Monday, November 30, 2009

Running the Triple Crown - Melissa Williams

I was recently turned onto a series of races in the greater Seattle area right after Thanksgiving. The great Northwest is home to many low-key races.  Some call them "Fat-Ass" races and most are meant to take the camaraderie of running and combine it with the formality of a race, with a huge de-emphasis on the formality part.
Now running long distances on a race course not on race day has never really been my thing. I figured if I am going to out forth the effort, I would like to have it be "official".  And if I am not going to have it official, I don't need for it to be "semi-official" by giving my run du jour a name.  That said, I was pretty impressed by a hearty bunch of individuals who took part in some serious running this past weekend, more specifically one runner named Melissa Williams.  Now I haven't had the pleasure to meet Melissa but I hope to do so someday soon and go for a run.  If I can keep up, that is.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Kelly Luckett

In my Atlanta Marathon recap I mentioned runner Kelly Luckett and how she deserved her own posing. Now here it is and I am going to tell you why. Kelly is an amputee. We tend to label people by what they don't have (e.g.., blind, deaf, etc) and to say Kelly is an amputee is obvious, and helps with context, but it is far too limiting. Kelly is more than an amputee: she is one kick ass-amputee.

To begin, Kelly's amputation is the result of a lawn mower accident which occurred right around her second birthday.  She lost her foot that day but not her spirit.  Her amputation is called a Symes amputation which means it's at the ankle joint, so she doesn't have enough clearance from the bottom of her residual limb ("stump") to the floor to have enough room for the higher-tech walking and running feet.  She has a running foot, the Cheetah Foot, but it's meant for sprinting not distance running.   The Flex Foot which many of the distance runners of note (e.g., Sarah Reinertsen, Amy Palmiero,) have for running, is not one Kelly can use because of the aforementioned lack of clearance.

However the trade-off is that trans-tibial amputees like those mentioned above have to rely on crutches or a walker to get in and out of the shower, use the bathroom, etc.  As Kelly notes with her usual smile and wit about the cards life has handed her.

"My residual limb is weight-bearing and long enough that I can 'walk' on it  a short distance, which makes daily life activities much easier."

How is that for spunk?  She lost her foot so that she can't have a normal life per se but not enough of an amputation to give her what she needs to really compete with advanced prosthetics and here she is happy she can do daily life activities many of us take for granted!

So, what is it that gives Kelly that little edge over so many other amputee athletes?  Well, as I mentioned above, she doesn't have the technology, or can't use what is available, to be one of the "best" amputee athletes out there in terms of speed.  But man does she motor.

Just recently, Kelly finished the Chicago Marathon in a new personal best time of 5:41:23.

The average finishing time for women in 2008 was barely faster than Kelly's time.  And I am guessing that of the ~200,000 female marathon finishing times, not too many were done by those with just one leg or part of one!

Not only is she the only female amputee runner to run the Boston Marathon more than once, she is the only amputee runner in history to compete in the Boston Marathon 5 times (2005-2009) finishing WELL under the qualifying time of 8 hours.

In addition,
--> Kelly recently ran a 50K PR of 7:44:11 at the Darkside Running Club Peachtree City 50.  Her efforts garnered her the -->“Bad Ass of the Quarter” award from GUTS (Georgia Ultrarunning & Trailrunning Society). 
The list of Kelly's achievements goes on and on. But the greatest part of Kelly is the part that is definitely NOT missing: her heart.  She has such a loving and warm personality that it is impossible not to simply be enchanted and inspired when you are around her.  At my booth at the Atlanta Marathon, Kelly showed me her new business cards and jokingly mentioned how she wanted to but "Bad Ass" on them under he name.  I told her it wasn't fitting enough.

She needed : "Made of Awesome".  Rock on, Kelly.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Atlanta Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 24rd Edition
610.1 miles raced in 2009

Race: Atlanta Marathon
Place: Atlanta, GA
Miles from home: 1914 miles 

Weather: 40-50s; cool and clear

In the few short days between the Atlanta Marathon and my previous race in Mesquite, I began to think that this was the shortest rest I had ever had between races.  Them I remembered it was tie.  Last year I had run Boston on a Monday (twice actually, but that is another story) and then flew to Korea to run the Hangang Marathon.  Due to the International Date Line, I lost a day in transit and the time between was 4 days.  So the adventure I was imparting on was not completely uncharted waters.

In fact, in what remains what has personally been one of my most impressive feats of running, I had run Boston in 3:01 (a week after running a 2:58 in Utah and right before turning around and doing it again under 4 hours with the Race Director) and then inexplicably ran a 2:56 in Korea.  However, while I had done a similar event before,  I knew no such effort was going to be repeated here in Atlanta.  As early as Tuesday before the race, I was still limping around like I had not done post marathon in quite some time and knew that merely slogging through the race might be my only option.  In addition, I had the largest of monkey wrenches thrown into my Thanksgiving week plans the day I was departing to partake in those plans, and was completely mentally spent.

So I did what is very hard for most runners.  I decided the Atlanta Marathon, my first in Georgia, was going to be nothing but a training one.  But one which I felt would simulate many of the events I have planned for the near future.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mesquite Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 23rd Edition
583.9 miles raced in 2009

Race: Mesquite Marathon
Place: Mesquite, NV
Miles from home: 338 miles
Weather: 40-60s; clear and windy


The race reports that are the toughest to write are those which follow a complete and undeniable failure to reach any of your desired goals. Unfortunately, this is one of those reports.  There is no way to sugarcoat it, and for all those who wished me good luck on my attempt to set a personal best, I am not going to drag it out: I did not make it.  Did not even come close.  But it is in our failures that we learn the most about ourselves.

Like, no matter how much I hydrate, if it is sunny, I am screwed in a marathon.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A new personal best?

In my travels around the country and world, I have learned that, for whatever reason, while everyone calls their fastest time in a race their "personal best", only Americans shorten it to "PR" (presumably for "personal record".)  My Australian friends always say "PB" and it automatically makes me think of Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches and how I once dated a girl who thought that idea of PB &J together was disgusting.  I think that is pretty much against the Constitution and all for which it stands. But I digress.

Tomorrow I will be shooting for a new personal best, personal record, fastest time I have ever run (or whatever you would like to call it at the Mesquite Marathon in Mesquite Nevada.  While many I know are hesitant to state their goals or their ambitions, sometimes to not jinx themselves, sometimes so that they do not have to answer "No, I didn't get it" to well-meaning friends who ask them how they fared after a race that did not go off as planned, I think it is good to get it out there in the ether what you intend to do.  It really is a freeing feeling to let others who do care know your intentions.

That said, I may have the proverbial snowball's chance in hell in setting that new PR this weekend.  Well, maybe not that bad of a chance but I am definitely not sitting all that pretty.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mileage Game

One of the greatest things about running are the numbers. In a world of constant flux, numbers are permanent and something we can always fall back on. Granted, sometimes they can be too controlling and make us a little more obsessive than we should be, but the measuring stick they provide us makes running so unique.

The numbers I am referring to for this post are the miles I ran this year.  Back in 2006, while doing the 52 Marathons, I raced 1362.4 miles (52 times 26.2.)  For the entirety of the rest of the year, I only ran 409.1 other miles. That means 77% of my running that year was spent in the middle of marathon races.  That is obviously a ridiculously high percentage of racing miles and never one I expected to repeated.  As I have only really been keeping track of miles since 2006, I did not have much to go on in terms of how many miles I should be running. But I know I ran way less than in 2005 and 2004, when my running career really began, than the 1771.5 I ran in 2006.  As such, with this upward trend, I fully expected and planned to continue adding more miles to my yearly total each year.

Funny thing is, Life doesn't much care about what your plans are.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Need for Tougher Boston Marathon Qualifying Standards

The title of this post should have a question mark at the end as I have not fully decided if there really is a need or not.  However, one thing is certain: one must be quick on the registration trigger to be one of the 20,000+ runners traversing the storied road from Hopkinton to Boston.

When I first qualified for Boston in 2005, it was the middle of January.  Hoping to get a slightly better time, I waited until the middle of March when I lowered my time to a 3:07 at the Little Rock Marathon.  I immediately came home and registered.  However, even though that was just five weeks before Boston that year, I don't think I was the last one in.

That is not the case anymore.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Indianapolis Monumental Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 22nd Edition
557.7 miles raced in 2009

Race: Indianapolis Monumental Marathon
Place: Indianapolis, IN
Miles from home: 1536 miles
Weather: 50-60s; clear and windy

Well, I have finally run as many marathons in the rest of my life as I did in 2006. 52 then, and 52 before and since. Phew!

I had no idea what to expect at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. Not from the race or the course or the elevation, all which were clearly marked and described on the website, but from myself. I knew I was "recovered" from the Manchester Marathon just a few days before but I also knew that race took a great deal out of me. A short week between races (Sunday to Saturday) plus travel and the expo book signing did not leave much room for recovery either. And when you see street signs like this, you can be even more confused about how much you have recovered and how much you are imagining.

As I seem to respond pretty well to short rest, I was hoping to once again potentially go for a sub-3 in Indiana for the first time. However, as I said to many during the expo, one never knows until they are on the race course what the marathon has in store for them that day.

As we lined up for the beginning of the race, I was also lined up for an interview for WISH TV. Sometimes reporters do not seem to know that even if you are a little relaxed, you would rather not be on camera about 90 seconds before a marathon begins! Alas.

Hoping into the corral mere seconds before the start allowed me the opportunity to see my friend Holly Koester, a wheelchair athlete I have written about many times. It had been too long since I had seen her and the quick hug got me pumped up for my race.

Gun fired and away number 104 went.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

All for Naught

In the past few weeks I have been traveling and speaking at various races. At my book signings I invariably encounter people who are carrying a bag full of race goodies. Asking them which race they are partaking in this weekend, some will give me a sorrowful look and mention how an injury derailed them about a week before the race. As such, they are here just to pick up the things that they have already paid for and to get some deals on running apparel.

While I have been fortunate enough to not have an injury keep me from racing at an important race, I have had to miss races for a variety of reasons. The most recent would be when a bike accident kept me from competing in the World Aquathlon Championship in Australia. Having qualified for the US team in my first ever Aquathlon in August, I was more than stoked to represent my country at the Worlds.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Manchester follow-up

There is never enough time or space in my race recaps to even begin to list all the people I have met or whose stories have inspired me. I can just do my best to touch on as many of them as possible. One person who really struck a chord with me was a woman who spent her formative years in Manchester and is one of the all-time bad guys/girls of television history: Jane Badler. Better known as Diana from the 1980s hit series, "V".

I am, of course, kidding. Not about Ms. Badler being from Manchester (sometimes it sorta scares me the trivia I have rattling around in my head; might explain why I could never understand that the Rule Against Perpetuities in law school), but about who really did stick out in my mind.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Manchester City Marathon

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 21st Edition
531.5 miles raced in 2009

Race: Manchester City Marathon
Place: Manchester, NH
Miles from home: 2396 miles
Weather: 50-60s; clear and windy

It is a rare occasion when you sit at a table with Kerri Strug and Bill Rodgers. Well, that is what you get at the Manchester City Marathon. Bill was here for obvious reasons but Kerri's involvement was based on Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the sponsor for this race here along the banks of the Merrimack River.

This pre-race luncheon was just the start of a wonderful weekend in Manchester which included time doing book signings, television interviews and so much more. Manchester reminded me a lot of my hometown and the Salt-of-the-Earth people from this town and surrounds areas helped even more. My perspective, upon moving to Salt Lake and the wide expanses of desert and long stretches of highway has definitely warped my sense of what is and is not "close-by". I would ask people if they were from Manchester and they would laugh as if they came from some far away land to be here for the race. then I would find out they were all of 45 minutes away. Heck, I drive that far for dinner sometimes in Utah.

Coupled with the rather late start at 8:50 AM and falling back from daylight savings time, I had plenty of rest and sleep the night before the race. I hope that this would allow me to get a nice little sub-3 hour time here in my first New Hampshire marathon. (But not first race. Back in 2007, my friend Kate and I competed as a team of two against other teams of 8 in the Lake Winnipesaukee Relay.)