Wednesday, August 30, 2006

CHAD Outrun The Sun Half Marathon

Saturday, 26 August 2006

Hanover, NH

I did travel to Maine to run a half marathon but that was part of a longer stay to visit family. This was unusual - to travel almost 400 miles for a race less than a marathon. But how could I resist - especially with your encouragement.

The trip to Vermont was uneventful – we left at 4AM and were on the Garden State Parkway early enough that traffic was still light. Once thru Hartford and on to I91 the traffic became lighter and lighter until finally in Vermont I just set the cruise control to 70 with barely another vehicle in sight.

We were staying in Norwich, Vermont which is about a mile from Hanover, NH where Dartmouth College is located. The Norwich Inn was a little more rustic than I expected and I think in the future I will stick with chain hotels. Still it had a brew pub attached which softened me if not my wife.

On arrival we drove over to New Hampshire and after some wandering determined where the race buses would leave on Saturday. (I suppose it is the stereotype of New Englanders and Vermont in particular but generally speaking I did not find people very friendly or helpful.)

Saturday we investigated the local farmers’ market and some of the local shops and then (much too early) we drove over to Hanover. I parked in the local parking garage and jogged over to the Medical School parking lot where the busses were scheduled to depart.

At first I thought I had gone to the wrong lot since there seemed to be so little activity but then in the distance I spotted a table with water bottles. Turns out I was one of the first runners to show up. I chatted with the volunteer at the table and discovered that he had grown up in the Coopertown Section of Haverford Township. Small world. Then I spoke to a couple of runners, doctors it turned out who had driven up from Massachusetts. Turns out one of them took his some of his medical training at Pennsylvania Hospital and knew Philly well.

Bussed out to start on the first bus and so got to see the crowd gradually swell – the weather which had been cloudy all day broke and we got some sunshine. There was one of those small country cemeteries next to start area and it was interesting to walk thru and reflect on those lives recorded on the eroding stones.

Start was pretty much on schedule. I wanted to be mid pack since I figure that was where I would finish. I knew that most of the course was downhill and one of the docs from Mass had warned me that the finish (last couple miles) was uphill so I thought I would try for 8:30 miles. This first mile was right on the money more thru happenstance then by designed. For once I was patient and did not try to muscle my way through or zig zag to openings but just stayed with the flow. I course was lovely, mostly shaded country road. I found after a few miles that I was passing runners even though my pace felt quite easy. The terrain was rolling with some uphills but then long downs. Some of the roads weren’t completely closed to traffic but traffic was very light and not a problem.

The water stops were well placed and I had no problem getting water – and though not announced some did have Gatorade which seemed well mixed. (On the other hand the water which was bottled had a strange taste – maybe I missed the chlorine.)

At one point I spotted a huge hawk which had settled on the ground and seemed unfazed by the line of runners just a dozen feet away.

Spectators were sparse but those who watched were friendly and enthusiastic.

I missed a mile marker at eight and later at 11 so I am not as certain about my splits. I know I slowed but mostly I was still passing people especially on the uphills. There was a long uphill when the course turned onto highway 120. I did have a little lapse in mile 11 and I think I slowed considerably but when I saw mile 12 I was determined to run the last mile strong. If you are familiar with Dartmouth 11 and 12 are around Occum Pond. There was one last uphill and then a few hundred meters into Dartmouth Green.

My wife was calling out sprint, sprint and (she later told me) a spectator said I think he is (God bless him).

The announcer called out my name, age and hometown. Unfortunately I had signed up using my driver’s license name. It would have been cool if I had signed up as Chad.

Results: 247 (out of 539) 25/42 (50 to 59 age group) 1:50:48 (chip time) 8:28 1:51:03 (gun time)

There was plenty of water at the end but instead of food offerings each runner was given a voucher for food at the block party set up on Main Street. And here is my only criticism of an event that was very well organized, with great volunteers. The list of food vendors was impressive with delicious sounding choices but when I finally got over to the food area many of the vendors had already run out of food. I stood in line for a long time only to realize the vendor was never going to be able to accommodate everyone in line and there was no provision for my wife to get anything. (I had gotten the idea the vendors would be selling for to the non-runners.) But one of the vendors not on the street was Quizzo’s. It was a short walk and while crowded they handled the crush very well. I had never been to a Quizzo but thought it was very good especially for fast food.

Sunday it rained but we had a good time exploring the local countryside (with some shopping for my wife) so much so that we never got to the Hood Museum which looked interesting. Sunday night we went to a concert at a local school. I had seen a small advertisement in the local paper. A young woman had organized the yearly event to remember her sister who had died of leukemia seven years ago. It was quite touching to be there.

Monday morning I ran from Norwich to Hanover and looped the campus. I was tempted to stop someone and see if I could find the server that houses the dead runners and pay homage but I knew it was futile and probably would lead someone to report a crazy person.

Nice ride home with some exploration of the Brattleboro area – went out to Hogshead Mountain for the Hundred Mile View and then “downtown” Brattleboro where I photographed the Hotel Brooks. Lots of Northern Exposure/sixties types, art and craft stores, and three bookstores within a block.

Then on home with only the usual crunch in Hartford (it seems on every return journey from New England I run into some kind of traffic incident there).

So I am back home – when I left it had been the driest August ever – now it has been raining for three days with more on the way. Glad I will be home this weekend and grateful for the weather I had last weekend.

Monday, August 21, 2006

This is the time of year when it is still summer but you can feel it rapidly coming to an end. The mornings are already dark and along the trails many plants have gone to seed and have withered away.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Half Wit Half Marathon

309 2:44:11 BROOKS CHARLES HAVERTOWN PA M 59 (About 490 runners)

So I am on my way to Reading for my fourth Half-Wit. Off the Schuylkill Expressway and on to 422, Ron Cade is celebrating the life of Elvis who died 29 years ago the 16th of August. Beautiful morning, light traffic, I am pushing hard forward. Out of the corner of my eye I see a trooper on the median. But no movement – whew must not have been set up. A minute later flashing lights. I’m still hoping he’s after the guy in front of me but no luck – I’m the target. Well, as my wife later said, all that pedal pushing finally caught up with me. I just hoped all my adrenaline wasn’t drained away.

I have done 4 Half Wits now. Two of them were real disasters. But last year I conquered the course and this year I did even better. Of course, the weather helped. Dry, cooler temps came in this week and for mid August the weather couldn’t have been better.

I saw Jim Adams just before the race.

The race takes place in a hardscrabble park (Eglemans Park) next to hardscrabble Reading. It is not exactly pristine wilderness but parts are quite nice.

The race began about 9:30 after the usual Ron Horn delay. The first mile is a curious loop with a number of chokepoints that make if very slow especially for the mid pack runners. Just past the first mile you run through the pavilion that is used for registration and the finish activities. I had left a water bottle filled with Gatorade’s endurance. I also planned on taking Succeed and decided to use the first one at the water stop just outside the pavilion. A lot of runners skip this water having just started but it is a mistake since the water stops fairly far apart. Lot of the trail is one runner narrow so you may find yourself going slower than you want but eventful you get to a pass point. I felt the first few miles were a little two slow but mostly I was running a good pace. When we got to the mid point and the infamous 128 steps from hell (this is that strange arrangement of granite curbing going from a ball field to the trail) I knew I was in very good shape. When it has been hot I have found getting up those steps very difficult, every step an effort. But Sunday I almost bounded up and was impatience with the runners ahead of me carefully picking their way up.

Once on the flat I raced ahead - almost no one passed me in the next six miles and I passed runner after runner. Although my time was slow if felt great to be so strong in the later stages of the race. Also in my favor was my familiarity with the course – a few runners asked me how much further and I knew they were probably hurting. I encouraged and moved on.

Around mile 9/10 you begin a loop where the faster runners are finishing their last mile while you are just beginning your final loop. It can be discouraging but Sunday I felt so good I just teased them that they must have taken a short cut and warned them the fast runners would be blood tested for banned substances.

Ron had posted his usual corny jokes at various points in the race but one of his jokes this year was to post Worst Hill at the base of every hill. Well for me that last hill in mile 11/12 has always been the Worst. It is a rocky, winding climb that never seems to end. But Sunday I wondered why I had every let it bother me. It seemed that easy. I was running so well I almost stopped for two beers at the last water stop but I settled for one – toasted the runners still coming and ran hard to the finish.

I haven’t seen the official results but I think I was about 2:44. I know that sounds slow for a half marathon but for this course and for me that was a great time and the best part was how good I felt and how much energy I still had at the finish.

I was able to clean off, change, enjoy a couple of hot dogs before heading home and explaining a hundred dollar traffic fine. Oh Well – no day is perfect.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

There were lots of logs down across the paths; this one was easy to run under others were more difficult.

If you look close you can see two runners going down the last incline. Some chose to just slide down, but I did managed to stay on my feet.

Ron Horn - Founder of the Feast Checking The Score Board

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The Finish Line

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The Pavilion - The staging and finish area

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Jim Adams - Dead Runner

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Half Wit Half Marathon August 13, 2006

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

So are you running?

This is a question I have heard often during the current heat wave. Neighbors, friends even fellow runners ask. Sometimes I will hear that question in the winter cold but never with quite the same frequency as this week. On my early morning runs there are a regular cast of characters I will meet, mostly other runners and walkers but there is one fellow who walks to the P&W (a light rail connecting Norristown and Upper Darby). Normally we only exchange good mornings but the other day he asked, “Isn’t it hot for running?” Well yes it is, but wow you are walking almost a mile and will have to repeat this evening – a much tougher task it seems to me, (That’s what I thought but what I said was, “It sure is!”

I have been running my usual schedule and distance including Tuesday night speed work. Last week I had the good fortune to in Bethany Beach (DE) and got to run on the beach.

I have been getting up fifteen minutes early so that I am out the door by 5:30. The tough runs have been my trail runs. The woods are in full summer green and some of less used paths are closed in with vegetation that seems determine to keep you out and prevent any breeze from softening the humid heat.

I can’t say that these are enjoyable runs – more get it done and over with runs.

But up until today I haven’t had any heat related problems. Today was cooler and lest humid and I thought my run would be easy. I even slept in a little but perhaps I was still dehydrated from yesterday’s run or maybe it was the strong sun or maybe I started out too fast but for the first time I really bonked. The familiar feeling of cramping began about mile seven and I felt leg heavy and little disoriented. In the last half mile I walked several times something I never do in training runs.

I have increased my fluids significantly and I’ll be interested in seeing how tomorrow morning goes. I will be going out early so I can run with Elvis and Ron Cade.

I have an ambitious schedule ahead of me with three half marathon in the next six weeks. I will taper a bit toward the end of this week in preparation for the most difficult of these runs – the Half Wit Half Marathon.

So are you running? I will be but hopefully more carefully and thoughtfully.