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Looking Back: 2016 Tokyo Marathon

Looking Back: 2016 Tokyo Marathon

I can’t believe that the 2016 Tokyo Marathon is now over, and I am sitting on my couch writing my race report. I found out on September 15th that I was selected to participate. I entered the lottery in August, not knowing what would happen. The odds were not in my favor. I remember reading an article months before that said the Tokyo Marathon was one of the hardest marathons to get into. I was shocked when the email came. I screamed when I read it. I prayed that I would get in, and I did! But of course actually pulling the trigger wasn’t an easy decision after that. There were multiple discussions like “Can we afford this?” or “Is this wise to do when we’re trying to save for other stuff, or pay other bills?” and “Do we have the time to take off from work?”

I naturally began to wonder if my goals of traveling all over the world to run marathons were selfish, and not in the best interest of my family. I made a goal after running the Chicago Marathon in 2011 that I wanted to run all of the World Marathon Majors. Getting into Tokyo would get me one step closer to my goal. So it seemed serendipitous that I got in. But still, I didn’t know if it was the “smart” thing to do. After many discussions and my personal consultation with my “crew”, we decided to go. My friend Susan told me that the timing will never be perfect, and to go now if we can. My husband is incredibly supportive. He loves that I have all these goals, and he wants me to achieve them. And he wants to be there with me every step of the way.

“One day, you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.”

— Paulo Coelho

So there you have it! We booked our flights and headed off to Japan. I wrote a separate post on our travels to Japan (click here), along with pictures of where we went and what we did. I also give restaurant suggestions. I think that post will be beneficial for anyone traveling to Japan. It provides some travel tips, but this post is all about the race itself and my experience running the Tokyo Marathon.

PLEASE NOTE: There are MANY useful scanned documents located in the TOKYO MARATHON icon on my main home page. After you finish reading this report, please refer to those documents for more helpful information. These are the race documents for the 2016 race. The 2017 race documents will be different, as the course has slightly changed. But you will find important rules, and aid station information there. 

The Expo!

The Tokyo Marathon Expo and Packet-Pickup took place at the Tokyo Big Sight (where the race finished. ***NOTE: FOR THE 2017 RACE THE FINISH WILL BE IN A DIFFERENT LOCATION). Before we went inside, the Tokyo Food Festival was taking place outside. This was the best thing that could have happened to us that day. We went Friday afternoon to avoid the crowds, but we forgot to eat breakfast so we were cranky. Seeing the little vendors and smelling the perfectly balanced merge of Japanese cuisine was divine; it was a mini paradise. After we ate, we entered the expo in a better mood. We were now ready to enter a marathoners version of heaven. Runners were only allowed in the packet pickup area. I was asked to show my ID a couple times. Everything was very organized and secure. There were several volunteers who spoke English, so I never felt confused. There was also an “overseas runner” booth. It was a seamless process. After I got my packet I met my husband and we worked our way through the maze. I took pictures and grabbed a bunch of free products. I sampled stuff and played a couple games for coveted prizes that I didn’t win. The Tokyo Marathon official merchandise store was small, and a little crowded. I was surprised at how small it actually was. But little did I know there was more stuff on a different level. I bought Tokyo Marathon brand chopsticks and arm warmers. Other levels at the expo had more merchandise from Asics to New Balance and other top brands. My clear plastic bag for bag check was filled with my purchases and free items. It was a great expo to say the least. Tip: If you are running the Tokyo Marathon, go on Thursday or Friday and avoid Saturday if you can.

 

Starting Line

There were some words that were spoken in Japanese over the loudspeaker (I have no clue what they announced) followed by the introduction of the Elite runners and wheelchair participants. A song was sung in Japanese, possibly the national anthem? Then the starting gun went off. I believe it was 10-15 min before we were able to actually start.

Some key things along the course:

Bathrooms

The portable toilets are very frequent, and there is a volunteer holding a sign that announces the bathroom coming up and how far away the next one is. So the sign will say: “Exit here for the bathroom now, or next one is 1.2 miles away”, for example. Cool right? Every toilet area has a couple volunteers who will guide and place you in line. They manage the line and flow. Again, you will have to squat when using most toilets. There were “western style” toilets, but not as frequent. No hand sanitizer or soap/water to wash your hands is available. Near major sights like the Imperial Palace there were “real” bathrooms. So you can always divert from the course and use them if that makes a difference. The one thing that stood out to me was that every toilet line was always long. Some races you will find shorter lines eventually, but not at this race. We stopped twice to use the bathroom, and the lines both times were long. Expect a bathroom stop to add 10-15 minutes on to your time. I do commend this race on having volunteers stationed at each toilet area.

Course Fuel and Food

Pocari Sweat and water are the beverages offered along the course. Pocari Sweat I learned has MSG in it (I had no clue. I should have done my research ahead of time!) Read about it. Know what is offered before running just in case you need something else. Unfortunately you cannot carry your own water bottles in. I believe you can take in unopened commercial products, like bottled water that has a seal on it. Please check the official rules. I scanned the ‘course restrictions’ document and it is located in the Tokyo Marathon icon on my home page. We did see runners with Camelbak hydration packs on. I am guessing they put their empty hydration packs in their checked bags, went through security (metal detectors), and then filled them up later? I mentioned a product in an earlier post, the Salomon S-lab Sense Hydro Set (a handheld collapsible hydration flask). You can add your electrolyte tablet or powder to water and mix in this flask after the race starts. There also were bananas and tomatoes along the course. The bananas were full sized which was nice. You peel them yourself. Volunteers did wear gloves when handling food, for those health conscious individuals. I carried my own gels and chews in my SPI belt, so the only thing I needed was water and Pocari sweat.

Volunteers

There are volunteers everywhere! They have volunteers organizing the bathroom stops, and ones holding garbage bags along the course. The water stops have plenty of volunteers handing out water and cheering you on. They were simply amazing. They always had a smile on their face, and they were extremely polite. The volunteers make this race wonderful. Even at the family meet up/baggage pick-up area the volunteers would congratulate runners. I saw someone post a video of them clapping in sync as runners picked up their bags. I can’t thank the volunteers enough for all their help in making this an amazing and successful race. Volunteers wear different color jackets which mean certain things. I can’t remember what each color represents, but I do know the green jackets meant the volunteer could speak English. At the Expo you will see a display of what each color jacket means.

Volunteers. THANK YOU! They were so awesome. I spotted a doctor running as well. He was a medical volunteer on the course.

 

The Course

The course is very flat. There were a few bridges (near the end) with slight elevation. It wasn’t bad though. I think if you were racing, they would be slightly annoying since they are located near the end. But for my friend Brian and myself, they were a change of pace.

***UPDATED: The 2017 course is different than what I ran. Please click here for the updated 2017 course. More details on the 2017 course can be found here.

A view at mile 22-23. You can see how many people there still were on the course. And I was not running fast. I finished in 5:20? 

A view at mile 22-23. You can see how many people there still were on the course. And I was not running fast. I finished in 5:20? The course includes a couple “out and backs” which have the potential to mess with you if you’re racing. Running out when people are returning can get frustrating and play tricks on you. The turn-around seemed far away, but know in advance at what mile you will turn around and you’ll be fine. I personally didn’t find them to be terrible.

Brian and myself on the course. Cherry blossoms! Tomatoes that were part of the food offered on the course. I actually enjoyed them!

Brian (a fellow Headsweats Ambassador) and myself on the course. Cherry blossoms! Tomatoes that were part of the food offered on the course. I actually enjoyed them!

The course goes past the major sights of Tokyo including the Imperial Palace, Tsukiji Fish Market, Sensoji Temple, Tokyo Sky Tree, Tokyo Tower, Ginza Ave, Tokyo Museum, etc. (in no particular order). It really is the best way to see all of Tokyo by foot! I was surprised at how close the course was to Sensoji Temple (see picture above). We went to that temple the day before, but we didn’t even need to because it was right there on the course!

Course limit: The course limit is 7 hours and there are checkpoints along the way. Make sure to know ahead of time what they are.

 

Medical Aid: Medical aid was offered at various locations along the course. Please consult the runner handbook for where they will be located and what they offer, if you will be running the Tokyo Marathon. I did see medical runners (doctors wearing vests) along the course as well! I am a medical runner for a couple different local races, and it was nice to see this service being offered elsewhere!

Crowds

The crowds also were my favorite. There were people everywhere! I believe the runner handbook says 1.5 million spectators. And they cheered their hearts out. They even knew one or two phrases in English to cheer us on. And they LOVED high-fiving everyone. I ended up high fiving everyone because it was just fun and they got so excited. There were many forms of entertainment along the course as well. There were groups of dancers with music. I am sure there is a formal name for them, but I don’t know what it is. There were dancers with flags, children dancing, people banging on drums, everything! I’ve never seen anything like it. They took it so seriously and it seemed like they were so honored to entertain the runners. I practically stopped at every group to take a picture. It was beautiful. Simply beautiful. One reason I don’t listen to music while running a marathon is to soak it all in. Complete strangers come out on their day off to cheer me on. The entertainers are there to entertain. Why would I block all that out by listening to music? I love hearing the crowds and being aware of what’s going on, especially when I’m in a different country. You don’t need music on this course. Soak up the experience. Be present. Enjoy the gift of running. Tune-in to the music the crowds are making.

Many runners wore fun costumes, and that is entertaining as well. My favorite was a guy playing a Ukulele while singing to his “Bride”. We saw Super Mario, Waldo, Tomatoes, Pokémon, Winnie the Pooh, monkeys, and more!


The Finish

As stated before the finish is at the Tokyo Big Sight. After you cross the finish, you are given a towel (better than a foil blanket!) and a finisher’s medal. You are given a bag of food, water, and a Salonpas pain spray that was valuable! You have to walk a bit after collecting your freebees to get to the family meet-up and bag collection area, which always is exhausting after running 26.2 miles. But with over 35,000 finishers I don’t think they could do it any other way. I maybe walked a half mile back to the family meet-up spot, but it felt like 2 miles since I had a blister that popped and I was in pain. Everything is very organized as expected. Because the end is at the Tokyo Big Sight (like a convention center), there are normal bathrooms and showers inside. There is also a Starbucks inside for the coffee lovers. I saw people getting massages and I’ve heard rumors of acupuncture. My little toe had a blister and ingrown toenail, so I had a bloody shoe and needed to go to medical after I finished. I missed out on the massage. I also felt bad keeping my husband waiting. I quickly went through that area and met up with him. Ending at the Big Sight was nice because if the weather was bad (which it wasn’t), being indoors would be helpful. Luckily the weather was warm; it was in the 60’s.

You may want to change your clothes, eat a little something and rest before walking to the metro. Or even get a massage.

Enjoy the after party!

 

Dōmo arigatōgozaimashita, どうもありがとうございました

-Jill Monroe

Power Breakfast Goals!

Power Breakfast Goals!

Repeat after me…Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Isn’t that something that has been following each of us around our entire lives? Truth be told, there is a lot of merit to the concept and athlete’s around the world swear by the mantra. Check out this great power breakfast recipe from our very own account manager, Magui.

USA Triathlon Level II Certified Coach and METS

“I like to follow a metabolic efficiency diet where I eat high in fat, protein and fiber, and low in carbs. This way of eating not only helps me control my weight and body composition, but it teaches my body how to utilize fat as fuel and not depend on carbs, which we do not have nearly as much stored in our bodies as we do fat. As an endurance athlete, fueling with fat, I can go longer, with more energy and with a lot less GI distress issues than fueling with carbs.

But this is not just a way for me to eat while I train, this is an everyday diet that followed regularly will teach my body to fuel using the stored fat.

So this breakfast is ideal for anyone who wants a high protein, sweet delicious meal that will keep you satisfied for hours. I make it every day before going to work and even on the weekend before a long bike ride or ski session. It’s super easy to take along with you too! You can eat it cold, or warm it up in the microwave and voila!”

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Milk (I like to use soy but choose whatever you like better)
2 Scoops Whey Protein (I like the women’s Aria vanilla protein)
1 Tbsp Natural peanut butter (the one with just peanuts and salt, nothing else, no sugar added)
1 Tbsp Unsweetened Coconut Flakes

Optional: 

0.5 Tbsp Chopped Walnut (Almonds or pecans)
3-4 sliced fresh strawberries

Mix the milk and whey first until it blends well. Then add the peanut butter and heat up for 1 min in the microwave.
Add the coconut flakes and if you want walnuts and strawberries.

Grab a spoon and enjoy!
I like to take this with my morning cup of coffee.

This recipe prepared with the walnut and strawberries (as pictured) provides:

Servings: 1
300 calories, 22g Protein, 19g Carbohydrates, 7g Fiber, 10g of Sugar and 16g of Fat.

 

Headsweats Ambassador Matt Johnson – Transition from College XC to Ultras

Headsweats Ambassador Matt Johnson – Transition from College XC to Ultras

Headsweats Ambassador Matt Johnson ran track and cross country at the collegiate level, culminating in a trip to the 2013 NCAA Cross Country National Champtionships. After college, Matt wasn’t ready to give up his competitive running career, and found a new passion for the sport through training and racing in trail races and ultra marathons. Matt’s friend and college teammate Clay Holton interviewed him on what it’s like to transition from being a collegiate athlete to an ultramarathoner and what advice he would give other runners looking to continue their competitive running careers after college.

matt5

How long have you been running? What made you start enjoying it?

I have been running competitively for a little over 10 years now.  I decided I wanted to try out cross country at the end of my 8th grade year in school (2006).  My  middle school PE teacher at the time was also the high school cross country coach.  He talked to me about joining the cross country team going into my freshmen year of high school after we ran the mile fitness test in PE.  I had always played football during the fall up to that point, but for whatever reason I decided to give running a try.  Looking back now, I can’t really think of a time when I didn’t enjoy it.  I have always loved sports that require a lot personal motivation and hard work to get better.  Regardless of my talent level in any given sport, I have always prided myself on being a hard worker.  I think that was the initial draw for me towards running.  It truly is one of those sports where you only get out of it what you put into it.  Outside of that, I have always loved the “team” aspect of the sport.  The camaraderie and respect amongst runners is unlike any other sport I have ever been around.  My best friendships in life have come through the sport of running.

Did you run in college? What was your favorite distance to run? What were some of your best times?

Yes, I ran at Augusta University (formerly Augusta State University and Georgia Regents University).  While I ran both cross country and track at the collegiate level, I would have to say that cross country has always been my favorite.  I am a true cross country guy at heart.  As far as my favorite race distance goes, it’s pretty simple…the longer the better (an early sign of an ultra-runner to come, haha)! In college that meant the 10k.  I have to admit…I was always a little jealous of the NAIA guys though, because NAIA sanctions  a marathon national championship every year, haha.  I did race a couple half marathons in college and really enjoyed those.  As far as time goes, I ran 26:05 for 8k in cross country, 15:59 for 5k,  and 33:25 for 10k…nothing crazy fast, but times that I am proud of.  Unfortunately, I was plagued with some untimely injuries during my last couple track seasons.  I also ran a 1hr 13min (5:35ish pace) half marathon.  I had a fifth year of eligibility in track, so I had an entire fall to just train in preparation for the spring.  My coach and I decided to play to my strengths and give a half marathon a go.  I actually think that my half marathon time is my fastest PR once you start converting it to shorter distances.   I definitely think I have still have some PRs in my legs whenever I decide to take a break from the trails.

Do you have a favorite college XC/track racing moment?

I have many great memories from my college running experience, but the best would definitely have to be qualifying as a team for the 2013 NCAA Cross Country National Championships.  That was literally my biggest goal in college and had been a team goal for four years.  That entire fall was a dream season for us.  As seniors, we were able to win our second conference championship and go on to qualify for nationals.  Toeing the line at a national championship and ending my career on the biggest stage (at the collegiate level) with all of my brothers (aka teammates) was a dream come true, and a perfect way to close out my cross country career.  It is truly something I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life.

fullsizerender

What kinds of races are you training up for now? What are some of the highlight races you’ve done since college?

My post-collegiate career thus far has consisted mostly trail racing (with a few road races mixed in).  After college I was looking for new ways to challenge myself and get me excited to train, so I decided to turn to the trails.  I have always loved running on trails, and I feel like my strengths as a runner suit me well on them.  I have raced in several Xterra races, as well as other trail races ranging in distance from 10k to 11.5 miles.  I also competed in my first  ultra marathon (50k) this past April! Racing a 50k was equally one of the most awesome and hardest things I have done in my entire life.  It tested me physically, mentally, and emotionally in ways like nothing else ever has.  I found out a lot about myself that day.

matt2

Do you have a coach or any specific training partners?

I currently do not have a coach.  I read /research a lot, talk to people, and use knowledge I have gained over the years.  That was a decision I came to after college for a couple of different reasons. One, being married now, working full-time, coaching, and having a number of other responsibilities/obligations to take care of throughout the week, my schedule is constantly changing.  I have always been a very meticulous when it comes to my training.  Now that I am in “the real world”, I have had to learn to be much more flexible with my training.  Sometimes that means switching workouts to different days because of the way I feel or a lack of time…others it might mean missing a run completely.  Bottom line, life happens and things come up sometimes.  I have learned to go with the flow and not get frustrated if my training week doesn’t go exactly as planned.  With all that being said, if I have a coach putting in the time and effort to write training plans, I want to make sure I am giving that back by following exactly what he or she has planned for me.  I have always maintained the mindset that if I am going to commit to do something, I am going to do it right.  As I continue to adjust to “the real world” and my new normal, I will definitely consider going back to having a coach.  Right now, I am having fun writing my own workouts and experimenting with new things in ultra training.  It keeps things fun, and as corny as it sounds…that is always most important!  In regards to training partners, my main one is my wife, Tia!  I also run a lot with the high school athletes I coach, as well as a few of my former co-workers.  I will always take any opportunity I can to run with people!

What is the next big race you’re training for? Any specific time/place/finish goals?

My next big race will be The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship 50k in San Francisco this December!  I would be stoked to come home with a top-ten finish!  I have learned that time/pace on the trails isn’t quite as relevant because of the varying terrain/course conditions from race to race.  I am just excited for the opportunity for the challenge of competing against some of the best athletes in the sport.  Leading up to it I plan to compete in a smaller race or two (both road and trail).

matt7

What kinds of workouts are you focusing on? Do you have a favorite workout?

Again, the specific workouts I am focus on really depends on what race I am training for.  However, throughout most of the year my training is usually going to incorporate some sort of tempo run, long run, and faster paced intervals or hills, among general mileage/recovery runs.  I also do strides throughout the year to help maintain foot speed/overall running economy (even when training for an ultra).  More specifically for ultra races, I have learned that it is important to research the course you are going to be racing and do your best to mimic that terrain in training.  The further I get into a training cycle for an ultra, the more my workouts become focused on helping me encounter/prepare for what I will see on race day (same applies for practicing nutrition intake as well).  As far as my favorite workouts, I have always loved long runs!  I also love longer progression runs and fartlek runs….basically any “effort” based workout that is less focused on hitting specific splits, and more focused on “feel” and allowing your body and the workout to progress naturally.  Lastly, I enjoy running any sort of hill workout.  I have learned that practicing downhill running is just as important as practicing uphill running when it comes to ultras and trail racing.  Right now in training I have been working on increasing my overall long run distance, as well as practicing my climbing and descending.

Do you run mostly on roads or trails?

Definitely TRAILS!!!

matt8

 

I saw recently that you started being sponsored. What kinds of sponsorships do you have?

Yes, I currently represent four different companies as a brand ambassador in my training and racing:  CEP Compression, Nuun hydration, and Headsweats performance headwear.  The team I run for, Anchored Elite, is also sponsored by Janji.  Janji is an awesome running apparel company that also works to provide clean water for those who need it in countries all around the world!  I am very thankful to have the support of these great companies as I continue to pursue competitive trail running!  I truly love their products and would highly recommend them to anyone!  For any other running gear needs I go to Fleet Feet Atlanta!

Lastly, do you have any advice for runners who want to continue running competitively post-collegiately? Or advice for runners who are seeking to get any sort of sponsorship?

For those that might have a dream to continue running competitively post-collegiately, I encourage you to not give up on that dream.  My main motivating factor was not wanting to look back in 10 or 20 years and wonder what I could have done in the sport if I stuck with it.  One of my favorite quotes has become “Only those who risk going too far, can possibly find out how far they can go.”  It is not always easy considering the majority of post-collegiate runners aren’t supporting themselves by running, but it can be done.  Set new goals for yourself after college so you have a sense of direction and purpose with your training and racing.  Also, always make sure you maintain a healthy balance in life.  I believe too much of one thing can be a bad thing.  Now that I am working full-time and married, I have had to learn where running fits into all that.  Make running something you do, but not who you are.  Adjusting to the “real world” and all of life’s demands can be difficult sometimes, so you have to learn to be flexible.  Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a workout or have to cut a run short because “life” happens.  Ultimately, you have to find ways to continually make it fun.  You have to enjoy the process before you can enjoy the result.  As far as gaining sponsorships, don’t be afraid to reach out to companies yourself.  Most of the time, unless you are at a world class level, companies aren’t going to come find you.  Find products you love and believe in and start there.  Put together a “running resume” and start sending it out to companies that you are interested in.  Don’t be upset if you don’t hear back right away from companies.  Positivity and persistency can get you a long way when it comes to both running and seeking out sponsorships!

*Blog credit goes to Clay Holton. The original blog post can be found here: http://www.holtonphysicaltherapyandperformance.com/matthew-johnson-transition-from-college-xc-to-ultras/

 

Headsweats Ambassador Program Accepting Applications for 2017!

Headsweats Ambassador Program Accepting Applications for 2017!

Headsweats is currently looking for athletes of all ages and abilities who use and are passionate about the Headsweats brand to be a part of their 2017 Ambassador team!

HEADSWEATS AMBASSADOR APPLICATION

Each year, Headsweats carefully selects 30 athletes to represent the brand as ambassadors and spokespeople during training, racing, and on social media. Our Ambassadors are part of our extended family, and they have a passion for what they do and a love for the Headsweats brand and message. Headsweats Ambassadors receive yearly benefits including:

• Headsweats headwear to train and compete in year-round
• A unique discount code to share with friends, family and those you meet when training and racing
•A profile on Headsweats’ website and exposure on Headsweats’ social media channels
•Knowledge of  new products and news before anyone else

ambassador-header-2016

We will be accepting applications for our 2017 Ambassador program through January 31, 2017. Since we receive such a high volume of applications each year, we will not be responding individually to each application. All selected 2017 Ambassadors will be notified mid-February via e-mail. If you think you would be a good fit for the Headsweats Ambassador program, please fill out an application HERE!

We look forward to reading your applications, and thank you for supporting Headsweats!

Sincerely,
The Headsweats Team

 

Gorge Waterfalls 100k…Still learning…

Gorge Waterfalls 100k…Still learning…

Sometimes, no matter how much you prepare, your race doesn’t go as expected.  HS Ambassador Joe Dean found out the hard way when unexpected illness stuck in the middle of his 100k race.  In this blog post, Joe discusses his first time dealing with mid-race nausea, overcoming the disappointment of a DNF, and how he found the silver lining in a race that didn’t turn out quite the way he planned.

I remember it clearly…it was October 22nd of last year, the day before my birthday.  Still hunting for a Western States qualifying race for the upcoming year to keep my lottery streak going when someone from the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers posted about the Gorge 100K.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to run a 100 miler in 2016 after still feeling the effects of the Bear in the previous month, so a 100K sounded ideal.  I glanced at the race; an out and back course in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge in Cascade Locks, Oregon. Having never been to Oregon, and joining on the heels of 14 other members of the Wranglers, I decided to sign up (which was a good thing because it sold out in a day).

As race day crept up, instead of flying up, my buddy Ryan and I decided to pull the pop-up camper out of storage for the first trip of 2016 and make an adventure out of it.  We stayed at Ainsworth State Park, which was about 5 miles away from the Start/Finish area for the race.  If you have never been to the area before, let me say that there is not a lot of real estate between the mountains and the Columbia River, which means that the campground and the train tracks were right next to each other.  I think I may suffer from PTSD for some time to come at the sound of a train whistle, but hey, we did say we wanted an adventure!  Train whistles aside, the views were absolutely worth it.  We arrived Thursday night and did the tourist thing on Friday.

I must’ve been tired from the loaded day on Friday because I managed a solid 6+ hours of sleep despite the best efforts of the passing trains.  I felt ready to go in the morning.  My only concern was an out-of-whack right knee that was bothering me for the 8 weeks leading up to the race and was about 80% healthy (which thankfully did’t give me any problems).  We started in the dark at 6am from Benson State Park with the first big climb of the course up to the top of Multnomah Falls (the second highest waterfall in the U.S.).

The course was absolutely magnificent, while brutal at the same time.  The 50K out to the turnaround point took us past 13 different waterfalls.  Being from the Wasatch, I am not used to this much green!  The first 10+ miles were quite a bit rockier than I expected as we passed by, up and down,  a number of waterfalls.  This made the course a bit trickier to navigate, especially with the rocks being slippery from the wet, mossy terrain.  After the first 10 miles, you come out onto the only significant portion of pavement on the course, a 2.3 mile stretch leading to Yeon Aid Station.  While I don’t normally enjoy pavement in ultras, it really wasn’t all that bad and afforded me some time to ease into a relaxed, but speedy cadence.  Despite the unexpected difficulty of the terrain early on, I was feeling good and on track.  Shortly after leaving Yeon, you arrive at Elowah Falls, which was my favorite waterfall on the course.

After Yeon and Elowah Falls, the terrain smoothed out a bit.  It seemed that once you got past the larger waterfalls, it wasn’t as rocky, but a bit more “rolling”.  Rolling, or course, is a relative term as I would have described it as more “up and down” than “rolling”.  Still, it was a pretty uneventful ride to the turnaround at Wyeth campground.  Little did I know that I was about to get a rude awakening…

I pulled into Wyeth in 6:50, which was somewhat respectable compared to everyone else on the course and only about 20 minutes off of what I was shooting for.  After a change of shirt and shoes, I got out of the aid station at exactly 7:00 and began my journey back to the finish line.  Unfortunately, that would be the last time I ate anything as my stomach decided to revolt about 2 miles into the return trip.  In 5 years of ultra running, I have never had nausea problems.  I suppose there is a first time for everything, but I honestly had no idea what to do.  Eating and drinking was a fruitless effort.  What was worse is that each of the next two aid stations were 9 miles apart, which translated to a long, miserable grind.  I got to mile 40 and relied on the volunteers to help revive me.  After sitting for 20 minutes and eating some food, I started to feel better so I decided to continue on. Unfortunately, shortly after getting on the move again, it flared right back up.  It seemed that movement alone was more than enough to make my stomach unhappy.  As I reached mile 46, I started to get dizzy after 14 miles of no calories and was having a problem walking straight.  I had no choice but to slow it down to a walk.  That 4 miles to the next aid station at mile 50 was the worst I have ever felt in any race…EVER!  The only redeeming factor was this picture that I took as the sun was setting:

When I got to Yeon again at the 50 mile mark, I knew I was done.  Without a pacer and without being able to solve the nausea problems between the last two aid stations, I didn’t feel it was safe to continue through the most technical part of the course in the dark.  Still, I sat for a bit to make sure.  My stomach was literally in painful knots and I ultimately decided to call it a day and save it for another battle.

It is still early in the season and there is no reason to jeopardize that.  While I always hate disappointing people and DNFing is never easy, I feel great about my 50 miles on that day and still believe I made the right decision.  As I said, nausea is new for me (would love to hear in the comments how you all combat it).  I clearly still have a lot to learn and I need to figure out how to react to it better in the future.  I will not likely search out another Western States qualifier this year.  In fact, I once again find myself thinking that I really want to focus on the 50 Mile distance (it is still my favorite by far).  Only time will tell for sure, but I still have a lot coming up this year, so stay tuned!

 

Headsweats’ 2016 Ambassador Team is Off to The Races!

Headsweats’ 2016 Ambassador Team is Off to The Races!

After reviewing hundreds of applicants for the coveted Headsweats’ ambassador program, the leader in performance headwear is excited to announce the selection of 30 outstanding athletes for their 2016 team. Chosen for their leadership and amazing accomplishments in their chosen disciplines, this year’s roster includes 18 new and 13 returning athletes from across the United States who compete in running and multisport events.

“The Headsweats’ ambassador team is an exceptional group of representatives for both our brand and within their own athletic communities,” says Headsweats President, Mike McQueeney.  “We’re thrilled to support and outfit this extraordinary team of athletes throughout their training and racing.”

This year’s Headsweats Ambassadors include, but are not limited to, Otto Lam, an ultrarunner chasing his Grand Slam ultrarunning title; Danielle Cemprola, a marathoner and popular blogger for Women’s Running; Nadia Ruiz, the youngest Latina to run 100 marathons in the world; and Christine Nichols Cross, an elite triathlete training for Ironman Kona. This diverse group of athletes will represent Headsweats while training and racing, and through their social media presence. In addition, Headsweats’ ambassadors will be instrumental in testing and supplying feedback for future products and designs for the brand.

The complete roster of 2016 Headsweats Ambassadors includes:  Smitha Arons, runner; Stuart Barrington, multisport endurance athlete; Jen Boudreau, runner; Penny Comins, triathlete; Kim Cowart, runner; Joe Dean, ultrarunner; Danielle Cemprola, runner; Andrea Hipps, triathlete; Hideki Kinoshita, runner; Otto Lam, runner; Bryan Lamb, multisport endurance athlete; Nadia Ruiz, triathlete; Cory Hall, runner; Joe Rainone, runner; Jesse Ebersole, triathlete; Matthew Johnson, runner; Susan Schenberg, ultrarunner; Angela Campos, runner; Alyssa Erickson, runner; Jess Perry, runner; Deb Tebbs, runner; Marcia Kadens, runner; Nunzia Lopez, runner; Linda Nguyen, runner; Angela Gillis, runner; Christine Nichols Cross, triathlete; Taryn Lynn Olmstead, ultrarunner; Scott Wesemann, runner; Ryan Delany, runner; Jason Myers, triathlete; Lyndy Davis, runner; and Taralyn Summers, runner.

For more information on Headsweats Ambassador program visit www.headsweats.com/pages/headsweats-athletes.html.

 

Boulder IRONMAN Headsweats

Boulder IRONMAN Headsweats

It’s been 11 days since Headsweats Sr. Account Manager, Lisa Maloney, and her husband, TR, completed the first full IRONMAN in Boulder. It was an amazing feat and we are so proud of what they accomplished. Here’s a recount from TR of the rigorous trainging and day of event, enjoy.

Lisa_TR_IM_Pics

My first Ironman event was back in 2009, and once I could walk up and down stairs again I swore I would never do another one. You know, “one and done.” Late in 2013 there were rumblings about an Ironman in Boulder. My wife works at Headsweats, so sporting news is common at the dinner table. She and I began talking about the event that night, and before I knew it we were both signing up for the big day.

Other couples thought we were nuts. It’s bad enough having one tired and cranky IM athlete in the house…why would you want two? We brushed aside those thoughts knowing that we make as great a team as we do a couple.

Long before the last snow we were prodding each other out of bed at 5am to make our way to the pool for morning swims. We rode together and ran together whenever we could. Most of all we recovered together and made sure the other was eating right and stretching.

Before we knew it the race had arrived and we were ready to go. We woke up, had breakfast together, grabbed our race bags and headed out the door. There we were, ready to go and sitting in the car looking at each other as the engine would not start—more drama for race morning!

After remedying our car issues, we were there at the start of Boulder’s first Ironman, marked and ready to enter the water. We held hands and strolled down the ramp and wished each other well. As soon as Lisa’s foot crossed the timing mat she was gone! She entered the water so fast I thought she was being pulled by a jet-ski.

The swim seemed to take forever! I know Lisa wanted to get on her bike (her strength) and I wanted to get on the run (my strength). Before we were even out of the water we both had our issues to deal with, she had to deal with broken goggles and I took a nice kick to the face and sternum. Seeing the exit arch was pure heaven.

After a quick trip through the transition tent, I was on the bike wondering if Lisa was ahead or behind me. Little did I know, she was a full 6 minutes ahead of me! Even with broken goggles full of water, she dominated on the swim.

Once we were on the St. Vrain out and back, I caught a glimpse of her and we both smiled from beneath our dorky shaped helmets and went back to work. It wasn’t until mile 80 that I finally caught her. She was having a great bike leg and it was impressive watching her pass guy after guy. Finally I pulled up next to her, cheered her amazing effort and made my way forward.
Right around mile 85 the heat began pressing on us and I was pushing the pace to finish the bike. It was then that I realized the insanity of hurrying a 112-mile bike to run a marathon. Luckily the crowds on the course were picking up and the screaming and fun signs lifted my spirits to keep at it. During the hardest climb of the day, I was greeted by the Headsweats crew and I can honestly say it is the only time I have ever smiled on that climb.

Off the bike and into the running shoes is when the real shock came. There were SO MANY PEOPLE CHEERING ON THE PATH! It was insane! I knew Boulder would come out pretty strong but this was like nothing I have ever seen. All racers have their names printed clearly on their number and soon I had what seemed like 5,000 fans.

With the 3-part out and back two-lap course I knew I would see Lisa soon. This was the whole goal of the training and picking Boulder Ironman as our event. We would see each other multiple times throughout the day. Speedy Lisa was 8 minutes behind me when I saw her running down the path. We slapped hands and kept going. Soon I would see her again and we would yell words of encouragement.

During the run my stomach started giving me trouble and I knew I would miss my goal but at that point I didn’t really care. I saw so many friends that I decided to make the last 6 miles a party and started jumping in photos with friends and stopping to give my step-daughter a sweaty hug. At one point, I even ran up to a cooler and grabbed a beer. Boulder knows how to party and Ironman is no different.

Running down the finishing chute I heard the words all Ironman competitors want to hear from Mile Reilly – “You are an Ironman!” Not only did I hear them I was there to hear them for Lisa. Our journey was complete. We dreamed together, trained together, were tired together and finally raced together. Congrats Boulder for putting on a great race. The scenery, the tough course and the amazing Boulder community made it a special day that we will never forget.

The “Next Big Thing”

The “Next Big Thing”

Sherpa John
Sherpa John

by “Sherpa” John Lacroix

I started running Ultramarathons in 2005, and at the time my family and friends all thought it was just “the next big thing” on my list of things to take on. They truly felt like I would run a few ultras, accomplish my goals and then move on to the “next big thing.” To this day, nothing can be further from the truth. Ultrarunning has become “THE THING” in my life. It has brought me a wealth of experiences, knowledge, and metaphors to use in my everyday life. Ultrarunning is hard though. No really, not just from a training and racing perspective, but from a mental perspective. We give so much to do what we do. We sacrifice time with our immediate family and friends. We miss out on BBQ’s…or choose to run the 30 miles to the BBQ and arrive late. The training, the sacrifices, the racing; it all can be very taxing on an ultra runner.

DNF’s in our sport are inevitable. For the first many years that I ran ultras I crossed the finish line of everything. Until I finally DNF’d. Suddenly, Did Not Finish turned into Did Nothing Fatal. It became OK to walk away from a race. Mostly because after 35 ultras, I had nothing left to prove. I lost my direction. Lost my drive. I had run so much and ran in so many races and events (Western States, Leadville, Vermont, Massanutten, Barkley) that I was running out of any real reason to train or strive for better. I grew complacent with my training and I eventually burned out. I attempted the Grand Slam of Ultra Running in 2010 and after being so incredibly undertrained, I out at Leadville. I returned to Leadville in 2011 and finished the race, but DNF’d others. In 2012, I finally realized at mile 66 of the Bighorn 100, that I needed a break. I was burnt out, looking for purpose, reason, and drive…so I walked away. I took 5 months off from Ultra running and did NO RUNNING at all. I ballooned to 185 pounds and started to look for “it” again.

Finally, at the end of 2012, I had the itch again. I set a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) to lose 25 pounds and return to Vermont to finish my 5th Vermont 100. Not only did I lose the weight, but I set a Personal Best for 100-miles in under 23 hours. So 2014 was a no brainer, return to Big Horn and get redemption there as well. If nothing else, to get a Hardrock qualifier to continue my quest of bucket list races. Below is a short film chronicling my journey. Click to watch:

Sherpa John

Athlete of the Month ~ Holly Finley

Athlete of the Month ~ Holly Finley

Update from the “Duchess of Disc Golf” herself – Holly Finley. She gives us a recap of her season to date.

Holly Finley in her Headsweats

Hello!

I can’t believe the end of the season is here! What an amazing year it is been. The Rookie standings for 2013 were recently updated and it appears I might accomplish my goal of “Rookie of the Year.” I also finished top 10 at the prestigious United States Disc Golf Championship – Performance Edition and earned myself an invite back for next year.

Below you will find my results for September & October of 2013 along with some video and picture updates.

September 2013

2nd Place – (B-Tier) Northwoods Open, Lac du Flameau, WI, 9/1/13

6th Place – (SuperTour) LedgeStone Open, Morton, IL, 9/6/13

23rd Place – (Major) USWDGC, Portland, OR, 9/20/13

October 2013

7th Place – (Major) United States Disc Golf Championship – Performance Edition, Rock Hill, SC, 10/3/13

1st Place – (B-Tier) Sneeky Pete Classic, Burlington, NC, 10/12/13

The SpinTV interviews Holly
The SpinTV interviews Holly

A new production by SpinTV. “Meet Holly Finley”. Watch it here.

Pruhealth ITU London Grand Final Sprint Distance Championships

Pruhealth ITU London Grand Final Sprint Distance Championships

Our Headsweats-sponsored Athlete and Ambassador Erin Lockwood got back from London this Fall after competing in the ITU London Grand Final Sprint Distance Championships. It was an amazing experience for such a young athlete…here’s her recap of the race:

Erin Lockwood, HS Athlete

What an incredible and amazing experience. I could have done without the cold water temperatures, but hearing people from all over the world yelling my name and Team USA as I biked and ran past them, it went above and beyond my expectations.

My trip to London started on Wednesday September the 11th when my mother and I arrived with bike in hand at Heathrow airport. We took a shuttle to our hotel which was located right at Hyde park where the race took place, so that was very convenient. After we checked in I went to pick up my race packet at the expo which was full of booths, people practicing in the pond and of course biking and running.

Some people had been there since Friday. I however couldn’t take off because of graduate school classes. once everything was taken care of, mom and I began to wander around, and by wander I mean go to Harrods and Burberry. By 9 pm I was in bed exhausted since i didn’t sleep on the plane over.

Erin Lockwood, HS Athlete

The next day, we got up wandered some more, it had rained overnight so the roads were slick. I practiced biking and running before I had to drop off my bike at 6 pm and went to bed early prepped for the next morning. I heard from some folks at bike check in that in the morning when the U23’s raced that many crashed because of the roads so I of course was more nervous than before.

Friday morning, it was raining, 61 degrees but kind of humid and oh the water temperature was 61 degrees. THAT WAS FUN. I have never swam in water that cold, prior to that it was 68 in wisconsin. The transition area was huge (ie more to run) and they did not allow towels inside…. so no drying off after the swim. It was very cool being with my fellow USA’ers and how our bikes were all racked together. We also had a lot of room at our transition spots which was lovely. The race started at 8:00 and my wave went off at 8:45. Everyone was so friendly and nice and cheering each other on. It wasn’t mean or rude.

For more on her race update, go check out her blog: http://adventuresoftribarbie.blogspot.com/

Erin Lockwood