Archive for January, 2014

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!

Been Talkin’ Bout Jackson

Nothing about Jackson, Mississippi was the same from last year except maybe the city. You see, this was my return trip to the city that always makes me think of the wonderful Johnny Cash song (as it well should).

We’ve been talkin’ ’bout Jackson, ever since the fire went out.
I’m goin’ to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around,
Yeah, I’m goin’ to Jackson,
Look out Jackson town.

I was putting Jackson on look out after a poor performance last year! I was ready to run it in much better shape this year. Last year I drove down to Jackson with my aunt and ran a 3:35 with what felt like a broken leg and a constant limp. I remember putting some drug on my leg to stop the pain and it held for about 23 miles. Those last three were awful and who threw in the uphill ending? Then to put insult to injury the third place in my age group was a 3:21 or so. If I put in an average race? I would have age group placed and got an excellent trophy to boot!

The day did not start well with travel problems and me arriving in town four hours later than I should. Since my goals have changed I was aiming for a sub 3:30 in Mississippi. If I achieved that I would be down to nine states where I had to achieve that similar goal. I liked that idea a lot. However I was also going with two good friends, Jennifer and Ethan, and was looking to very good times with them! We have run more than a few good races together and they are always fun. So I was upset to have my travel delayed as it meant less time with them and less time at the expo. Ethan had his goal of trying to run a 4:30 and prepare for a 50 miler. I think Jennifer always goes into every marathon with the goal of just having a good time and she never fails at that.

I arrived into town and went straight to the expo where I ran into Steve Walters. Steve and I are very evenly matched runners and I am always thrilled to see him in a competitive way. Courses change but runners rarely do. If I can finish within five minutes of Steve I know I put in a good effort. I am sure he feels the same way too. Also Steve is an awesome ambassador of running and it is great to get a chance to see and talk to him. We did have much time to talk however as Ethan was picking me up in a few minutes so I was in a hurry. I went upstairs. Like any good marathon, Mississippi Blues had expanded their expo this year and moved it into a much larger area. It was much more convenient and though I got very little time there, it was great to see lots of race swag, free bananas and the Louisiana Marathon representing!

I was not able to stay long as Ethan was picking me up and then Jennifer to go over to Hal’s and Mal’s to eat local before our big run the next day. I was able to run into Sherry Ricker just before I left and talk to the Louisiana Marathon girl (who did not try to talk me into the 5K… foreshadowing for another blog). And the second I walked out the door Ethan was waiting for me. Perfect timing! We picked up Jennifer who was not her usual bubbly self due to drinking too much on the flight and it was a bit of a somber drive. When we go to the restaurant which was highly recommended by the race, we were afraid there was going to be a long wait but we were seated immediately.

Unfortunately the food did not live up to what we wished for as it was rather mediocre but we had went the safe route going with burgers so it was nothing too stomach upsetting in any case. Ethan ate healthier than Jennifer and I opting for a salad. Sometimes I think if you take Ethan’s fantastic training habits, Jennifer’s health and ability to get over an injury quickly and my sheer determination you may have a perfect runner! Instead you have three very fine runners. After that, Ethan dropped us off at the hotel and I was able to finally see my room. We were at a Hampton Inn so it was bound to be a nice stay. Jennifer made the reservations and she did a great job.

At this time I was able to finally open up my swag bag and find out what the Blues had to offer. There is not a doubt in my mind that the Blues year in and year out offers the greatest swag of any marathon. Last year they had one of my favorite cinch bags and this year they switched it up and gave us a nice heavy duty reusable grocery bag. The harmonica returned this year in a very fitting blue color and a free CD as well. And the shirt was switched to a light jacket with minimal extra advertising. It was like they threw away the entire design for the shirt last year and redid it! Though with some marathons I would love this, with the Blues there was just no need to. But they did it and the result was fantastic! I have a feeling this jacket will get a lot of play around April. Jennifer ended up having a zipper problem but they switched out her jacket the next day no questions asked.

And then Angie Whitworth Pace posted on the Marathon Maniacs page, “Just wait until you see the medal!” Jennifer and I were thrilled. The medal last year is still one of my top head turners when people go to see the collection. I was officially excited.

Jennifer went to bed early but I stayed up a little later to meet Cathlin who had travel issues as well and arrived much later than the rest of us. I had never met her before and even though we were only just in a conversation on Facebook about this marathon, I had to get my new friend out of the way. She walked in the door around ten and like a true marathoning traveler unpacked, brushed her teeth and was in bed in less than ten minutes. Marathon Maniacs is such a small and great community she asked what bed she was sleeping in. I told her with Jennifer of course and she said that she would have been fine either way. We had never even met before and the trust was implicit due to mutual friends.

Cathlin is an emerging member of our group and really good friends with Ethan. She is an accountant at his gym, which trust me, sounds and looks like the greatest gym in the United States! Not only that but she is a good marathoner and a future member of 50 sub 4! Ethan is already a member and Jennifer will be a member if she ever puts her mind to it and decides to run quickly. Cathlin is a runner I am looking forward to seeing in the future.

The next morning we woke up and immediately went down to breakfast. It was easily one of the nicer spreads I have seen before a marathon and though I do not eat, there were over 30 marathoners down there getting their fill. Cathlin had met a new friend the night before on the plane ride and we had to squeeze five people in on the ride over but it was not even uncomfortable. Other new friend showed up in jeans. He would say he had a friend that had jogging pants for him but I think we were all concerned he would end up running in those jeans. His story seemed a little off. Later reports stated he did find some jogging pants. Too bad. It was perfect shorts weather!

And after we left the car it was time to get to the pre party! Cathlin had to pick up her packet in the morning so we arrived an hour early. And honestly there was not much time wasted in that hour. The first thing I remember is walking into the packet pickup area and running into a girl. Somehow the conversation turned to her being from Vermont. I told her she had to run Louisiana next week! They had yet to find a Vermont runner and were nearly begging for one. By the end of a ten minute conversation I had her very interested (and not so shockingly enough she ended up being their Vermont runner so they could claim all 50 states were represented). I am a bit proud of that moment.

After that I was able to talk with many runners including Glen Anderson, Eddie Vega, Larry Macon, Lauren Farkash, Abby Auger and so many others I cannot remember them all (sorry to those forgotten). There were pictures, a quick bathroom trip and lots of people asking who was all going to day two of the double. Glen was telling me the Louisiana Marathon girl had talked him into running the 5K the day before the marathon and I was suddenly interested in this.

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I lined up to run and we took off after my favorite version of the Star Spangled Banner yet. It was a solo guitar version reminiscent of Hendrix. Thank you Mississippi Blues! The race started seconds after. The course had changed from the year before to be a bit easier with less hills rumor had it. That is fine and all, but then again I think too many marathons change their course to be Boston qualifiers. I was a bit happy that this course still had a bit of a fight in it. And I was a bit interested to see how it would play out.

It showed up immediately at first as we made our way to Jackson State University and running through the campus. As I watched the students cheer us on I knew it did not matter what else they changed – the changes were definitely for the better. And the course stayed flat as we turned around, ran through downtown again and made our way to Mile 5 with relatively no elevation changes. The past year I remembered going straight into hills at Mile 1. The hills did start in at Mile 5 and impeded my moving forward past other runners. Suddenly the runners in front of me were not getting closer but pulling away. I knew it would happen and actually it did not bother me. I just had that one number in my mind – 3:30. I had to run my own race.

When we made it to Mile 10 a group of three runners passed me looking great and then I heard a bicycle creep up behind me. He caught me by Mile 11 and I knew it meant only one thing – the lead female was right behind me. She would catch me and we ran together for a little bit and as we hit a decline I pulled a little bit ahead of her. Then as we turned around to go back up it, she and the bicycle disappeared. I felt good and hit that hill with gusto! That and the knowledge of the course kicked in too. I knew it was coming and was able to handle the long incline. And actually took off after that passing three more runners up to Mile 17. I was noticing the course from the year before and the familiarity was working for me.

Unfortunately I eventually did start to slow down but even by Mile 20 I was still passing runners. And then finally at Mile 21, the 3:15 pacer passed me. Oddly enough, this was the part of the course I did not remember. And eventually the first female caught me too. I totally fell apart at that mile and the hills were really taxing my leg. I really remember the last five miles as flat from the year before. It did not come to pass this year. And after Mile 22 the next three miles of hills really hurt my left leg so I took it easy knowing what I had to do the next day (another marathon). The hills quit about Mile 25 and I put in a great run in the end and crossed the finish line which was not uphill this year! I got back to a last fast mile and crossed the line in a very respectable 34th overall. Don’t worry about the age group placing though – think I finished just outside of the Top 10 in my age group even at 3:23. There were no worries of not hitting that 3:30 goal on this day.

The finish line festival was as fantastic as last year offering lots of great bottles of Pepsi, Gatorade and chocolate milk. The new ending location was in an art park and it was a beautiful setting. A band was playing already. There was Michelob Ultra flowing freely like wine and people all over the place. There was pizza, cookies and some soup. It was so much it was almost ridiculous. And the medal? Well it did beat the last year by a mile. Fantastic! I was able to see Steve come in seconds after me and then greet some other runners as well including Glen and Cathlin as they crossed the line.

We had a great time but had to take off quick after the race because well, we had a marathon the next day. Cathlin, Ethan, Jennifer and I took a great picture by one of the guitars and took off after that. We annoyed the cameraman as we kept looking at Jennifer’s camera and not his. Sorry, I can’t even remember the last time I bought a race picture.

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But in retrospect, one thing about Jackson, Mississippi always sticks out whenever I visit and after talking with everyone after the race this year it was as prevalent as ever. Jackson has really fallen on hard times. The people there did not seem happy to see you so much as THRILLED to see you. More than a couple people heard shout outs of “spend money here!” Several potholes had been filled in with the words “citizen repaired” spray painted on them. The downtown is a ghost town even during the week. The streets seem and are dangerous if you wander too far out.

As you run through the neighborhoods there are fantastic houses but there are a lot of downtrodden areas as well. I see very few local businesses in the downtown area and was told a Nissan plant 40 miles up the road was the major employer. I am not sure how these hotels even fill on any given weekend or even during the week – because hotels seem to be mostly what is in downtown. Well that and art museums. There is a reason why the swag is so fantastic and creative – they know a reason must be created to visit this marathon. And they do a fantastic job putting on a quality event.

However whenever I visit, oddly enough I just want to return. I want to return greatness to Jackson. I want to make it that town that Johnny Cash once sang fondly of. I do believe there is greatness in Jackson and thank you Mississippi Blues for proving that every year. I hope they can carry that spirit to bring greatness to this city again.

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Running Las Vegas – Part Two

The next day did not start out as well as planned either. I did want to eat after noon so tried to get an early breakfast as I was famished! However, surprisingly enough unless you are looking for a buffet, breakfast is hard to find on the Strip it seems. We had our hard time finding something but finally settled on Asian breakfast fusion – it was a little different. I may have been the only person at the table who enjoyed the meal. Then after a ten minute nap it seemed like it was time to eat again for a place off the strip. Then back to the hotel. And then? Well the real reason the late start time kills a runner is not the actual time to start – it is the wait. What do you do? You are in Vegas but you can’t really do anything out of line with your normal routine! It is too cold to swim and all I could think about was did I eat too much and did I give myself enough time???

Well somehow we made it to three o’clock and made our way down to the start line. There was a picture scheduled for 3:30 but as we made it to the main entrance we just knew there was no way we were going to make it. Karen had chosen to take the same day packet pickup and actually that was pretty easy to find in that mess (there was a half hour wait just to get in the staging area) and that included dropping her bag off. Everything was well marked once you got in. However by the time we got in we were late for the picture (I heard three people made it). Then, the most shocking thing of all happened – we ran into Mike Chewar! That may not seem like much but considering he wanted to be there for my 50th and there were over 40,000 runners? Incredible! I think Mike was thrilled to find us as well if for no other reason we took him back to our hotel for a quick restroom stop. Seriously, the lines were over 30 long in the waiting area! None of us wanted another half hour wait.

We made our way to the starting line after the break and as we got closer our corrals started to come up. Mike was up first in Number 17 or so. It was sad to leave Mike behind in his corral. He could have easily slipped up a couple corrals to hang out with me but he was honest and stayed where his bib said. I really respected that. And Karen felt the same way stopping in her corral 7 instead of moving forward. I was sad to let them go but we had less than 15 minutes to go by then and I usually stand by myself for the last five minutes anyway. But on the way to the front at corral 5 I got another surprise.

I ran into almost all my other remaining friends I had wanted to see – Brian, Tony, Rob and Missy! We were able to take a couple pictures together and talk about the run ahead and ones in the past. Tony was pacing the 3:30 group and I was able to meet a couple newer marathoning girls as well. We talked about what we were hoping to do and compared plans after the race. It was about this point that I ran into new friend Ted Barron! Ted is from Michelle’s hometown and she had told him I was out here celebrating my 50th. It was pretty amazing that we met each other in all those people and at the same time I was with my other friends. I do not get into many situations where I feel stretched thin but between my friends, Ted and the two new girls, my head was on a swivel answering questions.

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Finally I made my way up to my corral and snuck in next to a couple Marathon Maniacs from Washington. They were both running Nevada for the first time however I do not think the States was one of their goals. It was a tiered start and the gun went off for the first wave. We moved up. The gun went off for the second and then we moved up to the start. The gun went off a third time and… it was awesome to get out there and running! The first thing I noticed after going was a few walkers off to the left. The second thing I noticed was a lot of people running up onto the ground dividing the center of the street. I was confused by those going to the right. I would find out later a little too late for me that they were taking pictures with the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. That was a great idea. Kind of wish I knew about it beforehand. Good picture opportunity!

The walkers are another issue and something I am seeing more and more of. I do not mind people walking marathons or taking them slowly. However when people make their way up to a fast corral and then start walking I am seriously torn on this matter. On one hand I think it an awful thing to do – they do get in the way and slow down the marathon. This is why corrals were created. On the other hand I really understand – if you know a run is going to take you six hours why would you wait an hour to take off on top of that? As divided as I am on this subject, there is one thing I will say for sure – please make it to a mile before you start walking. When you start walking at the start you are only making it more dangerous for everyone.

At Mile 1 I passed another slower runner I have seen before. I do not know his name or where he is from. I just know he is not really that fast. He has a large orange Mohawk and a few facial piercings. He is considered somewhat of a celebrity runner and can get free entry into marathons due to his celebrity status. That is fine – get it where you can. But honestly what is the use of a celebrity runner I thought to myself. Do people sign up when he goes to a marathon because he will be there? If that is true shouldn’t someone who ran 33 marathons in 2013 know who he is? And more importantly, I got at least ten people to sign up for Vegas and why did I not get a thing?

Yes there was bitterness at Mile 1 already folks! It did not last but to be honest I am still a bit miffed at the folks at Rock N Roll for not giving me any fanfare at all. And meanwhile others were important enough to get distinction. Where is the line and how does one cross it? Perhaps I will try to become the next T Rex Runner and blog my way to being a somebody? Then again, you only hit your 50 states once so the need to be a more popular runner may be a thing of the past. I hope I take it a bit easier in the future.

The run down the strip is fantastic and as it is night, you can clearly see why they choose to do so. Would this run be half as cool at six in the morning with just the sun light? No. And to be honest they have moved the start time up so that we don’t have to be out all night. I may gripe about a four thirty start time but it really does get the best of giving you some night afterwards and also seeing Vegas at its best. I really don’t have any specific sights to talk on the run about other than I think the Fountains of Belagio were going off as I passed them. That was cool, but not cool enough for me to stop and watch – I had a time goal!

We ran down the strip and into downtown until Mile 10 and then did some running around some pretty dark streets (I tripped even) and then made our way back to Fremont street. The halfers took a left and we took a right and the next thing I knew we were running right back onto Fremont and it was seriously the coolest part of the entire marathon! We were running through a pedestrian mall area and they had roped off the entire area for us to run through it! It was so funny to see the looks on people’s faces. Either drunk and stumbling or dazzled and fumbling, they had not a clue what was going on for the most part. They were mostly in the background as other people were standing there cheering us and I got a little excited about that cheering back for them.

And then sadly enough, the best part of the run was followed up by the worst. I have heard it was much improved from years past (rumored that you were sent out to the desert for 12 miles in the middle of the dark night) but as soon as we hit Mile 12 it was pretty much running down deserted streets. Now, some people really complain about the nothingness, but this does not bother me that much. I am pretty used to the second half of a marathon being run out into the middle of nowhere and really not much to see. Now this section of Las Vegas may have been beautiful but in the middle of the night – who can tell? And at least there was some light to make my way.

I was running a real good race about the time we went down the long strip that would become a turnaround. However the course started to turn more and more and, I started to slow down and stopped for my first water at Mile 16. I ran through the stop but unfortunately the water was not helping either. I could not put my finger on what was wrong but out there on those long marathon miles the mind wanders. And soon enough I came up with an excuse. By that time I realized I was getting real close to my bedtime back home. Could I be slowing down just due to my daily schedule? Honestly I think that was it and not just excuses because it was some pretty inspired running before that. The band at Mile 17 was inspired (especially considering the venue), but did not help at all and I started to slow even more.

The course doubled back on itself. I slowed even more until… soon enough we got back down to Fremont where I made a scene of myself as the crowd cheered us on. They helped speed me up again! By this time I could not wait to get back on the Strip and going towards Caesar’s Palace and the finish line! The neverending crowd would help push me through! But alas, like almost every marathon, there was another turn off before we got back to the Strip. And then finally after another mile and with one last turn; we were on the Strip with about two miles to go! And the funny part? I was not a fan of that part. The volunteers did a great job yelling out to the half marathoners to stay on the left but mostly due to the fact there were so few marathoners they kept wandering over to our side! It was frustrating, to say the least, navigating my way around. I was sure I would have a 3:25 but the fatigue kept holding me up and the distractions were no help either.

When I got to the last .1 or so I held up my hands with 5 on one and 0 on the other to symbolize my 50th state and happily crossed the line and got my medal in 3:25:07. I was a little hurt by the race so I was grabbing plenty of Gatorade and chocolate milk. And as I staggered over to the chain link fence, who was there? My family all found me in that mess! There was a chain link fence between us but I could not have felt closer. There was my brother Cale telling me about the day in sports. There was my sister and her husband taking pictures of me and the Dora bandaid that had made the entire journey on my knee. And there was my Mom and her friend Parker just looking proud. It was the perfect ending. One quote I loved was “Dora, got a speedy tour of Las Vegas!”

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I was then lucky enough to flag down Rob and soon enough Tony. We all stood there aching. Tony’s first pacing gig was a bust as he did not feel well enough to get the 3:30. The girls we met at the beginning did not finish the race with him either so I never found out how they did. Also Ted ended up finishing with the one friend I wish I did not run into, Teresa, and I missed both of them this time around. I only found out later on Facebook that they had finished together.

And 15 minutes later I was disappointed. Karen had yet to come in and I was sure she did not have a sub 4. Based on the other finish times it was just obvious she had missed her goal and a sadness came over me. I told my family and they were mostly excited for me but I could tell that Karen’s goals meant something to them as well. Finally I saw Karen and she was hurting so I walked up to her (and selfishly grabbed a Gatorade as well) and asked, “How did it go?” She could only show me her watch. 3:59:54! She made it! My family took off soon after that asking us to meet them at Fremont Street, which I was now looking much more forward to. We were able to see Brian come in shortly thereafter. He did not look good either and all in all, none of us had a good race.

And with a good night of drinking ahead of us, Karen and I took off back to our hotel. After a short cab ride, it was a fun filled night of drinking with my family and I did not pay for a drink all night (I don’t think anyone would let me). All in all, it was an experience that can never be duplicated and even though I may have missed some noriety finishing in Vegas, having so much family and friends there with me to celebrate more than made up for it!

Weeks after as I look back to this race, it is not the final steps that finished that last run I remember. I remember the journey and all the great times and friends along the way. I wish I would have celebrated them more as I led up to this moment and thanked them more for helping me get there. Though I may have reached and completed my goal on that wonderful November night in Las Vegas, there are too many other times to mention that made this goal not about that night but the entire journey. Thank you everyone.Image

Loving Las Vegas – Part 1

Every journey has an end I suppose – perhaps some just do not finish the way we intended. When I made my way to Las Vegas on a noon flight this last November there was a very strong feeling it was going to end just the way I wanted to. It was my 75th marathon and 50th state with not a single Did Not Finish and only 3 total 26.2 distances over 4 hour marathons. The course was relatively flat and though it started at four thirty in the afternoon, I had picked up a midnight marathon and a noon run as well along my way so I was not too concerned about the start time. I hate to say it but as I loaded that plane, there was sadness inside me as the journey felt over already. Sometimes there really isn’t much to running – put one foot in front of the other. Repeat. In my case – do it at a better than nine minute pace.

I got off the plane in Vegas and made my way to the hotel where Karen had booked us – Mandalay Bay. She had chosen it as it was close to the start and finish – always great planning by that woman. We would later find out that the finish had moved but the beginning at the start would turn out quite useful. I checked into my room and decided to make my way down to the expo.

Thoughts crowded my head as I made my way down the street. Not many people on the street would ask you why Vegas would be the last place you would finish your 50 states quest however many a marathoner just might. Though it sounds fantastic to run down the strip at night and enjoy the sights and celebrate, Vegas is just too big an event to care about most individual runners. I told their staff at least twice I was finishing my quest there. I could say they acted like they cared but even that would be untrue.

On top of this, the event is too crowded and any friends you hope to see are not going to happen unless you are lucky. So really it is not the celebration one may hope for. You have to declare a place to meet afterwards because honestly you are just not going to see anyone at the finish. Forget finding people at the start or seeing them cheering you on as you go down the street. Not to mention the fact that larger events are not good for speed goals as sometimes the navigating can really slow a runner down.

There was another complicated factor for me in my trip. Most of my family was staying in downtown Las Vegas so my family had decided to meet in downtown Las Vegas after the race. If everyone else is staying on the strip (and yes they always are) they are not going to go to downtown Vegas to celebrate with you. And as I talked to my friends along the way where we were going I could sense the hesitation.

And lastly the four o’clock starting time is nearly impossible to prepare for. What do you do? Sure you can stay in your hotel room but how often do you get to go to Vegas? On top of that, halfway through the race fatigue sets in as most runners go out in the morning and not at night. And with a time goal in mind mere seconds can be so vital! So, all in all, when you are choosing your last state and course, I can understand why Vegas would not be on the top of your list!

I knew all these factors as I made my way to the expo but it all did not matter to me. After choosing Vegas as my last state three different friends and 15 family members elected to go as well! So as I made my way down the strip, I figured it would be an easy walk and family time would be afterwards. Actually that is quite wrong. I found that out in my first day when I decided the expo would be an easy jaunt for me that first afternoon after getting off the plane. I thought well it can’t be much further than Wynn and I would like to see that! Granted it was not much farther than Wynn but yes it was also a one and half hour walk. It said one hour ten minutes when I pulled it up and I thought I could take time off of that. Um yeah, no.

So after a lengthy walk I made my way to the expo and it was fantastic as always for a Rock N Roll event. The scariest moment of my journey did occur just as I was going to get my number though. I could not find my name! I had to see three different people about it but it ended up they transversed my names. It is kind of funny in hindsight to think someone has the first name of Remsburg but at the time it was not that funny at all. To travel this far and then not run my final race?!? Inconceivable! There were many vendors on display. Brooks had a fantastic display and I hurried through it and enjoyed the new Jamba Juice energy drink. I would be their sponsor for free I love them so much. There was also a fantastic Amway display. A nice little Sport Beans stand and a bunch of the regular stand-bys including Geico. I put in a reason why I run to Geico. Still have yet to hear from them. I always wonder who exactly makes the cut in those “this is why I run” sponsorship deals. Not me I suppose.

After that I left the expo and got a chance to walk with a new friend as we walked down the strip. He was from San Francisco and on his second marathon. But his first one was just about a month ago. He was hooked already. And as you watch these newbies get to running multiple races, you know these are the new batch of runners that will be replacing most of us. Sure some of us runners will keep doing this for years and complete their states over five times and that is very noble. However I am not sure if this is where I see myself going. The marathon circuit has its share of celebrities and though I am not a major one, I am known. I just wonder how long that shelf life will be for me? Will I keep going or will I have discovered my quest and end these weekends sometime soon?

After some wandering down the strip for a little while, my brother texted me to ask where I was. I was simply just enjoying the view. People think I am crazy but I just love Las Vegas for the views. By the time I would leave the town I would never spend a dollar gambling or see a show but I would walk up and down that strip at least three times including the entire day Monday. Yes I would imbibe, but hey I am only human! I was able to meet them all at the Tropicana.

When I got to the Tropicana I was thrilled to see my brother, mother, sister, Parker (my mother’s high school friend), my sister’s husband and my brother’s wife. They had all arrived the day before me and were all having great times. I could tell I made the right choice for my last state just by how excited they were. Not all of them would choose Vegas as a destination but they were thrilled with the experience. We went on a short walk to eat that night at an Italian Restaurant named Hole in the Wall. It was one of many unique and fun eating excursions I would have in the town. Huge platters of food and bottomless wine could define the experience.

I was a little down at that point though. I had thought Ginger and Karen Poolman would be there. They had been two of the three amigos of running the last couple years. Ginger would find a marathon and talk the other two of us into it. We had quite a few adventures along the way and I thought they would love to be here. I was even under the impression that the restaurant was Ginger’s idea but she never did show up. I knew I was not going to see them before the big race now. I was a bit disheartened even if I was surrounded by excellent company.

It was plenty late by the time I got back to the room to catch up with Karen Andersen. Karen was there and had eaten in the hotel. She got in about the time we went out and could not make it with us. She had made the reservation at the hotel on the strip and though it could not have been better, I was already conflicting with the rest of my family. My aunt likes going to Vegas and always stays downtown. She had convinced at least ten others to go with her and that really just left me and my brother on the strip with the rest of the family out in Downtown.

Karen had her entire itinerary set up for that trip. She wanted to stay up late, sleep in late and try to emulate a regular marathon schedule. It was a good idea. These things matter so much more to her. When you consistently run at about 3:55, you have to set the odds in your favor. Heck, even when I have a bad race it is a 3:40. I was really looking for a 3:30 but Sub 4 was the real goal. The only issue I was having was everything seemed a little off. Then even though we went to bed around 1 AM I still got up at 5 AM. Not even five hours of sleep = not good. I was not sure how this was all going to go and nothing was really pointing in my favor. This is when you start questioning how things were going heading into the run. I was getting more and more nervous as time went by…ImageImageImage

Running to Find A Reason – Springfield Missouri

One time a friend of mine posted on Facebook that he was running a marathon in Missouri to be there for a friend and help him run his 50th state. A non-running friend (I assume) commented that was the strangest reason to ever run a marathon she had heard of. I read that post and thought to myself, she would probably not want to see the reasons I run a lot of my marathons! And Springfield, Missouri this December was filled with those half reasons. The marathon is annually at the end of December just before New Year’s Day and by December first I had come up with plenty half good reasons to run it so I signed up.

The first reason to run the annual Run for The Ranch event was to avenge my worst marathon of the year in 2012. I had a horrible day a year ago finishing in over 4 hours and had a good time helping another runner finish but that day is still sticking in my craw. The second half reason is if I did not run in late December it would be over a month between marathons! Unheard of for me nowadays. Another reason to run was to see the excellent folks at Ozark Mountain Ridge Runners – the local running club in Springfield. They have a great group that travels the country and it is nice to run their local race and support them. Also good friend Karen Andersen was going and though she can handle her own, it would be nice for me to go there, drive her around, and share expenses. I suppose I came up with a couple other reasons along the way but honestly sometimes I think I am just searching for a reason to go on these runs. Cheap plane ticket! Cool shirt! A friend will be there!

So I took off a little early from work and drove the five and half hours to Springfield on Friday night. I had enjoyed the set up the year before for Run for the Ranch. It was a Sunday marathon with a noon start time and a Saturday packet pickup. Well, that may be case, but this year it was 100 times better! A Saturday race at ten AM with packet pickup in the morning worked out much better. This meant I could go to the race, enjoy drinks afterwards and not take a day off. Plus the start time was earlier so we did not finish in the dark this year. I loved all the changes. And I stayed later in Springfield as well helping out the local economy.

So I arrived in town at 10:15 PM and just a ten minutes early to pickup Karen from the airport which worked out perfectly. After a small snafu with my car’s GPS we made it to the hotel and though it was later than my usual bedtime due to the late arrival, the ten o’clock start time let me sleep in late. I even ate in the morning due to late start time and we both enjoyed some waffles.

When we made our way to the run that morning, I felt good and really there was no true goal this year other than to improve. I wanted to do better than last year but I was also sure that was going to happen. Karen on the other hand was a little nervous. I had met Karen the year before at this exact race and it has been a great year running with her. The funny part is her goals have completely changed in the meantime. Last year, Karen was thrilled to just knock off a Midwest state. Now, after completing 8 of her last 9 marathons in under 4 hours and joining the 50 sub 4 marathon club, Karen is more than willing to repeat any state she has not run a sub 4 in. Missouri has 6 other marathons and all of them are known to be tough so Karen figured Run for the Ranch was her best shot at getting that sub 4. It is relatively flat and has good support and cooler temperatures – perfect conditions for Karen. She did not want to pay for the plane ticket to come to Missouri again!

The drive to the race was short and I was lucky enough to run into friends Lacey Firecracker and Scott Griffin almost immediately. Scott was a photographer for the run on this day and stopped to snap me a couple times. Lacey was trying to get her first sub 4 but she had been feeling ill all week and seemed resolved she would not get that goal. Brian Wright was there after just completing Hawaii and becoming finisher number 51 in 50 sub 4! It was awesome to see him and he explained how getting faster is now his ultimate goal and he had transferred to the half so he could get in a good training run. Paul Maness the soon to be president of the Ozark Mountain Ridge Runners was running in the marathon and I found out we have a couple runs coming up together as well. Paul has really started signing up for more races now that he qualified for Boston.

I was also able to say hi to Cara Whitney who did not have a good day but finished – always the main accomplishment. Stephanie Davenport was there running her 50th half marathon – good for her! Lyle Robertson was there to cheer on his friend who came with him from Oklahoma and was the overall female winner! And I was able to meet a new friend in Dennis Hafford. Dennis is who I want to be like when I grow up. He lived in Wisconsin and that was too cold so he moved to Missouri. That was still too cold so he is moving to North Carolina later this year. Scoff if you must but I would certainly train more if I lived in more welcoming weather conditions (seriously a high of 9 today in Iowa?).

The race started and like last year I was near the front of the pack. And just like last year one runner sped out in front of all of us. He was so fast I figured he had to be in the half marathon. And as I looked around I noticed only one other runner was doing the full so it was possible I could do very well at this race! The course is 8 loops of just over 3 miles and I felt really good for the first loop. I was passed by two other marathoners on the first loop but still I was feeling good and putting in some speedy miles and fourth overall. I did not care if I won but I did want to have a good race day. On the second lap we started lapping people already so that is where the fun of a race where multiple laps is. It is people just all over the place running with you. The course even has runners going both ways at the water stop so you see each other several times possibly.

Lap 2 and 3 were uneventful but still fast as the course is relatively flat. I was lapping quite a few people by now but I also noticed that Karen was still out there just behind another friend Randy Acklin. Randy has been trying for over a year now to get a sub 4 so I was really pulling for him. Seeing him just in front of Karen is a very good thing. She is a master of running a 3:55 or so to get just under the mark.

Lap 4 stayed fast but there was a problem. As much as I like coming back to Springfield, Missouri and seeing friends, this course is not my friend. The water stops are plentiful. The volunteer support is great. The event is done well but there is one issue – 18 turns per lap. And by lap 4 my hip was aching! The night before Karen had asked me if all the turns would affect my hip. I told her that was a good question and that so much had gone wrong in 2012 I was not even sure if my hip hurt or not. Well on this day it did and it was only going to get worse. I watched just at the end of the 4th lap as Lyle’s friend went smoking by me and knew it would be a very good idea to stop at 13.1.

But I did not. I could only think about it. I came up with one other reason to run a marathon on this day. This would be my 78th marathon. I had to get to 100 soon and if I only ran a half that would be one more run to complete my goal and how hard could the second half be? I was at 1:32 at the halfway point and was certain to have a better day than the year before. And 1:32 was a great time, I could be exaggerating.

Well I am not about to go into the gruesome details but suffice to say I had two more good miles and then after Mile 15 water stop breaks were more frequent, walking was healing so I relied on that, runners I had lapped passed me and I ended up dropping down to 11th. I was sure I could get a 3:30 but even that goal took a hit as the last lap just turned into a walking extravaganza and I came in at 3:38. It was a bad day. And though you always hope everyone has a great day, there is comfort when others do not do well either. Otherwise you would start questioning why you were so off. Running is so mental – you cannot question yourself.

Fortunately or unfortunately, more than a few of my friends had bad days as well. Jeff Wehling came in just behind me and we were both disappointed in the day. Brian realized how far he had to go to get a Boston qualifying time as even his half time was not on pace. Paul did not even get his 3:30. One of the three marathoners that passed me in the first lap stopped at the halfway point. Even Lyle’s friend was hoping for a much better time and thought of this race as a step back for her.

The weather was perfect so it could not be blamed. So what happened? Two factors come to mind. I think that course can play havoc with all those turns and the ten start time could be an issue as well. I am not used to running that late. And honestly, I have never had a good race time that started after 9 AM. And my hip does hurt worse than it did a month ago so I was affected. Don’t get me wrong – the start time is perfect for this time of year and to capture better temperatures and I do plan on returning next year as well – should be Brian’s 100th Marathon!

After finishing I was happy to chat with Chris Revoir who has been the race director the last couple years – thank you for a race I always want to return to! I was also happy to see a newer runner Lee Lowdermilk come in – his third half marathon! And then as the clock hit 3:55 I went around the finish line to see if Karen and Randy could get their sub 4’s in. Karen showed up at 3:56 and easily cruised in at 3:57 – no need to return lady! But then at least 5 of us held our breath. This was Randy’s 25th marathon and his training was no secret and looking good – constantly hitting five miles in under 35 minutes. How could sub 4 possibly elude him again? He turned the corner at 3:58 and change and we were all scared for him not really sure how long it would take to run that last .1 but he crossed the line with 30 seconds to spare! It was a fantastic reception for him and he was overcome with emotion.

After that, Brian came up with the idea of going to a bar on the course and eventually Karen, Lacey, Brian, I, Dennis, Paul, Randy and Jeff all enjoyed a drink as we watched the rest of our friends come in. When people finished they would just walk over and join us. Afterwards we all went back and had some rest before going out for dinner that night. No, it was not my best race again however it was great to be there when Randy got his goal. And with that I found another reason to go run another marathon.ImageImageImage