Many thanks to all the fine peeps who volunteered for the Buffalo Stampede this year! I was the last one to finish, but all of you waited around for me, and treated me like royalty when I finally crossed the finish line. Special thanks to Gen, the race director, Phil, the race’s sweep bicycle escort, Rich Hanna and all the fine people at CRRM, and Bill Roehr who helped me walk to his car and gave me a ride to my car. Bill also shared a story with me about how he was dead last in a recent Chip X-Country race. His reassuring encouragement meant the world to me. I’d love to see Bill again someday soon. Please give him my email address. Thanks again for hosting the 42nd Annual Buffalo Stampede!
How many remember or know that Tuesday night workouts were originally ONLY for women? And attendees had to have run “sub 70 minutes” for 10 miles to participate.
That was then. The early days and evenings of Tuesday night sessions were devoted to helping about 6-8 of Sacramento’s most motivated female runners become more and faster than they were. The general goal was to “break 3 hours in the marathon.” But there were other challenging goals as well. One of our early master’s women, Joan Reiss also aspired to break 40 minutes at 10k, and within a year she had done both a “sub 3 marathon AND a sub-40 10k.” Bev Marx had similar ambitions as an open age group runner, and she too met her goals. Eileen Claugus came into the group with amazing youth group credentials from 10 years or so earlier, as she had run internationally as a 16-17 year old with a mile PR of 4:41. She went on to become a fully sponsored/supported/paid Adidas athlete turning many sub 2:40 marathons and winning Honolulu, San Francisco and Mexico City Marathons and too many shorter races to list. Kathy Pfieffer was a dedicated local junior college student and 37 minute 5 mile runner when she first showed up at Tuesday night sessions, but she went on to set school records at 10k for CSUS, a walk-on scholarship at University of New Mexico and the club’s female 10k record of 32:59. After college she ran “professionally” also under Reebok sponsorship. Kathy is married to Chuck Aragon who ran for Athletics West (Nike under a low key name) with a mile PR of 3:51 and 10k times around 28 minutes. Their kids are all national class runners who have earned full-ride scholarships at Notre Dame (where Chuck went to undergraduate school; he is now an M.D. and they live in Montana). June Hill-Falkenthal was an early career professional and wife, but she enjoyed the challenge of running long; she went on to WIN the Sacramento Marathon in a PR 3:01, just missing her “sub-3.”
It was just George Parrott and later about a dozen of Sacramento’s fittest and fastest females in those early years of organized Tuesday night sessions (1980-1982). By about 1983 there were several males who had wormed their way into the workouts (Jeff Hayes and Frank ?, etc.) and the sessions were made formally “coed.” In the late 1980’s or early 1990’s we sometimes had Mark Nenow, the then American RECORD HOLDER at 10k at workouts, along with Linda Sommers, Robin Root, Tom Johnson, and others from the club who were ALL national and/or international class runners. We even had some of the area high school coaches send their distance runners to club workout since their home programs had nobody to train with at the higher quality levels. One of our “youth male groups” even held the youth record at the Xmas Relays at Lake Merced.
(from Brian Marks blog at Dashingdad.com/2014/12/05/hardest-marathon)
Running in the Rain – flashback to 2012 CIM
For the 2012, it was the 30th anniversary. I am a sucker for anniversary races. You get better medals on those years. I was well trained, and I was running well. My inadvertent marathon was a 4:05 and I had walked 4 or 5 miles with a friend. I was stoked, because I thought I could run a 3:30. The fun started the Saturday before the race when the rain started coming down. The forecast called for heavy rain and gusty winds during the race. They said up to 50 mph gusts.
On race morning, I hopped on the bus, and the hotel where the bus was picking people up at was handing out garbage bags. I was prepared, I had a shopping bag on my head, a garbage bag over my throwaway coat, and even bags on my shoes to keep my feet dry before the start
At the race start, it was pouring and raining. I got out of the bus and ran to the port-o-potty. When I was finished, I stepped out and my calf cramped up, hard. I spent the next hour, huddled under the overhang of a coffee shop stretching and massaging it. The wind and the rain just kept on coming down. I was surprised that none of the tents blew away or that the potties didn’t tip.
Here is the FB post I put up, after the race. “FYI for all the marathoners and relay teams who ran today. There was approximately 0.9 inches of rain from 6:53 am to 10:53 am – with 2/3 of that coming in the first 2 hours. (Hour totals = 0.29″; 0.34″; 0.17″; 0.09″). And 32mph winds with 40mph gusts.”
It was nuts out there.
As the start of the race was approaching, my calf had still not let go. This wasn’t the first time I had one of my calves cramp on me during a race, usually in the last four miles. I knew I could run on it, not well, but I could do it. I figured I would run at a moderate pace for several miles until I could walk to the finish and stay under the 6 hour mark. I limped out to the start line and discarded the trash bags on my feet. I started playing with my mp3 player and new headphones, which I hated. My usual headphones died on me, and I couldn’t find a replacement pair.
Of course this was moot point, because my mp3 player shorted out because of the rain. The volume would go down, but not up. So, I was going to do a marathon with a cramped calf and no music. After the starting gun, which was drowned out by the wind and rain, I started running. I shed my garbage bag pretty quickly, taking care to toss it down wind and out of the main path of runners. Around mile 2, I ditched the running jacket. I was already completely soaked by that point.
I started doing math in my head to stay distracted from the rain and pain. This time it was how far did I have to run at an 8:30 mile to get to the point where I could walk at a 15 min pace to finish under 6 hours. Then, I started doing additional math about how much farther I had to run to be able walk at a 16 min pace. Around this time, we made our first left turn, into the wind. This is where we got the full brunt of 30-40 mph winds. I didn’t really think of anything but moving forward for the next few miles until we turned west again.
I saw the Dashing (and 39 weeks pregnant) Wife and Dashing (not pregnant at all) Son around mile 9 or 10, which lifted my spirits. Once I turned west, I started doing more math, saying to myself, if I run to mile 13, I can walk at a 17 minute pace, and mile 17 was a 20 minute pace. Eventually, I hit mile 20. I was still running, my calf had gone numb with pain, so I just kept moving forward. But, I also kept running. I was also thinking of the original Dashing Dog that used to run with me. She had passed away a month earlier from cancer at only 8. I had a shirt made just for her to memorialize her.
I figured that I had pushed myself to get that far, what was 6.2 more miles? My pace dropped dramatically in those last 10k. However, at least the weather had improved just as dramatically. The rain had stopped and the sun came out. I was so exhausted and wet and in agony that I hadn’t even noticed the change in weather until I saw the beams of sunlight break through the clouds.
The 3:50 pace group passed me around mile 20, and every time I stopped to walk, I would look back and I could see the 3:55 pacer gaining on me. He eventually passed me at the last aid station. I decided that I was going to beat that group to the finish. I had the same experience two years earlier trying to beat the 4:30 pace group in. I gave it everything I had for that last mile, which at that point in the race resulted in an 8:40 pace. But I beat the 3:55 pace group by more than 30 seconds. I managed a 9 minute PR, and was over 35 minutes faster than the previous CIM.
Of course, my calf was done. I limped through the food line, saw my wife and kid, limped to my car, drove home, took an ice bath, rested and ate. The next morning, the lower half of my leg was purple and swollen. It hurt to touch it. I figured internal bruising. I emailed my doctor a picture of my leg and told him what happen. My doctor is an ex-Army Ranger and a triathlete, and he said to walk on it, take ibuprofen, and let him know if it isn’t better in 10 days. Then he congratulated me on running that race in such grueling conditions.
I love my doctor. He gets this running obsession.
Six days later, the Dashing Daughter was born, and six weeks after that, I had my vasectomy. So, I got 10 weeks off from running, and a great story about my third marathon.
By Steve Davis
Three years ago, in the wake of my epic crash and burn over the last 8 miles of the California International Marathon in 2011, I couldn’t bear the idea of running another marathon. It took me a long time to muster the desire to run CIM again. Considering the torrential downpour of CIM 2012 and the arctic freeze of CIM 2013, it’s probably just as well.
But this year I had a change of heart. By mid-summer I was running decently, and so many of my fellow Chips announced they were going to do it I had a hard time saying no. Steve Ashe was coming out of his long marathon hibernation to run CIM again. Gen Clavier was telling me and everyone else she knew, and even people she probably didn’t know but who were within earshot, that they had to run it, and who can say no to Gen? Not me.
So in August I finally bit the bullet, surrendered my entrance fee, and signed up to do CIM for my third time. I was determined the third time would be the charm. My first CIM in 2008 had been a solid success, yielding an on-the-nose Boston-qualifying goal time of 3:20:00. The second time I was on pace to run 3:10 through the first two-thirds, but slowed after that and ultimately crashed completely over the last 10K, ultimately finishing in 3:27 and change. This year, with a decent aerobic base, a solid 12-week training plan, and what I thought was sufficient mileage, I was pretty sure I could not just improve upon my six-year-old PR but achieve a 3:15 or even a sub-3:10 time.
Training went pretty well. My pre-taper average weekly mileage wasn’t great, but it was over 40 miles a week, and compared favorably to what I’d managed to do in 2008 and 2011. I exceeded 50 miles in a week twice, the only time in my life I’ve done that. I ran over 20 miles three times, and over 17 miles an additional four times, and most of those runs had solid stretches of running 7:20- to 7:10- minute miles, which was somewhere around what I thought my goal pace would be.
Ten days before CIM, I ran the Run To Feed The Hungry 5K. Until that point I didn’t have a good feel for what my marathon goal time should be. Should I try to beat 3:10? Or just try to improve on my 3:20 PR time? I told myself I would use my RTFTH 5K time and pace to help set an appropriate goal pace for CIM.
On a beautiful, crisp Turkey-Day morning I managed a well-paced, negative split 19:41 at RTFTH. It felt good. I finished really well, but I had a little left in the tank at the end. That was the way I wanted it. I wanted a good time that would boost my confidence for the marathon, but I didn’t want to completely exhaust myself so close to the big race. I accomplished both goals that day.
After getting home and showering I pulled out my dog-eared copy of Jack Daniels’ Running Formula, second edition, turned to Table 3.1 on page 49, and discovered that my 5K time corresponded to a marathon time of about 3:08. Now, I’m not a complete idiot (OK, I realize that’s not what I said in my last race report in 2011, but bear with me). I knew that these formulas are to be taken with a grain of salt, and that given my own racing proclivities (I’m relatively better at shorter distances) a 3:08 would likely be out of reach. But a 3:15 finish seemed eminently doable. So I decided to set my goal at 3:15. That meant running 26.2 miles at about a 7:26 minute/mile pace. I convinced myself I could do that.
After Thanksgiving the marathon countdown began. There was nothing more I could do to improve my fitness. My main goal was to stay healthy. Marathons, like marriages, greatly magnify whatever nagging and unresolved problems you bring to them. So I was determined to toe the line in Folsom on December 7 as problem-free as I could.
As my target date approached it seemed like I could do that. My long-standing Achilles tendon problems were in abeyance. I had a minor case of plantar fasciitis, but I knew it wouldn’t interfere with the race once it started. The only thing that bugged me was that I wasn’t losing weight the way I had wanted to. I actually gained about 5 pounds from the beginning of my taper to the start of the race, because I wasn’t burning as many calories as before but was still eating a lot. But I didn’t think that would keep me from my goal.
A few days before the race, I had a disquieting moment. I checked the runner registration information available at the CIM website, runcim.org, and found out I was registered as “Davis Steve” rather than “Steve Davis.” My reaction was . . . seriously? I waited three years to do this again and I couldn’t even sign up under the right name? Sheesh.
Oh well. I could only hope my newly created alter ego would cooperate with my race goals. There was not much I could do about it. Or him.
Race day finally arrived. Conditions could not be more perfect. No wind. No rain. Starting temperature in the 40s, finishing temperature projected to be in the 50s.
Davis Steve’s time had come.
I woke up well before 4 a.m. on December 7, before my alarm went off, and started getting ready to run 26.2 miles. Outfit was ready. Garmin was charged. Gels were squeezed into my velcroed running waist pouch.
Having now gone through the pre-CIM ritual three times, I have two impressions of it that particularly stick with me. One is the atmosphere aboard the Chips’ party bus taking us to Folsom: that distinct blend of nervousness, conviviality, and not-yet-full wakefulness. The other is the port-a-potties.
Because the Chips bus leaves downtown Sacramento at 5 a.m., and the race doesn’t start until 7 a.m., a visit to the port-a-potty before the marathon start is a must. Fortunately, at the CIM race start, there are many to choose from. The number of port-a-potties, all of which are stationed in a single, seemingly endless curve along the east side of Auburn-Folsom Boulevard, is impressive. It’s quite a sight. When the pre-dawn fog is just right, you literally cannot see from one end of the potty curve to the other.
I don’t like to wait in lines, so I jogged away from the buses slowly north toward the end of the potty curve, where the lines were a lot shorter, before making my choice. The port-a-potty I selected was not notable, except in one way: it reeked of marijuana. Not being a huge fan of that particular odor, I was momentarily nonplussed, but then I figured I’d look at the bright side: it beat the alternative. Weed makes an effective deodorant.
25 minutes, one Power Gel, one bottled water, and lots of nervous pacing and waiting later, I finally made my way to the race start. I stationed myself near the 3:15 pace group leader. I saw Steve Ashe, Dave Pai, and Mike Rizzo clustered just a little ways ahead. I knew their goal time was somewhere in the same ballpark as mine so I figured I’d try to catch them or at least keep them in sight after the race started.
At about dawn, following introductions and the national anthem, the race began. I wanted to get right on my goal pace of 7:26 and stay right around it for the first half of the race. I couldn’t quite do that at first because of the crush of runners at the beginning. But by the time I turned right onto Oak Avenue Parkway I was able to establish my pace.
In 2008 I caught up to and ran with the 3:20 pace group for about 22 miles, and it worked perfectly. In 2011 I went ahead of the 3:15 group early in the race, tried to catch the 3:10 group, and then crashed and burned and saw both the 3:15 and 3:20 groups pass me as I struggled to a disappointing finish. This time I ignored the pace groups, and everybody else for the first few miles. I set a goal of running no slower than 7:30 pace and no faster than 7:20 pace. I did that, pretty much, for the first ten miles.
Steve and Mike and Dave were nowhere in sight, but around mile 5 or so I caught up to Rachel McMichael, and we paced each other for a few miles as the course elevation continually rose and fell in broad undulations southward along Fair Oaks Boulevard, on the way to the old Fair Oaks town center. Rachel seemed a little nervous about her pacing but she looked to me like she was running a strong and smart race. (Spoiler: I was right; she was)
I decided to pick up the pace just a bit once I passed Sunrise Boulevard, about ten and a half miles in. I felt really good at this point: well nourished, well hydrated, completely under control. No aches or pains. My pace didn’t seem to be taxing or straining anything.
Past Sunrise my goal was to catch up, gradually, to the 3:15 pace group, which was about a hundred meters or so ahead of me. I could see Steve Ashe in the group, but not Dave or Mike. I caught the group just past the halfway point, before Fair Oaks Boulevard turned 90 degrees south. I was still feeling really good at this point. I decided to pass the group as we approached 14 miles. Ken Bogdan, who had tucked himself in behind the pace group leader, saw me, said some encouraging words, and pointed out that Dave and Mike were ahead, perhaps 150 meters.
I passed the Chips aid station at 15.5 miles, still about 100 meters behind Dave and Mike, took a cup of Gu, and continued forward, determined to catch Mike and Dave. I still felt pretty good, and at this point was clocking roughly 7:15 minute miles. As Fair Oaks Boulevard curved back to the west, nearing the 16 mile mark, I probably got within 80 meters of Dave and Mike.
That was as close as I got.
At about the 16 mile mark, I told myself, “Only 10 miles to go. You can do this.” But I couldn’t. It was right about that location, just as it was in 2011, that my body began to refuse to cooperate with me.
It didn’t happen all at once. I didn’t hit a wall. But with each passing mile, starting around mile 16, equal effort was not producing equal results. It wasn’t too bad at first, but by the time I got to Watt Avenue – about 7 miles from the finish — I knew the 3:15 group was going to catch up to me again. It did, passing me around mile 20.
At that point my goal was to salvage a sub-3:20 time, which would be a PR, at least, even if it fell short of my goal. As I crossed the H Street Bridge I was frequently checking my Garmin and doing a lot of calculations, trying to figure out what I had to do to get under 3:20.
Time and deceleration were working against me. By the time I reached mile 24 it was getting very hard to move. It seemed like I was getting passed a lot. Well, I was getting passed a lot. I saw Rachel, whom I had last seen around mile 9, pass me at a strong, steady pace. She tapped me on the back and urged me to keep up. For about 15 seconds I tried. I couldn’t keep it up. She took off and out of sight as I continued to slow.
It was interesting to observe the impact of glycogen, and its absence, on my mood. Through the first 15 miles, when I was bursting with energy, I was having a great time. I soaked in the crowds, the noise, the music, and the flow of moving bodies around me while enjoying the brisk but not difficult pace. I’ve rarely had so much fun in a race. But after mile 21 or so, with the energy gauge needle hitting empty, I couldn’t wait for the race to finish. It was no fun at all. There was a lot of “I can’t believe I actually chose to do this” kind of thinking.
As I drew nearer to the finish I saw Gen Clavier and Jamie Nye, running together, pass me as well. It was good to see a lot of Chips runners finishing well, even if I couldn’t join them. In the last mile Peter Hewitt passed me with what looked, incredibly, like a spring in his step. He didn’t look at all like someone who’d run over 25 miles.
With a mile to go I knew I was going to miss my 3:20 fallback goal, and it was so hard to move I almost stopped to walk. I kept running, though, to the end. Entering the penultimate turn onto 8th Street, I quickened the pace just a bit. After the final turn and the last 100 yards I tried to sprint but my legs cramped for the first time, hobbling my effort to finish in style. With a last push I got over the line in 3:23:10, chip time.
Why, after all that training, did I hit the wall again and fail to meet my goal? I talked with George Parrott about my race at the Bash later that evening, and in his usual unvarnished way he hit the nail on the head. Given my size (180 pounds, more than I’d like) and relatively greater ability at shorter races, I really hadn’t trained to get past the 20 mile mark at the pace I was aiming for. Without realizing it, I’d trained really well to run a good half marathon, but I hadn’t trained enough at long distances to get past the glycogen-busting 20 mile barrier. I noticed during my training that I tended suddenly to poop out at the 18 to 20 mile mark, but I didn’t think too much about it because I thought at race time I’d have enough of those 20 mile runs under my belt to carry me through. It didn’t happen. I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t.
This wasn’t a case of foolishly abandoning my race plan after the race start, like 2011. This was a case of having a race plan that didn’t accurately take into account my limitations as a runner and the inadequacy of my training to address them. So, back to the training drawing board for 2015.
It was a disappointing performance, but not terribly so. It was good enough that I qualified for Boston. Or, Davis Steve did. I may have to fight him over registration for Boston 2016.
By Teddy Morris
One of our Buffalo Chips members, Mike Rizzo, had given me an entry in this year’s Stand Up Placer 5K and 10K Race, which took place on Saturday morning, October 4, 2014, at the Miner’s Ravine course up near Sculpture Park in Roseville, and since I wasn’t doing the Urban Cow Half-Marathon that weekend, I thought it would be fun to try it out. The race was a charity run for the Stand Up Placer organization which is the women’s shelter and hotline for Placer County. They had a small crowd of runners, but with a lot of enthusiasm, and a whole lot of great sponsors. There were about two hundred people there, divided between the two races, and they started the 10K first. It was a beautiful morning and the course was an up-and-back route–although the first leg of the 10K race was slightly longer to accommodate the course. If anyone has been out to the Miner’s Ravine course, it is a paved roadway through some rolling terrain, with a bubbling stream running next to the pathway, and stretches from Sierra College Boulevard to Downtown Roseville. Very scenic, actually.
When I got to the turn-around point, which was about three-and-a-half miles out, I was really exhausted, and on the way back I realized why–the first part of the race was slightly uphill the whole way. Although my legs were worn out on the front side, I was able to finally pass the fourth-place entrant, you know those Lark scooters can really get up to speed on the flat straight-aways, and then I passed the third-place runner, I knew I had him because you can only push a double-wide stroller so fast up a decently-graded hill, and then I looked out, and I could see the first-place runner about an eighth-of-a-mile ahead of me, galloping up the small hills like he was half-human/half-goat, long hair flowing as he ran, all twelve years old of him! Could I possibly catch him…yeah, if only he would have stopped to take a selfie and text his friends at home about running in the race, but no, he got to the tape about a minute before I reached the finish-line. Well, still it was my best finish in any race I have ever done!
“Do you have a goal?”
“I have been icing my legs like crazy, my legs are tired, but I think they should be fine. A sub 10 isn’t crazy, right?”
“I don’t think it’s crazy, if we are feeling good I think we can do it.”
This was the conversation I had with my friend “M” before last weekend’s race. She had just done a 100k the Sunday before AR50 and we were talking about possible time goals. Before this race I had never had a goal in an ultra except to “finish and have fun”, which, ideally is always the goal, but this time I put a number out there. Sub 10. I had been feeling good lately, having a lot of faster runs, but getting a sub 10 would mean saying I could PR by at least 40 minutes. That’s a lot of frickin’ time! It added a little bit of stress that usually isn’t there before trail races, the one thing I love about trail races is the lack of stress before the event and here I was throwing out a number, hoping I can hit it.
M came down on Thursday night, we picked her up on Friday morning (day off work, woohoo!), grabbed our bibs and breakfast and headed back to the house to relax before the big day on Saturday. As we sat around noshing on some Little Caesar’s Hot N Ready pizza we finalized our plans for the next day. M and I were going for a sub 10, Kynan would stick with us as long as possible and then back off if he felt he was working too hard. His goal was to finish the race uninjured, he was just coming back from injury and our main goal for the season is Tahoe Rim Trail 100, this race was just a stepping stone. After finalizing our plan we packed everything we would need, laid out our running outfits and tried to get some sleep.
Our “flat guy and flat ladies”. (Left to right: Kynan, me, and M)
Saturday morning was a little chilly, while I hate the cold, it’s always a good sign to start the race chilly.
Brrr!!! Dang do I hate the cold!
Before I start in on the actual race I should mention that the course has changed from last year. The course used to start at Sacramento State University and went for like a squillion miles (ok, more like 24) on the paved bike trail, with a few miles of trail before hopping onto single track at mile 27. This is both good and bad: on the one hand it makes for a FAST course, on the other hand it’s 24 miles of pavement – it hurts – and can lead one to go out WAY too fast at first and blow up in the second half. This year, however, the first 16 miles have changed. This year the race starts on the south side of Folsom Lake (Brown’s Ravine), goes to Folsom Point, runs along the south side of Lake Natoma and rejoins the old course at the Hazel Bridge. There is still a lot of pavement, just not as much, I would guess about 20 miles of pavement instead of 24. As a side note, I think this makes the course approx. 15 minutes slower.
The start has been broken up into two waves (there are 1,000 people headed towards single track, just makes sense) and as luck would have it we started in the first wave. There is about a mile of pavement before turning onto a single track trail. As expected it slows down as we hit the trail, race jitters have me itching to go faster and a smidge impatient. There’s a few miles of trails before we pop back out onto pavement at Folsom Point. We are all feeling good, I don’t feel like I am pushing the pace at all. Perfect. We head out of Folsom Point and are on the road for a while, I look down at my watch and see a sub 9 minute pace. I freakout for a second, M notices and looks at the pace – we just clocked off an 8:45. In every other 50M this would be considered way too fast, but it’s pavement and we don’t feel like we are pushing the pace so we keep at it. Around mile 7 Kynan mentions that he is going to back off the pace so he makes sure he gets to the finish in one piece. We wished each other well as M and I pulled away.
M and I wind our way down to Folsom Crossing, across Walker Bridge and started along the south side of Lake Natoma. I was trying to keep an eye on the pace without paying too close attention. We were running by feel, the pace didn’t feel hard so I was trying not to worry too much about the sub 9/low 9 minute miles. Before we know it we are at the aid station my club runs (mile 12.6)! I just love see all the Buffalo Chips, it was definitely a boost!
(Photo courtesy of The Slow Antelope) Here we are coming into the aid station.
We dropped off our headlamps with our crew, grabbed some Oreos and headed out. After this we slowed our pace a little, mentally it made me feel a little better, in the back of my head I was really worried about going out too fast and blowing up in the later miles. We made our way over Hazel Bridge and ran along the bluffs. It was our first taste of the trails and it felt so good to get off the pavement. My legs had started to get a little tight from the pavement and the bit of dirt helps a lot. In the blink of a mile we were back on the pavement and we hit the Negro Bar aid station (mile 20ish), at this point there is a 4 mile steady climb on pavement until you hit Beals Point. In past years I have struggled with this section. Earlier I had mentioned to M that I always seem to suffer here, it’s hot and exposed. I always walk part of this climb. This year was different, our faster pace meant we were here earlier in the morning, temps were still cool and the big factor was M was there. She is an awesome climber, something I aspire to be. It was a slow and steady climb, M mentioned that the great thing about this climb was although is was long it wasn’t too steep. I think this comment was more for me than her and it did help. I started thinking about the hills I have climbed in other races and all the sudden this one didn’t seem so bad. We made it to the top and ran into the Beal’s aid station parking lot. We ran the WHOLE way! I have never done it before, I felt like I was working a bit to do it, but I never got the burning sensation in my legs so I knew I wasn’t pushing it too hard.
We rolled into Beal’s at 4:01 and I really needed to use the bathroom, thank goodness there was a stall open. I came out and met M at the aid station and started looking for our crew. This was one of the big stations and we had made drop bags that they were carrying. I wanted my Ensure, I have a problem taking in enough calories and I wanted those sweet 250 calories. We looked around for a while (my watch read 4:07) and when we finally decided to just leave, we couldn’t wait any longer (we were coming up on 4:12) I found a friend who was working the aid station. I asked her to tell Kynan that we had missed our crew (I was sure they would be there by the time he rolled through), that we came in at 4:00 and really needed them at Granite Bay (mile 29). As we left the aid station and turned the corner we saw them. They HAD made it! I was relieved to see them and threw back an Ensure. It wasn’t really hot, but I stuffed some ice down my shirt to try to stay head of the heat.
M and I trotted off happily headed to the single track. FINALLY, we had reached the trails! We had been talking about reaching them since mile 12. I always say that this is where the race really begins. The soft trails felt SO good. I was in my happy place and the extra calories gave me a nice energy boost. Before hitting Granite Bay there is an unofficial aid station that a bunch of friends run. I could hear them long before I saw them. This is one of the things I really love about this race. It’s the hometown race and I get the pleasure of seeing so many friends on the trails and cheering. M and I trot on by, exchanging salutations. The Wrong Distance Runners rock! Seeing them is a great way to break up the longer stretch between the official aid stations. It’s only 5.14 miles, not really that far, it was just a nice way to break it up.
All the sudden we were at Granite Bay and I saw my mom (my crew), she made it!!! Friday night M had talked me into putting a piece of cheese pizza in my drop bag, I was a little skeptical, but she had turned me onto the awesomeness of quesadillas during ultras so I was willing to give it a try. We both grabbed our 29 mile celebratory slice of pizza and an Ensure and left. We wouldn’t see our crew until Rattlesnake Bar (mile 40.8).
I was feeling relatively good and glad I got so many calories there. The 30s are usually my crappy miles so I was prepared for a little bit of a suffer-fest. In this course the 30s are also in a section called the “meat grinder”. It’s usually the slowest section of the race, very rocky, constant ups and downs, and some people slow down a lot and the trail can make it hard to pass people. The meat grinder is a little hot and the shade is hit and miss, depending on the time of day. As my watch beeps 31 miles I notice that I just PR’d in the 50k (5:23). Not a good thing to do in the middle of a 50 miler. Oh well, we were rolling with the flow of the trail.
While the 30s weren’t my crappy miles (actually I didn’t really have any in this race), they were definitely slower and I was starting to get tight. We were both looking forward to finishing the race. I can only imagine how tired M’s legs were, she had run a tough 100k the weekend before. We got down to business, stuck our heads down and made our way through the 6 miles of the meat grinder. About halfway through (mile 37ish) we hit an aid station that, of all things, serves ice cream! Worried about what dairy would do to my insides I always pass, one year I will try some. We grabbed some coke and went on our way.
The next aid station was Horseshoe Bar, again we grabbed some Oreos and coke and were off. M and I are pretty in sync at this point and we both make a point to be as fast as possible through aid stations. So much time can be lost in them. The miles were starting to feel a little longer, even though we were leaving the meat grinder and there was a bit more shade. It was mostly mental, I kept doing systems checks: thirsty? when was the last time I ate something? how are the legs? is it a tired hurt that will stop when I am done or is it something serious? It was always the first, so no walking. Suck it up and keep going.
After what seemed like an hour (it was nowhere near an hour) we made it to Rattlesnake Bar. This aid station is a big party! Lots of faces I knew and my crew! I grabbed some coke (I have been grabbing it at all the stations, which seems to be working great) and head over to my mom and in-laws. My legs are a little wobbly, I am definitely feeling the 40.9 miles, but am overall feeling ok. My mind is still clear and one thing is on my mind: Ensure! As predicted, my calorie intake started to suffer and this was a needed energy boost. I asked about Kynan, I was worried that he would have to drop and they he would be part of our crew when we arrived, to my delight I heard he was doing well and only about 30 minutes behind us. I was SO happy to hear this!!!
We left Rattlesnake in high spirits and with only 2.8 miles to the next aid station. Hmmm… I did just say only 2.8, right? This section seemed to stretch on a little bit, however, running with M always makes it better. We both get a little salty the farther we are into a race, phrases like “Let’s get this shit done!” start floating into the conversation. We reach Dowdin’s Post aid station and are reminded that we have less than a 10k to go. That perks me right up. I can do a 10k in my sleep! I guess I looked asleep because one of the workers drenched my neck in cold water, saying “This will wake you up!” Apparently, I WAS asleep, because that did indeed wake me up. It was so refreshing. We had about 3 miles until the last big climb of the race. We had slowed noticeably, but were steadily passing people. If I recall correctly, only one or two people passed us.
Reaching the bottom of Last Gasp is always an emotional roller coaster. I know there is only 3.25 miles to the end, but it’s 3.25 miles uphill with 1000′ of climbing. To top it off you start out with a steep section called “That Dam Wall”, it’s short, but steep. We power hike it and run when we can until we reach the last aid station, Last Gasp. This station is famous for being manned (pun intended) by the Boys of Last Gasp. They are dressed in tights and no shirts, two years ago I had no idea they were there and thought I was seeing things when I came up to the aid station. These guys are also know for running a great aid station. They run downhill to you, ask if you need anything refilled and will run uphill to the station to fill it for you. It’s really great that late in the race when my motor skills aren’t at their best. M and I breezed through the aid station, barely stopping and started our run up Last Gasp.
I look at M and tell her, “On a good day I can run the rest of the way up this hill.” She replies, “THIS IS A GOOD DAY!” I think my facial expression told her otherwise. M is tough and pushes me more than I would have on my own. We run a lot of the hill, much to my chagrin. We reach the last steep section (about 25′ long, but really steep) before you reach the road/finishing shoot and I just have to hike this thing. I take a quick look at my watch 9:27. “Oh my gosh, I think we can get 9:30.” I think to myself. Once we hit the top we start pushing it. I’m sure we were going slow, it felt fast. M turns to me, “Come on broad, we have to cross the line together.”
(Photo credit Ingrid Skyrunner)
We see the arch and the clock and I can’t believe it as we cross the timing mat, 9:30!!!! I stop, stumble a second and we exchange sweaty hugs. Volunteers had us our medals and jackets, as we walk out of the finishing shoot we see our crew. I can’t believe it, 9:30 flat!!! That’s an hour and 8 minute PR! I am so happy!! My legs start to shake reminding me that I did indeed push it really hard today. M and I make our way over to some lawn ours and we rest a while.
(Photo credit: Chris Jones)
After resting 15 minutes I am starting to keep an eye on the clock. I really want to see Kynan come across the finish line. I head back over to the finishing shoot and ask if I can hand my husband his medal when he crosses. The volunteer responded by saying, “Of course you can. In fact you can run him in if you want, just head back out the finishing arch and run him in.” I head on out the chute and wait for him. The clock reads 10:000:00, I am hoping to see him soon. Our crew said he was about 30 minutes back at Rattlesnake Bar so I am hoping to see him round the corner soon. Minutes pass by and I am cheering on the runners coming in. The clock now reads 10:05:00 and I am starting to get slightly uneasy, this must be what it feels like for our crew every year, just waiting and wondering if everything is ok. Another minute goes by and a guy rounds the corner. I can’t make out his face or shirt, but I KNOW that stride. Kynan is looking good and happy! We run in together, like we do every race.
(Photo credit: Ingrid Skyrunner)
10:06, a 33 minute PR for him!
We all gather around the lawn chairs clinking water and beers. Reveling in our races. PRs all around, it was just a great day out on the trails.
Looking back I think we paced perfectly in the first half. Not too many people passed us in the last 15 miles and we passed a lot of people. As always, I need to work on my fueling although it is getting better. The pizza and ensure worked great as well as the caffeinated tailwind.
This week is a rest week and next week I’ll get back at it and start serious training for TRT100, the big dance of the season!
Run happy, friends!
Imagine the California International Marathon, in really nice weather, and without any of those pesky hills to run over. That would be the Modesto Marathon! If you were a person that enjoyed running Clarksburg; then, you would doubly enjoy running the Modesto Marathon! After about three miles running through the city’s residential section (which is really very pretty and much like the Land Park neighborhood), you see “Mount Modesto” coming up (which is a freeway overcrossing, but pretty long and high, to give it some credit), and then you head out into the rural countryside, where the roads are long and straight, and the smell of farm-life is in the air!
Actually, the roads were a little bit nicer than in Clarksburg, not as beat up and arched, and it was kind of fun not having so many people around you when going through the course. Basically, I just ran it like going out on the Bike Trail, at a pace that felt faster, but comfortable, and was about a half-block in front of the 3:30 pacer for almost all of the race. So, if they would have ended the race at twenty-one miles, and just gave me the last five-point-two for looking good, I would have been under that time. But, alas, I am not as good looking as Arnold, so they counted the last five, and that is where my second race began. It was a struggle, and then I saw, once again, Mount Modesto in the distance. Scaling its peak, I looked back to see the 3:35 pacer about a quarter-of-a-mile behind me. So, I turned on the jets (which was more like speeding up from a 9:00 pace to a 8:55 pace) and managed to cross the finish line at the same time. Luckily, I had a little time cushion because I didn’t cross the start line exactly when the race began.
So, I guess all of you probably know about the new Boston qualifying times? Well, I didn’t! After lying in the aid-station, next to Andy Harris (now we know why he was out there training so much in the park), we went over to the Boston Qualifying desk and I found out my new time is 3:30 for my age group. And I can’t even sneak in because my birthday is too late in the year for 2015! Oh well, it is not about the awards, anyway, is it? The glory is in doing the best you can, from start to finish, and knowing that the reward is in being able to do it!
3/23/14 Modesto Marathon
Anna Brentan 29 – 2:41:52 First woman and Overall winner 6:10/M
Teddy Morris 53 – 3:34:46 First Chip 8:11/M
Bobbie Garcia 65 – 5:03:20 1st F65-69 11:34/M
Barb Elia 69 – 6:32:46 2nd F65-69 14:59/M
By Laura Matz
Wow, what a race. Please forgive my scattered brain, I’m still trying to wrap my head around last Saturday’s race. Here’s a little background about the race. The Quadrupal Dipsea is an ultramarathon version of the original Dipsea race. The original race has been running for more than 100 years, it starts in Mill Valley and follows a trail up over the shoulder of Mt. Tamalpias and ends at Stinson Beach. The race starts off with the infamous Dipsea steps, all 676 of them (broken down into three sections). At the top of the stairs the trail rolls along, topping out on a hill called Cardiac. From there it’s a 2.6 mile drop (with a few more hills, of course) through redwoods and down some more wooden/dirt/rocky steps and ends at Stinson Beach. The Quad Dipsea is a double out and back from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach (Mill Valley to Stinson to Mill Valley, to Stinson, to Mill Valley). 28.4 miles and 9,000’+ in climbing.
I love this trail. I love this race.
This race is famous for its stairs in Mill Valley, 676 stairs in three separate flights is a LOT of stairs, but honestly, I don’t mind them that much. In fact, I really like them. What most people DON’T talk about are the stairs in the redwoods. They are a mixture of stone steps and wooded/dirt steps. Those are the steps I don’t like. They are steeper and slick, a real challenge. I knew these would be the toughest part both mentally and physically for me during the race. I was mentally preparing myself for this the night before and the morning of the race.
I am lucky enough to have a husband that not only runs with me, but when he cannot run (like now) he is the BEST crew. Wanting to support me and knowing that seeing him at Mill Valley and Stinson Beach would give me an emotional boost, Kynan came along for the fun. I was so glad he wanted to come to the race. He was always ready with my workout bag and vest just in case I needed anything. Having him by my side, enjoying the trails together is the perfect scenario, but if that’s not a possibility having him crew is the next best thing. He is the best crew ever. Period.
Saturday morning I got to Old Mill Park, picked up my bib, and milled around the start line. The RD said, “GO!” so I started off climbing, with my closest 260-ish Quad Dipsea friends, the Dipsea stairs in Mill Valley. I told myself last year and completely forgot this year that I need to start further up in the pack when climbing the stairs. It’s a pretty tight bottleneck and I was almost walking up the first flight of stairs. By the time I got to the second and third flights I was able to pick up the pace.
The first leg (MillValley to Stinson Beach) I was feeling great and flying over the trail quicker than was probably smart. After a couple of miles I caught up with a friend, M, and said, “Crap! Now I know I am really going too fast! I caught you!” We chatted for a few minutes and then I took off. I don’t know what possessed me as I pushed on. I ran through the Cardiac aid station and through the redwoods and down the steps on my way to Stinson beach. Somewhere in here I ran into Dave Mackey who had already hit the turnaround and was tackling the second leg. I reached Stinson Beach and Kynan, who drove over, feeling great! I tapped the aid station table and did an about face to start my second leg (Stinson to Mill Valley). First leg was completed in 1:40.
I was still feeling great, but I was making more of an effort to take it easy. Or so I thought. I caught up with friend I knew from last Quad Dipsea, who also ran Rocky Raccoon and was back again to tackle the Quad. It’s amazing how and where you meet trail friends. Sometimes this community can seem so small. We helped pull each other up the hills chatting away. They are expecting a baby (so exciting!)! He also gave me some insider tips for Bandera 100k, my upcoming run in the lovely Hill County of Tejas. We eventually parted ways and I made the first descent into Mill Valley (finishing the second leg of the race) and marking the halfway point. I felt great and didn’t stay too long. I took a page out of Healthy Gumbo’s racing book and had a second hydration vest pre-filled so all I had to do was change vests. I was in out of there in great time. Before I left I checked the clock a: CRAP! I had run the second leg 5 minutes faster than the first. Pffft! I was trying to slow down and I had sped up.
I started climbing the Mill Valley steps. I kept my spirits high by thinking this was the last time I was climbing THESE steps. It helped. I made myself slow down more on this leg, I knew the final leg would be the real test so I hiked some hills that I would have rather liked to run and kept it easy. It seemed to take a little longer to reach the Cardiac aid station this time, but I was still feeling relatively good. I had 2.6 miles to the turnaround point, I picked my way through the rocks, roots and redwood forest at a nice easy pace. All of the sudden I look down the hill I am running and someone is FLYING uphill towards me. It’s DAVE FREAKING MACKEY. He was looking great (on his way to a new course record!). I was taken aback by the speed in which he was climbing and then was a bit shocked when he politely said, “Excuse me.” And then “Great job, keep it up.” I stumbled my way through, “Thanks, you are doing great too.” Like he didn’t know he was doing great. Just a bit star struck. As I was putting the final touches on my new “Dave Mackey’s Number 1 Fan” page in my mind, I found myself once again and for the last time that Saturday at Stinson Beach. To my pleasant surprise I found Kynan waiting for me there and was just so happy to see him! I was not expecting him to be there again. I got such a boost from seeing him, it’s just what I needed. I gave him a kiss, tagged the aid station table, and promptly started my final traverse over Mt. Tamalpias to the finish line.
I had mentally prepared myself for this last leg all day. I knew this was going to be a long 7.1 miles of quivering quads starting with the climb up those stairs (those DAMN stairs!) in the redwoods. Breaks would be needed. I hadn’t taken a break in my climbing all day, which is leaps and bounds better than last year. At this point my climbing had been reduced to lifting my legs and shoving my quads down with my arm strength. After a while my arms would need a break so I took a couple of 10 second breaks, what I thought would help only ended in me struggling to get my legs to move forward again. Since lifting my legs only became an issue if I stopped for a short break I took those sparingly. Finally done with the climb out of the ravine I felt better knowing it was mostly rolling and down hills to the finish. While climbing was out of the picture long ago, I found I could still run at a descent clip on the rolling hills and was still passing people on the down hills. I made quick time of the last few miles, not daring to look down at my watch, I didn’t want to jinx myself.
Earlier this year one of the goals I told my running coach I wanted to do was run a sub 7 hour quad Dipsea, I thought with enough time in the year to train this was a realistic goal. After the WV Trilogy I was off running for two weeks and then on crutches for two weeks, so I hadn’t run longer than 16 miles and had only been back running for three weeks. My goal for the race was reduced to have fun and don’t get hurt.
When I saw the one mile marker I chanced a look at my watch and couldn’t believe what I saw! I had 11 minutes before the clock was set to strike seven hours. I was going to make it! It was literally all down hill and stairs to the end! Pushing my shot legs as hard as I dared, I navigated all three sets of stairs without incident. Looking up and seeing the flags, Kynan cheering, and finally the clock I was so elated! 6:57!!!!
Skidding to a halt I rested beside the results table when Kynan came over and wrapped me in one of those “I am so proud of you” hugs. There’s no better way to end a race. After doing some quick math I realized I took 28 minutes off last year’s time (a minute per mile)! At the same time one of the gentlemen manning the booth turned around and said, “Laura Matz? Congratulations you are first woman under 30!” The look of shock on my face was clear as his follow up questions was, “You are under 30, right?” I stumbled my way through a response that I WAS indeed under 30, but could you please double check the results? No way I had come in first female under 30. It turns out I was indeed first woman under 30, which had earned me a sweet hat and some cold hard cash.
While enjoying a beer (or two) and a slice of pizza (or three) I cheered the rest of my friends across the finish line. Everyone went home completely spent, happy, and smelling slightly of cheese pizza and beer.
I am completely happy with how this race turned out. I finished without a peep from my ankle or hamstring which was the number one goal, the PR was just the icing on the cake. I love everything about this race: the views, the roots, the redwoods, the stairs (YES the stairs!), the smell of the ocean breeze, and the fantastic volunteers. I can’t wait to come back next year and run this race with Kynan.
By Daniel Weintraub
They weren’t supposed to pass me on the climbs.
A little over an hour into the inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe race last Sunday, with the sun rising over the snow-capped Sierra, racers started passing me on Dollar Hill, the first small climb on the bike course. That’s when I knew it was going to be a long day. I am slight of build, and climbing on the bike has always been my strong suit. I am supposed to start passing the big guys when the road tilts up hill. But not on this day. I was in trouble early, and it would go, well, downhill from there.
An Ironman race, for the uninitiated, consists of a 2.4 mile rough-water swim, a 112-mile bike race and a 26.2 mile marathon. This was my third, and my goal was to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. To do that I would have to finish at least third in my age group. After more than a year of training just for this race, I thought I was ready.
But Ironman Lake Tahoe was no ordinary ironman, if there is such a thing. The course as laid out appeared to be the toughest in the world. The elevation at the start – the swim was at Kings Beach on the lake’s north shore – was significantly higher than the highest point on any other course. And we would climb 1,200 feet from there to the highest point on Brockway Pass, with a total of more than 7,000 feet of climbing on the bike course — again, more than any other ironman race. The run from Squaw Valley to Tahoe City and back, and then out and back on a shorter loop, was fairly flat, but even the small climbs on that course would feel like mountains at elevation.
Still, the course seemed perfect for me. The lake would be better than an ocean swim, the climbing on the bike suited my skills, I could train at elevation and the run seemed manageable. I thought I was ready for everything, having trained on the course on several summer weekends. Then the weather turned. The day before the race, the last day of summer, an unseasonably cold storm moved through Northern California. The wind picked up, and it started raining. As the sun set, snow mixed with rain. The forecast said the storm would move through overnight, and it did. But race day dawned with the temperature at the beach below 30 degrees. Ouch.
Yet the start at 6:40 a.m. was surprisingly comfortable. The race organizers commandeered a community center next door to give us a warm place to wait and don our wetsuits. I had to stand outside for only a few minutes on the beach before the swim, and the water temperature, at about 60 degrees, was fine. The gun went off and after 67 minutes of pushing, shoving, and hunting for a clear path in the lake through 2,500 swimmers, I was out of the water three minutes faster than my goal and on my way to the first transition. I was in 18th place in my age group.
That was chaos. An ironman has a “changing tent” where you can dry off and get ready for the bike. Many racers strip nude before putting on their bike gear, but I planned to leave my shorts on to save a few seconds. I grabbed my gear bag outside, took one step into the tent and was stunned. It was packed with bodies, standing room only, and still dark in the faint morning light. Guys would later call it “very Roman,” and a “Turkish bath house,” among other things. People bent over to pull on a sock and sat up to find a butt or other body part in their face. More importantly, many racers lost food and gear, including shoes, in the mess as their stuff mingled with their neighbor’s at their feet. After one glance I decided I wanted no part of that and went back outside to change on the asphalt. It was still under 30 degrees, and I could barely move my fingers. Simple chores like putting on my socks seemed to take forever. Once I got dressed, the run to my bike was also longer than normal, and when I got there, my bike seat was covered with frost. I fumbled with my Garmin bike computer for 30 seconds or so, trying to turn it on. By the time I headed out, 10 minutes had gone by. Typically the first transition takes me three or four minutes. I was frustrated to have lost so much time while not even on the course, but I didn’t know at the time that my transition would be among the fastest. Many people took 15 or 20 minutes between the swim and the bike!
As I jumped on my bike and started riding the first section from Kings Beach toward Tahoe City, my legs just didn’t have the zip that I was used to. I still don’t know what went wrong, but while I would typically start the bike dialing back my power to conserve energy for the long haul, on this day I had to work harder than I wanted to just to come close to maintaining my goal pace and power. Again, what I didn’t know was that so many other people were suffering the same fate.
Despite my struggles, the first 40 or so miles on the bike course, from Kings Beach to Tahoe City, Truckee and Martis Valley, went pretty well. Between the transition and the start of the bike I passed a few guys in my age group and started moving up. I did not know it but I was in fifth place at the bottom of the big Brockway climb the first time around. I would have been happy with 15th at that point. But as I climbed Brockway Pass I felt slow, and guys were passing me again. Regular cyclists will tell you that, while struggling, they often suspect they have a flat tire, even stopping to check, only to see that it was their legs, not the tires, that were the problem. But this time as I neared the summit I looked back and sure enough, I had a slow leak, and half the air in my rear tire was gone. Changing the flat with my cold fingers was clumsy, and it took me eight to ten minutes to get back on the road again. At the time I thought that delay could easily be the difference between qualifying for Kona or not, and I was upset. On the bright side, my son Max and my oldest friend, Kent and his son were there to cheer me on, so we were able to chat and they offered encouragement as I worked on the tire. They kept me calm and focused. That was nice.
Once I was off again the rest of the bike leg was fairly uneventful, if still not as fast as I’d planned. It was difficult to eat in the cold (at first my food was frozen) but I was able to keep to my nutrition and drinking plan. I guess because of the cold, I needed to pee on the second lap, something that had never happened to me in a race before. I did so without leaving the bike on a quiet section of the road. In other places it was great seeing so many fans alongside the course, cheering for their friends and family and all the other competitors. After completing two full laps and heading for the final segment from Kings Beach to Squaw Valley I felt pretty good. But my bike split was about 40 minutes slower than my goal, and I was 30 minutes behind third place. I thought maybe I could make up some time on the run, which is supposed to be my strong suit.
It didn’t happen. I came out of the transition ok but my legs again felt heavier than I was used to from past races and training sessions. Pacing myself by heart rate and time, I met my goals for the first five or six miles and passed several guys in my age group. I was moving iback into the top ten and still had a chance to make the podium. My plan was to keep my heart rate around 140 to 145 for the first loop, then push it hard on the second, shorter loop. Then, as we approached a turnaround at Tahoe City, I began to lose energy. My pace slowed. I tried and tried to push it, but I just didn’t have it. Even after we turned and the course started a gentle downhill I could not really pick up the pace. I was only ten miles into the marathon, and it was getting ugly. For some reason I was running with a pronounced tilt to my left side, but I couldn’t even sense that, or fix it. After a while I couldn’t stand the thought of eating more energy gel blocks, with their high concentration of sugar. Instead I ate bananas, which I always enjoy. And I was drinking my water. But I couldn’t get my mojo back.
By mile 17, as I approached the village at Squaw Valley and the end of the first loop, I was ready to quit. I knew I was out of the money and the thought of trudging through 9 more miles just to say I finished did not appeal to me. I’d already finished two ironman races. Why go through this torture just do that one more time? My whole body hurt and I felt weak and spent. My stomach started hurting, something that rarely happens to me, and I stopped to try to throw up, thinking that would help. I couldn’t even do that. But my family and friends who were there – including Chips Mark Murray and Jenny Hitchings – wouldn’t let me quit. My girlfriend Nicole, who rode the entire bike course in reverse and then shadowed me on the run course, was also insistent. They all told me I had to continue, and they said I’d be happy that I did. After circling the village at Squaw, packed with spectators screaming their support for all of the athletes, I realized my crew was right. I had to finish. So I sucked it up, put one foot in front of the other, and headed back out for the second loop.
At this point I was no longer racing. I just had to finish. I stopped at every aid station and drank a cup of chicken broth, and Mark pushed me to drink some coke to settle my stomach. The sun was going down and it was getting dark, and colder. I stopped to walk several times, and slowed to chat with my crew. Finally the village and the finish beckoned ahead of me. As I ran through the village, I slapped high fives with the spectators who lined the route, made the final left turn and wobbled my way across the line. After a 4:28 marathon, my final time was 12:12, about 90 minutes slower than my goal. But 12 must have been my lucky number, because that was also my place in my age group, out of about 225 registered and 124 who finished.
I was stunned that I had finished so high, and even more dumbfounded that I had actually moved up during the run. It turned out that the race was far more difficult than anyone expected. The drop-out (did not finish) rate was 20 percent, compared to 5 percent in a typical ironman. The winning times in my age group were by far the slowest of any recent Ironman, and the time it took to qualify for Kona, third place at 11:12, was more than 40 minutes slower than I had guessed it would take before the race. If I had known that going in, I might have done some things differently. Live and learn.
I am now planning to take at least a year off the ironman circuit, to let my body and soul recover. I’m entered in the Boston Marathon next year, which will be special the year after the bombings, and with my younger son in graduate school there. Other than that I plan to do some shorter races, and maybe some trail running.
But I won’t forget Ironman Lake Tahoe. I’ll be back. I have some unfinished business there.