Nov 14 2012

The Kansas City Marathon Part 2, or, The Great Barbeque Debacle

When we last found our hero, he had just finished his first marathon of the year, set a PR by nearly 10 minutes, shared some heart with 7,000 other runners and nearly killed himself in the process. He was on cloud nine. Nothing could possibly make this moment any better than a customary “free” after-race beer; the BBQ would just be icing on the cake.

Staring into Washington Park with the new-found freedom of not having to run another god-$#&^ step, he took in the scene. There was a band preforming off to the center left… they were just background noise though… perhaps they could casually be enjoyed later; first and foremost would be locating the two places to spend the bib tags. Easy enough, perhaps, but the immediately obvious BBQ tent to the far left had no patrons and prominent prices displayed with a crew of moderately restless workers behind the counter. Could that be the free BBQ? Probably not – it was likely a sadly misinformed vendor watching next to no sales accumulate thanks to the free BBQ at some other vendor. The runner feels kinda bad for them, but looks on…

A little further down the line there is what must be the beer facility, but even this is a slight question mark; its quite unbusy. Well that’s gotta be it… approaching it does indeed appear to be the place as there are 3 poured beers awaiting to be taken. There is a Boulevard truck parked behind this tent, but the three beverages before him are of a color and head unfamiliar; these are not Boulevard brews. This is not a huge disappointment (although it is) though because this was the largely expected result of further running commercialization and popularity. In 2007 the runner was offered THREE Boulevards of CHOICE. Simply unheard of now. In 2008 and 2009 there were, yes, Boulevards. But what was this drivel? Hogspit? uh… free beer? “What beer is this?” the runner asks. “Miller 64” comes the reply. Ah. Never had that one, but no matter. It’s an after marathon beer and it tastes good! (all things considered). So, yes, fine. Beer is beer here. Ok… so supposing… let’s find this BBQ.

Stupidly the runner returns to the BBQ tent and sheepishly asks, knowing a complete question likely isn’t required, they’ve probably been getting this all day… “where is the … yeah.” They’ve answered this question before. Across the way is a red wooden makeshift building with BBQ advertised and once again, prominently displayed (oUtRaGeouS!!!) prices?? Heading over there, there appears to be 4-5 runners milling about alternately studying the menu, staring at the ground, the sky, slowly walking away, and here’s one or two… getting a sample. Hmm…. ok – let’s have a sample the runner thinks? But it dawns on him quickly enough with the fragments of comments and actions here — these are the main courses.

The runners are being handed, tossing in the trash, tossing back (down the hatch), or studying thimbles full of containing some sort of meat which may be coated in a sauce. Almost laughing and with a chuckling straight face the runner hands over his bib ticket as an experiment… knowing, but not really believing until it happens what will be handed back…. but it is. A plastic shot glass of something purporting to be BBQ. It’s quite comical. It’s not even enough to get a taste. Well whatever. Not even caring really… it was just icing on the cake after all. But seriously? What the $#&* just happened here?

———-

Ok let’s get serious for a moment. What theΒ $#&* did just happen here?

That’s the motto – and they’re sticking to it. It was for 2012, and now this is the 2013 model. It works in many ways… you could even not have free BBQ at the finish line — just have some directions and information and possibly free samples from Arthur Bryants, Gates, Oklahoma Joes… wherever. But don’t make this the motto and THEN put a damn bib ticket on the bib which is good for a thimble! It was a joke! Now I’m going to take the high road and assume there was just a miscommunication. But it is possible I assure you. The Hospital Hill Run does it every year. Somehow that race, which costs half the price, provides a LOT of race goodies, AND manages a BBQ SANDWICH, + coleslaw! You think I’m kidding? Check this out!

This marvelous photo from June 2010 depicts the delicacies which can be enjoyed at Hospital Hill. I forgot the beans too! A sandwich! Beans! Coleslaw! TWO BOULEVARDS!!! WOW!!!!

Those were the days. Gone is the Boulevard from Hospital Hill too (they’ve gone to Michelob Ultra) but they still have the BBQ. That’s Three Little Pigs BBQ btw… so shout out to them.

Here’s a shot from the November Runner’s World. Page 28.

Standard Fare.

But here’s what it *COULD BE*

 

The TITLE event for the Paris of the Plains, The City of Fountains… of which no one from out of town has heard before. What they HAVE heard of though is Kansas City BBQ. Do us proud please!

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Jul 15 2012

Psycho Psummer 20 (approx) 2012

In many ways this race was the same I’d done the past couple of years and in some ways it was different…

I was always going to run it — subconsciously signed up from the start. There wasn’t a decision making process. I just drank a few beers one night, and the next morning I was signed up. No matter… I would have signed up anyway right?

The week leading up to this race I was filled with a sense of dread and trepidation … I just supposed I wasn’t quite trained up. This didn’t turn out to be the case at all as I was hoping… so that’s good. The actual day before that nervousness began to fade and I became genuinely excited for it if a little anxious.

Race morning came and I made it down there just fine. Same shelter, same starting area, same parking spot. I really count myself lucky that in all the places in the world I could have ended up – its just a 20 minute drive to WyCo lake park and well within the radius of virtually all Trail Nerds runs. I also count myself, and the rest of the KC running community lucky that Dick Ross of SeeKCRun is so generous and eager to show up to running events time after time after time… no matter how big or small or far. It’s so nice having that service!

Well there is a large crowd gathered wearing yellow for 50k, blue for 20 miler, and white for 10 miler. From what I can tell the vast majority of people are wearing yellow… I am really shocked at everyone wearing yellow. Many look well prepared and like seasoned veterans, but some downright look like newbies out for a 5k. I’m well aware however that looks can be madly deceiving and so I don’t really think on it much. Also, there will likely be many more white bib runners showing up shortly as there is still an hour to go until their start time.

After a few very short words by Ben the race is started promptly on time at 8:00. There may be a few more than last year… its a pretty good crowd but not overly crowded. I spot a few “big names” such as Mindy Coolman who won last year and who two years ago I ran with for a while trying to keep with her harrowing pace. I saw a couple of other runners I conversed with on the course last year and an old neighbor of mine who is obsessed with trail running. That’s not a bad obsession.

Well its across the fields and into the woods. Quite crowded but moving along quickly enough. About the 1.6 mile mark I nearly wiped out and made a remarkable recovery I thought. Easy to do as this course is ROUGH! There is no mud this year, NONE. Not one tiny itsy bitsy little bit. I had thought in the weeks leading up to the race that our epic drought this summer would be a good test for the question: “How sadistic is Ben Holmes?” There has been so much mud in years past – so much – I’d had visions of the RD and minions with tanks of water in weeks and days leading up to the race making huge tracts of mud and working quite hard to make several sections almost impassible. Not so; my fears were unfounded. There was not a drop of liquid on this course that was not from a bottle or a sweat gland… it was bone dry.

Well no mud made for fairly quick running. I guess the ground wasn’t as soft in some places and the dust kicking up was enough to choke at times… but for the most part the lack of mud made for some quick traveling down trails where it was quite apparent you *would* have been mucking it through. I continued to trip along almost wiping out again and then eventually having a small wipe out and then almost wiping out again. I was having a hell of a time staying on my feet today… the course didn’t really thin out too much until after the first aid station… and then after the second (first big station) thinned out some more… but still people close by at all times.

As I closed on the first loop I noted the familiar hills here. There’s like 3 or 4 or 5 or 6… a couple of them are tough, and one of them is downright f&%king hard. But anyhow… on the first go-round they weren’t too bad. I walked up them briskly as with most hills… noted my Garmin beeping the 10th mile about .6 miles from the finish line making this 20 miler a good 21.2 miler. Trotted down to the finish line where I saw the two clocks going with the two start times… that is nice… were they like that in past years?

Still feeling ok I headed out again for the second loop. Field is pretty spread out now, but still a few people on either side as we enter the trails at the top of the hill for the true entrance to round two…

I think I’ve discovered the problem with all this wiping out I’m doing today. I’ve been following people too closely (sorry!) and thereby have been unable to view the upcoming trail at the optimal planning distance which at a decent pace should realistically be about 10 feet? Problem is of course with someone there in front of me that far in front is hidden. So yeah, now… running by myself THIS is better!

For the first couple miles on lap two I’m busting ass. For the trail I’ve run so far and the trail I know that lies ahead… I’m really kicking a pace here. Why? I would like an even split I guess (first lap 2:06), or just a good time (for me). I did a little bit of preparation the night before see… I saw 2:09 and 2:29 for laps 1 and 2 last year, total 4:38. So I set my watch for 13:15 pace which I’ll need to conquer to finish under 4:38 for 21 miles. That’s all I wanna do… just beat last year’s time. But would I like to beat it soundly? Hell yea I would. That little no mud thing is making a big difference too, probably… I concede the probably because I’d like to just think I was out there killin’ it this year and gettin’ it done compared to last year. Well… last year I was trudging through mud… although last year’s mud was nothing compared to 2010 mud… but I digress… where was I? Oh yeah… I was running fast on those first few miles of lap two, feeling good if a little fragile.

Cruising along each aid station does provide a nice interlude and each time I leave one I feel so refreshed I could sprint to the finish — this thought is always quickly dashed on the next hill. For the first entire lap I had been thinking things like “Maybe I should have signed up for the 50k” “Wow, I think I could really do the 50k after all” “This should have been the year I signed up for the 50k” “If I didn’t have other commitments right after this, I might could even step UP to the 50k today!”. Yeah… that was lap 1.

Now lap two has continued to go quite well until the final 3 miles. Those last 3 miles are soul crushing. There’s that hill… it’s not the first of the last ones and its not the last one… I think it’s second or third to last? It doesn’t look that daunting or seem that different than the other ones… but its a killer. Literally in fact. I saw three corpses (fresh) on the way up. Now the entire race the entire time on any race… I don’t think I’ve ever once “stopped” — I’ve walked slow, trudged, crawled, maybe stood still for a few moments to pee or consume something… but I don’t believe I’ve ever stopped before. On this hill, today, I did… stop. I stood there for a moment, hands on my knees bent over and took several breaths. Then I continued on. This hill could do that. It will make you stop.

Well, I continued on this sadistic twisted course for the last 3 miles that feels like groundhog’s day. The damn thing never ends. It’s one more hill, around the next bend, across one more road, wait, one more hill… it just goes and goes. My GPS already died a couple miles back – nearly same place it did last year I think. Do I need a new one? Possibly… and the course keeps going. I’ve had some mild cramps, nothing really bad but the cramps always scare me. That’s what scares me about a 50k… that they’ll just get worse and worse until I can run no more.

Well its been 33 kilometers anyway… and thankfully that sadistic race director has had a kind streak somewhere in his planning when he allowed for the course end to be down hill, so therefore I’m able to run it in looking strong.

Well that’s that. I get handed a great looking medal and to my utter delight an ice cold beer. I’m also delighted to see a 4:24 on the clock beating my last year’s time by 14 minutes.

Now I’m thinking October Lake Perry 50k… Hmmmm….

(maybe here’s why I was wiping out all day… running with eyes closed)

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Apr 16 2012

Rock The Parkway 2012 – Race Report

Well I haven’t written a race report in while it seems like, so why not?

Arriving around 6:25 or so we’ve got roughly an hour to go, parking in the southernmost lot which seems quite accessible! Don chip, number, vaseline, shed jacket and head off to the staging area.

This morning has gone perfect so far. I didn’t oversleep… which rarely happens (happened two times over 60+ races and one of them I didn’t care about and might have overslept on purpose) – but it’s important today because I’m carpooling. Woke up a couple of times in anticipation… 3:25am and 4:50am were the times I believe… well the 4:50 ends up being it because the alarm is set for 5 anyway. My usual ritual is coffee and cereal so I go for that but today I’m trying something a bit extra too. I fry up an egg (over medium!) and eat it with a little hot sauce. Next time I think I’ll have two. Protein is good! And I did eat some cereal too so I have some fuel for the day. I didn’t make coffee at home so I quickly stopped for some at a gas station en-route to picking up my running partner. For some reason I opted for “french vanilla with X-tra caffeine” — I reasoned that if I was just getting one 12oz serving this would be not only adequate but welcome.

Picked up partner without incident and we made it there no problem. Near the end of the ride though I begin to feel a bit of unwelcome jitters which I attributed to the “X-tra” coffee I was drinking. I didn’t drink the rest.

Ok… so we’re back to the staging area. They have a lot of stuff set up looks like. Quite a few tents in a small area. And… what’s this? 90 porta-potties. We literally had our pick. I entered one that was “still sealed” all the toilet paper in their wrappers, everything squeaky clean untouched. It might have been manufactured that morning. Exiting we made our way around the staging area and I found a nice cup of regular coffee. See this morning was too perfect…(to follow up the perfect training, if you’ve been following along) the weather was supposed to be torrential showers if not worse and it was cool and calm. Bathrooms accessible, everything on time, normal breakfast + protein, complementary coffee. Good to go!

We entered the chute with about 25 minutes to go. It was sparsely populated. Made it up to the 1:50 where we stood for a moment and I hemmed and hawed for a moment deciding that I’d take another run for the plethora of porta-pots instead of wait out the 20mins doing nothing. As I raced off for them they seemed a bit further than they’d looked and as I approached I realized it wouldn’t be a quick turnaround. Despite the 90+ PoPs there were ample lines at each. I waited in one for a bit. I didn’t even need to go I realized. At all. It was now 10 minutes to race time. With the massive congestion every where getting worse by the second I decided to head back to the chute.Β  About 7 minutes to go at the 1:50 pace markers and no sign of my race buddy. He’d probably moved on to suit his own needs I presumed so I stood around for a few moments getting ready for the race… then it dawned on me… What was I doing at the 1:50 anyway? Being overly conservative, that’s what! I remembered my goal: 1:44:xx. So if that was my goal, why the heck was I lined up at 1:50? Good question Bob. Ok, so I move up to 1:45. Great. I think I did this once before though… lined up at 1:45 and then eventually fell impossibly behind. Maybe that was my hold up. In any case I felt ok standing there for the next 5 minutes. The gun sounded and we were off.

Pace very comfortable and I’m pleased to look at the splits on our SmartPacing strategy that takes the 8/mi pace and let’s you slack off the first couple miles. That’s exactly what I need, it’s perfect and rightly so of course! It’s quite crowded at the beginning but not unbearable. I edge up to one of the 1:45 pace leaders Roger Samuel and mention to him that I remember him from the 2007 KC marathon pace group that he lead. That was the 4:10 group. So, anyway… had a minor conversation and then just continued to run. He was quite enthused overall and tried to get the crowd into it… which they did comply somewhat. I will say the crowd was lacking at times… but forgivable. Roger receives top marks in all categories though!

Well the first aid station comes up and yes I do want to partake not only because of pace group leader urging but the fact that despite the cool temps it is humid and I’m sweating a LOT through mile 1-2. Then, somehow it looks like as I grab a cup and drink and slow to drink it Roger slips behind me. I try to help him back up but it seems like hes already back up never really fell down so I don’t think anything of it and race on ahead.

Follow the other pace group leader on his heels the next couple miles.

Roger seems to be missing though…

Pace group leader drops back for about a minute to look for him but hes gone.

We do mile 6 which is scheduled to be 7:45 its nailed in 7:42…. yeah so now its actually looking like this thing is doable. I’m kinda worried about the pace leader though. Did I trip him up? Did he strain something and drop out?

The other pace leader is on a tear and is kinda putting me behind a bit… I’m staying within striking distance though, only slightly worried.

After worrying some more I believe I can hear Roger’s voice behind me at about mile 8. He’s back.

About mile 8-9 shoe is untied. I ran with it like that for a while.

Mile 10, aid station. Partake… eat the last of my cliff shot bloks and tie my shoes. Now feels like I’m 45 seconds behind pace group leaders but I don’t think its that far.

And I keep on running. Not giving up, and yes, speeding up.

And would you look at this. About 1 mile to go and I’m easily gaining on my pace leaders who seem to be slowing. They’ve overcompensated (on purpose I think, and only slightly) and I’m finally able to close the gap with them and surge ahead. This was their plan though by design all along. At this point on the “out” they commented that this is when we’d be “leaving the nest” πŸ™‚ Well it worked out exactly true. I was quite scared I would have to log a 1:45 something but I was comfortably in the 1:44s. I even picked up the pace enough to where if I had really hit it, really gave it all, I might have stupidly dead sprinted across the line to get a 1:43:barely. My calves however had other ideas. As I sped up to a moderate trot over the last 400m they told me “no heroics. or we’ll cramp” and that was that… I trotted it in. Saw some friends too about 400m out… and that was a nice adrenaline boost. Definitely shaved another couple seconds.

Post race was great. Rock the Parkway really put on a phenomenal run.

Two comments:

My friends that ran the 5k told me a disturbing story. They were waiting in line to a porta-pot prior to the start of the Half-Marathon which was 0730. 5k started at 0745. So presumably quite close to 730 staff goes through the porta pot area shouting “ALL BLUE BIB WEARERS (blue bib=half yellow bib=5k) TO THE FRONT OF THE LINES NOW!!!!! THEY’VE GOT TO GET TO THE STARTING LINE NOW!!!!!!!” so by the account I heard all 80% of blue bibs immediately jumped the line on all yellow bibs, some of whom who no doubt had been waiting a long time suddenly were once again at the back of the line.

I understand the logic in this, I do. But I can tell you at any race of any large size I’ve been to… the porta pots always have lines. Up to and including and over the race start time. If you wait to start the race until the lines are clear the race will never start, ever. Look, I have to piss just as bad as the next guy… but its on the runner to plan it. Start the race on time, and afford no special circumstance especially in stride to any particular group as it will not win out.

Ok that’s all I have to say on that matter.

Only other complaint? Same medals for all runners. Huh?

1. Half-marathoners cannot distinguish themselves from 5kers medal wise
2. 5kers have nothing higher to aspire to, they should WANT a larger/better medal
3. Multiple medals are cool. You get to check out what everyone else got and the small upgrades can be cool to observe
4. Hospital Hill & KC Marathon have this mechanic down. Learn from them.
5. Leaves Half-Marathoners feeling cheated and 5k runners feeling sheepishly overqualified.

I mean that is once nice medal. There could have been two really nice iterations of it. Next year?

In wrap up: Great race. Set PR. See ya next year.

 

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Nov 20 2011

Haven’s Trail Run 2011 Race Report

Holy crap, I won a race!

Not first in age group, not first by default, not third. FIRST! Sweet huh? It may not have been the most impressive win ever by the numbers, but by golly I’ll take it. It was a race and there was competition… despite what the results may or may not show to you.

I went into the thing hoping to best my last year’s time of 30:10 and just finish under 30 minutes, having run 32 something in 2009. I knew this wouldn’t be extremely easy because the course is fairly tough. Oh there’s nothing that looks too daunting about it after pedestrian inspection — but when you’re trying to maintain a quick pace over the whole thing it can really do a number on you.

So anyway… show up race morning and immediately run into Tad… hah! I knew he couldn’t resist! Are he and I now the only two to run the thing all 3 years? Well probably someone else has… not sure I’ll try to track down the missing 2009 results and see!

Well it’s at least 45 minutes to race time so Tad and I forwent the shuttle and took a leisurely stroll to the race starting area. Tad had already been there once and made mention already that I might win the race — but its a familiar jest — you always wanna joke about who’s going to show up (and more importantly who will not) and thereby allow a win by default! Well down at the staging area there are indeed not many people… a couple milling about here, another couple over the- nevermind those are volunteers… yea not many people here today. I made the again familiar joke though that we could expect a shuttle load to show up at any moment packed with Kenyans High Schoolers with racing flats and trail junkies who eat Haven’s for breakfast.

After a lot of standing around race time drew near… and sure enough here came one last entrant: a guy hops out of the bed of a truck and someone remarks – oh glad you could make it for your 2nd 5k today! Well I was pretty sure I knew where he had run… I had even briefly entertained doing it myself… there was a 5k on Ft. Leavenworth the same morning… their annual Turkey Trot. Same race where I actually got my 5k PR in 2007. I haven’t really run it since because of the Haven’s which is always scheduled on the same day. Given the choice I will choose Haven’s every single time as I’m really starting to love trail running.

Ok… so this guy is on his 2nd 5k of the day… fine. That could work to my advantage as he could be tired from the first 5k… or… that could have just been his warm-up race. He looked minimally like a mild competitor. Looking around otherwise… well it looked well in hand but you never know. Having been at many many 5ks now you just never know who’s going to take you for a ride!

Well the horn was blown and all 22 of us (yes, only 22 runners… you were bound to find out at some point!) started up the hill. This is quite a hill and makes for one hell of a race start as every one typically at local 5ks takes off quite quickly. Needless to say at the top I was winded! Yes winded! Here, with a chance to win the darn thing and I am out of breath and feel like quitting a scant 1:19 into the run!

Well I’m in the lead and running fairly comfortably, if winded… a little unsure if I can hold the pace. Never having lead any race before… it’s a little different being out front… *you’re* dictating the pace *you* could take a wrong turn… oh wait I can do that (take a wrong turn) any time! Well it wasn’t long before I heard an exchange behind me about pacing, what-not, and then – Tad: “that guy there’s going to win the race” – uh oh Tad. That sounds dangerous at this point! Really dangerous! It’s like probably 2:20 into the race now and I’m feeling like it’s seriously time to quit — or at least bow out and hand “the contender” the reins and have a nice leisurely jog in – hoping to get under 30 anyway.

Well somehow I’m maintaining… and the course begins to diversify into rocky accents and descents, some quite steep. These are wonderful! Not only am I going to momentarily forget to think about how much I need to quit while I’m concentrating on going up and down these things… I’m thinking I can probably gain some ground besides… I specialize in these things! Surefoot Bob, that’s me! I might stumble all night and day over strewn toys, dogs and kids but by golly I will RACE you down Stone Mountain! We even get to one that is quite steep with a rope for suppo- no. No time for that… I just raced down the thing a millimeter from total disaster. It’s ok… I think I met the deductible already this year.

Now in the open field section. Still hurting, but still hanging on. Still resisting the urge to look back, but I’ve been hearing someone back there for most of the race I think…. Well the open field ends by taking a sharp right up a steep hill… it is here I think I’ll be able to get a glance of anyone behind me as I’m taking the turn… due to angle, fatigue, dementia… something can’t quite see where the contender is… well I start up the hill and its a killer. A killer. Ok so I walk for a minute here. After walking for a few moments I can hear the volunteer behind me cheering on the next contestant. Saying “he’s slowing, now’s your chance” or something to that effect. My one hope would be that he’d be stopping to walk too. I treated this as wishful thinking though … it would be a tortoise beats the hare moment as I outgunned him to now — he’ll just trot on by at a nice steady pace and I’ll be resounded to second. I walked as long as I dared… when I could feel his breathing down my neck and took off at a slow trot still up the massive hill.

This is also where a wrong turn (or lack thereof really) was taken in 2009, but I wasn’t concerned knowing to be paying attention here. Both my shoelaces have been undone since the open field but I dare not tend to them as that would lose precious time. Finally the hill was crested and its back into the woods, via one of those uphill rocky formations… my specialty remember? I think this is where I really closed it out. Once I beat him on that big hill that was it… I won. I didn’t know this at the time though… I was still running scared. I ran as fast as I could muster sprinting through the woods down the same hill we’d just run up on a street…. and…

…back into the open field. Back to just what I feared – one more uphill so that we could come down on the finish line hill. This hill was just about too much too. I stopped to walk again and I think chanced a look behind me. No one in sight at all… but I was still fearful they’d be making a push. Only about a quarter mile to go. Somehow I trotted it up again after the hill and turned on the jets to the finish line… wasting all my gas knowing I wouldn’t be needing any more reserves. The GPS had me on a 21:00 minute pace part of the hill coming up, and 4:36 pace running down it. How I never stepped on a shoelace I don’t know but I burst across the otherwise calm finish line at full speed never believing for a second I was going to eek out the win until it was done. The three volunteers there were a little surprised to see me I think… I really romped it down that hill running from an imagined contender that was no where in sight. I finished in 26:12 and the second place man came in more than a minute later in 27:25.

So this is how the winner sees it: everyone(!) coming across the finish line! Nice. I even grabbed my camera and snapped some pics. I talked with the second place guy and just about everyone else who came in about the race and Oklahoma St. losing to Iowa St. and whatever else. The 2nd place guy and his friend were from Oklahoma… pretty cool.

Luck was with me in more than one way today and I had no where to be for the next several hours so I waited it out happily in the best of spirits for the awards etc. I was pleasantly surprised to win some actual prizes and not just the presentation medals (with engraved medals coming) — a 1 year subscription to trail runner and a $15 road ID gift card. I was shocked by both… I hadn’t expected anything and this was just icing on the cake… nice!

Stood around for a while longer watching everyone else get their medals and what not… had a group photo and the day was done.

I just have to mention too, one last time how cool it was being number one. I heard a few people pointing in my direction and saying “that guy won” and “he’s pretty fast” etc. That was fun! I mean usually I’m the one looking at the winner and today I got to live the dream. Haha… once in a lifetime πŸ™‚

Now really, it’s criminal for a race run, organized, and put on this well to have so few participants – so – now that I *ahem* have my win – I will promote the hell out of this sucker next year. I think it really got a bad rap for that 2009 ordeal with a bunch of people missing the turn… which is pretty unfair. I certainly do not want to see this thing cancelled either! So … I will have 100+ people here next year how’s that for a new goal? There were 70+ in year one, I believe 40+ in year two, and 22 in year three. So how about for 2012 we make it 112? Yes Haven’s is a cool park and even cooler run — so that many people should see it! I’ll get em out there by golly I will… I will attest and swear that you will NOT get lost now, you WILL have a good terrific time, and you may even place as the awards are many and well distributed. I’ll really pump it up next fall =D Here’s to Haven’s!

Well after the race was all said and done and everything over I headed back up the hill again… a leisurely stroll this time enjoying the warm November morning and the silent park around me. I was off in search of a couple of geocaches. As I was walking down a peaceful bit of trail in total seclusion I reflected on races past and ones that were almost won, or anything that fell short for one reason or another. They were all absolved now. Every dog gets his day and today was mine.

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Oct 12 2011

Chicago Marathon 2011

Well Chicago is done and in the record books… And it actually is for me. Got a new PR today which I am certainly pleased with. The marathon started with me hopeful for an even better time and for the first 11.5 miles I was on track for a sub 3:49 finish… The stated initial goal of this blog was a 3:55:59 finish… The actual finish time was 3:57:13. Unlike Hospital Hill earlier this year though… I am not in the least bit disappointed. Attaching the word fail to this endeavor would be criminal. The 3:57 was good enough to earn me a new PR, even if by only a minute and the monumental effort I felt I exerted over the last four miles (and 10 moreover) is sufficient to call it a success in more than one right… In any case, here are some notes and details about how the 26 played out…

Typical race morning… Somewhat sleepless night and then the donning of everything prepared the night before… this time taking care to not forget my watch! Oh, you didn’t know about that did you? It’s an agonizing story which never quite made it to press in the race report of the 2011 Hospital Hill race… 2011… I can scarcely believe that was this year let alone a few months ago. Well, watch and all other consumables and decorations in hand, pocket, and pinned on I headed for the starting area. I figured I would be able to navigate directly down Columbus to Jackson but it appeared to be blocked off so I proceeded to follow the herd of runners through Millennium Park proper. This was about 6:30am and here north of the start it was busy but not overly so… I never felt crowded or jostled. As I headed further south in search of the entrance to the seeded starting corrals I found them easily enough and was soon having a seat on the pavement in the quite open and strangely quiet D starting corral.

Directly to the south a wall of blue clothed volunteers separated The D Corral, from Jackson St, from another wall of volunteers, to the open corral to the south. Here, from the open corral, could be heard a never ending procession of cheers. There was music blaring and whenever the song changed from one inspirational top 10 hit to the next it sent the open corral into a momentary frenzy. When the street lights cut out at precisely 6:41am it sent them into a momentary frenzy. When runners, walking by between D Corral and Open Corral on Jackson St en-route to their respective start corrals, strode by with colors, adornments or pumping arms, it sent both the open corral and the stream of runners on Jackson into a momentary frenzy. This went on for some time with the corral D steadily increasing in population but never quite joining in the frenzy. Most people were sitting around as I was in quiet contemplation, stretching, or complaining happily to their companions that they “didn’t even want to get up this morning” – but I’m quite sure they were only too happy to do so. There were quite a few groups of runners to be starting together but just as many if not more solo runners.

About 7:20am, they began to announce the elite field (to which Ryan Hall received enormous applause including my own), sing the national anthem, and sent off the wheelchair athletes. At precisely 7:30 the Chicago Marathon proper was started. From my vantage point at the back of the D corral it wasn’t possible to tell when this happened officially… one could only surmise such from the time, the wave of cheers slowly heading south and a couple of incidental bullhorns.

We began slowly walking forward at that time as at most large races… shuffling towards the start line. We walked for a minute or two and I began to notice a couple of people racing by on my left. Someone from corral D exclaimed, “the human wall has broken” — indeed. Behind us the entire enormity of the open corral was nearly bursting at the seams. The human wall of the same previously mentioned blue-clad volunteers seemed to be holding the vast majority of the open corral runners with inner-locked arms but it was a frightening restless stirring they held back, as though it would erupt in chaos at any moment. On the far left to my rear there was an escapee every second or so; someone would break through and dart ahead. I’m not sure they really went any where or what their purpose was because the large seeded corrals were still walking slowly forward themselves. It was kind of like this:

I’m not sure what happened to the human wall, but I do know that if they weren’t trampled to death they certainly must have been hoisted up with invisible ropes, vanished, or ran to the sidelines faster than a Kenyan in a 5k. I never saw them but as I crossed the start line everything turned to chaos as the open corral surged to intermingle with the seeded corrals and the race was underway.

The first mile or so was very crowded but I was able to maintain a pretty quick pace as everyone else was doing the same. It was shoulder to shoulder to be sure but it was ‘doable’. The weather that morning had been one of the most comfortable race starts I can remember… Not a chill, not a hint of hot, and no humidity. Now however, about 1 mile into it, I’m sweating profusely and the body heat from everyone in such close proximity is turning the temperature decidedly warm. So I’m thinking well this is going to be one of those days where my shirt is nothing more than a mop…

At the very start of the race, no more than probably .2 miles into it we descended into a rather long tunnel. I believe this may have thrown off my GPS for the rest of the day, as I eventually finished with about 26.6 miles clocked on my GPS… but no matter – it held up largely well throughout the day despite the several more tunnels over the length of the course, underpasses, and sections of city surrounded by tall buildings.

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Well the course continued on… Large amounts of spectators lined both sides of the course – and the largest array of cheer signs I have ever seen. My friend had mentioned when he ran the Omaha Marathon a couple of weeks ago he saw one that said “worst parade ever.” That’s a pretty good one. Here are a few of the better ones I remember from Chicago:

“Don’t poop your pants!” (with a picture of Mr. Hanky the Christmas poo) – many variations of this one…
“You got this! And you’re F—— Golden!” (my personal favorite)
“Fuck yeah.”
“I put laxatives in your water! :)”
“Chuck Norris never ran a marathon”
“Chuck Norris runs 4 minute miles, in 3 minutes, underwater”
“You are: monotonous!” (to go along with all the”you are: amazing/my hero/awesome/etc”)
Also saw the worst parade ever quite a few times.

Many, many, many more which I wish I could remember and recount here.

The miles went on… From the start of the race I was trailing the 3:50 pace group by about 100ft constantly. At about mile 7 I caught up to them and passed them. I continued on feeling pretty good… Trying to wring out my shirt as I feared the dreaded bloody nipple. I had put on a couple of band-aids but quickly realized I should have done them two per in X format as I believe I’ve seen done (Oh, I remember another sign “Show me your nip-guards!”) as the band-aids I put on helped but not quite enough due to the soggy shirt and profuse sweating. The aid stations were great… They each went on and on and on. The restrooms also looked plentiful. If you needed to use a porta-potty mid race in Kansas City you might have to wait. I feared that would be the case even more so here with the 50,000 runners but somehow it wasn’t — they always looked available. I decided each time to continue on though never really needing them.

Finally at about the 11 mile mark I had passed the 3:50 group by so much that I actually caught my first and only glimpse of the 3:45 group. I began to deliriously entertain the notion that I might be headed for a sub 3:45 finish. Well, not too long after this I pit stopped just before the 12 mile mark and aid station to use one of the conveniently available restrooms. This was a nice reprieve but it also marked the downfall of my pace. I still felt ok enough at this point but I never passed the 3:50 group again (as they had passed me while I was on break).

I came out and was just behind them and ran for a bit but was now feeling winded.

It was here that we passed the Willis Tower (Sears Tower) This was definitely a highlight of the race. Not only was it an imposing and impressive sight, the crowds here were phenomenal. The tower itself was quite foreboding actually, it really reminded me of something although at the time I couldn’t place it. Later I did: the Luxor in Las Vegas. I think it was all that black glass, the darkness that ensued (due to it and the surround buildings on that block blocking out the sun), and the sense of old posterity that emanated from it. The Sears tower is an older symbol of American dominance… the tallest building in the world for a time and now the tallest building in the United States. It was the old general…

Anyway… it struck a special note in me. I read about this thing as a kid, and now here I was right next to it in a huge event. I’ll leave it at that.

Well leaving this I suppose I hung around the 3:50ers for the next couple miles, then I think they lost me. Around mile 16 it started to hurt some…

Miles 16-20 continued on… delirium setting in… a couple of sections of HUGE crowds with unbelievable cheering. It sounded like a home run had been hit, Ryan Hall was coming down the stretch, or a touchdown pass had been caught – it really was a roar and it kept me going. We hit Chinatown. More unbelievable crowds. Just lining the streets… 10 people deep… police going up and down asking people to back up repeatedly, stand behind the line. I couldn’t believe so many people had turned up to watch. It was truly amazing.

Somewhere, the crowds thinned for a moment and there was a guy standing by himself on the right, in a suit, with a cardboard cut-out speech bubble sign pointing to his mouth that said “You got this. And you’re F—— Golden!” at the exact moment I was a little too delerious to appreciate this completely. But I appreciate it now… his countenance, his demeanor, the sign, the event. It did it really.

So trudging along somehow I’m now finishing the miles in 9something which I’m actually really pleased to be doing… it feels like I’m running a 12 minute pace at least. I want to scream out or talk to someone and ask them, is this hurting you just as bad? Is this supposed to hurt? You’re hurting too right!?!?!?! But instead I’m silent. I just keep running.

The aid stations are serving bananas at this point, and after the banana at aid station/mile 22? I actually felt better for a few moments. I strode it out again and probably hit 9:00 flat for half a mile. It may have been the bananas… yeah… I think that’s what kept me going the last miles. The promise of another banana. I was walking through the aid stations, but I was trying my damndest to get inbetween them running. I succeeded mostly.

And here, at like mile 25 are photographers set up. Sure there had been a few prior but these were set up in a way to ensure they got you. At mile 25? I’m sure I looked like a refugee on hunger strike and dead 2 weeks. Really? This is where they wanted photos? I guess… I tried to smile or stick something up in the air… cheer…

Finally I saw a sign that said 800m left. It was going uphill. This was tough.

Eventually the 400m sign appeared. I could kinda deal with this one. I think I actually picked up the pace a little. That must be what snuck me in under 8,000th place πŸ™‚

At the finish I was done. I was so happy I could walk – so happy I was finished… now was the reward!!!!!!!! BRING IT ON!!!!!!!!!

Well the finish area was interesting… it seemed like this desolate wasteland full of wanderers in capes that were being well supplied. I got a FULL banana, a water, my medal, a cold wet cloth, a bag of ice, a bag of goodies, a beer, missed the Gatorade, but oh well. There were ‘spotters’ everywhere – and I’d read prior – do not stop in the finisher chute or you will be carted off to a medical tent and not released. So all these spotters had a good lookout going for anyone stopping/laying down/sitting.

So I got through this wasteland and found the 27th mile which apparently was more aptly named than I first thought… I think it actually was, by the cartographer, the 27th mile.

Here, I was afforded another free beer. Yeah that’s good.

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Jun 13 2011

Army Birthday Marathon 2011

The weather was perfect, the course tough and repetitive, and the company enjoyable. Of the 85 or so people that showed up to run a 5k, 10k, Half-Marathon, or Marathon… 6 ran the full – and so the prophecy was fulfilled … you were pretty much guaranteed a win place or show. Even in the other races, 85 competitors competing for 288 awards – your odds were pretty good. I imagine most people walked away with a medal.

Now if this marathon had been rated on somewhere like marathonguide.com – I can only imagine the slew of complaints and disdain that would be showered on this abomination of a marathon. For me, and likely the rest that ran it – we knew this going in and won’t fault it on its many, many short-comings.

To be fair this is the first small marathon I’ve run, and quite possibly probably one of the smallest ever. It was nothing like a ‘normal’ marathon by any stretch of the imagination. It was an afterthought.

We hurriedly made for the starting line at 7:59:20 to then promptly start at 8:00:00 — and as most people were still lining up the gun was sounded and everyone departed for parts unknown*.

The race started with my friend and I, Tad, cruising along at an easy pace if a little hurried. We cruised to the first hill, which is a monster and ran up the darn thing despite the fact. We hit the first aid station 1.5 miles into it… (the 5k turnaround) and watch several people trekking back. Cruising along the mountain a little while later the 10kers are turning around as well.

I was running with my friend and conversation went back and forth with pleasantries, and we began to talk about a few deeper things. Somehow, a fairly innocent question of mine sparked an enormous tale from my friend… one that would take me from mile 4 to mile 21. A marathon is an epic event, and the tale I listened to was no less epic in scale and feeling.

I listen now, as I write this, to a song describing a desperate and epic landscape… one that isn’t a radio hit but a haunting rendition of realization synapses exploding like fireworks. A swirling and ethereal cloud of musical fusion that your head can be dipped into as if into a bucket of water – below the surface you have a new reality – one with new rules, new sounds, new sights, new dangers, new realizations and sensations. If I were to piece my friend’s tale together in a movie, this would be the soundtrack. A tragic and beautiful tale of a solitary American life. At times I could could scarcely believe what I was hearing… it was just too fantastical, but it wasn’t — it was all too real. Too real, infinitely tragic.

In a joke – the marathon we were running would easily wield the same adjectives… too real and infinitely tragic. We ran to the half turn-around and made our way back to the start line. We passed a few people going, but not too many… it was clear the vast majority were currently partying with free beer and trinkets at the finish while we lived and died on the course.

A quick diversion here, and an annoying one – coming down the huge hill (to be known henceforth as, Murderest) I saw a sign – an arrow quite plainly pointing directly right. There was a suggestion of left, but the sign was unmistakable… a sign that CLEARLY pointed right. I will admit 100% on this one… I saw the sign, pointed it out and went right. We knew soon that things were wrong. We saw a person — he told us he had seen another person going this way – yes – specifically with a running number attached, but we were highly skeptical. In no time we located the authorities (I flagged them down as they approached) and we verified, yes, that we had missed the turn. We turned around and ran back, and I was somewhat justified in now seeing the sign correctly. It was now corrected. It was an arrow sign positioned on an orange traffic cone in such a way that it was freely able to swivel 360 degrees around it. A fine design in a vacuum to be sure, but not so much in Kansas. The sign I viewed earlier had been blown about and showed the wrong way. It now showed the right way because it had been adjusted by the previously mentioned authorities just prior to our arrival. No matter all of the rabble – point is… I led my friend and I .4 miles off the course, which when doubled is – you guessed it… .8 miles off course! Nearly one mile astray is highly annoying. I beat myself up for a couple miles after this mess.

But. What can you do. We doubled back, found the right track and went to the turn around. When we got to the finish it was a party. I spied several people drinking what I knew was free Annie’s Amber Ale. There was jubilation. People cheered whenever anyone crossed the finish line. There were provisions aplenty. We only viewed such activities for a second. We just spun on our heels and proceeded to do what we just did, again.

My friend’s story persisted, and so did I. I will confess, at mile 15, heading back up Murderest, I wanted to quit. That was it for me… it was done. Just 15 miles and it was time to be done. Somehow though, Tad was bounding up the hill, and so I followed.

From here out I was quite sore and tired and wanting to quit constantly, but was also sort of on that rare second plane in which pain doesn’t really matter and I can just continue on no matter what. I debated about turning around early to make the finish line a 26.2 instead of 27.something but in the end decided to just run the whole thing.

About mile 20.5 Tad urges me to continue on my own. I grudgingly concede. From there on out I listened to the same tunes I am now. The ones I spoke of which convey so much depth and feeling. It was heartening to be listening to music and absolutely adrenaline pumping when it swelled, but it was also already a day done, a soul taxed, a will stretched – so I only floated along in half belief. On hills I walked. On flats I madly slammed the asphalt. On downhills I let gravity take over.

The hills were insurmountable, but I ran and walked them. I hit my watch at a 26.2 split at 4:27. I crossed the finish at 4:35. There was no one there. Ok – there was one person that took my ankle bracelet. I walked up the hill to the starting area. I saw the free beer lady packing up… she gave me a friendly and subtlety inquisitive acknowledgement… she looked like she knew I’d been through the wringer and back, and could use a beer, but conveyed a sense of sadness that she was packed up and done. Did I just read all of that in a 1 second glance? Yes I did. And am I confident of that dissection? 87%.

Well it was done. There was hardly anything left. I had to read the timekeeper the time off my watch. If I’d done it again, I could have told him anytime within about a 10 minute window and could have gotten away with it, I was quite tempted to actually — after my blunder off course… but… it was what it was. I still finished 1st in my age group… by default. Yes that’s right, (and you’ll never hear it in those terms again) I placed FIRST in a MARATHON in my age group. Well that was my goal and now goal accomplished. My medal says, Marathon, 30-34, FIRST PLACE. How’s that? Fine.

My friend finished a little while after and we both congratulated each other, chit chatted with the 3-4 people left there, and went on our way. What a day.

 

 

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Jul 16 2010

Psycho Psummer Trail Run 2010

The Mizuno Cabrakan
“Psycho Psummer” Run Toto Run
50K & 15-Mile Trail Run

Quite a title, but quite a race. This past Saturday I was lucky enough to find myself at Wyandotte County Lake park at 7:15am with intentions on running it.

The race morning starts as usual – finding a place to park, packet pick up, milling about, etc! The mug I got and the tech shirt were great looking! The mug is now my work coffee mug.

Anyway, the 112 50kers started at 8:05am according to my watch and after some notes from the race directors they blow the horn and they’re off. Exactly 30 minutes later, the 214 of us left over got another quick set of instructions from the race directors and we were off as well. One of the instructions did mention a split in the race ahead… a left that was faster, and a right that was drier. HAH. This turned out to be a pretty moot point. Well, somehow I ended up in the right lane; I think I subconsciously was going to avoid mud/wet shoes… if I only I knew then what I would shortly encounter. The “right split” ended up just being a very short jaunt up a hill, to a small plateau and back down to the main course where I was joined up with the other runners that I had just split with. I think the purpose of this split was probably just to ease some congestion.

Well with that out of the way, the first part of the race seemed “easy” I suppose. Quite fun with the normal trail terrain of roots, rocks, water crossing (with stepping stones), avoidable mud, everything going smoothly, and really just felt great to be in the woods. Not too far into the race, I came to something quite fun… a huge section of mud that there was absolutely no way around… and I simply had no choice but to charge right through. Made a huge splash dousing myself and likely the person behind me with a healthy dose of mud. Well that was fun after all! Directly after that there was a short stint “outside” in a field instead of in the woods, and then after about 2 miles there was a full aid station. There was watermelon, banana, water, sports drink… and that’s all I really took in – but it looked like there was a lot more… I didn’t stay long and headed back into the woods.

After the first aid station, the field really thinned out. I could just see the person in front of me, and no one behind me. This was quite nice for a while. Eventually I caught up with 3 other runners and we kept a pretty tight pace for a while, slowing on the uphills and even walking some, but the course was still (relatively) easy at this point and we did keep a fairly harrowing pace… felt good! At the same time however — it was hot and I was feeling pretty winded (but, I always feel winded during a race since I’m pushing myself) — but I was keeping hydrated by sipping early and often (at least I thought?)

Ok, so, somewhere in here we hit another aid station and I decided to partake a little bit more this time. I filled up my water, had some banana which I smeared peanut butter on (YUM!!), had some watermelons, bananas, some more watermelons and then some more watermelon. So then I head over to go back in the woods where the brush is so overgrown that I can’t see my feet… it looks like a tunnel or something… and a runner is entering at the same time as me… he says “after you” as I head in, and I nearly wipe out as I trip on something and go flying. How I caught myself I dunno, but it sure gave him a scare as he said “WOA!!!” and slowed so much I never saw him again.

I was alone now and feeling very refreshed from the aid station. I believe that must have been the aid station at 5.23 miles. Also, the staff there was great. So helpful and accommodating! I ran for a while. Feeling good. Still quite winded, but good.

I think this part is where the “BoyScout trails” start, but I’m not sure. After a short run on the road we entered the woods to the right, and began an out and back section that wound back and forth and back and forth like amusement park waiting line corrals. Here the trail was quite rough. There was no mud or water or obstacles really, but the trail was not level at all… it was all at an angle so that my feet never hit the trail flat but just pounded my ankles into oblivion. There was also a section with so many rocks and roots on the trail that I literally tripped for at least a quarter mile, was just falling forward. Here, I hate to say, I actually was pissed for a minute and not having fun. After 2 miles of this (8 Mile to 10 Mile) trail that was slanted sideways I exclaimed outloud to myself “$#&^$&# #*&$*#$ when will this be over!?” Well this section did end, and I exited those trails right where I had entered and headed down a hill on an asphalt path. This was a welcome relief. I think it was here too, that I could hear a band playing through the woods. This was kind of odd, because even though I’m quite used to a band at races… this wasn’t my typical race… and I was in the middle of the woods… but here’s some band playing…

And here, at 11 miles we have a problem. I’m feeling “ok” as I vault over some obstacles and pass a runner heading back into the woods. I feel a twinge in my right calf. Crap! I know that twinge. It’s the onset of muscle cramping and that spot is my problem child. Well that is a bad bad bad feeling for me… so I’m a little disappointed so I decide to stop and walk for a bit. Well ok, actually I had no choice because after a couple turns, the course goes straight up a hill where there is no path to speak of. Just a few ribbons tied to trees letting me know that yes, this is the right way… straight up the hill. I think I was on all fours going up that one.

At the top of the hill thankfully is an aid station. I would tell you what I had but its kind of blurry. I think I stopped for a good minute or two though and really tried to refuel. Are bananas good for cramps? Water? I dunno… But it is HOT and I’m definitely giving my body the ol’ 3-4.

I head back out. I’m getting some more cramp scares, so I’m taking it easy, but still “running” with lots of walking interleaved as well. Here soon I reach the Wyandotte Triangle. Here, I run with two other guys after another quick refuel, and we take turns taking the lead for a bit before we kind of all 3 wander off on our own pace. According to my watch the triangle was miles 11.77 – 12.59. After coming out of this I hit the last “full aid” station. I grabbed what I tought was grape poweraid off the table, but it was Coke! That was a big surprise but it tasted good! I got some more fruit, failed to fill my water bottle, and headed off. A guy there at the aid station was asking “how much further?!” my legs were asking the same question.

Soon after leaving this aid, my water is dry, and my legs are cramping bad. The trail here is quite rough, some of the worst (or best?) mud of the day… and LONG sections of it too. Now both calves are cramping and now… both quads are complaining too. The leg position that helps the calf puts the quad in jeopardy, and the leg position that gently stretches the quad puts the calf in jeopardy. I’m pretty much confined to walking, although I do a little bit of easy running here and there when I can, or when the trail is flat and dry (not often). There’s some water, and I see Dick Ross. He said something along the lines of “you look good” – HAH. If only he knew.

Well then it comes to a straight away where you can see at least a quarter mile of mud. Somewhere in here, near the end, my right leg becomes stuck in the mud and as I try to pull it out, it cramps… so, so, hard. All I can do is grab it in agony and wait for the pain to subside. It must have lasted at least a minute because two people caught up to me that were also walking down this mud straight away. The second runner I think is a 50ker. She has a bag full of goodies for which I gratefully accept two salt pills. She says, “here, take these with some water” I gobble them both down gratefully with some spit, as see… remember I had drained my water bottle and failed to fill it. I was too embarrassed to admit that I had no water. Was this why I was cramping so bad? Probably… but to my credit… I did drink at least 4 fills of my bottle, one of which was the succeed drink and three that were water… in addition to tons of watermelon and some succeed drinks at the stations too.

Well I’m basically walking the rest of the way I think, after *that* cramp. Running oh so slowly when I think its absolutely safe. And there is yes… one more “water only” station. I’m so thankful for this one. I fill up, and probably 200 yards down the trail after had drank most of my bottle. Oh well! I can smell the finish line.

The finish is across a couple of open fields away and I take it at a slow, slow, slow run. I’m just scared for my legs. One more cramp and I might be leaving on a stretcher I fear.

It’s funny, as I’m coming in… I feel great really, even the ‘ol legs don’t feel too “tired” just crampy! And some people are cheering me on… in my slow slow slow run… but even then I have to stop to walk. I know they are probably like WTF why is he walking the finish line is RIGHT THERE. Well… I had no choice. I was just doing what my legs dictated. During this open field I even passed two people, so … I know I’m not the only one beat.

Well there it is. I cross the finish line and I’m really elated… its been a great day and a great run. I just can’t imagine going for another loop. Really? I wish I was that trained up! If my legs weren’t absolute GARBAGE at this point I would have loved to. Ok… maybe not. I say that now… but at the time I was REALLY glad to be done.

Then Ben Holmes says to me, “need to fill your bottle?” and hands me an ICE COLD PABST BLUE RIBBON! I say “absolutely” as it dawns on me what I’m being handed! That was by far, the best Pabst Blue Ribbon I have EVER had. SOOOOO good. Thanks for that one!!!

I stuck around for a little bit, got some great eats and chatted a little bit but mostly I was just proud of finishing and my muddy legs.

That was Saturday. As the week has worn on, I’ve slowly recovered the use my legs, realized I had two purple toe nails, discovered some poison ivy on my lower shin, some cuts etc.

Before I ran the race I hinted at a friend of mine several times that I was running this race as I thought he might want to as well. I regularly see him at the local Half-Marathons and 5ks, etc, and I knew he had run this one before. Well on Monday I told him about the race and he told me Saturday he had been painting. As he was up on the ladder his wife asked him, “Hey, you know your legs are really scarred up down here from all the running you do.” To which he replied “Those are just from one race… the Psycho Psummer last year.”

I think he was right; I could have some scars next year too. But if all goes well, I plan on going back!

Finished in 3:23:12…
Here’s the Garmin: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/39912001

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May 19 2010

Five Trails Half-Marathon Completed!

Five Trails Half-Marathon has come and gone. What an event for Leavenworth! The race was in my opinion a superb success!

I have a media page with pictures, results (excel), and video of the race here: Five Trails Half-Marathon media page

You can see me there in the last shot. I ran 1:46:59 official time which I was quite pleased with — a new PR for me! I would have liked to have run under 1:45, but really I was just shooting for under 1:50, which wouldn’t have even necessarily been a PR; so I met my goal and more. The course itself I’d have to say was QUITE hilly; the race promoters promise of “2 hills” was not quite accurate I think. It seemed like the whole dang course was hill after hill after hill — but there were quite a few we got to go DOWN as well, and the course is not an out and back. Would I dare equate it to Hospital Hill? Well at this point in time I just about would! I guess in a couple weeks when I run Hospital Hill I will try to re-comment on that. Hospital Hill is always killer no matter how prepared I am. That one is certainly all hills!

Race Report:

Friday night for some reason I dream like crazy about the race. Restless anticipation almost. Strange imaginations of running the race, race morning, etc… but I’ve not done it yet. Interesting as always. Then the actual night before the race, Saturday night, I don’t think I remember any dreams from then. Just waking up at 3:15, 5:30, 5:45, 6:30… etc and getting up at 6:30. One bowl of Wheaties Fuel (which is not that tasty, don’t think I will get again) and a cup of coffee.

It’s quite refreshing to drive to half-marathon race and have it only take about 5 minutes! Usually it seems like I’m up and out the door at 5:00… that’s too early for me! Of course an 8:00am start is helpful too, compared to the usual 7am start for Hospital Hill and the KC Marathon.

Well race morning is great. Always in high spirits — a definite part of the runner’s high, race morning. There are many volunteers and plenty of space. Porta-Potties and indoor bathrooms. Didn’t have to wait in line at all for my usual careful evaluation of what constitutes a full bladder (four experiments required). About 8 minutes or so to race time however, there’s no one even remotely close to the starting line. Then magically about 5 minutes out everyone gravitates there… and 4.3.2.1…. HORN. We’re off!

I had my iPod on playing some great tunes, however I don’t usually run in a race with music unless its special circumstance. For some reason the music just didn’t feel right. At about the 1.2 mile mark I ripped it off and never put it back on.

Miles 1-2-3 good, good. Then there’s the hill — but I was quite ready for it! Didn’t seem nearly as hard as the last time I ascended that thing! Then coming down it is really fast πŸ™‚

Ok so that’s four miles down. The rest of the race consists of hills and more hills. I probably didn’t appreciate the scenery as much as I should/could have — I think because I’ve ridden and driven down those streets we ran on for the last 15 years. I want to imagine that all of the out-of-towners were impressed though. I wanted to point out the prison to them from “Pikes Peak” — I wanted to make sure they noted Red Belly Snake Gulch… took note of the big houses on Broadway… Our new Wal-Mart (nevermind the fact there’s not much in it, it looks cool from the outside)… etc. This was a nice showcase of Leavenworth. In fact that’s a point I may expand upon in a future post — so look for it!

Ok so non-appreciation for the nice course aside, I spent most of my time thinking about the runner in front of me, the mass of runners behind me, and just eeking this thing out. I think about mile 8 I was coming down the big hill on Shrine Park road – getting ready to make the grand ascent to Dillons – and one of the volunteers at a water station remarks – “oh boy, here comes the pack” — well I was quite by myself at this point. I had a runner about 10 seconds ahead of me, and a sporadic few in front of him. I had one runner about 8 seconds behind me, one about 15 seconds back, and then apparently — “the pack”. When he said this I looked back, and sure enough there were about 2,675 runners bearing down on my position back up the hill behind me about — let’s say 1-2 minutes back? (this is large open area with good visibilty…). Well I don’t know if that is accurate or not but that comment smacked me into gear up the hill and at that point I was pretty good to go with a great pace for the remainder of the race… with only a small worry that one of my legs would give out at any second.

After grunting through yet ANOTHER hill back to 20th street trafficway, there was a nice downhill back to New Lawrence Rd. and then to the finish line. Here, small wars were waged, fought, won and lost as runners made the best of their last mile. I was happy to run it in strong with only a mild concern of tumbling to a ball of broken bones. I stopped my watch at 1:47:03 — and was just quite happy to have remembered to stop my watch at the finish! 13.16 miles I recorded… pretty accurate I think! Great run, great race, I’ll be back next year.

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Jun 26 2009

2009 Summer Intro 5k Trail Run

June 20 – (was it really just this past weekend?) I ran my first 5k TRAIL run. I had no idea how much fun this was going to be!

Ok… for starters… I went out with my neighbors the night before to a Jazz/BBQ/Wine event at the local winery. This was a pretty enjoyable evening as you can probably imagine. During conversation with my neighbors we’re talking about races and I mention that why yes in fact there is one tomorrow! I had kinda sorta maybe thought about showing up to it, but hadn’t really committed one way or the other. I believe the registration was that morning only… so you didn’t have to plan ahead anyway. Well my friend indicated he’d like to go run it too! He’s been interested in the running and – lo and behold – I had my new iphone… so… we checked out the website right then and there. He was immediately hooked, as he’s an outdoorsey sort of fellow anyway and on the front page of the race website there’s a bunch of folks running through the woods and a nice dead raccoon… cool!

So… we managed to not drink too much wine and we both set out in the morning to Wyandotte County Lake Park. With a starting time of 9am and an entry fee of $8 – this race was impossible to pass up. Not to mention the web site for the race – really touted it well:

This is not your typical “Psycho” course. (Slightly neurotic, maybe).

This is truly a good “intro” to the Summer season and the perfect intro to Trail Running.

No major hills, no major mud if it rains, and a fast and completely new and runnable course that you haven’t run on before.

This would be the perfect course for a trail running beginner or children, too. It’s a fun family event, but also a very fast and competitive race, right up to the finish.

That description / appeal effectively nullifies any remaining complaint or excuse to not go!

But of course I was glad to… ran into a friend of mine that I also saw last weekend at the “On The Run 5k” in Lansing (more on that later maybe?). It was a little busy but we got registered in no time.

They annoucned shortly before the race that there were 106 registrants, compared to last year’s 62. They seemed quite pleased with the turnout and it was quite apparent the crowd was in excellent spirits… everyone excited for the run and I imagine quite a few that were there for their first trail race (me) or their first ever race (my neighbor).

As the ready set go was called we made a short loop in the parking lot – presumably to add a little mileage and to thin out the field a little bit. As we came back around and entered the woods the race became a trail run! It was a little slow at first, basically a mass of people single filing into the woods on a path — but as we neared about the .4 mile mark or so it thinned out enjoyably and the trail became pretty diverse. There were sections of mud, fallen trees to vault, limbs to duck, hills to climb, roots to avoid, downhills to slalom, spiderwebs to dodge, gravel fire roads to marvel. Thanks to my neighbor coming – I was quite able to enjoy it all very nicely as I was running with him at a very relaxed pace. Oh, we did get a workout I’m sure and there were some fairly serious up hills – but nothing too daunting. I enjoyed the trail and all of the pleasant people quite thoroughly.

As for the rest of the race there was a turn-around spot with a water spot that wasn’t quite half-way and then back into the woods for the rest of the trail race. The finish was in the open back at the start. I believe I finished about 30:17. The slowest 5k I’ve ever run, but also quite possibly the most enjoyable! Also at the end my friend and I ran into another inidivual who was videoing the run. He runs a blog, smartly named “Kansas Isn’t Flat“, and posted the video to another site new to me, runcast.tv.

One thing’s for certain… that won’t be my last trail run… the KC Trail Nerds have quite a website and quite a number of upcoming events. Not sure if I can make the Psychopathic 5k this weekend, or the 15 miler (and 50k) coming up — which I would love to do that one (the 15 miler!). But sooner or later I think I’ll be able to fit a few of these into my schedule.

Now to get some trail shoes!

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Jun 9 2009

Minneapolis Marathon 2009 Race Report

I was really impressed with Minneapolis as a city first and foremost – especially from my perspective as a visiting runner; there were walking trails and biking trails (yes in dual configuration) all over the city. In fact nearly everywhere I went driving around there were bikers (bicyclists) out in force. Walked around Lake Calhoun in downtown Minneapolis and there were people walking and biking everywhere… of note though is that it was late May (30th) and it was decidedly chilly out.

So… on with it… race morning. At a hotel in Bloomington got up about 4:10am, got ready without rousing anyone and slipped out the door. Down to the lobby to grab a complimentary coffee and the desk staff is not so surprised to see anyone up getting coffee, but lost their composure when I headed out the door into the dark.

About half a mile down the road I catch a bus for the Route 55 Hiawatha line. Normally I could have caught the train for a 33 minute trip (which was another half mile down the road), however it was not to be. As luck would have it there was construction for a 2-3 day period on the train depots at the time and a bus had to suffice for a couple of stops. After a short bus ride though, jumped on the train at the airport (Humphrey station) and headed downtown to Government plaza. It’s amazing to me, public transit. I’ve used it in London, Boston, Atlanta, and now Minneapolis — but never anywhere I lived… it never ceases to amaze me how damn convenient it is to ride all over the city for a couple bucks. The Minneapolis Metro even had bike racks inside the trains. Old hat to any urban dweller of these cities of course, but a source of delight and wonder for me from small town America (and next to KC with no trains, and no reason for me to ride the Metro). Despite the construction I was able to plan my trip online (nice website) and get downtown in no time.

Nice downtown too… clean, uncluttered, friendly people. Well I get to the staging area about 5:30ish I think it was… not much to do now. Sat down and laced in my timing chip since I had hurriedly wedged it in prior… I had time to burn… so… got that laced in… chit-chatted with a few people. Instantly recognized John Larson – one of the race organizers who requested to be my friend on facebook right after I signed up for the marathon in February… so that was fun to see the man behind the plan. The rest of the morning consisted of watching people arrive, donning vaseline, hiding my jacket, and fitting into the starting slot that I picked somewhere in the vicinity of the 9 minute mile.

As the race began I noted it was not particularly crowded despite the large number of people. The start line was well spread out over well more than a city block. We ran around town somewhat… crossing the Mississippi river on Broadway Ave. bridge, running under an art museum wing, through a quaint theater district, back along the river… really all quite scenic and pleasant. This section ended as mile 6 approached and we neared the area of the starting line. It was here we got to a large water stop with a long row of port-a-potties. Here – there was a temporary chaos.

There was a large amount of spectators, and it was still early in the race so it hadn’t quite thinned out as much as it does after 1/2 marathon turn. People were in and out of the port-o-pots, running back and forth to find a vacant one, getting water, seeking spectators… just some general chaos. Here coming up on the port-o-pots I attempted to determine if there were lines for any of them, or if there was probably a vacant one somewhere in the row of 20… I then observed a female run up to a stall – open the door – and then quickly shut it and run off to another. Then as I got closer I observed the same thing happen again… Well curiosity got the best of me, and as I got closer saw that the stalls on all sides were occupied already… save this one. I opened the door slowly, half expecting someone to be in there but instead there was a stall that was COVERED from floor to ceiling with uh… well it was bad. Someone had a blow out… and it was in such a fashion that I’m not entirely sure how such decoration was even possible… yeah think about it. I guess you might have had to see it. But… WHY!?! HOW!?! WHO!?? WHERE!? Eh who cares… so what did I do? Took a piss of course!!! EWWWWWW You say? Well, I had to piss ok!? And look… I didn’t have to view it at all… guys after all have that little side thing so I was just able to turn away from the er, backdrop, and quickly urinate while holding my breath. Well, I really had to pee and my breath didn’t hold out (remember I was in the middle of running a marathon). I began to realize that using this one may have been a mistake. Just before I was overwhelmed with the need to regurgitate I threw the door open and took off back on the trail! The door didn’t even shut behind me as someone else grabbed it attempting entry. I guarantee they didn’t use it… it was another female.

Well… with the foul memory quickly fading behind me I headed off into the next era of the course. Here was a long road of fresh asphalt along the Mississippi river which seemed to either be flat or sloping downwards. Nice. A couple of miles down this road is where we started running into Half-Marathoners on their way back. It’s always fun to see those guys the first few are always flying, and then gradually increase in numbers and pace.

This continued for a while, and it was during this time that I began to notice some chanting coming from in front of me. It was the 4 hour pace group. I was curious enough but continued on my gradual catch up. About mile 9 or 10 I caught them. It wasn’t quite as fun for some reason as it had sounded when I was just within earshot. Here, there was an overly enthusiastic pacer who had all of the best intentions and seemed to be doing a good job – and from listening to some of his talk I believe he said he ran a marathon in about 3:10 or so… so, he obviously knew what he was doing. I’m not sure – but I think he was not happy with anyone that wasn’t running with him. He pleaded with those around him to not go too fast – to stick with him – and other things. He didn’t stop talking for a period of any more than about 10 seconds. This wasn’t necessarily entirely bad – there were inspirational quips, solid advice, small talk, among other things… but it was a bit too chattery for my taste. I began to pull away.

At about mile 13 I’d left this pace group behind and was continuing to pull away. It was here that the course dropped almost straight down a hill… one of the steepest hills I’ve ever seen! I pretty much had to walk down this hill to avoid barreling into a tumbling mass of broken limbs… others were too and there was a race volunteer set up to warn people. It would have been fun to try to run up – on a training run that is. At the bottom of this hill the course continued to my surprise on a dirt path which disappeared into the woods! Well this course had more to it than I thought! A long trail back into the woods in Snelling State Park was the next section of the course. It was so peaceful and nice (the temperature was perfect) that I could scarcely believe I was in downtown Minneapolis still! I was however quickly reminded as a jumbo jet roared directly overhead… and when I say directly I mean I could read the PSI rating off of the landing gear tires. The Airport was *directly* above the path to my right, as I see now looking at google maps satellite photos, but – I could have told you that. Well… an occasional plane wasn’t too bad. The course continued for about 4 miles or so on this dirt trail… passing signs with info about the area that I would have liked to stop and read… running around Snelling Lake and Gun Club Lake(?). This was an out and back section with a timing mat at the furthest point, 16 miles into the race. I crossed at 2:23:32 – up to this point, an 8:58 pace.

So coming back out of this, at about mile 18… ok *NOW* I’m starting to get fatigued… but I’m pressing on. Legs hurting. Head wants to quit. Legs keep going anyway. About mile 20, we’re back on a road, one we were on before for the last trek back to the finish line…. a 10k to go… and I can’t believe this as it dawns on me: ANOTHER HOUR TO GO. That was one long hour. The minutes were creeping by, as I checked my watch every few seconds. And here, the 4 hour pace group has caught me. I was at one point a minute or two ahead of them. Now I’m slowing down… and I tested for minute to see if I could keep pace with them… nope. Not quite. And here we have a nasty exchange I witnessed… but I guess everyone might get a little testy at mile 21. Guy in front of me that is dropping back (like me) comments to a couple other racers that are dropping back that, “If I keep this pace I’ll have to listen to this guy for the next five miles” — meaning the 4 hour pacer. Yes he was still at it with the stream of encouragement, advice, and cheering. You don’t really hear runners get negative too often… at least I haven’t heard such. But this pacer guy was just a little much. Someone else comments to the negative guy “well, you just go on with yourself there” – to which he replies “don’t worry, we’ll see each other again” – hey … I didn’t say it would make sense. Maybe delirium was setting in.

From about mile 22 to the finish, I ran by myself. Everyone was spread out and at this point I was passing people walking left and right — but I was barely “running” myself. I was beat and the sun was really starting to beat down on the fresh asphalt (remember? that same fresh asphalt that I had kind of liked 16 miles ago). I trudged to the finish line… maintaining a “run” even up some last son of a bitch hill finishing at 4:02:37 according to the “gun” clock.

I had been on track to run about a 3:55ish finish, which would have been a PR for me – but 4:01:17 (net time) was still something I was satisfied with. I wonder though, if I had just stuck with the 4 hour pacer… instead of pulling ahead for miles 13-20, if I wouldn’t have finished at just under 4 hours? A little ironic in my mind, but it is what it is.

Nice city, nice course, nice run, nice time. That’s 2 states down and 48 to go!

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