Saturday, December 20, 2008

12/20/08 Pigtails Flat Ass 50K

Put this one on my calendar a few months ago. Seemed like the right time to go a little farther and see how that goes. Race director is none other than Van "Pigtails" Phan. If anyone would know how to put on a low key race it would be her. Cost is minimal, two cans of soup (one to eat post race and one for the food bank).
How far is 50K? I got that question a lot. Sometimes I would say "about 73 miles" just to see peoples reaction. It is in fact 50 kilometers. My running friends who can do some math should know that it is ten times a 5K race, or 31.1 miles. This race has a little bonus mileage and the real distance is closer to 31.6 miles. Course is paved wide trail for 10 miles "upstream" the Cedar River Trail followed by 5.8 miles of gravel trail. Turn around and head back on a very gentle grade downhill.
For weeks I calculated and plotted out a racing strategy that would end with a finish of about 5 hours, a little over would be OK. I will spare you the details of the plan, because the weather threw a wrench into everything. Three small snow events and sub freezing cold in the days before the race. Very icy roads. Email from Pigtails said "no wimping out" but only travel if it is safe to do. Bigger snow Thursday evening made it very hard to get out of my neighborhood. We did get a short break in the weather from Friday till later Saturday when the very big storm is due to hit. I considered not running, but then Jody suggested I go up Friday afternoon and take my time driving, stay in a hotel and not have to stress the very early morning drive on Saturday. With one swipe of the credit card my cheap race became about the price of a big city marathon. Quiet night at the Quality Inn, then I could sleep in till almost 6AM and drive the half mile to the start line with ease. Feeling a little sore throat and some stuffiness, nothing a run of 31 miles in the cold and snow won't cure.
Start - Dark and frigid. 17 degrees F. The race starts and ends under Highway 405 in Renton. I pick up my number and get my gear ready. Three shirts and a jacket, long pants, hat, head band, head band around neck, gloves, cell phone, cereal bars (Odwalla), camera, head lamp, fuel belt with two bottles, 3 GUs, extra bag with polar fleece, second pair of gloves and hat. I wait in my car till five minutes before the start to stay warm. There are about 15 of us taking the early start. Originally there were 93 registered for either the marathon or the 50K, but I think that many could not make it due to the weather. Great to see RW and Mike are here. The plan is to stick with RW longer than usual. They are pinning their numbers on when I hear Pigtails say some number of seconds till the start. Didn't hear the number, but it must be soon. I look forward to moving and generating some heat. And then we are off.
Mile 1 to 31.6 - one to two inches of snow, either packed down some or fluffy on top of either pavement, ice or gravel. Most of the trail has footprints and because it is so cold the footing us uneven. I am not afraid of slipping, but with every step there are minor adjustments. Small slips back hinder the power of forward progress. Not a problem if I was just running a few miles, but not what I was hoping for when I signed up to run five miles farther than I ever have.
Mile 1 - 9:50 or so. I feel like I am running 9:00, but we just are not moving at usual pace. Didn't need that head lamp. I'll stick it in my backpack when I get a chance.
Mile 3 - Day is getting lighter. May see the sun before long. String straps on my back pack keep sliding off my shoulders. I have never run with this bag and it is annoying to have to keep adjusting it. Most runners have Yaktrax or spike/screws in their shoes. I am doing fine with my regular running shoes. I did not want to try something like that for the first time on this long run.
Mile 5 - My face feels tight in some way. The feeling is hard to explain. I touch my beard and realize that I am growing icicles! Other than that I feel good about my clothing choices and how I feel temperature wise.
Mile 8 - Nice sunshine, no wind, just cold. A couple of snow angels on the trail. Also some animal tracks. Little bird tracks. A couple sets of mammal tracks going directly across the trail and down toward the river. Its me, RW, Mike and another Mike. RW says that this may be the craziest thing she has ever done.

Mile 9.1 - Second "self serve" aid station. We stop and fill up and walk a bit. My Odwalla bar is frozen.

Mile 10-12 - Worse footing. Frozen solid bumpy.

Mile 12.5 - Staffed aid station. Thank you volunteers! Drop bag station. I ditch my wretched backpack. I can always grab it on the way back, otherwise, they will drive it to the finish for me.
Mile 13.1 - Marathon turn around. With the two races and three different start times it is impossible to tell what place I am in. Two really fast guys blew past us a few miles back. I was amazed at their speed on this surface. Meanwhile we have hit about a 10:45 average pace what with walk breaks and all.
Mile 15 - I would love to see that 50K turn around. This is getting to be a little trudge. Mike has dropped back some. RW and I are step in step. She was downright chatty (for her) a while ago, but now it is mostly quiet.

Mile 15.8 - There is the turnaround and aid station. Hot chocolate!! Pose for a picture to prove that we made it all the way (well halfway).

Take a close look at RW's hair. The white spots are fine white frost on every strand. I think it looks like feathers, but she says it is gray hair and that this race is aging her. Race? Well really we are not racing. This is the least competitive race I have done, not that I am not working hard. There is so far to go I just want to conserve strength for the end. I have hit the wall at mile 18 before, if that happens today it will be a long 13.5 miles to the end. Hopefully the walking breaks and hot cocoa stop will enable me to finish strong. As we leave the rest stop and start running back I glance at the watch. 2 hours 49 minutes. If I do hit the wall, I may not finish in under six hours! The longest time I have ever been out running was 4:24 and that was eleven years ago.

Mile 18 - Oh so gentle downhill, very slight wind at my back, heading in the right direction. Feeling good and making good progress.
Mile 19.1 - Back at the aid station. They have hot chocolate too!! Linger for a while before resuming the run. Not hard at all getting back in the groove.
Mile 20 - Bob Dolphin sighting.
Mile 22 - Back on the snow covered pavement. 3-4 mile runs with longish walk breaks. Getting cloudy. Seems like the sun is about to set. Still wearing gloves and everything else. Happy with my wardrobe choices. Feet are fine and dry. Being so cold there is no melting or wetness getting to my feet. I'd rather have this than have it be 20 degrees warmer and raining.
Mile 26.2 - 4 hours 40 minutes. My slowest marathon by 16 minutes and a good 40 minutes slower than what I could do this year. Perhaps this slow pace has allowed my energy reserves to be sustained. I have a few points of fatigue and a little right foot discomfort, but overall am in good shape. Only 5.4 miles to go.
Mile 28 - Before the race I figured RW would make her move around here and leave me. But she seems fatigued and in no mood to compete. When I suggest a walk break, she is quick to agree. I could go faster if I really wanted, but there is still a ways to go and I have no need to "beat" her either. Neither of us are really fading, but neither of us have much inner drive. I have been looking at my GPS watch only to learn the distance traveled, not the time. There are very few other runners to give me any incentive to pass or avoid being passed.
Mile 30 - One last short walk break. We start again and if we did not deserve them before, now we are earning our medals. Little bit faster and it is really tough. I can see Highway 405 in the distance. Ah the final stretch to the finish. Very very hard but good effort.
Mile 31.6 - Make the turn across the river and decide to finish together. A little group cheering for us and we cross the line in step. Some day I would like to compete with her and drive each of us to faster times, but not today. Finish feeling fresher than many a marathon. Quick change of clothes and get home just as the big storm starts. I would like to run this course again on a nice day. I think it could be a marathon PR course if the weather is good.
On the way home I reflected about my 2008 running. Best year yet. Most miles (over 1,600) most races (27) most marathons (12 plus an ultra) first ultra, PRs in the 8K, 12K, half marathon and marathon. Also my streak of hundred mile months goes on at 49 months. I'll think of some goals for 2009, but in many ways I do not feel a need to keep outdoing myself. I am so blessed and grateful to be able to run like this.

5 hours 36 minutes 41 seconds
tied for 11th place of 22 finishers
2 minute negative split

Saturday, December 13, 2008

12/13/08 Club Oly Tis the Season for a 5K Race Series #3 at The Evergreen State College

Earlier in the week I was having second thoughts about doing this race. My mind is focused on my first ever ultra marathon to be run next weekend. The weather forecast for today had been calling for rain followed by snow and lots of wind. My good friend Bill encouraged me to come out anyway if just to get a run in and have fun. When last night's storm did not live up to its predicted fury I decided to go ahead and run. I had second thoughts at 7AM as it was raining and 35 degrees. The hardest part sometimes is just getting out the door. The showers stopped by the time I arrived and there is little wind. It is a damp cold, but could be much worse.

Start - Good to see familiar faces and friends new and old. Looks like 12 of us will be running, a few more than the race last month. I feel a little awkward in my new black shoes. They are the same make and model that I have been wearing for years, but the all black color makes them look big and clunky. I finally get to race with Marygay, who has multiple marathon finishes mostly a little faster than mine. Hoping for some good competition. Billy, Marygay and I run a warm up lap and discuss strategy. I tell her that on pavement today I should be about a 7:15 mile, but with this rough terrain all bets are off and maybe I will be at 7:30 but who knows? This cross country course has two long loops, then on the third loop it cuts short to the finish. There is a mix of open fields and short trail sections with crazy hairpin turns through out. Some of the field is a little muddy, some is very muddy. The fields are on different levels, so while there are no major hills, there are numerous steep ups and downs of about 10 feet or so. We decide to stay out of the deep MUD and just warm up for the start. Soon RD Craig calls us to toe the line and we are off. My last minute "strategy" was to run the flat wet but not so muddy fields at an all out sprint, then catch my breath on the hairpin turns, MUD, and any uneven surface where I could not run all out.

Mile 0.05 - Sprinting across the field on the grass. Gosh there are fast runners here. Craig is coach of the Evergreen College cross country team and Rich (who is racing and co-RD) is coach of Tumwater HS Cross country. Each has a few of their runners with them. Us old folks quickly settle in the back.

Mile 0.3 - Off the field, up a hill and around a little tree. There is a young man just in front of me. I could pass him if I want, but maybe later.

Mile 0.4 - The course map had shown a "log jump" and when warming up we did not run this part. Well here it is. Fairly flat (but who knows what is under those leaves?) then a bump of a log with a two foot drop on the other side as the trail jumps down to another field. I manage it OK.

Mile 0.5 - Back on the field and time to sprint. I really should not pass this kid so early, but it seems like the right thing to do. Sprint past him, far enough to break the connection and hope that he will not catch up. I hear Bill yell something behind me, I think he fell or almost fell on that log.

Mile 0.8 - I have been off the field, and around a little trail. Now a sharp turn and up hill on this clumpy, soggy, shoe sucky MUD. Foot size chunks of MUD seem to slide downhill with some of my steps. Craig is there are tells me to lift my knees up higher. I have a lot to learn about cross country and trail racing, but I am loving being here and doing this. I see Bill down below and know that he is OK.

Mile 1.0 - After another sharp turn and a 30 foot section of deep MUD I hit the one mile mark. Craig is yelling out times and encouragement. 7:15. Hey that is great but will never hold. I expect the kid and Marygay to catch me but I press on. Flat grass, time to sprint.

Mile 2.2 - For a short race, this seems to be going on a long time. Second log jump went well. After the hairpin turns I see that I am gaining my lead on those behind me. I have no idea where the next guy in front of me is. Good thing this course is marked so well. I have only turned my ankle twice and neither time was very bad. I am still able to pick up the pace on the grass sections but with no close competition there is a small lack of true desire to run fast. Just do the best I can I remind myself and press on.

Mile 2.5 - Last log jump. Lets take this one with extra care. I slow down and gingerly place my shoe on the log. It slips and I slide a bit. The time I was most careful was the time I almost bit it.

Mile 2.9 - One more bump of a hill, then wet field to the finish. I can see the clock way off. 23:15. This will be one of my worse 5Ks ever, but really that is fine. Can I break 23:30? I run faster, then faster, and then I really kick in all I have. Nice to have some strength left. Cross the line and see the clock change to 23:31. Official timer has me at 23:30:86. Not that it really matters. Another fun low key event. Glad I did it.


8th of 12

Race #152, 5K #46


Sunday, November 30, 2008

11/30/08 Seattle Marathon

Weather is the wild card for this race, with its late November date. Long range forecast had called for sun, but yesterday it was changed to cloudy with a chance of showers. This morning there is a one word description of the weather - fog. Fog is good in that it means no wind. This fog is so thick that it is almost drizzle. Roads are wet. Jody is running the half marathon which for reasons I can not understand will start 45 minutes before the full marathon. Therefore I am not stressed to get there early. We went to a concert last night then stayed at BKs condo so it was a quick trip to the start line. Multiple trips to the porta potties as I watch the marathon walkers, half marathon runners, and half marathon walkers take their separate start times from outside the Experience Music Project and the Seattle Center. One last potty stop ( I am abnormally hydrated today) and then it is our turn.
Start - Look for RW among the crowd. It is easier to find her dad and know that she will be close. This is at least the 8th race in 2008 where the three of us have lined up together at the start. There she is with nice new Maniac gear. I should stash that cookie I am carrying in her back pocket, but don't think of it at the time. Soon we are off, just we three and 2,109 of our closest friends.
Mile 0.5 - 5th avenue. So crowded. Try really hard to not slam into the monorail supports as we weave around the slower runners. No need to rush though, this pace is not too bad.
Mile 2 - Onto the I-90 express lane. It is fun to be here but it is all concrete and somewhat slanty. At least the walkers are in another lane as we pass many of them.
Mile 4 - Into the tunnel. Mile long, dry, well lit. Strange clanking noise the whole way. Getting stuffy but I have been in worse tunnels
Mile 5 - Bridge to Mercer Island. Lots of fog, no view. I feel like RW should be going a little faster than me. Our pace is not too fast but is a little on the quick side. It is probably better to let her go now rather than have me suffer more later. Tempting to just stay with her as long as possible, but I have done that before and paid the price. Also I am not feeling so good, just a little off. So I say good bye and wish her well.
Mile 6 - Maniac Eric catches up. He is running a triple today (third marathon in three days) and we talk for a minute before he goes on ahead. Amazing. Fast runners are coming the other way from the turn around. Great to see so many familiar faces. Soon I am at the turnaround myself and heading back to Seattle.
Mile 7 - Easy to see each of the mile markers. They are large and taped to a Porta Potty. Pace is fine but I do not feel smooth. Something is wrong but I am not sure what.
Mile 8 - On to Lake Washington Blvd. Very flat long section ahead. I have to pee.
Mile 8.5 - On my 151st race and 27th marathon I make my first ever bathroom break. I see someone come out of a porta potty and there is no line, so I duck in for quick relief. Soon I am back on the road and much more comfortable.
Mile 11 - I have not been running well since mile 6. How to describe it? Pace is OK, but just a little hard to maintain. Usually I am well rested before a race and the early miles are so smooth, easy and pleasurable. Now I am just plodding along, not feeling very strong. My mood is OK, but not that happy. I should be having more fun but I am tired and getting really worried about how the later miles will play out.
Mile 13 - Doing a large loop around Seward Park. I can see the halfway marker ahead. I am at 1:53 and would like to be closer to 1:55 to 1:56 at the half. I should walk a bit like I did at the Light at the End of the Tunnel marathon, use some of that time in the bank right now, before I really need it. At least my split time will not be as bad this way if I walk a little now. Whoa there is a good sized pack passing me and chatting and I see that it is the 4 hours pacers. I want to be around 3:55, I can not have the 4 hour team passing me here. I thought I was ahead of schedule, they really are. Now there are significant hills to come, so maybe they are going fast prior to that. I never did work out a plan for pacing this interesting course.
Mile 14 - I "lapped" my watch at the half and sped up to be ahead of the pacers. I am starting to feel better, more of a groove
Mile 17 - Well this is going much better. I am still running the same pace, but somehow it is much easier.
Mile 18 - Larry Macon sighting. Introduce myself to the man who is running at least 100 marathons this year.
Mile 19 - Up a little hill, then back down to the water. Other people seem talkative and that is fine. Having nice short conversations and passing lots of people. Hey this is mile 19, this is really good. But torture lies up ahead.
Mile 20.5 - Left turn onto Galen street. Super steep hills are one thing, but at mile 20.5? This is a monster steep but fairly short hill leading to a longer, less steep hill. You can not run fast up this hill, there is no way. A shuffle does get me passing the walkers, Oh, hello calf muscles. Long time no feel. Wow you are making yourselves known just now. Top of the steep hill and the feeling passes.
Mile 21 - Nice to see this mile marker. I can run 10 minute miles and still beat 4 hours. It is getting difficult but no wall yet. Mood is much improved.
Mile 22 - That which is difficult can still be done. That which is difficult can still be fun.
Mile 23 - Judy Fisher sighting. Meet Maniac Coconut Boy. Pigtails!! Pigtails is on the third day of her triple, and I think she ran a 50K yesterday. Saw her at the start and told her that I should be able to beat her. Guess I was wrong. But that is fine. My problem with Pigtails is when she passes me in meltdown stage, because I did not pace properly. I am running a little slower than earlier on, but I am not at the wall and I am feeling good. I probably could stay with her for a little while, but there is too much distance to go and I need to stick to my plan. Nice hills in the arboretum, reminds me of the Sound to Narrows course. Interesting to run this course after not being here for three years and only then running it once. It seems very familiar.
Mile 24 - Another little uphill, but it is difficult. Meet Maniac Michelle and use her to keep from walking. If I can keep running it will make four marathons in a row with no walk break meltdowns. I used to do that so regularly, but in my 12th marathon of 2008 I am gaining some confidence.
Mile 25 - Lovely downhill, except it is so steep
Mile 25.5 - Last water stop, staffed by Maniac Betsy. Aid stations were plentiful and well staffed. Good course organization.
Mile 25.7 - Spectator tells me to keep pumping. I start pumping my arms like mad and it makes me go faster. Entire left leg decides to quiver, that was weird. Keep on running.
Mile 26.1 - Into the stadium and across the field. Pick up the pace for the finish
Mile 26.2 - Done!! See RW who beat me by about 6 minutes. Shuffle off to the recovery area. Pick up a banana and it is really warm, that is just odd. Find Jody and we head home. Right foot starts hurting as usual. Ice and ibuprofen seem to help. Two toes are bleeding but I am not sure why. If I could just get that foot fully fixed I would have a much easier time with recovery. Not sure if I will do this race next year. I like the big time race, but the slanty concrete is tough and many of the paved roads need lots of patching. Challenging and scenic though. But who knows about the weather for next year?
702 of 2109 runners (walkers timed separately)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

11-15-08 Club Oly - Tis the Season for a 5K Cross County Series Race Number Two - 3 Mile Race

This race has almost as good a name as the Michael Scott's Dunder Mifflin Scranton Merideth Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race For The Cure. I have a T-shirt from that event and thought about wearing it today, but since I have not worn it yet I was afraid that what happened to Andy Bernard in that race could happen to me. So I donned regular running clothes and headed to Millersylvania State Park for my 150th race. I have raced out of Millersylvania too many times, but I have not raced on the trails. This will be my first cross country race. The Light at the End of the Tunnel would be considered a trail run, but this race will have more closed canopy, leaves and sticks on the ground, sudden turns and MUD than I have ever experienced in a race. Still it is great for a beginning trail runner like myself, since I probably will not get lost, the trails here are flat, and it is a short race so hypothermia will not set in.
This race is free for Club Oly members so I finally paid my dues and became official. I am now a member of Club Oly, Fort Steilacoom Running Club and Marathon Maniacs. The race is two loops with a slight variation on the second loop. Rich explains the course to a couple of us and since we had time it seemed like a good idea to run one loop as a warm up. Matt, Amber and I head off to scope out the trail. Amber is a gazelle and both Matt and Amber are significantly faster than me so it is nice to run an easy warm up with them. Lots of leaves on the trail and one section with some MUD followed by a shin deep puddle about 15 feet long. We pick our way around the puddle and discuss whether to run through it during the race.
The fog has lifted and it is a sunny cold morning. I knew this would be a small race but as we line up at the start I count a total of 8 runners including myself. I know four of them. Three I do not know are on the Evergreen State College cross country team. Unless one of them is slower than I suspect I am pretty much garunteed to finish in 6th place. That is fine, I am just out to have a good work out and fun time.
Start - Across a bumpy field and onto a dirt trail. Quick left turn onto a dirt road. I glance at my watch. 23 seconds into it and my prediction is holding. Five runners already out of reach, Barb and Ruhama behind me. Maybe one of those top five will fade, but I doubt it. Three minutes into the race and I make a turn onto a trail. The leaders are nowhere in site. With all the turns and deep forest I will not see them till it is all over.
Mile 0.75 - Running hard and struggling a little for air. I have no idea what my pace is and I really do not care. I am not at my 5K peak and you can not compare trail pace to road pace. I have a new attitude these days. Just grateful and happy to be running. For my next couple of races I really have no time goal. My foot problem has kept me from being able to do serious training but I am getting the mileage in. Sometime next week I will celebrate my 100th mile for the month, and will have completed at least 100 miles in each month for the past 4 years. It is a beautiful fall day and I am running alone in the woods. After all this rain the moss and lichens are bright and happy. Lots of leaves to cushion the trail. So many shades of green. Tall douglas firs and smaller hemlocks. "Alright Andy, 7:07 mile 1". I am fairly shocked to see Race Director Craig standing there with his stopwatch. I know he is fast but how did he get out here? That was unexpected and very nice. Guess I am not all alone after all. And it holds that the best races are put on by runners themselves. What a nice event this is. Oh and my pace sure seems great. Jody has the GPS for her long run this morning, so I don't really know how fast I am going. I think that 7:07 is faster than my real pace, but maybe not.
Mile 1.1 - Three nice little MUD sections. Then the big puddle. I stay to the side, only slowing a little bit.
Mile 1.3 - On to another trail. This one is a single deep rut with slightly bumpy grass on either side. During my warm up lap I ran on the grass, but now I find myself in the rut. I decide to move to the grass but turn my ankle and alost fall as soon as I hit that surface. Back into the rut I go.
Mile 1.5 - Loop one is done. Rich is there to cheer and tell me to be careful on the bumpy grass. This is not going to be a 5K, unless I suddenly got a whole lot faster. Looks more like a three mile race. That is fine.
Mile 2.5 - Almost done with the second loop. I have been thinking about that big puddle. I really need to run through it just to add to the experience. I will, no I won't, yes I will, no I won't. Here it is and in I go. But I am afraid of what lies beneath the leaves. It could be horrible shoe sucking MUD. I move over to the side. I am being a wimp, I need to get back in there or else I will regret it. No regrets. HTFU. In I go for the last four steps. Water splashing up my legs, even hitting my arms. Now on dry land. Why did I do that? It was fun though. Now my shoes are twice as heavy, my feet are sliding around in the shoes and I am slowing. Oh who cares, I am almost done.
Mile 2.8 - Turn onto the dirt road and pick up the pace. No problem with energy today, I could keep going a whole lot farther. But here is the turn to the field and the finish line.
Mile 3 - Craig hands me a "participant" ribbon and says that it was three miles, not a 5K. I think it was even shorter than that, but it is fine, lets call it three. I loved running in the woods and really enjoyed this little race. I do another lap as a cool down and see Amber running the other way. I wonder if she thinks that I am still racing. By the time I get back, everyone is done and getting ready to leave. Craig offers me a loaf of pumkin bread and I change out of my soggy shoes before heading home.
6th place of 8 runners. Last place male, but first in my age group :)
150th race, 24th race of 2008 (new record for most races in a year)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tri Cities Marathon 10/26/08

I am doing three marathons this weekend. OK, two of them are driving marathons to get out to Richland WA. After watching and cheering for the Ghostmuster races (Billy 5k PR and I am officially afraid to race him in a short distance and Jody sixth race in 6 weeks setting a 10K PR and Tammy hoping to do the 10K in under 50 minutes and crossing the line just as the clock changed to 50:00) I hit the road for the four hour drive to eastern WA. I wonder if I can beat four hours. I start my clock and don't stop it until getting to the hotel in 3 hours 49 minutes. That would be one minute slower than my PR. Other than the drive, this is a very easy race logistically. 8AM start right here at the Shilo inn. Finish is here too and all runners get late check out so I can shower and relax a little before heading home. When I leave my room in the morning I am surprised to see them setting up the finish line about 50 yards from my room and maybe 25 yards from my parked car. That is my blue civic in the photo I took after the race.

Start - It is cold but the sun is rising and looking bright. I have gloves and a long sleeve shirt over my maniac singlet. There is a small rustle of wind, but not much. The course is mostly very flat and from what I have read the real wild card is the wind. It can be nasty, but does not look bad for today. After a very nice National Anthem we all walk over to the start area and I find a place in the middle. At 7:58 I am just having a little conversation with some Maniacs and without any warning everyone starts running. Abrupt and unexpected, but we came here to run so off we go.

Mile 1 - Yes it is going to be a very flat course but I have wondered a bit about how to get up to the freeway for the river crossings. Now we are climbing a hill that would be very steep except we get three switchbacks to do it in. It is a sight to see all the runners zigging and zagging up the hill. When I reach the top I look down and really do not see many others. I feel like I am way back. But I am on pace (actually a little fast) and I need to stick to my plan. There are about 200 marathoners and 50 relay teams, so I expect to do some running alone and get passed by fresh legs every so often.

Mile 1.5 - Over the Columbia River on the I182 bridge. Beautiful sunny morning.

Mile 3- Residential road. I ditch my gloves on an empty boat trailer, hoping to remember to pick them up on the way back.

Mile 4 - Off the road and onto a nice paved trail. We will race mostly on these park trails right along the river. I am giving this course an A+ and I have hardly seen it yet. It is broken up into long straight sections that I prefer. Later there will be an out and back part where I should get to see many familiar faces. My last couple of marathons have been with good friends. Today I am alone and in control of my own race.

Mile 6 - Either I am getting older or these race volunteers are getting younger. This aid station is staffed by a three year old. She is not even holding the cups but has about 6 of them at her feet. I want to take one and thank her but I am afraid to bend over that low and fast so instead I accept a cup of gatorade from a 7 year old. There are two bright suns in our eyes, the real sun and the reflection of the sun off the water. I am thankful for my sunglasses.

Mile 6.5 - I have been following a young guy in a green shirt. I don't feel particularly chatty but I decide to move up and just run next to him. It is easy to run two or even three abreast as long as no one is coming toward us. We do not say a word for about a mile. Finally I break the silence and say "having fun yet?". He starts talking and is a nice diversion. First marathon for him though he did an ultra a few months ago. I do not tell him but my new goal is to beat him. Hopefully I am running smarter than a first timer.

Mile 8 - Up a smaller hill and onto the Blue Bridge. Green shirt guy starts sprinting and is soon far ahead of me.

Mile 8.5 - High above the Columbia River. I sort of need to spit so I do my best and arc it over the fence and it is a clean shot to the water. I am so pleased that I do it again.

Mile 9 - Off the bridge and a right turn into Columbia Park. Uh oh here is the wind. Fairly strong and in my face.

Mile 10 - I tell the aid station child that I am "feeling winded". My pace remains steady but I know it is taking a toll. One prolific marathoner has coined the term "wind penalty" or "heat penalty" or "hill penalty". I like that idea as a way to factor in weather or course variations that could slow down an otherwise good time. I will determine the wind factor for this race as best I can after it is done.

Mile 11 - Seeing some familiar faces coming towards me.

Mile 12 - Now I am heading back and see more runners. I still feel like I am pretty far back in this race. But my pace is fine for me and now I have the wind at my back

Mile 14 - Catch and pass green shirt guy. I am running with a local. I ask the question that I already know the answer to. "When we cross back and have that long 7 mile section on the other side, is the wind going to be in our faces again?" "Yes it is" he says. "So even though I am running well right now I should just give up any hope of a PR then?" "Absolutely" he says.

Mile 15.5 - Up and onto the Cable Bridge. Third time over the river and third different bridge. Green shirt guy comes zooming past and gains a big lead again. Later I learn that his "strategy" was to run the bridge hills aggressively. Hmmm.

Mile 16.5 - On the other side now and turn into the wind. We will go straight now for about 7 miles. I had a crummy week last week. I should clarify that I am terrifically blessed with health, family, friends and career and my crummy week was probably about the same as many peoples good weeks. I did have some stress and sadness from a variety of sources and at times this week I was thinking about how this would be the tough part of the course. Sometimes in the late stages of a marathon I get a little emotional. This week I pictured myself using the physical suffering of this section to pound out the bad feelings. I'll leave any lingering bad feelings on the road right here. I'll be running by myself any way at this point. Just me and the pavement.

Mile 16.51 - "Hey are you the guy from the Elma race" I hear. It takes me just a second or two to recognize soon to be maniac Lee. Two weeks ago I went to Jody's triathlon in Elma just to be a spectator. There was a marathon that had started 3 hours earlier from when we got there. I was due for an easy run, not a race, and I wanted to see some of the runners. So while Jody and her friend were getting ready I headed down the road. First I found "evil triplet" Ron who had started early and I jogged with him back to the finish. Then I ran out a mile or so and saw the overall winner coming towards me. I encouraged him and ran with him. He had never won a marathon before and even though there was no one in sight he kept looking back. I got him close to the finish and made sure that some triathletes cheered for him because there were zero spectators at this little race. Then I jogged back a mile and saw the lead woman. Now here was someone struggling like I do at the end of the race. I tried to encourage her and I ran with her but I felt like maybe I was being a bother instead of a help. She thanked me though afterwords. Now here she is again. Lee thanks me again for Elma and we have a nice conversation as we plow along at a good pace.

Mile 18 - Just running along at a steady pace with Lee. It has been nice, but she has to duck into the bathroom, so I will run alone. I pass green shirt guy for good. Here is Maniac Ken. He is running watchless, which is something I would like to try. We run together for two miles. My pace is slowing but it has been a nice stretch and the wind is not that bad. I was expecting this segment to be a "trail of tears" in stead it was "happy trails". Tumbleweed sighting.

Mile 21 - Slowing a bit more. Running now with blue shirt guy who I have been back and forth with for the whole race. We make a right turn into a strong wind and I am just behind him. I draft him for a minute, then I see that we are a little ways from another turn. I decide to be generous and kind and so I pass him quickly and get right in front of him, so he can draft me. I think he appreciated it. A little while later he has to make a rest stop.

Mile 23 - Up a little hill, hand slap Maniac Jill, and back onto the residential street. Oh there are my gloves. I do not feel like picking them up. I hope whoever finds them will use them.

Mile 23.5 - Old geezer at his mailbox. As I approach he asks "How long is this race?" "26.2 miles" I reply. "Some of you are not going to make it." Wow, way to be encouraging old man. I am past him before I can think of a good comeback.

Mile 24 - Up the switchback to the final bridge. I take the shortest ever walk break, and then keep moving. I look down and see soon to be maniac Lee right on my heels and looking pretty good. I hope she catches me.

Mile 25 - Good run over the last crossing. I think I can make this without any meltdown walk breaks. Lee has caught up and we are running together. Last water stop.

Mile 25.25 - Lee lets out a quiet four letter word and grinds to a walk. I know she will be running again shortly.

Mile 25.5 - For a good three miles I have been ever so slowly catching up to a runner with bright red arm warmers. That can only be Maniac Ben who I talked with before the start. He is one of 14 maniacs who are running the second half of a double (2 marathons in two days) today. He is usually much faster than me and I was curious to see how he would do. Perhaps next year I will run both of these Columbia River races. Now I see that Ben is walking. I wonder if I can catch him. He is about 50 yards ahead of me and starts running again. I yell to him and he stops and looks back. I wave him on with a laugh. Bad idea for the predator to yell to the prey. He is too far ahead and the end is near.

Mile 26.2 - Cross the line in good shape but get somewhat nauseated for a few minutes afterword. Happy to have gotten under four hours and to have not degenerated into walking (third marathon in a row with no walking meltdowns). I estimate a 3-5 minute wind penalty. It could have been worse. Pace chart from the watch shows some erratic running toward the end but looks steady compared to many races. The spikes every two miles are when I slowed at each water station. Hit the shower, rest a little bit, then hop in the car for a long ride home.

Marathon #26

Saturday, October 18, 2008

10/18/08 Free to Breathe 5K

What to do this weekend? I have a marathon next week and I usually run 12 miles or so a little faster than that pace one week out. So I was going to do that, but I miss the Roman Meal Glove Run 5K which has gone the way of the passenger pigeon and next week I really should not run my favorite 5K, the Ghostmuster, because it is the day before a marathon that I would like to do well at. So no Fall 5K for me. Until I looked at the race calendar and saw a new one in Tacoma. Free to Breathe Lung Cancer 5K on Saturday morning. My last 4 races have been marathons and I have done zero speed work since July because of my foot. But the foot has been doing better and I was considering some speed sessions soon. My finish time will be slower than it has been for a while, but I feel like running with a herd today, and I might as well go for quantity of races, rather than quality.

I invite my very good friend, the sloth, to join me and to my happy surprise she decides to do it. She was a fast runner in her early youth but has not been quite so athletic lately. She is going to walk the course and that is way better than all the other folks who are sleeping in this morning. Jody is also going to run and we leave the house in plenty of time.

Since this is a first time event I am concerned about logistics and we are not preregistered. As long as the course is accurately measured, marked and timed I won't fret the other potential snafus. As we walk to the registration are I see the mile 3 marker, the same mile marker from the Tacoma Marathon. Then I see Tony and I know that all of my concerns are for naught. Of course Bob and Marci are next to us at the sign in table. Lots of the regular Tacoma gang and many walkers. I do a two mile warm up and finish with some strides that feel very good.

Start - It is a skinny start line and we will be running on the sidewalk, but everyone lines up well with walkers in the back. It is a beautiful Fall day with no wind. The course is out and back along Ruston Way. Completely flat with great views of the water. Last night I had this plan to make this a specific work out (7:30 mile 1, 7:15 mile 2, 7:00 mile 3). I should be around a 7:15 pace and that plan would have me finish strong. Race start is announced and I try to remember that plan. No idea what I wanted to do. O well, just run fast. I am relaxed.

Mile 0.2 - Passing a little guy. I always want to tell them to not go out so fast, it is a long race for them. They need to learn how to pace. I look at my watch: 6:46 average pace. I snort and realize I need to heed my own advice.

Mile 0.5 - Dodge a kid on a tricycle.

Mile 0.6 - Pet a giant dog on the head. Pedestrians making full use of the sidewalk as we run by. Man jogging toward us. I want to tell him he is going the wrong way.

Mile 0.75 - Seal in the water

Mile 1.0 - GPS reads 1.00 7:09 pace

Mile 1.3 - With out and back we get to see everybody. I am not as friendly as I would be at a marathon since I am near sprint speed. I do pick up the pace for a stretch just to lose the guy with slapping feet who is on my tail.

Mile 1.7 - Running into the sun. Now my sunglasses not only make me look cool, they are serving a purpose. There is Jody looking strong and not far behind. She is hoping to break 27 minutes.

Mile 2 - Perfectly executed hand slap with the sloth. Looks like she is having a good time with her Dad.

Mile 2.2 - My air supply is low and I am almost gasping. I think that I sped up more than I should have, trying to look fast for the sloth. Settle down a bit but still moving well. The legs are fine, I am just out of breath. Funny on the "free to breathe" race.

Mile 2.9 - Strollered!! I am actually speeding up for the finish and this guy passes me with a double stroller. Only person to pass me since mile 0.5

Mile 3.1 - I see the clock cross over to 22 minutes and soon I am over the line. 7:09 pace and I knew I would be in this range, but it is a little disappointing to verify that I have lost some speed. All of my 5Ks for the last year have been under 7:00 pace. Man behind me says that I have great pacing and that he tried to get me but just could not keep up at the end. By the time I recover and walk back to the finish, the clock is at about 26 minutes. I remember that Jody wants to beat 27 although she has not done that in two years. I tell Bob that and the next thing we see is Jody coming home in 26:36. Good for her. We celebrate, then I run back down the course to cool down and find the sloth. She is about 0.75 miles from the finish, so we walk it in together. My right plantar is acting up a little but I think it will be OK. Maybe I will just stick to slow marathons, but these little short races are fun and do not take all day or weekend. One nice thing about walking in is that there is no wait for the awards ceremony. Too bad they only go one deep in ten year increments, so most of us get nothing. Nothing except a beautiful morning exercise with a friendly herd, raising money for a worthy cause. I would do this one again.


21st of 155 runners and walkers


Sunday, October 5, 2008

10/5/08 Portland Marathon

Members of Club Oly (Olymia WA) have been training long and hard for this one. I ran some of their long runs this summer when I was available and got to know some great people. I had planned to drive down with Bill and stay with family but at the last minute Jody and Tammy decided to come and Jody suggested that we get a hotel. Jody and Tammy will run the 5 mile race. All of the normal hotels close to the start were full, but the Hotel Modera had a suite available and is only four blocks from the start. The Modera is different, its got style and that style is something modern/trendy/chic/European. The best description I can come up with is that Dieter from Sprockets probably stays here. So the four of us had a nice Saturday. Lunch, then the expo to get our numbers. Bill and I took the bus tour of the course, then the four of us went to a pasta place for dinner.
My goals today are in a broad range. Having run Bellingham seven days ago I have limited expectations. My worst time ever is 4:24 and it is good to have that as a goal to beat if I have a real bad day. I would really like to beat 4:06, last weeks time. Sub 4 hours would be fantastic. I will be running with a group that wants to get in under 4 so I will pace with them, there is no way that I could PR or do much better than 4 as long as I stick to the plan and stay on pace. I doubt that I will be much good after mile 18, but I am fine with that. All I have to do is finish and I get my third Maniac star, for completing 12 marathons in 12 months.
Bill and I leave our hotel at 6AM and walk to the Hilton hotel/race headquarters to meet others from Club Oly. I learn that the public restrooms on the second floor have no line and are somewhat nicer than the port-a-potties lining the start area. We find the other four hour hopefuls: Bill running his 4th marathon with a previous PR of 4:14, Debbie so close to 4 on her first two marathons, Mark who had knee surgery in July but has been running well (students of my blog will remember Mark from October 30, 2004 where he heat me by a millisecond in a 5K), Dave who is running his first marathon and showed very good potential to be fast but had some first timer injuries and has been training conservatively recently, Shannon with a taped ankle, and me the idiot who ran a marathon last week thus blowing any chance of a speedy time.
Start - We work our way to the start and struggle through the crowds to get behind the 4 hour pace team. We are so crammed in there that we can not get within 30 yards of them. This will have to do. There are about 9,200 runners and many brought spectators to the start. Way too crowded and I am ready to get going, but relaxed. Temp is nice, but it might sprinkle. We are in the second wave and when our wave starts it takes us over a minute to get to the start line. We have our new disposable chips on that everyone except me put on properly, so it does not matter when we cross the start.
Mile 0.5 - The drums. I always get emotional here. Got to love the drums as we go down the narrow street in the semi dawn.
Mile 1 - 10:30. That is not bad considering the crowd. We can pick up the pace later. At least we are all together. Some people are throwing away really nice clothes. I want to stop for that beanie hat, but I would cause a major crash of people if I stop right now.
Mile 2 - I step into a small pothole and twist my ankle almost falling to the ground. I think that the two strangers next to me would have caught me if I had started to fall, they are so close. I keep running and everything seems fine. What a scare though, that could have been awful, for me and the herd I am with.
Mile 4 - Bill and I start crusing down the long hill at a faster pace. Debbie and Mark warn us to hold back and we do so. Most of my gang is very focused on the pace and I need to stay near them and let them be in charge. I am just along for the ride here. Not feeling very talkative either, but it is nice to be with the gang.
Mile 5 - The five mile race started a while ago and we could see the runners coming the other way. As we approach the side street from which they are coming I take one last look and then see Tammy!! I yell to her and she sees us!! That was unexpected and fun. Jody ran well and Tammy ran so fast that she was awarded with a plaque for 9th place in her age group.
Mile 6 - Starting to drizzle
Mile 7 - Out and back section. Fun to see the fast Maniacs
Mile 10 - There it is, quadricep soreness. I remember and expected this from my first back to back weekends in May. Hopefully the quads will stay strong enough to hold the knee cap in place and not cause knee pain. I can run on tired and sore legs as long as there is no pain.
Mile 11 - The four hour Red Lizard pacer is a little ways in front with a group of about 150 runners packed in all aroung him. Behind that pack is some running room and that is where we are. I think this is a great place to be. Keep that guy with the red lizard sign in sight and stay out of that pack. No need to look at the watch, though of course I do. We are spot on a nine minute mile.
Mile 12 - I make a deliberate small surge to meet the back of the pack. I assume that the others are right behind me. We have not been talking much anyway and I guess that I do not want to be in a position of trying to encourage anyone who may start to slow. Some people like to have someone "run them in at the end" and offer encouragement, but not me. I love to be cheered by spectators who I can run past, but I do not need anyone all fresh running circles around me trying to get me in with words while I am wilting. Lizard pace man is in front of us and we all have watches. I feel like we are on our own to see if each of us can hold the pace and reach their goal. I am not going to slow for anyone, and besides I am expecting to hit the wall or have knee pain any time now. Later I would find out that Mark got violently ill just behind us here and ended up vomiting five times before continuing on and finishing just under five hours. I give him great credit and guts points for finishing that race. Had I been with him when he got sick I would have stopped at least until I was sure he was OK.
Mile 13.1 - Just under 1:59 for the first half. We are all where we should be but will have to maintain that exact pace to beat 4.
Mile 14 - Light rain and some puddles forming. Some one steps in a puddle and the water splashes onto my shoe and down into my socks. Starting to remind me of winter running in Olympia. First marathon in a long time where I have not been hot at this point. I am more worried about getting wet and chilled. Good thing it is not too windy.
Mile 15 - Nice thing about this race is all the live entertainment. The course has long sections of industrial ugliness, but with so many High School cheerleaders and various musical groups, as well as fans, aid stations and balloons marking the miles, there is always something to distract and entertain. Now I approach a band that is playing "Walk Like an Egyptian". Of course I think of Charlie. She is probably still all snug in bed on this rainy early morning.
Mile 16 - Up the hill to the bridge. No one in the pack is talking and I think that a little conversation would be a nice distraction. Bill is just off to the side and Maniac Rodger is up ahead. I talk a bit with a woman who understands my purpose for the chat and we get ourselves up the hill with little trouble.
Mile 17 - High above the Willamette River on the Saint Johns bridge. Would be nice if it was not raining.
Mile 18 - 2:44 right on pace. Should hit 19 at 2:53. Billy is doing fine but along with the others has been mostly behind me.
Mile 19 - 2:53. Should hit mile 20 at 3:02
Mile 20 - 3:02. I am really pleased with how this is going. Our pack is smaller and I am just behind the pacer. Dave is with me but I have not seen the others.
Mile 22 - Love that long downhill. At each aid station I have slowed to take a drink, then caught right back up with the pacer and had no trouble speeding to catch him, then settling into a nice pace with him. Woman with ruby red hair next to the pacer with the red lizard sign. Keep that red right in front of me.
Mile 24 - Dave had made a move ahead but now we have caught him. I so hope he can hold on and finish strong. Band is playing a jazzy tune that sounds like Phish. Phish!! I just learned two days ago that the second best band ever is getting back together. That joy should carry me for a mile at least, not that I am feeling like walking. Hey I just may be able to run this whole thing. Crossing the steel bridge. The rain had let up but it is coming down hard now. It is dripping of the top of the bridge and we have to run through some showers.
Mile 24.5 - Pacer Steve tells us to get in front of him and that he will chase us to the finish. I started about a minute behind him chip time wise, so I am in great shape. Dave moves ahead and looks strong.
Mile 25.5 - Band is playing some sleepy mellow tune. It would be nice if I were inside drinking coffee and looking at the rain. I am running next to a young woman and she agrees that something a bit more uptempo would be nice to push us on.
Mile 26 - Turn to the finish line. Jody is yelling for me. I hear her but do not see her.
Mile 26.2 - Cross the line in good shape. By far the easiest marathon I have run. Never even considered walking. 1:59/1:59 split. So pleased and surprised with my time. Work my way through the recovery area, grabbing some food and drink. I've got my medal and space blanket. I cram a few cookies and a drink into my pocket. Now I get my pin, rose, cedar tree and shirt. Then it is off to the reunion area. It is so crowded, trying to make my way through the masses. I am overwhellmed with my performance and I want to see Jody and I feel like crying. If I see her across the people I am going to do my Rocky impersonation. Fight my way to her and yell "yo Adrianne...I love you". But alas I do not find her and I figure it is easier to just meet at the hotel. I also want to find Bill but they had us keep moving through the finish area. Hotel is the best option. Plus I can shower and then dry off and warm up. Jody finds me a block from the hotel and I get a great hug. Bill arrives in a little while and I learn that he and the others finished a few minutes after four hours. I hope that they had a good experience. For me, I am looking forward to racing again in three weeks.

25th marathon, 3rd Portland marathon

Sunday, September 28, 2008

9/28/08 Bellingham Bay Marathon

Last year this was "the race that made me a maniac". I enjoyed that race in the fierce winds and unexpectedly tough course, but did not feel a strong desire to do it again. I had not planned to run this until last month when Jody said that she wanted to see her folks and run the half marathon. Well we can't drive 3 hours to Bellingham and have Jody running a race and me not sign up too. Also with Portland planned for next week, this would be a way to get 12 marathons done within the past 12 months thus securing me gold status in the Marathon Maniacs and a third imaginary star.
I am not so concerned with my finish time today and this seems like an opportunity to try a little experiment. Many, most, almost all of my marathons I have really struggled in the final miles, reduced to a run/walk/shuffle at about 10:30/mile pace. What if I put that slower pace in the first miles by running with Jody, then speeding up to normal pace? Would I be able to finish strong? Jody wants my company but says that the experiment will not work due to "time on feet" issues. She thinks I will tire and slow after 3 and a half hours regardless of my pace.
We stayed with Bill and Connie again this year and were treated to a dramatic WWU football game followed by a late pasta dinner. Connie drove us to the start and will pick us up, making this logistically a snap.
Start - No worries about the weather this year. Perfect 46 degrees at the start with brilliant sunshine and no wind. New course this year looks better with no loop past the finish. About 7 miles of this course will be new to me. Jody and I line up pretty far back, but there are many behind us. Got to be at least 1,000 runners, but only 275 in the full marathon. It takes us at least a minute to cross the start line. Good thing it is chip timed.
Mile 2 - Probably should have worn sunglasses, but there will be lots of miles in the shade eventually. We are running all around a neighborhood, so many turns I would be lost for sure except that I am crowded in with so many people. Jody seems well and we are getting the pace close to 10/mile after a slow crowded start. Walkers really should start way in the back!! Especially when they are walking 3-4 abreast.
Mile 4 - After a long gradual uphill we are now on a long gradual downhill. This one with few turns. Jody thinks that she will need a bathroom break and if she stops I should go on without her.
Mile 4.85 - Jody ducks off course and I am free to go. I accelerate, but this is not the time to "run like an antelope out of control". I try to not go too fast, but after hitting the lap button and running for a minute or two, I see that my new pace is 7:42/mile. I had planned to run 8:45/mile, so this is no good at all. I slow some and eventually settle in around 8:35 my usual marathon starting pace that I know is too fast.
Mile 6 - I am passing people..... a lot of people. I thought of counting them, but that would be too hard. Oh I could count or at least say hi to fellow maniacs. Nice fairly flat stretch till mile 10.
Mile 6.5 - Hi Maniac Mel
Mile 7 - Hi Maniac Monte. He asks me what I am doing back here. Hey Monte you are not THAT slow. Nice pleasant run for a quarter of a mile or so. Gets me into a better pace. I should get moving though and I don't want to mess up his pacing, so I go on.
Mile 7.5 Hi Maniac Jim
Mile 8 - These volunteers are the best. Mostly kids just screaming encouragement and having lots of fun. Every cross road is marked and staffed and all the volunteers are supporting us so positively. I am sure the weather is helping. It is warmer, just delightful.
Mile 10 - Half marathoners turn right and we turn left. Always a little lonely when the masses split off. We go directly onto the dirt trail. I meet and introduce myself to Maniac Spencer running on his home course.
Mile 11 - Maniac Rodger and his posse. We chat a little. Nice pack of manly men. Then I move on.
Mile 12 - California street hill. I was so surprised and horrified by this last year. Much better when you know what to expect. Actually now I like it and I hope they always keep it in the course. Gives the race character. I am still passing people and feeling good but there is no fast way up this baby. Catch up with Maniac Jill. Nice meeting someone who's name I have seen quite a bit but had never met. This is really fun slowly catching up on Maniacs and finding out who they are. Back onto the dirt trail.
Mile 13.1 - 2:o2. I need to run a 1:58 to finish in 4 hours. That is exactly a 9 minute mile. Could be possible if the experiment works. Hit the lap button on the watch. Plan to run 8:45-8:50 and work really hard to keep the pace under 9.
Mile 14 - Fast runners coming at me. Turn around on the trail is about mile 15. I like that because it is past the halfway point of the race. Fast guys, Maniac Bob, Pigtails (well in front of me where she belongs today and that guy in the pink shirt I see at all the marathons. I try to say a bad joke to him, but learn that is a stupid idea when you are running in opposite directions.
Meet stealth Maniac Sarah and could be Maniac Julie. I just can not imagine how anyone could not think that the Maniac colors are the ultimate in fashion.
Mile 15 - Turn around on this beautiful forested trail.
Mile 20 - Trip back is nice, but I slow on the California downhill. I joke about turing around and running up and down it again, spectator just stares at me. Maybe I will do that next year just to freak people out. Another mile of trail then it is back to the roads. There is a steep little uphill before the road but I manage it OK. As soon as I hit the pavement though I can feel it in my legs. My legs suddenly feel tired and even a little wobbly.
Mile 21 - Legs almost give out on me. Scary moment but I stay upright and am able to keep running. Bright sunshine. Getting warm and starting to dump water on my head.
Mile 22 - Longish steepish uphill in a neighborhood. Tough going. I look at my watch and see that the second half pace has jumped to 9:30. Wow that happened quickly. I did not even get a chance to battle the watch. I am still running though walking through the water stops a bit longer than I need to. And I am still passing the occasisional runner, without yet being passed myself.
Mile 23 - Still in the neighborhood, but now entering the Twilight Zone. No one in front of me, no one behind me. No people at all. No course markings except some blobs of chalk or flour. I'm sure that a few hours ago they were nice arrows pointing the way, but after so many footsteps, they just look funny. I think about walking, but decide to run from one blob to the next. I actually have a good energy level and feel fine in the stomach and head (thank you S!Caps) but my legs are weary. Oh, here comes a kid on a bike. She shouts encouragement just like so many other kids today. I ask her if I am winning. Only one seconds pause then she starts screaming "Yes you are winning!!, you are in the lead, you are so fast!!" I keep running
Mile 24 - Downhill and onto the waterfront. First person in 19 miles gets past me, then two more, but that would be it. Look at my watch and it is blank, the battery has died. Its OK, I had already known I would not beat 4 hours and I do not need the watch for pacing anymore.
Mile 25 - I realize that I have not taken any walking breaks. By walking breaks I do not include walking through water stations or hills that are so steep you don't gain much time by "running". What I mean is the grinding to a halt for no apparent reason that usually occures in the twilight zone. After I let it happen for the first time it is so easy to take more and more walk breaks and the finish time suffers. I have a new goal for this race. No walk breaks. I wish I were running with someone right now, but the only people I pass are walking or moving too slow.
Mile 25.4 - I really feel like a walk break. There is a young woman walking on this urban trail, not a race participant. As I catch up to her I ask her to tell me not to walk. Boy did I pick the right person. She starts jumping up and down and gets all in my face. "No walking!!, you can do it, keep running, I ran cross country in High School" She is absolutely flipping out and I love it. No way I can stop now. I thank her and keep running.
Mile 26 - I see the marker and make a turn to find the finish line straight ahead. Put on speed as best I can and enjoy the end. Jody, Connie, Caleb, and Andy Choi there to cheer me on.
Mile 26.2 - I see the clock flip to 4:08 but since my watch is down I will have to wait a day or so for my chip time. I should pick up more than a minute. Connie brought the ice cooler so I could ice my foot. I do so for a few minutes but it is in way better shape than Skagit. Instead of the post race festivities we head right back to the house for showers and a nice lunch. Then it is 3 hours in the car to get home.

94th place of 269
24th marathon, 2nd Bellingham Bay Marathon


Sunday, September 7, 2008

9/7/08 Skagit Flats Marathon

They say that flat = fast, but I say that flat = boring. And with no variation to the leg muscles flat may not be the fastest. Lots of folks PR here though and this is my last chance for a decent marathon time this year. I'll give it a good shot and see what happens, still pleased with my PR from three weeks ago so this is not do or die. After my Spring marathons I felt like one marathon every three weeks would be ideal. I'm ready for a good long run by then, might as well make it a race. Body check - toenail turned black after the Tunnel Marathon but it stayed on and is not a concern. Big concern is the plantar faciitis flare up. I have been icing every day and the inflammation comes down, but any run sets me back a few days. Since it affected my "training" (I have not figured out how to train with marathons three weeks apart) and has been very discouraging. I am sure that a trip to the foot doctor is in order soon. Oh but lets just go ahead and race feels pretty good with two days rest. It is cool and sunny at the start but will warm up soon, no clouds at all.
Start - Find my friends and meet a few new ones. Nice rendition of the National Anthem.
Mile 0.6 - Under Interstate 5. I joke that on the way back this is where we should start sprinting. Boy how that joke would come back to haunt me.
Mile 1 - Mile marker says one, but my watch says 1.1. Is my watch off or is the sign in the wrong place? Hard to know how to pace oneself. Still we are carefully and leasurely passing slower runners.
Mile 3 - Warming up now. Going a little faster than PR pace, but not excessively so.
Mile 5 - Little dog is running with us, running ahead of us, running circles around us. This goes on for at least a quarter of a mile and then I hope he headed home.
Mile 6.5 - Half marathoners turn around and the crowd thins out, but there are still plenty of runners near me.
Mile 7 - Marker is way off.
Mile 8 - Here comes the head wind. Maybe not as bad as last year, but it is blowing. It is taking energy away from me with every gust. Pace is still on the fast side but I have doubts as to how long I will hold it.
Mile 11 - Farmland is nice but the scenery is just not doing it for me. At least there are interesting and varied odors to keep me occupied.
Mile 12 - Out and back course is good for seeing friends. I won't try to list them all, but I must have said hi to twenty or more, some much faster, some a little slower than me.
Mile 13.1 - Turn around and the wind is at my back. Still getting warmer, but the wind boost has me going a little faster.
Mile 15 - What is that saying about the frog and the boiling water? With every mile my foot discomfort has increased ever so slightly. It is bugging me now for sure. If I started a run with that level of discomfort (I won't call it pain yet) I probably would not continue. But here it has just been creeping up on me and I mostly wonder how it will be tomorrow.
Mile 17 - Oh, I have not mentioned that since the start I have been running step by step with RW. Such pleasant company. Enough talk to while away the miles, but also long sections of comfortable silence, just pacing along. Today would have been significantly less enjoyable without her. But I am slowing and she is still strong so we part company.
Mile 18 - Let the leapfrogging begin. I seem to have about a dozen new friends who are passing me, then get passed by me. Water stops and short walking breaks mix up the order.
Mile 19 - Maybe a marathon every three weeks is not ideal. Its hot but I think that my legs and energy level should be somewhat better. Head is clear though and stomach is OK, I am very grateful for that.
Mile 20 - Lost my gear. Downshift to a lower one, closer to a ten minute mile. PR went out the window some time ago. Hot, thirsty, foots almost hurts.
Mile 21 - "" (song by Metallica) Only words I can remember from that song. Cascade mountains loom in the distance, good thing we do not have to run all that way.
Mile 22 - I remember these lone trees from last year. So little shade. I could run this race much faster if there were more trees.
Mile 23 - Run to the hills. Lots of leapfrogging and getting passed by a good number of smart runners. I should have gone out slower.
Mile 24 - I can see cars zooming on I-5 in the distance. I know that we have to go back under there. Run to the highway.
Mile 25 - If that marker is right I should be able to break four hours. It is good to have that four hour mark as a back up goal. Otherwise I might just walk it in. It is so hard to know how much energy to parcel out throughout the race. I'm sure I could have run faster at any point today, but I would risk a major crash and possible heat stroke. If I had some important goal like a BQ I would have run the last miles more agressively, what difference does a few minutes make today? But still I am here racing, this will go on my "permanent record", do I need to give it my best every time? I need to work through that one.
Mile 25.5 - Under the bridge. I was supposed to sprint here. I still think I can beat four and I will turn on the steam closer to the end. One more walk break just to set me up for the finish.
Mile 25.6 - Pigtails!! That is so funny I let out a laugh. I forgot about her back there (she did a 50K yesterday) As she passes me she offers words of encouragement and I decide to give chase. It is amazing how much the mental state plays into the end of a race. I went from a dehydrated shuffle to feeling like I was finishing a 10K. I pass her, she passes me. I don't think I have ever finished a marathon so close to someone I know. I really do not care if she beats me, but hey it is a race. I imagine the results page and I guess I would rather see my name above hers. I kick it in and pass her just a few steps from the finish. If she had passed me at mile 25 I would have let her go, but the timing was so perfect I got to kick it in at the right time. Thanks for being there Pigtails. It was the highlight of my day.
Mile 26.2 - Feel good except my foot. Gets way worse when I take my shoe off. Hobble to the shower (cold water only). Then sit in the bleachers for a while and watch the runners come in, while soaking my foot in an ice bath. So pleased with my idea to bring a small cooler with ice and two cans of pop. Drink my pop, ice my foot and enjoy the moment. Watch a runner finish his 50th state!!
85th place of 189
Race #145
Marathon#23, Skagit Flats Marathon#2
*** (would have been ** if not for RW)
Thursday update - I limped out of the finish area moving very slowly with considerable foot pain, but lots of icing really helped. On Monday morning my foot felt freakishly better, borderline miraculous. I ran/walked 3 easy miles as my normal day after workout. Tuesday I still had that small nagging discomfort, about the same level as just before the race. I have been fighting this flare up for two months now and worried about missing races. I called Dr Hess and got an appointment for Wednesday morning. He used an ultrasound instrument to measure the thickness of my plantar fascia. Normal is 0.3 (mm?), my left foot as reference was 0.4 and my right foot was 0.8. I got an injection of something that was not cortisone, but would have the same effect. Just like six years ago I had instant relief. Good thing I did not try to self treat for two years like I did back then. The appointment took about ten minutes. I will go back next week to get remeasured and perhaps have another shot as it often takes two doses to get rid of all the inflammation. I am also getting a new pair of orthodics just for kicks, I still have my plaster molds from last time. Doc said that he is seeing lots of runners with PF in the right foot, due to slanty roads, and encouraged me to do more trail running. Hmm....beautiful September in the Pacific Northwest, two more weeks till I have teaching duties for Fall Quarter, doctor wants me to run more trails. I think I can handle that. Same day, 3PM I ran 3 easy miles on the backyard trail. Today I drove to Mount Rainier and ran 7 miles. Brutally sensational effort up the Kautz Creek trail. Tough tough going, and really slow, but not foot problems. Next race is Bellingham Marathon 9/28.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

8/17/08 The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon

It is all gentle downhill on the old railroad grade, now a dirt and gravel road/State Park from Hyak (Snoqualamie Pass) to North Bend, parallel but far enough away from Interstate 90 that there is no road noise. For added fun there is a 2.3 mile unlit tunnel and 4 or 5 high trestle bridges. This is the second year that race director Maniac Brian has put on this low key event. The first race met with such rave reviews that many more signed up this year and the race had to be capped at 135 in order make it manageable. I hope to have a good run here, but have never run very far on gravel and of course you never really know what will happen in a marathon. No predictions for finish time. The plan is to set myself up so that I could PR if all goes well, but if it gets bad I will just relax and turn it into a training run for Skagit in three weeks.
Start - Park the car at trails end in North Bend and catch bus number two of three for the ride to the start. Nice talking with some runners, seems like they are all Maniacs. I feel very relaxed, probably the calmest I have ever been for any race. I am so glad to have finally gotten over pre race jitters. Another advantage to racing more often. I jog a little to make sure that my gear is in place. Hat and sunglasses tucked in fuel belt, headlamp secure on head. Headlamp and sunglasses, that is first. I also have a long sleeve shirt on and hat in my pocket as I have been warned that it can be quite cool in the tunnel. Out here it is somewhat warm and very humid, with the expectation of hotter weather as the morning progresses.
Mile 0.2 - Very short out and back in the parking lot to get us started. This tells me that the race is in fact accurate distance (it is certified). Somehow I have found myself way in the back and packed in tight, but it is fine. Plenty of time to sort out.
Mile 0.6 - Into the tunnel. RW and I are side by side with the plan to stay together through the tunnel, then go our separate ways as we feel like it.
Mile 0.8 - Really dark and wet too. Some puddles, some water dripping from above. At least the footing is good and I manage to keep my feet dry. Room for three runners across. We are passing runners as we can but it is not easy to pass two others who are together. Most important is to be safe. I check to make sure my car key pocket is zipped tight.
Mile 1.0 - I see a mile marker in chalk on the ground and look at my watch. "No GPS signal" warning is showing and hiding my timer. I feel like we are going too fast, but I figure I can fix the pace after the tunnel and it won't be a problem. It is humid and foggy in here. I can see my breath, but it is not very cold.
Mile 2 - The small light at the end of the tunnel is starting to get a little larger. Still about a mile to go in here. We are directly behind Pigtails. If RW decides to pass her, she is on her own, because I have a new strategy. If Pigtails has not raced the day before, I have no business starting out faster than she. In the last year I have watched those pigtails pass me at miles 18, 20 and 25 that I can recall. If she has not raced in the last 5 days, her times all always well ahead of me, so I would be wise to stay back and pace myself better.
Mile 3 - Out of the tunnel and here is an aid station. The headlamp and long sleeve shirt go in a drop bag that will be taken to the finish. GPS snaps to position perfectly. I am at 8:40 pace and that is ideal.
Mile 4 - Running faster now and probably too fast. I send RW on her way and ease off the pace. Gentle downhill and a typical dirt road. As long as I stay in one of the two tracks there is not much gravel or larger rocks. Will have to watch my footing the whole way, but the path is better than I expected.
Mile 5-12 - Beautiful course. I would like to stop at the high trestles and look down. Some have talus/avalanche chutes and I would like to stop and scan the area for wildlife. Instead I keep moving along at a steady pace. Leapfrogging with RW and passing some runners. Nice short greetings with other runners. At mile 12 I see that my pace is still faster than it should be (I am at 8:35 and my PR pace is 8:50). There is Maniac Marci an early starter. I decide to walk a bit with her, just to get my average pace a little slower before the half split. Lately I have run about ten minutes slower in the second half and I very much want to even that out. I am hopeful that the electrolyte pills will enable me to do just that.
Mile 13.1 - 1:54. If I can run evenly I will finish in 3:48, a best time by over three minutes. That would be wonderful.
Mile 15 - Rock climbers
Mile 16 - Feeling better than I was an hour ago, not that I ever felt that bad. Leave RW behind.
Mile 17 - I wonder if Billy knows that I think of him whenever I see trail scat.
Mile 18 - Small rough patch. I've had worse
Mile 19 - Blow past the aid station and a couple of runners who are stopped there. I have enough fluids in my belt to get me to the end. Most of the race I have been by myself, gradually passing others and not getting passed myself. I have a new game of looking ahead at the curve in the road and switching tracks to take the inner lane.
Mile 20 - Here is a funny site. I can see about a quarter of a mile ahead (I love this course) and there are three runners strung out in front of me. All are men with yellow Maniac singlets and black shorts, which is exactly what I am wearing.
Mile 21 - Pass two people walking and I do some math. I calculate that I can slow down to almost 10 minutes per mile and still PR. Still a long way to go though.
Mile 22 - Off of one trail and on to another. Course is very well marked, looks like I will not get lost. The downhills are done but the rest of the way is flat as can be.
Mile 23 - Maniac Rob and Maniac Eric are sitting in chairs enjoying the day. Rob gets up and shakes my hand. Good thing there is not another chair there, I might have stayed a while. But I am getting excited about a personal best time and don't stop. As long as I don't walk much I should do well. I would like to dissociate (not think about running or my pace) and just keep jogging for a while to pass the time. I try to think about family and friends. I recall last years crazy Narrows bridge 5K and I try to remember the whole event. Maybe I could think of a song in my head. I can't remember words to anything, best I come up with is Happy Birthday and lasted about 20 seconds. Guess I will think about running, enjoy the moment and watch the landmarks pass by.
Mile 23.5 - Ding Dong.....Ding Dong...I forgot I had my cell phone in my fuel belt. Anyone who could be calling me knows I am running this morning. I consider digging the phone out, it would be funny to talk and run, but it is a pain to get out of there and I would have to slow down. I let it ring. Whatever it is can wait 30 minutes. In addition to the phone I will not need, I have not used my suglasses or hat which has been flapping at my side all day.
Mile 24 - Some leapfrogging with a runner in a white hat. He is running steady but slower than me. I have been running faster, but taking short walk breaks when I see that the pace for the last stetch has been getting faster. I want to run conservatively. There is still two miles to go and I could yet hit the wall or blow up in some other way. Nice easy running will get me in at record time and I try to stick to that plan. I get behind white hat runner and focus on the hat.
Mile 25 - Oh Raymond, do you remember how for years we would talk about how just one time we wanted to run a fast marathon and feel good at the end? I wish you could know how it feels right now. Sure I am tired, but I am not slowing, or shuffling, or staggering. I could pick up the pace if I had too, but I am fine with what I am doing right now. I have probably passed 20 runners in the second half (not including early starters) and was only just now passed by one.
Mile 26 - I can see the finish line. Time to sprint as best I can. Oh, I have calf muscles and they are not happy. Mild cramping up, but not that bad. I watch the clock turn over to 3:48 before I cross the line. 1:54/1:54 even split and 3 minute PR
Mile 26.2 - Get some juice, walk a bit and cheer on some finishers. RW comes in looking great as always. I have some trouble recovering and actually feel worse than I did during the race. Head is a little wobbly and muscles are stiffening. I just keep moving and drinking fluids. I stay for longer than usual, enjoying the moment and talking with friends. Then I get an overwhelming urge for a giant icy coke and hit the road in search of a fast food place.
3 hours 48 minutes 10 seconds PR
Marathon number 22

Saturday, August 2, 2008

8/2/08 Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon

With the reschedule of the Inna Gadda Davida Challenge I was not able to do 8 races in 8 weeks at 8 different distances. Today's race was supposed to finish off that phase, but instead it feels like the beginning of something new. Last Saturday I ran 20 miles with Club Oly and now I look forward to longer races including a couple of marathons in the coming weeks. My heel responded quickly and positively to the slower but longer runs. I registered for today's race back in May and have been looking forward to it for some time. It has been three years since my last 13.1 mile race.
Start - It is going to be a while before I am actually running. 5:15AM I park in the same spot as I did for the Tacoma Marathon. I catch the first shuttle bus. There is Bob, Marci, Judy and my new friend Ron who I ran with last week. This is getting to be like a second family. Bus takes a wrong turn but we still make it in plenty of time. I sit for a while and even though I have a jacket on, I am cold and start shivering. I walk around the parking lot for a while, try to keep moving to warm up, and that works. With each bus drop off the crowd swells. Looks like an excellent turn out. I introduce myself to two Manaics and spend time chatting with others. 7:20AM I go for a short run to loosen up. Just a half mile and no strides. The plan is to ease into a comfortably hard pace, Get to the bridge at 7:40 average, top of Jackson at 7:50 pace, slowly hammer back to 7:45 overall, then gun it down the hill at mile 11 and hold on for a PR. My previous best is 1:41:39. My favorite racing partner is here but not feeling well, so I will do my own thing for sure and just focus on the pace. It is very crowded, with all kinds of runners, but I think I have positioned myself well. The race starts about 10 minutes late, and I am happy to be running. Cloudy and cool.
Mile 1 - We are getting sorted out and it has been smooth going considering the crowd. Nice little out and back stretch lets me see the leaders.
Mile marker 3 - GPS says 3.00, that is terrific, I can trust the watch. It tells me that I am right at 7:40 pace. Enjoy the views. Nice madronas hanging on the cliffs.
Mile 4 - Up the hill on the other side of the bridge. It is not too steep or long, but I am slowing. At least I am in control. This was the part I was most worried about.
Mile Marker 5 - GPS says 5.00. Thank you TP! and Garmin. Pace is 7:51 but the hills are done and I speed up slightly.
Mile 7 - Cheney Stadium. Running around the warning track with the Rocky theme playing nice and loud. What a treat!! Pace at 7:44
Mile Marker 9 - GPS says 9.00!!!
Mile 10 - Pace at 7:42 but I am starting to flounder. Tough little hill to the end of the "trail" and I lose my form. Nice flat stretch but I think I am slowing. Should I slow and focus on form, or just keep working hard? I split the difference and flounder more carefully. I really want to see the big downhill.
Mile 11 - There it is, the beautiful long downhill, leading to another gradual decline. Same last few miles as the marathon so I am familiar with the course. PR propects look good.
Mile 12 - Average pace is 7:39, just need to hold on, although thoughts of sub 1:40 are crossing my mind. How about I stop negotiating with the watch and just run hard?
Mile 13.1 - PR!! Negative split!!! Very pleased with results, I seldom run exactly as planned, but today I did so. Finisher's glass is cool and will get lots of use. Shirt is one of the best I have seen. Race was well organized for a first time event and I will plan to run it again. I stay for a while to cheer on the others. After it is all done, my right knee starts causing pain. Not sure what that is about, but I think I will be fine.
1:40:23 PR 88th place of 580 finishers
Race number 143

Saturday, July 19, 2008

7/19/08 Lakefair 8K

This week got off to a horrible start. I was hobbling a bit after the Bear Run. Seems like most times I put together a couple of sub 7 miles I get some plantar faciitis discomfort. I lost two good years of running to that problem but with my custom orthodics I have been running injury free for five years now. When it does flare up a bit I just need to ease up on the fast stuff and it goes away in a day or two. I decided to take off Sunday and Monday and not do my Tuesday speed session. Enjoyed a nice birthday on Monday but everyone seems to think I am too skinny. I ate cake, but not just cake, there was cheese cake, cupcakes and ice cream cake. Then the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies came, I ate way too much. Things got real bad Tuesday morning. Beautiful sunny 6:30AM wake up and run. About a tenth of a mile into it, just starting to loosen up, I must have lassoed my right foot with the loop of my left shoelace. I was on the ground, skidding on the asphalt in no time at all. On my feet quickly and look around to make sure nobody saw me. Examine my injuries. Some blood from six different scrapes, three nasty ones on my right knee and a nice road rash on my right shoulder were the worst ones. I knew for sure that I would stiffen up and not be good for much running unless I kept moving now. A few tentative steps to make sure there was no serious harm, then on with my 6 miler. Bright red blood dripping from my knee. During the next two days I wondered if I would need to see a doctor about my shoulder which really hurt, but is improving now. So thankful that there was no injury to my knee. Ran easy on Wednesday and Thursday and took of Friday. Lowest mileage week in a long time. On to Lakefair:
Jared and I made the trip into town, he would run the 3K race. Although we were preregistered and they knew that I should be bib#198, they could not find my bib. Nice race helpers got me a new number and I was set to go after a mile warm up and a few strides. Perfect weather. Shoes are triple laced.
Start - I position myself a little farther back than usual. Really want a slower first mile, so I can finish strong. Lots of runners and a crowded jostling start
Mile 1 - Steve and Judy are just in front of me. I did manage to slow myself out of the gate and am running smoothly. I make my move to pass them but stay in control. Three choices of running surface here: paved road, dirt walkway and concrete sidewalk. The road has cut outs for parking and takes the wide edge of the curve around the lake. I alternate surface based on shortest route and position of other runners.
Mile 3 - GPS is off from markers same as last year. Now I remember last year thinking the markers were off and really I was going faster than I thought. Hoping for the same thing this year as I am at about 7/mile. At least every time I look at my watch my pace is holding steady. Every once in a while I put on a small surge to pass someone, but at some points I feel leg tired and think that I will not be able to hold the pace.
Mile 4 - Erik Lindburg has been so slowly coming back to me. Now he is in striking distance and I dig in hard to put him behind me. I hope I have something left for the finish.
Mile 4.8 to finish - Time looks great. Turn the corner. Tammy is screaming. Into the chute. 31 seconds faster than last year and a new PR!! Now I know that the key to success is to run less and eat more cake and cookies. Home to finish them off.
34:08 Personal Record
59th of 366 runners race #142 9th 8K 8th Lakefair race (8K or 10K)