Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Year in Review

Seemingly everywhere you look this time of year, you find a "Best of 2014" list.  For me, it was a very big year, as this was the year I finished 50 states.  A few highlights:

Hardest marathon--No contest here.  The Trail Triple Crown, Deleware.  This challenging trail marathon with four river crossings took me nearly 7 hours to complete.  Humbling and gratifying.  A great combination.

Most quirky--Day of the Dead Marathon, New Mexico.  One of my favorite races of the year, or of all time for that matter.  Small race, a couple dozen crazies like myself.  Truly a marathon for runners, by runners.

Biggest Disappointment--Not being able to run the marathon in Portland, Maine on my anniversary weekend, a trip I had planned for a long time.

Biggest Surprise--Being able to register for the Mount Desert Island Marathon in Maine, rated the top marathon in the U.S., only two weeks before the race.

Favorite Marathon--Timberline Marathon in Oregon.  This picturesque trail marathon around Timothy Lake was tough, but awesome.  Honorable mention--Mayor's Midnight Sun in Anchorage, Alaska.

Favorite Moment--Running with my wife and kids across the finish line in Las Vegas, and being cheered on by dozens of friends and family members.  I guess that was two moments.  It's my blog.  I can do what I want!

Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2015 Race Schedule

It's time to start thinking about goals for 2015.  The local race schedule is packed with great offerings.

Check it out, here.
http://www.lincolnrun.org/races/schedule

Saturday, November 22, 2014

#53--Las(t) Vegas Rock & Roll Marathon

Las Vegas, NV
November 16, 2014
4:21:50

Well, this was it.  The culmination of 16 years of training, travel, 4:30 AM alarms, and sore muscles.  I've looked forward to this for a long time, and although I was always confident that I would eventually reach my goal, I could never be sure.  26.2 miles is a long way, every single time.  Not only is it difficult to complete a marathon, it is difficult to stay healthy enough to even start a marathon after the months of rigorous training.  Although I've had my share of hurdles to overcome, here I was, about to realize my goal.

The logistics of planning 50 marathons has been a challenge, to say the least.  It was basically a coincidence that the last state was Nevada and that the last race would be in Las Vegas.  I was actually signed up to do the race many years ago, but had to cancel at the last minute when our son (then our only one) came down sick.  It ended up working out well, though, because Las Vegas provided the perfect place to celebrate my accomplishment.  We invited friends and family to the race, and nearly 40 people were able to come.  With the race being on Sunday night, this meant that a lot of people had to miss a day of work, line up sitters, etc.  It was a big sacrifice, and I appreciate everybody who came.

 The weekend was busy with race activity.  Like most Rock and Roll races, there was a large expo.  I went on Saturday afternoon, which allowed my to miss most of the Massacre in Madison, as the Huskers got throttled again in a big game.  We will save that for another blog post, I suppose.  With my packet in hand, we went back to the hotel, where people were starting to arrive.  We hosted an impromptu reception of sorts in our room, with friends and family from California to Texas to Illinois.  This was definitely not my usual pre-race routine, but this was definitely not a usual race.

Race day came and I was anxious and nervous.  The race didn't actually start until 4:30PM, and there was a 5 hour course time limit.  I always run in the morning, and the last couple races have taken me more than 5 hours.  What if my knee acted up again, and I let all these people down?  These doubts lingered in my head all day Sunday.  Fortunately, I was able to relax most of Sunday by myself, hydrate and eat.  Hotel room service food isn't ideal pre-marathon fuel, but I did the best I could.

The time for the race had finally arrived.  Many people came by the room and gave me a big send off before I walked a mile or so to the start.  The race started in front of the Mandalay Bay promptly at 4:30.  There were 41 waves of runners, most of them doing the 1/2 marathon.  I was in the 12th wave.  Two of my best friends from college actually managed to somehow find me among the tens of thousands of runners right before the race.  It was great to see them.  With the excitement of the race, I went out a little faster than I usually do.  The course headed north up the Strip.  At about mile 3.5, I was greeted my a large cheering section, and was excited to see my wife and kids.  Oscar handed me a gatorade and wished me luck.  After a brief visit with them, it was back on the Strip.

The course was cool, I suppose, and definitely a novelty, running on the Strip at night.  Weather was chilly, but perfect for running.  The course was very flat and fairly fast.  I ran the first 1/2 in just over 2:05.  I felt great and strong during most of the race.  I wasn't sure how I would feel during the race, with this being the final one of the 50.  I am not a terribly emotional person, but there were definitely times during the race when I got a little choked up thinking about it all.  Mostly, I just tried to do what I have always tried to do, run the best I can on that particular day and enjoy doing it.  The miles went by quickly and before I knew it, I had reached mile 20.  My legs started to get a little tired, and my pace slowed some.

As I neared the finish, I wondered about my family.  How would they make it?   It was late and cold.  My kids are usually in bed by now.  How about my parents?  Would their knees hold up so they could see me finish?  As the finish at the Mirage came in to view, I could hear my name.  I looked over and saw my family crowded against the fence.  I stopped to receive their congratulations, and was happy to see my kids bundled up and content in the stroller.  I was surprised to see that one part of the barricades had been disassembled by my brothers-in-law, Chip & Brian.  The rest of my family had convinced the security guards to look the other way, and my wife and kids joined me on the course for the last 20 yards or so.  I pushed the stroller across the finish line, with my wife running by my side, tears running down her face.  It was an emotional end to a very long journey for everybody.

I finished in just over 4 hours and 20 minutes, a time that was better than my first marathon in Chicago.  I was happy, proud, and relieved.  It was over.  I had done it.  This dream, 16 years in the making, was finally a reality.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What I Learned Running a Marathon in 50 States

  1. Sweat cleans places a shower will never reach (Thanks Dr. Sheehan).
  2. There is probably no better feeling than doing your absolute best at something.
  3. It’s ok to walk during a race.  You probably aren’t going to win anyway.
  4. You run much faster with a friend or group of friends.
  5. One of the most peaceful things is a long run on a cold, dark morning.
  6. Stretching is important.
  7. Baby Joggers are awesome.
  8. Babies are awesome.
  9. Food is fuel, and the best kind is clean burning, whole foods, mostly plants.
  10. If you have to run in the street, always run against traffic.
  11. Work out in the morning.  There is no better time.
  12. I always get my best ideas when I run.
  13. There is nothing better than a hot shower after a long run on a cold day.  Unless… (see #14).
  14. Bloody nipples hurt.  A lot.
  15. In marathons, like life, there are no shortcuts.
  16. I can give tasting notes on the various flavors of “GU.”
  17. I am absolutely convinced that anybody can run a marathon if he or she wants to.
  18. Running 50 marathons is probably a little nuts.
  19. Running hundreds of marathons is really nuts.
  20. Running is play.  Running is natural.  Watch your kids and see how much they run. 
  21. Running is not hard on your joints.  Being overweight and out of shape is hard on your joints.
  22. Running is my religion.
  23. There is no best shoe.
  24. Most people don’t need orthotics.
  25. There is no better way to lose weight and get in shape than running.
  26. Running, not laughter, is the best medicine.
  27. Running AND laughing?  Even better.
  28. Say “thank you” to the volunteers at races.
  29. High Five the kids at races.
  30. I’ve never regretted going for a run.
  31. After the first 90 seconds of unbearable pain, an ice bath helps a ton after a hard workout.
  32. When you have been moved to tears during a marathon, you get it.
  33. Love and a love of running will be the greatest gifts that I give my children.
  34. Expensive running socks are worth it.
  35. Most runners take themselves way too seriously.
  36. Most people take themselves way too seriously.
  37. Be grateful for what you have.
  38. Be grateful if you can run. 
  39. Take toilet paper with you on long runs.  Trust me, and don’t ask why.
  40. You are capable of doing much more than you think you are.
  41. Fig Newtons are awesome.
  42. A 20 mile run is not a good time to plan your wedding.
  43. NOT running sucks.
  44. Great things are never achieved alone.
  45. I work hard, but I have been incredibly lucky.
  46. I have the best wife and kids in the world.
  47. Running has made me happier and healthier than I would be without it.
  48. Running a marathon in every state has been a blast.  It really has.
  49. I’m ready for a break.
  50. 26.2 miles is a long way.  Every time.

Monday, November 17, 2014

#53 in the books

I did it!  I finished the Las Vegas Rock & Roll Marathon last night in just over 4 hours and 20 minutes.  With that, I have run a marathon in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Thanks to everybody who has followed me and supported my goal the last 16 years.  What a long, strange trip it's been.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Vegas

My crew....race starts in 90 minutes


Friday, November 14, 2014

#50--Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon

Anchorage, AK
June 21, 2014
4:35:42

This was my 50th marathon total, NOT my 50th state.  Nevertheless, this one felt like a milestone.  FIFTY MARATHONS.  It doesn't seem possible.

The name implies that this marathon is run at midnight.  Although possible with the 22 hours or so of daily sun this time of year, this race is not run at midnight.  It starts in the morning and is run on the Saturday closest to the Summer Solstice each year.  This year, it happened to fall on the longest day of the year.

This is obviously a destination marathon and one that I have looked forward to for a long time.  The biggest challenge, logistically, was arranging coverage for our 3 small children while my wife and I made a mini-vacation out of this race.  Thanks Mom & Dad, Tracy and Mike!

Secure in the notion that our kids were well taken care of, we left Omaha Wednesday afternoon.  Getting to Anchorage was relatively easy, with a flight from Omaha to Seattle, a brief layover, and then on to Anchorage.  Each flight was a little over 3 hours.  Arriving in Anchorage a little before midnight, with the sun still shining, was disorienting to say the least.

The weather was perfect in Anchorage, mid 60s and sunny.  We rented bikes and spent the first half day biking around town and along the coast.  We logged 30 miles or so on the bike, probably not ideal 2 days before a marathon.  I picked my race packet up later that afternoon, a task that only took a few minutes thanks the the small expo.  From there it was back to the hotel for R&R.

The morning of the race, there was a steady rain.  I didn't come real prepared for in-climate weather.  I grabbed an extra trash can bag from the hotel and turned it into a poncho.  I boarded the shuttle to the start of the race at Bartlett High School.  The gym was open, so we didn't have to stand in the cold rain for 2 hours, thankfully.

The starting gun went off at 8, and the thousand or so runners began to run through a steady, cold rain.  I didn't really hear anybody complaining, not that it would do any good anyway.  I didn't really know what to expect out of myself on race day.  I had done very little running since my double a few weeks ago, and although I hadn't had any IT band pain in my knee for weeks, I was more than a little worried about that, particularly on this hilly course.  I settled into an easy, 10:30/mile pace and tried to avoid other runners.  The first stretch of the course is on a trail similar to the trail along HW 2 for the Lincoln Marathon, fairly congested.  The pack thinned out some and I watched the miles tick by.  At mile 6, the rain had let up and I discarded the home made poncho.  The course then turned into an army training area, with miles of old muddy tank tracks to run on.  With my recent trail running experience, I found this to be the funnest part of the race.  The course was scenic, but the clouds and fogs obscured the mountain views.  I ran the first half in about 2:25.  From there, my pace quickened some and I was able to come in at 4:35, running a "negative-split" marathon for the second straight time.  I finished in the top half of all marathoners.  I grabbed some recovery food at the finish and then boarded a bus back to the hotel.  For a change, I didn't have to leave right away, so I was able to take a long, hot shower and actually relax and enjoy the accomplishment of finishing my 50th full marathon.

***That's it for the countdown.  52 marathon posts in 52 days.  This weekend I will run the Las Vegas Rock & Roll Marathon, finishing my 50th state and 53rd marathon total.  Thanks to everybody who has followed this blog and read my posts.  It's been a fun trip down memory lane for me.  I appreciate your interest and support.  Now, it's off the Nevada for my Las(t) Vegas Marathon!!****

Thursday, November 13, 2014

#49--North Olympic Discovery Marathon

Port Angeles, WA
June 1, 2014
4:46:17

This was the Sunday marathon of my weekend double.  Port Angeles is in far northwest Washington, so it was a 6 hour drive from the Mt. Hood area in Oregon.  Needless to say, spending six hours in a car right after a difficult trail marathon was not ideal!  My wife drove most of the way, so that at least allowed me to recline and rest a little.

We got into town around 8PM and found the hotel.  There was a great Thai restaurant right across the street.  After carbo loading, we checked into the hotel.  I laid my stuff out for the morning and then as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out.

We stayed at the host hotel, and they started breakfast at 530 for runners.  After fueling, I walked across the street to catch the bus to the start of the race.  There, I was able to pick up my race bib.   Allowing packet pick up on race day is almost a must for doing a double weekend, and usually only done by smallish marathons.  I am grateful when they allow this.

The race started promptly at 730.  Weather was perfect.  Overcast, no wind, cool, and dry.  The course was a point-to-point run.  It was run on the Olympic Discovery Trail, a paved trail near the Olympic mountain range.  It was generally flat and fast.

I started out slow, as expected.  I felt surprisingly strong, and was actually able to pick up my pace as the race went along.  I ran the second half faster than the first, and my last 6 miles were the fastest 6 miles I ran all weekend.  The finish area was right in front of our hotel.

The hotel offered late check out for runners.  I had 15-30 minutes to shower and change before checking out.  We left the hotel right at 1PM and headed to Seattle, to catch a flight home the next morning.

I felt an unusual satisfaction after this weekend.  I knew this would be a major challenge.  With this double weekend behind me, I have only four more states to reach my goal.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

#48--Timberline Marathon

Mount Hood National Forrest, Oregon
May 31, 2014
5:32:16

This was the first marathon of my Pacific Northwest Double.  Just a few weeks after my trail marathon in Delaware, I was very nervous going into this because of my slow time in Delaware, my knee pain that has hampered my training, and the prospect of running another marathon the next day!

My wife accompanied my on this trip, the first time she's gone along for one of these double weekends.  It was great to have her along.  This is a pretty exclusive, very low key trail marathon.  We stayed at a mountain climbing lodge at the base of Mt. Hood.  It was a neat experience, with community meals and a dorm style living.  We were fortunate enough to have a private room with bunk beds!

There was no packet pick up until race day.  The start of the race was a little hard to find.  I did manage to make it right before the start of the race.  The first couple miles of the race were very hilly and quite technical, reminiscent of Delaware.  After that, the course "flattened" out into a beautiful two lap course around Timothy Lake in Mt. Hood National Forrest.    The course was stunning, and this was quite possibly the most beautiful marathon I've ever done.

There were only 3 or 4 aid stations along the course and these only stocked water and gatorade so runners could refill their own containers.  I expected this and brought along my Ultimate Direction water belt and bottle.  I consume a gel pack every 45-60 minutes to keep my blood sugar up.

I ran the first half of the race in 2:40, 10 minutes slower than my previous race in Delaware, but I felt much better at the half way point than I did a few weeks ago.  My pace the second half of the race slowed only a little, and I finished the race in just over 5 1/2 hours.  Given the course and my difficulties training up to this race, I was satisfied.

I collected my shirt and medal at the finish.  We drove back to the lodge and I was able to take a quick, cold shower.  I quickly refueled and we began the 6 hour drive north to Port Angeles, Washington for the marathon on Sunday.

http://roguemultisport.com/featureevents/timberlinemarathon.html

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

#47--Trail Triple Crown Marathon (Formerly Delaware Trail Marathon)

April 26, 2014
Newark, DE
6:49:34

Numbers don't lie.  This was by far my slowest marathon and the toughest one I can remember.  I ran a trail marathon in Wyoming in 2001 that was pretty hard, too, but I think this past weekend was harder.  I have only run a few trail races and most of them have been pretty easy courses, relatively.  I saw that this small trail run in Delaware would fit nicely into my 2014 schedule, so I signed up months and months in advance.  I did so with warning, as the website warns 50 staters like myself:

"Note to 50-Staters: This is the hard way to earn your Delaware marathon finish! Expect ruined shoes and a possibility of not finishing.  If you do finish, it will likely be your slowest ever finish time."

Undeterred by the warning, I signed up.  In my training, I never included any trail runs.  BIG MISTAKE.  Flat, fast, easy "trails" like the Mopac don't count, I guess!  

Getting there was easy.  Newark, pronounced "New-Ark", is a short drive from Philadelphia.  There was no expo and no packet pick up the night before.  Just show up at the state park before the start, get your number and shirt, and start running.

The marathon was part of a day of racing.  The triple crown, included a half marathon, 10K, and 5K.  Runners could do one, two, or all three of those, hence, the triple crown.  The marathon was a stand alone event.  Sixty or so runners competed in the marathon.

There was a lot of rain the night before the race, but race day was absolutely perfect.  The course was a little muddy from the night before, but not terrible.  The course was mostly single track trail, with some rugged terrain, but manageable.  Lots of tree trunks and roots to hurdle.  The high light of the course if you want to call it that, was a knee-high creek that runners had to wade across.  It was probably twenty yards across, and the water was very cold.  The marathon crossed the creek at various spots FOUR times!  The first time I put on knee high water proof boot covers to try to keep my shoes and socks from becoming totally drenched, but they didn't work that well and I had to carry them 2 or 3 miles after the crossing to find a place to properly dispose of them.  It wasn't worth the hassle, so I crossed the remaining 3 times without cover.  Coming out of the creek, my trail running shoes and socks were completely soaked, of course, and covered with mud.  It was a neat experience, though.

I finished the first half in 2:45, which, given the course conditions, wasn't too bad.  As I started the second half though, I could tell it was going to get much tougher.  The constant up and down running had really taken a toll, and my legs at 13.1 felt like they usually do at 20 miles.  My pace slowed considerably the 2nd half.  I was passed by more experienced trail runners, who were quick with words of encouragement.  Another thing that kept me going was the encouragement from the runners competing in the other events.  They knew how tough the marathon was, and their cheers and acknowledgments helped.

I never considered dropping out of the race.  Even if I wanted to, I don't know how I could have.  Once you were out in the trails, you had the get back somehow.  There wasn't much support out there.  I suppose if somebody was really hurt, they could have called for help and gotten an injured runner out safely.

It helped knowing that there was no cut off time for the race.  After four hours, the aid stations were self service, which was fine by me.  I just had to keep going.  Relentless forward progress.

As I neared the finish, there was a group of teens in the park playing volleyball who stopped and stood and cheered as I crossed the finish.  I was one of the last runners, but not THE last, to finish.  I was exhausted mentally and physically.  I was handed a tiny finishers medal and commemorative coffee mug.

I wasn't sure how I was going to get cleaned up after this.  I had already checked out of my hotel and had a flight to catch in Philly.  Fortunately, the park had a public bathroom with running water and a soap dispenser.  I had an extra pair of clean socks that I used as a wash cloth and a pair of dry shorts that I used as a towel.  I washed off most of the mud and blood from my legs, and drove to the airport, exhausted but proud, with #47 in the books.

Monday, November 10, 2014

#46--The Marine Corp Marathon

October 27, 2013
Washington, D.C.
4:49:59

This was a marathon I had looked forward to for a long time.  It has a well earned reputation for being one of the finest mega-urban marathons, due in no small part to the efforts of the marine volunteers.  I was fortunate just to get in, because registration many months before was a fiasco.  Starting next year, organizers are moving to a lottery system, similar to the NYC Marathon.

This was my last marathon for the year, and I took the whole family.  Two adults and 3 small children in a hotel room for 5 days posed its own unique challenges.  Between nap times, resting for the race, and trying to connect with college friends, we didn't get to do as much sight seeing as I would have liked.  The boys loved riding the metro trains, and still talk about it to this day.

Ever since the Boston Marathon bombings, security at large races has really intensified.  This race was no different.  At peak times, it took hours to go through security and pick up the race packet and schwag at the expo.  I had to make two trips to get it all done, one with kids and one without.

Race day came early.  I tried to sneak out of the room without waking everybody up, but I wasn't successful.  I think marathon day was harder on my wife than me.  I took the metro to the pentagon, where the race started.  There, the start was patrolled by marines toting automatic machine guns.  There would be no repeat of Boston here, that was for sure.

The course was very scenic, with quite a few of the early miles through the rolling hills of northern Virginia, in surprisingly rural areas.  Aid stations were well stocked and plentiful.  I struggled almost from the beginning.  This was my 3rd marathon in 15 days, and I was TIRED.  The pain of the marathon faded when I ran through a make-shift memorial where pictures of fallen marines lined the course.  Their sacrifice really puts the marathon in perspective.  Another highlight was seeing my wife and 3 kids, who were somehow able to make it down to the National Mall to cheer me on.

The finish was fantastic, as runners raced up a hill to the Marine Memorial. I posted pictures in a previous post.  After crossing the finish, a marine put the medal my neck and shook my hand.  It felt weird to accept congratulations from men and women who put so much on the line for us.  I took the opportunity to thank each one.

The line to get on the metro stretched for blocks.  I thought I would save some time and hopped a bus that would take me to the next metro stop.  My plan didn't save any time, and I didn't get back to the hotel until almost 3PM, some 9 hours after I left!  My wife was good natured about it all, or just numb, I'm not sure.

We spent the next day doing some last minute sight seeing, taking in the Lincoln Memorial and getting our picture taken in front of the White House.

The Marine Corp Marathon was one of the highlights of what was a very busy 2013.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

#45--Atlantic City Marathon

Atlantic City, NJ
October 13, 2013
4:42:50

After checking out of my hotel in Baltimore, I got on I-95 and headed for Atlantic City.  I ate Lara and Power Bars in the car to refuel.  It took about 3 hours to get to AC.  I checked into the host hotel, Bally's, and walked to the expo at Caesar's.  This is the second marathon I've done where the host hotel is a casino (Baton Rouge being the other one).  It is a little weird walking through a smoke filled casino floor to pick up a marathon bib, but that's what I did.  Once I picked up my packet, I went back to my room and ordered room service, as I wasn't feeling up to venturing out to find dinner.

The race started at 8 AM, on the boardwalk right in front of Bally's.  The half and full marathons started together, but it didn't feel too congested.  The sky was overcast and it was very windy, but cool and dry.  After a brief jaunt on the boardwalk, the course turned into downtown Atlantic City.  There were a few hills early in the race, which taxed my already aching quads.  I settled into a comfortable pace after a while.  The course soon returned to the boardwalk and the half marathoners finished where we had started.  Runners doing the full continued along the Jersey shore and ran in some of the residential areas of the city, before once again returning to the boardwalk.  The last several miles were into a very stiff wind, which made the finish tough, physically and mentally.  One half mile before the finish, Rosalita by Bruce Springsteen started playing on my iPod, a happy coincidence and fitting end to my New Jersey marathon.

At the finish line I chatted with a couple runners who had also run Baltimore the day before.  We talked about the races, training strategies, and other marathons we had run.  We said good bye and I went back to the hotel to pick up my luggage, which I had to leave with the Bell man before the race, because the hotel did not offer a late check out.  I improvised as best as I could to get cleaned up and refreshed in the hotel lobby bathroom, before getting in my car and driving to Philadelphia, where I would return the rental car and board a flight back to Omaha.  I was satisfied with my time and proud to have completed my third "double-marathon" weekend.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

#44--Baltimore Marathon

Baltimore, MD
October 12, 2013
4:33:35

I have wanted to visit Baltimore for a long time, so this was naturally going to be my Maryland race. The weekend started with a 3:30 AM alarm Friday in order to make my 5:50 flight out of Omaha.  After connecting in Chicago I rented a car and drove to the host hotel in downtown Baltimore.  After checking in and dropping off my luggage, I headed to the expo.  The expo offered the usual check in procedures and running related booths.

I would have liked to tour the city a bit, but I was really tired and with 52.4 miles of running ahead of me, I walked to the Lexington Market and devoured a lump crab cake, one of the city's signature dishes, at Faidley's Seafood.  Later that night I took a taxi to the Little Italy section of town and loaded up on pasta for the weekend ahead.  There were several runners also there and we compared notes and shared stories of other marathons.

The race started at 8, which I don't like because I am always up way before that and I usually need extra time after the race to get checked out of the hotel, make a flight, etc.  The hotel offered a 1PM checkout, which would be cutting it close.  I also had to make it to Atlantic City by 6PM to pick up my packet.  It shouldn't be a problem, but I was unfamiliar with what traffic on I-95 would be like.

Although the forecast called for rain, the start was dry with temperatures in the mid 60s.  With the humidity, it felt much warmer than that though.  In a departure from other races, the marathon and marathon relay started at 8 AM in one place, with the half marathon runners starting roughly 90 minutes later at a point near the half way mark.  This made for a less congested start, which was nice.  One noticeable change from previous marathons was an obviously enhanced police presence.  Security measures were tighter and the fact that bomb sniffing dogs patrolled the start reminded all of the Boston Marathon tragedy.

The race is considered to be pretty hilly, and that was certainly the case.  There were also TONS of pot holes in the roads, so you really had to watch your step.  The course was a good glimpse of the city.  Lots of miles along the harbor, through the many parks highlighted by various monuments and sculptures, and a good deal of time witnessing the poverty in the housing projects just outside of downtown.

I ran an easy pace, but not as easy as I would like.  I had to be done in time to get back to the hotel, shower, and drive to New Jersey.  I finished in just over 4 1/2 hours. The half marathoners who joined the race finished at about the same time.  Although the start was not congested, the finish was.  There were long lines for food that I didn't have time to wait in.   I grabbed my medal and a bottle of water at the finish, and ran about another half mile to the hotel.  I took a fast shower, grabbed my luggage, and checked out right at 1PM.  I got in my rented Hyundai and headed for Atlantic City, NJ.

Friday, November 7, 2014

#43--Missoula Marathon

Missoula, MT
July 14, 2013
4:37:24

This weekend I completed my 43rd marathon and 41st state, running in the 7th annual Missoula Marathon.  I've gone almost 4 months since my last marathon, which seems like an eternity.

My sister watched our sons for the weekend, while my wife and I took our 3 month old daughter on the trip.  We flew from Lincoln to Denver to Missoula and back.  Missoula is a very cool college town nestled in between the mountains of western Montana.  It is beautiful, as anybody who has seen "A River Runs Through It" can attest to.

We arrived Friday night after an uneventful flight.  The Expo and packet pick-up was held at a downtown park, where the finish was going to be for the race.  There was a 5K Saturday morning that added to the general level of excitement.  Packet pick-up was easy and after that we walked through the Missoula Farmer's Market.  I've been to many and this was one of the best.  After checking out the vibrant downtown and getting some lunch, it was time to get off my feet and rest for the marathon.

The marathon and half marathon were each point-to-point courses, starting at 6 AM.  All runners had to take busses to the start.  I had to get up at 3:15 in order to eat, hydrate, and get to the bus on time.  The start of the race was punctuated by fireworks provided by the University of Montana Army ROTC.  Temperatures were in the high 40's and it was calm and clear at the start.

The course was mostly flat and very scenic.  I ran the first 1/2 in 2:07.  There was a long steep hill at this point that got me out of my groove.  I was a little under-trained for this race, too, as my achilles has been acting up and I've been forced to cut back on my training for the last 6 weeks or so.  Add to that the upper respiratory congestion that I caught from my daughter, and the last half was pretty tough.  I held on to finish in just over 4:37, a very average time for me the last several years.

The finish area downtown had lots of food, drinks, and music to entertain runners and their families.  We enjoyed as much of this as our 3 month old would allow, and then it was back to the hotel to shower and rest.

The Missoula Marathon was a great experience.  The city is beautiful and really embraces the race, with a whole weekend of activities and events.  The race itself is well organized and executed.  With 1,500 runners doing the full and 3,500 runners doing the half, it is just about the perfect size race, too, in my opinion.  I am glad I chose Missoula for my Montana marathon.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

#42--Tobacco Road Marathon

Cary, North Carolina
March 17, 2013
4:41:37

This was the second part of my "Atlantic Coast Double."  After a tough trail race yesterday, I had my doubts going into this one.

The race was in Cary, North Carolina, which is a town right next to Durham.  I made it in time for packet pick up.  The expo was small and efficient.  The race director was walking around talking to runners and answering questions.  A very nice touch.  The Embassy Suites was the host hotel, and they had a pasta buffet the night before the race.  It didn't cost much more than most pre-race pasta dinners I've had, and it was very good.

Transportation was kind of a pain.  The start and finish was at the USA baseball complex, 10 miles from the host hotel, which is strange.  Parking at the baseball fields was limited, and you had to pre-register for a parking pass, a detail that I neglected.  If you didn't have a parking pass, you were forced to drive 6 miles or so to an off site parking area, where busses would drop you off at the start.  Runners were encouraged to get there at 5AM for a 7 AM start.  This seemed excessive, but with memories of my near miss in Arizona last year still pretty fresh in my mind, I was there by 5:15.  We made it to the start a full hour before the start of the race and I did my best to keep warm and occupied.

The race started promptly at 7.  There were a few rolling hills the first 2.5 miles.  From there, the course   turned on to the American Tobacco Trail.  We spent the next 20 miles on this trail.  For Lincoln runners, think of the Mopac trail from 84th St heading east.  The trail was soft, flat, and straight.  Although it was pretty boring, my quads needed a break after the hills yesterday.  Aid stations were frequent and well stocked.  There were lots of porta-potties, too.

I ran the fist half in 2:16 and the last half in 2:25.  Considering the race I ran yesterday, I was pretty happy.  The post race party at the finish seemed like it was going to be fun, but I had to catch the shuttle back to the parking lot, get in my car, drive to the hotel, shower, change and go to the airport.

This was my 8th marathon since Labor Day.  I don't race again until July.  I am looking forward to taking a couple of weeks off!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

#41--Instant Classic Marathon

Chesterfield, VA
March 16, 2013
5:07:53

I had only done one trail marathon until this one.  That was a race outside Laramie, Wyoming.  That race was really hard and I've avoided trail races ever since.  I only signed up for this one in Virginia because I was going to be able to make a double weekend out of it.

I didn't do a lot of research about the race.  When I did, I found this elevation map.  Although altitude wouldn't be an issue, the dozens and dozens of climbs might be.

I was pretty nervous going into this.  The weather forecast didn't help.  It was supposed to rain the night before the race and all day Saturday.  When I woke up Saturday I looked outside and it was still dry.  I put on my trail shoes and headed to the race.  A few minutes before the start, it began to rain.  There were maybe 100 runners at the start, and nobody was fazed by it.  The race started at 7:45, and we all dashed into the trails of Pochohontas State Park.  

As far as trail races go, this was pretty easy, I think.  There were some creeks to cross, tree roots to hurdle, and rocks to avoid, but it wasn't too bad.  As the map shows, there were tons of hills.  You were either running up one or down one.  There were very few straight, flat stretches.

The race ended up being a lot of fun.  The trail was pretty sandy, so it absorbed a lot of the rain.  There was certainly some muddy areas, but nothing like I had feared.  After 30 or 40 minutes the rain stopped, and by the end of the race the sun actually came out.  It never got too hot.  The scenery was great and the course was challenging, but not terrible.  There were no spectators, basically, only volunteers every 3 miles or so at the aid stations.  These were stocked with skittles, M&Ms, pretzels, water, and gatorade.  I walked up the steepest hills in order to try and conserve energy for the marathon in North Carolina the following day.  I finished at 5:07:53.  I grabbed some water and gatorade, fruit, and a burger.  I walked to my car and changed into some dry clothes and hit the road.  

This was a no-frills race in just it's second year of existence.  Packet pick up was at the local running store, with no expo.  There were no timing chips.  There was no music or spectators on the course.  Volunteers grilled burgers and brats at the finish for runners.  As somebody who has up until now preferred large urban marathons (NYC is still my favorite), this small, low-key trail marathon in Virginia was a real treat.  When the race organizers decided to call it the "Instant Classic," I think they were on to something.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

#40--Myrtle Beach Marathon

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
February 16, 2013
4:39:45

With Myrtle Beach, I continued my winter swing through the south.  Winter marathons are tough to train for and can be even harder to run, with unpredictable travel and weather.  A few years ago, this race was actually cancelled because of snow!

I left on Valentine's Day and took my wife.  Somehow, I convinced her that it would be a very romantic trip to watch me run yet another marathon.  My sister watched the kids for the weekend and we made it to Myrtle Beach easily.  I was lucky enough to find a nice restaurant for dinner that night.

The expo was small and efficient.  One of the benefactors of the marathon is a preserve for rare wildlife.  The highlight of the expo was seeing several baby tiger cubs playing with each other.

The race started at 6:30 AM.  I like early starts because I am usually up anyway and sooner you start, the sooner you finish!  It was cool at the start and the temperatures were forecast to be in the low 50's for most of the day.  It was perfect conditions.  Continuing with the wildlife theme, there was an elephant at the start line to help see runners off.  I'm glad he or she wasn't easily spooked.

I ran a slow, steady race.  We had walked around a bunch the day before, so my legs were a little bit tired.  The course was flat and fast.  Surprisingly, there weren't as many ocean views as I had hoped for, but there were a few.  Aid stations were plentiful and well stocked.

I finished in just under 4:40, running almost even splits for the two halves of the race.  I met my wife at the finish and we walked to a nearby movie theater.  I was the only one at the movies with my sweaty running clothes on, a race bib on my shirt, and a medal around my neck.  Isn't this how you are supposed to spend Valentine's weekend?  

When we walked out of the theater, a very cold rain had started, which turned into a light snow later that night.  As we packed our bags to return home, I realized there was more snow on the ground and it was colder in Myrtle Beach than in Lincoln.  Not exactly the getaway I had hoped for.  We had a nice seafood dinner that night, but anxiously checked the weather.  Fortunately, the flights home the next day went smoothly.  I was happy to have finished my 40th marathon, anxious to see my two sons, and ready to train for the double marathon in Virginia/North Carolina next month.

Monday, November 3, 2014

#39--Louisiana Marathon

Baton Rouge, Louisiana
January 20, 2013
4:30:32

This was just the second year for this marathon.  I always thought I would run my LA marathon in New Orleans, but this fit better into my schedule this year.  It was a well executed, no frills marathon.

Getting there was pretty easy, with an on time connecting flight from Houston.  I checked in at the host hotel/casino, the Belle of Baton Rouge.  This was kind of an odd fit for a host hotel.  There was a very nice, small packet pick up and expo.  The pasta dinner Saturday night featured two inspirational speakers, one woman battling recurring brain cancer while she competes marathons and triathlons, and a man who is a bilateral arm amputee who, despite his disability, has done nearly 100 tri's with a special bike and unorthodox swimming technique.

The race started at 7 AM in front of the state capitol.  Conditions were cool, calm, and clear.  It was a relatively small field of runners, which was nice.  The course ran through the cypress tree lined parks and neighborhoods of Baton Rouge, and included a segment through the campus of LSU.  I felt good and ran a very steady race, crossing the half mark in just under 2:15 and finishing in just over 4:30.  Aid stations were well stocked and plentiful.  There were very few spectators and basically no entertainment on the course.  I don't need either one, but they are kind of nice to have.  I have found that Sunday marathons in a southern city generally aren't well attended by local spectators.

The finish line was again in front of the state capitol.  There was a great finishers area, with fruit, water, beer, and local flavors including red beans and rice and jambalaya.  The latter two are just about the perfect recovery food, with a great combination of carbs and protein. 

I had a flight to catch so I wasn't able to stick around for the post race party, which was getting a lot of buzz.  After a quick shower, I headed back to the airport.  Proud of finishing my 39th race, I was nevertheless humbled by the lady sitting next to me who just finished #361.  Now she is crazy!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

#38--Marshall Marathon

Huntington, West Virginia
November 11, 2012
4:42:12

I signed up for this marathon late to serve as a substitute for the NYC Marathon.  For a 50 Stater, this was a great race and I would recommend the West Virginia race for any 50 Stater.

Huntington was surprisingly easy to get to, with a flight into Huntington connecting from Charlotte, NC.  I rented a car (no accident this time) and drove to the packet pick up.  It was small and crowded, but went pretty smoothly.  There was a pre-race pasta dinner on site included in the registration fee.  For those who signed up early, they received a Brooks running jacket in addition to the race t-shirt.  For the $55 entry fee, this was the best value I have ever seen.  Most pasta dinners are $10 at a minimum.

The race started promptly at 7AM in front of the football stadium.  It was calm and cool, with temperatures in the 50s most of the race.  It was generally flat and consisted of two loops in and around town.  The highlights were the portions along the Ohio River and those through the city parks and university.  I was battling a GI bug and spent an inordinate amount of time in the porta-potties along the race.  Note to director--there could have been more!  Aid stations were plentiful, but never had any Gels or Gu's or anything.  Thanks to the kid at mile 21 handing out oreo's.  Almost right on cue, John Denver's tribute to West Virginia, "Country Roads" came on my iPod at mile 24 and took me home.  The finish was on the goal line inside the stadium.  You could carry a football the last 100 yards.  I didn't have enough left to do a dance in the end-zone, but I did spike the ball!  The University closed the rec center and allowed runners to use the shower facilities, which was a huge bonus for those of us checked out of hotels and looking to get out of town.

I was very pleased with the Marshall Marathon.  It is a great value, small regional marathon that should appeal to any 50 Stater.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

#52--Day of the Dead Marathon

October 27, 2014
Las Cruces, NM
5:40:04

With this weekend marking the "Day of the Dead" holiday, it is a good time to post about the marathon I recently completed in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  This was a really unique race.  Named after the Mexican holiday honoring the deceased, "Dia de Los Muertos," is not one marathon but actually a series of SEVEN marathons on SEVEN consecutive days!!

I was supposed to run in Albuquerque, NM, but changed plans at the last minute.  Thankfully, this race was still open.  I only ran the first marathon of the series, but about half of the 25 or so runners who showed up for the first one on 10/27 intended to run most or all of the races.  CRAZY!

Getting to Las Cruces wasn't real easy, but travel went smoothly and I checked into my hotel, where the World's Largest Chili Pepper greets guests at the front, shortly before midnight.

After a short night, I showed up to the race an hour before the start at picked up my bib and shirt.  I mingled with the Marathon Maniacs and we traded stories about favorite marathons, etc.  One of the guys was running his 200th marathon that day.

The course was flat and fast.  I guess you could still call it a course.  It was along the Rio Grande River bike trail.  Runners would run out a little over 1 mile and turn around and return to the start.  We did this 13 times.  It was very monotonous, but runners would high five others as we passed one another on the trail time after time after time.

The race organizers take care of the food and stocked the tables in front of their RV with anything you could want or imagine.  I don't think I've eaten so much during a race before.  I particularly enjoyed eating olives, a first for me during a marathon.  One lady even offered to warm up some lasagna for me if I wanted.

There was no time limit and I wasn't going to be able to catch a flight until the next day, so I wasn't in any hurry.  I basically took a short break during each turn around spot, enjoying the food and drink offered, and visiting with the organizers, volunteers, and fellow runners.

Temperatures climbed into the 70's, which for this time of year is pretty warm.  That affected my pace some.   After mile 16 or so, my left IT band flared up, and this forced me to walk a fair bit and stop and stretch some.  This race was only a week after my Maine marathon.  Although my knee didn't bother me in Maine, all of the hilly miles on the cambered road had finally caught up to me.

I ran slow, finishing in just over 5:40.  This actually put me in the top half of the runners for the day.  Most, I assume, were pacing themselves for the following days races.  The last place runner was awarded a commemorative caboose, the only prize given to any runner.

New Mexico marked my penultimate marathon.  The Las Vegas Rock and Roll Marathon, which I have called my Las(t) Vegas marathon, will be my 50th state.   What a long, strange trip it's been.

Here are some pics from "El Maraton."




Friday, October 31, 2014

#37--Amica Newport Marathon

Newport, RI
October 14, 2012
4:51:07

This was one of the hardest things I have done.  I got a pretty good night's rest, but was still sore and tired at the start.  NOT a good way to start 26.2.  The race started along the coast.  It was very windy, with gusts of 30-40 mph blowing sand everywhere.  Thankfully the course quickly turned into the parks and residential neighborhoods of this beautiful, old, and very wealthy city giving us some break from the winds.  I don't think I have ever run by mansions and castles before.

I settled into a slow, comfortable pace.  My foot was hurting quite a bit.  A runner in front of me collapsed on the side of the road.  He was quickly tended to be several runners, a couple of nurses included.  I pitched in and we were able to determine that he was not in cardiac arrest and did not appear to be in any immediate danger.  Nevertheless, we called for an ambulance and insisted that he go to the ER.  Note--the very first thing to do in these cases is call for an emergency squad.  Also, everybody should take a course in basic life support (BLS).  Anyway, once we made sure he was ok and in the capable hands of EMS personnel, the few of us tending to him resumed our races.  I was energized by the whole experience and actually felt much better afterwards.

Fortunately, the wind was mostly at our backs for the first half.  At the half finish line, those running the full darted out of line and continued on the full course.  This part of the course was confusing and congested, and can be improved, I think.  It is also sort of cruel, watching most of the runners finish and getting on with their day.  Those of us running the full then headed into the more hilly second half of the course.  It was still very windy, but scenic.

I took extended walk breaks through the aid stations but maintained a pretty steady pace most of the race.  I saw several people wearing shirts from the race in Hartford the day before.  One estimate I heard was 70 people or so running the same double I was.  I am clearly not the only crazy person out there.

I finished in under 5 hours.  I really didn't have a goal for the weekend other than to finish both races, but I was pleased that I did both in under 5.  With no place to rest or shower, I hopped back in the rental car, covered in sweat and sand, and began the journey home.  The "journey" is still in progress, less than 24 hours later, with flight cancellations, delays, rental car "incidents" and a visit with the Windsor Locks, CT police department.  (Nothing bad, but I'll keep that one to myself!)

I know I can do a double weekend now.  I learned a lot in the process, and look forward to the challenge again.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

#36--ING Hartford Marathon

Hartford, CT
October 13, 2012
4:27:52

This was the first leg of my New England Double.  I finished the Hartford Marathon in under 4.5 hours.  I thought I would finish in 5 hours, because I wanted to run very slowly.  I felt great though, and didn't feel at all like I pushed myself too hard.

I arrived early and was able to rest the entire day before the race.  The expo and pre-race pasta dinner were both excellent.  Race day was perfect, with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 50s, with virtually no wind.  The course was generally flat.  The start was in front of the state capitol.  The course  left downtown Hartford and left briefly, returning to downtown along the Connecticut river before heading out into East Hartford and South Windsor.  At mile 17 the runners turned around and headed back downtown to finish underneath the iconic memorial arch outside the capitol.  

I grabbed my finisher's medal and a couple bottles of water and some food before hopping in my rental car and heading to Rhode Island, where I would attempt to run another full marathon the next day.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

#35--Tupelo Marathon

Tupelo, MS
September 2, 2012
4:44:20

I chose this marathon for two reasons.  The race was during a holiday weekend and Tupelo is close to Memphis, which is a direct flight from Omaha.  This allowed me to take the whole family.  The race has a reputation as being a spartan, no-frills event for serious runners.  Coming on the heels of the hyper-commercial Lululemon 1/2 marathon in Vancouver, this was a welcome change.

Travel was uneventful.  We arrived in Tupelo Saturday evening.  Ole Miss and Mississippi State both played home games, so Tupelo was a ghost-town that night.  We had a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant in downtown Tupelo.

I missed the packet pickup Saturday because of our arrival time, but the race director allows early pickups on race day.  As the race started at 5AM, this meant a really early start to the day Sunday.  The 5AM start was great.  I usually run at that time anyway, and this allowed us to at least mitigate the heat and humidity that was sure to follow.  Temperatures were already in the high 70s at 5AM.  The course is described as "rolling hills" which means you are either running up or down a hill the entire way.  Thankfully it was pretty overcast most of the morning with a gentle breeze that kept the heat index in the 80s (still hot for a marathon, though).

I felt pretty good and ran the first half in about 2:12.  During the second half the hills, heat, and humidity began to take their toll.  My pace slowed considerably and I finished in just under 4:45.  Not great, but I wasn't expecting much better.

The course was run mostly along the highways in the Tupelo countryside.  The scenery wasn't spectacular, but not bad either.  The start and finish was in a furniture warehouse parking lot.  BBQ pulled pork, baked beans, potato salad, water, powerade, and beer awaited the finishers.  The medals and t-shirt were both very unique.

All in all, it was a good race. With the 5AM start time, I was able to go back to the hotel and rest and get cleaned up before the noon checkout time.  Afterwards we briefly toured Elvis's birthplace, about the only thing to see in Tupelo. 

I then set my sights on my first "double," back-to-back marathons on a Saturday/Sunday in the fall.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

#34--Bayshore Marathon

Traverse City, Michigan
May 26, 2012
4:21:05

This was my last spring marathon of 2012, and probably the best of the four I've done in 2012. I had planned to run it last year and even had a hotel and airfare booked, only to have to cancel these plans when I missed registration. Advice--it is probably best to actually sign up for a race before making travel arrangements.

Traverse City is a popular tourist destination in Northern Michigan. It was pretty easy to get to with a short connecting flight from Chicago. Bayshore is a small marathon limited to a couple thousand runners. The course is a simple out and back along the shores of the East Grand Traverse Bay. It was mostly flat with a few rolling hills. Weather was perfect--calm, overcast, and cool.

I felt really good during the race, holding a steady 10 minute per mile pace. I ran the second half a minute faster than the first, which is a rarity for me. I've been doing "boot camp" again for a couple weeks, and I credit that for my improved strength and ability to maintain pace over 26 miles.

If you are looking for a small destination marathon in a beautiful part of the country, look no further than Bayshore. Hurry though, this small race fills up fast when registration opens in December.

Monday, October 27, 2014

#33--Salt Lake City Marathon

Salt Lake City, Utah
April 21, 2012
4:47:21

I didn't realize it until I read the paper the day after the marathon, but this race almost didn't happen.  Evidently this race has suffered from falling participation and financial distress, and until very recently didn't even have an organizer.  Well, they did a great job of putting on an event at the last minute.

Salt Lake City is a beautiful, vibrant city.  As the host of the 2002 Winter Olympics, the city is used to putting on big events.  Once again, this race was dominated by runners doing the half.  There were just under 1,000 runners doing the full.  The race started at the University of Utah and wound through the neighborhoods and parks of greater Salt Lake City.  I've never seen so many police at a race.  Traffic control was great.  There were plenty of aid stations and volunteers.  A highlight was at mile 9 where a man had set up a soft-serve ice cream machine.  I didn't mine that he didn't have any toppings.  I made myself a cone, walked a few minutes, and enjoyed the break.

My legs felt tired pretty much the whole race, but I didn't have any major aches or pains to deal with.  The weather was a little warm at the end, but not as hot as race organizers had feared.  I finished just over 4:47.  I was happy to see my wife and two sons near the finish line.  They don't always get to come to the race, so that was a real treat--even better than the ice cream cone at mile 9!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

#32--Little Rock Marathon

Little Rock, Arkansas
March 4, 2012
4:37:25

This one was another adventure.  I had signed up to do this early spring race each of the last two years, but could not make it either time.  This was going to be the year!

My flight out of Omaha was delayed and I was re-booked onto another flight.  I was still scheduled to get into Little Rock at 1:30PM, well before the expo and packet pick-up closed at 6.  When I got to Atlanta I discovered that my flight to Little Rock was delayed until 4PM!  There was an hour time difference, so I was still scheduled to get in at 4:30.  No problem, I thought.  We boarded the flight and were promptly told that there was a maintenance issue that would take 45 minutes to fix.  I began to fidget a bit.  The marathon instruction book clearly stated that there would be no late packet pickup, NO EXCEPTIONS.

The flight finally leaves and we land in Little Rock at 5:22PM.  The expo would close in 38 minutes, but the airport was close, so I still should be able to make it.  Unfortunately, there were no taxis anywhere.  I ran up and down the airport frantically looking for a cab.  I called every company I could find in my iPhone.  A cab finally showed up at 5:55.  I told him to hurry.  I arrived at the expo 10 minutes late, was told that they had just made an announcement that packet pick up was closed.  I ran to packet pick up and pleaded my case.  A very nice volunteer grabbed my packet out of the box and handed it to me.  I had barely made it.

After the stress of that, the race was easy.  There was a nice pre-race pasta party at the host hotel.  The race started at 8 AM with temperatures in the low 40s.  It was sunny and breezy.  Temperatures quickly climbed into the 50s, and were in the mid 60's at the end of the race.  Pretty good conditions.

The course was nice, mixing in downtown with some of the historic neighborhoods and parks.  I think it would be better to visit Little Rock a little later in the spring, but it probably gets too hot then.  After the half-marathon runners split of at mile 13, the course had a series of fairly steep climbs until mile 16.  The course flattened out with two more climbs set to greet runners at mile 24.

I finished just over 4:37, which has been a pretty steady trend for a while now.  I felt great and didn't have any of the IT band issues that have plagued my last two races.  There was plenty of recovery food and fuel at the finisher's area along the Arkansas River.  There was a post-race party later that night with local BBQ and music.

This was the 10th running of the Little Rock Marathon.  The locals are very proud of the race and have good reason to be.  The theme changes each year with this year being Disco.  Little Rock is famous for the finisher's medal.  It is literally as big as your head!  I've posted a picture.

I can definitely recommend running Little Rock, but I would recommend getting there a little earlier next time!!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

#31--P.F. Changs Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon*

Phoenix, AZ
January 15, 2012
4:40:00??

Well, you'll notice the asterisk and question mark for this marathon, which benefited the Multiple Sclerosis Society.  That is because I did not get an official time.  I registered for the race, paid the fee, got a bib number, and collected a medal.  However, I forgot to put the timing chip on my shoe, so I will not get an official time.  That was a microcosm for the whole weekend.

I traveled with my wife and two young boys.  The plane trip was fine.  As we left the rental car place we realized we only had one of our two bags!  We searched and searched, but to no avail.  It was my bag, of course, with all of my running gear!  We checked into the hotel to put the kids down for a nap, and the room, despite being non-smoking, absolutely reeked.   When the kids woke, we changed rooms and I received a call from the lady who had mistakenly grabbed my bag and took it to her hotel.  She happened to be running the race, too, so I picked it up at the expo.  We had a good laugh, and parted ways.  It seemed like the worst was behind me.  It wasn't.

The night before the race I barely slept.  Our youngest was up every hour.  I stumbled out of my hotel a full 90 minutes before the start.  Marathon runners were instructed to park at the finish and take the light rail to the start.  The exit from the interstate was backed up for miles and miles.  Many runners who were being dropped off gave up and got out of the car and ran along the interstate to the start!  I was stuck for an hour or more.  I had hydrated well and was in desperate need of a bathroom.  With none available, I repeatedly filled the empty smoothie cup in my car and dumped it on the road.

The start time came and went, and I still wasn't even parked.  There were hundreds behind me, too.  I finally parked and sprinted to the train stop.  I was relieved to see a few other runners and hear that they had pushed the start back 30 minutes.  I was going to make it.  With a sense of relief, I took my seat.  I quickly looked around at the other runners and saw that they had timing chips on their shoes and I did not.  I had completely forgotten it at the hotel!  I usually put it on my shoes the night before, but our oldest was napping in our room and I didn't get a chance.

Oh well, at least I had my GPS.  We were dropped off at the start with a minute to spare.  I entered my corral and turned on my GPS watch.  "Locating satellites........"   Forever.  This was going to be my unofficial official time.  I stepped out of line and waited.  And waited.  All of the other runners went by, and the clean up truck followed.  I finally gave up on my watch and crossed the start line, the very last runner that I could see.  My watch finally found a satellite about a quarter mile into the race.

I was pretty bummed out.  I started a light jog, but just wasn't feeling it.  I briefly thought about pulling out of the race.  What was the point, I thought?  Right at this moment I looked to the side of the road and saw a man in a wheelchair with his wife beside him.  She was holding up a sign that said, "Thank you for running for MS."  I realized then, that the only reason I needed to run that day was simply because I could.

Friday, October 24, 2014

#30--New York City Marathon

New York, NY
November 6, 2011
4:16:39

I have been trying to get into the NYC Marathon for years.  The race is so popular, that unless you were an elite runner, you had to get in through the lottery or a charity.  My number finally came up in the lottery for 2011.

The NYC Marathon was the fourth of the so-called "marathon majors" that I have done.  A record 47,000 runners started the tour through the five boroughs.  It was an incredible experience.  I trained hard for the race and hoped to break four hours.  For much of the race I was on track to do so.  My half marathon split was just under 1:58.  I lost my pace on the 59th Street Bridge, but quickly regained my momentum when we entered Manhattan and ran down 1st Avenue.  I still had a chance in the Bronx, but I bonked at mile 20.  That, along with my recurrent IT band issues, slowed my pace the last 6 miles.  I finished in 4:16, but the energy from the crowd dampened my disappointment.

Conditions for the race were perfect.  The sky was clear, winds calm, with temperatures in the 50s.  Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai shaved nearly 3 minutes off the previous course record, clocking an NYC record time of 2:05:06.

I'll never run on the field at Memorial Stadium or stand on stage at a rock concert, but I doubt either experience can match the energy and intensity of 2.5 million spectators cheering you on while you run through arguably the greatest city in the world.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

#29--American Discovery Trails Marathon

Colorado Springs, CO
September 5, 2011
5:00:49

This was the marathon to check Colorado off the list.  I've put it off to avoid hills and altitude.  Well, I had to do it sometime.  The ADT Marathon was a good choice because it was pretty easy to get to and not as challenging as some races in Colorado.  Although it was a trail marathon, it was not technical and had a net descent from 7000+ ft to around 6000.  With this altitude, one would expect a 5-10% slower time, and that's what I got.  I was very surprised to finish in 5 hrs, because I felt like I was in pretty good shape for this one.  The altitude was a factor, but the biggest thing was I didn't taper real well.  Overtraining=BAD IDEA.  My legs were pretty sore and tired from boot camp the week before.  Downhill races are very tough on your quads, and mine were jelly by the end of the race.

I posted a picture from the course at the bottom of the page.  The scenery was beautiful.  There were only about 400 marathoners and very few spectators, so there was a lot of time to run alone.  That's fine with me, but not real conducive to running a great time.

I was disappointed in my time, but glad I finished.  I didn't really have any other goal.  I viewed this race as a long training run for the big one in fall of 2011, the ING New York City Marathon!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

#28--Keybank Vermont City Marathon

Burlington, VT
May 29, 2011
4:47:35

With temperatures reaching into the 70s with 90% humidity at the start, the conditions were far from ideal for this Memorial Day weekend marathon. However, it remained mostly overcast, and much of the course was in shade. This is a popular, New England holiday marathon and it's easy to see why. Burlington is a very cool town, with lots to see and do. From the expo to the post race party, Burlington can be proud of this marathon. Crowds were out in numbers and enthusiastic. At one point on the course in one of the residential neighborhoods, there was a large American flag hanging from the trees in the middle of the streets. Most if not all runners jumped up and slapped the flag on their way by. It was a touching reminder of the sacrifice that so many have made on our behalf to serve and protect this great nation of ours.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Updated map


You're next, New Mexico!!

#27--Birmingham Marathon

Birmingham, Alabama
February 13, 2011
4:45:01

This race is a pretty well kept secret nationally.  Birmingham is one of the great southern cities, and this marathon has got to be one of the best in the south.  I flew in by myself on Saturday morning.  Packet pick up was a breeze and there was a nice, small expo.  Downtown Birmingham is pretty dead during the weekend, and that was the only drawback to the event.  It was hard to find a place to eat lunch.  The evening made up for it.  The pre-race pasta dinner was the best I have seen.  The dinner was at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, a very cool place to visit.  I especially enjoyed the area dedicated to Dr. James Andrews, one of the legends in Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine.  The proceeds from the dinner benefited The Bell Center for Early Intervention, a charity for kids with special needs.  A lot of the kids and parents were on hand to serve the dinner and mingle with runners.  Very cool.

Race day was cool and dry.  The course was pretty unremarkable.  I remember running by tons of churches.  If the race organizers could collaborate with the churches and get some of the gospel choirs to perform on the course, I think they would really have something.

I finished in a familiar time of 4:45.  The post-race party was also a highlight.  Kegs of beer and BBQ with a live, southern rock cover band.  Teen-age girls dressed in southern antebellum dresses and hats handed out desserts.  It was a very nice way to cap the weekend.  I caught a late flight home, and if it wasn't for being stuck in O'Hare for 5 or 6 hours on my connecting flight, it would have been almost a perfect weekend.

Monday, October 20, 2014

More MDI pics





MDI Elevation Map

After downloading this from my Garmin, I don't feel quite as bad about my time.


#51--Mount Desert Island Marathon

Mount Desert Island, Maine
October 19, 2014
5:36:16

It is fitting that this marathon is posted right after the Maui marathon from a few years ago.  It reminded me in a lot of ways of Maui.  It was a tough marathon in a beautiful place.  It was run almost entirely along the side of roads (not closed to traffic--more on that later), and extremely hilly.  I was also, paradoxically over-trained and not in great shape.  A bad combination for what proved to be a very difficult marathon.

I was supposed to run in Portland, Maine two weeks ago, but due to flight problems from the Chicago air traffic control attack a few weeks ago, I was unable to make it.  Not only was it supposed to be my Maine marathon, but it was going to be our 10 year anniversary trip.  Unfortunately, it didn't happen.  Fortunately, I was still able to find a Maine marathon AND a New Mexico marathon before what is supposed to be my last state, Nevada, in November.  My wife, who has been incredibly supportive of my little hobby, held down the fort while I traveled to Mount Desert Island, Maine, for my "Maine Make-Up."

The Mount Desert Island (MDI) marathon was voted by Runner's World readers the most scenic marathon in the country.  The scenery didn't disappoint.  The marathon basically circles Acadia National Park.  It is also run in the shadows of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard.  It is no surprise then, that the marathon is SUPER HILLY.  I've run hilly races before, but this one literally offered no breaks.  It was either up hill, or down hill for 26.2 miles.  That's one thing, but to do it all along the side of road, while constantly looking out for on coming traffic, represented a unique challenge.   I have learned over the years that running along the side of a road, with a downward slope, is a recipe for all sorts of overuse injuries, with IT band syndrome one of the common ones.  It was a minor miracle that mine didn't flare up.  Thank goodness, or I might not have finished.  I think the fact that I was running in almost brand new shoes helped, because they hadn't worn out at all yet and were able to support me on the uneven terrain.  MDI is a small island with few roads, and it probably isn't practical to close any for several hours.  I knew this going in, and have done other races like it, but it is still annoying, not to mention unhealthy (exhaust) and potentially dangerous (driver or runner wandering too far to one side or the other).

Despite the short comings I've mentioned, the course was scenic, as advertised.  I've been fortunate enough to run on many beautiful courses, but this one is certainly at or near the top.  Mostly, I was disappointed that the trip didn't work out like I had planned, and I had to place the burden for watching our 3 rambunctious kids on my wife for the whole weekend.  I was extremely grateful, however, that despite having to sacrifice the Maine trip two weeks ago, I was able to scramble and still finish a Maine marathon on very short notice.  I was also comforted by the fact that the Super Hero Squad was watching out for things back home.  Thanks, Guys!!

**Black Widow and Baby Black Widow not pictured**



Sunday, October 19, 2014

#51 in the books

Crossed Maine off the list today.  Tough, beautiful course. Here are a couple pics.



#26--Maui Oceanfront Marathon

Maui, Hawaii
January 23, 2011
5:19:54

We have had a very mild late fall so far, but with weekend wind chill in the single digits in Lincoln, I found myself dreaming of a warmer place.  If you are going to dream about an escape from the numbing cold, Maui is as good as it gets.

My wife and I were married in Maui in 2004 and we had wanted to get back.  There are few options for winter marathons, so this seemed like a perfect time to go back.  I was not in good shape for this race and my training had been hampered by the cold and snow we were having in Lincoln.

Packet pick up was very small and there was no expo or anything. The race started at 5:30 AM in Wailea with a traditional Hawaiian prayer and dance.  The race was run on the side of a road (very bad for someone with IT band issues), sometimes with oncoming traffic.  There were spectacular views of the volcano Haleakala and the ocean (January is prime whale watching season in Hawaii).  It was hot and hilly, but when you are basically running on a volcano, you can't expect any different.

I walked quite a bit during this marathon and even took a shot of rum at mile 19.  The race ends in Old Lahaina, probably my favorite part of the island.  I immediately headed out into the ocean and soaked in the cold, salty Pacific Ocean.  

The course was hard and I was out of shape and jet lagged, but I finished.  I spent the next several days recovering and enjoying this island paradise.  I wish there were more states like Hawaii on my path to 50.  The best part of the trip was learning shortly after our return from Hawaii that we would be expecting another child.  I better get moving on this 50 marathon thing!!

http://www.mauioceanfrontmarathon.com/

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Maine Marathon Make-up

My plans for my Maine marathon were thwarted by travel problems two weeks ago. I scrambled to get in to the Mount Desert Island marathon this weekend. Here's the view from my hotel. Not too shabby!


#25--Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

Indianapolis, IN
November 6, 2010
4:39:19

This was supposed to be another family trip marathon, but my son came down with an ear infection right before the trip, so my wife stayed home with him.  I traveled to Indianapolis alone.  It's not easy to get there.  It's a little too far to drive, but without any direct flights you spend almost as much time in flight.

I liked everything about this race.  Packet pick up was a breeze.  There was an excellent pre-race pasta dinner.  Race day was cool, calm, and clear.  Indy is famous for it's architecture and monuments (hence the name, Monumental Marathon), and the course highlights many of these.  My favorite thing about the race was the Hoosier trivia along the course, with small hand written signs sharing Indiana history and facts.  This was a very nice touch.

I ran a steady race, finishing in a familiar time of ~4 hrs and 40 minutes.  Afterwards, I met my sister and brother in law for a steak at St. Elmo's, truly one of the great independent steak houses in the country.  I don't get to see them enough and we had a very nice visit.

The city of Indianapolis reminded me of a mini-Chicago.  I felt the same thing about the marathon.  The Chicago Marathon is the undisputed king of midwest marathons, but I think with a few more years, Indianapolis has the potential to be one of the best marathons in the midwest.