Saturday, March 30, 2013

Chisholm Trail Half Marathon Race Report

When I started running and signing up for races, I used other races as built-in training and to keep me motivated.  Almost 10 years later, nothing's changed.

I have the Illinois Marathon on the dance card in four weeks.

So I thought it might be a good idea to put a few half marathons on the schedule in between.

Today was the first of two that I have paid for.  

It was the Chisholm Trail Half and Quarter Marathon, which was hosted by the Waco Striders Running Club from Tonkawa Park in Crawford.  (Crawford, about 15 or so miles northwest of Waco, is probably best known for being the residence of former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura.)

I got into Waco Friday evening early enough to pick my packet up at On The Run, which is located in downtown, and stayed at the Homewood Suites near Hillcrest Hospital at I-35 and Hwy. 6.

The race was an 8 a.m. start.  Therefore, I was up at 6 a.m., grabbed a danish and a bagel at 7 a.m., drove out to about 8 miles from Crawford, picked up some fluids and then went on to the race site.

Still had plenty of time, though, and visited a little bit with Monica Montoya and Keith Cotropia from League City - frequent supporters of all of Robby Sabban's race.

We were off on-time and it took about 17 seconds to clear the start line.  The weather was cool and breezy, but it was only about 61-62 degrees.  (It would be at around 72-74 at the end of the half marathon.)

Wished for a little while that I had brought and put on a long-sleeved technical top, but later on it would warm up.

We took a left out of the park on 4th St. and made a right on to Chisholm Trail Rd., hence the name of the event.  This course reminded me of so many races that I've done before - ones like the Country Roads 10K in San Marcos, the Dime Box Mini-Marathon (10K) in Dime Box and some of the ones that I did on weekends in Washington state in 2006-2007.

Mile 1 -- 10:03.27
Mile 2 -- 10:12.17 - 20:15.44 (10:08 gun)

These first two felt really, really quick - for me; especially since the end of mile two had a 2% grade drop.

Mile 3 -- 10:34.49 - 30:49.93 (10:13 gun)
Mile 4 -- 11:15.88 - 42:15.81 (10:34 gun)
Mile 5 -- 9:57.35 - 52:13.16 (10:27 gun)

No surprise on the slowdown as there were plenty of segments where the grades climbed 1% and 2%, according to

At mile 5, there was a turnaround and we came back a mile to take a left on Bible Hill Road (which I didn't know the name of then but I'm certain I invoked a lot of praying on the three-mile stretch).

Mile 6 -- 10:38.40 - 1:02:51.56 (10:28 gun)

I didn't get as much back in that mile as I thought I would so after I took in some water at the stop, I tried to make quick work of things.

Mile 7 -- 10:03.68 - 1:12:55.24 (10:25 gun)
Mile 8 -- 10:38.71 - 1:23:33.95 (10:27 gun)
Mile 9 -- 11:16.37 - 1:34:50.32 (10:32 gun)

But by the time I got back out to Chisholm Trail Road, I was hurting a little and where there wasn't an uphill, there was wind (out on the prairie!)

Mile 10 -- 11:22.58 - 1:46:12.90
Mile 11 -- 10:36.59 - 1:56:50.49 (10:38 gun)

Honestly, looking at the elevation on the course map, I should have gotten more out of mile 10, but did get the time that I should had in mile 11.

Mile 12 -- 11:49.87 - 2:08:40.36
Mile 13.1 -- 12:28.13 - 2:21:08.39

Mile 12 was an uphill and the last 1.1, well, I was just exhausted even though it was pretty flat at this point.

Hills, wind (which left me a little partched) and too quick of an attempt to "race" - by my definition - left me with a not so solid performance.

The final "chip" time, according to my watch, will be 2:20:51.

The Waco Striders were using manual timing so my time there will be listed as the gun time.

I had a chance to visit former Houston Strider (and Houston Running Blogger) Bill Cox, who is trying to get back running again - and drop some weight.  He took the early start at 7:15 a.m. and made it to the finish before me.  I crossed paths on the road between mile 6 and 7 - for me going out.

It was really good to see him.  I didn't get a chance to see Monica and Keith come in as I wanted to get back to the hotel, relax a little, shower and then I grabbed lunch at Chuy's.

With the way that Highway 6 is completely two lanes each way all the way from Waco to Waller, the complete drive in return, including a stop in Navasota, was just under three hours.  Nice.

So this was my 89th half marathon and a race in my 77th Texas city or town.

Have to have some things to shoot for when you're not as fleet of feet as others.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Ocean Drive Marathon Race Report

It is 4:15 a.m. Eastern, so it seems to be the best time to knock out a race report before getting on the plane back to IAH – and to sleep!

Yesterday’s Ocean Drive Marathon gave me marathon finish #49 and in my 31st state.

My chip time was 5:36:23, which isn’t what I hoped for but it is reasonable given the preparation.

I made my reservations to come to New Jersey less than two weeks after dropping at mile 32 at Rocky Raccoon.  My thought process was that I could get back to my 5-6 workouts a week and be completely ready to put down a cold weather, 5-hour marathon.

However, heavy involvement with both the Fidelity Investments The Woodlands Marathon and the Seabrook Lucky Trail Marathon, which includes a lot of pre- and post-work behind the scenes, cut those weekly 60- to 90-minute workouts to 2-3 times per week.

In between, I announced for the Exygon and Baptist Hospitals Gusher Marathon in Beaumont, which still required about a half day to prep, and took out most of my Saturday.

I’m constantly surprised about how much that those activities take out of me – outside of my normal work day.

The follow-up from Seabrook, which included attending a city council meeting where the city of Seabrook approved increased funding for the event in 2014, had me getting in workouts on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  So much for taper, right?

Heck, I hadn’t even gotten the miles in, to be honest.

And I’m not sure that my head was completely in this one, like it was for Portland, Maine last fall.  It was one of these things that if I hadn’t traveled so far, I might have just stayed in bed Sunday morning.  How did I know this?

One, I didn’t notice when I was at packet pickup on Saturday afternoon – after our flight being delayed three hours coming from IAH to Philadelphia – that I didn’t have pins for my bib.  And, two, even after I bought some extra strength Tylenol to take before I ran that I had left the two tablets that I had taken out of the bottle until after I was en route to the race site.

Some of this comes, I think, from not always enjoying travelling by myself to these races out-of-state.  I enjoy working towards a goal, but doing it with others who are doing it at my pace would be much more enjoyable.  And when I say pace, I’m not just talking about minutes per mile.

I know many 50 staters, if you will, who it seems like their meaning for existence is wrapped up in seeing how many they can do and so on.  Not me.  I take them when I can get them.

With a 9 a.m. Eastern time start and deciding not to go to Sea Isle City where the finish was (to take the shuttle to the start), I made it to the front of the Residence Inn that I was staying at in Somers Point to get a bagel and a breakfast muffin.  I had some Gatorade (because I had read that there wouldn’t be any electrolytes on the course until about mile 11), but I still realized that I needed something to hold my bib in place.

So I found a Rite Aid Pharmacy and bought binder clips and shipping tape.  When the binder clips didn’t seem like they were going to hold on the top that I was wearing, I used the shipping tape – and it stayed in place the entire race. I went to the restroom, along the seawall, and then made my way towards the start.  I was able to stay in my car until after the National Anthem.

I hadn’t been there too long when I spied a running hat that looked familiar.  I thought to myself, “No way”.  But, yes, there in New Jersey was a Seabrook Lucky Trail Marathon hat!  I made my way over to another surprise – a good friend of mine from the Houston Striders, John DiMarco.  He was starting back on his state chase and this was going to be number 24 for him.

The woman with the Seabrook Lucky Trail Marathon hat was Terry Allen from Lake Jackson and she was with Sue Wheeler from Houston, who was a BARRA member that submitted their club report for Inside Texas Running when I was the editor of HARRA’s Footprints.  Small world.

John and I ran for about the first mile, talking about The Woodlands Marathon.  He is good friends with Marnie Staehly from San Antonio and was there to follow her after he completed the half.  He was also telling me about how much of a nice guy that Colorado’s Matt Levassiur was, as well as sharing some observations about some things that took place on the course.

In our conversation, I totally missed mile 1 and when I got to mile 2, I realized that the 19:49.20 was definitely faster than I needed to be going.

Therefore, I purposedly backed off to a 10:52.22 in mile three (30:41.42 cumulative), but the next four miles were just disconcerting because you didn’t know if the entire course was going to be this way – as the mile markers were way off.

11:31.87 - Mile 4 (long)
  9:02.63 - Mile 5 (short) - 10:17 between the two
  8:16.25 - Mile 6 (really short)
12:38.47 - Mile 7 (really long) - 10:27 between the two

I was still running pretty easy and the weather, albeit cold, wasn’t that bad nor was the wind.  The forecast was for but about 8 miles an hour after being in the double digits the two days before.

However, I knew that there was going to be a point in time that without taking something for the pain – and not having the miles on my legs – that the wheels were going to come off the car.

The next three miles still seemed pretty easy, but mile 11 is the first one that I sensed that things may become more of a challenge.

10:25.97 - Mile 8
10:59.85 - Mile 9
10:40.73 - Mile 10
11:01.92 - Mile 11

I held steady for miles 12 and 13 and hit the latter mile marker in about 2:17:43 overall.

At the halfway mark, though, I got in under 2:19, which normally is about where I want to be, but I knew that the back half wasn’t going to be as kind.  If you’ve been running long enough, you just kind of know.

11:07.07 - Mile 12
11:06.87 - Mile 13
  1:11.87 - Mile 13.1
10:26.37 - Mile 13.1 - 14 (11:37 for the entire mile)

So at mile 14, I figured that I was at 2:30.  It was time for “marathon math” and I figured that 12 miles at 16 minutes a mile was 3:12 – or a 5:42-5:44 finish.  I could live with that.

I had already signed up for the Illinois Marathon in Champaign, Illinois for in five weeks, plus I wanted to get back to my 5-6 workouts a week.

The next four miles were a little bit of a struggle, but I was still on PR pace (4:47:32) through mile 17 and just slightly over at mile 18.

13:21.82 - Mile 15 (~2:42:33 ... 11-min per is 2:45)
12:20.24 - Mile 16 (~2:54:53 ... 11-min per is 2:56)
12:40.26 - Mile 17 (~3:07:34 ... 11-min per is 3:07)
13:24.63 - Mile 18 (~3:20:58 ... 2 minutes over 11 min per mile, which is PR pace)

It was here that I pretty well decided to shut it down and it was final once I hit the mile 19 marker.

13:52.55 - Mile 19 (~3:34:50 ... 5:26 at 16-minute per mile)
15:49.50 - Mile 20
15:15.60 - Mile 21

Things were OK until mile 22.  I thought the mile marker might had really, really been off because it came through as 18:09.83, but I could feel myself being kind of disoriented.  I was looking for vehicles along the route where I could have gotten into and warmed up.

I went through 6:26.48 of mile 23 before I spotted the City of Avalon’s ambulance.  I got their attention and was able to get in their ambulance to warm up.  I could tell that maybe hypothermia might have been coming on.  After I finished my 50-miler in 2008 at Huntsville State Park, Bill Dwyer forgot to warn me that once I stopped that my core body temperature would plummet.

I assumed that this is what was happening here.

After spending another 6:47.56 in the ambulance, it was another 11:34.66 walking until I made it to mile 23, which was over the final bridge.  You had to get to this bridge by five hours and 30 minutes to be counted as an official finisher.

It was at this bridge where the only visible damage that I saw from Superstorm Sandy.  It had really mangled parts of the road that the county and DOT had worked to make sure that runners would still be able to pass it – even though vehicles are far from going through there.

The next two miles, once again, weren’t pretty, and I didn’t realize until after I got back to the hotel that I only have a 30-lap watch and not a 50-lap so I couldn’t tell how much I picked it up in the last mile when I alternated a run and a walk every 100 steps.

15:47.64 - Mile 24
17:00.85 - Mile 25
3:37.51 - MIle 25 - 25.2

All in all, it was simply another state for a 5:36:23 finish.  Have had lots better and some worse even; however, I would not recommend this marathon for anybody chasing states and looking for New Jersey.

While the course is primarily flat, there are a lot of turns in the last half of the course.

Law enforcement and the volunteers were excellent.  This is not the place to come looking for a crowd, though.

But it was these three paragraphs in the pre-race story in the Press of Atlantic City that spoke volumes to me.

The road will have less foot traffic than in previous years. As of 3 p.m. Saturday, 650 runners had registered for the marathon. That marked a decrease (approximately 20 percent) for the first time in the 15-year history of the race. Another 540 had signed up for the 10-mile race and approximately 250 are scheduled to participate in the five-kilometer run.

The ODM can be tough on runners. Besides having to traverse five bridges, they have had to deal with a head wind for 12 of the 14 previous editions of the marathon. But weather may not be as big a factor this year. The forecast for today, according to, calls for temperatures in the 40s with winds from the southeast at seven miles per hour.

"I have no idea why our numbers are down this year," DiPalma said. "The only thing I can think of is people from other parts of the country were a little hesitant to register because of the way Hurricane Sandy hit the area."

No, I think it is because other marathons – even though the number of marathoners is starting to trend down – take care of their runners much better than this race does.

Granted, it was cold, but I’ve worked marathons were it was cold and the show still goes on to give runners what they pay for – and that’s a lot of recognition and attention as well as decent food at the end.

When it is cold, you wanted something warm to hit the spot – oranges, bagels and sandwiches from Wawa (a local convenience store) isn’t going to cut it.  I don’t know if there was any coffee around because I don’t drink it, but if there had been some hot chocolate, I would have taken a stab at it.

While I saw somebody on the bus back to the start that had won an age group award, which were really, really nice, the medal – and I’m not necessarily a big medal guy – was just a step above what you would order from Rainbow Racing.

And it was almost punishment for not catching the pre-race shuttle that the driver on the post-race shuttle seemed to take the circuitous route when everybody just wanted to get there.  Oh, this was aside of almost running a red light and then coming to an almost screeching halt at another.  Crazy stuff.

Hope I didn’t bore you to sleep if you’re still reading … but if you did make it this far, thank you for reading.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Some Different Inspirations

If I spent time writing about all of things that I get to experience in supporting local road races and triathlons, among other service opportunities, I wouldn't have time to get much else done -- and things such as faith, my daughter and work need to take priority.

One of the most challenging things for me over the years - in what I get the opportunity to do -- has been the arrogance of some of the athletes that I've encountered.  It is a very small percentage, but enough to be a major discouragement.

For every one of those, thank goodness, there's 10, 20 or 50 individuals who are truly inspiring.

I witnessed one last weekend at the Exygon and Baptist Hospitals Gusher Marathon when 32-year-old Iram Leon pushed his six-year-old daughter Kiana in a borrowed stroller to win the race after the race directors, Rich and Amie James, bent their rules to give him an opportunity that many other races wouldn't.

Why?  He has brain cancer, but also because he's doing his best to create memories for his daughter if the worst shall happen.

I interviewed, during our Running Alliance Sport Marathon Preview Show from the Houston Marathon Expo two months ago, Brandon Adame - a blind athlete with an incredible personality and spirit who doesn't let that challenge stop him from achieving what other adults only dream of.

One of those accomplishments is a finish - with his guide, Nigel Willerton - in the inaugural Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas almost two years ago.

Even if you see Iram and Brandon dressed in non-athletic attire, you might perceive them to be athletes.

In the same way, more than likely, you'd stereotype Missouri City's Peter Raybourn as one who wasn't.

La Porte fireman Tony Constanzo - a recent Rocky Raccoon 100-mile finisher - and I had a chance to visit with the 51-year-old at the completion of today's Seabrook Lucky Trail Half Marathon and I gained an even deeper appreciation about how every person that signs up for a race or competition of any kind does it for their own reason.

And the one thing that I wish that I could impress on everyone is that your reason or your ability isn't any better than anyone else's.

Peter's a big man.  Your first instinct may be to think why a 330-pound man, if he was going to come out and participate in such an event, wouldn't work more diligently to lower his weight to better his performance.

I can't speak for Peter in my short conversation with him today, but he's been down to as low as 270 - and is aiming to get back there.  However, for many, many years, he weighed 465 pounds.

That's a loss - in body weight - of an entire athletic female!

He's completed the Rocky Raccoon 50 miler not once, not twice, but five (5) times.

I know of some accomplished athletes that won't even try it once.

My best friend, besides my daughter, once told me that if you can train to run a marathon that you can finish a 50-miler.

And Tony will have to correct me if I misheard, but I believe that Peter has completed the MS150 distance five times.

Of course, that's really nothing to many Ironman athletes who'll do up to six century rides in getting ready for the 140.6-mile journey.

But Peter's legally blind.

His corrected vision is 20/300.  His field (or range) of vision is, I believe he said, about five percent (or degrees) now.

He hasn't driven a vehicle since 1998.

His primary goal was - and still is (if he can get under the new 15-hour, 50-mile time limit at Rocky) - to get to 500 miles to get the special jacket that Joe Prusaitis gives out.

If not, he's still happy in finishing half marathons - and an occasional marathon - at Steve and Paula Boone's Texas Marathon, Daryl Beatty's Surfside Beach Marathon and Robby Sabban's Seabrook Lucky Trail Marathon as well as a variety of Joe's trail races.

And he's most appreciative of those races versus other large events that dispatch him - and others - to the sidewalks after 10 miles.

It is men and women like Iram, Brandon and Peter that keep me giving what talents that I have in supporting and recognizing their accomplishments long after the less-gracious athletes are  off and away pontificating their smackdowns of those that they think that they're better than.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Running Into Busy

When I help out and work a lot of events (namely the Fidelity Investments The Woodlands Marathon, the Exygon and Baptist Hospitals Gusher Marathon and the Seabrook Lucky Trail Marathon), which I sincerely enjoy doing, my running typically suffers.

Last year, it was really bad as I didn't do much between the 52-mile effort at Rocky Raccoon and the finish at the Garmin Marathon in Olathe, Kansas on April 21, which I was fortunate to get done under six (6) hours (5:54:49).

So what's a guy to do?  Get busy, right?

Here's a very tentative schedule through mid-May:

3/24/13 - (1) *Ocean Drive Marathon (Cape May to Sea Isle City, NJ - New State)
3/30/13 - (2) Chisholm Trail Half Marathon (Crawford, TX - New Texas City)
4/ 6/13 - (3) Fairview Half Marathon (Fairview, TX - New Texas City)
4/ 6/13 - Announce Muddy Trails 5K/10K (The Woodlands, TX)
4/ 7/13 - Announce Texas 10 Huntsville (Huntsville, TX)
4/ 7/13 - TWRC Sunday Night 5K (The Woodlands, TX)
4/13/13 - (4) Davy Crockett Bear Chase Half Marathon (Groveton, TX - New Texas City)
4/14/13 - (5) Run For The Rose 5K (Houston, TX)
4/20/13 - (6) Danish Capital of Texas Fun Run 5K (Danevang, TX - New Texas City)
4/26/13 - *Presence Covenant Medical Center Illinois 5K (Champaign, IL)
4/27/13 - (7) *Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon (Champaign, IL - New State)
5/ 4/13 - (8) Finish Line Announce CB&I Sprint Triathlon (The Woodlands, TX - Tentative)
5/ 5/13 - TWRC Sunday Night 5K (The Woodlands, TX)
5/11/13 - (9) Announce El Chupacabra de Houston 5K/10K (New Caney, TX)
5/18/13 - Cover Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas (The Woodlands, TX)

And here are the footnotes to above:

(1) - State #31 and Marathon #49.  Hope to get to visit with my good friends, Rob and Lysa Jones.
(2) - $30 before 3/22.  Sure, gas will be more getting to and from, but maybe George W. will come out and run it.
(3) - Totally tentative.  A new event from Libby Jones.  If not, will probably run a 5K in La Porte to support another friend.
(4) - Totally tentative as well.  One of Steve and Paula's race that I stopped announcing because I started to cover the Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 Texas.
(5) - Can run this and make it back in time for church on Sunday.  Otherwise, I'd sit this one out.
(6) - Four races in Montgomery County that day and I'm making a drive.  Yes, all for a new Texas city.
(7) - State #32 and Marathon #50.  Got a $179 round-trip air fare to Chicago which gets me back on Saturday night too!
(8) - Tentative as well.  Long story as to why I didn't in 2012 after doing so in 2010-2011, but our church is hosting a race that day and they may be in need of assistance.
(9) - Bill Gardner has hired me to announce another one of his races after doing the Sandcrab 5K/10K last August in Galveston.

So, that's the plan (or vision, as somebody once said). 

I haven't run a race since February 2 and haven't finished on since January 20th.

Therefore, it's time to get to work - and have a little fun!