Sunday, May 18, 2008

One HOT potato!

The road to Boise, ID for the Famous Idaho Potato Marathon began very early Thursday morning. I drove myself in and managed to get one of those rare remote lot spots. With the little that I do travel, it's hard not to notice that the $3/day fee is one of the lowest in the nation. Just about everywhere else it's $10 or more! While I was going through security instead of being accosted by the officials a nice older lady asked me if my brother was a priest in Dunn, NC! Ironically enough, I was on my way to see my brother, but last time I checked he had not taken up the priesthood as a profession. She asked because I apparently look exactly like this priest, so next time I'm there I'll be careful. I might get thrown in jail on child molestation charges!

My new calling...

The flights to Dallas-Fort Worth and on to Portland were just fine. One odd occurrence - I was positionally in the same seat for both flights and the configuration of type of people was almost the same on each flight (near me that is). The couple in front, the stylish diva reading a magazine for airheads up one also on the aisle, older guy on back at the window. It was rather odd. More importantly, the view of Mt. Hood coming in was spectacular - we passed just on the north side - the other great volcanoes were also visible on this glorious day!

At the PDX airport my brother Andrew picked me up, and then we sought out some sandwiches to enjoy at his house. It was bizarre being someone with no sales tax! He then had to go back to work. I had thought about going downtown to visit Powell's but I was tired and instead dozed for a few hours. I then took a chair out on the patio to continue delving into Sophie's Choice, which has so far been an outstanding read!

Later after Andrew's return we sat on the porch a little while longer, then headed over to Pier Park to play some disc golf - the lovely weather had unfortunately brought out lots of players, so it was a bit of slow go. Nevertheless, relatively speaking I had an excellent game, shooting seven over par for the nine holes we did play. From there we headed over to the Alberta District to meet my friend Brett who had recently moved from Charlotte. His new rental digs were quite nice, and he seemed quite pleased with the structure and housemates. We walked over to Vita Cafe for dinner. After realizing we'd need get one of the coveted patio seats, we ended up eating inside. The mainly vegetarian fare was quite delicious, my lasagna with the thick portabella made me quite happy! Following dinner we were going to hit a movie, but were a bit late so instead retired to the homestead.

Once again I was up early and off to the airport. I had bought a second ticket with Horizon to fly to Boise. Unfortunately I had to go through Spokane. I wasn't in any particular hurry, and it was the cheapest way to go so I went with the flow. I was somewhat turned off to see that the aircraft being used (for both legs) was painted in Washington State University colors complete with logo. Considering my other option was to walk, I sucked it up. At the Spokane terminal it was crawling with the Gonzaga and WSU women's rowing teams. WSU boarded a plane for Seattle and Gonzaga came aboard my frigate, which was ultimately bound for Sacramento. Both schools were headed towards the Pac-10 Championships.

Once I retrieved my bag from behind the counter in Boise (?), my friend/host Dave picked me up. Dave is a friend from Seattle and has a long punctuated history with our family. We have known him since elementary school. He eventually moved to North Bend and surfaced again when my brother and I worked at Camp Parsons. In 1994 Dave was Hikemaster for the High Adventure Program and I worked for him. More recently in 2006 we both participated in the Grand Columbian Half Ironman.

After hitting some Chinese for lunch, he had to return to work but it wasn't long before my parents arrived in town. We then spend time driving the parts of the marathon course and doing the packet pickup. We then motored on to Meridian to visit the Sierra Trading Post outlet store. That was a special shopping experience, even though I literally heard every employee in the store bitch about how much they hated their job. That evening I delighted in the opportunity to meet Dave's children, Kayla (5) and Leo (3), both with their wide smiles! We had a big pasta dinner there and then watched a video produced about the run-up to the 2001 Tour de France for (the now defunct) US Postal Team. Very cool.

Kayla and Leo know how to party!

Perhaps my number one concern about the marathon was the abnormally high temperature forecast for Saturday. The normal May high is around 70 degrees, and Saturday was going to puncture that by at least twenty! The course began upstream of downtown Boise at Discovery Park, right below the Lucky Peak reservoir. It was in the mid to high 50s with a cool wind when we arrived around 7:30. At the time I did not know how many marathoners there would be, but the crowd was quite large, but most of the runners were doing the half marathon, which consisted of following the greenway down to Anna Morrison Park.

I was very much looking forward to the start of this event, as the anxiety over the past week had been killing me. I had applied copious amounts of sunblock above and below, chosen my loose Sharksbite singlet, and was wearing my Grand Columbia hat. I also was wearing my sunglasses, which is a bit rare for me. This also marked my first big event using my new Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS watch. It was a birthday present mainly geared towards helping me run a smooth race today.

Shade and cool temps lasted until about this moment...

I had publicly stated my goal was 3:38, or a 8:19 minute mile pace. The first little part of the race was a loop below the dam to jump on the official greenway. I knew I would start out fast with the excitement and all, and was worried about the 7:44 time. From there the running was beautiful along the canyon and river, with some shade and the fleeting cool temps. I then continued to build with splits that were around the 8:00 mark. This was a dangerous game. I was feeling good and wanted nothing more than to break my Chicago PR (3:30). So I began to glide down the valley. It opened up and the crowds slowly thinned out. The initial run down the northern side of the Boise River (which was overflowing) had some good shade sections. Around Mile 8 a woman jumped in front of me and locked rather tight. After a couple of miles I realized this might be an excellent person to hang with. After leaving the golf course I started to talk with her; her name was Nancy and she seemed also a little uncomfortable with the pace. My watch seemed to be hitting the mile marks well, so that was good news. The reception was certainly excellent!

I found a great pacer in Nancy

With the river flooding there were some detours, which included some sidewalk running "downtown" before hitting Julia Davis park. Nancy and I then made the "lonely left" for the marathoners and crossed the Boise River. After that I was hard pressed to see more than 2-3 people running the marathon at any time. It was mostly bikes going the other way and initially people walking to some graduation ceremony. My main concern was the Mile 13 marker on the pavement, which was definitely long. My Forerunner put me at 13.35 miles. Nancy was wearing the same watch and made a similar comment. As for my half split, according to my watch distance I went across at 1:44:26, a 7:58 mark. I was beginning to feel it - even worse I knew that this southern portion would be a very gentle incline.

At one point Nancy stopped, mostly likely to use the restroom, but she slowly made her way back and then after Mile 18 or so began to leave me. She had a guy (her father) shadowing her on a bike, and giving out water and gels! Was that unfair? So I began the excruciating process of slowing down. It was here the heat of the sun on the exposed neighborhood running that really began to eat into me. My splits (below) showed this deterioration. At this point the feature set on my watch to beep at me whenever I went below an 8:25 pace just became downright annoying!

My parents had managed to get in a number of places to see and encourage me. By the time I got to Buster Park I was really running on something else besides energy. I was taking copious amounts of water. Thankfully I never started to walk on the course like I did at Marine Corps, but at several of the aid stations from Mile 18 on I did do a fast walk immediately after getting cups to make sure most of it went down my mouth. I don't consider that "walking" on the course. It is walking if I continue on for a distance, but this never happened. One of my problems was that my left foot was completely waterlogged so it squished a lot! I was so happy to cross the river on Eckert, but the long run north to reconnect with the greenway took FOREVER and was so exposed! I knew it would be a gradual downhill from there, but it was very hard to notice. My pace continued to worsen as I continued to look for the shade that I first experienced on this part. It was virtually nowhere to be found. I was starting to get delirious after leaving the golf course, but jogged on determined with the knowledge the finish was within reach and that I would instantly feel better once I could stop.

During the first time (with all the droves of other runners) the only street that required police to stop was Broadway. I was horrified to see upon my return the main street into downtown had no such protection. There was only some kid at the other end hitting the button to walk. So I had a choice to make. It was not green, and there were several cars going each way. Had it been dozens, I would have no choice. But I went for it! I was very angry I had to do that, but nothing could be done at the time.

I had yet to cross the river when my watch logged me in at 26.2 miles. I had covered the distance in 3:47:56 (a 8:42 minute mile pace). It was just torture to make me run further. I dragged my body further north desperate for the footbridge that would take me across. It seemed EVEN further to back south to the finish line at Anna Morrison Park.

I dreamed about this moment the entire second half

It certainly was great to have my mom, dad, and Dave screaming at me to finish! When I crossed the time was 3:51:40 and the distance 26.61 miles. How nice was it to get that medal! The accommodations at the end were quite sparse, I felt pretty lucky to get a couple of water bottles. Dave, who had run the half marathon in 2:20, couldn't stay too long because he had the kids with him, so mom left with him. I eventually felt well enough to take it my potato! Oh, and I did find Nancy. I gave her a nice hug and congratulated her on the 3:44 time she posted. I would later learn she ran a 3:29 at Boston a month early, was 51 years old (she looked a lot younger), and finished second overall.

Potatoes in Idaho after a race? Crazy!

Since the camper was parked a distance away, my dad left to pick it up. Right before I left I realized, even with my mediocre time, that I had done research to indicate I may have a shot of placing in my age group. So I went to look at the results and sure enough I had placed third! They were coincidentally giving out the awards so before leaving I picked up a stuffed potato, a real potato, and a nice white ribbon! I was definitely beaming when my dad pulled up! It appeared that I had finished about 24th. I later learned there were only 99 finishers, so given everything I should call it a good effort and decent rebound from the Marine Corps debacle.

My spoils for not sucking as much as the other five age group runners

That afternoon I finally got to meet Dave's German wife Kristin! She was out on a business trip and I bet Dave was pleased to have her back after five days of fending for himself with the kids! After some napping, etc we went to celebrate that night at a nearby Mexican restaurant that was quite good!

On Sunday morning mom and dad took off for home - no doubt they were anxious to return to Seattle after a long sojourn. Besides being sore as hell (with some extra lower back soreness), I did have a rather bad blister on my left second toe (which is longer than my big toe). Despite all this, Dave convinced me to go out on a hike. We headed south on I-84 to Mountain Home then out into the dry expanses to Bruneau Dunes State Park. This is a massive singular dune, apparently the largest and tallest in North America.

The Bruneau Dunes from a point near the visitor center

I chose to ascend in my open Keen sandals, which for the most part, was the right move. In the parking lot Dave met several people he knew. There was a party of three young guys, one was named Jay and the two of them had been into computer science together at WSU. Dave also met another older couple he knew - we helped him take his inflatable fishing craft out of the truck. The weather was sunny and warm, thankfully not too hot yet and this was exposed city! The views were quite spectacular and it was like climbing a steep mountain - slow but steady.

Dave climbing with Stretch The Rubber Chicken, the undeniable mascot of the Camp Parsons High Adventure Program

Line 1: It looks flat but I assure you it's not
Line 2: This dork ran a marathon yesterday and doesn't know when to stop

Scott and Jay on the ridge before the summit

At the ridge we chose to make the dip for the final ascent. At the top we talked with Dave's friends - one named Michael was particularly interested and knowledgeable about the land trust movement. I did get some nice panorama shots before we cruised back down.

Panorama from the southern side

We then had to jump into the water, but it was a bit on the cold side! Back in Mountain Home we stopped at a local diner for lunch. It sure took long, but we leafed through a copy of Guinness Book of World Records (hey, look at the freaks!).

That evening I met up with another recent emigrant from Charlotte, Josh Saak. He moved to Boise about a year ago; I distinctly remember the Beer Mile we had to celebrate his departure. Josh came over to pick me up. For dinner we went to Lucky 13 Pizza, which was right on the greenway about Mile 6. It was a delightful evening and the Deschutes Brewery beer tasted wonderful with our "potato" pizza. Afterwards he drove us up to Table Rock and then to the north part of town to show their new house. We hung out and had some ice cream there before he and happy dog Berry drove me home.

Monday turned out to be another marathon day, that is, of flights and waiting. Dave dropped me off at the Boise airport shortly after 6:30. I began the long day by flying Horizon Air first to Seattle. Let me tell you, it was quite weird to just "drop in" on my hometown like it was just some unimportant waypoint on my journey back where I really wanted to go. I definitely soaked up what I could! Then another flight to Portland. I then waited for my bag, ripped off the tag, and went upstairs to check in again with American. During the long wait I found some seats without arm rests so I did get to rest some. Before leaving I was ravenous enough to wolf down a totally unhealthy Wendy's "Baconator" with fries. The leg to Dallas was the only where I had to sit at the window on a full flight. Then more waiting in Dallas. Thankfully the last leg had plenty of empty seats, so I took two for myself! I was very disorientated with the night lights as we came into Charlotte. Usually I consider myself quite "spatially" aware, but not this time! I really scored with retrieving my bag in short order, but waiting for a remote lot shuttle took way too long! I then paid for my cheap parking and was getting licked by Winston by 11:45!


Just the stats, ma'am

Overall: 24th place out of 99 finishers
Age Group (M30-34): 3rd place out of 8

First Half - 1:44:26 (7:58 minute mile)
Second Half - 2:03:30 (9:25 minute mile)
26.2 Miles - 3:47:56 (8:42 minute mile)
Official Time - 3:51:40 (8:50 minute mile, based on 26.2 distance)
Actual Distance from Garmin Forerunner 205 - 26.61 miles
(Nancy got 26.65 on hers)

Office Webpage
Official Course
Official Results

Mile 1 - 7:44
Mile 2 - 7:46
Mile 3 - 8:00
Mile 4 - 7:52
Mile 5 - 8:00
Mile 6 - 7:55
Mile 7 - 8:01
Mile 8 - 8:07
Mile 9 - 7:51
Mile 10 - 7:58
Mile 11 - 7:55
Mile 12 - 7:51
Mile 13 - 8:32
Mile 14 - 8:30
Mile 15 - 8:17
Mile 16 - 8:37
Mile 17 - 8:55
Mile 18 - 9:07
Mile 19 - 9:21
Mile 20 - 9:21
Mile 21 - 9:39
Mile 22 - 10:14
Mile 23 - 10:17
Mile 24 - 10:14
Mile 25 - 9:53
Mile 26 - 10:03
Final - 9:15

Friday, May 2, 2008

What's Inside You?

Earlier today I was reading McNellis' Camp Parsons blog about a dear friend of mine, Billy Price. Despite the fact that he is a quadraplegic it turns out he is an amazing skiier! Billy has been my hero for many many years. He's made the best out of his situation and I try to do the same.

On these related subjects, this past Wednesday I went back out to Lowe's Motor Speedway for my fifth crack at the 10 mile bicycle time trials. Before I go any further, I was to clearly denote I hate NASCAR. Bruton Smith is a class-A slimeball; I only tolerate showing up by his counterpart, the amazing Humpy Wheeler. And yes, and I appreciate Jeff Burton since he chose to place a conservation easement on his property outside of Huntersville. But other than that...

My first attempt was on June 29, 2005. Each time it really is an amazing experience to ride around the track and give it everything you got for seven laps (10 miles)!! At the time I was riding my Trek 5200 - I put in my slowest time of 27:49, an average of 21.6 miles per hour. For the record, that was the hottest recorded temperature at 86 degrees. I came back once more that year in September to shave off 9 seconds, then my final attempt with the Trek 5200 was in May next year where another 16 seconds came off. That was the first year that my dad participated.

In 2007 I only came out once, again in May. This time I had a new bike, my current Trek Madone named Holman. I really smashed my best time clocking in at 25:50! My goal this year was to at least match that time, so I had my splits taped to the bike. I really had no excuses with the weather either. Perhaps though the best part is my parents cheering me on! For those not aware, this course is not flat. The backside is mostly down where you can gain some serious time. This year I maxxed out at 27.4 mph. It's then a tortuous climb along the front side. This year I did not shift out of my big gear, trying the advise of the wise (?) Steve Watkins.

Just like the 5K at Run For the Money, the reality was I was not prepared for such a short burst of high intensity work. I saw my seconds slowly tick away on each lap. Like most others, I pushed it to the extreme and pretty much felt like hurling the last twenty minutes. It wasn't a terrible showing though, I came in at 26:18, a 28 second drop from my PR last year. This averages out around 22.8 miles per hour. That puts my overall average from the five attempts right on 27:00 minutes.

Complete Shutterfly Album

Carolina Cycling Time Trial Association Info and Results