Friday, January 25, 2008

Feeling loopy

I picked up Anne from the airport this morning and rather than try and fight traffic after dropping her off and going back home, I decided to simply bring my running clothes with me, utilize her free laundry and run in her neighborhood.

When we pulled into her complex area, I noticed that the loop near her condo looked like it was about 400 meters around. So, out of curiosity I decided to check online. sure enough it was about .235 of a mile.

Sometimes I like to do odd things. I knew I only wanted to run a quick 5 and I had no desire to contend with traffic or go exploring. With the temperature being 22 degrees this morning, I was not feeling adventurous. Which led me to deciding to run 20 laps around this up then down loop near Anne's place.

boring or awful some might think but I guess I figure if your training sucks, no race can be worse. And to be honest, I sometimes enjoy zoning out and running loops. So, I put on my clothes and went out for a run.

When Anne wanted to go to the grocery store for some snacks for lunch, she snapped this picture of me in her little loop. We were going 7.5 miles per hour according to her car.

I knew I was about .02 short of a mile on every lap so just to make sure I got all 5 miles in, I did an extra loop to make it a nice 21 times around the block.

I never said I was normal.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Carlsbad Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 3; 1st Edition
26.2 miles raced in 2008
Race: Carlsbad Marathon
Place: Carlsbad, CA
Miles from home: 2,709 (last time a race will be from Arlington, VA in distance)
Course Difficulty: 4.5 out of 10
Course Enjoyability: 5.5 out of 10
Weather: 30s-50s Bright sunshine.
Finishers' Medal: 6.5 out of 10

Well, this came as much as a surprise to me, as it did to those from whom I kept it secret.

Out in California for my new job, I spent the night in Carlsbad, CA. Done with work for the day, I set out for a run. How could I resist? It was 60 degrees in the middle of January. A phone call to my hometown of Titusville a few minutes earlier had reminded me what real winter was (the greater DC area gets cold but it is nothing like NW Pennsylvania.

Me: “Hey, Dad. What’s shaking?”
Dad: “Me.”
Me: “I saw it was cold there. What’s the temperature?”
Dad: “I don’t think there is one.”

So yeah, I was going for a run.

In the waning daylight I could still catch glimpses of the road in front of me as the sun reflected off of the ocean. A few miles into the run I glanced down and saw "Carlsbad Marathon: Mile 2" marked on the pavement. I realized that even though I was in Oceanside presently, that Carlsbad was just around the corner. Had the marathon just been run the previous weekend or was it being run this weekend? My mind whirled. Should I try to run this race if I am in town?

I finished my run and went back to my hotel. I immediately logged onto my laptop (which will become ironic as you will learn) and checked the website for the race. Sure enough, it was in just a few days. But its registration had been full for weeks. Good, I thought. I had run two consecutive marathon PRs and one little worm that entered my mind was that I wanted to continue to run consecutive PRs for as long as possible. I might not reach Dick Beardsley’s world record thirteen straight PRs but I might give it a shot. By running a marathon before I was ready to do so, tired from a long trip (which would only get longer) I would all but guarantee to end that tiny little streak.

But I had to at least try to see if I could get into the race. I mean, I was probably going to be in the area on race day anyway. (The nature of this portion of my job, where I am mapping out potential race courses, leaves me with uncertainty of my whereabouts. As I travel up and down roads, looking for suitable running routes, I can never tell how smoothly the day will go. Some days I am able to find nearly double the miles of others. But I knew I was flying out of San Diego, Sunday so I had to be close on race day!) So I contacted the race and asked if they needed a 3:10 pace group leader which I saw they were lacking. I received an email the next day stating they would contact the pace group coordinator and get back to me.

As such, I let the issue slip my mind and went back to working the next morning. About halfway through my day, as I passed along the shores of Lake Elsinore, I received a phone call. It was from a gentleman that I had emailed with on a few occasions named Jim. Surprised to hear from him, I was even more surprised he knew I had recently been in Carlsbad. A little confused I asked how he knew. Jim then told me he was the pace group coordinator for the Carlsbad Marathon. Jim and I had been trying to coordinate our schedules for quite some time so that I could run a race for him as a pace group leader. I let out a huge laugh. Jim, who grew up just 15 miles from where I did in NW Pennsylvania, had finally got me to run one of his races.

Even though the week ended up being beyond exhausting (amongst other things, a thief had broken into my rental car and stole my laptop, my laptop bag [which contained more items than I care to mention; some irreplaceable]), I knew I would love every minute of being a pace group leader. You see, it was a pace group leader who helped me gain my first Boston qualifying time, just slightly over 3 years to the day of the Carlsbad Marathon. As such, every chance I can get, I try to karmically pay back the marathon gods.

So race morning came. I was nervous about being able to keep the right pace for my runners. Plus, I was doing a marathon no-no. Having only brought old shoes with me to run a few miles here and there, I decided to purchase brand new shoes at the expo to wear in the race the next day. Even though I have been very lucky in that aspect (nine of my top 10 marathon times of all time have been in different shoes; when the correct shoe company pays me the right money, I will tell you which one has my marathon PR) I knew I was still tempting fate.

Adrenaline coursed through my veins and thoughts of how I was going to replace what was stolen from me coursed through my mind. Both of these were making it difficult to slow the engine I wanted to rev and lose myself in the moment. But today I had a job. My job was to run as even-paced miles as possible and end up exactly at 3:10 when I crossed the finish line. With a small crowd behind me at the beginning, all eager to know how well-qualified I was to lead them (legitimate concerns) we exchange some light banter as the time to start drew nigh. Some were happy to see there was a 3:10 pacer given none had been listed on the website. Others saw my name on my pacer singlet and immediately asked me if I was the guy who had run 52 marathons in one year. I liked that question as it gave credence to my pedigree to take them to the promised-land: a Boston qualifying time (at least for 18-34 year old men).

I assured all we would not be running too fast to begin, that I would not run-walk, that I would not walk through aid-stations and that yes, I most assuredly would be carrying the three-foot dowel rod with a laminated piece of paper attached to the top, emblazoned with our goal time and mile pace, for the entire race.

Eagerness bursting forth from the seams, the race finally began.

Mile 1: 8:02

I barely had to say a single word as we went through this first mile in a seemingly slow pace. Every single runner looked at his/her watch and scoffed. We all knew the first mile marker was a little askew.

Mile 2: 6:53

When one mile is off, the next mile usually has to be as well. That was the case here as the average of the first two miles was just about what we wanted it to be. I pointed out the mile 2 on the side of the road which had been the impetus for me pacing.

One runner (named Dan, who pointed out his name was like mine minus the “e”; Thanks, Dan) seemed stunned I had just decided to run a few days before. I told him not to worry.

Mile 3: 7:02

A slight downhill and our first view of the coastline quickened our pace and our pulse. The crowd was still rather thick here as both marathoners and half-marathoners ran together. A few early-morning fans cheered us on as we left an off-ramp and entered Carlsbad.

Mile 4: 6:57

With our cumulative time at exactly 29:00 (or 7:15 minute pace) I turn to my group and say: “See? Stick with me.” I tell a few jokes and pass out a few morsels of advice. I turn around and run backward for a few steps to see what sort of group I have. It had grown.

Mile 5: 7:19

We finally catch the 1:35 half-marathon pace group leader who admittedly tells us they went out a smidgen too fast. Knowing we split courses soon, I jokingly ask the pace group leader if he knows exactly where the real runners peel off.

Mile 6: 7:24

Up the first decent hill since mile 1, we take it down just a notch to steady ourselves for the first real hills of the course. I tell everyone that I have studied the course and this will be the hardest part.

Mile 7: 7:19

I turn to Chad, an airman in the Air Force and ask him to hold the pace sign. You see, his pace leader has to pee (and had since the start of the race). As I saw some bushes and we were a little off the beaten-path, I do my best to help prevent forest fires. I then blame Chad for our pace being 4 seconds off once I catch up and take the sign from him again.

Mile 8: 7:10

And then I go 5 seconds too fast. Up a hill. Whoops.

Mile 9-10: 14:35

Giving more tips to my runners about how to tackle an uphill as we crest the biggest hill on the course, I totally miss the mile 9 marker. Hitting the 10th mile, I tell everyone we are now well past 1/3 of the way done and into double digits.

Mile 11: 6:45

As we go down the very hills we just went up, we pick up some speed. I still feel like I am holding back so much. Man, I love downhills. We see some of the other pace groups on the other side of the road and pass yet another early-starting pace group. I smack the pace group leader on the tush with my sign and tell her to pick it up.

Mile 12: 6:54

I notice for the first time a gentleman right off of my right shoulder. No matter how fast or slow I move he is always there. It is sort of annoying when I try to speed up to get a glass of water and get out of the way of the rest of the running group and he speeds up as well, directly in my way. I ask him his name and he simply says "Demsas". Not sure if he is rude, focused or foreign but he says nothing more.

Mile 13: 7:04

My group has thinned a little bit but we also picked up some runners who had been in front of us. I tell them to fall in-step behind and use me to break the wind in front of them. It makes no sense to run alone in a group, I say. When I add I am here to be used this morning, it is met with a few chuckles. One young fella named Andrew says he wants to qualify for Boston. I tell him if he sticks with me, he will.

Mile 14: 7:13

We catch up to a well-built man who I saw at the beginning of the race. He tells me we are running a little bit too fast. I tell him he is wrong. I’ll trust my 72 marathons worth of experience over his GPS any day.

Mile 15: 7:22

The cool morning temps have warmed a bit and the crystal blue sky means no cloud cover. My group is down to about 8 or so. I tell them to work together and start sharing secrets on how to not think about the miles. I warn them about making sure they drink as it is deceptively warm.

Mile 16: 7:42

The last big hill of the whole course has me telling everyone to ease into it and enjoy. Alison, a female from Tucson (who I also think is also in the armed forces) has been running strong all day. At one point I tell her she is in third place. She says she thinks she is in fifth. I tell her she is wrong.

Mile 17: 7:14

We pass the 2nd place girl on the downhill. Won’t these people learn to listen to me? ;)

Mile 18: 7:23

Down to about 4 or 5 people, I am torn between shouting a lot of encouragement to those behind us who are faltering or paying attention to those holding the pace. Every runner we lose I take as a personal loss. I want to finish in a group of 20 and have a group hug at the end. I love hugging at the end of a marathon.

Mile 19: 7:20

Alison, Chad and Sam (a friend from the internet who I met for the first time in person) all fall back. I yell back that they can all keep with us. I think it falls on deaf ears. Sam totally has an excuse. He ran a marathon the day before in 3:17!!

Mile 20: 7:17

Andrew, whose labored breath I can hear, Desmas and I are all that remain of the original group. I tell them we only have 3 separate 2-mile runs to go. Anyone can run two miles. Think of nothing but those two miles.

Mile 21: 7:08

Desmas actually pulls me along a little faster than I wanted to do. He is chomping at the bit. I tell him he can soar ahead if he feels good and he almost immediately falls to my side again. Andrew says he feels tired. I tell him he is supposed to. It’s a marathon.

We pick up Rich from Denver who looks strong.

Mile 22: 7:00

We all stroke a little too fast during this mile, partially from the adrenaline of dodging half-marathon walkers. I thoroughly relish being able to yell "Walkers to the RIGHT, please!" without recourse as well, that is my job today.

I then yell “Thank you. Looking great!”, lest you think I am a total prick.

Andrew disappears in spite of my encouragement.

Mile 23: 7:10

Andrew reappears. Rich from Denver tells him that is the way to run!

Mile 24: 7:20

Rich falls back. Andrew slips behind me. Desmas leads the charge up a small steep hill. More walkers in our way having me shouting more than I wish to, wasting energy I would rather be using to encourage my guys.

Mile 25: 7:24

Desmas runs very wide on a turn and I yell at him to get back inside as he is running too damn far (and much further than he needs to. I now am using my dowel-rod sign as a pointer to show Desmas the cracks in the half-marathoner walkers that we are weaving through.

Mile 26: 7:09

Our quicker pace puts me near the finish sooner than I wanted to. Desmas and I are alone.

Mile .2: 1:44

Jim the pace guy comes out of the crowd and begins to run the last 100 yards or so with me. He asks me how I am and I tell him great.

I wave to the crowd, cross the timing mat, grab the top of the dowel rod and plant it into the cement like I just claimed this land for Spain.

The clock read 3:09:59. My chip time is 3:09:50.

I hand the 3:10 sign to Desmas (3:09:44 Chip time) and give him a big hug. The announcer mentioned Desmas’ name and he receives a big cheer.

I smile and give a slight wave to the crowd when the announcer does the same for me. I then turn around and look for Andrew. I see him sprinting along and he passes the finish with 16 seconds to spare in 3:10:44. Andrew is going to Boston! (I later learn his chip time was 3:08:58; he qualified by over two minutes!). Andrew gives me a huge hug and thanks me for getting him there. I tell him I just provided the pace for the training that already existed in him. Then I say he better try and find a hotel in Boston real soon.

Alison finished in 3:14:40. This was good enough not only for second place overall but was a three minute PR!

I received this email from her late in the week:

"Subject: Thank You!!

Hi Dane,

Just managed to track down your e-mail address (thanks to the very cool Fiddy2 website you've got). I really wanted to say thanks again (when I wasn't so out of breath) for all of your help on Sunday. I was feeling so good running with you guys through 19 and then something (perhaps a wall) hit me and I needed to slow down a bit. I'm still so happy with the PR (and 2nd place!) and running with you for so long was absolutely key to both of those things. So, thanks so much for your encouragement and help - it really made the race for me.

It was great to meet and run with you. Good luck with your move! "

It appears my sign-holder Chad had a rough go at the end, falling off the pace for a 3:37. I hope he rebounds and runs his 3:10 soon.

All told, in a week that, personally, was one of the most difficult I have ever experienced, the marathon was spectacular for my mental recovery. Hopefully, as time passes, I will forget the troubles I went through this week, my stolen items will be found and all that will remain is the good memories of 26.2 miles.

And Dick, you can breathe a sigh of relief now. Your record is probably safe for quite some time.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Book Five: Boston: A Century of Running

Recently, when my car was broken into and a vast amount of personal possessions were stolen, I was obviously distraught. While the despicable person(s) (who should rot in hell contaminated with syphilis, by the way) took much from me, luckily they left behind my half-read copy of the history of the Boston Athletic Association Marathon. While some of my possessions cannot be replaced, and a simple repurchasing of this book could have put it in my hands again in a snap, having it close by kept me centered. In fact, the last thing I did a few hours later before falling asleep was to read one more chapter of it.

While the vast bulk of my marathon career was in 2006 and I am still relatively new to the sport, the days are passing further in further since my first marathon attempt in 2001. I knew absolutely nothing about running a marathon then and honestly, until 2005 could not have pulled Paul Tergat out of a line-up of all-white men (Paul, a Kenyan was the world record-holder in the marathon until very recently and someone who I actually had the vast pleasure of meeting by chance in a running store last year. Read more here). Since then, however, I have begun to steep myself in marathoning lore. Well, one cannot consider themselves even learned in marathons until they get more intimate with the Boston Athletic Association Marathon; known simply as "Boston".

The way to do that is to read Hal Higdon’s wonderful history of this race which starts all the way back from its humble beginnings and takes the reader all the way up to the eve of the 100th running of Boston in 1996. If it is lacking anything, it is an addendum to include the 11 years of running, and all the changes that have occurred since its publishing. Other than that, it is a treat for both the mind and the eyes. Glorious photos, some you have seen a hundred times (yet never get sick of reliving) populate the book as it chronicles the history of the world’s most famous marathon. Even though I knew some of the stories, hearing a different perspective on them is so exciting. I still think that if I read it just the right way, I can will Dick Beardsley to a victory over Alberto Salazar at the 1982 Boston and am still shocked when I fail to do so.

The only drawback to this book is that it is a wide book, making it difficult to read on an airplane. But I did make a friend on one plane who had just recently run a marathon herself and inquired about whether the book was any good. I will tell you what I told her.

With my move to Salt Lake City happening in less than a week, I have no plans to run Boston this year. The Salt Lake City Marathon is the same weekend and I have designs on giving that a try. Plus, I made a bet with myself to never run Boston again until I am able to run it by its old (and fastest) qualifying time of 2:50. However, having read this book, and being exposed to not only stories I already knew, but also tons of new and interesting facts about the history of Boston, my fervor is up. I am not quite sure if I can wait until 2009. That’s what the book did to me.

Thanks, Hal. Now I have to buy a plane ticket.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Book Four: The Last Pick by Dave McGillivray

I had the pleasure to make the acquaintance of Dave McGillivray last year. A quick way to identify Dave would be to call him the race director of the Boston Marathon. Automatically, even non-runners would be able to place him with this description. However, to label Dave as “only” the Boston marathon director (as awesome as a job as that is) would be to diminish not only the man but also his litany of accomplishments. From running across the country when he was 23 years old, to swimming 24 hours straight to raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for various charities (and I am quite sure I am cutting the number of dollars he has raised short there), McGillivray has packed more into his short life (he is only 54) than the combination of many people.

One thing I am loath to do is call someone a “friend” who is not one. Too often people do this when they really have no reason to do so. Often it is with celebrities or well-known people and the obvious reason is the added cache it lends to some to be “in” with the in-crowd. Dave McGillivray is not my friend as of yet. I am not that lucky. I can only hope that will be remedied as time goes by.

That said, I admire Dave enough and have corresponded with him enough to call him a good acquaintance. As such, it was embarrassing to me to not have read his autobiography: The Last Pick. (This may be an advance guilt trip I am laying on all of you in order to make sure you buy and read my book when it comes out in a few months). I started it when I left Washington D.C. on an airplane. With a connection in Charlotte and a landing in San Diego, I can honestly say I finished the book before I landed. Actually, somewhere over the Rockies is where I turned its final pages (which included his mother’s recipe for chocolate chip cookies.) That should tell you how good of a read it is.

Starting early in Dave’s life, the book details how being vertically challenged (Dave only registers 64 inches of height) shaped not only his childhood but also most of his life since then. When you finish reading the book, and see the massive, mouth-opening list of accomplishments Dave has garnered in his short time on Earth, you can plainly see height has got jack to do with what you can accomplish.

But far more than a tome of “Look what I’ve done!” the book serves as a guidebook to how one person can make a difference and have fun on the way. Recently, a few friends have praised me for refusing to settle for a life I did not want and for grabbing life by the horns and willing myself into the exact vocation I wanted. Well, if I had read Dave’s book prior to a few months ago, one could have say I plagiarized his gumption and used it as my own.

McGillivray recounts many of his running and fundraising efforts with such effortless panache that you come to think of weeks on end of running 40 miles a day as commonplace. One of my favorite quotes is how he mentions he does not recall a single one of his friends being overweight growing up. I can only wish I could say the same thing. And while he barely touches the surface of his battle against childhood obesity, I will bring it more to the forefront here.

Team DMSE instituted TREK in 2004. I was asked to participate in its successor in 2006 when I acted as a guide for runners as they made their way through Maryland, on past the Capitol Building and into the Old Dominion State (read more here). With an invite to actually be a member of TREK this year, I can only hope the cards fall correctly in order for me to make a difference.

Which leads me back to the book. Dave has made a difference. Dave continues to make a difference.

And Dave writes a pretty nice book.

Friday, January 11, 2008

3rd book of the year: 26.2 Marathon Stories

11 days. 3 books. Go Dane. I just set a PR for reading. Ok, not really but I have a small circle of friends who likes how I sue PR for everything (That was my PR for a shower!) And finishing this third book was like setting a personal best in a mile that is all downhill. Why? Because it was easy.

My third book for the year was 26.2: Marathon Stories by Kathrine Switzer and Roger Robinson. You almost do not read this book as much as you “view” it. Jammed with large glossy pictures showing the history of the marathon through some of the most indelible images of the race, it is a book you can finish in record time.

Having read more and more about the marathon and its inception and build up as of late I was pleased to see that the authors did not stay too long on any particular subject too long. I think the intent of the book was to whet the appetite of the average reader into learning more. For example, one of the more famous marathon runners in history is Dorando Pietri. Now, the book does not tell you that often Dorando’s names were mixed up and skewed somewhat so that Dorando became his last name and his last name was misspelled as Petri. But you do not need to know that for this book. However, knowing that, you appreciate how hard it must have been for the authors to leave out the correct amount of information in order to still get the story across. I personally have always marveled at those more succinct and less-wordy than me. I am not blessed with the ability to be so short in word, or when I do it seems curt. However, here it works.

That said, even though the prose is hardly heady there were still new facts for me to learn and stunning visages about the marathon itself. It is the perfect book not only for a runner but more so, for the runners friends who might not get marathoning. If you have friends or family who seem to take all your training in stride but might not necessarily understand why you so love this sport which takes so much from you, this book will help them “get it” without boring them at all. They can see the glory of winning as well as the honor of placing 13,854th in a marathon, just as long as it was a new PR for that particular person.

Man, I should be getting paid for these reviews.

Cowboy Jeff

If you are a reader of my blogs you have heard me mention “Cowboy Jeff”.

Robert Bishton, who goes by “Jeff” is one of my favorite running people ever. We met at the Little Rock Marathon during Fiddy2. On a shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel we found out we were both running the race and struck up a conversation. I soon learned that Jeff was on his way to running a marathon in every state, a by-product of his desire to lose weight that had been bothering him for quite sometime.

Starting off with a 5-mile walk a day, Jeff “… continued to add more miles by adding additional sessions and by morphing my walks into “wogging,” then jogging, and finally, running. By the Spring of 2004 (after a year of losing weight) Jeff was down from 200 lbs to a svelte, lean and mean 140. Now was time for him to complete his goal of running a marathon. He registered and conquered the Baltimore Marathon in a time of 3:55. I will note that his time was faster than my first marathon of a 4:12. Even more spectacularly, as Jeff notes “… until my move from the Washington-Baltimore area to Florida in January of 2007, about 90% of all my between-marathons training has been on a treadmill.” Dang.

So away he went on his quest and away I started on mine. In Little Rock our paths met. On the morning of the race, it was a little chilly so I donned a t-shirt I never expected to see again. As I stepped out of the lobby, there was Jeff and a few other runners. We sauntered to the start together, chatting and laughing. Once there, I shed my shirt and was about to toss it aside. Jeff said he would be happy to put it in the bag he was checking and since we were in the same hotel he could just give it back to me. Never one to be unnecessarily wasteful, I thanked him and handed over the shirt.

I forget to mention that at this point Jeff was wearing a wide-brimmed Arizona State SunDevils cowboy hat. Jeff wore this in every race. I highly doubt I am the first one to call him such, but soon “Cowboy Jeff” was dotting my race recaps as we ran into each other again and again during 2006.

In fact, after Little Rock, I forgot to meet up with Jeff and figured my shirt was gone. No big loss. But I underestimated Jeff’s kindness. Seeing we were both signed up for the National Marathon a few weeks later, Jeff said he would look at me for the start for a mini reunion. I welcomed such a meeting but was flabbergasted when he approached me that morning brandishing the t-shirt I had left behind in Little Rock. He went to all the trouble to bring it along with him. What a guy.

As plans were announced for the Drake Well Marathon, Jeff was one of the very first people to sign up to support my cause to raise money for L’Arche Mobile. Even moreso, without my knowing, Jeff coordinated with my mother to set up the pasta dinner the night before the race. He made all the arrangements and the band of 21 runners enjoyed a Italian dinner with desserts made by my Mom for all to enjoy.

So when such a good person achieves such a great thing, you want to others to know. You see, just a few short years after his first fateful step out the door to lose weight; his first foray into the marathoning world; and his first time crossing a marathon finish line, Jeff completed the goal of running a marathon in all 50 states and the District of Columbia on December 8, 2007 in Kiawah, South Carolina.
Could not have happened to a better guy. Three cheers for Jeff. I can’t wait for the day when I get to see your hat again at a starting line.

As you know I love statistics, here are some of Jeff’’s from his wonderful Odyssey.

1. First race of any distance:
Baltimore Marathon on October 16, 2004 Finishing Time: 3:55:26

2. Number of marathons as of December 8, 2007: 64

3. Most marathons in a year:
2007 - 31 in 28 states and 2 Canadian provinces
Runner-up year: 2006 - 25 in 24 states

4 .Finished Marathons in all 50 States and DC: December 8, 2007
Average finishing time for these 51 marathons: 3:48:10

5. Best Streak: 16 marathons in 17 weeks – August 19 thru December 8, 2007
(16 different states)

6. Awards:
Grand Master - 1 (Awarded to the male & female over the age of 50 with the fastest time.)
1st Place in Age-Group – 1
2nd Place in Age-Group – 2
3rd Place in Age-Group – 9
Curses! Foiled Again! (4th Place finishes) - 7
Curses to the Race Directors! – 4 (number of Top-3 finishes taken away because they used a ten-year instead of the standard five- year division)

7. Fastest Time: 3:29:08 Fargo Marathon, ND, May 19, 2007
Runner-up: 3:30:59 Mad City Marathon, Madison, WI, May 27, 2007, the following weekend.

8. Age Equivalent Time: 2:55:36. A statistical comparison tool was developed to allow runners to compare their finishing time with a person of a different age. I compared my fastest time with that of a 30-year-old because most of the fastest male runners are in the 30 to 34-year-old division.

9. Slowest Time: 4:18:13 at the Rt. 66 Tulsa Marathon, OK, November 19, 2006.
Runner-up: 4:17:09 at the Drake Well Marathon, 105.5 laps around a track on Dec. 23, 2006.

10. Fastest 13.1-miles: 1:42:41 during my 3rd marathon in Clearwater, Fl, Jan. 23, 2005.
“If” I had been able to sustain that pace for the 2nd half, it works out to a 3:25:22 finish. (Ha! And horses can fly.)
11. Fastest mile: 6:45 minutes.

A. First mile of the Pocatello Marathon, ID, on September 1, 2007.

B. Going down the Trapp Family mountain (the family portrayed in the Sound of Music) during the Stowe Marathon, VT, on September 10, 2006.

12. Highest starting and finishing elevation: Mountain Air Marathon from Crested Butte to Gunnison, CO, 8,900 ft at the start and 7,700 ft at the finish. September 16, 2007

13. Greatest elevation change: Grandfather Mtn. Marathon, Boone, NC, July 9, 2005. Starting line elevation is 3,300 ft and the finishing line elevation is 4,300ft with over 2,600 ft of up and down change. That is hilly! It was rated as the 8th most difficult marathon in one publication’s Top-Ten Most Challenging Marathons list.

14. Coldest: Eisenhower Marathon, Abilene, KS, April 7, 2007. Starting time temperature was 19º with a strong and constantly blowing wind that gave it a wind chill of 5º. The Gatorade turned to slush and my fingers froze so stiff that I couldn’t bend them around the cups.

Hottest: Not sure. I saw a temperature gauge near the finish line during Grandma’s Marathon, Duluth, MN, on June 16, 2007, that read 86º.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Book Two

Runners sometimes speak of “banking” time early in a long race. For instance, if they want to run a time of X at the midway point so they can run a Y total time, they might run X minus 2 minutes so that they have those extra 2 minutes at the end in case they get tired. Rarely is this a wise strategy. Runners choose to run at a pace that suits their skills (or slightly faster if they are hopeful) and running faster than that usually means they are running faster than they have trained for.

However, with my goal of reading a book a week for the whole year, I am glad to say I have “banked” some pages. With Dick Beardsley’s autobiography already devoured, I turned my sites to another Christmas present I had received. Next on my list was Benjamin Cheever’s STRIDES: Running Through History With an Unlikely Athlete.

I call Cheever’s STRIDES the perfect bathroom reader, and I say that with utmost praise. STRIDES is a collection of thoughts and stories Cheever has pieced together from his many years as both an author, a son of an author, and more importantly, a runner. With a cohesive storyline of “running,” the chapters can nonetheless be read separately and out of order. Each chapter succinctly wraps itself up and I would not be surprised if they were originally intended to be placed in a periodical by themselves before Cheever got an idea to tie them all together. Regardless, it is an effortless read, spiced with humor, facts about running, and personal experiences with some of the elites of running that many runners would envy. I am most thankful for his chapter dedicated to 26 books to read on running. While I have read some of them, he has helped alleviate any trepidation I had about finding enough books to read for the year. Thanks, John!

Through self-deprecating wit, Cheever mocks his speed, although, in this book alone he eludes to a 2:50 marathon time. Elite? No. Plodding? Hardly. (Which is why I am curious he calls himself an "unlikely athlete".) Then again, perhaps Cheever feels exactly the same as I do. You see, in a recent speech, I told a group of people that the faster I run, the shower I realize I am. Right now Cheever has me beat by 5 minutes. I expect to be much lower than that by the end of 2008.

Which will put me right smack dab in the middle of the “Who the heck cares?” category. Not fast enough to matter; too fast to get the sympathy “congrats”. But I’ll take it if it comes.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Book reading: Staying the Course by Dick Beardsley

One of my many goals this year, running and regular is to read a book a week. I used to read books quite often. After 3 years of law school, it took years until reading was a pleasurable thing again. While I do not read books as often as I used to, I take solace in the fact that I read about “stuff” on the internet more than just about anyone I know. I am a curious chap and going from one link to another will take up hours in my day.

That said, actually finishing a real book is something I wish to do this year every week. I recall a conversation I had with my friend Karl Engleka about how if you read a book a week for your typical lifespan you would read a little over 4,000 books. This seems like quite a lot of reading until youpbut those books onto a typical library bookshelf. You would be surprised how little of those bookshelves they would fill. Especially when you consider it a life’s work.

But I am giving it a shot nonetheless. Luckily, I have a good half dozen or so books on the hopper ready to read. This is good for me since the hardest part of this challenge will be finding 52 books I want to read. Having recently delved into the classics (Catch-22; Fahrenheit 451; etc) and been supremely disappointed in, well, how disappointing of a read they were, I figured I would be out of luck come, say, May. However, with many running books out there to read and with a passion for running nowadays I never thought I would have had even just three years ago, I think I am in good hands.

Plus, now that the bulk of the work on my own book is done, I will not feel bad about reading instead of writing. With a hopeful early spring release date, my chronicle of Fiddy2 and its beginnings, as well as why I began running in the first place, promises to be an enlightening read one way or another. I hope all those who said they would buy the book if I sign it, will actually do so!

In the meantime, stay tuned here for a synopsis/review/critique of the books I have read.

To begin, I will start with Dick Beardsley’s autobiography, Staying the Course. For those who may not know, Dick is one of the most accomplished marathon runners in American History. Rather than list all of his many accomplishments (which you can view here) I will simply state one: his 1982 Boston marathon time remains the fourth fastest time in American history. Dang.

His book details his own rise to the top of the running ranks, as well as his hitting bottom as a drug addict. Unlike what a precursory view of the above sentence would make you think, Dick did not fall victim to cocaine, heroin or any of the other “hard” drugs. Rather, beset by a string of accident and injuries that would make a Greek tragedy seem funny, Beardsley instead became viciously addicted to painkillers. No less potent in their addictive quantities, this addiction had Beardsley taking so many pills that when the DEA finally caught him, they assumed he had to be dealing as no one human could ingest that many in the time period he did.

In just over 200 pages, Beardsley takes you through his childhood, marathon running days and to the present. At no time does the book bore, even for a non-runner. He rarely uses too many running terms and speaks in such a tone that you feel he is speaking directly to you, out on a boat in the middle of a Minnesota lake where he works as a fishing guide in his “dream job”.

If Americans love success stories, they lust after success, abject failure then success again stories. Beardsley’s life is one. So is this book. Go read it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Lest you thought I was kidding...

About the conditions on the day of my 24 hour race called UltraCentric I submit to you some photos taken by my UBER fast friend Dre who was so kind to stop by and cheer me on with her partner Amber.

Me when I was not quite dead.

Dre and i both feeling the heat!

My awesome crew Christine!

Cue the David Bowie Music


December 31, 2006. Around 8 PM.
-Fiddy2 was done. I realized I had a whole year ahead of me of uncertainty.

I was exited for the changes but did not know what the future held.

December 31, 2007: Around 8 PM

- I had just accepted a job offer and hammered down the details. In one month I will be moving to Salt Lake City to begin a new career and a new life. I am excited for the changes and see no limit to my future.

That’s right. After over 3.5 years of living within a stone’s throw of our Nation’s Capitol, I will be packing my bags at the end of January and moving to The Beehive State.

4,500 feet up in the air I will live rather than 45 feet I am at now (depending on the hill I am living on). I have all the anxieties and pins and needles that come with leaving wonderful friends behind but know that that will remain close to me in my heart no matter where I travel.

Thus begins 2008 for me. A year of great opportunity. Come join me, won’t you?

(Check back here often as this journey unfolds.)