Fox Valley Area Navigation Challenges
Sept. 26-Paddle/Bike in the Waupaca area
Oct. 3-Bike/Foot in the Appleton area
Oct. 17-Foot/Paddle in the North Kettle Moraine area
Oct. 24-Bike/Foot in the Stevens Point area
For more information, visit http://sites.google.com/site/foxvalleyar/
or email: email@example.com
July 10, 2010. A “Same Day” finish! Just under 7 hours. You can’t get hung up on the 26.4+ mileage. Sometimes a 3 mile leg will take longer and be more work than a 4 mile leg… actually it will seem like twice as long as it is. No matter how bad it sounds as I describe it, it was worse! Ridiculous elevation changes! It took almost 3 miles before I could get my heart rate back to normal. This is why the organizers of the Dances with Dirt 4 event series say this is the ultimate life or death experience.
The marathon course started out through a field and then instantly on single track. At least we did not have to run up the ski slope like the 50M/50K did. I made a decision to wear regular running shoes at the last moment instead of trail shoes. Big mistake. About a half mile into the marathon, I slipped and went down and crushed my hand-held water bottle. The first few miles were mostly single track uphill with tree roots and rocks galore and you really had to watch your step. In this first 4.2 miles we had a 850 foot climb and 440 foot drop before leveling out. My calves and Achilles got extremely uncomfortable real fast from the quick change of terrain.
The second 1.5 mile leg we got a break from climbing with only a 100 foot gain and 220 foot drop. The difference was that it was rugged with rocks & roots. They said at the start there were about 75 of us for the marathon and about twice that number for the 50K. About 7.5 miles into it, I went down for the 2nd time. Those around me thought I broke my hip because they heard a big crack sound. I heard it too. Must have landed on a branch though because I don’t even have a bruise.
The 3rd 3.7 mile leg was on a nice wide trail, if you like running on stones. It went through the campground areas of Devil’s Lake State Park.
The worst part came in the 4th 3.2 mile leg where we were the climbing the bluffs on side of Devil’s Lake. This is a heavily used narrow trail and extremely steep. I could not maintain any pace here. This section had a 670 foot climb to a narrow paved path which was crowded by lots of hikers. When I got the best view of Devil’s Lake to my left, I missed the right hand turn. Fortunately, a couple hikers yelled at me and said I was only about the 50th person to miss that turn. This next stretch had what was referred to as “stupid spots” through woods with bad footing and messy snowmobile trails. It was slow but at least we stopped climbing.
The 5th leg was an easy 2.4 mile out & back on a shady gravel road with only a 200 foot ascent and descent.
Leg number 6 is a 1.9 mile off trail with terrible footing, some rocks and twisting ankles. We then crossed a real road onto a narrow, heavily used trail with great views of the natural topography.
The 2.2 mile leg 7 started at the north end of the lake and it was the last chance to breathe normally. I just wanted to dive into the lake to cool off. This unfortunately wasn’t part of the course but instead was the start of another 800 foot climb of the east bluff. I actually sat down and rested for about 10 minutes halfway up the second side. I was not prepared for all the uphill climbs. The down hills (420 foot drop) were just plain dangerous. My legs were so tired and the single tracks were roots and rocks and just muddy enough that you slipped.
Leg 8 was back to a 1.6 mile trail with good footing and a 200 foot drop. I made some time back but was simply exhausted by then.
The 1.5 mile 9th leg was the reverse of our 2nd leg with some more climbing. Whew!
The final 4.2 miles of the last leg is for the most part… the scariest. It was mostly downhill with rocks & roots, tired legs and I was somewhat paralyzed with fear of falling forward and really hurting myself. The last mile was back on the Ice Age Trail to the finish.
I’d say about 2/3 of the course was in the woods which made the heat & humidity bearable. You could feel that it was at least 3-5 degrees cooler in the shade. I walked most of the second half. Even with that, it was hard because the vampire mosquitoes and deer flies attacked with a vengeance. They had good food (burgers, brats, beer & lemonade) at the end.
No river crossings. Several streams to cross but you had rocks to use to cross (unless you slip of course). Some stretches were muddy. I finished with mud on my hands, right arm, side and back from my tumbles. My toes were sore from tripping on roots & rocks so many times and of course the steep down hills. My ankles got twisted many times due to the uneven footing. There were several people assisted off the course due to injuries. I felt pretty beat up after finishing and yesterday… much better today.
Due to the timing, I did not see any half marathoners. The 50M and 50K started an hour before us, so many of the 50Kers finished at the same time as the marathoners. Most of those seated around me after the event were 50Kers and they loved the course and wanted to do more the DWD series. For me it was a learning experience and I’m just happy to get away without anything serious other than exhaustion and dehydration.
Runners know that their activity isn’t the solitary pursuit many believe it to be. Running is social. If we didn’t believe that, we wouldn’t belong to PaceSetters. Our club is a wonderful example of creating a community of runners. Members share training tips, experiences of running or walking, whether solo or as a group, race information or just to hang out together.
We enjoy our club meetings the 4th Wednesday of each month. But, it’s not just about the speaker. We attend to meet people who think like we do and enjoy what we like.
Isn’t it time (if you haven’t already) to share your experiences as a PaceSetter with a friend, family member or co-worker? It isn’t just about the running or walking. It’s about a healthy lifestyle. And to help you create the buzz, PaceSetters are again holding two “Running 101” classes. (See website for more detail) We want to help others start running or get back into it. We all remember the first time we decided to run, all of us with different reasons. But one thing is for sure, it’s now a part of who we are, and it’s definitely a social thing!
See you out there!
When I signed up to do a half marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday at Walt Disney World (WDW) in sunny Orlando Florida in mid-January, I would never have imagined that Florida would be grappling with record low temperatures. I know I will not get any sympathy from those braving single digit temps here in the Fox Cities WI. Like my last marathon in Newport RI back in October 09, this event will again be memorable for the weather.
It was announced that this event is now the 2nd largest race event in the world. I believe it since I have never seen such a mass of humanity at any single event. If you were not a major company representing the latest in running gear at the 3 day expo, you missed out in over 55,000 participants and the friends and family they brought with them. I have to say one thing for WDW, it’s all about organization, people (employees & volunteers) and how to make a buck.
Organization was evident as it has to take a lot of experience to house, shuttle and coordinate everyone involved in these events. The registration & race packet pickup area was the size of an indoor arena floor and well marked & staffed. All of this was housed at the new Disney sports complex. Everyone had to submit a waiver form and ID before even getting serviced. The long sleeved tech shirts & goody bags were across the street at the expo. I had to park about 4 city blocks away when I stopped by the expo and that was not during the peak pickup time which was mid-afternoon on Saturday. WDW had shuttle buses running non-stop from all of their resort hotel areas. It was difficult to move around the expo floor with so many people. I enjoy it just to see all the variety of people. I did not see anyone I knew except for Jeff Galloway who was speaking at the time.
I stayed at Disney’s Pop Century Resort which is near the sports complex. It was ok… nothing special and in a way… rather outdated accommodations. You can learn a lot more by going to the WDW website to see all of their resorts/hotels.
I actually arrived at the Orlando airport late Friday evening, picked up my rental and arrived at Pop Century registration about 10:30 PM. Thanks to fellow 50 Stater John W Moyer Jr for picking up my race packet & shirts and dropping them off at the hotel. I crashed in bed around 11 PM.
Shuttle buses from the hotels started at 3 AM, so I got up about 2 AM to get ready. The Weather Channel said the temp was 27 degrees with an 80% chance of morning precipitation. I headed over to the shuttle pickup area about 3 AM. I knew I had to pick up a “Goofy” wristband at the race area information booth to prove that I participated in the half marathon. The bus ride was buzzing about the cold temps. It took about 20 minutes to get from the hotel to Epcot where the race event started and ended. Again, WDW was very organized in getting the shuttle buses in and out. The wind was picking up as we walked from where the buses drop us off to the 3 city blocks to the staging area. I found the wristband place and took care of that right away (more photo ID stuff) and then tried to find a place to stand out of the wind. About 4:30 AM it started to snow. No, it couldn’t be… “It never snows in Florida!” I’d really recommend that you dress for the weather since we have to stand around the staging area for almost an hour and a half. I did not have enough layers for my legs. I had on tights, 2 shirt layers, a hooded sweatshirt, a jacket, hat, gloves and mittens. Another runner from Minnesota gave me an extra garbage bag and that helped cover my legs from the biting wind. About 5 AM we leave the staging area and walk a little more than a half mile to the starting corrals. By then the snow had changed to sleet. Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy were there to greet us and get the race started. The wheelchair racers start at 5:35 AM and the runners about 5 minutes later. I tore off the garbage bag at the start since I did not want to get all steamy inside as I ran. The sleet continued for the first 4 miles and then changed to rain for the remainder.
I was not impressed with the half marathon course since most of it was run in the dark. Sometimes it was too narrow to accommodate the runners. When I finished it felt very similar to the Newport RI marathon… soaked and freezing cold. Thankfully it was just a half. My Garmin indicated I had traveled 13.29 miles on the course. I received a very nice finishing medal and then had to go to the “Goofy Challenge” tent to exchange my half marathon wristband for a marathon wristband. There was plenty of food, although nothing hot and it was still raining so I walked back to the shuttle bus area for my ride back to the hotel.
After laying out my drenched clothing to dry, I climbed into a hot hot shower for a long time and then headed back to bed since I only had 3 hours of sleep before leaving for the half. In the afternoon, I headed over to the expo, found a Pizza Hut for some supper and then headed back to the room for a good 8 hours of sleep before the marathon. One-third of the Goofy Challenge complete!
I found clear skies when I got up at 3 AM. I learned from the day before not to leave too early and stand in the cold wind. I dressed with an extra layer around my legs… another thing I learned from the day before experience. Fortunately my Wisconsin sweatshirt dried overnight and I had it available for Sunday’s marathon. Pretty much the same routine in the staging area although the wind was coming from different direction so I had to find a new place to hide from the penetrating wind.
The marathon course was bit different depending on which corral you got. I was in C which was the last one in the same roadway as the day before. D-K was along side and each group followed different paths until about mile 3 where we joined together. I noticed immediately that the wind was much stronger on Sunday. At the first water station, the water and PowerAde was icy. By the second water station, all the spilled water had frozen on contact with the road and I nearly landed on my butt as I slipped and slid my way through. The same for the next few water stations before the volunteers received sand to put down through the water stations to give footing to the ice rink water stations. It was so cold that I could see my breath through mile 16.
Another highlight of WDW are the Disney characters spread throughout the parks. Disney gave you a disposable Kodak camera for each event to take pictures. I stopped and took about 20 pictures along the marathon course with Chip & Dale, the characters from the movie UP and the usuals… Mickey, Minnie, Donald, etc. Each set of characters had several Disney employees who took your camera as you stood in line and took your picture with your camera and passed it back as you headed out to the next photo op. There was a stretch of pathway where they had a lot of trivia that I could not read on Saturday since it was still dark then. It was later in the marathon course so I could read them.
The marathon, although cold and windier, was sunny and most importantly… dry. There was a lot of running on roadways between the 4 parks that exposed us to the wind and little, if any, crowd support. Most of the crowd gathered in the park attractions as one would suspect since they were easy to get to with the monorail and bus system. The marathon course showed you areas most tourists do not see like the staging areas, employee only areas and the huge waste water treatment facility. When I finished, I received another big finishing medal. My Garmin recorded the mileage as 26.64 miles covered. So, combined nearly 40 miles. I then went to the “Goofy Challenge” tent and received a third medal for completing the Goofy 39.3 mile Challenge. I’d estimate that about a third of the runners were “Goofy’s”.
Would I recommend it? One thing you can never control is the weather. While I managed the cold, sleet, wind and rain, it was far better than temps in the 80s and high humidity as it was a couple of years ago. There are a lot of first time runners who do not understand race etiquette. They stop suddenly or spit without looking for who’s around them. They often walk down the middle instead of off to the side and sometimes in pairs… or more. The course is not a PR course. It is very narrow in many portions, especially toward the end, and often times you had to run off the path to pass slower runners or walkers. And because the events are ALL half marathoners or ALL marathoners its the same all the way through both courses. In spots where the Disney characters stood for photo ops, often times the lines of people would stick out onto the course. I guess those were the negatives… just an event too large for the course however scenic it may be.
The pros… it was fun to see areas of the parks you don’t ordinarily get to see. I get to meet a lot of nice people and of course Disney hires employees for their friendliness and cheery personalities who were placed in areas with less crowd support. They were well organized. My team got around very nicely on the monorail and bus system and Disney broke the course down well for spectators as to where to be based on the timing of your runner. They had only one out and back and a chip trap at the far end to catch cheaters from trying to cut out the mile. I like that. The medals and shirts were top quality.
It’s a hard course and times were down because of the weather. The Brazilian winner was almost 10 minutes longer than his win last year. There is a lot of space between venues mostly on roadways. The actual parks are pure Disney and by far the best portions.
I did not have time on this trip to spend in the parks as a tourist. I did look up a “Green Bay Packer” bar in downtown Orlando… about 25 miles from Walt Disney World to watch the playoff game. These Packer-backers are a crazy bunch! Travel through the Milwaukee and Orlando airports was typical despite the ramped up security expectations.
Next month I head to Texas to do a pair of marathons… including my 60th marathon on my 60th birthday.
I was grocery shopping today for Christmas Eve. I’ve added new recipes in with the old over the years, but my family always wants the traditional favorites. Tortilla rollups, deviled eggs, the cut out sugar cookies that take me 3 days from start to finish – (This recipe page got laminated)…to name a few. I spied the herring; you know that pickled fish you put on a cracker… yes, in the grocery cart it went. It was a Christmas tradition when I was growing up.
PaceSetters are finishing out its 25th anniversary year! 1984 – 2009. We can be proud of all our club’s traditions. Running, club meetings, fun runs, Sunday morning runs with Norb, John, Phil & Ron, to mention a few, and new traditions, like Saturday morning runs. Wonderful club members like you, keep us coming back year after year. Share a PaceSetter tradition in the coming New Year!
May this Holiday season find you enjoying all the traditions you love,
It’s been several weeks now since I’ve completed my quest to do a marathon in every state & Washington DC. I’d like to thank the many well-wishers… it was quite the journey.
I never considered myself an athlete growing up. In fact, my start at running was a rather backdoor approach. How did it all begin? I wanted to take my youngest child over to UW-Fox Valley to see the Fox Cities marathon finish. I thought maybe she would see all the runners and take some interest in getting more physically fit. I laugh now at that picture. I was the one who was overweight, smoking cigars and “living the good life”. I had not probably run a step since college intramurals a long time ago. I was so overweight that later that year I stopped to see another daughter perform at her swim meet and my knee gave way as I was tried to go up the bleacher steps. I crushed the meniscus and my knee locked in place. After surgery, the doctor told me to walk a lot to rehab the knee since he doubted I would ever run a marathon. I know… how prophetic. That all happened in the fall through the winter of 2001. I thought back to the day I brought my daughter to watch the runners finish the marathon. I said to myself, “I want to do a marathon before I die.” But, I didn’t want to give up those tasty cigars.
I started to walk with my wife. I walk/jogged. I jogged. I went to a PaceSetters meeting. I joined. I decided to train to run the 2002 Fox Cities marathon. I lost nearly 80 pounds in the process. My friends thought that I perhaps had contracted some major illness since I lost all the weight. I was still smoking cigars though. September 29, 2002 came and I was so psyched. I set a goal “to finish” and as long as was setting goals… I thought I should be able to finish within 4 hours since I trained so hard and lost all the weight. Finished at 4:03 and was so disappointed, sore (so bad that once I sat down I couldn’t get up without assistance) and my right foot had swollen up. Not a pretty picture. And talk about disappointment. My friends and family threw a party for me… and I was forced to sit on the couch with my foot wrapped in ice. I never wanted to do that again.
It probably took weeks for the soreness to wear off. A colleague of my wife, a marathoner, asked me if I would do Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth in June. Frustrated that I missed my time goal at Fox Cities, I thought I’d give it another shot. I continued to go to PaceSetter meetings and got a ton of advice from so many experienced runners. I was doing everything wrong… had no plan… and yet I found that even a non-runner, a non-athlete could actually enjoy the challenge. I ended up doing 3 marathons in 2003 including Green Bay, Grandma’s and Lakefront where I set a PR that lasted until 2008… and I still smoked those great cigars.
Like most runners I was aware of Boston qualifying. At Lakefront, I missed qualifying by less than 4 minutes… so I decided that perhaps I should give up smoking and I finally quit. In 2004 I heard about a marathon in Cincinnati called the “Flying Pig” from another PaceSetter who had done it the year before. They had a great 3-D medal with a flying pig going through the medal… so I signed up. It was there that I saw some runners wearing “50 State Marathon Club” t-shirts. I leaned over from my breakfast table and asked, “What’s that all about?” The seed was planted.
It took me until the end of 2005 to qualify to join the 50 States Marathon Club when I finished a marathon in 10 different states. So, in 2006 I joined both the 50 States Marathon Club and the 50 & DC Marathon Group USA. I joined the second group because I wanted to do the Marine Corp Marathon in 2006 that I heard about when taking a training course from Jeff Galloway. In 2006, I added 8 more states and Washington DC to my completion list. I became obsessed with the quest to complete a marathon in every state & DC by adding 11 more states in 2007 and 12 more in 2008. That left only 9 states remaining. The scheduling of these 9 remaining states became a nightmare. Because some of these states had a limited number of marathons, I had to change my goal of finishing this quest in Hawaii to finishing in Rhode Island. The next problem is that Maryland and Connecticut only had marathons available on the same date. So, with the help of the 50 State Marathon Club, I was able to arrange my first marathon in 2009 as a 31 mile (50K) ultra-marathon in Connecticut. A week later I was back on the East coast to do New Jersey. After a 3 week break, I went back to Vermont. 3 down, 6 to go. The end of August brought me out West to beautiful Park City Utah just north of a sweltering 110 degree Salt Lake City. 2 week later I flew into Denver, rented a car and drove up to Pocatello Idaho where we enjoyed baked potatoes at the finish line. I hoped back in my car and headed south to Colorado Springs CO and completed the American Discovery Trail Marathon 2 days after Pocatello. Two weeks later I was on my dream vacation in sunny (and humid) Maui Hawaii. Hawaii is a great place to vacation… not so nice of a place to do a marathon. 7 down, 2 to go. I traveled back to the East coast in mid October to finish the Baltimore Marathon… followed a week later in Newport Rhode Island. On October 18, 2009, I completed a marathon in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and a total of 57 marathons and 1 ultra-marathon. With most marathons being slightly long, I estimated a total of 1,550 course miles.
Friend & fellow PaceSetter Dean Peterson told me that there are only 10 Wisconsinites who have accomplished this goal and 2 of them live in Appleton… myself and Dean. I know a couple of friends that are working on their 50 states… though perhaps not as aggressively as I did. I completed 45 marathons over the past 4 years (2006-09) that included 40 new states & Washington DC and qualifying for Boston 4 times.
I was totally overwhelmed by the weather in Rhode Island that the “celebration” of the completion never happened. All I wanted was a hot shower, hot food and to head back to Wisconsin in a warm, dry car. I, of course, hung the medal from my rear view mirror… a tradition I started with all the marathons I have driven. I even got stopped by a Grand Chute police officer last year for hanging my marathon medals from that mirror. “It’s the law.” Sure…
My family helped me through the frustration of not having a celebration in Rhode Island for finishing this accomplishment by giving me a Vermont teddy bear complete with 50 State & DC Marathon Finisher t-shirt and running shoes (the Vermont Marathon is at the Home of the Vermont Teddy Bear); some 50 state finisher shirts & sweatshirt; and they had all my medals for the quest framed. Of course all of my kids still hold it against me for not taking them to Hawaii with me.
Here are a few other thoughts/stats/best/worst: I flew commercially to only 8 states (Alaska & Hawaii, of course; as well as Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado & Florida). I also flew in a private plane with my friends Doug & Laurie Osterberg to Wyoming, Iowa & Tennessee. The rest I drove to accumulating over 150,000 miles on my Saab & Jeep in the process. I have stayed in over 100 different hotel/motels, ate at lots of local pizza joints & restaurants and had a couple/few brews along the way.
The largest finishing medal was Little Rock Arkansas; the smallest & worst was in Iowa; and Michigan was the only state I completed that did not have any finishing medal at all. I have accumulated lots of shirts. The shirts ranged from simple cotton t’s to the more sophisticated moisture wicking shirts… which have now become the norm at most events. The best pre-race food & organization goes to Little Rock and the best post-race food was Idaho which had… wait for it… baked “potatoes”, hot sandwiches & chocolate milk. Best post race entertainment goes hands down to Nashville TN. Worst had to be Atlanta GA since most runners were half marathoners, it was like a ghost town at the finish I had to get a snack & drink at the medical tent since everything else was gone. Best crowd support… Chicago. Worst? There are too many to remember. Hottest temperature wise was a tie between the arid desert in Phoenix to the heat & humidity in Maui & Iowa. There were a lot more hot/humid marathons… far more than cold. Windiest goes to Casper WY. Gusts were so strong that they blew me literally off the course and I’m not a small guy. I remember The Flying Pig in Cincinnati OH, because from the time I left the hotel until my return, I was in a downpour. Boston 2007 had a horrible ‘noreaster’ that combined the wind in the face for the entire marathon and torrential rain for the first 5 miles. At least the rain stopped during most of that one. Michigan was on an island in which the pouring rain made the trail run virtually impassible and lightening struck the ground within a few feet of the course. The worst weather combination of cold, wind & rain was my last in Newport RI. The hardest running surface was a tie between Tulsa Oklahoma and Washington DC because the course was mainly on concrete. Quite a few courses were ‘forgettable’.
I remember running in circles in Portland Oregon, New Jersey and Connecticut since the courses were simple repeating loops.
I vacationed in Alaska & Hawaii spending a week at both. Both states are ‘must visits’ and I hope to return to both again. They are true jewels. I was also struck by the beauty and majesty of the mountains on both coasts.
Driving to most of the venues allowed me plenty of time to listen to audio books which I also enjoy listening to on my long runs. My best purchase was getting a subscription at audible.com to load books to my ipod. The second best purchase was getting a subscription to E-Z Pass to get through the hundreds of tollways along the routes. That saved a lot of time. My trips to New Hampshire & Maine was perfectly timed with the fall foliage.
Driving has its drawbacks as well. I tried to drive through several blizzards. The worst was on my way to South Carolina where the snow was so bad I had to stop for the night because I could no longer see and the roads had to be plowed. Even on my trip to Rhode Island, I encountered a blizzard traveling through Pennsylvania. I lost my air conditioning on a hot summer trip out west. And, I lost an exhaust system out in Montana. I’ve gotten lost more times than I can count on these trips especially trying to listen to GPS systems that want to take you anywhere & everywhere except where you need to go. I’ve also gotten lost trying to drive courses. Sometimes I actually got the course right.
There were no grizzly bears at the Grizzly Marathon. No flying pigs at the Flying Pig Marathon. A lot people do not know the difference between a flat course and a hilly course… and the definition seems to change from state to state. I ran a few miles with Sam Thompson who ran 51 marathons in 50 days in Iowa… and you think I’m crazy. I also had a chance meeting with Joan Benoit Samuelson during the Maine Marathon. It was her home turf and she was just out for a Sunday morning run.
I ran with a lot of other 50 state runners along the way who were also trying to accomplish the same feat. I befriended several and asked for their advice along the way.
I hate to think of how much this has cost me dollarwise. I’d rather remember how this quest has made me a better person and a better runner. I’ve had a lot of support along the way from my family, friends, other 50 staters and the PaceSetters where this all started. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in training. I have modified my running style watching so many other runners and that has keep me virtually injury free over the past 5 years.
Do I have any advice for anyone wanting to complete a marathon in every state and DC? Be ready to get out of your comfort zone! Every event is different. Different courses, different weather conditions, different sizes, different adventures. Every event is like a 51 different vacations. Enjoy yourself. I did for the most part.
What’s next? Well I plan on doing marathons in places that appeal to me or that I’ve heard about from others. I already have the Disney “goofy challenge” where you run a half marathon on Saturday and the full on Sunday scheduled for January. In February, I will run my 60th marathon on my 60th birthday on the coast south of Houston TX followed by the 61st the following day in Austin on Valentine’s Day. Don’t you just love it? I have the 2010 Boston Marathon in April. I also hope to finish more of Wisconsin’s marathons until I do all of them. Perhaps I will run into you at one of the dozen or more events I plan on for 2010.
What a way to finish my 58th marathon, including one in every state & the district of columbia. Certainly memorable on many levels. I feel relief to have finished this personal accomplishment. Not sure that it has fully sunk in yet and people are already asking, “What’s next?”
The 2,383 mile round trip started in the rain as we traveled south of Milwaukee on Friday 10/16/09. The rain continued through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and into Pennsylvania. After about 10 hours of driving, we called it a night in Brookville PA. Woke up to a car covered in snow. It was a blizzard driving through the remainder of Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains then back to rain into New Jersey. I thought the traffic would be down on Saturday travelling by New York City, and maybe it was, but east coast traffic always seems to be heavy. The weather channel called it a ‘nor-easter’ storm ascending on the east coast. But thankfully by the time we left Connecticut into Rhode Island, it was merely drizzling.
Found the Hyatt Regency - Newport RI on Goat Island, site of the expo and packet pickup. Newport is one of those resort areas along the Atlantic coast. It reminded me a lot of the New Jersey marathon resort area with similar rainy & windy conditions. After picking up my number, I drove the course, only getting lost a half dozen times. I’m glad I did that since the views were spectacular and the mansions along the coast were… beyond my imagination. Got to the Howard Johnson and found that there was the ‘2009 Best Pizza Restaurant’ in Rhode Island just across the road. It was ok. Before calling it a night, I checked Accuweather and found out the forecast was for 100% chance of rain, winds 20-30 mph with gusts to 50 mph and expected coastal flooding. Oh boy!
Woke up and checked and looked outside to see sideways rain. Dressed for a winter marathon, checked out, and headed to the start area. Found a parking garage out of the weather to wait for the start.
The start was just after 8 am in the rain with temps hovering above 40 and wind chills at 34. My shoes were already full of water within the first block since the street was virtually under water with puddles. About 2 hours into the race the rain changed to sleet. Yuk! My face was taking a beating and soaked gloves seemed little protection from the driving wind. Like I said, I was glad I drove the course the previous day because most of the time during the race I had my head down into the wind and spend most of time trying to avoid the larger puddles. There were points along the coast where the roads were totally under water. Despite wearing ‘rain gear’, I was totally drenched to the bone by mile 7. I even changed some of my outer wear around mile 15 and that helped for a few miles. I ate more gels than normal trying to maintain body heat. I ran the final few miles with my hands in my pockets trying to keep them from freezing off. The final 2 tenths was directly into the gusting winds and rain and the course through a parking lot was covered with a few inches of water.
I crossed the finish line not with the realization of completing my 50th state but more a desperation to find some warmth. The food tent was crowded with other blue lipped compatriots downing warm soup and cold pizza.
After my fill, teeth still chattering we found a local YMCA for a hot shower and dry clothing. I still cannot believe the conditions. It was like the winds of Casper WY and the rain we had in May in New Jersey not to mention those nasty ice pellets against my face and ears for about an hour before returning to pouring rain.
The return drive seemed to have even more traffic and rain until western New Jersey where the sky finally yielded a bright shiny object. No more rain and drove 7 hours back into Pennsylvania where sleep in a warm dry bed was my salvation. Monday was mostly sunny and dry with temps reaching the mid 60s… too nice of a day to spend in a car for 11 hours. Glad to be back!
This was certainly a memorable trip and will probably never forget my final state in reaching my quest to run a marathon in every state and DC. I will try to write more about the entire experience over the last few years in accomplishing this goal. There are a lot of memories of travel, people I met along the way and the support of my family and friends that made this journey possible. Thanks to all of you!
No matter how many marathons I do, 57 completed, it never seems to get any easier. It seemed on Saturday that I was always running “uphill” and “into the wind” all morning long.
The Baltimore Marathon, 1823 miles round trip, was my 57th marathon and 49th state. I do enjoy Saturday marathons over Sunday events. It’s nice to run in the morning and have the rest of the weekend to celebrate and recover. Baltimore’s event starts at Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles in overcast 73 degree temps. The good thing was that a cold front was making its way over the area and we had intermittent showers during the marathon and slowly dropping temps which finished at M&T Bank Field, home of the Baltimore Ravens.
This is not a very scenic marathon. The first 2 miles are uphill and through the downtown and row houses, many of which are boarded over… actually kind of depressing. We then travel through a park area and back toward the downtown inner harbor where a majority of the spectators stayed since it is nearly impossible to get around by car here during the marathon. There were a lot of annoyed drivers and long lines of cars at intersections. The police manned the intersections and were being verbally abused by many of the locals caught up in the messy traffic situation. The course continues out toward Fort McHenry, known as the location that Francis Scott Key penned the national anthem. Unfortunately, the Fort area is under construction and the marathon did not go through the Fort this year but instead turned early enough to travel through the main sponsor’s (Under Armour) facility. The course returns to the inner harbor area, the halfway point, where the half marathon which started 1:45 hours after the marathon starts. Between the marathon, marathon relay & the half marathon, there was a lot of runners on the course which was sometimes relegated to a single lane of traffic.
During most of the second half, I spent more time running around half marathon walkers. There were so many half marathoners that it started in 5 or more waves. Its hard to describe the second half other than I recall a long 2 miles around a lake because of the distraction of so many walkers. I have nothing against walkers. At times I am doing just that. However, there really ought to be some kind of etiquette established that all walkers must walk on one side or the other and no wider than pairs. When I was running, I spent most of the time weaving between the walkers and not really paying attention to sites along the course. I also remember a couple of annoying uphills in the final 6 miles but the last couple of miles was mostly downhill to a flat finish.
They nicely isolated the runners finish area from the 1000s of friends, family members and spectators though it still seemed cramped and unorganized. Another marathon without much to eat… potato chips, fruit and bagels. Where’s the protein?!?
Only after sitting in the same marathon traffic for over a half hour to get to the interstate did I finally have time to relax and reflect. I was pleased with my performance and now look forward to next Sunday’s marathon in my final state, Rhode Island, in my quest to complete a marathon in every state and DC.
One other travel note. I did take the long way around Chicago on the 295 Tri-state tollway in order to avoid the traffic from the Chicago marathon. Congrats to Chad Gruett on his PR and BQ in Chicago.
My advice to anyone thinking of doing the Maui Marathon… remember the sun can be brutal being so much closer to the equator. Maui is a great vacation destination and I hated to leave “paradise”. I stayed at the Hyatt near the finish line. The marathon is a “point-to-point” starting Kahului (the main airport is there) at 5:30 am and travels south to the ocean. From there you run through a mountain pass and then along the ocean up through Lahaina (tourist shops, food & attractions) to the resort area finishing in front of the Weston resort. The last 17 miles have ocean views or actually within feet of the ocean.
Once the sun rises it does not take long for the heat and built in humidity to take hold. The good thing, I guess, is that the sun is mainly at your back during this stretch. The marathoners meet at a shopping mall and because its still dark at 5am, the native dancer with his flaming baton was spectacular. After the entertainment, we walk about 5 blocks to the start line. There is no chip timing for this event.
The start is gradually downhill until we hit highway 380 and then gradually goes uphill to the ocean. I noticed the downhill and uphill more when I drove the course than when I actually ran it. After turning north we head for the mountain pass which did not seem too bad and runs from about mile 9 and you start the downhill about mile 12. The course is relatively flat from there to the finish.
You receive a plastic lei, a nice medal and cotton finisher t-shirt at the finish. Unfortunately I could not find anything to eat at the finish line except a cup of apple slices. The other thing I did not like is lack of cold water and/or ice at water stations. I am also not a fan of “Heed” or rather it does not like me, so I used water at every water station in my mouth and over my head and took salt capsules every 4 miles. I saw and heard the ambulances were very busy and a lot of people stretching with cramps since there was little shade along this course.
After buying a sandwich and chocolate milk, I walked back to my hotel along the ocean and jumped into the pool to bring my body temp back down to normal… very refreshing!
Maui is GREAT place to vacation but only has a so-so marathon. This was my 56th marathon and 48th state. Next up is Baltimore MD October 10th.