(Unofficial) 2012 Richmond Marathon: Take Two

Well, here’s an idea. Run a marathon. Totally bomb your time, but have a blast doing it. Take three easy weeks off. Eat turkey. Eat more turkey. Then run the same exact course you ran three weeks ago, unsupported (sort of), to try & hit your goal time.

“Dude, sounds like a great idea. Let’s do it!”
– Me

I woke up at 5:00am this morning. Rested. No nerves. No worries. Just another Sunday run around one of the coolest cities on the East Coast.

Start time: 6:30. Broad & 7th. It was dark. Quiet, but not too quiet. Cold, but perfect running weather.

My goal was the same as it was 3 weeks ago. A 3 hour 30 minute marathon.

Finish time: 10:04. A 3:34:00 marathon.

I missed my goal… again. Failure, right? Wrong.

One of the things I love most about running, is that it changes my perspective. My perspective on life. On other people. On myself. And the world around me. My run today was no different.

I went into it with a 3:30, no excuses, no exceptions mentality. If nothing changed, today would have been a failure. But…

The truth is…

A 3:30 marathon is a really difficult time for me. I trained hard all summer, but it was undoubtedly going to be tough for me to maintain an 8:00/mi pace for 26.2 miles.

A 3:34 (all things considered) is a reflection of what I’m capable of. And above & beyond the 3:30 goal, that’s what today was really about.

A 3:34 shaves 12 minutes off my previous PR. And I don’t care who you are… that’s just cool.

My legs didn’t feel much better than they did 3 weeks ago. But my head was in the right place.

I had a random group of runners with a 7:30am running group cheer for me at the Huguenot Starbucks after my buddy, Marcos, told them what we were doing. Runners are runners. Strangers are friends.

At mile 23, if I maintained an 8:00/mi pace, I would have been right at 3:30/3:30+change.

Also at mile 23, my legs felt like poop. Without my friends, I might have walked. I’m proud of myself for pushing through, no matter what the pace was.

Friends don’t let friends drink & drive. Runners don’t let runners run alone. Oh, and friends don’t let runners drive after marathons (Thanks James).

On multiple occasions, we had cars stop at green lights to let us go. It was like the world communicated to them what we were doing, and they got the message loud & clear. I don’t care who/what you believe in, but that’s some powerful stuff. Awesome is as awesome does.

I have the best friends anyone could ask for. You could attend The Global Summit of Nice People International, pay a million bucks a head, and you still wouldn’t walk out of there with a better group of people.

I wish I would have talked to them a little more today (marathon delirium from 20 on). But there’s plenty of time to make up for that. That’s why man created Starbucks. It had nothing to do with coffee, I swear. OK, well, maybe a little. Caffeine’s a vitamin, right?

I joined MTT solely for the purpose of meeting new people, not for running a great marathon time. Perhaps it’s fitting that my MTT marathon three weeks ago wasn’t a great time, but the people I met during training were running beside me today. At its core, running is about health, happiness & community – not time, distance & PRs.

I wasn’t the only one who did something special this morning. Ginny Flynn, Leslie Buller, Kelly Casey, Denise Thomson (collectively known as the “Little Hotties”), James Minnix, Jennifer Selman, Ola Sopilnik, Marcos Torres & Cheryl Christensen did something even more special. They were there for me (when I desperately needed it). And more often than not, just being there is more than enough.

There was an article that went viral recently. It cited research that suggests… consistant endurance running and/or running over __ miles per week and/or running faster than ___ pace is bad for your heart, and could lead to heart complications & a shorter life. The truth is… if that’s the case… “Doc, I couldn’t think of a better way to go out.”

The truth is… in my lifetime, I’ll never believe that. There’s no amount of research, scientists & PhDs that will ever convince me not to run whatever pace – whatever distance – I want to run.

The truth is… one human heart is smarter than a million brilliant scientists. And it’s way more consistant than any researcher will ever be.

[random tangent about the human heart] – The friggin’ thing beats every single second of your life. Never stops. Never wavers. And it does it all by itself. Completely independent from everything else in your body. Heck, it even beats outside of your body… as if to say, “Yo doc. Put me back in. I ain’t done yet. This guy’s got more life to live.” [/end tangent]

I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people. And I couldn’t have asked for any better of a run than the run I had this morning.

2012 Richmond Marathon: A Different Kind of Race

Today was one of those days that caught me by surprise. It was a day where my race got flipped upside down, totally unexpected. Lucky for me… I love surprises. And this one turned out to be pretty special.

This past year, I’ve changed my approach to running. I abandoned my Garmin years ago because I was done obsessing over my time. I still carry a stopwatch, but half the time I don’t use that either. I have made an effort to replace numbers with people.

Marathon Training Team (MTT)

I signed up for the Marathon Training Team (MTT) because it guaranteed I’d be running with people. And all summer I met running buddies, friends and really cool, interesting people. I wasn’t concerned with how long it took me to run 5, 10 or even 20 miles. I just wanted to have fun doing it.

MTT > Fun

“Fun” is an understatement. MTT is so much more than that. My fellow (Wo)Mangos & I formed a team. We ran together. We tripped over sidewalks together. We shared stories & wore funny costumes together. We got injured (and recovered) together. We ran red lights, ate gummy bears, climbed hills & ran circles around the track.

Some of us still didn’t officially meet each other until the day of the race… but we shared so many of the same experiences. The greatest of which was running the Richmond Marathon… together.

A race goal that doesn’t involve numbers

The first half of the summer with MTT, I didn’t have a time goal. My goal was to meet some new people, and enjoy running with our group. As I started to get faster, naturally, I wondered what I could run Richmond in, if I really went for it. I realize this went against my new approach to running (all about fun, ignoring the numbers), but…

It feels good to PR

Doesn’t it? It makes us feel good about ourselves. And no matter how selfless we are, it’s human nature to feel a sense of accomplishment & self-worth.

I love to push my limits. Workout hard. See how much I can improve. Give it all I got & see what I’m made of. But you know what?

Some days you find out that your legs are made of Jello. And I’m OK with that. Not just because I love Jello (um, who doesn’t?). But because it’s OK not to hit your goal.

If we knew we’d hit every goal we set for ourselves, that’d make for a really boring journey, wouldn’t it?

There’s more to running than the numbers

When I think back to yesterday’s race… and how my legs crapped out at mile 10… and all the walking, stopping & pain that ensued for the next 2 hours… in a way, I got what I asked for.

For the past year, my approach to running was not about the numbers. And my legs reminded me – less than halfway into the race – that today wasn’t going to be about the numbers either. It was about the people. The experience. The community.

In the grand scheme of life, does 10, 20 or even 30 minutes difference in your marathon time really matter? 30 years from now, are we going to remember our fastest time or the funniest sign? Are we going to remember running solo to a new PR, or crossing the finish line with your friend by your side?

My point is this:

The experience is worth more than any combination of hours, minutes & seconds.

People made this race what it was. And it was the people that made the 2012 Richmond Marathon one of the most memorable races I have ever run.

I posted a separate write-up of all the amazing people who were a part of my journey.

2012 Richmond Marathon: A Day of Thanks

Today I ran the Richmond Marathon for the first time. I’ve run a few marathons, but never any like this one. As a matter of fact, nothing even close.

Today’s race was an interesting one. Started great. Ended great. And all in-between, my legs didn’t work. <– kind of a big deal when you’re running a marathon.

But what made the race today so memorable was all that time in-between.

I walked. I flat out stopped on numerous occasions. I thought about calling it quits, more than once. I drank flat cola (which I never do). I popped pills (which I do even less than the cola thing). I tried everything I could think of to get my legs to start working again. And none of it worked.

But today’s race wasn’t about what I tried to do. It was about what others did for me (and the thousands of others out there).

(Read more about the race here.)

With that said, I’d like to give some thanks.

First and foremost, I’m thankful for being born healthy, and fully capable of even attempting the things that I do.

And I’m thankful for living in a country that allows not only myself, but any human being who wants to, participate in a race. After hearing Bart Yasso tell stories about countries that still don’t let blacks and/or women run, I’m grateful to be allowed to toe the starting line.

I’m thankful for having parents who raised me healthy. Especially my mom for forcing me to eat my vegetables. And my dad for coaching me through all those baseball & basketball games. And signing me up for as many leagues as I could possibly fit on my schedule (assuming they’d give me a ride to the game, of course, haha). I wouldn’t be where I am today if they hadn’t promoted an active, healthy lifestyle.

How can I not be thankful for the Marathon Training Team (MTT). This program is unlike any other in the country, and you have to experience it to understand. Now I know why over 50% of the participants are returners.

My MTT Coaches, Jake, Erin, Cathy & Suzanne. The word “coach” doesn’t do them justice. These guys are amazing individuals. All the motivation, advice, funny stories, safety reminders, salt, ibuprofen & inspiration anyone could ask for… and then some. I would not have finished my race today without you guys (dead serious). You just let me know when you need a friend, running buddy or help with anything… and I’ll be there in a heartbeat.

All the MTT Coaches. I had a few other MTT coaches help me push through today. And honestly, seeing them all out there, knowing what they were doing for their respective teams… that’s motivation in and of itself. These guys are truly selfless, and the only thing they care about is getting their team across that finish line. And they have a pretty darn good record of doing it.

My friends that ran or rode with me. James, Brian, Ola, Marcos (and anyone I’m forgetting). You guys are good friends, and you helped take my mind off of things that it had no reason to be thinking about. Y’all kept me going out there.

The spectators’ creativity. I saw some hilarious signs today. A few even had me laughing out loud. Here are some of my favorite:

“Beat Sarah Palin”, “Beat P. Diddy”, “Beat Oprah”, and especially the “Beat Paul Ryan… imaginery 2:50-something – actual 4:01”

Chuck Norris never ran a marathon.

Sorry, but there’s not an app for this. You’ll have to just keep running.

Nipple chafing turns me on. (I know this one’s old, but it gets me every time)

RVA loves NYC

The awesome spectator support, sign or no sign. The little kids giving free high fives… and they’re “it-goes-without-saying” awesome parents. The students from VCU, the fraternities & sororities, the cheerleading squads.

The really hot girl wearing super-tight (but classy) black pants, shakin’ what her momma gave her at mile 20-something. I don’t know where I was at that point, but I know what I saw, and I… liked it.

The woman outside some fastfood joint who handed me fresh-squeezed lemonade. She obviously knows what to do when life hands her lemons.

The 3:35 pace group leader, who tried to pick me up when he could obviously tell I was on the verge of collapse. You lifted my spirits, if only for a brief minute. I wish I could’ve kept up. You seemed like a really awesome dude.

The gospel choir outside of Virginia Union. Those women were throwin’ it down, and it was pickin’ me up.

The mother-daughter pair with the homemade cookies. Those things were moist. Well done, ladies.

The 1,000+ volunteers who… well, let’s be honest, volunteers run almost every aspect of a race on race day, so basically… thanks for… everything.

And thank you, Richmond, for being a great place to call home. None of us today could have done this without you.

I’m sure I missed a bunch of others, but you know who you are. You’re great friends. Great people. And the world loves you for being so awesome.

2010 Richmond Marathon – MTT Volunteer Report

My Richmond Marathon volunteer experience was different from previous years. I got the same sense of satisfaction for helping the runners, but this year I gained a new perspective on what running is really about.

Spending a few hours with 3 amazing coaches from the Marathon Training Team will do that.

While an injured hamstring prevented me from running the 2010 Richmond Marathon, my love for the sport could not keep me on the sideline.

I’ve been a course marshall the past 2 years. Today’s marathon, however, was much more exciting than standing on a street corner, telling 10,000 runners to go exactly where they already knew they had to go. Since I missed out on the Marathon Training Team (MTT) fun all summer, this was my last chance to see what all the hype was about. I was assigned to drive 3 amazing MTT coaches all over the course to meet up with runners — Vicki, Donnie & Q.

Marathon Training Team coaches are da bomb

When I arrived at mile 5 to meet the coaches, I instantly knew I was in the right place. 25 yellow shirts, a tall green hat, a few pairs of striped socks & a viking helmet. Yup. These were the guys I was looking for.

  • Donnie has been involved in with the Marathon Training Team for 8 years, but this was his first as a coach
  • Vicki has been a coach for about 5 years
  • Q has been there since the beginning. He has also been seen dressed in drag. The guy is just in-it-to-win-it, and that’s all there is to it.

The epitome of running

Fun. The MTT coaches have figured it out. These guys love running, and their joyful energy is contagious. They were all over the course, at every turn, beside every MTT runner. Crazy shirts, hats & socks. Smiling at every runner, until the last one crossed the finish line.

The journey. Running is about the journey towards a goal. A personal goal. A life change. A complete 180°. Or maybe just a new hobby. Whatever the journey is… it’s yours. Own it. Be proud of it.

Friendship. Most people see running as an individual sport, but running is meant to be shared. Although I didn’t have a chance to share it with the Marathon Training Team this year, I witnessed it first hand in the 3 hours I was out there. It’s magical. And not in a Disney World kind of way. In a goosebumps, happy tears, genuinely joyful kind of way.

Energy. Rejuvenated.

Typically, when I volunteer for a race, it’s all about the runners. While my reason for volunteering still had the runner’s best interests at heart, this experience was an exciting one for me.

My energy & excitement for running has been rejuvenated. Dealing with a nagging injury for 5 months had a negative effect on me.

Being out there today helped me forget about 5 crappy months of no running, and once again look to the future – a future full of fun, friendship & incredible journeys.

It’s not until you share your running with others that you truly experience what the sport has to offer.

An ultrarunner’s beginning

A 30-second video on how I became an ultrarunner. If I told you Dean Karnazes was in it, would you watch it?

I would normally have something to say about running. A race report from a recent ultra. A new running buddy I just met. Some crazy idea I got while on a trail in the woods.

Since I’m still taking time off to let my hamstring injury heal, I’ve had some time to reflect back.

I stumbled upon this video that I made back in the day (which was a Wednesday). It’s an interesting – yet strikingly accurate – depiction of how I started running, and ultimately became an ultrarunner.

(So technically, I didn’t make it. Google did. It’s a little project they call Search Stories. Create your own search story here. It takes 2 minutes.)

How I Became An Ultrarunner (in 30 seconds)

2009 Baltimore Marathon – Race Report

This was my 3rd Baltimore Running Festival, and I stayed with Summer each time. I set a new marathon PR beating my goal by 4 minutes. I ate some amazing food. And met some of the coolest people in Baltimore (shout out to Constellation Energy).

First off, some kudos

First off, big ups to Summer for hosting me for the weekend. This was my 3rd Baltimore Running Festival, and she’s put me up each time. She drove me around the city (thank goodness), cooked (amazing food) and introduced me to some of the coolest people ever. Her friends are awesome.

My experience

This is one of the first races I’ve ever set a specific time goal. I was attempting 3:50 (an 8:46/mi pace). My only other road marathon (in March 2007) I finished in 4:19, and last week’s trail marathon I did in 4:01. A 3:50 should be attainable, so long as my legs aren’t shot from back-to-back weekends of 26.2+ races. I felt good going in, but I just couldn’t be sure.

Beautiful weather

I was blessed with beautiful weather, yet again. Somewhere in the low 70s at the start. Dropped to the 60s halfway through. A few rain drops to cool things off, but they only lasted for a couple miles. The weather was right for a fast time.

The first mile was slow because I was dodging the mass of people at the start. It opened up quickly, and I found my 8:45 pace, so I thought. It turned out I actually found an 8:20 pace, and I maintained it for the first 6 miles or so. I got to mile 7 about two minutes ahead of schedule.

Halfway point

At the halfway point, I was five minutes ahead of schedule. I started to think I might break 3:45. In the back of my mind, though, I knew I was pushing pretty hard, and there were already quite a few hills that I ran right through. I knew more hills were coming, and wondered what my early, fast pace might mean for later.

I ran through mile 20 still ahead of pace, and hit mile 21 right at 3:00, four minutes ahead of pace. But just like the race last weekend, my legs turned into Jello, and I had to walk.

I pushed through it better than I did last weekend. I was able to run through the pain. And I did still have an outside chance at 3:45 as I neared the finish, but I didn’t quite make it. 3:46:03. A new PR, and goal accomplished, with 4 minutes to spare.

The Baltimore Marathon course

I consider Baltimore a pretty tough marathon course. There are many long, gradual hills throughout the race. Beginning, middle and end, although the last few miles probably have the fewest hills. You run through the nice areas of the city, as well as the not-so-nice.

Fan support

The fan support this year was incredible. There were more people cheering than I remember 2 years ago when I ran the half. Even another guy commented to me during the race, and he’s run it 5 years in a row.

  • High school bands & cheerleading squads.
  • Little kids with “free high 5” paper hands.
  • Homemade aid stations with gummy bears, pretzels, chips, bananas, oranges, peanut m&ms, gels and even beer.

Even the “bad” sections of town had parents & their kids out on the front steps, clapping & smiling.

What I learned

  • You will perform better when you have a time goal you’re trying to achieve (it helps you mentally push through)
  • Conserving energy early on makes a big difference
  • I know many people like to ‘run the whole thing’ (myself included), but I do believe you will achieve a better time if you take walking breaks (unless you’re from Kenya)
  • The city of Baltimore has a few hills
  • My legs were built to run no more than 20 miles at a time. I need to train them to do more.
  • The more you acknowledge & appreciate the fans that cheer you on… the louder & more enthusiastically they cheer for everyone else.

Looking forward

Now it’s time for me to take a little break before my 50-miler at JFK in November. No more races until this one. I don’t have a goal yet for JFK, but I’m thinking my goal should not include a time… it should just be to finish within the time limit. Why? Because that’s all I need to qualify for the 100-miler next June.

The result

3:46:03 – a PR
516/3132 – overall
403/2022 – men
74/310 – M25-29

2009 Triple Lakes Marathon – Race Report

A small, trail marathon in Greensboro, NC, the Triple Lakes Trail Race has 40-mile, marathon, half-marathon & relay options. All distances come fully equipped with tree roots. Be prepared to bite it.

Be prepared to bite it

Get ready to do some root jumpin’. If you plan on running this race, you better watch your step. One quick glimpse at the lake and you’ll end up face first in the dirt. Trust me. I did… twice.

There are 186,394 roots. Precisely. I counted.

2 interesting guys at the start

For what it’s worth, I don’t like Greensboro’s road system. I can’t figure it out. So I consider myself lucky to have just made it to the start. I’m glad I did. I met 2 interesting guys before the race.

Abran saw my G.E.E.R. shirt from the 50k I ran last week. He was there too (he did the 100k). Today he was doing the 40-miler. This guy is a machine. He ran the first few miles of the Old Dominion 100 with a buddy of mine, Ryan Foster, who I paced during the very same race from mile 75-86. Abe is also quite fast. He finished in the top 5 or so of this race, and the race last weekend. I’m sure I’ll run into him again.

I also spoke with a man from Indiana. He’s trying to run a marathon in all 50 states. He’s currently at 22. I didn’t catch his name, but wished him luck.

The race began

I started slow, as usual. The first 2 miles were on road. As we approached the single track, I felt the need to speed up. I wanted to get in front of some of these folks so I didn’t feel held up by them once we were on the trail. I was probably running about an 8:45 pace. No way I would keep that up, but it felt good at the time, so I went with it.

I looked at my watch at mile 7… 1:00. OK. Wow. Not bad. Mile 10… 1:23. I’m really not this fast.

Some conversation

I ran with Susan from Charlotte and David the adventure racer for a mile or two. We talked running and adventure racing, mostly. Very nice people. I decided to continue my surprisingly quick pace, and ran ahead.

Miles 16 and 17 brought about a few more hills than the first half of the course. Not a good sign for my legs. At mile 18 I ate dirt for the 2nd time. This was my legs way of saying, “Dude, slow down. We’re tired.” Well, I didn’t listen, and hit mile 20 right at 3:00. I was on pace for a sub-4 marathon, and at that very moment, I made that my goal.

Hitting the wall

Seconds later, my legs got really upset, and turned into jello. 4 hours was going to be tough. The last 10k was a 50/50 mix of running & walking, but I pushed through as best I could. Just missed my goal: 4:01:31. Still 18 minutes better than my only other marathon (which was completely flat, and 100% on roads). This was a huge improvement.

Oh, and both Susan & David (whom I had passed earlier) went on to finish before me. Nice race, guys.

Description of the course

A moderate trail course, with many 20-30 ft. uphill/downhill spurts. No long ascents or descents. Much of the course is pretty flat. But there are roots everywhere. The roots are without a doubt the most challenging aspect of the course. Almost the entire course is covered by trees so the sun is not a factor. Aid stations are positioned well. People are friendly. And it’s a small race. 200-300 total people between the 40-mile, marathon, half-marathon and relay.

Looking forward

Next weekend I’m running the Baltimore Marathon (thanks to the generous hospitality of my friend Summer, who is putting me up for the weekend… for the 3rd year in a row). I wasn’t sure how my legs would handle the first 2 races of my 3 weekend stretch. But since they performed well, it’s only fitting to test them one last time.

My goal for Baltimore is 3:50. If I can run a trail marathon in 4:01, I should be able to do a road marathon in 3:50. Cut out the wrong turns, the falls, and the lengthy stops to refill at the aid stations, and I should be able to do it. That’s an 8:46/mi pace.

Hopefully I can treat myself to a marathon PR, and then 5 weeks off before the 50-miler at JFK.

The result

27/110 – overall
6/19 – M20-29