Monday, April 25, 2011

Race Report: The Boston Marathon, by Eileen O'Flaherty

DARTer Eileen O'Flaherty ran the Boston Marathon last week and offers these profound thoughts about the race.

I never understood the allure of traveling to a city to participate in a race. I simply couldn't wrap my head around ruining a vacation with pre-race anxiety and post-race muscle soreness.  But now I totally get it, running the Boston marathon was a phenomenal experience.

Eileen stops to pose for a picture with her family
As one of only two charity runners for Christopher's Haven (“a home for kids when cancer hits home”, where my son, Griffin and I stayed for two months last year while he underwent proton radiation therapy to destroy the 20% of his brain tumor which was not able to be surgically removed), I was invited to participate in all of the Mass General Hospital (MGH) Marathon Team’s pre-race activities. The MGH team was founded by Howard Weinstein, an MGH pediatric oncologist and chair of Christopher's Haven’s board.  Fourteen years ago, Howard started the MGH team with ten runners.  This year, the team has grown to include 113 runners and their honor patients.  My family along with my sister, Kathy, my high school friend, Lucy, and her husband, TJ, joined the MGH team on Sunday night for a pre-race pasta dinner.  It was a wonderful celebration, the highlight of which was when 19-year old, Kristin Santollo spoke.  Kristin's dad had been a member of the MGH team since its inception.  This year he passed the baton to Kristin, who was Howard’s patient as she fought leukemia beginning at the age of five. There were few dry eyes in the room as she described her feelings about moving from an honor patient to a cancer-free marathon runner.  She encouraged all of the honor patients to dream of the day when they too would be cancer-free and running marathons.

The next morning at 6 am I caught the MGH bus in front of the hospital and headed out to Hopkinton to join more than 27,000 other runners.  My wave was scheduled to start at 10:40 am. While I fully appreciated the logistics involved, the absurdity of needing to leave 4 hours and 40 minutes prior to the start of the race further convinced me that running large, out of town races was really not for me.

Fortunately, as an affiliate of the MGH team, I was treated like a VIP in the starting area. Howard and the team had set up a special area just down the road from the general waiting area replete with a large tent, chairs, space heaters, bagels, bananas, water, Gatorade, a DJ and our own port-o-potties. The early morning was windy and cold so it was quite a luxury to be in this refuge, rather than out with the masses waiting 4+ hours for the start.  I did my best to focus on meeting the other team members and not stressing about the upcoming race.  We passed the time decorating our shirts with our names and messages about our charity and honor patients. Finally a trainer came to warm us up and it was time to head to the starting corrals. The mass of people approaching the start reminded me of the New Year's Eve I spent in Times Square.  I had my first taste of what to expect from the spectators when we passed a family who set up a tent in their front yard offering all of the runners free coffee, water, safety pins, band-aids, Vaseline and the use of supplies to decorate their shirts.

At long last I was herded into Corral 7 and the race finally began. The streets were lined with enthusiastically cheering crowds for the entire 26.2 miles and camera crews in helicopters circled overhead.  The atmosphere reminded me of New York City's St. Patrick's Day Parade where each year my siblings and I would march with my father, a native of County Kerry, Ireland, and the Kerryman's Association.  To me the Boston Marathon felt more like a 26.2 mile moving party, rather than a race.

Most folks who lived along the route were hosting marathon parties, complete with everything from BBQs to bounce houses to kegs, and many set up stations offering band-aids, Kleenex and Vaseline.  These amenities were in addition to the official water, Gatorade and medical emergency tables at every mile.  With my name and my cause featured prominently on the front of my shirt, I was greeted with cheers of "Go Eileen", "Go Christopher's Haven" and "Go Griffin." Sometimes I was even serenaded with the Dexy's Midnight Runners song, Come on Eileen.  I felt like a rock star.

As I understand it, the first wave of marathon runners was comprised of elite runners, the second those who qualified, and third wave was primarily filled with charity runners.  Most of the runners in my wave had the story of who and why they were running on their shirts.  I had the pleasure of running, chatting and sometimes even stopping for photos with the most interesting people, including:

  • A man who had run the London Marathon on Sunday morning and then flew in to run Boston on Monday.
  • Patrick and a few other contestants from The Biggest Loser.  Our Christopher’s Haven friends, Patty and Jessica Dresser are big fans of the show and we frequently watched it together last year.
  • The Liver Team, which included family members, medical staff and several organ recipients.
  • Three runners who, like my daughter, Fiona, were celebrating their April 18 birthdays.
  • Dick and Rick Hoyt, the father-son team who were running their 85th marathon and have also completed six Ironman competitions.
  • Runners in costumes including, a hamburger and pack of fries, Elvis, two ballerinas in tutus, and a man wearing a football helmet.
  • Three blind runners and their guides.  

With ideal weather, the wind at my back, electric crowds and interesting runners to chat with, the miles flew by faster than I expected.  Once I realized that I would have no problem finishing within the 6-hour course closure window, I focused even more on simply enjoying the experience.  When I arrived at mile 20, the base of Heartbreak Hill, I was met by my family members, who were stationed at MGH team captain, Howard Weinstein's, house.  Each year the Weinsteins host a party for MGH honor patients and spectators on their front lawn. Over the past fourteen years his children have raised more than $10,000 for MGH pediatric cancer patient services by selling lemonade, brownies and popcorn. Christopher’s Haven founder, Dan Olsen, and Executive Director, Martha Welsh, were also there to greet me. After lots of hugs and photos, Fiona and my sister, Kathy, ran the next two miles with me, which included Heartbreak Hill.  Between the adrenaline rush from seeing my family, the cheering crowds and my planned walk break to eat my last Cliff bar, I barely noticed the ascent and was surprised and delighted to see the balloon arch proclaiming, The Heartbreak is Over – how apropos.

About a mile later, I passed a large group of spectators wearing Team Griffin's Friends t-shirts, so I stopped to learn more about their organization.  The Griffin’s Friends Foundation was established in 1994 in memory of Griffin Kelleher, who died at the age of 15 months after battling cancer.  Their foundation’s goal is “to bring moments of joy to courageous kids.”  After shedding a few more tears of gratitude for my son, Griffin’s recovery, I continued on towards the finish line.

About a ¼ mile from the finish line on Boylston Street, Katelyn Hinson, the family services manager at Christopher’s Haven and a group of current residents donning their specially made tie-dyed marathon t-shirts spotted me, so I ran over for more hugs and photos.  With a boost of energy from their well wishes, I was able to finish strong with a time of 5:13:55.  Thirty minutes slower than my Charlotte marathon run in 2002, but 1,000 times more fun, and well under the 6-hour cut off. After crossing the finish line runners were given mylar blankets and medals. Serendipitously, Sarah Carroll, a Christopher’s Haven volunteer, was the marathon volunteer who presented me with my marathon medal.

On behalf of Dan Olsen, Martha Welsh, Katelyn Hinson, my family, and all of the past and future residents of Christopher’s Haven, I want to thank you for making the 115th Boston Marathon a huge victory for me and Christopher’s Haven. I was carried to the finish line by your well wishes and support and am so grateful to have raised $10,722 to date.

With deep and heartfelt gratitude,


P.S.  April 18, 2011 was quite a day, in addition to the marathon and Fiona's birthday, The Charlotte Observer featured an article about Griffin's participation on the NCCSR crew team.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Race Recap: 2011 Blue Ridge Marathon, by Bobby Aswell

DARTers Bobby Aswell and Mike McIntyre, along with all the other participants in the Blue Ridge Marathon, endured some nasty weather this year.  Bobby recounts his efforts and obstacles along the way to finishing one of the few marathons ever called off early.

Running a marathon is tough enough when all of the pieces fall into place but when something goes astray, it can become downright brutal.  On the day before the Blue Ridge Marathon in Roanoke, VA, I was doing my last run when I thought I saw Murphy jump behind a tree but it was too late, the damage had been done!  I stepped into a rut and twisted my right ankle very badly.  I couldn’t believe it!  Murphy’s Law strikes again!  Oh well, I’d just have to deal with it!

 Billed as ‘America’s Toughest Road Marathon’, the Blue Ridge Marathon challenges your inner self to see what you’re made of.  With over 3,600 feet of elevation gain and over 7,200 feet of elevation change, it’s hills, hills, and more hills!

After running the inaugural event in 2010, fellow DARTer Mike MacIntyre and I were looking forward to returning for the 2nd running in 2011.  Unlike mega marathons with huge crowds, the Blue Ridge Marathon is more low-key with about 1,000 runners between the half and full.  To further substantiate its claim as ‘America’s Toughest Road Marathon’, for 2011 the race directors added another ‘hill’ at mile 18 to test your strength and see what you’re made of.  Doesn’t get any better than this!

Never one to shy away from sticking her hand into the mix, Mother Nature added a few more challenges including 30-40 mph winds, torrential rain downpour, and thunder and lightning! The rain was so extreme that a section of the greenway course around mile 21 was rerouted the day before the race due to flooding.

Race morning arrived with my right ankle very sore so I iced it, put on my ankle wrap, and took some ibuprofen.  I decided to run steady just hoping to finish without doing any further damage to my ankle.  Only time would tell!

Mike McIntyre ready to roll!

Scheduled for a 7:30 am start outside the Taubman Museum of Art, we headed over for the short walk from the Hotel Roanoke at 7:00 am.  The wind was howling and the rain was already coming down in buckets!  Even with a hat and my trusty ole kitchen garbage bag on, I was drenched from head to toe and looked like I had just stepped out of the shower.  What a way to start a marathon!

After the National Anthem, the race started and we were off.  The first mile or so heads out of town before starting the 2 mile climb to Mill Mountain.  After reaching the summit, you proceed onto the Blue Ridge Parkway for several more climbs and ultimately start the climb to Roanoke Mountain which gains approximately 780 feet in 2 miles.  The uphill sections are brutal, with mile 6 being as steep as any hill I’ve run in a race, and the downhill sections are just as severe!  With the downpour, the road was covered with water making all of the switchbacks and hairpin turns very slippery.  You had to run with caution or else take a chance on your feet slipping and losing their footing.

Leaving Roanoke Mountain, you return to the Blue Ridge Parkway for several miles then make your way up the other side of Mill Mountain to the famous Mill Mountain Star which offers great views of the Roanoke Valley.  From there, there’s a major descent for a couple of miles and then some running through some beautiful neighborhoods.  It was at this point that my Nike watch ‘drowned’ and I was left with no idea as to my splits or total time for the last 11 miles.

At mile 18, you encounter the ‘new’ hill added for 2011, ‘Peakwood’.  A ‘killer’ of a hill, ‘Peakwood’ is almost 2 miles of grinding and climbing and comes just when you’re starting to get tired.  You finally crest the hill with your 20 mile warm-up done and ‘only’ a 10K to go to reach the finish line.

The final 10K is run through some beautiful neighborhoods and on the Roanoke greenway before heading back towards downtown to the finish line just outside the Taubman Museum of Art.  Compared to the first 20 miles, the last 10K is relatively flat with a few climbs up and over bridges.
The road was swamped with water the final stretch to the finish line but I made it, bad ankle and all!  With hurricane like conditions, the refreshment area looked like a mud pit so I bypassed it and just grabbed a couple of chocolate milks and a coke for later.  I headed back to the hotel, cleaned up, and waited for Mike in the hotel lobby.

Hurricane-like wind and rain! (photo found on internet)

At this point, the rain was really coming down, thunder rumbling, and lightning flashing in the sky.  Shortly thereafter, I saw Mike in the hotel lobby and he informed me that the officials closed the course early and pulled the remaining runners due to the lightning.  He wasn’t happy about it but felt it was the right decision for the safety of the runners.  After Mike changed, we headed over to the awards ceremony where I found out that I finished 15th overall and 1st in my age group in 3:36:12.  For my efforts, I received this very unique award:

Awesome age group award

Outside of a few extreme marathons that I’ve run, including Pikes Peak and the Mosquito Marathon in Leadville, the Blue Ridge Marathon ranks as one of the toughest.  The uphills are relentless and the downhills are so extreme they leave your quads burning but the beauty of the course is almost unparalleled!  If you’re looking for a beautiful course that will challenge your physical and mental toughness, then the Blue Ridge Marathon is for you.

Bobby post-race, garbage bag and all!
Bobby Aswell

Thursday, April 21, 2011

DART Sunday Run Changed due to Easter

Greetings, DARTers!  Due to Easter our regularly scheduled DART run will take place on Saturday.  Same time of 7am, same place in front of CVS in Davidson.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Race Recap: The Run of the Mill 5K

Dave Munger recaps today's Run of the Mill 5K. Originally posted on Mungerruns.

As Saturday's race approached, things weren't looking good for the Run of the Mill 5K. The weather was slated to be stormy all day Saturday. "Bring a towel, a hat, and a change of clothes," Chad suggested on Facebook. But when Chad showed up at my door at 7:20 to give me a ride to the race, it seemed for a moment that our fortunes were changing. The rain had stopped, and the weather websites showed the rain holding off until well after our 9:00 start.

We arrived at the lovely Murray's Mill just before 8, and had to wait a few minutes for the volunteers to get organized so we could sign in.

We hoped this sign wasn't foreshadowing our race pace

Fortunately, we still had plenty of time to preview the course, which we'd never seen before and hadn't been able to find a map of in advance. The race website says it's "run on mowed fields and trails around the beautiful and historic Murray's Mill." How hilly are they? How rough? We didn't know. In fact, we had a hard time figuring out where the course was: No one seemed to know for sure. Finally someone pointed us in the general direction we'd be running, so we headed off on a preview/warmup run.

Here Chad runs the wrong direction around the first loop of the course

At one point along the preview we had to make a hairpin turn around a fence and run down past the mill. It seemed clear enough at a leisurely preview pace, but this turn ended up being less obvious at race pace. One thing was certain: It really was a beautiful course, running along open fields, the shores of a pristine pond, past the historic mill, and through lush forests. And the rain seemed to be holding off.

We ran what we were pretty sure was the full course, which Garmin measured as 3.2 miles. In fact we had run the first loop backwards, but that turned out not to matter much. It was 8:45 a.m.; all we needed to do now was find the starting line.

Where's my corral?

As you can see from the photo, it was next to an old barn. Since it was a cross-country course, they lined us up all in a row, about 35 people wide and only 2 or 3 deep. We could see the finish tents from the start, and while the race director was making final announcements, a huge gust of wind blew one of the tents across the field below us. We all giggled as the timing crew chased it down. Finally everything was tied down and they started the race.

It was the sort of start I hadn't experienced since my days on my high school cross-country team: A mad dash across a field, everyone trying to establish position before the trail narrowed. When the dust (or mud, as the case may be) settled, I was in third place, with just two highschoolers in front of me. As I climbed the first hill through a field and headed back down the other side, I could hear footsteps behind me. I hoped it was Chad, and in a few more moments my hunch proved true, and Chad was next to me telling me I had a good shot at third overall. As I grunted an acknowledgment, I was thinking he might have a better shot. My timer beeped indicating Mile 1 was over: 6:59. Not bad for a trail race.

Chad noticed the highschoolers up ahead were looking a little lackadaisical. Maybe we could catch them. We seemed to be gaining ground on them as we passed back through the mill area near the start. Chad had pulled about 10 meters ahead of me, and the two leaders were perhaps 20 meters ahead. They ran straight past the fence where we were supposed to make a hairpin turn! Or maybe we weren't supposed to turn there. There were no course spotters directing us, and there was no sign indicating a turn. The trail crested a hill and headed back down towards the start-finish area. This was definitely not right. I could see Chad and the two highschoolers heading towards the finish line, but the timer turned them around. Chad later told me he asked him where they were supposed to go. The answer: "I don't know."

At this point, before I got to the finish area, I just stopped running. I stopped my Garmin too. Clearly I had no chance of a PR or a decent placing. Then someone who looked authoritative pointed me back towards the fence where I had thought we were supposed to make a hairpin turn. I decided if I couldn't finish the race at least I could direct the other runners the right way, so I sprinted back to the point of the turn and yelled at the runners who were heading the wrong way, telling them to turn around. I had directed about 5 or 10 runners when Chad and the two highschoolers came running up the trail. "C'mon, Dave," Chad said. I figured the runners behind us could now just follow along, so I decided to join back into the race. I started my timer and took off. Soon we ran past the historic mill. Since our times were shot, Chad and I decided to stop and take pictures:

Chad still isn't sure this is the right way

I think this waterfall is quite picturesque

Just kidding! We actually took the pictures during our preview run. Next we ran up a narrow trail and between two old millstones:

You'd think the trail goes straight ahead; actually it goes to the right

Along this section we regained our stride and started to pass the slower runners. After we passed what should have been the original two-mile marker, we were down to the original group of four leaders: A highschooler in a UNC shirt, another one in a gray shirt, Chad, and me. I could hear another runner not far behind me though. My 2-mile split, which was really rather pointless since it involved me stopping and restarting the timer, was 7:17. Now we were running through a wooded area on narrow trails. Here's another shot from the preview run:

Chad weaves deftly through the trees
Then we ran across a boardwalk:

Lovely! At the end of the boardwalk, there were two spotters pointing us to the right (why couldn't one of them have been stationed at that hairpin turn?). I asked them if there was anyone ahead of our group, and they said no. I was still in fourth place! But I was also starting to drag. I could see Chad ahead, neck and neck with UNC guy. Gray shirt guy was still ahead of me, but not by much. Whenever there was a sharp corner, he cut it much closer than I dared; the grass was longer in these rough areas and I didn't want to twist an ankle. This meant he gained 5 or 10 meters on me. I could still hear another runner right behind me, so I did all I could to maintain my pace. With about 200 meters to go, Gray shirt guy took off in a sprint. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to pass him, but I didn't want to be passed, so I picked up the pace as well, finishing in a dead sprint.

The results are posted here. My official finishing time was 26:19 for an 8:28 pace. But that didn't count the extra half-mile or so we ran when we went off course. My partial Garmin plot records a 7:20 pace. Chad said he recorded over 3.6 miles in what is supposed to be a 3.1-mile race. Overall, I was fourth. Chad was second overall. I didn't get an award because the race only gave prizes for first overall and first in each 10-year age group. So "UNC guy," 14-year-old Dakota Lewis, got first, Chad got first in the 40-49 age group, and "Gray shirt guy," 14-year-old Jordan Thompson, got first in the 11-15 age group. The guy who was right on my tail, Jason Hoyle, won the 20-29 age group.

After Chad picked up his trophy, we headed home. Naturally we stopped along the way for some DART-brand coffee!

Notice the label in the center of the lid!
A strange race, but a beautiful course, and an enjoyable overall experience. I'd like to come back next year and give it another shot now that I know the course.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Race Recap: 2011 Charlottesville Marathon, by Todd Hartung

In his dual quest of finishing a marathon in all 50 states and qualifying at least once a year for Boston, DARTer Todd Hartung recently ran in the Charlottesville (VA) Marathon.  Todd managed to grab a well-earned PR at the event.

Charlottesville Marathon - A surprise PR!

 Charlottesville Marathon was my 25th marathon over the last four years and the 18th towards my goal of running a marathon in every state. I knew that Charlottesville would be a very hilly course and not fast. The date however worked and I looked forward to spending the weekend in Charlottesville with my family especially since this was a Saturday race allowing me to enjoy Saturday and Sunday around the fun college town of the University of Virginia.

Unlike last year when I ran a marathon every month except for July and August, this year I wanted to focus on getting faster and promised to take more time between long races this year. My last marathon was in February and I rested and did not run a marathon in March. In March I set a new PR in the half marathon with a 1 hour 32 min run at Charlotte's Corporate Cup. I know that is not that impressive of a time as I know so many runners who have run sub 1:30 with ease. For me, however, that 1:32 felt like I was flying.  A few weeks ago I finally broke 20 minutes in the 5k after having run at least 50 5k's over the past four years. The week before Charlottesville I ran a 5k PR of 19:31 and was off to a strong start in 2011.

I always have the same three goals entering a marathon. Finish, break 3:30 and set a PR (previously a 3:20). A realistic, mid range and a reach goal. I really did not think or expect that I would set a new PR at Charlottesville. The two variables that are so hard to prepare for went in my favor. I slept great the night before the race and awoke rested and ready to run. My stomach digested better than usual and felt good at the start. Add in a nice cold morning and my confidence on the starting line was high.

I always travel with a running book by Alberto Salazar that i enjoy reading the night before a race. I was reminded of the following quote in his book:

"I had as many doubts as anyone else. Standing on the starting line, we're all cowards."
- Alberto Salazar

At the start of the run I was not nervous and was looking forward to running. I had tapered all week not running at all until the marathon and my legs felt great. I divided this run in my mind into the first 13 and the second 13 miles. I went out strong with miles between 7min and 7 :20 pace.  The first half of the course was beautiful. Large homes with beautiful horse farms. I hit the halfway mark around 1 hour and 36 minutes. I knew it was only a matter of time that I would pay for going out hard. My first mile above 8 minutes came at mile 18. Legs were hurting and a increased focus would be required so as not to give back those minutes I had banked. I know it is not the best strategy but it has worked for me in all of my PRs in all distances. Mile 19 back under 8 min mile at a 7: 34 pace. Mile 20 - 7:44, Mile 21 - 7:26. Mile 22 -7:40 mile 23-7:49. miles 24 and 25 took back some banked time running them in 8:20 and 8:19. Final mile 7:45.  Crossed finish line in 3:18:27. I could not maintain the 1:36 pace run in the first half as I ran a 1:42 second half. I gave back some precious minutes but banked enough to get that coveted PR.

Below is the search for my marathon results on It may not get me into Boston next year with the new system but it it sure nice to see the BQ next to my name. After next year my qualifier will drop from current 3:20:59 to 3:15:59. Running this 3:18:27 on a very hilly course gives me confidence that I could see the new qualifier on a flat course in the future.

Last Name, First Name
Sex Place
Div Place
DIVNet Time

Hartung, Todd (M42)3:18:294034 / M40-443:18:27


The link below shows my finish at the marathon with the support of my wife and kids. (The high five was my 3 year old daughter).

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Race Recap With a Twist: Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run

Editor's note:  Running 100 miles in and of itself it hard enough, but DARTer and ultrarunning veteran Jeff McGonnell had an experience at this year's Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run that was unprecedented.  I saw Jeff just after the halfway point and he said to me, "Have I got a story to tell you!"  Below is Jeff's story.

Blake Norwood photo
It’s always something –

I’ve done the Umstead 100 Mile Run a number of times, every time there is always something that goes a bit awry.  My first few of efforts included horrible blisters and a world class attack of the sleep monster.  I’ve finished, but I’ve always been delayed by something.  This year was no different; I struggled with the first 25 miles with a painful hip flexor – that supposed to be the easy section of a 100mi.  I stopped a number of times to stretch – any time you stop moving forward during a 100 mile means you are adding time to the clock.  Not a big deal in a short race – but after 20+ hours it really adds up.  Umstead is billed as one of the easier 100’s, the race consists of 8 12.5 mile loops, but as with any 100 there is plenty of time for something to go wrong.

After getting my hip flexor issue straightened out, I started to get moving again at my target pace, maybe even a little ahead.  I had some pretty good splits from 30 to 40 miles and the hip was feeling good.  At around 43 miles I linked up with Matt Smythe from Richmond, I’ve known Matt’s older brother Brad for years; Matt and I kept a good pace through the hilliest section of the 12.5 mile loop.  When we turned on the dirt road that heads back toward the main aid station we were moving pretty well, we had just 2 miles to get to the 50 mile half way point.

Teri Saylor photo
Ahead on the road Matt and I saw two guys out walking.  Umstead is a multi-use State Park, used by mountain bikers, horses, hikers and runners.  When we were still 50 yards from the two guys, the bigger one, let’s call him Orange Hat – punched the other guy, we’ll call him Slim.  Orange Hat then kicked Slim, followed by 2 quick punches.  Slim was getting beat like a rug.  By the time we got up to the guys Orange Hat was yelling at Slim – he was very unhappy.  Orange Hat is a big broad shouldered guy in his early 20’s – Slim has shoulder length curly hair.  Matt and I got in between the two and told Orange Hat to chill.  He yelled something about ketchup and chicken salad, followed by a string of expletives.

We tried to step in front of Orange Hat – he swung with a right and a left and caught me with his left on the side of the chin.  I thought he was just mad at Slim – apparently he didn’t like me either.  Orange Hat came at us again – I squirted him in the face with my water bottle – he didn’t even react to it, the look in his eyes said nobody was home.

Well, about that time other runners were coming behind us – Walt Prescott from Atlanta got just a bit too close and Orange Hat clocked him in the chin hard enough to drop Walt down on the edge of the road.  We rushed the guy and protected Walt – he’s a tough guy – took the shot hard, lots of blood, his lower lip was seriously split.  We got Walt up – Darris Blackford, his wife and 4 other women came up from behind – we were getting a real traffic jam.  Darris grabbed a big stick and started to swing – Orange Hat sat down on the road, back up back down and back up again.  He yelled a bit more – so did I – then he went off the road and stood behind a telephone pole – I think he though it made him invisible.  We got the traffic jam moving – Matt and I stayed watching him not wanting him to jump other runners, luckily come Mtn. Bikers came up on us – they had cell phones and called the park rangers.  They said they’d stay and warn other runners – so we took off.  My running was adrenaline pushed for the next 50 yards but then I had to slow to a shuffle and it took me a bit to regain any more than a jog.

By the time we got the 2 miles back to the aid station, the RD Blake Norwood already had a report that the Park officials had caught Orange Hat. It was a good thing – we had a few in our new band that were not going to go back out if he was still out there.

I was disappointed that Fred Dummar another runner in the 100 wasn’t with us; Fred is a Lt. Col with the Army’s Special Forces – I would have gladly hid behind him.

Walt finished just 7 min behind me.  He may have some dental issues.

The Park Service is getting the story from all involved, both they and the race officials did a tremendous job reacting to the issues.

Well I ended up with a PR of 22:39 for this course, with the stall out during the fisticuffs and the slow pick up I had afterward I’d say it cost me 10+ min.  Not a bad day after all, but it proves the rule that it’s always something.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Race Recap: The Elizabeth 8K by Dave Munger

(Originally posted on Mungerruns)

With just three weeks to go before the Big Sur Marathon (my first), I wanted to do one last tune-up race to make sure I'm still firing on all cylinders. Ideally it would have been a 10K, but those seem to be harder and harder to come by these days, so I settled on the Elizabeth 8K. It's a race with a long tradition in Charlotte, so it's quite popular, with over 500 registrants (compared to just 204 in the St. Leo 10K).

I've never run an 8K before, so I spent some time yesterday coming up with a strategy for the race: I wanted to run 6:50 per mile for the first three miles, then slow a bit on the uphill Mile 4, and pick it up for the final .97 miles in Mile 5. Overall I was hoping for a 35:00 time or better — under a 7-minute-mile pace.

Race registration was cheerful and efficient, with a new kind of race chip I'd never seen before — a flexible strip of plastic that you slide under your shoelaces. It seemed similar to the in-bib chips they had at the National Half Marathon, but you still had to place it on your shoe.

Thankfully, the lines at the porta-johns weren't long at all.

The race was started by a guy in an Elvis suit, who was really getting into the act, waving a big "E" flag and interacting with all the runners. He saw my knee brace and pulled up his pantleg to reveal that he had a similar injury. Then we were off. I was breathing hard, but the pace didn't feel too labored. There wasn't a lot of passing at the start, so I think most of us had placed ourselves about right (I was about 15 feet behind the starting line).

The first mile was a very slight uphill, a total of about 50 vertical feet. I completed it in 6:28, a little faster than planned. I tried to slow my pace a bit for Mile 2, which was mostly flat. Garmin recorded it as minus 20 vertical feet, but I swear there was a little uphill too. I finished the mile in 6:42, still a little faster than I'd planned. On the plus side, I had banked 50 seconds in my quest for a sub-7-minute pace.

I had planned to get a bit of a breather in Mile 3, which looked to be downhill from the elevation chart I found online:

But Garmin elevation charts are notoriously fussy, and this turned out to be no exception. The first part of Mile 3 was actually uphill; the downhills don't really start until after about 2.5 miles. I did finally get my breather, but it didn't last quite as long as I had hoped it would be. My Mile 3 split was 7:03, so I still had 47 seconds in the bank.

Mile 4, however, was true to the elevation chart: It was solidly uphill. My Garmin record tracked it as 66 vertical feet; it felt like a fair bit more than that. Somewhere during Mile 3, a guy about my age wearing a sun visor had passed me, and I was trying to keep him in my sights. But Visorman stayed steadily about 20 meters ahead of me, now matter how hard I tried to gain ground on him. I thought my hill training might help me reel him in during Mile 4, but it was no use. My Mile 4 split was 7:27, so I still had 20 seconds in the bank.

In fact, I might have had a bit more than that: Unlike most races I've been in, my Garmin was tracking this course a little short. So my mile split was recorded a little farther past each mile marker as I ran along. I think this might be because of the large number of sharp turns in the course; the GPS can sometimes clip corners.

I expected Mile 5 to be basically flat with a downhill finish. In fact, it started on a bit of an uphill. I probably should have pushed myself a little harder than I did here, because I was so close to the finish, but I was still tired from Mile 4. I also think my lack of experience with 8Ks didn't help: In every other common race distance, the race is just a bit longer than a round mileage: 5Ks are 3.1 miles, 10Ks are 6.2 miles, and half-marathons are 13.1 miles. 8Ks, by contrast, are 4.97 miles. So the last mile isn't even a mile long, whereas when you start Mile 6 of a 10K, you've actually still got 1.2 miles left. In an 8K, I now realize, you can start pushing the pace sooner.

This all meant I was surprised to see the finish line when it arrived. I had plenty of energy left for a full-out sprint to the finish, as I watched the clock tick upwards starting at 34:00 flat. There was no question I'd break 35 minutes; the only question was by how much.

I crossed the line at 34:20, ten seconds behind Visorman (who turned out to be a very nice guy named Kent Walker, and he was indeed in my age group). I ran the final .97 miles (or .93 according to my Garmin) at a 7:13 pace. I think if I'd been a bit more aggressive on that final mile I might have been able to do it in 6:50, putting me safely under 34 minutes. But all in all, I'm happy with the result. I was shooting for a sub-35-minute run at a sub-7-minute pace, and I did it in 34:20 and a 6:55 pace. Here's the obligatory post-race self-portrait:

The race results have been posted here. I finished 5th in my age group and 27th overall out of 506 finishers. Although the results aren't broken down by gender, it looks like I was 23rd out of 233 men, which puts me in the top 10 percent—I think that's the best I've ever done. My 6:55 pace was actually faster than my 6:56 5K PR pace (albeit on an easier course). So even though I faded a bit at the finish, this is a pretty good result, and gives me a lot of confidence going into Big Sur.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

2011 Knoxville Marathon Recap by Bobby Aswell

For years I’ve been eyeing the Knoxville Marathon so when the date fit my schedule this year, I jumped at the chance.  Being a Sunday marathon, it gave me the opportunity to get in a ‘warm-up’ on Saturday before heading off to the main event.  The inaugural Pawz Too Run 5K was being held in Davidson Saturday morning so Nicole and I made the short trip to get in a run.  We had a good time and Nicole finished in 34:55, 3rd in her age group and I finished in 18:31, 1st Overall.   

After the 5K and a quick stop at McDonald's for some carbo-loading, we headed home to wait for Ken Wong to arrive for the trip to Tennessee.  Ken arrived and we loaded my Jeep and hit the road.  About 4 hours later, we arrived at the Crowne Plaza hotel, checked in, and then walked to the expo to pick-up our packets.  After killing some time at the expo, we headed back to the hotel where we ordered a pizza, watched the first game of the NCAA Final Four, and then hit the sack for some much needed sleep.

Race morning arrived quickly so we downed some coffee, ate some breakfast, got dressed, and then headed out the door to the starting line near the Worlds Fair Park.  After a few last minute instructions and a rendition of the National Anthem, we were off.

Starting area new World's Fair Park
 Right from the gun you’re greeted with a hill!  The race then proceeds alongside the Tennessee River for about 5 miles before running through several city parks, nice neighborhoods, downtown Knoxville, and finally making its way to the University of Tennessee campus before the amazing finish on the 50 yard line of Neyland Stadium.

The first half of the course is very hilly with a couple of doozies at miles 8 and 11.  The second half is rolling but not nearly as bad as the first half.  The last mile is very scenic as you run by the Worlds Fair Park, through the University of Tennessee campus, and finally make your way to the football stadium where you enter onto the field and finish on the 50 yard line.  It’s an awesome finish and one of the most exciting I’ve ever seen! 

The post-race party is amazing!  It’s held inside the Thompson Boling Arena where the University of Tennessee plays basketball and is incredible!  Marathoners are treated to a special room loaded with all kinds of refreshments including pizza, bagels, cookies, muffins, pretzels, fruit, Gatorade, water, soda, and numerous other munchies. Wide-screen TVs hang from the ceiling so that you can watch other runners finish as you are relaxing.  In addition, to help relieve tired and sore muscles, massage therapists are on hand to work away the pain.    

As far as our times, Ken was shooting for sub 6 hours but fell a little short in 6:07:28.  The heat (upper 70’s), hills, and an extended pit-stop, took its toll.  My goal was to run steady and finish feeling strong which I did as the last mile was my fastest in 6:47.  I finished in 3:10:04 (including a pit-stop), 1st in age group.

Ken Wong post-marathon

Since we were in the neighborhood, after the race we made the short drive to Corbin, KY to visit my Dad before heading back to North Carolina Monday morning.  It capped off a great weekend filled with racing, running with friends, and visiting family.  As far as the Knoxville Marathon, it’s a great event that I would recommend to any runner, hills and all!

Bobby Aswell at Neyland Stadium