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Turkeys and Colder Temps

 

This past Thanksgiving was the 25th annual Detroit Turkey Trot in downtown Detroit.  The 10K race is billed as the largest in the state of Michigan.  All I know is that every year it seems like there are more and more people coming out Thanksgiving morning to make room for the huge meal later that day.  Running a race in Detroit is always fun because you get to the see the city on foot and take in all of the great architecture of the city.  Some newer, some old that have been updated, and sadly some that should be updated because you can simply tell how great a building looked when it was first built.  At the start area there was a large crowd and it took us about 2 minutes to cross the starting line.  Once we were off I realized that we may have started too far in the back of the pack.  Passing and dodging people became the game and the motivation to run a fast 10K.  I was looking to hopefully beat my personal best 10K time that I had obtained earlier in the year so I simply told myself to pass the next person that was in front of me.  This passing game proved to push me and helped me maintain a good pace throughout the entire race.  As I neared the finish line I knew that I was not going to obtain a new personal record but I was happy with my performance and time.  I think I may have slowed down between mile 4 and 5, but perhaps my body needed a break from passing people.  The colder temperatures may have been getting to me also which always seems to affect my breathing.  My final time was 47:50.  Overall my 10K’s this year have been faster than last year by an average of about 3 minutes so that definitely shows signs of improvement.

 

The colder temperatures have made my long runs a little more interesting.  When the temperature dips below 38 degrees I can feel my breathing changing and also the entire feeling of my body is different.  My first couple of long runs felt harder than normal due to the cold air and having to wear extra layers of clothes, but just like last year I feel myself slowly getting adjusted.  The plan of running smart in the cold is always a challenge for me because I am one that feels like I have let myself down if I do not complete the planned mileage for the day.  Snow, wind, and ice kept me from only running once last year but I am honestly not bragging.  Actually I admit that I do need become more mentally stronger to hit the treadmill or simply take an extra rest day if the conditions are a little to dangerous outside.  But on the other hand I will keep praying for a mild winter so all of us crazy people can continue to keep training hard through the winter.      

 

Last of all I want to wish all of the Team in Training runners that will be running the Honolulu Marathon in 11 days good luck.  You have all worked hard to get where you are and you will enjoy every mile of the event.  Well hopefully every mile.  Plus I want to say hello to all of the Spring Season Team in Training runners.  We have about 5 months of training ahead of us so remember to get those miles in and have fun! 

November 28, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fall Updates

 

Once again I have been falling behind on my blog.   My excuses?  Well to the jury I submit the excuses of school work, work in general, running too many miles, and time for Team in Training.  I know none of those excuses constitute the lack of postings but that is all I got!  Speaking of Team in Training, the Fall season information meetings went well and tonight is the official kickoff to the season.  This weekend will be the first official group training for everyone and I know it will bring back found memories of my first group training.  The fears of not being able to complete long runs, but also the strange sense of waking up on Saturdays mornings looking forward to the next challenge.  I am not sure where I exactly when off the deep end and fell face first into this running lifestyle but I am very thankful that I was led this way.  Perhaps it was that very first 5K?  I would not change one step.  Okay maybe a few of the ones that lead to wiping out on the trails, but as I have been told that is the gracefulness of a true trail runner. 

 

To update everyone things have been going well.  After the Detroit Marathon I took it easy for about a week and then I have been back on logging crazy miles, at least for me, in preparation for my planned future events.  As long as my training continues to go well I am planning on another 50K to close out 2007, a few marathons and 50K’s in 2008, and even my first 50 Miler in the fall of 2008.  Plus with all of the other smaller races, coaching responsibilities, and pacing/crewing for a 100 mile race, 2008 should be another exciting year.

 

Last Sunday I ran in the annual Big Bird 10K in Roseville, MI.  Due to staying out too late and having too much fun the night before the race I got a time of 47:36.  That time was 37 seconds slower than my last 10K.  But the good thing is that I know exactly what I did wrong by not following my own advice.  It is hard to run a good race when you are not properly rested and no matter how hard you fight to run hard, the body usually wins.                     

November 14, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Cancer Hits Home Again

 
This morning I received a call from one of my good friends Steve.  I could tell that something was wrong and I hung on every word as he talked.  After going through some normal conversation he spilled the bad news.  His Father In-Law has been diagnosed with Myeloma.  The good news is that he will be starting treatment next week and the doctors are giving him a positive outlook.  After hanging up the phone I was in a combination of sadness and shock.  Another person close to me has cancer?  Not again!  I simply pray that the outcome this time is much better than the last person we lost.  This new development has fueled my dedication to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society even more.  I want to thank everyone at the society, volunteers, and everyone that has supported the society.  All of your hard work has provided the support and the financial means to develop treatments for cancer like Steve’s Father-In Law will be undergoing.  Lets all continue to fight towards our goal of finding a cure!       

October 26, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Detroit Marathon 2007

 
The morning started off great.  After waking up I felt confident that today was going to be a good day.  Yes it is true that an actual person can look forward to running a marathon.  The temperature outside felt good and the wind was not as bad as it was from last years Detroit Marathon.  As this point in my running career any weather that is better than what we experienced in Chicago is perfect for me.  But this morning did feel a little different than other mornings before a big event.  I did not feel nervous or scared.  I was excited and calm at the same time.  The reason for this attitude was due to the fact that I knew I was not shooting for a certain time today.  My main goal of the day was to make sure my younger brother, Jonathan, completed his first marathon.  From the day that he told me he was going to sign up for the full marathon I felt a little “responsible” and wanted to make sure that everything went as well as it could for him.  He had trained hard, did the long runs, and did not sound too nervous when I talked to him last so I knew he would do well.  At the starting line area I ran into Jonathan and my Dad.  After the usual pre-race activities we headed to the start line and got nestled into our corral.  The plan was to start with the four hour pace group and see how Jonathan felt.  The last final minutes before the gun sounded felt like forever like they always do. 
 
Finally the gun sounded and we were off!  Well not exactly.  For anyone that has done a larger race you know that getting 15,000 people across a starting line is a not a fast affair.  We did however have the luxury of being in the 4th corral from the starting line so our walk to the actual start line was not that bad.  Our chip time was actually only about 1:30 off of the race clock.  As the miles moved on by we talked and I ran into various people that I knew that were running.  Even though this was my 3rd time running this marathon the course felt a little new since I only visit it on a yearly basis.  As we made our way over the Ambassador Bridge into Canada the sun was just beginning to rise over the buildings and it was a beautiful view.  We were still on pace and coasting along with the four hour pace group.  Coming down the bridge we began to speed up due to the natural down push and picked up our pace a little bit.  From then on we were at about an 8 – 8:30 minute pace.  The pace did not feel too hard for either of us, and I think were simply going with the wave of people.  Running through the Windsor Tunnel was very hot and muggy.  Reminders of the Chicago Marathon.  Thankfully the tunnel is only a little over a mile long so I welcomed the cold air as we exited out onto Jefferson Avenue, what I call the best part of the marathon.  By the way in case you were wondering we ran an 8:12 mile under water.  As usual the walls and streets were filed with people all cheering and welcoming us back to the USA.  It is really cool to see everyone there and welcoming all of the runners back.  As we continued on Jonathan was doing well and the miles continued to roll by.  At the half way point we had a time of 1:57:50 and that was great. 
 
Around mile 16 – 17 after getting onto Belle Isle the distance had began to set in and I could tell that we were slowing down.  No problem, the goal was to finish and we were still moving along at a good pace.  I stayed at the pace that Jonathan was running, trying to get ahead of him just a little at times to keep him honest and moving.  After water stations we took an extra minute to walk and stretch, and that helped.  I think he wanted to be done more than anything.  Around mile 24 I felt our pace began to speed up a little bit.  Must have been knowing that the finish line was not that far away. 
 
Around mile 25 Coach Ken was there to offer us an alternative liquid refreshment that is not usually served until after 12 Noon in Michigan.  To be honest that little shot of beer was the best tasting thing all morning after tons of Gatorade and Gels.  Plus I felt 100% better and we picked up our pace even more.  Instant buzz?  Who knows?  With about a half a mile left we really picked up our pace and it felt like we were just starting the race.  It is funny how the body finds energy it did not have a few miles back when it knows it is almost done.  As we turned the last couple of corners being cheered on, we saw the finish line and sprinted towards the end.  I really thought that Jonathan beat me but the cool thing is that we crossed at the exact same time!  We finished with a time of 4:13:50.  That is about an hour better than my first marathon time.  Jonathan did awesome!  He completed his first marathon and can now call himself a marathoner.  Plus I really enjoyed running my 7th marathon with my brother and being there all along the way.  As always thanks to everyone that has supported both of us along the way and thanks to the Lord above for watching out for us.  This will be one of my favorite marathons that I will always remember.  It could of not been more perfect than it was.                                  

October 26, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Chicago Marathon 2007

 
By now most of you have heard or read about on the unique Chicago Marathon this past weekend.  I want to first thank all of my friends and family that called, texted or e-mailed me to see if I was okay and how I was feeling.  I was over whelmed at the support and concerned calls that I received.  It is good to know that all of you are thinking about and watching out for me.  I could not have asked for a better group of family and friends.  I also want to send my prayers out to the family of Chad Schieber who died during the Chicago marathon, and also all of the runners that are still recovering from heat related illness.    
 
The train ride to Chicago was a fun experience.  It seemed long towards the end of the trip but it was nice to be able to walk around the train cars and have nice big seats to stretch in.  If you have never traveled anywhere by train you need to try it out.   Once we arrived in Chicago we were able to check into our rooms early and then headed over to the expo.  After walking through the expo, getting our numbers and race stuff it was back to the hotel for the pasta party.  The expo by the way was huge but I felt like it was missing all of the unique and cool vendors you usually see at a race expo.  I am not sure if I was caught up in the race excitement or I was concerned more about the heat advisory that was issued by the race officials.  The weather report was predicting temperatures in the 80’s at the start and 90’s by noon on race day.  This was really starting to concern me because I knew my body never does well in high heat running more than 10 miles.  But I did my best to stay positive and not worry about it.  The Team in Training Pasta Party was a really run time.  As always it had its comical and inspirational moments.  At the end of the party you left remembering the real reason why all of us that are involved with Team in Training do what we do for our cause.  After the pasta party it was back to the room to do my last minute preparations of my race gear and get some needed sleep.     
 
Race morning I was up and going at 4AM.  After meeting the entire Michigan team we walked down to the starting area together for the Chicago Marathon.   At the start area it already felt hot and humid.   I did me best to not think about the heat and stay focused on my race plan.  The plan was to start with the 3 hour and 55 minute pace group so that I could get my goal of under 4 hours for the marathon.  As the start time approached I made my way into the start corrals and I was able to get in and start the race with my desired pace group.   After waiting for what seemed like forever the gun sounded and the race had begun.  I was prepared that since this was the largest race I had ran that it would take a little while to actually cross the starting line.  After 5 minutes of walking our group crossed the start line and I was off and running.  The crowd support on the course was amazing!  People were lined up everywhere cheering and supporting us.  It felt like the entire city was out there. 
 
A little after mile 2 I was keeping up with the 3:55 pace group but I was already dripping in sweat and the heat felt terrible.  I started to become very concerned that this was not going to be a good day.  Around mile 6 I was still on pace but I become even more concerned as I could see the heat taking its toll on one of our pace group leaders.  She was telling me that this was the worst she has even felt running a marathon.  If an elite runner like her is feeling like death then how long could I last?  In the next mile or so she said goodbye and dropped out of the race.  She said she felt light headed and was going to call her husband to come pick her up.  After mile 10 I was feeling like I had already ran a marathon and my pace dramatically slowed down.  The heat was unbearable and one of the banks that I ran past showed 90 degrees as the temperature.  It is not suppose to be 90 degrees in October!  That is why marathons are held in October!  So I proceeded to go into survival mode.  Taking multiple cups of fluids at the aid stations and walking when ever I felt dizzy or very weak.  Call it determination or stubbornness, but I wanted to finish this marathon.  I continued on and started to see most of the other runners taking the same course of action that I was. The heat was affecting all of us and unlike the 10,000 people that never even showed up to run the marathon, we were now at the mercy of the road and the sun.
 
Around mile 14 the news started to come in.  Aid stations were running out of fluids and runners were going down everywhere.   I would hear or see an ambulance about every 5 minutes and that was scary.  Usually you hear a few ambulances at big races towards the end, but not every 5 minutes.  I was constantly wondering if I would be the next one to pass out.   I was able to control the dizziness by walking, but as I look back that was probably not the best course of action because one bad dizzy spell could put me into an ambulance.  A little after mile 16 the police officers and fire fighters, (thanks for helping us crazy runners out), were demanding that we walk and stated the race was over.  The race directors had closed the event and we would have to walk the rest of the way back to the finish line.  Later that day on the news, I discovered that around mile 13 they rerouted the course to a shorted route and even provided buses for the runners.  For once in my life going too far of a distance was a bad thing.  Thus began the slow trot back to the finish line.  It looked like Night of the Living Dead as thousands of runners walked their tired bodies 10 miles through the streets of Chicago.  The temperature was over 90 degrees at this point and all of us did all we could to continue moving on.  Occasionally a crazy runner would still run by and would be yelled at by one of the police officers.  At this point all of the aid stations that we encountered were out of their initial supply of fluids.  But determined aid station volunteers worked hard to get what remaining fluids they could out of water jugs or give us cups that we could use at an open fire hydrant.  Lots of fire hydrants along the route had been opened up so we could get cooled off walking through the water.  One of the bright spots that I remember about the marathon was the crowd and citizen support.  During that painful 10 mile walk the spectators would still cheer us on and you could tell they wanted to help all of us out.  The local citizens and store owners even gave us water bottles, ice, or even had their hoses out for us.  It was great to see everyone trying to help us insane athletes in the heat.
 
As the miles went by very slowly, I finally saw the 25 mile marker and I was determined to get off the course and end this nightmare.  I ran as hard as I could the last 1.2 miles and completed my 6th marathon.  It was definitely my slowest and not a marathon that I want to remember, but I survived and was able to cross the finish line.  Even though they closed the event we all sill received medals.  Through heat exhaustion, 90 plus degree temperatures, and grace of the Lord above, I did not end up in an ambulance.  I am very thankful for that and I know that this nightmare marathon, as I have labeled it, in some small way has made me stronger mentally and physically. 
 
Some unique and sad facts that I wanted to share about the Chicago marathon.  There were originally about 45,000 people registered to run the event.  10,000 “smart” people never even began the event, 10,000 people that started the event never finished the event, about 300 people were rushed to area hospitals due to the heat, and one person lost their life during the event.  So out of 45,000 registered runners only about 24,699 crossed the finish line.  I hope that we never see these kinds of numbers again during a marathon.                    

October 11, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Detroit Zoo Run

 

On Sunday September 16th was the annual Detroit Zoo Run.  The temperatures here in Michigan have gone to instant Fall like temperatures, so the start of the race was in the mid 40’s.  I had planned on running this event with Elizabeth as long as I could, then let her go off and not slow here down since I had ran 18 miles the day before.  We started at a quick pace with the first mile being about 7:30 minutes per mile.  I felt pretty good and we continued on.  A little after the 3 mile mark I think we were both feeling tired because there were several instances where we told each other to go ahead and take off.  Neither one of us wanted to back down I guess, and we continued to race each other.  Mentally I was thinking to pick off the next person, and then the next person so that kept me focused at a fast pace.  I know if she would of went faster and took off I would of became lazy and slowed down my pace.  With about half a mile left to go Elizabeth started to speed up and get ahead.  I tired to keep up but I felt like I had nothing left in the tank.  No kick for me at the end?  With a tenth of a mile to go I felt some energy come out of no where and I began sprinting towards the finish line.  I did have some kick left!  I felt like I was flying, passed Elizabeth, about 7 other people and then crossed the finish line.  I ended up with my best 10K time yet, another personal record of 46:59.  That is an overall pace of 7:33 per mile.  Thanks for pushing me and keeping me honest during the race Elizabeth.     

September 17, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Dances with Dirt 50K Ultra Marathon

 

This post starts the evening of Friday September 7th as I was preparing for my first 50K event.  After tons of research about the event and numerous exchanges of e-mails I had created my list of all the items I should pack for Saturday morning.  Besides the normal gym bag packed to the brim with stuff that I may not even use, I have learned the hard way it is better to be prepared than not have something, I also packed a drop bag that would be waiting for me at mile 19 of the event.  I was very grateful that for this event they setup our drop bag location immediately after our mud and river crossings.  The drop bag was also filled with everything that I may need and hopefully not have to use besides shoes, socks, and a new running shirt to change into.  After waking up at 3AM on Saturday morning I met the crew and we headed off to Hell, MI for Dances with Dirt.  Upon arrival at the park the misquotes were already out in full force at 5AM, I guess they got up early also to feast on the runners, but one cool thing was that since it was still dark the sky was full or stars.  Reminds you of the things you miss when you live in the city.  After applying several coats of bug spray, getting ready for the race, and the typical bathroom stops we were lining up to start the event. 

 

With flashlights in hand, since it was still dark, about 250 runners took off for the trails with some of us on our way to become first time ultra marathoners.  The pace was slow to start as everyone crowded onto the trails but you could tell that everyone was having a good time.  Right away we began giving funny names to roots and plants that tried to trip us up.  For example trippies, snarkys, shoe grabbers, and “that one can take off an ankle”.  At times you would feel your leg or ankle get cut up but the pain would be ignored as you continued on.  I will admit at the end that my left ankle was bruised up and my right calf looked like I lost a fight with a cat but it is all apart of the experience.  As we made our way along the route ribbons were placed to guide us along and even “Wrong way moron” signs were hung at places where you may have made a wrong turn to keep you on track.  If I recall we only went off course twice but for no more than about a quarter of mile.  It was actually not that bad to stay on the course.  All you had to do was remember to look for ribbons on the trees to make sure you were going the right way.  There were aid stations about every 4 to 6 miles where volunteers filled your water bottles, offered peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, plus took down your number to make sure you were staying on course.  Our little band took a few minutes at each aid station to get refreshed and then continued on.  We were treating this race as an adventure, not as an actual race.  Us rookies only wanted to survive and did not worry about placing.  I had been warned many times about something called a dirt ladder on the course leg titled “Stripper Pole” and I was not really sure what to expect, but we were finally to it.  I have to say a dirt ladder is the best description for this obstacle.  This part of the course required you to bear crawl straight up for about 200 feet.  If you did not use your hands to pull yourself up you would slide right back down.  Once we were at the top I was grateful to get that part over with. 

 

The next challenging leg would be “Styx, the River of Death.”  In Greek mythology, "the River Styx" is a river which formed the boundary between Earth and the Underworld, I hope that it would not be that bad.  As we slid down the shore into the river we experienced that the river was more mud than water.  Every step you prayed that your shoe would not be sucked into the mud.  Hence the reason that I re-tied my shoes before the next mud/river crossing.  After four times of this madness our shoes and ankles were covered in mud but we knew we would encounter the river one more time before our drop bag location at mile 19.  The last encounter with the river was much more pleasant.  The water was clear and cool, so it actually felt good on the legs.  But the pleasantries were made challenging by the fact that the water was waist high and we had wade up stream.  After a quarter mile of navigating the water we had escaped the water and were at our drop bags.  Dry socks, dry shoes and a dry shirt never felt so good!  After refilling our water bottles and gel packs we were off for the last 12 miles of the event. 

 

As the miles rolled on, 20 miles, 26 miles, I did not feel like I normally do after running those distances on road surfaces.  I guess trails are easier on the body.  I will admit that my legs were getting weak and the sense of balance was not as strong as it was earlier in the day.  Stepping over a simple root or rock became more challenging as the day went on.  We pushed on and crossed the finish line and became Ultra Marathoners.  For the 31 mile event I finished with a time of 6 hours and 52 minutes.  I had planned on finishing between 6 and 7 hours so I was happy with my time.  I was even happier that I had survived the adventure and was still standing upright.  Crossing the finish line and no trip in the ambulance is always a good day in my book. 

 

As I think back about the event I will admit that I am looking forward to the next 50K and have fully crossed over to the dark side of running.  After saying in February of 2007 that I would never run more than 26 miles I have definitely crossed into running territory that I never imagined I would be at.  When I first started running with a simple 5K in 2004, I am very shocked and grateful that I have come this far and look forward to what lies ahead on the next turn.  I have to give a special thanks to Jeff for introducing me to trail running, and all of his positive peer pressure and support.  I hope he knows that he is building a small army of trail runners.  Also thanks to Julie and Dave for taking the journey with me on Saturday September 8th.  The day that the three of us became Ultra Marathoners.                 

September 13, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nike Hood to Coast 2007

 

Warning, this is a very long post as I wanted to capture and share as much as possible about this great event.

 

Well I have been planning and talking about it for over 8 months and the time has finally arrived.  I was on a plane bound for Portland, Oregon to run in the Nike Hood to Coast relay.  On the plane I was actually very calm and felt confident that all of the planning our team had done would pay off.  It was hard to believe that when we sent in our entry to the lottery of teams in October of 2006 it has taken us all the way to this point of being able to participate in this event.   For those of you that are not familiar with the Nike Hood to Coast Relay let me give you some background information.  The relay consist of a team of 12 people, split into two separate mini vans, running a total of 197 miles across the state of Oregon.  Your team starts at the base of Mt. Hood at about 6000 feet above sea level and finishes at the Pacific Ocean in Seaside, Oregon.  Teams start anywhere between 8AM – 5PM on Friday and finish on Saturday.  This year was the 26th year this event has been ran and the organization of the event was amazing.  By simply reviewing the rules, and maps you could tell the race organizers knew what they were doing.  So back to the story.  After landing in Portland on Wednesday the plan for the day was to pickup our teams rental vans, and make sure that everyone made it into town.  As we all know delays and weather issues tamper with airline flights, so after 4 trips to the airport that day everyone was in town and at our rental house.  I have to take this moment to thank our team mate Bill and his generous friend for letting our team use the rental house for two days.  It saved everyone a lot of money and gave us a home in Oregon. 

 

Thursday was planned as our team’s preparation day.   Shopping for supplies, a short run, and taking all excess luggage that would not be needed during the race to the hotel at Seaside.  All team members that were present went for a team breakfast, and then a few of us went off for a run.  The five of us that went thought we were only going for a run but Bill, being the great host that he was, surprised all of us by taking us to the Nike World Headquarters for our run.  The place was amazing!  You could tell that Nike really caters to their employees.  After our run Bill had arranged for one of his friends that works there to take us for a tour.  We imagined that it would be a short tour, but it turned into over an hour tour of the entire campus.  There were many times during the tour that we all wished we could work for Nike.  The entire campus has two full sized gyms, a 2.2 mile running path, running track, baseball fields, soccer fields, and Olympic size swimming pools.  I know that I am missing a few things but that is what you call employee perks.  Every building is themed after a sports start like Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, and Steve Prefontaine to name a few.  Each building also has memorabilia from the sports star it was names after.  A short run turned into a good trip for a sports lover.  The rest of the day Thursday we split up as some of us drove the teams excess luggage to Seaside and the rest went shopping for supplies. 

 

Friday morning I woke up before my alarm like I typically do for big event mornings and was still in awe about what we were all going to be doing for the next two days.  Our teams start time was set for 10:30 on Friday morning.  After everyone was ready and the vans were loaded up we headed up to Mt. Hood.  The scenery was beautiful.  After arriving at the Mt. Hood start area we obtained our race packets and went to watch our first runner start.  They start 20 teams at a time every 10 minutes to limit course congestions, and introduce each team before you start.  The race announcer botched announcing our team by saying Minnesota instead of Michigan, but with 12 people yelling at him he quickly corrected himself.  There were teams there from 49 states and countries from all over the world.  The race was limited to 1000 teams and in a matter of minutes we would be one of the teams making the trek down the mountain to the Pacific Ocean.  The gun went off and our first runner was running down the mountain.  Everyone from Van #1 headed down to offer the first runner assistance and head to the first exchange point.  With Van #1 being active this meant that Van #2 was down.  All of us in Van #2 had about 4 – 5 hours until we had to meet Van #1 to get the timing clipboard from them and send off runner #7.  We began decorating our van since all of the vans were decorated in some fun fashion or another.  Seeing tons of vans decorated differently added a lot of humor to the event.  As we were decorating we ran out of paint so we knew we could but some more at our first van exchange point.  We then headed down the mountain and stopped at the first restaurant that looked safe to get a meal, since we knew real meals would be few and far between in the next 29 hours.  After eating we headed to the Fred Meyer store that was near the first van exchange point.  The Fred Meyer parking lot was one big party.  The parking lot was full of vans waiting for their runners, people were decorating their vans and having a good time.  After getting more paint and supplies for our van our decorations looked more professional and we all felt like our van fitted in a little bit better. 

 

The time had finally arrived and our vans first runner was soon going to be handed the bracelet and our van would then be active.  At the exchange point we met up with our teammates in Van #1 and then watched our runner #7 take off.  Thus began the “hurry up lets go” mode for our van.  Since our entire van was all rookies to the Hood to Coast relay we were learning quickly what we needed to do to be successful.  After stopping for our runner to provide water we then headed off to the next exchange point and began a pattern that became second nature after a few exchanges.  Arrive at the exchange – Someone keeping time – Check – Everyone out of the van – Next runner ready? – Does the next runner need anything? – Off to the exchange – Watch the exchange – Is the runner that just finished okay? – Check – Give the runner a few minutes to change – Everyone in the van and off to the next exchange.  It sounds crazy but after awhile it was not that big of a deal.  As I look back I do not recall anyone taking headcount or getting left behind  Perhaps our great van drivers were taking attendance and we never knew it.  Even latter on in the wee hours of Saturday morning for some reason you knew you should try to sleep but at each exchange you wanted to get out of the van and see the next runner off.  I remember stopping at one of the exchanges after running my second leg.  Everyone got out of the van and I was going to stay in the van and try to sleep.  Well that lasted about three minutes as I pulled myself out of the van and headed over to the exchange point.  It was like you did not want to miss a single minute of what was going on even though you knew you needed to sleep.  My first leg was about 7 miles of generally flat streets, and old rail trail that was a mixture of asphalt and gravel.  I ran this leg hard and averaged a pace of about 7:40 per mile.  It started around 5:30PM on Friday.  On my leg I passed five people right in the beginning and a funny thing is that I passed the same five people on my remaining legs also.  I guess that means our team was keeping a good pace with those five other teams.   

 

After our vans first set of legs we met Van #1 at the van exchange point and then treated our van to a real meal at a Red Robin.  Real food tastes so good when you have been livening on Power Bars, Gels and Bananas.  After eating we headed over to our next van exchange point and figured we had about four hours to rest and try to get clean before our van was back in action.  There was a camp ground setup where we could park, get some snacks and sleep if we wanted to.  I was planning on leaving this part out but I have to include it due to the pure comedy in the subject.  At most events you dread going to use a porta-john due the lines, smell and the pure grossness in general.  Well at the Nike Hood to Coast Relay my hat goes off to the company that manages the port-johns that were used.  The company was called Honey Bucket, the name is a joke in itself.  At each exchange there were plenty of Honey Buckets and you never waited in line more than five minutes.  Plus there were the cleanest port-johns that I have ever seen and even smelled like bubble gum.  Rumor has it that they have plenty of maintenance trucks servicing them thought the event.  I know a few of you may be thinking that I may have been losing it at the time due to the lack of sleep but please ask anyone that was there.  So anyways the reason I told you about the Honey Buckets was to tell you this part of the story.  We were at the camp ground, some people were sleeping, others were talking, and I simply wanted to feel a little clean.  So I took a flashlight, some baby wipes, and a change of clothes and headed for an open Honey Bucket.  Now I know that this cleaning ritual that would soon be performed by a majority of my team mates is not anything close to a real shower, but after you stepped out you felt like a million bucks.  I made sure to brag to everyone in my van how good it felt and that they needed to try it.  I guess new cleaning methods are in order when you do not have access to a shower.  Well as quickly as we thought we has lots of time to rest we were now down to about an hour before our van was active and our first runner was off for our second set of legs.  Knowing that sleep would not be an option I took advantage of a cold caffeinated beverage that was being sold at the campground and made sure to buy some for my teammates.  The caffeinated beverage drinkers were quickly kicked out of the van because we were keeping some people awake.  Once again the things you do to stay awake shown through.

 

Our van’s second set of legs were all going to be dark legs which meant that headlamps and reflective vests were mandatory.  Plus we knew a few of these legs would be some of the hardest that our team would face.  But I am very proud to say that no one was freaking out or overly nervous about what may lie ahead for them.  Our vans first runner started her leg after 1:00AM on Saturday morning and our van was back in action.  The legs were very dark except for the light from the vans, and most of them were very dusty.  It was kind or surreal to see in the distance lots of little lights from the headlamps making their way down the road.  Even identifying your own team’s runner when they were on the opposite side of the road was difficult due to the darkness that us city dwellers were not use to.  My second leg started around 3:30AM on Saturday morning.  It was a flat leg of 5 miles over some rough dirt roads. I actually felt bad because everyone else’s legs were very hilly compared to my leg for this set of legs.  Right when I started I realized that seeing more then 5 feet in front of you was a struggle unless vans were passing you on your right hand side.  So I decided to simply run as hard as I could and prayed that I would not fall on my face.  At one point during the leg I looked to my left into the woods and all I was a bunch or glowing eyes looking back at me!  Perhaps that is the real reason I ran fast on this leg.  Even though the leg was very dusty, had a rough surface, and very dark I have to admit that it was my favorite leg of the three that I ran for the event.  There was something very surreal about running hard, having no idea where you were, and not being able to see that far ahead of you that made it very fun.  I finished that leg with about a 7:20 per mile pace.

 

After we met up with Van #1 our van was down again and it was off to another camp ground that was setup for us near our next exchange point.  It was daylight now so I knew there was still no way that I would be able to sleep.  I think I averaged a little over an hour sleeping in the van while we were driving but it was not solid sleep.  At the camp ground it was discovered that our team has made a rookie mistake or I was the victim of a prankster in our van.  We had only bought white garbage bags for our van.  Everyone had their own bag which was for dirty clothes and there was suppose to be one bag for only garbage.  Well come to find out someone has been using my dirty clothes bag for garbage also.  It turned out to not be that bad as there had only stuck a couple of empty water bottles and some used baby wipes in the bag.  Trying to find the correct white bag in the dark would not be easy for anyone.  Oh, that is what the flashlights are for!  So at the last down time for our van some of us slept, obtained some food they were selling in an effort to get some real food in us, and everyone attempted to get clean again.   

 

The time had quickly come once again and soon our van was going to be back in action for our last set of legs.  Congestion of vans on the course had now really began to stack up since we were getting closer to the finish at Seaside, Oregon.  Plus the faster teams were now catching up to the rest of us and some teams were slowing down.  This congestion meant that we had to now have the next runner and whoever was keeping time in our van, jump out of the van early and walk about a mile to the next exchange point so that our runner would not beat us there.  We saw earlier in the race how frustrating it was for a few runners that beat their vans to the exchange point and had to wait for them to arrive.  We did not want that happening to anyone on our team.  After all that we went through, each team member in our van approached their final leg determined to do well and even ran it as hard as they could.  It was great to see the team give all they had left on their last legs for the event.  The time has come and we were driving to my last exchange point where I would begin my last leg of the event.  The leg was about 8 miles, hilly, I had been lucky enough to not experience any hills yet, and the temperature was quickly rising so I knew this would be my hardest leg of the event.  As the vans began to back up we jumped out and walked to the exchange point.  As I began to run my last leg which started around 12 noon on Saturday, I once again passed the same five people that I had passed on my previous legs.  After a first couple fast miles and the heat affecting me, my pace drastically slowed down.  I pushed as hard as I could and was very grateful to have my water bottle refilled by another team that was waiting for their runner around the 5 mile mark.  I finished the leg with about an 8:30 per mile pace.  Much slower than my previous two legs. 

 

After watching our last runner take off for the team’s final leg we headed to Seaside to meet up with Van #1 at the finish line.  The finish area was one big party.  Lots of vendors, and teams waiting for their last runner to show up.  The finish area was very organized and an announcer would announce your teams name when you runner was getting close. Then the entire team would line up in a finish chute, wait for your last runner, and the whole team would finish together as a team across the finish line.  It was a very cool way to finish the event.  After we crossed the finish line we all received our medals and a team photo was taken.  Our team’s final time was 30:09:18 with an average team per mile pace of 9:11 for 197 miles across the state or Oregon.  Overall I have to say that the event was an awesome adventure and organized very well.  The race organizers did a fantastic job and the there were tons of very helpful volunteers on the course.  From keeping traffic and runners safe at exchange points to telling runners where to turn at 3 AM, we are all very grateful for the course volunteers.  Before closing I want to first thank the Lord above for keeping all of us safe and injury free.  Next I want to thank my entire team for making the event one of the most memorable events that I have done.  Thank you Jamme, Mary, Trisha, Pam, Bill, Kelly, Sally, Brent, Mike, Evie, and Angie.  All of us pulled together and made a really fun team.  Of course I can not forget our van drivers Jen and Lynette.  Theses ladies had to put up with 12 smelly, cranky, and at times acting like school children runners for over 30 hours in two separate mini vans.  Even though they never ran, more than a mile, they were both vital team members that helped us all be successful.  Thanks again to everyone and hopefully we can all run through Oregon again next year.                           

September 5, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Pontiac Lake Trails

 
This last Saturday I took a short retreat from the usual training runs at Stony Creek and headed over to Pontiac Lake Recreation Area to run some trails with the RUT group.  RUT = RunningFit Ultramarathon Team.  I was warned in advance that the trails out there were tough and even saw online that they are were ranked one of the toughest in the country.  On the drive there that morning one my friends called and asked if he would be “passing” me at the Hell Michigan Run that morning, another well know tough course.  Yes there is actually a town in Michigan called Hell.  I told him that I had totally forgotten about that race and informed him that I would be running the Pontiac Lake Trails for the first time.  He first thought I was joking and told me that I usually train at Stony on Saturday mornings so I must be lost.  After some joking around he knew I was serious and began to warn me about the trails.  Fellow runners like to scare each other when one of them is going to run on new territory but I knew he was serious when he repeated several time to seriously be careful and that the trails I was about to run on were even harder than the Hell Michigan Run.  After arriving at the park we all headed out single file because the trails were narrow.  My friend Jeff led us out and at his usually quick pace.  The pace was fast but not to fast.  I quickly discovered that my friend was not making any of this up.  The trails were rough.  Lots of steep ups and down.  Big roots and large rocks even on the downhill’s that you had to watch your footing on.  I learned that when running on these trails that if you let the great views distract you for too long you could fall on your face.  For the entire run I almost wiped out about 5 times and was thankful that my past football stay on your feel training was being used.  This was a run where you had to pay attention!  All of the other runners that were with us assured me that I was not really that clumsy and they also had their moments.  We ran single file for most of the 10 mile loop which I liked because you wanted to keep up with the person in front of you but not be passed by the person that was behind you.  Jeff turned out to be a good run leader and acted as the tour guide as he warned me about the corkscrew sections of the trail and the last set of hills called puke hill.  Once you get to the top of the hill and are trying to catch your breath you realize that it was named appropriately.  Overall it was a good training run and I hope that I am able to make it out there at least once a month.              
 

August 13, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Steelhead and Craig Greenfield

 
When I woke up on the morning of August 3rd I think I had finally realized what I had done to myself by setting up to complete two events in the same weekend.  One of them being on the other side of the state no less.  Oh well there was no turning back now.  I packed up my stuff and headed out to Benton Harbor to check in at the event, and also the hotel.  After arriving for check in at the event I was first disappointed at the expo they had setup.  This being a larger event I was expecting some cool vendors with funny shirts or gear, but there were none to be found.  After picking up my race packet and getting body marked I headed over to the transition area to check in the bike.  I was amazed at the size of the transition area and also impressed at the way it was setup.  It did not look too crowed or congested like some other events I have been to.  They had all of us 70.3 relay team members racked on the far side of the transition area together in one general area.  After leaving the race site and checking into the hotel I talked to my other team mates and found out they were on there way out and should arrive later that night.  Event morning August 4th, we were all up and going around 4:00AM, ate breakfast and headed to the race site.  After we arrived at the race site and setup our transition area we headed down to the beach to watch our swimmer take off and then headed back to our transition area to “patiently” await for our swimmer to return.  Lake Michigan looked a little choppy that morning, the water was warm, but seeing the over one smile swim course laid out was very intimidating.  It took our swimmer a little over an hour to complete her leg and the chip was handed off to our biker.  Since I was doing the final running portion of 13.1 miles I still have to wait while our biker did the 56 mile course.  As the other relay bikers came in and we talked to them we discovered that our biker more than likely was stopped by a flat tire, but it was under control.  Meaning that she was fixing it.  After our biker returned I was off for my half marathon.  I felt great, passing people left and right, and was running under the 8 minute per mile planned pace.  Around mile 5 though I started to feel very weak and my pace began to slow down.  I was only 5 miles in so what could be wrong?  After mile 6 my brain entered the conversation and reminded me that I had not eaten a solid meal in over 7 hours!  Do’h!   I knew I was going to be the last leg of the relay but it totally slipped my mind that the usual pre-event meal around 5:00AM was not going to cut it.  I should have packed a lunch.  Lessons learned for next time.  So I continued to truck along and took advantage of the well stocked aid stations that had Power Bars and Bananas.  I treated the rest of the run as training for running weak and tired, or at least that is what I kept telling myself.  I finished my 13.1 mile leg with a terrible time of 2:14:15.  That time was even worst than my first half marathon I ever ran.  Overall it was another good learning experience of endurance.       
 
August 5th I woke up and knew that this crazy weekend was about half over.  After driving home from Benton Harbor last night it was now time to head out for the Craig Greenfield Duathlon.  Rain was predicted and the sky was overcast.  The temperature was not that bad and the humidity seemed low.  Yes you seem to turn into a weather man when weather conditions have a big bearing on how you may perform at an event.  After arriving at the event I picked up my packet and setup my transition area.  I talked with some of the other racers that I knew and we all headed down to the start area.  I was not sure how my body was going to respond after yesterday so the plan was to go out hard and see what happened.  I had the feeling that since I was drained from the previous day that I may not break my time from the previous year but finishing strong was important.  Once they started us off I felt good.  No pain, no soreness and I was running at a pretty fast pace for me of 6:27 per mile.  After finishing the first run of 2 miles I jumped on the bike and was off.  I was riding and pushing it as hard as I could.  A drizzle had started to fall but it was cooling things off and not affecting the bike course at all.  I have to say that I never really took any breaks on the bike potion and pushed it hard at the end.  After getting off the bike I started the final 4.5 mile run portion or the course.  After about one mile my body was on empty and the effects of not resting the day before were very noticeable.  I pushed on a finished with a time of 1:50:19.  That time was about 5 minutes slower than the previous year but I still got 2nd place in my age group.  Now I know for sure that if I want a good time I am not supposed to run a half marathon the day before an event.  Simply another weekend of putting the body on notice of the races that are soon to come.            
 

August 13, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment