Sunday, June 01, 2014

Race Report: Sunburst Marathon 2014

ORN:  26.2 miles, 4:39:30, R/W 6/1, 10:41/mile

Summary:  Once again, I enjoyed the hilt running the Sunburst Marathon yesterday.  The connections for my family are many.  It's well organized and is one of the races about which I arrange all my other races for the late spring and summer.

Gory Details:

A little different approach for this race are a few photos with captions.  Then a bunch of text about the day at the end.  Enjoy.

On the drive up, I drove by this small diner in the town of Logansport.  John and I stopped here to dine in style when we ran Sunburst in's a classic small town eatery.  It's been closed for several years now and looks it...yet a unique spot, where the elite meet to eat.

At packet pick up on Friday, I found this sign in the t shirt tent humorous.  "Marathon Men can be either half or full !!"

The marathon started at's a rather lousy selfie in the pre-dawn cool.

During mile one, I found the legendary Jim Simpson, in the red shirt here, and ran with him for a while.  I also ran with Larry Macon for a while too...both men are amazing and it was terrific to see them both once more.

The course had three turn around points and, at the third, I asked a person to get a photo of me actually turning around.   Banana in hand (see text below), I got an action photo of myself.

Here's my photo of Notre Dame's famous Golden can read the story below of why this was significant.

The race organizers had to shift the finish line away from the customary 50 yard line of Notre Dame Stadium and we got a glimpse after the race of why this was needed.  Even on a Saturday morning, heavy equipment was carefully grooming the substrate for the new field turf going in.  Despite just finishing a marathon, the engineer in me noted and appreciated the laser-guided bulldozer blade getting the grade just right.  When you watch Notre Dame football on TV this fall, you can now say "Hey, I saw a photo a guy took of what's underneath all that green!"  And you will be the life of the party with a line like that.   This is a full service blog, you know.  


Ok, here's the story of the race. 

I think I got the "run the best race conditions allow" on this one.  My official time was 4:39:30 and it was my fastest marathon since Monumental last November at 4:07.  The temperatures, particularly for the final hour of my running, were warm, yet they didn't really bother me.   Some thoughts. 

My plan was to run a 6/1 run/walk and hold it as long as I could, with a pace during the six minutes of running of 9:45 to 10:00/mile to finish right around 4:40.  Based on the long runs I've had since Illinois 5 weeks ago, I thought I could sustain that.  Amazingly, I did.  I never varied that plan.  At all.  It was a 6/1 all the way and I recall even in the 23rd mile, I found myself enjoying the run and then getting close to or under 9:00/mile pace.  Whoa, boy, you're not done yet and there's one really big hill to remaining...rein it in a bit.  And it worked.  From the mile splits on my watch, it looks like I  had either a negative split or a dead even first and second half.   They didn't precisely mark the halfway point but it looks to me like I was right at 2:20, there, which projects (let me get out my calculator here....) a 4:40 marathon.  My aggregate splits were in the mid to upper 10s all the way.  Mile 23 was 10:36, mile 24 was 10:10 and the final 1.2 miles were at a 10:09 pace.    Overall pace for the full marathon was 10:41/mile.  Quite bluntly, I lost about 4-5 minutes finding places to pee on the first half and looking for my previously stashed bananas....more on the latter below! 

In the final 1.5 miles, the route goes due east, one block south of the main E-W street, Angela Street, on the south edge of the campus.   In so doing, the route crosses Notre Dame Avenue, the street which angles up from downtown and runs directly into the heart of campus.  If you stand in the exact center of ND Avenue, you can see the Golden Dome lining up perfectly (and tree branches obviously trimmed back to afford such a view!).  I remember Dad talking about going to ND the first time in September, 1933, taking the trolley from the downtown train station on ND Avenue to campus and this being his first sight of campus proper.  

So, as we approached ND Ave, I decided to pause and try to capture this.  The photo above somehow hearkens back to what Dad may have seen.  I paused as well and just tried to absorb that for a moment.  

Of course, I still had over a mile to run from that point!!  And Dad would be the first to say "Joe, quit gawking and get on with the task!!!"  I can almost hear him saying that!!!  The temps were in the upper 70s by this point and I'd run 25.2 miles already and I was looking forward to being done.  Interestingly, though, the course was different from what we've had before, since there is heavy construction going on in ND stadium and we could not finish on the field.  So, instead of running directly past the Mendoza  (Line) School of Business building [always a highlight for me...who hits .200 in business?] to the stadium, we ran one block farther east, then turning north onto campus and then meandered around practice fields and construction zones to eventually get back to the W side of the stadium to the finish just north of the stadium tunnel.  

And as I ran the meandering final mile on tired legs, I tried to picture what on earth practice fields must have been like in Dad's day.  Yeeeesh...the grit, the dust, the minimal grass wearing hot wool practice uniforms....oh my!!  It must have been tough.  And so I thought, "OK, Dad, you gutted it out, I'll do the same in this last mile in your honor!"   So I did!!  It hurt but then again it really didn't hurt....I had this big smile on my face thinking of Dad, enjoying the pain and fatigue in a real, shared, sort of way with him.  Interestingly (and he'd be pleased with this) I also passed maybe 50 people in the last there was some reward for the effort.  I came around the stadium and hit the finish line, so happy, so grateful.  Hard to express, but it was terrific.  

In the offing, I also hit a nice goal.  I had hoped today to run a 4 hour, 40 minute marathon.  During much of the race, my pace/splits were indicating I'd be close but probably a little over that, like 4:42 to 4:44.  My actual finish time??  4:39:30...I beat the goal by 30 seconds and absolutely that last mile sealed the deal. 

What was also interesting to me, though, was what I observed just after the race.  Many of the people I passed in the final 1.5 miles I had been running with much of the day and so we had all chatted a bit, as it happens.  I got across the finish line and then hung around a bit outside the stadium before going to get some food to say hello and congratulate some of the folks I ran with.  With zero exceptions, they were too zonked to really engage.  I was energized, happy, enjoying and savoring the moment.  They were all wiped out, miserable, in pain, sore, clueless.  Amazing.  

There was one young woman who I actually talked to afterwards whom I had met in the starting grid.  She, her sister and a friend started together, all wearing matching green shirts.  So, I dubbed them "The Green Team" and chatted with all three along the way.  Gradually, they separated and I talked with them individually as well, since there were 3 out and back sections on this new course and you could see those ahead and behind you.  It was all of their first ever marathons and they all hurt, badly by the end.  The one at the front had a very sore foot, her sister just came across with blisters and the friend was still on the course, badly cramping in the calf.  

I walked back from the stadium to take the bus back downtown to my car and the bus was full of groaning, aching people, lots of ice packs and zombie-like looks.  The bus got to the drop off point downtown and hardly anyone moved on the was too much effort to stand up!!  Eventually, we all got off but, again, most were limping/gimping zoned out while walking back to the cars a block away.  

Why were all these people hurting and I wasn't?  I even felt a little guilty about it.  On reflection, though, the combination of experience, selection of pace, the run/walk, taking enough water and electrolytes along the way on a warm day made the difference.  And, what a be able to be coherent enough at the end of a marathon to know what is going on, to well remember my Dad, to encourage others along the way...that's now the equivalent of my "Olympic Trials"!  

Certainly, preparation helps.  The plan I worked up in mid April to amp up the mileage it taking hold.  Here's my monthly mileage chart for the last 12 full months.  Yes, winter is over and it's rolling up.  

And now we get to the very serious topic of Bananas.  

On Thursday, I pulled the course map, set up my GPS to map a route and made an efficient plan to drop off one banana at the 5,10, 15 and 20 mile marks.  I got this all done on Friday afternoon, plus picking up my race packet.  I thought I had found good spots along the race but still well concealed.  

Ha.  I was oh for four on this one.   

The mile 5 banana turned out to not even be on the course.  They changed one of the out and backs and while I could see where it was, it would have been an extra 300m of running and I didn't think that wise.  I was lucky, in that just beyond that, they were passing out Gu packs, so I took a Gu.  I like the 100 calories from a banana better than 100 calories from a Gu, but I needed the energy.  The mile 10 banana was in the residential area just before Mount South Bend.  I think a member of the nice neighborhood must have seen me and wondered and took it off.  Disappointed, was I.  

Now I got lucky again, in that at an aid station at mile 13, they were passing out bananas and so I got one there.  Tasty, indeed and I knew I had another one at 15.  Yeah, right.  The same deal as happened at mile 10...a resident must have moved it or a critter carried it off.  Ugh.  But, then, lucky again, they were passing out bananas at mile 17.  And that very banana was the one in the photo at one of the other turnarounds.  Fine, I say, I still have one more at mile 20.  Nope, not today, dude...same deal as neat, tidy South Bend citizens cleaned up my hope for race nutrition!!!  So, I had nothing to eat from 17 on in but it worked out.  

Next time, I need to note that I must find more public places like parks or non-residential areas to stash my bananas.  Oh, the trauma.  But looking for these lost bananas probably did cost me a couple of minutes total!! 

And how about the signs people hold at marathons???

Around mile 13, we were coming up on an aid station and the folks staffing this station had put out a series of signs, most of them the usual.  I was running and chatting with two other guys at the time and the layout was along a slight curve, so the signs came into view one at a time.  And then we saw the new one and all three of us broke out laughing at the same time.  it said:

The NSA is tracking you.

So funny!!  Very clever and timely.  Then, one of the other guys had a further clever idea...he suggested they could place a second sign, 20 or 30 yards farther along the course, that said

No, really, the NSA actually IS tracking you.

That would be fun.  

So, there you have it.  A full blog post, the day after a race.  

Persevere.  My Dad sure did.  


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Circular Logic Marathon


Being a Race Director is a lot different than being a runner.  Yet, it is a terrific way to give back to a sport I so enjoy.  Our third Circular Logic Marathon on March 29, 2014 came off with our largest field ever on the worst weather day in our short history.  Much good came and while we still have a few kinks to work out of the event, it's encouraging.  And a lot of work.  I view every race I run though very different eyes since becoming an RD!!  Here's the story.  

Gory Details:

This was the third running of this quirky little marathon that first jelled in my mind several years ago.  (You can also read my reports on the 2013 race and our inaugural event in 2012)   It was also the biggest and we continue to learn a lot. 

During the 2013 race, we observed we could handle a few more runners on our 1.000 mile loop course, given all the passing that happens.  So we bumped our field size limit to 165 marathoners and 21 marathon relay teams.  We opened registration on November 1 and sold out the marathon on March 3 and the relay slots on March 14.    This never ceases to amaze me.   It also gives my wife many laughs as I express this amazement all winter long as each registration arrives.  And we all agreed this is about the right field size...we'll stick with this going forward.  

A huge reality of any road race is pick the date, way in advance, and hope for the best when it arrives.  Late March in Indiana is a roll of the weather dice and this year, while it wasn't snake eyes, it was hardly a seven.

My uber volunteer and work colleague Mike and I arrived at the race site at 5:30am on race day to 39F temperatures.  By the time we were set up for the early starters at 7am, it had started to snow.  The wet white stuff continued right through the 8am early start and was still coming down for our main start at 9am.  Snow on race day...yeow.  But that's what we had to deal with.

Not everyone who registered showed up.  In all we had 146 marathoners toe the (snowy, cold) start line and 128 finished.

We instituted a 6 hour time limit for this year's race but also allowed early starts for those who needed extra time and didn't want to compete for awards or Boston qualification.  Our early starters knew just what they were doing and persevered well, as this shows:

7am:   17 started, 16 finished
8am:  12 started, 11 finished
9am:  117 started, 101 finished

We had 19 of the 21 registered relay teams make it to the start and all 19 completed the race.  About half of our relay teams were made up of families and four teams were school age kids from a large local Middle School.  

And off we went. 

One of the cool things about a mile-loop marathon is the chance to see the race develop without even moving.  As in any race, a lead pack formed, setting the race pace.  Eventual race winner, Jake Gillette (in the white cap and singlet) ignored the cold and took charge from the beginning.

Our women's winner, Laura Gillette (in the turquoise singlet, above) also took charge of the women's race from the start, yet didn't have to run alone on our loop course.

And, yes, Laura and Jake are married!  And, yes, they both won the CLM for the second year in a row.   And, yes, they are really neat people too!!

With the race started, we then began to make sure the race progressed well.  

A unique feature of our race is our Litter Free Water Stop.  

All our runners bring one or more of their own water bottles.  We set up tables with a designated spot for each runner with his/her bib number and name.  It took seven full tables to serve this year's field and our water stop volunteers did an awesome job keeping the bottles filled and in order!

The race then simply happened.  It is so much fun to just have 300+ marathoners and relay team members hanging out in a city park running, having fun and (this year) trying to stay warm.

Man, it was cold.  

It wasn't all that awful for the full marathoners who were dressed properly; they warmed up and stayed warm with the proper layering.  Those who were not running (the Race Director, for one), however, just got chilled.  We all persevered, though and the race happened.  

Our winners finished under 3 hours and our early starters started finishing and our final runner on the course came across the finish line 10 minutes before our 6 hour  (3pm) cutoff time.  Our volunteers pitched in and we had the entire park cleared by 3:30pm, clean, litter free, without visible evidence we'd had a big event.  That was really sweet.  

Since race day, I've reflected on a lot.  A few thoughts follow.

One of the best things about being a race director is hearing the unique stories of all of our runners. There are as many stories as there are runners, of course, yet a few stand out.
In December, the cross country coach from the University of Jamestown, a small school in Jamestown, North Dakota contacted me. He had a talented distance runner he felt had the skill to qualify for the NAIA national marathon championships.

The coach's problem was finding a marathon in some reasonable driving distance early enough in the season at which he could qualify. Last time we checked there are very few marathons in North Dakota during the winter and CLM popped up as a possibility, if we were game. Well, one thing led to another and we were very happy to welcome Conner Doppler (in the orange singlet above) to give it his best at the CLM. He and his father drove from North Dakota to Indiana for the express purpose of trying to run a fast marathon. And run fast he did! Connor tucked in with the leaders early on, ran the best race of his life and ultimately placed 2nd overall in 2:45:09, blasting his target time of 2:50.

In so doing, Connor qualified for the NAIA nationals in Gulf Shores, Alabama in June. He and I had a good laugh about just how different the weather in Mobile in June will be than the weather in which he qualified!

And then there was Jennifer Savage. Jenn has been a running friend of mine for many years and a fellow Marathon Maniac as you can tell in the photo below. Jen truly honored our race by setting up her racing schedule such that the CLM would be her 100th lifetime marathon. We gave her bib number 100 and she ran wonderfully well in this milestone event.

She had a terrific group of family and friends waiting at the finish line for her and she was thrilled both by the support and by the accomplishment of 100 marathon. We were very honored  Jenn selected our race for such a special personal accomplishment. Way to go, Jenn!!

And then there is Eddie "The Barefoot Bandito" Vega. Eddie is seeking to run a barefoot marathon in each of the 50 states to raise $50,000 for shoes for children in the Philippines and Pacific Islands. You can read his plan here and even donate to his cause.

Eddie is a fabulous guy, full of encouragement and energy and came all the way from South Carolina to notch Indiana in his quest for 50 states. That he ran barefoot in snow and cold, wet conditions is even more amazing. He was thrilled with his medal at the end and in showing off his well conditioned bare feet to the Race Director! Eddie, thanks for running.

The medals we awarded our finishers this year were different than what we've done before.

They were still in the shape of a circle rather than a traditional medal, as we have done before. But, if you look closely in this photo, the wording on the medal is itself circular logic. Relay runners got the smaller medal, marathoners the larger. In addition, anyone who had finished a previous CLM individual marathon this CLM got either two or three of the small Greek letter pi dangles on his/her medal. Consider that a "frequent runner" award. I was surprised at how excited our repeat runners were to have this extra bling on their medal.

Three people deserve special mention, as they really pitched in to make this year's race go so well and to relieve me of much concern.  

I already mentioned Mike.  He was a Division I college cross country runner and truly understands how competitive runners think.  He was a major adviser to me all along, a fact certainly enabled further by the fact we are both engineers at the same company.  On race day, Mike turned into a one-man, inexhaustible, really clever cheerleader.  He circulated all day along the course, learning virtually everyone's name, nick-name and Grandmother's maiden name.  So many expressed thanks to him to help them go.  He had no voice at race end but seemed happy anyway.  

The second is Mark.  He's not only the treasurer of our running club but also a great youth coach.  Mark recruited, organized and communicated with all our race volunteers.  Then, he led the four youth relay teams for the entire day, while running a full marathon himself.  Mark is an awesome detail guy, helped me so much with race finances and really made our volunteers feel better organized.  

Third is Sarah who did the terrific job of just keeping our water station going.  That's a central part of our race and it happened flawlessly.  

I'm deeply indebted to these three and the 30+ other volunteers who made this race happen.  It was due to them we've receive such wonderful and humbling post race comments on . 

Was everything peachy?  No.  I still don't have the lap timing and display nailed down perfectly.  We got it all worked out in the end but it was not yet perfect.  This drives the Race Director nuts and remains Job One in preparation for next year's race.

All in all, though, this year's race showed me something I had not fully grasped in the previous two CLMs. A loop marathon uniquely creates an event which is simultaneously a race and a community effort. Since our entire field of runners plus volunteers occupy a single space for multiple hours, we all sensed the group effort. All of us were focused on either finishing ourselves and/or helping other people to finish the colossal effort which is a marathon. Our relay teams worked together and with the individual marathoners to make the event special. I found this quite moving, at an emotional level.  And I'd never quite grasped this as much as I did this year.

So, as we began to wrap up race day, I asked my local running club colleague Cory (who had created our original race logo) to modify it for future use. He sent me the result a week later:

We inserted the initials of our Wabash River Runners Club in the center of the logo; our club is central to making this race happen. Then, we added the tagline "Together We Run". Indeed that's what we did all day on race day. Further it captures the genuine community effort that is running. We will use this new logo going forward, as it captures in a simple way just what this race has come to be. I hope others find this as helpful as I do.

Hope you enjoyed this write up.

Persevere.  Together, persevere.


Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Race Report: Icebreaker Indoor Marathon 2014

ORN:  26.2 miles, 4:47:48, 11:00/mile.  66 of 87 overall, 2 of 4 Men 60-69

On January 25, 2014, I ran the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon in Milwaukee.  It was a hoot, running an indoor marathon as the snow pounded down outside.  

We ran 95 laps around the outside of an Olympic grade, full size speed skating rink.  And we just went round and round.  I enjoyed it, as it was flat, no wind and a way to truly get out and run during a very harsh winter.  

Repeatedly, people have asked me "Didn't you go crazy running 95 laps in nearly 5 hours?"  Quite honestly and pragmatically, my answer is an emphatic "No!"

There was so much going on that it was not a problem at all to run all those laps.  Biggest amongst them was the fact we ran this marathon at the same time the US National 50 kilometer speed-skating championship was going on.  We were running on the outside...the endurance speed skaters went on the inside.  I have always been fascinated by speed skating and got to see it up close and personal for a long time.  Wow, are these folks amazing athletes.

Not only was there speed skating, there was also ice hockey, another sport I've always enjoyed.  Two full size hockey rinks inside the speed skating oval were busy all the time we were running.

On top of that, the music play list for the entire race was need for earphones!!  There was a lot to enjoy and do, in addition to talking to fellow runners as we passed and were passed.

On top of all of this, it was good "practice" for me as well, to understand just what runners feel during loop marathons...we much keep in mind I'm the RD for a loop least our race has a "mere" 26 laps!!

The single aid station we saw 95 times was staffed by wonderfully enthusiastic people.  It was chilly in the area next to the speedskating rink and they got cold standing there, but stand there they did!  I really appreciated them and went back to say thank you after the race.

I met Sue, a fellow Maniac, before the race.  From San Diego and having connections to Purdue, I wondered about her sanity indeed leaving sunny California to get to run indoors in Milwaukee in January!

So, it was a nice race and great to run long in awful weather.  Well organized and a good winter opportunity.



Monday, December 30, 2013

Race Report: HUFF 50K 2013

ORN: 6:32:01, R/W 3/1, then 2/1

Quick Summary:

The HUFF 50K on December 28, 2013, was a most enjoyable ultramarathon.  The weather was kind, very kind, the course was welcoming and the people friendly as always.

Gory Details:

The HUFF 50K has a long and storied tradition, both in Midwest ultra running and for me personally.  It's been around for 17 years now, a fixture on the calendar either right before or right after Christmas, depending on where in the week the holiday lands.

I first ran the HUFF in December 2004...9 years ago.  Here's a photo of me at the close of that race.  At the end of this post is my photo after this year's race.

The HUFF offers both the 50K and a 10 mile option.  I took the latter in 2004, only 8 months after I started my second era of running.  Before that date, I had not run farther than 8 miles in the new era and had never run on trails.  The HUFF that year served to show me I could run longer distances and also gave me a taste of the exhilarating and challenging elements of trail running.  It's a hoot to read my blog post from the 2004 race and see how my view of running has evolved.

Fast forward to this year's race, now in its third edition in a venue 25 miles north of the one I ran in 2004.  I've run all three of the 50Ks at the eponymous Chain O' Lakes State Park.  Both long-time readers of this blog might recall my deeply philosophical report on the 2011 race (with knee deep, 34F water throughout...still the hardest race I've ever run) and the happier (and shorter) report on the 2012 event (a pleasant day in the woods, with snow wafting down and me taking a hard fall).

I drove up the night before the race and stayed in Columbia City.  Given the new diet I moved to nearly three years ago now, the traditional runner's "carbo load" dinner has given way to a perfectly sized spinach salad for supper.  Thanks, Bob Evans, for having such healthy option on the menu!!

I checked into a motel, where the desk clerk remembered I had stayed at the same place the night before the Veteran's Marathon about 7 weeks ago.  That's impressive when someone remembers an individual like that.  After a reasonable night's sleep, I was up at at oh dark thirty and was parked in a primo spot at the race site at 5:45am.  I picked up my bib and stayed warm in my car, enjoying oatmeal and thinking about the day.  Or should I say "over thinking".

"Over thinking" is an issue for me generally and it all hit home for this race.  The temperatures were forecast to start in the low 30s and get into the mid 40s by the end.  That overlapped the temperature at which I shift from wearing tights to shorts.  Yet, the actual temperature, even before dawn was 34.  Back and forth I went, but ultimately decided to wear shorts, if for no other reason than to simply say I ran in shorts at the end of December in Indiana.  This proved to be the right was perfect to be in shorts all day.

My other "over thinking" didn't work out so well.  What shoes to wear?  I had brought two pairs of my usual Brooks Adrenilines with one pair modified with sheet metal screws in the bottom, as shown below (and blogged about here ).

My decision rested on what trail conditions would be.  From the weather and what trail reports were posted on-line, I expected to encounter mostly dirt with some mud.  So, I ultimately chose to not wear the screw shoes.  That proved to be a mistake, as I'll describe.  

The sun rose and the nearly 900 runners in all events (460 50Kers and the rest in a 10 mile loop and a 50K relay) gathered.  As usual with logistic delays getting people into the limited parking in the park, we started 10 minutes or so late.  During the wait, the assembled Marathon Maniacs quickly posed for a pre-race photo...sure good to see many of these folks at yet another event.  

The gun went off, we had a short run on a park road, then turned into the woods.  You can see me making this turn, towards the left in shorts, a minute or so into the race.

There was more than a little snow on the ground.  Unexpectedly,  a localized snow squall put about an inch of fresh snow on the ground in the park overnight.  As we began the race therefore, I quickly found I was running on packed, slick snow, pushed down by all the runners ahead of me, not the bare dirt I had planned on.  I was surprised by this and kept expecting it to clear.  This saga would continue.

Other than that, man, what a wonderful day it proved to be to run!!  The sun had just risen as we  headed into the woods.   The empty trees gave a constant view of a cloudless blue sky and the modest 7mph southwest wind was of no consequence and kept the temperatures warming.   The course along the lakes in the park yielded some fantastically beautiful views of the sun reflecting off the icy surface of the lakes as you can see in this photo one of my fellow runners snapped early in the day.

With more clarity of thought, I had decided  to use a 3/1 run/walk sequence, as that pace lets me go comfortably over long distances.  Once the crowd thinned by mile 3 or so, I shifted into that sequence and the day settled into a rhythm.

Around mile 5 or so, there was a stream crossing which represented the only real water on the course this day.  Here's the sequence when I came to can see the "conga line" forming to cross on the stepping stones rather than going calf deep through the stream.

That crossing done, the course just rolled along.  By this time, it was warming and I soon stuffed my bulky mittens into my fuel belt.  It was perfect to run in shorts.

During the final portion of the first lap of the 15.5 mile course, I reverted to over-thinking mode regarding footwear.  I had not put my screw-shoes into the drop bag at the start/finish line.  These homemade beauties were still in my car and getting there would require an extra half mile or so of running.  Should I do it?  You can see the internal debate.  I finally decided that I would swap the shoes, despite the necessary detour.  At least I had scored the good parking spot.

I came across the timing mat in 3:01:05, thrilled to be at 3 hours half way through.  I then dashed up the hill to my car, changed shoes, dumped my bulky mittens, texted my wife and nephew/brother John with news of the race so far and asked an unsuspecting but helpful passerby to snap this photo of me.  She admonished me to look enthusiastic...I guess an "over thinking" face looks worried, not happy!!

From there, it was back on the course.  And, within a quarter mile, I could tell the difference.  Even though the rising temperatures had melted some snow, the ground was still icy and the screws truly gripped a lot better.  I wished I had worn them from the start, both for the grip on lap one and to avoid the 8 minute "pit stop".  But, hey, we all learn.  

And lap two proceeded comfortably.  Mostly, I was alone in my thoughts with just a few conversations.  One of the funniest happened on a hill climb.  Many times, people have initiated a conversation with me based on a race t shirt I'm wearing.  But this was different...a lady I passed asked "So, did you enjoy the Bayshore Marathon?"  Wow, how did she know that...I'm wearing a Brooks night life vest with no advertising.  Then she said "I have a pair of socks like yours."  Sure enough, in all my trail runs I wear the socks which were a giveaway at that race with the race name knitted around the top.  And this lady actually spotted my socks!!  What a hoot.  We had a nice chat.  All due to a pair of socks.  

Mostly, though, the race was about the scenery and serenity of the woods, well captured in this photo.

The miles just kept clicking by on the second lap, which always amazes me.  How is it this thing came to be, where it is enjoyable to simply run and run and run??  I never lose the enjoyment of that fact.  

By mile 26 or so, I noted more labored breathing, accompanied by a soreness in my left hip, around the abductor muscles.  What to do?  I didn't over-think this too much, for once.  From experience, I knew I needed to keep hydrating and I also decided to cycle back from the 3/1 to a 2/1 run/walk ratio.   Mentally, I was a touch discouraged to hit the hit the 26.2 mile mark at about 5:29...gee, a five and a half hour marathon, that didn't do much for me.  But, hey, guy, this is a trail ultra and you also spent 10 minutes changing shoes and posing for a photo!!!  OK...let's just keep moving. 

By mile 27, the slower pace allowed me to recover and the good feeling came back.  The last four miles of the race were pure fun.  I ran well during the run segments, enjoyed the woods when I walked and was thankful for the whole experience.  About a mile from the end, I came by a four-way trail intersection which was familiar to me since this is my third time to run this course.  Not so for a young couple who had been just ahead of me for some time...they very nearly made a wrong turn and would have run three extra miles rather than heading for the final mile towards home.  They looked around, slightly confused, and asked directions.  I was able to help them and we all had a good laugh about the "brain mush" which happens after 6+ hours of running.  

And home we headed.  We crossed the park road for the last time and I ran continuously the final 3/4 mile.  There was a nice collection of runners and family around the finish area and the smiles and cheers truly helped.  I hit the finish line, feeling just fantastic and so thankful.  Marathon/Ultra #45 was done.  

My final time was 6:32:01, placing 249th of the 400 finishers and 8th of 15 in my AG.  It was my best HUFF 50K, by almost 5 minutes over last year's time.  In the days post-race, I had no pain, no soreness, just the usual tired legs, ready to get going again.

It's been a good year of running for me. It's been a good nine years of running.  It's nice to have the same race at both ends of the gig.  And we'll keep the gig going...I already have the 2014 HUFF on my race schedule.  


Thursday, November 07, 2013

Race Report: Veterans Marathon 2013

ORN:  November 9: 26.2 miles, 4:42:46, 10:48/mile, R/W 3/1

Summary:  The Veteran's Marathon in Columbia City, Indiana became an enjoyable long training run coming, as it did, only 7 days after a hard-run marathon.  It's amazing to me it could be so much fun to knock off two marathons in a week's time.

Gory Details:

Even after 40+ marathons and ultras now, I find it fascinating that the remarkable thing about a particular marathon is that there was nothing really remarkable about the race.  This was a nice long run on a sunny windy day with no pain, no wall, no hassles.  It was a small field, so I had only 2 or 3 conversations.  Most of the time I was by myself, enjoying the solitude of distance running.  So, since my experience was fairly unremarkable, I'll simply make a few remarks and add a few reasonable photos.
Pre-race with prime number bib

Since I had a business meeting the day before the race in the same part of NE Indiana, logistics were simple.  I booked a room in Columbia City, was up at 5, drove out to stash four bananas next to a fence post which we would pass four times, parked near the start line and lined up on time.  The race started with a bang, as a local cannon reenactment group fired off a blank howitzer round.  Off we went.

The course this year was simplified, with a single loop of 13.1 miles east of town which the marathoners ran twice.

Around mile 5

The cap I wore was the right weight for the day but, when running into the wind, I had to flip it around to keep from chasing it off into the nearby corn fields.

Mile 10..wind flipped my cap around

I finished the first loop in 2:18:17 and got a few smiles from the traffic police as I  headed for the second lap, saying "Hey, let's just do this again!"  But that's pretty much what we did...just do it again, only this time with fewer people and the 200 or so marathoners well spread out.

My map-reading skills helped the race prep, as the course layout had a one-mile ish segment which we traversed four times.  A particular fence post along this stretch was at miles 5, 9, 16 and 20.  The four bananas I stashed there were perfect for fuel and made for some funny looks each time I jumped down in the weeds and came up with curved yellow fruit.

The last five miles went quickly for me.  The mile splits were all the same as the rest of the second half but mentally they just zipped by.  We got back into the heart of town and it was over.
At the finish line

I was six minutes slower in the second half than the first (2:24:48) but I noticed both the men's and women's winners, friends Jason Gillette and his sister in law Laura Gillette, also had a six minute slippage over the last I felt OK.  Final time was 4:42:46, good for 134 of 206 overall and 12 of 21 in my AG (which stands for Almost Geezer, 60-69...when I turn 70, it'll be JPG, Just Plain Geezer).

Post-race w/ Andrea and Boris

I did see quite a few people I know from local races.  I snagged this photo with fellow Maniacs Andrea from Wisconsin and Boris from Michigan at races end.

And that's it!  Another marathon done.  It's been an enjoyable stretch of racing during our fine fall weather, with five marathons, two half marathons, a 15K, a 4 miler and a 5K in 11 weeks.  I am fine, though, to not have another race until the HUFF 50K on December 28.

Thanks for reading.  Persevere.


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Race Report: Indianapolis Monumental Marathon 2013

ORN:  November 2, 2013; 4:07:28, a PR!  Run (mostly), 9:27/mile

The Indianapolis Monumental Marathon is a well-administered race which, on a perfect day to run, afforded me the opportunity to set a PR in the marathon. I did not hit my sub four hour goal for the race but I was happy nonetheless. The marathon is an outstanding and relentless teacher.
Gory Details
This race was the second in a series of three this fall which I hoped would land with good weather enable me to make a serious attempt at getting under 4 hours for the marathon. I could not have been better served with the combination of course and weather I had on November 2nd.
The Monumental Marathon is in its sixth year. It represents a substantial effort by organizers to bring a "big city-style" marathon to Indianapolis. They have succeeded in many respects, as over 13,000 people signed up for the 5k, half marathon, and marathon.
I drove down the morning of the race. I had intended to go down by myself. However a wonderful surprise emerged when a neighbor (who knows of my enjoyment of running) phoned on Thursday night before the race and I asked if I could give a ride down to her nephew. Said nephew and his wife and three children were staying at our neighbor's house and no one was interested in dragging 3 preschoolers in the pre-dawn darkness to go stand in the cold while Daddy went running! This turned out to be a wonderful surprise, as Chris and I discovered much in common during our drive down. We are both old baseball players, he a pitcher/outfielder, me a catcher. The competitive juices we both stoked on the diamond from childhood through college we now flesh out via running. It was a treat to get to know Chris and also a treat to see him after the race and hear of his 3:27 time the first time he's ever run 26.2.
My race revolved around an attempt to get under 4 hours. I've written about this in previous posts and I had a strategy I hoped would work.  With a flat course beckoning, race day dawned dry , with temperatures in the low 40's. Perfect, a real path to hit these splits.
What I had not anticipated was the sheer size of the crowd wedged into running the city streets of Indianapolis. The gun went off precisely on time and the 10,000 or so half marathoners and marathoners begin a winding path through the heart of the city. While, on paper, the course went past many of the famous sights of the city, the turns and potholed streets required one to pay close attention in the midst of crowd. I knew I needed to keep each of my early miles at or slightly under 9 minutes. This proved difficult in the pack. My first five mile times were 9:15, 9:08, 8:32, 8:56 and 9:05. They added to exactly 45:00, on track, but more effort in bobbing and weaving than I had anticipated.
By mile 7 we had a little bit of space yet it still felt very crowded as we moved from having curb to curb to simply having a coned-off single lane of well-traveled streets. By mile 10, I was 29 seconds over my expected pace and even though the half marathoners had pealed off on their trip back downtown, the course remained crowded. I discovered not surprisingly that I kept running into that large pack of runners surrounding the four-hour pace group leader. I wanted to get slightly in front of them and did so occasionally. But merely walking through a water stop, which was part of my core strategy, often let them pass me again. At the half marathon mat, I was dead even with the four-hour pace leader but my time was 1:58:21. I went to Purdue and I can do math and I know that 4 hours divided by two is not 1:58:21! I think the pace dude was a little quick.
Shortly after the halfway point, we pivoted back towards downtown Indianapolis. Unfortunately, this course continued to narrow while the blob of runners at this pace remained the same. From mile 14 through almost 17 we were wedged onto one lane of Meridian Street, one of the busiest in Indianapolis. Much traffic zoomed by just outside the cones. At the 17 mile mark , I was a full minute behind my projected pace. Most of my miles where the 9:02 to 9:20. From miles 18 to 20, we wandered down progressively narrower paths and side streets, I was plotting just what I would be doing the last few critical miles.
I hit the 20 mile mark at 3:01:49 nearly 2 minutes longer than the 3 hours even I had targeted. As mile 21 stretched to mile 22 it became evident that the turnover I needed to keep the pace was not going to happen on this day. It was not a function of the weather or the crowds or the pace or anything. At this point I simply couldn't keep up with the rabbit chasing the 4 hour marathon.
Therefore I modified the plan hoping I could still get a PR. I reset my watch to go back to my run walk sequence, this time using the three minute run, one minute walk routine. As it has so often done, it restored my legs and gave me some confidence as to how I can finish. We turned back onto Meridian Street heading straight south into the heart of Indianapolis at mile 23, where I gathered my wits to see if I could get ahead a PR.
I hit mile 25 just under 3 hours and 56 minutes. I knew that if I applied myself I could certainly cover the last 1.2 miles in less than 12 minutes. So apply I did. It was just work at this point...block by city block, keeping it going, despite the wind in my face inbetween the tall buildings. We made it to the State Office buildings, two left turns and the finish line. I hit my watch and was thrilled to see the digits 4:07; a new PR on a legitimately measured marathon course I was thrilled.
Within about 30 seconds after crossing the finish line, a gentleman walked up to me and said "Joe Ely, how nice to see you!" I looked up and it was Bob Kennedy. I met Bob the year and a half ago when he ran our first Circular Logic Marathon, for which I am the RD. Bob is pursuing a wonderful goal of being the first man in the United States to run a sub four-hour marathon in each of the 50 states after turning 60 years old. Bob returned to Indiana to run the Monumental and succeeded, logging his 44th state a few minutes earlier, finishing in 3:53. Bob and I had corresponded quite a bit about the strategy necessary to consistently run marathons under 4 hours at our advanced age. I attempted to integrate many of Bob's hard-learned lessons. Some I did not execute as well as he did. Others truly worked well. Bob was both empathetic and insightful about my finish. It was really good to see him again. I admire the work he has done.
While the weather was perfect for running, I got chilled quickly while walking and chatting with Bob. So I headed for gear check, picked up the dry clothes I had left and walked to the Indianapolis Convention Center about a block away. It was wonderful to change into a dry shirt in a closed, well-lit, virtually empty, clean restroom! From there I walked back to my car, thankful my legs my feet and my spirit felt terrific.
In summary, I'm very pleased with this marathon despite the fact I did not get my supreme goal. I truly ran this race as hard as I could. I'm thrilled with the stat sheet I paste below (despite being the slowest "Ely" in the race!). I have complete peace that I "ran the best race conditions allowed", as my motto in running has been for a number of years now. Will I again attempt a sub four marathon? Right now I don't know, I have a hard time imagining running a marathon much better than I ran at the Monumental. And, if I never run a marathon quicker than 4:07, I'll be fine.
And this is one of the beauties of the marathon. It is so long, it is so hard, it extracts so much of you physically and mentally, yet is the fairest and most demanding teacher of any physical endeavor. And if we just keep learning from it, we are richer for it.
Persevere my friends and keep learning.