Race Report: Rock n Roll Philly Half (part 2)

 

We surged into a jog, crossed the timing mat and …

… we were off. Of course I hit the start on my runkeeper app. I was not the last to the start line but it was damn close. I remembered this from before. The start line was very similar to that of the Philly Marathon. I headed down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. With all the flags and stuff. It is real cool seeing the flags of the country then going by the Franklin Institute Science Museum. Because I was the back end of the start I had a lot of elbow room and that was cool. I was just trying hard not to get swept up in the start and go out to fast. That did not work as planned but it never does.

About a mile in I looked up and realized I had the whole fricking street to myself. You could see only runners on the road and that was it. It was awesome. I am so glad that cities are able to clear things out for events like this. It really encourages people to get off their ass and try something. At one point I was heading toward city hall and I saw my friend Donna up ahead of me. We had run together on many occasion in our training sessions with team. I figured I would try to catch up and run with her if I could. If was not soon after I picked up my pace to catch up that I realized that she may be out of my range. I decided to try a good surge to catch up and hope that it would not drain me. It was a risk because I was pretty set on just steady pace running with very little speed work. I caught up and it was real cool.

I must say, that with all the wonderful organization that the Rock n Roll series has, there was one thing that was lacking that would have been a real help. Clocks. It would have been nice to get some splits to work with. At least at the 5k, 10k and 15k mark. Instead there was really none. Sure I could have pulled my phone out and checked the Runkeeper App and eventually I did but it used to be pretty common to have a few timer clocks on the course of the big race like this. So there Donna and I were moving along the course. At one point, while on Market St., we passed by the block that Jefferson Hospital was on. I realized the irony that I would be there in just a few hours getting hooked up for some more anti-fungals. Still we moved on enjoying the city in this unique perspective.

Now my new pace has made for some certain changes that didn’t used to happen way back in the day. One is that I now carry water with me. I used to detest carrying bottles as much as I could but these days I have found a good belt that feels comfortable and works. No dehydrating for me. The other big changes is that pit stops are becoming a little more normal. It is not that I never had to stop at the plastic box before during a run but a new body is giving me new conditions to work with. So on my way back down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway I had to make a quick stop. At that point, I did check my Runkeeper App and it showed we were going fast. I had done it. I got swept up in the excitement and went out too fast. I felt good so maybe it would not be so bad. Things were actually going well. The bladder was now empty and I was still feeling okay. Then came the down hill.

We reached the Art Museum and went down into the Kelly Dr. Most people hate uphills and love downhills but I am opposite. I thrive on uphills because they are the challenge that gets me rocking. Sure they may kick my ass but I still like them. I can kind of put the legs into low gear to get up them. Downhills on the other hand are the Batman to my Joker. I just don’t have enough leg strength and control to go all out on them. So there is me putting on the brakes all the way down the hill. It is just a lot of stress in places that are not usually stressed. Sometimes I think I psyche myself out with them but still the suck. So I started down Kelly Dr with a small suckfest of downhill. It really wasn’t that bad but I could have done without it. The good part was Space found me and ran along side for about a quarter mile. It was fun.

I was at the base of the little hill that something very odd happened. I have had trouble with neuropathy in my feet where there is some numbness and pain. For the most part I had never felt the neuropathy while running. It is a type of euphoria that gets rid of the everyday pains. But with about 7 miles to go the my toes started to sting. The thing I was wondering if this would happen during some of my training but it did not so I figured it would not come up. After about a mile I was able to tune most of it out and it really did not affect my stride to much. So on I went with my teammate Donna running along with me.

So the course was going around Fairmount park by the river. I knew this course. I have run around it so many times I have lost count. It is relatively flat and quite honestly a pleasant place to run. It was relatively well shaded but the sun was coming up. Because of the foot issue and that fact that I had gotten off to a fast start I was starting to fade. The worst part about knowing the course so well is that you know just how long you have to go. In any case, a question came up that needed an answer.

Where is the effing bridge. We had to get to the Falls Bridge to cross over the river and head back to the finish line. Well, the thing is that no matter how many times I have run there I never can figure out which turn that effing bridge is after. Donna and I were really starting to help each other through each mile but our new mantra was becoming, where is that effing bridge. It was becoming kind of a comedy of errors. I would swear that it was right around next corner but I was wrong. My mind was totally effed with on that. The good news was I was right the last time I predicted it was around the last turn. The relief I felt when I saw that beautiful white painted steel. It was across it and 4 more miles to the finish.

What a tough 4 miles. My legs were turning to lead and of course the 4 miles back started with a downhill. So my thighs started burning as I put on the brakes for another quarter mile. It was quickly becoming a death march. I started to use some of the old tricks I had in the past. I started picking out signs and objects to make them little goals. It works real good. I know I will get to the finish but minor victories were the game. It was pure slug mode. Donna kept pushing me along as the miles went on by. It was weird we started noticing these signs for medical mile posts. There were more and more as we kept getting closer to the finish line. At first there was one a mile but by the time we were a mile from the finish they were like every 100 yards. What the hell. We people dropping off faster than the finish line could come.

It was about mile 11 when we saw Maria. One of our great TnT coaches. It was great. I was pretty well tapped and any encouragement that could come my way was greatly appreciated. We turned a corner and passed a mile marker and the rest of the Team coaching staff was right there with us. So much awesome to keep me going. That last mile was long but it was well shortened up by the help from those angels in green shirts.

Then there it was. We were just at the 13 mile marker. The finish line was in sight and the photographers were there for those wonderful finish line moments. Donna was still there with me so we locked hands and finished together. It was amazing. I was back. After all that shit with the cancer and losing my legs. I was back. And I had my good friend Donna their to share it with. Cancer be damned even though I later found out I had relapsed it didn’t matter. What an amazing experience with new friends and the family there as well. This is just the restart and I am on a roll. Just wait till next month with the Monster Mash Marathon. It’s on like Donkey Kong.

Advertisements

Race Report: Rock n Roll Philly Half (part 1)

 

I know this is a long time coming and I owed this quite a while ago but I tend to procrastinate with these things. At least I am getting it done. So here it is. I have been trying to figure out where to start. My training for this race has been quite a different experience. First off I trained with others. I am usually a loner out there. It is not that I don’t like running with other people. I love it but I tend to kind of go into my own world and that is cool as well. Moving on I was brought back from post recovery to race condition through the help from Team In Training (TnT). What a great organization and what an amazing group of people. I hope to never lose contact with them and look forward to more training and hanging out and making new friends as others join. Honestly, when I started at the “Kick off” I was having trouble running for more than about 15 minutes at a 16-17 min/mile pace.

 

Really, all the credit goes to my teammates, the coaches, mentors and staff for getting me ready for the starting line. I knew it would not be easy but all it takes is one step and then repeat. Over the summer the mileage grew and my pace settled in to about a 14min/mile. I could do faster for shorter distances but that is not the point. For those out there that remember me rocking out sub 9 minute miles might wonder what happened. A couple of things. When I went through some very rough patches I refused to eat and lost a lot of muscle mass. It will take a while to get my legs back and they will never be the same. Also, my left lung was the house of tumor for several months and like any crappy tenant they left a mess behind. Scar tissue and the like reduced much of that lung capacity. Less lung capacity means less energy flowing through the veins and a moderation of pace keeps things in check. Needless to say the tumors did not get their security deposit back.

 

So here I was, trained up and ready to go. It started Saturday morning where I gave a rambling mission moment talking about my man Timmy and his experience with TnT and my awesome friend and brother Abbey. Abbey is a survivor as well that inspired others with her TnT exploits and was an amazing resource when it happened to me. She was always there for me, even when I didn’t ask and she was unaware, her presence and share experience helped in those days I needed a little kick in the back of the mind. Well, I rambled then Space, the Psycho and I went for a nice walk at Fairmount Park. Afterwards we went over to the hospital for an infusion of anti-fungal that the doc had me on. I had spent that time sitting there writing and taking notes. We later checking into the hotel where the Team was staying and got ready for the Team dinner. The created an honor guard to the dinner that consisted of cheering, bell ringing and general noise making. It was awesome and loud. A nice dinner and then got to some business. Some words on the course and the plan in the morning and the like and then it came.

 

I had been asked to say a few words because they thought of me as an honored something. So there I was. Throughout I was told that I was an inspiration and the like. Really, I kind of thought I was just being me. Which is kind of an ass about things. I just could not give up on running it makes me happy. Instead of rambling I actually wrote something out which helped. I actually wanted to refocus some things. It was a my journey but really it was about those that where there for me from the beginning how the honor was mine to have had such heroes at my side the whole time. At points I choked up and perhaps the words on the sheet became blurry as my eyes may have teared up a little but I made it through and dinner was done. The girls and I said goodnight and it was off to the room for some shut eye.

 

Waking up at zero dark thirty, we made our way down to the lobby of the hotel and with coffee in hand I met with the Team and some pictures were taken. It was kind of fun walking in a group to the Team tent and the starting line. We hung out for a while before we headed for our coral. There were a bunch of first time racers and I could see their nervousness. I am old hat at this so I just kind of relaxed. It just another start line followed by just another finish line. Boy was I wrong. Because of my new pace I was relegated to the last coral so I had a while to think about what was going on. We walked and joked around wondering if the winners would cross the finish line before we started. We were only about 30 minutes behind the first starters and noone can get 13.1 miles in Philadelphia in 30 minutes not even in a car. It was about 25 meters from the start line when it hit. It was that holy shit moment. I had had a similar experience in a similar spot when I saw the finish line at the Philadelphia Marathon when I was about to break 4 hours for the first time. I was awestruck and a nervous wreck. I couldn’t believe I was where I was. I had made it. We had made it. Cancer be damned.

 

We surged into a jog, crossed the timing mat and …

Fairmount Turkey Trot: Race Report

Here we are again.  It is Thanksgiving day and it is time to earn that Turkey.  Actually, I was roasting a chicken but still one of my favorite races of the fall.  Okay it is the only regular race of the fall but I love me some 5 mile Turkey Trot, the Fairmount Park Turkey Trot..  I woke up nice and early and got myself ready and made the trek all the way to Philly from Newark.  I got there and ambled my way to the registration table and I got a great surprise.  Rae who was spending the week with her grandparents ran up and tackled me with a big hug. 

Eitherway, I got registered and my kick ass tee shirt of which I was wearing last years.  Yes, that is how we show our status.  It is like wearing the shirt of th band that you are going to see.  We wear last years shirt or if your are at a marathon expo you wear some other marathon shirt.  That way people know you are no rookie.  Any who, I had decided to wear last years shirt even though I could have chosen from the previous three years last years seemed best.  Though last years shirt would have been okay to run in i decided to up the ante and put on a long sleeve technical shirt.  Not just any long sleeve technical shirt but my Goofy challenge shirt.  Yes I was feeling smug.  I may as well have been driving a hybrid. 

Well, it turns out that there was some construction on the usual route so there was a little re-route but nothing significant and it was not going to really affect the course that much.  So all of that was explained and I was getting ready.  There we were “Reluctantly Crouched at the Starting Line” and the horn is sounded and we were off and if felt good.  Okay, if felt a little tight but that is how all my races and runs go. 

I loosened up and I was moving.  Actually the weird part was I was not doing a lot of passing.  This may have been the first time in my return to running that I may have lined up just right.  I was moving and it was good.  Well, I figured I would get a pace adjustment as I passed the mile marker but for some reason I missed the clock.  I still don’t remember if there was one.  In the past there has bee but this time I just seemed to miss it.  I was just smoking past the back of the Please Touch Museum and then through the gate and turned right by the Japanese gardens and past the naked wrestlers.  Back out the gate and to the trail which had been re-paved since last year. 

I hit the home stretch turn and saw the finish line and Rae who took and awesome picture.  As I crossed the finish line I saw the clock and it said 19:20 something.  I was going to break 40 minutes again.  It would not be the first time but the first time since I got injured in ’08.  So I started to push a little harder.  I thought I would slow a little in the middle of the second lap.  It was actually starting to burn a little.  I had gotten some water that I needed and it was on.  As I passed what would have been the 3.5 mile mark I think I saw the clock that was supposed to be the 1 mile clock but it was not functioning.  I think.  Eitherway, it was really starting to burn and it felt even better.  As I rounded the Naked wrestlers again I knew this was special.  I hit the newly paved trail and though I was not really able to reel anybody in I was still kicking.

One turn to the left and home stretch it was.  I was moving and moving fast.  I saw the clock and it was just hitting 37 minutes.  Thats right.  I tried to push harder but I was already sprinting so more push was not more speed.  Then it happen I crossed the finish line and I crossed it at 37:37.  That’s right a 7:31 mile, a shattered PR and a big time negative split.

What a race and I was back.  I could not believe.  I have been going for the negative split thing but by a whole minute.  I cannot wait for next year.

Hokie Love in the Big Apple: NYC Marathon Race Report

I cannot believe it has been two  months since I ran the NYC marathon.  I would say that I have been remiss in my duties to report about a race a significant ast the NYC marathon but life is life and it has been busy.  I am sure my memory is a little fuzzy but at the same time I am sure details will come randomly as I composed this award worthy prose. 

Well, it all started on the Friday morning before the race and I decided that a good 7.5 mile technical trail run was in order.  It was awesome and amazing.  Now just earlier in the year I would have never even thought of running in the week before a marathon but lately I find that the itch is too much and there is no reason to fear a good jaunt.  Of course I went running on a ponds side trail after several weeks of rain.  So it was more an under water trail.  Eitherway, afterwards I cleaned up as much as I could, packed up, wrote a post or two, and got to trekking toward northern New Jersey.  I got to my Sisters’ place in Ramsey around 7 and waited for everybody to get home from work.  finally, my youngest sister came home and I found out that she was huge.

  Later I found that Ramsey, NJ is so far north that I could have sneezed and missed it all the way to Sufern, NY.  Either way, my sister Marie a NYC veteran and I discussed the plan for the getting me to the Expo.  She has already been so I was on my own.  It was okay, I am a big boy and can get around. 

Well, after being attacked by Marie’s one-eyed cat overnight.  Actually, he just cuddled next to me and demanded that I scratch his head for about 2 hours.  I got up around 6am put on the most awesome running shirt every (wait for it) and got a bus pass to the Port Authority.   From the Port authority walked to the expo.  I was almost derailed when I stumbled into the “America’s Got Talent” cattle call.  As much as I wanted to prove that I truly do sound like Lauren Hill and meet David Hasselhoff I figured that the country would have wait for my talents.

I found the Expo and it was fantastic.  It was the standard herd me to your designated number, color, sex, speed, hair color, and ,of course, shirt size sub group just to make sure you have the actual ability to run the race and receive a time when the day ends.  Eitherway, the expo was okay.  It was dominated by the Asics area but since they sponsored the joint they get a big display.  I test drove the Mizuno Wave Nirvanas and the new Saucony’s.  I was really disappointed when I found no Pearl Izumi set up.  What was even worse was not Laura Bars.  Despite these draw backs it was a lot of fun.  I got swag, tastes some nasty coconut water stuff, and the powerbar balls were awful.  As is mostly the case with these kind of things.  They may work at the energy thing but it is hit or miss about them being edible.  I did get a bunch of water and Gatorade and info on every marathon around the world.  I even found out about the Reykjavik Ultramarathon.  I am not sure if I can run 30+ on streets but I will find out.  The the best thing ever happened.  I went by the Runners World booth and bought the “Runners Rule Book” and performed a Slug sighting with Bart Yasso.

My day was made but I had to get something for Rae and then I picked up some arm warmers at a killer price.  That about did it.  I grabbed some more stuff and headed back to the Port Authority Bus station for the trip back to Ramsey.  While I waited I ran into the weirdest one footed pigeon.  It was freaking me out. 

Well, we fast forward to the night and preparations for the big day.  It is funny that several people had made great preparations to ensure that they got to bed very early like Laura at Absolut(ly) Fit and the Sun Runner.  I on the other hand sat down with my Sisters and their mother and an ate dinner and proceed to converse for several hours till the clock said 12:30.  At that point I actually attached my tag to the shoe, pinned my number to the Jersey and counted out my e-gels four times to make sure I had enough.  I set my alarm on my phone to play Cake’s “The Distance” at 0400.   I had an extra hour thanks to what I believe to be Congress’s only good act in the past 10 years when they changed daylight savings time to November 1.  I got up at O dark 30 and got ready.  Marie and I took the bus to the Port Authority to some random Subway to the Staten Island Ferry. 

I saw the statue of Liberty and once on Staten Island we bussed it to the next drop off and walked a couple of miles to the staging area.  I got pictures of me and the bridge and dropped off my bag and made my way to the start line.  It was all good and boy was the crowd big.

I heard the first wave start and saw people running across the bridge.  I was herded to the start line where each start was separated by lines of busses.  It was like the wall from Escape from New York.  This is where I made first mistake.  I put my foot up on the bus tire and retied my shoes.  On my second shoe the start gun went off.  Well, I set me clock on my phone and crossed the start line.  Honestly, for being the biggest race in the world the start seemed kind of small.  This was because I was I was on the bottom of the bridge where only one-third of the second wave starters were going.  It was kind of like a party as we weaved between each other.  The first mile went by without any trouble except I was still on the bridge.  The other part is that the clock had started with the first wave so I had to do math while running.  So Time minus 20 was oh this was easy.  If I finished at 4:20 on the clock I would have put on a 4 hour marathon.  Remember that.  Well, still things were going very well.  Just before I got off the bridge I remembered to remove my ear bud and heard the rumble from the top of the bridge.  I am glad I did not do this earlier because I would have run the record fastest two miles of my life.  It was almost scared me.  It was shortly after this point I got off the bridge and headed into Brooklyn where we met our first crowd.  It was a little sparse but a good crown none the less.  Actually before that I saw several “gentlemen” stopping at the base of the ramp from the bridge and emptied their bladders.

At that point I wondered if there was some study about how the bridges ramps tend to sink just a little every year and most around mid november than any other part of the year.  Either way, just after that the line of UPS trucks go by, that contained our bags of stuff to be transported to the finish line.  They honked and we waved.  Now I go back to the night before where my sister Marie warn me about 1st avenue in Manhattan and about how it seems to go on forever.  That is further along and she neglected to mention 4th avenue which happened to be about 80 miles long.  I mean we entered and that is where all the other starts joined together and then I understood the biggest race ever.  I thought I was crowded at Disney and at the Marine Corps Marathon.  It was a river of people that extended forever.  Here the crowd was amazing and here is where I started to get some hokie love.  I was of course wearing my Virginia Tech Bike Jersey and it is like bringing  my own personal support team.  People would see the VT and I would hear “Virginia Tech” and “Go Hokies.”  It is awesome.  But of course it was okay to a point when I realized that 4th avenue was never going to end.

In previous races I have tried to learn from each experience.  Sometimes I learn things but do not apply them.  Well, the one thing I have learned from my recent ultra running experience is that water and/or fuel is not something I need every mile.  I don’t train like that and I should not race like that.  So like at the slug events I have been to where there are 5k loops where I can rehydrate and fuel I decided would keep to that schedule and bypass the aid stations except for those on the 5k marks.  At least for the first half or 30k how ever I needed.  After that I knew that all bets were off and I would need to listen to my body more.  And I did.

Well, as the miles  went by and the crowd support was amazing and loud then the most deafening silence occurred when I entered the Williamsburg area Brooklyn, around mile 10, where there were spectators that had taken some sort of vow of silence.  I still to this day find it very hard to describe.

It was not long before I hit the halfway point and everything was going great.  I was feeling amazing and I hit the 13.1 mat on the Pulaski Bridge at 1:52.  Sure I was fast but it felt good and I was set up for a spectacular finish.  The next few miles went by pretty fast when I got to a spot just short of the 15 mile point and decided I would call to let people know where I was and the pace I was.  There were many including Rae and my sister Christina were out on course cheering Marie and I on.  This took several minutes because getting a call through was tough.  Well, with that taken care of I made the turn and there was the Queensboro bridge and I wished Queens behind.  The bridge was cool and though I had heard it was a hard incline to go up that was not the issued.  It was a bear of a down slope to come off of.  As I got toward that nasty downhill I heard this roar.  I must remind you that I am wearing an MP3 player but at this point I heard almost none of the music.  It was the 1st Ave crowd.  I had heard that the happy hour starts at 8am on Marathon Sunday and I believe it.  It was a wall of people lasting 3 miles.  I was amazing.  I could not believe the amount that this city has invested in the race.  I know now why they are proud of the event.  Unfortunately this is about the point where I was starting to fatigue real bad.  I was getting slow and the next few aid stations were walking points.  I was okay but I knew this was not going to get any easier.

I forgot to mention that I had passed the 4 hour and 3:45 pace groups earlier and it was on 1st Ave that the 3:45 passed me up.  That is no matter.  I was still moving strong. 

Well, right after that I found out that the NYC marathon was part trail run.  I hit the Willis Ave bridge and realized that it was a was technical trail that would better be known as the streets of the Bronx.  I mean honestly, it is a called civil engineering people.  All of my trail running experience kicked in and I started looking down to be sure of my footing and trudged on through till we got back to Manhattan. 

I came back down into Manhattan and the down hill off the Madison Ave bridge just about cramped my thighs up.  I was starting to get imbalanced but I was okay.  I just needed to adjust my pace and keep it going.  A few miles later and past Marcus Garvey Park is when the first of three 4 hour pace groups passed me up.  I figured I could keep up and i did for about a mile but I was spent.  The crowd again was getting big and I could see Central park on the Right. 

Hurt.

Pain.

Exhaustion.

Awesome. 

I turned into the park and again another down hill but I was feeling better.  The temperature was perfect and now I was feeling good.  I was still taking aid stations at walking pace but I knew it would not be long.  I was coming up on mile 25 and I knew I could kick mile 26s ass.  There it was 1.2 miles to go and I moved.  I got my water and started to push a little harder.  Then it happened I was halfway down Central Park South and I Zonked.  It was unbelievable, less than half a mile to go and I was just about done.   I finally got back to running and as I turned the corner I saw the finish line and I tried to pick up the pace but there was not much left.  Still I kicked.  I could see the clock it was counting at 4:19.  I pushed some more but the finish line was still not getting close enough.  I finally hit it and the last I saw was 4:20 and some change.   It was going to be close.  I was hoping for my first sub-4 marathon but I knew no matter what I had just PRd at the NY marathon.  It was amazing.  I found out later that I finished at 4:00:47.  So close and still awesome.

The next part was not as awesome.  I got my medal which rocked then I had the shuffle down the shoot to the UPS trucks to get our checked bags.  Also they handed us the bags with water and a macintosh apple (the worst textured, nastiest tasting apple ever made).  As we shuffled along I was starting to cramp up and cool down real fast.  I was not alone and there were plenty of medical personal to help us if needed.  I got to my UPS truck and it seems that they lost my bag.  After a long wait and some panic on my part I figured out that the bag that was turn backwards right in front of me was mine.  I grabbed it and moved on to my meet area where I caught up with Rae and Space.  I changed into a dry shirt and sweat shirt we started over to meet up with my sister Marie who had at that point just called me to tell me she finished.  We met up and got some barbecue before returning to NJ and then back down the Delaware later that night.

In the end, I love New York and the marathon is something I will do again.  I met got my Slug sighting with Bart Yasso, a PR, and a great tour of New York city.  Maybe next year.

Where in the World is Ceasar Rodney: Race Report

So just the week before we found our Champion finishing the CAL and successfully defending his title in the near freezing rain.  And yet another PR.  Well, after returning to Delaware an itch came over me and that was to finally break the 2 hour barrier on the Half Marathon.  If you remember I have come very close in the the Disney Half but was side tracked and missed the mark by 2 minutes.  I also missed by only 36 seconds in at Akron in 2007.  This is half of my only time goal these days and that is a sub 4 hour marathon.  I can’t get to that without breaking 2 for 13.1.   I had such an awesome run at the CAL I knew I was primed to take the Caesar Rodney by storm. 

This is where the brain got in my way again.  What have we detemined in prior posts here, here, and here that brain bad.  I had to get a long run this weekend and 13.1 is not quite a long run.  It is funny how stuff has been redefined.  Just a few years ago 13.1 was way more than a long run.  10 miles was a supreme effort.  Now 13.1 at race pace is not even considered a long run.  A long recovery run?  Maybe but not a long training run.  So I come up with the ultimate plan. 

I had been reading the 50/50 by Dean Karnezes and he mentioned that he does not run because he just enjoys it and that the goal is not just running but something else.  Well, I may have gotten that mixed up but it struck me, because, that is why I run.  Not for races which are awesome but for running.  Well, another thing that Karno has been known to do is run to and from races or park at the start of a point-2-point and run back after finishing.  What an awesome concept.  So here was my plan.

The Half had a 5k that started about an hour before it and the registration was open about an hour before that so I would drive down to Wilmington to register and get my chip and bib and drive back home to rest, gear up, and fuel up.  What a great plan, right.  Step B:  Once geared up, warm up.  So I ran the 3.5 miles to the start of the race from home with the full intentions to run back as a cool down.  It was a nice easy run nothing hard and a little down hill.  No issue.  Part 3:  Rock the race with PR.  How could I go wrong. 

Well, the first hiccup was that it was a little chilly and rainy and that would make things a little tougher when it came to that time between warm up and race.  The second is last week I pulled my quad a little and was not quite at 100%.  No matter.  I stepped out the door and took off down the road.  It was real funny as I got closer to Downtown Wilmington and started seeing other runners.  As I got to the start line there were some drinks (water and gatorade) from the 5k so I re-hydrated before the race started.  With the rain I was already getting wet and it was warming up so I was starting to over heat a little.  Not a big deal though. 

A little shaking and moving kept me warmed up and I gathered at the start line and waited for the “Boom!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  I mean it could wake the dead in death valley the start cannon was so damn loud.  I was warned and I still jumped and took off like a greyhound.  Okay more like a Basset Hound but still it made me jump.   As with all races with defined start lines with chip mats there start line shuffle/walk/shuffle started.  So I hit the start line and I was at least at a run.  Then came the down hill weaving to the river front.  I had once again placed myself in a slower section.  The issue was that with a small field I that was only about 10 feet difference.  Either way I was on the hunt for a PR.  I remember hitting the first mile mark in the low 8s and things couldn’t feel better.  At this point is where the course started to double back and I saw the gazelles.  Those guys are fast. 

For the most part the most eventful part of the first 6 miles was not much.  The part that irked a little was after the time split at mile 1, that was it till mile 6.  All I knew at that point was that there were some hills to contend with and I needed to conserve a little before hitting them.  The other issue was that rain had stopped and it was warming up. 

When I hit the 6 mile mark I realized that try as I might, I was still not holding back.  At the same time I was primed and in time to PR and break the 2 hour mark.  I could not believe it then.  So many times have I actually broken the 2 hour mark in longer races.  Actually, if there were a split in the CAL 30k I would have shattered my PR and been hard pressed to better it.  But now, less than half way to the finish line I was on pace. 

Then it hit.  The first real hill.  It was was up to toward Tower Hill School.  It was not steep but it was long.  I mean real long.  It went up about a mile and turned level before heading up another hill for about half a mile before the worst of it, heading back down.  On top of it all most of the hill was a double back on the course so I got to see others coming back at me.  At this point I realized that running back home after the finish may not be a good idea.  The real good news is the turn around at the top of the hill is only a mile from home and Space and Rae were there.  I threw my now soaked over-shirt to them and informed Space that I need to be picked up at the finish. 

You could say that after all that up hill it would have been all down hill from there but, you could be wrong.  You are wrong.  Why?  Because the down hill ends below the finish line.  It was like the race directors took classes at Evil School (UVa or OSU) because there came a near wall that lasted for two blocks before the finish.  The finish was actually about 100 meters of flat but after running a hilly course for 13 miles the up hills can kill, the down hills show some relief but the flats just feel like up hills. It can mess with your head.  I think I need to bring a level to make sure whether I am going up, down, or straight. 

In any case I got to the top and saw just what I wanted to see.  I had approximately 7 minutes to cover the final 100meters to break 2 hours.  I gave it one last heave and there it was.  1:53:24.  Awesome.  According to my splits, I actually sped up on the last half of the race which was even better.  I was spent and needed liquid bad.  What a fantastic day just about the running and the medal and PR were just icing on the already great cake. 

I don’t know hos Caesar Rodney is but he put on a nice half marathon and on top of that it was a great primer for the Delaware Marathon.  If only I could learn from the course I had run.  Either way, PR baby!!!!!!!

Catch a Leprechaun 2009: The Defense (Race Report)

Well it has been a long time and I owe some reports.  First off I must apologize for the delay.  I have been real busy and somethings have gotten pushed to the side.  Well, it is time to update my race reports. 

There are things that I have missed since I moved from the Cleveland area to Delaware.  The first being an actual winter.  The second being the races that I left behind.  Well one that I will never leave behind is the Catch A Leprechaun 30k I love this race.  It is a fantastic tune up for marathon race pacing and very well put on. 

So after a long a grueling drive on a Friday evening from Wilmington I made it to the Red Roof Inn in Avon Lake.  This gave me a day to rest up, get a hair cut and the best fried rice ever made at Tay Do.  Yes I am willing to drive all the way to Cleveland (Berea) to get my hair cut.  Well, the gas prices have gone down and she know how I like my hair done. 

It turns out that in Congresses infinite wisdom the clocks now spring forward on the same day as the CAL ’09.  I mean of all the things to mess with: the economy, taxes, mortgage regulation, tobacco, personal freedoms, socialism are all okay but screwing with a runners schedule is unacceptable.  That being said the race was postponed by about a half an hour.  No big deal.  It was still very dark when we left the hotel and drove the 2 miles to the packet pick up. 

Two years ago I ran (and won) this race in sub freezing weather with a biting head wind coming off of the frozen Lake Erie surface.  It was so bad that I “let” an older gentleman pass me for the sole purpose of drafting behind him.  It was awesome.  Last year we had a nice rain with cool weather that turned into a warm weather steam sauna.  Tough finish but still awesome.  This year had a new torturetwist.  Cold and Raining.  It was right at freezing but not enough to make snow or freezing rain and it was coming down.  When I looked out the window and at the weather channel I thought about putting on my warm running pants but decided that it was not that cold and the thinner ones were good enough.  To be honest, I would have been better off with just shorts or the warm pants.  The thin ones just soaked and stuck to my legs and I never really warmed through out the race.

Any way, I got the packet pickup and got everything order.  It was across the street from the start but it was warm and dry.  Eventually my buddy Dave got there and the Leprechaun himself Frank Zgrabik.  It was real nice seeing familiar faces at a race.  I feel like an outsider sometimes in the Delaware Valley.  Well the time was come for the start and we all reluctantly made our way to the line.  Rick has some instructions for us and we kind of paid attention but you could tell the majority of those running today were CAL Alumni.  We just kind of huddled under something till we had to start.

It starts and the gazelles, David and Frank take off and I get right into a comfortable pace.  It is cold and wet but all is good.  I have started one of my favorite races and it rocks.  This is where I can get into some real trouble.  The 15k and the 30k runners start at the same time and if I start pacing off of a 15k runner I could be going out way too fast.  The real bitch of it is that I started to think about the race with regards to the 15k.  The race is two 15k loops and being a NCN race has no split times except at the end of the loop.  Well, as the miles tick off Iam actually thinking stuff like “6 down, 3.3 to go.”  The problem is it was 12.6 to go.  The best part about this strategy is that segmenting my race into smaller races is how I got through my first half marathon and in a way how I get through my marathons.  

The good news is I hit the end of the first loop at 1:17.  The bad news is that I was totally soaked and real cold.  David sent me data on the day later it averaged at 38F.  The good news is that there is overlap of the loops at the beginning and end.  At that point I look for other “O’s”  An “O” on the racing bib means that you are in the Male Overweight Category (Clydesdale).  The “O” is just a coincidence.  This way I know if there are any competition that I may have to real in.  The really good news is that I say none.  I was in the lead.

Well, I switched caps and went on.  As I headed back out and hit the 5k turn around point (did I mention there is also a 5k), a fire was called in on a restaurant that just happens to be on the route.  Now I know that Fire bad.  For the love of all that is edible we want our food cooked on purpose.  Well, you might think that the fire being on the route as the bad thing.  The actual rough part is that the Police that were directing traffic around the runners were called off.  This left all of us with no road support.  I think there are drivers out there that are in wait for an opportunity like this because they seemed to be crawling out of the Northeast Ohio Pot Holes.  Cars started buzzing me and a few runners ahead of me were getting the same treatment.  I don’t blame the police because they were doing a fantastic job before and they had an emergency to tend to.  For the love of Prefontaine there were frying burgers that were about to be flame broiled. 

I eventually got of the main drag and into the neighborhoods and got settled down.  I was starting to get fatigued and because of the previous situation I had sped up to get off the main road quicker.  The funniest thing happened as some point on the second loop where I realized I had no idea what was playing on my MP3 player.  The music was there but I had tuned it out and my internal playlist was creeping in. It was disconcerting because I had never had my brain override my ears like that before.  No matter it was okay.  The rain was coming again and I need fuel.  Well, I had an e-gel ready.

I got the home stretch and speaking of my MP3 player, there are some songs that just get me going like The Distance by Cake, U-mass by the Pixies,   High Octane Salvation by The Dirtbombs, Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger, and The Distance by Cake.  Well, it was that song with just a mile and a half to go that came on.  It just propelled me on to the the finish line in 2:38 for another PR and to three time defending Champion.  That’s right I was once again I was the winner of the Fat Ass Division at the CAL ’09.  I cannot wait till next year to see the next torture. 

On a side note, as I was trying to cool down I totally pulled my thigh.  It sucked but did not deter me from running the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon the next week.  Just wait for that report.

Amblin run, Frostbite 5 miler: Race Report

Well, after  the Disney Goofy I decided that I should start back to my speed work.  Well, for the most part this means upping the pace on my training runs but the best part is that it means I get back to the races.  Those shorter runs with lots of people that go out way to fast and push you faster than you should go.  I was looking around at Races2Run for some February races and found the Frostbite 5 miler up in Ambler, PA.

What could be better I love 5 mile races.  The Fairmout Park Turkey Trot, Bedford 5, and St. Malachi’s 5 have been some of my favorite races over the past couple of years.  The bonus was that it is just a few miles from Space’s parents and we could stop by afterwards and visit.  Also, I could get a quick shower as well.  They have bigger hot water tank and that is awesome.  Either way, it was a plan.

So there I was signing up for the race.  It is put on by the Ambler Area Running Club.  Nothing special to it.  Sign up, pay money etc.  I am done.  Then a confirmation e-mail comes.  To my surprise I am actually reading the confirmation e-mail and it announces that this year it will be Champion Chip timed.  I look down at shoes and see my bright yellow chip just staring up at me wagging its tail.  Wait that is my dog.  The chip was there waiting patiently on my shoe to be activated by an over-powerful, invisible, cancer causing radio frequency transmitter/receiver mat.  The curious part is there was no place for me to include my chip number on my registration.  Well, all that planning involved in getting my own chip so I do not have to worry about putting a temporary chip on and getting it off was for naught.  No matter, I just wonder what will happen when my own chip goes over the mats.  We’ll see. 

Race day comes up and all is ready just an hour long drive to get to the registration.  Nothing really special.  The Blue route is still a bear to drive and I am sure it is Philly’s version of Cleveland roads.  The real best part is that Ambler has no places to park.  It is that old town feel with a main street and a train station.  That was it, the train station.  It was saturday and nobody was commuting to Philadelphia for work.  So… here was the Frostbite 5 miler parking. 

Registration happens, a nice t-shirt, chip goes on right foot, number gets pinned, porta-john christened and we walk to the start line.  There is still traffic and the chip mat is in a parking lot not set up.  Ah, last minute start line.  I am milling about which means getting into the mood for racing and Rachael is playing hopscotch with out a hopscotch lay out.  I love that girls imagination.  Either way it is distracting me a little. 

Racing is like Method Acting.  You can’t just go out and race with out throwing yourself into it completely.  It must consume you from the moment you start till well after you finish.  You know the outcome and if you don’t play it out to the obvious conclusion then you are in danger of only getting critical acclaim or worse a golden globe.  Which in running translates to a lack luster race and the potential for a DNF or just a bad run that you wait too long to write a race report about.  So here I am getting into The Race and they start talking.  “Blah, blah, blah, and then someone will sing the national anthem”  The really funny part is right after those words the entire crowd walks away.  The start line is set up and it is 10 yards away from our singer.  We all mill toward it and then start listening to the veterans of the race.  I hear about the hills.  Awesome, a couple of challenges. 

The race starts and there is screaming to the runners to make sure they step on the mat. Funny stuff.  The real funny part is that I am surrounded by a bunch of people at about the right pace but they are surrounded by those that are slower.  Seem like a bunch of people with no idea of their pace got in front of me and my pace group.  Weaving happens.  Nothing real hard but a few tight squeezes but all is good through the main street of Ambler (Butler Pike).  Then I see the biggest Afro ever in a race.  I mean the amount of product this guy must use must be phenomenal.  Must have been a weave. 

Turn and the then the first hill.  Nothing special but a good reminder that I am not in Cleveland anymore.  I hit the first mile in 8:25.  A little slow but all is well.  I lost some time at the start and that would be expected.  The description of the course included a small paved path that had me worried.  It connected to roads and these things are rarely kept up.  This was no exception but it was only about 10 feet long and no big issue.  I made it through and we were in a new neighborhood.  The people were actually at their driveways cheering us on.  Cool.  Up another hill and then the 2 miler marker.  What, no split time?  Argh!  No matter things feel good and I just need to keep it up.

We come up to an intersection and people ahead are turning right.  No big deal you might say but it is.  We don’t turn on the road but the path that sort of parallels the road.  This is no side walk or short unkempt paved path it is a frozen mud path that goes on for about a mile.  What in the world is this mess.  Nobody said anything about trail running.  I entered a road race I am a road racer.  (remember this is it will come up again)

Well, through the fallen branches and the very uneven frozen mud the path comes to and end and there it is.  Space’s old high school, Wissahickon High School, on the right.  We go past and then we turn right and there is Space’s old middle school.  You guessed it, Wissahickon Middle School.  Okay so they are building that have absolutely no significance to me but they were there and so was a water table.  The the Wissahickon School District in their infinite short sightedness put speed bumps on the road bisecting the schools.  I had to slow down.  I could have sprained something if I didn’t.  Oh the valuable seconds lost.

It wasn’t long before the 4 mile point came and there was someone with a stopwatch yelling out splits.  Awesome.  I hit mile 4 at 32:20 something.  I was right where I needed to be.  I was ready to really push.

BTW, I lost count of the miles and thought the 3 mile marker was the 4 mile marker and already started to kick.  That stopped when I saw the actual 4 miler marker. 

So push I did, because it was the big hill I had heard about at the start.  Nothing killer but enough to make you breathe funny on the way up.  Oh well, I got past the hill and turned into the funniest moment of the whole day.  Some Jack-Ass was trapped by runners and had gotten out of his truck to yell at the volunteer cops about holding him up from the things he had to do.  I have yelled at cops before and only a few times has it come out to my advantage.  I am sure this guy did not get the upper hand.  Idiot he was.  Thanks volunteer cops for helping us out. 

A few more turns and down hill to the finish.  A sprint finish and done with a time of 40:20 in 311th place.  Not bad for my way back to speed.  By the way, the guy in 310th place was someone they refered to bandit.  I like to refer to him as “My Left Foot.”  Yeah, that’s right, my own chip got to the mat just before the race chip did.  I refuse to believe that I am better than… myself.