Heartland Series: Illinois



June 6, 2014
Bloomington, IL
GPX
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
GPX
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?

You can easily find feel good stories about running, but where are the true stories of the dark thoughts, self defeat, and every other demon that confronts the idiot who wants to run a marathon every day? Where are the stories of intervention and recovery? There’s Marc Parent‘s “Newbie Chronicles”, but I can’t be the only one who struggles with the desire to stay in bed not because it’s warm or because I’m tired or my legs are full of lactic acid, but simply because I don’t want to be where I am.

In the marathon, there’s a hump around Mile 17 where many people have a mental hurdle to get over, when the end doesn’t seem that much closer but you’ve done so much already. I think that’s where I am in my year. This week is my Mile 17. I have to push through this barrier, but that doesn’t make me feel any better.

As usual, the start is simple. Race Director Clint climbs his ladder and makes his announcements. He points out those who are doing their first half or whole, or who’s finishes their Maniac goals. He makes final announcements, trades his ladder for a bike, then leads us out for the first lap.

start

Today we’d run a loop, going either clockwise or anti at our discretion, around the pinched oval lake in Shadyside Park.

map

Today I was fortunate today. On the first lap, a woman came up to talk about my Great Wall Marathon shirt. We talked for a bit about that, then ended up running the rest of the marathon together. She was doing her first double and was a bit nervous about that, while I was trying to improve my mood. We both needed the distraction, and we both provided it.

This run’s scenery was beautiful. Along much of the lake the path is shaded by big oaks. The sun came up, without anything in its way, sending light beams through the canopies. It’s something that belongs in a running magazine’s beautiful runs section, but all I had was my dinky iPhone with it’s sweaty lens.

avenue
path

Most of the course was in the shade, which was fortunate. Is warm and muggy, and direct sun would have made it worse. I’m worried about the heat this week. I’ve made this the last big push before the summer, when I’ll take some time off to escape the heat. I was lucky yesterday since it was overcast and a bit rainy. And I have three more marathons which might be hot and with direct soon in the flat and treeless Big Corn country.

bridge
fisher

As this was a loop instead of an out and back, and the loop was almost three miles long, there was a small refreshments table in the middle run by local volunteers who also helped make the entire series possible. This is the first running of this series and it’s the locals that really made it happen.

halfway
mile_marker

As a pair we got through the race and I received my second recycled US steel medal. I felt a little better at the end of today and I’m starting to get over my funk, but tomorrow is the big day. Tomorrow I run my 30th marathon (in separate states or countries) in 365 days. That’s my Titanium run, when I’ll accomplish my big goal for the year. That’s two of five done, and I’m starting to feel better about this trip.

medal

By now the front seat of my rental is starting to become ordered. I was a bit too unmotivated to organize it yesterday, but now I’m starting to put things where they go. It might not look it, but I have things where they need to be. All my food on the passenger side floor, and so on. It’s both command center and road trip apartment. Aside from the marathon path, it’s the place I’ll spend the most time awake. When I get to the hotel I fall into bed and sleep until it’s time to go again.

car_front_seat

Heartland Series: Michigan



June 4, 2014
Niles, MI
GPX
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.

The first day of the Heartland Series starts in Niles, Michigan, just across the border from the more famous South Bend. Like the other Mainly Marathon events, we’d run a small loop or out-and-back centered on a central support point. Today we’d run along the St. Joseph River.

map

On each lap, we’d collect a rubber band until we had one less than the number of loops to make the distance, whether half or full marathons. Each loop was about two miles from a double out and back, so I’d need 11 bands and one extra lap.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm, I knew what to do. Lace up the shoes, acquire the satellites, and run. Run one step, then two, repeat, and finish. It’s a simple task.

Had this not been a small event in a series, I might have suffered greatly, trapped in my own head and dragging myself around. But these series have regulars so I know many people and there’s plenty of encouragement. Clyde, a runner whom I met at the Dublin Marathon and many races since them, told me to smile every time we passed each other. He also dragged me through the last day of the Dust Bowl series when the altitude of the last day in New Mexico. When I feel unmotivated, I know I need to focus on someone else. Focus focus focus. Distract.

bridge

We started at first light, and being summer that’s around 6 AM, a time early enough that we could run a marathon and go back to our hotels before regular checkout.

As the morning went on, the ducks and geese came out. It must be Spring since there are ducklings and goslings all over the place. Be careful taking pictures of them; those geese are mean when they think you’re threatening their kids.

ducks
geese

For the most part, the path was on a paved bike path. A short section went through the parking lot where the race RVs where set up with the food and refreshment tables. The support from Mainly Marathons is always first rate, and if you bring a volunteer with you, they offer you a discount. They supply plenty of food, satisfying all tastes. There’s sweet, salty, savory, and bitter. This doesn’t seem that important to the casual runner, but after a couple thousand calories from the same thing kills the appetite. How long can you eat Gu? Or peanut butter? I mix it up with Fritos and pickles, or maybe a chocolate. For drinks, I can take water, gatorade, Coke, or chocolate milk, even though I drank mostly from the coconut water that I brought myself.

tables

Toward the end of the day the rain moved in. For awhile it was merely drizzly, but on my last lap it started to rain properly. Right after I finished and as I was walking to my car, it started to pour. Those poor souls still out on the course!

I finished in my usual time, although it seemed like unending mental torture to run today. My legs felt fine, my stomach felt fine, and it was just my out-of-sorts head that messed with me. That’s Day One done, state 37 of 50, and overall marathon 60. No wonder I’m bored.

For the effort I got a medal made of recycled US steel. When they clang together they sound like cowbells.

medal

Now I needed to drive to Anderson, Indiana for the next day and do it again. I wasn’t feeling any more enthusiastic.

2014 Celebrate Israel Run 4-miler



June 1, 2014
New York, NY
GPX
Event website

I didn’t want to run today. I would have rather stayed up last night, even without reason, doing nothing. My hardest challenge for running might be going to be the night before; so many of my stories seem to start with me completely exhausted.

My 9+1 goal demands that I run this morning though and I’m still a bit worried that the simplest of my goals might fail from scheduling. I travel so much for my other running goals (and for many other reasons) that I’ve missed several NYRR runs, including some for which I had registered. It’s June and I’m behind where I would like to be—not even half way to nine runs.

Still, I’ve registered for two runs this month; if I finish both I’ll have five runs toward the goal. Looking at the calendar, I might have trouble getting four more. I’ve been thinking that I might have to cancel a marathon or some other trip for a dinky four mile run.

9+1-4

But I did get up and I did take the local down to 72nd Street and I did pick up my bib without really waking up. This time I was a bit early, almost an hour so. The park was quiet as the staff set up the loudspeakers that would the announcers would use. At least there was none of the morning drive time radio duos spouting bland or asinine things over and over until the start. I sat on a rock out cropping and took a little nap. I’d get up a few minutes before the start, go to my corral, and wake up enough to run.

Being a run to celebrate Israel, the organizers started with the Israeli national anthem, followed by that of the United States. Then we were off.

I ran fast to get some space. I still don’t understand the corral system, which puts me in the 2,000s. I think that’s by my pace, but there are many slow runners around me still. They don’t even look fast, some with braces, some walking within the first mile, and some in questionable shoes. Maybe some of these overstated their pace and it’s their first race, but I don’t think I got that benefit.

This time I noticed the clock as I crossed. I’m in the second corral, not counting the elites, and I cross after two minutes. I’m not wearing a watch today, having lost it during the New England Challenge. I’ll run hard and not worry about the numbers.

I get to the first mile in a little over seven minutes. That’s fast— almost too fast for me. It’s the first mile which is always fast. I do the second mile, which has a little more downhill, a bit faster. I’m not hurting, I’m not out of breath, and I’m not overheating. This can’t be good for the rest of the run.

The 102nd street transverse is mostly downhill, so there’s a chance for me to take a break. I’m still running a good pace but it’s hard as hard. I can do this for two more miles.

My third mile is a bit slower from the hills on West Drive. I’m solidly in the highest heart rate zone now and it’s a battle to keep myself right under my coronary red line.

Generally I don’t run races twice, and technically I haven’t because these four milers in Central Park have different titles. They are the same course, which I know. The hills and downhills are familiar; I know where I can ease off the gas a bit. Running so much this year has taught me to continue to suffer even as I’m backing off. Instead of stopping to walk, or slowly down considerably, I know I can back off slightly and slowly get my lungs back over a couple of minutes.

The last mile isn’t that bad. It’s mostly downhill with some slight bumps. I’m suffering and what get me through it are the lampposts which are labeled with the nearest street number. Not today as they are freshly painted without the numbers reapplied. Between 85nd Street and 76nd, I don’t get that countdown; I can’t distract myself with those numbers.

The turn on to the 72nd Street transverse doesn’t seem to get closer. From a half mile away you can see the runners on the transverse but it’s deceptive. The road turns away to the west for a hundred meters before it joins the transverse. By that time I’m almost cooked but other people are starting to sprint. They must be much better than me to have that much energy at the end; I’ve been killing myself for a mile with everything I have. I don’t sprint at the end because I have nothing left as I’ve ramped up my effort slowly. I wonder why these sprinters didn’t try harder earlier.

I could see the finish line clock, a couple hundred meters away. I think there was a 2 as the leading digit. It would take me a minute to get there, but a 2 would mean a personal best time for this distance (so far, all on this course). And, that 2 is gun time, which I’m two minutes behind. After it turns into a 3, I still have two minutes to get to the finish before my chip time goes past the half hour.

I’ve done 32 minutes in the other runs, each of which I thought was a bit beyond my ability. Now I’m faster than that, and when I thought I’d be a wreck. But, I also ran my third fastest marathon time at the Shires of Vermont after running five other marathons that week. I’m running in bizarro land. Maybe there’s something to high mile training plans, but I suspect it’s my lack of training between marathons that has more to do with it. I’m better rested and less torn down.

I finish under a half hour, with a pace that’s faster than even my fastest 5k when I placed second in my age group at the Rosehill Crypt Run, and I did this on a hilly course. I wonder if I’m fit enough to run a 5k personal best.

2014 Shires of Vermont



May 18, 2014
Bennington, VT
GPX
Event website

In the past week, I’ve run the UAE Healthy Kidney 10k, the Japan Run 4 miler, and five marathons in the New England Challenge. That challenge left out one New England state, but I’ll take care of that today with the Shires of Vermont marathon. The day would start off with lots of pain and end amazingly well. Don’t get excited; there’s no personal record today. No, I missed that by about 10 minutes.

I’ve done two five-day series before, not counting this week, but never six marathons in a week. The Center of the Nation and the Dust Bowl series wrecked me. I don’t know how I’m going to make it through another marathon. In my one mile run yesterday (a “rest” day), I could barely run a mile. My right calf muscles felt like solid rock.

Jon and Bryan from the previous week were here too. Since I’d run with them in the last two marathons in the challenge, I’d try to run with them here too. I’m about 10 minutes over my goal of a five hour average over the week and together we’ve been coming in just under five hours each day. I couldn’t have done so well in the Old Colony Marathon on the last day, rainy as it was, without their distraction and encouragement.

This is a point-to-point race, starting at Bennington College and working through backroads to Manchester Center. Most people parked at the start and would take shuttles after the race. I elected to park at the finish and take a shuttle to the start. Having investigated the parking situation the day before, I figured everyone would want to compete for the limited parking at the finish so I got there early. It turned out to not matter. I could have stayed in bed. Maybe 20 cars used the finish line lot. Maybe there are a lot of first time people who don’t realize what a 40 minute shuttle ride feels like after a marathon, or maybe most people brought their families.

We started at a normal pace, but it hurt. A lot. My legs were tired, but they also just hurt, in general. After running five hours in the rain on Friday my shoes felt weird. My shoulder was sore. I’d like to blame the lack of a bathtub in last night’s hotel, but I think I’m at the limit of my current capabilities. Every painful step sets a new record for weekly distance.

As a group we were all hurting but running at a good pace, like you do at the start of a race. If I were by myself without the risk of social embarrassment, I would have slowed down instead of keeping up. One friend told me that she makes it through a marathon by realizing that everyone is hurting too. I wondered how far I’d be able to make it.

Our plan was simple. We’d run the first half then run-walk the second. At every mile marker I wondered when I’d lose steam. By Mile 6 I was starting to get numb, but I was still tired. Vermont, with all of its hills, is the wrong place to have whiny quads. Jon and Bryan have longer legs than me and a bit more speed on the hills, so they were getting a little ahead of me. In a normal marathon, maybe they would have slowed a bit, but under this much distress you go at the pace you can. Slowing down can disrupt the mental state that’s keeping you moving forward.

I didn’t panic on the hills. There’s one big hill in the middle and I dropped back about 300 meters, but I kept plugging away. I wanted to walk so bad, but I was going to fight to stay with them. I could catch up slowly on the flats and downhills. That’s a huge lesson I’ve embraced. If I react to these situations calmly instead of extrapolating it to the rest of the race, I can recover. Otherwise, I’ll mentally, then physically, defeat myself.

I would have liked to stop for photos; the scenery was beautiful. If I stopped, I’d be done.

By Mile 10 everything was numb and I was feeling much better. It’s always tough advice to give to people doing their first double. Ignore the first 10 miles. No matter how much it hurts, don’t worry about it. It will get better. If it hasn’t by Mile 13, you’re probably in for a rough day.

Since I had lost my Garmin last week, I wasn’t paying attention to pace or time. I was sticking with the group, but a time check at the halfway point put us on a 9:15 pace. All of us were astonished. Are you sure that’s not per kilometer? With all the hills we ran, even in the best of shape I would have expected something much higher. We were just over a four hour marathon pace of 9:09, which gave us the confidence in the next half that our walk breaks wouldn’t take us over five hours.

We kept hammering though. I was thinking we’d eventually blow up, but it didn’t happen. We got a bit giddy about running at the end of the walk breaks. When you don’t want to do something, be insanely enthusiastic about it.

I stopped only once, to get a look at free kittens and a small rooster. I couldn’t see them and I didn’t take any away with me.

kittens

We were still going well and the miles were flying by. Mile 19 went by and we were still good. By Mile 23, with a 5k to go, we were assured a sub-4:30 finish. How did that happen? It’s the last day and we’re running much faster than any of the previous five marathons.

Getting close to the end, around Mile 25, we had one more scheduled walk break, but Jon said we might break 4:20 if we skipped the walk break. With just over a mile to go, we dug in and worked for it.

finish

We came in at 4:18, my third fastest marathon time, behind the New Jersey Marathon at the end of last month, and the Arizona Marathon a year ago. As a reward I got a ceramic medallion.

medal

My real reward though, once I relaxed for an hour, was two foot long dogs from a food truck.

hot_dogs

After the dogs, though, I didn’t have time to enjoy Vermont. I had to drive back to Portland to catch my first flight out tomorrow. Two hundred miles of New England roads would put me there past sunset. With a good night’s sleep and a good, even if painful, run, that wasn’t going to be a problem.

2014 Granite State Marathon



May 13, 2014
Nashua, NH
GPX
Event website

It’s Day Two of the New England Challenge. Yesterday was the Pine Tree Marathon in Maine and today is the Granite State Marathon in New Hampshire.

I’m a bit more prepared today. I’ve slept a whole night and I bought some sunscreen in case I need to go shirtless again today. The weather is looking good. The temperatures are a bit cooler and it’s overcast.

The organization, however, isn’t better. The text directions on the website were wrong and still didn’t have address, landmarks, or geo-coordinates. After being lost with some other runners driving into any parking lot to find other runners, I eventually found the place. There were no signs at keep decision points to lead the way, and we ended up across the street from a YMCA. The directions could have simply been that address and “across the street”.

The starting directions weren’t much better. The organizer gathered everyone around him, then spoke in almost a whisper. I don’t think that’s intentional; he has a really quiet voice. He could have had someone with a big voice do the job. There was a map of the course marked on a posterboard, but from the back of the group I couldn’t see it. A ladder would have helped the organizer get the message out.

But then, so would course markers. This was a confusing course in Mill Falls Park. It’s pretty and has nice paths, but there many forks. At one key turn, an arrow was etched into the dirt. I didn’t even see it the first time; I followed the runners in front of me.

There was a short out-and-back on an open road to make up the marathon distance for the five loops. This was quite dangerous. There was no indication to traffic that runners were around, and the runners themselves took up a lane of oncoming traffic and a curved road lined with tall trees. I always think it’s my responsibility to keep myself safe no matter what the organizer does, but this is ridiculous. Running next to traffic isn’t that safe even with markings, signs, and course marshals. It’s much worse with no controls. Traffic was light that early in the morning and we’d only do that at the beginning.

At the half way point of the loop, there was another danger area. We had to run through an active parking lot (still unmarked and unsigned). It looks like you’re running into a deserted mill town once you go up a hill, but around the corner are a bunch of business, and our first and second laps are during the morning commutes.

deserted_park

I can’t believe all the necessary permits and licenses are in place for this. I certainly think that certain parts of this event needed help from the municipal police to regulate traffic in some areas of it.

Other than that, it was a nice run. I joined a group of Marines and Navy people, liked their pace, so stuck with them. Time flies when you’re talking and pacing off each other. Distraction is the key.

Mill Falls Park is mostly a forest trail away from traffic, making the run quite serene and relaxed. It’s a workday, so it’s mostly just us (And the one fisherman we saw). Even with the problems with the race, it was a nice run.

trail
canal

During the last lap, my group joined another (with whom I’d run later in the week). We ran at a leisurely pace, saving ourselves for more marathons.

wolf_pack
medal

2014 Pine Tree Marathon



May 12, 2014
Portland, ME
GPX
Event website

The Pine Tree Marathon is the first day in the New England Challenge, a series of five races that cover five of the six New England States. Vermont can’t get any love except on the race t-shirt (why is it there?). But the Shires of Vermont Marathon is on Sunday, so this week I’ll run more miles than I have in any other week.

After running the Japan Run and the UAE Kidney Run 10k in the past two days, I’m a little bit tired.

My tallest hurdle was just getting there. In planning a series that starts at the bottom of Maine and ends up in central Massachusetts, I want to minimize driving, find hotels close to the start, and avoid Boston. Instead of flying into Logan, which the race organizer suggests, I’ll fly into Portland. That’s not a popular route, so a 10pm flight getting in around 11:30pm, a half hour before the rental counter closes, leaves no room for error. If I miss that flight or the flight is delayed, I have few options to fix it.

But it all works out. I have about six hours until race time. When I did the Dust Bowl Series, I had the same flight arrangement to Denver but I spent that time driving to Texas for the first race. I debated sleeping a couple of hours in the car, but I went for the cheap Motel 6 room. I barely used the room. I laid on the bed, still in my clothes, and was out. I woke up five hours later, got dressed, and went to the race.

This is the first problem I run into with the organization (and there will be many) of this series. The direction on the website are text driving directions and very low resolution images, neither of which are helpful in the Garmin Age. There are no addresses or GPS coordinates. There’s no mention of landmarks, such as “Across for the Shaw’s”.

But, I got to the start at Back Cove Park just fine. There was a parking lot full of runners; that must be it. I got my packet and went back to sit in my car for a bit. I’ll listen to Morning Edition until the start.

That was my first mistake. I thought the race started at 6:30am, mostly because I can’t read. Although it was completely my fault, I don’t know why they’d start the half later than the full. It’s the same course, there aren’t that many runners, and there’s plenty of room for everyone.

time

I looked in the rear view mirror around 6:15am and saw the runners getting their marathon on. Oops. But, I know more than to panic. I walked over to the start, told the organizer I started late, and got the initial directions. There’s a short out-and-back before you start the loops. The directions were a bit ambiguous though. He told me to go out to the light pole by the path, and I would know it because it was right by the path. That is, it’s not marked. I think I did that, and I came back to start the loop.

But, I was running by myself, which was the theme for the day. I was out of sync with the other runners. I wasn’t going to catch the people going my pace. My Garmin was missing too, which I didn’t notice until I’d run a lap. I stopped by my car briefly to go through my things, but it wasn’t there. After the marathon I went back to the Motel 6 to see if I had left it in the room, with no luck. I’d end up without a watch for the entire week. This wasn’t a good thing.

panorama_small

The course itself isn’t the sort that I like. It was a circle around a city park, mostly surrounded by streets and city traffic. It’s a warm, sunny day and there’s practically no shade. On the far side of the cove, away from the inlet, there’s no breeze.

It gets warm enough that I take my shirt off. That might have been a mistake, but I needed to cool down a bit more. I hadn’t thought to bring sunscreen though. If I get a bad sunburn here, I have to run with it for the rest of week. I went for the short term gain of cooling off. The only relief was the breeze near the 295 bridge.

But, I didn’t suffer like I normally do in hot marathons. I’ve been drinking coconut water this year. With it’s high potassium, it keeps me away from dehydration and heat injuries. But it’s not dehydration that’s really the problem; it’s hyponatremia. If you keep drinking without replenishing your electrolytes, you dilute yourself to the point where your body shuts down. This is the problem with Gatorade, Powerade, and other things. They have sugers and some sodium, but almost no potassium or other salts. Using coconut water replenished everything and I wasn’t desperately thirsty for the last part of the race.

finish_line
medal

Somehow I make it through the marathon and finish in just over five hours gun time. I got my medal and walked a hundred feet off the course to the only shade I could find for a short nap.

feet

And that was it for the day. There was no organized social event for the evening like I’ve come to expect from the Mainly Marathon series. I probably would have skipped it for a couple extra hours of sleep anyway.

When I recovered, I drove to New Hampshire for tomorrow’s race. No big whoop. The New England Challenge is a bit different in that the area is so thickly settled compared to the Western states where I’ve done other five day series. The drives are about the same distance but take much longer since the roads are twisty and narrow and there are other people driving on them. I can’t drive like a bat out of hell like I could across Oklahoma.

Although the results came out a week later (what’s up with that?), the list is in alphabetical order by first name instead of finishing time. Really? There’s not age groups or gender result, or even overall rankings. Some of the results are highlighted in blue, but for a reason I haven’t been able to discern. It looks like it came from an ugly Excel spreadsheet made by someone who can’t sort columns. It’s not that I think that everyone should know how to use Excel, but I think everyone should know someone who does.

My place in the overall results doesn’t really matter to me, but I like to judge my performance based on where I was in the pack. I’m almost exactly a mid-packer. I’m the median runner, so if there are the same people ahead of and behind me, I’m okay. If there are a little more behind me, I’m doing a bit better. If there are more people ahead of me, I should have done better.

The unsorted PDF results that I can’t properly copy and paste aren’t a big deal. I send it through Free OCR to get it back as proper text. I brought that into Excel and fixed it up a bit to add the overall and gender rankings to make a PDF file for proper results.

2014 Japan Run 4 Miler



May 11, 2014
New York, NY
GPX
Event website

Yesterday I ran too hard at the UAE Heathy Kidney 10k, and today I ran too hard for the Japan Run 4 miler. Even though I know I have to fly out to Maine later today to run six marathons in the next week, I’m spending my energy actually racing a four miler.

The Race for the Parks last month was my first 4-mile race and set the bar for a personal record. I meant to take it easy yesterday and didn’t, but I run my second fastest 10k. That happened again today, but the pressure was on because I’d been moved up in the corrals. Once you run some NYRR races, they use your previous results to predict how fast you’ll run. I’m convinced that’s why I started closer to the start line, although that didn’t explain the walkers ahead of me. Go figure.

I didn’t want to beat my previous time, but I ended up running the same pace. In some parts I pulled myself back to save something for next week’s New England Challenge. I finished 30 seconds off my previous time. None of that matters, really, since I wanted another result for my 9+1 goal. Mission accomplished, and now I have to go home to back for a week of marathons.

9+1_3

2014 UAE Health Kidney 10k



May 10, 2014
New York, NY
GPX
Event website

I have a lot of running this week. The weekend is two NYRR events then six marathons in the next week for the New England Challenge. I’d rather not run these right before a bunch of marathons, but my calendar doesn’t have many openings for the nine events I need to run for guaranteed entry into the New York Marathon. I’ll take it easy today.

This run is sponsored by the Consulate of the United Arab Emirates. Instead of a camel, one of the booths brought a camel-like dog, which is as New York as Central Park gets on a weekend morning. By the time this race is done the park will be full of dogs getting their first pee of the morning.


dog

This event is backed by Sheikh Zâyed, who received a kidney transplant in 2000. I’ve run in Abu Dhabi, the rich emirate that most people pass by because they go to Dubai, which is the flashy emirate Abu Dhabi bailed out. The Zayed Marathon in Abu Dhabi raises money for kidney disease patients.

corrals

But I didn’t take it easy, despite the “swampy conditions”. This weekend was a preview for summer with very warm weather with high humidity, according to the official race report. How cool is it that NYRR follows up like that? CARA, the homologous organization in Chicago, wasn’t so put together even though they did a similar number of events with the similar sized fields (and dues).

I started off a bit fast, like everyone does, to get away from the field. This is a 10k, so we’re going to go around the entire outer loop of Central Park, starting on East Drive at 68th Street and going counterclockwise. That means we’ll have a big downhill at the top before we hit Harlem Hill, then a long, mostly downhill run on West Drive.

I thought after the big hill I should take it easy because I have the Japan Run tomorrow then all those marathons. It’s not the distance that gets me, it’s the speed. The faster I go the worse the impact on my joints and the more tearing in the muscles. After the hill, I just kept going hard. After four miles, I just kept going.

At the end, I had run my second-fastest 10k (the Pride Run is still my personal record). Looking back at my race history, I saw that this is the first 10k I’ve run in over two years. How did that happen? Too many marathons, I guess.

It’s already May, but this is only my second 9+1 run. These events fill up quickly so I missed out on the winter and early spring events, but I should catch up quickly.

9+1_2

I don’t have much time to think about that since I have another race tomorrow after which I go to the airport for my trip to Maine.

2014 New Jersey Marathon



April 27, 2014
Oceanport, NJ
GPX
Event website

A personal record!

How did that happen? I had a crappy run using the Galloway Method at the Kentucky Derby Festival last week, it was another warm day today, and I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning.

Still, this turned out to be the best marathon I’ve ever run. Or, I should say, run-walked because I gave Galloway another try. That’s not the only thing I changed though.

In my poor design for my science experiment I changed liquids too. I went with coconut water this time. Gatorade is total shit. The more I run, the more I think Gatorade does nothing for me. I’d say the same for Powerade. But, those are the only two things I encounter in the US. I’m not particularly concerned about energy or sugars since I get that by eating during the run, but I do need more electrolytes. I decided to try something new, and since I sweat a lot I wanted something with lots of salts.

Gatorade Thirst Quencher has 45mg of Potassium in 12 ounces, while Viva Coco has 470mg in 8 ounces. Runners argue about Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium, and other electrolytes because they fancy themselves expert dietitians who know better than everyone else how much any runner needs. I don’t really care about that. I decided to try coconut water to see what happens. If it works for me, I don’t care why or if it works for anyone else.

coco_water

For what it’s worth, the Mayo Clinic lists some Potassium-laden foods. Raisins and orange juice are in the middle of that list. I had some OJ and raisins for breakfast along with my peanut butter sandwich.

I was also going to try the Galloway run-walk strategy again. I tried it last week, but I fell apart toward the end for other reasons. I don’t think I gave it a fair go since I didn’t follow my other proper race routines.

I’m not doing his strict program, which is geared toward creating finishers and secondarily personal best times. I haven’t gone through his training schedule or computed my optimal pace or interval ratio. I’m ignoring everything I’m supposed to do and showing up thinking it will work anyway. I’m just using the idea of walk breaks, which most people attribute to him. I’ll see how it goes.

Curiously, this marathon has a horse racing component, a week after the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon (their horse racing opens this week). I didn’t think about that at all until I showed up. I try not to overthink these things. As I was in the starting corral I saw some horses running on the track for their Sunday exercise, but I don’t think the season is open yet; I didn’t have a chance to place any bets.

Monmouth Park-The Shore's Greatest Stretch

My start pace was really quick. I was way at the back of the pack since I got to the start area ten minutes before the gun. I did get up two hours before the start to have breakfast, something that I didn’t do last week and cause a bit of my suffering, but I also got back in bed for 45 minutes. I wanted to gain a bit of ground and get some space around me, which wasn’t hard since the field wasn’t that large.

Today I wasn’t expecting anything other than finishing another state in the 50 States goal and another state in my Titanium goal. I’m grinding numbers. This is state 30 and Titanium run 21, and the last one before I start the New England Challenge in two weeks where I’ll get another six. My States map is getting full! Other than that, I had no expectations or plan for today. I’d start running, do that for four or five hours, and then do something else.

The start was at 8:00am, which is a bit late and puts me into the warmer part of the day, but, like I said, I got a little more sleep. Standing in the corral and looking at the back of someone’s 50 States shirt, I thought about my Maryland problem. I had planned to run the George Washington’s Birthday marathon in February, but it was cancelled. As I was waiting to run, I saw a 2013 Baltimore Marathon shirt with a date in October. Huh. October. That might work. If everything else works well, that would fix my East Coast hole. And, after the race, I check to see that the October 18 date works; it’s right after the Appalachian Series.

start

I started a little faster than I wanted, but not too fast. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold that pace for a half marathon, but I was letting my legs do what they wanted to do. It didn’t seem like an abnormal effort and my breathing was fine. I caught the 4:25 pacers and tried to stay with them, which gave me a short break, but then I pulled away from them. Sometimes it’s harder to run slower.

I kept pushing and caught the 4:10 pace group. I’ve never run with that group before, so I didn’t think I’d be able to hang with them. I stayed with them a bit longer than the 4:25 group, but I slowly pulled away from them too. I figured they’d easily catch me in a couple miles and then I’d fade back to the 4:25 group, but I wouldn’t see the 4:10 group until the end of the race.

I wasn’t trying to bank time. That never works, although I heard people talking to each other about their plan to do just that, and I don’t recall seeing them again. I was running at the effort level I found at the inner edge of comfortable. It was enough to worry me a bit, but not enough to put me in any immediate difficulty.

map

By Mile 6 I figured I was on a good run today, which I know now that I can never really gauge at the beginning. My average pace, the only one I let my Garmin show me, was somewhere in the 8:40/mile range, and sticking there. That’s faster than any place I’ve maintained in a marathon. Surely I couldn’t maintain it though, but while I was on it I’d give it a try. The course was flat, there was some shade, and there was a nice wind that was keeping me cool.

By the half way point, I was still under a 9:00/mile average, but my watch just hit two hours at the 13.1 mat. Garmin’s tend to be a bit long, so my pace looked a little faster than it was. By that time I was thinking about a possible four hour marathon time because my reported pace looked good, but I didn’t think I could run the second half as fast as the first. I’d have to speed up slightly to do that.

I decided to keep the pace under 9:00/mile until Mile 15, and although I was losing a second in average pace with each walk break, I thought that was doable. I knew I couldn’t hold this up much longer, but while I was I was going to try. Maybe I blow up at the end, but so what? I’ve done that plenty of times. Once I got to Mile 15, still under 9:00/mile by my Garmin, I decided to keep the pace to Mile 18.

Through the middle period there were two runners that I was leapfrogging consistently, and I felt a bit bad about that. It’s one of the reasons I haven’t liked the run-walk thing. When I’ve been on the other side of this situation, where I was the one running the consistent pace, I’m annoyed by the guy who keeps running by me only to slow down or walk after they pass me. It throws me off a little in that tough part of the run where I want to concentrate on holding everything steady with nothing changing around me. The walker is a bit on a distraction, but that’s also what running with a bunch of other people is all about. By that time the field has sorted itself out and everyone is mostly running at the same pace, except for the guy running an 8:30/mile pace for a bit then walking for a bit. Still, those two runners were my benchmarks. I’d walk a bit and they’d pass me, then I’d slowly catch up to them. I judged how I was doing about how far ahead of them I got before my next break.

At this point I was getting a bit tired. This is the hard part of the marathon where I’m still far away from the finish even if I am most of the way there. I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel yet. I felt good, but the run interval was getting a bit harder. I was a bit slow in the start of each interval and the walk breaks seemed shorter (where at the beginning they seemed to take forever).

The coconut water was working, I think. I had no soreness or aches like I normally have at this period. My muscles didn’t ache and my joints weren’t complaining. Nothing was threatening to cramp. Even though it was warm and I was sweating, I wasn’t feeling it. That’s unusual, since this part of the marathon usually requires me to push through a lot of discomfort. Instead, my legs were just tired.

At Mile 19, my pace ticked over to 9:00/mile, but I was pushing through it. I wasn’t able to get it back down before that point (the longer the distance the harder to move the average). Miles 20 and 21 went by without too much damage, but the 10 minute run period was a bit too long at that point.

For some reason, I thought a four hour pace was 9:20. It’s never been an issue for me so I haven’t had a reason to note it. It’s actually 9:09, which I had a 9 second advantage on, but I thought I had a bit more time. Still, the math wasn’t working out because I knew I was a couple minutes over.

I only choose the 10:1 run-walk ratio because it seemed simple. Galloway has a way to calculate the optimum pace and race, which I haven’t done, along with all the training I haven’t done. The next time I’ll try this, maybe I’ll start with 10:1, but then in the last third of the race drop down to 5:1, or something less than 10 minutes of running. Or maybe I’ll just get better.

I ended up adding some extra walking during Mile 21, where my scheduled walk break happened to end at a water stop. I walked through that as well so I could take on some extra food, and then took two minutes of walking at Mile 22 so I could catch up on my recovery for the final push.

I knew I was going to miss a four hour marathon. If I maintained my pace consistently, which I was now having trouble with, I’d still miss it by a couple of minutes. That’s a bit of a psychological de-motivator. Maybe I could have done it by trying harder, like in one of those motivation posters, but I didn’t. My goal shifted to 4:10, which would still be a personal best time for me, but not too much of a personal best so it’s harder next time. Going off the clocks at the mile markers to calculate the pace I need to cover the last bits, I knew that was the right call. My Garmin was already 0.4 miles long, which is a little longer than usual but not unheard of. It doesn’t matter if the course is long or if I ran a longer line; only the time across the finish mat matters.

I was still amazed that I was making this decision at Mile 22. The combination of the run-walk and the coconut water was doing me well. I was doing so well, in fact, that I wasn’t taking pictures of the beach and the boardwalks (but there are some good ones on Flickr from other marathoners). I put my head down and ran. It was somewhere around here that I lost the two runners I had been leapfrogging. I didn’t see how far ahead they got, although I don’t think it was that far ahead because they were pretty early in the finishers’ chute when I crossed. I did stop to thank each one of them for setting a consistent pace even if I couldn’t keep it myself.

In that last four miles the end is near and the whole thing seems doable, no matter my performance. I was doing this with no training other than running a lot of marathons this year and running a mile every non-event day. This is what sucks about running: you have a lot of misery and then the running gods give you something to keep you from quitting all together.

Just before Mile 24 the 4:10 pace group caught up with me during a walk break. It took them 20 miles for them to do it. I cut my walking short and ran with them, but I was tired in the legs and tired in the chest. I think they were actually three minutes behind me on chip time, so finishing with them would put we well ahead of 4:10. I hung with them for a mile and a half.

I lost them in the last half mile. I couldn’t keep my breathing in check and I knew I was a couple minutes in front on them, especially since they were checking and announcing target times at each mile marker. Even as I felt myself fading, I knew I was going to run a personal best.

Since my chest was tired, I should have concentrated on belly breathing instead. That’s still hard for me to do unconsciously though.

Were I on the bubble for a record time, I probably could have pushed through this part. I was going to finish under 4:10, so I didn’t push it as hard as I could have in the last three-quarters of a mile. I ended up with 4:08, an eight minute improvement over my time at the 2013 Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon, another warm day in a marathon named after the entire state.

For my effort, I got a medal I liked rather than the usual cheap ribbon with a cheap clasp. This one looks nice as the ribbon integrates well with the medal to give it a clean line (even if I did have it hanging backward for 10 minutes).

medal

Better than that, the finish chute had salt water taffy, which I hadn’t even thought about seeking out while I was in Jersey. That is the local food though! They had a pile on the table, but there were also several pieces in the lunch bag they gave out. I was too tired after the race to wander around looking for a shop to buy more.

salt_water_taffy

Today was a good day, but the first time I’ve had a glimmer that a sub-4 marathon is possible for me. With everything going against me today (lack of training, no speed work for a year, a heavy endurance calendar, a warm sunny day), I got really close. But, why? Was it Galloway or the coconut water? I have some more experimenting to do.

new_pr