Archive for November, 2014

My 100 Marathon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Big Cottonwood Marathon Circa September 2014

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

Kino, Stephanie and Brian

Kino, Stephanie and Brian

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

The after marathon group

The after marathon group picture

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