Thanks for visiting my blog. This is where I document and share all of my running adventures with my friends and fellow runners. The good, the bad, and the unquestionably painful. All for your entertainment! Enjoy!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Philadephia Marathon and Recovery Run

Today is my wedding anniversary. Most men aren't as dialed into these situations as I am, but I pride myself on being sensitive to the wants and needs of my spouse. I could have sent her flowers, I guess. Or I could have bought her a nice gift and taken her to dinner in a fancy restaurant. But these are routine choices made by narrow minded men. I like to think outside the box. So I decided to treat Jo to a very special day. I decided to let her watch me run the Philly Marathon.

When I first presented her with this gift, I could tell right away that she was having a hard time believing my generosity. I guess after spending the entire year doing whatever I wanted, she was shocked by my willingness to be so thoughtful and giving.

What can I say. I'm a romantic! Guilty as charged!

I was somewhat concerned about the outcome of this event, because I had just ran a 100 mile trail race in Arizona a week ago. But I had to remind myself, this isn't for me. It's for Jo. I can't worry myself over something as meaningless as my finish time.

So...Jo's gift started at 7:00 AM, so we were up at 3:30 so we could prepare and get to the venue early enough to find a parking spot.

I was so enamoured with my Javelina Jundred race shirt that I decided to wear it for this marathon. Besides, I was pretty certain that I would be the only runner wearing a race shirt from a 100 miler from the previous weekend. This was just a hunch, but I'm pretty sure I was right.

This is me getting settled for the start. I'm sporting a well earned shirt!

Prior to the start, the mayor was busy giving interviews to the local news stations. I'm wondering...why isn't he talking about ME? This oversight will not be forgotten at the polls!

While heading out to get a good spot to take pictures, Jo ran into Stephan and Paul as they were waiting to get started. They were in an earlier wave because they're faster than I am. I think I might hate them for that. Some of my more devoted blog followers will remember that Paul was one of my pacers from Leadville.

The race started, albeit, somewhat late, and we were off! The course meandered through the downtown area for the first 6 or 7 miles, This was a treat for me, because I rarely come into the city these days despite the fact that I love it. I was hoping to pass by the "Occupy Philly" protesters so I could point and laugh, but I never saw them. I'm pretty sure they were still sleeping due to all the strenuous sitting around and bitching they do all day.

Downtown Picture.


As with most big city marathons, this race drew a group of elite runners that were in town for a very specific purpose. That purpose is to lay waste to the entire field of poor local runners. Here they are....

As you can see, this is a group of Kenyans, mixed with a few white guys that haven't learned the value of pacing themselves yet.

They soon will....

I love this picture. You can clearly see the remaining white guy as he looks over his shoulder for some support. All the other white guys are trying to keep up, but they're hopelessly being dropped. In my mind, he's thinking "C'mon guys! We got this! We can beat these Kenyans!!!" And they're looking back at him with this "WHATEVER" look on their faces. Classic! It's important to note that this picture was taken before the end of the first mile.

And somewhere behind this speedy little pack, the casual marathoners start to filter through.

The skinny kid in the white singlet is Chris Brennan. He's pretty damn fast and was shooting for 3 hour finish. Somebody should give that boy a sandwich. I was afraid he would fall between the slats of a sewer drain.

The next picture is Paul. Another fast runner with some real talent.

Then Stephan. This man is the mastermind behind several great trail races in our area and he's a very fast, talented runner. And he's a fellow HCM Foundation team member!

Then me. This at mile 1 and I was feeling great, but dealing with way too much traffic. 27,000 runners!!! But DAMN.....I look pretty cool in that shirt!

And I would be remiss in failing to mention John Schultz! This man is in his very late 70's and I have seen him run several very difficult trail races. He's slow, but persistent. And he's wearing a garbage bag and gardening gloves! John abandoned any and all concern for fashion during the Carter administration.

The course took us down through the city toward the waterfront, then looped us back up toward the start line. Jo found me again at mile 6 and was able to catch a quick photo.

The weather was warming up, and I was beginning to feel good. From here, we ran up West River Drive to the Fairmont Plateau, then back to the river and the art museum, where we split off from the half marathon crowd. This thinned out the field nicely.

I was running at an even pace and trying to avoid pushing too hard. As with most marathons, I didn't fuel at all, but took Gatorade every 3 or 4 miles.

After we lost the 13.1 crowd, we continued up Kelly Drive and into Manayunk, where we turned around and headed back toward the finish.

Late in the race, I realized I was on pace for new PR. However, this didn't really matter to me, and given the choice, I would prefer to have a PR in Baltimore than Philly, which is how it stands now. Considering that I only plan to run 2 more road marathons in this lifetime, it kind of matters to me which course carries my PR for all eternity. So I slowed.

When I reached mile 25, I saw my good friend Helene Horn at the aid station handing out Gummie Bears. So I decided to stop and chat with her. She gave me a big hug and we talked briefly about Javelina. She snapped a couple of pictures of me, hugged me again, and I trotted off for my final mile.

I coasted to the finish and loved it. It was a nice easy run and I felt great. As I approached the finish line, I saw my friend Bart Yasso with a microphone in his hand. When he saw me, he pointed and announced me to the crowd, while explaining that I had just run a 100 mile trail race the previous weekend. I thought that was REALLY cool for him to do! I love that guy!

The crowd of spectators was so deep, Jo couldn't get close enough to the finish line to get a good shot of me. This was the best she could do. This is a total "Where's Waldo" picture, but trust me, I'm there!

My finish time was 3:46:50. This is an 8:40 pace for 26.2 miles and is 2 minutes slower than my PR from Baltimore. It was almost PERFECT!

I did get fatigued and this race was a challenge due to the 100 mile race last weekend, but it was pretty reasonable in terms of effort. It was very enjoyable and I loved seeing so many of my friends running this race.

I have one more race for 2011 and I'm looking forward to getting that one wrapped up! Thanks for taking the time to read my report! I hope to see you all again soon!

Happy Trails!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Javelina Jundred...100 Miles in the Arizona Desert

On November 12th and 13th, I ran the Javelina Jundred trail race in Fountain Hills Arizona. The race is run in a beautiful desert park on a 15.4 mile loop which is run 6 times, alternating direction with each loop. The 7th and final loop sends the runners down a cutoff trail and is 9 miles long. The total actual distance for the race is 101.4 miles.

This race intrigues me because a lot of 100 mile veterans will refer to this race as "easy". I think that statement is ridiculous. Personally, I don't care about climate or topography, running 100 miles is never easy. Although, I do agree some events are more technical or challenging, but this should never be referred to as an easy race.

This sign is posted at the start/finish line, so we won't forget to alternate directions for each loop.

The Javelina Jundred was my HCM fund raiser for 2011. Thanks to the generosity of so many people, I was able to raise more than $3,000 for the foundation. This money will go to support the needs of families in our community that are struggling in the face of cancer. Thanks to everybody that donated!

As usual, Jo would be crewing for me and managing my race. We went to packet pickup at Javelina Jeadquarters on Friday afternoon, then started getting everything assembled for the following day.

I felt very prepared coming into this race. I had run a lot this year with very little time focused on recovery, but nonetheless, I felt like I was in the best shape of my life. As a result, my mind was at ease leading up to the race and I was very focused. I assembled a reasonable race plan before the event and I felt confident that I would meet my goals.

One of my favorite aspects of ultra running is the opportunity I have to visit beautiful places. And there is no better way to enjoy this beauty than to be surrounded by it on the trails that run through those places. McDowell Mountain Regional Park was no exception. I have always loved the desert landscape, and this area offers some of the most stunning scenery in Southern Arizona.

Here a few examples...

The race started at 6:00 AM on Saturday and there were 400 runners registered to run. While this race is considered easier than a lot of 100 milers, it still has a 50% drop out rate.  We need to face it...no matter where a race is held, running 100 miles is pretty damn difficult. And despite what I had heard about this course, I found it to be very challenging.

The race start...

We arrived to the race start an hour early so we could set up our crew spot and get acquainted with the area. It was a very cool morning, which is ideal running weather. We staked out a spot near the start line and set up for the long day and night ahead. This is something that Jo had become quite used to.

The race started promptly 6:00. The trails are mostly double track, mixed with some jeep roads, so the field thinned out quickly and I never felt crowded. I kept a very easy pace but felt strong and let my legs dictate the effort. My plan was to run easy enough that it never felt difficult. I simply settled into a comfortable pace and enjoyed the run.

The trail has a very gradual incline with a few short, but steep hills. This continues for the first 6 miles or so, then begins an equally gradual descent toward the finish of the loop. While they were noticeable in the beginning, they became daunting later in the race.

I finished my first 15.4 mile loop in 2:25, which was faster than what I had outlined in my race plan. But because it never felt labored, I wasn't worried about it.

I grabbed some fuel from Jo and headed right back onto the course.

The race format alternates directions for each loop, so I headed out the way I just came from. I enjoyed this because I was always encountering other runners and it provided a lot of opportunity to give and receive support. Even in the deepest throes of depression and defeat, trail runners tend to have a great attitude and are always quick with a kind word.

This format also gave me a chance to see the elite runners several times during the day. It was impressive to see them running so hard, but appear to be doing it with very little effort.

I was particularly interested in watching Hal Koerner because he was the favorite to win and I happen to be a pretty big fan. By the second loop, he was leading the race.

I continued to run strong and feel good. The end of the second lap was right at the 50K mark. I finished that distance 3 minutes shy of my 50K PR. This worried me a little bit because I thought I was probably running too hard in the early miles. But as I evaluated everything, I still felt good and didn't want to slow up too much early on.

Me at the end of my second loop...

I hit a bad patch in the middle of the third loop because the sun came out with a vengeance and was slowly cooking me to death. Being in the desert, we had no cover to provide shade and I was being sapped of all my energy. I took in more fluids and slowed my pace in an effort to ease my suffering. But I still felt like crap and began to fall off my race plan and was passed by several runners. When I got to Jo at the start line, I told her that I was falling apart and was worried about the race. She did her best to care for me, get me patched up, and she sent me back out to the trail.

A few miles into my 4th loop, I bounced back and sped back up easily. I regained all the positions I had lost on the earlier loop, and I took a few more spots on top of that. I was feeling very good and took the opportunity to run along side other runners and socialize. This was the high point of my race.

These pictures were taken near the end of my 4th loop.

I finished the 100K distance in 11:43:47, which seemed like a decent time, although it's a distance I have never tried to compete in, so I had never given it any thought.

Heading out for my 5th loop, I was ahead of my race plan pace and was worried I would blow up if I tried to get greedy, so I deliberately slowed down and went very easy. I still had 40 miles to run and I knew anything could happen to derail me.

I had been having fueling issues during the entire race because nothing appealed to me at the aid stations. As a result, I ate very little during the entire 100 miles. I could feel the result of it during the 5th loop, but there wasn't anything I could about it. I ate what I could, but it was never enough to keep up with the energy I was burning.

When I came into the crew area at the end of my 5th loop, it was time to get ready for night time running. It was still warm, so I grabbed my head lamp and decided to skip extra layers.

Me getting prepared to head into the night...

I also grabbed my friend Aaron, who had planned to run with me during the night. Aaron has never done any ultra distance running and has certainly never paced before. But I thought it would be a nice distraction to have somebody with me late in the race. It was nice to have the company and he got the opportunity to experience the world of ultra running.

Aaron ready to head out...

A few miles into the 6th loop, it began to rain and it turned cold instantly. I was only wearing a singlet and a pair of shorts and I began to struggle. Additionally, the trails began to to turn to slop in several places and made running in the dark even more challenging. It was slow and brutal and I felt helpless against it. At an aid station near the end of the loop, I begged a garbage bag from the volunteers and covered up as best I could. The difference was amazing and I felt much better.

After returning to the crew area at the start line, I changed my shirt, added another layer, pulled on my hat, gloves and rain gear, and headed out for the final 9 mile loop.

The last 9 miles were as bad as they get. I was wet, tired, cold, and demoralized due to the rain. And to top it off, the trails had continued to deteriorate and several sections were impossible to deal with. I resigned myself to a slow slog through the mud, knowing it was almost over.

My race plan called for a sub 22 hour finish. I was very aware of the clock time during the final loop and began to doubt my ability to achieve that goal. As we descended off the last hill and I hit the final flat section leading to the finish line, I ran as hard as I could with my remaining energy.

I crossed the line at 21:57:52 and was elated to be finished. I thoroughly enjoyed the race and was happy that my plan worked out.

I was also excited to see that Hal Koerner held his lead and won the race, posting a time of 13:47:46. That just might be the most amazing thing I ever witnessed.

Here is the picture of Hal crossing the finish line. What a guy!

As for me, I was happy to be in the same race as many elite runners and I loved seeing them at work doing what they do best. It was a fun, festive event, but still very challenging. It is definitely a race to remember!

Happy Trails!