Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Race Report: USATF National Club Cross Country Championships

Picture courtesy of Tetongirl Photography -- Thanks, Lisa!!

This past weekend I ran in the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships in Lexington, KY. It was an amazing experience that I can’t wait to tell you about, but first let me back up a bit. A few months ago, I got accepted to the Playmakers’ Elite/New Balance Women’s Masters Racing Team.  I was super-excited about this opportunity. I started running as an adult, so I had never had the experience of running with a team. I came onto the team at the end of the racing season. They had been participating in the USATF Masters Long Distance Club Grand Prix Series.  I was very happy to be on the team, but having never run cross country before I was also pretty nervous. Our fearless leader, Ruth, assured me that I would have a great time and that I would do fine – she was half right.

In our boxes at the start 
The Race:
First of all, you may be wondering why I was worried about running cross country when I am used to running trails. How different could it be, right? Let me tell you right now, it is totally different! In the trail marathons and ultras, I am used to cruising along the trails, conserving energy, walking when necessary and enjoying the scenery. Cross country is flying over the terrain, pedal to the metal. You actually have to be in very good shape for this type of running -- which I, of course, am not right now. The only part of my trail training that carried over was that I was never worried about the footing.

The course itself was fantastic and did not seem particularly difficult, from my inexperienced point of view (or at least it would not have been for someone who was actually in shape to run this type of race). It was almost all on grass, with just a bit of mud. The terrain rolled through most of it, with just a few hills, but nothing I would call killer (although they did kind of wear on me by the second time around the loop). I was glad I was not in the men’s race. They did three loops. Our race distance was 6k. They did 10k.

The course was pretty wet. It had rained the day before, and it was still raining on and off the morning of the race. Thankfully the rain held off for the women’s and men’s masters races, but the open races got pretty wet.  Because I had not run cross country before, I did not have spikes. I really wanted to wear my Pure Grits, which are my favorite trail shoe, but which are not that great in slick conditions. I made some homemade spikes with my Grits and some hex head screws. They ended up working perfectly. I did not slip at all.

Pure Grits for Cross Country

The start was crazy. We lined up in our boxes which were marked out on the ground in chalk. All of the masters women’s teams (40+, 50+, and 60+) were lined up together, 21 teams in all. Looking down the line was pretty impressive. We were starting on an uphill, with a right turn about 100 yds out, followed by a more or less level section. I was lined up at the front of one of our boxes, with my 50+ teammate Sue at the front of the box next to me. I knew that I was not in condition to go out too fast so was planning on holding back and running a sensible pace. The gun went off and the field took off like a huge wave. I was at the back of the pack quickly, in the last third of the runners, and the pace was still way, way too fast.  So much for the plan. 

After topping the hill and making the turn, I glanced down at my watch. It said 7:10 pace. “Shit!!” I wanted to be no faster than 7:50 in the first mile. I knew I was in trouble. I dialed it down a little and was promptly passed by several runners. We all had our ages pinned to our backs, so it was easy to know if the person passing was in our age group. I thought it would be nice to know, but it was actually quite annoying. Before the race had started, our coach, Jim, had said “Don’t get discouraged.” I actually smiled then as I thought of that. It was exactly the advice that was needed at that point.

Somewhere around the half mile I started to wheeze. I have a condition called vocal chord dysfunction that sometimes causes my vocal chords to close. I had not had problems with this in a race for almost ten years, but I felt the familiar "breathing through a straw" feeling. It was probably the combination of the severe cold I had had a few weeks ago, anxiety, the thick damp air,  the lack of conditioning, and the too fast pace that had brought it on. I was hoping that on the downhill that I would be able to relax, do the stupid little throat stretching thing that sometimes helps, and get rid of the wheeze.

I did get a short break in the wheezing, but as we started the rolling back part of the course, the wheezing returned. At this point, I was surrounded by several of my team members, and that really helped. I focused on the back of the person in front of me and just tried to hold pace. Somewhere on the first loop Ruth passed me. I tried to go with her, but just could not pick it up.  I had to settle with keeping her in sight. On the back side of the course for the second time the wheezing was really kicking in. The last mile of the race is just a blur of all kinds of hurt. They should have a new motto for cross country races “All the pain of a road 5k – plus!!”

I finished right behind Ruth, where I had been running for most of the latter half of the race. In case you don’t know Ruth, she is 68 years old --- and the new National Champion in the 65-69 age group! We also had two other National Champions on our team, Kari Chandler in the 60-64 age group and Sharon Dolan in the 70-74 age group. I, on the other hand, finished 21 out of 23 women in my age group. I think it was my lowest finish in a race ever. I definitely have lots of room for improvement!

The men’s race was absolutely incredible! Our Playmaker’s Masters men, as well as the men from the Mid Michigan Track Club did absolutely awesome!  I had never seen a men’s cross country race before. So much toughness and testosterone! The start actually gave me chills.

Speaking of testosterone, there was a men's team there from Atlanta with singlets that said "Team Testosterone" on the front and “No I am not on steroids, but thanks for asking” on the back. I thought it was hilarious (Okay, I admit I was a little oxygen deprived). I went over to take a picture of the back of the singlet, and one of the runners, Grant, asked me if I wanted to trade shirts. I could not give him my new Playmakers sweatshirt, so I ran back to my bag and dug out my Dances With Dirt Hell shirt. Unfortunately, it was a women’s medium, and let’s just say Grant was not. Still he was a good sport, and his wife probably has a new shirt by now. Interestingly Grant also mentioned that he has a running streak of 30 years. I looked him up on the United States Running Streak Association web site, and sure enough, there he was. He has run every day since 8/28/1982. Amazing!!

My new friend Grant looking very buff in his new DWD Hell shirt

I am embarrassed to say that I did not see either of the open races. It started to rain, and I was in that post race freezing thing that I go into all the time. I was huddled in the car trying to get warm. I am sure they were even more awesome for running in the rain!

I have to say that the team atmosphere was just as amazing as the race.  Everyone was so supportive and so friendly. We were all staying at the same hotel, and it was like a summer camp for adults. My abs are sore from all the laughing. I am sure the staff at Jalapeno’s restaurant in Lexington is still talking about those crazy women runners.

Probably the highlight of the trip for me was the music night.  We have some incredibly talented people on the team. Not only can they run, but they can make beautiful music as well. Chere Pepper is an amazing singer and songwriter, and she was joined by Carol Levack, Mike DuCharme, and Tom Halm for an impromptu concert in the lobby of the La Quinta on Saturday evening after the race. It was the perfect end to the day.

Rockin' the Lobby of the La Quinta 
 It was a wonderful trip with a wonderful group of people. I can’t wait to run more events with them. Only next time, I hope that I can have more good training under my belt.  

I was lucky to room with Lisa Soros, our team photographer. She put together a slide show of the trip and was nice enough to agree to share it here.  If you get time, be sure to visit her site: Tetongirl Photography.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Special Guest Race Report: Lansingman Turkey Trot 5k

Nick at Turkey Trot

I am very excited and pleased to bring you another guest race report. This one is for the Lansing Turkeyman Trot and was written by Nick, who is a 9 year old running friend of mine. 

He may only be 9, but he already has an impressive running resume. He runs with the club at his elementary school, and as a 1st grader he ran 75 miles in 6 weeks to join the 75 Mile Club. This year, as a 2nd grader, he did 100 miles in 6 weeks and joined the 100 Mile Club. He has run four 5k races, including two Lansingman Turkey Trots. His 5k PR is 22:36. He has competed in the Michigan Mile three times and has a mile PR of 6:20 (at 8 yrs old!).  He comes from a running family, as you can see from the pictures below. 

I ran a race called the Turkeyman Trot. I ran by myself. I lined up with my dad and big sister, Anna. But I knew I was faster than them so once we started I found people that looked about my pace to run behind.

My grandma and grandpa and my sister Lauren were all cheering for me.

Grandma and Grandpa cheering for Nick

Lauren cheered this year. She'll get 'em next year!!

At 2 miles I saw the clock and it said 16:28.  I was happy because I knew I only had one mile left.  I saw the finish line, but it seemed far away. I picked it up a little bit, but I was tired. As I got closer I got excited and ran even faster. I got the time that I wanted. My time was 23:57.  I found my grandma and grandpa and then my mom. Then we cheered for my dad and sister.

Dad and Anna heading for the finish

I like running and I hope you do too.

Nick, with his family of runners

Thanks, Nick, for sharing your race report with us!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Happy Birthday to a Great Running Partner

Kimball, Frannie, and Me in San Tim

I hope most of you will pardon this fairly personal post, but today is the birthday of the best running partner I have ever had.  His name is Kimball Hoff, and he was beside me on pretty much every run I did for several years. He was everything a great running partner should be patient, supportive, helpful, funny, dependable, inspirational, intelligent, disciplined, spontaneous, and faster than me. J  For years we ran together through sunshine and rain, trails and roads, slow easy days and barn burners down the canyon. We just had a lot of fun with our running.

I will never forget times running down San Timeteo Canyon singing old Gordon Lightfoot songs at the top of our lungs, often to the chagrin of any other runners in hearing distance. To be fair, that was not Kimball’s fault. He had a great voice; I do not. However, I make up in volume and enthusiasm what I lack in skill. Kimball never cared. He was a great friend.

At Tucson, with Kimball and
my other running friends

My years running with Kimball led to many PRs on my part. When I met Kimball, I was a 3:45 marathoner. After a few years of running with him, I ran a 3:24. He was not a coach, but the synergy of us running together helped me to reach heights that I never would have on my own. Kimball was also there to introduce me to trail running. It was his idea to enter the Winter Trail Running Series, way back in 2003, that eventually led to my desire to be an ultrarunner.  For both of those things, I am forever grateful.

Winter Trail Series 2003

Unfortunately (mostly through colossal stupidity on my part), Kimball and I are no longer running partners or even friends. That is one of the great regrets of my life. Still those golden times that we were running partners and friends (that I did not appreciate nearly as much as I should have at the time) will always remain precious to me. If you have a running partner, take a minute to really appreciate how much they add to your running and life. Let them know.

So, happy birthday, Kim! Thank you for all those ways that you made running better for me and so many other runners. I hope you are still running and running well. I miss you.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Taking Stock: My Year in Running

Well, my year of crazy running is coming to a close, and like most of the other runners I know I am creating my racing calendar for next year. In case you too are at this point, I want to invite you to take a look at my previous post on goal setting called “Running Goals." It may give you a few things to think about as you are developing your own goals for next year.

Before I jump ahead to set new goals, though, it is a useful idea to take stock of what occurred this year, what has been accomplished, what the pitfalls were, and to think of where I want the running to go from here. 

This past year was my year of experiences. I turned 50 and a key goal was just to make it a memorable year. I decided to do that by indulging my passion for trail running. I discussed these goals in an earlier post 2012: Boned, Bloodied, Burned, and Bruised.”  I set out to achieve the belt buckle for running the series of four 50ks, which I did achieve. Along the way, I ended up joining Marathon Maniacs, accruing 10 marathons or ultras for the year, and just generally having a really good time traveling to races, running long distances, appreciating nature, and (with the exception of the Leading Ladies Marathon) not worrying too much about my times. Even though I had some setbacks, such as the DNF at the Martian half marathon or the Disaster at Green Swamp, and a few minor injuries, such as the thing with the IT band and the discovery that I had weak glutes, those things were definitely overshadowed by the fun experiences I had, the people I met and became friends with (you know who you are), the things I learned, and the amazing places I got to visit.

This year was also a success in another way. Writing this blog has been more fun than I could ever have imagined. I have met some really great people because of this, and it has helped me to reach out to other runners more. Many of the new friends I have made this year have come through interactions stemming from the blog. The blog has also given me the opportunity to encourage other runners to write. As a writing teacher, that has been one of the really fun parts of the experience for me. I had some great guest columns on other people’s race experiences and perspectives. In case you missed these, let me give you a quick list:

Special Race Report: Mango Madness by Leslie Miyasato  

If you are trying to decide on races for next year, those reports along with the others on the site (You can use the search function to find these -- just type “race report” in the search box on the top right of the page.) may help you decide.

In looking back at the year, I would have to say that my top three favorite races were the Blues Cruise 50k (Leesport, PA) , Dances with Dirt Gnaw Bone 50k (Gnaw Bone, IN) , and the Leading Ladies Marathon (Spearfish, SD).  What they all had in common for me is that I really loved the beauty of the courses, and they all had the small and friendly race feel that I love. I will probably go back to each of those in the future although I am not sure how many of them I will make it to next year.

All in all, I would say the running year 2012 was a success. Where do I go from here? What will goals will I set for 2013? That will have to wait for another post. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book Review: My Life on the Run by Bart Yasso

To check out the book on Amazon, click here
For the past two weeks I have been sick with the worst cold I have had in many years. While that kept me from my favorite pastime (running, obviously), it gave me plenty of time for my second favorite pastime, reading about running.  Fortunately, just a week or so before I got sick, I had ordered a book I had come across while perusing Amazon.  It was titled My Life on the Run:The Wit, Wisdom, and Insights of a Road Racing Icon by Bart Yasso.  It arrived just as I was feeling well enough to be bored out of my mind.

If the author's name sounds familiar, it may be because of the fairly well known “Yasso 800” workouts that many training for marathons are familiar with. Yes, it is that Bart Yasso.

What many people don’t know about the originator of the Yasso 800s is that he is the “Chief Running Officer” for Runner’s World magazine and has been for many years. In that capacity he has had the opportunity to run around the world in many unusual places and meet many interesting people. Basically when an opportunity to cover some unusual event for Runner’s World magazine came up, they sent Bart.  This book is his chance to share some of those stories with fellow runners.

The book is mostly memoir style. It opens with a gripping story of how he discovered that he had Lyme Disease while on a running expedition to Mt. Kilimanjaro, then backtracks to discuss how he got into the sport of running after a youth of “cigarettes, booze, and dope.”  With characteristic Yasso humor, he quips “I only got high once in my life: from 1970 to 1977.”  The bulk of the book is his running adventures in various places, including Antarctica, the Arctic, India, and Italy, as well as some unique (and funny) U.S. races, including a burro run and a bare buns run.  

Bart also shares his experience with ultra-endurance events, such as the Badwater Ultramarathon and a solo cross country bike ride. In addition to the inherent interest of these events, Bart is a master story teller with a great sense of humor, but he also has an ability to reflect on the experiences in a meaningful way. A great example of this a chapter in which he talks about some of the inspiring runners he has met over the years.

The final section of the book, and the shortest part, addresses training.  Bart is a proponent of a 10 day training cycle rather than the 7 day training cycle that most people use. I have been interested in this idea for several years and have used it successfully in the past. The idea behind it is that to get in all the workouts one needs to develop well in distance running there are not enough days in the week to allow proper rest and recovery between hard workouts, leading many runners to become injured when they up the intensity and/or mileage.  I find that this is true for me as I am getting older. To make the 10 day cycle, though, I have typically had to alter and adapt traditional 7 day schedules because there just aren’t a lot of 10 day cycle programs available.  

This is where this portion of Bart’s book fills an important niche. Bart explains the idea of the 10 day schedule that he calls “The Perfect 10,” and then offers a set of training plans for 5k/10k, half marathon, and marathon based on a 10 day training cycle. There are three levels available for each distance: newbie, seasoned, and hard-core. 

The programs are simple and easy to follow. The various workouts are explained briefly (and yes Yasso 800s are part of all the programs). The Perfect 10 programs include all the key workout types a runner needs to develop: distance, tempo runs, hills, speedwork, race pace runs, as well as rest and cross-training. The basics of each workout are explained briefly.  He presents just enough information for readers to know what to do, but not so much that a runner would be overwhelmed with information.

Here is one typical 10 day cycle in the newbie marathon program:

Day 1
Tempo run: 15 min warmup/30 min at half marathon pace, 10 min cooldown
Rest day or cross-train
4 mi easy
Speedwork: 4x Yasso 800s
3 mi easy
5 mi easy
LSD: 8-10 miles
Rest day
4 mi easy

Just in case you aren’t sold on the 10 day schedule, Bart also includes a section of the more traditional 7 day training plans. He says that they are similar to the plans he emails out to participants in the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon (of which he is the race director). These are also sound programs but nothing that different from what can be found in other training books or web sites. I think the strongest aspect of the book in this section is the Perfect 10 idea and plans.

The final section of the book is called “Must-Do Races Near and Abroad.” This is a list of some of Bart’s favorite races, with short explanations of where they are, what they are about, and why they are special. While I was familiar with many of these races, and my number one bucket list race, the Western States 100 miler, is on the list, I was amazed to see that I had not run a single one of the races listed.  If you are a runner who loves to travel (like I am) this will certainly have you pulling out your calendar trying to figure out how to fit in a few of these.  

All in all, I loved this book. It is an easy read that is really enjoyable. If you have a runner on your Christmas list who loves to travel, this would be a great gift. If you are a little bored with typical road races and want to expand your horizons, this book will definitely give you some inspiration. Plus, if you have never considered a 10 day training cycle, this aspect alone is worth a look, especially if you are a master’s runner. I am planning to give his half marathon plan a try.

If you want to read more about Bart, he has a web site. It is  He travels to many races and is often a pre-marathon speaker. I would love to have the chance to hear one of his presentations.  There is a calendar on the site that lists races and appearances. Check it out. He may be coming to a marathon near you. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Proud to Be a Runner: New York Marathon Runners Volunteer to Help

After Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, there was a lot of debate in the media and on runner’s social network about whether or not the marathon should go on or be canceled. There was a lot of ill will related to the idea that people would consider running a race when so many people were suffering, diverting resources that might better have been used on recovery efforts.

On the social networks, there were also a lot of runners upset at the money that had been spent to enter and make travel arrangements to the marathon, as well as the time spent training that would be wasted. While I understand both of those concerns. Destination marathons are definitely not cheap, and New York is one of the most expensive of the bunch. I had written about the exorbitant cost of the New York Marathon in an earlier post on “How Much is Too Much?” for race entries. Most runners would probably have invested close to $1000 (many even more) in entry, travel expenses, etc., some of which might not be refundable.

However, to many people, myself included, it seemed a little selfish and shallow to have that as a primary concern in light of the devastation that had occurred to so many people.  I thought the organizers made the right decision in canceling the marathon, but the whole issue I felt left people with a negative impression of runners as being insensitive to the needs of others in the selfish pursuit of their sport.

That is why I was so happy when I came across the much lesser publicized news story about the runners who organized themselves into a volunteer effort to help the victims in the most hard-hit area, Staten Island. You may not have heard the story because it did not get nearly as much coverage as the debate over whether or not to cancel the marathon. In case you hadn’t heard, take a look at this:

Whether or not you agreed with the decision to cancel the marathon, it would be difficult not to be impressed by the actions of these runners. The video showed the side of runners that I was more familiar with, compassionate and socially responsible, willing to pitch in and help where help is needed. I have seen that side over and over in little ways in all of the running communities I have been a part of. Seeing that video made me proud to be a runner.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Meeting a Running Legend: Lynn Jennings

Let me start by saying that besides being a runner, I am a huge running geek and fan of the sport. I have books and videos of great runners and their performances that I draw inspiration from over and over again. I am also guilty of a fair amount of hero worship, so spend a lot of time idolizing and in awe of the greats in our sport. 

Last Sunday I had a wonderful opportunity to attend a presentation by Lynn Jennings. For those of you who may not be familiar with Lynn, she is one of the best American distance runners ever. She was at the height of her career in the late 1980s and 1990s. She excelled in cross country, road, and track. She was a three time World Cross Country Champion. She competed in three Olympics, at 3,000, 5,000, and 10,000 meters, and won a bronze medal in the 10,000m in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona (setting an American record). She won 39 national titles at a range of distances and held 10 American records. (Oh, and for all my MI readers, she ran a 52:53 at Crim!) This barely scratches the surface of her accomplishments. (A really nice and more complete bio is available at the Ivy Women in Sports site) She is just an amazing runner and an amazing person.  

The opportunity to hear her speak was courtesy of a local running store (that I am not naming here because they continually delete my posts from their team board). I am very fortunate to live close to such a resource. They do a lot to bring in speakers for the local running community. Since I have been here, I have met Dick Beardsley, Scott Jurek, and Lynn Jennings. What amazing and motivational experiences these have been. One thing that has really impressed me about these runners is how really down-to-earth they were and also how passionate. Each one of them has been inspiring, but Lynn was by far the most so for me, probably because she was a woman and close to my own age.  Also the range of her accomplishments appealed to me, as well as her competitive spirit.

Lynn spoke about her life and her beginnings in distance running as a freshman in high school, the only girl on the boys’ cross country team, running alone in practices and always at the back of the pack in races, with the goal of beating just one poor hapless boy in each race. It was in what happened the next that her true nature is revealed. During the off-season she decided to keep running and began running with a club. By the time she came back for her sophomore year she was again running alone again, but this time at the front of the pack. The boys could not keep up with her.

She was on a remarkable trajectory by the end of her high school years, but then she told a story that I am sure many of those in the room could relate to: she ran a marathon and got injured. She decided (against her coach’s wishes) to run the Boston Marathon. She was too young to officially enter (17) so she ran as a bandit. She came in 3rd.  In the process, though, she became injured and went through a period that lasted through her college years where she could not regain her previous level. It was in her adult, post college, career when she reconnected with her original coach and was able to recognize her full potential.

As Lynn talked about her adult running career, I was reminded of something a swimming coach I knew was fond of telling his kids: “tough as nails, be tough as nails.” Lynn is truly a tough-as-nails competitor. Lynn put together a wonderful presentation that included video clips of various races to illustrate her points. It was in these videos that her physical and mental toughness were apparent, from her blazing finishing kick to the mental games she played with her competition. It was fascinating and inspiring. I wanted to cheer right there in the room when she won the races. I know that is silly, but that is how into it I was.

In terms of information that runners could take away and apply to their own life, Lynn had several good pieces of information:

  • ·       Don’t wait for motivation to strike, just get out there and do it: That was really a golden piece of information for me. I sometimes tend to procrastinate on workouts, waiting for the perfect temperature or mood to come over me. If I really want to excel, I have to do it regardless of the external situation or my internal level of motivation in the moment.

  • ·       Build a repertoire of running skills: This was one of my favorite parts of the presentation, just because this one had some great video footage. She spoke about her natural talent as a runner with a strong finishing kick, which served her very well in most races. However, to be a well-rounded runner and a fiercer competitor, she also needed to be able to run from the front. She showed video of her practicing these skills in races. It reminded us as runners to work on a range of skills, even and especially those that are not comfortable or our natural areas of strength. It is through this that we can further develop as runners.

  • ·       Her last point was one that also struck a chord with me because this is an area where I sometimes falter:  train for the mental side of racing as well as the physical. Again she had some really great video to go with this. She had some footage from the Freihofer’s Run for Women. She was sitting off the shoulder of her competition (I think Anna Marie Letko/Lauck). She played a mental game where she moved from one shoulder to the other to keep her competitor off balance before finally putting on that blazing and brutal finishing kick to win the race. She also showed footage from the Barcelona Olympics and talked about how her mental composure and smart race tactics allowed her to win the bronze medal in that race.

One of the most memorable parts of the experience for me surrounded her Olympic medal. She had brought it with her and pulled it out to pass around the group. I thought it was just amazing that she was willing to share such a rare and precious symbol of her achievements with all of us. How many people get to actually hold and touch an Olympic medal? 

However, what happened after the presentation really blew me away. I had waited in line to talk to her and hopefully get a picture. I was telling her how jealous my son, a coach in California (whom I had texted), was that I had gotten to actually hold and touch an Olympic medal. Just a minute or so before that, someone had handed her back the medal. She said well “let’s get a picture with you wearing the medal” and slipped the medal over my head. It was awesome!!

While Lynn is not running competitively any more, she still runs regularly. She also has branched out into other sports and activities. One of her new hobbies is competitive rowing (which, of course, she excels at). She is also Running Program Director and Coach at the Craftsbury Running Camp in Vermont. You can see her passion coming through when she talks about all of her activities. Having the opportunity to meet her and hear her presentation was definitely an opportunity I will cherish. If you ever have a chance to attend one of her presentations, do it!! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Follow-up Race Report from Anna

I thought you might like to know that Anna Kaschner, who wrote the inspiring story of running post kidney transplant in a previous blog post, just completed the Great Turtle Half Marathon on Mackinac Island. She wrote a really great race report over on her Embody blog, if you'd like to check it out, click on the picture below:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Reminder: Road I.D. Giveaway Ends Oct. 31st

Hello Everyone,
Just a quick reminder that our Road I.D. Giveaway ends Oct. 31st. If you have not entered yet, do it now!! Also, if you have not read my review of the Road I.D. Wrist Elite, be sure to do it. I guarantee you will want one!!

To enter the contest, just click on the link below to go to the Road I.D. site. Decide which of the I.D.s would be right for you. Then leave a comment here on this post or on the Facebook page saying “I need a Road I.D….” and the type of I.D. you like best.  The contest will end on midnight October 31, with the winner selected by random drawing on November 1st.  Good luck!!

Related Posts: 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Guest Race Report: Detroit Marathon

See Rick Run!
I am on a little hiatus from racing right now. Fortunately I happen to have some wonderful friends and blog readers who are out running and racing and achieving milestones. One of these, a fellow Playmakers teammate, Rick Rogacki, ran his first marathon this past weekend at Detroit and agreed to do a race report for the blog. 

He apologized because it was on the long side, but I would not cut a word because as I read it I got to relive all the excitement and ups and downs of that first marathon experience, which was a real treat. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks, Rick!!

My First Marathon
As the title says, the Detroit Marathon was my first marathon.  A little background about me. I started “running” a couple of years ago.  I am not sure you can call it running.  I would sign up for a race to force myself to get out of the house and do something healthy.  My wife had been on me for years to exercise because in 2005 I had a mild stroke.  So I thought if I signed up for a race I would have to get out and train.  Well, that didn’t work out too well.  I would sign up but run a race without truly training.  Let me tell you, that didn’t work. 

Last year, I ran some of the fun runs that Playmakers had, and during one in late August, I was minding my own business, huffing and puffing around Lake Lansing and came up to 2 women, Cass and Ramona, that little did I know would change my life, not just running life.  It appeared that one was faster than the other and she wanted to run faster.  I told her I would run with her friend.  She and I talked as we ran and had a great time.  At the end we ran as hard as we could to get past the finish line.  I told her we had to finish strong. 

Rick and Ramona at the Autumn Classic

After the fun run was the Autumn Classic.  I ran that race and sat alone after eating my soup while seeing others have a group of people congratulating them on completing the race.  That group had red shirts on with Playmakers across the chest.  I ran a few more races to finish out the year, and the last one was the Scrooge Scramble in Lansing.  I ran into Cass and Ramona again at the race and their friend Tim.  We all finished somewhat together (well Cass finished long before Tim, Ramona and I did).  We struck up a conversation, remembering we had run together at the fun run in August.  They were heading to breakfast and invited me.  This is what I had been looking for, camaraderie after a race.    As we ate breakfast we talked about signing up for the Playmakers running group. 

The four of us did sign up for the group.  Being the newbie in the group, planning goal races was not in my thought process.  As it turned out, the three of them had signed up for running the Bayshore Full.  They were encouraging me to sign up for at least the half.  I did in fact sign up for the half at Bayshore.  A funny thing happened as we started on a training program for that race; I was enjoying their company.  I told them even though I was running the half I would run their training miles.  I was more than prepared for that half.  After our experience up in Traverse City, all of the good and bad, excitement got the better of me and I signed up for the Detroit Marathon before we left Traverse City.  No turning back now.

Fast forward to October 20, 2012. After training the last half of 2012 for a marathon, I now had two sessions of marathon training under my belt, and I was on my way to Detroit. 

We had picked up a couple of other people to ride down with.  The five of us left Okemos at 10 the day before the race and headed to the expo.  It was a cool ride because of the excitement of what we were going to do the next morning.  We discussed all of our goals for the race, who else was running, and how many carbs we had eaten in the days leading up.  During the car ride I was pretty nervous; in fact I was nervous pretty much all day. 

We arrived at the expo and the plan was to head to packet pickup because of possible lines.  We stopped at the licensed apparel booth because several of the coaches were working the booth.  I had to purchase my 26.2 apparel and souvenirs before they ran out.  I bought an outer shirt, coffee mug, pint glass, and hat.  I was asked about the sticker, but said I had to earn that before buying it.  Go figure, I spend over $100 before the race but had to earn a $3 sticker for the car.  We headed back to the packet pickup after the buying spree by a few of us and completed that task within 10 minutes.  The rest of the expo was very similar to a golf show to me, businesses selling their products and advertising their races. 

It was time to check into hotels.  As we left the expo we also realized we were getting hungry, but dinner was still a couple of hours away.  After Geoff checked into his hotel we walked to Comerica Park and looked in the stadium, seeing guys working out getting ready for the World Series.  We stopped for a snack and a beer.  BTW, for those of you saying beer is carb loading, the highest amount of carbs we found in a Google search was 20g.  There are more carbs in grape juice. 

After the snack we headed to our hotel where 4 of us were staying, Marriot at the Renaissance Center.  We got to the hotel and there were hundreds of people just like us excited about the marathon.  Team in Training was staying at the Marriot. Upon checking in we were handed key cards with the marathon logo on them.  I asked if we could keep them and was told yes they were a souvenir.   When we got to the hotel room we looked out the window and had an incredible view.  We could see the Ambassador Bridge, Cobo arena and the exit from the tunnel right out of our window.  You could have sat in the window and watched the marathon go by.

The View

We had an awesome dinner at Andiamo’s.  I will say that we can blame Geoff for slow times; he was the one that suggested we had dessert after dinner.  After dinner we decided to walk to the start line to see how far away it was.  Let’s just say too far to walk in the morning.  By this time the nervousness was gone.  I was very calm seeing the starting line. We got back to the hotel, and I was asleep by 10.  I had a restless night's sleep, not because of the race, but I couldn’t get comfortable with the temp in the room. 

Whew, if you have gotten this far, it is finally race day.  After waking up at 3:30 to find out I couldn’t have oatmeal because of a bad coffee maker, we headed to the people mover to get to the team pictures.  I won’t go into details about what we did after the pictures -- all racers do it before a race and it usually involves some long lines. 

We headed to the starting line from pictures, and there were a lot more people on the sidewalks than I had imagined.  It made it a little difficult to get into our starting corral.  It was during the walk on the sidewalk that the nerves kicked in a little.  Not sure why, my race doesn’t start until I hit the starting line.  We had signed up for a pacer the day before, but when we got to the corral he was in the corral behind where we were told to go.  Ok, not a big deal, we would let him catch us after getting started.  It took him a while.

Thirteen minutes after 7 we crossed the starting line, no turning back now.  The weather was perfect.  It was in the low 40’s and clear, with a slight wind out of the west.  The starting line is downtown Detroit on Fort St.  We quickly left the downtown area and got into some rundown buildings.  About ¾ of a mile in I had a rock in my shoe -- can’t do that for 26 miles.  Ok, rock out, it is time to get going.  We saw a couple of coaches encouraging us, and the bridge was starting to come into view.  Part of the challenge in the first ¾ of a mile is dodging all of the discarded clothes.  Good thing we didn’t trip on any.  

At just short of 2 miles in, we entered the plaza to the bridge.  Running up and over the bridge was a cool experience.  While we were running uphill it wasn’t so steep that it made it a tough run.  Sure we slowed down, but we made it up pretty easy.  By the time we got to the middle of the bridge and on the Canadian side, they were already cleaning up the discarded clothes.  It was much cleaner on the Canadian route than the Detroit route. 

The route took a turn to the north, and the street we ran down ran along the river.  The views from Canada back to Detroit were incredible!  It was a very enjoyable stretch to run.  While running, the 4:25 pacer passed us.  The funny thing was the 4:07 pacer passed us later.  Someone wasn’t pacing correctly.

We turned away from the river and headed to the entrance to the tunnel.  I didn’t know what to expect from running in the tunnel.  I was told it was hot and stinky.  I didn’t think it was too hot, but it did get warmer, and it wasn’t as stinky as I was lead to believe.  It was very cool.  In the middle of the tunnel there are flags of Canada and the United States; many people stopped and took pictures.  Running up the exit of the tunnel wasn’t too bad either.  By this point we were at mile 8. 

I should mention I was running with Cass, the reason I am saying “we.”  The plan for the race was to run the first half together and then evaluate how we were each doing to determine how we would run the second half of the race. 

Rick and Cass at CCRR

At mile 8 we did an inventory of each other, and we were still rolling along.  I mentioned to her I felt strong as an ox.  As it turns out it is a good thing we were doing that inventory.  We had each had at least 1 GU; I think I had two by then. 

At mile 10 we did another inventory, and we had a wobble.  Prior to the marathon, both Cass and I had some physical issues, she a hip and I strained my hamstring in a race 2 weeks prior, and yes there is a lesson in there.  I checked with her, and she was starting to experience some discomfort in the hip.  With having a hamstring issue, I was only able to run 2 miles in the two weeks leading up to the marathon.  As we got to 13 miles, the run hadn’t been as comfortable as my previous 13 mile runs.  There is a point in the race where the half marathoners split off from the marathoners.  Cass mentioned a coach had told her runners could turn off and complete the half and still get a medal.  It didn’t register until later she was considering it because of her hip. 

At this point, the goal pace was pretty out of reach.  We could have pressed, but I am not sure what would have happened had we pressed, but for me deciding I was very happy just finishing was an important hurdle.  We continued our quest to finish.  We had some other problems along the way at this point that caused us to slow also.  

At mile 16 we turned into Indian Village. There are some huge, beautiful homes in this area.  There was a 15 year old young man cleaning up cups after mile 17 that seemed to be having a riot.  He was taking pride in the fact there wasn’t a cup around him.  He picked them up as the cup hit the pavement.
Right after mile 18 there was a left turn. We ran 20 yards and then had to run the other direction around a cone, kind of a goofy exercise, when they could have made up 20 yards somewhere else without the turn around.  At mile 19 we turned left and started to cross the bridge to Belle Isle.  Now I have to admit, I had never been on Belle Isle, and I am not sure what I was thinking, but I thought the bridge was flat.  Guess what: it isn’t.  Other than the water stations, this was the first time we walked.  We walked up the bridge then ran down the other side.  Turning left on the island, there was mile 20.  The second half of the race awaited us. 

I was reminded that once we crossed mile 20 it was the furthest I had run.  I didn’t need that reminder.  Taking inventory again with each other, we were both feeling the effects of being on our feet for so long.  We were still able to run, but just not as fast.  To this point from the beginning our pace may have fallen 30 seconds a mile.  We were still a “we” at this point.  

We got to mile 21 and Cass started to have a noticeable limp.  The hip issue possibly had started to affect her ankle as well.  We walked again.  She was, at this point, encouraging me to run ahead.   I told her, “if I run ahead the only difference would be that I finish a little ahead.  I would still be walking too.  If I am going to walk, I might as well have company doing it. “ At this point in the inventory process I started to tear up because I knew for a fact I was going to finish this race.  I will mention too, I am kind of an emotional guy. 

It is at this point I use a quote from Ramona, “It is time we go get our medals.”  We headed back over the bridge, waved to a couple of Team P runners and headed for home.  We were still talking about me running ahead, even though I thought we had finished that conversation.  It was at this point I got more emotional and told Cass I wasn’t leaving her limping and that the only reason I was going to finish this race was because of her and Ramona.  In a text later to her I said, “There are more important things than a time for a race, the two of us getting to the finish was more important than my chip time.”  Well that ended that subject. 

The rest of the race was pretty uneventful, other than the aches I was feeling.  I was aching from the waist down.  Just after mile 25 they decided to stick a hill in there, and then just before mile 26 there was another hill.  Go figure. 

When we hit mile 26 and made the turn is when a ton of emotion swept over me.  I couldn’t see the finish very well because of the tears in my eyes.  As soon as we crossed the finish line, I started bawling and hugged Cass: We had done it!  Very near the finish were Ramona, Geoff and Amy to greet us with hugs and more tears, and Geoff gave me a small bottle of champagne to celebrate.

Lessons learned:
1.      No races two weeks before a goal race.  I think only running 2 miles in the two weeks leading up to the race affected my performance. 
2.      No walking a couple of miles the day before.  Best to stay off of feet as much as possible. 
3.      Put as much thought into the post-race plan as put into the pre-race and race plans.

1.      The course is much more difficult than what a website can explain.  This course is all concrete.  The only part that is blacktop is the bridge.  The concrete is much harder on the body. 
2.      My pre-race and race plans were solid.  I feel very confident going into another race with the plans I created and followed.
3.      There are more important things than a goal time; there are always other races to meet and exceed goals.
4.      There are just over 200 days to my next marathon, Bayshore.