Saturday, June 30, 2007

211.37 miles

After cresting the 200 mile barrier for the first time in a month ever this past May, I figued I would have no problem killing that total in June, especially given I was running my first 100 miler on June 4th.

Well, as you know, I ran 14 miles short of 100 miles on that day. then I went to China and did not run for four days in a row. Having gotten sick there I didn't run for a few days after I got back. *BAM* June was gone and there were many days when I was never running.

But luckily, I was able to create a new "high" for a month and with 12 miles today, ran 211.37 miles. My goal for the year is to run 2007 miles. Aren't I creative?

In other news, I have put in a request to the race director of a 65 mile relay in New Hampshire to allow me to run the race solo. I am not sure if he will let me (haven't heard back from him yet) but I really hope so. I would love to race against teams of people!

Friday, June 29, 2007

A little 5k

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 11th Edition
287 miles raced in 2007
Race: Bluemont Park 5k
Place: Arlington, VA
Miles from home: 3
Course Difficulty: 3 out of 10
Course Enjoyability: 5 out of 10
Weather: 90plus degrees and humid
Finishers' Medal: N/A

My friend Liz Jones, a prolific and speedy runner (if I recall correctly she ran over 60 races last year and routinely is in the top three women in in any race she enters) told me about a little 5k coming up after work on Thursday.

Even though temps here in DC have been ungodly lately when combined with the humidity, I figured this would be a fun race to try. I more or less knew where the course would be run and it would be mostly flat.

So, after work, I hurried over to Bluemont Park in Arlington to join the NOVA runners club in a low-key 5k. Cost? $1 for non club members. How fun is that? Bib numbers and all!

There really is not much that I can write about a 5k. If anything it felt a little long (just about 5 or 10 seconds each way on the out and back) but then again, it might have to do with the fact that it was probably 93 degrees at the start at 6:30 pm! We started off at a park and immediately joined a running trail that I have been on a few times. Within half a mile we joined a trail I have run probably 100 times and I knew every turn of it. I also knew that right around the turnaround point there was a very short but very steep hill.

This race was more or less a chance to see if I had recovered at all from two tough June races and also a chance to run in anonymity. I told no one about this race. I did not want friends there I did not want good luck wishes, I just wanted to run. I also wanted to see what I have in store for me for my attempt at a mile PR in a week. I still think it is too soon to say for sure but I have a feeling it will be very hard to break 5 minutes next weekend. I just have not rested enough and have not trained for such a short distance enough to give it a hugely realistic chance. But I will still give it a shot!

After staying with the first two guys in the race for about half a mile, I thought perhaps I could catch them after the turn. But the hill got me and I settled into third place. I felt certain a guy behind me was going to pass me. However, when he simply stayed on my heels for about half a mile, pride overtook the heat and tiredness and I thought: "Well you are going to have to work for this one buddy."

Under a small overpass and back up a hill, the guy behind me was nice enough to shout a little "To the right!" when I almost made a wrong turn. We finished just a few seconds apart but I was able to hold him off.

There were only 26 race participants but it was still a fun night. The overall winner and age group winners got to take home little potted plants (provided by Andresa Hart of Northern Virginia Running Club) which because I took 3rd and the guy who took second was my same age, left me empty-handed. darn it! plants are pretty!

Here are the top 10 finishers.
1 Ted Poulos M 45 McLean VA 17:52 1
2 David Wertz M 31 Falls Church VA 18:03 2
3 Dane Rauschenberg M 31 Arlington VA 18:45 3
4 Ben Stanley M 24 Falls Church VA 18:47 4
5 Charlie Mercer M 37 Arlington VA 18:58 5
6 Rick Poppleton M 54 Alexandria VA 19:37 6
7 Bert Klein M 46 Arlington VA 20:35 7
8 Chuck Grasmeder M 36 Arlington VA 21:26 8
9 Mark Becker M 50 Alexandria VA 21:28 9
10 Elizabeth Jones F 30 Midland VA 22:03 1

They do this once a month and unfortunately I will not be able to join them in July as I will be heading to Washington to run a 189 mile relay. But if you have a chance, go down and give this little 5k a shot. they run south next month and I hear that part of the course is flat as a pancake.

And there was free watermelon!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Race Survey

I was asked to answer a few random questions about some races. So, here you go!

1. First Race ever:Do the Hershey Track and Field races count (in elementary school)? Or the 800 meter in high school? Or the 5k I did in law school?

2. Race with the hottest weather:Cayman Islands in 2006. 78 degrees with 100% humidty at 5am.

3. Race with the coldest weather:Varies. Temp was 12 in Beltsville, MD (GWB Marathon). But windchill is a toss-up between a few others

4. Race with the most rain:Nova Scotia Marathon in the tail end of Tropical Storm Beryl.

5. Race with the most "perfect" weather:Niagara Falls Marathon Oct 2006

6. Best-organized race:Drake Well Marathon

7. Worst-organized race:Orlando Xtreme Marathon

8. Flattest race with no hills:Drake Well Marathon

9. Race with the most hills:Leadville Marathon

10. Race with the best refreshments:JFK 50 miler. They had real food when you needed REAL FOOD.

11. Race with the worst refreshments:Hmm. A few to mention. None out weighing the other. Basically anythingwith Ultima. Can't stand the stuff.

12. Race you were most excited about beforehand:Drake Well Marathon

13. Most enjoyable race:Anyone I finish.

14. Least enjoyable race:Ones where controllable things are not controlled.

15. Race where you were in the most physical pain:Leadville Marathon. More or less because of the Estes Park Marathon before hand coupled with Leadville's difficulty

16. Race you are most proud of, and why: Presque Isle Endurance Classic. 84 miles in 12 hours.

17. Race you are least proud of, and why: Races where I leave anything on the table.

18. Fastest race you've run, considering the distance: Considering the distance? What the heck does that mean?

19. Race where you knew the most other people running it: Hmmm. So many to choose from I am unsure.

20. Race with the most runners: NYC Marathon

21. Smallest race with the fewest runners: Drake Well Marathon: 21 starters, 20 finishers.

22. Furthest race from your home: Dalian, China Marathon

23. Closest race to your home:Marine Corps Marathon. Mile 2 is at my doorstep.

24. Race with the best crowd support:NYC has most supporters. I still like MCM

25. Race with little or no crowd support:Many.

26. Race where you did much better than you expected:Niagara Falls Marathon. First sub-3.

27. Race where you did much worse than you expected:First marathon.

28. Race where your photos looked the best:Buffalo Marathon

29. Race where your photos looked the worst:Plenty.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Track workout

It got hot here in a hurry. Oh well, that is what it does in the summer.

That said, one expects it to cool off in the evening. One (re: Dane) does not expect it to still be 90-something degrees when you head to the track for a workout.

That said, I love the track. So definable. So finite. (Well, if an oval can be finite, that is). No guess work on how far you have run or how far to go. Right there on the reddish-orange surface (I wonder why that is the standard for tracks? I am still angry my high school, when it finally moved out of the 19th centruy and switched from a 286 meter cinder track[yes, you read that correctly; an 800 meter was 2 3/4 laps] to a 'real" track did not use our school colors of brown and gold for coloring the lanes) it s marked for both your pleasure and pain.

Given all I have had go wrong in June and still I am still not fully right in the ole GI area (and I am not talking go joe!) I did not expect much fro my workout. But I was going.

S0 when I saw we were doing 3 sets of alternating 800 meters and 1200 meters with a 200 meter and 400 meter rest between them respectively, I thought: "Ugh".

But about 30 minutes later, I had run every 800 under 2:50 and every 1200 under 4:25. Sweating buckets, thirsty as heck, I could not have asked for more given the conditions.

The track can chew you up and spit you out. But it can also redeem you. Next weekend, when I shoot for a sub-5 mile for the first time in over 13 years, I will see if this workout was foreshadowing or simply a sign that I still have it in me but need more work.

Regardless, every day, if I want to do so, I can run. So I do.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Marathoner up for an ESPY

This doesn't happen that often!

This is a little plug for a fellow marathoner...and a good one at that! Amy Palmiero-Winters has been nominated for an ESPY Award!

Some of you might recognize her as she was featured in Runners World magazine this spring. Follow this link and vote for her (it literally takes 10 seconds). She is listed under "Best Female Athlete with a Disability".

She is also actually from my rival high school in NW PA. Let's hear it for her!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Dalian Translation

Thanks to my friend Jana I have am much better translation of the article I posted the other day. (Too bad no one understands I do not pracice law and therefore don't get that good salary that comes with it!)

p.s. No idea where the "handsome" thing came in either but I'll take it!
p.p.s. Continuing with my wieght blog, yesterday I was 176.5. This morning after my 12miler I am 170.5. Can you see why this is maddening?

Super Runner “No Limit” Run 2193 Kilometers a Year
(One handsome face shot)

Dane Rauschenberg is not only a patent lawyer, but also a US amateur marathon runner “without limit”. Last year, he run 52 marathons in 28 states, a total of 2193 kilometers. Due to the record of 52 marathons within a year, Dane also becomes the third super marathon runner in the world who finishes one marathon per weekend within a year. For Dane, marathon is not simply a sport, it’s his lifestyle.

This is Dane’s first trip to China. He will participate in the 21st Dalian Marathon on June 17th. He said he liked China very much and would like to come to the Olympics in Beijing next year. He also hopes he can help motivate more Chinese marathon runners to enjoy this sport.
What made Dane stands out is not just he runs a marathon every week and works a full time job at the same time. What’s more important is through marathon, Dane is raising $52,000 for the L’Arche, an international charity organization which helps people with a mental handicap regardless of races and social backgrounds. “My plan is to raise $1000 a week,” Dane explained and he named it Fiddy2.

Fiddy2 was formally launched on Jan 8th, 2006. Dane ran the marathon in Disney Park, Orlando, Florida. During the first 6 months of Fiddy2, Dane’s average was 3:29, but in the last 6 months, his average increased to 3:13, a 16 minutes improvement. In addition, he also made a donation link on the website for people who support this organization. To date, more than 26,000 people have visited the website. People from all walks of life are drawn to his marathon lifestyle. Some of Dane’s inspiring words are, “I always wanted to challenge my limits in sport.

To be able to realize my dream through marathon is especially rewarding. Many people think about how much they can get from life, but I think life is only meaningful when one cherishes what he owns and makes good use of it. It is this belief that makes me strong enough to finish the marathons. I believe I can reach the fund raising goal in the near future. Meanwhile, the faith gives me strength and will make things happen.”

Dane graduated from Pennsylvania State University. His busy work schedule requires him to work more than 50 hrs a week. But this doesn’t stop him from running marathons or raising funds for the mentally handicapped people. He raises funds, trains for marathons and shares the details of each race with friends and supporters on the blog. If there’s one thing that concerns Dane, that’ll be the costs for traveling in between different cities. As a lawyer, Dane has a fairly good income, but he still needs to plan everything carefully. But Dane will not give up because of this. He is determined to raise $52,000, he said.

(Handsome Dane with Li-Ning Shoe Picture)

Dane runs for charity, without limit of professions, locations, frequencies and distances. He is a super runner without limit. Li-Ning Corporation donated the latest professional marathon shoes and the 2008 Olympics Mascot. We hope Dane does well in the Dalian Marathon, moves closer toward his charity goal, sets new record and keeps challenging himself.

(Handsome Dane with Mascots)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Wait a minute...

I don't run a marathon until September?!

Feeling still particularly wiped out and in a general all around blah mood falling last weekend's debacle, I was looking ahead to some of my races and realized the next time I have a scheduled marathon will be September 9th, 2007 (which will ironically be the 252nd day of the year). That means, 88 days will have passed between the Dalian marathon and this marathon.

When I ran the George Washington Birthday marathon in February, it felt like it had been months since I ran my last marathon of Fiddy2. It had been 49 days.

I have to go back to 2005 when I ran the San Diego Marathon in June and then did not run another marathon until the Marine Corps in October to find a lull of this size. Granted I have a plethora of races in between these two marathons but damn that seems like a long time to wait.

So as soon as I can shake this damn sickness I am going to be on the roads again building up miles and speed. With this type of layover I should have no excuses come my trip to Erie which, last year, began the real true "running" of Fiddy2. Why do I say that? Well, on Grandparent's Day, with most of my family seeing me run any race at all for the very first time, let alone a marathon, I qualified for Boston for the first time during Fiddy2. Given the connection my marathons have to my grandparents (you wll have to buy my book if I can ever find a publisher for it) this irony was delicious.

From that point on, barring the disastrously hot Cayman Islands Marathon, the slowest marathon I ran was a 3:16 and I qualified for Boston 10 more times. Included in there was the 2:59, 3:03, 3:05 trifecta of Niagara Falls, Marine Corps, and NYC.

So this might be a lot of pressure to put on one race but without pressure what fun would it all be? Some people like to keep their goals to themselves so that if they do not reach them no one has a printed record of that. Well, eff that.

My goal is to run a 2:49 in Erie. Or less. Blam.

Good weekend and happy running to all.

I'm big in China

I think this is so funny. Like Hasselhoff in Germany.

Click here for the article in Chinese (translation here) and enjoy the pictures below:


I have never really been all to concerned with how much I weigh. this is not because I haven't been a little heavier than I am now. In fact, in college, while playing rugby, I peaked at about 225. While I was undoubtedly not in great shape, I obviously was able to at least play well enough to make the second string team.

That said, I use the scales more as a guideline than anything. How I actually feel and whether I like what I look like in the mirror mean far more to me. I think that is a healthier idea of body image and fitness anyway. Even if I did not, I would go crazy trying to figure out my body in any other fashion.

Case in point: while I know I already lose a lot of weight in a marathon, and that my weight fluctuates so much in a day that it is really something for a case study, this week has been quite odd.

Sunday (before the marathon): weight was 171
Sunday (after): 163
Monday Night (remember, my Monday was 12 hours longer than most of yours because of my flight home): 167
Tuesday night: 166.5
Wednesday night: 175
Thursday night: 173

That is really sorta ridiculous when you look at at it all. Not more than a few weeks ago I had been 181. And for the vast majority of Fiddy2 my weight stayed in the mid 180s with it actually hitting plus 190 at times.

Just some food for thought (pardon the pun) on how weight itself is hardly the best indicator of your health.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


For someone who is not particularly fond of math, I love playing with statistics. One of the cool parts of running 52 marathons in one year was being able to crunch so many numbers in such a short span of time.

When the year began, I had no idea that I would eventually get to the point where I would actually be improving my time and trying to set a new PR virtually every week. I figured I would be hanging on for dear life to finish them all under 4 hours, which was my original plan.

Of course, if you followed my running last year you know that the Leadville Marathon killed that campaign as the only marathon in North America the first weekend in July 1st (at an altitude exceeding 13,000 feet) had me pulling in a time of 5:17. Sure it was good enough for a top 50 placing but going over 4 hours rankled me to no end. Especially since if I had the money or the time I easily could have jetted over to Brussels (the next closest marathon to D.C. that weekend) and ran a flat fast course and easily gotten under 4 hours. Alas, I don't have a silver spoon in my mouth and had to keep working my job to pay the bills.

Over time I have come to grips with that anomaly of a time and have accepted it. When 2007 started, my goal was to never run a marathon over 3 hours again, barring injury or advanced age (like 20 years down the road). When the year's first marathon started with a blisteringly cold day in Greenbelt, MD and a time of 3:14, I thought" Well there goes that idea!"

Soon, I was off to Michigan to run another marathon and in spite of the race falling apart at the end I was able to keep a pact with myself by eking out a 2:59:58.

In Korea, I planned on walloping that time and 30k into the race was on a 2:49 pace. If you read that recap you know about the unknown to runners hills which appeared in the last 7 miles. Hence the 3:09.

No problem, let's head to Frederick, MD. The 3:03 there easily would have been sub-3 if not for the 30mph headwinds over the last 4 miles but I was fine with that given the Charity Chaser event I had done where in I started dead last and had to weave through a crowd. Following a very relaxed 5k the night before in one of my fastest 5k times ever, I thought the ship was righted.

Unfortunately, the Dalian Marathon, stomach flu (or whatever it was) and all of its accoutrements hit me like a ton of brick. By running a 4:40, I increased my lifetime average in 69 marathons by a minute and 9 seconds. Mother effer. Luckily I have a friend who is a lover of stats as much as I am who pointed out that I only need to average a 3:05:30 for my next 5 races to get back to where I was before Dalian. Of course, I don't even have 5 marathons planned for the rest of the year yet and have only run sub 3:05:30 three times in my life. Even then, I will only be back to where I was June 16th. Damn you stomach flu!

So here I sit with a lifetime average of 3:22. to be honest that kind of pisses me off. I have run nearly 70 marathons. That time will not be moving much with each marathon I run (unless I run another 4:40). while I was lucky to be able to run as many marathons at the speed I did last year, the sheer volume has doomed me. I would have to run 70 marathons at a 2:58 or so just to move my average to a #:10 Boston Qualifying time. And I have no real intention of running 70 more marathons.

Then again, if some things go my way in the near future I might be running far more than I planned!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Dalian International Marathon Recap

Dalian International Marathon

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 10th Edition
283.9 miles raced in 2007
Race: Dalian International Marathon
Place: Dalian, China
Miles from home: 6920
Course Difficulty: 6 out of 10
Course Enjoyability: 2 out of 10
Weather: Bright sunshine; temps in the high 80s
Finishers' Medal: N/A

Well, that’s going to hurt the average.

With Fiddy2 now nearly a full six months behind me in my rear-view mirror, I have forgotten some of the difficulties I went through during those 365 days. As humans are wont to do (and should) I have romanticized a lot of the races and travel and the year itself, so the problems faced fade away with time. However, in spite of the near-hits (“near-misses” makes no sense; if you nearly missed, well, then you hit, right?) I know that I had an incredible amount of luck last year. Unfortunately, I seemed to have dipped into 2007’s reservoir as well, since I have not been nearly as fortunate this year.

Every single race I have run has been very challenging for one reason or another that was completely (or mostly) out of my control. For those who only run 2 or 3 marathons in a year, I am unsure how they can live with this roll of the dice. While I am running far less than I did last year, I still know that every month or so I have a chance to hit up the ole 26 mile distance and redeem any shortcomings from the previous race. Unfortunately, I have needed that frequency to atone for consistently sub-par performances.

I will kill some of the suspense right now; things went terribly awry in China. Hopefully, what I learned can benefit you in your races not only in China and in the marathon distance but everywhere and in every distance.

Day 1:

After flying all over the country and parts of North America last year, I am embarking on only my 3rd flight (and due to direct flights only my 5th and 6th flights) of the entire year. Michigan, Korea, and China. How is that for eclectic? Luckily for me, United started a direct flight to Beijing out of Washington, D.C. just a few months ago which saved me the extra trip to Hong Kong. This, of course, begs the question: why in the hell was there no direct flight between these two cities until the year 2007?! It is only the capitol of the free world and the capitol of the most populous nation in the world. And why is it that we Americans can make ourselves look so dumb when we do things sometimes? ( But I digress (Wow, I am digressing early in this one!)

As I waited to board the 347-seat Boeing 747-400 monster, I was ripe with anticipation. Instead of the normal excitement I get when traveling to a new place, let alone a new country, I have the added trepidation of meeting with higher execs of the Li Ning shoe company to begin talks about possible sponsorship. Having been in touch with Li Ning for months now, I have had the opportunity to test their apparel and products and find them to be top-notch. Even at an exorbitantly low price (~$40 for running shoes) I learn that they are priced out of the range of most of the Chinese population. In fact, I am told that I will see a majority of runners in the race wearing shoes that equate to about $15. Granted they will last maybe two races, but as I will quickly learn, the Chinese do many things differently (some for the better, some definitely not so).

So, with the potential life changes which could come from these discussions, you can imagine my desire to actually get to the country and get them underway was greater than usual.

To be honest, the marathon has taken a backseat in my mind. With my first 100 mile attempt last week ending before I wanted it to, many other life-altering events transpiring simultaneously and my inability to read Chinese (which makes finding information about the marathon I am running difficult), I have not been focusing on the race. As I board the flight to Beijing, I smile inwardly when I know that I have reached a point athletically when 26.2 miles is something that can be an afterthought. That is assuming, of course, things don’t go disastrously wrong. Never underestimate the marathon. You would think that after 68 of these damn things I would remember that axiom.

So I land in Beijing and am greeted by John Way, who I have been in nearly daily communication with for the past few months. A delightfully friendly (and not just in the polite way) and helpful man just two years my junior, John will become my lifeline for the next 5 days. Although I left Wednesday afternoon, the date and time change has me in Beijing about 24 hours ahead of when I left. After a trip to the hotel through traffic that I can only describe as utterly organized chaos, John takes me to a restaurant across the street for dinner. Neither of us was too pleased with the fare served at this acclaimed restaurant and even though I tried to order as close to what I knew as possible, I had a feeling something was not sitting well with me. No time to think about this though as it was necessary to hit the sack early in order to prepare for my excursion to the Great Wall the next morning.

Day Two:

I still have not quite mastered the art of negotiating time zone changes and as such had a fitful sleep at best. However, with still 2 more days until the marathon I figured I had time to acclimate. Within an hour or so of waking up (I would often wait until John knocked on my door before rousing as I quickly learned that, while efficient, stated times for just about anything in this country, even when tersely worded, appear to be “guidelines” at best) I was staring up at the Great Wall. Or more accurately, an extremely tiny portion of one absolutely magnificent structure. In today’s world where superlatives are tossed around like pennies, it is hard to impress upon a person who has not actually beheld this site firsthand how truly “great” it is. Pictures cannot even begin to convey the awe it inspires when you are standing at the foot of a hill which seems to go up at a 60 degree angle. Like the Pyramids or Stonehenge, it is almost beyond calculation how this structure was made without the use of modern day tools. Of course, this comes from the guy who is so lazy that sometimes I wish there was a remote to bring the remote to me.

Back for a quick lunch we went and I think this is where I did myself in. I decided to try a different soup with the steak I ordered for lunch and two mouthfuls of the soup were enough for me to know I wanted nothing more. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that was two mouthfuls too much. As John took me to the Li Ning offices, I could already feel the stomach churning ever so slightly. Later that evening, at dinner with William Wu and Claire Liu, two absolutely delightful representatives of Li Ning’s marketing division, I could tell something was awry in the tummy. With the early flight to Dalian the next day to get ready for the race, I soon called it a night. Just to make sure I got up on time, I placed a wake-up call.

ME: I would like to place a wake-up call for 7 AM
Hotel: You remember please?
ME: Well, I am sure I will be able to but mostly I was hoping you could do that for me.
Hotel: *long pause*. Your room number, please?
Me: *sheepishly*: “1750. Thank you. Goodnight.”

Day Three:

Landing in Dalian, I was most upset that my stomach problems had not abated. For obvious reason I hoped I would feel better but the grumblings were keeping me from enjoying what was an absolutely gorgeous city. Beijing, with its history and size is wonderful, but is heavily polluted. Dalian, just an hour’s flight away and jutting out into the Yellow Sea on a peninsula was warm, inviting and clean. William mentioned it reminded him of San Francisco and to be honest, I have to agree with him. Unfortunately, I was navel-gazing at this point trying to will myself to feeling better. It wasn’t happening.

I had the pleasure of meeting two elite Tanzanian runners, Samuel and Martin (2:18 and 2:09 marathon PRs, respectively) who were also running as guests of Li Ning. One cannot help but feel like a fraud when being in the company of such fast runners. Then again, I think even at my slimmest weight in years I might have weighed as much as the two of them combined! John mentioned there was a very stately dinner being offered for some of the elite athletes and if I wished to stay in the hotel I could. However, I did not want to appear rude or miss the dinner so I attended. Eating nothing but rice all night, I began to finally feel the stomach pains abate, ever-so-slightly. I had high hopes for the race day. But before I continue, let me describe the course that I would run just a few short hours later.

The Course:

To be honest, I could sum this race course up in 6 words: on city streets with rolling hills. There is never a bad hill per se one way or the other on an ideal weather day, and you never (save the final lap inside the stadium) deviate from city streets. Repeat, NEVER. This will become very important if you have a race day like I did. However, as simplistic as that course description is, I think it will be better described through my own race.

My Race:

Gathering in the sprawling park near the center of the town with Archway after Archway, hundreds of runners meandered around in the bright morning sun. A stiff cool breeze blew off the sea and even though the temperatures were already warm, I hoped that they would be held at bay for the majority of the race. I wandered around the starting area for a while as we were present a full hour before race time (something I never do if given the choice. More like 10 minutes is still too much for me). I had random people coming up to me and asking to take their picture with me, obviously not because of who I am but more what I am (a white foreigner). At last check in the race booklet, there were only 4 other Americans in the race, even though over 400 foreigners were present. It was a nice little touch to be treated like such an oddity. If I made someone’s scrapbook better, so be it.

With a half-marathon, 10k, relay, and “mini-marathon” (4.2k) there was a surprising number of people not cooperating with the basic premise that those running faster should probably be in the front of the pack as the time to start drew near. Even more surprising, the archways I had seen behind us stayed exactly there. At no point during the race did runners actually pass under them! I found that to be quite odd, especially since the race ended elsewhere and we would never see them again. I guess having them on display for everyone else was enough.

Minutes before the start, finally feeling somewhat better I decided to make a final bathroom break. Being both a man and a marathoner I have long since eschewed any humility when it comes to bathroom breaks before a race. But, upon entering the bathroom area I was taken aback. I am used to troughs for men to use to relieve themselves (they are abundant in stadiums everywhere) and I have seen variations abound, so the wall with running water where men saddled up to was no big shock. However, what was shocking were the 3-foot high walls which were the stalls where you would go to do the other thing that takes you into a bathroom. Literally, grown men had to squat all the way down and do their business while anyone over the age of 7 could walk by and check out the business. Damn.

When I finally picked a stall isolated enough to allow me to go in semi-privacy, I realized there was no toilet paper. No where. While I found the bathrooms in the pristine Dalian airport to be odd in that they had toilet paper outside of their (normal-sized) stalls, at least they had some! John, who had gone to the bathroom as well, noticed my helpless look and quickly handed me a few sheets. I had no idea where he got them until I went outside after finishing and saw a woman, at an office desk to the entrance of the bathroom, with little travel-sized tissue packets of toilet paper and a jar full of money. Yep. You had to pay to wipe.

Rushing back to the start, I was ready to get the race going. I was feeling the best I had in 2 days (which was not saying much) and wanted to ride that wave. Before much time passed, the gun went off and the mass of humanity surged forward.

One thing I have noticed about native Chinese people is how they appear to be absolutely bereft of any idea of assembling or disembarking anything in an orderly fashion. Or perhaps what I, as an American who likes his 6 feet of personal space thinks that orderly is. Because when they gun went off and one man literally elbowed me from behind, then in the side and finally in my chest, to get past me as he ran, arms akimbo, like he had been set ablaze, I about lost my top. I decided if I saw him during the rest of the race I would trip him. Sorry, but I was sick and grouchy.

It is rather difficult to really differentiate much of the race. As I stated, the course was run entirely on city streets. In addition, there were very few turns and long straight-aways of nothing but road running. There were literally thousands of spectators either out watching because they had planned to do so or were standing idly by in utter confusion. I have never heard a silence so deafening. Face after face would stare back at me and the other runners as we passed by en masse. Occasionally, a spectator, seeing me would shout out a “HELLO!” Actually, this one single word was so clipped and so guttural it was not as much a greeting as it was an accusation. It caught me off guard a few times and even while wearing sunglasses I think they could see the surprise in my face. The laughter that followed my look was either that of happiness that they got the word correct or hilarity that they startled the white guy.

As the streets were completely blocked off, the only thing runners really needed to concern themselves with were pedestrians. Please note my aforementioned comment on how the Chinese move. They move in packs. Hurriedly. Without really looking at what is coming at them. Through my days in China I visibly cringed in the backseat of the taxi as a car would turn left on green, against already moving traffic, as pedestrians crossed with them and impossibly-old one-speed rickety bicycles, ridden by helmet-less riders and children hanging from every side would all converge into a huge tangled mess. How there is a population problem in a country where there seems to be complete disregard for personal safety is beyond me!

Unfortunately, when you are running and a group of 75 pedestrians decides that now is the time they want to cross the street you have very few options. Luckily, if you have a loud shouting voice, yelling “MOVE!” so loud that many will be visiting the 3-foot stalls very soon is one of them. Possessing that voice, as well as the self-righteousness all runners become imbued with once a race starts, I cut a nice little swath through the crowd.

Having experienced this within the first few miles I felt for sure the rest of the day would be more of the same. Luckily, I can say this only happened one more time that I can remember. Then again, I don’t remember much which leads to the rest of the race for me.

10k mark:

I knew that ANY thought I had of setting a personal best had gone out the window on Friday with my illness. In spite of the rejuvenation I felt Sunday morning, it was here, just 6 miles into the race, where I knew an entire new set of goals was going to be needed to be set. I was already feeling the wear and tear on my body from the travel, sickness and time zone changes and needed to take a small walk break at the aid station. While I have heard horror stories about hydration options in Chinese marathons, I can say that they were well-stocked here. Granted I had no idea what some of the electrolyte replacement fluids were and with a clear “Pocari Sweat” right next to the water table, I more than once grabbed a fruity flavored drink when I wanted just water. If anything, and this is not just a problem in Chinese marathons but marathons abound, liquids are nice, but COLD liquids are imperative. Unfortunately, already I could tell that cold was not going to be on the menu.


Having traversed the first hill of consequence both down and then back up, I was feeling a little better. I was not all THAT far off my times for other marathons and felt that maybe my prediction of a horribly slow time would be off the mark. I met and spoke with a chap named Mike from Oklahoma who was in town working with FIFA women’s soccer for a year and decided to run the marathon. After a few steps I told him he had more in his tank than I did and let him go.

I kept him sight for a few kilometers but he soon was gone.

Allow me two seconds here to mention the markings of the course. As suspected there were no mile markers, only marking in kilometers. Anticipating this I calculated the pace I wanted to run the kilometers in pre-race. Hoping for a 4:30 clip I was quite surprised when I passed the first k in a near-impossible 2:49. While the 2k marked seemed to correct that discrepancy, the rest of the day was a comedy of errors of placement as the markings soon became more of a suggestion as to where you “may” be than where you were. Full minutes of time off, the kilometer markings did nothing to help the weary runner as he looked for anything to keep his mind off his tired legs.


A few kilometers back had us taking a right turn off of the last long straight-away and begin another long out and back section. Knowing that I was running on the exact course I would be returning on soon, I tried to pay special attention to the hills. There was nothing too great but I could tell these little rollers though the city would definitely get to me later. Moreover, the heat was rapidly climbing and without any shade from trees and no buildings tall enough or close enough to the road to provide any blockage, the sun was really beginning to beat down on the runners.

However, the half way point saw me pass by in 1:37. Not too shabby given everything I had gone through so far. I figured even if I slowed down a minute per mile I would still finish under 3:30. I could live with that.


I lost a little bit of time in this long lonely stretch as I began to see some of the first few runners doubling back. With the 4 lane streets it was hard to see exactly the color of the numbers of the other runners (which would have told me which race they were running) but I knew I was in the top 30 or so.


After the turn-around point, where, without any chip timing we were simply handed a bracelet to wear which signified we had actually run the whole distance, I took my first pee break. Nuclear-yellow. Uh-Oh. I had been drinking as much as I could but something was obviously not working correctly. I had to make it a point to drink more at every aid station.

I was still jogging very well at this point even though I could not make it a full kilometer without taking a few steps to take a drink out of the bottle of lukewarm water I had grabbed off of the last water table. I knew the 20 mile mark (32k) lay just ahead so I ran the full kilometer between 31k and 32k in a nice brisk pace where I planned to reward myself with a nice walk break and a new drink. I still could finish in 3:30 or so if I kept up a decent pace.


This was the beginning of the end. After 32k I was half-jogging and half-running, with some walking throw in here and there. There had been a slight cloud cover for about 10 minutes but that had completely burned off and now the sun beat down with new fervor. As the kilometers inched by (am I allowed to mixed metric with English systems in metaphors?) I could not believe how rapidly my condition was deteriorating, I had already thrown up some of the liquid I had tried to drink and almost had to force myself to NOT run for a full minute after a mouthful of water in order to keep the jostling from bringing it up from my belly again. The second half of the 34th K was a downhill but I could not even walk it, let alone run it. I put my hands on my knees and just waited for energy to come.

Given the running would exhaust me I wondered what it would be like if I just walked a full kilometer. How slow could it be? All I had to do was run to 35k and then I would give it a shot.


Very slow is how slow it can be, I soon found out. Not long after I hit this walking stretch did I hit the pavement. Down I went. Unable to even brace myself on my knees doubled-over, I found the pavement to be far more relaxing. Before I knew it an ambulance appeared. They helped me up and put me on the side of the open van door. “Hospital?” they asked me. “No,” I replied without much conviction apparently as they asked me once again. I shook my head and said “Water”. The bottle they took out of their van would have been sweet elixir if cold. It wasn’t. I have yet to figure out why people don’t realize how bad lukewarm liquid tastes to runners but in any case I would assume the ambulance would have better stuff than aid stations. I assumed incorrectly. In fact, I am pretty sure it was a bottle FROM the aid station.

So I took a few swigs and started walking again. I didn’t even make it half a kilometer before I had already drunk half the water, dumped the other half on my head and then proceeded to vomit all I had drunk, this time with the yellowest of bile. It looked disgusting but I felt great. Too bad I now knew I had even less liquid in me.

The ambulance pulled up next to me again. They were following me like a shadow. I waved them off and kept trudging on.

I have no idea how much further it was but it was not far until I laid down again on the hot pavement (I would later learn the asphalt was well over 100 degrees and I seared some nice little marks onto my calf muscles when I was on the ground. Luckily, I could not feel it then). A few police officers appeared and helped me back up. I just wanted to tell them that I would be fine if I could just stay still but the language barrier obviously stood in the way. Everyone was being so damn helpful exactly when I did not want them to be.

This time when the ambulance slid up next to me, I hopped in and just laid down. I just wanted some shade. They put what looked like a square inflatable pillow balloon in front of my face so I lifted my head. Then I saw there was a tube attached to it. I looked at the EMT (or whatever he was) and he said “Oxygen.” I must have given him the strangest look because I had no idea what the hell oxygen was going to do for me.

They kept asking me questions in Chinese and I kept answering in English until we both realized the futility of our efforts. Finally, I was helped up and out of the ambulance. I guessed they had to go help someone in real bad need. I was sat down onto what I felt was a lawn chair. But then I heard a familiar noise: the sound of a bus door closing.

My head snapped up and there was a French chap I had met just that morning named Emmanuel. “Dane, are you OK?” I looked around and saw dozens of exhausted runners in various stages of distress sitting on this bus around me. I was sitting in the stairwell of a bus on a folded down seat reserved for the handicapped. “Is this the quit bus?!” I asked. “Yeah,” Emmanuel said. “I am done.” I immediately began kicking at the door of the bus. “No, no, no! I am not quitting. Open this door!” The bus hadn’t moved yet so I didn’t receive any assistance. I could still run the race. Emmanuel said something to the driver in Chinese and he opened the door. I bolted out amidst cheers from those onboard. All I knew was that 39k was real close and damn it I would crawl the last 1.8 miles if I had to in order to finish.


I began to walk now. I think I spent 10-15 minutes on the ambulance and while that had helped me some, my legs were completely frozen rope now. I could not fully step down or risk cramps that would surely make me fail. So, I began to walk in fashion that reminded me of my dreaded DNF at the OD 100 just two weeks before. “Well, at least you won’t be doing that today!” I thought.

Out of nowhere, a Chinese man appeared brandishing a wrapped object. He put it in my hand and I gladly took it even though I had no idea what it was. When I finally got the energy to look at it I realized it was a popsicle. “Oh please don’t be some odd fish-flavored popsicle” I thought, half laughing in my head. When I put it to my lips and it tasted like nothing out of the ordinary I let out an inward cheer. Ice-cold it helped cool me and by being solid it kept me from drinking it down too quickly and probably throwing it back up. I munched and walked and felt new strength. I did a little jog for a few feet but then realized I might drop the rest of my frozen life support system so I just began a fast walk again.

Soon, the popsicle was gone. I passed the 40k mark. By now (or maybe always) the blocked off city streets that I had run most of the race on were teeming with cars and pedestrians and bicylces. The police would stop everyone as I passed but it was almost as if I wasn’t there. All I could do was pray to God that I was still on the course. I could not hope to go off the course and still finish.

Way up ahead I saw balloon arches. Should I run? I saw the 41k mark not too far in front of them so the last thing I wantred to do was start running when I had far too much course to travel. So I jogged. Lo and behold, right after we passed the 41k mark, we turned off of the street with the balloon arches and started up another street. For the second time, runners never came anywhere near the archways that usually signify the beginning and end of a race!

Down half a block, turn right. Down another block turn left. John appeared with a big smile on his face. “Sorry I kept you here so long,” I said in the middle of the slowest jog possible. “No problem,” John replied which is basically what he said to about every single I request I made of him the entire weekend. “You ok?” he asked. “Well, I have been better,” I replied. “Where is the finish?” John pointed and right before me was the stadium we would finish in. I looked in and saw we had to do an entire lap before the race could be done. And in fitting fashion, the 42k mark appeared FAR closer than it should have in relation to the last marker. No matter. I began to actually run for the first time in hours. Around the track I went. No one else was around me. I pushed it as hard as I could in the final 100 meters and finally broke through.

My watch said: 4:40:02. Discounting Leadville, that was my slowest marathon finish by half an hour. I am still awaiting the official results but I was handed a card that said 232. Out of how many? Your guess is as good as mine. All I know was I had finished.
The rest my trip was spent recovering and doing a very little bit of sight-seeing. After a 2-hour delay on my 13 hour flight, I was finally airborne and needing my bed more than I have in few excursions. Here, a few days after the race I am finally feeling normal again and have created a whole new checklist for my next marathon abroad or anywhere. Nearly 70 marathons into my running career I am still learning. Hopefully I am still helping others learn as well.

In the aftermath, I found that my Tanzanian running friend Samuel had pulled out of the race and Martin, the one with a 2:09 to his credit, actually ran a 3:10. When world-class runners either don’t finish or barely qualify to run Boston, you begin to feel slightly better about yourself.

Negotiations are going very well and appear to be both fruitful for myself, as well as my fundraising effort for Fiddy2. You can rest assured I will keep you all breast of my happenings in this venue.

Now I have 3 weeks “off” until I attempt to break the 5 minute mark in a local mile. Maybe if I get lucky I will also set a brand-new PR as well.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

ROAD ID Ad in Runner's World

As some of you have noted, I was featured in an advertisement for Road ID in the July issue of Runner's World (pg. 104). I am quite honored to be the first "actual" person they have used in an ad that accompanied a quote from that person. In addition, I am glad to have worked with the owners of ROAD ID in an attempt to make sure that every person out there running (or walking) where the appropriate form of identification in case of an accident.

That is also to the key word: "accident". In speaking with the owners, I told them that their usual ads were effective (wherein someone spoke how an accident had occurred to them and without ROAD ID they would have been in major trouble) but the problem is that most of us believe accidents happen to the "other" guy. But on the day when something happens to you that you do not expect, you become that other guy to everyone else.

So we worked together to show how, even if nothing bad happens to you, you can have the peace of mind to know that, if it did, your loved ones will know where you are by wearing ROAD ID. And that added peace of mind lets you run free.

If you don't have ROAD ID, you should. And if you click HERE proceeds from your purchase go to help L'Arche Mobile. It's a win-win situation.

And if you keep that issue of RW, I promise to sign it for you. :)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Ocean City Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 5th Edition
109.5 miles raced in 2007
Race: Ocean City Half Marathon
Place: Ocean City, MD
Miles from home: 150
Course Difficulty: 2.5 out of 10
Course Enjoyability: 4 out of 10
Weather: 20-30s; gusting wind, snow
Finishers' Medal: 4 out of 10

Someone does not want this to be easy for me.

For the third consecutive weekend my goal was to get an automatic qualifying time for the NYC Marathon. Again, I am not even sure if I want to run the damn thing. I just want to be automatically qualified to do so if the desire strikes me. The way things lie, if properly rested, I know the qualifying standards (1:23 for a half or 2:55 for a full) would be easily obtained by me. That is not arrogance but rather a statement of my present running level and the relative ease of those standards. If you read my recaps you know I am not properly rested. Ideally, I would like to rest more. However, with a May 1st deadline to get these times, I don't have much time to waste.

If you read my recaps you know about the distance measurement snafu at National Half Marathon (where an amended time did give me a 1:22:50; I know I ran faster and I also know I don't want an amended time in order to get in. I want a "pure" time); and my loss of energy at the Martian Marathon in Detroit last weekend. While proud of both, the races left me lacking what I wanted.

So I geared up for the Ocean City Half Marathon in Maryland. I knew I would not be in peak condition given this would be my second half marathon (with a full marathon thrown in the middle) in 14 days.. But given the flatness of the course, I felt I would be in for a good race. If the weather cooperated, that is. The weather, most assuredly, did not.

The Course:
The half marathon and the full all start at the same place: a parking lot near the Ocean City Boardwalk. Runners then cross a small bridge to the mainland, do a few twists and turns through some neighborhoods, hit the highway to run on the side of the road, go through some back roads, hit the highway again, cross the bridge to Assateague and *BLAM*, that's the course. Those two bridges I mentioned are the ONLY whiff you ever receive of any elevation change. The last bridge has a short steep incline followed by a longer decline to take you to the last straight run before turning into a parking lot to finish.

You can see why I felt this was as good a shot as any to set a crushing personal best. For those who need it, there is little-to-no fan support (which I blame partially on the weather but also I recall it being sparse last year). A few water stations, but not as many as one would hope, (then again it is only a half marathon) are manned by cheerful volunteers. On a nice day, the run, while on a highway, can be very pretty with some old tree-lined roads to traverse. The final bridge is quite pretty as well as the water surges underneath you.

My race: 1st 3 miles
A failed air horn that sounded like the last dying breath of a cat signaled the start. Too bad we all only moved about 3 inches waiting for anyone to tell us it was ok to go. A second, nearly as weak, blast told us to take off and after a little shuffle and lots of beeping of watches we started the race (I was still fiddling with my own watch after the horn because the start took me by surprise. I had been speaking with one runner who recognized me from Delaware last year when another friend, Czan, grabbed me from behind. I had seen Czan running at least three separate times last year so this was quite a surprise. However, our talk was short lived as we were called to attention by Garfield's meow for lasagna and had to start running). With a loop through the parking lot before hitting the boardwalk, I had already seen a few other friends, and told them my plan for the day which would explain why I might not be so chatty. Unfortunately, my voice was lost to winds gusting over 30 mph off of the ocean and right into our face.

I arrived the evening before this race and the weather had been perfect. No wind, blue skies and a temperature about 50 degrees greeted me. With calls for snow (snow!!) the next morning, I could not see how this was possible. Unfortunately, it was. Barely half a mile into the race, the snowflakes, big and fluffy, clung to my gorgeous eyelashes (I am only partially kidding; they are so pretty) like sailors thrown overboard in a storm. As we hit the boardwalk, the wind blew fistfuls of sand at our faces and I felt like I was in a head-to-toe exfoliating machine. Glad this sandblast only lasted a few seconds. I assumed that once we crossed the bridge and hit the mainland, this wind would die down as well.

Unfortunately, crossing the bridge itself turned out to be more than I bargained for. Wind blowing me side to side, I crossed over one of the grated parts of the bridge and, like Marilyn Monroe, had my shirt blown straight up. If I had better abs I would not have minded but I like my shirt on. I was actually fearful the wind would rip my bib number off of my shirt (thankfully I went with long sleeves. On my ride back to the start, I saw the female leader was wearing nothing but a sports bar. MY lord!).

I missed both the first two mile markers but felt that was not a problem. I looked ahead and saw fellow DC runner Mike Wardian (who had just qualified for the Olympic Trials in the marathon) not too far in front of me and figured I could not have been doing too bad if he was in sight.

However, I assumed the wind might have slowed me some and my goal pace of 6:05 per mile might be a little off. As the third mile marker appeared, I was flabbergasted to see a reading of 20 minutes on my watch. I was already 105 seconds off my pace!!! I almost stopped right there. I had no idea if the miles were right or what but I decided to pray they were and move on. I wasn't sure how I was going to make up nearly two minutes of times, especially since I felt I was pushing it already.

Miles 4-10:
The wind died a little bit for half of these miles and I settled into what I thought was a brisk pace. Two young guys (one 19 and the other 15; yep FIFTEEN) were in front of me but I assumed they would not last for long. Around mile 6 another guy saddled up to me. I found out he was 51. What in the heck is going on here with the random ages?! For the next mile or so, 15, 19, 30, and 51 year olds played a chess game of seeing who was stronger or who wanted to battle the wind (which was swirling at this point). Soon, it played out in reverse age order as the 51 year old began to pull away, I settled in behind him and the 19 year old and 15 year old followed suit. Slowly the 51 y/o inched closer to what appeared to be 1st and 2nd place runners in the half. I pulled away from the two behind me and felt I was gaining on the three ahead of me as well.

Putting forth a tremendous amount of effort I cannot tell you how frustrated I was to continually see myself running 6:23s or 6:27s. Heck, I had barely run much slower than that in my full marathon just 6 days before! (Of course, that may be part of the problem). I was trying to do math in my head but it seemed like I had no chance in hell to get a sub 1:23. It looked like a 1:25 would be a blessing.

Miles 11-12:
I began picking up every second I could. Running on the innermost part of the lane where the cones were, making sure my arms were properly aligned, breathing fully in and out, and everything else I could think of to try and gain some time (as well as some ground on the three guys in front of me). It seemed to work on the mile leading up to 11 so I simply put my head down (figuratively) and plowed forward. I all of a sudden realized that after a year of running marathons, it is hard for me to run all-out at mile 11. My body won't let me. It thinks I have 15 miles to go, not just two. But I tried to over ride my senses and go with all I could. Talk about having your body over-riding your mind!

Up the bridge to Assateague Island I surged. I knew I was finally running fast. For once, the wind was at my back and I could feel it. I took the hill as hard as I could while leaving just enough in the tank for the final surge. Down the hill, I flew with a photographer at the bottom snapping away. I have a feeling the pictures will show me airborne.

I then hit a lonely stretch off the bridge which would lead to the finish. I knew the end was around somewhere but where exactly I could not tell. This unknown was hindering me as I did not know how hard to push it or when I could unleash everything I had left. As I ran on, heading back the opposite direction was Mike Wardian. I would soon find out that the race organizers were going to cancel the full marathon because of the conditions but Mike had run through the half-way point before a decision had been made. So, they decided to let it go on. I gave him a quick shout and tried again to push forward.

Snow whipping around me, my shorts, shirt and gloves soaked, I turned one last time into a parking lot. I still could not see the finish line but knew it had to be around the bend. I looked down at my watch. 1:22:55. Unless the finish line appeared in front of me magically, I was toast. Much to my chagrin it did not.

Around another bend, and finally the clock and finish line appeared. I turned it into high gear and crossed the line in 1:23:52. Somehow I had run the last 2.1 miles in about 12:38 (or 6:01 pace). (View video here thanks to Anne braving the weather: Click HERE!!!). Good enough for fourth overall but not good enough for me, I only kept from swearing knowing Anne was filming. Barely out of breath when I finished, I can only wish I had turned on the jets earlier and more often.

Later on, we collected my trophy and I took the time to speak to one of the race directors. One of the more friendly RDs I have stayed in touch with since Fiddy2 started, I wanted to at least thank him before I departed. I told him that he can't control the weather and I think everyone had a great time regardless.

As it ended up, the 19 year old did indeed finish 5th, albeit a few minutes behind me. First, second and third place stayed in a tight cluster. I could never put on the wheels to catch them and they finished about a minute in front of me all just barely breaking 1:23.
I guess it was not my day. But, as my mother later said to me, in spite of the close calls I had during Fiddy2, I never had a race cancelled and always got through them without the worst of conditions (although I had some nasty ones that is for sure). I guess it was time for things to not go my way for a few races.

So one more chance for me to qualify looms in three weeks when I travel to Seoul, Korea as part of the representative team of the 50 States Marathon Club. A 2:55:00 or less gets me in; anything else means I will have to enter the lottery like everyone else. Sure wish I had knew about these qualifying times sooner.

Martian Marathon

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 4th Edition
96.4 miles raced
Race: Martian Marathon
Place: Novi, MI
Miles from home: 520
Course Difficulty: 6 out of 10
Course Enjoyability: 5 out of 10
Weather: 50-60s, overcast
Finishers' Medal: 7.5 out of 10

Just one week removed from the National Half Marathon, I found myself in Michigan to knock off one of the states on my list to complete all 50 states. While a nice little goal, hitting all 50 states is not really the biggest goal on my mind these days. However, cheap airfare, a low registration fee and free room and board were difficult to bypass. In addition, this race also has many ties to people I had a chance to encounter last year and was also on my list of races before cheaper races came along. So running the Martian Marathon was added to my list just a few months ago when I remembered it was there.

Why is it called the Martian Marathon? At my time of writing this I am unsure. However, when I posed the question to the running boards on the internet, I got the following response:

Randy Step, the race organizer, is a fun, interesting guy who is just a little bit nutty. He owns 3 local running stores and is a big supporter of the local running community. Last year the race was also run on April 1, like this year, but for all the previous years, it was run in March, which Randy proclaims is the month of Mars. Me-thinks the whole Martian idea was cooked up when consuming several adult beverages after a tough trail run. The whole "Martian" thing gets bigger every year. Like the addition of the 50 or so inflatable Martians that guided you to package pickup. (I bought a 48 inch one that is seated at my kitchen table right now!)

So there you go. No real need for any more explanation that that, right?

Surprisingly, I have no complaints about the airline industry on this trip, mostly because it was a direct flight but also because I did not purchase a thesaurus to find new ways to express my distaste. (How can it be heightened security if it has been at the same level for five years? It is like a mattress store having always having its mattresses "on sale". Sorry, that is their "price". But I digress.) If anything, like a good referee or offensive lineman, I can say that I did not notice the airlines this time, which is usually a very good thing.

The Course:

It was hard to get a read on the course in the days approaching the race, as it has changed a variety of times in the past few years. This can either be interpreted as unease amongst the race director or a response to constructive criticism from runners. I am pretty sure it was the latter as the RD seems to be a pretty responsive chap.
If anything, the course looked like a decently flat course with some rolling hills. Running it did not change much of that opinion except for the fact that, on the way back of this out and back course, the downhills we obviously ran seemed to be far less of a help than the uphills. But no major complaints. It was challenging without being too hard.

Look below for the course elevation (with its odd-ass random numbers on the left):

My race: 1st half:

I started off from the get go with the intention of running a 2:55 which would be almost a 5 minute personal best. As I have been reminded of constantly, I have not been specifically training for a marathon and really have not given myself proper rest to try and set large drops in time. I disagree. I think it is possible to train for a half-marathon, marathon, 50k and 100 miler at the same time. Granted, I do agree that even if I set a marathon personal best, chances are that I could do far better. Whatever time I set could probably come down a great deal with more rest and focused training. However, as I have stated repeatedly, I am never going to be an elite runner. Why should I put so much effort into one particular race or one distance when there is so much out there in life to enjoy? I have not even got to triathlons, adventure racing or anything else.

So while I continue to push the boundaries of what my body can handle, I also have to become a little deaf to the statements of others telling me what I should do.
Now, I have only run one sub-3 hour marathon before in my life. It was an amazing feeling. I was unable to obtain it again throughout Fiddy2 even though I had several close calls. But I felt I had it in me this day (or deluded myself enough to think I might). I knew a pace 6:40 miles would get me this goal, so I decided I would run that pace as long as I could. Almost immediately, I found myself running next to a tiny little girl who I noticed was also running the full (same color bib number). Given the plethora of half marathoners surrounding us I figured she might be the elite runner that was listed on the website. I was correct. Through a few questions, I found out that this was her third marathon and she too was planning on running 6:40s. So we decided to work together. Natalie was her name (which will be very coincidental as you will see) and she had a PR of 2:52. This was the definitely the girl to hang with, in spite of her continued comments about being worried about her conditioning.

A few miles in and we had a good caravan surrounding us. Gabe, Dan, Rich, Natalie and I began to tick off the miles together. Since we were running together I felt like the ring master and decided to break everyone out of their silence by asking questions. Dan was the only one running the half-marathon (in training for Boston) but we all exchanged pleasantries. Before a few miles passed, Rich hit the bathroom and we lost Dan at his turn-around point. Gabe, Nat and I then began working as a three-legged machine. Gabe, a triathlete running his first marathon-only event in years, also had his wife running the race as well (a little ways back). Mile after mile we were consistently hitting under 6:40s, building a little bank of time. Not much, but about 20 seconds or so and we never felt like we were pushing. Everyone was feeling good. I was glad because I do not believe in "banking" time. My comment that you can lose a bank of 30 seconds in one mile was definitely one tinged with foreshadowing.

I hit the halfway mark at 1:26:20 which, barring last week's new half marathon best, would have beat my previous half-marathon time by 30 seconds. Not too shabby. I felt the 2:55 was in hand but wanted to still respect the distance.

Miles 13.1-16:

Continuing to feel great we churned out 6:36s for the next three miles, building our time gap even greater. I saw Kathy (my host for the weekend) a few times and she loudly cheered and took a little video for the archives. Gabe and Nat opened up about a one second lead on me heading into the 16th mile and I felt a little rushed. This makes sense as we crossed the 16th mile in 6:29. As great as running companions as they were, I knew that was too fast for me and decided I needed to fall back and run my own race.

Miles 17-20:

Gabe and Nat continued to open a lead on me but I was fine with that. I knew I only needed to run my own race to set a personal best. I was pretty sure I still had the 2:55 in me as well. That is, until I ran a 6:42, 6:52, and 7:07. Crap. Just like that, the bank of time had been depleted. The hills, which never seemed to be of much help on the way out (and to be honest were not that bad) did seem to be far worse coming home. One guy passed me going down a hill and I tried to use him as a new pace setter but he had more energy than me. I had to let him go. I know when I cannot hang with someone on a downhill that I need to race smart. Something is not right (I had a side stitch since mile 14 but it never really caused any serious trouble. I think it was just a warning side of things to come, however).

Miles 21-25:

Another 7:07 and then a 7:28 and a 7:34 had me panicking. I had no idea what was happening. I was hemorrhaging time and could not stop the bleeding. At mile 23, in the middle of the mile, I just stopped and walked. This is a trick I have used before to gain a little peace of mind and rest the legs for a few seconds, often to great success. I could only hope that doing so here would bandage my time wound. As I stopped, I heard footsteps and another guy passed me. Wearing my exact brand of shoes. (Just to insult me, I think).

I rested again at mile 24 at an aid station and even, incredibly at mile 25. But two 8:00+ minute miles were the only result. I was so peeved. That was nearly 3 minutes worth of lost time in 2 miles. Not good at all.

Right before mile 25, I saw Gabe fly past me ahead going the opposite direction. I crested a hill and realized there was a left turn for the marathoners which took us along the outskirts of a parking lot. Natalie was now coming at me and I could see I had a long ways to go before I turned myself to head back. This was psychologically hard and I really just wanted to turn around where I was and head back!
But I pushed forward and hit the turn. As I did I found out I had two guys right on me heels. I tried turning on the wheels but there was nothing to fuel them. My watch told me that a PR was probably not going to happen. Neither was a sub-3. I swore. Out loud.


As I said, I hit the last aid station, grabbed a drink of water and walked for a good 5-10 seconds. I knew it was paramount to any last push that I wanted to make but it hurt to lose that time. Around a bend I ran, up a small hill, and around another small corner put me on the final stretch. We were finally on the road that we had started on and I could see the finish line in the distance. Unfortunately, I could also see the mile 26 marker in the distance as well and it was too far away for my liking. At a 7 minute mile pace, that last .2 from mile 26 to the finish would take me 1:24. I saw I had about 1:20 or less and it had been 4 miles since I had run a 7 minute mile. This did not bode well for me.

I took everything I had in my person and put it into my legs. I could tell something was churning in my stomach but only hoped it would hold off for 90 seconds. The clock appeared ahead in the slight hazy morning. 2:59:29. Always deceptive, the clocks tick off time far faster than you think it could would it finally comes into sight.

2:59:39. How am I not done? Didn't I see the clock?

2:59:49. There goes the PR (a 2:59:48). Did I even move forward at all?

The clock blinks at me with absolutely no pity as the seconds pass by. I slide underneath the awning and stamp as hard as I can on the timing mat. 2:59:58.

I grab my medal and collapse on the ground, more tired than I ever have been before. Someone comes over to me to check on me and I say I am fine (obviously this was someone who runs and knew the difference between a person needing medical attention and a person who has absolutely no energy left to move). After a long minute or so, I roll onto my stomach, push myself up and meander like a drunken cowboy to the person removing timing chips. I look down. No chip.

"Where's my chip?!" I say in a hushed horrified whisper as I feel the contents of my stomach quickly rising upward. "We took it off when you were laying down," one volunteer says. Somehow, my small breakfast takes a turn south and stays put.

(Side note: Kathy was able to get some video footage of me crossing the finish line and it reminded me of some things I have seen a few times in race pictures. If you are unfamiliar with the chip system, what it does is wonderful. Allowing your own personal time to not start until you cross an electronic mat placed on the ground at the start, this alleviates a runner in the back from having a largely skewed time due to how long it takes that runner to cross the start line. Pure genius and barely 13 years old. Yet rarely are chip times official times. Winners are often declared by the official clock time. In the video Kathy took, I passed under the finish line at 2:59:58. Given it took me about 1-2 seconds to start the race, my time should be a 2:59:56 or :57. However, my official time was 2:59:59 and my chip time was 2:59:58. What bothers me is I have seen this in other race photos or videos. Normally it does not matter much. However, in a circumstance like this, one more second would have meant a 3 hour race for me. I wonder how often this might have kept someone else from getting the "time" they knew they had. Just curious.)

I missed two major goals for this race and I am, of course, disappointed in that. To lose so much time in the last 10k is just soul-crushing (even though that is really where the marathon begins). But it would be nothing compared to what two more seconds would have done to my psyche. Therefore, I am indeed proud of my effort. I have now conquered the sub-3 hour time limit again (and as I alluded to earlier, the first and only other time I did so, I ran a good 13 miles with an elite woman named Natalie. Go figure!) and I now no it was not a fluke.
But now, I definitely need to run the Ocean City Half Marathon for personal vindication and also to obtain an automatic NYC Marathon qualifying time. This Saturday, I go for a sub-1:23 on a short week of rest. Logic says after PRing in the half and then running my second fastest full ever in a one week span should not leave me with much of a chance to drop even more time off of my half personal best and hit a 1:23. This is why I will actually be pushing for a sub-1:20.

National Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 3rd Edition
70.3 miles raced
Race: National Half Marathon
Place: Washington, D.C.
Miles from home: 6
Course Difficulty: 5 out of 10
Course Enjoyability: 0 out of 10
Weather: 50s, slight rain
Finishers' Medal: 2 out of 10 (Huge Corporate Logo. What distance is the Wirefly?)

I will start at the end. What was supposed to be a 13.1 mile race ended up being anywhere from 13.4 to 13.7 miles long. That doesn't sound like much, but running at my pace that is 36 seconds for every .1 of a mile. And when you are trying to not only set a personal best but also garner an automatic qualifying time for the New York City Marathon, every second counts. For that, I have to give this race an enjoyability rating of dead last, flatlining at zero.

That said, I will describe for you what could have been a very good course, if things had been run right.

The Course:

A change was made to both the start of both the half-marathon and the full marathon this year as well as other course changes throughout. Instead of making a boring full loop around the monstrosity which is RFK Stadium before exiting out onto the streets of DC, this year we started in the shadow of the stadium and left it behind us. I think this was a much better start to the race. Few things leave more to be desired than starting 26.2 miles off by running in a circle for a mile to get back where you just were.

In addition, many changes were made to the full marathon itself to eliminate what were an atrocious amount of hills in the last 6 miles of the race last year. It seemed that the race organizers listened to the vast complaints about this section and took it to heart.
Of course, while this section was eliminated I now see there was a massive steep hill at mile 19. Of course, I would rather do one big hill than 6 hard ones much later in the race, so it was probably a welcome change.

But I ran the half on Saturday not the full so I will focus my attention there. For the most part, it was a decent race. The first 8 miles leave very little to be desired as you run on a mostly flat course with just a bump at mile 4 that taxes you a little. You run within viewing distance of the White House and the Washington Monument on a nice little straightaway. However, for as much of a running community as D.C. has, I was a little surprised at the lack of supporters out on the course. But with say 5,000 people running the races, maybe all of the running community had a bib number on!

Then it is up a steep grade from 8-9. You cross a downward sloping bridge (a rarity as most bridges are arched) and then into some rolling hills. Nothing too killer but nothing too runner-friendly either. You finish on a mostly flat straight away until the last half mile which ends going up a rather steep hill. Not unlike the Marine Corps Marathon there must be something about DC where they like to challenge what you are made of in the final minute of the race.
All in all, not a bad course if run properly. Please note the "if".

My race: 1st 4 miles
As I had stated to many of my friends, my goal for this race was to run a 1:23:00. This time would guarantee me an automatic spot to run NYC, if I deemed it something I wished to do. No begging or pleading, no waiting to see if I had won the lottery (and paying $9 for that wonderful honor; non-refundable by the way). To do so I would have to run a 6:19.8 mile pace. A friend suggested a specific running pattern of slightly slower than that for the first 4 miles, hold that pace for the next few and then go with everything I had to the end.
Well, it has been quite sometime since I have even run a half-marathon, (I ran one to kick off Fiddy2 last year by running the half-marathon part of the Goofy Challenge the day before the very first marathon of 2006 for me) let alone "raced" one (you have to go back to the summer of 2005 when I was training for Fiddy2) I was unsure of how to run the pace. I have only a few half-marathons to my credit and with a PR of 1:26:53, there was no question I would break that. Heck I have run just a minute slower in the first HALF of some Marathons! It was a question of how much I would PR by. My body knows what a 6:50 feels like. But does it know a 6:20 pace? Well, apparently not.

My first mile was a 6:01 (after the first half mile where a marker on the course said I ran a 2:35, I should have fretted right there that something was amiss but I let it slide), followed by a 6:14 and a 6:21. I figured that this slight deviation was fine and I would simply slow it down a touch to regulate.

Mile 4 was missing from the course but soon I went up the hill on Virginia Ave and back down it and mile 5 was in sight. I took the average of the two and I was right on schedule (even slightly ahead. Again, having a few seconds in the bank was fine with me).

Miles 5-10:

I felt good for the next two miles and was ecstatic to realize that I was halfway done. These half-marathons rock!! I knew from the race elevation profile there was an elongated hill right after 8 but I did not pay it much attention. I passed or stayed with all of those around me so I felt good. I knew I had less than 5 miles to go and felt great. But a look at my watch made me double clutch. I ran a 6:34 for that mile (or WAY off pace). I began to think that perhaps I wasn't ready just yet for that 1:23:00.

A 6:16 at mile 9 dispelled that notion and a 6:18 at mile 10 furthered it. Right there, when the full marathoners peeled off to the right, I knew I only had to run a 20-minute 5k and I would still be 15-20 seconds under 1:23:00. I knew that time was mine. I could easily run a 20-minute 5k and was beginning to feel stronger.

Miles 11-12:
Going up a hill that I did not recall being on the elevation chart, I held back my reins a little bit. I felt a little queasy in my stomach and knew there was no need to push just yet. Sure a 1:21 high would be great but all I needed today was a 1:23. Nothing more. Save the faster times until AFTER you have the 1:23 I told myself.

So up what I thought was the final hill until the end I went with the mile 11 marker on the downside of that hill. Unfortunately, a few more rollers lay waiting for me. I handled them and passed the only person I had passed in nearly three miles. I may despise uphills but thanks to my daily run that always has me finishing the last mile up a soul crushing 200 foot elevation gain, I handle them pretty well.

A female half runner came into sight. I had my eyes on her for quite some time earlier but now that she was in sight, I gave chase. We ran down the off-ramp onto the final straightaway and passed the blown down sign for mile 12. There was one solo fan there cheering. How she got there or why is beyond me. I had run a 6:19 and a 6:16 for my last two miles. I was simply cruising. My math had me 30 seconds under 1:23:00 at least, even if I did not pick it up. But I had energy to spare and was ready for that final kick.

When the stadium loomed in front of me I knew I was close to home. Well under a mile left and I had 5.5 minutes to traverse the distance. I was writing the recap in my head about the successful attempt to qualify in my first half-marathon in years. I could not wait to call my folks and share the news with my many supporters. Down a ramp we went and I could not see the finishline. I looked and looked. Finally, I saw we made a hairpin left turn and then back up what was the final .2 of a mile.


I only had less than a minute left to go under 1:23. I still hadn't seen the sign for 26 miles to tell me there was .2 of a mile (or approximately 1:25 second left of running.) What the hell was going on?

I finally hit the mile 26 marker with only 15 seconds to spare to make it under 1:23. What in the hell happened?! I am deflated. I am beside myself with confusion followed by rage. I hit the mile 13 mile marker, turn off the hill and sprint the last .1 of a mile. My time: 1:24:22. Almost a full 90 seconds off? I look at my watch. The last 1.1 miles should have taken no more than 6:55 (maybe less because I know the girl who was in front of me who I passed in the last half mile was cruising above the pace we had set earlier) but instead took 8:19. WTF Part Deux!

Livid, I take the medal, give them my chip and steam away. I check with a few other runners who were wearing GPSs and my suspicions were confirmed. I went home and did a google map of the course turn-by-turn and came up with a distance of 13.46. That extra .36 equals just about 2 full minutes of running. Others had the course as long as 13.8. This is absolutely inexcusable. The course is supposed to be certified, we pay top dollar to run this race, and expect it to be correct. How is it possible to be so far off? Who is responsible? If it is the certification company they sure as hell should not be allowed to certify again. If it is the race then they need to issue an apology. If I wanted to run an uncertified course at a fast pace I can do that only my own every day of the week. The worst part is, the majority of the discrepancy comes after the mile 10 turn-off for the full marathoners. Obvioiusly, they care far more about the full marathon than the half-marathon. Simply looking at where the 12 mile mark is on their own map shows how long the last 1.1 is.

In either case, as a result, I end up short of my goal and have to find another half-marathon before May 1st in order to try once again to obtain something I already owned.

Having set up and run my own marathon I know it is a difficult thing to do. I do not envy the logistical job done by race directors. Even when they mess up, for the most part, they are still good people. This report, however, is not a review of the type of people that organized this race. I do not know them personally enough to do so. I do know that I feel robbed. I forced myself to get a good night's sleep, ran a smart hard race and, while my efforts netted me the result I wanted, it will not be official because of course mismanagement. Even if they were to "give" me the time I would have run that would not make things right.

So, I run a marathon next weekend and hope to set a PR in that. Possibly I could try to get the automatic qualifying time for a marathon (2:55) although I feel it is a much more difficult task than the one I was trying to do. Since I did not think I am ready for that right after the race I looked ahead and saw there is a half in nearby Ocean City, MD. Having run their marathon last year I know it is a flat course. If the wind off the ocean is kept at bay I should be able to get what I actually earned on Saturday. We can only see.

Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50k Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 2nd Edition
57.2 miles raced
Race: Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50k
Place: Damascus, MD
Miles from home: 25.45
Course Difficulty: 10 out of 10
Course Enjoyability: 0 out of 10
Weather: 40s. Intermittent sun, some wind
Finishers' Medal: None
Donations To Date For Fiddy2: ~40k

I am glad the first half-mile was ice-free.

With a rare 6 inches of snow falling in just a few hours on the Sunday before the race, followed by warm temps throughout the week, coupled with a rainy downpour a few days prior to race time, I knew the conditions of this trail were not going to be ideal.

Unfortunately, "not ideal" would soon be replaced with "one of the most difficult races I have ever run" once the race started. I actually waited a day to write this recap because Grouchy McBitchersons would not have been the person I would have suggested to write it yesterday, and that is who would have. Enjoy!

The Course:

To be absolutely clear, my low rankings reflect yesterday's weather conditions and should not be representative of the course itself. I am pretty sure on a dry, cool day this course would be a 6 on difficulty and a solid 6 or more on enjoyability. But I have never run there before and the conditions were so atrocious that I can honestly say I enjoyed not 10 feet of it.

Beginning in Damascus, MD, this point to point course starts off on a paved road. Soon runners enter a trail and that is where the fun begins. For a more in-depth course description than I could possibly hope to give go HERE. I honestly spent so much time trying not to fall down I could not tell you all that much about where we turned or where we went. Kudos to the race directors for writing such an in-depth description

My race: First 7 miles

I met my friend Bryon Powell (a supremely talented ultra runner who last year did the Western States 100 miler then ONE WEEK LATER came and raced the Leadville Marathon and beat me by some 40 minutes or so) before the race. He planned on running this race decently slow for him and that was the pace I wanted to do as well. With a possible attempt at a new PR in a marathon next weekend, I was determined to just go and enjoy a 31-mile run through the woods. I knew Bryon was a heck of a pacer (helps he has a cool GPS thing) and would stay with him to accomplish my desired goal time. In tow, he had his sister (Gretchen) and another friend (Amy). Gretchen was attempting her first marathon and we kept telling her since the marathon is long (hence it not being certified) she might as well do the 50k. I am so glad it ends up she did not.

There were plenty of runners on-hand, milling around on this pretty, sunny morning. We received a plethora of instructions before the race started and everything was rather low-key.. I have run plenty of laid-back races before but when the instructions end like this: "So, be careful and have fun. *2 second pause*. All right, get going", I knew I was in for a different race.

As I stated above, the ice started very soon. A comedy of errors of Keystone Kops proportions commenced soon thereafter. I will be the first to say that I was not prepared for this race, equipment-wise. Without a doubt, better footwear would have made this race extremely, momentously, easier for me or anyone else where regular running shoes. The street-running shoes I was wearing were absolutely no match for the hard-as-concrete, slimy-as-a-snail ice that covered the trail. And only the trail. Given the running surface was in a divot, the melted ice and snow had settled in to form the most slippery surface I had ever run on.

Situated near a creek, the trail often left us wondering who would be the first to take a swim. A few miles in, it was almost me. My feet went out from underneath me and down on my ass I went. I began a quick slide down the side of the trail flying out of control. Grabbing a tree about 3 feet from taking a dip, I received some hearty cheers from the other runners who had witnessed my descent. Feeling charmed, I was able to get back on the trail (I have no idea how) and soldiered on.

Amy, I could quickly tell, was a heckuva runner. With me stride-for-stride and often leading the way, I knew I would be running with her for most of the race (if I were lucky). Bryon fell back but I knew it would not be long before he caught us.

At the first aid station at approximately seven miles, I was far from pleased to see it had already taken an hour and six minutes to traverse this distance. And this is where I was still fresh! Energy-wise, it felt like I had already run 10 miles and as the rest of the race would show, if you could jump off the trail to run around mud, ice, or shin-deep water, you would. This, of course, only lengthened the race. I am pretty sure I ran an extra mile just by doing this maneuver alone as I caromed off of trees like a pinball over and over again.

Mile 16:

With every slip on the ice and knee-cracking direct hit to its surface that I took, my desire to run lessened. A couple of times I was pretty sure I had broken something and honestly, I am unsure how I did not. My shoes were sorely unfit for this type of running but there was nothing I could do about it. If someone had offered me screws and a screwdriver I would have stopped right there and put them onto the bottom of my soles. But John Madden and his painfully obvious observations (worth $5 million a year from Monday Night Football alone; excuse me, I just vomited in my mouth) were not enough to bring ACE Hardware to my rescue.

Every step was an adventure and if I was not sliding uncontrollably on my ass (unfortunately, my second trip down the hill towards a creek left me with a dead tree in one hand and me knee deep in freezing cold water), I was doing my best to make sure my shoes did not get sucked in by the quicksand ice-mud.

Hitting my tailbone as my feet went out from underneath me Three-Stooges-style completely, must have made a horrific noise as runners actually stopped to make sure I was fine. Most runners would care enough anyway to help a fallen runner but I here competitors actually stopped and came back to assist. Rolling over to the side of the trail just to get out of the way of anyone who might be coming by, I waived them off. But already the falls were beginning to take their toll on my psyche. With over half the course to go, I knew I could not tempt the broken-bone-fates that much longer if more falls were what laid ahead for me. And the problem was I had no idea what was ahead of me, either running conditions-wise or trail-wise difficulty.

Slogging along after making sure I did not have a dislodged coccyx, I was able to catch up with Amy and Bryon (who had finally joined us) and a nice guy named Gene. Gen and I ran a marathon together last year and he was kind enough to ask how Fiddy2 went. ("The marathons are over but the fundraising ain't", should be my new slogan). We all proceeded to run along, working as a group, changing places when someone would hit the dirt or ice and do our best to provide camaraderie to each other..

After one more fall, I was seriously considering making the right turn at the 16-mile-point (which would turn the race into a marathon) rather than taking the left turn to complete the 50k. The cool thing about this race was runners could decide at this point to do either race. You paid the same for either and only the decision here determined which race you were running. Now, I knew the marathon was longer that 26.2 miles but it seemed so much more appealing.

However, I got to the aid station and made the second hardest possible decision: I turned left to do the 50k.

Why was it the second hardest? Because I could not live with myself if I had done the shorter course. At this point, the thought of doing the marathon I had planned for the next week was rapidly flying out the window. I was hoping to PR in that marathon but could tell I had done too much damage to myself already for that to be a realistic possibility and figured I might as well tough out the original plan. So, left I turned.

Mile 20:

The first 2 plus miles of the loop around the lake after the turn were pure bliss. Dry, non-icy trail made me feel I had made the right decision. I had filled my water bottle on my fuel belt (a necessity since the aid stations were not supposed to have cups. However, showing how nice the volunteers were, cups were nevertheless still available in small amounts) felt refreshed and was running strong.

Of course, the other side of the lake coming back ended up being iciest, worst conditions. We all fell a few times. I got angry. Same old story.

Finally, we hit a road for about 200 yards and back to the aid station where the decision to continue had been made.. It took me 3 hours to get to mile 20. In my marathon PR, I hit mile 20 at 2:15. So, I was currently 45 minutes behind. Given the circumstances, I wasn't really all that displeased with my 9 minute mile pace.

I paused to fill my water bottle again and in that time Bryon and Amy were gone. I spent the next 2 miles trying to catch up with them during which I took my first complete fall in the mud. Trying to pass someone, both of our feet hit the same patch and got tangled. Down we went. It ends up my fallen runner was actually the guy who was my seatmate on the bus to the starting line. Small world. I apologized profusely and was on my way. This section looked a lot less free of ice and I inwardly rejoiced. Too soon.

Catching Bryon and Amy was a short-lived victory. While the ice was gone, the mud was thickening and they soon pulled away while I was mired in the sludge. Every step had me slipping or sliding on the trail, as this part had already been run in by both the 50kers in front of me, as well as the marathoners too. My ankles and hip flexors were getting a greater workout than my quads! It was all I could do to keep Bryon and Amy in sight until finally, the twisting and turning trail made them disappear altogether. I would only see them once more when traffic kept them from crossing a road until I had made up some ground. As I chugged water directly from a jug, one of the volunteers eyes got wide when she looked at my bloody legs. This would not be the last time this happened.

Mile 25.75:
Stopping at an aid station to again fill my bottle (which I was going through like it was my job; a bathroom break earlier revealed I was dehydrated as heck as I was peeing nuclear yellow) the race photographer was directed to my legs by one of the volunteers. Even after running through streams and splashing water and mud up on me, let alone falling down, they were still covered in rivulets of blood from the wounds I had sustained so far. As the photographer snapped a few shots of my legs, I looked at my watch: 4:08.

It took me 68 minutes to 5.75 miles?! 11 and 49 seconds per mile?! I knew I had walked some sections but dear god. I had to average just 10 minutes a mile for the last 5 miles (give or take) to get under 5 hours. I had very little hope I could do that but grabbed some more Ultima energy drink for its electrolytes and took off

One more titanic fall for good measure a mile or so later as my foot hit a root and sent me sprawling. Normally, without fatigue and therefore better motor skills, I would have been fine and righted myself, but instead this time I was down hard, right on my chest, knocking the wind out of me. I apologize here to all the deer, turkey, geese I saw and anyone with a small child nearby as when I regained my wind, I let out a loud curse word…or eight.

Drinking Ultima from the aid stations left me a little queasy (I had no choice and even though I think the stuff tastes awful, I needed the fluid) and this last fall left me with little choice. When I stood up, I walked to the side of the trail and emptied my belly of its contents. This, of course, left me severely thirsty and all I could think about was getting to the final aid station.

During the next few miles, a string of four or five of us would changes places as one gained energy from some unknown store and the other used his up Soon, I was running with a nice guy named Claude who was doing "just" the marathon and we intermittently passed and got passed by the other.

Hitting the final aid station I asked if we had perhaps either a mile or a mile and half to go. With a look like "Should we really tell him?" the one chap answered: "Closer to 2.5". I silently filled my water bottle and began shuffling again. There was no way I was breaking five hours, so just getting up the highest and steepest hill of the whole course (no exaggeration) is where I turned my focus.

As I climbed this hill, I got to experience something I never did in a race before: seized-quads. My quadriceps muscles are, without a doubt, my engine. Not magazine picture quality or anything like that, they are nonetheless the one thing that powers me on when I am exhausted. I have never gotten a cramp in them during a race before until now. Yay! New things!

Down the other side of the hill, I caught up to Claude again only to have him pull away from me every time we hit an uphill and I was reduced to a walk. At almost the same time, this one guy came from behind me and goes flying by. It ends up that he will, in about 1.5 miles, beat me by two minutes and be the only one in my age group to beat me. Damn it.

Off the trail, the rest of the course is road. I turn on the reserve juices I have and feel clumps of mud hit my back as it is finally lodged loose from my shoes. Passing Claude with about half a mile to go I finish kick in feeling like I am running for the first time since the first half-mile. Greeted by a man with a speaker who tells me to go through the 50k chute, I pass the finish line in 5:20:29.

Some final stats:
I finished 14th overall out of 67 finishers. The only female who beat me was Amy (and she and Bryon finished seconds apart around the 5:06 mark). The last 5.25 miles took me an hour and 12 minutes. That is 13 minutes and 43 seconds per mile. Almost a walk for me.

The wining time was 4:25 or not even an hour faster than me. The second place finisher, and the holder of the course record of 4:06 (set last year), was 26 minutes slower this year in 4:32.

I would love to know how many people switched their plans from the 50k to the marathon and how many people dropped out. The 67th finishers were some hard-nosed people and my hat goes off to them all. As the last person finished in 8:25 minutes or 16 minutes and 17 seconds per mile this guy gets an unbelievably "waytogo" from me. That type of strength takes a set of stones I do not have in order to be out there that long and still finish, Especially since the cut-off was 8 hours (which the final 6 women JUST beat) So kudos to you, Carl Shaia.

Also, a congrats goes out to Gretchen in her first marathon ever. Finishing 8th overall is amazing and I want her to know they only get easier!

As a result of this race, I will have to withdraw from my race next weekend. I am in absolutely no shape to run a marathon and hope to do well, given the current state of my body.

Finally, while this recap might have a negative tone, I want to give TONS of positive feedback to the volunteers on the course. There were places where river crossings were so treacherous that without the assistance of a person standing on the edge to give you a hand up, I do not know if runners could have gotten out. At every aid station, the volunteers asking you if you needed first aid, presented candy and food and drinks galore. In particular, I remember a place where we were on the road for like 100 feet and then entered back onto the trail. A snow plow had pushed a massive wall of snow in our way. Some young teen, obviously still in the midst of clearing the path, stood there with sweat on his brow and a shovel in his hand. He had cleared a path through the mound to the trail where we would have otherwise had to climb a four-foot wall if icy snow. At the time you say "thanks" between breaths but now you give those people their due. Thank you.

In addition, while I was lucky enough to always have another runner in sight, the volunteers had spent time adding yellow and green ribbons to branches of trees to keep you on path in case you missed the trail (easy to do yesterday) or the blue "blazes" which marked the trail at eye level on the trees. A couple of times I got off path briefly and was only saved from turning the 50k into a 55k because of catching one of those ribbons out of the corner of my eye.

While there was no t-shirt (who cares), and no medals (I like medals) on a good weather day, I see this is a race that would be fun to run. At $20 for a registration fee, they could bump it to $35, give us a medal and it would still be a steal. Even a small medal would be nice. The scars and cuts on my legs are nice proof of the effort I put forth but other than the picture Bryon took at the end I would like a little more to commemorate my time. Just a little something that I will be able to look back upon and shake my head at what was one of the hardest races I have ever done. Hopefully this will be a consideration in the future.

But, in the meantime, I guess I will have to just use the hairless football-sized patch on my butt and upper leg which I used as my personal Slip n Slide into the creek as my reminder.