Thursday, November 26, 2009

Accidental 20 and Other Happenings

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope your day is filled with good food and enjoyable conversation as you appreciate all we have to be thankful for.

I've been "staying off the couch" with regular running and some cycling as the weather in Florida has cooled a bit. I'm not training for any particular event, but keep a regular schedule to maintain some base fitness. On a recent weekend a number of runners from our Saturday morning group were doing a long run in preparation for the Space Coast Marathon and I decided to come out and support them during the early morning segment.

My original plan was to run from 3:30am to 5:30am and then do a bike ride with a friend later that morning. After I had already committed to the early run start, my bike ride fell through and I decided to complete the entire long run with the group. We ran 10.5 miles in the first 2 hours and then picked up the 5:30am crew who joined for the remaining run to get to 20 miles. I really do enjoy running with the group! The conversation and distractions make the miles go by quickly and everyone provides encouragement to anyone who needs a boost to push through to the finish. The Space Coaster's did great and put their fitness to the test this coming weekend. Go Matt, Mark and Rhonda! We celebrated with pumpkin pancakes and 1,000 calorie muffins at Mimi's Cafe. I'm pretty sure we put back all the calories we burned that morning, but it was good.

On Sunday of that same weekend, I did get my bike ride in too! My son and I went for a 15 mile ride on the trail near our home. We bought a new road bike as an early Christmas present and we've been our a few times to get prepped for the annual Mid-Florida MS Bike charity ride coming up in May. More on the MS Ride later. We rode short and fast and on the way back to our house, I received a text message from my friend John who was free to ride at 9:30am. I got back to the house, had some breakfast and headed out to meet John for the second ride of the morning.

John does nothing at a leisurely pace and this is especially true on the bike. We decided on a 40 mile ride on the trail, trading the lead every mile. As is typical for our trail, we encountered a nice headwind which made the ride challenging on the way out, but we sustained a good pace between 18-21 mph. John made it perfectly clear that there would be no "squeaking" or complaining on this ride, regardless of the previous days accidental 20 mile run. We turned around after 20 miles and a quick sprint up the overpass (Florida hills) and started back down the trail.

As is also customary on this trail, you never have a tailwind. We were both looking forward to cranking out the second half of the ride with the wind at our backs, but were quickly disappointed to learn that we only had a stiff crosswind to push us sideways. Arghh. John enforced the no "squeaking" rule and we made good time on the way back and it felt good to ride hard and to be pushed by John as I get back on the bike.

John is not known for his encouraging words, but he prefers to motivate through tough love. Our ride was no exception as he reminded me that the 20 mile run from Saturday was no reason to ease up the pace. I occasionally receive shouts of "encouragement" from John as I run in the neighborhood. This typically comes in the form of a shout of "Slacker!" from his car window as he drives by. It's just one small part of the support structure in an active lifestyle and it always makes me smile.

That's all for now. Dave

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Triku - Triathlon Poetry

Triku-The traditional Japanese poetry form with a triathlon focus.

Last mile was fast
Motivated by nature
Gator on my run

On the final mile of my early morning run, I saw some wildlife up ahead on the trail. I thought it was a possum waddling down the center of the path, but it turned out to be a 4.5 foot alligator out for his morning walk. He was in the middle of the trail as I approached and I skirted by along the right side of the trail and he didn't make any sudden moves. I picked up the pace and didn't look back and clocked a quick final mile of my morning run.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Triku - Triathlon Poetry

Triku-The traditional Japanese poetry form with a triathlon focus.

Went swimming today
Sun was high and deck was hot
More sunscreen next time

Mid-90's on a lovely Florida day and the YMCA pool was nice and cool, but it's really easy to burn on a day like today. Lesson learned.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Birthday Run - Complete!

I'm happy to report that I successfully completed the 45 mile Birthday Run with the help of my supportive family and many friends.

I started just after 10pm on Friday, July 10 and finished around 9am on Saturday, July 11 for a total of 11 hours. The weather was beautiful overnight and into the morning with clear skies, a nearly full moon and temperatures in the low to mid 70s. It was still humid, but noticeably cooler than any recent day or night. Perfect for a long, slow run.

The run was great fun and I was kept motivated and entertained by all the people who helped throughout the night. A team of over 20 family members and friends helped, ran and rode bikes along side of me throughout the night and into the morning. I was so touched by the generosity, enthusiasm and willingness of each of these people to come out and support me on my adventure. Thank you all!
I've included an alternate way to look at the Birthday Run...a heart rate trace of the 11 hour period. For the training geeks, my resting HR is typically between 45-50 and my average for the run was 133 with a maximum of 165, which I hit when I broke the tape of the finish. My heart rate monitor said I burned 5,400 calories, but I suspect it might be a bit higher than that. You can click the picture below to see the details of my heart rate and mileage over time.
Here are some notable highlights from the run.
Warm Up Run - 10 PM - 12 AM - 10 miles
Assisted by Jill, Gail, Merle, John, Trudy, Mike and Bob on his bike. I quickly realized that brownies at the first rest stop were a bit of a distraction for some as we made two 5 mile loops. Also, taking pictures with my highly reflective safety vest proved tricky. Gained first nickname of the night...Tron.
Completed Miles: 10 - Feeling great!

Transition Run 1 - 12:15 AM - 1:22 AM - 4 miles
Assisted by John, Matt, and Steve and Bob on bike. Had to make up a little time due to a slightly late start and the brownie distraction. On a whim, Steve purchased a new bike that afternoon and worked on assembly during the final hour of the Warmup Run. It was worth it! Steve would ride with me from midnight until 6:30 AM and he had a really bright headlight and a Blackberry that plays music. Very nice.
Completed Miles: 14 - Back on schedule

Almost a Marathon Run - 1:35 AM - 3:30 AM - 10 miles
Assisted by Matt, Steve and Bob on bikes, Valerie on her bike, Estuardo running and his teenage daughter on her bike. Initially I thought I would only have one volunteer on this loop, but ended up with quite a crowd. The neighborhood security officer stopped us at about 2:45 AM and indicated that we shouldn't be running down the middle of the street as it wasn't safe. We politely agreed and continued running down the middle of the street. We didn't see many cars that morning. I had not met Estuardo until 1:30 AM, but quickly learned that he is a multi-Ironman finisher and he jumped at Steve's suggestion to join us. His daughter, who he called "coach", was equipped with a Fuel Belt with more bottles than mine and she rode happily along in the early morning hours with her dad and his new found friends. She was super-supportive and I got the feeling that she'd done this before. Thanks "coach".
Completed Miles: 24 - Felt like I'd almost run a marathon. Still felt pretty good.

Transition Run 2 - 3:45 AM - 4:30 AM - 3 miles
Assisted by Steve and Valerie on bikes and Lora running. Lora was the unexpected surprise at 3:45 AM when I saw her yellow Jeep pull in. She was able to make it out for the run and then get a lift back to her car. That was really nice! Thank you Lora. Valerie rode ahead of us and Steve lit the way from behind as we made our way down the dark, scary street of the run. As we slowly made our way, we were startled by the guard armadillo on duty halfway down the street. He heard us coming and charged towards the fence and I expected him to jump up on his hind legs and bark ferociously, but instead he snorted softly and then turned away, satisfied that he had protected his yard. Valerie also sacrificed for the team by riding through all the spiderwebs that crisscrossed the trail. Lora also did an interesting little "froggy jig" as she dodged a randomly hopping frog crossing our path near the finish. Nobody wanted to hear the squish, so we appreciated the fancy footwork to avoid our green friend.
Completed Miles: 27 - Re-energized by the short run

Park Run - Bandit Style - 5:00 AM - 6:45 AM - 8 miles
Assisted by Steve on his bike, Paula, Mark and Scott. We ran to the entrance of the park that contains a nice, soft trail around a number of lakes, but the gate was locked. No surprise, since the park doesn't open until 7 AM. Undeterred and a little giddy, we hopped the fence and gently hoisted Steve's new bike over and were on our way. Our pace quickened with the fresh legs of the new group and we made quick work of the park loop and were surprised to see that the gate was open when we left. I picked up a hitchhiker with 3 miles left to run in this segment...the singing balloon.

Completed Miles: 35 - Saw my wife again after 25 miles. She liked the balloon.

The Finale - 7 AM - 9 AM - 10 miles
Assisted by Mark, Scott, Paula, Luis, Rose, Rhonda, Robyn and Sandy and Laura on bike. Paula's singing balloon was a hit and I had it tied to my waist for the remaining 10 miles. When you tap it, it sings a little birthday ditty. When your friends punch it, it sings. When it hits a low tree branch it sings. When your running form is sloppy, it sings. Needless to say, I was serenaded for the next 8.5 miles until the battery started to go. Then the perky birthday song started to sound like a fat, sloppy, slightly drunk, Elvis impersonator singing the once perky birthday song.
We celebrated the passing of each mile mark after 40 with a whoop and continued to calculate the exact route we needed to take to get to 45 miles at the finish. Paula was in charge and I was thankful. Rhonda, Laura, Paula and I ticked off the final miles and soon made our way down the final stretch and at half a mile out, we could see the finish and the small crowd that was waiting. I picked up the pace and saw my daughter holding one side of the finishing tape with a big smile on her face. I saw my son and wife and many of the people that had helped on the run who had come back for the finish. I was running hard when I hit the tape and I raised my arms as I crossed the line. My heart rate monitor read 45.11 miles, but it felt like much more. It felt like an adventure I will never forget filled with sweat, fuel, fluids, heart rate monitors, GPS wristwatches, tech fabrics and expensive shoes. An adventure in training, planning, preparing, coordinating, e-mailing, blogging, Twittering and talking. But most of all it was an adventure filled with stories, laughter, smiles, friends and family who shared and cared about my goals and dreams.

Thank you all for the support!
Dave (Ironbirdlegs)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Triku - Triathlon Poetry - Special Birthday Run Edition

Birthday Run is here
Forty five miles for forty five years
A long night ahead

Less than two hours until the run begins. I'm so thankful for the friends and family who have volunteered to run, bike and support me tonight. Let the adventure begin!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Birthday Run - Final Details

Thank you to everyone who has offered words of encouragement (along with expressions of disbelief) and to those of you who will join me on my 45 mile Birthday Run. Here are the final details of the run for this coming Friday/Saturday, July 10-11, 2009.

General Information
Through the generosity of those participating, we will have coolers with water and/or Gatorade on each route.
  • Please bring your initial fluids and any nutrition needed for your segment.The average pace will be 12 min/mile with a run/walk pattern of 5 minutes on, 1 minute walk.
  • The start and finish times are my best estimate, but please be flexible.
  • Twitter updates will be posted throughout the run (

Warm Up Run

  • Start Time: 10 PM
  • Distance: 10 miles
  • Finish Time: 12 AM
  • Additional Info: Run will consist of two 5 mile loops with a stop at the house in between.
Transition Run 1

  • Start Time: 12:15 AM
  • Distance: 4.5 miles
  • Finish Time: 1:10 AM
  • Total Miles: 14.5 miles
  • Additional Info: Point-to-point run to get to the next meeting place.
Almost to Marathon Run

  • Start Time: 1:25 AM
  • Distance: 10 miles
  • Finish Time: 3:25 AM
  • Total Miles: 24.5 miles
  • Additional Info: Run will be one large loop within neighborhood and finish back at the start. There will be a cooler with water and Gatorade at the start/finish and a cooler within the neighborhood.
Transition Run 2

  • Start Time: 3:45 AM
  • Distance: 3.5 miles
  • Finish Time: 4:25 AM
  • Total Miles: 28 miles
  • Additional Info: Point-to-point run through a neighborhood, across a major boulevard and down a narrow, dark street. Officially longest run ever at this point
Before Hours Park Run

  • Start Time: 4:30 AM
  • Distance: 8 miles
  • Finish Time: 6:10 AM
  • Total Miles: 36 miles
  • Additional Info: Nice, soft packed dirt trail for most of this loop in the park, slightly ahead of their opening hours.
Big Finish Run

  • Start Time: 6:30 AM
  • Distance: 9 miles
  • Finish Time: 8:30 AM
  • Total Miles: 45 miles
  • Additional Info: Run the minimum number of miles required to get to 45, taking into account any accumulation of errors to this point.
Pictures and additional impressions will be posted after the run. Happy Birthday to me!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Birthday Run - Training and Nutrition

I'm relieved that the Birthday Run is less than a week away. It takes a little pressure off knowing there is nothing more I can do now to build endurance for my first 45 mile run, but at the same time, it allows for little bits of self-doubt to creep in. I've put in a number of key training sessions that should help me in the long run. I've summarized the approach below.

Training Summary
  • Fairly consistent 8-12 mile long runs each Saturday since March
  • Consistent 8-13 mile tempo run each week in June in addition to long runs
  • Long runs on weekend and multiple back-to-back long runs
  • Multiple night running sessions
  • Average mileage for last 5 weeks, 38-54
  • No injuries

Back-to-Back Weekend Runs and Misc Long Runs

  • May 22 - 17 mile run on Saturday
  • May 23 - 18 mile run on Sunday
  • June 13 - 19 mile run on Saturday
  • June 14 - 6 mile run on Sunday
  • June 20 - 19 mile run on Saturday

Simulation Run

  • June 26 - 12 mile run on Friday am
  • June 27 - 3am start - 25 mile run on Saturday

The simulation run was great and slightly unplanned. I ran 12 miles on Friday morning and then we had guests over to BBQ and I didn't get to sleep until after midnight. The alarm went off at 2:15am for a 3am start of the 25 mile training run with a friend who is training for the San Francisco marathon. I came into the Saturday run fatigued from the 12 miles and without much sleep from the late BBQ night and I survived. This is a good sign.

Nutrition Approach

After reading and experimenting in training, I've arrived at my nutrition plan for the Birthday Run. I'll primarily be using Hammer's Perpetuem to provide calories (carbs, protein and fat) along with some Hammer Gel for variety. I'll also be using Endurolytes for electrolyte replacement along with plenty of water. I decided to move away from carrying Gatorade to avoid mixing carbs and electrolytes with the other fuels and instead separate out the fuel, hydration and electrolytes. I used this approach on the simulation run and everything worked as I hoped, though I realized I need to take in a few more calories as I was pretty hungry at the end of the run. I'll have steel-cut oatmeal about 2.5 hours before the start and a Chocolate Balance Bar about 45 minutes before along with sips of Gatorade leading up to the start.

During the run, I'll aim for 16-24 oz of water each hour, depending on heat and humidity and take 2 Endurolytes per hour as well. The Perpetuem will be mixed to pancake-batter consistency and I'll swig this from my Fuel-belt bottle every 45 minutes or so and wash it down with water to get the calories I need. Hammer Gel will be used as well to vary the flavor and texture in addition to Fig Newtons and chicken broth at the rest stops for variety.

I'm feeling pretty good about the plan, but know I need to be flexible and prepared. Five days and counting...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Triku - Triathlon Poetry

Triku-The traditional Japanese poetry form with a triathlon focus.

BodyGlide, my friend
Say "Goodbye" to rash and chafe
Ouch, I missed a spot

A warm shower after a long run reveals where I missed with BodyGlide. I'm thinking a full body dip is necessary for the Birthday Run.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Birthday Run Details

Friends & Runners - As some of you already know, I've been planning and training for a "Birthday Run" to celebrate my 45 years of life by running 45 miles. I'm hoping some of you will be available and crazy enough to join me on my adventure, so I've included the details below.

I could use some company (running or on bike) on any of the segments, so take a look at the times and distances and see what works for you. I could also use some volunteers to host coolers along the route.

When: Friday, July 10, starting at 10pm and finishing Saturday July 11 in the morning.
Route Summary:
10pm-12am, 10 miles, Villa Rosa neighborhood area
1:25am-3:30am, 10 miles, Cheval run - meet at Center Yourself Pilates

4:30am-6:10am, 8 miles, Lake Park - meet in Northdale TBD location
6:30am-8:30am, 9 miles, Northdale - start and finish at Bob Sierra YMCA

The missing miles in the list above are found in transition runs from one location to another. I'll send out a more detailed route plan for anyone who is interested. Please email me back if you'd like to assist in any way and thanks for sharing in my adventure.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Date set for "Birthday Run"

July 10 - 11, 2009 has been selected for the 45 mile "birthday run". A few factors were considered:
  • Provide enough training time before the date (could have been more, but it's not getting any cooler)
  • In the month of my birthday...check
  • Nearly full moon...check
  • Since most of the actual run will take place overnight, this seemed like a good idea

More to come on the training runs, nutrition strategy and equipment I'm thinking of using.

This is one way to stay off the couch.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Next Endurance Challenge - The Birthday Run

It's official, I'm nuts. Or so this is what some of my friends have said when I told them that I was going to run my age (in miles) for my birthday... July Florida.

OK, it is a bit crazy, but not unheard of. I think of it as 4, 10 mile runs with a 5 mile cool down. I've started planning and figure it will take about 10+ hours to complete, including breaks and I'll be starting REALLY early in the morning, or really late depending your perspective in order to beat the Florida daytime heat and humidity.

I'm still working out the route and have started to plan my nutrition strategy. How much and what kinds of food can I eat to replace the calories I'll burning without grossing out on gels or hurling? Not sure yet, need to experiment. Smoothie anyone?

The research I've done on training suggests that I'll be doing a bit of running to get ready for this one! The key seems to be back-to-back long runs that progress in length with some shorter faster runs so you don't settle into a snail-like pace.

I think the keys to success will be a good nutrition plan and arriving at the start line healthy.

I'll keep posting details as I work them out, so check back frequently for the next endurance challenge...the Birthday Run.

Weekly Triku - Triathlon Poetry

Triku-The traditional Japanese poetry form with a triathlon focus.

Rode to help MS
SAG trucks circling like vultures
Back, evil SAG, back

Rode in the Mid-Florida Chapter Bike MS event this last weekend, but my son and I had to SAG in the last 5 miles due to the sudden electrical storm. Back, evil SAG, back.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Weekly Triku - Triathlon Poetry

Triku-The traditional Japanese poetry form with a triathlon focus.

Can’t wait to ride hills
Drove twenty miles to start ride
Forgot cycling shoes :-(

The sad face emoticon is not part of the traditional poetry form, but is entirely necessary. It really is less fun riding the hills in running shoes on SpeedPlay lollipops.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Weekly Triku - Triathlon Poetry

Triku-The traditional Japanese poetry form with a triathlon focus.

Big swim before work
Run at lunch, then evening ride
Training is his life

Twittercast at St. Anthony's Triathlon

This year I volunteered to assist with the first-time Twittercast of the famous St. Anthony's Triathlon ( in St. Petersburg, FL. If you are not familiar with Twitter, check to learn more, but in summary, Twitter is a micro-blog where people can subscribe to your updates and you to theirs and people post short messages, or Tweets of up to 140 characters from the web or their phones. A Twittercast is a broadcast over Twitter and I can be found at

In this case, Athletes for a Cure, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, hosted the Twittercast of St. Anthony's Triathlon with the help of a fellow triathlete, blogger and podcaster, Triboomer (, aka Brian. You can follow TriBoomer at My job was to provide real-time updates of the pro race as the men and women battled for prize money in this season-opener race held in late April each year. Scott Zagarino, the Managing Director of sports Marketing for Athletes for a Cure, Greta and I posed for this picture after the race. Please visit the Athletes for a Cure web site for more information about the work they do to raise money and awareness for prostate cancer.

Brian and I agreed to meet at 5:30am on race day. I came prepared with my beat-up, old hybrid bike, water, snacks, mobile phone, a clipboard, pens and paper and course maps all stuffed into a backpack. Just as Brian and I met near the body-marking area near transition, the race director came over the PA and announced that the swim was cancelled for all but the pro race due to dangerously choppy conditions on the water. Brian and I briefly discussed the approach for the spotting and providing updates and I was off to the swim start. The water was rough and the wind was up, but the pros were out warming up and getting ready. I began sending text messages to Brian ahead of the swim start and let him know when the race had begun.

I then jumped on my hybrid and was off to get positioned to cover the bike race. I came to a nice corner of the course where cyclists were both headed out and coming in from a couple mile stretch of road. They had to slow down and that made it easier to read the numbers off their shoulders and bikes. I began feverishly texting race numbers in the sequence that they were rolling by. It was hard to keep up as I was busy writing down the numbers on my clipboard and then texting the results when I had a break between cyclists. Brian and Greta would then translate the race numbers into names and send out updates on the Twittercast. Brian and I tried talking on the phone for updates, but due to the wind, it made it too difficult to hear, so it was back to texting. With enough men and women pros having past, I repositioned on the bike course to about mile 20 can caught the race leader and the chase group and they were powering down the road. I was the only spectator in this area, so I cheered for the riders as I wrote their numbers and transmitted the results back to Brian, who was putting it out on Twitter in nearly real-time.

I notified Brian that I was headed to the run course and I made it to mile 5 and started reporting again. I had covered a lot of ground on my old bike, but I was now seeing the final push to the finish as these athletes dealt with the rising temperature and humidity. I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't know who was in the lead by name, but just by number. The women's race was very close with the top three all within 50 feet of each other while the male leader had a sizable lead. I kept tapping out race numbers and commentary and Brian kept the 10,000 or so people listening in on Twitter updated.

It was a blast and a cool way to see the entire race and I'm happy I was able to help with the event. TriBoomer/Brian was great. I read over the TwitterCast when I got home and it was really cool to see how he and Greta had translated my cryptic updates in to a broadcast.

If I'm not racing St. Anthony's next year, I'll probably be riding around on my old, green hybrid, race texting results to whoever is listening.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Race Report - Gasparilla Marathon - 3/1/09

Many of you know I was training to run a marathon at the Gasparilla race this last Sunday, 3/1/09 in Tampa so I wanted to tell a little story about my marathon adventure.

Looking back, my training for the marathon started in late September as my running with the 5:30am Saturday morning crew behind the Lifestyle Family Fitness became more consistent and the mileage started to creep up. Thanks to Silke, Margot, Paula, Matt, Laura, Rose, Sandy, Matt and the many others in the group who made it enjoyable and easy to wake up early to go for a run. Training continued and runs became longer over the coming months as I though about trying to break the 4 hour marathon mark and my only previous time of 4:09:58 from Chicago in 2005. I apologize for the very specific time, but I just don't feel right saying 4:09 and 4:10 is a vast overstatement of my initial marathon time, so 4:09:58 it is! My stated goal was to run the Gasparilla marathon in under 4 hours and my secret goal was to run it in 3:50.

In addition to the many memorable runs I had leading up to the race; my last long run stands out as an epic training run that taught me about speed, perseverance and mental focus. This was a 22 mile run with Dair, a fellow runner I met on the Suncoast Trail in my last month of training. Dair is a marathoner who routinely wins her age group and helped me hold a nice, steady pace during this long run. Over the last 5 miles of this run, she encouraged me to pick up the pace and explained that in the last 2 miles, you needed to "kick". Putting this into practice on the training run tested my ability to remain focused and to run hard and fast when my mind was telling me to slow down and stop. I actually felt like my limbs were going to fly in all directions and I used every trick I knew to remain focused (visualize the finish line, repeat a personal mantra, count your steps, pretend you have an giant rubber band pulling you to the finish line, etc.) as I ran as fast as I could to the finish. I ran that final mile a full 1.5 minutes faster than we had run the previous 19 and I was also only 2 beats shy of a new maximum heart rate. That is what Dair meant by a kick! Got it...I'll remember it!

Race morning came and I was healthy, hydrated and ready to run. It was cool and humid out and I hitched a lift with Mark and two friends down from Charlotte, NC, Errol and Matt. Thankfully Matt handled all the stress of driving in race morning traffic and finding a parking space near the start. We all walked toward the Convention Center and I took off ahead to check my gear bag and get queued up in the starting chute. The beginning of this race is a little tight with narrow roads and a bridge within the first mile, so I wanted to try to get into the front of the bunch. I saw my friends Tammy and Irene as I made my way in the crowd and stopped to stretch and get ready for the gun.

The mumbling of the announcer was followed by a nice National Anthem followed by more mumbling and we were off. Less than 2 minutes after the race clock started, I crossed the line and my fancy, disposable RFID chip registered my start time of 6:02am. The first miles were predictably slow due to the traffic and the bridge, but it really opened up after 2 miles and I started to lift the pace. It was noticeably humid and I was sweating pretty hard for so early in the race and started to think about drinking more to account for the humidity. I don't remember much about the first 10 miles, but I was running near my goal pace and I was feeling pretty good. On multiple sections of the course, you can see runners coming out on the same street you're headed in on and somewhere after mile 10; I saw the pace team running with the 3:50 sign coming out of the street I was entering. I was encouraged. I didn't know how much further ahead they were, but at least I saw them ahead of me and it gave me something to shoot for. I kept drinking water and Gatorade and taking my GU energy gels every 45 minutes or so as I had done on so many training runs and I was now feeling good and also a little hopeful.

Coming out of that neighborhood, I felt a few rain drops and noticed that the wind had come up a bit as we turned onto Bayshore Drive. Looking across the horizon, I could see it. It was coming right towards us. It was dark and wet and windy and I remember saying to myself, "I'm going to get wet!" I was right. The race changed in the span of 15 minutes as the weather moved in from the West. I was now running into the wind with a steady sprinkling of rain, not a downpour, but more than a mist. The wind is what I remember and I was blown side to side a few times and at times was running right into the wind. My visor blew off and I had to chase it down behind me twice before I decided to just carry it. I put a nice wet, black shoe print on the brim, but I think it will come out in the wash. To keep motivated, I try to find someone up ahead of me in the distance and pass them. I noticed a distinct salmon colored race top and a white hat ahead of me and I started to slowly catch up. It took over 2 miles to close the gap and I was struck with how strong this person was running and congratulated her for running so well and introduced myself. I explained that she'd been my "rabbit" for the last 2 miles and we started chatting as we ran a mile together. I learned that she had similar goals for the race and since she was running at almost exactly my goal pace, we decided to run together for a while. Her name was Cheryl and she was from South Carolina.

Cheryl and I clicked off a number of miles together in the wind and rain and I kept track of our splits. We passed the 3:50 pace group and that was exciting. We were still on pace with a few faster miles and a couple of windy slower ones to balance things out. There was one particular stretch that was very windy and we were running right into it. That was tough, but we kept pushing until we merely had a cross wind and finally a tail wind. I didn't announce that mile split and Cheryl didn't ask. We could see the 20 mile mark and we knew we only had a 10k left to run. I remember one of us saying "...only 10k problem!" The mile markers didn't seem to come as fast, but my watch told a different story. We were still running very consistently and both of us were feeling pretty good. We hit the 22 mile marker and Cheryl mentioned that it would be OK if I wanted to pick up the pace. We ran together for the next mile, but somewhere within that mile, I lost sight of the salmon jersey and white hat in my peripheral vision. I was getting ready to "kick".

In the last 3 miles, there was a crowd of kids and adults lining one side of the street cheering for the runners. They all had matching t-shirts and I can't remember what it said, but I will always remember those kids shouting, hooting, making noise and calling my name as I ran past. I slid over and slapped a few wet and windy, high-fives and I ran past. I was now charged up for the "kick" and I picked up the pace as I entered the final 2 miles. I stopped looking at my splits and my heart rate and focused on running faster. I'm sure the rain and wind were still there, but I don't remember it. I remember what my wife Michelle said to me when my alarm went off at 3:45am. "Run strong and finish fast", she said. That became my mantra that I repeated over and over in my head as my mind was receiving all sorts of distress signals from my legs, lungs and heart. The mantra became my focus and I blocked out the pain and thought of my epic training run with Dair where I had learned how to "kick". I just kept running and telling myself to run strong and finish fast. I could see the finish line ahead. I didn't have to visualize it; it was right in front of me. I remember raising my arms to encourage the crowd to cheer and I ran strong and finished fast as the very wet spectators yelled for me. The finish is now a blur of a very heavy finisher metal, a Mylar wrap that kept blowing off my shoulders and a now bone chilling rain that chilled me to my core once I stopped exerting. I am very happy to say that my official time was clocked by that fancy RFID chip on my shoe as 3 hours, 45 minutes and 2 seconds, or 3:45:02. Almost 25 minutes faster than my initial marathon time and a full 5 minutes faster than my secret goal. I couldn't be more pleased with the results! For more results, check out

Thank you to everyone who helped me achieve my marathon goal. Thank you to my wife, Michelle for her patience and understanding as I spent many Saturday mornings running around Tampa and to the support and encouragement of my kids (Daddy, you going running today?) as I trained. Thank you to Paula and the constant support of the running group on Saturday mornings. Thank you to Dair for teaching me to kick and thank you to Cheryl from South Carolina for being my rabbit and for running so consistently and keeping me on pace for the second half of the race. Cheryl finished in 3:48:34 (great job!)

Congratulations to everyone who ran this weekend and thanks for sharing in my marathon adventure. I'll see you soon.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tour of California 2009 - Stage 7 Santa Clarita to Pasadena

"No chalk!" shouted the Pasadena police officer as I stood on the side of the road waiting for the cyclists to come up the hill in stage 7 of the Tour of California.

After 2 years of trying, I was finally able to see the bike race and as I settled into my spot on the guardrail of a road encircling the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the cop shouted again, "No chalk"! The two young girls squatting in the middle of the road looked frightened as Pasadena's finest made it perfectly clear that this stretch of pavement wasn't going to be defaced in the way Alpe d’Huez is defaced each year in France. There will be no chalk on the roads today, except for the meager "Go" without the "O" filled in. The mood was festive even without the chalk and the open beer bottles didn't seem to bother the officer. Perhaps he's just not a cycling fan, or doesn't understand the traditions. No matter.

I started the day in Santa Clarita at the start chute of the stage and was able to get a couple of autographs, including Mark Cavendish and big Thor Hushovd and see all the pro cyclists line up for the start. Lance Armstrong was there in a very stylish yellow and black, LiveStrong cycling vest and he encouraged everyone to take a small box of yellow chalk that the Nike-clad volunteers were handing out. Perhaps the cop didn't like Lance or thought he hadn't come by his seven Tour wins honestly? Hard to know.

This was my first bike race and I was thrilled as the volume increased as the oncoming leaders came charging up the hill for their first of five laps around the Rose Bowl. The gap between the leaders and the peloton was over three minutes and when the rest of the group came up the hill, it was impressive. The group filled the road and the team cars were in hot pursuit. It was just like I'd seen on TV. Very cool.

After three laps, a small group of fans started down the hill towards the finish. I tagged along, introduced myself and was quickly adopted by my new local cycling family. Pete and his wife Lisa are members of a cycling club that rides these same roads around the Rose Bowl each week in organized group rides. We talked about cycling, running, triathlon and the perfect spot they had secured the previous day at the Solvang time trial stage. We edged our way towards the finish line, but the crowd was too thick to see, so we watched the finish on the big-screen TV. We ended up in the middle of all the pros slowly pedaling across the parking lot towards the team buses and were able to spot a number of big names as they slowly wheeled by. Very cool.

Lots of others had the same idea as we walked over to the buses to get autographs and pictures. The Astana bus was mobbed as Lance was out and signing. George Hincape popped out of the Team Columbia Highroad bus to sign everything that was handed to him for a few minutes. He was very gracious and did his best to get to everyone. He's a class act.
The bike race was a blast and I recommend everyone get out to support cycling events in the US. It's really something to see and the American teams are really strong. I'm thankful I hooked up with such nice people at the race who could show me how it's done. I look forward to my next California trip. Perhaps it will work out again to see the Tour of time with more chalk.