Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I had several options for a run on Thanksgiving morning. For the past several years I have run the "Turkey Trot" in downtown Orlando. It has grown in size to the point where I don't find it enjoyable to run. One large mass of humanity.

I decided to run the "Deland 10 Miler" on the recommendation of Keith from our running group. It is a combination run with a 5K and the 10 mile run. It is run on a very flat course through rural Florida. Small farms and residential areas dotted the landscape. At about mile 2, a turkey let out a very loud "gobble, gobble". Not too smart on Thanksgiving Day! Maybe he was saying, "I'm OK"! Best wishes for next year.

The 700+ runners who started, became about 300 as the 5K runners turned to make their way back. I was running with Sheri at an 8:00 minute pace for the first 4-5 miles. As we turned around at the 5 mile mark we slowed the pace just a bit. We finished strong right at the 1:22:00 mark. A hard run, but I found it enjoyable.

I was a bit surprised to find that I finished 2nd in my age group. Sheri finished 4th in her age group. We stayed for the award ceremony and received very unique awards (see photo). They were printed on metal license plates.

It was a fun way to start of the holiday. I'm pretty sure we will return next year.

Hope everyone enjoyed their holiday.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mohawk-Hudson Marathon 2009

I arrived home late last week and needed to sort through photos and get my thoughts together on how to describe the marathon.

First..... I qualified for the Boston Marathon. That was my goal in running this race again. As someone said to me, "now you can cross that off your 'Bucket List'!"

I have always believed and advised other runners to go out and have FUN. Don't worry about your finish time, just do your best. Easier said than done! This was the first marathon I've run that had a specific goal attached to my time. I have never run with "pressure" to achieve a specific time. It made me a bit "stressed" as the days leading up to the race got closer and closer.

Race day dawned and I could not have asked for better weather conditions. At 8:30am, the official start time, the temperature was 40 degrees. The forecast high as 55 degrees. The skies were a bit overcast and there was a slight breeze. Throughout the marathon the sun would shine brightly for a mile or two, then disappear behind the cloud cover. As we ran along the Mohawk and Hudson River's, the wind seemed to be brisk, but did not hinder the run.

Although I may have only mentioned it to a few people, I believed I had trained sufficiently to run a sub-4:00 hour marathon. That would be my secondary goal for the day.

This is a small marathon. Just over 700 runners finished the race. I started about mid-pack to ensure not going out too fast, or hindering faster runners. (Too bad about 150 other runners didn't do the same). Although I had warmed up with a jog around the park, I didn't want to take any chances of pulling a muscle prior to getting my legs fully warmed up. I reached the one mile mark at 9:00 minutes, feeling relaxed and confident. A 9:00 minute per mile pace would give me the sub-4:00 hour marathon I was seeking.

I don't record all my splits. I had goals for the 10K, half-marathon and 20 mile marks. I reached the 10K in just over 52:00 minutes. Still feeling relaxed and in control, I reached the half-marathon in 1:54. I passed the 20 mile mark at 2:58, I felt confident that I would finish in the 3:55-3:58 range. Shortly after that point I felt a slight pain in the area of my left knee. It seemed to be the IT band, possibly caused by the mostly downhill route. As the miles passed the pain increased. I wasn't "hitting the wall" as commonly occurs, only my knee was an issue. I took frequent walk breaks and attempted to manipulate my knee in the hope of correcting the problem. No luck! I knew with every walk break my goal of sub-4:00 was slipping away. It was at this point that I reminded myself that in order to qualify for Boston, I need a finish time under 4:15. I remember reaching the 25 mile mark and glancing at my watch as it reached 4:00:00. I was disappointed, but still had my qualifying time in sight. I "sucked it up" as the saying goes and pushed through the final 1.2 miles. I knew when I crossed the finish line I had qualified for Boston. Official finish time 4:09:56, also a new PR.

As I walked away after the race, I found my family and friends who were there to greet me. I was experiencing mixed emotions. I had qualified for Boston, but my time goal was not met due to the issue with my knee. I have never experienced that particular pain and it subsided post race.

The response from my family and friends has been wonderful. This past Saturday, my running group gave me a "surprise" party. Thank you all! All of this will finally sink in and I will return to running and decide a strategy going forward.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Miracle Miles 15K

This is one of my favorite races each year. One of only a few 15K's in the state. The distance is a nice challenge and the beneficiary is the Winnie Palmer Hospital, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It is incredible what this hospital can do to save the lives of premature babies. The medal each runner receives had the image of two tiny footprints of the smallest surviving baby born there, 14 ounces! It was said that this baby could fit inside a standard "Coca-Cola" can! The primary sponsor is "Chick-fil-A", who provides a hot chicken sandwich to all finishers!

For several weeks, I debated as to how I would run this race. I have my marathon coming up in two weeks, October 11th. Last year I paced my friend Sheri in the last 5K. I decided to use the race as a "pace" race. I would run the race as if it were my marathon. I would attempt to run it at my marathon race pace, slowing only for the water stops. Goal of 8:45 minutes per mile.

The morning was becoming warmer as I walked to the starting area. The starting area is approximately one-half mile from my house. As is common, the humidity was close to 90%. As I arrived the announcer mentioned the temperature was 78 degrees, at 6:20am. Yuck!

After gathering our running group, we moved to the start line. After a short wait, we were off and running. Although there were close to 1,500 runners, I did not find the beginning of the race very congested. Everyone moved quickly down the roads leading us out to Orange Avenue. Orange Avenue is the main north-south road through the City of Orlando. This was one of the few times a race route went directly through downtown Orlando. By the one mile mark I had settled into a comfortable pace. It was difficult to hold back at the marathon pace rather than a 15K pace. I reached the one mile mark at 9:00 minutes, right on pace. At about the 1.5 mile mark we turned off of Orange Avenue and began our run through the downtown neighborhoods. Shortly after the 2.0 mile mark the road surface changed from paved road to brick. After taking a tumble on the bricks last week, my awareness and heart rate jumped rapidly. We ran about 1.0 miles on the brick until we made our way back to pavement. This week I safely made it through without incident. From mile 4.0 to 7.0 we had a nice straight run heading back south. Mile 7.0 brought us a right turn onto Michigan Street. As I mentioned earlier it was already hot and humid. The stretch along Michigan Street from 7.0 to 8.0 was in direct sun. The sun was behind us, but it felt like the temperature rose another 10-15 degrees. The heat from the pavement could be felt as we moved along. Although I was maintaining my race pace, I began to pass many runners along this stretch. The heat was beginning to take its toll. I mentioned to someone after the race that Michigan Street just sucked the energy out of you. Mile 9.0 was a great sight, except for the fact that our road surface once again changed to brick, oh no! I decided that I had done what I set out to do, so I could treat myself to a mini sprint to the finish. My goal had been to finish at 1:22:00, my official time was 1:19:28 or 8:31 minutes per mile. I had met my objective as each mile time was very consistent. I felt strong at the finish despite the heat and humidity. I had a new PR for this race, not the 15K distance, but knowing that I ran the race at about 85% I was very pleased!

When I got home, I checked the long range forecast for Albany, NY and found the temperature was at 59 degrees. The forecast is for lows in 40's and highs in the 60's. If that forecast comes true, I feel very confident that I can maintain the pace that will allow me to break the 4:00:00 hour time for the marathon.

The photo is courtesy of Lorraine Hardaway. (L-R; Sheri, Jim, Lorraine and Dan)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

How Was Your Trip

Yesterday was my last scheduled "long" run prior to the Mohawk-Hudson Marathon, Sunday, October 11th. It was the third "long" run of this session. My first one was titled the, "Nightmare on Glenridge". The second was better, but I still felt something was missing. I was looking forward to this final "long" training run.

The weather is always a factor here in Florida. This summer has seemed warmer than usual. Most of the runners in the training program echo that statement. Saturday, we caught a break with a start time temperature of 76 and humidity at 67%, about as good as it gets!

We started out at 4:00am to beat the heat. Get as many miles in before the sunrise. There were five of us who were running long; Jennifer, Erin, Nigel, Joe and myself. We eased into our run careful not to run too fast, too early. The miles clicked off and we were on our way back to meet some others from our group who were starting later.

Many of the streets we run on are in the beautiful city of Winter Park. To add to the ambiance of the city, many of the streets are paved with bricks. Nice looking, but watch your step. More than one runner has fallen victim to the mystery of the "jumping brick". That's the one that despite it looking flush with the others, manages to "jump" up just as you approach. This morning I became the victim of the "jumping brick".

As we made our way along Via Tuscany (can't you just picture that street in your mind?) at mile 7 of the run, down I went. It happened so fast, no time to think, all just reaction. Tuck and roll! First I went forward fully extended, then I rolled over completely. For some reason the area I rolled in was very sandy. Take one sweaty body, roll it in a patch of sand and you've got a mess! In a matter of a split second I was up and running, then I checked for injuries. Since I was running, I knew my legs were fine. I could feel my right hand throbbing. I must have used it to break my fall. I tried to wipe the sand from my legs and arms, but it didn't come off. I felt like I was rubbing sand paper on my skin.

We got to our water stop where there was some light and I could use the water to rinse. I also found abrasions to my left knee and left elbow that I hadn't seen out on the road. Good thing was that everything was moving fine and I was not injured. Our next water stop had a bathroom with a sink and running water. I was finally able to wash myself off and survey the damage. Onward, I still had 9 more miles to go!

By the time I finished the 22 miles, I was sore. Sore from the pounding of 22 miles. My "trip" was an adventure, but one I can now smile at. With three weeks left until my marathon, I did not need to get injured. I have put in too much effort into my attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

So I can look back on this run and ask myself, "how was your trip" :-)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Weather Forecast

A pre-race ritual for me is to begin checking the long range weather forecast for race day. Over the years, I have come to realize that the 20, 15 or even 10 day forecast is not very accurate. I could be even more critical and say the 48 hour forecast is not reliable. However, I keep checking in hope of finding the numbers I want. I have already entered the "zip" codes for Schenectady and Albany, NY into my computer. When I do find a "perfect" forecast, I only have to wait 24 hours to find the revised numbers have jumped by 15 degrees. How did that happen? Then they shift back to the "perfect" numbers. Along with the numbers, I see the description, "partly cloudy", "mostly cloudy", "sunny", and on and on. Various combinations for me to contemplate for a period of 30 days. Then it boils, (no pun intended), down to the night before and hopefully an accurate forecast. Shouldn't the "AccuWeather" forecast be accurate? Or maybe "Accu" doesn't really stand for accurate.

My training and planning can and does account for the many different facets of a marathon. The one thing I have no control over is the weather. So, why stress over something you have no control over? Maybe it is a method to not become complacent. I will be running my marathon 5 weeks from today. Soon, I will begin my quest for the perfect weather forecast for October 11th.

The photo accompanying this post is of a thermometer prior to the 2008 Mohawk-Hudson Marathon. "Official" race time temperature was 44 degrees. Oh, to have a repeat of the conditions from last year!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"This is no time for ease and comfort.... "

It has been just over five years since I started running. I have set a few goals along the way, running my first mile, or 5K, or marathon. I always approached each goal without much concern. I just want to finish was my objective. Even as I improved and became competitive in my age group, I still focused on the "big picture". I have always said, "when this stops being fun, that's the time I stop running." No, I am not at that point.

The point that I am at is that for the first time I have a very specific goal. As most of you know, it is to qualify for the Boston Marathon. "QUALIFY", that's the scary word. In order to get to Boston, I "MUST" finish my chosen race in a specific time in order to "QUALIFY".

I will be running the Mohawk-Hudson Marathon in Albany, NY, on October 11th. I ran this course last year and set a PR. I had no pressure to run a specific time. It was simple, run, have fun, and see what happens. The results were good, I took almost 20 minutes off my previous PR. This year I need to repeat with an improvement of 15 minutes to be safe.

I have been training hard. Most of the early part of the year was spent on speedwork. My 5K, 10K, 15K and half-marathon times have all improved. In 2009, I have set a PR at each of these distances. The last distance is the marathon. I feel very good physically. I have not had any injury issues. I do have two more "long" runs of 20+ miles prior to the marathon. It has been hot here in Orlando, no surprise. It was hot last year as well! Long runs are so much more difficult in the hot weather. You have to respect that thin line between running at your race pace and not pushing to the point of heat exhaustion.

As much as I try to tell myself, "it's just another marathon", it is not. I don't want to lose sleep over this and I haven't as yet, but it does play on my mind. I can control many of the aspects of this marathon. Knowing the course will be the biggest positive factor. I love running in "cold" weather. Last year the temperature was 44 degrees on marathon morning. I would love to have a carbon copy of that day. No control over that.

I have had tremendous support from my running group and friends who realize what it will mean to "QUALIFY". Training runs, hundreds of miles over the years. Friends have promised to make the trip to Boston for the marathon, now that's pressure to produce. It is also a tremendous motivation. I know when I run Boston, it will be for many runners, not just myself.

This post was more of me "venting" some of my emotions. Will I feel better? Will it help? I guess I have to wait until Sunday, October 11th.

The title for this post comes from a quote by Sir Winston Churchill. "This is no time for ease and comfort. It is the time to dare and endure."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Anniversary" of Hurricane Charley

Now here is a combination that doesn't mix too well, running + hurricane. It was 5 years ago today that Hurricane "Charley" came across Central Florida and inflicted considerable damage. I had been in Orlando for 5 years and had never experienced a full "blown" hurricane. Times they were a changin'.

That year, 2004, was my first year of running. Maybe I upset the "gods" with my return to running and they were going to try to blow me away. Not only did "Charley" come across Orlando, but "Frances" and "Jean", followed close behind. It was a very unsettling time. I was fortunate to escape any damage to my home. Our neighborhood received some damage, but not to the extent of other cities. Winter Park, the home base for our running group, was hit very hard.

Once the storm had passed I could not believe the number of trees that had been torn from the ground. Huge oak trees, some hundreds of years old were now blocking streets and in some cases on top of homes.

We needed to run! We needed to be able to see our friends and know that they were OK. A number of practice runs were canceled and several organized 5K's had to be rescheduled. When we were able to meet for a run, it was an adventure run. Many areas still had entire trees across our regular running routes. We would try to follow an alternate, only to find it blocked too. The street I recall being the worst was Pennsylvania Ave., in Winter Park. It seemed that we could run about 50 feet before another tree brought our run to a halt. I'm not sure if we ever managed to run more than a mile or two. Devastation was everywhere!

The long range forecast is that storms are "looming" in the Atlantic off the coast of Africa. We can hope and pray that we here in Orlando, the State of Florida, and the United States are spared a repeat of 5 years ago.

Bottom line, having our fellow runners to lean on made the situation a bit more tolerable. We knew we were not alone in our experience. We were and still are a "GROUP", we are still "RUNNERS". We are strong people, but we are strongest in numbers!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Twilight Triathlon

Since a triathlon includes a running segment, this qualifies for "Running Geezer". A group of us headed west from Orlando to the gulf coast town of Crystal River, FL. It is approximately a two hour drive to the beautiful Gulf of Mexico. We were there to participate in the "Twilight Tri", held at 7:30pm, hence the name. I was joined by Sheri, Raymond, Keith and Nigel. We also had our own cheering section of Susan, Debbie, Darby, Cathy, Fred and Jamie. It is wonderful to have friends who will support our efforts, thank you!

It was a beautiful evening, temperatures around 90 degrees. There was an onshore breeze that helped cool the air. It also helped to add a little "chop" to the water surface. I commented to someone, "this isn't the Cady Way pool!" However, growing up in New York, Long Island, to be more precise, the water was as I remembered it as a kid.

Having never done an "open water" triathlon, and not being the most skilled swimmer, I was cautious entering the water as the starters horn sounded. I found a pocket of water clear of the other swimmers. As we approached the first buoy, the logjam began to develop. I was content to ease up and carefully make my way around. I did not want to get kicked or run over at this point in the race. I felt comfortable with my stroke as we headed to the second buoy. When I made the turn for the beach, I felt very confident and relaxed. By now the crowd had broken up and the swim was unencumbered. I had anticipated that the swim leg would be my most difficult. As the beach got closer and closer, I felt a great deal of pressure lifted from my shoulders. Standing up in the shallow water and running ashore was awesome. A quick check of my watch showed that I was ahead of my goal time. I swam the one-quarter mile in 9:40:08.

My transition was slow, but I wanted to make sure I had everything in order. Since it is an evening event, it was mandatory to have both a headlight and taillight. One final check of my gear and I was off on the road course. It was a 10 mile out and back ride along a two-lane roadway. It was an "open" course, so there was some vehicular traffic. The drivers were very cautious and considerate of the riders. My only "problem" along the way was that the salt water had left a bad taste in my mouth. I had water, but that did little to erase the taste. I was wishing I had a "Shot Blok" or "Gummy Bear", to get rid of the taste. I was riding at my scheduled pace and felt very comfortable as the mileage signs clicked by. Now it was time to dismount and get through my second transition. All went well and I was off and running. checking the time clock as I crossed the timing mat, I was 6 minutes ahead of my goal time.

This is what I had waited for.....the run! My favorite event, my strength. Well, the old legs were a bit wobbly as I began. It took at least one-half mile before the muscles loosened up to where I felt comfortable. I tired a bit as we made the turn around at 1.5 miles. I stopped at the water stop with one mile to go and drank a cup of water and poured two over my head. I ran in with a little kick left for the final 100 yards. I finished in 1:20:28. My goal time had been 1:30:00, so I was very pleased with my performance. I felt good after finishing and am ready to come back next year and do it all over again!

On a negative note, Raymond who was part of our group, got involved in a bike crash in the early stage of the ride. It seems another cyclist hit a parked car, was thrown from his bike. His bike went into the path of Raymond who was unable to avoid it. He went down hard and suffered a fractured elbow.

The photo is post race, with me, Keith, Sheri and Nigel. Sheri won her age group and was 4th overall female! Congratulations to all :-)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Opening My Eyes

We all, at some point in our lives, take some things for granted. I know I have and I'm sure you have too. I guess that falls under the category of "Human Nature".

As a runner I don't think twice about the route I choose to run. Oh, maybe I want to avoid a hill or a crowded street, but that's about it. I picture in my mind where I will be going because I've done it hundreds of times. When I plan the route I "see" where I am going. I run the course in my mind. I take that for granted.

On July 4th, the annual "Watermelon 5K" road race was held here. It is a semi-competitive run, but is organized for fun and to celebrate the holiday. The race attracts over 3,000 participants crowding into the residential streets of Winter Park, FL. Awaiting all finishers are slices of cold watermelon. As you read this, you hopefully can picture that slice of watermelon and maybe even taste the sweet flavor. As the saying goes, "been there, done that."

Here's where I change gears. What if you couldn't see the route you were running? What if you didn't know what a watermelon looked like. What if you couldn't see the red, white and blue so brightly displayed on the runners?

This year the "Watermelon 5K" welcomed over 40 runners and walkers who are in Orlando for the annual convention of the "American Council of the Blind". Can you imagine participating in a road race without the benefit of your sight?

Track Shack and Event Marketing and Management, coordinated the event and recruited volunteers to be "guides" for the blind participants. Our training group, MarathonFest, supplied many of the "guides".

I was matched up with Doug, a self-described "fast runner" from Virginia. I like most of the "guides" had never volunteered for such a role. Hundreds of questions were in our minds about how we would accomplish our task. The most prominent question was one of safety. How would we describe the course, turns, uneven footing, manhole covers, etc. All those things that we see and move around without much concern.

As we were awaiting the arrival of the bus bringing the ACB participants, I was told that Doug was currently in training for "Ironman Wisconsin". What had I gotten myself into! The already present pressure just went up several notches. I've been training for a "sprint" triathlon later this month and have "whined" about all the training. I guess I was feeling sorry for myself.

I watched as the participants stepped from the bus. I had no idea what Doug looked like, not even his age. All I had was his bib number #140. There he was, looking like a runner ready to get to the starting line. He wore a bright orange tech shirt that had the words "Blind - Visually Impaired Runner" printed on it. I walked over and introduced myself to him. It was not unlike any other race where you meet another runner. We talked about our strategy, our goal, our running experiences, etc. Doug had brought a "tether" with him. It is commonly used to keep the runner and guide together. On our way to the start we made the usual stop at the "Porta Potty" and grabbed a few cups of water. The morning was already heating up and the humidity was high.

At 7:30am, the horn sounded and we were off and running. The course is somewhat narrow so we were caught up in the pack. It was difficult negotiating the turns and participants who should have started back in the pack. We must have passed 100 people in the first half-mile. By mile one, the road widened and we were able to maintain a more normal stride. I was now becoming more relaxed with my "play by play" of the race. Friends pulled alongside and gave Doug and I encouragement. Mile two brought us a water stop, we had skipped the first due to the crowd. Two cups of water and we were on our way. The course finishes with a long straightaway to the entrance to Mead Gardens and the finish line. By now the road was clearing and we were able to increase our pace. We slowed at the turn into the park. I told Doug we were about 200 yards from the finish. The crowds were large inside the park and the cheers were appreciated. We crossed the finish line in 29:40. Both Doug and I had accomplished our goal! Now it was time for a bottle of water and a slice of that cold watermelon.

Like any runners Doug was a bit disappointed with his finish time. He had hoped to finish a bit sooner, but realized the crowd and the Florida heat and humidity had taken its toll. I was reminded of the John "The Penguin" Bingham quote, "your spirit doesn't know how to tell time".

Doug learned that he had finished in 1st place for the ACB runners. Every runner enjoys the reward of a great effort. He received a beautiful trophy for his achievement.

What did I receive? Something that filled my heart and mind with the knowledge that you can do whatever you set out to do despite a handicap. The realization just how fortunate I am to be healthy, to be able to see and enjoy what is in front of me. My already open eyes were just opened a whole lot more by this experience.

Congratulations to all of the ACB runners and walkers who participated in the race. I never heard a complaint, all I heard was the sound of laughter and people expressing their joy in what they had achieved.

We made the walk back to where the bus was parked. Everyone knew just how much this experience had touched us all. In a very short span of time our lives were changed forever.

Thank you Doug for helping me to "see".

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Carnation Instant Breakfast

One of my favorite post-run recovery drinks has always been chocolate milk. After drinking water and sports drinks for a prolonged period of time, the taste of something rich is refreshing! "Runner's World Magazine", has a segment in the July 2009 issue. The article said, "drinking chocolate milk post-exercise speeds up recovery and increases the time it takes to reach exhaustion during a subsequent exercise session better than sports drinks."

Recently, I re-discovered "Carnation Instant Breakfast". I had tried it many years ago, but not as a recovery drink. I compared the nutritional values of low fat chocolate milk with the "Carnation Instant Breakfast". All of the nutrient levels in the "breakfast" were higher than the chocolate milk. For example; Sodium 120mg, Potassium 260mg, Total Carbs 27g and Protein 5g. Another factor to consider is cost. I paid from $1.29 - $1.79 for a single portion of chocolate milk. The "Carnation Instant Breakfast" costs about $ .50 per serving, plus the milk. Still about half the price of the chocolate milk. Yes, you do have to mix it yourself and it must be kept cold. I have a small cooler that works fine for the sports bottle and two ice packs.

This "endorsement" is given as a suggestion for your post-run recovery. What have you tried?

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Time to Reflect

This post is a running story with a "twist". The couple in the photo are Jorge-Luis and Aileen. Aileen is a member of our marathon running group. Jorge-Luis is our "Fan #1", who has been a spectator and cheerleader at several of our races. We hope to "persuade" him to run a half marathon in the future.

This month Aileen will start the summer session of our training program, while Jorge-Luis will be deployed to Iraq for a second tour of duty. We had a going away party for him on Saturday evening. We had a great turnout of friends, good food and a few liquid refreshments.

Raymond started the party off with a prayer and blessing. The mood of the evening was jovial , although each of us knew why we were there. We may be runners, but the strongest bond is that we are "family". We come together when times are good and assemble when the unfortunate realities of life pay us a visit. We will have another party for Jorge-Luis and Aileen, that will be to celebrate his safe return from Iraq.

For all who read this post, please say a prayer for Jorge-Luis' safety. Remember and pray for Aileen who will need support during their separation. God Bless them both. God Bless all of our military personnel who are serving our country.

God Bless America!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Vini, Vedi, Vici

Hey, I'm back! Still running, mostly training miles, until my journey to Syracuse, NY.

I'm going with the "Roman" theme seeing how Syracuse has been compared in some ways to Rome. It must be the fact that the city was settled by Italian immigrants and the city is very hilly.

If you are a follower of this blog, you know I have written a few posts regarding hills. I refer to myself as a "flatlander", residing here in Central Florida. Only appropriate I would travel to Central New York for a race. Actually, my father, sister and brother-in-law reside in the Syracuse area and the vacation included the run. Can't leave out my niece Eileen, who unfortunately couldn't be there for the race, but was there for the expo on Saturday and post-race!

The race was the "Mountain Goat" 10 miler. The name of the event gives you a quick insight as to the course. This was the 31st year the race was held and I must say it was extremely well organized and fun. For the first time in the history of the race they had over 2,000 registered runners. We started in downtown Syracuse at "Clinton Square". The start was very orderly and the runners courteous as we moved out of downtown. The first mile and one-half is deceiving as it is relatively flat, just a slight roll to the roadway. Just as my body and brain were relaxing, thinking this was going to be easy, we reached the first hill. At one point I looked at the street sign and it read "Summit", another clue to the contour of the course. I was looking for any sign with the word "valley" in it, no luck. After reaching the summit, we made our way through a very nice neighborhood of beautiful homes. This was also the first time since leaving downtown, we had a large number of spectators. This area also leveled off and in a few areas we had some downhill runs. As with earlier in the race, just when you thought the course wasn't too difficult, here comes another hill, or two, or three!

I wasn't sure how to pace myself for this race. I knew what I could run on the flat portions, I had to decide on hill tactics once I got there. I had a time goal of between 8:00 and 9:00 minutes per mile. I reached mile one in 7:40, comfortable on the flat course. I reached mile marker two at 15:45, ahead of my pace and into the hills. Mile three was at 24:20. Not to bore you with all the splits, my first five miles were at 40:30 and the final five miles at 40:51.

At the eight mile point in the race you reach Thornden Park, high above the city. In the summer they have a beautiful rose garden in full bloom. Today the overcast skies and cool temperatures covered the dormant rose bushes. The spectators inside the park were terrific. I saw groups of school aged kids maybe girl scouts or boy scouts with signs and cheering us on. The final uphill was manned by supporters who "pulled" you up the hill with their encouragement. Someone had written slogans on the roadway to help motivate us as our heads drooped with fatigue. Exiting the park it is a two mile downhill run to the finish. I was not familiar with the streets of downtown Syracuse. Of course there was the spectator yelling encouragement that the finish was, "right around the corner"! Not sure how many corners I turned before I could see the finish line ahead of me. One last charge down Salina Street to the finish. It was over!

The results were posted quickly and I located my finish time of 1:21:23, a bit quicker than I had actually anticipated. As I scanned the results, I could only locate one other runner in my age group ahead of me. I walked back to the car with my sister and brother-in-law to change shirts and get my half-gallon of chocolate milk. Returning to the finish area, I confirmed that I had in fact finished 2nd in my age group. Later I learned there were 33 runners in our group.

Thanks to Rick from Pennsylvania who I ran with for about four miles before he dusted me on the hill at mile seven. Also, Matt Mulcahy, from the local television affiliate, who I met after the race. Matt writes a blog in Syracuse and often his topic is about running. Thanks to the people of Syracuse who came out and supported all of us and all of the sponsors. I'm looking forward to running again next year!

Vini, Vedi, Vici............. I came, I saw, I conquered!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chasing Bill Rodgers

If you are reading this blog you should be familiar with the name Bill Rodgers. If you need a hint, he is the 4 time winner of both the Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon. If that's not enough he was also a member of the U.S. Olympic team and world record holder at several distances.

In July 2008, I did a posting where I talked about how friendly and approachable I have found runners to be. On Saturday, February 14th, I was at the expo for the "26.2 with Donna - The National Marathon to Fight Breast Cancer." As I was leaving I saw Bill Rodgers coming toward me. I said hello and we engaged in a conversation. I had met him previously at the Disney World Marathon and the Boilermaker 15K.

At one point in our conversation I asked him if he was running the marathon on Sunday. His response was "no, I'm running the half." I was registered to run the half-marathon and I was sure that he was approximately my age. In a discreet manner I asked him how old he was. Without hesitation he answered "61", I am 63. Oh no! I now have to compete with Bill Rodgers. He asked me if I had run the race last year and I responded "yes, I placed 3rd in my age group." He congratulated me and said he'll have to look out for the "tall guy". I assured him it would be me who was looking out for him.

Race morning came and I scanned the crowd looking for him. I was situated near the front of the race a spot I am not too familiar with. After the pre-race ceremonies, we were set to go. The start of the race was complete with an explosion of pink paper confetti. It reminded me of a New England snowstorm, except it was 58 degrees.

The start was very orderly and we moved out toward the first turn at approximately the half mile mark. As I settled in and felt comfortable with my pace, I saw Bill to my left and he acknowledged me once again as "tall guy". I moved to within a couple of feet, careful not to get too close following my elbowing incident with Jeff Galloway several years ago. There was no way I was going to "assault" Bill Rodgers. What was funny as we ran along talking, he does like to talk, was not many people recognized him. So there I was stride for stride with an icon of running.

The mile markers and time clocks came and went, one mile, two miles, three miles and he and I were locked in another "Duel in the Sun", except is was overcast. At the four mile mark I was slightly ahead of him, could he be tiring? Had I run him into the ground with my pace? No. At mile 5 we came out onto the sand of Jacksonville Beach. As we turned north up the coast he began to pull away. Most runners would leave you in their "dust", he left me in his "sand". I wasn't disappointed because he was ahead of me, I was going to miss his conversation. I accepted the reality that our "duel" was over. I was ahead of my pace by a few minutes. I had let the thrill of running with him distract me from the split times. I had reached the 5 mile mark in under 40:00 minutes, a fast pace for me.

As I exited the beach and headed south toward the finish I felt very comfortable. I was aware of my pace and how I was feeling. The weather conditions were very good, favorable temperature, light breeze and an overcast sky. The crowd support was terrific, I was doing OK!

I had set a time goal of 1:50:00, not a PR, but this course is moderately difficult. As I saw the time clocks at 8, 9 and 10 miles, I knew the time goal was within reach. I always like to see what my final 5K split is when running a half-marathon. I reached the 10 mile mark at 1:23:45, an easy time to remember. There is one last long hill on the causeway around mile 12. I needed a strong finish to ensure a time of 1:50. As I made the final turn and could see the finish tower ahead I knew all I had to run was approximately 400 yards. At about 100 yards I could see the red numbers on the time clock moving, but I wasn't able to clearly see the time. The first clear view showed me at 1:49:40, I had to dig in and go. I saw the clock at the finish reading 1:49:57. With an adjustment for "chip" time, my official time was 1:49:46.

When the results were posted I had finished 3rd in my age group. Who finished 2nd, you guessed it Bill Rodgers. Can you imagine the thrill I felt seeing my name one line below that of Bill Rodgers. I mentioned to someone it was like the MasterCard commercial, "running with Bill Rodgers......PRICELESS!"

Please visit my other blog the "Pink Bandanna" for details of the "rest of the story", featuring the comeback run of Donna Nelson and a post about the race founder Donna Deegan.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

How Cold Was It?

It is often said that everything is "relative". Well for me and hundreds of runners here in Orlando, it has been COLD! I guess I can look at it and say, well this is our annual one week of winter. In fact as I am writing this, it appears that our warm temperatures are returning.

Despite the cold temperatures, several mornings in the 30's, it did not deter me or many of my fellow runners from getting out there and logging some miles. If you dress properly in layers and for me my hands need to be warm. If my hands are warm I'm fine. After about a mile the body adjusts and comfort is restored.

On Saturday, I ran the "Season's 52" road race in Winter Park, how appropriate to hold it in "Winter" Park. The distance was adjusted from the standard 5K. Since the primary sponsor is the "Season's 52" restaurant, we did 5.2K. The race organizers, Track Shack, did provide a time clock and "Champion Chip" timing for the 5K distance as well.

It was a perfect morning for a race. The temperature was just above 40 and calm. A group of us did a 3 mile warm-up run to the race. We timed it so that we arrived at the start with time for a potty break and ditching the warm-up clothes. We lined up and were off before our bodies could cool down.

I felt very good in the first half-mile so I knew that I would have a good run. I settled in with two runners, Darla and John. John is in my age group and for the past 3 years he has always beaten me, but I've been getting closer. Darla is a breast cancer survivor who at best I manage to stay with for 2 miles, but today would be different.

At mile 1 my time was 7:00 minutes even, at mile 2 it was 13:50. I was now "stalking" John running just off his left shoulder at a safe distance not to impede him or the other runners. Darla was to my left and slightly ahead, but still in sight! As we approached the 5K mark I moved around John. We ran shoulder to shoulder across the 5K and the finish line. Because it was a "chip" timed race I had a 2 second cushion on John. When the results were posted I had finally beaten John by a mere 2 seconds. Darla was still ahead of me, but it was by 1 second, look out Darla!

I finished with PR's in both the 5K and 5.2K. My 5K time was 21:53, the first time I have run under 22:00 minutes. I placed 2nd in my age group out of 36. Overall, I finished 179th out of 2,407.
The photo was provided by my sister and brother-in-law who live in Central New York.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Goal is the Boston Marathon

2009 is going to be the year I "officially" pursue the goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. After almost 5 years of running, I believe I have achieved a point where I can realistically consider a "BQ". It will take many miles of training, good health, avoiding injury, some luck and the many, many friends, runners and non-runners, who will motivate me toward my goal.

I have selected the Mohawk-Hudson Marathon on October 11, 2009 as my qualifying race.

Please visit my new blog "My Goal is the Boston Marathon". Just click on the title for the link.

Monday, January 5, 2009

"Fountain of Youth"

Sunday morning the group pictured above and about 300 others ran the 25th annual DeLeon Springs Half-Marathon and 5K. It is a nice, no frills race, held about 50 miles north of Orlando. The "Springs" are named for the famous explorer Ponce DeLeon, who searched Florida for the "Fountain of Youth".

Having gained six pounds over the Christmas and New Year holiday, I wasn't sure what to expect with my run. Mentally I was prepared and physically I had been training, but at a slightly heavier weight. The ride to the race took about one and one-half hours. Bob aka "Sponge Bob" was the designated driver who picked me up at my house then we picked up Jennifer and Denise. About six miles before the race location we stopped at a Wal-Mart Super Store for bananas, coffee and a potty break.

We arrived at the park and picked up our race packets. No long lines, no ID required. Being the 25th anniversary race, they had black long sleeved "tech" shirts with silver lettering, nice! After meeting other runners from Orlando, we relaxed, then warmed up. The temperature was in the high 50's and it was overcast, slightly damp. It was an 8:00am start, so we knew that as soon as the sun rose the temperature would likewise rise. We managed to get to about the 10-11 mile mark before the sun broke through the overcast. At that point it didn't matter.

The race course goes through a rural section of central Florida that does not resemble the "postcard" views. There are large stands of pine trees and cattle ranches. There were no spectators along the route except for the water stops and the cattle, who seemed to be less than interested in our race. Twice the Amtrak train between Orlando and Jacksonville went speeding past us.

I felt good from the sound of the starters horn. It is a "Champion Chip" timed race, but it is a "gun" time result. I doubt if it takes the last runner more than 30 seconds to cross the start line. I remember seeing the clock at mile one, 7:25 a bit quicker than I expected. Two miles, 15:30, three miles 23:23. I was concerned about averaging a sub 8:00 minute pace, but I continued to feel great. At six miles I was at 47:45. At nine miles I caught up to Erin from my training group, we passed nine miles at 1:13:00, just above an 8:00 minute pace. Although I had not told anyone, my time goal was 1:50, I was ahead of the pace necessary to achieve that. I took mile 10-11 a bit easier in order to have a strong finish. I reached twelve miles at 1:40, I had 10 minutes to run 1.1 miles. I ran strong and started a kick with about one-quarter of a mile left. I passed under the finish line clock at 1:48:45 a new PR, I had met my objective. I placed 3rd in my age group out of 14 and 49th overall.

Maybe I had found the "Fountain of Youth"!