Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
I don't know if I'm the first person dumb enough to do this but it was the first and last time for me. Once was enough. Don't get me wrong, I am glad I did it and enjoyed the weekend and the whole experience but it was tough out there. Maybe now that I've done it some others will be inspired to give it a shot.
We arrived in Boone early Friday afternoon and went straight to packet pick-up where we saw several friends and then drove up to show Jenn some of the course and stash some water and gatorade for us to refill our bottles for the trip down until Karla and Lisa would be able to get down the mountain to start crewing for us. It was pouring down rain and we were hoping that it would all blow over by morning start time.
We arrived at the ASU track about 6am and began preparing for the race. I was very excited about what was ahead and was enjoying visiting with the many friends in attendance. I lined up with Karla planning to run as much as possible with her. Lisa has been running great lately and we knew she would be going for a fast time this year so we didn't even try to go with her today. I had the video camera going to try and share a bit of the experience for those that have never had a chance to see what this race is about. I hope to get it uploaded soon.
It was a warm , muggy and overcast morning and within a mile I was sweating and worrying about overheating. It looked like we would avoid the rain but I was hoping for cloud cover for as much as possible. Karla and I settled in to an easy pace and went about enjoying ourselves out on the course, taking in the sights and talking to other runners along the way.
We were making decent time but Karla wasn't feeling too zippy today and we were walking a bit on the steeper hills earlier than last year. On one hand I was hoping she was feeling good and would have a great day but on the other hand , an easier pace would allow me to stay with her longer. Normally not an issue but today I needed to be saving energy for the return trip.
Things were still going well as we moved onto Hwy 221 for the last 9 miles along this gorgeous course. I was feeling fine and there is nothing better than to be sharing the day with The Marathon Princess. As always we were having a grand time talking , laughing and enjoying each others company. We have run thousands of training miles the past 5 years and this was the 11th marathon we have run together.
And then we finally reached the site of the Highland Games and the finish line of the first marathon. I had the camera out as we ran past the race tent to make our way onto the track. I am a bit amazed at how many of the small crowd that were there were people I have gotten to know over the past 8 years and the great cheering and support that we received as we passed by. Once on the track we were getting a lot of cheers from the grandstands due in part to the fact that Karla and I were both wearing our kilts. We crossed the line together in 4:56 and after a quick photo opportunity, I began my journey back down the mountain by running a reverse lap on the track and back down to the marathon tent.
I spent about 15 minutes here getting some food and drinks and talking to a few friends. Jenn had taken the shuttle to the top and was now ready to accompany me on my reverse marathon back down to Boone. I got a hug from The Trail Angel, said good bye to some friends and off we went. By now it was pretty warm out on the course and the sun was high overhead. There is a lot of shade on the course but during the mid afternoon there are a lot of exposed areas too.
It had been a great day so far running with Karla and now I was having the pleasure of The Ultra Angel for the rest of my adventure. Once we were out on the road for a while I was noticing just how much climbing there actually is on the return trip. With it being a mostly uphill climb to the finish its hard to judge just how much downhill there is on the course but believe me you really start to notice that when you are going backwards. By now I was in ultra mode so we were running the downhills and walking most of the uphills. I was starting to feel the effects of the warm day and was trying to stay hydrated as the temperature crept up to a high of 82F.
By now my left foot was beginning to hurt a little but otherwise the legs were ok. Jenn was great company and content to move at whatever pace I wanted to move. Normally I'm pretty talkative but now as I was getting tired and facing the reality of what I had committed myself to doing I was being a little quieter than usual. Still we were having a good time enjoying the sights and views as we went along Hwy 221 and after awhile we finally made the turn back onto the gravel road around mile 17. It was here that I finally ran all of the hill that Laura calls simply 17. It is the steepest hill on the marathon course and even in the year I was in my best shape and racing for a sub-4 I had to walk part of it. Now I was finally going to get my chance to run all of 17. The only difference was that now I would be running it downhill.
At the bottom of the hill is where we had stashed some water and gatorade. We took a short break and then continued on. I had guessed that we would reach this point in about 2 hours after leaving the top and we were right on pace. I had figured the one drop would last us until Karla and Lisa could take the shuttle back to Boone to get the car and then drive back up the course to crew for us the rest of the way.
Things were still going ok, slow but steady as we made our way back to the Blue Ridge Parkway and about 15 miles to go. Let me tell you, the BRP is not the place you want to spend too much time running on a July afternoon. Although it is beautiful there is a lot of traffic, just like a major highway and a lot cars are going too fast. There is practically no shoulder to get out of the way either and there is hardly any shade this time of day and the sun was beating down on us.
The first two miles of the Parkway are a nice gentle downhill but then there is that 2 miles climb that we enjoy so much when it's a downhill going the other way.
Well now it was a hard two mile long climb and I was beginning to wear down. And I was running low on fluids and still no sign of the crew. We walked halfway up the hill and then I spotted a place to sit on the bridge over Sims Creek so we took a short break to take a gel and stretch for a few minutes.
We started again and the climb got steeper the closer to the intersection where we would be getting off the Parkway. And then just before we finished that climb, we saw the ladies and they pulled over at the exit. It was great to see them and we re-fueled and refilled looking forward to a couple of miles of downhill running on Shulls Mill Road. From here we had about 10.5 miles to go.
At about the 10 mile mark we reached the point where I usually get a picture of Grandfather Mt off in the distance, the first place you can see it in the marathon. I have pictures of Laura and I when we ran together in 2008, Lisa, Karla and I in 2009, Karla and I from this morning so I had Jenn stop so I could get one of her there. No one around to take on of the two of us but at least with the clear skies you could see the mountain.
The crew was waiting again at the bottom of Shulls Mill Rd and then we turned onto Poplar Grove road. The marathoners always see that as a nice long quad burning downhill break but going the other way it turns into a nightmare of a climb that is as long as any going the other way and probably steeper than any hill going up the mountain. By now I was really starting to drag and I was so thankful to have Jenn along to share in my misery. She was doing a great job of keeping me moving and breathing and trying to make sure I was taking in fluid and calories. When I'm hot my stomach doesn't want anything but I was forcing myself to take in as much as I could.
It was slow but we finally made the climb and I knew there would only be one more significant climb after that. The ladies met us one more time with about 6 miles to go and then they headed to ASU to wait for us and have an ice cold Coke that I was craving waiting for me. We reached that last climb and Jenn kept prodding me along and once we reached the next downhills we actually were running a decent pace over the next couple of miles. We reached the point of two miles to go just as Winkler's Creek Rd enters town and I was feeling ok but within the next half-mile when we reached the main hwy through town leading back to the stadium , the wheels were really stating to come off. The heat humidity, dehydraion , pounding and miles were about to beat me down.
Finally we made the turn with the one short hill back up to the stadium and on to the track. The gate was open so we stepped onto the track to do the last reverse lap back to the race starting line and my calves both decided to cramp on me. I had to walk most of the lap and then we ran the last 100yds to the "finish". I had done it. Fulfilled another dream and completed my "Double" Grandfather Mountain. They handed me my Coke and I walked over to a bench in the shade and sat, too tired to drink it and when I finally took a small sip I was hit with a wave of nausea and spent the next couple of minutes throwing up everything I had put in my stomach over the past hour. first time I have ever done that in an ultra. Ok that wasn't fun but I immediately felt better.
Total time for the run was 11:33. It consisted of 8,000 feet of elevation gain and 5,000 ft of elevation loss. and as I said just because it has a net elevation loss of 900ft running back down to Boone , it is not an easy course. There are still many miles of climbing, some long climbs and some steep ones.
I did make this a little harder than I should have by running the first half, or the actual marathon as a normal marathon and then try to run back, especially considering how tough the race is anyway. It would have been much smarter to approach it for what it was, a tough 50 mile + ultramarathon and spent a lot more time walking the early climbs saving energy. But with that said I'm glad I did it the way I did even though it made it much more difficult. Otherwise I wouldn't have made the 5 hour cut-off for an official race finishers medal and even more importantly I would not have been able to share the marathon with The Marathon Princess.
Thanks so much to Karla for running yet another marathon with me and Lisa helping to crew with Karla making for a very long day after running their races. Lisa had a great run in 4:16 knocking about 30 minutes off her time last year and taking 3rd in her age-group against a tough field of women runners. And a special thanks to Jenn for making the trip, waiting around all morning for me to run the race and then keeping me moving down the mountain. Having these three ladies made it even more special than ever. And Thanks to all of the many friends, runners and non- runners for your support and encouragement.
Thursday, July 08, 2010
So what's "special" this year? Well, every year at this race is a little special. I love going to the mountains any chance I get and Grandfather Mountain is probably my favorite. Very beautiful with it's unique profile and so rocky and rugged up top. I have vague memories of my first trip there at age 5 or 6 with my family to see the Highland Games.
Of course the thing I remember the most was a little girl about my age that was one of the Scottish dancers and I thought she was the prettiest girl I had ever seen and she had my complete attention all day. Some things never change.
I heard about the marathon soon after I began running 33 years ago but it wasn't until 2003 that I finally made my first trip to run the race. The first two times I ran were special. I ran in the 4:30's and cramped up in the last few miles. Then in 2006 when I was in my best shape ever I went for a sub-4 only to find the course had a detour that year and was long. I passed mile 26 in 3:56 but had another 6tenths to the finish. I was able to run the first 11 miles with The Trail Angel before coming to my senses and backing off the pace.
I 2008 I returned, not in my best shape and was only hoping to finish without injuring myself anymore. At mile 5 I came across The Trail Angel walking due to some breathing problems so I stayed with her the rest of the way. And then last year I had the pleasure of running with The Marathon Princess and Mountain girl in their first trip up the mountain. So as you can see all 5 of my previous runs have been special but this year will be EXTRA Special.
Ever since that 1st run I have wondered what it would be like to run the course in reverse and of course being an ultra runner, naturally I thought it would be cool to do both. So, as I was running last year I made up my mind that I would plan to do just that in 2010 if everything was going well with my training and health. So yes, this year I am doing the Grandfather Mountain Double Marathon.
The plan is to run once again with Karla and Lisa for as long as I can but if I feel I need to slow down to save energy I'll let them go. Then when I reach the finish line I will reverse direction on the track and began my trip back to Boone. And this is where it gets even more special. My dear friend Jenn, The Ultra Angel is going to be waiting for me at the top and run with me on the return trip. How cool is that? And of course The Trail Angel will be running the race too so I'll have most of my "harem" as Laura refers to my Angels and Princesses in attendance. Woohoo. It's going to be FUN !!!
Oh yeah, and just for the special occasion I will be wearing the family tartan. I have a new Anderson Clan kilt and the ladies will be running in kilts too.
Thursday, July 01, 2010
Looking back I must say that 2010 has gotten off to a great start and certainly better than the past couple of years. Overall the training has been going well. My mileage goal for the year is 2400 miles and I'm only 10 miles off that pace mid-year. I've been very consistent with the workouts which is always a good thing. Karla and I have only missed a couple of our key workouts all year meeting at the track in blazing heat and freezing cold, wind and rain but it has paid off. We switched to hill repeats in May to build strength for the hills of Boogie and the upcoming Grandfather Mountain Marathon. We've been joined by Lisa on most of our weekend long runs and we three try to meet every Thursday for a mid-week 10 miler in Umstead.
I began the year with the 5k Resolution Run and had a very good effort on a hilly course. A week later in frigid conditions I set a new PR at The Salem Lakeshore Frosty 50K. This was especially satisfying in that I have run this race 6 times since 2003 and was still able to improve at 54 years of age. It was a great trip with the ladies Karla , Lisa and Jenn. What a lovely bunch of traveling partners I have. Yes,it's good to be the Ultraman.
February was a flop with the Myrtle Beach Marathon being canceled but the ladies and I still got in a great half-marathon workout on Ocean Blvd and Lida even set an unofficial pr for the distance.
March brought us to the Tobacco Road Marathon. Under nearly ideal weather and racing conditions I was able to run my second fastest marathon and achieve my goal of racing my way back to a Boston qualifier in 3:45:00. Karla and Lisa also qualified so we have already booked our rooms for a special weekend in Boston next year.
In April I ran with Karla in the Tarheel 10 miler where she got a pr and I had fun and got in a great workout. Then two weeks later we traveled to Asheboro for another 5k. I had a great run on another perfect weather morning running my fastest at the distance in nearly 5 years while winning age-group. Karla won first masters lady and Frank also claimed an age-group award.
May found us traveling to the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati with my buddy Jerry along for the fun. I had a bit of a disappointing race on a rainy morning but still enjoyed the weekend. Jerry had a bit of a revival after not training very much for awhile. Karla's race was a bit slow too while Frank ran his usual time in the half-marathon. A week later when I normally would still be in recovery mode, I raced the Garner 5k and amazed myself dropping my 5k time for the year down to 21:33 finishing 2nd in my age-group.
June has turned out to be one of the hottest early summers I can remember but we've still been getting out there and getting the training done. I ran a slow hot miserable 5k at Archers Lodge and then a week later headed down to Ellerbe for the Boogie 50 miler.
Looking ahead, I have the Grandfather Mountain Marathon next weekend on July 10th. It will be my 6th time running and this year should be special. More on that later. I don't expect to do any racing in August but will be training hard for an attempt at a fast marathon in Allentown PA on Sept 11th.
In October I will be racing for yet another 50K pr attempt at the New River 50k in Virginia. Annette Bednosky is the Race Director and I look forward to finally being able to run her race. I had to miss the first two editions.
I've decided just in the past couple of weeks that I will return once again to the OBX Marathon in November and hope for cool temps and a chance to race hard and make up for last years very slow painful death march. Then if I can work it out I would like to take a trip out to Nevada and run the Valley of Fire Marathon with Margo. No plans for December so we'll just see how things are going then. Mainly I'll be focusing my training then on a marathon pr attempt at Boston 2011.