Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Bonelli New Year

I've been on vacation for the last two weeks (partly planned, partly demanded by the economic slow down). I've spent a lot of time taking walks in my favorite place; favorite in that its close. My 2008 wrap up post will have to wait for another day. Instead I leave you with views of Bonelli on a 7.5 mile walk I took today. The temperature was in the low 70's, the sun was shining but there was a lot of haze. Enjoy the pictures and have a safe and fun Happy New Year's Eve. It looks like 2009 is going to be quite a ride. Stay calm, be diligent, plan for the future and keep running!

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

December Next

There is certainly no resting on your laurels with this group. No sooner had I finished state 13 and written up the report along came the questions of what’s next in general and what’s up for next December, more specifically.

Truth be told, I really have no idea. The opportunities abound with 37 states remaining, but the choices at the beginning of December are becoming more limited year by year. With 50 weeks advance notice I’m putting out some ideas for December 2009.

Taking a look at the following 15 races are on the marathon calendar:

Baton Rouge Beach Marathon, Baton Rouge, LA
Envirosports Death Valley Borax Marathon, Death Valley, CA
Kiawah Island Marathon, Kiawah Island, SC
St. Jude Memphis Marathon, Memphis, TN
Tecumseh Trail Marathon, Bloomington, IN
California International Marathon, Sacramento, CA Las Vegas Marathon, Las Vegas, NV
Marathon of the Palm Beaches, West Palm Beach, FL
Holualoa Tucson Marathon, Oracle, AZ
Charlotte's Thunder Road Marathon, Charlotte, NC
Rocket City Marathon, Hunstville, AL
Roxbury Marathon, Roxbury, CT
Nexbank Dallas White Rock Marathon, Dallas, TX
Honolulu Marathon, Honololu, HI
Otter Creek Trail Marathon, Brandenburg, KY

The list can get narrowed pretty quickly. In 2005 I ran Las Vegas. In 2006 I did Tecumseh and Otter Creek in back to back weekends. In 2007 I met up with Wes and Joe, along with David, Michele and Lana at Rocket City. Most recently Joe, David and I knocked off Memphis. That narrows the list to 11 choices.

Death Valley and CIM are off the list, too. NO MORE CA marathons! 10 options left.

Tucson is off the list, since I’ve already run Rock-n-Roll AZ in Phoenix. Roxbury is off too. I did Hartford in 2005. The list is getting a little sparse.

Baton Rouge Beach Marathon, Baton Rouge, LA
Kiawah Island Marathon, Kiawah Island, SC
Marathon of the Palm Beaches, West Palm Beach, FL

Charlotte's Thunder Road Marathon, Charlotte, NC
Nexbank Dallas White Rock Marathon, Dallas, TX

Honolulu Marathon, Honololu, HI

As far as Texas goes, Dallas is definitely not my first choice there. Eric tells me that Dallas is a lot of concrete. My legs are not a fan of concrete. I would much rather run Austin or San Antonio. My choice for Hawaii is definitely Maui. Maui is run in September within days of our wedding anniversary, how can I pass that up – Maui on our anniversary – Honolulu doesn’t stand a chance. There are many choices in Florida as well and West Palm Beach wasn’t on my radar. I have relatives on the west coast. I was leaning towards the Gasparilla Marathon in Tampa in March or ideally the X-Country Marathon in November.

So for me that leaves only the following three states: Louisiana, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

Baton Rouge Beach Marathon, Baton Rouge, LA
Kiawah Island Marathon, Kiawah Island, SC
Charlotte's Thunder Road Marathon, Charlotte, NC

That was until I opened the January 2009 Runner’s World and read about the North Central Trail Marathon in Sparks, MD. It is run the last weekend of November, close enough to December for me. This is now high in my list for Maryland, competing with the B&A Trail Marathon in March.

Where do you want to go in 2009?
Louisiana? South Carolina? North Carolina? Maryland?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Twin Peaks Ultra

In my grand scheme for 2008, the Twin Peaks 50/50, was part of my plan to thumb my nose at the “No More California Marathons Rule” and to enjoy some of the challenges that I had my eye on in my home state. The stress fracture early in the year took me out of contention for the Catalina Marathon and the Big Sur Marathon. Twin Peaks had been postponed from its original date in February, but I was already well on the way to the stress fracture on the original race day. The race would likely have just hastened the process.

When the race was rescheduled for December 13, just one week after the St. Jude Memphis marathon and 6 months after returning to running I knew there was no way I’d be in shape to complete the 50K. I had to give precedence to my primary goal of 50 states over the ultra. Instead, I signed on to volunteer again.

This time I had the distinction of manning the finish line for the entire race. I was the time keeper. It was pretty neat to see the expressions of joy and relief as people finished. The day turned out to be a chilly and windy one. For you folks in the PNW and MN it probably qualified as a light winter or fall day but most of the SoCal folks just weren’t prepared for the conditions.

The rerouted course was more difficult than the 2008 course. The highest peak is about 5700 ft. with the total elevation gain somewhere around 13,000 ft. Up on top the temps were in the low 30's with heavy mist limiting visibility to a couple of feet and reports of horizontal snow at times. Many runners commented that they couldn’t feel their hands for several miles.

Keeping the times was complicated by the fact that there were two distances, each with up to three start times. There were starters at 4:00, 5:00 and 6:00 for the 50 miler and 6:30 and 7:30 for the 50K. I recorded the actual time as they crossed the finish line and then did the math to determine the elapsed time. The task was made easier in that the runners never came in more than a couple at a time. The task was made more difficult in that the actual starts were really something like 4:03, 5:05, 6:02, 6:33, etc. Doing the math was a challenge especially on those half hour starts. Never the less I made it through. I know the actual times were recorded accurately. Jessica, the RD, promised to double check the math before posting the official times.

The attrition rate on the 50 miler was near 50%. The first place male came in at 9:30 hrs. while the first place female (out of two) came in at 12:00 hrs. The first place male in the 50K was somewhere near 5:38. The first runners started at 4:00 a.m. and the last guy off the mountain came through around 8:30 p.m. That's a long day. My day's duties started at 11:00 a.m.

I was glad to have been able to lend a hand as these hard core runners tested themselves at Twin Peaks. My own foray into the ultra world will have to wait for another day.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

St. Jude Marathon

It has been a long road from Huntsville, Alabama to Memphis, Tennessee. Three hundred sixty four days from the Rocket City Marathon to the St. Jude Marathon.

It was a great experience. I feel like I'm back in the game and glad to have gotten the thirteenth state done and over with. My shin held up just fine. On the other hand my right quad had potential to be deal breaker. For the last couple of weeks it has been tender and sore, possibly a pull or strain. It has hurt periodically during my recent runs. I held up OK during the 10K's last weekend but on my easy run on Monday it was extremely painful. I hobbled through those 3 miles like Quasimoto. I decided not to run another step until Saturday. I was aware of it always, especially the first few steps after getting up from sitting down.

The fun started even before the race. Joe and I were roomies for the third time. We stopped by the Autozone Park to scope out the finish line. Joe is really in his element there on the ball field. Later we shared a great dinner with David and his wife, sharing stories of our kids, careers and "just a little bit" of running stuff. And it was COLD, at least for me; somewhere in the 30's as we walked back up Main Street to our hotel.

By the time race morning came around I had pretty much decided on my race strategy. With the uncertainty of the quad situation, I decided to run along with Joe. We'd each spent 8 hours or so getting there; me by plane, Joe by car; so why spend the 4 or more hours of the marathon running alone when I could share it a fellow blogger and good friend. I had some concerns about walking every 3 minutes; I'm used to 7 minutes on my long runs; but I needn't have worried. It was really never an issue.

The wave start worked wonderfully well. It was about 20 minutes after the start that we crossed the starting line and the pursuit of state 13 had begun. From the get go my right quad was in pain. It felt weak and almost like it would collapse at any minute. I tried not to hobble so as not to worry Joe. The first mile went slower than Joe had planned mostly due to the crowds but I feared that my hobbling had effected us as well. Joe was concerned for me. I kept going, the quad didn't get any worse. A couple of miles in Joe checked on me again. I told him it was still there and that I was just going to keep going. I think we were back on track by mile 3. As we ticked off the miles the discomfort grew less and we ticked off the miles running 3 minutes and walking 1 minute. Joe kept track of everything. I walked when he told me to walk. I ran when he told me to run. He kept me up to date on our progress to the goal, 4:40, at every mile marker. I think we were always at least a few seconds ahead of schedule from mile 3 on.

We even synchronized our bathroom break. I'd been feeling like I could stop but wasn't in panic mode yet and didn't want to upset the rhythm. When Joe mentioned that he needed to stop I jumped on the chance to take care of business. The break cost us about 90 seconds which we made up fairly quickly by skipping the next scheduled walk break. We even got smart somewhere along the way and postponed or expedited the walk break on the uphills (which were really more like inclines) and the got right back on schedule the next time the watch beeped. It worked incredibly well.

It is just a hoot running along with Joe. He high fived the kids, stopped to pet a beautiful golden retriever, thanked every police officer on the route, belted out some Elvis tunes, heckled the mime, and did a great English Lit prof imitation. Joe meets a friend everywhere. We met Maniacs, Fifty Stater's, Army, National Guard, Team Weber, and St Jude Heroes. It was way more fun than gutting out 26.2 miles alone. There was no doubt I'd made the right decision.

We both felt pretty good right up to about mile 22. Around then it took me a little longer to coax my legs to start running after the minute walk. Around mile 23 my right IT band starting letting me know it was there. A mile later Joe's left IT band "started barking" at him. Very near the end it really seized up and he urged me onward. About a half mile from the finish there was a sharp U-turn to the right up a ramp. My right leg nearly collapsed on me then. I hung on and ended up crossing the finish line in 4:36:15 (official). Joe was about 30 seconds behind.

I was pleased to have completed marathon 16, state 13. I wasn't back full strength but I was back. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to my wife for taking the risk on me back in July and planning this trip. And a huge Thank You to Joe for meeting up for the third December in a row and allowing me to run along with him. The St. Jude Marathon was quite the experience.