Friday, January 30, 2009

Surf City Marathon Expo

Come on down to the Surf City Marathon Expo, located at the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort (21100 Pacific Coast Highway Huntington Beach, California 92648) where I will be speaking and signing new copies of my book, See Dane Run!

Expo hours are
Friday, January 30th 3:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, January 31st 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

And I will be speaking:
Friday at 6:00 PM
Saturday at 2:00 PM

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Carlsbad Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 2nd Edition
52.4 miles raced in 2009
Race: Carlsbad Marathon
Place: Carlsbad, CA
Miles from home: 729 miles
Weather: 50s; cloudy

The Carlsbad Marathon is an interesting one for me. You see, I ran this race on a complete whim in 2008, acting as the 3:10 pace group leader. (Recap HERE.) SO much has changed since that race just a year ago it would be difficult to list it all here. But one major thing is that my book, See Dane Run, would bee available to be purchased and signed at the expo. As such, when given the opportunity to speak about my running experiences at the Expo with an opportunity to also sign my book, I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, I did not count on running out of books before I even got to the race! So, I had to settle with telling those interested to go to my blog and order them and as soon as the next shipment comes in, they would go out in the mail to them!

As the race was only one of a handful of marathons I have done more than once (I have repeated 10 courses, some, like Marine Corps, more than twice) I had the luxury of knowing all about it. I knew where the hills were, how to run them, and more importantly, how to run them as as 3:10 pacer.

Race Day:

With race time being an hour earlier than last year, I was pretty excited. Even in January, Southern California can get too warm for racing. A 6AM start time, coupled with cloudy skies and projected temps no higher than the 50s bode well for me and my pace group. Before the race started, I got to meet up with my friend Sam, who for the second year in a row was running back-to-back marathons in the same weekend. And people question my sanity.

1st 5 miles: (7:55, 6:28, 7:14, 6:54, 7:19

I was paired up with another 3:10 pacer named Dave. We decided to not exactly run even "pace" per se, as much as even "effort". This way, while every split would not be the same 7:14 minute mile that is needed in order to run a 3:10, but rather the exact effort needed to cover each mile in a 7:14esque time. Ironically enough, Dave had paced the 3:10 group in 2007. On top of that, he was a 10-time Ironman finisher. With my 88 marathons behind me, I assured our group they were in good hands.

Trying to keep the group in check from running out too fast (and also both of us knowing that first mile marker is actually placed about .1 of a mile too far make the second mile too short) we had no problem with seemingly slightly askew times. We told our group that we knew the course and its hills well and if they stuck with us a 3:10 would be theirs.

Half-marathon: 1:34:10 (7:19, 7:13, 7:18, 7:42, 7:05, 6:59, 7:00, 7:09)

Dave and I offered advice to our runners, told anecdotes to keep their minds off of the hardest part of the course (miles 7-9) and did everything we could to keep our runners right on pace. As the miles increased, we commented on what a large group of runners we had with us. Often the group would swell to 20 or more runners, all working unison.

With Dave and I at the front cutting through whatever wind would arise (which was mostly at our back or a cross-breeze), we cruised through the first half-marathon just a few seconds below the exact pace for a 3:10

To the Final Turnaround: (7:07, 7:11, 7:14, 7:10, 7:21)

After choreographing a group hello to my girlfriend who was cheering me on from the sidelines, the group ran down the off ramp of Palomar Airport Road and onto the longest beachfront portion of the road.
With the cloud cover keeping the energy-sucking sun at bay, we readied for the final u-turn. The group was steady and strong and we actually had to work hard to make sure they didn't run too fast too soon.

Joining the half-marathoners: 7:24, 7:27, 7:18, 7:37, 15:58,

After making the turn-around, the words of wisdom (ha!) from Dave and I became more important. As we reached the very important 20 mile mark, we could see a huge mass of runners ahead. In an effort to try and alleviate a crush of half-marathoners along the course, the Carlsbad Marathon decided to install a wave start to stagger the runners.

Unfortunately, this meant for us 3:10 runners that we had to begin to weave in and out of a herd of runners. As if the last few miles of a marathon are not difficult enough, now my runners had to contend with trying to keep pace with me as a "defense" slowed them down.

Even with our best efforts to keep our group together, my pace group began to fall apart. I have found in the past that runners will stick together when they know others will notice they have fallen behind.
With the mass amount of runners encircling us, the accountability factor lessened. The pace group got smaller.

Last two miles: (7:04, 7:10)

With a break in the greater part of the half-marathoners, Dave and I picked up the pace just a bit. A group of abut five hearty runners fell in step with us as well. Half-marathoners began cheering for us as the signs saying "3:10" flapped in the wind. Down and up the final set of hills we ran until the finishline appeared.

With me at the front of the group trying to spearhead a charge, and Dave just a second or two behind, acting like a shepherd trying to get any remaining members of our group to finish together, we picked up the pace as the crowds cheers grew. Marathon crowds know exactly what a 3:10 means and their roar grew exponentially as our matching pace shirts and 3:10 signs on posts rose above the sea of heads.

One runner who had been with me from the beginning but who had said very little was on my left-hand side. With about a mile to go, I asked him if this was going to be his first 3:10. He smiled through obviously exhausted face muscles and then said breathlessly, "I you...used...the words..."going to be." With just a few yards to go, with me waving my 3:10 sign high in the crowd, I could see Happy Guy smiling more and more. When the announcer told the crowd that those in this group were the fastest mandatory Boston Qualifiers, his smile inexplicably grew bigger, as if a dream was becoming a reality.

As I stepped back half a step to allow Happy Guy enjoy his moment we crossed underneath the clock at 3:09:58. My official chip would later read 3:09:52 (just 2 seconds off of my 3:09:50 from last year here) for 34th place overall.

My co-pacer Dave hit under the mark as well in a stellar time of 3:09:55. Way to go Dave!

I handed the 3:10 sign to Happy Guy who could barely utter a "thank you" and weakly grasp the dowel rod between his fingers. I turned and waited at the finish fervently extolling the last few runners who had been with me to make it under 3:11. As about 5 more came through in that time, I high-fived every single one of them. A few sweaty hugs later, a brand new marathon medal around my neck and a water bottle signified another successful marathon.

With this being my 89th marathon, I have now qualified for Boston in my age group 38 times (it would be 39 if not for the Run With the Horses Marathon where I both started the race late and made a half-mile wrong turn) and also have done so 20 times straight (if you count Run with the Horses) as well as 27 out of the last 29 marathons.

Hopefully that streak continues next week at my 90th Marathon - The Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach, CA.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Drake Well Marathon Registration OPEN!!

I am still working out the kinks on the Drake Well Marathon official website (which I hope to have up and running by the end of this week) but registration for the Drake Well Marathon, Half-Marathon and Kids Fun run is now OPEN!

In an effort to not only help the environment but back up Titusville, Pennsylvania's status as one of the many wonderful "Tree City, USA" towns (21 years and counting!), the Drake Well Marathon will be a 100% paperless registration.

So click on over to the REGISTRATION SITE and sign up now for this brand new race to be held on August 9th, 2009! A full website with map, elevation profile and facts about Titusville will be operational soon.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Awful Media Coverage of Running

By now you have undoubtedly heard about Geb's attempt to break his own world Marathon record. If not, please read no further.

Geb did not break his own world record yesterday, claiming rain hindered him (it rains in Dubai?!) from doing so. But I am not here to talk about that. I am here to talk about abysmal reporting which goes on about running in the United States. I mean, not only did I need to look below Shirts and Skins Speed Typing results to even FIND this report on but within one paragraph I am already shaking my head and wondering "Does anyone who writes about running have the foggiest CLUE abut the sport?"

An excerpt:

"Gebrselassie finished in 2 hours, 5 minutes and 29 seconds -- just 90 seconds off his record -- to narrowly beat compatriots Deressa Edae Chimsa (2:07.54) and Wendimu Tsige (2:08.41). "

Winning by 2.5 minutes is narrowly beating someone? A 2:05:29 is a 4:47 pace (friggin unfathomable to me) which means winning by 2:25 Geb was HALF A FLIPPIN MILE in front of his "compatriots". I think we would all like to narrow win a marathon by that distance someday.

I had high hopes for US media after the Olympics. I thought "This is the year when they really, finally stat to pay attention to road racing and track and field." I, of course, think that after every major happening in running: Ryan Hall's emergence; Geb's world record last year; Wanjiru's butt-whooping at the Olympics. And every time I get disappointed.

I am not asking for the AP to know Emil Zatopek's middle name or be able to immediately break down what someone's half-marathon split time may be at the 10k. But isn't a basic knowledge of the sport necessary to report on it? (Obviously not). I mean, if the Ravens beat the Steelers tonight by 14 points, will anyone call it a narrow victory?

Get it right, media. Make, at bare minimum, an effort for the love of God. Or hire someone who will.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Revisting City Creek Canyon

For way too long now, my Achilles Tendon has been bothering me. It started last summer when I was doing a great deal of hill and trail running (well ,a great deal for me, anyway). As most people will tell you, when the AT is aching, stick to flat running. Well, mostly by habit and less by design, I spent many miles running at Liberty Park across the street from my house and avoided hills (for the most part).

As it continues to ache, or at the very least ache enough that I can notice it, I have come to live with it. I lived with a calf problem for over two years that mysteriously disappeared and has never come back, so unless it worsens I will just monitor and run.

So, while I might have normally balked at hitting the hillier City Creek Canyon just north of Salt Lake City, today I wanted to give it a test. Looking back at my running log I realized it have been almost 2 months to the day since I had even been up that way on a run which says a great deal about my repetitive running style and also my travel.

The temperature was a chilly 27 degrees but the sun is shining. My rule of thumb for dress code is when it is 40 degrees or above I am wearing shorts. If it is in the 30s but dry, again I am going with shorts. And when I am racing, well, it has to be COLD for me to even think about tights.

I figured 27 was close enough to my 30 rule of thumb with the bright sun ahead and so I headed out. Now, the thing about running up City Creek Canyon is you are making a commitment to some hills that day. Even getting up to the Creek itself from my house is nearly a 4 mile run with one heck of a climb up B street. But I was in the mood to stretch the legs.

As Salt Lake City was just named the fittest city in America (and last year it wasn't in the top ten - I like to think it is because I moved here that it bumped up in the rankings) it is not uncommon to see runners out and about in the creek at any given time on any given day. Today was no exception. Friendly nods and waves were exchanged as I passed runners and had them fly past me coming down the steep incline. And yes, it is steep.

Pausing for 10 seconds at the top of the hill, half to catch my breath; half to really just take in the day, I was glad to be out and about. Never one to be too philosophical I really wondered how those who do not get out and about every day, live their lives. How do this miss this? Break over, I headed home.

11.5 miles, 1:24:42 later (7:22 minutes per mile) I was home and ready to shower.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Be Safe, Runners.

A few days ago I was running in Los Angeles. I have to say, running shirtless on the beach in January is quite a treat (for me at least. Maybe not so much for those who had to witness it!)

Aside from the beach running, simply exploring a new(ish) city is always a pleasure. After some beach running, I also used some free time to check out lots of Hollywood and Beverly Hills etc. Without a doubt, one of the best ways to explore a new city is to do so by foot.

On my last run in the city before coming home, I paused at the corner of Wilshire and Gale in West Hollywood and patiently (ha!) waited for a light. I finally had the right of way and crossed the street. About 10 seconds after doing so I heard an awful crunching of steel and the shattering of glass. I turned around just in time to see a car careen off of another one, spin 180 degrees around and then slide up and over the curb. The car came to rest against a pole at the SE corner of the intersection. This is the same pole I had been leaning against waiting for the little white walking guy to appear signifying it was safe to cross.

I do not know what happened with the cars and before I could even think to turn around, four or five other passersby were on the scene. Figuring I would only complicate matters I continued on my run. I do not get rattled too often. Many runners have a plethora of tales of almost getting hit by cars by running. Heck, in the Hatfield and McCoy Marathon in 2006, I had to Dukes of Hazzard slide across the hood of a Tercel when some elder lady inched out of a Winn-Dixie parking lot without looking to her right (or figuring out why the entire street was coned off and there was no other vehicular traffic).

But this was a little more serious. Metal on metal, broken glass and a crunched pole.

All I could think about was how I had just been standing there a few seconds before. I looked down and saw I was wearing my ROAD ID and breathed a sigh of relief. Obviously the ROAD ID would not have created a shield to protect me from the car but if I had been hit, someone would have know exactly who I was, who to call and other pertinent information.

So I encourage all runners, when you are out for a run to be aware of your surroundings, be safe and try your best to minimalize any potential danger to yourself. Not just from vehicles but also from dogs, other people and anything else seemingly harmless-broken sidewalks, low-hanging branches ( I learned this one the hard way!)

The last thing this world needs is LESS people running.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Radio Interviews

For those in the greater Altoona, PA area, be sure to tune in to ESPN Radio WVAM - AM 1430 at 6:30 PM ET on Wednesday January 7th to hear me interviewed by Joe Shuta's show, LEADING OFF.

This will mark the second time I have had the pleasure of being interviewed by Joe and I always look forward to visiting with him. I will be talking about running, my new book, global thermonuclear war, plate tectonics and kittens. OK, maybe just running and my new book but you never know.

While the interview cannot be heard online, I will let you all know as soon as possible if I get a downloadable copy!

In other news, my interview on The Competitor Radio Show is now ONLINE!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Mississippi Blues Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 1st Edition
26.2 miles raced in 2009
Race: Mississippi Blues Marathon
Place: Jackson, MS
Miles from home: 1752 miles
Weather: 60s; cloudy; 98% humidity

If you know much about my running preferences, "98% humidity" will more or less tell the tale of my racing effort at the 2nd Annual Mississippi Blues Marathon on January 3rd. Fortunately, there was so much more to this weekend than just the race itself.

At the Dallas White Rock Marathon expo where I had been invited to speak a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure some spending time with Bill Rodgers. When we realized we would both be going to the MS Blues Marathon, Bill had said that he was looking forward to seeing me again. Now, known as one of the nicest running celebrities out there, I assumed Bill was simply being that: nice. I mean, the man has run nearly as many marathon as I have but has done that at an average of about an hour faster (although he has never done Leadville!) Him being happy to see me again actually seemed to be what I should be saying to him. Nevertheless, I was excited to know that he would be in Jackson at the same time.

I had been invited to Jackson, not to speak this year, but rather to give the course, in its second year, a little run-through and give its organizers my thumbs-up (or down, if the case called for that viewpoint.) Having never raced in Mississippi (or even set foot in the Magnolia State) I was more than happy to accept their invitation.

Now, I had just come off a pretty busy year of running and I knew that the changing of the calendar does not automatically give you fresh legs. As such, my goals for the race were semi-modest: I just wanted to break three hours. However, I knew the course, which the race organizers unapologetically admitted was not a personal best course, would present some trouble in doing that. But we shared the same philosophy in marathon courses: if they were all easy then there would be no challenge. Then again...oy....(elevation profile below)

On the night before the expo, after arriving in Jackson and seeing the last play of the disastrous Rose Bowl on the big screen TV of a smoke-free sports bar (who says Mississippi isn’t concerned about health problems), I was indeed for a treat. Bill walked in escorted by the ever-affable organizer of all things expo-related, Bryan Lagg and surprised me with a hearty handshake and a half-hug. Pretty hard not to be in hog heaven when embraced by one of the greatest marathoners of all-time. Having just flown in from Boston and its 5 degrees of blustery coldness, Bill said he was excited to go out and stretch his legs on ice free streets in the morning. Would I care to join him? Yes, Bill. I think I would enjoy that very much! (I refrained from saying “Um, duh!” to keep up both the illusion of my eloquence and hide my open-jawed wonder that I was going to go for a jog with Bill!)

The next morning broke with Bill and I sharing a breakfast at the hotel which included not only sausage and eggs but also grits. Bryan told us later that we should have really confused the hotel by asking, with our northern accents, for just one singular “grit”. Soon thereafter, we were out on the course which ran right past our hotel around mile 6. Having familiarized myself with parts of the course the previous night, I took Bill out to check out the hills we would be encountering. While Bill would “only” be doing the half, the two courses mimicked each other for the first 10 miles or so, which allowed us to gain knowledge of what lie ahead of us the next day.

On the run, I picked Bill’s brain about various running topics involving performance-enhancing drugs and how with his hand-crafted shoes in the late 70s and early 80s he felt that he was in no way at a disadvantage with all the advances shoes have made in the past three decades. We briefly spoke about politics, a cute girl that ran by and how Bill (a former smoker) praised my father for quitting the awful habit cold-turkey about 20 years ago without a single relapse. For all intents and purposes, I was just out for a run with another friend. Only every once in awhile would my brain scream: “BIL RODGERS! BILL RODGERS! BILL RODGERS!”

Carrying my hotel keys and my cellphone in my SPIbelt, I decided to surprise my friend Christine (a huge Bill fan) with a call from the man himself. At one stoplight, I handed my phone over to Bill who amicably talked to a surprisingly calm Christine for the next minute or so. When the light changed, we took off again and I said goodbye to Christine. Her boyfriend later informed me that he was shocked at how she had not by squealing like a schoolgirl. Christine said she was doing so inside.

After our run, Bill and I headed over to the expo where would be signing our books side-by-side at one table. I had an internal debate over whether I would be absolutely and irrevocably ignored by the race patrons because I was sitting so close to a legend or if I would be actually benefit from the crowd he would draw. I think it was a little of both. All I know is that Bill would sign someone’s book or poster and almost always add something akin to “…but Dane is the one who did 52 Marathons in 52 Weekends in one year. You should ask him about that!” Figures. I always have to bail Bill out because his marathon knowledge is so limited. :)

After an extremely pleasant day talking to all the various runners, the invited runners went to dinner where I got to meet some of the elite female runners who themselves had just gotten in a few hours prior. Amongst them were Kim Duclos, Barb McManus and Heather May. We got to know each other greatly over dinner and shared many good stories. But now it was time for sleeping.

Race Morning:

While I always despise getting up early, we were all very pleased with the 7 AM starting time. You see, while the temperature was a few degrees higher than most of wanted, it was the humidity we were all dreading. And with the possibility of the heavy cloud cover burning off later in the day the last thing we needed was the combo of heat AND humidity! So after some mingling with some of the very truly elite men brought in by the race to just tear the courses records asunder, we were escorted to beginning of the race. Wearing elite bib number “14” I felt slightly like an imposter next to all these runners who could really fly. But in talking with Jeff Galloway (who is also just unfailingly polite and knowledgeable) prior to the race, he made me feel good by saying: “They don’t invite people to races who do not deserve to be there. Enjoy it!” So, I took Jeff’s words to heart and reveled in it. The gun fired right on time and away we went.

First 6 miles: 12:53, 6:37, 6:46, 6:35, 6:34

Kim took off with the lead pack but Barb, Heather and I hung together. Heather said she was hoping for the low 2:50s, Barb said a sub-3 would make her happy on this day and I said I wanted to be right around there as well. So, we decided to run together. As the two ladies are just tiny little things, I told them they were welcome to use my 6’1’’ frame as a wind block if we encountered any along the way.

Almost immediately, I was sweating. I told the ladies I would hang with them as long as I could but I could tell that this race was going to be about self-preservation. If the promised hills were indeed challenging, they and the humidity would have me dragging at the end. We made a promise to make sure we all properly hydrated and watched each other along the way. As we passed dozens of large homes and snaked our way into downtown Jackson, Heather and I pulled slightly ahead of Barb but I knew she was not far behind.

Half-Marathon (1:27:13): 6:49, 6:38, 6:44, 6:39 6:38, 6:09, 7:21

The rolling hills allowed us to keep from getting bored but they definitely added some difficulty to our race. We were told that from about mile 12-19 we would receive the only respite from these rollers. As the miles ticked by, Heather and I said we were looking forward to that stretch but were happy to have these hills to keep us from getting bored. Of course, if they had been a little less high, we would not have complained!

As we started a long climb up to a highway stretch, we saw the turn-off for the half-marathoners. I turned to Heather and said: “This is where I always hate those lucky SOBs”. With a fast mile followed by a slow one we realized that one of the mile markers had been placed slightly off which was no biggie whatsoever. When you are running almost exact splits you know that a really fast mile is usually going to be followed by a slower one to even it out.

Approaching the halfway point we went down a hill and began running near a stream. Almost immediately the temperature dropped 5-10 degrees. The slight cross breeze helped the cooling effect more and I thought I might just hang with Heather the whole way!

Mile 20: 6:38, 6:47, 6:58, 6:54, 7:00, 7:13, 7:20

Two more miles passed and I realized Heather was no longer following by half a foot but leading by half a foot. Soon thereafter, I could tell I needed to pull up some. I bid Heather goodbye and said I hoped I would see her within a few miles.

As promised, the next few miles, while relatively unscenic along the highway, were rather flat and straight. Unfortunately, I could see Heather inching away ahead and my energy was ebbing. Turning off the highway onto Ridgewood Road and into a neighborhood area, the final hills lay ahead. Right before mile 19, I slowed to a walk. I could tell that any hope of catching Heather and helping her finish strong was now gone.

Miles 21-24: 7:28, 8:02, 7:57, 8:41

As I passed a runner here and there, I took some solace in the fact that I was not the only one dealing with what was becoming a tiring day. Turning around I saw Barbara had made up the ground between us and would soon be passing me. Pleased that she holding on so well, I tried staying with her for a bit until my stomach needed to empty itself. Yuck.

As the hills worsened, I was again slowed to a walk. My right hamstring, which had never really been a problem in any other race, began to ache. Deciding self-preservation for the races down the road was far more important than saving-face in Mississippi, I walked every uphill that popped in front of me.

The Final 2.2: 8:17, 8:38, 1:45

As I often do when I am trying to take my mind off of a tough race in the latter stages, I turned to good old math in the final few miles. I knew in all of my marathon, I had never run a 3:06. So, figuring out what sorta slowish miles I could run to get this goal, I tried to enjoy the last few miles which once again presented runners with a few tough climbs.

As I neared the finishline, the announcer Dave Ragsdale told the crowd that I had run 52 Marathons in 52 weekends and was looking quite fresh. "Perhaps this will start another streak!" he said. I am pretty sure the finishline photo will have a picture of me laughing hysterically at that notion.

Time: 3:06:14
Place: 25th

All in all, this was indeed a challenging race. It is very hard for me to adequately say exactly how hard it would have been if not for the humidity and since this sort of high humidity is not normal for this time of year, it is not the sort of weather that I would factor into my difficulty rating.

However, for a race in only its second year, the Mississippi Blues Marathon is in full swing. With guitars given to the male and female overall winners, nifty vests given to all participants, cool guitar medals for marathon finishers (and half a guitar for the half finishers!) there were plenty of great ideas abound for the race.

The volunteers were well-schooled in the little things that matter to runners and while the course could use some slight modifications to make it more enjoyable (and I am not saying the hills need to go - rather the highway stretch) it was one I enjoyed challenging myself on. Spectators could have been more plentiful but where they were they were extremely friendly and encouraging.

However, the fact that they race increased by nearly 25% in its second year is a very telling factor of how great a race this can be. While most people want to be part of a race's inaugural year, numbers usually drop precipitously for the 2nd running. This was obviously not the case here in Jackson and I predict big things for the race weekend in 2010.

Hopefully, I will be there to enjoy its continued success!