Monday, November 21, 2011

Race Reports: From Sioux Falls to Indianapolis

Sunday, September 11
Sioux Falls Marathon (Sioux Falls, SD)
Time: 5:20:42
Grade: C
Weather: Clear skies; Sunny. Cool at the start, but warmed up after about mile 17-18. Course: Relatively easy course. Roads for the first 8-9 miles before reverting to a paved trail system that we followed to the finish with the excpetion of an excursion to the streets to pass through the city's central business district.
From home to SD: At approximately mile 17 in downtown Sioux Falls, somebody hollered, "Jon Walk. Are you Jon Walk?" Nervously, I responded, "Yes", and waved. I had to laugh, thinking, "Gee, somebody knows me everywhere. Scary." It turned out to be Bijou Chacko from Friendswood who found out from John Moyer that I was going to be in Sioux Falls.
Future marathon story: At the start of the race, I had the bright idea that I could separate the rental car key FOB from the key to the ignition and tie it to my shoelace. About 15 minutes before the start at Howard Wood Field, I put the ignition key under the passenger side floor mat, locked the door and smiled that I would have to carry it 26 miles. (I don't trust gear checks with keys.) Inside the stadium, I knelt down and tied it on just above my chip. I figured that I could always see it on my foot as I ran. After talking with Chevron Houston Marathon veteran Charlie Viers of Natchitoches, Louisiana just before the National Anthem and about five minutes until the start, I looked down and ... no key FOB! I was frantic. I searched all over the football field, on the track, went back to the rental car to look on the ground in the glow of the stadium lights ... nothing! The gun goes off. This race I was going to be starting last by necessity. I crossed the line, hit my watch and saw the timer from All Sports Central that I've seen at other events that they've worked. I told him what happened, he tore a number off my bib and promised to relay it to the race director. As I ran I began to strategize what my options were. I said to myself, "I have a 6:30 p.m. flight out of Omaha. I have to be checked out of the hotel by 2 p.m. If I finish at this time, I have this amount of time to find a locksmith." Not fun, but I surprised myself that I maintained my cool. At mile 16 just as we got into downtown Sioux Falls, I asked a police officer if they were going to have anybody back at the Stadium (as this was a point-to-point race), and he said, "No." After I crossed the finish line, I asked for the race director. I shared with him what had transpired and he said that there had been a cell phone, a set of keys and a key FOB turned in. It was mine! Crisis averted!

Sunday, September 25
Quad Cities Marathon (Moline, IL)
Time: 5:17:54
Grade: C
Weather: Overcast skies. Cooler at the start, but later doused in a downpour from mile 15 to 19.5.
Course: Unique in that you passed through all four towns (Moline and Rock Island, Illinois and Bettendorf and Davenport, Iowa), and to do so you crossed the Mississippi River twice. The only hilly area of the course was in Bettendorf. Otherwise, it was pretty flat and was 80% roads and 20% trails (along the Mississippi between the two Iowa cities.) About four and a half miles were in and through the Rock Island Arsenal, passing an old confederate cemetery, before hitting a final three mile out and back stretch, which surprisingly wasn't that mentally taxing.
From home to IL: I knew prior to traveling to Iowa that Spring's Nicole Richardson was going to be in attendance. I hadn't met her before so I waited near the start line (she's a 3:05 marathoner) to also watch race day operations while I waited to meet her. I saw Bart Yasso get down from the dignitaries' platform and I spoke with him for a little bit when I noticed Houston's Heidy Lozano. The 48-year-old former masters winner of the Boston Marathon a couple of years ago told me that she had dropped from the marathon to the half, but I had a chance to introduce her to Bart. When I told Bart that Heidy was 48, he said, "No way." I get to do neat things!

Saturday, October 1
New Hampshire Half Marathon (Bristol, NH)
Time: 2:14:05
Grade: A- (Really happy with this effort. 7th best half marathon ever.)
Weather: Near-perfect: Cold with a little bit of a mist of rain at the start.
Course: Semi-hilly, especially the first five miles. All of the race was run along country roads which weren't too heavily travelled. That was just about perfect too. I had seen enough trails in the first half of my marathons of 2011 to suit me for awhile.
From home to NH: On the bus on the way out to the start of the point-to-point race, I saw a female runner in the seat to the right of me tearing up. She had an Ironman 70.3 finisher's visor on so I knew that she wasn't in tears as a result of being nervous. I thought about saying something, but I figured that I should just mind my business. After arriving at the start, there was a semi-long line for two port-a-potties. Two young women were talking about relays and I piped in about the Texas Independence Relay to which the women on the bus (who was from Dallas) talked about the weather variation at that time of year. She was standing in front of me in the port-a-john line when I heard her ask the woman in front of me if there was bus service from the next town south. An odd question I surmised. As we waited for the start (~30 minutes), I struck up a conversation and found out that she flew north to meet a man who was more into her than she was into him. His reaction to her assessment the evening and night before scared her and how he might respond when the race was finished (he was running the marathon) when she was to tell him that she wanted to go home immediately. Honestly, she intimated that she feared for her safety. I was to be driving over to Portland, Maine after the race. I told her that I had time that if she needed a ride to the Manchester, New Hampshire airport that I would be happy to take her. She had her iPhone so I gave her my name and I had already told her that I wrote for Texas Runner and Triathlete magazine. (This was so if she wanted to check on me to confirm that I wasn't as crazy as the man she had met.) Nothing else was said. During the race, I passed her around mile 8, but I was running pretty well so I didn't stop to talk. After crossing the finish and getting some food and fluids, she crossed later - a surprise because her half marathon PR was about 7 minutes faster than mine - and as soon as she saw me she asked if my offer was still good. It turned out that the reason that I passed her, she had called to speak to a friend who had booked her a ticket on a Southwest flight to go home after the race. She got in my car and I drove her to the bed and breakfast that they had stayed where she proceeded to explain the situation to the front desk clerk who allowed her to go get her things and leave. As we drove out of town, we actually passed him on the course. I dropped her off at the airport and then went on to Maine. And, yes, she later that week added me as a friend on Facebook.

Sunday, October 2
Maine Half Marathon (Portland, ME)
Time: 2:21:12
Grade: B- (This one hurt a little bit after a strong effort on a tougher course the day before.)
Weather: Cold and rainy. At times, the rain, especially in the middle part of the race, came in the form of a downpour.
Course: Some rollers on a four-mile, out-and-back section between miles 5 and 8, but otherwise flat. And all on the roads.
From home to ME: Many people were using the New Hampshire and Maine races to do a marathon double for their 50 states quest. For me they were states 35 and 36 in my half marathon 50 states journey. I saw Steve and Paula Boone from Humble at both races and I knew that Houston's Yong Collins and Pearland's Rhonda Emerson (who I saw in Wisconsin) were both there. TWRC's own Susan Rouse, who I didn't see, was adding state #40 with a marathon finish that day.

Sunday, October 9
Gulf Coast Half Marathon (Mandeville, LA)
Time: 2:15:49
Grade: B+ (Wasn't expecting to post my 11th best half time ever after a back-to-back half weekend.)
Weather: A crisp cool in the air at the start with winds coming off Lake Ponchatrain near miles 7 and 8 that kept it cool until the temperatures started to pick up in the last three miles.
Course: Fast and flat. The first 10 miles were on the roads and streets of Mandeville before entering a very straight trail system for the last three miles to the finish.
From home to LA: This was a special trip. Bill Dwyer ran his first half marathon in approximately four years. (I ran the first almost 9 miles in Austin with him that year in 2008, but I would leave the pacing duties to Leeann Rosser, George Roffe and Leeann's best friend, Surona Cousins, for Bill's return to the half marathon distance.) Adrienne Langelier made the drive over with Bill and I where we also met up with Randy Smith and his three children, George and Trudy Regnier, and Rebecca Massie from Alabama, her boyfriend, Keith, and a few of their running friends from Alabama. Second best road trip of the year!

Sunday, October 16
IMT Des Moines Marathon (Des Moines, IA)
Time: 5:04:07
Grade: B+ (Really happy with my 5th best marathon time ever to date.)
Weather: Weather couldn't have been better for this race. Cool the whole way to the finish.
Course: Fairly hilly until we hit a two-mile trail system at approximately mile 17. We passed the mile 12 marker on the track of the home of the Drake Relays. (For fun, I crouched down in a sprinter's stance on the track for the Brightroom photographer. It hurt my neck getting back up. However, I got a round of applause from a half dozen spectators in the stadium's bleachers.)
From home to IA: The closest thing to a hometown in-person encounter was seeing San Antonio's Gary Brimmer at the Expo. Evan Guy introduced me to Gary and one of his runners, Donna Palisca, at the very last Sunmart in Huntsville a few years ago. Gary sells "The Stick" and is at many expos (he's always at Houston if you want to buy the product at the Expo) and he told me that Donna would be shooting for a Trials time at the Philadelphia Marathon towards the end of November.

Saturday, October 29
Spinx Run Fest Marathon (Greenville, SC)
Time: 4:58:30
Grade: A- (Really good race. First time under 5 hours since last November. Lost nearly four minutes in the port-a-john.)
Weather: Cool once again, but just a tad bit windy.
Course: Hilly for the first four miles on city streets until we hit a trail system that we stayed on until approximately mile 10. We left the trail for a seven-mile, clockwise loop that brought us back through the Furman University campus and then back on the trail system near mile 20. The last mile and a half is back on the streets with a finish in the minor league baseball park near home plate.
From home to SC: Through a couple of Facebook photos, I knew that Penn State grad Dane Rauschenberg as well as Steve and Paula Boone were going to be there. I never saw Dane, but I did see Steve before the race as we tried to stay warm inside the ballpark. Stopping by to talk for a little: former Olympian Jeff Galloway.

Saturday, November 5
Indianapolis Monumental Marathon (Indianapolis, IN)
Time: 5:25:41
Grade: C (Had a 4:48 pace through mile 18, but shut it down by mile 19 and settled for a finish.)
Weather: Nothing to complain about. Maybe even a little too cool at the start, but really felt good in the front half. A light to mild wind kept things chilly until the finish. Course: Pretty flat, especially the first half of the course.
From home to IN: No close encounters of the Texas kind, but I did find out later that The Woodlands' John Slate - a member of the Seven Hills Running Club had been there as well.

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