Blog Archives

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2013: The Marathon is Always at the End

Oh, that run. That run. The thing about the Ironman run is that you are never not thinking about it; analyzing it; dreading it; anticipating it. And if you think you aren’t, it’s there in your subconscious. It’s all about the run. ALWAYS. It’s like an uber-sensitive gauge for any kind of weakness or deficiency. You could be like a fish in the water. Cycling could be your strength. But if you’re not 100% ready for that 26.2-mile conclusion, it will bite you in the heel like an asp in the desert. Like a scorpion to its unsuspecting prey, the marathon will sneak up on you and stab you in the face.

It doesn’t have to be that way, but it will be that way if you’re unprepared or underprepared. It will always hurt–and that part we know–but it’s a matter of how long and how much it will hurt. And therein lies the most common question posed to endurance athletes: “Why do you do it, if it’s as painful and awful as you say, why?” Because we can; humans can. Because I believe that deep within every one of us is a desire to test ourselves, and discover our limits. In some, it manifests itself in their artistic talents. In others, it’s expressed by scientific pursuits, business acumen or reasoning abilities. In still other individuals, that desire lies dormant or has yet to be awakened. And yet, it is there.

But I might be wrong. That’s why I do it anyway, generally speaking. Since I get this question or a variant of it quite often, rarely does a week go by that I don’t ponder it at some point. In endurance sports, the one who wins is the one who can suffer the most and push the hardest until the end. That’s what it comes down to when it’s all said and done. 

I didn’t want to get up from that chair. At that moment, it was the most comfortable object I could imagine to be sitting on. A volunteer helped me take off my bike shoes and slip on my Inov-8 runners. I decided to forgo my hat and just don my classic white sunglasses. My feet hurt. Like really hurt. I was hoping it was just the normal ache from being in hard bike shoes for six hours. I’m sure my feet had swelled somewhat as a result of the heat and in so doing, jammed against the inside of the hard shoes even more severely. The only hopeful thought was that they would loosen up as I started to jog.

My Transition 2 time was over 13-minutes. That should tell you all you need to know about how excited I was to start that run. I had a strong feeling that it was not going to be one of my fastest marathons but I don’t think I imagined in that moment how long it would actually take to finish.

I started out feeling like death warmed over, with the only bright spots being my family and some good friends who came to support me. The day was about as hot as it was going to get, which was close to 90 degrees, and it was humid with little wind just after 2:00 p.m. I’d forgotten what the run course map looked like but I knew it was around downtown and then straight out for a while. Despite feeling like a pile of manure, I maintained a positive outlook. I was in the middle of a grand experiment and racing an Ironman! I had had a great swim and decent bike with no mechanical issues or flats and was a mere 25 miles to go before the finish. I tried to only think about the next mile at a time and just getting to that marker. The crowd support was pretty decent for how hot of a day it was; I was having trouble understanding why quite a few people had told me that the Louisville residents really hated Ironman and how it disrupted their way of life for the few days before and during the race. I’d also read many reviews saying the same thing. Interesting, because there seemed to be nothing but love lining that entire course! Whenever I needed a little energy boost, I just stuck out me hand and got some great high-fives.

For that entire 26.2-mile run, I experienced the most horrible pain in my feet. I will try to describe that pain and what I think it resulted from as this particular detail highlighted my run (obviously not a good kind of highlight). As I briefly mentioned toward the end of my commentary on the bike leg, my feet started to ache around mile 85 and following. In training, you’ll remember that my longest ride had been 65 miles, equaling about 3.5-4 hours of saddle time. When my feet started to hurt during the race, it was right around 4.5-5 hours. This sensation caused me to have an “Ah-ha” moment as I remembered what it used to feel like when I’d been in bike shoes on my 6-7-hour training rides in years past or in previous Ironmans.

It felt like I was running in track spikes, only the shoes had been turned inside out and the spikes were pointed into the bottoms of my feet and stabbing me with each plodding step. I was speculating internally as to the cause of this severe pain during the run and have formed a rough theory over the past few weeks after the race. Since March, I’ve been reinventing my running form with the Pose method, which is a more efficient form of running that makes more sense, biomechanically-speaking. It involves 1) harnessing gravity to move across the ground by leaning forward, 2) pulling each foot off the ground by utilizing the hamstrings and 3) landing on the forefoot with each foot directly under the general center of mass (GCM). This is in contrast to the heel-strike/toe-push-off style that came into vogue during the ’70s running boom when Nike released their waffle plate shoe. This design encouraged runners to land on their heel and engage in a plethora of other cringe-worthy running techniques that have persisted to this day. Having so much padding in the shoe also weakens the foot muscles and lower leg muscles and then the arch supports and other foot remedies simply “put a cast” on the foot, instead of addressing the weaknesses and imbalances.

But I digress. To Pose run, one should gradually transition to a minimalist shoe. Minimalist shoes allow your feet to become stronger and to perform the function they were designed to perform. My feet have been getting stronger over the past five months and most likely gained a marginal amount of muscle, making them slightly wider. Wider feet + some swelling due to high temperatures + six hours in hard bike shoes + minimalist running shoes = SIX. HOUR. MARATHON. My finance background definitely helped me solve that equation!

What didn’t help the situation was the fact that the run course was a two loop out-and-back on the same road. 6.5-miles out, 6.5-miles back and then do it again. But before you hit the halfway point, they make you run straight at the finishing chute. It’s a hard slap in the face and I’ve never figured out why so many races insist on designing the courses this way. It would be so easy to route it a few blocks one way or the other and spare us the anguish of staring down the finishing straightaway with 13+ miles left to run! 

What always makes the the second lap better is knowing that it’s the last lap. But since you’ve already logged so many miles beforehand, it is so much harder to get through. I did get to see my family and friends at the turnaround and my friend, April, got an awesome shot of me going in for a high-five  (See Facebook). My dad ran a few miles with me on the second loop, which was so awesome. He’s run the last miles of my first two Ironmans with me and it was great to see him out there–even if I was in tremendous pain and didn’t act like it! I saw my friend, Sammy, out there, who was racing his first Ironman. My good buddy, Trey, who was in the Pepperdine Triathlon Club with me, was racing his first Ironman and he lapped me on the first run loop and ended up finishing in 10:03! Stellar performance for him and just missed qualifying for Kona by five spots. Last year, that kind of time would’ve gotten him there…

The second lap was just about getting there and triaging. Hopes for any of my time goals were gone and I just wanted to finish. Well, honestly, it was hard to even want to finish. I was partially joking with my dad as we were running together about why I do these things. I realized that it brings me such great joy to train for, plan and think about raceday and what my times will be based on certain training markers in each of the sports. I love it! And then when you get to the latter miles of the bike and especially the run, I’m just like, “What the heck?! What is wrong with me??” I was literally thinking about not finishing, The pain in my feet had me thinking that I might be causing some damage that just wouldn’t make the finish worth it. 

I’ve finished a couple of Ironmans before this one. I know that feeling of relief and elation when announcer Mike Reilly shouts over the loudspeaker, “Jonathan Hippensteel from Chicago, Illinois, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” It is one of the greatest feelings in the world. But I’ve felt that before. It was going to be my slowest Ironman by quite a bit, so I was struggling with the purpose of it all right then.

This one was different, though. I almost wanted to smack myself after I started thinking those thoughts of dropping out. After all the support my friends and family had given me and all the money we’d raised for the Louisville community, how could I even consider dropping out unless I was lying in the medical tent? I knew I could finish. It wouldn’t be pretty, but I was going to get this thing done for every last person who’d supported me and for every charity we were supporting together in Louisville. I was doing this for you.

I forced myself to start jogging with three miles to go and April was coming out to find me with two miles left. It’s much easier mentally, when you are that close to the end, to have a familiar face alongside. I probably ran 8-8:30/mile for the last few miles but it felt like an all out sprint. I crossed the line in 13:26:18, just before 8:30 p.m. The sun had set long before, but as the volunteer placed the finisher’s medal over my neck and I stumbled over to the smiling faces of Mom, Dad, Troy and Joelle, all I could hear in my mind were the last words of Mike Reilly as I stopped the clock by crossing that finish line: “Jonathan Hippensteel, from Chicago, Illinois, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.” 

And it was worth it. Thank you all for getting me through that one. I couldn’t have done it without you. 

The End…until the next one, that is.

Advertisements

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2013: The Marathon is Always at the End

Oh, that run. That run. The thing about the Ironman run is that you are never not thinking about it; analyzing it; dreading it; anticipating it. And if you think you aren’t, it’s there in your subconscious. It’s all about the run. ALWAYS. It’s like an uber-sensitive gauge for any kind of weakness or deficiency. You could be like a fish in the water. Cycling could be your strength. But if you’re not 100% ready for that 26.2-mile conclusion, it will bite you in the heel like an asp in the desert. Like a scorpion to its unsuspecting prey, the marathon will sneak up on you and stab you in the face.

It doesn’t have to be that way, but it will be that way if you’re unprepared or underprepared. It will always hurt–and that part we know–but it’s a matter of how long and how much it will hurt. And therein lies the most common question posed to endurance athletes: “Why do you do it, if it’s as painful and awful as you say, why?” Because we can; humans can. Because I believe that deep within every one of us is a desire to test ourselves, and discover our limits. In some, it manifests itself in their artistic talents. In others, it’s expressed by scientific pursuits, business acumen or reasoning abilities. In still other individuals, that desire lies dormant or has yet to be awakened. And yet, it is there.

But I might be wrong. That’s why I do it anyway, generally speaking. Since I get this question or a variant of it quite often, rarely does a week go by that I don’t ponder it at some point. In endurance sports, the one who wins is the one who can suffer the most and push the hardest until the end. That’s what it comes down to when it’s all said and done. 

I didn’t want to get up from that chair. At that moment, it was the most comfortable object I could imagine to be sitting on. A volunteer helped me take off my bike shoes and slip on my Inov-8 runners. I decided to forgo my hat and just don my classic white sunglasses. My feet hurt. Like really hurt. I was hoping it was just the normal ache from being in hard bike shoes for six hours. I’m sure my feet had swelled somewhat as a result of the heat and in so doing, jammed against the inside of the hard shoes even more severely. The only hopeful thought was that they would loosen up as I started to jog.

My Transition 2 time was over 13-minutes. That should tell you all you need to know about how excited I was to start that run. I had a strong feeling that it was not going to be one of my fastest marathons but I don’t think I imagined in that moment how long it would actually take to finish.

I started out feeling like death warmed over, with the only bright spots being my family and some good friends who came to support me. The day was about as hot as it was going to get, which was close to 90 degrees, and it was humid with little wind just after 2:00 p.m. I’d forgotten what the run course map looked like but I knew it was around downtown and then straight out for a while. Despite feeling like a pile of manure, I maintained a positive outlook. I was in the middle of a grand experiment and racing an Ironman! I had had a great swim and decent bike with no mechanical issues or flats and was a mere 25 miles to go before the finish. I tried to only think about the next mile at a time and just getting to that marker. The crowd support was pretty decent for how hot of a day it was; I was having trouble understanding why quite a few people had told me that the Louisville residents really hated Ironman and how it disrupted their way of life for the few days before and during the race. I’d also read many reviews saying the same thing. Interesting, because there seemed to be nothing but love lining that entire course! Whenever I needed a little energy boost, I just stuck out me hand and got some great high-fives.

For that entire 26.2-mile run, I experienced the most horrible pain in my feet. I will try to describe that pain and what I think it resulted from as this particular detail highlighted my run (obviously not a good kind of highlight). As I briefly mentioned toward the end of my commentary on the bike leg, my feet started to ache around mile 85 and following. In training, you’ll remember that my longest ride had been 65 miles, equaling about 3.5-4 hours of saddle time. When my feet started to hurt during the race, it was right around 4.5-5 hours. This sensation caused me to have an “Ah-ha” moment as I remembered what it used to feel like when I’d been in bike shoes on my 6-7-hour training rides in years past or in previous Ironmans.

It felt like I was running in track spikes, only the shoes had been turned inside out and the spikes were pointed into the bottoms of my feet and stabbing me with each plodding step. I was speculating internally as to the cause of this severe pain during the run and have formed a rough theory over the past few weeks after the race. Since March, I’ve been reinventing my running form with the Pose method, which is a more efficient form of running that makes more sense, biomechanically-speaking. It involves 1) harnessing gravity to move across the ground by leaning forward, 2) pulling each foot off the ground by utilizing the hamstrings and 3) landing on the forefoot with each foot directly under the general center of mass (GCM). This is in contrast to the heel-strike/toe-push-off style that came into vogue during the ’70s running boom when Nike released their waffle plate shoe. This design encouraged runners to land on their heel and engage in a plethora of other cringe-worthy running techniques that have persisted to this day. Having so much padding in the shoe also weakens the foot muscles and lower leg muscles and then the arch supports and other foot remedies simply “put a cast” on the foot, instead of addressing the weaknesses and imbalances.

But I digress. To Pose run, one should gradually transition to a minimalist shoe. Minimalist shoes allow your feet to become stronger and to perform the function they were designed to perform. My feet have been getting stronger over the past five months and most likely gained a marginal amount of muscle, making them slightly wider. Wider feet + some swelling due to high temperatures + six hours in hard bike shoes + minimalist running shoes = SIX. HOUR. MARATHON. My finance background definitely helped me solve that equation!

What didn’t help the situation was the fact that the run course was a two loop out-and-back on the same road. 6.5-miles out, 6.5-miles back and then do it again. But before you hit the halfway point, they make you run straight at the finishing chute. It’s a hard slap in the face and I’ve never figured out why so many races insist on designing the courses this way. It would be so easy to route it a few blocks one way or the other and spare us the anguish of staring down the finishing straightaway with 13+ miles left to run! 

What always makes the the second lap better is knowing that it’s the last lap. But since you’ve already logged so many miles beforehand, it is so much harder to get through. I did get to see my family and friends at the turnaround and my friend, April, got an awesome shot of me going in for a high-five  (See Facebook). My dad ran a few miles with me on the second loop, which was so awesome. He’s run the last miles of my first two Ironmans with me and it was great to see him out there–even if I was in tremendous pain and didn’t act like it! I saw my friend, Sammy, out there, who was racing his first Ironman. My good buddy, Trey, who was in the Pepperdine Triathlon Club with me, was racing his first Ironman and he lapped me on the first run loop and ended up finishing in 10:03! Stellar performance for him and just missed qualifying for Kona by five spots. Last year, that kind of time would’ve gotten him there…

The second lap was just about getting there and triaging. Hopes for any of my time goals were gone and I just wanted to finish. Well, honestly, it was hard to even want to finish. I was partially joking with my dad as we were running together about why I do these things. I realized that it brings me such great joy to train for, plan and think about raceday and what my times will be based on certain training markers in each of the sports. I love it! And then when you get to the latter miles of the bike and especially the run, I’m just like, “What the heck?! What is wrong with me??” I was literally thinking about not finishing, The pain in my feet had me thinking that I might be causing some damage that just wouldn’t make the finish worth it. 

I’ve finished a couple of Ironmans before this one. I know that feeling of relief and elation when announcer Mike Reilly shouts over the loudspeaker, “Jonathan Hippensteel from Chicago, Illinois, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” It is one of the greatest feelings in the world. But I’ve felt that before. It was going to be my slowest Ironman by quite a bit, so I was struggling with the purpose of it all right then.

This one was different, though. I almost wanted to smack myself after I started thinking those thoughts of dropping out. After all the support my friends and family had given me and all the money we’d raised for the Louisville community, how could I even consider dropping out unless I was lying in the medical tent? I knew I could finish. It wouldn’t be pretty, but I was going to get this thing done for every last person who’d supported me and for every charity we were supporting together in Louisville. I was doing this for you.

I forced myself to start jogging with three miles to go and April was coming out to find me with two miles left. It’s much easier mentally, when you are that close to the end, to have a familiar face alongside. I probably ran 8-8:30/mile for the last few miles but it felt like an all out sprint. I crossed the line in 13:26:18, just before 8:30 p.m. The sun had set long before, but as the volunteer placed the finisher’s medal over my neck and I stumbled over to the smiling faces of Mom, Dad, Troy and Joelle, all I could hear in my mind were the last words of Mike Reilly as I stopped the clock by crossing that finish line: “Jonathan Hippensteel, from Chicago, Illinois, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.” 

And it was worth it. Thank you all for getting me through that one. I couldn’t have done it without you. 

The End…until the next one, that is.

Los Angeles 13.1 Half Marathon Race Report

Just when everyone thought I moved out of LA (including me), I came back to race the LA 13.1 half marathon from Venice to Manhattan Beach to Playa del Rey. Technically, this was a rebound race because I registered for it the week after I got back from Ironman in Hawai’i and so I was already signed up before I decided to move home to Tennessee. I was debating whether to follow through and run it but then I found a cheap flight and there I was at the starting line ready to go with the temperature in the high-30s…wait, WHAT?! Yes, the week I came back to LA was the coldest in about a decade. In fact, it was warmer back in Nashville and my family and friends there were enjoying 60+ degree weather! 

At 7:05 in the morning, the gun fired and we began running along the boardwalk in Venice as the sun rose to light the ocean and set the sky on fire. Despite the cold, it was such a beautiful day in LA. I was at the race with my friends, Curry, Tori and Garrett and had started near the front with Garrett. Garrett ran 1:19 in his first  and only half marathon (which was hilly) but he’d had the flu for the last week so we were going to pace together–my best time was a 1:31. I had been running a lot since November but wasn’t planning on actually doing this race in LA until about three weeks prior. I’ve started dabbling in CrossFit though, so I was keen to see how I would feel at this distance even after a week and a half of doing official Crossfit workouts.

We went out at a 6:40/mi pace for the first three miles, probably too hard, and felt pretty good. My pace gradually slowed but Garrett was feeling fine so he took off at mile 6 or 7. i went by 10K in just over 42 minutes and was just trying to focus on keeping my cadence at 180 steps per minute and landing on my forefoot. I’ve been researching the Pose running technique (similar to Chi Running, taught by Danny Drier), which emphasizes higher cadence and forefoot striking with your heel just kissing the ground. 

There were a few unexpected rollers at miles 7 and 8 and then a steady and very gradual rise up to the turnaround at mile 9 1/2. I’d seen my friend, Ken, aka DJ Sleeper, the night before and he said that he’d be performing somewhere on the course–Awesome! I heard some turntablism going on at the turnaround and that got me really fired up because it’s always encouraging to see familiar faces when you’re in pain. I opened up my legs into mile 10 and saw Curry as I got to the bottom of the hill I’d just climbed. 

Although my pace had slowed to around 7:15/mi, my legs and glutes were feeling stronger than I thought they should be at this point in a race (It seems even the short period of CrossFit and strength work was paying off already).

At mile 12, some guy with no shoes went sprinting by me. He was holding a pair of Vibrams in one hand and his feet looked like they had clearly developed muscles. That got me going a bit faster and then over my shoulder I saw a girl running up on me, which always lights my feet on fire–I’d already been chicked a few times today and didn’t want to let it happen again a half mile from the finish line. #justbeingreal

I hit the last mile in about 6:55/mi pace and crossed the line in 1:33:17, 14/96 in M25-29 and 86/1,904 overall. http://results.active.com/events/2013-allstate-life-insurancesm-los-angeles-13-1-marathon/half-marathon/jonathan-hippensteel.

I read an article last night and this line jumped out at me: “Pain cannot be ignored; it has be to be conquered, and when it inevitably returns, it has to be conquered again.” 

Looking forward to the next race!

Image