Time to get back to my blog. It’s been far too long since I last posted, and a lot has transpired since so this will be a catch-up post. I’ll try to be brief.
October, 2015 — Appalachian Series Report
Here is my flickr album from the series: https://www.flickr.com/gp/dolton/45y15B. This was my second complete Mainly Marathons series (see Dust Bowl report here) and the quality of their events has been consistently spectacular. It is enjoyable, social, well-organized, highly supportive, and the hard work of running day after day is mitigated by the sense of community that develops from day one.
Clint and Hanne Burleson are expertly assisted by George and Kate Rose and Norm and Cathy Duesterhoeft — hands down the best race crew I have come to know. And this series, I had the pleasure to get to know the Bird family who ran and volunteered for the hydration table. They brought energy and fun to every race, but on Day 6 in Georgia, where the course was unusually and dreadfully boring, they made it tolerable by heading out before the race began to chalk sayings on the asphalt — many about each of the runners — and left chalk at various spots so runners could add their own messages. Here’s just one:
So how did I do? I was on track until the last race. I had planned to run a marathon in WV, then a half in VA, followed by marathons in the remaining states of TN, NC, SC, GA, and AL. In South Carolina I started to experience some pain in the front of my left leg just above the ankle. The next day I struggled through the Georgia marathon but managed to finish. The last day in Alabama, I started out OK and thought I was going to be able to finish, running strong during the first 6 to 8 miles. But the wheels started coming off and I struggled during the next laps until I had to walk — and even that was painful. I decided to stop at a half marathon since that option is available for those registered for the marathon distance. I knew it would only get more and more painful and I was afraid of doing some real damage and/or not being able to finish anyway. I didn’t want to finish the series that way so I took the half marathon option and ended up picking up 5 new states instead of 6, but I added Alabama to my half marathon states so I still accomplished that.
It turned out that I had a stress reaction — not quite a fracture, but it still halted my running for six weeks to recover. I think I was more disappointed by having to stop running than having to miss my goal of six new states for the series. But I dutifully held off running for the allotted time.
What I am discovering is that each time I have to take that kind of time to heal and recover, it seems to be harder to get started again. It’s not just like starting over again (which it feels like), but it also feels like it takes longer to get back to running normally and build up to my base of about 25 to 30 miles per week. Perhaps that’s a function of my age. I turned 67 in January so I guess it’s normal for it to take more time to get back up to speed.
Perhaps it was the time of year. By the time I was running again it was Thanksgiving and, of course, the temps were falling. We didn’t have a terrible winter, but it’s not my favorite time of year to run and I really don’t like running on the treadmill — especially if I’m trying to do more than 4 or 5 miles.
And then there’s the inevitable weight gain when I stop running. My appetite does not go into hibernation even though I’m not burning the calories I normally burn when running 30 miles or more per week. Although I was building back up to my base level as of Thanksgiving, that period through New Years often sees me pick up 5 pounds or more. But on top of the six weeks off before then, and a two week trip to Florida in late January when I ate and drank more than usual and didn’t run due to playing too hard in Disney World then getting sick the following week, I packed on even more pounds. Ugh!
No question, I could feel the extra weight as I trained. Definitely discouraging.
Diligence Pays Off
I plugged away and stayed with my training plan. I gradually built up the mileage and managed to overcome some temporary pains and issues along the way. I scheduled regular visits to my chiropractor and started getting monthly massage treatments, too. After losing time in late January, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to ramp up to high mileage weeks, but I managed to get there without any injury flare ups.
By the last two weeks of March I managed to put in two weeks in a row with 20 mile runs. After that, in April, I averaged more than 60 miles per week the first three weeks including another 20 mile run in week 3, then hit 80 miles the next week including two back-to-back days of 20 milers. The last week I backed down to 50+ miles but still included another 20-miler. So this training period, I recorded six separate 20-mile runs and sustained four straight weeks of high mileage.
The volume has paid off. My endurance has clearly improved, my speed has slightly improved (not a real concern given my current goals), and I have finally shed the extra weight I had gained since my shut down after the series in October. Most importantly, I feel like I am better prepared for my next series than I was for either of the previous two series. In fact, I cannot wait for it to begin.
Next Up: New England
May 15 through 21 I will be running the Mainly Marathons New England Series. My goal is to run marathons in Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, and half marathons in Vermont, Connecticut, and New York where I have already run marathons. The sequence will be 2 marathons (ME and NH), a half in Vermont, 2 more marathons (RI and MA), and finish with two half marathons (CT and NY).
Given my training and the way I feel right now I am very confident. But I know that anything can happen so I plan to take it very easy starting out each day and, especially during the first 5 days. I have heard that the Massachusetts course is hilly so that could be my biggest challenge. Fortunately, that would be my last full marathon and I’ve been training on the hills of Valley Forge National Historical Park so I hope I’m ready.
Today I finished my last long training run, and, except for a few short maintenance runs and some last minute travel preparations, we are almost ready to pile into the RV and head for the first two races in Bluefield, WV and VA (it straddles the border). I will be doing all 7 races of the Mainly Marathons Appalachian Series in WV, VA, TN, NC, SC, GA, and AL. I’ll be running marathons in all but the Virginia race since I already have that state. Instead, I’ll run a half marathon — might as well start working on doing a half in all 50 states, too! So it will be a full week of running, driving, and camping for 7 straight days — October 11 to 17. Once I’m finished we will take a leisurely route back home sight-seeing and visiting with friends along the way.
I am happy to report that today’s run was pain-free and unencumbered with the injuries I’ve been plagued with most of the summer. In fact, after 14 miles I was able to run the last mile faster than I’ve run all summer — an unspectacular 10-minute mile pace, but fast for me at this point. I felt great afterward and my confidence is just where I want it to be heading into this series.
I can’t wait to catch up with the Mainly Marathons group next week! It’s hard to imagine unless you have experienced it, but Clint and Hanne and their crew actually make it fun to run marathons in different states each day. I am really psyched!
After I’ve completed the last race, I should have 21 states completed on my quest to run a marathon in all 50 states. Nearly half way.
You never know how a training run is going to turn out. And the way you feel before you start running is never a good predictor. Often, you can feel lousy before starting your run, then wind up with a fantastic training run. Today was like that.
I’ve been struggling with one injury after another this summer as I’ve tried to prepare for Mainly Marathon’s Appalachian Series that starts on October 11 (7 states in 7 consecutive days — I’ll be doing 6 marathons and 1 half marathon since I already have Virginia). The worst part is that the two recent injuries I’ve been dealing with were not the result of running. First I had a severe strain of the SI joint (hip) which throttled some of my training and took a long time to get past.
Then, more recently, I injured my ribs lifting an old 19-inch CRT TV (yep — pretty dumb). Not only did it make breathing — especially exhaling when running — painful, the muscles in my back tightened up to try to compensate. At the worst the impact of every footfall was agony.
Last Saturday, to get my mileage and time on my feet, I resorted to power walking 20 miles — resulting in sore legs because of a much different gait and some plump blisters on my big toes. However, I was able to get a good aerobic workout and convince myself that I could walk an entire marathon if I really had to.
This past week I began to make some progress albeit with lots of ups and downs. But I ran at least 6 miles each day from Monday to Thursday. Yesterday, however, I was very tired by the time I tried running and only managed a rather uncomfortable 3 miles. I was hoping today would be better.
When I woke up, however, I was still very tired and not at all looking forward to running. My back and ribs bothered me a bit so I tried a mile warm up on the treadmill. That didn’t feel very good at all. I started working on the rationalizations for not doing my planned 20 miles. But I did go ahead out the door and drove to Valley Forge Park to start my run. And I’m glad I did.
Inexplicably, as I started to run, the discomfort was almost gone. My back and shoulders were relaxed. I ran over a mile before I took a very short walk break, and starting running again wasn’t a problem. “One mile at a time,” I told myself. “Relax and enjoy it.” And I did. Before too long, I was calculating where I needed to turn around to get my full 20 miles. It certainly helped that the temperatures today were almost ideal for running, and it was overcast but relatively low humidity. As the temperatures rose a bit a nice breezed kicked up to compensate.
So never skip a training run because you don’t feel so good beforehand. You may just turn in a fantastic run and make the rest of the day even better!
Today was a huge relief for me — finally, a successful training run after more than a month of injury!
Most runners have to contend with a nagging injury from time to time, and sometimes an injury flat out shuts you down. I missed most of my training in August due to a badly inflamed SI joint. It got to the point where I just could not run, and walking was even painful after too much exertion.
It took many chiropractic visits, an intense massage session, and two consecutive dose packs of prednisone to finally get me to the point where I could complete a 10+ mile run without major pain. Last Saturday — after the first dose pack — I managed to do 7 painful miles, but it was very uncomfortable and I was still in pain afterwards. I started the second dose pack this past Monday, and by Tuesday I felt like going outside to walk — just a half an hour, but it was a brisk walk that made me feel like I was doing something. Still, I was sore afterward. The next day, though, I was able to walk an hour and felt a little better after icing following the walk. Thursday, I repeated the walk and icing and felt even better so I planned to try running this morning.
My goal for today was to get time on my feet — hopefully 2 hours — and do some running between extended walk intervals. The first two miles went much better than expected, and I was able to start with 30 second intervals of run/walk that I extended to 60 seconds running and 30 seconds walking. The next 2 miles, however, started to feel uncomfortable and I figured I’d just turn around at the 4 mile mark and mostly walk back — fortunately walking felt fine. As I headed back, one of my running club friends asked if I was OK. My answer was, “No.” At that point I was starting to wonder if I would need to consider a cortisone shot in my hip.
As I walked, however, I jammed my thumb into the back of my hip to where the inflammation was. As I walked, the pressure seemed to help massage the problem area and I could feel it heat up a bit. Before I knew it, I felt like doing a little running, and I wasn’t in pain. I took it easy and still took some walking breaks, and when I did, I jammed my thumb and fingers into the joint. Soon I was running again.
By the time I got to mile 6 I was running far more than walking, and it felt good! I ran almost all of the last two miles — just two very short walk breaks in mile 7 and none in mile 8 — and I began planning to tack on two additional miles when I got back to the starting point. Amazingly, I was able to do that and still felt like I could have continued running!
I didn’t, though, because I had more than achieved my goal of getting more than 2 hours on my feet. The bonus was that most of it was running and the last 4 miles was almost continuous running without pain. On the way home, I sat on ice packs I had with me in a small cooler, and when I got home, I worked the SI joint with a tennis ball to keep it loose.
After a short nap and a shower, everything still feels good! I feel like I’ve finally turned a corner on this nagging injury, and I can start really looking forward to my Appalachian Series adventure in October.
More than 50 took the survey to crowdsource the sayings on the back of my race shirts. Here are the top results:
- 45.1% My Cross Training: Running the Other Direction*
- 39.2% Former Record Holder… Now I Listen to MP3s
- 37.3% If Found Along the Course Please Return to Finish Line
- 35.3% If I Can, You Can; And I Know I Can
- 33.3% Relentless Forward Progress**
- 31.4% How’s My Running? Call 800-424-9530
- 29.4% Turning Miles into S’Miles (sweaty miles)*
- 21.6% Running Takes Blood, Sweat & Beers
- 21.6% Leaving It All on the Course
- 21.6% Not My Fault I Tripped, It Was the Asphalt*
Since I started the survey, I decided that I should only put phrases that I come up with on my shirt. That will eliminate Relentless Forward Progress** which is the title of a book by Bryon Powell. Two of the top results above (My Cross Training* and Not My Fault I Tripped*) are already shirts I have. That leaves six above that I will be adding to my collection of RoadKill Bill race shirts. I’ll debut these at the Mainly Marathons Appalachian Series in October.
Thanks to everyone who responded to the survey. You can still respond to the survey. I’ll leave it open to additional responses and use the latest results to determine the order I wear the shirts.
Find the Survey here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1SgbIlH4YfuiFPbM9wRBhv34tZbH74xvQ6_X4y2mtil0/viewform
See Latest Results here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1SgbIlH4YfuiFPbM9wRBhv34tZbH74xvQ6_X4y2mtil0/viewanalytics
Post edited on 6/11 with new ideas and online survey. Please take the survey to be rewarded with a pun-filled Thank You!
I have been wearing my RoadKill Bill branded shirt at races for over a year. In January, 2014, I had four versions made with different sayings on the back to run in the Dopey Challenge at Disney World (top photo). In addition to the one directly above, the other sayings are:
“My Cross Training: Running the Other Direction”
“Not My Fault I Tripped—It Was the Asphalt”
“Lace ‘Em Up and Lean Forward”
These shirts have always been a great way to engage spectators, but it also helps me connect with other runners quickly and memorably. I wore each of these this past March when I ran the Dust Bowl Series of 5 marathons in 5 states in 5 days where I made some great friends of fellow runners. I am registered for another Mainly Marathons series in October — the Appalachian Series covering 7 states in 7 days.
So I need 3 more shirts. And I need 3 new sayings for the back of each shirt to have 7 different shirts for each day of the series. I want the back of my shirt to be inspirational or humorous or encouraging and, maybe, spark a conversation or two with other runners.
Here are my ideas so far:
“Relentless Forward Progress” — This is one of my favorite mantras when it gets tough to keep going.
“No Passing (out) Zone” — From a distance it would read as No Passing Zone, but once close enough the word out in a smaller font would become apparent.
“Running Takes Blood, Sweat, and Beers”
Added on 6/11:
- No Guts, Not Gory
- Leaving It All on the Course
- Don’t Tread On Me …Please!
- How’s My Running? Call 800-424-9530 (actual number for Fed Election Commission)
- If Found Along The Course Please Return To Finish Line
- Not Found On Any Food Pyramid
- Former Record-Holder… Now I Listen to MP3s (smaller font)
- If I Can, You Can; And I Know I Can
- Run Run As Fast As You Can; I’m NOT the Gingerbread Man
- “No Pain, No Gain” ~Marquis de Sade?
- I’d love to hear your feedback and suggestions with the understanding that anything you send me might end up on my back!
I have created a survey which includes all these new ideas and my current shirt backs. You may respond below or click here to take it in a new browser window.
I took a leap of faith ahead of time and posted on the series Facebook page that I was looking for a roommate and someone to share the driving from state to state. I ended up with a great traveling friend in Seth who was also experienced doing some previous Mainly Marathon races. He helped show me the ropes and introduced me to some of the regulars.
I also met the other Marathon Maniac with the same nickname — Rick “Roadkill” Haase. There are now over 11,000 Marathon Maniacs worldwide but just two Roadkills. I was hoping Rick wouldn’t be upset with me using “Roadkill” since he was a Maniac long before me, but Rick was more than gracious, and we had a great time getting to know one another during the series. There were many comments about the two of us running together. One of the more dubious comments when we were seen together was “roadkill coalescing.” Personally, I prefer “Roadkill Squared” or “RK2.”
If you are working on completing a marathon or half marathon in all 50 states or are contemplating doing two or more races on consecutive days definitely consider a Mainly Marathon series. At this point, they cover all but 10 states (AK, AZ, CA, FL, HI, ID, NV, OR, UT, and WA) so at least one series is probably close to where you live or somewhere you’d like to visit. I can’t think of a better way to see the country!
Here are my notes from each day of the series…
Day 1 — Dalhart, TX
- I was struck by how flat and open it was on the drive from Amarillo (where I landed) to Dalhart — very few trees, mostly grassland and no hills to speak of. Endless sky and endless highway ahead.
- The day before I checked out the town to find a bar where I could get my traditional car bomb. I had no luck so I picked up a pint glass in a local dollar store, bought a shot glass, a bottle of Jameson’s and Baileys, and a six-pack of Guinness in a local liquor store. I was set for the series.
- The series was a pretty big deal in most of these small towns we visited, and the local XIT Museum hosted a dinner for runners the night before. They even showed up the next morning to cheer on the runners (and sell us XIT and Dalhart souvenirs).
- The Rita Blanca Park was pretty desolate-looking — like an alien world scene for an early Star Trek episode. The course was a dirt and gravel path — glad I wore my gaiters — but it was wide and well groomed for the most part.
- 12 laps out and back. Each time you return to the start you pick up a rubber band to help you track your laps. Each lap is also an opportunity to visit the well-stocked water and food tables. It took me until the last day to get my water and food quickly and not lose time in transition — so much to choose from and opportunities to visit with the volunteers and staff.
- Started out using my Gymboss timer, but found myself leap-frogging with Liz so I stayed with her and followed her intervals instead. Fell behind somewhere after mile 20 when I made a pit stop. By day 4 I stopped carrying the timer and I rarely looked at my Garmin.
- Finished just under 6:30 which was in the range of what I expected, but I must have done something to my foot because it became irritated later that night on the top where the foot and ankle flex. It’s possible I might have planted or pivoted on some loose soil on that trail and twisted or strained some tissue, or I might have had my shoe tied too tight.
- The panhandle region of Texas and Oklahoma is almost all extensive grassland in all directions — the high prairie. I knew that but didn’t process the fact that I would be running at elevation. — from 2500 in Dalhart to 4000 in Clayton. I didn’t notice the elevation directly in terms of breathing but it might have made some difference in my overall speed during the series.
Day 2 — Guymon, OK
- A wild and windy drive to Guymon with tumble weeds hurtling across the road into the cars driven by wind gusts up to 40 and 50 MPH. There was a tornado warning well to the east of where we were — no danger to us, but we did experience the wind come sweeping down the plain!
- Almost had a lodging problem. Used booking.com but the reservation never went through. Lesson learned — call for confirmation (although I thought I had). Fortunately they still had a room available and gave us the group rate.
- A cold start (ice on the car windows in the morning) but it warmed up nicely to be a very comfortable day.
- Thompson Park is a small, pretty park featuring Sunset Lake with a small island full of very noisy geese. A concrete path circles the lake and there is a miniature railroad, too, but only operational in the summer.
- Although this was probably the coldest start, the wind was not much of an issue — possibly because the park sits down below the surrounding land. When we left to drive on to Kansas it definitely was windy again.
- We ran around the lake almost to the starting point, then turned around to run back to the start for 1 lap, collecting 14 rubber bands to complete this marathon.
- I could feel the discomfort in my foot during this race, but it didn’t slow me up significantly. I did lose about 20 minutes in the porta pot, though — one of those days.
- We missed the wine and hors d’oeuvres at the Adobe Museum by the time we drove to Kansas and got dressed for dinner, but after the group dinner next to the hotel we found a large contingent of our group had brought the wine and appetizers back to the hotel after the museum closed so we drank wine after dinner and had a raucous conversation.
Day 3 — Ulysses, KS
- This was my least favorite course at Frazier Park next to the Bentwood Golf Course, and, to be fair, the surface was a surprise to race director Clint Burleson. What had been an asphalt path was now topped by gravel — with stones as large as 3/8 inch diameter. Even in my ultra-cushioned Hokas I could feel the surface under foot. To make matters worse, my foot pain made running pretty uncomfortable. I resigned myself to doing much more walking.
- Pivoting on my bad foot was the most problematic and at the end of each lap we had to make a U-turn around a cone. It wasn’t until the last few laps that I figured out making a clockwise U-turn was much better! Wish I had figured that out much sooner.
- The weather was not the best this day. It was a cold start and I wore my fleece vest planning to take it off later but never did — partly because I was going so slow I didn’t keep my core warm and partly because there were more clouds than sun and we had a pretty stiff wind much of the day.
- Although I struggled I knew I would finish, but I didn’t realize until close to the end that I was in the “running” for the Caboose Award. However, this day there would be two of us. Phil and I found ourselves together with just two laps to go, and we decided to share the honor. Unlike most races where the last finishers are lucky to find some water and maybe a bruised leftover banana, there was food and drink and plenty of cheers along with an official caboose photo. Mainly Marathons truly knows how to show love to back-of-the-packers!
- To add insult to injury, I developed two large blisters on the outside of my big toes. Luckily, they were in areas I could easily work on and weren’t on the bottom of my foot. I drained them that night and bandaged them for the next day.
- Once again, conversation after dinner lasted a lot longer than intended. Not as much sleep as I should have had for an earlier race start in an earlier time zone in the morning.
Day 4 — Lamar, CO
- The course was located in Willow Creek Park — the first New Deal project in Colorado which provided much-needed flood relief and a recreational area while providing work during the depression.
The out-and-back course crossed Willow Creek providing a couple of short but steep descents and ascents but I enjoyed the scenery much more than the previous day in Kansas. The weather also improved greatly — this was the warmest day of all five.
- My foot still bothered me, but I was able to maintain a quicker pace even when walking. It actually felt a bit better to run up the inclines than to walk them, and I was able to run far more than I did the previous day. I spent much of the time in conversation with “Evil Twin” Karen which helped distract me from my foot pain, and I ended up finishing more than 45 minutes faster than the day before — still my 4th worst time but nowhere near in contention for the caboose!
Near the end of this marathon, I caught up with fellow runner Mark who is a podiatrist. He graciously granted me an impromptu, informal consultation while on the move. Based on my descriptions of symptoms he said my foot pain was probably due to an impingement (tissue-on-tissue rubbing) and probably not indicative of a stress fracture. Relieved by this news, I was encouraged that I should be able to finish the final day of the series.
- I had a massage from massage therapist Mark on the first day but missed the next two days. This time, I took full advantage and it was fantastic. Mark and his wife, Sue — also a masseuse — had a small pool set up with ice water — perfect for my sore foot. Sue helped me clean and dress the blisters which had new blisters underneath. She and Mark had “Second Skin” squares they gave me to dress the blisters. These are 1-inch moistened gel squares that are applied directly to the blister (after draining). I then wrapped them with kinesio tape which formed an excellent protection from further problems. Then lent me the jar of pads overnight so I could re-dress the blisters in the morning before the last race. Then Mark went to work on me spending some extra time on my foot. He used a technique involving direct pressure while I moved the joint with and without resistance in each direction.
- That night we made it to Clayton, NM, in time for dinner at the Herzstein Museum with a brief tour of the museum afterward. Then off to bed because we lost an hour driving in Mountain Time Zone.
Day 5 — Clayton, NM
- Clayton Lake State Park was a half-hour drive from the town so it was an early rise for the last day. This was a much different course than the others featuring some hills, running across an earthen dam with gusting cross winds, an out-and-back in two directions from the start/finish area, and dinosaur tracks on the other side of the dam.
- Apparently the early morning light is best to view the tracks because of the shadows so on my second time across the top of the dam, I stopped to take the steps down to the tracks on the other side. I took the time to take photographs and walk all around the area on the wooden walkway. In the footprints of dinosaurs!
- Between the detour to see the tracks and taking photographs of all the informational plaques I probably added at least 15 minutes to my marathon time for the day. And, in spite of my foot still hurting, I was able to run much better than the previous three days finishing with my 2nd best time of the series — about 15 minutes more than the first day when I didn’t visit dinosaur tracks! Maybe it was just a case of “smelling the barn!”
- What a great euphoric feeling to finish the series! I treated myself to one more Mark Massage before embarking on my 3+ hour drive to Santa Fe to meet my wife.
- Then one last car bomb:
The last day of the series also featured a drone filming us running during the early morning hours. Very cool!
One of the runners that ran all five days — Lynn “Cornbread” Forbus — made a video of his experience using a Go Pro camera. It gives a great sense of the experience as it happened. (about 30 minutes running time)