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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

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!

 

What Are You Doing?

What Are You Doing?

Headsweats is proud to be the official headwear partner of Team Red White & Blue, a national organization committed to enriching the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.  Currently, Team RWB is completing the Old Glory Relay, in which 59 teams of runners will move a single American flag 3,450 miles across the country from San Francisco to Washington, D.C.  The runners have just passed the halfway point, and are aiming to finish their journey on November 8th, 2015.  This past week, Team RWB Marketing and Communications Director Dan Brostek traveled with the relay team for 6 days across Colorado and recorded his experience.

This is the discussion that happens multiple times a day as we carry Old Glory east across the country.

Relay Bystander: “What Are You Doing?”

Team RWB Member: “We are running the American Flag from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. over 60 days.”

Relay Bystander: “But why?”

Team RWB Member: “So we can have this very conversation.”

Running with the American Flag at any time is an awesome experience. Running Old Glory 3,540 miles through the heartland of America is absolutely surreal. The very image of one individual and one flag, unified in motion, generates questions, curiosity, honks, waves, high fives, tears, expressions of gratitude, and most importantly, the sharing of personal stories and experiences.

Over the course of six days I traveled with Old Glory from Telluride to Colorado Springs. I experienced some of the most epic scenery this country has to offer, and against that backdrop I’ve witnessed everyday Americans coming together from all over the state and country with a single mission…move Old Glory forward…one step at a time.  

And in these steps is where something truly magical happens. These steps create stories, and these stories create connections.  Given the time, I could write a short book on my journey with Old Glory through Colorado. Instead, I will highlight some of the unique experiences I had over the course of six days and more than 350 miles from the San Juan Mountains through the Arkansas River Valley to the Front Range.

There was a moment of total serendipity as I witnessed a few Team RWB members meet a complete stranger on our way into the small town of Ridgway only to learn that they were all involved in the 1989 Panama invasion. It was absolutely captivating to hear their stories and see them recount those harrowing experiences.

I experienced a moment of uncontrollable laughter when I learned what happens to a runner when you get too close to a cattle truck coming around a curve. You can use your imagination on this one. Bottom-line, it’s funny…unless you are the runner.

We had CDOT workers serenade us with the National Anthem as they paused their blasting for a few minutes so our runners could bypass the construction work and continue moving Old Glory up Monarch Pass.

I heard amazing stories from veterans, civilians and active duty members about how they found Team RWB and the impact the organization is having on their lives. One individual lost over 120 pounds and made fitness a priority in her life. Another individual shared his story about getting clean and battling his addictions. Another veteran with over 25 years of service talked about dealing with the struggles of readjusting to civilian life. Many commented on how they found the camaraderie that they had been seeking since they left the military. Some shared their Faces of Old Glory…personal stories of their grandfathers, uncles, sisters, cousins and friends that have positively impacted and shaped their lives. And some folks just liked the awesome red shirt and wanted to join the team, and in doing so found so much more.

I witnessed people testing their physical and mental limits as they pushed through the heat, altitude and rain to ensure Old Glory continued to move forward.

My favorite experience of all was the handoff…that split second in time when the energy and power of Old Glory transitions from one runner to the next. Having both witnessed and experienced “the handoff” hundreds of times, I still find it hard to put into words how moving this experience truly is.

“So what are you all doing out here?”

Well, we are creating connections…we are sharing stories and experiences, and in the end, we are uniting around a shared goal to enrich the lives of our veterans.

So as the flag continues to move east, take an opportunity to get involved and experience the relay firsthand.  You can still register as a relay or virtual runner and you can donate to help grow the programs that Team RWB is delivering in communities across the globe.  Visit OldGloryRelay.org to learn more.

 

*Blog post and photos courtesy of Dan Brostek

Headsweats Ambassador ‘GingerMantra’ Tackles her First Marathon

Headsweats Ambassador ‘GingerMantra’ Tackles her First Marathon

“I want to be stronger, I want to be healthier and I want to be a better athlete”

On Sunday February 23rd, Headsweats Ambassador Tambra Means, aka ‘Ginger Mantra,’ ran her first marathon in Jacksonville, FL at the 26.2 with Donna to Finish Breast Cancer. Everyone’s first marathon is a huge milestone – one we all remember because it empowers us to realize we’re capable of so much more. It fuels our spirit to sign up for another race, an even longer one, and pushes our muscles and minds to go farther. In her own words, here’s a play-by-play of Tambra’s first-ever marathon:

TambraMeansThe race weekend started like most, we hit the road early to get to the Expo that would be held at the Prime Osborn Convention Center, to pick up our race day packets and bibs and checkout the other Expo offerings by running gear companies that were there. We arrived shortly after lunch on Saturday and headed straight to grab our packets and I was excited to see my fellow #RunDONNA Ambassador Marcia before heading into the exhibit hall. Note – My Race Recap 2 will be coming next week which I will highlight my amazing opportunity as one of the 2014 #RunDONNA Ambassadors. This race had been my first half marathon, which I ran in February of 2013 and I really loved the display of support for breast cancer patients and families that they offer for runners to be a part of. There are huge signs that are relocated on race day to the Memorial Mile on Jacksonville Beach and also a large garbage truck painted pink that we all get to sign and it is parked along the course. Sometimes the things we see are a bit emotionally overwhelming, but they bring out the huge heart of all the runners in our communities.

PreMarathon

Inclement weather prevented me from finishing my 26.2 miles and we were stopped at mile 24 and bussed to the finish. Though I was just 2 miles shy of my completing my first marathon, I learned much about myself and know what I need to work on to be prepared to finish my next marathon. I am still searching for that special race and hope to be able to check “marathon” off my bucket list in 2014!

Read more about Tambra’s first marathon on her blog here.

Halloween Photo Contest

Halloween Photo Contest

Halloween Photo Contest with Moms RUN This Town!

Hey Moms RUN This Town members – we’re having a Halloween Photo Contest over on Instagram, and we want to see your funny, spooky, creepy Halloween Running Costumes!

Here’s how to enter:

1.) Follow Headsweats on Instagram – @Headsweats

2.) Take a photo of you going for a run in your Halloween costume or during a Halloween Race

3.) Tag Headsweats in your photo. Use the hashtag #HeadsweatsHalloween

4.) Top 3 most creative costumes win a custom sublimated MRTT hat or visor of their choice!

You could win one of these!
You could win one of these!

Hurry! Contest ends November 2nd.

Penny Comins takes on another IM

Penny Comins takes on another IM

Headsweats Athlete Penny Comins takes on yet another Ironman – Ironman Kalmar in Sweden this past August. Read her full race update – with emotions and all – below. Congrats Penny!

Ironman Kalmar

Written by Penny Comins

The blue carpet, the blur of the crowd, the music and one voice crystal clear – you are an Ironman. It never grows old. All 15 times it has been a spine tingling moment, only seconds before the immediate release of emotion. The past three months of training, sacrifices and the 140.6 miles you have traveled to get to this moment in time come exploding out. Sometimes it has been joy, sometimes bewilderment and often tears. This time it was tears.

  Ironman Kalmar

I finally got a time trail bike and trained harder than ever on the bike. The plan was to ride 5 hours 30 minutes and run 3 hours 30 minutes to get a new Personal Best. Entering Ironman Kalmar presented a relatively flat cycle course, playing to my strengths. The weather gods had other ideas, as on race morning the flags were at full attention around the small UNESCO town centre.

Penny Comins, IM

Winds gusting from the south at 50 kilometres per hour made the 120 kilometre loop on the open marshland on the island Oland a trudge down and low flying back. Unfortunately I didn’t make up the time lost heading down the island on the way back and was 16 minutes down on my time check heading back over the six kilometre bridge to the mainland. The final 60 kilometres were rolling countryside to Rockenby with a stonking headwind coming back in to town, just when energies were low. It was time to start on the Maxifuel Viper gels and get the caffeine rush in. I came in off the bike at 5.51.56. After a longer than planned swim, or more accurately described as a drownfest, 1.22.55, it was time to get the deficit back on the run.

 goofing around

I stared off at a pace that felt fast but able to hold. As the wind showed itself on the course and my body started to wear down my pace slowed and relaxed at just over five minute kilometres. As the world started to spin I took the precautionary step to slow down through a few aid stations, get some water on my body and in my Headsweats visor to keep my core temperature down. I took on salt; more Maxifuel gels and a few Sports Legs to buffer the lactic build up.

I started to feel better, or was it the finish line feeling looming? Regardless I pushed on. My devoted boyfriend kept popping up in the last few kilometres of the run in the historical city giving me splits and pushing me to go sub 11 hours. I just got my head down, engaged any energy left and pushed with all my might.

 Ironman Finish Line

Relieved to see 10.56 above my head I had done it. I wobbled to the catchers having pushed the hardest I have ever done in all 15 Ironman’s I have completed. Yet tears rolled down my face when I saw David, I felt I had let him down by not cycling a faster time. On reflection the whole field was slower this year with the crowded swim and hurricane winds. The elusive 5 hour 30 minute bike and 3 hour 30 minute run has evaded me again. Well, until Ironman South Africa next year.

My 3.34.27 did give me the 12th fastest ladies marathon on the day, including the pro’s. My Sigvaris calf guards kept my legs in tact to have the power to push when they would normally feel fatigued.

Let’s Rock and Roll through Ohio

Let’s Rock and Roll through Ohio

Rachael Allen made her way through Ohio, biking and running 250 miles to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s. She talks about her journey here:

Let’s Rock and Roll Through Ohio

by Rachael Allen

July 1, marked the first day along my 250 mile adventure along Ohio to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s. This is close to my heart because my grandma, Ruby Allen, suffered with ALZ the last years of her life. When she passed away in 2012, I knew I had to do something in her honor. The 250 mile adventure was created.

The original plan was to leave on July 4 ((my grandma’s favorite holiday)) but due to weather and thunderstorms heavier in the week, decided to get a jump start. Moving it early meant I would be riding by myself most of the way, with not a lot of support. Luckily, my dad was able to get time off work to bike with me. He’s such a big cyclist and was excited to bike across Ohio with him, 250 miles in 4 days…..

We kicked off our ride in Cleveland making our way to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. By this time we had been hanging out in the car wondering when the rain would pass. We knew we had a long road ahead of us and needed some musical inspiration! The wait out the rain we decided to check out the museum.

By the time we were done the storm had passed, still dark and overcast we knew we had to get on the road. My mom, such a navigator and our biggest support was happy to help us in any way possible. We ate our CLIF bars filled out water bottles and headed off on the adventure hoping for the best!

For majority of the ride it was overcast and cloudy, with some rain in between. Biking through Northern Ohio offered some amazing sites that I never knew existed.

Biking through Ohio was gorgeous, minus the dark clouds that loomed over. For the most part I felt pretty good, but had been battling a stomach ache all day which didn’t want to pass. The ride was wet and muddy. By the time we stopped my entire backside was caked in mud and molded to my body. Riding mostly on limestone along the Towpath trail made for a difficult ride slowing down our pace. Riding along the Cuyahoga River made for some flooding along the way, but we powered through!

from a 75 mile day: 68 on the bike then running to my house to finish with 75 miles.

We finished around Massillon knowing we have a LONG day ahead of us! Praying for paved trails and no limestone would be ideal! Kicking off the morning with a run then hoping on the bikes! Overall, day 1 was good with a lot of obstacles out way. I never once thought that we couldn’t get through this! Rain or shine, we have to make this happen!

This biggest thing fueling me through this is the support from my amazing friends, family, Nike family, and Trisports team! You are all amazing! Your words of encouragement fuel me, and I look to them for inspiration. You can all support by visiting my website: http://raerunlove.wordpress.com/

Also, follow me on instagram @raerunlove

National Running Day ~ Fill in the Blank Contest

National Running Day ~ Fill in the Blank Contest

What day is it? It’s National Running Day! This is one national holiday we NEVER miss out on. So, to celebrate, we want to give you some free Headsweats. Enter our Fill in the Blank National Running Day contest, and 3 lucky winners will win a custom sublimated visor or hat of their choice.

Here’s how to enter: