Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 12; 14th Edition 
143.4 miles run and 7600 meters swam in races in 2018 races
Race: Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon
Place: Victoria, BC
Miles from home: 2270
Weather: Mid-50 degrees; rain; humid


Just two weeks after my first marathon of the year in Ely, Minnesota, I was hoping for a huge improvement in Victoria, BC. While some were worried about the rain (which was steady but almost never really much of a hindrance) I knew that clouds meant there would be no sun to draw out energy and the 50 degree temperature would be right up my alley.


As is usually the case when I am racing, I was also working. It is not the ideal way to try to get ready for endurance races, the whole sitting and standing and talking for two eight-hour days at an expo, while trying to find time to eat some sort of food, while also hoping people who just solicited you for advice for ten minutes might actually buy a book as well, but it is the way I have been doing it for quite some time. Here in Victoria it was no different but as always it brought tons of wonderful people into my worldview.


I was sharing a booth with the absolutely wonderful Russell Books store located in Victoria itself. Spending time with Andrea and her two-year old who is inflicted with a rare disorder called Pitt-Hopkins Syndrome I got to see a hard-working mother and a little boy working just as hard to have a normal life. I was also surrounded by no less than 50 different books by running authors. How any runner could walk by without getting at least one book is beyond me. I myself was lucky enough to meet many internet friends for the first time, make many new ones, and maybe, a nemesis or two. (I have no reason to believe the last part but I think it would be really cool to have a nemesis, don't you?)

I wrapped up my work weekend by being the featured speaker for around 250 people gathered for a delicious "Carob Gala" dinner. Speaking to normal mortals, and Olympians and everyone in between, was a pure treat.


Top to bottom everything about the way in which the event was run up until race day was top shelf.
Kudos to the organizers for pulling all of this off. Now it was time for me to go to bed and get ready to race.

Race Morning:


My "A" goal was to run a 3:05 marathon. I didn't think this was too far a reach for me considering my effort on a very hilly course in Ely two weeks prior. I had an excellent night of sleep, the race temperature was 48 as I shuffled to the start and promised to get no more than 50 by the time I hoped to finish. I left some of my gear right at the finish in the VIP section I was fortunate enough to be involved with and was ready to get the day under way.

First 5k:

When the horn signaled , I realized that all the half marathoners and marathoners would be running together. After running 23 miles with no one in my last race this was a welcome addition to my racing life. Over 1,000 finishers in just the marathon meant I would be running in my the biggest race in nearly four years.

After a first kilometer marker which threw me for a loop thinking it was a mile, I realized I was in Canada and would likely not be seeing many mile markers. (After a Mile One marker, they were then placed every five miles.) This meant I was going to have to do some math. I decided I would just go by what ever five kilometers told me and that would have to suffice. If I wanted to run a 3:05, I somehow figured out that was a 22:00 5k for each 5k (Actually, 21:55 I learned later which would make a difference in the long-run if it had come down to it.)

According to all the elevation charts I had seen, this race had a hill at mile two, another one at mile eight and then a series of hills between 20-22. Other than that it was smooth sailing on flat ground. Heck if you even look at my own data it more or less plays that out exactly with a few little bumps here and there. This data lies. That said, even with the first significant hill at mile two in my rear view mirror, I had a 21:47 first 5k. Sounds good to me!


To 10k:

The race is able to pick up some miles in the Beacon Hill Park area without really going anywhere. 
A few out-and-backs, a few hills I wasn't expecting, (I had run in the park the day I arrived just to see a few sites) and a few times where you got to run where you had been on another previous loop, had runners finally out on the road with the Strait of Juan de Fuca on your right.

Normally quite a view, it was mostly obscured by the rain and clouds today. I was thinking this was the Pacific earlier in the week but then remembered geography. I also furthered recalled an old Saturday Night Live skit where they pronounced Joey Buttafuoco's name like he was royalty in a Masterpiece Threate skit called the House of Buttafuoco. Give the similarity between the name of the strait and Joey's surname, you can imagine what was stuck in my head for most of the race. Thanks, Lizard Brain. 

I hit the 10k mark at 44:00 or just about exactly where I wanted. Given there had been some hills in this portion I hadn't expected, maintaining the pace I wanted was extra pleasing. 

To 15k:

This next section took us along the water with some fine views of the houses on the left which were phenomenal, and the strait on the right. We were also going to get a nice long straightway of running which has always suited me better than lots of twits and turns. I knew the last big hill for quite some time took us away from the Strait and into the neighboring community of Oak Bay. However, before we got there, we up and over a few other hills. I was beginning to wonder if perhaps I had underestimated this course.

Since just a few miles in, the pack of runners had settled into more or less those whom I would see for the remainder of the day. Some random runner would pass me here and there and I would chew up and spit out the back a runner as well but you got to know people's gaits, shirt colors and other eccentricities. One runner behind me ran with the heaviest footsteps of anyone I had ever heard. I looked at his bib and upon seeing he was running the half could not have been happier. I didn't want that sound near me any more than necessary. It is amazing how the smallest things will bother you to the nth degree in a marathon. In fact, here it spurred me to pick up the pace a little bit and put some distance between us.

Approaching 15 kilometers, I was a little disappointed with my 22:33 split for this 5k but given the big hill I had climbed, knew it wasn't too far off my goal. I knew the flat sections were coming up and I should be able to make up some time there to put me back on track.


To 20k:


I was excited about this next section as now the half-marathoners would be leaving us and I would see my competition for the day other than the clock. I was surprised how many people were still in front of me when we split.  Last year, the pace I was running would put me in the top 50. Right now, I could see 20 people in front of me and I was nowhere near the leaders. Well. Look at the big shoes on Brad! (This is a Samuel L. Jackson reference from Pul Fiction that I came up while running which doesn't really make any sense but had me chuckling when I thought of it. So there.)


We approached the water again, leaving the comfy confines of tree-lined homes, and I was beginning to feel pretty good. Until this point, while I was hitting my goals, it had been a struggle and I wondered if it was going to be one of those races where I never feel great but I also never really tire. However this spurt brought me in front of a number of runners and up ahead along the beautiful waterfront I could see we had in store for us...more hills. OK, what's going on here?

Jogging through the Victoria Golf Club showed me I never need to hear about the silliness of running in the rain when men were out here in the same slop holding lightning rods in their hands. In addition, a 22:21 5k told me that I was indeed getting faster. I almost always have a good second half when I slowly get better with each passing mile so I expected I might perhaps just indeed get that 3:05 after all.

To 25k:

My kilometers-to-miles brain got messed up and the half-marathon sign appeared a full kilometer before I expected it. That made me quite happy. Soon thereafter the leaders of the marathon were coming back at us on the other side and that meant the turnaround would be soon enough. I began counting to see how many where in front of me. Five then 10 then 30 then 50. Good lord. How many were up there?

We did the turnaround in the middle of the street which is just something I have always hated. It doesn't seem like much and I know why it is done but coming to an almost dead stop is no fun. But now I too was heading back and with no jaunt through Beacon Hill Park on the return trip home, this meant a much faster course!

There were a few more runners than I expected a little bit closer than I thought they might be as I made my turn. I lost count exactly but I think I was 86th overall. Oodles of people came out to run today! I was quite perplexed, however, when I ran past the next marker in 22:49. It wasn't too far off what I had been doing but it had felt much faster. In addition, I had passed more than a few people. I guess I was just slowing less than they were. That was great for overall placing but not great for my time.


To 30k:

I have an elaborate way to deal with running a marathon and all the miles that I won't bore you with here. However, the final portions involve getting to mile 18 before heading home for the last 6 miles after 20. I was eagerly looking forward to that 30k mark but what seemed to jump up out of nowhere were the small rises underneath us. I now know that for whatever reason, this race course is not "hard" per se but it was nowhere near as easy as I was thinking it would be.

I could feel my energy ebbing a bit so I went to all the tricks I have learned over time. Arm placement. Head placement. Making sure to run not a single inch farther than you have to by cutting every single tangent as close as possible. But when I got to 30k, my time showed me a 23:09 for this 5k. Again, not the end of the world but with 7.6 miles to go, I was beginning to run on borrowed time.

To 35k:

I remembered when we were running out this way where the 32k and 37k markers were on the other side of the road. I began to mentally picture them up ahead even though I couldn't see through the hills in front of me or the twists and turns. I was attempting to mentally lasso myself around them and pull them forward. I passed 32k in 2:24. I knew that meant if I ran a 46 last 10k I would not get the 3:05 I had hoped for (I had known this at the halfway point which I went through in 1:34) but could still get a 3:10. That wasn't too shabby.

But then the hill kept coming. I completely missed hitting my watch at 35k. I had been picturing the 37k mark telling me I just had 3.1 one to go.

To the Finish:

This last portion is the one which  is most baffling to me. We were clearly running uphill. But all elevation data shows we are at sea level. That's simply impossible. What was definitely possible, however, was how much I was slowing. More than a few runners had passed me but I had caught a handful of others who had been in front of me all race. My legs were beginning to tighten. My hamstring argued with me as I tried to up the pace to get this race over with. I could see it was more likely I would run a 3:12. I wasn't happy with this. However, the harder I pressed the more I seemed to slow. The finish was excruciatingly close but I didn't seem to be drawing any nearer.

A couple of small but steep hills and a series of last minute twists were especially cruel right here. No fewer than 10 people passed me in half a mile. Suddenly, I realized it was going to be even close for me to get my Boston Qualifying time - something which seemed like a shoo-in just three miles previous. I dug deep into the pain cave and kept moving forward. 

There up ahead was a 400 meter to go sign. Then 300 and 200 and 100. This addition of signs was an absolutely awesome touch by the race. On the right, finally, the Victoria Provincial Capitol Building was visible. And so, mercifully was the finish line.

I almost stumbled across in a 3:14:47, which procured me a BQ for the fourteenth straight year. I still somehow cracked the top 100 with a 94th finish. The master's men came out in droves today as I finished 17th in my age group. In fact, to place in the top 50 this year, you had to almost go sub-3. (48 did just that.)

Obviously not the race I was hoping for but, given the circumstances, one I think I can be proud of. With a flight leaving just three hours after I finished, I could not stay and enjoy Victoria as much as I wanted to. Luckily, I got my picture with the Terry Fox statue, like I had five years earlier on my only other visit to this fantastic city. I very much hope to be back to run the race again, visit my friends at the book store and see so much more of this beautiful island city.

Without a doubt this race should be on your list of ones to run. If I can still recommend it when I didn't have the race I was hoping for, I think that tells you how well it is run, what a beautiful course it is, how wonderful the spectators are, and all else that goes into putting together a well-oiled
machine.

Plus, if he isn't gone by this time next year, you can at least escape from Trump for a few days.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Punishing White Supremacists is Jack Dorsey's Least Favorite Thing


*I originally posted back in May but someone asked me to repost it.  I like said person so I am doing so*

About two years ago I began using my public persona to talk about more things than just athletics. I know any athlete that does as such gets the whole "stick to sports" routine from those who don't want to think of their athletes as being anything besides one-dimensional. (Like Laura Ingraham's "Shut up and dribble" banality to LeBron.) *Edit* (Or more recently,, Taylor Swift.)

That said, I still do try to talk about sports the most as they are what matter to me - namely running and the like. However, two weeks ago, during the Royal Wedding, something I could not possibly care less about, KT Hopkins, noted white supremacist and all around anal carbuncle said the following about Meghan Markle. "No competition.  You can't buy class."  Now, even with trump and his ilk allowing Nazis, racists, sexists, etc more free reign to say things out loud that they should be saying in their inside voice, KT still had the brains(?) to be mildly vague with her racist dogwhistling about Markle's blackness.  So I replied.

Granted, this is not the most couth reply. But I would much rather someone speak the truth in a harsh tone than peddle bullshit with embroideries. It was well-received by many who felt the same. (And I put this picture up to show I am not afraid of what I said. You can disagree with it and that is fine. I am used to dealing with people who want to silence me.  Hell even the ones who agree with me don't have the balls to say so.)

KT replied to me with some inane retort about how it was not two women getting married (intentionally missing the point) and I replied to her. Then it was done. I went about my life.

A week later I get notification my Twitter account has been suspended for "targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice." This is utter b.s. I know women on Twitter who have posted messages they received threatening to rape and kill them and THEY have gotten suspended - not the person who sent the message. So I wasn't surprised. Disappointing but not surprised. I assumed I would wait 48 hours or whatnot and be back on Twitter.  But then I realized it was an indefinite suspension.

I can no longer tweet. I can no longer access my direct messages with personal information from those who purchased my book and whose addresses I need to send them said book. I  can't see virtually any tweet posted in an article online as I essentially no longer have an account  Guess who still has an account - KT Hopkins. (And trump and Orrin Hatch's Social media guy who likes to say just as insulting things about me and like a billion other people who are far worse than me. Hell, Roseanne Barr still has an account, even after she said she was done with Twitter after calling a black woman an "ape.")

I appealed this suspension. Twice. I'm on the third time right now. I have begun sending daily messages to Jack Dorsey (CEO of Twitter) through his email stating my case.  I don't exactly expect him to reply (and a week into doing so he hasn't) but one hopes. I have been fortunate enough to have a variety of people send tweets and messages in my support, both famous and not, as well.  (You can, too: Jack@twitter.com or @jack on Twitter.) I have also had some people gloat. And honestly, if you want to judge me as a person, look who supports me and look who is gloating. That says everything you need to know about my message.

Some say "And he calls himself a motivational speaker!" First, I never have. Second, even if I did, a speaker who wants to motivate isn't beholden to every single person who demands they spout nothing but flowery platitudes. "Dance for me, monkey!" has never been something I responded to. I do my best to inspire people. And I have tons of examples that I have. However, because what I said made you unhappy doesn't mean I have failed at what I do.

Will I ever get my account back? I honestly do not think so. It is disappointing but for a week and counting to not see the horrible things that trump and his feeble-minded supporters have done has been a blessing. I will miss being able to do what I can with what I have to help people who are not me. But I fortunately still have other forums.

But for any other person who has an audience, especially athletes, and does not attempt to use it, I feel sorry for you. I know I am the one who has lost thousands of dollars in sponsorships, partnerships etc, but you are the one who silently stands by while others are harmed. I hope the money helps you sleep at night. I hope refusing to take a stand allows you to be able to look at your minority friends in the eye.

It appears people are finally beginning to back me up (now that it is safe for them to do so, naturally.) I bore the brunt of the worst of it for coming out first, which, well, kinda sucks, but I am who I am. In the meantime, I will continue to push my body to new heights athletically. It is what I have control over. The rest is just noise.

I turned 42 yesterday. I continue to grow as a person. Could I have just said "Now, KT, I think it is bad you don't like black people."?  Absolutely. But horrible people don't deserve niceties. They don't necessarily deserve harassment either.  Regardless, I didn't harass her.

So, Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter: why don't you get half of a backbone and stop kowtowing to the worst dredges of your website and give me back my account? It is fun to be on the right side of history. Come join me.

Update 08.22.18:

When it became clear Twitter was not going to "unsuspend" my account after three months I thought I would create a new one with a kinder, gentler slant. I just so happened to have a tweet go rather viral. Chances are you saw it in the last few days. It talked about how we need to make a movie celebrating the life of Robert Smalls, a remarkable man you should read more about. The only problem with going viral is that the same sad people who reported your account for saying bad words about a white supremacist will come across your twitter profile again. Lo and behold, this morning I  woke up with another suspended twitter account.

This twitter account did nothing but talk about running, post jokes, and make a few political observations. Yet for Jack and his crew, that was enough to suspend it simply because I violated their Terms of Service by creating a new account. Meanwhile, Alex Jones does his daily horrific rants, causing irreparable harm to Sand Hook survivors and so much more, the "president" threatens the livelihoods of his citizens and neither of those people get suspended. (Yeah, Alex Jones finally got a little slap on the wrist but his week is about up.) Twitter could be so good but it is such a joke because Jack Dorsey has no spine, no conscience, and siding solidly with the worst side of humanity.

But hey,  at least my tweet made it onto Snopes.com.  That's pretty cool.


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Ely Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 12; 13th Edition 
117.2 miles run and 7600 meters swam in races in 2018 races
Race: Ely Marathon
Place: Ely, MN
Miles from home: 1414
Weather: Mid-40 degrees; Cloudy; Ahhhhh!


Drats.


That's a perfect summation of my Ely Marathon experience. Let me state unequivocally that my feelings have nothing to do with the event itself, which was top-notch. Rather, it has to do with the end result which I will get to in a minute. (My book on "How to Write Goodly" calls this "foreshadowing").

I haven't run many marathons lately. In fact, in 2017 I ran my first and only of the year on New Year's Eve. Determined not to wait so long again in the year to continue my streak of qualifying for the Boston Marathon (I have done so every year since 2005), I signed up for a marathon in late January. The race did not go my way and I ended up running the half-marathon instead as 100% humidity threatened to shut down my body. As such, I found myself here in late September lining up to complete my first marathon of the year.

This was going to be quite the experiment. I was severely under-trained for this marathon given mostly to the fact that the town I live in, Austin, Texas, has been on virtual fire this summer. The third hottest summer in Austin history just wrapped up and these temperatures and humidity do not make for a good training day for Dane. In addition, the Ely Marathon is also a rather challenging course with non-stop rolling hills, long hills, short, steep hills and other hills I cannot think of categories for them in which to be placed. However, race day temperature called for it to be just about the most blissful race I have run in the past, well, probably five years. So my theory to be tested was how much good weather helps an under-trained runner on a tough course. The only way to find out was to head to the starting line.

Race Morning:

What first drew my attention to this relatively new marathon tucked away in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota was the inclusion of something I had seen nowhere else in the world. Along with your marathon and half options, the Ely Marathon allowed a variety of ways runners could portage, or carry, a canoe for the entire marathon course. This sounds as ridiculously difficult as one could imagine. Yet as we lined up to run this marathon, the canoe portage-ers all seemed in remarkably good spirits. Egads.

The weather delivered as promise with cool temps, relatively low humidity, complete cloud cover, and elated sighs emanating from me all morning long. As everyone lined up for the start and no one seemed to wish to join me at the front of the line, I tried to needle other runners to join me. Finally, after much cajoling, including saying there was no need to run further that 26.22 miles if you dodn't have to, a few toed the line with me. The air horn started and away we went.

First Seven Miles:

I was fairly certain the competition for this race would not be too stiff. I was all but assured a top three finish. However, when absolutely no one went with me at the start I had no choice but to run my own race and take the lead. (The eventual third place runner did sprint out to the front to say that he was at least leading the race at one point. Oh, young kids.)

In the first 100 yards on a dirt road, we went down a hill and then back up the other side. This would be basically a microcosm of what that vast majority of the first half of the marathon would be like. After the first mile the dirt a road turned to a paved one and I was all alone except for the lead car pacing me through the quiet forest roads in a foggy morning within a stone's throw of Burnside Lake on our right.

By the second mile it seemed clear that no one was even going to attempt to stay with me in spite of the fact that I was hardly tearing up the roads, running right at a seven-minute pace. I was hoping at least one or two runners would challenge me here so I didn't have to shoulder the load. Yet as no one did, I simply tried to leave them behind. I didn't want to make it easy for anyone.

Hitting the third mile left me with a smile as we passed a woman with a sign saying we were 980 rods done. As Ely is in a canoe and outdoorsy-friendly place it has been billed since its inception as the 8390-rod portage (a rod being 5.5 yards and portaging being what canoe folk have to sometimes do to get their boat from water to water over land). This 980 rods done sign was a long way of saying it was mile three. I loved the local touch.

I knew the next few miles had some of the hardest climbs of the day so I just kept my head down, focused on running the tangents the best I could on a course that twisted and turned quite a bit. As the miles ticked by I continued to feel surprisingly good. I had been as nervous for this marathon as I had for one in years. I was wondering how I would perform given my lack of training but so far I felt very good. I almost never feel very good in the beginning of the marathon so this was a huge shocker. My time was probably not going to be stellar (right around 3:10 was my guess) but hey, it looked like I was going to win. One shouldn't think about a victory so early in the race but where there are virtually no crowds, no one challenging you, and not much more to focus on but I will admit I let my mind wander.

The seventh mile produced the steepest hill of the course and I was glad it was over. A quick glance over my shoulder revealed no one in seeming striking distance. Then I saw a few shirts a little closer than I would like them to be in the far distance. I wasn't home-free yet.


To the Half:


Right around here the truck which had been my lead vehicle pulled to the side and a motorcycle took over. From what I can gather, I had built a sizeable enough lead that they needed the truck to go back to help lead the other runners. Being a little bit of a snob I wanted to say that if they wanted a lead vehicle then they needed to get up here in the lead, damn it. But soon I had a motorcycling buddy waving down opposing traffic to slow, cutting a tangential line along the roads, and being basically my only friend on the course.

Occasionally we would pass a driveway to some cabin which lead way back and a person or two had positioned themselves out in a lawn chair to cheer on runners. This sort of thing always warms my heart. Even their quiet cheers and soft-spoken "way to go"s were very appreciated.

I knew the last of the big hills ended around the tenth mile and I was looking forward to trying to use a long downhill to get me rolling. I was still averaging right at a 3:10 pace which was a nice thing. I passed the start of the half-marathon and knew I would be coming down to where the halfers spit out onto the road after doing some out-and-backs which I would also do. The Echo Trail (which was paved)  was where we had been running and as we made a hard left onto Grant-McMahon Boulevard (which was about as un-boulevardy as one could imagine nestled deep in the woods here) I enjoyed another nice steep downhill.

Up ahead I could see the half-marathoners coming out of where I was going in and all was right in the world. I passed one of the portagers and told her she was a rock star. She said I was the one winning the race to which I replied "But I'm not carrying a boat!"

The weather remained cool, the drinks were plentiful from the volunteers, and I felt I had a great lead. Time to just do another thirteen miles and call it a day!


To Mile 22:

A rather abrupt uphill here was made a little easier as the half-marathoners streamed by on the other side. Getting a little human contact helps the psyche a bit even if it only lasted about a half-mile. Marathoners branched off again here and I was all alone with my motorcycle.

I knew there was a complete out-and-back sections coming up but couldn't remember exactly where. I was aware this would give me my first glance of how far the runners behind me were and man I was really hoping it was far. I turned around on this dirt road and began heading back. Sure enough the once lead car brought some fellas into my sight. I looked at my watch to see how much a lead I had on them and it showed three minutes and twenty seconds.  A few feet later I hit mile sixteen. Two hundred seconds faster than me in ten miles is what these guys had to do to win the race. Not insurmountable but quite safe. In order to make it even harder, I ran the 17th mile as fast as I had run a mile since mile eleven. My win was in the bag.

On another lollipop portion of the course which I had hoped was another out and back so I could see any greater lead I had built, I instead saw the tail end of some of the other runners who had been behind the chasers right behind me. I figured that everything else was copacetic with regards to how far the main chasers were behind me and continued my ways. I knew I slowed a bit but the hills had been tough here and the guys behind me had to run them as well. I took just a little bit of a breather break before mile twenty and saw I ran my first eight-minute mile of the day. With a bit of a climb here it wasn't unexpected but I knew I had to get going.

As I approached an aid station perched at the top of short but brutal climb at Mile 22, I passed one of the few canoe portagers out on the course. Even though I wanted to walk this hill, doing so next to a person carrying a canoe made me push forward. At the aid station, however, I did stop to grab two cups of water. It was still not out of the 40-degree range temperature-wise but I was thirsty and sweating. I poured the two cups into one, drunk them fully, and turned around to see what was behind me.

I swore out loud.

One of the runners who had been over three minutes behind me just six miles previously was now just 50 yards away.


Heading Home:


I began running with a new vigor but I also knew that it was just a matter of time. If he had made up such a huge distance chances are he had way more leg speed than I did. I held him off for about half of a mile but soon his bright orange shirt was passing me. He didn't say "Good job" and I didn't either which to me meant we were both unsure of what the other had in the tank. I wasn't expecting a race for the last 5k but here I was in the middle of one.

For the next half mile until 24 he steadily increased his lead. It was not a lead I couldn't overcome but it was starting to get there. The road began to rise and a long hill appeared. Next thing I knew he was another 100 yards in front of me. I told someone later when he passed me he not only took the lead but he took my soul. A few yards later is where it permanently left me.

Only a small downhill kept this mile from being extremely slow and as we turned to the 25th mile, my energy was ebbing. I am fully convinced if I had been in the lead this would have not been the case. At the aid station I again grabbed two drinks and this time walked for a good ten seconds or more. I wasn't going to BQ, I wasn't going to win, and now I was just crestfallen.

I entered the last mile which not only passed the finish line before we could actually go to it but had a cruel hill running up the city streets of Ely. I came to a dead stop and just tugged on my shorts as I bent over. A concerned fan asked me if I was OK and I said "I'm not right in the head but I will make it to the finish". This got a laugh and a cheer from the people gathered there. As I started running again, the race director appeared on the side of the road cheering me on and offering encouragement. I smiled weakly, happy my sunglasses were hiding the exhaustion in my eyes.

Up the hill, two turns, back down the straightaway I went until I could see a funnel of fans, a cameraman, and the finish line in a beautiful park in the middle of town. Half an hour earlier I was wondering if there would be a tape for me to break. I have won five marathons in my life and only one of them has had a tape across the finish line. I learned later there was one here but unfortunately it was not for me.

I crossed the finish in 3:18:01 for my 161st marathon ever. I have now placed second in my last three marathons. Those previous two came as surprises as I thought I was further back. This one was just a big ole bummer. Well-meaning friends told me the time was still good and I should be happy with second place. And truth be told, give how under trained I was and the difficult of this course, I can say that if I had started the race in fifth place and maintained it the entire time, I would be much happier. But losing a marathon that late in the race is not fun. Until you have done it, "But second place is still great" rings a little hollow.



I stayed around after the race to do a book signing at the post-race party but mainly I wanted to see the canoe portagers come in. While there was the usual applause for most runners coming in, especially the slower ones, the park erupted whenever anyone carrying a freaking boat came ambling across the line. I say ambling even though the half-marathon winner literally skipped across the line to the amazement of everyone.

My trip to Ely was made specifically to see how this race compared to some that I think are an absolute must-run. While I can't say that you can't run fast here (it ends up that the man who beat me, a multiple marathon finisher, set a THREE minute personal best on this course, which is just mindbogglingly) chances are the hills will take a lot out of you. But what the scenery gives you, how well the town embraces your presence, and what the volunteers and organizers do to make you feel welcome is indeed something which must be felt. Granted a few other marathons in Minnesota get a great deal of publicity but you would be ill-advised to sleep on this new little gem tucked up in the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota. I highly suggest you book a massage at the Pebble Spa Company  just a few blocks from the end of the race as well. I did and without a doubt one of the reasons I recovered even more quickly than usual was because I pampered myself at this excellent establishment.

Go run it, and then, be adventurous like I was and drive another three hours to Thunder Bay, Ontario where you can pay homage to where Canadian legend Terry Fox was forced to stop his run across Canada way back in the early 1980s.

All in all, this race really boosted my confidence and proved to me that good weather really is a huge equalizer. I look to improve greatly on the much easier course in Victoria, British Columbia in less than two weeks as I once again strike out on the 26.2 mile journey.

My first marathon in Canada since my first ever sub-3 in my 42nd marathon of the year in Niagara Falls back in 2006 beckons. I don't know how it is possible that it has been twelve years since I have run that distance in our neighbors to the North but as the featured speaker for the race, I plan on putting a darn good show.
Greatly looking forward to being the featured speaker for the race as well.  Hope to see you there!



Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Pure Austin Splash and Dash Series 6 of 7 Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 12; 12th Edition 
91miles run and 7600 meters swam in races in 2018 races
Race: Pure Austin Splash and Dash Series
Place: Austin, TX
Miles from home: 13
Weather: 91 degrees; sunny; humid

After I did this race in August, one of a series of seven, I promptly began concentrating the best I could on running. With two marathons coming up in the next few weeks, swimming was something I didn't care much about. But the day before the race I decided I should at least get a few yards in so I hit the pool. It wasn't an inspiring swim but a treadmill run after told me I might have a decent race.

For the past ten days or so Austin has been getting a ton of rain. The temperature has been down after what was the third hottest summer in Austin history. But the rain cleared out and today was right back up there with a race time temp around 91 degrees. Luckily, as I dove into the water for a quick warm-up, I could tell the rain had cooled the quarry a bit.

The usual cast of characters was there but I couldn't see my age group nemesis, Chad. A perfectly affable chap he has beaten me in virtually every race this year as a Master's. Almost every one of those has come after I led him in the swim, if even a few seconds. Perhaps I could eke out a victory today with him not here.

Swim:

As is the norm, the gun fires and a group of about five guys just explode out to the front. I then fall into my usual place amongst maybe three others who begin duking it out. Then I saw Chad's telltale legging trunks swim by me. This happens often in our swim battle and usually within half of the swim I have passed him. But for whatever reason today I simply couldn't do it. My swim was also a little erratic as I had trouble staying in a straight line. That isn't normally something I deal with but oh well.

By the time we were approaching the end of the swim, I had narrowed the gap to just a few seconds.  We both rushed to our gear and I stumbled just a bit putting one of my shoes on.  Funny how just the smallest thing can cost you three seconds.

Crossing the mat for the swim and transition, my time was 12:31. I laughed. For two years I have been doing this damnable race and one thing improves, another gets worse, the weather affects me worse when I am trained, the weather is great when I am untrained and time after time I post the same results. Just this year alone my times for the swim and transition have been 12:50, 12:30 12:20, 12:27 and 12:30.

Run: 

This was the first time Chad had ever beaten me out of the water and I wondered if I might run a bit better being the chaser rather than the chased. However, as has been the norm, after an opening little surge on the small downhill side of this loop, I slowed on the upward swing on the back side. Every flippin' time this happens to me. Thrice a race. The question was how far back I fell. The twisty-turny nature of  this course makes it hard to track down runners in front of you. When you begin the second loop and are joined by all the swimmers behind you, it is even more difficult. I lost track of Chad and assumed he was his normal distance between us on the run.

Normally my second loop just about undoes me. But the "slightly" cooler temps and whatever else was going on today made the second loop almost a mirror of the first (4:32 to 4:30). Furthermore, as we began the third loop Chad suddenly came back into view. Crap. He was just far enough away that it is going to take a herculean effort to snag him. First, I am not sure I have a herculean effort in me. Second, I have a marathon on Saturday and moving one spot up in this race means far less than not hurting myself before the 26.2 miler. So I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't catch him.

Then he slowed even more. Damn you, Chad, I muttered. You are going to make me work. And work I did, narrowing the gap even more, regardless of the hill that kills on the backside of the loop. I unfortunately ran out of real estate to close the gap fully in spite of seeing another of the many younger fish-like swimmers who are far less good at running appear in front of me as well. I finished n 25:59 which put me just nine seconds behind Chad and ten seconds behind the fish. This was my second fastest time of all these aquathlons over the past two years and only my second time under twenty-six minutes. My final lap of 4:24 was my fastest lap all year. I can tell you I was not expecting any of this going into the race. It says nothing about my preparation for the marathon this weekend but without a doubt having a good race is never bad for the mental health.

Time to head to Ely, MN and take on marathon #162!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Wausau Half-Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 12; 12th Edition 
89 miles run and 6850 meters swam in races in 2018 races
Race: Wausau Half-Marathon
Place: Wausau, WI
Miles from home: 1346
Weather: 65 degrees; cloudy; 100% humidity

When I saw that the weather for this race was going to be in the mid-60s and cloudy I had second thoughts about running the half-marathon. Having not seen temperatures that low for a race since this past winter, the marathon seemed like a good option. However, by the time race day rolled around and given the humidity at the start was 100%, I am happy to say I stuck with the right race distance. (I have recently been told by someone that "dew point" is the only number that matters but considering virtually no one I know would understand what the dew point is, I will continue to stick with a combination of temperature and humidity in my race recaps.)

It is difficult to deal with race results which don't go the way you want it to go. Yet, as a running coach myself, I know that is the key to getting back on the horse. In fact, in the 48 hours around my own race, two of my athletes suffered disappointing finishes after training that showed they would do much better. All we can do is examine the evidence around us, sift through the ashes and attempt to be faster next time.

For the past month or so, I have been running on the treadmill almost exclusively. Tired of trying to clock miles in what is already the third hottest year in Austin history, I resigned myself to running indoors. I found it far more palatable than I expected, mostly because it was nice to be able to do a double-digit run and just be sweaty at the end - not sweaty and ready to die. By hopping on the conveyor belt, I twice ran the longest run I had ever run on a treadmill. It isn't far (10 and then 11 miles) but more than enough to get into good half-marathon shape.

The packet pickup for this quaint but well-organized race in Wausau, Wisconsin was a little bit
dampened by a pretty steady rain. However, more than a few people brightened up my day as I did a book signing and talked to the locals. One rather nice fan who told me he signed up specifically because I was running the race in his new town (hear that race directors?  I bring you money.) was beyond flattering. The need to wear a jacket while under the large outdoor tent was a feeling I haven't had in months. I loved it.

Race Morning:

With a hotel just a hop skip and a trot way from Marathon Park where the race began and ended, I was able to get a good sleep in. The race takes place in Marathon County and this park is just an absolute gem in what is a truly lovely town. With an amphitheater, a child's train, a splash pad, and clusters of trees that campers from all over come and spend the night it in, it truly was an ideal place to begin our race. Getting to the start just minutes before the race began, I saw a few runners I had met the day before, even though I normally walk around with blinders on when race morning draws nigh. People asked me what I was hoping to run and I truly had no idea. I said I could run a 1:25 and not be too surprised or I could run a 1:35 and still not be surprised. The humidity was going to play a huge factor for me but I thought I might be able to power through. My goal was right at 1:30.

A quick countdown to the start and away we went.

First Three Miles:


Being right at the front of the starting line felt nice and I see why people who don't belong there sidle up to it all the time. Nevertheless, within about 15 yards of running, I was in third place. The leader shot out in front. My intuition told me he wouldn't stay out there for very long.  A shirtless fella soon followed him and he looked more seasoned. (I would later learn he was the previous year's second place overall runner.) A few yards later, and before we left Marathon Park, a yellow-shirted chap passed me. Now I was in fourth.

We climbed a small hill and then made a right and ran down a nice little decline towards the center of town. Crossing the Wisconsin River and Big Bull Falls Park we approached the first mile with a cloudy sky and quiet streets making us all feel quite as if the town was all ours. Right then the ladies' overall leader passed me followed by two pacers for the 1:30 group. I kinda giggled as it was quite clear that there weren't many who would be needing that pacer today. Then my giggling stopped when I realized it felt like I was running a 6:20 mile and instead it was a 6:54. I began hoping the mile markers would be off.

A nice young fella I had met the day before, Pluto, exchanged some words with me and followed the pace group. I was beginning to feel like this might not be my day. The next mile, which was all but flat and only produced me another 6:55 mile (more or less) confirmed my suspicions. Alas, I had to play out the string.

We went through some sleepy neighborhoods whose occupants definitely were not up yet to cheer us on but a few spectators had appeared here and there. A little bump right before mile three netted me a 7:19 mile and I think I audibly sighed. Most of the runners who had passed me were still within 30 seconds of running but might as well have been forever away. The shirtless runner had taken the lead and the young buck who started out in front was falling back. Now it was time for the climb.

To the Turn Around:


A rather large hill cresting at mile four loomed in front of me. I wanted to simply do what I could to not make this an embarrassment of a mile, so I pulled out all the stops and knowledge I have of running uphill. With the fourth mile marker right at the crest of the hill and an identical 7:19 to boot to go along with it, I was more than pleased.

Sliding down the backside of the hill I was beginning to catch up to some of the runners in front of me. Any chance of winning this race was gone but a top three finish still existed.  Then I felt my shoelace coming untied. Oh, come on, really? Is this my first race ever?!  I had double knotted the shoelaces but apparently my superhuman sweating skill had worked its way down to my feet and moistened the knots. As I stopped to tie it another shirtless runner passed me. Tying as quickly as possible, I began to give this man chase and use him as a wagon to pull me along to catch the others in front of us.

We turned onto Highway K (I love Wisconsin's use of the alphabet for highway demarcation) and I knew it was a simple mile from the turn to the turnaround. I finally started to feel OK. The next mile was one of the fastest of the day. Then I began to catch in on the runners between me and the second shirtless runner (who was catching and passing people as well). I slapped hands with the leader on his way back, and then the next few people came back at me before too long as well. I was beginning to feel some confidence and swung around the turn-around point.


To Mile Nine:

As I began my trek back I felt so much better. I felt faster. I felt stronger. I felt awake and ready to take down some competitors. My first mile back was an excellent 7:05 (given what I had just run in the previous six, I will call that excellent) but that's where the excellence ended. The next mile, approaching the big hill again, felt wonderful as I cheered on virtually every other runner heading out the same was I had just come. I was picking up distance from those in front of me but it was quite clear we were all slowing. I just happened to be slowing slower than the rest. I was the fastest slower-downer.

Right before the top of the hill I passed the young buck who shot out early. Then a few yards later when the lead woman hopped into the bushes for a second, I passed here as well. Next up was the yellow-shirted fella from the beginning and as we ran down the other side of the hill, I saw I was catching him. One of the nice things about running behind runners over a series of varying terrains is that if you pay attention well enough, you can learn their strengths. I knew the woman was excellent at flats. The yellow-shorted guy was great on uphills. And I could toast them both on downs.

I approached the ninth mile and remembered the race director told me that at mile nine, if you want to make a move, this was the place. Unfortunately, a slower mile than expected sort of took the wind out of my sails and I fell further back. Drats.


Heading Home:

On this flat mile, true to form, the women's leader passed me. She offered a urging but polite "Come on, let's go" and man I wish I could have responded. I just couldn't speed up. I didn't feel tired per se. I felt I had the energy to go but the legs wouldn't respond.

I had driven parts of the course the day prior to just get a feel for what were some moderately rolling hills. I knew the return trip home was not a simple out and back meaning we would not be retracing out steps.

As we went down a nice little hill to pass over the Wisconsin River again, I closed the gap on the runners in front of me. Again, felt like I was flying and my watch told me differently. As we did a couple of little quick turns through a neighborhood, I was soon on the heels of the women's leader once again. Seeing a PortaPotty, she jumped in.  I felt for sure that she was not feeling that great today (and speaking to her afterward confirmed that) which made passing her bittersweet. I have zero deference or compassion for women runners when we are racing because I see them as competitors that need no "mmlady-ing". But you never want to best someone who is not having a good day.  This point after mile eleven was the last time I would see her.  Now I began focusing on yellow shirt guy (hereinafter YSG).

Up a short but steep soul-crushing rise we ran and I grabbed a glass of energy drink. A long straightaway appeared in front of me. I watched YSG hop up onto the sidewalk and for some reason that seemed like an act of a tired runner. I began to speed up.

The course map had us running a straight line until one street but a few blocks before it we were turned by a course marshal. I assumed it was to avoid an intersection and dutifully complied.  However, as I ran the tangent, YSG stuck to the sidewalk and I easily made up a few yards on him. Cruising down this street I was trying to decide when to make my move. I knew I did not have much in the tank so when I did pass him it had to be decisive. I absolutely love racing like this. Some random race in Wisconsin. Two guys running way slower than they are able to. Battling for a meaningless place with no prize money.

We approached the turn ahead which would be the last before we re-entered the park. There was an aid station right on the corner and I was ready to grab one last drink. I didn't think YSG was going to grab a drink and I was right on his heels. Suddenly he reached out and snagged a cup. It was too late for me to grab one myself and I had a decision to make. I ran wide on his outside shoulder and utilized the fact that he was looking back to see if anyone was behind him to catch him by surprise. I immediately thought of Roger Bannister passing John Landy in the same way many years ago. I wasn't quite ready to pass him with well over a half of a mile left but the decision was made for me. It was a full three steps before he realized I was in front of him.

We went up the street with one last very short but cruel hill. I turned into the park and used my
peripherals to see where he was. Just a quarter of a mile left and I felt like my lead was safe. I cut the tangent as close as possible between a winding road in the park and knew I had about one minute of effort left. Then I heard his footsteps. I cut behind a dumpster in a narrow space hoping to hold YSG on his final charge. However, even though he had to run wide, he had more in him. He passed me as we entered the final .1 of a mile in the chutes of Marathon Park and simply wanted it more than I did. I slowed to a trot, my body spent.

He finished sixth overall 12 seconds ahead of my 1:36:13 which is an exact tie with the last half-marathon I did in January which, wait for it, was 65 degrees and 100% humidity. That means it was my 88th slowest half-marathon ever (out of 102) which should go to show you how bad of a day I had. One more man slipped in behind me and the women's leader and then the next two finishers were female as well. That's a strong showing by the ladies on a tough day.


After the race I hung around and signed books for a while. I saw people who I talked to the day before finishing their first races, I witnessed police officers running in full gear to commemorate a fallen comrade, and so many other examples of good humanity and people pushing their boundaries.

I used to believe that all I need to know about someone was whether they ran. I realize now in today's climate that I was naive and foolish to think that way. Nevertheless, in a race, or while running, I think that there is something which brings out the absolute best in everyone. If only more of us ran more often with more people, perhaps things would be a bit better.

After the race, heading back to the airport in Minneapolis, I acted on a tip from a local to check out a geographical anomaly nearby. The 45 x 90 Geographical Marker (learn more about it here) was just a few miles out of my way heading back and I absolutely had to make a visit. I was not disappointed and the geek in me gladly laid down next to this point and grabbed a selfie. Since the only one of the 45x90 spots on land is in the middle of desolate region of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China near the Mongolian border, let's just say this one is a bit easier to get to.

And stay tuned because I may have reason why you runners especially might want to visit it in a year or so!


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Pure Austin Splash and Dash Series 4 of 7 Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 12; 11th Edition 
75.9 miles run and 6850 meters swam in races in 2018 races
Race: Pure Austin Splash and Dash Series
Place: Austin, TX
Miles from home: 13
Weather: 101 degrees; sunny; humid

I wasn't going to write this recap because quite honestly, this is the tenth one of these I have done in the last two years and it is getting a little difficult to come up with something interesting to say about a race that almost always churns out the same result for me.  However, I decided that, in and of itself was the interesting part.

If you have read any of my other recaps of this series the race is a simple format: a 750-meter circular swim of a quarry and then three loops around the trail around the quarry. What is interesting is that outside of one major outlier which was my first race back after being assaulted last July, the vast majority of these races have been clustered together time-wise. Yes, it is a short-distance race so the time shouldn't be all that different per se but with a sample size large enough and participants who repeat the race often enough I was able to see that I seem to be the one with the smallest change in my time.

The overall time stays relatively the same in spite of the fact that some days the swim is faster and
some days the run is faster. It stays the same in spite of the fact that occasionally the weather is much more conducive to racing. It stays the same in spite of the fact that sometimes I feel rested and sometimes I am just a day or so removed from a hard run race.  To be honest, it would be so much more frustrating if it wasn't so darn fascinating to me.

For instance, in this race, the hottest of the ten I have done, I wasn't expecting too much. I had a nice swim at the Deep Eddy Mile a little over a week ago that didn't go as well as I had hoped but had been the culmination of my harder swim workouts for the summer. (In the cool water of Deep Eddy pool, I took 5th overall. It was slower than I expected but virtually everyone I spoke to said the same thing.  A 33 1/3-yard pool is definitely hard to figure out.) After that I had stopped swimming a bit and began to start to focus on running more for the fall races I had coming up. Yet somehow, in bathwater temperature quarry water, I swam close to my fastest swim yet.  But once I got out of the water the heat just smacked me around.

Last month a fella who has become a bit of a rival hung on my back for 2.5 of 3 loops before passing me. This month however, I only held him off for one loop. I could tell I didn't have it and wasn't going to push too hard.  I have a half marathon this Saturday which is going to be a barometer for how my fall is going to go and it was much more important that eking out a few more seconds in this race.  So for the most part I just kinda ran it "easyhard" and finished out the string. Then at the end I see if I had just been ten seconds faster I would have run my fastest time of the year! What the heck?!

When I ran my first of these last year in just a hair over 26 minutes (26:02) and the next month ran 25:48, I assumed I would be in the 24s not long thereafter. I haven't broken 26 since. It is an interesting thing to see. I have next to never raced the same course so many times. I know exactly what to expect. There is no unknown. Yet getting faster eludes me. Granted, because I keep ridiculous records of everything, the temperatures for the races in 2018 have all been higher than they were for 2017, but I would still like to see improvement.

There are still two more of these to go for the year. Maybe by the last one in October it will be in the low 90s. *le sigh*


Next race is a half-marathon in Wausau, WI. Shockingly this is only my second half-marathon of the year. The weather looks like it will be much more hospitable to me there.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Bix 7 Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 12; 10th Edition 
73.9 miles run and 4500 meters swam in races in 2018 races
Race: Bix 7
Place: Davenport, IA
Miles from home: 1,099
Weather: 65 degrees; sunny; humid

I ran the Bix previously four years ago. You can read that recap here. I also included it in my recently published book of absolute must-run races and you can buy that signed and personalized here. As I included it in said book, you can only imagine how highly I think of the event. I can say that after my second running of it, nothing has changed in that regard.

The two days before the race I worked the expo. Hardly working in the coal mines it is nonetheless tiring. And if you haven't stood for a 12-hour day, solo, signing books, making small talk, deciphering questions, and listening to stories, it truly is hard to explain how exhausting something like this can be. Nevertheless, it was wonderful to make some new friends, see people I haven't seen in years upon years, and everything in between. (Like meeting another Dane!)

I finally got food in my belly and was back at my hotel around 11 p.m. By the time I settled into bed it was well after midnight for a 6 a.m. wake up call. I wasn't expecting much for race day but was happy the weather was as forgiving as it was (but far from "perfect" as people kept saying - they obviously meant as much as one could really reasonably hope for in July in Iowa).

Race Morning: 

Logistics of he morning required me to grab an Uber to the start.  I knew it might be a bit touch and go as the quickest way to get where I needed to be would be a bit heavily trafficked.  Nonetheless, it went by rather smoothly and I found myself at the front of the race starting line without much trouble.  I tried to move back a few rows to get into a position which would be more commensurate with where I expected to finish but the crowd was so tightly packed that moving backward was impossible.  So instead I listened to both the entire rendition of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA", the national anthem, a presenting of the colors by the Marine Corps, a military flyover, and I think a bald eagle crapped out an apple pie to be hit with a missile fired by Babe Ruth, too. (I honestly would be perfectly fine if no sporting event ever had any further connection to "patriotism" ever but that's just me.)

A countdown to a gun that never really fired (or I didn't hear it) and away we went.

Race:

I have a whole 1/10th of a mile warm-up before the infamous Brady Street Hill took over my lungs and legs. An infamously bad early-riser, fast-starter, and hill climber, you can imagine I did not do well with the combination of all three here. I hugged the far right curb as closely as possible to allow anyone who wanted to pass me a clear path and just tried to wake up, get my legs moving, and last to the top of the hill. I am quite thankful that it was only in the mid-60s and relatively non-humid, that is for sure.

When I ran this race four years ago I knew I did this first mile in 7:13. I was hoping to be somewhere within 15-20 seconds of that this time. I wasn't as tired as I thought I would be at this point after everything I described above but I felt that was probably because I wasn't working as hard on this hill. Then I saw I ran a 7:11 first mile. Huh. To be honest, I was a bit scared now. Maybe I had worked harder than I should have and the second half of this race, which is definitely more challenging, was going to eat me up and spit me out.

The much more forgiving second mile had me a touch slower in 6:13 than my previous 6:07. But I had held back slightly on what is a mostly downhill mile here because of my fear of going out too fast. Perhaps if I held it together through the third mile, I might have a shot at taking down my Bix PR. Nothing to be that proud of (the average pace for that is almost 30 seconds slower than the pace for my marathon PR, just to put it in perspective) but I am just not a short distance kind of guy.

As we approached the third mile, which has the worst climb on the entire course, I was enjoying the "racing" aspect of this event. If you pay attention, you can quickly learn who around you is good at what. This girl would pass me on uphills and I would pass her on the downs. This guy could smoke me in flat portions but came to a walk on every uphill. On and on you can quickly learn who you will probably beat in a race and who you will probably lose to. It is a part of racing you miss in less populated races with a more spread out crowd. I have done enough trail races and small marathons to know that that sometimes I love these heavily-runnered events where there is so much chess going on around you. My third mile, ending right after that cruel hill, was way faster than I thought it would be. The new PR was mine to lose.

The course is not a pure out-and-back, so you turned around before the 3.5- mile mark. This
year I did not even think about taking on the slip-n-slides.  I also can't recall even seeing them.  But I was focused on the road. Heading back, even though I had 500 people in front of me, made me feel pretty good about being in front of 8000 others.  My biggest challenge lay ahead with the mile from four-five being the one which would make or break this PR attempt.

The long steady incline of this mile is at least broken up with a nice crook in the road which takes the entirety of the climb out of sight. As I played cat and mouse with those runners around me whose talents I had learned in the past few miles, something changed. The runners who had previously put distance between me on the hills were doing less of it. Those who hung with me were falling back. My lungs and legs were finally waking up. When I hit mile five, it wasn't the time I was hoping for but it was a time that told me I would be setting a new PR. The only question was by how much.

Running along tree-lined Kirkwood Ave, which comprises the bulk of the significant straightaway on this course, it was amazing to feel how, even in this mid-60s weather, the shade of the trees made running so much easier. The minute the sun filtered through it was as if a weight was dropped on my shoulders. Obviously some of that is mental but the difference was felt.

The sixth mile, the first to not have a street-wide banner going over your head to signify where you were, was also a little slower than I expect but I knew with the downhill finish leading to the straight and flat last half mile, the PR was safely in hand. I passed no less than 30 runners on that downhill, once again marveling at how well I run downhills and how poorly the uphills and sometimes the flats slow me down.

Turning on to the home stretch, with the finishline banner in the distance, I was somehow reflecting Regardless, I finished in 48:21, taking 484th place overall. Four years ago I finished in 48:44 and finished 503rd overall. Oddly enough not a single person finished in 48:44 this year even though two people finished in 48:43 and three people finished in 48:55. If someone had finished in the same time I had four years ago they would have been 506th overall. 

That's some consistency of numbers there, fellow statnerds!

on this year in the middle of the race. It has not been a good year for racing for me and I hope the latter half of the year picks that up.