2014 Victoria Falls Marathon



June 29, 2014
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
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Event website

[See my earlier post How I get to Victoria Falls on the cheap]

Race day! This is my third marathon in Africa and completes another set of the Seven Continents. I’m a bit banged up from a fall a couple of days ago, but otherwise I feel good. My body wanted to be awake in time to have my peanut butter sandwich and to sit around a bit for the start. I didn’t know how I’d do today, but I had an inkling that I might go for a personal record. I’ve been on a good year, I’m close to peak shape (although I don’t know if I’m ascending or descending that mountain), and I have new confidence in running in the heat if I can have coconut water, which I’ve found at the local grocery store. Everything seems to be lining up.

I shouldn’t think about that yet. If I get through the first half in good shape I can start to think about a personal record. If I’m in good shape by Mile 18, I can work toward a personal record. At the start I need to warm up and let the body fall into something that feels good.

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Face plant


June 27, 2014
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
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With two days to the Victoria Falls Marathon, I wanted to go out for a leisurely run to explore a bit more of the area. I didn’t want to exert myself or do anything that might knock me out of the race. It turned out to be the wrong day for that.

I started from the hotel and ran to the Falls with the intent to go into Zambia. You can do (legally) without crossing through the Zambian border post, which means you don’t need an exit stamp from Zimbabwe or a Zambian visa; you don’t even need a passport The immigration officer on the Zimbabwean side gives you a “bridge pass” which you show at the gate leading to the bridge.

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My first day in Zimbabwe


June 21, 2014
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
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I’m in a city, but it’s the smallest in Zimbabwe. Victoria Falls is only here to support the natural wonder of the same name, and is surrounded by a national park where the animals roam free. I don’t really want to go out running since 35 hours of travel and a nine hour time zone change is keeping me in bed. And, it’s chilly. Not only is the weather here moderate and comfortable, but I couldn’t figure out how to turn off the air conditioning. I don’t know if I brought warm enough clothes for this African trip. I’m here for the Victoria Falls Marathon next week.

I run down the path whose signs points toward the gorge. I figure as long I see other people walking on the paths, especially the locals, I’m fine.

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At Cairo Airport


June 20, 2014
Cairo, Egypt
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I thought today might be the one where I failed to continue my one mile a day goal. I’m on my way to Zimbabwe for the Victoria Falls Marathon, which is 32 hours of traveling from New York, through Cairo, then Joburg, and finally Victoria Falls. Somewhere in there I need to run. I didn’t know how that would work out but I knew something would present itself, even if I had to run up and down a concourse.

The ticket agent in New York told me that as a business class traveler, EgyptAir provides a hotel room in Cairo for the 12 hour layover. That sounds promising. If I can get a room, I have a place to store my stuff, take a shower, and so on.

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2014 Portugal Day Run



June 15, 2014
New York, NY
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Event website

Another personal best? How can that be? I feel depleted from the Heartland Series and thought this would be a recovery week. I didn’t plan to do anything other than make another notch in my 9+1 goal.

I can easily run a personal best on a new distance. I can’t recall that I’ve ever run a five mile event, so any time is a record time for me. However, I’ve run several 8k events, which are a hair short of five miles. Going by those times, I’ve run much faster than any 8k I’ve done by a couple minutes even though I had to run 0.03 extra miles.

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Heartland Series: Wisconsin



June 8, 2014
Monroe, WI
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Event website

For the last day of the Heartland Series takes place in Twining Park, named after General Nathan Farragut Twining, perhaps the luckiest soldier (airmen, whatever) alive. He always just missed the big wars, didn’t have to do more than two years at West Point, and still got to be part of the jet age.

None of that mattered to me. In 26.2 miles I would be done with my week. The end was within sight. With five or so hours of suffering and grit I’d be finished for the week, even though I wasn’t sure I’d make it all the way to the end. This is the second state I’ve repeated this week, so I didn’t need it for my 50 States goal. I could have skipped it without affecting any current goal. I suspect that I’ll have a 100 marathons goal since this is number 63. When I’m done with this year I should have around 75. I’m not thinking about that at the moment though. I have enough to think about already. Read more »

Heartland Series: Iowa



June 7, 2014
Clinton, IA
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Event website

My first post-Titanium marathon doesn’t feel any different than any other, but I am tired as I should be for Day 4 of the Heartland Series. I ran too hard yesterday and I thought I would pay for it today, but I’m feeling much better than I deserve for what I’ve done this month.

It’s odd that I’ve run nine marathons in the past month but I’m feeling better than when I started. That’s the training effect at work. I can’t get stronger forever, so maybe I peaked yesterday. Lately I’ve been thinking about Eddie Izzard’s Marathon Man where he started a 50+ marathon quest on five weeks of training and ran the last one close to four hours, halving the time it took him to do his first. From the looks of him in the documentary, he was having a worse time than Dustin Hoffman in the movie of the same name. Read more »

Heartland Series: Illinois



June 6, 2014
Bloomington, IL
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Event website

Day Three of the Heartland Series is my big day. If I finish this run, I’m reached my Titanium goal of 30 marathons in different states or countries in 365 days. That might be impressive to most of the world, but many people in this field have already done that, and worse. Some of them wear Marathon Maniac shirts with ten stars on them. Many of those have made Titanium several times over. I’ve even heard that some people have made it in all ways possible: 52 marathons in a year, 30 marathons in different states or countries in a year, and 17 marathons in different countries in a year. I think there might even be someone who has down all three of those simultaneously.

Tony “Endorphin Dude” Nguyen (Maniac 2810) started me on this goal. He started running around the same time I did, maybe a little latter, but he went right for the Titanium goal as a way to fight his diabetes. I met him at several races in California and the seed was planted. Now he’s doing 100 milers. The most I’ve done is 56k. He’s gone way past the 100 marathon goal, and I’m in the high 50s. I suck. No matter how much I do, I’m still at the back of the achievement pack. Don’t be impressed with me; I’m not. I’m impressed by people like Tony.

Today’s course in Bloomington is a bit weird. It’s an out-and-back on a loop. We run almost all the way around a small lake but when we get almost all the way around, we turn around to come back. We’d do that 12 times.

map

I start off with Jennifer, my ad hoc running partner from yesterday, but after a couple of laps we separate. She’s running conservatively for her first double, and I’m feeling really strong today and find it hard to shift into a lower gear.

At the halfway point I’m feeling really strong. It’s also getting warm, it’s a clear day with few clouds, and the sun is coming up. I’m confident though, overly so, that coconut water is going to keep me away from a heat injury. I used to hate the heat but the high potassium drinks (not Gatorade, with almost no big K) is Popeye’s spinach. The heat gets to me, but properly hydrated and electrolyted I can keep going.

For the middle of the marathon I was running really fast. I was on my 10k pace. That’s insane. After running two marathons already, and in the middle of a third on a hot day I’m running negative splits. I figured this might have been some sort of runner’s high where I was being flooded with endorphins, but the hammer was just around the corner. I went for it though, even though I was still following my plan to run-walk, mostly to get rid of some heat. In the nine minutes of walking I was doing more than a mile.

I kept that up, right through Mile 24. I don’t know how that happened. I had run the second half at almost a two hour half marathon pace. But, watching my Garmin and getting to my last lap, I knew something was off. I stopped to ask Race Director Clint if the last lap was something different about the last lap, like going out to the turn around and stopping. A couple other people noted the course was long, so the new rule was a half lap (just the out) for the last bit.

When I got to the turn around, Jennifer was there with a couple laps left. Since a couple of other runners had done the long thing, I decided to run with her back to the start. I could have quit there, having run the marathon according to the race director, but I don’t like the idea of someone running longer than I did even if it was a mistake.

Day Three done, Titanium achieved. I don’t fell any different. The heavens didn’t open up, horns did not blare, and like after the Great Wall Marathon, it took he a couple minutes to realize I’d made it. That’s the nature of these big goals. All the fun is dreaming, thinking, and planning. Attainment is anti-climatic, and actually a bit sad as it leaves a tiny hole in your soul.

medal

Still, Mainly Marathons makes a nice award for those who achieve these big goals in their marathons. Clint presented me artwork, printed on tile, made especially for this series.

award

Heartland Series: Indiana



June 5, 2014
Anderson, IN
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Event website

It’s Day Two of the Heartland Series and I’m feeling slightly more motivated than I was in Niles yesterday. I knew that this series was going to be the peak of my year. I’ve done other five day series, but never so close to each other. At the end of this series, assuming I complete them all, I will have stumbled through 11 marathons in a month. That’s too many, I think. It’s putting the zap on my head and sucking away too much of an otherwise interesting life. They should diagnose this exercise addiction in the DSM, and indeed the controversial DSM-V does. I don’t think that’s what I have, but it’s starting to feel like it. Would I really be doing this if there weren’t a 50 States Club where I feel obsessively compelled to fill in the uncolored spaces on a map? Read more »

Heartland Series: Michigan



June 4, 2014
Niles, MI
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Event website

I started today in the worst sort of mood, feeling neither good nor bad. I felt uninterested. I didn’t want to run today, but not because I was tired or injured or nervous. Overloaded with six marathons in the past three weeks, boredom has set in and the mental challenge of another four or so hours running, traveling for another week, and driving around the midwest to do another five marathon series has sucked my tank of enthusiasm. The running won’t be a problem; it’s not about the bike running. Read more »