Monday, October 20, 2008

The Goat, Cheri, and saving the squirrels

Some runs are just runs and some runs are real life experiences. On Saturday, the Goat and I set out to do a 7 hour training run in preparation for the Stone Cat Ale 50 miler. I always enjoy these runs because you learn a lot about yourself and anyone who is willing to endure your company for that long. Saturday's run was no exception.

We started out at 8AM sharp with the daunting task to run until at least 3PM. Basically, we started out saying "Good Morning" and finished by saying "Have a nice evening". We also got to have Hammergel for breakfast and lunch! Yummy!

The first 10 miles were uneventful and we actually had a faster than planned pace going. We both felt good after taking some rest days during the week. We stopped at the cars to re-fuel and headed out toward Heublein Tower to get in some vertical. After a couple miles, we started to hit the vertical and Goat pulled up lame. At the same time, a female runner in a pink running skirt came up from behind us and asked where the trail went. Since Goat was having issues, we couldn't do much to help except point her in the direction of the Tower and say, "It's got some great views". Then, off she went.

We worked on stretching out Goat's left foot/ankle, but he was not a happy camper. I gave him 2 Ibuprofen, and we started walking up the trail to see if things would improve. At this point, we were only a bit over 2 hours into the run. A short ways up the trail, we ran into the pink-skirted Athena looking for directions again. So, we offered for her to join us. While trekking to the tower, we learned that Cheri is from NYC, ran her first 50 miler at Vermont this year, and is now a full fledged ultra-head. The more we talked, the more we enjoyed Cheri's company. The miles were clicking by, and all 3 of us ran the complete trail back up to the summit. The weather was absolutely perfect and the views were outstanding. We talked about the ultra that Goat and I are thinking about establishing in CT, and Cheri was psyched to hear about our plans. Goat's foot appeared to be fine now...I'm not sure if it was the Vitamin I or Cheri's company that did the trick, ;-).

We motored back toward the cars where Cheri would meet her ride, and wished she could join us for more. We were only halfway through our 7 hour run. We exchanged blogs and within a flash, she was gone. Just like that! It was a brief encounter, but we truly enjoyed meeting another ultrarunner on the trail.

After another couple hours, we were within sight of our goal. We just needed to do one more trek to the Tower, down the other side, and back. The same route we ran with Cheri a couple hours earlier. This time, however, we were running on fumes. At the tower, we elected to keep running down the other side rather than take in the view. We were on a mission! To keep ourselves in the game, we decided to run to the top again. This would be a tall task, but we decided the world depended on us. You see, we playfully rationalized that the people on the trail would be let down if they saw us walking. Everytime we run up the trail, hikers are amazed. If we walk, they lose hope...we figured. If they lose hope, the economy will completely fail. If the economy fails, all hell will break loose. Goat said, "People will be eating the squirrels just to stay alive." We like the squirrels...poor little, defenseless creatures... We decided that we needed to run the trail all the way to the top to "save the squirrels". Damn the torpedoes...full speed ahead!

Onward we ran, picking our way through the day hikers, and made it through the first climb. After hitting a flat section, I saw someone from work. He tried to flag me down, but I had to save the squirrels...We were on a mission! We ran all the way to the tower without walking. The squirrels will live to see another day thanks to the Goat and me!

We were 35 miles in and still able to crank out the vertical. Now, we just needed to coast on back to the cars. We timed it perfectly. After the pleasant trek back, we had bagged 38 miles in 7:05...not bad for a day's work.

I felt better than I did a week earlier. The Goat is running strong, and is ready for Stone Cat. He completed his longest training run ever today. We had a great time running with Cheri and hope to see her on the trail again sometime. The weather and views were great. ...And most importantly, we saved the squirrels... Now, if they would just stop burying nuts in my yard :-)

Have a wonderful running week!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Greater Hartford Marathon

What a day for the 15th running of the Greater Hartford Marathon! I think I've been present for 5 marathons, 2 half-marathons, and once as a volunteer/spectator, so almost half of them. The race has changed sponsorship hands from Aetna to UTC, and now to ING. Temps at the start were around 50 degrees and sunny.

I hadn't planned to run this year since my training had been very inconsistent (to say the least) after the Vermont 100, and I decided to train for the Stone Cat Ale 50 miler on November 8. Dawn signed up for the marathon, her first road marathon, and I wanted to be there for her. I knew she had a good shot at breaking 4 hours, and felt she had a reasonable shot at qualifying for Boston (sub 3:50). While I wanted to be there for her, I really did not feel mentally or physically ready to put out a full effort for the marathon. I ran 3:04 last year and then 3:00 in the Jacksonville marathon in December, so topping that would be a stretch. I have a hard time being a spectator though, so the half seemed like a good option. I figured it was a chance to get in some speedwork and would leave me enough energy for a long run with the Goat on Sunday. My goal was to run 6:40 pace which would give me a half marathon PR.

This event is always fun because it's a chance to see friends and fellow runners in the Hartford area. Dawn and I ran into Matt Estes after picking up our numbers on Friday. Matt and his wife Aimee were doing the full marathon. Matt had a PR last year with a sub 2:45, but hasn't been running much this year. Matt was predicting a possible sub-4:00 for Aimee. Cool!

At the start, we found Paul and Flo Dickie from our Reach the Beach Relay Team, and I gave a wave to Scott Turco across the mass of humanity separating us. It was so great to see some friends. I gave Dawn some words of encouragement, and off we went. Neither of us had slept much Friday night, so I didn't expect much for both of us. We had lined up fairly close to the front, but it still took awhile to pcik through folks in the first mile. After crossing the Founders bridge into East Hartford, I caught a glimpse of the Legend, Rich Fargo, who was running to qualify for Boston. I did a training run with Rich about a month ago, and he was definitely in sub 3:00 shape. We ran together for about 1 mile and he said that 3:10 was his mark. Of course, we were cranking at 6:40 pace at the time. He decided to back off the pace a bit, and we wished eachother well. I was running well for the first 8 miles, but knew that I was hurting. A young guy pulled up behind me and asked if he could run on my shoulder. Sure, no problem. He asked what my goal was and at that point I had no idea...I told him it was a training run and that blew his mind for some reason. He credited me with saving his race...I guess he liked my pace. I told him to relax. Eventually, he pulled away and seemed to be running strong.

I hung with the same group for most of the race, but a few of them past me with 3 miles or so to go. I kept missing mile markers and I think they reversed the 1 and 2 miles to go markers. It was very confusing. Anyway, with 1/4 mile to go, I found my finishing kick and passed a few more folks. I ran 1:25 with a 6:32 pace (53rd overall and 6th in my age group). I think I was within 1 minute of 3rd in my age group, so I was a little disappointed I didn't run harder or prepare for the race. Oh well! It was still a PR for me and I feel much better about my conditioning now.

I saw a bunch of folks at the finish of the 1/2 marathon. Cliff Lane from HS finished around 1:30. Nice run Cliff. Steve Worthington ran well. Paul Dicke finished around 1:40. Great job Paul! Flo took 2nd place in her age group and I think was sub 2 hours. Good job Flo! Paul Shook ran a 1:50. Nice work Paul!

I didn't get to see Matt Estes or Rich finish, but heard that they were both running well. Mark Buongiorno set a PR with a sub 3:13 finish and Scott Turco ran a strong race at around 3:17. After watching them finish, I ran back to the car and changed my clothes quickly. I got back to the finish area to watch the 3:35 pacer go by, and figured I had plenty of time to watch for Dawn. Then, before I knew it, there she was! Holy cow! Dawn finished in 3:39 in her first marathon! Wow! She even looked happy and fresh! Congrats Dawnie!

We were watching for Matt's wife, Aimee, to finish, and then I heard the famous name of "Stanislav Jankowski" announced as he crossed the finish line. "Stan the Man" is a member of our Reach the Beach team and is the guy laying down in the above photo. Well, Stan was almost laying down again after the race. I guess he was a bit dizzy and weak after a big effort to try to run sub 4 hours. Great effort Stan! You left it all out on the course!

After making sure Stan was OK, we walked over to get Dawn's bag and ran into Bill Lutkus, another climber turned runner. Bill ran his first marathon at this race last year, and looked ecstatic to have taken about 1 hour off his time from last year. He ran a sub 3:30 to qualify for Boston. Nice work Bill!

It was so great to see so many friends at the race. My climbing buddy, Quantum (Physics teacher), shouted out my climbing nickname (Pretty Boy) around the 5 mile mark. They say a persons name is the sweetest word(s) they will ever hear. I think that applies exponentially more when running a race at full bore. I didn't see him, but was so happy that he gave a shout out to me. We caught up after the race and chatted a bit.

I must admit that I was not super motivated to run this race, but was so glad that I made the effort. It was a beautiful day, and I was so happy to celebrate with friends. Everyone ran well, and I was so happy for everyone. Of course, I'm especially happy for Dawn. She rocks! What an amazing finish for her first marathon.

For marathons, the Hartford marathon is extremely well run. It's a great time to run in NewEngland, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good race. It's a relatively flat course, but there are a few hills in the finishing miles for both races.

All in all, it was a great day! Congratulations everybody!

Now, I just have to drag myself out there tomorrow for that 6 hour run with the Goat! Yikes!