Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Marine Corps Marathon- Another PR is Always a Good Thing

The trip to D.C. for the Marine Corps Marathon was a success. Ginger, YD, and I rolled out of Boone Friday night and made our way up to PA to hang out with my parents for the night. It was great to see them, and YD was psyched to see his grandparents. Saturday morning Mom, YD, and I took a little walk to go find a little coffee to fuel the drive down to D.C. for packet pickup. Glad we got lots of coffee because packet pick up was a Zoo! The lines were insane! I was prepared for a cluster, but I have to say it exceeded anything I could have imagined! It literally took hours to work our way through the lines. I guess I should have known. I've never run a huge race like this. I typically only enter ultras, and you'll never find 30,000 people looking to toe the line at a 50 or 100 miler. There just aren't that many people in the world who are deranged enough for that, I guess. But, we took it all in stride and had a good time with it. That's really all you can do, and this weekend wasn't about just running a race. It was about honoring our fallen brothers and sisters. One of the Always Brothers MCM runners, John Straseskie, is a perfect example of our mission. John was running to honor his brother Kirk, who died trying to save the life of four of his brothers. Check out this inspiring story about Kirk here. I have to say that Kirk's story has influenced me like no other. He truly was a hero. I plan to dedicate the rest of my training this year and my run at the Rocky Raccoon 100 to Kirk. My efforts are only a drop in the ocean of honor that Kirk deserves.

My roommate from the 8th & I and Camp David days, Jeremy Kelly, met us at packet pickup and then we linked up with a bunch of the other runners at the hotel. It was great to see Geoff and Carla and meet some new Always Brothers family members at the hotel. It was great meeting Ken Hickman, JP, Gene and Mary Bryant, Kathryne, and John. They are some amazing folks. Everyone turned in early to get ready for the 5:30 am trip to the start line. On our way, we encountered another maze of lines, but it was lots of fun. We laughed and made jokes about classic Marine Corps hurry up and wait operations.

The start line was like nothing I've ever experienced or imagined. 30,000 people all lined up and ready to put themselves to the test. JK and I made our way to the 3:45 starting corral. We should have gone up to 3:15. I spent the first half of the race weaving my way through the mass of humanity that was making its way through the streets of northern VA and Georgetown. It was impossible to be anything but happy though. I was surrounded by people honoring their loved ones and my brothers. With marching bands, hilarious signs, and hordes of people cheering us on, it was truly an awe-inspiring scene.

I was treating this as just another training run. I was hoping for a marathon PR because that's just how I operate. I'm always pushing myself to get stronger. But, I wasn't really that focused on time. Two weeks ago I ran the New River 50K and PRed that course, so I wasn't sure how my body would react to another serious effort. The main goal (training wise) is to get ready for Rocky, so I didn't want to injure myself. The real goal for the day was to just have fun, honor my brothers, and encourage people whenever I could. It turned out to be a great day because I was able to accomplish all of these goals. Once I reached that halfway point, the crowed thinned out and I started getting after some serious negative splits. Check them out:

My favorite part of the course was a section on Haynes point that had the road lined with pictures of fallen heroes. It was inspiring, and it really put any perceived suffering into perspective. No matter how rough I might feel, it is nothing compared to what these men and women and their families have sacrificed. It as beautiful seeing so many people being honored.

As I rolled into the last 5 miles, I really pushed myself. I wanted to see how hard I could go as I finished up the race. It was so cool to see the Marines and spectators lining the course. My second favorite part of the course was the finish. It was all Marine. At mile 26, the course takes a sharp left turn straight up a hill to the Iwo Jima memorial. It was classic. Oh, you ran 26 miles? You're tired? Suck it up and climb this hill. Awesome!!

The finish of the race was fun. I felt great, and I was happy to beat my marathon PR by almost 10 minutes. The best part though? Seeing my Ginger and my friends at the finish. I was so proud of them. Carla, Geoff, JK, Kathryne, and Ken finished their first marathons in style. JP and Gene set new PR's. Ginger achieved a new marathon PR on a course that was not an easy one.

It was great to see everyone happy and feeling proud at the finish line. Check out Ginger and me celebrating some awesome hardware. She looks like she's at the start not the finish-bad ass!

JK finished in full-on beast mode and looked no worse for the wear.

All in all, it was a great event. We raised lots of money for Always Brothers and, most importantly, we honored some heroes. I'm glad we have some new members of the Always Brothers family. I'm looking forward to our next event in Ohio this Memorial Day. Hit me up if you are interested in joining this great cause. We will have relay teams for the 100 mile run in Ohio. Each team will honor a hero. We will also have some folks who will attempt the full 100. It won't be a race, though. It's about staying together and honoring those who make it possible for us to live the good life.

This week, I've been getting lots of work done at the office and keeping the training rolling. Rocky Raccoon, I'm coming for you!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Always nice to PR on a Training Run- New River 50K

The last few weeks have been really busy at work, but I've been able to maintain my efforts at preparing to chase that Raccoon in Texas this February. I've been feeling strong on daily runs, and I've been enjoying some time on the trails most every day. Yellow Dog has been feel scrappy with the advent of the cool fall weather, so I've been letting him come along on some shorter runs. He is definitely over the distance running thing. At mile 5 he pretty much turns into a parachute dragging behind me. He'll tolerate another mile or so after that, but he's a mile 5 dog these days. And, that's OK by me. I'll happily take 10 more years of the occasional short run with him over a couple of years on long runs.

Last weekend I drove up to Fries, VA to do the New River Trail 50K. It was a fantastic race. The RD (Annette Bednosky) is a bad ass runner and she knows how to put on a solid race. The volunteers were great, the aid stations were well-stocked, and the vibe was awesome. There was a place to park the truck and crash within sight of the Start/Finish and the pre-race communication was top-notch. I drove up after a work function Friday night, rolled into the camp spot around 1 am, climbed in the back of the mobile dog house, and crashed out. Yellow Dog's bed is actually quite comfortable, and I had a great night's sleep. One of my favorite parts of the event is the 8 am start time. There is nothing like being able to wake up at 7:15, eat, get dressed, lace 'em up, and toe the line. It's way more civilized than having to get up at 2 am and start running at 4 am.

The first thing I noticed at the start line was that it wasn't your normal ultra crowd. I was surrounded by a bunch of super-skinnies. There weren't many diesels there looking to suffer for 6-7 hours. Local strongman and Masters' bad ass Doug Blackford pointed out that this race is a lot like a track meet. It was. The field was full of strong marathon runners looking for a Boston Qualifying Time (They have an official marathon split) and a 50K first time or PR. Lucky for me, I never go to a race to race anyone but myself. I'm no speed demon. I'm a grinder who just loves doing long distance. I was, however, looking for my own 50K PR. This race is the course to get one. The old course record was like 3:25 and I think it might have gotten crushed Saturday by someone. Not me though. After taking it on the chin in Leadville, I was hoping to turn this training run into a little redemption, and I was able to do just that. 4:55:58. I beat my best 50K time by 30 minutes. I have to say I'm pretty pleased with that.

I felt strong from the start.  I didn't go out of the gate all crazy though. I like to chat with folks and get into a nice rhythm. As it turns out, Jarheads are everywhere and I spent the first 5 miles chatting with a retired CH53E pilot and his wife who was also a Marine officer. We had a good time telling stories and laughing. When they stopped at the first aid station, I kicked into cruising mode, and got about the business of working towards my goal. One really interesting thing about this race is that it's basically flat. It's railroad grade, so unlike most ultras there is never an excuse to walk. Normally you have some big climbs that you power hike. Not this race. This race is all about keeping the legs churning. No walking needed. It's been a while since I did 31 miles without walking a step, and it felt great. I think it was a great warm up for the Marine Corps Marathon next week. Since that's only 26.2 and it's all road, there will be no walking. Glad I got into shorter/flatter race mode a little early. 

All in all, it was a great day. I got a nasty little blood blister on my toe because I didn't want to stop and clean some pebbles out of my Hokas. No biggie though. It has healed up quickly and won't be a problem. I was happy to get home that afternoon, hang out with Ginger, YD, Mookie, and some friends  (Ash and Lambeth) who were in town visiting. We went for a nice, short hike Sunday and then did a little sightseeing around Linville. It was really nice to hang out, relax, and chill with good friends after the race. I was happy to reach my goal, get a PR, and have a fun day. It was a great confidence builder in the build up to Rocky Raccoon. I took it easy Monday and took Tuesday off. I was back to my normal run today and felt strong. 

I'm looking forward to the trip to DC with the Always Brothers MCM runners next week. It will be so much fun to see Ginger rock out the marathon and see Geoff and Carla reach their marathon goal. Everyone has been training so hard, and I'm excited to see them have a great race day. The fact that we'll be honoring my brothers and raising a little money for Always Brothers is pretty amazing bit of icing on the cake.