Saturday, May 19, 2018

Dam Good (Dam Insane) 40K Run - April 22, 2018

"They weren't Scottsdale cougars, they were hyenas," Sara observes as we leave the second stop of Friday evening, "They weren't even from Scottsdale." She is giving Emaad and I a tour of the night gathering places of Scottsdale's beautiful people. Her observation is well taken, as there are several women trying to contain too much flesh with too little fabric. But we have had a drink and a bite to eat and we are ready for more nightlife.

Our next stop, the Ocean Club (the Pacific Ocean is 300 miles away, so why the name?), is quite different.  It is located in Scottsdale's version of San Jose's Santana Row. Walking in is like being in a movie. The main floor is a couple of steps down, so we can see the entire floor.  It's packed, with a small band playing on the left, tables on several tiers to the right, and a semi-circular bar protruding from the back wall. As in a movie, the crowd seems to part as we make our way to the bar.  Drinks in hand, we observe the groups and couples around us. A younger woman sits with an older man next to the piano. His hands rub the outside of her thighs; her hands massage the tops of his. She slips a $20 into the tip jar for the band. I don't see if it came from her purse or his wallet. We speculate on the nature of their relationship. Greg, Sara's husband joins us at the Ocean Club.  After another drink or two, the band with lead male singer Giovanni winds up its sets, and we call it a night.

Earlier on Friday, Emaad and I had take a road trip to Sedona to view the red rocks, hike a bit and visit the vortexes to recharge our . . . whatever energy one gets from vortexes. Sedona is crowded and while we get close to a couple of the vortex locations, we never quite get centered on one. But the scenery is good and we have a tasty lunch, including cactus fries, at the Cowboy Club Grille. We stop at a craft fair in a parking lot in Oak Creek, just south of Sedona, where a vendor tries in vain to sell us crystals, "you put this next to your bed and it blocks the harmful rays from your cell phone while you sleep. And it cures headaches, too."

Saturday Sara takes us on a quick tour of her horse-friendly neighborhood and points out Hoover to us when we drive by where he lives. Hoover is a Bactrian (two-humped) camel. When we ask why anyone would own a camel, Sara gives the obvious answer, "Because they can."

Dam Nice Run
Emaad and I are up early for our drive to Lake Pleasant Regional Park, where the Dam Good Runs are being held. There are five of them:  40 Km (Dam Insane), which I am doing; the  26 Km (Dam Crazy), which Emaad is doing; the 13 Km (Dam Tough) which Sara is doing, and the 4 Mile (Dam Challenging) and 2 Mile (Dam Fun).
Emaad and I at the Start/Finish Line Pre-race

Since we arrive for the first race we park less than 50 yards from the start, pick up our bibs, slather on sunscreen and watch the sun come up over the mountains to the east of the lake. It is sunny but the temerature is in the upper 60s, although we know that won't last long.

At 6:30 the sixty-one 40K runners set off.  The 26K starts a half hour later and the 13K 30 minutes after that, so I won't see Emaad and Sara during my run. I'm comfortably near the back of the group.

We run on a road and then over the New Waddell Dam, built in 1993. The first dam was begun in 1895 and finished in 1927 and each subsequent has gotten longer and higher. The dam is generally not open for traversing.  A road continues on the other side, and after about two miles of pavement, we double back on the other side of a fence on the dirt trail. A left turn takes us onnto the Maricopa Trail and down a dry wash away from the dam. Some gentle up and down for a few miles takes us to Agua Fria aid station (mile 5.3).  I get there in 1:02, drink some water, eat some chips and M&Ms and move on. I'm surprised to see a timing mat there, something unusual for a trail run.
Typical Trail Scenery with Saguaro Cactus

The trail crosses the Agua Fria River on a small wooden bridge, more like some planks, through dense overgrowth. It is a bit of a run through a jungle as the growth forms a canopy over the trail and the temperature is appreciably cooler. But that lasts for only 50 yards or so and we come out on the Old Lake Pleasant Road, run uphill on it for a short bit and cross it onto the Beardsley Trail on the other side.

It's approaching 8 a.m. and the weather is definitely getting warm under a cloudless sky. The trail is not technical, but there are plenty of small rocks embedded in it as it winds through the scrub..  We encounter a couple of bicyclists coming in the opposite direction, but everyone is polite. A couple of miles past Agua Fria the first of the 26K runners fly past, and more will do so as we go on.

On the Maricopa Trail
(courtesy of Aravaipa Running)
I say we, but by and large I'm running by myself. The 54 runners have now gotten fairly spaced out, and although I occasionally catch up to someone and someone catches up to me, it is a day to run alone.
In five miles I arrive at the Two Cow aid station (mile 10.3) in an elapsed time of 2:07.  I refill my Nathan get some more things to eat and head out again.

At Two Cow aid station outbound
A couple of miles and 25 minutes brings us to the aid station at Scorpion Bay (mile 11.9). This is the turn-around point for the 26K runners and we see a number of them headed back while we are still headed out. Once again it is a chance to refuel before heading onto the Pipeline Canyon trail for the turnaround at the Cottonwood aid station.

In about a mile we come to the floating bridge over Pipeline Cove. The bridge is steel decked and doesn't bounce around while running across it. On the other side there are a number of horseback riders and we are careful to let them know we are there and to ask permission to go by, as horses have the right of way.

After about two miles I come to a trail intersection and become a bit confused.  The trail to the right seems to lead toward Yavapai Point, and I can see runners over there, but a sign says "wrong way."  I consult with a hiker and head straight but don't see any ribbons marking the trail so I stop and double back toward the intersection. A couple of runners come toward me and indicate that straight is correct and we head that way. I leap frog with them, as one is starting to get tired from the heat.  I get the the Cottonwood aid station (mile 15, elapsed time 3:26) ahead of them. As I replenish the fluids in my Nathan, dunk my hat and handkerchief in water, apply sunscreen and eat some oranges and watermelon they arrive.  The one woman sits down and declares her day done.
Floating Bridge at Pipeline Cove

The other woman introduces herself as Siggy and we head out for the return journey which includes a 400 foot climb to the top of Yavapai Point. Another woman passes us as we begin the ascent.  Siggy drops back. The other woman stops to give her water pack to a runner coming down.  She explains that he is her boyfriend and his waterpack had sprung a leak and he is out of water. Given that the sun is high in the sky, there is no shade and the temperature is reaching 90 degrees it is not a good situation to be in.  I offer to share my water with her but she happily explains that she is carrying plenty of extra.
Headed Down from Yavapai Point
(courtesy of Aravaipa Running)

It is a long climb up the single-track and switchbacks to the top but the views are well worth it.  Just as I head back down I meet Siggy coming up.  She get to me and sits on a rock. She does not look good.  I ask her if she has taken any salt.  She says only in Gatorade.  I give her a Succeed salt tablet and suggest that she might want to sit under the bench at the top to get some shade.  On the way down I cross paths with a couple of hikers and ask them to check on her when they get to the top.

Fire-scorched cactus 
 On the way down I pass several more runners still on the way to the summit. We exchange greetings and continue of our respective ways.

On the trail I grow weary of the hard rocky ground. With some experimentation I conclude that stepping on the horse pies (not the fresh ones) provides much softer footing.

Cactus in Bloom

Riders Ahead!

Another view of Lake Pleasant


Another cactus bloom.

 I make the turn onto Pipeline Canyon Trail and head toward Scorpion Bay.  A woman sits fishing on the floating bridge and I joke with her that I might take that up as a new pastime.  She reminds me that she had to hike in to the bridge.

Pipeline Canyon Trail from the Yavapai Trail.
Approaching Scorpion Bay aid station (mile 20.2, elapsed time 5:04) the shadow of a buzzard crosses the trail in front of me. Ominous perhaps, I think, although I can see the aid station. I repeat my now familiar aid station routine of oranges and watermelon and hat and hankerchief dipping, and get a bonus from the aid station workers who put ice in my hat. I comment on the advantage that a female friend has of putting ice in her running bra, and the female aid station volunteers agree that it is a definite plus.

Two Cow Aid Station inbound. Siggy on left.
This time it takes 31 minutes to go the 1.6 miles between Scorpion Bay and Two Cow( mile 21.8, elapsed time 5:36), compared to the 25 minutes in the opposite direction earlier in the day. and while I go thru my now familiar aid station routine, Siggy comes in. and she thanks me profusely for the salt tablet I gave her up on the point. It's rejuvenated her.

Lake Pleasant from the trail.
We head out together for the last three miles to the finish. A little bit of leapfrogging, and not a lot of taking, but just being together helps keep both of us moving.  I give her an estimate of how long I think it will take to finish. We head up what seems like a long climb that actually isn't and her friend who had dropped at Cottonwood walks toward us.  In a little bit I see Emaad coming toward me.

I get to the Park Road where a Maricopa County deputy is stationed to assure safe crossing. I stop, face him and launch into a rap inspired by Junior Brown's Highway Patrol:
"You have a star on your car,
And one on your chest,
A gun on your hip,
And the right to arrest,
You're the boss on this road,
So I do what you say,
When you tell me to cross,
I'll be on my way."

He waves me across and with that I run the last 100 yards to the finish.
I finish in 6:31:17, first (and only) in my age group; 35 of 39 males; 48 of 56 finishers. Five runners did not finish.

Siggy is about 40 seconds behind me. After meeting up with her husband, child and dog she comes over to me and thanks me again for the salt tablet.  I resist the urge the take a dip in the lake. Emaad and I get in the car, drive back to our hotel, clean and rest up and go to Sara's for dinner.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Marine Corps Marathon - October 22, 2017

The Pieta of the Blue Mile
The 30-something woman is sitting on the ground, inconsolable even though two friends are with her, one on either side. She is crying and sobbing, and her shoulders heave while her hand reaches out to the picture of a service member near the end of the long row of pictures along the Blue Mile. Brother? Husband? Friend? All we know is that the heartbreak is fresh and raw and not what she ever thought she would have to face at mile 12 of the Marine Corps Marathon.

I try to say something to Emaad but the words stick in my throat. The human cost of our endless wars is on display in its rawest emotional form. There really are no words to say.

The Blue Mile is at mile 12 on the long, straight flat stretch of Hains Point, with the Potomac River to the right.  About 250 pictures of fallen warriors line either side of the course, arranged in chronological order. The runners, who had been chatting along, spontaneously fall silent through the sorrowful gauntlet. Each sign is the same: a picture with a name a date a location and an age in a blue bordered-frame. Some are in combat gear, others in dress uniforms, others in family portraits. The dates roll on - 2014, 2015, 2016, February 2017, June 2017, September and October 2017.

The woman is near the end - a September picture likely, or maybe even October.  When she signed up for MCM, she thought she would honor him by running the race. There was no way should could have known that his picture would be there on the Blue Mile, for he must have been - he had to have been - alive when she signed up for the race in the Spring.

Some runners stop and take pictures with some of the signs, but they are near the beginning of the Blue Mile, and they have had a chance for their losses to develop scars.

But not her. It has only been a few weeks when she received notification and the pain, the loss, the grief is still fresh. And she ran 12 miles knowing what lay ahead. Every step coming closer to the picture of the man that she would see or hear again. A long journey with no hope, no chance of a different outcome.

And the rest of us run by, by the tens, or hundreds, or even thousands depending on how long she sat there with her hand on the sign of the man who would never come home again.

The Evolution of a Plan
Emaad and I do a 20-mile training run several weeks before MCM.  We find ourselves running some and walking some. I suggest that for MCM maybe we should regularize it rather than our current ad hoc approach of walking when we feel like it. He agrees and we decide that a run 5, walk 1 minute approach might be right.

The next week I see a report from Kenny on his performance at the Hartford Marathon, He runs 3:01 and keeps a nearly perfect even pace throughout.   Karsten congratulates him on his ability to stay focused and implement his plan and not try to chase a sub-3 hour goal at the end.  This gives me two more ideas - run an even pace (no fly-and-die, banking time at the start) and stick to the plan.

Our goal is rather modest - to finish under five hours.  It hasn't happened in 2017 for me, with a catastrophic collapse at the GW Birthday Marathon and a less spectacular but still dreadful final four miles at the Edinburgh Marathon. Emaad agrees on the plan.

Amigas Fall by the Wayside
For the past several years we have had the Cinco Amigos at MCM, with Jennifer and Rebecca joining Emaad, Barry and myself in carpooling to the race.  But Jennifer is having heart issues and decides that prudence is the best course of non-action. Rebecca has started a new career as a law professor some distance from Washington and determines that it would be wiser (that's why she is a professor) to stay at school and prepare for an upcoming evaluation than drive hundreds of miles round trip and be exhausted in the classroom upon her return.

Tres Amigos, or as Barry said, Three Blind Mice
Barry and Emaad show up at my house on time, I give them coffee and we grab the box of regular-sized donuts (Rebecca usually provided a box of "colossal donuts). The drive to the MCRRC suite at the Rosslyn Holiday Inn is uneventful, as is the subsequent walk to the starting line about a mile away.

Implement the Plan
The weather promises to be warm, with highs in the 70s so we dress and prepare accordingly. Shorts are in order and Emaad and I decide to carry hand-held bottles to increase our ability to hydrate. I also carry gels for energy and Succeed! salt tablets.

At the start Barry hangs back to meet up with Sako and Emaad and I go on. We go out easy, partly because it takes nearly a mile for my chronically sore right knee to stop complaining. But that is a blessing in disguise as it prevents us from getting caught up in the initial excitement of the start of the nation's fourth largest marathon, with V-22 Ospreys doing flyovers, rows of troops holding flags and the iconic howitzer blast of a starting gun.

Headed down Spout Run, about mile 3
We walk much of the uphill on Lee Highway toward the water station at mile 2 then pick up the pace a little bit on the downhill of Spout Run. The crowded course keeps us from going too fast, and the uphill of the ramp to Key Bridge calls forth another walk opportunity.  We reach the water stop on M Street in Georgetown about a minute ahead of the five hour pace. Down to K Street and the loop to head north on Rock Creek Parkway keeps us going, and we become a bit more structured about the run 5, walk 1 strategy.

Northbound on Rock Creek Parkway, about mile 6
It is a mile and a half north on the Parkway and then we turnaround for the five and a half miles of flat course to the halfway mark at Hains Point. We skip the proffered orange slices near the Kennedy Center and step carefully as the oils from the cast aside peels make the pavement slick.

Every mile I compare my watch with the pace band and announce how we are doing. Since mile 5 we have been about two minutes ahead of the five hour pace, and we retain that difference all the way to the halfway mark which we clear in 2:28:06.

This is the point last year that things started to deteriorate, but I feel good now.  This is partly due to the walk every five minutes and partly due to carrying a bottle which enables us to have it topped up at the water stations rather than trying to drink from half-filled small cups.

Circling the Tidal Basin just past mile 15 I spot a penny in the road and circle back a couple of steps to pick it up. That may have been inspired by a spectator sign earlier on the course: "You paid $160 for this. That's $6.11 per mile. Run like it's worth it."

In just a bit we spy An on the side of the course. He gives Emaad and I cookies, which Barry had asked him to bring down.

Just after making the turn at the end of Independence Avenue to head back toward the Mall and the Capitol, I hear, "Dad! Dad!" It's Andrew, who deferred his entry to next year.  He's down there with his bike to cheer on a friend who has come to town from the Southwest. He trots along for awhile, pushing the bike while chatting with Emaad and me. Finally he peels off to seek his friend who is ahead of us.

Through mile 15 we maintain our two minute cushion, but now we are starting to struggle. At mile 16 we are a minute to the good and at mile 17 we are even. Emaad is starting to fade and when we reach mile 18, even with the pace card, we have a brief discussion.  I tell him I'm feeling pretty good and he urges me to go on.
Approaching the Capitol, just past mile 18
Chasing the Clock
Being even with eight miles to go means there is no margin of error, no cushion, no "time in the bank." And the old joke about a marathon being a 10K following a 20 mile warm-up still lies two miles ahead.

But I have a plan, I feel good and decide that I need to go as best I can in the parameters of the plan.  I put Kenny and Karsten's comments on replay in my mind.

At the water stop just past mile 19, across from the Smithsonian Castle I unscrew the top from my bottle and thrust it toward the USMC lieutenant manning the table. "Thank you, sir," I ask. As the bottle is filled the lieutenant says, "That's thank you ma'am." I babble an apology and run off.

Making  turn onto 14th Street to approach the eponymous bridge, I spy a nickel in the road. But it is truly "in the road" and after a couple of tries I can't pry it out and abandon the effort.

Passing the mile 21 marker on the far end of the bridge I note that I'm a minute behind the pace card, and I stay a minute behind at mile 22 headed into Crystal City.

The Man in the Arena
I recall Theodore Roosevelt's speech to the Sorbonne in 1910: "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Although I am familiar with the quote, it doesn't actually come to mind. But the spirit of it does. And then something happens that convinces me that I cannot give up.

I hit the wrong button on my watch.

At some point in Crystal City, amidst the cheering crowds and runners going in both directions I realize that I hit the stop button rather than the start button to reset the mile timer.  I don't know how long ago it was, just that my watch is no longer going to tell me how long I have been running and hence, how much time I have remaining.  And to compound the mistake I miss mile markers 23 and 24, so I don't even have a recent mile pace.

All that remains is to stay mentally strong, and execute the plan. I "need to get my mind right."

I keep enough of my wits to get some beer from the Hash House Harriers, though. Hydration is important.

Nothing to do now but implement the plan. Run 5, walk 1. I even do it on the small hill of the ramp onto Route 110 and the downhill toward mile 26 and the left turn up toward the finish at the Iwo Jima Memorial.

Only there, on the steep first part of the climb, do I walk during what should be a run interval. But at the top, with the finish in sight I run and cross the finish. The clock says 5:10, but that is gun time, not chip time. I'll have to wait until I get home to see if I broke five hours.

Thank you, Lieutenant!
I collect my medal from the Marine lieutenant at the end, gather my food box and a bottle of water and head back toward the hotel.  I stop to get watermelon from the Delaware-Maryland Watermelon Queen (2017 was a good year, I'm told) and give the bottle of water to a woman hovering over a nauseous runner on his knees. At the hotel I change, and get some beef stew, cookies and a beverage from the buffet while I wait for Emaad and Barry.

Emaad finishes in 5:31, saying he mostly walked the last eight miles. Barry finishes in 6:03.

That night I check the results.  I finished in 4:59:56. Mission accomplished!

My splits were 2:28/2:31. Overall, I was 50 of 204 in my 65-69 AG, 6131 of 10776 males and 9980 of 20042 overall.

Watermelon from a Queen
Swag: shirt, bib, medal, patch

Program, snack box, pace band and cool-down jacket

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ran It With Janet 50K - June 3, 2017

For a Good Cause
I pick up Gayatri for our drive out to the Manassas National Battlefield Park and the third running of the Ran It With Janet 50K. The race is the brainstorm and unicorn child of Janet Choi, who puts the race on as a fundraiser for the Embry Rucker Emergency Shelter in Reston, Virginia. But unlike many other charity races, where the race organizer makes vague promises about donating "the profits" or "a portion" of the race fees to a charity, Janet has a simple and transparent model.  The race fee is $5 and she asks that you make a donation to Cornerstones, the non-profit organization that operates the shelter.  She does not require that one make a donation or even recommend an amount. Instead, there is a link to a 'friendraiser' page on the race website and a jar on the registration table.  I put a check for Cornerstones in the jar when I register, pleased to know that the entire amount will go to Janet's charity of choice.
Clockwise from top: Jennifer, Ken, Mark, Gayatri
(photo by Mark Zimmermann)
We meet Mark and Jennifer at the start at the Brownsville Picnic Pavilion.  It is a covered pavilion where we can leave drop bags. This is a low-key race and there are only 57 persons signed up. Since the course is three loops some runners plan to run only one or two laps. Janet calls everyone to the parking lot for the start, gives some instructions and words of advice and encouragement, and sends us off.
Janet give instructions while Mark photographs her
First Lap - The History Tour
Jennifer, Gayatri and I start off together while Mark takes photos and takes his time. The weather is not bad for the beginning of June and is considerably cooler than last year (report here).  After a couple of miles Jennifer and I pull away from Gayatri, but it soon becomes evident to me that I will not be able to stay for long with Jennifer. As usual, she has packed plenty on her schedule for the day - as if running a 50K isn't enough - and she has to pick up her rock-climbing daughter later in the afternoon. That is even more incentive for her to run fast, and after about five miles, I wave her on and settle into my usual plodding pace.  It isn't long before she is out of sight.

Aid Station at Stone Bridge (about 4 miles into the loop)
On Second Manassas Trail west of Sudley Road
 Pretty much left to running alone, I spend some time contemplating the two battles that occurred on this ground more than 155 years ago, while our nation, as Lincoln said, "engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure."

The two battles would claim 26,000 dead, wounded and missing. The casualties of Second Manassas, fought only 13 months after the first battle, show the increasing escalation of the war - with 2800 dead on both sides, compared to fewer than 900 at First Manassas. Yet that was a mere harbinger of what lay ahead, as 18 days later, the same two armies would engage in the single bloodiest day of American history, with a combined 22,700 casualties, including 3700 dead, at Antietam on September 17, 1862. Ten months later, three days at Gettysburg would add another 51,000 casualties to the toll of what Lincoln described as "every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.'"

Henry Hill Monument
Commemorating Union soldiers who fell at First Bull Run
As to the cause of the war, and the reasons for it, hear Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address, "One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war. . ."

Confederate Cannon near Brawner Farm, Second Manassas
And on this day, I run on the ground on which, and for which, so many suffered and died and were buried. Lincoln has the final word: "Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully."

Second Lap - On the Unicorn Trail
Returning to the start-finish I change my shirt and handkerchief that I carry to wipe off the sweat.  As I'm about to head out Mark and Gayatri come in and we go off together.  The day has warmed up a bit, but it isn't at all oppressive. We go on together for awhile and then, like during the first loop, Mark and I pull away from Gayatri. And just like on the first loop, Mark pulls away from me, in almost the same place where Jennifer had.  I slow down a bit and Gayatri catches up.

Kissing the Unicorn at the Featherbed Road Aid Station
(about 7 miles into the loop)
We take our time, running, walking and chatting. We see no other runners, neither overtaking anyone nor being overtaken. (That's not entirely accurate, as we do get lapped by several of the leaders on their way through their third and final loop.)

Gayatri passes a unicorn directional sign
I make this the unicorn loop, enjoying the unicorn-themed course signs, aid stations and other unicorn concepts that Janet incorporates into the race. Winners get unicorn-themed prizes, and the finishers' tumblers have unicorns on them as well.

On the trail near the unfinished railroad trail
About a mile from the end of the loop, as we run on the trail through a field, I move a bit to my right to avoid a large black stick on the trail.  Then the three-foot long stick comes to life and the northern black racer disappears into the grass on the left.  I give out a start, and Gayatri yells and jumps toward me.  We both quickly calm down and proceed to the finish of the second loop.

Third Loop - The Nature Tour
I change back into my shirt from the first loop, as it has dried out. In keeping with the battlefield theme, I'll wear blue on the first and third loops and grey on the second.

Bee on a thistle approaching Chinn Ridge
Since neither Gayatri nor I are in much of a hurry, and are simply content to finish,  I declare the third loop the nature loop and stop frequently to take pictures. We still see no other runners and speculate that we may be the last runners on the course.  At the Featherbed Road Aid Station we get a report that Mark is about 20 minutes ahead of us.  Approaching the Henry Hill Monument we come across Merle Zimmermann, Mark's son who offers to refill our bottles from gallon jugs of water he has carted out there.

Near Chinn Ridge
We thank him, pass the Brawner Farmhouse, cross Route 29, now Lee Highway, then the Warrenton Turnpike, pass the locale of the snake encounter, climb the final small hill, and head to the finish.

A pair of bees visiting a thistle


Queen Anne's Lace?


Wild Roses near the Unfinished Railroad
 Mark is waiting at the finish line with his camera and urges us to sprint to the end.  Gayatri takes up the challenge, while I continue my steady, er, slow pace.
Gayatri out sprints me to the Finish
(Photo by Mark Zimmermann)
It turns out that we are not the final finishers.  Two other runners finish behind us, but I am the final male. On the other hand, I'm the oldest male. Gayatri is the oldest female besting two others.

I finish in 7:41:48, good for 32 of 34 finishers, 16 of 16 males (yeah, it is an ultra with more women than men finishers!) and 3 of 3 in my age group.   My loops are 2:10/2:35/2:55, all slower than last year and an overall 13 minutes slower. But it was an enjoyable run, and that's why I run.

Jennifer finishes in 6:08, good for fifth female overall and second in her age group. Gayatri wins her age group. Mark finishes in 7:16, also good for first in our age group.

A college alumni group is having picnic at the Brownsville Picnic area and they generously offer to share their food with us.  On the way home, we drive through McDonald's and I get a milkshake and an iced tea.
Swag: Bib and a Ran It with Janet tumbler

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Edinburgh Marathon - May 28, 2017

Expo, or Not
On Saturday morning, Emaad and I take an easy run two-mile run from our Tollcross apartment, along The Meadows and past the University of Edinburgh to packet pick-up at Dynamic Earth. The 5- and 10-K races are scheduled for the morning and we see runners finishing and preparing to start.

Packet pick-up is really only bib pick-up and only for those runners who live outside the U.K. or Europe, or for those who had not received their bibs in the post.  We get them, visit the one vendor selling race and running supplies and visit a couple of booths of the various charities who have runners in the race.

Bibs in hand, we walk back along the Royal Mile. It is the main street of the Old Town of Edinburgh and nearly every shop along it caters to tourists.

To the Start
Nelson Monument on Calton Hill
near the start and our silver corral
Since the marathon does not begin until 10 a.m. on Sunday there is no hurry to get going.  A leisurely breakfast and a five minute cab ride takes us to within a block of the marathon start area.  We hand in our drop bags so we will have a dry shirt at the finish and take our time strolling to our assigned silver corral.  From there we can see the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill to our left and Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat, the extinct volcano which overlooks Edinburgh. Temperatures are in the upper 60s with some sun, and the forecast is for mid- to upper 70s.

Emaad and I had decided to wear the same shirts, our Antelope Canyon ones from the February race, but without planning we are both wearing black shorts and black socks. We spot the Viking boat team which is starting in the same corral as we are.
Vikings! Taken at the start, but they were everywhere.
We hear the starting signal and begin walking to the start line.  Crowds line either side of Regent Road and we cross the start line about 14 and a half minutes after the gun.  In a couple of blocks we merge with the runners who had started on London Road. Or maybe we fall in behind those runners, as the faster corrals started there.
Along Queen's Drive (about mile 1)
Then it is on to Queen's Drive, with Holyrood Park on the right and views of Arthur's Seat as we pass St. Margaret's Loch with views of St. Anthony's Chapel partway up the hill.

St. Margaret's Loch with St. Anthony's Chapel
(about mile 1.5)
In less than a mile we pass Holyrood Palace on the left and the Scottish Parliament of the right. the former is the Queen's official residence and was built in the 17th century.  The latter was built in 2004 and designed by Catalan architect Enric Miralles, in a style hard to describe - perhaps free form contemporary.  Facing each other across the street, they offer a study in contrasts, and a study in the contrast between British sovereignty and Scottish devolution.

To the Beach
The first four miles are gently downhill as we make our way toward Leith, the waterfront area of Edinburgh.  About mile 5 we turn onto the Portobello Promenade, a seafront way with the beach and the Firth of Forth to the left and typical beach resort shops to the right.  We run past diners enjoying a late breakfast along the promenade.  As turns out to be the case much of the way, there are many spectators offering tubs filled with jellies.

Around mile six I remark to Emaad that my quads are sore.  He notes the same sensation, probably due to the seemingly easy downhill at the start.

From Portobello we pass the first of the three relay changeover points and cross the mostly dry - it's ebb tide- River Esk into Musselburgh. We pass the Musselburgh Race Course, which surrounds The Old Links, where golf has been played since 1672.

Crossing the River Esk (at low tide)
(about mile 8.5)
Past Musselburgh we spot a motorcycle coming toward us in the opposite lane.  Behind the cycle is a the lead runner, Julius Korir, who goes on to win the race in 2:17.

Prestongrange Museum
(about miles 11 and 24)
Then it is past the Prestongrange Industrial Heritage Museum and into Prestonpan.  We continue to enjoy views of the beach and water to our left.

We pass a bagpiper wearing a shirt of Macmillan Cancer Support, one of numerous charities, mostly medically related, with runners in the marathon.  There are far more charity-garbed runners than at races in the U.S., including for diseases that I have never heard of.  Every cancer seemingly has participants offering assistance to either fight it or provide assistance to persons afflicted by it.

Macmillan Cancer Support Bagpiper in Prestonpans
(about mile 12)
Halfway and On Plan
In Cockenzie and Port Seton we reach the halfway point in 2:22:43.  Our goal, modest as it is, is to finish in under five hours, so our half time gives us a little over 7 minutes to play with.  It isn't a huge cushion, but gives us a positive sense as we continue into the second half.

Emaad walks on the High Street in Cockenzie and Port Seton
(about mile 13.1)
Fry and Die
The day is unseasonably warm for Scotland, with temperatures climbing well into the upper 70s. We are more accustomed to it than many of the local runners, and we see more than several runners down receiving medical attention.  Both of us have Succeed! salt tablets with us and I take one every hour, as the salt helps retain water and fight dehydration, and the small amount of potassium in the tablets helps prevent muscle cramping.

Past Cockenzie the countryside turns rural, with fields and hedges to the right and fields and the Firth of Forth to the left. The road rolls a little bit in elevation, with gentle but noticeable ups- and downs. We run to the turnaround and soon pass through the gates leading to Gosford House. We pass the house at mile 18. A glance at my watch and my pace band shows we are still 7 minutes ahead of five hour pace.

Emaad asks me if my hip is bothering me. I reply in the negative and inquire why he asked.

"You're running crooked," he says.

"Like sideways?" I say and turn so my right shoulder is pointed forward and my left to the rear.

"No, you are leaning way to your left," he clarifies.

Sure enough, I then realize that I am leaning far to the left.  I was not even aware of it until he pointed it out and I make a conscious effort to straighten up.

"Ah! No problem," I quip. "Just a series of small strokes."

Entry to Gosford House Estate
(about mile 18)

Gosford House
(mile 18)

Cows on the estate of Gosford House (about mile 18.5)
We exit the estate and head back toward the finish line in Musselburgh. We are looking for the 19 mile marker and it never seems to come. Emaad's GPS says we have long since passed it, before it comes into sight more than 15 minutes after passing mile 18.  And sure enough, the marker for mile 20 comes abreast in less than 9 minutes.

Now we are beginning to labor. It takes more than 12 minutes to reach mile 21 in 3:54 but we are still six minutes to the good. Keep up a 12:30 mile pace, a fairly modest goal, and we cross the finish in under five hours.

But Emaad is gradually pulling away from me.  I try to keep up and begin leapfrogging the Vikings, whose lead boatsman? runner? is suffering from cramps in his calves. The boat pulls to the side of the course and the crew member behind him messages his calves.  Soon enough they get going again and pass me, only to repeat the exercise until it gradually pulls away from me.

By mile 23 my advantage over the pace card is down to three minutes and mile 24 pretty much wipes that out.  I push on but by the last half mile I have the thousand-yard stare and am oblivious to the cheers, "well dones," and exhortations of the spectators. I slog across the finish line in 5:05:26.

Emaad is there waiting for me.  As the Viking boat caught up to him he reached for some inner reserves and pushed hard to the finish, with his closing sprint allowing him to finish in 4:59:53.

Emaad and I at the finish. I am still leaning.
(Photo courtesy of E. Burki)
We get our medals and finisher's box, get our picture taken and head to the bag pick-up for our bags.  The friendly teen-age volunteer sees us coming and has our bags waiting for us as we arrive.  We go out to Pinkie Road and get on one of the local buses for a ride back to Edinburgh.  The double-decker bus is chock-full of runners and I feel bad for the locals on the bus as the windows do not open and the atmosphere is fetid.  The bus takes us to within four blocks of our apartment, and after a stop at the Innis & Gunn Beer Kitchen for some hydration, we get back to the apartment in time for some rest before heading out for a feast of meat at the South African Shebeen restaurant.

I finish in 5:05:26, after running out of steam at mile 23.  Overall I finish 4800 of 6126 finishers, 3384 of 4032 males and 13 of 25 in the 65-69 male AG.

Swag: bib, medal, key fob,
Box with shirt,bottle, space blanket, gels

Finishers' Award Box