Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Running Year in Review: 2011

As 2011 comes to a close and I begin to reflect, I can't stop smiling ear to ear. 2011 was a year of PRs and without a doubt, my most successful since I started running.

Certainly, the highlight of 2011 was running in my first ultra in May, the Mind the Ducks 12 Hour. I did some of the most intense training I had ever done in months leading up to the ultra. I was averaging about 20 to 25 miles during the weekdays and 20+ mile long runs on the weekends.

Since most of my long runs were near the marathon distance, I decided to use marathons as part of my training. I figured I might as well have the on course aid/support instead of running solo. To my surprise, I found 5 marathons within the span of 6 weeks that were all very close to me.

So, in late February, I kicked off my "training run" marathons running in my club's annual marathon. Then, in March, I ran in a marathon every weekend. I had a blast running in each event! Some were big cities races, like the National Marathon in DC. Others were small town races (my personal favorite) like the Lower Potomac River Marathon in Piney Point, Maryland.

I'm always amazed with how quickly our bodies adapt to the stresses we introduce to it. Each time I toed the start line, my body felt fresh and ready to take on the distance. That gave me a lot of much needed confidence going into my first ultra. Below were my times from the marathons.

2/20/11 - GW Birthday Marathon - 3:57:41 (PR)
3/06/11 - B&A Trail* Marathon - 4:05:06
3/13/11 - Lower Potomac River Marathon - 4:01:58
3/20/11 - Shamrock Marathon - 3:54:20 (reset PR)
3/26/11 - National Marathon - 3:55:59
*The trail was a paved bike trail.

April was a taper month. No races...just easy training runs in the beautiful spring weather. As the day of my ultra drew closer, there was a mix of excitement and fear. Running into the unknown is scary as much as it is a thrill for me. Having said that, my first ultra was an amazing experience! Over the course of the 12 hours, I covered 59.5 miles! I couldn't believe it! If you would like to read about it, check out my race recap blog: Mind the Ducks 12 Hour.

A month after my ultra, I ran in my first trail marathon. The day before the race, I got to meet one of my running idols, Dean Karnazes! The trail marathon was a very humbling experience for me. I had not trained much on trails leading up to the race, but I figured my road marathon conditioning would be sufficient. Boy was I wrong. The course chewed me up and spit me out (luckily near the finish line!). Trail running is a totally different beast and I learned that the hard way. Following my trail marathon, I toned down my training.

During the mid-summer heat of July, for reasons beyond me, I thought it would be "fun" to run in a 6 hour ultra in Annapolis, MD. I have one word for how that race went: disastrous. 3 hours in, I was 5 pounds under my start weight. The concerned looks I was getting from the medics at the aid tent were not very reassuring for me. While I was still within the tolerances of acceptable weight loss, I was on the verge of being pulled out of the race by the officials. Before I let that happen, I went over to the starters table and voluntarily dropped out. It was not an easy decision, but it was the right one.

As summer turned to fall, I began to focus on my goal of PRing at the Marine Corps Marathon in late October. About a month prior to the MCM, I ran in the Woodrow Wilson Half Marathon, resetting my half marathon PR by almost 2 minutes!

The MCM is a great event and I was excited to run in my "home" marathon. I had a race plan going in and stuck to it. 3 hours 49 minutes and 10 seconds later I crossed the finish line, shaving 5 minutes off my previous PR!

After the MCM, it was off to sunny Southern California in November to try my hands, errr feet, at another trail marathon on Catalina Island. In preparation for this race, I did a lot of trail running out in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (I highly recommend checking that area out if you live nearby). On race day, the running gods had other plans. During the overnight hours, a heavy rain storm hit Catalina Island, flooding most of the course. For safety reasons, the race director changed the course which meant this race became about a 60% road - 40% trail race. It was a shame that I didn't get to run the official race course, but better to change the course then to cancel the race completely.

Over Thanksgiving, I traveled to my hometown of Newburgh, IN and ran in a Turkey Trot 5K. Two good friends of mine joined me, both first time 5Kers. Having the company was nice and it was great to see my friends run in their first 5K!

To cap off my 2011 running season, I ran in a 10K put on by my running club. The race went well and I locked up my last PR of the year, running a 43:52. The real highlight for this race was that I finished in the top ten overall and won my age group! It had been years since my last age group win, so I was pumped!

Looking ahead to 2012, my race calendar is filling up fast! I can't wait to get the new year kicked off!

Happy New Year and Happy Running!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Twitter Road Race

If you're like me, you're always trying to find a way to keep running fresh. You run a different route. You hit the trails instead of the road. You run in the morning instead of the evening. You join a running group. The list goes on and on.

I got to thinking about how it would be fun to combine the camaraderie of road racing with the powers of Twitter...a Twitter road race!

Thanks to everyone's amazing feedback on Twitter, the race is on! Those that are interested in participating can register here. The Inaugural Twitter Road Race is going to be held on Saturday, January 21st. Race distance is a 5K.

So, what do you do on race day? Simple, head out the door and run the race distance! Choose which ever route you want. You get to decide how easy or hard the course is.

When you finish, there will be a form similar to the one you used to register where you can record your finishing time. I will post that form as race day nears. To be classified as an "official" finisher, you MUST submit your time by 11:59 PM Hawaiian Time (to accommodate runners in all time zones) on the day of the race. Also, don't forget to tweet about your run using the hashtag #TwitterRoadRace so everyone can read how you did!

I will post the results within 24 hours.

The goal of this race is to create a new and fun way to connect with all the awesome runners on Twitter. It's a way for us all to run together even though we might live on separate sides of the country...or as I've begun to notice, the world!

I welcome any and all comments/suggestions for this race. Please spread the word to all your followers on Twitter! I'm leaning on you guys to help get this race trending! Don't forget to use #TwitterRoadRace when you tweet!

You guys rock! Can't wait for January 21st! Happy running!


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Runs for Dad

I often write about how running has given me the ability to connect with my dad in ways I had never been able to before. However, something I don't write about much is how I lost my dad. I don't speak of his death often because it's something that happened a long time ago. On November 27th, 1997, which happened to be Thanksgiving Day that year, my dad died in a car accident. Since that day, life has never been the same for me, my mom, or my two older brothers and older sister.

Being only 12 at the time, I didn't really know how to handle the whole thing. To me, my dad was invincible. Nothing bad could ever happen to him. So, trying to comprehend that he was gone didn't add didn't make sense.

Following his death, I experienced so many different emotions. Sadness led to confusion. Confusion led to anger. Anger led to denial. Denial led to acceptance. I missed my dad terribly, but rather than talk to anyone about it, I bottled up my emotions. I thought I could work it out on my own.

As I progressed through middle school, high school and onto college, my heart was always heavy. I thought of my dad often. Not having him around was hard to get use to. In fact, I don't think I have ever gotten use to it. Rather, I have learned how to live in his absence.

Eventually, I hit my breaking point. My bottled up emotions were like a ticking time bomb.... and 8 years after my dad passed, it finally went off. I remember calling my mom one night and breaking down. Many times before she had suggested I see a therapist, but I was stubborn and would always reject the idea. However, when I spoke to her that night, I told her it was time for me to see someone.

To my surprise, I found my therapy sessions to be very helpful. I was certainly feeling a lot better, but I could tell something inside still didn't feel right. I still was missing that connection to my dad. Some people say they see signs and swear that it is the deceased speaking to them. I, on the other hand, had never experienced anything like that.

In the spring of 2007, I started running. I didn't start running because I thought it would help me connect with my dad. Instead, I started running because I was horribly out of shape. Once I started running, it didn't take long for me to sign up for my first 5K and after finishing that 5K, I was hooked! I started signing up for every race I could find. 5Ks led to 15Ks, and 15Ks led to my first half marathon.

My first half marathon in the fall of 2007 is a race I will never forget because it's when I had my first "encounter" with my dad. I had just crossed the 6 mile mark and was running under a beautiful canopy of trees. Between the tree branches, I could see the brilliant blue sky. I was taken away by the beauty and in that moment, I truely felt my dad's presence with me. After 10 long years, we were finally reunited and to say the least, it was an awesome feeling. I looked skyward again, smiled, and said, "Hey Dad."

So, here I am now, 4 years later, still running and having the time of my life. I've lost count of the times I've run into my dad (no pun intended) while I'm out running. It doesn't even have to be in race. Sometimes during a training run I feel him running right next to me. Perhaps he's training with me as we prepare for our next race?

My encounters with him usually don't last very long. Most times, only for a couple of minutes. But, during that moment in time, it's an incredible feeling. I never know when he is going to show up, but when he does, he certainly lets me know!

It's hard to express in words how grateful I am to have my dad with me when I'm running. He provides me the strength and courage I need to achieve my goals. Earlier this year, I decided I wanted to do something for him to say thank you. Since running is my connection to him, it only made sense to do some special runs for him. I knew I was going to be in my hometown of Newburgh, Indiana for Thanksgiving. So, I decided the first of my two planned "Runs for Dad" would happen then. My second planned run would be on his birthday, December 8th.

Before I speak about my Thanksgiving run, I need to backtrack to November 2010 and the last 365 yards of the New York City Marathon. I was lucky to get into the NYC Marathon on my 2nd attempt using their lottery system. As excited as I was to be running in the NYC Marathon, I did not have a good day on the course. I started out too fast and was bonking by mile 18. Not good. The last 8 miles were extremely slow and painful. As the finish line came into view, I was overcome with the sensation of my dad's presence. It was almost as if he was behind me, pushing me in the back to make sure I got over that finish line.

I'm not quite sure why my encounter with him at the NYC Marathon has stuck with me the most. Perhaps it's because my dad grew up not too far from NYC on Long Island? Whatever the reason, that race holds a special place in my heart.

So, for my run in Indiana, I decided I wanted to run from downtown Newburgh to my dad's headstone in Evansville, IN, a distance of about 17 miles - My route. My starting point in Newburgh was the head of a nature trail that my dad use to take me, my mom and my brothers and sister for nature walks. I remember during one of our nature walks, my dad carved our names into a tree. While I couldn't find that tree, I started as close to where I thought it was. I chose to finish at my dad's headstone because I wanted to give him something, my New York City Marathon finisher's medal. 

It was a great feeling to be able to finally present my dad with this special medal. This medal represents more than crossing the finish line in Central Park. It represents the special bond I have with my dad each time I run. I'm glad it finally has a home.

Upon returning to Washington, I began to look forward to my second run. December 8th, 2011 would of been my dad's 58th birthday. To honor him, I decided I would run 58 kilometers, or 36 miles. As December 8th approached, the weather had me a bit worried. The 7th was a miserably cold and rainy day. Certainly not great running weather. When I went to bed that night, I could still hear the rain falling. However, when I awoke on the 8th, the clouds had parted and all I could see were blue skies.

I rarely use the word perfect, mostly because I think everyone has their own definition of what perfection is. However, December 8th was a perfect day. I headed out the door and began what would be the 2nd longest run of my life.

For this run, I wanted to show my dad some of my favorite places in DC. Our first stop was in historic Old Town Alexandria. Running past all the docked boats in Old Town's waterfront reminded me of the early mornings my dad use to take me to Newburgh's boat landing to watch people launch their boats. I would beg him to buy me a boat each time we went.

My second stop along the way was Reagan National Airport. My dad knew how much I loved planes. Each time he would return home from a business trip, he would give me the peanuts he got on the plane. It would make my day! One Christmas, Dad, errr Santa, got me an international airport playset. We have a family video of me opening it and you should have seen the excitement in my eyes as well as my dad's.

From the airport, we continued up to one of my favorite parts of Washington, Georgetown. Dad and I ran along the towpath of the C&O Canal. From Georgetown, we ran past the historic Watergate complex and the beautiful Kennedy Center.

Next, we ran around Hains Point and then over to Washington's Waterfront. From the Waterfront, we cut over to Pennsylvania Avenue and then up East Capitol Street. Once we reached the Capitol, we had a little over 4 miles to go.

At this point, my leg were pretty shot, but there were a few more places I wanted to show Dad. From the Capitol, we headed down Madison Drive and cut over to Constitution Avenue. There was a certain point along Constitution where we could see the White House on our right and The Monument on our left.

From Constitution Ave, we ran around the backside of the Lincoln Memorial. From the Lincoln Memorial, we headed back towards The Monument and the National Mall. By this time, the sun was low in the west and was casting an amazing array of colors on The Monument and the Capitol's dome. It was an incredible sight!

Running along the gravel path on the National Mall, Dad and I hit the 58K mark. While our journey had ended for the day, our bond will last forever.

Love you Dad.

Our run

One of my favorite pictures of Dad and I

Monday, November 21, 2011

Race Recap: Catalina Eco Marathon

In June, I ran my first trail race and after I finished, I was eager to sign up for my next trail run. Enter: the Catalina Eco Marathon on Catalina Island in Southern California. The location for the race was ideal because my brother as well as some of my relatives live in the Santa Monica area. So, in addition to running in the race, I had a chance to catch up with my family. My mom decided to come out as well, so it was quite the gathering!

The race started at 8am which gave me, my bro and mom enough time to catch the 6:15am boat from Long Beach to Catalina. Such is my luck, the only rainy day the whole time I was in Cali was on race day. The poor weather also made for an "interesting" boat ride to Catalina. The ride was about an hour long and the first half went smoothly. However, as we neared the island, the water got rougher and the boat started tossing and turning. I've never thought sea sickness was a problem for me, but the coffee and Clif Bar I had earlier started to yell at me in protest.

Somehow I made it to the dock without getting sick, but I can't say the same for my brother (I later heard the ocean swells were about 9 feet!). By the time I got off the boat, I was left with only 30 minutes till race start and I still felt pretty queazy. I quickly hustled over to the packet pickup to drop off my bag and get my bib. By the time I pinned my bib on and headed to the start line, the race was only minutes from starting.

I had received an email the day before the race from the race directors stating that they might change the course due to the inclement weather. However, as far as I knew when the race started, we were running the planned course.

For this marathon, I had no time/pace goal. Since I knew this was going to be a hilly race, I let the course dictate my pace. I was there to enjoy the sights and I stopped frequently during the run to snap pictures on my phone.

 Race Start
Luckily, my stomach had settled down by the time the race began. The first 4 miles were more or less uphill the whole way. By the time I had reached mile 4, I was 1,500 feet above sea level. Due to the low clouds that were hanging over the island, I was running in near white out conditions!

...and here's a video I took while running in the clouds:

When I hit mile 6, the course transitioned from trail to road. I was hoping that this was just going to be a short section of road that would quickly turn back to trail, but as the miles continued and the posted mile boards were replaced by oranges cones & mile marks spray painted on the road, I realized that the course had in fact changed. If an announcement was made pre-race about the course change, I had missed it. I was bummed that I was not going to run the advertised course, but understood that for the safety of me and my fellow runners, it's what needed to be done. Better to change the course then cancel the race.

It was evident from the mile markers on the other side of the road that the changed course was now an out & back. It was another bummer as I'm not a fan of out & back courses. On the plus side, the clouds began to lift and I was finally starting to see the sights I had traveled all the way from Washington to see.

Here are some of the pictures I took.

During the 12th mile, the course entered the grounds of the Catalina Airport. As I continued through the airport, I neared an aid station and saw the turn around sign. Looking at my watch, I still had at least a good half mile to go before I should of hit the turn around. I asked the volunteers if this was the halfway point and they assured me it was. Part of me still didn't want to believe that this was right, but when reached the mile 14 mark with 13 miles registered on my watch, I realized that the new course was unfortunately measured incorrectly. Another bummer.

Catalina Airport - Elevation 1602
Airport terminal. The white sign on the second level says, "Airport In The Sky"
The middle part of the race was a mix of rolling hills. All and all, I was feeling good. Since I had spent most of the first half of the race to stopping to take pictures, I decided to get into more of a rhythm and lay down some faster miles.

When I reached the mile 20 mark (or 19), I was back on the portion of the course that was trails. I knew that soon I'd be facing a 1,500 foot decent down to the finish line. I had burned my quads up a bit by running faster and some recent hills hadn't helped the cause. As I suspected, the decent was pretty tough on my quads. I tried to keep a steady pace on the down hill, but my legs wouldn't let me. It was frustrating.

Fortunately, the grade of the decent lessened in the last couple of miles and I was able to up my pace again. As I neared the finish line, I saw my mom and bro off to the side cheering me on. As I approached the finish line, I did something I'd always wanted to do when finishing a marathon... I crossed the finish line running backwards.

Unbeknown to me, my mom took a video of me finishing:

The official distance was 25 miles, just shy of the marathon distance. Ironically, my first trail marathon course was long by about 1.5 miles... so I guess I broke even!

The Catalina Eco Marathon was like none other. I still wish I could have run the original course, but the last minute course change still provided me with some amazing views! I guess I'll have to come back next year and run this race again!

A big thanks to my mom and bro for braving the nasty weather on Catalina to support me. It was great to have them there. I'm so grateful for all the love and support they and the rest of my family give me!

My Garmin Upload

Race Stats
Time: 4:10:05 @ 9:55 min/mile avg.
44th of out 195 overall
6th of out 11th in age group (25-29)  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Race Recap: Marine Corps Marathon

Well, there you have it.... my 24th marathon is in the books and what a great day it was for the 36th running of the Marine Corps Marathon. It certainly wasn't the warmest during the pre-dawn hours, but I didn't mind. Compared to what the weather was like the day before (cloudy, rainy, and even some snow flakes!), this was perfect. As the sun began to rise, I was treated to an amazing array of colors. 

Sunrise from the starters village
Being a local of DC, it was a great feeling to toe the line at my home race. Many parts of the course are routes I use for my training runs, which was nice. For the non-locals, you got to experience a truly unique course.... Rosslyn/Georgetown/Watergate/Kennedy Center/Lincoln Memorial/Jefferson Memorial/Hains Point/Tidal Basin/MLK Memorial/Monument/Capital/Crystal City/Pentagon/Iwo Jima Memorial. What's not to like?

My goal for the race was to beat my current marathon PR (3:54:20). I had run a strong half marathon (1:39:47) in early October, so I knew the possibility of setting a new marathon PR was real. However, no matter how well prepared I am on race day, I still get butterflies before the start. For me, there's always a level of uncertainty before the race starts. I've run enough marathons to know that even if I'm well prepared, things don't always go my way on race day.

I found my way to the start corral and patiently waited for the race to start. Before any race starts, I ask my Dad to watch over me and provide me the strength I need to finish the race. Running has given me the ability to connect with him in such a special way. Never do I feel his presence more then when I'm running. I always write his initials on my running shoes to remind me that he's always with me.

It had been awhile since I'd run in a marathon of this size (there were about 21,000 finishers). I forgot how annoying it is to not be able to maintain a consistent pace when I'm surrounded by runners on every side. Instead of zigging and zagging between runners, I patiently waited for gaps to develop in front of me.

The atmosphere on the course was awesome! The run down M Street in Georgetown was electric and I was surprised at the amount of spectators that were out when I reached the Lincoln Memorial. It took me a lot longer than expected to find my rhythm in the race. It wasn't until the 11th mile that I started to get comfortable and felt ready to up my pace.

I treat the first half of a marathon as a warmup. I like to run at a relatively conservative pace to ensure I have enough in the tank for the second half. For me, the real race starts after the halfway point. That's when I kick it into the next gear and start pushing myself to the limit. I'm all about the negative split, or running the second half of the race faster than the first half. Most runners claim they have a more positive experience running by this method because it leaves them feeling stronger at the end of the race.

The second half of the race took me past some of my favorite places in DC. After running through the Tidal Basin around mile 16, the course route went right by the newly built MLK Memorial. Next, the course took you through the National Mall for miles 17 through 20.

Overall, I was feeling pretty good. I was able to increase my pace by about 15 to 20 seconds per mile since passing the halfway point. However, my quads were starting to tighten up and my legs were getting heavy. I tried to ignore my legs as best as I could and continued pushing. I was able to maintain my pace through the Crystal City out and back section, but once I made it to mile 24, fatigue was setting in big time. The last two miles were really difficult. Checking my watch, I saw that I was close to finishing under the 3:50 mark. Knowing that was all the motivation I need to keep pushing!

When the finish line came into view, I was flooded with relief. The end was near and I was going to make it under 3:50! As I crossed the finish line, I pointed my fingers skyward and thanked my Dad for being with me out there. Waiting in line to receive my finishers medal, I began to reflect on my race. I started to feel tears well up in my eyes. Running a marathon brings so many different emotions to the surface. I kept myself composed as a Marine placed my finishers medal around my neck and congratulated me. I thanked him for his service and then found a quiet place off to the side to be alone for minute. The realization of running my best marathon was starting to set in. I started thinking about my Dad again. I thought about how much I miss him, but at the same, how grateful I was for having him out there with me in my heart and soul. I could not hold back the tears any longer.

They say that running a marathon changes your life forever. I couldn't agree more. It's such a wonderful distance to test the limits of human endurance. As the late Emil Zatopek once said, "If you want to win something, run a 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon."

Race Stats
Time: 3:49:10
2,932 out of 21,013 - Overall
2,229 out of 12,420 - Gender

My Garmin Upload

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Running isn't complicated, is it?

Hal Higdon recently tweeted, "Running is easy. Other than walking, it is the simplest sport. Sometimes we over think running and make it more complicated than need be."

I couldn't agree more. Running is easy. Nothing beats hitting the road or trail and getting lost in the motion of running. It's great to shut off the mind for a bit and simply enjoy the nature of running. Yet, it's hard for me to ignore that we (including myself) sometimes find ways to make running complicated.

"Should I give those Vibram Five Fingers a go?"

"I see some runners wearing compression sleeves, should I?"

"Should I stretch before I run?.. during?... after?... at all?" 

"VO2 what?"

"Will training with a heart rate monitor enhance my performance?"

These are just some of the questions I hear and read. Do I think they are valid? Certainly. Do they need to be in the forefront of our minds? In my opinion, not always. I think we sometimes forget that all running takes is putting one foot in front of the other. That's it. It's that simple foundation that makes running so beautiful. I found that the less I think about all the little intricacies of running, the more I enjoy it.

Yes, there is a time and place to run against a certain standard (e.g., race pace runs, speedwork, hill repeats, the looooooooong run, etc...). But, every now and again, leave the running watch at home. Run at whatever pace you desire. Let the roads and paths lead you. Enjoy running for the simple art it is.

Running isn't complicated... unless you make it complicated.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Race recap: Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon

The fall running season is here and I couldn't be more excited! I kicked off my fall schedule with running in the 2nd Annual Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon. I had run this race last year and had a blast running it again this year. This year's race had extra meaning because I had coached some of the runners participating in the event through my running club's (DC Road Runners) half marathon training program.

Race morning was a bit on the cool side for early October, with temperatures not even topping the 50s. For me, perfect conditions! Before the start, I managed to find a few of my trainees and chat with them for a bit. In fact, I ran the first two miles alongside one my trainees, which was nice.

Based off how my track workouts and long runs were going, I felt I had a good opportunity to break my current half marathon personal record (PR) (1:41:46) I had set back in the fall of 2009. So, my race strategy was to go out at about an 8 minute mile pace for the first couple of miles and then depending on how I felt, start adjusting my pace.

The race course is one of the most gorgeous courses the metro DC area offers. The course is point-to-point, starting down in historic Mt. Vernon (home of George Washington) and finishing at the National Harbor.

Course Map
The first few miles of the race went really well for me and I established a nice rhythm. The cool breeze in my face was refreshing, the views of the Potomac off to my right were beautiful and I found myself getting lost among all the trees that lined the course. There comes a point in a race where I decide whether or not I want to commit to challenging my PR. At mile 5, I made the decision to commit to my race plan. This decision is always exciting and scary at the same time. It's exciting because I love the trill of challenging a PR. But, it's also scary because I know I'm about to push my limits and enter what I like to call, "uncomfortable running."

I define uncomfortable running as pushing yourself to the edge of your lactate threshold, but not over... because if you go over, it's game over. No PR. Try again next time. Uncomfortable running is a balancing act, really. It's allowing yourself to enter into that zone of discomfort, but not taking off more than you can chew. Yea, it's gonna hurt...but, if you play the balancing game right, your reward is a new PR.

Miles 6 through 10 went pretty well for me and I was able to average about a 7:30 minute mile pace. Every now again I would develop a small stitch in my side, but slowing down my breathing and taking in some deeper breaths helped rid them. Mile 8 is when you reach the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. When you hit the bridge, there is about a third of a mile incline you must run up before you reach the crest of the bridge. While the climb up the bridge isn't too steep, the length of it makes it a bit challenging. You reach the crest of the bridge right after the mile 9 marker. When I got to the downhill portion of the bridge, I tried to increase my pace a bit, but my legs weren't having any of that.

The mile 10 mark was right after the bridge crossing. Remembering from my race experience last year, all that stood between me and the finish line was a pretty substantial climb of about 125 feet during mile 11.

The hill at mile 11 was definitely difficult to get up and added a nice challenge to the end of the race. When I got to the top of the hill, my legs felt like jelly and I was a bit concerned that I may not be able to recover and push hard to the finish. When I crossed the mile 12 marker, I took a quick peak at my watch to see what my total time was. I was just a hair under 1 hour and 31 minutes. At the pace I was running, I realized that I was on track to beat my PR.

Then, I got to thinking. If I could cover the next 1.1 miles remaining in the race in under 9 minutes, I could finish under the 1 hour 40 minute mark. Game on! I pushed like hell during mile 12, but I was starting to cramp up. The 1:40 mark was quickly approaching and I wasn't sure if I was going to make it or not.

The way the finish area was set up, the finish line didn't come into view until you practically crossed it. Once I did see it, I checked my watched again and realized that I was going to make it just under the 1 hour 40 minute mark! When I finished, I was spent but completely overjoyed. I had given it all I had out there. Ask any runner what their favorite thing is about racing and I'm sure most will say it's setting a new PR.

I hung out near the finish line after I was done and was able to watch some of my trainees finish. I know four of them set new PRs, two by default as this was their first half marathon. For me, that was the icing on the cake. I had really enjoyed coaching these guys and I couldn't of been more happy to hear that they had such positive races!

My official finishing time was 1:39:47 and I placed 250th out of 2,791 runners.

Looking ahead, my next race is the Marine Corps Marathon at the end of the month. My half marathon effort has given me a lot of confidence going into Marine Corps. I think topping my marathon PR I set back in March is a very realistic goal for Marine Corps. I hope the running gods are on my side again then!

Happy running!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Marathon: 26 miles and 365 yards of memories

"Most days of the year are unremarkable. They begin, and they end, with no lasting memories made in between. Most days have no impact on the course of life." - 500 Days of Summer

I think this quote can be applied to most days of our lives, but it certainly does not on the day you run a marathon. January 13, 2008 was a remarkable day and one that has impacted my life in a way I never expected. This was the date of my first marathon. Fast track to the present and I have since taken on the distance 22 more times.

Each marathon I've participated in holds a special place in my heart, but some stand out among the rest.... and it's these stand out ones that I would like to share with you all in this post.

So, back to January 13, 2008 and my first marathon, the Walt Disney World Marathon. I remember being overwhelmed with emotion right before the race started. Sandwiched in my corral among my fellow runners, sun still waiting to show its face, I reflected on the 4 months of training that prepared me for this day. I couldn't believe it was finally here. This was it! I was about to take on something that I once thought was only reserved for the most elite athletes!

The marathon lived up to everything I expected it to be and more. When I crossed the finish line (in 4:27:08), the sense of achievement I felt was unreal! I was able to call myself a marathoner! I remember calling my mom shortly after I finished and she must of thought I sounded like death. The pain I was experiencing in my body was down right awful! It was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life.

Mile 10
Finish Line
I think my face tells it all!
The Hardware
It didn't take long for me to sign-up for my next marathon. Once the Chicago Marathon opened its registration for their 2008 race, I quickly made sure I secured a spot in the field.

I couldn't of picked a better location to run my second marathon. If someone asked me to recommend a marathon, Chicago would certainly be at the top of my list. The whole city of Chicago embraces this run and on race day, millions of spectators line the streets to cheer you on. It's quite a rush!

The following year I ran in the Chicago Marathon again, but with some company this time. In 2008, my good friend Marker had come out to watch me run. On the train ride back after the race, he told me that he wanted to run it next year. So, in 2009, I got to share my 5th marathon experience with Marker at my side. It was special moment for me when we crossed the finish line together. I knew the affects finishing a marathon has on a person and I was excited to watch Marker experience them.

Marker and I
I can't always be serious!
The 2009 Chicago Marathon was also a memorable run because I was also running for a cause. For this race, I raised money for a great foundation, Charlie's Champions. Charlie was diagnosed at the age of 6 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. After battling this cancer for 6 years, I'm happy to report that Charlie is cancer free! In fact, I finally got the chance to meet Charlie and his parents in person last month. Charlie is doing great and he is keeping himself busy with many summer activities! I strongly encourage everyone to visit his website to learn more about him and the foundation, He is a true hero and an even bigger inspiration!

My race day shoe
2010 was a special year of marathon running for me. The 12-in-12 Challenge was an amazing journey that allowed me to experience so many great marathons. In April, I ran in the Garden Spot Village Marathon in New Holland, PA, which is just east of Lancaster. The course was quite beautiful, weaving through the vast farm land in this area. The scenery reminded me a lot of my hometown in Indiana. The Amish community is large in this region and witnessing their lifestyle was very interesting. I remember that so many families sat out in their front yards to watch us run by. This was a pretty small marathon and most small marathons don't close the course to traffic. However, instead of sharing the road with cars, I was sharing them with horse-drawn buggies. Pretty cool!

Another highlight during the 12-in-12 was running in my first international race in Montreal. The Marathon de Montreal was a first class race. The field size was not too big, not too small. The Canadian hospitality was fantastic and Montreal is an absolutely gorgeous city! The coolest part of this race for me was that a section of the course went around the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve, home of the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix. If you know me well, you know that I'm a diehard F1 fan. So, to get the opportunity to run around such a historic race track, where drivers such as Senna, Prost, Mansell, and Schumacher have driven, was real special. Another trip to run in the Marathon de Montreal is certainly in my future!

Montreal skyline from the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve
During the 12-in-12, I ran with two people running their first marathon. My brother Matt joined me in my May race, The Long Island Marathon and my good friend Katie joined me in my October race, The Marine Corps Marathon. Much like my experience with Marker, it was great to see Matt and Katie run their first marathon!

Me and Katie during the Marine Corps Marathon
Certainly, the highlight of the 12-in-12 was getting the opportunity to run in the New York City Marathon. Behind Boston, the NYC Marathon is one of the most prestigious marathons and attracts some of the best runners from around the world. The full realization of running in the NYC Marathon didn't sink in until the first mile. Crossing the great Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the start, I had a spectacular view of the NYC skyline off to my left.  It looked so close, yet, so far. It really gives you a full appreciation of the marathon distance.

The course takes you on such a great tour of all five boroughs of NYC. Like Chicago, the whole city comes out to watch the race. The best part of the course, in my opinion, is the run up First Ave. in Manhattan. The amount of people that line this part of the course is insane! Overall, an EPIC marathon to run in!

Time was not important to me during the 12-in-12. Finishing each marathon was my only goal. However, that mindset changed in 2011. Coming into this year, my best marathon time was set back in May of 2009 at the Delaware Marathon (3:57:59). It was time to take on my current PR!

In February, I ran in my running club's (DC Road Runners) annual marathon, the George Washington Marathon. When I crossed the finish line, I had beaten my previous PR by a mere 17 seconds! The course for this marathon was pretty hilly, so I knew that the potential was there to beat my time again. One month later I ran in the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach. For this race, I had one goal and one goal only, set a new PR.

Race day conditions for the Shamrock Marathon were perfect. I knew that if my legs had it in them, it was going to be a good run. I started the marathon off at a pretty conservative pace, averaging about a 9:15 minute mile pace for the first half. Running a marathon is all about pacing yourself.  If you go out too fast in the first half, the second half is going to be hell (a mistake I've made one too many times). Take it from me, it takes a lot of discipline to hold back at the start, especially when it seems that every other runner around is flying past you!

Once I reached the halfway mark, it kicked it into another gear and took off! Each mile I got progressively faster. By mile 21, I was running 8:30 minute miles (and blowing past every runner that passed me at the start!). By mile 24, I dropped it down to an 8:15. Once I hit mile 25, I pushed myself as hard as I could. I left nothing on the table and clocked my 26th mile in 7:44! The last 365 yards were a complete blur. I had developed some wicked tunnel vision and the only thing I saw was the finish line. I finished in 3:54:20 and I was absolutely STOKED! I had just run the best marathon of my life and I felt great! For me, that's what marathon running is all about.... putting yourself on line, giving it hell, and hoping you can make it to the finish strong!

Most marathoners, like myself, have become addicted to this distance. Are we crazy?... far from it. We are just doing something that brings us an immense amount of joy and happiness to our lives. I believe it is only human nature that us marathon maniacs continue to run race after race. To us, life wouldn't make sense without it!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Race Recap: Endless Summer 6 Hour Run

I knew this run was set to be a hot one. As race day approached, record highs were being busted all across the Mid-Atlantic. To say the least, I was not looking forward to running in such conditions. Summer is probably my least favorite time of the year to train and race. The body simply doesn't perform as well in warmer temperatures. But, as always, I looked forward to the challenge!

The race took place at Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis, Maryland on a 4.15 mile looped course. My goal for the race was to run a 50K, which is a little over 31 miles. Before the race started, all runners were required to have their weights checked and printed on their bibs. At the 2 and 4 hour mark, we were instructed that we would have to weight in again to make sure our weights were within the tolerances of acceptable weight loss. If it was not, the runner would be pulled from the race.

The race started at 7:30, but the early start didn't help much as the temperature was already pushing 90 degrees. I was practically sweating before I even took my first stride! I decided to wear my hydration pack to ensure I always had a supply of water to continue to hydrate with. The first lap was uneventful and I completed it in about 40 minutes. After reloading with some Gatorade and a Gu, I was off for my next lap.

I finished my second lap with about 4 1/2 hours remaining in the race. Passing through the aid station, a medic asked how I was feeling. The tone of her voice led me to believe that she seemed concerned (Maybe because I was already drenched in sweat?). I told her I felt good. She suggested I take a couple salt tablets to keep my sodium levels in check. After popping the salt tablets and munching on half of a PB&J, I set off for my next lap.

The 3rd lap is when I noticed I wasn't feeling so good. In a previous post, I mentioned how eating and drinking on the run is a balancing act. If you don't eat/drink enough, you're gonna crash out.  But, if you eat/drink too much, you risk upsetting your stomach. Well, I was certainly feeling the latter of the two. Needless to say, it was a bit of a slow going on the 3rd lap.

I completed my 3rd lap around the 2-hour mark. At the aid tent, I was instructed by the medical personnel to go weight in. My weight before the start was 185 pounds. At my first weight in, I was already down to 181 pounds. I was told that I was pushing the limits of being too under weight.

After taking a little extra time to hydrate, I headed out for my 4th lap. Things didn't get much better for me, in fact, things only seemed to get progressively worse...very frustrating. I was soaked head to toe in sweat. I felt I had reached a point where I couldn't keep up with my sweat loss. My stomach was packed full of water and Gatorade and I felt if I took another sip, I'd get sick. Long story short, my body was telling me, "Yep, we are done for the day Doug."

I finished my 4th lap a little over the 3 hour mark, with 16.5 miles clocked on my watch. I hopped on the scale to see what my weight was and I had lost another pound. Not good. I stood at the aid tent for about 10 minutes contemplating whether or not to continue. I had never dropped out of a race I started, and the thought of doing so did not sit well with me. Yet, I knew to continue in the state I was in was not a wise idea. In running, you have to know your limits and I had exceeded mine that day. However, it was still very hard for me to walk up to the starters table and inform them I was dropping from the race.

Looking back, I have no regrets for dropping out. It was the right decision. Sure, that evening (after a solid 4 hour nap) I was pretty bummed I hadn't finished, but better to live to run another day, right?

My next scheduled race is the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon in early October. But, knowing me, I'll find something to run in between now and then!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Why Do You Run?

It's a question I'm asked often, especially when people hear some of the distances I enjoy to run. But, to be quite honest, I hate being asked that question for a couple reasons.... 1) It's a difficult question to answer in one sentence and 2) if I'm explaining it to someone who does not have an appreciation and/or understanding of running, they tend to dismiss my answer (not always) and call me crazy.

Well, I decided to take a little time a try to explain why I run. So here goes....

1) To take a break from reality. I'm amazed at how easily I can detach myself from reality when I go for a run. It's as if I check out from life and check back in when I take that last stride. Running can be a very liberating experience. Also, I connect the most with my dad when I'm out running. His presence is always more noticeable when I'm running. He is my source of strength and without him in my soul, I'd be only half the runner I am today.

2) Exploration. My favorite run is one where I have no set route. I just head out the door and go. It's nice to let the roads and paths lead you from time to time. You'd be surprise how much more you can discover when you're on foot.

3) My health. Stay active, stay healthy. Sit on your butt and, get my point. I might suggest running to someone looking for something new to try, but I understand that some people don't find running appealing. If running isn't your thing, find an activity you do enjoy and STICK WITH IT! Your body will thank you later.

4) Self-Satisfaction. I said it in one of my previous blogs, but I'll say it again. The reason I run is for self-satisfaction. I'm doing this for no one but myself. Nobody told me to go out a run my first marathon over 3 years ago. I made that choice and was determined to complete that goal for me and me only. Since that first marathon, running has brought so much happiness to my life. Running was once a form of exercise... now, it's a lifestyle!

5) To test human endurance. As I said above, running is both physical and mental. The mental aspect of running is more prevalent on a long run (for me) than it is on a short one. When I reflect on my 12 hour endurance race, the last few hours of the race were so much more mental than physical. Sure, my body hurt like hell, but the pain was the least of my concerns. My mind was screaming at me to stop! For me, the biggest challenge of endurance is to ignore those thoughts. In the end, we always find out we can do more than we ever thought possible!

This is by far one of my favorite quotes about pushing your limits:

"When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be." - Patanjali

6) To inspire others. I hope that my running inspires other to get out there and achieve their goals, be it a running one or any other type of goal. If you have the will, desire and passion, you can achieve any goal you set out to accomplish. 

These are just some of the reasons why I run. Frankly, I could talk someones ear off about running if they cared to listen. But, I think this blog will have to do for now!


Monday, June 6, 2011

My first trail marathon

Readers beware, this is a long one. Grab a beer/glass of wine, or both! Also, please excuse any typos. I was pretty tried when I typed this up! Enjoy!

Ahhh, my first trail race... something I had been wanting to try for awhile now. Over the years, I have run my fair share of road marathons, but on Saturday I traded the pavement for dirt, mud, creek crossings, and some wicked uphill climbs.

The North Face has a series of endurance events across the country and one stop is right here in the DC. In addition to the marathon, there was also a 50K (31 miles) and a 50 mile race. One of the many things that attracted me to this event was the fact that Dean Karnazes, a North Face athlete (and my running idol), was going to be there!

The real fun began Friday night when I got the chance to personally meet Dean after a pre-race panel discussion at the North Face store in Georgetown. I was certainly a little star-struck when I spoke to him, but it was awesome to meet him. I told him how he inspired me to run my first ultramarathon and he replied jokingly, "I hope you still like me."

Me talking to Dean

Dean stuck around the store until every last person got a picture with him. He is a real down to earth guy that cares deeply about running and wants to share his love of running with everyone around him. I hope I cross paths with him again in the future!

Start/Finish Line
The days leading up to the race were really hot and humid and that had me a bit concerned. Luckily, as the weekend approach, cooler temperatures prevailed. The start/finish area was located in the beautiful Algonkian Regional Park, which is situated along the Potomac River. The course, a 13 mile out and back (or so I thought, more on this later), utilized many parts of the Potomac Heritage Trail.

The race started promptly at 9am. Before the race began, Dean provided us all with some words of encouragement. As I passed under the inflatable archway to begin my 26 mile trek, I noticed Dean off to the side giving runners high-fives. I made my way over and traded a high-five with him! How often do you get the chance to high-five you're idol at the start of the race??? 

My race strategy was pretty straight forward, finish and stay hydrated. The temperature was hovering around 70 at the start, but I knew it would only get hotter. So, staying hydrated was going to very important during the race. The aid stations were spread out about every 5 to 6 miles on the course, so I decided to wear my hydration pack. This turned out to be a really good decision. 

One thing I noticed right away was that it was damn near impossible to hold a steady pace. The course terrain was always changing. Some parts of the course were flat, but for the most part, it was filled with little ruts just waiting to roll an ankle and tree roots that would catch your foot and send you flying if you weren't careful. Also, the majority of the course was singletrack, which provided little room for runners to pass each other. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous. However, I was so concerned with my foot placement that it was hard to look up and fully appreciate it. Below are some images I snapped of the course.

To ensure we didn't get lost out there, the course was lined with orange, blue and pink ribbons. The 50 mile runners were to follow the orange ribbons, the 50K the blue, and for the marathon, the pink. We were told before the race started that if you stopped seeing your ribbon, to turn around and return to the last place you remember seeing your ribbon. Luckily, the ribbons were spaced about 50 feet apart from each other so it was pretty easy to know if you were on or off the course.

The first 6 miles of the race were uneventful. There was a 100 foot climb near the 5th mile, but with my legs still fresh, it wasn't to bad to get up. The first real obstacle on the course was a creek crossing around the 7th mile. As me and the runners around approach this section, we more or less stopped dead in our tracks to figure out how we were going to navigate this part. The trail dropped about 3 feet straight into the creek, which was probably 3 to 4 feet wide. I watched the girl in front of me jump right into it and carry on. I, on the other hand, didn't like the idea of getting my shoes and socks soaking wet so early in the race (for fear of getting blisters). So, I backed up a bit and did my best to jump over the creek. I landed a little short of the mark, but managed to keep the majority of my feet dry.

Miles 10 through 12 were a pretty technical. It started with about 150 foot climb and then what seemed like continuous rolling hills. Then, at the 12th mile, I was faced with a very steep 150 foot decent. Some parts of the decent were so steep that trying to run down it wasn't going to work, unless I wanted to face-plant into a tree.

Once I reached the base of the downhill section, the course flatted out. From there, I had about another mile until the turnaround. I reached the turnaround in about 2 hours and 15 minutes with 13 miles registered on my GPS watch. I was happy with this pace and I still felt pretty fresh. I knew if I could maintain a similar pace on the return, I would easily finish the race with a sub-5 hour time.

The turnaround point was also the second aid station on the course. My hydration pack (which can hold 70 oz. of water) was bone-dry, so I refilled it. I scarfed down some potatoes, a handful of M&Ms, and washed it all down with some gatorade (a tasty mid-race meal if you ask me!). Then, I set off for the trek back to the starting point.

So, do you remember that downhill at mile 12 I talked about? Yea, well that hill was a bitch going up. I didn't even make an attempt to run up the hill....nor did the others around me.

Miles 14 through 18 were pretty rough on me. I went from feeling pretty good to completely wasted in the matter of minutes. It caught me off guard for sure. They say in marathon running that runners hit that iconic wall at mile 20. Well, for me, it happened at mile 16...not good. It sucks when you realize that you still have 10 miles in front of you and you feel like you can't go another mile. However, I tried my best to stay in the moment, focus on putting one foot in front of the other, and not worry about the future. I couldn't control what was going to happen an hour from now, so why worry about it?

To say the least, it was slow going until I reached the next aid station at mile 20.5 (or so I thought). When I arrived at the aid station a volunteer said to me, "Nice job. You're at mile 19." "Really?!?!" I asked back. I knew there was no way that could be right. My watch had 20.5 miles registered on it. However, there was a sign confirming the volunteer's comment, "Aid Station #3 - Marathon mile marker 19.1." I was pissed! Here I was, thinking I had about 5 miles to go, and now I'm being told I had more like 7 miles to go. It was a huge mental blow. 

I took a lot of extra time at this aid station. I now had to prep myself for at least another hour and a half of running when I thought I had maybe an hour left. I drank some extra fluids, and munched on a banana and a PB&J (another one of my favorite in-race snacks). I also poured quite a few cups of water over my head as the mid-afternoon heat was really starting to build.

The long break at the aid station did me some good and I was feeling much better. About a half mile outside the aid station I encounter the creek I had jumped over earlier in the day. However, this time I could care less about getting my feet wet. The creek water was ice cold and actually felt pretty damn amazing on my aching feet! 

After crossing the creek, it was about another half mile until I approach the last challenging part of the course, the 100 foot climb I faced at the 5th mile. After the hill, the last 5 miles of the course were nice and flat and to my surprise, I felt myself coming out of the slump I had been in for the past 6 miles.

The last 5 miles of the race were very enjoyable. I shared a few laughs with some fellow runners and had pushed aside my frustration about the course going long. A couple extra miles in the bank does the body good I guess.

I finished the race in just under 5 1/2 hours with 27.6 miles clocked on my watch. All said and done, I was really satisfied with my race. Sure, the course chewed me up and spit me out, but sometimes its nice getting you're ass kicked. I've certainly gain a lot of respect for trail running and as always, I'm left wanting more. I'm motivated now more then ever to train harder, squeeze in a few more trail runs, and give it another go!

The reason I run is for self-satisfaction. I'm doing this for no one but myself, and I wouldn't want it any other way! I can't say it any better than the late Steve Prefontaine,

"You have to wonder at times what you're doing out there. Over the years, I've given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement."

Race Stats
Time - 5:26:25
Avg Pace - 12:28 min per mile
Elevation Gain - 1,131 feet
86th out of 199 overall
25th out of 43 in age group (21-29)
65th out of 138 in gender

The bling and stylish pink bib

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mind the Ducks 12 Hour Endurance Run - Race recap

I don't know where to begin. Running my first ultra was an amazing, unique experience. The Mind the Ducks 12 Hour took place on May 14th in Rochester, NY. I found the race location to be fitting, since this is where I was born.

I started training for this race started right after the New Year. Each month I was putting in some serious mileage to prepare my body for rigors of running for 12 hours straight. I was averaging about 150 miles of running in the months leading up to May, peaking at a little over 180 miles in March. My weekday runs ranged anywhere from 6 to 13 miles and I would put in 20+ mile runs on the weekends. I was also able to sneak in a few marathons during my training, which was nice.

Like any other kind of training, I had my highs and low. Some days I felt great. Other days I thought my knees were going to explode. Overall, I found my body responding well to the increase in mileage.

Early on, Matt told me how he wanted to come to Rochester and run the race with me. I was all for it! I definitely wanted to have some company for this race. The race was held on a Saturday, so we both decided to head up to Rochester on Thursday.

On Friday, we went for a light run to loosen up. Since the race site was not too far our hotel, we headed over there to check out the course.

Ah, the course. If people weren't already questioning my sanity for choosing to run for 12 hours, the course description would certainly put them over the top. The course was a 1/2 mile loop around a lake (a pond, really) at a local park. I didn't mind it though.

Friday night we went out to a local italian joint for dinner when these two assholes decided to show up and spoil my evening.

After dinner, it was back to the hotel for some shut eye.

The race started a 7 o'clock in the morning, so Matt and I were up and at it at 5. We headed to the race at 6, unpacked our gear, and picked up our bibs and timing chips.

My goal for this race was to run 50 miles. That's all I cared about. I also told myself that I wouldn't sit down. I wanted to always be moving. Moving meant I was accumulating miles. Plus, I knew that if I sat down during the later stages of the race, I probably would not want to get up.

Before I knew it, Matt and I were lining up at the start line and the race was on! The weather was pretty nice. The forecast called for rain showers, but for the time being, it was overcast and in the 60s. Pretty ideal running conditions.
Matt and I at the beginning of the race
Matt and I quickly established a good rhythm, running at about a 10:15 minute mile pace. The first hour seemed to fly by.

Every now and again, we would stop at the aid station and grab some treats to munch on. Staying hydrated and eating were two important elements of this race. However, its a juggling act on how much you should eat and drink. Eat/drink to much, you risk upsetting your stomach. But, eat/drink to little, and you're going to crash and burn.

By the time we hit the hour 2 mark, we have covered about 12 miles and I was feeling great! There was a leaderboard that was updated at the top of every hour that showed where the top 10 males and females stood. I told Matt that I really wanted to get my name up on that leaderboard during the race.

By the 4 hour mark, we had covered 23 miles. I was still feeling good, but Matt's left knee was starting to give him some trouble. Leading up to the race, Matt told me his knee was giving him some issues, but that he was hoping it would hold up during the race.

Unfortunately, it seemed the deeper we got into the race, the worse it got for Matt. I felt real bad for him. I could see the frustration mounting on his face. By the 5th hour, Matt and I had separated as his knee was forcing him to take walking breaks.

As the halfway point neared, I felt myself falling into a little bit of a rut. My energy wasn't at the same level it was earlier and I was starting to feel the effects of pounding the pavement for 6 hours. I saw Matt ahead of me as I approach the start/finish line. He turned around and starting pointing at the leaderboard.... there it was, my name listed in 10th place! Seeing this immediately lifted my spirits. I felt myself starting to reenergize and it couldn't of come at a better time!

Around the 7th hour or so, it started to rain. I didn't mind though. It rained for about an hour, but it was nothing heavy... just your typical spring afternoon shower.

Little wet from the rain
It was around the 8th hour that time really started to slow down. By this point, I had completed about 44 miles and I was really starting to feel it, mostly in my quads. But, I put my head down and kept on digging. My goal of 50 miles was so close and that was all the motivation I needed to continue.

Matt's knee on the other hand, had gone from bad to worse. Running was causing him a lot of pain so he resided to walking. Matt was faced with a tough decision. Should he continue on, or drop out of the race? After much thought, he decided the smart thing to do was to drop out. He didn't want to permanently mess up his knee. I was glad he decided to drop out, but hated to see the disappointing look on his face. Matt and I both knew that if not for his knee, he could of made it to 50 too. He ended the day with 41 miles in the bag, which is certainly nothing to frown about!

As the 9th hour approached, I was hurting pretty good. But, pain aside, I was really enjoying myself out there. I was doing something I never thought I would be able to do, and that felt really good! But, the mind games were never to far behind. It goes without saying that running is physical... but there is a huge, HUGE, mental side to running. Learning how to ignore the mental things is tough.

By the 10 hour mark, I had surpassed my goal of 50. The thought crossed my mind (many times) to just drop out of right there on the spot. I mean, why not? I had achieved my goal, right? I remember even looking at Matt and saying, "I don't know if I can run for another 2 hours." 2 more hours seemed like an eternity.

But for whatever reason, I knew I wouldn't be completely satisfied if I didn't run the whole 12 hours. This was a 12 hour event, and I knew if I dropped out early I would regret it. Plus, I had moved up to 8th in standings. If I dropped out, I knew I would fall off the leaderboard. So, I collected myself, and headed out for another lap around the lake.

The last two hours were down right brutal. Each foot strike sent pain shooting through my already toasted quads. They felt like there were on fire. To boot, I was starting to feel a bit nauseous. The only thing I could stomach was liquids and an occasional handful of gummy bears.

Leaderboard at the 11th hour
I was never so happy to make it to the 11th hour. The end was near! Amazingly, I started to feel a little pep in my step again, which was real nice. However, time was still passing at a snails pace.

Crossing the line with less than 25 minutes to go!
Each lap I completed in the 11th hour was like a small victory.

Completing my 120th lap!
Crossing the finish line for the last time was a great relief. I was D-O-N-E! My quads were completely destroyed, but I felt great! I had graduated from a marathoner to an ultramarathoner, and it felt pretty damn good!

A special thanks to Matt for coming out running with me and providing me with some much needed support at the end!

Laps completed = 121
Distance = 59.5 miles
Time: 11:54:11
Avg. Pace = 11:59 minute mile pace
13th out of 65 finishers
4th out of 20 in age group
8th out of 38 in gender