Sunday, September 28, 2008

Akron Road Runner Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 3; 15th Edition
316.8 miles raced in 2008
Race: Akron Road Runner Marathon
Place: Akron, OH
Miles from home: 1746 miles
Weather: Sunny and 60s; mostly overcast; slightly humid

Some events in your life live up to your expectations. Most, for whatever reason, fall short. Even less more than exceed them. The Akron Marathon falls into that last, select group. As I had made reference to in a previous posting, the Akron Marathon has been on my list of races to do for quite some time. However, I could not have expected all the enjoyable intangibles that went with the entire weekend’s events.

First of all, this was a speaking engagement in which I knew I would be quite busy. With three scheduled appearances during the expo, I also knew I would be working the pacing group’s booth and also splitting time working the entire expo floor. To begin, let me state the Akron Marathon expo is top notch. Plenty to see, more to receive in free stuff, and much to do, it is also spacious and expansive while feeling homey and tight-knit. Without a doubt, this is a trickle-down effect from the race director himself, Jim Barnett.

Jim and I have corresponded on and off for the past few years and if ever there is a close friend you have never met, it is Jim. From personally sending out a welcome email to every registered participant (yep, that is not a form email you received, Akron runners) to the handshake he gives EVERY single finisher of the race at the end, the race has Jim’s stamp on it. A barker showman’s voice, bright vibrant eyes, and a spirit which men half his age aspire to maintaining, Jim made me feel like a celebrity from the very beginning of my stay in the rubber capitol of the world.

As my first speech ended (which I felt was my worst, almost one I should have done in front of the mirror in the hotel room) and the second was ready to commence, I took the time to introduce myself to my booth mate for the day, Kathrine Switzer. Echoing the sentiments I had penned earlier, she gave me a heartfelt thanks and we spoke for a great length. After a much better second speaking engagement, I had the pleasure to see Kathrine interview Katie McGregor, Amy Rudolph and Elva Dryer- three women who were participating in the 8k championship the next day, just another part of the race’s wonderful weekend activities.

About 3 feet from these fast women, all Olympians, I could not help but think a few things.

1. Wow. I am right next to Katie McGregor, Amy Rudolph and Elva Dryer.
2. They all seem so nice and fun.
3. Holy crap are these girls tiny!

(Katie would end up 2nd overall to Sara Slattery with Amy Rudolph taking third!)

By my third speech, the entire seating area was packed and there were a good dozen other people milling around. Good friend Cowboy Jeff was making his first appearance at the Akron Marathon and we caught up with each other, realizing it had been nearly two years since we had seen each other in person, shaking our heads at the unbelievable nature of that fact. (Jeff would go on to finish his race in yet another stellar time of 3:41. Please note Jeff is 58 years old. What's your excuse?)

With my third and final speech ending at 4:30, and not needing to head over to be the featured speaker at the pasta dinner for a few hours, I was curious how to kill the time. I then overheard a few people talking to each other about whether they had missed the guy who ran 52 marathons in 52 weekends. As I was standing no less than two feet away from not only this woman but also the big poster board of myself, I could not help but smile. I leaned over to the woman and said: "I think they said something about him speaking again at 5." She smiled and said, "Good! I will go get my t-shirt and hopefully make it back in time". As soon as he left, I whipped out a magic marker and added "5 PM" to the times when I was speaking.

When 5 pm rolled around and I again grabbed the stage to another full seating arrangement, the woman I spoke to was front and center. The look on her face when she realized it was me that had been speaking to was pretty funny. More pleasantly surprising was when I mentioned how I grew up in Titusville, PA and a loud cheer erupted from 4 or 5 women in the back of the crowd. Looking around my age, I assumed I knew them but could not place any of their faces. As it so happens, while I had met one the ladies previously, the others just happened to be Titusvillians making the trip to Akron to run the race. Small world indeed. I thank Time Warner Cable for this great opportunity.

I then scuttled over to the pasta dinner and helped myself to a wonderful ziti and spaghetti mix. In between bites of food I met many of the members of the Summit Athletic Running Club.

Also extremely pleasant people, I was happy to spend a few minutes getting to know all of them. But I had really been looking forward to meeting an old friend of mine. Erin Johnson (formerly Martin) is her name and when I saw her in the pasta feed line, I immediately recognized her, even though it had been every bit of 20 years since we had last seen each other. After an introduction to her husband and cute little baby, we marveled at the fact that we were even old enough to have friends we had not even seen in 20 years. I thanked Erin for showing up and supporting both me and the SARC as, even though she was now living in the area, she had no intentions on running any of the races the next day.

If things had gone well at the expo, they went spectacular at the pasta dinner. I saw many smiles and laughs and think I did a fine job of keeping all in attendance pleased for a little while at least. I got to see my friend Holly Koester and embarrass her by mentioning how she was the first wheelchair athlete to race a marathon in every single state. Her bright smile made my evening. After a quick Q&A, I released the runners to the night and went to say goodbye to Erin. She seemed to be in a little bit of hurry in saying our goodbyes and she explained why. “You got me so pumped up to run that I need to head over to the expo to sign up for the marathon.” Now Erin is an accomplished athlete but with no specific training for this particular race, she shocked me with her statement. If that isn’t a ringing endorsement for motivation, I do not know what is!

After a long past few days, I was more than ready for bed. I had been on my feet all day and definitely needed rest. The next day’s event called for me not to be racing but rather pacing, and pacing the 3:10 group, to be more exact. While I have run a 3:10 or better in nearly 1/3 of all my marathons, there is something quite taxing about being the pace group leader. With a group of people more or less depending on you to set the pace, even if that pace is much slower than your normal pace, there is definitely pressure on you to perform. So my bed called and I answered.

Race Day

With a prediction of rain forecasted, and the ever-present possibility of heat and humidity in Ohio in September, all runners were quite pleased to wake to a slight nip in the air and cloud cover that threatened no rain whatsoever. Creigh Kelly, announcer extraordinaire, lined up the runners for the start of the race and I, with my 3:10 pace group sign attached to a three foot dowel rod, spoke to my charges. Telling them my plan to run as close as possible to a 7:14 mile and help them in anyway, I can to get them to qualify for Boston there was a palatable anticipation in the area. The gun sounded and we shuffled forward. Positioning myself a little ways back in the pack where the 3:10 runners should be, it took a few seconds at least to get to the start. I knew the race started with a very nice downhill and even though I wanted to run even splits every mile, I could tell from the energy of this group that unless I reined them in from the start, they would be flying along. So with a first mile about 10-15 seconds slower than our goal pace (and I informed them all that I would do that to keep them in check), I was later justified by about 5 or 6 runners who said it was that first mile that allowed them to stay with the group as long as they did.

By mile 5 we were right on pace and clipping along in a huge group. I told little anecdotes and offered advice as we climbed and then went back down Akron’s many hills. Now, let me quantify that statement, lest someone be turned away from the course because of it supposed difficulty. The Akron Marathon is not easy. However, it most assuredly is not difficult. But one must respect this course (like any 26.2 miler) and know what lies ahead. Preparation is the key and luckily, well, I am me and had not only researched the course as usual but knew where and when the hills occurred. As such, I provided as much information to my runners as I could, especially when one commented “Are there any flat stretches on this course?!”

With a marathon relay occurring at the same time as the marathon itself, we were quite pleased that the relayers had demarcation on their backs indicating that they were doing that part of the race. Even a group running together can be pulled apart by one stray guy or girl who takes off. While crowd support in most places was a little spotty (but loud where it was), the relay exchange points were packed with people who were both boisterous and excited for all runners as they passed through. A twirling 3:10 sign held aloft doesn’t hurt to bring in the cheers either.

After 11 miles of traversing the streets of Akron, we headed onto the towpath area right along the Cuyahoga River. Every time I turned around I saw I still had a pack of 15 guys running with me. I told them how proud of them I was and could say so without a single touch of condescension. Running a 7:14 minute mile for 11 miles is no small feat. While the sun had stayed away so far and the tree-lined coolness of this forest was helping keep the runners cool, there was a definite humidity in the air. We passed through the half way point at 1:34:30, almost perfectly on point to nail a 3:10.

Second Half
A few more miles along the towpath included three more near-perfect mile splits for my runners: 7:15; 7:13; and 7:16. However, I knew the toughest test was to come. For about 3 miles, we faced, more or less a continuous uphill climb. Nothing too steep, the hill’s cruelty lay in its placement so late in the course. As we hit mile 17, 18 and 19, my pack behind me dwindled.

I tried to will each runner to simply stay with me and hold on as we powered through the hills. Every set of footsteps that faded into the distance behind me was small failure on my part. A death of a thousand cuts, each runner lost actually sapped a little of my energy.

By the time the hills had more or less ended, I was running with maybe one or two runners. With a flat section of a mile or so, I kept hoping that perhaps the runners behind me had saved their legs for this stretch and would be catching up. A few glimpses behind me showed there were a few stragglers, so I slowed my pace just a few seconds hoping to catch them in my wake and bring them along. Mile 20 became 21 and then 22 and my efforts to slow were to no avail. Serendipitous fate intervened here as I happened to look down at my shoe the exact minute it became untied. In my 83 marathons, I can count on one hand with fingers left over the number of times this has happened. Unfortunately, when my shoe became untied, my chip came falling off. Shaped like a small band of paper, the “chip” acted like tumbleweed in the wind and rumbled away.

Stopping my forward pursuit I chased down the errant timing device and grabbed it in my hand. I then spent the next few seconds debating what to do. I could not run the remaining miles with my shoelace untied. However, I could tell I was rather dehydrated having foregone liquids at many aid stations when stepping over would have gotten in the way of many runners pacing with me. (This is one of the only drawbacks of having such a tight-knit group. There is almost always someone on your shoulder and the whole group moves as one wherever I go, making it difficult to saddle over to an aid station). The dilemma was between possibly tripping over my shoelace or bending over to retie it and having my legs cramp up uncontrollably. Throw in the uncertainty of trying to figure out what to do with my chip, and let’s just say I was happy for the first and only time that I had no other runners depending on me. Finally, I made the executive decision that my shoe needed tying.

Bending over as quickly as I could, I knotted my shoelace as fast as possible, not bothering to double tie it. I did indeed cramp which is what shot me up from my stance without making sure it was tight. Losing about 20 seconds or so was worth it to keep my shoe on my foot. However, the pain in my legs was nowhere near the pain in my heart as I passed runner after runner who was wearing a 3:10 on their back in hopes of qualifying for Boston but could not hold on. Everyone gave a valiant effort and held on for about 100 yards until the strain of pushing through so late in the race when the energy simply was not there became too great and they faded behind me.

I passed Connie Gardner, a local Ohio running legend and the female winner of Ultracentric (the 24 hour race I took part in last year). I said hello to her and would have introduced myself but had not to energy for much more than the “Hi Connie” I gave her. A nice downhill section of a mile or two just set me up for a particular nasty (albeit short) uphill before the final push towards the end.

(I felt better having beaten her to the finish until I heard she was doing the Quad Cities Marathon the next day!)

Down a straight flat section, runners made one final right turn and then erupted into the Akron Aeros minor league baseball stadium. With a crowd of thousands cheering each runner on, and Jim to shake their hands, I unfortunately entered the stadium with not a single 3:10 guy with me. I saw Jim smiling broadly at me and stepping forward to congratulate me before I even finished. I waved the 3:10 sign to the crowd, crossed the finish line and shook Jim’s hand. His eyes went to my shoe which had come untied again. It was then I remembered my chip, which I was holding in my hand. I told him “My chip came off!” He told me “Go over to the timing guy to see what he can do.” By this time, a larger crowd of relay runners, half-marathoners and some marathon runners were streaming into the finish line. Trying my best to not interrupt the gentleman who was making note of every runner I told him “I have a problem.” He looks at me and says:” You didn’t have a chip did you?” When I told him it had fallen off and showed it to him in my hand he mentioned I should have passed it over the finish line down low when I had crossed. I tried to let him know I was not exactly with it when I had crossed the finish line and he nodded knowingly. He told me to get in touch with them later and hopefully we can resolve the problem as running the chip over now was definitely going to add a large amount of time to my finishing time.

However, completely out of habit, I had stopped my own watch when I crossed the line and was able to at least see I had met my goal by running in 3:10:52. (And fix it they did. So to go with the irony of finishing in a number that ended in 52, I was also 52nd place. Weird.)

After a brief interview with Creigh Kelly again, which I would have enjoyed having gone on much longer than it did but my energy was wavering by the second and I think Creigh could tell even through my sunglasses, I escaped the infield to the bleachers to get some sustenance. The race had absolutely sapped me. Or more accurately, 3 marathons in 13 days, two at elevation and one with the difficult, but enjoyable burden of pacing, had sapped me. I sat down in the seats and gingerly ate potato chips and drank water. I had a feeling that one of the runners who had stayed with me through the hills, and had pulled away when my chip fell off had also qualified for Boston. I so wanted to find him and give him the pace group sign. However, he was nowhere to be found and I did not have the energy to search him out.

Finally, I was able to gather my wits and begin the walk to my car. I needed a shower and food. Another wonderful experience of running one more marathon was in the books. Besides the feeling of disappointment over not having more of my runners meet their goals, I can say the weekend was an absolute success. I cannot wait to work with the wonderful people of Akron again and would recommend this race to anyone who wants a fine race on a great course.

And, if you disagree with me on the course and the people, finish this race under 6 hours and you get a free pair of Brooks shoes (of your choice!) Beat that.

Erin emailed me later and said I wasn't that motivating - it was the shoes. And in case you are curious, I got the Brooks Defyance.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Akron Road Runner Marathon

Every once in a while, I am looking through my files for the planning of Fiddy2 and I happen across what could be my called my “first draft” of planned marathons. Of the 52 I had planned, I think only 13 ended up being run. For one reason or another, I had to change what I wanted to run to what I had to run (and most of the time, those reasons were completely financial). Well, one race that I wanted to run, and received nothing but positive encouragement from its race director itself was the Akron Road Runner Marathon. Luckily for me, two years later I will be in Akron this weekend to participate in this race.

Race directing is a difficult and mostly thankless job. Those who stick with it often do it for the love of the sport of running alone. So, I am not surprised when I contact races two years after Fiddy2 to find the upper echelon of the race infrastructure has changed. Fortunately for me, Jim Barnett, the same man who welcomed me with open arms in 2006 is still at the helm of the marathon in Akron.

In my third straight week of racing and speaking, I will also be adding another element to my current tour: pacing. Giving back to the running community as much as I can, I will be set to lead the 3:10 pace group doing everything in my power (short of actually grabbing the running shoes of the people next to me) to get as many people to reach the Boston Qualifying standard for men 18-34 year old men. Of course, I hope there are just as many women running with us too, if only because fast women mean the cameras will take more pictures of our group. And with more pictures there is a better chance I may actually like one of them of me.

But that is on race day. Prior to even lacing up the running shoes, I have been asked to be the featured speak at the Summit Athletic Running Club-hosted Pre-Road Runner Akron Marathon Pasta Party on Friday (6 pm -8pm). A much-more traditional setting for a speech than the last two races, I hope to provide some levity for those with the pre-race jitters as well as anecdotes from my experiences to all in attendance.

On top of that, at the Time Warner Cable Runner’s Expo I get quite a treat. Speaking informally on three separate occasions (at noon, 1:30 PM and 4:00 PM on the TWC Stage) I will field questions about Fiddy2, how I ran 84 miles in 12 hours, and what I do to both recover and get ready for the races I run. But the treat lies in whom I get to share the stage with: legendary marathoner Kathrine Switzer.

In case you don’t know (and shame on you if you run and you do not), Ms Switzer will always be best known as the woman who challenged the all-male tradition of the Boston Marathon and became the first woman to officially enter and run the event. (What made this front-page news is when the Boston Marathon RD tried to physically remove her bib from her sweatshirt and Ms. Switzer's boyfriend physically removed the Boston RD from the ground!)

It is my humble opinion that she not only moved women’s running forward a whole decade in just one afternoon, but that she moved running as a whole in that direction as well. Simply try and imagine what running would be like today without ½ of the world’s population hitting the roads, causing innovations to happen every day all while pushing the limits of what only males could do just a generation ago. As I hope to someday meet my future wife out on a run, I definitely have Ms. Switzer to thank for helping to make that possible!

So I have a full weekend planned but fully expect to enjoy every minute of it. If you are in town, stop by and say hello at the expo, grab a ticket for the pasta feed and maybe go for a run with me. Nothing would make me happier.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

San Francisco One Day

**Addendum: Due to a registration snafu, I had to change my entry to the 12 Hour Race, regrettably.**

When I mentioned in an earlier blog that I was in the middle of 8 straight weekends of racing, some astute readers took note that my schedule did not list anything for the last weekend in October.(Although some people, and yes, Mr. Roeder I am looking at you, made some scarily accurate predictions on races I had thought about doing!)

Well, let it be now known I will be taking part in the San Francisco One Day 24-hour race taking place on October 25th-26th.

After my initial attempt at a 24 Hour race went down in flames at UltraCentric last year, I am looking forward to taking part in another one of these damnable things. Although this time, with a marathon in Santa Clarita the weekend after, I will go out with a much more manageable race goal. Maybe.

Regardless, I will be running under the ROAD ID name to help spread the word about this stupendous product. In fact, if you click on the image below, proceeds of your purchase go to L'Arche Mobile. (Yep, I am still collecting money for those wonderful people in Mobile!)

Now the course for this race is a loop of 1.067 miles around the lagoon at Crissy Field with spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Alcatraz and the San Francisco Bay. Which means, starting 9 AM on October 25th, if you want to know where to find me for the next 24 straight hours, I will be somewhere on that loop.

I already have some wonderful friends lined up to come down and cheer me on but I would love it if more of you headed down to the field throughout the day to help keep my spirits up. So, if you live in the area, please check me out.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Boulder Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 3; 14th Edition
290.6 miles raced in 2008
Race: Boulder Marathon
Place: Boulder, CO
Miles from home: 532 miles
Weather: Sunny and 50s-60s; mostly overcast

In the week leading up the Boulder Marathon, it did not feel like I had a race that weekend. There were no jitters, no excitement brewing or any of my usual feelings. In fact, I just felt tired. Not like my legs were tired or my body was tired but rather an overall tired. I just wanted to sleep. I couldn't figure it out and I did not feel sick. Therefore, I just chalked it up to the fact that in running 82 marathons, one will have a few bad days. I thought about it some more and thought perhaps that is what happens when you win a marathon - there is an inevitable let-down, especially just one week later.

I have a plethora of friends in the greater Denver area. Unfortunately, most were either sick, out of town or had plans which meant I would not be able to meet them. However, one who I was most assuredly hoping to meet was available: Ross Kinney. I have written about Ross before but we had never had the pleasure of meeting. However, Ross made the trip from Denver up to Boulder and he did not come alone. He brought TWELVE pairs of shoes with him to donate to One World Running! Thanks so much, Ross!

We shot the breeze a little bit but then duty called as I need to work with the race in my speaking capacity. Before he left however, I got a picture from Ross who was kind enough to send it to me.

After a low-key speaking engagement (the main course would be after the race on Sunday after the awards ceremony), Race Director Jeff Mason suggested I simply go back to the hotel, which he graciously provided for me and relax. Given the tired state I mentioned before, I decided that would be good. However, on the way to the hotel, I drove through downtown Boulder, which either had some sort of a festival going on or was always like this on weekends. Either way, I was not going to miss the opportunity to check it all out. Checking into my hotel, I went out and people-watched for a few hours. It was quite a spectacle as there were all sorts of shops and stores in this tree-lined section of Pearl Street which is permanently blocked to car traffic.

Soon, my bed called and I decided to get a good night's sleep for a change. When morning broke, I had slept soundly and felt better than I had in days. Not great but "better." A quick trip over to the Boulder Reservoir where the race started was done in my rental minivan (don't ask me why THAT was the cheapest car!) and before I knew it, the race was underway.

First 8 miles:
Almost immediately, a group of four or five runners took off. As a marathon relay was also starting along with the runners doing the full (the half would start an hour later) and I hoped that a few of those ahead were doing said relay. About a mile or two into the race, a second similar-sized back broke away from me. The race started uphill so my slower than usual miles did not frighten me. In fact, as I was feeling far from stellar, I decided to try and be conservative with my first half and see what could be done in the second half.

By mile 5, I was just plain beat. Mentally, I was not really in the mood to run for another 2-plus hours. I tried to put it out of my mind and just run on. I knew there were a couple of sections ahead which would provide me some downhill running relief and simply tried to focus on them.

In the meantime, a few other runners passed me, I passed a few other runners and we passed through the relay exchange section. I now basically had no idea what place I was in. I guessed 15th.

Miles 8-16:

Around mile 7, I could hear breath and footsteps behind me. As we neared mile 8, I could tell from the sound of the breathing that the runner was female. I hoped it was a relay runner, but as the runner passed me I could see it was a Japanese (originally or of descent I don't know) woman running with a Japanese man. I hoped to keep them in site and maybe give them a run near the end. Luckily for me, right there, we both hit the downhill and I felt a surge. My miles went from being over 7 (7:10 or so in a few of the miles) to mid 6s (6:36 or so).

After about 2-3 miles of this, my miles returned to "normal." Soon thereafter, one runner passed me at the mile 11 aid station and another passed me around 12. With no "relay" sign on their back or another marking, I could not tell what race they were running.

Around mile 14 there was a section of the relay exchange. I knew from the course map that we had a 3 mile out-and-back section and therefore told a bunch of the runners standing by that I wanted them to trip as many returning runners as possible. I got a good laugh and the reaction fed me for a mile or so.

Around mile 16 or so, the lead runner came flying by. As the altitude of this race (well over 5500 feet) was definitely taking its toll on me I marveled at his speed. I offered him a high-five and he graciously accepted. After I hit the turnaround point, I spent the better part of the next two miles passing out "Way to go!"s and "Nice run!" to every runner who I passed in the opposite direction. While it definitely took a little energy to do this for every runner, the smiles I got from those in return more than made up for it. A fair amount of this race is run on dirt roads (with some rather hard-packed) but you could tell it was beginning to be a little bit of strain on some of the runners. Obviously there are many runners who run better on trail or dirt roads but I am guessing most of them are not those who were going to be finishing in the 3:30-4:30 range today.

I had received an email earlier in the week from a runner I had met at the Run for the Ranch Marathon, my final marathon of Fiddy2. Jacob Wells was his name and seeing him around mile 18.5 was nice surprise indeed. If I had not yelled out his name, he would have missed me as when I was passing him, he was looking at his shoes to see if his chip was still attached (An interesting side note: one of the runners in the front of the pack had, at one point, lost his chip. I saw it at mile 5 and yelled ahead to the two runners ahead of me to check their shoes. Neither was missing one and I could not think of another thing to do so I left the chip on the ground. I know Jeff worked with the timing guys to figure out the situation.) Jacob let out a yell and continued running. He and his friend are the only reason I have any pictures of the final Fiddy2 marathon and for that I am eternally grateful.

Around mile 21, I saw the runner who had passed me close to 10 miles later was coming into focus. In fact, I had been tracking him for many miles, inching closer and closer. Having passed another runner around mile 18 or so, I now had no idea whatsoever what place I was in. Anytime there was a long stretch, I could see the lead female not too far ahead but did not have the energy to do anything about it. However, I did pass this runner here, which rejuvenated me for a mile or so.

Here is where the half-marathoners joined the full course and I spent the remaining five miles dodging and weaving. On a skinny dirt road this is not easy and I did my best to stick to the tangents of the road to minimize the distance run, while at the same time trying to avoid as many halfers as possible. I have always maintained that the race course is just as much theirs as it is the marathoners, but I do wish that they would not run six abreast.

At mile 24, with the red arch and expo tent in the distance, I knew there was a fairly decent downhill left followed by a cruel uphill at both mile 25 and then again around mile 26. Pushing the hills out of my mind, I concentrated on my form. I knew I was going to be close to a 3:08 or so (I ran the first half around 1:32) and just wanted to make sure I qualified for Boston.

24- Finish:

Going down the big hill, then back up and then down again, I heard some footsteps. With so many other half marathoners around me, I did not know if the person on my tail was someone I passed or a runner chasing me down. As we began to take on the last uphill, the runner I passed at 18.5, passed me. But just like last week when a runner did the same thing, he most assuredly did not do so with any such authority. I had a feeling he made his move too soon.

As we began the final stretch of the race we were passing half-marathoners left and right. In its first year ending at this Reservoir, the RD was not quite expecting the final crush of runners to be this big (there were nearly 500 marathoners running, not counting relay runners and probably triple that for half-marathoners). I fell right into the hip pocket of the runner who passed me. Determined to crush his hopes about 10 yards before the finish, we drew closer to the red arch signifying the end of our journey.

I have always been pretty good at picking my way through obstacles, be they humans or rocks, on a downhill trail course. Two or three times, the runner in front of me took a route that was questionable to me but I followed. When a slot opened to our left and he went right, I figured I had enough of the cat and mouse game. I burst through the hole and began the last bit of sprinting about 190 yards before I wanted to do.

Cutting close to the final curve and almost decapitating a curious spectator who strained their neck out to hear why people were suddenly cheering so loudly (the spectators saw our battle unfolding and were really getting into it), I heard someone scream my name and shout out to me. Girl in pink, whoever you are, thank you so much and please identify yourself! (Addendum: Thanks for coming out, Christina!)

The final push was worth it as I crossed not only in BQ time of 3:09:15 but finished tenth male overall.

Knowing I had to check out of my hotel room and make the hour plus drive to Denver's airport, I quickly hopped in the car to grab a shower before checking out. Back by 13:30 and ready for my speech, I was treated to a beautiful day of sunshine and Rocky Mountains. For most of the course, clouds (ugly ones at that, which never broke into rain) covered the sun. It was more or less a perfect day for running on a challenging course. (So yes, Jacob, your 3:34 was easily 10 minutes faster on an easier course and you can tell all your friends I said so.)

After the awards were given out, I was given the microphone and gave a shorter than usual version of my longer speech. The runners still attending were quite receptive and I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with them. All in all, the race was well run. Aid stations were decently plentiful (although on a warmer day there would need to be one or two more near the end), the volunteers were friendly and the scenery was very Boulder-esque. The swag in the goody bag was extremely plentiful and all well-made. Runners received a veritable smorgasbord of things to take home. In fact, about the only complaint was the place where the courses joined together near the end and the runners became too plentiful for the small dirt road. This is an issue which I am sure will be addressed next year. This runner hopes that does not involve a move from the Reservoir, as the cool water just a few hundred yards away from the finish was a wonderful place for runners to soak their weary legs.

Now I am just 6 short days away from the Akron Road Runner Marathon. Stay tuned for full details on that race sometime mid-week.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Boulder Marathon

This is weekend number two of 8 straight races, including 5 marathons, 2 halfs and a yet to be announced race distance and place (I like to be sneaky sometimes). My travels take me to Boulder, Colorado will I will compete in the beautiful yet challenging Boulder Marathon (ne' Boulder Backroads Marathon).

In addition, I will be speaking at the expo starting at 1 pm and 3pm on Saturday. To all my friends in the greater Denver area, I hope you are both able to make it out to the race and, if you come, PLEASE bring your worn running shoes to donate to One World Running. This great organization a non-profit organization based in Boulder, Colorado which collects and donates thousands of new and 'nearly new' shoes to needy individuals across the U.S. and the world In just a few short weeks, with the help of the Salt Lake City Track Club, I have personally gathered around 50 pairs of well-loved shoes.

While this is just a start, I hope to continue to work with One World Running in the future to help provide shoes to this wonderful cause.

Hope to see you in Boulder!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Baltimore Marathon Charity Chaser

As many of you know, last year I participated as a Charity Chaser for the Frederick Marathon. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, basically, I would start as the absolute last person to cross the start line and for every runner who I beat to the finish, Ferris Baker Watts would not only give a donation to the United Way of Frederick but also to my own charity, L’Arche Mobile.

I ended up passing 704 of the 721 marathoners including one just inches in front of the finishline!

Well, I have partnered up with FBW again to rehash my charity chasing role at the Baltimore Marathon on October 11th!


With close to 3,000 marathoners alone (not counting the marathon relay runners) I hope to run a sub-3 hour marathon as I chase runners all over the Charm City, picking them off one by one!

I am honored to be selected to do this wonderful racing experience and hope to see all of you out there. Good morning, Baltimore!

Monday, September 15, 2008

It only gets better.

As a few of you know, I have had the pleasure of becoming acquaintances with Dick Beardsley over the past few years. In fact,he did write the introduction for my book coming out soon. Nevertheless, I still can't get over emails that pop into my inbox like this one:

Hi Dane,

I was checking out and look what I found!

Little Grand Canyon Marathon - Sep 13 - Price, UT
Dane Rauschenberg, 32 of Arlington VA, the winner of the 2006 Drake Well Marathon, won the 2008 Little Grand Canyon Marathon in 3:05:28.

CONGRATULATIONS!!! That's pretty cool that you outright won a marathon! That has to get you pumped up!

Take care and have a great day!


Dick Beardsley
Dick Beardsley Foundation
Breaking Through Chemical Dependency

I still have to do double-takes and think: "Wait. Did Dick Beardsley just write to me?"

Big smiles for me today.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Little Grand Canyon Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 3; 13th Edition
264.4 miles raced in 2008
Race: Little Grand Canyon Marathon
Place: Huntington, UT
Miles from home: 139 miles
Weather: Sunny and 50s

I had high expectations for this race. It did not disappoint.

I had been in touch with the Little Grand Canyon Marathon race director for months. He wished to have me speak at the race, but wisely realized that in its first year, the race needed to concentrate on other issues before they added a speaker. However, we worked together and decided to have me "speak" in a much more informal way -- by talking to as many runners on the buses to and from the race, at the race awards after the race and everywhere else. But I am getting a little ahead of myself.

Upon hearing about this race months back, some fellow Utah friends told me that they wished they could run it. Apparently where the race took place was a gorgeous part of Utah. If you read my previous blog, I show a few of the pictures of the race course and you can definitely tell they weren't lying. So, a beautiful race, where I can establish a relationship with a budding new marathon, just about 2 hours away from my house? SOLD!

The race had a starting line in Price, UT (which is actually a nice little town and home to Playboy's Playmate of the Month for February 2006. Thought that was quite interesting). Well, that is where the packet pickup was. The actual staring point was in Huntington, UT about 20 miles south of Price. OK, OK, the actual starting line was a few miles out of Huntington, and after meeting with buses which would take runners a few miles from the park in the city center of Huntington to the start, runners then would ride those same buses back to the beginning of the race. Seem a little confusing? Well, to some it might have been but it wasn't all that bad.

Race morning started with almost ideal temperatures, in the high 40s or low 50s. There was a projected clear sky for the whole day so I knew the weather would heat up and even if it didn't, the direct sunlight would be a little draining. While we got on the buses and made it to the start around the time we were supposed to begin, we knew there would be a little delay. Rumor has it some runners were late in picking up their packets and the race was kind enough to wait for them. This didn't sit poorly with anyone. On the ride out to the start (in chartered buses, which were extremely comfortable and so much better than school buses) runners chatted and exchanged stories. I ran into some old friends who introduced me around and soon there was a very informal meet-and-greet in my bus with me dispensing all sorts of advice on how to run, how to recover and how to enjoy a marathon. None of us minded at all that we were a few minutes off schedule.

At the start, I had a feeling I had a pretty good chance at placing in this race. While we waited for the starting siren, one of the RDs mentioned that this race is marked a little differently than other marathons. Its mile markers counted down rather than up. So after 385 yards of running the first sign runners saw was "26 miles to go". To be honest, I thought this was not the best idea in the world at first. One of the best tricks we can do to our minds in a marathon is to not think of how many more miles are left. However, I decided to reserve judgment until later in the race.

This race is part of a three race series run by the same group of running aficionados. There is the Bear Lake Marathon (Attention 50 staters: It begins in Idaho and ends in Utah. You get your choice of which state you want to use!), this race (Little Grand Canyon Marathon) and the brand-new Grand Junction Marathon to be held in May of next year.

When asked by the RD if anyone had run the Bear Lake Marathon a few people raised their hands. Apparently they use the same countdown mile marker system at that race and people thought it was great. The RD said: "You know how hard that last .2 is at the end of the marathon? Well, we get it out of the way first!" I like his thinking!

My buddy Mike Mills found me at the start of the race and showed me the camera he was going to be carrying the whole way. I told him that even its small size was more weight than I would want to add to my load. I introduced him to my friend Jonathan (who I had met at the Des News Marathon and who himself was in the middle of like 4 marathons in 6 weeks or something else equally as challenging) and Bryan (a marathoner who I immediately liked as he was wearing a Penn State sweatshirt). It ends up that Bryan and Mike would run the next 23 miles or so together.

First 15 miles:

When we did begin, I surged to the front of the pack. I wanted to see who would follow and who would be in the leaders. No one followed me at first, or at least no one ran right beside me. After a first mile of 5:50, I wondered who, if anyone, would make this an easy or hard day. I did not wonder for too long for after the rather relaxing first mile. We turned the corner off of the only paved section of the course and I could see one guy not too far behind me. Inexplicably dressed in a sweatshirt and wool knitcap, I figured this guy did not have the foggiest idea how to run a marathon and would soon be left behind. With the first 5 miles of the course containing the only real uphill section, I figured a quick burst of speed here at over 5600 feet would eliminate this guy from contention for anything.

But a 6:58, 7:13, 6:35, and 7:17 had this guy still just about 30 seconds behind me when we finally crested the top of the hill.  Perhaps he was going to make this a hard day!

With aid stations at every odd mile marker, I would use the vocals of the aid station volunteers to tell me where the runner behind me was (rather than turning around to look and let him know he was on his mind). I did this at mile 3, mile 5, mile 7 and mile 9. In between there were a few places where there were cattle guards (little sections of graded road with slots to keep cattle from crossing) where a plank had been placed to assist runners in crossing. When I passed over this board it made quite a racket. Fortunately, it did the same with the runner behind me. Using this noise, I would again gauge where he was without looking behind me.

Around mile 11, the chap behind me (I would later learn his name was Bronson Dameron) had shed his sweatshirt and hat and was still roughly 35 seconds behind me. We then hit a very flat and very straight section of the course. Here, with almost nothing around to pinpoint pace, I would make a surge every telephone pole and then back off for two telephone poles. I hoped the surge would be unnoticed by the runner behind me and before he knew it I would have put a few more seconds between us. However, at the next right angle turn when I glanced to the side, he had gained ground! Well, crap!

After the halfway point passed and we neared mile 15, I could still not shake Bronson. Leading a marathon for the first 15 miles puts many thoughts into your head. Going into the race, I wanted to win it. Flat-out. I did not want to set a PR and I did not care what my time was. I only wanted to win. With Grandparent's Day last weekend, this race's victory was supposed to be an homage to my grandparents (who have all passed and who were integral in my marathon running; more details about this in my book which is scheduled to come out next month. The exact title and time of release will be revealed here when I know for sure.) So when a side stitch appeared in my right side, and this pesky runner was behind me with just 11 miles to go, I wasn't sure what was going to happen.

Miles 15-17:

Each step I took exacerbated the stitch. I rarely get stitches and am unsure where this one came from. Soon Bronson was RIGHT behind me. I decided to hold him off until mile 17 and then make a reassessment of what was happening. Hopefully, I would be able to run behind him to the finish, like he had done to me for the first 15 miles. It appeared I had underestimated his marathon experience.

Miles 17-20:

Right on cue, we hit mile 17, I slowed down and before I knew it Bronson had put a sizeable distance of 5-10 seconds between us. However, I noticed that at the aid station he stopped and walked through the whole area and did not seem to have a fluid strategy for drinking and running. Suspicions I had that he was a newbie runner again cropped into my head. However, as the next mile unfolded, his amateur status did not seem to matter. Bronson added a few more seconds to his lead and I wondered how long it would be until he disappeared from sight.

It is this section of the race that the RD had told me was the most breathtaking. And he was 100% right. Unfortunately, during the race I barely noticed it. I had my eyes locked on Bronson. As we began to descend some hills, I noticed I quickly made up some time. My stitch relieved itself some and I was soon just 10 seconds behind him. At the mile 19 aid station, he once again stopped to drink and I glided through. Almost instantly, I was no more than 3 seconds behind him.

After averaging ~6:45 minute miles for the first 19 miles of this race, our next mile was a pedestrian 7:30. During that mile I had crept up to darn near run in his shadow and was feeling great. My stitch was gone, I felt rejuvenated and I figured this race would be a battle to the end. But with my new energy I was ready for it.

Miles 20-23:

Right after we passed the mile 20 marker (or more accurately, the "6 miles to go" marker), I noticed Bronson look labored. In fact, he looked like I felt 5 miles earlier. I figured I would surge and see if he followed. I was passed him in a flash and soon had no idea if he was behind me or not. As the race weekend included a half-marathon, which started at the halfway mark of the marathon, here was the point where we began to join the half-marathon runners who started an hour after the marathon did. As such, I could not discern whether the footsteps I heard were runners I just passed, or the guy right behind me keeping up.

At mile 21, I almost ran smack dab into some half-marathoners who came to a dead stop at the aid station. In their defense, I do not think they expected me to be behind them (they most assuredly did not hear me; which is reason #476 why I dislike people running with earphones in) but that did not stop me from having to almost pirouette around them. Too preoccupied with not falling and also getting fluid in me, I did not have the ability to swing around and check on Bronson. However, a few more downhills ahead told me I could make him work for everything that was left.

As mile 23 approached, I had a feeling I was in for a dogfight. To fully gain as much as I could from the aid station, I decided to stop and walk through, drinking both the Gatorade and the water. While the temperatures had stayed cool, and there was plenty of shade in the canyons we were running in, I was still rather parched. I grabbed both liquids from the volunteers and quickly looked behind me. With a long straight away behind me (one of the first such sections in miles) I could probably see about 90 seconds of running time. What did I see?

Nothing. My pursuer was gone!


Swallowing both glasses, I got on my giddy-up. It appeared there could be no way I would be caught. Whoever was behind me had to run at least 30 seconds faster than me per mile for the last three simply to catch me. With some downhill ahead, my grandparents smiling above, and my own desire shining through, I was not going to let this happen.

That said, my head was on a swivel every few minutes. I would look back to make sure some maniac wasn't sprinting with everything he had to beat me. But each look back produced nothing but empty space or just-passed half-marathoners. Around mile 25.5, my friend David, who was running the half and was out on a cool-down greeted me with: "Is that Dane?!" Finding out that he had set a new half PR and that the finish was just around the corner gave me new strength. I picked it up, turned the corner, passed over one more cattle grate and had the finish line ahead of me. The only question now was: "Am I going to run ANOTHER 3:05 or am I going to run my first 3:04?"

Crossing first in 3:05:28, I felt the joy of breaking the metaphorical tape. There was no such real tape for me to break at the finish (damn it.) Even though I repeated running a 3:05 (something I hate doing) this could not have been sweeter. In my 81st marathon ever I was able to get my 2nd overall win. A smattering of applause from finished half-marathoners (most who had no idea I was the marathon winner) fell on deaf ears. All I wanted was a bottle of water and a second alone with my thoughts. I did wave a thanks to those around me with what energy I had left but I was definitely in my own mind. Even here now the realization has not fully set in. After feeling the marathon win was a shoe-in for 15 miles, I had the despair of knowing I left it slip away, to only then reclaim it for good with a 5k to go. Today was a good day.

I eventually saw Bronson come in, 4th place overall with a time of 3:14. I learned this was indeed his first marathon and that is one HECK of a time for a newbie. Good work Bronson. Hope you did not mind the sweaty hug. :) After seeing David who gave me congrats again, I was back on the bus heading to Huntington.

Now, with regards to the marathon, I really must sing its praises.

* Like I mentioned about the Run with the Horses Marathon last month, scenery during a race rarely impresses me. However, if I had not been so locked in to the battle I was in, I would have assuredly noticed the sheer magnificence of the last 10 miles of the race. While the first 16 were quite pretty as well, running in what truly looked like a miniature Grand Canyon for miles and miles is a great way to spend a Saturday morning.

* While I never used a one, I lost count of the portapotties on the course. I am pretty sure there was one at every aid-station. If an emergency had called for its use, it was a treat to know they were there.

* The volunteers, while a little green (which until recently used to mean they were newbies, not eco-friendly) and showed a little hesitancy to bother the runners in the race unless you made direct eye contact, were quick to give you whatever you needed if you simply asked.

* For a very-low price, runners received a very nice technical T-shirt, rides in comfy chartered buses and plenty of post-race water, fruit and bread.

* The finisher's medal was very nice, depicting the Little Grand Canyon. Everyone gets one of those. But the overall winner awards were redrock slabs, with a Kokopeli figurine carved into the side (pictures as soon as I can). Absolutely one of the coolest things I have ever won (not to mention the gift packet from the local College of Eastern Utah!)

Overall, it is really hard to get more bang for your buck than at this race. I was really impressed with how this first-year race was run. Kudos to all involved with is preparation and execution.

After the race, at a Hawaiian luau, I again met up with Mike, Bryan, and Jonathan. A flatlander, Mike impressively ran a 3:24 and finished 6th overall. Carrying a camera and take a few stops to take pictures, this would be an impressive time even if it had not been done at elevation. Nice work, Mike!

Bryan, (Let's go State!) finished one minute behind him for tenth overall and Jonathan finished a very respectable 19th overall in 3:43. I also had the pleasure of meeting the women's overall winner, and an acquaintance of Mike's, Miriam Schumann. After chatting with a few other runners, including first time half marathon runner Maria Baker and her husband (who ran an excellent 2:15), I packed up my stuff and got back on the road.

This one is for you, Grandpa and Gramma. I hope you had a nice golfing day in heaven.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Let the fun begin!

Fresh off breaking 2,000 miles of running this week far faster than I have ever done before (especially since I only did a total of 2112 miles all of last year; and just 1771 during Fiddy2) I am ready to kick off my fall speaking tour.

First up is the brand new Little Grand Canyon Marathon in Price, UT. As part of the Mammoth Marathon Series (which has to have one of the coolest logos out there; see below), the Little Grand Canyon promised to be a gorgeous run.

I have spoken with the race director extensively and it is really nice to hear how much he cares about whether the runners enjoy themselves. While we know that this race is not 100% set-up for a traditional speaking engagement, we are looking forward to working with each other in a more fluid type of setting.

the race is billed as a "Run through Time" due to its exclusive location and the multiple Paleontological and Archeological vistas. Runners will be treated to views of the scenery such as the two below

as well as prehistoric images drawn by ancient men and women who roamed this area.

All of the run takes place in the San Rafaeal Swell area of Central Utah and I am told it is the last 10 miles of the race which really are the creme de le creme. Since so many races focus on the beginning and sort of forget about the end, I am really looking forward to this entire weekend.

Throw in the fact that my fellow running friend Mike Mills from Arlington, VA will be adding to his marathon state list by running the race also, and it should be a good weekend! (And yep, that is him in Antarctica. Lucky bastard!)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Anyone can look good...with help!

Thanks to my friend Samantha and her hard work from her Simon Sez Creative Marketing worksite, she has shown that if you work hard enough, you can make anyone look good.

Look for the following picture to be included in many of the races I will be speaking at this fall. That's how fond I am of it!