Saturday, July 26, 2008

2008 Grand Island Trail Marathon Results

3:09:07 (7:13/mile)
5/247 Overall
1/29 Age
sunrise Well, I have now run more than a few races and have run some in some beautiful places, but never anything like this. The race is an almost complete circumnavigation of Grand Island, which lies in Lake Superior only a half mile from the upper peninsula of Michigan. For about 2/3 of the race I was within 50 feet of the edge of the cliff of the island. In some cases I was mere feet from the edge and I really did want to stop to take pictures. The race started up the east side of the island so the sun was shining brightly through the trees upon us as we ran. It was fun to look out across Lake Superior to the north, open and beautiful. The race started at 7, about an hour after sunset. The ferry got me across right around sunrise which just made my day.

It was a trail marathon which I have really only done once before, and it being 1 week after another marathon, I was planning on running this one easy and I set out to do just that. I had no plans for a fast finish, but went out at a fairly good clip since it was on hard packed dirt road. The main part of the island has a circumference of ~23 miles, so we had to spend a little time doing a simple out and back on the ‘thumb’ of the island. When we took that turn at about mile 4, it became a hiking trail hill that was fairly awful. At mile 5.5 we turned around and went back down the trail back to the main part of the island for the rest of the race. At two points in the race we actually had to run along the beach. On a beauty scale, it was an 11 out of 10, but on a running scale, it was a -1 because of the horrible footing. The night before at packet pick-up I heard one of the race officials talk to another couple about the beaches and said ‘people who run road marathons hate those beaches’. I smiled, because knew I would hate them as well and gosh Wally, I was correct.

It was a small race, yes, with a major ‘small town’ race feel, which I thrive on. After 5.5 miles I was in 6th place and remained there until mile 25 when I caught another racer. Had it not been for the ~25 people who started early who I passed slowly during the day I would have not seen a soul on the course (not including the wonderful volunteers at the 5 aid stations). In previous years, the trail has been in bad conditions due to weather, but this year the course was apparently as good as it has ever been. At race start the temperature was about 55 degrees and raised maybe 10 degrees during the next 3 hours. A nice breeze and partly cloudy skies and you have PERFECT race conditions. I think I might have slowed a little to just enjoy the day a little more.
finish I was able to meet and chat with the winner and my true inspiration, Chuck Engle. Chuck is a marathon junky. He is faster than I, running marathons in the 2:30-2:50 range, but he runs them all the time. Last year he ran 52 and this year has done a few ‘doubles’ (two marathons in consecutive DAYS) He just enjoys running marathons. That is him in my finish line picture. He is very humble and extremely nice. Chuck and I are alike in that we just really enjoy the distance and run them whenever we can. He is faster, but not THAT much faster. He has a few corporate sponsors (which I would LOVE to have) to pay for his travels all over the place. I really do want to try to be like him.

The age award was the coolest I have ever gotten in my life. A large handmade multi colored glass disk with the race symbol on it. Very very cool. The cherry juice (made with local cherries!) just made my day even more perfect.

You might be wondering why I did yet another Michigan marathon as I try to get all 50 states, but this one was all about the timing. My family has a ‘gathering’ (not a reunion because we congregate at different places) late each summer and this year we met at the Apostle Islands in Northern Wisconsin. We just happen to be congregating the day after this marathon which was conveniently in northern Michigan. It’s all about the timing baby!

After the marathon on our way to the gathering, we stopped at a small town locally owned coffee shop in Escanaba, Michigan. When I asked for a mocha, I was told that they were out of chocolate. When I expressed unhappiness, the counter worker (who had to have been the owner) told me to ‘hang on a minute, I’ll be right back’. He left the shop on his bike, trusting me and the two locals in the place not to rob the joint. He returned about 5 minutes later. It turns out he went to the local grocery store and bought a dove bar, melted it, and used it to make my mocha. It actually tasted pretty good. Got to love that small town ambiance…

Sunday, July 20, 2008

2008 Friendly Massey Marathon Results

3/70 Overall

So I guess this counts as my first ‘international’ race even though I was < 2 hours from the U.S. border. I am well traveled, yes, but only inside the United States. I always feel uncomfortable when I leave the country, even if it is to Canada, and I am not sure why. Unfamiliar laws and customs always makes me feel a little uneasy. Thank goodness everyone spoke English.

Massey, ON is a little stop on a ‘major’ east-west highway in Ontario. The town is small, with only one stop light, one gas station, and only one real restaurant.
When I arrived on Saturday afternoon I went to race check in at the local ‘arena’. The tables were set up on what was usually the ice rink. Since hockey is out of season, it was a big concrete slab, but it still felt weird. After that I decided to take in the local area and went over to the a local provincial (think ‘state’) park, known simply as ‘chutes’, as named because it is a river that was used for logging for many years and chutes had to be built around a few of the natural falls nearby. You could tell that this was the most famous attraction for kilometers (Hey, I was in Canada)

chutes I stopped for an early dinner at THE restaurant and then headed back to the hotel to relax. I played an online game of Settlers of Catan with Stef and then tried to get some sleep. Normally I sleep horrible the night before a marathon, just from nerves. Well, this being marathon #18, you would think I would have gotten over that. Instead of falling asleep watching some bad movie on television, I pulled up the BBC world service on my computer (Did I mention the hotel was really really dumpy, but they had high speed internet?) and listened to that to fall asleep. That is what I often fall asleep to at home, and I think that made a difference. I was asleep by 9pm, and woke up 5 minutes before my alarm at 3:00 am, feeling well rested.

Being so north, sunrise came at 5:50 so the 6 am race start was not too weird. The sky was overcast all day long and it sprinkled very lightly just few times during the morning. With temperatures in the high 50’s all day, I would have to rate the race conditions as nearly perfect, actually. There were three races going on simultaneously, a 10K, a half and my full. For the second time in a row, the full marathon course was just two trips around the half course. Those are always a little depressing because you actually run right by the finish line after about an hour and a half. As with previous times I serious considered (for only a few seconds) just stopping after the half and bailing on the whole thing. I took a few more strides and the feeling went away. I was feeling strong and in my ‘groove’. My first half split was 1:28:11, and my second half was 1:27:39. That is what I call even pace! My first goal was to run easy, not pushing myself, and hoping just to break 3 hours. For the record, I have run my last 5 marathons in less than 2:57. That will all change next week when I run a tough trail marathon on Grand Island.

I think everyone in town (almost) came out to help with the race. The numerous aid stations were all well staffed with very friendly people. The stations were so frequent I actually had to NOT drink at some of them as my stomach was getting a little upset. For regular readers of this blog, you know I have been having stomach issues after long races as of late. I thought it was to eating solid food soon after a race, but now I am thinking that might only be part of it. During this race after drinking quite a bit of Gatorade I was starting to get that familiar ‘gut-rot’ feeling. I think that it might be coming more from the excess of sugar at the end of my races (drinking lots of Gatorade which is what I tend to do). So to test this NEW theory, after the race this time I drank nothing but water, and then a nice cup of tea. Then, only one hour after I finished I had some very delicious pancakes (with syrup) and my stomach was perfectly fine. We will try this new system for a bit and see what it gets us. This, again, is one of those advantages to running lots of marathons, I don’t have to wait 6 months before I try a new tack.

4 weeks ago I ran the Charlevoix marathon and talked a few times during and after the race with the guy who was third (one place in front of me) at that race. A really nice guy, actually. Well, 6 minutes into this race he came up along side of me and we recognized each other and talked for about 2 miles of the race and then I let him go. He ended up finishing second, again one place ahead of me. That is him in my finish line picture. I asked him and he is NOT running Grand Island next week.

This being week 4 of my 5 week odyssey I was hoping to be in not too bad of shape afterwards, and I was happy when my legs were not that sore, even a day later. I am starting to like this marathon-a-month-not-really-training thing.