Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Email from Iraq

It is always nice to have people say nice things about you. That almost goes without typing/saying (but, hey, I needed an opener). But when those people take the time to actually type it to you (or better yet write it in a letter- go ahead and surprise someone you care about with a letter this week), that makes you feel even more special. When they take the time to type it to you when they are surrounded by enemy fire in Iraq, well, that one means a little more than most.

The other week I received the following message:

"Hey Dane,

I just wanted to say that I've always enjoyed reading your blog. I'm currently on my second tour in
Iraq, so I'm forced to live vicariously through other runners until I get back. Thankfully you race so much, I've been well entertained for the past 7 months.

I noticed a few posts back that you mentioned you were going to be a Charity Chaser for the Pittsburgh Marathon, and have to say that I am extremely jealous. By the time I moved to Pittsburgh (and started running) the Pittsburgh Marathon was a memory; of course I'm absent the year they bring it back!

I was taking a few photos for some running friends, and figured I'd throw you in the mix. Even though we've never met, I'm a strong believer in charity running, so I thought I'd shoot you a motivational snapshot. I'm no photographer; I'll apologize now for the blurry picture. It looked good on the camera, and of course I probably won't have the opportunity to take another.

Good luck in Pittsburgh! I hope to see you in a race some day, although at that time I'll be cheering for myself. I'll need it, your PR has a good 6 minutes on mine.


SGT Kysela,
Daniel
1st PLT, C CO, 1/112th INF, 56th SBCT
"

I was extremely moved by this particular email and SGT Kysela and I have exchanged some correspondence. I learned that he is a Chicago Bears fan like me and ran his first marathon a full HOUR faster than mine in a 3:12! He then set his current PR of 2:57 on a tough Country Music Marathon course just a few months later. After he finishes his second tour his marathoning return should be at the end of the year, at the Vegas Marathon (Dec 6). Here he will be raising money for the Wounded Warriors Project in honor of one of his good friends who was wounded on his last deployment.

I can only hope that he gets home safely and we have a chance to go for a run together real soon. Thanks for all you do, SGT!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Charity Chaser - Pittsburgh Marathon

17 days. 3 marathons. A travel schedule that goes Salt Lake City to Indianapolis to Champaign-Urbana to Indianapolis to Salt Lake City to Boise to Salt Lake City to Louisville to Salt Lake City to Pittsburgh to Titusville, PA (with connecting cities as well). As I sit in my hometown for only the second time in a year and a half I am preparing to run one marathon and run another.

By this I mean, I am meeting with the others involve with putting on the Drake Well Marathon in August to make sure all is running smoothly. Even in a down economy, for an essentially first year event that did not even go public until February and is nestled quietly a 2 hour drive from the nearest major airport, numbers are already filling for the Drake Well Marathon. And while my mind is definitely on its success, the next few days will be spent putting considerable effort into the Pittsburgh Marathon to be run on May 3rd.



The Pittsburgh Marathon is back after a 6 year hiatus and it can easily be said it is back in full force. Once one of the more well-renowned races in the United States, the marathon went under when it lost its title sponsor in 2003. Picked up again by Dick’s Sporting Goods, a Pittsburgh fixture for years, the Marathon not only sold out once, but did so again when the organizers opened its registration to appease a huge public demand. Now bursting at its seams with runners, the Pittsburgh Marathon is ready to rock again. And I am proud to be part of its renaissance.

This Sunday I will be starting in a relatively odd place. Not odd because of the city but actually the placement of my body when the gun fires to start a race. I will be last. Dead last. But I won’t be staying there long.

I was approached by the Pittsburgh Marathon immediately after finishing the Baltimore Marathon last October.



Having seen me accomplish my Charity Chaser feat where I passed all but 99 of ~ 6,000 runners to earn $2.00 per passed runner for the local United Way, the Pittsburgh Marathon wished to bring me in to bring a little special something to their own race. I think they just liked the video. ;)

A few months later, everything was in place and I once again had a wonderful organization which would benefit from my legs. This time my legs would be earning money for the Pittsburgh Promise.



There is no better person to describe what the Pittsburgh Promise does than Marsha Dugan Kolbe who is the Development Manager for this great organization. In our talks she provided me with some of the following information to better describe what exactly I will be running for:

The Pittsburgh Promise serves to inspire and motivate Pittsburgh Public Schools students to “Dream Big” and “Work Hard” in order to improve the prospects for their future. The program developed when a group of forward-looking thinkers in the community came together to address a challenge. The challenge was how to preserve the strengths of our city at the core of our region, and how to preserve the school district that is essential to the survival of the city.

As a partnership of the Pittsburgh Public Schools, The Pittsburgh Foundation, and the City of Pittsburgh, a key strategy of The Promise is a scholarship program to help students graduating from the Pittsburgh Public Schools to pursue further education after high school, and to enhance the growth, stability, and economic development of the Pittsburgh region. The high school graduating class of 2008 became the first group to receive scholarships through The Promise.
Over seven hundred graduates tapped the fund last fall, and 1,200 scholarships are expected to be awarded this year. The Pittsburgh Promise is available to all graduates of the Pittsburgh Public Schools and charters, regardless of financial need or income.

It is the hope and commitment of The Pittsburgh Promise that, as a result of this effort, our region will flourish, our city will grow, our public schools will be made excellent, and our young people will move into a future that is full of promise.”


Once again, as the Charity Chaser, the amount earned will be directly tied to how many people I pass. Even with this being my 4th marathon in 3 weeks, and with the tough day I had in Louisville just 48 hours behind me, I plan to exceed all expectations.

If you are interested in helping the Pittsburgh Promise reach its goals, please contact Marsha here:
marsha@pittsburghpromise.org.


She would love to hear from you. Otherwise, I hope to be passing you in the Steel City's Streets this upcoming weekend!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Kentucky Derby Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 8th Edition
191.4 miles raced in 2009

Race: Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon
Place: Louisville, KY
Miles from home: 1582 miles
Weather: 70-80s; WAY too damn hot and sunny

Well, even my watch did not wish for me to write this recap.

Back in 2007, several marathons in October experienced unprecedented heat. I was fortunate to run one of them that was not that bad at the Steamtown Marathon. Chicago received the brunt of the bad press, not for the heat (although some people blame RDs for the weather which always makes me laugh) but for the lack of adequate supplies (eg., water) and seeming disarray on the course and relatively flippant attitude by the RD post-race. I don't envy the RD of Chicago for anything, to be truthful. And I hope that no RD has to deal with hot weather, especially unexpectedly.

Enter the Kentucky Derby Marathon. A few days before the race it became quite apparent it was going to be hot for race day. There is not much you can do about that, especially when it is this early in the year and most of us have been running in very cool temps. At my speech on Friday night before the marathon, I spoke about how I simply do not run well in heat. There are very few people who are worse off than me when the temperature goes high. I was asked how I felt I would run the next day with the projected high 70s -low 80s. I said: "Probably far harder than I would want to as a 3:10 pacer." I hate being right all the time.

Race Day:

Being a pacer sometimes getting to the start way too early so people can find you. My ideal race would start outside my door and I would arrive there about 8 minutes beforehand. I was not a fan of getting up at 5 AM for at 7:30 AM start time because of the necessity to ride a short ride to the start. As this weekend included VERY little sleep I was relishing all the shut eye I could get before hitting the course. I did not get as much as I would have liked. Was that a factor in what would come to play? Maybe a little but more likely it was the 73 degrees that was sitting in Louisville at 6 AM. Not good.

I lined up in the corral and told my pacees my usual spiel. I could not carry them, but I would do everything else possible within my power to get them to a 3:10 time. Even as I was already sweating I figured I would be OK.

After a beautiful rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner by a young lady whose name I did not catch, the gun was fired and we were underway. The first few miles were spent picking our way through the crowds as both the half-marathon and the marathon followed the same route for about 12 miles. While I think this is nice as it gives runners someone to be with for a good portion of their race, with a non-corral start, this often leads to hundreds of people needing to be passed who obviously think far too highly of their running skills. Until the end of time I will not full comprehend why people start so close to the start when it is so demoralizing to get passed by so many. But I digress.

We hit the first set of hills through the very pretty Iroquois Park. Mostly uphill for about 2-3 miles, there was just enough downhill to get you excited and think that you were about to leave the park. Soon we were out of the park and heading towards the 10k mark.

3:10 pace for the first 10k = 44:56
Our time = 44:48
Not too shabby.

To Halfway
I have neglected posting my usual mile splits but trust me when I say they were just as even as they were for the first 10k. This section of the race was about 99% flat and included a cool little jaunt through Churchill Downs. As we ran through a tunnel and into the infield of the famed horse racing venue, we could see horses warming up on the dirt oval around us. Pretty surreal.

Long before we exited Churchill Downs at mile 9 I was drenched in sweat. My orange singlet and pacer shorts were almost dark red. In previous pacing efforts I often do not even think of drinking until late in the race as I am making sure everyone else keeps hydrated. This time, however, I was drinking at every aid station.

While we were getting into thinner crowds of runners, I was also losing runners far earlier than usual. I had the distinct feeling I was going to be running alone when the race enter the final 8 miles.

As we went through the halfway point, we also passed the first female, who looked to be about 16 years old (and actually turned out to be 22). Her father (possibly coach) seemed to be providing support for her and might have been a little to excited/demanding for her tastes. I know that a few of the runners commented on him as we ran by.

To mile 20

I had mistakenly thought the hills of the second park in this course started at mile 18 so I was surprised when we hit them at mile 16. I say "we" but really it was "me". I had more or less lost every single pacer at this point as everyone had fallen off or, in the case of a group of three runners, ran about 7 yards in front of me and continually looked back to see where I was. Not quite sure they were doing this and not working with me but it was job to keep an even pace, not engaged in some pissing contest with a few runners wanting to run a few seconds faster than the pacer.

Unfortunately, I was tiring. At mile 19, I took my first walk break (unscheduled) of the race. I need water and I needed to drink it now. As we hit a hill, I felt this would be the perfect place to do so. I had been running alone for miles now and there was no sense whatsoever that I was needed by anyone. I could see up ahead there was no one to pick up who was slowing and there was virtually no one behind me holding on anymore.

I hit the mile 20 mile mark, even as I was tiring, only about 30 seconds off pace. and then the wheels fell off.

To the finish:

I mentioned my watch did not even like this race. Well, I had forgotten to remove my saved splits from my marathon last weekend and once I got to mile 20, the memory of my watch was full (pretty lame, now that I think about it. I need a new watch.) However, as we approached the final set of hills for this race, being the bridge that took runners over to and then directly back from Indiana I wasn't concerned about splits. I knew I was not going to make a 3:10.

By now the temperatures were soaring and the completely cloudless sky was baking me. I could tell I was in trouble. However, after running two 8-minute miles to get me to mile 24, I figured I could at least pull off a 3:15. I then hit the bridge and around mile 23 lost all remaining energy. Going over into Indiana and then coming back to Kentucky to put me right before mile 25 took just about everything I had. My mile splits were now approaching 10 minutes or more as I could barely muster a run of more than 400 yards before cramps, dizziness and wobbling took over.

Crowds along this stretch did the best they could to motivate me and other runners. As I passed mile 25 I was shocked to see I had just run an 11:25 minute mile. Tony, the 3:20 pace group leader saddled up to me and I could see he was hurting too and without a single pacer. I told Tony I was hurting and to not wait for me. He told me that he too was going to miss his time and was glad to hear that he was not the only one hurting. he took off and I did my absolute best to keep him in sight. However, my sight was not limited to about 9 feet in front of me.

With one last turn before the straightaway, the 22 year old female passed me. I had no response at all to her energy. In fact, now both of my legs were seizing up after 150 yards of running so I was reduced to a shuffle. I made the final turn, ran about 200 yards and crossed the finish line in 3:24:51, my 72nd slowest marathon ever. (And for thoe stat lovers, this was my third consectuive marathon with a finishing seconds of "51". Weird)

I made it about four more steps before I had to place my hands on my knees. Vision got blurrier and the knees wobbly. I look ahead and saw the one thing I needed to grab before I passed out: my finisher's medal. Once it around my neck, down I went. Nice and slowly though as I did not wish to break anything.

A few seconds later, the medical staff was over me. I have my friend Dean to thank for that as he saw me go down and noticed they hadn't seen me hit the ground. after a few more seconds I made my first ever trip to the medical tent. While I did not receive an IV (I might have actually benefited from one) I was taken care of well.

The rest of the afternoon was spent trying to rehydrate and feel better. It took me longer to do that after this race than it had in quite some time. Besides ending a streak of 24 consecutive Boston Qualifying times I also failed as my job as a pacer. Granted I had no one to pace but the job remained the same. I knew I would end the streak this summer as I took on both the Leadville and Pikes Peak Marathon but that was something I knew would be a choice. This was not a choice at all.

However, it echoed something I told the listeners at my speech the previous night. I have run 92 Marathons. Each has given me knowledge on how to run this wonderful race. None, however, guarantee success in the next one.

So I took this to heart and realized that on a day when only 6 persons broke 3 hours on a relatively easy course, I had at least persevered when the going got tough. Way tough. As they always say, anyone can run when it feels good. And as much as I understand how much this built character for me, I am sure hoping it feels a heck of a lot more "good" in Pittsburgh next week.

A solid kudos goes out to the people of Lousiville for supportibng their race and the race staff for making sure there was plenty of water and aid available for the runners. I heard there was a very few runners who needed the help which is just amazing.

I also want to thank all of he friends, both new and old, who I got to spend time with this weekend. I look forward to our paths crossing soon.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Book signing in Boise

I had just barely cooled my heals from running the Salt Lake City Marathon before I hopped into a car and tried to squeeze a quick trip to Boise, Idaho in before heading out to the Kentucky Derby Marathon this weekend. Why was I going to Boise? Well, sit back and I will tell you!

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a runner in Boise named Monica Runningwolf. Seriously. Isn't that the coolest name for a runner you have ever heard? And Monica is a heckuva runner as well. An owner of a 2:49 marathon PR (in something like her 3rd marathon ever) she is also one of the nicest people I have met. Monica also started her own running and walking club in Boise called TEAM APEX. Their motto is that they are "dedicated to walking, wogging, jogging, running, and racing; for health, recreation, & competition; at any age or ability, from the novice to the elite."


Well, Monica was hoping I could come and present to some of her runners in Boise and help inspire them to taking on what may seem to be the impossible. After a few discussions about logistics and finding a day I could even make it up to Boise, we set a date for me to come. Now we needed a locale.

Enter Mike Shuman. A Boise local who seems to be giving his time an energy to just about every event in Idaho, Mike owns and operates a running store called "Shu's".

He can often be seen, down on his hands and knees making sure that every costumer has the exact fit for their running shoe needs. Well, Monica approached "Shu" about having me speak at his store and the next thing I know, I have two speeches and runs planned at Shu's just 36 hours after I finished the SLC Marathon.

After a slight delay in getting out of SLC (flat tires, 80 miles from home on a Sunday in Utah do not allow for speedy fixes) I arrived in Boise. I had always wanted to go to Boise and check out the "Smurf Turf" of the Boise State Broncos and now I had my chance. Monica took me out for a run to get the rust out of my legs from the marathon and before I knew it we were in the shadow of Bronco Stadium. We ran a lap around the inside of this unique venue and I teased Monica about her alma mater's less-impressive-than-Penn-State's stadium. "Cute," I said. "Do they share with this the junior high?" (Come now, with an attendance record nearly 1/3 of PSU's, I had to rib her some!)


Soon we were at Shu's and I was prepping for my first talk. An enthusiastic group of runners and customers alike listened while I let loose with anecdotes and stories surround Fiddy2. A lengthy (and well-loved by me!) Q&A section followed. I would much rather answer the questions of my listeners than drone on, as I know I am able to get to the real heart of what they want to know. And talk both myself and those in attendance did. Time flew by and soon we were shutting down the store (my apologies to Shu for keeping everyone so late!)

The next day, I sat and signed books for over 2 hours as we decided to shuttle the speaking section and just go with what those there wanted - personal questions answered and books signed! I posed for plenty of pictures and was happy to get a really nice one of Monica and myself.


My heartfelt thanks goes out to both Shu and Monica. There is a distinct possibility that Shu and I will be working together again in just a month or so on an exciting event, so stay tuned!

As for Monica, here is one amazing runner who should really be sponsored by a plethora of outfits. while working 12 hour shifts as a nurse, she somehow still finds the time to coach other athletes, organize group runs, do massage therapy AND run a sub 2:50. My speeches were given both the day of and the day after the Boston Marathon where American runners took the third place in both male and female races. Runners across America were very excited for the performances of Ryan Hall and Sara Goucher. An American resurgence in running really seems to be happening after many dark years at the top level of the sport. In order for this sort of resurgence to continue, talent like Monica's should not be wasted. I can only imagine what she would do if she actually could concentrate on doing just one or two things instead of 20! Runners like her need the full support of the running world out there and I can only hope that this blog falls on the right eyes and helps to develop Monica's running. With a PR already faster than mine, I told her I can only hope to keep up with her in the future!

Thanks again, Boise, for opening your arms to me. I look forward to running within and around your boundaries again very soon.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Salt Lake City Marathon recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 7th Edition
165.2 miles raced in 2009

Race: Salt Lake City Marathon
Place: Salt Lake City, UT
Miles from home: 1 mile
Weather: 40-50s; cloudy for first half; bright sunshine second half

A great deal has been made about the Salt Lake City Marathon, or more accurately its owner Chris Devine and some of the problems he has had with meeting all of his obligations on race day and beyond. I had this brought to my attention numerous times when people saw I was doing the SLC Marathon. Having never met Mr. Devine I cannot comment on him or any of the allegations. I can, however, comment on the SLC Marathon people I met and the race I ran. And I am about to.



Pre-Race:

It is the rare race where I get to sleep in my own bed prior to running. Of my now 92 marathons, only 16 have allowed me the comfort of home prior to the race. In fact, the entire week before this race I felt as if I had missed my plane to go somewhere. A general antsiness prevailed every day as I actually did not have to cram everything into luggage to take with me to some far-flung place. In fact, I think it was a little hard to get into the racing mindset as everything was so comfortable. and I was definitely going to try and race the Salt Lake City Marathon.

Even though I was only one week removed from the Illinois Marathon, a look at my upcoming schedule showed me I had precious few opportunities to actually try and set a new personal best in the marathon. A completely personal goal, the fact that I have not broken 2:50 in a marathon eats at me. I am aware that racing as much as I do lowers the possibility for me to break that barrier but nevertheless I put pressure on myself to do so. With two pacing efforts and a Charity Chaser at Pittsburgh sandwiched in between, this was the only race in the next month that was strictly for me.

I spent the two days before the race at the race expo meeting and greeting runners and signing copies of my book. This is hardly working in a coal-mine but it can most assuredly take a great deal out of a person, sitting or standing. I get so excited and enthusiastic talking to people that I will go home after an event and feel like I had gone for a nice hard 10-mile run. But I wouldn't trade it for anything. To meet fans, create new friends and hopefully inspire others is what I am all about these days. So after two 9-hours days at the expo, I did my absolute best to go to bed early and get ready for that sub-2:50.

I know others have trouble admitting their goals out loud (I have often said I can predict the exact beginning time of any runner who I have ever asked what their goal is because the answer always starts with the qualifying: "Wellll.....") but I enjoy living my goals in the public view. That is why I told everyone what I was doing with Fiddy2 well in advance and never one shirked my responsibility or changed my goal midstream. So all my friends and family knew I was going for the 2:50, even though very little pointed towards it actually happening!

Race Day:

I owe my friend Erin a big heartfelt thanks here. Race logistics allowed runners to park at the finish and then take a trolley to the start of the race a few miles away. However, the last thing I wanted to do was be up at 4:30 and have to be squeezed in like a sardine into these trolleys. That said, I think it was great of the race to provide this transportation for the runners as it helped many people figure out their prerace ritual. Nevertheless, I wanted more sleep so I asked Erin if she could give me a ride to the start which she happily obliged even though that meant she had to be up at 6 AM on a Saturday! Thanks so much Erin!

Dropping me off about 3/4 of a mile from the actual start, as road closures demanded that, I got my little warm-up in by briskly walking to the starting line. I was fortune enough to make a few new running friends on the way and had a few others recognize me as I stood and waited for the minutes to tick by. Even the 15 minutes of waiting time once I got to the start was too long for me. My ideal race would start outside of my door and I would wake up abut 30 minutes beforehand and saunter out with about 90 seconds before the gun.

As runners were greeted with live pre-race gospel music, a palatable energy permeated the field. Soon the Star-Spangled Banner was sung, the wheelchair racers were under way, and we readied for the start. Looking at the previous year's times and I figured if I ran my predicted time I would be somewhere in the top 25. I looked around me as we crowded to the start and tried to figure out which of these runners would be those 25. I then remembered that the halfers started with us. As much as I enjoy the additional runners to keep things lively, this means there are also additional runners to run around as they crush toward the front. I have never figured out why someone would want to be up at the front only to be passed by so many so fast but I guess it is the prestige of being in pre-race photos or something akin to that. I settled into about the third row of runners and tried to position myself behind two fast marathoners who wouldn't be in the way when the gun fired.

Fire it did and away we went.

First 6 miles: (6:01, 6:37, 6:31, 6:32, 6:40, 6:53)

I long ago concluded that no matter what I try to do, my first mile will inevitably be fast. Always has been and always will be. Even when I try to sit back, the rush of people still gets to me and I inevitably go out a little too fast. As the clock of the first mile appeared, I could see I had once again done so and even pulling back, almost went 5:xx. To my defense, there was a sizable downhill in the first mile which helped me out. The second mile contained a sizable uphill and assisted in getting me back on course. My desired mile pace was a 6:30 (6:29 to be exact) and after the first fast mile the next few fell right into place.

Sidling next to me was a young runner named Bronson. You may recall Bronson as the young runner who pushed me pretty hard in his first marathon at the Little Grand Canyon Marathon last September. He and another runner were chatting and I heard the other fella say he held a 3:39 PR. We were on a 2:47 pace. I advised him to take it down a notch. (To show you how impressed I continue to be by runners, this chap ended up running a 2:58 - over a 40 minute PR?!)

A nice little downhill section had me holding even right where I wanted as we entered Sugarhouse Park. I have done almost as many miles around this loop as I have around my beloved Liberty Park. It is always a bonus to race in familiar areas, something I rarely do.

Half-Marathon: (6:38, 6:31, 6:38, 6:11, 6:18, 6:28, 6:42) 1:25:30

As we exited Sugarhouse Park, we joined a glut of half-marathoners who were about a mile behind us (as they did not do the Sugarhouse loop). Even dodging the masses I was able to stay about on my target pace but I could tell today was going to be very tight when it came to hitting my goals. While I was not pressing too hard, the miles felt faster than they were. I ran with the woman in 3rd place for about half of a mile and told her what to expect (when she mentioned she did not know the course). Much to my chagrin I had to leave her and her very fit and toned body behind.

A mile or two later and the half marathoner went one direction and the crowd got very thing very quick. Over the next 10 miles or so, this one gentleman in a gray shirt and I would play a game of who can pass whom. On any sort of hill (up or down) I would go past him and on any straight stretch of flat he would pass me. Looking at my time I knew I would be right about on target at the half-way point with some downhill miles to come to help me cut that deficit.

Mile 20: (6:16, 6:25, 6:28, 6:34, 6:31, 6:36, 6:40) 2:10:20

At mile 16 I had almost erased the 30 second deficit. The weather was 100% cooperating with a cool 50 degrees and perfect cloud cover. I could see the 2nd place female about a quarter of a mile in front of me and she and a man seemed to be working together in unison. I concentrated on just keeping my pace and hoping for a last mile surge if I needed it.

Right around 16, after not seeing the gray shirted chap for miles, both he and a tall lanky guy in a white shirt passed me. The gray shirt guy soon fell back as we hit an aid station and he stopped to drink as we went through. I noticed he did this at every aid station and I would inevitably make up 10 seconds on him while he did. But tall lanky guy kept motoring on.

As I continued to press to keep on a 6:30 pace I would agonizingly add a few seconds here and a few seconds there on each mile. All I wanted was a 6:27 and I would get a 6:33. And then the sun came out. I don't even recall the clouds breaking slightly and then slowly dissipating. I remember it going from nice and dark to pure blue sky in about 30 seconds. Fortunately it was still cool out and we were able to run in a little shade.

As I reeled in the 2nd place female, both gray shirt and tall lanky guy pulled away from me and passed both her and her male companion. I hit the next notable marker at mile 20 still only 30 seconds off my goal. Right about hear I hear a familiar voice and super-fast SLC Track Club member Neal Gassman came up behind me on a bike. A native of Illinois he said he liked my Illini orange I was wearing (pictures to come). I told him it was Chicago Bear burnt ornage and he said either one was good.

To the finish: (6:50, 6:43, 6:54, 6:59, 7:30, 6:57)

And then the 6:50 mile happened. Just soul-crushing. I had passed the female and her partner and was staying behind gray shirt guy as tall lanky pulled away. I felt I was running at a nice even 6:30 and the 6:50 hurt my psyche really bad. As we approached Liberty Park and would pass right by my house at mile 22.5 I was hoping to be within striking range and use the familiar surroundings to propel me on. But two slow miles again hit me where it hurts: right in the brain. I was now a minute over pace and was running out of real estate to make it up.

As we exited Liberty Park, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing my friend Carla who is also a member of the SLC Track Club running in the opposite direction. She quickly fell in step with me and provided some words of encouragement. Then the 2nd place female appeared out of nowhere and hung right on my heels. Try as I might I could not hold her off and at mile 24, my near 7:00 minute sealed not only no sub 2:50 but probably no PR as well. The final nail in the coffin was turning onto state street and seeing the long final climb we had in front of us. This image below is taken from the top of State Street and we were at the bottom about 1.35 miles away. I knew I was done.


It was only a total elevation gain of 100 feet over this mile but at this point in the race it was like a mountain. I ran a 7:30 in spite of my efforts to at least run around 7 flat and now it was just an issue of finishing strong and realizing I could take another crack again at my PR in about a month.

I finished with a slight downhill and a sub 7 mile which helped my ego as I rolled into the Gateway Mall and finish line. With a 2:53:51, my 4th fastest marathon ever, I was glad to be done. The announcer told all in attendance of my 52 Marathon feat and many cheered and whooped. One person too enthusiastically high-fived me and almost sent me sprawling.

Erin could not, unfortunately, pick me up due to some flat tire on her car which meant I had a three mile walk back home. I made a few phone calls and tried to make my way back along the course but in reverse this time. I gave as much encouragement to other runners as I could and tried to hold back some emotion. You see, this was my grandmother's birthday and if you have read any of my other posts about my grandparents (who have both passed) my marathons are tied to them strongly. It would have been a happy coincidence if I could have set a new PR for her on her day. It is hard to believe that it has been nearly a quarter of my life since she passed away on the eve of my very first marathon ever. My memories of her are as vivid now as they were then.

As I walked home, I had time to think about the overall race. It was a deceptively challenging course. Running at a high but not impossible altitude, the hills took a great deal out of you. Even the flat sections could wear on you a bit and that last bump at the end was as killer.

However, the course was well-supported and many in the community set out their own aid stations, boom boxes and cheer areas. There was a clock at every mile which I think is just a great touch. While a lot of the miles were done on highways, these roads were completely closed and runners were running unimpeded on 6-laners. Being a marathoner allows you to experience surreal moments like running down the wrong way of a one way street with no traffic in sight and while some may have found this monotonous, I thought it was great.

While the race has dipped in numbers with regards to its total marathoners, I think it does a lot of things right. The people involved with the race here in Salt Lake were affable and pleasant and really seemed to care about putting on a top notch race. Hopefully those at the top can get everything settled business-wise and the only headlines will be another successfully-run marathon in Salt Lake.

They started doing so right after the race by handing out the prize money to every participant who had handed in the appropriate paperwork right there on the spot. So if you hear different, know that the SLC Marathon was on the ball this year.

Stats:

6th Lifetime UT Marathon
Avg time: 3:02:12
Avg time minus Park City (run during Fiddy2): 2:57:48
# of lifetime Sub-3s: 12
# of sub-3s in UT: 4

Pictures from the race will be added when I get them.

Next up: Kentucky Derby Marathon in one week!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

100th Career Victory

If you have read my book, See Dane Run, you will note that I haven't always been a runner. In fact, I did not start until my junior year of high school and even then it was...well...a rather unique reason why I did. There is also an explanation for this haircut as well but we will just let that one go for now.



However, one of the reasons I even stuck with the sport in the first place was because of my track coach Brent Henderson. Also our chemistry teacher in high school, Brent was down-to-earth, a great guy and one heckuva a runner. He could then (and probably still could today) kick my butt in just about every distance. It is one thing to have a guy know what to teach you as a coach, it is another to know that he could do the workout right next to you if you challenged him.

Well, it was with great pleasure that I read today that Brent coached his 100th victory at Titusville as the Head Track Coach. Ever humble and self-effacing, Brent deflects the praise and doesn't take nearly as much credit as he should. Sure he has had some good athletes (and a few great ones - I was not in this category) but to mold them into such a team, year after year, takes a great coach.

As an aside, I will stop and tell anyone anywhere who wishes to listen about my senior year of track. I will do so not because of how well I did (I only had moderate success and did not reach the levels I was hoping to reach) but because of what a freaking juggernaut that team was. Going 10-0 with our closest score being 101-49, watching this team, even as a member of it, was like being a spectator to greatness. My favorite stat ever from that year revolves around the distance team. Bear with me one second:

There are 36 points in a track meet (or at least there were; things may have changed) that could be scored by the distance team. 10 meet x 36 points = 360 total points to be scored by the distance team over the course of the year. Our distance team gave up SIXTEEN points the whole year. Yep. We scored 344 out of a possible 360. That, dear friends, is an ass-whooping.

And I tell you that to tell you one of the greatest pleasure of being part of that distance team was doing it for Coach Henderson. Brent was one of the integral persons involved in helping me create the original Drake Well Marathon back in 2006. I remember reminiscing with him about our team way back in 1994. I vividly recall Brent telling me: "There are few times in your coaching career where you just know you have something special in front of you and it is your job to just not mess it up."

Well, Coach, you did more than not mess it up. Thanks so much.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Illinois Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 6th Edition
139 miles raced in 2009

Race: Illinois marathon
Place: Champaign - Urbana, IL
Miles from home: 1415 miles
Weather: 30-40s; breezy

68 Days?! Has it really been 68 days since I last ran a marathon? (And no, the 50k I ran in March is not a marathon - it is a 50k. I will argue this with anyone.) Even with the time in between marathons, I will not say I was nervous per se but when it hit me it had been over two months since I toed the line for this distance I was, at the very least surprised. Of my 90 lifetime marathons, only 8 had been done with that much "rest" in between them.

So, on one hand I was fortunate enough to not being racing, so there were no nerves in that area. But on the other hand I was pacing the 3:10 group at the Illinois Marathon, and as I take this responsibility very seriously this was not going to be a walk in the park (even though we went through one!)

On the days before the race, I had the always great pleasure of speaking with Dick Beardsley and Bart Yasso. There probably isn't a person on the planet who doesn't like Dick so it is never a bragging moment to say he greeted me with a smile. Nevertheless, I consider him a friend and was pleased to spend time with him. I actually had him call my friend Christine and leave a message on her voicemail. Christine has now received phone calls from Bill Rodgers and Dick Beardsley because of me. I hope she is saving her voice mails!

While I do not know Bart as well as I do Dick, fellow Pennsylvania boys stick together and his presence at the dinner for a few of the staff and marathon participants was indeed enjoyable. He shared some funny stories at dinner about the remodeling of his home and along with another notable speaker at the race, Coach GP.

I spent the day before the race working the pacing booth for a few hours and then joining Joe Moreno, the Quad Cities Marathon race director at his booth to promote his race and sign copies of See Dane Run.


Joe may win the Pulitzer Prize one day but will probably eternally be remembered as the guy who used his truck to block a railroad train which threatened to screw up runners during his marathon. I am not making this up. Look. And of the irony of ironies, the winner of that race in 2005 was my roommate at the Des Moines Marathon last year! (On a side note, when we spoke a few days before the event, Joe just happened to be passing near a train which tooted its whistle in the background. "Conducting a race?" I asked him.)

As usual I ran into many friends and acquaintances and made many new ones at the expo. None was more pleasing to spend time with then fellow law school soon-to-be-grad (only one more year!) Marley. A great smile and a wonderful personality, there is no doubting that Marley will go far. She thoroughly enjoyed herself in the half-marathon the next day and sent me this picture as a keepsake!


After a great expo day in a completely renovated exercise facilitated at the University of Illinois (it was a fantastic building that I hope the students really appreciate), it was time for a good night's sleep at my host Jan Seeley's house, who is one of the creators of Marathon & Beyond magazine. If you aren't a subscriber, you should be (and if you tell them I sent you, I get a free issue added to my own subscription!)

Race Day
After a very cold and blustery day on Friday, Saturday broke with clear skies and still a little bit of nip in the air. The wind died down, however, and with no clouds, we new the sun would heat us up properly. As I introduced myself to the mass of people settling in behind me in the crowd, gathered towards me no doubt because of the 3:10 sign I held attached to a three-foot dowel rod, the energy was palpable.



I met a few runners who I had spoken to on numerous occasions on some running forums and was wonderful to put a face to a screen name. The sun warmed us even in the chilly morning and we were treated to a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by the Illini Glee Club. For a first time race, every thing was pretty darn top-notch.

I gave my runners my instructions for how I would pace them and if they ran with me I would get them their coveted 3:10. Not counting the Run With the Horses Marathon, where both a wrong turn on the course and a race that started while I was in the john kept me from officially running a Boston Qualifying time, I had run sub 3:10 in 21 consecutive marathons. If you want to go back to my 3:10 pacing effort at the Des Moines Marathon during Fiddy2, I had gone sub 3:10 in 32 out of 38 marathons. My runners were in good hands (or is it feet?)

First 10k ( 7:03, 7:32, 7:16, 7:16, 7:00, 7:20): 45:00 (7:14.5 pace)

I had told my runners I was going to take them out slow the first mile to calm the jitters. when we passed the first mile in 7:03 I couldn't believe it. Then we found out that this was some phantom Mile 1 marker and the real one showed up about .1 of a mile later. As it was my task to run a 7:14 minute mile to help these people get their 3:10, I was quite pleased that almost every mile in the first 10k was spot on. Mile 5 was marked a little short which made the 6th mile a little long, so wen we hit the first 10k at exactly 45:00, my runners were quite pleased at the pacing so far.

There was a really nice section through a park that I feel needs some tweaking here. as the full and half marathoners run together for the first 10 plus mils, this section was pretty but a little too narrow to accommodate all the runners comfortably. Placing it later in the race where the crowds have thinned some would be better suited for the runners.

Regardless, the promised flat course was just that. Mile after mile of good roads and flat course provided my runners with the opportunity to just get into a groove and go.



Half-marathon: ( 7:09, 7:17, 7:12, 7:18, 7:29, 7:18, 7:18) 1:35:20 (7:16.3 pace)

As we wound through both Champaign and Urbana, it was really nice to see how well the towns were out and supporting the race. With it being Easter weekend the crowd turnout could have easily been 10 people. But even in a sleep cold morning with many college students home for the holiday, people were out in force. Blue and Orange balloons lined the course and many spectators made use of the courses layout to cheer runners on at multiple locations. We saw one lady on a bike no less than 5 times and smiled each time she cheered us on.

As we approached the point where the half-marathoners would peel off, I kept looking behind me at my pied piper group. I was just absolutely flabbergasted at how many people were falling in step behind me. No less than 40 people were huddled tight together, smartly using me as a windbreak against the swirling (but not horrific). I fully expected that when the split came I would lose 75% of these runners and our little marathoning group would be much more lonesome. But at the split, I still had 25 or 30 runners with me. I let out a whoop and told this group it was my favorite ever!

I had a few people running their first marathon ever and I really do my best to take those people under my wing. While I shout out general directions and offer advice as a whole (sometimes while turning around and running backwards - I am sure I will trip some day) these select few are the ones I really turn to and give the best I can. Anthony and Bruno were two of the first-timers running with me and I wished them the best. I also spent time talking to Bruce and Sean as well as Sergio and the lone woman in our little group, Amanda.

We hit the half-way mark just about dead-on and I told them to hang on. It was time to get serious.

Mile 20 (6:56, 7:12, 7:17, 7:16, 7:01, 7:16, 7:12) 2:24:47 (7:14.35)

I think being just a little behind our time spurred us on to a fast first mile out of the half-way point but I think also my advice to avoid the letdown that many runners feel after cresting the 13.1 mile mark also helped. We reeled it back in over the next few miles as my pacees stayed strong. Also at this point, a few runners who had stayed about 5 yards in front of us the while time had fallen into the group. This pleased me for a variety of reasons. First, if you are going to run with a group you might as well actually run WITH the group, not in front of it. You can use the energy of this mass and ride the swell. Second, some of these runners were cutting me off every once in a while and my usual competitive style would be to run behind them and leave them in the dust. Not a wise idea when you are pacing a group of 20 or more. So they made it harder for me to do my job which is hard enough as it is!

As we approached the big mile 20, I refused to let my runners think about that big marker. I broke our goals down into bite like segments. I have always dislike the notion of mile 20 being "The Wall". so much of a marathon is mental that if you think of this marker as significant and tiresome for many, chances are it will be so for you. I had my pacees do little mental exercises to keep them light in mind and in spirit even as the winds picked up in certain areas. (I know this because the sign I was carrying smacked me in the face a few times and actually cracked the dowel rod I was holding. I quickly broke the rod in half and now was carrying a much shorter sign!)

To the Finish (7:17, 7:18, 7:11, 7:14, 7:15, 7:15): 3:09:51 (7:15 pace)

With a still incredible 15-20 runners behind me as we went through mile 20 I was doing everything I could to extol my runners. Little hills and the wind were taking their toll. I had seen my friend Laurel on the course and she was so surprised to see me that she said :"Holy crap!" this got a good laugh out of the runners and I think lightened the mood for a few hundred yards. Laurel quickly snapped this picture with her phone. You can see how many runners were still plugging away.

You can see a fellow in yellow there and his name was Denny Jordan. A 57 year old Denny had been running with me when I paced the same group at Seattle Marathon last November. While he had fallen off the pace there with a 3:11, I am happy to report that he nailed it this time, running a 3:08! Go Denny!

Another mile went by and then another. My group was thinning. Some went ahead (like Denny, Ryan and Jason) and some fell behind. God, I hate losing runners like that. It was now me Andrea, Kevin, Bruno and Michael. I told them there was no way we were not finishing together.

Another mile or two and the Illini Stadium and the finish line looms. Bruno and Kevin take off, perhaps a little fearful that I may be a tad off in my calculations, perhaps just wishing to get done. I always want to jokingly say "Come back here and finish with me, damn it!" As we entered the stadium, Andrea also pulled ahead. in the last 50 yards, I have to admit I sped up some as well. But wanting them all to enjoy their (literal) moment in the sun, I fell back.



I fell back to the cheers and shouting of Coach GP over the loudspeaker as he urged those behind me to give that final push to make it under 3:11 (and get their Boston Qualifying time). As I hit the mat in 3:09:51 I turned around and saw four more of my pacees make it in under the time.





I quickly found Bruno who was running his first marathon and gave him the 3:10 sign. "You earned it buddy!" I said and patted him on the back.

Amanda ended up running a 7 minute personal best and taking 5th place overall. I could not have been more proud of her. As for all my other pacees I was unable to corral them all to get thier feedback but grapevine rumor says they were quite pleased with my leadership. few things could mmake me more happy and I hope they all had a nexcellent time. As my plane was not going to wait for me, I could not hang around afterward to locate them.

All told this was one well put-together race. The post race food of ziti and pizza was marvelous on a slightly chilly day. The course could use a tweak or two but no course out there could not do the same. The towns should be proud of the effort they put into making this a success and I think they are. Congrats to the race staff for doing so well.

Stats: (as I love them so much.)
25th Saturday Marathon
14th April Marathon
Avg Saturday Marathon time: 3:19:36 (3:14:41 if you removed one marathon [Leadville])
6th marathons run with a rest of 66-87 days
Avg time of marathons run with a rest of 66-87 days: 3:10:45

Next up: Salt Lake City Marathon in 6 days!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Illinois Marathon

Just a reminder that I will be at the brand-new Illinois Marathon tomorrow all day signing books. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

BackBone Trail Fun Run

When my friend Jimmy found out I was going to be in Los Angeles he asked me if i wanted to join him for "some trail running". I use the quotes as Jimmy's runs usually begin at like 5 AM and encompass 30 miles just for craps and giggles. He didn't disappoint.

It appears Jimmy and his friend Eric had been planning to run the entire length of the Back Bone Trail in the Santa Monica mountains. ~68 miles. For fun. In one day. Assisted by Jimmy's lovely wife, Kate, as well as friends and family of both him and Eric, they would begin running on this trail in the pitch black of the morning and finish in the pitch black of the night.




I told Jimmy I would do what I could to join them.

At first, my intention was to run with them in the early morning. However, getting to where I needed to be to run with them and then to engagements I had later on in the day would have been nearly impossible. So the plans changed and I decided I would join them for two separate sections near the end of their day. I was hoping I would be able to get them through some tough spots and get a nice little workout in myself.

When I showed up around 4 PM, Jimmy and Eric had already covered 40 miles with 4,700 feet of elevation gain and 4,820 feet of elevation loss. At various points during these first 40 miles they had a network of runners who drove from all over California to run with them. After refueling they set out for the section which Jimmy and Eric said they had been dreading all day - the section then entitled - Las Virgenes Road / Piuma Road to Stunt Road.

With 310 loss of elevation and 2240 gain right after the warmest part of the day, and after putting in a marathon and a half, the guys were in need of some enthusiasm. Fortunately, for the first mile or so, they had a few other runners with them. All training for a 50k, 50 miler or 100 mile race, the runners needed just another mile before they turned around to call it a day. I snapped a picture of the group before they split.



After that it was just mean and the two boys. Jimmy, who is as talkative as I am, led the charge up the hills. However, I could tell he was beat as he was quiet as a church mouse. So I told fart jokes, regaled Eric with stories of my awesomeness and anything else I could think to get their spirits and energy going.

We stopped at once place which the chaps frequent and snapped a nice little mirror shots. This would be one of the least offensive pictures we took. Guys know how to have fun.



We started going up up up into the hills again and a little over 2 hours after we started this 7.3 mile section of the course we were done. And seemingly so was Jimmy. I tried rallying the troops by showing them my fantastic heel click maneuver. Eric liked it.



But I knew they needed more from me. And that was when I donned the Speedo.


The hows and why of the Speedo in my possession needn't be answered. All you need to know is that I spent the next 5 miles running on trails in a uncomfortable "hugging" phase. That is what you do for friends. And some good running it was. The combo of me making an ass of myself and a serious section of downhill got Jimmy up and going again and Eric laughing. Jimmy and I both excel at downhill running and were thoroughly enjoying ourselves. As Eric would approach us he would comment on how we bound down the hills like bunnies. One exchange went like this as Jimmy, I and Eric went down the trail single-file.

Eric: "Is Jimmy talking on the phone while running downhill at breakneck speed on a trail?"
Dane: "Sure is."
Eric: "Wait. Are you texting?!"
Dane: "Yep."
Eric: "Who?!"
Dane: "Jimmy. To tell him to get off the phone and run."

With this five mile section done in well under an hour (!) and nearly 1800 feet of elevation loss behind us, I thought I was done for the day. I mean, afterall, one can only do so much in googles.


However, with Jimmy's wife Kate joining everyone for the final 13 miles, as well as two other runners (Gareth and Dominic), I couldn't pass up the party. Having never run more than 21 miles in my life which did not include a t-shirt, bagels and a non-precious medal, I figured I might as well join them for my longest training run ever. I only have 8 straight weekly marathons coming up, this would be wise to throw one in that doesn't count.

The sun set quickly and the six intrepid adventures set out. Kate and I had been presented with the Torches of Odin from Gareth and we apologize if our use of those flashlight crashed any plane in the SoCal area. In reality, these flashlights were pathetic. (Note the immense illumination on Kate's thigh.)



From Gareth:
"I used one of the flashlights to run .5 miles to my car, and almost died 3 times, so I don't know how you and Kate managed 13+ miles of trail." Because we are ninjas, Gareth. Because we are ninjas.

The darkness thickened and the runners grew weary. The last 13 miles dragged on for me so I cannot even imagine what it was like for jimmy and Eric. However, they were unbelievable troopers and one would have never guessed they had been moving for 14 hours or so. We grabbed one last photo at Eagle Rock before the final stretch of running. Eric was sad he had nothing with reflective gear on. Gareth is apparently Tony Stark.



A few miles later and Jimmy and Eric had conquered the trail. The final 13.3 miles took about 2:30 which is just amazing given the fact that there was 1725 loss and1125 gain during that section and these guys had just run 56 miles! Well-deserved applause was handed out.


Of course, with all of us now at the end of the trial, we have to figure out how we are getting back to our cars some 15 miles away. Without a doubt
6'1''ish Jimmy
6'1'' me,
6'4''ish Gareth,
5''11ish Eric,
5'10''ish Dominic,
Eric's girlfriend and
Kate

can all fit in a Civic, right? They can when one gets in the trunk!


After a few miles of incredulousness and jokes about our way way backseat passenger, the exhaustion set in and everyone got quiet. About 45 seconds of silence was punctured when someone said:

"Did everyone else just forget we have a human in the trunk?"

The raucous laughter signified we all had.

68 miles, 16,000 total feet of climbing and some dirty pictures which can never see the light of day. Good job Jimmy and Eric!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sharing the love of running.

I have been fortunate to receive tons of emails and nice letters from many of my readers. I shared a funnier one earlier in a blog and had a good laugh. Well, I wanted to share some of the others that have reached my doorstep simply b/c these people took the time out of their day to actually pen these notes. And by that I mean, they actually hand wrote them. Think about the last time you hand wrote a note to someone. Been a while huh? well, pick a friend, write a letter and mail it to them. It will make their week. Much like these have below for me. Enjoy.


"It was a true pleasure to meet you. Your advice did help a lot as I did finish my first marathon. It is so amazing what you accomplished and I truly admire you for that."

-Jason in California



"I was excited about, and interested in, your 2006 adventure. I am of the opinion that ...most people just thought about the actual running. The running part was a great achievement, but the real story was the drama of scheduling events, getting there and getting back with the possibility of illness, a canceled flight or a missed connection rearing up and spoiling the whole effort."

-Karl in Florida


"In the summer of 2007 I suffered a pulmonary embolism. I was in the hospital for 7 days. My doctor said I would never regain my lung capacity. I was devastated.

After a few weeks, I tired to run and to my dismay the doctor was right. I startd walking and the incorporated jogging. I went from 13 minute miles to running 2 back to back half marathons at a 2:05 (9:30 pace). I am not as fast as I once was but I am running! My love and my passion is to run, run & run. So thank you so much for sharing so much of the same passions in your book. I loved it!"

-Eileen in California


"As this was susie's first run since the birth of (our daughter), she's pleased to share that she was only 2 minutes off of her PR!

the book is a ture joy to read with only one comment from this reader: you should have gone with the pink tiara. after all, you were wearing a tiara". [Referencing the Shamrock Marathon where I ran as part of Girls on the Run].
-Sebastian in California


There are so many more, but I wanted to just say thank you to all my readers. I truly hope many more get to share in my experience. It is one I get to relive in the eyes of those I tell every single time and I never tire of sharing my love of the sport with others.