Thursday, September 30, 2010

2 Days To St. George Marathon

In approximately 48 hours my wife and I, along with around 7400 other crazies will be standing at the starting line of the St. George Marathon. The gun will go off, the race will start, and we'll begin our 26.2 mile pilgrimage.

I remember one year ago at the St. George Marathon and the nervousness I felt. It was my first marathon and I had no idea what to expect. I think I've learned a lot over the last year. I think I understand pacing a little better. I understand how critical it is to start a race conservatively and not go out too fast. I understand the saying that the first 20 miles should be considered the first half of the marathon, and the last 6.2 miles should be considered the second half. At least for me, it's true that those last six miles are as hard as the first 20. I think I'm finally beginning to understand my body - to know what aches and pains are okay to run through and which ones I really need to pay attention to and back off. A lot has changed over this last year. I love the rewards and sense of accomplishment I get from running. Saturday's race will be my fifth marathon and I don't feel nervous anymore.

One situation I am keeping my eye on is the weather. I saw one forecast saying that the high for the day was supposed to be 99 degrees. Ouch! I have come to understand a valuable equation: Cory + Running + Heat = Barf. I have begged my grandparents to meet me at mile 17 with a motorized wheelchair. It's usually about that time when my legs begin to feel like bologna.

"To describe the agony of a marathon to someone who's never run it is like trying to explain color to someone who was born blind." ~ Jerome Drayton, winner of 1977 Boston Marathon

But....the more difficult the challenge is, the bigger the sense of accomplishment you feel. I can't wait for Saturday and the "agony of the marathon"!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Running A Marathon Is Like......

I found this quote a long time ago and was excited to show it to Mel after her first marathon:

Running A Marathon Is Like Having A Baby

It takes months and months of preparation… You spend all of your spare time reading books about the impending event… You’re either so famished you’re eating everything in sight, or so sick you spend most of your time in the bathroom… You’re sore in places you never knew could be sore… And as the day circled on your calendar grows ever nearer you begin to stress – if this is your first, about if you’re really ready for it and wondering how much it will hurt – and if you’ve done it before, if you’re ready for it again and knowing how much it will hurt… Finally the day arrives and you start… You think after a little while, “Hey, this isn’t so bad”, but soon that turns into “Oh my gosh… I think I’m going to die”, which turns into “Please, someone, kill me now” and you think people would have to be insane to do this more than once… But you push through it all somehow, and after you’re done you have something so special that you’ve worked so hard to bring to being and you have such a feeling of accomplishment and pride that suddenly it all seems worth it… and no matter if it is your first or your fifth, every one is special and unique and you will cherish them all… And before you know it you’ve forgotten the pain and you’ll be contemplating the next one!

Monday, September 27, 2010

I Look Like A Cheerleader

One of the athletes I admire most is runner and World Record holder Usain Bolt who absolutely embarrassed his competition at the Olympics. He is CRAZY fast and confident.

I made an enormous mistake at the recent Top Of Utah Marathon. I always try to ham it up for the race photographers, and this race was no exception. Then I remembered a cool action that Usain Bolt made when he set the world record at the Olympics. Well, I kind of remembered what he did. I thought I would try to mimic his Superman move, which was highly ironic since he’s so fast, and I’m so, well, not fast.

My fatal flaw was the complete lack of preparation and research about exactly WHAT Bolt did. I THOUGHT I remembered. But obviously there was a blemish in my memory. This resulted in a blatant injustice to Bolt. Just look at this comparison in our posture:

Here are the major problems:
1) Usain Bolt looks incredibly awesome.
2) I, on the other hand, look like an incredibly nerdy cheerleader.

Honestly, this is just ridiculous. I ought to be am ashamed of myself. Here are the main differences between me and Bolt.

1) Bolt has his fingers pointed up. I have my fists clenched.
2) Bolt is strong and muscular. I am skinny and gangly.
3) Bolt is wearing his country’s flag. I am wearing a fanny pack.

I’d like to assure you that I’ve learned my lesson. I will never again try to feebly attempt to imitate someone cool without first researching exactly WHAT they do. With luck I hope to avoid any future impressions of looking like a cheerleader going to cheer at a chess tournament.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Running Questions and Answers

I know lots of people who are getting into the sport of running which is so awesome. Here are some responses to questions that I sometimes get asked:

How do you find time to train with a job and family?

I try to do everything possible to not have running take away from time with my family. Family is definitely the priority. So for most of my runs I either go early in the morning before they wake up, or at night after they go to sleep. Of course this usually means getting less sleep, but if I go early in the morning I usually have more energy the rest of the day.

As I side note, I think this is part of the reason why crossing the finish line of a half marathon or marathon is such a huge accomplishment. It’s not just the fact that you just ran 26.2 (or13.1) miles. It’s also about all the sacrifices that were made during all those months of training. You are doing something hard. You are giving up valuable things that most people won’t give up (time in front of the TV / sleep). If it were easy everyone would do it. It’s those many months of preparation that make the race such an enormous accomplishment.

What training program do you use?
I like the training schedules from Salt Lake Running Company (CLICK HERE for their Half Marathon and Marathon training plans).

My main focus is to run about 4 times per week which includes 3 shorter runs and a long run on Saturday. I prefer to have enough time to build up to a race where I can increase my long run by one mile every other week. That way you are building very slowly which I think is the absolute most important thing to prevent injury. I also like to ride a bike once or twice a week to cross train.

What do you take with you when you run a marathon? And how do you carry everything?
I bring Gu packets to eat about every 40 minutes. They help replace the calories and carbs I’m burning and hopefully keep some gas in the tank. I’ve used Sport Beans and Cliff Bloks, but Gu seems to be easiest and fastest for me. I also bring some hard candy. My favorite right now is Werther’s Originals.

I also bring a camera with me. My running camera is a 12 mega pixel Panasonic Lumix. It is compact enough to be manageable and still takes good pictures. The problem is that this makes for a bunch of stuff to pack for 26 miles. I have an actual running pack which fits better and is more compact, but it’s not big enough to hold a camera AND Gu. So for marathons I usually take a fat, ugly $1 fanny pack I bought at the thrift store. It is hideous but it serves its purpose.

What do you think about during a marathon?
My brain does weird things during a marathon. It’s almost like it turns off. Often it takes such physical and mental effort to just put one foot in front of the other that I’m usually not thinking about much. In fact, sometimes I’ll eat a Gu, then a few miles later think to myself “Wait. Did I just eat a Gu or was that 10 miles ago?” For the Top Of Utah Marathon I planned when I would eat one, and I wrote the miles on my arm so I wouldn’t need to wonder whether or not it was time for one.

But I also have moments where my mind starts to wander to other things. I love when that happens because the miles just float by. Usually toward the end of a race when it gets really hard, I think about all the hard work I’ve done to get to this point. I think about my family and the people I love. I think about how awesome it will feel to cross the finish line. Those thoughts help me get through rough patches.

I want to eventually run a marathon but I can barely run 5 miles. Is a marathon even possible?
As long as you’re willing to work for it, a marathon is completely possible. The only major consideration is making sure you have enough time to build up slowly so you don’t get hurt. Our bodies are incredibly adaptable. They will do what we want them to do, as long as we don’t overload them and we give them enough time to adjust to the new demands.

I remember how proud I was when I first ran 5 miles. It was such a huge accomplishment. Then after a few weeks I pushed myself to do 6 miles. But 7 miles seemed out of the question. But….a few weeks later I pushed myself to do 7. And if you keep doing that, eventually you’re running farther than you ever thought possible. When you first get into running, it’s easy to get overly ambitious and try to run too far too fast. I did that too. And then I got hurt, and it took me three years before I could be ready for a marathon. Just take it easy, have fun, and the distance will come.

HERE is a link to a previous post on some tips for running a marathon.

What advice do you have for people just getting into running?

Don’t give up. It’s hard at first because your body is getting used to the challenge. Again, the key is to build your mileage slowly.

Do you have books you would recommend?
I like Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes and Lore Of Running by Timothy Noakes. But Born To Run by Christopher McDougall is my favorite book by far. Not only is the book an entertaining (and true) story, but it is bursting with helpful running tools and tips. It is also so motivational. It makes you want to just want to walk out the front door and GO.

"I definitely want to show how beautiful the marathon can be. I am the opponent of all those who find the marathon bad: the psychologists, the physiologists, the doubters. I make the marathon beautiful for myself and for others. That's why I'm here."
~ Uta Pippig

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Now THIS Looks Fun!

Attention Fellow Runners: Please, please CLICK HERE to check out this race, which looks like possibly the most fun race EVER.

If anyone in the area is considering putting together a Warrior Dash let me know. I would be on that race committee in a heart beat.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Top Of Utah Marathon 2010

(Editors Note: For next week's post, I plan to answer some frequently asked questions such as "What do you listen to while running?" or "How do you take pictures and run at the same time?" or "What kind of shoes do you like?" To submit questions, email them to

I was really excited for my fourth marathon, the Top Of Utah Marathon in Logan, Utah on September 18, 2010. The coolest part was that this was my brother Kenny's first full marathon. Kenny and his family were gracious enough to provide some awesome pre-race carbo-loading and a comfortable bed to sleep try to sleep in.

I knew it was going to be cold before the race so I stocked up on disposable clothes from the thrift store that I could leave along the way while I was running. I dearly regretted not washing the clothes first because I could barely stand to be with myself due to my stinky clothes. Woops. And good grief - could I get any more red?!?! I looked like an over-ripe tomato for crying out loud!

We joined around 2400 other runners at the starting line. Top Of Utah had the best race amenity I have EVER seen: a heat tent!!!! I ain't kidding you! There was an enormous canopy tent with propane heaters inside! It was splendid. Had I seen the race director I would have hugged him.

Finally the time arrived to leave our warm cocoon and head to the start line. As we were standing there I noticed this man's um, unusual pony tail (which strangely resembles the hair style of the GIRL next to him). We got a good chuckle out of that. I told Kenny "When the race starts, just follow the pony tail."

What? You want to see another picture of that awesome hair which screams "Business In The Front / Party In The Back"? Well, okay.

Later I felt guilty for making fun of his hair. I remembered that I was wearing a huge fake leather fanny pack from Eureka Casino that I bought at the thrift store. I figured that people would have good reason to make fun of me too. You better believe if I saw someone wearing a fat Eureka fanny pack I would make fun of him.

I was a glorious spectacle of mis-matched thrift store clothing.

Some cool guys wearing lots of leather shot their muskets and the race began! I ran the first mile with Kenny and loved talking with him. But it was REALLY cold outside. My face was frozen and my lips felt like the dentist injected them with Novocaine. I quickly warmed up though. Overall it was ideal weather for a race. Ideal.

After the first mile I started my run/walk schedule where I ran 5 minutes then walked 1 minute. There were quite a few people around me doing the same exact thing. I heard one guy with an accent saying that he was doing 10 marathons in 10 weeks. He was doing the same run/walk and we ran together for the first 12 miles.

I really loved the elevation of this race. Most of the course was downhill but not steep enough to really pound your legs, although the first half was definitely easier.

The scenery of the course was simply beautiful. I couldn't help but make lots of stops to take pictures. Seeing a steady stream of runners weave through the canyon was amazing.

We reached a particularly beautiful area next to a river. The other gaggle of run/walkers seemed to be much more focused on having a fun experience as opposed to hard racing. They hung out here for a bit to take pictures of each other. They didn't seem too rushed so I asked one of them if they'd snap one of me too.

"And the award for Cheesiest Smile Of The Day goes to.......Cory Reese!"

By mile 16 I was still feeling incredible. I decided I would start to speed up a little bit. In retrospect I think it may have been better to wait until mile 18 or 19, but it worked out okay. At mile 22 something cool happened. I was listening to the song "Marching On" by OneRepublic and I realized that even though I was getting tired and sore, I was still running. I may have (did) start to tear up because I felt so, so thankful. I felt so thankful for the body that my Heavenly Father gave me. I felt so thankful for my wife and kids and support for my family. I felt so thankful that even though I was really tired and sore, I was able to keep running. I'm not athletic or coordinated or fast, but gosh darn it, I'm stubborn. And you can do a lot of things when you are stubborn.

I made sure to give a high five to every person I saw. It gives me a good adrenaline rush. The countless volunteers for the race were beyond exceptional. They were so helpful, kind, and energetic. There was also good crowd support. My brother saw a sign that said "Running Is A Mental Sport - You Are All Insane!" I saw this sign and had to stop to take a picture:

My main complaint about the race was the fact that they screwed up measuring the last mile of the race. I swear to you, that last mile was at least 7 miles. Or at least that's what my legs were telling me. I finally saw the finish line and made lots of fist pumps accompanied by an ample supply of hollering. And then I was on the happy side of the finish line with a finishing time of 4 hours & 38 minutes!!!! I was thinking I'd be much longer than that so I was very happy. Kenny's girls made a very cool sign:

And Kenny????? Well, he ROCKED!!!!!! He finished at exactly his goal time of 4 hours & 30 minutes! I felt really proud of him for such an awesome accomplishment. With Kenny's crazy work schedule and traveling, it is so impressive that he has been so faithful with his training. I hope to be able to run a marathon again with him sometime in the near future.

And so my fourth marathon is complete. Marathon #5, the St. George Marathon is coming up in two weeks. Even though it's only one day after Top Of Utah, I can't wait to do it again.

"Part of the challenge of the marathon is pushing past what you think is physically possible. You can do more than you think you can."
~ Christine Hinton, running coach

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Marathon Game Plan

I am really excited about the Top Of Utah Marathon coming up in a few days. I'm taking a completely different approach with this race. I'm going to do something I've never done before: I'm going to treat the race as a big science experiment.

I've decided that I am going to do this whole race based on how I feel rather than based on a certain goal pace. With the St. George Marathon coming up in two weeks I have nothing to lose, no expectations, and my purpose is to finish feeling good enough to do another marathon 14 days later.

My method for the science experiment is to not look at my pace for the whole race. I plan to do the regular walk breaks and start off slower and then hopefully pick up speed later. I have perfected the art of starting out too fast and then crumbling toward the middle of the race so I will focus on taking it easy for the first 5-6 miles.

I heard a quote saying something like "You get three really good days of running each year. You just pray that the marathon is on one those days." I know what those really good running days feel like. But I've already had two this year (#1: Hurricane Half Marathon and #2: This 12-miler in SLC), so if by chance my third awesome day happens during the marathon, I'm going to kick and push. But otherwise I'm going to enjoy the journey, take some pictures, and figure out some cool dance to do as I cross the finish line.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

One Week To Top Of Utah Marathon

Monday, September 6th 2010: 3 miles @ 9:11 per mile pace. I did something I haven't done for a long time: ran 3 miles without taking a walk break. My knees were throbbing. It's amazing how taking a few walk breaks gives my knees a brief break from the pounding, keeps them feeling good, and leaves me with energy to finish fast. (I can go faster doing Jeff Galloway's Run/Walk method than I can when just running the whole time.) God bless Jeff. I'm a believer.

Tuesday, September 7th 2010: 4 miles @ 9:59 per mile pace.

Wednesday, September 8th 2010: Rest.

Thursday, September 9th 2010: 5 miles @ 9:54 per mile pace. Sometimes because of work I need to run obscenely early in the morning. This was one of those mornings. Ouch.

Friday, September 10th 2010: 27.3 miles on the new bike @ 14.4 mph. This was my first ride on the new bike. I went to the Sky Mountain Airport then the Sand Hollow loop. Parts of the road were really bumpy and it felt like I was in a washing machine with a brick. But on smooth road it felt like I was floating.

This was my first experience using clip pedals. Cory's feet clipped into pedals = accident waiting to happen. I had two near-accidents. One time I was stopping and unclipped my left shoe. But my bike leaned to the right. Woops. I narrowly avoided falling but got the seat RAMMED into my right cheek (and not the one on my face).

By the end my legs felt like Flubber. I'll admit: my first ride was a little discouraging. The pedals are really intimidating. Riding seems so complicated. With running I can just tie my shoes and go. Biking is intricate and seems risky. I have to remind myself that I'm a rookie and I will get better with time. I always feel really bad when people start running but then give up because it's hard or it hurts. I want to tell them that it will get easier and they will get faster and it won't hurt as much. I hope the same applies to me on the bike.

Something really bad happened Friday. Forgive me, for I have sinned. I ate not one Big Mac combo. But TWO BIG MAC COMBOS! IN ONE DAY! That is so completely disgusting. I am ashamed of myself.

I justified my actions by saying that 1) I burned 1354 calories on the bike, and 2) I hadn't eaten a Big Mac since May when I had the Pre-Marathon-Big-Mac-Tragedy. I don't know what got into me Friday. Ronald McDonald is evil. I shouldn't go to his house anymore.

Saturday, September 11th 2010: 7 miles @ 8:54 per mile pace. (Not counting a few water stops.) I felt good for the whole run and was able to keep a pretty good kick. Right now with the Top Of Utah Marathon one week away I'm feeling confident in my pace. But more importantly, NOTHING HURTS. I don't have any injuries or nagging pains. Sometime this week I'll fill you in on my game plan for the race (which DOES NOT include a trip to McDonalds over the next 7 days).

"Believe that you can run farther or faster. Believe that you're young enough, old enough, strong enough, and so on to accomplish everything you want to do. Don't let worn out beliefs stop you from moving beyond yourself."
~ John "The Penguin" Bingham

Monday, September 6, 2010

Two Weeks To Top Of Utah Marathon

Monday, August 30th 2010: 4 miles @ 11:04 per mile pace. I have been putting more of a focus on hill training with the Top Of Utah Marathon & St. George Marathon coming up in the next month. I went out will Mel early in the morning and we ran on Widowmaker.

In fact, every run I did this week was on the enormous hill. Behold.......Widowmaker!

Tuesday, August 31st 2010: 5 miles @ 9:30 per mile pace on Widowmaker.

As a side note, this week was an internal battle for me. I very, very strongly considered registering for the St. George Ironman. (One friend said "That's the Devil talking to you.") If I had been near a computer I would have signed up.

But then I asked myself a key question: "WHY do I want to do the Ironman?" It ultimately boiled down to the huge sense of accomplishment I would feel. But then I realized that I already feel a huge sense of accomplishment every time I cross the finish line of a marathon. And marathon training is much less grueling. A marathon is like a casual stroll through the park compared to Ironman.

I drove the bike course and run course of Ironman this week. I'm not exaggerating in telling you that it is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. The hills are beyond description. I honestly don't know how someone could ride up hills that steep for almost all of the 112 mile course. And then the marathon course? You've got to be kidding me. Remember the picture I showed you of Widowmaker? You are either going up or down hills like that for the whole thing. The people who do that race are absolutely incredible.

The other deciding factor is that the race is 8 months away but I have almost no swim or bike training. So this race may be a possibility in the future when I have more experience. But for right now I'll settle for volunteering at the race.

Wednesday, September 1st 2010: 4 miles @ 8:55 per mile pace! On Widowmaker! My pace doesn't include the time I was hunched over mid-run trying to force air into my lungs and watching stars spin around my head. Ouch. By the time I got home I was ready to blow chunks.

Thursday, September 2nd 2010: 45 minutes on exercise bike.

Friday, September 3rd 2010: 4 miles @ 10:49 per mile pace with Mel.

Saturday, September 4th 2010: 11 miles @ 10:34 per mile pace. Due to other family activities, Mel and I had to wake up insanely early to run. We did the usual route toward the airport. Except for the last two miles, it was pitch black the whole time. Thank goodness for flashlights.

Saturday also started a new chapter in my life! For a long time I have been antsy to get into biking to cross-train for running. I finally got a good set of wheels on Saturday: A Bianchi Via Nirone 7!!!!!

Let me tell you something: I LOVE this bike. It has the clip pedals that snap into bike shoes. So it is only a matter of time before I have my first fall on the bike when I can't get out of the pedals in time. I'll be sure to report the humiliating story to you as soon as that happens.

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
~ Winston Churchill