2012 Burning River 100 – 23:48:40

August 26th, 2012

After I completed my first 100, the 2010 Burning River 100, I really wanted to get back to Cuyahoga Falls for another finish of it. I was fortunate to miss the very hot 2011 edition, but there was no holding me back in signing up for the 2012 race. I really do want to do other 100s, but the BR100 has a great course, and it’s just an all around super event.

Fast forward to the finish, here’s my team, Paul P, me, and Janet C:

The Team

The Team

It was a long journey to the finish. Even before we left northern Virginia for the ~6 hour drive to packet pickup in Cuyahoga Falls, my half-packed rental van got towed from my apartment. Crap. Panic ensued. Luckily, I found that it got towed only 2.3 miles away. I hadn’t planned a shakeout run/walk the day before the race, but I got one. This delayed our departure only by a little, but it was a bit stressful, I must say.

At packet pickup, I got my picture taken by the scoring crew and got to drop off my 4 drop bags for different locations (Mile 26.2, Mile 54.6, Mile 65.4, and Mile 80.1) along the course. I had a crew, but I think having drop bags is a good backup plan. In fact, my crew was supposed to meet me at Mile 26.2, but I was running a bit early, and we ended up moving our meetup to Mile 31. My drop bag at Mile 26.2 turned out to be my crew then.

Packet Pickup

Packet Pickup

After a short night’s rest, I got geared up and walked over to the shuttle buses, which would take me to the 5am start. The early start area was a cool scene of anxious ultrarunners, excited to get the race on the way. One of those anxious folks was fellow DailyMiler, Peter A. I never met him before, but he recognized me, since I was wearing a do rag (a black one I might add). We had a short chat and then got lined up.

The Start

The Start

3-2-1. Woo hoo! During that first crowded run through the field in front of Squire’s Castle, I got choked up a bit, just knowing I was back in this wonderful event with a great day ahead of me. Makes me tear up a little just thinking about the start… Anyways, the start had us run a 10k loop on the trails around the castle grounds. It was a new part of the course, due to some other changes further down. It was almost marked very well, but one bad marking caused a gaggle of the front runners to come back yelling “Reverse! We haven’t seen any markings in a long time”. It felt very weird standing there with ~70+ runners trying to decide what to do. Quickly though, someone in the dark pack had seen a marking and headed off on a turn, which just happened to be close to where I was anyhow. I really didn’t have to backtrack much at all. That was cool. Back at the castle after the loop, I handed my cheap headlamp to a volunteer to add it to a collection that would be transported to Mile 54.6, giving runners a chance to reuse their headlamps at a point when they might need it again in the evening. I didn’t really care about seeing that cheap headlamp again, and even packed an identical cheap one in my drop bag at Mile 54.6. The return to the castle marked the first aid station, but not too many needed aid at that point.

After a little more trail heading away from the castle and stopping at an unmanned water stop, we finally got to do a road section, which I remembered as the starting miles of the 2010 race. Soon enough, we hit another aid station at Old Mill & Chagrin River roads. There at Mile 12.4, a volunteeer refilled my only handheld with water and I dropped into it another Nuun tablet. As I was leaving that quick break, I heard someone say my name and the runner introduced herself as Des, one of my DailyMile friends. Des had completed the Vermont 100, a week earlier, and was volunteering at that early aid station. So cool to meet virtual friends in real life, but even more so when you least expect it.

After a few road miles, the course brought us to the Polo Fields aid station at Mile 17.2, where we’d get back on the trail again. Just like all aid stations, the wonderful volunteers quicked refilled my water bottle and off I went. I plopped in another Nuun tablet and let it fizz up again. By that point, I was getting a little sick of this bubbly drink. Believe it or not, I even thought about how great it would be to be getting my Perpetuem mixture whenever I saw my crew. Crazy! But, before our first planned crew point at Shadow Lake at Mile 26.2, there was another quick aid station.

I arrived at Harper Ridge Picnic at Mile 23. I was way ahead of schedule and decided I better give my crew a warning call. I was fortunate and smart to be carrying a tiny, indestructible mobile phone, unlike the USATF runners who weren’t allowed. I gave my crew a call and knew that they would be surprised at my progress. With 3.2 miles to the next aid station, there was no way they’d make it on time, as they were still getting ready to head out the door. So, we decided to just move the first crew point down to the next aid station.

So, I come into the Shadow Lake aid station at Mile 26.2, around 9:30am, and immediately realize that I basically beat my 2011 Boston time. Don’t ask about that race. I was making incredible time, considering the amount of trail covered. I wasn’t overly pushing it. I was just plodding along and feeling good. Here at Shadow Lake, I had a drop bag, mainly as a crew backup. I think having backups are good, especially for a first crew point. It’s hard to coordinate getting everyone ready for an early meetup. And, I couldn’t afford not getting the support I needed at this point in the race. From my bag, I got to put on some sunblock and also change socks, shirt, and do rag. Ah, much better. As I walked around the lake, I called the crew and told them I was heading their way.

Mile 31, Egbert Shelter aid station, came soon enough, and I was so happy to see my crew for the first time. And, a little volunteer girl asked me if I wanted a popsicle, and here she is wanting to hand me another one, having forgotten that she had already given me one earlier.

Want a popsicle, mister?

Want a popsicle, mister?

Oh man, these BR100 volunteers are so wonderful, always immediately asking to refill your bottles or hydration packs as soon as you arrive. Again, I tear up just thinking about them. Such wonderful people. Paul and Janet were great too. My personal race volunteers. After I downed a few Cokes from the table there, my crew gave me my much wanted Perpetuem mixture in a waiting bottle, and off I went.

It would be about 9 miles before I would see my crew again, as the next immediate aid station at Mile 35.4, wasn’t accessible by them. I did however run into my new buddy, Peter A, at that aid station. We were both filling up on icy fluids there, since the sun was in full force at that point. I took off knowing that Peter would sooner or later be passing me again. Oh, and only after that first Perpetuem bottle handoff earlier, I had called the crew to tell them to just give me orange Gatorade in my bottle for the rest of the race. I couldn’t stomach Perpetuem or much of anything else anymore. I grew to love watermelon slices though. Too bad they barely have any calories!

The next 5-ish miles weren’t that tough, especially since the last 3-ish miles were on a canal towpath. This flat, easy-footing section was a nice way to end the route.

Cruising on the Towpath

Cruising on the Towpath

I knew this easy portion from 2010, so I decided to bring it in fairly strong to the next aid station at Mile 40.3, Station Road Bridge. At the end of the bridge, some more kids were handing out popsicles. I turned them down this time. :-) Then, I looked around for my crew, but couldn’t immediately locate them. But, they were there and just at the car or such. Here’s my unshaven, Grizzly Adams look, as I have a good sit to change socks and shirt.

Paul was always helping

Paul was always helping

This time I headed off, walking, carrying a half Panera sandwich, which was the same thing I did in 2010 at that point. But this time, I couldn’t finish but a few bites. My stomach was just getting worse and worse. I knew that my crew would be passing me during my lunch walk before I got to the trailhead, and I kept hoping they would do it soon, so I could later chuck the sandwich and wrappings in a waste basket that I saw in the distance. They did pass me before then, and I did that shameful ditch. I just didn’t want them to see me throw away an item that they went out of their way to get for me.

During the next 6+ miles on my way to see my crew again, I grew tired of the orange Gatorade too. I poured most of my handheld out, right before an unmanned water stop at the mid-point of the route. I then called my crew and told them I only wanted ice water for the rest of the race. I had been taking S-Caps the whole way too, and so, I’d be getting my sodium at least with the water. Somewhere after the water stop, Peter A caught up with me and we ran together for around 3 miles, straight in to the next aid station, Ottawa Point, at Mile 46.7.

dailymile buddies

dailymile buddies

Paul and Janet were there to meet me, and I also got to meet Janet’s friend, Thomas M. He had been the pacer for an older runner, early in the race, since runners over 60 could have them from the start, if needed.

Kiss us we're Irish

Kiss us we're Irish

I got a good sit at the picnic tables under the pavilion at this aid station. I even managed to have a little bit of noodle soup that the race volunteers had heated up. I had lots of ice water while there too. And, before I knew it, I was back on the trail again, carrying more ice water in my handheld.

I was hydrating pretty good. And, only half way through my water bottle, I finally got the urge to “go find a secret place hidden from the trail”. Hey, I don’t like those porta potties for that. Luckily, I had my half-filled water bottle. Hey, I don’t like leaves for that either. :-)

So, I “finished” my water bottle a little earlier than I wanted, and knew I had another 3+ miles until the next crewless aid station. I was getting really thirsty in those few miles. Finally, the aid station, Snowville, came into sight. And, the volunteers had made their station a M*A*S*H theme, complete with camoflage decorations. Not too far from the entrance to the stop, a music player was also playing the M*A*S*H theme song. It was an appropriate theme, since I needed some repair. I needed some fluids, STAT! That was the first stop that I noticed the availability of pizza too. I couldn’t eat it though. I had another 3 icy Cokes, instead. And, a volunteer offered to put ice under my do rag. Brrr. Brain freeze from the outside! Then, another volunteer offered to wring out an icy sponge on the back of my neck. She did and it felt great! I left that place, 50.7 miles into the race, feeling rehydrated and happy to be halfway done.

The next station at Mile 54.6 was new to the course, named Blue Hen Falls. I had a similar stop in that I downed a bunch of water and Cokes. I also had some noodle soup again, but I still wasn’t happy consuming any solids. After the chow and continued S-Cap usage, I re-geared, as one of my drop bags was there. I changed my shirt, socks, and maybe my do rag, before heading out, again with a handheld filled with ice water. Very shortly into the trail I thought, “I think I would feel better if I puked. I think I can do it.” So, I calmly stepped off the trail and exorcised whatever was in my stomach, which was mostly watermelon and Cokes. Oh my, that felt so good. After most of the day of having stomach issues, I was finally feeling pretty good now in that department. I debated about going back to the aid station to grab some more noodle soup to replace what I had lost, but quickly decided I was fine. I then did my normal, post-aid station crew call, and happily told Paul that I just had a wonderful vomit. It was such great news!

Another 5.3 miles on the trail would slowly go by, and I again ended up craving that ice water they had at the next aid station, Pine Lane, at Mile 59.9. Not much went on there, besides my normal ice water refueling.

I was moving pretty slow at this point, mainly due to the hot sun. And, this next segment was my least favorite from 2010, and remained my least favorite in 2012. The segment has a long road section, immediately followed by a mostly paved bike trail section, and they seem to combine for about 3+ miles. To me, it feels like those sections are inclined the whole way too. I ended up walking nearly all of those hard-on-the-feet miles. But, somehow once the course returned to the woods, I was able to pass all of the folks who had passed me during my death march. And, I came roaring into the next aid station, Happy Days, at Mile 65.4, all happy and such to see my crew again.

There at that bustling aid station, I got a great sit on a towel my crew layed out for me, and Janet was gracious enough to massage my feet, which were very sore at that point. Even though I ran hard into that aid station, I feared that my feet were giving up on me again, like they did in 2010 around that mileage. That year, I ended up walking the last ~30 miles. But, Janet’s magical fingers released the pain I was feeling. My feet felt invigorated. She also made sure I took many bites of one of my sandwiches, which I had avoided earlier. Plus, she gave me some Tums to keep my stomach feeling good. She was awesome at crewing!

Happy Days.  Aaaaaay!

Happy Days. Aaaaaay!

After my long sit, Paul was ready to pace me. He had volunteered to pace me for the next 14.7 miles, and I was happy to have someone out on the course with me. I believe that Paul and I had figured that it would take about 1:15 to 1:30 before we’d finish our first 5.7 miles, where we’d see Janet again. But, we got into a great groove and my feet were cooperating with it. We came into the next aid station, Pine Hollow, at Mile 71.1, much earlier than planned. We couldn’t see Janet immediately, but then found her in the parking lot, totally surprised that we made it there that early. So, my aid station was really our rental van there. I hopped in and Janet handed me my sandwich again.

Gotta have my Bacon Turkey Bravo

Gotta have my Bacon Turkey Bravo

After some more foot massaging by Janet, Paul and I headed out again for the next 9 miles together. Before we met Janet again, we hit a water-only aid station, Little Meadow, 3 miles down the trail. We made it there in just under 30 minutes, which at the point in the race was pretty darn fast in the woods. I was feeling awesome, and was pushing us along. Paul was feeling it, but doing an awesome job keeping me in the pace I wanted. The next 6 miles also went by fairly quick, and we arrived at the Covered Bridge aid station ahead of schedule again, as Janet was getting ready to take her turn at pacing me. I think Paul was relieved to be done with his portion, since I had my second wind and was pushing it hard near the end of our route.

Covered Bridge was at Mile 80.1, and Janet had signed up to pace for the remainder of the race. I had warned her before that the trail immediately following our starting point was a doozy. Lots of climbing would come, but we power-walked up those inclines quite nicely. 4.7 miles later, we had a quick stop at a water-only aid station, right at the start of a road section.

On the roads, Janet was a beast. She wasn’t getting the speedy miles she needed for her workout, back in the hilly woods. Once on the road though, she was her normal bouncy self. I, on the other hand, needed a foot massage, but didn’t want to bother my masseuse, who was pacing me. :-) Those miles on the road were tough for me. I couldn’t wait to get back in the woods. And, once we reached the entrance to the woody trail again, we decided to change our headlamp batteries. During that time a couple passed us, but we would later pass them back. I had underestimated how long we’d be in the woods again, and kept thinking that O’Neil Woods, the next aid station, was just around the bend. The trail seemed to never end. Finally, that aid station at Mile 88.6 came. And, with respect to my sore feet, I took matters into my own hands, literally.

Massaging with myself, Oh oh oh oh

Massaging with myself, Oh oh oh oh

The volunteers at O’Neil Woods were fantastic! Two young guys ran up to meet us, grabbed our hyrdration gear and ran back to fill them with water. They were working hard that night. We were total strangers to them, but they were very enthusiastic to help us. Volunteers at ultras are the best!

Heading towards the next aid station, Merriman Road, at 93.1, Janet and I had to deal with a canal towpath that also seemed to never end. I wasn’t doing well coming into our planned stop. I was taking too many walk breaks. I’d shuffle a little, then I’d walk a little. My feet weren’t liking me. And, it looked like my goal of going sub-24 was out the window. There was no way at my current pace that I’d make it.

When we rolled into Merriman Road, I again got some ice water, and also massaged my feet one final time. With 3 more miles to the next aid station, we headed out, back on another canal towpath. I don’t know what happened, but something changed inside me, as I picked up the pace, running much better in that short stretch. I knew if I focused on keeping my strong pace up, we could still get that sub-24. We made it to the next and final aid station, Memorial Parkway, at Mile 96.1, in record time. Well, it felt like record time. We were on a mission to finish under 24 hours.

Only 4.8 miles to go, we climbed up the road out of that brief stop, and kept the “fast” pace going. I knew we had more trail that included some stair climbing, so we needed to bank some time, since we wouldn’t be sprinting up them. Janet liked the stairs so much that she decided to count the steps. :-) We powered up them too!

I love this race, but when we finally reached Front Street, off of the final trail, I was so happy to know we were only about a mile away from the finish line. We were going at a pretty good clip too, considering. I asked Janet to cross the line with me, but she graciously declined, indicating that it was my finish to enjoy. And, as I neared the line, I saw and waved to my cousin, who was waiting with her husband for my finish. So cool. I crossed the line and bent over and tried to let out a quick power-cry, if there is such a thing. I was so happy to finish this thing again, and finish strong in 23:48:40. Plenty of room to spare for my sub-24. We really picked up the pace those last 7.8 miles to Mile 100.9. Yes, they tack on an extra 0.9 for good measure. Yay!

Again, it was so cool to have family there too. Paul had given them a warning, wakeup call, back at Mile 93.1, letting them know I was coming. Why they would get up at 4am to come cheer me on is beyond me. Such great people! My cousin Susan half-joked that we should have family reunions coinciding with my BR100 finishes. That would be cool. I may have a 50-person crew for the next time I run it! Party!!!! :-)

Between Susan and Tricia, my second cousins once removed

Between Susan and Tricia, my second cousins once removed

After our abbreviated family reunion there at the finish, I hobbled over to our room at the Sheraton Suites, across the street. I had a victory Ruination IPA, then hit the sack. Surprisingly, I didn’t crash for the entire day at that point. Around lunch time, Janet, Paul, and I headed down to the bar for some lunch and refreshments. At the bar, Janet ordered a mimosa and Paul ordered the usual, Commodore Perry IPA. I ordered both. :-)

Post-race mimosas with Janet

Post-race mimosas with Janet

What a great time I had at the Burning River 100. The volunteers and race organizers are top notch. It’s hard to believe it’s such a young race, around 6 years old. They make it look like it’s been around for 20 years. So well run.

Just like in 2010, I had a wonderful crew get me to the finish. I wouldn’t have met my goal without them. I’ll never forget what they did for me in this event. Words really can’t express what I feel for them.

Thanks to all out there who tracked me online and gave me congrats afterward. I’ll be back to the Burning River 100 in some form down the road…

andy running , , ,

2012 Ragnar Florida Keys

February 28th, 2012

2011 Ragnar DC

February 28th, 2012

2011 HAT Run 50k – 5:52:48

April 5th, 2011

2011 HAT 50k from Andy O’Brien on Vimeo.

The video above tells most of my story at the 2011 HAT Run 50k.  Good times with friends before and after the race.  ’Nuff said.  I’ll be back in 2012!

andy running , , ,

2010 Burning River 100 – 26:36:05

August 19th, 2010
My team: Paul P, Pamela A, Jenny J, and me

My team: Paul P, Pamela A, Jenny J, and me

That’s my team (Paul P, Pamela A, and Jenny J) behind me above, after the finish of the biggest race of my life: the 2010 Burning River 100 (BR100). I can’t believe we did it. Words really can’t capture what the experience was like, but here goes.

Paul and I lodged right across from the finish area, so I would have an easy walk to the shuttle buses, departing at 3:45am, taking us runners to the 5am start of the point-to-point course. We didn’t get much sleep though, as the finish area in Cuyahoga Falls, OH also hosts weekly, Friday night summer festivals, which include loud cover bands “singing” late into the night. I got no more than 4 hours of sleep the night before the run, because I kept hearing, “Take it to the limit, Take it to the limit, …”, sung by the non-Eagles not too far from our hotel room. Paul on the other hand was busy going over race plans:

Paul busy race planning

Paul busy race planning

So I get to the start area and immediately queue myself into the potty lines. There I ran into DirtDawg and his buddy, Kevin G, founder of JustFinish.com. DirtDawg had ran the 2009 BR100 with Kevin crewing him to the finish. This year, both were running. After a brief chat, I headed to the start line and saw Jason R, the guy running the event barefooted, who was also wearing a kilt. While passing by, I mentioned to him that I heard about him from Peter L of Runblogger.com. Jason would later opt to wear his huarache sandals for the last 2/3 of the race due to tough terrain. I however, toed the line in a brand new pair of Brooks Launch, a pair that I would wear for the entire race. The choice of these road shoes went along with my goal of being comfortable throughout the race. I would carry no hydration packs, fanny packs, or any other kind of pack. I carried 2 Nathan handhelds and a tiny cell phone in my back pocket. I did have a bib belt on though, as I had planned on many wardrobe changes and didn’t want to have to re-pin my race bib on many times too. Here’s my get-up just before I headed over to the shuttle buses:

Ready to go

Ready to go

I would carry a small flashlight in the beginning, since the race started at 5am and would only be slightly dark the first 45 minutes or so. I had found this flashlight on a training run months ago, and decided I’d donate it once we got to an early aid station.

Soon enough, we were instructed to “GO!”. I took off in my planned, 8:** pace, since the first 9.6 miles were on road. It’s hard for me to go slow on the road on fresh legs, and so, I figured this pace would be OK for the first 1/10 of the race. I knew I was going too fast for the overall distance, but was surprised by how fast others were going too. I guess we had the same idea. We breezed through the first aid station at Mile 4.8, and I soon finished my first bottle of Perpetuem. To stay with my plan of drinking a serving (1 scoop + 1 bottled water) of Perpetuem every hour the whole way, I carried 2 baggies of Perpetuem powder for this initial, non-crewed section and mixed up my drink on the side of the road. My crew would later take care of my Perpetuem needs from Miles 33.3 to the finish. I had a drop bag at Mile 18.6 containing more baggies of Pertpetuem to hold me over until then.

Mile 9.6, Polo Field aid station, came pretty quick too. I hit the can there and I grabbed a few fig newtons from the snack table. I chucked 1 fig newton into the woods, just like I did at the HAT Run 50K earlier this year. That’s becoming a trademark move of mine, I guess. I’ve learned that I just can’t eat and run at the same time. Oh well.

Mile 18.6, Shadow Lake aid station, was my first drop bag point. I changed my shirt, do rag, and socks there. I also decided to grab 3 PB&J quarter sandwiches and started off with my first planned walk. Again, I can’t run and eat, plus a walk around this point could be beneficial in saving my calves and feet for the remaining distance. As I walked around the lake there, I called Paul on my cell phone to tell him my progress and to let him know I’d probably be right on time at our first crew point, Mile 33.3. Us non-USATF runners had the luxury of using cell phones, as well as pacers, during the race. I also confessed to Paul that I forgot all about my Endurolytes that were in the pocket of my right handheld up to this point. So, I took 5 Endurolytes at this point, instead of the 3 per hour dosage I had originially planned. I also told him that I forgot to restock my side pockets with new baggies of Perpetuem that were in my first drop bag. Doh! He offered to come out and crew a little earlier to fix this issue, but I told him it wasn’t a big deal. I’d see him in ~15 miles as planned.

If I correctly recall, the course got a little more technical shortly thereafter with some climbs/descents on that section of the Buckeye Trail. I don’t remember too much from these sections, as I was anxious to meet my crew at Mile 33.3, and when I finally did, I had a big smile on my face:

All smiles when I see my crew

All smiles when I see my crew

Mile 33.3, Station Road Bridge aid station, was my first crew point. I hadn’t even met Jenny yet, but she greeted me like we’d known each other for years. That’s DailyMile.com for you. I was right on time too, ~11am, just as I had figured. I swapped out my 2 handhelds with 2 handhelds that my crew had ready. One filled with water with 2 GUs in its zippered pocket. The other filled with my Perpetuem mixture with a baggie of 12 Endurolytes in its zippered pocket. This exchange would happen at every crew point from then on. Meanwhile, I was in need of another costume change. This time I would change my shorts in addition to my shirt, do rag, and socks, all of which were found in my second drop bag here at this aid station. So, I headed off to the station’s restroom and waited for some doofus to complete whatever the hell he was doing in the only stall there. I couldn’t change outside the stall because the restroom door kept opening and there wasn’t a wall to shield my nakedness. So, I waited and waited. Until finally, I gave up and left the restroom. My crew gave me a “What happened?” and Paul gave me the keys to the van, where I’d eventually transform into:

Me and my Vaseline

Me and my Vaseline

A little too much time wasted at this aid station, but it wasn’t too bad. I was making good time in the race. As I left walking, carrying one of my 1/2 Panera sandwiches, I saw Kevin G’s JustFinish.com banner by some people. I asked if Kevin had made it through yet, and one of his crew/fans asked my name. Having heard my name, Gordan H asked if I was Peter L’s friend and he took a pic of me to send to our buddy. I walked off eating my sandwich, and my crew honked their horns as they passed me, just before the route headed back into the woods. I would see them again at the next, uneventful station, but would have a following station where there was no crew access. Somewhere around that point, I called Paul and told him to forget putting GUs into one of my handheld’s zippered pocket. I had tried to consume them, but I couldn’t. I just can’t stand those things. I told him to replace the GUs with a baggie of RedVines. He asked if I also wanted a baggie of Good-n-Plenty in the other handheld’s pocket. Does the Pope wear a funny hat? Duh. Of course, Good-n-Plenty would be great.

So far through the race, I’d been feeling pretty good. An occasional slight soreness here and there would come and go, but nothing major. Around the Mile 33.3 mark, I had decided to throw good form out the window and heel-strike whenever I wanted. It’s not easy on your calves and feet to be forefooting the whole way. I believe this mixing up of my foot-strikes helped keep a single pain from forming and especially kept my calves and feet happy and ready for the long mileage ahead. The walks helped them too, since I’m a big heel-striker when walking.

Mile 49.1, Boston Store aid station, was the next point where I got to see my crew. This station served me twice as it was a double aid station. The first time through I again changed my shirt, do rag, and socks, and again was handed a 1/2 Panera sandwich to consume as I walked off on the 5.4 mile loop. Jenny had also displayed her awesome packing skills, as she was able to stuff an entire large box of Good-n-Plenty into a baggie into one of my handheld’s pocket. That was great, until I needed to stuff it back in after stupidly removing it and not consuming any, while out on the trail. When I got back, she fixed this race-saving issue: ;)

Jenny saves the day!

Jenny saves the day!

Boston Store was a pretty cool double aid station. Lots of people there having fun. Paul and Jenny and Louie B (above) had fun with a pirate that was on the loose, and Paul insisted that they get a picture of me with her:

Arrrrgh!

Arrrrgh!

The first leg of Boston Store was the first and only time I needed sunblock. We were blessed with an overcast all day until that point, around 3pm. That leg, which had some open areas, was also probably the only section were I finished both handhelds. I always finished my Perpetuem between the ~5 mile aid stations, but usually had a near full bottle of water when done with a segment. But, it couldn’t hurt to carry 2 handhelds just in case, as in this hot loop at Boston Store. Leaving there would get me back in the woods before I knew it. I would enjoy returning to the cool shade of the trail.

Mile 64.1, Happy Days aid station, would be the next crew access point. But, before then, a hellish road and bike trail section had me cussing at the course. There was a long stretch where we were on a long, mild incline on road for what seemed to be 2 miles. Then immediately, we were sent on another ~2 mile bike trail that also had a slight incline to it. I was taking it easy on the hills throughout and walked almost all of this section. It was just the endless stretch of straight, road and bike trail that was annoying. I couldn’t wait to get back in the woods again. During this slow time, I called Paul and gave him a later estimate on my arrival time at Happy Days. Well, when I called, Paul and Jenny were just about to arrive at the aid station after grabbing a bite to eat. Paul had thought they were late and that my call was from me at the aid station asking where they were. Nah, I was still out there, but closer than I thought. I gave them a very conservative time estimate and ended up surprising them when I came to Happy Days early. Hey, we were all there when we needed to be. That’s all that mattered. When I got there, I saw DirtDawg who had dropped earlier, but was still helping his buddy:

Oh Happy Days

Oh Happy Days

Not much time spent here. I would grab another 1/2 Panera sandwich to take with me. And, like all other aid stations, I’d always be sure to ask the volunteers where I needed to go to next. Here’s me confirming which direction to go, while leaving Happy Days:

This way to more sandwiches, right?

This way to more sandwiches, right?

You may notice above that I was carrying a tiny black case with my right fingers. That was a small flashlight that I would need near the end of the following segment. I believe I had left Happy Days around 7:30pm and the next aid station was 6.8 miles away. I was walking a lot at this point, especially at the beginning to finish my sandwich. So, it would be a slightly dark 9pm or later by the time I showed up at the next stop.

Mile 70.9, Pine Hollow aid station, would eventually come into view, after a pair of open field climbs over “The Sound of Music” hills, which everyone seemed to call them. When I crested the last one, Paul and Jenny and others were yelling “Go, Andy!” or such. I remember shining my super bright flashlight directly into one of the strangers yelling my name. Whoops, sorry about that. Then, Paul and Jenny led me over to our chairs and I got yet another sit. Paul had decided to join in the trail fun and walk with me on the next segment, which was a 3.3 mile loop back to this double aid station. But, before then, I had another costume change to perform, this time changing all but my shoes. Soon enough, Paul and I headed off into the dark woods. It was cool to finally have someone out on the trail with me, so they could experience what I’d been facing most of the day. The current segment had its fair share of climbs/descents and even some stairs that I’d been complaining about. Paul and I remarked about how well the course was marked, considering it covers 100 miles of unique trail. The course markings at night also had a reflective touch to them which helped a lot in the dark. I was just happy that this section wasn’t flat. Otherwise, Paul wouldn’t believe me about the constant ups-and-downs I had been encountering in much of the race. We kept waiting to hear noises that would indicate we were near the end, and over the next couple segments, I began to enjoy hearing the faint sound of a generator which meant we were near an aid station.

Jenny was next up for pacing, as she had committed to keep me company from Miles 74.2 to 93.3. We set off on our first 6.6 mile segment, after I grabbed my last 1/2 Panera sandwich. :P Poor Jenny, she was raring to go in her brand new Brooks Cascadias, and here I was just ready to walk out the rest of the race. My feet and calves were a little sore, but not to the point that they would prevent me from moving forward for 30 miles. Oh, I wasn’t totally dragging it out there. I had a good walking pace. Not great, but not bad either. It’s hard to walk great with all the climbs/descents. Probably the biggest thing that was slowing me down was the constant bathroom breaks. It became clear to Jenny that I was probably overhydrated. I swear that on one of our segments I had urinated close to 10 times. It became routine for me to tell Jenny something like, “You keep going, I’ll be right there”.

Mile 80.8, Covered Bridge aid station, would eventually greet us and we were told by DirtDawg that the initial 4.7 mile loop had a significant climb in it. He wasn’t kidding. Jenny and I powered up it, probably only to find a another set of climbs/descents. I was getting a little mad at the course at times. But, Jenny kept my spirits up along the way, making me laugh when she picked up a corn cob as a souvenir for Paul, when we passed a corn field. Paul sure was lucky crewing with Jenny earlier in the day, and I was lucky being paced by her. And, soon enough, we got back to the double aid station, where I would change my shirt, do rag, and socks, one final time. Here’s Jenny and I before we headed out of Covered Bridge for good:

Jenny having a super time!

Jenny having a super time!

Over the next 7.8 miles, Jenny and I would continue our 99:1 walk:run ratio. That’s 99% walk, 1% run. Occasionally, we’d get into a slow jog just to invigorate my sore feet. It seemed to work, but I’d feel something in my calves, which would stop our progress. It didn’t matter. We were going to make it to the finish. There was no sense in being stupid and risking a DNF this late in the race. Plus, it was hard to get into a jog groove anyhow with the darkness and bumpiness of the trail. Before finishing our time together, we had passed through a crewless aid station, where we received glow bracelets. That was cool. Oh, and we found one for Paul too. :P

Mile 93.3, Merriman Road aid station, was the next crew point and also where I would pick up a new pacer, Pamela A. Paul had called her about 2 hours prior to let her know I’d be at her station and ready to be paced. Even though Starbucks hadn’t opened yet, Pamela was ready to go. I on the other hand was enjoying another one of my patented BR100 sits:

I'm good at sitting

I'm good at sitting

Only 7.8 miles of walking to go (101.1 is the published distance), and having Pamela keep me company was a treat. She said she works nearby and can get trail runs in here. What a great trail system she has to enjoy. The trails are beautiful and seem endless! :P The end would come sooner than later, but we had one last aid station, where Pamela got to fuel up on her promised coffee. I made sure not to take off sprinting that final 4.8 miles, just so her coffee wouldn’t shake and spill. ;)

The end was nearing and just thinking about it made me well up as we walked. Occasionally, I had to turn my head to the side to hide my feelings. I also got a little choked up when we passed a guy who was painfully wobbling along just trying to get to the finish. I mumbled a, “You’re going to make it! You’re almost there!”, cheer as I felt a slight lump in my throat. Seeing his determination was inspiring.

Once we got to Front Street, I knew we were home. With just under ~0.5 miles to go I decided we better bring it home running/jogging. Here’s Pamela and I not too far from the finish line:

Woo hoo, almost there!

Woo hoo, almost there!

And, here’s me finishing strong:

Do rag flapping to the finish.  Nice.

Do rag flapping to the finish. Nice.

Finish time of 26:36:05. Oh man, what a feeling to finish this event. It’s hard to know what’s going to happen after so many hours out on the course. Anything can happen really. This was my first 100 and it won’t be my last. I know I probably wasted a lot of time changing clothes and most likely walked a little too much at the end. But, I got to the finish before the cut-off of 30 hours, and that’s what mattered to me. I finished 96 out of 252 starters. 166 runners finished the race. It’s amazing that 70 people finished after me, so close to the cut-off. We were lucky with the weather. There was an overcast most of the day, then sunny for a short period in the late afternoon. Makes me wonder what my outcome would’ve been if the weather was harsh. But, maybe then, I would’ve actually drank both of my handhelds more often. You never know. I definitely feel like I left a lot on the table (except for Panera sandwiches), considering how perfect the conditions were. Maybe I’ll find out in my next 100.

My training for this 100 wasn’t typical. My longest run was 20 miles and my longest back-to-back long run days were 15 and 20 miles. In fact, my longest run ever was my HAT 50K back in March. But, I put in a lot of easy paced 10+ milers during my last 2+ months of training. I figured if I could get used to running a bunch of them, I’d be able to run 10×10-milers to finish the BR100. I may not have “ran” 100, but I think I proved that most anybody can complete these 100s.

This 100 wasn’t just me. It really was a team effort. I couldn’t have done it without their support. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for making this a successful event for us. I hope they had lots of fun along the way too.

Pamela A – thank you so much for getting out of bed and showing up to do your part. It would’ve sucked to be missing a fresh pacer at the very end. Thanks for helping me in the finish area too. During our walk, I remember you mentioning you may find a 50K later this year. I hope our experience has given you the courage you were looking for.

Jenny J – thank you so much for driving 3+ hours to meet-up with Paul and I, two guys you never met, to help the team from Mile 33.3 to the finish. There’s not too many people who would do such a thing. Thanks for the night walk. We started with headlamps and we finished with headlamps. What a cool, but slow, time we had together. Thanks for putting up with me for so long out there. I hope your fear of noisy bullfrogs subsides. ;) Seriously, thank you so much for helping out. Your love for fellow athletes shows that you have a huge heart.

Paul P – I can’t thank you enough for taking the lead of the crew and executing our race plans perfectly. We did it! It was you that contacted me ~7 weeks prior and asked about my race plans (crew, pacing, etc.) and offered to help, if needed. Stupid me had only the plan of having drop bags and no crew or pacers. If it wasn’t for your message, I most likely would’ve DNF’d in the race. I can’t imagine what the race would’ve been like without our team. You were truly the brains behind this operation.

DailyMilers and other online friends – you all are the reason I continue to improve as a runner and as a person. I’m normally a quiet, stubborn person by nature, but you all have helped me speak up and learn how to enjoy life to the fullest. At the end of the race I wanted to tell my team and you all how much you mean to me. But, I was in no shape to make a comprehendible video speech. The picture below is how I’ll remember this race. It really did capture what I feel for you all. Thoughts of you all kept me going during the race. I made it home (to the finish) by heel-striking in my ruby red Brooks Launch and by thinking, “There’s no place like DailyMile. There’s no place like DailyMile. …”

Thank you all so much!

Thank you all so much!

UPDATE:
Here’s some race video that Jenny J recorded:

andy running , ,

Oak Hill 5k – 18:29

May 5th, 2010
Eyeing the Finish Line

Eyeing the Finish Line

When I saw Oak Hill Elementary’s “Run For FUNds” 5K on the race calendar (5/1), I made sure to sign up this year. Last year, I missed the race, as I ran through the course during a 15 mile long run. It’s an easy course and an easy field. Only a handful of the 200+ runners break 20 minutes. It’s one of those family/school-oriented 5Ks. Thus, I left the suspicious do rag at home. ;-)

Another race. Another PR. My 18:29 beat my last 5K and PR of 19:12 at the Crystal City Twilighter. I knew I would crush it. My mileage has been really good lately. And, my transition to forefoot striking has made my running much easier, faster, and more enjoyable. I know that I’ll be taking down this 18:29, sooner or later.

My goal for this race was to run close to sub-6:00s the whole way. While I didn’t quite do it, according to my Garmin (5:54 6:08 6:05 + 0:21), I did run well. My Garmin recorded 3.07 miles. That’s fine. The runner I drafted behind for 3 miles did a great job of running the tangents from traffic cone to traffic cone. Hey, it counts. I eventually passed him in the final ~0.1 miles, and as I did, I told him that I was just trying to break my time (which was going to happen anyways). He wanted me to pass a few times earlier, but I just wasn’t sure I could pass him and hold on to 3rd place for a longer stretch.

It’s kind of weird running on the road for 3.0* miles, then finishing on grass for the final ~100 yards. It was hard to keep the pace up during the transition. I know I slowed a tad in that final stretch.

All in all, it was an enjoyable, low key event close to home. I got to meet some local runners, putting faces to names I’ve read in other race results. Now they know me too.

andy running

Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run – 1:06:23

May 3rd, 2010
Bolting across the finish line

Bolting across the finish line

Sorry, a little late with this report… I took down another PR at the 2010 Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run back on April 11. My finish time was 1:06:23. My previous 10-mile PR was 1:16:47 back in 2007. I knew I would crush it!

PRE-RACE

Not much to say here. Just my standard drill of getting up very early (about 3 hours prior to race time). I like to get to an event early to avoid problems. Parking in D.C. is always an issue, especially with a big event going on. I got there plenty early to secure my spot not too far from the Washington Monument, which was the start/finish area. Most runners probably took the Metro, but I had to immediately leave after the race for a family event. Being able to hop in my car shortly after the finish would save a huge amount of commute time.

Of course, I hit the porta-potties about a 1/2 dozen times before the start. It’s not that I get nervous about the miles. It’s that I get nervous about being at the start line and having “to go”.

When us runners registered for the event, we entered an expected finish time. I can’t remember what I predicted, but I’m sure it was sub-70 and maybe even sub-67. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good enough to position me in the first wave with the gold bibbers. I was in the second wave, wearing a red bib. That was fine. We had D-tag timing devices on our shoes. And, it was wave starts and not just one big sluggish one.

RACE

It’s really neat to be toeing the line of a wave start.  I wouldn’t have been able to do that, up next to the Africans who lined the front of the first wave.  After about a 2.5 min. wait, our wave was set off.

I thought it would take awhile before I met up with anyone in the first wave.  To my surprise, I was passing a bunch by the 1 mile marker.  My Mile 1 split was 6:24, which was faster than I had wanted to go.  I had dreamed of an easy 6:5* start, easing down to 6:4*, and then 6:3* and faster.  But, the first mile had a lot of downhill to it, so the speed just felt natural.  Still, I couldn’t understand this crowd of runners I ran up against.  I immediately thought that the 5k race somehow merged into the 10M course and would soon merge back out.  Otherwise, these people belonged in a wave far back behind me.  The shape of these runners was a dead give away to that fact.  I later figured out that they weren’t part of the 5k, as it didn’t start until later.  These runners must’ve had no clue what their expected time would be.  And, I assumed that they just entered “1:00:00″ (1 hour) when asked that question on the registration form.  That kind of sucked for me.  I had to pass a ton of folks on the outside of turns and others who were running side-by-side with their iPods muting my approaching steps.  Not fun!

Once I got past the initial congestion, I was able to get in a better groove, though still a fast one.  Miles 2-6 showed splits of 6:39, 6:30, 6:22, 6:34, and 6:31.  I was feeling great the whole way too.

Around the 6.5 mile mark, I heard “It’s Andy O!”.  Here it was Brodie W, one of my buddies from DailyMile. We did a quick hand slap/shake and chatted a little bit. He took off. And later, I caught up just in time for us to be caught in a race pic together. Click here to see the pic. That was cool.

Mile 7 did turn out to be my slowest split in 6:49. I was a little bummed about that, but I quickly got back into a better groove. I guess I can’t chat and run at the same time. :-P

Miles 8, 9, and 10 were done in 6:41, 6:35, and 6:24, respectively. I also had another 0.15 miles recorded, as I guess my weaving and passing on the outsides added some length. Oh well, I’m fine with my time.

POST-RACE

I went through the food line, then straight to my car. End of story. :-P Just a 10 minute PR. On to whatever was next in the day…

andy running

HAT 50k – 5:49:24

March 25th, 2010
DailyMilers ready for the HAT!

DailyMilers ready for the HAT!

The photo above shows an anxious bunch (Jeanne B, Thomas N, Steve S, and me) awaiting the start to what would be the toughest and maybe most memorable race of our lives (OK, Steve’s 2009 Cayman Islands Marathon win is on the top of his most memorable list, and rightfully so!).  The HAT Run is a trail 50k race in and around Susquehanna State Park, Maryland. It has nearly 9,800′ of climbing, including 4 stream crossings. The course starts with a 3.6 mi. loop, followed by two 13.7 mi. loops. None of us have attempted a race of this difficulty, but we all had a blast at the event, regardless of finishing times. NOTE: I was a little hard on myself about my race, but quickly realized that just finishing it and hanging out with friends was some great reward!

PRE-RACE

After a stop at Panera Bread for a scone and coffee, I arrived in the race parking lot and immediately saw Thomas N. near his Westy. I went over and met him, and also saw and greeted Steve S. too. We all got there with plenty of time to spare before the race start. Thomas and Steve got to see me out-of-costume, as I had yet to put on my race gear, including my signature do rag. After a quick packet pickup, I headed back to the van to slowly transform into racetime Andy. While I was shirtless and putting on dot bandaids on my nipples, a lady behind me ask me if I had ran this race before. I turned around with my hands over my boobs, jokingly suggesting to her that I wasn’t really ready for her question. :-P We had a good laugh. I offered my bandaids to her, but she indicated that she was good to go. :-P

I had told other DailyMilers to simply look for a dork in a do rag, before and/or after the race.  Sure enough, Adam P spotted me, while Thomas, Steve, and I were about to head to the main pavilion near the start area. After waiting a little bit in the pavilion, Jeanne finally showed up and we took some pictures and videos, and got ready for the race.

Thomas and Jeanne before the HAT 50k from Andy O’Brien on Vimeo.

Jeanne and me

Jeanne and me

RACE

You ever been to a race where the starting line was 100 people wide and 4 people deep?  I have at the HAT!  Think Braveheart.  At the start area, a lady came up to me and asked where the starting line was, and I was like “I don’t know.  I’d like to know too.”  Then, I asked a guy next to me, who was wearing an older Brooks ID singlet, and he indicated it was right here and everyone just runs to the corner, following a couple guys on mountain bikes.  Neat.  BTW, that guy was last year’s and this year’s 2nd place finisher.  He ran the races in 4:03 and 4:23, respectively.  This year, 70+ degree temps. made everyone slower.

Steve and I started and ran together for about 4 to 5 miles.  It was an easy start, but maybe our pace was a little too fast considering we had another marathon distance and much more brutal hills to go.  After Steve took off, I was still going at a good pace, but probably still too fast for that first 13.7 mile loop.  I ended up chatting with another runner for about a mile, before eventually hitting the first aid station in that big loop.  There, I grabbed a cup of Heed and with a few drops left in it, I chucked the cup to my side and I guess some of it sprinkled on a runner behind me.  Oops.  At the 2nd aid station, I was a little more careful and actually walked to drink and also picked up 2 Fig Newtons from the snack table.  I was able to finish one of the cookies, but tossed the other one along the trail, while heading to the end of the first big loop.

Back at the pavilion after that first 13.7 mile loop, which overall was around the 17 mile mark, my time was 2:33:**.  I was in 18th place.  Also, my feet were pretty sore.  During that first loop, I was growing tired of the longer than desired road sections, especially since I was wearing trail shoes with knobby tread that didn’t mix well with the hard surface of the roads.  So, I decided to change my socks and shoes, as I had my bag of extras at the pavilion.  After finishing the gear change, I met another DailyMiler, Jason P, and he was looking strong then. We ran a tiny bit together, but he was well on his way to a good performance as he left me in the dust.

Early in the last loop I felt like a fork was in me. I was done. I wasn’t just walking the inclines, but a lot of the flats and downhills too. Shortly after the first aid station on the loop, I remember walking for at least a mile, non-stop. I remember seeing a 20:** mile split on my Garmin. Ouch. I wasn’t hurt really. My legs did feel like stones on the downhills, but they weren’t cramping. I was just done. I had used up too much energy on the first lap, and left little for the last lap. I hadn’t bonked like I did at the MCM back in October. I was plenty hydrated and fueled, I believed. I just wasn’t prepared for all those up-and-downs and long downhill road stretches. I got sick of the road, and couldn’t wait to get back on the trail… so I could walk again. :-/

In the last lap, I got passed by 56 people, including other DailyMilers, Steve Z, Adam P, Matt F, and probably others. I mostly got passed while I was walking. I got in a routine of stepping to the side as smarter trail runners cruised passed me and asked if I was OK. I was in no danger of DNF-ing, but if the race were stopped then because of some natural disaster or such, I would’ve been very happy. I didn’t run the race to be passed by so many people. It was very dejecting. Yeah, I was a trail running n00b, but I could’ve been a little more quiet in my attire. I felt like most were probably thinking “that clown deserved it!”. :-P

When I got to the beginning of the final field to the finish line, a young dude was right behind me coming out of the woods. I told him to go ahead, that he was in much stronger shape than I was. I wasn’t about to try and race someone and end up looking more like a fool than I had already been. Luckily, he took off and gave me some breathing room to take it easy to the finish. And, running up through those final fields, Steve S. had his Flip HD camcorder rolling. I gave him the thumbs down and choking gesture, and also apologized for being late (since he left his beers in my van, thus waiting for my late return).

HAT Run 50K from steve speirs on Vimeo.

HAT Run 50k from steve speirs on Vimeo.

POST-RACE

After receiving my HAT 50k stein and Brooks HAT 50k cap, right when I crossed the finish line, I slowly began regrouping. Steve was there to cheer me up. I was a little pissed off, but that eventually got erased after meeting up with friends and just hanging out. Good friends, good beers. What could be better?

The HAT 50k is top-notch. It’s well run and if you ever decide to run it, you won’t be disappointed. The people there were tremendous. And, we were lucky to be blessed with good weather. Oh, it was overly sunny near the end, especially if you were slowly walking during the final lap, but it wasn’t horrendous. Would I run the HAT again? You betcha. Would I run the HAT next year? Tempting, VERY tempting! :-P

Other HAT race reports you MUST check out:

Jeanne B’s
Thomas N’s
Steve S’s
Matt F’s

andy running

DailyMile is awesome!

March 4th, 2010

I’m not dead.  I just post a lot of stuff on DailyMile these days. I’ll post another race report here soon. I’ve got the HAT Run, a difficult trail 50K, coming up on March 20th. That’ll be fun. I hope.

In the meantime, if you’re an athlete looking to post your workouts online and don’t mind getting awesome support and motivation from other athletes, then go over to DailyMile and signup. Do it! The sense of community there is off-the-charts! Speaking of charts (or graphs), here’s how my last 26 weeks of running is graphed on DailyMile:


Last 26 weeks of running on DailyMile

andy running

Marine Corps Marathon – 3:20:12

November 4th, 2009
Disappointing MCM Finish

Disappointing MCM Finish

Boy, I don’t know what to say other than that I completely blew this race.  And, before you get bored with my stupid details and excuses, let me offer a quote from “Boston Billy” Rogers, winner of 4 (3 consecutive) Boston marathons, who said: “The marathon can humble you.”  He ain’t kidding.  Marine Corps Marathon: 2, Me: 0.  My 3 years of adult running are bookended by 2 ass-whoopings by the MCM.  I don’t find the MCM a tough course, but somehow I end up hating life while finishing up that tiny climb to the Iwo Jima Memorial finish line.  My first of 4 marathons was the 2007 MCM, where I walked the last 10 miles to finish in 4:39:39, well below Oprah’s standard. :-/ But, that was the first one.  The one we don’t “really” train for or respect.  My 2009 MCM was much different.  I had put in much more training and had come to respect the distance far more than any other.

My goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon in this race.  I needed a time of 3:15:59 or better to get in the 2010 race.  That’s an average pace of roughly 7:28/mile.  I failed to reach this goal.  My finish time of 3:20:12 was a little over 4 minutes off the mark.  My overall pace of 7:38 just didn’t cut it.  But, my overall time and pace don’t tell the story…

PRE-RACE

I got up at 3:50 AM even though the race wasn’t until 8:00 AM.  I don’t like rushing to a race, and besides, I had a long Metro (subway) commute ahead of me.  Surprisingly, I had gotten a quality sleep despite its short length.  I felt refreshed and ready to go, especially after getting some major restroom activity out of the way (for the most part).  I had everything I needed for pre-race, race, and post-race.  I decided to wear an old long sleeve t-shirt and cheap (3 pair/$2) gloves to the start line, where I would ditch both items before the race.  And, I had trained with the race outfit I had on many times.  I wore my RaceReady compression shorts (pockets for GUs in the back), Brooks Equilibrium SS shirt, old pair of Feetures running socks, Brooks Racer ST4s, Road ID bracelet, Garmin Forerunner 305, a Clif Bar 3:10 paper pace bracelet (from the expo), and of course, my blue doo rag.

When I got to Runner’s Village, after the long walk from the Pentagon Metro station, I dropped off my post-race bag at the UPS trucks and looked around for the Brooks V.I.P. Porta-Potty, but couldn’t see it.  I had to go, so I simply used one of the million normal porta-potties that had no line at that hour (~6:15 AM?).  The MCM doesn’t screw around when it comes to porta-potty : runner ratio.  That’s a relief.  I found the Brooks V.I.P. Porta-Potty shortly thereafter, and decided to use it even though I really didn’t have to go.  I was eligible to use it, since I was wearing Brooks shoes, so dammit, I was going to use it!  They had velvet ropes set up and really played it up when a Brooks runner entered their area.  They’d open the rope and point you to their heated restroom setup.  After leaving the temporary building, another Brooks volunteer would offer a mint (wintergreen LifeSaver) from a basket s/he was holding.  Classic.  So, I got an early start to breakfast.

For breakfast, I had an Orange GU 30 minutes before the start, washed down with a few ounces of water.  I also placed 5 more GUs in my shorts, planning on consuming 4 of them at miles: 4, 9, 13.1, and 17.5, leaving an extra one if I needed it (due to mishandling of one or otherwise).  I lined up in the 3:00-3:19 corral, as I desired a sub-3:10.  I chatted with another guy, wearing a bandana (it’s an alternative headwear thing, you wouldn’t understand), and we shortly had to move up to close in the gap that formed between the elites and our corral.  It was neat being so close to those famous MCM balloon start arches up there with the fast runners.  In 2007, it took me about 2.5 minutes to reach the start line after the cannon blast.  This time it took only about 10 seconds…

RACE

My race pace strategy was a mixed bag of paces, really.  I enjoyed my 7:1* splits in many of my long runs, and also did NOT enjoy my long runs which started slow and finished fast (~7:4* down to 7:2*).  Add also an enjoyable uptempo 10-miler (all splits below 7:00 for a 6:45 pace), and as race day approached, I had a vague idea what I wanted.  I decided that worst case I wanted 7:1* splits through 20 miles, then race the last 10K (like everyone wants to).  My best case would be mile splits between 6:4* and 7:1* through 20, and again racing the last 10K.  I knew the initial miles would be a nice ramp-up speed due to traffic, and figured I could get in my target zone fairly easily.

MCM Splits (per Garmin)

MCM Splits (per Garmin)

My 7:22s the first 2 miles were a welcome sight, as they weren’t too slow or too fast (in my mind).  There was a small climb around Miles 2 and 3 and I wasn’t having too much trouble with it, like some of the wheelchair participants were.  Just an enjoyable pace before the downhill.

I think everybody recorded their fastest mile during Mile 4, as it was all downhill to the beginning of the Key Bridge into Georgetown.  It was at Mile 4 that I had planned my first GU and hydration stop.  And, this fueling point didn’t go well for me.  With all the cowbell-ing and hollering going on, I couldn’t make out what the Marines were saying, regarding what fluids they were handing out first in the long stretch of volunteers.  I had wanted water for my first fueling point, but grabbed the first cup available and saw that it was Powerade.  To avoid being bloated later, I didn’t want to fill up on Powerade this early in the race.  And, at this point I was a little too friendly with what I grabbed and decided to hold the unwanted beverage while I eventually grabbed a water later in the line.  Now carrying 2 cups being splashed around while I ran, I finally chucked the Powerade to the side of the road when I thought no one was near me.  Why I cared about volunteers or other runners getting wet from a somewhat full cup of Powerade, I don’t know.  And, by this point my water cup was no more than a 1/3 full from all the bouncing.  Oh, I had already had my open GU tucked under my thumb slightly before the station.  But, with little water to wash it down, I didn’t get but 1/2 of the packet, before chucking it and the cup to the ground.  I shrugged it off, knowing that having GU this early probably wasn’t the standard anyhow.  As long as I got full ones later, I’d be ok.

Miles 5 through 7 were easy with only another small climb near the end of Mile 7.  I thought my pace was nice and easy, but I guess it would haunt me later.  Again, another downhill section during Mile 8 had everyone flying.  It was hard to hold back on this hill.  Near the bottom of the hill we could see runners at Mile 5 of the flat loop around the Georgetown reservoir.  It was nice to be far ahead of that massive crowd.

Next up, my next fueling point around Mile 9.  This time I had managed to consume all of my Orange GU and the < 2/3 full cup of Powerade I grabbed early in the line.  But, I had forgotten what I mentioned on DailyMile, regarding the possibility of grabbing extra fluid due to unknown race day serving amounts.  In my training, I always had 8 oz. of water or Powerade during my stops from my flasks, but wasn’t getting anywhere near this, and I didn’t make up for it at unplanned stations (as I mentioned) or sub-stations either.  Race day mental lapse, I guess.

Oh, I kept thinking about my race watchers, family and friends, who were getting my 5k split times/pace via SMS/email, thanks to the MCM 5k timing mats and alerts system.  I knew my pace was fast, but it felt good.  I kept comparing my time to my 3:10 pace bracelet.  I was 2+ minutes ahead of that expected finish time for a long time.

Somewhere between Miles 10 and 11, we passed under the expected overhead photographers, running across 2 separate red/blue painted sections of the road.  I had known about this from the 2007 MCM and had it all planned out.  I would sign the letters “B” and “Q” as I came into camera view.  Sign language letters are done with the right hand, so I did the mirror image of a “Q” with my left hand.  I’ve seen the race pics.  Totally gay and embarrassing, now that I’ve failed to get that BQ.  Eh, it was a neat idea, I guess.

I was happy that the MCM changed their course after my 2007 run.  This time and last year they swapped the mall loop with the Hains Point loop so that runners would go around the mostly empty Hains Point during Miles 11 – 15, instead of Miles 16 – 20, or such.  In 2007, that later empty loop was killer and where I had started to walk for good.  This time, Hains Point was enjoyable for the most part.

I reached my next fueling point near the 1/2 mark, and had a similar event.  Not enough fluid, but mostly finishing my Orange GU.  And, I remember hopping with both feet onto the the 1/2 timing mark, because I’m an idiot, thinking that my previous left-footed (no D-tag) timing mark steps were bad.  Weird what goes on in your mind during these long runs.  My 1/2 marathon time was 1:33:34.  I ambitiously wanted nothing worse than 1:35, even though I convinced myself I could deal with 1:37.

I got to admit that after the 1/2 I started to feel it a little bit.  In my training long runs, I would also feel it around 13, but then I’d get a surge (post-GU maybe) that would kick-in and I’d feel great again.  I wasn’t feeling bad, but I didn’t have that easy free flowing stride (though over-stride) that I had going.  I was still holding pace, or at least I thought.

Around about Mile 16 the 3:10 pace group came up by me and I said to myself “No way!”.  I looked at my pace band and it showed that I was still about 2 minutes ahead of 3:10.  I tried to stay with them a little bit, but they were a big group and it was a little too crowded, and I figured I’d just stay slightly behind them.  And besides, they were ahead of schedule, I thought.

I had originally planned a GU and Powerade fueling point at ~Mile 17.5, but decided to just have Powerade, as I convinced myself that I couldn’t swallow another GU at that point.  I had done the same thing at the Frederick Marathon, pretty much.  And, in that one I slowed near the end.  :-/ … I told myself I’d GU up at Mile 22, if I felt up to it.

MCM 5K + 1/2 + finish splits

MCM 5K + 1/2 + finish splits

As you can see though, my 30K split wasn’t great, but then again, it wasn’t horrendous, yet.  I believe I took more Powerade at the water point just before Mile 20 or so.  I was anxious to get to that magical Mile 20, even though I didn’t have that extra gear that I wished to use when I got there.

A cool thing happened on the bridge, after Mile 20.  I came up on a runner that I knew, but had never physically met.  I would recognize this runner as Paul S., one of my DailyMile buddies.  He had posted race pics of himself on DailyMile, so it was easy to spot him.  But, finding 1 out of 20,000+ runners is pretty rare, especially while running.  I just happened to be picking my pace up slightly during a small section of the bridge and saw Paul and nonchalantly said “Hey, Paul” as I matched his pace next to him.  He hesitated a little bit, but quickly figured out that the blue doo-ragged dude was me.  We did a quick handshake and we both agreed that we were struggling/hurting a bit.

Paul and I crossed the 35K timing mat at the exact same time, as we were running side-by-side.  I guess we never heard of drafting.  :-/  Anyhow, maybe running with Paul helped me get some time back as my 35K split suggests.  At this point in the race though, I just thought if I could just hang on and run the remainder with Paul, that all would be good.  My BQ time of < 3:16 was looking pretty good, though not in the bag.  Of course, when you start having these thoughts, you know you’re in for a long, iffy finish.  I don’t remember talking too much to Paul.  In fact, we were pretty quiet for most of the time.

Feeling the struggle, I decided to down my 4th and overdue Orange GU at Mile 22, but I can’t remember how much of it I got.  I was slowly losing it, physically and mentally.  However, Paul and I both remember that fragrant beer smell on the way up to the Mile 23 turnaround.  And, I remember smelling it also on the way back of the out-and-back.

Somewhere between Miles 23 and 24, Paul kicked into another gear and I couldn’t match him.  I was rapidly approaching a point of no return.  I was bonking big time.  I can barely remember the 2 times I bumped into the reaching arms of the Marines at the water point just before Mile 24.  Finally, I got a cup of whatever with the 3rd guy reaching out.

I don’t remember a whole lot in the last 5K of the race, except that I figured out that I could keep from walking by leaning my head back, closing my eyes and just keep my feet pedaling somewhat.  Yeah, that’s not good.  When I let my head drift forward, I would near a walking speed it seemed, as I hunched over.

The last mile and .2 seemed to be the longest part of the day.  I was completely out of it.  All I can remember there was hoping that the end was near, and was pleasantly surprised to see that the MCM had eliminated a small out-and-back from 2007 that went slightly beyond (and back to) the Iwo Jima Memorial driveway.  Knowing that I was only a tiny climb away from being done was such a huge relief.

Crossing the MCM finishing wasn’t a joyous occasion once again.  I was doing a duck-like jog/walk coming to the line.  When I crossed the final timing mat in 3:20:12, my first thought was to go to the ground to rest.  Of course, I was then hauled over to the side to be looked at.  I was OK, but I was very dehydrated, as I quickly downed a Powerade given to me in that area.  I was completed dejected and cussing to myself, just like in 2007.  What the hell happened?…

POST-RACE

I met Paul S. again in the family meet-up area.  Also, his NC neighbor, and another DailyMile friend, Jeff N., showed up too.  We’re kind of like family in that we share our workouts on DailyMile almost daily.  Oh, their real families (wives and kids) showed up too.

Me, Paul S, and Jeff N ... DailyMile!!!

Me, Paul S, and Jeff N ... (from DailyMile)

Us runners hit the beer tent for our 2 free beers, and then we all walked about 10 blocks to an Irish pub/restaurant to get some food and drink.  It was nice to meet up with these cool DailyMilers after such a deflating performance in this race.  I went from feeling very down to quite happy actually.  Nothing like some friends and a slowly nursed Guinness to turn your spirits around.

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?

I think the main ingredient in my failure was my fueling.  I’ve ran 3 marathons this year and I’m definitely not getting enough fluids for the long haul.  I don’t get thirsty when running long, but I guess my body likes to be hydrated.  Go figure.  I need to take sips at all water stops, I guess, while making sure I don’t get bloated on Powerade (or such) in the early stops.  And, with more fluid intake, I also could probably get away with less packets of GU and shift some to later in the race.  I didn’t have a bonk like this in my previous 2 marathons, but I hadn’t expended so much early energy in them either.

My early pace was surely questionable.  We all would like to go out slow, and finish fast.  A negative split would feel great.  But, as I mentioned, I had some training runs where I went out slow and finished with heavy legs, though still getting a negative split.  I had desired to get in a good rhythm early to avoid those heavy legs.  My first 5K splits through 25K suggest a consistent pace of 7:0* was doable.  But, maybe I should’ve done more 7:2* miles in the beginning.  Maybe that would’ve saved something for the end.  I don’t know.  I’m sure others would suggest that 7:4* or above should’ve been my initial pace, but again, some of my training runs turned me off of that.

I think my training was adequate for the time I wanted, but certainly not optimal.  The great thing about DailyMile and Twitter is the advice you can get from other runners.  One suggested that I add more higher mileage easy runs during the week, as I ran a lot of 4, 5 or 6-milers a lot, and then did a long one on the weekend.  My weekly running charts always had a sudden climb at the end of the week.  I definitely need to add more 8, 9, 10-milers to the mix to make my week a little better balanced and get more (quality) weekly mileage built up.  Also, my taper could’ve seen easier runs too.  I could’ve ran my last long run much slower and maybe skip that last uptempo 10-miler too.

There are always things to work on and fix before the next race.  And, my next nearest race is unknown, really.  I do have the HAT Run 50k in March 2010 though.  That’ll keep me busy over the winter.  But, I’d like to pick up another race or two.  I’ll probably find some smaller ones between now and March.

I should be happy with yet another 26.2 PR.  This time by more than 5 minutes (last one was a 3:25:20).  But, I wanted that 2010 BQ bad.  And, thought I’d crush it by 5 minutes or more. Oh well, things don’t always go as planned.  As a consolation prize, I believe I BQ-ed for 2011, since I’ll be 40 for the 2011 race and the qualifying window is typically around 18 mos. or so.  I believe my 2009 MCM results will fall into the B.A.A.’s timeline range of eligible qualifying results.  Eh, that’s fine.  I should be ecstatic with this fact/near-fact.  But, I’m not.  I’m certainly not going to hold back now that I may have qualified.  I still want to run the time I had wanted to run in this race.  I’ll eventually figure the marathon out.  I hope.

andy running