Sunday, December 21, 2008

2008 Running Year in Review

2008 Running Year in Review

I am humbled by what I have accomplished in that I never thought any of these marks were possible, but I demonstrated that through tremendous hard work, determination and support from others, that anything is possible. I am blessed to be surrounded by such great people and I thank you all.

Race Highlights

1) Breaking 3 hours in a marathon, finishing in 2:54:12 at Rocket City Marathon
2) 1st ever Boston Marathon, finishing in 3:09:42 and in top 10%
3) Lake Antoine Classic 5 Miler first ever big race win in hometown at 28:01
4) Shattering my half marathon PR by 6:36 at Huntsville Half Marathon running 1:16:38 and finishing 5th overall
5) Breaking 18 minutes in 5k first time 31 races at Senior Cup, finishing 2nd overall followed by breaking 17 minutes in 5k first time at Living Waters, finishing 2nd overall
6) 10k PR at Dam Bridge at 34:45 finishing 2nd overall
7) 4th Place at McKay Hollow Half Marathon running 8:24 pace
8) 103 Miles in 12 hours with Four Guy Century at Delano Park
9) 5k Double at Da Doo Run Run (17:31 3rd place) at 8AM and Twilight 5k (17:53 5th place) at 7P

39 Total Races* (40 Total Projected)

Race Totals: 2mi (5x), 3mi (3x), 5K (13x), 7.5k (1x), 8k (1x), 5mi (2x), 10k (5x), 10mi (1x), 1/2Marathon (2x), 25mi (1x), Marathon (2x), Ultra (3x) = 39

Goals/Personal Records

Distance: 5 km
- Initial goal for year: Break 18:00 ACCOMPLISHED
- Adjusted goal for year: Break 17:00 ACCOMPLISHED
- Lowered PR from 18:10 to 16:42 (1:28) at Living Waters 5k (Certified)

Distance: 4 mile
- Lowered PR from 22:53 to 22:02 (0:51) during Dam Bridge Run 10k (4 mile split)

Distance: 5 mile
- Lowered PR from 29:21 to 28:01 (1:20) at Lake Antoine Classic

Distance: 10k
- Initial goal for year: Break 37:00 ACCOMPLISHED
- Adjusted goal for year: Break 35:00 ACCOMPLISHED
- Lowered PR from 37:49 to 34:45 (3:04) at Dam Bridge Run 10k (certified)

Distance: 15k
- Lowered PR from 58:23 to 56:01 (2 minutes 22 seconds) at Monte Sano 15k (certified)

Distance: 10mi
- Lowered PR from 1:04:50 to 58:10 (6:40) during Huntsville Half Marathon (10 mile split)

Distance: 1/2 Marathon
- Goal for year: Break 1:19:59 ACCOMPLISHED
- Lowered PR from 1:23:13 to 1:16:37 (6:36) at Huntsville Half Marathon (certified)

Distance: Marathon
- Goal for year: Break 3:00:00 ACCOMPLISHED
- Lowered PR from 3:07:05 to 2:54:12 (12:53) at Rocket City Marathon (certified)

Age Group Placing M30-34

1st: 25 times
2nd: 8 times
3rd: 1 time

Overall Placing

33 Top 10 Finishes
26 Top 5 Finishes
16 Top 3 Finishes
1 Overall Win


3496 Miles (to date) Projected 3613
Last 8 months of year averaged 336 miles

Rest Days
16 Days off in 365

Non Race Highlights
1) Being named HTC Top Male Performer of the Year
2) Passing 10,000 career miles
3) Meeting Josh Cox and having dinner with Josh, Carrie and Laura
6) Hosting Cotton Row Run Elite Dinner


- Coaching 4 people to run their first half marathon
- Working with No Boundaries Spring and Fall groups on helping them run their first 5k
- Huntsville Track Club VP Races/Equipment working with race directors
- Volunteering at nearly all HTC events
- Just working with area runners on their personal development

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

2008 Living Waters 5k

2008 Living Waters 5k
Decatur, AL
November 29, 2008
Official Results

Back on October 18 at the Liz Hurley 5k Run, I had intended to set a personal record for the distance and forgo running any more 5k's in 2008. My mistake on that day was trying too close to the target time (5:28 pace for sub 17:00 goal time) and then with a misplaced 3 mile marker to just barely miss it with a 17:04. Breaking 17 had been a goal for a few months now, but it was still on my list and I was afraid that with the upcoming marathon and ensuing ultra season, that my shot to do this with my existing fitness level was slipping away.

At the Dam Bridge Run, Jon Elmore had indicated that he was putting on a 5k in Decatur on Nov 29th, the 2nd Annual Living Waters 5k and that I should come out. We had exchanged emails during the week about the course, who was going to run, etc. Then again at the Turkey Trot we talked about it again. After a little thought, I decided that I would try one more time this year to race the clock and break 17.

On the night before the race, the weather looked foul; it was 90% chance of rain and mid 40's. This would make it tough to run my goal pace, but luckily on race morning the weather had moved through and it was only a light mist.

The competition at the starting line looked minimal, with Josh Whitehead the only recognizable fast guy, along with some other high school and younger runners with unknown ability. Josh had just finished 2nd at the Turkey Trot a few days earlier, despite leading for 2/3 of the race. My experience with Josh started at Da Doo Run Run 5k, where he lead most of the race until I caught him and sprinted ahead at the 3 mile mark, finishing just ahead of him. Since then, I had seen him several times and talked with him. He is mostly a cyclist, but learning to race and certainly training hard based on his recent race times. His style was to sprint to the lead and then hang on.

At the start, he joked that he would just draft off of me. I laughed, replying to him that I couldn't keep up with his pacing strategy:)

From the start, Josh sprinted out at 4 minute-miles and quickly I was trailing. The first turn was only a block from the start. Treading lightly on the wet leaves around the corner and onto a slight downhill hill road, the chase was on. I was in second place, but the gap was increasing between us. The target for the 1/2 mile splits was to run 2:43 (5:26 pace per mile) coming in at 16:52 and taking no chances on missing the target. At the half mile mark, I clocked 2:35 (5:10 pace) and I was scared that I had gone out too hard. We had left the rest of the pack but I was substantially behind Josh. After looping around to the start again, I was at least 15 seconds behind; my first mile clocked in at 5:16. I was well ahead of pace, but nervous that I would lose that time in the second 2/3 of the race. I was letting an inexperienced runner dictate the pace early, but it was not too late. I backed off slightly and focused on my plan for the race, which was to race the clock, not Josh.

After a fast right and left, we had another straight stretch. By the 1.5 mile mark, I was actually closing in on Josh; the lead was narrowing. Somehow despite dialing it back a hair, I was actually gaining on him! This fueled my drive and I pushed harder. Just after a left turn, I passed him decisively and pulled into the lead. I usually think more about passing before I do it, but in this case, I just did it. He was slowing too much and if I was going to hit my time goal, I could not stay behind him. As I passed I noticed that his right shoe was untied. I thought about mentioning it, but since we are friends I didn't want to make it seem like a dirty race tactic. The laces were flopping around, so I figured that he knew anyway (he later admitted that he did.) The second mile was a 5:27. I came through the 2 mile mark at 10:43, which was a 2 mile PR.

Josh was breathing very heaving and it seemed to bother my own breathing patterns. I knew that he was a sprinter and 5k specialist, so I tried to deploy a race strategy that I learned from Robert Cheruiyot. Robert is not a sprinter, but in the latter 1/3 of the race, drops the pace repeatedly, eventually leaving all of the competition behind. Then late in the race, the competitors catch up, but never pass because the lead is then insurmountable. I tried to put distance on Josh with bursts of speed, but each time, he sped up and stayed with me. I could tell that his effort was increasing based on his breathing, but yet he stayed with me. Just like he joked at the start, he was not tucked in behind me, drafting, and letting me do the work. I certainly did not mind, as I would have done the same if I could find a runner to stay with. I made 6-7 pushes in the last mile, but never could pull ahead. The 3rd mile was a 5:24, putting me at 16:07 for 3 miles.

Just as I did to him at Handy, Josh returned the favor and with 50 meters left, sprinted ahead of me to the finish line. I couldn't hold him off, and had no choice as I watched him run by. I picked up the stride rate, but his sprinter legs pushed him passed me to the win. I slowed slightly over the last few strides, but stopped my watch at 16:42.20, which was a PR by 22 seconds.

In the end I finished 2nd overall of 75 runners, and 1st in M30-34 and nearly 2 minutes ahead of 3rd place. Again, the story of my life, which was yet another 2nd place finish, making it 7 times this year and 13 times in my career. I was fast enough, but not fast enough. I am completely ok with it though, as I came to this event to race the clock and not race the competition. I think that racing against Josh pushed me to run slightly harder than I would have alone, helping me to break the 17 minute mark by more than I had planned.

Laura also set a PR on this day, breaking 29 minutes, lowering her PR by several minutes. Dink Taylor was the overall masters winner. All in all, it was a pretty good day for our car load of Huntsvillians.

That makes 4 distance personal records in the last 7 weeks. (15km, half marathon, 10km and 5km), though one can argue that I also set 2mi, 3mi, 4mi and 10mi personal bests in the course of running these races as well. That means that I only have one race goal for the year... the marathon. That is now two weeks away and has been the goal race since I left Boston in April.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

2008 Dam Bridge Run 10k

2008 Dam Bridge Run 10k
Florence, AL
November 22, 2008
Official Results

It is now four days later coming off of this race and it still has not sunk in as to what I personally accomplished. Joey Butler mentioned to me today that he wanted to hear about the smack down I put on the Shoals on Saturday, despite the fact that I rode over with him and Shane Oneil. I guess in a way, despite not winning the race, it was a mild smack down on the rest of the field. Here is the story, for you Joey Butler.

It was a tough morning, having to get up before 4am to get showered, caffinated and packed to meet the boys at 5:40a in Madison. I hit snooze only once though, knowing that I needed an hour minimum to be up and awake in order for my body to get in race morning mode. After some last minute dealings with one Sirius Beagle who wanted to get up and see her daddy before he left, I was on my way at twenty minutes after 5. Our usual meeting place is the Barnes and Noble parking lot at Bridge Street, though it is usually just the dynamic duo; this voyage we loaded up a side kick with Shane, now training and racing well, in search of fast times and PR's that the Shoals races usually bring.

After picking up the boys, drinking more coffee than I should have, eating a toasted (and now cold) bagel with light garden vegetable cream cheese and having driven 64 miles to the west, we pulled up the Google map feature on my Blackberry Curve and began to drive the course. As with any other race featuring a literal name, this race would run over the (Wilson) Dam, along the TVA running trail and then back over the (Patton Island) Bridge. I was a little concerned going into the race that the course was hilly and would be slow, but after our jaunt over the river and back, I had new confidence that this would be a great race day.

The other concern that I had in which I should have mentioned at the start was the fact that the projected temperature at race time was to be 23 degrees. I was a little anxious when on the way over the thermometer read 16, which was a record low for northern Alabama on this day. I race so well in cold temps, but this might be at the level where the cold air hurts to breathe; I would take it in stride and see how I felt during warm ups.

The alternate reason for driving to this race was the fact that I had been drawn and entered to win a 2-yr lease on a new Ford from Family Ford; the drawing was after the awards ceremony. I had maybe a 1 in 50 chance (based on returning registrants) of winning, so this added additional suspense.

After going into the Shoals Conference Center to register, we went out to warm up. I chose to warm up in tights, despite the fact that I knew I would race in split shorts. The three of us ran about a mile out and back along the last mile of the course as to help visualize the final moments of the race.

With just minutes left, we made our way to the start. I still had on my RCM06 shirt that I would toss at the start and pick up later. At the start I did some last minute pick-ups. Normally you see a lot of people at the start doing these, but I was the only one. It wasn't until coming back from the last one that I saw Lucas Sieb. Until that point, I had checked off all of the usual suspects from the guys who usually make the trek and have race winning capabilities. No George and no Bowman. Many HTC members were running Dizzy 50's on this day, which kept the field small. That said, serious competition still lied in Hirbo Hirbo, Jon Elmore and perennial Shoals golden boy Heath White. Heath edged out George last year, both breaking 34 minutes. The rest of the top 5 in 2007 were all under 35; a time that I had never broken. Actually, coming in to this race, I was more than a minute off of that mark, with a 36:01 10k PR from this summer at Run your Bass Off in Crystal Falls, MI. But Lucas was a stud; a 15 year old stud whom I had never beaten and I heard that he was coming off of a stage age record for the 10k at age 15 the weekend before. He would be tough to beat.

My game plan was to go out hard and hang on. This was not the goal race, but I still wanted to have a good showing. The gun went off and Lucas took off of the parking lot at 4:30 pace. I tried to stay with him, but by the end of the parking lot and at the first turn, he was already leading the way.

I knew that I needed to make a statement in the first 1/2 mile regardless of Lucas or not. My race was not against the clock and against the rest of the field. As you can see from this picture, I quickly took over 2nd place and never looked back.

We made another right turn and headed down toward the bridge. The northern end of the bridge had a slight down hill so it would be a fast mile. The only problem was that we were running straight into the wind; maybe a 10-15mph headwind. Despite the struggles, I still managed a 5:22 first mile. With that, I was 21 seconds behind Lucas already, but could no longer hear any footsteps behind me. I was guessing that Hirbo would run about a 5:45 first mile. I had to put a lead on him, to avoid his finishing kick, which got me at Da Doo Run Run.

The second mile was still into the wind to cross the rest of the bridge and then around the power house, making our way to the trail. I could barely see Lucas round the power house. I honestly was starting to fear that I would not know where to turn without seeing the lead cyclist. Luckily it was well marked and course volunteers helped to point out the way. I had relaxed slightly in this mile, to compensate for the first mile being slightly too fast, logging a 5:33, now at 10:55 or a 5:28 average.

The third mile was sort of struggle for me, as it was all on the paved green way. It was rolling up and down, side to side. I did not see a single person on this stretch and it was hard to keep a constant rhythm. At the far west end of the woods, the course made a cone turn and 135 degrees back to the north. There were a few volunteers here, both with dogs and on mountain bikes; I thought that this was amusing. The man yelled out that I was looking good and was having a great race. I looked up at the clock at the 3 mile mark and it read 16:34. This was only 10 seconds off the total time for my last 5k at Liz Hurley, when I ran a PR 17:04. The third mile was a 5:39, so slightly slow, but as I mentioned this was easily excused. The pace was now 5:31 average.

Off of the 5k split, we made our way onto the bridge and into the 'tunnel'. It was a chain link cage over the walk way to keep jumpers from, well, jumping. It felt kind of closed in, despite the concrete wall on each side only being 2-3' high. This section was slightly downhill and I could again see Lucas. I decided that since I could not see anyone behind me when I came off the turn, that I would try to drop the hammer and close the gap. I ran a 2:39 half mile split (5:18 pace), but Lucas was already averaging well below that and my effort didn't matter much. The clock at the 4 mile mark was hanging cleverly overhead and it read 22:02 when I ran under it. It made me think about to what I call the short distance race of my career, back in 2006. At the time, I was running low 18 5k's and somehow dropped a 22:53 4 mile race, taking 3rd overall; all coming a week off a 3:17 marathon. Shattering my 4 mile PR in a 10k race actually made me smile. With this fast mile of 5:28, I was able to keep the average pace at 5:31.

At this point, I started doing the math on how much I could slow down and still break 35. I am not sure why these thoughts go through my head, but they do. I guess it shows some mental weakness. Note to self, 'work on that.'

We came out of the tunnel and made a fast right, running through another aid station. Too late to take anything now, but I wasn't thirsty anyway, so it didn't matter. This mile had quite a few hills, including one up to Veteran's drive, where my instantaneous pace dropped to 6+. I made the turn and it took a few meters to get my legs back. I was also slowing slightly so that I could save some for the kick at the end, should the gap behind me be closing and not knowing about it until too late. There were no opportunities to look back, so I really didn't know. The 5th mile was a 5:46, bringing me to 27:48 or 5:34 pace. The math that I did in the tunnel told me that I needed to hit 27:50 or better to break 35, assuming a slow final mile. I was still on track.

The sixth mile was half on rolling hills and then ended with a fast turn back into the parking lot before one final lap of the convention center. I was elongating my stride at times, trying to maintain speed, while conserving energy with less leg turnover. I am not sure if this works, and I can't keep it up for long, but I have done it before and it seems to help. Having run this section before the race helped me to know what to expect. I logged a 5:40 mile, bringing me to 33:28 or 5:35 pace. I knew now that I just had to dig in and run fast around the building to set a major PR. I did finally get a chance to look around and see that there was no one around.

I made the last corner, to see the clock and pick up the pace through the finish. I was hurting a little, mostly from the pounding on the cold concrete damn/roads/bridge, but the pain did not matter now. It was about to be over. I crossed the line at 34:44.41 (34:45 officially), in second place. I tugged off the bottom section of my race bib in the chute and walked over to congratulate Lucas and say hello to his parents. I would later find out that he ran 32:45 and beat me by two minutes. After that, I walked back to the finish line and waited for the next runner to come in. It was nearly two minutes before Hirbo came in. Then a few more runners, including Jon and Shane, and then Joey just minutes later. Everyone had a great day.

When the dust settled, I had cut 1:17 off of my old (maybe soft?) 10k personal record set earlier in the year. Then the story of my life, I finished 2nd for the 11th time in 110 races. What is the saying about 'always a bridesmaid, never a...' Anyway, it means get faster and start winning or stop showing up.

After a short cool down, we made our way back in for the awards. None of us won the car, but Joey and Shane were tops in their age group, Jon was the masters winner and I was 2nd. It makes me sound like a 2nd grader, but I prefer awards to gift certificates or prize money. In 20 years, I will not remember what pair of shoes the prize money went for, but I will see the trophy and remember how great it felt to shatter my 10k PR, and like Joey says, 'lay a little smack down on the Shoals.'

You can criticize me for liking material trophies and recognition for performance in races, but that is who I am and that is part of what motivates me. What works for me, doesn't work for others and I respect what works for you, so I expect the same.

As always, I give thanks for the ability to put one foot in front of the other and do it so fast for so long. I also appreciate all of the training partners that log miles with me and push me to be my best.

01 Lucas Sieb, 15 32:45 5:17
02 Eric Charette, 32 34:45 5:36
03 Hirbo Hirbo, 22 36:37 5:54
04 Graham Paxton, 27 36:53 5:57
05 Jon Elmore, 42 37:06 5:59
06 Shane O'Neill, 36 37:29 6:02
07 Shawn Greenhill, 30 38:14 6:10
08 Chad Hintz, 23 38:20 6:11
09 Brian Yueill, 39 38:30 6:12
10 Heath White, 25 38:45 6:15
11 Steve Rogers, 55 39:11 6:19
12 Jeffrey Suppinger, 34 40:31 6:32
13 Emily Ryan, 31F 40:45 6:34
14 Scott Butler, 45 40:47 6:34
15 Tanner Ryan, 16 40:59 6:36
16 Luke Mould, 15 41:01 6:36
17 Cesar Virto, 19 41:20 6:39
18 Mike Cannon, 48 41:41 6:43
19 Stacey Lemay, 46 41:58 6:46
20 Joey Butler, 40 42:07 6:47

Saturday, November 8, 2008

2008 Huntsville Half Marathon

2008 Huntsville Half Marathon
Huntsville, AL
November 8, 2008
Official Results

This race was the the third PR attempt in the 5 star PR series that I had been chasing this fall. So far I was 2 for 2 on setting personal records, but had missed by goal time in both races. For this race, I was shooting for:

Half Marathon in Huntsville (Nov 8)
Old PR: 1:23:13 (Set in 2007 at the Huntsville Half Marathon)
Target Time: 1:18:59
Actual Time: -

Going into this race I had joked that I was going to go out hard and hang on. This seems to be my strategy of late and surprisingly, it has worked. My late stage drop off has been only slight, or negligible and I have been able to his some very fast time for me. I felt like my training had been going great, including averaging 95 miles a week for the previous 6 weeks. Plus I took a mini-taper day of rest on Friday, so I was hoping there would be some spring in my step.

I went out hard, running 5:40 pace for the first mile and leading Jason Reneau and George Dewitt well into the mile. I was still on the outside of the top 10 looking in. Miles two and three were almost identical as we ran through the winding neighborhoods. I had warmed up and tossed my gloves along the way and had locked into a nice running rhythm. When passing the church at the 5k mark, I had gained a few spots and was running in a small pack of 4 runners.

We made our way along on the out and back, running through the 'hilly' part of the course. I was feeling good and noticed that the runner I was closest too was slowing on the hill climb. I kept my pace in the low 5:40's and pushed ahead of him. In this same section, I also passed Donald Bowman, who had passed me early in the race. I was then running in 5th place overall, behind just George and Jason, who were still visible.

In the 5th mile, I passed by the aid station without taking anything. I am not sure this is significant, but I was feeling good and wanted to just keep cranking out the miles. I had been consistent on 2:47-2:53 1/2 mile splits. We turned down Chaney Thompson and ran south. I was not running with anyone, but was chasing down George, which gave me motivation to push harder. This did not mean running faster splits, but meant not falling off the pace by much.

Miles 6, 7 and 8 along Green Cove and up the Aldridge Creek Greenway were very consistent at 5:47 pace. It was in this section that I really started to over think my race. I felt early on that I was running over my head and ability and now with only 5 miles left in the race, I was thinking that I would fail late, end up walking and it would be a replay of last year when I stopped at the last aid station and slowed significantly after that.

I had taken two energy chews in mile 7 and by the cone turn around at 8, they started to kick in. Plus on the out and back section, is when I knew that I would start to see who was behind me, how close they were and assess the situation. I saw Donald, and David Purinton and Brett Addington close and a few others. The thing that I never accounted for was the tens to hundrends of folks who I either knew, who knew me, or were just nice people that cheered me on. I am not naive to think that hundreds of people know me, but on this day, as they shouted words of encouragement, it felt like they did. This helped to carry me through miles 8, 9 and 10 still cranking out 5:50's. Plus I think that I surprised a lot of people who saw the position that I was holding in the race, including several who never thought I would be running stride for stride and less than 30 seconds behind George. I am very thankful for this little blessing in disguise; it was the secret of my race time.

I went through mile 10 at 58:10, which was 6:40 faster than my old 10 mile PR. I felt like I was running effortlessly. I started to think about what Dink Taylor and Marty Clarke had been saying all along; that it is possible to run the half marathon course faster paced than the 15k which I had just run at 6 minute-miles. I was well ahead of that pace and was now starting to think about running much faster than the 1:18:59 goal I had set.

Turning back onto CT, there was only 5k left and I was now going to start racing. I pushed forward hard, running the next two miles on the toughest part of the course, which was either slightly uphill, or into the wind. What had helped me race through this section with ease came weeks earlier when Marty and I had done a 20 miler from the church. We came back through Chaney and toward the church after running 7 minute miles for 18, and I dropped the pace running 6:15 and 5:55 for the last two miles, which coincided with the last two miles of the half marathon. I needed this for a meant reassurance that I could overcome last years breakdown.

When running up the hills to mile 12, I recalled this training run with Marty and it helped to push me along. With 1 mile to go, I realized that I had a chance to break 1:17:00, which I never thought possible. I kept making a push to catch George, but could just not close the gap; even if we had more miles to go, he probably would have kept the same distance ahead of me. I ran a 5:43 last mile, coming into the finish line at 1:16:38. I was 30 seconds behind George, which I found out later on.

I mingled around the finish line, and then walked back to congratulate the other runners who were coming in now. Many others had great performances as I did not hear from a single person who had a bad day. A few of these people were training partners so it was even more rewarding to see them finish strong.

As a manner of tracking my race performance and where I am at, I look around me to see how I finish compared to others. Since early 2007 when I started racing in Huntsville, this 'person' has changed many times from Joe Francica, to Dink Taylor, to Marty Clarke. This was the first time that I had ever beaten Donald; I do not know if this was a fluke race on my part or not, but for now, he will be the new person that I look to in judging how well I raced on that given day. I know that he was sick coming in to this race, but I had finished about 2 minutes ahead of him. I really look forward to the day where we can both be healthy and truly battle (kidding) in a race. He is a great runner and has been for a long time. It feels pretty good to be in his class.

I had lowered my PR from 1:23:13 to 1:16:38 on this great racing day and had also finished ahead of my goal time by more than two minutes. I am ready for the last two races in the 5 star series.


01 Paul Guevara, 22 - 1:07:56
02 David Riddle, 27 - 1:08:11
03 Jason Reneau, 32 - 1:15:29
04 George Dewitt, 50 - 1:16:16
05 Eric Charette, 32 - 1:16:38
06 Donald Bowman, 41 - 1:18:39
07 David Purinton, 40 - 1:19:05
08 Patrick Cooper, 25 - 1:19:15
09 Owen Bradley, 29 - 1:19:18
10 Eric Legros, 39 - 1:19:52

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

2008 Huntsville Track Club (HTC) Male Performance Award

2008 Huntsville Track Club (HTC) Male Performance Award – Eric Charette

Presented by Kathy Faulkner Youngren

The winner of the Male Performance Award goes to Eric Charette.

For those of you who don’t know Eric, he is a master statistician.
- He keeps track of every ½ mile split of every mile he runs.
- On any given day, he can tell you his weekly mileage, monthly mileage, yearly mileage, and total lifetime mileage
- He can tell you how many total hours he has run
- And he can even tell you where he has placed overall and within his age group in each and every race he has ever run

If anyone wants to see these statistics or read detailed write-ups and see pictures from just about each and every race he has run since 2005, check out his blog. In fact, this is just what I did.

However, upon close examination of his blog, I think I noticed that, perhaps, one of the most transforming races of Eric’s career has been omitted. I want to take you back to October 2, 2005, to the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon. On the entrants list we find Eric Charette, the same Eric Charette that is here with us tonight.

Going into this race, Eric had been training some, and had a goal to finish in under 3:45. Luckily, there supporting him was his dear wife, Laura, who was meeting him every 5-7 miles during the race. As the race progressed, Eric was running following his schedule, and despite some pains which we all know is pretty normal, Eric went through the ½ marathon point in 1:45, ahead of pace. Feeling confident, Laura moved on to meet Eric at the 20 mile mark. She got there and waited on Eric.

And waited on Eric….and waited on Eric….and waited on Eric. I think you get the idea. Finally, she looked up and saw him coming around the corner. Before she could say anything, he immediately collapsed on the grass. At this point, Eric really understood what it meant to “hit the wall.” In fact, he just didn’t hit the wall, he was hit by a ton of bricks. He seemed like he was “stick a fork in me” done. It looks like Eric was suffering the fate of many marathoners: a big DNF.

However, Laura had a different idea. Knowing that Eric would hate himself if he quit, and knowing she would never hear the end of it, she decided, for the sake of both of them, to put on her running shoes and do whatever it took to get him across the finish line. Pulling him up off the grass and practically carrying him some during the last 6 miles, Eric crossed the finish line in 4:55, a little slower than his goal finish time. But when it takes 2 hours for the last 6 miles, 4:55 isn’t quite as bad as it seems.

I bet some of you are wondering why I said earlier that this was one of Eric’s most transforming races, when clearly he did not have the race he wanted. It is because this race proved to Eric the importance of training, preparation, and mental toughness: three elements that are required to be a strong, consistent runner. By internalizing the lessons he learned from this race, and has indeed become a strong, consistent runner. As Laura says, “that marathon created a monster.” In 2006 at the Chicago Marathon, Eric ran a lot better and finished in 3:17. Currently, his marathon pr is 3:07.

Now lets move to 2008. Eric has had a terrific year. He sets prs about every time he races, and since he has been training hard for the Rocket City marathon next month, he should set another pr for the marathon distance. This year he has run 38 races, has put in 453 hours of running, has run over 300 miles /per month for the last 4 months, and finished 4th in the HTC male grand prix. Besides just running, Eric is also VP Equipment for the HTC and is more than gracious to volunteer whenever he is needed.

Acceptance Speech by Eric Charette

Thank you very much Kathy.

I really am a private person and wasn't going to say anything, but... (pause for laughter) ... but I asked Harold to write my speech for me!

It really means a lot for me to be us here and honored with this award. To be a relative new comer to the area in the lat two years and taken in by such a welcoming bunch of people makes it easy to feel like a new home.

At the board meeting this summer when we started talking about candidates for this award, I never imagined that I would be standing up here. I felt like I was having a pretty strong year, my training was going well and I was getting faster, but there are so many others that probably deserve to be here instead of me. A few that I could think of and wanted to quickly recognize were:

Jon Elmore
- At age 42, ran a 4:55.86 mile in July setting a state age record.
- He moved up from 10th to 1st in the Gran Prix from last year to this year

Dwayne Satterfield
- At age 43, set a sate record for the marathon in February at Birmingham with a 2:46:30
- This goes along with his other 7 records

These two are low key guys who aren't blogging every 1/4 mile split from every run and writing elaborate race reports so you don't hear much about them, but they had great performances this year.

I guess that when the board was trying to figure out who should win this year, I was next alphabetically.

There are a lot of people I'd like to thank, but to keep it brief and in no particular order.

- Laura for putting up with me, well every day.
- Marty for believing in me and pushing me faster further and higher every week.
- Joey for driving me to the Shoals all summer so we could race every weekend.

For those of you who may not have read what I wrote about my experience at Boston this year (which appeared in the HTC Newsletter thanks to Harold), I talked about starting off as a scrawny and uncoordinated kid with no self confidence from small town USA. In concluding that story, I summarized it why I run, and I wanted to mention that again.

I run for all of the scrawny, uncoordinated kids out there to show them that with hard work, determination and a lot of heart, they can do reach their goals, weather they are in running or in life, no matter how high they may be.

Thank you again.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

2008 Liz Hurley Run 5km

2008 Liz Hurley Run 5km
Huntsville, AL
October 18, 2008
Official Results

This was the second in a series of personal record potential races for me over a 9 week period. For the most part, I had been training since very early May for this stretch run. Hundred mile weeks, running doubles nearly every day, 30+ races over the summer and 2000 miles in a six month period all for this 63 day span. Normally I don't like to talk about my time goals, but it is clear to anyone watching that I am trying to accomplish something...

15km at Monte Sano (Oct 11)
Old PR: 58:23
Target Time: 55:59
Actual Time: 56:01

5km at Liz Hurley (Oct 18)
Old PR: 17:19
Target Time: 16:59
Actual Time: -

Half Marathon in Huntsville (Nov 8)
Old PR: 1:23:13
Target Time: 1:18:59
Actual Time: -

10km at Damn Bridge Run (Nov 22)
Old PR: 36:01
Target Time: 35:45
Actual Time: -

Marathon at Rocket City (Dec 13)
Old PR: 3:07:05
Target Time: 2:55:59
Actual Time: -

The first race in the 5 Star PR Series turned out very close to my hopes. I just barely missed the mark, 2 seconds, but many factors went into that during the race. I think that on a flat course, I would have shattered the target time. Coming in so close, while still missing the mark, is not disappointing at all. I was right where I wanted to be. Any number of things could have easily changed that outcome, like 10 degrees cooler, better competition to stride out with, etc.

The reason why I mention this is because those small factors that cost me a few seconds were all non issues on the morning of the Liz Hurley 5k. The course was not flat, but the hill was early and adrenaline would carry me through that. The temperature was cool, in the 40's. There was no wind. There were 500+ male runners and bound to be be someone who would want to run the same pace, the same race as me and to push back and forth with. Everything seemed to come together for this race. It would just be a case of executing the plan.

I had painfully studied every turn of this race, the elevation gain/loss per mile, had run it in training and had developed a race plan to hit the target: 16:59. In the end, I knew that I had to have splits of: 5:28, 10:56, 16:24 and 0:35 to break 17. I went old school and even wrote the splits on my left hand in indelible marker.

After a good warm up, we lined up and were off. The fast guys went out fast, and the kids went out fast. I started out slow, knowing that the first mile was uphill and I didn't want to burn up my legs out of the chute. The pack thinned out quickly and by the turn, I had maybe 20 runners ahead of me. I stayed even though, coming through the first mile at 5:25.

The hard part of the race was over. We had climbed the hardest hill and now it was down to running down or even until the final climb. I was running with Donald Bowman now and we were working it as a two man race. The leaders were so far ahead that we couldn't see them anymore, so it was just a battle for time. I had the goal in mind and I was going to try my best to reach it. We ran through downtown and made the turn onto Randolph at the two mile mark at 10:52, hitting a 5:27 mile split. Slightly slower than the first mile, but still under the 5:28 average I needed to maintain. Donald would shout of words of encouragement every few minutes. Later he would tell me that he wasn't out to run fast, but if I was going to break 17, he would help me to do it and by doing so, he would come in under 17 as well.

The final mile was a mix of great downhills with a slight climb in the middle. We cruised down Randolph, still on pace, making the left turn and another left, climbing back to the top of Adams. I regained my legs after the climb and we cruised down Adams. We needed to hit the 3 mile split at 16:24 in order to stay on track. We hit the split timer at 16:23 (5:31 mile) which was called out by the volunteer and confirmed by my watch. I knew at that point we just had to finish out at the same pace, no need to pick up the pace. I was going to break 17 and hit my goal.

We actually picked up the pace in the final 0.107 mile, down around 5 or sub 5 minute miles. As we approached the finish line, on this certified course, I was in utter disbelief when I saw the clock read 17:04 as I crossed the finish line. Somehow, it took us 41 seconds to run the final 1/10, which is nearly impossible, as we actually got faster. This is like a middle 6 pace... the only thing I can conclude is that the finish line was not in the right spot. I have thought about this for hours and hours and I still can't figure it out. We were on pace at the 3 mile mark and it was a certified course. GPS units are frequently wrong and I would not rely on it in a certified course, but it measured it at 3.14 miles, which was very common amongst other runners.

So it is what it is. I still ran a 15 second PR and came even closer than I have before to one of my long time goals. That said, for the second time in two weeks, I had just missed a goal in the 5 star PR series, but still had set the second PR in as many weeks and tries. For that I am very happy.

When it was all over, I thanked Donald over and over again. I could have come close on my own, but knowing that he was there, just a few steps ahead of me, meant a lot and it gave me someone to run with and chase after. I was still in the top 10 overall of 511 runners and 2nd in M30-34.

1 15:43 David Riddle
2 16:01 Brad Schroeder
3 16:20 Blaise Binns
4 16:23 Mark Fisher
5 16:32 Tyrone Harris
6 16:37 Trey Broadway
7 16:48 Jason Reneau
8 16:55 Josh Whitehead
9 17:02 Donald Bowman
10 17:04 Eric Charette

Friday, October 10, 2008

2008 Fleet Feet Monte Sano 15km

2008 Fleet Feet Monte Sano 15km
Huntsville, AL
October 10, 2008
Official Results

It has been a few weeks since this race, but I do want to write a few things about it. This was one of the races from 2007 that I was glad that I had blogged, because I was able to go back and look at my splits and see how I felt at each mile and 'remember' the course. It really helped to mentally prepare.

In arriving at this race, I realized that this was the best that Huntsville had to offer. It's not too often that you can count 25 people capable of breaking an hour in a 15km race and stacking them all up against each other in the same field. As with other races, this created some ill feelings on my part, as I started to doubt my ability to contend in this field.

There were too many stars in this field to name, but let's just say that the only one I didn't see was David Riddle. Everyone else in town was there to run this first race in the HTC Gran Prix for 2009.

The year before, I had run 58:23 and finished just behind Dink. I knew that I would shatter this mark, as I had blown through the 15km mark during the 10 mile Moon Pie race from this summer (which is a much harder course held on a hot day in TN) in 57:11.

Based on my recent 5k/5m/10k race times, I should have been able to break 55, but for those of you who know this rolling course (especially late on Panorama), know that you need to add some time to your goal. 'A' goal was break 55, 'B' goal was to break 56, 'C' goal was to set PR.

It was much warmer than 2007, and I ended up running without a shirt. Smart choice as in the sun, it was very, very warm. In the shade it was still too warm, but tolerable.

I started out hard in the first 3 miles, running 5:47 pace trying to stay up with the leaders. It worked well early, but Hodges, Harris and Dewitt pulled away after a mile. I wanted to go out hard and hang on, knowing that the late hills would be taxing either way, so I might as well have time in the bank.

The second 5k was a lot harder as it started to warm up. I was now running alone, despite a competitive field of 300 runners. I could barely see Donald Bowman in front of me, but I knew John Krichev was looming behind so I wasn't about to lose motivation yet. I went through this 5k at 6:00 pace, which was ok with me, especially since the course had changed to rolling hills. I was still averaging under 6 minute miles, so I was on pace to break 56, so 'B' goal was in sight.

The wheels started to fall off late and the final 5k was run at 6:06 pace. I really struggled, especially coming back out onto Monte Sano Blvd. It was good to see other runners still heading out for the Panorama loop, but it wasn't enough to fuel my tired legs to run any harder. I was now just holding on, and doing a poor job of it.

Toward the end of the race, I began to realize that I was no longer under 6 minute miles on average and that I wouldn't hit my 'B' goal any longer. I really wish that I had been running with someone to push off of each other, but that just wasn't in the cards today.

I made the last corner into the park and could see the clock and although I turned on what I had left, clocked 56:01 in the end. Remarkably, this was 2 minutes and 22 seconds faster than my time from last year, which is 15 seconds per mile faster. I really am in good shape and this race showed it. I think that on a flat course and a cool day, I will break 55, but it will not be easy. I think that I could dig 6-8 seconds more per mile out, which would bring me down 62 seconds to do it.

I finished 7th overall, and 1st in M30-34.

I do like to see where I am at compared to others that I have raced at recently. In the summer, John had crushed me in a 5k in Gurley and I was able to stay ahead of him, which was a mental victory. John is a very good runner. Maybe he is my new arch nemesis (I say this jokingly) but it is nice to have someone new to measure your ability against.

Names in the top 30 were:

1 Brad Schroeder 24 Owens Cross Roads, AL 1/12 51:48
2 Kameron Ulmer 20 San Bernardino, CA 2/12 52:04
3 Andrew Hodges 32 Madison, AL 1/18 52:19
4 Tyrone Harris 28 Athens, AL 1/15 53:43
5 George Dewitt 50 Madison, AL 1/27 53:49
6 Donald Bowman 40 Huntsville, AL 1/27 55:00
7 Eric Charette 33 Huntsville, AL 2/18 56:02
8 Jon Krichev 31 Huntsville, AL 3/18 57:26
9 Keith Buell 16 Huntsville, AL 1/8 57:44
10 Marty Clarke 46 Huntsville, AL 1/27 58:18
11 Caitlin Heider 23F Huntsville, AL 1/11 58:19
12 Christopher Brahm 15 Huntsville, AL 2/8 58:39
13 Candace Jacobs 28F Huntsville, AL 1/17 58:55
14 Andy Davidson 18 Athens, AL 3/8 59:04
15 Brett Addington 31 Owens Cross Roads, AL 4/18 59:15
16 Russell Berger 22 Huntsville, AL 3/12 59:20
17 Shane O'Neill 36 Huntsville, AL 1/16 59:36
18 David McKinney 49 Baldwyn, MS 2/27 59:42
19 Eric Schotz 36 Decatur, AL 2/16 59:59
20 Jon Elmore 42 Decatur, AL 2/27 1:00:36
21 Tim Vinson 44 Madison, AL 3/27 1:01:19
22 Tyson Snider 22 Lima, OH 4/12 1:01:48
23 Robert Youngren 34 Huntsville, AL 5/18 1:02:09
24 David O'Keefe 34 Owens Cross Roads, AL 6/18 1:02:21
25 Gregory Reynolds 26 Huntsville, AL 2/15 1:02:59
26 Dink Taylor 43 Hampton Cove, AL 4/27 1:03:43
27 James Micciche 23 Troy, AL 5/12 1:04:00
28 Mike Greene 46 Harvest, AL 3/27 1:04:31
29 Edward Blankenship 43 Madison, AL 5/27 1:05:11
30 Richard Rodenhausen 54 Huntsville, AL 2/27 1:05:32

Overall I will look back at this race in a fond way, knowing that I was in good condition and ran a good race. Notice that I did not use the phrase very good or even great. I still have lots to learn and know that I need to do more long tempo runs to be able to race at top speed (for me) for this distance.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

2008 Blue Ridge Relay 208 - Eric

2008 Blue Ridge Relay 208
September 5-6, 2008

The Blue Ridge Relay. Something I had never even heard of two weeks before September 5. When asked by Jason and Jane to fill out there 5 person relay team and make it a full 6, I was immediately interested. This is just the crazy type of thing around running that I am totally into. Once we worked out the logistics, we were on our way.

I had to work in Boston on Wednesday, so I hopped a plane to Knoxville on Thursday morning at 6am, which was where Jason and Jane picked me up at the airport in the LR3. From there we drove to Boone, NC to spend the night. That would cut the drive down on race day to just over an hour, if our driver and navigator could find their way through the mountain passes.

Fri Sept 5, 2008 9:00AM

We arrived at the start and then we started to get excited. Up until now it didn’t seem like I was about to run an ultra marathon. Then we saw the runners, the teammates and the white passenger vans decorated with all kinds of crazy sayings. 78 teams composed of 900 runners were about to embark on a great journey that would take us 208 miles from Grayson Highlands, VA to Asheville, NC using paved and gravel roads, passing over mountains with breathtaking views.

The start of the relay. The wait was finally over as David took off down the hill. We talked for a few minutes amongst the rest of the team and then took off, making our way down the hill. This would turn out to be the most painful part of the entire trip as we arrived at the start of leg 4 and just had to wait for Kandi to arrive. This was tough because we could only speculate as to the times that David, Kristi and Kandi would post. We had a false alarm one time when a Kandi look-a-like ran in, but shortly thereafter she showed up and we made our first transition from team 1 to team 2. After Jason started off, Jane and I hopped in the car and sped off to the starting point of leg 5 where Jane would start.

Jane was a little nervous before her first leg but she managed to calm down before Jason got there. I too had a few pre-race butterflies, which was weird because this wasn't like a real race yet; we hadn't started and despite of the atmosphere of racing and the people hanging out at the 1st and 2nd transitions, I just wasn't into it.

Jason showed up and handed off to Jane. After cooling down, Jason and I drove down to the gas station to fill up. The local-yocal station capped us at $50. When buying lots of premium gas for an SUV, this doesn't go very far. Jane ran by and we snapped a quick picture before heading out to wait for her at the start of leg 6.

Fri Sept 5, 2008 1:40PM
Leg 6 - 0:35:56 5.2 miles = 7:29 pace

This was my first leg of the relay. I did some brief warm up but there were hills in both directions so I kept it short. Jason did a little cool down with me. This was the last cool down of the entire race as we realized later that saving miles was resting the legs and maximizing downtime. Jason really pushed hard on his leg and I realized that the game was on now. I would have to push the limits of my abilities on each leg to try to match effort. The first mile after the hand off was uphill; really uphill. The climb was 400' over a mile for a 7.5% grade. This was tough as I was pushing hard on fresh legs. By the time I crested the top, I was at 3500' and the roller coaster was starting. The drop was 500' over the next mile for a grade of 9.5% grade. I raced this downhill, passing a few runners down the gravel road. About at the bottom where the gravel turned to blacktop again, Jane and Jason passed me in the truck. At that point, I felt pretty good. That would quickly end.

Starting at mile 2.2 began another crushing climb. This time I would ascend 600' over 2.75 miles up a long and winding road. I was running too fast too early and stopped to walk 4x before reaching the summit. In the early stages I was running sub 7 but with this long climb I had fallen to a high 7. This was until the peak of the second hill where I quickly recovered and was able to run out the rest of the leg very fast on the downhill. I sped through the exchange zone and handed to David and his read shirt, which would become a recurring theme. I think that I passed 6 people on this stretch.

I ran 30 meters past the exchange as I was really moving when I came in. As I stopped and walked over to Jason, I said, "That was the hardest thing I have ever done.' I am not sure what I was thinking as this would be cake compared to what lied ahead.

Kristi had a great idea to take a picture with a certain color Popsicle after each leg so that we could capture how we looked and felt. This was the last time that our Popsicles would remain frozen. After this they melted and became bags of sugar water with sticks.

Fri Sept 5, 2008 2:06PM

This was the start of the first rest cycle. I changed clothes and we all hopped in the car to drive off to the start of leg 10 where Jason would start again. We had a nice little chunk of time to rest and relax at this park situated on top of a nice and sunny hill. Jane and I had more time than Jason so we tried to catch some rest. This wasn't sleep but just felt good to lay down. Jane was smarter than me and laid in the shade. I positioned myself on top of a rock with my towel and pillow and proceeded to get a little sunburn in the 10 minutes I laid there in the 75+ degree heat.

The van finally showed up with Kristi, her mom, brother and David. They indicated that Kandi wasn't far behind so we knew that it wouldn't be long before Jason would be running again. When she finally came in, Jason took the snap bracelet and started running downhill at race.

Jane and I drove along the route to the drop point just across a major highway. We stopped along the way to take a picture of a road named Dink's Way. I thought that this was pretty funny. This leg was unbelievable hard as it just kept climbing up and up. Little did I know that my leg would be something similar. The next two legs for Jane and I would mean partly running on the Blue Ridge Parkway so we would have to wear our reflective vests. This meant that I would have to wear a singlet underneath to avoid nipple rub. It would be hot by the time I would start so this was a little concerning.

Jason came running in and handed off to Jane. Jason had hammered another leg. He even had someone come up to him and tell him that he had never heard of anyone run that hard of a section in such little time. Most runners were well over an hour and Jason went well below an hour. After his quick cool down we got in the car and drove along the Parkway to the next drop. This was one of the sections where we were not permitted to drive along the course.

Fri Sept 5, 2008 6:12PM
Leg 12 - 1:04:19 9.2 miles = 7:09 pace

We got to the next drop, which was a church near Boone, NC. This is near where we spent the night on Thursday before driving up to VA. Honestly I was never quite sure which state we were in until the very end when I knew it was NC.

Jane had a slight hill coming into the change so I had a great view of her coming in. I was pretty loose muscle-wise but was having some minor stomach issues. I had gone to the bathroom 2x before starting this leg. She ran in and I ran out, sprinting down a hill. I went out a little too hard but I was very pumped up and excited to run again. This section was supposed to be 7.2 miles but was rerouted to 9.2 miles and would be my longest run. I knew that it would climb for the majority of the run, but I wasn't sure because the elevation profile was not updated.

The first 3/4 mile was just a warm up and then the hills started. For some reason I was able to stride up this hill with ease and it almost seemed like the grade was matched for my stride rate. It is hard to explain but I was able to run sub 7:20 pace on the entire climb. I was again carrying a water bottle and was using it as it was warm, especially toward the top as the vistas really opened up over the valleys.

It seemed like I ran uphill forever and after finishing, I realized that it was a 10k climb going up 700'. That doesn't seem like a lot, but as it went up, it would also roll a little and climb again, making this the toughest of my sections overall. But as I ran uphill, I actually ran faster and faster. I had picked off 10 runners by the summit and then I really started to run fast. The last 1.8 miles of the run would be downhill, sharply. This would be my 3rd pounding downhill section in just the first two legs.

I started to sprint downhill and passed runner after runner. I would sneak up on them and then blow past as fast as I could. The runners really had no chance to stay with me. I would go on to run 13 minutes for the last two miles of this long 9.2 mile section. I passed the last runner just before the turn into the parking lot as I sprinted in. I got the luxury of running the major change legs where larger groups of 12 had to meet their groups of 6 together. So I got the benefit of a large audience at every finish. I came in at 7:09 pace and had passed a total of 14 runners. I was on top of the world after this leg.

I have to say that my inspiration for running so hard on this leg was having heard the guy at the end of Jason's last leg rave about how fast he had run compared to others in that section. I used that as my motivation to hammer this 9.2 mile leg and try to set a pace that no one, rested or not, could touch amongst any of the teams.

After a quick cool down and change of clothes, we packed up and hit the nearby gas station. We needed ice and I wanted some chocolate milk for recovery.

Fri Sept 5, 2008 7:17PM

Jason, Jane and I started to make our way through the outskirts of Boone and then up and over Grandfather Mountain. This would be the longest leg of the relay, as Kristi would have a 10-mile climb to the highest point on the course. It took us a very long time to ascend the mountain, so her run would probably be much slower than previous legs.

At about half way up, we saw a beautiful waterfall that we had to stop at. I was hoping that the water would be icy again like the river from earlier in the day so that I could soak my calves. They were burning slightly after that hill climb. When we stopped and got in, we found that it was sooooo cold and I could barely stand in it. Jason toughed it out, but I had to bail quickly. We did pose for some pictures.

We hit the leg stop just before dark and were one the of the first crews to this location. There were 4-5 people in sleeping bags next to the port-a-poddie in the small patch of grass. Once again, Jason had no time to rest but Jane and I were able to relax. We each laid out our towels and blankets and rested, but did not sleep. We had worrisome thoughts of the rest of our team climbing up and over Grandfather Mountain. We had estimates of when Kandi would arrive, but they were too aggressive. Later would we find out by Kristi had gotten ill, and she needed help with companion runners to make it through her leg. Luckily it was past 7:30pm and this was permissible. We were really starting to get nervous because there were a ton of groups to come and go. We had gone from being somewhere in the top 10 or so (speculation) to further down in the pack. As I told Jason, this is about the time when the runners with fresh legs would start to catch up with us and make up lots of time.

Jason was going to run his section and then continue on in the dark with Jane. As Kandi finally arrived (just after the Van) she handed off to Jason and we were off to the next stop at a school.

Jane and I arrived at the next stop and she got ready. This was her first night run and I think that she was really glad that Jason was running with her. She was not used to the headlamp and running out in the country was a little scary because it was dark. Not like cave dark, but like no city lights and just starlight dark. We spoke with a few runners at this stop and even one other ultra group as we patiently waited for Jason. This was his shortest leg so we figured he would be flying along in record time. I was a little nervous myself as I had to navigate to the next stop on my own and in the dark.

Jason came in, handed off to Jane and then they ran off together. I immediately got in the truck and drove to the start of my next leg.

Fri Sept 5, 2008 11:16PM
Leg 18 - 0:46:58 5.9 miles = 8:04 pace

I arrived at the start of leg 18 and waited for the twosome to arrive. I made some small chat with a runner wearing a Boston Marathon shirt from this past year. We talked about the temperature swings and how it affected our race day in the spring. He was very nice and shared some insight on the relay, having done it before.

I was now wearing a short sleeve shirt, along with my vest and a visor. It had cooled down to the mid 60's, but was slightly humid by the time I started this run. It had been dark for a couple of hours now and my body had adjusted to it.

Jason and Jane came up the hill together and I took the snap bracelet. This run would drop 900' over 3.6 miles. Once again, another quad busting downhill. This was the first time that I really started to feel the fatigue and lack of rest. On the last leg I had really pounded the downhill, but this time I just didn't have it. It was a case of bad run, good run, bad run with my first 3 legs. I had to stop within 1/4 mile of starting to catch my breathe on the downhill. I was running about 7:45 pace, which was much slower than my previous too legs. I am convinced that it was not the night running, as I have done this before. I think that my quads finally decided to rebel against me. I walked again at 1.5 miles and had a fast runner blow by me at about the same speed I ran by others in my second left. It would have been a nice run otherwise, as there was a babbling brook alongside the road that kept me company. I took me nearly 27 minutes to run 3.25 miles. I was now net -1, having passed 1 and been passed by one. Jason and Jane passed me just before the bottom of the hill. I wasn't sure how I looked, but I knew how I felt. I had a horrible side stitch that I just could not work out. I never, ever get them so I don’t know why this was the time to get one, but it hurt fiercely and the only thing that helped was to slow the speed down.

At the bottom, we made a sharp left and started to climb back out. We crossed the stream and started up. I laughed to myself as I actually enjoyed the change from down to uphill. Who looks forward to a hill climb? Me when you've got some much downhill already in the bank. From 3.6 to 4.1 we climbed from 3000 to 3400' for a 15% average grade. Let me say that again, after a 4.7% decline for 3.6 miles to turn it over immediately to a 15% incline was crushing. I walked twice on the climb, albeit each time for only seconds. This was when I was passed for the second and final time of the relay for my legs. This was utterly demoralizing to be crawling up a hill and being passed by another runner, even if he did have strong form.

How could this leg have gotten any better? How about another quad busting downhill to finish it off? Yes, a 7.1% negative grade slope over the last 1.6 miles. I did manage to regain my speed again this time though, running the last portion at a low 7 pace. When I ran up the last small hill and handed to David I was done. I had very little to nothing left. To tell you the truth, I am not even sure I remember much about changing or getting into the car to drive to the next stop. It is all kind of a blur. I know that I must have handed off to David but that was all I remember.

Sat Sept 6, 2008 12:00PM

We now had gone several hours into the dark, with each of us having completed a run in the dark, with Jason doubling up on one of Jane's sections. Jason asked me if I would run with Jane on her next section and I quickly agreed. I knew that it would mean a shortened rest period for me, but the joys of having the second longest section (9.2 miles) came with having the shortest section with 1.9 miles next. I figured that it was the least I could do was to run with her for 5+ miles before my 1.9 mile downhill. This section was fairly winding to get to our next rest stop. It took a little longer than I had thought to get there. I drove, I think? Maybe it was Jason, We were all totally wiped out. We finally made it to the rest area, which was in the parking lot of a grocery store. I thought maybe it was a good idea to get out and go in, but it was about 1am. I don't know what I would have bought, but it seemed like a good idea. I chose sleep instead.

We had about an hour to wait, based on our estimates before Kandi would arrive and Jason would have to take off. Jason must have driven, since he was in the driver seat? Yep. Jane was in the passenger seat, now asleep. I sort of laid out across the first row of the back seat, with my legs up on the seat to increase blood flow and speed recovery. We slept for maybe 30 minutes

As Jason started to get ready, I too changed clothes and put on what I would wear on my next run, since I figured that we would not have much time once we made the transition, as I would be running with Jane.

We started to worry that Kandi was lost or wasn't going to make it when the van finally pulled up and they said that they didn't see her on the way through. It was dark and most runners look the same, so we figured that they must have just driven right past her and not even known. Too Funny! Well, now it's funny. At the time, we were a combination of worried about her safety primarily, and worried that we were losing time secondarily. As for us, we really had no choice but to wait for her to arrive. The van headed back out and looked for her, returning shortly indicating that she was just beyond the last hill coming into whatever city we were in. Jason got revved up to run and as she came in, they made the transition.

As for Jane and I, we assumed the role of pilot/co-pilot and grabbed the directions to our next stop, hitting the road fairly quickly. We passed Jason on our way out and he was hauling a$$ as usual! It took us a little while, but finally we arrived at a little church where the next transition would be. We had been jamming to disco music, then some bad 90's dance music and now were rocking out to some hardcore rap with Eminem. Jane said that she wanted to get fired up, so I played 'Till I collapse' by Eminem and 50 Cent. As 50 says in this song, 'I'm gonna rip some sh!t, till my bone(s) collapse'. This was just the pump that we needed as we prepared to run in the dark again.

We got our gear ready, reflective vests on and our headlamps where donned. I was wearing my 'Pre' Fleet Feet XC shirt and snapped some pictures while Jane updated the Tortoises and Hares Blog online. This was one of the few cell phone reception spots on the course.

Sat Sept 6, 2008 2:00AM
Leg 24 = 0:58:16 5.6 miles = 10:20 pace

Once again Jason surprised us on the fast end, as he showed up easily 5 minutes before we expected him. With the doors to the Rover still open and Beastie Boys still playing on the stereo, we scrambled away. Jane had been running her sections as consistently under 10 minute miles, but this was a tough section, with plenty of elevation change. We would drop from the start, climb steeply before dropping just as fast and finish with another long climb over the last couple of miles.

Jane and I ran together pretty silently. Normally I would pass along words of encouragement, tell stories, etc but I just didn't have much in the tank mentally. I had enough to periodically check to make sure that she was doing well, but that was about it. We ran on a gravel road on the first downhill section, which Jane was not crazy about since she does not trail run that often, but for me it was like running on a marshmallow bed of puffy clouds as we dropped several hundreds of feet. We ran alongside a girl for a while, and despite trying to make some small talk, she had less to say that I had to Jane! She hung with us until the start of the climb. I was 'half-stepping' Jane on the climb, running just ahead of her. I thought by doing this, she would try to keep up as I ran steady up the hill. Plus my Diamond headlamp dwarfed what she was wearing, so if she didn't stay close, she lost the illumination. We slowly pulled away from the girl and then even passed a guy on the climb. We were running very strong.

The road that we were on changed back from gravel to pavement as it started winding down another valley. We talked a little more here, as it was less demanding. Being in the dark, I had us running as many of the tangents as possible to cut distance. I never said anything to Jane about it, but she sort of figured out what I was doing as we would run on one side of the road, and then in the middle as we made our way to the other side before the next corner. I tried to look ahead as much as possible to know the shortest line to run. A few times I think that I bumped her arm as she was just in the zone as we climbed the last hill.

Despite the rigors of the climb, we actually were running around 10 minute miles together and it was starting to make me tired. At one point I said, "You know, there is no shame in walking", to which she immediately replied, "No I'm ok." I laughed and said. "No I was talking to myself!" This provided us with a little humor as we still had a mile to climb in the 5.2 mile section.

As we approached the final intersection, I glanced over to the left in order to see the BRR directional arrow sign. The arrow head (point) was very small, so you nearly had to be on top of the sign to see which way to turn if you were not familiar with the course. We took the left and made our way, though I was wondering if we had made the correct turns, as we were already at 5.2 miles. So far I had been able to run each leg at or below the distance by running the tangents. With a course this long, I assume that they measure it by car, so it would be possible to run it 'short'. By the time we saw the transition, we had logged 5.6 miles. We stopped for just a moment to change the bracelet from Jane to myself. In this brief moment, I also stopped and reset my GPS to accurately capture the distance, time and elevation.

Sat Sept 6, 2008 2:58AM
Leg 24 = 0:13:28 1.9 miles = 7:26 pace

As I mentioned, this was my (and the team's) shortest leg of the entire relay. In trying to make it an even 36 transition spots and have them be at convenient locations like parks, churches, schools, etc, some legs were going to be short. This one was 1.9 miles and mostly downhill. I had thoughts of putting my Saucony Fastwitch flats on for this section, but since I was with Jane on the leg before, I kept my Mizuno's on.

I raced downhill and felt like I was really flying, yet as I looked at my GPS, I was only running a low 7. This was a little disheartening, but like the great mirage, with the darkness and fatigue, it felt like I was running at race pace.

There really isn't much to remember and share when you are only running for 13 1/2 minutes. I mean how much can you really feel, or anguish over or can you even contemplate in such a short period of time?

I think that I was +2 or +3 in this section, as I passed the last guy just before a left hand turn near the end. I made the turn and then could see the lights at the transition. There was one more fast left and then the transition was upon me and their David was! I had the bracelet opened up and carrying it in my right hand, then passing it off to David and his red shirt.

The transition area was pretty large and spread out over a field. We walked to the very back and I changed before we left. I was fatigued and tired, but elected to drive to the next transition. Since we had some time before we needed to be at the next stop, I changed fully and did a quick stretch routine before hopping in the car.

Sat Sept 6, 2008 3:11AM

Part of the way to the next stop, Jane was already crashed out in the back seat. We arrived at the stop and pulled up onto the grass under a large oak tree. It was in the wee hours of the morning now and we had a good 90 minutes before Jason would have to run again. I grabbed my blanket and pillow and leaned against the window and fell asleep. I can only assume that Jane and Jason slept just as long as I had.

The alarm went off about an hour later. After 1 snooze, Jason had to start getting ready to run. He drank another Red Bull and 4 more bags (but only 1.5 serving sizes) of candy corn. What a diet! Candy Corn and Red Bull! I woke up with a Starbucks Double Shot cold espresso drink, knowing that the sleep that I just enjoyed would be my last. I would do my best to stay awake for the rest of the relay, especially since it would be light out again near the end of Jason's run, if not during Jane's run.

We had again speculated as to how long it would take the other three runners to get to the checkpoint. We thought that by 6am they would be at the truck and that the van would arrive sometime before head giving us some advance warning.

We were surprised when there was a knock on the window and Kandi had arrived. Jason bolted out quickly and we were once again on our way.

Jane and I drove to the next stop, which was near a local high school. On a funny note, we hit the bathrooms, where I saw a red flashing light blinking in the bottom amongst the…, well, you know. It was enough to make me laugh.

Jane changed and warmed up. She would start before 7:30 am eastern, which meant that she would still have to wear her reflective vest.

I was a little cold and had grabbed my Flivver blanket. I handed two corners of the blanket to her and indicated that I needed help folding it up. She must not have heard this, because she thought I was wrapping her up to keep her warm. This really was a much better idea and more gentlemanly in general, so I went with it. This is probably the time she will find out that I was actually being selfish☺

Jason came in shortly thereafter and Jane took off. Jane had a longer section with two long climbs and it would take her quite a while to get to the next drop point. We took our time for Jason to change before we drove to the next drop. In driving up the climbs, I felt bad for Jane in what she had in front of her.

We arrived at the leg 29/30 change point which was situated next to a river. I probably should have soaked my calves, but I was already cold and was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to warm up.

Jane arrived and handed off to me and I went out chasing a gal that had left just before me.

Sat Sept 6, 2008 8:23AM
Leg 30 - 0:34:57 4.4 miles = 7:56 pace

This was supposed to be an easy 4.4 mile section that was very flat and running along the river. As with my first four legs, I was alternating bad, good, bad and good. This was no exception as I would struggle for a little more than a half an hour on this section.

I was plugging along but it wasn’t very fast. I passed a gal and talked with her for a second, but had difficulty in staying consistently ahead of her.

I had to walk at ½ mile, 1.8 miles and just past 3.1 miles. Despite this, I was still able to hold sub 8 minute miles. I an not sure what it was, but I just didn’t have it. This was supposed to be a fast run. Maybe it was the fact that it was very flat and not climb or descent like the other legs had been. In the end, I wasn’t able to ever figure it out. IT was probably the lack of sleep and everything else.

Just before the last walk break, I passed a woman who was having a hard time. She said that she was ready to throw up. I told her that I felt the same. When the run was over and I was back at the truck, she walked by and we laughed about it.

Sat Sept 6, 2008 8:58AM

Driving to the next stop was again, uneventful. Jason drove and Jane slept in the front seat while I sat in the back. I thought about sleeping, but never truly did. We had to stop part of the way up the Mountain Goat climb because I couldn’t remember where my GPS was at. It was in the back on the shelf so that put my mind at ease. This section for David would be his toughest, maybe the toughest of the relay, as it was switchbacks up the entire way.

At the top, the road turned to gravel and this is where Kristi would take over. It was just as sharp of a down as the up was for David. Knowing that she had been throwing up and hadn’t eaten anything for hours meant that she wasn’t working on much fuel. We figured that she would struggle.

Waiting at the last transition was more painful than waiting at the first transition. It seemed like forever and a day waiting for them to arrive. We were nearly the first to arrive at the church and witnessed so many people come and go while we waited. I waded through a stream, which helped my calves pump out some of the built up acid.

We were just so ready to run our last sections that maybe we under estimated the time that it would take for the van to arrive. We figured that we would need 2:30 for our three legs to break 30 hours. That was best case scenario.

When the van arrived, they said that Kandi was just a few minutes behind. Knowing that Jason’s leg was just a few miles long, Jane and I packed up and took off, leaving Jason to wait for Kandi.

We drove ahead to the next waiting area, which sat on a small incline. This was the incline where Jane’s amazing hill climb would start.

When Jason came through, he was flying. I could tell that he had given everything that he had.

At the start of this leg I was very nervous. As I mentioned, we had done the math and knew exactly what each of us had to do for our part in the last 3 legs to hit our sub 30-hour goal. Jason had already done his part and I waited with a nervous stomach and dead legs waiting to see what time I would have to work with in my section. I was thinking that I would need nearly an hour for my 6.8 mile section, given the elevation profile. Or more accurately, if the leg measured long and was 7 miles, if I could hold onto 8-minute miles, the net would be 56 minutes. I told Jane, 2:04, 2:04, 2:04, meaning that was the last minute that she could hit the transition area and hand me the bracelet. That was worse case... So I stood patiently in a place that I will never forget; I was in the transition area, which was positioned in a parking area where a side road split off the Blue Ridge Parkway, waiting with others looking for their other runners. I waited what seemed like forever, but was really only minutes. Jason had made his way down the road a bit, as he had done 4 or 5 other times over the previous day, waiting to give me the signal that he saw her coming and to get me ready. And in the blink of an eye, I could see Jason in the distance waiving his arms and then I saw Jane come around the corner in her white and green singlet and mean sunglasses, giving her attitude. I was utterly amazed at what she had accomplished. She had given me more time than I needed and crushed our estimates of what she would run, given the incredible hill climb. Now the pressure was passed onto me. She followed Jason's lead and taken her leg by the throat and squeezed extra time out of it. Jane handed me the bracelet and said for the second time in a the last 6 hours, "Take it, I don't want it anymore!" And like that, I was off...

Sat Sept 6, 2008 1:59PM
Leg 36 - 0:49:05 6.8 miles = 7:16 pace

The next 49 minutes was like something out of a movie. It was very surreal in that with each step I was closer to the end of our long journey. To be honest, the entire time my mantra was what I would do when I approached and crossed the finish line. That kept me moving, stride after stride. My plan was to push hard on the up hill section and then re-evaluate where I was for the final 5 miles. Plus I had thought that there would be another runner starting just after me and I thought I heard footsteps, to which it was just my imagination, but it still motivated me. For the first mile, I climbed from 3100' to 3500' for an elevation grade of 7.5%. I ran this at 7:32 pace on legs that had already run 50km and were about to give out, knowing that I was about to pound them for 5 straight miles of downhill, dropping 1400' into Asheville. I was again running in my favorite Nike Swift shorts in color blue, with no shirt to go with my own sunglasses giving me that killer look along with my visor to block the sun and my good luck yellow Mizuno Elixrs. I carried my bottle with me this leg for a little refreshment as well as for a cooling effect since the temps were again in the low 80's.

I really had to focus on everything in this run. I had to remember to strike my feet properly, to swing my arms, to breathe at the correct intervals, etc. The fatigue had taken the normal running after-thought functions and made them a chore onto themselves. I had already gone to the well one too many times and I'd had dug deep and done so many other metaphors for finding the strength to keep going that you could possibly imagine. The only way I can describe the way I felt is relating to a 'Pre' quote, "I hope that it comes down to a guts race at the end, because then I am the only one who can win.! I was working on pure guts and would carry that with me to the end.

Running the downhill switching was not only strenuous on the quads, but a safety risk as well. I couldn't really run the tangents or the left side of the road because the road had no shoulder and was banked, with a blind corner on every corner. I was nearly hit twice by speeding cars coming up the hill. I wasn't really mentally right, having to focus so much on the form and sub 7:30 miles that I hoped that I would make it down the hill without being hit.

After 5 miles into the run, I started to get excited, very excited. I had not been this amped up since the 2006 Cellcom Marathon, in which I was cruising after 20 miles, knowing that I felt great and would qualify for Boston with plenty of cushion. I started to run faster and faster. I dropped a 7:04, followed by a 1.2 mile split at 6:26 pace.

I was now sprinting up hill knowing that the end was so close. When I looked down I was running a pace in the 5’s. I was fleet of foot.

Finally I could see the banners and the people near the finish line. I made the final turn and headed for home, making one last push. I had nothing left after my 3rd run so I don’t know where I found the strength to push so hard so late, but I did it.

I was once again in oxygen debt as when I crossed I had to take a dozen breathes before being right again. After regaining consiousness again, we stood under the banner and had our team picture taken again, 29 hours and 49 minutes after the last time.

Somehow Jason, Jane and I had managed to not only make up the 10 minutes that we had ‘lost’ based on our estimates of time for the last three legs, but also gained another 11 minutes in the process. So we had managed to cut 21 minutes off. Amazing.

Now that I look back on this, I consider it one of the great adventures of my life. When I had nothing left, I found the will to go on and do it amazingly fast.

Unofficially I ran 39 miles in 5:03:55 for an average of 7:46 pace (including running with Jane.)

Officially I ran 33.43 miles in 4:05:48 for an average of 7:21 pace.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

2008 Monte Sano Road Races

2008 Monte Sano Road Races 10k
Huntsville, AL
August 30, 2008
Official Results

Sometime just after 7:38 on May 26, 2008 I swore that I would never do two races on the same morning with little rest in between. That was just after finishing the Cotton Row 10k which has substantial elevation change. On that day, I would have 82 minutes of rest before running the 5k race. I felt horrible in between the races and struggled through the 5k, logging my worst road 5k in years, albeit on dead legs.

Somehow I had forgotten this resolution when I signed up for the Monte Sano Road Races. Why not take the race setup at Cotton Row and make it harder? Ok! The Monte Sano 10k starts at 8:00 am, is run on a more difficult course with more elevation change on the two loop course featuring two cone turn arounds on a gravel road. Then, if you are fast, you may get 50 minutes of rest before the start of the 5k, which runs just 1 loop of the 10k course. It sounds like a bad setup with disaster written all over it. Yet I still signed up and I still ran both races, despite trying to deny my attendance up until race day then swearing off the 5k before even finishing the 10k.

The Monte Sano Road races are the last two events in the HTC Gran Prix scoring system and I had slim hopes of garnering enough points to move up into the top three finishers. Despite a poor showing at the marathon (point wise) and missing a few easy-pointing earlier season races, I had come on strong in late spring and continued to get large amounts of points through the summer. I had to gain 100 points on the HTC president David Purinton in the standings top move into 3rd. I figured that I needed to have some sort of combination of major points for me and little to no points for David, all of which seemed doubtful. I knew that he was going to make it as Ben was running the 5k, so unless he fell down (hey, I didn't really push Brian Robinson down on High Trail this spring, despite rumors) I'd have no chance.

The 10k started with a fairly large field of 313. It was fairly stacked at the top with Jason, Donald, Lucas, Varick, George, Greg Foreman, Hot Rod, Brett, Francica, David, Shane, Mike Green and Candace. All contenders in their own right.

I decided to start out easy and not drop a 5:20 first mile like other middle distance races I had run lately. I would try to run even pace for the entire race. I started out with a 5:45 first mile as we left the lodge and ran out onto the gravel road, climbing the hill toward the ranger's house. I am not sure of position, but I think I was somewhere in the top 10. I was holding back a little, knowing that I had another race after this one to run as well. I held pretty true on the second mile, which included the cone turn around and ran a 5:53 mile. I was running with Todd and decided to make a move and pass him up on the fast downhill. I was chasing Jason and didn't want him to get out of site. I again held true at 5:48 on the third mile and same through the turn around at the lodge feeling pretty good. There were lots of people cheering and I heard Beth call out my name as I turned and went back out for another loop.

The second loop was all about staying even and not falling off too far, holding my position. I was in 6th overall and feeling good. My next 3 mile splits were 6:03, 6:03 and 6:02. I made one last push up the final hill and made the turn into the lodge. I sprinted to the finish and ended up running 37:01 for 5:57 pace. This was a great run compared with Cotton Row and A&M 10k races, which are generally thought of as harder races. In those events, I went 37:53 and 37:44. I had cut 7 seconds per mile off of A&M and 8 on CRR, in this warm day on a harder course.

Of the 313 starters, I finished 6th overall and 16 seconds behind Jason. Little did I know that he had run 10k of warm up beforehand! I was 2nd in M30-34.

2008 Monte Sano Road Races 5k
Huntsville, AL
August 30, 2008
Official Results

There were 491 starters in the 5k, which was 50 minutes after the end of the 5k. I went to change clothes and just cool down (body temperature), as I did no cool down run in between. I wanted to rest my legs.

The 5k draws lots of high school stars as school is in session and they have been training for this event. If I was fresh, I could contend for the top 3, but with 10k already on my legs, I would have to just hang on!

My first mile was all about easing back into race pace. I was in about 50th place at 1/2 mile, but would start to pick it up climbing the hill and running out on the gravel road. I logged a 6:05 first mile and chasing Jason again.

The second mile was nearly the same as the first, at 6:07, which included a fast downhill coming out of the woods. I had passed a ton of people going into the woods and coming out, dodging runners left and right.

At the water stop, I decided to get some quick fluids and stopped at the aid station near the ranger station for 4 or 5 seconds. No one was around me so it didn't affect position. Then I went out to the overlook and tried just to remain even.

Coming back toward the finish, I battled with a younger runner, taking turns with the lead. We traded a few times before I made a hard push past the hikers lot and up the final hill. Despite the time on my feet, I was still a good hill climber and knew that I could put some distance on him in this short quick uphill. My final mile was 5:59, which was great considering the aid station stop.

I made the final turn and snuck a quick look to make sure that I had built a safe lead coming into the finish. I ended up running 18:54, finishing 11th overall and 2nd in M30-34, again right behind Jason. This was a much better performance than my 5k at Cotton Row (which was also after the 10k, but with more rest).

This was an exhausting day to say the least. When the dust settled, I would earn 65 points for the 10k and another 65 points for the 5k, which displaced a lower point effort from the beginning of the year. This meant that I finished 4th in the Gran Prix standings, behind Jason, Donald and David. This was a move up from 14th place the year before. Overall I am very, very happy with this. I really look up to the guys that finish ahead of me as great runners, so to be amongst them feels pretty darn good.

Now it's time to start the 08-09 Gran Prix in the Open Men's standings, chasing Jason, as Donald and David move up to Master's men's. It should be an interesting year.