Idaho

Just two weeks after Alaska, I had scheduled a marathon in Idaho. I was a bit excited about it. I had just qualified for Boston so that pressure was gone and on top of that it was a downhill race so it was the easiest of my last 7 states left to fifty. My real goal is to complete all 50 states in less than four hours so even though my average time is around 3:30, a little downhill cushion never hurt anyone. The course goes downhill for the first half with a drop of 2400 feet or so. I don’t have exact numbers but I like hearing downhill for 13 miles.

The trip began with a trip to Denver and then a flight into Idaho Falls where Karen and I were actually on the same flight. Karen made the entire schedule (as always) and we were looking at going to lunch and then straight to the expo and our hotel was the site of the expo so that was pretty much wrapped up as well. It was an hour drive to Pocatello from Idaho Falls but that would not take long. We met another runner named Tom in Denver and he ended up speaking to Karen the entire flight as their seats were together. I was happy just to catch a few minutes of rest a few rows behind them.

Tom was a great guy and we ran into each other a week later in Sioux Falls as well but there was one thing I just did not get about him. He complained about spending the extra night in the state before going home. His perfect world is to get in the day before, go to the expo, run in the morning and catch a flight that afternoon. I get it (a little I suppose) but where is the fun of visiting the state and seeing Idaho? Or meeting and hanging out with people along the way? This trip was a classic example of how you cannot have it all for me (foreshadowing!).

The rental car company was not at the airport which was against what they advertised so we were hungry and cranky by the time we hit the road. We stopped at a local place where I got a baked potato (yes, in Idaho that is what I had) and after a wrong turn (Karen requires better navigation than I provided) we made it to the hotel and the expo. We got our five pound bag of potatoes, a nice knapsack and a long sleeve tee (no marathon is perfect). After that we made a small trip to the grocery store to pick up supplies and door prizes for dinner and then had a few minutes before we went to dinner that night.

Karen had organized the dinner and she did a perfect job! More people showed up than we had predicted and the restaurant had extra seats for us! It was nice to meet some other Iowa runners there (I run alone – sad I know) and to see Mike C again after the time in Alaska and to talk to some other new runners as well. Just as we were packing up Julia and Shane showed up unexpectedly and then Heather, Galen, and Angie showed up too. Awesome. The dinner was a great success so much so that I never had time to hand out the door prizes so I just gave them to the people who stayed the longest. The three from Utah got one as did Aaron and Denis. There was a Pez prize! Lucky Denis!

After that, Karen is never one for staying up late so there were no worries about an early start as she usually wants everything off five minutes after getting into the room so she can get eight hours of sleep. And when you are on another time zone it is usually not tough to go to bed early. We woke up early and made it to the race where there were very long port-a-potty lines and lots of pictures being taken. I lined up next to a girl who was trying to run a sub three and felt comfortable with that.

A marathon maniac sang the national anthem with no musical accompaniment and it was real impressive. I could not believe she was that brave. The gun went off and we took off. And it was downhill – straight downhill. I went out at a fast 6:23 first mile (Too fast! Too fast!), but then again it WAS downhill and I was thrilled to settle into 6:35 miles for a bit after that. When we made it to the Mile 7 point I already knew I may be going a little too fast and my quadriceps were burning from the constant downhill. I was either in trouble or on my way to a PR. The course turned and went uphill for a bit but it did not slow me down. And the miles kept coming in under seven minutes until Mile 12 where a steep uphill killed me but I was able to settle into just over seven minute miles after that for the next five miles.

Four people passed me in the next 8 miles including the Sub three girl and I was thrilled to think she may make it! All I wanted was something under 3:10 so I could make it back to Boston for sure! And I had a real shot at a PR however there was a hill at 21 that just hurt me and I was fighting to keep it together. On top of that the 5K started at Mile 23 and wouldn’t you know it I came up on them just as it started! I was going to be held up by another race? Was I going to lose everything in the last three miles?

Thankfully no, I navigated just fine around the 5K crowd and even passed a runner along the way. He had a great kick and caught me but those quads were burning and I was just trying to keep it fast enough. I was more than shocked to see myself come in at a 3:08:45 – my second fastest time ever! I was also 20th overall. Afterwards there was plenty of chocolate milk and I waited for my friends to come in. Galen was first and I talked to him for a bit before Tom came in. I went out of my way to talk to him and he and I talked for a while before Heather came in. She was talking to some other runners so we met her in the finishing chute.

Now not everyone is out there to complete a fast marathon I assure you but Tom, Heather and I are all trying to complete all 50 states in under 4 hours. This was all of our Idaho and we were hoping some others would come in as well. So we just stood at the end of the finishing chute staring at the clock and the runners coming in for the next five minutes.

Then they started to come in. Paul came in with the 3:55 pacer and we all cheered for him. Karen was next and she made it with three minutes to spare. She looked shocked to see the four of us just sitting there waiting for her. We asked her if Aaron was still out there and she said that she was pretty sure he was right behind her. Sure enough he came in a minute later. He seemed much more low key about the matter. It was also incredible after the fact when we also found out our other friend JC made it as well. JC is a great runner but he does not always aim for fast times so we never even waited for him. Sad.

The after festivities had beer and lots of other drinks in addition to the chocolate milk. Running phenom Gary Krueger showed up afterwards and Heather and he went on a road trip to Colorado where he would try to win the American Discovery Trail two days later. We had some fun catching up. Afterwards and I believe I talked Mike C into Vegas to see my 50 states finish – yes! Both Paul and Mike C age group placed and that is awesome. We left after a long talk with JC and seeing Angie again. As soon as we got back to the hotel all I could think was what next to do in Idaho? We could visit a national park or something? I saw some bears exhibit was in Idaho Falls?

But Keri posted on the maniac page she and Denis would be showing up at Applebees afterward and honestly that sounded like a better time so pretty much everyone mentioned in this story and even Eddie showed up too. We were looking for him for some time before we left and I was happy to hear he finished. He is currently trying to run all 50 states barefoot – impressive! This was not a trail that was easy on the feet he reported.

As dinner ended Karen and I went back to Idaho Falls and were able to catch the falls and see the area. It was a compromise to seeing bears I suppose but like I said earlier you have to weigh these things out. It was an awesome trip and honestly, I may do it again someday (and I would take the friends over the sights again too). Certainly if you run Idaho, there are few chances to do better than Pocatello!

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Alaska Part Two

If you have a free hour with Dave and Michelle they make sure to make the most of it so next up was a stop to Lululemon Athletica. And thought it was just a showroom, it was an awesome (as always) visit as the ladies there were as friendly and as active as at any store I have been to. The store manager asked me all my opinions on their clothes and did not avoid any questions. She let us sit on the ski lift seat to take an awesome picture and the other associate had run five marathons! I could tell even Liz enjoyed our visit there and she is not a Lulu regular at all. Not everyone agrees but Lulu should be the official sponsor for marathoning.

We went to dinner that night organized by our Michelle. It was a really good showing considering how far out Alaska is! We had at least 20 and I was lucky enough to meet a couple new maniacs at the event. Though I met several people at the dinner, a few stood out as always. It was great to see extremely fast Marc and Amy and talk with them. Does talking to a fast runner make you faster? It was also great to catch up with Denis (though his obsession with times put off more than a couple runners) and Mike had a breakdown on the course elevation that I paid attention to and was thankful for the next day. Jorge, was another runner I met for the first time and we found out we were both aiming for a 3:15.

Pictures were taken in bunches. Dinner was served and was excellent. And Michelle gave out the door prizes which are always a huge success. I did not win but I was jealous of the person who won the French Fries flavored chap stick! Of course, it was great to enjoy a local ale. I used to never drink before a race but now I make sure to enjoy a local brew whenever I can. The winning brew for me is still the Jalapeno Cream Ale in Park City, Utah at Wasatch Brewery.

The next morning could not come quick enough! Honestly, it really did because I was still waking up at 5 AM and it was a nine AM start. I will be honest, it was raining and the last thing I wanted to do was get up and hang out in the rain. The picture was at 7:50 just before the early start. I did not want to go early but it lessened to a sprinkle and I headed out with Dave for the early picture and we lined up for the Marathon Maniac picture with a bunch of first timers and early starters who I think believed it was normal to do a picture before the run. There was not much time to spare before the early starters lined up. A race official got all our attention and announced a bear was on the course with her cub! It was pretty exciting to hear a bear had been spotted at mile 9! No one ever saw the big lady after that but to hear that before the race starts can be exhilarating!

The early group took off and there was nothing more to do so we spent about an hour at Kalani before we got around to it. They opened early in the morning on this day and I hope they did fantastic! I love it when local businesses accommodate the marathon. I know they got a win out of Michelle. She went there again that night. I was able to try and gleam any information I could out of Amy and Marc. Man they are fast. I can only dream!

The start was like any other and I even ran into a friend Kevin from Florida. I am not sure how I have run into the same guy in Florida, Hawaii, Arkansas and Alaska. This was a bad sign. He passed me in every other race around mile 16. I get out fast but his consistency gets the better of me! He recognized me and we said our hello’s. Michelle also came up and talked to him as well – we really are one happy running family. We took off and it was a mile through city streets of twisting and turning. Then the course straightened out around mile 1.5 to go onto a trail. The trail was mostly through forested land, a bit winding and far from boring. I was able to keep a good pace through the first six miles and felt really good.

At mile 6 and a half or so there was a big cheering section and I thought I was running alone but the first female was just behind me and trust me, you always know when she is coming through! People love to cheer her on and it seems like she is usually a local especially when she is around me at Mile 6. Dave had started before me and we had thought I would run into him at Mile 6 but he was not there. I actually did not pass him until Mile 11! Dave was having a great race! He snapped a picture of me as I went by and I was running alone but I was not losing pace either. I was able to keep the pace up until Mile 12 and was feeling great! I was nervous about that time…

Until the crowd cheered me on at Mile 12 and when I looked at my watch at Mile 13? They had pushed me to my best mile since Mile 2! I had to think strategy at this point. I had hoped to hit the halfway point at 1:30 which would give me 15 minutes of cushion for a BQ and when I hit halfway I was still at 1:31. Not bad at all! I kept the pace up and at Mile 16 we made the turn to go on the same path as the half marathoners. So now the traffic was going both ways. It can get a bit crowded sometimes but it is also nice to see friendly smiling faces coming at you. I will be honest – sometimes it can get a bit lonely up front. I was passed by a guy at Mile 13 but did not pass or get passed by another runner until Mile 18. I was still within .1 of a mile of him at Mile 17.

I hit the Mile 20 point and I was slowing down but I kept checking my watch and I knew I was good. I knew I needed to average 7:22 miles overall and I was still way below that. I figured if I kept running 8’s I would come in around 3:12 – perfect! And on top of that, after listening to Mike I knew the last mile was uphill so I needed extra time. At this point I started seeing all my friends and kept pushing and trying to wave at them. They were a lot friendlier than I was – I was on a mission!

I hit the hill and at first I looked good but I kept slowing and eventually when it ended I was totally jazzed. All I had was .4 left and I was at 3:11! Then it hit me. The hill was not over. As a matter of fact the worst part was yet to come. What I had not realized was that even though the trail had a hill, the hill on the road was much steeper! I struggled up that hill and was passed by two runners with ease. My left leg hurt and I was struggling! How long could this hill be? But the second I got to the top of that hill? I turned it on and ran it in to a 3:13:43 – BQ!!!!

I went over and had a couple beers with Amy and Marc. They had both came in second overall and were satisfied with their runs even if a little disappointed in the placing. I was able to meet a local runner that had run her way to a BQ as well. We had a nice time chatting and when Michelle came in to yet another BQ her and my new friend got along famously as well. I found out after the race my new friend Jorge missed his BQ. It was nice to see Dave beat the cutoff time and claim the state as well. He was doing really well until he got to taking pictures and then he took things much easier. That doesn’t matter though. That is what Dave is loved for – great race pictures. Liz commented she did not even catch up with him until Mile 22.

After washing up, Dave and I barely had time to ourselves before checking out and heading over to the after party. Marc and Amy had secured the largest table and were into drinks already. I made sure to make sure they did not feel like alcoholics. The food was good and the company was great. We ran into a lot of our friends from the night before and I was able to meet Marina White – the youngest woman ever to complete 100 marathons. I wish I would have gotten to know her better but really that is all it takes, an opening, and the next time you see each other odds are on the running paths you will be friends for life. We had to leave before the festivities really began to catch our flights but I believe the four of us were quite pleased with the entire trip.

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Alaska Part one

State number 43 was lined up in December of last year when a couple of my favorite running friends, Dave and Michelle, suggested we do the Anchorage Marathon in August rather than the one in June. Well actually it started in November when a couple Missouri runners told us the Bear Tooth Marathon was the one to do in Alaska and they were going. I told Michelle and she said Dave wanted to go and then I suggested we all get a house together to make it cheap. This never did occur as we all went our separate ways by December.

And in any case, both Dave and Michelle texted me the same day stating they had their tickets lined up and they were good to go. The two sent me their itinerary and oddly enough they were both getting into town on a Friday night and leaving on a Sunday night? I had heard that Alaska is an expensive stay and we all know that flights never go down in price so I made reservations within a couple hours of theirs since they had committed already. I suppose the only real concern would be not to get hurt in the meantime. I already knew this state would be somewhere around my 40th. I do feel a bit bad about leaving the Missouri friends behind but they never showed in any case. When they showed the map of states represented Missouri was blank. It did make me wonder though if I was the only reason Iowa was covered though…

Training was simple – run other marathons and hope not to lose it around mile 16 which had been the case all year. I will admit I did up my mileage in August hoping for a change in… anything. Vermont in May was awesome but all my other runs had been a little slower than expected. I kept training and feeling pretty good.

So when the week came up I felt pretty good and said so to my friend Karen. She warned me the course was not that tough but not to expect a Boston qualifying time from what she had heard. I trusted her and since I had not put in a Boston qualifier since July of 2012 I was putting all my eggs in the Idaho basket over Labor Day weekend anyway. You have to qualify for Boston every year and already the situation was tenuous. I had Vermont but had kept going backwards after that race. I would say I was plateauing but it was more like getting worse every race! Seriously it went from 3:18 to 3:25 to 3:22 to 3:38 and even a 3:56. It was bad and not getting better!

I took the flight to Alaska and the good news for anyone that attempts to conquer the states is that the flight to Alaska is much shorter than the one to Hawaii! That was a nice bonus. I had thought this would have me off for a couple days staggering around like I had enjoyed too much local ale, but I could tell when I landed I would never get the time change into my syetme and would not even have to adjust. I was right – I still woke up at 5 every morning and was way tired by 8. My body stayed on central time – perfect. And it could have been difficult. It was light until at least ten.

I got in late so I never even got a chance to talk to my friends and when we did get together the next morning we set the plan at first expo then try to see a glacier and the conservatory if we could fit it in. I don’t know if we could fit it all in. If we have time! Another friend Liz was staying with a local runner friend and suggested a local coffee place, Kalani Coffee that he suggested. I do not drink coffee but Michelle could never get enough of this place! I suggest all coffee drinkers check it out when they get there. It was a great layout and the breakfast sandwich was a good buy. The staff was friendly and they had good authentic swag.

Next up the expo was small and nice. There was a few things to buy (especially for the ladies) and some definite local flair. I liked some of those booths but the vendors looked pretty bored. I always wonder if local businesses do well at expos or if they mostly lose money? With maniacs like most of my friends we never really check them out. Their games and freebies can be fun and they try to talk you into it but why do I need a year subscription to the New Orleans Times Picayune? I do my best to just I just walk on by (don’t stop). One did catch my attention. It was nice to see a local guy who had his own artwork on clothing. I almost stopped and picked up a sweatshirt but at $40 a pop I did not want to spend the cash.

We headed out to the glacier next and we were told it was a one hour wait to get through a one way tunnel if we drove to the glacier! This may not matter to most people but the last thing I want to do in Alaska is spend an hour in a car on top of driving to the place! And as usual, we took more than a few picture stops so it was looking like we may not get back until six or seven. And we still had so many cool things to do! And the dinner Michelle set up was at six! I was against the glacier.

Besides the scenery was awesome! It seemed like we were in the clouds with all the low flying clouds in the area and snow caps. You could see the glaciers in the mountains – blue and massive almost like they could slip out at any time. There were people fly fishing and a little truck stop that even had a store called tourist trap. It was so pretty that even I (shocker) was seeing ample picture opportunities. However the higher we went up the more rain there was and this really stopped us from getting out too often. And it was cold enough by the time we did get to the tourist trap I was cursing my financial frugality.

We went to the observatory and hoped to catch a few sights and the history of Alaska or whatever they had there. We had yet to pass through the tunnel so I was hoping it would be very interesting! It was not that interesting. However, when we got to the observatory – we found out something very, very nice. We did not have to go through the tunnel and could just see a glacier just a half mile away if we took a boat tour. We arrived just in time for the tour and loaded up on the boat with ten minutes to spare. The tour was a scant $30 and it was funny how I would take pictures of the small bergs of ice floating in the water as I had never seen anything like it. But as we got closer they just got bigger! On top of that there were beautiful little waterfalls all over the place and mountains surrounding us. I don’t get to use the term tern very often but that is exactly what we were in – a mountain lake!

When we got to the glacier there was major blueness due to the cloudy weather and it was awesome, huge and well worth the $30. I know there are other glaciers in the US but this is not a bad destination in Alaska. We made our way back and had some decent pizza and a HUGE sandwich. I thought footlongs in Subway when I ordered it and frowned at the $12 price. Yeah, made the Subway version look like a six inch!

After that we made our way to the conservatory and saw all sorts of wildlife including bears, moose, reindeer and even a lynx. Believe it or not I was actually upset I could not find the porcupine. That was what I really wanted to see. Those quills all spiky and dangerous! We were able to see a herd feeding and watch the crew laugh when they got hit with apples and comment on who the dominant male would become. It was a little odd and perhaps even surreal.

I think everyone else had more fun in the conservatory than I did. Some of the exhibits were large and great but as is the case with any area animals are caged, some did not look good. Others stayed away from the fence and ruined the fun (looking at you Musk Ox!). And some exhibits seemed small. Others seemed too expansive and you never saw anything good. We had our fun and lots of pictures (if you were on my snap chat – it was a banner day!) and decided it was time to head back. Please stay tuned for day two and the big run!

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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!

Massachusetts

Before I do start please let me say what happened that day in Boston is a complete tragedy and my heart truly does go out to the victims. Most of them were there to cheer on family and friends and certainly did not deserve any part of this. I did not feel joy or recompense at the capture of the last suspect and unfortunately feel that the anytime something like this does happen the loss of our personal security as we move forward can be a casualty as well. Who does not miss flying before 9/11? Sigh. My greatest hope is that we move forward without doing anything. We can never truly anticipate what people like this will do or when. By reacting we only lose our personal freedoms.

Last February I qualified for the Boston marathon and it was a joyous event. As I am trying to conquer all 50 states, needless to say this was THE one I really wanted to run. I did not go the usual route of training with long runs on the weekends or speedwork in preparation, instead I ran a lot of marathons to lead up to it figuring the best preparation for a marathon was another marathon. And eventually in December I was injured and became a wobbly runner who basically did not like to use my left leg. Like my cousin told me, “who needs two legs to run?”

So when Boston came I was not at my best needless to say. However there was no way I was going to skip out on it (the entry fee alone is $150!) so I flew in Friday night and really it was just fantastic starting at the airport. Just sitting there a lady turned around and asked me if I was running Boston! Turns out it was Patty (local Fort Dodge runner) who is good friends with my aunt and we had a great time talking and making our way to Boston. She got me a ride back from the airport and we went out for dinner. The entire thing was starting to feel like a big running family!

The next day the expo was large and awesome and crowded and freebies and incredible vendors and SO MANY PEOPLE! I went with a runner from Florida named Steve who I met in Duluth. We ran into several other runners we knew and Steve was even able to let a friend of mine run under his friend’s number who could not make it. My buddy Steve invited me to join his running group in Florida and I was pictured with them. Geography did not matter to them or to anyone in this city. We were all in this together! It was also great to run into other friends and I had a great three dinners as we tried to meet with everyone we knew. Steve and I had always been pretty good friends before this, however getting to know him better was worth the trip to Boston.

Next up was the “Maniac” picture on Sunday. Marathon Maniacs is a large group of people who run a lot of marathons and we always meet before a race and take our picture together. It was another blast and seriously my smile was getting very tired. I was able to meet several new Maniacs and catch up with some others as well. We took pictures at the finish line and it was just such a festive event. I assure you several other groups were there as well. Some Maniacs I had just seen in St. Louis just seven days ago and we talked about our future running plans. The Marathon Maniacs are a great group and I will always be proud to be a member of them. To see the large contingent in Boston you can see we are not just a bunch of slow runners who take a lot of pictures (sorry it is a stereotype)!

The day of the race came and i was in a tizzy. I was in a hotel three miles from downtown on the opposite side of the airport. I did not have time to possibly run, get my bag and go back to the airport so instead I took my bag over to my buddy Steve’s hotel room and then made my way to the bus for the morning. And you know I picked up a new friend both walking to the bus and again on the bus. Everyone there was so thrilled and just happy to be there. The vibe was just incredible. There is a reason why there is only one Boston marathon.

It was incredibly organized and even though I wondered out loud why we had to leave at 6 for a 10 run, you could see why. It just all happened so fast! I had just seen my friend Joewee, sat down with him for ten minutes and the next thing you know we were walking to the starting line. I lined up saw another Iowa friend, took a picture and made my way to the starting line – we were off!

I had my reservations as I knew my left leg was going to give me problems but they ended about Mile 3. There were just so many people and such great energy! I raced along high fiving the kids and having a great time! I stole a kiss from one of the women at Wellesley and passed Team Hoyt at Mile 17. I considered the free beer and plenty of Twizzlers being handed out. I slowed down in the middle miles but for the most part my leg rebounded and I conquered the last 6 miles in a pretty steady pace. I wasn’t looking at my pace though. I enjoyed the race. I was high fiving everyone I could. While all the other racers hugged the right side to get that perfect turn, I was just high fiving everyone on the left – show the crowd some love! Even when I entered the last two miles and my legs still felt fresh I just kept high fiving and appreciating the crowd. I finished in 3:31 – not a great time but my best time of the year. I still think the crowd got me there.

As we made our way through the chute it was very organized and we got our medals and space blankets immediately followed by quite a bit of food and eventually our bags. I was having a hard time carrying it all so I was THRILLED that Steve’s hotel room was less than two blocks from the finish. I went up, gabbed and showered. I took the T to a bus and made my way to the airport. I started answering my texts and called my mother to let her know how I did. It was just surreal. They all knew. This is one race everyone tracks you.

Unfortunately what happened next was even more surreal. My phone rang again but this time it was my friend Karen.”Thank goodness, you answered! Are you near the explosions?” I was three minutes from the airport I had not a clue what she was talking about. Then there was a quick ring from my friend Brian and my Facebook started lighting up and texts were flying in too. Karen and I stayed on the phone for a couple more minutes as she attempted to explain it to me. Eventually I told her I had to go and catch my plane and figure it out. No one else was saying anything. What was Karen talking about? I hung up the phone and asked around the bus. They stared at me blankly. I put a message on Facebook just saying I was okay and I hoped everyone else was too. I knew so little. I was wondering if something really happened or if it was some hoax. Then someone on the bus pulled up the picture of the explosion and everyone gathered around to see. It seemed so unreal. I guess I just wished someone was playing a joke on me.

I got into the airport with about 20 minutes to spare and did not even have time to check my bag. When I checked my phone again I had 15 new texts and everyone was asking the same thing. I just could not even comprehend what had happened. I went through security and the same toothpaste that had made it on at least 10 flights was confiscated. And it was such an odd moment as when the security guard who took my toothpaste just said to me, “Sir, it is normally not like this. I hope you come back to Boston. I hope you return.” I was just so confused. I was still thinking it could have been a gas leak, right?

I was lucky enough to have TV on my flight to Detroit and catch up and find out the truth. I was angry and lashed out about some message on the Marathon Maniacs page to my friends and kept on wondering why they were so concerned. I was fine! I just wanted to go home and get back to work on Tuesday. There was nothing I could do now. I got home and then went to bed and could not sleep. I just didn’t get it until Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning the weight of the world hit me and when I realized running may never be the same. I went to the gym with a glumful look on my face and ran two uninspired miles. I went to work melancholy and not at all interested in putting my best foot forward. When my friends texted me all day it was one word answers and general malaise. I had to go home that night and drink caffeine just to perk up because I knew I wasn’t sleeping either. The world changed last Monday. I knew that already. We had lost another place we felt safe. Worse, we had lost my favorite place – the marathon.

Worse yet, the majority of people running at that time were the charity runners. I think Team Hoyt passed through just as it was happening. The spectators were not there for their selfishness of running a marathon like I was. They were there unselfishly rooting on a friend or a loved one. They were the ones most affected tragically. They are the ones we run for.

As a friend of mine said, “The spectators are why we run. Otherwise we would just be a bunch of crazies out there running in the middle of nowhere. Not that we aren’t crazy.” She is right. So this Saturday I headed down to Olathe, Kansas and tied my shoes up again to run 26.2. I ran a better race than I had five days before and made sure I thanked and high fived everyone I could. I yelled out to spectators and complimented the signs. I did everything I could to let them know they were appreciated because runners will always run. What really scares me is the loss of the spectator. Thank you everyone that goes to see us. Thank you everyone that went out this last week and will go out in the future. Don’t let this incident affect you. Please come out and see us again. We need to stand strong in times like these and not back down in fear.

Indiana

Nothing about Indiana went the way it should. First, I had chosen the marathon based on a couple friends who lived there and was only going there to visit them and finish a state. Second, I had taken a week off from racing and had hoped to get a PR on a great course to set your pace! Third, I was looking forward to a nice relaxing drive two states away and a nice comfortable stay afterwards. Fourth, I had hoped to talk a couple friends into doing what looked to be a fantastic run. None of these things happened and the entire weekend fell apart in one text less than a month ago.

Basically one of the two friends living in Indianapolis sent me a text telling me that the two were fighting and she was moving to Oregon in a few days and to make sure to let her know when I was coming out. I am sure she forgot that I was coming to Indianapolis just to visit them and even if she had the concern was minimal. The friendship with the other person was secondary to her and I was about to push to get out of paying for a hotel room.

I tried to convince a few friends to go with me but that was to no avail and even reached out to a couple runners just to go there so I could spend the weekend at least talking to someone? I even reached out to another runner I knew quite well who it looked like she was signed up but she was not going now. It was “I alone”. I got a hotel room on the cheap for one night and now suddenly it was a quick drive up and a quick drive back to Iowa. I was resigned but a ray of light came in! Two weeks before, I did have a new friend reach out to me at the last minute for dinner and to possibly hang out so there was promise!

On top of that I made things worse by getting into a fight with a friend over a pretty stupid situation. They basically accused me of not knowing what a friend was and I thought I had been a pretty good friend so I just did what any idiot would do – I said okay well I can certainly go on without any friends. I can run by myself and I don’t need your help or anyone else for that matter! So rather than reach out and try to find new friends? I had decided to run this one alone and was convinced this new attitude, my improving hip and a perfect course would get me a PR. I would just show everyone even if they had not a clue what I was pissed about.

I drove out Friday morning and was even more flabbergasted when the friend I was looking to go to for dinner basically told me that she had only planned to do that in case there was a Marathon Maniacs dinner! I am not going to say a mean thing because she did say exactly that. I guess I just thought we would have plans if that did not happen. Now I was eating alone. I guess I was frantically searching facebook for something when I did find someone on the way that said they were going out for a drink at eight that night and decided I would meet this “Abbi”. I had heard of her before and it would be nice to not go to bed at eight and instead go out for a couple. I am sure if she was reaching out this way it would be a small group at best and that sounded… comfortable.

I arrived in town just before rush hour and navigator took me through a sketchy neighborhood or two but it was nice to see the town rather than just drive interstates. Navigator really saved me on the way back because this route had no traffic but the interstates were clogged full. The perfect run and go trip was helped by the route in. Even in my waiting till the last minute to get a hotel, I was able to book the Sheraton in downtown and get in close to the expo so it was all looking pretty good and when I saw that I was right next to some sort of circle downtown – I knew it had to be the monument the marathon was named after.

I have been to Indianapolis four times in the past year or so and have never really ventured downtown. So imagine my shock when I went around the corner to see the most magnificent statue (though that does not even begin to describe) I have ever seen in my life! The statue was dedicated to fallen heroes of war and let me tell you – it has to be more magnificent than the Statue of Liberty. One may have history but this one is four sided, only 23 feet shorter and the detail is intense! I am not about to describe it more as you can google it but I did check out the images and it really does not begin to describe what you would see. You can climb up this as well (the steps are numbered) but it appeared to be closed and I was out what would have been a great part of my journey to Indy.

I went to the expo next and it was a fairly large event but short on the only two things I was looking for – compression sleeves and shorts. They had a few freebies which was wonderful and lots of running clothes buys. There were new products but they were just new versions of items at other marathons. Unfortunately nothing truly new or unusual. It was a pretty typical expo and somehow, the only people I ran into were the folks from Superbandz. It was great to see them again but running friends are always better to run into.

Next up was my personal tour of the city and honestly the streets have their sights but nothing is quite as breathtaking as the skywalk system which includes a good sized mall! Pretty nice set up for old Downtown Indy! The only thing that could have improved it was some glass floors so you could see the traffic passing below you. But really no complaints. I went out to dinner at the Weber Grill which is a franchise but not one I have close by to me so I wanted to check it out and it is not always easy to find a place to eat on a Friday night by yourself.

I was lucky enough to have a couple runners sit next to me and we talked up some running stories and just got along overall. We won’t become facebook friends anytime soon but it was nice to share some stories and I always find it fascinating why people choose one run versus another. I always find the runner who does New York every year so they can qualify for Boston so incredibly lame!  Why not try a new adventure? So thank you dinner mates! And on a side note every runner should boycott New York! (sadly enough that will go nowhere as others will gladly fill the spots next year.) But what they did to the runners this year was ridiculous.

I was able to have the drink with Abbi! I thought any person who was willing to put themselves out there like that was worth meeting! And I was right. She told me she used to make costumes for other runners and showed me a couple creations. I was too timid to ask her for anything. I was pretty impressed though. And we were joined by another runner Barco who was full of stories but his lesson was not one of joy. His lesson was one of not stretching yourself too thin. He has quit his jobs and scheduled 52 runs in 26 weeks. It was insane and just listening to him not only is he stretched out financially but also emotionally. It made me happy I took the week before off. I was not in the best of spirits in Maine either. A break from running and traveling can be the best medicine there is to someone who runs as much as some of us do.

The next morning I actually made the Marathon Maniac picture and met a couple new runners. But the truth was I could not wait to start the race. I lined up half an hour early and just waited. I did not meet anyone new which was unusual. I guess it was just nerves. I wanted that personal record in the marathon. Everything was set up for it!

I was indeed ready to go at the gun and started out fast. I was moving really well and it was looking like someone does not need friends to run a great race (sadly enough) I was thinking at Mile 9. I finally settled into a group a mile later and was enjoying the company… But then at Mile 11 i felt something twinge in my hamstring and I started to slip and I mean quick. I was running an average of about 6:45 miles before that and the second it happened I watched myself start to fall behind the group I was with. It was okay. I would just settle into a new pace. But the next thing I know I was getting passed like crazy! Talk about a fast race! If I am that far up it usually takes a while to get passed by anyone much less 20 someones.

At exactly the halfway point (1:30:24) I saw another struggling runner and we began to talk. He was a good guy from Chicago and our pace was about the same. I slipped a little but he stayed with me encouraging me to push on. I was not in good shape at all but he was able to carry me from miles 13 to 20 telling me I was helping him more than he was helping me. We were getting passed pretty bad though and I could tell I was holding him back. I kept telling him to go but he was an awesome friend and I was able to keep up eight minute miles until Mile 20. Trust me, that was a win. As much as he tried to push me I wasn’t going and at Mile 20 he took off like it was nothing with the 3:10 group. They did not stay in my vision long. And the way I started to fade after that? I knew the 3:15 crowd was coming soon! Worse? It was starting to rain and was that sleet?

I am not exaggerating. It was sleet. And it slowly picked up to by the time I finished it was pretty constant and not nice. I am not bragging but there are benefits to finishing fast. When weather gets worse, you are done. I was not able to hold back the 3:20 crowd (3:15 passed me at Mile 22) and crossed the line in 3:19:56 chip time. That was good possibly even great the way I was feeling. I just wanted under 3:20 was all I could think by the 20 mile point. The weather was not an issue as I had acclimated, but it was cold, the rain was getting worse and all I cared about was getting back to a warm shower.

I got a stocking cap or three! There was also bottles of water, chocolate milk and cocunut water so it was a good grab afterwards including subs and some other little things. I was able to pick up my goodies but not see my friend that turned a bad run into a fine run. I wish I could say I searched endlessly but I just looked. I thank you again Dave Cole for carrying me. You truly are remarkable.

And for all my other friends? I apologize wholeheartedly. I don’t deserve you and to turn you away for no reason was awful. That friend may be right. I may need to learn what it is to be a friend. But you have all been so good to me and though I started this trek alone, I am in the middle miles and this is where I need the most help. And this time, I do not want to finish this one alone. That did not work out at all for me, and more importantly, I do not want to do the final leg alone. Thank you everyone for all your contributions so far. Hopefully I can live up to your expectations.

Missouri Double Marathon

I was distraught about my bad run in Mississippi but no worries, I loaded into my car and Jen, Michelle, Sommer and I headed over to get something to eat and head out of town. Michelle had planned a marathon dinner that night and there was not a doubt in our mind there was no way we were going to make that dinner. They wanted to follow me so after a little lead by the girls, I took the lane to the right and proceeded to watch them not follow me? The light turned green and I took off and still they did not follow me? Finally after getting ten miles down the road I called Sommer. She didn’t answer. Did they really just ditch me?

I called Michelle in pure frustration. Answer! Well long story short we had meant to caravan and our GPS systems had taken us on two completely different highways? I told them we would hook up in Memphis and then caravan from there. Well oddly enough their route never took them to Memphis and I drove alone until about 30 miles south of St. Louis. After that we ate at Cracker Barrel and I was lucky enough to have Sommer ride the last leg with me. By this time it was dark and the real only option was to check into the host hotel as well. Of course the Meowiacs had a room planned out months in advance. Man, some people are such great planners! Me? Not so much. The only downside is there was no way we could take pictures that late at night. Well, to some of us there was no downside at all!

I woke up the next morning to tired legs? No, they felt fresh. What about my right foot? Surely it had to be cramped and sore? I could barely walk after San Francisco or Park City? No, it felt fine. I did not eat much and sleep had been tough. Energy had to be low? No, I felt okay. Nervous due to my first back to back marathon in less than an hour. I met up with the ladies and Sommer went to buy her way into the marathon.and I picked up my packet. Yes, you can sign up morning of at Heart of America.

Now a little history on Heart of America. HOA is known as the oldest marathon on this side of the Mississippi and is also known as the toughest known mountain course in the US. Both are true I am guessing. There are 6 what are called major hills and the one at mid point is so bad I saw a biker that had to walk it the year before! That may seem tough but the hills at 20 and 24 seem to be just thrown in to make your misery worse and then you still have a run through Columbia that honestly is not very well marked making you wondering if you went the right way or not. And honestly, you are running right along traffic the entire way and well, the volunteers are not always that helpful. In other words, don’t count on them to stop traffic for you!

We met up with the rest of the Meowiacs (they have their own fb fan page if you want to check them out – shameless plug) and Michelle and Jen were ready to rock it. We met at the start and the girls were all about the Maniac picture even going far enough to get it organized. The Maniac picture is when the members of our club – the marathon maniacs – reconvene for yet another time and have proof we were at a race I suppose. Marathon Maniacs are pretty simple to join – run like two marathons in a month and you can join. It just means you love marathons and want to join a like minded group of people like religion except less rules!

The race started and I had no intention of going out fast but well, there weren’t many runners and the next thing I know there I was in the first ten and making a move. Ugh. Take it easy! I did slow down to a comfortable pace and ran alone for a while when three runners caught up to me around mile 6. The first was a girl who talked to me for a bit and the second? Well I had seen him before the race because well he was hard to miss. The guy was trying to break the world record for running a marathon in a suit. First I cannot believe he had chose HOA to do it. Second I bet he had hoped it would not be this hot. It was 98% humidity I heard later and already 80 degrees. Third the suit did look stifling. Needless to say he had his sister taking pictures every couple of miles and he seemed to be doing pretty good. The third guy passed me with nary a word and I was alone again until Mile 12.

I was doing okay even though my shirt was now gone. I have never run a marathon bare chested until this one but I had already cut both nipples and it seemed something on my back as well and had three red streaks going. When I took the shirt off it was so waterlogged carrying the extra weight just did not make sense. Goodbye forever my “I know, I know I said I would never do this again” shirt. It was right I did say I would never run HOA again!

At Mile 12 the guy closest to me was the guy in the suit and he was walking the second he hit that Hill of Easley. I stopped to walk to. He knew what he was doing. He bent over. I started to run again because yep, he was puking. The world record was not about to fall today. Unfortunately that walk felt far too good and when the real hill came half a mile later, I walked and walked and walked my way pretty much to Mile 15. I found out a couple things – mostly I am a slow walker and pretty much cannot do that at any sort of pace and that going slow can be much more painful than trying. I got my pace going again and got all the way to Mile 19 before footsteps approached.

Of course by this point several people had passed me but I knew these were coming. They belonged to runner and friend Michelle. Michelle looked good and swung her way past me for the second straight race. She yelled at me to join her but it fell on deaf ears. I was not feeling it and she hit me just at the hill at Mile 20 and though not as long as Easley, it seems steeper. I watched as even she had to stop and walk it. I watched the same girl who had been walking since Mile 15 walk past me again. How could I be such a slow walker?

I got up and ran again. And walked the hill at Mile 24. I was beat and I knew even at that point I had let the course beat me mentally. I had let the double beat me. I lost on this day and the only win would be finishing I thought as I talked to a newfound friend as we walked up that hill. I started to run at the top and he shook me off. Fine I thought you will catch me later. I was slowing down. He was speeding up. He didn’t. And I passed another three runners along the way! I did find some consolation along the way. I put in a kick even at my lowest and it brought a smile to my face even as I passed the finish line with my second slowest time ever.

I met Michelle afterwards and she had missed her sub four by less than a minute. It shocked me because I thought she had it in the bag but we were both happy to pick up age awards and get a ride back to the hotel from a very friendly local with a pickup truck. We met up afterwards and Jen and Sommer were there as well. Jen seemed to have a better day being smiley as ever and Michelle was already in good spirits.

Sommer, on the other hand, was not willing to quash the bad feelings about this race. She was upset about all the traffic (I swear three times as much this year), the volunteers (would rather stay in their car than help out), and the course (they don’t close anything down and I am surprised more don’t get lost). She had ran into one of those never say frown Maniacs along the way and was still looking for blood. I laughed at her exaggeration but there wasn’t much to it. Take the truth and that was pretty much it. HOA can be HELL.

We went to the free pizza dinner at Shakespeare’s afterwards and the pizza was awesome. We took some pictures and let me tell you polyester makes one sweat in seconds! We ran into some other friends like Lyle and Jeff and were happy to go home and call it a day. I left before the girls sad to let them go. Funny it was my worst running weekend ever but one of my best marathon weekends ever. Good people can turn any bad weekend into a good weekend.