Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Towpath Marathon - 2012

Towpath Marathon – Oct 7, 2012

I have a long history of running Towpath, starting with my first ever race in 2002 (5K) to my first Marathon in 2004. So this was my 11th year of running a race in this event, and my 20th road marathon.

Towpath race history:

- 2002: 5K (my first race ever!) - 21:27
- 2003: Marathon Relay
- 2004: 3:55 - My first marathon!
- 2005: 3:45
- 2006: 3:36 (Course record that lasted for 5 years)
- 2007: 3:47 - Hot, hit the wall!
- 2008: 3:37
- 2009: Half Marathon (training for Athens), 1:32:16 (1/42 AG)
- 2010: Half Marathon (training for Athens), 1:33:45 (1/38 AG)
- 2011: 3:25 - Course PR, two weeks after Akron & 5 weeks into eating low carb.

This picture was taken at the finish of my first marathon in 2004:

My goal (formulated during the race!) was to finish under 3:36, which would make this my 2nd fastest Towpath marathon.  I knew I had no chance for a course record, after running Akron hard last week and without any serious Marathon training.

The temperature in the morning of the race was low 40s. It stayed cloudy and cold for the entire race. For most people, this is perfect running weather. The course is flat and consists of crushed limestone and sections of asphalt. I think this is a slow course because of the lower friction. I was wearing long sleeves, and gloves. I carried a water bottle and my camera (and took pictures during the race). I ran in my NB Trail Minimus shoes.

I had my usual pre-race breakfast (eggs, salad with olive oil, cheese, nuts, lots of food about 1 1/2 hours from the start of the race). I did not eat anything during the race, other than two cups of Gatorade, and water.


I started the race with facebook friends: Dawn, Kimberly, Michael, Joe, Kellie. My first two miles were the slowest of the race for me. I was, at this point, behind people who finished over 4 hours! But then I picked up the pace and settled at 8 min/miles (give or take a few seconds). My quads started hurting around mile 10 (from the fast downhill miles in Akron last week). I was wondering how can I possibly do well with this pain, but I ignored it and eventually it went away :)

The course goes South (towards Akron), turns around (mile 8?) then passes through Boston (the finish, around mile 16+) then continues north until Station road, then turns around to finish at Boston.  With this arrangement I got to see the runners in front and behind me and take pictures in two occasions.  We run often at the Towpath so the course is very familiar to me.


As I reached Highland Road, with two miles to go, I tried to figure out if I had a chance to beat 3:30.  Somehow I thought I did, if I ran fast enough, so I started running as fast a possible.  These two miles were the fastest of the race.  I passed several runners in this stretch.  Pat Dooley took a picture of me (at the top of the page) near the finish.  I am running faster than 7 min miles at this point.

My mile splits tell the story of the race:

Miles 1-3 (warm-up): 8:19, 8:16, 8:08
Miles 4-11: 7:56, 7:58, 7:54, 7:59, 7:59, 7:57, 8:00, 7:58
Miles 12-17: 8:03, 8:12, 8:05, 8:09, 8:05, 8:09,
Miles 18-23: 8:05, 8:19, 8:07, 8:09, 8:01, 8:05
Miles 24-26: 7:56, 7:39, 7:27, 6.58 (for the last 0.4 by Garmin)

Final Time 3:31:18

Not a marathon PR, not a course record, but a strong performance for running one week after Akron. I am especially pleased with the even splits and strong finish.

After the race I stayed around to take pictures of friends finishing.  I then met Liz at the beer tend.  I was cold and it had started to rain, so we went home a bit earlier than usual.


Liz ran the 10K with a PR: 50:45, finishing 2nd in her age group!  Her previous PR was 52:10, same race, two years ago. She was hoping to "break" 50 minutes but it did not happen. But, she is the only one that came home with an award (a nice print).

I am looking forward to next year, for my 12th Towpath race!

Akron Marathon - 2012

Akron Marathon – September 29, 2012

This was my 5th continuous year running the Akron marathon:

- 2008: 3:29 (course record)
- 2009: 3:38 (training for Athens marathon so I took it relatively easy)
- 2010: 3:34 (also training for Athens)
- 2011: 3:34 (a few weeks into eating low-carb, I was pleased with the strong finish)

This picture is from the finish of my 2008 (first) Akron Marathon:

For my 5 year record, I was awarded the 5 year commemorative pin at a ceremony at the Expo on Friday.

It turned out to be a a great day to run a marathon! Starting temperatures were in the low 40s... Cloudy. I ran with a long sleeve shirt and was fine.  The sun came out later to enjoy the after-race activities.

Nutrition info: the morning of the race I had a large plate of breakfast (2 eggs, salad, olive oil, cheese, nuts, maybe 800 calories, 90% fat). I ate nothing else during the race, or right after. I just had water. (OK, a beer after the race :))

My goal was under 3:40. This race comes only 2 weeks after running Youngstown 50K. I did not really train for a marathon and I was even thinking of switching it to the half. Also, I was running the Towpath Marathon next week and I wanted to have something left for that too. So my goal was rather conservative. 

I lined up close to the 3:40 pacing team.  Akron starts exactly at 7:00 pm, and it is dark. It was nice to see some of my friends at the start.  Here is Jamie, pacing the 3:45 group.  And Marty Butler and his 3 brothers, running the relay.


The course was slightly different this year.  It felt a bit easier, overall.  I took a picture of the clock at the half, and, after figuring out the difference between the clock and chip time, it turns out that my time in the first half was almost identical to the time in the second half (a difference of only 10 seconds, 2nd half was actually faster).  This is really unusual, especially in Akron where the 2nd half is harder with some steep hills.

Here we are going over the start at around mile 11, and a picture from the Towpath section, with Brenda running ahead of me:


I was expecting to start slowing around mile 17-20, but this never happened.  My last 2 miles were the fastest of the race, 7:27, 7:34.  My last 0.38 miles (last stretch on Main Street, which is flat) was at 6:35 pace!  This fast downhill running took at toll at my quads (they were hurting the next day).

My time: 3:34:27 (8:11 pace) - 19/104 in my age group. 212/1546 OA.  Far from a PR, but my 2nd best time in Akron.

After the race, we sat at the field area (something new this year), and enjoyed the sun, the band, and the 2 free beers:

Liz ran the half: 1:53:48 (near 4 minute PR).  She was happy about that!

Akron is a great marathon. Well-supported, good swag.  I look forward to next year!

Youngstown 50K - 2012

Youngstown 50K – Sept 15, 2012

I ran the 25K of this race last year and I had a good time, so I decided to tackle the 50K this year.

The week before the race I was feeling a bit out of shape. One week earlier I barely finished a 14 mile run and then felt beaten up! So, I was not sure how this race would go. I had a feeling that things would not go well.... But, I was wrong :)

100 runners showed up at the start, including some of the "usual suspects":

The temperature was 52F in the morning and sunny, rising to 70F high, perfect running weather! The race started at 8 am. Here is a picture from the start:

The course is challenging with several very steep hills and quite irregular ground (lots of rocks). I wore the MB 110 shoes that I had in the first 40 miles of Burning River and had my usual low-carb egg breakfast in the morning.

I started the race rather fast but kept going without problems. I was chasing and was being chased by some guys (some of them running the 25K), so I was running faster than I would, if I had been running alone. 

My time at the half (25K) was 2:22, which is actually 4 minutes faster than my 25K time from last year! At the 25K mark I was in 8th place. My time in the second half was 2:28, 6 minutes slower than the first, but it is not fair to compare the two halves, because the course is different and the first 25K is faster than the 2nd, thanks to a long road stretch.  (BTW, my time in this mile of road was 7:40, both times.  That's fast!)

Here are some highlights from the course:  A long metal staircase near the start, a historical building, long wooden stairways in an area that reminded me of the Ledges.  The topography of this course varies a lot!


Early in the last loop I passed 2 runners away and then, nothing. No one passed me, I did not pass anyone. I was thinking, this is the race where nothing happened. I cannot even write a decent report.

In the last 4 miles I realized that there is no one behind to challenge me, and no one in front that I could catch, but I still pushed hard, racing mainly against the clock, and finished strong.

This photofinish picture was actually staged two hours later :)

Final time: 4:51 (This is my second fastest 50K trail race).  Placement: 3rd overall!!! (This is the first time I have placed at the top 3 in any race!)

Considering the difficulty of the course, this appears to be one of my best races in 2012!

After the race I stayed to watch other runners finish, had a couple of beers (nice touch by the race organizers :)), ate, and enjoyed the sun (beautiful weather) and company of other runners.

I then went to the nearby Gardens and took 3d pictures of flowers. The admission was free and my pictures turned out well (one of them won an Honorable Mention in an International 3d Exhibition!)



Overall, a great day!  Good challenging course, good race organization, good food, good friends.  This is a race to run again and again!

Moebius 50K - 2012

Moebius 50K – Aug. 25, 2012

This was a new race for me.  I signed up after I saw my facebook friends talking about it.  It looked like a good local race to run, a month after Burning River 100.  

This is the 2nd year for this race. The race director is a local runner (well-known and highly respected in the running community), Steven Godale, who lives nearby and treats this race and course as his baby. He created two trails and even mows the lawn in some parts of the course. He hand-mades medals by painting a piece of wood, very original.

The course consists of 5x 10K loops around a lake in Aurora.  One week before the race I did a training run in the actual course, two loops.  Here is a group picture from the training run, plus the course as it looks in a Google map:

The course is considered easy, but I realized during the training run that it is not as easy as I thought.  There is a variety of running surfaces, technical trails, grass, asphalt, including some very uneven areas.  The only easy thing about it is that there are not as many uphills as other trail races.

Considering the course, plus my legs and training which did not feel great, I set a goal of 5 hours (10 min/mile) pace for the race.

Here is a group picture with facebook friends (Zach, Gale, Dawn, Kristin) before the start of the race:

Here is the race director (Steven Godale) giving the last instructions, and a picture from the start line:

As the race started, I sprinted ahead to take a picture of the leading runners:  Vince Rucci, Michael Epp, Matt Shaheen.  So, for a brief moment, I was the leading runner in this race!!!! :)


Soon after I took this picture, a guy came from the back running really fast and passed everyone.  We looked at each other like "Who is that???".  And, "Does he know that this is a 50K?"  Because he was running as if it was a 5K!  Well, our questions were answered later when he lapped just about everyone in the course (some runners twice!) and finished first with an amazing course record time!

This race went differently than my other races. Normally, I start slow and have nearly even splits. But this time I started fast, trying to keep up with Connie Gardner (a celebrity in our area, ~17 hour finish in Burning River and top female in just about every local trail ultramarathon race), and finished slower, getting passed instead of passing other runners.

Because of the loop structure of the race, I got to see other runners, especially slower runners that I lapped.  Here are pictures of Kristin, and Dawn and Kimberly:

My time for the first loop: 53:52 (8:50 pace). By the end of the first loop I got passed by Connie Gardner plus 3 more runners. All of them, except for one, finished ahead of me.  I was in 7th place (overall) in this loop.

Second loop: 53:43 (8:48 pace). In this loop I lapped the first runner. These are 10K loops, so any time less than 1 hour is fine with me.  There was an aid station in the middle of the loop but I did not stop in these first 2 loops.  By the end of the loop I was in 9th place overall.

Third loop: 56:13 (9:13 pace). In this loop I got lapped by Verelle Wyatt who won the race with the amazing time of 3:21, a course record that should remain in the books for a long time.  I was very surprised to see him pass me so early, but now that I have seen his loop times, I see why.  His 3rd loop was his fastest with a time of 38:33 (Amazing!  My *road* 10K PR is 41:20).  I also got passed by two other runners, Jim Mann and Dan Hopper.

Fourth loop: 58:27 (9:35 pace). In this loop I passed Tyler James, a young guy who seemed to be struggling.

Fifth loop: 59:47 (9:48 pace). I managed to maintain my placement in the race during this loop (no one passed me, I did not pass anyone, other than the slower runners that I lapped). I enjoyed running this last loop and knowing that this was the LAST time I was going through the different areas (by now, the entire course was engraved in my memory). I used to dislike loop courses because of the temptation to drop out before the race is over.  Now, I do not mind them so much.  I actually like getting familiar with the course, loop after loop.

Final time: 4:42

This is a trail 50K PR for me, the previous being Buckeye Trail 50K with 4:55 in July. The BT50K is a harder course and the race director had predicted that I can run the Moebius course 10 minutes faster, which is about what happened.

Despite this good finishing time, I was 9th overall (out of 67 starters), not a good overall placement for me (I am used to finishing at the top 5-10%) which means that there were some fast runners running the race. I did finish first Grandmaster (over 50) and my award was a lawn chair :)

Here is Steven Godale, approaching the runners with a box that looked like pizza.  But, instead of pizza, we were offered the hand-made medals.  Because each medal is slightly different, we got to choose.  I think some runners would have preferred pizza :) but not me!

After the race, I stayed around to take pictures of friends finishing ("Wild" Bill Wagner is finishing in the picture below), enjoy the sunny & warm weather and eat (we had a picnic.)


Good food, good friends, good weather, fun times.  Well-organized race.  That's a race to repeat year after year!

Burning River 100 - 2012

Burning River 100 – July 28, 2012

Short Summary: I lasted 65 miles running strong, then slowly fainted, bothered by a pain on my right foot. I was reduced to walking by mile 85.  But I managed to overcome the pain and started running again for the last 7 miles, to finish strong.  I am happy with my time (20:50) for my first 100 miler. I hope that, after a few more 100 mile races, one day I will be able to have a strong 2nd half in a 100 mile race.


Training / Goals:

This was my first 100 miler and I did not know what to expect. Early on I made an official goal of 24 hours.  But, as the race day approached, and after running a few strong races, especially Mohican 50 miler (8:47), I secretly hoped to do it in 20 hours, where my true capabilities I think are.

Going from 50 miles to 100 is a big step.  There are very few intermediate races to prepare you, so one can hope that long runs and some races will do the magic. I raced a lot this year (one 50 miler and several 50Ks), did all the official training runs (20-25 miles each), but did not do any extra long or back-to-back training runs.  My longest mileage week was 92 miles, 4 weeks before BR100.

Here is a picture of the night training run, I believe the highest attendance of any training run:

So, I arrived at BR100 unsure, but hoping for the best.  I was only a bit worried with my weight gain (I gained 5 lbs in 2 weeks before the race).  I did not have any injuries or other problems.  Tapering the last week made me feel a bit out of shape, but I was ready to go!

My Only Mistake

People look back and mention all the things they did wrong, what they will do differently next time, different shoes, different nutrition plan, etc.  I look back and have no regrets.  My nutrition, shoe choices, and every little (or big) decision that I made before and during the race, worked fine. 

Except for one little detail:  As I was standing around, waiting for the start, I felt that my shoes were a bit loose. I decided to tighten my laces a bit.  When I was done, I felt that the right shoe was too tight.  I considered re-lacing this shoe, but decided to leave it as is.  It sounds minor, but this created a problem that would haunt me 80 miles later. My right foot got swollen and started hurting, forcing me to stop running around mile 90.  So, if I could go back, I would re-lace my right shoe to loosen it up.  A small detail... that could make a difference.

Start – Squire’s Castle (6.2M) ___________________________

The race started at 5 am.  It was cool and it had rained the day before.  The forecast was 79F high, 62F low, partially cloudy with the possibility of rain.  A lot of people expected a dry course, based on the weather the past weeks (we were having one of the driest summers ever) so I am sure they were surprised by the amount of water in creeks etc.  I am sure some people struggled running in wet socks. Thank goodness, I was used to running in wet trails from last Fall, so I did not have a problem.

At the start I saw our running friends (from the training runs) including Kimberly and our out of town guest, Andy.  I decided to run with a water bottle and my 3d camera, to take pictures along the way.  Here are three pictures from the start.

With Kimberly and Andy at the start:

Radames Colon and family at the start:

Race director, Joe Jurczyk, with a few seconds to the start:
I started slow, as always...  The first 6.2 miles were on a trail loop, returning back to the start line.  This trail was not well-marked for running at night with fog.  There was some confusion and a large group of runners took the wrong way and lost some time.

My time at the first aid station was 1:08:03 (11 min/mile pace).  I was 94th overall. 

Old Mill - Chagrin (12.4) ___________________________

After the first aid station, I started passing runner after runner. Some friends were surprised to see me passing, wondering why I was so far back.  I remember talking to Richard around mile 10.  He said that you should wait for the first 20 miles to assess the situation.

Right away I felt some stiffness and pain in my hips.  I was worried about that.  I did not feel in my best shape, but kept running.  Thankfully, the hip stiffness/pain gradually disappeared.
Two pictures right after the Old Mill Aid Station. I caught up with Charles Twigg, who took my picture:


Time at Old Mill aid station: 2:05 (9:11 pace), 78th overall

Polo Fields (17.2) - Harper Ridge (23) ___________________________

There was a long road section in this part, which I ran a bit faster then average.  I remember passing Mark Pancake and Starshine Blackford in this section.  I had an interesting exchange with Star.  At the expo, the day before, I told her that I will take her picture when I pass her in the race. I was trying to be funny, but I thinks she took it seriously.  So, as I passed her, I asked to take her picture.  Her response: “It is too early George, too early!” :)

Just as Bill Wagner warned me at the Polo Fields there was a creek crossing in this section, knee high deep.  Some runners elected to go around through a bridge. I just went straight through the creek and got all wet.  But I caught up with my friend Andy for the first time in the race.

A young girl was running with us, total rookie, no bottle, no run over 40 miles.  I wondered if she would make it to the finish, running too fast early on. (I now see from the results that she dropped at mile 93).

I remember running through some nice trails but don’t have any clear memories of these sections.  I caught up again with my friend Andy at the aid station after he took a bathroom break.  That's the last time I saw him, until the finish line.

At Harper Ridge my average pace was 9:30 and I was in 56th place.

Shadow Lake (26.2) – Egbert Shelter (31) ___________________________

I do not have clear memories of these sections.  I remember a long uphill road leading to Egbert Shelter, where I first walked quite a bit. I was hoping to meet my crew there and change shoes and shirt, but they did not arrive on time, so I continued running.

Alexander Road (35.4) – Station Road Bridge (40.3) ___________________________

There were some nice and easy trails in this section. I particularly remember the Buckeye Trail connecting the Bike & Hike to the Towpath.  This was mostly downhill and very enjoyable.  The Alexander Road aid station was in this section.  According to the web site I was in 41st place in this aid station.

Once we got in the Towpath, we had about 3 miles to the aid station.  These 3 miles are consider some of the worse in the course because they are flat, boring, and in full sun around noon.  I struggled a bit, put passed 5-6 runners just in this 3 mile Towapath section.

Station Road in Brecksville (my home town, just 3 miles from my house) was the first major aid station for me.  I met my crew (wife and children) for the first time.  At Station Road I switched shoes (from lightweight NB to more padded Brooks) a good change IMO.  Bill Wagner was at Station Road and helped me as if he was part of my crew.  He was also in every aid station where crew was allowed, offering much needed words of encouragement.  I am really touched by this.  Thank you Bill!
Here, I am arriving at the Station Road Aid Station:

Bill and Liz are helping me refresh and refuel:


Ottawa Point (46.7) - Snowville (50.7) ___________________________

The section from Station Road on is very familiar to me.  As we got closer to Ottawa Point, it became even more familiar because it is part of the Buckeye Trail 50K race.  After some slower miles and some walking, I arrived at Ottawa feeling strong.  Seeing a familiar trail definitely lifted my spirit.  I met my crew at Ottawa and refueled.  I generally avoided sugar and tried to eat foods with some fat in them.
In this picture, I am leaving the Ottawa aid station.  You can see why I run fast!

Right after the aid station, I remember passing Michael Epp, a strong runner who runs with a regular shirt, so he is very easy to spot.  The run from Ottawa to Snowville, was very familiar and pleasant for me. I passed the rookie girl there and caught up with my friend Brad Polman. 

My time at Snowville (approximate the half of the race) was 9:05 (10:45 pace) and I was in 28th place.

Blue Hen Falls (54.6) ___________________________

After Snowville, I realized for the first time that I am having a problem.  I has feeling a pain on my lower right leg (just above the ankle). I was convinced that this was caused by the pressure of the compression sleeves in my legs, cutting off blood circulation.  So, I decided to remove them at Blue Hen Falls. I put them in my pocket, in case I need them later.  In retrospect, I believe that my leg was getting inflamed (swollen) from the pressure from the tightly laced shoe for the first 40 miles.  The damage was already done and it would only get worse later.
In the way to Pine Lane, just before the pine section.  Familiar BR markings:

Pine Lane (59.9) – Happy Days (65.4) ___________________________

I arrived at Pine Lane in 23rd place.  I saw Brad Polman and Deanna Culbreath there. I left the station ahead of both, but Brad quickly passed me.  There was a long uphill, leading to the lamb farm, and then a road, going through a camp, then turning around and following the paved Bike and Hike.  This long stretch of road was unwelcome for most runners.  I could see Brad ahead of me, and then heard Deanna coming from behind. She was running surprisingly fast, passed me, and then she passed Brad.  We finally got into a trail (a relief for me), in our way to Happy Days.  I caught up with Brad, chatted for a while, and then I pulled ahead and arrived at Happy Days first.

According to the web site, I was in 22nd place at Happy Days (mile 65) running with an average pace of 11:12.  This was my best placement for the entire race.  I have gone from 94th place at the first aid station to 22nd place.  I have passed 72 runners :)  It cannot be any better than that. 

For some people Happy Days was not very happy (a lot of runners dropped there), but, for me, this was the highest point of the race.  I was feeling strong (much better than mile 40) and confident.

Pine Hollow (71.1) ___________________________

And then... I started falling apart.  The section from Happy Days to Pine Hollow included some hard to run areas around the Ledges.  I was walking carefully, trying to navigate my way around the rocks, when Deanna passed me hopping around the rocks like a gazelle.

I finally arrived at the Salt Run 3 mile trail.  I was getting tired and lonely and found myself walking quite a bit at this trail, until Star Blackford passed me with about a mile to the aid station.  As she passed, she said “take my picture now!”.  That was a nice come-back!  Her presence woke me up and I started running again, following her for a while until she blew me off.  This was the first runner to pass me in maybe 30 miles.

My family was at Pine Hollow (kids above). I distinctly remember looking at all my favorite foods (like almond butter, below) and having no appetite for anything.  Forcing myself to eat when I don't feel like eating.  I guess this happens to everyone.  After a while, no food looks good any more.  Most people in life want to control their apettite, but now I understand how hard life can be without apettite!
Little Meadow (74.5) - Covered Bridge (80.1) ___________________________

The section from Pine Hollow to Little Meadow is a hard one. I did not like it at the practice runs so I walked most of it.  One or two people passed me in this section.

From Little Meadow to Covered  Bridge is one of the best sections of the race.  Very runnable trails, mostly downhill.  With two miles to the next aid station, as I was walking, Brad Polman passed me.  This motivated me and I followed him (using him essentially as my pacer) running very strong and arriving first at the Covered Bridge Aid station, by sunset, looking good.

My time at Covered Bridge was 15:38 (11:43 pace) and I am listed still in 22nd place.

O’Neil Woods (88.6) ___________________________

At Covered Bridge I picked up my pacer, Christen McFarland, who had volunteered to help me with my last 20 miles of the race.  The first 5 miles are in the Perkins loop trail, familiar to me from the Bill’s Bad Ass 50K, and considered on of the hardests parts of the race.  I started OK, but gradually, as the dark settled in, I was reduced to walking.  4 runners passed me towards the end of the loop, including Charles Twigg, a friend I made during the training runs.  He looked strong and determined to break 20 hours.  A sharp contrast to me.  I was mostly walking and my moral was low.

After a run along Oak Hill road, we arrived at a trail known as O'Neil Woods. I was not familiar with this trail until our training runs, and actually ran it twice, once at night and once during the day.  I liked this trail during training.  But now, at about mile 86, it felt as if this was one of the hardest trails I have ever run! I walked the entire thing! 

At this point the pain on my right foot was serious enough to stop me from running in trails. I remember arriving at the aid station and night, looking bad, and Suzanne Pokorny (aid station captain) trying, unsuccessfully, to cheer me up. I remember right after the aid station, one downhill was so sharp I was not sure how to get down.  Christen was doing her best to motivate me, but it was not working.

I was able to run the short road section leading to the Towpath.  But when we arrived at the Towpath, I could not run any more.  Attempting to run was painful and running was slow. I could actually walk faster than run at this point. So, I walked.  I was making mental calculations what my time would be if I walked the remaining 10 miles of the race.  I estimated a finish time around 23 hours, not bad for a first 100 miler, but nowhere near my real goal (20 hours).

During our training runs, most of us hated the Towpath section.  But, at this late stage of the race, it was wonderful!  A hard trail would have seriously slowed me down, but, in the flat Towpath, I could at least walk fast.  At no point did I consider dropping out.  I was able to walk and, in the worse case, I could finish the race walking.

I was surprised that not too many people passed me while I was walking in the Towpath, towards the Merriman Road aid station (only 3 runners I think).  Christen said "I bet everyone else is walking too" :)  One runner that passed me was Michael Epp, the guy with the shirt.

At this point I had the idea to put my compression sleeves back on, to mask the pain on my lower right foot and maybe I would be able to run again.  I actually had this idea earlier but the earliest I could meet with my crew was at Merriman.

Merriman Road (93.1) – Memorial Parkway (96.1) ___________________________

Brad Polman passed me again just before the aid station.  This was the lowest point of the entire race for me:  Arriving at the Merriman Road aid station walking!  In every aid station I appeared running strong and people were cheering for me with my name (I have no idea who a lot of these people were and how they knew my name).  At Merriman I am walking, no one knows me (good thing!)  They say encouraging things but I feel like crap. I mean, I can not run, I am only walking, what else can I say?

At Merriman road, change of socks and putting on compression sleeves. My son is helping me, and Jason is watching.

After I put compression sleeves back on I tried to run at the next towpath section, 3 miles to Memorial Parkway.  And it worked!  The pain is masked and I am running again!  Christen is now very helpful, all I do is follow her.  What a good feeling! I arrive at Memorial Parkway (96.1) confident. 

Finish (100.9) ___________________________

Right after Memorial Parkway there a road section (which I walked, with police escort).  A bit later we entered the last trail section. I ran most of it (minus uphills and stairs).  Then a flat section follows in the trail and I am running even faster.  The thought that the end is so near makes the pain go away.

Finally, we exit the trail to Front Street.  The finish is 1.5 miles ahead.  Nothing can stop me now :)  A guy is a bit in front, I am thinking I will catch him.  He takes a wrong turn and I am yelling at him.  He comes back and passes me to the finish. :)  I still managed to finish with an 8 minute mile, looking strong.  Yes, it is the finish, and I am happy. 

Final time: 20:50, 25 overall/196, 2nd over 50 (first over 50 finished 20 minutes ahead).  If I were a USATF runner, I would have won first place in my age group (50-54).

My family was at the finish and took pictures.  Liz ran the last mile with me and Christen.  We stayed around to wait for my friend Andy to finish.  I started feeling very cold and tired, unable to walk, barely able to stand up straight, so I was glad to go home. After a short sleep, we got up, dressed and drove to Cuyahoga Falls, to see the last runners finish.

Concluding Thoughts

I was hoping to run even splits (like I have been doing in other races) but it did not work out.  I was good for about 65 miles, and that's it.  I need a couple of 100 milers first, before I can run strong the entire 100 miles. My model runners right now are Charles Twigg (he was behind me for most of the race, passed me at mile 85 and finished at 19:45) and Star Blackford (she passed me at mile 69 and finished at 19:39).  These are runners with strong "2nd half" in 100 mile races.  That's what I want to do one day.

Overall, this was a nice race.  It could have been better if I did not have problems with my right leg and did not have to walk for 10 miles.  But I cannot complain for my first 100 miler.  This was a minor problem, compared to what other runners go through.

A big thank you to the local running community for making this race a reality!  I am not sure if I will run again next year (it takes a while to erase the bad memories :), plus I have my mind set into running Mohican instead) but I will be back, I promise! :)