Monday, December 24, 2012

How to prevent calf muscle pulls and strains

During the last 4 years of running one of my occasional problems has been getting a calf "pull" (or "cramp" or "strain"). I tried to remember all the strains I've had and I think it totals up to at least 8.

Only one of them (Long Beach Marathon) occurred *during* a race, thank god, and I have never missed the start of a marathon due to one (although I did have to bail on a Ragnar Relay I was signed up for)

Along the way I have figured out how to deal with Achillies Tendonitis (perhaps another post on that sometime) as well as dealing with a leg length discrepancy that was beating the crap out of one leg more than the other.

But the strain problem is now my next focus. So let me share what I have found out so far.

What is a calf pull, strain or tear?

Firstly, it's NOT a cramp. A cramp is the sudden onsen of a knot in the muscle due to low electrolytes or dehydration. They can happen in your sleep! I have had them hit me in the foot after a tough day. Not often though. 

Lesson #0: Sadly, a pull/strain/tear is just what the last one says: some of the muscle fibers have torn. Walking or running usually becomes impossible without pain and that pain is there because the involved muscles are trying to keep you from doing further damage. You may have swelling and tenderness in short order. 

As usual with these kinds of things RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) right after the event will save you a lot of time on recovery. (Tip: Use your calf compression sleeves to hold a cold-pack against the injury area and provide compression for the first half day after.)

Treatment Lesson #1: Be CAREFUL after a tear. If you pull up lame in a race, you need to use your best judgement before you proceed. In my Long Beach race, I managed to massage the pull and get it to relax. Then I was able to limp-a-thon my way to the finish. My recovery time did not seem to be worsened by this but it probably was some (i.e. I probably did a bit more tearing getting to the finish) This pull was pretty minor by comparison to some others and was a actually a "re-pull"...the story:

3 weeks before the race I had torn my calf with an too agressive stretch (The kind where you grab your toes with your leg extended......I don't do those any more!). 3 weeks is not really enough time to fully really need 4 or even 6 weeks to heal before a big stressor like a marathon.

Treatment Lesson #2: Give it time to fully heal. I also was an idiot for insisting on running this race at my goal sub-4 pace....wrongo. I did better with my pull before Berlin....I waited a full three weeks before I did any running, and then only base pace. I made it to Berlin and I also ran a slow (for me ) pace there and so had no problems.

Treatment Lesson #2a: when you start running again, take it easy. No fast paces, speedwork or steep hills. Plain old base pace running is the fastest you should go.

How to prevent calf pulls?

Prevention Lesson #1: Compression sleeves help.  They are not a panacea but  in my humble experience they do give you a little bit of margin for error. All but a couple of my pulls happened when NOT wearing calf sleeves. Why don't I wear them all the time? Sigh.       Good question! I have bought myself 4 pairs of them now so I always have a clean pair.

Prevention Lesson #2: Tight calfs are BAD..stretch!.  The calfs need to be kept loose so that the tension loading during your running is not need the tension loading to be as low as possible during ordinary running, else when you sprint,, head up that big hill, or hit mile 20 in your marathon... here comes a tear!

This is the lesson I forgot during my time off after Berlin. I did a lot of hiking and walking but my muscles were also pretty tight from just sitting a lot of the time too. I was doing NO stretching or squats that would loosen me up and keep me ready to resume running safely.

Prevention Lesson #3: Trigger points are RED FLAG WARNING signs. Do you know what a trigger point is? It's when you get a little knot in your muscle..visualize a rubber band with a little snarly knot it in. This is VERY bad for your calfs because that knot will not stretch. Hence you have shortened the effective length of the muscle. That means more of the range of motion has to come from less fiber ...therefore more tension loading..and rriip!

So a cramp can be a bad sign, because it's a knot...a trigger that is so bad it is in spasm and forcing you to stop. If you don't work it out you may get a tear and be in for some down-time!

When I resumed running after my time off post Berlin  I could feel some funky trigger points and soreness, but it was way around on the left side of my left calf near the top of the outside, right next to the bone. 

Stupidly I did nothing about it, figuring it would go away by itself, and it also seemed to be in an area I wasn't really using in my running. WRONG.

Getting rid of trigger points has several methods:

1) foam rolling
2) the 'stick'
3) jacknobbers and other 'point' tools
4) massage 
5) self massage

We all know we should do more of these things and I did some  of 1 and 2, but my problem was the triggers I had were quite deep and also close to the unusual place. So neither of these really worked...rolling showed I had soreness but they couldn't get pressure on them to iron out the knots.

Eventually I realized this ..they were the same level of knottyness after two weeks of rollering..and so I got the message and got a massage. YOW! When he found the knots and pressed his fingers in..MAN DID IT HURT!  Gradually after 10-15 seconds I could feel the knots relax and lengthen out. 

I came out of that massage realizing that I had re-pulled because of my own stupidity at not stretching and getting those post-marathon triggers out of there ASAP, rather than letting them sit and adhere to the surrounding muscle for the last month. That just makes it harder to iron them out.

I got two more massages and each time the triggers were less, and relaxed quicker. I complained that my self massage was very difficult: a) it's hard to inflict huge pain on yourself, and b) my fingers just were not strong enough to hold the tension well.

 My massage guy suggested I get a couple of 'jackknobbers'  so I could really do a proper job after every run.

I have been using them for about a week now and they get really the job done! I use a little lotion on the spot where I am applying them and then press in the larger ball shape and work it around..gradually the muscle relaxes and then I shift to the smaller balls to get more pressure..gradually sliding it around to hunt for any more knots.

(NOTE: I paid for my jacknobbers, I am not reviewing them and there are many similar devices that would work just as well, IMHO. )

How to prevent tight calfs and trigger points?

So, now we ask ourselves "Why am I getting these tight calfs and trigger points?"  What is the Uber Prevention Lesson?

We promise to stretch, keep our legs clean of triggers and wear our sleeves, but can't we prevent them in the first place?!?

Yes, I think we can. I'm not sure, but as I mentioned in my previous post I think a 'chi-style' stride will help. The key light bulb moment was when reading the book, Danny (mr Chi) tells us that our lower legs should be relaxed and loose, even floppy if you will. 

We should be getting power from our glutes and hamstrings, NOT the lower legs. 

Say what? My lower legs are NOT FLOPPY. I have decent form (got rid of my AT with it) but I do use my lower legs far too much in my running. So, they get tired. And when I run hard or long, they can get trigger points.

As I recover from my previous errors, I'm trying to keep my calfs uber relaxed. I'm not perfect at it yet but give me another month or two.

All this is just in time for Tacoma's  "only" 19 weeks out so gotta get cleaned up and ready for some mileage building!

Happy Holidays! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another piece of the puzzle?

The fall colors are about to get hammered by some big rains..that will be it for autumn.

It's been a month since I got back from our long trip: 7 weeks since the Berlin Marathon.
Although I didn't have any problems during the marathon or during the hiking around after I started running I pulled the damn thing again. 

This is probably the 6th time I have pulled one calf or another. 

A few weeks passed with me doing a lot of cross training and strength training (which I enjoy reasonably well)..the calf gradually got better. But, I was thinking during that time: "I need to figure how why this is happening ". 

Calf sleeves have helped, but they haven't solved the problem, stretching and strength training...ditto.  Clearly there were some form issues that were Not Right.

Not that it's all bad: over the years I have made a lot of progress in my form:  

  1. I'm using a much more rapid cadence (from 78-82 to 85-90) and amid-foot strike.
  2. I have worked through terrible AT issues, and some slight PF issues as well. 
  3. I learned how to keep my core strong and release my psoas muscle when it's locked up (which is rarely is now that I'm stronger).
  4. I also discovered how to deal with my leg length discrepancy with a small homemade foot lift. 

My last peaked marathon, my fastest to date at 3:54:54 (Eugene, Or) I had no big issues in training or during the race...that was awesome!

Anyway, after this pull I was still noodling over the problem of *why* the pulls?. Then one day before I was to go down to Pasadena for Thanksgiving looking through running books to read for the trip  I stumbled on the ChiRunning book. 

I like books. I like learning things from people that have already been there. Isn't that what makes us different than the animals ;) ? 

I downloaded the ebook and read it during the trip down....Bingo! 

I'm not a fan of the "Chi Energy" theory itself: from my point of view that's just a way of visualizing and explaining's not required to believe in that to get the benefits of the form instructions. There's a lot of good thinking behind the form ideas and so I don't let that bias me.

There were several things that jumped out at me in that book..(in order of 

1) My lower legs are tense and working way to hard. In fact my glutes and upper legs are too tense as well. This is the bingo moment. In ChiRunning you are totally relaxed and not tense in the legs and glutes.

2)I was forward leaning too much. Result: stress on lower legs.

3) I have not been doing enough hip rotation to lengthen my stride during faster paced energy lost!

4) I really don't keep my hips leveled all the time, like most people they are tilted back which is bad. I have the core muscles to do it now but I often let this slide...also resulting in stress on the legs.

Why didn't I read this book before? A couple of years ago I was looking at the Amazon reviews and some guy said "...all this book is y telling you is to lean forward from the ankles when you run". That I had already learned so I didn't think to read the book...what a stupid move on my part, but also  what a stupid thing for this guy to say.

If there is one thing I've learned over and over now, it's that form is critical to running healthy ...and fast.

I started working on adding these elements to my form..I've racked 20 miles for last week at various base paces. So far the calves are feeling better even though the running is more. It's an interesting feeling keeping my lower body loose and relaxed and cranking 9 m/m.  

Read the ChiRunning's good information. As I said I don't care for the 'chi energy' model but you don't really need to use it, you just need to follow the focus lessons on your form. There is also a some chapters on diet etc that I don't really need (I 

Official Tacoma training starts Jan 1! Need some good base training under my belt before then...for this peak I want to:

  1. Clean up my form as per the injuries!
  2. Migrate back to the Kinvaras for the race by mixing them back in training.
  3. Hit race day down in the 16X lbs.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Where's Paul?

Haven't been blogging...I was just too busy after being away for so long. Where was I? Well, after the Berlin Marathon visit Toni and I went to Mauritius for 5 days, and then a 1 hour flight to Madagascar for a 2 week, mostly driving tour (two internal flights). 

Madagascar is almost at the other side of the earth from where I live near San Francisco. It's a lot of flying to get home!

Besides being too swamped with work, I was also pretty busy processing the photos and videos from that trip but finally that is done!

The memories of that trip are powerful. Madagascar is a very large island, isolated from other continents for many millions of years and so it has a biodiversity that is the highest on earth.  The photo above is of  "Baobob" trees...they are like something from outer space. 65% of the chameleons on the earth live there. Instead of baboons, chimps and monkeys you have many many species of lemurs.

There are a lot of national parks to protect the animals, but sadly, the Malagasy people are on average very poor and still practice slash-and-burn subsistance agriculture. And their population is growing very fast. This means there is always the danger the remaining forests will be lost it's a tense situation.

As a people I found the Malagasy friendly, happy and kind. They do everything in the countryside with difficult manual labor (but don't gripe about it) and you will not find very many fat people there at all.  

But, the medical care is terrible, the nutrition is probably bad and the cooking with charcoal indoors probably does a number on peoples lungs. As a result the average life expectancy for a man is ......exactly my age: 56. Um. 

If you are interested in lemurs, the "Big Red Island" and its people check out the "Best of Madagascar" album of our trip (250 photos culledo ut of 3000) over here


After the marathon while on the trip I didn't do any running..there just wasn't any time..of course we did get some walking/hiking in but really there wasn't much to keep me in good condition...there was a lot of sitting and driving.

So, I've been gradually returning to running and also strength training. I gained about 5-8 lbs from not doing enough exercise and eating too much (it was worth it...8)... but I'm only about halfway back to where I need to be now.

Next race up is the Tacoma marathon on May 5th....plenty of time to prepare! Looking forward to this race as it's the home of the Marathon Maniacs (race run by one of the founders) and they'll be a lot of them there for the 10th anniversary of the founding. 

I am considering revving up to try for a PR on this's not a bad course..has one incline early in the race for a mile that gains about 180' but it has a 200' net downhill overall so It's a possibility.  Jill? You up for another round of coaching ;)? 

To those of you gearing up to run CIM (Paulette, Tricia, Amanda...??) Have a great race! I wish I was there. (I have considered driving up just to ring the cowbell and cheer ya'll on ..we'll see!)

So, if you are reading this far, ...I'm sorry I haven't been commenting on your blogs! I have been skimming them to try to keep up.. I just don't have as much time these days. I hope to get back to normal eventually.

Meanwhile...happy running!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Back from Berlin and our post marathon travels after!

Finally got some internet access with decent bandwidth to check out the MarathonPhoto pics and decided to buy them. They did a good job.

Here's my all time favorite pic...Lynne just behind me in blue with her trademark big smile. 

Both of us can now see the finish line and that the time will be well under 4:30. I think the angle of the photo is pretty cool, showing the Brandenburg gate in the background perfectly!

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Berlin Marathon: ..Expo and days before..

Such crappy internet and so busy I never got to post this expo review *before* the here you go. 

I'm still not home, in fact I'm 11,000km from home and 6,000 km from Berlin. Can you guess?


We arrived in Berlin late on Wednesday night after a nasty flight over on Swiss (usually they are really good). I got chilled and then boiled on this flight and ended up getting a massive head cold by the time we crashed in our hotel. Bummer. I could only hope it would be better, or at least not into my lungs by race day.

On Thursday morning we spent some time walking around and seeing the Hamburger Haptbanhof (former Hamburg train station turned into art museum).

Late that afternoon we headed over to the expo to pick up our bib and check it out. Lynne and Latimer were arriving late that night and there was a possibility of meeting up at the expo.

Templehof airport was indeed huge, but you could see that it was poorly laid out for air travel these days. The hangers for airplane servicing were part of the same terminal as for passengers! Probably seemed like a good idea at the time 8).

The first pic shows the pre-entrance with some old sailplanes hanging from the ceiling. Once you got in there were TWO HUGE hangers of expo plus some outdoor stuff.  Of course the bib pickup was all the way in the back and we made our way there. They would not allow Toni in, so she waited at the exit.

They are uber organized about this. I got my bib in about 30 lines on a Thursday and you don't have to go to a particular person (and they don't have to hunt for your bib) because they PRINT them right on the spot at each station! The bib was freakin' HUGE however.  Big ad for TATA services on the bottom, and big space with BWM logo on the top. First names printed on the bib..not sure why since the Euro crowds only very rarely call out names of strangers.

Got my T-shirt (you have to pay extra for a shirt...8/ ) and met back up with Toni. I came so far for this race I did spring for various race schwag items (Adidas wear)...jacket and hat of course.

We browsed around and looked for some information booth to help with planning Toni' at Latimer's spectating path.. a women at a sports medicine clinic area was very nice and pointed out a few things. (Later on Saturday I would sit down and figure out the broad arrival times for 7, 21, 32 and finish with rough suggestions on U-bahn and S-bahn connections for them)

 Toni took my picture with me holding my bib and the course map in the background.

I took some pictures out side of the airport's very distinctive curvature. You could see it was long in the tooth...getting old..after all it was built more than 70 years ago I think! I thought about my dad being here and working up on the roof installing antennas and I thought about how grim it must have been to be stuck in the "island" of berlin during the airlift. 

I also thought of my Dad clambering around on the roof installing antennas 54 years ago and felt a big pang of sadness from missing him. .  8(

Dinner was calling and massive jetlag was setting in, so we did not get to meet up with Lynne and Latimer that night.  The next morning we were scheduled to meet up at the south gate of the main train station at 9:00am the next morning for a walking/jogging tour of the HUGE start/finish area for this marathon given by Mike.  Mike does running tours of Berlin and we normally would have done this too, but he was scheduled to give a big tour for the Adidas team later the same day..lucky him!

This tour was free for us (Lynne knows Mike as she gives running tours of Copenhagen) and it was a bright sunny cold morning as we walked around the Tiergarden park which is where the race both starts and finishes. Mike described the typical tricks-of-the trade (e.g men can just pee in the woods (lots of trees and bushes to hide behind) ...we should fight to get to the front of our corral...after the start you can jump into corrals that are farther forward than your 'assigned' corral, etc). 

I new this race was going to be BIG (it's one of the 'majors': Boston, Chicago, Berlin, London, NYC after all) but when we asked Mike how long until we could run our pace he told us it would take until the 10k mark (!).  We both were pretty surprised by that number. At LA I was pretty much in the clear after a mile or two..but the streets there are wider.

Lynne was at Berlin with the goal of a new sub 4:30 PR. Faster would be nice of course 8) and her idea for a starting pace was 4:15 (9:44 m/m) . I was new to this pacing game and was trying to figure out how to be a help to Lynne and not screw up her day.

Pacing is a very fun idea: if you want to run more than one or two marathons a year, you really can't run them ALL for a PR. So rather than just running by yourself it seemed like a fun idea to help somebody else make their goal. Hopefully I would be healthy and a big stronger than my pace-ee so I could take pictures and have extra energy to encourage her at the right moments.

After splitting up with Mike, Lynne, Latimer  and I met up with Toni in front of the Brandenburg tor (gate) and agreed on where to meet on race morning to hand off Latimer to Toni for child-minding and spectating duty.

Later that day, we went up one of the highest buildings in Berlin to take pictures and when we stopped in the bar-cafe at the top for some coffee, I noticed that half of it was taking up by a bunch of young folks in Adidas gear. After a time, I went over and asked them "Are you guys the Adidas team?", answer: yes. "Are you guys running the tour of Berlin with Mike this afternoon?", answer: YES!

So, a very small world! I heard that Geoffry Mutai was in that group from the bartender so I went back over there just in time to see him getting up to leave. I came up to him to ask him for a picture and Toni stepped up behind me and grabbed my camera and said "Get in the picture!". And so I have this photo together 8).  I asked him if he was going to win and he said very modestly "I will do my best". He did win and ran a 2:04:15, edging out another Kenyan by a second. This time is only 40s or so off the record...amazing.


The day before a marathon, you should really stay off your feet, but there were a bunch of friends to meet and tourist around with and we made the best of it. My cold was getting better but  not gone so I knew I would be leaving a lot of mucus on the course. 


...and so I did 8)...see race report here.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

RunDown: Berlin Marathon 2012 (#16)

Berlin 2012 was my 16th marathon since my first in March, 2009.

If you want to run more than a couple of marathons per year, you can't be peaking for all of them. Therefore, the goal of this marathon was to have fun in a new way: to one-on-one pace a friend to a new PR, something I have never done before. The theory is that because my time is normally faster than this PR I will have more extra energy to take care of other things.

I spent a little time thinking the 'other things', i.e. about what are the goals of a pacer..being a pacer in a one-on-one situation could be a pretty complex jjob if you want to do it right: Perhaps a mix of entertainer, coach, therapist and fan. I decided the main goals where:

1) Have fun, i.e. neither of us want to make the experience a downer, not matter what our time might be.

2) Offload Lynne from worrying about what pace she's actually running.

3) Help figure out strategy  before the race and deal with tactics during the race.

4) Keep the pace "properly".

5) Take lots of pictures.

Lynne had made it clear that she was dead-set against anything slower than a 4:30. This was good information: we needed to try to make this happen no matter what. However, her stretch goal was 4:15 and she suggested this as a starting pace to allow for some pace fade in the last few km. This made me a bit nervous because a 15 minute difference in time is pretty large for a 'pad' and it was a pretty big leap from her previous 4:31:xx PR. Her training had not been perfect and both of us had caught mild head colds in the previous weeks (hers a bit earlier, mine on the flight over) I prepared pace bands for a 4:15 pace just in case but figured we'd be adding time off them if we used them at all. 

In line with #4 I decided I would try to keep things to an even pace, I did not want any fade, but of course we had to figure out what that pace WAS. Lynne had also spent a lot of time with bathroom breaks in one of her previous races from what she realized was drinking too much for cooler conditions and I wanted to see if we could savesome of this time too.

The Berlin start is quite late by most standards: 9am. The morning of race day, I got up at 6am to eat a little bit and at 7:40am Toni  set off to meet Lynne and Latimer at Parisier Place in front of the Brandenberger tor. On the way we could see all the other racers converging via all the other streets. It struck me how this always looks like some solemn massing of troops..runners quiet and walking resolutely in the same overall direction as to some kind of battle. The weather was cold but it was a full sun..too bad...we were hoping for some low could be a bit warm by 1:30pm.

We met up and Lynne handed off Latimer to Toni's care. I had brought two cowbells for them to cheer with and for us to help in finding them (I hoped). I had sat down with Toni the previous day and we worked out the details of the Berlin mass transit system so they could cheer us on at km 7, 21, 32 and 40-42 km. Toni took our pictures and off we went toward the start.

We were walking in on the south side of Unter der Linden (which becomes "Avenue 17 June") but soon found some porto-pottys and Lynne stopped for a needed break. As we walked toward the start it was a bit of a mess: too many people on our side for the space ...eventually we found the entrance to Lynne's corral "H"..the slowest corral..the guy looked at my bib and said "you are for G!" I said "I'm pacing her so I'm in H". This confused him but he waved me in.

In the corral for H it was too crowded to move forward without doing a major Lynne suggested we exit the corral through a north side exit/entrance and walk on the sidewalk to the head of H. This was a great idea and when we got to the head of H we jumped the fence to get in right at the head. Yes, I know, this seems really rude and nasty but frankly, as you will learn, the Berlin marathon is a crowded place and you need to do what you need to do.

As we waited for the start the helicopters were buzzing, the 'warm up' dancers were dancing (and marathoners were burning precious energy bouncing around 8). A huge batch of balloons went was cool to see how they moved in the wind. It was really a great day to be out there and I repeated my mantra of "any day you can run a marthon is a great day!". It truly was!

The elites started at 9am and eventually they started moving us slowpokes up for our start at 9:20am. On the way, Lynne noticed a row of pottys was empty and so she stopped one-last-time for 60s or so and then we rejoined the corral. Eventually we got to the start and indeed we could in fact run. It was a bit tricky because of the usual discarded warming things that were underfoot but I did not see anybody have any problems with them. 

Over the mat and punch the watch start and soon we come upon the beautiful golden "winged victory" statue ahead. We decide to flow around to the right rather than the left as we are following the right side for most of the day (most of the looping around is right turns so we felt it would be the tangent for most of the race). Indeed, they actually paint the tangent used for measuring the race every year and we followed this as much as we could.

It was _crowded_. We could run but we were going about a 10:17 pace, not a 9:44 (4:15) pace. I was not too worried as Lynn had already commented spontanously that she was feeling the remnents of her cold (as was I) and so I was thinking we would try to make up some time by the half, but not be totally crazy about it. It was taking enough energy just dealing with the crowding at a slow pace..a 9:44 pace at that point would have burned a lot of energy.

I did not know it at the time but my HR at that point was in the 130 range for me which is insanely high for that pace...a combination of jet lag and head cold remnants plus my general lack of training in the last weeks. I felt ok but I was happy to be running a at a 10:00-ish pace! In fact, I was worried that I would need  to send Lynne on without me at some point..not just because I might have a calf strain again but also because she might just be faster than me that day. So far she was showing a lot of strength at these paces which was good.

For me the most interesting thing on race day is deciding the pace. It is very difficult to do...after 16 marathons I use a combination of data from the training cycle (HR data, mileage, speedwork mix, time trial results) plus the race day conditions (wind, temp, crowding, hills, jetlag, previous illness, weird feelings, etc). Lynne did not have any time trial results because of her cold but I knew she was in the early 'improving for free' stage of marthoning so it was quite possible that she could knock out a 4:15. She seemed not too upset with the slower paces due to crowded and didn't want to do anything too crazy with passing so we just went along as we could.

At 7km we looked for Toni and Latimer ..listening for the low-pitched cowbells..but did not find them. I was a bit worried by this but knew that Toni knew that finidng us for that marker was the least important. There were a lot of spectators..and MANY from denmark cheering on friends they clearly had in the race as well as any other Danes out there. Lynne worked this as we went along as well as the English spectors (very few) and the Spanish ones (she was wearing her Madrid adidas race shirt). 

Lynne had warned me she liked to talk a lot during a race. I felt bad because I am not a talker during a race, in fact I had never run a race with anybody else and hardly done any training runs non-solo. As a pacer it was clear I was lacking in this department...Lynne used talking to bolster the psycological component of her running..I do this internally. Of course we did have some comments all the time about the course, the music, other runners, etc but my end was generally more lacking I think. Luckily Lynne didn't really need me to say much back, it was good enough to listen most of the time.

Finally at mile 7 the crowding was down enough that we got a full 4:15 pace (9:44 min/mile) behind us. We were both feeling good although I could feel an annoying tightness in my right hip area that I hadn't felt before. Thankfully, my calfs were doing problem there so far. Lynne and I had started with small water bottles to drink from so we could avoid the 5k and 10k water stops as they would probably be super crowded (and they were). 

So, you should know that a problem with the Berlin marthon is water stops every 5k. This is not enough: the stops are too crowded because everybody feels obliged to stop when they are spread out so far. The race is already crowded enough..not having more stops just makes it worse. In addition the use of plastic cups in such large quantities in each location make for a very slippery wet surface. Both Lynne and I commentted on this at every stop...we were uber careful. (At one stop (I think at about 30km) I heard a guy go down HARD to my left and behind me. I think he slipped on the cup..but then his muscles spasmed at the sudden effort..his cry of pain was *before* he fell,  and that is when he went down.)

On we rolled. It was quite difficult to run side by side and work our way through the crowds..I don't know how many times I knocked elbows with Lynne. I knew all this was taking energy but there really wasn't any choice. Our pace was settling in on 10:00 min/mile on the Garmin (with gps noise and non tangents this was probably closer to 10:10 I knew) and there wasn't much we could do to make it faster. Lynne needed to walk through the water stops and take a bit of time to down the water and frankly that seemed the only thing we could do given the mess at each stop. But this slowed us down and the fast miles we managed to crank out were just kept up with the losses at the stops. 

Another problem: there walkers right in the middle of the road. Very few people seemed to realize that if they were going to walk WTF were they doing in the middle of the road. ??!? I was expecting the European crowed to be smarter about this than in USA but no, they were much worse in this race. Some of the people walking at this point were clearly injured but some just seemed to be walking. ..WTF? No idea what this people were doing out there walking so early in the race if not injured.

Eventually we got closer to the half point and we started looking for Toni and Latimer. I knew she would be getting out at the York Strasse U-bahn stop and when I saw a York street sign we really started scanning: success! Lynne spotted them before they spotted us and we had a nice reunion! They seemed to be having a good time spectating and not frazzled or anything so that was good to know.

There started to be more bands as we got futher on the course and I really enjoyed them. There were drummers, jazz, rock and roll, techno ..all sorts of banks as well as recorded music playing. I always get a lift from hearing good music on the course. Thankfully nobody was running with earbuds on the course (this was not allowed). 

After the half I was feeling like I was ok aerobically, but my leg muscles were definately letting me know my training was not as much as normal. My legs were a 'medium toast' at the half, which is not good. I was starting to get worried I would not be able to keep up with Lynne as she was very full of beans and was trhing to make up more time as best as we could. 

Lynne warned me that after each gel she would get a little sugar high and speed up for a couple of km, and then fall back to normal pace...I found this true. If she should miss a gel, that would result in a slowdown. I think she used like 8 big gels in the race and I used 6. I probably would have taken 5 if I was on my own. This is known difference between people ..i.e. how they deal with blood sugar changes. Definately something for a pacer to take note of: some runners might not let you know about this until they crash.

I think sometime after the half marathon point we caught up to Mike (in his trademark lime green vest) from sightrunning (see my previous post)! I think Lynne spotted his lime green jacket first and then we both caught up to him and said hello. What a small world that we should met up during the race! I told him how I had run into his Adidas team group on Friday and had met Geoffry Mutai. This was his 9th Berlin He was out doing a lot of picture taking during this race and so we bid him auf widersen and kept on going.

Along this stretch there were a lot of really nice tree-lined streets ..they were narrower than I liked but they were pretty and cooler than being in the sun. It really was in interesting course and had a LOT of spectators..but it was just too darn crowded. As we got out past mile 16 or so the numbers of walkers and slower runners just kept going up and up and making it more work for us to work through the crowed. We evolved to a method where we took different routes through the crowd...keep tabs on each other and joining up if we found a big bubble of open space. This worked a lot easier than us trying to follow eadch other all the time.

We had hit the half in something like a 2:14:xx which wasn't great but I was hoping that because we went slowly in the first half we could hold the pace for the second half. We still managed to crank out 9:44 miles (on the garmin, which with all the jinking around people and the gps noise were really 9:58-ish miles) and so it seemed like it was shaping up to be a sub 4:30 by a handfull of minutes PR.

Lynne had a plan to take just *one* pit stop during the race at 25km point but when we passed the 25km water stop she was able to pass on that..I was happy about that because I knew the 4:30 was not going to be a slam dunk. It would all come down to the last few minutes and any big fade could be enough to push us above 4:30. We had been playing cat-and-mouse with the 4:30 pace balloon people for 10 miles or so and at each water stop they would pass us and then we would gradually work back up to them and pass them. It was NOT easy to pass them because the clump of people around the pacers was blocking the entire course...very annoying.

Eventually we started closing on 32km and eventually I spotted the U-bahn sign for the stop I knew that Toni would have used and the hunt was on. We heard millions of cowbells..normally very nice but in this case making it hard for us. We didn't see them but I could see that the spectating was crowded need the U-bahn station and I was betting they had walked up a bit. Yes! Latimer was actually standing out in the street a bit and that helped us spot them. Another fun meet up for 10 seconds. I told Toni we were doing well but running on the slow side of the pacing margin I gave her and she commented "Yes it is getting hot out here". 

And yes, it was getting a bit too warm. It was nice in the shade, or even with a  little headwind breeze, but it was a bit too warm. Not horribly so but worse than what Lynne was used to. I was in probably better shape for it having training in afternoon heat for the Ragnar. Lynne was taking two glasses of water at every stop and dumping one on her head. I was drinking half a glass and dumping the rest on my head. I had not been feeling that great from miles 10 to 16 but then I realized that I was feeling better and that I had a some reserves to call upon if need be. After my Eugene finish I learned how to really push hard through any discomfort and this gave me confidence now that I was fine.

In all of her other races Lynne had stopped at km 32 and used some mental tricks to say "oh, what a nice day..lets just go for a nice 10k run". I.e. reset the clock and pretend she was just starting. I couldn't really help with legs said "don't you bullshit me, I know how far you've been running" so another pacer fail, but luckily Lynne didn't stop and just did it on the run, saving some more precious seconds.

Lynne was still going like a champ but I thought was starting to show a few signs of being more tired. She had some sinus crud like me but had not being doing the 'farmers blow' to clean it out from time to time (she's a 'lady' she says) but I could hear her sniffling a bit and that was new. She was also more head down and not working the Danish spectators quite as much. She was living from 5km water stop to water stop and the walk breaks at these stops got a few seconds longer. 

But between stops she still blasted along and many times I looked down and saw 9:44 m/m paces. I decided this was the time to let her know how good she was doing and so I embarked on making sure she knew how well she was doing. Her form was really quite excellent with no hint of a shuffle or other nasty stuff you can get when you start a major fade.  She had a bit of head down lean but that was just fine given the toughness of what she was doing. She looked great and I told her so as often as I could without seeming stupid about it. At one point when she said how she was hurting I pointed out how many people we were passing and it was true. It took extra energy but we were both weaving through zillions of slower runners and walkers.

We were getting down to the last km now...Lynne had been counting down the km since we had 10 to go..we turned left at the Sony Center and headed North...the last meet up with Toni and Latimer would be along Unter Der Linden street (a street lined with Linden trees). 

I realized at this point that I had a major fail as a pacer. If you are a pacer make VERY SURE you memorize the last 10k of your course in perfect detail. It is every so much easier for most people to endure tough patches if they know exactly what is coming. That might not be true for everybody but in any case the pacer should be totally on top of the last part of the course where the going gets tough. I wished I new every turn and twist until we would get to that final push up Unter Der Linden but I just didn't know the course well enough. 

Lynne was really head down and pushing but hurting at this point. She made it clear she wanted to walk (but wasn't), could not speed up and was doing all she could. I had been there many times and so all I could do was tell her how great she was doing. I was worried when she kept talking about and hoping for another water stop after 40km..I didn't think there was one and I new we could not spare the time. Eventually we hit a pace where somebody said there was 2km to go and I looked at my watch and my heart sank: If we did 6min kms x 2 = 12 min but we were at 4:18:xx at that point. This was Not Good. I was suddenly worried that Lynne would do all this suffering and end up with a 4:30:xx. Oh boy...

So maybe the spectators distance measure could be full of crap but even my watch showed we had probably a mile to go (I already knew I'd be reading about 26.7 at the finish from how the splits had been going)..a mile would only take about 10 min if Lynne could hold up and that would be a 4:28..damn but this was close. After what took far too long we finally made the turn onto Unter Der Linden. Lynne let me know that I would have to look for Toni and Latimer..she was in head-down-tunnel-vision-to-the-finish mode.

There they were! They made it to the finish and saw us go by..Lynne didn't stop and I was glad for that. I think I had let her know that we were tight for time. this is a hard thing to do you not take the wind out of somebodies sails letting them know that they are close to losing their goal? You have to tell them or they might fail from not knowing but it's not an easy message to deliver. 

But Lynne kept it up..I know she was feeling like crap but she was looking plenty strong, holding pace, and I almost expected her to speed up at any point. I tried to drag her along a bit faster but she wasn't fooled and let me know she just could not do that now. 

There were huge crowds lining the road and cheering but the crowds in Europe rarely cheer strangers by name (even though it's on your bib) ..I tried to get the crowed to shout "Go Lynne" down the final stretch but they just didn't get it...sigh. But anyway, It was clear by that point that we would be sub 4:30 and that Lynne was not going to slow down so a big load was off my shoulders. 

In fact, right at that point Lynne said "Sod it! Let's go!" and took off sprinting! I waved my arms around working up the crowed and across the line we went. I took one last pic of Lynne as she finished (from the back...too late ..she was going to fast!) and then punched my watch to a 4:27:19. PR TIME!   

The picture above says it all, We had just run through the gate and Lynne  knew we would be well under 4:30!  

That was a damn fine marathon. 

Splittime of daytimediffmin/kmkm/h
5 km09:51:5800:31:3331:3306:199.51
10 km10:23:5701:03:3332:0006:249.38
15 km10:55:1401:34:5031:1706:169.59
20 km11:26:3202:06:0831:1806:169.59
25 km11:58:0702:37:4324:3306:189.54
30 km12:30:0203:09:3731:5406:239.40
35 km13:01:5803:41:3431:5706:249.39
40 km13:33:3104:13:0731:3306:199.51

Look at them even splits! about 32 min/5k. That's how we like it!

I didn't think we did this well on the pacing (very crowded) but I knew we had run a very very even paced run and Lynne had put everything she had to give that day given the conditions. What more could you ask for?

After the finish we waited in a barely moving line as our legs stiffened up. The slowdown was from the handing out medals which was not being done in a very organized way. They didn't even put them over your head..just handed them to you. Lynne insisted that the person put it over her head 8)

The entire finish area was just horribly was terrible. We removed the chips from our shoes and turned them in (Why the heck don't the use more modern technology?) to avoid the 30 Euro extra fee and then got our goody bag and the glass of free non-alcoholic beer. Then we headed for the family meet up area and found Toni and Latimer....

We walked out to the Brandenburg Tor for a few pictures and then back to our hotels to shower and get cleaned up!

I had a great time running with Lynne and it was almost as much fun to see her get a PR and help with that as it would to get one myself 8)

Berlin Marathon review:

The course is flat and fun, with lots of interesting stuff to see, PLENTY of crowds.
The mass transit makes it really easy for your friends to spectate you.
The organization is generally very good.
Berlin is a really fun city to visit!

TOO CROWDED. You will not run a PR here easily if you are in the 4hr-5hr crowd. They need to limit to less than 30k people.
Not enough water stops...doesn't help with crowding. was fun to do once, but I would never run Berlin again unless they fix these two problems.

My Race notes:

I was not in very good shape for this race. I did feel strong through the last 6 miles which I attribute more to my mental conditioning rather than physical. Post race DOMS was minimal, going down stairs no problem etc. The tight hip that bothered me during race cleared up right after the finish.

With no crowding and cooler temps I think we could have run a 4:22 or so for the same effort level.

Full photo album here.