Sunday, October 9, 2011

Wineglass Marathon - 10 October 2011

Wineglass Marathon – A Tragic Comedy in Three Acts

Act 1

Scene 1 - Breathe Deep, the Gathering Gloom

[Olive Garden Italian Restaurant, Horseheads, New York. Gusty winds under a darkening, foreboding sky…]

You’re kidding me, right? Horseheads? How does a town get a name like Horseheads? Early settlers came and found a bunch of them without any horsebodies attached? Or perhaps in the town’s early history the dominant family (the local equivalent to the Kennedy’s) was noted for their hereditary long noses and audibly Neanderthal eating habits?

Regardless of the name and despite the weather, our intrepid cast of characters began gathering this Marathon’s Eve for introductions, reunions, and some serious carbo-loading! Many of us have known each other for years without ever having met, thanks to the Marine Corps Marathon Forum and Facebook. Joining my family we had Charlotte and her husband, Bill, from Vermont, Jett from near Toronto, Len from Philly, Phillip from North Carolina joined by his wife and a few friends, Jeremiah and his wife from northern Virginia, and Ramesh – who probably gets the award for travelling farther than anyone else for this race. Ramesh had just arrived the day before from India!

Of course, it’s always the people who are missing that are the major topic of conversation at dinner! That would be Nita (from Texas) and Carl (from Middletown, PA). Running the Wineglass Marathon on Sunday wasn’t enough for these two. In fact, I think it may have been more of a peer-pressure induced afterthought to their weekend’s main event: The Megatransect Challenge. Started on Saturday, and preferably finished on Saturday, the Megatransect is similar in distance to a marathon, but that’s about where any similarities end. It is an annual race that apparently involves running, trudging and otherwise slogging one’s way up and over some 22,500-foot high peak in central Pennsyvania. Trails are invisible, and racers fight mountain lions amid a quagmire of rock and mud on their way to the oxygen-deprived summit, whereupon they are struck squarely on the head by race officials with a 5-lb. sledgehammer before being unceremoniously shoved over the back-side of said mountain where they can enjoy the second, more-grueling half of the race involving blood-sucking leaches, rabid black bears, and several of Tolkien’s orcs from Mordor. The race is, of course, only conducted during torrential rainfalls in frigid temperatures.

Or at least that’s the impression of this race that I got. I may have gotten the sledgehammer part wrong. It seems far more likely that the sledgehammer stage may actually have occurred prior to runners actually signing up for the event!

So during our wonderful dinner at Olive Garden , Charlotte would occasionally jump in with a text update newsflash from Nita at the Megatransect:

· Nita has finished! She apologizes for taking so long to text, but she had to borrow someone else’s phone because she broke her iPhone when the alligator bit her on the ass. She says the race was even more brutal than last year (yes, she actually came back for more!) Took nearly 9 hours to finish! Carl still on the course…

· Nearly 12 hours after the start, Carl is still out there! Somewhere. National Weather Service warns of a Category III hurricane on its way. Sweepers being sent out onto the course to save the lost souls before dark…

· Coast Guard rescues in progress. FEMA notified but a little slow to respond. Carl, apparently, had been trapped under a fallen boulder of white Tuscarora sandstone and was forced to gnaw off his right arm below the shoulder to escape!

So, it appears our friends would be running a little late to Corning. But for those of us at the Olive Garden, let’s just say that the Portobello-stuffed ravioli was to die for! We sipped our beverages of choice and snapped a few pictures before heading for home for a good night’s sleep.

Scene 2. Wakey! Wakey!

[Early Sunday morning, grey skies above, with rain pelting the shivering runners who gather amid the myriad port-a-potties near the start line of the Wineglass Marathon.]

“You made it!” Just arriving on the scene with my lovely wife, Andrea, I immediately heard my name and there was none other than the former BAM (Bad Ass Marine) herself, Nita! Holy crap, and here was Carl, too! Other than a small scar on his head from the tree falling on him after being struck by lightning, he amazingly looked none the worse for wear. Apparently, the overnight procedure to surgically re-attach his right arm was a success!

Jett and Ramesh were there, too, and we all said our quick hello’s. We might have had more time to socialize, but with recent course changes there was now a ¼-mile walk from the parking lot to the starting area. Right as an announcer started shoo-ing the runners to the start line, the rain started again. It would not stop for another, oh, 3 hours or so!

I reluctantly took of my fleece pullover and my long-sleeve shirt and handed them over to my Sherpa – er, I mean wife – but I retained possession of my trusty Niagara Falls Maid of the Mist rain poncho. So, with nothing but that to go with my shorts and t-shirt, I lined up at the start. No sign of my friend, Phillip, though. Damn! I planned on using him as my pacer. Now I felt orphaned.

Nearby was a little 3:35 sign held up by one of the official race pacers. Like an orphaned baby duckling who imprints on the first human it sees, I imprinted on the 3:35 pacer. I would run with my family. Mile after mile, through rain and wind, surrounded by my duckling siblings, I would run. Nothing would separate me from my family. Quack!

Ok, so maybe I was in over my head (my fastest marathon was a 3:46), but I figured that I’d probably be going their pace anyway if I’d have found Phillip. It was about 42 degrees F and raining steadily at the race’s start. I pulled off my poncho, and we were off!

Act II.

Scene 1. The Early Miles

[Wet, city streets of downtown Bath]

The decision to run with the 3:35’ers turned out to be a good one. The early miles went well, I warmed up quickly, and the roughly 8:10 pace was not hard too maintain. I stayed tight with the group figuring that any sheltering from the wind that they gave me was good.

The course is point-to-point with a net downhill, but for the most part it’s flat. We start rattling off the miles. The slight hill in mile 5 was hardly noticeable. I focus on my mommy, I mean pacer, who was generally about 10 feet ahead of me in our flock. And we ran. [Mile splits from my GPS: 1 – 8:08, 2 – 8:02, 3 – 8:20, 4 – 8:13, 5 – 8:10, 6 – 8:08, 7 – 8:08, 8 – 8:08, 9 – 8:15; Average pace 8:10]

Scene 2. Mid-Race Delusions of Grandeur

[Mainly country roads, occasionally interrupted by the small towns Savona and Campbell. A steady, drenching rain continues…]

Ducks are supposed to like water, right? Well, despite that, and despite the fact that my webbed feet are already soaking wet, I still try to side-step the ubiquitous puddles whenever possible. Maybe it’s just some kind of moral victory. Unfortunately, for every 5 puddles you successfully get around or hop over, there’s one that you don’t see in time and land right smack-dab in the middle of! Funny how when one foot hits a puddle it’s often the other shoe that gets wettest!

As the miles go by I gain in cautious optimism. Every additional mile where I keep that 8:10 pace means another 10 seconds of cushion that I may need later to get under 3:40. All the while I’m still feeling good enough that I feel like I could surge ahead if I needed to. I think back to a workout from 10 days ago in the streets of Frederick. It was an awesome tempo run with my friends in the Frederick Steeplechasers. On that night I managed to hang with some of the faster runners, ticking off several miles in succession in the 7 to 8 minute pace range. At times it felt like we were really flying. In my wildest delusions of grandeur, I picture myself around mile 21 and channeling my way back to that night, suddenly picking up the pace into the mid-7’s and remarkably cutting a couple more minutes of time at the end of the marathon, landing me under 3:31.

Why 3:31? Because for this race, for this season really, I have a small and quickly closing window of opportunity where a 3:30:59 or faster would technically be a BQ. A Boston Qualifying time! Not that that would matter, really, because it would qualify me for the 2012 Boston Marathon only, and that race is already sold out. But it’s the principle that counts. When I turned 40 I set a major, pie-in-the-sky goal: to BQ while still in my age group. Not to run in Boston, but to run a Boston qualifying race. I’m actually going to be 45 and in a new age group by April of 2012, but I would have run that qualifying time while 44 and still in the original age group. And while a sub 3:31 would qualify me for 2012, it wouldn’t for 2013 (despite the fact that any marathon’s result can be used for like 18 months.) No, apparently it’s too easy to get into Boston these days. They’ve made the qualifying standards stricter. For 2013 I’ll need sub 3:25.

I’m a stupid duck. So I’m wet and cold, but maintaining a nice pace with my flock and pondering what might be. [Mile 10 – 8:06, 11 – 8:09, 12 – 8:13]

Meanwhile, my hands and forearms start freezing up pretty good. The cold itself doesn’t bother me really (perhaps I was numb?), but I was starting to lose that basic cup-grabbing motor skill. Fingers worked reluctantly and only in unison. Every 2 miles I come to another aid station and am challenged with grabbing another cup of Gatorade from the (absolutely wonderful!) race volunteers.

And then it happens. I approach an aid station and my fellow ducklings in front of me manage to get every last cup being held by the volunteers. I pass the volunteers and every one of them is empty-handed! But then comes the table where they’re getting all the cups from in the first place. And there are dozens of cups on the table, pre-filled. Great! While running by I reach down for my electrolyte-laced cup of liquid energy.

Ah, but my hand! Like an angry Godzilla walking the streets of Tokyo and swiping cars and buses off an elevated expressway with the swinging of his scaly arm, so too flies the Gatorade off the table! My thumb jams into a cup, knocking it over. My fingers takes out a couple more. Cups fly! Gatorade splashes! And I remain an empty-handed radiation-mutated giant lizard who thinks he’s a duck on the run!

But the miles do pass! We go through the halfway point in 1:47 and then enter Campbell, where I find my family for the first time! Andrea, Lincoln, Raeann, Skylar, and Steve & Polly are a welcome sight indeed! I do some high-fiving and then I’m gone. We make a couple of turns and we’re running on a country road once again. [13 – 8:09, 14 – 8:15, 15 – 8:12, 16 – 8:12, 17 – 8:08, 18 – 8:11, 19 – 8:10; Average pace still 8:10]

Scene 3. End Game

[Wet roads approaching and entering Corning. Still raining…]

This is where I started to implode back in 2008 when I last ran Wineglass. But this time it’s mile 20 and I’m holding steady and still close to Mommy Duck! I see Andrea and the kids a few times over the last several miles as we pass throught the town of Painted Post (obviously the envy of the other local towns, where posts remain disgracefully unpainted!), and I’m happy to know that I probably don’t look as bad as I did in ’08 at this point. I am, however, losing that reserve I’d been saving for a surge. I hang with my flock for a little while longer, through about mile 22, but then I fall back maybe 10 yards. Aerobically I’m doing pretty well, but my muscles and joints are hitting that unresponsive stage; they are starting to refuse to do what I tell them to.

I fight as well as I can and manage to stay close behind the 3:35 pacer for another couple of miles. But for miles 25 and 26, every step becomes more and more difficult. I’m grateful to finally get to the bridge over the River Chemung because I know at that point there’s only a half mile to go. I sort of pick up the pace a tiny bit as I turn the final corner onto Market Street, trying to look good for crowd of people near the finish.

Trying to look good at the finish! Ha! That’s a laugh! Who am I trying to kid? I’m staggering home, wet from sweat and rain, skin clammy and pale white. I appear to have a gunshot wound to the chest, where the blood from my rubbed-raw nipple has left a bright red streak all the way down to my waist. The neurons in my leg muscles are firing in strange ways, causing little spasms here and there which my aching joints are ill-equipped to counteract, leaving me jerking back and forth, stiff-limbed. I’m groaning and my eyes are probably rolling up inside my head. I swear I must have looked like an extra right off the set of Zombieland!

But, hey, I finished. And with a pretty damn good time, to boot! 3:38:12 -- that’s a PR by over 8 minutes! I get my beautiful medal, reunite with my family, and then, “Hey, there’s Phillip!” Yeah, that figures. The race is over and now I’ve found him! As I expected, he nailed this race too and was down in the 3:31 range! He was actually one of my fellow ducklings for a while at the start, but I never saw him. [Mile 20 – 8:14, 21 – 8:11, 22 – 8:20, 23 – 8:27, 24 – 8:22, 25 – 8:52, 26 – 9:00, final bit – 8:31 pace. Overall GPS pace = 8:15. 312th place overall out of 1447; 50th out of 129 in my age group.]

After some great chicken noodle soup and then some hot chocolate, we hit the road, with marathon #6 now under my belt!

[Um, there is no Act III. Sorry!]

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Summer D - Week 2

It was a hot one (low 90s) for tonight's second summer decathlon event, but we had a great time anyway. I took all 3 of my kids plus one of Lincoln's best friends, Alec. The kid's barely 12 and has run a 20:25 5K already!

Tonights event: the 800M. They ran it in 5 heats, from slowest to fastest. Raeann went in a slow heat and did quite well despite the heat and any real running in the past few weeks. Lincoln went out in the middle heat and did awesome! He's 11 and is really starting to cover some ground with his strides as he gets bigger. He recently ran a 3:33 800M in school. Given the heat tonight, he was going to be happy with anything in the 3:30s. He kicked it in in 3:34. He looked good all the way through!

I ran in the second to last heat, along with Lincoln's friend Alec. He shot ahead right at the start and I never really saw him after that. I've run the 800M each of the last 3 years, getting times ranging from 2:41 to 2:42. (Big range, huh?) Given the really lousy mile I ran last week and the high temps tonight, I was bracing for something over 2:50. I was genuinely afraid of how bad it might be tonight. Well, no worries as it turned out. I took the first 100 fast, as I had wanted, taking advantage of the fact that I was one of the few wearing spikes in my heat, and then I settled into a steady pace. At 200M is usually where I feel horrible when I run this distance. Tonight, not so bad. I stayed steady through the first lap, and I was pleasantly pleased to find that my lap split was right where I was hoping it might be -- 80 or 81 seconds. I knew I should be able to do that for the first lap, but I figured that then I'd be pretty well spent. But the nice thing was that I didn't feel spent! I tried to hold my pace through the next turn, then tried to pick it up. Well, although I wasn't dead, I also wasn't quite running as fast as the first lap. Going into the final turn I started my kick, passing a woman that I'd been shadowing up until then. There was a huge gap from there to the next runner, but I cut that gap in half during the homestretch, putting a little distance behind me, too. Finished in 2:45. Maybe a few seconds off my PR, but it felt strong, and I had a little bit left at the end. I could have started my kick earlier and maybe shaved a little more time. I'm getting back to where I want to be!

Alec ran a sweet 2:40, BTW!

After the final heat of the 800 came the kids run. And Skylar just tore up the track! I'm convinced she may have the most talent in the family.

Then came the relays! We got into teams of 3 (based on our 800 times to even things out) and then ran relays where each runner on each team ran a 1200, then an 800, and then a 400, in that order. My son ran the workout too, which was really cool for me. As it worked out, I was our team's first runner and Lincoln was his team's first, so we toed the line together. He's not shy about trash talking either! Well, I won the first battle by beating him soundly in the 1200 (I had our team in 2nd out of 8 teams at that point). By the time my turn came around again for the 800, he had a good 50 yard head start on me. I eventually caught up to him, ran very briefly with him, and then kicked ahead. For the final leg, the 400, he had a similar head start. I ran it hard and gained on him - and he knew I was back there - but with only 1 lap to work with I couldn't make up the gap. I burned a good 1:21 for that last lap, but he still had me by a few seconds. Of course, then I really heard it from him about how he beat me in the end! We followed that up with Italian ice at Rita's. Fun times! I'm really looking forward to the next few years of sharing running with him.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Second to Last

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’ve never been much of a distance runner. At least, I wasn’t born with much natural aptitude for it. Back in high school I ran track and cross country, but that probably deserves some qualifying remarks. I was a jumper in track. Long jump, triple jump, high jump. Maybe got in a sprint relay every now and then. As such, the workouts involved being in the pits more than being on the track. I was better at building sand castles than running 400s.

To compliment track I joined cross country for my junior and senior years, and that’s where my natural running ability surfaced. Or rather the lack thereof. Every practice, every meet, I was the last one in on our team. And ours was one of the weakest teams in the conference. At most any other school, I probably would never have seen varsity. I always ran hard; tried to improve, but my place never changed much. Perhaps the defining moment for me came at the annual Niles West Indian Raider Invitational – the largest meet in Illinois. 299 varsity boys running. I finished 298th.

Through the years I continued running, but sporadically. Run for a few weeks and then I’d get too busy, or too lazy, and then I’d stop for a month or two. In 2006 I gained some focus and decided to commit to running regularly. At first I just wanted to get in shape, but soon I wanted to really find out how fast I could be if I really trained at it. Could I move up the running hierarchy; step up a couple of rungs and actually compete with a class of runners that I could never before be competitive with?

I think I’ve actually managed that to a small extent over the last few years.
But last week I raced the 1600M as part of the Frederick Steeplechasers’ annual Summer Decathlon. After an inconsistent spring and a few other issues, I can’t really say that I was expecting much. And with a 6:35 time that’s pretty much what I got…not much. A few days later I checked out the age-weighted results for the race and found myself, out of 25 male runners, second to last.

That’s a depressing result, but it’s given me something to focus on, something to point to and say, “Fuck no, not that!” Does it mean that I really won’t ever escape my genetic limitations? Will I always be condemned to running at the back of the pack of my peers? The result doesn’t depress me and leave me hopeless; it pisses me off! Ok, so I’ve re-visited this special little place – second to last – once again after all these years. But now I’m ready to leave and I AIN’T EVER COMING BACK!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bushwhacker Adventure Running Race

“Two paths diverged in the wood and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference!”
- Robert Frost

Well now, there it is. Gazing to my left through the trees, sweat, and fatigue, I finally saw it. A wooden, 3-slat fence running roughly parallel to my direction of travel. Over the crunching of my footsteps on dead leaves, I heard it distinctly laughing at me. It ran east, which is more than I could say for myself at this point. I was trudging, ambling, shuffling, not really running. One thought ran through my mind, “I’m screwed!”

My own private, little odyssey had begun just 10 minutes or so earlier. My old friend, Al, and I had been running together in the Bushwhacker Adventure Running Race, a roughly 10-mile, point-to-point race along the Bull Run – Occoquan Trail in northern Virginia. It’s called Bushwhacker for good reason. Rather than requiring runners to follow the same trail from beginning to end, the race hands its runners a detailed, colorful topographical map at the start and invites runners to find their own way to the finish. In other words: to bushwhack at will!

And things had started off just swimmingly! Drawing upon our experience from a year ago, Al and I were much more prepared for the race’s initial chaos. We dove into the woods at the right spot; hit the right trails; bushwhacked successfully. By the first checkpoint (of 3 total that runners must hit in order) we were running 18th & 19th out of about 80 who started. We were owning this race! We held our places through the second checkpoint, too, and were still in pretty good shape as we hit checkpoint 3, even though our main bushwhack in that leg was a bit more, um, scenic than we would have liked!

But Alan and I were now in the middle of our largest, most ambitious bushwhack. Well, Al was probably nearing the end of it. I, however, now feared that I had somehow circled my way back to the beginning! It was that fence that had me concerned. We had left the Blue Trail yet again, in favor of this “shortcut”. While the main trail headed southeast before turning northeast, forming a wide V of about ¾ of a mile in length, we instead shot the hypotenuse. Or tried to. Shot myself in the foot is more like it. According to The Plan, our jump-off point from the trail would be where a fence turned up into the woods. We’d follow along it for a few hundred yards before turning more easterly, down into and out of a gully, before climbing uphill to meet back up with the Blue Trail. It was only 2 inches on the map, how hard could it be? That was The Plan.

The Plan, however, did not account for us missing that fence entirely. The Plan did not have us diving uncertainly into the trees after crossing a dirt road that confirmed for us that we had, indeed, passed our desired fence already. And The Plan did not have me being gassed enough at this point that I’d fall hopelessly behind Al. Things were not going according to Plan! For a short while I Marco Polo’d my way after Al. But as his voice faded away ahead of me, I steadily descended into a boreal version of Dante’s Inferno!

In the 1st ring of Hell were branches, lower and lower they swiped at my head as I tried to duck. This was Dante’s Limbo, or I was doing the limbo, not sure which. Finally, the branched were too low and I was in the middle of a thicket. Branches everywhere, slowing my descent. Charging through, I entered the next ring of Hell and found…spider webs! On my arms, in my hair, yuk! Fighting my way out, I next hit the trial of thorns! Vines wrapped my arms, my legs, and thorns pierced my skin, trying to hold me back as I forced onward. Hopping over a fallen log or two, I had a chance to look around. I no longer had any clue what the right way was. I was then stunned to see that I now found myself in a maze of fallen logs all around me. They were everywhere, like some great Oliphaunt had just come traipsing through, knocking over all the trees. Many of these logs were at waist level, and there was no good path out! Having committed the sin of wandering aimlessly, I was now punished by having to cross a land where direction was meaningless. I had the same, slow traverse no matter which way I went. I climbed out, figuring that I must have reached Dante’s 9th ring of Hell by now! Half expecting to round the next bend in the gully to see a 3-headed Satan, with antlers in lieu of horns, chomping on a chipmunk, a wood elf, and another hapless trail runner, I moved onward through the gully. Virgil, get me outta here! Ahhhhh!

Snapping out of it, I reassessed. Where am I? Dunno. Where’s Al? Dunno. Which way do I need to go? Dunno.

But then I heard a faint voice. It was the amateur astronomer in me. It said, “Pssst! Hey, Bonehead! Over here. Look up!”

Ah, yes. The sun! Figuring that at this hour it must be approaching due south, I put the sun to my right and headed east at a jog. Soon thereafter, I was looking at that darn fence! Whether I had doubled back or had made progress, I didn’t know. And it didn’t really matter, I needed to go east. With renewed confidence that maybe I could still avoid having the race officials send out a search party to find me, I ran. Then I found a trail! Yee-haw! Not the Blue Trail, but heading south on this trail I soon got back to the Blue Trail, the runner’s yellow brick road!

It turns out that I had rejoined the Blue way down the line, beyond where we had intended to hit it, and this left me with less than a mile to go. Summoning up whatever energy I had left, I ran! By the finish I was completely spent – the hills on this course really are killers – but I had actually still managed a decent time despite my excursions, 1:48:59, nearly 2 minutes faster than in 2009. Not bad, all things considered!

In two years, the Bushwhacker Adventure Running Race has quickly become my favorite race; it really is an adventure! However, it is with sadness that I recently learned that the race organizers, EX2 Adventures, are not able to bring the race back for 2011. They just haven’t gotten enough participation to prevent losing money. ‘Tis a shame. I plan on pestering them to bring it back, though, but we’ll hopefully leave Dante out of it!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

November Elections

Allow me to introduce myself. I represent The Commute Is Too Damn Long Party. People are driving 4 hours a day and 20 hours a week and some to a 3rd job. Woman can’t afford the time to care for their children, drivin’ while their children eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My main job is to provide an end to road construction, removal of speed cameras, and open lanes of traffic. This is politics as usual. Playin’ the silly game, but that’s not going to happen. The Commute Is Too Damn Long movement, the people I’m here to represent, don’t have the time to drive to work! They’re being laid off right now as I speak! They’re drivin’ breakfast, lunch, and dinner!... Listen! Someone’s horn just honked! Did you hear it? Gotta listen like me. Let’s talk about the issue – people can’t afford the time to sit in traffic! Stop!...The Commute Is Too Damn Long!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ryan Hall

A day or two ago Ryan Hall made his decision. He’s backing out of running the Chicago Marathon on October 10th ( . It’s certainly not the first time an elite running backed out of an event, but I think in this case the reason is pretty lame.

On September 19th he had a (relatively) poor performance in a half marathon in Philadelphia; instead of winning or dominating, he finished 14th. His time there was actually slower than what he normally runs for the first ½ of a full marathon. So his performance that day was disappointing, and I can sympathize with that. Furthermore, Hall says that he’s had a rough couple of months. I can sympathize with that, too.

``I was very excited to run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon but my workouts haven't been good. I'm very much a guy that when I show up at the starting line, I believe everything is possible, and I go after things with my whole heart, so if I'm not ready to go, I'm not going to show up and have a performance that doesn't reflect that.''

He had a poor race and his workouts haven’t been good. So he’s not running Chicago. No injuries mentioned. No illness. His workouts haven’t been good.

I’m sorry. Don’t we all have bad workouts? And when one of us frets about it, don’t the rest of us come to the rescue with a steady, confident chorus of “It’s okay.” “We all have bad runs and get weary of the training.” “That’s what the taper is for! When you toe the starting line you’ll be rested and ready to run your best.” “Have faith in your training, you’ve done the work!”

That last one brings in the irony. Here’s a guy that for years has been famous for his deeply religious convictions. His FAITH in God. And here he seems to have lost faith in himself.

Granted his marathon goals differ from the rest of us, but the marathon training process is similar. The hardships are very similar. How many of you will decide on Oct 20th that, “You know what, my workouts have been poor and I’m not running well, so I’m sure I won’t run well in the Marine Corps Marathon, so I’m not going to try.”

I can tell you that I’ll be at the head of a very long cyber line of runners on this forum ready to chime in with, “What the heck are you talking about? You’ve got to run it! NO QUITTING!”

He says that when he’s shows up at the starting line, he believes everything is possible, and he goes after things with my whole heart. Sounds to me like he believes everything is possible only when he knows that it’s probable. Quitter.

Monday, March 1, 2010

RRCA Club Challenge 10 Miler (2/28/10)

The RRCA (Road Runner Clubs of America) Club Challenge 10 Miler is a hilly and usually frigid race at Howard County Community College geared primarily toward clubs in Maryland and DC. Its format is similar to a cross country meet, where the place of the top runners from each team count toward their team’s score, and the lowest team total wins. On the men’s side, the top 12 runners from each team would count; for the women, 6. There was also a Co-ed category that combined both. Typically, 10 or 11 clubs in the area are represented at this race including, of course, the Frederick Steeplechasers. We are one of the smaller clubs and as a result are pretty much outclassed by the larger clubs from Baltimore, Howard County and Montgomery County. Last year we finished 7th across the boards.

This would be my 3rd crack at this race, and my main goal was to match or beat the PR that I set there last year: 76:48. However, thanks to a bad cold over the last two weeks I wasn’t entirely sure that I was quite healthy enough for that yet. My less stringent goal was then to try and stay under 8 minute miles throughout.

Weather conditions were pretty typical for this race: cloudy, breezy with temps around freezing. I even saw a snowflake or 2 at the beginning. I got in a quick ½ mile warm-up before the masses started herding their way to the start, and then we were on our way!

The first two miles are significantly downhill. Last year I ran that first mile in 7:10, and was chastised by my friend, Crista (who ran with me then as well as for this race), for running her into the ground way too early that race. So we tempered the start a bit, and this time our first mile split was a more rational 7:29. Slower than last year, but I hoped that would help later.

The next few miles were similar to last year, all in the 7:40s and 7:50s. My feeling was gradually returning to my hands and arms, but unfortunately the remnants of my cold were causing me to leave a trail of phlegm behind me that, had I gotten lost, I could followed to find my way back to the starting line.

Mile 6 is a difficult mile – last year it was my slowest – with significant uphills. These hills slowed me down once again: 8:14. Unlike last year, however, I wasn’t able to pick up much speed after that, and for the rest of the race I ran 8:00 to 8:10 minute miles and eventually fell behind Crista, who seemed to be getting stronger and stronger.

I kicked fairly well with about a ½ mile to go, and managed to pass a few people, but finished in 79:22, well behind last year’s race. I was the 15th male Steep, so my place didn’t count other than maybe I displaced a runner from another team (our men moved up to 6th place this year). I’m glad I came in under 80, but I walk away from this one with some lingering doubts about where I am and where I can get to as a runner. Am I reaching a plateau? Will I continue improving in the marathon as I have in the past? Or is my age going to start slowing me down? Can I get down to 3:40 on May 2?

Then again, maybe having a cold recently slowed me down or reduced my endurance a little. If so, it’s hard to say by how much. At any rate, I’ve got to get healthy again and continue to train well. I’ll really know where I’m at when I run that marathon!