A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Barb Does Boston: One Woman's Journey Back to Good Health

“I’m a Type B. Not a real ‘driven’ kind of person,” explained Barb Downey, wife, mother, and recent Boston Marathon finisher. Not driven? This is a woman who, after reaching age 40 (once considered “over-the-hill”) lost 130 lbs. (over half her weight), ran a marathon (her first organized race) and one-year later qualified for the Boston Marathon (by running 26.2 miles in under four hours – a pace of under 9:00/mile – in the Eisenhower Marathon in Abilene, Kansas).

[Above: Barb and her husband Joe head out to Ruth's Chris for a celebratory steak after the race. "I had an obnoxiously huge and delicious bone-in ribeye," said Barb. "Yes I wore the medal and yes, every other runner in the place had their's on!"]

And oh, by the way, when she’s not raising her children or training for the Boston Marathon she can be found preg-checking heifers, calving or control-burning pasture.

Barb is a 4th generation Kansas rancher. Her family settled in Wyoming in the 1800s and raised cattle but Barb didn’t grow up ranching but went to Kansas State University got a degree in Animal Science and started Downey Ranch with her dad in 1986.

[Above: Barb and her family visit the BEEF booth at the John Hancock Sports and Fitness Expo the day before the marathon].

I caught up with Barb this week to get a first-hand account of the Boston Marathon experience. Boston is, after all, the world’s most prestigious marathon. Thousands of runners come from all over the world – and Wabaunsee, Kansas – to run 26.2 miles through the streets of Boston.

“The day didn’t start off great,” said Barb. “My cab driver made me pour out the cup of coffee I had made in my hotel room. But when we arrived at the Athletes’ Village, thankfully they had coffee!”

Runners were transported to the Athlete’s Village in a caravan of school buses from Boston Commons.

“It was a festival atmosphere. A DJ was playing music and announcing the start of each wave (group of runners). There was an F15 flyover. It was total pandemonium, very cool.”

I signed up to follow Barb’s race via text messages, as did many friends and family members. The AT&T Athlete Alert was supposed to text updates at the 10K, half marathon and 30K marks but malfunctioned and didn’t send any updates until after the runner’s crossed the finish line.

When I got Barb’s time I immediately noticed something peculiar. After 10K (6.2 miles) she was averaging 9:55/mile. At the halfway mark (13.1 miles) she had picked up the pace and was averaging 9:41/mile. At 30K (18.6 miles) she was at 9:48/mile. But by the time she crossed the finish line her average had dropped to an average of 10:10/mile!

I’ve never run a full marathon but have heard about the infamous “wall” that many runners hit around mile 18. I asked Barb if this is what hit her.

“Actually my first mile was around 10:30. Slower than I had planned on starting but I was very conscious of not going out too fast. But then I settled into a steady pace. I really wasn’t paying too much attention to my time.”

[At left: Barb has a smile on her face...must have been early in the race!]

“This was working fine until mile 18 when we came to a short, steep hill. Suddenly I felt both of my quads start to cramp up. At that point I said a prayer and called on my supporters to give me strength.”

Barb’s best friends Debbie and Mary Anne had signed the inside of her Team ZIP (Zinc, Iron and Protein) jersey before the race. “You’re my hero,” wrote Debbie, a fellow rancher in the Kansas Flint Hills.

“After I got to the top of the hill – which was much worse than Heartbreak Hill in my opinion – I tried a job and felt OK so I settled back into a steady, but slower, pace.”

Barb finished in 4:26:45 (10:10/mile) – a time many runners would be more than happy with, especially in their THIRD marathon! Heck, I’d be happy to finish a marathon, which is a goal I have yet to achieve.

I know Barb’s goal was to finish in under four hours. Was she disappointed? I asked.

[At left: Barb crosses the finish line!]

“I cried for the second time ever…well, for the second time in my running career. It was joy. It was pride. It was a sense of accomplishment. It was the culmination of a four-year journey. The first time I cried was the first time I ran 10 miles. That’s when I knew I had changed the rest of my life.”

Disappointed? Of course not.

“I did something I never thought I would do, even when I was in great shape in high school, as a 46-year-old woman.”

Driven? You decide.

“But now I have to do it again and do it BETTER! My qualifier was a sub-4 which would be a nice Boston time. That means two more marathons (at least). Another qualifier and another Boston! Man, I'm going to need A LOT of BEEF!”

I’m a lot like Barb. I’m a Type B. My older brother is the Type A. Major success in business. Senior Partner at Deloitte. Best big brother a guy could ever hope for. But that’s not me. I was the kid called “lazy.” Every parent-teacher conference ended with “if only Daren would apply himself, work harder, he could be a straight A student.”

So what drives me and Barb and other “Type B” weekend warriors to set goals like riding to the top of the highest paved road in North America, running marathons, and tackling triathlons? Where was this motivation when we were the “underachievers” in our younger days? What can we do to motivate you to join us on this journey?

These are the questions I will attempt to answer in hopes of motivating you to join us in living a healthy, active lifestyle fueled by a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low and non-fat dairy products and lean protein (like BEEF!).

Ride on!


Monday, April 26, 2010

Stick with What Works...and BEEF Works!

I've often wondered what it feels like on the Monday after a 202-mile run. Yea...right. I might have run 202 miles this past year. But this past weekend? Not so much.

Dane Rauschenberg did. Seriously. Dane ran 202-miles from Gettysburg, Penn. to Washington, D.C. in just over 50 hours! So I asked him, what did it feel like?

[Left: Dane enjoys an "Outback Special" steak at his post-race meal in Washington, D.C.]

"As with most things of this nature it was more relief than exuberance," said Dane.

Most things of this nature? I can't even think of anything of the nature of running 202 miles in just over two days.

"For over two days I had to keep my emotions in check. Only until the last quarter of a mile could I really allow myself to visualize being done."

Now this I sort of understand. When I completed my first Ironman 70.3 three years ago I remember wanting to cry around mile 8 of the 13.1 mile run (after a 56-mile bike following a 1.2 mile swim). When my brother met me with one mile to go and asked how I was doing my answer was "pain." But I didn't allow emotions to surface until my daughter joined me for the final 100-yard dash...er, hobble.

[Above: That's my daughter Shelby, Harry Potter book in hand, racing me to the finish line at the 2007 Vineman 70.3 Ironman]

But that was only 70.3 miles swimming, biking and running for just under six and one-half hours (6:27:43). How would it feel to run 202 miles in 50 hours? I cannot imagine. Why would anybody want to challenge their body to such extremes?

"As I often say - why not?" explains Dane. "If someone can come up with a reason why I should not do something I want to do, and I cannot refute it, I won't do it. Hasn't happened yet."

As I thought about Dane running for 50 hours, 16 minutes and 58 seconds the question on my mind was, "What did he eat?" So I asked.

"I fueled myself in the beginning on many Powerbar products but knew I also needed to have 'real' food. Diet while running an event like this is very tricky. You eat what your body says it wants when it wants it. That included peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, sausage egg McMuffins, Subway, tomato soup, chips, pretzels and many other things."

Of course I had to ask Dane if he had a steak during the race. After all, he tweeted "I want a steak" 118 miles into the race (read all of Dane's in-race tweets on his Strands profile). And according to his lastest post on the Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine blog, he was "craving one the entire race."

"I knew as much as I craved a steak I did need to wait until the end to put that in my body." And that's exactly what he did. Dane's post-race meal was the Outback Special signature sirloin (one of the 29 lean cuts of beef) at an Outback Steakhouse in Washington, D.C. According to Dane, protein is an important part of his pre- and post-race training diet.

"We all know we need carbs to do well in extended distance races but to neglect protein is to do so at one's own peril. I am not a dietitian and never claim to be (have often eaten things that would make you shake your head before during and after races) but I know what works for me."

"Know what works for you and stick with it" is a common theme among elite athletes. As Olympian 1500/5000 meter runner Bernard Lagat said in Runner's World, "Secrets of the Olympians"...

I love steak, and I have to have steak the day before I race. Some people are afraid to eat steak before a competition because they think it'll make them too full and slow them down. But in Osaka [at the 2007 World Championships], before I raced, I went to Outback and ordered the biggest steak I could, and I won. You have to do what works for your body.

So why beef? The zinc, iron and B-vitamins in beef provide fuel for physical activity. Iron helps your blood carry oxygen to your vital organs and muscles (pretty important during intense physical activity!). Zinc helps build your immune system and enhance cognitive function. B vitamins provide energy (check the label on those sugary energy drinks and you'll see that most are loaded with B vitamins).

Calorie for calorie, lean beef is one of the most flavorful and efficient ways to meet the daily value for 10 essential nutrients and provides 20 grams of protein per serving. That's why I like to call beef "nature's best-tasting multivitamin!"

So stick with what works. Stick with BEEF!

Next up on Beef Man...Barb Does Boston, a recap of Kansas rancher Barb Downey's Boston Marathon run.

Ride on!


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

See Dane Run. Dane Loves BEEF! Run, Dane, Run!

As I was boarding the plane from STL to DEN after the GO! St. Louis Half Marathon I was standing next to a guy carrying the same SWAG bag I was. He had that lean build of a marathon runner and was wearing a visor with www.SeeDaneRun.com across the front. I put two and two together and figured he must have run the race that day (I'm quick like that), so I asked, "How was your run?"

He answered "around 3 hours" adding that this was his last long training run for a 12-person team relay from Gettysburg, PA, to Washington, D.C.
But then he said, "Only I'm doing it solo."

Now, I've driven from Gettysburg to Washington and know its not a short drive! "How far is that?" I asked. Dane calmly replied, "202 miles." You can imagine the rest of the conversation...

"Seriously? Your going to run 202 miles? SOLO?"


"Dude, that's crazy."

Based on his recent blog post in Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine titled, "I'm not crazy," I guess he gets that alot (sorry, Dane, I didn't mean to "irk" you!).

We continued chatting. He asked about my run. I shared that I was thrilled to run a personal best 1:50:34 (see results at left). I told him about the Ironman Boulder 70.3 triathlon I am training for and asked if he'd ever done a triathlon. "One," he said, "and I was fortunate enough to win so I decided to retire. Figured I'd quit while I was ahead."

There are lots of different levels of athletes. There are guys who dominate the court at the local gym then there's Michael Jordan. There are snowboarders who hit the slopes every weekend then there's Sean White in his private halfpipe perfecting the "Tomahawk" (the gold-medal winning move he named after a 30-0z. steak he ate in an Aspen restaurant!). There are weekend warriors like me then there are "extreme" runners like Dane.

That's what they call Dane, an extreme runner. He once ran 52 marathons in 52 weeks. He's going to run 202 miles in two days, essentially back-to-back 100-mile ultra marathons. Yea, I'd say that's extreme!

When we deplaned in Denver Dane asked me to stay in touch. So I e-mailed him this week and wished him luck in the American Odyssey Relay (or, in his case, Dane's American Odyssey Solo) 202 mile run.

Of course, I had to ask, "Do you eat beef?"

"One simple sentence," Dane replied. "I love beef."

See Dane run. Dane loves BEEF. Run, Dane, run!

Follow Dane on his own personal American Odyssey via Twitter. Send him notes of encouragement and let him know that beef-loving athletes across the country are rooting for him to reach his incredible goal to run 202 miles solo in 48 hours!

Ride on!


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dances with Wolves? Try Running with Bulls!

Running across a pasture in the Flint Hills of Kansas wearing boots and carrying her coffee cup in one hand, Barb Downey is training for the Boston Marathon.

[Above: Barb qualifies for the Boston Marathon by turning in a sub-4:00 time in the Eisenhower Marathon in Abilene, KS.]

It's safe to say that running wind sprints by chasing yearling bulls across a pasture is not the normal way to train for a marathon. But Barb Downey isn't normal...and I mean that as a compliment! Barb ran the Boilermaker 15K Road Race this past July wearing jean shorts, a cowboy hat and spurs on her running shoes. Ask anybody who knows Barb and they'll tell you Barb is one-of-a-kind, unique, different.

I first met Barb shortly after she completed her first marathon two years ago in Olathe, KS, finishing in an impressive 4:25:56 -- a pace of 10:12/mile. But that's not what impressed me the most when I heard about Barb. What impressed me was learning Barb had recently lost 130 lbs. -- half her weight -- by changing her diet and going from walking or jogging a few miles to running a marathon!

When I asked Barb what prompted her to change her lifestyle so drastically, she pointed to reading the South Beach Diet.
"I knew for a number of years I needed to do something," said Barb. "I tried the Oprah diet of protein shakes and lost weight but ended up regaining it all because I didn't learn about eating right. I was eating no fat and no cholesterol and my blood cholesterol never fell below 225.

After reading the South Beach Diet, I knew it would work for me...eating lots of protein, fruits and vegetables. I'll eat steak on a salad, lettuce roll ups, lots of fruits and vegetables. It's psychologically and physiologically satisfying, helps me control weight and build lean muscle mass. Now my cholesterol is below 200, my bad cholesterol is low and my good cholesterol is up."
Barb says maintaining a healthy weight is a constant battle that she wins by eating right and getting exercise...lots of exercise. And its not always easy. No, it's never easy.
"When we head out to AI (artificially inseminate) the cows in the morning I take my running shoes with me and run home. When we need to drop off a tractor I'll do it and run home rather than having someone follow me in the truck. I run at night in the summertime. I run errands into town with a kid trailer on the back of my bike to haul stuff home in."
So how does a Kansas rancher prepare in the weeks leading up to the Boston Marathon?
"We’ve pretty much finished pasture burning and have been fencing. Calve-out heifers are all delivered and one bull remains to go out west May 1. Yearling bulls are off test, scanned and semen checked so they’ll head out to range as soon as the warm season grasses crank up. Then mature cow AI starts and we need to get all the spring calves worked. In the feedlot, the fall calves are all gone and the springs are rolling along nice. Scanned and sorted those and they look really good especially considering the muddy/snowy protracted winter we had.

Off on Saturday for Boston! I work the health & fitness expo on Sunday then Monday’s the race. I should start around 10:30 eastern time & run for about 4 hours so cheer me on sometime around your mid-day. I’ll need all the support I can get."
To follow Barb's race on Monday simply text the word RUNNER to 31901 using your US mobile phone. You will then receive an SMS text response with instructions on how to submit a runner’s bib number (Barb's is 20602).* You can also sign up to receive e-mail or test alerts on the Boston Athletic Association website.

*Message and data rates may apply. You will be opted in to receive four messages during the race. Send STOP to quit. Available on participating carriers AT&T, Alltel, Boost, Nextel, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Verizon, and Virgin.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

I'm Baaa-aaack!

After a 10-month break from posting I'm back with a new name and a new sense of purpose for my blog. I hope my friends, family and extended family of beef-lovers across the country will enjoy reading about my adventures (and misadventures) as I train for cycling, running and triathlon events and travel the country promoting the role of BEEF in a healthy diet.

First, let's catch up. How have you been? Well, you look great. You've obviously been taking care of yourself, getting some exercise and eating a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low and non-fat dairy products and, of course, lean BEEF! Good for you!

Me? Well, I've been traveling a lot. Since last June I've been to 22 states across this beautiful country meeting with farmers and ranchers who raise great-tasting, whole and nutritious BEEF. I love my job!

Following Ride the Rockies in June 2009 I traveled to Utica, NY in July to run the Boilermaker 15K with 100+ beef-loving athletes from across the country wearing our Team ZIP running jerseys to demonstrate the power of protein and other nutrients like zinc, iron and B vitamins found in beef.

In August I crossed a big-time goal off my "bucket list" riding to the top of the highest paved road in North America -- The Mt. Evans Highway -- from a starting elevation of 7,524 ft. in Idaho Springs, CO, to 14,258 ft. above sea level at the summit. Actually, I had to hike with my bike the last 100 ft. to the true summit to snap this picture. I don't advise doing this in cycling shoes but it had to be done!

Just yesterday I ran the GO! St. Louis Half Marathon with 220 other beef-loving athletes, turning in a new personal record time of 1:50:36 (8:22/mile). I was thrilled with the time, especially considering I hadn't logged many running miles this year. In fact, until two weeks ago I'd primarily been riding indoors on my Cannondale Synapse Carbon 3 and CycleOps Fluid 2 trainer.

So, two weeks ago I came up with my two-week half marathon training program: five runs totaling 26 miles (3, 6, 10, 4 and 3 miles) with a little time on the trainer on non-running days.

As for nutrition, I ate a LOT of beef! In the week leading up to the run I had roast on Easter Sunday, a burger on Monday, filet mignon on Tuesday, beef jerky (as a snack) on Wednesday, BBQ beef for lunch and a ribeye for dinner on Thursday, brisket on Friday, and a huge Cowboy Cut (bone-in) ribeye for dinner on Saturday before the race. Sure, this is more than the USDA recommended serving of 3 oz. of protein per meal (5.5 per day), but I took my cue from Olympic 1500 meter runner Bernard Lagat, who told Runner's World in an article called "Secrets of the Olympians":

"I love steak, and I have to have steak the day before I race. Some people are afraid to eat steak before a competition because they think it'll make them too full and slow them down. But in Osaka [at the 2007 World Championships], before I raced, I went to Outback and ordered the biggest steak I could, and I won. You have to do what works for your body."

—Bernard Lagat, Tucson, Arizona

You gotta stick with what works...and BEEF works for me!

My big event this summer is the Boulder Ironman 70.3 triathlon (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run). This will be my second Ironman 70.3 distance event after a three-year hiatus. Shortly after I ran the Vineman 70.3 in July 2007 I was hit by a car while riding my bike and had to take a few months off from training. I started riding and running again but didn't back in the pool until this past winter, so haven't done any triathlon events since.

I'm looking forward to getting back into the groove of triathlon training this summer and have lots of events lined up between now and August 8, 2010, to prepare for Boulder. I hope you'll follow along as I ride, run and swim. Along the way I'll share my favorite recipes and tips for grilling great lean BEEF recipes!

Ride on!