Friday, October 31, 2014

#37--Amica Newport Marathon

Newport, RI
October 14, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!!

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

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.

Friday, October 17, 2014

#24--New Hampshire Marathon

Bristol, NH
October 2, 2010

This race was run on my 6 year wedding anniversary.  My wife is gracious and understanding enough to accept that trips where I spend 5 hours running are a great way to celebrate our anniversary!

I had never been to New England during the fall, so this did seem like it would be a fun trip.  It certainly was.  We stayed in Bristol, which is a small town 100 miles or so from Manchester.  We found a Bed and Breakfast place that didn't mind us bringing our 9 month old son.  Of course, they stuck us in the coach house out back!

The race was run around Newfound Lake in Bristol.  It is small race with only a few hundred competitors.  It was cool and overcast with intermittent showers.  The course was a beautiful tree lined journey with endless rolling hills.  I was having some foot problems (self diagnosed as 2nd MTP synovitis--a very common foot ailment) that slowed me down, but the race overall was very enjoyable.  

My time was nothing special, but the trip certainly was.  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

#23--Famous Idaho Potato Marathon

Boise, ID
May 15, 2010

This was the first marathon trip that the whole family went on.  It would also be the first of many marathons to follow with very little sleep the night before.  Our son, Linus, was not exactly what you call a good sleeper.

I had always wanted to visit Boise and this seemed like a good time.  A friend from residency was practicing in Boise and he and his family put us up for the weekend.  With all the screaming from Linus, the flight to Boise and the car trip to my friend's house was frankly harder on everybody than the marathon would be.  Once we got settled in it was a very nice and relaxing weekend.

The marathon was a point-to-point route mostly following the Boise River Greenbelt, with the start outside of the city limits and then running into town.  The course was scenic, but I was a little disappointed that the course didn't include more of the city.  Although this was not a trail marathon, per se, it was almost as secluded as one.  Aid stations and support were adequate.  It was very warm by the finish, but most of the course was run in the shade.

I ran a very easy pace and came in under 4 1/2 hours.  There were therapists at the finish that helped runners stretch out.  This helped a lot.  The thing that helped the most, probably, was seeing this face at the finish line.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

#22--Louisville Marathon

Louisville, KY
April 24, 2010

This was the last marathon I drove to.  My cutoff for a reasonable distance to drive was 10-12 hours.  By now, I had pretty much run every other state within driving distance.  My wife and I were now raising a 3 month old and we both thought it would be best if I did this one solo.  It was a Saturday race.  I got up early Friday morning and hit the road.  I made it to Louisville in time to pick up my packet and hit the expo and pre-race pasta party.  Even though driving isn't physical at all, I am always tired after a long drive so I turned in early.

The course was rather hilly, as I recall, and the weather was pretty warm and muggy for an early spring marathon.  The course went through the parks and neighborhoods of this southern city.  The highlight was definitely running through the famous Churchill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby is run.  Although we didn't actually get to run on the track, we ran through the grounds and infield.  The course briefly takes a turn into nearby Indiana before returning to finish in downtown Louisville.  

I finished in a now pretty customary ~4:40.  I grabbed my stuff from the hotel and hopped back in my car.  I was tired but wanted to get home and see my family.  I stopped off at a Wendy's to get something to eat.  When I tried to start my car in the parking lot I couldn't find my keys.  I was so tired I must have inadvertently threw them away along with my fast food trash!  I rifled through the trash can inside the restaurant, looking like some kind of lunatic, until I found my keys.  

I hit the road again.  I drove through a spring thunderstorm and was only able to make it to St. Joseph, Missouri before I was just too tired to drive any more.  I found a cheap hotel on the side of the interstate, got a few hours of sleep, and left early the next day.  I was home right after sunrise to meet my son and equally tired and sleep deprived wife.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

#21--Philadelphia Marathon

Philadelphia, PA
November 22, 2009

This is still one of my favorite marathons.  I had never been to Philly, so my wife and I left on Thursday and made a long weekend out of it.  We saw the historic sights of Philadelphia, of which there are many, and we ate at several fantastic restaurants.  Oh yeah, there was a race, too.

The race starts by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where the famous "Rocky" statue now resides.  The course takes you through many different parts of town and winds through the expansive Fairmount Park, which is basically Philadelphia's Central Park.  This part was quite hilly, but scenic.

I felt great during most of the race and was hoping to break 4 hours.  This was my third marathon in as many months, and after the hills in Fairmount Park, I just didn't have the legs to carry me to a strong, sub 4 hour finish.  Afterwards we hustled back to the hotel, grabbed our bags and a quick bite to eat, hopped the train to the airport, and flew home that night.  

I generally prefer the large, urban marathons.  Although Philadelphia does not have the reputation of Boston, New York, or Chicago, in my opinion the Philadelphia Marathon is in the same class at the US marathon majors and definitely worth a look.

Monday, October 13, 2014

#20--Columbus Marathon

Columbus, OH
October 18, 2009

My wife's sister lives in Columbus, and after several years of talking about it, we finally made it to visit.  Of course, it was for a marathon!  We stayed several days with her and her husband, Dave, who owns a huge demolition company in Columbus.  He has literally helped to tear down and build the city into what it is today.  He took us on an insider's guided tour of the city.  I was pleasantly surprised by Columbus.  It is much bigger and cooler than I expected.

We stayed in Columbus for a few days leading up to and after the marathon.  Dave has one of the best wine collections I have ever seen anywhere, with a bar and cellar inspired by his favorite place in Belgium.  I know now that this is NOT a great way to prepare for a 26.2 mile run.  Let's just say I have felt better at the start of most marathons than I did for this one.

The race started early in the morning in downtown Columbus.  The day was cool and clear.  The course winds through downtown Columbus and takes you through the expansive OSU campus and many of the monuments and landmarks of this thriving midwestern city.  

I ran this race a month after North Dakota and I was still slowed by foot and ankle tendonitis on my left side.  My sore foot and the effects of my in-laws hospitality made Columbus one of the more difficult races I have done.  Despite these "obstacles" I came in just over 4.5 hrs, proud to have completed my 20th marathon.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

#19--Bismarck Marathon

Bismarck, ND
September 19, 2009

This was an early fall marathon.  I really wanted to do Fargo, but Bismarck fit better into my schedule.  It was a Saturday marathon, which I really like.  Saturday marathons keep Sunday open to rest or travel, and I never have to miss any work on Monday.  In this case, I was able to fly up on Friday after work, run on Saturday, catch a late flight home, and have a day at home to rest before going back to work. 

This was a small marathon in a small town.  There was no expo.  Packet pick up was at the mall.  I asked the volunteers at the packet pick up where I could get some pasta the night before.  I remember having a very nice, cheap pasta dinner at the one local Italian place.

The race was fairly unremarkable.  The day was sunny with perfect temperatures.  A lot of the race was run on county roads outside town.  The roads were not closed to car traffic.  This was very annoying.  Not only did you have to watch out for cars and breath exhaust, but it forced you to run on the very side of the road, which over a long course puts you at risk for foot, ankle, knee, and hip issues.  I was on a sub 4 hr pace until the last 9 miles.  My pace slowed by about a minute per mile.  By the end of the race, the front of my foot and ankle was very sore, and I actually ran with a limp the last mile or so.

I finished the race in 4:11:27.  I was a little disappointed in my time, but as always, just glad to finish.  I cleaned up at the hotel, took the shuttle to the airport, and just made my flight home.

My foot hurt for several days.  It was in the area of the navicular bone.  Navicular stress fractures are very bad, so I was worried.  I ended up having an MRI of my foot later that week to evaluate it.  I was relieved that the scan was negative. It ended up just being tendonitis.

After a brief rest, training resumed for the next marathon.  Kind of the story of my life!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

#18--Madison Marathon

Madison, WI
May 24, 2009

The very first race I ever ran was the Bolder Boulder on Memorial Day in 1996.  Since then, Memorial Day weekend for me has usually included some type of road race.  The weekend of 2009 was no exception.  This was the weekend I ran the Madison Marathon in Madison Wisconsin.

My wife and I drove up and spent the weekend with our two dogs.  Although I had interviewed for residency there many years ago, this was my first real trip to Mad-Town.  The weekend was great.

The course carried you through the many different neighborhoods of this midwestern city, including, of course, the lakes and University.  I ran a strong race and finished under 4 hours.  In true Wisconsin style, runners at the finish area were offered string cheese, chocolate milk, and Miller Lite.  To top it off, the marathon co-incided with one of the world's largest bratwurst festivals.  I'm not sure if I added or subtracted to my overall life expectancy that day.

Although the marathon and mini-vacation that weekend were memorable, the best part was when we returned to Lincoln.  My wife, who had been trying to get pregnant for a while, informed me that we would soon be expecting our first child.  Our lives would never be the same!

Friday, October 10, 2014

#17--Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
April 26, 2009

OKC is a 10 hour or so drive from Lincoln.  My wife and I drove down on Friday.  She was going to run the half, and I was running the full.  We got there a day early, so I was able to spend a lot of time at the expo.  I listened to the talk that the medical directors gave.  I learned a lot about "Marathon Medicine" from them.  The guy said that pretzels are the best thing you can eat on a marathon.  The course must have had millions of pretzels at his instruction.  To this day, whenever I see someone offering pretzels on a course I am sure to grab some and heed his advice.

The race is all about the OKC Memorial.  We took a lot of time to walk around and take it all in.  It is a beautiful, but haunting memorial.  I highly recommend going.  I will post some pictures I took with my phone.  The picture of the American Elm Tree is blurry.  This tree was right next to the federal building, and somehow withstood the blast that rocked so many city blocks.  It is a symbol of strength to all who visit.

The race begins at the Memorial, and starts with one second of silence for each of the 168 victims of the bombing.  After that, many teary eyed runners begin the trek through the streets of OKC.  The day was hot and windy, and my IT band was killing me.  I finished in just over 4:50.  My wife ran a good half and went back to the hotel and checked us out.  I took a quick shower in the gym, and we hopped back into the car and drove back to Lincoln, humbled and honored to have participated in such a great American race.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

#16--Berlin Marathon

Berlin, Germany
September 28, 2008

This was one of the more memorable marathons for a lot of reasons.  I was fortunate enough to be chosen for a one month European fellowship.  I spent the month of September in Switzerland learning from one of the great minds in foot and ankle surgery.  I figured as long as I was there, I might as well run a marathon!

I knew that Berlin was one of the great marathons in the world, so the timing was perfect.  I had run a sub 4 hr race in the spring, and my training was going very well.  I aimed to improve on that time.

The expo the day before the race was a disaster.  Germans are know for being organized and efficient, but this was the worst I have ever seen.  It took me almost 3 hours of waiting in line to get my race number and chip.  The youth hostel that I stayed at in East Berlin didn't exactly afford a very restful nights sleep, either.

Race day was perfect.  Sunny and calm, with temperatures in the 50s (F).  I ran the first few miles under 9 minutes/mile and felt really good.  At about mile 4 my left knee started to hurt like crazy.  IT band issues again.  If you've ever had it, you know it is not something you can easily run through.  I was forced to stop several times and try to massage out the soreness.  Lucky for me, there were actually a few places on the course that offered a massage, too!  

My pace slowed to almost a crawl and I wondered if I would ever finish.  One of the neat things about international races is the different traditions.  On this course I saw many spectators wearing medal from Berlin Marathons that they had finished.  I had never seen that done before, but it was the incentive I needed to finish.  I was going to get one of those medals!!

I did finish, but it took well over five hours.  I was beat, but very proud that I had finished.  I basically ran the entire race in severe pain.  The 5 flights of stairs I had to walk up to get back to my room at the hostel took almost as long as the race.

My wife and I then toured Berlin for a few days.  It is one of the most interesting and exciting places I have been.  It's very old, but also very new.  I will always cherish the experience there.  I will also always cherish the medal from the Berlin Marathon.  All of the others are in a shoebox in my basement.  Berlin is the only medal that I display.  It's a constant reminder to never give up in pursuit of your goals.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

#15--Albany Snickers Marathon

Albany, Georgia
March 1, 2008

This was the first time I attempted to run marathons close together.  I ran in Tampa 3 weeks prior to this one.  I found that the timing was just about perfect.  I took about a week off after Tampa, and then just settled into my usual taper.  This is a formula I would repeat often.

Albany was within driving distance from Tampa, where I was doing my fellowship.  I got off work on Friday and was able to make it in time for packet pick up.  I thought it was kind of funny that a candy bar was the official sponsor.  That's one way to carbo load, I guess.  The marathon was on Saturday.  I was in the best shape I had been in for a while.  I was nursing a calf strain, but nothing too severe.  I put a tight ACE wrap on it and I was good to go.

I was trying for 4 hours on this one.  I started out running a little bit under the pace I needed to maintain. I decided to try an unusual strategy.  Most experts suggest maintaining a steady pace or trying for "negative splits."  I reasoned that if I could run as many miles as possible just under my needed mile split times, that I could hold on at the end.

The strategy worked well.  I probably ran the first 16 or 17 miles an average of 15 seconds or so per mile faster than I needed to.  My pace slowed to goal pace for a few miles and somewhat slower for a few miles after that.  I had built a cushion and was able to coast to a sub 4 hour time.  I was really pleased, because I hadn't run a sub 4 hr marathon since medical school.  I could have probably run a little faster, but the course was pretty hilly.

I was happy with my time.  I went back to the hotel and hopped in an ice bath for 20 minutes.  After a quick shower, I was on the road back to Tampa, with #15 in the books.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

#14--Gasparilla Distance Classic

Tampa, Florida
February 10, 2008

Gasparilla is Tampa's Mardis Gras.  It is a weeklong party and pirate festival.  There are a series of road races that are part of it, culminating in the marathon.  You can read about Gasparilla here if you wish. 

I did my fellowship in Tampa, so this race was run in my new home town.  After getting settled into my fellowship, I decided it was time to take advantage of the South Florida winters and train for and run another marathon.

My wife and I ran this one together again.  It was by far her best marathon.  She had trained pretty well and could have run much faster.  My knee was bothering me some, and I knew that I had another marathon coming up in a few weeks, so I really didn't want to push it.  At one point, I urged her to run ahead of me, but she wouldn't.  Something to do with for better or worse, sickness and health, slow or fast, I guess.

The highlight of the race was seeing "Team Hoyt."  You might have heard of this father and son team.    If you have not, please check out their website at

All in all, it was a nice race.  An added benefit was finishing close to Tampa General Hospital, where I had patients to see after the race.  Now that was multi-tasking!

Monday, October 6, 2014

#13--Brookings Marathon

Brookings, South Dakota
May 12, 2007

This was my last marathon during residency.  I was set to graduate in a few months, and was very busy studying for boards, getting my license in Florida, and making plans to move and begin my post-graduate fellowship.  I wanted to do one more race before I left, and South Dakota was an easy choice.

Brookings is a very nice college town, and the thing that stood out to me most about this was the volunteers and how proud they were of their town and race.  Race conditions were perfect, and the course was nice, mostly running through the campus and the towns many parks.

I had been sick leading up to the race, and didn't run for the last 10 days or so leading up to it.  I carried a fanny pack full of cold medicine and inhalers.  I'm glad the medical director didn't see me, or he might have taken me off the course.

Needless to say, I didn't run a great race.  I finished in just under 5 hours.  I went back to the hotel, took an ice bath, and then hopped in my jeep and drove the 4 hours back to Omaha.  My wife was waiting for me there with a rake and a bunch of mulch.  Welcome home!  She was watching WAY too much HGTV then.

Here's a link to the race website.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

#12--Olathe Marathon

Olathe, Kansas
March 31, 2007

While in residency, I was usually able to train for and do one marathon a year.  I was now in my last year of residency and had more time to devote to training, so I decided to take advantage of it.  The Olathe Marathon fit into my schedule, and was an easy drive from Omaha.

I remember we stayed in downtown Kansas City the weekend of the race.  I got up early and drove to Olathe.  It was pouring rain, I didn't have a map or a GPS.  I got lost trying to find the area where the buses took the runners to the starting line.  The start of the race was getting very close.  I raced into a gas station to ask for directions.  The attendant looked at me like I was crazy.  I had enough change in my car to buy a map.  I hurriedly figured out where to go and drove as fast as I could.  I barely caught the last bus to the starting line.

After that, the race was almost anti-climactic.  The course was mostly rural.  The clouds parted and conditions were pretty good.  I felt pretty good that I was running marathon #12.  I was humbled by the guy next to me running #212 or something like that.  Now that guy was crazy!

I finished in just over 4:30.  I went back to the hotel where my wife had been watching movies all morning.  She said to me, "Hurry up and change.  We are going shopping!"  Clearly, the novelty of me running marathons had worn off and she had other ideas for our weekend in the KC area.  With that, I made myself an ice bath and soaked for 20 minutes.  After popping some ibuprofen, I was ready to start what felt like my second marathon of the day.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

#11--Chamber Country Classic

Maryville, MO
June 10, 2006

Once I got to 10 marathons, I started to feel like a "real" runner.  I was able to join the 50 States & DC club.  I've included a link to the club on this blog.

I was still in residency so I didn't have that much time to train.  I learned that I could train for a marathon by doing two or three short runs during the week (3-5 miles each) and a long run on the weekends (start at 6 miles, build to 20 during an 18 wk plan).  I found this schedule very manageable.  By now my wife realized that marathons weren't just a phase, and that I would be gone for a few hours each weekend.  Her understanding has been instrumental.

Missouri was the next border state on my list.  Maryville, MO is a short drive from Omaha.  I remember we stayed at the vacant dorms on the campus of Northwest Missouri State.  $10 for a dorm room the night before the race!  Ah, sleeping (or trying to sleep) in those small, plastic covered mattresses brought back some memories.

This was a small race, with two loops around the town.  There were some very long hills that were a challenge.  The thing I remember most about this race was the fact that it was the first one during which I listened to my iPod.  The distraction was nice, particularly on this small, mostly rural marathon.  Unfortunately, I got so distracted that I missed a turn at one point.  The volunteers tried to correct me, but I couldn't hear them!  One nice man got in a car and drove to track me down and set me straight.  I didn't get that far off, thanks to his help.

This marathon definitely wasn't Chicago or Boston, but it was a small, friendly race that was easy for me to get to, and very economical.  As a resident short on time and money, it was perfect.

Friday, October 3, 2014

#10--Des Moines Marathon

Des Moines, IA
September 18, 2005

It had been over a year since my last marathon, so I was anxious to complete another one.  This was the second race that Roxane and I trained for and ran together.

Des Moines was an easy drive from Omaha.  The host hotel was right at the start and finish lines.  My greatest memory from the race weekend was the pre race pasta dinner.  Dick Beardsley was the featured speaker.  He has an amazing personal and professional story.  He autographed a copy of his book, "Staying the Course: a Runner's Toughest Race" for me.  It is a great read which I highly recommend.  Among other things, he told the story of his "Duel in the Sun" with Alberto Salazar at the 1982 Boston Marathon.  It was one of if not the the greatest races in long history of Boston.

The late summer/early fall date meant for some unseasonably warm temperatures in Des Moines.  The heat got to Roxane a bit at the end of the race and she, very out of character, barked at a volunteer and nearly did the same to a young spectator who was running on the course.

We finished in just over 4 1/2 hours.  Roxane did so with very little training, a testament to her athleticism and determination.  There's a small picture of us after the race at the bottom of the page.

Des Moines has become a popular regional race.  They have moved the date back a few weeks now, so the warm weather can probably be avoided for the most part.  The race was well organized and executed, and represented a good value.  With this being my 10th marathon, I was able to officially join the 50 States & DC club at Des Moines.  I've included a link to the club website on this blog.

With Des Moines, I had run TEN marathons.  That seemed like a ton to me then, and I felt like a real marathon runner.  I also started to think that maybe running all 50 states wasn't so crazy after all.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

#9--Country Music Marathon

Nashville, TN
April 24, 2004

As a medical student, I did a rotation at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.  I really liked the city and hoped to get back.  When I saw an opportunity to run the Country Music Marathon there, I jumped at the chance.

Roxane decided that she would try this whole marathon thing, too, so we trained as a couple.  I generally prefer to run and train alone, but of course I couldn't say no, even if I wanted to.  Besides, this was something that I wanted to share.  If she caught the marathon bug, all the better!

We would do our long runs on the weekend together.  We weren't great partners on the road, I found out.  She is a much more explosive runner, doing better at short distances, while I did better at longer, slower runs.  I don't talk much on a training run.  If anybody knows Roxane, enough said.  In the end, we worked out our "differences" and completed the 4 mos training program.  She was bothered by blisters and poor fitting shoes during much of her training.

The start of the race was delayed by thunder storms.  The clouds eventually lifted and the race started.  Many of the bands didn't show up or stopped early because of the weather.  It was fairly warm and humid by the end, and the course was fairly unremarkable.  Roxane did great.  At mile 19 or so she was smiling and chatting up the other runners.  She said to me, "I feel great.  I'm already planning my next one!"  "Not so fast....." was my reply.  No sooner had we passed mile 20 when she crashed right into the wall.  Our pace slowed, but we finished together.  Her feet looked like hamburger afterwards, and I am still amazed that she was able to finish.  We enjoyed a post race meal of sweet potato pancakes at The Pancake Pantry, a Nashville treasure.

I was very proud of Roxane for training for and finishing the marathon, and I was happy to share something that was such a big part of my life with someone who is the best part of it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

#8--Lincoln Marathon

Lincoln, NE
May 4, 2003

I found it very difficult to train during my intern year.  There are now work hour regulations that limit the hours that residents can work, but these hadn't gone into effect yet.  100 hr work weeks were fairly common on surgery rotations.  Needless to say, my fitness had to take a back seat to patient care.

Things slowed down some in the spring and I was able to resume training.  By now my peers knew that I ran marathons, and a couple of fellow residents, Dave and A.J., were interested in training with me.  They were both good athletes, but novice distance runners.  I really enjoyed "coaching" them and sharing what I had learned.  We had hectic schedules, but were able to get together for long runs on Sundays.  I had never really run with a group before, so it was a nice change of pace.

Race day was rainy and cool.  I didn't know it at the time of course, but at one point I ran right by the house I live in now.  Lincoln is a great 1/2 marathon, but the crowds and enthusiasm fall off quite a bit once the half is over.  My friends and I ran together until the last couple miles.  Dave got this unbelievable burst and pretty much sprinted the last three miles or so.  No wall for him.  He was hooked and has gone on to do more marathons and has even done at least one ultra.  A.J. told me to go ahead and kick the last few hundred yards without him.  Well, with about 5 yards to go he came screaming past me, not leaving me enough time to catch up.  I had been suckered.  There is a very funny picture with two slow pudgy guys leaning across the finish line.  I can't find it but will post it if I do.  A.J. bested me by one second.

It was nice to finish a race in my home state.  The most rewarding thing, however, was running with Dave and A.J. and helping them reach their goal.  I hope I've inspired others along the way.