Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Marathoners' Diet

Click on the title to witness the Hansons Brooks running team's cheeseburger eating contest.

Just a little background first. The guy in a red baseball hat is Brian Sell who qualified for the 2008 Olympic team when he came in third in the US Olympic Marathon Trials in November ahead of many much bigger names including the bronze medalist from the 2004 Olympics. He has a reputation for being one of the hardest workers out there and his peak mileage in training can exceed 160 miles per week. That's unimagineable to me, but ever more incredible is the fact that he feels like he can't cut back too much in his taper without losing his edge so he'll still run 100 to 120 miles per week during his taper. The guy obviously has a high tolerance for pain, which is good since it looks like those are McDonald's cheeseburgers that they are eating in that video.

Anyway, now you know the secret behind being a world class distance runner. Lots of cheeseburgers.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


It's only been a little over 2 weeks, but my recovery from the Houston Marathon is coming along fairly well. The soreness is long gone and the only remaining problem is that it takes a lot of effort to run at a pace that used to be fairly easy. I ran 14 miles on Sunday and 6 miles yesterday and am actually now in the taper period for the Austin Marathon on February 17. Hopefully between now and then my muscles will fully recover and I'll be able to have a good race.

The following link shows an elite female runner at the end of her first marathon. It's a distance that can humble even the best and the fact that she can barely move her feet is shown by the fact that she falls 3 times in the last 300m of the race, the last time less than 10m from the finish line.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Be a Crank

I think that "civility" may ultimately be the downfall of civilization. It seems to encourage and reward bad behavior and penalize good people that try to follow the rules. I guess it's an example of the freeloader problem in evolution where useless genes reap the benefits of living among better individuals.

For example, last night I went to a one-time showing of "Marathon Dreams." I purchased the tickets online a month ago and knew it would be sold out so I showed up half an hour early to save a seat for me and my wife. I put a jacket on her seat and a vest on mine, told the lady next to me I'd be right back but that the seats were taken, and went for a popcorn run. As I'm coming back I see a scruffy young man pick up my jacket , move it over, and take one of my seats. I slide in and tell him he just took my seat. He looks up at me and smiles and tells me, "I don't see you sitting in it man." I'm pissed because the guy has just stolen my seat and so I simply tell him if he doesn't move then I'll get an usher. "No," he says, "Well, maybe if you had asked nicely..." and proceeds to act like I'm being rude and trying to make me feel bad for saving a seat and how if everyone saved seats then the whole theater would be saved and late comers like himself wouldn't be able to find adjacent seats. I'm thinking, "Ummm. Yeah, that is the way it works..." But all I want is my seat so I just nod my head and smile and wonder what he'd look like covered in 64 ounces of soda and a large popcorn. He finally gets up and moves. But for the rest of the night I wished that I could have punched him in his smug, self-satisfied face.

You see, in civilized society you can't do that. We don't assault people and we don't call them names and we don't dump crap on them. We try to follow the rules so we can all get along and we expect others to do the same. Which is why it's so frustrating when others don't do the same. Because it's all really voluntary. Society breaks down if people don't voluntarily comply because enforcement is difficult. But this little guy didn't learn a lesson. He'll go away in his delusion that he did me a favor by surrendering the seat that he'd stolen and continue making life difficult for people just trying to get along by playing by the rules.

Unfortunately, I see more and more of this. People are too polite to complain about bad service. Companies sell defective products knowing people don't want to go through the hassle of returning them. They under staff their support lines so that frustrated customers will stop calling. Then they assume their products must be good because no one calls to complain. They get monopolies and put out crappy products and then say that if their product was so bad then people have the choice to switch to something else knowing full well that they have a captive audience because they've methodically put their competitors out of business.

One more example. After that auspicious beginning, the movie was almost unwatchable. The bulb in the projector was so dim that it was almost impossible to see. I was in the middle of the back row and didn't want to cross in front of people during the movie, but I did hunt down the manager afterwards to complain. Apparently I'm the only person out of a sold out house that did so. Why? Was everyone else too polite? Or maybe it was the fact that I had to ask 3 employees and hunt all over the theater before I could finally get the manager? Even then he radioed the projectionist who replied that there was no problems with the picture. When I insisted that there most definitely was a problem the projectionist finally came back that the bulb was very dim and appeared to be going out. I got my tickets refunded, but I wonder how long that bulb had been bad and how many projectionists and movie viewers put up with it without notice or complaint.

So, my challenge to you is to make it a point to politely and insistently complain when things aren't right. And back up those around you who are doing it instead of mutely looking on like the people around me at the theater while someone tried to steal my seat. If you don't then you have no right to complain about the problems around you.

No Disrespect Intended

I apologize to Mormons who take offense at the fact that I no longer believe that Mormons have some kind of exclusive hold on the truth. I'll pay you the same back handed compliment that you offer to other churches. The Mormon church has a lot of good and true things that I admire, it's just that they don't have the whole truth. Specifically, they believe things that are either demonstrably false or else completely unsubstantiated by evidence or reason. They also insist on beliefs and behaviors that are completely unnecessary for living a full and happy life. Even worse they believe and practice things that are inconsistent with a full and happy life. One thing I think that Joseph Smith got right was that all of the churches are full of errors. Unfortunately he added one more example to the collection.

So, if you find Mormonism helpful and useful then more power to you. If you can convince others of its utility and convert them then even more power to you.

But please, when you find people like me who have thoroughly investigated the church and its claims and found them lacking, please stop telling them that they are proud sinners that have been deceived by Satan and that are doomed to a life of bitter misery for rejecting the "truth."

I welcome reasoned discussion and value dissenting opinions, especially when backed up by evidence and reason. I in fact am perfectly willing to change my mind if given good reasons. I ask you,

If the church wasn't true, would you want to know?

I would expect an unqualified yes from you before we engaged in any kind of discussion. I would expect that that would be back by an intellectual honesty that would admit the possibility that your beliefs might be wrong. In other words, not like my father who would answer, "Of course, I'd want to know. But I know it's true so it's a ridiculous question."

On the flip side I think it's fair for you to ask me,

If the church was true, would you want to know?

My answer is an unqualified yes. I would want to know. If I've misunderstood the issues or gotten the facts wrong I'll gladly accept correction. I reserve the right to change my mind. If anything, my loss of faith in the Mormon church isn't the result of pride. It's been truly humbling to realize how easily I was misled and how wrong I was. I find myself regularly reminding myself to listen and reevaluate my beliefs and opinions when I find them challenged. In other words, Mormonism instilled in me an overweening pride and sense of infallibility about religion that leaked into many other aspects of my life that I now find myself trying to undo.

I've posted my reasons for disbelief. I've explained the problems with Mormonisms methodology for evaluating truth claims. Please attack the issues, not me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Spirit Can Overcome Contradictions!

Even your claim that prayer will not help you overcome a contradiction is a classic Satan led work that prayer is useless.

- Faithful Mormon
I received a lengthy comment to one of my posts that included the above bit of wisdom. I guess that Elder Ballard's army of intrepid technologists are out trying to save people like me who have decided that evidence and reason are the enemy of the Spirit of truth. Apparently the opening salvo of this intellectual giant is that logic is a tool of Satan. To summarize the rest of his post, I have made the following mistakes:
  • I had concerns about the Church
  • I allows my concerns turn into doubts
  • I sought answers to my doubts with a doubting Spirit.
  • I went to non-Church sources of information that confirmed my doubts.
  • I didn't seek God's counsel or the Spirit.
  • I trusted my own reason which is a foul spirit and was led astray.
  • I failed to be patient, other than waiting for over a decade.
  • I wasn't humble
  • I didn't repent
  • I didn't ask the Spirit
First, let me respond with a couple of points.
  • I followed the path he outlines above for most of my life. Just to be clear, over the years I did my best to obey the commandments, fasted, prayed, served a mission, accepted callings, married in the temple, etc.
  • I didn't seek non-church sources for any of my doubts for nearly 40 years and 13 years after the temple changes that he refers to. I think that that is at least moderately patient.
  • That path doesn't address doubts and issues, it just teaches you to ignore them. It puts a premium on feeling good about what you believe and encourages you to ignore anything that challenges your beliefs.
  • This is a circular argument that encourages you to first decide what you believe, teaches you to feel good about your beliefs, teaches you to feel bad about things that disagree with that belief, and then teaches you that good feelings come from God and bad feelings come from Satan, and that then teaches you to reach the conclusion that you should believe in what makes you feel good and reject what makes you feel bad. Surprisingly, if you start with the conclusion that the church is true, never doubt it, ignore issues that may cause you to doubt, and never read information that may contradict the church, pray and ask whether the church is true without every doubting, then you will feel the Spirit and reach the conclusion that the church is true. What a beautiful formula.
So, let me ask the faithful Mormons out there a simple question.

If the church wasn't true, would you want to know?

If you follow the recipe from Faithful Mormon then you wouldn't even be able to sincerely ask the question because to do so you'd have to have a doubt and you'd have to have the spirit of doubt and according to his formula this will prevent you from finding the truth. Furthermore, if you were to consider the above question seriously it might lead you to ask the next obvious question.

What would you accept as evidence that the church isn't true?

Now, if your only answer is the Spirit and you perceive the Spirit as good feelings that you receive when you pray and you have been taught that considering the church isn't true is the spirit of Satan, how likely is it that you will feel good about asking if the church is false? For me, prayers weren't helpful because I never received a spiritual confirmation that the church was true no matter how much I wanted it to be true and no matter how hard I tried to ignore my doubts and believe that there must be perfectly reasonable answers to my questions/doubts. Instead I had more of what would be described in D&C 9 as a "stupor of thought".

So, since the spiritual man couldn't get me answers, I was left to the "natural man." Why is this wrong? I guess it's because evidence and reason lead to where I am now.

Finally, I love the quote I opened with. If prayer can overcome a contradiction then it is further evidence of the futility of prayer. What it means is that prayer can help you believe things that are not true. Faithful Mormon apparently believes that this idea comes from Satan. But it is simply logic. So, apparently logic is a tool of Satan. But if you must reject logic, then what does that mean about your beliefs? I'll lay out a simple logical argument to demonstrate.
  • Assumed: Eternal ordinances are given by revelation and can never be changed.
  • Assumed: The temple endowment is an eternal ordinance required for salvation
  • Derived: The temple ordinance cannot change.
  • Contradiction: The temple ordinance has changed.
A contradiction is when something is both true and false. Obviously this cannot happen any more than black can be white. A statement has to be either one or the other or possibly simply unknown. A contradiction indicates that either an assumption is false or else that the logic used to derive the statement is flawed. In other words, the contradiction is proof positive that one of the first 3 statements if false.

Now the logic above is clearly correct so that leaves only two assumptions to be challenged. So, to resolve the contradiction you must accept at least one of the following statements:
  • Eternal ordinances can be changed
  • The temple endowment is not an eternal ordinance required for salvation
Note that prayer is completely unnecessary to resolve the contradiction. The only way it might be useful is in choosing between the two resolutions.

However, how can you choose to reject either since both are doctrines. Choosing either is effectively admitting that at least a part of the church's doctrines are not true. If one of them isn't true, then what else isn't true? If you go down this path then you are a cafeteria Mormon that is faced with the task of trying to pick and choose which of the church's doctrines are true or false. Meanwhile the church insists that it is all true or all false and that picking and choosing isn't an acceptable path. This is the conundrum I was faced with.

By the way, I've never heard a faithful Mormon argue for the second. I have had them choose the first. They basically state that the prophet can change anything he wants through revelation. This is plainly ridiculous because it basically allows the prophet to be a cafeteria Mormon an pick and choose doctrines and declare things that were once true to now be false. Whatever happened to eternal truths?

Another third option I've heard is to simply deny the fact that the endowment has changed. Given the first two doctrines, many members simply declare that the endowment has never changed and that this is just an anti-Mormon lie. Others who know better say that only the presentation has changed, but the essence has remained. Of course, then you are left trying to figure out which parts of the endowment are eternal and which are just window dressing. It also ignores the fact that the actual covenants changed and the method for passing through the veil to enter the celestial kingdom changed.

Of course, the fourth option is to just ignore the contradiction. I guess that prayer is useful here if it helps you feel good about being illogical and believing something that is provably false. But that won't make it true. It just means that you are a person of faith so strong that you can have an unshakeable belief in something that is demonstrably false.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Just Happy to be Here

This was just before the start of the marathon.


Depending on your perspective, 22 minutes is moment in time or a lifetime. Last Sunday it was how far I fell short of my goal at the Houston marathon. But don't feel sorry for me, because I feel surprisingly good about the race despite having some problems and am in a very positive mood. I'm getting a little ahead of myself so let's step back to last Thursday.

My last hard run was a 3 mile tempo run at 8:47 pace with one mile warm up and one mile cool down. My legs felt pretty good except a shooting pain in my right quad and discomfort in my right hip every time my leg came forward. It didn't hinder my running and didn't hurt bad, but if it was uncomfortable on a short run I was worried about what it could turn into after 26 miles. Fortunately my doctor had a cancellation and I was able to get in that afternoon. The poor doctor is a little guy and all of his poking and moving my leg around didn't replicate the pain. So he pulled my physical therapist in and he was able to push hard and duplicate the pain. The diagnosis was that my ileopsoas (hip flexor) was getting pinched by the ball of the hip joint. The PT strapped me to the table yanked on my leg to relocate the ball of the hip back into the socket and cracked my back in a few places. That fixed the problem and I couldn't feel anything the next day running an easy three miles. However, all of the pushing on my leg also revealed a mildly strained quad which was the other part of the pain I was feeling.

Friday I had a massage on the way home from work and then packed for the race. Saturday morning I flew to Houston and drove to the marathon expo to pick up my packet. While there I listened to a pretty interesting presentation by the Rice University men's track coach about adapting elite training programs to slower runners. One interesting point he made was that a 4:10 marathoner doing 50 miles a week in training was doing an comparable workload to an elite runner putting in 100 miles a week. Why? Because it's duration and intensity that matters, not mileage. I've read that before, but somehow it hasn't sunk in as I've looked at training programs. I'd peaked at 45 miles a week so I felt pretty good about my volume of training. The other interesting thing he talked about was recovery. He recommended walking a mile or two the same day after the marathon and then getting out for a mile or two of walking every day the next week. Then he said that the test for whether you are ready to resume training is if you can comfortably complete a 90 minute run.

I stayed at Hotel Icon downtown which was walking distance from the starting line. It's in an historic bank building and looked it's age on the outside but it was awesomely nice inside. It had a jacuzzi tub in the bathroom with a window to the room so I could watch TV from the tub.

When I got to the starting line at 6:30 am I felt great. The weather was a perfect 45F and I didn't even need gloves even though I started out with a light cap. I had 2 quarts of Powerade in my camelbak and another 28 ounces in the flasks on my fuel belt. I also had 12 gels hanging on the belt and a few electrolyte capsules. The race started right on time at 7:00 am with the sun just starting to brighten the sky in the east.

The race was pretty uneventful and went according to plan for the first 15 miles or so. I slowed myself down some for the first six miles and then settled into a steady 9:08-9:10 pace with my heart rate at about 160. The pace felt pretty comfortable. The only minor issue was some tightness in my right hamstring that felt like it wanted to cramp. I took gels every 20 minutes until about mile 10 when I started getting some stomach upset indicating that maybe my body wasn't digesting it as fast as I was taking it in. After that I backed off on the gels to every 30 or 40 minutes but I never really felt like fuel was an issue. I also did a good job of drinking regularly. I was carrying my own liquids so I ran through the water stops.

I went through the half mark at 2:01 so I was a little slower than my goal, but I was trying to save something for the end so I was pretty happy. At this point things got tougher and my heart rate started going up to maintain pace. I slowed down to about 9:20 pace and tried to stay relaxed. Around mile 15 my heart rate started going up closer to 170 even at the slower pace and I had to slow down when I felt my legs starting to burn. I really wanted to get to mile 20 and push, but at mile 18 I'd already pushed too hard and had to walk a bit and let my legs and heart recover. The rest of the race isn't particularly memorable and was a struggle like I'd imagined except after the 20 mile mark my right hamstring started cramping up every time I'd try to pick up the pace. I was tired, but felt like I had the energy to run faster, but every time I did the muscle would cramp. It wasn't the whole hamstring locking up like last year, but I had to stop and stretch it for a second before moving on. This continued for the rest of the race. In the last mile I picked up the pace back to 9:20 only to cramp again. So I just trudged the rest of the way in.

As I crossed the line volunteer after volunteer came up to ask if I was okay. I must have looked shaky, but I was just thoroughly exhausted. One lady finally walked me into the building. I didn't even come close to my goal, but I did everything I could and I finished.

The marathon was doing a hydration study. My weight at the expo on Saturday was 233.6 (dressed) and it was 228.8 at the finish so I lost at least 5 pounds (almost 3 quarts) on the course despite drinking 3 quarts. So I lost about a gallon and a half of water, mostly sweat, in a little over 4 hours. I don't know if that's a lot, it seems like it, but it means that dehydration could have played a role in my cramping and that I'll have to consider drinking even more in the next race by picking up additional liquid at the water stops on the course.

I don't know if the electrolyte capsules helped or not. The Powerade and the Clif Shots both have electrolytes and I had salty burps for the rest of the day, so I think I had plenty of electrolytes.

I was pretty weak on Sunday, but didn't feel too bad. I was sore on Monday and got a massage over lunch. I was really sore on Tuesday, but today (Wednesday) most of the soreness is gone and I feel really good. I'm going to keep walking each day and try to go for a run on Saturday. If I can finish a 90 minute run then I'll resume training next week and look forward to the Austin marathon on February 17.

In retrospect it doesn't look like my conditioning was up to running a 4:00 marathon. This is one of the things, out of several, that I don't like about my training group. We did a time trial early in the season, but haven't done a race or time trial since a 10k in early October so I didn't really have a recent race performance to help me know what a reasonable pace would be. Based on the training runs I did my goal seemed reasonable, but I'll be recalibrating for Austin and I'll go out at a 4:15 pace. That would be a PR so I'll be content with it and if I'm feeling good at the end then maybe I'll be able to do better.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


I remember my first road races. I'm privileged to have road raced both on motorcycles and on foot so I had two first races.

I was a bundle of nerves for my first motorcycle race. The first time I went out on track as a provisional novice racer was to follow an experienced racer around the track with the rest of the newbies and I distinctly remember feeling like I was going to hurl in my helmet as I rode through the gap in the pit wall, entered the hot pits, and accelerated onto the track. It was just a slow lap, but it was faster than I'd ever gone before and after only a couple of laps I was left to my own devices trying desperately to hold my line as I was strafed left and right by riders that were much faster than me. The entire weekend I was a bundle of knotted, nervous exasperation as I realized how slow I was and how far I had to go to even catch up to the back of the pack of other newbies. It was horrible and I seriously questioned whether I'd ever return.

The Capitol 10k in 2004 was a completely different experience. I'd done track a little in high school, just enough to realize I had no talent for it, but I'd never once raced competitively. I was heavy and slow and I knew it. Coming into the race the farthest I'd run in training was 6 miles so I knew I could complete the race without problems. I had a target heart rate and I just ran at a pace that kept my heart beating at that pace. Sure, little old ladies were passing me, but I was pushing my personal capabilities and I wasn't even last. I had no expectations and no nerves. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience that I shared with over 10,000 fellow runners of all ages and abilities.

One of the attractions to running right now is that I really can't fail. My goal isn't to compete with anyone. It's not really even to compete with myself. The goal is really to try to find my potential and reach it. That potential changes every time I run. As I age, my potential naturally decreases, but as I train my body it increases. So far at least, the increases are out pacing the decreases and I continue to get faster. But I feel great satisfaction at the end of the race knowing I did as well as I could that day. It isn't alway a PR (personal record), but I always learn something that I can take to my training and the next event. Success is just going out here. Success is putting on the shoes and running, whether its training or a race. The only way I can fail is if I don't do it.

One thing has changed, though. When I ran that first race I didn't really have a target time and I didn't have any expectations. That's the beauty of the first race; nothing to compare yourself against. But for the upcoming marathon I'm a bundle of nerves. I have a goal. If all goes well I think it's achievable. But there are so many variables and the marathon is such a long event it's difficult to know what exactly to expect. I've also done a marathon, so I'm also entering with a pretty good understanding of what is required to reach my potential and it entails a pretty extended dose of pain. Last night I kept running the race in my head, envisioning the finish, imagining the middle, trying to mentally calibrate the amount of effort required in the closing stages. I didn't sleep well.

The experts recommend having three goals: a best case, an achievable, and a fall back goal. My best case goal is 4:00. I think 4:00 is achievable, but not overly aggressive; I've trained for it, but it will require everything to go right and it is simply uncharted waters. I was on 4:00 pace for the first 19 miles of the Dallas Marathon in 2006 before the wheels came off. My achievable goal is a PR, which is 4:17, because I'm quite sure I'm in better shape than last year and this course is easier. My fallback goal is just to finish, which is a major accomplishment by itself in the marathon.

Pressure. Nerves. I love it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


My wife is a genius. It turns out she has a class she can't miss on Saturday which threw a wrench in my plans to drive to Houston Friday night. I was moaning about driving two cars down and back and I was asking her if she really wanted to drive down so she suggested I just fly down. So I headed over to Southwest's web page. The cheapest Friday flight was $117, but this was last Saturday so I wondered if the flights were cheaper if booked 7 days in advance. Sure enough, Saturday flights were $29. That's just incredible. It's actually cheaper to fly from Austin to Houston, plus I don't have to drive. It's even cheaper since I don't have to stay in the hotel on Friday night. So I'm flying to the marathon this weekend instead of driving.

Of course, if I was as smart as my wife I'd have bought tickets for her too...

Friday, January 04, 2008


The last two weeks have been really weird. First is the fact that I didn't work for a week and a half which left me really, really not wanting to show up for work on Wednesday. Second is that last week I ran 45 miles including a 20 miler last Saturday. Third is that I've barely run at all this week.

You see, that 20 miler marked the high water mark of my preparation for the Houston Marathon and now I'm doing what is called a taper. This week all of my runs are basically cut in half and they feel really, really easy compared to what I'm used to. I ran 1.5 miles on Sunday, 4.6 miles on Tuesday, and 5 miles (3 miles at tempo pace) on Wednesday. Today I'll run an easy 4 miles and tomorrow or Sunday I'll run an easy 8 miles. Next week I'll only run 3 easy miles on Tuesday, a light 5 mile tempo run on Thursday, and 3 easy miles on Friday. The goal is to do just enough running to maintain my fitness level and stay sharp while letting my body recover from all the training so that on Sunday the 13th I can finish the Houston Marathon in under 4 hours.

I'll drive down to Houston on Friday night and check into a nice hotel downtown. On Saturday all I have to do is pick up my registration packet. The rest of the day will be spent relaxing and eating healthy food. On Sunday I'll get up at 5:00 am and start preparing for the 7:00 am start.

I've broken the race up into 30 minute segments that are 3.3 miles long and marked them on a course map that I have sitting on my desk next to my computer. My plan is to take the race 30 minutes at a time. I'm trying to visualize how I'll feel in each segment and what my mental mindset needs to be.

The first segment will be just getting warmed up and working through the crowds at the start. This portion of the race usually goes by really quickly and the focus is on slowing down because it's easy to get excited and take off too fast. At the end of the segment it will be time to take my first gel packet. I'll be taking a 100 calorie Clif Shot Espresso flavored caffeinated gel every 30 minutes during the race along with PowerAde from my Camelbak and fuel belt. I'll also be taking electrolyte caplets periodically to prevent cramps at the end of the race. I need to work out amounts and schedule for that.

The second segment will have the crowds thinning out and is when I'll be trying to get solidly onto my 9:09 goal pace. At the end of the first hour I should be warmed up and locked into pace. If it's cool, around this time I'll probably be shedding my gloves and hat to keep from overheating.

The next three segments should just be cruise control and should feel reasonably comfortable. The first is a straight segment and is followed by stretches that take me around Rice University and then up to the Galleria area. The end of the fourth segment comes at the halfway point 2 hours into the race just past the university. The end of the fifth segment will bring me to the 16.5 mile mark 2:30 into the race and is when I anticipate the race really beginning. It's after this point where the stress really starts to build and the effort level begins to rise in order to hold pace.

The sixth segment is critical because it is the run up to where most people, including me, hit the wall at around mile 20. The race will transition from feeling like being on cruise control to requiring continuous mental effort to overcome negative messages from my body. My legs will be complaining about fatigue. I'll want to slow down. I'll want to take a walk break. I may feel shooting pains. My hips will undoubtedly be sore by this point as my sciatic nerves get inflamed. The goal of this segment is to achieve a high level of focus and steel myself for one big push.

The seventh segment is the big push. This segment will start just before the 20 mile mark as I cross under I-610 and is where the race really begins. This is where I have to have the confidence in my preparation to push through overwhelming fatigue and soreness with a knowledge that my body can handle it. The heart rate will climb from the low 160s to the upper 160s and even low 170s. My lactate threshold is somewhere near 170 or 172, so I'll be running very near my aerobic limit. But it's just 30 minutes and only 3.3 miles. It's only a little more than 5 km. Forget about want comes after and just focus on getting through the next 30 minutes. The first goal is to get to the 20 mile mark. It's a short distance to the 20 mile marker. Then I only need to do 3 more miles. Only four 400m splits for each mile and I'll probably be taking it a quarter of a mile at a time at this point. Just reach the next split. With two down then it will just be two more to get to the next mile. After 6 splits then it's halfway done. At the 23 mile mark it's merely a tenth of a mile, less than a minute, to finish this critical segment. Finish. Finish strong. Look forward to the last segment. When this segment is done then it's just a short stretch to the end. I'll be 88% done. Heck, round up and I'll be 90% done. Almost all of the effort will be behind me and all I'll have to do is finish. So, if I feel like slowing down, pick the pace up a bit. Vary the pace a little faster, then a little slower. If in doubt, surge and pick the pace up a bit. After all, it's now less than 30 minutes until this segment is over. Don't worry about the end. Just live in this moment, here and now, and do this segment in a way that I'll look back on with pride.

The eighth and last segment is the finishing segment and my mantra will be, "Finish!" The race will be 90% behind me. I'll have come this far right on pace and if I can get this far then nothing will stop me from finishing strong and on pace. I don't have any illusions about how I'll feel at this point. I can vividly imagine the absolute fatigue in my legs and the building burning in the muscles. It may feel like I've blown everything just getting through that last segment. My mind will be going numb from the concentration and mental effort required to get through the previous segment, but now I have the advantage of knowing I got through the worst segment and am on the finishing leg. There's something about knowing that the race is almost over that allows you to dig a little deeper and find reserves where there doesn't seem to be anything left. I'll be imagining floating along, attached by an invisible bungie cord attached to the approaching finish line. I'll pretend I'm riding a bike and try to keep my feet turning the invisible crank, efficiently circling with minimal energy loss. I'll be talking to my body, encouraging it, telling it that it's going to be okay and that there is more energy in there than it thinks. Just get to mile 24 and there will be only 2 left. At 24 then just get to 25. If I can get to 25 then I can certainly gut out the last mile. Right after mile 25 I cross under I-45, bend right and then turn left. All I have to do is get to the next left, run about half a mile, and then I'll turn onto the home stretch and can stretch my legs and try to finish with a bit of a kick across the line. At this point there's no need to hold back. Who cares about the heart rate, because once I cross the line then I can stop. As I turn onto the final stretch the clock will be reading 3:55. Just 5 minutes left. As I watch the seconds and minutes count up, the line approaches, faster and faster, as I race to cross the red mats before that hour digit changes from 3 to 4. My legs pump faster, I drive with my arms, I'm breathing in and out with each step, spit is flying from my mouth with each explosive exhale, and my heart feels like it is ready to explode from my chest as I cross the line with 3:59 showing on the clock.

You know. It could happen.

I'm pretty optimistic because my runs this month have really fallen into place and my legs have started feeling really good. My only concern is my left calf, but I think that the taper will allow it to fully recover so it can withstand the race.

If you're reading this and happen to be in Houston, drop a line and maybe we can do lunch on Saturday January 12.