Marathon Route #26: Run4Troops Marathon – Dubuque, IA

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The Black Flag – The last thing a slow runner, any runner, wants to see during a race. “Extreme and Dangerous Conditions”, the Black Flag usually also denotes the cessation of the race as it did at the 2016 Vermont City Marathon (though not at 2016 Grandma’s Marathon, held a week earlier). This year, the majority of Black Flags and those mentioned above have been flown for excessive heat. After 103 degree temperatures the week before when I unofficially ran the route of the Prairie Fire Marathon in Wichita, Kansas, I was not looking forward to running in such oppressive temperatures again. What would have been more frustrating would have been running for 4-6 hours only to be told that the race would not count due to cancellation. I brought these concerns to the Race Director of the Run4Troops Marathon in Dubuque, Iowa and she did not let me down.

Race Review

I want to start off by giving Race Director, Connie Hodge and her entire team a standing ovation for a job well done. She was at packet pickup the day before the race, enthusiastically greeting and conversing with runners and relay team captains and took the time to listen to my concerns about the heat and the possibility that the race could be cancelled. She reassured me that her team was already looking at additional ways of supporting the runners and ensuring a safe and enjoyable race. As a self proclaimed “military style” marathon, their website talks us about being prepared as runners since they would be providing limited support. However, her team went from 6 water stations noted on the course map to over 16 water stations on the trail. What an amazing show of support by local volunteers mustering to help. Not only was there additional water – it was COLD! Only at one of the water stations did I get “tepid” water. Many stations also had ice despite the heat. Truly, this was an amazing feat not really duplicated at other summer races I ran. This was also, by far, the best reception I have ever received from volunteers after crossing the the finish line. As a back of the pack runner, sometimes I consider it lucky at smaller races for somebody to even acknowledge my accomplishment. As soon as I crossed, multiple volunteers converged on me, removing my timing bracelet and placing a medal around my neck, placing ice bags on my head and neck, covering my shoulders with ice soaked towels, offering me cold water or electrolytes. I have never felt so appreciated and cared for as I did that day.

The course itself is a little on the boring side. You are essentially running a local trail from Dyersville to Dubuque in Iowa with exactly the sort of scenery you would expect to see – cornfields and forest. There are buses to get to the start line and from the finish line back to your car. You start at the Trailhead of the Heritage Trail in Dyersville.  You run along a paved road for a loop of a little over .75 of a mile before getting on the trail and heading down to Dubuque. After that you have a slight uphill climb for about 3 to 4 miles, this is also where you are most exposed to the sun as you run along lush corn fields. It is nice on a hot day to get those out of the way early in the day.Most of the rest of the race is set at a slight down hill where the only struggle appears at street crossings where the trail might sharply crest to meet the road and then drop back down to its previous level. There are some scenic little bridges that span the cricks and creeks and left over ruins from the days when the trains passed by with more local fare, but for the most part, this is a trail which invites introspection as you monitor your body and how it handles the heat of the day and the humidity that streams off of the trees. Although this is a trail, this is mostly like running on narrow, well packed, dirt road. Even when there is gravels, it is light, little stones that are comfortable to run on.

Lessons Learned

Earphones Block Out Sounds That Aren’t Only Dangerous to You:

About 8 miles in I came across a young lady who seemed to be really struggling.  What I first noticed was that her breathing was ragged and erratic, something I wouldn’t have noticed if I had had my earphones in. She was also weaving a bit and looked physically distressed, but otherwise looked kitted and physically prepared as a runner.  Turns out she had run the race twice before and approached the heat a little over confidently for the day’s heat.  She had a Camelback on but hadn’t really been drinking from it and hadn’t been taking advantage of the cold water at the rest stops.  I was glad that we started talking because when I started my walk cycle, she asked if she could join me.  I offered her cold water from my belt to pour on her head, and talked about fueling at the water stations. I’d like to think I saved her from a really bad afternoon after I heard her unspoken call for help.

Sweat Is The Same As Rain To My Shorts

I use BodyGlide for chaffing. I sweat throughout most races, but I feel like I have found the right balance for most races. On days like this, I sweat twice as much and I pour water on my head and neck to cool myself off. That liquid makes its way down to my shorts and washes away my lubrication.  I need to bring my own petroleum jelly on hot days like I do in the rain.  Even with support, I can’t count on even the medical stops to have lube – by the time I got to the medical tent they were out.  Another important tool in the utility belt.

Physical Review

Feeling pretty strong after trudging through two weeks of massive heat.  I had already taken the precaution of changing up my summer map by dodging north and south through the Midwest races, so I was looking forward to some cooler temperatures in Minnesota the next week.  The ice baths that I recently started doing were good for my muscles and joints and had the added benefit of cooling my system down and improving my circulation. My finishing time of 6:06:13 was only a little disappointing.  Once again, I felt strong in miles 20-24, but my pace didn’t match the positivity of my outlook. I was feeling my oats around mile 22 and passed a number of people slowing down at that point, but those final two miles were dense with a jungle like heat.  I feel like many of the lessons from the previous week got me through this course and I look forward to finishing such a race faster in the future.  Thanks again for following these posts, intrepid reader.  Next week I will writing about my greatest challenge of the year both mentally and physically.  I hope you’ll join me.  In the meantime, I always welcome your comments and questions.

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Marathon Route #25: Prairie Fire Marathon – Witchita, KS

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Halfway Done! Halfway Done! This run marked the halfway point for my entire quest – I wanted a tickertape parade, dancing in the streets, and fireboats shooting streams of water.  Seriously, I really wanted those fireboats on the river hitting me with full force fire hose spray – it was hot! Runners attempting the official Prairie Fire Marathon will do so almost four months down the road in the second week of October when average highs are around 72 degrees and lows are around 51 degrees.  By comparison, I stepped out of the house at 4:15 am and it was 86 degrees.  It was roughly around 94 degrees when I finished.  This was not including the humidity index which made the real feel around 102! Although I didn’t have anybody running the course with me, I did have a great deal of support from the folks at First Gear Running Company and the organizers of the Praire Fire Marathon.  On Saturday morning, I ran with a group heading out for their first training run for the marathon.  These amazing runners were kind enough to slow down so I could run with them and talk about my quest and they were full of tips about the course and the heat.  At the end of the group run, one of the volunteers with Praire Fire came over, asked me some questions, took my picture, and connected me with the organizers so I left with some amazing swag including a great beach towel and very fancy flame colored racing sleeves (which I will probably not wear until October, but they do look sweet). She also gave me her number for emergencies and her and her son checked in on me during my run to make sure I didn’t pass out, while they were going for their Sunday 10 mile long run. Overall, thanks to the gorgeous last third of this course and the hospitality I receive from this city, I’m really looking forward to officially running this race in the future.

Course Review:

This was one of the hottest days of the summer so I started at 4am. I truly hate starting to run so early. My body doesn’t really feel like it’s woken up. The first hour to two hours which are usually my best running times feel like I am running completely immersed in water. This feeling was exasperated by the high humidity. Leaving the house in the morning it was already 85 with a real feel of 92 degrees. It didn’t get as hot as it was supposed to but I can tell you 94 with a real feel of 101 degrees at 11 am is pretty tough stuff to slog through. I mention this because I didn’t really see the sun until mile 10.

If you have run this course before, there have been some subtle changes to the course. There is a new out and back  along Grove St. that allowed them to cut some chafe in one of the more industrial areas around mile 17. This also allows you more time along the river and in some of the pretier parks. This is one of the flattest courses I have runn all year, with only minor grades and isolatef hill areas. The beginning of the course starts you off with a beautiful view of downtown. You start at the newer WaterWalk area and cross back and forth over the Arkansas river on Lewis St. and then onto Douglas Ave. You run down the main thoroughfare of downtown, past all the high rises and under the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Train line. Around mile 4.5, you leave behind the main artery and start running through nice neighborhoods with the slightest of hills along College Hill Park and Cypress Park. The highlight for me of the first third of this course is along Hampton Rd. and Lakeside Blvd. The homes are nice in this area, but the park that’s been carved between these two streets with its bronze statues and cute little bridges spanning the water way is a great moment for a photo opportunity amidst some mundane neighborhoods.

The next five miles heading towards the halfway point are a bit of suburban khaki, somewhat blah and non descript as you run along outer city streets and neighborhoods, the highlight being a little trail area tucked in around mile 10-11. Surrounded by condos and cookie cutter houses, someone has taken the time and effort to carve out a little enchanting walkway connecting two neighborhoods with decorative trees and flowering shrubs. The mile around the half marathon mark feels a little strip mallish, but within a mile and a half, you are running along the nicely shaded beautiful neighborhoods of 2nd St. As you near the end of the second third of the marathon you get some glimpses of the beautiful brickwork of the revamped Old Town, where some amazing businesses are revitalizing older buildings. The last third of this course is where the scenic tourist views are, so if you have support during the race, you want to make sure they capture you going over one of the Little Arkansas or its big brother and running through one of these final parks. Riverside Park is gorgeous and a bit more accessible to some pretty views than later on by the Botanical Gardens. There are some large noteworthy sculptures by the art museum. The final 5K along the Arkansas River is very tranquil. I loved the sound of the river gently flowing along. One more time crossing over the first bridge and you cross the finish line.

Lessons Learned:

Heat Is Bad, Humidity Is Worse:

This is by far the hottest day I have ever run any distance, much less a marathon. I got some great tips from Marathon Maniacs. I froze the water in the containers on my belt and but two large frozen bars of water in my Camelback.I wore all white.I wore a large brimmed hat (but I need one with a brim all the way around). All the businesses were fine with me stopping in for refills. I did salt tablets. I carried a sweat towel and utilized it as cover for the back of my neck after soaking it in some cold water. There were some other great ideas that I will save for races with some more personal support. The heat itself was not insurmountable. What really drained me was the humidity. It had rained the night before and instead of helping, it just covered everything in water. When the sun did come out, it became a sauna. Especially after 9am, the sun was really beating down and as I was trying to stay in the shade, the trees would radiate dense steam clouds that just robbed the energy from my limbs. I do envy the runners attempting this race in the fall.

Do Not Use A Slushy To Cool Down:

Even with all the added preparation, my body was really beginning to overheat by mile 18 so I stopped at a gas station and got a Slushy to cool down from the inside out. Earlier in the year, a popsicle had really saved my overheated button in Tacoma. The Slushy had 2 downsides. 1. It had a ton more sugar than the popscicle, so although it did give me a boost, I came crashing down hard a couple miles later. The was also a lot more citric acid and it soured my stomach most of the last hour and a half. This was a suggestion from a supporter and I must say for me, it did not work.

 Physical Review:
  

After a week of intense healing on my feet from running in Revel Rockies, the blisters had healed enough for me the run in Wichita (I’d like to thank Epson salts and Gold Bond foot lotion for that). During the race, every injury I had sustained over the previous 6 months stopped by for a visit, but as I took in water and electrolytes most of the severe aches went away. The largest issue was the draining of energy from the humidity. It became a real challenge to keep going after mile 21 and I was was particularly awash in it around the Botanical Gardens.  Fortunately there was a little breeze along the river, so occasionally relief blew in and quickly blew out. This was my longest street run by far, clocking in at 7:12:02. This was also the first city I started with full ice baths for my lower torso and not only did it refresh my body from the crushing exhaustion, it also made walking the next day much easier than in te past. This will become a regular habit for me.

The heat of this course has helped me make some clear decisions for the summer. The day after this marathon, I rearranged my schedule so that I bounce up and down through the midwest, hopefully giving myself a break every other week or so by going north after a more southern and heated marathon route. It will mean a little more driving, but hopefully it will break up what looks like a dreadfully hot summer. Next week I continue in the center of the nation with an official race in Iowa – Run4Troops. Thank you for reading my journey and as always, I look forward to your comments and questions.

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Marathon Route #24: Revel Rockies – Denver, CO

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How do you feel when someone says “It’s all downhill from here!”? Are you elated, thinking about the wind blowing in your face as you effortlessly build momentum and speed or or are you dejected thinking about having just reached a peak and entropy starts to set in as things fall apart and strength begins to wither? An annoying phase that can be used either way and even more difficult to discern when most of your friends are fluent in Sarcasm. I can say this race was a bit of a mixed bag for me including elements of both; smooth, fast, downhill running and a degradation of current levels of strength. Also Revel Rockies is a stunningly gorgeous run!

The Revel Race Series sums up their races in two words – fast and beautiful.  The claim to speed comes from the fact that all of their races are downhill races.  They find a high scenic mountain and you run down it.  Course goals achieved!  This is definitely one of the most consistently beautiful courses I have run. As an organization, they have had some issues in the past with logistics which made me leery, but they seemed to all have been worked out and I had a great race experience. Parking was clear and plentiful, buses were well marked and ran on time, water stations were stocked and stationed by enthusiastic volunteers.  The expo was a little on the lackluster side but that just may be because I wasn’t interested in what the vendors were selling. Logistically, I only had two little problems.  Firstly, as a slow runner, as I was enjoying the finish line festivities I was disappointed to be told that the final buses back to the parking lot were leaving so quickly after I finished. The runner’s guide made it sound like buses would be transporting throughout the day and I would have appreciated a little more time. The buses were quite a ways from the finish line and could have been signed better.  Secondly, the drop bag area was quite far from the finish line and in the opposite direction of the transport busses. These were far out weighed by some of the little niceties that were arranged – excellent sports massages, frozen yogurt, icy cold towels when you crossed the finish line, a great bluegrass band playing in the park, and my favorite race perk – free photographs.  My only complaint is that with so many scenic opportunities, it would be great if they had one photographer stationed in a Runner’s World Rave Runs location.  By design, all the photos are taken with the runner filling up the photograph, but it would be nice to have just one where we are placed it the context of such monumental scenery.

Course Description:

Revel Rockies site talks a lot about the rigors of downhill running.  They offer many tips and corrections for common mistakes and also offer a full training program with an online coach for around $150.  I must admit that I didn’t have much opportunity to do sustained downhill training and I would recommend that for anyone attempting their races.  However, something that is not mentioned is the altitude you need to contend with.  Starting at 10,500 ft, Revel Rockies is the highest starting point in their current roster and even with a 4,700 ft Net Drop, you are still well above a mile high. Do not think that the downhill momentum will automatically balance out any issues you may have with altitude if you usually run at sea level or lower altitudes.

You are up early to catch the buses because they do not allow start line drop off at Echo Mountain due to the singularity of the beginning of the race course.  Once you get up that mountain, they close off the road to general traffic for your safety. You start mostly in darkness.  The sky is lightning, but even when it rises, you are more than likely still on the wrong side of the mountain. It is cold.  It gets warmer, but at 10,000 ft the temperature is about 20 degrees cooled than Denver.  Plenty of  people started off running in heavier disposable gear.  I just just had a pullover that I took off and put in my drop bag.  You warm up quickly once the race begins. Some of the most scenic views of the area are in those first couple miles, but it is tough to get a picture due to the variations in light (The background might be bright, but you are in shadow).  Around miles 3, 6, and 8 you have some of the more dramatic drops in altitude and a fairly even downhill run.  They also come right after short spurts of flattening road that seems like it is almost up hill after so much downward momentum. The curves on this part of the course are broader and for the most part, you have the entire road to navigate and ease your descent. Around mile 10, you start to break from the endless pine trees and get some wonderful valley views with a lake and grazing cattle and picturesque peaks encircling you. Between Miles 11 and 12 you enter the most lackluster part of the course, entering more of a commercial district on a double lane highway.  Still some nice views off to your left until you get to the half marathon mark.  At that point you start encountering two or three larger hills interspersed with a few rolling hills for about the next two miles before turning off on to smaller roads running through some nicer residential areas leading to Bear Creek.  Once you turn on Bear Creek Road, you will be overwhelmed by the phenomenal views, no matter how tired you are.  The gushing river even so late in the spring provides a constant feeling of movement as you continue downhill.  The curves are much tighter on this road and traffic was constant in the opposite lane heading up the mountain. The tighter curves mean that much of the road is beveled so my ankles got a real work out constantly running on an angle and my shoes were slipping in ways I was unused to, creating a multitude of blisters in ways I had not yet experienced.  The further down the canyon you run, the richer the colors get as more iron pervades the cliffs and you get more of the rusty hues that Red Rocks Amphitheater is known for.  Once you pass that landmark, you know you are on your home stretch and it is a fairly steep downhill to the finish line.

Lessons Learned:

Curvy Roads Are Rarely Flat

Around mile 12 I noticed that my shoes were loose and and needed to stop, tighten and retie them (not particularly fun to do after running 12 miles).  It didn’t occur to me that this was happening as my shoes were slipping from side to side as I ran on roads that were curved to accommodate tires, not my feet.  I started to feel the blisters around mile 18 and by mile 20 the pain from multiple blisters were a hindrance. I’ve looked up some better ways of lacing your shoes for these occasions and will be better prepared next time.

Utilize the Drop Bag Option

I feel like I really got it right using a drop bag.  Not only did I have breakfast on the way up the mountain, I had a couple clothing options when I got up there, and for the most part was able to run unencumbered. I also had some fresh clothes to change into after the race so I didn’t stink to high hell on the massage table. (it would have been better if the pick up was a little closer to the finish line – hint, hint).

Physical Review:

I was a little worse for wear after this race.  My feet were covered in blisters, many that stretched up the sides of my foot and made even walking uncomfortable, if not painful.  My knees and hips felt the force of the impact in the days that followed and that could have been avoided with perhaps a little more downhill training and attention to form.  I was a little disappointed in my time and this was exasperated by the fact that I had missed that we had a course deadline of 5:40. 5:36:20 was my finish time.  Between some issues in the second half dealing with the altitude and blisters on my feet, I lost all the time I had gained in the first half and ended close to my usual average. This will be my last race with any cool weather for sometime and I was grateful the sun wasn’t harsher until the final hour.  Next week will be a race that plunges me right into the summer heat wave – Wichita, Kansas. I hope you will continue to join me.

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Marathon Route #23: Casper Marathon – Casper, WY

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When you were young, you didn’t notice you were growing. It happens slowly, gradually, it sneaks up on you.  You think, “The washer shrank my favorite jeans” or “My Mom is getting shorter” or “Oh no, the roof is caving in!” At some point, it becomes clear that it isn’t your surroundings which have changed; you have changed. Initially when I finished this marathon I was a little disappointed in myself, but as I stood against the doorframe of my previous races, I was amazed at how much I had grown.

As a benchmark, I looked at my performance when I ran the route of the Albuquerque Duke’s City Marathon. Both Albuquerque and Casper are about a mile high.  The previous week for both races were at mid level altitudes.  It was much warmer in Casper, but the Casper Marathon has what feels like a large downhill run towards the beginning (in reality only around 150 ft) compared to the exceptionally flat course the Rio Grand Trail provides.  I was well rested and well fueled for both runs. Casper is about 1000 feet higher than Albuquerque adding to altitude stress. The biggest difference was Abuquerque was an unofficial race run solely by myself and Casper was official with fellow competitors in the field.  Even with that difference, the results are dramatic. I averaged 10:40 per mile pace in the first 10 miles of Casper compared to a 13:50 pace in Albuquerque. In Casper, it wasn’t until mile 19 that fatigue had a significant impact, whereas I was clearly struggling by mile 12 of the Duke’s City Marathon. The disappointment initially arose due to the 5:41:37 finish time. When you look at the pure numbers, you can clearly see the growth and strength I have gained in my previous races and this is why I consider Casper a win for me.

Race Review:

The first impression of a race is always through it’s volunteers, and Casper has a fantastic team who truly want to put on the best race they can.  They were very informative and friendly and great at handling last minute requests like adding a runner into the pasta dinner after the deadline. The expo was very small and most of the vendors were dealing in local product that I wasn’t interested in, but the race group had a large selection of previous year’s shirts and promo wear, just not in my size.  Although I appreciated the free photos, there weren’t as many taken this year as in previous years – very few finish line photos and very few photos out on the course (Correction:Finish line photos were taken by the timing company, there just weren’t any of me). We really lucked out with somewhat lower temperatures than usual and cloud cover for at least the first two hours of the race.

The course starts at the Casper Expo center which was very well staffed by volunteers and had many bathroom facilities to accommodate the runners from both the marathon and the half marathon. I really liked the fact that the start of the race was announced with a connon booming out across the morning! The first 5 miles of the course start with some light rolling hills on top of the bluff that overlooks downtown Casper. You do get some nice views of Casper Mountain around mile 3 as you sling back to pass by the expo and certainly as you have the half mile plunge to the valley floor. The next four miles run beautifully along the Platte River. Not only is the trail well paved shaded in many places by the trees along the way, there are some wonderful landmarks and bronze sculptures along the way like the Oil Derrick and big bronze fisherman fly fishing in the middle of the river.After crossing the river a couple times, you loop the Three Crowns golf course where you are pretty exposed to the sun for a little over three miles, then back to the Platte River Trails. The next area was pretty bland until get past the Central Wyoming Fairgrounds, then the trail starts to have gorgeous views of the river again, along with some winding curves and two fairly steep but thankfully short hills around miles 19 and then back again after the turn around at the 20 mile mark. After that we are just retracing our steps back along the river.  By this point, the cloud cover protecting us that morning had either burned or blown away and the heat really began to escalate. I was glad we didn’t need to run around the golf course again.  I will say that around mile 24 there were quite a few less volunteers along the route than when we came through the first time and I did get a little lost for a moment looping around a bridge which was a reroute due to the high waterline of the river that week.  Once I got past that area, the route back to the finish was very clear.

At the finish, I always appreciate when there is plenty of food left for us slow pokes and Casper didn’t disappoint.  Plenty of pizza and sandwiches of all sorts, iced beverages and sweets and fruit and I think there was beer, though I did not indulge. I did take advantage of the massages that were offered to runners. There were many therapists on hand and I did not have to wait and got a terrific post race rubdown that truly helped with some issues on the road.  I would highly recommend this race if you are looking for an affordable, well supported, easy course in Wyoming.

Lessons Learned:

Do Not Trust Runner’s Pace Predictions:

At the races where there aren’t pacers, I’ve been trying to find runners who run my paceat race time. I should know by now, I can’t predict what my pace will be on race day, and most other runners can’t either.  There were about 6-8 runners who I sounded out before the race and their paces were anywhere from 2 minutes faster per minute to 2 minutes slower per mile than predicted. I should just get running and see who I surrounded by around mile 3 or 4.

No Fruit Before The Race:

I’ve been eating oatmeal as my pre-race breakfast for sometime but had started to add fresh fruit to the mix.  For two races, this has left me with a bit of a sour stomach during the first hour of the race, so I am switching back to just oatmeal.

Physical Review:

I had been having some minor issues with my left hip over the past couple races, but really minor and truly only affecting me after the race.  This race I could feel it around mile 15 and made some adjustments to my stride. Unfortunately, that seemed to affect my left knee and as I was approaching the those steep hills around mile 19/20, I started getting sharp pains in my left knee.  I was able to mitigate this by making some shifts in my stride and foot placement, but little twinges haunted me throughout the last 6 miles.  I was truly grateful for the terrific alignment I received at the end of the race and I feel that everything got lined back up where it’s supposed to be, but I will be keep and eye on the knee for a little while.  I am nervous about running on it next week in a race that is all downhill – Revel Rockies, outside of Denver, Colorado. Thank you for following along. as always, I appreciate your comments and questions.

 

Marathon Route #22: Monument Marathon – Scottsbluff, NE

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For most of us runners, there comes a time when you are out there, on the road, all by your lonesome. Some of us choose that lonely marathon. Sometimes you are running a course that can’t be reached by casual spectators. Sometimes your running partner calls out sick (or her child is sick). Sometimes you just hit a spot where your own pace has singled you out between curves or hills or checkpoints and it is you and the road. The road stretches out in front of you languidly and says, I want you to run all over me.  If you really love to run, you shift into overdrive and burn rubber.  Enjoy the ride!

This was the case in Scottsbluff, Nebraska for the Platte Valley Companies Monument Marathon.  I thoroughly enjoyed this course for a variety of reasons, the foremost being consistent scenic beauty throughout the course. I really felt that at any moment, if someone was taking my photo, I could end up on the “Rave Run Spread” in Runner’s World magazine.  Next, the small town feel of Scottsbluff and Gering are wonderfully warm and hospitable. Also, I lucked out with the weather but I am sure that in September, the temperature is ideal.  This was a state I tried to minimize.  My ex wife is from Eastern Nebraska and I felt I had already spent more time here than necessary in this lifetime.  I was not expecting such a picturesque wonderland. Having seen the two most popular courses in Omaha and Lincoln, I would unreservedly recommend this race as my top pick for Nebraska’s most scenic marathon.

Course Review

The course starts atop a bluff overlooking the course in Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area.  I was incredibly fortunate that the hotel I was staying at offered to drive me to the start of the race, because I was being quoted $40 by the local cab company.  This is a great park to explore outside of the race for it’s great trails, architecturally rustic stone and timber picnic areas and panoramic views of the area. Starting upon another bluff gives you not only more scenic opportunities, but also a nice kick start to your race.  You drop 500 ft in the first 3 miles and another 300 ft over the following 6 miles.  Just enough of a downhill to allow gravity to help, without having it hinder your body with full force impact at every step.  The first three miles are particularly attractive, running through a little canyon with imposing and craggy facades to either side.  These  hearty hills fade as you start to level out around mile 4 and 5 and head into the verdant fields from mile 6 to 9. Although the downhill is still slight here, I recommend taking the little advantage it offers.  Right as you flatten out, you hit the most boring portion of the race, a run through the more industrial section of town.  This may ease things for traffic on race day, but I really wish miles 10 and 11 ran through the more scenic downtown of Gering, rather than it’s plainer southern streets.  This mundanity is short lived because by mile 12 you are back in view of the Scotts Bluff National Monument and really don’t leave it’s orbit until the very end of the race.  At around Mile 12, you start feeling the incline of the only significant hill on the course, but by the time you feel it’s full force you are headed between the two major bluffs, like settlers out of pioneering days (they do have mock ups of covered wagons all along the entrance to the national monument so you can feel like you are out racing the horse drawn carriages up the hill.  Just as you might be getting tired you have a great down hill on the other side all the way to the rail road tracks for 3 miles.  A little bit of country roads takes you to a back track of the National Monument.  For a little over two miles, you wend your way with barely noticeable rolling hills along a water way for over flow with comfortable dirt trails and more picture perfect vignettes. Eventually, you break on through to the other side, run by the golf course and adjoining neighborhoods but ends up on the local Pathways Bike and Hike trail that runs adjacent the National Monument for about a mile.  Mile 24 takes us back along the edge of town but mile 25 starts with a gorgeous tree lined road (a boon no matter what time of year you are running this course) through a cemetery, to a hilly country road for the final furlongs of this race.

Lessons Learned

Hotel Amenities:

After exhausting all opportunities, I did end up getting a hotel room at the Monument Inn & Suites for this marathon and they were very accommodating on many levels.  Something I will remember when I stay at hotels in the future is that the hotel seemed more than willing to accommodate simple requests that were a little out of the norm.  Firstly, the hotel room was very spacious and comfortable. When I saw that they had a shuttle to the airport, I asked if the shuttle could be used to take me to the start of the marathon and they practically jumped at the opportunity to help.  Later, I asked if I could have a very late check out so that could shower and rest a little after the run and again they eagerly agreed.  This was one of the best stays I’ve had this year at a hotel and it made the expense more than worth it.

Tourists Take Photos:

I have a couple great shots of me running because some tourists were already taking photographs and I asked if they would snap one of me.  In this day of selfies that promote antisocial behavior, most tourists are already in amateur hour photography mode anyway. I need to look for them for future opportunities.

Physical Review

This wasn’t my fastest personal marathon, but it wasn’t my slowest.  A modest amount of altitude, a modest amount of heat, but after the previous week’s trials and tribulations, this felt like a victory lap. I felt comfortable running throughout, no major pains or discomforts.  I took my time, kept a consistent pace, and finished in 5:55:11.  I have said that bad decisions make great stories and this may not be my most dramatic run report, but this is one of my favorite marathon routes this year and it really surprised the heck out of me.  I hope the race directors do a decent job during the actual race because this is a phenomenal course and I’m going to start recommending it to all my friends.  If you have run this race officially, I would love to hear your feedback because I look forward to coming back and running this race officially someday.  After this, I’m off to Casper, Wyoming.  Thank you for running alongside me in all these marathons and I look forward as always to your comments and questions.

 

Marathon Route #21: Fargo Marathon- Fargo, ND

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Target Races – for most runners I know, this is how they train and race.  They choose a race based on destination or a gathering of friends or notoriety and popularity and they base their training around performing well at that race.  In a year of running 50 marathon routes, you would think I would just be grateful to finish and find my body still in working order. Instead ego slowly creeps in, willing myself stronger or faster, reaching for the endorphin rush of improvement and PR glory (cue crowds cheering, doing the wave, and creating a continuous row of high fives for the final marathon mile). So it was with the Fargo Marathon.  A notoriously flat and fast course with traditionally temperate running climes and low altitude with terrific hometown support and pacers deep in the time field. I felt this was a confluence of ideal conditions that would lead to my first sub 5 hour marathon.  All of my physical and mental planning had been geared towards planting my flag at this race. As I have learned many times, plans do not survive the enemy.

Race Review

This is one of the best run marathons I have attended.  City support for all the races are at an all time high.  You may know that I try to volunteer at local races in each town I visit. There were so many races in this event I figured they would need the help. Nope. When I went to volunteer, they said they were all set!!!  I have NEVER been told that.  These Race Directors do an amazing job getting local businesses and organizations to rally volunteers and represent during the races and the expo.  I did end up volunteering at the Fargo 5K Hero Run and learned a lot about getting 10,000 runner’s across a finish line, but the pure numbers and passion are hard to compete against. The Expo was also incredibly well done.  There were many vendors providing a great deal of information, product and running opportunities.  Two sponsors dominated and enhanced the Expo experience – Blue Cross and Blue Shield ND and the partnership of Scheels and Under Armour. Both had immense areas filled with well wishing volunteers, creative opportunities to interact, and wonderful ways to mark the occasion with photos, creative designs and swag, and social networking contests. However is was the depth of vendors, whether they were promoting other races, products, or services that really made the expo a must.

On race day, the races now start and finish in the Fargodome.  Especially if you are a marathoner, this is a great start because you get the “Professional Sports” treatment with all the half marathoners cheering you on in the stands and runners streaming by the start line on the JumboTron screens.  I will say, there were really long lines for the interior bathrooms that made us wish there were some portapotties outside.  They also didn’t open the floor of the arena as early as stated in the event schedule which had some runners in a slight tizzy on the few stairways that gave access to the start line.  It was a thrill to start inside and run up the docking bays, feeling almost like a home team running out of the locker rooms and onto the field.   Most of the beginning of the course is fairly boring, running through suburban neighborhoods, but volunteers are aplenty and many neighbors line the streets to cheer you on.  Another fun addition to the course is live bands all around the city.  Everything from and Elvis Impersonator to a big 12 piece brass band and everything in between kept a constant soundtrack around the course.

For me, the scenic highlights of the course started around mile 7 as the race starts to wend it’s way along the Red River starting around Trefoil Park, passing Mickleson Field and heading across the bridge into Minnesota. The trails along the river are beautiful, nicely paved and well shaded which was a boon this year with unseasonable warm temperatures. Another favorite portion of the race for me started around 11.5 as we raced up and back to the Minnesota State University Moorhead. There’s a wonderful mile where you get to see many of the runners who are ahead of you as you head out to circle around the wonderfully shaded campus and then you get to see the runners who are behind you.  I love the support and camaraderie of all the runners cheering each other on, waving and cheering friends and teammates as they were nearing the the half way point. On this strip I was able to connect with friends from former races I didn’t even know were in town. Then it was back to trails along the river for a few miles after the half.

It is at this point that my memories of the rest of the route gets a little sketchy.  I started the race confidently on pace for my PR.  I don’t think I was going too fast, but I did feel fatigued within the first hour.  I chalked it up to the heat and doubled my fluid intake at the support stations.  I pushed through the second hour and I was still on my pace mark and feeling strong, except for my lower right back.  That area was sore and aggravated to the touch. I started stretching a little bit each mile.  Still feeling strong I headed into the third hour, at which point I REALLY had to use a port a pottie.  No big surprise, I had doubled up fluids.  So I stop, wait and line, enter the stall only to have no flow.  Only then did I realize I WAS PASSING A KIDNEY STONE.  The pain from my back had migrated to my hip area and I really hadn’t thought about it.  So I went back on the course. I switched to one minute walking, one minute running. I kept waiting for the mule kick to the groin that usually accompanies these things.  Whether it was the size of the stone or the fact that body has learned to shut down certain pain receptors when I’m running, I never got that sharper twist to the gut I was expecting. Just ACHING. Eventually I switched to one minute walking, 30 seconds running.

I got to talk to a lovely young lady around mile 22 who was struggling a little bit and she was running her first marathon.  She had twisted her ankle and it had been getting worse and worse but she was still moving forward. I could only commiserate and congratulate her. She asked me what do you focus on when the plan goes sideways.  I said you focus on the goal.  The goal is to finish the marathon, so you break down whatever is left of your tattered plan into little baby sized bites and swallow it a step at a time.  I also told her that for most people, lifetime running is the over all goal so you need to step out if you feel you will do irreversible damage.  Otherwise, running is right, left; right left.  I said I also focused on other people I knew, people who were missing a leg or half a lung or were recovering from the ravages of cancer.  If they can finish, surely I can? Little did I know that a young man I ran with earlier in the race had lost his father five weeks before the race.  He was there, running, learning all he could, testing himself with this huge burden. You would never have known it to watch him run. Sometimes you need to continue to spite those very reasons.

I do remember running through downtown and getting ice, a popsicle, and a full bottle of icy cold water but otherwise most of the end of the race is a blur.  I crossed the finish line back in the stadium, thanked the runners who had helped me focus during the tough miles and got some painkillers out of my car before my natural high wore off.  As much as I like the Fargodome, climbing up the stairs to get out was not fun with my ailment or after running the marathon.

Lessons Learned:

First Aid Accessability

I have moved my personal first aid kit to an easily accessible spot in my car so if I need to send somebody for medication, it is easy to find and access.  The best pain killers they had at the medical stations and even at the finish were ibuprofen and aspirin.As much as I hate my painkillers, they do lessen the pain.

Hot Weather Gear

It was hot, much hotter than in previous years and the clothes I was wearing really absorbed my sweat and weighed on me during the marathon.  I need to reassess my wardrobe for these hotter months to make sure I have clothes of light, wicking material.

Physical Review:

It was tough running under the duress, but I was able to finish under six hours at 5:44:58.  This was the second stone in about ten months, but they continue to be small and pass easily, within 7 hours in this case.  I was able to rest over the next couple days and head out and explore North Dakota, because friends had made fun that Fargo was more like an extension of Minnesota.  This was a highlight state for me because it was the last state I needed to visit for lifetime travels of the US.  I can now say I have been to all 50 states and that I saved the best for last and have the T-Shirt to prove it.  Later this week I will run in Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Black Hills before getting to Nebraska and run in Scottsbluff.  Thank you for joining me on my journey. I look forward to reading your comments and questions and hopefully seeing you soon.

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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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