Wednesday, December 17, 2014

JFK 50 Miler

JFK 50 Miler November 22, 2014  Boonsboro to Williamsport Maryland

This was my second time running this race, four years after my first time.  My training leading to the race was primarily marathon training.  I had run the Air Force Marathon in September and the Marine Corps Marathon at the end of October (as a training run).  I had one other similar distance training day 2 weeks before the JFK. I thought that I could probably finish the 50 miles in about 10 hours if things went well.  My main goal was to run comfortably and finish without hating that I had entered.

Me in blue, Ralph black over red, Erica & Misti in pink
I lined up for the start at about the middle of the nearly 1000 starters. I was next to my friend and long time training partner Ralph.  Ralph planned to run the early part with a friend Erica and another mutual friend Misti was with us there.  As we headed up the road from downtown Boonsboro toward South Mountain and the Appalachian Trail(AT) there was friendly chatter and teasing in our little group.  We ran almost all of this 3 mile steep uphill on pavement and then we joined the mostly single file conga line on the AT.  It felt like a bit too strong of an effort this soon, but staying together seemed good.

As the trail section continued and runners spread out we got separated and reconnected several times.  There was a lot of chatter as runners got acquainted and shared their 'race resumes' and experiences.  There were some foreign accents and languages mixed in which add to the fun while listening.  By 5 or 6 miles into the race I had decided keeping up with Ralph and Erica would cost me too much later.  As I fell off their pace it turned out that Misti and ran together off and on through the rest of the trail section. 
My fueling plan was to take gels about every hour, eat from the aid stations and drink to thirst.  I was pretty much on track with that throught the trail section.  My energy level was good but my legs gradually felt some muscular fatigue.  That probably was due to little training on trails and hills.
It seemed many runners were not so confident on trails and were being really careful picking their way over/under/through the rocks, roots, etc.  And they were going slower than I found comfortable, so I was often looking for opportunities to put on a little spurt to pass.  And some others were passing me, as well.
As I continued what mostly seemed a comfortable pace, my left ankle was getting sore with all of the extra flexing required on the rocks and roots.  With about a mile of the AT remaining, I rolled that ankle.  Surprisingly it didn't hurt much, but it did renew my visual focus on where to place my feet.  Soon the trail became crowded and clogged again as the AT followed a series of steep switchbacks that descend about 1000 feet.

Coming off the trail at Weverton I was looking for my son Matt who had my gear bag with various things I might need. A local acquaintance called out my name and the unexpected greeting brought a big smile to my face. I soon came to where Matt waited and went about changing from trail to road shoes. He was real good at helping and asking what I wanted/needed. I refilled my gel supply and drank down a small chocolate milk. I also changed to a lighter top long sleeve layer and from a beenie hat to an ear warmer headband. Then I was off and running again continuing the downhill to an aid station just before crossing railroad tracks to the C & O Canal towpath.


The race had started at 7 am with a temperature in the low 20s.  The forcast called for mostly sunny with a high in the 40s before giving way to cloud cover and temps in the lower 30s 10 to 12 hours after the start.

Fifteen and a half miles were completed, with 26 flat miles of towpath ahead, followed by 8 miles of rooling paved roads.  I got some food at the aid station and walked a bit to eat.  I was feeling full having dumped the chocolate milk on top of a gel taken coming down the switchbacks.  I had guessed I would come off the trail at about 3:15 to 3:30 on the race clock.  I was leaving this place right about 3:30.  I had opted to wear a regular chronograph watch rather than my GPS watch.  My thinking was to run by feel and not feel any pressure to run a certain pace that the GPS would tell me about.
About 20 minutes after getting onto the towpath, Misti passed me and we exchanged best wishes for a good day. Around the same time trains went by on the tracks next to the C & O.  One train each direction.  Certainly some runners behind me would have been forced to wait for the trains to pass.  I soon chatted with a guy who I would leapfrog with for most of the towpath.  I am pretty sure it was Kimball Byron the runner with the most JFK finishes in race history.

My plan for running the towpath was to run an easy pace between aid stations(AS) and grab food there to eat while walking.  Once the food was finished I would run to the next AS.  (The average distance between these was about 3 miles). legs were feeling more tired and sore than I wanted with so many miles to go, so I decided I would walk more and hope for some recovery.  As I moved along with the adjusted plan, I became aware that I still felt full.  I supposed that running too hard on the AT had probably caused my stomach to shut down.  So the overall slower pace would be important to give my gut a chance to get back in the game and deliver more calories to my running parts.

Constant forward motion would be my priority for the rest of the day.  For a while I got discouraged by the tough work required to keep moving and the long time ahead of me before I would finish.  My thoughts were "Seven or more hours of this is gonna be hard to take." At some point my thinking drifted to a lady from church who has had a long battle with stomach cancer.  So much of her life had been limited and taken away by the disease, yet she remained in good spirits and made the most of what she could do.  I resolved to have a good day and not to resent or fight the limitations on my race plan.  I would do what I could.

During this stretch I came up to a young runner walking uncomfortably.  My question of "how's it going" brought the answer "cramps".  I was carrying a good supply of salt capsules and offered him some.  He was glad to accept.  Within a half hour he had passed me.  He thanked me again in a very sincere way like it meant a lot to him.  That boosted my spirits.

I set my mind on getting from one AS to the next and seeing Matt again at mile 27.  My original plan outline estimated 2 hours between seeing him at these places.  But I was walking more and would be at least 30 minutes longer than that.  I hoped he wouldn't be too worried about me being ok.  There is no way to check on a runner's progress until they appear, so getting no information can be worrisome to support people - especially family.

The C & O follows the winding Potomac River and eventually a long sweeping bend revealed the 27 mile aid station was just ahead.  When I saw Matt I saw that he was getting ready to take a photo so I made sure to smile.  We talked about how things were going and my adjusted plan.  My stomach was not recovering and neither were my legs, so progress would not likely improve.  I had not managed to take more than one gel, so there was no need to refill anything.  We walked a while together and discussed when I might finish so he and my wife Rose could be there. 

This was also an AS run by the Chambersburg Road Runners, my local club.  My friend Jim was recording runner numbers there.  He told me I looked tired.  I told him he was right about that.  I was a little more than halfway done by miles, with toughest miles long behind me.  My best miles were also behind me.

Matt had filled me in on when my friends Ralph and Brenda had gone through.  Brenda was about an hour ahead, but had started 2 hours early.  I thought I might be able to make up another hour and finish with her.  Ralph was 20 or 30 minutes ahead.  Unless he slowed more than I would, it seemed doubtful I could catch him.  The three of had run together my previous time in this race so it would be fun if it would turn out we could finish together again this time.

I think this hope of maybe running with my longtime running pals gave me a boost.  And maybe the warm chicken soup from that AS helped too.  My overall pace picked up some over the next couple of hours.  I expected crew support again at mile 38 where running friends Rebecca and Thomas would have a gear bag for me.  Rebecca would be running with Brenda, so it seemed I probably would not see her.  Matt passed info on my progress and condition to them so they would know when to expect me.

During this section I came across another limping runner.  The problem he decribed seemed like IT band issues - something I have experienced myself.  I had some Bio-Freeze lotion packets in my race vest for exactly this reason.  I was able to give those to him and wish him well.  I also had a couple of tylenol tablets that I was intending to take soon since my legs and feet were hurting from all the miles.  I felt torn between keeping them for me and offering them to this guy.  I kept them and felt guilty about it.
Trying not to look annoyed
I spoke with several runners through the day.  Some I asked how their day was going.  I remember a lady who seemed a bit older than me who said she was aiming for a 12 hour finish after the early start.  She seemed happy with how the day was going.  Another younger runner passed me and we exchanged greetings as she passed.  She was running like something was hurting but was smiling a happy-to-be-there smile.  When I commented on that, she said she had decided that no matter what else she was going to smile all day.  There were two men who were working together.  One seemed in charge of pace and walk/run intervals.

My stomach never really came back.  I was only able to eat a little aid station food and mostly was getting my calories from liquids.  I picked some cookies or pretzels to nibble on as I moved on.  After eating a little I would put the rest in my food baggie which then went into my pocket.  My legs didn't recover completely either.  So I ran about 4 or 5 minutes and walked a minute or so before running a little again.

Eventually I approached the aid station at mile 38.  Maybe this was the AS with Santa Claus and cookies.  I took some soup here like I had whenever it was available.  And Thomas was there with my bag.  I wanted to put on an extra shirt and Thomas helped with that.  And like he does every time I see him, he shook my hand.  Another friend Monique was there.  (We are part of the same speedwork group.)  She had run with Brenda the last 11 miles and offered to run with me to the finish.  I told here I would be glad for that if she didn't mind me slowing her down.  Brenda had gone through 20 minutes ahead of me and Ralph was about 10 minutes ahead.

So on we went, Monique keeping my mind distracted by chatting away.  The same run/walk pattern continued with the switch from one to the other coming when I felt I needed to walk or could run some more.  As we came to the AS as the end of the canal towpath the volunteer gave us reflective vests.  Anyone coming to this point after 3 pm must wear a vest for the final road portion since we share the road with traffic.

And so we went onto the road.  After a marathon distance of flat towpath the course takes a severe uphill road away from the river.  It seemed we walked most of a mile before the road flattened out enough to make running an option again.  I think we were always within sight of other runners.  Some were finishing stronger and passed us.  Other we overtook and then passed.  Most every time we exchanged greetings and or encouragement.  "Good job"  "we're getting there"  "keep moving forward".  And spectators were spread along the way cheering and encouraging.
There are only 8 miles of road to the finish, but they seemed to go slower than any others that day.  Monique was good company and she let me determine what I could do.  During walk periods she kept others in the support group informed of the progress through text messages.  Aid stations were more frequent and we visited to take a look and I ususally a drink of soda.  Or chicken broth.  With 4 miles to the finish the AS was run by another local run group and a friend there declared " after you get over that hill it's all downhill."  I didn't think that was true, but Monique repeated since it helped her finish strong when she ran it herself.  Just after that we saw Thomas again and he asked if I needed anything.  I was glad he was there because I was getting cold and got to put on my windbreaker.

It was soon dark and the remaining miles eventually were covered.  I never caught up to Ralph or Brenda which make me happy that they didn't slow more than I did.  As we were nearing the final turn and walking another runner came by saying "be sure to sprint the last 100 feet. Everyone can sprint that much at the end".  A small part of me wanted to race him to the finish line and a large part of me didn't care.  Soon he took a walk break while we were running and passed him.  Finally we saw the finish line or at least the lights around the finish.  I figured the other guy would soon start his sprint and I picked up my pace over the last 100 yards or so.  That guy never came into my view but I did push to the finish.

My finish time was 10:53:48.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fall Marathons 2014

US Air Force Marathon - September 20, 2014

This is a race I have wanted to do for a few years because my son Matt served in the Air Force and is now in the Air National Guard.  I trained about 3 months for this race and hoped to get a solid BQ time.  I didn't target a PR since my training was not up to my previous top level due to a spring time injury.  I felt confident that 3:45 was within reach and would not require completely exhausting myself.  My schedule had another marathon in a 5 weeks and then a 50 mile race in 4 more weeks.

As the September 20 race date approached I took a 2 week taper to my training.  The race is in Dayton Ohio and I made the 6 hour drive in time to hit the expo for bib pickup.  Then I went on to attend the pasta dinner in the Air Force Aircraft Museum with the Boston Marathon race director as keynote speaker.  I slept better than usual in a hotel bed and was up early for the short drive to Wright Patterson Air Base for the race.

The temperature was mid 40s with a good breeze blowing.  I stayed in the car until about an hour before start time then walked a mile or so to the start area, visited one of the plentiful porta potties.  I found a generator to stand near for warmth while doing my pre-race stretching.  And then I joined the starting line crowd, positioned just behind the 3:45 pace group. Prior to the start the pace leader led the group in a little self identifying cheer: THREE FOUR FIVE!  THREE FOUR FIVE!  This did not inspire me. (smile)

The start was orderly and rather low key; within about a minute I crossed the start line, tracking a little behind and to the side of the pace group leader.  The start was shared by marathoners and 10K runners.  I was a bit puzzled by some runners less than 12 years old until I recognized the combined start.

Before the first mile marker the main hill of the course starts, lasting to about the 3 mile mark.  It is a rolling climb and we were on pace throughout.  The pace leader announced he would walk through every water table area to make sure we could stay hydrated.  I was carrying a throw away bottle so I just cruised through the first couple of those.  This put me a little in front of the pace group, but still within hearing of the leader's voice.  Something didn't click for me with him and I really didn't feel like being too close. 

After the hill topped out, I eased by my effort a bit but ran a little ahead of goal pace.  I decided to keep easing up until the pace group caught me, but somehow that didn't slow my pace enough.  I remember thinking at around 3 or 4 miles into the race that my legs were tighter and more sluggish than seemed good.  I hoped it would soon work itself out. 

My goal of 3:45 called for an 8:36 average pace. My watch was set to track me against an 8:32 pace to make up for the extra 0.1 or 0.2 mile I typically see in a marathon.  My first 6 mile splits were 8:27 8:42 7:57 8:13 8:26 8:32.  After 6 miles I was 79 seconds faster than goal pace.

The course was easy enough: basically flat after the early hill, aid stations at about 2 mile intervals with enthusiastic volunteers and various fun themes.  Around mile 8 the course went into the town of Fairborn for the main spectator area known as the Fairborn Fly Zone.  This was quite the happy place with bands and families, etc.
Fairborn Fly Zone

I followed my plan to take a gel every 45 minutes as I came to a water table where I stopped/walked to drink enough with the gel.  Since the temps were expected to approach 70 degrees, at half way I would take a salt capsule.  By that point I was warm and sweating, so I took both of my salt caps.  I still had not noticed the pace group I started with.  My remaining splits for miles 7 to 13 were  8:43 8:43  8:28  8:36  8:31  8:34  8:43.  I was about a minute ahead of goal pace at the half way mark as my pace had slowed about to planned pace, except for stopping to drink with the gels.

But I was feeling the need to conserve effort and began taking more time at the water tables and walking longer through the water stations.  I thought my breathing was getting heavier and my quads we complaining, threatening to cramp.  I calculated how much effect some slower paces would have on my finish time.  I thought I could hold on to 9 minute pace and be satisfied with something like a 3:50.  My slowing was reflected in the splits for miles 14 to 20 -  8:37 8:35 8:43 8:28 8:43 8:38 8:49.  It seems the 3:45 pace should have passed by this point but I didn't recognize them.

And it seems the wheels came off after I took my first walk break between water stations.  I tried several mental tricks to try to prevent and then stop the downward spiral.  It was too late.  I had misjudged what pace I could hold for 26.2 miles and then even pushed a little faster than that in the first fourth of the distance.  And it became time to pay the price.  I walked more and more, probably half of the last 3 or 4 miles.

I reprimanding myself for overconfidence and then giving in; spent time feeling sorry for myself; tried to think of something to pull me out of this trudging walk/run down time.  About 2 miles from the finish, I saw the 3:55 pace group go by.  It seemed their pace of 9:07 should have been attainable for me, but I couldn't do it.  It is really difficult to know where the limits of one's body and mind separate.  If I could summon the will to do it, could my body have done it?  I don't know.  The combined team of mind and body did not have what it took that day.  My final splits were: 9:20 10:41 11:32 11:45 10:55 11:40 1:52(9:22 pace)

The finish area is a really inspiring place.  I had checked it out before the start that morning.  It seemed to be an old runway that was lined with aircraft from cargo planes to fighters; current equipment to historic museum pieces.  The wings of some of the planes extended over the runners coming to the finish.  I managed to run the last quarter mile with no more walking.  After crossing the finish I received a finisher medal from an Air Force member in uniform.  Finish time 3:58:49.

Marine Corps Marathon - October 26, 2014

I signed up for this race in the spring because my son Matt suggested it after he registered during the military registration period.  I was looking forward to running this one together as we had 2 years ago.  We drove to the DC area race morning and parked in Pentagon City, then walked 20 some minutes to the runners village to wait for start time.  Matt's girlfriend Katherine came with us and planned to meet us in a few places on the course.

After final porta-potty visits we walked to the start area in time to catch the national anthem.  There was also a skydive team including the recent Medal of Honor recipient, jumping in with huge US flags unfurled.  Just before start time a pair of V-22 Ospreys flew over, once with props up and again with props forward.  We heard the announcer call out 'runners on your mark' and then the howitzer fired to signal the start.  Almost 8 minutes later we crossed the start line.

The crowded start carried on for miles

Matt had decided to start off with a 4:15 finish time in mind.  He was not sure if the 9:45 pace would work for him and was ready to adjust if needed.  The start was crowded and many people lined up far forward of the pace they would run.  We spent the first three or four miles getting up to pace and picking our way through people going slower than we planned. Because of the crowd we couldn't really stay side by side consistently or even move at the planned pace.

We met up with Katherine around the 10.5 mile area.  After a quick greeting we went on.  We were able to go through halfway on pace as planned, but gradually slowed through the second half.  The day got warmer and running continually required greater effort.  Our run pace slowed and we added walk breaks.  Taking energy gels and drinking at every water station didn't replenish everything we were using.

The spectators were fun and encouraging through most of the course.  There were some bands.  Many people were holding posters with funny or encouraging messages.  Some were for specific people, some for 'random stranger'.  And some people also handed out help in the form of candy, orange slices, pretzels, etc.

We missed seeing Katherine around mile 17.  It turned out that people had crowded in front of her, even out into the street and we just didn't see her.  We did see her about a half mile from the finish. 

Running a marathon changes you and it can be less than fun

Eventually our running was simply an effort to survive and finish.  No more thoughts of a goal time.  Finally we turned for the steep uphill to the finish.  This area was lined by young marines offering encouragement.  Some runners charged this hill, some walked/limped the best they could, and we kept our pace to run up the hill.  And in a couple of minutes we finished.  The time was 4:36:43.  After resting a while, we went on to receive our finisher medals, take finish photos, get recovery food and drink and meet Katherine again.



mile splits - intending to average 9:45 per mile, finished in 4:36:43 / 10:35 average
10:09 09:52 10:18 09:25 09:51 09:17 10:20 09:17 09:19 09:20 09:25 09:24 09:32
10:06 09:57 09:56 10:31 10:56 10:47 10:52 10:50 12:08 12:41 11:37 11:57 12:51 3:21 (final 0.2 mile)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Plans change

This weekend I was to run in a 24 hour race.  I will be a volunteer at the Sole Challenge 24 Hour Race rather than a participant. 

An injury that showed up about 2 months ago has brought a change of plans.  Easing my training did not resolve the problem - some lower leg overuse issues.  I have been going to physical therapy for 4 weeks and managing about 20 percent or less of intended or even normal mileage.  Just as PT was helping my leg, I twisted my back and that problem has been worse than the original complaint. My back now is pretty close to normal again and today I had a normal kind of run/workout for the first time in weeks.

If the recovery is not derailed, I will run a trail race as part of a relay team in mid June.  I am signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon in late October and expect to run it with Matt.  And I have registered for the JFK 50 Miler in November as a replacement for the 24 hour race and for something drive my training.

I am more familiar with changing plans by adding more to my schedule.  This time I had a lesson in patience.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Tuscarora Trails Ultra 50k March 22, 2014 (training run)

 Tuscarora Trails Ultra 50K

This run is approximately a 50K, and is run on well marked trails and forest service roads.

I drove to the start with local runners Katie and Daryl, arriving about an hour before the 8 am start.  We checked in, dropped off our contributions for aid stations, visited bathrooms, and sat in the car because it was cold out.  At check-in I reluctantly picked up a turn sheet with the trail and road details for the course.  All ultras I have been in had things marked extremely well so I didn't think we would need it.  But since it was there for us, I took one and folded it up to fit in a vest pocket.  With something like 30 individual instructions I didn't expect to try following it turn by turn.

After some instructions from the race director, the group of about 50 runners was off.  We 3 ran together in about the middle of the pack.  The course started slightly downhill on a single track trail.  Almost immediately there was a bottleneck as the rocky trail forced a slower pace.  It certainly seemed like turning an ankle should be expected.

We wound our way through the forest with some wet and muddy spots between longer rocky sections.  Eventually there were some small stream crossings and almost everyone slowed to pick their way across the few rocks that allowed crossing with dry feet.  I really wanted to just go around and charge through the water in these spots like a "real trail runner" would do.  And sometimes I did, only to feel bad passing and stepping aside to keep our little group of three intact.  Somewhere around the 2 mile mark we lost the trail.  The person at the front of the mid pack crowd missed it and the rest of us followed.  In a few minutes someone following us came along and found the turn we had missed and we were back on track. We were nearly 3 miles into the run when we came out onto a road to the 1st aid station.  I think I took a couple of cookies, but didn't need any water for my bottle.  I had only just gotten warm enough, after feeling too chilly when we started.

Our little group most often traveled with me leading, followed by Katie and then Daryl.  Now and then we would pass someone or be passed, meaning our three in a row arrangement was briefly spaced by someone we didn't know.  After the aid station the course had turned uphill and somehow it seemed most of the rest of the day we went uphill more than level or downhill.  There were lots of places with briars and other jaggy/thorny plants.
Scratches from the thorns and one of those thorns that stuck.

We had all agreed that we were not racing, that our goal was to finish.  Katie described finishing a 50k as a bucket list item for her.  Daryl and I were using this as part of our training for the Sole Challenge 24 Hour race in two months.

It seemed we were part of a larger pack of a dozen or so for at least an hour, much longer than I am used to in larger races.  The first big climb was on a steep rocky fire road.  People gradually spread out during this challenging stretch.  Our group changed too.  Katie moved ahead, power hiking more steadily.  Daryl and I fell behind a bit as she outpaced us.  When we finally reached the top Katie waited and our group of 3 reformed.

The day went on more or less the same way for several hours.  We would run together on the downhill and flatter sections and hike the uphills.  When climbing on roads, Katie normally hiked in the lead.  Now and then we'd stop and regroup.  We'd take our time at aid stations, being sure to get what we needed.  On some of the mountain tops we'd stop for me to take pictures.  We didn't plan it, but we looked like the blue team.

The day had started out cloudy and cold.  It warmed up and I suppose by noon was mostly sunny.  I think the north side of the mountains were always windy and colder.  Before we finished the daytime warmup was done and temperatures held steady or dropped a little at the end of the run.

One road was used early in the race and again after halfway.  The arrows marking the turn for the first pass were still on the road on our second pass.  We followed those arrows and got off course for a half mile or so.  We turned around, retracing our steps until we got back on track.

Somewhere after about the 20 mile mark, Daryl fell behind a little more. Katie and I continued without waiting since he had said to go ahead if we could.  Not much changed during this time. Lots of uphill. Walking when we needed to, running when we could.  It seemed to me that we walked more than Katie needed to because I needed to take the uphills easier.  Trail sections were tougher and slower.  I was generally sore from the hips down, especially my left ankle.  Katie had trouble with hip flexors that were quitting on her.  We stopped when she needed to stretch.

In spite of the difficulties our attitude was holding up ok.  I don't think Katie did any complaining and her good attitude was good for me.

The turn sheet I had picked up before the start was being pulled out more often by this point.  It was partly to make sure we were going the right way and partly to try to determine how far we still had to go.  I had forgotten my GPS watch and hers had stopped due to low battery.  At the last aid station we were told we had 7 more miles.  We were thinking it would be only 5, so that was a disappointment.

We had one stretch of forest road that was mostly snow/ice covered and uphill for a mile or so.  On Bear Pond Trail we had to pick our way through rocks and downed trees.  There was one place where the trail blazes indicated a turn but the main trail seemed to go straight.  We spent a good amount of time making sure we were following the correct route.  There were some snowy spots later along this trail that showed enough footprints to confirm our route.

The last stretch of road seemed like about 4 miles of rolling but mostly uphill gravel.  We continued with our run/walk mix.  The race director had said there would be prizes for the best wildlife photos.  We had seen no wildlife except some birds.  Along this road Katie stopped and announced she found something for a wildlife picture.  It was a wooly caterpillar on the road.  It was curled up but alive.  We stopped and got a picture of it.  And since pictures of wildlife chasing runners was to be especially prize-worthy, we posed a shot of Katie escaping from the wooly bully.

We checked our progress against the turn sheet description of the landmarks on Hemlock Road.  An old growth hemlock grove, Big Round Top Trail, scenic overlook.  Then we were to follow a trail to the abandoned Path Railroad tunnel.  When coming down to the road after this trail section, we saw Daryl on the road.  This allowed us to finish the race together.  We turned off the road and followed one more single track trail to finish where we started.  It was 7 hours 53 minutes since we started.  We added our names, distance and time to the race results.

I was a long and fun day for me.  I got to know two local runners better while spending the day outside.  But it was a lot more of a challenge than I had expected. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Running in 2014 - a First Race

My son Matt suggested we sign up for the Two Rivers Half Marathon in Lackawaxen, PA on March 15th.  And we did. 

I think Matt signed up to motivate himself to train more regularly.  I have been sort of adrift with training, not following any plan, just trying build base mileage.  I have one goal race in view, the Sole Challenge 24 Hour Race in late May.  Without a specific distance to prepare for it has been too easy to take a day off.  Matt got sick in the days leading to race day and missed a least a week of training runs.  He started feeling better about 2 days from race date.

We made the 3 hour drive Friday evening for the Saturday race.  On race morning we went to the finish area to catch a shuttle to the start early enough for packet pickup.  After some confusion at packet pickup, we walked to the start area.  It was partly cloudy with temperatures in the low 30s, expected to reach into the mid 40s.  Our plan was to run together at whatever pace was comfortable for Matt.  No racing today.

The race has a downhill start and soon we were moving along a little faster than 9:30 pace.  Matt thought 10 minute pace was good for the early miles and we gradually adjusted to that.  The course is completely in a rural, wooded setting.  If we had not been toward the back of mid-pack, seeing wildlife would not have been surprising.

We just ran easily, observing those around us and chatting some.  We saw runners take the last cup or two of water from the first water table as we approached.  Tables were to be at 2 mile intervals so we figured we'd be OK till the next one.  The second one also was without water.

We found ourselves running with a Marathon Maniac who was the most talkative person I have met.  As we came to the 3rd water table it seemed we would finally have some water.  Stopping to take a gel and get enough water meant we lost our chatty companion.  For the most part our place in the pack was changing very little by this point.  We got water again at the fourth table.

There was minimal vehicle traffic for most of the course.  We encountered some hills in the 8 to 10 mile area and we ran up them while some walked.  We saw some skiers/snowboarders finishing a run that came quite near the road but high on the hillside above us.  As we passed we could see the ski lift taking them uphill. 

Matt was thinking he'd consider speeding up after 10 miles and somewhere after mile 9 that's what he did.  Before then my watch showed a 10 minute per mile average.  Our pace picked up to the lower 9 minute range.  And we passed several other runners. 

We soon came to a turn and a bridge that we had driven by on the way to catch the shuttle.  We made a turn or two, got a glimpse of the finish area and started one final out and back that would bring us back the finish.  And before we expected it we were at the turnaround.  As we continued at about 9 minute pace our watches showed we should have more than a mile to go.  We approached the finish line hesitantly and even stopped because our watches had not even reached 12 miles.  The volunteers said to come on through and confirmed that everyone else was saying the course was short.  Our finish time was about 1:57.  My watch showed 11.8 miles.

We received our finisher medals and walked through the post race area, unsure about our results.