Time Is Relative

I work with real-time operating systems for a living. So time is a very serious thing to me and there are even classic arguments which we still talk about such as the “It depends on what you consider time.” rant. So now the rest of the story on the official San Antonio marathon times. It turns out my official chip time for the San Antonio Marathon was 4:00:09. Chip time is measured by runners having an RFID chip on their shoe which is read by timing mats which the runners run over on the course including one at the starting line and one at the finish. My chip time also included 3:48 standing and waiting for the train. As I said in my last post, I didn’t think there was any way that they could adjust the times. How could they? How would they figure out who had to wait an how long?

Turns out they were gonna try. After the race they put up a website where you could go and enter what you thought your time should have been. Now, I knew what my time was since I stopped my watch when I stopped running, but I think most runners were so caught off guard that they didn’t. But I mean come on, how can they adjust the times for people who request it? Then you have some adjusted times and some not; that doesn’t seem fair. My thought was that was my chip time. OK, put an asterisk by it and note a train delay, but chip time is chip time. I understand that some people were trying to qualify for other events. But they could appeal to that event and provide evidence. Adjusting times doesn’t seem right to me and seems like a slippery slope. Now, I’m not really that serious about things so don’t start thinking this is a hot button issue for me, but I didn’t submit a time correction request for my time. I knew what it was and that is what mattered. So boy was I surprised when I got the following email:

Dear Affected Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Participants:

Our research indicates you were most likely delayed by the Union Pacific train on race day.

After painstaking review of all timing data gathered from 2010 Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio, we have adjusted your results to account for the amount of time you appeared to have been held up by the train.  Your new results have been posted the Results Page on our website.

While most of you filed a formal Results Correction Request, a great number of you did not, therefore we have taken the liberty of adjusting the results of those individuals as well.  Thank you to everyone who took the time to file a request – your data was invaluable to making the appropriate corrections based on all factors involved.

For the record, we know your exact starting time (to the second) and that the stop gates at the railroad crossing (at .8 miles into the race) were lowered at 7:24:54am and raised at 7:29:37am.  To determine your adjusted time, we analyzed your pace for the first 5K (the affected portion) and the second 5K, and assumed that unimpeded you would have run even pace for the first 10K.  We then made the necessary adjustment to the first 5K.  By clicking here, you can see both your original and adjusted finish times.  There are always exceptions to every rule, so if you believe further adjustments are still necessary for you, please file a Results Correction Request.  When the results are deemed Final and Official, they will be sent to all of our licensees (Action Sports International (ASI) Photography, Fond Memories Graphics, and PR Engraving) and if you either had your finisher medal engraved or purchased a commemorative plaque, replacements will be sent to you free of charge.

In the meantime, on behalf of Union Pacific Railroad, Competitor Group, the City of San Antonio, and everyone involved with Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio; thank you for your patience as we sorted through all the data.  Please, feel free to use the online coupon code TRAIN before 12/31/10 to receive a $10 discount on the 2011 Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Marathon & 1/2 Marathon.  Please, also accept our sincerest apologies for any inconvenience and distress the interruption of your race caused you.

Happy Running and have a great Holiday Season!

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Marathon & 1/2 Marathon
benefiting Susan G. Komen for the Cure®
San Antonio, TX
November 13, 2011
rnrsa@competitorgroup.com
http://san-antonio.competitor.com
800.311.1255

I had stopped my watch at 3:56:10, which if anything was 5-10 seconds long from me not stopping my watch right when I crossed the line. They had my officially adjusted time at 3:56:27. I’ll still stick with my watch time. :-)

San Antonio Marathon: Part 2

OK, so now to finally finish up the story. We didn’t get too far in part 1 due to the train in the first mile but that is where we pick up.

So less than a mile in, got stopped by a train, waited 4 minutes, train gone, started running again. Now the dilemma was whether or not to try to make up the time. OK, that was easy, no. Being less than a mile in it was tempting, but 4 minutes is a lot of time and we had a lot of miles to cover. There was lots of talk on the course of what they would do with the times and if they would adjust them. But come on. You can’t change official times, it just isn’t right. About then we saw the 3:45 pace group go by. Gerardo and I had planned on keeping the 3:45 pace group in sight for the first half, but they were bookin’ it. We sped up enough to ask them if they were going to make up the time and they said they were. From their pace they were gonna do it in the next six miles or so. So we did the smart thing and let them go.

The front half of the course weaved around downtown San Antonio and the crowd was good. I admit that I like “working” the crowd. Gerardo got a lot of Aggies’ to respond to his “Gigg’em” calls since they were still feeling pretty good from winning their football game the night before. I got a couple of “nice facial hair” shout-outs. At about mile 6, someone was handing out glasses of Guinness. Yes, beer, real beer. We had a train delay already, so why not. I mean if you are crazy enough to run a marathon, why not go all in. Well, there are a lot of reasons to not, like another 20 miles to run, but like I’ve said before, I’m not one to pass up a beer challenge. So I cut across the road and grabbed one. It was about 6 oz. total and I figured I’d take one swig and toss the rest. I took a gulp while still running and as I lowered the cup I watched it foam up. All I could think was that is what it is going to do in my stomach for the next few miles. I was just about to toss the cup when I realized, “Wow that tasted good. Really good!”, so I finished it off before tossing the cup. Yes, I know it was stupid, but don’t worry it didn’t affect me and I was still focused on the race. In fact, about a mile later the gal running a stride length in front of me was adjusting her watch and dropped it.  With cat like reflexes I bent down and snagged it like a baseball pitcher snagging a one hop grounder off the pitching rubber. By the time she turned her head I handed her the watch. Things were going well.

The girls were cheering for us at mile 8. I had started out with my race bib (number) folded up and pinned to my running belt so that I could ditch my shirt with the girls. I also ditched my hat and Jenny gave me a bottle for my belt with Gatorade. They had Cytomax on the course, which is awful, so I decided to wear my running belt with one 8 ounce bottle of Gatorade and then Jenny gave me the second one. The ‘transition’ with the girls went smooth and it was off to the barren back half of the course.

Oh, did I mention that I had to pee? Yeah, you may not have thought about it if you haven’t run a marathon before, but not only is a marathon a long distance but it takes a long time so you have to try to figure out the logistics food and water consumption and restrooms. Side-note: I stay away from energy gels with caffeine due to it seeming to do a little too much to wake up my lower digestive system if you know what I mean. Anyway, for breakfast I just had a banana and some Gatorade and figured I’d be good, but after a couple more miles I knew I was gonna have to stop. Some banks of port-a-potties were right on the course and others were way off the course so I split from Gerardo and went out a little faster so that when I stopped, I wouldn’t have as much time to make up to catch up to him. I figure I sped up about 15 seconds per mile for one mile and then I found a nice open port-a-pottie on the course. I did my business and was back out on the course in a flash. I could still see Gerardo who was now 15-30 seconds in front of me. I reeled him in over the next two miles. It was kind of fun to have a little ‘race’ within the race as a distraction.

I caught back up to Gerardo before we did a loop on the south end of the course and headed back up north towards the finish. There were about 5 miles there which were pretty uneventful. Then at about mile 17 the course looped back on itself and we were doubling back. That meant the gentle downhill which we didn’t notice on the way down was over and it was a gradual incline for the last nine miles. We noticed it this time and on the way back and things get a little foggy here. I remember a couple of things clearly. One is that I was starving. Should have had more than a banana for breakfast (and more for supper the night before), but not much I could do about it now other than use my Gu energy gels. Being starving at mile 17 didn’t seem like a good indication. Next, there were a couple of more distinct uphills. The plan was to keep pace. We did, but it hurt. We were still on a pretty good pace so overall I wasn’t worried. We were close enough that we would end up with a decent time for us, but I knew my body well enough that it was going to be a battle.

And a battle it was. We pushed through and our pace fell off, but it didn’t fall off a cliff. We were getting closer to the finish and downtown so there were more spectators, but that wasn’t much of a lift. I haven’t ever run a race with someone before so that was also something new. Our plan was to play it by ear at the end regarding staying together or splitting up. I could tell that Gerardo was hurting – I think he thought I was doing better than him, but that was just talk trying to stay positive and I was right there too. At mile 22, I fell off the cliff. My pace fell from 9:22 to 9:45. I don’t know if Gerardo noticed that or not but I had it in my head that when I couldn’t hold 9:30 pace I was in trouble. Gerardo didn’t seem to mind my drop in pace and he was right there with me. There was a short awkward time when we both were ready to walk/run it in , but didn’t know want to slow the other one down. Gerardo spoke up first saying, “Go on ahead if you want, but I…”, but before he finished, I was already pulling up to walk. That gradual uphill and the hungry lack of energy was killer. Maybe it was mental but it didn’t matter at that point. I’m not sure Gerardo had planned for this but after my Omaha marathon I was ready with plan B which was walk about 1 minute per mile and then trying to hold a pace. We held it together but it wasn’t pretty. With about 2 miles or so left Gerardo and I were in our own worlds. I was looking for longer intervals and he was wanting more off and on. We were close enough to the finish that I knew Gerardo would be able to easily make it under his ultimate 4 hour goal and it looked like I might be able to pull it in under 3:55 so I went up ahead. Turns out there were a few steeper uphills right at the end and I wasn’t pulling it in. But there was the sense of relief that it was going to turn out to be a decent time for me mixed with the disbelief of how long the last .2 miles can seem.

I crossed the finish line at a clock time of 4:03:11. I stopped my watch at 3:56:10, which was my actual finish time since it didn’t include the time I waited for my corral to be released at the start and the time we waited for the train. If you are a running geek and want to check out the details from my GPS watch you can here. Gerardo was only about 15 seconds behind me so it wasn’t hard to find him. Next, it was time to grab some oranges, water, bagels, and anything I could get my hands on. Remember, I was starving. Then we had to walk down 500 steps and then back up 500 steps to get to the trucks with our bags we dropped off at the start. Then back the same way to meet up with our families. This not being my first ‘rodeo’, OK so it was just my second full, I had planned ahead. I didn’t want to put my cellphone in my gear drop bag in case it got lost so instead I put a two-way radio in my bag so that I could find out where the girls were waiting. Jenny and the girls were happy to see me and had an ice cold Coke waiting for me. I love an ice cold Coke after a marathon. We took a few pictures with our new hardware.

Then we were off for a cool down walk back to the hotel which was about 1.5 miles. Gerardo and I both ended up with little girls riding on our shoulders most of the way which I thought was pretty funny for having just ran 26.2 miles. But you got to give the race fans what they want right?

San Antonio Marathon: Part 1 – Rock ‘n Roll or Railroad?

So you made it through my last marathon post (pun intended) and you came back for more? <edit>I promise the story from San Antonio won’t be that long?</edit> Where to start. It all started one night out with some guys for a beer. They were both going to be having babies and were looking for an excuse to keep them in shape. Jenny and I weren’t expecting (yet), but I’m not one to back down from a challenge so I said I was in. We were to run the San Antonio Rock & Roll Marathon, November 14, 2010. We had plenty of time to train and at one point I even thought I would try to run it barefoot. Wow, that was crazy. But I’ll post on barefoot running some other time. Work hours got long and I finally decided I just needed to get my mileage up so I ditched that I idea and laced the shoes back up. Training went pretty well for me, but my buddy Trim, ended up pulling a muscle and re-targeted to running the Austin Marathon in February. The best thing about training was getting convinced to go all the way downtown at Lady Bird Lake. The nice thing about running downtown is jumping into Barton Springs Pool after a long run. The only set back to my training was a pretty bad ‘black toenail’. I had already gotten a half size bigger shoe but I think I was also leaving my shoes too loose and on runs over 16 miles my big toe would rub on top of the shoe enough to cause a problem. I got one of my planned 20 mile runs in before it finally got bad enough that I had to do something. Instead of doing the farmer thing and heating up a paperclip, I went into to the health clinic at work (yeah, we’ve got our own primary care clinic at work) and had it looked at. I admit that even I had doubts when the doctor said he was going to drill a few holes in my toenail using a 16 gauge needle. OK, OK, that is probably enough detail on that topic, but it didn’t hurt and it felt much better afterwards. It forced me to take a week off from running, but I was still able to workout on an elliptical. The last week before the race I was able to run and everything felt pretty good. I was ready. Well almost. The final step was shaving my beard into… friendly mutton chops. (There are no pre-race pictures so you’ll have to wait for the post-race pics.)

Race weekend rolled around and I was surprisingly calm. We got checked into the Embassy Suites on the Riverwalk where the girls were just half a block off the course at mile 8. The morning of the race I felt good and had a banana before heading out to the starting line with Gerardo. They had set up “corrals” to start the field in waves and we were in #5. That seemed a little close to the front but I wasn’t going to complain. We were planning on going out at 3:45 finish time pace (8:35 per mile), and in my mind, likely falling back to 3:50 finishing time pace. The race started and within a couple of minutes it was time to start.

Mile 1 – Haulin’: We crossed the starting line and most of the corral took off haulin’ it. We joked that we’d be passing them later when they gassed and we tried to settle into our pace. At about .75 miles, we turned a corner and noticed people the people up ahead of once were taking off sprinting. I also remember hearing a train horn. It took me a bit to put two and two together, but it wasn’t hard when I finally noticed the freight train barreling down the railroad tracks. Not tracks along side the course; tracks we were about to cross. A lot of runners ran past the lone race official posted there waving an orange flag and ducked the cross-arms to get by ahead of the train. I don’t think Gerardo and I actually said anything to each other but we got to the tracks just as the train was about to the crossing and we both knew better and we pulled up. We were actually in the first row of people who stopped. Pretty quickly I stopped my watch so that I would still end up with an accurate time. Now what. Was the train stopping? It seemed like it. The crowd of runners grew and spread off the street along the side of the tracks. I admit to feeling more than a little unsafe turning around and seeing the huge crowd of runners gathered hoping that the ones in the back didn’t decide to push forward since at that point we were about ten feet away from speeding freight train. But after just under 4 minutes the train cleared and the race was on. It worked out pretty good for us since were in the front and didn’t get tangled up in the crowed. Here’s the new report:

Stay tuned for the rest of the story…

The Epic Marathon

When I sat down to write about the marathon this past weekend I didn’t know where to start. A big reason for that is that I never got around to writing about my previous marathon. A big reason for that was all the other things going on at that time.

It all started with the idea to run a marathon. I started training in October 2008 and planned on running the Austin Marathon in Feb. 2009. Man just typing those years makes me realize how long it’s been. I ended up getting the flu in January right when my training was supposed to peak, so I made the decision to switch to the Lincoln Marathon in May. About then I got an opportunity to take on a project at work which was releasing right at that time which meant that it was going to be hard to get away but I had been training for so long I would make it work. That was until it sold out without me in it. That actually worked out OK because of everything going on at work and I registered for the Omaha marathon Sept. 27, 2009. After training for nearly a year, a confirmed registration, and a hotel reservation; what could go wrong?

We packed up the van to head to NE for a two week vacation to visit family and run the marathon. Running the marathon would be the perfect excuse to get me out of any manual labor right? We left after breakfast and the drive went really well. So well in fact that we decided to push through and drive it straight through. We pulled into my parents drive-way about 1 AM. When we walked into the house I knew I was in trouble. They were still up. My parents that is. Both of them were waiting up. I had learned from prior experience that is never a good thing.

They broke the news. My dad has cancer. Colon cancer. And it wasn’t caught early. Wow, OK, who’s ready for vacation? We learned over the next week that things were going to be rough. My dad was going to have to have surgery to have part of his colon removed and from there they would start to figure out how far the cancer had spread and what the treatment would be. Remember that this was September, and in Nebraska that means harvest time. All of the crops were still in the field. After the crops were harvested, fence was going to need to be made to run the cows on the cornstalks. Everyone was offering to help and they did. But pretty early on, Jenny and I had the talk. Our kids were young enough to not be in school. Jenny was a stay at home mom so she could do her job there. And I had a job where I was pretty sure I could get extra time off. Having gone through the management training I knew I could get 12 weeks of unpaid time through FMLA, but I was fortunate enough that with our annual release cycle it wasn’t crunch time. And I was in good enough shape to do the physical work, after all I had been training really hard. After talking it through we decided that we would stay up in NE for a while to help out while my Dad was in the hospital. Originally the plan was 6 weeks I think, but that turned into more like 8 in the end. At first, I don’t think anyone believed that we were really going to stay. But there wasn’t much time to worry about that since my Dad’s surgery was scheduled for 2 weeks out. Two weeks to get caught up on everything on the farm.

Step one: Buy farmer gear. Yeah, I had packed for a vacation with a rock solid excuse to get me out of farm work so I didn’t have any work clothes. Including boots. So Jenny and I went into town and bought the best pair of boots they had… at Walmart. Yeah, these things had “I’m gonna give you the worst blisters you’ve ever seen,” written all over them. And they did. Good news was, that I hadn’t forgotten how to work on the farm. (Others can disagree but remember that this is my blog and I censor as I choose.) I’ll leave most of the better farm stories for other posts since this is supposed to be about the marathon right. So Wednesday before the marathon I had a day all to myself out at the pasture. No not relaxing fishing in the pond, but rather cutting downed trees and cedar trees out of the fence line and then fixing the fence so we’d have somewhere to put the cows since the corn was still in the field. I still remember how hard it was to pull the fence wire out of the tall grass in the bottom of the creek by the road. Let’s just say that I probably worked a little harder than I did when I was growing up on the farm. But at least there was a place for the cattle now, since the grass that they were on was getting pretty short. Now here’s where there may be some dispute over how things went down (but it’s my blog remember). After getting the fence fixed, I thought we should just run the cattle down the road from the other pasture. Quick, easy, done. My father thought it would be better to haul them on the trailer and wanted to wait until the next week, the week before his surgery. Needless to say, he was right. Not because his idea was better but it’s his farm (touche). But eventually he did come around to my way of thinking and my idea. Yeah, on Saturday morning, as we were loading up for the marathon weekend in Omaha. Long story short, we got the cattle moved and I didn’t sprain my ankle running around the pasture trying to get the second half of the cows out the gate to the road. I’m not sure but I think we headed to Omaha straight from the pasture.

Finally, time for the race. We stayed in the Embassy Suites which was right on the course so the girls would have an easy time seeing me since the course went by there twice. After two weeks of farming and not being able to run I was ready to finally do it. I had debated what pace to run. Being my first marathon I didn’t really know what to expect. I’m not really a pack runner but I finally decided to run with the 3:45 pace group. I stood alongside of the starting field waiting for the pace group leader to come grab his sign. Waiting. Waiting. No show. OK, plan B. The race was starting. Wait what was plan B? Yeah, I didn’t have one. So I just ran. And it felt good. With everything going on, it felt good to just go run. That is why I run, and because it is cheaper than therapy. I knew that my 8:15 per mile pace wasn’t going to last but I didn’t care and I held it for the first 10 miles. Then came the hills as the course looped around the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo and Rosenblatt Stadium. Wow them are some hills. Two killer ones in particular. But I like hills so I attacked them and passed guys like they were old ladies. OK so some of them were old ladies. Then the course flattened out and went back past the girls waiting for me at mile 13. Halfway there and still feeling strong. Oh, and those blisters, luckily my new boots rubbed on spots which didn’t rub running so they weren’t a problem. On to the back half of the course. Time to settle down and back off the pace so I can make it to the end. But hey, it’s flat right so it should be no problem. At mile 16, the old ladies from the hills started passing me back up. I knew I was in trouble. Over the next mile I ran the numbers. I was still a long way out. Before the race I didn’t know what to expect of my time, but I thought a 3:45 would be good and anything over 4 hours would be a disaster. By mile 17, I had plan B. Prevent disaster. Now my only goal was to finish in under 4 hours. No 3:50 or 3:55. I knew I was past that. So I started to run walk. I’d walk through the water stop each mile for a minute and then try to hold a pace for the rest of the mile. At first it was 9:00 pace. I was a long way out and it seemed to take forever. I wasn’t the only one taking walking breaks at this point. One might think that running a marathon is mind over matter, but at some point you push your body to breaking point. I was close to that and trying not to push too far before making it to the finish. At mile 23 a woman had collapsed and was getting medical treatment. Good thing Jenny wasn’t watching. At mile 24 I found the edge. My hamstring cramped and just seized up stopping me in my tracks forcing me to walk. A well intending spectator was cheering, “Come on buddy! You can do it. Keep going. Don’t walk”. I didn’t say anything but was pretty sure I needed to listen to my hamstring for a minute. It did loosen up and I kept going. The last 2.2 miles were brutal with the course going up a big hill up to a bridge across the river. The good news was that my plan was working and I was on track to break 4 hours. The last mile I thought, “I’m gonna run it in”. That didn’t last too long before it was, “How about I save it so that I’m running in front of the girls waiting at the finish.” The plan worked and I finish with an official chip time of 3:57:25.

A special thanks to cousin Holly for being my personal attendant who babysat me on my walk back to the hotel and somehow managed to scrounge up some chocolate milk at the hotel for me. The rest of the day included walking down in the Old Market for lunch and then a long nap, and Mass (and another long nap). Followed the next day by walking all over the Omaha Zoo. (Note that was the hilly portion of the race.) All the walking was good for me, though, I think. Monday we checked out of the hotel and headed for home, and reality. And it was waiting. My dad and brother-in-law were hauling corn. At the bottom of the bin there was a “sweep” auger which rotates around and is supposed to clean out the bin. Well, that was broken. So I got thrown into the bin and had to scoop corn by hand. Thoughts came to mind of my dad complaining about us having to leave the field picking up hay bales by hand to go lift weights for football.

But that was the start of our epic vacation in Nebraska last year. More stories to come.

Baring It All

blisterIn case you thought I was kidding about the whole running barefoot thing I submit this photo for your inspection (click to enlarge). This is after a two mile run today. What you are looking at is a callus on top of a blister, on top of a blister. The top blister may be a blood blister but I’m not really interested in finding out. As long as it stays intact, I’m going to leave it alone. From what I’ve read, blisters are not unexpected and are a sign that you aren’t doing it right. The solution? Do it right. Now if only I knew how to do that, but the whole point in going completely barefoot is to let my body tell me. Needless to say, I’m ready to listen.

Update: Don’t worry the blister is much better. And yeah, it was a blood blister apparently.

TIR: Aftermath

The following is an actual email exchange. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

From: John Doe
To: Fixx Line
cc: Jane Doe
Subject: 15 Pass Van odor !

Thanks !

John Doe
Facilities Manager

From: Jane Doe
To: Chris
Cc: Fixx Line
Date: 03/10/2009 01:35 PM
Subject: Fw: 15 Pass Van odor !

Hi Chris,
We are trying to solve a mystery and are hoping you can help us since you were the last person we show using the large van.  There is a horrible smell in the van and wondered if you might know what the smell could be coming from?  Did anything get spilled maybe?  Just need to know so we can better determine how to get the smell out.

Thanks for your help!

Jane Doe
Facilities Department

From: Chris
To: Jane Doe
Date: 03/10/2009 02:18 PM
Subject: Re: Fw: 15 Pass Van odor !

We had an NI team do a running relay this past weekend, which is what we used the van for.  We covered all of the seats with towels and had somebody who wasn’t with us do a “smell test” after we were back, but clearly this wasn’t effective.
I’ll be more than happy to come in tonight and clean the seats thoroughly (this is most likely where the problem would be).  Let me know if this works for you.

Sorry for the inconvenience,

Chris

From: Jane Doe
To: Chris
Date: 03/10/2009 03:17 PM
Subject: Re: Fw: 15 Pass Van odor !

I appreciate that…but it is okay.  After reading your email below I think all we need to do is just air it out and spray some Febreeze or Odo Ban. We just wanted to make sure food or liquid hadn’t been spilt which would entail taking it to be professionally cleaned.  All is good and I appreciate you responding, was a huge help! :-)

Thanks!
Jane Doe
Facilities Department

TIR: Lonestar Finish

The end is in sight, for both the race and the story. I had finished up my third leg around 7 AM and after some breakfast I felt pretty good. Not that I had any trouble waking up thanks to my cold shower that morning. But now it was time to zip around Houston in the active van while my teammates ran. Because of the staggered start times we had caught up to a lot of teams so there was a lot more going on at the transition points. The governors team couldn’t have been too far behind us because I actually saw him at one stop. He seemed in pretty good spirits and was happily taking pictures with a lot of people. While walking around at that stop, I ran into the wife of one of my teammates whom I had met a couple of days prior. She was running on another team so we chatted a little bit about how the race was going. Then she asked, “Do you have some BodyGlide I can borrow?” Now, I don’t expect you to know what BodyGlide is because I didn’t before preping for this race, but basically it is a anti-chafing balm that looks like a stick of deodorant. I responded, “Errh, sure <nervous smile>” and I tried to figure out the socially acceptable thing to do as we walked to the van. Luckily, there were some other people at the van. Instead of grabbing my BodyGlide, which I knew exactly were it was, I asked if anyone had some that she could borrow. Another male teammate, who knew her much better than I did stepped out from behind the van door. “You want to borrow BodyGlide?” he said with a bewildered look. “Yeah”, she responded. Then he asked the question that I couldn’t bring myself to ask. “You know where I use it, right?” I stood there awkwardly. “Yeah” she replied again. He looked at her as he tried to make sense of her response. “No, you know where I use it, right?” he asked again, to which she replied, “Yes.” You could see the wheels in his head trying to logically explain how she could answer yes and really know where he meant. At this point she, showed us her inner thigh which was raw and close to the point of out right bleeding. It looked really painful and I could then at least begin to understand her request. Fortunately, our one female teammate had joined us by that point and volunteered her stick and ended the awkward drama.

The rest of the morning was relaxed and enjoyable. I think there was one more transition to the rest van, but there was no point in trying to sleep at this point. I was excited about my last leg, which was 3.3 miles. I had run pretty hard on my first three legs and the previous one hurt, but I was planning on really dropping the hammer on this last one. 3.3 miles? That’s a warm up for a guy like me. As Matt came into sight, I got into position to run with him the last 20 yards to the exchange to make for a smooth transition. And by “getting into position”, I mean jumping out of the porta-potty like Superman flew out of a phone booth. Apparently the lady moderating this exchange point took her job very seriously and yelled at me as we ran through the “official” transition area of about 3 feet marked off in sidewalk chalk. We did hand off in the “official” zone, so I didn’t look back. It was about noon by now and it was sunny and hot. I hadn’t worn a shirt for any of my runs and on this one I could really feel the sun. I felt good though and I blazed through the first mile at an aggressive pace. There weren’t any runners around at this point and it was just a suburban neighborhood so there wasn’t much to it other than just running. The second mile hurt. I started to realize this wasn’t going to plan. Usually when I’m tired I check my watch a lot, but I didn’t need my GPS watch to tell me how slow I was going at this point. With about 3/4 mile out from the transition my teammate Rich was standing on the side and he asked me how it was going. All I could muster was, “bad”. I don’t know if he knew how bad I meant. I was beaten. Physically and mentally. If I would have been out there on my own, I wouldn’t have been walking; I would have been sitting. Luckily this was a team event, because Rich hopped out in front of me and paced me in. I know it was all mental, but it totally worked and I finished it. A few dry heaves as I walked to the van indicated that I had pushed it hard enough. In the end my average time was pretty close to my other legs.

4th Leg complete. Distance: 3.3 miles. Time: 25:31. Pace 7:45.

However, that wasn’t the end of the race. There was still one leg left, but there was no pressure. We were all just doing it for fun. Except that in the last few legs we knew that we would be close to finishing in under 24 hours. Luckily the anchor leg was assigned to the only Ironman on the team, Noel. Yes, she was the only female in this group of sweaty stinky guys and yes, she is an Ironman. Needless to say she pulled it off with 9 minutes to spare.

Total time: 23:51    Total Distance: 203.2 miles

So we did break the 24 hour mark and we ended up finishing 7th overall. Yeah, overall. The average pace was 7:03 per mile! Did I mention these guys were fast? And in case you were wondering, we beat the governor’s team by about an hour and a half.

The finish was at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site. They had a pizza, soda, and sports drinks for us which we took over and ate by the reflecting pool as we reflected on the race. Our rest van crew had a surprise for us which was a cooler full of beverages. They had some high end selections, however feeling like I just earned my Texas citizenship I opted for the 16 oz. can of the “National Beer of Texas“.

Finally. The end of the story. Or is it?

Marathon Plans

I know I left things up in the air with my marathon plans. Well, there is good news! I’ve gotten registered and we have hotel reservations. If you’ve been keeping up with things you’ll know that it isn’t for the Lincoln Marathon which was last weekend. For this one we’ll be heading to Omaha. The Omaha Marathon is Sept. 27, so mark your calendars. September will work much better logistically for a bunch of reasons. I have to take two weeks of vacation in Q3. The new Lyons will have been delivered by then. And right now is definitely not a good time for me to be taking time off from work. At work we’re in the home stretch of a major software release and the days have definitely gotten longer. Plus it gives me five more months of training. OK, so I was really ready for Lincoln after passing on the Austin marathon. It’s gonna take some mental toughness to continue training at 35+ miles a week for another five months and some physical toughness to do it through the blistering Texas summer. I am taking a little time off from training here in May while work is crazy. I’m only running about 20 miles a week which is just enough to keep me sane.

The girls are excited about the trip, especially seeing the new Lyons baby. They’ve already decided on their accommodations and have reservations at the Downtown Embassy Suites.  Besides having a suite room and all the amenities, the hotel is also located right off the marathon course at mile 7 and 14 which makes it ideal. I’m sure we’ll also be visiting Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo (I’ll be going twice since the course cuts through the zoo).

So I’m registered and we’ve got hotel reservations. Now the only thing to do is to get a new pair of running shoes. By the time I actually run my first marathon, I’ll be close to having put in enough miles to have run from Austin to Omaha and back.

TIR: Early Morning Shower

So the story picks back up at about 1 AM and I had just slapped the bracelet on Noel. We drove up to the next transition point where I attempted to clean up. I had just finished running two 10K races with 6 hours rest in between, so I was feeling a little “ripe”. So I took what I call a “porta-potty baby wipe shower”. You see, during the night most of the transition points were out in the country. So there was no running water and no bathrooms; just porta-potties and barely any light. However, I did find that with enough baby wipes one can emerge from a porta-potty feeling quite refreshed and clean. I had taken my time in “the shower” and by the time I got done, we knew something was wrong because Noel hadn’t shown up yet. Just then we heard reports from other teams that there was a runner off the course. What? Really? You knew there was a runner off the course and you just left them running the wrong way? Seriously? So we jumped back in the van and went out to find Noel. Remember that it is 1 AM and it is dark. It was windy that weekend and frequently the course signs were blown off, but on this leg it turns out that they neglected to even mark the final turn with a sign. Later someone from the race said that the directions clearly stated to turn at the flashing yellow light. Thanks, I’m sure the cost savings of one sign over a 200 mile course was worth it. Anyway, we soon found Noel and she was headed back to the course. We whipped around pulled up next to her. I was riding shotgun and waved her in and yelled for her to jump in. In typical Noel fashion, she waved me off, yelled something about not wanting to get us disqualified, and then proceeded to attempt to out run the van. Finally, we convinced her that it would be OK to take her back to where she left the course. Even though she ended up running about three extra miles she still made good time. I learned later that one our other runners took detour earlier as well by following some other runners. Trying to cover 200+ miles certainly has its logistical challenges and we had trouble staying on the course in the vans with maps.

Soon it was time to switch back to the rest van. Luckily they were at the right transition. Originally they had gone one too far but luckily figured it out. We hoped in the rest van and headed off to the next rest stop in Houston. Ed had setup the GPS for us so that we could go straight there instead of following the running course. I was driving and everything was going well until we got to the interstate and things weren’t really clear. I ended up getting on the interstate going what we were pretty sure was the wrong way. Laud, my navigator, went to consult the GPS and right as he touched it, the screen went black. Sweet. We turned around anyway and hoped for the best. Eventually we figured out that instead of turning off, the GPS hadn’t realized we were going the wrong way and just thought it would go to sleep since we had 20 miles to go on the interstate. The GPS ended up taking right where we needed to go. The transition point was at Luke’s Locker, a sporting good retailer and the main sponsor. They were open so I decided to go check them out. There were two young ladies serving free breakfast taco type stuff (yeah, I always want Tex-Mex in between runs). Anyway, I was astonished to find out that the two gals had no idea what was going on. They were amazed at all the people showing up. Apparently, when their boss asked them to work at 3 AM on Sunday morning, they didn’t ask any questions. That was enough for me, so I went out to find a place to sack out. When I got back to the van and got my stuff out, I saw everyone laying on the concrete in front of the strip mall store fronts. Then I turned and looked at the beautifully manicured lawn. I admit it. As I rolled out my sleeping bag on the soft green grass, I did have a prideful moment thinking about how smart I was for thinking of this as I quickly fell asleep. Who wouldn’t pick to sleep on grass over concrete?

After about an hour, I was violently awaken. Something was in my face. It was… water? Lots of it. And COLD! Oh, then it came again. It took me a minute to realize what was attacking me. Remember that this is Texas and grass isn’t naturally green here, its brown. Yes, there was a sprinkler system. And not one of those sissy ones that just mists; this baby had the big guns with oscillating heads that pop up and I had camped out right in front of one so that it shot me directly in the face and down into my bag. I was also close enough to the edge that it doubled back and got me twice before I could escape. So there I was soaking wet and cold. I hated to do it but I had to open up the van, which woke up Noel who was sleeping inside. She found it funny enough that she didn’t seem to mind. Next time I’ll try exercise a little more humility when I think I’m so smart.

6 AM and it was time to run again. Noel was up first with a short 2.3 mile run so it was a rush to get out in front of her so I would be ready next. This time it was a 5.6 miles leg including a trail through George Bush park. The run was pretty uneventful. It seemed like there were a lot of people walking which was pretty de-motivating. I pushed through to the end looking forward to my last leg being a mere 3.3 miles which I was planning on hitting hard.

3rd Leg complete. Distance: 5.6 miles. Time: 43:47. Pace 7:50.

Stay tuned for the Lone Star finish and the aftermath.

TIR: Midnight Run

In order to keep my mind off my latest running predicament, I figured I’d finish up my report on my last adventure. I left off last time right after I had finished my first of four legs which had gone really well. My leg was the last one before I switched back to the rest van so I had time to take a nice cool-down jog. I jumped in the van and we headed up four legs to Columbus, Texas where we were supposed to try to catch some rest. By that time it was completely dark. On the way there I cracked open my Livy’s princess lunch box and snarfed down a PB&J sandwich which I washed down with some Gatorade. Livy insisted that I take her princess lunch box for good luck but it also helped to make sure my lunch box didn’t get confused with anyone else’s.

When we got to Columbus we found that the transition was right next to the county court house. It reminded me of the small county seat towns in Nebraska with an old court house with big trees and nice lawns. It felt like it might rain so I broke out my el cheapo tarp, rolled out my fleece sleeping bag liner, and pulled the tarp over the top. I was just about a sleep when I heard a big crash which sounded like cymbal falling over. That happened about every 5 minutes. Later I figured out that it was a road closed sign that kept blowing over. No problem though, I just pulled out my ear-plugs which I had made sure to keep handy. After about an hour or so of rest, not sleep, it was time to start it up again. It had sprinkled a little bit but thankfully no real rain. It was about 10 PM at this point so I called Jenny to check in on the girls while I walked around the court house square. That’s when I spotted Governor Perry’s “entourage” (a black Lincoln towncar, and three black Suburbans complete with security detail). No he wasn’t waiting for the court house to open (the next day was Sunday remember). He was actually running on a team. OK, so I never actually saw him running but there is evidence. His team had started about 30 minutes before us so we were anxious to see if we could pass them. The Governor is no slouch if he can complete this race, but his team did have some ringers on it so it made things interesting. I walked past the Govenor’s entourage and got a “What’s up?” and some suspicious looks. I didn’t take offense since I was actually mildly worried about one member of our team who was obsessed with getting his home-made iron-on t-shirts with funny comments seen by the Governor. The only reason I worried was if he got arrested, I’d have to pick up more miles. But our runner came in before the Governor’s team so it was back into the active van.

My second leg was #19, a flat 5.5 mile leg at about midnight. I can’t say that I’ve ever run at night before and man was it different. Everyone had blinking red lights on their backs so you could see if someone was in front of you. We also had headlamps so you could see if someone was behind you, but I honestly never looked back. This was open country so you could see for a long way, or at least you could have if it was daytime. I could see three or four light blinking up ahead, but the darkness really messed up my sense of distance and speed. Until you got close it was hard to tell if you are catching up. And in the darkness, the miles seemed really long. I probably would have been better off without my GPS watch at that point. I was able to pass a few people which lifted my spirits, but about half way I got smoked by some guy who was really hauling. Soon I could see the transition point which was well light with type of lights you see on road construction sites. Almost there, I thought. Not quite, yeah, you could see it from a long ways out and the last mile really drug out. But I finished well and my team was ready and waiting. Oh, yeah, remember that guy who smoked me? It turns out his team wasn’t there. We don’t know what happened but I was glad it wasn’t me.

2nd Leg complete. Distance: 5.5 miles. Time: 42:23. Pace 7:42.

Stay tuned to hear just how smart I am and how I managed to get a shower.