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Dr. Stephen Bratton competes in Boston Marathon

posted Apr 20, 2011, 2:42 PM by Gary Jones   [ updated Apr 22, 2011, 9:15 AM ]

Dr. Bratton completed the Boston Marathon in, just under, 3 hours and 29 minutes. Of the 26,895 who qualified and competed, Dr. Bratton placed 7,273. What an outstanding accomplishment and example to all of us!

Here's a question and answer section from Dr. Bratton:

1. How long have you been participating in long-distance marathons?
I have been training for 3 years. This will be my 4th season of endurance running. I have competed in half marathons (13.1 miles), full marathons (26.2 miles), half triathlons (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run), and full triathlons (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). My third Ironman Triathlon is coming up in July.

2. What peaked your interest in running in marathons?
Since there are not a lot of sports opportunities for adults in Modoc County, I wanted to do something that was challenging, would help me get in shape and would be something I could do without traveling a hundred miles to go train. I was basically looking for a lifestyle change from just working, watching TV and hanging out to being consistently more active, healthier and actually becoming competitive in races.

3. What motivates you to do this type of activity?
It is a personal challenge where I can work every day toward a bigger goal. I can track my progress and improve my times in the events. It is not something where you complete it and go on to something else. You are balancing your time in training in three events and trying to improve in each of them at the same time. In the end you are competing against yourself.

4. What are some of the other competitions you have competed in?
I have competed in most run race distances including the 3 mile NorCal, 10 Mile NorCal, Avenue of the Giants half marathon, Whiskeytown and Santa Monica 30k Trail runs and the Redding Marathon twice. I have also competed in almost all of the standard triathlon distances including a Sprint, Tinsel Triathlon, an Olympic distance, Tri-ing for Children, Half distance triathlons at Boise and Las Vegas and Full distance triathlons at Santa Rosa and Coeur d’Alene.

5. What is the process for qualifying for the Boston Marathon?
To qualify for the Boston Marathon, you must meet a pre-determined time limit for your age group in a sanctioned marathon in the 18 months prior to the race. The time limit works out to the fastest 10 percent of marathon runners in the world and the field is then narrowed to the top 25,000 competitors from that group distributed across age groups.. I qualified during the Redding Marathon in January 2010.

6. How long have you been in training?
This is my 4th season of training for endurance events.

7. What is your training routine? How far do you run every day?
Currently I am getting in around 12 workouts a week or around 15 hours of training. I am running 5 times a week, 6 to 20 miles per run. I am swimming 3 times a week for a total of around 7000-8000 yards. The last 4 workouts are on the bike and total around 110 miles. After the Boston Marathon I will be significantly increasing my bike and swim mileage and decreasing my run mileage somewhat in preparation for the Full distance triathlon in July. I will work my long swim up to 5500 to 6000 yards and my long bike ride up to around 120 miles. I try to get all of my running in outdoors even in the winter, but on my coldest run this year it was -2F and the water I was carrying actually froze. This summer I anticipate doing long bike rides in 100 F temps.

8. What does your diet consist of?
Breakfast – glass of milk Lunch – PBJ or turkey sandwich Dinner – chicken and vegetables and milk. As my workouts increase I may add in a hand full of peanuts in the morning and an apple or orange after dinner. During a long run, I may consume 400 calories of GU, a gel with sugar and minerals in it and on a long bike ride I may use as much as 2200 calories of Infinit, a powder including sugars and electolytes that is added to my water.

9. What are the best and worst pre-run foods?
If I have pizza I am unable to run for at least 4 hours or I get really bad side cramps. I do not typically eat much before even the longest races and will typically have a bagel or slice of bread 2 hours before the event and a Gu 15 minutes before the race starts. It would be really bad to get side cramps at the start of a 2.4 mile swim or at the beginning of a 26.2 mile run. That would make for a very long day.

10. How often do you replace your running shoes?
Every 350 miles, so about every 2 to 3 months.

11. Any serious accidents and / or funny occurrences?
I have actually had a number of problems this past season. I tore a calf muscle 3 months before Ironman Coeur d’Alene this past summer which impacted my training and my performance in that race. I then suffered a broken collar bone during the Crater Lake 100 mile bike event in August of 2010. The break was bad enough to require surgery and resulted in no training for approximately 3 months. I also had a minor sprain to my right ankle about 5 weeks ago, but am overall on the mend and should be healthy for Boston.

Usually I am out training by myself as I have not found too many endurance athletes in the area whose schedule matches up with mine, so not too many funny things tend to happen. However, one day I was on a long bicycle ride to Newell and back, it was around 100F, and I was maybe 90 miles into my ride somewhere between the bug station and Canby when a guy in a car pulls up beside me rolls down his window and yells at the top of his lungs “Are you crazy?” He then drove beside me for a mile or so carrying on a conversation as to why I was riding my bike out in the middle of nowhere in the heat of the day. Perhaps it was the heat, but I found it funny.

12. Have you done anything different during your training to prepare for the Boston Marathon?
I have decreased my swim and bike miles and increased my run miles. I have been averaging over 180 miles a month for the past three months and have been doing regular speed work and hill workouts. The Boston Marathon has a number of hills that start at around mile 17, just when your legs are starting to get really tired, with Heartbreak Hill at around mile 20.

13. Prior to beginning this endurance training, did you have any health baseline data?
I have been active all my life, including some competitive water skiing in my earlier years, so I felt this was just another way to challenge myself to improve both physically and mentally. I did not have any medical problems to start out with other than having a few too many pounds around the waist.

14. What is your mindset prior to and during a race?
Prior to the race is a little chaotic. You have to check in, get your race number, set up your equipment, depending on the race. I usually drive the course the day before to scout the terrain and plan my course of action during the race.

During the race there is a lot to think about. You have to concentrate on not starting out too fast in the beginning, holding your pace through the middle and pushing to keep your pace up at the end as well as taking in the right amount of water and calories. Where a full marathon takes me a little under 3:30 to complete, a Full distance triathlon takes me around 12 hours. I have to take in about 350 calories per hour on the bike, 200 calories per hour on the run and 4 ounces of water per mile on the run, depending on the weather conditions. If you eat or drink too little you can become dehydrated and really weak and may have to drop out of the race for medical reasons. If you eat or drink too much your stomach can get upset and you can get cramps or even end up loosing your lunch at the side of the road. One of the challenges of training for these events is learning what is the right balance for how food and water to take in during different whether conditions so you can have proper execution during the race. If it is hot, say above 90F it becomes very important to keep your body temperature down by dowsing yourself with cups of water every mile. Then you have the technical challenges. On the swim you have to be constantly keeping track of where you are swimming because there may be 2500 other people swimming next to you and the wind and waves may wash you off course. On the bike you typically have to keep at least 4 bike-lengths between you and the bike in front of you unless you are passing. If you attempt to pass you have 15 seconds to pass or you may receive a 5 minute penalty. Three such penalties results in disqualification.

15. This seems to be something that punishes your body. Are you a masochist?
No, I don’t see myself as a masochist, the goal of the training is not to experience pain, but to properly prepare for the races so as to not experience a great deal of pain. Races of any distance are physically challenging and it takes a degree of mental toughness to complete the longer races, but it is more the challenge of setting a goal that you thought was out of reach, training safely and consistently to meet that challenge and then putting it all together on race day that gives me a sense of accomplishment. When asked, “what did you do last weekend?” I would rather say I completed an Ironman than say I drank a few beers and watched someone else competing in a sporting event on TV.

16. Do you take any kind of supplements to enhance your training?
I try not to get too obsessive about micromanaging what percent of carbohydrates, fats, protein, etc., I take in on a daily bases. I get most of my nutrients from eating the right foods and just take an over-the-counter multi-vitamin in the morning to round out any holes I might have in my diet.

17. Do you run in the winter? If so, how do you keep from slipping on the ice?
Yes, I enjoy running outdoors all year round, including during the winter months. I try to avoid hills that I know will be icy in the winter, but do not mind running in snow that is not too deep. This winter there was more ice than usual so I tried a pair of YakTraks, but wore them out after only two runs. Next winter I might try some shoes that provide better traction rather than adding something to my existing shoes.

18. How many pounds of air are in your bike tires? What happens if you get a flat tire during a race?
The tires I use on my bicycle typically require around 120 psi. I try to race on newer tires and typically carry two spare tubes, an air pump, and two containers of CO2 on my bike in case I get a flat tire. I also put an additional tube and CO2 cartridge in my special needs back that I can pick up at the half way point in the race. Depending which tire blows, front or back, determines how long it takes to change it – front being the easier of the two. In the bigger races if I were to get more than 2-3 flat tires there is a bike repair team that travels along the course that will help with additional tubes as needed. The problem is that you can loose a lot of time waiting for them should you need assistance during the race.

19. What is your seat made of?
The cover of my bicycle seat is leather and it is designed so that the primary area of pressure is on your sit-bones so as to minimize discomfort on the soft tissue areas.

20. Do you talk to God during a race?
I may not talk directly to God during a race, but my faith is part of what caries me through any difficult situation and after 10 hours on the race course things can seem pretty difficult.

21. How do you get time off from your job to attend these events?
Almost all of the races occur during the weekend so they do not typically interfere with my regular work hours. The Boston Marathon is actually the only race so far that I will have completed in that is held on a weekday and my employer has graciously allowed me to flex my schedule to attend this race.

22. Do you have a mentor or someone that you look up to that competes in endurance running events?
No, not really. I get some support from online websites, but this is all pretty much my own beat.

23. How long does it take you to recuperate after a race:
After a marathon, it takes about 1-1.5 weeks to recover to the point of being able to start jogging short distances again. I will do some swimming, ride my bike at a slow pace or do some walking, but typically will do no running at all during that first week or so. After a Full distance triathlon, it takes about a month for me to recover. I may do some slow swimming, ride my bike slowly or walk, but I not do any workouts that are of any significant intensity or duration for about a month.

24. Once you’ve run this marathon, what’s next?
I plan on competing in the Vineman Full Ironman Distance Triathlon in Santa Rosa on July 30.

25. I am also very pleased to have just received sponsorship for the 2011 season by Team Sports Multiplied. They are providing me with a high quality 2XU race uniform, training and recovery clothing.

Background Information:
Stephen Bratton, Ph.D., 44 years old, married to Joymarie Bratton with 5 children (Rachael, Patrick, Michael, Joshua and Daniel). I am employed by the Modoc County Office of Education as a School Psychologist and Program Specialist. My family and I moved to the Alturas area in 2001 when we relocated for my job.