Starting Late

… but finishing with a smile

Appalachia Bound

Heading south!

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.

Just Starting Can Be the Hardest Part

Breezy Day on Perkiomen Trail

Breezy Day on Perkiomen Trail

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!


Had enough stamina after my run to install my “RoadKill Bill” spare tire cover for the trip!

Sweet Relief!

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.

Survey Sez…

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:

See Latest Results here:

Crowdsourcing the Back of My Shirt


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.

Dust Bowl Series 5-5-5

Five marathons in five different states in five consecutive days? Crazy, right?
Perhaps, but I not only survived the Dust Bowl Series, I had an awesome time! Would I do it again? Definitely. In fact, I’m planning to do the Appalachian Series in October — this time seven in seven states in seven days. Bonkers? Maybe, but I won’t be alone. In fact, there is a wonderful community of runners that develops at each of these series organized by Clint and Hanne Burleson and their Mainly Marathons crew.

Even some of my running friends ask how it is possible. My approach was to intentionally slow down, use run/walk intervals to keep my heart rate down and minimize the wear and tear day after day, visualize each day’s finish, embrace the experience, and take it one day at a time rather than thinking about the totality of it until the end of the last day. I trained by doing a lot of miles on a weekly basis and some back-to-back long runs, but I did not train for speed.

Doing a series of races was not new for me, though. In January 2014 I ran the inaugural Dopey Challenge in Walt Disney World — a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, and a Marathon in four consecutive days. The toughest part of that was getting up so early each day so this time I did know what to expect in terms of early rising. And in August of 2013 I did a marathon in New York on a Friday followed by my first ultra the next day in Connecticut (a 50K or 31+ miles) so I had some experience with the marathon distance two days in a row plus travel.

But this series was definitely a whole new level. You just have to think of it as 26.2 miles at a time and not focus on the 131 miles over five days.
Much of the fun of doing these series is getting to know your fellow runners well. By the last day I was on a first-name basis with just about everyone that ran the entire series. Each course is a short out-and-back repeated anywhere from 9 to 16 times for the full marathon distance. That may sound awfully boring, but it’s not. The configuration allows you to see the other runners often and get to run alongside most of them for a period of time. It becomes just like a close-knit running club with lots of support and encouragement and shared stories.

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.

Seth and Me in front of the kitchen trailer

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.”


One of the unique features of a Mainly Marathon series is the food! Norm Duesterfoeft is the series cook and there is an amazing amount and variety of food! Because the courses are short out-and-backs typically less than 3 miles, there is just one hydration and food station at the start/finish area and no need to carry hydration bottles or gel packs. Runners are encouraged to provide one or two bottles for the hydration table (to minimize wasting paper cups) and the volunteers keep them filled with water or Gatorade per your request. Food is always available in bite-size portions and ranges from fruit to nuts to candy and cookies to pickles to brownies and peanut-butter-and jelly sandwiches to hot food like panini, soup, chili, and much much more. Each day, Norm has something special “cooked” up! In spite of the expenditure of energy, it is actually possible to gain weight during the series, and you have to be careful about spending too much time at the food table each time you finish a lap.MainlyMarathonsSupport

Fortunately, the Mainly Marathon races have no time limits and welcome race walkers. In fact, the last finisher of each half marathon and marathon are enthusiastically celebrated with the awarding of the coveted caboose — no matter how long it takes. I injured my foot early in the series and by the third day I had to slow down a lot — scoring the coveted O scale model train caboose and sharing the honor with my friend Phil as we finished together. Even so, chef Norm was waiting for us with a sandwich for the road.CabooseAward

Yep, I am definitely looking forward to October to do another series and catch up with friends I’ve already made and make many new ones. I should have 21 states completed after October, and this time, my wife and I will be traveling in our new-to-us RV so we can do some relaxed sight-seeing on the way home.

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.IMG_2590
  • 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 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.0643
  • 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.2281
  • 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.


    Photo by Juli Seydell Johnson

  • 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!


    The coveted Caboose Award has pride of place on my race medal rack!

  • 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.

    Pikes Tower – Willow Creek Park WPA Project

  • A chilly start, but I soon took off the jacket and gloves

    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!
  • Thanks, Dr. Mark!

    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.IMG_2703 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.HerzseinMuseum

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.IMG_2637
  • 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!IMG_2645IMG_2654
  • 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!”13951475
  • 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: IMG_2672

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)

Over the next several days my wife and I visited Bandolier National Monument, the Four Corners, and Zion National Park where we did a lot of hiking and took many photos. We ended the trip by driving on to Anaheim for the wedding of close friends followed by a trip to the La Brea Tar Pits and a day at Disneyland. Sounds like a reasonable way to follow up 5 marathons in 5 states in 5 days, doesn’t it?

Dust Bowl Bound

In two days I’ll be on my way to Dalhart, Texas to begin the Dust Bowl Series — 5 marathons in 5 states in 5 days. The first leg in Dalhart will be on Wednesday followed by marathons in Guymon, Oklahoma, on Thursday; in Ulysses, Kansas, on Friday; inLamar, Colorado, on Saturday, and in Clayton, New Mexico, on Sunday, March 29.

I am really looking forward to this series. I have heard only great things about the organization, support, and camaraderie in the Mainly Marathon series of races. Once finished, I will have 15 states on my quest to complete marathons in all 50.

If all goes well with this series, I would like to run another series later this year, then two series per year in 2016 and 2017. That should bring me to about 45 total. If I can schedule Alaska and Hawaii along with the remaining few in the following two years, I could be done when I’m 70. We shall see…


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