Monday, July 30, 2007

Show me the money!!!

Finally, after over two months of waiting, I received a letter from the Fargo Marathon today! Victory is mine at last! Well, second place actually, but whatever. For the first time in my relatively short running career, I've won prize money. Second place Clydesdale was good for $75, which just happens to be the registration fee for the Lean Horse 50K, which I'm sending off tomorrow. Good timing. Of course, I don't run for the money. Good thing too, because if I did, I'd be living in a cardboard box with a handmade sign and running in shoes with my toes sticking out. The principle of this whole thing got me riled up and my persistence finally paid off. Now if I could just get the Big Sky Brewing Company to return my calls about being my primary sponsor....

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Spearfish Canyon Half-marathon Report: A New PR!!

This report will be much shorter than my last couple marathon reports. I promise. After all, a half-marathon is, well, half a marathon so the report should be half as long too, right? We shall see…

The half-marathon is sort of a lost distance for me. I made the jump from racing a 10-miler, at the time the furthest I had ever run, to trying my first full marathon. I figured that running just 3.1 more miles wasn’t enough of a step up. Now that I’ve caught the marathon bug, it’s proven impossible for me to choose a half over a full when both are offered as part of one event. Because of this, I’ve only run one half-marathon: the Spearfish Canyon Half last year. The only other race offered at this event is a 5K. In my mind, 5K is simply metric for 3.1 miles of pain and misery. The half-marathon is much more suited to my abilities (endurance vs. speed). Plus, there are plenty of local opportunities to run 5Ks throughout the year, but Spearfish Canyon is the only option I have for a half-marathon, or at least the only local half that is not held in conjunction with a full.

I ran last year’s Spearfish Canyon Half as a tune-up race for the Montana Marathon in September. The tune-up went much better than the goal race and I finished in 1:33:51 (good for 2nd in my AG), a full 4 minutes faster than my goal time. This year, I was running Spearfish Canyon as a training run wedged in between the Missoula Marathon, which I ran two weeks ago, and the Lean Horse 50K, my first attempt at an ultra, which is coming up on August 25th. My goal going into this year’s race was pretty simple: run faster than last year. Realistically, I thought I’d be able to manage 7:00 miles which would result in a time just under 1:32. The course itself would be my biggest ally in achieving this goal…

Spearfish Canyon runs north-south through the northern Black Hills. A National Forest Scenic Byway parallels Spearfish Creek through the length of the canyon. Here comes another film reference: if you’ve seen “Dances with Wolves”, you’ve seen a little bit of Spearfish Canyon as some of the winter scenes were filmed there. The race starts just north of the town of Savoy (it’s really just a hotel and a restaurant) and follows the canyon to city of Spearfish, finishing at the city park. It’s downhill for the first 11 miles before emerging from the canyon before leveling off and going uphill slightly to the park.

I reported to the Spearfish city park with my wife and our two kids bright and early on Saturday morning. My wife was running the 5K while pushing the jogging stroller. After paying our dues and getting our shirts and bibs, I loaded up on the first bus heading up the canyon to the start line. After what seemed like a 30 mile drive (school buses don’t handle the curves of the canyon well) we finally arrived in Savoy. I jogged up the canyon a bit to get warmed up and to find a nice, quiet place to water some foliage as the four porta-potties at the start line were obviously insufficient for handling a large group of well-hydrated runners.

The race was supposed to start at 7:30, but the race director decided to be nice and let everyone who was waiting in line for the porta-potties get their turn. So, we didn’t toe the line until about 7:45. I couldn’t help but notice that the crowd looked much bigger than last year but I still found myself in the second row at the start as everyone seemed hesitant to move too far forward. Finally, the gun fired and we were off.

I knew that I would probably run the first mile fast as adrenaline and gravity teamed up and I was right. But I felt comfortable so I just kept on chugging. By mile three I had a kid (as in teenager) running along with me so I kept the pace up to try and shake him. He held on for a long time but I finally dropped him at around mile 9. By that time, I thought I was pretty secure in my position, approximately 11th or 12th but then, out of nowhere, a dude in orange shorts blew by me. The pace was taking its toll by this time. I did manage to catch and pass orange short dude once, but he quickly retaliated and ran away. In the process, we passed two other guys, so at least I ended up with a net gain in position. As I said earlier, my goal was to run 7:00 miles. As it turns out, my first 7:00 mile came at mile 10. By the time we left the canyon at mile 11, my quads were feeling the abuse and it actually felt good when we started running up a very gradual uphill. Orange shorts guy was still within striking distance, but I just didn’t have the juice to catch him as he wasn’t fading at all. With approximately a little more than a tenth of a mile left, I glanced at my watch and saw a 1:29:11. Thinking that if I turned it up the rest of the way, I might be able to break 1:30, I crammed it into overdrove (there was much grinding of gears) and sprinted toward the finish. Alas, there was either too far left or too little gas left in the tank and I finished in 1:30:12. Okay, pop quiz: How can you set a 3.5 minute PR and still be a little disappointed? When you come up 13 seconds short of breaking 1:30:00, that’s how. Actually, I’m fine with the results….I have something to shoot for next year. Here’re the splits:

1 – 6:43
2 – 6:53
3 – 6:44
4 – 6:46
5 – 6:56
6 – 6:52
7 – 6:48
8 – 6:56
9 – 6:47
10 – 7:01
11 – 7:00
12 – 7:05
13.1 – 7:36
Total – 1:30:12
Overall place - ??, probably around 10th -12th
Age Group place – 3rd, orange short dude was 2nd, the overall winner (1:09:xx) was 1st

That’s all, folks! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

42 days and counting....

Today is the opening day of the Seahawks training camp!! The opening day of football season is 42 days away and the first preseason game is just 9 days away! My wife never understands why I watch preseason games because they don't count, but it's football. You could put a bunch of monkeys in uniforms and have them run around with a football and I'd watch it. If there is one thing that I can obsess about as much as running, it's football, whether it's the Seahawks or my beloved Montana Grizzlies. This is why I love fall so much....perfect running weather and football season.

Only two days until the Spearfish Canyon Half-marathon. This race has kind of been under the radar for me. I ran it last year as my first, and so far only, half. I wasn't sure if I was going to do it again this year because it's just two weeks after Missoula, but my legs have felt surprisingly good so I'm going to give it a shot. It's hard to pass up a half-marathon that's only 10 miles from home. Plus, the course is awesome. They bus us 13 miles up Spearfish Canyon and then we run back down to the Spearfish city park. It's downhill for all but the last 1.5 miles and it's some of the best scenery around. If you've seen Dances with Wolves, you've seen a little of Spearfish Canyon as some of the winter scenes were shot there. I ran a 1:33:51 there last year and may try for a 1:32 this time. I'm just not sure how my legs are going to handle running downhill quickly for that long.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Missoula Official Results Are Posted

The official results from the Missoula Marathon are posted online. I fared better than I had thought considering how rough the last 8 miles were....apparently I wasn't the only one affected by the heat. My official time was 3:32:24 (3 seconds faster than my watch time) and I placed 45/434 overall and 9/29 in the 25-29 age group. Any illusions I had of getting a top three in my AG turned out to be totally unrealistic as the top 3 all ran 3:04 or faster. But, if I were just one year older, I would have gotten third in the 30-34 AG. Maybe next year...

In other news, it appears that I may have won my two month long battle with the directors of the Fargo Marathon. Fargo offered a Clydesdale division (for guys over 190 lbs, if you're not in the know) and I finished 2nd this year (a full ten minutes behind the winner). Prior to the race, the director had told me via email that awards would be given to the top three Clydesdales. The week after the race, I was told again over the phone that awards would be three deep and that mine would be sent out the following week. Well, I never received anything, so after a few weeks I emailed and called them repeatedly and finally was told that they only gave an award to the top Clydesdale. WTF!!?? They didn't offer an explanation as to why, but did say that they were "considering going three deep". So, I let another few weeks go by and contacted the race director via email again, this time with a lengthy recap of the entire situation (without using one single cuss word). This time I was told that I would get my award. But, I haven't actually received it yet (it's only been a couple of days), so I won't count this as a victory yet. I don't even know what I've won and I really don't give a damn; it was the whole principle of the thing that was buggin the shit out of me.

The cold front has arrived!!! As I type this it is (finally) raining and appears as if we might actually get a break from the 105+ temps we've had for the last four or five days. A couple of days ago, the high in Death Valley was 113 and the high in South Dakota was 108. Not cool....literally.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Enough of this crap!!!

If I wanted to endure 100+ degree heat for days, or weeks, at a time, I'd pack up my crap and move to Phoenix. This is re-goddamn-diculous. The next 4 days are all supposed to be around 105 and it was 105 yesterday too. Our poor window air conditioner just can't keep's a not so comfortable 87 degrees in our living room when the heat of the day hits. Usually, when I get up at the crack of dawn to go running I can count on it being in the 50s, but yesterday it had already cracked 70 and I was totally drenched with sweat by the time I finished my 10 miler. Seriously, why does Mother Nature hate me?? I wonder if there are any job openings in Alaska....

Friday, July 20, 2007

5 days post-Missoula

Well, it's been 5 days since the Missoula Massacre. Okay, it actually wasn't that bad and looking back on it, the good memories outweigh the bad by far. It did just occur to me that Massacre would be a great mascot for a Missoula-based sports team, but it's probably too violent for our ultra-sensitive society today. Okay, enough discussion of the social atmosphere of the nation. On to running...

My legs have actually felt great this week. Once the initial aches and pains wore off (which only took a couple of hours) my legs have felt better than they ever have after a marathon. I'm itching to run another race...maybe part of me wants to exorcise the demons from those last 8 miles in Missoula. It seems kind of counter-intuitive that I'd want to race again so soon after such an ordeal. After Fargo, which was the greatest race of my life, I had absolutely no desire to take on another marathon. I was content to just sit on my brand-spankin new PR and bask in the glow for awhile. I actually canceled plans to run the Governor's Cup marathon in Helena two weeks after Fargo and I probably wouldn't have run another marathon until this fall if Missoula hadn't come up. I guess one good thing Missoula did for me is get me motivated to hit it hard again.

So, what's next?? I'm pretty certain that I'll run my first ultra, the Lean Horse 50K, on August 25th. Why this seems like a good idea is beyond me. I have never once gotten to the end of a marathon and felt like moving another step, much less 5 more miles. But, when you think about it, running a marathon is a pretty stupid idea too. I mean, come on, the first dude that did it dropped dead when he got done. Running for me has always been about seeing how far I can push myself. I've done 26.2 miles six times now; I guess I'm ready to tackle the next challenge. I'm kind of scared of what great ideas may pop into my head if I make it through Lean Horse unscathed...

After Lean Horse, I'm putting some miles on. My main running goal is still to qualify for Boston, which means I need to drop at least 8 minutes off of my Fargo PR. The plan for now is to base build throughout the fall and then launch a high mileage plan (up to 90 miles per week) over the winter in preparation for a BQ-friendly spring marathon (Eugene?, Ft. Collins?, Fargo again?, Brookings again?). I raised my mileage last winter and got an 11 minute PR out of the deal. Here's hoping for similar results this time around.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Missoula Race Report - The LLLOOONNNGG Version

“Eventually, all things merge into one and a river runs through it.”

So, here we go again…. If you read my Fargo report a couple of months back, you know what you’re in for here. If not, here’s the synopsis: A lot of senseless and pointless babble followed by some race stats. Again, I encourage you to skip ahead as necessary.

I included a film reference in my Fargo report, so I feel compelled to do that here also. A River Runs Through It just so happens to be one of my favorite movies, and books, of all time. It also just so happens to take place in Missoula, MT (the movie does anyhow, most of the book is actually set in Helena, but that’s a discussion for a different forum). Like the movie Fargo increasing the general awareness of the city of Fargo (possibly in a not so good way….watch the movie), A River Runs Through It most definitely threw Missoula and western Montana into the spotlight, especially amongst fly fishermen (or, in many cases, wannabe fly fishermen). In fact, many western Montanans now refer to the area as “A Realtor Runs Through It” due to the influx of out-of-staters looking to grab a piece of paradise at relatively cheap prices (for them anyhow). In any case, the story is Norman Maclean’s semi-autobiographical tale of two brothers who led two different lives but were bonded by fly fishing while growing up under the stern but caring hand of their Presbyterian minister father in the Missoula of the 1910s and 1920s. All of the quotes in this report are from the movie or book.

I just so happen to be a native Montanan and lived in Missoula for four years while obtaining my bachelors degree from The University of Montana. I left Missoula the day after graduation to set about finding gainful employment and have been trying to get back there ever since. Unfortunately, a job opportunity that would allow me to do so has yet to present itself, but I do take every chance I get to visit (my in-laws live 40 miles to the south). Missoula is my favorite place in the world and, rest assured, when I do move back there I don’t intend to ever leave again.

The Missoula Marathon was not in my plans for 2007 until sometime in May. This was partly because the marathon did not exist before this year and I didn’t learn of it’s birth until sometime early in the year. By the time I learned of the existence of the Missoula Marathon I had already made plans to run Fargo in May and had been focusing on that as my main goal race of the year. Now, many people will tell you that running is a cheap hobby, which is relatively true. But, as you all know, marathoning is NOT a cheap hobby. Hotels, registration, gas (or airfare), and food all add up. Unfortunately, I’ve got a house and the above-mentioned education to pay off before I have the expendible funds required to run a marathon wherever and whenever I damn well please. So, I had settled on Fargo being my big trip of the year (coupled with a side trip to grandma’s house) and then a local marathon (Crazy Horse) in the fall. Then, just a couple of weeks before Fargo, my father-in-law, in all his saintliness and totally out of the blue, offered to “sponsor” me to run the inaugural Missoula Marathon by paying for my registration and, more importantly, the gas money necessary to propel my 13 miles per gallon, gas sucking, 1992 F-150 the 608 miles from Belle Fourche, SD to Missoula and back (if said truck cooperated…more on that later). The only catch was that I had to bring back a load of my sister-in-law’s junk (I mean, valuable possessions) in preparation of her moving in with us in August before starting college at nearby Black Hills State. Let’s see….free registration, free gas, free lodging, free food and a marathon in my favorite place in the world? SOLD!!

Race Prep

The only dilemma I had with running Missoula was what exactly my goal was going to be. I left Fargo with an 11 minute PR that brought me within 8 minutes of a BQ. With only 8 weeks between Fargo and Missoula I wasn’t sure how quickly my body would recover and, consequently, how many quality workouts I would get in. I knew that I wasn’t going to go for a 3:10 in Missoula, but should I go for a PR? If so, how big of one? Or, should I just play it safe and enjoy myself rather than risk pushing too hard and crashing in a race that I REALLY wanted to run. I used Pfitz’s “8 weeks between marathons” plan, which gave me 3 weeks of recovery, 3 weeks of training, and 2 weeks of taper. Included in that time span were three races: a local 4 miler that featured a whopping six other runners and that I won by nearly 12 minutes without pushing myself, a 5K where I attempted to go sub-20 for the first time in 100 degree heat and came up 35 seconds short, and a 10K eleven days before Missoula where I intended to run at marathon pace but ended up running about 30 seconds/mile faster and finished 9th out of 73 overall and 3rd in my AG. Also included in that 8 weeks was one night of puking more than I can really remember ever puking in my life (I’m talking volume, not number of times) even including my prodigious beer-drinking college days in Missoula. That one-night bout with the flu bug came just two days before the previously-mentioned 10K. Whether it affected my 10K results is hard to say, but I felt great the day of that race and during the race, so any effects were probably negligible. About three weeks before Missoula, the organizers announced that they would have pacers, including one for a goal time of 3:19. I had used running with the 3:20 pace group in Fargo to great advantage so I was excited by this news. I decided then that I would start off with the 3:19 group and if things went well I would be in position to better my 3:18:53 PR from Fargo. If it wasn’t my day, then I would drop from the group at the appropriate time with the secondary goal of not getting passed by the 3:29 group.

The Voyage

Unlike Fargo, this trip was a solo one. My wife, who operates her own home daycare, doesn’t have the luxury of copious amounts of annual leave like I do. Simply put, if she doesn’t work, she doesn’t get paid (she’ll also argue that, being a government employee, I get paid to do not much of anything every day even when I am at work, but she’s just jealousJ). On the other hand, if I don’t use all of my annual leave, they take some of it away, so basically I get encouraged to not show up for work every once in awhile. So rather than having her take two days off of work and subjecting our own two kids to a total of about 20 hours in the car, I set off for Missoula on my own on Friday the 13th (cue creepy music). Now, remember earlier when I alluded to the possibility of my decrepit old truck not making it to Missoula? Flash forward to about 11:00 AM Friday. I’m cruising along I-90 between Park City and Columbus, MT (just west of Billings), almost exactly halfway to Missoula when I see a rest stop ahead. I’d been hydrating and could use a quick stop in the men’s room, so I pull off. As I pull into the parking lot, my truck dies. Just flat out quits running and absolutely refuses to restart. It acts like it’s out of gas, but the fuel gauge says ¾ tank. I try several times to start it, thinking that it’s GOTTA just be some kind of cruel joke and that God is having a grand ole time watching me. When that doesn’t work, I cuss….a lot (sorry God). Hopefully I didn’t scare anyone else at the rest area. I manage to calm myself down and pull out my cell phone, which is showing a big fat zero bars. Great. I try anyway and dial 411 to get the number for a tow truck in Columbus, about 10 miles away. Miraculously, the call goes through and I get a hold of the towing place, which doubles as a mechanic shop (and knowing Montana, probably the post office, mayor’s office, doctor and veterinarian too). I tell the guy my situation and he says it’s probably my fuel pump going bad. That’s actually good news because my truck has two fuel tanks, so I should be able to just switch over to the other tank. But, how’s this for irony, the other tank is totally empty because I had already used it. So, the tow truck heads out and I sit and wait. By the time he shows up about 20 minutes later, I’ve actually managed to get my truck started and running again (who ever said that cussing and hitting never solved anything?) so the driver agrees to follow me into Columbus so I can fill my other tank and if I break down again on the way he’ll load me up. I make it all the way to Columbus, but as I’m pulling onto the off-ramp, just 100 yards from the truck stop my truck dies again. The tow truck driver says. “Aw hell, I can just push you from here.” So, he nudges the front bumper of his truck against the rear bumper of mine and gives me a push into the truck stop, which probably got a laugh out of more than a few other travelers who witnessed it. Once at the truck stop, I was able to fill my good tank, give my thanks (and a $30 service charge) to the tow truck driver, and I was on my way again. The rest of the of the trip was blissfully uneventful….the second fuel pump held out and I was actually able to switch over to the bad one once I got up to speed and use up the rest of that fuel too.

Back in Missoula

I mentioned already that my father-in-law was footing the bill for this one and had offered his place 40 miles south of Missoula as lodging. But, upon learning that he wasn’t even going to be around that weekend (he’s a long haul trucker and consequently is rarely actually at home, especially now that all of his kids are grown), I decided to crash with one of my cousins who just so happens to spend his summers in Missoula (after spending the majority of the year in the Alaska bush). My cousin, John, was coincidentally planning on running the half marathon in Missoula, something I didn’t learn about until I went fishing with my Uncle Russ (John’s dad) for a few days in Minnesota right after Fargo. Also coincidentally, John’s wife and son were out of town for the weekend, so we were both suddenly all alone in the world (cue sad music).

Now, I have to give a plug for, in my totally biased opinion, one of the greatest bands of all time: Russ Nasset and the Revelators. Chances are, no one who is reading this has ever heard of them. Russ is the above-mentioned fishing partner uncle and John’s dad. Uncle Russ sings and plays guitar while John’s identical twin Sam also plays guitar and provides background vocals in one of Missoula’s most popular local bands. They play a brand of bluesy, old school country rock and honky-tonk. If you’re so inclined, check out their MySpace page. I watched them play several times at bars around Missoula when I was going to school there. They also rocked my wedding reception something fierce, but I haven’t had the opportunity to see them since. So, I was giddy with excitement when I learned that they were playing in Missoula the night of the 13th. After relaxing at John’s for awhile and hooking up with my mom and stepdad, who had made the 5 hour drive over from my hometown of Chester, we were off to watch the Revelators rock the house. It was righteous.

Marathon Eve

Saturday was expo day and a chance to check out some of the old haunts around Missoula including the University, Worden’s Market (makers of the best sandwich in the world), and the Big Sky Brewing Company (makers of Moose Drool, Summer Honey and Powder Hound, three of the best beers in the world). I was severely tempted to hike up to the “M”, which sits midslope on Mt. Sentinel about a half mile above the UM campus and offers a spectacular view of Missoula and the surrounding valley and mountains, but didn’t want to subject my legs to the abuse the day before the marathon. Plus, it was hotter than dog snot with the high temp hitting 103. I ended up having breakfast with my ma and stepdad before driving most of the course and then heading to the Big Sky Brewing Company, where I was shocked to find a dry-fit shirt with the Moose Drool logo emblazoned on it. It was, quite simply, something I absolutely could not pass up and I decided then and there that I would commit one of the cardinal sins of marathoning: never try anything new the day of the race. Wearing that Moose Drool shirt at the Missoula Marathon was just too good to pass up.

After the brewery trip, my mom and I hit the expo, which was pretty small and slightly unorganized (no signs delineating half-marathon or marathon packet pickup, which caused some confusion). I eventually got my packet, which was fairly unimpressive. In a first for me, although I understand that other races do it, the race shirt wasn’t included in the packet, but would instead be given out at the finish line. More incentive to not quit, I guess.

From there, I decided I’d had enough of the heat so I headed back to cousin John’s place where he and I had an unofficial contest to see who could pee the most in one afternoon. I’ve never drank so much water in one day in my entire life, but the forecast wasn’t calling for any let up in the heat, so I wanted to be as prepared as possible. We ventured out to Johnny Carino’s (the same place where I ate my pre-Fargo meal) to get some spaghetti and then retreated back to John’s place to guzzle some more water. Upon returning from dinner, I jumped onto the RT forum to check out the traffic and noticed a private message from longboat’n (Neil) announcing that OreSka (Juan, a runango forum regular) had decided to run Missoula at the last minute and that they were both in town. Obviously, it was too late to meet them for dinner, but I called Neil and left a message so that we could meet sometime before or after the race. Neil ended up calling me later and said that he was just spectating, but gave me Juan’s description so I could attempt to find him at the start line. After another bottle or two of water, I was off to bed by 9:30 and slept remarkably well (except for getting up to go to the bathroom).

“In Montana, there’s four things we’re never later for: church, work, fishing and running.”

I was up at 3:45 to give me time to get dressed (the Moose Drool shirt actually felt very light and soft), eat some breakfast (a bagel and some instant oatmeal), drink yet more water, and drive downtown to meet the shuttle bus. I got there in time to hop on the first bus, which hauled us west on I-90 to the small town of Frenchtown, where the race started. From there, we would follow backroads eastward back to Missoula, eventually finishing on the Orange Street bridge downtown.

Right after getting off the bus, I used the portajohn, which was a good move because as more people arrived, the lines became very long. I also set about finding Juan. Neil had told me that he was “fairly short with a red beard”. Sounds easy enough. I spotted a likely candidate, walked up to him and said, “Are you Juan?” He said, “No, I’m Tyler.” I said, “Oh, sorry, I’m looking for a fairly short guy with a red beard.” He laughed and said, “That describes a lot of marathoners around here.” Good point, Tyler. I wandered around some more, chatted for awhile with some people, but never did manage to locate Juan. I also never managed to locate the 3:19 pace group, because, well, there wasn’t one. The fastest group they actually had was 3:29. There was no explanation as to why the 3:19 pacer wasn’t there, they just weren’t. So, it looked like I was gonna have to go it alone.

Promptly at 6:30, they lined all 470 of us up (it didn’t really seem like that many people, but that’s what they’re claiming) for the start. The organizers had mentioned on-line and in the race instructions in the race packet that the start would be signaled by the ROTC cannon. Now, I’m very familiar with the cannon because I’ve been to many a Grizzly football game and they fire it off after every Grizzly touchdown and the Grizzlies are pretty good so they score quite a bit. But, apparently, other folks either didn’t get the message or didn’t really understand what “cannon” meant, because when that thing went off, at least half of the crowd jumped back and gasped and probably a quarter of those almost soiled themselves. It also probably woke up at least half the town of Frenchtown bright and early on a Sunday morning thinking that Al-Quaida was making their move. I bet the letters to the editor are pouring in…. Eventually, everyone gathered themselves enough to start running and we were off.

“…all good things, trout as well as eternal salvation, come by grace and grace comes by art, and art does not come easy.”

Miles 1-9

This first stretch followed Mullan Road from Frenchtown southeast toward the western edge of Missoula. The first several miles were very bland and really not very scenic (at least not to me). Sure, you could see the mountains across the valley, but we were running right by trailer parks and the big Smurfit-Stone processing plant. It was also virtually treeless, so no shelter, but it was still fairly cool (low to mid 60s) along this stretch, so that wasn’t much of a factor. After awhile, I just wanted to be done with Mullan Rd. and get to a more scenic part of the course, which I knew was coming. The field spread out remarkably fast…within the first couple of miles a fast group had charged forward and a slow group had formed behind me and I was left basically all by myself in the middle. I felt good on this opening stretch and was laying down some pretty good, consistent splits:

Mile 1 – 7:33
Mile 2 – 7:30
Mile 3 – 7:38
Mile 4 – 7:36
Mile 5 – 7:33
Mile 6 – 7:41
Mile 7 – 7:37
Mile 8 – 7:35
Mile 9 – 7:36

Miles 10-15

Finally, we turned off of Mullan Rd. and crossed the Clark Fork River for the first time as we ran along the foot of the mountains on the west side of the Missoula Valley. Consequently, there were some pine trees for shade, which was good because it was warming up rapidly. My bladder had been talking to me since about mile 2 and I had been trying to ignore it but just before halfway I couldn’t take it anymore and pulled off to the side of the road to water some thorn bushes. Right after that business was taken care of, I was off and running up the only hill of the course. Now, the organizers have touted this course as flat and fast with just one hill. Well, that “just one hill phrase” can be misleading. The Pikes Peak marathon has “just one hill” too. Of course, the Missoula hill is nowhere as extreme as Pikes Peak, but it was still enough to mark the beginning of the end for me. After a sharp incline, the course leveled off briefly before climbing again and then continuing to climb seemingly without end. Here’s some more irony: The road with the hill on it is called Big Flat Road. If it were up to me, they’d change it’s name to Neverending Hill Road. In all, that one hill took up a good two miles of the course and my splits went to hell in a handbasket.

Mile 10 – 7:44
Mile 11 – 7:33
Mile 12 – 7:43
Mile 13 – 8:01 (bathroom break)
Mile 14 – 8:20 (uphill)
Mile 15 – 8:03 (uphill)

Miles 16 – 23

These miles took us down the hill and back across the Clark Fork River and into the city of Missoula. After the hill, I was seriously doubting my chances of being able to recover and still come in around 3:20. Just as I started the descent back toward the river, a guy who had been following me for awhile finally pulled alongside me. As he eased by I noticed that he was short with a red beard and that his hat mentioned some town in Oregon. I decided to take a chance and said, “Hey, are you Juan by any chance?” He looked surprised for a second and said, “Yeah, you must be Chris!” I had finally found Juan. We chatted briefly and decided to try to push each other to a 3:20, which Juan needs to BQ. This plan got off to an okay start, but by mile 18 I was starting to struggle and knew that 3:20 was out of the question. I was just about to tell Juan to push ahead and not let me hold him back when he asked how I felt. I said “like s**t” and he said “me too”, which made me feel a little better. We continued to struggle along together, now chasing the secondary goal of a 3:30.

At about mile 21, we found Neil waiting for us and he jogged alongside us for awhile. We informed him of the new plan to run 8:30s the rest of the way and come in under 3:30. The next mile was a 9:10 and I knew the rest of the race wasn’t going to be pretty. We wound around the residential areas, running in the shade whenever possible and through sprinklers wherever the locals had them set out in the street. Around mile 22, we passed a runner who was laid out in the shade as medical personnel took his pulse and asked him very simple questions. The sun was beating down by this time and the temperature was climbing fast. Just before mile 23 we hit an aid station in the Southgate Mall parking lot, where I decided I need to stop and walk as I drank a few cups of water. As I was walking through, a medical attendant started questioning me about how I felt. I said, “I feel fine except my calves are tight as hell.” He asked if the sun was getting to me and I said no so he sent me on my way and moved on to Juan. As I left the aid station and started running (okay, jogging) again I looked back and Juan was nowhere to be seen. Turns out, the medical attendant had pulled him over, sat him down and sprayed him down with ice cold water and made him sit for a couple of minutes before letting him continue.

Mile 16 – 7:32 (downhill…finally)
Mile 17 – 7:45
Mile 18 – 7:54
Mile 19 – 8:02
Mile 20 – 8:22
Mile 21 – 8:27
Mile 22 – 9:10
Mile 23 – 8:33 (not bad considering the stop at the mall aid station)

Miles 24-26.2

From the Southgate Mall, we followed a bike path along the railroad tracks back north toward downtown and the finish line. Shortly after leaving the mall aid station, I noticed that both of my calves and my right quad were right of the verge of cramping, something that has never ever happened to me while running. I ran along the best I could but eventually had to stop and walk for awhile to let my legs calm down. At about mile 24, I found Neil waiting for us again. He walked along with me for a minute or so and I took a swig of Gatorade he was lugging around with him. I told him that I had lost Juan at the last aid station, so Neil decided to jog back that way and see if he could find him. I told him that was a good idea and set out jogging as best I could. I was able to run okay as long as I didn’t have to go up or down (like up and over curbs or bumps in the road). Soon after the mile 25 marker, my legs were really feeling like hell, like they were on the verge of an all-out revolt. Then, suddenly, Juan and Neil were back beside me. I started running again, determined to run across the damn finish line, even if it was a pathetically slow hobble-run. As we turned off the bike path onto 4th St. and then left onto Orange St. a volunteer told us we only had four blocks to go. I was doing a straight legged shuffle at this point to keep from cramping, but when I saw the Orange St. bridge ahead, I managed to get into a fairly normal rhythm. Without ever really telling each other, Juan and I were both planning on crossing the finish line together (maybe not hand in hand, but still). As we started across the bridge, Juan suddenly dropped back and started coughing. I couldn’t tell at first if he was just coughing or if he was gonna puke. After a couple of seconds, it became apparent that he wasn’t just coughing. I wasn’t sure if I should stop and wait or keep on going and eventually just went, hoping that if I did it fairly slowly, Juan might catch up by the finish (he ended up with dry heaves….I told him later it would have been legendary if he’d puked off the bridge into the river within sight of the finish). Usually, with the finish line in sight, I like to give it that extra kick but this time I was happy just to not be walking (or laid out in the shade with medical personnel taking my pulse and asking me questions). There was a huge crowd cheering on the finishers on the bridge and I set about looking for my family. I did see my mother in law and sister in law near the finish and managed a wave and possibly a smile as I passed them. Finally, blissfully, I was under the balloon arch and had a medal around my neck. I stopped right in the middle of the finisher chute and turned around to look for Juan, who I saw finishing just behind me. I went back to congratulate and thank him and a volunteer started yelling at me because I hadn’t let them tear off my bib tag yet (no chip timing) and other people were passing me in the chute. I apologized, they apologized and I limped away to the finisher’s area.

Mile 24 – 9:43 (cramping)
Mile 25 – 9:30 (cramping)
Mile 26 – 9:38 (yeah, more cramping)
Mile 26.2 – 1:55 (Running!!)

First Half Split – 1:40:14
Second Half Split – 1:52:13
Total Time (unofficial) – 3:32:27
Overall Place – ??
Age Group Place – ??

I mentioned that they didn’t have chip timing and as of Tuesday morning the official results still haven’t been posted.


I chatted with my in-laws, my mom and stepdad, and cousin John (who pounded out a 1:37 in the half, his first ever road race) for awhile before they all departed for home. As I was wandering around the finisher’s area trying to decided if my legs felt better sitting or standing, I saw Neil and Juan parked on a bench off to the side of the road and sat with them for awhile. The last 8 miles were brutal, to say the least, and having Juan and Neil along for the ride was invaluable. Juan said around mile 20 that misery loves company and he was 100% right. We decided to go shower and then meet up for some lunch and beers at a local brew pub. We got together, drank a couple of pitchers of really good beer (Summer Honey), downed some really good bar food, and shared war stories about Missoula and other races (mostly about Missoula though). Good times with good people….

So, the question is, how do I feel about all of this? Well, okay, actually. Missoula was never a goal race for me, just a race I wanted to do. Sure I would have liked to do better, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me on that day. The weather was a major factor for me. This is by far the warmest marathon I’ve run (the previous record-holder was Seattle, where it was in the 50s and 60s the entire race). By the time I hit the finish just after 10:00, the temp was already in the mid-80s. I’m used to running at 5 AM and am almost always done before the thermometer hits 70. The sun just sucked the speed right out of me.

Will I go back? Probably. I love Missoula and I think this event has potential. For an inaugural event, I think it was very well done. The course could use some tweaking and chip timing next year is a must, but I didn’t see any dealbreaker problems. With over 1,000 total participants between the full and half, it’s already by far the biggest marathon ever held in Montana and has the potential to get even bigger and better.

Thank You

As I type this, I’m on page 9 on Microsoft Word. How many posts am I gonna have to make just to get this thing online?? Believe me, I’m almost done but first I’ve gotta say thank you to some people. First, to my teammates on the X-Squad for your advice and support. Second, to my father-in-law for his “sponsorship” that allowed me to run this race. Third, to my cousin John for a place to sleep. Fourth, to my wife for taking on the not insignificant task of handling our kids by herself for four days while I was off in my personal paradise. And last, but most certainly not least, to Juan for being my partner in misery over those last 11 miles and to Neil for his support along the course and for lunch and beer afterwards. And, thanks to anyone who actually reads this entire thing….you’ve just completed a marathon of sorts yourself (sorry, no medals)!!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Missoula Marathon Report - Short Version

Well, as I mentioned in my last post, my Missoula marathon experience got off to a rough start with the fuel pump problems and all. Let's just say that it didn't end all that much better....although it could have ended much worse, so I guess it ended okay, if that makes any sense. To put it briefly: it was friggin hot. I (apparently) don't run well in the heat and it was in the mid 80s by the time I finished at 10:00 AM. I would be perfectly content if it were about 55 degrees all day every day year round. It started out in the low 60s, so it wasn't my type of conditions from the start, but I still laid down a solid first half. But, a long (i.e. two mile long) hill and the heat got to me in the second half and I was toast....literally. I ended up crossing the finish with cramped up legs in 3:32, which is actually pretty respectable, but I've done better. I'll post the gory details when I finish my full length report after returning to South Dakota.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

T-minus 16 hours and counting...

As I type this, it's 2:30 PM Saturday, 16 short hours away from the start of the inaugural Missoula Marathon. Right now there are two things I'm sure of: it's damn hot (100), and my truck is a bonafide piece o' shit. The ol' F-150 has served me fairly well over the past few years, but decided to make things interesting on my trip over here yesterday. Approximately halfway between Belle Fourche and Missoula, I decided to pull into a rest area to take care of some business, if you know what a I mean (I had to take a leak, if you don't know what I meant). Well, as soon as I got to the parking area, my truck died. Just flat out shut itself down and refused to restart. To put it in PG rated terms, I was slightly aggravated. I got a tow truck number from 411 and called the nearest one, 15 miles away in Columbus, MT. By the time the truck got to the rest area, I had managed to get my truck to start and run again (who ever said that cussing and hitting doesn't solve any problems??). The tow truck driver, who was also a mechanic, thought that maybe my fuel pump was going bad, which isn't a problem really because I have two fuel tanks, so all I would need to do is use the other fuel tank. What was a problem, was that the other fuel tank was totally empty, because I had already used it. Isn't that just so friggin ironic?? So, he offered to follow me to the truck stop in Columbus where I could get some gas, and if my truck died again on the way, he would load me up and haul me the rest of the way. I took off and made it as far as the Columbus exit, where my truck died again on the off ramp as I tried to decelerate. I was literally 100 yards from the damn truck stop, so the tow truck drive simply nunged his front bumper against my rear one and gave me a little push the rest of the way. How this must of looked to other travelers in the area is beyond me, but it worked. I filled up my good tank (for 2.99 a gallon I might add, the first time I've paid under $3 for gas in God knows how long) and was ready to resume my journey. The friendly truck driver charged me only $30 for a standard service charge and I was on my way. The rest of the drive was blessedly uneventful.

So, my Missoula marathon experience got off to a rough's hoping that it ends better than it started. And, here's hoping my one remaining fuel pump is up to the task for the return trip on Monday.

I should also point out that Missoula is every bit as awesome as I remember it. Except for the heat....I don't remember it being like this and it seems as if most of the long-time locals don't either. Why now, right at marathon time? Well, probably because Mother Nature is a dirty, dirty hobag who's main goal in life is to piss me off. Or maybe it's global warming. Either way, it's hot. I wonder if they'll let me start running at 4:00 tomorrow morning....

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

T-minus 5 days and counting...

Less than 5 days until the Missoula Marathon!! Typically, I stop functioning at my normal mental capacity (which isn't all that high anyhow) and start obsessing unhealthily about the coming marathon about three weeks out (just as taper starts). For some reason, it was different this time. Maybe it was the short turnaround (8 weeks) between Fargo and Missoula and the consequently brief period of intense training. Maybe it was the three shorter races I ran in between that distracted me. I really don't know, but Missoula managed to sneak up on me like a hungry mountain lion. But, now that it's entered my mind, it's all I can friggin think about.

In case you don't know me, you should know that Missoula is my favorite place in the world. I showed up for college orientation in the summer of 1996 and was hooked like a junkie on crack. I lived there for four years while getting my bachelor's degree. I drank there (a lot). I hiked there. I fished there. I watched Grizzly football games there (while drinking....a lot). I even met my wife there. But, I never ran there. I moved away the day after graduation and have been trying to get back ever since. Someday, I'll retire there and someday I'll probably die there....hopefully not on Sunday:).

Sadly, running was just about the furthest thing from my mind when I lived in Missoula. I do remember running a handful of times one spring in a desperate attempt to get into shape for the coming fire season (I was entering my first season as a wildland firefighter), but I never went more than a mile at a time and my motivation quickly diminished after I passed my physical. So, Sunday will be my first real run in my personal paradise. Hopefully I don't tank it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I am now a blogger....

I've taken a flying leap into the 21st century and entered the new and slightly scary world of blogging. Really, as you can see, this place is currently serving mostly as a repository for all of my marathon race reports from the past couple of years, which I managed to dig up from the Runner's World (pre forum fracture) and Running Times (post forum fracture) forums. I'll try to add some meaningful and possibly entertaining thoughts from time to time, but chances are this will just turn into a place for me to go to ramble about running when my wife is watching Big Brother or Big Love and is obviously not listening to a word I'm saying (as if she listens to much of it anyhow:) ). Ooops....better be careful, she might see this....

Welcome and enjoy (as much as possible)!!!

Fargo Marathon 2007 Race Report

Warning: This is long and contains a significant amount of extraneous information. I can’t help it. I work for the government which means that I don’t know how to be concise (or answer questions directly). If you just want the raw facts, feel free to skim and skip ahead as necessary. If you enjoy race reports in novel form, hang on…

I completed four marathons (Seattle, Brookings, Montana and Mt. Rushmore) prior to Fargo, all of them between November of 2005 and October of 2006, so my marathoning career has been short but busy. I ran Seattle on sub-par training with the goal of simply surviving and was ecstatic to finish in 3:46:14. For Brookings, I dove into a Pfitz 18/55 plan and took nearly 17 minutes off of my time with a 3:29:40. I attempted, and ultimately failed, to better that time at Montana where I underestimated the toll a long downhill would take on me and then begin suffering from low blood sugar during the last 4 miles. I was going for a 3:25 and drunkenly stumbled to a 3:30:15, unable to even comprehend how close I was to a PR and push for it at the end. Mt. Rushmore came only three weeks later and was a scenic, enjoy myself kind of race where I didn’t push it at all, which was good given the hills and the fact I wasn’t fully recovered from Montana. I casually cruised in with a 3:47:46. Recent PRs in the 5K (20:16) and 10K (41:15) suggested I was capable of a marathon in the 3:13 to 3:17 range. Not willing to put so much trust in race predictors and not wanting to bite off too much, I settled on a goal pace of 3:20, which would be a PR of nearly 10 minutes and bring me within 10 minutes of the magical 3:10 BQ time.

The city of Fargo is probably best known for the 1996 movie of the same name despite the fact that only the opening scene actually takes place in Fargo (most of it takes place in Brainerd, MN) and none of the movie was filmed in or near Fargo. Regardless, it was a good movie and earned Francis McDormand a best actress Oscar for her role as Sheriff Marge Gunderson. But I digress….I decided on the Fargo marathon as my goal race because it’s billed as being flat and fast, has received good ratings on Marathon Guide, and could easily be tied in with a family vacation. My grandma and uncle live 100 miles away in Minnesota and my dad suggested we go visit them sometime this spring (he flew in from Oregon). I have officially reached the point of marathoning madness where family trips are carefully planned around marathons. Another factor that motivated me to register for Fargo was the fact that they have a Clydesdale division. At 6’3”, 210 lbs. I resemble a football player more than a marathoner and I’ve come to think that I’m relatively fast for my size but had never had the opportunity to test that theory by competing directly against other big guys. When I looked at the Clydesdale results from last year’s race, I realized that I was a contender for the crown and that sealed the deal.

As I mentioned, I used the Pfitz 18/55 plan for Brookings with good results. I used a 12/55 plan for Montana with not so good results, but I attribute that more to my own marathoning stupidity than to the plan itself. I was convinced that if I put in more miles and maybe dropped a few pounds (I weighed 220 when I ran Montana), I would be able to run a 3:20, or at least set a new PR. So, after Mt. Rushmore I began building my mileage to 60 mpw, nearly all of them slow, easy miles (8:30-9:00 per mile for me). In January, I started a Pfitz 18/70 plan and followed it almost precisely except for a few shifted workouts to make room for a local race and an extra rest day during taper to nurse a sore hip. I actually topped out at 72 miles and put in six runs of 20+ miles (the longest being 22). This was by far the most mileage I’ve ever put in as I averaged about 63 mpw for the year leading up to Fargo, including the three weeks of taper. More importantly, I felt stronger than ever for most of the training period. I knew I was ready for Fargo when I ran a tune-up 10K three weeks out and dropped my PR by almost a minute and a half to 41:15. I also dropped 10 lbs., fewer than I would have liked, but I discovered that it’s not as easy to lose weight while running 60+ mpw as one might think (i.e. the more I run, the more I eat).

So, by now you’re asking if I’m ever going to get to the point and talk about the race. Yes, I am. But not yet. I loaded up our Durango Thursday night so that we could leave first thing Friday morning (I suck to travel with and I know it, but damn it, if you’re not gonna make good time, what’s the point of going?). We decided to drive to Fargo for a couple of reasons. First, the cost of flying a family of four is prohibitive. Of course, so is paying $3.23 a gallon for gas but by the time the price hike began it was too late to change strategies. Second, it’s likely quicker for us to drive to Fargo than to fly there from Rapid City (our closest airport) once you factor in connections and layovers. Fargo is about an 8 hour drive from our house in western South Dakota, which is a long damn ways, especially with a 3 year old and 2 year old in the back seat. All I can say is, whoever invented portable DVD players is a saint and I would gladly die for them, or at least give them a kidney if they needed one. So, after dropping our two hounds off at the “doggie hotel” and ensuring we were well stocked with “The Wiggles” and “Go, Diego, Go!” DVDs, we were off.

Being the obsessive marathoner that I am, I had made reservations at the Candlewood Inn, just down the street from the start/finish line at the Fargo Dome, months ago. The Candlewood was doubly convenient because it’s also right next to the airport, so my dad could get there easily (his flight arrived a few hours before we did). My wife hates driving around in unfamiliar cities. I call it exploring….randomly wandering around a new city with no real idea of where you are or where you’re going is one of the best ways to get to know a place. She calls it being lost and insists we stop for directions. Tensions rise and arguments ensue. For the record, we ALWAYS end up reaching our destination eventually. In any case, the close location of our hotel alleviated many of these concerns.

Upon arriving in Fargo, we met up with my dad, checked into our room, and walked over to the Fargo Dome to pick up my race packet. It was a sultry 86 degrees and sunny, not exactly prime marathoning weather, but the forecast called for a cold front to move through that night, bringing much cooler temps. The expo was impressive, more so than I had expected it to be. The race shirt was nice too...a quarter zip, long sleeve technical shirt with the race logo on the breast. After checking out the expo, we returned to the hotel to relax a for awhile and then ventured out into Fargo (no, I did NOT get lost) to eat at Johnny Carino's (like Olive Garden but different name) and to hit up a grocery store for some instant oatmeal, bagels and a banana for breakfast. After that, it was back to the hotel where we crashed out at the extravagant hour of 9:00, which was actually 8:00 to us since we had lost an hour going from Mountain to Central time.

I was awoken at 11:30 by a blast furnace next to me, which turned out to be my son sporting a 104 degree temperature. If you follow the dailies, you know that he's had a fever off and on since Tuesday. Well, after a full day's respite, it returned but after a dose of ibuprofen he was soon asleep again and I found myself sprawled out on the floor instead....much cooler and less germy down there. I slept remarkably well, the best I've ever slept before a race and was actually awoken my my alarm at 5:15. I quickly got dressed, ate some oatmeal and a banana and started in on a blueberry bagel. With one bite left of the bagel I noticed some blue spots that most definitely not blueberries....great, nothing like a moldy bagel to fuel a marathon. I chugged at least three 20 oz. bottle of water too and then proceeded to nervously pace the halls of the hotel until it was time to head to the Fargo Dome for the start. My dad walked over with me (my wife and kids were still asleep) and as we left the hotel we walked outside into temps in the high 30s and a steady 15-20 mph breeze. Well, the cold front had definitely arrived....At the start line I hit the portapotties two more a great move by the organizers, there were a ton of em and I never had to wait to use one. I met up with the 3:20 pace group, where I also met fellow forumite elisaj (sorry we didn't catch each other after the race, we needed to get movin to check out of our hotel and hit the road to my grandma's place). After hearing both the Canadian and American national anthems and a flyover the the life flight helicopter (hope I don't need THAT today...), we were off. This report is already gargantuan and I honestly don't remember much of the course....this was the most focused I've ever been on staying on pace and running loose. So, here are my splits and what I can remember from the course.

1 - 7:35, Took awhile to weave through the masses and get tucked in with the pace group but the pace feels amazingly easy. I have to pee again already...
2 - 7:38, Perfect
3 - 7:32, Just after the 2 mile marker I hit a portapottie and then quickened the pace to catch up with the pace group again
4 - 7:14, Finally catch the group and they're running wonder it took so long.
5 - 7:22, Still a little fast, the pacer tells us to take it easy, take gel #1
6 - 7:40, Better
7 - 7:35, Groovin
8 - 7:42, I am actually ahead of the group after the mile 7 water stop...apparently they are slowing to get back on pace. I decide to run alone for awhile.
9 - 7:41, Still ahead of the group
10 - 7:59, We are moving back north now so we have some headwind, decide I'm better off with the pack.
11 - 7:43, Back in the pack, gel #2 down the hatch. I also lose my very effective Geetah Straw at the water stop.
12 - 7:49, The packs moving a little slow, but I don't want to charge ahead again. I put my faith in the pacer.
13 - 7:46
13.1 - 1:40:18, 18 seconds too slow
14 - 7:31, Picking up the pace, somewhere here we turn a corner and a gust of wind strong enough to snap the pacers sign off the stick hits us, he runs back to get it.
15 - 7:30, Pacer is still retrieving sign
16+17 - 15:27, I miss the 16 mile marker....the pacer rejoins us and asks me how I'm feeling. I lie and say "good"....I'm actually starting to feel like I'm laboring more to maintain pace.
18 - 7:33, We're in Moorhead, MN now.
19 - 7:28, Not sure if I can keep this up, it really feels like I'm laboring.
20 - 7:38, Right on pace, we're back in Fargo. No wall at mile 20 that I saw, but I know that the fade is coming sometime soon.
21 - 7:37, Still waiting for fade...
22 - 7:36, Okay, maybe the fade is coming next mile...
23 - 7:25, I discover that it feels better if I push the pace more. Myself, the pacer and a few others break from the large pack that has remained relatively intact until now and push forward.
24 - 7:24, Apparently somebody forgot to put up The Wall.
25 - 7:22, Okay, I know I'm going to make it now. The pacer tells me and a few others to push forward while he drops back to catch the rest of the group. I look at the pink wrist band on my right arm that I am wearing in support of my mother, who recently underwent a double mastectomy to remove breast cancer that was discovered last month, and bear down for the final 1.2.
26.2 - 9:03, Back past the start line, around the Fargo Dome, down the service entrance and the world is suddenly pitch black as we enter the tunnel. All I can see ahead are red numbers ticking down the time. As I cross the mat I try to throw my arms up in triumph but it probably looks a lot less triumphant than I intended. I don't care. I'm done.

Gun Time - 3:19:15
Chip Time - 3:18:53

After finishing I was almost in disbelief of what happened. I had just set a new PR by almost 11 minutes and run a 1:26 negative split, my first ever in a marathon. I never hit the wall, I never faded and actually surged toward the finish. The 60-70 mile weeks in the frigid South Dakota winter had actually paid off. The weather on race day turned out to be nearly perfect. I was concerned about the north winds because the couse took us straight south first before a long northerly return straight into the wind. But, the course was very well sheltered for the most part and running in the pack certainly helped for the windy sections. I think one of the keys for me was running with the pace group.... I seriously doubt that I could have maintained pace running solo. During the last 10K, I tucked in with the pacer and a couple of other guys and gals (one of which ran a sub-3:20 in her marathon debut) and just hung on for the ride. And what a great one it was....

Before I finish, and believe me I'm finally almost there, I've got to give a big thanks to my X-Squad teammates for all of the support and to this forum in general for the great advice I've received. GO X-SQUAD!!!

Mt. Rushmore Marathon 2006 Race Report

I learned one simple fact this morning. When the race directors of the Mt. Rushmore Marathon dubbed it "A Monumental Challenge" they weren't just blowing smoke up everyone's rear end. Last year's race had people dropping like flies and the course was changed (actually divided into two marathons: Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse) this year to make it a little more runner friendly, but it was still the toughest course I've encountered so far.

I just ran the Montana Marathon three weeks ago and this is the closest I've ever run two marathons. I raced Montana and narrowly missed a PR. For Mt. Rushmore the plan was to treat it as a long run and I didn't really have a goal in mind. Sub-4 was my general goal, somewhere around 3:45 is what I was expecting. I drove the first half of the course Saturday afternoon after visiting Mt. Rushmore with the family (my 2.5 year old son loves that place). So, I knew there were hills involved, but you don't really get a good feel for just how long the uphills are when you're in a car. We spent the night in Hill City, where all four races (Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse and a half for each) finished. For some inexplicable reason, the race directors themselves hadn't set up buses from Hill City to the start but I did get hooked up with a tour company that was offering one van shuttle to the start. So, me and 10 others who had stayed in Hill City got on the van at 5 am and were dropped off at Mt. Rushmore at 5:30, with a full 90 minutes to stand around in the parking garage (unheated parking garage, I might add) in sub-30 degree temps. I chatted with a couple of the guys I had rode up with and it helped to pass the time and forget about how cold I was.

Just before 7 we were herded out of the garage to the start line. We stood there for a couple of minutes and then, suddenly, without any "Ready, Get Set, Go" or anything a siren went off. Everyone kind of hesitated for a couple of seconds and then realized that we were supposed to start running. So off we went.The first ten miles dropped from Mt. Rushmore down to the valley a few miles south of Hill City. I say dropped because overall there was an elevation decline, but there were at least five decent hills in between, including three real doozies. I felt okay for the first few miles. My feet were numb by the time the race started and it took awhile to get warmed up. By mile 6 I was starting to fall into a groove and was running as consistently as I could with the constant ups and downs. At about mile 10 we hit the valley where we switched from running on the highway to the Mickelson Trail, which is an old railroad that was converted to a hiking/biking trail in the 90s and travels about 110 miles north-south through the Black Hills. From the 10 mile mark into Hill City was all downhill on a nice dirt trail, so it was good running. We also joined up with the Crazy Horse runners at that point, so there were more people to follow (and pass).

The half-marathons ended in downtown Hill City, while the full marathoners cruelly had to run right past the finish line and complete a 6.5 mile out and back north of town. Running through Hill City I felt great and apparently I was looking strong too because several spectators said things like "Good job 105, you're almost done!!", thinking that I was a half-marathoner only blocks from the finish. Little did they know...

After Hill City is where things got rough. We ran along Deerfield Rd. for the first 6 miles or so which was virtually ALL uphill. Sure, there were some short flats and downhills, but you could ALWAYS see an uphill ahead and seemingly every time you were about to reach the top of one you discovered it was longer. At about the 19 mile mark we FINALLY got off the road and took a short jaunt through the woods to meet up again with the Mickelson Trail to begin the trek back to Hill City. It was here that I had to dive into a port a potty to take care of some business as my third Gu was wreaking havoc with my digestive system.Getting back on the Mickelson was like pure heaven after the 6 miles we'd just endured. Except for the fact that the first bathroom break hadn't fully done the job, I was feeling good. About a mile and a half past the port a john I had to jump off the trail, scale a barbed-wire fence and find some bushes to hide behind to take care of more business. No one passed me while I was doing it (the field was VERY spread out by this time) so that made me feel a little better about it. I had played it very safe during the uphill section (I walked all of the water stations and walked a little on the last long uphill too) and it paid off because I was still feeling strong when we got on the Mickelson. For each of the past three marathons I've run, the last six miles were pure hell. That wasn't the case today though. I cruised along at a comfortable pace and started passing people who weren't feeling so good (which felt pretty good ). With two miles left, I picked it up a little and passed about four people. The last mile I picked it up more but there wasn't anyone else within reach. We came off the Mickelson Trail about a half mile from the finish and looped around downtown to finish coming from the south, just as the half-marathoners did. I put in a good kick for the last 100 yards or so (hopefully that will look good on my finishing photo ), waved to my wife and kids as I ran past and finished in 3:47:41, 28th overall (I'm 28 years old and this was the 28th year of the marathon....weird, totally meaningless coincidences) and 4th in my age group (and this was my 4th marathon).My time was actually a new personal worst, the previous being my first marathon in Seattle which I ran in 3:46:14. But, this course was significantly tougher than any other race course I've run, so I'm not disappointed in the least. I'm actually surprised that I felt as strong as I did at the end. Sure, that probably means that I could have pushed it harder earlier, but then I would have felt like hell for the last six and I didn't want to relive Montana, where I don't even remember the last 4 miles because I was so spent.

I won't bother to post my full splits because after the 9 mile mark it seems like I missed more markers than I saw. The course was marked great up until then, but it was spotty at best until the last six miles, where the markers were painted on the trail. My first half split was 1:50:something, which would make the second half 1:57:something roughly, with the first 6 miles of that being much slower than the last 7.So, be forewarned if you plan on running Mt. Rushmore't a tough course at fairly high elevation (over 5000 ft.). Crazy Horse is probably easier overall (it's all downhill for the first 13.1) but it has an identical second half so you still have to deal with the 6 miles of uphill after Hill City.

Thanks for reading!!

Montana Marathon 2006 Race Report

A popular saying in Montana is "If you don't like the weather, stick around for 15 minutes and it will probably change.". The change wasn't quite that dramatic, but the high temperature in Billings plummeted from near 90 early last week to the high 40s over the weekend with a chance of mixed snow/rain forecast for Saturday night and rain showers all day Sunday with a nice, gentle 25-35 mph wind out of the NW.

I awoke at 4:15 Sunday morning to a light sprinkle and relatively gentle winds in downtown Billings. I walked the seven blocks from our hotel to the YMCA where a good number of the marathoners loaded onto buses to be hauled to the start line in Molt, to the west of Billings. The wind was much more significant out on the open plains surrounding Molt, which is literally comprised of a grain elevator and 10-15 buildings. The start line was next to the Molt Community Center, where we were allowed to go inside and keep somewhat warm in the 45 minutes we had until the 7:00 start. I tried my best to keep my nerves in check and used the port a johns outside a couple of times (I had to stop twice during Brookings to use the bathroom and I wanted to avoid that). About 20 minutes before start time I did some jogging up and down Molt's main (and only) drag in an attempt to get warmed up. Promptly at 7, the race director got everbody out of the community center and lined up and we were off.

My goal was to run a 3:25 (7:50 pace). The marathon course headed east from Molt back towards Billings, where it would end at Daylis Stadium. The first 10-11 miles were across the open plains, with pretty much nothing to see but wheat fields from horizon to horizon. Miles 11-16 featured several long, steep downhills as the course dropped from the prairies into the Yellowstone River valley. Miles 16-26.2 wound from the west end of Billings into the center of town where Daylis Stadium is located.

Miles 1-10:

86 runners finished the full marathon and there were also several relay teams so there were around 100 people at the start. The crowd spread out fairly fast as we headed east out of Molt. Fortunately, the stiff, cold wind was mostly at our backs. I tried to identify other runners who seemed to be running about my pace and run with them. This was harder than I thought and is reflected in my splits (see below) as I fluctuated back and forth from under to over my pace from mile to mile. At mile 2.4 we took a turn south for a 2.6 mile out and back before returning to the main road. While running south on this short detour, the wind was fully at our backs and things felt pretty good, even though it was a long gradual uphill. But, that meant that when we turned back north, we were heading straight into the frigid breeze for the next 1.3 miles. After turning back east onto the Molt Road, I tried my best to get into a groove and maintain a consistent pace; I had abandoned the notion of falling in with anyone by this time as the runners who I had thought were the most likely candidates had fallen behind during the out and back and the next runners ahead of me were going too fast. Maintaining my pace proved difficult though because the road was constantly going up and down. The hills weren't steep by any means; they were long, gradual uphills followed by equally long and gradual downhills, so once again my times fluctuated from too slow to too fast depending on the terrain. Also, at mile 10 I started feeling the first rain drops of the day.

Miles 11-16:

This is where things got interesting. I had run this portion of the course during my last 20 miler three weeks ago, so I knew what I was in for but that didn't keep me from overdoing it. The course fairly abruptly drops from the open plains down into the river valley with a few steep downhills separated by more gradual ones. My plan going in was to increase my pace somewhat on the downhills to about 7:30 min. miles and then shoot for a consistent 7:50 for the final 10.2 miles. This is where it all went to hell. I hit the halfway point at 1:42:14, a little faster than my goal pace and then I almost unconsciously ended up following the guy in front of me for a majority of the downhill stretch and when we reached the 14 mile point at the bottom of the last big hill my watch said 7:15 and I knew I had gone too fast. I immediately slowed it down back to my goal pace but the damage was already done.....(that's foreshadowing, in case you didn't catch it).

Miles 16-20:

Just after mile 16 we turned off of the main road onto a street that wound around the north end of a country club. This is where I really knew that I was hurting. As we ran along the north end of the club there were a few relatively small hills but they felt like mountains; my legs were heavy and not feeling too lively. As we left the country club and hit the west end of Billings, I managed to recuperate a little and actually hit mile 20 feeling alright. By this time the rain was starting to come down pretty good.

Miles 21-26.2:

Like I said, I actually felt alright leaving the mile 20 point. But then, just before mile 21 we turned north for a very short, but at that time, very tough uphill before turning right again to a flatter section of road. This uphill, although almost insignificant under normal circumstances, totally sapped the remaining energy I had. By the time I hit mile 22, my calves and quads were starting to hurt pretty good. I knew I might see my family and friends at mile 22.3 so I tried to keep going strong, but the rain (it was pouring pretty good by then) kept them inside. From that point on the thought that dominated my mind was that I wanted more than anything in the world to stop running. My legs were so tight that I couldn't concentrate on anything else. I kept telling myself that I would stop and walk for awhile at the next aid station but whenever I got to one, I just kept running because I was pretty sure that if I stopped I wouldn't get started again. From mile 23 until the end of the race is pretty much a blur. I felt like I was vision was getting fuzzy around the edges, I was feeling light headed and I kept catching myself starting to drift from the shoulder of the road into the driving lane. But my legs still hurt. I remember thinking "If everything else is fuzzy, why can't my legs just go numb too?". At mile 24, I got a brief burst of energy and told myself that if I couldn't make it 2 more miles without stopping I had no business being a runner. With about a half mile to go the course took a right turn onto a pretty good downhill stretch just before entering Daylis Stadium. I tried to muster up some energy and pick up the pace and finish strong. I did manage to pick it up some on the downhill but after entering the stadium I realized that I had to run about two thirds of the way around the track before reaching the finish line, and for some reason this totally drained my morale. I got passed by two other runners with less than 100 meters left and ended up crossing the line in 3:30:15, 19th place overall, and 4th in my age group.

My Splits

Mile 1 - 7:44
Mile 2 - 8:08
Mile 3 - 7:33
Mile 4 - 8:03
Mile 5 - 8:02
Mile 6 - 7:43
Mile 7 - 8:04
Mile 8 - 7:47
Mile 9 - 8:03
Mile 10 - 8:02
Mile 11 - 7:32
Mile 12 - 7:24
Mile 13 - 7:21
First Half Split - 1:42:14
Mile 14 - 7:15
Mile 15 - 7:42
Mile 16 - 7:48
Mile 17 - 7:54
Mile 18 - 8:23
Mile 19 - 7:45
Mile 20 - 7:26
Mile 21 - 8:29
Mile 22 - 8:35
Mile 23 - 8:24
Mile 24 - 8:50
Mile 25 - 8:58
Mile 26 - 8:58
Mile 26.2 - 2:10
Second Half Split - 1:48:01
Total Time - 3:30:15

The lesson learned:

Don't underestimate the downhills!! I think that if I hadn't pushed it so hard for that five mile stretch, it could have made a world of difference later on. One of the runners that I had started following during the first few miles and then written off as too slow and left behind actually ended up passing me with about 100 meters left. Looking ahead, I think that in order to further improve my times I need to do two things: 1) bump up the mileage and 2) drop some pounds; at 6'3" 220 I'm not exactly your stereotypical runner and I never will be but I can't help but think that 30 or so fewer pounds would help my speed and reduce the impact on my body.

As for the race itself, I thought that it was pretty well organized. Everything was on time and there were plenty of aid stations and volunteers. The mile markers were only spray painted on the road which makes it easy to miss one if you're on a different part of the road than the marker but given the wind, any other kind of marker probably would have blown away. And I didn't miss one anyway, so I can't really complain. And, of course, the weather could have been better but as far as I know there's nothing they can do about that. The technical fabric t-shirt was nice and the finisher's medal was unique for sure (it's a hand-crafted, hand-stamped, leather medallion on a leather lanyard). I also got a cool hand-crafted coffee mug but that cost me extra. Spectators were sparse, but that's totally understandable; I myself wanted more than anything to be indoors during the last six miles. The spectators who were there were very nice and supportive. There was some awesome bread from a local bakery and fresh fruit available at the finish, which I was in desperate need of at the time.

Well, this thing ended up being a little longer than I thought, but I needed to get it off my mind. I'm not sure how I feel about the race yesterday. On one hand, I'm disappointed that I didn't achieve my goal or a PR, but I am happy that I was able to push through the pain and keep going until the finish even though every fiber of my soul was telling me to stop and walk. I guess if running 26.2 miles was easy, everyone would do it and we wouldn't have anything to brag about.

Spearfish Canyon Half-marathon 2006 Race Report

For whatever reason, I skipped the half-marathon on my progression from being a fat couch potato to a marathoner. I've run several 5Ks, a couple 10 milers and two marathons but never a half. Spearfish Canyon is only 12 miles from my house and it fit in well with my marathon training plan for the Montana Marathon in September so I decided to give it a shot.The race, obviously, follows the Spearfish Canyon highway, which winds into the northern Black Hills and is one of the more scenic (and therefore, popular) driving routes in the area.

We showed up at the Spearfish City Park to register at around 6:20 (my wife ran the 5K with our son and daughter in the jogging stroller). As soon as I was registered I jumped on the first bus to the starting line and was off. On the way, I realized I was sitting across the aisle from Dick Beardsley from the legendary 1982 Boston Marathon shootout with Alberto Salazar. He was the special guest for the day and ran the race and then gave a short speech afterwards at the awards ceremony. The bus ride seemed like it took forever but we did eventually arrive. It was immediately obvious that there would be a port-a-potty situation because there were only two and about a hundred runners. I stood in line for about a minute before opting to jump over the guardrail and water some trees. Once the important business was taken care of I started my warmup jog and found myself running right behind Beardsley....turns out this would be the only time I ran anywhere near as fast as him.

The race started nearly on-time; not too bad considering they had three or four busloads of runners to deliver up the canyon. I knew going into the race that it was a downhill course, because I had run in the canyon before. What I didn't realize is how much of a downhill it was. My goal for the race was a 1:40 (7:30/mile pace), which I knew was definitely achievable. At the mile 1 marker I was at 7:00 and hardly feeling it. I didn't want to push it too hard though because I knew that 13 miles of downhill would take its toll eventually, so I settled in to a comfortable pace and enjoyed the scenery as much as possible. There really wasn't anything significant to write about during the race other than I probably saw a couple hundred motorcycles (the Sturgis Bike Rally starts this weekend and there are approximately 500,000 bikers converging on the Black Hills). The field spread out pretty quickly and I ran alone most of the way, although I could always see at least one person ahead of me. I followed one lady in a green shirt for a good nine miles before I finally overtook her with about 2 miles to go. Like I said, it was pretty much all downhill other than the last 1.5 miles where we exited the canyon (into the sun) and headed toward the city park. With a mile left, I tried to find another gear so that I could catch up to a guy who had passed me with about six to go. He was fading fairly quickly but I didn't have quite enough left to catch him and finished about 5 seconds back.
My splits look liked this:

Mile 1 - 7:00
Mile 2 - 7:13
Mile 3 - 7:11
Mile 4 - 7:10
Mile 5 - 7:22
Mile 6 - 7:13
Mile 7 - 7:06
Mile 8 - 7:17
Mile 9 - 7:00
Mile 10 - 7:05
Mile 11 - 7:07
Mile 12 - 7:16
Mile 13.1 - 7:46
Total Time - 1:33:51, 7:10/mile pace

So, I easily achieved my goal time, thanks in no small part to the course. I'm not sure where I came in overall but I finished second in my age group. Beardsley ran a 1:18 and finished second overall, not bad for 50 year old:)!

Overall, the race was organized very well and things ran smoothly. There was more than enough food and refreshments at the finish line...they were actually giving away cases of water and orange juice and fruit afterwards because they had too much. The only issue that arose was that they only ended up with half as many awards medals as they needed so I'll be getting my age group medal in the mail which is no big deal in the long run. So, if anyone has an urge to experience the Black Hills and wants a good course to set a half-marathon PR on, come check out Spearfish Canyon.I should also point out that in a couple of weeks (Aug 20?) there is a woman's only marathon and half-marathon called the Leading Ladies Marathon which also goes down Spearfish Canyon. I won't be participating because, well, I'm not a lady, but I've heard it's a great event. And no, they're not paying me to say that. But if they want to, they can:).

Brookings Marathon 2006 Race Report

I guess I'll start off with a little background. Brookings was my second marathon, the first being Seattle last November where I ran a 3:46:14. My Seattle training had been hampered by a bout of ITBS and I basically went into that race hoping just to finish. For Brookings I used the Pfitz 18/55 plan and only missed two runs (because of a stomach flu) but one of them was my last 20 miler which left me kind of worried. Also, during the last week of taper I noticed that my right knee was feeling stiff and slightly sore but it never really hurt but it still gave me something else to worry about in the days leading up to the race. My goal for Brookings was to run a 3:30, a pretty big PR but based on my training and the fact that Brookings is a flat course, I felt it was doable.

I drove the 6.5 hours from Spearfish to Brookings on Friday. This is a very small race so there was no expo. The packet pick-up was at the South Dakota State Univ. student union building where they also had a pasta dinner and a guest speaker. I picked up my packet and took off to grab my own dinner and try to relax in my hotel room. I had a hell of a time falling asleep Friday seemed like every time I was about to drift off I'd think about the race again and then I was wide awake. I ended up getting about 4 hours of sleep.

Saturday morning I woke up long before daybreak so that I could eat some breakfast two hours before the 7:00 race start. Shuttles were available from the starting area to all of the local hotels, but I decided to drive myself. I went to the starting area at Pioneer Park at about 6:00 and there was plenty of parking available within 100 yards of the start line. As predicted, the weather wasn't the greatest on Saturday. It was overcast with scattered showers and a steady wind of 20 mph out of the north all day long and the temperature was in the 40s for the entire race. At the start line I wore extra clothing to warm up in, then shed the extra stuff just before the start.

The race started almost on a time, just a few minutes after 7:00.I was near the front of the (small) pack of runners at the start but quickly fell behind the faster marathoners and half-marathoners. About a quarter mile into the race I realized I should have hit the porta-john one last time before the start but then thought I might be able to run through it. The first half of the race wound around downtown Brookings, the old-town residential district, the SDSU campus and a couple of parks. Typically, my first mile was a little too fast but I settled into a pretty good groove after that as I fell in step with some other runners going at about my desired pace of 8:00/mile. At mile 7 I finally accepted the fact that I needed to stop and take a leak because it was pretty much all I could think about. So I jumped into the next available porta-john and took the quickest whizz of my life. At mile 11 the half-marathoners split off and headed toward the finish line, at which point the course became significantly lonelier. I was running with one other guy at this time and we briefly discussed football before I passed him around mile 12. It was at this point that I realized that yet another bodily urge was coming on and that there was no stopping it. I began desperately seeking out the next bathroom and finally, just before the halfway point, I found one, dove in, and took care of business as quickly as possible. I then set out trying to catch back up with the people I had been ahead of before nature struck. By mile 15 or 16 I had accomplished that except for the guy who I had talked football with. I could see him about 50 yards in front of me and I followed him for a good 5 miles but somewhere around mile 22 I started slowing down and he started getting further and further away. As I mentioned, the course was much lonelier after the 11 mile mark. During the last half of the race I only passed 7 or 8 runners, mostly because I had to stop for the bathroom. During the last ten miles I passed three runners. The good news is that no one passed me during the second half. I was able to maintain my goal pace until mile 22 when I slowly started to fade. The first half of the course was plenty sheltered so the 20 mph wind wasn't really an issue. But the second half took off south of town around a couple of parks and then started working its way north back towards the finish at Pioneer Park. This part of the course was much less sheltered than the first half and the long stretches of running directly into a headwind started taking their toll. From miles 22-25 I wasn't feeling too stomach felt weak and my legs were dead tired. I did pass a couple of people during this stretch though and that boosted my confidence a little. At mile 25 I knew that I was going to have to pick it up to finish in 3:30. I was running this marathon in memory of my grandmother, who passed away in December and would have been 87 years old on May 2nd so I wanted to finish strong. So I gave it all I had left and crossed the line in 3:29:40. It should be noted that this was my watch time, which doesn't include my unscheduled bathroom break at mile 13. My official chip time was 3:30:37. I finished 22nd (out of 134) overall, and 4th (out of a whopping 9) in my age group. Here are my splits, which clearly show the tougher miles.

Mile 1 - 7:48 (oops, shoulda known I'd go out too fast)
Mile 2 - 8:03 (much better)
Mile 3 - 8:04 (getting in the groove)
Mile 4 - 7:46 (ran with a pack of half-marathoners)
Mile 5 - 7:58 (better again)
Mile 6 - 7:46 (with the half-marathoners again)
Mile 7 - 8:08 (bathroom break)
Mile 8 - 7:57
Mile 9 - 7:51
Mile 10 - 7:58
Mile 11 - 7:43 (last mile with the halfers)
Mile 12 - 8:02
Mile 13 - 7:37 (trying to make up time after 2nd bathroom break)
Mile 14 - 8:00
Mile 15 - 7:38 (downhill and with the wind at my back)
Mile 16 - 8:06
Mile 17 - 8:03
Mile 18 - 8:05
Miles 19 and 20 - 15:58 (missed the 19 marker)
Mile 21 - 8:06 (starting to feel tired)
Mile 22 - 8:11 (definitely tired)
Mile 23 - 8:21 (how much further?)
Mile 24 - 8:19 (is this ever going to end?)
Mile 25 - 8:18
Mile 26 - 7:54 (3:30 or bust!!!)
Mile 26.2 - 1:47 (Thank God!!!)

Overall, this was a great event. There were approximately twice as many volunteers as there were marathon finishers. Aid stations were spaced well and stocked with Powerade and water. Bathrooms were also available at regular intervals along the course (thankfully). There weren't a ton of spectators (it's a small marathon in a small town, what can you expect?) but the spectators who were there were very enthusiastic, as were the volunteers along the course, despite the chilly weather. I don't think I've ever said "thank you" so many times in a single day but everyone was so energetic and supportive that I had to respond. There was one group of girls (who were pretty good lookin) in a Mini Cooper who I saw at a few different points along the course cheering on each runner as they came by.The course itself was very nice. Brookings is a beautiful town, with lots of trees, parks and some nice old houses. Over 26.2 miles, you get to see damn near the entire town without ever covering the same ground twice. It was also nice and flat with only one real hill at around mile 15. South Dakota is notoriously windy and it's obvious that the race director knows this and has designed the course in a way that minimizes the runners' exposure as much as possible. The course was marked very well with volunteers positioned to point runners in the right direction at the turns. The mile markers were laid out well too. I missed one but it was probably due more to my own inattentiveness than the positioning of the marker. Really, I only have two complaints about the race. The first is the weather, which (unfortunately) can't be controlled. The second is the shirts which I thought were kind of ugly (I'm not big on yellow). Otherwise, this is a great event and if you haven't experienced a small-town marathon than this is definitely one to look into.

Seattle Marathon 2005 Race Report

I just finished my first marathon yesterday and now I'm gonna give my first race report a shot. I ran Seattle because I've got some relatives up there and the grand master plan was to spend Thanksgiving with them and then run the race on Sunday but two canceled flights due to fog put a slight damper on the Thanksgiving plans. Finally got to Seattle late Thursday and religiously watched the weather forecast for the next few days. Rain was on the agenda but, thankfully, the weather man was wrong as race day ended up being mostly sunny with temps in the low 40's and only a slight breeze along some portions of the course.

The course itself was overall pretty nice. The race started near the Space Needle and went through downtown for the first couple of miles and then proceeded onto the I-90 express lanes and followed them across the floating bridge to Mercer Island and back (up to about mile 8). This portion was pretty monotonous to me and the tunnel portion just before the bridge was hot. After coming back across the bridge the course took a nice route along Lake Washington Boulevard and followed it to and around Seward Park and then we double back and followed Lake Washington back towards and past the floating bridge. This was definitely the easiest and most enjoyable portion of the run for me. Right after mile 20 the course left Lake Washington and went up a short but friggin steep hill (I powered up it but didn't feel so hot for a mile or so afterwards) followed by some longer and much more gradual hills around mile 22 or so as the course wound through Woodburn Park. From there we crossed under I-5 and then ran alongside it back towards downtown for a mile or two. From mile 24 there was a really nice view of the downtown Seattle skyline, although the Space Needle seemed like it was a lot further than 2 miles away at this point. At mile 25 the course departed from I-5 and began a series of downhills into downtown. At this point I knew that I was going to be close to 3:45 so started picking up the pace as much as I could. Things were going well until just before the mile 26 marker where the course made one more short uphill before entering Memorial Stadium where the finish line was located. I ended up at 3:46:14 and my goal was sub-4 so I can't complain. My first half split was 1:52:53 which would make the second half around 1:54 (it's early and I can't do the math right now).Since this was my first, I don't really have much to reference it to but it was a great experience overall. The expo was cool with lots of free samples, a decent number of vendors and some decent deals on running gear. Overall the race went really smoothly for me. There were some transportation problems in getting from the Westin hotel to the start line because the monorail that many people were planning on using crashed the night before the race (only two minor injuries, thankfully). Bus rides were made available to help alleviate the problem (I walked to the start line as it was only about 10-15 minutes away, but I took advantage of the bus to get back to the hotel). The recovery area had a band playing, lots of free fruit, donuts from Krispy Kreme, smoothies from Jamba Juice and clam chowder from Ivar's. There were quite a few spectators along the downtown sections at the start and finish but they were fairly sparse in between. There was a decent number along Lake Washington and the ones who were out were enthusiastic. So, now I'm back home nursing my sore ankles and calves and wondering when I can run again. It was a great experience overall and I definitely consider doing it again.