Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reflections on 2010

A damn good year and a damn good time; that's what 2010 was all about. I went into the year knowing it couldn't be any worse (financially and business wise) than 2009 and with the attitude of work hard, play hard, laugh a lot and live life, I feel like I accomplished most everything I set goals upon.

By the Months!

January
Amidst some of the coldest weather I've ever felt in my life in Florida, I tackled my first marathon (2010 Disney Marathon) while being injured (Achilles tendon). In reflection - NOT SMART. I opted to run with my dear friend Harrison who was running the Galloway method. It was the coldest day in recorded history at Disney World that Sunday morning at 26 degrees and that caused some severe muscle cramps in my friend's legs. In short, we hiked rather than ran that marathon. Finishing was an accomplishment no matter the time. The mile-18 medical tent looked like a triage center in Iraq! It was months before my Achilles fully recovered and I felt like I was truly running injury free. The best experience of this race???
A few hours after the finish. Jenny and I had the "talk" and pretty much officially became an item. Something good can always come from a negative experience!
As for surfing, I was able to take Jenny down to Puerto Rico where we hit up many a beaches and even fit in a long run over a mountain.

February
This was a rehab month for me. I focused on the physical therapy of my Achilles tendon and slowly eased back into running. Jenny and I got to be a part of a relay team for the 5-points of Life Marathon in Gainesville on yet, another, cold morning. I think we were both either still drunk or hungover from a party the night before.

March
Ahh March! Month of Jenny's birthday, longer days, warmer weather and more running! I was honored with the job of being one of the drivers for Team Hot Legs in the Sunrise to Sunset Relay, which they won the all female division. It was then I learned I can still function well while being severely sleep deprived. We also ran two races in one day by participating in the Trail of Payne 10k in the morning and Hospice Tioga 5k in the afternoon (Jenny did the 10k option). I think I was more afraid of running two races in one day than I should have been. Looking back it was no big deal!

April
Commence travel! Jenny and I flew up to Raleigh, North Carlina, to see one of her best friends for a long weekend. We ran our long run (in training for Seattle Marathon) partly on trails and partly on a hilly country road. It was my first good ass kicking experience with hills.

May
Continue travel! I flew to Sacramento where one of my best friends and I went into San Francisco, met up with my cousin from Portland and ran the 99th Bay to Breakers 12k race. This is definitely a bucket list race. If you haven't done it, do it. And make sure you bring a camera and adult beverage with you! Later in the month Jenny and I got together with a few friends for a romp in the mud at the Muddy Buddy race in Orlando. The race was awesome; being part of the Disney machine was not.

June
More travel! This time about as far away from Florida as we can go and stay in the lower 48. The Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon was a success! I totally bonked toward the end of the race (hills kicked my ass again) and that gave me a lower than hoped for time. However, we raised nearly $2,000 for the American Heart Association and had a damn good time all along the journey! Our families met over a few days in Seattle and then Jenny and I took the train down to Portland for some post-marathon rest while visiting my cousin.

July
This month I dubbed myself "Captain Rest" and made myself in charge of recovery and rest for Jenny and I. It was also the month Jenny made the move and job change to New Smyrna Beach from Gainesville (big major step in our relationship)! Being summer, there was also plenty of surfing.

August
If you had 48-hours notice to drop everything and get on a plane to Hawaii for a week's vacation what would you do???
I know what I did.... I dropped everything and got on the dang airplane! That's what happened when my cousin (Portland) separated from his long time girlfriend a week before his non-refundable all inclusive vacation for two to Hawaii. He knew that if anyone in the family was crazy enough to drop everything and meet him 4,000 miles away it would be me. I gladly took the place of his girlfriend and we did "man" things for a week instead of romantic stuff. Hypoxia at the Mona Kea summit? You betcha! Unknowingly snorkeling into sacred forbidden waters of the Hawaiian Gods? Ooops! Climbing across the top of Rainbow Falls? Why not! It was a great time and I will return -- next time with Jenny and some SURFBOARDS!

September
Just when I thought I wouldn't be traveling for a while.... Jenny and I found a great deal on tickets to upstate New York and visited her grandparents. Other than NYC I've never seen any other part of New York. This was an eye-opening trip for me. I deal with so many people from New York here in Florida and now it's nice to know where they are really coming from. And of course we found a race to run the weekend we were there. The Delta Lake Half Marathon is my favorite half marathon of date! It was gorgeous, uncrowded and super well organized. Not to mention I had a great run (Jenny did too) and got a PR.

October
My birthday month! The biggest event this month by far was that of the Apalachicola Running for the Bay Marathon and Half Marathon. Jenny trained for this race with the goal of Boston Qualifying. I ran the half marathon and attempted to support her through her training as she did for me in the Seattle race. Despite a complete disaster in organization by the race director, the inaugural event actually occurred without any major tragedies. I PR'ed the Half beating my Delta Lake time and Jenny got her BQ.

November & December
My blog writing has dwindled I know. Since the marathon Jenny has been struggling with some bursitis in her hip and since a short distance race in November I've been babying my Achilles tendon so there hasn't been much to write about in the world or running and surfing. But never fear my friends. We've got some ultra exciting plans for 2011 that should provide plenty of material to write about. Looking back 2010 was a good year after all. I ended up traveling way more than I could have anticipated, ran more races faster than ever, and found someone to be happy with.... I can only hope to do as well next year.

Here's 2010 by the numbers:

Leashes Broken - 2
Boards Broken - 0
Contest Surfed - 0
Races Ran - 12
Races Volunteered - 0 (regrettably)
Relay races volunteered as team driver - 2 (Sunset to Sunrise & Ragnar)
Surfing Trips to Puerto Rico - 1
Airline Flights taken - 12
Miles Ran - 1,218 (more than double that in 2009)
Days I ran - 204
Running Shoes used - 4
Marathons - 2
Half Marathon - 2
Running injuries - 0
Days Surfed - 59 (significantly down from 2009)
Trail runs - 16 for 121 miles (1 race)
Bicycle miles - 166 miles on 22 rides
New Experiences - Countless, but still searching for more!

Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Do what you say you'll do!

It actually came....



And I thought I should show it to you...

Not because I'm saying "Look at me, look at me, I placed," but ONLY because the race director of the Apalachicola Running for the Bay Marathon and Half Marathon ACTUALLY did what he promised and sent out certificates to all those placing in their divisions. (My race recaps HERE and HERE)

I didn't believe it until I saw it in my mailbox. At the race we were told we'd be mailed certificates for placing. After the snafu that was this inaugural race I doubted I'd ever see such a thing, but the race director actually did it. Oh yes, he did! And I'd like to say that's a good start!

It's a good start in improving this race if there is going to be a next year. Do what you promise. Do what's advertised and deliver. . .

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Run to the Sun" Memorial 4-Mile Run/Walk

Jefferson H. Ridgdill "Run to the Sun" Memorial 4 Mile Run/Walk - 4 Mile

Quote of the Race: "When we turned the corner of that first block we could see you and Jenny already running across the top of the bridge!" - My mother who walked the race.

RACE STATS:
Location - New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Cost - $20 pre-registration (with no fee 'cause it's not those Active Nazis!) or $25 day of race.
Year of Running - 5thSponsor - Black Crow Media, New Smyrna Pennysaver, Publix, Hometown News, Elite Amenities, MultiSportFit.com, Canal Street Tire & Tube, SoNapa Wine Company, Clancy's Cantina, Chick-Fil-A, Daytona Beach Track Club, Pepsi & and other local businesses.
Charity - This race always supports a charity as it memorializes Jefferson H. Ridgdill, a local teacher and musician that passed away after a long battle with cancer. This year's race benefits the LIVESTRONG Foundation.
Number of Participants - 144 finishers.
Available Races - 4-mile loopCourse Condition - Mostly concrete or asphalt sidewalk. Note: this is an open traffic course so there are no road closures, but since it is a loop around the Intracoastal Waterway in a counterclockwise direction there are no major intersections to cross. There are two bridges with moderate incline/declines, but otherwise the course is flat and fast.
Pace Groups - N/A
Expo - N/A

ORGANIZATION, SUPPORT & SPECTATORS: This is the third year I have participated in this race and it's one of my local short distance favorites. It's about average for your run-of-the-mill $20 5kish race, but what is above average is the overall atmosphere. Runners will notice a small town vibe that is relaxing and NOT stressful. Packet pickup and day-of-registration is easy, fast and simple. This year runners received strap-on ankle style chips and while the race was still "gun time," it is small enough that even if you're the last to cross the start line it's only a matter of seconds difference from gun time. I was easily able to toe the start line. Support was excellent with volunteers handing out water at each mile during the race and I was handed a customized "Run to the Sun" labeled water bottle upon finishing. Light breakfast was served pre-race and a full on Chick-Fil-A sponsored brunch was held following the race before awards and prizes. Spectators are minimal, but there were a few lining the sidewalk just before the first bridge.

ACCESSIBILITY:
The race starts and finishes in Riverside Park in downtown New Smyrna Beach right along the waterfront. It's a straight shot from I-95 on State Road 44. There's plenty of parking along Riverside Drive and in the parking lot of the park. New Smyrna Beach is located 20 minutes south of Daytona Beach and 1 hour northeast of Orlando.

SWAG:
For a $20 charitable donation this race gets you breakfast, brunch, chip-timed results & and a decent quality cotton race T-shirt.

POST RACE AWARDS & FOOD:
In previous years all finishers received "music themed" medals. This year, only place finishers in age divisions got medals, but all finishers were given yellow LIVESTRONG gel bracelets. Overall winners were awarded trophies and age group winners were given aluminum water bottles, yellow in color with race logo on them. Numerous prizes including, a vacation in St. Pete Beach, Kid's mountain bicycle, gift certificates, free 1-page advertisement in the local newspaper and a sport analysis from MultiSportFit.com were given out in a post awards ceremony drawing. Food was great, because, well, it was provided by Chick-Fil-La... 'nuff said.

MY RACE STORY:
This was the 1-year anniversary the first race that Jenny and I ran together. On that fateful day last year it was only a third date, we were both overcoming injuries and all I remember was something like "dang, this girl is FAST!"
This year I'm feeling the strongest I've ever felt as a "runner." Jenny is overcoming a small post Boston Qualifying marathon muscle injury. We decided that we would not run together since I was really feeling like opening up the throttle on this one and it would be best for her not to further aggravate her injury. We also managed to talk my sister, mother, step-father and friend, Matt, into registering during the Thanksgiving festivities the few days prior so our little race was now a fun social event!
Jenny and I both managed to get right up to the start line. The gun sounded and we were off. I immediately got caught up in the lead pack and after about 200 meters decided that it would be a VERY bad idea to continue to run with these guys and started easing off to a pace that I felt was sustainable. After a block, the course begins a 1/4-mile incline up a high rise bridge crossing the Intracoastal Waterway. I'm used to this bridge from running repeats on it (it's the only hill in New Smyrna Beach) and it's something like 66-feet tall. Still able to see the leaders (only about 10 runners in front of me) I probably charged it harder than I should have and came down fast too...
The Mile-1 marker is right at the bottom of the bridge. I check my watch and it reads 6:50. "Holy sh*t," I gasp aloud! I'm still too fast so I throttle back a little more. I man passes me. I blow past the water station and just after a female runner blows past me. I try and settle into a sustainable pace. It's hard when I know the course from running it hundreds of times at a slower than race pace and now I'm trying to figure out how far I can push the envelop. At the second mile marker I check my watch again and my second split is 7:10. That's a little better, but still seems fast for me. It's overcast and in the low 70s temperature-wise, but I'm starting to sweat like a horse!
I start to slow a bit running up the second bridge (a smaller draw bridge) not by my choice. After the summit I try and make up the time by speeding up, but my body tells me otherwise. I guess it's going to be a Fartlek-style finish to this race as I continue to slow the pace, catch my breath and then speed back up.
I don't dare look behind me. I don't want to know. I want to feel like I'm the predator and not the prey. There is a man about 50 meters in front of me. For the last mile I focus on slowly gaining on him and cut it down to about 20 meters. We turn the corner of Riverside Drive and I can see the finish line. I feel a burst of adrenaline and probably have the speed to over take him. Something strange happens. I don't want to pass him. He's been running hard this entire race and so have I. I'm not racing him. My goal is to beat my PR from October's 4-Mile "Beer Run," and I'll settle for anything under 30 minutes. Besides, I feel like people that surge to an all out sprint the last hundred feet of a race tend to look like douchebags! The race clock comes into focus and I can see 28:something and I know I'm OK. I cross the finish line with a new 4-mile PR! Jenny comes in about 20 seconds behind me and we hug and congratulate each other. She really is an amazing runner! Jenny gets a free post race Massage by KJ and I devour some food. It's a good day.

My official stats:
15th out of 144 finishers
12th male finisher overall
1st in my age division out of 5 - woohoo!
Chip Time: 29:19 (personal record)
Average pace: 7:19
"Run to the Sun" Memorial 4-Mile Run/Walk grade = A



My sister, stepfather, mother, myself, Jenny and Matt after finishing the race. Good times all around!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Speechless....

Just before bed last night I got a text message from a surfer friend in New York City.

"Did you hear about Andy Irons," she text.

"Nope?" I replied.
The following news was the kind you never want to hear. The kind that makes it hard to go to sleep.

The 3-time World Champion and only surfer ever to defeat Kelly Slater when he was in his prime has passed away. And apparently of dengue fever??? All I could say was 'what the f*ck?' I guess we'll find out for sure when autopsy reports are released, but initial reports saying he got the virus in Puerto Rico and died in Dallas while trying to get back to Hawaii are mind blowing to me. Having traveled to Africa, India, South America and other places where dengue fever is a risk, I personally have learned to take precautions (insect repellent), but also was always under the belief that dengue kills the young, old and weak. NOT an elite athlete.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the Irons family. Andy will be remembered as one of the greatest surfers ever! Mahalo Andy for all the inspiration and aloha you gave to the world of surfing!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Running for the Bay! Marathon (Pictures and Suggestions)

A few final thoughts on the Running for the Bay! Marathon:

This morning in my inbox I noticed an email bringing to my attention that apparently my blog is now famous, or at least getting its 15 minutes. One of our gang from the race asks, "have you seen this... you're featured." Clicking on the link I find the story titled Moonlit Marathon on the website of The Times of Apalachicola & Carrabelle newspaper. It's a well written story about the race by a local journalist that mentions my blog in the fourth paragraph and even quotes my race recap!

The first time I write something that I feel is extremely negative, but needs to be said, and NOW I get noticed? Not exactly what I hope for when I write these "hobby posts" of mine, but realizing how I might have a few new readers this week I'd like to make a few suggestions that perhaps could make this race a more successful event in coming years.

There are currently 100 review posts on Active.com for this race as I'm writing this, most of which are negative or constructive criticisms. I've never seen that many before; not even on the Tipple's Beer Run where they got shut down mid-race by law enforcement and there was no beer at the finish line! Some comments are positive, some are harsh and uncalled for and some are useful suggestions. I hope the race director will consider them all and stay the course by holding the event next year.

I feel the problem at it's core was poor communications between the race and the runners. Most of the issues runner's experienced could have been easily avoided had race officials effectively informed the field of what they were getting into so they could have been better prepared. They're a lot of bitchin' and complaining about the lack of support. Most of us train on the road with traffic and no support. If we knew we could have self-supported ourselves, but instead many runners, I feel, felt betrayed by statements on the race website or lack of information about the race conditions at the expo. When my group asked about pace groups the information volunteer at the expo when on to explain about how bicycles would be pacing the leader, but didn't even really understand the definition of a pace group leader.

Here are my suggestions for a successful race next year:
1.) Offer a discount on registration fees to all the runners that participated in 2010 in an attempt to get them to return. While doing so regularly issue press releases on everything being done to correct issues from the inaugural race and any improvements or new features. The running community is close-knit and word travels fast. 700+ runners was an excellent turnout for an inaugural race and an excellent base to spread the word both positive or negative.

2.) If the race is truly benefiting a charity clearly inform the runners exactly who, why, when and how much. There was some confusion about this and there's a huge customer base of runners that strive only to run in charitable races even if only a portion goes to charity.

3.) If the state government want allow the bridges to be shut down for traffic (I'm guessing they won't since they seem to be main arteries) consider other ways to improve safety. Signs could alert motorists of the race and that there are "runners on the road." Line the course with MORE orange cones. Perhaps explore shutting down only 1-lane of traffic. Most runners are used to running against the flow of traffic. I think running with the flow caused an increased amount of stress with some of the runners. Ask for sponsorship from one of the companies making reflective gear for runners to wear. Provide each runner with some kind of reflective gear from that sponsor as "swag" in the goody bag and encourage them to wear them during the race. Most experienced runners will NOT wear a race t-shirt, no matter how nice or reflective, during the race of the t-shirt, but perhaps a reflective anklet or bracelet or LED light. And please, PLEASE try to find a solution to the 5k & 10k turnarounds. This year it was NOT safe, nor clearly marked to have them crossing busy lanes of traffic to get to the other side of the road.

4.) It's pretty obvious and kind of beating a dead horse to ask for more hydration during the race. Thirty years ago runners were used to not having any support. Ultra marathons and trail runners currently are used to not having much support. However, your average modern 5k to marathon runner expects to have plenty if not too many aid stations along the route. If not, we need to know about it so we can carry hydration along with us, or have friends along the course. Consider having water before the race available. Trash the post race chips and sodas. The mini-Cliff bars were great and there was water and Gatorade, but get some bigger cups or give out bottles. Runners need larger amounts of fluid after a race than during. Small cups are great when we're on the run, but after the race it's a waste of paper to have runners going back for 4 or 5 cups and hard on the volunteers. Instead of chips get bananas, bagels, oranges, etc. Not all carbs are created equal and runners know this...

5.) The awards ceremony? Seriously? Hype it up more! Turn off the loud music outside and use those PAs to announce the winners outside where everyone was loitering, not inside the community center when most runners had left or were unaware of a ceremony. It seemed like there was a lack of communication between the timing official and the race director. When asked individually they both seemed to be waiting on the other for something. This was my first race ever placing in my division and I didn't even want to go claim my award. I was told a certificate would be mailed to me. I hope that's true. Check out other races and see what they give out for division place finishers. Something representative of Apalachicola Bay would be awesome. Perhaps a small locally made plaque with an oyster shell on it. Oyster shells are free last time I checked. Have the awards ceremony sooner. Not in the 6th hour of the race. Place finishers rarely stick around until the race course is closed.

6.) Consider tweaking the race course to feature more of Apalachicola and less of St. George Island. After the race I felt like I hardly got to see the city of Apalachicola and let's face it St. George Island has an amazing beach, but otherwise there's not much to see there and the course can't be on the beach as the sand is too soft. Plus, this would decrease the possibility of runners facing stronger winds for longer periods of time on the island. Shut down the main street of Apalachicola and encourage the merchants and residents to come out and show their support. This would give the race a feeling of having more crowd support than the zero crowd support currently experienced.

7.) More bathrooms.... 'nuff said. (Visit THIS race for an outstanding example)

8.) Don't give up. Hold the race again next year. It's a great venue and a part of Florida that everyone should see at least once in their lives. Runners are a wonderful group of people and any town or city should only hope to bring that economic impact upon itself.

And to end on a positive note here are a few pictures from Jenny and my race weekend experience in Apalachicola/St. George Island!


Our party of ten gorged ourselves on a wonderful pre-race dinner at "That Place off 98" in downtown Apalachicola. I think they were a little slammed by runners causing their service to be slow, but dang that food was great!



Jenny on the final stretch of bridge (about 5 miles) somewhere around mile 22. Notice the bicyclist volunteer in the background desperately trying to pour water in cups for approaching runners. There's not even a table as he was lining cups up on the ground.

Jenny crossing the finish line and qualifying for Boston!


My Half Marathon finisher's medal. The full marathon was the same, but with a slightly different ribbon.


Cast netting at sunset on St. George Island.


The bridge between St. George Island and Eastpoint the day before the race. Ironically, there was little traffic the day before.


Sunrise on St. George Island.


Moonrise on St. George Island


Shrimp boats of Apalachicola

Two of my favorite things: Beach and the hour of twilight after sunset!

Jenny and I on the beach at St. George Island the evening after the race.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Running for the Bay! Marathon and Half Marathon, 10k, 5k - Apalachicola, Fla.

Update: Keith Brantly was NOT a "no show" (see comments at bottom) and I apologize for my poor choice of words and lack of fact checking. Evidently he was at the expo at the scheduled time Friday night and due to being ill he informed the race director he would not be attending on race day. (update on Oct. 28, 2010)


Quote of the Race:
"Ouch!" - The only word mustered up during the first few minutes by Jenny between tears and gasps for breath after crossing the finish line and achieving a Boston Qualification time with nearly 4 minutes to spare.

RACE STATS:
Location - Apalachicola, Eastpoint & St. George Island, Florida
Cost - Marathon ($79-$99 depending on pre-registration dates), Half-Marathon ($65-$85 depending on pre-registration dates), 10k ($49-$59 depending on pre-registration dates) & 5k ($29-$34 depending on pre-registration dates. Day of registration is unknown, but I do believe it was available.
Year of Running - 1st
Sponsor - K-Swiss, Cliff Bar, Culligan, LaraBar, RoadID, Ultra Running Magazine, RRCA and various other local businesses.
Charity - Website claims "Wounded Warrior Project," but unknown if any funds or what amount of registration fees were actually donated or if that was just a suggestion to the participants to make their own donation.
Number of Participants - 681 total participant finishers. 237 for the Marathon, 266 for the Half, 88 for the 10k, 89 for the 5k and 1 for wheelchair division. (According to Active.com results as official results on the race website are not posted as of today).
Available Races - Marathon, Half-Marathon, 10k, 5k
Course Condition - Mostly concrete bridge with a few short sections of asphalt paved road. Most of course is along the road shoulder with little protection from traffic and goes with traffic rather than against (runners on right side of road shoulder). Approximately 1 mile of course was closed to traffic. Overall very poor and dangerous conditions that need major improvements.
Pace Groups - None. When asking the "information" volunteer at the expo about pace groups it quickly became apparent that they had no idea what we were talking about. We were told there would be bicyclist "pacing around" during the race.
Expo - Day before and average for a race of this size. Packet pick-up and expo (1-vendor from what I could tell) was held at the Apalachicola City Hall located at 1 Bay Avenue.

ORGANIZATION, SUPPORT & SPECTATORS:
It's sad and perhaps ironically fitting that in an geographic area savaged in recent years by hurricanes and oil spills and desperate for economic recovery would be destined for this horrible fate known as Running for the Bay! Marathon. The idea was good and on paper it looks great! The turnout was even impressive for an inaugural event. We were told nearly 800 were pre-registered. Weather was perfect with a temperature ranging from 58-degrees at the 7 a.m. start to low 80s by Noon. The sky was clear and wind was light to begin with becoming slightly annoying later in the race. Sunrise was beautiful at about 7:48 a.m. The problem at its core lies with the Race Director and what appeared on the surface as a break down in multiple areas of communications, organization, support and logistics. I was part of a party of 11 visitors to this area, all of us eager to spend some money and have a good weekend. Seven of us participated in the race (One 10k, two Half Marathon and 4 marathon). Judging from the amateur design of the race's website and doing some weather research on average conditions for the area we came into the race knowing there could be some quirks and hiccups. None of us could believe what actually happened. As for organization, the race director needs help. From our point of view (and I spoke with him at a very lackluster awards ceremony) he was not a "runner" and needs a basic education on average runner needs. The idea was good. The execution was lacking. The race clearly did not have enough volunteers and race officials did not adequately warn runners what they were getting into. Minutes before the start it was apparent that there was a communication break down as a voice over a loud speaker desperately tried to gather volunteers on a bus. There were a total of 10 port-o-johns for nearly 800 runners at the start line and they were pretty much limited along the course. I only noticed one while I was running the Half Marathon. Also, while standing in line before the race a heavy duty truck pulling a large pontoon boat forced its way through the lines as it was trying to make way to the boat ramps, which should have been closed. Support was seriously lacking in every facet from water, fuel, volunteers, police traffic support, course markers and medical help. The one saving grace were the volunteer bicyclist that seemed to be everywhere trying their hardest to help despite being overwhelmed. Spectators were few and far between. Family members and friends of runners seem to gather around the finish line. There were a few along side the road in Eastpoint, but other than that it was nada. It was not the welcoming crowd of residents lining the streets that race organizers were hoping for and promising on their website. Furthermore, the race was advertised to feature Olympian Keith Brantly. I'm not sure exactly who he is nor was that a deciding factor of my attendance at this race, but as far as I could tell he was a "no show," or they never announced his presence. It was evident that Dane Rauschenberg was in attendance as he had a booth at the expo selling his book and I saw him cross the finish line with the female overall winner.

ACCESSIBILITY:
There's a small general aviation airport in Apalachicola, but otherwise your best bets are flying into Tallahassee or Panama City, both a little more than an hour drive away. A car is a must to get around as public transportation is not readily available. I suppose you could come in on a shrimp boat.

SWAG:
Not too shabby. This is one part where the race organizers came through with their promises. Inside the race packets were a really nice Zorrell tech T-shirt (white in color) with race logo on the front and sponsors on the back. There was the normal coupons (Road ID order form, etc.) and Cliff Bars, Larabars and Cascadia Farms cereal.

POST RACE AWARDS & FOOD:
The finisher medals for Half and Full Marathon are absolutely beautiful with a spinning center section and even a pearl embedded on the front. Only problem is they started breaking as runners walked around post-race with them around their necks! The center section is prone to falling out! Overall men's and women's winners received K-Swiss shoes. Age division finishers were given various sponsor swag including towels, water bottles and lanyards, but nothing too special. The race director personally told me that certificates would be mailed to all top finishers, but I'll believe it when I see it. The post race food was one of the biggest downfalls of this race. It consisted of soda cans (Coke products), potato chips, cliff bars (which they ran out of toward the end of the race), water in small cups and mixed-from-powder Gatorade in small cups. After catching my breath at the finish line I had to repeatedly go back again and again for additional cups of fluids simply because the portions were too small. Seriously, how hard is it to have some bananas or oranges or bagels at the finish line??? Again, if race officials had better informed runners of exactly what would be provided at the finish line I'm sure more participants would have been better prepared by providing their own post-race recovery food and hydration.

MY RACE STORY:
I'm going to keep this as short as I can as I've already pretty much trashed the race in the above review and I HATE being negative. I hate anything that makes me be negative so I'm going to focus on the positives for a bit.
We got to the race about 45 minutes early and found it super easy to park within a few hundred feet of the start line. We stood in the bathrooms lines for the majority of our pre-race time and almost got run over by a truck pulling a boat! The announcer had all 700-800 runners line up telling us to get in order, fast runners up front and slow runners at the rear. They gave the hand-crank wheelchair dude (he was the only one) a 2-minute head start and then they blew the horn and we were off. It was dark and initially crowded. Kind of a clusterf*ck as we turned the corner to go over the first section of high rise bridge. There was significant camber and while it did not affect me I'm sure it bothered some runners. The next 5 miles were basically into the sunrise and amazingly beautiful. It looked like the horizon was on fire as early morning rays of light breached the bay.
Listening to Metallica's Ecstasy of Gold from the S&M Album on my iPod, I hit replay and listened to it twice as it was totally surreal. I had worked hard in the days prior to this race on my playlist. It has been a long time since I listened to music during a race and I was stoked about my selection of songs. I even calculated the time of where I'd be at different sections of the race to what music would play. Then at mile 3, or near the 10k turnaround spot, I noticed something. It was quiet. Why can I hear myself breathing so hard, I pondered to myself? It's funny how when you're running it takes a long time sometimes to figure something out. A minute or two later I realize there's no music playing. I check my 5-year-old, 20-gig, iPod Photo and it's dead. I play with it, frantically trying to get it to come alive. I do a hard reboot. Then it's apparently obvious that the battery is dead. It was fresh off the charger and it only lasted 20-something minutes. With 10 miles left to run I grunted at the thought of no music.
So be it.
Last month, I ran to a PR finish at the Delta Lake Marathon in New York with no music. I will do it again!
As I arrive in Eastport, coming off nearly 5 miles of concrete bridges with heavy high speed traffic, I'm feeling pretty good. My legs are fine. My breathing is fine. I'm relaxed and on pace by my best mental calculation to finish around 1:45:00. This would be awesome and I celebrate the thought of such an achievement for a few seconds. There is a section of road closed to traffic so the fear of being annihilated by a car temporarily eases up and I settle in with the runners around me. There a few girls behind me, a few guys in front and an aid station on the horizon. I pull out a GU and slam it. I haven't taken any hydration yet and honestly can't remember seeing any aid stations. I think they were setting up around mile 1, but I must have been too early because they didn't have any water out yet. Now it's mile 6 and while I don't feel like I need anything yet, I force myself to take some water and my own personal GU. We were lucky enough to be staying on the beach on St. George Island so we got a preview of the course a hour before the start as we drove in to Apalachicola. All of us were silently horrified by the complete lack of aid stations so close to the race start. The mile marker signs were there, but we saw them there the day before and what's worse is some of them were blown down or blown away. I could tell Jenny was freaked out. She is attempting to Boston Qualify in the full marathon and did not bring a hydration pack because the race's website claimed there would be aid stations nearly every mile.
Soon it's time to split away from the full marathoners and head back to Apalachicola. I turn the corner and realize I'm completely alone. The pack of runners I've been pacing with all continued on with the full marathon. There's a ditch alongside the road. The thought crosses my mind of ripping off my dead iPod and tossing it into the ditch as hard as I can. It's strapped to my arm and bulky. It's providing "mental drag." The only thing that holds me back is the fact that you can get a discount from Apple if you recycle an old iPod when you buy a new one. I need all the discounts I can get.
As I approach state road 98 to make the turn back to Apalachicola there's a police officer that stops oncoming traffic just for me as I'm still alone. I thank her and continue on down the course. It's now that I realize how poorly marked this course is... I'm thankful I reviewed the map before and was familiar with it from driving it, but holy crap you could get lost without any other runners to follow! I can see a girl and a guy about three football fields ahead of me. We're running on the right-hand shoulder of a busy road so it's unnerving not being able to see approaching traffic. So far there's been quite the random collection of road debris including fun noodles, sharp aluminum siding, a headless seagull, a dead raccoon, hundreds of dead monarch butterflies and too many different types of trash to list. If this race was in my city I would be embarrassed of the trash along the course. The scenery is beautiful though as I can see for miles across the bay. Pelicans are constantly flying over and there's now a light breeze at my back. The sun is out, but I'm not hot yet.
I push on and realize I have no clue of how far I have left to run. The last mile marker I saw was mile 6. I'm on the bridges so I know there's less than 5-miles left. There's no water or aid stations and for the first time I start to feel fatigued. The guy in front of me slows and I start to gain ground on him. He's clearly thirsty like me. The girl seems to slow, but speeds up so I can't seem to catch her. Then I feel myself slowing. I feel as if it continue this hard I WILL relieve myself of whatever is residing in my stomach. That would not be fun, so I slow even more.
There's a sign on the opposite side of the road and as I look back I see it's the 10k turnaround marker. Now I can figure that I have about 3 miles left to go and that I've been running for more than 4 miles with no water options. Surrounded by water, water everywhere... but not a drop to drink!
There's a small strip of land, maybe 1/2 mile, between the long flat bridge I'm coming off of and a high rise bridge leading over the channel and down into the city of Apalachicola. This is the final mile or so of the race. At this point there are two, TWO, aid stations set up in this 1/2 mile or so stretch. At the first one I take water and thank the volunteer. At the second one I take water and dump it on my head. I've now got this damn bridge to climb. I almost have to walk about halfway up. I pass a 10k walker and make a commit about who's idea this bridge was and we laugh. At the top I'm about ready to puke, but I can hear the music at the finish line. I manage to get back on pace going downhill (my strength) and cross the finish line under the bridge with a PR of more than a minute!
A few minutes later, Katie (who just ran a full marathon last weekend) crosses the Half Marathon finish line. After catching our breath and meeting up with some of our other friends (including husbands of some of the girls out there running the full marathon), it's not even a question or a discussion. We simply get in one of the cars and drive to the nearest convenient store where we buy lots of cold water bottles and Gatorade. Speeding down the course with great concern for all the runners including our friends somewhere up ahead with no support, we do take note that there are now more aid stations set up than when we ran the course. We find Jenny first around mile 18 and offer hydration. She refuses and we cheer her on. Next comes Michelle, who also refuses, but is happy to see us along the course. Then we find Danielle and Allison. They're all looking good and strong, but some other runners aren't as fortunate. On the bridge to to St. George Island we hand out nearly all the water and Gatorade to every desperate runner we see. They are thankful and I wonder if the knew we did this on our own or if they simply thought we were volunteers in a car? The most horrific thing I witnessed in this race was a large bottle of water and a stack of empty cups at mile 20 on the ground on a bridge with nobody around it. The last thing any runner wants to do at mile 20 of a marathon is stop running, bend over to ground level and pour themselves a drink! At least as we headed back to the finish line there were some bicyclist pouring as much water as they could for the runners.
We are back at the finish line a short while later and waiting for our runners to finish. Jenny needs a 3:40:00 or better time to qualify for Boston and the race clock passes 3:30:00. I run up to the bridge to look for her and she's nowhere to be seen. I check my watch and it's now 3:33:00. I get very anxious and then I see a familiar stride at the top! Will she make it? I think back to my finish and the time it too me to get from there to the finish line and realize she has plenty of time. As she comes down the bridge I yell out that she's doing great! She goes right and I go left taking the short route. We all cheer her in at the finish line. She's a mix of smiles and tears and can hardly talk. After about 30 seconds she manages to get out a soft "ouch."
That pretty much sums up the race... ouch. But hey, she's a Boston Qualifer with nearly 4 minutes to spare.
All the other girls finish strong and we spend the rest of the day relaxing poor side and grilling out along the beach of St. George Island. The environment for this race was great. It was the organization that sucked. It's the first year, but not having enough water, volunteers or medical help is NOT excusable.
I hope they have this race again next year, but realistically, I can't recommend it to anyone. The race director needs to take everything he has and throw it out the window. Wipe the slate clean, forget everything he thinks he knows about running a race, and start over with the help of a strong running organization. There are some seriously dangerous flaws in this race that must be corrected or the race should never be held again.

Photos to come soon!

My official stats*:
15th out of 266 total Half Marathon finishers
1st in my age division out of 12
Net Time: 1:49:14 (personal record)
Gun Time: 1:49:37
Average pace: 8:20

Running for the Bay! Half Marathon grade = D-

*As I write this I'm still confused about what place I actually finished. I was announced by the race director at the awards ceremony as 1st in my age division and that's what I'm recorded on the official race results "here." However, according to Active.com results I'm 2nd place in my age division with the 3rd place overall male finisher taking 1st in my age division. He's clearly beaten me and is in my age group, but not listed as in my age group division. This is yet another failure in the organization and execution of this event. All I can say is WTF and it's not a big deal to me as I don't consider myself competitive and all I care about is the PR, which I got.

Friday, October 15, 2010

In memory of The Log


It is with my deepest regrets that I bring to you the news that The Ron Jon Log has left this Earthly world for a better place on this 14th Day of October in the year two-thousand ten.

The Log, age approximately 15 years, died while on the operating table in a small, but soon-to-be well known board-shaping bay in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., after a horrific encounter with a jig saw blade. While The Log's early years are relatively unknown, its last 6 years of adventures are well documented. After a short stint as a learning board along the shores of Bethune Beach The Log relocated to TallGuySurfing's board rack where it spent numerous sessions along the many surf breaks of the New Smyrna Inlet and even a few behind the vessel Quest in the Intracoastal Waterway. Because of its thickness and size The Log provided the stability and float required for dozens of friends and family to learn to surf and catch their first waves. The Log also served as a platform for some of the best and most humorous surf sessions among friends. Infamous memories include Tucker the Labradoodle's dog beach session, Nate's "Mario-kart" scream rides behind the Quest, Brian & Blythe's successful tandem stunt, Jenny's first skurfing attempt, a base for "ding-eduction and experimentation" with its many MANY dings; Chad's first attempt at catching a wave with that same wave being his first successful ride and TallGuySurfing's famous Gator band uniform session amongst many others. It also had a few encounters with shorter boards in a crowded lineup where it ALWAYS won. The Log sported many faces and also many dings. Resin stained orange upon sun bleached yellow from time and exposure, it was a good board and a fun ride. The Log's survivors include Papa Smurf, the 9'0" Walden Magic; Mr. Anderson, the 9'8" Josh Farberow Noserider; the 6'8" Neilson Big Guy thruster; Blue, the 8'2" XXX; Porn Star, the 9'0" XXX; Nemo, the 5'10" Storm twin fin fish; and Alaia, the homemade failure. R.I.P. The Log - may your 9'6" foam and beautiful stringer soon ride again!


Stay tuned for the official announcement of the new recycled and reshaped "Log" in a few weeks. . .

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Tipple's Beer Run (4-Mile Race)

Quote of the Race:
Random spectator friend at the finish line: "There's no beer."
Me: "WHAT?!?!"
Random spectator: "Yeah, right after the race started and ATF agent or someone showed up and shut them down because they didn't have the right permit."
Me: "Are you effing kidding me? That's horrible. What the hell? I'm going to get my T-shirt before everyone finishes and there's a riot!"

RACE STATS:
Location - Tipple's Brews, Gainesville, FL.
Cost - $30 FTC member pre-register, $35 non-member pre-register, $45 day of registration
Year of Running - 1st
Sponsor - Florida Track Club, Zen Fitness & Tipple's Brews
Charity - Fundraiser for FTC
Number of Participants - 417 (finishers)
Available Races - 4-Mile
Course Condition - Asphalt paved road mixed with concrete sidewalks. Flat, straight and Fast.
Pace Groups - None
Expo - None (packet pickup is on race day)

ORGANIZATION, SUPPORT & SPECTATORS:
Considering this was an inaugural race with what seemed like a surprisingly good turnout there are definitely some hiccups that FTC needs to and will undoubtedly address. Overall pre-race organization was with good intention by organizers, but seemed to be overwhelmed by too many participants in a confined space. It's a Friday race that starts at 6 p.m. Registration and check-in was open at 4 p.m., but most of the participants did not or could not show up until after 5 p.m. since it is a workday. We showed up at 5:10 p.m. and waited patiently in an awfully slow line just to pick up our bib numbers and timing chip in a room at Zen Fitness that was not big enough to accommodate the number of people trying to check in at the same time. It would have worked better if it was in a larger room or simply set up outside with more volunteers. I also saw a few participants that were obviously there for the beer rather than the run who were very confused by the check-in process, which was set up logically, but could have been more efficient. Parking was stressful, but organizers gave plenty of warning and suggestions through email prior to the event of where to park. It is, after all, Gainesville. Spectators were average for a race like this as a few people turned out along the course to ring cowbells and there was a large crowd at the finish line cheering the runners down the chute. Support along the race course was excellent with plenty of aid stations handing out water. There was even an aid station (official or unofficial?) with 1/2 mile to go handing out only beer!

ACCESSIBILITY:
Gainesville is Gainesville; the largest university in Florida and one of the largest in the country. There is traffic when school is in session so plan accordingly. There's a regional airport in Gainesville, good taxi services and excellent bus service. Interstate 75 runs within a few miles from the start line making it an easy drive from other major cities in Florida.

SWAG:
Goodie bags (reusable sack-style backpacks) were given out after participants finish the race. Inside the bags were a really nice race logo engraved drinking glass (obviously meant for beer), various sponsor information and coupons and a mini-box of cereal.

POST RACE AWARDS & FOOD:
At the finish line water and Gatorade were available as well as bananas and Domino's pizza (cheese). The top 3 male and female finishers received prize money $200/$100/$50. Each master winner got $100. The top 100 male and 100 female finishers received a black cotton T-shirt with race logo. NOTE: Organizers advertised that many prizes would be raffled off at the post race party including someone winning their "weight in beer." I cannot comment on if this happened or not because after we found out there was no beer we left to drink beer elsewhere.

MY RACE STORY:
I was very excited about this race the second I heard about it. In fact I registered weeks before Jenny did. Some of our Gainesville friends were planning to participate so the idea was we could visit them, run the race and Jenny can do her last long run (22-miles) before her marathon with some of her other friends also doing it since I'm not training for the full marathon.
We both took off work early Friday afternoon and started the 2+ hour drive to Gainesville and arrived about an hour before race start. There was an amazing turnout (I guess what you would get in a college town if you're advertising free beer) and most of the participants looked like college age students -- young and fast! There were even multiple guys and girls wearing bloomers with yellow racing flats! We found our friends and had time to socialize before the start.
As planned I decided that this race should be hashed. About 15 minutes before the start gun I found my way back to the truck and made my famous concoction of Redbull, Gatorade & Vodka. The last time I dabbled with this nonsense was the Run for Haven 5K back in March. This time around I made the drink a little weaker so I wouldn't be too buzzed. By the time of the start I was wide-eyed and happy and ready to run like a maniac.
It was a relaxed start. Basically everyone followed the race director up a small hill and into a residential neighborhood and then blew an air horn and everyone started running. We were all sort of in the middle of the pack. I took off running and didn't look back. Jenny and Katie decided to fun run together (they have a 22-miler ahead of them this weekend) and I started passing people and working my way into the right pace group of people for me. There were several guys dressed up as pink flamingos (did I mention there was an unofficial costume contest) yelling at the top of their lungs "cawwww.... acaaaaawwww." It was so annoying I decided to run harder to get away from them. There were a group of guys dressed up as construction workers, but looking like that guy from the Village People. Running next to them I could hear them laughing at the pink flamingo guys and joking that they had been outdone and that they were supposed to be "those guys."
I ran harder.
At this point I can see the lead pack breaking away about 100-yards up the road. They are absolutely flying at right around a 5-minute pace. The crowd thins out as we make a turn off a main road and down a narrow sidewalk. I pass up the aid station water to save time. It's only 4 miles and the weather is great!
At the halfway point I'm breathing hard, too hard. I look at my watch and see that my split time between mile 1 and 2 was sub-7 minutes. Damnit! This is way too fast and knowing that I'll never be able to sustain it I slow myself down to try and catch my breath. Other runners begin to pass me. In fact, runners pass me for the rest of the race. I've definitely started too fast on this one. During the last mile I'm forced to slow down a little bit more. I think the vodka/Redbull/Gatorade is getting the best of me. Note to self: Don't do this again no matter how "fun" it sounds!
With 1/2 mile to go I see an aid station. I toy around with the idea of taking a sip of water or splashing it in my fast. Right as I'm about to reach out for the cup I see that it's beer and quickly retract my arm. I'm already feeling like I'm going to hurl and the last thing I want to do is slam a beer or pour it over my head! I get a short burst of adrenaline during the last few hundred yards as there are people cheering and the finish line is in sight. I was hoping for anything under 30-minutes. Before the race I used the McMillan Running Calculator with my Half Marathon PR from a couple weeks ago to estimate my 4-mile race time and it came out at 31:12. After that I decided that anything better than 31:12 would be acceptable, but anything sub-30 would be fantastic!
I crossed the finish line and the clock read 30:35. I'll take it! Someone cuts off my chip and hands me a ticket for a T-shirt. Kickass! I was fast enough to get a T-shirt. I turn around the side of the chute and look back and Jenny and Katie are finishing about a minute behind me. We then learn about the "beer tragedy" going on and assess the situation. Apparently, they are only allowed to serve beer within Tipple's Brewery. Now let's face it. That business is not large enough to accommodate 500 people. Soon a line forms outside the business and stretches down the block. I'm told you have to drink the beer inside as well and can't have an open container in the parking lot. This does not sound fun at all. Then we hear that Florida Track Club is giving out refunds. Soon we decide to go get cleaned up and go out for proper post-race beer and food at a restaurant of our liking.
For the record, I believe that FTC did everything properly and despite a situation gone bad, they handled it the best they can. Giving refunds until they ran out of money and offering to mail refund checks to anyone else that wishes to get one was a good call on their part. I don't know the entire story, but it sounds like some authoritative official has it out for one of the sponsors or FTC. I mean, who the hell shows up in the middle of an event and shuts it down with no warning? They had to have known before hand and could have saved a lot of trouble by making a simple call to the race director BEFORE THE RACE! Florida Track club has issued this statement on their website and emailed it to all the participants:

First and foremost, thank you. The outpouring of support over what happened at the Beer Run was astounding. It was clear things did not go as planned, but the number of people who were supportive and encouraging far outweighed the other side of things. Thank you so much for your support.

Secondly, I want to express my most sincere apology. My team and I poured ourselves into this race and truly left no stone unturned. The specifics regarding the permitting issue are still murky to me, but separately, 2 of our representatives were told on 2 different occasions that there was ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEM with the beer festival. In fact, they accepted payment for the permit. To put it mildly, we were surprised when an enforcement agent showed about 30 minutes before the event and left us with literally no option but to shut down. It was heartbreaking personally, but more so because the Florida Track Club is a non-profit organization that supports so very many other non-profits in town and this race was our most critical fundraising event of the year.

Third, and most importantly, our sponsors, Zen Fitness and Tipple's Brews had NO part in any piece of the event's challenges; this was a Florida Track Club event and the blame lies with us. These are two local businesses that made tremendous efforts to support this event and our community, and they should be commended. Zen Fitness and Tipple’s Brews are models of what good corporate citizens should be and I hope you'll join me in thanking them for their leadership and generosity.

Finally, I want to apologize on behalf of the Florida Track Club. We were told and believed we were in compliance. It's not clear what we should have done differently but I will tell you we WILL make every effort to make this right. We look forward to partnering with Tipple's Brews and Zen Fitness again to bring you an absolutely amazing follow-up race & beer festival.

Again, thank you for your support & encouragement. We hope you'll give us another shot - we can't wait to throw the kind of party you deserve.

Sincerely,
Jake Logan - Race Director

I will close with saying that no matter who was at fault for what happened, it's a shame that an event meant for a good purpose in a town where hundreds of similar events happen each year purely for profit was hampered down upon by some stupid rule or misunderstanding. If FTC holds another event similar to the Beer Run, I WILL give them another chance and participate.

My official stats:
79th out of 417 total finishers
8th in my age division out of 39
Official time: 30:35
Watch time: 30:25
Average pace: 7:38 (with positive splits, lol)

Tipple's Beer Run (4-Mile Race) = C



Post race celebratory drinks at The Red Onion!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Delta Lake Half Marathon

I've decided to take a more formal approach to writing my recaps & reviews. Here goes my first shot at it!

Quote of the Race:
"What place is this for," says Jenny after hearing her name and quickly walking up and accepting her award at the after-race-ceremony?
"You got 1st place in your age group," I say to her.
"I got first place???" Jenny says.
"Yup!"
"Whoa!"

RACE STATS:
Location - Delta Lake State Park, New York
Cost - $25 pre-register, $30 day of registration (Can you say "holy crap that's affordable!")
Year of Running - 4th
Sponsor - Roman Runners Club
Charity - Unknown
Number of Participants - 150
Available Races - Half Marathon
Course Condition - Asphalt paved road. Rolling hills and flat stretches.
Pace Groups - None
Expo - None (packet pickup is on race day)

ORGANIZATION, SUPPORT & SPECTATORS
Take this race for what it is; a relatively small and super affordable half marathon organized by mostly volunteers on a course around a beautiful dam lake with only partially closed roads to vehicle traffic and it's one of the most well organized races I've ran to date. There's no official timing chips, but they did an excellent job with results (the official results were only 1 second off the time kept on my wrist watch). There were aid stations every two miles and somewhere between mile 6-8 there was an unofficial aid station with unknown volunteers handing out their own water and candies, or at least it appeared that way to me. There is minimal crowd support, but the spectators that did come out sporadically along the course are a much welcomed treat for runners. The course is not entirely closed to traffic and in some sections runners must run along the shoulder of the road. However, traffic is so little that I never felt endangered (except for the last 1/2 mile, which was my own fault and we'll get to that later). State Troopers on bicycles paced back and forth along the course and firefighters helped close off some roads. I give the race director an A+

ACCESSIBILITY
Coming from Florida this race seems out in the middle of nowhere. A rental car would be a must and the nearest major airport is about an hour away in Syracuse. Pre-race traffic was non-existent and even driving through Rome (the nearest city) at 8 a.m. was a piece of cake. The State Park (start/finish line) had plenty of parking, excellent facilities (with showers) and there was no fee for entrance.

SWAG
A recyclable shopping bag by a local sponsor contained the goodies at pack pickup. Enclosed were a Delta Lake Half Marathon souvenir cup full of chocolate candies, long sleeve high quality cotton Race T-shirt (color is black), bib number, state park brochure/map and safety pins. Not bad for $25 race registration cost. Organizers conducted a free raffle drawing of dozens of prize giveaways from sponsors after the race awards ceremony.

POST RACE AWARDS & FOOD
At the finish line organizers handed out water, Gatorade, bananas & sliced oranges. At the post race finish party area about a quarter mile away there was more food including hot dogs, cookies, coffee, yogurt, apples and more water. Awards were given away to the top three finishers in each age group (10 year age groups) and the top three female and male overall finishers.

MY RACE STORY
Jenny and I arrived about 45 minutes early. This race doesn't start until 9 a.m. How freaking cool is that!?! We had plenty of time to pick up our packets, use the bathrooms and scrutinize over exactly what to wear (it was about 49 degrees at start time). A random gentleman dressed in a suit and tie (probably on his way to church or coming home from a long night out) pulled up to the start line in a sports car, got out and belted out the National Anthem a capella with no microphone. He was awesome. After that and very abruptly, the race director yelled through her bull horn, "on your mark, get set, go!"

And we were off, just as simple as that. No timing chips, no corrals, no fireworks, nada. It's been a long time since I've run in a small race and it was almost comforting to have a simple start. It was only a matter or two or three seconds until I crossed the start line. Jenny and I agreed before the start that we'd go our separate ways. She's faster than me hands down and I wanted her to be free to run it, race it, tempo it or whatever she felt like plus get a longer run in at a faster pace as she's training for a full marathon less than 5 weeks away. I also wanted to try and PR this race. We were told by the race director on the phone that it's a flat course with a few small hills in the first few miles (Warning: this course is NOT flat by Florida standards). I've only participated in two other Half Marathons, both while being injured (Achilles tendon) with times not worth mentioning. In fact, I consider my Half Marathon PR to be during the Seattle Full Marathon in June when I crossed the halfway point right at 2 hours.

Today I'm feeling strong. I'm not injured. I'm well rested and there's very low humidity and favorable temperatures for me. It's time to race. I decide in the first 1/2 mile that anything under 2 hours will suffice. There's a few larger groups of runners to run around in the first 1/2 mile until we find a group at our paces. Jenny runs ahead of me and for the longest time I can see her ponytail bouncing back and forth. I think I lose all sight of her at some point after mile 6.

I'm wearing a L.L. Bean tech T-shirt, Nike running shorts, Brooks running hat and Brooks Adrenaline (with about 250 miles on them) shoes. The temperature is right at that critical envelop for me of almost being too cold, but just right. As we pass the first mile marker I look at my watch and it reads 8:10. "Crap, need to slow down," I tell myself while forgetting that some of the first mile was down hill. The field spreads out and soon there are only a handful of runners around me. We're running through residential neighborhoods. To the left there are lakefront homes - very large and very expensive looking. To the right are some equally impressive looking homes. Occasionally, someone is standing along side the road cheering for us. There's an ever-so-slightly breeze. It feels good on my skin. I'm not sweating. A few runners around me are sweating profusely. I can't help but think of how they'd probably have a heat stroke in Florida.

I pass up the first aid station, but decide to take some water at the mile 4 aid station. I manage to get a mouthful on the run without stopping and discard the mostly full cup near a volunteer with a trash bag (there were no trash cans). Some time after this a group of runners pass me. I begin to ask myself if I'm slowing down. I still feel strong so I keep going at what I feel is a sustainable pace. I begin to ask myself when I'll crash. The last Half Marathon I did, while injured (because I'm stupid), I crashed at mile 8 and actually got passed by a speed walker all because I started out too fast. Today I'm going faster than that "too fast" start last December. This echos back and forth in my mind. It's like some psychological warfare playing games with my subconscious. When will I crash? Will I crash? Maybe if I had some music I'd be distracted. It'd be nice to blast some Papa Roach or Rise Against right about now. . .

At the 10k mark and aid station I'm right around 50 minutes if I remember correctly. This might have been a 10k PR for me, but only mile 6 was marked, not mile 6.2. I decide that I'm a little slower than my 10k PR and that's a good thing because I don't want to crash in a few miles. I see the aid station approaching about a football field away. I reach into my gel pocket and pull one of three GUs out. It will be the only one I feel the need to take during this race despite my going for greatness in bringing three of them. It's "chocolate outrage" with caffeine. Yummy. This time I managed to gobble all of it down in two swallows and just in time to grab a cup of water from a kid that can't be but 7-or-8-years old. He's holding it as high as he can reach and looking up at me with that expression I know all too well; "wow that guy is tall!"
As I take it from him I say, "thanks big guy!"
Then I start to try and drink the water while running. I'm forced to stop and take three or four walking steps in order to ensure I get a LOT of water to mix with the Gu. Just before I resume running I look back at the kid and see him turning to his parents and smiling ear to ear. The giant guy called him a "big guy!"

The next several miles are uneventful. Everyone has kind of found their pace. There are three guys in front of me and one woman. I don't look behind me nor do I care. I'm pretending I'm the predator in this race, not the pray. I never see the mile 8 marker and for a while I start debating with myself of if I'm still in mile 8 or in mile 9... or perhaps I'm approaching mile 10? Soon I see mile 9 and as I pass it I realize I'm still feeling strong and I haven't crashed! I check my watch and then start doing the mental calculations in my head to keep myself occupied. It's a strange thing to try to do time/distance problems in your head while your exerting yourself near Vo2 max. I conclude that at my current pace I will most definitely break 2 hours. In fact, I might be on pace to finish in the low 1:50s. Then I remember the super long downhill stretch that we drove on our way to the race and how basically the last mile is all downhill. Another runner back at mile 3 mentioned the long downhill stretch near the end. If I calculate a long downhill mile into my pace I might be able to finish under 1:50:00. Having a Half Marathon time with the second number starting with 4 sounds a hell of a lot better than 5.

As I consider this I start to feel slightly fatigued. I decide I need to pick up my pace and I need a mantra. If there was ever a time for a mantra it's now! I'm feeling stronger than I've ever felt in a distance race. Without any major catastrophe I will surely PR, but after re-accessing my situation I want more. What would I be happy with no matter what at the finish line? I decide on "finishing strong." No matter what I want to go with negative splits these last few miles and finish strong. Finish Strong.... FINISH STRONG! I yell it in my mind at myself every few seconds as I push myself harder. At mile 10 see a volunteer holding a cup of red liquid. "What is it," I ask as I quickly approach and make eye contact with him. "Gatorade," he replies. "Awesome," I yell as I take it and slam as much in my mouth as I can without gagging. I hear all the volunteers in the background laugh a little behind me. I must look like a maniac. I feel like a maniac! Finish strong bitches!

"Only a 5k left to run," I tell myself. Who's pray? Finish Strong! Those are the only three things floating around in my mind now as we approach mile 11. The same three guys and a woman are still in front of me. They are spread out for about 50 yards with the closest to me being 20 yards away. I pass the first guy on the outside (he was hugging the shoulder) and keep pushing it. Finish strong! Next is the woman. She's wearing long pants, long sleeve shirt and a sleeveless vest over the shirt. God, she must be burning up! She has a gray ponytail and is listening to her iPod. I lay chase for some while and it seems I can't make much progress. I can't believe there's a gray haired woman kicking my arse! She seems to always pull away on any uphill stretch of the course. Finally, there's a long straight flat section and I manage to pass her. What an amazing athlete. I hope she places in her age group!

We reach the mile 12 aid station and all I can think about is the final downhill stretch. Still two guys in front of me, both looking like their in my age division of 30-39 years old. I'm good at downhill. I actually like downhill. Runners always complain about how hard downhill can be and how it'll trash your legs without warning. I have no idea why I'm good at downhill, but I LIKE IT! I take a cup of water and throw it all over the back of my neck and shoulders. It's cold and it feels good and there's no point drinking anything at this point in the race. 1.1 miles to go!

We turn a corner past the "dam" and the aid station and there's a hill that looks like Mt. Everest. I'm sorry for the language, but I belt out the biggest "what the F*ck!" as I look up at this beast before me. Nobody said anything about one of the biggest hills of the race being in the last mile. This is a huge blow to my plan of finishing under 1:50:00. I check my watch, do the math and realize I'm going to have to run something like a 7 minute mile to break 1:50:00 and apparently it's going to be partly UPHILL!

I shorten my stride, lean forward, look down (not to the top of the hill) and swing my arms more violently in an attempt to defeat this monster. There are still two guys within 40 yards of me. They are the only two runners in sight. About halfway up the hill I hear someone huffing and puffing behind me. It's a small short guy and he passes me with an amazing stride. He's new. I haven't seen him the entire race and he's definitely running a sub-7 minute pace uphill! I attempt to pace just behind him and soon realize there's no freaking way! He passes the two guys in front of me and I change my focus on keeping pace with them until we get to the top of the hill. Finish strong!

As we reach the top of the hill I feel myself running harder and keeping my breathing pattern the same. At the top I pass the first guy. Now I can see the long stretch of downhill road leading up to the finish line. Time to finish strong! I don't look at my watch. I just start running faster and faster. I let gravity pull me downhill. I imagine all the increased distance of my stride during that instant in each step where my entire body is airborne and free of the pavement. The machine of a guy that passed me on that hill is rounding the corner and I can barely see him passing the 13 mile marker. He is soon gone. Only that last guy in front of me. He's wearing a white shirt with thin orange stripes on the sides. He's only a few feet away and hugging the shoulder. This part of the road is not closed to oncoming traffic and occasionally there's an oncoming vehicle. Just as I decide to make my move and run on the outside (the only real estate available) and into the road I see a large truck quickly approaching us. I'm shoulder to shoulder with him and I'm in the traffic lane. Rather than drop back behind him I gamble and decide that the truck will probably swerve away from us. Not the smartest decision of the day! The truck passes the point where most drivers would begin a swerve. Crap. No time to get out of the way now! At the last second the truck veers away from us only slightly. The side mirror misses me by an arm's length. I feel the wake turbulence hit my body and with that a huge rush of adrenaline shoots down my spine. I smile, deeply inhale a breath of air and tell myself to "use it."

The adrenaline helps and soon I find myself at a full on sprint. The guy in the white and orange shirt is somewhere behind me.... pray.... I pass the 13 mile marker and can see the finish line. It looks SO FAR away. I can't believe that I'm physically able to sprint at this point! It's really not my style to sprint to a finish line so this is new for me. I can see Jenny standing in the crowd waving and jumping up and down. She's stoked about my time. Then I can hear her yelling my name. Finish Strong, finish strong, finish strong, FINISH STRONG!

As I cross the finish line I nearly collapse. During the last few steps I felt as though my legs were about to buckle. I stared at the clock the entire way through and watched as 49 disappeared and as the seconds behind the 50 ticked away. Whatever, it doesn't matter, I finished strong. Stronger than I've ever finished any race. Jenny is literally jumping up and down. The race director (I forgot her name) comes up and introduces herself as she remembered a telephone conversation with Jenny and thanks us for running her race while visiting "all the way from Florida." I tell her how impressed I am with her race and overall everything. It was a truly awesome moment. Later we find out Jenny (who finished nearly 9 minutes ahead of me and that wasn't even close to her PR time) got 1st place in her age division and was 4th overall out of all females. She's amazing!

My official stats:
40th out of 150 total finishers
7th in my age division
Official time: 1:50:21
Watch time: 1:50:20
Average pace: 8:25

Overall it was a great experience. I finished strong indeed and remained injury free. I can truly say that I left it all out there and now feel freshly energized about running. I'm registered for another Half Marathon next month in Florida with an all flat course and can't wait to see how I do without the hills, although temperature/humidity could still be an issue.

Delta Lake Half Marathon = A+ across the board!







After the race with Delta Lake in the background.

Monday, September 20, 2010

TSA FAIL

I would like to know what kind of threat almond butter poses to plane, crew and passengers in the eyes of the Transportation Security Administration?

Not only did I find TSA failed with a capital FAIL on a recent trip with my girlfriend and I to Syracuse to see her grandparents, but apparently almond butter could possibility be used to hijack an aircraft??? I'm baffled. This super healthy (and expensive) food item is not explosive that I know of and with the consistency of, well, soft butter, it certainly can't be used as a blunt object to knock someone upside the head. Here's what happened.

While driving through an Amish area near Lake Oneida, we stopped at an Amish country store. I was absolutely blown away by the low prices of their products, mostly food items produced locally (obviously the Amish aren't worried about making a greedy profit). Almond butter, cashew butter and peanut butter were all for sale. A large container of almond butter costs around $3.50. The same amount in a grocery store in my home town runs about $10. I decided to buy two of them. My girlfriend purchased one almond butter and one cashew butter. At the airport we checked in and approached the TSA security screening area. Before I knew it we were both questioned about our bags and then taken to the "special" area for further inspection. Now these "special" areas are right next to each other, not more than 5-feet apart. Two TSA security officers diligently searched our bags for explosives, nukes, machine guns, bazookas or whatever. What they found were three containers of almond butter and one of cashew butter between the two of us. Like well trained dogs e,ach TSA officer removed the suspect item and informed us they would need to run the bags through the scanning machines one more time. Fine, whatever. We set there waiting patiently, undignified of our quest to live a healthier life by eating good foods. My TSA inspector officer comes back first.

"Sir, the almond butter can't go with you," she says as if she's made some heroic feat for national security. "You can check it if you are checking any bags."

My response?

"Mame, that butter costs more than $10 per jar in Florida and as you can see from the prices clearly marked next to the product description and ingredients list it is simply not worth it to pay the airline rapeage charge for checking my bag."

She looks at me and says, "OK sir, I'll throw it away."

But wait, there's more!

I pass my girlfriend as she's still waiting on her bags to be scanned over again. She whispers, "did they take your butter?"

I nod and walk away silently. How in the name of national security is almond butter a threat to passengers and crew? It's obviously not a threat to aircraft if TSA is alright with stowing it below in the cargo hold where line guys will surely smash the living hell out of it before tossing it into the plane. That's going to create one hell of a mess in my bag!

My girlfriend is soon released and walks my way smiling. "They didn't take my almond butter or my cashew butter," she says.

TSA FAIL!

Thanks TSA. Not only did you rob me of my healthy almond butter, but you reassured me that your practices and control policies are completely inconsistent. I feel safer now.