Sunday, December 12, 2010

2010 Honolulu Marathon Results

121/20169 Overall
20/1216 Division

I have been planning on this trip for a long time, probably longer than any other race I have ever run, since it is in one of the most beautiful states. Hawaii is wonderful, especially when Michigan is getting slammed with snow and I am on my honeymoon (part II).

Mistique and I were married back in late June of this year and our honeymoon (part I) was only a few days staying in local bed and breakfasts. That was nice, but certainly not the trilling memorable honeymoon most people have. I promised to take her to Hawaii in December for a more ‘traditional’ honeymoon, and this was that trip.

Misty is also a ‘speed tourist’ so only spending 4 days in Hawaii was fine by her. We took off from Michigan early Thursday morning and got to Oahu that afternoon. It was rainy so there was no sunset to speak of, and we were asleep by 7:30pm local, which is 1:30am ‘body time’, well past our bedtime.

Beach On Friday it was still cold, rainy and windy but we braved the bad (for Hawaii) weather and did the whole Pearl Harbor thing, touring the USS Missouri and USS Bowfin. Both were pretty cool, and I learned a little more about WWII that I did not now. Saturday was the ‘do nothing and sit on the beach all day’ day of our trip. Right about the time we got to the beach, the last of the clouds left and so we sat on the sunny beach and did nothing for over 5 hours. It was awesome.

Race morning came early (2:30am) Sunday because it was 5 am start and with 20,000+ runners who needed to be bused to the starting line, we had to be there early. Luckily the busses were picking people up about 1.5 blocks from our hotel. The loading seemed to go smoothly and we were at the starting line just over an hour before the marathon start.

Misty is a walker (not a runner) but there was a 10K walk associated with the marathon. When we went to the race expo on Friday, we quickly realized that the 10K walk is just a money making machine. The marathon organizers seemed to have slapped it together not really caring. They saw it as a chance to get some money out of those relatives who traveled to Hawaii with their families by giving them something to do while everyone was running the marathon. A $70 entrance fee (for the 10K walk) got you a so-so t-shirt, aid stations that were out of water (the first 10K of the marathon was the walk course) no official time, a lame finish certificate and a cheap hand held fan. Misty made several comments about how the walkers really weren’t even walking, more like a Sunday stroll. She believed she was one of the first (of thousands) of walkers to finish and she wasn’t even racing. In fact, the walk started while marathoners (the slow marathon walkers near the end) were still crossing the starting line and she passed some marathoners during her walk. She even noticed some marathoners stop at the Jack in the Box and get some food. Ya see, there was no real cut off time for the marathon. I think I read somewhere that they were going to shut down the finish line at 4pm. That’s 11 hrs after the start. Yeah, this one was different.

Sunset Ok, so the marathon had its issues too. The first was even before the race started. At races this size (>20 thousand runners) you want to ‘seed’ the racers (forced or self selected) such that you do not have people having to weave around slower runners in the early miles. The Honolulu marathon choose the self selected method, putting up large banners and volunteers with ropes with predicted finish times spaced behind the start line, a similar tack taken by dozens of races I have done before. However, the first rope barricade (2-3 hours it was labeled) was a full 100 m from the start line, and nobody was policing that 100m, so it filled with people who had no clue the race was trying to get people lined up by speed. I realized this about 4 minutes before race start where I was sitting dutifully behind the 2-3 hour rope. I started to move up and got about half way through the leading crowd before I was essentially stuck due to concentration. It was easy to look around and realize most of these people would not be running under 3 hours. When the race started (Fireworks! Cool!) I was bobbing and weaving for about a half a mile getting around a huge sea of slow runners. I felt bad for the sub 3 marathoners who stayed behind the rope.

I had recently noticed that I have not run a single sub-3 marathon in 2010 (I consciously chose ‘volume’ this year) and thought it would be nice to get at least one. I did take a few days off right before the race (a half hearted taper attempt) hoping I might pull it off. When I was doing 6:40/mile average at mile 5 and starting to get tired, I was convinced it probably wouldn’t happen, and I was right. What is interesting is that both my half marathon spilt (1:30) and finish time (3:10) were both within 1 min of their equivalent times for my last marathon, 2 weeks ago in Maryland. I thought that was kindof interesting. I have the physical prowess to run a 2:50 marathon, but I have the mental toughness of a 7th grade weakling. I am quite mentally weak when it comes to racing (always have been) in that I am quick to slow down because I am tired. I know it sounds weird, but I think it has made me a strong ultra runner. That doesn’t involve speed per se, just stamina, and my training is just that, going for long times and not stopping. I hate speed work, always have. But, I can do 120 miles a week at 7:45 pace, week in week out. It looks like that will be my niche. I have accepted my weakness and chosen to exploit my strengths. Isn’t that we are always supposed to do anyways?

The race started at 5am so A) they could have the course open forever (11 hours!) and B) so you could get some miles in before sunrise. It turns out, I did not have direct sunlight hitting me (sun finally over mountains) until mile 17, and then it just sucked the life energy out of me. The temperature at race start was low 60’s and it was upper 70s by the time the sun started cooking the runners. I knew I had slowed down a bit, and at about mile 20 I realized I had to pick it up if I wanted to stay under 3:15, my standard do-no-slower-than-this time.

There were a couple of sections of out and back and since I was coasting then anyways, I tried very hard to spot and acknowledge every marathon maniac I saw, in the end about 20 of them. About 10 minutes before the race began a small crowd of us met near the front for introductions and picture taking (a common practice) and it included Maniac #0001, President Steven Yee. That was pretty cool, I must say. There are now over 3000 Maniacs, me being #1090.
It turns out this is a very popular ‘destination marathon’ which is no great surprise since it IS Hawai’i, but not so much for Americans but for Japanese. Turns out over 60% of the runners come from Japan, many coming via one of three major tourism companies. That is fine, but the rest of us yahoos were kindof given short shrift. There were HUGE area/tents set up for those groups, each with their own post race food and party atmosphere. For us regular folk there was (what was labeled by signs as) the ‘food court’ which was comprised of exactly 3 items, red apples (ick!) dry oatmeal cookies (blah!), and water. That’s it. No more nothing else. Oh did I mention they did not give out race shirts at packet pickup like every other race I have ever run that had an entry fee? Turns out they SELL several different shirts (and bags, cups, socks, etc) at the expo, all saying 2010 Honolulu Marathon, but they only thing included in your _$140_ entry fee was a t-shirt IF you finished. You would think the t-shirt pickup (and finishers medal which was of average quality) would be right next to the finish line. Nope, it was on the other side of the huge park (beyond the tour group areas) about 600m from the finish and not very well marked. It was as if they didn’t want you to pick up a shirt nor a medal. The finish line treatment of the marathoners and blatant disrespect for the 10K walkers, both groups having paid a pretty penny for entry made me a little upset. I have been to smaller races with entry fees 1/4th this amount and gotten TWO t-shirts, an awesome finisher’s medal, and good quality/variety post race food. This race was a money grab from the get-go. After 39 years it is all about profit and not about quality, you could tell. They know people will come out because it is Hawai’i, so they don’t need to impress us.

I am so glad I had Mistique with me, for it was her that made the trip memorable and way fun. The marathon, sadly, will almost be an afterthought of this great honeymoon weekend. One final note, while it was 80 degrees and sunny where we were, the Midwest got slammed with a nasty snow storm and schools were closed all over Michigan the day we flew back. A full 70 degree shift in the high temperature of the day between Hawai’i and Michigan. At least now I have snow to train in for my next 100 miler in February.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

2010 North Central Trail Marathon Results

30/400 overall
10/47 age
Video entry for the first half (camera problems on second half :( )

The usual suspects
The Saturday after Thanksgiving of 2009 I ran a race in Mississippi and I lost to a nice guy from Erie, PA, Gary Krugger. In the ensuing year, we have become great friends, he has become an incredible marathoner, running one or two marathons every weekend all year (most around 3 hours), and has started dating another cool marathoner, Morgan Cummings. who is currently the youngest women to ever run marathons in all 50 states+DC. Several months ago we figured out that we were both planning on running the NCR trail marathon in MD this Thanksgiving weekend so we decided to carpool to the race. My lovely wife was also able to go, which always make my marathon trips more enjoyable.

Mistique and I left at 5:30am on Friday and picked up Morgan and Gary in Pittsburgh, then drove another 4.5 hours to MD for packet pickup. Morgan and Gary are really cool people, and you can tell they are totally in love with each other. It was so cool to see someone in a relationship as happy as mine is. Had Misty not been right there the whole time, I would have been sick with all the mooshy-ness of Gary and Morgan, but it was ok since my lovely bride was along for the ride. Our conversations were fun and lively, talking about racing and relationships, the miles went by quickly. It honestly reminded me of a nice long run done with a good friend, chatting and helping knock off the distance.

Packet pickup was unexciting, except instead of t-shirts, everyone got very nice heavy hooded sweatshirts. I don’t need any more technical t-shirts anyways. We then headed to a Gary’s former bosses’ house which was only 20 min away from race start. Joe is a really nice guy who lives in a beautiful ‘empty nest’ home. I love staying with people who have grown children who have recently (in the last few years) moved out, because they are the best hosts. They are just so happy to have someone staying at their place, they go over the top to make them feel welcome and comfortable. I had that in Portland, OR, staying at Morgan’s house, and it was awesome then too.

Because everyone is so sweet and I am the only person who has a tight pre-race meal ritual, everyone was ok with a 20 min drive to the nearest Applebees. Gary’s diet is horrible. Cheese pizza is a staple of his, especially the night before races. He will also tell you that he has had to stop to poop 4 times during some marathons. I have tried to convince him there might be a connection and maybe he should try something else the night before a race. Luckily, Applebees does not serve pizza, so he ate spaghetti, and sure enough, he never had to stop during the race to poop. And even better, he managed to run his 32nd state in less than 3 hours (just barely, his official finish was 2:59:48)

Race start was not until 9am, so we all got to sleep in, which was awesome. A little confusion of the GPS got us to race start about 8:10, and the weather had us a little concerned. Gary does not have much meat on his bones (he is my height and 20+ pounds lighter than me, and I am not too big) and does not do well in cold conditions The temperature was in the mid 30’s but the wind was starting to pickup and predicted to be in the 18-20 mph range during the race. The course was mostly along a beautifully wooded trail (another railroad-repo trail) with hills and valleys on both sides, which meant the wind was swirling all day long. You would have nothing for a quarter of a mile then get hit head on with gusts for a half mile. Totally unpredictable which kindof stunk.

Gary took off and left me behind, but I knew I would be slower than him anyways. 9 days before this race I had a date with my Podiatrist and he removed (permanently) my two big toe toenails which will take 8-10 WEEKS to fully recover, so 9 days after, they were still quite raw and tender. Vicodin. Yum. Oh, and my other excuse was that I ran a sub-19 5K two days earlier, so my legs were actually still sore from that speed workout. I ran a 100 miler 2 weeks ago, too. Ok, enough excuses, but I have some more if you want ‘em.
Run. TiredI went out in what I thought was a comfortable pace. The first mile (paved road, downhill) was a quick 6:40, and I knew that was too fast. Once on the trail after ~2 miles, I got into a 6:45/mile rhythm which was fast, but I felt good. I have started out too fast before, but not felt this good. This course is considered fairly fast, and I could tell. Good footing, beautiful views so it was easy to see why people run strong here. At about mile 10, I started to slow a little, as my sore legs were getting to me. I hit the half marathon point 1:29:57, so I knew then that my chances of running sub-3, where slim. I have not run a sub 3 marathon in awhile (I haven’t tried though, this year striving for quantity, not quality) so I slowed a little more, deciding to enjoy the scenery. I had my iPod with me the whole race and was running by myself most of the race, but never turned it on. For some reason, today 3 hours of listening to nature was enjoyable. That almost never happens.

As I neared the turn around, I saw the leaders and Gary, who looked strong. I like out and backs because you get to see people on as you cross paths, which is always a little motivating, especially when you are starting to get tired. When I finally saw Morgan she had her pleasant smile on, like she always does, but I later found out she really was not in the mood to run today. She finished, but hated the run. It happens. She is still recovering from a hip injury earlier this year, so her motivation of late has taken a huge hit.
It being an out and back course, the last ~2 miles were back on open roads. Uphill. Into the gusting wind. The course was one of the most beautiful I have ever raced on, except for the last 1.5 miles. Just before mile 25 was a long steady hill, probably 300 m long. It sucked your life energy and then you still had 1.2 miles to go after that. For me, that last 1.2 miles took me almost 11 min. Yeah those hills sucked. It reminded me of the two massive sets of stairs in the last 3 miles of the Burning River 100.
Misty had fallen asleep in the car while we raced and woke up right at 3 hours into the race. She missed Gary’s finish, but managed to get to the finish line just minutes before I crossed. I really love it when I cross a finish line and she is there. It makes me feel so warm and fuzzy inside and after this cold race, I needed that. We went back to the elementary school hosting the race for some good food and warm air. We found Gary and he looked rough. Really rough. He was so cold he stopped shivering, and that’s bad. We got him seated, tried to get some liquids in him and got some medical personnel over to check him out. As I said, he does not do well in cold races, and he was not doing well here. It was about 45 minutes until I felt he was back amongst the living.

Once Morgan got back to the finish we gave her some time to get some food and recover before we stopped back quick at Joe’s to shower (and have some food he laid out for us) before driving to Pittsburgh to drop Gary and Morgan off at Gary’s car. Originally Misty and I were going to drive all the way back to Jackson on Saturday, but as it was, we didn’t get to Pittsburgh until 8:45 pm, so we decided to get a cheap motel room for the night and push onto Michigan first thing Sunday. A good choice, for sure.

This was an awesome weekend, getting to spend a wonderful time with friends, run a pretty (but cold) race, and knock off state #45. At 90% of the way to my goal, 4+ years in the making, I am starting to see the end of a very long journey.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

2010 Jackson YMCA Turkey Trot 5K Results

2/190 overall
I was sitting on facebook last week, still recovering from my nice 100 miler mere days before and I noticed an event in my town, a little 5K on Thanksgiving morning, open donation. What the heck, I thought. I have not run a race shorter than a full marathon since June, and I knew I needed to get my legs some faster turn-over practice. Granted, I was still recovering from the 100, and I was going to be running a marathon in MD 2 days later, but that’s ok. I wanted to see how fast I could do it. Oh, did I mention that I had my 2 big toe toenails removed about a week earlier and they were still months away from full recovery? Yeah, I had no idea how I would do.

My running pal and former student, Joel Medina and I met up before hand to do a warm-up run. He was doing the 10K that day, so we did the 5K course as our warm-up. The temp was high 30’s and it was damp and overcast, but the predicted rain never fell, so it turned out to be a great day for racing. The course was a one large thin rectangle (1 block wide x 1.5 mile long) through western downtown Jackson. I saw some familiar faces before the gun, catching up with people which was nice. I rarely run these smaller local races, mostly because they almost always fall on weekends I am out of town running longer races. That will change, come next year as my state chasing goal come to a close.

5 min late and we were off, and I went out at what I thought was a comfortable pace I thought I honestly could hold. Mile 1 came by and my watch said 6:04, and I felt pretty good. Running a 5K is so completely different than a 100 miler or even a marathon, and I have never been really fast at this distance (I am mentally weak when it comes to racing, always have been) so when miles 2 and 3 went by in 6:06 and 6:08, I was tickled. At the last turn, I made the mistake of looking back and seeing a large gap between me and 3rd place, so I slowed a little, coming in with a 6:08/mile overall average.

The 3rd place finisher is a local friend, David Swarts who when her was younger, was an awesome CC runner (PR in the 15’s) and now is a world class race-walker. I had chatted with him before the race, swapping race/training war stories. It was pretty cool to race against him.

Cool race shirt, 9 miles worth of running (including warm-up and cool-down) on a nice brisk fall day. I got some much needed speed work in (well, MY definition of speed work, my muscles were sore for a few days) and then got to enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving meal. A satisfying day for sure.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

2010 Mother Road 100 (part 3) Results

3/133 overall (167 starters)
Results at
Regular visitors to this blog are used to my written review of the race, but this time I am trying something different. Below I give my standard written report, but I also have a ~19 min video blog of the race itself. The video editing as not great, but come on, I was tired. You can see how I go from happy and excited at race start to mind-numb and frigid by race end. Enjoy!
Part 1 (~10 min) Start to mile 66:

Part 2 (~10 min) Mile 77 through finish and recovery

After the Burning River 100, I thought my next 100 mile race would not be until mid February when I attempt the Beast of Burden 100 miler outside Buffalo, NY. My goal for the fall was to get up to 100+ miles/week consistently in preparation for that. In early October, I did 4 marathons in 8 days which began a monster month where I ran over 420 miles and felt awesome. One of my future goals (hopefully spring, 2011) is to run across the entire state of Michigan non-stop. I realized that I could use a flat (non-snow-covered) 100 mile run as practice for that attempt. Since October was such an awesome training month, I thought I should strike while the iron was hot, so I signed up for the Mother Road 100 a mere 2.5 weeks before the race.

The Mother Road 100 was actually part 3 (and final) of a series of races running across the entire state of Oklahoma along historic Route 66. This final piece started in Baxter Springs, KS and would end in Castoosa, OK, a suburb of Tulsa.

I burned my free Southwest Airlines ticket (I have flown a lot lately) so I was at their mercy as to when I flew in (Thursday night) and when I flew home (Monday morning) but hey, it was a free flight.

Route 66 On Friday morning, I woke up and the drove the course backwards, then forwards. It being a point to point race along highways and backroads, I wanted to have a rough guess as to where I was going. The course was marked (on the road) ok, but I was still a little paranoid even after I drove it twice. Route 66 is a famous road, for sure, but the original road has been supplanted by new state highways and even has an interstate not to far from it. (Ever seen the movie Cars? That movie speaks to this section well) The original road, however still survives in some places. Imagine a one lane blacktop paved road with 8” concrete borders on each side. That was what it used to be. We ran along this ‘old’ road for several miles, and those sections have been graded over to make it a two lane dirt road, but you could still make out several long sections of what is known as the ‘Mother Road’. Imagining how many people have passed this way over the years was kindof cool, actually. Not sure if I would write a song about it, but…

On the trip ‘back’ along the course, I stopped for lunch at a dive bar in Afton (at about mile 34 of the course) for some lunch. Here in this po-dunk small town, I had a pleasant conversation (and a great burger) with the bartender and when I told him that I was doing the 100 miler, he told me that if I stopped at the bar while running the race the next day, he would buy me a beer, an offer I would not refuse.

I went to race check in and got my bag of stuff and boy what a bag. Not only did I get a nice gear bag there was my shirt, a deck of cards, neck warmer, small first aid kit, lots of food samples and a 2”x4”x6” chunk of concrete. Yup, I got a piece of THE Route 66. (I had a little problem at the airport when I was coming home, but after security re-ran it and I guess they decided it was not that much of a weapon after all.) There was a mandatory weigh in at the race check-in. They would weigh every runner at miles 34, 50 and 77 and if you dropped 7% of your initial weight they would pull you from the course. I took off my shoes and weighed in at 167 pounds. In case you were curious, at each station, I would weigh in at 167 or 168, but all three times I was wearing my shoes and my backpack with ~3 pounds of gear in it. Dinner at Applebee’s, and I was in bed by 8:30, having not slept well the night before.

Race morning I got up and had breakfast at the waffle house and got to the finish line at ~6am to catch the bus to the start line for the 9am start. It was about 40 degrees and I was dressed to handle such temperature once I started running, with shorts and a long sleeve technical t-shirt) but standing around was a little cold. Ok, it was a lot cold. At 9am sharp, we were off.

It being only my second 100 mile race, I was unsure how fast I was going to be able to go. At the Burning River 100, I ran an 18:30 but that was a trail race with a good chunk of hills. This being a flatter course, I hoped to break 17. When I looked at previous race results, the winners were in the 17:30 range, so I truly believed I had a shot at winning this thing. As such, when the gun went off, I trotted out as slow as I could (comfortably) and still took the early lead.

At about mile 3, the eventual winner caught up with me and we ran together for about 5 miles. He started to pull away and I finally lost sight of him finally about mile 16. Tom was a nice guy, telling me about his running history including a 16 flat run at the Rocky Raccoon 100. As soon as he told me that, I knew I should not be running with him and that, no, I would not be winning this race either.
‘Oklahoma’ is a famous (bad, if you ask me) musical with the catchy line “Oooooooklahoma, where the wind comes whistling down the plain” and did we have that. 10+ mph winds from the west were in our face a good chunk of the time, the course heading roughly WSW through northeastern Oklahoma. The temperature was nice, so I couldn’t really complain. It had rained something fierce the day before, so I chalk this up as yet another near perfect set of race weather conditions. The view was nice if you like wide open flat farms with unleashed dogs. There were three times where I had to stop, stretch out my arms and growl at dogs who chased me. Two times, I was actually a little scared. Oklahoma needs leash laws, darnit.
One of the many things I learned at the Burning River 100 is that I need to eat more. Gels and the like all take horrible to me, so I did some research and found many ultra runners eat Spaghettio’s during races. I tried it out on a long run one day, and it worked. I could swallow them whole, tasted ok, and my stomach did not reject them. So in my drop bags and my backpack I had a total of 4 cans placed in Ziploc bags. I took my first serving (half a can’s worth) at about mile 15 and it didn’t taste that good, but not horrible. The remaining half bag of moosh would stay in my backpack for the duration, and I left the drop bag sets at the aid stations. I seemed to be getting enough calories from the foods that the aid stations were providing. Normally I don’t want to eat what they have because my stomach doesn’t handle it and they taste crappy, but I forced some down this time. Bananas were good and I ate 4 of them during the race.”

I hit mile 25 in ~3:15 which is way too fast for me for a 100 miler, even a flat one, because that is my gentle-run marathon pace. I was starting to get tired, not in my legs so much just overall. I knew this as a sign I needed to get more calories in me and the mile 25 aid station had chicken broth of which I took a large amount and some gummi bears. That seemed to hit the spot and my emotions picked up. The worst I felt mentally (although I would be tired and cold and cranky later) was here at mile 25, which of course, is a crappy place to start to feel bad. I started taking occasional (hills only) walk breaks and also took two ibuprofen which helped. I never took anymore pills later because my brain was gone just enough for me to NOT remember later to take some more. It would have helped, damnit. Ever seen the movie Memento? I think before my next race, I am going to write some notes on myself. ‘Eat! Drink! Take a Pill!’ are good candidates. You would think these would be no-brainers, but remember, when running these distances, you do not think straight. Many non-runners think us ultra runners NEVER think straight, but that is a separate issue.

The race being almost entirely on highway allowed me to see quite a bit of roadkill, in all stages of decomposition. I saw 40+ dead animals from fresh to almost completely decomposed. Armadillo roadkill, I figured out, is the easiest to recognize. Only once was there a smelly one, some dear that had recently been offed, but being a Michigan runner, I was familiar with the smell and knew how to hold my breath. :)
The first drop bag/major aid station was at mile 34. I changed my shoes and re-lubed my toes, the only thing that would cause me real trouble this day. I did not have a crew for this race, so I had to carry my supplies (bandaids, spare calories, my phone) and also carefully plan my drop bags, including where to put my ‘night gear’ including tights, jacket and reflective vest. Sunset being a little over 8 hours in, I decided I better grab that night gear at the mile 34 drop instead of the mile 50 drop (I would not put them on until mile 57ish) While changing my shoes and re-packing my running backpack at mile 34, I got passed by another guy, putting me in 3rd place. He looked fresh and was moving good. I was tired and it took some wind out of my sails watching him take off.

The bar&grill I stopped at the day before was only a half mile after that aid station, and sure enough, the same bartender was there and yes, he did give me my free beer. I took 2 large swigs and headed back out on the road less than 45 seconds after I entered. At this point I started paying attention to my watch and doing 20 minutes run/5 min walk. Since the course was relatively flat, there were few ‘hills’ to walk up (a common practice in 100 milers, walk up every hill) but those that were there, I for sure walked up. Once I started the walk breaks, it helped me mentally, giving me small breaks while still making progress.
The course included very long stretches of straight rural highway. Ugh. I have never been a big fan of being able to actually see the next 5 miles right in front of me, especially when you have 50 more after that. Some stretches had no shoulder to run on, so I was actually running on the fog line (that white line on the right side of highways) so I was REALLY close to traffic. Most drivers were courteous and moved over at least a little bit, but many came a little too close for comfort. There were several times during the race I could have stretched out my hand and had it removed by a passing vehicle. At night, I have to admit, that was rather terrifying. Being 18 inches away from a 18-wheeler doing 65 mph. Ummm, yeah…

Somewhere along the way I was in between aid stations and my Gatorade bottle was empty. The next aid station was coming up soon, but it was an unmanned station so I knew there would only be Heed energy drink, which I do not like. It being rural highway, there were convenience stores along the way, so I stopped by one and bought a 16 oz bottle of Gatorade (I did remember to bring cash) which tasted great. The nice lady behind the counter knew we were coming and had been expecting someone for awhile.

At about mile 42 (aid station there?) I started looking behind me to see how far the 4th place runner was, and I saw him slowly gaining on me. Every time I took a walk break, he gained on me, but never caught me. I thought he would catch me soon with me taking those walk breaks, but no. When I got to the mile 49.5 aid station I was feeling solid still, but the darkness was a comin’. As I left that aid station, the 4th place runner was just coming into the aid station. Would he finally take me? Nope. That was the last I ever saw of him. 3rd place would be mine.

I crossed the 50 mile timing mat in 7:20, which should be said is a darn good time by itself. I have never finished a 50 mile race before, so I guess that counts as my 50 mile PR. :) I rolled on and watched the sun start to reach the horizon. At the mile 57 (??) aid station, it was time to stop and add some more clothes to my wardrobe. Being from Michigan, I (though I) knew what I needed to wear to survive 32 degree weather. Well, I know what I need to wear when the sun is up and I am running at 7:40/mile pace at that temperature. Running (and walking) at 9+min/mile pace is a different story. Umm, yeah, I got cold. Freaky cold. Had I stopped moving for more than 5 minutes at any point, I would have been in serious trouble.

Several aid stations were ‘unmanned’ and at night, that meant you came upon a large table on the side of the road marked by a camping lantern that had a large jug of water/Heed energy drink, some saltines, bananas, gummi bears, and some other assorted foods. No humans at all. Nobody to talk to after you have been running for 11+ hours but at least you got to stock up a little. I never spend too much time at these aid stations, usually less than 90 seconds, just grabbing another banana (the one solid food I seemed to be able to handle this day) and heading back out.

I hit mile 77 and this last ‘big’ aid station was one of the coolest. Great volunteers helping out, including helping me change my socks and shoes to my third and final set. They had a nice fire going nearby and I deliberately chose not to go too near it as I knew it would suck life energy out of me. My key to finishing ultras in good time is that I don’t ever stop for more than a few minutes. Walking is fine, just no stopping. Relentless forward motion. I need a tattoo of that on my body somewhere.

The last 23 miles were a little rough. I was pretty cold, and my brain was starting to go a little. I was still sortof focused, but I could see the fuzzyness coming in. I tried to keep moving, now walking pretty much half the time. My legs were fine, but my arches and especially my toes were all hurting. Tired and cold, I just tried to keep moving.

With just a few miles to go, I tried to run as much as I could. My stride was so short, I was running barely faster than I was walking, but that was ok, I was still moving forward. The finish line was on the Catoosa High School track, and a-la the Olympic Marathon, I had to do a once around of the track before the finish. I never like running track in High school, and I certainly hate running track after already running 99+ miles. Had there been more than 2 people (seriously) there, maybe it would have been better. I did my handstand (and even got it recorded on my videocamera) but it was rough. I actually did three ‘steps’ walking on my hands, not because I was cocky, but because I lost my balance as soon as I was up, and had to walk a few steps so as not to completely fall down.

I wandered over to the fieldhouse nearby and sat down. I was offered all sorts of food, including a fresh omelet, but only drank some soup and a small amount of soda. They did not sit well, and I began to feel nauseous. I lied down on the floor, which felt better, but then my cold started to really get a hold of me. I told the aid workers I was going out to warm myself in my car, which I did. It took me about 15 min there with the heat on high before my shivering stopped. Twice while lying down in the car with the engine running, the aid workers came out to check on me to make sure I was ok. They went in and grabbed my gear when I told them that I just needed to go back to my hotel and sleep. As I was sitting up telling them my plan, the soda and soup decided to leave my system. I could eat and drink at every aid station during the 100 mile run, but at the finish line, my body seems to reject everything. At Burning River, I puked up my post-race beer. I guess it wasn’t the beer, it was the 100 mile run.

Since I just puked, I felt great for a little while so I drove back to my hotel room, took off my shoes and climbed into bed still with my bib pinned to my shorts. No shower, no food, just 4 hours of sleep. I woke up and felt a little better, so I tended to my toes, which were rough. My mid-race addition of Udder Cream was not enough lube. In the future I need to have the creamy petroleum jelly (my usual toe-lube) with me during the race to re-apply. I will lose one of my big toe toenails after this race, so I will be heading to my podiatrist this week to have it treated so it does not grow back. That will mean I only have 2 toenails left. That is a good thing, actually. 

After a gentle-don’t-make-any-sudden-moves-or-you’ll-fall-down shower I went back to the finish to partake of the post-race food, now that I thought my stomach would hold something. I got there right about the time the 23-hour finishers were rolling in so I chatted with many of them for a while, swapping stories of this and other ultra races. Ultra-runners are a different breed for sure. Nice people, but we all have a screw or two loose. My non-running friends think I have many screws already loose, but here I was amongst my own.

I went back to the hotel and did a little packing before taking another 3 hour nap. I woke, ate another real meal and by 4:30pm I was getting tired again. I packed up the rest of my gear and was asleep by 6:30pm. A 4:30am wakeup, a third waffle house breakfast for the weekend and I was heading back home. It was a long long weekend, but a memorable one for sure.

Have I found my niche? Honestly, I am not sure. No matter what distance I race, I seem to be just behind the lead pack. 5K, marathon, or ultra, I am there, just one solid step behind the winners. I did not start seriously running until my mid-30’s and only ~4 years into my distance running career, I should be (and am) quite happy I have accomplished what I have. What do I want? I think my ‘placing’ will be that one-step-back for a while, never becoming anything worth getting a nod in a running magazine, which is fine. I seem to like pushing myself, though. I really hope I can pull off the trans-Michigan run next spring. I hope to find a cause and/or a sponsor for that one. With a 16.5 hour finish on mostly flat road, a 35-40 hour finish for a 177 mile cross-state trek is very doable. What will that get me? Probably just motivation to do something a little harder, a little farther, a little more unique.

What does a guy do when he keeps accomplishing his dreams? Dreams bigger. I would be lying if I told you I have not already planned out a course running across the entire US. Want an Alaska-Miami route? I have that too…

Sunday, October 10, 2010

2010 Portland Marathon Results

402/7276 Overall; 76/501 Age
This wonderful trip started a week before when I was out to dinner with my marthoning bud, Morgan. We were talking about next races and when I told her I was running in Portland she offered up her parents place for me to crash. I contacted them (Linda and Roy) and they were very kind and were very happy to welcome me to their home. Being Morgan’s parents, they were totally hip to the marathon prep thing and even volunteered to get my packet for me as I was getting into town late on Saturday. When I did get into town I stopped quick at Applebee’s (two nights in a row) for a steak dinner. I had done a better job of in-between race fueling, munching all day on whenever was nearby, well except for that whole diarrhea thing.

I finally got to Linda and Roy’s house at about 8pm ready to crash. I stayed up a little while and chatted with them for a little while about Morgan, marathoning and life in general. A very pleasant conversation with some very nice people.

I actually slept in Morgan’s old room, which was still setup like a teenage girl. Linda said that Morgan would not let her ‘repo’ the room, so it still looks very much like a room of a 17 year old high schooler. Very very pink. Had I not known Morgan (who is now 22 years old) it would have been creepy of me, for sure. It ended up being funny, seeing pictures of her when she was younger.

I woke up relatively refreshed on race morning and it was already raining, in fact it would rain all damn day until I left the area that afternoon. Downpour, drizzle, mist, repeat. I was having coffee with Roy at the house and I was telling him about my totally awesome custom made water repelling covers for my shoes that I made for the Boston marathon back in 2007. After I gave him the story, I realized that, although I couldShoe coversnot replicate those here, I could get something close. With ~10 min, some safety pins, two plastic grocery bags and some athletic tape and I got something almost as good. Not sexy by any means, but very effective. They stayed on the whole race and I know they reduced the total wetness my feet experienced.
Because traffic was going to be horrible (~12,000 runners between the marathon and the half) Roy offered to take me downtown for the race and pick me back up afterwards. I got to the starting line about 10 min before race start in a sea of humanity, temps around 50 and rain coming down pretty hard. On the back of my (rather large) bib there listed symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. I laughed because what they really needed was symptoms of hypothermia, because that, if anything, was what was going to happen today.

My shins and ankles were at about 80% and I had high hopes that they would be ok, and I was right. Sometimes you can ‘run through’ shin splints and they get better after a few miles. Sometimes they get worse and debilitating. I was feeling confident at race start that they were in the former condition, and thank the FSM, I was right. In fact, my legs felts better AFTER this race than they did before, which was waaaay cool.

Something really weird happened to me at about mile 4. I was threatened with bodily harm by another runner. With 10,000 marathoners, I had people around me all day long so to make the day go by faster, of course, I decided to chat with fellow runners when able. I found a nice guy from Seattle to chat with and we ended up running together from mile 3 until mile 17 or so. We were commenting on how our GPS watches were giving rather different net distances after just 4 miles (almost 0.25 mile difference) and also noting that the 3:20 pace group leader looked like he was moving a little too fast. As we got near the pace group leader I asked him (a little loud, as he was in front of me) what his watch said our pace was. Before he got an answer in, another guy running with this pace group looks over his shoulder at me and says “If I have to listen to you this entire race, you won’t finish it”. I said “Excuse me?”. He repeated (with a very glaring look) “If I have to hear you for the entire race, you won’t finish it. I’m serious”. I looked to the guy was running with and said “Did I just get threatened?” “Ummm. Yeah”. Within 15 seconds, 4 other runners looked at me and said (effectively) don’t worry, we got your back. The guy I was running with and I decided to put the jerk behind us so we took off and moved up closer to the 3:15 pace group, which was not that far ahead of us. That was weird. I guess if runners are 99.9% nice gentle people, that means there would be 10 jerks in this field. I seemed to have found one of them.

Rain, rain, rain. Blah. It ebbed and flowed from real rain to heavy mist all day. My plastic bag covers worked really well. The race was along city streets all day so there were puddles everywhere, and I managed to miss most, but not all of them. You try you best to run around them without zig-zagging all day.
The aid stations were all well stocked with water, Ultima, and enthusiastic volunteers, especially considering they were standing still in the cold rain, at least we were warm since we were running. They were giving out handfuls of Gummi bears every once in a while at aid stations, and those being one of the few race foods my stomach can handle, I got some every chance I got. Tasty, but it did make it hard to talk.

As with other large races, there were some ‘unofficial’ aid stations also along the course, usually just local folk who showed up to help out on their own. One ‘station’ was a woman with a 1 gallon Ziploc bag full of frozen grapes giving them out by the handful (she even had a little sign) which was awesome and boy, were they tasty. At mile 23 there was another rouge aid station giving out very small glasses of beer. This is the 3rd marathon I have gotten beer as an aid station drink and as with the other times (all around mile 23, now that I think about it) it was delicious.

At about mile 17, my new friend was starting to fade and I was feeling so good despite the legs and the rain that I sped up hoping to hang with the 3:15 group. I failed and after about mile 23, I started to coast a little bit. I know I would come in somewhere in the low 3:20’s, and I was very happy with that, this being my 4thmarathon in 8 days. I just stayed steady trying finish strong. When I thought about all the racing I had done recently it got me tired, so I tried not to think about it.

Considering how well the rest of the race was organized, the finish line and area was unsurprisingly awesome. An incredible variety of food and drink, so-so finishers medal, finisher t-shirt, a rose (Portland is one of the many ‘Rose City’s in the country) and even a Douglas fir sapling (they hope you will take it home and plant it. I will plant mine on the Falling Water Trail) Again these volunteers have been sitting in cold rain for hours handing stuff to the martahoners with smiles and happiness on their face. Wonderful people.
Roy found me at our designated meet up point about 5 min after I got there and we headed for his car and back to the house. After a ~3.5 hour not-so-warm shower that was the race, my hands looked a little wrinkly. My shoe coverings did a pretty good job of minimizing the soakedness of my feet. I don’t mind getting wet from the ankles up, but when my feet are wet I am just miserable. With my toe wrapping and lubing, I had no blisters or toe problems this time either. I mastered that problem long ago.

The Pacific We got back to Roy and Linda’s house and after a quick shower I got in my rental car and headed for the ocean. I try very hard to do at least some ‘touristing’ when I make these trips and when I am by myself, I am very quick and efficient with my time. The 1.5 hour drive to the Pacific was very cool, going through groves of huge trees that came right up to the roadway. Having seen nothing but clouds and rain for the last 24 hours, I was hoping the weather would break as I headed west and it did, about 5 miles from the ocean. Bluish skies and warm temperatures greeted me when I rolled onto (literally, they let you drive on the beach in certain places) the beach. I found a nice log and took a seat and watched the waves come it. Don’t ask me why, but the Atlantic coast and the Pacific coast are very different. The waves on the Atlantic are fewer and farther in between and the beaches are very rocky. The Pacific Ocean has more frequent waves, in fact you cannot hear any one particular wave coming, just a constant wave crashing drone. Also, the Pacific Ocean beaches are huge (deep?) and very sandy and feel great under bare feet. Had I not run a marathon in each of the last two days I would have done a run along the beach for sure.
I took a slightly different route back deciding to drive along the mighty Columbia river and stopped at Fort Clatsop where Lewis & Clark had spend the winter of 1805-06 before they headed back east. That was pretty cool and I learned a little bit more about their epic journey that I had not previous known.

Tsunami! I got back to Roy and Linda’s in the early evening and they took me out to a local steak house to which they had a $25 off coupon, but there was a $35 minimum bill. They were glad to invite me along as they needed me to get over $35 anyways (They even ended up having to order some desserts to go)
We headed back and I got a very good night sleep, even though I had to get up at 4:30 am local to make my 6:15 am flight home. One bummer about flying way west is that you basically have to burn an entire day getting back to the eastern US.

Of all the 50+ marathons I have run so far, this one in Oregon is by far my favorite, so far. Wonderful people, wonderful touristing, wonderful (all except the rain) marathon. This is exactly why I don’t like ‘repeating’ races. I don’t want my memories of this weekend being confused with ‘some other time’ I went to Oregon.

Some final thoughts at the conclusions of this ‘double double’…. I knew I could survive 4 marathons in 8 days because I have survived 100+ mile races in ONE day. Given the choice of 4 marathons in 8 days or 100 miles in one day, I would have to go with the 100 miler. When you do a 100 miler you go slower and relax, knowing you will be running all day long. When I run marathons ,(no matter when I ran the last one) I try to run them about the same time, low 3 hours. Of course, this foursome of races I did them all in respectable times but boy, did I want to slow down even more much of the time. Maybe my mental toughness is getting better now, who knows. As my marathoning career seems to be (maybe?) closing and my ultramarathoning career is taking off, I am looking at these 26.2 milers as nice training runs. On the flight home from this double, knowing that I do not race again for 6 weeks, I am thinking about how many miles I can log this week. On the flight home I was doing my stretches, strengthening my ankles and shins. I barely take any time at all to enjoy an accomplishment before I look forward to the next big challenge, a 100 mile race in the mid of February outside Buffalo, NY. Granted, I have 2 marathons between now and then (one in Late November, one in mid December) but those will be easy. Well, now they will be :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

2010 Layton Marathon Results

11/294 Overall;  1st in age
So I have done a few ‘doubles’ in my running career (two marathons in consecutive days) and had mixed results. It seems I usually have shin problems going into all of them, spare one. I have never done a back to back double (4 marathons in 8 days) before this stint, and I vow to never do it again. I would rather run 100 miles in one shot than do it over the course of 8 days in 4 different races, I’m just sayin’…

This trip started (again) at 4am Friday morning to make a 6:40am flight out of Detroit. Unlike last week, I had a longer flight to get some reading done and did not arrive in Salt Lake City until late morning. The weather wasn’t all that great (nice temps, but cloudy) so the mountains didn’t look that great. I know these mountains well, so my brain filled in the gaps, no problem. I had time to burn and on the way towards the hotel so after a lame packet pickup, I stopped by the Hill Air Force Base Aviation Museum. I usually don’t pre-plan touristy things, I just let karma guide me when in a new place. This time I was way lucky. I got to see a bunch of cool planes up close and personal, including an SR-71. A very cool looking plane that hasSr-71been my favorite as long as I have known. It is wicked fast (world record holder, still) and sexy looking, especially at a range of 3 feet. A wonderful time killer, for sure. I ate dinner at Applebee’s, but knowing I would eat there (well, an Applebee’s in Portland, OR) the next day, I got something other than Fiesta Lime Chicken. Still good and tasty.

Early to bed, early to rise, at 3:30 am (local) for a 6 am start. This race was a point (staring on the south end of Antelope Island) to point (somewhere in Layton, UT) race so there was a bus to the start at 5 am. Not wanting to miss the bus, I got there plenty early. A quick phone call to my lovely (and still half asleep) wife and I was on the bus into the darkness.
I met some pleasant people at the race start, including a few marathon maniacs and at 6:15 (only 15 min late) we started off, heading North with greater Salt Lake City (at the lights) to our right. It was so dark, I could barely see the road for the first 45 minutes. Had it not been overcast allowing for the city lights to be reflected) we would have all needed head lamps for sure. The view for the first 10 miles was great, except we could not see the mountains to our east. In fact, we didn’t see them all damn day they were shrouded in clouds. On the island, there are hills and a few roads, that’s it. Well, besides a bunch of sage brush and 5 buffalo I saw. The smell reminded me of my home for 3 years, Rock Springs, WY. A nice sweet ‘middle of BFE’ kind of smell.

At mile 10, we left the island and started the 7 mile STRAIGHT shot of the causeway back to mainland Layton. My shins were starting to hurt, so I ran most of the time on the gravel shoulder of the road. Nice even pace all day long, ~7:40/mile. I was tired and I knew I had another marathon tomorrow, so I took it easy. I was never in severe pain, and my shin after this race would not feel much worse than after my first race the previous weekend. The temperature at race start was probably 45, and at race end, maybe 65. Again (knock on wood) a beautiful race day for me and my fellow runners.

peaceThis was the inaugural Layton marathon, and as many of you know from reading this blog, running the ‘first annual’ anything is usually a bad idea. But yet, I did it again, knowingly, because it fit my racing schedule. That 15 min late start was the only hitch in the entire day. The course was very well marked, plenty of water at all aid stations, happy volunteers, all good. The finish was nice, well run, cool finishers medal, but the post race food was a little lacking. Oranges, bananas and peanut butter sandwiches. Seriously, that was it. Oh well, room to improve I guess. :)

Knowing I got burned last week for not eating enough (I just wasn’t hungry!) I bought a 6-pack of Glucerna strawberry shake. It is a drink make for diabetics and each bottle has 200 calories. After the race I drank all 6 and they all tasted delish. Unfortunately, I had never done that before. I will just tell you that about 4 hours later I stopped at a pharmacy to buy a box of Imodium-AD. ‘nuf said.

My flight wasn’t until 4:30pm local, so I had some time to burn. Got a quick shower and some ice for my leg and I went to a local sports bar to watch some football. As predicted, I had no appetite. It literally took me about 10 min of staring at the menu to finally decide to get a burger, and I only ate about 2/3 of it. I need to figure out a solid food to eat post race, because I need a solid food for when I am doing 100 milers that sits well and my mouth doesn’t reject (like it does consuming most Gu type stuff) . Later that day I did buy a box of saltines and ate many of those with some peanut butter. That got some calories in me and I didn’t balk at that, but I hope it is enough to get me through tomorrow. We shall see…

Sunday, October 3, 2010

2010 Maine Marathon Results

90/893 overall
14/80 division
One of the most important things to do in between consecutive day marathons is to eat. You have to replenish what you burned race 1 and then stockpile for race 2. My problem has always been I have no appetite right after a race (or heck, during a race either). That hurt me in my debut 100 mile race and sure enough, it got me here as well.

I woke up with two other people in my hotel room. Morgan, (fellow marathon freak and girlfriend to Gary, whom you have heard of before on this blog) and Adam, a marathon maniac from L.A. who just needed a place to crash. We had a pleasant conversation about marathoning the night before at (you guessed it) Applebee’s. Adam was walking the race (due to recent surgery) so he did the early start (6am as opposed to the main 7:45am start) a
nd so I drove him to the starting line early but the early rise was in my normal ritual, so no fuss.
Morgan and I got ready and headed to the start 45 min before the gun. We hung out with the crowds of marathon manics the day before in NH, but couldn’t find them here in Maine until right before race start. The weather was a carbon copy of the previous day, but a few degrees colder and no wind whatsoever. A little wind would creep up near the end, but the temperature would off set it.

peaceThe very first steps (and all others) were painful, the first few miles adding up to be horrible. My quads and calves were fine, but my ankles and shins were in pain and I looked silly, trying to compensate. I just tried to be gentle, but honestly wanted to stop from the very beginning. After a few miles I think I just got numb to the pain and my gait got stable and I seemed to get used to it. My first mile was 7:32 and in the end my per mile average was a little over 7:40, so there was not too much slow down. Sadly, I am getting used to running with that pain. I shall overcome. Damnit.

For the second day in a row, there was a portion of out-and-back togetherness that allowed me to again high five a bunch of marathon maniacs, which again was cool. A built in cheering squad, gotta love it. They were all happy and enjoying themselves, many again taking pictures of other maniacs.

fall colorsSince I did not eat enough I got horribly tired and was running on fumes for the last 8 miles. I actually started taking Gatorade at aid stations (which I almost never do) just to try to survive. Just then I remembered I did not use my new and improved recovery drink, chocolate milk. How could I have been so forgetful??

The course was fine, starting out near a bay (I never did have a good view of the ocean during the race which was a bummer) and then getting to urban ‘backroads’ with lots of color changing trees. Nothing to right home about, just another course, actually. What for sure did stink was that with about 2 miles to go, you can see the finish line area. I hate that, because then those last miles seem to take forever. If and when I design a marathon course, you come around the last corner and you have 100m to go. Done :)

Since I had not eaten enough, after my handstand, I was hungry. Very hungry. I was waiting for Morgan to come in such that I could take her to the airport so I hung around the finish line and ate. A lot. Several glasses of Gatorade, 2 bottles of water, 2 bagels with cream cheese, 2 bottles of chocolate milk and 7 containers of yogurt. Later I would eat a lot more, probably the most I have ever eaten in a 10 hour period in my life. Yeah, I was toast at the end of this one. I am glad I can still say that I learn a little more about my running every race, even after 51 marathons.

A two step flight late Sunday got me home in my bed a little after midnight. I was so completely exhausted because the flights were just short enough that I couldn’t sleep on either one. It took me a few days to catch up on sleep. Now I have to nurse my legs and eat a bunch because my new marathons are next weekend. ugh.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

2010 New Hampshire Marathon Results

13/240 overall
My 50th marathon (or longer) race! 
FiniFreaks abound, and I am one of them I admit, but no matter how freaky you think I am, there are those that are far freakier. My good fiend Gary and his girlfriend Morgan are just such freaks. I do ~1 marathon per month, they do 1-2 a weekend. Every weekend. Even when injured. They will both finish 50 states at the end of October, having started just last year. There are many other stories of people just a wacky. I am glad to call them friends and fellow marathoners. This was a weekend of hanging out with the crazies, for sure. Because this was the first marathon of 4 for me in the space of 8 days
It all began with a 4am wakeup on Friday for a 6:10am flight to Manchester. (It was the cheapest, what can I say) I had time to kill (obviously) once I got to New Hampshire so I headed for the ocean. Unfortunately, a nasty coast wide (yes, from Miami all the way to Maine) storm was just finishing its downpour that day so it was rainy and generally depressing at the ocean. I did find a Starbucks and spent some time working on my race schedule for 2011. Its never too early to start, ya know…

Friday night I had dinner with friend of friend of friend (Erin) and her boyfriend Mike. Two wonderful people who were more than happy to lend their place for crashing marathoners. So gracious are they, that they ran out of room, but not to put me out, Erin convinced her mother to let me sleep there. It was pretty cool, I must say.

I woke up at 6 and stopped back at Erin’s house to have some polite conversation and some fresh fruit. We talked about running, school and a cool site called Couch surfing is kindof like hitchhiking, only staying at someone house instead of just riding in their car. Saying it that way makes it look scary. It was really nice to share stories with other crazies.

The weather the previous days had been horrible but (because of my incredible race weather luck) it broke on race day. 45 degree and sunny sunny sunny.

The course didn’t look hilly based on the course elevation profile, but there were zillions of small hills. None of them were too high, just too many of them. The course was (mostly) around beautiful Newfound Lake. It was a nice day, but very windy, in our face most of the day. Luckily though, most of the last 5 miles had the wind at our back.

I have been having shin issues for a few races now. I am working on it, and they are getting stronger, but I knew they would not be 100% for this race. At about mile 17 they started to give me a little grief and were not great at the end. Ice and more stretching reduced the inflammation, but they would not recover by the next race, since it was 18 hours later.

ManiacsThere were lots of marathon maniacs doing the same double I was this weekend (NH and ME) because they are only 2.5 hours apart by car. Because there was an out an back portion of the course, I got to high five about 25 of them. I even got my picture taken by a few of them. Fun people, they are.

Though I did not see him at the start, I saw my friend Chuck Engle during the same out and back (me going out, him back) and he won the race and beat me. He always does. Remember those freaks I was telling you about, Gary and Morgan? Chuck runs just as frequently and a little faster. I chatted with him a bit after the race, and as always, it was great to see him.
I had a pleasant and quick shower and ate some post race food (pizza!) at the sponsoring school and then I started my 2.5 hour drive (all back-roads and very beautiful) to Portland. Where our next chapter takes us

Saturday, September 4, 2010

2010 Pocatello Marathon Results

fin!Idaho, what a beautiful place to visit. So nice that I have thought many times of retiring here. It has the beauty of the mountainous west, with vast stretches of openness dotted with large hills and mountains. A little more water and a little more civilization nearby and this would be a perfect place to live out my life.

This race would be memorable for many reasons, but the first was the race check-in the night before. Even though a good size race (over 1000 runners for all races including 350 marathoners) there was no expo at all, just one room with check in stations for each race. In addition to a nice long sleeve technical shirt, we all received a high quality backpack and a bag of potatoes. Seriously. I love it when races try to be unique in their racer loot. I was glad to have packed light so I could bring the bag the bag of potatoes home with me.Potatoes
A point to point race requiring busing to the start line and a race start of 6:15 am meant I was up at 4 am to start the ritual. Ugh. My good friend Gary got into the Pocatello area at 4am after arriving in SLC after midnight. I saw him for about 5 min before the race start, just enough time to hear about what food (if you want to call it food) he ate in the last few hours along with his 1 hour of sleep. He did just fine (kicked my butt, as usual) anyways. Must be nice doing this marathoning thing when you are young.
I have been dealing with an ankle issue for a few months now.

 Originally I thought it was just another case of shin splints, but it turns out it might be something more like tendonitis of the lower calf muscle in my right leg. After my Alaska marathon 3 weeks ago I had a hard time walking, it hurt so bad. I spend the next week resting and icing it, only working out on my elliptical machine (getting caught up on my TV shows) until it felt pretty good. I went for a 10 miler with the cross country team and 5 miles out I felt fine, then we took the turn to come back and it starting feeling a little rough. By mile 8 it was really hurting and had a serious problem. By the end of the run I could barely walk. No more runs then before this race, just more elliptical work. It had felt fine for days, but I was still very concerned when I finally toed the line, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

The first 10 miles of this race were actually downhill (net drop for the whole race is ~1500’) which you would think would be great, well not for my ankle. At mile 3 I started getting those same pains I had at mile 5 of my last run. My mind went wild with panic. Will I break 4 hours? Will I finish before the cutoff (6 hours)? Will I DNF? I am running 4 marathons in the span of 8 days in early October, will I be able to recover before then? Is my entire quest now in jeopardy? Will I be able to run my 100 miler in February? Am I totally washed up? Yeah, it was that bad. Freaking out like that at mile 5 of a 26.2 mile race is never a good thing. To try to survive, I slowed down and run as gentle as possible. To ease the impact on my ankle I even ran several short sections of the early race backwards. Being so steep, I was essentially only on my toes which gave my ankles a short break which helped a little. What helped more was just trying to keep my form as gentle as possible, with my right foot seemingly never going higher than about 2 inches off the ground. I feared that intense pain that I felt 2 weeks ago would return. My ankle protested the entire way after mile 3, but never got worse. The Vicodin I took right before race start might have helped a little, I’m not sure
At about mile 16, I was caught by a guy running barefoot. He had a pair of Vibram 5 fingers he was carrying and he was putting off their use as long as possible. He was struggling a little bit and so I decided to run with him to keep him motivated and focused. He was hurting pretty bad especially the last few miles but I tried to keep his mind off it. We slowed way down in the last 4 miles or so, and I had hoped we could easily cruise into a sub 3:45 time. With about 800m to go I knew he wouldn’t make it and I had to take off into a full sprint just to get under 3:45 myself. It’s all about the points, ya know.

The post race food spread was one of the best I have ever seen. Pulled pork sandwiches, ice cream bars, chocolate milk, bagels, fruit, etc. Quite nice for such a small race. I only stuck around for a little bit because I had a long day planned for after the race and I was already running late. Gary had already taken off as he had to catch his flight early that afternoon out of SLC. I was not leaving the area until the next morning, so I decided to (even though Grand Teton was close by) to go the heart of Idaho because I had never been there. I figure I should try to do SOME touristing here since I dropped the dime to get here.

cratersGrowing up, I visited parks and places all over the United States, but never Craters of the Moon National Monument, just a few hours northwest of Pocatello. It really was cool, and it really did look like the surface of the moon, or like Hawaii with its volcanic rock. Even though the rocks were more than 2500 years old, there was little vegetation. I took the tour of the lava tubes and caves and tried to work on my deathly fear of confined spaces and made little progress on that. Oh well. On the way back to SLC I stopped as took a tour of one of the neatest places I have ever been to, the EBR-1 lab. It was the first nuclear power plant on the planet. It was the first nuclear reactor built for generating power via a nuclear reaction back in the 1950’s. Though never connected to the grid (so never powered a town) it was still a significant place. It was one of 57 nuclear power facilities on the Idaho National Laboratory land, but most of them are gone. This one still stands (and is maintained completely with tour guides) because it had been designated as a national landmark. For someone like me who enjoys reading and learning about the history of nuclear energy, this was totally awesome.

All in all, it was a pleasant trip. A horrible race, followed by some cool touring of the area. Pleasant memories.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

2010 Humpy’s Marathon Results

10/320 overall
1st in age
So it is inevitable that when you are trying to do something in each of the 50 states that you need to get to Alaska. Sure, it’s going to be expensive, but the beauty of the trip makes up for it. My family ( here defined as my parents, all their kids, their spouses and kids) gets together every summer for about a week somewhere, usually a national park. It is known as the ‘Family Gathering’. The gathering in 2011 is set to be in Alaska, but it being such a huge place a little more pre-planning was needed. Since I needed an Alaska marathon, I decided to turn my marathon trip into an official recon on the area.

My Mother normally does the vast majority of the planning for these gatherings, but I have begun to take over some of the responsibilities. My family came to Alaska back when I was 6 years old, and that trip contains my earliest childhood memories. Before I left or this trip, my Mother and I sat down and talked about a very loose schedule that I loosely followed once I got to Alaska, which was about 36 hours before race start.
I arrived in Anchorage late Friday night and on Saturday morning I drove 2 hours down to Seward, stopping maybe 15 times to sightsee or just take pictures. I am speed tourist, meaning that when I travel by myself and I can do enough tourist stuff to make me happy in a short period of time. This was definitely one such trip. This time of year is the rainy season in Alaska. Anchorage had gotten 28 straight days of rain before I got there. Clouds were everywhere, so beautiful pictures of mountains was actually hard to come by. Now, I am a mountain guy, and my favorite place on the planet is the Grand Tetons, but these mountains rivaled them in their awesomeness.
When I woke up race morning at 6am local the fog was so thick that visibility was about 200m, but moved to maybe half mile by race start, a very late 9am. This was my second race in a row running with my friend and fellow marathon freak, Gary Krugger. Two weeks previously, Gary and I stayed together for 39 miles of the Burning River 100 mile Championship but this time, he left me behind from the start. His first mile was sub 6, and mine was 6:05. Oh my, I knew this was gonna be bad. Starting out that fast is never a good thing. And sure enough, I was right.

The race course was nice, with half of it along paved bike path along the coast of the ocean, well, along the coast of a bay that was filled with ocean water. If it wasn’t cloudy, the view would have been nice. There was however a nice breeze and it drizzled on and off during the race. A nice 62 degrees made for an almost perfect running day. After almost 50 marathons, I realized that I could only think of maybe four races where the weather conditions actually sucked. I guess I get lucky with weather and racing.

Two weeks after my debut 100 mile race, my body was not at 100%. During the race, my knees gave some grief, my shins a little achy, and so I slowed from my 6:05/mile but maintained a solid pace. As I slowed and noticed a sub 3 was no longer possible, I was comfortable with holding onto a sub 3:15. I was happy with 8 points. I had 3 toenails permanently removed just 12 days before the race but they actually were fine, which was a pleasant surprise.

We were told there was a chance we might see moose during the race. We were told that is not a big deal unless you see a momma moose and a baby. They (like most animals) are worse as the mother is very protective. Well, at mile 18, sure enough there was a momma moose and her baby 5 feet off the bike trail we were racing. As I approached, a ace official warned me about the moose. No problems as both mom and child were just eating off to the side. When Gary ran through about 10 minutes earlier, Mom and baby were on the opposite sides of the path. You are told NEVER to get between Mom and child, but he survived the encounter. Tame moose I guess.

After the race chit-chatted with Gary until Morgan (Gary’s girlfriend and fellow marathoner) came in at just under 6 hours. That is a little slow by normal marathon standards, but she is recovering from a busted hip. A few months ago she ‘ran’ a marathon on crutches, in over 10.5 hours. This woman has more grit and heart than any runner I have ever met. Truiy.
I wanted to enjoy AK for a little while, and so I stayed in the area longer than I usually do. The race was Sunday morning and my flight didn’t leave until Monday evening. After I got some lunch in Anchorage I took a 2 hour drive north to a little town called Talkeetna, 15 miles off the beaten path. You would think a town this far from civilization would be as off the grid as is possible. Nope. I had cell phone coverage as well as internet access at my hotel. Talkeetna is trying hard to survive, becoming a tourist town, so there were lots of little shops and restaurants each with their own little town Alaska flavor. That allowed me to be able to have a caribou (aka reindeer) burger.

According to the nutritional facts given on the menu it was low in fat, but high in cholesterol. Quite delish.
On Monday I woke up early and headed north hoping to see Mt McKinley, the highest point in North America at just over 22k feet. The weather in this area is finicky and apparently McKinley is only visible ~20% of the time. My luck is good, but not that good. I got to see beautiful mountains but not THE mountain. Once I realized that the weather was not going to clear, I left on my 4 hour drive back to Anchorage picking up brochures at a bunch of cool places including the Iditarod Headquarters and the Alaska Museum of Transportation.

A boring marathon but an awesome trip, which not how it usually goes. That was just fine by me.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

2010 US Track and Field 100 mile Championship Results (at Burning River 100)

10th overall
As my 50-states-marathon goal draws nearer (46 by this years end), I have wanted to try longer races to see if that was my ‘next step’, Why not do it in style, and enter the 2010 US Track and Field 100 mile trail championship. Bragging rights could ensue.

I ran a 24 hour race (~4mile loop, see how many times you can run it in 24 hours) in April as a prep to see if I could even run 100 miles in 24 hours. I was successful in that little jaunt, so I signed up for the Burning River 100. Since this was the USTAF 100 mile trail championship, the big dogs were out for this race, people whose names are very well known amongst the ultra running community. I figured If I finished strong here, that would be a sign. Since it is a USATF championship, it meant tighter rules, including no headphones and no pacers. That little rule stinks, so I had a lot of time to ponder while running…

raceBR100 in only its 4th year now, and is ‘huge’ (4th largest 100 mile race in the country with only ~250 entrants) and very well respected and for good reason. The whole thing was awesome, every detail seemed to have been accounted for, and it started many months before runners toed the line. The official race website was loaded with information, including detailed maps and even video highlights of every single segment of the course. Instead of a runner’s meeting the night before to go over important stuff, they made videos of those presentations too. Even before I came to the area, I knew this was going to be a well run race.

Course was very well marked, all 100 mile except for one section between mile 85 and 90. That was a little sucky, but I managed to not get lost. The aid stations were absolutely amazing. Granted, I was near the lead, and this was the national championship, but still. As soon as they saw me coming near the aid station, a person would run towards me (up stream) and ask me what I needed, as I came closer to the huge layout of food and drink (lots of choices!) that forward runner would yell to the aid station workers what I needed and they would get it ready for me. They filled my bottle at each aid station, I had to do nothing but eat. And this happened and every single aid station, all 20 of them. Did I mention they people are each station were also really friendly and encouraging? A better set of aid station volunteers could not be found.

Misty and I came down two weeks beforehand to scout out the course and mark the aid stations she would meet me as my crew. She is such a sweetheart. During the 18.5 hours of the race she saw me for a total of 15 minutes all day. I tried hard to make her life as easy as possible, so she just had to show up at an aid station, hold out my support bag, I rummage through it for what I wanted, and then I took off not to be seen again by here for maybe hours. I learned from my 24 hr race that I wanted to minimize the time spent standing still and she helped me keep moving and focused. I sat down exactly twice during the race, both times only to change socks and shoes.

The night before the race I met up with two running friends, Ryan Miller and Kevin Green, two other ultra runners who I have found on facebook. They are really great guys with happy thoughts of the race. They both started strong, and Kevin finished with a great 26:31 finish, but Ryan had to bail at mile 80 due to a lot of pain, and bumping up against the time limit.

Way back in Nov of 2009 I met Gary Krugger at the Mississippi Space Coast marathon. It was a small race and he passed me at mile 22 taking away a 2nd place finish. I had run a marathon 2 days earlier so I was quite happy with my 3rd place (and sub 3) performance that day. Turns out Gary is way more of a marathon freak than I am. In his mid-20’s, he is trying to run all 50 states, in one year, all under 3 hrs. He is a running machine and a really great guy. According to his girlfriend, he signed up for this 100 miler only because he saw my name on the entrants list. I found him at the starting line and we decided (since we both run very similar pace for marathons) that we should run together for as long as we could.

Gary had no ‘crew’ per se so he started the race with a 2L Camelbak water container. It didn’t take long ( a few miles) for him to curse that decision, so he gave it to Misty, my wonderful and beautiful crew chief, at mile 18, which was the first spot we saw her. Sure enough we stayed together, walking through aid stations and up any reasonable size hill (my strategy all day long). We would come upon people every once and a while and run with them, chatting about the race and our running histories, and had some fun, with sometime personal and graphic conversations. There seems to be no rules as to what is allowed conversation in distance races.
Mile 74.2

After about 30 miles, I could tell Gary was starting to drag. I was ‘leading’ him and he kept dropping farther back and I kept slowing. I had originally told him that I wanted to stay with him until mile 60, but I realized that he was going to slow me down too much. I was feeling great and wanted to take off. We were sitting in the high 30’s in place when we hit the mile 39 aid station. With a short ‘Dude, I’m gonna take off’, I flew out of there, picking my pace up considerably. I passed 10 people in the next 10 miles. At mile 54.5, I had managed to move up to 20th place. I was feeling awesome. The pains in my feet and legs (most of which appeared before mile 20) were all still there, but more importantly, were not getting worse. My body was strong, but I was starting to get weak, and I knew it was probably due to a lack of food.

The miles plugged along and I was tiring. Between mile 74 and 81, I dropped 3 spots (at that point I was in ~12th place) I had no energy left, and it was the roughest section all day. I simply had nothing left and still one more marathons distance to go. I sent Misty on a run to find me some Monster Energy drink which I got at mile 90 but only helped my spirits, not my energy. At the mile 81 aid station I decided I needed to stay for a little while and eat something. 2 bowls of ramen noodles not only tasted faboo, but it gave me a jolt of energy that helped for at least the next 8 miles. 81 miles into a 100 mile race is a good time to get 10 miles worth of energy.

The toughest part of this race is section R which contains the dreaded ‘Perkins Trail’ which has lots of roots and mud and steep climbs, all between miles 81 and 86. And of course, for most runners this section would be done at night. I had a goal of reaching it before sunset (8:40pm local) and was tickled when I hit that section at 7pm. No headlamp needed, and it made a huge difference. It would have taken twice as long had I had to do it at night.
By mile 90, I was spent, but near the end of the race which had lots of roads and wide bike paths for running on. I had started to walk pretty much full time by then, and lost a few places. My legs were now starting to complain and my energy was toast. I was walking strong, but simply could not run. Mental toughness is still not something I have a lot of. I need to work on that, somehow. USATF has cash money prizes for the first 6 places, and knowing I was out of contention, I just decided to relax and ride it in. I was walking fast (15 min miles still) which is pretty good after I had been moving for 17+ hours. My mantra was ‘keep moving and you’ll finish just fine’.

I knew I was in 10th place when I took the last turn about 1.5 miles from the finish. That last stretch is up a long steady hill on city street. After I made the turn I looked behind me and there, not more than 600m behind me was someone’s headlamp, and it was bouncing. He was running. I was not. Poop. In my only real case of mental toughness, I told myself I was NOT going to lose that 10th place finish. I started running and ran up that entire freaking hill and all the way to the finish line. I kept checking and I am prety sure that my chaser had walked up the hill. I even turned off my headlamp as I did not want him to see how close he was, lest he get ideas of trying to catch me.

I crossed the finish line just under 18.5 hours to a small but loud-cheering crowd. Misty was there and I did my traditional handstand. In fact I did three handstands. My camera that she was using did not like the lighting, so none of them were captured on film. You’ll just have to trust me on this one. I have witnesses. :)
Proof of finish
It was 11:30pm local and there was a bar right near the finish. Misty and I walked (slowly) there afterwards and I tried to enjoy a tall Blue Moon. I had a hard time drinking it as my body was starting to totally shut down. I was shivering pretty bad and felt horrible. I finished the beer and we headed to the car. I didn’t have any food at the race end because I had no appetite whatsoever. That was good, because we headed back to the hotel (about a 20 min trip, and I felt nauseous for most of if. Literally 2 minutes away from our hotel, I told Misty she needed to pull over. Quick. With seconds to spare, she stopped, and I got the door open before I puked. It was the cleanest puke I have ever had. It contained only water and beer, nothing else.
After we sat there for a little bit we finally got to the hotel. I very slowly got out of my running stuff, did a quick check of my toes (only 2 are in bad shape, but they are pretty bad) took a quick shower and was in bed by 1 am.

After only about 6 hours of sleep, I got up and was just happy to be alive. I could walk and my legs weren’t that bad. I predict my gait will be ‘normal’ in only a few days. My body seemed to be just fine with racing this distance. My legs are strong enough to complete it without too many problems, but I really need to figure out the fueling problem. I had it at my 24 hr run as well, I just need to get more food in me, not just more liquids. Other than the ramen noodles at mile 81, nothing tasted good, which is what sucks. I need to find food that my stomach will handle. Of course, I didn’t need any real food until after mile 50, so how do youtrain for that without doing 50 mile training runs? Haa zaa! I am going to do 20 milers without having eaten much the 12 or so hours before. Just some Gatorade and water. Go out the run knowing full well that my body with get tired very quickly, then try ‘new’ things. Room-temp cooked Raman? Do I have to break down and start using gel packs (which I hate by the way)? Something more creative? If I want to do these well, that’s one of the last hurdles to overcome. Compared to the actual running training (which I seemed to have conquered), it should be an easy problem to fix. Of course, I was not 100% healthy either, getting over a sinus infection as well…

The immediate aftermath of the race was quite compelling. In my first 100 mile race, which happened to be the national championship, I finished in 10th place. So according to the US Track and Field, I am the 10th fastest 100 mile racer in the country for 2010. Could I have found my niche? Marathons in general are now almost cliché, being huge and to the point where ‘anyone could do one’, especially if you don’t care about how fast you run it. The crazies have been pushed out to the 50 and 100 mile distances. Could I have found my forte? Could I have found my home? Where I need to be? I am now in very elite company.

I am so glad that that I have Misty there for me. She is so supportive of this psychosis, even now that it has taken me to the point where I run for 18.5 hours straight. I am so blessed to have her in my life. I could not do this without her. She is an incredible life partner and I thank her every day for her presence in my life.
Other Runners Blogs of this race:
9th Place Finisher
Back of the pack video entry part 1 part 2

Saturday, June 26, 2010

2010 Concord Classic 5K Results

21st overall
3rd in Age
Fini Ok, this race report is less for the race itself, and much more about the symbolism of the race. Ya see, approximately 26 hours before race start, I got married.

Mistique and I started dating back in April of 2009. Our first date was a race in Flushing, MI where I did the half marathon and Misty did the 5K walk. Since then we have done a few more such events, me doing one of the runs, her the walk. We had decided long ago to have our wedding on June 25, 2010 but only a month before I mentioned to her that there was a local race the next day. She was totally OK with it, so we signed up.

The wedding itself was at 6am Friday with just immediate family. The ceremony was only 4.5 min long, and the sunrise and weather were absolutely perfect. The reception was at the house that afternoon. So our race eve dinner was our wedding reception, so the food was really good. By 9:30 we had cleaned up and sent everyone away to start our honeymoon. A 6am wakeup is not was most people get the day after their wedding, but hey, we were trying to be different and we had a race to get to.

At the reception, we had t-shirts that said ‘Just Married’ on them and we asked people to sign them. It was these shirts that we wore during the race. Having had a few beers the night before and little sleep the week before the race, I was totally surprised I crossed the 1 mile mark in 5:40. I managed to hang on to that pace for another 1000m, and then I started to slow. I was tickled with my sub 19 min finish. 3rd place in my age group got me a nice engraved glass cup.

medalWithout my knowledge, Misty had contacted the race director and asked them to specially engrave a set of finishers medals for us. He found me right after I finished and showed me the medals and told me we would get them when my wife finished. As with other races I do with her, I ran the course backwards as a cool down until I met up with her and then walked with her until the finish. As promised, the race director made an announcement about us to all there and gave us our medals. We were then interviewed by the local paper, the resulting story given below. I consider this our official wedding announcement since we didn’t formally send anything to the paper. The race was an awesome end to the wedding festiovites and start to our honeymoon.

Here is to many more such races and a long and happy life together! I love you Mistique!!