Monday, September 10, 2007

Presque Isle Marathon at Erie Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 26th Edition
426.73 miles raced in 2007
Race: Presque Isle Marathon at Erie
Place: Erie, PA
Miles from home: 357.9 (or 44 from my parents’ house)
Course Difficulty: 2 out of 10
Course Enjoyability: 7 out of 10
Weather: Mid 70s, slightly humid, constant rain.
Finisher's Medal: 8.5 out of 10 (It just keeps getting better each year).

There are so many stories from this weekend I am unsure where to start (and I am apologizing beforehand as this is going to get long!). Chronological order suits my memory best so that is where I will begin. 

As I mentioned in a previous posting (HERE), I was asked to speak a local elementary school when I was home this past weekend by my former high school principal and 11th grade swim coach, Mr. Terry Funk. Mr. Funk, and his family are some of the nicest mot loving and caring people I have ever had the luxury to come across in my 31 years on this planet. Why they like me is beyond my comprehension. I think it is the Penn State ties (I might have to write an entire other blog about that Notre Dame game).

Nevertheless, I was not quite sure what Mr. Funk wanted me to say to the kids at the school on Friday so I simply followed his lead. After a glowing praise of me and what I had done last year (Mr. Funk could make a wad of bubble gum get a chorus of Ooohs” and “Ahhhs” from anyone) I simply kept my speech short. I wanted these kids from 1st to 5th grade to know that just because they were from a small town does not mean they should not dream big. That was it. That was the gist. After a few Q&As which Mr. Funk had to direct away from humorous but non sequitur topics, I wrapped up the speech, presented Mr. Funk with a copy of the Ripley’s Believe it or Not book I was most recently featured in as a gift to their library and sat down. 

After the children were dismissed a few teachers came up to me to say they were impressed or proud a Titusville native was making an impact on the world or something akin to that (most of which I brushed off with a wave of the hand but thanked them nonetheless) one young teacher told me that her husband, Adam Peterson had heard about what I had done last year and was motivated to attempt his first half-marathon as a result. As fate would have it, it was the Erie half marathon the same day as I was running the full. Unfortunately, I did not get to meet Adam but a check of the results show that in his first half marathon ever he ran a 1:41:55. That is a GREAT time for a first half marathon. Way to go Adam!

The rest of the weekend was spent milling around my hometown and marveling how different it is then the greater DC area. I came to the realization that Titusville is exactly like important parts of town in Hollywood movies which help to enhance the plot. How is that? Have you ever noticed that no matter where the main actor has to go in downtown LA or NYC that he is always able to pull up in front of the building and park? No parallel parking, no searching for a spot. No, he simply pulls up and parks as there are no car in front or in back of where he needs to go. THAT is Titusville. All the time. Where do you need to go? At what time? On what day? Yep. There is a parking space. I love it (Not as much as the sign I saw in the window of a local town that looked like something akin to a Bed & breakfast or perhaps a historical Museum which signified that it would be allowing people to enter its doorways on this day not by saying that it was “Closed” But rather, in a beautiful wooden hand-carved sign it simply said “SHUT”. And don’t get me started on the vegetable stand, sitting on the side of the road, unattended with a sign that said “Leave Money for Corn” above a red metal box, which may or may not have been even locked. Big Jim the Corn Man [actual title on the Veggie Stand] is a trusting fella).

The marathon on Sunday is a little over an hour from my hometown. I had a few hours to kill on Saturday so, as much as I hate wasting gas, decided I would make the trip up to get both my timing chip and my bib number to save myself the hassle of doing so the next morning. This, as you will read, was quite fortuitous on my part.

At the expo, I ran into one of the Drake Well Marathon participants and second place overall finisher Eric Semeret and his newly engaged fiancĂ©e Sonia (congrats to both of you!). Eric had proposed after finishing his 5th Leadville 100 mile race just a few weeks previously. (I would love to hear that story). Continuing with the many ties that would bind this weekend, Sonia first heard about the Drake Well Marathon, as she is a Titusville native. Her father had been my 7th grade shop teacher (I am sure it is called Woodworking and Fine Hand Arts by now. We called it “shop” and liked it.) upon investigation, Eric and I found that we had actually run the Estes Park Marathon against each other during Fiddy2 (this is a rather important point as you will see later). Eric had won that day. I beat him at Drake Well. So now we are tied. Eric mentioned he was not expecting to go too fast given his recent finish at Leadville and I playfully told him I didn’t expect to go fast in my 51st marathon of the year but I still beat him. 

Back home, I watched the Penn State dismantling of the Rolling Over and Playin’ Dead Irish and went to bed. My alarm went of, I gathered my mom up into my little car and away we went to Erie. Almost to the peninsula known as Presque Isle (the namesake of the marathon and upon which the marathon is run), my mom and I popped into McDonald’s since we had made such good time on our drive, her for a coffee; me to use a real bathroom. One the quirks of this particular McDonald’s and I swear to all things holy that I am not making this up is, across the street there is a cemetery and one of the headstones facing the McDonald’s has the surname “Hamburger”. You cannot make this stuff up!

Upon entering the Peninsula I expected a little traffic, as half of the road would be blocked for the marathon to begin but I did not expect the back-up we faced. It took us nearly 20 minutes to go 3 miles. When we parked, I realized it was already 6:50 and we were not near as close to the start as we had been the previous year. It appears those lots had already long since been filled. Given the massive line of cars behind us I figured we were safe and the race might start 15 minutes late or something so my mother and I began walking to the starting line. At 6:55 I told her I was going to jog on up ahead just to be safe.

As I rounded one corner, I almost got mowed down by a wheelchair racer and thought, “Man, he is warming up FAST!” Then in the distance I heard the middle strains of the Star-Spangled Banner. Uh-oh. He wasn’t warming up. He had started! I sprinted around another bend and saw hordes of people standing at the staring line hands on watches and looking tense. I made it around the timing mat with just about enough time to spare to catch my breath before the started the race. In that quick second I wads able to find my good friend and last year’s winner Mike Aldrink. This is not exceptionally hard as mike is 6’2’’ and was wearing the number “1” signifying his position last year. A quick hug and well wishes were exchanged which is all we had time for. Mike is trying to qualify for the Olympics and was using this race as a warm-up for Chicago one month from now.

A poke on my shoulder revealed another chap I had met at last year’s race, Nathan Echols. Nathan and I share another distinction as well. While I dropped out of the Old dominion 100 race in June to preserve my health and legs for an upcoming race (even more foreshadowing), when I did so I was in second place to a fellow named Keith Knipling. (Feel free to read my recap of that race HERE.) Unlike me, however, Nathan, who has run 3 100 milers this year (!), did not drop out and instead took second place behind Keith at the race the week before. Nathan said he was feeling quite spent and was going to try and leg this out (no slouch in the “shorter” distances Nathan took 5th last year in a 2:57).

In this quick bustle I did not get to meet up with my former boss, the Honorable John J. Trucilla. Racing the half, he expected to finish around the same time as I would for the first half of my full (his pace for the half being what I was hoping to do pace-wise for the full). However, I would see him not too long after the start and almost always had him in sight. (His 10k was a 41:26; mine was a 42:06. His finish of the half was 1:28:04 and I was there in the back at 1:29:01). But I could not catch him. Nor did I want to after too long.

So the race was under way. Quickly I was running side by side with another friend of mine Rich Lavene. Last year Rich ran his first Boston Qualifying time ever at the Erie Marathon and I am taking partial claim for it. You see, Rich was in front of me until mile 23 or so. Catching him and letting him know we were not going to make a 3:10 unless we turned it on, he held on tightly to my pace-setting and then left me in the dust from 26 on in. Rich is one of the rare people who actually have run their best time at Boston. We both wanted to go out at around a 2:57 or so. Rich was using his GPS on his arm to set his pace; I was using my inner metronome.

With that as an intro, let me get to the actual race, brought to you again, mile-by-mile.

Mile 1&2: 13:36
I missed hitting my watch on the very first mile marker; mostly because I was shocked it took us so long to get to it. Looking at my watch it said 6:55, which I knew was not right. I was not running that slow even though I was trying to be conservative. I picked it up on the second mile just to be sure and got an average of 6:48 for the first two. Not too shabby. During this first section I was joined by a runner who I often competed against in Erie when I ran - Kevin Slagle. I have mentioned Kevin previously and how we would trade victories against each other in random distances with no rhyme or reason as to why one would win and the other would not (he was my Pennsylvania version of Karsten Brown!) Kevin was hoping to qualify for Boston in his 2nd attempt having run a 3:22 (or so) in Columbus earlier. All around runners told him he needed to slow down a bit, as he was WAY ahead of that pace. I think after a bit he may have listened as he fell back and seemed to find his own groove.

Mile 3: 6:43
Leaving both Nathan and Kevin behind I caught up to Rich who had pulled away. I was surprised that it was taken as much effort to hit the pace I wanted to but chalked it all up to nerves.
You see, this marathon and this day hold special meaning to me. Four years ago in only my second marathon attempt, I dropped 43 minutes from my first marathon ever. However, I was not where I wanted to be with regards to time as I was hoping to qualify for Boston to honor my grandmother who passed away on the day of my very first marathon ever. Moreover, in a very emotional Erie Marathon last year I ran my first Boston Qualifying time of the year in front of all my relatives (who rarely get to see me run) and did so on Grandparents’ Day (I go into this in greater detail in See Dane Run. I was therefore hoping that the motional lift I would receive from both grandparents (my grandfather has since passed away as well) would be enough to battle the string of bad luck and bad health I have had in 2007.

Mile 4: 6:44
Here I let Rich pull away from me a bit. He seemed to be cruising along quite well and I wanted him to run his own race without thinking about pacing me.

Mile 5: 6:48
I felt my first twinge of slight uncomfortableness in my left leg during this mile. As I alluded to earlier, I sustained an injury in the Estes Park Marathon last year that I ran with Eric Semeret and exacerbated it in July at the Leadville Marathon. Both my adductor muscle and some other muscle I know only my physical therapist can name in my calf have bothered me since. For the most part they stay dormant and only ache but sometimes they flare up and make things not so comfy. I was hoping it would be the former.

Mile 6: 6:45
Another mile down and I am about on pace where I wanted to be. I see my mom for the first time, bright orange pants and all hiding like others behind a gigantic umbrella as the rain poured down. Did I forget to mention the rain? Well, it was both a blessing and a curse. Surprisingly warm for NW PA in September, especially with constant rain, we were running in low to mi 70-degree weather. The rain was keeping things cool but was also making conditions sloppy and raising the humidity some. I could not decide if I was happy or disgruntled that I was saturated through and through by the watery sky.

Mile 7: 6:49
Disgruntled. I have had enough.

Mile 8: 6:54
Yep, still not happy. I caught up to Rich and we ran together for a bit before I passed him going around a turn. Before doing so we passed one of the wheelchair racers. As Rich and I passed her (man I cannot imagine doing that. She constantly was cranking away on the wheels and then needing to grab her front wheel to wretch it back into place to keep her straight), I had a hunch: “Holly?” I said. He head popped up: “Hi Dane!” I have met Holly Koester at many races and a happier person you will never find. Even though she had never run a marathon until an accident in the army made her lose use of her legs she has since done (and I know I am going to get this wrong) over 80 some marathons. More inspiration in a tiny little package you will not find on this planet my dear readers.

We bid Holly adieu and passed on. I smiled for probably a good half-mile.

Mile 9: 6:41
Trying not to kick too early I saw Mark Courtney ahead. Mark, whose timing company not only was doing this race but had also done the Drake Well Marathon is all of 51 but can routinely churns out sub 3 marathons. Heck of a runner. I think I passed him solely on the adrenaline left over from seeing Holly!

Mile 10: 6:50
Somehow on a slower mile I passed Mark. I told him I was shooting for 2:57ish and he told me I had to run even splits to do so. I told him that was the plan. I also mentioned I hoped that I would not but I had a feeling I would see him again.

Mile 11: 6:47
Happy to get back down below 6:50 again but angry that my left leg’s pain had not gone away I was just doing my best to keep moving forward. I could see my Judge in front of me and I just wanted to keep him the same distance ahead.

Mile 12: 6:46
Another good mile as we turned onto the beach and headed for the half-marathon finish.

Mile 13: 6:49
A little slower than expected but nothing to worry about. I was beginning to revise my battle plan for the run with the growing leg pain but hadn’t quite yet thrown in the towel.

Mile 14: 7:01
After passing through the halfway point I heard a few people cheer my name. My Judge, having just finished his race let out a throaty “Go Dane!” My Aunt Monica took a quick picture of me (I am pretty sure I had the goofiest face in the world plastered on my grill) and away I went. I knew this first mile was a little long so I was not too worried about my time.

Mile 15: 6:55
Earlier in the race a local runner named Matt Roth had ran up behind Rich and I and asked if we were running for a sub-3. I told him that was the plan. He asked if he could pace off of us and we said sure thing. Odd that someone with such speed would need to pace off of others we asked him how many marathons he had run “This is my first” was his reply. Dang. I told him best of luck. Well, he passed me here. He must have been hanging right off of my shoulder and he looked strong. Good for him.

Mile 16: 7:01
Crap. I definitely did not want any more of these 7-minute miles. My leg was really starting to bother me and I figured if I could just run 6:59s the rest of the way I would set a Personal best, even if it was not the time I was hoping for.

Mile 17: 7:10
Double crap. The back up plan I had in mind was to realize that like those who were put forth before Caesar to remember “thou art mortal”. I was really feeling my adductor stiffen and with a full fall of races the last thing I needed to do was get injured. Let’s see what the next mile held for me. Sonia’s father Max, my old shop teacher, popped out from beneath a hooded jacket and gave me a big thumbs up. I smiled for the first time in miles and felt perhaps I still had this thing.

Mile 18: 7:01
Excellent! Positive thinking helps all the time! 

Mile 19: 7:26
No, not always. My Aunt was waiting for me in the 18th mile with a Propel. I love Propel. How I have not been able to get a sponsorship with this stuff yet is beyond me! Nevertheless, in spite of the rain (which had never stopped once mind you, waterlogging me to my bones) I was dying of thirst. It is the ultimate curse to be soaking wet and thirsty at the same time. I came to a stop just for a few seconds so I could down a big mouthful. I took a few more steps, downed another mouthful and took off again, dropping the bottle behind for my aunt.

Mile 20: 7:25
Even with the stop I had equaled the last mile’s time. But I knew my day was over. My leg was shot and my energy, as a result, was ebbing. It was time to mail it in

Mile 21: 7:47
As predicted, Mark Courtney passed me. I told him good luck as I once again stopped at the aid station to fill my belly and acquiesce to the fact that I was not going to be able to meet the goal that I had set to honor my grandparents. Then again, I figured Heaven probably has some really sunny golf course so they are probably beating the pants off of Bob Hope right now.

Mile 22: 7:43
That thought game me four more seconds of energy.

Mile 23: 7:38
Smiling still inside I knocked off 5 more.

Mile 24: 7:43
My Aunt game me my Propel one last time. I stopped to down the bottle and still didn’t have that bad of a mile.
Up ahead I saw Matt Roth. He was slowing for sure. He hit the ROTC aid station and walked. God bless the kid. It was his first marathon. But damn it if I was going to let him beat me.

Mile 25: 7:43
My mile time was equal to the previous one but no one else around me was running the same. I passed a few runners and kept Matt in my sights.

Mile 26: 7:19
Just then a rather fit fella sprinted past me like he had just started the race. Good for him! I passed Matt and told him to keep it up. He was going to crush a Boston Qualifying time!

Last .2: 1:30

Making sure no one else passed me (I had heard I was in the top 20 and wanted to keep it that way) I finished the marathon. Very disappointed to have not been able to fulfill my side of the bargain I was happy I had run wisely. Like the Old Dominion 100, I knew my decision would gnaw at me but was well aware it was the right one at the time.
Crossing the line in 3:05:41, I had run my 5th fastest marathon ever, placed 18th overall and won my age group. Ironically, Matt Roth had been in my age group. That little push at the end had snared me 1st.
In the pouring down rain Mike Aldrink had been unable to repeat as champion but had run an amazing 2:31:23 to finish 2nd overall, well ahead of anyone else. Proud to say I have shared a Korean hotel room with that sort of speed.
*Rich was able to pull through on a tough day by hitting a very respectable 3:16. Excellent work Rich!
*Matt Roth ran his first marathon in an extremely enviable 3:06:05. I hope he is very proud of his efforts.
* Eric Semeret had a very impressive 3:26:48 just weeks after a 100-mile race. Way to go Eric!
*Nathan and Kevin had both dropped out for reasons I am guessing were either weather-related or a combination of weather and tiring racing schedules.
*Mark held off my furious charge well and finished about a minute ahead of me in 3:04:20
All things said, it was a good day. I was surprised that so many people were having difficulty getting onto the peninsula and can only hope that did not affect anyone’s time. I have yet to race a Erie Marathon when the sun was shining but as most marathoners will tell you, that is a good thing. Although, to tell you the truth, I could have done without the constant showers. Besides toes that looked like prunes when I was finished, the extra water and chafing were not fan favorites.
I am pleased I ran wisely. If this was the last race of the season I could have pushed it harder. When I decided it was all over at mile 20 I lost well over 5 minutes off the pace I could have kept. But at what expense? With both a 65-mile relay in 2 weeks and two more marathons in the next six (followed by that 24 hour attempt) I sucked up the fact that my best efforts would not be my best choice on this particular day.
I guess running 70 marathons teaches you something after all, huh?
Full results can be found here.


1L said...

Nice running, Dane even if you just missed your goal, you still ran your 6th fastest marathon ever, and of that you should be proud. I am sure that when your grandparents were turning the corner at 9, they looked down and smiled.

Glad to see Holly is still at it - she is quite a special person.

Funny about the McD's. I know where that is, and next year at the half, I am going to go check that out.

Again, nice job. Save some energy for the hills in New Hampshire.

Anne said...

I'm super proud of you for beating your course record! Only wish I could have been there again this year to see you in action.

Mr. Funk is awesome (and has one hot family).

I'm so glad you got to see your family, watch some football, and hang with Super Dog! Now that I think of it, Shadow probably made those cute tennis ball soaps on ropes that your mama sent home with you to give to me. Oh, Shadow!

I can totally see you proposing to your girlfriend after a marathon.

Willis said...

Sweet run, glad you can even recognize folks out there now! Awesome job.

Yellow Scuba said...

I know it was a tough day on several fronts, Dane, but you kept your big picture in mind, which is smart. I know it's hard for you to dial things back a bit, but I'm sure you did the right thing. Although not the race you wanted, you still ran an outstanding time and should be really proud. I am so glad that your mother and aunt were on hand to cheer for you. :) I am proud of you!

KMK said...

Good race!

~Nathalie~ said...

I echo the above comment; and it is still an awesome time. Very happy you got to spend time with the fam in the process.

And the golf course in heaven reference really made me smile.

Keep taking care of that leg.

CharlieM said...

I won't ask how many walk breaks, I'm just going to say: "Great marathon Dane!" Running a 7:45 pace on a hurt leg, in the rain, for the last 10K of a marathon...anyone who's done marathons knows how tough that it is, especially when you feel a goal time slipping away. I think you paced perfectly (I was worried you'd go for a 1:26 or 1:27 1st half), and given the right conditions and complete health, you would have busted a 2:57. I definitely think you will break 3 at both Steamtown and Marine Corps. Awesome effort at are definitely inspiring me as I continue to train to go sub-3 at Richmond in November.

KLM said...

*You did see a lot of familiar faces!
*Glad you got to see your family and even though the race didn't go as planned, you still ran well.
I think your grandparents would be proud.
*And take care of your legs! Have you ever had a massage. I hear those are good. ;)