Monday, December 20, 2010

RR - Jacksonville

Race Report
Sun, Dec 19/10
Jacksonville Bank Marathon
Jacksonville, FL
Marathon # 339
3:42:36 – 1 AG

After running a pretty good race the previous week in Cape Coral I had mixed emotions about racing another marathon one week later. I felt that the races were forcing me into better shape but I was not sure how my body and ongoing recovery from UC would react to back-to-back races? I have run the Jacksonville Marathon three times and always enjoy a good time/performance because the course is flat and fast and attracts world-class competition. What I hate about the race is the long/grueling/boring
5-hr drive across FL - especially the 120-mile section on I 4 from Tampa to Daytona Beach. And to make matters worse a storm front moved into FL on Sat morning and I had to drive through rain the entire way! The Sports Manager was smart and declined the trip! However when I arrived in Jacksonville in mid-afternoon it was sunny and warm.

I drove to the race expo to register and pick up a race packet. Because of the uncertainty of my health I no longer pre-register for races because of the risk of cancelling and losing the entry fee – instead I wait and register at the race expo. After checking in at the host hotel I enjoyed a nice pasta dinner and retired early to rest from the long drive.

Sun was ‘M’ day! The course starts and finishes at the Bolles School in South Jacksonville and runs through nice residential neighborhoods along the St Johns River. The roads are narrow, shaded and protected from winds. It was overcast with a temp of 45 F and a light mist as I lined up with 2300 runners (900 in the Marathon and 1400 in the Half) in the dark for a 7 am start. I hate being cold at the start so I wore a long-sleeve throw-away, gloves and a garbage bag over my race clothes of T-shirt and shorts. Based on the results of my past two races where I started out fast for the first 20 miles and tried to hang on for the final 10Km I decided to try a new strategy - to run smarter and start out slower. I would go out at an 8:30 pace and see how long I could hold that pace?

I passed Mile 1 in 8:13 and discarded the garbage bag. When I reached Mile 3 in 25:03 and a split of 8:23 I was overheated! I discarded the throw-away T-shirt. I considered discarding the cotton gloves but decided to keep them for awhile – thankfully a good decision because the temps actually dropped during the race and it was colder at the finish! I passed Mile 5 in 41:46 and a split of 8:18. I slowed the pace 10 secs/mile and passed Mile 10 in 1:23:42 and a split of 8:29. My legs felt really good and I figured I could hold that pace for many more miles? I passed the Half in 1:49:56 and a split of 8:28. That was close to the same time as the previous week except now my legs still felt fresh and good so I continued to hold that pace. There were distance markers and clocks every mile that really help to manage your pace. There were water stations every two miles and lots of support and traffic control along the course. The race is well organized!

I passed Mile 16 in 2:14:23 and a split of 8:24 and reached Mile 20 in 2:48:47 and a split of 8:30. The strategy and slower pace were working – I was 2 minutes ahead of my 20 mile split in the two previous races – and my legs felt amazingly fresh and springy! I considered pushing the pace for the final 10Km? Nah! That would be dumb! I continued to hold an 8:30 pace and passed Mile 23 in 3:06:04 and a split of 8:27. However the legs were no longer feeling amazingly fresh and springy? Now I had to work to hold an 8:30 pace! But I knew right then that a sub-3:45 marathon was in the bag and the excitement of a great finish time provided a final jolt of adrenaline and energy. I tried to lower the hammer and push the pace for the final 5 Km to ‘guarantee’ a sub-3:45 but there wasn’t much ‘push’ left. When I reached Mile 26 in 3:40:50 and a split of 8:36 and entered the track at the Bolles School I could see the finish clock – 3:41 plus change (gun/clock time). I was determined to beat my course PR from last year (3:43:32 and my fastest time in 2009) so I sprinted the final 200 m on the track to cross the finish line in 3:42:55 (gun time)!

As I walked through the finish chute I suddenly felt COLD and began to shiver – the temp was only 44 F! I wrapped myself in a thermal blanket and immediately walked back to the car for my warm-ups and camera. When I returned to the finish area I checked the results and confirmed that my official (chip) finish time was 3:42:36. I was surprised to learn that was good enough to win 1st AG. Typically it takes a sub-3:30 to win my AG in this race but I guess no World Class competitors showed up this year? I didn’t care and gladly accepted the 1st Place award – it is difficult to win one in this race!

Needless to say I was very pleased with both my time and performance. I ran a smart race and was able to hold a smooth and even pace for the entire race w/o any problems. My finish time equated to an average 8:30 pace for the race! (How’s that for setting and accomplishing a target)? I beat my old PR in this race by one minute and ran my fastest time since the Dead Sea Marathon in April 2008! And it is all the more satisfying after a very difficult year of health issues when there were times that I didn’t know if I would ever be able to run or compete again! And note that it was marathon #339 and my 17th and final marathon for 2010!

I would like to run another marathon in a few weeks to see if I can keep improving and lowering my finish times? But alas the Sports Manager and I leave this week for the West Coast to spend the Holidays with our kids and grandkids. It will be difficult to train in the COLD and rainy weather in WA and OR. When we return to FL in early Jan we only have a few days to repack before we leave for a 10-day Caribbean cruise. I do not intend to run during the cruise and expect to gain at least 5 pounds so it will be interesting to see how I do at the Ocala Marathon in late Jan?

Stay tuned!

Monday, December 13, 2010

RR - Cape Coral

Race Report
Sun, Dec 12/10
Mangrove Marathon
Cape Coral, FL
Marathon # 338
3:47:38 - 1 AG – 12 OA

After a good race in Cocoa Beach a few weeks ago I immediately added speed work and intensity to my training program in order to improve my time and performance at the next race. Things progressed smoothly for the first week but then started to fall apart. On Sun night we had a guest from CO and (perhaps) imbibed a wee too much? I decided to do an easy 10-mile run on Mon to flush the poison out of my system. However by the end of the first mile I was sucking for air and totally fatigued? Surely a hangover can’t affect me that badly? I had to run/walk and struggle to finish the 10 miles! I was concerned that I might be experiencing a relapse or flare up of the UC? On Tue I Had planned to do speed work but instead just ran an easy 10 miles which I was able to complete w/o walking so that made me feel better. So On Wed I decided to do the speed work – however by the end of the first mile I was again sucking for air, feeling totally fatigued and both feet were so painful that I had to turn around and walk home? I felt like I was running around Lake Dillon (9,000 ft) three months ago? Now I was really concerned. Should I call the GI doc and ask what the Hell is happening or give it one more day? On Thu I tried a speed workout and was able to run a fast 6 miles and felt good? I decided to rest for the next few days and run the Mangrove Marathon on the weekend as scheduled.

On Sat the Sports Manager and I drove 100 miles south to Cape Coral, FL. The race was a new/inaugural marathon/half marathon. I was not expecting much – the website was not well designed or informative. I didn’t realize until the day before the race that there were no formal age groups (the age groups were 0 to 99?) or awards except for the two winners in each race? The expo and pasta dinner was held on Fri night – two days before the race? Thus I picked up my bib and race packet at a local running store called the Run Shoppe. There were no last-minute race info/details in the packet and the volunteer couldn’t answer any of my questions about the race start, water stations, etc? So the SM and I drove to the start/finish area and part of the course to get some idea of the logistics for the race and explore Cape Coral. Cape Coral was a big disappointment! There is nothing to see or do!

After a terrible pasta dinner (at one of the supposedly best Italian restaurants in town) we retired early. Sun was ‘M’ day. The weather was forecast to be cool at the start (52 F) with wind and storms later in the day. The race was supposed to start at 6:30 am. I lined up with about 300 runners (100 in the marathon and the rest in the Half) by 6:15am. The race start was delayed 30 minutes! That provided extra time to find a toilet in nearby Cape Harbour Marina since there were only two portable toilets for 300 runners? I expected bugs/problems with an inaugural race but this was not looking good?

The sun was up by the time the race started – that was a concern because that meant it would be warm by the end of the race! The course consisted of two half-marathon loops. The first loop followed a route through residential streets in the SE section of the city. After the strange past week I wasn’t sure which body would show up at the start line – the ‘bad’ body that suffered fatigue after one mile and felt like shit or the ‘good’ body that felt good and could run fast? Thus I went out at an easy 8:30 pace. After the first mile and no problems I figured the ‘good’ body must have shown up so I lowered the pace down to 8:20/mile. I passed mile 5 in 42:13 and a split of 8:14. The course was fast and flat and the weather was ideal during the first loop/half – sunny, temps in the high 50s and only a light breeze. There were distance markers every mile – and they were accurate (one of my few compliments for the race) – and water every few miles. I passed mile 10 in 1:23:50 and a split of 8:18. I was cruising at a steady 8:18 pace by then and decided I would hold that pace until the Half and re-evaluate. I passed the Half in 1:49:53 and a split of 8:23. I was pleased with that time but knew right then that I could not hold that pace through the 2nd loop – probably not even till 20 miles. The 2nd half-marathon loop followed a route through residential streets north and west of the city. I decided to run the 2nd Half smarter and slow my pace down by 15 to 20 secs/mile and hope that I could hold that pace to the finish line? The temps had warmed up into the high 60s and there were no water stations from mile 12 through mile 17? Five miles w/o water and it was getting hot – and I and several runners were getting pissed off! When I finally reached a water station at mile 17 in 2:33:52 and a split of 8:53 I screamed at the volunteer to call the race director and get some water stations deployed along that 5-mile stretch! I was concerned about slower runners behind us because it was getting warmer and I did not want to return over those (final) 5 miles w/o water – a dangerous possibility of dehydration!

I reached the final turn-around at mile 19 in 2:41:25 and a split of 8:42. I calculated that if I could hold a sub 9-min pace for the final 7 miles I could easily break 3:50 and might come close to 3:45? What I didn’t calculate was the storm front moving in sooner than forecast. When I made the turn the wind picked up and started gusting about 20/25 mph – directly into our faces! What a bitch that final 7 miles was! I tried to keep my pace below 9 min/mile but 9:10s were the best I could manage into that fierce head wind! At least the race director had responded to our complaints and had deployed 3 more water stations over the final 5 miles. When I passed mile 23 in 3:18:12 and a split of 9:04 I knew that I couldn’t break 3:45 so I eased back on the pace and cruised to the finish line in 3:47:38.

After taking a mandatory finish line photo I checked for results and wasn’t surprised to find none – even though the race was timed by chip? I was later able to confirm official results (along with age groups?) at the website for the running store? I finished 1st AG and 12th Overall.In spite of the problems with the race I was pleased with both my time and performance. I enjoyed a great tempo run for the first Half and was able to run the 2nd Half smart and smoothly w/o suffering any problems. I need to improve my capability to hold a fast pace for the entire 26 miles but that will come with more speed work and races. My finish time is now back down to the same level it was in the spring of this year – and pre-UC/illness. I believe I can break 3:45 by next spring!

Since I didn’t suffer any problems during the race and felt fine at the finish I think I will drive over to Jacksonville, FL next weekend to run my final marathon for the year.

Stay tuned!

Monday, November 29, 2010

RR - Space Coast Marathon

Race Report
Sun, Nov 28/10
Space Coast Marathon
Cocoa Beach, FL
Marathon # 337
3:51:23 – 2 AG

You may recall in my last report I reported that my health was improving and I hoped that I might resume racing again in Dec? After researching race calendars I selected an inaugural marathon in Cape Coral, FL in mid-Dec to make my comeback. However to prepare for a marathon it is necessary to do some long training runs (20 miles or longer) – and I HATE long training runs. I would rather run a marathon than run a 20-mile training run!

I was scheduled for a 2nd infusion of Remicade and a follow-up appointment with the GI doc in mid-Nov so I decided to select a marathon in late NOV to use as a long training run (if I got a green light to race). The meeting with the doc went well. Although the UC is not yet in full remission it is under control and he removed all the lifestyle restrictions (diet, travel and racing). I specifically addressed running/racing in detail and he confirmed that running/racing and exercise was good for my health and should/would not affect the UC! It only proves that if you select the right doc and pay him enough he will tell you anything you want to hear?

Now that I had a ‘green light’ to race again the Sports Manager and I drove across FL to Cocoa Beach to register for the Space Coast Marathon. I ran this race in 2003 (1st AG in 3:58) and knew it was a flat, fast course. The course has changed. It now starts and finishes in downtown Cocoa Village.
After registering and picking up a race packet at the Expo at the Kennedy Space Center we drove to Cocoa Village to check out the logistics of the start/finish. Then we enjoyed a standard pasta dinner and retired early.

Sun was ‘M’ day. I was a wee bit concerned on Sat and Sun morning as I drove to Cocoa Village. I had been experiencing some minor symptoms of the UC – stomach cramps and diarrhea – that I thought were finished? There were not many portable toilets at the start and I had to find some alleys and bushes for a few emergency pit stops before the start. I hoped it didn’t continue through the race?

The races – marathon and half marathon – both started in downtown Cocoa Village. There were approximately 3,000 runners – 1,000 in the marathon and 2,000 in the Half. There were two separate start corrals because the marathon made a quick right turn after the start and looped through the village before heading north on Riverside Dr along the west bank of the Indian River. The Half turned left and ran south on Riverside Dr along the Indian River. Both races started at 6:15 am. The weather was ideal as forecast – 57 F and overcast at the start and sunny and 66 F at the finish.

During the past few months I only ran ‘junk’ miles just to maintain and build up my aerobic conditioning. I had not included any speed work or intensity in my training. Thus my strategy for this race or long training run was to consider it a 20-mile tempo run. I planned to go out at a 4-hr pace and hold that pace as long as possible. I figured I could hold that pace for 20 miles and then I would probably have to ‘hang on’ and struggle through the final 10 Km to finish?

When I lined up at the start I noticed another ‘old fart’ who looked to be in my Age Group. I tried to convince myself to ignore other runners and not to attempt to compete – I wasn’t in shape to compete!
The race started on time and I instinctively tried to keep the other old fart in sight. I passed Mile 5 in 42:36 and an 8:34 split! I was way ahead of my planned pace! But I felt OK so I decided to hold that pace to the Half and then re-evaluate. As I made the turn for the 1st half-marathon loop I noticed that the old fart was only about 1 minute ahead of me. I passed mile 10 in 1:25:53 and reached the Half back in downtown Cocoa Village in 1:52:35 and a split of 8:36! I was definitely running way over my head!
The 2nd Half followed the half-marathon course south along the Indian River so we met/passed a lot of half-marathoners racing to the finish line.

I still felt OK but knew that if I continued to hold an 8:30 pace the final 10Km could be really ugly! There was no false illusion that I could hold that pace for 26 miles! I decided to go for it! I passed Mile 15 in 2:08:47 and a split of 8:35 and then the wheels started to fall off! My legs suddenly felt tired and heavy and my splits slowed to 8:45s. I knew that the smart thing would be to slow the pace to 9:00 or 9:15s but I was determined to run a 20-mile tempo run so I continued to push the pace. As I approached the turn-around at Mile 20 I noticed that the old fart was now about 5 minutes ahead of me. The only way I could catch him was if he crashed in the final 10Km (and I didn’t).
I passed Mile 20 in 2:53:16 and a split of 9:28. I knew that any chance of catching the old fart in 1st place was gone and that relieved a lot of stress and any motivation to accept any more pain than I was already suffering! I calculated that the worst case was to slow down to a 10-min pace and still finish well under 4 hrs or if I could push the pace down to 9:00/mile I could break 3:50!

I had to make an emergency pit stop at 20 miles that cost me a few minutes but also gave the old, wasted legs a much-needed rest. I was able to lower the split on Mile 21 to 9:03 but then the legs were finished. I struggled to hold a 9:30 pace for the final 5 miles and cross the finish line in 3:51:23.
My legs were tired and sore but I was very pleased and happy with both my time and performance. I never expected to break 4 hrs – in fact that was my goal for the next race in Cape Coral.

I walked back to the car for the camera to take a required finish line photo and check the results. I confirmed that I did indeed finish 2nd AG and the old fart beat me by 10 minutes! I wasn’t upset – I had run way over my head! And that 20-mile tempo run jump-started my speed work. I will now add mile repeats to my weekly program. The biggest question now is “what target should I set for the next race”?

Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Mileage & Medical Report

Mileage & Medical Report
Nov 7/10

Mileage report:

I just logged 76 (running) miles this past week.
So even though I missed quite a few weeks and miles this past year due to some ‘wee’ health issues I still managed to pass 2,000 miles (2036) for the year. I submit this report mainly to inform my good friend Dr D. that I do not intend to lie down and simply concede the annual mileage title to him for a second year in a row! Nope! He will have to work hard to retain his title!

Clearly I cannot maintain this weekly level of mileage w/o injury so it appears that I will not reach my normal annual average mileage of 2500 miles for a second year in a row! Is this a sign of OLD AGE? If so I do not want any part of it!

It looks like (once again) all I can hope is that next year brings back my normal mileage – and a normal life!

Medical Report:

The long and frustrating struggle for recovery continues.

After a multitude of additional medical test and results, including a re-scope of both ends of the GI tract, the docs have concluded that there are no additional or hidden issues/bacteria/diseases. It has been
re-confirmed for the third time that my illness is simply a case of ‘severe’ Ulcerative Colitis (UC). Wish it were that ‘simple’.

We have tried many of the regular drugs and combinations of drugs normally used to control this nasty disease. We have tried many significant lifestyle changes including - NO travel – NO marathons/races – NO running/exercise and a very restricted diet. And I mean ‘restricted’! The ‘Low Residue Diet’ eliminated most of my favorite food groups. NO fried food – NO snack food – very limited fruits and veggies and – NO alcohol or caffeine! In other words “Anything that tastes good”!

Alas! None of these treatments and/or lifestyle changes provided any significant effect or improvement in the symptoms and failed to force the UC into remission!
The first ray of hope occurred two weeks ago when we began flushing cortisone liquid directly into the colon. This treatment provided some immediate relief and improvement in my symptoms. The stomach cramps and diarrhea diminished and the leg/foot pains diminished and then disappeared one week later. I am now able to run 10 to 15 miles w/o walking and can even make it (thankfully) between public toilets along my routes for major pit stops. However I still have to carry a packet of toilet paper for emergency situations! The Sports Manager and I are able to play golf again and (with the consent of my doc) I am ignoring the “NO booze” and a few other items on that restricted diet! Thus my “Quality of Life” is improving.

But alas again! Even the cortisone treatment combined with the regular drugs and lifestyle changes have not been successful in forcing the UC into remission. We are not satisfied with the progress and current level of symptoms so we have moved up to the highest level of drugs and treatment.

I received my first infusion of Remicade this past week. Remicade is a biologic drug/therapy that recognizes, attaches to, and blocks the action of a protein called tumor necrosis alpha (TNF –alpha) that is made by certain blood cells in the body. TNF can cause the immune system to attack healthy tissues in the body and cause inflammation and damage (e.g. UC)!

Remicade is reputed to be a ‘miracle ‘drug. But it is very expensive – and it can cause some nasty side effects!
The docs tell me that it normally takes a second infusion (in 2 weeks) to notice any significant changes or improvements in the symptoms and disease. That is followed by a third infusion at week #6 and then maintenance treatments every 8 weeks for a period of 2 years to control the disease.

Since Remicade is the final ’silver bullet’ in the arsenal I must remain hopeful and optimistic that it will work for me?

Maybe I can start racing again in Dec?

Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

TR - Guatemala

9/30 – 10/04/10

Sun, Oct 3/10
Amatitlan, Guatemala
Maya Marathon
Marathon # 336 – Country # 106

While I am on a roll I figure I should finish part 2 of the past two weeks of travel/adventure.

I left Ghana on Mon for the long flight home – and thankfully had the same great seat close to a bathroom. I arrived home in FL and had 2 days to repack, pick up the Sports Manager who had stayed on the West Coast for 1 month with the kids and our precious new granddaughter Mira, get in a few 10-mile training runs and head off to the next race in Guatemala.

I had been looking for a marathon in Guatemala for the past 3 years and finally established contact with some local runners in 2008 who confirmed that there is only one marathon in Guatemala – the Maya Maraton that is held on the 1st weekend of Oct. each year in Amatitlan. Since I had a conflict in 2009 I committed to run the race in 2010 and didn’t want to break that commitment because of some minor health issues! There is a website for the race but it is difficult to find and has limited information (in Spanish). Without the support and assistance of local runners it would be difficult to participate in this race.

One of the nice things about travel to Central America is that the flights are short and there is only a few hours time difference. I arrived in Guatemala City at 8 pm and still had time to arrange for a city tour the next morning. Since it was not high season there was no demand for tours and I was provided with a private driver/guide. He misunderstood the request and instead of a tour of GC he took me to Antigua – about 40 miles west of GC. I wasn’t disappointed! The Antigua tour was more expensive than the city tour I paid for and it was much more interesting! On the drive through GC and along the highway to Antigua I noticed with much surprise how clean the streets and roads were? No litter – no garbage – no filth like most cities and countries in C. America? I expressed my surprise to the guide who explained that the mayors of both cities strictly enforced rules against litter/garbage. My kudos to them – the cities and roads are neat and clean!

I really liked Antigua. Antigua was founded in 1543 as the capital and once was the largest city in Central America. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1773 and the capital was moved to GC. However some residents stayed behind to rebuild the city and many of the old buildings have been restored. The original cobblestone streets are quaint (but Hell to drive on) and many of the original buildings have been restored and upgraded to boutique hotels, upscale restaurants, shops and bars. There are several ‘live-in’ schools teaching Spanish. We visited a few of the major tourist sites such as the Iglesia Y Convento De La Merced with its’ beautifully restored architecture and Central Park with the famous fountain restored in 1936 to the original version built in 1738. Central Park is bonded on the East side by the Catedral de Santiago (1542), on the South by the Captain-Generals’ Palace (1558) and the North by the City Hall (1743). My guide took me to a silver factory where I was able to buy both of my typical souvenirs – a teaspoon and silver charm- in the same place! I was disappointed that I had to leave Antigua so soon – I could easily spend/enjoy 2 to 3 days in that beautiful city!

The next day I did take the city tour of GC. It was a disappointment – not much to see or do in GC for a tourist. We visited some museums in Zona 13 and then drove around Zona 10 (Zona Viva) that is the affluent section of GC. Western hotels, upscale shops, restaurants, bars and modern shopping malls are located in this zone – and also the Embassies and many affluent residential areas. We drove through one gated community that looked like any subdivision back home except for the bars on the doors and windows and electrified barb wire on the walls and roofs of the homes? I noticed many runners/walkers and bikers in this community and a local runner later confirmed that this is the area where most runners train because it is safe and there is little traffic! We continued to Zona 1 which is the old section of the city to visit a few old churches and Central Park that is bounded on the East by the Catedral Metropolitana and the North by the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura. Few of the buildings have been restored or maintained and are not in good shape? We finished the city tour with a drive through the slums in the North end of the city. GC is built in a huge bowl surrounded by volcanoes. Most of the slums are built on steep hills on the sides of the volcanoes. They have great views – but no water/plumbing and are destroyed frequently by earthquakes and landslides!

My tour of the city was over except for brief walks near my hotel in Zona 10. Since the city was so neat and clean emergency pit stops were not possible but thankfully there were many modern fast-food restaurants in the area. As convenient as they were there unfortunately were still a few wee accidents and I concluded it is difficult to travel with health issues like I was suffering!

On Sat evening Fernando and his lovely wife Thatiana met me to deliver my race packet- including
Bib # 106 – and invited me to join them for a great pasta dinner at their favorite Italian restaurant to discuss final logistics for the race. Fernando had arranged for another runner, Raul, to pick me up and drive me to the race. He warned me about some tough hills in the 1st and last 10 Km of the race.

Sun was ‘M’ day. Raul picked me up promptly at 5:15 am for the 30 minute drive south to Amatitlan. The race was scheduled to start at 7am. The race started and finished at La Parque las Ninfas on the shores of Lake Amatitlan. I noticed on the drive to Amatitlan that this region of Guatemala did not have the same ‘litter’ rules – there was litter/garbage everywhere like I expected to see?
Amatitlan is located at an elevation of 4,000 ft and is warmer than GC. There were about 800 runners – 300 in the marathon and 500 in the Half. Both races started in La Parque Las Ninfas at the same time. The race was delayed by 45 minutes to allow runners to pick up race packets (1st time they allowed pick- up the day of the race?) During the delay I met two other ‘gringos’ – a young man from Toronto who was working in Honduras and a runner from St Pete, FL. Maddog was also busy fulfilling requests for poses for photos since his participation and running accomplishments had been pre-announced in a press release and website. I enjoyed these requests because I got to meet a lot of local runners who were very friendly and nice!

I was a wee bit worried about the weather because of the delay but we were lucky. The skies were cloudy and overcast and the temps were only in the low 70s (10 degrees cooler than normal) – and stayed that way throughout the race. Thus the only things I had to worry about were the 4,000 ft elevation and the hills? I was not in good shape or trained for either!
The race started at 7:45 am and the first 5 Km looped through the cobblestone streets of Amatitlan. The houses were blocks of buildings that concerned me if I had to make an emergency pit stop? Luckily I made it though the city and out to the western side of Lake Amatitlan where there was lots of vegetation to hide behind before I was forced to make my 1st pit stop. We reached the series of three nasty BAHs (Bad Ass Hills) around 8Km. Fernando had not lied about those hills but I soon learned that he had forgotten to mention the rest of the course that followed the west shore of Lake Amatitlan was a continuous series of rolling hills! There were more hills than there were flat sections along that lake! I was definitely not in shape or prepared for a hilly course at 4,000 ft! And the course was a narrow two-lane road that had not been closed to traffic so we had to share the road with cars and buses. Many times I found myself stuck between two buses sucking up diesel fumes. I decided to stay with a group of local runners at all times believing that there was more safety in numbers. I was a wee bit surprised when I calculated that I was running a sub-10 min pace. My plan was to run 5 Km and then walk for a few minutes. I quickly realized that fatigue was no longer a factor – in fact the limiting factor became the ache/pain in my feet? After a few miles both feet would start to ache/pain so badly that I would have to stop or walk for a few minutes to give the pain a chance to subside? I (nor the docs) have any idea what is causing this problem – for now I just have to live with it and adapt!

Fortunately it worked out that water stops were located every 5Km or less and I used them as an excuse to walk so I avoided reaching a point where my feet hurt so much that I would have to stop. There were distance markers located every 5Km and most were accurate for the 1st half. I passed the Half in 2:10:10 but I figured the 2nd half would not be that fast because of the hills! Then I noticed that the 25Km and 30Km markers were both located within 5Km of the Half so I knew any markers in the 2nd Half would be useless. That was confirmed when I passed 35Km in 3:00:18. If that marker was accurate I would finish under 4 hrs – or - the last 7 km was going to be very lonnnnnnnggggggg? I believe we reached the series of BAHs near the true 35Km and there wasn’t any consideration of running them. I convinced Maddog that it would be better for my feet to walk up the hills and run down them! When I reached a distance marker at 40Km in 4:09:54 I knew it wasn’t accurate but I started to wonder if I could break 4:30. I had no idea what the real distance was to the finish line but I decided to ignore the foot pain and go for it. I was happy when I finally saw La Parque las Ninfas and crossed the finish line in 4:25:36!

Needless to say I was very pleased with both my time and performance considering the course and my health. If I can get healthy again I am confident that I can get my finish time back below 4 hrs quickly!
Raul and I waited around the finish area for another 30 minutes and more photo requests and then drove back to GC. After a hot shower I felt much better than I did one week earlier in Ghana and was able to enjoy some beer and greasy food while watching football in the sports bar at the hotel. After a great steak dinner and early bed I was ready to head back home to FL.

I am back and since I had such a bad time with diarrhea in Guatemala I decided to advance my appointment with the GI doc to discuss the current status of my health. He agrees that the UC could/should not be causing that level of problem (after 6 weeks on meds) and believes that there must be one (or more) causes lurking in the old bod. Bottom line is he doesn’t know but he wants to be aggressive in looking. Thus I am scheduled for another scope on Mon - both ends this time to see if they can determine where and what the problem is? In the meantime he is guessing that the GI infection (C-diff) may have come back in spite of two recent tests that were negative and has started me back on that super drug ($50/pill) specially designed to kill C-diff. I am already noticing some improvement in the diarrhea so maybe that is the problem? However I am really tired of being treated like a druggie. I have got to get off all these damn drugs! In the short term I am prepared to do/try anything to find and resolve the problems. But if I don’t get some concrete answers in the next few weeks I am going to start exploring 2nd and 3rd opinions!

And finally – are you sitting down because I don’t want y’all to hurt yourself when you faint? I am sticking to my vow that my primary focus is to find the problems and restore my health as close as possible to 100%. I have no plans for travel or marathons in the foreseeable future! None! Nada!
I even took the past week off from running and training! None.! Nada! However I did break down and run an easy 10 miles on Sun. it felt good! I have decided to resume running/training until a doc tells me that running is not good for my health. But no races!

Stay tuned!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

TR - Ghana

9/21 -9/28/10

Sun, Sept 26/10
Accra, Ghana
Accra International Marathon
Marathon #335 – Country # 105
4:56:05 – 1 AG

Where to begin? It seems so long since I ran this race that my memory is foggy – or is that Old Age?
It is a good thing I make a photo record of these trips so I can refer to the photos to write a report!

I had to go back and check my last race report – Paraguay- to remember where to begin.
Things did not go well after the last race/trip. After a long, frustrating month of waiting for appointments, tests and results (medical care is not as easily available in the mountains as it is in FL)
I was finally diagnosed with UC (Ulcerative Colitis). That was not good news and not readily accepted by Maddog! By then the symptoms – fatigue, stomach cramps and diarrhea had worsened and I was having difficulty training. The GI doc started me on an aggressive treatment program with steroids and a 5-ASA anti-inflammatory. The drugs and/or the disease introduced a new symptom/problem – aches and pains in all the muscles and joints in my legs. I tried to keep running/training for Pike’s Peak Marathon
(carrying a roll of toilet paper for the frequent pit stops required for the diarrhea) but I couldn’t run farther than ½ mile before I would become totally fatigued. I tried to overcome that limitation and then my knees and feet would hurt so badly after running a mile that I would have to stop and rest or walk to reduce the pain. Reluctantly I had to withdraw from Pike’s Peak and another marathon in CO. By early Oct I had built my daily run/walk up to 10 miles but it was difficult at the high elevation (9,000 ft) because my iron levels and red blood cell count was so low.

I had a final meeting with the GI doc before leaving CO and he advised that it was OK to travel to Ghana and run the marathon if I felt I could do it? I visited our son in WA and our precious new granddaughter, Mira in Portland, OR for one week before returning to CO and immediately noticed a big difference on my daily 10-mile runs – I could breathe at sea level and run up to two miles before fatigue set in. My confidence in running (and finishing) the Ghana Marathon improved significantly! I returned home to FL a few days before leaving for Ghana and visited a GI doc here for follow up. He was disappointed and concerned that the meds were not working and had not forced the UC into remission. I was still suffering from chronic diarrhea and leg pains? His opinion conflicted with the CO doc. He thought the leg pains might be a side effect of the drugs so he switched the 5-ASA med and also added an antibiotic in case there was a nasty bug/bacteria in my GI tract?

And off I went to Ghana. I was concerned about the antibiotic making the diarrhea worse and that turned out to be the case. It was a good thing my seat on the 10-hr flight to Ghana was next to a bathroom! After a long overnight flight I arrived in Ghana early afternoon and was met at the airport by a race volunteer. Seth drove me to race HQ to meet the Race Director, Anna and a few race officials. They were all very kind and hospitable – but special kudos to Anna who is such a sweet and dynamic person. Without her this race would never happen or be successful! They had reserved Bib #105 for me.

Later Seth drove me to the Central Bus Station to catch a bus to Cape Coast. It was supposed to be a 2-hr bus ride but turned out to be 4 hrs because of the horrendous traffic in Accra. I don’t know how I made it on that bus for 4 hrs w/o messing my pants but I still had clean pants when I arrived in Cape Coast at 10 pm? Maybe because I hadn’t eaten for about 8 hrs?
I met a young man from Austria on the bus who was staying at the same cheap hotel ($25/night – clean, TV and AC) and we were starving so Andy and I shared a taxi to the only restaurant still open and enjoyed a great dinner and a pleasant conversation.

The following day I explored Cape Coast on foot. Touring presented a BIG problem – I couldn’t be more than 30 feet or 30 secs from a toilet! And there are no public toilets in Ghana! I quickly realized that 80% of the population live in slums that have no electricity and no water/plumbing. Thus the locals did their daily duties wherever and whenever needed. That made things much easier for me. In one instance I was squatting beside a wall when a local woman joined me. We tried to start a conversation but she didn’t speak English so the conversation was short! Cape Coast (founded in the 15th Century) is a small city and can be explored easily on foot. I toured the downtown and market and then toured the Cape Coast Castle – the main reason for visiting Cape Coast. Cape Coast Castle, a World Heritage Site, was first built in 1653. After it was captured by Britain in 1665 it was expanded, fortified and used to ship slaves to Europe and NA. A guided tour takes visitors through the castle and into the various slave dungeons and of course through the infamous ‘Door of No Return’. It is very depressing and one leaves upset that human beings could/can be so cruel and mean!

The next day I visited the nearby village of Elmina and St George’s Castle. Built in 1482 by the Portuguese it is the oldest extant colonial building in sub-Sahara Africa. It was captured by the Dutch in 1637 and used to ship slaves to SA and the Caribbean. The layout and story are similar to Cape Coast Castle – and also depressing!
Elmina has reverted to a fishing port and there are lots of colorful pirogues in the port. The two days spent on the Cape Coast were interesting and enjoyable but it was time to return to Accra. I had made good friends with a local taxi driver who offered to drive me to my hotel on the south (far) side of the city for a ridiculous fee of $40 (about 140 Km). I think he regretted that offer when it took us 4 hrs to reach the hotel (2 hrs to Accra and another 2 hrs through the horrendous city traffic to the hotel!).

Anna had suggested staying at the Royal Palm Beach Resort – a 5-star resort- on the beach south of the city and close to the finish line. I arranged for a private driver/guide to tour me around Accra the next day. It is a big city with almost no infrastructure and traffic is ALWAYS horrendous! Although Ghana is supposed to have oil and oil money it is not evident that any is being spent on infrastructure or the people? There are very few modern buildings, the only affluent section of the city is called the Cantonments where the Embassies are located and most of the expats and government ministers live in that area. Most of the people live in slums with no water/plumbing, etc. My guide, Justice, drove me around the few interesting sites to see in Accra – James Town, the old part of Ghana with the Lighthouse and Fort James (now a prison). I tried to visit the slums along the beach in James Town but the smell/stench was so bad that I had to leave after a few minutes! We visited Independence Square (also known as Black Star Square) and the Nkrumah Mausoleum before enjoying lunch in Osu – a small upscale section of the city with restaurants and bars.

I had asked Anna about a pasta dinner and she arranged an invitation to dinner at the private residence of an Embassy employee in the Cantonments. Several of the US Embassy employees and some teachers from the American School in Accra were running the Marathon and Half. I met a lot of very nice people and got a great insight into how our Embassy employees live (and cope) in foreign countries. It was a very enjoyable evening!

Sun was ‘M’ Day. The race was scheduled to start at 5:30am because of the heat and traffic. It was a point-to-point course that started in Prampram (south of the city) and finished on Labadi Beach close to the hotel. Anna had arranged for a driver to pick me up at 4:30 am. At 4:50 am – no driver and I was getting anxious. I called Anna. She assured me that a driver would arrive and the race would not start w/o me! A driver finally arrived at 5:15 am! I and about eight other runners arrived at the start line at 6:30 am. The race started at 6:35am! It was sunny and hot!

I was concerned about directions and markers on the course. I wasn’t really concerned about the many pit stops I would probably have to make since I could stop and go wherever needed (I only had to make two?). There were only 50 runners in the marathon and another 250 in the Half that started at the Half marathon point and a later time. I didn’t know what to expect from the old bod? I planned on running about two miles and then walking for a few minutes. That turned out to be my typical pattern for the race. Fatigue, thankfully, never seemed to be a limiting factor. Either there was a water stop and I decided to walk through most of them or my feet would become so sore after a few miles that I was forced to stop and walk to reduce the pain? There was lots of water along the course but the distance markers were not accurate. They seemed to be short in the first half and I reached the Half in 2:15:22. I hoped that the course was not short? The first Half of the course was mostly on the shoulder of a Motorway but there was not much traffic at that time. Traffic control was good and there were volunteers or police at all points where turns were required. Much of the 2nd half was along the Ocean until we reached a small village around 35Km. I had passed a 32Km marker in 3:36:25 but had no faith in the accuracy. That final 10Km was the longest 10Km I ever ran – and one of the worst! Much of it was along a narrow two-lane road through the village with horrendous traffic. On some sections we were forced to run on a sidewalk crowded with shoppers and pedestrians. I had to walk much of it to avoid running someone over! On the sections with a dirt shoulder we had to be careful of buses/taxis/tro-tros pulling into the shoulder and we were constantly sucking up diesel fumes! I never thought I would make it to the turn-off down to the beach? I was almost 5 hrs into the race – it was hot- I was burning up even though I had lathered sun block all over my body. Finally I saw Anna jump out of a support car and she handed me a bottle of water. I pleaded “how much farther to the finish line”? Happily she replied “Only another 600m to the turn-off”! I glanced at my watch – I could still break 5 hrs! I pushed as hard as possible to reach that turn-off and scramble down to the finish line on Labadi Beach in 4:56:05!

I was very happy with my finish time considering the course, the heat, my health conditions and training! I think the Ghana people like to party because nobody was in much of a hurry to hold the award ceremony, etc. They hadn’t given out the finisher’s medal at the finish line and I wanted that! I stuck around for more than one hour but I was tired and burning up in the sun so I finally gave up and walked back to my hotel.

After a cool shower and a relaxing massage at the hotel spa I was so exhausted that I laid down for a nap before dinner. I woke up at 11 pm – too late for dinner- so crawled back into bed and slept a total of 13 hrs! I was a bit disappointed that I had not received a finisher’s medal but as I was eating breakfast before heading to the airport Anna showed up to give me my medal and some other gifts. Like I said the race could not be successful w/o her untiring efforts and positive attitude!

As I made the long flight home I was buoyed by the knowledge and confidence that I could indeed run the next race scheduled for Guatemala one week later. I was hoping that my diarrhea problem would lessen since I would finish the steroids and antibiotic before that race? Only time would tell?

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

TR - Paraguay

8/4 – 8/9/10

Sun, Aug 8/10
Asuncion, Paraguay
Maraton Paraguay Bicentario
Marathon #334 – Country # 104
4:28:01 – 2 AG

This was an unplanned/unscheduled marathon (& country) in my 2010 race calendar. In May just before I was leaving for Colombia my friend Edson happened upon a race calendar with information about a marathon in Paraguay. We had been looking for years for a race in Paraguay but there was none. This new marathon was being held to celebrate Paraguay’s Bicentennial. We figured it would probably be a one –of race and we both decided to take advantage of the one-time opportunity. When I returned from Colombia I started looking at flights – it is not easy or cheap to get to Paraguay! There are no direct flights from the USA and it is necessary to fly via Argentina or Brazil.

Edson became point-man and communicator with the Race Director, Myrta, who spoke Portuguese. She was very helpful and supportive. She reserved Bib #104 for me and arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport and take us to the hotel. I ended up leaving one day early because it reduced the airfare by $300? I figured an extra day to visit the city would be OK.

I didn’t do any special training because I was focused on training at high altitude and trails in preparation for Pike’s Peak. As you read in previous reports I ran a very tough and challenging Mountain Marathon two weeks before leaving for Paraguay – and never seemed to recover from that race! I seemed to be fatigued all the time and a few days before leaving I started bleeding internally? I didn’t have time to go to a doctor and there usually isn’t an easy/quick fix to that kind of problem so I ignored it and hoped it would go away. It didn’t! It got worse during the trip.

After 22 hours of flights and airports I arrived in Paraguay late morning on Thu. Myrta sent her daughter and a driver to meet me at the airport because her daughter spoke English. Edson and I agreed to share a room at the best luxury hotel in Asuncion ($130/night). It was located downtown close to the tourist sites and only a few blocks from the start/finish line. Although I had flown all night I had managed to get a good sleep so I spent the rest of the day walking and touring the downtown and historic sites of the city. Asuncion is the capital and largest city in Paraguay (1.5 million residents – only 6 M in the country).
The downtown is compact – about 10 square blocks and can easily be explored on foot. I managed to visit and take photos of most of the major tourist sites – the Presidential Palace, the Parliament buildings, Independence Park – to share with my readers (see my photo website). I quickly learned that Paraguay is not a tourist destination when I had difficulty finding the typical souvenirs (a silver charm for the Sport’s Managers bracelet and a silver teaspoon for my collection) that I collect in every country.

I managed to stay awake for dinner and was surprised to find the downtown area closed down after 6 pm. The stores were shuttered with iron bars/gates and there were very few bars and restaurants open after 6 pm? On Fri I decided to walk/tour, take more photos and find the expo and packet pick-up. Before leaving the hotel I met Francisco and Mercedes (friends from Buenos Aires) in the hotel lobby and agreed to meet them later. A few hours later I bumped into Dieter – a friend/member of the Country Club from Germany in the Plaza de los Heroes.
He had only recently learned of the race and had booked the trip at the last minute figuring also that it was a one-time opportunity. We agreed to meet for dinner. I walked over to the expo located at the Estacion Ferrocarril Central- the first railway station built in South America (1856). It now serves as a museum and conference center. I picked up my race packet and met Myrta to thank her for all her help. I had brought some old running shoes and some health supplements for elite runners in Paraguay who could not afford those items. She introduced me to a young runner who was the top 10K runner in Paraguay. I gave him a 4-month supply of Glucosamine to help him with his training.

Later I returned to an area of the old historic town near Independence Park that intrigued me. The Presidential Palace and Parliament buildings were located in that area that overlooked the Bahia de Asuncion and the Rio Paraguay. The Palace and old Parliament buildings were immaculately maintained and other government buildings were modern and luxurious – and they all overlooked the poorest/worst slum in Asuncion! The slum called Ricardo Brugata was located in a floodplain along the Rio Paraguay. The politicians and President had to look out at the slums from their back windows! I walked along a wall on the edge of the Park overlooking the slums taking photos of the slums and the residents. A National Police Officer who was guarding the Senate Building approached me shouting in Spanish? At first I thought he was trying to scam me but I eventually understood that he was warning me that my expensive camera (and wallet) presented a rich reward/target for the gangs from the slums. I tried to explain that the camera was strapped around my neck but he explained that the gangs would not hesitate to cut the strap – or my throat- to take the camera and wallet! I thanked him for waiting beside me (with his machine gun) while I quickly put my camera away and moved to a safer part of the city! When I later recounted the story to my friends Dieter said that he had received the same warning! Now my readers have advance knowledge/warning not to venture too close to Ricardo Brugata!

Later that day Edson arrived and I guided him back to the expo to pick up his race packet and we spent more time with Myrta. She invited us to attend a show that evening at the expo. There would be dancers performing traditional dances. We met up with Dieter for dinner and asked him to go along to the show. There was entertainment – but to our surprise - WE were it! Myrta invited us up on the stage, introduced us, described our running accomplishments and then invited us to participate in a dance contest. The upside to this amusing/embarrassing situation was that she provided some very lovely young Paraguay women to be our dance partners. We joined in the fun much to the applause of the locals. And then they finally brought out the real dancers who performed some very nice and colorful traditional dances.

On Sat Myrta arranged for a bus and tour guide to escort 50 runners on a tour of the city and marathon course. The first few hours were just a repeat of my self-guided walking tour (with local narrative) and then the bus drove us over the marathon course with a detour into an exclusive residential neighborhood where the President and other affluent residents lived. Very nice area – but each home had a high wall topped with barb wire and/or broken glass and an armed guard at the entrance. You can live very well and cheaply in Paraguay – but Florida was looking good!

Edson and I thought about doing a short run on Sat afternoon but there was no safe place to run in Asuncion. The streets downtown are narrow- there are no traffic lights/stop signs – and the rule seems to be “the fastest and bravest rules”. We quickly learned not to step off a sidewalk w/o looking in all directions and making sure there was time to cross a street because cars would not stop or even slow down for pedestrians! And there was another problem – I was still bleeding internally and had become concerned about the amount of blood I was losing. For one of the few times I was not concerned about all the rest I was getting!

There was a pasta dinner and party on Sat night. We attended but hid in the back to avoid another surprise. However this time there was a formal program with lots of dancers performing traditional dances from various cultures in Paraguayan history. After the entertainment the party got noisy and the line for the buffet was too long so Dieter, Edson and I escaped to an Italian restaurant for a nice quiet pasta dinner.

Sun was ‘M’ Day. The race started and finished a few blocks from the hotel at Independence Park. There was no problem with gangs from the Ricardo slum because the park was filled with hundreds of National Police and military to protect the runners – and the President who started the race! It was warm – 58F – but low humidity with a light breeze so it felt quite pleasant. There were 3 races – a Marathon, Half and 10K. Each race participant had been given a colored T-shirt that identified the race and it was mandatory to wear it. The Marathon was red! The President started the race at 7am and as we took off hundreds of firecrackers went off and scared the shit out of me. I had taken the warning about the slums seriously and thought it was gunshots?

I had no idea how my old bod was going to perform. I had 4 days of rest so if the health issues didn’t affect me I should be able to finish in 4 hrs? I planned to run a 9-min pace for the first 5 Km and see what happened. The first 5Km of the course looped around streets in downtown Asuncion and was quite hilly. When I passed 5 Km in 30:40 I knew 4 hrs wasn’t going to happen and I decided to let the old bod dictate the pace. At that point I started suffering stomach cramps that indicated a need for a major pit stop (GI problems continue). But the course was leaving the downtown area and proceeding along a major blvd that was occupied by businesses and homes with no alley or bushes to hide behind (and no porto-pottys on the course). By the time I reached 10Km in 59:58 the cramps were severe and I knew that if I didn’t find a bush soon it was going to get messy! Fortunately I passed a lot where a house was being demolished and provided a wall to hide behind for a much-needed pit stop. I hoped that would be it but by the time I reached 15Km in 1:29:50 I was suffering severe cramps again. By then the course was on the road going to the airport with lots of empty land so a pit stop was not a problem.

When I passed the Half in 2:06:04 I knew I was in BIG trouble. I was struggling to keep my feet moving and not to walk – and it was getting hotter! As I reached the turn-around at the airport at 24Km in 2:24:43 and began the loop back to the finish line time was no longer a priority. The priority was now SURVIVAL and reaching the finish line! I was out of energy and desperately needed to walk. I knew if I started walking that early it would get very ugly so I started playing mind games. I promised myself that if I could keep running/jogging until I returned to the main blvd (near 33 Km) than I would allow myself to walk/jog the final 10Km! It was very tough but I kept the wasted old legs shuffling and churning until I reached 33 Km in 3:28:36.

When I turned on to that bvld I knew it was a straight 9Km stretch over rolling hills to the finish line and somehow that gave me a mental lift. I could see another old fart about 1 KM in front of me and although I figured our times and positions were irrelevant I decided to catch and pass him before the finish line! I finally passed him at 39Km and continued to ‘push’ the pace until I crossed the finish line in 4:28:01. I was totally exhausted and felt really bad – even worse than I did after the previous Mountain race. Edson finished only 3 minutes behind me and he doesn’t care about time/performance, etc. I would have been very upset and embarrassed if he had passed me!

After a few finish line photos we decided to walk back to the hotel for a much needed hot soak and shower. However I was feeling so poorly that I had to sit down several times to rest. I was totally fatigued and suffering from nausea and dizziness? Edson suggested that we go to a hospital but there was no way in Hell I was going to a hospital in Paraguay. He helped me back to the hotel and after a long hot soak and shower I felt a wee bit better. I hoped that some greasy food and a beer might help (as it normally does after a race) but nothing tasted good and only made me feel worse so we decided to head to the airport for the trip home. The first leg to Sao Paulo, Brazil was not pleasant and when I arrived in Brazil I went to the executive lounge at AA hoping a beer or coke might help. One again beer tasted horrible (and you know you are sick when beer tastes bad) but the sugar in the coke seemed to help. I had not eaten all day! When I boarded the flight at midnight I was so grateful that I had the foresight to upgrade to First/Business on the AA legs. As soon as the plane left the tarmac I reclined that wonderful seat into a bed and passed out – for 9 hours!

When I finally arrived back home on Mon afternoon I asked the Sports Manager to call out local GP to see how soon he could see me? Thankfully he squeezed me in that afternoon and began a series of blood and other tests to figure out what is going on. Why am I still bleeding internally and what is the cause? The blood tests have already confirmed no anemia which is good news. I am still waiting for the results on other tests. And for one of the few times in my life I am in no hurry to start training again.

However I am starting to get concerned about Pike’s Peak. I only have 10 days to figure out what is wrong – and fix it – or cancel the race! The way I feel right now there is absolutely no way I can race 8,000 vertical feet to the top of Pike’s Peak (14,110 ft) and back down – the toughest marathon course in the world!

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

14er Report - Redcloud Peak

14er Report
Mon, July 19/10
Redcloud Peak (14,034 ft)
Sunshine Peak (14,001 ft)
Redcloud Peak (14,034 ft)

When I decided to go to Southern Colorado (Silverton) for the weekend to run the Kendall Mtn Marathon I figured that I might as well stay on after the race to run a few 14ers in the San Juan Mtns.
I have climbed most of the 14ers within a 90-min drive of home and now must travel and stay over 1 or 2 nights to climb ‘new’ 14ers. This represented such an opportunity!

Once I confirmed that the race would indeed take place on Sat I hoped to run one 14er –Handies Peak – on Sun after the race. However in spite of my trusty and normally reliable 14er guide and directions from locals at the hotel I was unable to find the Grouse Gulch Trailhead that was supposedly only 12 miles from Silverton. I actually think I found it but it is not commonly used and had no signs or markings and I was not willing to risk venturing off into the wilderness of the San Juan Mtns w/o confirming I was on the proper trail and heading for the proper destination. So I bagged the hike and instead drove around the San Juan Mtns to Lake City on the East side of the mtns. I could have driven over a 4X4 pass but they scare the crap out of me – I would rather run over those roads/passes than drive!

The access and trailheads are much better from Lake City but to make sure I didn’t experience the same problem and disappointment I checked into the tourist center where they provided me with detailed maps and directions to the trailhead. I woke early on Mon with a plan to drive to the Silver Creek-Grizzly Gulch Trailhead located about 20 miles southwest of Lake City and to climb two 14ers. It required a bone-jarring ride over 10 miles of rough 4X4 roads but I arrived at the trailhead at 7:30am. The trailhead is located at 10,400 ft and provides access to two 14ers – Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak.
I set out on a nice soft dirt trail through a pine forest. After hiking for more than 1 hr and still not seeing my destinations I started to wonder if I was on the right trail. I took out the trail directions and noted that it was a 3-mile hike into a basin before you actually could see Redcloud Peak. Finally I reached the basin and could see Redcloud –or what turned out to be a false peak. After another hour of climbing I reached the summit of the false peak and could see the ‘real’ summit of Redcloud Peak. And I could see a group of 10 hikers approaching the summit. At 10:30 am I reached the summit (14,034 ft) and was rewarded with spectacular 360 degree views of the San Juan Mtns.

I could see Sunshine Peak about 2 ½ miles to the south and decided to strike out for my 2nd 14er. I hiked with a local woman down into the 13,500 ft saddle between Redcloud and Sunshine but the weather started to look ‘iffy’ and she turned back. Maddog was too close to give up so I continued on a reached the summit of Sunshine peak (14,001 ft) at 11:40. I took a few photos and headed back. I had to retrace my route to get back to the trailhead and car and that meant climbing Redcloud a 2nd time. I was trying to push the pace to beat the bad weather on the horizon and I was quite pleased that I was able to charge back up Redcloud w/o any rest stops. I caught up with a few hikers that had been descending Sunshine when I was climbing it so I really was pushing a good steady pace. I planned to enjoy a short lunch on the summit of Redcloud Peak but when we reached the summit we were greeted with dark clouds and pea-size hail. Fortunately there was no thunder or lightning but new all decided to take a few quick photos and get the Hell off the mountain before the weather got worse! We rushed down the steep section of Redcloud and when we reached the basin I was able to run (term used loosely) the final 3 miles back to the trailhead.
Although I actually climbed three 14ers I can only count or add two to my list. I have now completed 26 of Colorado’s 54 - 14ers! I figured the hike was about 17 miles and the total time was 6:51 so I was pleased with the day. I was exhausted – again- and the long 4-hr drive back home was difficult. I slept 10 hrs last night and am still tired so am taking a rest day. I plan to climb a few more 14ers in the local area during the next few weeks to maintain my high-altitude acclimation in preparation for Pike’s Peak.

Stay tuned!

RR - Kendall Mountain

Race Report
Sat, Jul 17/10
Kendall Mountain Marathon
Silverton, CO
Marathon #333
7:36:55 – 1 AG – 6 OA

This was an unplanned/unscheduled race. I was looking for a race in mid-July to maintain my marathon conditioning but I didn’t want to spend money on air travel etc. I searched the local Colorado race calendar and found a new (inaugural) marathon to be run in Silverton, CO. That is a real pretty area of CO and also close to many 14ers that I had not yet climbed. After many attempts to contact the race director who chose to ignore my emails/phone messages for more info I decided to drive to Silverton the day before the race. If the race didn’t happen I could always climb some of those 14ers?

I drove west and then south through the scenic town of Ouray that sits in a canyon surrounded by the San Juan Mtns. It is also the beginning of the Million Dollar Hwy between Ouray and Silverton – so named because of the Million Dollar views (and no guard rails to obstruct those views)! I took many photos of these and other beautiful scenery of CO to share with my readers. When I arrived in Silverton I found registration/packet pick-up – not where it was supposed to be and none of the race volunteers could provide information on the race or course. I signed up and then found the man in charge of the race timing. He was most helpful and provided me with most of the information I needed. Warning – there is very little info on the website for this race and the race director will not respond to emails/etc. It was difficult to get info on logistics and the course even after I registered. For this and other reasons to be discussed I do not recommend this race!

The most important Information I learned was that the Kendall Mtn Run – a half marathon – had been run for 32 years and this year a marathon had been added. The marathon would be two loops of the half course. I had mistakenly interpreted the info on the website to mean that the half marathon course started in Silverton and finished at the summit of Kendall Mtn! WRONG! The course started in Silverton (elevation 9318 ft) and climbed 3748 vertical ft over 6.5 miles to the summit of Kendall Mtn (13,066 ft) – and returned to Silverton. Like I said the lucky marathoners got to run two loops! I asked about aid stations – there were supposedly five but the locations were not known? That was an important detail because I needed to know what waist/water belt to wear? I decided that I would wear a larger, more cumbersome belt to start the race because I wanted to carry a camera to take photos for my readers -because there was another strange twist (noted on the website). The course followed a very steep 4X4 road for the first 5.85 miles and then ended at 12,800 ft – no road and no trail. For the final 266 vertical ft and .65 miles runners were forced to scramble (on hands and feet) and bushwhack to the summit of Kendall Mtn! I knew that would present some great photos of the race!

As I walked around Silverton and looked up at Kendall Mtn that towered above the town on the East it looked intimidating and scary. I drove the first few miles of the (very steep) 4X4 road and confirmed that there would be a lot of walking involved and early in the race!

Sat was ‘M’ Day! The race started at 8am – sunny and a warm temp of 50F with temps forecast in the low 80s. I decided not to carry warm clothes but still wore the larger waist belt to carry my water, carbo gels and camera. I parked my car at the finish line so I could switch to a smaller belt (or discard the belt) at the Half. There were over 100 runners in the Half but only 12 in the marathon. Marathoners had a blue bib so we could identify our competitors. I managed to run the 1st mile but was then reduced to walking with most of the runners. The 1st water station was located at 1.6 miles. I will compliment the race organization on the water stations. They were located approx. every 2 miles and had lots of water, energy drink, food and carbo gels. I reached the 2nd water stop at 3.4 miles in 54:10. The next 1.7 miles of the course climbed very steeply (45 % grade) and relentlessly to the 3rd water stop at 5.1 miles (1:33:09 and a split of 38.58). The course then made a 180 degree switchback and climbed steeply to the next water stop and the end of the road at 5.85 miles. I could see runners ahead scrambling up the steep summit and I was scared! I am afraid of heights! I reached the end of the road and started to follow the route that other runners were using to scramble up the mtn. I kept my eyes focused on the mtn and refused to look down until I reached the summit (13,066 ft) in 2:06:32. I stopped to take a few photos and wash down a carbo gel. Yes they had a water stop on the top of the mtn? I don’t know how they carried those gallon jugs of water up there? Now for the scariest part of the course – I had to scramble back down to the road – and I was terrified! I side stepped down most of the scramble/descent to maintain total control and prevent a fall and injury. It took 16:02 to descend .65 miles! But the next 6 miles was all downhill and steep. So steep in fact that it was difficult to control my pace and speed - any small mistake and losing control would result in a serious fall and injury! About half way down the descent I passed the lead runner – a local elite female who was running up the ascent for the 2nd loop. She was so far ahead of everybody else! Nobody was even close! As I passed other marathoners starting their 2nd loop we looked at each other and exclaimed that we had to be totally crazy to run a 2nd loop of this nasty/challenging/insane course! I reached the Half in 3:30:44.

I switched my waist belt to a smaller belt. It was necessary to carry water since it was taking 40 to 50 minutes to walk/climb the 2 miles between water stops on the ascent and that is too long to go w/o water in the mtns! I didn’t need the camera any more so a smaller belt would be lighter and less cumbersome. I think I was delaying the agony of starting the 2nd loop. I really didn’t want to run a 2nd loop. A person had to be crazy to run a 2nd loop! Maddog (appropriately named for this situation) screamed that I paid for a marathon and I needed to get my money’s worth! As far as I was concerned I had already got my money’s worth! Reluctantly I started climbing/walking back up Kendall Mtn. I knew the 2nd Half would be much slower. I figured 4 hrs would be a good target? I reached the 2nd water stop at 3.4 miles (16.6 miles) in 4:35:13 and a split of 1:04:28. On the 1st ascent I had been able to run the very few flat and downhill sections – but not on the 2nd ascent! I was trying to conserve energy for the scramble and final descent. I caught 3 runners – one female and two young males who were cramping badly and had to drop out. I reached the end of the road at 18.95 miles in 5:24:20. I was all alone on the scramble – nobody to follow up the ascent. I reached the summit in 6:01:47 and a split of 37:26 for .65 miles!

I might have stayed there on the summit because I was too scared to scramble back down. However a few drops of rain, a boom and a flash of lightning quickly changed my mind. I needed to get off the mountain! Even the race volunteer was concerned about staying up there! It still took me 17:56 to scramble that short .65 miles descent but then I was back on the road. I decided to take a risk and push the pace on the steep descent. My legs were trashed – they were sore and stiff and my quads screamed at me as they tried to keep the old bod in control on that terribly steep descent. Then my heart monitor alarm started beeping? I was pushing the old ticker at 100% Max! I figured it was an incorrect reading and adjusted the strap. The alarm still beeped a warning sound? I figured it had to be a combination of the exhaustion and pace plus the anxiety I felt at risking a serious fall and injury by pushing the pace? So I ignored the monitor and continued to push the pace until I crossed the finish line in 7:36:55!

I was totally fatigued and beat up. One spectator asked if I had fallen or rolled down the scramble since my clothes were covered in dirt. I replied that safety on the scramble was my priority – not cleanliness!
I collected my finish medal- got in the car and drove to the hotel. After a long hot soak to soothe tired/sore muscles and wash away tons of dirt I returned to the finish line to check results. The timer was kind enough to print me a copy of the final results. I had finished 1st AG and 6th Overall. The 1st AG was a given since I was the oldest runner in the race – by many years. The 6th OA felt good in such a tough/challenging race. I may need to revise my ratings for the world’s toughest marathons after that race. One thing I am absolutely certain of – once was enough – I will never run the Kendall Mountain Marathon again!

It was 5 pm – I had not eaten all day (except carbo gels). I went for an early dinner but I was so exhausted and felt so poorly that I could hardly eat so I went to bed and slept 11 hrs!

On Sun I planned to climb a 14er near Silverton but in spite of my normally-reliable 14er guide and directions from the hotel I could not find the trailhead. I think I did eventually find it but it had no signs or markings and I was not willing to venture off into the wilderness of the San Juan Mtns w/o confirming the trail and destination. Instead I took a ‘forced’ rest day and drove around the San Juan Mtns to Lake City on the East side of the mtns where the access and trailheads were much better for the 14ers I wanted to climb.

On Mon I woke early and arrived at the trailhead by 7am so I could score a triple-dipper - by climbing three 14ers in the same day. A 17-mile hike/run with three 14ers in 7 hrs. More details to be provided in a separate 14er report!

Maddog enjoyed a great weekend of high altitude endurance training to prepare for the Pike’s Peak Marathon. I am ready! I wish the race was in two weeks instead of 5 weeks because I am tired of training for it!

Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

RR - Leadville Trail Marathon

Race Report
Sat, July 3/10
Leadville Trail Marathon
Leadville, CO
Marathon #332
6:31:14 – 3AG


What better way to describe this race. I didn’t have a lot of confidence going into this race in spite of two high-altitude training runs on trails in the past few weeks that seemed to go OK.
I ran this race two times before – the last time being five years ago when I set my PR of 5:41 in what I rate as the 4th toughest marathon in the world! Because of the degradation/deterioration I have noted in my finish times in mtn races this summer I figured that a target of 6:30 would probably be reasonable/realistic although I hoped to finish under 6:15?
The race starts/finishes in downtown Leadville at 10,200 ft and climbs to the highest elevation at the top of Mosquito Pass (13,185 ft) at the Half. This year there was also a Half Marathon that turned out to be an annoyance as far as I am concerned.

The weather forecast called for great weather and it was sunny and a pleasant 51 F when I lined up with about 800 runners for the 8 am start. Because the forecast called for temps in the mid 60s by the time I finished with no thunderstorms or snow I decided not to wear a cumbersome waist pack that could carry survival gear as well as water. It tends to bounce or flop around and is annoying – especially when I expected to be out on the course for 6+ hrs! Instead I wore a smaller waist pack that could carry one bottle of water and some carbo gel. It is absolutely essential to carry water in this race. The water stops are about 3 miles apart but in the mtns that can take more than 1 hr and it is dangerous to go that long in the thin, dry mtn air w/o water! There would be a risk of severe dehydration!

As soon as the race started I knew it was not going to be a good day! The course climbs east out of Leadville for the first 1 ½ miles to a rough 4X4 road that climbs steeply (1500 vertical ft over 2 miles) up Ball Mtn in the Mosquito Range. I normally run that entire first section but was forced to walk a few steep sections of the paved and dirt roads at 10,500 ft. That was not a good sign! The Half runners split off before we reached the 4X4 road and I followed a pack of marathon runners as we walked/hiked up the steep, rough road. It was impossible to run – the trail was too steep! I reached the 1st water stop at the top of Ball Mtn (12,000 ft) at 3.8 miles in 1:00:13 - six minutes behind my PR time! I filled my water bottle and washed down my 1st carbo gel before starting what I consider to be one of the toughest loops in any race. It descends and then than ascends more than 1000 vertical ft on Ball Mtn – twice in 3.3 miles - before returning to the same water stop at 7.1 miles! I made it back to the water stop in 1:50:11 and a split of 49:58. I was looking forward to the next section of the course – a descent of 1,000 ft over 2.7 miles on an old mining road to the entrance of Mosquito Pass. I pushed the pace to sub 10-min pace and reached the water stop at 9.8 miles in 2:14:52 and a split of 24:41. The bad news was that I normally reached that water stop under 2 hrs – I was 16 minutes behind my PR time!

Now I faced the toughest section of the course – a 2085 vertical ft ascent over 3.3 miles to the top of Mosquito Pass at 13,185 ft! And my poor old legs had already run more than 6000 ft of elevation change! I was able to run the bottom section of the 4X4 road that climbs Mosquito Pass but was soon relegated to following the other runners who were walking/hiking. And then the Half runners became a nuisance. We were climbing Mosquito Pass while the mid-pack and slower Half runners were descending and the road/trail was crowded with runners. It was difficult to select or claim the best/safest part of the road/trail and required watching each foot plant while trying to watch for downhill runners! It was very annoying and unnerving because I was concerned about suffering a bad fall. When I passed the 12,500 ft elevation and began the steepest section of the trail I started to suffer minor stomach cramps – one of my early symptoms of altitude sickness. Luckily they did not get worse and I was able to ignore them and reached the top of Mosquito Pass and the Half in 3:26:55 and a split of 1:12:02. That was only a few minutes slower than my trial run last week so I was happy with that time – but the bad news was that I normally reached the top of the Pass close to 3 hrs! The good news was that this race is one of the few where you can expect to run a negative split because the 2nd Half starts with the descent down Mosquito Pass. Unfortunately I was not able to push the pace as fast as I wanted on the descent because of the number of runners sharing the trail. I was not willing to risk a fall and a severe injury! I returned to the water stop at the entrance of Mosquito Pass in 4:11:20 and a split of 44:25 – much too slow for that descent!

Now I was really concerned! I am normally back at the top of Ball Mtn in 4:15 – and I still had 2.7 miles of ascent back up the mining road to the top of Ball Mtn. Certainly my ‘dream’ of a sub - 6:15 was gone and even my target of 6:30 was looking bleak? I tried valiantly to push the pace back up that ascent of 1000 vertical ft but sadly was forced to walk (too) many sections. My legs seemed willing but the old lungs could not suck in enough of the thin air to keep them churning? I reached the water stop on the top of Ball Mtn (12,000 ft) in 4:50:35 and a split of 39:15. Maybe there was still hope. If I could run the reverse loop around Ball Mtn under 1 hr there was still a chance? I continued to push the pace on every downhill and (few) flat sections and hike the ascents as fast as possible. That loop is an absolute bitch – especially on the 2nd Half. As I pushed up the final ascent of that loop just before returning to the water stop I was sucking desperately for air and suffering stomach cramps (altitude sickness) again. But I reached the water stop at 22.4 miles in 5:44:34 and a split of 53:58. There was still hope because the last 4 miles were downhill and I had run them in 45 minutes before!

I decided to accept the risk and push the pace on the descent down the steep and treacherous trail and all went well for the 1st mile - but then disaster(s) struck. The trail was very steep and dangerous. It required a lot of zigzagging across the trail to pick out the best/safest spots for a foot plant and that created a lot of stress on muscles not normally used by road runners. I wasn’t surprised when my right adductor cramped and started to lock up. Luckily I was able to step off the trail quickly to massage and stretch the muscle and after a few minutes it relaxed enough to continue running. However about 5 minutes later the left adductor cramped and locked up. The pain was immediate and so excruciating that I collapsed in the middle of the steep trail and rolled around looking for a position – any position – to decrease the pain so I could massage the muscle and get it to relax and release! It took a few minutes of screaming and pain before the muscle released but I still couldn’t walk. The trail was so steep that any effort to walk stressed the adductor muscle and it started to cramp again. I was forced to side-step down the trail for a few minutes so that all the stress was on my right (downhill) leg! By then I realized that any hope of finishing under my target of 6:30 had been blown to Hell. That observation was confirmed when I reached the road on the outskirts of Leadville in 6:18. I had 12 min left for the final 1 ½ miles. A sub-8min pace at 10,500 ft is difficult enough – but attempting to push the pace that fast while preventing any further stress on two screwed-up adductors was impossible!

I wisely decided not to risk an injury for the sake of a few minutes and cruised the final 1 ½ miles to cross the finish line in 6:31:14. Since I finished close to my target time I had to be happy with my time.
After taking my usual finish line photo I checked the results posted at the finish line. I was the 1st old fart over 65 to cross the finish line. Unfortunately the Age Groups were 10 years (i.e. 60 to 69) and it is very difficult to compete against the youngsters in that AG so I was not surprised or disappointed to learn that I placed 4th in the AG. However I was totally shocked and still do not believe the time of the winner in the 60+ AG – 4:07! That time is not believable for a 60 year old! Typically a runner should add 2 to 2 ½ hrs to his normal road race time for this race (i.e. 6:30 should be a reasonable target for me since I run 4 hrs in a road race). Elite young runners might finish 1 to 1 ½ hrs slower than their road race time. That means that the 60-year old runner can run a road marathon in 2:30? I think NOT!!! I am waiting anxiously for the official results to see if there was a mistake and correction?

So I was happy with my time. But I was definitely NOT happy with my performance! Right from the start I didn’t seem to have the energy or capability to push the old bod on the ascents and more importantly I didn’t seem to have the mental toughness needed to ignore or accept the pain to make the effort! And right from the start my body clearly and unequivocally was giving me some important advice: “I am too damn OLD for this Mountain Trail Marathon SHIT”!!!!!

Many road runners switch to trail marathons at the end of their running careers because they claim it is easier on their bodies since the pace is slower. BULLSHIT! I monitored my heart rate monitor closely and carefully throughout the entire race (I had lots of free time since I was running so slowly). When I was hiking/climbing the ascents as fast/hard as I could my heart rate was between 140 to 145bpm (85% Max) – the typical range for when I run an 8 to 9 min pace in a road race. It was in the same range when I was pushing the pace on the descents so that means that I pushed my OLD ticker and OLD bod at 85% Max for 6 ½ hrs vs 4 hrs in a road race! I reluctantly agree with my OLD bod – “I am too damn OLD for this Mountain Trail Marathon SHIT”!!! This was my 3rd and final Leadville Trail Marathon!I will NEVER run the Leadville Trail Marathon again. I told the Sports Manager that if I even mention the idea (again) she has standing orders to have me committed or shoot me to save me all the agony and pain!

I would like to vow that I will never run another Mountain Trail Marathon again but I have a wee dilemma. Early in the year in my na├»ve and exuberant zest to prove my ever-lasting youth and invincibility I regretfully signed up for yet another Mountain Trail Marathon – the toughest marathon course in the world – Pike’s Peak! Thus I am forced to train hard(er) for the next month – but if I do not see or feel any improvement in my conditioning – especially in my capability to run ascents above 10,000 ft – I will withdraw from Pike’s Peak!! I just do not have the desire/motivation or willingness to accept the pain for the 7 hrs I predict it would take to finish Pike’s Peak!

Stay tuned!

Footnote: After contacting the race director I finally received news that the 60-year old runner who finished in a remarkable 4:07 had indeed run only the Half. Thus Maddog got elevated to 3rd AG!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

RR - Estes Park Marathon

Race Report
Sun, Jun 13/10
Estes Park Marathon
Estes Park, CO
Marathon #331
4:36:29 – 2AG

After my race in Steamboat Springs last week I was not looking forward to the marathon in Estes Park.
The Estes Park Marathon is billed as the ‘highest paved marathon in the world’ although I have informed them that billing is false. I have run two marathons that are higher: Bhutan and Colombia and am searching for a marathon in Bolivia that will surely be higher than both of them!
But the course is higher and harder than Steamboat Springs and I wasn’t confident that my legs had recovered? However we were looking forward to our visit to Estes Park. Estes Park is a pretty little town nestled in Estes Valley at an elevation of 7600 ft. The Big Thompson River flows through the middle of the town into Lake Estes on the east side of the town. It has been a ‘tourist’ town/destination for many years since it is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. To the south the Front Range, including Longs Peak (14, 255 ft) towers above the valley and town. To the west Rocky Mountain National Park unveils a stunning array of mountain peaks, 74 of which reach elevations of 12,000 ft or more. The town has a lot of neat shops, bars and cafes overlooking the Big Thompson River.

We drove via Denver to pick up our 4-Runner at a Toyota dealer where we had left it for a major tune up/maintenance for 100K miles. Since I drive the SUV on some difficult 4X4 roads into remote 14ers I am adamant that it always be in excellent mechanical condition. We continued our drive on through Boulder and approached Estes Park on Hwy 36 from the south east. It is a narrow winding road with some pretty scenery. It was raining when we arrived in Estes Park so we went to the school complex to pick up my race packet before we checked into our hotel. I had booked a nice hotel with great views of Estes Park and the mtns but it was a waste of money because it rained all weekend.

It was cold and rainy Sat afternoon so we didn’t even try to enjoy our usual stroll along Main St. We went for an early pasta dinner at Mama Roses hoping to enjoy the musicians along the Big Thompson River; however the River was only a few inches below flood stage and many sections of the bike path were sandbagged and closed down. So far the weather was wrecking a good weekend?

Sun was ‘M’day! The weather forecast called for cold temps and continued rain! Unfortunately it was accurate! It rained all night and was still raining when I left for the race at 6:15 am. The temp was 39F!
Now 39F can be pleasant for running – if it is sunny and dry! I often start my morning run in temps near 39F but it is sunny and warms up to the mid 50s by the time I finish. But believe me when it is 39F and rains hard constantly for 5 hrs - it is friggin COLD and MISERABLE! I would normally dress in a T-shirt and shorts for that temp but I wisely –and thankfully- had worn running tights, long-sleeve T-shirt and gloves. Even so I refused to get out of the car until 10 minutes before the start of the race. I wore a customary garbage bag to keep warm and dry with the expectation to discard it a few miles into the race.

As I lined up at the start line with about 200 other crazies/fanatics I seriously questioned my sanity and asked “what the Hell am I doing here”? We were soaked and cold when the race started at 7am! The race started at the public school complex (7550ft) and climbed 100 ft over the 1st mile. I ran this race two times previously and knew that 1st mile was difficult and resulted in lots of “sucking for air”. And based on my still-painful memory of going out too fast at Steamboat I decided to start slow – a 10-min pace. By the time we reached the top of that 1st hill and started a 200 ft descent on mile 2 we were totally soaked. The roads were covered in deep puddles and streams running off the mtns so my feet were soaked and frozen – and my gloves were also soaked and my hands frozen. I passed mile 2 in 20:16 and began a long, relentless climb to the highest elevation on the course (8150 ft) at Mile 6.
An old fart passed me at mile 3 and I let him go. Either I would see him later on the course or he would beat me? I was struggling just to maintain a 10:30 pace up that BAH (Bad Ass Hill). I reached a water station near 5 miles and tested the ‘green’ concept of the race. The race was advertised as a cup-free
(no paper cups) race. Instead each runner was given a ‘hydrapouch’ – a pliable, plastic pouch that held 6 oz of liquid. There were special dispensers (1 for water and 1 for Gatorade) located at each water station that filled the pouch in a few secs. They did work but this concept would never work for a large race – in the early part of the race there was a line up to fill up the pouches. I was leery of the concept. The pouch had a clip to clip it on to a waistband but running shorts don’t have a strong waistband so I was concerned about losing the pouch or having to carry it for the entire race. Instead I wore a waist belt with a water bottle and filled the bottle when necessary. Unfortunately at that 1st water stop my hands were so frozen that I couldn’t get the top of my water bottle and had to ask a race volunteer to fill my bottle so I could wash my 1st carbo gel down. That ‘concept/process cost me more than 2 min at that 1st stop – another reason it will never succeed! I considered discarding my ‘rain gear’/ garbage bag but it was still raining and I was still COLD! I figured if my T-shirt got soaked I could suffer hypothermia so I wisely decided to keep wearing the garbage bag!

I reached the top of that 1st BAH at Mile 6 in 1:05:51 – an average 11:00 min pace! Not good! The next 4 miles were a steep downhill that dropped 800 ft. In past races I hauled ass down that hill only to find my legs trashed by the time I reached the Half so this year I deliberately held my pace at 9:30 to reach Mile 10 in 1:43:29. Obviously a sub 10-min pace or 4:20 marathon wasn’t going to happen. The course passed through downtown Estes Park and climbed another hill along Hwy 36 before dropping down to Estes Lake (7420 ft) at the Half. I passed the Half in 2:15:20. A sub 4:30 marathon was now dubious – but I didn’t care – survival under those miserable conditions was becoming more important! There was a restroom located on the bike path at that location and I decided to make a major pit stop (still some lingering effects of the GI problem). Also my heart monitor was not working properly and I figured the strap needed to be adjusted. With a waist belt and garbage bag that required a major process to half strip and I wasn’t going to do that in the cold and rain. I lost 5 minutes to ‘necessities’ but when I hit the bike path again I felt much better and my heart monitor was reading accurately. It indicated that my heart rate was 10 bpm lower than my normal race level because of my slower pace.

I wasn’t concerned about the 5-min delay/penalty – it wouldn’t have much effect on my overall time or position in the race because the most difficult part of the race was about to begin! I started to climb another BAH at Mile 15 followed by a series of rolling hills. When I crested a hill at Mile 16 in 2:48:32 and a split of 10:50 I wondered why the rain suddenly started to sting/hurt so much? I looked down at the road and noticed ice crystals (sleet) bouncing of the asphalt! Oh Goody! Can these miserable conditions get any worse? Luckily there were only a few short bursts of sleet over the next few miles as I started the long relentless climb back to 8000 ft at 20 miles. Somehow I managed to hold a slow but steady 11:00 min pace up that long BAH as I passed many runners who had succumbed to walking!
I crested that BAH at Mile 20 in 3:33:37. Holy crap! 3:33:37! I am normally finishing or running the final mile in that time – and I still have 10K to go! My legs felt OK but a 1-hr 10K at 8000 ft wasn’t likely to happen so I would be lucky to finish under 4:40?

Mile 21 was downhill and gravity helped me lower the pace to sub 10 min before climbing another BAH that climbed back to 8000 ft at Mile 22. When I crested that BAH in 3:55:07 I noticed the old fart who had passed me at Mile 3. I used gravity again on the next downhill mile to catch and pass him at Mile 23 (4:04:45 and a split of 9:38). I realized that I needed to bury him quickly so I continued to push that sub 10-min pace up the final BAH at Mile 24 and down a steep hill to Mile 25 (4:23:58 and a split of 9:20). But now my legs were trashed! I sneaked a peak over my shoulder – the old fart was still chasing me and about 800 ft behind. There was only one thing I could do – call Maddog! I handed the final mile over to him and as expected he ignored the exhaustion in my wasted old legs – and he ignored their screams and cries as he continued to push the pace over the final mile. He refused to let that old fart catch him!
As we approached a short/steep hill at Mile 26 I sneaked a final glance behind – the old fart was still 800 ft behind! That was enough incentive for the old bod to provide one final jolt of adrenaline to push us up that hill and across the finish line on the school track in 4:36:29!

I waited for the old fart to finish 3 min later and learn that he was in the 50+ AG! Shit! Double SHIT! I nearly killed myself for nothing! I need to learn how to guess the ages of old farts better if I want to save myself a lot of pain and agony.

As I walked to the car for a camera for a finish line photo it finally stopped raining. I took a photo – still wearing my garbage bag – and waited for results to be posted. I wasn’t surprised. The results followed the typical pattern for this race. A fast, young runner in the 60+ AG usually finishes under 4:15 – the next two places finish close to 5 hrs – and everyone else finishes between 5 to 7 hrs! I finished in 2nd place! I was happy with my strategy and performance. I ran a smart race and managed to run a slow/smooth/steady pace throughout the race w/o any problems except for the needless pain over the final 5K. I wasn’t unhappy with my time but more discouraged/dismayed? I set the course record (4:02:11) for the 60+ AG five years ago and if this rate of time degradation continues due to age I will have a difficult time breaking 5 hrs when I turn 70!

After a long hot soak at the hotel the weather stayed nice (no rain) long enough for us to make a stroll along Main St and stop at the Estes Park Brewery for a few micro brew. But then the rain returned and continued to spoil our weekend and trip! We stayed in Estes Park Sun night with plans to visit RMNP on Mon on the drive home. The sun was actually shining on Mon morning when we stopped at the visitor’s center to learn that the Trail Ridge Road (12,000 ft) through the Park was closed due to heavy snow all weekend! We had to back track on back roads through Blackhawk to I70 and drive though 20 min of snow storms when we crossed the Continental Divide! Oh well – one bad visit/trip out of three ain’t so bad?

Fortunately the weather has improved in the High Country – sunny and mid 70s – as I contemplate concerns about my next race/challenge in 3 weeks. I rate the Leadville Trail Marathon as the 4th toughest marathon in the world! It starts/finishes in Leadville at 10,500 ft and climbs to a highest elevation of 13,200 ft at the top of Mosquito Pass at the Half. I will need to do some serious hill and trail training above 12,000 ft during the next few weeks. My plan is to go out my back door (9000 ft) and run the Ptarmigan trail that climbs 3500 vertical feet over 6.5 miles to Ptarmigan Peak (12,500 ft) – and then turn around and run back down! I will complete that run a few times plus a trial run on Mosquito Pass. That run starts at 10,000 ft and climbs 3200 vertical ft on a 4X$ road over 3 short/steep miles to the top of Mosquito Pass. Believe me – there is a lot of walking and ‘sucking for air’ involved in that run.

Are any of my readers interested in joining Maddog for a few ‘easy’ training runs during the next few weeks?

Stay tuned!