Sunday, February 17, 2013


And just like that, all your well-laid plans get deflated like an untied balloon.

Because Costa Rica does not allow border crossing for rental cars (in spite of what Hertz told me) there is virtually no way for me to get from Nicaragua to Panama. Believe me - I checked (and am surprised I am not in some banana republic prison right now.)  I even thought about tempting the fates and hoping to maybe sneak through one border patrol but the chances of making it through four of them with no problem (there and back) was virtually nil.

So, I just had possibly the most expensive 25k in history, doing the warm-up run at the Fuego Y Agua. An enjoyable adventure nonetheless, but obviously not why I came to Central America. Nor why I booked hotels in advance in multiple locations in multiple countries and sundry other things which went into this event. Alas.

I am a tad disappointed at this juncture so I will refrain from saying more (well-meaning friends with statements of "everything happens for a reason" are not helping right now!) When I get back to the States I will dissect this and see what I can do in the future to make sure this goes off without a hitch.

The run is not dead.  It has just been postponed.  I waited seven years from the time the idea popped into my head until I put it into action - I can wait a little longer.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sauna Lovin'...

...had me a blast!

Except that I didn't.  In my hurry-up attempt to semi-acclimate myself to the temperatures awaiting me two weeks from today in Panama (projected highs are 97 degrees - egads) I have been hitting the sauna at my local gym.  I have also done research to see the best way to maximize the efficency of my time spent in the sauna.

There are two ways to spend any time in a sauna: actively and passively.  By this, I mean that one can either exercise while in the sauna or simply sit there. It appears merely sitting there has not much of an effect on the overall system other than allowing you to sweat off a few pounds. However, exercising in a sauna presents challenges as well.

First, finding a sauna that is empty empty enough for you to do pushups, crunches, lunges or what have you is a problem.  Second, finding a body that allows you to do any of that is nearly impossible. For me, I will find the empty sauna long before I can effectively do any sort of exercise for more than a few minutes before passing out.  So, I have modified my time spent in there.

My friend Zach Gingerich training for Badwater in a sauna
Granted this is knowledge gained from a small sample size but I have found that I am able to stay in the sauna longer without exercising at all prior than I am if I exercised before going in.  (N.B. In neither case did I actually exercise in the sauna.  Perhaps if I had many weeks to build up to that sort of endeavor I could give it a shot.  However, I am making do.)

So on two occasions, I have swam a 200 yard workout (or varying intensity) and then walked immediately into the sauna.  Heart elevated form the exercise, already covered in water, I found within 3-4 minutes I was already looking at my watch.  The first time I tried this I barely made it 15 minutes total before bailing. Making myself feel better about the entire incident was the fact that the thermometer in the sauna registered 175 degrees. The second attempt of sitting in the sauna after exercising (and third attempt overall) I was able to bump that time up to 20 minutes before I was ready to get out of Dodge. Five minute increase in just one session is not bad.

On two other occasions, I have gone to the sauna with no exercise directly prior. Both times I was able to get to 25 minutes of sitting time with mild discomfort.  The second time (fourth overall; I have alternated swimming and not swimming for my sessions) felt like I could have added another 5 minutes but with a track workout late that evening, I felt it best to not push it.

All told, I feel that even in four minor sessions of siting in the sauna, without even exercising in it at all, I have raised my ability to stand ridiculous heat and humidity, if only a little bit.  With just one week to go before I fly to Nicaragua I am going to attempt to get into the sauna every day to boost this even more.

Even if the overall effect is very little, I think it will at least prepare me mentally for running across a living breathing sauna in Panama.  Fortunately, as this is not a race but merely a "crossing" my ability to slow down and relax when need be will not be hindered by my desire to push to the finish line.

It is all about finishing.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Heat Acclimation

When you realize you have little time, or ability, to properly acclimate to an environment in which you plan to race in, a certain sense of reluctant acceptance sets in. While I have rallied against the common misconception that Portland is a vast wasteland of cold, wet and cloudy weather (it simply is not) the fact remains that it is indeed January in the Pacific Northwest. There is simply no comparing it to Panama when it comes to heat and humidity. The average temperature range in Colon in February (where I start my run) is 83 for a high and 76 for a low. The end point in Panama City for that same time period is 90 and 76. Ooof.

I knew when I took on this challenge that the distance of running across Panama would not be the biggest hardship.  Depending on the route I will take, it looks like I will log between 50-60 miles to cross the Isthmus. However, the personal challenge, the one which will affect me the absolute most, will be dealing with this drastic upswing in temperature, and worst off, humidity. It simply doesn't matter what I do - I perform atrociously when it is warm.

Every handbook one reads on heat acclimation says it takes around 10-14 days to get properly into the zone where you can handle whatever weather comes your way.  If anything, part of my acclimation is going to take part "on-site" so to speak, when I take on the Fuego Y Agua 25k just a few days prior to my run. I am guessing this race will take me easily close to 2.5 hours. My plan is to take it rather leisurely but do what I can to push myself to a decent effort at the same time.  If anything, it should be at least on par with the difficulty level of my Panama Canal Run simply because of the lack of actual acclimation which will occur prior to arriving there.  I am hoping that trial by fire at Fuego will help ready me for 50 plus miles of hot and sticky running.

In the meantime, I am going to do what I can here in Portland to get ready. A recent trip to Miami reminded me how poorly my body does in similar temperatures. Therefore, with just three weeks to go before I set off to make a cross-country run, the time to start is now. So pushups in a sweatsuit in a sauna, here we come.

I can already tell how much I am going to hate this. In a good way, of course.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Run Across Panama

When I ran my 52 marathons in 2006 I scoured available resources to find all marathons run in order to make sure I hit an actual race every single weekend.  I became a student of the sport and tried to learn as much as I could from as many people as possible who knew infinite amounts more about running than I did. A bit of a geography nerd (which I devote a chapter to in my new book,) I was often drawn to the idea of running from places of significance to other places of significance. One area intrigued me greatly and I was surprised that I could not find a race that traversed the course I felt was a natural fit.

As the years have gone by, I have learned that often when I want to run somewhere, it is far easier not to wait for an actual race but to go and simply run there. While I love “racing” I very much love “running” – there is a significant difference, which I plan to explore in a future article. As such, knowing about this race in Nicaragua, I finally saw the opportunity to combine an excellent adventure with a years-old dream:

Run the Panama Canal.

So, a few days after finishing the Fuego I will drive down to Panama. As the morning sun breaks in the city of Colon, I will begin running from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean (Caribbean Sea, really) and hopefully before the sun sets, will be dipping my toes in the Pacific in Panama City. Following the actual canal is, for all intents and purposes, impossible, but I will be running alongside of it for as much as I can.  Relatively speaking it is not that far of a distance.  But the iconic nature of running across one of the most marvelous and dangerous undertakings in the 20th century is enough to get me giddy.

I am presently trying to figure out how I can have people track my progress as I have zero intention of using my own phone and paying $5000 in roaming charges. However, I will be checking in when I can and taking oodles of pictures along the way.

Stay tuned for more!