Friday, October 14, 2016

Signs You Find During Marathons

1.     I am Rich’s athletic supporter.   Good and original.
2.     Run like you stole something.   Huh?  I get a bad vibe from that.  Besides, you’d be sprinting, not running at a measured pace.
3.     13.1 miles ‘cause you’re only ½ crazy.  Okay
4.     Get that Kenyan!  Ridiculous! I once saw a sign at Boson: “Kenyans, six miles ahead”. That’s more appropriate.
5.     Two women with signs, first one “Go Hard” and second, “That’s what she said!”  Titillating and to the male mind, inspiring
6.     Fancy a piggy-back?  Funny
7.     Young female holding, “I love endurance. Call me!” with an actual phone number!  See answer 5.
8.     Run now, beer later!  Always appropriate and I am usually thinking about that anyway!
9.     Don’t stop, people are watching!  Meh
10.   Your perspiration is my inspiration.  OK.  While I think the person holding the sign probably already gets physical fitness, I do hope my running inspires others.
11.   Worst parade evcr!  Don’t know why, but this annoys me.
12.  You feel like crap, but you look good.  Better than when people yell later in a marathon “Looking good!” because you know you don’t.
13.  Smile if you peed a little…  Umm, I’d rather smile because I hadn’t.
14.  Why do all the cute ones run away?  This is apparently for female runners.  As an older male, I now find myself among a lot of female runners.  So it’s good!
15.  Run Fast, I just Farted.  It works with the young girl holding the sign.  Not so much if it were an adult(see 4 in the next group).
16.  You are all Kenyans. Toll Booth Ahead. Exact Change Only.   Again, why compare marathoners, despite the size of the feat doing one is, to the best in the world?  The rest would have been funny if it were actually at a place where cars had to pay tolls.
17.  I’m sure it seemed like a good idea 4 months ago.  Not bad, particularly late in the miles when one is feeling the pain and wondering.  There are several variations of this that I have seen.
18.  It’s all about winning! Accompanied by a picture of Charle Sheen.  Eh! Not really and anyone having that sign doesn’t understand.
19.  You’re all crazy!  Right you are!
20.  You are 2 legit 2 quit!  That’s encouraging to people who are suffering pain from the sore muscles.  It’s foolish advice if someone is seriously hurt.
21.  Pain is just weakness leaving your body.  OK, I understand the encouragement.  On my best runs, I have been able to push though the pain and not slow down too much.  On bad days, I have slowed down a lot with the pain.  But the pain is from muscles, tendons and jointed that have taken more stress than they are used to receiving.  Some of the pain is going to linger or even intensify for a few days after the marathon.  Also I know the muscles I have been using are generally much weaker at the end than at the beginning.  That’s why a little hill over 20 miles in can feel like a major climb and force me to walk. So the saying has it all wrong.
22.  The Nails are for Sissies.  Wrong, wrong, wrong! I understand that losing a nail is more probable in a trail marathon.  It should never happen in a road marathon. If it does, you’ve either tied your shoes too loosely, allowed your feet to slide forward to hit the inside of the toe box or your are not wearing a big enough size.  In now 139 marathons, many on trails, I have never had a problem with a toenail getting bruised, much less having one fall off.
23.  Touch here for Power (with some sort of symbol on the sign).   These signs show up in the late miles.  I get that it is meant to be encouraging, but I have never touched a sign. I don’t believe in superstitions.
24.  The End is Near! (at the Mile 25 sign).  I love it! Gallows humor at it’s best.

OK, here are more signs from this website: I won’t review anything similar to what I have mentioned already.

25.  Smile.  Remember, you paid for this!  Ha ha!
26.  Left Foot   Right Foot   Repeat!!!  Like it!
27.  Our parents are running 26.2 …and we’re lazy as shit.  Why do get the feeling the parents helped with the signs?
28.  Always give 100%     except when giving blood.  Of course marathoning is about measured pacing, not going all out, but still clever.
29.  May the Course be with you.  Excellent take on a familiar saying.  BTW, this sign was a Carlsbad, CA., which I did.  The course was definitely NOT with me.
30.  It’s a Hill.  Get over it.  10K to the finish.  Funny, considering muscles are pretty depleted 20 miles into a marathon.
31.  Free beer & SEX at finish. Hurry up.  Definitely appealing to the male mind.
32.  Naked Cheerleaders Next Mile.  Ditto
33.  Are We There Yet?.  Meh. Also the guy was crossing the finish line. After running with the sign?
34.  Those Shorts Make You Look Fast.  Thanks!
35.  Blisters are in Season.  I have only had one blister in a marathon – at Boston when I did not tie my shoe tight enough.  I stopped and took a pin and drained the blister and was fine after that.
36.  Your legs hurt because You’re kicking Ass-phalt.  So true!
37.  There is no time limit on Greatness.  Encouraging, but it all depends on your expectations based on past accomplishments.
38.  My butt is going to look so good after this. Definitely a sign for a female. Personally, I sometimes see myself in a store window and think that I definitely am not moving like the typical 72 year-old and I am thankful that I can continue to run.
39.  Maybe I should just pee my pants.  Nope.  If I’m having a bad day, I have no problem stopping for relief.  If I’m having a good day, I’m probably sweating enough that I am not going to have to go.
40.  I’m the sh*t, I’m the sh*t, I’m the sh*t.  Well, I may be thinking that, but I don’t want a sign pointing it out.
41.  Marathoners make better lovers.  There’s that male titillation again.
42.  Nothing will twerk unless you do.  Cool pun on cultural phenomenon.
43.  No time for Walken (with picture of Christopher Walken).  Clever.
44.   You are NOT almost there!  I’ve heard you are almost there so many times when I am NOT almost there. 
45.  If you want to cry, do it now! (in the middle of extreme conditions)  Yep!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Summer 2016 Marathons
Finally the End of Elevation

In the past couple months I ran three more marathons in hard to reach states.  None of them were easy.  So I am glad they are over.  Here's a quick summary on each one.

FRANK MAIER MARATHON, Juneau, Alaska, 7/30

When traveling to a state like Alaska to do a marathon, the question is:  Which is more taxing? Running the race or the travel to get to and from the event?  I chose Juneau because it is the closest town in Alaska that has  a marathon, thus cutting off up to an hour each way from the flight.  Still it was a long haul from Philadelphia to Seattle and then to Juneau.  Leaving in the early morning, I got in at 2:30 pm Juneau time, which means 6:30 on the East Coast.  

The temperature was around 60 degrees, which is normal for Juneau standards in July.  The driver, who took me to the motel, talked about the day it was 80 degrees, as if it had been monumentally hot.  Indeed, many people were walking around in shorts and tee-shirts, which was not enough for me.

After getting to the motel, I waited until Ricky Singh came in on a different flight about an hour later.  Once we were together, we walked the few blocks to where we could pick up our numbers at a community center.  Later we walked down to the harbor and had dinner looking out on the water.  Downtown Juneau is pretty small, with the inlet leaving probably less than a half mile of relatively flat land before the mountains pop-up.  It was pretty neat seeing the small waterfalls coming off of various spots of the mountains, as the snow on top was still melting.

Going back to the motel, we retired by 8:30 pm.  We had to be up early to catch our ride from Steve and Paula Boone, who had agreed to pick us up, thus sparing the need to rent a car.  It never did seem to get quite dark that night.

The next morning the Boones picked us up at 5:00 am.  We went out to the start onto  an island across a bridge and several miles to the South.  The road was basically the only main road on the island.  When we started, we went up the road from south to north, then veered to the west and somewhat south again, before turning around and returning.

While we were basically at sea level to a couple hundred feet above sea level, I found the constant rolling nature of the course to be taxing.  A couple miles from the half-marathon turnaround, we ran past a bay on the other side of the island.  Across the bay, I could see a glacier meeting the water.  At twelve and a half miles, there was a long uphill segment to the turn.  It took a lot out of me.  I was running well back down, but at the bottom I had to stop at a portajohn and the necessary stop took over five minutes.  When I started running again, all of my motivation was gone because any time goals I had were shot.

After a couple more miles of flat running, when the rolling terrain came again, I did a lot of walking.  It just did not matter.  There were no age-group awards.  My only goal was to finish, which I did in 4:55:27.  Ricky had long finished.  I had a little bit to eat and changed into dry stuff while waiting for Steve Boone to finish.  When he did, he immediately got in the car and drove us back.

After cleaning up, I went out to eat and had a burger and a couple of beers.  I spoke with some other runners who had also patronized the same establishment.  Then I went back to the motel and gathered my things together for the ride to the airport.  Yes, I was leaving the same day.  I had figured that if I waited until the next day, the travel would take all day and I would arrive in Philadelphia after 11:00 pm.  I figured that I might as well fly overnight and get home during the day and take a nap at home.

Recommendation:  I like Juneau.  There is enough to do there that a short stay could get you to a ride up a mountain and a whale-watching excursion.  The marathon is very small and the local club is having trouble getting people to direct it.  I hope it keeps going.


In an attempt to fit in a marathon in Nebraska, I choose this one, which was three weeks after the one in Juneau.  It was put on by a high school booster club, which also had a 5K, a half marathon and a 50K ultra going.  They all occurred on a Saturday evening, starting a 5:00 pm. Still, between all of the events, there were less than 100 participants.  At least the marathoners had the 50K people for company.

I flew into Omaha, rented a car, and drove to the town where I had reserved a motel room.  Driving outside of Omaha, for over 20 miles the dirt roads in between corn fields were still numbered as if they were a street of Omaha, going all the way up to about 300th Street.  I checked in about 1:30 pm and went out and had a meal, before going back to dress for the marathon.  Fortunately the weather was cool as a rain front had gone through the Midwest.  There was a downpour when I was waiting at O'hare for the Omaha flight.  So the temperature stayed below 70 until about the time the marathon started, when it warmed a few degrees.

What a coincidence it was that while I was picking up my number at the school parking lot, I heard a man say he was from Delaware.  I came up and said "Guess where I am from".  Then I had a conversation with him and his wife, Peggy Strang.  She is the marathon runner.  He does half marathons.  She has also done 47 states.  They are from Hockessin and I never knew them, but it turns out that I have been in a number of races with Peggy Strang.

So here I was on a relatively cool evening, with a headlamp for when it got dark in Nebraska.  Should be pretty easy, right?  Wrong!  Nebraska, at least not this part, is not flat.  It was rolling terrain.  The roads for the most part were gravel, sometimes pretty thick gravel.  Then the headlamp, for which I had substituted batteries before I left home to make sure it worked, died after a few minutes.  I had to stumble through the dark, mainly by following others who had good lamps, for well over an hour at the end.  Although I had started out by passing Peggy a mile into the race, she passed me in the dark and beat me by 15 minutes.  My time was over 5:10.

Recommendation:  Well this was an experience for me that I won't forget and it fit my schedule.  But I would not tell people to do it when Omaha has a marathon.

BOZEMAN MARATHON, Bozeman, MT, 9/11:

Here are a few lasting impressions I have of Montana.  As soon as I got off the plane and looked up, I understood immediately why it is called "Big Sky Country", as it was a clear day and a deep blue sky.  The colors of the plants seemed "different", kind of giving me the same impression as when I have worn orange lensed sunglasses.  The populace I saw was 99% white. I can't remember as uniform group anywhere else I have been in the US.  Bozeman houses Montana State University.  It sort of reminded me of Newark, DE, but with less traffic.  The airport is in Belgrade, 15 miles from Bozeman.  I stayed at a motel there.  But the highway speed limit is 75 mph and the traffic is very light.

For the marathon, we had to go to the Main St. in Bozeman to catch buses which took us out to the start.  The previous day, I had scouted out where the race would end and found a place to park the next street over, right across from a bar, which I would patronize after the race.  

The buses stopped along the Gallatin River at a place where there seemed to be a slight pass through the hills.  The wind was blowing strongly through there.  After getting off the bus to relieve myself, I got back on the bus like everyone else to stay warm.  Ten minutes before the start, we all piled off, got rid of our drop bags, and huddled behind the bus to shelter ourselves from the wind until a couple minutes before the start when we finally lined up.

In the early miles we were running with the wind at our backs and slightly downhill.  Although we were at more than 5,000 feel altitude, the running seemed relatively easy.  But I have been through this scenario before, most specifically when I ran the Revel Rockies Marathon outside of Denver.  Going downhill in the beginning was faster than I figured.  But by six miles we had bottomed out.  We turned directions, and started to go uphill.  It was very gradual at first and then a little steeper.  Then we turned again and were going into the wind.  My time per time rapidly went up.  It was all uphill until the half marathon point, at least 600 feet of climbing.  While the first six miles took a little over an hour, the next seven took 96 minutes.  I was done already. 

The half second took 2:55 as I could not run much without becoming breathless in just a few hundred yards.  I walked any sort of uphill incline.  I talked with a couple young woman - asking them if their slowing was more due to the altitude or the nature of the course.  They agreed with my opinion that it was the altitude.  Eventually I made my way into Bozeman and the Main Street for the finish in 5:31:34, one of my slower marathons.  Oh well!  It was done and I did get first in my age-group, netting me a huge belt buckle in the shape of Montana.  Yeehaw!

Somewhere along the way, I misplaced my watch, irking me because I am obsessive about recording my mile splits.  But I did remember a couple of the splits, so that's the way it goes.

Recommendation:  Well, nothing in Montana is going to be at a lesser altitude.  Bozeman was OK.  This is the place you would fly to in order to go to Yellowstone National Park.  So a visit there would be good to link with doing this marathon.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Seven Marathons in First Half of 2016

So here it is in late July 2016 and I have not entered any posts on my blog this year.  None of the seven marathons merited an article to themselves (or my imagination is just lacking right now).  But I will attempt to summarize a bit on each of them.

Carlsbad (CA) Marathon, 1/17:  I flew out to San Diego on my own for this one, rented a car and drove the 30 some miles north to Carlsbad.  A marathon that runs along the beach sounds pretty flat.  Wrong!  The first half winds toward the beach and away again, culminating in a steep hill at about halfway.  Getting back to the beach area, I found that the road was on incredibly up and down rolling terrain.  There was never a real flat section to it.  But Southern California in January is a great location for a marathon with the temps staying below 60 until the end when the sun was beating down.  It was interesting seeing surfers in wet suits heading for the beach.  Time: 4:40:04, 1st 70-74.

Birch Bay (WA) Marathon, 2/14:  Ricky Singh went with me to this one.  Having just been to an event close to the southwestern corner of the contiguous 48 states, this one was certainly the most northwesterly one, Birch Bay being right up near the Canadian border.  My lasting impression of the Seattle area and the 90 miles north is of constant rain of some sort.  I don’t know how people live there.  Birch Bay is a tiny town on the bay of the same name, serving as a possible summer getaway for some people, but in February only locals are there.  I never saw the mountains around the bay because of the cloud cover.
  We showed up the day of the race and drove into the town to pick up our numbers at a local restaurant.  Then we drove back to the state park, had to pay for parking at a time that no one would be there (except for runners) and lined up.  Even with a half marathon, the entire group was under 200.  Sixty of the 75 marathon registrants actually showed up, the rest probably bagging it because of the rainy weather.  We started, ran four miles to get through the town, did two nine mile loops and headed backed to the park.  In the first loop, the humidity became fog in the lower areas of the wooded road.  In the second loop there was more drizzle.  I had started with a plastic bag over my clothes, but the bag was ripped by15 miles, so I chucked it at a water stop. 
  Near the end of the second rolling loop I was feeling pretty tired.  There I got exposed to the wind coming off the bay.  It had picked up quite a bit.  I ended up walking a lot as I just had no energy to push through the wind.  Ricky, whom I had passed at about halfway, was faring even worse as he became nauseous.  He finished almost a half hour behind me.  Time: 4:52:48, only 70+ in the event.

Chattanooga Marathon, 3/6:  This one fell at a good time and I figured the temps would be good in early March in Tennessee.  I was correct on that score.  I flew to Atlanta and drove up to Chattanooga because another leg of flying there was prohibitively expensive.  The day before I picked up my number at a rock gym downtown.  I asked if I could take a shower the next day and they agreed I could.  That allowed me to simply leave my motel, not worrying about late checkout.  This was also where the race would start the next day.
    Note the person below the plexiglass of the building.  There are climbing routes outside.

After eating, I found my motel and then visited Ruby Fall just a couple miles from the motel.  It was a long wait to get in (probably because it was Saturday), but worth seeing the falls and the stalactites. 
  The next day the weather was great.  The race turned out to be a fair size.  Off we went. In the first four miles I was averaging 9:51 miles.  In the fifth mile there was a turnaround.  I got to the mile 5 sign in 8:48.  Well, I knew that was off.  Up a step hill, which required some walking, and back down the other side.  I was looking for the six-mile sign.  But only 10:08 after mile 5, I crossed the 10K mat.  Now I knew the mileage was way off.  That was confirmed when I got to mile seven in another 7:22 (remember, I never saw mile six).  So by the math, my pace had gotten down to 9:20 after doing the first four miles in 9:51 pace.  After mile seven, the course got hillier.  I passed halfway in 2:09:53.
  In the second half there was more hills.  My pace seemed more normal with uphill miles as slow as 12:38 and downhill as fast as 10:03.  It was definitely more reasonable for the course - that is until I got to the last mile. The last few miles back into the middle of town were more like the early miles – fairly flat.  I was running about an 11 minute pace for 24 and 25.  So imagine my surprise was I attempted to pick up the pace for the final mile that it never seemed to end.  It took me 15:05 to do mile 26 and 2:30 to do the last two tenths.  Something was wrong – again.  I decided the distance cut early in the marathon had been made up in the last 1.2.  When I got home, I recorded my official mile splits, but also an extra set based on where I thought the splits were.  I assumed the entire distance was correct. 
  A few days later news traveled through the 50 states running community that the course was short, by a quarter mile.  It had apparently happened at the turnaround in mile 5.  Of course that should have meant only mile 5 should have been off if they had marked where their miles were supposed to be in advance.  Obviously they had made up the mileage points as they marked the course.  I am informed that if I want a plaque from the 50 states club that says I did 50 “certified” marathons, I will have to do another Tennessee Marathon.  I’m looking at November in Nashville.  Meanwhile, I’ll never recommend this one.  Time: 4:39:53; 2nd 70-74.

Lake Lowell (ID) Marathon, 4/22:  This venue is located about 15 miles outside of Boise, ID.  It was strange to be flying in and seeing snow on mountaintops and then descending into 80 degree weather.  Lake Lowell is an artificial lake/reservoir.  It is out in the middle of nowhere, only some farming country.  Not much to see, but the skies were crystal clear and dry, which did get a bit warm near the end.  The main annoyance for me was the two-mile bridge across the reservoir.  There were two paved lanes and a gravel area on one side.  Going out, with the lighter morning traffic, I could run in the lane until a car came and then get over on the gravel until the car passed.  But coming back, the traffic in that lane would be coming up on me.  Everyone had to stay on the gravel.  I found it impossible to run on with the fairly large stones, not fine gravel.  So I had two fifteen-minute miles of walking.
  The altitude was also a factor at several thousand feet.  After a few early miles in the 10s, I was running in the 11s the rest of the first half and 12s and 13s in the second half when I wasn’t walking.  With about a third of a mile to go, I tripped on a crack in the pavement and fell forward.  It was not as bad as the two falls in 2015 when I cracked a rib each time.  I did tear up my hand and knees.  I held up a bloody hand for the photographer who was taking pictures at the end.  Ricky was not bothered as much by the conditions as I was and he finished under five hours.  This one worked out for me in terms of scheduling, but there are better ones in Idaho, even though they advertised this one as the flattest.  Time: 5:15:59, 1st 70-74.

    As David Lee Roth once said, "You got to bleed for it baby!"

Delaware Marathon, 5/8:  This was the 13th consecutive time I have run the Delaware Marathon.  There are only a handful of us (less than 12) who have done them all.  It was a bit warm this year.  I did the first half in just a little over a ten-minute pace.  Then as has happened in the past, the wheels came off, starting when I was running along the sunny Christina River area to start the second loop.  Time: 4:47:51. 1st 70-74.

Fargo (S.D.) Marathon, 5/21:  Ricky Singh went with me to this one.  We flew into Minneapolis and drove four hours to the Fargo area.  I would say that this is the must-do marathon event in North Dakota.  It is the nearest to Minneapolis, making for cheaper travel, just barely over the river from Minnesota and the weather was mild enough, if a tad warm in the latter miles.  We started and finished inside the Fargodome, the stadium of North Dakota State, the school where Eagle draft pick Carson Wentz starred.  That meant we could dress down at the start without being cold and enter an air-conditioned environment at the end when it was getting warm.  The course wound around Fargo, across the river to Moorhead State University, and back. 
  By 20 miles, I was warm and slowing.  After stopping in a portajohn in the 22nd mile, my will to push hard was gone.  I got in a conversation with a younger woman, whose husband, kid and parents were waiting at the end and I was content with 13-minute miles.  Nearing the stadium, I saw a man who could have been in my age group, so I asked the woman if she felt like picking up the pace.  So we did run a fairly strong last half mile.  However, I discovered later that if I had not been talking and had been trying a bit harder, I would have placed in the age group, instead of finishing 4th.  Time: 4:55:02

Heartland Series, Clinton (IA) Marathon, 6/8:  This race really had no official name.  It was put on by Mainly Marathons, which conducts series of marathons.  For instance, this marathon was the fourth of seven marathons in seven days.  People travel around to a number of close states and the outfit sets out marathon courses for them to run.  In the 50 States Club newsletter the outfit invited anyone who had never run with them before to do one marathon for free.  I signed up to do it and urged Ricky to do it also, but he forgot and had to pay a fairly substantial fee before we traveled out there.
  The day before the race, we flew into Chicago, drove out to Clinton, IA, had some lunch and then went to check into our motel.  Turns out the advertising totally misled me as it was a real dump.  We left after seeing two rooms and started looking for another.  The first two places were all full with a lot of the rooms rented to runners.  We found another one that looked a bit rundown on the outside, but fine inside.  That evening we went to the restaurant that I had read the runners would meet at for dinner.  We ate on the deck overlooking the Mississippi River and had good conversation with a couple from Michigan.  They were traveling with the group.  The man had done a marathon that day, just across the river.  The woman was going to walk a half marathon the next day.  The man would be working for the outfit, getting paid a bit, which helped to defer the expenses and helped the outfit with experienced people who knew what runners needed.
  The next morning we met in the dark for the 5 a.m. start.  We would be running out and back on the paved path on top of the levee.  Each time out and back, we covered 3.275 miles and when we got back we would take a rubber band and put it on a wrist.  After we collected seven of them, the eighth time back we finished at the timer.  The weather, which had been predicted to go into the upper eighties, was much better.  It was cloudy and the temperature was in the sixties.  Halfway through, it started to drizzle, which helped me stay cool. 
  After starting out slowly and going back and forth past Ricky, at about five miles I started feeling better.  Part of my incentive to pick up the pace was spurred by the fact that Ricky had gotten into a conversation and pace with a young woman.  Her talking was bothering me as I preferred to concentrate of my own signals about how I felt.  So I took off.  Each time I saw them I could tell I was pulling farther ahead.  It was great that other runners would encourage you as you approached each other or passed by.  I was eventually passed by a number of the faster runners, just as I passed slower participants.  Ricky stayed with the woman for the entire race.  He said she helped him with her encouragement.  I don’t know how he does these marathons without any training inbetween.  He finished in 4:56.  My time:  4:44:57.  The series does not give awards, but I was the only runner over 70.