Last minute tips

I thought I’d use my last blog post before the HHR to wish everyone a great race and pass along a few thoughts on pre-race day prep.

For some of you, this is all going to be Mr. Obvious stuff. It wasn’t to me as little as 3 years ago though, so here’s my personal pre-race prep.

Starting the Friday morning before a Saturday morning race, I shift over to a low residue diet aka low fiber diet. If I’m not making myself clear, there’s always Google. As with any of this stuff, if you haven’t tried something new before race day, don’t. Try it in training first. I have a marathon ritual that’s more extreme than my half-marathon prep. For the half, I’ll emphasize carbs in the last 24 hours, but I’ve never experienced a glycogen depletion wall under 20 miles. I figure if my glycogen stores are near normal, I’ll be fine.

If you’re like me and you’ve ever forgotten to charge your Garmin etc. before a long run, maybe a checklist is a good idea. I’m not exactly a morning person so I lay out all my gear the night before. No new gear! You don’t want to discover that your new shirt feels like sandpaper at mile 8. Try to get a good night’s sleep.

On race morning, I get up a couple of hours before the race and have my usual double espresso along with some sports drink to get hydrated and top off the glycogen stores. The last thing I want to do is find myself in a porta-potty 5 minutes before the race starts (or worse…) I follow the advice of getting any eating (not me, liquids only) and carb-intake out of the way at least an hour before the race starts.

Pump yourself up with some music in the car! Arrive early enough that you don’t stress out about parking, that last-minute bathroom stop, and getting to your corral on time. I like to do a little active stretching in the corral just before the national anthem – squats, lunges if there’s room.

Have fun out there!

What to watch: Cinematic inspiration during your taper

Ending at the beginning – this is a long post! I’ve been working on it for a few weeks now.

When I’m in the taper period before a goal race, I like to combine my love of running with my love of cinema. Since I’m not supposed to run as much, I sublimate that into watching others run. I find it motivational, even if the particular movie doesn’t have a runner’s happy ending. So, I like to watch at least one running movie in the weeks or days before a goal race.

So, in no particular order, here are several movies that have running as their central focus. I’ve also tossed in a few that aren’t primarily about running, but feature it as a key plot element. Sorry, my quick takes on each may contain a spoiler or two, but these are mostly true stories anyway. I include my personal Netflix rating (I know, they are mostly positive, but hey, I like running movies!) If you have other favorites I haven’t seen or remembered to include here – please chime in with a comment!

Another tip: the “real thing” is often available on YouTube. A favorite is the “Look at Mills! Look at Mills!” call – every bit as thrilling as “Do you believe in miracles!”

Chariots of Fire – A mostly true story focusing on British and American runners at the 1924 Olympics. Fantastic acting. Great story. Epic theme from Vangelis. Don’t miss: the Trinity Great Court Run – circumnavigating the courtyard during the twelve strikes of the clock. Who needs stopwatches? 4/5 stars.

Spirit of the Marathon – This documentary is about the 2005 Chicago Marathon. Six runners are profiled – including both elites (Deena Castor, e.g.) and mortals chasing both BQs and the finish line. Tons of great input from a who’s who of marathoners: Beardsley, Radcliffe, Rodgers, Salazar, Shorter, Waitz. 4/5 stars.

Without Limits – The better “Pre” movie, in my opinion. Both are good, but on balance WL has the better cast with Donald Sutherland as Bowerman of Oregon/Nike fame. Another reason I prefer this version is its focus on Munich ’72 and the Frank Shorter character. 4/5 stars.

Prefontaine – The earlier of the two Pre movies. If you don’t know who “Pre” (Steve Prefontaine) is, check these two out. Is there anything more tragic than unrealized potential? Dream race: Pre was a front-runner. Billy Mills liked to come from behind. Wouldn’t you like to see that 10,000m? 3/5 stars.

Running Brave – In case you didn’t get that Billy Mills reference, 8 years before Pre, Billy Mills came out of nowhere to win the 10,000m at the Tokyo Olympics. Robby Benson plays the lead. The movie is more superficial than it might have been, but does touch on some of the prejudice and cultural conflict Mills rose above. Local flavor: Mills attended Haskell and graduated from KU where he starred. 4/5 stars.

Running on the Sun – Before there was Karnazes or Jurek or big-time corporate sponsorship, there was this documentary about the Badwater Ultramarathon. As if the setting (Death Valley) and elevation gain (partway up Mt. Whitney) wasn’t bad enough, it’s not a 50M or 100M Ultra. Try 135M. Fascinating. It’s almost terrifying to watch the participants attempt this. 4/5 stars.

Run for Your Life – This documentary chronicles the birth of the NYC Marathon primarily through the eyes of its “parent” – Fred Lebow. The NYC marathon is exactly as old as I am – I’d love to run it some day. The film pays homage to the early “stars” of this race, especially and deservedly Grete Waitz. A consummate marketer, Lebow was one of the first to see a race as a social event – even a party. Runners will especially enjoy the telling of Lebow squeezing in one last run on New Year’s Eve in order to hit a mileage goal while his date waits, and waits… 3/5 stars.

Ultramarathon Man – This list is getting into a documentary rut. Here, Dean Karnazes runs 50 marathons in 50 days. Whew. You come to the film expecting perhaps a “look at me!” extravaganza, and some of that is certainly unavoidable. However, the way in which Dean engages other runners, his enthusiasm for his sport, and the way in which the filmmakers focus on the unique individuals that Dean meets during his quest mitigates this somewhat. There are a couple of ways to watch the film. Stat junkies can pause after each state – but this seriously interrupts the flow of the film. P.S. – There is an excellent demonstration of why you should always look in the direction you are running! 3/5 stars.

Marathon Man – This feature thriller isn’t really about running, but Dustin Hoffman’s marathon training is a central plot element. Squirm alert: two words – “Nazi dentist.” It takes Laurence Olivier to pull that off. 3/5 stars.

Forrest Gump – Run Forrest, run! From the braces-shedding plantation sprint to the ‘Bama backfield to cross-country ultrarunner, running is woven through the plot of this modern classic. 4/5 stars.

Running the Sahara – This is what could have gone horribly wrong with Ultramarathon Man. It follows three men in a quest to run across the Sahara desert. I can imagine how frustrating it must be as a documentary filmmaker to have an opportunity to follow what promises to be a compelling feat of human endurance and cultural interaction, only to have your film dominated by an egomaniac. Sigh. 2/5 stars.

Marathon – This film is based on the true story of Bae Hyeong-jin, an autistic Korean young adult who wants to run a marathon – or does his mother want him to? Other interesting elements: his goal pace is sub-3 hours, and his coach is a former Boston marathon champion who hasn’t run in a decade and sits around eating junk food and smoking cigarettes during their early training sessions. Moreover, he’s only coaching him to fulfill court-ordered community service for a DUI conviction. The only Korean Boston champion in the last 50 years was Lee Bong-Ju (2001), but he doesn’t match up with the timing of the real life character since he was at his peak at the time the real life events of the film were occurring. Thus, it is probably just an interesting embellishment, but a curious one to make in a Korean film that came out just 4 years after Lee triumphed at Boston. I think I am fixated on Lee since he is exactly 2 months younger than me! That tangent aside, the film weaves family dynamics, athletic achievement, and the disability of autism together brilliantly. It manages to be touching without becoming overly syrupy or mocking. 5/5 stars.

Updated 7/16/13:

Saint Ralph – I reviewed this recently in its own post:

Updated 3/21/14:

On the Edge – This has its own post too:

What Jon “Bones” Jones and I had in common on Saturday


No, we didn’t both participate in a cage match. The answer: toe trouble. And no, I’m not going to post a pic of Jon’s toe. It’s kind of the Joe Theisman of toe injuries. Googlers beware.

This wasn’t a running injury or related to an athletic endeavor in any way. It was just one of those freak klutzy maneuvers. I had made a u-turn on the stairs to turn a light back on, and when I rotated to head back downstairs, my toe got hung up in the carpet. It’s not like it’s a thick shag or anything. If only that were the end of the story – I also had to tuck and roll down to the landing after losing my balance. All of this was much to the stifled amusement of my daughter and niece. The RHSW gave me a gracious “are you alright?” as I fumed down the rest of the stairs. No, I am definitely not all right, I said only to myself.

I recently finished Scott Jurek’s Eat & Run, and my toe trouble caused me to recall Scott’s broken toe – stubbed on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night just before the Spartathalon – a mere 152 mile race in Greece. I wondered if this was going to wash me out of Hospital Hill, or at least make it significantly more painful.

Well, the good news is that despite clearly doing “something” to cause bruising at the interphalangeal joint (I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on tv, and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night), it’s held up pretty good this week through multiple runs, including a barefoot 5 miler. I think I’m all right now.