Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fiddy2's times

“I'd be curious to see the fiddy2 times on a graph to get a visual aid on how the times changed. the fastest times clearly seem to be toward the end, beginning in roughly september. do you think that was because of greater effort, superior fitness, cooler temps, or some combination of the above. I could see fitness increasing through the year without showing real benefits in terms of times until the temperatures dropped, but you'd be in a better place than me to speculate about that.”

This is the comment that sparked this blog. Blame Bart.

First and foremost, thanks to Katie and her Excels skills for getting me started in the right direction with the chart below.

As you can see, the times for my marathons most definitely get faster as the year goes on. Many people could probably come up with a plethora of ideas why that happened but fortunately for you, the reader, you have the one person who knows exactly why actually writing this blog. Look how lucky you are!

To begin, let me start by saying that my initial thoughts for Fiddy2 were, as you may have heard before, to finish all the races under 4 hours. As you can see by that nasty little bugger in the middle (Leadville) that obviously did not happen. However, I think anyone who knows a thing abut marathons can understand why that race did not fall into the plan. Therefore, as an obvious statistical anomaly, I will discount it for all intents and purposes.

So, while I had that plan, I saw a few marathons into the year that running a close to 4 hour marathon was not something I wanted to do. To be honest, I found it far more tiring than trying to run faster. I would much rather finish in the sub 3:30 range if possible.

But I wanted to be careful. There was no sense in killing myself early on and blowing up the goal from the get-go. And having only run 12 marathons in my life coming into the year, I was not quite sure what I was capable of accomplishing before Fiddy2 or even a few months into it.

I will not go into too much detail here (I am saving all my great revelations for the book I am writing) but there were a few marathons that were really turning points for me. One was the Delaware Marathon in May where I ran a 3:13. I was pretty shocked at the time. I had been lowering my times steadily but didn’t think I would be in the low teens so quickly. I figured I might actually set a personal best somewhere during the year (at the time it was a 3:07).

Unfortunately, I began a stretch of some very difficult marathons. Beginning in Estes Park, I sustained a leg injury in my left leg that has migrated up and down the whole leg from muscle to muscle even until this day. Admittingly, it is far better now than it was then but because I could not take time off and still stick to my original goal (which I felt was the crux of the entire situation; setting a goal and not modifying it to suit my needs when things did not go according to plan) but it was bad then. Leadville did not help, nor did some of the challenging races in Nevada or Utah.

Without a doubt I am not a strong runner in the heat. I wilt very easily so the temperatures dropping would definitely help. But Niagara Falls was not the coldest of days, nor was Marine Corps or New York City. But during that time I posted a 2:59, 3:03, and 3:05 in 14 days.

As I then went on to post a series of Boston Qualifying times, I can now see I did so for a number of reasons. I was no longer afraid of finishing the stated goal. There was no way physically I was going to be stopped. Having shocked myself with a PR (at the time) of 3:05 in Johnstown, using very little effort (relatively) I knew I was capable of much more.

I cannot say my fitness got any better throughout the year but rather my ability to run that distance increased. I was definitely worn-down from not only the running, but the traveling, the fundraising and putting in my 8-5 life in a job to pay the bills. So if anything, my physical fitness went down as the year went on.

Weather and courses, undoubtedly assist in the process of running a fast time. But for me it was a combination of knowing what I could do, seeing the goal in sight and conditioning my body to handle the rigors of what I was doing. I cannot say I was giving all that much of a greater effort but I was definitely pushing myself.

The first few months were a feeling our process. I had an epiphany of sorts in May but then faced not only injury and tough courses but 18 straight weekends where I was not in my own bed. The only constant I could look forward to every week was I would be running 26.2 miles. In what conditions, over what course and through what sort of extra pressure placed on myself by either me or time constraints of travel, life, etc., varied. I rarely ran two courses anywhere close to each other that mirrored the week before.

So why did my times get faster? Because I realized my potential, was able to take a couple of stabs at some fast times, saw they panned out and then rode that until the end. If I were to do it again, I am pretty sure, with planning, I could get the vast majority, if not all of the marathons, under 3:10. Sure others have run a fair amount of marathons in a year faster. But when you run a very fast marathon time, slowing down 30 minutes from your pace is really not all that impressive in the grand scheme of things.

Now, buy the book when it gets published so I can afford to do this again.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Northwest Passage Relay Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 17th Edition
332.52 miles raced in 2007
Race: Northwest Passage Relay
Place: Blaine, WA to Langley, WA
Miles from home: 3,000+
Course Difficulty: Variable
Course Enjoyability: 8.5 out of 10
Weather: 60-70s; cool breezes, intermittent sun. Pretty ideal.
Finishers' Medal: 8 out of 10

With all of the races going on for me this year in every conceivable distance, I have been simultaneously looking forward to, and dreading, this race in particular. For the same reason I cannot stand air travel, participating in a relay run where runners are coming from all over the country, convening together at random times where so little is in my control, is something that gives me nightmares. I deal best with this by, well, not thinking about. Luckily, (if that is the correct word) I have had both a fair amount of other races and personal issues going on in my life as of late to keep my mind off the fear that one of my teammates simply wasn’t going to make it to the race.

In addition to simply ignoring all that could go wrong with gathering 11 others together from across the Lower 48 to meet in the corner of Northwestern United States, I was able to assuage fear of a relay failure by assembling a team of runners whom I felt could be trustworthy enough to get there on time. And given that I was not putting together a team with the intention of winning, but rather to get along well together, have a good time and be dependable, reliability was a key ingredient. Let me say that everyone more than met those criteria and I am proud to be a part of this team. Therefore, let me introduce them in the order they ran.

Todd Futa (Age 35):
What can I say about Big Ahi other than the fact he is one of the most stand-up fellas I have ever met. Besides committing to be my host for the Seafair Marathon a year ago before ever having actually met me in person, Todd also assisted with my travel arrangements for that flight as well. Throw in that he has opened his home to any of the runners who were coming in early for this race, as well as be the guide to the area, and this laidback triathlete was one of the very first people I thought I would love to have on my team when the idea of running this relay came to mind.

Todd will be competing in his first full Ironman Tri in just about a month. Go Todd!

Loren Leigh (33):
The owner of a reptile exporting business (yep, you read that correctly), I met Loren through Jenna another relay teammate to be introduced later. Down-to-earth and funny, I had the pleasure of meeting Loren at the Marine Corps Marathon last year. I knew he would be an asset to the team because of his responsible nature and videographer skills. (I am kidding about the latter part. I only knew he was going to be filming so much of the trip after seeing him the morning of the race whipping out an impressive-looking camera. I cannot imagine the editing he is going to have to do.)

Nathan Boward (30):
Built like a linebacker, I haven’t the foggiest idea how Nathan can run the speeds he does. A very congenial chap, it was a pleasure to meet Nathan, Jenna’s boyfriend, for the first time in Washington. I knew that if in the wilds of NW Washington we were to encounter a cougar or Bigfoot, they would be no match for Nathan.

Abby Fenzil (31):
A late addition to the team after one runner pulled up injured, Abby brought spirit and funk and kept Jenna entertained for sure. Having never ran a 10k, Abby has already cranked out numerous marathons in impressive times. Quick with a smile and a joke, Abby was a wonderful late addition to the team.

Jenna Kyte (23):
One of my fave people on this little planet, Jenna is mature beyond years and was one of the very first people I thought of when putting together this relay team. I knew if I got her then I could also lasso in Loren and Nathan and we would have 25% of the team picked. Oh yeah, she is like nice and stuff too.

Amy Yanni (53):
Having met Amy last year during Fiddy2 at the Glass City marathon where we ran about 9 miles together, Amy and I have stayed in touch and ran numerous marathons at the same time since then. Thinking about who might be up for a fun adventure, Amy was at the forefront of my thoughts. She’s run over 70 marathons in just 3 or 4 years and was named one of marathonguide.com’s top Female Marathoners of the Year for 2006. Even if she wasn’t a fellow law school survivor and a great person, you can see why I would want her on my team.

Katie Markley (26):
The theme of meeting some of the nicest people in my life during Fiddy2 continues with Katie. Running over 23 miles together in the wind of the Mercedes Marathon last February, the petite Katie and I fast became great friends. Logging nearly 3,000 miles in a year (which she calls an “off-year”) the ultramodest Katie was also listed as a Top Female Marathoner in 2006 by marathonguide.com. (I know how to book me some ringers).

Mike Mills (35):
I first met Mike at my running club’s New Year’s Eve party just a week before Fiddy2 started. He was kind enough to let me crash with him one of the nights I ran the Goofy Challenge to kick off the year in 2006. Mike has literally been running all over the world this year (having already completed a marathon in Antarctica for goodness sake), so I figured he would like a more “local” trip of 3,000 mile away to Washington.

Kathy Wahlgren (35):
Kathy was our quietest member as she appeared to be getting some well-needed rest from her stressful job as an ER nurse. I met Kathy for the first time just the day before the relay but as a veteran of other relays and a teammate of other runners on the team, she came highly recommended. She churned out great run after great run. We were happy she could make it.

Dane Rauschenberg (31):
Some insufferable punk who MUST have split times.

Christine Currie (42):
Without a doubt the unsung hero of the relay, Christine was instrumental in the planning of the entire event and making sure everything went smoothly. Another great friend, Christine ran stellar times just a few weeks after dealing with a nasty injury which had sidelined her training for quite some time.

David Kleeman (50):
The newest member of the half-century club with a birthday right before the race started, David ran like a 30 year-old and was an excellent choice to be the anchor for our team. Another vet of relay racing, I knew that David’s expertise and running experience would come in handy often.

That’s the team. And as the next few days would show, it was one heck of a team. 189 miles. 12 teammates. 2 vans. 1 purpose.

Friday morning:

After getting all the team members to Blaine, Washington late Thursday night where the start of our journey would begin, we finally had the team all in one place and ready to run. Based on our estimated pace time we would be starting at 11 AM. To begin, allow me to state that our estimated pace time was just that: estimated. Based on our 10k PRs (or best guesstimate) most runners wouldn’t be able to sustain the pace for the longer legs. We assumed most teams made the same estimation and therefore wouldn’t be too far off once the running started.

As the clock ticked down for the 11 AM start, we finished snapping pictures of our surroundings (we were about 100 yards from the Canadian border) and got our cheering caps on. The format of the race was such that one van containing 6 runners would each do one leg each, with the other members trailing for support. Once all 6 runners finished, the next van would take over. Lather, rinse repeat two more times and hopefully about one day later we would be in Langley, Washington and had safely traversed 189 miles.

The only drawback to this format was that my recap will be half-incomplete. Besides a few short stretches, my Van (Van 2) would only be in cell phone contact with the other van, and its runners, sporadically. I therefore cannot attest to all the trials Van One went through and all the wonderful stories from their side. I hope to piece them together for myself soon but this recap will be missing them. I can, however, paint the picture of Van 2 and the ride we had.

The Waiting:

Once Van One was underway, we needed to grab a power lunch and kill a little bit of time before we would try and find some of our teammates to cheer them on. A hearty meal filled our stomachs (perhaps too full) and we were underway. Camping out at a spot near where Nathan would hand off to Abby we killed some time by throwing a Frisbee around and looking over our routes. As other relayers passed us from the earlier start times we would hop out and cheer them on, figuring there would be some lonely stretches where we hoped other teams would do the same for us and others.

At one point, a few of us jogged down the road to see if we could see where the relay exchange would be. We turned around after seeing it was quite a bit up the road and didn’t want to wear ourselves out before we had even ran our first leg. Here we saw that one of the runners passed the turn and was heading in the wrong direction. As the traffic on the road completely drowned out our attempts to scream for him, I took to foot. By the time I got to where he was supposed to have made the turn he was rapidly disappearing down the wrong road. I quickly jumped into our van, squealed out of the parking lot Dukes-of-Hazzard-style and caught up to him. Only after setting him in the right direction, did I notice Mike was still in the van. He later told me he never even heard me getting into the van and only woke up after I had sped away and made him slide from one side to the other. Note to self: Mike is not a good guard van.

All told, we saved four teams from making the wrong turn, set the sign back up (it was either knocked over or the volunteers had directed the runners the wrong way) and still had time to cheer for Abby as she went by. Still trying to figure out how we did not get the award for the favorite team. Another note to self: allow teams to run the wrong way from now on.

We all piled into the van after this and slid on down the road to where Jenna was going to be taking the hand-off to add a little more support. After this, we realized it would make the most sense to go down to our exchange where Katie would take over from Amy and set up shop. Time was approaching for us to lace up the shoes and start a-runnin’.

Katie’s 1st run: (4.1 miles; 35:58; start time = 4:33:44 PM):

When Amy came flying in, we were all sitting on the grass in a wonderful little park cheering loudly. A band was playing and tent-like showers were set up for each runner from the first vans to jump in and rinse off the stench. Happy to finally be running (or having our van be the one that was actually “on-duty”) we jumped into action. We knew Katie’s run began with a sharp series of twists and turns and were hoping to guide her along to some extent so she would not get lost.

Unfortunately, there are places where the runner troops along where cars cannot. As detailed as the instructions are for the runners, they are a little lacking in the driving directions. Luckily, we were able to scoot along and saw Katie standing at an intersection looking for the right way to go. We pointed her in the right direction and away she went. Unfortunately, it was not EXACTLY the right direction but she ended up where she needed to be (having run further than she needed) and fell instep behind a man wearing a tu-tu. The tu-tu wearing team would become fast friends with us as we often crossed paths.

Katie had a horribly tough first leg for someone warmed up, let alone for someone who had been up for 7 hours traveling cooped up in a van. After a mile or so of running, she hit a monstruous hill that we were all glad was not on our own leg. But she trooped on and before we knew it, it was time for the hand-off. Each team was given a slap bracelet that acted as our baton and Katie slapped the bracelet onto Mike’s arm and away he went.

Mike’s 1st Leg: (2.7 miles; 16:18: start time = 5:09:42 PM ):

Blessed with a short first run, Mike still had to contend with short, but steep hill himself. However, we got our first roadkill (passing another team’s runner) of the day when Mike plowed on by a hapless runner who did not know the Air Force guy was bearing down on him. Kathy awaited.

Kathy’s 1st Leg (5.9 miles; 51:00: start time = 5:26:00 PM):

Some changes on legs happened a few days before the race started, some for the worse and some for the better. Kathy was one of the lucky ones who had her leg shortened. Unfortunately, she had the bad luck to be running against a few runners who were obviously top athletes (including one team made up of only 6 runners). As such, the time Mike had made up was soon lost as these competitors took off. But Kathy held her own on a beautiful part of the course, skirting right past Lake Washington.

Mike cooled his heels in the Lake (I am pretty sure he cooled more than his heels but we didn’t venture down the hill to view) and I got ready for my first run of the day. Chatting with one of the Tu-tu wearers who left a few minutes before Kathy came in and passed me the bracelet, I decided to make it my goal to catch him.

My 1st leg (9 miles: 56:28: start time = 6:17:00 PM):

My first portion was bumped from 8.9 miles to 9 miles (insignificant) but remained mostly flat except for a mile long downhill. I know it has been said before, but it bears repeating: I love downhills!

Very soon, I had passed the tu-tu wearing fella (who told me he would see me in Langley, the end of the race) and set my mental sights on the next two runners. I would not even catch a glimpse of them for four more miles and by then I was hungry. My van told me that the ultrarunner had been sported a 9.5 minute headstart on me at the last exchange and I was determined to do two things:

Catch her
Not exhaust myself for my next two runs.

As I passed one runner on the long stretch before I handed off to Christine I was just a few feet behind the ultrarunner. I slapped the bracelet onto Christine’s arm a few seconds in front of the other runner and hit my watch. I was quite pleased with my 6:16 miles but more happy I had put my team back into a fine position.

Christine’s 1st Leg (2.5 miles; 21:35: start time = 7:13:28 PM):

Unfortunately for Christine, she got a fresh ultra runner and a speedy 19-year-old receiving the hand-offs from the teams I had just passed and they were hungry. A stretch of pancake-flat 2.5 miles allowed Christine to pass yet another runner, even though she did eventually give up a position to the other two runners. Christine then slipped through a town that consisted mostly of 3 biker bars and a few other stores all located on a tight S-curve.

What was odd was those stores made up the whole town except for a few house here and there but instead of being rundown the stores were all well-kept and inviting (even though the one bike bar looked exactly like the Blue Oyster in the Police Academy movies). Then just like that, Christine was motoring through fields again in the middle of no where. David stood ready and waiting for his first shot of running.

David’s 1st Leg (5 miles; 34:30: start time = 7:35:03 PM):

What David had told only a few was that his hamstring had been bothering him for quite some time. So as he revved up his goal was to see if he could warm it up and then go from there. Well, warm it up he did as he continued on the same flat route Christine had started and moved along like nothing bothered him at all. I jumped out of the van and ran along with him with water for a few feet and he told me he felt great. Good thing, as we were counting on him to make up some time for us.

David didn’t disappoint as he cruised through the hills and picked off a few runners himself. Waiting for him was Todd, ready to begin his second leg and take us into our 9th hour of running. Slap went the bracelet, away Todd went, we bid adieu to the rest of Van One who were also waiting and cheering, and we walked down to a beautiful lake to let David get cooled off.

1st Break:

We knew that we had a small time period in which to get food in our bellies given the shorter length of Van Two’s next 6 legs, so we couldn’t dilly-dally long. So, a quick bite to eat filled our appetite and then off to the final exchange station for Van 2’s second leg we went. Luckily for us, we were able to utilize a high school’s showers to get a little clean before we readied for our second legs.

While some of my van grabbed a quick nap, I stayed awake and computed our split times in the spreadsheet I had on my laptop. I wanted to see if we had a shot at getting our time under 24 hours. I knew it would be very tough but hoped it would happen anyway.

Before I knew it, my cellphone rang and Jenna told me that Amy was off and running and kicking ass, so we better get Katie ready. I roused the team and soon one tiny little female running machine passed off to another.

Katie’s 2nd Leg (8.5 miles: 65:30: start time = 11:20:49 PM):

Katie had been fuming about how her first leg had not been up to par and therefore seemed to be on a mission. With one of the longest legs on the day, this run would have been difficult enough if not for the fact that it also contained some of the longest sustained hills of the whole day well. But Katie not only seemed to brush off the hills as if they were nothing but cheerfully charged on through the night. Anyone who discounted what Amy and Katie could do would be sorely surprised when this one-two punch flew by them.

Mike’s 2nd Leg (6 miles: 49:00: start time = 12:26:19 AM):

We were all shaking our heads in amazement when, in a rather warm temperatures, Katie handed off the bracelet to Mike who began running through the night wearing long running pants and a long-sleeve shirt. Not quite sure how this man survived Antarctica.

Definitely not the most scenic route, Mike passed by what seemed to be a refinery of some sort which the pungent smell of lord knows what permeating the nostrils. Then we almost had to physical restrain him from jumping into a casino at one point. But Mike made his run look effortless and knocked off a few more runners of his own.

I have mentioned that driving directions could have been a little better and here is where they were most lagging. As Mike veered off of the main road and began suddenly running across a body of water on a sandbar, we all realized there was no where for the van to follow him. I had the foresight to bring my trusty GPS with me in the Van and we could see that if we scooted back down where we came from we could horseshoe ourselves around the water and be where we thought we needed to be.

After some swift maneuvering of the big honking van (my Chrysler Crossfire this beast was not)We made it there and had Kathy primed and ready with just a few minutes to spare.

Kathy’s 2nd Leg (2.4 miles; 20:00: start time = 1:15:19 AM):

As Kathy’s leg was so short and winded through a running path through parts of town that we could not follow, we more or less wished her good luck and sped away to the exchange station. Good thing we did as she flew in before we barely had a chance to park and ready ourselves for the exchange.

My 2nd leg (6.3 miles: 43:18: start time = 1:35:19 AM):

I should have known this might not be a good leg from the beginning. The bracelet didn’t stick to my arm but somehow still rolled up into a ball after Kathy slapped it on me and bounced away. Somehow, in spite of the dark hour, I saw it as it bounced away and under a truck. Christine told me that Mike had said to her “Did Dane run into that truck?” and having not seen me dive underneath the vehicle was confused by his statement. She thought I had been hit in traffic. Luckily, that was not the case.

I saw a few runners up ahead and wanted to tally my roadkill count soon so I kept them in sight. Before 2 miles were up, I passed four of them and was in the clear. So clear, in fact, that I wondered if I was going the right way. There were a few places on the route that could have used a little more signage instructing runners that yes, you are indeed still running straight on this road. Even though we were told that when in doubt, run straight, a little more assurance does help when you are running in the middle of the night.

Up ahead I saw my vanmates cheering loudly for me so I knew I was going the correct way. I told them to simply go ahead to the next exchange as I did not need any drink or towels. I knew the next exchange was a little tricky as I ran into, around and then back out of a 2 mile loop in a park where there was no way they could follow me.

As I got to the loop I was eerily reminded of my run at the Old Dominion 100 a few short weeks ago. With my headlamp bobbing in the darkness I was running on a small (thankfully paved) path through a cloud filled sky which I could not see anyway because of the dense tree cover. As such, my visibility was limited the odd aura my headlight gave which only extended about 6 feet ahead of me. Full of twist and turns as well as steep climbs and descents, I could nary get a pace going because of the occasional speed bump that was built into the road (put in to slow cyclists, I assume).

Minutes ticked by and the words of a runner I saw coming out when I was going in (“It’s totally longer than you think.”) could not have rung more true. I was exhausted and just wanted to pop out and slap that bracelet on Christine’s arm. Luckily, the darkness became a slightly lighter shade of pitch black and I could see the flashing lights ahead on cones signifying the exchange area. I made the quick turn, plopped the bracelet onto Christine’s arm and took a big sigh of relief.

Christine’s 2nd Leg (6.2 miles; 63:33: start time = 2:18:37 AM):

I am so glad this leg was not mine. Christine had the absolute highest elevation gain and some of the steepest climbs of the entire relay on this toughie of a leg. There is nothing much more to say other than she crushed them like a champ. I caught my first little capnat of the day by lying down for about 15 minutes and covering up in a blanket. As such, I missed the first few miles of her run but when Mike jumped out to give Christine water, I hopped right back in the driver’s seat to pick him up down the road.

Up and down she went and in wonderfully fast fashion. David said she was doing all the hard work and was going to relish the downhill she left for him on his upcoming leg.

David’s 2nd Leg (3.6 miles; 24:38: start time = 53:22:10 AM):

Relish he did for as soon as the bracelet was on his arm, David was off. Mostly downhill, this section’s main sight to see was Deception Pass, a gorgeous arched bridge of a deep gully. Unfortunately, no one could really see it given the time of the night. This might have been for the best as I am sure none of the tired runners wanted to look down and see what one false step could have in store for them.

At David’s behest, we sped ahead to the next relay exchange and met up with Van 2. Full of vim and vigor and with all kinds of stories of trash talking with other runners and good natured ribbing we sent Todd of into the night on his next leg. Poor Todd gets the Ah Crap Award as his leg was nearly doubled due to one of those late in the day course changes. Kudos to Todd for not complaining once.

2nd Break:

We were all feeling pretty groggy at this point and wanted to get to the next place where we would begin running and possibly grab a shower. Unfortunately, when we go to the exchange, we saw that there were no warm showers and even the cold shower tents were not set up. The majority of us opted for makeshift cleanings in the bathroom and laid down on our sleeping bags in nearby gym or in our Van.

I finally laid down myself for a quick rest and wouldn’t you know it slept for a full hour plus missing the phone call from Jenna telling us that Amy was on her way. We quickly rolled up our gear, splashed some water on our faces and Katie readied herself for her final exchange.

Van Two rolled in just a few minutes before Amy and you could tell how happy they were to be done. We wanted to experience that same feeling and finish off a long day of running. We no longer had a shot at finishing under 24 hours but no one was done giving it their all just yet.

Katie’s 3rd Leg (6.6 miles: 52:48: start time = 8:01:51 AM):

Katie’s three legs contained the highest total climb of any runner on any van. But one of those climbs is going to make for a spectacular picture. Mike used a wonderful camera and some awesome skills to get a shot of tiny Katie trudging up a gorgeous if you were not running it hill that looked similar to the Pacific Coast Highway shots in California that we always see in the movies. But like earlier in the night, she crested these hills like a champ and continued to cheerily eat up miles.

Mike’s 3rd Leg (6.3 miles: 43:20: start time = 8:54:34 AM):

By now we were all really ready to be done. Nevertheless, always in good spirits, Mike took the handoff from Katie and sped away. This late in the run, we had already long been passing teams who had started earlier than us so there were a few more people to catch than there had been earlier in the race. (e.g., In my second leg I had nine roadkill.) Mike had one in his sights but had some pretty steep hills to contend with before that would happen.

However, not only did he get that runner, but chugging along he picked off one more runner, right before the hand-off. Then immediately celebrated with a beer. I mean immediately. He wasn’t out of the chute and David had a cold one in his hand. I have the picture. It is hilarious.

Kathy’s 3rd Leg (4.9 miles; 46:18: start time = 9:37:54 AM):

Kathy’s leg was rather lonely (at least from Van 2’s perspective) but she appeared to want it that way. She waived us on after we stopped the cheer and told us just to meet her at the end of the leg. But Van 1’s raucousness didn’t get that memo and now, a little rested and full of energy after finishing their part, rumor has it they pumped Kathy up for quite some time.

My 3rd leg (6.1 miles: 39:20: start time = 10:24:12 AM):

All I wanted to do was catch the few runners who were in front of me, including the team we would knew as Team 43. Nice people all in all but they were in front of us and they must go down. Unfortunately, although they were one of the teams I had passed in my first leg near the end in my final sprint and then again passed them right at the start of my second leg, events transpired to give them a 16 minute cushion when I finally received the hand-off. With only 6.1 miles to make up the gap I knew barring leg cramps on the other team, it was going to be impossible.

But I took the hand off from Kathy and ran so fast out of the chute that I had to duck underneath Mike’s camera as he was taking pictures of the exchange. There was no way I would catch team 43 but there was another guy about 3 minutes ahead of me who was going to get run down.

Within a mile, I had already tracked down the runner and passed him. Spurred on by a rejuvenated, (and often without pants) Van 1 on the sidelines cheering me on, I gave it all I had. A couple of quick steep downhills helped my pick up a little time for the one long steady uphill and the short but almost vertical uphill right before my exchange. Darn near running a 10k PR this late in the game on this course made me feel like I had given the team my all.

Christine’s 3rd Leg (4 miles; 37:30: start time = 11:03:32 AM):

Once again Christine was saddled with a leg that had more hills than you would ever want while running for leisure, let alone for your third time in 17 hours on a race team. But she gamely conquered them all, as well as speeding traffic on a busy highway and gentle harassment from Van 1 as they needled her good-naturedly on the side of the road.

We were down to one last push and David took the hand-off from Christine at a luau exchange station (I have no idea why, so don’t ask) and off he went.

David’s 3rd Leg (6.3 miles; 43:44: start time = 11:41:02 AM):

Saddled with a couple of long steep uphills to start his leg, David was determined to knock off not one but two separate runners who both happened to be wearing Orange shirts. Like hunters being hunted, David started the task of tracking them down.

As we repeatedly pulled over both vans to cheer him on the other runners knew that someone was on their tail. Repeatedly looking over their shoulders, one seemed not to care too much, while the other appeared as if he did care but there was nothing he could do about it. In fact, he turned to Loren’s camera one time and said: “He’s got me.”

And he was right. When we left David with about a mile to go to the finish of our long arduous task, David was still a hundred yards or so behind this one last orange shirted chap. We wanted to make sure we were parked and ready for the final run. If he was alone, we were going to all run in together as a team.

As we piled out of the vans amidst all the orange and blue banners that were the colors of the Ragnar Relay series (poor Florida State fan Mike detested all this Gator like coloring), we were eager to see what our anchor runner was going to do. Obstructed by trees and a right turn, we could not see the runners until they were just a few hundred feet from the finish. Amy ran over to the street to see if she could see the runners and threw he hands in the air in excitement.

Just then, steaming along like it was nothing, came David all alone. A huge cheer erupted not only from our team (named “Postfontaine”, by the way, in a humorous take on the famous runner Steve Prefontaine; David came up with the name and later on Sunday we found we won the contest for the best team name. Fitting it was David who would finish the race for us.) but from everyone sitting around the finish. We had made many friends during the day and I think just as many teams were happy for us as we were. (Surprised we did not win the Favorite Team award. Guess we passed too many people.)

With David leading the way, this merry band of runners crossed the finish line in 25:22:56. We finished 8th out of 24 in the Open Mixed Division (where in you had to have at least 6 females) and 14th overall out of 58 finishers. Ironically, if we had one less female we would have not only been considered a “men’s” team but would have taken 3rd overall. But we were absolutely proud of everything we did during the past day of running and were already beginning plans to run yet another Ragnar Relay as soon as possible.

While impromptu plans for a few of us to run an 8k race in Seattle that night (yep, we like pain) were derailed by a longer than expected lunch plans, we enjoyed quick showers in our hotels near the airport and had one last dinner together. We had only been together for about 48 hours total (and even less for the separate vans) but it felt like days. Great friendships were made, a wonderful time was had by all and there are more stories to be told (and kept secret!) than any book could ever do justice.

Final thoughts on the Race organization itself:

I have never done a relay of this sort before but I know how races need to be run. To say this race went without a hitch would be incorrect. But what race can travel 189 miles, through various terrain with 58 different teams of up to 12 people without something going askew. That said, I was absolutely floored at how well the race was put together.

From the course descriptions for the runners, to the elevation profiles for each leg, to the spreadsheet sent out to each team to input all the data and have it calculate split times and estimated departures etc,. I have to say I am rather impressed.

As mentioned, there were a few places where driving directions could have been a little more defined but that was in only one or two legs of the 36 total different places. In addition, there are a few places where a few extra signs or possibly a lamp or two (like my run through the dark park in leg 2) could have saved a little trepidation on the runner’s part and helped ease their minds that they were in the right place.

I know it is not that I had low expectations, which is never the case (I always expect the most) but because the race was so well put together that we all had a wonderful time and were thoroughly looking forward to our next excursion together. Some of our more experienced relay runners also expressed both surprise and also were impressed at how well the race was run by its organizers. So, three cheers goes out to Ragnar Relay and here is to many more races of similar quality in the near future.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Northwest Passage Relay Cometh!

I have a few things going on in life right now so I know this will not be as in-depth as I would like it to be but this weekend I will be participating in the Northwest Passage Relay put on by Ragnar Relay, a company located in Utah. The NWPR is a first-run event but on by a company which has already run many similar events already to much success.

This adventure-fest will push me and 11 of my running friends through 189 miles of stunning Washington scenery. Starting in the seaside town of Blaine, my team will head south through farm country and along the coast, ultimately crossing over Deception Pass onto Whidbey Island. The race wraps up on the southern tip of Whidbey in the charming town of Langley. (Some of this was stolen from their page located HERE which includes all kinds of good facts!)

The vast majority of my teammates are people I have met, but there are one or two runners whom I have not and I am really looking forward to this entire adventure. Consisting of 6 males and 6 females we will be competing in the mixed division. But more importantly, we will be there to have fun. I specifically chose the 11 other runners for this team not necessarily for anything than can do on the road but rather for their personalities and likeability. I wanted the adventure to be fun for all of us.

That said, I know we will all be giving the run everything we have so expect us to do pretty darn well. The race starts for us at 11 AM on Friday July 27th and will hopefully conclude less than 24 hour later. If you think I like stats and spreadsheets, you should see the one provided to us by the Ragnar Relay people which is just mind boggling. Punch in a runner's projected 10k average time and *bam*, all kinds of stats are at your fingertips.

I personally will be running the 10th, 22 and 34th legs of the race for a combined 21.2 miles. Like everyone, our legs will be split up thrice leaving about 7 hours of lag time between each time we run. This will be a unique adventure for me as I often find it hard to depend on others in a sport and only once have done a similar stop and go type event. (The only time I have done something similar was where I ran a 15k at 7:30 am, a 5k at 9:30 AM and a marathon the next day at 6 AM. Many more miles but the rest was spaced much differently.)

I am looking forward to a great time and will have all the details for you I can when I get back!
P.S. Our team name is Postfontaine. If you are a runner you will think that is hilarious. Everyone, else, not so much.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rockville Twilighter 8k

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 16th Edition
311.32 miles raced in 2007
Race: Rockville Twilighter 8k
Place: Rockville, MD
Miles from home: 21
Course Difficulty: 4
Course Enjoyability: 7
Weather: 75 degrees and slightly humid
Finishers' Medal: N/A

I whiled away the hours between my track meet and the 8k by doing a whole lot of nothing. I could not figure out when I should eat or how much of it I should when I did. With the race at 8:45 PM, I did not want to be on an empty stomach and most assuredly did not want to run on a full stomach. Always erring on the side of not eating too much, I had a good sized lunch and then sat on my duff watching shows I had DVRd.

Both Anne and Christine were going to make the trip to cheer me on (I have the bestest buddies) and I was excited to be running near home in a really well-known race. Usually under blistering conditions (the race has actually been cancelled due to heat in previous years and there is a heat advisory on the website) we were all so very happy to have relatively cool weather falling on race weekend.

Knowing parking might be a bit of a bear, and having not yet picked up my race number, I wanted to make sure I did both with plenty of time. So eschewing my normal, show-up-do-100-meters-of-warm-up-15-minutes-before-the-race-routine I left at 6:30 to drive to Rockville. However, as luck would have it, the drive went smooth, I found a parking spot really close to the race and had my bib number on at about 7:15. What the hell to do for 90 minutes!?

Anne and I stood around and I laughed at how I will go to a marathon in Alaska and know more people than I do in some local races. The races I pick always seem to be the one where all my running buddies are out of town or merely spectating. That was mostly the case today with a few exceptions here and there.

As race time drew nigh, I noticed the sheer numbers of those running. With over 1700 runners finishing in last year’s 90 plus heat day, I was assured the cool weather would bring out even more this year and the times would be even faster. I told Anne that I would be shocked if I was in the top 100 overall finishers.

Christine showed up a little bit later and we talked racing a little bit wile Anne went over to the CVS for a bottle of water. While cooler, it was by no means a cold day and Anne had to make sure her videographer finger was not parched.

Walking to the startline, the runners were amassing already in large numbers. Standing next to a tautly muscular little woman I took a chance. “Are you Alisa Harvey?” I asked. “Yes, I am” “Well, it is a pleasure to meet you”. Alisa is a master’s runner in the area who, at 41, is built like a brick sh*thouse and continues to crush competition (male and female) at any age. Also, milling around me were many members of the Georgetown Running Company’s racing team, which as a member (of sorts) I am one of the absolute slowest. GO Dane!

Two wheelchair racers started the race and the field started getting restless. On “Go!” we were off. I decided to keep Alisa Harvey in sight and see how I could fare. My ultimate goal for the day was to go sub-30 minutes. But anything breaking my PR of 31:41 would make me happy. (Interestingly enough, although I have only run one 5 miler to my two 8ks, my 5 mile PR was five seconds faster than my 8k PR [which is the shorter distance]).

Mile 1: 5:41
It is always difficult to gauge speed in a distance you rarely run. I wanted to average 6:01 miles and when we crossed the first mile, you can see I was definitely under that. No problem. I felt like I was pushing a little bit but I wanted to make sure I got out of the biggest pack and avid any jostling.

As we crossed over one of the speed humps, a woman next to me took a tumble. Most of us were trying to decide whether to help her but realized stopping would probably cause about 20 other people to fall. I looked over and saw that it was Feng Sun, a local female runner who is pretty darn good. A search revealed that she ran her first marathon at the age of 35 and did so in a time of 2:59:59. Pretty darn good.

Mile 2: 6:09
I slowed down a little bit more than I wanted to but we had a slight uphill here that I felt accounted for a few of the seconds. Before we reached the mile marker though I was surprised to see Feng Sun had recovered from what sounded like a pretty nasty fall and had passed me again. Damn. But before too long, I swear to god if it wasn’t true it would be funny, I saw her take yet another tumble on another speed hump and down she went again. A few other runners almost laughed in amazement at the absurdity of the situation.

I then remembered back to the National Half Marathon where I had passed Feng somewhere around mile 9. I recognized her because she had run in a few of my marathons from Fiddy2. I distinctly recall that she had once or twice lost her footing on the streets of DC. I was curious if this was just bad luck or if she had a stride that didn’t give her much foot clearance. Now, I will be looking in the future.

Mile 3: 6:09
A series of uphills and downhills throughout this mile gave back more on the downhills than they took away in this mile. A few spectators had set up sprinkler systems to wet runners if they needed. Unfortunately this made the road just a little slick and with the waning daylight, I feared a few runners would slip.

Speaking of which, Feng passed me again and steadily gained ground on me through this mile. I was now cheering for her inwardly. For myself, I hit the mile marker at exactly 18 minutes. I figured there was no way I was running the final 2 miles (or 1.97 to be exact) in 12 minutes, so just settled in and made sure I would set a new PR.

Mile 4: 6:24
The first real long uphill of the race solidified a 30 minute plus time of mine as I focused on making sure I did not cramp, slip or fall. After a year of disappointments in 2007 races, I absolutely had to PR.

With the vast majority of the last mile being on a slight downhill, I began to gauge how much I had left in the tank in order to surge at the appropriate time. A mass of about 15 runners began to pass and get passed by each other. As we huffed along, this final mile seemrd to last forever. I looked at my watch and saw I had about 4 more minutes of running to go. Around a slight bend off of the main highway and onto more downhill we went (at a very gentle grade) and there was still 3 more minutes to go.

With two minutes left I slipped into a zone I have seldom experienced this year. It is zone where pain doesn’t exist and I know sheer exhaustion will hit about 3 feet past the finishline. In this zone, I will pick a runner ahead of me and just know that I am going to beat them. It is almost a foregone conclusion regardless of the distance.

Around the bottom part of an S curve, I could see the blue arch signifying the finish. I turned it on and started sprinting like everyone around me. Shocked to see that the clock had just turned from one minute to the next, I leaned forward with all I could. With a final mile of 5:44, I crossed the line at 30:09 and smiled largely. Inside. I had set a 92 second personal best and had almost done everything I wanted to do.

Anne and Christine cheered loudly for me (listen to the shrieks here) and I smiled outwardly this time. I can only hope this is a sign of things to come.

Final stats: 129th male (20th in my age; Are you kidding me?! Good God!), 145th overall out of 1904. Feng ran a 29:38. I am happy for her. Now I want to never let her beat me again. *smile*

Next up, Christine and 10 other friends join me in the Northwest Passage Relay in Washington. We will traverse 189 miles of terrain in a team effort to have fun and run our butts off. Stay tuned for details on that race!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

PVTC Track Meet Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 15th Edition
306.35 miles raced in 2007
Race: Potomac Valley Track Club Outdoor Track & Field Meet
Place: McLean, VA
Miles from home: 8
Course Difficulty: Track
Course Enjoyability: Track
Weather: 75 degrees and slightly humid
Finishers' Medal: N/A

I passed on any Friday night plans with friends to get a decent night’s sleep before the attempt to break a 5 minute mile at the PVTC track meet today. I got a good night’s sleep but did not feel the invigoration I was hoping to feel when I woke. Understandably so, I am only 6 days away from a pretty taxing PR in a half-marathon in Erie. But on Tuesday, I had a pretty good track workout in some pretty warm weather and was hoping for a great day.

I drove out to McLean, signed up and ran about 800 meters of some striders before I was called over to the booth to line up the milers. Wow, there were a ton of runners lining up. What was odd was that the organizer decided to run the heats in reverse order than usual with the slower runners going first. So, I had to stew a few more minutes while two heats of milers went around the track.

When we finally lined up our heat, I saw we had a good 15 or so runners on the track. Crap. I did not want to have a flailing of elbows but it did not look like I had a choice. I glanced down and saw the guy next to me wasn’t wearing shoes. Interesting. We crouched down and the gun went off.

1st lap:
Desiring not to get caught up in the large pack around me I surged right out of the gate to the inside lane. However, within 200 meters, 4 or 5 guys passed me. I heard them all talking before the meet and discussing their 4:30ish times so I wasn’t too worried about them. I crossed in 73 seconds.

2nd lap:
Slightly after the first lap I got passed y a few more runners and it was as if they sucked energy out of me as they went by. A local runner George Buckheit, who as a Master can still kick most people’s butts, passed me as well. I found out before the meet he ran a 4:02 as a youth. Damn. Crossing the half-way point in 2:31ish I knew going sub-5 was over.

3rd lap:
The energy just wasn’t there. I was in the bottom few of this heat and wasn’t gaining ground on anyone. An 83 second lap more or less guaranteed I wouldn’t even break 5:10.

Final Lap:
For half a second two runners in front of me seemed to lag on the turn going into the final 300. I picked up a few feet on them on the straightaway and then hit the final 200 meters. A gentleman who had been standing there shouting out times to others said: “Only 200 meters to go. Then you can rest, pass out, whatever!” I heeded his advice and dug deep.

Passing one of the runners in front of me I had only one more in reach. With 50 meters to go, I passed him and crossed the line in a disappointing (for me) 5:16. Anne was there with some footage that I will post later and gave me a good word of encouragement. I think she was surprised to see how NOT upset I was. I told her: “from 400 on I could tell it was not my day. Time to rest up for the 8k”.

I made the acquaintance of a few fast female runners who I have seen a million times at my track workouts. Both were pleased with their miles as well and were thinking of sticking around to do the 400 meters. When I told them they had a two hour wait at least, I think they decided otherwise. I bid them adieu and went home to rest up for my 8k just a few short hours later.

Writing this from the comfort of my couch, I am simply killing time waiting until this evening when I will try to set an 8k PR on a course that does not exactly look fast at all. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Future Plans

This (above) is a distinct possibility in the near future for one of my next runs. You know, if I can get pass the whole "illegal to run on a highway" thing.

The route will take me 311.07 miles through 15 counties (Mercer, Venango, Butler, Clarion, Jefferson, Clearfield, Centre, Clinton, Union, Northumberland, Montour, Columbia, Luzerne, Carbon, and Monroe).

The plan is to take no more than 6 days to do this. Six days, 312 miles (slightly rounding) = 52 miles a day. 52. Can't get away from that number, can I?

The calls are in and I am trying to find out if I need to get a permit from the 5 districts that house those 15 counties or what needs to be done. Ideally, I would love to have a crew of 3 who could take a week off with me and enjoy a fun adventure. Even more ideally, one of those people would have access to, or know someone who would be willing to donate, a RV of some sort for a week. It wouldn't get many miles for the week and I promise to keep it nice and clean. :)
So, if you know someone who would be interested in helping out in one way or another, please feel free to contact me: danerunsalot@yahoo.com is the email.

When will this happen? My guess is the fall or early spring but it all depends on whether I can do so legally and whether I can find a willing crew. Will keep you posted!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Ripley's Believe it or Not

Ripley's new book: The Remarkable...Revealed will be in stores on August 7th, 2007.

You will see a familiar face on pg. 241: me.

Ripley's honored me with inclusion in their newest book for running 52 marathons in 52 consecutive weekends last year. As a young fan of the Ripley's show with Jack Palance and his daughter co-hosting ,as well as the numerous books I read in the libraries when I was supposed to be doing homework, I cannot say how absolutely "cool" this is to be part of the Ripley's legacy.

Sure, there are many other adjectives to aptly describe my feelings but when I was first contacted by Ripley's last year about their decision to do so if I completed the task, the first word that came to my mind was one of a 10 year-old Dane: "Cool!"

So this is just a little heads-up for those of you interested in getting the book. You can bet I will get one. For the kid in all of us (and the one that is still very much present in me) who love to see what wonders there are in the world, I may get two!

Presque Isle Half Marathon Recap.

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 14th Edition
305.35 miles raced in 2007
Race: Presque Isle Half Marathon
Place: Erie, PA
Miles from home: 366
Course Difficulty: 3.5 out of 10
Course Enjoyability: 7 out of 10
Weather: 70 degrees and slightly humid
Finishers' Medal: N/A

Going to try a different format for this recap. I know many eyes were watching to see if I would be able to get to my stated goal of sub 1:20. To kill any suspense, I did not. I did set a new personal best but no where near close to what I think I can do. Here is my breakdown and thoughts per mile.

Mile One: 5:55
Starting out, I wanted to make sure I did not get pulled along by anyone and only wanted to run my race. So I lined up at the front and when the horn went off, I took off. I was going to force anyone who was going to beat me to have to do so by passing me. Of course, it did not take long before a pack of five or so did just that, but I felt good in my pacing. I knew the pace was a little faster than my desired 6:05/miles but decided to wait until the first mile marker to make sure. After I passed I realized I needed to slow down just a touch. At this point I let a friend named Kevin Slagle pull away from me a bit. A very good runner, Kevin and I have run about 10-15 races against each other with varied, non-sensical results. He will beat me soundly in a 5k and then I will return the favor. After a rousing victory in a 10k, he will crush me ion the next one. Back and forth like this we have traded race results but with Kevin being in Erie and me here in DC we haven’t raced in a few years. I wondered what today would hold.

Mile Two: 6:25
I thought I had seen another old running buddy, Mark Stuart, from my days in Erie, near the star but here, a mile into the race, he had not yet passed me. Given his speed (2:33 marathon and 1:12 half) I figured I was wrong. However, not long after the first mile marker, I got passed by Mark. I called out to him and a big smile showed on his face. Out for a training run he said he only wanted to break 1:30. When I told him I wanted to break 1:20 he said maybe we would be running together. Unfortunately, too much chatting coincided with my desire to slow the pace a little and we ended up slowing the pace a LOT. He blames his newly weighted down left hand (he just got married). I blamed the 40 lbs more I weighed than him.

Mile Three: 6:30
Well, crap. The 10 extra seconds I had gained in the first mile was now gone plus an additional 35 seconds. Not exactly what I wanted to do. Mark and I decided to shut up and just run.

Mile 4: 6:04
Much better. Although the effort it took to get this time made me feel like it might have been a sub-6 mile. Not too worry. Feeling good and only have 9 miles to go.

Mile 5: 6:14
Right after the water station Mark pulled away from me and began to put a great deal of space between himself and I. I figured I could just keep him in sight and use him to reel me in runners one by one in the later miles.

Mile 6: 6:13
I was still running slower than I wanted but it appeared I would still be able to get a 1:21 or so. I passed two runners and approached a guy right before the only hill on this flat course. A small bridge up and over a small rivulet of water draining from the inside of Presque Isle out into Lake Erie is the only real rise through the whole 13.1 miles. So why do I give the course difficulty a 3.5? Well, as I think most runners will agree, a super flat course for such a long distance actually is slightly harder than throwing in some small risers here and there to work different muscle groups. I have run a plethora of races on Presque Isle in Erie (this is where the Erie runners club runs many of their club races) and I always have a little difficulty. Before I really dove into running, I never would have thought that flat would be bad, but in some instances it can be.

Mile 7: 6:16
During this mile, the guy I passed at mile 6 would pass me and I would regain the lead about 4 separate times. Unfortunately, we were not gaining on anyone else but rather just playing off of each other. Surge, fall back. Surge, fall back.

Mile 8: 6:30
I began to get worried here. The humidity picked up a little bit as did the wind off the lake. Both had an effect on my overall time but not more than the tune of a minute or so total. Regardless of this was the fact that I was running slower at this point in the race than I was at the National Half in March. I told myself to hold on and then make it hurt from mile 10 on in.

Mile 9: 6:25
Pleased I had picked up the pace a little bit, I also passed one more runner and was really feeling like I could but another 2 mile surge on at the end. With mile 10 in sight I figured I could start churning out some 6 minute miles and live with the exhaustion later. The man I had played cat and mouse with had opened up a sizeable lead on me but I thought he was within striking distance.

Mile 10: 6:58
Um, what? Even though I knew this marker was misplaced, it still took some wind out of my sails. At least, I HOPED it was misplaced.

Mile 11: 6:08
Yep, as long as the previous mile was, this was that short. Two miles to go. Time to turn on the afterburners.

Mile 12: 6:31
Um, hello afterburners? Deploy!! *knock, knock*. Has anyone seen my afterburners?!

Mile 13: 6:31
Thank god, I thought there is the finish line. I never thought this was going to end.

Last .1: 37 seconds

Setting a new personal best of 1:23:27, I was in no way pleased. I seem to be on the mend from last month’s schedule but not nearly where I though I would be. I will settle for 16th overall (there was a much stronger overall field this year than in the recent past) and 2nd in my age group. As usual, the pancake flat course of Presque Isle does not give me the fast time I was hoping for. But I know some of the reasons and they have been discussed ad nauseum.

Some highlights of this weekend:

* I love church signs. The best one this weekend was a block from my house: “Exposure to the Son (sic), may prevent burning.”

* On Main Street in Titusville (speed limit: 25 mph), I had to pass a ginormous riding lawn mower tooling down the street.

* My mom got to see me race a half-marathon for the first time. Two years ago, she saw me race in a rinky-dink 5k in Titusville, but it was not until seeing two marathons last year that she actually saw me race something substantial since high school. I may be 31 but I love that my mom likes to watch. She will be watching again in September when I head back to Erie for another attempt at a marathon PR.

* I was surprised at the beginning of the race to see Jon Walk, a Houstonian resident and the write of an excellent racing blog (as well as a PSU grad). He noticed me from some pictures h had seen previously and we spent a few minutes beforehand exchanging pleasantries. Check his blog out HERE.

* I also was able to get to see another running friend who I had yet to meet yet, known solely as Erie Tom. Just one month after completing his first 100 mile race, tom was out here again chugging away at this half-marathon. We both stated these short distances are for the birds. Was so great to meet him as well!

* Someone was talking with my mother during the race and talk of Fiddy2 came about. The women was so excited that she was talking to “Dane’s Mom” that she asked to have her picture taken with my mom! I love it!

* I got to see my 14 month old nephew for the first time. He’s a tank!

* As always, while I was home, my parent’s dog, Shadow did my taxes, defragged my computer, gave me a proposal on balancing the budget and whipped up a great steak tartar. He is amazing.

Another attempt at going sub 5 in the mile and breaking my PR in an 8k (on the same day) are up in 6 days!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Well, that puts a crimp in the weekends plans.


From the website of the half I was going to run this weekend.

"Due to circumstances beyond our control...

9 July 2007 - Well, not completely beyond our control. We voted for them. The State of Pennsylvania has yet to pass a budget for the coming fiscal year, which means that, effective at Midnight last night, all non-essential workers were to be furloughed. Which means our beloved Presque Isle State Park will not be open. We (the race & club directors) shall make a decision as to when the final decision will be made, but a decision will be made some time this week if the budget doesn't pass.

In short, if the budget doesn't pass, we can't hold the half-marathon on PISP.

Other options may present, but (as the race director), I don't know if we can put an alternative together fast enough to put on a good race somewhere else. Should the race be cancelled, all registrations will carry to next year (no fee, no paperwork, just automatically carry over).
Please, do NOT call or email about whether the event is still on. Final status will be posted here on Friday morning and (should the event be cancelled), I'm going to be very busy calling all participants (or emailing if I have valid emails) to tell them the status. Thank you."

Thank you government of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania!

I am beginning to think I am a jinx to the races I run this year! Look at my schedule to the right. DO NOT run those races!

ADDENDUM: The gubment realized that putting 24,000 VOTERS out of work was probably not wise and passed the budget this morning (07.10.07). The race goes on.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

PVTC Outdoor Track & Field Meet

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 13th Edition
292.25 miles raced in 2007
Race: Potomac Valley Track Club Outdoor Track & Field Meet
Place: McLean, VA
Miles from home: 8
Course Difficulty: Track
Course Enjoyability: Track
Weather: 90 degrees and slightly humid
Finishers' Medal: N/A

Since high school, I have run 5 separate one mile races (that I can recall): the Harrisburg mile in 2001 and 2002, (5:16 and 5:06, respectively) the Carlisle Mile in 2002 (5:18), the Edinboro Kilted Mile in 2003 (5:19) and the Pennsylvania Ave Mile in 2004 (5:21).

In my continuing goal to set a new personal best at every distance this year (yes, this is OBVIOUSLY not the best way to go about setting PRs. Proper specific training for a certain distance is usually needed to set a new best time or max out your potential at that distance. That is not what I am doing this year but I will still make claims, based on prior race experience, about what I FEEL I can do IF I proper train for a race, WHICH I may do in the near future. Clear?) I saw that a local high school hosts a track meet throughout the summer open to all-comers. So, I decided that since mile races are a little difficult to come by this would be my shot at beating either my high school PR of 4:50 or my “adult” record of 5:06.

Have I done speedwork? No. Am I rested and recovered from June? Most assuredly not. Is this the ideal way to tackle a PR attempt at a mile? No. One thousand times no. But I wanted to see if I could. (I also thought about running the 800 and the 3000 as well but as the day wore on and the time between heats lengthened, I saw that I might get to the 3000 by 2:30 PM [having been there sine 9 AM] and to the 800 maybe an hour after that and decided against it.)

All of this lead me to McLean at 9 AM already cursing the 84 degree weather, where I paid my $8 (I love these inexpensive races!!) and looked over the schedule for the day. I saw my friend Liz Jones and milled around for a bit discussing what we both planned on racing. Soon both Anne and Christine showed up to lend their cheering lungs and not too much longer after that I was getting ready to take on the mile.

I lined up in the fastest designated heat as one of the middle range runners. I could tell there were some sub-5 minute guys present, so I figured they would be the chaps to run with today. The gun went off and away we went.

1st lap:
Almost immediately two high-schoolish age girls pushed in from my right to try and get to the inside lanes, with a complete disregard for any track etiquette. “Hey, make sure you have room next time,” I said. “That’s what your elbows are for,” was her reply. Damn. I wondered two things. What sort of “lady” says that and how much would this little waif enjoyed it if I had used my elbows?

The first lap was basically about 15 of us jockeying for position with me getting boxed in a little bit. I tried to relax a bit but with those around me running so tightly knit it was hard to get into a groove. I hit the clock exactly where I wanted to be at 75 seconds.

2nd lap:
The pack finally split up a little bit and I was able to hit my speed as I wanted to when the race started. Around the 600 meter mark, I felt a little cottonmouth. Ruh-roh Rorge! Nevertheless, I held on and hit a perfect 75 second lap.

3rd lap:
The initial group of faster guys began to lengthen their lead on me and the rest of the group I was in. I was hoping for another perfect lap which would allow me to push it hard to the finish. However, I could tell I was slowing some as I ran the straightaway towards the clock. Sure enough, at 3:50 I had ran an 80 second 3rd lap.

Final Lap:
Pretty sure I was not going to be able to go sub-5, I focused on holding the form together and running a good mile as a springboard to future miles. Another 80 second lap put me at 5:10.

While not content I would have been happy with a 5:09 today. But I will take the 5:10 and move forward. So with laps of 75, 75, 80, and 80 (as the race was a mile and not a 1600 the first lap was longer and therefore was actually faster), I would say I ran a pretty good race. Especially since this was the first time I had run a timed mile on a track in 13 years. I guess I didn’t put up but you can bet I won’t shut up.

Even though I passed on running the 3000 and 800 meter given the wait time, I decided to give the 400 a shot. (I also thought about the 100 meter but since I have never started off of blocks before I negated that idea).

Drawing lane 4 (*EXCUSE ALERT* This was a middle lane I would have not preferred.) I readied myself for the gun. *Bang* it went and a-sprinting I was a-going (or a slow distance runner facsimile thereof). I passed the runners in lane 5 and 6 with no problem and was running alone until we hit the 200 meter mark. I heard someone say “28 seconds!” which I assumed was the split time. On my left, the runners in Lanes 2 and 3 passed me on the inside. I did not care if they both beat me but rather was hoping to hold on for a sub-60 second time.

Hitting the straightaway, my legs turned to rubber. I had nothing left. Damn, this 400 stuff is hard! I hit the line in 63 seconds and exhaled. Whew.

So neither of my bigger goals were met but I felt this laid great groundwork for an assault on both distances again in two weeks at the next track meet. I will also be running a difficult 8k later that same day in Rockville, so it should make for an interesting day!

Full results, for the curious and those seeking verification, can be found HERE.

Friday, July 6, 2007

4th of July Age-Handicapped 4 Miler Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 12th Edition
291 miles raced in 2007
Race: 4th of July Age-Handicapped 4 Miler
Place: Carderock, MD
Miles from home: 13
Course Difficulty: 1.5 out of 10
Course Enjoyability: 5 out of 10
Weather: 70 degrees and slightly humid
Finishers' Medal: N/A

The format of this race was simple. Based on age-graded charts, runners of different ages and genders would start according to a time which said that if all racers were of equal talent relative to their age and gender, they would finish at the same time. This is, obviously, quite absurd, but fun nonetheless.

Over 100 hundred people lined up this narrow path alongside the Canal which 184.5 miles from Washington D.C. to Cumberland MD (read about the Canal here: ) on a day which rapidly got warmer. Most runners were parked and ready to go by 7:30 AM for this 8 AM race and at that time, the weather was still just a little crisp. Everyone was in a genial mood enjoying the mid-week break from work and other activities with plans for picnics and fireworks ahead.

Growing up, the 4th of July was one of my favorite days of the year. It meant a full day out at my father’s sister’s house in the country, which was only 7 miles away but might as well have been 70 given how infrequently we visited out there. But the 4th was a day of eating way too much food, visiting with relatives and watching Uncle Frank light off tons of, quite possibly illegal, fireworks. Those days are long gone but to me the 4th signifies the true heart of summer and if you are not having fun by that date, it is time to start. School would start before I knew it.

There was this same laid-back feeling amongst the runners before the race. Even at the scheduled start time, half of the runners were still milling around in the parking lot 200 yards from the starting line. Given that most of us had a 10 minute wait at least there was no hurry. Being in the 30-34 age group I had the second longest wait until I began (18:31) next only to the 15-29 group (18:44). So you can tell I was in no hurry.

After I finally decided to do about 100 meters of warming up in the parking lot, I joined a group who sauntered through the little path from the parking lot, through the woods and onto the towpath next to the Canal. A dirty-brown smooth crushed-gravel surface, the towpath is a favorite of both runners and bikers alike in the greater D.C. area. Both were present today even though it was early in the morning.

When I got to the towpath, I found that the race had not started promptly at 8 AM and the first runner (a Ms. Lee Glassco who at 76 looked pretty damn spry) started with no handicap around 8:10. This meant I still had nearly 19 minutes of milling around to do before my group would set off. I talked to some runners as well as my best friend Anne who had come along for moral support. Every few minutes the very crowded sideline of the towpath would send off another back of runners and the runners standing on the edges would have a little more room to breather. Nestled right next to the woods on one side, and the canal on the other, the towpath can’t be much more than six feet wide. As the race course consisted of runners running one direction for half a mile, turning around and passing through the starting area again before going 1.5 miles to turn around again to finish where we started, you can imagine all of the runners going in different directions. Throw in runners who were just out for exercise, walkers with dogs and cyclists and it was a pretty busy spot.


As the clock wound around for my age group I wondered what I would feel like today. I still haven’t recovered from a rough June, the temperature was increasing very quickly and I haven’t really done speedwork in…well…a very long time. But before I knew it I had not time left to wonder and I was off.

I felt I was moving along at a good clip as I was stride for stride with a pretty fit looking chap in my group. However, before too long I realized the pace felt good which means that is bad. Paces only are supposed to feel “good” in marathons, not 4 mile races. Four mile race paces are supposed to hurt. But before I could even get to the half-mile mark, a guy passed me from the age group behind me. It was time to pick up the pace.

Keeping him in sight I heard footsteps again and a young buck slid by me right before the first mile which I did in 5:40. Definitely too slow for a 4 mile race, I knew that I needed to pick it up.

Miles 1-2.5:

Picking my way through racers and trying to keep the two guys in front of me in sight I tried to concentrate on expending the right amount of energy at the right time. Without a doubt, and this almost goes without saying, there is a huge difference between what this race was and what I have been training and running for the past two years. I always wondered how some fast local guys could do well in both 10k distances and half marathons or longer at the same time. Then I realized that their 10k times really aren’t all that fast per se, but rather are just a little faster than the pace they set for their longer runs. So, while the times still boggle my mind, it is basically just a natural extension. If you run a 2:35 marathon, by default your 10k time is going to be pretty damn stellar to the average bloke. Unfortunately for me, I don’t run a 2:35 marathon.

I started seeing some familiar faces running back at me now which means they had reached the turn-around. This is always comforting because until you see people who are in front of you turning around, than you know you still have a ways to go.

Miles 2.5 to finish:

I wasn’t gaining any ground on the second young guy who passed me but I wasn’t losing any either. The first guy who had passed me was long gone and I was just hoping to hold on to my present spot. With each person I passed I knew I was moving up some but it was very hard to gauge my own speed. The only real way to tell how fast I was going was to look at the one guy who had passed me.

Two thoughts were in my mind: "Wow, it gotten hot quickly" and “Run faster, dummy! You don’t have 20 more miles to go!” I really cannot adequately explain how hard it is to get out of the habit of long-distance running and pacing. Even during the middle of Fiddy2 when I was getting faster every week, I still had to reel it in at times in order to make sure all 52 marathons were completed. Moving from Fiddy2 to 2007 has been a very similar experience. It is hard to race all-out since I am so hard-wired NOT to do so. But I think I am finally shaking that and am able to concentrate more of each individual race. Too bad I have designed a schedule for the remainder of the year which focuses more on running every distance imaginable rather than focus on one particular distance! But that is what I wanted to do and to be honest, I am having fun in spite of the repeated hard times I have hit upon. After passing some people on the right (and almost taking a dip into the canal) due to the narrow paths and people running in both directions, I could tell we were getting close to the end.

In a spurt, I passed a few more runners and was closing in on my friend, Jessie Sackett. Recovering from a pretty bad bike accident which required surgery on her broken collarbone, Jessie is a heckuva a runner. That is why I wanted to catch her! But she held me off easily beating me by 11 seconds. I grabbed my finishing card to Anne’s “woo-hoo!” and saw I placed 30th overall. Having just received the results today I was pleasantly surprised to know that besides the two guys who passed me (and therefore obviously ran faster times than I did) only one other guy ran a faster non-cumulative time. Here are their stats below and let’s here it for Joe Racine, the guy who passed me first and then proceeded to crush me the rest of the way.

OV Name Cum Hand Non-Cum
8 Joe Racine M 29 Arlington VA 41:28 18:44 22:44
3 Dave Haaga M 45 Rockville MD 39:13 16:05 23:08
24 Kris Lasko M 17 Gaithersburg MD 42:56 18:44 24:12
30 Dane Rauschenberg M 31 Arlington VA 43:29 18:31 24:58

(Full results here:)

All and all in was a pretty good race day. Nice to get out here and test the legs again after the 5k last week and I think my speed bodes well for my All-comers Track meet tomorrow. Can I break 5 minutes in the mile? I think I will be surprised if I do. I am pretty darn tired, don’t have the turn-over I should to give it a shot and Saturday calls for hot weather. But I will still go give a try. I think I have a shot. Will know in about 24 hours!