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race reports

You crossed the finish line and want to tell the world...or at least your Strider pals.

Bourbon Chase Relay, October 2010 by michele gordon

12-hours in to the Blue Ridge Relay

It's December 2009 and John has us signed up for a 1/2 marathon every month through May! So (of course) when Dave suggested a 200 mile marathon in Lexington Ky back in early January '10 to the millstriders you would THINK someone would say .... enough! Actually .... it took little time to find a team of 12 folks who enthusiastically signed up (woohoo).

I believe it was a joint effort in coming up with the team name (thank you Dave & Jaye) but in no time at all the "Snot Rockets" were registered to run through beautiful Kentucky the weekend of Oct 22nd/23rd. Van #1 was comprised of "speed kills" Brent, "secret weapon" Hadley, "energizer-bunny" Leigh, "a little less conversation a little more action" Bill, "road kill king" John and of course our fearless leader "captain snot rocket" Dave. The 2nd Van included "bourbon boy" Todd, "sody" (affectionately known as Jody & Sonia), "road kill queen" Kathy, "i'll run any hill you throw at me" Jaye and "finger crusher" ME! (i shut the door on Jaye's finger after her first leg .... thankfully no trip to the emergency room ... Jaye is an animal!!!) This team of 12 came from every conceivable airline on the east coast, requiring more connection flights than most rock bands (we rocked). Jody decided to travel via automobile through gale force winds just to run with us.

We came, we ran, we drank, we stank .... the millstriders were well represented.

Our vans were decorated in slime green, well equipped with numerous cow bells, trail mix, diet coke, protein drinks & smelled like bourbon (thank you Todd). At one point of the evening Van #1 picked up a pregnant dog (I think her name was "lucky"). John would not allow Hadley to bring the 'ole girl home (not even a single puppy). Some people are just so focused on the race huh? Speaking of the "race" some highlights included:

It was great fun & i hope you all have a chance to sit down one evening to share a beer & listen to a story or two of this fine, running adventure or better yet .... maybe you will decide to participate in such a race ... i'd love to hear your story.


Boston Marathon 2010 by David Holmes

David Holmes smiling at mile-17 Boston Marathon 2010

It's difficult to know where to start; this is an awesome race and it was a fabulous day for it. The following account can hardly do justice to this experience; you have to do it yourself. In case you do, I'll throw in a few take-away points that might be useful.

On the walk to the expo I dropped my registration card, backtracked 0.5 mile and found it on the side walk. "Good Omen", I joked with Bart!

TIP: Don't do this yourself unless you have the luck of the Irish.

The bib pick-up was easy and the volunteers let us try on the nice adidas technical shirts for size; adidas climacool with BAA logo. Retail $30 but included in race fee. Sweet! This may be the most expensive race fee you'll see ($130) but you really get a ride for your money. The expo was high-tech but the whiff of snake-oil was strong. Some kid was doing a zone workout on a treadmill with the latest adidas gizmo. I was thankful that I didn't even need the treadmill. The coolest display was the sequence of jackets going back about twenty years. IMHO, colors are quite nice this year; wasn't always so. Size L in the jackets had sold out, but there are cheaper sources of official merchandise online. As we left, Bart caught the end of a shoe pitch - "you need to strike a bit more with your heel".

The festivities started with a pre-race meal at Canestro reserved by one of Sonia's friends. Just as well the reservation had been made; a passer-by on the street muttered "don't bother" as we approached the casual Italian eatery. This place had plenty of variety - pasta, pizza and I enjoyed some un-Italian chicken, rice pilaf and veggies. My understanding is that the pre-race meal arranged by BAA is quite good. Each to his/her own. Thanks Sonia!

TIP: Book your restaurant early if that's your gig.

I was lucky enough to get a s pot on the couch at Bart's cousins place, strategically located in down-town Boston near the finish line, the night before the race. On the walk back from the restaurant we stopped by a convenience store but could only snag some very very ripe bananas, an Odwalla smoothie and Bart picked up a cellophane-wrapped pastry that probably didn't need the wrapper to survive.

Lights went out at 10pm so that we could be up at 5am. Gaaawwwwddd!!!!.

TIP: Pack some earplugs. The locals were quieter that night than Saturday so I didn't need them, but HVAC in many places can be loud.

Obviously we hadn't planned breakfast too well, but fortunately we had packed some instant oatmeal and various granola bars. When everything started to look like a variation of oats I decided to appropriate some eggs for the soft and hard-boiling thereof. The inconvenience store was closed at 5:30am so I rummaged in the refrigerator. Yes! A n untouched dozen lay waiting in an otherwise deserted space. My joy quickly turned to consternation when the eggs refused to submerge themselves and appeared to float magically on the surface of the water. "Nov 25" the expiration date, but what year? We reverted to several servings of instant oatmeal until it felt like it was going to ooze out of our eye-sockets. Joking aside, it definitely helped to be just a couple of MBTA stops from the morning departure point in down-town Boston.

TIP: Shop outta town. Prepare for two breakfasts, or at least the one before you get to the athletes' village. I might even bring my REI-style reinforced egg-box next time. Gotta love oatmeal, it's never let me down.

Bart got a good shave that morning, ostensibly so that the photos would be acceptable to his mom, but I was a bit frightened when he told me that he was "going commando" under the jogging pants I had let him borrow . Was he planning some kind of spectacular stunt for the cameras? I was ready to leave, but I found Bart in the kitchen. He appeared to have entered a strange and paradoxical coffee-induced trance. Maybe, inspired by race folklore, he was day-dreaming about Wellesley College girls? "Got yer bib?" I asked. "Let's go!".

We took the MBTA a few stops.

TIP: Most runners are advised to pack a few dollars in their race togs. A credit card will get you an open Charlie-ticket machine on race morning. I was surprised that the lines weren't longer, especially after getting to the buses. My new favourite race item is SPIbelt.com. It'll hold money, credit card, phone and you'll forget you are wearing it.

I was amazed at the lines of runners for buses to the start in Hopkinton. However, despite the fact that the queues vanished at some point of infinity along Boylston St (the finish as it also happens) it didn't ta ke more than 20 minutes to board a bus and by 7:30am we (Bart and I) were in the athletes' village unrolling our air mattresses and chomping our second breakfast. The organizers had erected a huge circus tent for all the running freaks and had laid on all-u-can eat bagels, bananas, water, gatorade and powerbars. Sadistic really, considering that 30 thousand divided by a helluva lot of port-o-johns can still feel like eternity.

TIP: Dress really warmly for the two hours downtime. I wore fleece pants under waterproof outers. On top I had a tech-T, tech-longsleeve, fleece, running jacket and waterproof top. It was sunny but the wind was nippy. I was snug on my mattress and had a pleasant rest.

At 9:30am we broke camp, and made our way 0.7mi to the start. There were too many people to jog. An unrecognizable gentleman sang the National Anthem and two F15s flew overhead. My bib was 9603 and I checked into the back of th e 9000-10000 corral and proceeded to squint at the view ahead of an immediate hill. Huh? What kind of sick joke is this? It dawned on me that start line was nowhere in sight and that we were in line for a pleasant warm-up walk - not so bad. However, enough time for the guy next to me to try to psych me out with his "super-gu" donated by his astronaut friend with an unbelievable concentration of sodium. This guy seemed determined to turn himself into a raisin. I on the other hand had a small flask of espresso gel in my left hand and a small flask of water in my right hand. Locked and loaded. I checked my laces and did some mini stretches in the space unavailable.

At 10:00am I can only presume that the race up front started and the train of athletes inched forward. As we crested the hill and crossed the starting mats an amazing sight greeted us. It was like looking down a valley with a white-water river of runners and che ering spectators lining the banks. Aside from some changes in scenery this image never changed. At that point I searched for something profound to sum up my feelings right there and in those starting moments. All I could think is - "Wow. I'm here! I must have died and gone to running heaven."

The first surprise was that the downhills are much more common than I had expected and that first half also had a fair amount of undulation. Fortunately this fit my plan: forget the watch, relax, good form going downhill, easy up, just flow.

TIP: Along with nutrition, this might be the most important thing you can do once the race is underway. Sure, I used my Garmin to get splits but you don't want to chase the pace on this terrain. The Garmin also helped me get psyched for the hills and manage the last few miles.

TIP: Remember the water flask? I got that tip from someone and it saved me from thinking about the w ater stops until mile 6. I can recommend it in a busy marathon. After that the water/gatorade stops were reasonable to navigate and after I had gotten my drinking technique down following several drowning, snorting and attempts to do an eye bath I don't believe I was losing any time at water stops. Will gladly share my technique next time we meet. The flask of espresso also worked well but the execution could have been improved; I got in a time pinch morning of the race and was unable to dilute the gel to let it flow freely, and also only really needed 1/2 to 2/3 full for the whole race. So the flask was a tad heavy at the start and needed a double-handed squeeze to get a sip.

I enjoyed the scenery in the early stages; lots of trees, sunshine and the wind was keeping things cool. Kids were out offering slices of orange, handkerchiefs, or just hands for slapping. I felt sorry for the kid offering strawberries in a zi ploc bag (do you take them all?) who was getting no takers. Every few miles I'd veer to the edge of the road for high fives, low fives. It was a blast.

Around 10 miles I still couldn't believe how much the gradient was helping the pace. I wasn't afraid that I'd gone out too fast because I'd still been running cautiously.

Wellesley college wasn't as loud as I had expected but the girls were in great spirits and you can't help but laugh at the generosity of their kissing offers. I did a few high fives and Bart later confessed to blowing his chance of a sub-3 by personally greeting all of them.

At mile 16 you get the first of the four major hills along the course; the Rte 128/I-95 overpass. It's long but not steep. I had decided not to risk any heavy breathing (I get Exercise Induced Asthma) and my pace still only dropped ~30sec/mi.

At around 17.5mi, Newton fire station and the sharp turn onto Commonwea lth Ave, I was cheered on by Julie and some friends. It took me by surprise because I didn't expect to pick out anyone from the hoards of people.

Hills two and three came and went. Still a kind of non-event because I was running at constant effort.

Finally, heartbreak hill, and nothing like the carnage I had expected. Rowdy college kids will offer you beer. An unmistakeable dark brown tudor house on the left marks the top of the hill.

TIP: Do your homework on this course. Get to know the terrain and a few landmarks. It will help with your pacing, comfort and add to the fun. The web was a bit sketchy but I managed to piece together a pretty good picture.

All this uphill is punctuated by downhill and provides excellent opportunity to recover but you know you have to start pushing too. I tried to maintain good form going downhill (forefoot strike, lean forward, don't brake) but there is no escaping the feeling that payback time is imminent.

The last 2-3 miles, to me, were the most punishing. The crowds get even bigger, cowbells are clanking louder, and for a while all you can see is a river of runners stretching ahead. The inevitable quad crush begins and you start to look inside yourself for support. Then suddenly you're emerging from the underpass before the turn onto Hereford St and you know that all the runners around you can smell the barn. Look alert! Be quick. A sharp right, more crowds, easy run up the rise then sharp left onto Boylston St for the finish. The Finish? It seems like a mile away, never getting closer, but you step on the gas knowing that it's just an illusion and gradually the apparition gets bigger and you choose which of two clocks to pass under.

TIP: This race does seem to go by in a flash. Look around. Enjoy it. Play with the crowds. They deserve it for their support.

My first thought was to call Julie, I have to share the joy and the news of a PR. I meet Bart at the end of the finishing chute, check he is appropriately dressed, and we give each other a congratulatory hug.

TIP: If you are lucky enough to have a training partner who will also run Boston then your experience and memories will be magnified.

I'm also indebted to Bart for both getting me to run Boston this year and for pulling me through a bad patch of long training runs. So when we decided to walk back the mile or so to the apartment wrapped in our space blankets sporting medals and snacks and comparing experiences, it was a fitting end to a long journey.

Boston has a reputation for terse and unfriendly people but that seemed to have melted away. Even away from the course, random pedestrians, cyclists, people walking their dogs all offered "well done's".

"My mama told me there'd be days like this." - Van Morrison.

Marine Corps Marathon, October 2009 by Kathy Matera

12-hours in to the Blue Ridge Relay

So to fill in the details of our wild marathon weekend, the highlights included Michele's incredibly sparse packing job (as far as we could tell, Mic brought her running shoes, Fig Newtons, and baby wipes), Jaye's amazing pre-race outfit (complete with crescent moons on her "throw away" fleece pants. Yes, we have pictures), and Meredith's cool demeanor when faced with the fact that she had gotten the crud from somewhere and was sicker than a dog. We all managed to help set the DC economy back on its feet with the simple use of credit cards at the Expo. (That's Jaye pondering a purchase in Expo photo to the left).

As for the actual marathon, Meredith scampered off with the fast rabbits as soon as the gun went off; the older ladies went at a more leisurely pace. Michele and I enjoyed each other's company until mile 16, when I had a Gu issue at a water stop that wouldn't resolve itself until I stopped to rip the d(*&^mn top of that packet. Michele thought I got ahead of her, so picked up the pace to find me (apparently she looked for my pink hat for 10 more miles); I knew better, but could never quite catch her again as she scampered off. Jaye claims she had a bad marathon, but you'd never know that by the big smile and hysterical stories she had when she got back to the room.

Ah....the story of the late check out from the hotel. It's a long and funny one, and we'll just have to save it for a Fosters breakfast sometime! All in all, it was a great weekend full of laughs and running. Now we just have to convince Michele that she had so much fun, she wants to do another one. Jaye and I spent most of the weekend throwing out possible marathon ideas to Michele. She was not overly receptive (we think Edinburgh is a GREAT idea!).

Blue Ridge Relay, September 2009 by Kathy Matera

12-hours in to the Blue Ridge Relay

12 outgoing and outspoken women, 2 divorce lawyers, 7 divorces, 4 Ph.D.s, too many type A personalities to count…..what do you get? Running in Heels! OK, it’s only funny if you saw the Janes van on the Blue Ridge Relay.

But in any event, here’s the race report: 8 am start at Grayson State Park (just FYI, it took about 2.5 hours to get to the hotel in West Jefferson, and perhaps another 30 minutes to get to Grayson. Just sayin’. Oh, except for Van #2, who felt they needed to see some scenery on the way to Grayson, and took a few less traveled roads to get there. Thank you, Ms. Garmin). Larissa led off with a blistering pace that left many a relay team quaking in their running shoes. Sonia finished the race 35 legs later by bolting down almost 7 miles of asphalt into Asheville, just slightly over 31 hours later. In between those two events, we had some very fun times, discovered a few personality quirks, and took a lot of pictures (if you want the site for close to 200 of them, let me know!).

After Larissa’s quick start , van #1 followed in order with Jackie, Desiree, Leigh, Becky and Patty (who we forgot to tell that the first leg had a NASTY uphill right before the end. Sorry Patty! You still looked strong!), and then van #2 took over. Realize that van #2 had whiled away the hours drinking coffee (Sonia and Stephanie), shopping (Jaye, the first of several shopping stops; ask her about power shopping at the outlet malls), and lounging about checking out the competition (The Christian Runners, parked next to the Leg Humping Beagles). Van #2 also got nutted at Transition #1. It’s a long story. Jaye continued the pace during the hot hours of Friday afternoon, followed in order by Kathy, Stephanie, Michele, Laura and Sonia. Van #2 probably would have finished a bit faster at transition #2 except for the fact that Michele took pity on all those runners who decided to do an 8.5 mile run on a hot dirt road without water. So Michele being Michele was apparently out there stopping and offering her water to those hapless runners. She probably sat down and chatted with them, for all we know (although her blistering final time would argue against that scenario). Laura also decided that she wanted to check out the Blue Ridge Parkway heading north on her leg. Luckily, she realized relatively quickly that we would get to Asheville faster if she went south. All was good.

By mid race, we had one of our favorite quotes (courtesy of Larissa), “Just suck it up.” Appropriate for so many occasions on a relay race. By mid race, there were also many of us spending a good deal of time searching for a Coke. Who knew a Coke was a necessary requirement for so many of us to get through a relay race? Four 12 packs were bought in Chapel Hill, but none made it on the vans actually going up to the relay. That’s another long story. We’re still arguing about how that happened. So a 3:30 am raid of the local Ingalls grocery store was in order to remedy that situation.

Of course the highlight of the race was the dreaded Billy Goat Hard climb (Leg 31). Jaye got thrown under the bus for that one, and she gamely went off into the morning mist. Serves her right for saying she didn’t care what leg she did. Jaye emerged on the top of the Billy Goat Hard climb (when asked at the top if it was hard, she merely replied “Nnnnnaaaaaaahhhhhhhh”), grinning ear to ear, and causing a mild panic by yours truly (who was still completely dressed in fleece and not ready to run) not anticipating such quick work of the hill by Jaye. She’s nominated to do it again next year.

Other highlights:

For all of you statistic hounds: 106 teams started, 103 teams finished, we came in 61st, and we’re damn proud of it! Five women’s teams, four of which finished; we came in third (but we were hot on the heels of the second place team, the dreaded Janes, which, may we point out, has at least one former Olympian on it, not that we’re counting). The first three women’s teams were from Chapel Hill. Official time: 31 hours, 1 minute, 13 seconds. Our time, on Desiree’s amazingly accurate running watch: 31 hours exactly.

Beach 2 Battleship Iron Man by Keith Houck

Keith Houck

My Beach2Battleship race report: Well I wasn’t turning 50 again this year so I am still not sure of my motivation to repeat this race, but I signed up and committed to the many hours of training needed over the summer and fall. Last year, as still a rookie triathlete, I spent lots of time reading up on training plans and going by the book. This year I never even cracked Friel’s Training Bible and totally winged it. I really benefited, though, by jumping around to everyone else’s carefully planned workouts and I am very grateful to y’all for that.

In particular David Holmes’ runs and the kitchen sink workouts, some long rides with Bart, including the Tour de Moore (where he crashed and the other cyclists were kind enough not to run him over as they sped on down the road) and a fellow in the pool named Charlie offering unsolicited advice to me that, if nothing else, kept my mind occupied trying to do everything he said rather than wondering when I get to 3000 m and can go get a coffee.

Of course, most importantly, all those post-run, 12 oz curls with many of you. This turned out to be critical as I had signed up for the Masters Clydesdale category for the triathlon which requires minimum 40 years of life experience and 200 lbs to carry over the 140.2 miles. I mildly panicked at registration when they had me step on a scale but I made it with 5 lbs to spare.

Things went smoothly race morning as I showed up to the correct starting location this year although I did forget my 2 bottles of Perpetuem for my bike. By not being literally the last in the water as I was last year, I did get to experience the fun of a mass start and got kicked, punched, pulled and swum over for the first half of the swim. Water was warmer this year and I did not see any hypothermic types in the changing tent. I think I swam it in 53 minutes, faster than last year, although there was a major timing snafu at T1 and the bike start so I don’t have my exact splits.

The bike ride was mostly great. The first 20 miles on I-140 was very fast. The last 30 miles much tougher with a headwind on the return to Wilmington. I was terribly uncomfortable the last hour and dying to get to the run. The course was changed from last year and is now a double out-and-back. The significance of this was 8 bridge crossings as well as going up and down along the Wilmington waterfront 4 times.

I felt good for most of the run and kept up an 8:15 pace or so. However on the second lap, I hit a spot of feeling really bad; didn’t know if I was out of energy or had eaten too much. I was having very negative thoughts: why am I doing this, never again, let’s just walk. But I refused to walk as I kept thinking—it will be just that much longer I will be out here. All but face-planted tripping over a root growing through asphalt at one point-must not have spent enough time with David’s foam roller jumping drills. So started drinking a little coke and imagining the Samuel Smiths Oatmeal Stout in my finish bag and eventually got my body feeling pretty good again.

I realized I might get in under 11 hours so tried to push it through the last 3 miles. However, those two bridges near the finish were too tough and I made in at 11:01:56. This was good enough to win Masters Clydesdales and almost 20 minutes faster than last year. My marathon time was 3:48, amazingly the same as last year, although my very accurate gps clocked this at 26.5 miles. Recovery was, in order: beer, pizza, water, more beer. I actually felt really good and hung out at the finish cheering runners in for quite a while. Will I do it again? I wish I could say no, but we will see.

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