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Jacksonville, FL, United States
In Life as well as in running the secret is Pace.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

26.2 for Cindy

On Tuesday of last week… I stared to get the idea that I might want to do this race…

On Thursday my participation was confirmed. By 5PM on Friday I had a race number in my hand.

So, I thought… now what?

I’d wanted to do the race because some of my friends were doing it… it goes through my old neighborhood… and I could always use another long run in preparation for RATS.

As I sifted through my race packet… All of the breast cancer awareness stuff… It all made me think of my friend Cindy.

She and I have been friends since kindergarten… I think everyone had that girl in their class in school that told everyone what to do… like Lucy in Peanuts… well that’s Cindy. As a grown up she’s well… much the same way J… but with a heart as big as Texas. She battled breast cancer a few years ago… and is fighting health issues again.

So I had this idea… That I’d run the race in her honor…. It sounded kinda cheesy to me at first… me… doing something that I love to do… for me… then dedicating my effort to someone… but then I thought again. Sometimes just the simple act of telling someone that you are thinking about them… and what they are going through… is important… sometimes it’s really all we can do.

So I asked Cindy what she thought… and she thought it a capital idea.

With that in mind… as I got dressed Sunday morning I wrote her name… on my forearm… and on my calf.

Now My initial idea about this race was to take it as a lark… just jogging it, I thought… after the 50 miler the weekend before would be sufficient….

I met my friend Mark… and the rest of our FLDIC team at the start… for a couple of pictures. After the pictures mark and I walked over to the start.

He asked me… “So what’s your plan?”

I almost always have a plan. Truth is I didn’t… I said “I don’t know” then thought of Cindy… and honoring her fight with one of my own…. And finished up by saying “I’m going to run it”

Mark asked for clarification… and I told him that I was just going to run… no mind to time… pace… distance… just run the course.

We found someone to snap a quick picture of us then we were off…

I ran the first mile or so with Mark… pace didn’t matter since we were packed into a herd of a few thousand people utilizing the same on ramp .2 miles into the course. The temperature when I parked my car had been 37F… by the time I dropped my arm warmers (home made from an old pair of tights I found in the goodwill box) at mile 2 it had already warmed up a bunch…

Somewhere in mile 2 I passed the 5:30 pace group. In mile 3 I passed the 5:15 and 5:00 groups. The course reaches the beach at about mile 5 and by then I had caught the 4:30 group. Once on the beach… I had a better line of sight… and I could see another group ahead… the 4:15s. Ironically I had chased them on this same stretch of beach last year after going off course… and there they were again. It took a couple of miles… but I caught and passed them… about the time I reached my old neighborhood.

From there… I really had no other goal in mind.. just my 3 letter… one word mantra… run.

A few miles later I caught a group of girls… and I could kinda hear their conversation… they were worried about their finishing times being recorded correctly. I kinda politely butted in and tried to quell their fears… telling them how the finish was laid out with separate finishing chutes for the half and full… etc. They explained to me the finish was not their issue… they were worried because they went off course… and accidentally crossed the 7 mile timing mat on the ½ marathon course…. At that I started laughing… and they started getting mad…. At least until I explained that I had done the exact same thing the year before.

On my way out to the turnaround I caught a few old friends… and chatted a bit… Before I knew it I crossed the ½ way point… the clock read 2:05 not too bad.

The day was lovely… just that first hint of spring after what has been, for us Floridians, a cold winter. By mile 15 I was burning up in the FLDIC black short sleeve tech shirt I’d been issued… so off it came… at mile 16… I dumped it in my old neighborhood.

Running down 1st Street in Neptune beach on a sunny day definitely put a big smile on my face. Not too many places in the world I rather have been. I could, however, hear some warning bells going off.

The heat was beginning to get to me a bit. I could tell that my haphazard approach to this race, while refreshing and loose, hadn’t put enough emphasis on hydration.

I never really “hit a wall” so to speak but I did slow a bit over the last 10 miles… took in a bunch of fluids… a couple of Gels. Also I never let go of my mantra… and the fight I’d set out to honor… to simply run.

At mile 23 the 4:15 pacers caught me… with but one pace in tow. I tried to stay with them but their walk/run did not fit with my plans.

I finished… pretty well spent… right at 4:15 chip time.

Although I was finished running I was not yet finished with my daily mileage. I had to walk about 1.3 miles to Mark’s house. On the way I stopped at the beer tent and picked up a couple of 16oz Buds… By the time I got to Mark’s I had a nice buzz.

A damm fine day!

Below are some splits I took on my Timex.. yet never looked at… I’m normally pretty consistent… looks like I was all over the place this time.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ironhorse Race Report - Like a sidecar

This race had never been a goal… I had put it on my calendar as a means to an end.

Running in an Ultramarathon was nothing I’d ever really contemplated… but… In a moment of inspiration, or insanity (depending on my mood from day to day) I signed up to do RATS… In looking at that as an ultimate goal.. I decided that I might want to do a standalone ultra or two before the big test in the desert.

I was quite surprised to find a 50 miler in my back yard so to speak.

The race start was located in Florahome, FL… roughly an hour’s drive from my house. So I stuck the race on my calendar… put together a training plan… and registered.

A few weeks before the race a girl from the tri list, Iliana, decided to come down from NYC and run the race with me… I was happy to have some company and camaraderie to tackle a feat that until a few months ago I would have found ridiculous… running 50 miles on an abandoned rail bed.

I wanted to fix what I perceived to be my biggest mistake in my only previous ultra race… I’d taken but 3 gels for 35 miles… and only taken 50 or so ounces of water.

Well… with that in mind we loaded for bear… enough gels, honey, crackers, pretzels, PB&J… you name it… we were stocked.

I wanted to get to the race site an hour or so early… cuz I knew I’d have to tend to bizness… we left a bit late, however, and got to the site at around 0630 for an 0700 start. No sooner had we picked up our packets and pinned on numbers… the RD called for the pre-race meeting… since we had skipped the meeting and packet pick-up the night before I thought hanging around might be a good idea… we did and for the best no doubt… the race had 3 trestles that would need to be navigated 4x each for the double out and back that made up the 50 mile course. The RD gave some words of caution…

Well the meeting adjourned about 0659.. the race started on time at 0700… The RD had Colonel’s wings on his parka… so I never doubted the race would be precise… But we were not ready until 0710… so the race left without us.

At 0710 we sauntered up to the start line… which was a flag… stuck into a fence post. I knew we just headed West from there so off we went… on a dirt road… Soon we came to a curve… Which led us north… and another turn back to the west… I had noticed the lack of footprints… and we discussed this discovery… about that time we see a dude coming our way on a bike… when he caught us… we were informed that we had started the race by going directly off course… Great! I think… “10 minutes late and now .25 miles off course… we are off to a *flying* start”

Iliana’s coach had ordered her to do an 8/1 run walk mix… I’ve never done walk run in training or a race… but… oh… why not… 50 miles is far…

Around 0715 we get *back* to the start and start the race in earnest… the first out and back is only about 4 miles which is perfect timing for portaloo stop #2 (pun intended). We get back on the trail.. pretty much at the azs end of the race… Iliana and I have been chatting since we O-Dark-30… So I suggest that we listen to some music for a while… well… within a mile we have started catching folks… within 2 we’ve caught even more… Iliana has her music cranked up and is by (what I gather to be) ultra standards hauling asz… we are still walking 1 for 8… but when we are running the pace is like a 9 minute mile… We are passing people constantly… zigzagging through groups of 3 at times… Iliana is singing, loudly and slightly off key… and I’m chasing her like we’ve missed a bus or something.

Now I’m pretty easy going… and some would say that is an understatement… After a few miles I mention that our pace is a bit quick… a few more later I say I think we should slow down… a couple after that I get her to take off her headphones and tell her to go ahead… that I’m not going to run that fast anymore… She promises to slow down… and does so… when I settle into a 10:30ish running pace… Somewhere along the line I realized that I had inadvertently stopped my Garmin… I don’t look at it much so it had been about an hour since it had stopped… I didn’t really care either… I was just out to run 2 loops… and not think too much…

After the second turnaround and soon thereafter a visit to aid station 3 we decided to chat for a while and give the iPods a break… that resulted in probably the easiest and most consistently paced miles of the day. When we stopped by Aid station #2 again I sampled their PB&Js… In jest I asked if they would cut the crusts off for me next time… they said they would… but that they might use the “other jelly” and pointed to a big tub of Vaseline…

The next section was back to music… and per usual for me… the miles in the late teens and early 20s is where I get my endorphin fix. Even tho this is the rockiest section.. it passes pretty easily under our feet…

By the time we get back to my car we are halfway… another quick break of refill the pockets and change shirts (not necessarily in that order) and we tackle the short out and back again.. knowing that it’s our last time on that part of the course is a comfort. When we passed the car for the last time I decided to lose the tights in favor of shorts.. it was far from warm (for me) 50F is well above tights weather even for a deep southerner like me. I now had on a singlet with pockets and shorts…

An hour or so later we pull into aid station 2 again… and sure enough… they had cut the crusts off of a PB&J for me J… and the jelly flavor was grape… not petroleum.

During the next section the pain really begins… not pain really… not in a physical sense… more of a strain… Our pace is just a little too much for me…. Even tho we had slowed down a little bit more even… I found myself hanging off Iliana’s shoulder… I felt like a sidecar to her motorcycle… always trailing… never catching up… no motor.. just being drug along… this scenario had been foretold.. by Iliana’s coach… Her words written 6 weeks earlier “And you're going to be dragging Cowart behind you. You will put that poor
boy into an early grave.”

Lessons learned: Don’t Tug on Superman’s Cape… Don’t spit in the wind… Don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger… and don’t doubt Coach Debi

As we neared the final turnaround I hit a low point… I started seriously falling off the pace… keeping up hurt… I wanted Iliana to just go on… let me suffer in peace… I wanted to quit but knew I never would.. I just wanted to slow down a bit… But I plodded onward… time and again… after the 1 (sometimes now 2) minute walk breaks I started running.. not because I wanted to… but I was simply too tired to try and argue about whether or not she would go on without me. I did start hitting the gels on more of a regular basis… every 20-25 minutes.. that seemed to help… I had been looking for the blue tent… finally it appeared in the distance… soon thereafter… we were back at Aid station #2 again… it was here that I heard the sweetest words….

“Only 4 Miles to go”

I’m not sure who said it but… as those words sank in my spirits began to buoy… the voices in my head said… “I can make it..” “that’s not far” “that’s less than an hour”

We were now back to the iPods… mine is cranked… we were doing 7/3 now….but for the last 4 miles the run part was 9:30-10:00 pace… about a half mile out the (as far as I know) only store in Florahome came into view… I’d been looking for it for 15 minutes… it was a sight for sore eyes. We actually skipped our last walk break and ran it on in… Iliana asked if I wanted to sprint it out for the win… I said “heck no”… I might have used somewhat stronger language.

Post race:

We got a burger… changed clothes… then headed back to Jax. I had no blisters… but my Achilles tendons on both feet were on fire for the last 20 miles. By the time I got home my legs were really hurting… Sunday morning I was as sore as I was after my 1st Marathon.

Sunday afternoon I ran (?) in the Winter Beaches Run with my friend Mark… Five 11s was all I could do… with the Achilles screaming all the way. By Wednesday, a few trainer sessions and one easy run later, I felt almost back to normal… but I have been mother tired…. And still am. I’ve probably slept 1-2 hrs a night more than usual since Saturday… and have had a few naps to boot.

Today it hit me… I ran 50 miles…

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hero takes a Fall

So… I was feeling pretty good about myself today… Ultra coming up this weekend… big mileage under my belt from the first 6 weeks of the year.

I had a nice easy run scheduled. It had started raining tho…. As I walked out of my office I asked a couple of guys from my staff…. “Who would want to run in this kind of weather” they replied “you would” (might have been a condescending tone… to me it sounded like admiration) =;-)

On my way to the locker room I ran into one of the runners from upstairs in IT… “You running in this?” “Yeah” I replied with a smile.

In the locker room I run into another guy who was staying inside… I told him “This is good running weather”. I was really feeling like badazz hard mofo.

As I start outside I see that someone else has decided to run today… it’s Barbra from accounting… In shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt… I’ve never seen her out running before… I assume she’s one of the newbies who signed up for the River Run 5k that our company is putting together a team for… She’s standing under the awning.. I walk outside and tell her “It’s not so bad after you get out in it”.

She immediately starts jogging away… saying “I like this weather” over her shoulder… then looks back over her shoulder a few strides later as if to say “Aren’t you coming Mr. Talker?”

So I decided to run along with the newbie a bit… and we ran and started talking…. I thought she was starting out a bit fast and figured, “newbie” and that she was just inexperienced… and would soon slow down and I’d be off on my own.

Well… not exactly… we swapped a couple of running stories… then she mentions something like “since I ran cross country in college” That was about the time I realized I might be in trouble…. Over the next 10 minutes I try to carry on a conversation without sounding too out of breath… I wish I could chalk up the number of times I repeated myself to her poor hearing.

The only time I dictated the pace was when we ran the trial by the railroad tracks that I run every day… and know route and potholes… soon enough, however, we were back on the road….

I was really having a hard time holding on… and was getting stomach cramps to boot… my only saving grace was that I’d told her early on that I’d intended to run 4…. Now early on I thought I’d run 5 with her but at 3.5 I needed an out and letting her go then do a ½ mile cooldown jog was just the ticket…

So I gasped "I'm...... gonna.... let... you... go... now.... I've... got... to... head..... on.... back...."

She replied over her shoulder.... as I was falling back like a stone dropped off a cliff.... "Maybe we can run again later this week"

With that I tucked my tail between my legs... so to speak..... dropped my pace a full 3 minutes per mile... and hobbled back to the locker room.

Needless to say I returned to my office with the knowledge that I’m not the toughest runner in the building… that honor goes to the little red haired lady in accounting.