer and faster your runs are, the more susceptible you are to injury.

This is especially true of the long runs that are so essential to marathon success. When your long runs cover 18-22 miles (or longer), the possibility of injury increases. This greater risk of injury occurs because when you run that far your muscles become extremely fatigued (hence, the training effect) and lose some of their ability to absorb road shock. As the muscles fatigue in the closing miles of a long run, your running form will also deteriorate. Fatigued muscles and poor form in the latter stages of a long run, means you run a higher risk of injury than say on an easy five-mile run.

And yet, that’s precisely why a long run is important: to strengthen your muscles and prepare them for the stresses of a marathon. But that’s also why long runs are risky business. The more long runs you do (and the longer and faster they are), substantially increases your risk of injury.

Exactly how far your long runs should be, how many you do in preparation for the marathon, what pace you run and when you do them is based on your running history, experience and goals for the marathon. The longer you have been running and the more ambitious your marathon goals are, generally means you should be doing more long runs during your training (and better able to handle them) than a novice marathoner.

Clearly, a beginning marathoner can’t run as many long runs (or run as far or fast) as a veteran. In addition, if your goal is just to finish the marathon, means you won’t have to do nearly as many long runs as someone who wants to run a specific, personal best time.

If this the Livestrong Austin Marathon on February 17th is your first marathon and your goal is just to finish, your longest long run should probably be about 20 miles. It’s possible it might be a little less (based on your prior running experience), but it certainly shouldn’t be more than a mile or two farther. One long run of 20-22 miles should be sufficient. Two would be better, but only if you have been running and racing for at least a year. If not, your other long runs should be limited to 18 miles and you should probably get at least four to six long runs under your belt.

For most marathoners who want to run their best time at Livestrong, six long runs of between 18 and 22 miles should be plenty. If you have previous marathon experience and have handled long runs well in the past, adding another couple of long runs (going up to a total of eight or nine) should help you in the final miles of the hilly marathon.

If you are a vastly experienced marathoner who is focused on running a personal best, you may want to move up to 10 to 12 long runs. If you have tolerated the 20-plus milers well in the past, you might consider doing at least one long run of 24 miles. But only one.

It is important to build up to your ultimate long-run distance gradually. There are two ways to do this—time or mileage. Mileage means you add one mile per week to your long runs, skipping every third week.

For example, if your current longest run was 12 miles, you should be prepar to build up a 20-miler over 11 weeks. Using this as an example, in week 1: 13 miles, week 2, 14 miles, week 3, shorter long run of 10 miles, week 4, 15 miles, week 5, 16 miles, week 6, shorter long run of 10-12 miles, week 7, 17 miles, week 8, 18 miles, week 9, shorter long run of 10-12 miles, week 10, 19 miles, week 11, 20 miles. By now, you should be well on your way.

If you choose to increase your long runs by time, simply add 10-15 minutes every week to your long-run mileage. But continue to back down with a shorter long run every third week. Doing so in this manner, gives your body time to adapt to the increasing stresses of the longer runs.

How often and how fast you do your long runs is a subject of great debate. Some marathoners do a 2-2 ½-hour run on a weekly basis, year ‘round. But in a marathon buildup stage, it is safer to space the long runs out, alternating long-run distances (for example, one week 18, the following week 12) or simply alternating weeks. One week you run long run; the following week, you either run a race or do a moderately easy semi-long run of 10 miles or less). Or, some training programs, do one long run every two weeks.

There is no right answer which works for every marathoner, just as there is no definitive answer on long run pace. Some coaches advocate long-run pace should be two or three minutes per mile slower than marathon pace. Others, suggest it should be about 90 seconds a mile slower. All agree you should not attempt to do an entire long run of 15 miles or more at marathon goal pace.

My answer to what your long-run should be? It depends on the length, terrain, weather and purpose of the long run. Generally, a long run begins at a rather conservative, conversational pace for at least the first hour. After that, the pace can be picked up to anything from 25-30 seconds a mile faster than what you’ve been running. Or you can try to hammer a section of the long run for a specific length of time (usually 45-60 minutes) and then back off. Or finishing the final hour of the long run at marathon goal pace. Or do an entire long run of 12-14 miles at marathon goal pace.

There are no pat answers, but beginners should usually stick with a conversational pace (that is, a pace they can maintain a conversation without being winded) which they can continue for the length of the run. Marathon coaching guru Jeff Galloway contends that no long run pace is too slow. Slower isn’t necessarily better, but it’s less stressful than a tougher pace.

But if you’re experienced and want to set a personal best, you will have to vary your pace on the long runs and do at least parts of some long runs quicker than a jog.

One of the best long-run workouts you can do is two complete laps around Lady Bird Lake. Although it can be crowded, it’s flat and there’s water available at various spots.

Here’s how you can maximize results from this 20-miler: Run the first lap easy and relaxed, making sure you hydrate along the way. But for the second lap, try to run it five minutes faster (30 seconds per mile). Or run the entire second lap (or at least the final eight miles) at marathon goal pace. Either way, it should be a tough long run (especially if you didn’t start slowly enough) but a great marathon simulator.

A Lady Bird Lake long run is obviously mostly flat, but to prepare for the Livestrong Austin you need to do  a few of your long runs over several sets of hills such as Mount Bonnell and Mount Barker, Exposition, Rain Creek, Scenic and any of a number in Westlake Hills.

Since you’re right here, it also only makes sense to run as much of the Livestrong Marathon course as possible on various long runs, including Exposition, South Congress and the tricky three-tiered San Jactinto hills.

Some long-run tips that should make the workouts easier:

  1. R&R. Rest the day before each long run and recover the day after every one. Treat each long run almost like a race and chill out the day and night before.
  2. Load. Carbohydrate-load the day before every long run. Load up on carbohydrate-rich food just like you will in the days leading up to the marathon. Find out which foods work best for you. Make more than enough the night before and you can pound some the leftover carbs when you finish the long run.
  3. Pre-hydrate. Every marathoner knows the importance of drinking during the run, but many begin their morning long runs already in a dehydrated state. Drink at least 20 ounces of water or Gatorade before you start every long run.
  4. Go early. An early morning long run is always better than later in the day. There’s less traffic and pollution and it’s cooler. Livestrong Austin starts at 7 a.m. so even if you generally aren’t an early-morning runner, doing  long runs early will help you get used to running in the pre-dawn darkness.
  5. Don’t overdress. Unless it’s extremely cold, all you need to wear is a long sleeve T-shirt, shorts and possibly some light gloves and a hat. Don’t wear a jacket or tights unless it’s below freezing.

 

Bored With Running? Here Are Some Quick Fixes

It happens to all of us sooner or later. Especially newbies. The excitement of starting a running program has begun to wear off and all of a sudden, you feel tired and maybe even a little bored with running. Every time you even think about going for a run, you come up with plenty of  reasons not to go.

The alarm goes off and instead of hopping out of bed, you roll over. Or you come home from a long day at work and instead of a regenerating run, you grab a beer and head for the TV for Seinfeld reruns.

Sound familiar? It should. The motivation to run is something that comes…and goes. It could be seasonal (it’s especially tough on cold, winter mornings) or you’re just plain tuckered out. Or, you feel stressed by the job, school or keeping with the kids at home. Some days even a short run feels unbearable. Or maybe you’re just bored silly staring straight ahead day after day on the treadmill.

Whatever it is (or isn’t) staying motivated to run 12 months a year can be difficult. Maybe even impossible. At some point, beginners and experienced runners all lose their mojo.

The key is recapturing it so you can keep going and improve. And the key to recapturing that motivation, is to make changes in your running. It doesn’t matter what you change as much as simply making a change or two.

Switch your goals, make new ones. Instead of training for a marathon, set your sights on getting faster in a mile or 5-K. Add more speed days. Reduce the length of your long runs. Or substitute a strength training workout in the gym for a hill day.

Maybe you need to add an extra rest day to your schedule. Start taking a yoga or Pilates class. Maybe add a spinning class or try pool running. Or find new running routes around town. Possibly, you need to hook up with a different training group and meet new training partners. Run at a different time of day. Make plans to go to a new race in a city you’ve always wanted to visit.

There’s all sorts of solutions to break the ho-hum routine of running. You may not need to make major changes, but some change is good to shake up the routine.

Here are some tips that will help you stir the mix and get you fired up again about running:

  • Develop new training routes. Too many of us stick with the same roads. Even the Lady Bird Lake Trail, the Scenic loop, Exposition or Speedway gets old after awhile. Seek out a new course in a different part of town—even if it means driving. A change of scenery can make all the difference. Or if you can’t part with your favorite long run loop, the next time run it in a different direction.
  • Make new running friends. Join a different training group to do long runs or speed work. Or do different workouts with your regular training partners. If you only do long runs together, try doing shorter, easier runs with your group. Or meet at the track once a week. Or do some running drills together.
  • Run earlier or later. If you’re a morning runner, switch to the evening. Or vice versa. If you can’t make such a radical switch, run a half hour earlier or later. Or go for a noon run, rather than eating lunch.
  • Replay great movies in your head. What’s your favorite? Caddie Shack or To Kill A Mockingbird? It doesn’t matter. While running, entertain yourself by replaying the classic scenes in your head. Or replay your life. Pick a year and rehash everything (no matter how minor) that went on, but stick with that year.
  • Buy new shoes or new running clothes. A simple investment in new running gear might be just what you need to get excited about running again.
  • Sign up for a new class. Learn how to do yoga, Pilates or kick boxing. If Tai Chi looks interesting, give a try. Have you tried Body Pump? Try it. Ever tried deep-water running? Go for it. Can’t swim? It’s about time you learned.
  • Leave your watch or GPS at home. Don’t time your run. Just run in any direction your feet take you and for any length of time which feels reasonable. Be spontaneous.
  • Take ten. If you’re still having a difficult time finding the motivation to get out the door, tell yourself you’ll only run for 10 minutes. Usually after just a few minutes of running, you’ll forget all about it and keep going.

Sometimes that’s all it takes to get a new ‘tude about running. Change your routine, make new goals, take a class and you’ll be back to your old self in no time.

If not, it might be time to take a break from running. It’s fine to take a week or two off. That’s usually all it takes to find your inner mojo again.

Use Ice (Never Heat) To Treat Sore or Strained Muscles

Just the other day, I finished a run with some friends and while we were stretching, a relative newbie came up and asked me the best to treat a sore calf muscle that had been bothering him. He was diligently stretching the calf after every run, followed immediately by placing a heating pad on it and then taking a heated whirlpool.

Yikes! Heat for a sore, inflamed muscle? Wrong. Inflammation is heat, I explained, and after you heat up a sore muscle by running, the last thing it needs is more heat which prolongs the inflammation.

Ice baby, that’s what he needs.

Ice. It’s simple, doesn’t require a prescription or cost anything and is as close as your freezer. Ice is almost always nice.

It’s the runner’s best friend. Ice promotes rapid healing of sore muscles, relieves inflammation, feels soothing and has no side effects. And you can recycle it time and time again.

All athletes learn the value of ice at some point. Especially runners who suffer from all sorts of muscular aches and pains that need quick attention.

But runners, who are new to the sport like my friend, generally reach for a heat course first to treat a sore muscle. It’s a common enough mistake, but one that should be corrected as soon as possible.

Let it be said as simply and direct as possible: Your first line of defense should almost always be ice for any minor muscular injury such as a strain, ankle sprain or common shin, Achilles, calf, soleus, hamstring or foot soreness. If after a hard run or race, there is any lingering muscular pain or soreness, reach immediately for some ice.

Ice. Almost never heat. Heat might feel good and comforting on a sore muscle, but go for the cold.

Here’s why. After a muscle is strained or injured, inflammation follows. Blood vessels at the site of the injured muscle expand which causes pain and swelling.

Placing a bag of ice on the injured muscle as soon as possible, quickly reduces the swelling which can also reduce the pain or soreness. It also reduces any possible downtime due to the injured muscle.

Inflammation is heat which raises tissue temperature and is the body’s way to increase circulation in the injured area. Ice does just the opposite. It reduces inflammation by preventing swelling and actually decreases the blood flow to the injured muscle which reduces bruising and pain.

That’s why sitting in a hot tub, whirlpool or Jacuzzi is just about the worst thing you can do for sore or injured muscles (especially right after a hard race such as a half marathon or marathon). Soaking an injured muscle in hot water (or using a heating pad) will increase the inflammation, rather than lessen it.

You may have heard that some elite runners put their legs in a bathtub of ice after workouts or races. They know that inflammation generated by the hard workout or race, can be knocked out by the ice which also prevents swelling and hastens recovery. It isn’t easy or especially comfortable, but a 10-minute ice bath is one of the best things you can do for tired, sore muscles.

Heat’s OK, but only four or five days after the muscle was injured and the swelling has gone down. At that point, heat can increase circulation in the injured area which will promote healing. Many runners alternate heat with ice, but only after the swelling has subsided. Some runners also use a heat source to warm up a leg muscle—typically hamstrings and calf muscles—before a workout.

But after a muscle has been strained or injured, use ice as soon as possible to reduce the severity of the injury.

Using ice properly, is easy. Just fill a large plastic bag with ice and apply it to the injured muscle. Put a towel underneath you to soak up the melting ice. Apply the ice for 15-20 minutes. If the ice is too cold or your skin is too sensitive, place a thin towel between your skin and the ice.

There are also commercial cold packs that can be refrozen. These work OK, but some don’t get cold enough to be as effective as ice.

What also works great is a bag of frozen vegetables, preferably peas. Again, just apply the frozen veggie bag to the injured muscle and leave it on for several minutes.

The other common way to apply ice is by filling a paper cup with water and freezing it. You then peel some of the paper off the cup and massage the injured muscle with the ice.

Just remember: Ice over heat. Ice is the best friend any injured runner will have.

3M: The Fastest Half in Texas On Tap for Sunday

Almost all of the races in the 2012-13 Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge are held on tough, hilly courses that aren’t especially conducive to fast times. The relatively flat IBM Uptown Classic 10-K is the notable exception, but IBM was in October and feels like a long time ago. Since then, the DC has had the rolling ups and downs of the Run for the Water 10-Miler in late October and the always tough Decker Half Marathon Challenge in December. The 18th annual 3M Half Marathon—the fourth of the six races in the Distance Challenge—is also on a hilly course. But, it’s a mostly downhill course which makes it just about the ideal PR course.

Long recognized as one of the top half marathons in the country, 3M has earned a substantial national recognition due to its lightning-fast, north-to-south course, peerless race organization and over-the-top goodie bag of 3M products. It is one of the best races in Austin and it’s one that runners keep coming back to every year in droves.

This year’s 3M is on Sunday the 13th which is a week earlier than the norm to give runners a little more rest and recovery before the Livestrong Austin Marathon on February 17th.  Two other changes: the field has been expanded to 7000. That cap hasn’t been reached yet and you can still enter at the race expo. The other change is this year’s course is slightly different. Don’t worry, it’s still a north-to-south course with long, sweeping downhills, but the final mile has been altered again.

The starting line has also been changed slightly although will still start in the far reaches of north Austin outside the Gateway Shopping Center before it begins its downward plunge south toward downtown (there are a few short uphills) through neighborhoods and skirts the UT campus to the finish at the Bob Bullock Museum (18th and MLK) in the shadow of the Texas State Capitol. The finish area near Bob Bullock is where all the post-race festivities (and dry clothing pickup) will be held.

The race will still begin on Stonelake, but the starting line has been moved up to the corner of Stonelake and Capital of Texas Highway, right in front of NXNW. After a short bit on Stonelake, the course heads east on Braker (rather than west) and crosses over MoPac before heading south along Burnet. At around five miles, the course picks up Shoal Creek for nice, gradual downhill mile and then continues on a southerly path down Great Northern before picking up Shoal Creek again. Just past nine miles, the course heads east east on 45th for a mile (a few ups and downs) until at 10 miles, it picks up the always welcome Duval downhill.

The stretch along Duval is always a favorite as the 1 1/2-mile long downhill gives runners a chance to pick up the pace as they head for the finish.

But unlike last year where the course took a right turn onto MLK, the course this year heads east (a left) at Dean Keaton for an attention-getting uphill before picking up Red River (just past 12 miles) along I-35. From there, there’s about a half-mile until the course reaches MLK where it goes west, flying down to San Jacinto and then one last, cruel uphill with the finish line in sight at Congress Avenue.

A major factor in any 3M is the weather. Last year conditions were ideal. The forecast for Sunday morning is iffy. A cold rain is possible. If it doesn’t rain, it still could be damp and cool with temps in the low 40s at the start and you might need light gloves. If there’s a north wind, it will be at your back for much of the race.

The race will at 6:45 a.m. along Stonelake Boulevard right outside the Gateway Shopping Center in north Austin. Race officials urge runners to arrive in the starting area no later than 6 a.m. The earlier you can get there the better, as traffic on MoPac is always a mess.

With 6500-7000 runners expected for 3M, parking is also a nightmare. The best places to park are at Gateway near Dave & Busters, Sam’s or in the parking garage closest to Microsoft. Following the race, there will be transportation back to Gateway, beginning at 8 a.m. and running until 11. Race officials urge runners to park at Gateway as there is much more parking than near the finish.

Although there’s a two-person relay and a kids run, almost all the registrants are in the individual half marathon and most are hoping for a fast time.

Unlike prior years, there will not any prize money for 3M which has chased away some of the top locals such as Scott MacPherson and David Fuentes who are not running. (Fuentes is still recovering from the Dallas Marathon.)

Fuentes’ roommate and high-school teammate—Chass Armstrong who has a 1:06:44 best—has committed to running 3M and is probably the favorite.

Neither course record is likely to even be approached. The event record for men is 1:01:05, set in 2009 by Martin Fagan. The women’s mark of 1:09:35 was set in 2008 by Jacqueline Nyetipei.

Since 3M has not reached its 7000-runner cap, there will be last-minute registration at packet pick up on Friday and Saturday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (6121 North IH-35).

To pick up your race packet at the Crowne Plaza, you’ll need photo ID to pick up your packet. If you are picking up for someone else, you’ll need a signed letter from the participant authorizing it. Or there is a form on the 3M race site.

Again, packet pick up will be at the Crowne Plaza and not at 3M where it has often been held. Packet pick up at the Crowne Plaza will be from 11-7 on Friday and 8-6 on Saturday.

Beneficiary of 3M is the Communities in Schools of Central Texas. The sponsoring 3M Corporation has guaranteed a $40,000 donation to CIS from race proceeds to help ensure that at-risk students stay in school.

Again, race time is 6:45 a.m.

See you there.

How To Train on the Downhills for 3M and Livestrong

If you’re planning to run the two biggies on Austin’s running calendar—either the 3M Half Marathon on January and/or the Livestrong Marathon and Half Marathon on February 17th, please be advised that one of the keys to running these races well will be your ability to get up and down the formidable series of hills in good shape. Most runners training for Livestrong have already put in plenty of time training on some of the huge hills Austin offers. Great. Running up some of the monster hills will certainly develop great strength, endurance and mental tenacity which you will need come marathon morning.

But being able to run the downhills of Livestrong and 3M effectively may be just as important as running the ups. There are plenty of long downhills on the 3M course and even a few on the much harder Livestrong course.

Running downhills is an art which few of us spend much time practicing. As a result, many of us run the downhills with our brakes on, slamming our quads with each stride. When it comes to the ups, we foolishly try to bull our way up. But, it’s the sucker who pushes the uphills and brakes slowly on the downhills. Without a doubt, you can make up much more time on the downhills than the flats and uphills.

Unlike training on the ups, downhill training has—well—it has a downside. Train too much or too fast on the downhills and you’re likely to be awfully sore for a few days. The problem is the natural tendency to brake somewhat. And the brake is your quadriceps (the huge muscles on the upper part of the front of your legs). As a result, all the jarring can injure your back, hips or quadriceps. Especially if the downhills are too steep (such as on South 1st Street which is in the first few miles of Livestrong) and your technique is sloppy.

What you need to find in your training program is a middle ground: A balance of hills—both ups and downs.

Here’s how to train for the downhills:

1. Run downhills weekly. You’ll need to train on the downhills on a regular basis to get accustomed to the pounding. But one or two runs a week on a formidable downhill is plenty. Some good, long, moderate downhills to train on in town include Exposition (which is part of the marathon course), Balcones, parts of Duval, Far West, Ladera Norte and Mount Bonnell. Even running south on Congress Avenue gives you plenty of good downhill running.

2. Warm up first. Don’t begin any run by flying down a steep hill. Your muscles simply won’t be ready for the stress. Run for at least 15 minutes before your first major downhill. If you are doing a series of downhills, run progressively faster on each one with the slowest one being the first.

3. Start with an easy hill. Pick a gently sloping hill—not some monster like Jester—and run up slowly and then push the pace on the downside. Allow yourself to go with the flow of gravity. But don’t pinwheel (i.e., run too fast). Control your speed. Use your arms like outriggers for balance.

4. Shorten your stride. Just like on the uphills on which you have to shorten your normal stride, you should do the same on the downhills. The tendency is to open up your stride too much–this leads to overstriding and running out of control. Better to keep your stride relatively short and increase your leg turnover. If you find yourself going too fast, shorten the stride even more until you feel comfortable—comfortably fast.

5. Don’t slap your feet. When running on a downhill, your feet tend to slap the ground. Slapping your feet can be a sign of weak shin muscles so you might need to strengthen them with leg extensions. You can reduce the slapping by shortening your stride which reduces the chances of your feet “reaching” too far forward. Your knees should come forward first before the feet. The feet should follow the knees.

6. Maintain an upright body posture. The tendency on steep downhills is to lean backward. Don’t. Try to keep your torso perpendicular to the horizon and your head still.

7. Step lightly and keep feet close to the ground. Since you’ll be running so much faster on the downhills, there is the natural tendency to want to “get air” with each stride. But this is inefficient and simply increases the pounding your legs take.

8. Let gravity work for you. On a downhill, you won’t have to overcome as much gravity to run faster. Visualize gravity pulling you steadily downhill and across the flat section.

9. Use your momentum. Once you can see the next flat section (or uphill) on the course coming up, try to extend the speed you have built from the downhill into that next section for maybe a minute or so before slowing your leg turnover and getting into your normal cadence.

When doing a normal hill workout which incorporates both uphills and downhills, emphasize one over the other. That is, either push hard on the uphills and coast down the other side (working on good downhill technique) or ease up the hills and speed down the other side. Don’t try to run both the ups and downs hard. It’s too hard and carries with it a high risk of injury.

One final tip: If you are running 3M or Livestrong (or both), make absolutely certain you do some training on each course to prepare for the hills.

 

Heard Around The Lake: News, Notes and Idle Gossip

  • Starting some time next week, a quarter-mile stretch of the Butler Hike and Bike Trail around Lady Bird Lake will close for about six months. The fenced off section on the trail is on the north side between San Antonio Street and the section that juts out into the lake at Shoal Creek, across Cesar Chavez from the Seaholm Power Plant. The closed section will also include the small footbridge that connects the trail to the shore. Runners, walkers and cyclists will be temporarily rerouted onto Cesar Chavez which means the narrow, rocky along the road will get extra heavy use. Closing down the section of the trail is necessary because city officials believe that the section is crumbling because of the erosion. The city construction crews will fence off the section and begin to shore up the area with boulders.
  • More Trail news. In case you haven’t been on the far east side of the trail on the south shore along Lakeshore, construction is well underway on the 1.25-mile boardwalk that will connect the gap in the trail and bypass I-35. Crews are currently building a dock on the lake that will support the construction of the $21 million boardwalk which is expected to be completed in spring of 2014.
  • Big race weekend. In addition to the 34th running of the Decker Challenge out  at the Travis County Expo Center, plenty of Austin runners are headed either to Dallas for the Dallas Marathon and Half or to College Station/Bryan for the BCS Marathon and Half. This is just the second year for the BCS races and the half is full at 2750 runners, while the marathon will have about 1200 more. Dallas is expecting at least 20,000 for its marathon, half and relay on yet another redesigned course.
  • BTW: David Fuentes, who dropped out of the deluge and wind tunnel that was the Cal International Marathon on Sunday, is running the Dallas Marathon this Sunday. Fuentes, who was shooting for a 2:15-2:16 in Sacramento, shut down after only eight miles in the terrible conditions and eventually pulled over at 14 so he said he hasn’t had any recovery issues on such a short turnaround for Dallas.
  • Quinn Carrozza, the 16-year-old daughter of Paul and Shiela Carrozza, swam in the AT&T Winter Nationals at UT last weekend. Quinn made it to the finals of the 200-yard freestyle on Saturday afternoon and finished seventh in 1:45.67 to all-world Missy Franklin’s winning 1:42.42. Carrozza was also third in the ‘B” finals of the 200 breakstroke in 1:55.39.
  • Conley Sports is cornering the market on winter-spring races. In addition to its Livestrong Austin Marathon, Conley Sports is directing the Capitol 10,000 as well as the 3M Half Marathon. John Conley announced this week that his group has added to its portfolo with the St. James Missions 5-K on March  30th . One of the few races in east Austin, the St. James 5-K will start at St. James Missionary Baptist Church (3417 E. MLK Boulevard) and benefit the Alzheimer’s Association and the St. James Wellness Ministry.
  • Still, no word from the 40 Acres on the reason for the suspension of long-time UT women’s head track coach Bev Kearney. But, according to documents released by Texas unera public records request by the Associated Press, women’s AD Chris Plonsky wrote school president Bill Powers on September 24th requesting a substantial raise for Kearney and calling her a key mentor and leader. But a month later, the contract was removed from the agenda for an upcoming regents meeting and then on November 11, Plonsky suspended Kearney with pay to investigate issues within the program which have not been publicly disclosed. Kearney, who has been at UT for 21 years and won six national titles, is one of the most respected coaches in the country. If her proposed contract would have been approved, she would have been paid $397,000 for 2012-13, plus a $25,000 longevity bonus. According to the records released, in Kearney’s 2010-2011 performance review, Plonskey rated her “outstanding” and a “gift to UT.”
  • The sale of the Competitor Group has finally come to fruition. Competitor, which bought out Elite Racing five years ago and its roster of Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons for $42 million, has been sold to the tune of $250 million to Calera Capital, another private equity company. The Competitor Group, which owns and operates 83 events world wide as well as five magazines and a digital registration platform, has been on the auction block for nine months and 32 entities bid on the company, including Madison Square Garden Co. and Tour de France operator Amaury Sport. In Texas, there are two Rock ‘n’ Roll races (Dallas and San Antonio) and a Rock ‘n’ Roll triathlon in Austin.
  • Yes, that really was 2012 Olympians Ryan Hall and Meb Keflezighi flying by on the Butler Hike and Bike Trail on Wednesday morning. Both are in town for the The Running Event at the Austin Convention Center. Other running celebs here this week are ultramarathoners Anton Krupicka and Scott Jurek, tristud Andy Potts and marathon guru Jerff Galloway.
  • Also Wednesday morning was the Indie 5-K for The Running Event participants at Zilker Park. Fastest retailer was national-class road runner Bobby Mack of Capital RunWalk in Raleigh, North Carolina. Mack won in 14:22. Erin Richard of Hansons Running in Michigan won the women’s division in 16:42. Some of the other studs who ran included Andrew Letherby (New Balance), Austin’s husband-wife coaching duo of Derick and Kelly Williamson (Kelly ran 16:56), former US Olympian Todd Williams (Sign Me Up) and Keith Dowling (Sign Me Up).
  • Some former Austinites in town for The Running Event included Mason Reay (Nuun), Carson Caprara (Brooks), Raul Najera (RunFar) and Dave Moody (Core Running).
  • Leo (The Lion) Manzano will lead a group of Olympians who will host a free track-and-field clinic for middle and high schoolers on Thursday (today!) at the Austin HS track at 5 p.m. Joining Leo at Austin HS, will be shot putter Adam Nelson, high jumper Amy Acuff  (who lives in Austin) and Amy Yoder-Begley.
  • Newest marathon on the Texas calendar is The Army Marathon on April 21st. The event, which will run from Killeen to Temple, is being staged to honor American soldiers on the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775. The point-to-point race will start at the Killeen Convention Center and follow mostly country roads to the finish at the Temple Bioscience Center. There’s a  net elevation loss of 273 feet on the course.Danny Spoonts just certified the course last weekend. For more info, go to wwwthearmymarathon.com.
  • What I’m listening to this morning: “Wildflower,” by Tom Petty. Never sure why this album was considered a solo effort since the Heartbreakers played on it, but it’s still one of his/their greatest.

Have any juicy news for me? (It doesn’t have to be entirely true.) If you have something, send it to wish@runtex.com.

Get Ready for The Decker Challenge Half Marathon On Sunday

It isn’t called the Decker Challenge because it’s a little jog around Zilker Park. Hardly. Decker is absolutely one of the toughest road races in Austin and it’s not for the faint of heart. Decker, the third race in the six-race 2012-13 Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge, is a true test of legs, lung power—and character.

Decker isn’t just another rugged, hilly race; it’s also one of the best (and oldest) races in Central Texas. This Sunday’s race will mark the 34th year this oldie but goodie has been held. Although the distances (and race dates) have varied over the years, the one constant has been the venue. Staged at the Travis County Expo Center, east of town, the course is a single loop that goes up and over the long, gradual hills on the country roads that surround beautiful Decker Lake.

For the time being, the sponsoring Austin Runners Club seems to have settled on the half-marathon distance for Decker, rather than 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) and even 12 miles which was in vogue for a bit. The difference between 20-K and the half marathon isn’t really a big deal as it’s only .7 miles longer, but that .7 miles is a devilishly difficult final stretch.

Of course, the entire race is one grinding hill after another. Dealing with the Decker hills, is always the key to running well. After a short downhill at the start on the Expo grounds, the course heads out to Decker Lane for about three up-and-down miles. The hills along this stretch aren’t too tough, but if there’s a north wind blowing on Sunday morning, it can be pretty tough sledding. (There’s a clothing drop at the two-mile mark on Decker Lane.) The 5-K mark is right across from the entrance to Bluebonnet Hills Golf Course.

Once the course turns off Decker at about the four-mile mark, you get a reprieve from the wind as you enter the country roads. This is a relatively easy stretch until about the fifth mile where the real fun begins. The steepest hill is just past the fifth mile, but it’s short and sweet. Most of the Decker monsters are between miles six and 10 with the toughest one in the 10th mile. This hill is the longest climb (maybe 4/10s of a mile). Following that, the course is relatively benign on the run back to the finish outside the Expo Center.

The Decker hills certainly present a challenge, but none are off-the-charts, insanely hard. Mostly, they are gradual grinders that won’t disrupt your rhythm too much. They will certainly get your attention though; grunting and complaining is permitted.

Although Decker isn’t that far from downtown, it feels like it is. There isn’t much traffic to deal with on the country roads (other than a truck or two on Decker Lane), but the weather is almost always a factor. Usually, it’s a combination of strong north winds and bitter cold (with an occasional chilly rain). The forecast for Sunday looks like it’ll be cloudy and breezy but there’s no indication of a cold front sweeping down from the north. Temps should be in the low 60s so hats and gloves aren’t needed.

Although several of Austin’s top age-group runners ran last weekend in the California International Marathon in Sacramento, Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll or are running the Dallas or College Station Marathon, there are usually some of the top runners in town who can be expected to duke it out at the front.

Decker is such a traditional race that a hefty field of about 1500 runners are expected to run the Decker Half as well as another 500 runners and walkers who will be competing in the accompanying Brown Santa 5-K so parking will be a premium on Sunday morning.

Best advice is to get there by 7 a.m. to eliminate any parking hassles. There is plenty of room in the Travis County Expo Center to store your extra clothes.

The Decker Half will start at 8 a.m. The Brown Santa starts 15 minutes later.

Packet pickup for Decker is Friday (11-7) and Saturday (10-5) at Rogue Equipment  (500 E. San Marcos). On race day at the Travis Country Expo Center, same-day registration and packet pickup goes from 6:30 a.m. to 7:45 for the half marathon.