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Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Power of Positivy

Positivity can come from the strangest places. I will explain, but first let me give you a rundown of the day and then I’ll get to the good stuff. Today I competed in the Los Angeles Marathon, a race from the Stadium to the Sea, which also served as the 2015 USA Marathon Championships.

The day started at 3:25am. Yes, you read that correctly… three twenty-five in the morning. The moon, that celestial being, was just barely past the halfway mark on its journey across the sky. My alarm went off what seemed like just moments after I found deep sleep. I had tossed and turned for a few hours prior, coughing most of the night. I managed to pick up a cold on Wednesday leading up to the race.  I rolled out of bed, put on some clothes and went up to the athlete hospitality suite for breakfast. It was so early in the morning my body's digestion felt completely out of whack. I wasn’t hungry, but I forced myself to eat some oatmeal, two hard-boiled eggs and some coffee. I prayed out loud for the coffee to kick in quickly. Please, please, please help me wake up!

Breakfast begrudgingly completed, I went back to my room and jumped in the shower both for the purpose of waking up and so that my hair would be soaking wet for the race. The forecast for the race was beginning temps around 66˚F and it would be in the 70s by the time I finished. While these temps are not astronomically hot, they are not ideal conditions for a marathon and wet hair would help me stay cooler.  Afterwards, I put on my new Saucony Racing kit, braided my hair, and collected everything I needed for the day – racing flats, warm-ups, “vanity” timing bib, water bottle, Generation UCAN shaker bottle, and photo ID in case I was selected for testing by the US Anti-doping agency. The packing list alone was enough to put me in a tizzy!

 I had dropped off my “special fluids” the day prior, so at least that was one less thing to worry about. There really wasn’t anything that special about the contents. I alternated my drinks between GU packets mixed with water and Nuun (water and electrolytes were important today). I find it’s easier to consume GU if it’s already pre-mixed with water. None of that fooling around with ripping open the packet and choking down the GU, unable to breathe for what feels like an eternity. Anyways, they are referred to as special fluids because they are not available to everyone. If you qualify to get “special fluids” you get to have your own bottles placed out on the course at 6 different locations. These are in addition to all the other fluids stations available to everyone else.
We loaded the bus to depart for Dodger Stadium, where the race was to begin at 4:20am.  The next hour and a half passed by unremarkably. I checked my watch every 5 minutes, watching the time count down to when it would be time to warm up and ran to the bathroom every 10 minutes due to good hydration.

FINALLY, 6am and it was time to warm up. Several of the other women and myself banded together to run in small circles around the parking lot for 10 minutes to get our legs ready to go. That was followed by stretching, drills, and the switching of my shoes from my Kinvara training shoes to my Type A racing flats. At 6:25 we were escorted to the starting corral, a small pen akin to one you might find at a Concentrated Feeding Operation (You know those detestable farms that force their animals to live in such close quarters that can’t even turn around, and they are pumped full of antibiotics because of their unhealthy diets and lack of room to roam……oops tangent, sorry!)

At 6:45am the race finally began! The group went out conservatively – it wasn’t a day to press the pace right from the gun. My original plan was to try and run the Olympic Trails A standard time 2:37 or better. I went out conservatively the first 10K because of the major hills in that section of the course as we wound our way through downtown LA.  At this point in the race I kept repeating to myself “I am enough”. I’m good enough, fit enough, tough enough. A powerful phrase that I had just learned from a book given to me by one of best friends, Jamie Cheever (The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown). But, these power phrases only give you strength for so long before your mind's fatigue makes you start to question the chant's validity. Right when this began to happen I passed by a huge sign referring to the strength found in God. And my mind just clicked, I prayed to God to help give me strength I would need to believe in myself. This carried me through Hollywood Boulevard and down Rodeo Drive.

But then the next distraction came. I NEEDED TO GO TO THE BATHROOM, AND THERE WAS NOT A PORTA-JOHN IN SIGHT!! I tried to put it out of my mind as waves of anxiety passed though my head. What was I going to do? There were people lining every part of the street, I couldn’t just pull over to the side of the road. Visions of Paula Radcliff flashed in my head…I didn’t think I would have the strength to be like her. 3 miles later and still not a single bathroom, I was beginning to panic and decided that the next gas station I saw that I would run in and use the bathroom. A few hundred meters more, just after the 14 mile mark, and finally salvation!!! Three porta-johns! I veered off the road, leaving the company of one of my competitors who I had just worked so hard to catch and relieved myself. I jumped back out and got moving again, scanning the road ahead for the girl I had been running with. I spotted her about 200m up the road and rejoiced – she hadn’t gotten too far away!  And just beyond her I saw another competitor who was obviously struggling. I set my eyes on them and told myself I would catch them both.

Soon enough we were approaching the 16 mile mark, which is also where I would find my 4th special fluids bottle. I was table 2, position 3. A position that gave me ample opportunity to see who had taken their bottles and who had not. I had noticed as I passed through the previous three fluid stations, that each time there were a few more bottles still present on the table. This meant one of two things: 1) People were skipping their bottles – which seemed like a suicidal idea on a day like today or 2) they had dropped out of the race. As I approached the 4th fluid station, once again there were more bottles still present compared to the previous station. And this was served as my new inspiration. My coach's words rang though my head “you just need to keep going, you never know who might drop out of the race”. And these fluids stations were confirming that. I had no earthly idea what place I was in, but I knew I had the strength to finish the race.

Mile 20 – 10K to go! Only 10K! I was catching people quickly now. When I passed them it felt like I was flying by. If I could just get to the 5K-to-go mark the rest of the race was all downhill.

Mile 23 – 5K to go! 5K is so short! Over the last 5K I caught two more people, and my tempo was quickening with the help of the downhill finish.

Mile 25 – Just over 1 mile along Ocean Ave. on the way into Santa Monica. Oh my gosh – how long is this mile! I could see the finish line looming, but each step forward felt like it was not getting me any closer to my destination. There were no competitors around me, no one to chase. I just had to stare at the huge finish banner.

400m to go! I could see someone just ahead – It was a male competitor and it wasn't going to make any difference if I caught him, but I decided I was going to do it anyways. The crowd got louder with anticipation of a potential battle. It helped carry me past him and into the finish chute.

I staggered a few steps and a woman caught me. “You were 8th!” In my mind, I say “What?!?” I had initially been disappointed because I knew my finishing time wasn’t that good. But once I heard that I had finished 8th, my highest finish in the US Marathon Championships, it all felt alright. I hobbled off, my body aching with achievement, to go get a massage.

Reflecting back it just makes me realize how important it is to stay in the moment when you are racing, and to be armed with an arsenal of positive thoughts! Because you never know what you are going to see along the way that will inspire your next mile, your next stride, your next race. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

High Country Running

Boulder, Colorado; home to amazing running trails, beautiful views, and an average barometric pressure of 83kPa (625mmHg). 'The'Berkeley of the Rockies' is also serving as my temporary home for a few weeks. I am here to train for the US Cross Country Championships, which will be held in Boulder on February 7th.

It is my first time training at altitude, and I’m excited to be here. Boulder is at an altitude of about 5,000ft above sea level, which is by no means an extreme elevation, but you can certainly feel the difference between Minneapolis, MN (elevation 830ft) and Boulder. Because of the city’s location in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the oxygen content of the air is only about 83% of that found at sea level.

In the first few runs here, which were casual runs with my teammates Jon and Eric, it felt like we only felt the effects of the altitude when running uphill. When the grade on our route increased I was suddenly transformed from the graceful gazelle I imagine myself to be, into one of the grunting Elk common to these mountains. For the most part, though, the effects of the altitude didn't feel that bad.
But on Wednesday we went to the track to do our first workout session here in Boulder. 8-10 X 400m, just off of mile pace was the prescribed effort. After completing our warm-up, drills and strides we took off on our first 400. Interval complete, we conferred about how we felt. “I felt great, until the last 100! My legs felt fine, but the last little bit felt like I was breathing through a straw”.
Halfway through the workout, I was telling myself, “Ok, you can do this. Just get to 8 and you can be done.” Not the best mental attitude to be sure. The 8th one came to an end and I gasped with relief as I sauntered guiltily over to my bag. (Meanwhile, Eric and Jon had started their 9th interval). Once I arrived at my bag I was feeling better, breathing normally, lactic acid abating. I looked at my watch and 75 seconds of my 90 second rest period had elapsed….I rolled my eyes at myself and my internal commentator said “Welp…you just admitted that you feel better, you better get your butt moving back to that start line and go again”. DAMN IT, fine!

I quickly jogged back to lane 1 to start again, telling myself that this would make the difference between making the World Cross Country Team and not. My coaches words ringing through my head: “That’s why you take the intervals one at a time, you can’t decide if you are done with a workout until you've given yourself the chance to recover between them”.

The 10th interval finished, I felt proud of myself for having completed the entire workout; and I felt silly for having doubted that I could finish in the first place. I think I was suffering from a little more self-doubt than usual because of my performance at the Houston half marathon just 3 days before. I was off my A game last Sunday, and wasn’t happy with the results. But, “Running is the ultimate faith healer, restoring faith not only in oneself but also in life’s possibilities” (Bart Yasso). 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Running the Good Race

Running the Good Race

Meghan PeytonIn fifth-grade gym class, when Meghan (Armstrong) Peyton ’14 MAL completed the Presidential Physical Fitness test along with her classmates, she came in first in the required mile event, beating all the boys. When her teacher asked if she had ever considered doing cross-country running, she said she had not, but it got her thinking. In seventh grade she joined her first cross-country team.
She continued running throughout high school, where she turned in four All-State performances in cross-country and seven All-State performances in track and field. She is the only Oregonian to have won state titles as a high school prep athlete in the 1,500-meter and the 3,000-meter events for three consecutive years. As a college student at the University of Iowa, she was a four-time NCAA Division I All-American and two-time Big Ten Champion. She still holds the school record for the 1,500-meter run (4:17:41).
Though she says it took a few years to move beyond the joy of competition and actually fall in love with the sport, she is now busy making a career of it.
Peyton running the 15K.
Peyton running the 15K.
In 2008 she joined Team USA Minnesota, a post-collegiate distance training center that encourages holistic development—that is, in both running and outside interests. This allows her to run professionally while developing strong roots for her future by getting experience as an assistant coach at Augsburg, continuing her education, and working a few hours a week at a pet hospital.
Through Team USA Minnesota, Peyton has competed in numerous running events, representing the U.S. at international events, such as Chiba Ekiden in Japan, and Edinburgh International Cross Country Challenge in Scotland, and even earning a spot to compete in the 2012 USA Olympic Team Trials Marathon.
Peyton finishing the USA 20K.
Peyton finishing the USA 20K.
In 2013, she won the U.S. 20K Championship, which she says was “amazing.” Also, it got her one step closer to achieving her goal of competing in the 2016 Olympics, as well as qualifying to race at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics.
Peyton has a “trickle-down” theory about encouraging “elite runners” to participate in a variety of marathons (not just elite races). Doing so would inspire sub-elite runners to attain even higher levels of excellence, enrich participation by attracting additional runners who may not otherwise participate, and enhance interest in the sport among participants and spectators alike.
In addition to earning her MA in Leadership at Augsburg, Peyton has been serving as the College’s head men’s and women’s cross country coach and assistant track coach. Augsburg, she says, has opened her eyes in many ways. Before coming to Augsburg, her running pursuits tended to be done primarily for herself, whereas her Augsburg experience has shown her the joy of serving others and becoming a more thoughtful steward and responsible leader. She wants to continue to make a difference in the lives of future Auggie alumni.
Recently, Peyton’s mother in Tennessee challenged herself to a consistent exercise plan, beginning with 15-20 minutes of walking each day. Peyton called her daily to support her, sometimes pushing back at comments like, “No, I didn’t run today; it was raining.” Eventually, however, the answers were, “Yes, and I made it further today,” and she was running three hours at a time. Within the year and a few months shy of her 50th birthday, she was training for the Knoxville Marathon, and just last November, completed the New York City Marathon, a race that Peyton is determined to run someday as well.
Peyton and her high school sweetheart, Cole Peyton, were married in 2010 and live in Richfield with their pets. In addition to running, they enjoy reading, golf, scuba diving, and world travel. You can “track” her successes and find her personal best records at

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Those Who Inspire Us -- NYRR Team For Kids


                I’m the oldest of four siblings, spread over 10 years. Those of you who are parents know that for my parents that meant a lot of work and not much free time. Thankless jobs like doing the laundry, making dinner, and shuttling children from one event to the next all become priorities. As a result, a parent’s personal exercise may fall by the wayside.

                That is where my mom found herself in 2008 – children leaving the house and a body that she wasn’t satisfied with. She wanted to change, but she didn’t know where to start. The gym was intimidating for a shy and introverted person like herself, but she needed support to start taking her first steps. So when I heard her lament these things I stepped up to the plate (for the mostly selfish reason of wanting to have a healthy and happy mom that will be around when I have children of my own).

                “Mom, you need to start running. I will write you workouts and when you are ready you can select a race that will help keep you motivated”.

                And so began a yearlong endeavor. It started with walking, 15-20 minutes at a time. I called her every day from Minneapolis, to make sure she got in her exercise. At first the answer was usually something like “No, it was raining” – which I knew translated as “No, this is really hard”. So I kept pushing her and calling…eventually the answers because “Yes, and I made it further today!” 11 months later she was running three hour long runs, training for her first marathon – The Knoxville Marathon. 

                On March 29, 2009 she lined up on the starting line for her first marathon, just a few months shy of her 50th birthday. Anxiety was written all over her face, but her posture showed how much determination she had for the task ahead. It was a cold and blustery fall day in the foothills of the Appalachians. Not the perfect conditions one hopes for when trying to tackle the 26.2.

                “Mom, I’ll meet you at the 1 mile mark. You’re going to do great!” I told her as I left 
her standing in her starting corral, which was buzzing with excitement. We ended up running 
together for nearly 18 miles of that first marathon; at times I was running backwards trying to block the wind while at the same time cheering her on. But the last 3 miles I left for her alone. She had to tackle her inner demon on her own.

                I dashed ahead to get inside the UT football stadium where the finish line loomed.

Finally she rounded the corner of the stadium, plodding along the grassy bend towards the finish line. She held her hands up high, a beaming smile on display despite her clearly exhausted body. Victory looked sweet. Finisher medal hanging around her neck and space blanket draping from her shoulders she emerged from the finish coral. She saw me and said “I did it! Look at my medal. I earned every part of this medal.” I couldn’t have been happier for her. 

The Saga

                Back in the Minni-apple, I called my mom a few days later. “How are you feeling?” I asked. She told me that she was a little sore, but not too bad. We had a good laugh about the way in which she had waddled away from the finish line to get back to the car.  And then she told me something that left me breathless –

                “My new goal is to run a marathon in all 50 states!”

I beamed inwardly with admiration. Here is the woman who helped to give me a life better than her own and she wants to, at the age of 50, start down that path. Amazing! I was inspired.

                As of December, 8th 2013 she has completed 9 marathons in 9 states. Once she reaches 10, she gets to join the 50 States Marathon Club – her second milestone after finishing her first marathon 5 years ago.

                So this year as I contemplated a Christmas gift for her my mind went straight to ways to continue to help her pursue this dream. I automatically thought of the New York City Marathon, one of the most prestigious running events in the world. How amazing would it be to run this race for her 10th marathon? Because of its prestige it is one of the most difficult races to procure a racing bib for as well. For some time now the NYRR has had a lottery to get into their race – meaning it can take up to three years to get into the NYC Marathon. That is, unless you run for a charity…


                My Christmas gift to my mom, to help her reach her goal of running 50 marathons is 50 states, is the gift of the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon. I selected the Team For Kids charity because it works to give less fortunate children the same childhood opportunities that my parents worked so hard to give me. The program helps kids across the country and around the world to build self-esteem, learn goal-setting, perseverance, determination, teamwork and healthy exercise habits, through the sport of running, just as my mom has.


                In order to support the children of Team For Kids in their pursuit of a healthy lifestyle and to support my mom in achieving her dream of running in the New York City Marathon, I need to raise $2,800. These funds will also guarantee her entry in to the 2014 NYC Marathon – her milestone 10th marathon on this long road.

                If you are a runner, walker, parent or fan please consider making a tax deductible donation to support this great cause and help a fellow runner achieve her dreams. Donate today! You will have the eternal thankfulness of a fellow running community member, aspiring 50 stater, and thousands of children around the globe.

(Click on this link to be taken to the Team For Kids secure site)

Merry Christmas, Mom. I love you!

And Merry Christmas to you and your family, dear reader! Cheers to many healthy New Years to come! 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Trickle Down Economics of Running

I’ll come right out and say that the following text is primarily comprised of my opinion. However, I consider these opinions to be based on reality due of my extensive personal knowledge in the world of running.

This week I was scrolling through Facebook, neglecting my research paper that is due in a few days, when I happened upon an article written by the Jeré Longman of the New York Times. The article was titled Sub-Elite Runners Chase Improvement. My interested was piqued, I read on. As my eyes meandered left to right absorbing the contents of the article, I decided that I had more to say with regards to this article. So here I am, writing to you.

The article describes a young man (I hope I can call him young, when he is two year older than me), Greg Cass, who in the world of running is considered sub-elite. Meaning that his 2:30.44 marathon PR, while certainly a superb time and one that far superior to the average New York City Marathon finishing time of 4:28:20 for men and 4:44:35 for women, it will not confer a spot for him at the next Olympic Trials Marathon. So he instead uses his discipline and commitment, traits he has in common with even the most elite runners, and sets his sights on improvement. Running faster for the sake of running faster is the name of his game.

The article goes on to address how Cass achieves his success despite holding a full time job as an investment banker, which I agree is no small feat. However, the article goes on to insinuate that professional runners only eat, sleep and train. Which I think is far from the truth for most runners who call themselves professional, but I will not dwell on this fact because it is detour from what I really would like to address. But I will say that I personally chose to join Team USA Minnesota because of the team’s balanced approach to running – they encourage development outside of running in order to be a whole person. With this encouragement I am pursing my running dreams, while at the same time developing strong roots for my future by getting experience as an assistant college coach, earning my masters degree in Leadership, and working a few hours a week at a pet hospital. I live a purpose-driven life, I selected avenues that will help me be successful, rather than just letting life happen to me. End soapbox….stepping down.

Now to get to the real point of what I wanted to address, the intersection between Cass’ world and mine.  Towards the end of the article he is quoted as saying that “’Living in New York, I could appreciate just how huge the event as. It’s an event where you can run with the elites. Even if you finish one hour or two or three behind them, it’s a fun thing to do. Actually witnessing it in New York made me realize how inspiring it could be”. A short paragraph later, Cass is quoted as saying “Seeing Geoffrey Mutai [the 2013 ING New York City Marathon winner] in line at the Porta Potty is your one brush with greatness. Some people would prefer a more glamorous place, but I’ll take what I can get”. Reading these lines brought about a recollection of a question that was asked of me at a press conference prior to the USA Marathon Championships hosted by the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. The question was this “In light of the recent announcement by Competitor Group to pull their elite athlete funding, what do you think of Twin Cities in Motion’s (TCM) pledge to not only continue to support elite athletes but actually to increase that support?” In the moment I replied that I thought that it represented forward thinking on the behalf of TCM, that I believe in the trickledown effect of that support, and that I am extremely thankful for it.

What do I mean by trickledown effect? I mean that by supporting the very top athletes, enabling them to pursue running in a more single minded fashion than would otherwise be possible, they will in turn inspire and give back to those at the sub-elite level, all the way down the chain to the tots who can be found scurrying along in the diaper dash. In the world of money, I know this thinking represents a logic that is highly debated, but in the world of sports I see clear indications of this being truth.
I look at it like this:

The running world can fit into your standard Bell curve, where the extremes are represented by elite runners on the left side of the curve and walkers are on the right. In the middle of the curve, at its peak is your average runner (represented by those running in the mid 4 hour marathon range), and along the curve up to the peak is where you find the sub-elites.

Now that we have looked at this simple curve, answer this one question for me. Why does the average person run in races?

At first the array of possible answers seems rather simple – 1) to see how fast they can cover a distance, 2) to support a cause, 3) for health. (This is not an exhaustive list, but you see the trend). These reasons are rather superficial. You can accomplish any of these three things without running in a race. Yet, people flock by the thousands to run in the ING New York City Marathon. Why?

Well thanks to that research paper that I am currently neglecting to write up my literature review on, I can answer that. Researchers have found that people participate in sports for the following reasons: escape, economic, eustress (aka good stress), self-esteem, group affiliation, entertainment, family and aesthetic reasons.

Greg Cass touches on these reasons in the article when he says he was “drawn to the New York City Marathon, as much for the spectacle as the distance. He was a sports fan, and he lived in a city with one of the world’s great races”.

Now imagine this same race without any of the elites. Gone is some of the spectacle, gone are the competitors whom Greg Cass is pacing out his race next to in the streets of New York, gone is his inspiration. Furthermore, gone too are possibly other sub-elite runners who have children that may compete in the children’s events. Also, gone is Cass’ wife’s inspiration to complete her first half-marathon. As you can see, this one missing link, the lack of elite runners has the potential for wide spread and disturbing consequences.

I have brought forward this discussion to point out what I see as misguided action by Competitor Group to cut elite athlete funding from its Rock ‘n Roll series races. I believe that this will lead to the slow erosion of their races into unconsciousness. Which perhaps to them is fine, but I also see it as a misguided action in this very moment. I understand that Competitor Group is a for-profit company. They are in the business of making money and in our capitalist society I am sure they are applauded for the amount of money they have made off of their races. But by cutting elite athletes from their races, they are not only hurting the running community by not “giving back to the community” as nearly every major corporation does, but they are also missing out on potential profits. The sub-elite runner that normally would have traveled around the country, their tourism dollars in hand, and paid for race entry may now consider a different race. A race where they will not be the lone wolf at the front of the race, alone with only his/her shadow for company. And sub-elite’s partner will not travel with him/her to compete in the same race or to be a spectator either. In short the small percent that Competitor has to spend to bring in professional athletes for their events is far outweighed by the benefits.

My argument is that professional athletes are important to the sport. They provide an outlet for every runner who is a fan of the sport to escape from daily reality, boost their self-esteem, be affiliated with a group, for entertainment, family activities and aesthetics. All of these reasons have been associated with why people watch professional sports.

Now I am not arguing that it is a one way street, the athletes themselves certainly have to help in the process, and there are a number of ways that this can be done. I think Meb Kefleighi is a great example of someone who gives a lot back to the community. Joan Benoit Samuelson is another fantastic example.  They raise our sport to even higher levels, and I for one hope to emulate their greatness.

So finally, my challenge to you is this: If you are a leader in your community that features one of Competitors races, ask yourself if Competitor really has the running community and your neighborhood in its best interest. If you are an athlete, ask yourself the same thing. If you say yes, than I hope you have a Rock ‘n’ Roll’n good time.  If you say no, than show it by choosing another race which supports the community you love.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon #RunMSP

  1        2        3        4       5        6         7       8         9       10     11     12      13  
5:48,    5:48,  5:38 , 5:35,  5:41, 5:38,    5:44,  5:45,    5:55,  5:46,  5:53,  5:56,  6:00,

    14   15    16      17    18     19    20     21    22     23    24    25      26    26.2
 6:06, 5:57, 6:08, 6:08, 6:11, 6:14, 6:16, 6:29, 6:46, 6:46, 6:28, 6:32, 6:21, 1:20   Time = 2:38.57

Have you ever walked into a play that you thought was going to be a comedy and been surprised to find out that it is actually a tragedy? Well, that is what I discovered when I got to about 16 miles into the Twin Cities Marathon. I made the rookie mistake of letting someone else dictate my race – I was reading lines from a tragedy in the middle of my own comedy.

When I set off from the starting line I had one goal in mind, the win. The start went out fast which surprised me and instead of sticking to my own pace I began to rationalize. My mind turned over as quickly as my legs – “I’m as fit as these girls, if I want to win I have to run with them.” “I know this pace is faster than I wanted to average, but they are probably trying to gain some cushion time right now where the course is a little easier”. “I feel good, this pace doesn’t feel crazy, I’m going to do fine”.

I was in the top three, stalking the leaders. As the leaders continued to push the pace, I eventually decided that I could let them go a little bit, keep them in sight but allow them to play themselves out and I would pick them up later. But that didn’t happen, the early damage was done and the rest of the race was a lonely fight to the finish line.

People have asked “When did you feel it?” And my response is, there was never one moment where I said to myself “oh crap”, just a slow deterioration of my pace and with it the accumulation of a few more women in front of me. I was able to hold on to finish in the top 10 and get an Olympic Trials A qualifying time, but that was about it. Mostly I felt foolish….I said to myself over and over again before the race, “I’m going to run my own race” and yet I didn’t execute that plan. I didn’t trust in myself enough.

Lance Elliot (who did trust his own abilities and ran a brilliant race), who I spent a lot of time training with in the past months ended up passing me just before mile 24, just in time for the “smile cam” to snap a picture of us in the mere seconds that we were on the course side by side that day. And instead of smiling as the huge sign next to the camera suggested, I just wanted to give that sign a swift kick. If only I could have picked my legs up more than the few inches needed to clear the pavement for my next step forward.

Oh, and the cherry on top of the cake. I was the only lucky woman that weekend to get drug tested on both Saturday and Sunday! I got to spend a lot of quality time exposing myself to the nice people from USADA. I say this in half jest, because it’s great to have USADA there helping to ensure that the sport that I love is clean. But at the same time, no matter how many times you do it, it is never a comfortable thing to have to drop your shorts with a pair of foreign eyes watching on.

Well now it is over and it’s back to the grindstone for 6 weeks, until the US Championships on Nov 17th in Alexandria, VA. This will be a 12K race which will serve as the “culminating event of USATF’s USA Running Circuit and USATF’s flagship road race, featuring $100,000 in prize money, the race offers an opportunity for everyone to test their limits and enjoy a scenic run through historic Alexandria” (  I am currently in 6th place on the leader board, with the 12k counting as triple points towards the road racing circuit. Can I catch the women in front of me and jump into one of the top three spots? Stay tuned. Make sure to watch the race on Sunday Nov. 17th, or even better yet come out and run!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Meghan Peyton Preps for Twin Cities" -- Running Times Interview

Meghan Peyton Preps for Twin Cities

After winning the U.S. 20K championships in September, the hometown favorite makes her second attempt at the marathon distance.

October 1, 2013
Meghan Peyton, 27, is in the crazy-making taper before Sunday’s Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. The kind of crazy-making in which she does five miles a day. In two workouts. Adding to the stress level, Peyton finds herself on a short list of favorites in a hometown event, the U.S. marathon championships, over a distance she has never completed.
When she was still Meghan Armstrong, she won three consecutive Oregon state high school titles at 1500m and 3,000m, molding her self-image as a mid-distance runner. Once set, the mid-d persona is very durable. But after the NCAA 1500m final eluded her several times, she was more receptive when, in her senior track season at University of Iowa, coach Layne Anderson suggested the 10,000. Her first go at the distance was at Stanford, which turned out much better than she expected and she ran 33:28. She did the 5K-10K double at the 2008 Big Ten championships, winning the 10K, and finished out her college career with sixth place at the 10,000 meters at nationals.
Upon graduation in 2008, she and soon-to-be husband, Cole Peyton, hit the road, checking out training groups and seeing the country, eventually parking the car in Minneapolis with Team USA Minnesota. With the group, she plays the role of the level-headed, quiet, jack-of-all-trades, running roads, track and cross country. Peyton has a 1500m PB of 4:17.4, a half-marathon best of 1:13:43 and a posting at every distance in between. In September, she won the U.S. 20K championships in New Haven, Conn., in 1:09:57. The only event missing from her resume is the marathon, which she will fill in shortly.
When not running alongside Minnesota’s lakes and rivers, she is the Cross Country Fellow at Augsburg College (which is like assistant coach), a client services coordinator at Banfield Pet Hospital and proud Saucony athlete ambassador. She spoke to Running Times before her marathon debut.
Running Times: Your first attempt at the marathon was January 2012, the Olympic trials. Why the big jump in distance?
Meghan Peyton: Dennis (Barker, coach of Team USA Minnesota) kept asking me when I was going to get over my obsession with the mile, and I kept saying, “Every race begins with a mile.” Which is to say, never. But he was persistent in mentioning the marathon, working it into conversations. It was intimidating but I’d done a number of halfs and they had gone OK.
RT: How did the Olympic trials marathon go?
MP: I felt really good for the first 15 miles. I had a blister, but that was in the back of my mind. The pack I was in kept surging and slowing down, from 5:30s to 5:50s, and since this was the trials, I was focused on racing rather than hitting splits. So every time they surged, I went with them. At the 19-mile aid station, I took a Roctane gel, which I had not experimented with before and almost immediately my head felt like a balloon floating up above my body. What does that have, three times the caffeine of one cup of coffee? Plus my blood sugar was low at that point. At 22, the Roctane wore off and I started to crash. Just before 24 miles, you had to do a 180-degree turn around a pylon, my blister hurt and my hip flexors—I thought I’d trip over the chip mat. I could not lift my legs. People started to pass me. My spirit was broken. I looked over and saw the aid station at 24 miles. I know, 24 miles! But at that point, two more miles was an eternity. Even having slowed down, I was on pace for a 2:36, top-twenty finish. I stepped off the course and burst into tears. Lot of excuses but it came down to me giving up on myself. It’s the only race I’ve ever dropped out of, and I swore it would never happen again. Cole, everyone had gone on to the finish line. He said later, if he’d been there, he wouldn’t have let me quit.
RT: Then what?
MP: I was so disappointed in myself, I took four days off and started training again. Hard. I did five or six 10Ks in the spring, focusing on the 10K at the trials. I took some time off at the end of the summer, then ran the 5K championships in Providence, 30 seconds slower than the previous year. Then the 20K championships, three minutes slower than 2011. People tried to convince me it was in my head but after that, I knew it wasn’t in my head. I couldn’t move. I went to the doctor and as I was telling her what I’d been doing, she just shook her head. “Have you heard of overtraining?” she asked me. I had low iron and B12, which was a first for me. I eat meat, leafy greens. I’m not a picky eater. Anyway, she gave me a B12 shot and told me to double my iron supplement, and I felt better, not 100%, but better the rest of 2012.
RT: How did the Twin Cities Marathon come about?
MP: I was looking for redemption at the marathon. It’s a U.S. championship, it’s where I live. It was an obvious choice.
RT: What’s different about your training?
MP: Higher mileage and races every weekend as workouts. The low iron thing is behind me, so higher mileage hasn’t been a problem. No one else in the group is running the marathon, so instead of doing these long hard workouts by myself, we planned a lot of races, all 15K or longer. I can practice eating and drinking protocol, run harder than I would by myself and get used to surging. Or not when other people do. I lined up U.S. championships and then filled in with other races so I was racing every weekend.
RT: Tell me about your peak training.
MP: The week leading up to Bobby Crim (Aug. 24), I hit 132 miles. My previous highest mileage week was 107. I frontloaded the week so my legs wouldn’t betoo trashed, so Sunday was 21 miles, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were 18 in the morning and seven in the afternoon. Thursday was 15. My teammate, Heather Kampf, came to Flint with me because there was a road mile on Friday night. The race director said I should enter the mile, too, because the field was weak and prize money went five deep. I ran the mile, got fifth and $250, and the six miles total I’d planned for Friday. Saturday I ran the 10 mile (in 56:41) with a 3-mile warmup and cool down.
RT: During the week, just mileage?
MP: Yes, two-a-days. On Wednesdays, I usually did something fast, like 6 x 800 or 12 x 400.
RT: Some were surprised by your win at the 20K Championship. Were you?
MP: I was, not because I didn’t think I had the talent, but because I didn’t expect it that day. I’d done around 95 miles that week, it was absolutely thick with humidity. My previous best finish at that race was seventh and last year I was 18th, so no, I didn’t have a lot of confidence. At first, I was elated to be in the lead pack and then, when I was by myself in the lead, I was confused but thought, “Just keep pushing. I think you can win this but you’d better get away from them now.” The last two or three miles is this long straight road and I didn’t want to turn around to see who was back there, but I thought, “They’re going to hunt you down.” I was running scared. I’d worked so hard and didn’t want to lose it at the end, so I ran as hard as I could. I was sort of stunned when I crossed the line.
RT: While Competitor Group has cancelled their elite athlete program, I understand other smaller organizations are stepping up. Tell me about that.
MP: (laughs) Well, yes, to the tune of $93. My first weekend race/workout back at the beginning of August was the Grand View Firehouse 15K in a small town in northern Wisconsin. As we were warming up, the announcer was challenging all the women, wondering if any of us had the guts to chase the 21-year-old course record. It looked attainable, but I was told the course was very hilly. After battling with last year’s (male) winner and hometown favorite, and running the last couple miles on a state highway that was open to traffic, I heard the announcer saying, “Meghan, you are my hero!” I won overall and broke the course record by almost six minutes. I cooled down running the course in reverse, cheering those still finishing, and nearly every woman asked, “Did you get it?” At the award ceremony, they presented me with a plaque and $93 they had collected from spectators in a Bud Light pitcher. Of all the awards I’ve earned, this was one of the very best. I felt like I had inspired someone, the announcer anyway, and elite athletes do have value to the running community. I was really touched by the gesture.
RT: What’s the plan for Twin Cities Marathon?
MP: I’ll focus on hitting splits for the first 15 or so. I’m aiming for low 2:30s. I’d like to place high in the (U.S.) championship. Going for the W would be awesome