Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ultra Race of Champions 100K



After 6 hours of running, I struggle climbing the single track thru the mist up to Bald Mountain Summit. The Slacks and Torrey Ridge Trails are technical with sharp, small rocks which could easily turn an ankle and my legs are rubbery. This rocky single track from Sherando Lake is an endless hike of suffering. The air is thick and misty warm in the low 60s. I finally hit the summit jeep road and I force my aching legs into a jogging shuffle toward the 25.9 mile Bald Mountain Overlook Aid Station back out on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Through the mist, a fleeting shadow floats by on the edge of both my consciousness and the muddy dirt jeep road. Is that the race leader Michael Wardian already at mile 48 at just over six hours in? I mull this over during the 15 minutes it takes to hit the Blue Ridge Parkway or “BRP”. Here at aid, I refuel and feeling refreshed start moving along again running at an 8:30 pace for the first time in hours.

It is 1pm and I am racing the inaugural Ultra Race of Champions 100k (UROC) near Charlottesville, VA at the Wintergreen Four Season Resort. Of the 173 race starters, nearly 100 will DNF, so six hours in, few brave souls remain behind me on the trails here even just at mile 27. So all that can be done is to speed up from here and try to move up in my place in the field.

The 1st UROC is a reincarnation of the Great Eastern Endurance Run 100K which I ran in 2009. The course offers a variety of terrain, twists and turns along the whole distance. In reading the race reports of several of the elites, runners are generally impressed with Francesca Conte (Fran) and J. Russell Gil (Gil) ‘s organization and format of the race that incorporates single track trail, gravel and jeep roads, and Blue Ridge Parkway fast pavement. Enough fast elite runners have shown up to push the pace and claim the two spot prizes for the first to the highest point (5.5 miles in) at 4000 ft. and first to the 33 mile aid station. This may be why a few start quicker than they should have.

According to 4th place Comrades Ultra Marathon (South Africa 100K) finisher Ian Sharman, “It was also a great social event with established ultra legends making cameos (Scott McCoubrey and Dr. David Horton, famous for his “Horton Miles” that are like CZAR miles for my Highlanders!). Also present are a good selection of established fast guys (Geoff Roes, Dave Mackey, Mike Wardian, Dave James, Ian) and newer blood showing their stuff (Matt Flaherty and Jon Allen running particularly well). There was even one of the select 10 finishers ever of the Barkley Marathon (Jonathan Basham), the hardest ultra race ON THE PLANET! If you don't believe me, then this may change your mind.”

http://sherpajohn.blogspot.com/2010/03/rr-2010-barkley-marathons.html

For a recap of the UROC elite men and female races, irunfar.com has a summary and provided excellent coverage, as does the race website. However, here is my trail ultra recap and hopefully I can entertain with an amazing story to tell!

PRE-RACE

Friday afternoon has me driving the six hours from NJ in a rain storm to just south of Harrisonburg, VA (home of the JMU Dukes) to access the BRP near the Whetstone Ranger Station at mile 29. I drive parts of the BRP course north to mile 13 and the turn down Reeds Gap to Wintergreen in time for the pre-race briefing. I check into my condo, grab some pasta and prepare my two drop bags for the course. I am asleep by 10 and prepare myself for the day of running ahead!

7:20am Saturday RACE START:

The weather has been humid with torrential rain the previous day, but the start has overcast skies and cool conditions. I manage a quick conversation with Michael Wardian hearing about his recent Badwater 3rd place finish, and I also introduce myself to Devon Crosby Helms, the female race favorite. I also catch up with old friends James Brennan “JB” fresh off his Vermont 100 finish and will be running and IM age grouper extraordinaire Alyssa G. who will be manning the Sherando Lake aid station with pal Ryan J.

Before we know it the gun signals the separate elite start at 7am. The parade lap of a 200m loop goes past the small crowd then off down the trails.



The course in profile has almost 13,000ft of ascent, given the frequent switches between easy trail, technical/rocky/slippery sections and roads. The very few flatter sections should also allow for a real increase in pace, and while most don't know what to expect, my local knowledge from the GEER two years ago will evidence itself 12 hours from now.



Twenty minutes later the gun goes off again for the 150 or so non elite “citizens” to head under the start banner, and onto the ski resort traversing the slopes. The speedier rabbits including buddy JB press ahead and string us out. Then a half mile into the course, I am confused. We all should be conserving energy for the long journey ahead. Instead, as we enter the woods I observe almost all of the runners ahead of me madly pin wheeling their arms and screaming out like on drugs at a Phish concert. WTF? Then the runner 15 yards ahead of me shouts. “Yellow jackets!” OWW! Mutha f___ker!

Apparently, the elites were threatened by our presence and set a trap of stirred up nested bees as they whizzed by! I floor it through the rocky mud as runners around me scream out. I see no bees and think I am OK. Then I feel a sharp pin prick on my lower back! “Dammit!” I fan my shirt from my waist hydration pack, and several bees fly up and out! Several runners now stop around me and complain about calf stings.

I press on. “What a start!” At the first climb at mile 3 I slow to a speed walk to collect myself for the 650 foot climb up to the summit. For the elites, the first 'King of the Mountain' prize of $200 is at the summit at 5.5 miles mark at 4000 feet. No prize for me by racing here except for a DNF, so I continue my power hike.

After the climb we emerge on the Summit Resort road and climb some more then descend toward the Mountain Inn. This race is going to be interesting, trail, pavement, up, down, repeat. The course clearly allows different runners to exhibit different strengths and the continual changes in the running surface and gradient already shows a lot of back and forth between runners. In leaving the Wintergreen resort there is an early 1,500ft downhill, mainly on road that I hammer with Orla Kasburg, a former Penn Track Captain and current U.S. high school steeplechase record holder. We cruise by runners ahead of us in the field. While I suspect this would hurt later on I try (unsuccessfully) to restrain myself to merely to 10k pace.

After three miles down at the bottom, we now face a near one mile climb up the road to Reeds Gap Aid Station at 9.3 miles. To say this road is steep is a misnomer. To compare it to something like Birch Hill near my home is not adequate. The road sign states that trucks are prohibited as the grade is 15%. The field hikes up the road that is so steep I feel like each step is going backward. How the hell are we going to run this section back down at mile 60?

REED’s GAP to Sherando Lake
After the hike, I quickly get myself in and out of the aid station and hit the pavement ahead of Orla. I hook up with Jennifer, a marine recruiter with a camelback running her first 100K at age 37. We pace at around 9:30 per mile for the first of the five miles into White Rock Gap Aid.



Whoosh, there goes Orla! Jen and I run all but the uphill road portions, and we hit White Rock aid at mile 14 in decent shape. I again race in and out of aid quickly (Thanks Mike Melton!) and head down the easy single track trail from the BRP to Sherando Lake aid station at (17.6 miles). Here is the first out and back section where I see the 50K leaders catching us and passing even though they started 45 minutes after us!

Sherando Lake to Bald Mountain
I circle the lake at mile 18 and feel the deadness of my legs and a slight left leg twinge. It is 10:30am and just 3:15 minutes into the race. Oh, boy, Tim time to eat and hit the salt! I have not been pressing the pace too much but now also decide to slow it down and save my legs before any worse cramping occurs. I know that on leaving the lake here we face the biggest climb of the day. I stop to chat with friend Alyssa and load up on food, potatoes, and a whole PB and J to go. This picture is at mile 19 on the Sherando Lake Earthen Dam.



I retrace my steps up trail and across the earth dam to just short of White Rock Gap. Here is where the fork is for the 50Ks to head for home just when the climbing gets tough! At the fork, I bear right while two guys head left and they tell me to be brave. I tell them I am a fool. They say that most brave deeds are also foolish! I slow my pace to a hike here at mile 20 as the mist shrouds me into my own trail prison miles from home, miles from aid, and miles from the finish.

I'd not felt great all day but my strategy is still not to press and keep at a gentle pace to hope that I could capture some magic later on back on the pavement sections. I do not know why I think this is possible after at least five hours on the road and trails. Not like I had run longer than 5 hours in training, marathons or any effort since GEER 2009. However, unlike most other races (New York Marathon, Jersey, and more) I feel no cramping or stomach GI or bonking, just a general sense of malaise or lethargy. So I pressed on as the way to deal with it, being passed every 15 minutes or so. I was OK with this figuring I was still ahead of roughly half the 100K field, and I was sure that plenty of others were hitting their own really big walls, or even turned around for home at the tempting 50K fork.

The climb up Bald Mountain is on the rocky single track from Sherando Lake is an endless hike of suffering. The air is thick and misty warm in the low 60s as I finally hit the summit jeep road toward the 25.9 mile Bald Mountain Overlook Aid Station. Through the mist, a shadow floats by on the edge of my conciseness and the dirt track. Is that the race leader Michael Wardian already at mile 48?

Bald Mountain to Whetstone Ranger Station
15 minutes later I am through the aid station thanks to GEER 2009 aid station angel again aiding my efforts, Rebecca Phalen and her Chicken Noodle soup and positive vibes! Now I am on the paved Blue Ridge Parkway. I am refueled refreshed and moving at 8:30 pace for the first time in hours. The food is processing and I tentatively set out at a slow jog. The road and a downhill grade beckon and my jog turn into a cruise through the fog. Here Geoff Roes , Western States Winner and Ultra Icon, cruises by, working hard. I shout encouragement and he does the same back, sweet!

I now pass one, then two more runners. The third is a slight African-American woman doubled off in cramps. She looks forlorn and helpless. I stop and give her some water and ask her how she feels. Her look tells the story. I ask her how much salt she has taken in. She looks at me strange. I give her two S Caps and wish her well. I am again off running 8:30s now as the race leaders continue to sail by me on the opposite direction. I pass the three female leaders including Devon Crosby Helms who ends up taking second. Her great race report is at http://devoncrosbyhelms.com/


I hit the gravel Spy Run Road on a steep descent. I open it up now down the steep gravel to 7:30 pace and spot five more males ahead of me. I whizz be on the flats as they stop to walk. I hit the ups and walk but I have now gapped them enough that they do not pursue. I feel strong all the 7.7 mile way to the Mile 33 Whetstone Aid moving up the field. I pass David Goggins Navy Seal and IM Kona stud, then also spot bud JB running the uphills right behind! He is rockin this race!

Whetstone Ranger Station Out Dragon’ (OUT and) Back Trail

It is 2:45 pm and I am seven and half hours and 33 miles in. The suggested time to complete this section is 2 hours and 10 minutes for the 8.2 miles. I load up on Dew, potatoes, salt, and top off my water with no aid to be had on this stretch. I also mix a Perpetuem for the long out and back “Dragon’s Back Trail.” As I leave aid I feel lethargic again. I walk the initial uphill section and am re-passed immediately. I have no energy and no will to run. The trail is not steep, not that rocky, just twisty and rolling, never flat. I try and run the dips but then a small hill always reduces me to a walk. Coming back at me the runners predominate look is that of defeat. This is the point of the trail when many of the elites also suffered, such as Dave Mackey 100K US reigning champion who walked back to Whetstone on his way to dropping. Even 'Mr. Barkley', Jonathan Basham, who persevered through 59 hours of hell at the Barkley Marathons went out too fast, looked tired here and vomited on his way back to Bald Mountain but never quits and did not here either!

With 34 miles in and still 30 miles to go I am concerned. Runners, both elite, and everyman are DNF’ing after this section. I slog all the way out on the ridge with the fog prohibiting any views from either side down to the valleys. I retrieved the password “Quadzilla” to prove I made it out, and noted my water is almost gone. I still have a long 4.1 mile trek back hence the way I came. My morale is down and I pray that Andrew Aurbach (Bach) my best man and pacer today has managed to hook a ride to Whetstone Aid in time (Bach does arrive at Wintergreen Resort by 3pm and in time for the 50K race awards and managed to snag a ride with a 50K runner all the way to Whetstone.)

Now at 5pm the elites have all made it to the finish in about 10 hours or so. I still have roughly a marathon to go having also been on the trails for those same 10 hours already! Down the Dragon’s Back Trail the fog and mist is rolling in. My water is gone with the little I have left used to wash down pretzels sticks. The flour provides some boost and I manage to jog the flatter trail sections. I pass two slower runners and a headcount of outbound runners note that there are only 15 or so behind me. That means that nearly 50 runners that were behind me have already dropped out and did not even attempt this out and back dragon’s back trail!

I notice one of the runners behind me that runs when I run and walks when I walk. I make up a game to try and ditch him. For the next two miles I pick up my pace and work at it. Out of water, food, but not hope, I think to my upcoming arrival back at Whetstone Aid. Headlamp for the night, and salt are my primary needs. Salty Lamp, Tim, Salty Lamp. Also, I crave more Mountain Dew. Salty Dew Lamp, Salty Dew Lamp. I repeat so I can remember to get the aid I need! After nearly three hours after I had left at 2:45 pm. So much for the suggested 2 hours and 10 minutes! Exiting the Dragon's Back Trail and excited to see my pacer!


At aid Bach is waiting for me! Awesome! While it is his “Riggo” birthday this weekend, he has chosen to celebrate out here on a misty mountain for 22+ miles of running! I hit the Dew, and salted potatoes hard. I also remember to grab my headlamp. It is 5:45 pm and the aid station will close at 6pm for outbound runners. One more shot of Dew and an S Cap and we hit the pavement. My trail shadow glides in behind me to aid. The three of us set out on the BRP road up the hill to Whetstone Pass. Having my pacer is like a third wind. Bach relays stories of the finish, and the 50K awards ceremony. It is misty but not rainy. The lethargy of the last three hours is evaporating. It is 6pm and the 17 hour midnight time cutoff to “buckle” looms.

Bach is sporting the minimalist Vibram Five Fingers. He is surprisingly spry in his step and has been training with hope to a return to the marathon distance. He promises to finish with me no matter what. At the crest of the hill I start a slow jog. Each step I feel better. The food and drink has refreshed me. I feel no different than 5 miles into a 10 mile training run. We increase speed. The runners ahead of us start to get bigger as we close the gap. After a mile we turn back onto the Spy Run Gravel Road. The downhill steepens. Bach asks can he stop to pee. I tell him absolutely I will keep going but he will catch up. I am now not only feeling good, I am feeling great. I see the three runners ahead of me including my shadow from the aid station.

I floor it to 7:30 pace and whizz by. I expect this surge to be temporary. Instead after a mile I still feel great. I keep up pace for another mile. I look behind me and Bach is hanging on about a quarter mile back suggesting, “don’t burn out!” I pass one then another runner. Three miles later I slow to a jog on the uphill. Bach catches up, just as a rancher to an unbroken colt that has been spooked. He calms me down. I power walk and power water and catch my breath. We walk the uphill and then again run the flats. Another downhill is to be had and again we hit the throttle. We pass another runner (carrying walking poles) and quickly we approach the Bald Mountain Aid at mile 51.

After taking nearly 3 hours to cover the 8.2 mile Dragons Breath section, we nail down this 7.7 section of road in less than half that time sub 85 minutes. At aid, Rebecca Aid Angel provides Chicken Soup and more potatoes and salt. Another runner is laid out here in a chair cramping and dejected. He says he covered the Dragon in 2 hours and is blown. This story appears to be a common theme with the DNF crowd.

White Rock Gap
We motor out of aid at now at 7:20 pm (12 hours in) and up the Bald Mountain Jeep Road. There are puddles but we power walk and are passed by some local kids and their Cujo-dog in a jeep that are amazed at our effort here at mile 51. I feel strong and Bach is turning out to be a great pacer. He is positive and supportive but also pushes me along when I slow.

Approaching the turn down the single track trail a headlamp sneaks up behind me. I am surprised that anyone can be moving as fast as us from the back of the pack at this juncture of the race. “Ranger” is a 6’4” inch Army Ranger who also took a wrong turn at mile 14 and ended up running seven miles and 2 hours “off course”. He then reentered the course 30 minutes in last place and has been movin’ up the field ever since. I quickly volunteer my course experience in knowing our route, and his Family Guy Stewie retort is countered by a Simpsons reference by Bach.

A team is established with Ranger setting the pace in the dark, myself keeping up, and Bach stubbing his toes on rocks and roots on the trail. “I’m OK” he says which becomes his mantra. The team makes amazing time and shares more comedic quips, such as Tim “What is the average airspeed of a swallow?” Ranger “African or European?” Bach “Laden or unencumbered?” Or “Bach are your toes OK?” “Tis merely a flesh wound!”
We pop up to Slacks Overlook to cross the BRP at Mile 53 and set out for the two mile plus rockfest trail White Rock Falls section.

The steep descent is rocky and slowly Ranger’s quick pace (He said he is used to running with a 40 lb pack!) permits him to gap us as Bach’s footwear suited for the roads and dirt, proved to be ill suited to the rocky steep rooty trails. Down goes Bach “I’m OK” and “My bloody thumb! Ouch” that hurts! Bach falls and jams his thumb, but he does not even consider quitting. The pace is slow as we navigate our footing in the dark.

Still, we breeze by two more sets of paired up runners and descend to the falls, traverse the stream and then climb up to the remaining road section of 8.5 miles. As we appear, the aid volunteers have adopted an eerie Halloween theme with costumes, jack o lanterns and candles. Ranger is now 20 minutes ahead of us already. I do a final refill of my handheld and am amazed at how strong I feel. Is 8.5 miles too much for a final push? I can't tell, but know the last three miles up the Wintergreen Resort (Birch Hill Road) hill will be a walk.

It is 9:15 pm now and we power walk the pavement hill again out of aid as I metabolized my potatoes, salt S-Cap tab, and Dew. The fog is heavy and we run all the flats and downs. Two of the cars that pass us belong to Rebecca and Alyssa who are handing out glow sticks. It is now 10 pm and we have over five miles to go!

The fog rolled over us again which means I can't even judge whether my work was paying off or not, but no one has caught us since Ranger. A couple of 8:30 minute miles feel a lot faster but still my legs are feeling solid. After five miles, the final aid station appears through the gloom with cow bells announcing our entrance. I stop for 30 seconds to refill my water and jettison trash and any excess food. I shout at Bach “I am Audi Five”. Within steps at the end of the flatter road I head steeply downhill from Reed’s Gap for the 700ft vertical in just over a mile on the 15% grade road top. The visibility is zero and my quads are hurting but I run on. “Bang,” there goes a toenail as my feet jam into the front of my shoe toe boxes step after step. I begin to worry if Bach can catch me after pacing for over 19 miles and four hours on the trails that include a bruised swollen thumb and stubbed toes complements of the descent down White Rock Falls.

Reeds Gap to Wintergreen Resort
However Bach’s Vibrams allow him to not only quickly catch up but pass my ass. I try and push for the descent and we are now at the bottom facing just three more miles, but straight up a road full of hairpins. Bach and I had agreed upon a Tour de France approach. Find a sustainable cadence that is not taxing and just maintain. Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes, I churn small baby steps that are barely measureable progress. I quiz Bach on how far to go, and he is extremely knowledgeable of the road, what is remaining and how to find the finish area in the fog. 25 minutes in finds us half way up the climb. Headlamps appear several hundred yards behind us. Around each bend the lamps get closer to us as runners are catching up. I try to walk faster. I cut off the corners. Still they approach. Bach relays to me, Tim it is OK if they catch us, as we are almost home.

“Really?” “Hell no!” On a false flat around a corner I resort to another trick. I ask Bach how he feels. He says fine. I say “are you fibbin to me?” He says no. I take off running at what feels like a three quarter sprint dropping Bach on the uphill. I keep this up for a quarter mile around the next bend. As I walk again on a steep portion, Bach catches up. The lights behind us are gone. “I had to break their will!”

We are now in the Wintergreen Village and getting close to the summit. We spy someone walking with a green glow stick. That has to be someone walking their dog, right? No - Another two runners and lamps! “Are they in the race I ask?” They appear to be deciding which way to go. Bach points out the way to me and we take off again. We pass the two startled runners while at a dead sprint. They look up and pick up their pace too, saying “Did you go up the hill like that?” We drop one of the two but the second hangs on my shoulder behind us for a few yards. Bach looks at me and says over the bridge and down the hill to the lot is the end, 400 yards tops. We jam the pace again, and turn into the finish at a quick pace. Bach then surprises yet again with his top gear. I find strength from somewhere deep and catch him and hit the tape together at 11:25 pm and 16 hours and 2 minutes on the clock, (the clock time started with the elites) and 45 seconds ahead of the second gapped runner.



Epilogue
Bach paces for five and a half hours for the final 22 miles. We pass 16 runners and are only passed once by Ranger. We finish in 61st place out of 79 finishes that includes the five elites pictured below. 173 toed the starting line, meaning less than 50% made it to the finish. At the finish, “my trail shadow” who we passed on the Spy Run Gravel Road is already at the finish indicating he must have taken a shortcut. I do not have the energy to question his Rosie Ruiz tactics, as he will always know he cut the course, however, I now consider that we came in 60th place!

The GPS of the gaped runner behind me tells the tale. He says, “Hey we actually ran 64.5 miles.” Friggin Horton Miles! After 30 minutes spent retelling our adventure and bonding with our fellow finisher, Race Director Gil and IronGirl Alyssa it is time to go. The thirty minutes after crossing the line fell like a minute but I need bed! As the clock strikes midnight Jennifer the Marine approaches the finish. The day of September the 24th is complete and so is our race. Bach turns to me and says “Hell of a way to spend my birthday eve of my Riggo year!”


Men's top five. L-R: Jon Allen, Matt Flaherty, Ian Sharman, Michael Wardian and Geoff Roes. For the full race standings and results click here http://www.ultraroc.com

Also there is a great interview with Mike Wardian telling how he got lost and blew a 15 minute lead with 12 miles to go! So the men's top five above was Geoff Roes (8:58), then Mike Wardian (9:20), Matt Flaherty (9:22), Ian Sharman (9:23) and Jon Allen (9:26). It was great to see the elites and famous runners like Geoff Roes have a good result. Better yet I am so proud of my effort with my pacer "Rockin the UROC" with a new 100K PR 2 hours and 24 minutes better than GEER in 2009!

Monday, September 19, 2011

River 2 Sea 16 – July 30th 2011

Hour by Hour with the Hustlin’Highlanders

The Players (in order of appearance)

Stages 1 and 8 – Marguerite White – aka Ice Princess or “Mags”– renown for wit, banter, and ability to thrive under chaotic conditions. Top quote “Just finished my last leg. Back tracking to my shower at the YMCA and preparing for a blue moon. Things got tense when we thought we lost Allen but we recovered.”



Stages 2 and 9 – Tim Allison – aka CZAR – nervous nelly defacto leader – pushes others to explore their endurance and fashion boundaries. Top quote “Social Time is Over!”


Stages 3 and 14 – Ellen Drury – aka Buckeye Girl – Mother Hen – steps in to lead when needed. Top quote “Alan has been converted to ice pants”



Stages 4 and 10 – Michael Cooney –aka Coon – One liner savant – Top quote “You go in to that cornfield to use the bathroom you come out a hillbilly's wife!"



Stages 5 and 11 – Dianna Carroll –aka Mamma – “Big sis” –Top quote “ I wonder what time Heather woke up and realized Tim took the Acadia? "Do you think Tim left her a note that the Tahoe brakes were out?"




Stages 6 and 12 – Alan Gates – aka Gator – “Flo Rida” – Top quotes “" How do we use these wipes unless he messes in his pants?" “Grindin ARP Style!”


Stages 7 and 13 – Jill Chisholm – aka Rockstar – “Shameless” – Top quote” Don't worry Mitch she isn't going to friend you on Facebook!"
Driver 1 – Kevin – “Big K” Top quote –"I'd be surprised if Alan gets back in the car with us”

Navigator Justin –“Mr. Map” Top quote – “You drink a beer during stage 13 you are my hero!"


Driver 2 Mitch - Top thumb’s up – Instead of offering aid or encouragement, Mitch delivers the thumb’s up from the driver’s seat during Stage 1, while brunching on a bagel and Gatorade as Marguerite runs past at mile 3.

Manager – Rory – Top quote "I'm 22 years old and you're laying that on me?"



The following takes place between 4am and 5 am

I am awake, my mind whirling. The Tahoe and Armada are packed. I am dressing as I eat and tick through items of coverage for the day. Tim, be a leader today. Show patience, emote calmness, be supportive, have fun!

I am worried that leaving at 4:30 am is cutting it close for our 6:15 start, but wanted to let the team grab as much sleep as possible for a long hot day ahead. Also, who knows what problems will crop up over the next 17 hours as we transport, monitor, support, and feed seven runners, two drivers, a navigator, and a manager across the state of New Jersey with the weather chefs serving up balmy temps forecast to hit 93 degrees.

Coon, Mamma and the drivers show up at 114 promptly at 4:15 am. Last minute packing and directions the rented Armada is sent for the Nicholson crew to meet us at the Store. We cruise down Mohawk hill onto Fairmount, so far so good. I am eating and thinking of upcoming logistics. Lost in thought it takes a sec for me to process the following from Kevin, “I just floored the brake pedals and they are broken, what should I do now?”

20 minutes later we are back at the Store in Heather’s Acadia, minus car seats but not detritus from McDonalds, and trips to and from SBS. We are now late and my calm mantra is out with the brakes from the Tahoe. I survey the scene before me, a 4:30 am version of happy hour at Charley’s Aunt. Unbelievable! I bellow “Social Time is Over!”

5 am and 6am
As we cruise on I-78 west to the start in the A”r”cadia, we discover the breakfast is all packed in the Armada with the Nicholson crew, Mags, Rockstar, Gator, and Buckeye Girl.
I establish radio contact with Manager Rory for the first of many checks in today ala Jimmy. As Kevin ups his speed and we exit the freeway to country roads, I consider the math on how we are to make our start time. Then we blow thru our turn, but I permit Justin to use his Ivy League education to extricate us. “Tim do not yet panic.” Had I been thinking clearly, I would have taken charge and a short cut on Rt 12 instead of now backtracking. Then as Kevin pulls his third u –turn, and breathes, “If I hear one peep out of Mitch it’s go time” Coon takes it upon himself to text and call Race Director Mark Z, to inform him of our tardiness.

In Mitch’s Armada, I can only imagine how Gator is assimilating the relay culture as presented by Mags, Rockstar and Buckeye Girl. Mitchie’s NASCAR driving no doubt adds to the bizarreness as Mags focuses discussions on how disturbing is the creepy "Cooler" labeled "BREAKFAST".

6 am and 7am
At 6am less than 20 minutes to the start time, we park at the new church lot and roll out to registration. So much for the mandatory 45-minutes of prep time. We bum rush the registration line, and I sub in Gator for CZAR 2.0 who’s militaristic presence is already being missed.

We grab stacks of race numbers and also Mags out of the port o let to send her to the start. With no race numbers on the Armada entering Milford and the start, Mitch receives the first team reprimand already at only 6:10am.


Mags hits the start line at 6:13. Two minutes later, Team Highlander’s own Mistress of Chaos, (have you ever driven with Mags around Chatham?) is off and running as if the surrounding chaos is no biggie.

The “Arcadia” parks at the Bull Island checkpoint and we hear that team 103 made its start time. CZAR’s math for Mags for 4.8 miles assumes a 40-45 minute window, or an 8:15-to 8:30 pace. We (CZAR) counts our race place as the leading team goes by followed by four more teams. I trumpet that we are now still in 6th place. Coon and Gator look at Buckeye girl and contemplate tossing me in the nearby Delaware River to chill out.

Out on the course, Mags is running on her limit, and her heart rate rises quickly into her throat. A little Gatorade would be nice to cool down and calm down a bit. Ahh, there is the Armada ahead across on the other side of the road. As Mags approaches, no one exits the vehicle. In fact, she spies Mitch in the driver’s seat noshing and drinking. He is able to muster a thumb’s up as Mags whirls by. WTF? Rory too? Rockstar? Hello! Now, annoyed and perhaps borderline pissed, Mags is running faster, how dare the support vehicle not support? Little does she know that providing support let alone finding your stage runner is not always easy to accomplish!


7am and 8am
Mags storms into Bull Island and I managed a sweaty cheek smooch at the exchange. I am off and intent to bomb it as fast as possible.


The road is wide and empty, the shade cool, and clammy, and I can scan far ahead for prey. I am turning it over in my yellow track flats rollin. First one, then two. Coon gives aid every two miles and tells me “Great job, you are running 8:30s.” WTF? I better be faster than that!

Meanwhile, Buckeye girl (BG) notices that the boys are not “themselves” Mother Hen sends them out for more breakfast. “Boys gotta eat or they get grumpy!” BG then tries to distribute huge packs of wipes in the car for future use specifically anticipating how best to combat the Czar's runner BO. Alan quips "How do we use these unless he messes in his pants?"

I keep up my turnover and pick off another runner. His support vehicle offers me fluids. Wow, six chicks in a support vehicle! I immediately offer to swap teams. As I mark my next prey, I spot another support vehicle, a red Tahoe. Hey it’s Rick McNulty RD of many Morris Country Ultras including the Schooley Mountains 15 coming up. Waddup Rick! He is Captain of the Running with Kilts team that ends up coming in first in our mixed veterans division. Sandbaggers!

I feel like I am flying. I open my mouth for more air and then whoosh! A slight brown skinned girl in her 20s floats by me out of nowhere and rapidly distances herself. I pick up the pace to my one mile max and manage to stay with her for a quarter mile. But she still moves away. How can her team # 32 have a runner hitting 6:30s and qualify for 6:15 -6:20 start time?
F--K!!!

I try not to sulk as I pass my fourth slowpoke. At the exchange zone I manage to pull even with the fifth runner ahead of me. Even with #32 speed girl, we are in second place! I surprise smooch BG and “accidentally body her up a bit”. Mags observes ” This day is not going to end well”.

8am and 9am
Buckeye Girl is on her own mission to keep our race 2nd place. Stage 3 along the Delaware River is sheltered under a canopy of trees and gravel towpath that offers up a rave run. BG takes full advantage. She redlines per her Garmin and keeps her pace there for a solid 53 minutes. In fact she manages to pass the team that transitioned with us and is not passed by anyone, keeping us in 2nd place. AWESOME! She makes the turn off the path into Lambertville in stellar time.
The crew has assembled in the CVS lot in Lambertville now, and settling into routines. Rory has assumed the timekeeping, and sheperding duties, and the boys have been fed and watered. As we wait for Buckeye Girl to emerge I chat up the assistant RD, Rob.

As we talk my gaze falls upon Coon readying for the “Beast” and the leading Team 32’s runner on deck next to Coon. Hmnn, his equipment check, $175 Asics Gel Kinsei’s, $100 race sunglasses, kinetic tape over his legs, and a $150 NYC athletic store matching running outfit. Really? 6:15 start? This is bullshit! Rob the RD informs me that the sandbagging has become rampant, and team 32 is not even the worst offenders. (That could be Rick’s Kilted team?, or maybe the Euro cheese balls that won last year and is racing as Team 1 this year?)



9am and 10am
Buckeye girl glides in with her patented deer steps and Coon is off into downtown Lambertville readying to turn up Rt. 518 and the beast. We reseat cars for the upcoming legs and provide support for Coon. I tell Gator that his honeymoon ride with the chicks is over and he needs to ride along with the men to support Coon. The boys ride off and leave the girls with Mitch and Rory. (Maybe not the best idea?)

For the next 75 minutes we drive for 1.5 mile distance chunks, pull over, provide cold water and cups of ice as Coon lumbers up and down the rolling hills of west Jersey. He is steady eddie out there as he competes up in class.




I can only imagine what the Armada girls are up to during this time. The following Armada eclectic quotes range from Women's Health to friending on Facebook:
"You don't want a male gyno he doesn't have the same parts!"
Life is Short “One day we're all going to end up in a box." Which prompts Rory to respond: ":I'm 22 years old and you're laying that on me?"
All of the girls muse “I wonder what time Heather woke up and realized Tim took the Acadia?" and Mamma true to form as a Momma adds "Do you think Tim left her a note that the brakes were out in the other car?"
Mags - asks Mitch for his email address so she can send a race recap later. He thinks for a moment and says: “I'm debating whether to give you my personal or business e-mail."
Jill snipe back, "Don't worry Mitch, she isn't going to friend you on Facebook!"


10am and 11am
The temps are getting warmer now. We pull into the Summer Camp across Rt 31 and await Big Coon. There are getting to be more cars of teams around us now. Some of the faster teams are starting to catch up. As Mamma makes her final preparation to kill it, Team 32 bombs through, then several more teams. However, we are still in 10th-11th place overall as Coon rolls in. I am proud to be here with my running friends. We are older, not perfectly trained, but still living “outside of the box” Yes, Rory, that box”. “I love this feeling of living.”

Mamma takes off for her hilly 6.5 and so do we headed to the Princeton Elks. The Arcadia is not supporting this leg so the boys will have some downtime. The Elks is quiet as we arrive, still ahead of the main relay throng.

During their wait to support Mamma, Mags and Rockstar need to pee. There is no civilization let along portos in sight. They elect to venture into the wilderness to go. They change their minds when they see a dead deer a few steps within the field. They beat feet back to the car. Cooney says: "You go in to that cornfield to use the bathroom you come out a hillbilly's wife!"

11am and noon
During our downtime, I assess our team status. Gator, Coon and I in the Arcadia with Big K driving and Mr.Map co-piloting. I miss the girls in Mitch’s A-r-m-a-d-a. Time to shake up the team a little and switch things up. Gator is up next, so BG, Rockstar and I will Armada up, and Coon, Mamma and Mags will support Gator for his inaugural stage leg on Team HL.
(Perhaps not my best managerial decision!)




Mamma rolls in on schedule with a great run. Better yet, no one is that surprised that she killed it. She has matured into a seasoned relay runner. She hands off to Gator, Rory records her split and away we go leaving the Acadia and Mamma, Coon, and Mags to support.

Why do I keep mentioning this? Hmmnn. Because you would think that:
· between 5 (still sober) adults,
· a map,
· prior race course knowledge, and
· an SUV,

KEEPING TRACK OF THE WHERABOUTS OF A RUNNER WITH A RED CAP CANNOT BE THAT DIFFICULT!



However, truth be known Big K is a competent driver but new to the course, Mr. Map is also a driver, and not as polished as a navigator/runner watcher. Then one must consider the story telling acumen possessed by both Mags and Coons. Example, - A bee is swarming around Coons. Mamma blows on it to get it away and says "I'm blowing on your nipples".

Coons's response: “I'm going to become a bee keeper."

Then somehow Mags and Coons manage to forge a common thread involving the YES Network, Sports Authority, defibulators at Chatham Rec Games, and Dwight Gooden. Go figure!

As the Arcadia takes the second tight turn off of Rt. 518 across Blawenburg, they have now missed the deceptively speedy Gator. They sit and wait and time goes by. Where is he?

Kevin and Justin circle back. The stories and banter continue. Finally Mamma puts her foot down and barks at the collective to shut up, and look for our runner! Meanwhile, Gator forges on and manages the majority of the 8 mile run without aid. Only the sympathy of a rival team providing him water can be counted as aid.



Fortunately for the Team HL, Gator assumes this is SOP for novice relay members. At 85 degrees and climbing, he manages the 8 miles in 68 minutes or just over 8 minute pace! At the transition, a flush Gator is tucked into shade with some (Gator) aid. Big Kevin sums it up by saying: "I'd be surprised if he gets back in the car with us."

Coons replies: "One of us is going to have to touch Gator’s private parts. Justin you're up."

Noon to 1pm

Rockstar is readying for her first run of the day. In the shade, Rory is explaining Twitter to Mags while Rockstar stretches and practically moons ongoing traffic like an old lady. She takes off for Stage 7, 4 miles of lots of turns. We are tense to get away less we repeat the gator (less) aid. Quick bag coordination is conducted between the cars and I am off in the Armada with BG and a recovering Gator (surprised he is in this car?) to crew Rockstar. It is now officially hot out. As we cruise to the first aid stop, we pass a portly man in a thick red cotton tee sweating like a hog and overheating already at mile 1. He is desperately trying to hang with Rockstar (who wouldn’t!) after enduring heckling from his band of blubbery belly boys.




He actually falls down and nearly faints from the effort as Rockstar blows him away.

She continues to pace well and runs an even split stage leg. The turn onto Perrine Road is narrow with telephone poles on one side and fields on the other. Runners are on the wrong right side ahead and we approach them and an oncoming SUV. Mitch guns it managing to split the SUV and the runner on the edge of the road, somehow not amputating the runner’s left arm. BG’s heart skips a beat as she bounces around the rear jump seat. I envision a trip to the ER with a hit runner or an Armada hit telephone poll. (Should have spring for the extra insurance!)
1pm to 2PM
With the short stage leg, Rockstar knocks it out in 34 minutes, and again Mags does not have much time to prepare. She takes the exchange and is off for her second leg. The Armada is not slated to support and I am on deck for the long and hot. However, Rockstar relays the story of how last year she was drinking beer as Mags had to run the Stage 13 leg into Manasquan. Pissing off Mags to no end. Mitch suddenly stops the Armada, and Rockstar grabs a beer. Out she goes and offers it up in jest to Mags as she sails by, slightly amused.




Mags then runs by the YMCA and cannot wait to finish her leg and adds this. “Back tracking to “my” shower at the YMCA I am preparing for a blue moon. I need to chill after things got tense when we thought we lost Allen but we (the team) have recovered.


Speaking of moons, enroute we spot a WaWA and stop for ice. Coon goes in and Rockstar and I are hanging in the lot when Kilted Rick exits the red Tahoe. I say hey and he spots Rockstar. Then he lifts his quilt for Jill to take in a full Irish moon. Yech!

2pm to 3PM
As I wait under a shade tent I swap Ironman stories with several other runners that are IM finishers. It is officially hot now. Just being in the sun not moving is misery. As Mags notices on her run in, OMG I cannot believe that The Czar just took off in head to toe white spandex and compression!


Yes, I have changes to my “Badwater outfit” That is white compression shorts, white team t top, white glasses, white IM visor, and white comp sleeves.


I am off with a pack of five guys. We are running a shade too fast for me at 7:45s. Did I say shade? What shade? I wisely let them go and settle in at 8s for the journey ahead thru the box warehouses and fields known as “Kenya”. The heat is already slowing me. I have an ice cold water bottle and nip at it and pour on my head. I also stop to pee to ease heat and stress from my internals. I request aid every two miles, but Rory and Coon wisely stops every 1.5 miles. As I stop I know I am overheating. In fact as I race into the mandatory 30 second stop to catch up to my group of five, I see the red faces and hear the breathing. Tim, “time to employ cooling strategy one.” I see the crew and stop to walk. I ask for ice and open my sleeves. My forearms under my sleeves fill with ice and the freezing contrast is weird but the cooling eases the strain to rid heat from my core. I feel decent now heading into Jamesburg. I maintain contact with the group of five and wonder how they can maintain their pace in the heat without ice sleeves.
3pm to 4pm

Meanwhile, the girls minus BG are showering up at the YMCA. Mamma steps up her game and has packed, shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Refreshed they exit to make the next stage leg 11 miles down the road. Traffic is fierce and they will be challenge to make the exchange with Mamma for her leg.

Our team calls this stage Kenya for a reason. Even with aid every 1.5 miles I am cooking from the inside out. In fact, one of my group of five ahead, simply falls over and throw up. His team gathers around and he climbs onto all four and tries to get up. He cannot. Tim, “time for ice strategy #2.”

Buckeye Girl observes from the Armada. “Well this is a new one. Tim has been getting ice. right sleeve. left sleeve. .. .. depending. But this time the guys asked left or right. Tim says pooper shooter. OMG! They literally shovel ice down his pants! They threw it down and it is quite the pix!”

The ass ice cools my core and I am able to actually increase my pace the last 8K. BG knows this is one opportunity not to be missed. The next aid stop I see her out on the road with ice ready to go. Guess this is payback for my stage kiss and grab earlier. She not only throws down ass ice, but comments on my grooming habits! Nothing like a relay and ice to bring folks together!



I am passed by only two more runners, Team #72 or as Coon puts it to Justin “Team Osi Ueyminora” and Team #1 the reigning sandbagger champs. Tim, “this will not stand”, so with a mile to go I hit the gas. Team #1 hangs on with me as I repass him. Then he pulls up, I hear him puke, and he sits down on the side of the road. I crack a smile and focus on bringing it home in sub 80 and do so at 77 minutes for the 9.15 mile stage.



4pm to 5pm
Coon and Mamma are up for the abridged, detour ridden relay stages 10 and 11. It is hot. Their strategy is to run a mile and then enjoy 8 minutes or so in the SUV to cool down from the heat. Their strategy works well with aid and exchange each mile for the 11 miles total. They are able to keep well under a 9 minute pace, and Big K and Mr. Map keep track of them through tough detours and building traffic. I smile thinking of how far these two have progressed from their initial foray into the relay two years ago.

Meanwhile, Gator, BG and I await at the busy Rt. 33 crossing. I am starving as I changed out of my wet clothes and hit Burger King for a post run Whopper. It is so hot I lay the treat on the Armada hood and it actually cooks more, as I check out several of the Team #72 Osi girls, all twenty something that could model for Runner’s World covers, I consider again why is youth wasting on the young? I am happy to be finished. Gator is up. I see teams already hitting the store for beer. Ah, a contractor sized BL is in my near future.



5pm to 6pm
Gator takes the wave off from Coon across Rt 33 and off he goes praying for some aid this leg. A mile and a half in, we stop and ask him, water, ice? BG observes from the Armada. “OMG, Alan has been converted to ice pants!”


Gator finds his pace and passes teams running an even split leg resplendent with icy shorts. Meanwhile, BG recalls from her run last year that a quality qwikie mart is just ahead before the exchange. We load up on ice and beer. (Of course, Mamma, Mags, and Rockstar have also done the same thing!)
6pm to 7pm

Rockstar is up for the 8 mile “Do or die” Stage. Mr. Map offers up “You drink a beer during that you are my hero!" She takes off and unfortunately is port-o-let challenged during the middle of the run. We all cruise into Manasquan to await her emergence from the bike trail. BG is ready to go. At 6:15pm we are now 12 hours into the race. The shade is cooling and I am starting to wish the day was not ending! Rockstar emerges from the shadows just shy of 7pm. BG takes off for the finish at the beach. The traffic is so fierce we miss her arrival. She runs a sub 20 minute leg and permits the Highlanders to finish in sub 13 hours. This is good for 76th place overall and 5th in our division of sandbaggers!

103
Hustlin' Highlanders
76th
7:12:53
6:15
12:57:53
Veteran Mixed
5




The team is dropped off and reunites on the rocks at the Manasquan inlet. Beverages pizza and stories are told, augmented and retold. We are wet tired and happy. Post race dinner plans are scrapped for the drive back to the Highlands. Team Highlander came, saw, and conquered with our first sub 13 hour relay finish!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Everything Old is Super Again

After years of Ironmans, Ultramarathons, Marathons from Balitmore to Boston what is so Super about a local half marathon? Well . . .. first the Superhero Half Marathon is sponsored by the Morristown Running Company and benefits the Christopher Reeve Foundation. Most of you recall the horse riding accident that severed Reeve’s spinal cord and the crusade that Superman embarked upon to raise awareness and funding to research spinal injuries.

Second, while I ran this race last year in 1:42 flat, today is the first half marathon distance for my River 2 Coast Crewmate, Michael “Coondawg” Cooney. Also racing is Dianna “Mamma” Carroll, Jim “Czar 2.0” Connelly, and Highlands neighbors Angelica Burns and Corrie Thomas.

The Superhero course is comprised of two loops a 6.7 mile first followed by a 6.4 mile one. From McGinty Park in Morris Township, NJ the loop mixes in residential streets with two miles of the Loantoka Trail running from Kitchell Pond through to Loantoka Lane.

Pre –Race

Sunday at 7am it has been raining for: i(nsert here) 1. days, 2. months, 3. since Noah built his Ark. However, the start area at McGinty Park is well organized and Coons, Mamma, and Czar 2.0 perform our pre-race routines with ease. The field boasts 1200 starters plus relays teams.

Coons and I bypass the portos for tree spraying, then we find a spot 100 people back from the start line. Coons is nervous, and CZAR instructs him to seek a sustainable pace. 13 miles of running without stopping to walk is no joke! We say hey to Corrie who is running the 1st leg of her relay and before we know it the gun goes off.

1st Loop

After Boston a month ago, my goal is to run an even split race as fast as possible. I settle into a comfortable but pressing pace and the field in front of me rapidly thins out. Each loop has two small climbs, at mile 4 and mile 5 but otherwise the course is slightly downhill. I lean forward forcing me to lengthen my strides to gobble up as much ground as possible. I find my rhythm and feel my heart rate rise. I am running and competing and am happy. I am Old School and do not have a watch, or HR monitor and my experience tells me I am running sub 8s at about a 155-160 HR. My group enters the trails at mile 2 at 15:20, or 7:35 pace. I wonder how fast Coons went out? Too fast apparently, as he hits the trail just a minute behind in 16:30. CZAR 2.0 must now rein him in before he blows up.

I walk the steep top of the hill at mile 4 but otherwise feel good and my split is still 31 minutes or 7:45 pace. “Tim”, let’s keep this up for another 1:42 finish just like last year. I turn over my feet and complete the first 6.7 miles in 51:15, right on 7:40 pace.

2nd Loop

I start the 2nd loop on my own with few runners around. I let my brain wander and reflect on the here and now. Here is where I would usually preech about the importance of gauging fueling and hydration strategies, and even in race ingestion of salt to maintain electrolyte levels. And for you the reader this is (insert here): 1. informative, 2. overkill, 3. egotistical drivel.

I reflect on how great it is to be running close to home, on familiar trails and with people I know. I think selfishly about my own race, time, and efforts as compared to prior ones. It is a damp misty Sunday morning, but I am out here doing what I love. My pace rivals that of 7:45s when I first began running 15Ks at the Midland Run ans the Sparta Runa round the lake over 10 years ago. Today’s effort proves to me yet again that I am still capable of achieving solid results.

Running is solitary but I reflect on my role as a leader, inspiring others, and serving as a role model. How are my friends running today? I have not seen Angelica but sense she is nearby. We typically run the same pace. Czar is planning to pace Coon so they are probably hitting 8:50s. Dianna is gauging her fitness to prepare a serious run up to a marathon this fall, (Hopefully New York!) Corrie is a much better runner than she gives herself credit for with great form. (Check out her race pictures!)

I focus on Coon. A year ago, he had arthroscopic knee surgery. He has worked hard at rehab and getting back to running again. At 40 years old, he could easily justify giving up fitness and adopting a sedentary lifestyle as a Dad focusing on his work and kid’s activities. Yet here he is running his 1st ever 13 mile distance after a handful of 10 mile training runs. With Czar 2.0 escorting him, I am confident that Coons will come through well under his target of 2 hours, and I think he has a 1:55 in him or 8:55 pace.

Through the trail section a second time I cut the corners and pass and push. I am suffering but not like Boston suffering. Slight twinges in my hamstring slow me some, but I push, push, push. The legs are dead and heavy. I think of hot coals, "lift those feet, ouch!" "lift those feet, ouch!" "Get them off the ground as fast as you can."

I maintain my pace but the effort to do so intensifies as my legs accrue lactic acid that is not being processed away. Damn, belly fat! I need to shed some baggage prior to the July 30 relay to compete with all those younger speed merchants on my assigned legs. What am I running this year? Hmmnn CZAR will probably saddle me with the uphill 8.7 mile Beast, or the 13 mile two man relay stage, or the 9.5 mile industrial warehouse leg. I WILL not get run over by a Kenyan girl like someone we all know!

By mile 11 my legs are ready to be done . . .”TIM focus now!” What other mental tricks can my rider tell my elephant? “Remember pain is temporary, Pride is forever. “ “Every second counts.” "The finish is only 15 minutes away." "Don’t spoil your 1:42 now!"

I push on the downhill section of Spring Valley road and pass several younger males. I am suffering and shuffle up the hill to mile 12. I pump my arms in a desperate attempt to maintain any speed up the hill. I come up on relays folks walking here at mile 6. I press and push. Another 10 minutes of agony and there around the corner, the finish line and crowds appear.
I am here. I get everything I can out of my body today.

The Finish

The clock reads 1:42:12, good for 127th place overall, 97th male of 540, and 35th of 200 in my age group. My second half split is 50.57, or a 7:58 pace, evidencing how much I slowed down the last two miles. Not even splits, but I moved as fast as I could and know another mile at this pace would not be likely without cramping.

I spot Corrie who ran a great relay leg and we cheer in other runners. Then, sure enough, right at 1:55 Coon and Czar motor by. Excellent! 1:55:12 good for 379th out of 1200 starters!
That is a top 25% finish. Super!

We bump into Angelica who came in at a stellar 1:40 in 106th place, and her 45 year old Reach the Beach teammate Alison Jeffs ran a remarkable race in 1:32 and 7 minute pace for a 47th place overall. WOW! These nurse chicks are speed merchants!

Czar, Coon and I hit the finish line and Mamma brings it home in a respectable 2:15 showing stamina and perseverance in kicking off her season. She proves she will be ready for bigger races this year as she begins her training in earnest.

We collect our medals and swap stories as we drive the short 15 minutes back home to the Highlands by 11:15 am. River 2 Sea Highlanders are getting ready for our July 30th 92 miler!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

You Can and You Will (115th Boston Marathon)



Hangin tough on Beacon Street Mile 23




Halfway mark sub two! My Brigham and Women's running buddy Katie is on my heels!






Analisse from Boston College in the gold Superfan shirt finishing in front of me.!








Feeling good coaching up Katie and looking for the Loebers in Wellesley Town Centre










Moments before Medical and I put on a thermal blanket and a brave smile!







So, this is the 115th running of the Boston Marathon. Qualifying and invitation only. In fact, starting in 2012, the qualifying times across the board ARE BEING LOWERED by 5 minutes. Plus a rolling admission policy will grant entrance to faster qualifiers first. Meaning good luck getting in! Like the trends in Ironman, the most select races are left to the elite. But to be fair, that is what the Boston Marathon promoters have always inspired toward. As for further pre-race hype and thoughts, most of you have read my pre-race reports. If not check the blog below then you’ll be in the know.



My “crew” that brought me here is owed 95% of the credit. All I have to do is “represent” and by that I mean run and try my best. This job may not be easy but sure will be fun.

Pre-Race Logistics Sunday April 18th

Sunday is an early departure from New Jersey and Amtrak lets me out at the Back Bay Station at 11am. I tote my bags (including Puerto Rico clothes) to the Sheraton where my cousin Doug is staying to run too. I join his gang, Kristin (wife) Wayne, Steve, and Karen for a South Seaport Brunch at a new swanky arty place called Sam’s. It is new and impossible to find but the views make it great overlooking the harbor.



Then onto the expo and packet pickup at the Hynes Convention Center at Prudential Center. Doug and I grab my number, (the timing chip is embedded within the bib) and snoop around. We pass the runner resources booth and I think back to ICE P with her “Wave upgrade” strategy at the Javits Center in November 2010.

Our wanderings include purchases of bondi band headbands and 2XU calfguards. A crowd of 300 is in a small auditorium watching a movie. It is a course preview narrated by Ryan Hall who will run a U.S. record of 2:05 and still comes in third. The movie has us coming in right at Wellesley and watching the Newton Hills fly by about 25mph faster than they will for us tomorrow! Seeing the course is not only great for race prep, but also serves to gets us jacked up for tomorrow’s race. We are running the Boston Marathon!

I am picked up by my Boston College buddy, Franz Loeber who is hosting my homestay. I am met in the car by 3 year old fireball Ashley. This is no ordinary homestay. I am a houseguest at the gorgeous Loeber’s Weston/Wellesley estate compound hosted by athlete business exec wife Marci, 7 year old son and hockey goalie Paul, and 5 year old law professor daughter Megan and of course the cruise director of the family Ashley. My housing hosts also transport me to Hopkinton in a private SUV the next morning amidst all the school buses.

Hopkinton Common Monday April 19th 9am.


The shuttle buses from the downtown Boston Common deposit the majority of runners for pre-race sequestering in the race village located at the Hopkinton high school which is a short mile from the race start.

My shuttle bus leaves from the I-495 dropoff, folowing the ultra elite (tour buses). The Brigham Women’s Hospital (“BWH”) tent is located directly at the race start on the Hopkinton Common. SWEET!! We share the Common with the spectators, and vendors offering Bill Rodgers Running Store items, to funnel cakes Italian sausage and French fries at nine am.

The air temp is low 40s with a west to east tailwind. However, we are cozy as our tent is much like a wedding tent, equipped with a heat blower, chairs, Astroturfed deck flooring, buffet spread, water and Gatorade, and communal medical items, from bandaids to Vaseline (sorry no glide). There also is an “art” table with pink and maroon duct tape where many of the younger female runners are creating master tape designs of names and symbols to illicit spectator support. It is not long until the majority of us join in the tapestry albeit at our respective creativity levels. I barely manage to craft a GO BC tape stripe, a TIM stripe, and the piece de resistance a BC EAGLE 90 strip to go down my back at a diagonal angle.


Waiting for race start we take several team photos, meet the BWH race directors, eat, partake in port o- letting with no lines!!! Then we hear the announcers and thewheelchairs, the women’s field and the elites in Wave 1 head off in succession. The start is literally 25 feet away and now this is feeling real. Nerves are flaring up and I set to finalize my bathroom, hydration and eating right up to the race start. I may be undertrained but I will not let dehydration or stomach cramps kill my race today.


Race Start

Finally it is our turn. Team BWH is assigned Corral 7 of the 10 Corrals meaning I am in the rear guard of the 23,000 starters in the race. The thing is with this race, we are starting and that is an extreme honor. THANKS CREW!!!

Even still, with over 8,000 in our wave it is 5 minutes to reach the start. I steel myself and remind myself of “THE PLAN”. I cross the line and join the amoeba of runners so dense you cannot see the pavement of Route 9 which we will follow all the way to Newton. Cargo check. Full Gatorade 20 oz G2 bottle. In my waistband, four power gel double lattes, one Cliff Block Margarita with x3 salt, baggie of pretzel squares, and four Succeed 250mg salt pills. Check that let’s take one now just to top off. The fluid intake signals that my urinary track is still a bit in pre-race mode. I stop with 25 others in the woods to water pine needles. The local cop pretends not to see what we are doing.

Back on the course and the two lane road is jammed with runners so I stick to the grassy shoulder and manage a 9 minute 20 mile with the pee stop. I am on schedule. The course is already undulating. Down, up, down, up. Yes the course overall is negative 326 foot elevation drop, however the net elevation change is more like 1500 feet up and 1800 feet down.


5K Checkpoint Race Time 27.44 5K Time 27.44 Avg Pace 8:50 Pace this 5K 8:50

Ashland

I am already sweating quite a bit in the and keep on drinking. I know I was pressing a bit to rid myself of the slower folks that started ahead. Tim this is silly. DO NOT BLOW UP IN BOSTON. I feel like a horse being held back by its jockey. Tim run SMART!! I think to what Buckeye girl wrote to me over the weekend as a sendoff. Have fun. Enjoy. Relax and enjoy the race. Pressing now and blowing up later will destroy that. I dial it down a notch despite the feeling that all systems are go.


10K (6.2) Checkpoint Race Time 54.33 5K Time 26.44 Avg pace 8:47 5K Pace 8:40

Natick

The water stops are every mile now with options on either side of the road. I stay to the left and pick my way to the far ends to keep up pace. Despite the sweat I am feeling that I am within my comfort zone running 9’s. I am in a solid zone and feeling comfortable despite my sporadic training. I am settled in for the race now and look around for a running mate to pass the time. I have an IPOD but this is not a race to isolate yourself from the community. In fact very few are ear budding around me.




15K (9.3) Checkpoint Time 1:23:51 5K Time 29:20 Avg pace 9:00 Avg 5K 9:25





Framingham



The scenery leaving Natick is light woods sprinkled with houses. Gradually the countryside is being replaced with blocks of houses and small town center shops and restaurants. Man, the fans are into this! The scenery is light woods sprinkled with houses. Clusters of fans line the roads with the most creative signs I have ever seen. The signage is special.

Families sport the photo face cutouts of runners, mounted on sticks to cheer on their peeps. Others have more creative signs of support. I spot two fat Goths townie girls on the side of the road. One is half passed out lying on the curb at noon. Niicee! The other is standing with a sign held high over her head with both arms. In block letters it reads, DRUNK (again) with an arrow pointing down to her head. OMG!! Speaking of drunkard Framingham folk, a shout out to ROACHIE my Framingham BC boy!!!



20K (12.4) Race Time 1:53:04 5K Time 28:55 Avg pace 9:12 Avg pace this 5K 9:20




Chugging along I am paced up with Katie, an accountant at BWH. Having graduated college last year, she excelled at the 400 meter hurdlers. At mile 12 she tells me she has only run farther than this twice and both times were in the last month. I ask her about effort and how she thinks her pacing is. I ask can she go faster. She can. I tell her not to press, as in a marathon you must always have a reserve because after mile 20 the second true race starts.

This 10K to the finish is what makes any marathon distance special. You need to try and be fast but too fast for 20 and you die. Marathoning is all about pacing. Sure a 50 or 100 mile race is about nutrition, mental will, training, and fortitude, but a marathon you need to run with urgency but not to the point of crossing your 80% max heart rate into your limited aerobic and then anaerobic zones. The key to the pacing is to be on the point where you can process your lactic acid as fast as your muscle produce it, or “buffering”. Once lactate builds up in your bloodstream, the check engine light appears and you need to slow down or even stop.

Wellesley Half Marathon 13.1 One hour 59 min and 16 sec. Avg Race Pace 9:10


Reaching the halfway point is always a good feeling, and I do so in comfort and on plan in just sub 2 hours. I am at Boston and now I am excited. Why? Because of the Wellesley Wall. The upcoming half mile of Route 9 passes the Wellesley campus, and the curbing is lined with bicycle rack crowd fencing to keep crowds off the course.




However, the fencing allows the co-eds to stand upon the fence and lean over to gain a better view of the runners. Also to flash hand held signs to the runners as they fly by. Faces fly by and then I see several runners in front of me stop, and receive a peck on the cheek and even lips. What? No way! Then I see a sign, Kiss me, I’m Irish, another, Kiss me, I’m hot, and the even bolder, Kiss me, I won’t tell your wife! OMG! There is even a guy with a sign, (My sister goes here, female runners I am available!) I must say I am tempted. (No, dude, not by the guy)




As the girls on the wall fly by, the catcalls (from them) become more pronounced. More and more faces appear disappointed without any attention as I fly by. Hmmnn. . Finally I see a pretty blond co-ed, with no sign, but looking hopeful. Man I am a sweaty unshaven mess! I stop, and she pulls me in to grab a smooch and then a high five and I am on my way. I am jacked up and the idea that Boston runners are treated like celebrities still has not hit me. This is beyond running a big city marathon. These fans know how difficult it is to become a runner here. Running Boston truly is a special experience.



Leaving Wellesley is a bit of a downer. (wonder why) But I have peeps coming up soon. At mile 15.5 is the Loeber family crew. I scan the crowds through downtown Wellesley. They must be at lunch. The running crowds have thinned a bit but are still a powerful pelotonic force moving forward at 9 minute pace. At mile 14 is primarily when the “Selection” process starts.



Most people in decent shape can generally run up to two hours on guts and mental resolve alone. After that, your training, food, hydration, and willpower all play roles to keep you in the peloton. I spy a 20 something guy in long hoops shorts and a cotton shirt. He is wet and gassed and stops to a walk. I hand him some pretzels and a pat on the shoulder as I glide by. I yell over my shoulder to him "This is Boston and you can run more." He does, and catches up to me. After a few minutes his check engine light illuminates again and he disappears in my rear view. Then Katie, my BWH running mate since mile 4 gets dropped too. We are together at one water stop and then poof, I look back and she is gone.

Running is physical, but also requires mental resolve and toughness. I need some power right now. I think to my support crew. I think to the women like Heather that are fighting for their lives from a disease that is mutating your own cells. I think to how lucky I am to have a body that can do this. I think to what I need out of this experience.

I steel myself for the pain of what is to come. I head down a steep descent and I know the steep ascent to cross Route 128 is coming next. After that the Newton Hills and the one called Heartbreak. The steep down here twinges the left hammy. Ahh right on schedule . .mile 16 . . .but not today I tell myself. I stop for 20 seconds to stretch it out and I pop a salt tab and Cliff Block. Not today I say again to convince myself. No way Jose. I head back out in baby steps at a decent turnover. Small strides but lots of them and I find I can stay at 9s.



25K (15.5) Race time 2:22:07 5K Time 29:03 Avg. pace 9:12 Avg Pace this 5K 9:22




At the bottom of the hill, HEY! there is my buddy Franz, with a photo op to boot. I told him to expect me at 1pm and it is 1:03. Not too shabby,, crabby! Franz is one my BC guys. What does it mean to be a BC guy? For me it means if you need, he will find a way to help. Whatever it is. He can party, ski, socialize, woo grandmothers, play with kids, and generally be great to be around. He attends as many BC sporting events as possible yet does not know many of the players as he never watches on TV. He is a doer and also he is a DAD. and like Franz of three great kids. I try to be like a BC guy. Franz is a BC guy. BC guys pick great women too. Franz's wife Marci not only put me up prior to the race but she fed me, he picked me up in Boston, and he drove me to Hopkinton. Do I have the best friends or what!!

Franz hands me my 1990 era BC cap to wear through Heartbreak and sends me on my way. Off I go up the hill to Route 128. The girls of Wellesley are gone and the BC campus is still 4 miles away.



30K (18.6) Race time 2:53:05 5K time 30:58 Avg pace 9:19 Avg pace this 5K 9:59

Newton



Time to get serious now for the hills. Up I go. Not like Mohawk in Chatham Township, but similar to Van Houton on my 5K Chatham Turkey Trot route. (COME OUT AND REPRESENT THIS THANKSGIVING!!! We need over 200 runners this year!) I pass a few walkers but 95% of folks are running. This is Boston after all. At the top I am winded but carry on. My legs are jelly and the 2XU calf guards are the only thing holding my “rider in charge over my 'elephant”. I carry on and the peloton has slowed but still rolls on. Up, down, up, down. We hit the Newton Town Centre and finally leave Route 9 for the right hand turn onto Route 30.



After all of these rollers I scan the runners around me looking for a runner with resolve, mental toughness, and desire. Someone to tag team with up these hills. I pal up with another girl. But this time, she is a 50 something year old qualifier, tough as nails. We charge up the first hill from Newton Center weaving through runners. We rest at the top and then mount another charge. Now my heart is racing and my legs still are done. After a downhill we mount a third charge, passing many more. I am pumping my arms now to force my legs to turnover. This has to be heartbreak, right? We get to the top and nope, no Towers of Gasson Hall, no loud BC kids.

WTF?

We go down another roller and there it is. You can see it turn to the left and head up out of view. Heartbreak is not as long as the first or second of these last hills. But about a third of the way it steepens a bit, just enough. The peloton has thinned out now and here over half the runners are walking. My elephant rationalizes the reasonableness of this idea. My rider screams no!!! I grab a Cliff Block and keep running up (albeit like an old wounded dog). At the top I finally slow to just over a walk. I made it!!! I made it up. I can now hear Boston College before I see them. They are in the form of dozens of SUPER FANS, males, females all with solo cups screaming at runners, chanting slogans, singing, hooting and man they are freakin wicked pissah wasted!






35K (21.7) Race time 3:25:46 5K time 32:41 Avg pace 9:28 Avg pace this 5K 10:31




Boston College




As I crest Heartbreak and see the Boston College campus and crowds, it hits me, and hits me hard. Not the fatigue, but the emotion. I hear roars of cheers. Next to me appears a Boston
College girl in a Superfan shirt with Anellise written on it is running nearby. (Photo above) The crowds literally are screaming at her and forcing her forward. She will not quit. Some fans even pop out and escort her for a 100 yards or so like she is Hank Aaron circling the bases after number 715. This is crazy!






I move close to the crowds alongside Commonwealth Ave. I shout out a “Let’s Go Eagles”. I raise my arms. The crowds respond. The high fiverrs are out and lined up, and the cheers for me are like rocket fuel. I am flying down Comm. Ave now. I am crying, but I feel no physical pain. The crowds are awesome, boys, girls, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, the kids are all there cheering for me. Man, I love my school. Before I know it I am passing the grave yards and making the turn down Chestnut Ave to Beacon Street. Coming down off the emotions now all I want now is the finish line on Boylston.




40K (24.8) Race time 3:58:34 5K time 32:48 Avg pace 9:38 Avg pace this 5K 10:32




Beacon Street




I am in bad shape. "Tim just hold this together." I gain a momentary lift passing the BWH tent, but I am on the wrong side of Beacon. Everything in my body wants to stop and curl up in a ball. Tim “you can and you will”. I feel more twinges in the connective tissues of my legs and know the ghosts of cramps past are readying. I have one S Cap left but no water to drink it with. I scan my surroundings. No water stops as far as I can see. The bars and crowds line Beacon street. Damn! None passing out water.


I spot a gang of kids drinking out of red solo cups. I pull up. A girl looks up and I reach for her glass. She says, “But its Beer?” I nod and she hands it to me. I guzzle down a healthy slog and hand it back to her. Her buddies high five me then her then themselves. They yell go dude!!! You are AWESOME!!! Tim, I start back up. A mile later I make the turn to cruise down Boylston Street for the final three tenths feeling and no doubt looking like a Ford Pinto spewing oil and riding on flat tires. It is not pretty but still I move forward. I do not walk, and I have not walked this race. “You can and you will”, and I do.


The Finish 26.2 Miles Race Time 4:12 :57


Total Race Pace 9:39


RACE PLACE 18427 Male 11210

I glance up at the clock 4:12 something . . .my sugar and oxygen deprived brain tries and compute. “ is that without the 45 minute time lapse” from the elites?” “Can’t be”. I am finishing so late that the clock has already rolled over to our wave start time. I pause and bend down with hands on knees to collect myself. Each step every breath, every movement forward is an effort.



The goal of the finishing volunteers is to move you through the chutes to collect water, Gatorade, a snack bag, a thermal blanket, a race medal, and finally release into general population and the family meeting areas. I am maxed out. Each step every breath, every movement forward hurts. I look to sit. No sitting allowed unless it is in a wheelchair and then right off to medical.
I think to myself, “A two time Ironman finisher and 100K finisher is going to medical? Preposterous!” I slowly work with the crowd moving forward. I had dug deep down the well for this effort. My eyes feel glassy and glazed. I receive water. Then Gatorade recovery, yuck! Then a food bag. Chips, powerbar apple, nothing appeals. In fact I might vomit. Then my medal, and a photo with my medal.



I am feeling woozy. I lean against the fence. A volunteer signals to medical. They ask me my name, age. I tell them and then ask to sit. They show me a chair. I consider it. I discount it and say I will just lean here for a spell. They are persistent. They know that my decision-making skills are impaired. They are right. Then my stupidity morphs into brilliance. “Yes, I will go to medical.” No my brilliance is not for the warm blankets, shedding my wet cold clothes., the hot soup, the electrolyte level blood testing. My brilliance is for the IV saline bag and the walk will be 3 blocks closer to the BWH gym at FITCORP with the hot showers for me to change.





HONESTLY , the key to the brilliance is this. I have to now find the gym and showers, go to Doug’s hotel, find my friends and dinner in Brookline. Find the airport on time. Fly on a redeye. Why not get medical attention? I have a big day ahead of me still. Plus there is the other small matter of post race celebratory libations to consider. I have beers to drink! The attending staff caters to me for an hour and send me on my way. They even offer a runner to Fitcorp to retrieve my drop bag, but the FITCOPs said no.




Post Race Fluids




After I sign out of medical, the adventure to FITCORP through the Prudential Center is like being totally wasted and having to find your way in a foreign land. I wandered for 20 minutes before finding the right place. I shower, change and used the $15 in my bag for a cab to Brookline and the Publick House.



No wallet, no ID, but with a Boston Marathon Technical Shirt and a green bag, I am a celebrity. The cabbie doesn’t care that the fare was actually $22. The bouncer is carding everybody; I have no ID and he escorts me right to my table. My cousin and his crew pick up my tab. (I will reimburse him someday) and we eat drink and are merry in our stories, my finish and Doug’s 420. No not that 420 you California tokers, his 4:20 finishing time.
Then we hop the “T” and take the elevators to the top of the Prudential Building for a final toast overlooking the city of Boston and the bright lights that are visible to Boston College, Wellsely and beyond toward Hopkinton. Then I am off to Logan Airport, and the joys of working in Puerto Rico in a suit off of a redeye!! Boston Bye Bye, you will never be forgotten as a truly special running day!





THANKS TO ALL MY CREW FOR SENDING ME TO THE HALLOWED GROUND!

$3,876 for Brigham and Women's Hospital!!!

19 in 3

19? in 3? What? No on March 27th 19 was not the temp our at 6am, that was all th way up at 26. BRRRR!!

Cheerios, yogurt, juice, and I seriously thought about putting on a pot of coffee and playing Wii with Josh and Quinn.

Because of you guys I bundled up, Under Armour hat, NY marathon gloves, ASICs Kayano 15s, 2xu compression tights and 2xu comp shirt, Underarmour long sleeve overshirt, pocketed Cannondale bike shirt, 45 oz of gatorade split in two bottles, cookies, girl scout dos y dos and rasp. newtons, and a banana. Clothed and fueled up I headed out into the raw air.

Why do this again? One, you folks paid good money, two, a little suffering is a small price considering the price people pay when combating cancer . . .

Two, feeling underprepared is one thing, embarrassing yourself is another . you cannot just go big without some training! A marathon is not quite an Ironman, but if you are not prepared there is no where to hide out on the course. Pay your dues now or drop out later . . .and I never drop out.

Started slow hoping to warm up. Nope! My fingers were so frozen they were not moving. As the sun rose, I encountered frozen friends out and about and started to feel better.

Four miles in at the Green Village Firehouse the tunes started rocking. Through the Loantoka trail into Harding and before I knew it I was at ten miles. A brief walk to pee, eat cookies, and warm my hands in private places and I was back in stride for two more on Pleasantville Road Mansion Row. Through the Great Swamp for four miles to Meyersville and the mexican restaurant that means I knew I was close to home.

Back in the neighborhood in three hours flat. I ran 95% of the last 4 miles in and still averaged about 9:30s overall so I feel OK.

Wish I had stayed up for that epic UK-OSU game, but thanks to the Jayhawks sending my spiders to the showers early I hit the hay.

So 21 days out, a couple of long runs left on Wed/Sat/Wed and then shut it down.

Hope springs eternal and maybe I can hit a mini peak in three weeks for the race. Regardless I am in whole hog, and glad you all are along for the ride!