Marathon Route 20: Brookings Marathon – Brookings, SD

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A Tale of An Unintentional Personal Record

For those of you who are unaware, I built up a great deal of consistency with my running by pacing some races last year with a company called Beast Pacing. What does a pacer do? Essentially I put aside any time goals I have for a race and run a consistent pace so that other runners can gauge their running with mine and so hopefully beat a time goal they may have. As a pacer, you usually run at least 15 minutes slower than your usual pace for a half marathon, a half hour slower than your marathon time. This should give you the ability to breath and the ability to talk while you are running to support those around you. I personally find that running that consistent pace leads me to a meditative run, where my breathing is steady and I can elongate my flow (the feeling of running in good form with an elevated feeling).  I feel like I really got it down to a science for the half marathons last year. I have yet to do this with a full marathon.  I have yet to be able to run a consistent pace for a full marathon.  My times per mile can vary by minutes instead of seconds, my first half is almost always faster than my second, and no matter how much I have slowed down, there has been a bleeding of time, a point where my best effort only generates minuscule returns. So, of course, my goal for this race became consistency.

This should have been a fairly easy task. I had a good week of recovery runs, running hills and consistent paces over 3-5 miles.  Brookings Marathon is a flat course.  It is at low elevation. There are no scenic monuments that require a five minute photo opportunity.  I had been warned of the wind.  When it comes into town, it blows strong, and there is no telling what direction it will take, so that was a random factor.  This was their 47th year holding this race, so I was expecting the race support to be a well oiled machine.  Essentially I felt this was a smaller version on next week’s Fargo Marathon.  I was hoping to run a slow, evenly paced race and utilize this experience to build up my foundation for the following week and a new personal record.  Despite the tough-go I had at the trail run in Montana, I felt that marathon and the subsequent support runs built up my strength and endurance and I was ready to harness that power.

Race Review

This is a flat course.  After doing all those many hills on the trails of Montana last week, any hill except the climb at mile 9 seems unimportant.  There are some dips and rises, but overall, if you do any hill training at all, this will be a breeze.  We also lucked out, the wind was either at our back or hitting us at an angle so that I never felt we had significant drag holding us back. The well oiled machine was in full swing and I felt safe and protected at all street crossings.  In fact, the second half of the course was filled with volunteers from the National Guard.  No offense to the many teenagers giving their all in volunteer positions, cars are more apt to pay attention to a military person in full fatigues in the middle of the street than a 70 lbs gal (soaking wet) with a tiny orange flag. Another thing that made this race stand out energy wise was the the intense enthusiasm of the relay racers and their support teams. Every time I ran through a relay transition area, I was greeted with a wall of sound and a roar of support.  So many high fives and low fives that at the first transition point just past the stadium of South Dakota State University, I put out my arms like an airplane crashing into a tropical jungle and the love continued for 80-100 yards. Again at mile 9, at the only real hill on the course, relayers and support were chanting in a rhythm that for my pace made it very easy to power up and over the hill.  Since I’m slower, the pure volume of support diminished since teams were further ahead and moving to support their faster runners, but it was an amazing wave of support.  Water stations were also well manned, organized, and helpful in every way possible. Right around the half marathon mark, you do run on a gravel road but it can’t be much more than a mile.  However, I did get some stones in my shoe, so you may want to consider wearing guards on your running shoes.The neighborhoods and bike trails you are running on for the a good 8 miles from miles 14 to almost 22 are flat and well paved.  You start to see the dips just before mile 22, running down into an underpass and back up the second largest hill right on the other side of that.  The next three dips are all through some very cool rifle barrel strafed viaducts that cut under roads in miles 23 and 24 but there can’t be more than 4 of them. The final stretch brings you back to where you started, Pioneer Park, where members of the National Guard were hanging our finishing medals around our neck.  The Finish Line Party was great with ample food and beverage supplies even for us slower runners and the icing on the cake was a bag of freshly made to order burgers from local mainstay, Nick’s Hamburger Shop.  All in all, a fantastic day running.

Lessons Learned

Even A Small, Smooth Pebble Can Rip You Apart

Remember how I mentioned that gravel road?  I got some small stones in my shoe, but after a few moment of running they had settled and were quite comfortable.  After ten minutes, it was like they weren’t even there. Unfortunately, after another two hours, I not only knew they were there, but I also realized the impact they had on my foot.  There was now a huge bubble on the bottom of my right foot and I could feel it bounce with every footfall. In the last mile when I was desperately trying to make each step count, I felt that bubble pop and the stones had a field day like the chain from a chainsaw tearing up my foot.  Next time, i know it will be better to take the extra minute and clear the pebble one I get back to a paved area.

Be Firm With Your Goals, Flexible How You Get There

The goal this year is always finish a marathon each week in each state. Today I set my mind on running smoothly and evenly at a comfortable pace. For the first 4 miles that averaged around 10:30 pace.  I was a little concerned at that point that I was running too fast, but then I ran the next mile under 10! I thought I need to get it together and slow down and even out.  The next 4 miles I averaged 10:40!  Miles 10, 11, and 12 I tried to slow down my breathing and run smooth.  I finally moved into the 11:30 average for those miles.  Unfortunately around that time, the 4:45 pacer caught up with me. From this point I played leap frog with her group for about a half mile, but I could longer keep up.  I did spend a little too much time just after the half bemoaning my lack of consistency.  Instead, I should have been focused on regaining that nice easy lope that took me through miles 1-9! There are so many things that can get in the way of your best time, hills, stress, heat, altitude that when the day comes when you are loving the run and running well, that you take the bull by the horns and hold on to the ride.  It was mile 19 that i realized that i may have failed at consistency, but I still had a shot at a new PR and you can see my mileage perk up. If only I could have made that choice 4 miles earlier, I may have broken 5 hours that day. I’ve learned to be flexible when the conditions are poor, now I need to learn to be mentally flexible when the conditions are ideal and my body is ready to fly!

Physical Review

You can see in the picture up above that after my blister popped, the pebbles in my shoe basically flayed my foot, leaving nerves raw and open and screaming at every mild pressure.  I had many questions on what I did to heal so quickly. Firstly, soak the foot in an ice cold foot bath.  Secondly, carefully dry the foot and slather with triple antibiotic ointment and let air dry.  Cover and pad it if you need to walk on it, but keep that to a minimum.  Next day, lukewarm foot bath with Epson salt, followed by an ice cold foot bath.  More triple antibiotic.  By the third day I had a layer of new skin.  By day four I could walk on it without discomfort. On the sixth day, I ran another marathon.  I did have a little bit of an issue with my right hip again but stretching through the week helped straighten it out. So mentally I was torn between screwing up my consistency goal and counterbalancing that by the thrill of a new PR. 5:12:38!  If you are running consistently and you are interested in pacing with Beast Pacing, running for free, helping others meet their goals, and running with the most amazing pacers around, please let me know and I will gladly put you in touch with the amazing Vanessa Kline who took a chance on me and initiated me into my Pacer Family.  Until next week, I am ever so grateful for your support.  Let me know what you think in the comments.  if there’s something about these races, some element i am missing that you would like to hear me comment on, please let me know.  After this race, we will see if I am able to hit my new goal of a marathon under 5 hours in Fargo, North Dakota!

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Halfway There!

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25 marathon distances completed in 25 weeks! During training I quailed at 3. After the first one in Florida, I questioned whether or not I could do another.  Yet week after week, I have continued to exceed that initial expectation. There were many who doubted or expected me to fail in this quest, deservedly so, because I was not always sure that this was an achievable goal. Yet here I am, almost 6 months down the line, having conquered the west and parts of the south.  There is still a long path ahead of me.  An extremely hot summer is starting to rear its ugly head. Many of my big, “destination” races are behind me.  But I think now is a great time to summarize my accomplishments and my challenges in order to approach the second half of my quest with fresh eyes if not fresh legs.

Miles Run

I have run more miles this year in six months than I have run in any two years previously. 838 miles this year.  655 miles in marathons routes. 183 miles in support miles.  It is tough to be disappointed in those numbers. Of course, I am.  My goal is 12-15 support miles through the week and had I hit that goal, my total miles for the year should be over 1000.  I have some good reasons for this.  I need to judge the wear and tear on my body as a day to day operation.  Although physical stresses have been at a minimum comparatively speaking, there have been days when running on damaged feet, legs, knees,hips may have been detrimental to the prime directive – a marathon a week in a different state.

Side Quests

I have been able to complete a number of side quests this year falling into three categories: 1. Running in State and National Parks 2. Volunteering at local races 3. Joining group and social runs. Some states I hit the trifecta and completed all three side quests.  Other states I failed to complete even one.  Partially, the same physical conditions that limited my miles in a week also limited my participation in local runs.  The other major factor was traveling logistics.  In some cases, I would get into town the day after a social run or on race weekend, my marathon fell on the day when other organizations planned their runs, if there were even any local races. There were also weeks that after running a marathon on Saturday, I did not have the energy to volunteer at a race on Sunday.  You can be sure this makes me very hesitant to sign up for a weekend Marathon double header.

Sponsors

Although I haven’t had a company offer to pick up any race entries or traveling expenses, I have become an ambassador for two great companies: Salming and Spandits.  Salming is a fantastic international sporting company with a focus on shoes, equipment and apparel and Spandits is a wonderful company from my home state of Maine focussing on quality spandex apparel. As an ambassador, I am not a paid employee, more an enthusiastic fan dedicated to spreading the word about their phenomenal companies.  In return I receive product and discounts based upon referrals I make.  The more referrals I make, the more product and discounts I earn.  If you are considering trying either of these great companies, I have discounts to offer that benefit both you and me.  Please visit my Ambassador page to request current codes and current discounts.

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20% Discount. Submit Request on Ambassador Page

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10% Discount. Submit Request on Ambassador Page.

I would also like to take the time to thank a number of people who have contributed to my emergency fund. I do have a page set up through Crowdrise. that was designed to alleviate any unforeseen costs or situations that should arise.  Although, I have dipped into that account on a couple of occasions, that has not exceeded funds I had already earmarked and set aside.  So instead I have be using those funds to purchase additional race entries for the rest of the year. Starting with this week’s race in Iowa, you will start seeing shout outs to people who contributed to that site and made these extra races possible.  You can still contribute on my Sponsors page or
Click here for a direct link ——> GloboRun’s Crowdrise Funding Site

Interviews

The first interview was recorded before I started my trip but released in late February. Super Joe Pardo has made it a mission to help others make their dreams a reality and he has a great interview style. From what many of my friends have said, my interview begins at 25:01.

Super Joe Pardo’s Dreamers Webcast with Derek Zardus

The second interview was recorded just before my 8th marathon with an old friend, Chris Day.  Chris has been a passionate follower of inspirational stories that remind us that people are doing amazing things in our world, everyday. I was flattered and maybe a little embarresssed to be included in such illustrious company. I believe it was not only made available online but also on the radio in a couple markets. Released the beginning of March.

Writing
At times I have been overwhelmed with the logistics of traveling and aligning my many directives with my schedule. Due to Internet and data access issues, writing has been one of the first things to drop. I’ve kept somewhat consistent with the marathon route reviews (by which I mean I am only 5 marathons behind). Expect at least 2 posts a week moving forward, both catching up with the marathons and writing about my experiences on my side quests. I should also soon have a mini book on preparing for a personal marathon.

Thank you so much for following along on my journey. Constant words of support and care are delivered online, on the phone, and in person everyday. You can follow me on Facebook by name, though I also post many of the unfiltered and unfocused photos at GloboRun’s Facebook page. Also I am on Instagram as @derekzardus and Twitter as @globorun. If you haven’t already, sign up to get my updates via mail on the side of this page. Thanks again and we’ll see you later this week.

Marathon Route 19: Two Bears Marathon – Whitefish, Montana

 

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There is a classic running meme that shows a ferocious bear running down a road towards the camera and the caption reads “Not A Runner? Now You Are”. Imagine TWO bears. To toot my own horn, I haven’t lacked in the motivation department. I have stated on more than one occasion that I hate trail running.  This is categorically false. I actually love running on trails and the natural beauty contained therein but because I am not quite strong enough or tempered enough or experienced enough, this feeling of euphoria is usually short lived.  It is then replaced with feelings of pain, weakness, nausea, and impotence – thus why I think and say I hate trails. What I do on the trail quite often can’t be compared to running or hiking or even walking with a near fatal wound. A disheartened crawl best describes my movements on the trail, but I am determined to change that. I’ve got motivation to spare. So it was with gusto and idealistic intent that I chose to run the route of the Two Bear Marathon in Whitefish, Montana.

Reading and researching this marathon, I knew it would be tough. Firstly, there was a time limit on the official marathon of 5 hours and 30 minutes. Since I was running this as one of my unsupported training marathons, I didn’t need to worry about being taken off the course or spending money on a race that wouldn’t be counted or lists me as a DNF (Did Not Finish). The previous week I had finished a slightly hilly road race in that maximum time; I knew that the terrain and the steeper inclines on these mountains would add significant time to my run. The first half of the run would be wild and crazy, but essentially the second half (the second bear) would be steep at times, but it would be paved, so I would have firmer footing when I was most tired. Secondly, there were vastly more hills, with much greater inclines than I had previously encountered. On the website, the race directors joke that the net elevation is a loss of 229 ft, but the total elevation gain when totaling all the hills is 4,600 ft. Thirdly, I am a klutz and I have problems on roads or open fields keeping my feet under me.  The variety of surfaces and course material, gravels, pebbles, mud, dirt, and pavement, were going to hurt.  The pavement would eventually give my feet a little rest, but I had 15 miles of rocks to get through first.  This is a course that the race directors can’t get officially certified because the trail portion is too rugged. I wanted a challenge, I’m getting a challenge.  Please do not ask me why I do the crazy things that I do.

Course Review

It is at this point that I feel the need to confess – I did not finish this course.  I ran a marathon distance, but I did not finish the course as laid out by the race directors. I have had small discrepancies before on maps, areas I could not get permission to enter, wrong turns that linked up to the main trail, or questions determining exactly where the start or finish line is laid out, but considering this is a whole half marathon, I do not feel that this is something I can sweep under the carpet to clean up while guests are in the house.  The fact of the matter is that once again, on trails which were not clearly marked, I did not try to contact the RDs to determine whether or not the trail was accessible during non-qualifying times.  The race starts on the Lion Mountain Trailhead of the Whitefish Trail System, but to get to Delrey Rd. and East Lakeshore Dr.,  there a connecting jeep road that connects the trails system to the paved road – and I could not find it to save my life. The race leaves the trail and runs along one of the Beaver Lease dirt roads for approximately 1.7 miles where you should see that jeep trail, yet after running back and forth for about 2 extra miles, I eventually had a decision to make.  What I wanted to do wasn’t even an option; I could not continue the route.  So it was either follow the dirt roads to a paved road and hitch a ride back to my car or retrace the path that bought me here, effectively running the most difficult portion of the race a second time.  Knowing my ambition and my stupidity know no bounds, of course I chose that latter course.

Having run the first bear twice, in some cases an inch at a time, I do feel I got to know that portion of the trails system intimately. The race route starts off on wider trails designed for family and education purposes but then literally narrows to its purpose. There are a variety of little loops built into these first miles, most which lead to promontaries with stunning views of the surrounding mountains. After some rolling hills to get the juices flowing, you get a very fast downhill alongside gorgeous rock face that is featured prominently on the race’s marketing material. After that the trail winds through state and private property with lushly decorated, tightly cut switchbacks and inclines for another couple miles. There is a small mile and half break as you do a loop on one of the dirt and pebble country roads, before it’s back into the woods for more of the old up and down. It was gorgeous running these trails in the spring with a panoply of greens around and above you, I can only imagine the majesty of running the course in the fall with a variety of colors to catch the eyes. Also, running is the spring, part of the trail runs through a small crick that probably doesn’t flow in the fall. I reached the half mark in good spirits because as tough as the course was and even knowing that the toughest hill climb is at mile 14.5 I just kept thinking “Just make it to the road. Smooth running once you hit the road.” Except I couldn’t get to the road. It’s why my first instinct was to double back on the road. It had become my beacon. Tired and disheartened, I still had enough moxie to turn around and “run” the trail back to the start. You can see where I took some short cuts to make up for my extra search and rescue miles. I was exhausted and in pain and angry and disappointed in myself. Three and a half hours for the first half, over four and a half to get back to the start. The longest time I have ever kept moving.

Lessons Learned
Contact The Race Director
Can I really say I learned it this time? I have written this lesson so many times, I feel like Bart Simpson at the chalkboard during The Simpson’s show opening. I will contact the race directors. I will contact the race directors. I will…

Plan For The Worst
I was unprepared for a number of scenarios and that became a little scary. I did not have enough water for over 8 hours of activity. I had no plan if I got lost (flares, head lamp, non electronic compass). No bear spray (though I had been told by locals that it probably wouldn’t help). When doing trail races, I will need to come up with some alternative items to add to my prep list.

Physical Review

After about 8.5 hours on the trail, I was hurting pretty bad mentally and physically. Many of my running friends wax on and on about how running on trails keeps their legs feeling fresh and bouncy.  Not so much for me.  The first thing that hurts is my feet.  Running and striking the different rocks and roots and pebbles and stone daggers and hatchets makes my feet feel like I have been tortured for state secrets by a pro. Around mile 18 my left knee was sore every time I climbed a hill and by mile 20, my right hip would protest if I swung it to far or placed too much weight on it. After the run, I went to one of the local parks and plunged right into the icy waters of Whitefish lake.  I am so glad for my volcanic blood, because the plunge did so much good for my body.  It is so much easier to walk or jump into a freezing lake, stream, or ocean than watch a bath tub fill up, add a 5lb bag of ice and then slowly ease my sore body into the too small tub.  The knee continued to bother me through the night and I did ice it the next day.  Later, I did a light two mile test run and everything snapped into place.  Although I ran a marathon distance and have the pleasure of having persevered through the mess and not dropping my streak, this still feels a little too much like failure. Good to know what that feels like so I can move on and attempt another run. My next run is in Brookings, South Dakota and I will be shooting for an easy consistent marathon that will help realign my body and timing and bring back some sense of control.  Thank you as always for your support.  I look forward to your comments and question and hope you will join me next week as I, the Humpty Dumpty of running, get back up and run along the next wall.
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And The Winners Are…

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It is with great pleasure that I can now share this earth shattering news.  I am one of this year’s Salming Ambassadors. This was, by no means an easy feat, and despite the support and help of so many of my friends, family, and colleagues the end result was not guaranteed.  In fact, in the final three days, I went from first place by a hair to second place with Mr. Andrey gaining a phenomenal 350 votes in final voting!  I obviously have a lot to learn from my fellow teammates on how to reach out in the electronic world.  I am fortunate that Salming extended the ambassadorship to others on the leader board who they felt would best represent their brand. Congratulations to all the athletes who entered the contest and made an effort to promote such a phenomenal company.

There are so many people to thank for this opportunity. Firstly, I truly appreciate the way Salming Running North America put this contest together and managed the voting process.  This is an amazing position within their company that they left up to the general public to decide and I appreciate their trust and discretion.  Certainly, I appreciate their support as I finish my quest of 50 marathon routes in 50 states in 50 weeks.  Secondly, I’d like to thank everyone who voted knowing that this is an important step in my future plans in the running world and industry.  Aside from supporting a company I believe really has the best interest of runners at heart, I can hopefully learn more about the industry and how they research, design, and market the footwear that carries us forward on our fleet footed quests. Thirdly, I would like to thank those who went the extra mile to garner me votes.  People reposted my contest link on their Facebook Wall. They harangued husbands, wives, significant others, family, coworkers, and even clients. They regularly asked if there was anything more that could be done to earn extra votes.  I would not have been in a top position if it wasn’t for your very vocal support. Lastly, I would like to thank the folks who didn’t vote, yet also didn’t unfollow me despite my constant pleas for help.  I understand.  It’s against your religion or the email verification process made you nervous, or you don’t believe in contests that appeal to a democratic process.  Despite this, you continued to check in on a daily basis and support me in a myriad of other ways and for that I thank you.

For those of you interested in trying Salming for themselves please either contact me directly, on Facebook, or in the comments below for a 20% off discount code I can offer to friends and family.  I have worn their Miles shoe and it is the most comfortable running shoe I have worn in a while.  I will be getting the newest versions of their most popular running shoes and you can expect detailed reports on the quality and experience that each shoe provides.

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Marathon Route 18: Tacoma Marathon – Tacoma, Washington

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I love when people get creative with their race signs. Power up buttons, political references, offers of high fives, anti Christopher Walken signs (even though you have a 1 in 3 chance of seeing me “Walken”, please keep in mind, the man is a national treasure), sexually explicit signs, funny punny signs, signs that support mothers and sons and sisters and loved ones who are not me – I love them all. More importantly I love the people who carry them. Even if you don’t have a sign, standing on the side of a course and offering your support to runners is an amazing act of compassion. I was blessed to not only receive these random acts of kindness from random strangers like sticking my ego in a cardboard glory hole, but I was also supported at the Tacoma City Marathon by local friends of 15 years and by a special friend who flew all the way across the country bearing race signs designed by loved ones from back home. Add to that a number of runners I had met at other races and online, cheering and motivating me along the course. Truly, I floated through some of this city, buoyed by the support of loved ones, even if some of the spectators were loved for a moment, a glance, or a high five.

I did need all that support. The Tacoma City Marathon is filled with rolling hills – not super steep hills, not hills that endlessly climb towards the heavens, but consistent, up and down, 15 knot winds in a row boat, getting slightly seasick, hills. I feel an special need to point this out because the friend who recommended it to me described it as flat. I am here to tell you this course is not flat. Maybe they were recommending one of the 4 other marathons that take place in the area or they were being facetious and I missed the sarcastic font they used. In any case, I want to be clear and explicit – make sure you don’t skip hill training in the weeks before this race. You will regret it.

Course Review
Nestled between two beautiful National Parks, Tacoma has some beautiful water views and rising mountains to the east and west, great spring time foliage and an ornate downtown. Fortunately a small part of the end of the race takes place on a flat strip leading to a quick, steep, curve before finishing behind the art museum, because the hills in the downtown core are daunting! The race starts at the Tacoma Narrows Airport across the water in Wallochet and gives you a light two mile warm up running back and forth in front of the small commercial landing strip before taking you down to the first major landmark of the race – the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. A good half mile downhill makes it a little easier to run and lineup your photo with Mount Ranier in the background, but just as you get over the perfect cellphone photo opportunity, you’re confronted with the longest and steepest climb of the route. Hold the memory of the bridge crossing firmly in your mind, because 5 through 14 are run through mind-numbingly boring neighborhoods. Certainly, well manicured lawns and pretty tree-lined boulevards are comfortable scenery to run in for most people, but the course bypasses a number of city parks and barely skirts the campus of the University of Puget Sound and runs along the side of the Puget Creek Natural Area. This is also where the bulk of undulating hills are as you travel from one neighborhood to the next. Finally, after a somewhat long climb with the sun bearing down on the back of your neck, the course turns into the shady lushness of Point Defiance Park. Although the hills continue through the park, the benefit of the tree cover can’t be overstated; it was a hot day and running in the park felt 10 to 15 degrees cooler. The second most dramatic climb takes place right after a beautiful view of Puget Sound from the tip of the park and a number of runners were taking an over extended photo opportunity there before climbing that hill. After one more dipity-do in the forest, you have a nice, long, half mile downhill plunge before bursting out in the sunlight. One more neighborhood loop up a slight incline (with a water stations and Portapotties at the top) before you make your way to scenic Ruston Way. Running from miles 20-25 along this gorgeous elongated waterview of Commencement Bay is definitely enough to clear your sinuses of stifling suburbia like taking a seawater Neti Pot to the nose. It was hot, but there was a light breeze blowing in from the bay, almost making it tolerable. Even on this mostly flat expanse the are two hills in the forms of bridges at miles 22 and 25. After that final bridge you run along the city’s beautiful downtown front street past a number of classically inspired museums before entering the final speed chute to the finish line.

Lessons Learned
Running Heros Are Accessible
I finally got to meet the Mayor of Runnerville, Burt Yasso at this marathon. If you have done a certain 800 meter speed training that bears his name, you shouldn’t hate this guy because of it. He is one of the most down to earth people on the planet, taking my awkward interruption at 6 am for a photo op in stride. After running his own half marathon, he went out and was cheering at mile 23 on the course – who does that? Then, not only does he cheer me at the finish line, he spends 5 minutes helping me search for the top of my water bottle (“You know those caps are $10 to replace?”). Politely but definitely, introduce yourself and your story to Burt Yasso. He is a stand up guy.
Popsicles In The Final Miles
If someone offers to support me on the course this summer, I’m not asking for Gatorade, I’m not asking for Smartwater or gels. I’m asking for popscicles. Big, frozen hard, popscicles. A random stranger was handing them out at mile 22. I love her. I really love her. Seriously, if you’ve got a number I may have already bought the ring. It has proven that it is going to be a very hot summer and I think the only way I can make it through is popsicles on the marathon course.

Physical Review
I was feeling pretty strong and on target throughout the beginning of this race. There were pacers for a wide variety of paces, and my goal was to stay ahead of the five-hour pacer. This may have been a bit aggressive considering the heat in the hills, however I was able to stay ahead of the five-hour Pacer all the way through mile 18. Unfortunately, my system started to overheat with that final tiny hill, and I staggered to the finish from there. I was encouraged by my speed and consistency through and past the first half. I did start having some issues with my right knee after mile 21, a feeling that something had popped out of joint. Fortunately, that evening I had the pleasure of have a massage from someone who was very familiar with my body’s quirks and pitfalls and I felt better enough the next day to do a little hiking up at Mt. Ranier. My finishing time was decent at 5:24:53 but a far cry from the under 5:00 finish I was shooting for. A very special thanks to Kelli Palmer for carrying signs from friends (especially Brenda MacDonald) all the way across the country, and cheering me on along the course. As well as Reyes Carranza and Joe Rixman for the big hugs and encouragement before and after the race. Tacoma will always be a special race because of you all. Thank you for reading my review and I hope you’ll join me on my next installment as I run a trail race in scenic Montana – the Two Bear Marathon in Whitefish, Montana. As always I look forward to your comments, questions, and discussions.

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Marathon Route 17: Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon – Anchorage, AK

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There are still places on this planet that inspire the adventurer in us, that call to the intrepid desire to discover and explore, that push us to test our limits and test the mettle from which we are forged.  Alaska is one such place, where ice fields are surrounded by imposing mountains, where dangers still lurk for the unprepared: avalanches and polar bears and ice caves and melting glaciers and icebergs and a sun that never sets and messes with your internal clock so you don’t know if you are in a dream when you fall and hope that you wake when you hit the ground.  The great thing about being in Anchorage is you are only 20-30 minutes away from Alaska.  I heard five or six different variations on that joke before I got to Anchorage; the idea being that in the “big city” you don’t get the same flavor of isolation nor the far flung outpost feel of the smaller towns and villages.  This is a city that has one of the remaining Blockbuster Video stores and they still carry VHS. To me this is equivalent to time travel and technological backwardness almost equivalent to 8 track tape players.   Yet I did feel Alaska looming around me as the snow peaked mountains of Chugach State Park surrounded us, Mount McKinley floating in the distance on the clearest of days.  Where I’m from in Maine, you need to set about a purposeful trek to find moose, whereas here in Anchorage I came across three, two in my car, one on a running trail as I was running the route of The Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon.  There is an air in Alaska that calls for boldness and strength and tempering and I was eager to put myself to the test.

Course  Review

Although this is a city marathon, you do not see much if any of the city, certainly none of the downtown core except at the very end and then only a smidge over the buildings that surround Delaney Park. Starting at Bartlett High School you get a little bit of strip mall ambiance before you head out on the highway pointed directly at the mountains and the rising sun (even if the day is overcast, I suggest wearing sunglasses if there is still snow on the mountain because it seems to amplify the brightness).  The first five miles are mostly flat except crossing over the highway.  After you cross over, you start seeing warning signs about being on the base.  If you are the type that likes to run parts of the route before the race, you will want to stop by the base and pick up a recreational pass.  It is very easy to obtain, you do not need a military sponsor as you do for other parts of the base, and they should inform you if any tests are being conducted at the missile or gun ranges that the course cuts through.  You enter the back trails of the base just before mile 7 and run though their back roads and training courses until mile 14. Most of these roads are hard pack gravel roads so watch your footing. Keep you eyes open for some of the most interesting scenery along this route.  Aside from your closest opportunities for mountain photos mile eight is where I came nose to nose with a moose.  Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, the moose burst onto the road from the forest about 50 yards ahead of me and stood glaring at me in the middle of the road.  I froze thinking for a moment that the moose intended to play chicken with me to defend its territory.  Fortunately, it shook it’s head dismissively and trotted off to the other side of the road at which point I got some blurry, sasquatchesque, grainy photos that make you question if I saw any beast at all. Miles 10 through 13 you run through some different training courses, so it was a little odd at first to see a mosque and some desert huts through the pine trees as well as some heavily defensive guard posts with bridges and turrets.

As you enter the last mile of the base and the beginning of the Far North Bicentennial Park you encounter the hilliest section of the course. It is not so much the altitude or the length of the hills, but the steepness that should give you some pause.  Although these hills are no more than 100 to 200 yards in length,  the angle of ascent was abrupt and hurt my knees as I tried to climb them quickly. Also, as you are on the trails in the park, be careful if there was rain recently, as the trails were quite slick, especially as you descend the mountain back towards the roads. Miles 18 -20 take you along some industrial/city areas, but from mile 20 to mile 25 you start running through an emerald necklace of city parks that take you to the coast. Most of the trails run along Chester Creek so you have a lovely calm burbling brook tempo matching your tired footfalls, but the woods surrounding you should keep you cool as the sun warms up the end of your marathon.  Keep a little bit of gas in your tank for one final hill as you run through neighborhoods from the sea to Delaney Park and you have just finished this fun and scenic course.

Lessons Learned:

Local Support:

I try to reach out to locals in each city and drum up support for my run.  Some folks want to be part of it some don’t.  I was very fortunate that my host family was very excited to be a part of my journey.  Not only did they drive me to the start line at an ungodly hour for a Sunday morning, but they also roused the household so that the whole family was on the street cheering for me at mile 18 and they erected a finish line for me at Delaney Park and met me with bananas and electrolytes and cheers and hugs. I really can’t thank Red and Pyro enough for their care and friendship. I need to learn how to generate that kind of excitement in each of my host families and see if I can continue that into the communities. I also was able to get a ton of tips from a young lady who works at Skinny Raven, the amazing running stores in Downtown Anchorage.

Sunglasses Even On Overcast Days:

Even though most of the day was overcast, it seemed incredibly bright to me and I was squinting through most of the course.  By the end of the run I had a wicked headache that only subsided when I got into the car and eventually into the cool darkness back at the house. I need to remember that clouds don’t block UV rays and that’s what damages eyes. Bring sunglasses to each marathon.

Physical Review:

This was a tough race for me and I have no excuses.  It was mostly flat.  It wasn’t high altitude. It was a nice cool day. I started off in fine form, but over the miles, every little ache came to a fore – my feet, ankles, knees, hips, and lower back all took turns pestering me.  I had raced hard my last two marathons with a racing PR and a solo PR and my body wasn’t having any kind of speed workout that day. My finish time was 5:55:39 – not a stellar time, not a bad time, just certainly not a time to which I have grown accustomed.  I need to admit that putting up these miles on a consistent basis might be making me stronger but I also need to continue to rest and allow my body to recuperate throughout the week. I’m hoping that the reserved energy is being saved up for the big race in Tacoma, Washington next week where I have a lot of support, a 5 hour pacer, and beautiful weather.  Thanks as always for your attention and your support and I look forward to your comments and questions.

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