Mud in the Teeth

It’s New Year’s Day.  I’m grinning ear to ear as I drive up to the ski lodge.

Although it should be only have a grin, since I won’t be skiing.

We had what looked like a great start to the ski season with a good dumping in early December.  But that’s been it.  Temperatures on the mountain have been in the 40’s and 50’s since.  There’s patches of ice in some of the shadows, but certainly nothing that anyone with skis would even look at.

But that means the trails are open for biking.  And we’re making lemonade.

Mud in the Teeth

You might recall that I built this bicycle myself, although the last time you saw it, it was much cleaner than this.

I’ve been using and abusing it, trying to get a feel for this bike compared to my old mountain bike.  The change from 26″ to 29″ wheels is huge, especially how quickly the 29er accelerates out of turns and downhill.  Not to mention how it rolls over and through the rock gardens.  It’s an interesting exercise to short circuit the reasoning and accelerate through a section of large rocks; the faster, the easier it is to stay upright.

But all of this riding, through the rocks and off sweet jumps, means that my handbuilt wheels are taking a beating.  I expected that.  As a matter of fact, I did not use any thread-locking compound on the spokes, knowing the wheels would move out of true easier, but the lack of compound would make it easier to true them.  Today was the day that the real wheel let me know that I’d been pushing it pretty well as the tire started rubbing the frame.  A few adjustments and I was back on the trail.  A few more rock gardens and sweet jumps and it was rubbing again.  No matter.  I knew I’d get home.

But my trailside adjustments got me to thinking about how many race reports I’ve read over the years where folks who had spent the better part of a year, thousands of dollars on equipment, thousands of dollars on travel, not to mention the blood, sweat and tears, only to be sidelined during a race because of a simple mechanical.  Simple as in not being able to change a flat, simple as in not being able to recognize and adjust a dragging brake.  It always pains me to read those reports, knowing the expense of money, time and energy to get to a long race.

What’s really odd is it isn’t always the age groupers.  I’ve read more than a few race reports from pro triathletes sitting on the side of the road, waiting for neutral support, because they can’t change out a flat tubular tire.  Even when they are carrying the spare.

I just don’t get it.

Most bicycle shops will hold classes on how to do basic bicycle maintenance.  Nothing fancy, just the skills required to get you back on the ride, instead of hitching a ride home.

BTW, here’s a clean video of one of the local trails, Catwalk.  Not much in the way of rock gardens, except for a small patch at the beginning.  But it’s fast, swoopy, narrow and steep.  In other words, good fun!

And by the time I get home, I have plenty of mud in my teeth too.

Rings in the Ring of Fire

We in southern Oregon had a great opportunity this weekend, to ride the Rim Drive around Crater Lake before it was opened for the summer season.  Thanks to a less than average snowfall over the winter, the road was ready to be cleared and opened, which is odd, since it’s typically mid-July before the road is ready for the summer.  If that seems late, consider that the average snowfall at the lodge, which is lower in elevation that most of the road, is 44 feet (13.4 meters) each winter!

There are two parts to the Rim Drive, the West Rim Drive (~11 miles/19km) and East Rim Drive (~21 miles/35km).  The western side had been cleared an open for a while, but the eastern side still had stretches that were under 10 feet (3 meters) of snow just over a week ago.

Here’s what a recently plowed stretch looked like (with my bicycle for scale):

Snow Bike

What made this experience even more unique is that this is the first time ever that the National Park Service has held the road closed over a weekend to give access to only cyclists and hikers.  By early afternoon, it was pretty obvious that they had made a popular decision.

Who could blame the large groups of folks out to take advantage?  With absolutely no traffic to worry about on the two thirds of the loop around the lake, it was easy to relax and take in the scenery.

Wizard-McLaughlin-Shasta

This view, from the northwest side of the lake looking south, is part of the reason for the title for this post.  Just left of center is Wizard Island, the dormant cinder cone in the center of Crater Lake, which is the remains of an ancient volcano that blew its top.  Further in the distance, frame right, you’ll see the snow-capped peak of Mount Mcloughlin [9,495 ft (2,894 m)].  And in the far distance, just a small peak in this image, but pretty large to view from here in real life, is Mount Shasta [14,179 ft (4,322 m)], down in Northern California.  That’s 107 miles/172km away!

So just looking in this direction, there are three volcanic peaks.

Spin around the other direction and there are several lesser volcanic peaks, but 74 miles/119km to the northeast, a snow-covered Mount Bachelor [9,068 ft (2,764 m)] stood alone over the horizon.

It is pretty impressive to stand here and realize that this is just a very small piece of the whole Ring of Fire, knowing how it is shaping our landscape, not just here, but abroad.  This made me think of when Goddess, The Boy and I were able to sit at the summit of Mount Fuji and watch the sunrise some years ago.

As you can tell, I love the landscape.

So the scenery and the landscape, oh, and a closed road, are what drew me to ride around Crater Lake.  All told, the East and West Rim Drives total 32 miles/51km.  Planning for some upcoming rides later this summer, I knew I needed to get more miles than that in my legs, so I decided that I would do two laps (64 miles/52km).  If I was feeling good at the end of the second lap and if I had time, I was going to consider a third, plus a few miles, to get a nice even 100 miles/161 km.

Mind you, this is at an average 7,000’/2,134m elevation.

Hey, if you’re going to go, go big!

So it was an early start.  A cool start.  It was just 38F/+03C when I started.  Through a comedy of errors leading to a leaking water bottle, I started with a wet jersey and underlayer.  So it felt a bit cooler than that.

When I started just after 8am, there were only two other groups of cyclists starting from the south parking area.  They got on the road about 10 minutes before me, and in typical parking-lot sizing up, I figured I’d see them again soon.

Ha!

I left the parking lot, walked around the gate that kept the East Rim Drive closed to traffic and started riding, heading counter-clockwise around the lake.  Pretty quickly I hit the first climb.  It continued for the next 1.5 miles at an average 6% grade.  My being cold from the wet top layers was soon forgotten.  A brief reprieve with a gradual descent and it was back up again, another three miles at 6%.  And so it continued.  I didn’t see the others from the parking lot anywhere.  Matter of fact, I did not see any other rider for 90 minutes.  And they were headed the other way.

Then another rider.

Headed the other way.

Then groups of riders.

Headed the other way.

Finally, at about two hours into the ride, I saw the folks from the parking lot.

Headed the other way.

Once on the north side of the lake, I had to cross the gate that kept the other end of East Rim Drive closed and out into the tourist traffic.  Which was surprisingly light for a gorgeous Saturday morning.

That’s when I got the picture of the lake.

A few more climbs and some quick descents while keeping an eye out for traffic and dodging a few inattentive walkers got me back to the car.  It had warmed up enough that I was able to peel some warming layers off my arms and legs, refill the water and fuel bottles, then head back out.

This time I was going to go clockwise, opposite of the first circuit.  This way I could see the views from different angles.  I already knew that I would have some great descents, but also knew from the previous descents that I’d have some long climbs.

But the first 7.25 miles/12km going this direction went straight into a climb.  No respite.  Gaining the same amount of elevation that had taken 12 miles/20km to gain going the other direction.

To see what I mean, here is the elevation profile from my ride.  The bottom of the dip in the middle is where I parked my car:

Crater Lake, 6-22-2013, Elevation

Each vertical line is one mile.

But to give you an idea of time spent, here’s a graph where it’s tracked by time.  The vertical lines are still one mile each.  The further the spacing, the longer it took to cover that mile, the closer the spacing, the faster I was going.

Crater Lake Time, Cycling 6-22-2013, Elevation

So where it was taking me around 7 minutes to cover a mile heading uphill, downhill was usually around 2:30.  But if you look at a few of those very closely spaced lines, I was covering the miles in 90 seconds.  That’s 40mph on the bike, not having to worry about traffic.

Except for the occasional bicycle rider who thought that since the road was closed, they could climb up wherever they wanted.

Not good.

Anyway, as I was on the north end of the lake, back into the closed off East Rim, I caught up with a couple that was riding.  He was riding up the center of the right lane, she up the center of the left lane.  With a blind uphill turn coming up.  I explained my experience earlier that morning on that same stretch, where I came around the corner and a group of six cyclists were taking up the whole road.  And I was moving.

Luckily they were able to move over to give me half a lane.  Otherwise it was going to be ugly.

Once she got over her surprise that I was on my second lap, she then mentioned that no one rides the lake counter-clockwise (my first lap).

Apparently.

Apparently going clockwise is easier.

Someone please look at the elevation charts above and please let me know how someone could figure that.

Please?

Granted, I had a lot more miles and a lot more climbing already in my legs when I started the second lap than I had the first, but I still don’t see it.

My only guess is that when going clockwise, when the entire road is open, it’s easier to pull over to the overlooks than it is to try and cross traffic.  Otherwise, I really don’t know.

After two laps, there was no consideration of a third.  I’ll leave that for another time.

I need more miles in the legs to pull that one off.

And perhaps a victim, er I mean sucker, er I mean support rider for that last lap to keep calling my abilities to finish into question whenever I start to cry.

You know who you are.

So the day’s tally – 64.26 miles (103.5km); 10,485 feet (3,196 meters) of climbing.

Some fantastic scenery.

And some amazing inspiration.

Crater Lake Pano(I took this panoramic image from the south side of the lake last November, when I introduced Goddess to the northwest and Crater Lake; this is before the snow fell)

Finally, speaking of inspiration – when I finished after the second lap, I pulled into the parking lot and saw one of the original couples from early morning.  I asked them their thoughts on clockwise versus counter-clockwise and he said that they had never rode it counter-clockwise and he had been riding it for 30 years.  Then he asked how I felt, and I admitted that I was a bit beat after riding the two laps.  They were surprised that I had got two in.  Then he said that he felt pretty good after his one lap, then he said “I don’t know if I’ll be able to do too many more of these.  I’m 84!”.

Any aches, pains or tiredness that I had melted away.

GP3

With Hockenheim Ring just a few minutes walk from the house, we can always hear the cars and motorcycles running.  But it’s not obnoxious.

Actually kind of neat.

Every two years, they hold a Formula 1 race here.  We tried to go in 2010, but it didn’t work out.

There were other things going on this year, so we didn’t plan on making it this year either.  But luck had it that we were in town this weekend.  So we walked over this morning, hoping to just get in for the day, but managed to score two seats for the entire weekend.

Another item to cross off the list.

Today was just a practice day, with tomorrow being practice, then qualifying for Sunday’s race.

As has been the constant story this summer, it’s actually “Julember”, more November than July (thanks Michael).  So we took our jumpers and rain gear.  Which we needed.  Unlike NASCAR, these guys will run in the rain.

And can turn right.

With perfect timing, the rain started just before the afternoon practice session.  There was some hand-wringing as the teams tried to balance the risk exposure to the experience gained.  So for the first 10 minutes, nothing.  Then they got out there and started throwing the cars around the track.  It was amazing to see in person.

Our seats are just after the Mobel 1 curve on the track, which means that we face Sachskurve.  The combination of the two curves means that we’re facing an extremely scrunched S-curve.  So the drivers come flying into the Mobel 1 curve to our left, accelerate into the Sachs portion of the track, approach a broad hairpin, then dive into Sachscurve before sweeping in front of the grandstands.  An awesome spot, since we can see the cars actually cross directly in front of us three times every lap.

If you click on the link for Sachskurve (above), immediately at the start of the video you can see the stands that we’re sitting in, then see how Kimi Räikkönen works through the curves.

So really, we’re in an optimal spot to see the action.  Although we had missed it during today’s session, Michael Schumacher over corrected coming out of the Mobel 1 curve and hit the wall directly in front of where our seats are.  But we were able to see a similar chain of events play out later in the day as the GP3 drivers got in their practice sessions.

Here’s Brazilian Fabiano Machado taking advantage of a much drier track than the F1 drivers had to work with.

GP3

It’s quite an interesting experience.  We can’t see 85% of the track, but thanks to the big screen projections, we can follow the entire race, then hear, then see the cars as they come screaming into Mobel 1 curve.  Today, in the rain, the fastest speed I saw displayed on the screen was 285kph (177mph).

The track should be drier in the coming days, so those speeds will go up.

And we’re looking forward to it!

Well, That Was Fun!!!

If you look up at the top of the page, it says “Bill’s Racing, Rambling and Photos”.  For the past couple of years it’s been more like “Bill’s Photos and Rambling”.

That’s not to say that there hasn’t been any racing (which there really hasn’t), but there have been a few posts that leaned towards the athletic.

But if you look at my Races tab, the last race I have entered was back in January, 2010.  That was a great race in a blizzard – the Rodgau 50K.

Since then, it has mainly been play.  Fun runs in the Alps and fast stair climbs.

Then there was a grand bike tour.

But that’s not a race.  Although there was some racing.  Mainly me trying to catch up to the pack every time the road moved off of level or we hit a secteur pavé.

Although I could leave the fellas scattered by the wayside once I got the diesel engine wound up and started the sprint from a kilometer out.

And while that’s all great, great fun, it’s not an organized race.

And the reality was, as I posted in February of last year, I was athletically rudderless, not really interested in pursuing a specific athletic goal.  Mainly because most of the ones that interest me take so much time away from Goddess.  In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m quite keen on the Goddess.  That means I am quite protective of my time with her, so I wasn’t wild about the 4-6 hour (or more) weekend training days that marathons, ultra-marathons or grand bike tours require.

So I just kept an unfocused training regimen, focused on having fun and staying fit, while not demanding too much time from Goddess.  And I kept a thought in the back of my mind, which I did verbalize to a few folks, that I wanted to remain fit enough that I could fake my way through a half, whether that be a half-marathon or a half-Ironman triathlon.

That brings us to today.

On a lark a couple of months back, I signed up for the Heidelberg Half Marathon.  It was to be interesting, since I had no plans to specifically train for the race, just rely on my fitness and see how it worked out, since my training at the time was focused on a grand bike tour.  Plus, considering that I have not run greater than seven miles in the past two years, save for one other lark of a 14-miler that involved running straight up the side of the Alps, then back down, running 13.1 miles was going to be a stretch.  Especially this one, with some pretty steep sections and 3,400′ of cumulative climbing.

I was going to have to rely on the diesel engine and hope that the suspension held up.

Here’s the race map, overlaid on terrain:

Heidelberg Half Marathon
Heidelberg Half Marathon

That gives you an idea of the terrain.  But it doesn’t tell the truth like the profile does:

Heidelberg Half-Marathon Profile
Heidelberg Half-Marathon Profile

Like I said, this was a lark.  In the previous week, I had run three times, including a fairly fast 1.5 miles for my fitness test.  Before that, I had not run in a month, thanks to a combination of things.  I had injured myself playing frisbee, which halted any running.  Then I went on the grand bike tour and didn’t have time to.  Then I got back and came down with some crud that kept me down for over a week.

And that led into this week.  Monday was a slow 5-miler to make sure everything still worked properly.  Wednesday was a hill run which included the same set of stairs in PR; this time I set a new PR and ran up the entire set of stairs without stopping, although the pace was decidedly slower than 9:35.  Then on Friday was my PT test, so basically it was a short race.

In short, I didn’t train for this half-marathon, nor did I taper.

I was walking into it cold.

When I signed up, I took a stab at a finishing time and selected two hours.  I based that on the terrain and hope.  Unfortunately, hope is not a technique.

I seeded myself appropriately in my corral (#4 of 4), towards the back.  I cracked jokes with a few first-timers that I’m surprised we weren’t surrounded by people with walkers, complete with tennis balls.  We were only there a few minutes, then the gun went off for our group (some 850 people).  It was time to settle into a comfortable pace and see how the day worked out.

It wasn’t long before I was passing people.  That turned out to be the theme of the day.  I started out near the back of the 3,445 that finished and I finished 1,416 overall.  The math is simple – I passed over 2,000 people in 13.1 miles.  On this course.

Luckily a good portion of this run is on familiar ground, with the first large hill being part of our normal Monday run.  So I knew what to expect.  However, the course splits from where we normally head back down to the valley and continues upstream, then crosses further up than I am familiar with.  Then heads straight up the other side so that we can loop behind the Heidelberg Castle.  So after the midway point, it was all new territory.  And that kept my effort in check.

The only spots I walked were the water points.  No sense in trying to run and drink, instead sloshing water all over myself.  Although plenty of people did and gained nothing from it.  I did find it interesting that so many thought that they were saving time, although they had to slow down so much to prevent the sloshing that they might as well have been walking.

The flats were OK.  The uphills were great, probably because that’s where I passed huge chunks of people each time.  At one point, in the closing miles, we were climbing a series of cobbled switchbacks that were steeper than 20% grade and I had a flashback to the grand bike tour.  And the downhills were fun, cruising past many folks who just weren’t comfortable with letting go.  I was amazed at how many were walking the gradual downhills, even only halfway through the race.

As you can tell, I had a great time.

But there was one significant annoyance, for which I’m partially at fault.  The race is capped at 3,500 registered participants, mainly due to the narrow streets in Heidelberg as well as the narrow trails through the forest.  My fault was ignorantly seeding myself way at the back.  The annoyance were the many, many, many runners who could not hold their line while running, instead darting side to side even though they gained nothing from the maneuver.  I spent more time than I cared guiding people with my forearm, especially when their erratic movement threatened to push me off the trail and down the hill or into a ditch.  Or gently guiding someone forward who would dart into an open spot, but not overtake the people around him, while many of us were flying downhill at a much greater pace than they were.  But once we got past that section (and ran straight up a wall), the crowds were all but torn apart and the running became smoother.

My piriformis started talking to me at about the eight mile mark, but nothing more than a gentle reminder that I was abusing them.  In the closing miles, my calves started twinging, telling me that they were close to cramping up.  I’ve been there before, so knew how hard I could push it, keeping right at that point where they would twinge, but nothing more.  In the last half mile, a time where I’m usually flying past other runners, I didn’t.  But none caught and passed me either.

So the time?

1:58:03

Without training for it.

Just keeping myself fit with a good mix of high intensity and endurance training, mainly on the bike.  And that time fit nicely within the cluster of times for the half-marathons that I trained specifically for.

The trick will be seeing how I walk on Tuesday morning.

Now about that half-Ironman…

Chase Group

Paris-Rubaix, 2012

Johan Vansummeren (right), last year’s surprise winner, and Matteo Tosatto lead the chase group, already over a minute down with 14km left to the finish.

Tom Boonen is solo, out ahead, going on to a record-equalling fourth victory at P-R.

They’re just exiting the feed zone in the short transition between the brutal Carrefour de l’Arbre and the (luckily) short Gruson cobblestone sections.  Many of these cobblestone (pavé) sectors have been in existence since Roman times.

And many felt like they hadn’t been maintained since then, although that’s not true.

However, they are very, very rough and can make or break a race in seconds, either through a poorly chosen line, a line chosen by the bike and cobbles (because it’s best to just keep a loose hold of the handlebars and let the bike do most of the movement), or a catastrophic equipment failure, as we saw as the pack (no longer a peloton) race through the Arenberg Trench when a rider’s (very expensive) carbon wheel shattered under the stress right in front of us.

Exciting moments.

There’s a reason that the Dutch call the cobbles kinderkoppen (children’s heads).  The stones are large and rounded on the top.  Luckily (for the competitors) this year, there had been little rain so the dust had settled in and kept the gaps between the stones to a minimum (in most sections).  However, a little bit of rain and the dirt washes out, leaving a muddy mess with large gaps between the stones.  Dry or wet, there’s a reason that this race is called “The Hell of the North“.

And I think the look on the racers faces above captures that.

Just 20 minutes after this picture was taken, the rain started.  That would have changed the face of the race significantly, especially amongst those that were in the lagging groups, as they dealt with the mud-slick cobbles.

Here’s a nice behind the scenes look at how Team Garmin-Barracuda and Tom Boonen took the win that day:

But if you want a longer look at “The Hell of the North”, here’s a documentary from the 1970’s called “A Sunday in Hell”:

Wet or dry, a great race to watch.

Even better in person.

Although, after riding a portion of the course (minus the flat, smooth leading 100km that the pros take), I can now understand why the riders feel like this photo of Greg Lemond:

Cobblestone Classics

Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! WOW!

I just got back from a nine day trip that’s been in the making since November.  A trip that was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

And I absolutely must thank Goddess for her agreement, support and flawless execution of many things in order for me to leave her at home and let me take off for nine days.

Without adult supervision!

And that says something.

————————————-

Those of you that know me know that I’m a huge cycling fan.  I have been since my teenaged years, even standing in the cheering crowd during Greg Lemond‘s celebration parade in Reno, Nevada after winning the 1986 Tour de France.

That was a few years ago.

Anyway, back in November, a cyclist website that I hang around on and throw in a comment once in a while, Velominati, announced tentative plans for a week of cycling to coincide with the two biggest spring classics in Belgium – the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Rubaix.  With promise of many other neat events to fill the week, I jumped in immediately (with Goddess’ permission, of course).

To summarize (full details at the bottom):

– Riding the Paris-Rubaix course, including the last 21 cobblestone sections (the first time through I texted Goddess and declared that that day was truly the most difficult, painful athletic endeavor I’ve ever done.  More so than running 40 miles, racing an Ironman-distance triathlon, etc.).  Of course, the finish was the best part after riding 130km (81 miles) into a cold headwind over those very rough cobbles.  But the best part of the finish was actually being able to finish within the Rubaix Velodrome, just like the pros do!

– Riding the Tour of Flanders course, including some of the most iconic cobbled hills in all of cycling (complete with rain, sleet and a bugger of a cold wind).

– Meeting with, eating lunch with, and riding with Johan Museeuw (aka “The Lion of Flanders”).  The man has a checkered past, but is absolutely graceful and powerful on the bike and it was quite an experience to get pushed along by him.

– A couple of hours of track time, with coach, in the Eddy Mercx velodrome.  What a great experience, with two firsts for me – riding a fixed-gear track bike and riding in a velodrome.  I’m hooked!

– Riding the Paris-Rubaix course again, five days later and finding it much more agreeable, although still difficult.  The best part was getting out there on the same day as the pro teams as they did their course reconnaissance before Sunday’s race.  Nothing like being able to get up close to the pros while they prep their legs.

But that’s just some of the events that they had lined up for us.  Like I said, if you’re interested, a link to the full itinerary is listed below.

But for now, it’s time to get some laundry done, put the bike back together for the ride to work tomorrow, get caught up on school work and walk over and kiss Goddess once again.

So I’ll leave with this shot of me climbing the Kappelmuur, one of the more brutal climbs of the spring classics:

Photo courtesy of Nigel Manson

And here’s how the pros make it look, a moment with Fabian Cancellara, still seated, crushes Tom Boonen, who can’t even keep up while standing [the juicy part starts at 1:34].  Cancellara goes on to win the race.

By the way, that’s about how Boonen crushed the field in Sunday’s Paris-Rubaix.  It was amazing to see him fly by coming out of the Carrefour de l’Arbre with a huge lead on his opponents.  A gutsy attack with 60km (36 miles) to go sealed the deal.

All-in-all, a great week with fellow cyclists from all corners of the globe – Hawaii, several mainland US states, New Zealand, Dubai, Spain and Britain.

Let the legs recover and I’m ready to do it again!

And here’s the full itinerary, full of Belgian beer goodness!

Rodgau 50K – A new level of slickery

Well, the DOMS is really set in good.  Walking outside on the ice and snow is quite entertaining, especially for Goddess and Skinny.

Peaking and tapering went well for this race.  The only unknown going into it was the weather.  All week leading up to the race, winter was in full swing, with several inches forecast for the entire area in the days leading up to the race.  At one point, models were indicating up to 12” of fresh snow on top of whatever they had on the ground already.  So we just didn’t know.

Luckily, race morning broke with crystal clear skies and a Wolf Moon to greet us.  But it clouded up on the drive to Rodgau and left us wondering when the big blob of snow in Belgium would finally make it to the Frankfurt area.

Since this was my first race in Germany, I really had no idea what to expect.  The final e-mail that was sent out Thursday said that over 1,000 people had signed up, which was huge compared to last year’s ~250 finishers.  Coupled with the expected snow and cold temperatures, the organizers were at a loss as to how things would work out (or so I could figure out with Google’s translator).  But it did turn out fine, with only about half as many showing up as had registered.Rodgau 50K Pre-race

What a great concept – pre-register, show up, pay your entry fee, race and leave.  No huge cost loss to the organizer, since there weren’t any t-shirts or medals to hand out.  The only thing that it looks like they had extras of were the beer and soda afterwards.  But that carries over well into whatever event the Rodgau running club holds next.  So for those folks that registered but didn’t show, they weren’t out anything and I doubt the organizers were either.

From the registration/parking area, it was about a mile walk to the start line.  Goddess, Skinny and I got there about five minutes before the gun went off.  It was a cautious walk, since the road was covered with chunky ice and some slick snow.  Wouldn’t you know it, so was the course.  Right before the start Goddess took a picture (right).  And no, that’s not a belly under that jacket; that’s my Fuel Belt.

Lots of German talk over the loudspeakers, a German countdown and the gun went off.  With 400+ crowding the start chute and a chip time system, it was just a matter of filtering down to the side of the crowd, squeezing in and then through the chute.  Off we went, over the ice, which was fairly slick.

The course was a 5km loop through farmland and forest.  Fairly flat looking, with looking being the operative word.  Just a few hundred meters into the course, we took a hard right U-turn; luckily they had spread sawdust over the corner to keep everyone from slipping (too much).

It took the first 5km lap to thin out the crowds, but that was fine.  For the most part everyone was doing pretty good, mainly trying to figure out how the footing would treat us.

The first few laps were pretty non-eventful.  With the temperature hovering right at freezing, everyone was warming up and getting settled in for a few hours (or more) of work.  Right after mile five I was lapped by the leader, so that meant he was at mile eight.  And for the rest of his race, like clockwork he lapped me every five miles.  Right after mile seven I was “chicked” by the lead female, so she was already at mile ten.  Just like any other big race that has the Kenyans and other fast runners, it’s always impressive to watch those with perfect form and quick turnover.  Unlike me.  I’m comfortable with the fact that I’ll never be the fastest or strongest.  But if it comes down to having a hard head, I may just win.

By the end of the third lap (15K/9.3mi), the ice was getting pretty beat up and started softening, which was a nice development.

For a little bit.

I hit the half-marathon point at just under two hours.  Not too fast at most other races, but would, in hindsight, be the beginning of a longer than anticipated 50K.

Rolled through 25K (15 miles) at a very comfortable 2:27, which kept me on pace for a sub-5:00, which was my goal.  But between 28-30km (17-18 miles), things started to stiffen up.  Rodgau 50K 18-miles Nothing horrible, but definitely a change to the previous miles.  Mentally I worked through everything, identified what was uncomfortable, and just kept pushing forward.  Nothing was wrong, just a bit of discomfort.  At left, that’s me at 30.2km (just over 18 miles).  When Goddess asked me how I was doing, I said “I’m not dead yet”.

Once I hit the feed station at 30.5km, I sucked down two Powergel’s, had a bit of banana and a coke.  I figured I needed a bit more fuel than I had been taking in.  Normally I’ll suck down a Powergel at 40 minutes and then every 20 minutes after.  But considering how narrow the road was and the knot of people, I decided that I’d be fine with just taking in fuel every time I hit the feed station, which was working out to every 27-28 minutes.  That meant that instead of taking in 300 calories per hour, I was taking in 200.  A huge difference?  Probably not.  But by this point, that meant I was 300 calories deeper into a hole than I normally would be.

The extra banana and coke helped out for the next 10K, but the stage was set.

During this stretch, between 30-40K, I noticed that the ice, which was softened with all of the abuse, was turning very, very slickery.  We had worn a few bare spots through the fields, which were nice.  But for the most part, it was still ice and snow.  These long stretches of ice and snow offered little traction.  Based on feel, I figure that there were two separate 1-2km stretches where we were lucky to have 40-50% of our energy translated into forward movement.

The rest of the energy was strictly “Scooby Doo” motion.  You know, when Scooby and Shaggy start running when they see a “ghost” and their legs just spin in place.  That kind of motion.

Good times.

I rolled through the marathon (42.2km/26.2mi) at 4:40.  Not great, but not horrible.  Putting it into context with the sub-2:00 half, I realized what was going on.  But I didn’t realize how Rodgau 50K 28-milesmuch “fun” the last five miles were going to be.

Not soon after the marathon, the wheels came off.  Not gently.  But with great force.  Folks talk about hitting a wall; this wasn’t a wall, but my legs turning to stone.  All other systems were go, but the legs had had enough.

Right about that time, the snow started drifting gently down.  All day long it had been cloudy, with a stiff cold breeze.  But no snow.  Slowly the spigot was opened and pretty soon it was dumping.  Well, without a breeze, it would have been dumping.  With the wind that we had, the runs through the field were interesting in the sideways snow that dropped visibility down to less than 100 meters at times.  Once in the forest, the flakes drifted down, making for beautiful scenes.  At right, that’s me crossing the timing mat at 45K (28 miles); Goddess asked me how I was doing and I said “I’m still alive”.

The saving grace of the new snow was that it increased our traction over the ice.  Too bad my legs weren’t there to take advantage of it.  But this is where my stubbornness pays off – I just put my head down and keep moving forward.  Which got me to the end.

5:51:46, almost an hour longer than I had hoped.  But a good time considering the conditions.  Another surprise, once I downloaded the data and ran the route through the terrain maps, was that the “flat” course had a total of 1,230’ of climbing/descending through the 50K.  Those gentle rolling fields were sneaky, I tell you.

Am I disappointed?  Nope.  Not in the slightest.  Could I have run a better race?  Absolutely.  Even though I’ve been racing a while and have learned a lot, I learn better from my mistakes.  And in this race, there were plenty of learning opportunities.

So right now the legs are tighter than they’ve been in a long, long time.  The stairs are my nemesis today, especially going down.

And I’m already looking for another marathon in a few months time.

Oh, and how bad was the snow and wind at the end ?  Compare my race number from the picture at 28 miles (above right) to my race number below, just three miles (40 minutes) later.Rodgau 50K Post-race

RUTS – A Training Run

This isn’t a race report.  A race didn’t happen.

For me, anyway.

A 90-minute drive out to Paducah, packet pickup, scouting out the course (a 1/2-mile horse track) and a bit of futzing around and “GO” was yelled just after 8pm.

Since it was a 10-hour time trial, there wasn’t too much movement at first.  Other than the relay teams, which took off like bats out of hell, the rest of us settled in to somewhere near a 9-10 minute/mile pace.  Early on the hoof marks from the horses gave some of us a concern, especially wondering what they’d be like at 3 am when we were all tired.  Luckily they were flattened out a bit in the first couple of hours.

The first few miles were a bit stiff, which was understandable considering I hadn’t run in three weeks and other than the Country Music Marathon, hadn’t run anything longer than seven miles since April 16th, over six weeks ago.

Since the track was slightly banked, the plan was to run the standard counter-clockwise for the first two hours, then switch to clockwise for two hours, then back to counter-clockwise for two hours, continuing to the end.  That worked well, switching up the scenery a bit every two hours so that you weren’t looking at the exact same turns/straights for ten hours.

I talked to a couple of people in the first couple of hours, mostly because they were interested in my 6-minute run/1-minute walk strategy.  So we talked as long as the run or walk session lasted, then I continued.

The one beauty of this run was that I got to do what I haven’t been able to do since I haven’t been running – think about whatever comes to mind.  Mind you, my brain is usually going a million miles a second on a variety of topics at once.  But when I run, I can actually settle on one topic and think it through.  And that’s how this race became a training run.

The legs were feeling real good during miles 7-18, but I had already thought things through.  I wasn’t going to run the full ten hours.  There was still way too much stuff to be done to get us ready to fly to Germany on Tuesday and my taking all night to run ten hours, then sleep most of the day away, would really put us into a bind.  Besides that, Goddess was out there supporting me in every way possible, getting ready to sleep in the truck and then tip-toe around me in the room as I slept all day.  I just couldn’t, and wouldn’t, put her through that.  She’s my Goddess for a reason.

During mile 18, the legs started to protest their longest run (barring the marathon) since late March.  I wasn’t surprised.  But I also knew that no matter how I felt at that moment, it would change.  But my mind was already made up – I’d go four hours or 20 miles, whichever came first.  Turns out that both happened at the same time.

So I pulled off the track, informed Goddess of my decision and turned my chip in.  Being the Goddess that she is, she pressed me really hard to make sure that I was doing what I needed to do and not doing it because it was suddenly becoming more difficult.  I was quite adamant that I was.  So she acquiesced, helping me pull the shoes off and packing stuff away.

We had a pleasant drive home and slept in bed, instead of a truck or grassy field.

And I’m great with that!

 

A couple of moments:

– Watching the high school cross-country relay team get ready for a night of fun by playing Frisbee and goofing around really took me back to my cross country days.  Those were certainly some good times.

– Watching the volunteer who handed out drinks and food for a couple of hours, then run his leg of his relay team, then get back to the table to serve really impressed me.  He said we were the crazy ones, but I shook his hand for his dedication.

– With the truck parked in the infield and the tailgate facing the track, Goddess got to see the full rhythm of the run, from slow to fast, painful to fluid.  And she certainly helped.  For several laps, she held up pages from her “Shape” magazine to let me enjoy the models as I passed.

– At about three hours into the run, they had piping hot Little Caesar’s pizza delivered.  I’m not a fan, but damn it tasted good at that point.

– At about that same time, the stable workers started showing up.  Apparently they didn’t get the word that we would be using the track, so they stood there for a while trying to figure out what they were going to do, conversing on cell phones and with each other.  But mostly they leaned against the fence and enjoyed watching the women jog by.

– I broke out the mp3 player for this one.  It was a completely closed course and there was plenty of room to maneuver, unlike a trail race, so I brought it along.  Goddess suggested that I put them in, so I did.  But the battery was dead since I hadn’t used it in six months or so.  I guess that should have been something to check on the night before.

 

Closing thought:

Steve Durbin and the crew of the West Kentucky Running Club (WKRC) put on yet another great event.  They were the ones that put on the 60K trail race that I ran in March.  Not only did they put on the event and man the timing station and feed table, they ran the race.  If you are ever in the Paducah area, definitely look to see if they’re holding a race.  You WILL NOT be disappointed.

 

And we’re off to Germany.  See you on the other side.

2009 Clarksville Duathlon

Why couldn’t we have had this weather last weekend.

Overnight there were flood watches and warnings issued.  It pissed down rain pretty much all night.  When we woke up at 5 am, we were drying out, with all of the rain north and south of us.  By the time we left, the hole we were in filled in, so it pissed down rain again.  But no lightning, so all was good.

Transition was set up in the rain.  The pre-race brief was held in the rain.  The start went off in the rain.  And it was 52F.  Perfect.  But it must have scared some folks off.  I don’t know how many registered, but only 24 folks showed up to race – 20 individual competitors and two 2-person teams.

The course was a 2-mile run, a 13.1-mile ride and a 2-mile run.

Mind you, other than four quick 5-mile rides this week to make sure the bike worked properly, this was the first time I had ridden since doing this race a year ago.  I was banking on my running fitness getting me through the bike leg.  Of course, running fitness was highly questionable after last Saturday’s very warm Country Music Marathon.  Typically after a Saturday marathon I’m feeling fine by Tuesday or Wednesday.  Even during a short run yesterday my legs felt like bricks.  So I really had no idea how I’d do today, but that wasn’t a worry.  This is a fun race that is all about going all out.

So the start whistle blew and we were off.  The idea was to get out quickly and then settle down.  Mind you, settle down needed to be right at LTHR.  Actually it ended up a bit higher, with most of the run in Zone 5a:

image
Run Leg 1, Heart Rate x Distance (with Pace)

Both Goddess and I measured a touch over 2.1 miles for the leg on our Garmin 305’s.

So that was 2.1 miles in 14:59, for an average pace of 7:06/mile and a peak of 5:55/mile,which I used to get ahead of the start line melee.

Arriving at T1, I was fourth overall.  First was way the hell in front, while second and third were about ten seconds ahead.

I forgot how much fun it is to bend over to change shoes while your heart is exploding in your chest.

Out the gate on the bike and I settled in, making sure I didn’t put too much power to the cranks in the opening miles, knowing that this was a rolling 13.1-mile course with a few turns.  Those that pushed hard in the beginning would pay dearly near then end and especially so during the final 2-mile run.

A mile in, a cyclist flew past me like I was standing still, putting me in fifth overall.  He’ll become important later.  Two miles later, I passed the guy in front of me, so I was back in fourth.  By now the rain had stopped, so it was quite pleasant. 

There was a hilarious moment at mile 4.5 as we had to negotiate a hairpin turn onto a new road.  I saw a minivan approaching the stop sign as I was slowing to make the turn.  The lady driver had her window down and was telling the volunteer that he needed to do something about the cyclists, because with the mist in the air we were impossible to see.  Mind you, in my chosen field of meteorology, surface visibility is an important parameter to observe and forecast.  I looked off at the tree line in the distance that I could clearly see, which I estimated to be 1.5-2 miles away.  I couldn’t figure out why I could see those trees, yet she couldn’t see us in the opposite lane.  For the next mile or so I calculated that she must have been traveling in the neighborhood of 750 mph in order to not have the appropriate reaction time.

I want that van!

Anyway, as I said, the course had some rolling hills.  Here’s a shot of the Garmin-calculated grade, with a curve of my speed (blue line) overlaid:

image
Bike Leg, Grade x Distance (with Speed overlay)

Between miles eight and nine, I was passed, putting me back in fifth.  The much older gentleman that flew by had some speed.  Immediately thereafter, the guy that I passed between miles three and four passed and asked if this was a drafting race.  I found it interesting that he was able to catch and pass me, since he was a couple of hundred yards behind me when I passed the lady with the amazingly fast van and fell ever further behind with each mile after that.  I replied “No, it’s a USAT-rules race”.  He should have known what type of race it was, since they handed out a USAT rule crib sheet with every registration packet.  I passed him a second time about a half-mile later.  I don’t know if he was drafting; only he knows that.  But his bridge up to me was while I was maintaining a 22mph average through that stretch is pretty impressive.

T2

In the last mile, I saw first and second heading out on their last run leg.  Soon after, a woman went flying by too.  Turns out that the guy who flew by me at mile one of the bike leg was part of a team.  So that meant I was fourth overall in the solo division.

And to the right I am on my (archaic by triathlon standards) Softride with old, old-school Spinergy’s as I dismount going into T2. 

I am quite upset that they no longer make those bikes and I can’t have another for my next bike.

Considering that I had only 20 miles in my cycling legs for the past year, I was very, very pleased with my bike leg.  Goddess and I both measured 13.33 on our Garmin’s.  I covered the distance in 40:12, for an average speed of 20.37 mph.  Not too shabby.

I hit T2 in fourth overall and flew through.  The much older gentleman that rolled in to T2 in front of me arrived at least a minute before, but I exited right on his tail and passed him within 100 yards, putting me in third.  Then I settled in to work.  This time I knew I’d be cranking the legs as hard as they’d go.  I focused on my turnover and tried to keep the cadence high.

image
Run Leg 2, Heart Rate x Distance (with Pace overlay)

We were running out one mile, turning around an orange cone and heading back in.  At about 3/4 mile, I heard feet behind me.  Turns out it was the guy that asked about drafting.  He had some wheels on him.  Much more than I had.  We hit the turnaround at the same time and he pulled steadily away after that.  At this point I settled in for a bit, waiting to see if he would tire.  With a half-mile to go, he did slow, so I ratcheted up the pace.  He turned around and saw me coming, so he picked it up and held me off through the finish line.  So I finished fourth overall amongst the solo racers, first in my age group.

For the last leg, since the exit to transition was in a different place than the start line, I measured the advertised 2-mile run at 2.15 miles, covered in 15:52, for a 7:22/mi average.  Not as evenly paced as the first leg, but still not too shabby.  Especially with the 6:17/mi pace as I crossed the finish line (below left).

Finis

This was the second edition of the Clarksville Duathlon.  If you read last year’s race report, you’ll recall that they had some issues, which are to be expected with a first-run event.  I can guarantee you that they more than overcame those issues and put on a high class event this year. 

I also have to give the organizers a huge congratulations for picking such a great cause to give all of the proceeds to – Fisher House.  As you may recall, I ran a donation drive for Fisher House last year as I was preparing to run my 40-miler in Baghdad.  And if you come to this post from my blog’s main page, you’ll see that the link to Fisher House remains in the upper left.  I maintain that it’s a great cause to support, so if you’d like to, please click and donate.  I get nothing from it (I already got my t-shirt), so don’t worry, all of your donation goes directly to Fisher House.

So if you are anywhere near the area next May, I highly recommend this event.  The timing, one week after the Country Music Marathon, is perfect.  It forced me to get out on the bike and spin my legs to loosen them up.

—————————————–

Now it’s time to look forward. 

If you stayed awake through my post about planning and Training Load, you’ll recall the segment on Training Influence.  If you didn’t stay awake that long, the gist of it is that based on my personal recovery rate, the training that would have the most influence on my next race would typically be approximately 28-32 days prior to the race.  After that, there’s diminishing influence until the my taper date, which is typically 10-12 days prior to the race.  After the taper date, no amount of training will have a positive influence on the race, so that’s the time to back off and let the body rest.

Anyway, since my next race is on May 30th, my calculated max training effect date was yesterday.  But I clearly didn’t go out and crank out a 20-miler.  No way.  Not after last week’s very warm marathon.  However, the marathon, even though it took a lot out of me, could have a huge positive influence on the outcome of the race at the end of the month.  Much like the 60K I ran in mid-March had a huge positive influence on my ability to survive last weekend’s very warm marathon.

So if you are in the Paducah, KY area at the end of May, meet me for a fun run, otherwise known as RUTS.  Run five, 13, 26, 50 or 60 miles.  Your call.  But having fun is mandatory.

CMM 2009 – A Race Report (of sorts)

Well, you’ve already seen the final results, so I won’t rehash that.

And we don’t have much in the way of photos, so I can’t post those.

But I can post this:

 

Pre-race

– The forecast as far as ten days out was for a hot, dry day.  But I know that 10-day forecasts are a roll of the dice, so I kept my fingers crossed.  Unfortunately, as race day approached, the forecast held true.  My goal when I registered for this race was to break four hours.

– Four hours for me would be a huge PR.  An over-reaching PR, considering my PR is 4:25:40, which was on a much, much hillier course.  But I knew where my fitness and preparation put me, so four hours was not out of the question.  But I’d definitely have to work for it.

– With a forecast of 70F at the start and mid-80’s by noon, I knew that I needed to adjust my plans to just get through the race.  Time goals should go out the window.  But I don’t give up that easy.  I still planned on pacing for a four hour run, with a negative split.  I’d evaluate where I was by the half-way point and push as hard as I could, regardless of the conditions.  Also, the wind was forecast to get gusty from the south, which may or may not help.

– My mom and sister were in town.  Sister would walk the half-marathon with Goddess, while mom would come down and support.  But she also planned to meet a friend for brunch while we were out flogging ourselves.  And since she couldn’t ride the shuttle to the start line from the parking area at the finish, we had to leave early so I could drop off all three at the start line, then head across town to park the car and ride the shuttle back.  So we were headed out the door at 3:45 am.  So much for my own advice from last year where I said that I’d get a hotel room next time we ran this race.

Race

– I read that they had sang the national anthem and made several announcements before the start.  But unlike last year, they didn’t have loudspeakers along the length of the masses. So we never heard it.

– As forecast, 70F and humid at the start.  They adjusted the course this year to take a longer loop through the landmarks in the downtown area.  An excellent sightseeing option, but included quite a few more hills.

– As always, great crowd support along the majority of the course.  With 31,352 registered runners, there were lots of friends and family and locals supporting the crowd.  It definitely added a lot of energy to the course.

– The course was very crowded for the first eight miles.  With so many runners, there’s just no way around it, even with the wave start.  But that worked out well, since it forced me to keep my pace under control.

– A quick potty stop at 4.6 miles, thanks to the ungodly lines at the start area.  Sure, they probably had 100 porta-potties in the start area, but that’s nowhere near enough for 31,352 runners.  There were news reports of people complaining about the lack of TP in the porta-johns.  We found that out last year, so we brought our own. 

– The half- and full-marathon routes split at 11.5 miles.  With only 3,961 running the marathon, the course emptied out real quick.  So did the spectators, although we still had some great pockets of support until we met up with the half-marathon group again at 19.5 miles.

– At the 13.1-mile point, I was right on my planned pace to break four hours.  I hit the half-marathon at 2:03:35, which poised me well for a comfortable negative split.  But even when I reached this point, I knew that sub-4 wouldn’t happen.  Thanks to a tailwind for the past six miles, the heat was already getting to me.  I was running a comfortable 9:15-ish pace, but my heart rate was wavering between 150-155, which is high Zone 4 for me.  I backed off a bit to see if the heart rate would settle down, which it didn’t, even though this portion of the course was pretty flat; a couple of minor hills pushed me into Zone 5, even though I was backing off the pace. 

– By mile 14, I kept thinking about the mantra – “It’s not who’s fastest, but who slows down least”.  Folks were fading fast.  Much faster than me.  I was feeling good and was still positive on the outcome.

– Out along the flat of the river between miles 15-17, many folks were commenting on how surprised they were at how hilly the first half was.  I was surprised last year, too, so I understand where they were coming from.  If you run this race, IT IS NOT FLAT!  Matter of fact, the hill during mile 18, especially after several flat miles, will kick your ass.  Up until this point, I had only been walking the water stops.  But starting at this hill, I had several unplanned walk sessions.  I started feeling gentle cramping in the quads, but nothing debilitating.  So I just kept running through it and keeping a close eye on things, backing off before things locked up on me.  Here’s the profile of this year’s course, with 1,420’ of elevation gain and 1,525’ of elevation loss, for a net loss of 105’:

CMM 2009 Elevation ProfileSo how do you like the look of that wall at mile 18?  It feels like it looks.

– Joining back up with the half-marathon crowd at mile 19.5 was interesting.  So many on both sides of the street were walking.  The only disappointing thing about the course changes was that it took away the most interesting view for me.  Last year, we rejoined at about mile 18.5 and the way the courses were laid out, we ran straight at each other for half a mile before we turned and followed the same road.  With such a huge difference in the number of runners between the half and full, it was a very surreal scene.  But not this year.

– Just after mile 20, it was very, very tempting to turn right with the half marathon crowd and run the last 400 yards to the half-marathon finish line, ending the marathon at about 20.5 miles.  But I wasn’t going to do that.  The tide turned on me a bit through the next few miles as I started to get passed by more than I was passing.  But I was still moving forward, unlike many others.

– The next few miles where where I really started noticing the heat casualties.  The medical support crews were getting their workouts in, sprinting from one crumpled heap to the next.  Most folks were OK, just needing to set down for a bit in the shade.  But quite a few got rides to the hospital.  The sirens were wailing for the last few hours that we were in the area.

– Several times over the last five miles, folks had hoses out.  That really helped.  The winds were gusty at this point, so any amount of water on the body helped cool me down.  Honestly, at this point the heat wasn’t getting to me.  I was overall pretty comfortable, since I was keeping myself soaking wet with cups of water and the hoses.  At one point I even asked a guy if he’d be uncomfortable if I told him I loved him.  He had a good laugh, which was the intent.  The volunteers really rocked, standing out in the sun all day to make sure we were comfortable.

– The last mile was good.  I called my mom, who was waiting at the finish line.  I told here that I’d be there in about ten minutes.  So I couldn’t disappoint.  I started pushing the pace, really keeping the quads on the edge of cramping up.  I turned the tide again and started passing people left and right.  The crowds started getting thicker and completely lined both sides with about one-half mile left.  They definitely helped me push the pace as hard as I could.  The mile between 25-26 was a 9:05 and the last .2 mile was average 7:43, with the last hundred yards peaking at 6:22 and my heart rate deep into zone 5c (>167bpm).  Another strong, strong finish.  I just wish I knew where that energy was earlier in the race.

– Right after the finish I struggled to stay upright as mom pointed me towards the showers to cool down.  They were a huge relief.  I stood there for a few minutes and caught my breath, then moved to get my finisher’s medal.  Right after the lovely lady put it around my neck, another lovely lady handed me two sponges that had been soaking in ice water.  One went down the back of my shirt, one went down the front.

Post-race

– CMM has a good post-run spread for the runners before releasing them “into the wild”.  Lots of food and drink.  And dozens of coolers full of ice-cold Cytomax, my preferred post-run beverage. 

– Lots of sirens wailing in the distance. 

– Goddess and my sister walked on in, finishing another half-marathon together.  I know they weren’t comfortable, but I’m proud of both of them for pushing through and finishing in the heat.

 

Vignettes

– The porta-potty stop was funny.  I spied two of them at mile 4.5 and bee-lined for them, even though it meant I had to cut across half the road (and the masses).  I got there to find no line at all.  Both porta-potties were shaking pretty violently.  The doors flung open on both at the same time and two very, very portly police officers walked out.  Turns out the porta-potties were setting on the edge of the wheelchair ramp for the corner, so they were not even.  Standing in there was like standing in the back of a Greyhound bus as it speeds down the rough interstate.  It was an experience.

– To the volunteer working at the water stop at mile 10, I am truly sorry.  Just a few feet earlier, I was handed a cup full of Cytomax and ice.  It was very refreshing.  But I couldn’t  eat the ice.  I didn’t want to just drop the cup since someone would slip on the ice.  So I looked for a break in the runners and a clear area to toss the cup off to the side of the road.  So I did.  What I didn’t see was the girl standing at the table.  The cup hit the edge of the curb and shot ice up everywhere, which clearly surprised her.  Again, I AM SORRY!

– Right before the two races split at mile 11.5, several guys had a beer table set up.  I asked if they would be at mile 25, which they laughed at.  Bastages.  ;^).

– A few feet after the beer table, a couple was running with their recently acquired beer.  Just as I passed, she dropped her cup right next to her, spraying beer all over my legs.  Clearly she was the karmic twin of the water table lady.  Damn that’s karma is a bitch.

– All along the course there were bands and cheerleading squads.  Just after the half-marathon point, a cheerleading squad was in costume as the “Heffers”.  They were wearing shirts and pants made to look like they were cows.  Pretty funny.  But girls, I must tell you that tying inflated surgical gloves on your belly to look like udders probably wasn’t the best thing to do.  Just a thought.

– At the top of the long hill at mile 18, I saw and experienced something that choked me up.  Everyone was walking or shuffling along.  Off to the side stood a brother and sister, both aged right around 6-8 years old.  They were standing side-by-side, holding out their hands to give the runners high-5’s.  Every single runner that I saw completely broke their line in order to walk single file between the two of them and give them high-5’s.  Awesome!

– At about mile 19.5, when both races were headed down the same street, but on opposite sides, I saw a family waiting for mom.  The son, who was probably 8, was making some odd motions with his hands.  As I got next to him, I saw that he was watching a caterpillar walk on his fingers.  Very cool.

– At mile 21, a lady was cheering “If this were any easier, we’d call it football”.  I laughed.  Then a few miles later I laughed as I saw a guy headed out to the turnaround wearing a shirt with the same saying. 

– At the water stop just before mile 25, a couple ran by and said “Hey, we did that race”.  I was wearing my race shirt from my LBL 60K, mainly because it was so small and breathable.  Apparently they had a different experience than I, because when I said that I had more fun there, the wife said “No way, there was too much mud”.  I couldn’t have disagreed more.  I never saw them again.

 

The GBU

The Good:

– My performance.  Even though I was shooting for a sub-4 race and I didn’t get it, then shooting for any PR (and didn’t get it), I finished this course less than three minutes slower than last year, when it was rainy, cloudy and 20 degrees cooler.  That right there proved to me that had conditions been similar, I would have crushed my PR.

– Fueling, hydration and electrolyte intake went very, very well.

Nip Guards.  I had never worn these before.  I broke the cardinal rule and used something in a race that I had never used before.  But given the forecasted temps, I knew that I couldn’t wear my standard tight lycra shirt under my running shirt.  I’d roast (and likely would have DNF’d).  So we saw these at the expo and grabbed them.  They were great!

– I picked up a great shirt at the expo.  It’s for a run that I wish I could participate in, but we’ll be in Germany.  It’s The Bourbon Chase, a 200-mile relay race along the Bourbon Trail of Kentucky.  Right through the mother lode of great American bourbon.  The shirt is a great performance t-shirt, with the saying “Will Run for Bourbon” emblazened across the front.

The Bad – Other than the porta-potty lines at the start area, not much.  But…

– Lots of people broke the cardinal rule of t-shirts, namely “Do not wear the shirt of the event that you are parcipating in, before you finish the race”.  Not that I’m a stickler for such things, but for the marathon, that meant that the folks were wearing a black technical shirt.  Granted, the shirt was very light and airy, but I’m absolutely sure that the black really heated those folks up.  C’mon folks, spend the $15 for a light-colored singlet at the expo.

The Ugly – For me, not a single thing.  But I am saddened by the death of a local Soldier, who collapsed and died right after finishing the half marathon.  His mother and father were out from Montana and ran the half also, so they were both there when it happened.  The medical authorities were adamant that it wasn’t heat related, first explaining that it was a “sudden cardiac event”.  Reports today say that his lungs were filled with fluid.  Regardless of the cause, a seemingly healthy young man’s life ended.

So that’s the race.  In a very, very large nutshell.

With bands every mile and tons of cheering support over most of the course, I can definitely recommend this one.  But be warned that it is a huge race, with over 31,000 people.  And it’s expected to grow even more in the coming years.

If you do decide to do this race, I’ll leave you with this little hint:

— If you are parking, DO NOT follow the crowd and use the exits from I-24 next to LP Field; you’ll be in line for hours.  Instead, take the I-40/I-65 exit for Charlotte Ave, then cut east across downtown and cross the Woodland Street Bridge (the same one you’ll run across later).  I was able to pull straight into an empty parking lot right across the street from LP Field and right into a waiting shuttle bus.  All told, the whole trip, from dropping Goddess, my mom and sister off until I was back with them, took me 30 minutes.  Much better than the hour sitting in line just to get off the interstate last year.