Tuesday, November 23, 2010

JFK 50 Mile 11/20/10

JFK 50 Mile 11/21/10
48th Annual
7am Start Boonsboro, MD
State #13

The JFK 50 started out as a decreed from JFK 48 years ago that US Soldiers should be fit enough to be able to traverse on foot by running or walking 50 miles in one day, that would be the measure of who was fit enough to be a commissioned officer. For the next several years there were JFK 50 mile races all over the country, not just in Boonsboro, MD.  But after a few years the races slowly started to disappear and left only 1 race standing, the JFK 50 from Boonsboro to Williamsport, MD. This was the original course that 3 soldiers took 48 years ago in just over 16 hours (current course time limit is 14 hours for early start and 12 for the regular start). With this being one of the oldest and largest ultramarathon, there is great emphasis on multiyear streaks with the race’s pasta dinner also being that of a recognition ceremony for repeat offenders (500-2,000 mile club members, 10-41 finishes).

Race Packet Pick-up location in Boonsboro, MD

4:20am Mandatory Meeting for 5am Starters

5am Start Downtown Boonsboro, MD (I did the 7am start)

OK, so enough about history here is my race report. We awoke at 2:30am to begin our day picking up all the crew and runners in town. I was an honorary member of the local running club, the “Y Rats.” There were 3 runners in the 5 am start and 2 of us in the 7am start. We sent off the 5am runners then drove up to the Washington Monument to cheer them on. It was dark, and several porta potties lined the race course at the parking lot. As the early starters ran by several runners though we were in line in which we redirected them letting them know that there were several open ones. One crazy looking guy running away from the porta potties asked us where they were, “um right there,” “oh ok thanks,” they were hard to miss, oh well. It was fun cheering the runners on, “Good Morning” got more responses than “looking good,” and several runners thanked us for being out there, that felt good to cheer them on, something I need to do more of. So we hang out at the gap since there are bathrooms there but none at the start and we get ready. We drive back into town minutes to the start.

Pumpkins lighting the entrance to the AT for the 5 am starters

About 6 am, 1 hour to start time near the Washington Monument

Section 1 – Start Downtown Boonsboro, MD to the Appalachian Trail (Mile 0-2.5)
At 7am the gun went off and we started. I wasn’t sure if there was a timing mat right at the start so I hesitated for a moment to hit start on my watch. This section is on road and mostly uphill, sometimes gradual and sometimes steep enough to switch to walking.

Section 2 - Appalachian Trail (Mile 2.5-16)
The Appalachian Trail (AT) is a continuous hiking trail reaching 2,179 miles from Mt Katahdin Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia, most people take 5-6 months to hike the entire path. It was originally created around the time of the railroad development to be an escape from the growing cities of that time. Luckily this path became protected as a National Scenic Trail where it exists as it began. I enjoy running on the AT in Central Virginia.

There is a little road running in this section but it is mostly semi-technical rocky single track. A little frustrating at first to get around the people that got up the hill before I did but aren’t exactly good at dancing around the rocks, we all have our forte’s. Once I got into a group of runners at the same speed the running was absolutely delicious, I also got to pass a lot of runners, in which a few would pass me on the towpath, but not many. At one point I went off trail for a bio break and got this overwhelming urge to lay day and just rest. One minute I was feeling great and the next I just wanted to lay down and relax. Instant change, but I talked myself out of lying down and once I got moving again on the trail I returned to normal. A few aid stations in the section at the road crossings with the 2nd and 3rd aid stations at Gathland State Park and Weaverton Cliffs were a gauntlet of cheering people as there is overall limited access for spectators on the course. Down the steep switchbacks of Weaverton Cliffs without much fanfare, actually chatting with a Marathon Maniac from NYC the whole way down. The 4th aid station at the railroad tracks was the first electrolyte tabs that I took as it was the first station to have them, I had forgotten mine at home. Before I knew it I was at the C&O towpath at mile 16.

Section 3 - C&O Towpath (Mile 16-42)
The towpath was created in the early to mid 1800’s to allow for transit of goods up river, adjacent to the river was a towpath that the mules would walk on towing boats up through the canal and a series of locks. This became obsolete in the 1920’s when the railroad came to the area, ironically enough they are right next to each other for several miles. Luckily again someone had the insight to preserve the area as a National Park, where it remains protected today.

The transition to this section was difficult for muscles going from dancing through rocks to flat dirt and gravel road, but a few miles in my muscles finally adapted to the change and got back into my steady pace. Aid stations were every 3-4 miles, although with the towpath being gorgeous but very similar mile after mile, 4 miles came to feel a little long at times. I chatted with various people, sometimes for just a minute and sometimes for a few miles, lots of leap frogging too with the same people over and over. Ran past Harper’s Ferry across the river, saw a few kayakers out, saw some chickens a person’s house, saw 2 groups of scouts doing some overnight bike riding too. This is the section where we hit the halfway point, where we hit a marathon and get into the 40’s for mileage, this section is where the fatigue sets in. We also passed several older folks that had started at 5 am as they had on the yellow race numbers standing them apart from the 7am starters with the white bibs. I congratulated most of them as I passed, they were all quite gracious and returned the encouragement.

Section 4 – Country Road into downtown Williamsport, MD (Mile 42-50)
As we approached the last aid station on the towpath you could see they were putting reflective vests on all the runners, it was still early in the day but they were anticipating dark before we would reach the finish line. Nausea had started to knock on the door but it was not a problem just yet. I grabbed some Gatorade and pretzels to munch on to the next aid station. Leading up to this aid station I had tried to eat a little bit of a flavored gu but the flavor was quite dull, this was a first time for me and luckily my sense of taste returned after the finish. The road was windy and a little hilly, a nice change for my muscles. I still continued to walk only when going though aid stations to allow for digestion but otherwise my legs felt strong, in fact it felt better to run than to walk as I stiffened up while walking. Once on the road there were mileage markers, the only ones that we had seen all day except at aid stations. Eventually we made our last turn into town with the finish line eventually showed itself, I passed a few people at the end to make a good show for the crowd.

Finish 10:18:01
Average pace per mile 12:22

Me about 20 minutes after I finished

They had food and massages inside the school gym, I partook in both.

The next morning most of the runners and our crew met at Cracker Barrel in Chambersberg, PA along with a blogger who I met for the first time, Abbi from Higher Miles. After a full belly and the first real solids that I consumed since the race, on to the 3 hour drive home with fairly empty roads for I-81 though, weird.

Finisher's Medal
Post Race: I am just today (Tuesday 11/23 - 3 days later) feeling back to normal energy levels again. I crashed after the drive home Sunday and after work Monday and just layed in bed, something I never do.

Up next: Turkey day in Seattle and the Seattle Marathon 11/28/10.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New York City Marathon 11/7/10 Part One

Short Race Report

One of the greatest sporting events ever.
(Granted, I have never been to the Olympics which could possibly be more amazing).

Self photo after the finish

Long Race Report  PART ONE: Friday

With my gracious host Laura allowing me to stay several nights, I jumped at the chance to fly into NYC 2 days early to play tourist having never been to NYC.  With Laura’s great instructions, I made my way from Laguardia on Friday morning via bus then subway to the Expo. 

Subway Lines above ground

Just outside the Expo at the Javits Convention Center

Everything was pretty smooth at the expo, with the most entertaining being that you couldn’t try your shirt on as it was sealed in plastic, but there was a “girl” standing near packet pickup with a small shirt that you could hold up to your body, but not try on, to see if it was your size.

Once completing the rounds I head out, hop a hotel shuttle bringing me closer to Laura’s apartment, I then walked the rest of the way. I head back out to wander around as she lives not too far from Central Park. A bite to eat at Starbucks and wander the rest of the way into the park. Central Park is such a neat green space, good job for the planners of this amazing space. 

Finish Line set-up 2 days prior to the marathon

I was told I had to try these

The Mall, in several movies

Central Park

Mile 25

Watched the set up of the finish line, banner hung for mile 25, ice rink, and then 5th Avenue. Wait, 5th Avenue, isn’t that where the famous stores are located? 

Apple Store on 5th AVE

FAO Swartz on 5th AVE

Why yes, so I continue to walk and explore. Seeing that I was close to Rockefeller Center and home of the taping of the Today Show, I wander over to check out that area. The skating rink was small but there was a great Lego store nearby. 

Today Show

Next up, famous NY Cheesecake, and from a Food Network show, I seek out Junior’s. Not realizing it is near time square I stumble upon that area, then eventually into Junior’s for dinner and cheesecake to go. The cheesecake was nothing that you couldn’t buy at the grocery store, but at least it was authentic right?

Times Square, probably more dramatic at night

Walked back to the apartment, I hear that Laura’s mom is stuck in traffic and will be running late for the Barefoot Running talk by Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run. At this point, Laura will fly back into NYC halfway into the presentation. So I walk a few blocks over to the NYC Ethical Cultural Center on Central Park West and settle in to my seat. They start with a lady and a little girl hula dancers, which turn out to be McDougall’s wife and daughter. 

There are several other speakers during this presentation, including barefoot ted who rambled on for a bit (each speaker had 10-15 minutes); Dr Daniel Lieberman a professor in evolutionary Biologist from Harvard (excellent speaker); 
Dr Lieberman in Suit/Tie and barefoot

John Durant and NYC resident working on a book about getting back to living like our ancestors but without moving back to nature to accomplish this task (not too far from the Paleo diet from Crossfit but the term crossfit was never mentioned); Eric Orton, McDougall’s coach before the race in the Copper Canyon;  and Peter Sarsgaard, a well known Hollywood Actor (whom I do not recognize as I do not watch very many movies) spoke as well about running in his life and how he met McDougall and that Eric Horton is now his running coach.

Peter Sarsgaard

Christopher McDougall also spoke at the end and then he had a passage from his book sung by a Ironman athlete and professional opera singer. 

Christopher McDougall, Born to Run Author

This was an amazing performance and show all around, however there was not any new information presented but nice to see the people behind the characters in the book.

Part TWO: Saturday to follow….

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Marine Corps Marathon 10/31/10

AND Restoring Sanity 
AND 1,000 Running Miles for the Year

Let me start out by saying that ALL I have ever known about the MCM race was that it was in DC and it was super well organized.  I repeat, everyone that I talked before I had ever done a marathon told me that this was the one marathon you had to do because it was so amazingly organized, no-one ever mentioned any other marathon. NYC Marathon was never mentioned and Chicago never mentioned either. This is all that I have been hearing for at least 10 years.


But let us start at the beginning of the weekend. We had originally planned to drive up Friday after work, but after Obama’s last minute announcement that he was coming to town Friday night to stump for a local politician then plans quickly got pushed back to Saturday morning. I couldn’t get close enough to see the speech but I saw and filmed the motorcade go by standing at the hospital. The security people said that they could not say for sure that it was the route, but it sure looked that way.

Saturday we head out before dawn, I want to go to the expo and then on to the rally on the mall, plus avoid the associated traffic. So we stop to use the restrooms 3 times on the 3 hour drive due to coffee and pre-race hyper hydration.  Gorgeous sunrise en route.

The expo went off without complications and was nice to wander around before the crowds, however, 1 hour into day 2 of the expo and they were already out of several sizes of the jackets, so I therefore did not give them $80 like I wanted to, sorry Brooks, but I still love your shoes.

Entrance to Expo

Brook's "MASH" Mock up Gait Analysis Tent

Marine Band

Wandered down the street to the Mall for the rally next. I wasn’t totally sure which direction to go, but I didn’t need to, I just followed the masses. The energy was amazing, costumes amazing and creative (Chilean miners, Ira Glass, Tea Cups, etc.), and creative signs everywhere ranging from silly to mocking to seriously political (“I like Ice Cream,” “I am pro-Gnome and I vote,” etc.). Young and old people and everything in between were in attendance. Caught the parade heading to the rally and I fell in behind the dragon bus thing leading the way. I staked out a spot in the grass next to a middle aged couple doing the same, and used my mylar wrap from the Mount Desert Island Marathon a few weeks prior. From that location I could hear the pre-rally music so I figured I would be able to hear the rally, unfortunately this turned out not to be the case.  After 20 minutes of hearing nothing but random applause and cheers I gave up and started to head out back to the expo to meet up with some friends, including Laura, with whom I would be staying with the following weekend in NYC for the marathon. Due to high volume of cell phone users on the mall, my cell phone did not work again until I was several blocks away at the expo.

Dragon/Bus Float leading the March

Crowds following the Dragon

Chilean Miner's Costumes

Back to the expo, meet up with Laura and a whole gaggle of other Marathon Maniacs. After a group photo I found a dark, empty hallway to lay down, chill out and recharge my phone. I was "peopled out" and needed a break to recharge my batteries.

Monika, my host for the weekend eventually makes it to the expo after fighting post rally traffic, we make another loop around the expo, but this time they are giving out whole bottles and bars as samples as the night is coming to a close. Earlier in the day they were giving out little cups of tea and cut up pieces of bars, gels, shot blocks etc. Dinner at Bus Boys and Poets in/near Arlington, fro-yo for desert at near by shop, then on to North Arlington to prep for the race and get some sleep. I had met Monika and her friend Liz at the Hatfield/McCoy Marathon in WV/KY mid-June near the half marathon point in the race, I ended up running the entire second half with Monika, with Liz and her speed demon legs running ahead.


5:30am wake up for Keurig brewed Green Mountain Roastarie Coffee (YUM!!!), oatmeal, and clothing decisions all a flurry.  

Getting into an NYC mindset for next week.

Not realizing that we had a mile walk to the start from the nearest place you could get to by car due to road closures, we take our time calling for the cab. En route we realize our logistically challenge, and I realize that I will not make the Marathon Maniac pre-race photo. We make our way to the start, past the runner’s village with a bank of port o potties and gear check, and continue on to the NOT VERY ORGANIZED START. It was a split road with a small median, temp fencing placed in between, pace group signs for every 15-30 min increments. We made our way up to the 4 hour pace group on the left side and awaiting the canons to mark the start. Lots of costumed people surrounded us including several super heroes, Mario Bros, and TONS of Where’s Waldo (was there a movie recently released about him or something?).  

The gun goes off, the right side is moving, we take a few steps forward and stop. The right side continues to move forward, so Monika and I decide to jump the fence to join the other side. Good decision on our part. While it was a chip timed race, it is really annoying to spend the first several miles of a marathon weaving around people who are a much slower pace than you or walking.  In generally I am feeling pretty run down overall so I am quiet and introspective from the start, in other races I can be quite chatty to the runners around me, but not today.

We are running along, pretty nice scenery, I run into Dana dressed as pirate whom I have seen 2 weeks prior in Maine at MDI marathon, she is running 52 marathons in 52 weeks to raise money for charity.  She passes me by and I don’t see her again. We run past Georgetown University and it’s beautiful old brick buildings on the hillside, we also get to see the Washington Monument from every angle.  The aid stations are pretty good except for the one on the dirt path alongside the mall in a really narrow area for runners and the first several tables were out of Gatorade. What was weird is that I saw the captain guy for the aid station and he was just standing there watching instead of shouting instructions at runners that there were plenty of cups of Gatorade and water a few tables in, runners around me, including myself, were getting a little panicky.

We get almost to the finish, it starts to go uphill for the last half mile or so, then the last 0.1m you really earn your medal on the steep uphill finish. Once done, we were given mylar wraps then walked a ways to get into lines for our medals (often this order is the other way around) and then it gets bad. We then get corralled into a tight fenced off space where they have allowed spectators to come into, and this continues to make us go uphill to the family meeting area, now still with no post-race water or Gatorade (very bad). There are times where we are not making any forward progress and a few people fall to the side in need of medical attention (very bad) due to the lack of water and forward progress. Eventually we go by the marines that are handing out bags of water, bananas, etc. a little further up the hill.

So, for the record I am not attacking the Marines and what they have sacrificed for our freedom and our country. However, from a person that has done more than 1 marathon, logistically this one needs some work, specifically the start, finish, and better placement of the aid stations in wide open sections. Also, go back to the classic finisher’s medal with the globe and eagle.  I believe I would have been less disappointed had this race not be explicitly known for organization, when Chicago had several more runners and went much more smoothly.

However, I will be back in the Spring for the National Marathon, I still need DC added to the tally for 50 states (MCM technically does not count as it starts and ends in Virginia) and I hear this one is well organized.


I hit 1,000 running miles for the year about 10 miles into the MCM race. Sweet! Now, I have never kept track of my yearly running miles since I started running 15 years ago, so no idea if this is a record year, my guess is that it is....

Friday, November 5, 2010

Heading to NYC

...to run the Marathon. First time ever there, the previous closest I have gotten to NYC is 30 miles away on the Appalachian Trail. Heading to the Expo this AM when it opens.

MCM Race Report to follow soon.

Let me know if you are in town or would like to meet-up.