Saturday, July 17, 2010

Marathon #8 Dance With Dirt 07/10/10

Do you want to run the most beautiful marathon in Wisconsin? With the most incredible views of the bluest water in the state? Of course you do. Now, how much are you physically willing to pay for these benefits? Are you willing to risk getting poison ivy, spraining your ankle, breaking a leg, or arm? Are you willing to get your ass kicked by a course? If you are then sign up for Dances With Dirt 2011.

Being anal retentive it’s tough for me to post #8 before #7, but a lot of people want to hear about DwD before Madison. Madison was just HOT, DwD was insane. This will be a long blog because this was a long race 6 hours plus of up, down, rocks, roots, fricken mountains, stone steps, heat, humidity and some of the friendliest runners, volunteers & race personnel you’ll every find.

I decided to do DwD in 2010 to get some of the tough ones out of the way early. 2011 will bring Saturday – Sunday marathons, a different kind of hard.

Early in the year one of my dearest friends, Randi Strand asked if she could do the race with me as DwD was on her bucket list and she was just invited to attend a wedding in Chicago. Since I haven’t seen her since she moved to Colorado I said YES. Randi was the GBRC webmaster, and she’s cool, here is her blog site . Her memory of DwD is different than mine since she kicked my butt.

Even though Dan Roeder tried to warn me and get me to train with him on his trail in Pound I thought that I could train for DwD by running Scray repeats. Two words for that training program DUMB ASS. After melting in Madison I thought that DwD couldn’t be too tough, but let me put it in perspective. Our beloved Scrays hill has an elevation gain of 260 feet from the first incline to the peak for a total of 1.22 miles, a pretty casual incline. DwD has 4 inclines, the easiest has a gain of 283 feet and it lasts for 1.3 miles and it occurs almost at mile 23. The worst hill starts just after the half mile mark, it’s a gain of 686 feet and lasts for 2.03 miles. Hell of a way to start and finish a race, and there’s a lot of hell in between.

Race day was hot, 60 degrees at the start and the forecast was 85 and sunny, it was going to be a hard run. I of course started too quickly even though Randi tried to slow me down and I would pay for it. We made it up the first two mile hill easily and one of the spectators said that was the toughest part, I guess I wanted to believe him so badly that I just started running like it was, until mile 9.5.

The course description says that this part of the trail is paved, sort of. What they mean is that it’s paved stone steps. Hill running is tough, but you can always adjust your stride. When you’re on steps, your stride length is determined by the height and length of the steps, in this case 1.24 miles of steps with a gain of 517 feet. My butt was burning for about a mile, and I believe that this was my down fall as I never felt good after this.

After this point I was losing more fluid than I could take in. Thankfully Randi has run a 50 miler already and she has some great ideas about hydration, and fueling. She had me try plain old salt mixed in water which I drank and worked for a while. Then electrolyte capsules. At this point it was no longer fun, and a lot of the remainder of the race was a blur. After another incline that ended at about mile 18 I was ready to drop out. Luckily they had ice at the next water stop and I put it in my hat an laid on the ground with my legs on a tree. This allowed me to recover enough to run about another 2 miles with Randi. Like the good friend that she is sje wanted to hang with me, but I was obviously holding her back, she looked really strong. Finally I was able to convince her to take off.

The last 6 miles were just a long run and walk ordeal and of course another hill. I made one last wrong turn to add another half mile to my run and fell for the second time with about three quarters of a mile to go. I have never felt so bad during or after a race before. Of course I’ve never had to run over 6 hours before.

Trail runs are supposed to be easier on your legs, but this one had more rocks, boulders and roots than you would expect. The easiest stretches on the legs were the high grasses that were in the full sun, but they gave you a break.

Even though DwD is a beautiful course I don’t think that I would only do this race again unless I could train on the course, I don’t think that you can train for this race any other way

I’m also convinced that the lack of training this spring has added to the two tough marathons. Two tough marathons in a row are not fun so I’ve embarked on a megamile training program to get ready for Fox Cities and Middleton. I do not want to repeat the way that I’ve felt at Madison & DwD.

Friday, July 16, 2010

#7 Addendum

#7 was actually #6 OOPS.

Also how could I forget the PAi waterstop. It was the most organized of all of the stops and staffed by my PAi peeps.

More to come.

Monday, July 5, 2010

MARATHON #7 Cellcom Green Bay 05/16/2010

Is there anything better than running a marathon in your (new) hometown? No, not if it’s Cellcom.

This is the third year in a row that I’ve done Cellcom since moving up here and the race keeps getting better. The temperatures in mid May in Northeast Wisconsin are perfect for the marathon. The temp at the start is usually around forty degrees and maybe gets up to the mid fifties at the end. The course is run on mostly flat tree lined neighborhood streets to give the runners plenty of shade. There’s just enogh inclines to stretch your muslces. Crowd support is great, the neighbors really come out to support us.

Another huge reason is race director Sean Ryan. He puts on a big time event and his coordination skills are phenominal. The expo is just the right size, with vendors, other races, community groups and running stores like Run Away and Eastbay for last minute needs.

Race week feels like a big party. There’s a ton of energy in town and it’s hard to control yourself. The Green Bay Running Club has a booth at the expo and the chance to talk with runners from around the country is an incredible bonus. No matter where they come from, you can’t find a nasty person in the bunch. You also get to see your buddies that you always train with, but they’ve got more clothes on and no ones sweating or covered with frost.

This year I added something new, pacing, and I can whole heartedly recommend it. You get to meet new people, help them attain their goal and get some extra shirts! Of course the people part is the best part. I paced the 3:45 group with Heidi Gooding and Teresa Moore. This is a great group because so many people in this bunch are trying to qualify for Boston, and we get a chance to take them there. This is another thing that Cellcom got right, Sean allows more than one pacer per group so if one of the pacers has a bad race, the whole pace team doesn’t blow up.

Race day dawned sunny and cool, perfect race weather and it seemed like we had only a few people in our pace group. After the pace team pictures we moved into the atrium to find our pace group. Heidi was holding the sign and as we stretched more and more runners came over to us. Our pace group included quite a few runners gunning for a BQ and also a guy from my high school in Indiana, Bishop Noll, too cool. I can’t remember how many we had in the group, bnut it had to be atleast 20.

We had a good plan going into the race. We would keep the team at 8:35 per mile for at least the first half then Heidi would take the first group out, the Teresa the middle group and I would take the last group. We executed the plan perfectly and had 4 runners qualify for Boston. I was lucky to get the last runner in to qualify for Boston. I met Jo Ann just as we entered Lambeau and told her she could still qualify for Boston if she wanted. That’s all she needed to hear so we took off, and she made it.

Last great things about Cellcom? Brats & beer afterwards and the chance to hang around and talk about the race with your buddies. Most everyone had a great race and Scott Pearson qualified for Boston with an incredible 3:17.

Can’t wait until next year. Even though I still have more Wisconsin marathons to do, I’ll always do Cellcom, I can’t resist it.

By the way, there are now 25 marathons in Wisconsin, Birkebinder just added a trail marathon. This year’s event will be on September 25th.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lake Geneva Marathon 05/08/2010
When I was planning for the Eau Claire marathon I also printed out the elevation map for the Lake Geneva Marathon. I thought that I had done a good enough comparison of the beginning elevation to the peak, and thought that it was comparable to Eau Claire. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I had run once before in Lake Geneva while staying at a friends place and knew that the hills could be steep, I should have trusted my memory over my analysis.

Where Eau Claire has a steep hill, it then has a mile or so of plateau so you can recover. Lake Geneva has a steep hill to tax your legs then you bomb back down to trash your legs. Then there are miles where you’re rolling up and down, it just never stopped. This is truly a torturous course. Who would have thought that 150 feet would make such a difference. If you feel the need to challenge yourself and you don’t care about your finish time then this is the race for you. I think that everyone needs to do a race like this. You shouldn’t always pick the flattest fastest course and try to PR every time out. Sometimes you need to challenge yourself and your tolerance for discomfort. You need to test your mental toughness. Also there are stretches when you are out in the country with nothing to break the wind and it was Green Bay windy on Saturday. This is also a pretty course as much of it is wooded and you can see the lake from quite a few spots.

The more I race the more I have come to really appreciate the race volunteers. These people sit out in the cold and wait for us to come around so that they can give us water and Gatorade (HEED, whatever). They get spilled on and seldom thanked. Thank them next time or I may trip you. If it weren’t for them you’d have to carry your own fluids, and that sucks.

Once again I met some great people at this race, and since it was so close to Chicago some cocky ones. One Cub fan challenged me when I charged up the first hill to keep it up through the race, never did see that guy again dropped him at the 2nd mile. Also met Mike from the Lake Geneva area. He’s a hard working accountant who has lost a lot of weight by running and is looking to challenge himself. He’s never run a marathon faster that 5 hours and I told him I would pace him if he wanted, so I had a buddy for this race. We hung out for 18 miles before the hills got to him. In the meantime we talked about leadership, hard work, training and life. He’s going to go far.

One thing that I don’t like about this area is the traffic. Too many cars, everybody honking and some flatlanders waving you off the course because you’re driving on their road, which of course they don’t pay taxes on. But this is the only negative about this race.

Overall, do this race. It is fun in a twisted way, inexpensive, challenging, and beautiful. It is what marathoning is all about. Don’t go for a PR every time; sometimes test yourself in a different way.

Another BIG plus. We had lunch on Mothers Day with my son in Madison on the way home. The love of my life got to have lunch with her boy, Joe got a break from studying, and Betsy had a chance to fill her big brother in on her life. Yep, I’m a sentimental sap. Did I tell you about the time when Joe scored a goal with 15 seconds left to win the hockey game on Mothers Day? That’s a different blog.
Eau Claire Marathon 05/02/2010
As we drove to western Wisconsin we saw some very beautiful country and I knew that I was in for a very picturesque run. Based on the course map I knew that I was also in for a hilly run. This was also the first time that my family joined me on the road and I wasn’t just driving to the race running and coming home.

This race has a good blend of country, woods and small town feel. The race is very well attended to by the volunteers. A lot of the spectators moved from stop to stop so you saw them quite frequently. I heckled the girl who held up the “I just ate a donut”

Ran with Amanda from St. Paul. She’s an Ultra marathoner not used to running on the road, she’s not listed in the final results, so I hope she didn’t DNF.

The second half of the race was mostly city, very clean but completely into the wind. Not a strong wind, but annoying. I let Amanda draft behind me, no reason for both of us to struggle, and there were no big guys for me to draft behind.

The person who designed this course must have been a friend of mine because from miles 21 to 22 there was a gentle incline then a good sized bump just before the end. What a jerk. Believe me it felt worse than it looks.

Overall, great water stops every two miles. Good support, fantastic volunteers (are you noticing a trend?). Good post race food, not Cellcom quality beer & brats, but good turkey sandwiches none the less.

Also the people of Eau Claire are very nice. No matter where we stopped we met great people. And our waiter on Saturday night was from Allouez, super guy.

Bad news. In my goodie bag was a flier for a new marathon in Wisconsin for 2011 the Sandbox_Indoor_Trail_Marathon . This is billed as an indoor trail marathon on an indoor motocross course. The marathon is guaranteed to be less than 100 laps. I’m putting this one off until 2013, I hope it just goes away.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Marathon #4 Navarino 04/17/2010

This race is a BLAST! You must do it next year. The course is great. Not too technical, no roots, no creek crossings, some hills, but a lot of sand. I think I’m really starting to like trail running. Another plus, crazy trail running people, pretty cool. This course would make for a good training run, so GBRCer’s may see this come up this summer.

This is a Jeff Crumbaugh event so I knew I was in for a test. Jeff was the race director of the Kewaunee Trail Running Festival in Copper Harbor MI. It’s sad that Jeff is no longer offering the trail festival, but after 10 years he said it was time to move on. I had a chance to run two of the three races in 2008 and they were very challenging.

The marathon is a two lap course so you know what to expect. That means those nasty hills that you saw from miles 10 to 12 will torture you again at miles 20 to 24. Oddly enough, they were easier the second time around. I wish that I were a good enough writer to be able to explain how great this course really is. Beautiful woods, wetlands and grass trails. Maybe that’s why the big hills were easier the second time around, because I knew a some fantastic views were coming up.

Big pluses:
• The volunteers. Since this is an Eco-friendly race there are no cups used at the water stops. You need to carry your own bottles and the volunteers fill them up for you. Good news is that they are very quick and efficient. Better news, they are great people. Since I was just here to run, not race, I spent extra time at the stops yakking with the volunteers and it increased my race experience. These were fun people. At one stop the vols told me that they would have KFC by the time I came around the second time, and I almost lost it thinking about fried chicken, but it was worth a laugh. Thankfully they did not have the chicken when I got back to them.

• The post race barbeque. You get a choice of Elk or Buffalo burgers and sides and cherry cider to drink. These guys know how to recuperate from a hard run, high protein and low fat and anti-oxidant drink.

• GBRC members at the race. I don’t expect this to happen too often on my Wisconsin marathon journey, having my GBRC family racing with me, but Ross McDowell and the Bill Noll Racing team were there to share the fun. It was fun having them there and sharing lunch with them. The Noll Racing team Dad Bill, daughter Rebekah, and sons Sammy and Isaiah each took first place in their respective races and divisions. Ross, the owner of Run Away Shoes ran the half marathon in Vibram Five Fingers. The longest he ran in them before was 6 miles, can’t wait until my VFF’s come in.

• All marathon finishers received medallions made by local craftsman John Wilson from sugar maple sourced from the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The top three in each age group for the marathon and half marathon received 1-pound blocks of from local Oak Grove Dairy cheese.

Also met Chris Drossier of Greenfield. Chris is an ultra marathoner. By no means famous, but a great guy to run with.

By the way, I did get a block of cheese for finishing 1st in the 50-54 year old group which I didn’t expect. After not seeing any old guys for the first two hours of the race I decided to speed up and see if I could place. Considering that I haven’t placed since high school I was really shocked to take first. I’m not counting on that happening too many more times.

Jeff Crumbaughs next event is the Keyes Peak marathon & 10k in Florence WI on June 19. Considering his track record, you may want to see if you can do this event. Unfortunately, I’ve signed up for all of my marathons through July so that race is on the 2011 or 2012 schedule.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Marathon #2 Trailbreaker 3/27/2010

Being unfamiliar with trail races I bought new trail shoes, Brooks Cascadia, which I love and thought that I would really use them at the “Trailbreaker” Marathon, I was in for a surprise. The race website said improved trail so I thought gravel, like much of the Fox River Trail. What I got was 15 miles of asphalt, 7.5 on the way out, 7.5 on the way back and no gravel shoulder on the trail. Luckily the shoes behave well on the road. You might think that running on this ‘improved” trail would be boring, but the views of the valleys and hills of Waukesha were beautiful, it really is a great trail.

The real trail didn’t occur until the Ice Age Trail and it did not disappoint. There were roots, large rock hills and down hills, and after you beat your legs for 3.5 miles you get to run/walk up a 40 foot tower. The Ice Age Trail is beautiful. You’re in the forest running like you should, fully engaged in your surroundings, or you might break something.

As I’m finding out on the marathons that I’m running the best part of the race is the people. On the way out I ran with a 65 year-old trail running vet who has run this course often. I also met a college kid who was a former high school football offensive lineman who after an undisclosed illness lost over 100 pounds and now could not even be a wide receiver, but he is a pretty darn good runner. The 65 year old was having trouble on the paved trail, but once we got to the Ice Age trail he became a mountain goat and kicked my butt. The kid I lost when I stopped to snug up my shoes for the trail. The kid asked if I wanted him to wait for me, and I said no, I’ll try to catch up, big mistake, never happened. I would come to regret this later.

Another thing about trail runners, they’re very accommodating. If you’re on a single track, they’ll move over to let your pass. If a leader is coming back on the trail he gets the right of way. Very nice people, a fact that would be confirmed at the Navarino Trail marathon in a few weeks.

Well I made it up the tower and started back, and watched my 65 year-old buddy really go into mountain goat mode. In a matter of a quarter mile he was out of sight and I wouldn’t see him again until the food table after the race.

Left with no buddies to talk to, the second half marathon totally sucked. For those who know me, I need to talk; I’m a social animal, at least until the last 2 miles of a run when I’m hurting.

Finally finished and then hooked up with my new buddies, had a couple bagels Gatorade and a shower then headed home.

Other items
If you read the reviews of the race some people complained about the traffic back in town, the surly cops and unhelpful volunteers. What race did they run? Perhaps they should thank the volunteers once in a while. I meet very helpful people along the way from the race director to the cops to the vols, great people. Overall this is a beautiful course. Very low fees and a great value. Do it if you can next year.