Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Down to the nitty gritty

In 67 hours I will be beginning my first 100 mile race. Nervous? A little bit. More anxious than anything. Anxious to see what the weather will be like (it has taken a turn for the worse ion the past few days with the projected highs hiking up from 75 to 88), anxious to see what the course will be like and anxious to see if my training was enough.

I think few people “enjoy” running long-distance races like marathons and the like. Follow me here. Given the amount of energy one must expend, the pain and muscle fatigue a runner must go through, I do not think that during the 26.2 miles (or 50k, or 100 miles or what have you) that you are enjoying the effort. And akin to what I heard someone once say to people who read magazines when they are on a treadmill, “If you can do that, you aren’t working hard enough”. And if you can enjoy the race in the middle of the race, well, chances are you aren’t running hard enough either.

Sure, glimpses of beautiful scenery are wonderful, as are cheering fans, or a babbling brook or any other bit of nature or landmark in a city that you love. But those glimpses are fleeting. You pass Heartbreak Hill or the deer that goes bounding by you or that gorgeous vista in South Dakota and it is back to the race. Back to pushing yourself to excel.

What I DO think that people enjoy is having DONE a race. The sense of accomplishment when you are finished is the elixir that brings us back. Being able to STOP running, assess what you just accomplished and then begin planning your next race and thinking about how you can improve is the hook for most runners.

So, when people ask me why I want to do a 100 mile race, I tell them I do not. I tell them I want to see if I can do it. I also want to see what it feels like to do something I have never done before. And when I am done, I will want to see what it feels like to run it faster. Or run it somewhere else in the country. Or what it feels like on A Sunday rather than a Saturday.

My OD 100 follows two days after my birthday. No longer a 30-year old, I am now 30-something. The present I have given to myself is the gift of a challenge. With my two good friends, Christine and Katie crewing for me, I feel this will be a challenge I meet head on and will succeed.

I could also crash and burn at mile 86. And I can definitely tell you that is something I do not want to do.

Friday, May 25, 2007

One week

One week to go until my first 100 miler. One week until the unplanned experiment will reveal whether one can run 100 miles in under 20 hours without having run more than 21 miles in training.

Of course, as I have said, the vast majority of this year has been training of some sort. From the tough 50k to running on jetlag in Korea to dodging crowds in Frederick, I have been training for races. I doubt anyone else's training plan for this 100 consisted of doing 10 x 400 at the track 2 weeks before the race though!

I am geting excited. If you know me, you know I rarely get excited until an event happens. Why? Because the let down of something NOT happening far outweighs the excitement I may allow myself to have prior to its happening. So, I balance it out in order to stay even-keeled. Yet, for this race, I am getting excited. It is uncharted territory for me. I have run a 50 miler and have run for 12 hours before but nothing this long in distance or over this long of a period of time.

But I think my experiences have prepared me for it. I am eagar to see what I can do. My goal is to run under 20 hours. Everything else is gravy.

currently the weather for race day calls for the possiblity of rain. That isn't too bad. could make the trail running a little treacherous but what is wonderful is that it only says there will be a high of 72 degrees. Sweet fancy moses if that stays true I will be uber happy. If I could find the umlaut I would have put it over "uber' that is how happy I am with that forecast.

I have a 15 mile run tomorrow and Sunday. My last two runs of any siginifcant size. then it is coasting away until I head down to Woodstock. Look out OD 100!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Big Ahi

My good friend, Todd, aka Big Ahi, will be racing in the half Ironman in Hawaii in 10 days (Or Ironman 70.3 is what they might like to call it.)

Besides being a generally all-around nice guy, Todd also helped me beyond words last year when I ran the SEAFAIR Marathon in Bellevue, WA. In case you don't have my marathoning timeline memorized, this was the marathon that followed Leadville. (If you don't know what Leadville is, go run it). I would have been hard pressed to be more exhausted and in need of some assistance and Todd took care of everything. Ride to/from the airport, shuttling me around all weekend and many more things including doing some of the worst trashing-talking ever at the end of my race (Click here)

It was a great weekend as Todd gave me a tour of Seattle and very serendipidously, I got to see my friend Devon, a Seattle native, in a movie in some small artsy theatre in some small artsy section of town.

This was also the weekend I got hooked up with my sports massage therapist Terrel Hale who kept me on my feet the latter part of the year. If you are in the greater DC area, you have got to check him out. He works wonders. This is not the darkened lights, water flowing, Zen-like massages but rather the massages that get a man up and going for a marathon every single weekend.

Also, Todd and I got to sit back and eat dinner while my best friend Anne, who unbeknownst to her, entertained us for a good fifteen minutes from 3,000 miles away. How is that? Well, somehow her speaker phone got turned on and Todd and I sat eating pizza in a restaurant while Anne and about 6 of her girlfriends dished about love, life, and sex whilst in the midst of some wine party or whatnot. Anne, well, is not really "quiet" per se, so the vast majority of the people around us were quite entertained as well.

Todd is joining me in a team I put together to run the Northwest Passage Relay as well at the end of July where he will again play host to me and a few other friends before we join the rest of our team to run 189 miles in hopefully less than a day. But I did not put the team together to win but rather to have fun. So, I hand-selected good runners who are, more importantly, good people.

Who was one of the very first people who came to mind? Todd. One kickass dude in a world in a serious kick ass due shortage.

So go wish Todd good luck on this, as well as our race, and even later in the year when he takes on a FULL Ironman in Canada.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Old Dominion 100

I have begun training for my 100 miler (the Old Dominion 100 Mile Run). It is in two weeks. Whoops.

Honestly, I do not feel like I am all that far behind. I mean, ideally, I would have started 3 months ago and logged hundreds of hard miles, running in dark, on rocky terrain, etc. But I have not done things ideally. That does not mean I am taking this race lightly either, mind you. If I did not feel I had done enough to run this race I would not endanger my health. Like with Fiddy2, I know what Iam capable of doing and time proves me right and then some.

This weekend, I ran 21 miles (my longest non-race run ever) on Saturday and 15 miles on Sunday. I wanted to do 20 miles on Sunday but I got bored and went home. I did not think the extra 5 miles would mean much at this juncture. You see, the reason I am not too worried abut my training is I think I have a higher base mileage than a majority of others based on not only last year but the races I have done this year. In addition, apparently I have also been blessed with the ability of quick recovery. So given my hard work from last year, the tough miles I have put in already this year in race conditions and genetics, I think I will be fine. Especially since I am doing everything I can to make sure I run a smart race.

I wish to do well and hopefully finish high but I also know all I want to do is “buckle”. For non-100 mile runners, this term refers to completing a race (usually of the 100 mile variety) in less than the prescribed time. In my case, it is 24 hours.

Having just had a friend complete the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 where the time to buckle is 36 hours, I feel like my race will be a breeze. As long as the temps stay decent, I should be a-ok. My goal is to average 12 minute miles which will put me exactly at 20 hours for the day. IF I go one second fast I will have run 100 miles in one day (the race starts at 4 AM on Saturday morning). That is my main goal. The buckle part is something that I just assume will happen.

I could be wrong. I could be greatly overestimating my training and my skills. But I guess I will learn the hard way on that one. Let’s hope not.

Congrats to Nattu for his stellar finish yesterday. In his days leading up to the Badwater 135, he used this as a training run. Ridiculous huh? Way to go Nattu!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Taking a break

I posted a few weeks back how I had realized I was about to run for 5 straight days for the first time in lord knows how long. Well, I just noticed last night when filling out my running log that I had run for 7 straight, completely inadvertently. Chances are pretty good I will run again today.

This is hardly even worth noting to some people. Why? Well, I actually am friends with a guy who claims to not have missed a day of running since 1977 or something odd like that. Heck there is even a club for it, called United States Running Streak Association, Inc.

There appears to be very simple criteria to join this club.

1. A running streak is defined by USRSA as running at least one continuous mile within each calendar day under one's own body power (without the utilization of any type of health or mechanical aid other than prosthetic devices).
2. Ownership of a running streak, either active or retired, entitles you to a USRSA membership. Once that streak reaches a year in duration you then qualify for USRSA listing of your streak.

And that's it. Do that and you are in. But why?

I often was asked "but why?" during Fiddy2 last year and I had a litany of answers at hand. Even more so, I understand the "but why?"s most athletes get when they push themselves past the threshold of seeming common sense. Heck, I am running my first 100 mile race in 2 weeks. I also want to run Badwater someday. I plan on completing an Ironaman triathlon in the near future. In addition, I am hoping to compete in lots of events that make people say "But why?"

But I do not get this "streak" thing.

As Fiddy2 developed last year, and I realized that if I was going to stay true blue to the idea of running an actual marathon every weekend (i.e., a certified course) I could not, if push came to shove, simply run on a treadmill, or double up on a race course somewhere. This was the rule I set down and I am proud to say I never wavered from it. (I would like to think that is what earned me some credibility in the running ranks.) This rule came about when I looked at the 2006 running schedule and saw many holes and places where remote or difficult marathons might make me miss a week (e.g., Leadville).

I say this because of the truth factor. Let me clarify. Runners, or at least those I have met, are some of the most truthful when it comes to what they have run. They will bemoan injuries before a race, or complain about conditions during a race to justify a time they do not think is their best, but when it comes to how far they ran or if they actually did run, I do not know many who would lie. (There are exceptions and some scoundrels out there if they spontaneously combusted I wouldn't piss on to put out the flames, but that is neither here nor there.)

That said, I do not get the point of an organization that relies solely on the veracity of their members' statements for inclusion. Perhaps I am too much of a stickler for needing to be able to prove one's claims or maybe I should not be looking to deeply into this club's reason for existing. But, it is my nature and that is what I do.

I guess my main reservation comes from the fact that I do not think that running every single day is good for you. And therefore, the promotion of such streaks is invariably a bad idea. Then again, if all you need to do is keep the streak alive is run one single mile chances are you are not doing much damage to your body anyway.

Apparently, however, none of these people have ever taken a long trip where they could not run because of logistics. (e.g., Once, for work, I was on a plane for 21.5 hours, including an emergency detour to get a sick passenger off the plane where we idled on the tarmac for 90 minutes. That left precious little time to get in that one mile run. And running through customs sometimes sends a very bad signal.)

But I guess the promotion of physical fitness, in whatever form is, good. I simply cringe when I think of things which may IMPEDE us from exercising. Not unlike when I see someone running with awful form or improper footwear, I think that running every day may push someone to the point where they never want to run again. Or, I see it is a by-product of some people who have bulimia or anorexia or are so obsessive with exercise that is it completely detrimental to their overall health and the reason why they should be exercising in the first place.

Me, well, I think breaks are necessary (and I might have just convinced myself to take one tonight.) Perhaps one mile is not too much to do even on a "break" day. And no one said that the miles have to be fast. But I think it is OK to stop every now and again. But kudos to those who have done so. I guess I just won't be impressed. Then again, they probably don't care one lick if I am impressed.

At least I have a reason for trying to cram in a lot of runs in a short period of time. With my 100 mile race quickly approaching, I know I have not trained nearly enough for this race. Actually, I haven't trained at all for THIS race. I have run marathons and done speed work and have a base few people have but I have not targeted this race specifically. I am trying to remedy that. I am trying to run while tired because I sure as heck will be doing so in two weeks. So, I have a reason. I need to crank out some miles. (Which makes me wonder if any of these streakers have ever done an ultra. If so, how fast was that mile the day after a 100 mile race?)


I am currently still deciding which way I fall on the new Reebok slogan "Go Run Easy". Chances are I will come to the same conclusion as above. I am happy people are exercising but "staying fit how you see fit" usually doesn't coincide with "running easy" in my book.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Battle of the Boulevard 10k Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 8th Edition

171.2 miles raced in 2007
Race: Battle of the Boulevard 10k
Place: Arlington, VA
Miles from home: .8
Course Difficulty: 8.5 out of 10
Course Enjoyability: 3 out of 10
Weather: 60s;
Finishers' Medal: N/A

When my friend told me about this first time 10k being run just a week after I had run back to back marathons I gave it some thought but not seriously. I had not run a 10k in over three years and wondered if I would be in any shape to try this distance. As I have told many people, I think the 10k is a tough race. One cannot give it the full all-out sprint they would a 5k but it is far too short to pace yourself. It is a tough distance. But, being that my goal this year is to set a PR in every distance, I figured it is hard to pass up an opportunity to run a race within walking distance of my house!

The Course:

What can I say about this course other than it was a toughie. Even though I knew the exact streets that the race would be run on and have driven them many times, I had never run them on foot.

As you can see from the elevation profile below, the first mile and change were on a steep downhill. You run through some of the shopping areas of an area of Arlington called Clarendon then onto the neighborhood of Courthouse. The middle two miles begin in Rosslyn, with the Marine Corps Memorial (Iwo Jima) about two blocks to your right. You then traverse a highway which is completely blocked off and is quite non-descript. Hitting the turn-around 5k point at some completely random place in the road you make a turn around a cone and head back the way you came. You can only guess that the hill at the end was no fun whatsoever.

My Race:

First mile:

I had a fairly good idea of what I could run a 10k, even though I had not been training for this sort of speedwork whatsoever. I was shocked to learn in the weeks leading up to the race that my 10k PR was only a 38:49. I knew I had only run a handful of 10ks when I lived in Erie but I could have sworn I had run faster. Oh well. Should be easy to set a new PR today, I thought.
A very large crowd showed up for this race, as crowds are wont to do for inaugural races. But together with "Neighborhood Days" in Arlington, there was also a 2k, a parade later on and a slew of other events. It seems counter-intuitive at first but I do not know all that much about the neighborhood just a mile away from me. I can tell you about some of the finer restaurants in Juneau, Alaska and where to swim with the stingrays in Grand Cayman but some of the niceties of my backyard escape me. So this little show of local camaraderie was not only quite fun for me but actually pleased me. With nearly 1,400 finishers for the 10k you can imagine how packed the little area was.

After a few words from local government officials and the owner of the Pacers store which put on the days running events, the gun sounded and we were off. With the first hill going nothing but downhill, I hoped to bank a little time here in order to make up for the eventual slowdown on the way home. Usually not a believer in "banking time" in a marathon, I hoped this shorter distance would contain different results. After about a quarter of a mile, I realized I was still right behind the leaders and knew that was too fast. Even slowing down I crossed the first mile in 5:20 or so. Whoops!

Middle miles:

My second mile was a much more reasonable 5:53 but my third mile, right before the 5k mark (obviously), troubled me. Running a 6:17, which was WAY slower than I wanted to at this point, threw me off. Sure there was a slight uphill on this mile but well, crap. I hit the 5k turnaround at 18:09, or 13 seconds faster than I ran JUST the 5k last week. This bodes well for me breaking my 5k PR later this year, I thought.

Turning back down the highway from whence we just came, I could see hordes of runners coming at me. It was awesome to see not only my friend Katie who was visiting the area from north Carolina but also slews of other people that I rarely get to see locally run because I am usually in Seoul or Texas when all the local races are being run here.

With three women ahead of me I decided to see if I could hold mile four steady and then track them down by the end of the race. However, with my fourth mile clocking in at another disappointingly slow 6:21, I could only attempt to make myself feel better about by persuading myself that my legs had intentionally saved up energy for the last big hills.

Last 2.2 miles:

Oy. I swear they had the hill on a jack and whatever it was we ran down, they hiked up a few more notches on the way back. Talk about a momentum and spirit crusher when you are trying to run fast!
Mile 5 took me 6:53 and I saw all chances of a low 37 minute 10k vanish. Even though the last mile was slightly less hilly, a 6:34 crushed my hopes of even a 37 minute whatever time. Now I just had to make sure I set a new PR.


With a 1:10 last .2 of a mile I was lucky enough to pass a few people, while never catching any of the three females in front of me (came close to one though!). I did, however, save just enough energy to set a new PR by 13 seconds as I crossed the finish line 36th overall in a time of 38:36. (Annie was kind enough to stop by for just a few minutes on her way to crush some tennis balls in order to catch this quick clip of me finishing here:

This was not the time I was hoping for but given the difficulty of the course I am pretty sure I have a shot at a 36-minute 10k time this year. This is hardly a time which will set the world afire (heck that might not event make its toes toasty) but I will be pleased with it.

Congrats goes out to Katie, Diana, Megan, James, Devon, Katharine, Adi, John, Bruce and a slew of other friends who made the run that day. Way to conquer the hill on a beautiful day in Arlington. Virginia is for Runners!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Frederick Marathon (and 5k)

Frederick Marathon (and 5k)
A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 7th Edition
165 miles raced in 2007
Race: Frederick Marathon (and 5k)
Place: Frederick, MD
Miles from home: 49
Course Difficulty: 5.5 out of 10
Course Enjoyability: 7 out of 10
Weather: 50-60s; swirling winds
Finishers' Medal: 8 out of 10 Donations To Date: ~41k

I had little reason to believe this marathon would be anything but a fun run even (given various circumstances, some you know, some you do not) though I knew I would, as always, give it my all. Luckily, I know races put on by the Frederick Marathon people are always good events.

As you may have known, this was the race where I would be participating as a Charity Chaser. Basically, I would start as the absolute last person to cross the start line and for every runner who I beat to the finish, Ferris Baker Watts would not only give a donation to the United Way of Frederick but also to my own charity, L’Arche Mobile. This idea came about in talks with the race directors of the Frederick Marathon, Rachel Ridgway and Larry Herman. Two nicer people would be hard to come across. I cannot say enough good things about them, both as humans and as runners and race directors.

So I arrived in Frederick the day before the race and was treated just as well as I had been one week earlier when I arrived in Seoul. I am still getting used to this “elite” treatment and don’t think I ever will. Nevertheless, I accepted it graciously. While milling around and conversing I saw someone signing up for the 5k to be held Saturday night the night before the race. I turned towards Rachel and said, “Hey, can I do that?” She said sure and before Christine (my travel partner for the weekend and who was also running the marathon as well) could protest, I was signed up. What the heck, I thought. It had been over a year and a half since I had run 5k but I was itching to at least give it a try. So, I went home, rested up for a little bit, donned my race gear earlier than expected and headed back down to the Frederick Keys baseball stadium.

The 5k:

While the race directions were being given, the big inflatable stating line came crashing down (video of it can be seen HERE.) With complete poise, Rachel looked at it and said, “Don’t worry.” Within thirty seconds, the gate was blown back up and no one would have known a thing if they had not seen it.

Before the start of the 5k, I had promised Christine, who was looking out for my well-being, to run no faster than an 18:59. I wanted to run a nice even pace to get my legs warmed up and also wanted to have a respectable time. It had been years since I ran a “fast” 5k and one of my goals this year is to break my PR in every distance. So this race would be a barometer of how well I could do, in a reserved manner. Heck, I had a marathon the next day to run! Christine knew I was exhausted from my trip to Seoul plus a taxing week at work so I appreciated her concern.

When the gun went off I figured I would finish in the top ten or so and planned on that. Before a mile had gone by I could see I could do better. Much better.

With a quick sprint down the parking lot and across the street, we had two laps in a local cemetery, then back across the street. Following the warning track of the Frederick Keys baseball stadium from right field to left, we finished on the third base line. I am so glad I did this 5k as the previous year the marathon came in at right field and made a direct beeline down the first-base line. Few things are worse than thinking you are going to be done and realizing there is another 200 yards or so. So, now I knew that the end of the marathon would be the same way, which made my decision to run the 5k wise.

What probably was not wise was finishing second overall in a time of 18:22. Whoops! Christine just shook her head. I got a kick out of it.

The Marathon:

If you read my recap last year, I had expressed some wariness over the Frederick Marathon course which appeared to have about 87 turns in it. Normally, I would not have been too bothered by this (being a relative novice and all) but the previous week I had not been directed the correct way (or simply missed a turn) and had ended up running longer than I needed to in order to finish. So the puzzle-like course appeared to be a recipe for disaster. I was glad to be wrong. In fact, the direct quote from my recap last year was:

“A great course that was well marked (a little trepidation on my part after seeing the seemingly complex route map) and extremely well staffed (race volunteers had shirts that said: "OBEY ME" emblazoned on the front; there was no mistaking where you needed to go)”

Well, nothing changed this year except the color of the OBEY ME shirts (red to blue), and in spite of a few differences in the course, almost everything else was even better.

The Course:

The Frederick Marathon course is not easy. It is most assuredly not hard either. It contains many rolling hills but rarely are those hills difficult and are often encountered after long stretches of straight flat running where the opportunity to work some different muscles is welcome. I have long felt that an entirely flat course does not lend itself to being the fastest. Again, I am no sports exercise medical type person (that is the correct term, right?) but that is what I have found through the running of 68 marathons. By continuing to use the exact same muscles with no deviation, it does not take a PhD. to figure out those muscles will get extremely tired, while others, which are not used, could provide relief. So the rolling hills of this race are exactly that without being too taxing.

The course begins in nearly the exact same place as the 5k; right outside the Frederick Keys Minor League baseball stadium, which, as I mentioned before, is also where you finish the race. You run through the parking lot, and make a loop outside of the stadium. You then begin winding through some scenic little parts of downtown Frederick with its quaint narrow streets and shops on either side, all of which looked family owned and decades old.

A twist and a turn here, and a loop into some neighborhood there and around mile 10.5 you get a chance to see runners behind you around mile 7.5. With a few of those rolling hills thrown in you get to both feel a little bit of fatigue going up, but elation going down as the marathon gives back just as much as it takes, if not more.

Through the halfway point the half-marathoners peel off and it gets a little more desolate for a few miles as you run near the Frederick High School and then into the beautifully somber Mt. Olivet Cemetery (where Francis Scott Key is buried). This quiet is broken as you emerge on the other side, right next to the stadium where you started, which also happens to be mile 17. A little bit of a tease at this point since you still have 9 miles to go, this leg allows spectators to gather and cheer as you pass by without moving far from the start/finish at all.

The loneliest part of the marathon begins here where the runners are fewer between than before and the crowds are far more sparse. Runners travel through some back roads near open fields and along some highways. Traffic is blocked off so you needn’t worry about breathing fumes or cars zooming by but somehow some hardy spectators still were able to make it out to cheer runners on.

A few more hills at the end, which would not be all that bad if not for something I will tell you soon (as it has nothing to do with the “course”), lead you to the last turn before you go up, down ,up, down two overpasses, around a bend, through a parking lot and then into the Stadium. A cheering crowd and a wonderful announcer who tries to grab as many names as he can from runner’s bib numbers welcomes you as you circle the warning track. A really nice race through and through course-wise.

My Race:

First 4 miles:

Standing still when the gun went off was one of the weirdest things I have experienced. Still wearing my sweatshirt which declared I was the “Charity Chase” (the weather was chillier than predicted; MUCH to our happiness), I did not even begin to think about taking it off for about two minutes, as hordes of people streamed by. Finally, I peeled it off to feel the brisk morning air and handed it to Robin, the wonderful person with Ferris Baker Watts who had been my personal liaison for the past day. I had just enough time to high-five Christine as she ran by to begin her marathon before I was pulled aside to be part of a quick photo for someone who wanted me holding the sweatshirt. Just got a race to do behind me, but ok!

Christine was coming back from an injury about a year ago as well as trying to erase some Frederick Marathon demons. You see, her first marathon ever was here at Frederick when it was held in March a few years back. Here in the greater DC area, even in March, you do not expect to get hit with what they did that morning: a freak snow storm! The funny thing is, a week earlier, when she had been part of the now-defunct D.C. Marathon (which folded a week before it was supposed to be run), the weather was perfect for a marathon. So she was here after running through the streets of New York in November simply enjoying the race (and darn near breaking her PR) to give it all she could. She had expressed some concern about her training but I knew she was far better off than she thought.

So finally, three minutes and 18 seconds after the gun went off, with the police car who was supposed to bring up the rear looking at me as if to say: “You gonna go?” (I wanted to wait a few more seconds to let the runners clear out a smidgen so I would not be caught in the congestion), I was off.

My goodness. That’s about all I can say. Weaving and bobbing, running on the grass, sidewalks, and curbs, I tried to pick my way through the masses at the end of the pack. I have only experienced “pack running” about three times in a marathon previously (Marine Corps in 2004, Boston in 2005 and New York last fall) and that never lasted more than a few hundred yards. However, this race took me nearly 3 miles of running to get clear of a bulk of the runners. In the meantime, I received lots of “Waytogo”s and “Do I get my $2 back if I pass you?” as I weaved through the crowd.

To be honest, I had an idea of setting a personal best myself but that quickly evaporated as I knew it would be very hard given the extra energy I was expending picking my way through lots of runners. I then decided to just enjoy it and start seeing each runner in front of me as a dollar sign.

Mile 10.5:

As I mentioned, if you were a few miles in front of friends you knew you would have a good chance of seeing them at this straightaway where runners passed each other on either side of the road. As luck would have it, even though she said she saw me as I passed by in the initial three miles, I got to see Christine for the first time here. She looked good. I was extremely pleased. I think I wanted her to do well more than I wanted for myself. For people who only run a few marathons a year, the importance and success/failure of one race weigh greater than with those constant ‘thoners like me. For example, Seoul was tough but I knew I had a chance of redemption 6 days later.

By this point, I had passed a vast majority of the people I would pass on the day and it was just a matter of maintaining pace and picking people off here and there. I was mostly running with half-marathoners and relay people but I used them as motivation to keep me going strong.

Mile 17:

After seeing my friend Mike Wardian pushing a stroller with his son inside (he was going for the World Record for fastest marathon pushing a stroller) as well as a girl running in a bikini (yep, a string bikini) I knew I was going to have not too many more people to pass. As it ends up, the girl in the bikini was a young girl of 23 named Jenn Shelton who is just a flat out AMAZING runner. She would finish in 2:53, beating the next female by nearly 18 minutes. We spoke after the race where she and, what I presume is her boyfriend Billy (who finished 4th overall with a 2:47) chatted for quite sometime. I did some research on both when I got home to supplement what we had talked about, and this 23 year old pair’s tenacity on the ultramarathon courses is in stark contrast to their wonderful genial nature and easy smiles. So glad I had a chance to meet them. (A quick search showed me Jenn ran a sub 15 hour 100 mile race at Rocky Raccoon last year. In contrast, in my first 100 miler this June I hope to break 20 hours…just barely! You can see I am not even giving these two the credit they deserve.)

After the jaunt through the high school area, we passed through another shopping district and into the cemetery. The aforementioned sereneness overtook me and even though a mile back I felt tired I was rejuvenated here. Popping out near the stadium to cheering crowds brought me back to reality and invigorated me even more. I passed a pack of five runners and chased down one girl who I knew was in the relay. I just wanted to beat her to her hand-off person. Mission accomplished, I focused on the remaining 9 miles.

Mile 22:

This next span of miles was wonderful. I began to pick off a few runners here and there and was beginning to quicken my pace. ( did the timing and it was very thorough. For example, we received split times for each one of the relay stations. For the first 6.4 miles my pace was 6:58 per mile; from there to the halfway point I ran a 6:46 average; and my average mile time from the half-way point to the 17.4 mile mark was 6:45. You can see I was not lying when I said I felt that I was picking up!)

I did not tell you my average for the last 8 plus miles for a reason. You see, I have yet to mention the swirling wind that surrounded us all day; I did not want anyone to think that it was part of the “course”. Having run this race last year with little to no wind, the course cannot be blamed for some freaky conditions such as wind out of nowhere. In fact, for the first few miles after 17 it was helpful, or at the very least, not ALL that bothersome. Sure, we had some headwind and some swirling conditions (both Christine and I commented on how we were glad we wore sunglasses if only for the reason that it blocked the flowing debris) but it was not much of a hindrance until later. How bad?

As I turned the corner at the mile 22 marker, I still had a chance to set a new PR and go sub-3. A 2:55 was out of the question and has become quite elusive lately but I knew I had a sub-3 in me. I had been running faster and faster (as shown by my splits above) and I felt strong. In fact, I inwardly commented on how strong I felt so late in the game. With a relatively flat finish I knew I had a lot left in the tank to make that push. But then the wind happened.

I checked the weather reports and during the finish of the marathon winds were blowing in our faces at a sustained 21 mph. I can tell you right now that the assessment of the winds was 100% accurate and included gusts approaching, if not exceeding, 35mph. I am talking the stand-you-straight-up kind of wind. And I am 180 lbs. Even with my ears it takes a lot of wind to knock me back. But knock me back it did. As I am counting on you to not be able to do the math quick enough for me to finish this recap in order to get my finish time (although some of my sneakier friends have cheated and looked anyway) I will tell you those 6:40s turned into 7:40s and beyond. Even though the first four miles from 17.4 were flying, the wind flat out took its toll from mile 22 to almost the finish. My average mile for that stretch? 7:19.

The one saving grace was one of the main things I have advocated for every marathon since I started running and the Frederick Marathon did it both last year and this year. I am talking about water and Gatorade EVERY MILE the last 10k. It is impossible to describe to non-marathoners how important a well-hydrated course in the last 6 miles is. Sure liquid and all is important throughout the race, but as any marathoner knows, the race begins at 20 miles. And the Frederick Marathon knows that and handles it perfectly. This is just amazing to me that it is not done more often.

Even though my salt-encrusted shirt would say I needed more than I took, I still knew that not only was the liquid going to be there, but so would the small cheering station of volunteers who mans those stations. The combination of cheers and liquid made even the worst winds palatable.

So while my time slipped away, I was able to do my very best to keep on and pass one or two more people.


With about ¾ mile to go I got passed by the first person to pass me all day. I was ticked. Earlier in the race, one of the guys I had passed had decided to draft off of me (meaning he was using me to break the wind for him), which made me think: “Seriously? You are going to draft off of the Charity Chaser?” It took me a few minutes to shake him but I did eventually. Other than him, no one I passed mounted any threat to overtake me whatsoever. But here, this guy had come from nowhere to fly by me.

Over the last two overpasses we went and I kept him in my sights the whole time. I hadn’t looked at my watch in minutes on end. I just wanted to beat this guy. Down through the parking lot and into the stadium we went. I was about 10 yards behind him but I could not close the gap. Around the warning track we went and I could feel I was gaining ever so slightly but did not know if I had enough race distance left. Turning at the outfield and down the third base line we went. I finally knew I had him.

As the finish line photo will show (and this will be one I am sure I will buy), I beat him by abut two feet. Or two more dollars from the sponsor. I crossed the line in 3:03:22, which was good enough for my third fastest time ever. I was quite pleased.

With a cheering crowd reacting to both this duel and the words of the announcer telling them I had passed hundreds of people and therefore raised hundreds of dollars for not only L’Arche Mobile but also the United Way of Frederick, I was beaming. I was also sore. And I had unfinished business. So I got a quick massage, grabbed a bottle of water and headed back onto the course. For I had told Christine that if I could, I would run back out and try to help her finish.

As I walked off the soreness (“running” right now was not in the cards) and cheered everyone else coming into the finish, my mind went back to the last mile where I had seen Christine. She looked so strong and, by my calculations, WAY ahead of her best time ever. I knew she had a few miles to go and I simply did not have the heart (or the energy) to tell her about the winds she would be encountering soon. All I could do was hope she weathered them well and pray they did not take too much out of her.

I walked over the two overpasses and before I knew it, there she was. I looked at my watch and thought: “No way!” I ran down to her and trying to block the swirling wind as much as I could (with little success) and began to pace her back to the finish. Or, get in her way, the choice is yours (one time she put a hand on my back and said: Run faster!”). Picking up another girl named Erin we had a little train going. Erin had a friend on a bike coaching her along as well so we motored along. We all began cheering for each other. Back down the hill through the parking lot and into the stadium we went. I left a smiling Christine as we both knew she was going to PR. By how much was the only question remaining.

As she finished on the third base line, she raised her hands and smiled a smile which could be seen by me on the other side. She had set a personal best by nearly THIRTEEN MINUTES!! Lord knows what she would have done if not for that wind!

So as you can see, I had a good race weekend. I spoke with Larry and Rachel after the race and said the only thing I would change would be the last few miles. As the course runs in open fields it lends itself to being subject to the weather far worse than it could if run next to buildings or a tree line. But that was my only complaint. Wonderful, friendly volunteers; an excellent race atmosphere from top to bottom; fan-friendly viewing stations (without moving more than a few feet you can see people at the start, 17 mile mark, and finish); a decently hard but not too hard course and wonderful amenities abound make the Frederick Marathon one of the best marathons out there.

Oh yeah, Mike Wardian. Pushing the stroller with two hands because of the wind (meaning he barely was able to use his upper body strength), this machine broke the Guinness Book of World Records time by 7 minutes to run a 2:42. I have to get him on a relay team!

So for all of you out there who promised donations based on each person I passed, multiply whatever it is you said you would give by 705 runners. That was the number of people who started before me who finished the race. Aren’t you glad you didn’t wager a dollar per person?

Special thanks to all my friends and family for their support, to the Frederick Marathon and to Ferris Baker Watts for making me the Charity Chaser. A similar event may be in the working, so stayed tuned!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Brush with greatness

Even though I wanted to come home and pass out after work today, I knew I had to go for a little run. First it is what I do after a marathon. Second, I knew it would help me feel a little better as I came down with a touch of something this weekend. Finally, I needed to go down to the Georgetown Running Company to discuss some of the logistics of an idea that came to me last week (I am being intentionally vague because it might not be able to be pulled off and no reason getting into it right now).

So I shuffled my tired, sore butt down to GRC to talk things over with Ben, my go-to guy at the store. While discussing a few things about said idea, I also decided to try on some trail shoes for my upcoming 100 miler. Good thing because otherwise I would have left. Why is that good?

Well, mainly because I got to meet and briefly talk to (and get the autograph of) the current world record holder in the marathon, Paul Tergat!! He had come into the store to talk to one of the workers there and I was introduced to him. When told that I had done Fiddy2, he actually stopped writing his autograph and said: “Wow.”

That was one of the coolest words I had ever heard.