Archive for February, 2014

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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