Saturday, December 15, 2001

RR Jacksonville Marathon

Race Report:
Jacksonville Marathon
Jacksonville, FL

Yeah, yeah, I know - this marathon was almost as much of a surprise to me as it is to you.After all - I'm supposed to be resting? But since my right hamstring/leg felt OK in the last two marathons I thought I could/should run one more to close out the year for the following reasons:a) it rounded off the number of marathons run this year to a nice even 20b) it increased my total to 189 and decreased by ONE the number I have to run next year to reach my next big goal of 200. I want/need to accomplish this goal next year because it is the 20th anniversary of my FIRST marathon -Reno, NV, Sept/82!c) Jacksonville is a short 4 hour drive and we only needed one night in a hotel so it was a cheap race to rund) I had nothing else to do this weekend anywaye) and of course I am crazyI couldn't come up with any reasons NOT to run the marathon - until the 11th mile of the race when my legs became heavy and very tired and my body started screaming at me "You stupid SOB - Are you f*#*ing crazy asking me to run hot, humid marathons on three consecutive weekends? - I'll get even with your sorry,stupid ass!"More about this derogatory discourse later on.Because of the unseasonably warm weather we are enjoying in FL, it was a warm 67 degrees at the 7am start with 100% humidity (fog). Fortunately the fog and overcast skies slowed the rise in temperature so that it was only 74 degrees when I finished. The course is a flat, scenic course through the southeast suburbs of Jacksonville along the St. John's River. I had planned to run slow and easy since I considered this marathon to be a 'junk' race or just another number to get me closer to my goal of 200. However I found myself charging out of the start with a fast pack and passing mile 4 under 32 minutes! I knew that pace would kill me in that heat and humidity so I slowed down immediately to an 8:30 pace. But it was already too late (or maybe it was too late when I showed up at the start?) as my legs started to feel lazy? By mile 11 my body began having that derogatory discourse with me but I decided to ignore it and hold the pace until the half and then recheck the status.As I crossed the half in 1:51 my body was again screaming at me "You try to run the second half in the same time and I'll make sure your sorry fat ass is dragging on the ground - if not worse". This time I did what I coach novice runners - I listened to my body! (Is it unusual or a healthy sign to have derogatory discourses with your body because I have them quite often and I must admit that they have probably saved my life a few times?)Anyway I decided to listen to my body and since it was only a junk race I figured that if I jogged the last half at a 9 to 10 minute pace I could still finish under four hours -and more importantly live to run another day! So I jogged the next 7 to 8 miles at an average 9:30 pace. However by mile 21 both knees started to hurt because my legs had stiffened up which caused me to alter my stride and put more stress on the knees. So after another more friendly chat/discourse with my body we decided that we had only two options:1) Stop and walk2) Pick up the pace which would force my legs to flex and resume my normal running strideOption 1 was not acceptable so I dug deep to see if the legs had recovered any from the easy pace of the last 8 miles and - fortunately they had! I was able to drop the pace down to 8:30 but watched my heart rate soar 15 to 20 beats/min. to gain that minute reduction in pace. But alas - it was not to last long. By mile 24 my legs were heavy and tired again. Time 3:34 (I should be finishing by now?)For some strange and inexplicable reason all-of-a-sudden it became important that I salvage some respect for myself and finish under 3:55 which meant I had to run at least a sub-9 minute pace for the last two miles. So I had to ignore the derogatory rants and screams coming from my body as I played mind games and tricks on myself and dug up every last ounce of energy I could find to push the legs on. The course did not make it easy either as the last 1/2 mile made several turns, crossed a soccer field and ran along some trails so that it could funnel us on to a school track for the finish line. As I emerged on to the track I managed to sprint the last 200 meters to finish in 3:54:47! A very pathetic performance and time that was even more embarrassing when a 72 year-old runner finished only 4 minutes behind me! (But 3:58 is a damn good time for a 72 year old runner!)But I had survived to run another day! No heat exhaustion - no further damage or injury to my right leg as far as I can tell.NOW I will definitely take some time off and rest my poor old body. I have three lonnnnnnggggggggggg weeks to rest and let my body and legs recover before we start the 2002 marathon season at the Disney Marathon on Jan 6/02.

Monday, December 10, 2001

TR Jamaica Marathon

Trip Report
Jamaica Marathon
Negril, Jamaica
12/5 to 12/10/01

We're baaaacccccckkkkkkkkkkkk! I can describe the trip and Jamaica in a few words "Hotter than Hades"!Very similar to midsummer Florida weather-temperatures in the high 80s and humidity to match. And y'all know that we leave FL in the summer because we can't stand that heat. It was impossible to go outside between 11am to 3pm unless you were playing in the water.We had decided ahead of time not to follow our usual routine of renting a car and exploring the whole island in one or two days and that turned out to be a fortunate/wise decision. We flew into Montego Bay and were picked up by a shuttle bus to drive us 50 miles south to Negril. Forty-five of those 50 miles were under construction and were in terrible condition. Add to that a kamikaze bus driver, pitch black darkness and several unmarked detours and we had an exciting ride for two hours. But as scary as it was, I was glad that someone else was driving as I would have never found my way. I could see lots of tin/wood shacks along the route, especially in the small villages we drove though and felt safer with a local driver at the wheel. Two hours later we were safely dropped off at our hotel located right on the beach in Negril and after check-in proceeded directly to the beach restaurant/bar for a late meal. It was a comfortable 80+ degrees as we ate our dinner outside and 5 feet from the Caribbean Sea at 10pm.On Thursday we decided to scout out our surroundings and the town of Negril. Negril is located on the westernmost tip of Jamaica and is considered to have two personalities: half is seven miles of sandy white beach framing the waters of Long Bay; the other half is where the beach gives way to steep, rugged cliffs west of the town center, known as the West End or the Cliffs. The town center is small -includes a bank (and the only ATM), a supermarket, post office and a few shops. The Cliffs have a few resorts and lots of restaurant/bars. The Beach area is lined with exclusive hotel resorts such as Sandals, Couples, etc. and bars, discos and restaurants. My biggest complaint was that there was no public transportation and you had to walk or take taxis everywhere - and they weren't cheap. They would try to charge $10 US to drive us just 2 1/2 miles into the town center but you could negotiate that price down to $4 or 5. On our first morning Nicole and I walked into town, had breakfast, did some shopping, bought supplies (water, cola, beer, etc) at the supermarket and hired a taxi to take us back to the hotel. That was the only taxi we took during our stay. We settled into a routine where we would get up and walk about 1 1/2 miles along the beach to a small restaurant that served breakfast to the locals and great Blue Mountain Coffee (a local gourmet coffee) for about half the price the hotel charged. If we needed more supplies or money from the ATM we would walk into town after breakfast and then walk back to the hotel - saved lots of money on taxis and got our daily exercise. And before the sun became unbearably hot we would get our sunbathing in on the hotel beach. The beach is supposed to be the nicest one in Jamaica but unfortunately Hurricane Michelle had taken most off it away this past summer. The Caribbean Sea was lapping at sand bags protecting the hotel dining patio from being washed away. Unlike Florida that spends $Millions each year to replenish our beaches the Jamaicans are praying/hoping the the next hurricane will bring the beach back?On our very first walk into town we met a fellow runner/colleague from Sweden that I have met at several international marathons. That evening the race organization held a 'welcome party' for the marathoners and we met up again with K G and his partner. The Reggae Marathon was an inaugural race and very well organized and sponsored for an initial event. The welcome party,sponsored by Appleton, the biggest rum distiller in Jamaica was held at a night club on the beach and included an open bar for two hours - all the rum, wine and Red stripe (local beer) you wanted to drink. Since the marathon was on Sat and we weren't taking it too seriously we accepted their hospitality and tried not to insult our hosts by drinking lots of rum/beer. Been a long time since I drank rum!On Friday the race organization held a pasta party at the Couples -Swept Away Resort (located next to our hotel). It was one of the best pasta feeds I have ever attended. I don't normally attend because the food is buffet and usually not great quality -but this was a pleasant exception. The chefs from various luxury resorts in Negril had set up kitchens on the grounds at Couples and cooked several types of pasta to order - and there were copious amounts of beer and wine to wash it down while listening to live reggae bands. And - all included in our registration fee!Saturday was M-Day! As I walked to the race start about 1/2 mile from our hotel at 5:15am the temperature was a cool 77 degrees and it was very dark. They had closed down the highway/road from Negril town center north to Green Island. The course ran 3 miles into Negril and then turned back north 13 miles to Green Island to the last turnaround and then a 10 mile straight stretch back to the start/finish line. The 5:15am start was sadly delayed by 15 minutes which meant 15 minutes less of darkness and cool temperatures. As I lined up at the start line with another 700 runners (350 in the marathon and 350 in the half) I bumped into a fellow '50 State Club member' in the dark - hadn't expected to meet him here- small world? Again the race organization impressed me with water and Gatorade bags at every mile. I ran the first 7 miles in darkness enjoying the cool 77 degrees. By mile 8 the sun started to rise and I still managed another 2 to 3 miles in shade before it crested the tree tops.I crossed mile 10 in 82 minutes-faster than planned but I figured that I had just taken advantage of the cool temperatures and that fast pace would fade quickly.I was right! By the half I was running an 8:30 pace and my shoes were soaked and heavy from the sweat cascading down my body. Time 1:50 - but I DID NOT have any silly illusions about running negative splits! I knew that the sun and heat were going to get very ugly in the 2nd half!As I crossed the half in a small impoverished village along the road/course the smell of ganja(marijuana) was so heavy and strong that I figured if I slowed down I had a good chance of getting a high? I was now taking two bags of water (no ganja) at every aid station - one in me and one on me- to cool down.By 16 miles I had slowed to an 8:45 pace and my heart monitor had soared to the high 150s (90% Max). I felt fine and my legs felt OK - I just figured the extra stress on the ticker was due to the heat and humidity. Push on Maddog!It was also around this point of the race that the local supporters became mean - JUST to me? They kept shouting/screaming at me "Go Pappy" "Go Grandpa"! Now isn't that mean? Especially since I don't even have grandkids?As I crossed mile 20 in 2:50 and did my gut check I still felt OK but was concerned that my heart monitor had climbed to 162 (94% Max) just to hold a 9 minute pace? I was now taking 3 water bags at each station - one in and two on - just trying to lower my body temperature. The air temperature was in the mid 80s but closer to 100 + degrees on the blacktop road. I decided to run strictly by the monitor and keep my heart rate between 160 to 165 and ignore the pace.At mile 24 the rate had climbed above 165 (96%) and my pace dropped to 10 minutes? I still felt OK and the legs still had some pep so I decided "screw this - I am going to pick up the pace and get this over with quicker"!My monitor started screaming/buzzing at me as I crossed mile 25 in 8:16 and it soared above 170 (98% Max)! Legs still OK - I'm hurting but mostly from heat exhaustion and feeling like a broiled lobster. Need to get this over with - pick up the pace Maddog!The monitor is now going crazy and I am both amazed and concerned that it has peaked and stayed at 174 (my maximum heart rate is 173?) during the final mile but I am rewarded with a 7:58-my fastest mile of the race. I continue on to cross the finish line in 3:47.My only thoughts are: "Don't stop - don't pass go -don't collect $200 -don't go to jail". Just grab some water, find my sports manager waiting at the finish line and walk directly back to the hotel, continue on to the beach, remove shoes and socks (wondered why later since they were soaked anyway)? and walk out into the Caribbean Sea until it is two feet over my head! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! It's so refreshing and a cool 80 degrees which feels about 100 degrees cooler than my body temperature. I only wished that I could breathe under water so that I didn't have to surface into that hellish sun ever again!After 10 minutes of cooling off I walked back to the beach, collapsed on to the hotel massage table under a palm tree and let the hotel masseuse beat and torture my muscles to flush out the toxins and lactic acid.I was beginning to feel alive (and not completely broiled) again. After a quick shower Nicole and I walked along the beach to a local jerk center. What's that - a jerk center and you weren't invited? Nah, jerk! It was the food type jerk.And what is jerk? Good question! Basically southern BBQ with a local BBQ sauce that is supposed to be spicy. I did find the jerk chicken and pork to be very tender and tasty but the jerk sauce was not all that spicy.That evening the race organization held a Reggae Marathon Victory Jam on the beach with live reggae bands and an open bar all night-again included in the registration fee. Unfortunately and strangely, alcohol didn't seem to taste as good as soda or water (thankfully not a long-lasting illness) and although we enjoyed the bands we left early. But they do know how to throw a good party in Jamaica.On Sunday I was wishing that I had rented a car so we could at least explore the nearby hills/mountains. There are some waterfalls and tropical forests only a few hours from Negril or we could have driven to the Blue Mountains. We also contemplated taking a taxi over to the Cliffs to snorkel and then enjoy a sunset at Rick's cafe - the local tourist spot/bar for sunsets. But it costs $30 to take a taxi to Rick's and back plus the sunset drink and I just figured a better option was to sit and watch NFL football at the hotel beach bar, watch the sunset and drink $30 worth of beer and rum? You can guess which option won?On Monday we were looking forward to returning to the cool climate of Sarasota - the lows here at least get down to the low 60s! The drive back to Montego Airport was not any better in broad daylight. I still would have got lost. And you could see the shanty towns and poverty much better? To summarize: the Reggae marathon is a well organized race and offers lots of socializing and a fast flat course-BUT the climate is brutal. I am not interested in returning to the marathon or Jamaica because there are many other islands in the Caribbean that are much nicer. But for those fanatics that MUST add another country to their running belt/list it is a good bet.

Sunday, December 02, 2001

RR Tampa Marathon

Race Report
Hops Marathon
Tampa, FL

First, I must thank everyone for their prayers, cants and voodoo verses. They worked because my right leg held up (except for some minor pain and stiffness between miles 16 to 20) and most importantly my team of pretty young lasses qualified for Boston!The weather, as expected, did not cooperate as the temperature was already 65 degrees at the 6am start. Fortunately a cloud cover kept it from getting too brutal until about mile 16 when the clouds burned off and it heated up quickly to the mid 70s.We lost a few critical minutes at the start because of the narrow congested streets and large crowd in front of us - 10 minutes for the first mile! But we quickly settled into a smooth and easy 8:30 pace by mile 3 and cruised through the first half in 1:53 - even with a pit stop and a few walks through some water stops to digest some GU (carbo gel). Everyone was feeling great at that point and I even had silly thoughts about maybe running a negative split on the second half to finish under 3:45.But at mile 16 the heat and a small twinge/stiffness in Linda's left hamstring started to slow us down. Amy and I took turns massaging and beating on Linda's hamstring while we continued running and Linda courageously forged on. I also was starting to experience minor pain and stiffness in my right hamstring but fortunately it never went beyond the 'minor discomfort' level.As we approached the 20-mile mark I asked for a 'gut check' from the team. Twenty miles is the moment of truth and decision for a marathoner.I once read an article by a renowned sports doctor who stated, "the human body was not built to run further than 20 miles". After 187 marathons I truly believe that statement/finding! If a runner is well trained the first 20 miles are usually easy. But no matter how well trained a runner is, how he/she will feel on the last 10K will depend on conditioning, how one feels that day, the weather - and if the moon is aligned with Jupiter and Mars? And a runner will always reach one of the following stages in the last 10K: Stage 1 - "this hurts!"; Stage 2 - "this really hurts!!"; Stage 3 -"this really fucking hurts!!!" (an inside joke/saying in the BBR but ALL runners and endurance athletes will fully understand the meaning).Stage 1 WILL be reached by all marathoners who run the last 10K. Stage 2 is also normally reached unless all of the above conditions (the Moon and Jupiter, etc) are in place. Stage 3 is usually only reached when a marathoner is trying to obtain a goal such as winning an age group (or the race) or trying to beat a time goal.Because all three stages can be avoided at any time by simply stopping! The reason for this brief side note/dissertation was to explain why I requested a 'gut check' from the team at 20 miles. Based on my 187 marathons of experience I have determined that a runner can normally tell what stage(s) he/she is about to encounter during the last 10K based on how he/she feels at 20 miles. I was hoping that I could tell from their responses and watching their strides what might lie ahead and then I could prepare a strategy to get them through the expected stages. I didn't know if Amy or Linda had ever experienced Stage 3 in a marathon and I had to be prepared to psyche or trick them through it.My concern started to increase when we passed mile 21 in 9:22 - we needed a 9 - minute pace and no slower over the last 10K to reach our goal which meant I had to to motivate, beat or beg the team to pick up the pace. I tried motivation/bribery first. "Think how proud you will be and how you can brag about qualifying for Boston". Then I resorted to embarrassment and ridicule (subtlety trying to get them angry and forget their pain/hurt). "How pissed off are you going to be at yourself if you miss qualifying by only 30 seconds?" "You going to waste 6 months of training just because you hurt for a few minutes?" I wanted to tell them they were wusses but that won't work with a girl - I should have thought that one out beforehand?The next tactic was trickery (it's not mean - I use this shit on myself in most races)."It's only one mile to the next marker - you only have to hurt for another 9 minutes". Finally we crossed the 24-mile mark in 3:30:30 - I started screaming/begging "we only have 19 1/2 minutes to reach our goal. I am not letting you give up at this point if I have to carry you across the damn finish line!" At that point I figured Linda had clearly crossed into Stage 3 and Amy was knocking at the door. But I am so very proud of my team! They did not give up! They rose to the challenge - dug deep - ignored the pain and struggled on with every last once of energy they didn't have left.By now I was throwing everything at them; motivation, ridicule, trickery - anything to take their mind off the pain. I tried to get them pissed off at me in hopes that anger would help them forget the pain.MILE 25 - 3:39 Eleven minutes to reach our goal and both Linda and Amy are in Stage 3! I know they are hurting (really fucking hurting!). Lots of motivation, trickery, threats and lies are needed as I tell them "we have it made, we're home - only 9 more minutes of pain -any runner can stand pain for that short time to brag about qualifying for Boston!"Again/still they rose to the challenge and we crossed the finish line in 3:50:11.I was actually a bit concerned because they needed a 3:50 to qualify but we got confirmation that 3:50 + any change up to 59 seconds is considered qualifying. So we cut it very close but that don't mean a damn thing now.The TEAM QUALIFIED and I am very, very proud of them.And I think that they achieved something just as important and significant as qualifying for Boston. They both reached Stage 3 and didn't give up! Because once you realize that you can do that, you can do it again -and again - and again - just like a Maddog!So again I thank you for your help as I was able to finish the race with only a little pain/discomfort in the hamstring and because I was running a smooth, easy pace (for me) I barely reached Stage 1. Thus I am much more confident that I can run the marathon in Jamaica next Saturday without hurting the leg further. But believe me, after that race I am resting the leg for a few weeks. I may try some cross training - I said cross TRAINING - not cross DRESSING which is something many of you do!