The More You Run, the Sooner It’s Done

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IMG_0988Some people are born runners. Others are not. I fall firmly into the later category. I love triathlons for the swimming and cycling that keep me from having to do too much running in a long race. So, my mantra for running is: the more I run, the sooner I’ll be done.

This mantra really helps me when I’m tired after the first two events and feel like walking. Actually, it helps me in runs too. Think about a half marathon, if I run even a slow and steady 10 min a mile pace, I will finish in 131 minutes. If I start walking and running, getting closer to a 13 min a mile pace, I’ve got to run for an extra 40 minutes.

Now, let me do some fuzzy math…

Would you rather suffer for 2 hours or 3 hours? (Yes, I know there is some big rounding here, but all you need to do is convince your mind.) Right, I’d rather suffer for less time too, so my answer is run more.

Ideally, this would work for run faster too, but again, that would be talking to natural runners. As a non-natural runner, I know that when I’m tired and well into a race, there are only 2 options: keep running or walk. The pace of the running is going to happen at whatever pace it happens (and I’m just going to hope that it is closer to 9 min pace instead of 10).

So, if you hear someone cheering “The More You Run, the Sooner You’ll Be Done,” it is probably me. Don’t look at me too strangely, please.

Trying the Tri Again

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If you read my posts last year, Sari to Tri, you know that triathlons is a family-sport for us. My MIL proved it again by competing in her first open water sprint triathlon. She completed it in 1:48! The cut-off time was 1:50, so improving by several minutes was necessary for her not to be DQed. By completing it in time, she got 2nd place. 1st place was running right beside her and finished only 20 seconds ahead. Check out this photo of these great over 65 ladies!

tryandytri

Glow Run: A family motivator

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A glow run is a great way to motivate the family to move. My family just did a night-time 5k glow run. It gave the children a reason to run 3 miles.

My older child is 7, and my younger turned 6 just before the race. We started training about 5 weeks before the race date. The first week, the kids ran 1.5 miles. The next week 2 miles. Then, we increased gradually after that. They did two weeks of 3 miles.

Let me be honest, they didn’t want to practice. In fact, we were even planning on pushing my youngest in the stroller, unsure whether she would get up to 3 miles. But the idea of running with glow sticks was a huge motivation. Every time they were told that they could stop, the race was for fun and they didn’t have to do it, they kept running because they really wanted to do this race.

Tips for running a 5k Glow Run with the family:

1. For a stroller, buy battery operated lights. Stroller have to be well lit so that no one trips over them. (Sorry for the picture, this is what you get with an iPhone camera at night.)

glowstroller

2. Wear a glow-in-the-dark shirt or a really bright, day-glo shirt. A lot of people wore the race red shirts, but they didn’t show up in the dark. My son wore yellow and stood out. And you can see some wore glow in the dark gear.

glowrunglow

3. Tie glowing items to your head or cap. The glow run sold headbands with lights that would work, but you could also just glue your own to a headband or tie it to a baseball cap. The glow run had given out glo-glasses, but these are impractical to run with.

4. If you are running with children or, in our case, a mother-in-law, have a plan before-hand for what to do if you get separated (on accident or on purpose due to someone running faster/slower). One of our friends’ son went much faster than everyone else, but he didn’t have a phone to call and touch base with anyone after the race. On the other hand, my son had to be told to slow down to wait for his grandmother.

Let me know your own tips & experiences on glow runs!

Is Trail Running for You?

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Continuing last week’s post from my husband about trail running:

HaveMatWillTri.com: Trail RunningMany people often ask me if I enjoy one more than the other when I compare road and trail running and racing.  I really have enjoyed both road and trails based on their convenience and benefits.  Here are some of my thoughts on how these compare and contrast:

Trail running is mostly on dirt and occasionally on grass.  This offers a soft and low impact option compared to asphalt or concrete paved road running.  Running on softer trail surfaces reduce the possibilities of new running injuries related to shin splints, IT band, and joint pains.  It also helps people who are trying to recover from their past injuries.  Trail running gives you the opportunity to be close to nature and away from the hectic life, air and noise pollution in the city.  It also allows for a decompression/stress free time due to its inherent laid back nature.  Having a partner, a friend, or even a dog may be a great way to enjoy the slow nature of these runs.

On the contrary if you are looking for races to PR, trails won’t be an ideal choice.  Soft trail surfaces which helps in injury prevention and faster post-race recovery also provides lesser bounce for you to move faster.   Also if you the person who enjoys lot of race support, music, cheering, trails will not provide that adrenaline rush or stimulation.   Other drawbacks I can think of is the possibility of tripping or ankle injury due to sudden change in directions and stepping one has to do to avoid trail hazards like rocks, tree roots, or wet slippery portions.  It is also not uncommon to encounter some wildlife if running in State parks or other wilderness trails.

Finally if I have to pick one over the other, I would probably go with trail running.  Running in itself is very meditative phenomenon for me.  Running on trails while being one with nature is even more therapeutic.  Happy running to you – be it road or trails.

Take on the Trail

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My husband is continuing to guest post for me. This week he is talking about trail running, most of which he has done as part of his ultra-marathons. And we thought is was cute that they published a photo of him as proof of International Competitors. He might be from India, but he traveled only 50 miles for this race.

HaveMatWillTri.com: The Dirt on Trail RunningTraditionally, road running and trail running attracts different types of people.  Road running attracts the intense, competitive people. In contrast, trail running is populated by laid back, outdoorsy people.  Most runners consider trail runs to be mostly in the mountains or hills.  This may be true in some areas of the country but for some of us urbanites and people living in flat areas like Houston, a trail run is any run which is not on a paved road.  It can be in urban or rural areas. They are mostly held in State or local parks or around a water body–a lake or river.

After running several marathons and plateauing on my speed, I was on a lookout for a new goal.  If I cannot get any faster, I wanted to push my limits on the distance and endurance by trying something new and something longer perhaps.   This led me to a race called Sunmart that used to take place every November in Huntsville State Park, north of Houston.  From my running club friends I had heard about the Sunmart race included lots of goodies from breakfast and lunch to hats, gloves, shirts, medals etc.  I was also familiar with the distinctive bright yellow long sleeved running shirts and colorful jackets each past participant proudly wore during the cooler morning runs.

After signing up for my first Sunmart 50K trail race, I was awed by the difference in that race and my usual city marathon experience.  First of all the location: in contrast to my usual downtown marathons where we struggled to get parking spots, this race was held outside the Houston City limits in a state park along a serene lake.  Before the race started, I noticed people happily enjoying a full breakfast with eggs, fruits, scones, etc.

After the first few miles into the race the runners spread out quite a bit making the run very different from the road races with lot of music, cheering and bands.  The trail race was very quiet and meditative experience in the nature.  The aid stations along the way were well stocked with lot of food, drinks, candy, and homemade PBJ, etc.  Runners were treated to BBQ after the race as well.

The weather did not cooperate very much during my first year of this race, with temperatures in high 70s to low 80s and extremely high humidity.  I survived and finished my race, considering that all my training was only on paved surfaces.  I enjoyed the experience so much that I signed up for the very next year when we had exactly opposite weather conditions with temperatures in high 20s.  Most of the race included dodging slippery slopes and icy patches.  The scenery was phenomenal however with branches having slight snow and sunlight making the icicles glowing on trees.  That was the last year for the race with a major sponsor.  The race was about to be discontinued but was brought back due to its popularity.  I was able to participate in this event for 4 straight years.

When it is Okay to Borrow Your Neighbor’s Wife

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It is okay to borrow your neighbor’s wife if you want to carry her in a race. Yes, you read that right–it doesn’t even have to be your own wife. It is in the rules for the World Wife Carrying Championships held in Finland.

HaveMatWillTri.com: Wife Carrying ContestI came across an article describing this race, and I just had to share. The race is only approx. 250 meters long. There are two obstacles. And another rule: all participants must have fun.

There is even a team competition. Three men takes turns carrying the wife and must drink the official “wife-carrying drink” before continuing. Sounds life fun, but I would love to hear about it from the perspective of some of the women who seem to be carried upside down!

By the way, Finland has some other unusual sports, including a mobile phone throwing contest and international air guitar.

Running the Athens Marathon

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A couple of years ago, my family stopped over in Greece to let my husband run THE marathon–Athens. Here is the experience in his words: why, how, and tips. (The kids and I visited the Acropolis museum and very friendly children’s museum while waiting on him. Then we met him at the stadium!)

HaveMatWillTri.com: Athens Marathon storyAccording to legend, the very first marathon in the world appeared on the route where the present day Athens Classic Marathon takes place. In 490 BC a giant Persian army invaded the small town of Marathon near the coast of Greece. However in the Battle of Marathon that ensued, the Greek army defeated the Persians, and a messenger named Pheidippides was sent to Athens to bring news of the victory. The young Greek ran the 42 km from the battlefield to the capital as fast as he could, announced his joyous message, and died. And according to folklore, this is the inspiration for the marathon race we know today.

I picked up running as a hobby ever since moving to the U.S. from India. Until 2001, my races were limited to half marathons and relay marathons in Austin, Texas. In 2001, after moving to Houston my wife gifted me a running journal and a book. This book was about training for a 4 hour marathon in 4 months. I was new to Houston and had several great running locations like Memorial Park and Rice University nearby. I, therefore, decided to go ahead and sign up for the first marathon in Austin in 2002, then Motorola Marathon. I was able to easily convince my brother who lived in Austin then to go ahead and run this one with me. Like most marathoners, we started planning our second one immediately after finishing the first. We also decided to run at least one marathon every year and to do at least 10 marathons (which later turned to a dozen marathons). Accordingly, I stayed with my goal for 10 years, attempting to complete dozen marathons before I turned 40. Along the way I skipped a few years with birth of our kids, but did 2 or 3 in other years. My races were all in Austin or Houston with a few ultra-marathons.

HaveMatWillTri.com: Athens Marathon experienceIn the summer of 2011, my wife and I were planning our overseas trip to India. Out of curiosity, I asked my wife to look into our stop options in Europe and if there were any good marathons available that time of the year in or around those cities. I was looking for my 12th race and wanted to make it memorable. As a marathon runner we are all aware of its history and where these got started. I was aware of the Athens marathon in back of my mind since it was a sister marathon to the Houston Marathon, which I had run several times. Timing would work well since Athens marathon was in November and we could possibly time our trip to accommodate the race on my way back from India. Fortunately, the cheapest airline we were finding deals with showed almost the same price getting a straight ticket to U.S. or getting a stopover in Europe and through Greece. We refused to believe that this could be due to the mass protests going on in Athens then due to their worsening economy. This opportunity to run in this race was too good to miss. I officially registered for the race.

Of course the flight we were scheduled on from India was cancelled, and instead of flying through Paris and then to Greece we were now scheduled via Amsterdam. We were able to get our itinerary modified and finally reached Athens. After a 3 day excursion to Santorini islands we finally arrived back in Athens the day before the race to collect my race packet.

During our entire stay in Athens and in Greece, we did not see any protests and everything was very peaceful. The race expo was scheduled at the Zappeion conference center near Syntagma square in Athens.   The whole area was surrounded by ancient sites with several outdoor cafes. Syntagma square is also where most of the governmental offices for Athens are located.   The race expo and packet pickup was effortless. Each registrant received a blue running hat and the white adidas running jersey. These were really nice. I have yet to use these and have kept these as souvenirs so far.

HaveMatWillTri.com: Athens Marathon Experience

Marathon, Greece

We had booked a hotel on the subway line about 8-10 blocks away. This was really convenient since it allowed me to easily get to the bus location on the race morning without disturbing my family. On the race morning, buses started picking up the runners around 6AM from Syntagma square to take them to the start line in Marathon city. Marathon is located on the eastern coast.

HaveMatWillTri.com: Running the Athens MarathonAlthough the ride was about an hour, we had to wait another 2 hours for the scheduled race to start at 9AM. The temperature was in low 40s with light rain, which made the wait a little unpleasant.   I was however well dressed with long pants, gloves, hat and a running jacket. There were several things at the start line though which kept me occupied: flags of various nations, the burning flame (which resembled the Olympic flame), and several people dressed in costumes resembling ancient Greek warriors. As the day light started to illuminate the start line and the festivities, I was able to see the hills surrounding the location. It was a very beautiful setting.

Runners were separated into 7 blocks to start. The first 10k or 6 miles were fairly flat, winding along the coast and going around the old Battle of Marathon and the monument to the fallen (tomb). Course started to change right around the 10K mark with a steady climb. The course was definitely hilly and a bit difficult as everyone says, especially between 10K and 30K. The temperatures and the light rain did make the conditions little less enjoyable for few runners. I had heard that this is the hardest major marathon in the world with the start line at sea level and finish in Athens about 110m (360 FT) elevation. Athens was certainly more challenging than the Houston and Austin marathons I was used to. However, I do not believe it was one of the hardest since I was mentally and physically prepared for it and my expectations were certainly very different than my typical marathon. I had decided that this race is not one to get a PR, but this is the one to savor and enjoy every moment.

The crowd support along the race was awesome considering the wet and cold weather. For the first half of the race, which was mainly through the countryside, there were fewer supporters, but support was very good whenever the course passed through small villages and towns. During the second half of the course there were more supporters, as we neared Athens. Aid stations were well equipped with water and sports drinks. The course sloped downhill for the last 10K or 6 miles allowing me to speed up a little. This and the anticipation of seeing my family and finishing strong at the spectacular old Olympic Panathenaic stadium gave me a new surge of energy. The last few miles were along the Presidential palace and national gardens.

HaveMatWillTri.com: Running the Greece MarathonTo complete such an historic race and finish in the marble stepped stadium was something I will always treasure. The finisher medal also depicted the Olympic stadium and had a beautiful gold finish.

Training Kids for Triathlons

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HaveMatWillTri.com: Training Kids for TriathlonsMy son is 7, but he has already completed 3 triathlons in the last year (all at his request). I feel he has been lucky to have two parents who know how to prepare, but I’ve watched a lot of really brave kids prepare to race without understanding what needs to be done. Here are some tips for preparing kids for their first or subsequent triathlon.

  1. Read the Instructions: This seems like a dumb tip, but I have seen lots of parents arrive the morning of the triathlon asking, “Where do all these numbers go?” “Do they really need a helmet?” Please, please take a few minutes and spare yourself and your child grief and read the instructions given to you.
  2. Practice Transitions: The number one thing that children need to learn is how to transition from swimming to cycling and from cycling to running. What this means is letting the child practice putting on their number (either already pre-attached to a shirt pulled on or with a race belt), putting on helmet and shoes. Then, walking bike out of transition. They will not be allowed to get on the bike until they are out of transition. On return, they need to drop the bike and remove their helmet before starting to run.HaveMatWillTri.com: Practice transition wet
  3. Practice Transition Wet: Putting on shoes and a shirt might seem simple when you a dry, but it is a whole different experience to do it wet. Even if it just means stepping in a bucket and then putting on shoes, practice these things while the child is wet.
  4. Practice Laying out Transition: Parents are not allowed in transition! Do not expect there to be an exception, even if your child is only 5 or 6. You much teach them independence here. Let them have all of their items and practice laying out the items they need near their cycle. If you can get a group together, practice doing it with everyone else’s items around theirs because it can get confusing.
  5. Prepare for a Crowd: Most of the time, you probably practice solo or with a couple of kids. This leaves the children unprepared for being jostled and stopped by crowds. The place where it causes the biggest problem is swimming. Swim team, with kids swimming laps and passing each other in a lane during practice, is great preparation. Barring that, asking your child to swim around people doing other things in the pool might help them become familiar with other people being in their way or touching them accidentally while they swim. In addition, teach your children how to transition under lane ropes. Most tri swims are snake swims. They swim each lap in a different lane, swimming under the lane rope to do this. Some swimmers may choose to take breaks at the end of the lane, so if your child is not, you will have to prepare them to swim around those that are resting in order to continue in the next lane.
  6. Musts!
    1. Yes, everyone MUST wear a helmet regardless. Without one, they can’t race.
    2. Put timing chips on the LEFT foot. This is because bike chains are on the right.
    3. Do NOT expect your child to change out of their swim clothes. Ideally, they should just put on a shirt (or racebelt). More clothing, just means a lot more time in transition. Kids races are pretty short, keep it simple. Even consider if they are comfortable without socks because socks are a pain when you are wet.
    4. Do NOT argue with volunteers. We are all worried about our small children accomplishing all of this on their own. Volunteers are volunteering to help your child. They have to follow directions to keep everyone else safe. Please be kind or volunteer to help yourself!
    5. DO cheer for all participants. Every child deserves to be cheered on.