Wednesday, December 06, 2006

12/3/06 California International Marathon

There are those who call me... CIM

The California International Marathon ("simm" to many of us, "C-I-M" to others) bills itself as "the fastest course in the west". As such, it attracts a bunch of runners who are slightly more "serious" than some races. You might catch a guy juggling here, or someone in a costume... but you are also going to be near a bunch of people intense and intent on BQing. Or just hauling ass in general.

The race caters to this crowd. It offers lots of pace groups around the BQ times. Not a lot of races will have a 3:35 pace group. CIM does. This year, CIM also had a 2:47 pacer. What? Well, that's the female cutoff for olympic trials. And at CIM, they get some fairly famous runners to act as pacers. This is cool, but not without some issues... which will become my theme in a bit.

The course itself is a point-to-point from Folsom down to the state capitol in Sacramento. This means catching a shuttle at 5a. Good times. "The fastest course in the west" is essentially a downhill course, but let's get something clear. "Essentially" is not "completely". There are lots of sneaky ups in CIM. They are brief, but they are there. I liked this because 26.2 of pure downhill is pure pain. The ups help. A lot. It turns out that this course is very similar to the Napa Valley Marathon course.

So. I knew CIM would be a bittersweet race for me. Originally, it was going to be my go-fast race for the season. That would have meant shooting for 3:30. I could have run with several of my friends from coolrunning. But due to some forced time off, it was not to be. Not even close.

I decided to utilize CIM as my monthly check-in race. As I'm ramping back up to where I want to be, I've been using one race each month to put in x miles at about 8:30/mile pace (or roughly a 3:43ish marathon). In Richmond, I wanted to do 16 miles at this pace by rabbiting the 3:45 pace group. I actually did 15. For CIM, I wanted to do 20 miles... now, I also knew that CIM rolled a bit, especially early on... so I was less concerned about perfect mile splits and more concerned about effort.

Race morning. Shuttle at 5a. Portapotties. Lots of people waiting in a long line to get into the nearby convenience store. I'm assuming they only allowed 2 or 3 people in at once. Not sure what people wanted an hour before the race. Coffee?

Race weather was perfect for most folks... 36ish degrees and no wind. It would be a blue sky day that would get to about 50-52ish. Of course, that's kind of cold for me... so I was in 3 shirts PLUS a throwaway shirt (ditched at M6), tights, and throwaway gloves (ditched at M19).

The national anthem was sung at 6:50a by two twins who were 6 or 7 years old. They got the words right and they hit the notes properly... and it was definitely kids singing the Star-Spangled Banner as opposed to child prodigies. But this was perfect and it left everyone with big grins as the twins belted out the last notes. We clapped and clapped. This, right here, made me feel good to be a United Statesian.

And that brings us to the pace groups with the famous pacers.

Pop quiz, hotshot.

1. You are a pace leader. What time do you show up at the line?
a. Thirty minutes ahead so that people can gather around you. Maybe you can meet folks and discuss pacing.

b. Five minutes before the gun, just to keep your potential group "excited".

2. How do you line up?
a. Sequentially, by pace.
b. Random groups spread across the start line.

3. What is your pacing strategy?
a. Even splits, knowing that folks utilizing a pacer are probably beginner or intermediate marathoners.
b. Slightly negative splits because it is a sound strategy
c. Positive splits because this worked for you in winning technically difficult ultras.

Some of the pace leaders showed up early, but a lot of people were waiting for the 3:40 person. That person (along with the 3:50 person...) showed up at 6:55a. Because the starting area was packed, they stood over by the curb. This caused a mass mixing/jostling of people as folks tried to get to 3:40 guy... both before and after the gun.

And the pace groups were all lined up wacky. 3:15 side by side with 3:30 and 3:35. 3:40 kind of behind that. 3:50. 3:45 further back. And then waaaaay back, 4:00.

Gun. And we were off. Sure enough, people were all over the place trying to find their group. Remember, lots of people are serious about this BQ thing at CIM.

First water stop. Race used Gu-2-o. Blah. That's alright, I told myself, at least it isn't ultima :-).

Now... I wanted to stick to my 8:30 pace... but I was actually running a bit too fast. My first 4 miles: 8:30, 8:00, 8:07, 8:03. Hmmm. But get this. I was running with the 3:50 pace group. If you do the math, you'll see that they were running way way fast. And sure enough, by M4, this group was still only about 100 feet behind the very large 3:40 pace group. And in front of the 3:45 pace group. The pace leader seemed excited to be in front of 3:45 and pointed out that his strategy would be to bank time. You know this as "going out too fast". That was his strategy. I won't name drop, but this was a very accomplished ultra runner leading this group.

I saw another Maniac pass me at M4, so I sped up just ever-so-slightly and ran with the 3:40 group for a bit. My stress level immediately went down. This was good! Although the 3:40 pace guy was late to the start, he turned out to be an amazing pacer. He was running consistently and telling his folks about what would be coming up on the course. Every mile, he asked people to relax their shoulders and raise their arms to stretch. This was where I realized that there were at least 100 people in this pack. Because at least 200 hands went up at every mile marker. That's a ton. He regrouped everyone after the scattering caused by water stations. He clustered everyone on the proper side for upcoming turns. NICE!

Llama spectator at M8.

I let the 3:40 folks go just before M13. Crossed M13 at 1:50.

Poison water M15. Most of the aid stations were fine and I got used to the Gu-2-o after a few cups. But the water I snagged at M15 was just wrong. Yeeks.

At M16, there was a dude playing Chariots of Fire on a recorder. I don't mean a tape recorder. I mean one of those little flute things we all had to play in 5th grade. It sounded like what you think it would sound like.

I was supposed to meet a friend at M17.5. She was at M18.5! Sneaky, sneaky.

M18.5 was also where the 3:45 group caught me. This means that they finally passed Mr. Wonderful 3:50. Sounded like 3:45 guy was intentionally running negative splits... which is why they hadn't been running near me for longer. And also why I was now running WITH them despite running slightly faster than 3:45 pace. They were speeding up. This group was not as big as the 3:40 group, but still plenty big.

M20 at 2:51. I made my goal, although my splits weren't terribly consistent and my first miles were clearly too fast. I still felt pretty good, so I thought I'd do another mile at this pace. That was some "smart" planning because I started slowing slightly in this mile. The 3:45 group inched away. M21 at 3:00, and that was that. My left foot was not feeling quite right. This same foot was bothering me tremendously during last week's Seattle Marathon... same foot I twisted back in August just before I stopped running. Hmmm.

Started talking to people and soaking in the scenery. At this point I noticed one of the really neat things about CIM. Tons of spectators. No, they aren't wall-to-wall like NYCM or Twin Cities... but for a medium-size race that's held mostly in suburbia, lots of people were out there hooting. That's really neat.

3:50 guy caught me around M24. He was talking to one person. Near as I could tell, his group had dwindled substantially from the start. That can happen when you go out at turbo speed.

As we got closer and closer to downtown, there were lots of bands and other musical distractions. Most were good. Only one made me run faster because I wanted to get away from it :-).

Around M26, we turned towards the capitol. The finish at CIM is kind of weird. Females finish on the left, males on the right. That's no big deal, except that between the two finishes, they have tons of spectators kind of like a highway divider or berm. So as a runner, it seemed like the females turned off, and then the males had to run an extra 100 feet or so before we turned. It probably wasn't really like that; maybe just an optical illusion.

First mat wasn't the end. They had a mat so that they could get the name of the person about to finish and announce the name. ROBERT LOPEZ, SEATTLE WASHINGTON.


Not 3:30. But I'm back under 4, I did my workout pretty much like I wanted to (close enough), I was able to get in an extra mile, and I utilized the pace group weirdness as a fun thing to observe rather than a painful distraction.

Fun time. Definitely a place to come for a PR.

To close, I'l just say that my observations about the pacers were/are my personal opinion. The 3:50 pacer is a very accomplished ultra runner with lots of hardware to his name. I would never ever tell this person how to run his race. It's just that pacing others is a different task.

The scenery isn't much to look at during this race, but that's not why people run it. Aside from a packed expo (tip: DO NOT come to this expo right when they first open at 3p on Friday), the organization of this event was top notch.

Ran into coolrunner hup afterwards. It is always fun to meet a coolrunner in person. Wish I would have had more time to chat, but I had to trudge back to my hotel and check out. Besides, I was stinky.

Incidentally, because this race starts in Folsom, I spent the first 2 hours or so looping Folsom Prison Blues in my head. I must have shot that guy in Reno about 1,000 times.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

11/11/06 Richmond Marathon

Return to Running, Return to Richmond

Way back in July, I posted a (too) long summary of various marathons I'd done in the first half of the year. My goal had been to do 55-60 marathons this year, speeding up as I went. Everything was going according to plan until August 18th, when the Cancer Fairy paid a visit to my family. I stopped racing, I stopped training, I gained about 5 pounds while helping... and it was totally the right thing to do. I started running again sometime around the middle of October. Ugh.

I had placed Richmond on my schedule (with prepaid flights and prepaid hotel) a long time ago. Things are going reasonably well at home, as good as they can I suppose, so I decided to come.

I flew into Dulles and then drove to Richmond. Interesting drive, crazy traffic. My favorite part was passing through Spotsylvania (home of vampire dogs! Who vanht to hump your leg!). Went to the expo, looked for people I knew, found none, and ate some fine hotel food. Mmmm. Marriott food.

Now, I last ran the Richmond Marathon in 2002. That was a way different time in my life. I was just getting into the whole multiple marathoning thing and I was still learning what it meant to live/train post-cancer (the Cancer Fairy likes my house, you see). I ran a robust 4:56 that year and I remember a serious death march in the last miles. But I got a free hat.

The Richmond course is an interesting figure-8 design. It's pretty roly poly, but unlike most roly poly courses I know, it has a lot of flat sections mixed in. For example, there are two pancake flat bridge sections, each about a mile long. It also has a nasty hill at M17. Not steep, but loooong and unshaded. A few more roly polies in the last miles and then a mondo screaming ass kicker downhill in the last half mile.

About 4500 people do this race. There are pace teams. There are aid stations every two miles until M20 and then every mile. There are junk food stations. There's entertainment. And today... it was a hot day for most people... there was ice, lots of washcloths, and misting tents.

Did I say it was a hot day? It was. But, oh joy, for Island Boy. Running in the 70s is what I like most. So let's talk about my day.

As mentioned above, I'm still trying to come back from a forced running layoff. Mind you, I've never been fast. If you want to read fast people's stuff, go read Amy Yanni's report or Fiddy2 Dane's report. Before the layoff, I was running 3:40ish. After? My times had been on the wrong side of 4:15. Egad. It's all relative, of course. But I lost 25+ minutes while playing chemo boy ("Use your bucket, dear!").

Today was a workout day for me. I wanted to put in 16 fast but consistent miles... and then I knew the last 10 would be more about talking to people and soaking in Richmond. And believe me, this is not a good racing strategy. It goes by the name "going out too fast" as a racing strategy. Do not follow srlopez's example if you are racing. Do not follow srlopez's example if you are new to marathoning and want to finish upright and happy.

I decided to stick with something around 8:30s for the first 16 miles. There's some science-y stuff regarding why 8:30, but I'll leave it out because this is already too long.

I learned right off that the layoff took away my sense of pace. I decided to stay a little bit in front of the 3:45 pace group. That helped. A lot. So did having some great spectators and having "Stevie Ray" printed on my bib above the big MARATHON MANIACS (which, oddly, many people misread... and cheer for "Marathon Man", or today one guy called me "Marilyn". Really.)

I saw one Maniac, just after we started. I think his name was Jim... sorry if I got this wrong, though! It was crowded. I didn't see another Maniac during the race, but the calendar tells me that they were there.

Here were my splits through 16:

8:32, 8:22, 8:19, 8:18, 8:27, 8:26, 8:07, 8:14
8:17, 8:25, 8:40, 8:33, 8:38, 8:42, 8:25, 9:21

Hmm. Not so consistent. The course rolls, so I didn't expect metronome precision, but I have a long way to go with my training. And I guess it was more of a 15 mile workout. Ooops.

The 3:45 team passed me on the long bridge around M16 as I went into jog mode. Interestingly, jog mode started about the time we lost all our shade and the temperatures were climbing. Nice planning, ace. I noticed people going into Death March mode really early. I passed lots of walkers, lots of people doing the "hands on hips" thing. And by the early 20s, people were literally dropping. I stopped twice to check on folks. One guy was apparently named "dammitdammit". At least that's what he said when I asked him his name.

Somewhere in here, we passed a spectator who was blasting Amazing Grace on his boombox. Key tip for any spectator reading this: please don't play funeral music for the marathoners. Mahalo plenty.

I hit M20 at about 2:55. Now, I had no particular time target for this race, but I usually know that if I get to M20 before 3 hours, then I'm going to break 4. Usually. And this, my friends, is a lesson about going out too fast. That 8:30 plan, which really had a few too many 8:20s in it, got me. Because I was taking it easy and having fun, there was no threat of hitting that danged ol' wall... but there was also no way that I could get my legs moving fast again if I had wanted to do that. And keep reading, because it would turn out that I really would want to do that.

M23 at 3:28. Still could have beaten 4. Wasn't gonna happen. But interestingly, I wasn't being passed by anyone.

4:00 pacer passed me at M24. He seemed to be running alone. Uh oh. At least he still looked fresh. Exciting. But not so inviting to me.

There was some large group of people in lime green shirts running this race. Like TNT, they had coaches. At M25, a coach jumped in to help pull this one poor guy to the finish. He started being "encouraging" in that particular loud tone that is neither encouraging nor friendly to other people around him. You know this tone... you hear it on Amazing Race. "YOU ARE GONNA DO THIS! YOU ROCK! YOU ARE GONNA DO THIS" over and over again. And again.

Folks, this right here is the one time during the event that I questionned my early go-fast plan. Because I really really, no REALLY wanted to pull away from TheIncredibleMotivator.

M26 at exactly 4:00. The spectators were lining the course, whooping it up, but making the running path really skinny.

At M26.001, TheIncredibleMotivator was joined by a second coach who proceeded to pull in side-by-side with the others, forming a wall... while they all slowed down. Having none of that, I found a little bitty kick. Hey, hey hey! Get outta my way!

Finished at 4:01:27.

In retrospect, I feel kinda lousy for sprinting past this guy who was really hurting at the end. It was selfish, but I could standsnomore of the coach. Blah blah blah. I have really mixed emotions about that... but I don't think I slowed him down and I didn't get in his way, whilst they DID get in my way.

Looked for my Maniac friends after the race. Talked to Hippo for awhile. Ate some pizza. Drank some tea. The band was playing some Monkees.

And then I drove 4 hours to Harrisburg. I was supposed to run the Harrisburg Marathon on Sunday, but when I woke up on Sunday morning, it was obvious to me that I'm not in double shape yet. I have a long way to go. Besides, the weather was quite nasty.

I am sooo happy to be running.

07/01/06 Leadville Trail Marathon

Way Up High in Leadville

This is not a typical report. I may come back and write a real one, but my brain is fried from this race (Saturday). So here are my random notes.

This is a trail marathon. I've done a few "trail" marathons before, but they were rail-to-trail deals that were wide with nice, soft running surfaces and gentle slopes. I've also done some technical trail races before, but they weren't anything near 26.2. This was the full-length motion picture on a horrific mix of single track (a couple scary miles) and old mining road... all rocky and very technical.

The race starts in the town of Leadville at 10,000 feet. The claim to fame is that you summit Mosquito Pass, 13,185 feet, at the halfway point. What they don't tell you is that you basically climb most of another mountain (locals call it "baldy") and circle it... then descend... then do the climb to Mosquito. When it comes down to it, you've climbed/descended a bunch... and then you do 2,000+ feet between M10 and M13.1. 2,000+ feet over three miles of switchback. Oh, then you do baldy again on the way back. See, it's an out-and-back. Lots of this was/is above treeline.

Some parts of the trek up to Mosquito were so steep for me that I had to go about 100 yards...stop and put my head between my legs to catch my breath.... go another 100 yards, etc. This is the only time in the last 76 marathons that I've seriously considered bailing. I didn't mostly because there wasn't really anywhere else to go. A lot of us had trouble with this section, but I have to admit that a lot of people did NOT. Yeah, I'm from sea-level, and many of these were colorado folks - but not all. I was amazed by the number of people that blazed up and down. Really amazed.

And one dog. A medium sized dog of undetermined breed trotted behind his owner for the whole race. I passed them as they were finishing the climb while I was on my way down. No leash... just toodling behind his owner buddy. Cool.

Now I know about altitude sickness and what it does to me. I had a wooshing sound in my ears - kinda like wind. I had a severe headache. I could not focus my eyes, which made the technical trails and nearby 1000 foot dropoffs somewhat more evil. I was cranky. Oh man, was I cranky. I am quite sure that I was near my MHR for a long damn time.

I hit the summit... 13.1 miles... at 3:40 on the race clock. One minute later, the winner finished the whole thing. Note that 3:45 is my normal full marathon time. I'd only done half.

Oh, and the winner passed me when I was probably around M10ish. He would have been at M16ish. He had on exactly 3 items of clothing: shorts and two shoes (no socks), and no hydration gadgets. This was a chilly race too. Me? I had on 12 items including my handheld bottle.

About 15 minutes back down the mountain... which was MUUUUCH scarier than going up... the thunder started in the distance.

"Please God, don't let the thunder come through while I am above the treeline." It didn't. I saw my first close lightning strike as I was a few miles from the finish. But, bruddah, I was nervous for most of the second half. Probably helped me run faster.

The wildflowers were wonderful. Didn't notice them on the way up. Saw lots on the way down.

I hit the aid station at mile 16 at 4:30. No mosquitoes at the top of the pass, but lots here.

Passed through a few snowfields, only one was difficult, but we had to do it twice.

I had been told that this race had a lot of single track trail in. Nope. Maybe a couple miles (so four total). But these miles circled baldy. Single track, about a foot wide... with a really steep dropoff on one side. And once, an open mineshaft. This is where I learned that another attribute of altitude sickness is vertigo. Oh man.

The race goes by a bunch of old mines. I wish that I had enjoyed the sights more. Wasn't sure what I was looking at... some looked like sets from old west movies. But I was too focused on not dying to really check it all out.

My right foot started hurting me terribly at about the 5 hour mark. I could tell that I had a bad blister on the heel. What was I going to do about it? So I ran.

I hit the aid station at mile 22.4 at 6:06. 54 minutes and 3.8 miles to beat 7 hours. Sounds easy, but these last miles were steep downhill and my right foot was really messed up. This is where I saw the first lightning strike, I think.

I passed about 4 people in this last section. I noticed that only one person had passed me in the last ten miles.

I finished at 6:53. I beat 7 hours. My splits were a funky 3:40/3:13.

I collapsed at the finish line. I had tripped and stumbled more times than I could count during the race (and have the black toes to prove it), but I never spread-eagled. I never fell until the end.

Later, I took my right shoe off, and found that all of my skin was (is) missing from my right heel. The entire thing had blistered and then peeled back. Why? Bad form on the steep downhills... lots of braking. I had to brake, though, so as not to die. But other people did lots better.

I lived. I drank some soda.

07/29/06 Volcano Trail Marathon

The Ankle Eating Volcano Trail Marathon

I'm in the process of moving, so I haven't had time to write much. Or run much. But as I often do, I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Kilauea Wilderness Runs were held on Saturday, 7/29. They have a 5 miler, a 10 miler, and a full marathon. I picked the marathon. Now... I have run 75% of the trails used by the marathon, but I have never run the race itself. I thought I knew what to expect, but that other 25% was far harder than I imagined.

Kilauea, if you don't know, is the most active of the Big Island's volcanoes. They built a national park around it (and part of Mauna Loa) way back when... and the volcano frequently erupts - destroying parts of the park and adding new features to it. It has been erupting pretty much constantly since the early 80s.

The race itself goes around various cool sections of the park, but nowhere near the active stuff. Which is good, given that volcanic fumes can kill you dead. And this race is hard enough.

My goal was to run 4:30. That's actually a damn good time for this course... rated one of the 5 hardest marathons in the world. I'll tell you right here that I didn't make it. But it was an interesting race, for sure.

In a nutshell, the first 13 miles are run across lava and sand. This is perhaps the most technical trail I have ever run in my life. Lots of scrambling. Lots of what I now call "snotcleaner" trail... the kind where you jump up/down and land so abruptly that it cleans out your sinuses.

I saw the first guy do a faceplant around M3. He got back up. I saw the second guy wipeout a few miles later. He didn't get back up at first. He tried to protect himself w/ his hands and broke all his fingers in his left hand. It was nasty. I stayed with him for a few minutes until he regained his wits, and then pointed him back to the last aid station (it was closer).

It's worth pointing out that for the first 8 miles, I was in serious haul ass mode. I was in the pack right behind the leaders... a position that I never ever occupy... and I was running on the edge of being out of control. This was a huge rush, but it was also a mistake. I didn't faceplant, but I did turn my ankle, and how, at M8. M8 was also where I found out why I was so close to the leaders. It wasn't because I've become superfast. They were running slower than normal to save themselves for M8-13, the most brutal part of the course. And that's right where I hurt myself. Ankle deep sand. Rocks. Boulders. Climbs. Whoops.

I kept going, albeit at a much slower pace. Apparently I looked bad too, because several people who passed me (and lots did) asked me if I was ok. Then the race changed dramatically at M13. We exited the lava and started a long climb up a paved road. 300 ft (from 3100 to 3400) over 4 miles. Certainly not steep, but long. Then a gradual downhill from M17 to M19. Hurting.

And here's where I caught costumed lady. See, at the beginning, we all saw this rather buff woman wearing a white costume with gold headgear. She carried a sword. I knew she wasn't Wonder Woman, and she didn't really look like Isis. People said she was Pele (the Hawai'ian goddess, not the Brazilian soccer guy), but that didn't make sense. Pele no have sword. And she was FAST. She was up with the leaders and left me behind. I caught her at M19, though, because she was walking.

As I passed her, she spanked me on the ass with her sword. Can't say that's ever happened to me before.

At M19, we pulled off the paved road and onto a mowed grass road. Yes, a grass road. Very soft. And the climb started anew. 700 feet over an unending 4 miles. So more than twice as steep as the previous climb. I will admit that I walked quite a bit of this. I might have walked some even if my ankle was ok, but it wasn't, and I did. Walk. Hurting.

At M23, we suddenly popped out at a very touristy part of the park... the Thurston Lava Tube. It was packed with tourists, and some actually knew that there was a race happening. The only spectators except for the end. Are you ok? Yes. I'm fine. I just want a nap.

Then we were back on the single track for the remainder of the race. Rolling. Now instead of lava rocks and snotcleaner trail, we had to worry about roots. We're in a rain forest. This is the prettiest part... and the only piece where we're protected from the sun. And the wind.

Yeah, I didn't mention that. The race was hot, humid, and windy with no shade up until the later miles. The volcano can actually be quite chilly... but it wasn't on race day.

Around M24, costumed lady caught me again. She was absolutely flying. I was not.

And there it was... the finish line. At least I thought it was the finish line. Lots of people hollering. When I got there, I realized that they were hollering "only 200 yards to the finish line! Go around the corner!"

And... ok, this time for sure... there it was... the finish line. Really.


OUCH. I arrived in the middle of the awards ceremony - which they stopped briefly to announce my finish . Much of the food was gone. I wasn't anywhere near last (57th out of 122), and frankly, I'm soooo happy that I finished at all. Last would have been a-ok. But that's 40 minutes off my goal and boo for that (and a 4:30 would have gotten me 23rd).

I talked to costumed lady afterwards. Turns out she was She-Ra, and that she's a fairly accomplished local runner from another island. She only intended to run half of the race as a training run, which is why I caught her walking in the middle.

This race is not as hard as Leadville. It is quite a bit harder than Bataan. It is more scenic than both of them. Not sure if I'll do it again. On one hand, I'd really like to make that goal time. On the other hand, I saw a guy break his hand (ok, fingers) and I really torqued my ankle. Hmmm. Maybe the 10 miler next time.

But She-Ra spanked me with her sword.

Incidentally, because of my hurt ankle, I took a week off of running. I raced in Juneau at the end of that week (on 8/5)... really stiff from no running. My ankle held up ok, though that race had just horrid awful weather. Blah. 3:54, which is fine given the rain/wind and the lack of running - but I really wanted to beat 3:40 at Juneau. Fooey.

And then I had to deal with rats... and so I didn't run much the next week.

07/22-23/06 DFL: My first ultra... and a double

My first DFL (well, almost). And then a two-year PW.

Weird things can happen when a race has 50 or fewer people.

Earlier this year, I ran a half marathon that had about 30 people in it. I came in 5th... and, actually, had I not run a full the day before, I'm pretty sure I would have come in about 3rd.

And then there are days like today. 20 people. And I was at the caboose end. Actually, no. I was the guy you see in the movies trying to chase down the caboose end because he missed (or got kicked off) the train. Go watch Silver Streak. I'll wait.

Since I had traveled all the way from Kona back to Seattle for a Sunday race, I decided to do another race on Saturday. It was a low-key affair put on to raise funds for a local cross-country team... called the "Lake Youngs Fund Run", it was a series of 9.6 mile loops around... wait for it... Lake Youngs. I did 3 loops, or 28.8 miles. I'm calling it my first ultra because it was longer than 26.2 - but obviously it was a baby ultra.

People could do anywhere from 1-4 loops and many opted out after 2... which made my DFL more of a surprise (I thought others were behind me, but they were back home eating ice cream because they bailed).

Ah, the lake. Although the trail goes around the perimeter, you only get a peekaboo view for about 10 yards. You do not see the lake for the rest of journey. At all. You do get to see deer. And at about M17, a doe and her fawn were on the trail staring me down. I even thought she was charging me, but really she was just looking for the closest way off the trail - which happened to be between me and her. But for a second, my brain fog caused me to go on ohmygoshwhatdoIdonow alert. Good times.

Brain fog. See, yesterday and today happen to be the two hottest days of the year here in Seattle. And while 85 degrees with high humidity may not be hot compared to where YOU live, it's damn hot for a race - even for island boy. And while you get to see some deer and no lake, you also get to experience some interesting hills. Certainly not the hilliest race I've done this year (Leadville in the insane category, Seafair in the sane category), but plenty challenging.

We had one aid station at the end of each loop. Knowing this ahead of time, I geared up. Darth Runner would have been proud of my fuel belt (2 bottles, but the bigger bottles... w/ water), gel flask, electrolyte tablets, and hand-held bottle w/ perpetuem. I think I would have done better with a camelbak full of beer.

After the race, I counted... I drank 100oz during this race, and didn't pee once. I drank 160oz including what I've had after the race. Still no output to go with that input.

My time? It doesn't really matter... I want to be a 4:30 50k-er, and based on my normal marathon time I think I probably am... but I ran this 28.8 at a "crisp" 5:10. Yikes!

And I'm pretty sure that I came in last. Which, oddly enough, is currently sitting in my mind as AWESOME . I didn't run fast *and*, like I said up at the top, weird things happen in a race with less than 50 people. This one had 20. Fast people.

Don't worry, reader, you don't need to provide me any sympathy. It was AWESOME.

As far as I know, there were only two of us who are also running a marathon tomorrow . I had to hold back.

But the other person? She ran four loops (38.4 miles). Then again, she's currently ranked by Trail Runner Magazine as the #1 female trail runner in the nation, per their race points system. Her name is Van Phan, she goes by the nickname of "Pigtails", and she kicks ass.

(*** Ok, in total fairness, this is really my second DFL. But my first one came in a race where I stopped to help a very sick young woman. This one I did for myself!)

And then the next day...

I ran a 2 1/2 year PW road marathon today. It was actually a pretty easy course, though boring. Out-and-back done twice.

It was also 75 and humid at the start, and over 90 for the last two hours I was out there. At the finish line, the temperature was 96. Island Boy likes warm, but this was rough even for me.

I ran a 4:30. FWIW, I am currently a 3:40ish marathoner on a normal weekend (normal to me: 65 degrees, one race per weekend).

4:30, but I wasn't last. There were lots of folks still out there.

To put that in perspective, this was my slowest time since an ugly 4:37 at Marine Corps in 2004. That day was hot too.


1. It was only, probably, 75 and humid at Marine Corps.
2. I hadn't run 29 miles the day before.
3. I had only run 9 marathons in 2004 prior to MCM in October.

Today was my 26th of the year (by July). And my "regular" times are 30-40 minutes faster than they were in 2004.

2006 - First half review

04/01/06 Moab Marathon

Moab Marathon

Moab (like Ahab, not Mobe) is the center of the mountain biking universe. Located in SW Utah, it's surrounded by canyons and vistas very similar to where WE Coyote chased the roadrunner. Tons of other outdoorsy stuff to do in Moab. A great place to get dirty. Not a place where you might think they'd have a road marathon. But I ran one there on April Fool's Day. No foolin. Well, really it was 24 miles of road race, 1 mile of easy trail, and 1.2 miles of crazy hard trail. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First things first. It was a point-to-point course... and I picked it specifically as an experiment in downhill running. It was also a Saturday marathon, which I like - though it meant Friday travel. The website and the emails from the race director had been difficult to decrypt, really strange, so I didn't know what to expect when I showed up. Packet pickup on Friday was no problem... except for the "packet" being pretty much free of any useful information. Hmmm. Showed up for the bus to the start at 5am. The bus was there, and the driver knew where she was going: "we're headed up that hill, and we need to stop before we go off the cliff". On the bus, I came across fellow Maniacs Keith Panzer and Peggy Nelson-Panzer – an unexpected pleasure.

When we got to the top, it was impossible to tell where the start line was supposed to be... there were no race personnel... and we were in the middle of nowhere. Huh. Well, it was April Fool's Day. The race was supposed to start at 7a. At 6:53, the race director got there... gave us a few pieces of information... and pointed at the starting "line" - aka, a crack in the pavement. He honked his horn and off we went. That’s the last I saw of Keith and Peggy J. At this point, the fishy organization improved greatly. All miles were marked brightly, and seemingly accurately. Aid stations, while not overly plentiful, were fine. It turned into a nice race with jaw-dropping scenery. The weather was perfect, except for some nasty wind late in the race.

The first 8 miles were rolling, though mostly uphill (hey wait! This is supposed to be a downhill course!). Another Maniac flew by me about M2 - I assume he was in the bathroom when we started. Based on the results, I believe that this was Bill Mandler. So… sorry for not talking to you Bill! I had noticed the road signs that said OPEN RANGE but I didn't think too much about it until the cow crossed the road in front of me at M6. Moo. And Yipe!

At M8, we crested the hill at about 6,100 feet. I was puffing a bit, but it was nice to know that it wouldn't be worse than this. See, it was all downhill from here - literally and figuratively. M8-M22 was one long screaming downhill. There was even a place around M17 where the road signs cautioned trucks about the 8% downhill grade. Zoom.

Most "downhill" courses are deceptive... they'll actually have some ups along the way. Lost Dutchman and Napa look like downhill courses from their elevation charts, but they both have some major ups along the way. Not so at Moab once we got past M8. Keep arms and legs inside car; seatbelts must be fastened.

I learned a lot in this section. I *know* how to run down a hill. I know to lean into it, I know not to brake, and I know to stay in control. But what I did NOT know, which I now DO know is that a 14 mile hill causes bad brain mojo. See... in a flat, rolling, or uphill stretch, one has to think a little bit about running. Otherwise, one stops. Physics. Going downhill, one's mind can wander. And wander far. The problem is that one can start running fairly slowly and not really even notice it if one's mind is gone. This is what kept happening to me. It started with the scenery. I tried to run hard, but my splits kept coming up awful. Crap. Try again.

After one stretch, a little piece of my brain woke up and said "huh, what's going on here?" and proceeded to analyze what the rest of my brain was working on. It dawned on me that in my head, I was singing "do you want to ride with me and do you want to ride with me..." over and over. Looped. In my head. It's possible that I had been doing this for 5 minutes. Or an hour. I really couldn't tell. Don’t recognize it? Why, that's a little lyric towards the end of Coolio's Fantastic Voyage. Where I got it, why I was singing it, and why I picked that piece of the song will remain a heavy mystery. Believe me, Coolio isn't on my heavy rotation. Snap out of it!

But it was too late for my pace.

We came screaming off the hill right after M22... the final part of the race was an out down one side of the highway to M24, and then through a drainpipe under the highway, and back on a trail. The out part was terrible... we picked up a stiff headwind. It was "only" two miles, but I had a really hard time with it.

Went through the drainpipe. Side note. Why do some people feel compelled to yell in confined areas like tunnels (and drainpipes)? Yes, it is amplified. Woo. But at M24 of a hard race, it is also annoying. So don't.

A drainpipe. Just like the intro to Looney Tunes. It would have been cool if my brain started playing that song. Nope. But my brain also didn't play Coolio anymore, so I had that going for me.

M24 started the back part on the trail. Rolling hills, wide trail. Some rocks. No big deal... the wind was at my back so I could try to get some semblance of pace back and run hard, right? Wasn't happening. Cooked.

And then it got hard.

At M25, the wide trail became a narrow single track that zig zagged down/up through stream beds. That's fun at M1. At M25 of a hard race? No. I tripped and caught myself. I tripped a second time and caught myself.

Then, at about M25.5, I was coming out of a stream bed. I saw the rock. My brain... or at least the little part that had earlier poked me out of my Coolio-based stupor... said "it would be enormously silly to trip over that big rock". I think my legs must have misunderstood this message because my right foot steered directly for the rock - and was successful.

Splat. I was down. All the way. Luckily, the only rock was the one that my foot whacked... the rest of me landed in a nice thick layer of red dirt. It really did sound like WE Coyote hitting the canyon floor after being dropped from a great height though.

I got up, thanked God (though I don't think others would have interpreted my actual wording as thanks), and finished. I trailed dust-smoke just like Pigpen.

I had originally thought that I could pull 3:40-3:45 on this course. Nope. 3:56. Perhaps I was still tired from Bataan... hardest race I’ve ever done... the prior week. Perhaps the altitude got me a little bit. The wind at the end was definitely a factor, as was the splat. But mostly, I think I just did a poor job of pacing the long downhill. That was far harder than I thought it would be. Now I know.

Final note. Third marathon in a row that didn't give a medal. At Virginia Creeper, we got a nice paperweight. At Bataan, we got a very meaningful dogtag. At Moab, we got a weird piece of wood. BUT it was personalized with my name. That's cool.

If you don't need people cheering for you, if you can handle some altitude, if your knees and quads can handle 14 miles of uninterrupted downhill without exploding, and if you can keep your stress level low about some organizational laid-back-ishness, then you might really like this race.

Do you want to ride with me and do you want to ride with me?

03/26/06 The Bataan Death March


I told people that I was going to do The Bataan Death March. Some gave me a knowing look. Some said "wow, what a cool name." Ok, first things first. The Bataan Death March was a real thing, a very terrible thing, in World War II. If you don't know about it, go read this. I'll wait until you are done.

Every March, the event is commemorated with a Memorial Death March Marathon at the White Sands Missle Range in New Mexico. It's mostly active duty military personnel marching in full uniforms, boots, and 35 pound packs. However, they allow civilians to run it... now, this isn't a hardcore technical trail marathon - but it is wicked hard. Alas, knowing about the actual event from WWII, and knowing that most folks are doing the "race" in full gear (though as a walk), I absolutely cannot complain about the difficulty. By comparison, I had it easy in my shorts and my nice shoes. That said, I think it's still the most difficult race that I've done in recent memory.

Side note. We were advised to be there between 4 and 4:30am because of traffic and parking. Then we waited until 6 for the opening ceremony. At 6:30, we marched past Bataan POW survivors... very very moving. And then we were off. But it meant that I had to get up at 2:30, factoring in, uh, forcing my body to do God's work, and the drive. See the food gap between 2:30 and a 6:30 race start? Yeah, that's gonna factor in later.

Oh wait. Let's not start quite yet. Side side note. Given that the majority of the marchers are active duty folks and some ROTC folks, the age of the people around me was skewed much younger than I'm used to at a marathon. Cool! And... before we started... for, like two hours before we started, a whole lot of people were smoking. I haven't seen this many people smoke before a race except in Europe. Not Cool!

Oh yeah, there was a race. It is held within the missle range proper... we started at the base on paved roads... at about M2, we turned down a tank trail. These are wide and can be nice for running. Or not. Aside from a few miles in the middle on nice paved roads, the whole thing was on these tank trails. The first 6 miles were mostly level or slightly downhill. We hit the first hill, and more importantly to me, the headwind from hellaround M6. The first hill was big, but it was merely a bump. The second hill was a solid up between M9 and M13.8. And I don't mean a gentle, grandmother-likes-it incline. This was a HILL. A 3-STAR GENERAL ASSKICKER HILL. And the headwind. 20mph solid, with strong gusts of probably 1,000mph. Because of the proximity of the hills we were running around and the overall breeze, the headwind stayed with us for most of the day - no matter what direction we were running. Or walking. I managed to get to the top of the big hill at M13.8 by running. But my pace went from 8:20s before the hill to 9:30, to 10+. It's possible that I would have walked it faster. And then we hit a section between M14 and M20 that was net downhill, but had lots of sharp ups. I wish I could say that I blew through this. I did not. This is where I realized that between the altitude (4,000-5,500 feet... M13.8 was at the top), the wind, the heat, my approaching dehydration (yo, it's the desert), and my crappy eating the day prior and race morning, between alll that... it was likely that I was headed for a nasty crash into the wall. I didn't want to death march the Death March. But it was clear that 3:50 was out of reach. And so was 4:00. Yech.

Coming down the last section of hill between M18 and M20 was very inspiring. I saw troops. Thousands of troops. They were all going the other way up the hill. I was headed for M20 and they were headed for M9. And almost all of them hooted me, wished me luck, or called me 'sir'. I tried to return the favor when I could... I was breathing hard... but it was an experience I will remember forever.

Which is great, because M20 enters what the course organizers like to call 'the sand pit'. It isn't a pit. It's still tank trail. But for about two miles, the footing is horrid... not packed down... probably 10 inch deep sand that fills up your shoes and grabs you with every step. And in here, readers, in here is where my day went really poorly. But I will not complain. Whereas I had made it back to about 9:00s going down the hill (and should have done better, but I was cooked), I walked the pit. The whole pit. And it was hard work, because most of the sand pit was uphill. Exiting the pit, we continued uphill through M23ish, and then had a nice downhill to M24. I tried to get some kind of reasonable pace back. Couldn't.

Then at M24, the oddest thing happened. The course flattened out... woohoo... yet I absolutely could not run faster than a shuffle. I don't think it was The Wall... the glycogen-depletion monster. I know about that wall. This was different. Instead it was another kind of wall. The last two miles of the race follow(ed) a rock wall around the exterior of the base. It was sooooo monotonous. Psychologically, that was that. Finally, I rounded the end of the wall and saw the finish. And I finished.

I won't tell you my splits or my time. They sucked.

But at the end of the "race", I shook a survivor's hand, one more time. The guy was ancient. Could barely hear. But I feel like I owe my life to this guy and others like him. Very moving. Lots of things moved me today.

The support during this race was/is OUTSTANDING. Fluids every two miles, like clockwork. Army folks and volunteers at each aid station hooting. It was great. And portpotties for days. A necessity when 4,000 people are gonna be marching for 8 or 9 hours.

And chip timing. Are you listening Napa Valley? This race had chip timing. And. You got to keep your chip afterwards! The race cost 45 dollars, but you got to keep your chip. Shirt was so-so. No medal... but... we got a commemerative dog tag. Given the point of the event, this was way way WAY better than YetAnother medal.

Possibly the coolest/niftiest/neatest event I've ever done.

Definitely the hardest.

I can tell you more if you want to know more. I think I want to take a nap now.

Monday, May 29, 2006

5 Really Hard Road Marathons

These are road marathons. Trail marathons, especially single track technical stuff, are different things entirely.

1. Hogeye in Arkansas. Hot and hilly.

2. Heart of America in Missouri. Also hot and hilly.

3. Mt Desert Island in Maine. Hilly and generally dismal (wind rain) conditions.

4. Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. Very hilly and stressful course.

5. Big Sur in California. Hilly. I really don't think this race is as hard as some people describe. There's a trick to it. Because of the windy road next to the ocean, you can see the long uphills for several miles in front of you. This is difficult psychologically, even though these hills aren't really any worse than hills in other races.

Monday, May 22, 2006

02/04-05/06 Tybee Island and Ocala Double

My First Double

Once upon a time, I thought about doing the Mt Si 50 miler. As a part of training, I knew I needed to do some back-to-back long runs (where you run long on both Saturday and Sunday)... so I decided to do a back-to-back marathon weekend. I found the Tybee Island Marathon (2/4) and the Ocala Marathon (2/5). The logistics didn't look too bad - about a 5 hour drive between the races; lots of hotels. I'm in.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I decided against the 50 miler. However, the idea of doing two marathons on consecutive days seemed intriguing. Let's do it.

Side note about Tybee Island. It's near Savannah, Georgia. Now... I travel A LOT. And I'm here to tell you that Savannah is one of the harder cities around to navigate. The north-south interstate (I-95) is actually about 10 miles west of town. There's a nice cut of east-west interstate (I-16) to get you into town. But that's it. Traveling east-west... especially on the side of town that I-16 doesn't touch... is really hard.

My Weekend Goals
  1. Saturday - Tybee Island+ Beat 4+ Run evenly
  2. Sunday - Ocala+ Beat 4:30+ Don't die
Ok. Tybee Island is, hello, an island, which means it is windy. This was one of the windier races I've done. It is also one of the flattest courses imaginable. Flatter than Houston, flatter than Bismarck. Way flatter than Myrtle Beach. Possibly even flatter than the old Mardi Gras course. The course itself is difficult to describe. Kind of an 8 mile out-and-back followed by a 5 mile out-and-back that you do twice. Except that they aren't quite out-and-backs. Sort of loopy, but not really. One icky thing. We passed the start/finish line 6 or 7 times. Oy.

The race itself started out somewhat crowded, so I started out slower than normal. This felt right, especially considering the extra race I'd be running the next day. The crowd stretched out rather quickly though, and I hit my groove by mile 3. I enjoyed the scenery... the houses... the lighthouse... the peekaboo look at the ocean. That's an interesting thing. Just like Myrtle Beach, you don't actually see the ocean much during the race, even though you spend most of it right there. Aid stations were good, though small. People wooted for us from their porches.
As I passed mile 8, I saw the eventual men's winner heading the other way. He was almost to 13. Hee. A few minutes later, I saw three women go by. One was running next to a really big dude (I don't know who was drafting whom). That would turn out to be our eventual women's winner... a coolrunning poster named 'katerun'. Go kate! The third was Molly. Now, Molly didn't seem overly friendly. But I won't forget Molly because she had a big label on her top that said, well, M O L L Y.

I ran well through 10. I was consciously holding back and running easy. My car was parked right around mile 12... I stopped there briefly to drop off a jacket that I clearly didn't need. It might rain and it WAS windy. But it was also very humid and the jacket was cooking me slowly. Alas, between the jacket stop, a real potty stop, and another dreaded false potty stop, I probably lost 3 minutes.

The hardest miles for me in most races are miles 13-20. But during mile 14 of Tybee, I noticed a spring in my step and realized I was smiling. Goofy. For no particular reason. I picked it up a little. Started passing people. I usually pass a few people in the last miles of a race, but I was passing tons. Am I cruising? Or did everyone just go out too fast? A little of both. I start playing leap frog with this older guy in an ironman finisher hat. He's NicePaceGuy... because every time I pass him, he says "you are running a nice pace". Then he passes me a few minutes later . Mile 23. I'm still going strong. I pick it up a little more. What's the deal? Was it something special at the Catholic School pasta dinner the night before? NicePaceGuy passes me. I pass him. Weeee....

I finish in 3:52:57. Cool. Especially considering the wind, the humidity, and the 3 minutes of silly stops I made. Cool. Just as importantly, I ran a 40ish second negative split... which means that I ran evenly. Both Saturday goals accomplished.

And then all hell breaks loose. Boom. Rain. Rain. Rain. I run a mile back to my car in the rain (hey, coupled with the mile I did to get to the start, and I actually did 28.2 on Saturday). The rain stopped soon thereafter, but I was very happy not to be a 5 hour marathoner on Saturday.
Drive to Ocala. In 5 hours, I stop at 3 rest stops to potty 4 times, plus a Wendys stop (2 potatoes and a salad. Almost some chili). The pasta meal at Ocala is suspicious. So I refuel at... Taco Bell. That's right. I carbo load/refuel at Taco Bell. Don't ask. It was there. I figured that I needed to eat 6,000 calories on Saturday to refuel and be ready for Sunday. In counting what I actually consumed, I hit 4,500. Uh oh.

Sunday morning. Time to run Ocala. It is 32 degrees and windy. It's Florida, jiminy crickets. The race is hard to find, but I make it in plenty of time. I'm there early enough to turn into a popsicle. Star Spangled Banner. We're off. And immediately, I notice two things:
  1. I'm stiff, but I'm not dead. I start slowly, but I'm not hurting. At all.
  2. Holy hell. Ocala is hilly. Who knew?
My Ocala race experience was really weird. I was totally zoned (out? in?) for the duration of the race. It was like I was a 3rd party watching the whole thing. It was sort of a figure 8 loop course... so I never saw the leaders. I remember that the rural setting was nice, but the traffic was sucky. I remember that the aid stations were fine, but that they used styrofoam cups. I remember that I stopped at a portpottie about mile 20. When I came out, all the aid station workers were kind of staring at me. So I raised my hands as though I just won something, and they all cheered. "WOOOO! I WENT POTTY... ALL BY MYSELF!!!!" They cheered more. And I ran off. And I was not hurting. Not even kind of. I didn't speed up in the later miles like I did at Tybee... but I didn't slow down either. I remember saying hello to some horses... lots of horses south of Ocala.

I finished in 4:02:58. 5th in my age group... partially because it was a hilly course, and partially because the fast people stayed home (due to the cold? the superbowl pregame that started at 5:30am?). The food at the end is almost nonexistent, but there's beer. I bypass the beer in favor of 3 full sugar generic colas. Go high-gly carbs go. I do not pee after the 3 colas and bottles of water. It's clear that I am dehydrated. I go back to my hotel room to take a bath and a nap. I hit my Sunday goals. Actually, I soundly thrash my 'beat 4:30' goal.

Two things from the TMI department:

  1. I basically fell asleep on the toilet in "The Thinker" pose. Hee.
  2. I chafed, just like at Disney. No, not my nipples or my thighs. Not my crotch-al area. Unh unh. My little fireman hisownself has been rubbed the wrong way! No! Yargh!
So the main thing I learned about running a double is that body glide needs to go on extra places.

Not really. I learned a lot more. Mostly, that I can do it. Also... in both this weekend and back at Disney's Goofy, I was soooo afraid of hitting the wall that I ran too conservatively. I could have beaten 3:50 at Tybee and definitely beaten 4 at Ocala if I'd tried. But I didn't want to 'splode.

But you know what?

I ran a double. 3:52 the first day, 4:02 the second. For a number of years after I was sick, my marathon PR was 4:04 (currently, it is 3:45). This weekend, I beat my old PR by over a minute. The day after running another full marathon.

I probably won't BQ this year, but I still think this was pretty cool.

You can do just about anything you want.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

01/07-08/06 Disney's Goofy

The First Goofy

Disney expected "a couple hundred" folks would be interested in doing the goofy, and ultimately 3000ish brave crazy souls signed up. I was one of many. In my case, running tons of long races is pretty normal. I talked to lots of Goofy-ists, though, who signed up kind of on a whim. And not all of these people seemed to train for it. I have no idea how they did. More on THAT in a bit.

I trained for it. In fact, I ran a reverse goofy (I called it 'the serious') on Thanksgiving weekend: a full on saturday and a half on sunday. That gave me the confidence that I could do the goofy without spontaneously combusting. Other than that, it didn't teach me much.

So, let's talk about the weekend. Disney's Magical Express may be magical, but it isn't exactly what I'd call "express". I got to the Port Orleans - French Quarter on Thursday night... and went to the expo 20 minutes before it opened on Friday morning. There was already a snaky line out the door waiting to get in. Ooops. This didn't bode well. And once we got to the merchandise, much of the goofy stuff was gone - people had gotten to what little existed on Thursday. Incidentally, when I went back to the expo later Friday afternoon, basically ALL of the goofy stuff was gone. Oh, and the shuttles between the Disney properties and the expo? Kind of insane. Not magical. Nor express.

Time to race. I had two goals for this weekend:
  1. I wanted to run the half in 1:40ish, which is good for me
  2. I wanted my aggregate goofy time to be under 6 hours.
The half on Saturday was an out-and-back between Epcot and Magic Kingdom. I was in the first corral... but it was still unbelievably crowded as we got going. I knew early on that I wasn't going to have a good day and my goal was out of reach. My legs wouldn't move. Finish time? 1:50. Yuck. I was not happy.

Pop quiz, hotshot: Which of the following might contribute to a sucky race?
  1. Running a full marathon six days prior in 75 degree heat, 75% humidity conditions.
  2. Being forced to wait/stand/sit for TWO FULL HOURS in 28 degree wind chill conditions before the race.
  3. Getting one hour of sleep the night before the race. Between my body clock being on west coast time and the need to get up at darkthirty to eat/prep/catch the shuttle, I only slept from 1:45-2:45.
  4. Having a potty attack at mile 2. D'oh. I knew I should have visited the bushes beforehand. Didn't. Couldn't hold it. Lost a minute AND any chance of pacing myself properly.
  5. Being sick. I am completely flu-like sick right now. I first noticed it right after the half. These things usually 'cook' for a day or two before you notice, so it was likely that I wasn't right during the race.

Yeah, there's a fine line between reasons and excuses... but all of those things were true and I definitely ran poorly. First goal - not met. Plus, I lost a little of my buffer for the second goal. In order to beat 6 for goofy, I now needed to run 4:09 or better in the full. Normally, this is a sure bet. But the day after a half? When I was already experiencing 'mummy legs'? Hmmm.
After the race on Saturday, I tried to eat eat eat. But I couldn't eat all that much (see, I was sick... and I hadn't quite figured it out yet). I don't much recall what I had, but I do know that it wasn't the typical pre-marathon carbo load.

Side note. I stayed at the Port Orleans French Quarter. They have these refillable cups that you can buy for 12 bucks... and you get unlimited drinks at either of the two Port Orleans hotels for the length of your stay. Highly recommended, even though the cups don't hold much (so you will refill your cup about 150 times during a meal).

Alright... so I noticed from the handy race map that the French Quarter was only a couple blocks from the race start. Wouldn't it be swell to sleep through the silly shuttles and NOT wait for two hours in the cold? Wouldn't that be cool? Nah, the race officials told me that I couldn't do it. Specifically, that the cops wouldn't let people walk it. So, like a sheep, I stupidly got up at darkthirty, took the shuttle, and waited at the start for two hours. During which time I watched other people walk from my hotel to the start. Fooey.

Now, Disney did a really interesting thing with their corrals. They had two different starts - red and blue. Red folks got to run through the front of Epcot. Blue folks ran through the back (the lands). The two colors merged right after Epcot into one course. What was interesting was that it was NOT "red is fast, and blue is slower". They alternated corrals. Red got elites, second fastest corral, fourth fastest, etc. Blue got fastest non-elite, third fastest, etc. I was in the second fastest, so I got to line up behind the elites. Interesting thing watching a few of the elites sorta saunter down to the start as we're all counting down the final 10 seconds. And then BOOM, fireworks, off we go. And that's the last I'd see of the elites.

After the merge, the course follows the beginning of the half marathon course up through magic kindgom. Then it veers off and you go visit animal kingdom, mgm, the boardwalk area, and finish back through epcot.

It was C O L D. But, unlike the half, it was not windy. I spent most of the race obsessing about my buffer and whether 4:09 was gonna happen and if I might hit the wall. I saw a few fellow Maniacs during the race and had lots of people ask me about my Maniac shirt and I recall that I talked a lot and I really don't remember much of anything. It was all very mushy. I do remember that the organization was great. I liked the HOOOOGE mile markers. I really liked that the early ones were lit for the pre-dawn hour. I liked the idea of the recorded messages from the race director at some of these mile markers. See, he'd come on and tell you about the upcoming miles and give you strategy tips. At least I think that was what was going on. Alas, I didn't really like the execution of this idea. It's kind of like encountering a band during a race... you aren't next to it for long enough to get the whole vibe. I never got to hear the full strategy... I was gone by the time he started talking about it. This was especially bad at M18. What I heard: You are coming up on the longest part of the course. The strategy I like to use here is... and that's all I heard. Gee, thanks for telling me that the next part is the suckiest.

In the end, I finished in 4:01, giving me an aggregate Goofy time of 5:52. I have no idea how this compares to others because they didn't do aggregation in the results... the Goofy results were posted alphabetically. Now that they know that people ARE interested in this, I hope they'll consider doing a little more with it. And I hope they print up more shirts and hoodies in S M and L sizes.

As for that 4:01, I ran waaaaay too conservatively because I was scared of, you know, scarywallmonsters. I had lots of gas in the tank when I crossed the finish line. And looking at some of my splits, I could tell that I pulled some (in hindsight) bonehead moves... including the dreaded false potty stop. The one where your brain says "YOU NEED TO PEE", so you stop to do it, but nothing happens, so you stand there trying to coax it out, tick tick tick tick, nothing happens, and you finally give up. I lost a minute to a false potty stop. I also had the mother of all UNNECESSARY walk breaks at mile freakin 24. I only walked for 30-45 seconds, but I didn't get my pace back afterwards - and usually I fly through the last two miles. I didn't need to walk.

Oh well. I'll definitely do this next year.

Favorite sensory memory: while it was way cool to see all the Disney characters (and I'm pretty sure that Hercules' babe was hitting on me in Epcot), there was something else entirely which has stuck with me. And it is a really odd thing. Right before/after magic kingdom on both days, there was a gigantic speaker that kept blasting the first few bars of When You Wish Upon A Star. Looped. Over and over. And it was so loud, you could hear it for miles. But the weird part was that it was NOT a nice piano or strings or a singer. No, it seemed to be some kind of Viking War Call Death Chant thingie. I have no idea what actually made that noise, but it still haunts me.


Over and over again.

(I would later find out that this was the ship's horn from Disney's Cruise Line. Aha!)

Have I mentioned that I am now really sick? I am. I don't blame Goofy, though it is pretty clear that Goofy made it worse. I think being sick explains not just my (poor for my expectations) times, but also how I experienced the weekend. It was all very mooshy and surreal.

2006 (TX) Texas Marathon


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