Let there be snow.

One of the things I’ve really been looking forward to is the opportunity to go running in the snow. Given that I’m a relatively recent convert to this whole “running” thing, I haven’t had a decent (or indecent for that matter) opportunity to go running in the snow. As of two days ago that much has changed. On Friday it started snowing rather early and the accumulation over the course of the storm was somewhere between 8 and 12 inches, depending on where exactly in town one measured.

Standard disclaimers apply. If you live up north you probably experience this sort of snow twice a week. If you live high up in the Rockies you’re probably buried in this for seven or eight months a year. To someone living in the south who gets to see visible snow accumulation maybe once or twice a year, this is notable. So please, keep relative experience in mind. Every geographic area has things that other areas have less of.

ANYWAY, I was as prepared for snow as one who has never been running in the snow can reasonably expect to be. My train of thought was generally that if I prepare for the temperature at hand and just waterproof as much as possible on top of that, then I should be pretty okay. Fortunately I wasn’t too far off of the mark, but I was off of the mark enough to know that I was, in fact, off the mark.

Run 1: Friday – The Standard 5k Loop

A bit of quick clarification: some months ago I figured out a pretty solid 5k loop starting at the corner by my house and ended at the corner a block up. A little later I found out that most of the loop is actually in the route for the local 8k race which made me feel pretty good about the route selection. Regardless, it’s a pretty solid 5k route and I use it, and variations of it, quite often for all sorts of things. And of course I refer to it as The Standard 5k Loop.

Moving on, Friday I decided to wander out in the snow and see how I fared. According to the Accuweather app on my phone it was 32F outside and the snow was coming down (for the record this is in no way an endorsement of the Accuweather app as I find it to be at odds with reality in a fair number of circumstances).

I suited up in a pair of Baleaf tights, a thick Nike Pro long sleeve shirt, and my trusty North Face Flight Series Fuse jacket (basically a thin shell: supposedly breathable, and supposedly designed for running). On the feet I figured I’d double up on the insulation and went for some Injinji sport socks underneath some Smartwool trekking socks with the shoe of choice being my usual singletrack shoes: the venerable Altra Superior 3.0. On the hands I figured I’d overprepare and wore a pair of thick, waterproof work gloves.

In a mere 3.1 miles I learned quite a bit about snow running versus “regular” cold weather running. I generally follow the rule of dressing as if its 20F warmer than it really is, and for non-snow situations this has proven to be accurate more often than not. Turns out for snow I need to shift that up a notch to dressing as if the temperature is about 30F warmer for everything from the waist up. For the waist down I need to reel that back a bit.

Basically I completely sweated out everything up top. Had I worn nothing but my jacket (which is remarkably thin, by the way) I still would have been sweating. The bottom half ended up just about perfect. My gloves, however, were almost completely soaked in spite of not having so much as touched any snow during the run.

The apparel was easily fixable as I have enough in my wardrobe to adjust. On the other hand, another accessory proved to be quite a pain: my sunglasses. I used my regular sport sunglasses (some off brand I picked up cheap on Amazon) and for approximately 60% of the run my vision was moderately to severely compromised as a result of the snow. Note that taking them off wasn’t a satisfactory option as then I just had snowflakes in my eyes.

It was quite a learning experience, but the real test would be taking the feedback and applying it on a second run in the snow.

Run 2: Saturday – 7.5 Miles

So it turns out that snow is made of water. Who’d have thought, right? Sarcasm aside, I had planned on running somewhere from 10 miles to a proper 13.1, but had to cut it short. The long and short of it is that my feet ended up getting rather wet.

I took what I learned on Friday and made adjustments as the wardrobe allowed. Everything from the waist down was exactly the same (pretty sure I reused some of the socks). Up top, I went for an extremely thin Nike Pro top and a Hind quarter-zip pullover. I wore the same sunglasses as it wasn’t snowing and thus shouldn’t present the same problems. For gloves I reeled back to a medium weight waterproof glove (which still ended up being too much). Accuweather showed the temperature at 34F when I left the house.

I took off at a modest 8:00-ish pace and headed for Jackson Park, the closest access to the local greenway. Unfortunately due to snow melt, the greenway presented a few issues. Notably there was enough slush and standing water to really get my feet wet. A credit to the Altras the water drained quickly and effectively and the dual socks kept me out of trouble, but it was after pressing on for a few more miles with more snow and more slush it became obvious that the situation wasn’t sustainable. I had cut around and back to the Standard 5k Loop so I resolved to finish it out and then went around the block for an even 7.5, but then I had to call it. Another mile and I think I would have regretted it.


Lesson learned. Today I bought some water resistant shoes. I grabbed the Altra Lone Peak 3.0 with the Neoshell outer and the matching gaiters. My current gaiters are all good and all, but won’t fit as snugly as the native Altra ones which I feel will do a better job in future snowy situations. I also grabbed some vented goggles to replace the sunglasses for future snow runs, more on those when it snows again I guess.

In dryer snow I suppose the Altra Superiors would have worked a bit better for longer runs. To their credit at no point was I ever at a loss of traction and my feet were comfortable, if chilly, for the entire run. The wet southern snow, however, was a bit too much. Now I’m really looking forward to the next snow storm.

Outside of that, I was eyeing a pair of trail shoes with more cushion than the Superiors anyway as I have some long trail races coming up. Notably I wanted something thicker for Fontandango (early March) and my scheduled Pitchell attempt (end of March) and it would obviously be nice to have a hundred or so miles of proper training in them before Fontandango rolls around.

Until next time, happy trails everyone.

 

Race Report: Cannonball Marathon

This post is adapted from my original Reddit post which can be found here.


Race Information

What: Cannonball Marathon

When: October 14th 2017

Where: Greensboro, NC

Goals

Goal Realistic? Accomplished?
New PR Almost Guaranteed Yes
Sub 3:45 Entirely Probable Yes
Sub 3:30 Edge of Possibility No

Background

This is the very first race I registered for. Not even two months after I started running seriously I whipped out my debit card and secured a place to toe the line at the 2017 running of the Cannonball. It was February 8th and I was hitting the treadmill hard. In fact just a couple of weeks later I’d be down with my first over-training injury.

Anyway, I figured the long time span between February and October would give me plenty of time and serve as a solid milestone to work toward. I ended up in several other races during that time (including my first ultra), but this one stands as my first official road marathon and will always hold that special place as being the first race I registered for and for being my first hail mary style goal in this fine sport.

Training

I’m far from the fastest guy out there, but I’m usually pretty consistent. That consistency has paid dividends in trail running, but to do well in road races you have to have some speed. With that in mind I had been trying to do more high intensity runs at the expense of some of the long, slow distance running that I generally prefer. I’ve found a good training partner in a local triathlete, Ryan, who is way fun to go running with and who is objectively faster than me at every standard road distance.

I had been trying to do 40 to 50 miles a week for the weeks leading up to the event with most of those miles being faster at 10K, 10 mile, and half marathon distances with the odd long run mixed in. I had to make up a little bit of training after a foot injury (stepped wrong on a rock) a few weeks prior, but I bounced back pretty solidly. I think I had things pretty well nailed down for this race, at least as nailed down as was reasonably possible for me.

My marathon PR was pretty slow at 4:20:17. I’ve been fine with this as I hit that very early in my running (June 10th) and the other times I’ve hit marathon distance were in trail runs. Basically I’d have to fall and break a leg to not set a new PR. That said, I’d be happy with anything under 3:45 and I set a stretch goal of 3:30 just to have something at the edge of what I thought I’d be able to accomplish.

Pre-Race

Greensboro is about a 3 hour trip from my house, but traffic/construction on I-26 and I-40 turned that into a slightly over 4 hour trip. We got settled into the hotel a little after 10:00, which was later than I wanted given my estimated 5:00 wake up time. I checked a few work emails and stuffed my face with whole wheat pasta for a few minutes before laying down while the wife stayed up working for a couple more hours.

I had set three alarms but the second and third ended up being completely unnecessary. I was up and alert right at 5:00 and was making my way to the hotel lobby for coffee as soon as I got my shoes on. The race was at 8:00, but the early wake up time was to do some more carb loading and give the coffee time to work its magic. I showered, got dressed, and gathered up my things. The wife was up a few minutes after 6:00 and we were on our way to race at about 6:30 so I could be doubly sure there wouldn’t be any way I could miss packet pickup.

I knew running 3:30 was a stretch goal of mine that would depend on basically perfect weather and perfect execution on my part, but taking the advice of my running friends I was resolved to run with the 3:30 pacer and hold on for dear life. The problem was there didn’t seem to be a 3:30 pacer (or a 3:45 pacer for that matter). I found the 3:15 guy and the 4:00 guy with no problem, but sadly the 3:30 flag was sitting on the table without anyone to bear it. After talking to a few people I found out that the half marathon shared the first 10 or so miles with the marathon course so I could just spend the first miles running with the 1:45 pacers there and everything should be fine.

It was cool out, far cooler than I had anticipated. I was thinking it would be close to 70F, but it was rather pleasantly in the 50s. It was humid, which isn’t so bad when its cool, but it does require a little bit more attention to be paid to the breathing. The sky was full overcast so there was more right with the weather than wrong. Basically it wasn’t perfect, but it was close enough that I thought my 3:30 stretch goal was still within my grasp.

At about 7:50 or so, people started making their way to the starting line and I did the same. I blew a kiss to the wife right as the horn sounded as we were off.

Starting line through mile 6 (with the half pacers)

I quickly fell into a rhythm with the two 1:45 half marathon pacers. Their names were Cyndi and Josh. Cyndi was loud, flamboyant, and a general blast to run with. Josh was a little quieter, but had a great sense of humor and was entertaining to be around. It was obvious Cyndi had a lot of experience as a pacer and was nailing her splits pretty much the entire time. I would have been happy to run with them until the split, but after the first turnaround it got rather crowded on the trail as there was two way traffic so I pulled a bit ahead to join up with a guy I knew was running the full and was targeting the same 3:30 finish time.

The course itself was reasonably well marked and at that point was mostly on a local greenway with a a little bit of road. There was some fall leaf accumulation on parts of the course, but nothing that presented much of an obstacle

Miles 6 through 12 (Billy and Joe)

After pulling ahead of the half pacers I wound up running with a 50-something named Joe and a 20-something named Billy, both super nice guys. It was a little less crowded so it was a little easier to make forward progress. From the first turnaround we got back to the road and past the point where the half marathon runners broke off. Most of the rest of the race was on actual roads rather than parks and greenways and we were looking strong going into it. The course was nothing particularly notable, just rolling hills on semi-rural and suburban roads. The police had done an admirable job or cordoning off appropriate space and shutting down roads where necessary.

We had a pretty good 8 minute pace going, but at the mile 12 water station, Joe took a few seconds longer getting some water and fell back a bit. In addition we were going down a hill. It became fairly obvious to me and Billy that he wasn’t going to keep pace so we waved and pressed on.

Miles 12 through 22 (Kendall and Billy go hunting)

Billy was a hell of a runner. He was a virgin marathoner who had only done 5K and 10K races before, but he was quite strong and it showed. We pushed our pace a little bit and starting running sub-8 splits. Within a couple of miles we had reeled in a guy who was pretty far in front of us. Billy actually ran ahead at one point to use the restroom and caught back up just as I was passing another gentleman. It really feels good to run with someone else who seems to appreciate the thrill of slowly chasing down a runner in front of you.

By mile 18 I was starting to feel it creeping up on me. My right hip was exhibiting some discomfort and my stomach wasn’t exactly sitting easy. I normally train with coconut water and Tailwind for hydration. I had coconut water in my handheld, but all the aid stations had was water and the sweetest Gatorade I’ve ever tasted. After the first couple of stations I gave up on the Gatorade as I knew it wouldn’t go well if I kept drinking it. Of course this left me at an electrolyte deficiency as coconut water doesn’t really have any sodium.

I’m normally pretty good about powering through GI issues and I did as much, but at mile 22 I started cramping hard. I told Billy to press on and that I’d see him at the finish. We were on pace for a 3:27 finish.

Miles 22 through 26.2 (ALL the cramps)

Mile 22 was a bit out of the ordinary for me as I typically don’t ever cramp up. I’ve certainly had my fair share of stupidity-induced running maladies, but this felt a bit different. I felt my stability start to go on a few occasions so I had to slow to a walk and work the cramps out by high stepping for a minute or so. I was able to pick back up and maintain a similar pace (my lungs felt good and I had sufficient energy) but basically every mile I had to lose a minute or more due to cramps. The last mile had a fair bit of climbing after going back into the park where the race started. I couldn’t push too hard up the hills because doing so just made me cramp worse

When I came around the final bend, Billy was the first person I saw. He was cheering me on and had a big smile on his face. Then I saw my wife to my right and she was taking video and yelling. I smiled and waved at her. I crossed the finish in 3:32:06 gun time with an official chip time of 3:32:01.

Post-Race

I’ve heard that the best way to run a race is to have nothing left in the tank at the end. Well, I had precisely nothing left in the tank at the end. After they gave me my finisher medal I sat on the nearest curb and didn’t move for a solid 15 minutes. My legs felt like absolute hell. The wife was super attentive and got me bananas, water, a clean towel, and whatever else I needed. She also bought me a shirt that says RUN ALL THE RACES so I’d have something clean to put on when I got out of my running shirt.

It took another half hour (and lots of leg rubbing, courtesy of the wife) before I started to feel any semblance of normality. I kept putting back calories and eventually got around to getting my free finisher beers while waiting for the awards to start.

I ended up 13th overall and 2nd in my age group. Billy finished in 3:26:39 for 12th overall and 2nd in his age group. I think there were 80 or 90 participants in the marathon, with several times that number in the half. I feel great about my finish time, especially given my late race cramping issue. 3:30 was right at the edge of what I was capable of and while I didn’t get it this time, this certainly won’t be my last road marathon.

Official results

Strava activity

A new running blog, you say?

Hello world! My name is Kendall Weaver and yes, I’ve decided to start a new blog about running. Specifically I wanted to document the continuation of my relatively recent journey into running given that I’ve only been doing it seriously for about a year now. For much of my adult life I ate terribly and didn’t exercise at all. A large part of me doing this is for my own motivation, but hopefully another sedentary IT professional might read some of it and feel compelled to change their life for the better as I did.

But why a blog and not a Facebook page or something?

It’s true that social media is a little more immediate and has more immediate reach, but I find the format to be a little too limiting as I sometimes feel like I have much to say on certain topics. Social media always feels a little too “short form” for me. Plus I like having stuff like this on the big internet rather than having it exist within a social network. There are plenty of other reasons I prefer a blog (archival features, themes, etc), but largely I just like the format.

But who reads blogs anymore?

Actually a lot of runners still use listserv mailing lists to communicate so I feel like a blog should have at least some degree of staying power if I actually use it as intended. And blogs are still widely used in general: many news outlets and other websites that make a living via content generation use blogging platforms at their core.

Okay fine. But do we really need another blog about running?

Probably not, but I’m going to do this anyway. At least for a while. We’ll see how it goes. If it doesn’t go well then I’ll stop and go back to commenting too much on Reddit. I’ll certainly cover a lot of topics that are all over every other running blog, but remember that this is a blog about my running, not a general running blog or a gear review site or anything.

You say you’re a software developer so why are you using WordPress.com?

I’ve spent far too much of my life hosting and maintaining websites for other people so I’m happy to throw money at this particular problem. Besides, WordPress has a rather nice offering that’s pretty inexpensive. Yes I could self host and save a couple bucks per month, but I’d also have the headache of maintaining it. Also I have no particular desire to reinvent this particular wheel. I’ve written content management systems from scratch before, but those were to solve extremely specific problems. Blogging is a problem that Automattic solved a long time ago with the advent of WordPress.


Anyway, welcome to my new running blog. I hope you enjoy it. Please let me know if you do.