Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Race Report: Labor Day Weekend Trifecta; Parlor City Trot HM, Boomshakalaka HM, Blueberry Stomp 15K

Aug 30, 7:30am: Parlor City Trot HM, 1:58:15, 9:02/mile, all run
Aug 30, 7:00pm: Boomshakalaka HM, 2:23:00, 10:55/mile, run, then 4/1
Sept 1, 9:00am:  Blueberry Stomp 15K, 1:23:29, 8:59/mile, run


It all fell into place...three races in three days.  I enjoyed the weekend a lot, piled on 35.6 miles of racing and continued to get set for fall running.

Why Three Races: 

The answer is simple...this was an efficient way to get set for a major target race.  For a couple of years, I've wanted to take on the Door County Fall 50, a 50-mile Wisconsin ultramarathon on October 25 in an area where we've vacationed for 30+ years.  I haven't told many about this target, as I just didn't know if I could get ready for a 50 miler.  But my training through the summer has gone well, so I signed up.

As a final prep for the 50 miler, I'm going to do my first ever marathon double weekend, running the Air Force Marathon on Saturday, Sept 20 and the Fox Valley Marathon on Sunday, Sept 21.  Looking at the calendar, Labor Day weekend was exactly three weeks ahead of the double.  All 3 of these races were convenient to my home..could I call them collectively my long run for the double??  I decided I would.

The Races:

Parlor City Trot Half Marathon, Bluffton, Indiana, 7:30am Saturday

This is a gem of a race which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year.  Amazingly, I had never heard of it and what a pity...it was wonderful.  There were a couple hundred runners and we were treated to a fabulous course on hard-surface bike trails through the Ouabache State Park just outside Bluffton, near Fort Wayne.  I loved the course.

My aim for each of the races was to run at a 9:00/mile pace.  Early on in this one, I fell in with Greg and Gail who were at that pace and we ran almost the entire race together.  The miles clicked by, steady and solid, despite the temperatures in the low 70s but high humidity.  The overcast skies kept the sun away and I finished under 2 hours at 1:58:15, a 9:02 pace.

A treat:  packet pickup was at a municipal gym and, post race, we could use the showers there for free.  It was terrific to get a hot shower after being soaked with sweat...the two hour drive home was much more pleasant as a result.

A fun bit of realism as well.  The award ceremony took place not long after I finished and, with a small field, 5 year age groups and awards for the top two in each AG, I thought this might be my chance to win an award.  As my high school math teacher was fond of saying "If you make the pond small enough, any of you can be a big fish."   Alas, the second place man in the 60-64 AG ran a 1:47, so I was at least 10 minutes shy of a big-fish moment.  I was fine and headed home.

Results:  93 of 192 overall, 4 of 7 in AG

Intermission--Saturday afternoon

Usually, when I get home from a race, it's back to the regular routine.  Not this day...I had to handle my nutrition and other activities knowing I was back on the road at 5pm for the 7pm race in Indy!  I did end up watching a wonderful Chelsea vs Everton soccer match from England, got my hair cut and got a new battery in my race-day watch.  Then, load up and head for Indy, only an hour away.

Boomshakalaka Half Marathon, Indianapolis, 7:00pm Saturday

This was the inaugural effort for this HM.  The night race format was fun.  The organizers measured the 13.1 mile distance into four equal laps in a city park area, starting and finishing at the Major Taylor Velodrome, just north of downtown Indy.

I had been by this complex many times but never in it...it was well suited.  Plus, it's just cool to say the word "velodrome" and know it's a high speed bike track.

The course came into and out of the bike track through a door along the back straightaway and then went out and essentially did one big lap around a city golf course.  It contained two modest hills (well, in Indiana, we'd call them big but not many others would name them such) and was an interesting route.

After running at a 9:00/mile pace that morning, I hoped to do the same for this night race.  During the first lap, I did (in 30 minutes flat) but it was obvious to me as I completed lap one that would not hold up for the next three.  In this race photo, you can see my consternation as I completed lap one.

Re-calibrating my expectations as I headed out for lap two, I decided to accept the fatigue I felt in the legs and the heaviness of the 78 degree, very high humidity evening.  I turned the outing into a training run, instead of a race.  I switched to a 4/1 run/walk routine and ran in a more relaxed, unpressured manner.  It took most of the second time around (some 37 minutes) to get it right in mind and body, but you can see I am more at ease when I came across half way through.  

Laps three and four were actually fun, taking 37 and 38 minutes each.  I was able to talk with a number of folks I know and just knocked off the remaining miles.   The only fly in the running ointment was a dandy case of "sour stomach" pretty much from the first lap onwards.  Not sure what caused it, but I tend to think it was a hydration issue coupled with the timing of the afternoon food.

While a 2:23:00 half marathon is not that good, it gave me a full marathon of miles for the day in a total time of 4:21:15 in very hot weather and that was fine by me.

Result:   103 of 206 overall.

Blueberry Stomp 15K, Monday, September 1, 9:00am

I've run this race three times before, unlike the other two races this weekend.  It's a hoot, as this race is part of a big civic event, which means we get to run in front of thousands of people who are lined up to see a big parade.  Two local runners rode along with me and we enjoyed the day.

We picked up our bibs, mine decidedly "round" for this race and got organized. My interest was to see just how I could run two days after doing the pair of HMs. Typically, two days after a long run is the "most-sore" day of them all.  I took a longer than normal warm up run and carefully stretched before we started.  The race started on time and off I was, racing again...it all felt quite familiar.

The temperatures were in the upper 70s already, the humidity very high and the sky leaden and overcast.  The air was just plain heavy.  I tried to hit a 9:00/mile pace from the start.  There was some gentle roll to the course and one solid hill.  I was able to manage the ups and downs and hold the pattern.  My quickest mile was 8:37, my slowest 9:14 and the aggregate pace was 8:59/mile.  I was drenched at the finish but happy with the results and how I felt.

Result:  124 of 290 overall, 3 of 10 in Men 60-64

The Final Summary

Man, that was fun!  I really enjoyed the back to back to back races.  My legs and feet feel fine and, other than the sour stomach on Saturday night, it all worked.  Remarkably, I was in the top half of the field in each race, not something that happens all that often.  The heat bothered everyone, I guess.  Next stop is my first-ever double weekend on Sept 20-21.



The Weekend as a Whole:

Saturday, August 09, 2014

How to Eat during an Ultra Marathon: My Gastronomic Experiment at the Heatbreaker Indoor Half and Full Marathons, 2014

ORN:  July 26, 2014:
13.1 miles, 2:25:46, 11:23/mile;
then 26.2 miles, 5:17:40, 12:08/mile
Combined:  39.3 miles, 7:45:52, 11:52/mile

Summary:  The Heatbreaker Indoor Half Marathon and Marathon in Milwaukee afforded me a wonderful experiment in ultramarathoning in perfect 55F temperatures in the middle of the summer.

The Race:

The race setting itself was both simple and helpful. We ran on a 460 meter indoor track at the Pettit National Ice Center in suburban Milwaukee. A three-lane running track surrounds an Olympic-class speed skating rink.  In late January I had run the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon at the same site, so I knew the place and how it would work. Mega-thanks to the RD Chris to made it easy for me to get into this summer race.

The half marathon began 7:00am and consisted of 47 and a half laps of the track. I ran it and had about 20 minutes before the full marathon started at 10:00am, 95 full trips around the speed skating rink. Runners could choose to run either race or both, as I did. For me, however, I chose to not view the morning as two races but a single 39.3 mile ultramarathon.

As such, my plan was to run a consistent set of miles at 11:30 to 12 minute per mile pace staying with a run/walk sequence of 3 minutes run and 1 minute walk. And I was able to execute that plan. I carried the 3/1 run/walk from beginning to end and my combined pace was 11:52/mile. I was pleased.

So just how do you eat during an ultramarathon anyway?  

I'm hardly a guru.  

Ultramarathon strategies ultimately hinge on three things it seems to me. First is pace, second is hydration and third is nutrition. The setup for the Heatbreaker allowed a perfect laboratory to experiment with all three. I discussed pace above...the rest of this is about hydration and nutrition

In a way, it is a bit ludicrous for me to write about ultramarathon nutrition. Before Heatbreaker, I've run only six ultras; two of 33.5 miles and four 50Ks.  Hardly a grizzled ultra dude.  Yet, running is nothing if it is not a learning experience.  So, this is a summary of my learning so far...you are welcome to come along for the ride.

I read quite a bit about nutrition and hydration before running this race and wrote this summary of what I have learned. Two information sources were very helpful for me. The first was the well-known book Relentless Forward Progress. The second was this long and well written description of fellow Maniac Bob Hearn's effort at the Western States 100 mile trail race earlier this summer. I strongly recommend this online post if you are interested. Bob really thought and thought and refined his eating and hydration strategy and his write up has much detail.

Summarizing what I found, a guy my size needs to eat much more than I had ever thought necessary. Specifically, I needed to consume between 60 and 75 grams of carbohydrates each and every hour during an ultra. Figuring this out demanded a controlled experiment (I'm an engineer, remember?) and the Heatbreaker offered this opportunity.

So I developed a list of food I thought I could digest easily and investigated the respective quantities offering 25 grams of carbohydrates each. Here is the list I complied:
  • Banana      1 small
  • Raisins       1/8 cup
  • Nature Valley Granola Bar   2 bars
  • M&M s        50 pieces
  • Gu                 1 pack
  • Salty, hard Pretzles   1/3 cup
  • Pita Bread     1 slice
  • Boiled Potatoes   2 small chunks
  • Oatmeal/raisin cookie 1 cookie
  • Home made brownie 1 1" square

It was astounding to me to think of eating three entries from this list each hour.  But I decided to take the considered experience of others literally and then see what I could learn.  So, I started putting the food together the week of the race.  I boiled up potatoes (20 minutes in lightly salted boiling water, then lightly salted again in the container) and bought other supplies.  

I then packaged these various goodies and laid out a schedule of how to eat three of these packages each hour. Here's my list, with thanks to the West Allis, Wisconsin Days Inn for the note pad.

And here is everything laid out in my motel room the night before.  

Yes, I even used a sharpie to label the hour during which I wanted to eat each banana.  Such is life when you have geek-esqe tendencies......

This lap race provided a perfect opportunity to set up shop knowing I would see my bag and food every 3 minutes or so.  So, when I arrived, I found this table next to the track, as you can see here, and laid out my food and water. 

Turns out I share this table with two fellow maniacs; Mark "Mad Dog" Janowsky, whom I've known for a long time and Maniac Liz from Florida whom I met for the first time at this race. The three of us had a good chuckle about our respective approaches towards nutrition since all three of us ran both races.

Zooming in on my stuff, you can see I just laid it out chronologically, with my note pad and pen at the top. This organization made it easy to keep track of things for the nearly 8 hours I was running.

Having set, thought through and then overthougt further this strategy, I then just executed the plan. I didn't eat the first hour but then began to consume a 25g packet three times an hour. I split that into picking up a food item every 20 minutes. On top of that, I took 1 salt tablet at the top of each hour. I also tried to consume 20 ounces of water each hour. I used Diet Coke bottles with water, each labeled for a certain hour. Here I am with a water bottle during the marathon.

Joe, quit talking and tell us if it worked already!!!

OK, OK, sorry for rambling.  

Overall, I was thrilled with what I learned. It didn't seem like I was overeating, to my surprise. I had no cramps, no queasy stomach, no problems either during or after the race with this pace/food/hydration plan. Somewhat amazingly, I ran my fastest lap of the day on my final lap of the day, at a 7:50/mile pace. Here are some specific observations.

First, as the day went on, it seemed I was either getting ready to eat, eating, or finishing up eating virtually the entire race. This did wonders psychologically as it kept my mind busy and, being a process geek, gave me plenty to analyze.  Here you can see me carrying a bag of Sun Chips...they lasted several laps as did all the food I used except the boiled potatoes.

Second, I really liked the variety of food I laid out. From experience, I knew the bananas and boiled potatoes would work perfectly. I didn't know about the other foods, though. It turned out the pretzels were terrific, the oatmeal/raisin cookies were nice and the pita bread was a surprising plus. The SunChips were ok. The best of all was how well the brownies went down and sat. I think the combination of chocolate plus the chewy nature of these chocolate gems made them last and inspire.  

Third, it was very clear all the planning was worth it. The fact I did not have to think about what to grab made all the difference.

Now it is very clear that very few races will allow this level of precision. But this one did and it allowed me to learn much and the experiment was worthwhile. Certainly, in an ultramarathon where we could place drop bags, I could incorporate some of these strategies. Other races with no drop bags I can simply carrying a bottle of my homemade gel and simply take a good tug every 20 minutes just as Bob did during Western States.

So that's what I learned about eating during an ultramarathon I really welcome comments from people far more experience.

Thanks for reading.  And persevere, no matter what or how you eat!!


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 report...here 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 2008...it'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 6:00am...here'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 Dome...you 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 mile...so 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 bus...it 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 difference...to 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 weather....you 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 MarathonGuide.com . 

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 wonderful...no 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 marathon...at 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 choice...it 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 it...you 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.