Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Seattle Half-Marathon Race Report

So, the last race of the year has come and gone. Shortly after the Rock-and-Roll San Antonio Half Marathon, I packed up Pooh and Monkey and headed up to Washington. As soon as we landed in Seattle, we headed straight over to my parents' place -- La Toscana Bed & Breakfast and Winery in beautiful Leavenworth, Washington. Within hours of our arrival, the snow started -- and pretty much didn't stop until we left more than a week later! Leavenworth is a beautiful German village in the Cascade mountains, and although it's idyllic, it's not necessarily a training Mecca. But we've all got to "suck it up" at some point, don't we? Undaunted, I headed out the next morning for a beautiful 10-miler through the mountains...19 degrees and breezy when I started, with light snow falling, it was gorgeous but COLD. Mission accomplished, and on to turkey and stuffing!

Shortly after our family Thanksgiving, I headed back over the mountains with Pooh and Monkey, with my sister and brother-in-law (and Team Michael Moyles co-founder) close behind. The passes were pretty icy, but we managed...

We picked up Linda -- stalwart TMM member just flown in from sunny Florida -- at the airport on the way in to Seattle. I've never seen anyone so bundled up for November in Seattle! But more on that in a minute...after a few relaxing days at home, we all headed out for the race...

Pre-Race Expo. The expo was crowded, and the location they chose -- the Westin in downtown Seattle, the same place as last year -- simply isn't adequate. The facility in comparatively small, the vendors are packed together, parking can be hard to find and expensive, and both the hotel and the expo itself were rather difficult to find. Packet pickup was well-marked, and the technical tee provided (Brooks) was comfortable. The biggest score of the night -- a pair of Gel-Kayano 16s, size 12.5 for $50! The savings on that purchase almost covered the cost of parking.

Race Day. Race day was well-organized and easy -- everything the expo wasn't. It helps that we ran the same race last year, so we knew where to go, what garage to park in, and exactly how to get to the start line. Sunday morning dawned cloudy and very cold -- low 30s -- and we made our way downtown. We all froze, and took turns teasing Linda about her attire -- two pairs of pants, three shirts, two jackets, a scarf, two hats, and gloves. I was in shorts and a t-shirt with a disposable jacket, and my B-I-L (brother-in-law) and sister were dressed similarly. Fortunately, we found a large 24-hour grocery store right at the start line, and made liberal use of their clean bathrooms (no porta-potties!) and their heater. With nearly 30,000 racers, there were only about 25 people in the foyer of the grocery store...perfect for us. The Team stretched, warmed up, and made a dash for the start line with about 10 minutes to spare.

The Course. The course was the same as last year -- only last year, I ran the full marathon, and this year I ran the half. The half-marathon course really just preserved the hardest parts of the full-marathon course, removing only a five-mile out-and-back across Lake Washington and a 7-mile loop around Seward Park, both almost completely flat. The race starts by winding from the Seattle Center through Seattle's streets out to Lake Washington, then a rather confusing series of loops consisting almost entirely of on-ramps and off-ramps from Interstate 90 and Interstate 5. I ran the first 7 miles or so with BIL, at about 7:55 pace, then pulled off to the side to wait for my sister. There is a miserably wicked hill at mile 7.5 -- basically straight up -- and I actually got to run it twice, once with BIL and once with my sister. The last half of the course is almost entirely uphill, starting with the big hill, then transitioning into Intelaken Park, which is about a 3-mile sustained, gradual climb. The views of downtown Seattle, the Space Needle, and the Puget Sound are incredible, and are a fit reward for completing the hilly portion of the course. From the top at Interlaken Park -- about mile 11 -- it's downhill back to the Seattle Center, and the finish line. BIL finished first in about 1:49, and my sister and I finished together in 1:56, easily blasting away her goal of sub-2. It was a very emotional finish, and a great way to end TMM's 2010 season.

What a great surprise to see Ade, one of the charter members of TMM, waiting at the finish line -- along with Pooh, Monkey, and other friends and family. Not long after hooking up with our supporters, we spied Linda sprinting across the finish line, still wearing most of the layers and clothes she had on when she arrived at the airport...but she was comfortable and finished easily.

Support along the course was great, both spectators and volunteers -- aid stations were well placed, well supplied, porta-potties were plentiful, and miles were clearly marked.

Post-Race. The "finish festival" was hardly a festival, but it was fair -- decent food and supplies, but just like the expo, the facility was simply inadequate. Crowded, too hot, impossible to move, long lines, poorly organized, just not what you'd expect from a major race. As the race grows, Amica and other sponsors will have to find better facilities for both the expo and the finish festival. At the end of the day, the Amica Seattle Marathon is still my "hometown" race, and one I'll probably return to every year -- but I'd love to see the race sponsors and organizers find better and bigger facilities now that the race is drawing tens of thousands of runners. We all celebrated (medals still on, of course) with a big burger and beer at the Elliot Bay Brewery, and toasted a great race, a great year, and a great team. Go TMM, on to 2011!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Race Report: RnR San Antonio

Editor's Note: Okay, so my posts are WAY behind. I've written a few, I just haven't posted, ignore the posting date, and pretend I actually posted this when I wrote it a few weeks ago...


Another race in the books! Rock-and-Roll San Antonio concluded on 14 November, ending my true "race" season. There is one more scheduled -- the Seattle Marathon on 28 November, but I'll run that race with the team, and won't really be racing.

Training for San Antonio has been an adventure. As long as I've been running marathons, I've trained by running on lunch breaks and Sunday afternoons after church. Well, that doesn't work so well in Texas, where it doesn't drop below ninety degrees until about 10pm, and only stays cool (relatively speaking) for a few hours. So, since moving to Texas in June, I've been getting up at about 4:30am and getting my runs in. I'm still using the "Run Less, Run Faster" training plans I've been on for the past year, and still think that program is one of the best around. Since starting those training programs, I've set a PR in every distance from 5K through half-marathon. So, on to San Antonio...

This was my first race in the Rock-and-Roll series, and let me tell you, these folks have figured out how to put on a great race. I've run literally dozens of races at all distances, including quite a few marathons and halves, and I can comfortably say that this was the best-organized race I've ever run. From expo through finish festival, every aspect had been clearly thought through, and was nearly flawlessly produced. The expo was quite crowded, and they really could have rented a considerably larger space, but they did well with what they had. Packet pickup was clearly marked, and if you couldn't see the well-marked signs, the volunteers were cheerful and helpful.

Race day was, again, very well organized. I arrived later than planned, and couldn't quite get up to my designated Corral, but managed to start in Corral 4 instead of Corral 2, and the difference was negligible. Let me just say I'm a HUGE fan of the wave start -- each corral was separated by about 30 seconds, which almost completely alleviated the problem of spending the first mile dodging and dancing through hundreds of other runners, many of whom had probably "corralled up". I was off and running at race pace with the first half mile or so. The course wound through the streets of old San Antonio, including some mileage along the historic Riverwalk and (of course) a lap around the Alamo. Surprisingly hilly for Texas, but nothing steep or uncomfortable. The full marathon route includes a great run out along the San Antonio mission trail, which I'm actually sorry I missed. Both the half and the full finished at the Alamo Dome in downtown SA, with the entire parking lot dedicated to sponsors and family meeting areas divided by last name. Only a minor complaint here -- I couldn't discern any rhyme or reason to how the letter were distributed, and it certainly wasn't alphabetical. Regardless, the wonders of the iPhone and text messaging made finding Pooh and Monkey easy, and they were in full "cheer mode!" Monkey even had her "LiveSTRONG" outfit on and her "Team Michael Moyles" shirt. Too cute.

1:44.12 (7:57 pace) for the finish time -- nothing spectacular, but right on my planned pace of 8-minute miles. I was very happy with my splits, which were remarkably consistent:

Mile 1: 8:23

Mile 2: 7:48

Mile 3: 7:47

Mile 4: 7:50

Mile 5: 7:50

Mile 6: 7:49

Mile 7: 8:01 (up the hill)

Mile 8: 7:43 (down the hill)

Mile 9: 7:54

Mile 10: 7:52

Mile 11: 7:55

Mile 12: 8:12

Mile 13.1: 9:05

Pretty much the most consistent race I've ever run. One down, and one to go! On to Seattle on the 28th!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Too Hot to Trot

Wow, has it really been almost six months since my last blog? Well, so much has happened...just for starters:

1. Selected for reassignment from the Pentagon

2. Moved wife and baby to San Antonio, Texas

3. Tried a few runs and absolutely died in the heat

4. Spent three months trying to acclimate to the temps by running at 0430

5. Got a CLEAR brain scan in September!

6. Turned 29 (yes, again)

You get the's been a busy six months. The greatest news is, of course, the clear brain scan. There was no sign of cancer, though there are a couple of areas they want to keep an eye on, just to make sure the prosthetic is healing correctly -- but the important thing is no malignancy. Just some scar tissue and fluid buildup that, as long as it remains stable, shouldn't be a problem. I'm going back in December for my next update -- living 90 days at a time!

If you've never been here -- Momo, I suppose Arizona counts -- the Texas heat is positively oppressive. We arrived in June, so we've been here through the heat of the summer...over 100 degrees by about 9am, and it stays above 90 until about 10pm. Humidity hovers around 95%, so the heat index during July and August is usually around 110 - 115. I've never run in those conditions before -- it really saps both pace and distance. My first few runs left me laid out in the shade with a water bottle, wondering how I'm going to get home. Hitchhiking in south Texas can be dangerous! And, that's not all...there are really no hazards to running in Virginia or California. Here in Texas, you have to watch out for all kinds of crazy things -- on this past Sunday's long run, I passed four deer, then was nearly clobbered by a coyote, watched various rabbits and raccoons scamper out of the way, and to top it all off, came upon a sizable rattlesnake, sunning himself on the roadside, mere inches from my path. Yes, my pace quickened a bit!

Team Michael Moyles is doing well. We are approaching the 70% mark, with still three months to go in the year. Several Team members have completed marathons or half-marathons, a first for many, and a PR for most, even a podium finish for my sister! Next up on the docket is my buddy T running the NYC marathon in a few weeks, followed by LiveSTRONG Challenge Austin, then the Rock-and-Roll San Antonio Half-Marathon, ending the year with the Seattle Half-Marathon on November 28th. I also recently learned that Team LiveSTRONG has agreed to sponsor the Austin Marathon -- and the new "LiveSTRONG Marathon" will be in Austin in February. There NO WAY I can miss that one, so I'm already planning for next year! If you haven't had a chance to check out our website or donate a few bucks, we'd really appreciate it...we're really just a few donations away from our goal of $10,000.

Thanks for everything each of you do every day, inspiring others and posting your runs and other accomplishments. I don't always reply or comment, but I read your blogs every week, and love to hear from my friends in the endurance athletics community. I promise to update more often -- keep on running!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Not Bad for a Lunch Break

Good evening! Things are going quite well at this end. Our fundraiser is making significant progress, thanks to many of you, my faithful readers. My training is also going well, I'm up to 8 - 9 miles on my long runs now, and speed is slowly returning...this week's runs of 8 and 9 miles were both about 7:45 pace, so I'm getting back into shape.

This week's 8-mile run was a wonderful runner's tour of DC, and I just had to share it with you...if you're local to the DC area, I highly recommend it!

Starting at the Pentagon, I headed out through Ladybird Johnson Park (by the way, in the fall this place rocks the fall colors), and hit the Mount Vernon Trail just opposite the Pentagon. Heading north, the two-mile point is marked by the bridge to Roosevelt Island, which makes a great five-mile loop by itself -- but not today! Struggling up the steep switchback to the pedestrian overpass, I cross George Washington Parkway and head over the Key Bridge into Georgetown. The Key Bridge hits Georgetown right on M Street, and as you reach the end of the bridge you're staring directly at The Georgetown Running Company, a local icon...and a great pit stop if you need a gel, some socks, or a new pair of shoes...check their blog for some great advice on the DC running scene and local race reports. Pulling a quick 180-degree turn at the east end of the Key Bridge, a quick jog through the Francis Scott Key Memorial (located just feet from where his home used to stand in old Georgetown) lands you on the C&O Canal Towpath, right at mile 3.

This little trail is worthy of a blog all it's own, but for now just know that you're actually running on an old cartpath -- when mules pulled barges down the C&O Canal, and occasionally still do during tourist season. Nowadays, it's a great running trail, and nine days out of ten I'm the only one on it. You can see from the photos above and below -- on a beautiful spring day at noon, in the middle of downtown DC, there's not a soul in sight. Love it! The path crosses under several pedestrian overpasses, and even winds its way through a few restaurant courtyards and business patios, but still makes a great and historic section of the run, taking you from mile 3 almost to mile 4.

A hard right at the end of the towpath puts you on the Rock Creek Park Trail -- familiar territory to any Marine Corps Marathoners, who spend almost half of their marathon time on Rock Creek Parkway (at least, they did when I ran it in 2006). By the time you reached the halfway point at mile 4, turn around and look behind you -- historic Georgetown University and the Key Bridge on the left, the Georgetown waterfront on the right, and the Potomac waterfront you just ran in between.

Don't miss the fact that at this point, only halfway into the run, you've encountered no less than five National Historic Landmarks, and even ran through two National Historic Parks. Turning around and looking ahead toward the Rock Creek Park trail, the scenery gets even better and more historic -- that's the infamous Watergate Hotel complex on the left, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the middle, and barely visible in the distance is the Lincoln Memorial and the Memorial Bridge.

The trail takes you along the Potomac, and eventually up a gradual incline to the Lincoln Memorial.

No matter what bridge you run over in the DC area, you're bound to be greeted (or chased) by "the guardians." These towering (and often intimidating) statues sit on either side of the bridge, on both ends, and were usually gifts to the United States by foreign dignitaries or nations. The two greeting you as you reach the top of the hill -- one called "Music and Harvest" (pictured below) and the other called "Aspiration and Literature" -- were gifts to the United States from Italy in 1925, and both bronze mammoths stand nearly 20 feet tall, peering down on miniscule runners below as if to say, "Better keep moving, boy..."

On the other side of the Memorial Bridge, take a right on the footpath just past the Arlington Cemetery Metro stop, and wind down the hill into Arlington National Cemetery. This stretch of the memorial bridge is a popular place for protests, by the way -- almost as much a DC landmark as everything you've seen so far. This one was for the crisis in Darfur...but tomorrow it will be something else. I just smile and keep running.

Arlington National Cemetery is a humbling and majestic place. On this run, at times you can look up the hill to Kennedy's eternal flame and The Arlington House, other times you can see gravestones that stretch to the horizon...and about 50% of the time I run this route, you can see the long processional from a military funeral.

Just past the 6-mile mark, you approach the Netherlands Carillon. Not a common or well-known landmark, it's really quite impressive....from its twin bronze lions guarding the entrance to its 127-foot bell tower, it commands quite a presence. With a little forethought and accurate pacing, you can schedule your lunchtime run so that you run under the carillon as it's ringing -- it didn't happen today, but I've been lucky a few times. The Netherlands Carillon is perhaps best known because it is rumored to have one of the best views in all of downtown DC -- standing between the lions, you can see -- from left to right -- The Old Post Office, Union Station, The Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Capitol building.

The path from the Carillon leads to one of the most famous DC landmarks, The Marine Corps War Memorial. I love this part of the run. I always slow down, and for my first year here in DC I would always stop, kneel and pray for my buddy Steve, a Marine who just returned from Iraq. Even now, I still slow down to pay respects to what Steve -- and Ty, and many others -- have done for us and for our country. God be with you, my friends, and thank you for your service.

A quick loop around the Memorial send me over the seven-mile mark and points me straight "home" to the Pentagon. Grand total -- 8.09 miles, 1:02.28, 7:43 pace. In one hour -- 8 miles, 11 National Historic Landmarks, one National Historic Park, 3 National Monuments, two angry horses, one protest, along with Watergate, the Kennedy Center, the Georgetown Running Company, and some great scenery. Not bad for a lunch break.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Living STRONG for Cancer

First, thanks to all of you for your creative and thoughtful suggestions on "The Bright Side" of not running. I didn't realize how much time and money I could save by giving it up! Still, I just can't help it...I've gotta get out there. Training has gone well lately, though the snow has forced me onto the hated treadmill a few times. I'm up in the 6 - 7 mile range, and averaging sub-8...not where I was before surgery, but getting there.

It's been a while since my last update -- I've had the time to blog since I've been at home recovering, but have spent most of my blog time setting up this year's fundraising effort. This has been a momentous year for me -- in the past twelve months, I've had three surgeries, 42 rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, and six weeks of IV infusions for immunotherapy. I figured a record-breaking year should be followed by a record-breaking fundraiser. So, I'm overjoyed to announce: TEAM MICHAEL MOYLES!

After a suggestion from my brother-in-law
CJ, we contacted the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and worked with them for a couple weeks to set up a LiveSTRONG team and arrange a major fundraiser. This is by far my largest effort yet -- so far, this Team consists of eight runners and at least nine different races, every race and every runner raising money to find a cure for cancer. I am so incredibly excited about this effort! So, why not shoot for the stars? I decided to aim high and try to raise a whopping ten grand by the end of the year...with over $1,000 raised in just our first week, we're well on our way, but still have quite a ways to go. That said, we've just scratched the surface of the potential this team may have...CJ, a brilliant graphic design artist, has taken it upon himself to design everything from our webpage to our team logo, t-shirts, coffee mugs, the works...being the geek that I am, I've taken over the Team Michael Moyles website, our Facebook group, and fundraising mechanics, using his logos and advertising materials. So far, it's a perfect match, and we're both very happy. Here are a few samples...what do you think?

We're not ready to "go live" with everything yet (the full website, products, etc), but the fundraiser is already up and running (you can use the Team Michael Moyles link above). I think just about everyone who regularly checks my blog is also a Facebook friend and/or on my e-mail distribution list, but in case you aren't -- check the page, and if you're inspired, make a donation! I don't think you'll find a better cause.

Can we do it? $10,000 in a year? I think so, with your help. I'm off to recover from my root canal/crown excavation this morning...and what better way that with a nice long run?

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Bright Side

As of today, it's been 10 days since my last run. For me, this is an eternity. I'll find out on Wednesday how long I'll have to wait before returning to the roads. So, in the meantime, I've been trying to find the silver lining in the whole thing.

Call me an optimist.

So, the bright side of not being able to run:

1. Recovery. I can heal, the incision won't split, my heart rate won't spike, the stitches won't come out, blah blah blah yada yada...that's a given. Moving on the more interesting things.

2. Time. Wow, running and training takes a lot of time! You don't really realize how much until you stop. I've been catching up on reading, schoolwork, blogging (yes, even blogging), podcasts, and especially playing with my baby girl...but in most cases (except baby girl, of course), I'd rather be running.

3. Toenails! What a novel idea. At least two of my toes are being-introduced to the concept.

4. Laundry. Okay, so I'm adding this one on Pooh's behalf, since I was banned from the laundry room about nine years ago. Let's face it, folks -- running generates a lot of laundry. At least two -- and sometimes three -- sets of socks and underwear a day, plus one set of sweaty/stinky clothes and at least one other set of clothes each day, plus do the math. And while we're on the topic, has anyone found a detergent that actually gets the stink out? I've tried WIN and SportWash, and neither one made any difference. Don recommends Pro-Wash, but I'm a bit put off by the price...other suggestions?

5. Hmmm. Ummm...shoot...

Okay, so I started this blog on Saturday with the title, "10 Benefits of NOT Running." I figured I could easily come up with 10 benefits of taking a break from training. I'm stuck at four, I've changed the title, and I need your help. What am I forgetting? Help me find The Bright Side! Six more...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Run For Your Life

So, recovery has gone very well so far. It's been nearly a week since my skull reconstruction, and I feel very good...the headaches are gone, I'm off nearly all meds (only seizure suppression remains), and not in any pain. We're not completely out of the woods, as there is still significant risk of infection or other complications, but we haven't seen any signs of them so far. I look pretty good too:

No real swelling or discoloration to speak of. I also maintained my track record of being discharged from the hospital early. So, five surgeries in, I got to thinking -- is having brain surgery something you just get good at? Is a procedure so invasive, injurious, and with such a high risk of complications something your body just "gets used to"?

No way.

What makes my body able to handle these procedures with relative ease? Why do I recover so quickly? Why have my stays in the hospital always been cut short? After removal of the right frontal lobe, why was my stay in the hospital the same as someone who had their tonsils removed? Why am I still the only brain surgery patient in the recorded history of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to skip ICU completely? How can I have brain surgery and run a half-marathon six weeks later, or train for and run a full marathon while undergoing twelve months of chemotherapy? I've discussed this with my neurosurgeon here, and with those at Cedars and elsewhere...and the answer, quite simply, is fitness.

You all know by now that I'm a man of strong faith, and I believe God has preserved me in this world to serve Him and testify on His behalf. No doubt in my mind that plays a role. But, to bring this blog to a close, let me say it quite clearly:

I believe fitness -- running, in particular -- has saved my life. After my first surgery, I made a decision to put my body in the best possible physical shape to fight cancer, and I think much of my success in the fight is a direct result of that decision.

Would I have made it through five brain surgeries if I had been out of shape? What about 22 rounds of chemotherapy and 42 rounds of radiation? Had I not been in marathon shape through all of it, would I have recovered as quickly? Likely not. Would I have recovered at all? Who knows. Would I even be alive today? Perhaps not. A few months ago, I watched the movie "Run For Your Life," the story of Fred Lebow, the founder of the New York City Marathon. The title of the movie indicates that running defined him, and was his primary reason for living. For me, it's not my reason for living -- it's the reason I'm alive. Don't miss the difference.