Sunday, December 30, 2007

14 aaaaaaannnnnddddd done

So just a few days ago I was shocked I ran double-digit miles for three consecutive days. As of today I have now done 6 such straight days. And I am now ending it there. I figured if I was going to break my personal best for that sort of run I might as hell make it a heck of a streak so I would not be tempted to break it again.

On top of that, I decided to run 15 miles yesterday and 14 miles today in order to end the year with 2112 miles. It’s a palindrome and I love that stuff!

So no run on New Year’s Eve. I could run an easy 6 tomorrow and run the most miles I have ever run in a month but am deciding against it. I have run, inadvertently, 12 straight days, which is something I am totally against. Of course, Christmas eve was only a 3 mile run and if I had not run that I would have done 5 days and then 6 which would be fine. Nevertheless, this is how I am keeping myself from running.

Which is how my year will end. With no run. One year ago I ended the year with 26.2 miles. This year I will do it with a long sleep and relaxation. And hopefully some very good news I can share with you all soon.

Friday, December 28, 2007

10 miles

Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.

-Thomas Mann, novelist, Nobel laureate (1875-1955)

As such, I realized that while others make and break New Year’s Resolutions, my own personal resolution to run harder, longer and smarter started a week early.

On Christmas day I ran 10 miles in 1:16:53. The next day it was in 1:15:33; the next in 1:15:44. This three days of double-digit running so astounding me that I blogged about it.

Well today, I ran 10 again but this time in: 1:09:49. I am pretty sure I am running 15 on Saturday and another double-digit day on Sunday, which will bring my total to 6 straight days of such running. But more importantly is the 10 miles today.

For one, it is the only run that matters. Yesterday is gone and I never know if. I will have tomorrow. So I sucked the marrow out of this run. I waved to people, congratulated those I passed and nodded to those I saw twice as they headed back to where they were coming from when I did the same. On a nearly 50-degree day in the greater DC are in the dead of winter, I wore shorts.

Also, today on this one Friday, I ran 10 miles straight. In all of 2006, I ran 10 TOTAL miles on days named “Fri”. Yep. Five runs. Each 2 miles. Ten miles total.

It looks like Christmas Eve is when the ball dropped on my fitness.

Hilarious quote

In the December 2007 issue of RT, in the Heard On The Run section there is the following:

"Carmelo Anthony says he took up trail running last summer to get in shape for the NBA season. 'I'd get up really early, like 9 in the morning (to run)'."

Poor guy. So sad he has to haul his 5-year, $80 million dollar ass out of bed at the ungody hour of NINE!!

Luckily, Nike sent him several pairs of size 15 Trail Pegasus III+ shoes with the interactive iPod Sensor to motivate him. Good thing. I am pretty sure he would not be able to afford them.

(By the way, retailing for about $80, Carmelo could buy ONE MILLION of this shoe with his recent basketball contract. But don't worry, he could still skimp by on whatever endorsement deal he has. You know, like with Nike!)

Don't get me wrong. Carmelo did pay his dues. He went to all of one year of college you know. That's, like, 8 classes!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dropping my Marathon PR in a big way.

I have only really put any serious mileage on my legs in the past few years.

In 2001 I ran my first marathon on minimal training (and the result showed). My second marathon in 2003 had me running more miles in preparation but nothing to write home about. While I trained very hard for my third in 2004, I only did so for a few months with little running prior to it. In 2005, I raced a bunch but did not run much. Which leads me to 2006, with Fiddy2, and this year.

Both years I have kept exact mileage totals via my favorite Excel spreadsheet. It appears that I will finish this year with exactly 2107 miles or 100 more than my initial goal. This is a modest mileage total given many of the totals my friends have finished with but I am happy with it.

While I was visiting my parents for the holidays I ran 10 miles on three consecutive days. It was a little cold in NW PA so I kept my mind off the temps and the run by thinking, like I usually do. It suddenly dawned on me that, as far as I was certain, and I was pretty certain, I had never ran a double-digit mileage total for 3 straight days. NEVER. I had run a half marathon on one day and a marathon the next. I had run 86 miles in one day. I had done many things but had never accomplished this relatively simple feat.

Which led my mind wandering another way. If I finish with 2107 miles for the year that will average out to 40.5 miles a week. A nice little total but nothing to be too impressed about. Then my thinking went another direction.

I have often claimed that I feel I have a 2:3x marathon in me. Some have agreed, others have harrumphed such speak as the daydreams of a middle of the “good” pack runner and some could not care less. I have packed up my thought process numerous times in many different ways but it all boiled down to how I really had not done the training required to really run a good marathon. The 40-mile a week average from above was one bit of proof.

But that isn’t enough for me. When people question what I say I really think about their opinions. Often I have already had a self-discussion which entailed just about everything that is ever said which is why I am so quick with a retort. So I began to question further why I think I can run a much faster time.

As I hoofed it home on each one of these 10 mile runs (5 miles out and then 5 miles back on the exact same route) I ran almost exact times. The first 5 miles would take me just under 40 minutes and the last 5 would take me about 36:3x. That I a heck of a lot of time to lose in just five miles. Here is my average time out and back with the pacing

39:45 7:57
36:30 7:18

Nearly 40 seconds faster per mile on the way back. Granted there is more downhill on the way home than there is on the way out (see below) but not enough to really matter. Plus, I run more on the outside of a curve on the way home than I do on the way out which would definitely add time.

So I am doing the math on these runs and realizing that even the 7:18 pace is not even all that fast. Then I realize, you know what? I NEVER really run all that fast. I do a track workout where I get some good sprints in once a week when things are going right in my life (meaning I am home and not traveling) and I run fast there. Occasionally in my last mile or so of a 6 mile run I will push out a sub-6 mile on a pretty large hill (see below) which always makes me feel good. But for the most part I do not push my long runs. For two years I have either been racing or recovering. I have not had the energy to (or more correctly had the intelligence to not) push it too hard.

Which leads me to this. My current marathon PR is a 2:55:34. That equates to a 6:41 minute mile pace. I can honestly say I have NEVER come close to training at that pace for anything other than my sprint workouts. I have recently been reading a great deal of running magazines and books. I have read about training programs and what some of the elites do. I was astounded at the speed at which they train. MANY of their long runs are WAY faster than their marathon pace. And that makes complete sense. But here I have rarely, if ever, run faster than my marathon pace, except in a marathon!

So basically, I do not run a great deal of miles and those I do are hardly all that fast. Without a doubt, I do not think anyone can argue that I am probably a pretty tired puppy given the racing I do. Yet, somehow I still have run a 2:55.

When the time comes when things have settled and I actually put the time into training for one (or a few) marathons, I see absolutely no reason why I will not run that 2:3x marathon.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Marathon Qualifying Times Responses.

In a recent blog I detailed my thoughts on the lowering of the Olympics Marathon Trials Qualifying time. Some people responded in the comments section and others sent me their opinions in an email. I have collected many of them and put their retorts into a message here below.

One good friend was an advocate for raising the time. One of his reasons is as follows:

“Raising the standard, for example to 2:25, will put the dream of making the Trial within the reach of many good but not great marathoners. In 1980, I was good but not great -- my 2:27:25 at Boston 1980 was more than five minutes slower than the 2:21:54 standard. But I had four years, and I could have trained to beat 2:25 -- but by 1984, they lowered the standard to 2:20. That was out of reach, so why bother training for it?”

Many brought up the point that allowing more runners, rather than fewer, to run the Marathon Trials will focus more attention on the event and sell more people on coming out to watch it. The Marathon Trials should get as much interest as the Track & Field Trials and "fill the stadium." In countries like Japan, a major event getting less than a 10% share of televisions ratings would be a huge disappointment. In the US a 1% share is normal (the SuperBowl gets like 40% FYI)

Others brought up the point that a “party-crasher” was not too well-received. By this I mean, Michael Wardian, a 2:21:27 PR, led the race for 35 minutes.

Many feel that the organizers felt this upstart was simply trying to unconventionally grab some fame and did not like him crashing their party. Organizers like well-scripted events and if anything is certain in marathoning, it is that 26.2 miles leaves plenty of time for a script to be written by those who weren’t invited to the writing table. But Wardian’s surge faded and in spite of the relatively slow early pace which worried organizers, Ryan Hall set a Marathon Trials record. So what's the harm?

Not taking away stories like Wardian’s, people have said, increases the probability of an unknown with a slower qualifying time having a breakthrough -- for example, Kyle Heffner in 1980, John Tuttle in 1984, Mark Conover in 1988.

I feel that my friends have very good points. For whatever reason, the same people who will shoot a 96 on the golf links will still go watch 4 hours of Masters coverage in the club house but your typical road racer wouldn’t want to watch coverage of a Marathon on TV. If there were more “everymen” running, would there be greater desire to watch? Obviously the “slower” time did not affect this year’s finish.

Good food for thought.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The 50 States and DC Marathon Group Humanitarian Award

In my many blogs about marathons, I have often spoken about my running friend Rob Toonkel. He is a tireless runner with 115 marathons to his credit (last i knew at least. He runs them far more often than I can keep track). Well, recently he was awarded the The 50 States and DC Marathon Group Humanitarian Award for 2008.

Rather than repeat the eloquent things said about him in my own prose, I am going to simply provide a link to the wonderful article about Rob. Way to go Rob!


Rob in all the way to the right.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ever been to Morganton, NC?

I have. And I am not exactly bragging.

After a long day in the car, feeling unbelievably nauseous after driving through some of the windiest roads imaginable, I did not feel like running. When you book a hotel, as close to the freeway as possible so you can get back on it the next day, your environs usually do not invoke a running response.

But since I had missed my run yesterday because of long traveling I really wanted to go today.

I found a little loop near me and set out. Too bad what I thought would be a nice scenic route put me right on another highway. Yikes!

So 7.6 miles later, I have gone over my goal for the year. Nothing huge but I am happy. And it was an up and down little run too!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

2002 miles

I ran 4 this morning before I got on the plane and another 4 when I got home tonight. Not the long run I was hoping to do on a normal Sunday but enough to push me over 2000 miles for the first time in my life. With one 5 miler (which I will run after a long day of traveling again tomorrow) I will have my goal for the year with 15 days to spare.

I am pretty excited about having done this. Now, will I hit 2100 before the year is up? And how funny is it that I plan on running across the country someday soon and that will be 1,000 more miles than I have run in an entire year prior to this?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Last run in Bountiful

For the past week I have been in the greater Salt Lake City area in gorgeous Utah. I have been on a speaking tour to promote physical fitness, what I did last year and what I hope to conquer in the future. It has been a wonderful trip and I very much hope to be visiting again soon.

As I made mention earlier in my blog, I found a few hills to run in bountiful where I have been staying. One friend who originally hails form this area told me I needed to make a run up Bountiful Boulevard. I kept trying to fit the run in but the speeches and late nights made it difficult to do so. I was not sure if I would ever get a chance to fit in the run with the big hill.

So finally, tonight I was able to get a chance to conquer this run. As you can from below, there was quite a hill to kick the whole thing off.

And since I always like to see how much elevation change affects a run I decided to do a complete out and back run. The verdict? Well it took me 1:13:23 to run 8.8 miles.

The first 4.4 with the monster hill: 41:14 or 9:20 minute mile
The second 4.4 without said hill: 32:09 or 7:18 minute mile

Quite a change for sure. Plus I got to run past one of those beautiful Mormon Temples. With the snow falling lightly and the run being in the dark it was quite a site to see indeed.

So my week in SLC is over but I can definitely see myself visiting again soon. The nearly mile high runs would do wonders for my times when I came back to run with my flatlander friends.

p.s. There was more downhill in one mile then the net downhill of the ENTIRE Steamtown Marathon.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

My first run in SLC/Bountiful

I am in Salt Lake City for a week to give speech presentations on my life as a runner and Fiddy2. Even though I inexplicably forgot some of my cold weather running gear, I was smart enough to bring tights. Whew!

After driving around a bit trying to find a nice place to run (my hotel is on a highway I did not want to run on) I was a little stymied. The closest park I found on the net was covered in tons of snow and the trail wasn't even traversed let alone packed down yet. So I hunted elsewhere. I despise driving to somewhere to run. I admit I am spoiled as all hell to walk out of my back door at home and have a huge trail system to choose from.

Finally I said forget it and went back to my hotel. I parked my car and ran a little bit off on the highway before turning up towards the park I was going to run to in the first place.

As you can see below, not only am I a little higher than my usual, well, like zero feet of elevation in the greater DC area, but I had quite a hill to contend with today. Given my traveling for the past month I am a little piqued but I am happy to say I did this 7.7 miles in a respectable 56 minutes. Given the sloppy footing and other intangibles, I will take it.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Want some inspiration?

I ran the Park City Marathon last year. It was quite the weekend. Actually it was quite the 23 hours. From the time I touched down until I left again I was not even in Utah for a full day. The trip was punctuated with a challenging but very nice marathon, a wonderful race director and staff and a great pasta dinner.

At the dinner, I was surprised to be asked to give an impromptu speech about Fiddy2. I graciously accepted even though my task was unenviable. You see, I had to follow the planned speaker of the night who was not only an Olympian, but also good-looking, witty and charming. I might be one of those things and “Olympian” it ain’t.

Chris Waddell was his name and he wasn’t just an “ordinary” Olympian, if there is such a term. You see, in 1988 as a freshman ski racer at Middlebury College Chris broke his back in a freak accident on the hill. Two months later he returned to school and three days short of the accident's one-year anniversary he started skiing in a monoski. Less than two years after learning to monoski he was named to the US Disabled Ski Team. Chris remained a member of the Middlebury College Ski Team all four years, and captained the team his senior year.

Well, in speaking with Chris recently, I learned that he is tackling a new challenge. He plans to become the first paraplegic to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. You read that correctly.

Rather than have me describe it, check out the video here about Chris and enjoy.

And yes, I do rather enjoy writing blogs about people that make you feel like a whiner.

p.s. My current running streak has ended because I forgot my running shoes in my last hotel. Crap.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

One streak down.

Two weeks ago, I was working longer than expected on a project. I then had the usual 5 plus hour drive to my parents lengthened by the pre-Thanksgiving traffic. By the time I got to my parents, I had enough time to chat with my father and then pass out. I didn’t even have the energy to go for a run. No big deal, right?

Well, a few months before, I was looking at my training log (the log which has become sort of legendary for its intricacy yet simplicity). I noticed, by complete happenstance, that I had run every single Wednesday in 2007. Now, my feeling on streaks just for the purpose of keeping alive a streak are well-documented, but when I saw I had inadvertently created this little streak I wanted to keep it alive. When I got up to do a pre-Thanksgiving jog, it hit me I messed it up.

Obviously, it was a tiny little thing. Even if I had run every weekend this year, come 2008 it would not have mattered a lick to anyone, even me. It was just a little training tool I was using to keep myself running. One of the main tools I use on a regular basis (and probably very similar to all my running kin out there).

So, today when I pulled into my hotel, tired from being on the road for 10 plus hours of planning a course and the temperature was in the 20s, I decided I was not going to run. I am just getting over a cold from last week and I needed the rest. But once I got into the hotel and found out they had a treadmill, I figured what the heck? Go for a quick 4-miler to shake out the sillies and get yourself nice and tired for bed. Which is exactly what I did.

Entering it into my log I realized I had now gone two weeks without missing a day of running. Nothing too impressive considering the longest run in those two weeks was a 10-miler but equally as “huh” worthy as when I figured out the other streak. I most assuredly never meant either but both happened.

Only 60 more miles to go this month until I have reached my goal for the year. Even with my traveling I am expect to have that in a little over a week.

I hope you all reach your goals, today, this week and this month.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Running/Walking Impatience

It has been said I am not a patient person. While I disagree with that premise (and will be happy to explain why) I do agree I despise wasting time. To be honest, I think while the trait may have always been present, I feel it has been exacerbated by becoming a runner.

First off, I cannot stand walking somewhere if I usually have only run there. Case in point, I was walking from the Metro today after lunch along the same route I end 95% of my runs. It was laboriously painful to walk this little stretch given it was taking twice as long as it “should” have.

Second, it annoys me when I can’t enter a building by the easiest access point. Looking at a guy in front of me who was walking into an apartment building, he had to walk 30 feet past the door and then turn back and walk to it from the direction he was walking, in order to get around a ramp and a waist-high fence. If this was the way I walked every day to get home, there would be a well-worn path up the small hill and over the fence.

Third, It is almost impossible for me to NOT walk the tangents of anything. This I completely blame running for as I heard from a runner who said if you run 26.2 miles in a marathon, you have run too far. By this he meant that you absolutely have to cut every corner possible because that is how courses are measured. Now I do it in walking to my car, crossing the street, going through a parking lot or anything.

Now, I can stop and smell the roses. I do not mind a leisurely walk for the sake of walking. And contray to popular belief I like to rest.

But when I want to “get” somewhere, I want to be there sweet. How sweet? Toot sweet.

Thanks Running. Thanks for making me more of a pain.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Another race in 2007?

Will I race again in 2007? A few friends have asked me this and I have wondered myself. Besides the fact I will be traveling almost constantly for the next 3 weeks making finding a race difficult, I wonder if I even should. This has not been a good year overall. Here is the quick recap

Feb 18: Washington's Birthday Marathon -Freezing temperatures left me near hypothermic at the end, so much that one person actually asked a friend if this was my first marathon

March 3: Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50k - A near ice rink surface had me damn near breaking my kneecaps

March 24: National Half Marathon
- a misdirection at the end of the course derailed a near perfectly paced race for myself

April 1: Martian Marathon - only a dead sprint at the end allowed me to make up for a total loss of energy and salvage the race (with a 2:59:58)

April 7: Ocean City Half Marathon
- a freak snowstorm and wind killed this race

April 29: Han Gang (Seoul, Korea) Marathon

- heat and liquid problems left me severely vomiting at the end

May 5: Frederick Marathon
- Relatively good race was killed in the last 4 miles by enormous wind gusts

May 12: Battle of the Blvd 10k
-Nothing really wrong with this race

June 2: Old Dominion 100 Mile Cross Country Run - 90 degree weather; humidity; thunderstorms

June 17: Dalian International Marathon
- food poisoning. ‘Nuff said.

June 26: Bluemont Park June 5k -Nothing really wrong with this race

4th of July Age-Handicapped 4 Miler -Nothing really wrong with this race

July 7: PVTC Outdoor Track & Field Meet
-Nothing really wrong with this race (Pretty damn hot though)

July 15: Presque Isle Half Marathon
- Unexplained bad race

July 21: PVTC Outdoor Track & Field Meet

-Nothing really wrong with this race (Pretty damn hot though)

July 28: Rockville Rotary Twilight Runfest - Great race

July 27: 189 Mile Northwest Passage Relay
- Great race

August 4: North Face 50K Endurance Challenge
- 98 degrees

August 7th: Arlington Downhill Mile -Nothing really wrong with this race (Pretty damn hot though)

August 12: Leesburg 20k

-Nothing really wrong with this race

August 16: One Hour Track Run

-Sick before the race

August 28th: Arlington Downhill Mile
-Nothing really wrong with this race (Pretty damn hot though)

Sept 3: International Peace Half Marathon -Nothing really wrong with this race

Sept 9: Presque Isle Marathon
-Major leg problems in the middle of the race

Sept 19: Tidal Basin 3k-Nothing wrong with this race

Sept 22: Lake Winnipesaukee Relay -Great race

Sept. 29: The Nation's Triathlon - Swim Leg

-Great race

Oct 7: Steamtown Marathon

-Hot humid race

Oct 17: Tidal Basin 3k -Nothing really wrong with this race

Oct 28: Marine Corps Marathon

-Great race

Nov 17: Nat'l 24 Hour Run Championship- Heat ruined the day

Wow. I have always prided myself on being able to have both a short memory and a thick skin. Looking back at this year, I have to say “holy Crap”. This was a bad bad year for me.

Maybe I will race again somewhere before the year is out.

Friday, November 30, 2007

100 miles

One of my (relatively) modest goals for 2007 was to run 2007 miles. As of tonight, I have 100 miles to go.

Even though the next 3 weeks having me traveling all over the country doing project work for a company I hope to have a long-standing relationship with in the near future, I cannot see me not reaching that goal.

Of course, if I had finished the OD 100 race and had reached my 130-mile goal at Ultra Centric I would only have 26 miles to go. :) That said I was shocked that November was only my 4th highest mileage month of the year. It is easy to figure out why (low mileage coming into and then back out of Ultra Centric) but when you trudge 70 miles in one day you really think you might have a great month. Alas. As always, my mileage is hardly awe-inspiring but I know every single one of my runs is important and I rarely have junk mileage.

It is time to start thinking about 2008 goals. While I am not necessarily shooting for it, I would not be surprised if I approach 3,000 miles for the year. With my plan now being to race very little and train much more, the miles may pile up much quicker than expected. Heck, it is a leap year so I get an extra day! That means I only need to average 8.2 miles every single day.


What races are planned? Honestly, none. I have my eyes on some but where my life takes me in the next few months will determine a great deal.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey Trot?

Not for me.

Took all my energy to crawl out of bed and jog a three-miler. Still recovering from Ultra Centric and already full of food, I decided to share a little news about my friend Bryon Powell.

Last weekend he finished his 3rd 50 miler in 3 weekends. Dang.

11/3 - Mountain Masochist Trail Run - 8:30:34 - 15th place
11/10 - Stone Cat 50 - 7:58:06 - 6th place
11/17 - JFK 50 - 7:13:45 - 25th place including a 50 mile PR!

Now, having that ability is something to be thankful for.

I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ultra Centric Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 32nd Edition
587.59 miles raced in 2007
Race: Ultra Centric
Place: Grapevine, TX
Miles from home: 1348 miles
Course Difficulty: 5.5 out of 10
Course Enjoyability: 3.5 out of 10
Weather: 70-80s, bright sunshine
Finisher's Medal: N/A

"A fitting end to a difficult year in racing" is how I would sum up my 24-Hour run on Saturday in nine words.

My pre-race goals were lofty yet attainable. To begin, I wished to run a minimum of 130 miles and contend for one of the top three positions for the Men’s US 24-Hour National team. I found it funny that when I would mention this as one of my goals, one of the frequent questions I was asked was “So what does that get you?” I know this question was probably just one based on curiosity given the men’s team is just in its 4th year of existence. Heck, to some extent, when I first heard of the team (after I signed up for the race, mind you) I too thought the same thing. However, I guess even when you have reached what could be the pinnacle of your little niche of athleticism, there is always the question: “Yeah, so? Now what?”

Nevertheless, to even be considered for the team I had to run a minimum of 130 miles. Everything else would depend on where I placed against the competition on this day. But I was pretty sure I would need 135 miles at least, in order to contend.

As races approach, I usually keep an eye on the weather report for the race day but I was watching this particular forecast like a hawk. Unlike a hot day in a 10k or a marathon, which you may pay the price for running hard but can probably power through, I knew this race would be different. Running for an entire day, the weather was very important. As the race neared, the promise of a partly cloudy day and some light rain sprinkles still existed. Then, a once predicted high of 80 degrees dropped to 75. If everything kept going this way, it may not be so bad after all, I thought. Unfortunately, as the race drew near, the weather continued to get warmer and hopes of good race weather vanished.

The day before the race I saw a list of who was coming. There had been no posting on the website of the race participants prior to this. When I inquired about whom may be running, I never received an answer from the usually attentive race staff, which I found quite odd. A few other ultra runners had mentioned that they would not be attending because of this lack of information. As always when I have a complaint about a race or how it is run, I really and truly want to know only “why”. I try my best to figure out why someone has done something and if I cannot figure it out, I only hope I can get an answer. There usually is one, even if I tend not to agree with it.

Unfortunately hopes that perhaps some of the top tier gentlemen might stay away, making my attempt at getting on the US team slightly easier, were eliminated when I saw the list. Not only were the top three runners from last year here again but also some runners who seemed poised to put on a fight were signed up as well. Oh well, I just needed to run my own race. Everything else would fall into place where it would.

Originally planning on running this race unassisted, my friend Christine had made a last minute trip down to Dallas in order to assist not only me, but my friend Nattu as we ran the one day event. Another runner I was meeting for the first time, Ed, would be competing in the 12-hour race and would also benefit from her helpful hand. Nattu is a two-time veteran of Badwater, amongst many other races and Ed was trying his second Ultracentric 12-hour race.

When I checked out the course the night before the race, I saw that the original 2.4 mile loop had been replaced with a simple 2 mile version. This was welcome by just about everyone as having an even number made the math so much easier. As we watched the participants in the 48 Hour race go by (here in their 9th hour of racing) we noticed one thing: the wind. Gusting like crazy I could only hope that it would die down for the next day. With long stretches of this loop being either on the shores of Grapevine Lake or adjacent to wide open fields, there was little to stop the fierce winds from blowing.

I recognized a few people immediately. One was Bob Oberkehr who I had run 20 plus miles of the Old Dominion 100 with earlier this year. Bob was moving along at a great clip and I ran a few yards with him just to say hello (you weren’t allowed to run with anyone or pace them and I did not want to get Bob DQd). The other was Dave Goggins, a tall, lean, and muscular chap who was hard to miss. Relatively knew to the ultra scene, Dave is already running ridiculous distances in ridiculous times (he would eventually run 203 miles for the 48 Hour event).

Back at the hotel, I ordered a pizza from a local place to be delivered for dinner. So much for everything being bigger in Texas. The pizza, supposedly enough to feed two, could have easily been devoured by only me. I then settled into bed for a long night of sleep and hoped to dream of better times. I say this because, just a few hours earlier, my father had been admitted to the hospital. While his very high fever had stabilized, he was experiencing plenty of side effects. As such, my sleep was punctuated with fitful dreams.

When morning came, not a leaf was moving on the trees and it actually seemed a little chilly. I was elated. However, there was not a single cloud in the sky. I hoped this would not be a problem.

I received a ride from my hotel from a friend I had spoken to many times online but was meeting for the first time, Tim Lawson. Tim was here with his cousin Don who was running his first ultra. In fact, Don had never run longer than 9 miles before and was here to participate in the 6-hour race (he would eventually whip out 33 miles.) Tim, who was suffering from a stress fracture in his shin, was here to see what he could do. I pled with him to stop if he felt he was going to do any damage. At the tender age of 22, I tried to impart upon him how many more years of running he would have if stopped if needed. I have said many times to many people: Sometimes the best run we do is the one we don’t do.

At the starting line I noticed a few other well-known ultra runners including John Geesler, Roy Pirrung and Akos Konya. John is a fixture on the circuit routinely churning out stupendous upper-echelon times. Roy is a machine who was in the top three last year. Akos is relatively new to the scene as well but has already been the runner-up twice at Badwater’s 135-mile race. I also saw a few women runners who I was pretty sure I recognized but could not immediately put a name to a face. I assumed throughout the day I would.

The Race:

My plan was to average 11-minute miles, which equals exactly 130 miles for the day. If I had more in me, great; if not, at least I would have that minimum standard. From the get-go, I knew I was running fast but really felt like I was keeping myself in-check. I knew I should run slightly faster in the opening hours as that would be when I was most fresh and feeling great. The trick was to not go out too fast (as it is in any race) but the problem with trying to run 11-minute miles is that it is nearly double the pace I ran for my most recent marathon. Therefore, an 8-or 9-minute mile pace feels as if I am indeed going slow when I am not.

Within an hour I knew I had to slow down. I really began to pull back or at least I thought I was. What made it difficult was that there were two or three guys who were absolutely booking. I have no idea whatsoever what race they thought they were running as the lead runner ran the first two miles in barely over a 7 minute pace. What added to the challenge of the day was shortly after the 9 AM start, the cool temperature I was so enjoying in the morning evaporated and the heat began to build. And build.

No clouds appeared. Not a hint of rain could be counted on. The asphalt circle we were running on began to heat up and cook. After every lap Christine told me to slow down and drink. Every lap I did my best to do so. When I noticed Akos was still behind me at 18 miles, I decided to simply pull over, drink as much as I could and let him pass. An accomplished runner like this should not have been behind me, which told me I was doing something wrong. To be honest, at 18 miles in, with 3.5 hours of running, I was already done for the day. I would never admit it to myself then but now I can see the truth.

One of my biggest problems with racing is my sweating. I sweat so much in a race such as this that in order to keep fluids in me I am almost constantly drinking. By doing so, my belly often fills and I cannot stomach to take in food. Without food, I get no calories and with no calories there is no energy inside me. As Christine tried to force me to eat food (which I needed) I knew I was in trouble. I would take a few bites of something, begin to run and then would almost immediately feel the sloshing in my stomach.

30 miles

After I passed her at 30 miles and told her my split, Christine grabbed me and told me I was over an hour ahead of my suggested pace at that point. When I then passed the 50k mark in ~4:30 I had set a 50k PR by 40 minutes. This was a testament to both how awful the conditions were in the only other 50ks I had run and how fast I was going today (which was way too fast). So I decided I would utilize the hour of time by sitting for 5 minutes every lap and try to take in fluids and food and rest. Then I would run the 2-mile loop and repeat.

After 6 of these breaks (and using only 30 minutes of that cushion), I decided to try a different tactic. I noticed it was getting a little harder to get up and moving after my breaks. So, noting that the course (whose hills seemed to progressively get longer and steeper as the day went on) had a series of two major uphills, I decided to pay heed to the advice to a friend who is an ultramathoner herself and a coach to many: Lisa Smith-Batchen.

I began a series of runs where I would run for approximately 9 minutes and alternate that with a 2-minute race walk. It so happened that the intervals more or less put me walking on the uphills of this course, which was perfect. I then tried to grab food from Christine on one of these uphills and munch on it while I walked.

I was able to do this for the next hour or so soon, but then the dry heaves began. I could no longer take in food or liquid without immediately vomiting it up, when I commenced running. By now, it was nearing 5 o’clock, and the sun had finally started to cool some. But the damage had been done a long time ago.

As I passed the timing mat for 48 miles, I did not even stop for food or liquid. I knew I could set a 50 miler PR, if I just kept running for another 2 miles. Obviously, trying to set personal bests for shorter distance in races of much longer distances should not be done. But I was fried. I honestly was unsure if I would be going on any more and I figured I could at least set two new PRs in one day.

So, I pressed on, crossed the 50-mile mark in 8:23:44 and crashed into a chair.

Big Break:

By this point, another online running friend, Dre, who had made her way over to the race with her girlfriend, was offering tons of support and consolation. Having run to a nearby store to fetch me some Gatorade (I couldn’t take in any more of my Accelerade and Propel mix), I was bolstered by her return. Nevertheless, I knew I needed to rest. And eat.

For the next 45 minutes, all I did was take in calories. I did not know what I was going to do race-wise. I knew that there was so much more of the race to be run but I needed to have energy to race it. I was hoping my break and calorie intake would allow me to get back in the game.

Throughout the day I had been making calls to the hospital on my cell while I ran. My father’s condition first got better and then worsened. When you are running a 2-mile loop in the hot blazing sun, your mind has plenty of time to think about various things. Unfortunately, mine had been on my dad.

As I sat there munching on spaghetti, I knew I was still only half an hour ahead of my goal pace. Once the eating was done, I was now 15 minutes in the hole and not feeling any better. I finally decided to simply lie down and sleep. Hopefully the leaders were feeling the same and my rest would help me. Vascillating from 9th to 15th place overall throughout the day, I knew many of us were clustered within 2-4 miles of each other. All it took was a falter here or there and I would be back in the running.

So, I climbed in a sleeping bag and tried to relax. Before long, Christine was rousing me. I still had not decided if I was going to try for any more miles. I said to give me another half an hour. But as I lay there, I felt rejuvenated. About 10 minutes later I sprung up (that might be a bit of an exaggeration). The crew next to us who were working for a really nice guy very similar to myself named Chuck (same general appearance, former swimmer) applauded at my standing upright. I told Christine I was ready to go again. I did not know what I was going to do but I was going to try.

Mile 68:

It took me a quarter of a mile to get my legs working again. Plus I was now wearing my regular shirt, a long sleeve shirt and a windbreaker. It was hard to get warm. But once my legs were under me I felt great. I started to walk. I started doing math in my head and wondered if I simply walked 20-minute miles where I would end up. It came to me I would be around 92 miles. I did not see the point in that very much so I abandoned the idea. When I walked through the first mile after I left my slumber in 15.5 minutes, I recalculated. Hmmm. If I kept this up I would finish in 104 miles. So much math to do.

I continued on this pace of fast walking for the next mile or so. Then, I decided to jog the downhills, fast walk the flats and powerwalk the ups. Next thing I knew, I was doing sub 14-minute miles. This is pretty good for this stage, I thought. But then I had to make the last call of the night to my Dad.

Grabbing my cellphone and trying to walk, I realized by doing the simple act of holding my phone, I was getting cramps in my shoulders. In addition, a stage had been set up so that bands could play to keep the runners occupied. Unfortunately, the stage was set up literally feet from where the runners would be racing. I have not one iota of a clue who thought this was a good idea. Even half-mile away the sound, in the open air of this park, was deafening. Whenever you passed the stage you hoped it was not the moment the local myspace band didn’t hit their Pete Townsend arm waving strike on the guitar and blow your ear drums out. I mention this, not only to talk about the ludicrous nature of having such a loud disturbance so close to the runners but also to note that I could not talk on the phone for very long because anytime I got close to the stage, I would have to hang up.

Unfortunately, the news remained the same with my father. I will not say the somber news hindered my already weakened performance but it most assuredly did not help.

Soon thereafter, I could not just powerwalk a 15-minute mile. If I ran the downhills at a good clip and walked the rest, I could still get that 15-minute mile. But it was beginning to take a great deal more effort. I hit mile 68 and planned to take a 5-minute rest to recoup. This turned into 10 minutes. I then told Christine I might be done. For real. I had no energy left. I tried as much as I could to take in food but what would seem like a feast was just a few spoonfuls of chicken broth or potatoes. I decided I was going to lie down for 20 minutes.

Second Break:

At 20 minutes, Christine woke me. I told her I wanted 10 more. What seemed like 10 seconds went by before I felt her shaking me. Forget it I said, I am going to use the rest of my cushion (the cushion of time which would allow me to finish with 100 total miles). Let me sleep for 30 more. I am going to have to have my energy or it won’t matter.

Thirty minutes later I got up for good. My legs had stiffened greatly but mostly they were bereft of energy. I decided I was going to just get moving and see what happened.

70 miles:

Walking along, I made a call to my mother. I needed to know what the situation was with my Dad. She did not know much more than I did. We talked about what may need to be done and what I could do from where I was. While my dad had been dealing with some coherency problems because of his fever, the one thing he seemed perfectly clear about was that I was in Dallas running for 24 Hours. “Still being stupid?” was how he would answer the phone and I would laugh my ass off and tell him “Who do you think I get it from?”

The decision to stop finally came to me in this last loop. I had 8 plus hours to go. I know I could hit 90 plus miles even if I zombie-walked it. But I did not see the point. I read in a recent magazine about a person who did the Pik’s Peak Marathon. If you do not know about this race, it goes straight up the mountain for 13.1 miles and then straight back down. Well, the person did great for the first half and on the way back, fell several times. One time, it appears they may have struck their head. When they finally crossed the finishline, scuffed knees, bloody brow and sheer exhaustion racking their body, the author of the article said, “That is what I call determination.” Well, maybe. I also call it not too bright.

I mean, there is something to be said for finishing what you started. Earlier this year, I had a rather grueling race in Dalian, China. But quitting the race, in the middle of the run, when the EMTs that were giving my water did not speak English, was just as scary as continuing on in the state I was in. As the guest of a Chinese shoe manufacturer, there was not much I could do but get to the finish and find them. Otherwise I would be in a world of confusion, far worse than walking along to my second worst marathon finish ever (only faster than the climb through the mountains of Leadville, CO).

But here, finishing my 35th loop of this 2-mile course, I was reduced to a shuffle. All my goals were gone. I came across the one-time leader of the race, Caroyln Smith and we exchanged some words. She was calling it a day at the next lap as well. She held the same philosophy. The day is hot, I could tack some more miles onto my total so my training log looks really cute or I can cut my losses and keep myself from doing irreparable damage to my body.

Earlier in the day, yet another online running friend, Bill Allen, had come to the same conclusion. After pacing along greatly, a stop to change clothes had his IT band tighten up greatly. So, he said forget it. Sometimes that is far, far harder than continuing to shuffle on.

What was amazing, as I pulled into the clock at the final lap, was how the leaderboard had changed throughout the day. So many of the fast starters (especially the fools who went out at a 10k pace) had been leapfrogged by those who ran much slower but consistent pace. Ultrarunning legend Pam Reed (who I introduced myself to in the middle of the race and told her that her feats are incredible) had been slowly but surely picking runner after runner off as the fell to the wayside. Connie Gardner, who somehow handled the heat spectacularly (and inexplicably so, being from the Rust Belt of Ohio) not only took second place overall but just missed breaking the American Women’s record by .05 of a mile.

But with me, I hit the timing mat at 70 miles and removed my chip. No more rest breaks, no more eating while running and no more vomiting. Nattu, who had been affected by the heat as well, had dropped at 50 miles for the same reason I did: there was no reason to go on. But Ed put us all to shame by doing over 58 miles in the 12 hours and taken 3rd place. Tim, battling his stress fracture but in the end battling his ego and wisely pulling out, still managed 84 miles. So, while my goals were lost, I was buoyed by the great achievements of my friends.

Furthermore, after a long night’s sleep, I got to speak to my Dad again. Fever down, now back home, he was doing much better. I told him, even though my family doesn’t often express emotions openly, that this race was definitely for him. Miles 1-50 I did on my talent, training and heart. From there on, I was doing it for him. And then I stopped running because I stopped being stupid.

But I told him to not count on that lasting very long.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ultracentric Cometh

1. I was out on my last run of the week before Ultracentric. Just an easy 5 miler. Even though the temps have been cooling lately today was gorgeous. It was about 60 degrees and the leaves are both changing and falling. I just got a new cell phone and could not figure out some of the features. SO, I figured I would swing by the store to ask them for assistance at the end of my run.

The run is over and I am heading home. I am about 100 yards from being done when I roll my ankle. No suspense, it doesn’t hurt. But if you are a runner you know exactly what kind of roll this is. I stepped on a grate or a rock or something and for a split-second and the ankle rolled underneath me. Then, through the grace of God, I did not roll it enough, was able to right myself and no damage was done. Sheer panic and “ohmygod” ran through my head but no damage.

2. Ultracentric occurs almost exactly to the day in my life that my father was in when he was crippled in a hunting accident. You see, I turned 31 in May of this year and the race is Nov. 17th. My father turned 31 in April (of 1974) and then on Nov. 15th of that year had the bullet of a .44 rip most of his left lower leg apart.

When I was running 52 marathons last year and had all kinds of questions as to why would I put my body through this when I did not know what it would do to me in the long run, I gave many different answers (all true). But one that was always in my mind was the fact that my father assuredly did not think, that at age 31, he would never be walking again. So, when I heard things from people like a triathlon coach in Canada (Barrie Shepley) who said what I was doing was actually BAD for the sport of marathoning, I steeled myself by knowing what I was doing was for me, the charity, and my family.

It is extremely ironic I am taking on this challenge at this exact time in my life. Only after signing up for the race did I realize the connection.

So this race is for my Dad.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Elora Geier Holiday Benefit Auction

I have mentioned Elora Geier here before but please allow me to reiterate.

One of the race competitors in the Drake Well Marathon, Dan Geier, had a simple request when I asked him what he wanted to be listed as: "Elora's Dad". I assumed he was simply a proud father. I was wrong.

In April 2006, Elora, Dan's daughter, lost her life after battling with Leukemia. To honor her life, Dan set up, Elorapalooza, a 5K Run/Walk on September 23, 2007. Raising funds in memory of Elora, the race distance was a favorite of Elora's who, in spite of always finishing long after the other runners crossed the finish line enjoyed the 5k.

Well the race was a large success and now Dan and his family are throwing a Holiday Benefit auction to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Elora’s HOPE Foundation. To learn more about this event and how you can be a part, just click above or email Dan and Leslie at

Thanks so much for reading!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Ultracentric looms

Ultracentric, the 24-Hour Race, which also serves as the qualifier to be on the US National Team, is this Saturday. I am extremely excited, strangely confident and ready to run.

Timing for this race will be done by a company whose website can be found HERE. I am unsure if they will keep updated stats as the day goes on (and on and on) but please feel free to check in on me anytime you want. Chances are I will also check my cell phone a few times during the day, so go ahead and say hello as well.

I am a little perturbed the decent predicted temperatures of mid 60s from last week have given way to mid-to-high 70s this week. Damn it! I am only hoping that running at a much slower pace will mean that the sun won’t sap me as much. And hey, it isn’t the 98 degrees of the North Face 50k or 90 plus of the Old Dominion 100.

That said, I guess my confidence comes from my hard fought war this year with crappy racing conditions as well as my performance at the Presque Isle Endurance Classic in 2003 (84 miles; a total which no one has come close to matching in the 4 years it has been run since). (Pre and post race photos below. the first being me not knowing what I was getting myself into.)

Regardless, that b.s. aside I am feeling good. Will I reach all of my goals? I rarely do mostly because I set so many that are usually out of my reach. But I am ok with that.

The clock keeps ticking and I am ready to run.

Palindromic numbers and Boston Marathon Winners

I finished my run today and totalled up my mileage for the year in my running log and saw that I had an exact palindromic total: 1777.71. That doesn't happen to often.

Then I sat down to my computer and opened up this email.

Am Robert Cheruiyot the current winner of Boston marathon and fourth
in this year chicago
please can it be possible for you to invite one of my friend to your
race please i know its very late but i can be very happy incase you
wish to consider him.

let me know if you can agree to welcome him i can also be willing to
accompany him and to run 21km just as a training,all i want to do is
trying to introduce him to international running if it can be better
and if its possible for you to help me out to pay his ticket i can try
to pay my own ticket if you invite us.

We already have the Usa visa but we can need the invitation letter at
the airport

i will be very happy incase you offer to help me out

There is a completely possibility this email is fake. There is also a complete possibility he sent this to every RD in the nation. But it is still pretty cool to have one of the fastest marathoners in the world email you.

The question remains, does he realize the 2006 Drake Well Marathon was run entirely on a track? LOL!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

MCM Pictures

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the MCM.

It's a MCM tradition!

The girls and me again:

The final push:

My fave of them all:

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Running with Fast Chicks

George Buckheit, a local runner who trains some of the fastest women around, set me the picture below. This is around mile 11 or so as the leade runners and I passed near the Kennedy center.

The ladies mentioned in my blog are pictured below with Lisa on the far left, then Alicia and then Kristen. I found out that on top of this being Kristen's first marathon (whcih she ran a 2:51 and won), Alica was previously a 3:20 marathoner. so she had a 20 plus minute PR. Holy crap! Way to go ladies!

(Pictures expands if you click on it)

Monday, November 5, 2007


As you may know, I was in Mexico last week. I picked a random city when I realized I had one week to use my travel voucher and I went. I picked Mazatlan. I knew nothing about it and just went.

So, when I heard some guy down there say there was a marathon in Mazatlan I figured he did not know what he was talking about. I guessed he meant a 10k.

Of course, the way my luck has been this year, of course, I missed the marathon ACTUALLY being run in Mazatlan by a few weeks. (Click on the US flag to read in English)

Oh well!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Marine Corps Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 31st Edition
517.59 miles raced in 2007
Race: Marine Corps Marathon
Place: Arlington VA / Washington, DC
Miles from home: 2
Course Difficulty: 7.5 out of 10
Course Enjoyability: 7 out of 10
Weather: 50-60, bright sunshine
Finisher's Medal: 9.5 out of 10

I have done decently well in races this year. My desire to show you can do well at all different distances without specifically training for any of them is one more race away from being a resounding success. However, I have done so under varied, and often quite horrible weather conditions. From slippery icy trails, to blisteringly cold days to scorching hot and humid afternoons to well, I guess I am about "malaria" short of a completely bad year.

So I was hoping that in my last (planned) marathon of the year, I would finally be cut a break by whoever it is who controls the weather. For the most part, I would have to say that I was.

When it comes to the Marine Corps Marathon both my love affair with this race, and my recent confusion over exactly why certain courses changes were done in the manner that they were done has been well documented. And to be 100% honest, I was not really looking forward to this race per se. Sure I wanted to be able to sleep in my own bed, know 99% of the course and not have to travel. But I also wanted the course that had really been the best rendition of the MCM and that was what was run in 2005 and 2006. But that wasn’t the case and I had come to grips with that.

As was the case often last year, and many times his year, a great many of my friends would plan their races or trips to DC when I was out of town. However, this weekend, a bevy of friends were making the trip and I was going to be here. Great! Except for the fact that all I wanted to do was lounge around and do my normal nothing prior to the race. But I could not pass up the chance to meet so many friends and many for the first time in person. So Friday and Saturday I made the rounds seeing friends willy-nilly and I am glad I did.

The night before the race, I had a very fitful and interrupted sleep. I was not too worried about this as I had been well rested the rest of the week but it was enough to make me a little jittery. But when the morning broke and the cool temperatures were still hanging around, the jitters were gone.

As I walked from Iwo Jima to the start I noticed I had planned my arrival pretty perfectly. Not wanting to mill around too much, I got to the starting line with about 15 minutes to spare. Not too much time to fret. At the beginning I saw Keith Knipling, who earlier this summer accomplished the incredible feat of not only running 3 separate 100-mile races in three weeks but also finishing 3rd, 1st and 1st in those races. We exchanged pleasantries and he told me he was going to shoot for a 3:10 to qualify for Boston. I had no doubt he would do it.

As the start drew nigh, we noticed that a massive amount of runners had moved from one of the two lanes of people to the other. Not one to follow blindly but definitely curious I tried to figure out why. It was then I noticed that the right lane was definitely on the inside curve. Those in the lane I was presently standing in would assuredly be running much further at the start of the race. So I aligned myself with those in the right and began to weave towards the front.

This was only after I made one last, no modesty allowed, trip to a tree which barely had enough leaves to cover itself, let alone me and the three other guys who were doing out best to make sure the foliage was watered. I was hoping this would be the last time I bothered with this sort of thing.

As I ran back to the start with mere seconds to go before we began, I realized another curious design of the MCM this year was no enforcement of corrals by start time. Having been a victim to this starting-time-by-honesty fiasco before wherein runners lined up not with what they could do, or had done but, apparently what their wildest dream ever was, I refused to play that game today. My finish time that I planned on running would have netted me a 74th place last year so I eyeballed about 70 people in front of me and stayed put. When the overweight, clueless-looking man wearing a shirt with a collar (for chrissakes) got close and personal by trying to shove past, I gave him a look as if to say “Not happening today, pal.”

The cannon fired and the runners were off and running.

Mile 1-2: 12:54

When the very first mile of the course is mis-marked, you have reason for trepidation. While I was making sure not to get caught up with the speedsters, I also knew I was hoofing it a great deal faster than the 7:35 the first mile said I ran. Of course, when we passed the second mile (which contained part of the biggest hill on the course) and I had ran a 5:19, I figured out the perhaps the distance had been corrected by the shorter second mile. Taken the average of the cumulative time of 12:54, I was quite pleased with the two 6:27 miles to start.

Mile 3: 6:32

The 3rd mile also contained portions of the big hill but was also the beginning of the biggest downhill of the course as well (in terms of total length). So the time lost on the uphill was more or less made up on the downhill.

Mile 4: 6:25

The downhill dropped even further in this mile and would have been even faster except for one thing. I really had to pee. I could not decide if I should pull over to the side of the road here and do my business in the middle of the downhill. On one hand, I could finish my business, and get rolling again on the downhill. On the other, I would kill the momentum of my jaunt. In the end the urge to purge won over. Unfortunately, I could barely squeeze out a drop. I stood there for a few seconds (in the only portion of the course guaranteed to be both wooded and spectator-free) before finally realizing nothing more was going to happen. Fellow Georgetown Running Company member Max Lockwood ran by and told me to hurry up. As I caught him on the downhill, I told him the break was needed. I had been going too fast. And since Max was shooting for a low 2:40 time, and at this point had been behind me, I had just proven to myself the stop was worth it.

As this mile flattened out, we came across a group of four running abreast. Given their relatively slow gait and the fact that they were somehow in front of us, I knew something was afoot. Sure enough, at least one of the runners was visually impaired. I shouted a few words of encouragement and smiled at the coincidence of this situation. You see, last week, in reading an article about visually impaired runners and their guides by Mitch Albom (click HERE to read), I was moved to contact Mr. Albom to inquire about how I could be such a guide. I was then put in touch with on of the subjects of the article who provided me with a great amount of information. As soon as I figure out exactly where my life is taking me in the next few months, I will most assuredly follow-up on that email conversation to fulfill yet another goal in life.

We then went up a small hill and passed onto the Key Bridge. Bruce and Steve, two members of the one of the running clubs to which I belong, shouted some encouragement and took the picture below. I think they were surprised to see me this close to the front. I was too.

Mile 5: 6:35

Coming off the Key Bridge I was glad to have a little shelter from the wind. Having made itself present near the start of the race, we had gone a few miles without feeling it blowing. However, on the bridge, the cross-breeze had been quite stiff and seemed to say “Still here. Just in case you were curious.” Down Canal Road the runners went and to the steepest uphill portion we ran. It would have been bad enough alone, but the fact that there were gigantic tour buses idling on the hill, spewing out diesel fumes, made it all that much worse. As with the reference above to the end of the race, I would simply like to have an explanation as to why this had happened. I cannot think of a single reason and I am the biggest devil’s advocate out there.

Mile 6: 6:45

Because of the steep hill and the next mile of less steep but steady hills I was not at all unpleased with my time for this mile. I exchanged a few words with a runner who was hoping to “just” run a 3:10. I told him we were on a 2:50 pace and he may wish to slow down. He evinced that he wanted to bank time so when he got tired at the end he could rely on that banking to pull him through. I did not want to say too much but mentioned that is not the best strategy but I wished him luck. I knew he would not last at this pace, as he pulled even further in front of me.

Mile 7: 6:23

The quick drop-off of Reservoir Road onto Canal was as steep as I recalled on my trial run and running at a much faster pace the turn was even more ankle breaking. I looked down Canal Road and sure enough there was a good amount of road, which could have been utilized. I shook my head as one of the wheelchair runners blazing down the hill actually had the wheels of one side of his ride come off the ground on his turn.

Mile 8: 6:32

While this portion had not been too pleasant on my trial run, it was much more pleasant on race day. First it wasn’t during the middle of the day, which meant the temperatures were lower and the road was shaded. Second, I wasn’t dodging oncoming traffic, which is always a plus. Third, well I was racing and everything is easier during a race.

Mile 9: 6:37

We finished with the small risers of Canal Road and its loneliness and burst back onto the main drag just south of Georgetown. Thousands of other runners streamed down the other side of the road, just getting ready to deal with the hill and the killer fumes.

My good friend Christine was running her second marathon in 21 days and I was hoping to see here somewhere. But running into the sun, even with sunglasses, made seeing anything difficult. Plus, there were honestly, no exaggeration, thousands of similar looking people parading past me on the other side. It was then I heard: “Go Dane” and saw Christine and a friend of both of us, Andrew, running together. I gave a fist pump and shouted back “Good luck!”

Not more than a few hundred yards down the road, a man jumped out of the mass of humanity and screamed "Alright Dane!” Wearing a shirt emblazoned with “Elora’s Dad.” I knew exactly who I was looking at: Dan Geier, one of the runners of the Drake Well Marathon was making sure I saw him. Dan lost his daughter Elora to Leukemia last year and has championed the cause to help find a cure for her ever since then (read my blog about Dan HERE). I can only someday hope to be half as proud a father as Dan is of Elora.

Down under the Key Bridge we ran and I again saw Bruce and Steve. I heard another friend shout my name as she sat, precariously, on the end of the off-ramp. A familiar voice shouting encouragement, which I could not place until later, turned out to be my massage therapist Terrel Hale.

Mile 10: 6:25 (Cumulative time: 1:05:13)

My 10 mile time was just a few seconds slower than my time at Steamtown and I was feeling good. The familiar problem with my adductor in my left leg was present but were not debilitating.

Here, I was finally caught from behind by something I knew had been coming for quite some time: the lead women’s pack. I could hear them creeping up for miles as hushed whispers of “There are the lead women!” would echo behind me as spectators completely ignored those of us running. I wasn’t quite sure who it was at this point but felt good I had held them off so long.

Mile 11: 6:25

As we approached the huge crowd near the Lincoln Memorial, I finally had a chance to see who they were. Kristen Henehan, Lisa Thomas and Alicia Pease, all local runners, were running in a tight-knit pack with what appeared to be some male pacers. Lisa and I have met at a few races and the others I have seen at various track workouts and the like. I was so pleased to see that girls I knew were leading the charge. But I was also damned if they were going to be passing me too easily! As long as they stayed in my wheelhouse I was going to run with them.

It also helped that a huge roar erupted from the crowd as we hit this point. Both invigorating and demoralizing (I knew they were not cheering for me) I used the cheers to push me forward. One chap passed me and I told him: “I can delude myself into thinking they are cheering for me until one of them shouts: “You Go Girl!’”

Mile 12: 6:34

As we weaved down Constitution Avenue and past the Washington Monument, I fell back just a bit to allow the pack to set the pace. I expected them to blow by but instead we began running stride-for-stride. Alicia appeared next to me and I introduced myself after exchanging hellos with Lisa. Alicia was still wearing knee-length tube socks on her hands, as although the sun was shinning bright, there was still a chill in the air. And if there is one thing I have learned in 1,886.4 miles of marathon racing, it is that if your hands are cold, you are not going to be a happy camper.

Mile 13: 6:31 (Halfway time: 1:25:30)

As we ended our eastward jaunt through DC and turned back west leaving the Capitol building behind us, the wind again picked up. Nevertheless, I was so pleased to have passed through the halfway point not only close to my Steamtown time but also a few seconds faster. I decided to fall back a few steps and use the pack again to break the wind. It is rare at my pace that I have a pack to break the wind (not that I am so blazing fast but I have not run enough large marathons where there is a pack running at my pace) so I took advantage of it. I was not the only one as a few other guys trailed the lead women.

Mile 14: 6:36

For about 100 yards, it looked like the women were going to separate themselves from me at last. Then we all fell back in together and again formed quite a phalanx. George Buckheit, the coach of many of the fast women in the area, was running quite a race himself as I was seeing him on the sidelines for what was easily the 4th time of the day. He must have the course and its shortcuts memorized by now.

Mile 15: 6:33

Here Lisa was given a small bottle of water by a friend and after drinking her fill, generously passed it to Alicia and then to me. Even though I had just had a cup of water not too far back, actually being able to squirt the water into my mouth rather than try to drink from a cup did wonders.

I was whetting my whistle in preparation for where the Marine Corps Marathon really begins: Hains Point

Mile 16: 6:30

As we entered this flat but oh so windy portion of the race I braced myself for the inevitable winds. But they did not come. I was ecstatic. Seemingly happy they were not dealing with them either, the girls finally began to pull away from me. I felt like I was moving at the previous pace but I could not keep up with them anymore. I decided to just run my race and hope it was enough. Seeing I ran 5 seconds under my pace at mile 16 was a huge boost for me mentally. What exactly had they ran?

Mile 17: 6:37

Rounding the easternmost part of Hains Point, I passed The Awakening statue for possibly the last time (they may be moving it from its home here to some other place in D.C.; very dumb idea.) Almost immediately, I was pushed into a stand-up straight position from the prevailing wind. Damn it. I was so hoping that this was not going to be an issue. I also was so ticked I hadn’t stayed with the women and used there pacers/windbreakers.

Mile 18: 6:43

I lost a few more seconds on this mile as the winds gusted to and fro. I had been doing math for quite some time and barring a huge collapse, knew I was setting a PR this day. The only question was by how much.

Mile 19: 6:52
The final push out of HP provided the biggest winds. I saw Alicia had fallen off of the pace of the other two women but she was still moving along at a great pace. I was closing slightly and just wanted to stay right there with her. One guy passed me and showing great strength, made up a huge amount of time, directly into the wind. I tried to use him to break the wind but he was both too short and too fast. I did not want to blow it here.

Mile 20: 6:47

Wanting so bad to hit the 20-mile marker at a 2:10, which would give me an outside shot at my dream goal for the race (2:49:49) I was slightly disheartened to hit this area at 2:11 and change. But this still allowed me a great chance at getting a 2:52.

Mile 21: 6:42

Still a little slower than I had hoped for, I felt good as I crossed the 14th Street Bridge. Always a big barrier for me, this desolate, undulating lengthy behemoth can crush many marathon dreams. Mile 21 was at the bottom of the off-ramp and I was ready to crush the last 5 miles. The winds, which had whipped slightly on the bridge, would be negligible soon as the buildings of Crystal City would shield us.

Mile 22: 6:53

Um, hello Buildings of Crystal City?! How the hell were the winds getting through? So strong at one point I actually declared “mother effer” so loud that a Marine manning the station here actually laughed out loud. Stay together and let’s go.

Mile 23: 7:09
Damn. More wind. I was passing runners in small handfuls at this point and knew I was not “slowing down”. I knew if Crystal City was bad, the open parking lot and highways near the Pentagon would be even worse.

I was right.

A woman passed me like I was standing still. I could see she was going to catch Alicia soon and I wanted to yell out to her. It would not have helped.

Mile 24: 7:16

I passed Alicia and told her to fall in behind me and use me to block the wind if she could hold my pace. I did not have the energy to say much more or look behind me to see if she had done so until I went down the last circular off ramp and saw her a few steps behind me.

Mile 25: 7:18

Hitting this last stretch, the wind picked up again. I had been tracking one chap for quite sometime who was blatantly breaking the No Headphones rule of the MCM. So, I decided to use this to my advantage and tuck in behind him to save some energy for one last surge. However, he either heard me or saw my shadow, and seeming to not like this too much, made a direct and abrupt left sidestep. So I took off into the wind.

Seeing the turn we normally made to make the finish was extremely deflating. I was watching a few runners come back towards me on the other side and frantically searching for a familiar face of a runner who I knew was not too far in front of me. Before too long I saw Kristin with Lisa a few seconds behind. Then I realized they were running downhill. Which meant I was going to have to go up a hill to get there. Seriously, explain this portion to me again.

Mile 26: 7:24

One last direct 180-degree turn up a hill and soon I would be in the homestretch. My leg really began to bother me but I only had about four more minutes of running to suffer through. I searched frantically for the 26th mile marker.

Where is the damn mile marker?

Last .2: 1:24
Hitting the last climb to Iwo Jima with the cheers from a handful of friends and scores of strangers (I would later find out via video there was a guy right behind me who I proceeded to leave in the dust on the hill) I gave everything I had. Most of my “A” goals were gone and I was now settling for “B” goals. I wanted so bad to run sub 2:55 and get the automatic NYC qualifier but it wasn’t going to happen.

Striding across the line, I pumped both fists nonetheless and broke my personal best by almost exactly 3 minutes. A 2:55:34 was now in the books.

I accepted my finisher’s medal and paused to thank the Marines handing them out. I told them I wanted to thank them not only for today but also for what they do always. Looking at the medal, which is definitely one of my top 3 favorites ever, I was definitely moved.


This is my fourth straight Marine Corps Marathon and may be my last for a while. While one of my favorites of all time, there are many races out there to taste and only so many more years of my life to taste them. Given my current search for a new vocation, I am not even sure where I will be in a few months. In fact, after my 24-hour national championship race in 3 weeks, I have, for the first time in 4 years, a completely-open running schedule. I have nothing planned, nothing paid for and it may stay that way. Sure I have ideas. I want to do the 55-mile Comrades Marathon in South Africa; I’d like to plan a Titusville (PA)-to-Titusville (NJ)-to-Titusville (FL) run to be completed in 30 days (40 miles per day) and eventually a trans-continental jaunt. But not being a lottery winner or a trust fund baby, those all depend on sponsors (I have none) and a job (I am looking for one).

In the meantime, I will savor this race. But if there is anyone reading this who is aware of someone who’d like to help me complete these dreams, well, you have seen my pictures: I’m all ears.

I mentioned many friends who were running this race. In no particular order, allow me to update their days.

* Christine and Andrew did not have the races there were hoping for, but nonetheless accomplished an enviable goal.
* My friend Natalie, who was expecting very little from this race given a rash of injuries, not only set a personal best but also qualified for Boston.
* Keith Knipling also showed his mettle by getting exactly what he needed, running a 3:10:21.
* Elora’s Dad? Running stride for stride with his son in what might have been his son’s first marathon, they crossed the line in 4:26:23.
* Many of my friends from various online running groups also set milestones. Some were running their first marathon ever, others were recovering from Ironman Triathlons and still others smartly stayed on the sidelines because of injury.
* Kristen ending up winning the first marathon she ever ran, with Lisa just behind in 2nd place. Alicia, in a battle to the finish with a few other girls, placed an extremely impressive 6th (4th, 5th and 6th were a mere 13 seconds apart).

I am sure there are many who I have forgotten in this recap but that doesn’t mean I did not have them in my mind both on race day and beyond. Congrats to all. I hope our running paths cross soon.

Like stats? Check these out (These are all me):

118th place with 20504 finishers behind. Less than 1% of finishers ahead.

115th place with 12456 finishers behind. Less than 1% of finishers ahead.

My Age:
28th place with 1869 finishers behind. About 1% of finishers ahead.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Two more Lake Winni Pics

Can never get enough of a good memory!

The picture here:

was taken by the guy seen taking the picture in front of me here.

This was about 5 seconds before gravity and God laid my body on the gorund for a bit

In the aftermath, Katie and I sat down. She felt really tired and lightheaded and needed pizza and cookies and coke really badly. Wait. No, that was me. Katie looked like she might havd ran 6 miles that day.

But I got to finish the relay so I get to look tired. Next year is her turn!

A Friend's Report of the Green Mountain Marathon

A good friend of mine who I have spoken of before, Rob Toonkel, writes some of the best race recaps out there. Rarely are they recaps of his actual race. His race is almost always an afterthought. Instead, they are yarns of the place he visited and his experiences there. His most recent one was I wanted to share with you. (Keep in mind Rob is the 4th youngest person to ever run a marathon in all 50 states. He also recently sent out an email with all kinds of stats about his marathons and which month he ran his best and on how little rest and on what day which I am going to flat out steal myself.) Enjoy.

A tale of two cities:

I'm going to describe two places to you by their typical weather:

A) Has an average high temperature in mid-to-late-October of 55 degrees and a low of 37. The sun shines less than half of the time, the average daily rainfall is nearly 0.10 inches and it snowed 2.0 inches last year at this time.
B) Has an average high temperature in mid-October of 68 and low of 37. The sun shines 75 percent of the time and average daily rainfall is a minimal 0.03 inches.

Now I'm going to describe what actually happened:

A) The high temperature over three consecutive days was 77, 64 and 72, with lows of 61, 58, and 51. The first day had a daily record rainfall of 1.22 inches, but the last has 67 percent of possible sunshine.
B) The high temperature over three consecutive days was 58, 44, and 59, with daily lows of 42, 38, and 37. It rained more than two-and-three-quarter inches over this span, including a daily record 2.48 inches one day. The percentage of possible sunshine on the middle day was exactly zerro percent (the first day with less than 20 percent sunshine since 06 August and just the second since 05 May)

City "B" is the city where I was told it is "always sunny," a city known as Denver, Colorado. Last Sunday (14 October), I ran a marathon in that 2.48 inch deluge during a weekend where the temperature failed to crack 60 degrees.

City "A" is the place where I was this past weekend, which started out wet, ended gorgeous with temperatures that never dipped below 50 degrees. This wasn't some southern locale. Follow along to a place where I ran my 100th different marathon, a place you'll want to remain: Grand Isle County .

Something Grand…
If you want to go to Grand Isle County , you've first got to find Grand Isle County . To do so, find New York. Then find Vermont. See that place where they are split apart by Lake Champlain? Now follow that little slice of land hanging down from Canada. The portion below the Canadian border is Grand Isle County .

Grand Isle County is everything you'd expect Vermont to be… and more. Black and white spotted cows straight out of a Ben & Jerry's ad on real working farms. Apple orchards and corn fields, again on real working farms. Red barns on green pasture. Dirt and gravel roads lined with majestic trees.

Look to the west and you'll see Lake Champlain with the Adirondacks as a backdrop. Look to the east and you'll again see Lake Champlain, only this time with Mount Mansfield majestically anchoring the Green Mountains. Everything is quaint, from the gas stations to the post offices to the country store to the Grand Isle County Courthouse.

But you won't find everything here. Starbucks? Not a single one in Grand Isle County. Applebees? No. CVS ? No. McDonalds? No. Wal-Mart? Don't even ask. Forget the cheap t-shirts and knicknacks too. If you want those, go to Ocean City or Myrtle Beach . Because you just won't find them in this little slice of paradise.

Little is an understatement when it comes to Grand Isle County . At just 83 square miles, it is the dwarf of Vermont counties. With just 6,901 people, it the least populous county north of Maryland, even though its population has doubled since 1970. (As a comparison, Kings County, N.Y. – which you may be more familiar with as "Brooklyn" – has 2.4 million people in 71 square miles).

Grand Isle County has endured an interesting history. At one time, the land was claimed by Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York. In 1764, the boundary of New York and New Hampshire was set along the Connecticut River , leaving all of Vermont in New York's hands, as part of Albany County. In 1772, it was split off from Albany County and became Charlotte County, N.Y.

Vermont claimed independence. New York and Massachusetts shrugged at this announcement. In 1783, the Treaty of Paris set the U.S. – Canadian border at 45 degrees north latitude, officially placing this icicle from Canada in U.S. hands. Not until 1786 did Massachusetts relinquish its claim to Vermont. It took New York until 1788 to give up Vermont, and then only by order of the United States Congress.

So how do you get to a place that's physically connected to Canada without crossing the border? Yes, there is a bridge from Burlington, but the simplest way to do so is to take the Adirondack Northway (the name for I-87 north of Albany) to Plattsburgh, and then take a 12-minute ferry ride across the lake. This ferry runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, although as the website ( notes, "departure times may vary due to wind, ice conditions or traffic." A picture of the ferry is here:

Ups and Downs
The days leading up to the race were not filled with anticipation, however. In many ways, they were filled with dread. That's because the forecast wasn't rosy. As the weekend got closer, the predicted weekend weather continued to worsen – from a 20 percent chance of showers on Saturday (race) morning to a 30 percent chance to a 40 percent chance, and so on. By Thursday night, the forecast for Saturday morning had become, "periods of showers and thunderstorms, some of the storms could produce gusty winds. Chance of precipitation is 80 percent."

Running one marathon in the rain is tough. Running marathons on back to back weekends in the rain is the stuff that misery is made of. Given the forecast, it came as no surprise that it began pouring Friday night. Pouring might have been an understatement. You could hear the rain pounding on the roof of the adorable bed and breakfast where I stayed (more on this 165 year old farmhouse here: All I could hope was that it would rain itself out.

Running Weather (or not)…
Race day of the Green Mountain Marathon dawns, and two things are obvious. First, it's not pouring. It's not even raining. Second, it's not cold. Sure, it was gray, and there may have been some fine drizzle in the air from time to time, but the weather is more May or September than late October. It's 60 degrees. In October. In Vermont.

The course is a out-and-back (meaning you run to the halfway point, then turn around), beginning and ending at the local and adorable elementary school. What else can I say about the course? Well, it is half on dirt, half on pavement. It follows mostly rural roads. The lake is almost always visible to one side. And to the other side is some scene – a small, cute house set into the trees, a farm ringed by a white rail fence, an apple orchard – that makes you imagine the way things should be. It was that gorgeous.

But I haven't even begun to describe the leaves. You see, peak season for foliage in northern Vermont should have been two weeks ago. But when the temperatures refused to cool down, the trees refused to turn on their brilliant show. So the peak came late.

I'm not sure any pictures would do it justice. You can not re-create this scene using technological means. In some places, it was as if certain trees were picked to be certain shades. In other cases, it was as if someone had simply tossed paint at random. It was that kind of perfection.

Since everyone could use a little slice of Vermont, look at these pictures:

After the race, the refreshments were so distinctly Vermont, it was as if the race was crawling into my soul. Last week in the much-ballyhooed Denver race, finishers were treated (?) to a power bar and a stale bagel. That may be Colorado's way of treating visitors. It isn't Vermont's. Inside the adorable elementary school gym, tired runners were offered fresh Vermont apples, fresh cider donuts (if you don't know what a cider donut is, you're missing one of the best things in life), and unpasteurized apple cider, complete with sign warning that children and the elderly should not drink it because of the possibility of harmful bacteria. If you've never had fresh unpasteurized apple cider, I will describe it to you this way… forget it, I can't. Just imagine heaven in a glass. I happened to have four.

The fresh Vermont apples were so delicious that I wound up buying ten pounds of them at the orchard that was located just beyond the school. Six pounds made it back to D.C., and you can smell them from fifteen feet away. I may never be able to eat a months-old, cold-stored, grocery-produce-section apple again. Like Vermont itself, there is no comparison.

By Saturday night, all the clouds had given way to a canopy of stars and the sound of the lake lapping lightly at the shore. The clouds had completely cleared by Sunday morning, leaving a blissful blue sky and temperatures that sang late June much more than they did late October. I need not expand on the scene coming south down the Adirondack Northway. Let's just say glistening peak foliage and leave it there, because it just doesn't seem fair to gloat any further.

…I suppose you might be interested in the results of the actual race. As you might expect, it's kind of hard not to be exhilarated by the scenes described above. I can't say whether it was the cleanliness of the air, the sight of the lake, the smell of autumn with the feel of summer, the sound of geese in their patented v-formation, the rustling of the leaves, the mooing of the cows or the foliage that drew your attention and made you want to come closer… It might have been all of those and it might have been none of those, but the result was this – six days after running in the rain in Denver, I finished my second marathon of the week in 3:28:43, my sixth best time ever (out of 113).

I just so happened to look at the upcoming forecast for Grand Isle County . Tucked into the predictions for the coming weekend – "chance of rain or snow."

Wishing you a very Vermont (that is to say, "ideal and perfect") day.