Monday, November 26, 2012

Marathon Recount

I haven’t really focused on marathons this year. My usual obsession with numbers and stats has fallen by the wayside in 2012. When I ran the Mesquite Tri-State Marathon last week it got me thinking again about the numbers. I realized I hadn’t run as many marathons as I thought I had.  Let me explain.

In May I started the Green Bay Marathon.  As I wrote in my recap, the race was cancelled in the middle due to a combination of factors surrounding the heat of the day. I had a friend signed up for text messages and when I finished the race, she got an exact time for my finish.  No finishing times were actually given for anyone not in the top 5 and after walking the last three miles, I definitely wasn’t one of those top five.  But I finished and had a finishing time from my friend. That means I ran the marathon, right? Well, upon further review, I do not think so.

I have been a pretty big stickler for what I feel makes a marathon ever since I ran 52 consecutive ones in 2006. To me, if there weren’t other participants or the race was on a treadmill or something other than an actual footrace, I did not feel it was an actual race. When the Green Bay Marathon got its plug pulled, I wondered what I would call it in my own personal log books.  Then, I was in bike crash, a dream apartment opened up, I moved and the rest of the year has flown by.  Only recently did I begin to think about my marathon total again.

As such, upon further reflection, I have decided to strike the Green Bay Marathon from my list of races run. This affects virtually no one whatsoever and only means something to me. Then again, most things in life are like that. However, if I am going to hold myself up to a certain standard, then I have to hold myself up to a certain standard. No official result – no race in the log book.

So, as it stands, with the Mesquite Tri-State Marathon last weekend, my marathon total is 142. No bragging, just stating. I also don’t see that total changing drastically in the near future. My potential 150th will probably happen sometime in the fall of next year. But how I get there, to that 150th marathon, should be rather unique.

Might as well be doing something other than checking off another marathon finish, adding another medal to the pile and expecting accolades for doing so, right? Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mesquite Tri-State Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 18th Edition 
372.5 miles run; 1.75 mile swam; 59 miles biked in 2012 races
Race: Mesquite Tri-State Marathon
Place: Mesquite, NV
Miles from home: 1101 miles
Weather: 50-60s; mostly cloudy; intermittent wind and sprinkles

Running the Mesquite Marathon was more or less a last minute decision.  To say I haven't exactly been feeling good about my running since my bike crash in May would be an understatement.  Taking on a marathon, especially one which has bitten me in the butt on two other occasions (26.2 in 2009 and 13.1 in 2010), wasn't exactly high on my list of to-dos. But sometimes you make decisions and not too long ago I said let's give the Mesquite Marathon another shot.

I had run this basic exact course before. Slight changes had made the final few miles different but left the overall big downhill and rolling hills nearly the same. However, time heals all wounds and makes runners forget all uphills.

My great friend Shannon joined me to run the course even though she was in the midst of moving hell (Oh yes, A-Team Movers out of Dallas, you are going to get your own blog. I am sure it will be as scathing as Eff You, Jet Blue) and was not in any way ready to run a fast marathon. So in other words, we were both in the same boat.

Having said that, with no job obligations, no expo speeches, no book signings and nothing to do but just enjoy a race was a feeling that is really hard to describe.  It was both unsettling and wildly invigorating. Nevertheless, I still found it relatively easy to go to bed. Needing to get up at 4:15 a.m. in order to get ready to catch the 5:30 a.m. shuttle to the start didn't hurt either.

Race morning:

The shuttle to the start did not leave promptly at 5:30 a.m. as was stated which was fine by me. Sitting in the warmth of the bus was much more desirable than sitting on the side of a road for 45 minutes. We finally got going around 5:50 a.m. and the bus meandered through the Mesquite for a bit before hitting the course we would soon be running on.  Through Arizona for 17 miles and then onto Utah where the race would begin, I missed most of the bus ride as I was sleeping soundly.

When we got to the start, we still had another 30 minutes before the race began so I figured I would sit on the bus for a bit, use the bathroom and then saunter out sometime about 20 seconds before the race.  This was when we were told that we not only had to get off the bus but could not use the comfortable bathroom on it because the bus would be used for something later that day and the driver did not want to have to clean it before then. Really?

So 133 of us get out of the two buses and cue up for three bathrooms. With 30 minutes to spare each person can't take more than a little over a minute to use the bathroom if we want to not be standing in the bathroom line when the race starts. Let's just say some people took their sweet damn time.

In the bathroom line a runner introduced himself to me and we began chatting.  James was his name and he was prepared.  Both Shannon and I were a bit chilly standing in the windy nothingness of this pocket of Utah wearing very little to protect ourselves against the elements.  It wasn't that cold out, but we weren't expecting to be standing it it this long.  James gave us both one of those mylar blankets and became Coolest Guy Ever for at least the next half an hour.  He told me he would be shooting for a sub-3 and I gave him the low down of the course.  Technically, it should be an easier course than when I ran it in 2009 because of about 2 more miles of downhill to start. Plus, the weather looked like it would be cooler and cloudier for the vast majority of the next three hours.  In exchange for the mylar blanket, I tried to give James as much advice about the course as I could.  I wish I was in better shape to run with him but well, I was not.

As the seconds ticked down to the start of the race, I assumed that with just about ten people or so left in line, the race organizers might just hold the start for a minute or two so we could all use the bathroom.  I was wrong. The race started and I was still standing in line. Unfortunately, it was not the quick restroom break guys can do in the wild, so standing I remained. Finally, I was able to get in, used it as quickly as possible and headed toward the starting line. My quick potty skills allowed me to cross over the timing mat (it was chip timed which is why I wasn't completely angry) just 69 seconds late.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Santa Barbara International Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 17th Edition 
346.3 miles run; 1.75 mile swam; 59 miles biked in 2012 races
Race: Santa Barbara International Half Marathon
Place: Santa Barbara, CA
Miles from home: 943 miles
Weather: 50-60s; bright sunshine; intermittent wind

My goal for this race was to run right around a 1:30. I ran a 1:29:34. Saying I hit the goal is quite true but I definitely did not do so in a standard way for me. I was all over the place with my pacing and only a late surge and use of a generous downhill (only after a series of ups, mind you) allowed for this to occur. However, this race recap is less about me and my effort (this truly was a hard training run where I received a medal and people can find my exact time) and more about the race, friends and people I met along the journey this weekend.

As always, I wish I could remember every name and every story and had infinite amount of time to write about them all (and you an infinite amount of desire to read them) but that is not the case. So below are just a few that really stand out to me and I hope they catch your attention.

* The course - I give this course two solid thumbs up. Even though it is relatively challenging, with three hills to contend with (around mile 6, 8 and 10) it is forgiving in between those hills and ends with a steady 2 miles of downhill. And what downhill it is. After cresting the hill at Cliff Drive, doing two quick turns through a neighborhood, runners are gifted with an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean, sparkling and shimmering in the rising sun. A downhill that just continues to give back what the much shorter in length uphill took away is only made more special by the visage on the runner's right. Having run the race 3 out of the 4 times it has been run, I am still taken aback by the beauty of this finish.

* Fast chicks - I had two good friends running this race hoping to set new personal bests. Ironically, I met both of them at races put on by Destination Races in previous years; Sarah at the Oregon Wine Country Half and Jessica at the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half. Sarah was one of the NYC Marathon orphans trying to extend her training and preparation for one more week. Jessica had taken time off for an injury, as well as school, and was just getting back into shape. Fortunately, I did not have to root for one over the other as Sarah was running the marathon and Jessica the half.

Sarah ended up not only breaking her PR, by four minutes if memory serves me right, but broke the course record, taking second to Paige Higgins who herself has run a marathon in he low 2:30s (if not faster.) This course was even more challenging than NYC where she was hoping to PR so while I am impressed, I am not surprised.  Sarah is one hard working runner and I couldn't be happier for her effort.  As a Spira-sponsored athlete I am guessing owner Andy Krafsur is glad I made the introduction some time back! Fantastic work, Sarah.

Jessica and I ran the first mile of the half together before I realized that she was in much better shape than I was (5:53 for the first mile) and I had to let her quickly fade into the distance.  While she didn't keep that blistering pace for the whole race, she ended up with a two minute PR, good enough for 6th place overall for the women. Winning the half was another uber-fast woman, Alvina Begay a 32:58 10k runner (!)  There were some serious wheels on the ladies in the race and I am glad to have known a few of them.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Indianapolis Monumental Half Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 16th Edition 
333.2 miles run; 1.75 mile swam; 59 miles biked in 2012 races
Race: Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon
Place: Indianapolis, IN
Miles from home: 2237 miles
Weather: 40-50s; variable between cloudy and chilly and snowyish 

I have now run the Indianapolis Monumental marathon or half for three consecutive years. For some reason I come into the race forgetting how well run it is and how easy it is to have a good race here. I am making a promise to myself to never make that mistake again.

First and foremost, hats off to the organizers for putting together a truly fantastic weekend.  I ran the 13.1 distance and had an absolutely splendid race in picture-perfect weather. Well, picture-perfect for a runner who likes to run in cloudy cool weather.  Those running the full or taking a bit longer had to deal with some inclement weather, including variable degrees of rain or sleet for small portions.  However, anyone finishing their race in under two hours could not have asked for much better.  On a weekend where the NYC Marathon was canceled, the Indy organizers opened their arms and streets to those who wanted to run a marathon in a fine city. Hundreds of personal bests were set and great times were had by all.


I arrived a little late to the first shorter day of the expo and had just enough time to get everything set up at my table before the smaller crowd which comes on Thursday rolled in. The next day promised to be a long one (with the expo going until 9 PM) and with my 2100 mile road trip the previous week moving one of my best friends, I knew I was going to be a tired puppy.

Most of the talk during the second day surrounded NYC's decision to cancel the marathon.  It made for a lively discussion and further clarified for me how, as a whole, thoughtful and intelligent runners are with regard to topics ranging all over the board. By the time the day was done, I got a late dinner and was back to my lodging I was, as predicted, exhausted.

Race Morning:

I was able to find parking downtown just a few short blocks from the race without too much trouble.  This was the first time I had driven to the start of the race (previously having stayed at one the many hotels near the start/finish area) and was curious how bad this would be.  Color me pleasantly surprised. The morning called for few cool temperatures but somehow it just seemed a little more than chilly.  Feeling the briskness in the air, I was disappointed I was not in better shape. This was definitely PR weather.

My lateness in arriving to the starting line (by design- I simply do not like to mill around prior to a race) made me miss the National Anthem.  I did, however, find my friend Mike who I met three years prior at this race. Mike got his first Boston Qualifying time ever that morning - in his first marathon ever! He was going to be running around the pace I wanted to run for the half for his marathon, so we decided to run together for a bit until the courses split.

First 3 miles: 6:36, 6:29, 6:21

My desire was to run right around 6:40 for the first five or so miles and then play the rest of the race by ear. I was very much unsure of what I had in my legs and four hours of sleep had me quite weary. Hitting the first mile right about where I wanted to, we were treated to a glorious sunrise just peaking out over the horizon.  I took a quick picture which doesn't even capture how beautiful it was.  Mike told me to enjoy it as bad weather was predicted.  I had missed this memo completely and could not have been happier to be running 13.1 instead of 26.2.

Soon thereafter, Mike, who was pacing a friend in his first marathon picked up the pace a bit.  I told him I was none too surprised when the next mile ran a little hot. Approaching the 3rd mile, I told them this was a pace I could not keep up and even falling back ran way faster than I was hoping to do. The pace they were keeping was one for a very fast marathon time but I knew I didn't have that in me today.  I bid them adieu and fell back into my groove.

Monday, November 5, 2012

NYC Marathon Canceled

I struggled mightily with this one.  Lots of thought went into it.  But I finally had to make a decision and am sticking with it:

"Canceled" only has one "L".  Hate me if you want but that is how I was raised.

Now onto something far less controversial: the NYC Marathon getting its plug pulled.

I was signing books at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon expo when someone asked me what I thought about the NYC Marathon’s decision with regard to its race.  I said that it was going to be interesting to watch it all play out but at least they were sticking to their guns. That was when this person told me that seconds earlier, the announcement had been made saying it was a no-go.

“Well, how about that,” I recall saying verbatim.  Throughout the rest of the day I was asked my thoughts on it and I had to keep deferring.  By the time the day was done columns had been written and everyone seemed to have an opinion.  I simply wanted more facts. With a few more days of reflection (people feeling they need to be the first to write about a story, often needing to retract opinions, is one of the most annoying parts of this instant-information world we now live in) I think NYC made the right decision.  But they did it at the wrong time for the wrong reasons and in a bumbling idiotic manner.

First and foremost, regardless of how bad the damage would end up being, if the organizers had ended the weekend's events immediately when the storm hit NYC, the decision would have been much better handled by most.  Not all, but most. The Myrtle Beach Marathon comes to mind and how a few years ago a bad snowstorm led to the race being canceled.  Well, the snow storm ended up being far worse than predicted.  A few whiny people still cannot get over it, stating how hardy of runners they are and how they will run in everything - missing the actual point. It was not whether Steve and Mary have the balls to be so krraaaaazy to survive cold temperatures but whether Steve and Mary and 700 other people can do it safely.

Now change that to 40,000 people and if the decision was made a week prior to the running, most people could understand and accommodate.  They could cancel flights, hotel reservations, look for other races, etc. Instead, canceling on a Friday afternoon after saying the show would and must go on, left a lot of pissed off people and rightfully so.  Now runners felt, rationally or not, as if the city only wanted to get them into town to spend money on food, hotels and the like purposely making the decision so late in order to assure that. (This probably is not true at all.)