Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Arlington Co-Op Downhill Mile Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 24th Edition
387.43 miles raced in 2007
Race: Arlington Co-Op Downhill Mile
Place: Arlington, VA
Miles from home: 2
Course Difficulty: 1.5
Course Enjoyability: 10 out of 10
Weather: 85 degrees
Finishers' Medal: 10 out of 10 for hilarity (Recycled from a Turkey Trot in Southern MD)

First and foremost, some of the "miles raced" and "editions" have been off in my previous recaps. I have no idea why. But it is fixed here.

What a day. Finally feeling slightly better after 2 weeks of sickness I darn near forgot that I was not only running but running (as in Race directing) the 2nd edition of the Downhill Mile in Arlington. I had been swamped at work lately and Tuesday was a cluster as I was trying to get in touch with a client traveling from Korea so we could rendezvous in Los Angeles. Meanwhile I am trying to book my flight so it coincides with what I thought was his itinerary which meant I would either be flying out Thursday night or Friday morning and then more or less returning a few hours later after the meeting. Hell, the turn-around was so quick, I wondered if the pilot would simply keep the engine idling. But I digress.

When I advertised that I would be running this mile again I hoped I would have an overcrowding problem. Many “If only were in DC…” responses flooded my inbox. Unfortunately, all the people actually living here in DC didn’t seem to give a hoot. So I had no idea if anyone would show up.

Waiting at the bottom of the hill (which doubled as the finishline) after finally remembering I did indeed have a race that night and high-tailing it from work to the course a few miles from home, Anne (who volunteered to assist with the timing) and I cooled our heels (Not a run-on sentence but definitely full of lots of preopsitional phrases. As a side note, Hemingway wrote very SHORT sentences. Just an FYI). Jay soon showed up with the clock and we quickly set it up at the place where we had marked the finish last week. After a brief description on how we were going to get an accurate time (via cellphone, when we started I was going to alert Anne who would simply start the clock with a flip of a switch), Jay and I began the trek up the hill to the start.

As we started our ascent, two women in running clothes asked what we were doing. Going into salesperson pitch mode I had two more racers in about 10 seconds. Sure I paid for their entry fees (they weren’t running with any money) but I didn’t care. I wanted runners!

Halfway up the hill, Jay and I noticed a tree limb partially blocking the course. When we noticed it was about a 60 foot long tree, trying to move it became an exercise in futility so we assessed if there was enough room to get around it. With half the trail still open for runners we realized this was fine and would just let the runners know of the obstacle.

About here we saw the current “meet” record holder, Charlie Mercer making his way down the trail. He was getting a little warm up in before the race and also checking to make sure that Jay and I were on our way (I think).

At the top I was happy to see that the women who said they would join us were waiting as were tow other runners. With Jay, Charlie and I that brings the total to 7 or a full 40% INCREASE! (I am being very facetious here).

After apprising everyone of how Jay and I had re-measured the course and found it to be a little short, we moved everyone to the new and improved starting line. A quick call to Anne to tell her we were about to begin and Jay readied us for the start. Away we went.

1st quarter mile:

As suspected, the extra distance added about 10-12 seconds to the previous strating line. Feeling better than I have in a few weeks I really thought i might give my previosu 4:10 a run for tis money. I could hear Charlie right behind me and figured we were on for a good race.

Down we went through the most windy (I think "windiest" means havingthe most blowing air or "wind" not being "windy" like how you wind a watch) and steepest part of the course and I hit the quarter mile marker Jay and I had noted on a tree at 61 seconds. Ridiculous.

2nd quarter:

Charlie passed me somewhere in the middle of this stretch as we sprinted through through the area where you hit a cup of quick bends and cross two neighborhood streets. At the halfway point I had slowed some and crossed in about a 2:13 right behind Chralie.

3rd quarter:

Did I put a parachute on? Charlie gained a little ground but it felt I was running in sludge. I didn’t even bother looking at my watch. I just wanted to be done.


Charlie put a sizeable lead on me and was maintaining it. I had nothing in me to challenge him. I crossed in 4:46. Immediately, Charlie slapped me five and we both said something akin to “What the hell was that?”. For some reason we both had experienced the same fatigue somewhere on the course that made the race so much harder at the very end. This was quite inexplcableto both of us given it was 15 degrees cooler than the previous time we had done this race. We were both a little befuddled as to why our times had not simply reflected the addition course distance and maybe a few more seconds added on for naturally being more tired.

As the rest of the runners came in we cheered them all on. Almost every single runner crossed the line and mentioned the same sort of malaise that hit them somewhere on the course. It was as if everyone had been affected by the same thing. Most of us attributed this to recent races or running after a hard day of work but it is these sort of odditie in life which make you just shake your head. For all intents and purposes it should have been easier than our previous installment given the weather. Nevertheless, while the times were slower than we were hoping, we can all be sure we have now run a real mile. I think everyone was pretty pleased. and the Arlington Co-op has two more members.

Full results below. With the previous result on the shorter course from three weeks before listed as well.

1 Charlie Mercer, Arlington VA, 4:31 (Prev 3:53; Diff = 38 secs)
2 Dane Rauschenberg, Arlington VA, 4:46 (Prev 4:10; Diff= 36 secs)
3 Bob Weiner, Accokeek MD, 6:11 (2005 time 5:43; Dif = 26 secs)
4 Jay Jacob Wind, Arlington VA, 7:01 (Prev 6:11; Diff= 50 secs
5 Tim Ramsey, Alexandria VA, 7:17 (Prev 6:49; Diff = 26 secs)

1 Gail Klein, Arlington VA, 7:21 (No Prev)
2 Darcy McDonald, Arlington VA, 8:03 (No Prev)

I want to point out two specific things. First, while Jay had the biggest differential between his times from one race to the other he had run the very warm Annapolis 10 miler on Sunday. However, his time was STILL 2 seconds faster than it had been on the shorter course last year. AND he was wearing a nylon sack on his pack carrying the race clipboards and registration material!

Also of specific note is that, Tim matched the lowest differential between his previous time 3 weeks ago and this time. Even more impressive is that his mile time on the “real” course this time was 3 full seconds faster than his time on the short course last year. Both impressive stats and I hope he is proud.

I hope that we can make this mile a monthly event (or even run it UP the hill). I really think taking on this hill is a chance to have fun and really run a fast mile time, even if it is “aided”. That said, today, I ache. The course might be downhill but that downhill sure does a pounding on the old quads.

Then again, I think I would have beaten Charlie if I had not taken the one-minute walk break in the middle of the race as per his earlier suggestion.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Let's hear it for my friends.

I had some friends who ran some wonderful races this past weekend and I feel they deserve some spotlight.

1. Todd Futa competed in his first full Ironman in British Columbia. Todd has gotten ink here before for not only being an excellent host to me during Fiddy2 but for being part of the glue which held together my Northwest Passage Relay team last month in the Seattle Area.

Todd's times:

SWIM 1:45:46
BIKE 6:55:58
RUN 6:02:43
OVERALL 15:02:24

2. Devon Crosby-Helms, who is making a ridiculous splash on the ultra-running scene continues to impress me and make me jealous more and more with her 3rd place female finish at the 2007 USATF Championships on what is described as a "long, grueling" course. Devon took on some stalwart competition in this 50k trail race and showed her stellar year has been nothing but indicative of what she has in store for the sport in the future.

1. Beverley Anderson-Abbs (43), Red Bluff, 4:42:32
2. Caren Spore (39), Davis, 4:48:25
3. Devon Crosby-Helms (24), San Francisco, 4:58:29

Kudos to both.. I am happy they are my friends, far more for their character than their athletic prowess but the latter deserves to be recognized here.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Cayman Islands Marathon Experience

When I was in the Caymans in December of 2006 to run the Cayman Islands Marathon, I was put in touch with a runner/author who was, amongst other titles, writing a book about the 2006 Cayman Islands Marathon.

I have since received a copy of that book and I have to say it is quite enjoyable. Malcolm Anderson (pictured below)has pieced together hundreds of responses form the runners of the race, as well as his own experience and research to mold the two into a perfect little reader. Never heady or dry, the book provides a glimpse not only into the history of this race but also the Cayman Islands themselves.

If you are looking for a quick read (it is only about 150 pages or so) with tons of photographs of people enjoying a race in paradise, check this book out. Its chapters flow very easily and quickly and before you know it you will be booking your next marathon destination to run in the sun, swim with stingrays and warm your soul in the winter.

Click on the the link HERE to take a look at the book and read an excerpt from within. You can also purchase the book from this link as well.

For proof of the beauty of this place, take a peek below at some of the fun I had.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Good work and Appropriate Kudos

Least important things first. Even though I still feel a little under the weather I had a pretty good track workout tonight as the weather gods in DC have gone stark raving made. 68 degrees, cloudy skies and a slight chill in the air? In AUGUST?!

One of the workouts one of my clubs suggested doing for the day was 8-10 800s with 400 meters rest. I am a fan of 800s. They hurt but they don't hurt for all that long, especially in dreamy running weather like tonight. So I was looking forward to them this evening and they did not disappoint me. I was not going to pushing them too hard but just hard enough to feel it. The time I settled on was 2:45 per 800 meter. My 8 splits went as follows: 2:43, 2:44, 2:45,2:45, 2:45, 2:44, 2:46, and 2:45. Like a metronome baby!

2. Great news from a local running friend Rob Toonkel. The 3rd youngest person to ever complete a marathon in all 50 states, Rob routinely churns out 3:20s-3:30s with little or no rest. Rather unassuming but with more info on marathons than most of us could hope to have (he passed 100 lifetime marathons earlier this year) Rob always entertains me with his insight when we meet.

So when I received a recap about his run in the Overlander Sports Yellowknife Marathon I knew something was as up. Rob rarely talks about his races. While he downplayed his stats by saying there were only 7 competitors in the marathon the simple fact remains Rob WON THE RACE! Yep, as I have always said, never apologize for who shows up, as you have no control over that aspect of the race. Rather, race those who show up and do your best. And Rob did. Few people deserve a win more than Rob. So here is my public kudos to him and his efforts.

3. One of the race competitors in the Drake Well Marathon, Dan Geier, had a simple request when I asked him what he wanted to be listed as: "Elora's Dad". I assumed he was simply a proud father. I was wrong.

In April 2006, Elora, Dan's daughter, lost her life after battling with Leukemia. To honor her life, Dan has set up, Elorapalooza, is a 5K Run/Walk on September 23, 2007. Raising funds in memory of Elora, the race distance was a favorite of Elora's who, in spite of always finishing long
after the other runners crossed the finish line enjoyed the 5k.

To learn more on how you can race or make a contribution, please click HERE.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Random running thoughts / Downhill Mile Update

1. I am still feeling the lingering effects of last week's sickness. As such, while I was going to do two long runs this weekend, Saturday broke and I just decided to do 5 miles before I began a day of laziness on the river with some friends.

On Sunday, I decided I would eke out 12 miles and just call it a day. One of the newer members of our running club, Kate was going in the direction I wanted to run and had mentioned she was doing 12. I asked if she minded if I joined her to which she sure.

Up the Capitol Crescent Trail we trotted and shared stories as runners often do. She said she ran in high school but it has been a while since she raced. I asked her when was the last time and she mentioned the 10k in Leesburg was the first time in 3 years she had actually been in race. Wow! That is about the time I started my 3rd marathon. I have run 66 since then. I completely admire those who enjoy running just for that sake and don't feel the urge to race.

Then she mentioned this run we were going on was the longest she had done. Ever. Double wow! I love this sort of thing. I felt really cool to be going on the longest run someone has ever done. You rarely get that opportunity. So, we chugged on at a nice clip and before we knew it we were done.

2. In spite of my sluggishness, while waiting for someone to call later in the evening on Saturday I decided to kill the time with another run. Limited in time I cranked out a 5 miler in 35:02 and was able to meet the person in time.

3. The meeting was to re-measure and then set up the Arlington Downhill Mile. Well, first things first:

a. This race will be taking place on Tuesday August 28th at 7 pm at the start of the Donaldson Run Trail of of 26th Street North in Arlington (across from Marymount University). See the picture below for map details.

The race will cost $1 for members of the Arlington Cooperation Foundation, $5 for non-members (join for $10 and get an automatic $10 off future long distance running events sponsored by the ACF).

Second, after re-measuring the course, it ends up that the mile was short a few yards which probably assisted runners in the 15 second range. However, now we know that the course is exact and runners can be assured that the course is a true mile.

The trail still drops well over 230 feet in a mile and has a few twists and turns. But you are more or less guaranteed to run the fastest mile you have ever run.

The race is limited to 25-30 runners (tentative and could be changed). I hope everyone will be interested in running this race and contributing to the ACF! Should be a blast.

More details to come!

Friday, August 17, 2007

One Hour Track Run Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 21st Edition
386.82 miles raced in 2007
Race: One Hour Track Run
Place: Alexandria, VA
Miles from home: 10
Course Difficulty: 1
Course Enjoyability: 5 out of 10
Weather: Mid 90s; humid
Finishers' Medal: N/A

I was discussing races with the winner of the Downhill Mile from a few weeks ago, Charlie Mercer, when he mentioned the One Hour Track Race to be held at a local high school. The simple premise was to run as far as you can on a track in one hour. This sort of thing is right up my alley. A great many runners find the track boring and repetitive but it fits right into my psyche of falling into a pace and cranking out the miles.

So, even though a look at the forecast called for yet another high 90s temperature race (even at its starting time of 7 PM), I was all kinds of ready. Then I got sick on Monday night. Damn it. I actually took off work on Wednesday in the hopes of fighting back the head cold I had but it only kept it at a moderate level. Upon waking Thursday morning, I felt well enough to trudge to work but figured the race would be off. Besides, there was a call for thunderstorms in the area anyway. It would be best not to run.

However, the storms passed through the area earlier in the day and as the afternoon wore on I felt progressively better. I thought perhaps I could at least go down and muscle out a few miles. My original plan was to join the ten mile club by averaging a 6 minute mile for the hour but I knew that was out the window. Even if I did decide to race, 10 miles was not a possibility for the day.

I got home from work and knew how I felt after my shower would determine my next move. (Yep, I shower before runs. I heart showers.) Hopping out of the steamy bathtub I knew I could at least give it a shot. I laced up my shoes, grabbed a few Gatorades and headed on down to the St. Stephens and St. Agnes school track

(Their school’s mascot? Wait for it. “The Saints”).

Getting down to the track, I saw some familiar faces including two rivals of mine. Well, one friendly rival (Karsten) and one guy who can routinely kick my ass hopping (Rob). Karsten has better PRs in just about every distance but we have a head-to-head record of probably just about even. For no rhyme or reason one of us will beat the other on any given day (case in point, Karsten beat me by about a minute or so in the Leesburg 20k on Sunday). Rob, however, is a 2:40 is marathoner and a heck of a runner. So, without knowing anyone else there I could tell I was probably finishing third at best!

We chatted for a bit and I got to meet a few new runners, which I am always pleased to do. I also saw Tim Ramsey who I met at the Downhill Mile. We exchanged pleasantries and I mentioned how there is a good chance I will be running the Downhill Mile again August 28th.


Tentative Date for the Downhill Mile is Tuesday August 28th at 7 PM. Local runner and Race Director Jay Wind and I will set to measuring the course to assure it is a full mile. At best estimate, it may have been ~ 50 yards short the last time it was run, so times, while not as skewed as some were suggesting, may have been off by about 8 seconds or so. Ergo, we will remedy this and I really hope that runners will come out to crush their mile PR!


Also present was my friend Anne who had just deplaned from Atlanta and was going to be my personal handing-me-my-water-bottler. Little did she know she would be roped into handing out water to all the runners, while she stood there in her work clothes. But she got a DC road runner shoe bag out of it, so win-win.

To the race. I always forget that 4 times around a track is not a true mile. You need 9.3 more meters to get the whole distance. We were reminded of this when Bob Platt, the RD of the race, said in order to get 10 full miles, we need to complete 40 laps and then an additional 93 yards. I figured I would worry about that if it came down to the last mile or so. With those instructions under our belt, away we went.

1st 1600 meters: 5:55 (Lap splits of: 1:30; 1:30; 1:28; 1:27)

Hey, maybe this isn’t impossible anyway. Rob and I ran shoulder for shoulder and it was feeling good.

2nd 1600 meters: 6:12 (Lap splits of: 1:31; 1:33; 1:33; 1:35)

Not too bad. I let Rob go and decided to just do my best to hold on to 6:10 miles.

3rd 1600 meters: 6:30 (Lap splits of: 1:35; 1:38; 1:38; 1:39)

There that goes. Let Karsten go too. Looks like 3rd at bst for me today.

4th 1600 meters: 6:52 (Lap splits of: 1:40; 1:37; 1:40; 1:55)

On my third lap around, I actually stopped and walked for about 10 seconds. Had serious thoughts of calling it a day. But then again, I figured I paid $5 (well, $20 since I joined the club that night) I might as well tough it out.

5th 1600 meters: 7:03 (Lap splits of: 1:45; 1:46; 1:45; 1:47)

Crap. First 7 minute “mile” of the night. But wait. Is Karsten slowing down?

6th 1600 meters: 6:56 (Lap splits of: 1:47; 1:42; 1:43; 1:44)

He is. If I just make up about 5 seconds per lap I can take him soon.

7th 1600 meters: 7:07 (Lap splits of: 1:43; 1:40; 1:44; 2:00)

I passed Karsten and build a sizable lead. I then took about 15 seconds of walking and drinking on my last lap of this mile to build up my energy for the last 13 minutes or so of running.

8th 1600 meters: 6:50 (Lap splits of: 1:47; 1:42; 1:41; 1:40)

I’m in a zone now. Can I make 4 more laps in the remaining time? My math skills are failing me. I think I can!

9th 1600 meters: 6:34 (Lap splits of: 1:41; 1:42; 1:36; 1:35)

I was wrong. When the gun for one hour sounded I was 14 seconds from finishing my 36th lap. But I dropped my popsicle stick (which is how they measured how many meters you ran) and finished my lap anyway just to see what it would take me. It took me 1:00:14 seconds to run 36 laps. But my real total meters was 14, 373. I took second overall to Rob’s great 15,655.

Here are the rest of the runners. CLICK!

Honestly, it was a poor showing for me on a typical day (I averaged a 6:46 mile for ~9 miles when just Sunday I averaged 6:26 for 12.4 miles on a much harder course). But given my sickness I was quite pleased I even showed up and I got a nice little workout in.

No races planned until the Erie Marathon September 9th. Don’t hold me to that.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

2008 Drake Well Marathon

As fall approaches, I have received a lot of requests and/or questions about whether I was going to run the Drake Well Marathon again. for those of you who may not know (and don't wantto click on the link to right above the word "link") the Drake Well Marathon was a marathon I organized when I realized there was no planned marathon in 2006 for the second to last weekend of the year.

It was a rousing success. I actually capped the registrants to 25 given that I did not feel a track (or the race crew of me my mom and my aunt) could handle more people. Well, both the track and my relatives showed me that I underestimated them. The track easily could have handled 50 runners circling the track (given the fact we had chip timing) and with one or two more volunteers, the race could easily have handled the increase in races.

Believe me, it was with a heavy heart that I turned people away as each runner's registration fee was a direct donation to my charity. (Well, I didn't have any problem turning away THIS guy:

" I'm curious, why would this race be listed on the marathon guide, which runners view to find races to particpate in, hello!!, and its a closed race that no one can particpate in??? My wife is a hard core runner and this race is an hr. from us..I'd be willing to pay for her gatorade and give her a small banana before she left that morning..."

My response:


Thank you for your message below. To begin, your statement that the marathon is a closed race is incorrect. Rather it is a race (like many) which has reached its capacity. I am happy to hear you are interested in the Drake Well Marathon but given the logistics of the race (105 laps around the track for one) having more than the prescribed runners would tax the limits of the track.

It was listed on (and many other places) to attract runners. Given the $100 registration fee (a pure donation to the charity I am running 52 marathons this year for), the date of the race and difficulty of running so many laps I never would have assumed I would have filled all the slots. Luckily for my charity I did. When I listed it in October it was open. It is now closed. The Marine Corps Marathon doesn't take down its website or listing when it reaches its capacity. I do not think you are suggesting I should do the same with mine.

I hope to organize a much more "normal" race with many more participants in Titusville next Fall but presently working a regular 60 hour a week job in DC, fundraising and running a marathon every weekend has made it difficult enough as it is to organize this race."

But I digress. Will I be holding this race again this year? There is a 99% chance I will not. One main factor is necessity. I had to have a marathon last year and had to have it that weekend. I knew we were tempting the weather fates (Titusville receives an average of two feet of snow in December alone; fyi, I think it is hilarious that the link i just provided says "Pennsylvania receives little snow between May through September") but I had no other choice. This year, the necessity is not there and I feel that given Titusville has had only something like 2 non-white Christmases (Christmasi?) in the past 25 years, it is not worth the risk.

That said, I would LOVE to have another marathon in Titusville. Even more so, if I am going to go to the trouble of organizing one, I want to make it a REALLY nice one. So, I have proposed an idea to my high school track coach who was integral in seting up the Drake Well Marathon.

Below is a picture of the possible course.

P= parking.
x= Where the course would join the 9.7 mile bike trail (out and back equals 19.4) which only has ~100 total feet of decline on the way out and the same on the way back. Adding the 6.3 I already have mapped means I would only have to find an extra .5 somewhere. Not hard. Maybe a lap around the track (especially since that is where I planned on having it finish and the map I have doesn't really count for that per se.)

Sure, there is a hell of a hill to begin with and another killer to join the bike bath but I think it would be a good idea. I think it could easily handle 2-300 runners. Aid stations on the bike path could double up (given the out and back nature) and I would be surprised if Titusville and Drake Well wouldn't be behind it for the tourism factor alone.

The vast majority of the bike path is shaded and is a soft asphalt surface. (Click on links for pictures. Pic 1 and Pic 2). Some ideas would be to have your bib number get you into the Drake Well Museum for free. Titusville also has Cabooses that have been turned into motels that are open during the summer/fall (a late summer start would be perfect forthis race. Even if hot, the shade of the bike trail would keep the heat away) and there is a local pool for the kiddies.

These are all just a few of my thoughts but hopefully I can make this a reality for 2008.

If you have any questions, please ask away!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Changes to the Marine Corps Marathon

In case you had not heard, the Marine Corps Marathon has changed its course a bit.

Click HERE for greater details.

In the most recent past, I have mentioned that the MCM is one of my favorite, if not the favorite marathon I have run. The atmosphere, the crowds and the fact that the race not only honors our Marine Corps but has not taken on a title sponsor (*cough* NYC *cough*) are three things that make me love it more than most any other large marathons.

While not as important, but definitely up there in my consideration of why I liked MCM, was the fact that in 2005 and 2006 the course remain unchanged after changes every year for multiple years before that. While the changes from 2003 to 2004 (wherein the race, for the first time started off by NOT going towards the Pentagon and instead snaked through the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington) added a tough hill it also added a nice long downhill before its jaunt through Georgetown. My point is, constant tinkering with a race adds to uncertainty amongst runners, even those who have run it numerous times.

Do not get me wrong, I understand that due to construction on the Rock Creek Parkway, course adjustments were necessary. Heck, while I will feel like I am going to work during the race (the proposed changes chart 2 miles of my daily commute) in spite of the short (but steep) hill from Foxhall Road to MacArthur Boulevard this portion may be quicker than the RockCreek Parkway section. But the Rock Creek parkway section is one of my favorite parts of this race. Why? Because for the better part of 2 plus miles, those of us running in the 3 hour or under category get to see something we usually don't see in marathons: the rest of the pack!

Usually, by the time you descend the RCP section you are a good 10k into this race. Semi-elite runners have separated themselves from the pretty good runners who have separated themselves from the "local class" chaps like myself, who are ahead of the majority of the pack. But, when you turn down the hill of RCP, you get an eyeful of 20,000 runners coming the opposite direction going up the hill that you just came down. I love this. Scores and scores of people in all kinds of colorful shirts and costumes and the like are chasing after that elusive turn around point. And when you see someone you know, they can always gauge how much faster of a runner you are then they are and then know how far it is to go until they themselves turn around. There are so many reasons to like this section of the course and it is now gone this year.

Sure there will be a little bit of this same feeling as runners coming back down Canal Road will see runners who have not yet made that climb up Foxhall. But there will be nearly three miles of a loop where runners have no chance to seeing one another and that wonderful feeling of camaraderie will be lost (see below):

A major problem I see with this is how runners will come down a very steep section and then make an ankle-breaking turn which will completely neutralize any advantage that they will have from running down the hill. With the road closed at least another quarter of a mile until Chain Bridge Road, it makes no sense at all to not allow runners to ease out of there downhill run and then make a gradual turn on Canal Road. In addition, this extra length here will preclude runners from having to run past the finish at the end just to come back to it and THEN run up the hill to Iwo Jima. I am really at a loss why this is being done to tell you the truth.

Maybe I am making too much out of too little. I am rather sick today (actually stayed home from work because I feel like ass). But when it comes to 26.2 miles, you want everything little thing to be right.

And hey, I HAVE been training ALL year for this ONE race..... ;)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Advice from a friend

Let me set the stage. I have an extremely well-meaning (very important as this is not someone coming out of the blue to offer unsolicited advice) running friend who often tries to get me to focus on one particular race. While this is a common question or shall I say needling from many, this one friend seems intent on making sure I do not waste my "talent". Again, I appreciate his intentions so there is no negativity directed towards him.

In response to my 20kc recap the other day, he responded as such:

"Hi Dane,Now that you have run 7 million races of different distances, its time to focus on a goal such as running a 2:45 marathon. There is a big difference between 2:45 and 3 hrs. If you can do this, you can actually say you have improved.

Running lots of races without getting better or faster is equivalant to running hard by yourself, etc. It would be different if you were some run of mill guy who runs races to stay in shape. However, you are a fanatic(in a good way) and might was well focus your passion for the sport so that you do not run out of steam before you were able to run a fast marathon.

Eventually all marathon runners die out as one can only take running 26.2 miles on a regular basis for so long. I do not expect you to listen to this as only injury leads one to run more carefuly."

I was going to respond to him in the forum where this was placed but instead decided to address it here in a more concise manner. Why? By no means did I want to embarrass or harangue a friend. I just wanted to let others know that I do have a plan, I d0o have a focus and I do see the bigger picture. So here is my response:

I didn't realize the horse had come back to life so that we could beat it to death again! :) But allow me to add my two cents since your response was directed at me.

I am unsure why you think I am presently unfocused or what I am doing is not a plan. My goal IS to do exactly what I am doing this year: run as many different distances improving in all of them as I go. Yes, even when I set PRs at certain distances, it is obvious they are not the best PR I could set for that distance. One simply cannot give their best to a race as short as a mile while also trying to set a new PR in a marathon with an idea also to run a fast time for a 24 hour run. It is impossible to do so. The distances and what goes into them are so vastly different that it is obvious I am either sacrificing speed or endurance or both by trying to scattershot my races. However, that is what I want to do right now in 2007. THAT is my goal. To show that it is possible to run fast times, relative to your ability, at a plethora of distances.

Why you refuse to acknowledge this as a “focus” is beyond me given how many times I have said it to you!

Listen, I know there is a huge gap b/w 2:45 and 3 hours. Once you hit that 3 hour barrier, dropping seconds is like dropping minutes for a person who runs a 5 hour marathon. However (and this is a point I have driven home often but not effectively), a 2:45, while "fast" is not FAST. My concentrating all my energy on running a 2:45 will simply move me from the group of "good" to "pretty good" but no where near "great" nor "elite". Presently, I don't have the desire to do to set aside time in my life to simply become “pretty good” at something. I have the desire to excel at something few have done. In addition, I simply want to see what I can actually do!
As you alluded to, I may run out of steam relatively soon. Luckily, I think I have many years of faster marathon times in me. But I think whatever “speed” I have in the shorter distances will evaporate long before my marathon times stop going down. Ergo, I will try to get some fast 5k and 10k times out first as undoubtedly THAT speed will be gone before my marathon speed will.

You say: "Eventually all marathon runners die out as one can only take running 26.2 miles on a regular basis for so long." I have heard similar refrains when I considered doing 52 in a year. Heck, my own running club doubted I would be able to run fast near the end, let alone be able to even FINISH them (No kidding, there was almost a NCAA-type pool placed on whether I would finish. I wish it had started because I would be quite rich betting on myself). But obviously, the shelf-life of these legs of mine is a little longer than others. Perhaps because I, like you, started "running" at such an "older" age. We don't have the miles and pounding and exertion that some of our brethren who raced all through high school and college do. Perhaps I missed out on some of my top-notch speed possibilities but so be it. I don't think pure speed is something I ever had anyway. Besides, Ed Whitlock, ran a 2:52 at age 69 and then a 2:54 at age 73. If that is dying out, I want me a little something of that!

In addition, you add "I do not expect you to listen to this as only injury leads one to run more carefuly." This quote makes the (untrue) assertion that you not only haven't told me this before (you have) or that I haven't listened or given it careful consideration (both which I have as well). Finally there is the imbedded in that statement the idea that I have been injury-free which is I tell you is completely untrue. I simply don’t complain abut my IT band or my exhausted body or my tired this or that as I hear so many other runners do. Often they do so right before a race that they end up smoking me in, so you can see the disdain I have for those who lay the mattresses out before a race.

I appreciate, truly your desire to help me maximize whatever talent I have. I know your desire to assist is genuine. I just cannot figure out why when you hand out advice you do not listen to the person speaking back to you.

Without any doubt whatsoever I have intentions to "focus" on a marathon someday and hopefully get a 2:45. I have 3 marathons planned for the remainder of the year where I hope to chip away at the 2:59 PR at each one. I think by the end of the year I will be in the low 2:50s and possibly break 2:50. But as I have said ad nauseum: who cares if I do? A sub 2:50 is hardly world-beating and if not for the plethora of slow Americans running the marathon these days, a 2:50 would barely be note-worthy.

You have told me in the past that I need to pick a distance and focus on it. Well since I have barely run them all and some I have only run once, perhaps twice, I can hardly know which distance I prefer before I can focus on it.

I am always happy to listen to constructive criticism. I welcome it. But it must be constructive first off. Second it cannot be the same criticism over and over again without at least some acknowledgement of what my previous responses were. If in 10 years I am lamenting how I wasted my talent or speed or something on racing too much, you have every right to smack me upside the head.

Until that point, please continue to give me advice. But I beg that you take into account that I may, just maybe, might possibly, probably have some sort of an idea of what I am doing.

Spreading the love right back to ya!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Leesburg 20k Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 20th Edition
377.92 miles raced in 2007
Race: Leesburg 20k
Place: Leesburg, VA
Miles from home: 35
Course Difficulty: 4.5
Course Enjoyability: 5 out of 10
Weather: Mid 70s; humid
Finishers' Medal: N/A

When the weather for your last two races was either at, or close to, 100 degrees, the mercury only raising to the mid 70s at the start of a 20k sounds pretty darn good. Then you realize, a few miles in, this temperature, while undoubtedly better, is still too damn hot!

Having never officially ran a 20k before (I once paced a group of friends through a race and then popped out about 10 yards before the finish; yep, I was a bandit. But that was in my naïve days) no matter what I ran, my time would be a personal best. That said, I was hoping for a time that would be more than a de facto best time ever.

I, like many runners these days, check out stories and read running forums online. There are few that I have not been to at least once and a few I visit regularly. One is and on there I have “met” a few nice people. As I stated in my 8k recap from earlier this year, I often miss the local races as I have been traveling often for quite some time to destinations far and wide to run in races there. As such, I am without the same opportunitie that other locals have to meet those who live and run in the greater DC area. Luckily, I noticed a large amount of runango forumites would be attending the Leesburg 20k and so I would be able to put faces to names.

So just a few minutes before I lined up to race, I caught sight of a runner in a green running skirt and knew it had to be one of the runners who said she would be wearing it for this race. I introduced myself and sure enough I was right. In the next few minutes I got to meet a half a dozen new friends and share a few quick hellos. Then the bathroom came calling one last time and just as quickly as I sat down, I needed to egress and alleviate the problem. Soon, it was time to race.

A little late to the starting line I had to cram myself in near the front. I could tell by looking around me there were a few dozen people in front of me that had no business being there. With the advent of chip timing I still wonder (honestly, it is beyond my comprehension) why anyone would want to line up in a place where they do not belong. I feel the rush of starting in the “front” would soon be beaten down by the crappy feeling of having herds of people fly by you. But I digress.

When checking the race registration site earlier in the week to see if I was in fact registered, I noticed I had been given the bib number “3”. What the heck? I had not signed up early and I could see around me 5 guys I knew were going to run faster. So now I was saddled with an elite number when there was no way I was running that fast. Made me chuckle however and perhaps it pushed me a little harder on a day where, even a few miles in, I knew I was not fully recovered from my brutal 50k the week before.

The word “Go” was said, we were underway, and within feet I passed the vast majority of those who had been standing in front of me. After I publish the book on my 52 marathons my next tome will be on race etiquette.

First half:
My first mile felt good and I thought perhaps I could ease through the first part of the course and hammer it hard on the return trip. For all intents and purposes, this 20k is about 5 mile out on the W&OD trail, a narrow, paved trail almost entirely shaded by trees and almost entirely uphill. While the grade is not too intense, runners will go up about 300 feet in those 5 miles and one can definitely feel it.

This must have been Mess with Dane Day as I had a few instances in the first few miles that irked me quite a bit. One chap in particular would slow down to the point where I would pass him, and then he would surge ahead of me just enough so that he could pop back in front of me and slow down again. In a race on a road I would not have cared as much but the W&OD trail is narrow, as I mentioned above. Given it was not closed for the race, runners had to contend not only with runners on their own side, but runners coming back at you to finish the race and also had any other runner, biker or dog out on the trail for plain old exercise. Ergo, I had very little room to maneuver around this jackass. After he did this for the third time I said: “Are you serious?” and surged by. I did not want to run this fast this early but I assuredly did not want to deal with him anymore. Weighing the annoyances I figured surging was a better option.

When I didn’t seem him again I figured my surge had lost him. I later learned he was only running the 10k and had been playing this little game with me when he only had half the distance to travel. I hope he got a cramp.

After the first woman had passed me a few miles in, a runner I know pretty well passed me as well. Laura Turner, a local runner who is very talented, eased on by like it was nothing. I told her I hoped I would see her in the second half and let her go. I couldn’t keep with her pace.

Finally cresting the hill we passed an overpass to the highway and thoughts went backto the only other time I had run this race and the aid station which had been here. As I slowed to grab a water during that race (I know, bad etiquette in race you weren’t officially in; See, I know what is right and wrong!) a volunteer actually threw a cup of water on my shoulders! Granted the day was very hot but I was shocked at this brazen act. I heard the volunteer’s coordinator gasp and say “Don’t EVER do that again!” To the volunteer’s credit I think she was just trying to cool me down. Luckily, there was no aid station here today.

Down a hill and then another mile or so of slight downhill we raced until we reached the turn-around point. I counted the runners in front of me and I was exactly in 20th place. Not too shabby.

Second half:

I was hoping the mile markers were a little better placed for the return trip home as 4, 5, and 6 had been rather haphazardly placed giving me splits of 6:43, 5:00 and 8:12 (I was running 6:15s at the time). They seemed much better for the first two miles and I was getting ready to push it from 8 on when the course became all downhill.

Lisa Thomas, another fast local female runner passed me right before we started this descent and I thank her for keeping me in check as I followed her easy stride for the next 3 miles. Two other runners passed me and now I was bummed. Twenty-third has no good ring to it. I had to move up to at least 22nd.

Soon, I had my chance as one runner pulled to the edge of the trail and held his side. An obvious victim of the day’s rapidly rising temperature, I counted one down. But it felt like a cheap victory and I wanted more. Unfortunately that was where I would stay. While I was in Lisa’s hip pocket for 3 miles, she began to pull away near the end and I could do nothing but stay the course. But without her I am not sure I would have averaged a 6:10 for the last 4 miles so I thank her.

We hopped off of the trail and turned left onto a city street and the cruel up-hill finish. Lisa and the guy between us were just out of reach. I gave my tired legs a little extra push to finish under 1:20 and hit the mat at 1:19:51. The pace for this race (6:26) was actually slower than the pace for my half-marathon a month ago (by 3 seconds per mile at a distance .7 of a mile longer) but I will take it. I can tell you that if it had been 1:20:00 I would have been furious. Funny what numbers can do for you.

Final stats: 18th male, 21st overall (I must have miscounted one) and if age groups had been normal I would have been third in the 30-34 division. Unfortunately, there was no cowbell for me (the race had a cow theme) as I was in the “open” division which was for 20-34 year olds. Ooof. Ironically, after this huge gap, age groups became normal again and increased by half-decades.

Kudos to my friend Will Schaeffer for his age group placing as he continues his return from injury. Will will (fyi, the past two words were considered redundant by my grammar-check) be the cyclist on the triathlon team I will be joining at the end of September. Also, many friends and acquaintances set PRs or were quite pleased with their results. I know my buddy Liz Jones was just as peeved that she didn’t get a cowbell either (damn big age group). We both might rethink the 45 minute drive, $3.75 in tolls both ways hilly and warm 20k until we both hit 35. Then look out!

ADDENDUM: They added another runner to the official times which were different at the race and he was a 30 year old ahead of me. So I was 19th male, 22nd overall and would have been 4th in my age.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Lake Winnipesaukee Relay

Y0u may recall earlier last month I thought about taking on the Lake Winnipesaukee Relay all by myself: (Click Here to refresh your memory). Well, given the cut-off time, it would have been next to impossible for me to make it to where I needed to be when they closed certain sections of the course. (Even though my projected time would be faster than some teams that finished last year, they way the relay is run is that if a team has not made it to the exchange point by a cut-off time then they send the next runner on anyway and simply add the time it takes for the "slow" runner to make it to the exchange to the cumulative time at the end.)

So I decided to make it a two-person team. I approached my friend Dean Karnazes about possibly joining me on this excursion this past weekend and his eyes lit up at the idea. He said if his schedule was free he would definitely do it with me. As fate would have it, he is running one of the North Face 50 milers on the exact same date. Ergo, no Dean and Dane running team.

As I lamented my poor timing to my friend Katie, she said: "I'll do it." Voila. Team 270 lbs of Running Fury was born! (name subject to change: please feel free to make suggestions).

So in late September, when other teams of 5-8 people are tackling the 65.1 miles of tough hills, Katie and I will be running mano y womano (I took German, sorry) trying to take out as many teams as possible. Special thanks to the North Medford Club for allowing us to run as a two-person team and for giving us a break on the registration fee. Much appreciated indeed.

Divvying up the legs, I will run more legs of greater mileage but Katie's are probably harder in their overall difficulty. But there is very little else we can do in order to split them up evenly and not kill us both in the process. Here are Katie's legs, whose elevation I mapped out on

Leg 2: 11 miles: (480 Up; 1,009 Down)

Big downhill; lots of flat; Click Here for Image

Leg 5: 10.8 miles: (652 Up; 537 Down)

A couple of Monster hills (I actually feel bad making anyone run this); Click HERE for image.

Leg 7: 8.5 miles: (592 Up; 506 Down)

Big rollers punctuated by HUGE Uphill finish (Sorry again Katie); Click HERE for image.

Total mileage: 30.3
Total elevation Gain: ~1,725
Total Elevation Loss: ~2,053

My legs:

Leg 1: 10.7 Miles: (1,052 Up; 758 Down)

Long start of rollers, Big Uphill finish; Click HERE for image

Leg 3: 9.3 Miles: (1,041 Up; 851 Down)

300 feet in .5 mile to start. Dear Lord; Click HERE for image

Leg 4: 4 Miles: (145 Up; 256 Down)

Screeching Downhill; Slower Uphill; Click HERE for image

Leg 6: 6.4 Miles: (252 Up; 308 Down)

Big Hump in Middle; Click HERE for image

Leg 8: 4.4 Miles: (618 Up; 458 Down)

Three separate Hills to Finish; Click HERE for image

Total mileage: 34.8
Total elevation Gain: ~3,108
Total Elevation Loss: ~2,631

It looks daunting indeed and I am actually quite happy I won't be trying the whole thing myself.

Oh yeah. If I win the lottery to be the one Lucky guy to run the Maine coast all female half-marathon, Katie and I will be doing that the next day too. Slowly.

Stay tuned for more details.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Arlington Co-Op Downhill Mile Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 19th Edition
365.52 miles raced in 2007
Race: Arlington Co-Op Downhill Mile
Place: Arlington, VA
Miles from home: 2
Course Difficulty: 1.5
Course Enjoyability: 10 out of 10
Weather: 100 friggin degrees
Finishers' Medal: N/A

Let me set the stage for this. (Come on, it’s a mile. I need some back story or the recap will be 87 words.) On Saturday I ran one of the tougher races of my life in the North Face 50k. On Sunday, knowing I was taking Monday off and my usually hard track workout was going to be replaced with this one mile race, I decided that I would not rest but put some miles in the morning. I got to bed early on Saturday and got up to run with my club. I did 8 miles with my buddy Tom (recovering from an injury) and we stopped 3 times (miles 2, 4 and 6) for water. At the 6th mile, if he had said “Let’s walk back” I would not have argued. I was exhausted. Not sore from the previous day’s race but flat out spent. I had less than nothing.

Monday was a day of complete rest as was Tuesday. No running at lunch and nothing but sitting at work. I had seen a flyer for the Downhill Mile a week earlier and thought: “Five bucks to run a race 2 miles from my house. I am there!” As I have mentioned repeatedly, I love running downhill. Even if I was exhausted and it was hot I knew I would have fun.

So Tuesday sped by at work and the next thing I knew it was time to run. With all kinds of planning for other races I didn’t even really check out where this race was, why it was a “Downhill Mile” or anything else about it. SO, not a Dane move. With a little time to kill I found a brief description of the race and its course. I quickly use a website to calculate the downhill grade of the course and literally laughed outloud. This was going to be interesting.

In addition, I saw there were seven (yes, 7) runners in this race last year. Here were their times:
1 Charlie Mercer 4:29
2 Ted Poulos 4:55
3 Peter Blank 5:25
4 Bob Weiner 5:43
5 James Scarborough 5:57
6 Jay Jacob Wind 7:03
7 Tim Ramsey 7:20

Now, I did not know who Charlie Mercer was but holy crap was that a fast time. I did know who Ted Poulos is and that made me think this might be a fun race. Ted is a local legend and a world-record holder for the most races run in a year. If I recall correctly, it is 222. Normally, streaks and records where someone simply has done a great deal of something completely underwhelm me. But Ted, who I think is in his mid-40s, continues to pump out VERY quality races at every race he runs (e.g., earlier this year when I ran a 5k a week and a half after my 100 miler, I took 3rd. Ted beat me by a minute and won). So I figured if Ted could go sub-5, so could I. I was hoping if he showed I would just stay with him and surge at the end.

It took me a little while to find the tiny entrance to the Donaldson Run Trail which was the start of the mile. Only one person awaited me; one of the race directors. Hmmm, perhaps I was running this puppy solo. It did not seem inconceivable since even at 7 PM the temperature was still 100 degrees. Dear lord.

Medium story short, a few minutes after 7 PM, there were 5 of us ready to toe the line. Included in the mix was no Ted Poulos, but last year’s winner Charlie Mercer, me, Jay Jacob Wind, James Scarborough and Tim Ramsey. Tim had actually ran in a local race called the Snowflake 5k in December which helped raise money for Fiddy2 (yep, remember that ole fundraiser I was doing for L’Arche Mobile). Charlie joked that he was supposed to be the only young guy there (everyone else was in their late 40s or into their 50s) and said he did not want the competition. I told him I was still exhausted from my 50k and would not be a threat. His eyebrows raised and he told me he ran the 10k at the same locale on the same day and was shocked I was still standing after the race.

The starter said go and away we went. There was only one clock (at the finish), no markers of any sort, and the dunderhead that I am, well, I forgot my watch. So I just decided to go with all I had. Down a 50 meter path we took and then immediately began what I can only described as an absolute controlled fall for the remainder of the mile. The only thing that kept us from approaching light-speed were the hairpin turns we encountered in the first quarter-mile or so. While leading at first, I soon lost the overall position about a 1/3 of the way through to Charlie who obviously knew the course better than I.

I could only guess what speed we were running at but I knew it was ridiculously fast. More than once I had a feeling I might just fall ass over tincups and break my neck. The race course left the trail for once second and quickly crossed one street and then another. Both neighborhood streets with little traffic, I am pretty sure I could not have stopped for a car if I had needed to do so.

Cutting the corners as sharply as I could and trying to keep Charlie in site for a last second push to possibly win the event, I all of a sudden noticed that I was not only completely bereft of energy but also there was the familiar red glow of a ticking clock ahead of me. No time (or distance, rather) left to catch Charlie I simply coasted in for second place overall. a time of 4:10. HOLY CRAP.

Charlie had ran a 3:53 and was just standing there dumbfounded. We immediately began to discount the course and thought there was no possible way it was correct. I asked Charlie if it was the same course he ran last year and he nodded. “Well, if it was right last year I doubt the Earth moved that much this year to discredit it!” I said. He nodded his head again and said, “No one was pushing me last year and I ran a 4:29. It only makes sense that with your quick start you made me run even harder.”

When I got home, the first thing I did was check the map provided. Click HERE to see it. Then I went to and recreated it myself. Not only did it mirror the amount listed (a solid mile on the nose) I utilized the elevation chat on this website to see what sort of loss we had on this course. Get ready: ~250 feet in a mile! I am sure one of my loyal readers knows of some mathematical equation which can estimate what a 250 foot drop (and virtually not a foot of gain) does to a person’s all-out mile time. So, please, if you know or care to figure out, let me know.

The final results for the race:

(1) Charlie Mercer, Arlington VA, 3:53
(2) Dane Rauschenberg, Arlington VA, 4:10
(3) James Scarborough, McLean VA, 5:25
(4) Jacob Wind, Arlington VA, 6:11
(5) Tim Ramsey, Alexandria VA, 6:49

Without a doubt, I am not normally capable of a 4:10 mile. Not even close. Then again, running 2 days after a brutal 50k in 100 degree temperature has to even it out a smidgen right?

Regardless, I am imploring them to hold this race again and hold it soon. If you join the Arlington Co-Op for $10 the race costs $1. If and when it is run again, come join me. Noting helps the ego quite like flying like the wind.

ADDENDUM: As always, I can count on my good friends to find info for me quicker than I can ever hope for. An article about the effect uphill and downhill grades can be found HERE.

So if you take my fastest (proven) mile of 5:00 by the formula presented in the article, I should have only run a 4:33. So either the course was short (I really do not think it was) or I REALLY love a downhill.

Monday, August 6, 2007

North Face Endurance 50k Challenge Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 18th Edition 
363.52 miles raced in 2007
Race: North Face Endurance 50k Challenge
Place: Great Falls, VA
Miles from home: 21
Course Difficulty: (Describe per section below)
Course Enjoyability: 7 out of 10
Weather: high of 98; humid
Finishers' Medal: 7 out of 10

If you want the short version, allow me to give you what the timing company sent me:

“Congratulations Dane Rauschenberg on finishing the The North Face Endurance Challenge on August 04, 2007. For your records, the weather that day was Low 73 d F, High 98 d F, Avg 88 d F, Avg Dew point 68 d F, variable winds. There were 17 finishers in the Male 30 to 39 age group and 53 finishers in the Accelerade 50K division. Your overall finish place was 5, your age group finish place was 2 and your gender finish place was 5. Your time of 5:06:21.30 gave you a 9:53 pace per mile.”

Tells the story in a nutshell doesn’t it? But I know you want more.

The North Face Endurance Challenge consists of various race distances (10k, half-marathon, 50k, 50 miler) all ran on the same day. The 50 miler is the big draw as each winner of this race, held in 5 different cities wins $1,000. In addition, the top male and female finisher of each regional 50-mile race will receive a cash prize of $1,000 and a travel package to San Francisco to participate in the Championship event where the prize is $10,000. You can see the allure.

I had every intention of running the 50 miler on Saturday. Washington D.C.’s notoriously hot and humid summer had been tepid by comparison as of late. But with a week to go before the race, forecasts changed dramatically, and well, you can see what we ended up getting. While running in heat is something I find difficult, running in humidity is even worse. So seeing the combination of both, I opted for the 50k instead. I simply cannot tell you how glad I am I did that.

The morning of the race I woke up, got ready and shuffled out of the door around 5:30 AM. It was already in the upper 70s. Good Lord. By the time I drove the half hour or so to the start of the race it was well into the 80s. Good Lord part deux. I am rarely a carrier of my own fluid in races, more or less surviving on what is offered on the course. But I knew there were only going to be 4 aid stations (the fifth was 500 yards from the finish) and given the weather opted to wear my 50oz Camelbak hydration unit on my back.

I met and spoke with a few runners after picking my chip up and we were all lamenting the obvious heat wave we were going to be running in but felt it might not be that bad. We were wrong.

Start to Aid Station 1: 3 miles (Difficulty: 3 out of 10)

“This section of the course runs along a fairly wide, flat gravel road called Old Carriage Road for 1.2 miles until it turns left on the Ridge Trail, a double track dirt trail, for .8 miles. This portion of trail has a few small undulating hills, but is primarily flat. Runners will take a sharp right turn onto the Difficult Run Trail which runs along a stream for another mile, ending at aid station 1 and turnaround in the Difficult Run Lot.”

The course description was correct. There were a few hills to contend with during this section and the major hills were downhill which suited me just fine. However, I knew we had to climb back up some of those hills on our return so I didn’t pat myself too hard when I hit the first aid station one minute ahead of the pace I wanted to hit for this point (a 3:59 overall time.)

However, within 5 minutes of running, even slowly, I was already dripping sweat. I knew this was going to be a day where I stayed as hydrated as possible. I sipped at my Camelbak whenever the thirst hit me.

Aid Station 1 to aid station 2: 5 miles (Difficulty: 7.5 out of 10)

“…runners will then turn sharply to the left and run for 1.3 miles along the River Trail, a very technical, rocky, and treacherous stretch along the edge of the cliffs of the Potomac River. Runners will reach aid station 3 located near the Start/Finish Line by the Great Falls Visitor Center.”

Holy crap, were they not kidding. From the get-go I was in fifth place behind a pack of four runners running almost Wizard of Oz style shoulder-to-shoulder whenever they could. I was doing my best to save energy and was already walking up the steepest of the inclines. The only other 50k I had done was earlier this year in treacherous icy conditions and finishing in 5:20 made me just so damn angry. As such, I had every intention of beating that time by an hour if not more. To do so, I needed to conserve energy, hydrate, and run smart. Because of that, I was running my own pace.

Coming out of the turn-around at the first aid-station (where I simply grabbed one paper towel to wipe my face and a glass of Accelerade) it was enjoyable to see all the other runners coming the opposite way. Lots of “way to go”s and “morning”s were exchanged as runners slipped past each other on the narrow path.

After this, however, I began what was more or less a 28 mile solo run. Every once in a while I would catch a glimpse of a runner in front of me in a long-stretch but they would soon disappear over a ridge or around a turn. This made the section described above in bold to be not only difficult for the fact that is was hard terrain but also because I could not see if I was going the correct way all the time.

You see, for the most part, the course was well-marked. Ribbons of pink and orange were tied to trees or clothes-pinned to branches at most places where a runner may need to know where to go. But when you are literally inches from plunging about 75 feet onto shop rocks below and then having your corpse washed away by the river, your mind is on your footing, not on whether you are actually heading in the right direction. More often than not through this section I would look up just in time to see I needed to veer the opposite direction than where I was heading. But with a fair amount of effort, I navigated slowly through this area with just a few trips and no falls and safely popped out the other side. A mile or so later I saw the start/finish line and new I was about to hit the second aid station. Even with the added difficulty of the rocks, I had only lost 3 minutes of total time from my intended pace. I was feeling pretty good.

Aid Station 2 to Aid Station 3: 6 miles (Difficulty: 3.5 out of 10)

“Runners will stay primarily on flat single track running along the banks of the Potomac River. A few sections of dirt road will mix in with the single track along this stretch of the course. Runners will also encounter a mile long stretch of hills where there endurance for climbing will be tested.”

The vast majority of this stretch was indeed a flat track right on the riverbank. On the way out of the aid station I saw my running friend and fellow Georgetown Running Company Team Member Luke Merkel rounding the bend. A young 23, Luke has already posted a 2:48 marathon PR in just three attempts. In the abysmal conditions at the Washington’s Birthday marathon (where I finished the always dastardly FOURTH…arrgh) Luke went on to win. This was his first ultra and we had exchanged a few emails prior to the race about strategy etc. I could see he wasn’t carrying his own hydration system and was hoping it would not come back to haunt him.

I tried to pay particular attention to this section as I knew it would be the final miles on our way back home to the finish. I tried to make mark of certain landmarks and at what time I passed them so, when I was tired as heck on the way back, I could gauge how far I had to go.

At the second aid station I was still about half full in my Camelbak so I simply grabbed a bottle of water (my last pee stop showed really yellow pee in spite of my hydration and ergo I knew I needed water) and away I went. Dodging hikers and dog walkers, I soon lost sight of Luke again but was buoyed by passing runners of the 50 mile race. Even though they were running a much longer race, it is always a mental boost to pass anyone. I also noticed that I was feeling well in spite of the heat and humidity but was not sweating anymore. I knew I needed to drink.

Aid Station 3 to Aid Station 4 (Turnaround): 5 miles (Difficulty: 5 out of 10)

“Runners will continue along the flat single track for about a mile until they reach another stretch of hilly terrain, lasting about a mile. Once completed, the course is primarily flat all the way to the turnaround point… Runners will continue past the golf course on a single track dirt trail until they reach a gravel road for the last stretch to the turnaround point, and aid station 5. This stretch of road will be the only stretch of the course that does not provide much of a canopy to shield runners from the sun.”

I will say one thing for certain, the aid stations were well-stocked and very well run by the volunteers. They checked your number off of a list, had everything out waiting for runners to take (including PB&J sandwiches, cookies, crackers, icy cold wash clothes and a plethora of COLD drinks for the runners) and were very attentive to your needs. With my Camelbak empty, I had them empty a few Accelerade into it while I munched on a saltine. I needed to make sure I got some sort of salt in me but none of the other foods present were appealing. Refueling, feeling good, I headed out, thanking all of the volunteers.

Again the description of the next section (above) was quite accurate. A fair amount of flat running provided for each runner the opportunity to get the ball rolling and make up time. It was here I first saw Sam Thompson, soon followed by Dean Karnazes. Sam, as you may or may not know ran 51 marathon distances in 50 days in 50 states (including D.C.). Dean, a friend for a few years, has won Badwater, accomplished a similar 50 in 50 feat and is recognized as one of the premier ultra-runners out there. They were both heading back from the turn-around point at about half-way through their 50 mile race. Having started 2 hours earlier than the 50kers, I was hoping they would make it through the day. I slapped high-fives with Dean as he passed and set about my way.

Soon, I passed through the section with no canopy from the trees and almost immediately wilted. I will get to this later but I can only thank God that 95% of this course was covered by shade of some sort. The temperature by this point (9 AM or so) had to be close to 90 degrees and the humidity was like soup. But when you stepped out of the shade it was like you were a burger in a McDonald’s heat lamp. I sprinted through this section not only for that reason but also because I heard golfers teeing off and balls flying over head. That would be about the last thing I needed today!

I neglected to mention that not only myself but a few other runners made a wrong turn at one section prior to my seeing Sam and Dean. My detour was not as great as theirs as I could see them in the distance backtracking and realized what had happened. I could only hope this would not happen again.

A long straight stretch of gravelly road allow me to see that I was not to far out of first place. All four runners in front of me were either entering or leaving the aid station I approached and I felt good about my chances of moving up. I spent as little as time as possible at the aid station, but again refilled my Camelbak. I had now gone through 100 oz of liquid that I had carried, let alone what I had consumed at the aid stations. With 11 miles to go, I still felt relatively strong and soon was on my way.

Aid Station 4 to Aid Station 5: 5 miles (Difficulty: 6 out of 10)

How can the exact same section we just ran through have a higher difficult now? Simply because most of the hills that were present on the way to the turnaround were much more forgiving one way than the next. In addition, some of the marking had either been moved or misplaced because I once again took a wrong turn. Unfortunately, the wrong turn was down a hill so steep I almost repelled down it. But I had seen a ribbon and followed it. Seeing another on the ground after running for sometime (even though the area looked completely unfamiliar) made me run even further, thinking perhaps the ribbon simply fell off the tree. When the path led directly to the river’s edge with no path going either way, I finally figured out I made a wrong turn. I think a few more raccoons and deer now know how to swear.

Literally hands and kneeing it back up the hill I had basically fallen down in a run just a few minutes earlier, I knew I was wasting precious energy that I just did not have. Obviously a sub-4 hour finish was not going to happen but I felt maybe a sub 4:30 was still in the mix. Maybe 4:45 given the 10-15 minute detour I had just made. But I pushed on.

Hitting the aid station with only 6 miles to go, I told the volunteers about the wrong markings and said that I would not be surprised if I was the only one who was going to make that wrong turn (as it turns out, I was not. They might not have made that exact turn I did but a few other runners definitely followed the ribbons I had seen and ended up where they should not have been). The volunteers very happily refill my Camelbak again (yep another 50oz was drained) and I liquefied myself as much as possible. Opting only for water in my back this time, I took to the path. I figured if I could finish these last 6 miles in about an 1:10 I would at least finish well under 5 hours. A modified goal but a goal nonetheless I thought I could achieve.

Aid Station 5 to Finish: 6 miles (Difficulty: 6 out of 10)

Suffice it to say, this section was also more difficult for the reason stated previously. The hills were harder coming home than they were going out. And once again (although I don’t count this in the difficulty of the course), I took another wrong turn. Not nearly as bad as the previous one but still mentally crushing. Throw in the fact that now I could not keep liquids down and I was in bad shape. I took to actually walking for a minute a time after I would take a sip of my water, just to make sure that it would not come up. I was bleeding time. I asked every walker I ran into how far they thought I was to the entrance to the park (where I was finishing). I have never got more convoluted answers in my life.

I pressed on as best I could, doing everything I could to try and go sub 5. I had neither passed nor been passed by any 50kers (I thought) which made me think they too had been suffering from the heat and humidity. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I saw the last aid station. I grabbed two glasses of water, one for my mouth hand the other for my head and began to sprint the last 500 yards. Having already passed 5 hours, I wanted to at least keep it in the 5:06s. Luckily I was able to cross the finishline before collapsing in a heap.

It ends up that the winner of the 50k had actually been in 7th place for the vast majority of the race. Not only did he pass me on one of my extra training runs through the woods, he passed EVERYONE as we all got lost at one point or another in the last 6 miles. Not good. But all in all I am pleased with my performance given all of the conditions.

* Aid stations were stocked full and volunteers at the aid stations were very helpful in assisting runners get what they needed and give words of encouragement.
* The course itself was not all that difficult. There were some hilly sections and some technical running but nearly 20 miles of the 31 were probably very flat and forgiving
* The vast majority of the course was shaded from sunlight. Not only was it a rather attractive course to run on, but the planners wisely kept the runners under the canopy of trees as much as possible. I cannot even imagine how hard this would have been if it had been in direct sunlight. I would not have finished.

* The choice of the time of year to run this race. While D.C. had been relatively cool lately, 9 times out of ten this is exactly the weather you will get in August. I have been asked if I was going to run the Drake Well Marathon again this year around Christmas time. To begin, my desire to run a “real” marathon in Titusville far outweighs by desire to run another one around a track (so much that I have actually mapped it out already and have elevation profiles of the whole thing). But more over, the fact that it was 33 degrees with no snow or precipitation on December 23rd in NW PA is astonishing (It was only the second time in 20 years Titusville had a green Christmas). I say that because the point I am making is you have to play the percentages.

*While I do not count weather into my difficulty rating of a course usually, if the weather will always be that way (for example, the Cayman Island Marathon is always going to be hot and humid. As such, the weather is part of the course in my opinion and must be counted as part of its difficult) then it has to be considered. So, if you want to utilize the course here in DC (which I think they most assuredly should) you have to move it to later in the year. Heck October, while not a sure thing to produce cool temps, is a much SAFER bet than August!

* Amenities and aid at the end of the race. Because it was a park of some sort, no unwrapped fruit could be brought into the race. Given the rate with which runners were staggering into the finish in need of potassium and salt and help, the liquids provided were not enough. And while nice and semi-helpful the EMTs on staff really did not seem to have the most solid grasp on how to handle those who were dehydrated and exhausted. Not a knock on the help as I am sure they are good people, they just did not appear to understand the needs of 50k and 50 mile finishers in such extreme temperatures.

Some tweaks need to be made but this race has potential to be a very good one. If run later in the year, I would assuredly run it again. In addition, Luke did finish and lamented not carrying his own water bottle. But some of the best lessons are learned very in the harshest manner. I also made a few new friends, a few new running contacts and ran into a guy, Andy Barrett, who I happened to run against at the PT Cruiser Challenge in early 2005. You may recall this was the race that really set me down the road to running not only Fiddy2 itself but also testing my limits as a runner. To see him was like a small time warp to a time before I even knew what I could possibly do in the running world. It was amazing to me how short of a time ago that was and how much I have actually done and seen since then.

I have two races this week to look forward to and here’s hoping for two new PRs!

Friday, August 3, 2007

97 degrees

Not quite Nick Lachey but that is the predicted high for tomorrow for my race. Effin A, Cotton! So much for DC having a decent summer so far with regards to heat!

Hopefully it will stay 71 (the projected low) until like 11am. Then it can soar! :)

Look what happens to Dane when the temperature is only close to 75 degrees. (My arm at Sefair Marathon last year). Me at MCM when it wasn't even 70.

...and just because Brad mentioned Miami in 2006, here is what I looked like. I refuse to publish the final picture because I am with a woman who...well...has a few reasons you would stop looking at me and miss my point.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

July Miles and Expectations

My goal for the year was to run 2007 miles. This total included race miles as well. I have never been a high mileage guy. Last year was probably the most miles I have ever ran in one year and I only ran 1771 miles. Granted, 77% of those miles were races miles (holy crap, really?!) which didn't allow for me to run mush more but it is still a relatively small number.

So I wanted to bump it up to 2007. 365 days in a year means I have to average 5.49 miles every single day. I started off slow in January which is to be expected after the year I had. Picked it up in February and kept going until July. Here are miles per month:

Jan: 119.50 (19 runs) = 6.29 miles per run
Feb: 135.20 (18 runs) = 7.51 miles per run
Mar: 153.26 (21 runs) = 7.3 miles per run
Apr: 170.25 (22 runs) = 7.74 miles per run
May: 200.25 (26 runs) = 7.7 miles per run
Jun: 211.37 (20 runs) = 10.57 miles per run

Then July hit. Even though I tied May for the most separate runs at 26, because I did no run longer than 13 miles, both my total and my average sunk.

Jul: 150.98 (26 runs) = 5.81 miles

So after August 1, I am 25 miles behind where I want to be. Saturday's 50k will help though. Plus I have to remember my own advice. It is the quality of the run, not the amount, that matters most. In June I had a few races that were just 1 mile. That hurts the average. I never ran "long" on the weekends like I usually do. That hurts the average. But more importantly, I have seemed to recover from what was a disastrous June (OD 100 and Dalian Marathon). I know an 8k race and a relay do not a comeback make so the 50k this weekend will tell a great deal.

While not easy there is no way I will not crush the time I set in my first 50k in March (under the worst race course conditions I have ever run in). So my modest goal is 4:30, my happy goal will be 3:59 and anything else will be gravy.

Hope that 94 degrees on Saturday (predicted) does not come with D.C. humidity. That would be blah indeed!