Saturday, May 24, 2014

Road to 2,000 - 5/23/14 to 5/22/15

Pretty ambitious goal for me because I've never, ever logged miles (i.e. wrote them down).
I've tracked race miles before, but that's completely different.
So here goes to see if I can run 100 miles for every year of Waverly's life in the coming year.

5/23/14 - Idle
5/24/14 - 6.77 miles (6.77 total; 1,993.23 to go)
5/25/14 - 7.1 miles (13.87 total; 1,986.13 to go)
5/26/14 - 3.1 miles (16.97 total; 1,983.03 to go)
5/27/14 - Idle
5/28/14 - 6 miles (22.97 total; 1,977.03 to go)
5/29/14 - 6 miles (28.97 total; 1,971.03 to go)
5/30/14 - Idle
5/31/14 - 3.1 miles (32.07 total; 1967.93 to go)
6/1-4/14 - Idle
6/5/14 - 6 miles (38.07 total; 1961.93 to go)
6/6/14 - Idle

Run 1 - 3.1 miles, road/trail mixed (Heroes and Hope 5K, Sugar Land, TX), 5/24/14
Run 2 - 3.67 miles, treadmill (32:40), 5/24/14
Run 3 - 3.1 miles, paved park trail (Run For Wellness 5K, West Houston, TX), 5/25/14
Run 4 - 4 miles, treadmill, 5/25/14
Run 5 - 3.1 miles, paved road (Memorial Day 5K, Huntsville, TX), 5/26/14
Run 6 - 6 miles, treadmill, 5/28/14
Run 7 - 6 miles, treadmill, 5/29/14
Run 8 - 3.1 miles, paved road (Bryant High School Hurricane 5K, Irvington, AL), 5/31/14
Run 9 - 6 miles, treadmill, 6/5/14

Thursday, May 8, 2014

More From Behind The Microphone

I got a lot of nice compliments from announcing the 11th annual CB&I TRI - The Woodlands Triathlon on Saturday - and I appreciate every single one, but one stood out.

And that wasn't just because Lars Finanger won.

It was no more than about 10 words at the Pavillion in Northshore Park during the awards ceremony.

But knowing a little of Lars' background and where in the sports of triathlon and cycling that he's been, it spoke volumes.  (Google Lars and you'll find out.)

Again, if you don't know me, you're thinking, "Well, he'll probably let something like that get to his head."

No, not really.

I mean, you have to have a little bit of an ego to do this, but it is more out of confidence than being a braggard.

I've said often that I don't have a classically strong voice, but I just know how to use it well.

It is always nice to be asked.

Sometimes, however, you need a break, especially when you had worked seven events in the previous seven weeks.

Volte Endurance Training's Brian Jackson asked me to announce for the 8th annual BMI 5K in Conroe, which was held on Saturday, April 26th -- a race that I had one time race directed a couple of years.

It had nothing to do with the size of the event.

I just needed to get my running kind of kick-started again -- and needed to get out of town to do so.

And since I wasn't going to be around, Brian used my speaker system for the event.

Other times, you have a schedule conflict.

One race that I've announced before -- and one that I left voluntarily -- reached back out to me this week that they were considering other options.

If they moved their race to another date, which isn't necessarily an option for them, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

New opportunities are great too.

Texas 10 Series race director Willie Fowlkes and his race management team have and are giving me the opportunity to announce in new markets.

Texas 10 Boerne put me in the San Antonio market for the first time.  Really, Mark Purnell can't be everywhere!  (As I said in the Night Trail Run 15K race report, Mark does a really nice job out there announcing.)

I'll announce in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex on Saturday for the first time at Texas10 Plano - and will again later this year at Texas10 Fort Worth.

Florida will be new in mid-October with Florida10 Lakeland on Sunday, October 19.

It will be the first race that I fly to to announce for - kind of like Mike Reilly - as I'll work the Toughest 10K Galveston on Saturday, October 18, which is the second race of the Texas Bridge Series.

And sometimes a schedule conflict creates a new opportunity.

The second race of the 2014 Florida 10 Series was going to be on Sunday, December 14, which would have made my trip to get Waverly home from the Fall semester interesting.

Not sure how much she would have liked to have gone to Florida before making it home for Winter Break.

However, Florida10 Sarasota is now going to happen on Saturday, December 7 -- the same day as Texas10 Conroe.  That decision - for my time - will come later.

It will allow for me to do for the first time -- a Marathon Warm-Up Series race, the Finish Line Sports Sugar Land 30K on the 14th.

Jana Landry has always wanted me to do the USA Space City 10-Miler, which is typically held on the second Sunday in October.  However, I've always had a conflict -- or I've liked to run that race myself.

The Space City 10-Miler is a HARRA Fall Series race, but not in the Marathon Warm-Up Series.

I really appreciate Andy Stewart for giving me the opportunity to announce the 30K.

I'll work with Andy for the first time next month at the Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Triathlon on Sunday, June 22.

Andy has been putting on road races and triathlons in the greater Houston area since the early 1980s, if not before that.

There is disappointment too in what I do - aside from having scheduling conflicts.

I don't attempt to go out and drum up business because this isn't what I do for a living.

I prefer to let my work speak for itself.  If people think I do a good job, I figure that they'll tell somebody when they know that an event is looking for an announcer.

I have a rate card (as I was advised to do this by one race director) and I share it when asked, "What do you charge?"

One event that I did last year I haven't heard back from, but I don't think it is from a lack of a quality performance.

I think that it is either that they've forgot or that their numbers aren't where it fits in their budget.

That's one disappointment.

Another is when somebody does reach out to you at the recommendation of somebody you've worked with.  You respond immediately when they ask if you'd be willing to meet with them, but they don't reach back out to you.

In either case above, knowing something is better than not knowing anything.

Actually, this works for personal friendships and relationships too.

Finally, sometimes it isn't fun to get a participant list ahead of time -- even though I need it to prepare.

Why?  I'm not friends with everybody and there are those out there who don't like me.

A few, yes, hate me.  (And they are very good friends of people who I like.  It makes those interactions a challenge because I've wondered what they've said about me - and how much the person that I like has believed it.)

It is the most rough part of what I do.

Two years ago, I got the participant list for CB&I and there were two names that I just couldn't see myself announcing their names as enthusiatically as I did everyone else.

(I saw both of those individuals last Saturday at Northshore Park.  They weren't racing, but it was a challenge to be in the same area as them.)

I've gotten better at it, but it still isn't fun.

The best medicine?  Hope that you're both working (or running in) a bigger event.

So what motivated this post?

It was Kate Looney's comment this morning - after an initial one of praise - on the CBI post from Saturday which said, "Universal Sports needs to hire you to do the live commentating on the elite marathon races. Chicago and London were awful."

When they start putting marathons on radio, maybe then.  As I don't have the face for television.  :-)

Aside from The Woodlands' Nora Wilson always putting me in the same class as Reilly (which I don't think that I deserve), my favorite comment has come from Karen Ponette-Maldonado.

"Just wanted to tell you that at Ironman Cozumel I thought of you when crossing the finish line.  LOL," she said.  "The guy there didn't say anything but "You are an Ironman" and I thought to myself, they need to hire Jon Walk!  Really!"

Now that's fun -- and puts a smile on my face.

See you at the races.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

BCS Marathon Race Series Night Trail Run 15K Race Report

After being at Northshore Park Friday night and Saturday morning (and a little bit of a nap Saturday afternoon), a little "me time" was in order for Saturday night.

So what's somebody like me do?  Go run a race, if there's one available.

And the BCS Marathon Race Series fit the bill with its "Night Trail Run 15K" at Royalty Pecan Farms off Highway 21 just east of Caldwell and west of Bryan.

They had hosted a 5K there earlier in the morning and were producing a 10K and 15K that night.

In a sense, it kind of makes you think of what Robby Sabban started - locally - with the Saturday Half Marathon at the Seabrook Lucky Trail Marathon in 2007.

From a numbers perspective, there were 120 finishers in the 5K and another 276 in both the 10K and the 15K.  That distribution was a 2:1 split (185:91).

The one thing that Series founder Chris Field has done very well with his events is leverage the trend in our sport to bring women to the start line.

In the 5K yesterday morning, there were 83 female finishers and 37 men.

In the 10K, 131 women and 54 men finished.  Even in the 15K, 57 ladies crossed the finish line while 34 men.

This trend is pretty prevalent throughout, with the exception of the 26.2-mile distance.

2011 BCS Half Marathon - 902 overall.  581 women, 381 men.
2011 BCS Marathon - 408 overall.  173 women, 235 men.

2012 BCS Half Marathon - 2,089 overall.  1,310 women, 779 men.
2012 BCS Marathon - 614 overall.  262 women, 352 men.

2013 Girls Just Want to Have Fun 5K - 209 women.
2013 Night Trail Run 5K - 185 overall.  133 women, 52 men.
2013 Night Trail Run 10K - 146 overall.  102 women, 44 men.
2013 Night Trail Run 15K - 71 overall.  35 women, 36 men.
2013 BCS 5K - 193 overall.  128 women, 65 men.
2013 BCS 10K - 334 overall.  218 women, 116 men.
2013 BCS 5 And Dime 5-Miler - 116 overall.  73 women, 43 men.
2013 BCS 5 And Dime 10-Miler - 244 overall.  172 women, 72 men.
2013 Brazos Running Company Turkey Trot 5K - 769 overall.  420 women, 349 men.
2013 BCS Half Marathon - 2,052 overall.  1,348 women, 704 men.
2013 BCS Marathon - 944 overall.  419 women, 525 men.
2013 BCS Marathon Relay - 39 finishing teams.  No gender information available.

2014 Girls Just Want To Have Fun 5K - 260 overall.

When I attend a race, I typically am watching for race operations issues to see if there's anything that I can do better or the event that I'm working with.  Some might say that it is "stealing", but when you get to a group of top event producers, you really don't see too much different.

Really, it boils down to different styles and flavors.

No different than me and the events that I work with, this event (and the entire Series) has a really good public address announcer, Mark Purnell, out of San Antonio.  (In fact, his sister was working with the team on Saturday that was timing CB&I.  I also think I ran a 10K in Bandera in late March that she was the race director for when we talking a little bit.)

The trail race was running on the dirt roads that were in the pecan groves.

They had a 5K loop marked off that you ran twice if you were doing the 10K and a third time for the 15K.

The College Station Running Club served as water station volunteers for the two that were on each loop -- one on the far northwest corner of the course (just before the 2-mile mark supposedly) and another at the end of the loop.

Before you even hit the grounds, the entrance to the property was well-marked with BCS Race Series teardrop flags.  Volunteers helped people lineup parking to maximize space and minimize damage to the grounds.

Packet pickup didn't take too long, but the person that was helping with the 15K was struggling with the setup that she was given.  I had arrived in plenty of time; therefore, it wasn't an issue.

We received a race t-shirt and a pecan sample - and was welcome to go through a box that had leftover BCS Race Series technical shirts.  (Like I need another shirt.)

I had plenty of time to go back to the car and put on bug spray, relax and get my head lamp ready.

The race started on time at 8:17 p.m. and off we went.  I had positioned myself pretty far back and with almost 300 hundred runners, it took me 30 seconds to cross the start line.

We made a hard right after passing underneath the inflatable arch and crossing a "bridge" that was made even with a series of thick plywood sheets.

Afterward, there was a quick left to start a loop that was much like a retangular box standing on its end.

The paths between the pecan groves were wide and this race can hold many, many more people.

The majority of the surface was dirt, but wasn't so loose that you felt like you were running in sand or on the beach the entire time.

And with the exception of a stretch that ran north and south across both stretches that went out and back, there was a spot were it was built up and you had to pick your feet up like you were going over a large speed bump.

It was still a little humid, but not too warm as we were on the first loop.

I hit the first mile marker in 10:44 (10:43.98) and then completed the first loop in 34:38.36.

The second loop, which I finished in 35:58.64, was still pretty easy to run as you had more people doing the 10K to run near (and with), but the third loop got pretty lonely out there.

I passed a couple of people at the water stop to end loop two and then I'm not sure that I passed anybody else until after I got past the other water stop.

During the second and third loops, I took my light off of my head and carried it.  (During the last loop, the strap actually broke free from the light.)

Footing was pretty stable as this wasn't a technical trail by any means.  And by holding the light, it simply became easier to run.

Actually felt stronger the last loop as it got a little bit more cooler.  I was able to pass a few people in the last mile or so as I covered it in 35:39.42.

So, that gave me a time of 1:45:36.

The timer had me at 1:45:43.  That means he started the clock seven (7) seconds before the announcer said to go.  (Not an issue, by the way.)

No sooner had I crossed the finish line and got some water came Texas 10 Series participant Stephen Griffin of The Woodlands.  It was good to see him there as well.

I was going to run this morning one of the Houston Wellness Project 5Ks - actually the newest one that they started near the Heights.  I was beat and wiped out from last night.  Therefore, it was a "no go".

So work one, run one kind of weekend it was.

In case you were wondering, Caldwell was not a new city for me.  I had done the Kolache Krunch 5K there in 2007.  It was the last new city that I added that year to get me to 44!  :-)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Race Announcing The 11th Annual CB&I TRI - The Woodlands Triathlon

It is always a lot of fun to announce at the annual CB&I TRI - The Woodlands Triathlon.

Many, many thanks to co-race directors Kelly Dietrich and Angel Nicks and their management, Chris Nunes and John Powers, for allowing me to represent The Woodlands Township at their events, which include the annual Muddy Trails Bash each April.

It is a great community race that has the best of the best involved, including Finish Strong Coaching's Dana Lyons, TxTri's Sandra Sutherland and Team Strive's Kimberly Mac Namee (yes, I know Kim is on Dana's staff now, but she'll always be Team Strive to me) and top USAT officials (including Andrea Chan), coming together.

I covered the race for a couple of years while I was writing weekly running and triathlon columns for The Courier and then got the chance to do finish line announcing in 2010 while Willie Fowlkes was the race director.

I didn't announce in 2012 (nor attend the event) because of some personal issues involving a few competitors, but drew the bead in 2013 - for all announcing - when the event's regular race announcer was unable to make it.

This year, it appeared as if he wasn't going to be able make it again, but by mid-Monday I knew that I would be at the finish line -- and doing the awards.

The way that North Shore Park and the finish line is setup -- and the hour that it takes to go through all 13 waves -- two race announcers have become necessary to 1.) get athletes to the swim start, into the water and waves started and 2.) try to appropriately recognize a great effort at the conclusion of the race.

Without having to worry about making announcements at 6:00 a.m. -- which is my one hour before race start rule of thumb, I was able to spend the time mentally preparing on how to be at the top of my game at the bottom of the bridge.

At CB&I, I normally start talking as soon as the first elite runner hits the westbound lane of traffic on Lake Woodlands Drive.  I had some notes on every elite athlete in the field -- and was able to speak to a little what they've all done here recently.  (Many of them had competed a month ago at Ironman 70.3 Texas and I had their times there.)

The only thing that I ended up fretting is that when Lars Finanger, the winner, came down the bridge to the finish is that I didn't identify him correctly on the way out as he was in the lead from the get go.

I've known of Lars, but have never seem him compete.

He was in our elite half marathon field at The Woodlands Marathon, but his number "7" looked more like Benjamin Baxter's #1.  Oops!

I did get the ladies identified correctly, including his wife, Emily's incredibly impressive background.  (What I recall now in a post-race report is that I didn't see eventual winner Sarah Hankla, who is coming back from an injury that sidelined her late in the 2013 season.)

So as all of the elite racers begin making their way to the finish, I started to realize that the timer's reader mat -- wasn't reading.  Nice.

Luckily I did have a printed backup -- with 1,200 racer's names (and not the relay teams), but I chose not to laminate them all (six double-sided) because I had seen this timer do well at some races in the central Texas area, which is where they're based out of.

Note to self:  With a race this large and with this timer, laminate them.

It is easy to get many of the names right when you're trying to identify them old school -- and they're all in the same wave start, but when athletes from multiple waves become mixed it really was a challenge to try and catch everyone.

After a little bit of complaining on my part, the owner finally did something to make it read.  However, there was a catch.

It only displayed FIRST names.

I could imagine me saying, "Way to go, BOB!"  Would that be "Bob from Accounttemps" then?

I wasn't acting prima-donna -- because anybody that knows me knows that I don't have a big ego when I do this, but athletes enjoy having their name called out to cap off a great race or effort, depending on how their day went.

And when things aren't working as you expect, it is hard to try and get the crowd engaged today more than what they normally are when you're also trying to make sure that you're thanking the sponsors and volunteers continuously when there aren't runners heading down the bridge.

At about 9:20 a.m., the regular race announcer, who's done the event since its inception, took over for me at the finish line so that I could handle the awards.

So why wouldn't you let him handle the awards?

Two reasons.

I know (or know of) many of the athletes in the area - and am armed with information about them, but I also am available to vet the awards because I've been at the finish line watching the athletes cross.

We had a couple of issues today.

The first print didn't have the age groups in the last wave, which included 20-24 and 25-29 females.

Also, the overall amateur male had a ridiculous and impossible time of 38 minutes and change.  Well, this belonged to a chip that the timer was using as a test.

Once they were removed, it adjusted the men's results as the fastest non-elite male was in the 15-19 age group.

We also didn't have the one competitor in the women's 65-and-over category, 50 States Marathon finisher Geri Henry.

Robby Sabban will tell you that I've saved a day or two in these situations, even though he has a very good and meticulous timer in Richard Campbell.

Because the Woodlands Township is a public entity, certain services that they contract for have to go out to public bid.  Race timing is one of them.

The firm that won the bid this year was the first that we've worked with them.

I warned them when I did a 10K on a Saturday in Bandera that they had Muddy Trails to get the kinks worked out with this size of an event before CB&I.

From a timing perspective, I thought they did a pretty good job.

I think when you try and get fancy with printing results from a kiosk, etc., and wireless and all, while technologically cool, you run the risk of taking away from your core goal -- getting an accurate and properly recorded time.

This timer did that, but I heard a rumble or two about the whiz-bang things that they were doing.

It is part of the unique skill-set that I've been blessed enough to be given - and to continue to work on and develop (thanks to race directors that have engaged my services).

I want things to be the best for the athletes involved (who have dropped their disposable income on) -- and for the event to be presented in the most-positive light.

Each and every compliment is well-received and appreciated, but it isn't why I do what I do.

The moral of the story on a day like today -- when the reader/announcer mat situation didn't work the way that it normally does (or I expect it to) -- though is:  it pays to know the announcer (to get your name called at the finish).

Looking forward to working Texas10 Plano next Saturday and then I have some decisions to make.

Thanks for all of your support.  I really appreciate it.