Starting Late

… but finishing with a smile

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: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1SgbIlH4YfuiFPbM9wRBhv34tZbH74xvQ6_X4y2mtil0/viewform

See Latest Results here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1SgbIlH4YfuiFPbM9wRBhv34tZbH74xvQ6_X4y2mtil0/viewanalytics

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!

Finishing05

shirtback

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?
DustBowlMedals
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.”

RoadKill-Roadkill

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).IMG_2593
  • 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.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.

    TurnAroundConebyJuliSeydellJohnson

    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!

    CovetedCaboose

    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…

Catching Up — Ready for Dust Bowl Series

It certainly has been awhile since I last posted (other than my better-late-than-never year-end/new-year review). My winter long break from blogging was not intentional. But I didn’t stop running. In spite of pretty challenging winter weather for training, I have been putting in a lot of miles to prepare for my up-coming 5-day, 5-state, 5-marathon binge next week. Yikes! Already?

With the help of a lot more treadmill miles than I’d like to remember, and a one-week spring training blitz in Florida, I managed to average over 200 miles per month in January and February. Thank goodness for the Chester Valley Trail — it is quickly plowed and salted after each snowstorm providing safe extended mileage for my long runs. Here’s a little fellow that guarded the trail after one snowstorm:

snowman

It looks like we’ll have one more snowfall with accumulation this week before I head to Texas for the Dust Bowl Series next Monday. It will be tough packing with my fingers crossed for good weather next week out west. If you’re so inclined, how about crossing your fingers for me, too? Thanks!

2014 Review – 2015 Preview

Well, this is long over-due! I took an unintended blogging break over the winter so here’s the post I intended to write around New Years Day… I rarely look back when running unless I’m starting a walk interval or resuming running afterward, but as one year closes and the next lays before me I like to reflect as well as look ahead. So here are highlights from 2014 and what I’m looking forward to in 2015.

2014 Review

  • The Dopey Challenge at Disney World in January was definitely a highlight event in spite of having to overcome plantar fasciitis to get it done. The hardest part of doing four races in four days of 5K, 10K, Half and Full Marathon distances was actually getting up at 2:30 AM each morning! It was fun, though, to have my wife and my friends along to celebrate the finish, and I got to enjoy the parks, too!
  • This year I made a point of volunteering at several races with my local club, Fast Tracks. I helped out at the Valley Forge Revolutionary 5-Mile Run in April, our club’s Radnor Red Run Steeplechase in August, and the Mile 10 water stop at the Philadelphia Marathon in November. If you are a runner and haven’t yet volunteered at a race, I highly recommend it!
  • I ran two races with the Marines this year. The first was the Marine Corps 17.75K (just over 11 miles) in April which allowed me to by-pass the lottery for the Marine Corps Marathon in October. That was definitely a special event and a must-do for any marathon runner.
  • I ran the Vermont City Marathon in May in Burlington and had the delightful opportunity to finish the last two miles with legendary marathoner Larry Macon who ran over 250 marathons in 2013 and, as of the end of 2014, has completed over 1400 lifetime marathons. The Energizer Bunny is a piker!
  • In August I completed the runDisney Coast-to-Coast Challenge by doing the Dumbo DoubleDare at Disneyland in California — a 10K and Half Marathon on Saturday and Sunday. The Disney folks do an outstanding job of supporting races and making them memorable and fun events. Of course, I followed this up with a marathon the next weekend in Ventura to check off California.
  • In October, upon finishing the Marine Corps Marathon which starts and ends in Arlington, Virginia, I completed my 10th marathon state and was able to join the 50 States Marathon Club. It’s now official — I’m on the quest for all 50 states.
  • I finished up the year with the Bucks County Marathon — a last-minute addition, but a wonderful small race along the beautiful Delaware Canal Towpath from Washington Crossing Park on the Pennsylvania side of the river. This was a fun race but gave me my best finish time for the year. And afterward I got to catch up with many family members from Bucks County for a post-race dinner.
  • In spite a year-end head cold, I managed to squeeze in just enough miles to log 1600 miles for the year — not bad considering I took off a full 6 weeks after the Dopey Challenge to heal my plantar fasciitis.

2015 Preview

  • I’ve now logged over 8000 total miles (training and racing miles). One of my long-range goals is to run 15,000 miles by the time I’m 75 years old. That means I have 10 more years to run another 7000 miles which should be fairly easy even allowing for possible injuries and slowing down as I get older. But, it is also reasonably possible for me to hit 15,000 miles by the time I’m 70 — if I can maintain my current level of activity. I’ll keep the stated goal of 75, but I’d love to get there 5 years ahead of time!
  • I’ve been working on my general fitness levels by taking yoga classes at the YMCA and doing some core exercises. I’d like to ramp this up a bit and be more consistent.
  • Next up is the Dust Bowl Series — 5 marathons in 5 states (TX, OK, KS, CO, and NM) in 5 days (3/25 through 3/29). I am now seriously on a quest to complete a marathon in all 50 states.
  • Assuming the Dust Bowl Series goes well, I may register for the Appalachia Series — 7 marathons in 7 states (WV, VA, TN, NC, SC, GA, AL) in 7 days (10/11 through 10/17). I already have Virginia (Marine Corps Marathon, 2014) so I may skip that day or just run the half marathon option or maybe volunteer to help with the food/water station. If this happens, I’ll end up 2015 with 21 states completed.

Bucks County Marathon: Frosty Fun

The Bucks County Marathon was the coldest marathon I’ve run so far, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable race! Not severe cold — low 30s to start and barely 40 to finish, and it didn’t start raining until after I drove away, thank goodness! It was a small field of a little more than 300 finishers — a far cry from the 30,000 I ran with three weeks ago at the Marine Corps Marathon, but I loved the low key vibe and the absolutely delightful Delaware Canal Towpath. I would definitely recommend the runBucks Series to fellow runners.

Medal

Unique medal, but not my first incorporating a bottle opener!

This wasn’t a milestone race for me — just a last-minute addition for fun since I felt pretty good after Marine Corps and realized that the Bucks County Marathon wasn’t the same day as the Philly Marathon like it has been in the past. I’m not running Philly, but I am volunteering with my club, Fast Tracks, at the Mile 10 water stop so I was surprised and delighted to discover that I could add Bucks for one more race this year — my 16th overall marathon/ultra on November 16, and my 5th this year.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve been to Washington Crossing Historical Park in Washington Crossing, PA, where the race began and finished. I grew up in Bucks County, but I was a lot younger when I was last there and on the towpath so this was almost like visiting for the first time. The park itself is quite small and unremarkable (especially compared to Valley Forge National Historical Park where I do a lot of training runs). The course begins and ends with about a mile loop around the perimeter of the park on an asphalt road.

Maniacs

Some of the Marathon Maniacs participating just before the start of the race

 

At every race, I enjoy meeting new Marathon Maniac friends before the start. It was special to meet the youngest Marathon Maniac Nikolas Toocheck and his dad, Dan (second and third from the right in the photo above). At 11-years-old Nik is the youngest to complete all a marathon on all 7 continents and raising money and awareness for children living in poverty through his website, Running the World for Children.

I was a little surprised that they had nine waves to start the race given the small field size, but once I was on the towpath, it made a lot of sense. The initial loop in the park allowed the field to spread out a bit, and on many sections of the towpath there was only enough room for two abreast in either direction — often when passing under one of the 15 camelback bridges along the course.

The course itself is really pretty — even on a cold, gray day. In addition to the bridges, we had views of the Delaware Canal and River and many stretches of beautiful woods. Somewhere near mile 2 or 3 there was a magnificent white swan in the canal, and it was still in the same spot when I got back. Of course there were ducks and geese, and one very loud gaggle of geese flying north over the river as I was running back south. The course included a brief run through New Hope with one road crossing and a very brief flight of easy steps. Some of the homes along the canal and the river are also quite magnificent — especially along the stretch just north of New Hope.

I wasn’t sure what the conditions of the towpath would be, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it in excellent shape for running. It was mostly hard-pack dirt and/or very small gravel that wasn’t loose so footing was quite stable. I worry a bit about running on newly fallen leaves that might hid stones or twigs potentially twisting an ankle, but there were only a couple of spots with leaves — probably due to recent windy weather. In general the path was an excellent surface to run on. There were only 2 or 3 muddy spots that were quite easily avoided, and it was pretty easy to pass or be passed in spite of the relatively narrow towpath. The size of the field of runners was very good for the venue, and I believe it can easily accommodate its stated cap of 500.

The Runners’ Guide gave us a heads up about low clearances at some of the 15 camelback bridge underpasses along the course, and I wrote a quick parody of the Erie Canal lyrics for the occasion in my last blog post. Most of them had plenty of head room, but there were a couple that actually made me feel like ducking although I don’t think it was really necessary (for me). In some cases the underpass included a bit of a dip in the towpath and many of them were only wide enough for two abreast, but they provided a nice scenic element and a perfect perch to race spectators.

Low Bridge

Low Bridge: I took the time for a selfie at an underpass on the way back

 

I wasn’t sure what to expect from myself since this was my first marathon that wasn’t entirely on asphalt, and I was primarily doing it for fun. Since Marine Corps I had eliminated walking intervals in my training runs of up to 15 miles long so I decided to start out without them as long as it felt comfortable, and I did that for the first 10 miles. At that point I was averaging about an 11:15 pace. I felt pretty good decided to switch to 1:45/40 intervals then to see if I could conserve something for the end of the race. For the next 5 miles I actually maintained close to that pace in spite of the intervals and I was still passing other runners, but I slowed  to around 12-minute pacing for miles 15 and 16. I’m not sure why because I was back down in the mid-11 pacing for miles 17 and 18. Mile 19 was another slow one — 13:12 pace — but I picked it back up to close to 12-minute miles for the next 2 miles. I think that was the stretch that I had a companion runner. Once he ran ahead, I slowed to about a 13-minute pace for mile 22. By the end of the next mile, I switched my intervals to 1/1 since I was not even close to finishing around 5 hours. At that point, I figured I’d keep it comfortable to the end and even stopped to take the selfie photo above.

Some complained about the loop inside, especially at the end when you have to pass alongside the finish chute as you begin that last loop, but that didn’t bother me at all. Once I actually see the finish line in a race it gives me a boost — no matter how far away it is — and you can see the finish all around that loop. My only complaint with the loop was the condition of the asphalt in spots — you had to be alert for an occasional pothole or worn section, especially at the end when your focus is not quite as sharp.

I actually finished with my best time for the year — 5:20:48 — so I was happy with that even though I think I should be closer to finishing in 5 hours. Still, it is a far cry from my worst time of 7:28 in January at Disney World on my plantar fasciitis-ravaged foot. Running the first 10 miles as fast as I did in this race without any walk intervals wasn’t a great strategic decision, but I still had a blast. It’s always fun to beat the beast no matter how you do it!

Race Director, Pat McCloskey, greeted the finishers — even those of us at the back of the pack — one of the nice advantages of running a small event like this. And the post race food was great! They had hot dogs, hamburgers, meatballs, chili, and beans for refueling along with more typical fare. I enjoyed some chili, but I didn’t eat too much since I was going to meet my family for dinner after I got cleaned up and changed. But you could certainly get your fill if you wanted or needed to.

If you are a runner and get a chance, consider doing one of the runBucks series. I will definitely consider doing this one again and other of the series in the future.

Now, it’s time for me to rest briefly before I begin training in earnest for the Dust Bowl Series in March, 2015. Doing 5 marathons in 5 consecutive days will be a major new challenge for me as well as making significant progress on my quest for all 50 states.

Relentless Forward Progress…

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