My 100 Marathon!

The next morning after the Big Cottonwood Marathon and fresh off my Personal Record, I set my alarm to get up first thing, lace up my shoes and go out and run my daily 5 miles. After not much thought I decided, I had a good amount of drink still in me and decided against it. I flew home and decided to run that night. I was a little concerned that night as I headed out that night as I was in the middle of a five mile streak and running five miles did not sound like a good or fun idea. It was not. I went from averaging 7 minute miles to 12 minute miles in one day. And it felt worse than the time indicates. I was looking forward to the next day when I would feel better. I did not – 13 minute miles.

And when I “improved” to 12 minute miles again by Tuesday I was getting very concerned. I had scheduled my next marathon for that next Saturday in Dayton, Ohio. Though this may not normally be that big a deal… Air Force Marathon was going to be my 100th marathon! And I was having a hard time walking right much less running. I was able to see my chiropractor by Wednesday and get a little better but even by Thursday I had yet to break a ten minute mile. And I was not alone. Stephanie and Jennifer were struggling with their daily mile as well. Karen was hurting but she was lucky enough not to be streaking so she only had to feel it every three days or so and she chose to skip a running day to avoid that pain as well. Their pain was the only thing helping me feel sane.

I left early from work on Thursday to get to Dayton early to enjoy the expo and the day before. It was a good decision because even though it seemed like I would get there earlier I arrived about two. Karen had a better plan to get there early, arrived on time, and met me at the expo. We were able to catch fellow runner and friend, Dan Semsel, just as he was finishing his shift working at the marathon! We wandered down to the floor of the expo and breezed past almost all the booths with the exception of one where I looked for new shoes.

When we got to the floor I was truly disappointed that I did not have Bib #100. Dan is an Air Force member and thought he may be able to get some pull and get the number for me. There was an email earlier in the week with my bib number (that was not 100) but there is always hope, correct? Karen and I left the expo quick as Dan was now in full guest mode. Every year Dan invites at least six runners to stay at his house the night before the marathon and Karen and I had taken him up on the offer. We were some of his easier visitors (not that he minded any extra effort mind you) and he still had people to go pick up at the airport.

There was a burger place kitty corner from the expo and even though the drive took much longer than it should (awful marathon traffic) to go two blocks, we made it in time for me to eat by 2:30 or so. The burger was not that great but the beer menu was fantastic! And after a couple beers we left to go over to Dan’s where it was another small reunion with Dan and this time with his wife and daughter. In the next couple hours as groups would come in and out and we would have at least three more small reunions. We were also able to make a small trip to the grocery store and pick up all our needed marathon supplies.

That night we were able to eat dinner at Dan’s house as they made spaghetti with two sauces, salad and Karen and I made ourselves responsible for the beer. Dan’s family and we were joined by Karin, JC and his wife Jeanette, and Jen. Not everyone could make the dinner as we were joined later in the night by others as well. The pasta and beer were good (a couple local brews!) and everyone seemed pleased. Later on Jennifer and Stephanie would stop by and give me my 100th present which was a stuffed ferret and a five pound bag of Haribo gummy bears! It is over two months later and I have yet to make it through them. On top of that, it was great to see Marathon Maniac President Steven Yee and Patty stop by as well. That night all four of us Big Cottonwood marathoners made our way to bed with dreams of just finishing in our heads.

The next morning we awoke and made our way to the race. We received preferred parking and that was awesome! We were able to get to the marathon just feet away from the check in. Furthermore when we got to the Port a Potties there were no lines and the bag check line was non-existent as well. Arriving early was so nice. It was also incredible to see all the jets they had out for us to see that would ultimately be lining the finish line. I considered taking a picture with one but restrained from doing so. There was plenty people to see before the race and I tried to run into everyone I could. I am sure I fell very short of that goal but made sure to take a pre-race picture or two. I did a last minute bathroom stop and lined up with Jennifer and Karen with the four hour pacer to start. I had ran better the day before while travelling. I was hopeful, but was still pretty scared about my reaction from Big Cottonwood.

The gun went off and as usual, I had nothing to worry about! I took off and by the quarter mile point I was passing a lot of people. I was able to pass by JC and running celebrity Jen Metcalf by the half mile point and was just having a generally good time. At the half mile point I did notice one thing that must be commented on. What is it with people at marathon events lining up in front of the 4 hour pace and then going out and start walking immediately? Especially those marathons that deal with the armed forces?!? This practice is very upsetting to me. I deal with this every year at Marine Corp as well even running a ten minute mile to start this year. However I get it at Marine Corp where the wait can be over 30 minutes to start but at Air Force the wait is not more than ten minutes in the back of the crowd and you are not doing yourself that huge of a favor. As a matter of fact you may be endangering yourself as faster runners are not always considerate when they try to get around you. If you are going to walk in the first mile please get to the back of the crowd. And if you are part of this practice please let me know why you do it.

After one mile I was done navigating walkers and we were heading up a hill. I found a pacer at 3:40 and easily passed the group. I was shocked at how well I was doing! My legs were feeling no sour effects at all. I found Michelle Walker with the 3:35 pace group, smiled and said hi and kept going. I kept looking for Fast Jen Bakula as well but forgot about her soon enough figuring the race was a little large and I may have just missed her.

The race started off nice enough as we meandered through the air base. There were a couple good bands and not much crowd support (for obvious reasons) but there were huge water stops and everyone was very positive. Also where spectators were allowed, they were quite numerous. I was shocked to see Chuck Engle at the out and back around Mile 9 which was put him two miles in front of me. He was not supposed to be here (I had asked him if he was coming and he said no), but he was not looking as strong as usual either (side effect of Big Cottonwood? – I think so!) However when we got to Mile 10, that was when everything turned fantastic! This mile and a half section is called the Fairborn Fly Zone and boy do they come out to cheer us runners on! It was seriously like a tunnel of noise! I was so into the crowd I could barely notice the pacers or where the other runners were in comparison to me. By this point I was on a better than 3:30 pace and when we got to the out and back I noticed there was a pacer still a good 2 or 3 minutes in front of me. Was that 3:30 or was I missing something? And who was the pacer in front of him?

I was able to see all my friends on the way back and they all seemed to be doing well considering how much we had feared this race. And when I got to the Alien Water Stop complete with volunteers dressed as aliens and look out for alien children warning signs, I was positively beaming! Seriously, I enjoyed it more than Mile 10. And then at Mile 13 the inevitable happened – I caught the 3:30 pacer. I looked at the clock as we passed it and he said, “We are a little fast.” We were more than a little fast. I was over 5 minutes fast for a sub 3:30!

And I kept on moving, passing people and feeling great until the wheels came off at Mile 17. I drank some Gatorade and chatted with a couple runners. One was running his first marathon and I found it very funny to be talking to a first timer on my 100th! They were feeling the heat – that can be a downside with Air Force – we run around an air base and it can be very unshaded. However and somehow, when I heard “Groove is in the Heart” at Mile 18 I knew I was coming back and some of the people I was walking with were now left in the dust. I still felt good but the legs were dragging. There was a Christmas based water stop I loved and wish I could have spent more time at, but I was seriously still on pace to get a sub 3:30! And on a day when I was just hoping for a sub 4? I would take that one! At Mile 20 I was at 2:31. This was going to be easy.

But it was not. My legs did give in. I had the hardest six miles of my life and the hills really kicked my butt. I just had to keep thinking “take it easy so you can run another day.” I kept waiting for that pacer to pass me but he never came my way either. I passed the finish line just short of 3:31 and have never been that close to a goal time, but by then it did not matter to me. I was just happy to finish. I felt that awful. One poor volunteer followed me around thinking I needed serious help. None of my friends ever passed me so I knew I had to be one of the first ones in and just went for some rest. I tried to find the beer but could not find it. I ran into AJ Hacker and talked to him for a bit. Finally Michelle Walker came in and gave me two more gifts – 100 cookies and a 100 marathon club finisher shirt!

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We talked for a while and then Jen and JC came in smiling and looking great! We took plenty of pictures and I texted with Fast Jen to find out she ran a 3:20 and came in top 10 women overall! Karen too had fallen apart and Jennifer had stopped to walk her in, but they were available to do plenty of Bearfaces during the race and just have a great time. Stephanie had one of her slower races and cursed Big Cottonwood as she struggled along. We all did.

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After that, it was a party! President and Patty came in and we had a large congregation just outside the finish line taking tons of pictures and enjoying a couple of beers apiece. There was photobombs galore! We had a couple other maniacs join us and some people from Dan’s place as well. Dan came in and we all congratulated him on his excellent day. Everyone had plenty of cookies and I wore my brand new shirt (thank you again). We spent way too much time there for as little beer as we had. It was that much fun.

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That night Karen and I left Dan’s house and decided to catch drinks with Jennifer and Stephanie for dinner that night. They had brought their dogs to the hotel and were going back early in the morning. We decided to stick around and make a night of it as well. They said they were going to bed early and Karen and I have never been much for going to bed early with so many friends in town. So in that tradition, we went out with Fast Jen and her crew and had drinks at a local watering hole.

A picture with Eddie Vega. He is running all 50 states barefoot.

A picture with Eddie Vega. He is running all 50 states barefoot.

I know most other people enjoy their 100th with a large party and plenty of people. I decided to keep mine mostly low key so much so that a good friend asked me a couple weeks before when my 100th was coming up and I had to tell her it was Air Force and a month away. I never intended to make a big deal out of my 100th marathon and when it finally came up I never planned on anything different. I am thankful for all those that showed and appreciate everything I got. To me it was the perfect way to get my 100th marathon completed even if I did struggle through the last 6 miles. I ended it my way – with a few friends and a good time.

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Big Cottonwood Marathon Circa September 2014

I feel as if this entry needs to start with an apology. This Spring I was trying to write a blog for every race and when that became too much, I slowed and thought maybe every other race and then maybe every fourth… And then well, I just stopped altogether. So for my readers out there that do not know me on Facebook or do not follow my exploits otherwise I will just sum up my last couple months in a few sentences.
I ran my second Boston in just under 3:30 and kept alive my desire to run all 50 states in under 3:30 bringing the total down to 2. I ran a bunch of other races as well and qualified for Boston back again for 2015. I had the best running year of my life and would like to go over a couple really cool races that I missed as I did not stop to blog. Though the summer was full of fun and run I am actually going back to mid-September with me boarding a plane to go run Big Cottonwood!
Big Cottonwood is a marathon put on by Revel Racing. Revel Racing is a positive group that currently has at least three marathons in three different states where one of the true goals is to get runners qualified for Boston. The courses are always have a huge elevation drop and are very popular. They put on organized events focusing on fun and have now added a team aspect as well. I had signed up for the race hoping to get a Boston qualifier for 2016 as the race fell on the one weekend where your time qualifies for two years in a row. I also signed up because so many good friends would be there as well.
In my classic fashion, I signed up once Stephanie, Jennifer and Karen already had done so. That way they would organize it all and I would just show up and run pretty much.
I arrived in town in time to have lunch with Stephanie who was the other early arrival. Kino had invited her to lunch so we were lucky enough to meet with Brian and Kino at the airport so after rental cars, we went over to get something to eat across the street from the expo. It was really good to see those two. They have been injured earlier in the Summer so it was good to see them back at it again. After this we skedaddled over to the expo and got our supplies and ran into more friends. Honestly bigger races like this turn more into reunions of friends than anything else. We took some great pictures with the Revel signs and dropped the other two off at their hotel before we went to get Jennifer at the airport.

Kino, Stephanie and Brian

Kino, Stephanie and Brian

Jennifer had an eventful airport ride where the flight attendant had cut her off and no longer being thirsty she was hungry only by this point. She wanted anything to eat and McDonald’s was fine. About this time I spotted a sign for In N Out so Stephanie and I did her one better and she was able to eat “Animal Style”. We went back to our hotel next and while they rested I went for a short run. It was not a good day for a run as I felt a little off. To be honest I wanted to put in 5 miles but after just one it was time to turn around. I was a bit nervous considering this was supposedly one of the easier courses out there and I really wanted a good race.
We went out that night to a sports bar and though the food was not great, the company and distance from the hotel were perfect. We prepared that night and retired early with the early start. Karen got in later that night and the whole crew was together for our two week journey. The four of us would be running the next weekend at Air Force as well. The next morning we all got up, got ready and got out the door. The race was set up so that we had to take a bus to the top of a mountain to start and then finish where we parked. And the hotel was a good 6 or 7 miles from the start.
We did get to the parking lot just in time as we would later find ourselves some of the last to get on a bus. But the good news is we were albe to line up with what seemed like at least 25 good friends and even though we were stuck out there for an hour I do not think anyone cared. We were so much happier to be in the valley around 40 degrees than getting stuck on top of a mountain in the freezing cold. I did feel sorry for the Perkins that had to deal with a line of 150 runners all having to use their facilities! The bus came eventually and when we got to the top of the mountain we just got in line for the Port A Potties again. I am always amazed at how much time you spend at a running event in line or going to the bathroom.
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After the stop, I lined up near the front and was thrilled to see the World Record holder for Most Marathons Victories, Chuck Engle, come my way. I yelled out to him and we chatted for a minute. Then disaster struck as the gun went off unexpectedly and he was out of position. He made a break for it but those seconds may have cost him later. I felt awful. To top it off, I was not prepared either and have to navigate around some slower runners.
Somehow I just could not get around anyone? I was not running that fast and the course is downhill! How is this? Well the course goes mostly downhill but that first mile is mostly flat and is at over 6000 feet so when I took off I felt sluggish and slow. The slow miles from the day before were running through my head, but I had to keep reassuring myself things would get better when we went downhill but I was getting passed and the negative feelings were showing. Then the downhill came… and I was running in much better form. And I was FAST and the next thing I know – my shoe was untied! Seriously? My 99th marathon and only the second time my shoe untied?!? And at Mile 3? It felt like it took me an eternity to tie that shoe and take off again. By Mile 4 I had ran my quickest mile in a marathon ever in a fleet 6:08 and got back to where I was before the mishap.
At Mile 6 we started to catch the back end of the half marathon crowd. At first it was only a couple stragglers but after a while we full marathoners were on the left full time passing three or four runners at a time and constantly. It was a very crowded half marathon. My friend Angie would later say she missed a Personal Record only because the bathroom line was over 5 minutes long waiting. It was so crowded that when a cop car started to go down the mountain? Well I had to navigate around it so I would not run right through it – twice! The halfway point was coming up and I got my mid-race Advil ready. But I was going so fast and surrounded by so many half marathoners I never even got a chance to grab a water so I had to throw it away. Then I looked down at my watch. Mile 12 was yet another 6:08. Could I keep this up?
Mile 13.1 came up and I just ran my fastest half ever – 1:24! At Mile 15 we not so finally got to the out and back. Now the out and back on the course may looks flat and honestly it would best be described as rolling hills but after running 14 straight down hill miles it was the hardest hit I have ever taken during a marathon. I could no longer keep up the Sub 7 pace and eight minutes was a challenge suddenly. Walking became a necessity to rest my poor legs around Mile 16! And it appeared others handled it much better as I watched myself get passed. At Mile 17 I saw the leaders and it looked like Chuck was in about 5th. I was somewhat relieved it was not a close race and my action had not ruined a victory for him. I was not relieved that I was missing that Advil. Pain in my legs required relief!
I hit the out and back turnaround at Mile 19 and though I felt awful, I got reinvigorated seeing all my running friends coming back towards me. Though I was losing a lot of speed I was still on Sub 3 pace and when you are doing that well you are way up front. I waved at them as we passed and some of them looked very excited when they saw I was still in front of the 3:05 pacer. As much as I tried to keep my spirits up, it was tough. I could not wait to get to Mile 23 and that downhill again. And just as she always seems to, Jennifer saw me walking.
Finally as I just passed Mile 22 someone was playing “Don’t Stop Believing” as I encountered another hill. I decided it was time to just push on and finish this one. At this point, I was sure the Personal Record time was in the bag but I kept waiting for the 3:05 pacer to catch me. The song got me going and I was able to push on – new personal anthem? I hit the last uphill just before Mile 23 and a couple spectators were laughing at me. It occurred to me the temperature had to be over 60 degrees and I was still wearing my beanie and gloves! I certainly could have won the award for the most overdressed but I had yet to feel “warm” so I pushed on.
The last three miles were downhill again so I started to develop a rhythm and a couple other runners and I leapfrogged past each other with walking breaks and sprint spurts down long downhills. At Mile 24, I kept looking over my shoulder for the 3:05 pacer when I looked at my watch again. It read 2:45. So if I ran 7 minute miles I could still get a sub 3??? What? Really? I was half mad at myself for not figuring this out before! How could I get so confused? Could I have pushed myself and rocked that Sub 3! I tried to run again at the breakneck pace but my legs were not feeling anything of that nature and when the last mile came out .1 long according to my watch, I was actually relieved. I crossed the line at 3:02:05 and was thrilled to be so close to my ultimate goal and yet no achieve it. I was happy to save that Sub 3 goal for next year.
I drank a Coke and got my grab bag. The soda came up later which just proves what a Pepsi man I am and that I did push myself harder than perhaps I thought I had. I was able to talk to Chuck who encouraged me to this was only just the beginning of better running times. Then I waited for everyone to come in. Karen hit her Sub 4 goal easily. Jennifer got a Sub 4 but could only lament that she did not get a negative split (impossible on this course). Brian and Kino were able to both get Sub 4’s as well and felt encouraged their injuries may be behind them. Stephanie was convinced she saw a bear on the course.
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Stephanie is in back with her “bearface”
There were so many others I stopped and talked to it would be impossible to mention them all but everyone was thrilled and supportive about my PR and I just wanted to stick around and see friend Denis McCarthy finish. He came in soon enough and it was great to talk with his wife who also PR’d in the half marathon on this day as well (Sub 2!). As a matter of fact, two of his running friends from St. Louis also got their BQ goal!
Jennifer took off almost immediately but Stephanie, Karen and I went out and had a great time going downtown and finding a couple brewhouses to frequent. The Maniac dinner looked like a huge success and because we did not RSVP we just drank at the bar with Chuck and Jenn Pelligrino (new friend). Sure enough everyone joined us as they got done with dinner or with other plans.

The after marathon group

The after marathon group picture

Though I had pushed myself too hard on this race, I was truly happy in the end. Sometimes when you run marathons as often as I do you forget to put your all into every effort so something as pure as this race is truly special to me. This weekend after running Route 66 I saw a group of bloggers and realized I should be more like them and try to post more often. And conversely run not so often and give more attention to the runs I do go out and hit. My next run is Honolulu and I can only hope that I revisit my Pepsi afterwards with a fine effort.

Oak and Done

After going to Little Rock (that blog is coming soon) I decided to sign up for another marathon and realized I had scheduled 7 marathons in 7 weeks! I know this may disturb several of you and it had me bothered as well – how could I really have an odd numbered streak? So at first, I tried to talk Cathlin into a marathon I could drive to. However with no luck there I was about to strike out when new friend from Mobile, Jen Bakula, told me I should come on over and run the Oakland Marathon with her. I looked it up and other than a spendy side plane ticket it was a really good deal. So for the second time this year I was headed to California and honestly the way weather has been in the Midwest? Huge win! So I requested the Monday off to get to know San Francisco better (Jen lives there) and booked the trip.

I flew in at 11 on a Friday night where Jen picked me up and got me back to her place quickly. I was jealous of those out partying, but I was pretty tired as well so when Jen hit the hay early it was fine by me. I woke up the next morning and immediately went for a nice little run – I was hoping for three miles. Jen lives very close to the bay so I was able to get out there and run some pretty free miles without the concern of stoplights or stop signs. It showed as I put in my best non treadmill training run of the year! I even stretched it out to 7 miles and averaged a great pace. On top of that, with 50 degree temps, I put on a long sleeve shirt but I can tell you that it was not needed. Sunday’s marathon would clearly be short sleeve weather. I was pretty pumped. A good run and good weather – Sunday was destined to be my best run of the year!

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After a good pancake breakfast we headed out to the expo to pick up our numbers and get ready for the big day ahead. Jen was not sure how it was going to go and even though I had felt so good that morning, I had my doubts as well because the same cold I had been trying to kick for the last month was still causing breathing issues. I was feeling good, but if the breathing issues would affect me that would not happen until about Mile 20 and not in a 7 mile run. Jen is very fast and one of my friends who can beat me on a regular basis so I was not sure who I was hoping would have a better day. I did not need a time goal but wanted to rebound. Jen did not have a time goal and it was a small run – we both knew if she had a good day she may even place. I guess we were both holding back from high hopes in case it went bad.

As soon as we got to the expo, it was great to see Sam Louie standing out there guiding people in! I had not a clue he even lived in the area and it was about the first time I have seen him in a year. Even Jen had to comment on his positive attitude. He was a bright light that morning and I started to think maybe this marathon really is a gem you do not hear about? Honestly, I really had no judgments going in. I saw they had posted that some publication had voted it the best marathon on the West Coast but I had my feelings that was not completely true. I also had heard from everyone – “Don’t get shot when you go to Oakland!” I knew that was not going to happen but obviously it showed the reputation the town had. At least so far the town was nice and people quite cheery.

We went through the expo and there was nothing too unique or extraordinary there. The shirt was a jacket and it is a nice flyweight jacket (the only downside being I will probably get 4 total this year). The Emergen-C stand gave me further hope that their mix would scare away the cold I had by Sunday. We left rather quickly, said goodbye to Sam and made our way back to San Francisco. Jen is not a fan of expos (a lot of my friends are not) and I suppose I am finding myself a non-fan lately as well. They are just a lot the same and I have enough free chapsticks and koozies to go around. It saddens me and I hope I see one soon to turn me back to the light.

We spent the rest of the day walking and eating at local restaurants – pretty much readying ourselves for the big run the day ahead. We walked around San Francisco and had clam chowder breadbowls (lots of carbs!) that night down on the wharf. I was able to see Lombard Street and get the best view of San Francisco one could ever see from one of the piers. Jen does not drink the night before a marathon so I figured I would try something new. Besides I had two more days to try the local brews. I went to bed early with visions of a nice healthy run dancing in my head.

And the next morning it was more than just the difference of not drinking a beer. I also did not bring my 5 hour energy shot and I forgot my calf sleeves as well. I guess this would be a change in a lot of factors that I usually race with. I actually believed the change in race day etiquette would be good luck. And while I was waiting to drop my stuff off at the bag drop I bumped into my new friend for the race Joyce Lee! Joyce had posted in a group that I am a member of, Run 365, that she would be there and sure enough I ran into her. She was looking to get a Sub 4 on this day and has really picked up some speed lately. She also has been running at least a mile a day since January 2013 (and possibly even longer)! Impressive to say the least. Someone else walked up to us and asked when the Maniac picture would be. I saw it later even though all three of us were maniacs we all missed it. I guess Jen and I rubbed off on Joyce as well.

Now Oakland may not be the best marathon ever as proclaimed earlier (though it really is a fine event) but one thing they really got right is starting the marathon an hour and a half before the half marathon. It is not that I mind running with the half runners at the start, but more so it was so nice to go to the bathroom without humongous lines or to be able to drop off my clothes at the last second and stay warm. Also it was nice to have the half runners merge with us later and give us words of encouragement later on. I know I have done this before at marathons (and yes I have complained) but it really turned out well on this day. I suppose streets have to be closed down longer but really it makes for a better more free running experience!

I took full advantage of the port-a-potty situation and went to the bathroom five minutes before start and still got up past the 3:20 pacer. And just as Jen and I were standing there waiting a girl in a green matching running outfit moved up to the front. I nudged Jen and said, “Uh-oh I think your competition is going to beat you.” It reminded me of the time I raced in Hawaii and a girl showed up at the last minute in the shortest outfit ever. She ended up coming in first woman overall. I expected nothing different on this day. I felt bad afterwards for saying it to Jen, but some people just look like they are made to run. I think Jen enjoys the fact that she is the underdog and no one expects her to be fast. But with a PR of 3:12 and several good races under her belt she has gotten used to coming in top 10 and qualifying for Boston near every race.

The race started and we took off at a brisk pace. I was a little concerned about the size of the race. I like smaller races like this one but any time they get too small I get a little concerned I will get out front and get nervous about placing. How would I feel if I started losing spots after Mile 20? Though I have never truly placed I figure it has to happen sooner or later! Well thankfully there were no concerns about that one as plenty of runners got out there in front of me even as I was running Sub 7’s. I felt pretty good and was looking forward to taking on the hill that started at Mile 3.

The hill started as a slight incline after a turn and it did not start off well. As soon as it started four or five runners passed me. I was okay with that as I was trying to save up my strength. And as we hit an out and back around Mile 6 I was pretty happy with where I was in relation to the pacers. I was not far in front of the 3:10 pacer but I figured I was still in front of him while we are on the hill. Unfortunately, another hill came much steeper this time and the 3:10 pacer passed me easily before I could make it another mile. I kidded with myself that I may be able to catch him on the downhill as I watched him get farther and farther away. We had a good climb for a good half mile on what seemed to be an on ramp to an interstate. Up next it was a right turn and suddenly it was all worth it. We had made it to an overgrown park area on a slightly inclining trail and I was thrilled. The brush was overgrown and so pretty. There were feral cat warnings and the trail was kept up so well. Sometimes during the full 26.2 you can see the real cool parts of town and this was it. I was looking forward to slightly climbing this trail up until we went for the eventual downhill at 11. I figured we would be on this for a long, long time.

And after a half mile of that I found out I was so, so wrong. We left the trail, got back out onto the streets and went down just to go back up at a steeper incline each time. And though there was some more downhill along the way it was pretty obvious we were going uphill a heck of a lot more than down. Afterwards Jen would say it may have said 700 feet of elevation change on the map but we climbed at least 1000 feet in those 8 miles. She had to be right. And as runners passed me, I could not wait to get out of the hills and going down. I know heading up is not my strong suit. And after one long hard half mile climb up at Mile 10, there was a turn up the steepest climb yet… and I should have walked. My gait wobbled as the incline totally messed with my legs and that was the point when I was no longer running right.

However I did not know this at first because the drop was immediate after that hill, and though it may have taken us 8 miles to get up there, it did not even take us a mile to get back down. We went straight down! I had a 6:26 Mile at 12 and seriously that was by far my fastest mile. I was also able to put in a good Mile 13 and 14 but then at 15 just as I wondering if I would be able to run the entire distance, I hurt and not in a usual way.

My right hamstring felt injured. And I knew the culprit. While flying down the hill I spotted a pothole. My shoe was headed right for it and I had to kick it out a bit more or possibly trip and fall. It may have stopped a trip and fall but it had hurt my running for the long term. I was grabbing anything I could to get the leg working again – GU, Gatorade and finally Gummy Bears. It was at the Gummy Bears when Jen ran past me grabbing at my shoulder to get me to come with her. I choked down the bears and tried to keep pace with her and actually did for about a mile staying just behind her.

But then the stiffness of the leg kicked in and I had to walk again. I would never again make it a mile after that without having to stop and walk to get the leg going again. It was rough and I did not feel well but it was far from stopping me from finishing. I was happy the sun was out and I could bask in the California sun. The half marathon joined us around 16 and the walks never seemed quite as lonely as half runners constantly gave support and offered help. Eventually I got settled in with a group and the 10 of us made our way to the finish sticking together for the last 6 Miles. They were not as fast as me but my walks helped them to catch up.

The Raiders sponsored a Mile around 22 and that was awesome – loud music, colorful people and megaphones. They love their rowdy reputation and honestly I only wish it had been longer. The end of the course was awesome circling a lake and I only wished I could have enjoyed it more instead of just wanting to finish. I struggled across the line to finish in 3:36. It was a shame – I just wanted a 3:30 but that was over by 20 so I was happy that I did not totally fall apart. Even with all that walking my legs stayed good enough for the last four miles to never even go over 8:30 per mile. I would not have thought that possible.

And Jen was at the end talking to her friend. She had run a 3:28 and came in 6th overall female. Heck green did come in second but only beat Jen by six minutes. Jen was a little perturbed she did not take the race a little more serious. She did admit later that she too thought the girl was really going to blow everyone away. And after I got my stuff and laid down, I was lucky enough to meet Jen’s 4 other friends. We would end up having some local beers with them that afternoon and going to their place to eat tamales.

I invited Alison from San Jose over. I thought there was no way she would make an hour and a half drive but she did so happily. I told her I would return the favor and meet her in Iowa. We had a great night eating and watching the NCAA tournament. Alison was a vegetarian but Jen’s friends were such gems they bent over backwards to make tamales for her and to even offer to go buy more food for her. We were able to sit out on the patio and enjoy perfect weather as well. It was one of those weekends where you can see why everyone wants to live in California.oak2

And after Jen and I headed back to her place for the night, she mentioned to me that I have an odd running style and started to question some things I did. She commented that I always stare down. A by product of all the treadmill running I supposed. She said my arms swing too high. I was not sure how this would matter but knew this was only tensing me up. And she told me that at Mile 15 I did indeed look like crap. I laughed and mentioned that everyone only tells you how good you look. I must have looked hurt so she felt awful.

But I reassured her that was not what I meant. I loved it. I can learn from her observations. Only her and Brian tell me what I am doing wrong. I cannot learn from those that tell me I look great when I am hurting. I can only learn from people like these two. So two days later as I ran the wharf in San Francisco again my eyes started to head up and I worked on my posture. I relaxed my arms a little and though I was just on Week 1 of 8 marathons – I had a  feeling it was going to be my worst. Thank you Jen for everything. You did not just give me a place to stay – you gave me a chance to improve.

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Sweet Home Alabama

In late December, I was contacted by a local writer about running a marathon in every state and how he wanted to include me in an article. I jumped at the chance because he was the first to ever contact me about this. So we scheduled a phone interview. And it went down as I headed on my way to another marathon. There was just one twist – he was from Birmingham, Alabama. Yes, someone writes about me and it is from a state I fly to get to! In any case, it got me to thinking should I go back and run Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham again? There was really no reason not to. They were doing an article on me. I needed a sub 3:30 in the state still and I had a free place to stay with my good friend Leigh. Of course the ticket was not cheap but that has seemed to be a common theme this year so I bit the bullet and paid the $400 to knock off Alabama.

I arrived in Alabama late at night and was lucky enough to have Leigh and her friend, Janet, pick me up from the airport. It had snowed the day before and it was the talk of town. It was nice to get in a day early to Alabama. Sometimes my biggest concern is that I do not spend enough time in these areas. I went to Birmingham last year and saw the town. Last year we went to the Vulcan Statue. This year we went and saw Noccalula Falls (beautiful) and I went running around Pell City. I was also able to spend Valentine’s Day with two beautiful ladies and have a local brew from Alabama. As for the run, it went well and I had good feelings about my second Mercedes Marathon. I went to bed the night before the expo happy and relaxed

The next morning went slowly as there was excitement for the expo and Leigh can take her time to get ready. I went out for a run and her daughter was babysitting. The kid was pretty excited about running so after a good four miles I came back and took him out for a one mile run. It was nice to get him keeping running in his future. He even got some speedwork out of me. That did not go well. Eventually we got to Birmingham and Leigh had her first taste of Mongolian. After that, we stopped by the local Lulu and checked to see if they had any new goods. And then it was off to the expo. As soon as we got there we saw Lynne who was coming out and we rushed in to see who else we could run into and well we had to wait for that. We ended up taking a seat waiting for people. And I was in such a hurry. I know, I know!

Mercedes changed their shirt to short sleeves this year and had the city’s Vulcan icon on it so it was much improved. They included the usual free gloves in our bags rather than on a table and somehow I got two lefts. The folks at Coca-Cola were providing free bottles of Dasani and I had at least five of those – I try to intake 150 ounces of water the day before a marathon and the expo was happy to oblige! And then people started to show up. Jay, Brett, Stacey and Michelle showed up and we took a few pictures together. Then they all got together for shots on the superhero bike they had set up just for picture taking occasions. I did not take a picture which they thought was odd but then again I have not rode a bike in over 15 years – how true and fake would that be?

Lynne joined us with her husband later on and we all talked about the weekend and how we were looking forward to running Mercedes. They mentioned a dinner and it sounded promising. And after that it was just friend after friend showing up including Keith and new friend, Kathy from Texas. It was also great to see Brian, Joe, Aaron, Dan and so many others too numerous to name including celebrity runner Jen Metcalf! Some marathons (mostly in the Midwest oddly enough) get people from all around to show up and run them every year. They have a huge presence and you know just by the list of friends signing up. And then some marathons everyone signs up for some unexplained reason one year and it becomes an event. Mercedes is popular every year but this really was a banner year for it.

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As it got later, we had not a clue where to eat. The fine folks at Run 365 had a good dinner planned, Phil Min always has a get together at a local pizza place, and Keith was going to the Mellow Mushroom. I had told Brian I would tell him what we were doing once Leigh and I decided and at the last second we chose the Mellow Mushroom. The place was too crowded for our own table when we got there but Keith had already saved one for us. We got a high top next to their standard table but at least we were sitting together and then when Brian and Aaron showed up it really made the meal complete and more comfortable for Leigh and I. They had plenty of local brews on tap and a buffalo chicken pizza (no tomato sauce) so I was more than happy.

We had some good times and met a lot of Keith’s friends. Keith is one of those people that you meet along your journey that though he may not have an immediate presence he has a good, lasting presence and it is easy to become fast friends shortly after that. I don’t think I will see him again until Boston and that saddens me a little. It had been nice to run into him the past three months. Though he is faster than me, I can always judge how I am getting better by my time compared to his. And it was great to hang out with Brian and Aaron. They had to leave immediately after so this was going to be the large amount of getting to hang out with them.

I went to bed that night with just the 3:30 in my head. That was all I was here for and if I did not get it, this was going to be a very expensive trip especially if I had to return next year. I woke up the next morning and Leigh and I were running late so we missed both the Maniac and Run 365 pictures. This was not shocking, and it did not really bother me either. Only because Mercedes always seems to be freezing at the start every year, and I was more than happy to stand inside until I had to get in the starting corral. I was lucky enough to meet a couple new people including a potential new member of 50 Sub 4. I am doing my best to channel my inner Kino or Brian and talk people into joining whenever I meet them.

I got into the start corral and just before we started I was lucky enough to run into my Georgia friend (I always forget her name and love seeing her) and also Kino! A late flight caused him to arrive after dinner and then Eddie Vega came walking by too – another barefoot state for Eddie on this day. It was like my head was on a swivel trying to talk to everyone. We were all a bit concerned about one thing. For some odd reason no one was lined up at the front of the start and there was a HUGE gap so we were a lot farther up front than we had a reason to be. We were in front of the 7 minute pace signs. I did not think I was going to be that fast on this day. But seriously there was a huge area in front of there so why would we not line up there?

We took off and I honestly just never hit speed. I tinkered around with my pace but by Mile 4 I was dropping back already and kept losing ground until Mile 10. The course had changed slightly but was still on the hilly side. The support was good and it was starting to warm up to be a nice day. The one sign I saw and liked at Mile 10 was one that stated, “I thought this was the Downton Abbey Marathon.” I chuckled even though I swear they printed Downtown. Pretty sure not too many runners got a large charge out of that one. And after running through the Buts (Birmingham Ultra Trail Society) water station I think we all got another good laugh and offered some free beer as well. I did not partake though – things were not going that good.

The split came and I watched as many halfers pulled off to their side. It is funny whenever I am having a bad day and think, well most of these people passing me are probably just running the half, I find out just how much better people are at pacing themselves than I am. There were a lot of full marathoners out there and I was struggling to keep up with them. I hit the halfway point at 1:37 – not bad but not good for me. I was doing the math already. I only had 8 minutes of bank time for the 3:30 and I was not heading in the right direction.

We circled around to the beginning again and it was time to complete Loop number two. Mercedes is two loops and though I like the course, I always feel like there is so much more of Birmingham to see. Some people love the multiple loops knowing what is coming around the second time. That is all good in a smaller town. I just wish we could go up by the Vulcan statue – though I have a feeling that would make the course very hilly. I hit Mile 15 until I had to take my customary walk break. Lately I have noticed that I do not have to walk necessarily out of tiredom but rather to catch my breath. The harsh winter has really killed my sinuses and it feels like I have had a 3 month cold and clogged nasal cavities. At Mile 16 I grabbed the GU, popped it down hoping for some sort of boost and my stomach turned. I had to go to the bathroom and now.

At Mile 17 I found a port-a-potty and the lines were two deep. It did not matter. I had to solve this situation. All I could think was ‘my 3:30 is most probably out the door at this point.’ It was exactly at that moment I heard Brian behind me yelling out, “Get your ass out here and run this bitch Cade!” Looking back, I am not sure if he knew it was a bathroom break or if he thought I was quitting because later on he would say I looked hurt and was favoring my left leg again. In any case, I guess that was all I needed. I knew this break would steal my 3:30 so I got back out there. The issue seemed to be only GU related because I was a little uneasy from time to time but it was nothing awful after that.

I pushed on and chased Brian hoping to catch him but after a while his pace became unobtainable. Kino would pass me eventually too with some words of encouragement. And honestly at Mile 22 after another walking spell I thought I was done. It really was not my day! But after coming down the hill to Mile 23 and noticing if I ran 8 minute miles to finish I could make 3:30 still? I decided it was time to push for it. And push for it I did! I ran past BUTS without slowing down at all. I ran past the beer stop at Mile 24.5 with only a second of hesitation. I passed Leigh at Mile 25 with just a brief hello. She told me I had it made, but I could take nothing for granted and I was relieved when I got in at 3:29:25. Kino and Brian were both there to cheer me on and take pictures. I was exhausted and thrilled!

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After that we went to the afterparty and went immediately to get our BBQ. Honestly I don’t think we ate more than three bites all together. But when Brian got the beer? Now that we could stomach! Keith came by and had just run his first Sub 3! I could not have been happier for him. His hard work and speed training really is paying off. Leigh found us and was so thrilled with her new Mercedes Benz emblem bling – this is her 7th Mercedes. I stepped out to take a shower. And after that, I ran into Diane Jones Bolton and we talked for a while about her quest of running an inaugural race in every state. Such a neat and unique goal! And when I made my way back to the expo I was thrilled to run into Marina White and Larry Wasson! They had come in with Halbert and Denis and we all sat down and put down quite a few beers with Leigh, new friend Kathy, George and some others. We literally closed the expo down – second time in February!

After that, those of us sticking around made our way back to Mellow Mushroom. Leigh gave me a ride over and we were joined by Kathy from Texas and Denis. Denis had a bad race. He finished and immediately had to get EMT help. He lost his jacket along the way. It was one of those days where he was just thrilled to make it to the finish line. He was shaking pretty bad when I first saw him at the expo. Thankfully the more time we spent at the restaurant the better he looked. He has run at least one marathon since and looks much better if you are wondering. He said new medication was the cause.

Kathy would later state she would go into the weekend knowing no one and meeting a bunch of new great friends afterwards. She was my new friend for this run. She works in banking from Texas and was originally from Wisconsin I believe. It was nice to talk to her because though we both hail from the Midwest, I suppose we both feel a bit like fish out of water. She lives in Texas now and as much as I travel I never feel quite right in Iowa anymore. Sometimes I feel like only on the road am I at home. It can get really expensive to go back home nowadays.

And as we finished up pizza and beer, Kathy had the best quote of the entire day. Denis was talking about the day he had and how he was going to stay at Diane’s to rest up before heading the whole way home and we all agreed it was a good idea. Kathy stopped to ask him about his accent and he replied that he was Irish. I mentioned something about Leigh’s Southern accent and Leigh looked a little hurt and said, “You think I have an accent? I didn’t think it was that noticeable.”

That’s when Kathy said, “Leigh honey, you have the most beautiful sweetest accent in the world, but honestly you just used the expression might could just a little bit ago? Trust me, I knew you have an accent! Only people here in the deep South use that expression.”

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Surf City, here we come

When friend of the blog, Marina White, asked me to run the Surf City Marathon last year I had plenty of excuses lined up to not. I really wanted to run Mercedes again and get a better time in Alabama. So I looked that up. It was two weeks later and did not conflict. Going to California was going to be an expensive stay. I could stay with Marina. It was going to be an expensive flight (I was sure of that one). It was less than $300. So though it may shock some to think I was hesitant at first to run a marathon – with this one it seemed like there was no reason to not run it. So after all that haggling, cheap trip to California to run one of the most popular marathons in the country? Count me in! Of course with my schedule I was not too excited until it got a couple weeks out.

Weather was bad all over the country and then I had my next dilemma. Could the flight be delayed or cancelled? But honestly Iowa has not had that much snow this year and the week leading up was the same so I headed to the airport that morning with confidence. At the airport I can honestly tell you, if I were asked what I hated about running all my marathons above all else, what would it be? I hate the travel – specifically air travel. I can understand when weather is bad and it delays things (and thankfully none of my trips have been hampered by this) but when I get to the airport on time and can see the plane and we are already delayed? Sorry I just don’t get it.

And this trip was one of those situations. My flight was delayed by 20 minutes – I thought this was a good thing as it could not be much later, right? No, they kept moving it back and the plane never moved and there was no activity around it. I suppose it was better than the trip where United cancelled my flight with little to no warning and for no reason at all. But, of course, it did not help me catch my layover flight. So here I was thrilled to be leaving Iowa for the sunny shores of Orange County California and I lost 6 hours of my trip and lots of sun time. And though I paid for it, the airline will never give me one penny for that loss. I know it is silly but airlines constantly make mistakes like this and who really pays?

So due to that loss, there was not much buildup to the Surf City Marathon. I arrived at the John Wayne Airport at 9 PM and Marina came to pick me up. She drove less than 15 minutes back to her house and I was given a wonderful futon to sleep on. Seriously it may not seem like the greatest of accommodations but it was free, there was plenty of bottled water and she even picked up some gummy bears for me – helps settle my stomach. I was pretty stoked. I was a bit perturbed about missing the expo but there was nothing I could do to help that at this point. Also I was able to check out my new shirt and realize I had tagged my bib as Iowa Boy. This being a California marathon, I liked the thought I put into that one.

Marina had plenty of energy and we talked later than I had wished. I did go to bed eventually and though, we had to get up first thing in the morning, I felt plenty well rested that morning. The drive was a bit of a bear to get there and Marina told me this was usual for this event. She supposed it is due to the start being on the coast and this limits it to two ways to get to the start. I am not sure myself but it was pretty congested. She was kind enough to drop me off at the start and then go back to the buses herself. She chose to run the half at this event and they started a full 45 minutes after us so she wanted to make it easy for me and I suppose easy for her.

I had hoped to make the Maniac picture but I did not (and if you know me that was bound to happen in any case). I even looked for the stragglers around where I thought the picture was supposed to be and I could not find a soul. So I dropped off my drop bag early and though I was not looking forward to shedding my sweatshirt it really was warm enough it did not matter. The volunteers took my bag and even though I started to put it in a clear bag, they just said forget it and put my bag back among the others. These were my favorite volunteers ever. Seriously race directors if you think anyone feels safer with the stupid clear bag rule? Think again. It is just a waste of time and hurts the environment. Please stop all these stupid rules designed to make us feel safer. They don’t and I never changed my opinion of what is safe after that awful day in Boston last year. Don’t even get me started on the kneejerk rule change at Boston this year.

As I made my way to the start who should I see but Abbi and Jim! I have not a clue how Abbi and I signed up for so many of the same marathons this year but obviously we did. It was great to see them both and see a friendly familiar face or two. I invited them both to the Sally Boles after party and they seemed interested in coming. Apparently Surf City is on Super Bowl Sunday and every year Sally has a rocking party after the run to watch the game. Marina is a fixture and invited me as well and now here I was inviting others. Both of them looked like they were having a great time out of the Midwest freeze and enjoying the California weather. I was jealous of their expo and beach time. I just got here!

I was then lucky enough to run into my friend, Teresa! I had missed her at Vegas and here she was! What a strange coincidence though a lot of us tend to run a lot of marathons. We talked for a little bit and I apologized for missing her at my 50. Sometimes there really is not enough time to see everyone. After some chatting and discussion about upcoming races, we broke off and I got right behind the 3:25 pacers. I was hoping to do better than that, but I can usually make up time in the first six miles and it was real crowded in front of them. They had A Snail’s Pace running gear on – Marina’s running company. I had actually asked her that morning with a name like that if they had fast runners too – well now I know.

The race started and as predicted I raced out and around and caught the 3:10 pacer in my sights running down the Pacific Coast Highway. I felt a little off so I stayed behind keeping him in view. Besides there were other sights as well – I was able to see the beach on the left and the shops on the right. I suppose there was nothing too special about the shops of Huntington Beach but they seemed pretty special to me. It was still blowing my mind that I was in Surf City and I was looking forward to hanging out here afterwards. It was still dark but there was no doubt I could see an oil derrick out there. I was a bit surprised by that sight. I always thought the surfers would never allow such a thing? Later on I would see a wildlife refuge as well and Marina would tell me that Huntington is actually considered not the beach that Laguna Beach is.

We took a right turn about three miles in and started going back down and inside the city. We hit a large downhill (I knew we would have to come back up that one) and the next thing I know we were running through a nice little park. The course really was kind of crazy at this point. There were all sorts of turns and inclines and I could see how someone could easily go the wrong way or trip if they were not paying attention but I loved it! I high fived all sorts of volunteers (there were a lot in this area) and kept on going. About Mile 8 we did hit that uphill but I was able to keep my pace and keep going.

About this time I started wondering when the half marathon would catch up with us. It started 45 minutes after us and I figured they would merge with us somewhere around here. I was sure they did not make the park trek and was just wondering when it would happen and if they would pass me. I made it back to the Pacific Coast Highway and then we ran about another three miles up to a turnaround point and now we were headed back to the start? I knew about this time I wished I had either had Mike Chewar with me or that I had gone to the expo and had seen the course.

And as I hit the 13 Mile point I saw the first of the half marathoners catching up with other marathoners. At this point, both sides of the highway were closed and it was runners as far as the eye could see. This is not unusual during a marathon but it was cool to think such a major road was closed down for us. And I kept getting closer to that start line. I knew it was the finish line as well after seeing the finishing chute area as I had started. How could we still be heading towards it? Then I realized just how large this event was. I was over an hour and a half into the event and some of the half marathoners were still coming out of the chute!

Finally at Mile 16 I noticed a right turn. I was hoping we would turn down and go towards the beach but instead we turned right around and headed right back where we came from this time only on the boardwalk. And I already knew the way this one ended – right back on this same boardwalk. It would end up being four lanes of runners – back to back to back to back. And now, that is a first.

And almost instantly on that turn my legs fell apart too. My right hamstring was killing and it seemed to doom my entire left leg. I had worn a stocking cap that morning and for the first time ever – it was a bad clothing choice – I was too hot and it was soaked in sweat so I had to carry it rather than lose the boggin. The 3:25 group passed me way early. There was no doubt about it – I was just having a bad race! I could not blame it on my cursed hip because nothing was going right (I would find out later that my legs never shifted either).

I was going through the motions about Mile 22 when a girl passed me, prodded me and told me to get a move on. Then I nearly ran into Jennifer Hienton crossing to get some water and she told me she was having a horrible day too. Then another runner caught up with me and said, “I don’t feel any better than you, but let’s run this one out together!” I said I would and we ran for a little bit, had a short walk break and then ran again. There was not much conversation but I was definitely getting faster and feeling better. I do not know if it was the girl who prodded me along, seeing someone else having a bad day (seriously the day was perfect for a marathon) or this new friend who pushed me along but I was recharged. Then Mile 23 came along and the friend told me he needed to walk. I knew he thought I would stop to walk too and I wish I could say I did but whatever was gone was back! I felt bad but I was back! Seriously the last 3 miles are always a relief for me so I just could not walk. I was in a groove and sadly left him behind.

Then at Mile 24 I ran into the prodding girl. She was walking at this point and I yelled at her that she had to get going again! She actually remembered me and we ran together for a half mile. I saw a water station on the left but there was no disturbing this groove! I ran past it but my other friend stopped to quench her thirst and now she was gone too. I kept running and actually passed a few runners down the stretch. I came in at 3:33 and though not a good day, I finished. The next day I could barely move my left leg so it was indeed something did go horribly wrong.

When I got to the end the prodding girl caught up with me afterwards. Her name was Catherine Redfern and she is a Montana runner. I talked about how much I loved the Missoula Marathon and told her how whenever I wear that shirt people ask if I am from Montana. She was there on a small vacation with her mother and to run the marathon. Her mother was so proud of her – it was so nice to see that. I told her about some of the groups I am part of and invited her to join. I hope to see her again soon and am one step closer to registering for Missoula this year.

After that, I made my way to the beer tent and saw an entire group dressed up as Super Mario Brothers! One was even dressed up as a Cloud Koopa (if you have to ask you’ll never know). I did have to drink for a while but eventually one of my newer friends from Tucson, Keith, came over and we talked for a while. He had another fantastic race and came in just over 3 hours which was good enough for an age group place. I told him about the party at Sally’s and eventually got him invited. He was looking for something to do and was thrilled to have been invited. He left and I made my way over to the expo where I was able to run into Dave Bell!

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Dave is such an awesome person and it was great to see him. It had been two weeks since I had seen him last and he was going to be at Sally’s party too. I have a feeling I should make this an annual event – they all do! After that I was able to find Marina and Marathon Mitch. They had been celebrating a few newer runners first half marathon and enjoying mimosas. However, they still had beer tickets left! So we went back to the beer tent and enjoyed a couple more. We met plenty of other runners including Stacy Palmer. She was just too much fun for words and it saddens me that it will probably be a while before I see her again. She was funny, cute and somehow had even worse circulation than I do (her hands were purple by this point). I was so happy that I had brought along my hoody at that point.

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We would close the beer tent down and be the last ones out of there and even walking through the parking lot would be a chore as we kept running into other runners we knew. We would be a little late to the Super Bowl Party and Sally would end up joking that my guest Keith was so sad he was alone as I could not show up on time. Sally did have an excellent shindig put together with three types of chili and lots and lots of appetizers. I definitely got my fill and it was a perfect choice for after a marathon. Plus as it was the West Coast we were out of there by nine. Yes, I missed the commercials and most of the game (not that it mattered this year), but I would not have changed it for any other Super Bowl Bash.

And as Marina took me back to the crib all I could think about is with all the friends I have all across the country and as many places I have visited I have yet to invite people over for my hometown marathon here in Des Moines. I know it would be a good time and I have to do this and soon! So no promises this year but I promise in the next three years to run Des Moines again and invite all my running friends over. We all know it is better to give than receive and it appears especially true in letting people come stay at your place and enjoying a local race. Thank you Marina for letting me stay and Sally for putting together a great event as well.

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Loving Loiusiana

In July of last year, my friend Karen went and ran Missoula. Along the way, she decided to sign up for the 5K the day before the marathon just for a training run the day before. This flies in the face of all known marathon training which tells you rest the day before a marathon is always the way to go. However, she went out there, crushed it, got a cool extra medal and an age group award to boot. She also did well at the marathon the next day and got a personal record there too! I am no stranger to running the day before a marathon so when I found out that the Louisiana Marathon offered top finisher prizes to 5K winners just the day before the marathon? I had to get in on one of those!

So I talked to another friend running the day before, Glen, and the two of us made plans to get to town the night before, hang out and then run the 5K. Then… a snowstorm ruined my early start, flight issues ruined his way into town and we both arrived much later than we wanted to in Baton Rouge. We did meet up but not until five minutes before the race! After a couple minutes chatting, we took off and I had not a clue what to expect. It seemed to be a faster crowd than the year before (is that not always the case?) and I was able to settle into the top 20 by Mile 1. I passed a couple other people and soon enough found my way into the top 15 by the 2 mile point. I even made another move and made my way to 12th overall but fell apart a little and came in around 15th. I was pretty sure I had age group placed so I was very pleased with a sub 20 minute effort. Still not running my high school times but I was not in pain either so my marathon time was not in any trouble either.

Glen broke 23 minutes (which he said would have been way too fast), and it was a great meeting with him and Peter afterwards. I was also able to talk to new friend, Andy Bowden, a bit afterwards as well. I remember when my friend first suggested trying to meet a new friend each race I thought it may be impossible. Seriously would I not run out of people to meet sooner or later? Well the answer is a big NO! Andy and I both ran the double the week before and we both run in under four hours yet had no idea who the other was until this day at a 5K. Andy is from Houston and really has been active this year running as often if not more often than me. And how did I meet him? Peter needed a ride to the race and Andy stepped up to help him out. The funny part was we even had the same modus operandi – got into town a day early? Find a cheap hotel near the airport. We just chose different hotels is all.

After a short time chatting, I actually met three other runners from Iowa (seriously does not happen that often) and then made my way to get my finishing time. Yes! Second place age group and the guy ensured me there were age group prizes. One of my new Iowa friends scored as well. We chose not to stick around and get our prizes at the marathon the next day.

And that was the real reason I was here. Two years ago on this weekend I had flown to Louisiana to run my 11th state. I had a fantastic race with my buddy John and when we got done I got a couple local brews at the finishing area. I loved the course which was mostly around a lake. I liked the crowd support. I loved the finishing area and the many options to eat. They were all local and all so different! And even the awards (I was lucky enough to age group place) were awesome! I got a light jacket and a very nice poster. Last year I needed Arizona to complete my quest so I had to skip year two however the reviews were all raves so I had to come back. When people ask me my favorite marathon, this one is always at the top of that list.

And as I had made my way to this event they proved along the way what makes the Louisiana Marathon such a great event. They offered an expo only discount rather than a discount for everyone. They gave me a free visor when the discount did not work. They became the reunion spot for the Marathon Maniacs this year. They really concentrated on working their “weak” spots increasing their vegan options and inviting a couple top notch speakers to the Pastalaya. And I repaid them in kind. I convinced a girl from Vermont to attend the event with a week to go helping them get to their all 50 states represented goal. I convinced at least three other runners to go this year on top of her too. I guess you could say we have a symbiotic relationship!

So after the 5K, I checked out of my hotel, parked my car at the casino and made my way to the expo. I was getting mighty hungry at this point and was just hoping to run into someone to eat with at the expo. The first thing I saw there was Missy! It was great to see her again. She commented late last year that her love for running had been lost so any time I see her at an event I breathe a sigh of relief. After that I did run into Glen again along with Steven, Chris, and Tony – the main maniacs at their own booth! Angie was there too and I believe she was responsible for the extra this year – a Maniac stocking cap! I actually did an interview at that time and at that booth. Don’t get too excited – I think she interviewed everyone that was a maniac on this day just to see what makes us tick.

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Just after that Glen and I went to get something to eat and along the way ran into JoeWee and Mary! Man, I love seeing these two when I get a chance. They were looking forward to getting another state done on their way to 50. I had a great conversation with them and was able to meet their significant others. And of course it goes without saying Abbi was there stalking me as always with Jim. By this point I was taking samples from Core Power to sate a small part of my hunger. So  I opted to go with Denis and go to a local place that another local Maniac recommended. I ended up leaving Glen behind and loaded up into a car with Denis, a couple new friends, and Ed. She was right about the place – it was a 45 minute wait at two in the afternoon so we just went to Five Guys. It was okay.

After that I made my way back to the hotel and finally checked in and had a drink with Abbi. I always love seeing Abbi and we always try to get a drink together. Probably one of my traditions I try to keep every time I can – ever since our first race together in Indianapolis. And after the drink I actually went to a meeting! I know! A meeting and me – that just happened. And they did a great job running the meeting and giving out information on the Maniacs so I did learn something. However I am not sure if I will make this meeting thing a rock in the future. There is just so little time on these weekends. It was nice to talk to Paul and Leah for a first time and to see Bob again. Bob is very instrumental in 50 Sub 4 and I was getting the scoop from him. Changes coming soon? I am not telling!

After that, I was talked into Pastalaya, which was funny considering what had just happened in Alabama the week before. However it was very good – with no tomatoes! And it was great to hear the speakers Matt Long and Bill Rodgers. I was a amazed by Matt’s adversity and Bill is just an icon. It was a nice treat that I did not expect when I signed up for the dinner – like I said I never do these things. And I cannot list all that Matt Long is – you can look that up for yourself. I sat with Glen again and it was nice to get to know him a little better over the weekend. Sometimes when you travel like we do, you end up hanging out with people you never really thought you would even a couple weeks ago.

After this it was time for bed as I was cold! I went to bed and an hour after that Karen finally made her way to the room. It was not her fault – she had a late flight and it really was going to be a short trip as she was going to be out by five the next day. When I told her about my success at the 5K she was a little irked that she had not done the double at this race. She had thought about it – she just had work to do as well. She liked the marathon shirt (it is a good one) and checked out the other goodies as well. It was not long after that we were out and headed to the State Capitol to start our marathon!

And who was in the lobby? It was Brent, Rob, Tony and Luke! I first met the four of them at Tupelo and just love their camaraderie and the way they run together as a group saving personal goals for specific races. I have seen them several times since and always go out of my way to say hello when I can and have had my share of beers with a couple of them as well. The group of us made our way to the start line and there was some confusion about finding the bag drop off but Karen found it after a bit of a search and we both were in the corrals with plenty of time to spare. I was even able to make a last minute stop at a port-a-potty. Pretty rare you can do that without a long line. I lined up in the corral ready to go.

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And we were off. Oddly enough, I knew more than a few runners around me and was able to run with Steve for a little bit (he got in almost as late as Karen) and was able to joke around with Tony the pacer as well. My friend Paul fell back when we hit Mile 3. That is odd. Usually he stays up front much longer and has been pacing himself much better lately. After Mile 4 Tony’s pace of 3:05 seemed a bit quick on this day so I settled back about 30 seconds behind him and a female half marathoner and I ran for a bit jockeying for position with each other. We did not talk much but we did a great job working off of each other. In moments like this you can see where a pacer could really help. And then at Mile 10 Paul passed us again and moved in front of Tony as well. Guess he felt it again.

The course in Louisiana was very flat and may only have three hills but the slight incline at Mile 11 turned me into a pile of running goo. I went from 7:05 miles to 7:30 by Mile 12 and an 8 minute mile for 13. I hurt – bad! The only real joys after that point were seeing the other runners. Eliot went blasting by me talking briefly as he was chasing a PR. I ran into non pacer Tony not much later and he looked strong. A Colorado runner told me he had signed up for the race based on my recommendation. And then we turned around and saw the other runners coming our way. I ran into another Tony and Brent looking good. Mary and JoeWee yelled out my name. And I was able to see Karen running with the Maniac President Steven a little bit later. They both looked great and were in front of the 3:45 pacer! Karen was looking for a PR and she had chosen the right course! And another surprise came at Mile 22 when Todd, race director for Carmel, Indiana, passed me pacing another runner and looking strong!

I struggled those last four miles and was thrilled and a little shocked to walk away with a 3:24 on the day. JoeWee and Mary’s significant others gave me a huge cheer when I passed and that really helped. I had convinced Eliot to get a PR on this day because it was my wish as well. I ended up far from it with no lessons learned unfortunately. Whatever went wrong at Mile 11 has happened before and, I will be honest, most probably will happen again. He would later thank me for inspiring him to do so. That meant a lot. And Paul stayed up there and ran a sub 3:10 for his first time ever. I walked over the Maniac finishing area and was thrilled to see the second medal the group offered for attending the reunion. I grabbed a beer and enjoyed time with Steve and Glen who had finished just behind me. I waited for Karen to get done and knock another state off her own 50 Sub 4 quest. I was able to say hi to Paul and Leah as they came in looking happy and healthy and together as always. Such commitment to run together!

Karen did come in a little later but no sub 4. She told me she was hurting when I saw her and it got much worse so she chose not to cause possible damage and had to walk a lot of the last four miles. Bob came in and we were able to talk again and he even got an age group award! He had the plaque around his neck so I went back and got my plaque and poster as well. It felt great to wear that plaque though I was quick to point out that it was for a 5K and not the full distance.

Karen and I did not get an early checkout so we headed back to the hotel to clean up before the day was over. I was a bit down already. Snow was predicted for Iowa and I already knew I would be heading back before I wanted to. Karen had a flight out at six and I was pretty sure I would want to take off before that point. We were able to run into Gary and Chuck who had come in first and second. Really it is an honor for them to even know who I am. Gary is a fantastic runner who wins marathons regularly and Chuck holds the record for most marathons won EVER.

After cleaning up, we headed back for more beer and fun at the race. Denis was there and in excellent spirits as always. He really is very underrated in his enthusiasm and constant outgoing nature. I was able to run into the Vermont runner again and she took a picture with me thanking me for telling her about the great run. Things were really shutting down so we went to the bar and there was a group getting together already. We were able to put a few back with Kerri, Bill, Dave and several others who kept coming in. We had a great time and after only one beer I had to go. I had a 15 hour drive in front of me and my goal was to hit Arkansas by night. I left the others behind just as it was getting fun and did the one thing I did not want to do on this trip – leave early.

I was right in case you were wondering. The snow did hit an hour after I reached home (so I escaped it) and I had a good meal in a town named Monticello, Arkansas. The truth is running can be addictive, yes and I suppose that is why we are all here… but that really is not the truth. The truth for many is the lifestyle is addictive. All these friends and all these times and getting treated special that can be quite addictive too! When I scheduled this run the whole idea was to spend extra time and enjoy the town. When it became a reunion spot for the Marathon Maniacs, the goal was even more magnificent. I did not reach that goal so now I suppose I will be making my next extra time trip to spend more time with my friends and create that next perfect marathon weekend. I guess we are all trying to replicate that perfect marathon weekend – mine would still be Deadwood 2012. Maybe I should head on back…

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A matter of perspective – First Light

I know everyone thinks Jennifer Hienton is a kind soul with a great dog and is a ton of fun. I know she thinks of herself as a fun time girl with a great sense of humor. Unfortunately I do not have such nice reports after the h-e-double hockey stick she put me through after the Mississippi Blues Marathon. I had my Sub 3:30. I was happy. But no! She had to convince me to run another marathon the next day! Just 4 months after I would say I would never do this again. To her face even! Just moments after Rhode Island! However, Jennifer cunningly put together a plan to get me to go back to a bout of total pain. She basically convinced me to run by telling everyone I was doing it already and telling me how much fun it would be to run with her on day two. I realized after the fact I did not want to run with her and her bullying me was not a good reason to run a marathon.

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The evil one and her little dog too!

Now I know there are several people out there who don’t mind and even love to run two marathons in two days. Jennifer fits into this category and plays it smart conserving on day one so she can have a better day on day two. I am not one of those people. I usually lose 15 to 20 minutes on day two and it is not just 15 minutes but 15 minutes of pain, whining and never wanting to run again. So truthfully when I signed up to the double with Jennifer and Ethan (Cathlin ended up being the smartest of our group and did not go with us) it was more about economics than anything else.

The first economic is the economy of travel. Though I do not like to run doubles, I do like to have good running statistics. I felt healthy enough in November that I could pull out a double sub 4 and add two races and some serious minutes to my frequently fast statistics. Also it is an economical way to get to 100 marathons faster (not even sure when that will happen but in the 80’s now – I love the 80’s). And actually plane tickets out of Mobile were way cheaper than out of Jackson so it was cheaper to actually add on Mobile as well. All things considered, all I really wanted was a 3:30 out of Jackson and whatever happened in Mobile was just fine. Alabama was one of the 9 states I needed a 3:30 in but I doubted I could keep it up the second day of a double nor did I want to put that pressure on myself.

On top of that I was able to coordinate flights with Jennifer to make it so I never had to worry about extra cab rides or hotel stays so, all in all, it was the right decision. I did not and will not forgive Jennifer anytime soon. However with as many people doubling up the two states it ended up feeling like the usual thing to do as well. Funny what we Marathon Maniacs consider usual nowadays! Ethan, Jennifer and I left for our three hour ride to Mobile with a quick stop in Hattiesburg for the best meal of the trip – blackened alligator tail – at a place called Marlins grill. It was not cheap eats at Marlins however it is best meal I have had since November for sure. Highly recommended and a great atmosphere! We even got the bartender to talk running with us.

When we rolled into Mobile, Alabama I think it was a bit later than we all had wished for so we went straight to the expo with no delay and Jennifer and I raced for the first restroom we could find. Once we hit the restrooms, we came out and who was it but Mike Chewar! Mike was looking through some of the vendors and even told us to make sure we hit the Georgia Marathon (I was not able to due to someone pushing me out the door). After a short chat, we made our way over to get out packets. I had to pick up Lecia’s as well so it was going to take me a little longer. No big deal.

So I walked up to the table and said my name. They looked through the numbers. No, no Remsburg. They looked twice. I went over to the C’s to see if I had transversed my name and went with Cade as my last name. No dice. So I went over to the computer table where I would surely find my name and just an issue with registration getting a name with a bib. Nope – could not find me either. Finally the race director stepped forward and honestly, he believed I signed up but he told me I would just have to sign up that day. I knew I had signed up because I remember hitting all the buttons for running both marathons but it was beside the point. I also knew I remembered one marathon not sending an email to me. Could it have been this one? Probably so I thought at the time.

I went to the table to sign up for the expo price and it was $95. Now, I know this was an error on my part but I thought that was pretty steep for a smaller marathon. However with everything everyone had gone through with me now what choice did I have? I had gotten Lecia’s packet. Mike had tried to help me several times with my dilemma and Jennifer and Ethan were just wanting to go. If I did a whole should I or should I not pay game it would just add to their wait and they would talk me into it anyway (don’t even think that the possibility of getting out of a double was a big plus for me though).

I went up to the pay table and tried to not sound like a total jerk, “Now I know it says $95 but I swore I paid when it was $75…” and the race director came up behind me and cut me off, “He pays$55.” I actually argued with him and said I would happily pay the $75 I knew I meant to pay but he cut me off again telling me not to worry about it and he would only charge me $55. I was just floored and am still thankful for his graciousness. Shortly after that, I got a bib and the person who helped me moved me to the front of the t-shirt line and gave me my extra t-shirt for running the double and also the extra gift as well. No problems at all. Next, I stopped to try and take some pictures of some beautiful girls in some fantastic dresses but Jennifer was pushing me out of the door already. I did not even get a chance to visit the Georgia Marathon! I guess Jennifer and her vindictiveness versus expos had destroyed my fun as well!

We had tried to talk Mike into going out to eat with us but he and pretty much everyone else was all about the free dinner the marathon had to offer. I do not blame them. Save your dollars where you can! I chose not to go with the free spread for two reasons. 1. I have done more than a couple free pasta dinners and most of the time the choices are limited to just red sauce. I am allergic to tomatoes (not horribly so) but the slight constriction of my esophagus is enough to make me say no to anything tomato related the day before the marathon. 2. I do like to eat the local fare and see what a city has to offer. And Jennifer and I already had dinner plans at a place called the Royal Scam! It just sounded fantastic.

Lecia had made the plans for us and she was arriving at 6:30 at the earliest, so we made 7:30 reservations and of course Jennifer just could not stop complaining how that was too late. It was just ranting and raving about how she wanted to be asleep by then. I politely interjected that we did eat late and it was better that we not eat early. She was not hearing any part of it demanding I call Lecia and find out how far out she was. I had to acquiesce for Jennifer is very tall and intimidating. When Lecia said she could not make it until 8:30 the decision was made and we went without her. It was a sad defeat but we did arrive for our reservation on time.

The rest of the night went without issue (shocking I know with Jennifer there). Lecia did join us for dinner! She was only a little late and a couple of Jennifer’s friends came along as well to enjoy the menu. The burgers were fantastic and Jennifer had to have the peanut butter cheesecake so we shared a slice. I barely got a couple bites in as Jennifer made sure she had her king’s share but it was fantastic! When we went to bed that night Jennifer informed us that we would not be leaving until 7:15 and no, she was not interested in a picture beforehand as she needed her “beauty sleep.” So yes, Lecia and I did miss the picture.

We did arrive to the start line with not much time to spare that morning and everyone was discussing the same thing – the meal the night before. There were stomach issues galore and several people said they had been kept up at night with trips to the restroom. I would find out later a few people would not even run due to the issue. Others would have issues kick in during the race. I guess I have yet another reason to skip the pasta feed the night before a race.

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The picture I missed

Lecia and I made our way to the front. Last year a 3:38 was tenth overall so I think most of us were not expecting a fast crowd. It was not a chip timed race so that was another factor to start up front. If you started mid-pack that could mean you were at a thirty second disadvantage! We got the countdown and Lecia took off and I, well I started to go backwards! Finally after thirty seconds I started to surge ahead and catch Lecia a minute into the run and eventually move past her. I also caught Steve (who was doing the double too) and the two of us ran together for the first two miles. I lost him sometime after that and was able to hold my own with a steady pace after that.

Apparently I was not the only one who had a slow start because at Mile 5 I was passed by a couple fast runners. Another runner by me mentioned something about the shirt she was wearing as she was proudly wearing the Back 2 Back shirt we received for running both marathons. She explained it to him and I got into a conversation with her and her friend. She was the winning female from the day before and she seemed real sure she may win this race as well. They looked great and we were able to run and talk for the next three miles. Unfortunately a hill stole some of my power and I dropped back and lost them at Mile 8. Then as I another couple of runners picked me up, the guy runner told me he had won this race in the past!

As he told me how he had won, all I could think was, “And there is no way we are even in the top ten now!” And at this point I was still on a sub 3:20 pace. I mentioned this to my new friend and he replied, ‘I did run a 2:50 that year and a lot of these people will drop off when they hit the hills.’ Uh-oh. The people in front of me will not be the only ones dropping off when they hit those hills. And as the next hill came, my new friend moved on. A big hill came up at Mile 12 and the pain was great I just walked it. Lots of people passed me. There was no doubt. This race was much, much faster than the year before! Some people would later say it was because of the double but usually the second day of a double does not bring faster runners!

Just about the halfway point the course went downhill and it was time to coast! But I did not coast nor did I feel good. I would struggle up to Mile 23 and no one really wants me to go into great detail of every ache and pain, so instead I will just say it really was a great course. The miles around 13 were woodsy and had a secluded feel and after that even though we were running through suburbia it was nice even pavement and we were able to run through a college with energetic crowd support. We went through a nice park and a conservatory area. The volunteers were chatty and friendly the entire way, and bikers that went along the course were incredibly nice. There seemed to be people controlling every intersection and cars did not even come close to anyone I saw. And the crowd support was fantastic!

And then in the last three miles I got a second wind and a downhill surge! I started passing runners and felt great again. I came in at 3:40 and though certainly not my best – it was 17 minutes slower than the day before, usual. I loved that ending downhill. Seriously I did not have a single complaint other than if they really upped their game this could be a destination marathon – perhaps even the preferred Alabama race.

Some suggestions would be to start chip timing, offering gels and a significant medal. Chip timing is key, and runners will always complain if there are no gels. I think the idea of all monies going to L’Arche is fantastic and I would never not support a marathon for the medal but there will always be marathoners who go to a marathon for the medal and the medallion we earned would just not cut it with them. I am not an expert on any of this so please take it with a grain of salt. I just wish more runners would come see this awesome race. On another point, I am sorry for those with stomach issues. I hope that really did not ruin the entire day for you and I hope you noticed the greatness of the course.

I finished and the first person I saw was Steve. He passed me around Mile 16 and came in a couple minutes ahead of me. We looked at results and sure enough everyone in the Top 50 came in under 3:38 this year. I have not a clue where all the fast people came from and where they were hiding last year. Just around 3:50 new friend Jen Bakula came in. We had met the day before. She was the female runner who almost passed me in Mississippi! We talked for a couple minutes that day but after she finished on this day I got to know her as my new friend.

Jen is from California and an aspiring 50 stater. I talked to her about 50 sub 4 and met her friend that she had met on a cruise ship and gave her a ride to Mobile. She told me that she had signed up for the double on a whim – she may not even be a Marathon Maniac! It just amazes me how so many of us just have such a similar goal and start off on different paths and end up meeting at one point or another. The 50 states goal is a much more popular goal than you may possibly think. I hope I do get to see Jen again. There are not too many fast females out there that are willing to run as often as she is. She could become a name in our circles. I am currently trying to talk her into her next race!

Lecia came in under four and she was pleased. She was hoping for an improvement on her Boston Qualifier and calls me her lucky charm (I was there for her other two BQ’s and even got her BQ with me leading her in Maine!) Today was another good race but not an improvement. Unfortunately the good overall feeling was ruined by a certain tall lumbering runner crossing the finish line. Yes it was Jennifer. She bragged how she left Ethan in the dust and pretended that she felt bad about leaving him behind. Ethan would come in eventually and he was thrilled to keep his 4:30 going on day two. Ethan was running for a longer race on these two days.

We chatted for a while, took a picture, and started to head back. Lecia stayed behind and Ethan wandered off to his hotel. Jennifer had to get a coffee so we went into a local coffee shop.  There was only two people in front of us and I did not mind waiting but Jennifer just would not stop complaining about how long it took and how she wished she had never ordered it. I just tried to enjoy the ambience of the local flavor.

The trip ended soon enough with a trip to the airport and if there was one thing I had to take from the second day of my double it would be sometimes these small marathons can be the biggest gems. That and if you get a chance to run a marathon with Jennifer Hienton please take it! She just has a stellar personality.

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I finally got my picture on race day!