Monday, December 12, 2011

12/10/2011 Ghost of Birch Bay (Race Director)

Thanks goes out to all the participants that braved the 2011 Ghost of Birch Bay Marathon and Mega 1/2 Marathon.  Here are the pictures Dave Robb took of the event. Thank You all my Skagit Runners volunteers that made this race go absolutely perfect, Dave Buttrey, Dave Robb, Chris & Toi Wright, Kevin Douglas, and myself Terry Sentinella. 

I was asked some months ago to act as the Race Director for this race because Scott Krell wanted to run the Honolulu Marathon and it just happens to be on the same weekend as The Ghost of Birch Bay.  This is a very small race and very casual like all NW Ultra events (club runs).  My favorite type to direct.  Kevin and I got to Birch Bay about 4:45 in the morning and proceeded to mark the course with orange chalk and flour.  Our motto is to leave no trace!  Dave Robb, Chris, and Toi arrived a little after 6:00am to start setting up the start/finish, registration, and eating area.  We had 43 people register for the event and 30 start the race, all but 2 of the starters finished. 

Kevin and Dave Robb manned the aid station by Semiahmoo Parkway, and Dave Buttrey manned the aid station by Century 21 Real Estate office.  Chris & Toi were in charge of the start/finish, registration and feeding all the hungry runners.  I did my usual helping where needed and roam the course. 

As you can see in the pictures the roads were frosty and a little icey.  We had overcast skies luckly the rain/snow gods smiled on us and the rain stayed away for most of the race.  Towards the end of the race it started to mist.  YES we lucked out!

8:00 Start
8:00 Start, come on quit talking Terry so we can run!
They're off

Our Fort Lewis Guys!

The Marathon leader
Beer station, grab and go!
2:58:00 marathon, WOW!

Watch out for the horde of folks behind you

Stan Nakishima

Look at my creation!

Cool HUH!!!

John MOVIN, watch out Steve is on your heals!

Just Havin FUN!

Still Havin Fun!

Walla, this is what happens at aid stations when the volunteers are bored!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

12/4/2011 Rock N’ Roll Las Vegas, 3:20 Pacer

Rock N’ Roll Marathons always bring some type of excitement, 2011 Las Vegas was no exception.  This race made history!  The 1st time 44,000 people hit the strip in a night time run!  5,000 of the runners were marathoners, and the remaining 39,000 were ½ marathoners.  What an incredible sight to be seen!!!  The Marathon had 3,760 finishers, and the ½ Marathon had 33,123 finishers for a total of 36,883 finishers, amazing given the size of the course!

I lead the 3:20 pace in inaugural Rock N’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon in 2009.  I had an excellent experience, many of my runners finished with me, and we were able to keep pace the entire way.  In 2009 we started the race with the ½ marathon runners, ran 10 miles on the strip before heading to the west to run 13 miles in the industrial “strip club laden” area of Las Vegas, and finished the last 3 miles on the strip.  I thought it was a PERFECT course.  The only real mishap I saw was the 1st mile mark was in the wrong spot, at .9 miles.   I heard they ran out of water for some of the “back of the packers”.  I marked all this up as “new race” and a learning curve, overall a positive experience. 

This year they changed the course so the full marathoners ran the industrial area 1st then merged with the ½ marathoners at 13.1 miles.  To add excitement they started us 1 ½ hours before the ½ marathoners, so when we hit the strip at 1:40 minutes into the race the fast 1/2ers were way ahead of us: we merged with walkers and runners about ½ our pace.  They promised to separate the ½ runners from the full runners.  To accomplish this they put cones about 16” tall about every 500’ – 1000’ with a sign saying ½ marathoners “right”, full marathoners “left”.  They gave us full marathon runners 1 lane the other 6 lanes were for the 1/2ers.   Hmmm maybe next year they can put a barricade separating us the whole way, or barricade tape, or better yet START EVERYONE AT THE SAME TIME!  I saw at least 7 people go down from tripping over the cones, I almost ran over ½ marathoners WALKING in our lane with their headphones so loud I could hear their music, even over all the noise on the strip, HOLY CRAP MAN!  I had to yell constantly for about 10 miles,” ½ Marathon to the right, full marathon to left, 3:20 pace group coming through, Please help us out”.  Every time I pleaded with the other runners to give us room they “for the most part” obliged, if they could hear me over their DAMN head phones.  My group tucked in behind me and held strong until we hit water stations, then it was like a war zone, runners & walkers stopping mid stream, stretching, taking up the entire road.  I lost 15 – 20 seconds at every water station and a percentage of my runners.  Since I was their pace leader my job was to stay on pace, to stay on pace I had to pick up the pace between each water station, it wasn’t working too well.  This is not the right way to pace a marathon, just in case you didn’t already know!!  By the time I made it to mile 23 I lost everyone in my group except for 2 runners.  They were just too tired fighting the crowds and gave up. 

My BIG question now is WHY did they change the course this year, and have the ½ marathoners start 1 ½ hours after us?  With the amount of races Competitor Group puts on worldwide you would think they would know this was going to happen and make provisions to assure their runners were kept safe.  This was a very unsafe marathon in MANY ways, read on! 

As the President of our local running club and Race Director of a few small races it is important to me every participant enjoys their run.  The people that want to compete can compete, the people that want to qualify for Boston have the chance, the people that want a PR have the ability to do so, and the folks that just want to be out there and finish have the ability to do so as well.   Everyone has a different view of what’s fun for them and what’s important to them.  It is our duty to give them the best chance possible to accomplish just that.  Rock N’ Roll Las Vegas 2011 didn’t live up to their end of the bargain for their participants.  I feel they didn’t plan on this fiasco, it happened because of a lack of foresight on their part!  So what kind of changes can be made to make sure this doesn’t happen again?  A lot can be done if they care to administer changes.  I hope they look at all the complaints positively; a lot of good can and will come out it if they choose to do so.

I finished the race with a time of 3:20:21, 21 seconds over.  This bothers me, I take pride in coming in ahead of pace.  On a positive note the bands were awesome, the distance was 26.41 miles, exactly what is expected in a big marathon, the medal was very cool, the shirt was very nice.  Competitor Group really does put on a good event, they just need to ALWAYS put safety of the runner as #1, the course always has to be perfect, they can’t run out of water/electrolyte drink, or medals. 

I was very happy with the finish area food, water, medals, and ability to get back to the Pacers Room where my wife Delores was waiting for me.  My wife Delores, her friend, Kevin Douglas and I met up outside of the pacers room and high tailed It to our hotel room for showers and clean clothes.  It is a good thing we left fast, it went very smooth for us, not so for others!

After we got cleaned up Kevin and I headed back to Mandalay Bay for our free beer.  Ok that wasn’t a good idea!  We just about made it to the “Free Beer” when we hit a wall of people in the corridor in front of Starbucks.  There was probably 3,000 people jammed in the hall going NOWHERE!  Kevin and I tried to get through just in time to get stuck right in the middle.  After 10 minutes of being crunched between 3,000 people I noticed a lady laying down in the middle of the floor and an EMT working on her.  I told Kevin we were getting the heck out of there.  We forced our way back the other direction and noticed another lady down being worked on by another EMT.  Holy Crap man this is frickin NUTS!  I was never so happy to NOT get my free beer!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

11/27/2011 Seattle Marathon Weekend, 3:30 Pacer

Seattle Marathon weekend started out with perfect weather to run a marathon in and ended with probably the worst weather I have ever seen to run a marathon in!  2010 Pine to Palm 100 still has "the worst weather" trophy though.  A river of rain was coming down sideways the whole marathon; the wind was blowing upwards of 40 mph. I'll take hot and humid over constant rain & wind any day!  At least I can slow down if it's too hot!

Day 1 - Wittle Waddle, Delores and I took off early Thanksgiving morning in pursuit of Delores running her 1st double, that's 2 races in 2 days!  She ended up running the Wittle Waddle 1/2 Marathon with a PR of 2:42:41, impressive!  Kevin Douglas and I volunteered all day manning the aid station at the 1/2 marathon turn around.  After Delores finished we decided we would spend the night in a hotel somewhere around Tacoma so we would be close to the race on day 2.  We found the Best Western by the Tacoma Dome for a decent price and easy access to/from I-5.  Since we ran/volunteered for this race on Thanksgiving Day, we missed out on all the family dinners.  We drove around Tacoma for a few hours trying to find a descent place to eat dinner, the only place we found was the Emerald Queen Casino, $25 for a buffet meal, in a smoke filled joint, NO THANKS!  So we drove around a little more and found a small tavern in the shady part of town.  I asked Delores if she wanted to give a shot, no pun intended, we were pleasantly surprised!  They offered a small turkey dinner for $6 or a turkey sandwich for $4.  The meal was homemade just like mom cooks and it was just the perfect amount of food.  They also had great beer and the football game on, it really couldn't have been better.

Day 2 - Wishbone, Gig Harbor is an amazing place, so close to Tacoma, yet so far away.  It's a very nice small community tightly tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the big metropolitan Seattle area.  This race is put on by none other than Marathon Maniac Bill Barmore.  He holds the EXPO and packet pickup in his living room the morning of the race, and once everyone has paid their $10 (food bank donation), picked up their numbers, pins, and BS'd for awhile they all head about a block down the road to the Crescent Forest trail head.  The course is a 7 mile loop in a figure 8 design.  The 1/2 marathoners run the loop twice and the full marathoners run the loop 4 times.  Yes each course is a bit long, those are free miles.  Bill doesn't want anyone to feel they were cheated miles!  Delores finished a little slower than the day before, but accomplished something she had never done before, 2 -1/2 marathons in 2 days.  Good Job and congratulations Delores!  I manned the only water station (other than the start/finish) in the center of the figure 8, with a few other volunteers.  Once we were set up I started running partial loops with different runners.  I ran with Shawna Tompkins for about 5 miles, Delores for 2 miles,  Marita Trohimovich for 3 miles, Kevin Douglas for 2 miles, and Gary Marr for 2 miles.  It was a lot of fun to run fast with Shawna and Kevin, run a comfortable pace with Marita, and run nice and easy with Delores and Gary.  What a great way to spend the day and have a good time with friends.

Day 3 - Ghost of Seattle, Delores and I stayed at my friends Scott and Denise Krell's house the night prior to the Ghost.  Scott and I arranged a few of the last minute things for the race while Delores and Denise organized all the registration stuff, then we drank a few shots of Bourbon, and headed for the sack, after all the next day was going to be a long day, setting up the race course, finish marking the course, registering participants, and all the other stuff that goes along with putting on a NW ultra’s club event.   We arrived early & started unloading all the stuff from Scott’s vehicles, setting up the registration tables, and finish area.  As soon as everything was set and the real early starters took off Kevin Douglas and I set off to finish marking the course.  We barely made it back to the start to watch the regular starters take off.  This year was kind of exciting we were going to have 2 ladies trying to qualify for the Olympic trials, Lauren Matthews and Trisha Steidle, as well as Chuck Engle running all 3 of the 1st events trying to set PR’s and win each of them.  Trisha ended up being a no show (She won the Seattle Marathon the next day), and much to our dismay Lauren missed her qualifying time by 4 minutes, kind of disappointing, but a great effort.  Chuck finished with an amazing time of 2:41, not bad for a guy that just ran a marathon distance the 2 days prior and set course records at all 3 of them.  Kevin and I had to be at the Seattle Expo at noon to man the Pacers Booth, and attend a Pacers Meeting at 2:00.  When we left the Seattle Marathon Expo we headed back to Seward Park to help Scott take the course down, whew what a full day!

Day 4 - Seattle Marathon, I arrived at the race over 2 hours early to insure I found a parking spot.  This was probably a mistake because it was a bit frigid. I was glad I decided to wear my Race Ready shorts that a tad bit longer than most of my shorts, plus they have ample pockets in the back for GU Packs and S-Caps.  Luckily the rain held off until after the marathoners started running.  Last year I was planning on running the Quadzilla this year, that’s all four races, but Chuckit Pacing asked me to lead the 1st ½ of the 3:30 pace team, so my plan changed to volunteer in the 1st 3 races then run Seattle.  The 1st 3 or 4 miles really was nice, until we hit the I-90 floating bridge, then the wind started, and the rain got heavier, and neither really let up until the race was over.  Normally I don’t mind crappy weather, but when I am trying to lead a pace group and hold a sign, it gets down right old having the sign just about sail out of your hand constantly, plus the sign they gave us was very awkward and heavy.  Bucking the wind and rain made it a challenge to maintain pace.  I was grateful that I only had to pace the 1st ½ of the race, after that I could do what I wanted.  I reached the ½ marathon distance about 1 minute early, exactly where I planned.  The second pacer, Sankara Narayanan, met up with our group about 13.6 miles in, we ran together until mile 21 when I decided to slow it down and just cruise on in a very easy pace.  The last few miles of this course were hardly bearable the wind was so strong and rain was coming down in buckets!!  I was soaked to the bone and cold.  I was never so happy to see the finish line.  When I reached the finish line I met up with quite a few friends and many of the people I had paced.  I think 10 or 12 of the folks that started out in my pace group finished with our pace group, very impressive, thanks Sankara for bringing them in. 

All in all it was a great weekend.  It was the 1st time we spent the Thanksgiving holiday away from our kids.  I’m not sure if I want to do that again, but I guess they are 19, 23, & 24 years old they should be able to fend for themselves.  It was a bit strange though not being around them. 

Kevin Douglas and I were the only 2 people in the WORLD that weekend to finish the QUADZILLA volunteer weekend of 2011.  Would I do it again, HECK YA! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

11/13/2011 Peachtree City 50k

The original intent of this trip was to pace the Soldiers Marathon 100 miles SW of Atlanta Georgia.  I had airline miles I could use but had to book my trip on Monday - Friday, no weekend travel days.  I left on 11/11, and returned on 11/14 so I was able to spend both Saturday and Sunday in the Atlanta area.  I planned on pacing the 3:45 group at Soldiers, and Sunday just messing around in Atlanta.  That was of course before I found out about the possibility of running a double!

My flight to Atlanta on Veterans Day 11//11 involved a 2 hour layover in Denver, during my layover I got on Facebook and contacted a fellow 50 State Club member who was running Soldiers Marathon, Cheryl Murdock.  She told me she was planning on running Peachtree City 50k the day after Soldiers Marathon.  She also told me Scott Ludwick was the Race Director.  I happened to be reading Scott's book "A few Degrees from Hell" for about the 5th time.  Before I ran Badwater 135 this year I read and watched videos of anything and everything pertaining to Badwater 135 I could find.  I found this book to be the best book available (in my opinion) on the subject.  This book profiles many of the 2003 Badwater 135 participants, their experiences, good, bad, or indifferent.  I thought it would be the perfect book to read post Badwater and take care of my boredom during the long flight.  Now that I had experienced this amazing race a lot of the stories would really come to life!  Reading "A Few Degrees from Hell" during my flight really brought back a lot of memories.  It lit a flame in my soul and reassured my reasoning for wanting to run this AMAZING race again.

Cheryl gave me Scott's email and I promptly emailed him hoping he would allow me to register day-of-race.  Man I love small races; he emailed me almost immediately saying I was in the race.  He also said he would autograph my book, and come and say hi at Soldiers, how cool is that?

The directions to the race stated the start was in Luther Glass Park on the corner of Peachtree Parkway & Crosstown Drive, in Peachtree City Georgia.  As I am driving through town I am looking for small directional signs, road signs, something to give me a clue where the heck I was, and if I was on the right road to the start of the race.  Finally I see the Peachtree Parkway road sign, now which way do I go, left or right?  I made an instinctive left on Peachtree Parkway, I proceed about 5 miles then turned around when I realized I should have made a right instead of left, guess my instincts are a bit off!  I finally find the intersection, park in the K-Mart parking lot then proceed to the start area to sign up for the race.  I arrived in Peachtree City about 6 am for a 7:30 am start. As soon as I reach the registration table Scott approaches me and introduces himself, and introduces Susan Lance, one of his running partners.  Susan was featured in his book "A Passion for Running: Portraits of the Everyday Runner”, she has ran numerous 100 mile races including Western States Endurance Run 100. Scott is also a seasoned runner, he has finished Western States as well, Badwater 135, and ran everyday for 28 years, maybe close to 35 years now, amazing feat!

I took off with the other runners at 7:30 for an easy 31 mile training run.  My legs were extremely sore from Soldiers Marathon the day prior; there was no way I was going to even try to compete.  I settled into a nice 8 minute pace with a guy name Kevin and Molly Wolfgram close behind us, before too long Molly joined us.  Somewhere around mile 12 to 13 Molly and I decided we would run the whole run together, Kevin was just running the 25k.  She didn’t want to race it because of overtraining issues, and neither did I since I had run a marathon the day before.  It was a perfect fit!  At about 15 –17 miles into the race Molly started to get a pain in her side, she had to slow down a bit, she tried to eat more food, cut back her water, your usual tricks trying to remedy the problem, to no avail.  I don’t think anything helped her; she just gutted it out to the finish.  Now that is a tough girl!   We ended up finishing 15 minutes or so slower than I had anticipated we would at the ½, but still a respectable time of 4:44, not too bad for an easy training run on the 2nd day of a double.  I placed 11th in the men’s field, and Molly placed 2nd in the women’s field.

At the end of the race Scott gave me a cool medal.  They had coolers of soda and water, as well as Panera Bagels of all different flavors, excellent!!!  I ended up placing 3rd in my age group the 1st place person in my age group was only 11 minutes ahead of me, ugh!  I know on fresh legs I could run that course in 3:45 easy, maybe next year I’ll try to compete??

Finding out about this race, and running this race was a pleasant surprise.  I didn’t expect to run the race; it wasn’t planned and therefore was one of those amazing times in my life that just happened!  When the race was over I had the chance to BS with Scott Ludwick and Susan Lance a bit more and meet a few other Badwater Veterans, Andy Velazco, Mike Smith, and Al Barker.  I also purchased Scott’s other book “A Passion for Running: Portraits of the Everyday Runner” which has stories about amazing endurance athletes, many of whom I know, and a few I met at the Peachtree City 50k.

It doesn’t get much better!

11/12/2011 Soldiers Marathon, 3:45 Pacer

Back in September Pacer Jim organizer of Marathon Pacing asked me to pace the Soldiers Marathon in Georgia.  I have been pacing Jim's marathons for a few years now.  Because of how far his marathons are from my home area I don't get a chance to pace races for him often.  The majority of Jim's marathons are on the East Coast, Midwest, and in the South.  Jim has very few marathons on the West Coast where I live.  Whenever I pace for Jim it always involves quite a bit of traveling. I really don't like to travel but since I thoroughly enjoy pacing marathons I put up with the travel part. 

I arrived in Atlanta and drove the 100+ miles to Columbus GA.  I got in to late to pick up my packet or attend the Expo.  Thankfully my Pace Team Leader Pacer Jim took care of all of this for me and also booked a room.  Jim had my bib, shirt, pacer sign, and a Spibelt sitting in my room when I arrived.  Spibelt sponsored all the pacers for Soldiers Marathon. They gave all of us one to wear during the race.  These are very cool, a great way to carry your keys, GU packsS-Caps, cell phone, or whatever else you might need, they stretch out big enough to just about fit a VW Bug! 

I finally was able to hit the sack about 11 pm East Coast time.  Because of traveling I wasn't able to eat much that day, and since I went to bed so late my sleep was deprived as well.  Gotta love runs in the East Coast time zone.  My wake up time was 4 am, for a 7 am race start, man that came too soon.  As most runners can vouch it's important to get up well before the start of a race so "Everything" moves and evacuates your system, very important.  Who really needs sleep anyways?

Soldiers Marathon was held in Columbus GA on Fort Benning.  Many of the aid stations, course volunteers, finish line volunteers were Army guys and gals dressed in full uniform.  It was cool to have them volunteering in the race, very much appreciated!  The race started with a soldier singing the National Anthem, and a 1. 2, 3, GO!  The race start was very congested, it took our 3:45 pace group 3 miles to reach our desired pace.  I had 12 -15 people with me through mile 10 when all of a sudden our group shrunk down to 4 or 5.  The runners that left the group were running the 1/2 marathon and ran their final 3 miles on their own.  4 of the final 5 runners left were Carey & Chris Lovejoy, Pete Malenowski, & Lara Campen, they stayed with me for the majority of the race.  Carey and Chris dropped back somewhere around mile 22, Lara dropped back about 1 1/2 miles from the finish, and Pete stayed with me to the end.  Around mile 23 I picked up a few runners who were walk/running, Dennis MacVittie & Arthur Zaricor.  Once they joined our group they didn't walk another step.

The last few miles pacing are always the hardest for me mentally; to have people who started the race with me fad the last few miles sucks.  It happens in every race despite trying to encourage them to hang with us, sometimes it just isn't possible, they've given it all they had.  Only one of my original runners stayed with me to the end, Pete a 26 years old marathon veteran.  His best time prior to this race was 4:06.  We crossed the finish line together, in fact he carried our pace sign across the finish line.  We finished in 3:44:54, he managed a 21 minute PR (personal best).  What an amazing moment and a great PR.  Dennis, who is a 60+ runner, was the only runner in my group to finish with a Boston Qualifier.  Arthur finished his 1st marathon and placed 1st in his age group, impressive!  When I pace a race I usually have a lot of cool conversations with my runners.  I always wait around for all the folks that dropped back and congratulate them on finishing.  After all, we enter marathons with a set of goals, #1 is time based, #2 is to just finish, and #3 is to have fun no matter what.  Finishing and having fun is really what it is all about, time goals fly out the window when we realize that goal is shot. 

Soldiers is a new marathon, in fact this is only their second year.  It was very impressive how well organized everything was, water stations fully stocked, mile markers in the right place, the correct USATF distance, finish line food galore, and best of all free BEER!! 

 I’ll be back next year!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Over Training ----- Reboot

11/4/2012 Over Training ----- Reboot
Every athlete feels the affects of over training from time to time.  I think it is important for us to listen to these signs and heed them before our body just stops us in our tracks!  In addition, if we plan for down time in advance of a major race, maybe we can keep from getting injured while training for "the big one".

My symptoms usually start with lazy feelings.  No matter what, I can't talk my way out the door to go for a run, or I talk myself out of stopping at the trail head on my way home from work.  Thankfully I have a lot of running friends that expect me at a few weekly runs or I would skip them all together.  I am just coming out of one of those low points.  I think I have been in one since I finished Badwater in July.  I've had mini bursts of training for events that were not a big deal to me, but no real motivation since early July!!

Now I feel like my training has to start again and I'm ready to REBOOT.  I am pacing the 3:45 group at Soldiers Marathon in Columbus Georgia on 11/12.  I'll be pacing the 3:30 group at the Seattle Marathon on 11/27, and pacing the 3:20 group  at Rock N' Roll Vegas on 12/4.  Running these 3 races this close will be a great way to "kick start" my training program!  My short term goal is to run the Rock N' Roll New Orleans in under 3:00 hours, I would really like to be under 2:50.  It is a very lofty goal since my PR is 2:57, but I think it is doable!  Of course my long term goal is Badwater 2012.  At this point, the only Badwater training I will be doing is trying to get my speed back, then I will start working on picking up my weekly mileage, and endurance training.  I haven't really thought a lot about the races I will be running in preparation for Badwater, it kind of depends on whether I get into Western States.  If I get into Western States I'll have to decide if I can pull off the Grand Slam as well, and if my wife will let me!!  Badger Mountain or Lumberjack might be in the cards for next year as well, we'll see how it all pans out.

In the last few weeks I have been thinking a lot about running Badwater in 2012.  I have started securing sponsors, Race Ready they make the coolest running shorts, shirts, and other apparel. I have a few of their shirts and 1 pair of shorts I wear in marathons, they are a very nice way to carry GU packs, your keys, electrolytes, etc.  I also have GU Energy sponsoring me, since I use GU gels and chomps exclusively in races this is a perfect fit.  Drymax just added me to their sponsored runner lineup.  This is the only sock I wear in my ultras and I swear by them.  I rarely get a blister these days due to these great socks.  My favorite Chiropractor and ACT Active Release Therapist will be sponsoring me this year.  He now has 2 offices one in Mount Vernon (Northwest Chiropractic) and one in Seattle (In Health).  I also have 2 private sponsors lined up for next year. Hopefully I can get a few more sponsors to help defer the costs of this expensive race.  Ugly Feet will be sponsoring me as well.  I use their products after every ultra I run and about once a week during training to keep my feet in tip top shape.  It really helps rejuvenate the pads of my feet and feels GREAT!

I have 6 friends that want to help me out at Badwater and experience this amazing race.  3 of the 6 would eventually like to run the race.  What a great way to learn the ins and outs and have a phenomenal experience!

Thanks for following my blog!

So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains 

And we never even know we have the key.

Lyrics from Already Gone, peformed by the Eagles

We all have the keys to live our dreams!
Dream big and fulfill those dreams!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

10/9/2011 Chicago Marathon, 3:20 Pacer

Chicago Marathon "in my opinion" is the best big marathon in the United States.  Why Chicago you ask?  The seeded corrals, the Nike Pacers, super wide road, flat course, 20 aid stations, spectators, it just doesn't get any better!  This was my 3rd time running Chicago and it will not be my last.

Now you might ask how the heck can you stand running a marathon with 45,000 people after running a 100 mile ultramarathon with only 100 people, there is huge difference in the two types of races, they are completely different types of events?  To tell you the truth ultramarathons on trails are my forte, but I really like running road marathons every now and then.  When I pace marathons I don't feel the need to race, I can practice holding pace for 3 to 4 hours, it’s great ultrarunning training, and I can give back to the sport that has given me so much.  It is fun to run a consistent pace, BS with other runners, and every once and a while give a little advise.

I wanted to run with the Nike Pace Team, at the Chicago Marathon, since the 1st time I saw them in action during the 2009 Chicago Marathon.  I finally got my chance this year.  In May a friend of mine gave me the email address of the Nike Pacing Team leader.  I sent him an email listing of all the marathons I have paced.  He told me sometime later in the year he would contact me if an opening arose.  I finally received an email from him on August 28th as I was driving home from Cascade Crest 100.  He told me the slowest time he had available was 3:20, OUCH,…. bad timing, as I am trying to get comfortable in the back seat of my wife’s car!   I thought; how am I supposed to train for that fast of a marathon when all the training I've done this year was for slow-long-distance-endurance running!!!   Besides I need a well deserved rest from running right now; looks like that wasn't going to happen!

So I devised a plan:
- Take 1 week off, run very easy recovery runs to break up the lactic acid in my muscles.
- After that week, run tempo runs "at least" 3 days a week, with my goal to average 6:45-7:00 pace, 1 week prior to Chicago.
- Try to get in 2 - 20 mile long runs!

Well it turns out the longest run I could get in before Chicago was a 15 mile run and a few 10 mile runs.  I was able to run 3 or 4 tempo runs every week averaging 6:45-7:00 minute miles the 3 weeks prior to the race.  I wish I could have ran a few long runs, but with my RD duties at Skagit Flats Marathon, volunteering at numerous races, moving my wife's friend Bobbie to Phoenix, and all three of my kids entering college, I just couldn’t fit any run long runs into my busy schedule. 

The week leading up to the Chicago Marathon I was a little nervous since I really didn't do the proper training regiment to "Pace" a fast marathon.  I knew a 3:30 or 3:40 would be a piece of cake, but would running a 3:20 be taxing?  I was very thankful to know that I would not be the lead dog pacing in this marathon, we had 3 other Nike Pace Setters in the 3:20 group, all three of them have faster PR's than I, and they are all also young enough to be my kids, Perfect!!!

Race day came and the weather couldn't be better.  It was warm enough that I didn't need an extra shirt at the start, and we would be done before the temperatures reached the 80's.  For all the Nike Pacers they provided a Nike Pacer Tent near the start, port-a-johns, food, refreshments, and a place to store stuff during the race. What a great way to start the day.  It was also nice to see some of my old friends pacing, Chuck Engle, Steve Vargas, and Marie Bartoletti.  After much talking, getting ready for the race, and the normal day-of-race stuff that we all do, all the Nike Pacers went to the outside of the tent and took a group shot, kind of cool seeing 100 pacers all together, then we paraded together to our respective starting corrals. 

Our group started in Corral B.  The two times I‘ve ran Chicago I started in Corral A, right behind the elite runners, there was never a time I felt like other runners were a hindrance like in Boston, New York Marathon, or ALL ROCK N’ ROLL Marathons.   The way they monitor their starting corrals makes a huge difference on the efficiency of the start and I feel it really does help participants finish times. One of the downfalls about having so many people in a marathon is how long we have to wait in the starting corral before the race starts.  Of course I had to take a leak before the race and the last thing I wanted to do was stop at a port-a-john.  I won’t say how I relieved myself before the race, but let’s just say it is a common way during a long road trip!  I am grateful that was the last time I needed to until after the race. 

For me the most exciting time in a race is the 30 seconds prior to the gun going off.  As I am waiting nervously I look around and introduce myself to many of the people running in our pace group.  I was amazed at the amount of people following the 4 of us.  While talking to one of the runners from the Dominician Republic the gun goes off and the race begins,….. We start jogging to the start mats, then as soon as we hit the mats (1 minute and 20 seconds later) we are able to start running.  Usually the 1st few miles in a large race it is tough to get up to pace because of the mobs of people, but we hit the 1 mile mark at EXACTLY 7:37 pace (chip time), nice….   The next few miles we were not so lucky, each mile we found ourselves 5 or 6 seconds behind, moving through the crowds was proving to be a bit cumbersome.  Finally around mile 6 we were back on pace and had made up all the time lost due to congestion.  It was at this point I looked behind us and noticed the amount of people in our pace group.  I’ll bet it was close to 500 people, it looked like a swarm of locusts following us, how cool is that? 

Somewhere in the 1st 6 miles we worked out what our duties were in the race.  Matt Flaherty (2:22 PR) was in charge of the group, as a 2:22 marathon runner he was the perfect guy for this job.  He kept all four of us on a flat steady pace and provided us an anchor point.  Rich Calvario (2:48 PR) did an excellent job maintaining pace as well, to me he seemed like Matt’s right hand man, always looking out for him and the rest of us, making sure everyone was able to get water, Gatorade, or a sponge and asking me how far ahead or behind we were at every mile split.  My job was to yell out how we were doing at every mile.  towards the end of the race.  Every team needs a guy like Jackson just to keep the race exciting.Jackson Johnson’s (2:45 PR) was a ton of fun to watch during the race, he was like the running comedian, he was the “Get the Crowd Pumped” guy.  He was all over the place in front, behind, taking care of the runners on the other side of the road when a median split us up.  I was amazed how much energy he still had
The Nike 3:20 Pace Team was a huge success because of the 4 of us, we each brought a little something different to the team, and we meshed well together.  At the ½ way point we were 30 seconds ahead, at the finish we were 3:19:45, 15 seconds ahead.  We couldn’t have ran the race any better.  Thanks Matt, Rich, and Jackson for doing such a great job for all the runners following us.  I am looking forward to running with the 3 of you again next year.

8/27/2011 Cascade Crest Endurance Run

This happens to be my favorite 100 mile race because of a lot of reasons:
- The RD (Charlie Crissman) does an AMAZING job with the race.  Perfect course marking, perfect aid stations, etc!  Any ultramarathon put on by a SERIOUS ultrarunner is always going to be good, besides he is a helluva nice guy!  Charlie outdoes himself every year!
- Since I am an Alaskan I love the outdoors, and Washington outdoors reminds me of the forests in my hometown Valdez Alaska.  I just can't get enough of the beauty of this area!
- Friends, friends, and more friends, it is amazing to see people you know at every aid station and along the course.
- The degree of difficulty in Cascade Crest is such that you are forced to walk much of the race.  This race has mountains forcing you to walk when you really should walk.  The course has down hills and flats when you should run, it has the perfect combination. 

I had a super time this year because I really took it easy.  It is amazing how much more you see on a course when you take time to actually look around.  I remember thinking many times "wow look at that view".  I never noticed that the last two times I ran this.  

My BIG goal this year was running Badwater, once that was over I really went into melt down and couldn’t
Convince myself to train like I should for Cascade Crest.  I went into Cascade Crest with only 1 long run since Badwater (34 miles on God's Country Course) and an average of 40-45 miles a week running.  Of course I was so oblivious to this I didn't realize this fact until I was 15 miles into Cascade Crest.  I remember stopping and saying to myself WTF are you doing out here. Up until that point I was running with Shawna Tompkins (the eventual winner), stupid, stupid, stupid. 

After that I decided to take a different approach and just enjoy the race.  My goal from that point was to get to Hyak where I would pick up my 1st pacer William Worrell and I would be more than ½ way done.  Once I knew ½ of the race was over, and I had someone to talk to, it would suddenly get a lot easier!  William finished Cascade Crest last year as his 1st 100 mile race.  Having an experienced ultrarunner was exactly what I needed to get me through the long road section from Hyak to the “Trail from Hell”.  I think this is the worst part of the course, 15 miles of long boring road, in the middle of the night, the best part about this section is knowing the “Trail from Hell” is next. The “Trail from Hell” is one of my favorite sections, it is so technical, tons of trees down, sharp cliffs, really eerie to run at night, and at the end we get to cross Mineral Creek, good luck keeping your shoes dry!!  Shortly after Mineral Creek is the Mineral Creek Aid Station where my friend Pablo Cabrera was working, it was cool to see him there!  A few miles later William was finished and it was time for my friend Dylan to pace me.

Dylan Owens is an amazing new ultrarunner, he has only been running for a few short months and is able to keep in the front of the pack in most of the races he runs, imagine what he is going to be like when he is seasoned!  Dylan paced me up to “No Name Ridge” where my wife Delores met me with my “secret“ drop bag.  It is always nice to see her at the aid stations especially when I am tired and really just want the race to be over!  The "Needles" section to "French Cabin" is my favorite section of the course because it is truly a B_ _ CH, the needles go on and on and on, but in between there are runable sections, so I just muster up the needles as fast as I can and run the runable sections, then on to the next one, then the next one, then all of a sudden you're at French Cabin.  Once you leave French Cabin there is one more serious climb then it is all downhill and/or flat, Yes Yes Yes!

Dylan did a great job trying to push me to run, except for the fact I didn't care about my finish time.  I was kind of getting a little owly towards him as he suggested we should pick it up because of this reason or that, I don't even remember, all I remember is I really didn't care what time I finished this darn race, I just wanted to finish "whenever", until we finally crested that last hill after French Cabin.  Then I realized all I had to do was run a 9 minute mile for the rest of the race and I would finish under 24 hours.  If he hadn't prodded me to finish under 24 hours I probably wouldn't have done so.  For this I am very thankful "now"!!  All in all it was a great experience for me to have William and Dylan pace me, and I think it was good for them as well. 

My 3rd attempt at this amazing mountain course was a success thanks to my wife Delores, William, and Dylan! Anytime you need a pacer all you have to do is ask!  Next year I will be running an Aid Station (hopefully Mineral Creek) and watching my good friend Joseph Tompkins finish his 5th Cascade Crest.

8/7/2011 God's Country 50k "Fun Run"

Sunday August 7th, I woke up to the sounds of fog horns warning the local ferries and boaters to slow down on the water, it's also a great way to wake local residents out of their sound sleep.  For me it was the perfect sound to hear 1st thing in the morning before my epic 50k here in the ACFL (Anacortes Community Forest Lands).  When there's heavy fog in the Puget Sound there's no wind, and it's going to be a sunny cool day, after the fog lifts, exactly what I was hoping for.

I arrived at Heart Lake parking about at 7:45 to find a group of eagerly awaiting runners ready to embark on a TOUGH and long trail run.  Our plan for the day was to run 3 different loops for a total of 32 miles minimum.  ACFL has over 50 miles of trails within it's 2800 acre park.  The trails are almost all single track with roots, rocks, steep inclines and declines just the perfect type of trails for long distance ultrarunning training. Running these trails are not for the weak or easily intimidated.

I was pleased to see the following runners, Rusty Bachman, Miranda Bachman, Kevin Douglas, Tim Stroh, Jason Hynd, Matt Hagen, & Betsy Rogers.  Perfect we had 8 starters, with me included.  Rusty was nursing achy knees, Matt twisted his ankle during White River 50 mile the weekend prior, and Betsy was sore from White River, her 1st 50 mile run.  Their plan was to just run the 1st and possible the 2nd loop depending on how they felt.  Matt had to drop out of White River last weekend due to an ankle sprain, this run was a perfect mental boost in his training plan for Cascade Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run, his 1st 100 mile run on 8/27/2011. I was pleased he stayed with us for the 1st 2 loops, a total of 20 miles.  Rusty ran the 1st loop, close to 13 miles, then stayed back and waited for his wife to finish.  Betsy ran the 1st loop and decided it was much better to sun bathe and drink beer (Lush) while the rest of us continued.

We returned after our 2nd loop around 2pm and my good friend Eric Barnes joined us for the 3rd and final loop.  I 1st met Eric in Boston while riding the bus taking us to Hopkinton Massachusetts for the start of the 2004 Boston Marathon.  Since that date we have ran numerous races together, the most memorable was the 2008 Canadian Death Race.  He's the one that taught me how to pace myself in ultras.  One of the hardest things for a marathon runner to do when entering their 1st long race is "slow" down.  My 1st 50 mile race and 1st 100 mile race were both a disaster due to this problem.  He paced me the 1st 30-40 miles of the Canadian Death Race, we were going so slow I thought I was going to lose it.  After all the reason for running a race is to get to the finish line as fast as possible, right!  That works fine when you are running 26 miles on the road for a mere 3 -4 hours, but when you add another 74 miles and 18 hours the dynamics change.  It is all about preserving so you can still run late in the race without feeling like you'de rather have a backhoe run you over and cover you up.  You want to still feel alive at the end of a long race.  It sucks to do a death walk for miles and miles, it's much better to run!

Our journey started off running around the north end of the Heart Lake Trails, then south next to Heart Lake, crossing the Heart Lake Road to run a STEEP hill up the side of Sugarloaf Mountain between the saddle of Sugarloaf and Mount Erie, then to Whistle Lake.  By the time we arrived at Whistle Lake the fog had lifted and everyone in the group was warmed up and having a great time.  I asked the group if they wanted to jump in for a quick swim, it was just too cold.  We continued around the lake to the south side of Mount Erie, to the Campbell Lake Overlook, and then across Heart Lake Road to the far south end of Heart Lake Trail to Lake Erie Overlook.  This loop ended back at our cars in the Heart Lake Parking Lot. 

We paused, ate, drank fluids, and replenished our stores for the shortest and hardest loop in the 50k, up and over Sugar Cube, around the north end of Whistle Lake, up to Sharpes Corner Overlook, to Whistle Lake Parking area, back up a couple of tough hills, and return to our cars.  This loop is really tough, the uphill climbs, and downhill descends are either straight up or straight down.  This section is where we find out who the REAL trail runners are!

Of course we save the best loop for last!  We take off from Heart lake again and traverse the northwest Heart Lake Trails, cross “A” ave to the Cranberry Lake Trail system.  This trail system is fairly small with very nice hills that never seem too long, the descends are just the right grade to get your wind back.  Our loop around Cranberry Lake takes us around the outside perimeter trail system, so we run all the toughest trails.  We finished back at Heart Lake with a makeshift barbeque, fruits, an assortment of salads, a smorgasbord of fine tailgate food and fun.

The trails are very well groomed thanks to all the hikers and mountain bikers that recreate this area daily, the City of Anacortes maintaining trails, Ranger Dave maintaining trails and organizing trail work parties, Friends of the Forest dedication to maintaining open spaces, and trail workers constant upkeep of the trails. Thanks to all this hard work and dedication we are able to play year around on excellent single track and double track trails. 

If you are interested in running with us, my running group Skagit Runners, holds a run every Thursday night at 6pm.  We meet at Heart lake Parking Lot.  When Fall arrives we don headlights and continue our weekly runs, light or dark we are running!

Finish time 9:06:05

Here are a few links for maps in the ACFL;
Heart Lake
Whistle Lake
Cranberry Lake

Thanks to everyone that joined us for part or all of 2nd Annual God's Country 50k, it was a BLAST!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

7/22/2011 Ragnar Relay "Northwest Passage"

As an ultra/marathon runner I look forward to participating in relays with friends.  I spend so much time training alone, running 100 mile events and marathons by myself to be able to participate in an event with friends and push myself for someone else’s benefit is fun and a nice change of pace.  Because the distance of my legs in the relay are so short, 3 - 8 miles I find myself racing each and every leg.  Man it's fun to run fast!  
Last year I was asked to fill a spot on a friend’s Ragnar team. My friend Lindsey duToit, organizer of “We’ve Got the Runs”, started this team as a Washington State University (Mount Vernon WA Extension Center) team. She had 5 people drop a few months prior to the race and was having a tough time finding runners to complete all 12 spots.  She called me and asked if I was willing to join the team.  I was reluctant at 1st because I had signed up to run an evening 5k with my wife in Seattle a few hours after I finished my last leg of the relay.  After thinking about it for about 5 minutes I decided, heck I can do it all, after all they are all short runs.  Run 4 runs in 24 hours piece of cake right!  Now came the task of finding enough friends to fill the other vacancies, I thought it would be tough, but I was wrong!  I called up 4 friends Kevin Douglas, Bryan Robertson, Shawn Bussert and Chip Kiel they all jumped at the chance to join our team. 

The race was a blast we finished in 4th place overall, pretty good for a team that was consisted of 1 sub 6 minute miler, quite a few 6:30 – 8:00 milers, and a few 10:00 – 11:00 milers.  We were a real mixed team not a team of ringers.  After the race was over last year everyone on the team told me they had a blast and wanted to do it again. 

So this is where the story begins:

This year all the WSU team members, except Lindsey, dropped off the team.  This left 4 spots open for more friends.  Filling these spots was so easy.  We filled 2 of the spots with members of our club and 2 friends from Bellingham.   The team consisted of the following members:

Stephanie Kiel – Team Captain, 2010 team member
Pablo Cabrera – 2010 team member
Jessie Hofheimer – 2010 team member
Benjamin Lengerich – New team member
Dave Buttrey – New team member
Lindsey duToit – 2010 team member
Kevin Douglas – 2010 team member
Shawn Bussert – 2010 team member
Terry Sentinella– 2010 team member
Bryan Robertson – 2010 team member
Heather Anderson – New team member
Chris Wright – New team member
Chip Kiel ­– 2010 team member

Going into the relay we assumed our team would be slower than last year since we lost Andrew Lawson.  He ran our longest legs in 2010 and put down 5:30 miles.  His performance was amazing.  We also lost a few of the slower people on our team.  All of our new team member’s times were estimated between 7:15 -8:15.  The whole team now consisted of runners who promised to run times between 6:15 to 8:15 miles.  Our team was a bunch of friends competing against other team members times, competing against others on the road, running their best to help the team finish with the best time possible, and of course taking down as much ROAD KILL as possible (about 220 road kills were had).

Our team started at 2pm in Blaine Washington at the Canadian Border.  Our 1st van had a little bit of a problem for some reason they decided to go across the border instead of straight to Blaine, ahmm without passports, this could have ruined our race if the Border Cops decided to detain them.  I heard they questioned Pablo about his American citizenship. Luckily they let our van of misfits back into the U.S. thanks to the beautifully decorated van.  I was kind of surprised they didn’t question Kevin.  He was still sporting a Pink Mohawk from Badwater (was red but Badwater faded it to a hot pink color, NICE!).  I also heard the Tribal cops pulled over van 1 on the Swinomish Reservation for speeding in the middle of the night.  Once again this van of misfits talked their way out of it.  I think maybe they need a new driver next year?

The 1st 6 legs of the race was ran by the 6 members in our 1st van.  They came in 30 minutes ahead of time. I guess none of these 6 people knew the kind of speed they were capable of.  Basically the remainder of the race went the same way.  Every van dropped our estimated time down by 20 – 30 minutes, with a finish time 2:20 faster than we had predicted.  The whole team was pushing as hard as they possibly could.  I don’t think anyone ran their leg slower than their predicted time.  It doesn’t get better than that.

I was in the 2nd van.  Our van had a lot of fun pushing, prodding and teasing.  Nothing like building team spirit by reinforcement either negative or positive, whatever works, right!  Since we were the last van we were given the opportunity to finish the race in Langley WA at the south end of Whidbey Island.  Chip was our last runner; it is always a blast to watch him run.  Last year he danced across the finish line, this year I was waiting for some theatrical finish, but to no avail.  Watching him run up that last hill pushing as hard as he could with pure grit and determination on his face will be forever engrained in my mind.

Our team finished this year’s Ragnar Relay in 22:08, about 5 minutes faster than last year, and the course was 3 miles longer.  We placed 5th overall, Ok we lost 1 place over last year, still very good.  I was amazed we did so well since we lost our ringer.  Just shows what a bunch of good middle of the pack runners can do when working as a team.  I can’t wait to see wait we can do next year.