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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.

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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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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Travelling to Tucson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rhode Island

When it comes down to the toughest state I ever ran on my way to 50? I am sure most would point out that Georgia came in 15 minutes slower than any other state. It was a tough day and a friend recently told me that when she passed me she thought I didn’t look like I should be walking much less running a marathon. However the reason I would not agree is that by the halfway point I had already banked enough time I was sure I could run it just under four hours. I did run a 3:58 and the shuffle I did the last three miles could qualify as running… but just barely. I knew I was going to make it and it was never in doubt. The situation in Rhode Island… well that was just a little different.

Rhode Island is a small state in the Northeast as I am sure most of you are aware and due to the small size of it and the fact that the majority of 50 staters live far from these small states, they double up their Newport Marathon with the Hartford Connecticut Marathon on the same weekend every year. I was at dinner the night before Hartford and when friends asked me if I was going to sub 4 at all my last four states I told them there was a 1% chance I would not. Call me smug if you will but I do not believe in letting doubt enter the mind when I was just four states away!

I finished Hartford in 3:25 or so and actually would have been faster however some stomach cramps really slowed me down and forced me to walk. I do not like to give excuses but I did find walking was the one way to get rid of them. I also found out that running and drinking can cause them – and I mean water. Heck if I drink a beer during a marathon I stop and enjoy it! Besides party fouls exist whether during 26.2 or a house party! Anyway, after the race finished I showered up and met with Suzy and her fiancé to drive over to Rhode Island. I do not drive the Northeast very often but let me assure you if you ever do drive it? Give yourself an extra half hour because it seems like you will always need it!

Some of it was due to bad GPS, some was due to not quite knowing the area and some was due to traffic but we made sure to make it to our location with only an hour to spare. The line into the expo was massive! However guess what? Half marathon line was massive and the full marathon line was only about two minutes! Ha! We may have to wait longer to cross the finish line but at least we get to do it running! Payback halfers! Seriously half marathoners do from time to time have some hideous lines to wait through. I wish it wasn’t that way – only so many volunteers I suppose.

And just after that Suzy had lined up a free place to stay with a friend of hers named Jim. When we got to his place and I saw in the basement Boston Marathon medals and various other running and military awards I knew we would all get along. Suzy and I were both there to run the double marathon and her fiancé had run a messed up 5K the day before leading him to not feel like running on day two. He was considering the half but that line would have talked him out of it if he had not already decided against it. Jim and his wife made us a fantastic spaghetti dinner on the spot and were great conversationalists.

That night Jim had some great talks about running really stressing the importance of loving running and running every day. He leads up a running group and really believed the strongest runners were the ones who ran the most. And I told him how much I agree with him pointing out that most of my personal records come during the summer when I am loving the higher temps and my practice runs are at all time highs. I really wanted to stay up later and talk with him but it was the night before and I was somewhat tired. I would like to point out that my friend Karen did text me around ten and said I should not be reading this and be in bed already. Sorry Karen, I was quite up. I just wasn’t that tired! I saved that for the race…

And the next morning I was not overly tired either. We arrived at the drop off spot and I was able to drop off my bag with my friend Jennifer so I could get a ride back to Hartford with her and her friend. We got on the bus and rode over and I was able to meet Beth on accident. Beth actually is the person who certifies all finishes for the 50 States Marathon Club. We had actually been emailing all week regarding my finish and to meet her was really nice. She was doing the double as well and I believe finishing her second tour of the states.

One the bus dropped us off, there were so many people I knew, I just spent the entire time talking and getting along with other runners. These double events can be more social than anything else for us 50 staters and maniacs. With about 15 minutes to go I realized I had lost Suzy and glanced over to see her walking by herself. Hartford had been tough on her. It had hurt her and this race had a six hour time limit. She was more than a little concerned. I almost made my move to go talk to her but I stopped myself. Suzy seems to me to be a fierce independent spirit. I thought I bet she is psyching herself up and needs the alone time. I let her be.

However my concerns would just not go away! Stomach cramps set in just before the race again and as I walked through them, I started to cough. I got scared and now I was near vomiting! After getting red in the face and feeling okay, I just said screw it and got in the starting area.

I was able to talk to a great friend who I do not see enough in Patti who was nice enough to offer me a place to stay in Tulsa (that is one way we can keep travelling prices down from time to time) and I wanted to stay and talk but I was pretty far back and did not want to start quite that far back. When I run a marathon on back to back days I try to start out easy on day two so starting in the crowd is fine however I usually find I just streak out and pass a bunch of people by mile 2 in any case so starting behind the four hour pace people is not where I want to be.

I did find my way up to a group including my friends Lacey and Adam and we all had a good time talking as we waited for the gun. It was a delayed start and considering I was on a semi-tight schedule I was not happy! My friend Jennifer had already warned me she thought there would not be much time to spare in getting me back to the airport by five. I kept trying at convincing her we had plenty of time but she was not convinced.

And then we were off. I ran as I always do – picking off people left and right after finding a groove including another Marathon Maniac who was trying to run back to back Sub 4’s as well and the immortal Larry Macon (over 1,000 marathons completed) and talked with both briefly. I felt not great but I was going and still passing people until the Maniac caught me by Mile 8! I had just passed him three miles earlier?  Eventually on a double I will start to slow down, but eight miles in? Inconceivable!

At first I thought it had to be the wind! I am not used to some coastly gusts and I would catch him! Just wait. But then we got to inside town again and there I was not catching him. I could still see him but lots of people were passing me too! Excuses were made – they had to be halfers and besides we were on a hill! But even when it switched to downhill I was not gaining speed – I had lost my gust and then the worst thing of all happened. We got to the finish for the half marathon and I kid you not when I say the finish was not more than ten feet from where I had to run. So not only was I fading but I got to see all these other people happy and finish? It was completely demoralizing thinking I was just halfway done.

I now had to hit 16 miles by two hours (to ensure the sub 4) and instead I settled for 15.2 miles. The gusts picked up again and were pushing me around and then I had to break for water and that meant walking and that wasn’t helping anything. And then the pain of running 44 miles in two days kicked in and there was more walking. All I could see was 3:30 gone and pretty sure about the sub 4 but it was not going to be pretty or a surety. Just when I thought it was a really rough day, another runner stopped and walked next to me. He was going for a 3:42 PR. He had wanted better but it was not his day either. We got along and soon enough we were on the same rhythm. We were pushing each other. Half my spirit was back! I fell behind due to a hill and then the next thing I know I see him cramping and hurting!

I asked him if he was okay and he told me to go on. I believed he could do it and moved on to my fastest three miles to finish and passed over ten runners along the way. I made the most of the day I could and was relieved to be done.

The 3:42 I got was bittersweet as I had lost my friend and his PR was a 3:43. If he could have stayed with me, he would have made it. I watched him cross the line in 3:52 and was impressed he stuck it out. I watched all my friends cross the line – they all looked like the toll of the double had got to them as well. It was almost humorous as some runners who do not typically come in fast came in way before other friends. And lastly as I got back to the car I saw Suzy finishing up way before six hours and still running up the big hill – she looked great! I knew all she needed was that time alone with her thoughts to be okay. And I made it to my flight on time with two pit stops to spare!

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Wyoming

With a little help from my friends… definitely should be the motto of anyone completing their 50 states goals of running a marathon in every state. Everyone is always amazed that someone will complete this goal much less even run a marathon but when people ask me if it has tough I always joke yes… on the wallet! However, it would be near impossible without the people I have met along the way. Today I would like to thank all those that have helped me from advice to rides to sharing hotel rooms. You do not know how much these little favors have helped me along the way.

That may seem an odd way to start discussing Wyoming, but well, a lot of people that have helped me showed up there and it was just a great time overall! I made the semi-bad decision to drive from Des Moines, Iowa to Casper, Wyoming thinking about all the money I would save. I was right – I did save lots of money not flying, however it is nearly impossible to believe there is a more boring drive in the USA. I left at night and actually the darkness did not really hurt the drive. And I was lucky enough to have a couple friends, Karen and Leigh call me along the way. My Bluetooth is awful (some of you KNOW what I speak of) and they were willing to keep me awake and even a little lively during the 11 hour drive.

I hit what looked like a respectable rest stop about 12:30 and was happy to just park it there and try to sleep (insert joke here). Well, it was not a great night’s sleep but it was a cheap night’s sleep. And believe it or not at least three other cars had the same idea. Oh, the cheap people of America still exist I tell ya!

I woke up the next morning and took the exit 60 miles down the road and was informed by the gas station I was filling up at that I was officially I was nowhere. No kidding! They had a sign just above the business name that stated “you are nowhere”. I then took a drive through the small towns of Nebraska. The first thing that shocked me was I was over 100 miles from Wyoming still but it was hilly and there was a good sized lake and everything! I know Nebraska is renowned for being flat but it seems whenever I get off the interstate there is quite a few elevation changes.

I made it to Wyoming and was shocked to see almost immediately I was at over 4000 feet. I knew Casper was about 5200 feet but I did not expect to raise 3200 feet and not even notice. I made it to Casper over two hours earlier than I wanted to and drove around looking for things to do. Luckily Dave’s plane landed early and I was able to go pick him up quick. Dave and I found a breakfast place to eat downtown and then hit up the Western store that seemed to be area renowned. It was pretty awesome. I always make a goal to do something unique to that state whenever I visit a state and as I was not able to take time to visit a national park due to time constraints I cannot think of a more Wyoming thing than visiting a Western store.

Next it was a stop to the expo to pick up our numbers, t-shirts and whatever other freebies we could grab. Dave and I ran into quite a few other runners while there and what seemed like it would be a five minute visit (at most much like Wyoming sights the expo did not have much to offer) turned into a hour of gab and I think we left just so no one else would come by and prolong our stay.

We went to the hotel that Julie had booked for us and already you can see the teamwork. Dave did not have to get a rental car thanks to me and none of us had to pay full price for a hotel (well Julie was nice but she knows we would have kicked in if she wanted us to). We all got to the room at the same time and Karen and Alicia had just got to town as well and were at the expo (see we were smart that would have been another 20 minutes of gab). It was a rather sad situation. Michelle was going to be late to her own dinner she had organized the night before the race! So that was in three hours and she had promised excellent gifts such as Swedish Fish and gummy bears! The horror of no one being able to get such excellent prizes! Well with the help of Karen, Julie and I took it upon the three of us to supply these and hand them out at dinner.

We spent the afternoon getting these and going back to the expo where I ran over to visit Adam in his hotel room and try to talk him into going to the dinner. He had promised to wear assless chaps but apparently he had forgotten them because he refused to go to our dinner. Sad. However he did have an excellent dinner of Chicken in a Biscuit he assured me and my shorts I had left behind in Vermont. I left down hearted but it was nice to see Adam in any case.

Since we were now running the dinner Julie, Dave and I decided we had to show up at least 10 minutes late to honor Michelle (she is always late so it wasn’t that we were just running behind I promise!). We walked in and it was a little less crowded than usual (word may have gotten out about Michelle’s absence). Sigh.

We did eat and take plenty of pictures and it was great to see Karen and meet a couple new friends. Plus Brian and a couple of his friends were in the other room and were sure to join us when we started handing out prizes! The prizes were the usual candy and everyone got so excited and cheered when they won. It really is pretty special when it happens and though it missed that Michelle magic, it was still pretty awesome. Some even groused that they did not win a prize while others won two.

The next morning we all went to a convention center and got ready to run the marathon. I always wonder what the local runners think when all of us show up. Most people wear their maniacs gear and we line up for picture after picture. It was particularly funny at this run when it was mostly us and not too many local runners at all. And there was at least 50 pictures. People could barely walk around with all the pictures going on. It is a sight to see.

We took off and the description of the run will be very brief. We started in the parking lot and went onto a road where we took a left where we circled around to the exact loop we made the first time only to take a right this time. The half started 15 minutes after the full and I started passing them by Mile one. Also the motto of the run is “Run with the Herd” and it was awesome to see a herd of antelope running alongside near that Mile three. We moved along the road until Mile six where we took a turn onto the city’s running path. It was a really nice running path but by mile 10 the river on the left and the wilderness on the left was getting a little odd. Don’t worry – they switched sides eventually but as we ran along the path not much changed at all. We only once ever passed a major street.

The only turn we made was at Mile 21 where we turned onto a golf course for about four miles to get a full 26.2 until we got to make the last run in. The golf course turned out to be the undoing of my running. I watched as four runners passed me easily (I came in like 11th overall) and just stumbled along the entire way. Some same it was the heat and the sun beating down on us. I think it was a bit defeating to take a three mile circle when I knew the end was about a mile away if we did not make that turn. In any case, not a big fan of the golf course!

I finished and chatted with a couple friends then went to get my free beer and they were just giving them out like candy! It may have not been the most interesting marathon or location but boy the volunteers along the way could not be beat and the after race was better than any I have EVER been to with the exception of Louisiana of course. There was free soda, lots of free fruit, subs and pizza! No matter if you were being healthy or a slob – they had you covered. The award ceremony went off on time and it was great to get an age group prize.

Afterwards we headed to the same Western store Dave and I had been to and it was a great time buying authentic gear and taking pictures with cowboy hats on. Sure it was nothing too original but between Dave, Aaron, Michelle, Allison, Julie and I we had a fantastic time talking to one of the store’s owners and trying on all sorts of Cowboy hats. Sadly we ran out of time before we could even get done with seeing the entire store!

Then we went and had lunch at a place with a very small menu but awesome flair and cheap, cheap beers ($2!) to finish our time together. Seriously just looking around the bar was an adventure – sharks, fake blues brothers and Barney adorned the walls. We even had a few other runners stop by and I learned the tale of how Eddie Eleven Star Vega “earned” his eleventh star. I can tell you the tale but ask Eddie instead. I assure you it is much more entertaining. When Michelle, Dave and Aaron could wait no longer for their plane to take off, we all decided to leave and I stayed in town and kept it low key just going to a movie.

I know I run too many marathons and I know that way too much of my money goes to these adventures, but when it comes down to it, the price of friendship and good times has no value. The entire weekend was packed with things to do and afterwards I could only think how I wish I could have spent more time with some of the others as well. Wyoming was a blast!