Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Between a Rock and a Hard Race

If you read my "Negative Nancy" post, you know that I was not able to run my other "circle the calendar" race this summer; the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon (GTIS.)  I won't re-hash that, but it lead to my frantic search of the internet for something similar to satisfy my half marathon urge.  I selected the Mt. Sneffels (half) marathon in Ouray, Colorado.  Years ago I attended a conference in nearby Telluride, Colorado and fell in love with the area.  The Sneffels course was an overall downhill. GTIS is labeled as one of the fastest halfs in the country so Mt. Sneffels made a lot of sense as a substitute.  An early challenge to this decision was that Ouray is a 333 mile car ride from home--over a five hour drive.  My wife and I decided to make a two day "road trip" out of it by splitting up the drive and getting to Gunnison, Colorado on the first night.
A true "Road Trip" staying here on the way

Gunnison is hunting and fishing country as witnessed by the Sporting Good store in town that only sported hunting and fishing.  In other words, no running department.  It resembled the sporting good store that Rambo busted into to load up on artillery in "First Blood."

Second slight challenge of the trip was leaving my Power Bar Gel Blasts in the pantry at home.  Rambo Sporting Goods did not have the gels, but the nearby "Piggly Wiggly" did.  Panic averted.

We enjoyed our night in the small college town of Gunnison staying at a "slice of Americana" motel and catching an amazing dinner at the Twisted Fork restaurant.  The owner and chef served us at the bar and shared some of the history and characteristics of the area.  He is also a gluten-free chef and served us a "mean" set of Vietnamese tacos.

I'm used to cold in Colorado, but the chef claimed that you could throw a cup of boiling water in the air in the winter and it would be ice cubes by the time it hit the ground.  In other words, it's damn cold.  We caught a bit of pre-season football and a couple beers at the nearby Ol' Miner saloon and steakhouse before retiring at the Long Holiday motel.

Third minor hiccup of the week was screwing up my coach's training plan for the week.  Apparently, my rest day was supposed to be Thursday.  I took it on Wednesday.  If I was a cell phone, I was down to "one battery square" so I took both rest days and had a short shake-out run in Gunnison Friday morning before we took the short drive over to Ouray.  Self-doubt set in a bit as I was tired on the short three mile run.  "How am I going to race at a PR pace tomorrow when a short jog feels labored the day before?," I was thinking.  I "brushed it off" and enjoyed the ride along with the book on tape we downloaded to the iPod.
Box Canyon, Ouray, CO

Driving into Ouray, I began to feel, "Plan B" was an upgrade.  While I'd been to Telluride the other side of Mt. Sneffels, I had never been to Ouray and was pleasantly surprised.  Ouray sits in a valley with a history of mining from its early roots.  We checked into our lodge on the river and head into town to check out the area and take a short tour of Box Canyon.  Box Canyon had a raging waterfall that powered down the tight walls of rock and boiling water from literally the center of the earth was "piped" into town for the hot springs they're known for.  There's a "family friendly" hot spring at the edge of town which would be the backdrop for the start of the race.  There's another one in a nude resort outside Ridgway where the races ended slightly downhill from Ouray. If they'd only routed the race through the later, I could have checked off another bucket list item (nude 5K.)

Race "Eve" was somewhat uneventful other than another great dinner in the town framed by mountains and rock with an aura of Switzerland.  With my trend towards Gluten-free, I was diligent to avoid any evil wheat products the days leading up to my race.  Stomach issues that have marred previous races did not appear on race morning, but the new calamity I'm wrestling with was lack of sleep.

While I got to bed early on Friday night, I watched the minutes and hours spin by until after three in the morning.  I counted sheep, I
Playing "tourist" in my sexy compression socks
slept on my right, left, back, to no avail.  My wife's snoring was a small factor, but a racing mind thinking about racing was the more likely culprit.  Even more likely was doing a "walk-through' of the course the day before.  Mt. Sneffels had altered the course due to mudslides.  I was thinking I signed up for something similar to GTIS with 1000 ft. of decline.  Mt. Sneffels had the same only because there were two 100' climbs in the first two miles of the race due to the course change.  This "played with my head" as I drove the course the day before.  Fortunately, I didn't see the other nasty 80' climb after mile ten.

In Ouray, we stayed at the Hot Springs Inn which was literally a short walk to the start of the race.  The morning of the race was rather routine, but once again self-doubt entered in as I was just plain tired.  Mentally, I had "written off" notions of a PR, but I planned to go ahead and shoot for another sub-1:30.  The race started at the community hot springs pool and ran uphill into town.  At the end of main street, we turned around to head back to the park area where we starte
Downtown Ouray, CO
d only to turn around again to assail the small climb back into town.  I pushed this first part of the race fairly hard thinking that I'd have the gentle downhill course to catch my breath and settle into a rhythm.  Catching your breath is a bit of a challenge when you're at 8000 feet.

2nd Place AG Trophy Made from slate in the area
Over the first two climbs, I averaged a roughly seven minute per mile pace in the first three miles.  I tried to "pick it up" as that was off the overall finish pace I was looking for.  Much of the course heading from Ouray to Ridgway ran along the river on dirt roads.  The temps were cool and the scenery was even cooler.  I wouldn't exactly call it a gravel path as there were larger rocks along the road and a few cattle guards we ran over.  I was glad I didn't race in my lightest race flats.  My coach has suggested treating the last five miles as a race and to "start picking off runners."  There was a bit of a "back and forth" with some other runners at this stage as we also started to see the full marathon runners passing us to go uphill into Ouray (they started downhill in Ridgway.)  I told myself, "thank God I didn't run the full"...a thousand up and a thousand down is not an easy marathon course.  I "peaked out" at a 6:42 pace during this stretch, but sensed I was starting to fade.  As we made a turn around mile ten, I saw that nasty hill up ahead. I was not ready for that.  I continued to push as hard as I could, but I had dropped down to an eight minute mile pace up this bastard of a hill.  Around that time, I saw someone that looked to be in my age group pass me.  If I had more energy, I would have been pissed, but was glad I had passed a few myself.

At this point, it was "mind over body" and I knew that there was no PR today, but a podium was still possible.  I had dropped to around a 7:30 pace the last couple miles, but threw in my "kick" the last half mile and was able to get back to a 6:31 pace.  We ended with the sun beating down on us at the soccer fields in Ridgway.  I looked around before I crumpled onto the grass in the shade and didn't see too many runners ahead of me.  I wound up finishing 21st overall and 2nd in my age group.  I went years without any race podiums and always feel fortunate to get hardware in the state of Colorado that's rich with fast runners.

This hardware was one of the coolest I've acquired.  Locals picked pieces of slate from the nearby hills and mounted the brass plates indicating placement.  This trophy was a hard-earned piece of rock.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Meme Monday; Promises and PR's

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Letting the Butterfly Go: A Tough Goodbye

I like to tell a story about my daughter and the Butterfly Pavilion in Denver.  The Butterfly Pavilion is a local tropical oasis that features (you guessed it) butterflies who flit around plants while young children marvel at their color and beauty.  I had just been separated (and eventually divorced) and my daughter was a mere six years old and taking in the sensory adventure.  She had bent down and picked a flower.  She was probably wearing a t-shirt dress covered in flowers.  As a young girl, she was definitely a "girly girl" adorned often in shades of pink and yellow with bows in her hair.  No wonder she couldn't resist touching and picking that flower.  She was not old enough to read all the signs of "don't pick the flowers."

A teenage employee at the Pavilion spotted the little girl with the flower in her hand, and (as I heard the story) snatched it out of her dimpled tiny hands and yelled at her to "don't pick the flowers, they are the butterfly's food."  Tears ensued and her mother caught up with the teen to accost him over the incident.  Moments later, I got the accounting of the story over the phone.  I was mad.  I was mad I was not there to protect her, and I was mad over what happened.  Ultimately, I reached the CEO of the Butterfly Pavilion.  What a great title that is...that's like being the "Mayor of Candyland."  Anyhow, I caught up with the CEO and explained what happened.  I didn't ask him for anything, but felt he should know that for a place that caters to kids, this was not a way to treat small children.  He called me a few days later after checking into the events, and informed me the teenage boy was fired.
Dad Face-painting at a birthday party

I did not want the boy fired, but did hope he learned something from the incident.  I tell this story often also as it symbolized the parent I became.  Getting divorced can send a parent one of two directions; either you drift away from your kids with your new life, or you re-commit yourselves to becoming a better parent.  The "Butterfly Pavilion Incident" also served as a lesson to all of my kids about standing up for yourself.

As far as being a better parent, I honestly tried my best on this one.  It's tough being a divorced Dad as you miss out on a lot of things since you just aren't there every day.  I travel with work which makes it tougher in one sense, but helped since most of my trips over the years are during the week when I didn't get to see them anyway.  On weekends, I became "Disneyland Dad"...spoiling my two (and eventually) three kids with fun and adventure when I had them.  There were literally trips to Disneyland and even a Disney Cruise.  More importantly, I tried my best to raise them and teach them to be prepared for life.

Whenever I could I was there for the Halloween party at school, or the overnight school science trip to the mountains.  I made Halloween costumes wanting their costumes to be the best.  I even dressed as Spiderman for her brother's birthday party.  He was embarrassed even though he was only four.  An understatement to say I tried hard.

My daughter adored me, and I adored her.

Each time she graduated from grade school to Jr. High, and Jr. High to High School she cried.  I think it was because she was a bit scared, but also because she had enjoyed the previous chapter so much.  This spring, she graduated from high school and has spent the summer looking forward to college.  This time she didn't cry.  Her high school years were once again quite fulfilling.  She became Captain of her Poms squad, and worked on the high school paper.  She was not the best student at her school, but she became driven.  She hated getting B's or worse in a class.  That drove her to work hard.

She finally stopped looking like me (thank God.) Just like the butterflies at the pavilion she visited as a child, she had blossomed into a colorful and beautiful young woman. Despite her external beauty, I am more proud as a father over the internal beauty she possesses.  While she can have the emotional "ups and downs" of a teenager, she's often described by others as one of the most caring and dear individuals they've met.  I never get tired of hearing these compliments.
Dad and daughter in her dorm room

Yesterday, we had a caravan of cars and boxes headed up to Colorado State University to drop her off for her freshman year in college.  We arrived shortly after 8 AM, and I wanted the day to last as long as possible, but the students were supposed to have everything moved in by Noon and ready for (another) orientation at 1:15.  We had the last minute run to Target right before lunch for the usual dorm stuff; another power cord, more wall hanging gear, and more food for the dorm fridge.  I wanted the trip to Target to last longer just as I wanted the ensuing lunch to not end so quickly.  I knew what was coming.  I didn't want the goodbye to be over and didn't want to say goodbye.

Outside her dormitory under the trees, the student advisors were holding signs to indicate where the students were to meet on the lawn for the afternoon of orientation.  I finally went for the goodbye hug on the sidewalk and I could tell she was in a hurry.  She was excited and didn't want to be late to start the first few minutes of college life.  I double-clutched the hug and re-gripped when she was ready to leave.  I lost the bet on who cries first and told her that she was going to do great in college.  She told me to stop crying as she didn't want to cry.  For the first time, she didn't completely "lose it" when graduating to the next stage in life.

While I could have stayed at a nearby hotel and caught another orientation session covering student safety, or where the health center is and another picnic, I had heard it all twice before and knew it was time to let her go.  She knows that I am a phone call away.  More appropriately, a text message, an Instagram post, or Facebook message away.  I also realize, I can't rush up there and fix a conflict with a teacher, or get some teenager fired for snatching a flower out of her hand.  You could say she's ready for this and Dad is trying to let go.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Ugly Runner's Feet

Just when I thought my feet could not get any uglier, they did.  After two downhill half marathons this summer (the last one this last weekend,) there's no danger of me becoming a "foot model."  I have some damn ugly feet.  I guess I came to this realization at the bank this afternoon when my daughter told me I shouldn't be wearing my sport flip-flops--in other words, cover those ugly pigs up.

With that, I thought I would re-post "The Runner's Feet Who Came to Town" from my #30DaysToBoston #photochallenge.  This one was one of my favorites as it mimicked a Hitchcock movie poster (The Birds.)  Yes, my feet scared my 18 yr. old daughter and as shown in the poster, sends young children scrambling.

Since this film has been out for awhile, you can see that even the New York Post thinks, "Those are some damn scary feet."

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Goal in Mind

I have always had a nerd streak in me.  When I was in grade school, I started a bank.  Not a piggie bank, but an actual bank.  My aunt Marge was the only one that made a deposit.  I collected cans and hangers and turned them in for cash.  I started a hotel (more of a restaurant) in the garage attic across the street and sold food to the neighborhood kids out of it.  My older brother threw away a slew of automotive stickers that I found in the trash, took to school, then sold them for a tidy profit.  With all that in mind, I always had goals for myself.

As I got older, goals went on written paper.  Being a "pack rat," I save a ton of stuff that doesn't make sense at the time.  I have nearly all my airline boarding passes over 20 years of traveling.  I'm not sure why I save them or what I will do with them someday.  Every once in awhile, I go looking for something in the crawlspace of my house and discover something interesting.

Being a nerd and with goals in mind, I set pencil to paper and laid out some goals in 1989.  I came across them and found it interesting enough and too funny not to share.


This one cracks me up.  While I was involved in a number of team sports as a kid, I didn't participate in team or individual sports in high school.  It would be nearly ten years later that I would take up running as a
sport.  My goal in 1989 was to join a new healthclub in January, purchase a bike in spring, decrease partying (hilarious,) and aerobics 3 x a week (even more hilarious.)  That was such an 80's thing, and no, I did not wear leg warmers, leotard, or head band.  I do however now own running tights, run hats with head band sweat protection built in, and one "bitchin' race bike."

Personal Skills

I listed my goals as read more, read periodicals, read business daily, buy personal books, less T.V. and take courses.  I'd have to say that I have done slightly better on most of these, but don't read for personal pleasure nearly enough.  I should add "write more" to my list 25 years later as I'm doing much more of that with this blog.

The other goal I had listed here was spend more time with grandparents and work on improving sister relations.  I feel great about the time spent with my grandparents and have many fond memories.  They are unfortunately no longer around, but I still reflect on the great times I had with them and share their stories with my kids...including my grandpa's propensity to cuss while playing cards.  The sister one baffles me as I have a great relationship with my sister that lives here and my other sister in Seattle.  I must have fixed that one effectively because I have no idea why I wrote that one.  Perhaps because she had some "hot" friends.

Financial Career

The funniest one of the bunch here was to have $20,000 "net worth" by the end of the year.  I won't discuss details other than I "hit" this one and I have three kids going off to college starting with the first this fall.  I'm still saving (or trying to anyway.)

Not boring you with work, but ironically two of the details I listed here to achieve those goals was to "schedule more product calls," and "schedule more product demos."  I'm still in sales and still doing both.  Today I had a call with a business partner and the title of the meeting was, "identifying options for demonstrating...(system.)"  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Have Fun!

Some things don't change.  I love my life and family and still work very hard on this one.

The irony in looking over these goals is the reason I started this blog was I had a goal of qualifying and racing the Boston Marathon.  I ran my third this last April.  I suppose the lesson learned there is if you want it, "put it in writing" and you're more likely to succeed.

In fact, as a marathon runner and triathlete I have become somewhat obsessed with goals.  I work out seven days a week to achieve those goals.  I have a half marathon this weekend and have very specific goals I've set for myself.  Perhaps I should write them down and put them in the crawlspace to review in another 25 years.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Negative Nancy

Something has really been bugging me and I gotta get it off my chest. My blog is named after the Boston Marathon and that is where my heart is, but one of my other favorite "circle the calendar" races is the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half (GTIS) marathon here locally in Colorado. My original Seeking Boston Marathon logo is even based on a photo from one of my previous PR races there.

Last year, I had to withdraw prior to the race due to some injury and lack of training issues. As I wrote the race director, my body would not be able to endure a rigorous downhill half. Stephen told me "no problem." Fast forward to 2013. Last month as the August race was approaching, I emailed the race director to remind him of their promise with no response. I try again and get a response from the NEW race director saying politely, you're not racing, but your money went to a "good cause." And...oh, by the way, the race is sold out.

I bite my tongue and tell myself, "let it go," but can't help but think about the rental car agent in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. You're F*cked. (skip the clip if you're adverse to the "F bomb."

Another few weeks go by, and I scour the internet for an alternative race the same weekend in my home town. I find one.  

Only issue is that it is a mere 333 miles away and six hour drive away in Ouray,
Colorado. I am a stubborn male; therefore, I book the race. I am not going to NOT race this weekend I tell myself. I am prepared to make lemons out of lemonade and make the best of it. I book a nice hotel in Ouray for the night before and night after the race to "make a weekend of it."  

All is good back in my run world until I read the posts on my run team's Facebook page last night. A previous winner of the GTIS posts that she trys to get an elite bib, but was denied by the same rental car agent (I mean race director.) An employee of one of their sponsors "banked on" getting one, but is also shut down.

The thread on the Facebook page continues with good Samaritan offers to "give" their bib to this runner (then subsequently me) since they're not running--one is coming off injury. I offer to email the race director and surprise, surprise, she comes back with;


Registrations are non-transferrable. Sorry.


"Negative Nancy" is batting 1000 in the denial department. She must think she's running some "big city race" like Boston or New York. I haven't had this much rejection since high school. I wonder if Nancy turned me down back then ? I will move on and race my race in what will hopefully become my NEW second favorite race and NEW Colorado favorite race in Ouray at the Mt. Sneffels Half Marathon. I'm sure they'll be happy to see me show up.

What is your opinion of injury deferrals and bib transfers in a race?

About Me

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Average guy w/ an above average appetite for marathon racing and triathlons. Ran my 5th Boston in '15. 3:21, 1:29, 19:21 PR;full/half/5K Opinions & wit are mine