Thursday, December 1, 2016

Two Races in Hawaii in Two Weekends

Many of you might have seen images or video of me finishing up the Disneyland Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon a couple weeks ago, but in case you missed it, here is a shot of me coming through the finish line. I ran 1:09:28 that morning to break the record for fastest half marathon in a super hero costume. Some elites might look at that and think its is a bit soft, but for a little perspective I ran that at the end of a 130 mile week while in training for two other races, where I hope to break some more records.
Trying to Leap as High as I can. In a World Record Time!!

This weekend I'll be traveling to Hawaii to compete in my first trail race on a big stage. The race is the Paul Mitchell Xterra Trail World Championship in Kaneohe, HI. I have dabbled in a few trail races in Flagstaff over the past couple years, finishing 1st or 2nd in each race I ran, losing only to my Team Run Flagstaff teammates. But, again, this is the first big trail race of my career. A debut, if you want to call it that. I am very excited to see how I stack up against some of the other Top US Trail runners that have run this race in years past. The course record is 1:16:36, set by Max King. That is not an easy time considering the terrain, elevation profile, and the humidity, but I will strive to break that.

Course Map and Elevation Profile for Xterra

Looking at results and knowing how tough trail racing can be, I know I should finish anywhere in the top 3. Humidity, technical trails, and steep climbs are all elements of this race that I have trained for over the past 16 years of XC, track and road race training. I have done a couple intense climbs both in Flagstaff and in California, where I came to get a couple more days of warmer weather before flying to Hawaii, and I feeling that I am as ready as I can be for this race. And I have been wearing lots of extra clothing to get my body to adapt to running at an uncomfortable temperature. My preparations going to this race have gone well, so we should all expect a great result this weekend.

For those of you who are worried that I am making a full transition to the trails (Jim Walmsley), don't be too concerned. There will be many trail races in my foreseeable future, but immediately after I tackle the Xterra Half Marathon, I will bounce back to race the Honolulu Marathon a week later. I have a couple friends who have done this double before, and they have told me about how hard it has been for the to race well at both. However, I have no worries that my legs will be able to handle the quick turnaround, as I have done with many other races.

At The End of a Run With Stephan Shay and Epoch Restorations

This will also be my 4th marathon for this year, which is the most I have ever done in a single year. So far I am averaging 2:17:18 for my previous 3 marathons, and despite the humid conditions and coming off of the Xterra race, I am aiming to improve that average dramatically. Because this race rarely ever has good conditions for a marathon, the race is usually won between 2:14 and 2:18. Generally 1st and 5th places are pretty close together, so tactically I know that I will have to be with the leaders the whole race if I want to give myself a chance to win.

Early Morning, And Still Heat Training in CA

And that is what I have coming up for the next couple weeks. I'll update you when I can either here or on my social media pages if you are interested in tracking how things are going. Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Recovered from Berlin

It is now a week after I got back from Germany and the Berlin Marathon. Today, after taking 7 days off to recover, I ran with my wife for an easy 5 miles on the trails here in Flagstaff. The run was good, we averaged 8:09/mile and my legs are feeling fatigued, but responsive. There wasn't anything that feels like it needs special attention, so I am looking forward to easing back into training over the next couple of weeks and getting my next season started.

I spent quite a bit of time after the race, on my return flights, and over this past week to reflect on my run in Berlin. I finished the marathon in 23rd place in 2:18:18. This was my 4th marathon in the past 11 months, and despite being 8 minutes slower than my main goal, this was another successful marathon attempt. The race started out very aggressive; I had a pair of pacers that were supposed to lead my group through 25k and 30k on pace for a 2:10 marathon, which is about 3:05 per kilometer. My first K was a 3:02, and I was running 7 seconds behind the pacers, with a Swedish competitor, Mikael Ekvall. 
View of my Haircut                                          Bekele Getting Ready to Crush It!
and the Start Line Stretch                                                                                              

Over the next 5k Mikael and I traded leads attempting to conservatively catch up to our pacers. During that time we were consistently hitting 3:08-3:10 per kilometer, and not making up ground on the pacers. This was fine with me as I preferred to be as relaxed as possible and let my legs warm up to a little bit quicker of a pace. Finally during the 7th kilometer I decided to pick up the pace slightly to finally reel in the pacers so Mikael and I could get pulled along as we were supposed to. We ran 3:04 to catch up and then I settled in behind them to try to let my mind shut off and just get dragged to a quick time.

If you were able to watch my 5k splits you would have seen that our pace was gradually increasing through 20k (15:44, 15:32, 15:32, 15:26). On paper that would have been perfect, however, the pace per kilometer is not accurately reflected by those splits. Unfortunately, our pacers were having trouble finding 3:05, and our pace was bouncing back and forth from 3:00 to 3:15 every other kilometer. Note: that is bouncing between 4:48 and 5:20 pace per mile. 

Mid-Race When I'm still in Contact With the Pacers

Because of this I ended up letting myself get dropped by the pacers around 20k in hopes that I would be able to set a more consistent pace on my own. Again, unfortunately, my legs were already worn down from the constant change of pace from 7k to 20k, and I started fading more and more ever few kilometers. I faded this way, got passed by quite a few runners and ended up positive splitting by about 7 minutes, going 1:05:43 for the first half and 1:12:35 for the second half. It was a bit depressing in the moment having come so far around the world to not be able to run the time that I wanted.

After the race my body was a wreck. I could hardly walk, hardly drink anything, and hardly eat. I realized that despite missing my goal, that I had pushed my body to the limit once again, and despite being in so my pain, my spirits were high knowing that I gave it my all. I was happy for Mikael to have finished in 2:13, and for Malcolm Richards who ran a PB in 2:15:10 to earn the first American spot. But, I needed to get back to my hotel so I could hide away in my room and wait for my body to heal itself enough so I could get some food. And that is what I did.

On the Floor Ready to Die

It took about 2 hours on my floor of my hotel room for me to finally get up and shower. Then a little bit later I was back to life and ready for a small tour of Berlin. I met up with my buddy, Adam, and we got some food and drinks and checked out a few sights that were walkable from our hotels. I decided to call it a night around 7:30pm, but then went out again to meet up with Malcolm, and our other friends from CA, Michelle and Kevin. We got a coupe drinks, relived our races; the good, the bad, and the painful. Then after a couple hours I went to bed and got up at 5am to catch my flights back to the US. 
Adam Needed Coffee and Beer                                Revisiting Tiergarten After the Race

This Church had Bombs Crush 
Through the Steeple During WWII

The past week has been pretty laid back for me as I only did one gym session and went for one hike during my week off. I took my dog out for a walk everyday as well, but I didn't do anything too strenuous and really had an enjoyable, easy week off. Now, its time to get back to training and I look forward to my next marathon attempt. I’ll let you know which one it will be soon. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

On My Way to Berlin

This is it! I’m on my way to Berlin to race the marathon. Finally! I have been wanting to do this race for a long time now, and I am excited to get out on the roads to see if I have another pr in me in my 21st marathon. I have been racing marathons now for 10 years, and each race brought its own challenges. Even though Berlin is known to be the fastest course in the world, I do expect the race this weekend to be extremely hard. 

I plan to once again be pretty ambitious with my pace, and get towed along to a sub 2:10. I have made this same attempt many times now, and each time I have failed. Sometimes my failures resulted in pr’s; I’ve run 2:11 4 times after going out on 2:08-2:10 pace. Other times I have suffered over the 2nd half and fade to 2:17s, 2:18s, and once a DNF. I am proud of all the races I have finished regardless of whether I met my goals or not. But knowing that I have come so close is what keeps driving me to try again, and hope that one of these race will result in a spectacular result.

My pace group with have 2 other athletes attempting to crack the sub 2:10 barrier, with 2 rabbits taking us through 20k and 30k as best as they can. Over the past 7 weeks I have changed my GPS watch to track my kilometer splits rather than miles to get myself to learn better pacing over those intervals. I have also been doing many of my workouts on a flat route down in Camp Verde 50 miles south of Flagstaff and almost 4000ft lower. This has resulted in many great workouts, much better than I’ve had in a while, which have indicated to me that I am prepared to run a sub 2:10 marathon.

Mentally I am ready to go and I am confident that my legs will cooperate. I have trained them well for this. Now, all the work leading into the race is done and all I have left to do is wait for my flight to board. I am sitting and writing this in Phoenix awaiting my delayed flight to London where I’ll connect to Berlin. Just a 9 1/2 hour flight, followed by 2 hours of waiting, then another 2 hour flight, and I’ll arrive at 8pm local time in Berlin. By then I’ll be eager to get my race bib, get a quick run on the treadmill, and then get to bed. I am very excited to get this started.

Below is a list of the top competitors in Berlin. A lot of guys at 2:06 and under. Its going to be fast! See you in Berlin!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Highs and Lows of Marathon Training

As I am entering my final 3 weeks of marathon prep for the BMW Berlin Marathon, I am excited that the day is almost here. Soon I will be racing my first International World Marathon Major. I will be departing from Flagstaff on Sept. 21st and arrive in Berlin 20 hours later on the 22nd. The race will be on the 25th, and I will return on the 26th. So, this will be quite a short business trip with my intent only being on running fast. I will be shooting for a personal best (under 2:11:30), and given the history of this course, that should be attainable.

The biggest difficulty I find in any marathon build-up is the inconsistency in my workouts. I generally always have great long runs, which is what helps to build my confidence being a marathon specialist. However, my interval and tempo workouts and even my races leading up to marathon are very inconsistent and often lackluster. I did have some good workouts here and there over the past 8 weeks; 2 x 6 miles in 5:12/mile, 8 x 2k in 5:00/mile. However, with the combination of running up to 140 miles while trying to hit quality workouts each week, my performances at the races I have done over the last 2 weeks really suffered.

Two weeks ago I ran the AFC Half Marathon in San Diego, where my goal was to run about a 1:04:00 half, which would have contended for the win. Unfortunately, my legs and my body said 'No F*#@ing Way, Man!' and instead I struggled through a tough tempo run, finishing up in 1:08:27. Then, after two weeks of trying to get my legs to feel good again, I raced the US 20k Champs this weekend and again performed a lot worse than my expectations. There were definitely a few more positive aspects that I am able to take away from the 20k compared to AFC, but overall the race was not one to write home about.

Finishing up at the US 20k

Anyway that is marathon training for me in a nutshell. High mileage and low quality performances. All of which is part of a well calculated equation to run well for the marathon. Berlin is going to be my 21st marathon, so even with these poor results over the past couple of weeks my confidence is unwavering. All of my previous marathon experience has shown me that as long as I put in the work, the big race at the end of the training cycle will be great. And for me that is all that matters. Trusting that the process will yield great results is the key to my marathon training.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Traveling to NYC

I am sitting here pretty much all alone in Terminal 8 at JFK Airport in New York. I have about 45 minutes until my wife lands here, so I am writing to you all to pass the time a bit. Today's travel day was not the best I have every had. Both difficulties with airports, airline attendant, and a few amateur mistake on my part as well. The good news is that I have finally arrived in New York (3 hours delayed) and only have to wait a little bit for my wife to show up along with my bag.

Before you ask why my wife would have my bag, let me start from the beginning of the day, a day which started much like any other, with my alarm waking me up dark and early at 5:30am. I immediately got up and put on the clothes I had laid out next to my bed the night before. I stumbled in the darkness lit only by my phone out of the bedroom and into the kitchen to heat up a heat pack for my leg and some tea for my belly. This is a pretty typical routine, where I have my tea and breakfast on my couch while surfing
the web on my phone and heating up my hamstring to be ready to run.

Once I finish my tea I go through a few exercises to further warm up and stretch out my legs, and with my early morning grogginess this takes me about 30 minutes to do what should only be 15. But I like to plan ahead, I know I will be a little lazy, even on a day like today when I am scheduled to fly to NYC for the TCS NYC Marathon. So, planning for that extra time is why I normally get up at 5:30am, so I can lazily go through all my necessary warm up before I meet my teammates to run at 7:00am.

At 6:50 I kiss my wife goodbye and drive to the Run Flagstaff store in downtown Flagstaff and arrive just as Adam Vess is pulling up. We say out casual good mornings, but I am less interested in socializing with Adam today. Not because I despise Adam with a passion (I don't really), but because Brett Gotcher just arrived in town, and I was super excited to catch up with him.

The next few hours went by too quickly, after running 7.5 miles with Brett and my teammates I stretched out and chatted a bit more. Then I met my wife at Dunkin Donuts, our planned post-run breakfast destination this morning, I ordered a half dozen, some coffee and then we decided to head home and eat there. My wife was coming from class, so it wasn't that much of a wasted trip to meet at Dunkin. At home we ate, drank, showered and got ready to catch our flight.

We left our house at 9:30am to drop out puppy off at Nick Hilton's house so they could watch her while we were away. After a quick drop off we headed to the airport and it wasn't until this point that I started to think that we were cutting things rather close. Usually the Flagstaff airport is pretty relaxed when it comes to check in times and boarding since it is such a small airport. We however made the mistake of thinking that we could just show up at 10:00am for a 10:25 flight and not have any issues whatsoever. We were wrong.

First we couldn't check my bag and would either have to leave it in Flagstaff (not an option), or change our flights to a later time and arrive in NYC at midnight. Terrible planning. Instead my wife volunteered to just change her flight, make sure I get to NYC and she would check my bag along with her. That also means I get to travel with her bag, which is pretty much my only company right now. I also have my phone playing music, so I am not completely alone.

My Travel Companion!

I make the trip to phoenix easily enough, only to discover when I get there that because of all the bad weather in NYC our plan is grounded for an undetermined amount of time (officially 2 1/2 hours). Turns out the after all our poor planning and issues with trying to convince the airline people in Flagstaff to do us a favor and just check my bag anyways, that my wife would leave Flagstaff 3 hours after me and arrive in NYC only 45 minutes behind. Such is the life of travel.

The time is not ticking by and her flight should arrive in about 20 minutes now. This was a great way to pass the time. Thanks for reading and hopefully you will follow me as I race the INS NYC Marathon this Sunday morning! Tune in at 9am EST on ABC or ESPN2!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Conquering Mt. Humphreys

This week I decided that I would finally climb to the top of Mt. Humphreys in Flagstaff. Mt. Humphreys’ peak is at 12,633 feet, sitting approximately 6,700 feet above Flagstaff, and is the highest point in Arizona. I have attempted this as a hike previously 3 times, each time failing to make the final stretch from the ‘Saddle’, at 11,800ft, to the peak. These failures were all due to wind, snow, and cold, since the Australian Rules Football team I volunteered to lead to the top is only in town in November, and the weather gets pretty nasty that high up.

Humphreys Peak - 12,633 Feet

On the third of these attempts, the group and I tried to ‘brave the storm’ and push our bodies past the cold and wind to finally complete the challenge. Alas, we fell a ¼ mile short that day, as the weather only got worse. One man from the group decided to continue despite everybody else discouraging him, and he eventually returned with frostbite on his hands. The moral of that story is to be extremely prepared for this climb, because it is excruciatingly tough. Thus, for my first 5 ½ years of living in Flagstaff the only times I attempted to make it to the summit was in November. Those conditions took their toll on me and definitely made me fear Humphreys.

Two weeks ago I ran the SnowbowlHill Climb for the first time, which is the 7-mile road that leads up to Snowbowl Ski Resort in Flagstaff. The ski resort also serves as the starting point for the ascent to the top of Mt. Humphreys. After finishing the Snowbowl Hill Climb, I got the itch to attempt the climb up Humphreys again. Then, Wednesday night, Brian Tinder sent me a message asking if I wanted to run up to the top with him Thursday morning. As ill prepared as 12 hours might be for a run that would climb 3,400 ft in 4.8-miles, I figured that the coincidence was a good sign to say, ‘yes’.

Tinder's Little Celebration

I got up at 5:00 AM to brew some coffee, drove to Tinder’s house to meet him at 6:00 AM, and we carpooled up the hill to the Humphreys Trailhead, which begins at 9,200 ft. With 2 cups of coffee in me, and a handheld water bottle with cell phone pocket, I was ready to begin. We started up at a rather casual pace, neither of us had any record setting in mind, we just wanted to ‘run’ up it. The first 3.5-mile to the Saddle were uneventful, despite the roots and jagged rocks, there was a lot of stumbling but neither of us fell. We arrived at the Saddle in 55 minutes; our average pace taking a big hit as the trail gets steeper the closer you get to the top.

After pausing for a minute to check out the scenery we begin the final 1.3-mile ascent. I am amazed at how rough the terrain is, hiking is difficult and running is nearly impossible. The last time I was up here, there was 3 feet of fresh snow, which covered all the jagged rocks and made the trail impossible to find. Seeing it now without any snow allowed me to realize how steep the fall is on either side of the trail, and how damn lucky I was to have come out of my previous attempts unbroken.

View Looking Towards Flagstaff from Summit
23 minutes later we reached the peak, we quickly celebrated with some sips of our drinks, a couple pictures and a video, and checked out the view from the top of Arizona. We could see the fire burning 30 miles South just above Sedona and the Grand Canyon 90 miles North. We stayed only a few minutes because despite the beautiful summer weather, the wind and temperature at the top was getting cold with us just in sweaty shirts and short shorts.

Cold - And Ready to Head Back Down!

Then, we descended, which was nearly as tough as the climb at some parts. I stumbled nearly 50 times on the way down after catching my toes on rocks and roots, my legs getting tired and my stride getting lazy. I nearly fell one time when we were 100 ft from the top, catching myself by slamming my palm into a rock just before my knees and face hit the ground. Every other stumble was under control, and served as a wake up call to keep paying attention to the ground!

We arrived at the trailhead and ran a loop around the parking lot to make the run an even 10-miles. The run roundtrip was 2 hours 20 minutes; our ascent was 1 hour 18 minutes, and decent 1 hour 2 minutes. Each is approximately 13 minutes and 21 minutes behind the course records, respectively. Some day, maybe not some day soon, I will attempt to break those records. For now I will start to focus on the roads again. The Olympic Marathon Trials is 6 ½ months away!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

NYC Marathon Recap

I arrived in NYC Wednesday evening, and for the most part the days leading up to the race were a blur. A couple highlights from the days leading up to the race include the press conference and Under Armour’s new shoe launch at the brand house.
You can view my interview with LetsRun from Thursday morning’s press conference with a few of the top Americans including Ryan Vail, Luke Puskedra, Desi Linden, Annie Bersagel, Kara Goucher, and Deanna Kastor.
Thursday evening, I went down to SOHO to the Under Armour Brand House for the launch party of UA’s newest running shoe, the SpeedForm Gemini....
You can read the rest of my blog here at