Friday, May 29, 2009

God's Country Marathon

Next weekend, Ron Fleming and I are driving to Cloudersport, PA to run the God's Country Marathon. Not sure how we ended up choosing this one . . . but Dave Lavely told me he had run it and had hoped to return this year but "issues" developed and he opted not to. Dave told me 1) there was a big hill around mile 16 or so, 2) it was a tough marathon.

I did check the course and the elevation charts and noticed it appeared the course went up hill from the start and the hill at mile 16 got pretty steep. But I didn't study this very closely before I signed up. But yesterday I looked at the chart and got concerned. There was a lot of real elevation change. The elevation scale was not small.

Not long ago I saw a really neat comparison of marathon course elevations. Anthony Corriveau (aka AC) (see Running Down) figured out how to put two charts together and get them to the same scale for a really fair comparison visually. So I asked Anthony how to do it. Being a nice guy, he prepared a comparison between the Umstead Trail Marathon (which I considered fairly "hilly" and hard) to God's Country Marathon . . . that's Umstead Marathon on the bottom.

Now you can see why I'm concerned! At least the last 5 miles or so are down hill! Normally, my marathon plan is to walk the uphills and run the flats and downhills.

I need a new plan.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Raceology 405

Since my last post, readers have been asking for more information on the science of race numbers aka raceology aka running numerology. I admit . . . I am torn as to whether I should divulge these racing secrets to the running world or whether I should protect these secrets and share with only a few friends (or perhaps paying clients???) After years of careful analysis, these suggestions could lead almost anyone to their own PRs at any distance. Raceology tells you when to "go for it" and when to save it for another race.

We all have good days running and we have bad days. These we really can't control. Some folks suggest special diets can impact these, others develop detailed training plans to help them time a good day to coincide with a race. But mostly . . . these are bunk. Wives tales . . . long on story and short on results.

Basically good and bad days occur at random. Sometimes you'll have two good days in a row, sometimes you'll have two bad days in a row. Sometimes you'll have a string of either good or bad days. Bottomline: these just happen. The luck of the day.

But there is another factor that few realize and virtually no one has studied and that is the impact of your race number and the effect it has on your running performance. A bad day combined with a good number and you will still have a bad run. But if your having a good day and you get a good number, you are probably looking at a PR. A good day and a bad number will usually yield an average day overall so why push it on days like this. If you have a slow number, just call it a "training run" and save your best effort for another race where hopefully you'll have a better number.

Basically, it all boils down to your race number for a given event. Some numbers are faster than other numbers and the combination of numbers can have a dramatic impact on your race results.

So which number is the better number: 491 or 372? One of these numbers is significantly faster than the other. But which is the better number? Read on and learn.

Think about this . . . what do you do with your race number? Of cource you pin it on your shirt in a manner such that others can read it when they see you coming (as opposed to you being able to read the number when you look down at it yourself!). Most of us tend to lean slightly forward as we run and when you consider this fact you may realize that the top of the number actually leads the way as one run down the course.

Here comes the real insight . . . since the top of the number is leading the way, it is the part of the number encountering the apparent wind associated with your running. And if there is, in fact, a real breeze, this effect becomes even more pronounced. Basically, the top of the number creates wind resistance! So in raceology, we carefully study the shape of the tops of numbers.

Consider the possibilities: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

  • First the number "1" is clearly the most aerodynamic number and, as such, is far an away the fastest number possible. Second fastest is the number "4" as it too provides an aerodynamic silhouette compared to other integers. Conversely, there are two numbers that are equally wind resistant and thus very "slow" numbers: "5" and "7". Notice how the tops of these numbers are flat and at a right angle to the wind direction.
  • The numbers "8" and "9" are average, but slightly better than the numbers "2", "3" and "6". Notice how the numbers "2", "3" and "6" have open cavities that can trap the wind and cause turbulence.
  • And the last factor is the fewer the numbers the better!

So, the fastest possible race number is "1". Should you be surprised that most races reserve this fast number for the individual with the highest seed, thus further tipping the scale in his or her favor? This is no accident!

Without a doubt, this is only a beginners introduction into the science of raceology. Clearly there is more dealing with number balance (for instance dealing with a number like "117" and the subtleties of comparing two digit numbers with three or even four digit numbers (which is faster "11514" or "368"?)

For more information in this topic, please purchase my book "Raceology: The Science of Running your Best" available for $67.95 through

And to answer the question posed earlier, which number is the better number: "491" or "372"? By now you should know "491" is a significantly better number!

Now, you may understand my frustration at my latest race when I got my race number. I should have just gone home.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I love Umstead but HATE "555"

Today was the Inside-Out Half Marathon in Cary. Race starts on Weston Parkway, quickly enters Umstead Park and is essentially an out and back course, with a minor detour as you come back out of the park.

I didn't register early, so to "assure" I would get in and get a shirt, I left my house in Littleton, NC at 3:45 am so I could get to the race by 5:30! I made it by 5:30, but there were no shirts! Oh well . . . I already have plenty of shirts and these didn't look all that great anyway.

But when I got my race number I about died! The lady gave me number "555". That one number is one of the 2 slowest numbers between 1 and 999 (the other slow number equally bad is "777"). With a number like this I had NO chance for a good race. there is NO chance for a good race with number "555"! Why couldn't I have gotten "11" or "44"? No I had to get "555". Okay, I have my own "numberology" philosophy and you may laugh . . . but its REAL!

Weather was perfect . . . a light rain as we were waiting and the temperature wasn't too high. Saw Michael Forrester and Ron Fleming as they were waiting in line for a porta'potty.

When Michael saw me he immediately broke out laughing!! Michael understands. He saw my race number was "555" and ask me if I was just going on home with a number like this!

Not being a quitter, I decided to run the race anyway. I should have gone home.

I decided to experiment with my Galloway intervals . . . normally I run 4 and 1 but I decided to try 5 and 30 seconds. I guess my mind was focused on my number, not good logical thinking. Why I thought this might work in Umstead I have no idea. About mile 6 or so I adjusted back to 4 and 1 and walked the hills.

At about mile 9 as the rain picked up, I was invited to run with two folks I had leap-frogged with all morning: Laura and Steve (both from the Raleigh area). They were running a 2 and 1 Galloway but their 2 was quite a bit faster than is normal for me. Two totally fun folks to run with!! We all stayed together until about a mile to go when Steve ran on and Laura and I continued at our steady but slower pace. Laura and I finished together in 2:30 . . . not great but a fun time.

By the way . . no finisher's medal! So for $45 I got no shirt and no medal! And all they had at the finish was pretzels as everything else was gone by the time I got there! I just hope the Tammy Lynn Center for Developmental Disabilities gets a good check from the race.

I actually felt pretty good today and enjoyed Umstead as always. But if I only had gotten a different race number . . . and if I had kept with my normal plan . . . . oh well . . . there is always the next race!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Duck for Flying Pigs!

Amber and Jon at the finish!

I've got to admit that I was less that excited to go to Cincinnati to their Flying Pig Marathon last weekend. Cincinnati is a dirty, ugly industrial town . . . or so I thought! What I found was a really nice place! Clean, interesting downtown area. And the area is filled with lots of neat small villages, each with their own unique identity.

Several months ago a small group of RMEC runners decided to go see "pigs fly" at this popular marathon. Little did we know how much we would all love the area and the event! One of my co-workers, Amber Poole, and her significant other, Jon Shingleton, decided that since the group going Amber would try her first marathon and Jon would run his second half marathon. Also going was Ursula Forrester, Eric Pate and Ron Fleming (also doing his first marathon!)

Amber's training had issues! Problems with blisters plus just normal life interruptions brought her to the event with a maximum long run of only 13 miles! But she was determined to do this. And she did! In amazingly good form! I held her back for the first 20+ miles, but in hindsight, she could have done this on her own . . . better and faster!

I loved the course! A quick loop downtown, over for a short loop through Kentucky, the back through downtown and up to the top of the hill surrounding town. Then through village after village, each with it's own personality and charm! Beautiful homes and super friendly people everywhere. My favorite was a village called Mariemount . . . really neat and GREAT fans! I truly considered doing the Mariemont loop again, just to experience the crowds!

Course then looped around and ended up coming up the river back to downtown and the finish.

Amber held back at my semi-insistence. But I really believe she could have run faster without my "help"! Finally, in the last 1.5 miles she ran on . . . leaving me in her dust!

And when we finished we found out that Jon got his PR (this course was significantly more difficult then where he had gotten his previous PR!), Ursula also almost PRed and Ron had finished in a fantastic time for his first marathon. Bottomline: only Eric and I have average days!

This marathon was tons of fun and the Cincinnati community was REALLY supportive. Quite an event and quite an experience. One of my top 5 marathons.

But the very best part was sharing all this with some FANTASTIC friends! Thank you all for letting me share this time with you!

Here are some pictures I took:

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Littleton, North Carolina
World's Slowest Runner . . . well, at least in contention for the honor. Just your average "below average" runner.