Meet Me At The Bar(bell)

The importance of lifting weights and adding cross training to any runner’s regimen has been stated time and time again. I didn’t realize just how important it actually was until I was beginning mile 24 of the Chicago Marathon in 2011. Everything was falling apart as I hit “the wall” and if you’ve ever run the Chicago Marathon before, at mile 26.1 you’re blindsided by a wildly steep hill. I was lucky to have survived that hill in the shape that I was in. I relied on pure grit the last 2.2 miles of that race to finish with a time of 3:28. It was as I was forcing down three sips of the “finisher’s beer” that I decided I needed to find a better way to train.

ENTER CROSSFIT.

I walked into my first CrossFit gym having only seen what was on tv: big guys lifting heavy weights. I was intimidated to say the least. I couldn’t do an unassisted pull up and my squat depth needed work thanks to a little flexibility issue (hello, runners). Workouts were tough and soreness was plentiful. I stuck with it because coming from a runner’s world to CrossFit, I had what most didn’t: lungs and the ability to mentally breakthrough pain barriers. The metabolic-conditioning workouts were tough but became an obsession. The squats became easier as my legs became stronger. The length of my runs was decreasing just as my mile-split times were.

squat

LESS IS MORE.

Just 8 weeks after the Chicago Marathon, I crept toward the 3:20 pacer at the Las Vegas Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon. I was uneasy because all I had known before Chicago were the slow, long-distance training runs. The previous 8 weeks, I didn’t run any double-digit mile runs and had focused on my strength training with CrossFit. I was uneasy as I toed the starting line preparing for another 26.2 miles. For the next 3 hours and 19 minutes, I ran strong. I never hit the wall, never cramped and never had a negative thought creep into my mind as I PR’d by more than 8 minutes. I was sold.

thruster

CROSSFIT ENDURANCE.

I still run. I lift more, however. I have completed a full Ironman in Louisville, KY in 2012 and I just finished my 5th marathon at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon this past April using CrossFit as my primary training program. I now coach and train runners to become strong ATHLETES. Power and speed are critical components to success in the endurance world. By taking baby steps and incorporating weights to your workouts, you are ensuring yourself that you will be able to finish that 5k, 10k, half marathon or full marathon…. FASTER AND STONGER.

lajolla-ryan

Ryan Doonkeen is a CrossFit and CrossFit Endurance Trainer at Koda CrossFit in Oklahoma City, OK. Photos courtesy of Chad Hamilton.












OKC Marathon 5×26.2

As I do with all my races, I like to recap each one going into detail about what I was thinking at certain points during the day. Here is the 2013 version of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. Here is the 2010 version if you want the first go-’round.

April 28th, 2013 marked the 5th time I would take on the 26.2 mile distance. I took a different approach to training for this marathon, a minimalist one. I only trained with CrossFit the majority of the time and threw in some CrossFit Endurance workouts in occasionally. I found that it was difficult to coach a CFE class and do the workout (alone, mind you) in the same day so most of the time, I only coached. I felt I was in shape enough to go out and finish the distance and mentally, I knew what was ahead of me throughout the run so I was good in that arena as well. Time was the only thing I was unsure of going into this marathon. I kind of set a goal to be sub 3:30 but time wasn’t the most important part of this race. This race, I wanted to enjoy the entire thing and not black out anywhere along the route like I have in several of my marathons.

The morning of, I opened Koda at 5:00am to give people the opportunity to walk through a warm up and prepare for what was to take place soon. I thought we’d have maybe 5 people, 10 at most, show up. Nearly 30 people were in the gym warming up. I led a little group mobility and warm up and gave a few tips and pointers and answered a few questions from those that were just a little nervous before their first half/full marathon. At 5:35, we all made our way downtown to get in line for the start. And so it began.

  • Start – 168 seconds of silence. The first time I ran it, I was so rushed and nervous to get to the start that I was running late and had to jump the fence even after the gun went off so I didn’t get a chance to be a part of this. It was very powerful especially with the events that took place in Boston just two weeks prior.
  • Mile 1 – In 2010, the Devon Tower wasn’t there. We were heading right for it and running right below it this time around. It was very cool to be running under tall buildings.
  • Mile 2 – I got rid of one of my fat long sleeve t-shirts. I knew I hung on to those for some reason and this was a perfect occasion for me to throw it away.
  • Mile 2.2 – Bathroom break. What the hell, Ryan!?
  • Mile 2-5 – I ran into so many people that I knew from the gym, from school and from different running events. It was fun talking to everyone as we ran by the capital and headed back west approaching Gorilla Hill.
  • Mile 6 – QUADS. Just 20 more miles. Shit.
  • Mile 7 – Running through Edgemere Park and Gorilla Hill was very fun this time around. Saw some more friends and took in all the parties going on with the music blaring. We approached the split where the half marathon split off and the full marathon kept going. Things got less crowded and less exciting but we still had a ways to go. Can’t get bored now.
  • Mile 8 – 10 – Did not remember this part of the race last time at all. Found out that I didn’t remember alot of the race the first time around. There are so many parks in this part of the city. So many places to play offense/defense. Kind of cool.
  • Mile 10 or 11 – This is where the 3rd relay exchange was. I saw a buddy from the gym and he cheered me on. I was still at a good pace right now and was ahead of schedule. It was either going to be a great, great day or one that I’d end up regretting with the current pace I was holding.
  • Mile 12-16 – I ran with two guys this stretch of the race, west on Britton and around the lake to Stars and Stripes park. I let one guy be in the lead the entire time and completely drafted off of him. Kind of a douche move on my part having never been first to take on the wind but that’s ok. I wasn’t planning on having a beer with this guy afterwards. At this point in the race, I was starving. I was so hungry. I took my gels but those don’t fill you up. I needed food so I began grabbing bananas and oranges at each stop they offered them. Pretzels don’t do it for me and I knew that going in so I never reached for those.
  • Mile 16-20 – These miles were really close to my house. I saw my roommate, Cole and Chloe (aka Tick Face). He handed me a water bottle with a much needed Nuun. These miles were the ones that Koda Endurance did all winter long. We ran Grand Blvd. every Sunday for 5 months nearly. They were primarily downhill but I began to unravel at this point in the race. My feet were beginning to hurt and my miles were slowing.
  • Mile 20 – I had one 10k left. It was going to take forever. I saw a few Koda folks right at 63rd and Grand and got a quick boost. That lasted all of 150m. My hamstring cramped as I went up the hill right before Classen Curve. I was in trouble. I stopped. Bent over and stretched out my right hamstring. I was nervous to get going but this has happened in several of my other marathons as well. That first step is questionable but afterwards, things get back to normal. I was thankful that it was the case this time around.
  • Mile 20-23 – This stretch of the race is kind of boring. This is where I almost broke down completely the first time I ran OKC. I was on the verge of tears having to walk every quarter of a mile or so. Having to walk by all the spectators cheering for you was miserable. I wasn’t walking this time, but I was slowing. I saw a few more people from Koda that lifted my spirits a bit. Taylor, a guy in my Endurance class, ran with me for a little bit. I was glad to have someone to talk to. I was 2 hours and 45 minutes into the day. I was ready for it to be over. At mile 23, a little girl was handing out candy. I had candy during my marathon for my Ironman and it helped a ton. I grabbed what I thought was going to be Skittles but instead it was two Starbursts. I’m not turning around for Skittles. I opened up the candy (which took what seemed like half a mile because the wrappers on wrappers on wrappers) and as always… a yellow and an orange. Never had I enjoyed a lemon Starburst more. For the next 3 miles of the race, that’s all I wanted. I needed that yellow Starburst.
  • Mile 24 – 5k LEFT!
  • Mile 25 – I ran up one last gigantic hill that was the last struggle before the homestretch. Right as I turned towards the finish line, there was a large Koda group cheering/drinking. It was exactly what I needed. They said I looked good at the turn for it being 25 miles into a marathon but I felt like garbage. Only 1 mile left.
  • Screen-Shot-2013-05-07-at-9.29.43-AM

  • Mile 26 – Running down Broadway is the best. I was pushing 3:30 but was needing to sprint in order to make it. I was content with not making 3:30. I kept running. Smiling the entire way down Broadway and to the finish line. I didn’t hear my name but was very excited to cross the finish line, get my medal and grab as much food as possible… except the Carl’s Jr. burgers. I knew what those would do to me.

I had to walk back to my car from the finish line… about another half mile. It took me longer to walk that than I imagined it would have when I parked there. I didn’t necessarily train for a marathon but wanted to prove to myself that I could get up and run one if I wanted to and that’s exactly what I did.

I remembered more from this race than any of my other races. It was a different experience and one that I’d welcome any day of the week when it came down to running marathons. Running to run is fun sometimes, but running to remember was way more exciting. We had over 40 people run some part of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon and seeing all those people finish their legs of the relay, finish their half marathons and finish their full marathons made me so proud to have been some part of their journey.