Monday, May 28, 2012

Cleveland Marathon 2012

Cleveland Marathon 2012

This was my 9th year participating in the Cleveland Marathon and my 18th marathon. I ran my first Cleveland Marathon in 2008 and for the first time I broke the 3:30 barrier (and Boston Qualifier for me) with a time of 3:26. The next year I improved my PR to 3:22. And then the year after that (2010) I set my current marathon PR of 3:19 under perfect weather conditions. So, this race has been nice to me :)

Last year, I was coming back from injury and paced the 2nd half of the marathon at 4:00 pace. This year, I decided to run slowly with my friends and Liz,who was running her first marathon.

Here is Liz and Lea with the 4:00 head pacer, Mike Erhardt:

It was a very nice day today in Cleveland :) Too nice to be exact.... 64F at the 7:00 AM start, and heating up to 80F at the finish. But, it is not the temperature but the direct sun that did the damage. There were miles and miles of road with direct sun overhead. This made for challenging running conditions.

I spent my time running with Liz and Kimberly, and some other running friends.  We started with the 4:00 pace group, but it soon became clear that this is pace was a dream on a hot day like today. By mile 10 Liz told me she was already working on plan no. 7!

The race has started and we are slowing moving to the start line:

Liz looks strong, running along the East side, but it is still early in the race:

Joe Jurczyk, Pam Rickard and Kimberly Durst Wheeler are some of the friends I ran with this year in Cleveland.  Because of the slower pace, I was able to quickly run ahead and then turn and take a picture, which works a lot better than taking pictures of runners from behind:

Things are getting tougher for Liz (and everyone else) after a couple of hours under direct sun:

Liz ran a remarkable race. She did not walk once! No bathroom breaks either! Slow but constant pace, under direct sun. She rates her effort "moderate". Now, 10 hours and a bottle of wine later, she claims to feel perfectly well and have no pain. I don't get that. I could not go up/down stairs and could not walk for a week after my first marathon! Sure, she did not meet her crazy 4:00 fantasy goal, or the more realistic 4:10, but this was not that kind of day. She did great, all things considered, and she is very happy.

 Liz: 4:29:40 (her 1st marathon and PR!!! :))

And she looks happy at the finish:

Kimberly had a harder time. At mile 24, with the clock showing 4:00, I had to gently instruct her to keep running without any walking breaks.  That was the only way for her to break her PR and she did it!  She finished at 4:22:53 (her 3rd marathon and PR).  In this picture, Kimberly is going down 9th street to turn around the corner for the finish. I like the Cleveland finish!

I finished at 4:20 so I can take pictures of Liz and friends at the finish. This is of course my slowest marathon by a wide margin (after my 3:55 first marathon in 2004) but it was definitely the most fun. The 4:20 pace felt extremely comfortable. I know this irritates people, but I could have literally gone back and ran the course one more time, and a bit faster the 2nd time around! :) I did not mind the heat at all (good sign!) This race marks the beginning of intense training for me for the Burning River 100 (end of July).

Lea ran her first 1/2 Marathon time without good training, so she took it easy and met some friends from high school, and they all ran together and enjoyed the nice weather. Here is a picture of Liz and Lea at the Beer Garden:

Overall, even though this was my slowest marathon ever, it was the most enjoyable.  Time flew, I took pictures, and got a lot of compliments in facebook.  Perfect!

Forget the PR 50K - 2012

Forget the PR 50K - Apr 15, 2012

We just came home from Mohican... First order of business: Get some Advil and make sure I have enough supplies for the next day, too, because I will need them!!

Here is a picture of me at the start, with water bottle and camera on hand, plus my red trail shoes.

 The course was hard... The race director takes pride in the difficulty of the course. It involved 6 river crossings, with no stepping-rocks-- nothing! Cold water up to the hips! The last crossing was long, too. Then, of course, you have to run with totally wet socks and shoes (and shorts).

After that, you encounter a hill called (there is a sign) "Big Ass Hill". And there are many other hills, equally bad, but without cute names. Plus, there are rocks: small rocks, large rocks. (I do not like rocks because they do not work well with my minimalist shoes.)

One part of the course was like an obstacle course. We had to climb over trees, rocks, etc. I needed both hands to grab onto tree roots as I was climbing, which was a bit of a problem as I was holding a water bottle and my 3d camera!  Here is a picture or Rachel Nypaver climbing that section. She was right ahead of me at this point.

But, I managed to survive. No falls, no incidents, just good solid trail running (and walking.) It is Greek Easter today. I had to choose between church or running and chose running! And, I got away with it :) (So far at least, nothing seems broken).

Final time: 5:31, 15th overall

Here is a picture of me and race director Rob Powell at the finish:

My goal was to finish in the top 15% of the 200 registered runners, or 30th place. I ended up in 15th place out of 155 finishers, so better than 10%. There were no age group awards and no ages listed in the results, so I don't know how I did among older (over 50 years old) runners.

In the last 3 miles I caught up with Rachel Nypaver, a young girl (24) that I like. She is a bit of my role model, when I saw that she finished Burning River 100 last year in 19.5 hours. What impressed me is that her pace was very even, which means that she ran most of the race, slowly but constantly, and finished 2nd female (in BR). If I could come close to this performance, I'd be thrilled.

We ran together and chatted. There was no one behind (next finisher was over 10 minutes away) so there was no pressure. When we got closer to the finish, I knew I had enough strength to sprint to the finish, but, out of courtesy, I let her finish ahead of me. This is the kind of gentleman-runner that I am. :) :) :) :) :)  Here is a picture just a mile or so before the end.

Rachel finished 2nd female and 14th overall with the first female 10 minutes ahead in 12th place overall.

Now that the pain has subsided, I have fond memories of the race. I will definitely do it again, and, in better running shape and without racing the day before, I believe I can do even better and maybe place in the top 10, or closer to 5%, which is what I did in my previous recent ultras.

One thing I have to say though:  I think the Buckeye Trail (the section that is part of the BT50K course) is harder than the Mohican course. I know that at least one friend (Brad Polman) agrees with me, too.

Fools 25K - 2012

Fools 25K – Apr 1, 2012

This is my third year running this race. Two years ago I had signed up for the 50K but ran the first half too fast and quit after 25K (the course is a double loop). My time for the 25K was 2:22. Last year I dropped out of the 50K with 3 miles left, because of ITB pain (I could not even walk). This year I had to change the distance from 50K to 25K and I am glad I did! Seems that this race is bad luck for me.

It turned out to be a nice day today for the Fools 50K/25K race. It started cloudy and 40F but the sun came out in the end and warmed up to 50F.  Here are some pictures that I took at the start of the race.  April 1 and my number is 313?  This cannot be a good sign :)

I started the race running rather fast. I forgot my watch so I had no idea what the time/mileage or my pace was. At some point, I thought we might be around 10+ miles, hoping maybe 12, so I asked a guy and he said we are at mile 7.5. Ouch!!! Not even half?! That hurts!

Around mile 11 a tall guy with really long stride passed me. I had seen him come from behind passing runner after runner. I decided to stick with him. We passed each other a couple of times. The last aid station was at mile 12.5. Around mile 13 the tall guy passed me and he looked very strong (he was running all the uphills). The last 3 miles felt endless!! I started walking. I knew I could not catch the guy in front and there was no one I could see behind, so why even run??? :)

I finished (tired) at 2:16:30, 25K PR for me and 10th overall, a good result.

After the finish I talked to the tall guy who is 58 years old and this was only his second 25K (the first one was last year) and the longest distance he has ever raced. He was very strong in the last 3 miles and managed to build a 3 minute difference from me. I think he will have a bright future in trail races.

Green Jewel 50K - 2012

Green Jewel 50K – Mar 12, 2012

I got up at 4:30 am this morning, the earliest I remember ever getting up for a race. I had to pick up the bus at 5:30 am from the finish at Brecksville (my hometown) to drop us at Rocky River for the start of the 50K. Because of a salamander migration and crossing, the park roads were closed and did not open until 5:45 am, so we had to wait in our cars for half an hour.  The buses left late and the race started at 7:30 am instead of 7:00 am.

I could not decide what to wear, vest or jacket, shorts or pants? The temperature in the morning was 37F and the prediction was cloudy and low 40s. Because of the strong winds, I decided to dress warm (jacket and pants), and I am glad I did! It was really windy and cold and those dressed in shorts and short sleeves froze their butts off :).

I took some pictures before the race, and then dropped the camera with my drop bag.  Brad Polman, Josh Stacher, Susan Lewis, and Rose Nicastro.

My goal was to run at 8:40 pace, for as long as I could, and aim to finish at 4:40, a 10 minute improvement from last year. I followed a group of 5 friends that had a similar time goal:  Josh Stacher, Rob Lisy, Jim (last name unknown), Rose Nicastro and Susan Lewis.

Here is a picture of me before the start:

There were aid stations every about 5 miles.

The first 5 miles were within the plan: 8:33, 8:27, 8:30, 8:24, 8:12.  Well, sort off. Clearly these guys were going faster than planned.

Then, Rose and Susan dropped back. I followed the other three, who started going even faster.  Miles 6-10: 8:12, 8:09, 7:59, 7:52, 8:14.

The course had some hills, but it did not seem to make a difference. I told them I did not think this pace was a good idea and we were going to pay at mile 20 and they laughed at me :). Miles 11-15: 8:07, 7:58, 8:12, 7:47, 8:32.

At some point I asked for their marathon PRs: 3:04, 3:06, 3:16. Clearly, I was running with the wrong group, but I decided to follow them until I could not keep up any more. The miles were going faster with company. Miles 16-22: 7:47, 7:48, 8:00, 8:29, 7:58, 7:49, 7:46

At around mile 23.5 I started falling behind. Then a huge hill was at mile 24, which I walked. My friends gradually disappeared ahead. Miles 23-28 (running alone): 8:14, 10:33, 8:33, 8:20, 8:33, 8:13. I crossed the marathon mark (26.2) at 3:34, a very respectable time, especially considering the large hill that I walked. (Compare this to the Miami marathon 3:50 five weeks ago!)

The last 3 miles were downhill, I picked up the pace and passed one more runner (Mel Terwilliger): 7:35, 7:38, 7:06, 7:09 (last .2)

Top: I have just crossed Brecksville road and I am heading for the finish, with about 1 mile left.  The finish is mostly downhill from here (Yay!)  You can see Mel, in the back.  Bottom: Sprinting to the final finish, while Courtney Russell is taking my picture.

*** My final time: 4:14 *** That's an improvement of 36 minutes from last year, and very respectable (for marathon) pace of 8:10. Also, a big time 50K PR for me! My overall placement is not great (20/123 runners, not up to 5-10% I am used to for trail races). This tells me that there are some very fast runners running this race! (My friends finished between 4:05 and 4:10)  Brad Polman 3:58?  Wow!  Connie Gardner 3:52.  Holy crap! J  I have no intention of running this race any faster in the future. I’d rather put all my effort into trail races, where I think I can beat Brad J

My wife came at the finish to cheer. She did not know about the 1/2 hour delay so she thought I was running within the plan. She did not know I was actually half an hour ahead of the plan! I felt tired and did not have any appetite for the pizza at the finish.  Thanks to Liz, I have pictures from the finish.  Here Vince is handing me the finisher's package:

I came home, took a shower and started shivering!  I had no appetite at home, even though I did not eat much during the race (passed aid station at mile 5, water at mile 10, some coke at 15, slice of orange and peanut butter sandwich at 20 and water at 25, nothing else). I was a bit nervous about not eating during the race, but I did not feel I needed it and it did not make a difference. Another observation: I did not need to go to the bathroom before or during the entire race. Two girls sitting across from me in the bus, went to the bathroom in the bus (yes, the bus had a bathroom) three times each!

Overall, I am very pleased with my time and PR.

Regis 50K, 2012

Regis 50K - Jan 15, 2012

 I looked at my previous times for the Regis 50K and my best time was last year, 6:23. So my goal for today was to beat 6:23. And guess what? I beat it by one hour and 4 minutes!!!

The problem with this race is that the weather is unpredictable and you cannot really train for it. If the race was last week, we'd be looking at 40s and lots of mud. But, starting 2 days ago, it got cold and it snowed. People who marked the course yesterday reported that despite the snow and cold (20s), the ground, retaining some heat, was very muddy.

I got up this morning and saw that the temperature was 10F! With 10F I knew that everything (including the mud) will be frozen. I got dressed as if it was 30s, thinking that the race effort will keep me warm, and I was right. I was perfectly dressed, not too cold, not too warm.

About the shoes... After hearing Andy (in joy of running) say how much he liked his Inov shoes, I decided to buy a pair. I ended up buying the Inov X-Talon 190. Take a look at the pictures here and you will know why I bought these shoes:

They are mimimalist shoes with no heel lift and no cushioning, but underneath they have these large "spikes", I thought they would be perfect for a snowy/icy or even muddy trail course. I bought the shoes a couple of weeks ago but never had a chance to try them. I did not want to run in roads and wear out the "spikes" and we had no snow. So I did something, considered a terrible rookie mistake: I took this brand new pair of shoes (never taken out of the box), which is a new brand for me, and ran a 50K with them! I took another pair of shoes in case I had problems, but everything worked out well. These shoes have great traction so I will keep them for ice, snow and mud.

About the race, it consists of two loops, a shorter one 5.1 miles, and a longer one 8 miles. To complete the 50K I ran 3x short loop + 2x long loop. Other runners did less and completed all kinds of distances including the popular half marathon and marathon. The ground was mostly frozen, not too slippery because of the snow cover. So, overall, the surface was good for running.

All I can say is that I ran strong from the beginning to the end. In previous years I had stretches where I struggled and walked quite a bit, but this did not happen this year. I even ran most of the uphills. There were two guys and two girls running at about the same pace, and I was trying to keep up with them. Just before completing the 5.1 loop at about mile 18, I was ahead of all 4. At this point I missed a turn and kept going straight. After a while I noticed that there were no flags and turned around. This mistake cost me several minutes and now the guys were well-ahead and the girls too. Eventually, I managed to catch up and pass the girls, but never saw the guys again. My competitive spirit refused to be beaten by the girls so I pushed myself a bit. The girls were the leading female runners.

The end result: I finished 7th overall with time of 5:19. This is a respectable 50K time,  especially for a winter trail race.  Not my best, but better than any winter 50K I've done.

One peculiar fact: During the entire race I did not have any solid food, just a few sips of Mountain Dew and Coke. I had my usual breakfast (1000 calories, consisting of eggs, salad, cheese, nuts – very low carbs) and that was enough to hold me for the entire race. I was not even hungry when I was done (but still ate the traditional chili soup).  There is something (good) to be said about low-carb nutrition and ultra-running.

As I write this, I feel fine. I did not get blisters (I attribute this to the quality of the shoes). Overall, it was a good experience. I felt I had strength left to kept going for a few more loops :)

Bigfoot 50K 2011

Bigfoot 50K - Dec 4, 2011

Today I ran the Bigfoot 50K trail race, at Salt Fork State Park in Ohio. My wife and I turned this into a mini vacation, staying at the lodge for two nights. This is a beautiful area, the lodge is very nice and after the race we visited the nearby city of Oxford OH, very picturesque.

The race started at 7:30 am. The temperature was 40F, rising to 50F by midday. Mostly sunny, turning to cloudy and a bit windy. The course consisted of one loop, about 10.4 miles. which we did 3 times. The scenery was quite pretty, running by a lake, as pretty it can be in early December with not much color or leaves in the trees.

Top: Runners getting ready for the race.  Bottom: At the start, the suset colored the clouds with a nice red color, and the birds flying made for a very nice photo.  Click at the picture to see the larger version:

I started the first loop a bit fast, trying to position myself ahead of the crowd in the trails. The course was tough! Quite hilly and very-very muddy. Trying to avoid wet spots, I ran into some thorny bushes and scrapped my legs. When I completed the first loop, I had blood and mud all over my legs. A real battlefield!  Here is a picture that Liz took of me at the end of the first loop.  See the blood and mud in my legs (click to enlarge):

In the beginning of the 2nd loop I got passed by a large group of runners. I overheard some runners saying that they have not run a marathon yet and wondered if they knew what they were going, running 31 miles on a hard course and fast pace.

As with previous races, the last loop was my strongest. I passed 7 runners in this loop, all in uphills. I used to be a very fast downhill runner, but I am not any more. Running with lightweight/minimalist shoes I have to pay attention to where I am stepping, which slows me down. Now my strength is uphills. Towards the end of the race I had enough strength to run some uphills.  Even when I am walking, I am walking faster than other runners. I passed the last runner with about 1/4 mile left to go and attacked these hills so fast that I built up a several minute difference.

Here are my times for each 10.4 mile loop:

Loop #1: 1:40 (17th best time in loop)
Loop #2: 1:50 (17th best time)
Loop #3: 1:54 (7th best time)

Overall: 5:24 - 12th overall/105 - first over 50 - GM Award

(the next runner over 50 is actually a female Terry Lemke in 36th place!)

 Here is a photo of me at the finish:

I continue to be pleased by my strength as the race progresses. As you can see with the loop times above, even though I slowed from loop to loop, my 3rd loop placement (within the loop) is much improved. Furthermore, I looked at the difference in time between loop 2 and loop 3 for the first 20 runners. Everyone slowed down, but my difference (3:08) is the smallest among all 20 runners! Chances are that if we had more loops, I would have placed even higher. It is clear that the longer the run, the better I do.

After the race we visited the lovely town of Oxford Ohio, where a display of Charles Dickens was taking place.  We had fun taking pictures around the city. I have enough pictures for a 3d slide show!

Above: The 2d photographer and the 3d photographer.  Below: The photographer's wife:

Badass 50K 2011

Badass 50K - Nov 12, 2011

Well, it gets better every week!

Without really trying, I finished the Bad Ass 50K in 5:10, 4th overall, 3rd male. 

According to the Ultrasignup ( ) my rating for this race is 94.5%, the highest of any trail race for me so far!

The 3rd Annual Bad Ass 50K is organized by two local runners through facebook. Here is a picture of Chef Bill Bailey, one of the race organizers, giving the race instructions.

Picture of the registration:

Just before the start, a guy was shoving Newton Figs in his mouth, like there is no tomorrow.  Talking about last minute carbo-loading!  But, I think he won the race, so I should be careful about that I say J

The course is a 5 mile loop at the Cuyahoga Valley (total of 6 loops) plus an extra mile. The first loop felt the hardest. After that, I went to autopilot and the loops went by easily. The last loop was definitely the easiest. I could have done a few more :)

The weather was nice, starting at 35F and warming nicely to 55F and sunny. I started with shorts and a jacket and at loop #3 I took the jacket off to run in a short sleeve T-shirt.

Here are my times for each loop:

1 - 46:07
2 - 49:32
3 - 50:20
4 - 51:49
5 - 51:42
6 - 50:20

After the 1st loop I was in 8th place and worked my way to 4th. The last guy that I passed in the last loop told me that he ran the NY marathon last week. "How did it go?" I asked. "Not good", he said, "I fell apart in the 2nd half". "What was your time?" I asked. "3:05," he said! Wow, here I am running with an under 3 hour marathon guy and I am beating him :) To be fair, this was his first trail race and he did not even carry a water bottle.

Here is a picture of Brad Polman (with Heidi Finniff), a local racer with whom I have a friendly competition in these trail races.  He is younger and faster in road races, but I think I give him a run for his money in trail races. J

And a picture of facebook friend, Julie Curtis, with a cute little dog!

I hope I will continue running strong. I have a half marathon next week and then another 50K in 3 weeks. My "Final Destination" is Burning River 100 next summer.

Here is a picture of me and the second race director, (wild) Bill Wagner, the guy that made the shirts (he has a T-shirt company) after the finish. I like this simple shirt with "Bad Ass" in the front :)

Bobcat trail Marathon - 2011

Bobcat trail Marathon – Burr Oaks State Park - Nov 6, 2011

We left home around 1 pm on Saturday for Athens, Ohio, where our son is in his 2nd year at Ohio University. We had a nice visit with him, and went out for Chinese (his choice, not ours :)).

We then drove about half hour north to the BurrOaks State Park and Lodge, the race HQ, where we had a room reserved.

Before going to bed I set my cell-phone alarm for 6:00 am. The race was starting at 7:00 from outside the Lodge, so one hour was enough to get ready. I knew that there was a change in time but the cell phone adjusts automatically. Well, my silly phone rang at 5:00 am! So I was up an hour early. I took my time showering, getting dressed and eating (1 boiled egg, almond butter, nuts, cheese - low-carb breakfast I had brought with me).

Here are a picture of the runners at the Lodge lobby and getting outside, ready to race:

Race director Vince Rucci, gives the last instructions:

The race started promptly at 7:00 am. The temperature in the morning was 31F, but it was sunny, and by the afternoon it was up to 62F. They told us that because of the heavy rains, parts of the course were under water just a week ago. But after a few days of sun, the course was rather dry, minus some very wet spots. It was bad, but nothing like the mud of the last marathon (“Run With Scissors”).

The first mile was up the road and down again, I guess to round the distance to 26 miles. Well, those crazy carbo-loaded runners were running up and down the road like it was a 5K! I like to start slow. So when I entered the trail, I counted about 40-50 runners ahead. WHAT A MISTAKE! For the first 3 miles I was stuck behind a long line (like a train) of slow-moving runners. I wanted to pass but it was nearly impossible so I was stuck running slow and walking where I should not be walking.

Now, someone might say, "good, you started slow, preserved your energy, and you will be strong later". No, that's not how it works. I wasted a lot of energy trying to pass runners from the side (dangerous because everything was covered with leaves and stepping out of the trail is not a good idea). By the time I was done passing all the runners, there was a huge gap ahead and I started running faster, to recover my lost time, thus wasting more energy.

I managed to catch and pass runner after runner. By about the mid-point, a volunteer was counting every runner and told me I was 10th overall. That was good news. A guy was right behind me so I felt the pressure to run faster to "get rid of him", which I did. I also caught and passed another runner ahead. Miles and miles followed of running alone.

Finally, I reached the last aid station, 5 miles from the finish. I was told that I was 9th overall. There was no one behind me that I could see. In these last 5 miles at first I was going slow. I was feeling a bit tired, cursing myself for running two trail marathons in two weeks. What was I thinking??? But, gradually, I felt better. I saw a runner ahead of me and passed him. Then, with 1 mile left, I passed another runner. And with ½ mile left I passed another one. I was amazed that I was able to run the uphills, steep hills that I would have walked earlier. That's how I passed these runners.

I cruised to the finish. I asked for my placement and was told that I was 10th overall, and first over 50, so I got the Grandmasters award (good hand-held water bottle). I can not understand how I was 10th, when I was told I was 9th at the last aid station and then passed 3 runners?  Something must have been wrong in the counting.

Here is a picture of me (taken by Liz) as I am about to exit the trails and to straight to the finish:

The beautiful lake that we circled:

And a picture of me with my award on hand, and the sign of victory :)  See the sign "Bobcat Trail Marathon".  The race course is permanently marked.

Closing Thoughts:  After the forced slow start, in this race I did my best. I worked much harder than the previous race. The fact that I finished 13 minutes slower (4:20 vs. 4:07 last week) tells me that this course was much harder. When I finished, all the agony and suffering was instantly forgotten. The only reason I remember that I struggled is because I remember thinking that running 2 marathons in two weeks is crazy and I should not do it again!  Well guess what?  I think I will do it again next year!

Run with Scissors - 2011

Run with Scissors, Trail marathon – Oct 30, 2011

This race started my Fall trail races, and it was a good one!

Here is the race director (Ray Heger, very nice guy) giving the last instructions:

It was a tough race, the course was very muddy.  My Garmin did not work so I had no idea about mileage or time. My long pants got ripped and tripped once, so I dropped them at the 2nd aid station with my funny hat (for Halloween) which was falling off. The temperature in the morning was 30F, a bit chilly, but I was OK with shorts and a jacket. 

There was a contest for the best Halloween outfit. Jason Thibault won the contest:

I finished 6th overall with time 4:09 (and my race number was 409, coincidence!) I finished 4th male and first over 40.  I received the "Grandmasters" award (first over 50).  

[We had some discussion about this. I still think that the first over 40 should get the Masters award, even if over 50, but I accept the fact that in most races the awards are given as follows: 1) Open (0-39), 2) Masters (40-49), 3) Grandmasters (50 or older), even though, in my opinion, this scheme favors Masters runners.]

Here is a picture of me after the race, with my award, and my running outfit for the day.

The course was definitely the most muddy course I have ever run!  Here is a photo of my feet front and back after the race.

I saw in facebook that one lady changed 3 pairs of shoes and 4 pears of socks.  What’s the point?  A fresh pair will be soaked in mud in 5 minutes.  Another runner said she threw her shoes away after the race. I wash mine with the garden hose, then dry them, and they are ready for another race!

Overall, and despite the mud, it was a fine race, I enjoyed it.  Part of my award was a “coupon” to enter for free next year.  I’ll be there!!

Running Update - October to May

I feel the urge to update my running blog with races that took place since last October.  Somehow, I got lazy and stopped posting race reports here… 

It has been a very busy running period for me.  I had some great long races during the Fall and Winter.  Things were going great until I hit a rough spot with the Miami marathon (end of January). Then, I got injured (back/hip alignment problem) a week after Green Jewel.  I have now recovered and resumed my mileage and am back to racing and training long distances again. 

My weight is low (actually, the lowest it has been in my adult life), and I feel fresh and ready for intensive training for Burning River (my first 100 mile race).  Eating low-carb had definitely helped maintain low weight and run better.  That’s really one of the best things that have happened in my life lately… J

Here is a summary of my long trail races since last October:

Oct 30, 2011 - Run with Scissors, Trail marathon – 6th overall (4:09), GM Award
Nov 6, 2011 - Bobcat trail Marathon – 10th overall (4:20), GM Award
Nov 12, 2011 - Badass 50K – 4th overall (5:10), 3rd male
Dec 4, 2011- Bigfoot 50K – 12th overall (5:25), GM Award
Jan 15, 2012 - Run for Regis 50K – 7th overall (5:19)
Apr 1, 2012 – Fools 25K – (2:16) 10th overall
Apr 15, 2012 – Forget the PR 50K (5:31) 15th overall

Generally, in these long trail races I aim to finish at the top 5-10% of the field, plus I try to get the Grand Masters Award (GM, for 50 and older).

I also had some good road races:

Nov 20, 2011 – Fall Classic Half Marathon, 1:35:43 (5/35)
Nov 24, 2011 – Turkey Trot 5 Miles, 32:28 (5/209)
Dec 31, 2011 – Great New years Eve 5K, 20:19 (4/47)
Jan 29, 2012 – Miami Marathon, 3:48
Feb 18, 2012 – Chili Bowl Classic 5K. 19:50 (2/52 AG)
Mar 10, 2012 – St Malachi 5M, 32:53 (6/125 AG)
Mar 12, 2012 – Green Jewel 50K – 4:14 (PR!)
Mar 11, 2012 – Shamrock 15K, 1:07:59 (3/20 AG)
Mar 17, 2012 – Washington DC ½ M (1:57:23 injured!)
Mar 31, 2012 – Jog into Spring, 5K, 19:50 (3/15 AG)
Apr 22, 2012 – Fleet Feet 5K, 20:08 (1/15 AG)
Apr 28, 2012 – Cleveland 10 Miler, 1:09:11 (9/73 AG)
May 13, 2012- Tom Nowak Big Greek 5K, 20:24 (2/16)
May 20, 2012 – Cleveland Marathon
I participate in the Hermes Road Racing series:

(Right now I am in first place in my age group, but one runner there is clearly better, but has run less races.)

And the Dirty Trail races:

(I generally finish at the top 10 overall, with 1st or 2nd GM place, but I had one slow race when I was coming back from my injury, so when I have enough races to cross this one out, my ranking will improve. I am hoping to finish first or second in the Grandmasters group.)

Yes, that’s a lot of racing!  I believe that these shorter races help me get faster.  I did the same thing two years ago (Hermes races) and had my best running year ever. I am hoping that this year will be as good if not better, thanks to my lower weight.  My focus race is the Burning River 100 at the end of July.

 For every one of these races I wrote a report in the Joy of Running email discussion list ( and took pictures during most races.  I would like to go back and copy these reports here, with some photos, at least for the longer / most important races.  This way I will have a record of my racing.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dirty Bird 15K

Dirty Bird 15K – Trail Race – May 26, 2012

Let me start by saying that this was my best race so far this year!

I showed up for this 15K (9.3 mile) trail race in Wooster, OH yesterday. It was about an hour away, and it had rained the day before so the course was soft and a bit wet at places, but not too bad. It was also warm (60s, rising to 80s). This is part of the Dirty Trail Race series-- the longest race in the series so far (the others were 10Ks mostly).

In previous races of this series, I have finished 10th and 11th overall, so I was expecting a similar performance.  This is a picture of myself and race director, Jim Christ, who is usually a serious guy. My number 818 is the first indication of things to go well (18 has always been a lucky family number.)

I see that two good local runners have showed up for the first time in this series:

Bob Pokorny just ran Cleveland in 3:08 (in the heat!) We are the same age, and he is a solid runner-- definitely a lot better than me. Connie Gardner is the area's most celebrated female ultra-runner with a time of 18:21 in Burning River 2008 and about 3:05 marathon PR. At least in theory, they are both a lot faster than me!  Here is a picture of the two of them (left) with a friend, Andy Kall, who finished 3rd overall.

The race starts and I position myself in the front. Bob storms ahead and I am running behind Connie.  Here is a picture right at the start, taken by Curtis Cathcart:

The course is all twisting like crazy. It feels like I am running in a maze. I have no idea exactly what we are doing but I have the impression that we are running in circles; nothing is straight or flat.  This is how the course looks in Google Earth, and I am not kidding!!!

I am staying behind Connie, thinking, "she is a legend, I cannot possibly finish ahead of her, so I might as well stay behind." But the pace feels a bit slow, so at some point I move ahead. My pace for the first few miles is 8:30 min/mile, which is quite fast for such an irregular course.

I am running alone, when I hear a runner approaching. Looks like a young girl. She follows me for a while. I ask: "Are you going to follow me to the finish?" She answers, "no, I am going to pass you", and moves ahead.  A few minutes later, I see the same girl coming from the back. This is strange because we are running technical trails. I would have seen her if she had stopped. I ask, "what happened, didn't you just pass me a while ago?" to which she answers, "no, that was my twin sister!"

Now, this is very confusing. Not only are they twins, but they are also wearing the exact same running outfit! (As it turns out, they are not twins!  I see from the results that one is 22 and the other 24) I manage to follow the second sister and we are chatting. She is 22, and thinks she is better than her sister. They are running cross-country in college, but they have not run difficult trails like these before. While I am following I feel that my pace has slowed a bit, a welcome relief. Finally I decide to pass and invite her to follow me and I'll pace her. But it is clear that she can't, and our gap is growing. "Go get my sister!" she yells. Well, I wish, but her sister is well ahead.

Another picture of me by Curtis Cathcart. I am running with my Panasonic 3D camera in my hands and no water bottle. I tried to take a few pictures while running but at the low light of the covered trails, they came out blurred:

I passed two more runners in the last 3 miles. I saw a guy coming behind me and closing our gap but ran the last mile very strong and finished ahead. As I finished, I asked for my overall placement. 7th overall!!! Wow! That's the best I have done in the series!

The results are here:

Bob finished in 6th place, and I finished in 7th place, less than a minute behind. Connie Gardner is in 12th place. And I am right in between the sisters who finished 1st and 2nd overall female (Connie was 3rd). What is interesting is that both Bob and myself, Grandmaster runners, finished ahead of ALL Masters runners! (Cheers for the old runners!) I ended up with the 2nd GM award, a nice hat.

Here is a picture of the “twin sisters”. I see from the results that they are Grace and Emma McCarron. And they are not twins! (one is 24, the other 22)  but the twin outfit was certainly confusing!

Overall, I am very pleased with my performance in this race! Clearly, when the distance increases (9 miles vs. 6 miles) my overall placement improves. So, I am looking forward to the Buckeye Buster 50K next Saturday, the first real test of Ultra-running endurance before Burning River 100!