Archive for December, 2013

Travelling to Tucson

The states are finished. The goal is complete. What to do next? I once read of a runner who said, ‘just ran my PR at Chicago, 50 states are done, only Boston to go and then I will retire.’ I always thought that was one of the saddest things I ever read. Maybe not everyone would view it that way, but you think of all the friends you have made, the journeys you have had, and to top it off you may be improving and you want to quit? Just toss it in? I suppose the saving of the money would be nice. I still think that if I met the right gal I may just go down to ten marathons a year but give it up? No. Not until I am injured and cannot go on. There is just too much out there to run for – the friends, the times, the tee shirts, the good causes we give to, and even the medals.

When the December 8th weekend came up a year ago I was just positive I was going to run Memphis again. The funds go to St. Jude and it is just an awesome feeling to run through the hospital and see those kids and high five them! Really there are very few other race moments that compare to it. I have to do that again! However in order to ensure a spot this year, you had to secure $500 in charity funding to get in. And I am not saying my friends are not charitable but I will say I think they would be a bit silly to give even $10 for me to run another marathon. When you have already run 32 marathons in one year, it is a bit of an excessive habit. So next I looked into Dallas. I love Dallas. The course is nice and such an underrated city to visit and everything is so easy to get to from the airport. I ran it last year as well and that was a fine event. I had a good time due to some nice heat (and seriously after the last couple weeks I could use some warm weather) and it turned into a perfectly planned trip with no taxi even!

But tickets to Dallas were $400 even in June! I only spent $300 last year. So after talking to a friend, Allison, at Casper I decided that maybe a nice trip to Arizona and to see Tucson would be a good idea. I looked the tickets up and at $275 (sweet!) it would be on the cheap side and I booked it almost immediately. It was also a nice addition that my good friend Michelle had signed up already. The only downside to booking such a trip would be I would have to get my own hotel but I was sure something would come up. And a week later Karen told me the only place she could travel on points that weekend was to Tucson so sure enough I never even had to worry about the hotel either.

Then another horrible and odd thing happened on my way to Tucson. Severe weather hit most of the US and both Memphis and Dallas cancelled their marathons! The three of us had to agree we had made the right choice that weekend to run (though I am sorry for those that did not get the opportunity to do so). I arrived first to the airport and after what was a messed up run in the airport parking lot with my backpack strapped on, I was ready to run the marathon the next day as I waited for Karen and Michelle. On a side note I have been run streaking for over six months and sometimes you get your miles where you can. Someone reported my backpack so I was forced to carry it. Michelle had booked the rental car and both had gotten rooms at the host hotel so it was going to be an easy weekend. Plus all three of us left Monday morning so we were even able to get some sightseeing in as well. Perfect planning.

We got to the hotel and checked in. Then since the expo was at the host hotel (not uncommon for a smaller race) we just walked over and went to the expo after checking in. The expo was in the tourist attraction part of the hotel which led to plenty of great pictures and a fun time. I think it was supposed to be outside as it was very cramped but the temperatures in the 50’s made that a hard sell. And the cramped conditions made it hard to spend too much time there. That was okay – the hotel we were staying at was incredible. It was a resort with six different swimming pools, 16 tennis courts and a golf course to go with three restaurants. I still don’t want to see the bill!

After that it was pretty close to dinner, so we just went back to our rooms and readied ourselves for the next day. I was wearing my new lucky shirt I had worn at Oklahoma and had gone back to my shoes from Nevada. I am not one of those runners that has a superstition or anything like that. I just wear what I have based off of cheapness more than anything else. I think when you run 20 marathons a year it can be harder to justify spending extra money on separate outfits every race.

We went to dinner that night and Michelle, Karen and I were joined by Allison (who made another appearance after her recommendation) and three new friends Sally, Jeanette and Danielle. Sally is another fellow 50 states finisher who is trying to run every state in under four hours now. She will officially be the new friend of this race! She is also having a Super Bowl party this year that we both found out at that dinner I had been invited to by fellow runner, Marina, who invited me to Surf City in February. What a small world we runners have! And yes, Marina talked me into Surf City and then told me to go to a Super Bowl party afterwards that Sally just happened to be having. Even saying it twice over seems confusing.

I ordered a pizza at the suggestion of our waiter and Michelle and Karen went completely healthy and got some good looking and somewhat healthy pasta. Karen and Michelle were very excited about the course and could barely contain their excitement. It was pretty much a straight downhill with one rather drastic uphill at Mile 23. I have to admit I was excited as well, but by this point all I really wanted was below 3:30. I have now made my new goal to hit all 50 states in under 3:30 and if Arizona turned out well I would only have only 10 states to repeat after this weekend! Yes, there was an excitement to get a Boston Qualifying time for 2015 at such an easy course, however I figured I would do this soon enough and it would be nice if Karen got one. She was only six minutes away in August. I was not trying to get too optimistic but a lot was on my side…

After dinner we went straight back to our rooms and got in a good night’s sleep for the night before. It is usual to pretty much always be on the go so the night before the big run most runners go to bed as early as 8 or 9. I have issues sleeping before 10 but even I can nod out as early as 9:30. However at 1 AM I got a rude awakening by a very upset stomach and it did not leave for a full two hours. Worsening the matter was that we were getting up at 4 to make a 7 AM start. So now I was in full blame mode about the greasy pizza. And I was not too happy about the run in the airport with my backpack either. It was a little much to run 2 miles with it on. On top of that it was freezing. Where was my warm weather marathon?

Maybe freezing might seem a little extreme a statement but hey it was snowing when we got to the start. We all went to the restroom and lined up for the picture at 6:30 which in hindsight was way too early as everyone ran back to the buses afterward. It was cold! Finally the start came and we took at least another ten pictures as we went to line up. And as always, we were off in no time at all. Funny how it seems like you can go from we have to stand here for five minutes in the cold to leaving in no time at all.

And the downhill kicked in quick! I was cruising for the first mile passing all sorts of people and feeling really great! There actually were more hills on the course than any of us would have guessed and the ones around Mile 3 really affected me as I watched ten runners pass me. I would get them back I thought as I reached the top of the hill. The problem was… I never did. The cold temperatures and cross winds were really affecting me and as I ran a long downhill two runners ran behind me the entire time using me as a wind block. I did not think it mattered that much but as soon as we hit the bottom one of them cruised past the other two of us no problem at all. The wind really was a factor and I let them use me up – rookie mistake.

Then on top of that, it was pretty demoralizing to see at this smaller event when I started counting runners at the turnaround? I was not even in the top 50?!? Wow. Just wow. I was running near seven minute miles and there were 50 people in front of me. Maybe this run was a lot more downhill than I had thought or maybe this was a real fast crowd! I looked great until Mile 16.5 when my stomach kicked in again and this was not just a cramp unfortunately. I was lucky enough to see a port-a-potty just in front of me at Mile 17and was able to get right in with no wait. However by this time I got out, I was passed by the 3:15 pacer and even more people had passed me. I caught up with them again but it was a lost cause. I just had nothing in me at that point and every Gatorade stop was nirvana. I walked them drinking every drop of that liquid gold. The uphill at Mile 23 was brutal but I walked it as my gait was really off on the uphill and even the last mile was filled with two walking stops just due to exhaustion and a general feeling of off. All in all I came in with a 3:24 which was really good considering and actually just what I wanted.

I had seen both Michelle and Karen at the turn around and was impressed with where they were. I thought I may be hearing about a couple personal records! I was right about Michelle as she broke 3:30 for the first time ever! Fantastic! And after talking to her and a couple other friends in our 50 Sub 4 club, Glen and Becki, we saw Karen come in with her second best time ever! Everyone there seemed to have one of their best running days except for Sally and I. Sorry Sally that I am reporting this. But you actually made me feel better and not so alone! Glen and Becki are finishers as well and prove to me that even after you finish there is still plenty to do out there – to go and run. Glen had a top three performance for him too.

It was still way cold so we got on the bus sooner than we may have wanted (it could have been much sooner grumble grumble) and went back to the hotel. We decided to go to a National Forest just outside of town and I have never seen so many cacti in my life! It was beautiful and there were pictures aplenty, including one cactus that actually looked like Homer Simpson. Even as I sit here writing this I do not feel like I can describe it quite accurately, it was certainly the highlight of the trip.

After that we made our way to the local Fleet Feet store to check out any running goods and then a fantastic dinner and a few beers at a Mexican restaurant. I really wished I had gone there the night before. It was recommended by Allison as well and she was spot on about this one. We had a few drinks that night and Karen and I went to the hot tub where we met a couple from New York. He had came in 17th overall and she had run a 3:45. Karen spent some time trying to talk them into joining 50 Sub 4 and I just marveled at his sub three time – still a goal of mine.

But as we sat there talking I knew that was what I had to keep running for – not necessarily my own goals but for others. I was there when Michelle finished her states in New York. And now I know I want to be there when she finishes all of them in under four hours. I know I want to be there whenever Karen finishes her quest (in her case hopefully together). I want to meet new people like I did on this trip and make new friends. I want to get to know other people better like new friends like Marina, Glen and Sally. In short, why would I want to stop? I had the worst day of any of my friends but I could still smile and have a much better weekend than I ever would at home. It is nice to have the Sub 3:30 goal but maybe what I need to focus on more is being there for other people’s goals. Those always end up being much more fun.


Oklahoma! Oklahoma! Oklahoma!

So after completing my last state (that blog will come later when I feel like having time to reflect – I have had time I just don’t feel like putting that kind of thought into today) what could I possibly do next? That’s right! Run another marathon the very next weekend! A long time ago my friend Karen had asked me to run Tulsa, Oklahoma because she was afraid that everyone had ran it the year before and no one would return. I told her that wasn’t true because EVERY year Oklahoma is a huge gathering place but signed up for it anyway. It was such a hard endeavor for me. Signing up for Tulsa really is not a large deal to me. It is a driver (I can drive to it – in less than seven hours even) and it is on a Sunday so I don’t even have to take a day off from work. Double win!

Tulsa though does seem to have one huge problem. Two years ago I ran Tulsa and had described the event as the worst marathon I had ever run until well, Tulsa this year. Now mind you it was not horrible or out of control or anything like that. Since I do not mind running in the heat (actually prefer it – my PR is in July after all) only cold weather marathons bug me. And two years ago it was cold and with just a hint that it may rain. I remember telling my aunt afterwards, “I don’t care about the damn marathon maniacs reunion, I just want to shower and get warm!” Then last year it was really cold at the start (seriously bad shivering issues going on) and when I got done it was not comfortable. I watched other runners come in and had a good time drinking free beer but I remember thinking, “Can we leave yet?”

But this is Tulsa and it is never cold so those two years just had to be some sort of odd occurrence that would not happen three years in a row, right? Right?

Wrong. So so wrong. As soon as Vegas was done and in the rearview mirror, I pulled up Oklahoma’s weather hoping to get more goodness but it was not to be had. I could not even believe my eyes! It said low of 22 the night before and high of 34? That was awful! And as the week went on rain kept coming in occasionally plus the temperature kept dropping and it was pretty much known if it did hit the 30’s that was not happening until the afternoon. Just great. In Tulsa where it always feels ten degrees cooler? I was not a happy camper. Karen was ecstatic all week goading me on Facebook posts and messaging me about how she loved the weather forecast. She was funny but this was not. I was actually quite upset.

So why would one risk warmth for a marathon? What people should really know about Tulsa is they treat us frequent marathoners right! They give us our own area before and after the race, free food and alcohol after the race and free booths to both the Marathon Maniacs and 50 States Marathon Club at the expo where we can meet and have general fun. This year they added a few new quirks as well. They had a bullhorn at the expo and were announcing what you were when you got it such as “Marathon Maniac”, “Ladies and Gentlemen we have a 50 stater” or “Another first timer!” Just awesome.

So after a not so long drive to town and picking up two friends, Karen and Alison, at the airport and a quick lunch at a decent Mexican place we made our way to the Expo. We parked free – just have to say this always a good sign of a marathon that cares. Never like ones that try to charge you for the race and then bilk you an extra five to park at their expo. I understand race morning – most spots can be private parking and it can be a mess to find a spot but typically there is no reason to charge for the expo. Thank you Tulsa! The three of us went to the expo and saw several great people and had great conversations including fellow blogger Danielle, Jennifer (like 4 of them), Brian, 50 Stater Steve Boone, and Dave Mari. There are others and I am sorry but if I listed them all we would be here for the better part of a paragraph and my memory.

After that we drove around town for a little bit and checked out the center of the universe (a spot in Oklahoma where only you can hear your voice echo – it is a bit freaky), had a really good beer at a local watering hole and went to a very well planned dinner at a fantastic joint. It was really a hip looking place and the food was all organic and raised locally. It was impressive and reminds you that you don’t have to go to Portland, Oregon to get a real good meal where they care about such things. Just search them out in your own town!

At dinner Michelle presented me with the gift of a 50 sub 4 finisher shirt. It was so incredibly nice. She has to be the most considerate runner I know of and if you do not know her it is your own loss. And yes it is the Michelle that goes by Mom O 6. A 3:40 marathoner and mother of six – she proves that only our negative thoughts of “I can’t” hold us back. She just keeps getting more consistent and I have never hear her utter such words. It was also nice to meet Stephanie, my new friend for the trip, at the dinner and to get to know some other new runners as well. Mike was there and I did not have time to ask him about the course changes as I did at other races – and it was just as hilly as ever so I am glad I did not. I did meet a Jennie who lived in Richmond and threatened to stay at her place if I ever ran the race. She never blinked. I guess that is what is so great about our community – there is just that level of trust.

We went back to the house we were staying at that night. Alison was really concerned already. We were freezing just getting to the house! She may be from California and I from Iowa but I agreed – this was no weather to run in! Karen was happy as always whenever it gets below forty degrees and as I laid my clothes out that night, there was just not enough. I think only a snowmobile suit would have been appropriate.

We headed out the next morning and sat in the car until someone absolutely had to go to the bathroom and then waited far too long in line to go. Seriously folks when standing in line at the port a potties, pay attention other people will steal the open one – that is all. The temperature was 26 degrees race morning and it never feels even that warm in Tulsa (experience talking her folks). Thankfully, we were able to make our way to the Maniac area before the race. Everyone had already lined up for the picture and I will be completely honest and say that is one picture I am 100% fine that I missed.

I lined up in the A corral and could not even move up as far as I wanted. It really did not bother me as at least it was warm in the crowd. Concern about being lined up behind the 3:50 pacer? Nope, not at all. I had a sweatshirt on and it was covering my race number. I fully expected to take that off in the first few miles. I also went with shorts and compression socks leaving my knees uncovered. It caused some lady to make a snarky comment about people who wore shorts in weather like this. I have not a clue why she thought she was such an expert on such matters.

The race started and I was stuck swimming upstream fighting through other runners. I breathed in the cold air and it really stifling me. Cold weather running will never be my style – I don’t even like breathing that stuff in! And I was lucky enough to run into a couple friends as I moved up including Ethan, Michelle and Vincent. The race did not mean much to me as my goals for the year were already complete, but I kept moving forward trying to outrun the cold. Finally at Mile 5 I thought about stripping off the Iowa sweatshirt hoodie I had on but I knew Mile 10 would be open to wind and I wanted to keep it through there. The experience of running the course was coming in handy.

Mile 10 did come and I was happy to have the sweatshirt still on. By that point the hood had fallen down and was no longer covering my head prompting one other runner to quote “Cade running a 3:20 marathon in a hoodie. No big deal.” I had to laugh when I heard that one. Even I thought at that point I would have really been affected – I was pretty damn cold! I pushed on running with two shirtless runners for the next three miles. It was a little different than my first miles where all I heard was “Go Iowa!” because now all I heard was “You guys are crazy!” The one was running just the half and dropped off around Mile 12. He had to be hurting. Usually halfers make a surge. However the other surged and I never saw him again after the halfway point. I hope he made it – without a shirt I cannot be certain.

The real drama did occur at the halfway point! I ran over the chip timing mat at exactly the half way point and no beep. Nothing. Silence. I ran on but majorly concerned. There were two issues here. Number one, this may mean that my time was not being timed the entire race. Number two my bib was covered due to the cold and the fact I meant to throw off my sweatshirt so if I argued it? Race officials may point out that I was not supposed to cover my number. They were right but the conditions were such that this was not a good race to do this. I seriously did consider turning around for the half but kept going instead.

There really wasn’t much more to report after that. I slowed down a bit and asked a race official what to do – they told me to go on. Another one thumbed up that I did trip his scanner (I did not believe him) and really not much else… Oh wait! I guess you could include the icicle that formed on my hat and was hanging off my head! Yes about Mile 18 I noticed a rather not small icicle forming and hanging off my head! It was shocking to say the least and it kept growing the more I sweated I guess. I was lucky enough to have someone take a picture. And would later argue, “How much faster could I have been without that extra weight?”

The real reason I noticed the sweatsicle was because at Mile 18 I did consider taking the sweatshirt off again but this time I noticed the ice was melting and dripping on my sweatshirt. I thought it may be a good idea to not leave just one layer for ice cold water to be dripping on. I thought that was a key idea. Moving on the Mile 25 was the Center of the Universe Detour (the place where only you can hear your echo again). I looked at my watch and knew that I had a real shot at a 3:20. However, the real decision was that I was feeling chilled again. I just could not see running 26.5 instead of 26.2 with how I felt. I decided to forgo it and saw a guy I had passed earlier running out. I thought of the cool coin he got for doing so but it did not matter – I was happy to move on past it.

I made it to Mile 26 and a for the first time a spectator commented on my icicle! “Iceman!” he yelled out. I had to admit it was pretty creative. I was smart enough to pick up my sweatshirt so my number could be seen and I ran in at 3:20:15 by my watch but would find out later the chip timing never worked and would be credited with a 3:21:15 or so. It didn’t matter… until Karen told me I placed third place age group and did so by about 20 seconds! I was pretty happy I did not take the detour!

A short trip to the timing tent did confirm I never got a chip time. A volunteer kept staring at my icicle until she took it upon herself to break it off. Finally I tried to go to the Maniac area and have a good time but that lasted less than five minutes. It was just way too cold. I picked up my special medal and left (another Tulsa perk). I got on the bus, sat next to a nice lady who told me to go to the Cowtown Marathon, got off at the wrong stop and walked back to my car. The ride home was excellent.

Afterwards I got the news from others. Karen got a sub four (that is all she really cares about). JC did too. That is really nice – he has been on a roll! Dave got the icicle picture to me. Jennifer and Danielle had a good time and most everyone finished save poor Alison. She had a stress fracture and should not have been out there in any case and when she got to Mile 17 the pain was intolerable. And it was too cold to walk the last nine miles. She had to stop and not finish. She had told me a couple times that she should not even be there. The leg plus the weather was too much for her. However she was right the Route 66 marathon in Tulsa, Oklahoma is not one to miss even if it is so cold I had to run the entire race without taking off my throwaway sweatshirt!