Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Inspired to Do More - Columbus Marathon 2012

Well, the 2012 Nationwide Children’s Hospital ColumbusMarathon is in the history books and for me it will go down as one of my favorite races yet.  The weather was perfect, the 18,000 runners and walkers were inspiring, and the huge crowds and Children’s Champions were encouraging and supportive.  What more could you ask for?!

Going into race day, the plan for me was to support my friends, Teri Pokosh and Cindy Warner who were running the half and the full respectively, since stress fractures had sidelined me for the past two months with no running as I worked to get healthy again.  Sure, my legs were really starting to feel better and I wanted to get back out and run, but I knew that I needed to keep being patient so that I could fully recover.

So, on Sunday morning, I packed up my bike and met up with Teri and Cindy and got ready for what I knew would be a fun-filled, exciting day.  We met up with a bunch of other running friends prior to the start and then as the start time approached it was time to hop in the corrals.  I had locked up my bike about half a block past the starting line, and since I had a bib of my own because I was registered for the race I jumped into the corral with my friends and waited with them for the race to get under way.  Our friend, Melanie Kopp, who was also doing the full, joined us and it was fun to listen to all of them talk through the butterflies and pre-race jitters.  I tried to offer as much encouragement as I could and pretty soon it was time to send them on their way as the starting line fireworks erupted and 18,000 people began their journey.

Teri, me, and Cindy before the race
Just past the starting line, I made a quick right turn and hopped on my bike and began my own adventure as my goal was to get to as many miles as possible to cheer my friends on.  Sometimes this required going around a block, riding down alleys or across open fields, or just slowly going down the sidewalks while avoiding spectators.  Some of the trickier spots were going around the port-a-pots since runners would dart in and out of them.  I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to get through the first six miles of the race with very little issues.

Then, around the 10k time checkpoint, the biking started to get interesting.  There were no sidewalks and no open fields to get around.  I hopped off the bike and carried it as I walked along a very narrow curb as I tried to stay out of the way of the runners.  I made it through eventually and then the course opened up some more as I again kept tabs on my friends.

However, the real fun began somewhere between Miles 6-8 when my rear tire went flat.  I noticed the flat when we hit the cobblestones of German Village, but I just kept on going because I knew that I had to get back to Nationwide Arena to where my vehicle was parked and I figured the race course was the best way to get me there.

As part of my plan to ride support, I was carrying some of Cindy’s fuel and some spare water so she wouldn’t have to worry about getting stuff on the course.  Well, when I realized I was having problems, I gave her what I could and let her know that I would do the best I could to come up with a backup plan.

By Mile 10, the plan really became a jumbled mess when the chain on my bike came off.  I knew then that it was going to take a miracle to be able to provide any more support on the course.  I asked a policeman who was working the event the quickest way to get back to Nationwide Arena and I set out jogging with the bike beside me.  My hope was that I could get to the halfway point and at least offer some encouragement before Cindy set out for the tough second half solo.

As I arrived at Mile 13 and locked the disabled bike to a tree, I received the text alert that Teri had already finished her half marathon in 1:43.  I knew that I had to be close to catching Cindy going by, but as the seconds and then minutes ticked by I realized that I had to have missed her.  It’s tough in the crowds to find people, but afterwards I discovered that I had missed her by roughly 30 seconds.  Bummer!

I unlocked the bike and wheeled it to my vehicle where I found Teri recovering from her great race.  I stowed the bike and then set off to find the shuttle to the ‘Shoe to try to catch Cindy going by there.  I had trouble figuring out where the shuttle was and by the time I did find it and saw the long line waiting to board it I realized that I probably wouldn’t make it out to the Mile 18 mark in time to cheer her on.  I knew that was a risk I couldn’t take if I wanted to see her finish the race.

So, I headed back to my vehicle again.  I knew I really only had two options left.  Wait around at the finish line for an hour for her to come in or head out on the course and cheer her on.  The decision was a no-brainer as I quickly peeled off a couple of layers, laced up my running shoes, grabbed a Quaker granola bar and a Gatorade G1 pouch for fuel for me and a bottle of water to take to her and I set out.  Before I knew it, I had knocked out two miles at a sub 8:00 pace.  Where did that come from on no training and two months of running inactivity???

As I ran the course in reverse, I got to watch all but the top five marathoners finish and it was amazing to watch how hard these men and women worked to finish so strong.  I offered up encouragement to each and every one of them as they went past including my friend, Ken Varian who was running so strong.  I’m sure they had to wonder why a guy with a marathon bib was running the opposite direction.

As I closed in on the Mile 23 marker, I started thinking about how far I should go out as I knew that I would need to have the strength to run with Cindy to the finish at whatever pace she was running when I found her.  I paused three times around this point to cheer for my friends, Dan Bosch, Doug Owsley, and Melanie, who was still smiling on her way to a PR and just missing a BQ (Boston Qualifying time).

Melanie smiling the whole way!
I decided to go ahead and go one more mile to Mile 22 as I started to wonder if somehow I missed Cindy in the crowd.  However, just past the mile marker I saw her coming in the distance.  As she ran by where I was, I hopped in and started to run with her.  She didn’t even know that I was there for the first 25 feet or so, but as soon as she did you could see a big smile cross her face as she realized she was going to have company for the rest of the run.

The next four miles clicked by as we began to pass people who were hitting the wall.  I vividly replayed the previous year’s race in my head when I walked most of the final six miles on the same course as I gave in mentally and then physically, so I knew exactly what the people who were struggling were going through and I offered as much encouragement as possible to everyone we went by.  Despite pain in her right leg, Cindy just kept gutting it out and her pace never faltered by much.

As we closed in on the Mile 26 sign, I realized by the elapsed time and our current pace that it was going to be really close for Cindy to BQ (she needed a 3:55).  The crowds were really thick through here and I hollered at them to let the runners hear them.  They responded with great cheers and I think it really picked up the spirits of everyone as we turned right to head down Nationwide Boulevard to the finish.

Turning the corner, I decided it was time to let Cindy know just how close this finish was going to be.  The coach side of me got stern and hollered at her that she needed to get her butt in gear if she wanted to meet her goal of the BQ.  I told her she had worked way too hard over the past few months and more recently the past nearly four hours to come up just short.  It was really cool to see the fire rekindle as she found one final burst of energy and hit a 6:13 pace heading towards the finish as she crossed the line in 3:53:50 to meet her goal by 1:10 and set a new PR by nearly five minutes!

Cindy on her way to her BQ!
As I’ve had a few days to reflect back on the events that transpired on Sunday, I’m continually inspired and amazed by what all took place.  Watching everyone work so hard will continue to motivate me to be a better runner.  I’m filled with great pride for all of my friends that did so well.  And I was able to see first-hand the difference that being a little more mentally tough and pushing through the wall can make.  While I didn’t gain the experience of running the full marathon like I originally had hoped to do, I gained so much more experience by soaking it all in.

I’m also pleased to report that even though I ended up running 13.5 miles after not running once in two months that my legs feel great.  In fact, I went on Wednesday after the race to my doctor, Darrin Bright, and I’ve now been cleared to start a return to running plan.  I can’t wait to get back out!  And, I plan to be back for the 2013 marathon in Columbus.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Be Our Guest - Beauty and the Beast

Ashley, Carla, and Kylie getting ready for the show to start
Tonight, I had the opportunity to take my family to the Palace Theatre in Columbus to see NETworks presents Disney's Beauty and the Beast and what a fun night it was.

When we arrived, our girls (ages 11 and 7) were excited to see that we were sitting a mere seven rows from the stage.  They had been to two previous Broadway shows (Mary Poppins and Wicked), but both times our seats had been in the balcony fairly far back.  They could not wait for the show to start so they could see the actors up close and personal.

The plot of the show follows the script of the Disney movie by the same name, so my girls were able to just sit back and enjoy the action as they already knew the story.  They remained attentive throughout the entire show which lasted a little over two and a half hours yet never seemed that long.

The show was extremely enjoyable and very well done.  Every single character played his or her role very well.  Hilary Maiberger as Belle nailed the lead role and has an incredible singing voice.  She seemed perfect in the role.  She also had good chemistry with Darick Pead, who played Beast.  Jeff Brooks stepped into the role of Gaston for the night and I cannot imagine the main actor being any more believable.  In fact, if this was his first time to move up as understudy, I'm guessing he'll get a lot more chances.  Hassan Nazari-Robati (Lumiere), James May (Cogsworth), and Erin Edelle (Mrs. Potts) were also excellent in their roles as servants turned household objects in Beast's palace.

Belle (Hilary Maiberger) and Beast (Darick Pead)
If you are looking for a fun date night out or a good evening for the whole family, this show is for you.  It's only in Columbus through Sunday, though, so don't miss your opportunity.  You can find all the showtime details and ticket information by going to the CAPA website

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

2012 Hood to Coast Relay

Cresting the second of three hills on Leg #6
Wow, I can't believe that it's already been six weeks since I took part in the 2012 Hood to Coast Relay on August 24-25 as a member of Random Acts of Running, one of the 1,068 teams of 12 people each in a race that started 6,500 feet up on Mt. Hood in Oregon and ran nearly 200 miles to the Pacific Ocean in Seaside, Oregon.  This race consisted of many ups and downs for me personally over two days, but it is definitely an experience I will never forget.

After a great time leading up to the race that included an amazing complimentary dinner at the Outback Steakhouse in Tualatin where the staff went all out to treat us as celebrities and my love affair with the chain just continued to grow, we packed up our vehicles and tried to get a good night's sleep for the adventure that awaited us.  Fortunately, we didn't have an early starting time, so we knew that we should be plenty rested heading into the two-day event.

As part of Van #1 for our team, we needed to finally load up and head to the starting line for our 2:45 p.m. start.  However, on the way, we stopped at the local Krispy Kreme store to pick up a dozen donuts and some chocolate milk that they had graciously agreed to donate to help fuel us on the trip.  If you know much about me, you know that I love my donuts and see them as a great reward for all the running that I do.  This proved to be a great treat and I'm thankful to Krispy Kreme for donating them to us and for all the love they gave us on Twitter during the race.  Interaction with brands is priceless and it's why I'm a big fan of several you see mentioned in this post.

Random Acts of Running posing in Krispy Kreme

A look at all the goodness we had to leave behind.  :)

Our elite runner, Peter Arbogast, fueling up with a glazed donut prior to his run. I later showed the group how to eat one in a single bit.  :)  Yep, it takes skill and years of practice.

With the donuts and chocolate milk secured, we continued the drive to Mt. Hood.  Pretty soon, we found ourselves on the actual course for the race - just going in the opposite direction.  As we passed the exchange zone for the end of Leg #6 (my leg), I began to get excited and started studying the course that I would be running in a few hours.  The rest of the group did, too.  We knew that we had some challenges ahead of us, but we were excited to get the adventure under way.  As we got closer and closer to the starting line, the views just kept getting better.

The view of Mt. Hood from the parking lot as we approached the starting line.

We spent a little time at the starting line getting ready for the race and just soaking in the energy of all the teams around us.  I even ran into a couple of Central Ohio friends there, Brandon Button and Molly Stout.  It's always great to see a familiar face, but especially 2,000 miles away from home.  Molly's team was actually starting the same time as our team and she was running the same leg as me, so I knew that we might see her a couple of times.

Peter, Brandon, and I

O - H - I - O at the start.  Me, Molly, Sarah (a Twitter friend on Molly's team), and Peter.

Just before it was time for our first runner to take off, our van of six runners took a moment to all go to the starting line together and capture a picture to commemorate the start of what would be a great journey together.

I'm not sure there's a more picturesque starting line anywhere

When 2:45 rolled around, we all cheered as Sarah Suever, our first runner, took off straight down the hill on Leg #1.  She cruised over those 5.64 miles at an 8:18 pace and the race was on!  Before I knew it, Ryan Halley, our captain, had knocked out Leg #2 at a 6:29 clip, Brett Milliken hammered out Leg #3 at a 6:20 pace, and Amanda Smithberger rocked Leg #4 at a 7:34 pace.  As we dropped Peter off to do Leg #5, the butterflies were really stirring big time in my stomach as I realized it was almost time for me to get to work.  I had been waiting nine months for this opportunity and it had finally arrived.

It had been 11 days since my previous run as I had battled shins and just rested the legs in hopes that I could somehow pull out the three legs I was assigned for the race. However, after a brief little jog on the top of Mt. Hood earlier in the day as we waited to start the race, I knew that I was in for a lot of soreness if my legs even allowed me to attempt these runs.

I arrived at the exchange point for Leg #6 and eagerly awaited the arrival of Peter, who had the unenviable assignment as the #5 runner - the toughest assignment in the race.  I bumped into Molly briefly at the exchange and we encouraged each other.  Then, I saw Peter cruising up the final hill towards me and I began to get geared up to go. He handed me the relay bracelet and I was off!

I cruised through the first mile in 6:38 with a max speed of 4:49 during the initial acceleration. I passed one person during this stretch and then set off after two others who were in the distance on an uphill. I eventually caught both of them before the third mile ended as I covered those miles in 6:53 and 7:20 to stand at 20:51 after the first three miles for a sub 7:00 pace.

Approaching the exchange zone

This was where my legs began to really fall apart as it was just a constant struggle to manage the pain of what I thought at the time was really bad shin splints with the lack of fitness that I had to run that pace with all my time off as I started to really suck wind.  However, I started thinking about all of my Daily Mile friends along with those following on Facebook and Twitter who were cheering me on. I also thought about my goal to not walk at any point in my next marathon and I just kept pushing myself to finish the leg and then worry about what was next.  In the back of my mind, I also was trying to stay as close to the time of my friend, Carrie Jarvis, who had run the same leg a few hours earlier, and I knew that if I slowed down too much that Molly, who is super fast, would catch and pass me.  So, I just kept going.

Peter coming back to help run me to the flip flops nonetheless

The leg ended up being more hilly than I anticipated, but I knocked out the next three miles in 7:39, 7:28, and 7:29 before closing the final .70 at a 7:31 pace with a 5:41 burst at the end. I was utterly spent by the time I handed off to Brad Petersen to go on to Leg #7, but I had finished my first assignment. It wasn't the 7:09 pace I had predicted months ago when healthy, but I just missed by seconds (7:16 pace) and I was pretty pleased. I had to be helped to the vehicle as my legs were total mush and shaking, but I had accomplished my first goal of completing at least one leg.

The face of total exhaustion and pain right after I finished

Once I got back in the van, I began to realize that the pain I was feeling was not something that was going to subside any time soon.  Not that day and probably not in even the week to come.  I knew it was bad and that was confirmed in the days ahead when I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in each leg to the point that the muscle was pulling away from the bone.

Fortunately, I had taken a boot with me since I had been having issues with my right leg and that had seemed to help take some of the pressure off.  By the time we stopped at Amanda's house for an amazing spaghetti supper that her husband, Luke, had so graciously prepared for us, I could barely stagger out of the vehicle.  Going up stairs to shower or use the restroom required crawling and I ended up just collapsing on the floor in a heap and staying there for what seemed like two hours, but was probably more like 45 minutes.  I knew that I was in for a very long night being cramped up in the vehicle and I was also feeling really bad about the fact that now my team was facing the challenge of figuring out what to do about my remaining two legs that needed run.

We met back up with Van #2 after they had pounded out Legs #7-12 in better than expected time and it was time for our group to do its thing again.  We switched the order around enough so that Ryan ended up with an 8.82-mile second run, while Peter did two runs in the second round as he absorbed my second run on top of his own to do 11.31 miles in a short span of time.  I do admit that I wallowed in self-pity (and a lot of pain) for awhile and really questioned why I was there.  I just shut down and went into a shell and didn't say much.  I'm a team guy and I really felt like I had let the team down.

However, the more I watched my team rally to the occasion, the more I began to feel better.  The entire group just continued to pick up the slack and didn't complain and I stood by and watched with amazement and appreciation for great teammates as there was nothing else I could do. Or so I thought.  I started to look for little ways to help.  I hobbled to the exchange points with the clipboard to jot down times.  I gave up my jacket to the waiting runner so they could stay warm until they needed to start their leg.  I tried to be an encouragement just as much as I possibly could.  And I kept just soaking in all the amazing sights around me.  So many people working so hard to do things that individually would be impossible but together were doable.  I learned a lot of life lessons over the next few hours.

There were plenty of challenges the rest of the way.  Due to congestion on the roads, what should have been a four-hour opportunity to sleep in an open field never materialized to much more than about 20 minutes.  The final 12 legs of the race it was a constant adventure to try to get the next runner to the exchange point before the previous runner arrived.  It often meant that the a runner would have to run an additional mile or so to be there in time.  It must have been a good warm-up because our van just kept busting out amazing mile after amazing mile.  Brett ran my leg and his leg over the final round to finish with 12.55 miles in the round and he was stoked to do it.  In fact, I'm not sure on a healthy day I could have done what he did.  Once again, just super impressed with my team.

Kade coming to the finish and you can see me in neon green under the arch

When our final six legs were done, we headed to Seaside and the finish line.  We made one stop for a well-deserved meal where I chowed on a plate of french toast.  Then, it was on to the beach to wait for the arrival of our other van.  When we finally saw Kade Chambless, our final runner, approaching with her trademark smile on her face, we all began screaming and cheering her own until she crossed the checkpoint.  Then, we lined up to cross the official finish line all together and get our official team photos taken and be presented with our medals.  Somehow, I hobbled boot and all through the sand across the line and grabbed my medal.  Wow, our team was amazing.  We were predicted to finish in just over 27 hours but had come in at 25:55:38 which was good enough for 97th place out of 1,068 teams.  Even better, we were 14th out of 360 teams in the mixed (6 guys and 6 girls) division.  Great job, Sarah, Ryan, Brett, Amanda, Peter, Brad, Becky Peach, Spencer Dries, Taylor Bailey, Claire Bailey, and Kade!

Here's five of the six members of Van #1 at the finish...the stranger who took the pic cut Ryan out of the shot. :(

Some other thank yous that I need to make sure to mention include my running friends who called me or texted me while I was on the trip and encouraged me even when I was down and hurting.  You guys are amazing!!  Thanks also to the MVNU athletic department for allowing me to take a rare couple of vacation days during the fall season to soak up this amazing experience that I haven't come close to describing in this post.  Seriously, I could write numerous posts about numerous sights, but let's suffice it to say that every runner should have this event on their bucket list.  You won't regret going.

I also need to thank several other brands in addition to Outback Steakhouse and Krispy Kreme who made this trip possible.  We received two of the latest sets of Knuckle Lights that were just available weeks before the race and they are amazing to use in the dark.  I highly recommend these over headlamps because you control the direction they shine AND they are much brighter.  In fact, I used them this morning at 5:45 a.m. on a foggy bike ride.

We also received a donation of the SC Johnson to get free XXL size Ziploc bags.  Let's just say that when you are traveling for more than a day in a vehicle filled with sweaty runners that being able to zip up your sweaty clothes and running shoes in an airtight bag really helps keep the vehicle smelling a lot fresher.  So, a big thank you for these!

We also enjoyed some chewy granola bars from the great folks at Quaker who sent us a very generous supply for the trip.  I can attest to the fact that I personally inhaled quite a few and it was great to have that as nourishment to keep us going towards are better-than-predicted performance.

One more thank you goes to Chipotle for donating a free burrito card to each of the 12 runners so that we could refuel after the race.  Thanks to Joe for making this happen and to the brand for always interacting with customers.

Hood to Coast shirt, bib, and medal

As you can tell, we had a blast, we ate well, and the team performed amazingly.  To me, that makes this trip a hands-down success.  I'm still in the process of recovering from the stress fractures that were already there before I went, but my hope is one day to return and successfully complete all three of my assigned legs.  I do know that I am a better person and runner from having gone on this trip!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Headed to the Hood

Today is a day that I’ve been looking forward to since last November. That’s when I found out that I was going to have the opportunity to participate in the self-proclaimed “Mother of all Relay Races”, the almost 200-mile Hood to Coast Relay in Oregon.

Up to this point in my running career, my races have consisted of 5Ks, half marathons, and two full marathons with a few other mid-range distances mixed in. I haven’t ventured into any of the obstacle type events like the Warrior Dash or Color Run and have focused strictly on races that consist of just me and the open road.

Well, that will all change today when I hop in Van 1 of Team “Random Acts of Running” and we drive up Mt. Hood to Timberline and its 6,500-foot elevation. That will start an adventure that will see our team of 12 people each do three legs of roughly six miles each before we finish about 27 hours later on the Pacific Ocean in Seaside, Oregon. Along the way, we’ll see lots of interesting sites and have lots of interesting adventures and I can’t wait!!!

All the planning and preparation has been done at this point. Now, it’s up to us to just go out and doing our running. With all of the elevation drops and gains, it won’t always be easy. But, we are going to give it our best shot and see what happens.

Our team of 12 consists of six guys and six girls, so we’ll be competing in the mixed open division, where they have predicted that we’ll finish 28th out of 361 teams in just over 27 hours. Really, time is irrelevant in an event like this. It’s all about the experience. There will be elite teams like the team traveling all the way from Japan with their national media and expected to win the race in 17 hours. And there will be teams that will take twice that long but have just as much fun. We’ll see plenty of costumes and decked out vans and I hope to get lots of pictures along the way.

Here’s a brief introduction of our team. Most of them I met for the first time last night when the Outback Steakhouse in Tualatin so graciously hosted us for a pre-race team meal. A big thank you to Jon Lakefish, the director of franchise marketing, and Dave Seeley, the managing partner of the Tualatin store, for giving us a one-of-a-kind dinner that none of us will soon forget. And, a big thanks to our server, Miranda, who handled all 15 of us (our three volunteers were included) with ease. It really was a perfect evening!

Van 1 will get the race started at 2:45 p.m. PST on Mt. Hood with Runner #1 Sarah Suever. Sarah is a 14-year-old high school student from Ohio who runs cross country and plays soccer. Her first leg is a beast as she’ll descend something like 2,000 feet in five miles. While to some that might seem fun to go that fast, it’s labeled as one of the very hardest legs on the course. She will then legs 13 and 25 before enjoying the final 11 legs in the van.

Runner #2 in Van 1 is my good friend, Ryan Halley. Ryan went to college at MVNU and later taught there as well. He currently teaches in the business department at George Fox in the Portland area and he was my invitation to this team. He’s also the captain of the team and has organized all the details necessary to make this adventure possible. I appreciate he and his wife, Jess, and their two kids for letting me stay at their house while I’ve been out here. Ryan gets to do leg 2, which drops 1,500 feet in just over five miles and then legs 14 and 26. He’ll probably also do a lot of the driving for Van 1 while trying not to drive off the road laughing at the antics that are sure to ensue. This will be Ryan’s second straight year doing Hood to Coast.

Runner #3 in Van 1 is Brett Milliken. I met Brett for the first time last night and he’s a young guy in his 20’s from the Portland area who looks to be a strong runner as well. He gets the award for the best mustache out of group of 12 and he’s wearing it well! I look forward to getting to know him better over the next two days and I’m sure that he’s going to do a great job with legs 3, 15, and 27.

Runner #4 in Van 1 is Amanda Smithberger. Amanda actually went to MVNU for a short time and was a member of our women’s soccer team. She is married to Ryan’s cousin and they live in the Portland area. Amanda has done Hood to Coast two previous times, so her expertise will be invaluable to us as she knows what to expect. She’ll be doing legs 4, 16, and 28.

Runner #5 in Van 1 is Peter Arbogast. Peter is a friend of mine that I’ve gotten to know that past two years through various running events in Central Ohio. He lives in Marysville and is definitely the most decorated runner on our team. A few of his highlights just this year are running the Boston Marathon and just last month completing the Burning River 100 – an ultramarathon half the distance of Hood to Coast that he did on his own. The man is a rock star and there is a reason that he is doing what is considered the toughest three legs on the Hood to Coast course as he runs legs 5, 17, and 29.

I’ll be masquerading as Runner #6 to finish out Van #1. My combined mileage for the three legs will be just shy of 18 miles and I’m hoping that I can pull this off despite not running in almost two weeks as I’ve been resting up a bad case of shin splints. I get to do legs 6, 18, and 30 and will hand off to first runner in Van 2 each time, which means that my exchange zones will be filled with both vans from each team running the same pace. That should add to the hoopla and hopefully carry me through.

Van 2 Runner #1 will be Brad Petersen. Brad, who is running his second Hood to Coast and is a Portland area resident, is the captain of the second van and has been tremendous in helping Ryan with all the details that go along with this event. I guarantee that Van 2 will have fun with Brad and his fun-loving personality. When we left him after the Outback dinner last night, he was still trying to convince the rest of his van to get mohawks with him. I’ll look forward to seeing today if anyone did. Brad’s also a great runner and it’s going to be an honor to be sandwiched in between the two fastest guys on our team. He’ll run legs 7, 19, and 31, which is the second-toughest assignment of the race.

Van 2 Runner #2 will be Becky Peach. Becky is from Virginia and is the mother-in-law of the original organizer of this team, Megan Peach, who ended up dropping out when she had a baby. Becky is looking forward to this race even though she has the single-toughest leg for her second one when she has to climb nearly 800 feet in five miles on a gravel road. She’ll do great as she knocks out legs 8, 20, and 32.

Van 2 Runner #3 is Spencer Dries. Spencer is one of the four Colorado runners who round out our team. He’ll team up with Brad to keep the four ladies in Van 2 entertained while posting good times knocking out legs 9, 21, and 33. He has some relay experience with the Wild West Relay under his belt and he’s also been training for longer endurance races.

Van 2 Runner #4 is Taylor Bailey. Like Spencer, she is an avid cyclist and triathlete. She will be running legs 10, 22, and 34 and I know she’s going to do a great job. She is also one of our two ICU nurses along on the trip and we hope to not need their services.

Van 2 Runner #5 is Claire Bailey. Another of the Colorado runners, she will be running legs 11, 23, and 35. She designed the cool team bandanas that we got last night at our team dinner.

Van 2 Runner #6 is Kade Chambless. She will be running legs 12, 24, and 36 and gets the honor of leading our team across the finish line. She is the second of our nurses in Van 2.

Here's our team picture from after the Outback dinner last night:

If you want someone’s entertaining take on the two van assignments and the legs of Hood to Coast from previous experience, check out these links. Van 1 description Van 2 description

Well, we are coming down to the wire with last-minute packing, some light eating, and feeling the butterflies in our stomachs as we’ll be heading out the door soon to head up Mt. Hood. However, we do have to make a stop at Krispy Kreme on the way ‘cause everyone knows how important it is for me to have donuts on race day. I’m not sure what access I’ll have to post along the way, but I’ll try my best at least on Twitter and Facebook. Good luck to my other friends running in it as well and I hope to see you at some point along the way.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

RunFest...Be There!

Mark you calendars!!! This Saturday, July 7 from 1-4 p.m., the Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Marathon will be holding an event called RunFest (click for all the specifics and to RSVP) at Landmark Aviation located at 4130 East Fifth Avenue in Columbus.

This will mark the third straight year for this free event that will hopefully draw in excess of 1,000 runners and walkers. There will be giveaways, sneak peeks at this year's race shirts and medals, booths offering training advice and healthy living tips, free food from some of Columbus’ favorite food trucks, the full line-up of Nationwide Children's Hospital Patient Champions and more!

OK, that's the nuts and bolts for RunFest with plenty of links to surf to your heart's content. Now, here's my take on why this is such a great event and an important step in your marathon or half marathon journey. And it has nothing to do with the fact that I'm one of the meet-up hosts, but more on that later. ;)

For most us, we started out running or walking on our own and may even do most of our workouts that way. I'm fortunate to have a group of friends (the Mount Vernon Running Buddies) that I run with almost every day and it's a great way to stay accountable, get advice, and get the support needed to attempt these longer races.

Well, events such as RunFest are great ways to find out that you are not alone in your running or walking endeavors. Just like on race day, you'll see people of all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities coming together with a common interest. And, there will be plenty of experts around to ask training-related questions as well as event-specific questions. If you haven't decided to commit to one of the two races, what better way to make that decision than to stop by RunFest, check out the course map and finisher bling, and then take advantage of the final day of registration savings by signing up for this year's event before the cost goes up $10 on Sunday.

In addition to talking to experts, enjoying free food, and signing up for giveaways, you also get the opportunity to meet six people with various backgrounds who have been designated as meet-up hosts for this event. I'm very humbled to be one of these six people and I'm looking forward to meeting the other five for the first time myself. From my very first involvement with the Columbus Marathon via its Twitter account before I ever ran my first race, I've been thoroughly impressed by the great interaction that makes this large race feel like it was being put on especially for me. While I enjoy pushing myself to post the very best time possible, I also really thrive on the social aspect and all the great friends that I have made as a result of running in this race twice so far (half in 2010 and full in 2011). I've found that every runner and walker has a story and it has been a blast to hear a lot of them the past two years since I started my own journey. I would consider it a privilege to meet as many of you as possible on Saturday and would love to hear your story about what motivates you to run. So, stop by between 1:30-3:30 and look for the 6-foot-6 guy and introduce yourself. :)

See you at RunFest on Saturday and then at the starting line on October 21! Feel free to comment below or connect with me on Twitter to let me know you are coming.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memphis...It's Fantastical

If you have followed this blog very long at all, you know that my wife, Carla, and I enjoy checking out Broadway musicals whenever we can. Well, last night, we had the opportunity to attend the opening night performance of Memphis at the Ohio Theatre in Columbus and we were blown away by the show!

The backdrop for the story is 1950s Memphis, Tennessee where segregation is still a very real every-day issue with a strong line drawn between black and white. Enter Huey, a white man with only a 9th-grade education but a love and appreciation for the rock and roll music of the underground black clubs and a penchant for creating his own words and off-the-wall sponsorship plugs as a radio DJ who plays black music on a white station and the journey begins. The plot explores the racially-charged issues of the day and shows how music has a way of bringing people of different races together.

This show, which won the 2010 Tony Award for Best Show, was high energy from the very beginning with incredible voices, talented and funny actors, and fast-moving, high-flying dance scenes. There was not a weak link in the cast and every one from the lead performers to the ensemble and swing groups contributed to the success of the show.

Bryan Fenkart as Huey was a perfect fit. He has a great balance of comedic timing, strong singing voice, and dance skills to successfully lead the show with pizzaz and humor. Felicia Boswell as Felicia, an undiscovered black singer longing for her big break, has incredible pipes and kept the crowd clamoring their approval on several numbers as she just kept going for more and more as she knocked out several big songs. Quentin Earl Darrington is another incredibly talented performer with a booming voice in the role of Delray, a club owner/music producer and Felicia's brother. Will Mann (Bobby), Rhett George (Gator), and William Parry (Mr. Simmons) are also exceptional in their roles, while Julie Johnson steals the show from time to time as Huey's doting mother, who can sing even better than she can keep you in stitches with her lines and dance moves. Seriously, the entire cast is incredible and I could go on and on writing things about all of them.

I've been to several musicals like Mamma Mia! and Rock of Ages where the crowd really responds to the songs because they are so familiar with them. While I had never heard any of the Memphis songs before, I felt like the crowd really embraced each number and the whole theatre was just waiting to explode as we all had a great time. I've been humming the songs ever since and I can definitely say that now "Memphis Lives in Me".

If you want to enjoy a night out without the kids and watch some incredibly talented performers execute a well-written script and belt out some great songs, then Memphis is the show for you. But, don't waste any time as it will only be at the Ohio Theatre through June 3. For complete ticket information, visit the CAPA website.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

One Half Goofy, Amazing Race Weekend (Part II)

(This is the second of my two-part racing recap from May 5th-6th when I did the Cap City Quarter Marathon and the Pittsburgh Half Marathon on back-to-back days - my own unofficial two-state, half Goofy Challenge)

With the Cap City Quarter Marathon just a few hours behind me, it was time to continue a whirlwind weekend adventure that rivaled anything my favorite reality show "The Amazing Race" could throw at me. As soon as I took a quick shower, I had just enough time to grab the essentials for a quick overnight trip to Pittsburgh for my second race of the weekend. Fortunately, my dad had volunteered to drive me there, so we headed out in the car with the GPS telling us we were going to be cutting it really close to make the 6 p.m. packet pick-up deadline.

As we drove across eastern Ohio, a brief bit of West Virginia, and then into western Pennsylvania, I thought back two months earlier about how entering the Pittsburgh half marathon even came about for me. I had always heard good things about the race, but I had never seriously thought about trying to do it. Then, back in March, I was in Orlando with the MVNU baseball team waiting to fly back to Ohio from the team's annual spring trip. As I scrolled through my Twitter feed, I noticed a message from the Pittsburgh Marathon account that one of my tweeps, Nikki Conroy, had retweeted saying that you could win a free entry if you tweeted a picture of your Toyota (one of the race sponsors). Well, we had just purchased a new Toyota RAV4 in December and I had a picture on my phone and so I tweeted my entry back to them just before boarding the plane to fly back to Ohio.

To be honest, I forgot about the tweet and the contest as I slept most of that flight home and was looking forward to seeing my family after being gone for over a week. You can imagine my surprise when I turned my phone on after we landed and started checking messages that had come in while we were traveling and found this one:

Needless to say, I had to do some quick searching on the internet to see when the race even was and then began to plan ways to make it happen. I thought at first about trying to do the full marathon despite doing a full two weeks earlier, but then after much thought and listening to the advice of some of my running friends I decided to do the half so that I could race it and try my very best. So, I signed up and then started to find out more about the race as I looked forward to this new adventure.

Fast forward back to the car ride to the expo to pick up my race stuff on Saturday evening and time was really starting to be close. As we got within 15 miles of downtown, traffic was really picking up as the Pirates were hosting the Reds that night with a 7 p.m. game. I got more and more nervous that we might not get to the expo in time and that I might not be able to run the race as a legit runner since there was no race day packet pick-up. I began to tweet at the Pittsburgh Marathon account in hopes that someone would take mercy on me and wait around a couple of extra minutes, and my friend Nicki saw my tweets and did too.

We got to within a block of the convention center where the expo was being held and I could see people with packets walking towards me. We were down to just a couple of minutes left until 6 p.m. and we were still moving slowly in traffic. I told my dad to just circle the block and that I would call him to find him, and then I darted out the door and sprinted for the convention center. Once inside and out of breath, I quickly made my way around the expo (which was being torn down as I entered) and found all of my necessary stuff just as time ran out. Whew! I had made it! As I started back to find my dad outside, I saw that the social media person from the Pittsburgh Marathon had sent me her cell number and was working to have my stuff set aside in case I was late. I called her to say thank you and found out that she had taken time away from a dinner out to do this. Talk about great service and once again proving the power of Twitter.

With my race entry secure and since we were already downtown, I talked my dad into going to the Pirates-Reds game. PNC Park (pictured above) is a beautiful park to watch a game at and we were able to get good seats just up from third base. We watched through the bottom of the eighth inning before heading out of the stadium and cross the bridge back to our car with the plan to watch the postgame fireworks display from our parking garage and then beat the traffic out of town. The plan worked to perfection as we enjoyed an awesome display of pyrotechnics and then scurried out of town to find our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express near the airport. (Side note...the benefits of being a Priority Club member paid off on this trip as I had enough points saved up to stay for free and this was a GREAT hotel with GREAT staff that I would highly recommend for anyone staying in the area.)

After setting out all of my race gear (pictured above) for the next day and then setting my alarm AND getting a wakeup call, I called it a night in hopes of getting a little over four hours of sleep after what had been an exhausting day with another one sure to follow. I think I was asleep when my head hit the pillow and the next thing I knew the alarm was going off and it was time to get up. That may have been the best sleep I've ever had the night before a race as I usually toss and turn and toss and turn thinking about it.

Dad and I headed back downtown and parked in the same parking garage as we had figured out that it would provide one of the best routes back out of town after the race since lots of the bridges and roads were closed for the full marathon. We started walking towards the race area and explored the finish line spot and talked about our plan to meet up after the race since I wouldn't have a phone on me and there were 25,000 people doing the race. We didn't want to assume that we would see each other right as I crossed the finish line. Then, we headed to the starting corrals where we bumped into Nicki. We chatted for a few minutes and it was nice to meet her in person. We parted ways and Dad and I also said our farewells as I got ready to hop in my starting corral. First, though, I made a stop by the stage to say hi to Bart Yasso, who is one of my running heroes. It was nice to chat for a minute and he left me with the words "Run a smart race today!". I thanked him for his time and then left to get ready for the start.

As I stood in my starting corral, I realized that I had never really decided how I planned to run this race. Usually, I've spent hours thinking about every detail of a race, studying the course map and elevation guide, and talking to my friends who were running the race with me. Well, with the exception of Nicki who I had never met in person before that day, I knew no one else in the race. And, while I had looked briefly at the elevation guide and the course map, it was more to just have a basic idea of what to expect and not to plan how to race. I had always wanted to run with a pace group and I thought that this might be the perfect time to try it since I would be with them for the first 10 miles before they turned off to do the full marathon. I had attempted this once before at Columbus in the fall in my first marathon, but I abandoned the plan less than five miles into the race. This time, I was determined to stick with the group, but now I needed to decide which pace group to go with. I started out behind the 3:30 group which would yield me a 1:45 half (8:00 pace), but I decided that I needed to push it more than that since I had been training to attempt a 3:15 marathon (7:25 pace). So, I moved up a little further in the corral to the 3:20 pace group (1:40 half). As the start time got closer and closer, I talked myself into running with the 3:10 pace group (1:35 half) and inched forward once more. My thinking was that my half marathon PR was a 1:34 and change and that I could always slow things down at the end if necessary. So, I fist-bumped the guy next to me and said good luck, heard the crack of the gun, and we were off!

First let me say that while I've run a couple of big races (the Columbus Marathon and Cap City) there is nothing like starting with 25,000 people. Since I had moved up in the corral, it took me less than 30 seconds from the time the gun went off until I crossed the starting line and the race had begun! The 3:10 pace group had two guys with signs they were holding up and I kept those signs in sight. They were weaving in and out of people just a bit and I tried not to do that and just held steady as I kept following them. We hit the first mile in 6:56 and then approached mile 2 and the first water stop at 6:59.

As we approached the first water stop, Bart Yasso's words to run a smart race echoed in my head. I have also done a poor job in distance races of drinking enough fluids. In my recent Earth Day Marathon attempt, I paid the price in the second half of the race as my legs cramped up on me and that's been a consistent issue in all my other distance races. On Saturday at Cap City, I had really preached to Ashley about drinking during the race and she did a great job. I figured that it was time for me to practice what I preached, listen to Bart, and just see what happened. So, I took a cup of Gatorade and downed it and then two cups of water and did the same. (I really liked having the Gatorade first AND on both sides of the road so you had easy access and then could wash it down with water which was also on both sides of the road.)

During the third mile, we went up and over the first of what would be five bridges. The first four bridges were probably some of my favorite parts in the race. Each one was packed with people cheering us on and it was just really cool to run over them. Mile 3 came and went in 7:11 and then we dropped back down to a 6:59 for Mile 4. There were a few hills as we wound through the different streets, but the great crowds kept spurring us on. At the second water stop, I once again had one Gatorade and two waters and was feeling great.

During Mile 5, we crossed two more bridges and ran past PNC Park as it ticked off in 7:10. As we approached the water stop in Mile 6, I took a Honey Stinger gel to fuel me for the second half and then grabbed another Gatorade and two waters as I finished the mile in 7:17. We crossed another bridge in Mile 7 and I knew that I was starting to slow down just a bit as that mile was a 7:20. However, I picked things back up and caught back up to the pace group in Mile 8 as I posted a 7:11 AND passed one of the Kenyan runners who had pulled the plug on the race for some reason and was walking at that point. I continued to follow my pattern at the water stop at Mile 8 as well.

Mile 9, Mile 10, and Mile 11 were very consistent at 7:22, 7:21, and 7:21 respectively and then I said good-bye to the 3:10 pace group as they veered to the right as we all headed up the steepest bridge yet. Lots of people were starting to walk at this point and I tried to encourage anyone I passed. I came upon one runner who was starting to struggle just a little and I began to talk to her as we ran. I told her she was doing great and that she still had enough in her to keep going with me. She thanked me and I told her that if she had the energy to pick the pace back up that it would help encourage me just as much and we would try to do the rest of it together. She perked up and before I knew it she was back to full speed and it was all I could do to keep up with her.

As we turned a corner to start Mile 12, I realized that the elevation guide on the Pittsburgh Marathon site was a total fabrication. (This was the only negative to the whole race, but it's not like it really mattered 'cause you still have to climb whatever they throw in front of you.) Anyway, I really let this hill (a little over 150-foot elevation gain in less than a mile) get the best of me, but I forced myself to keep moving as I remembered that my 10-year-old daughter hadn't walked a bit in her longest race ever - a quarter marathon - the day before. I finally crested the top of the hill and started down towards the finish line with an 8:17 for the mile. Mile 13 was a little faster at 7:43 and the guy I had started next to (who was from Bexley, Ohio ironically) when the race began had pulled alongside me. We chatted a little as we made our way to the finish line. As we got to within a quarter of a mile of the finish, I really picked up the pace and then flat out sprinted to the line over the final tenth of a mile as I hit a 4:09 max pace to finish with a 6:30 pace overall for the final .26 of the race. What a fun finish!!!! I ended up finishing 344th overall out of 12,142 half marathon finishers and I was 35th out of 534 men in the 40-44 age group. Not too shabby at all!

While I caught my breath and grabbed my finisher's medal, someone came up and tapped me on the shoulder. It was the girl that I had encouraged on the hill. She had taken off over the final mile when I hit the tough last hill, but she had waited for me at the finish line to say thank you. I thought that was extremely cool! We chatted for a couple of minutes while I caught my breath and I found out that she had just graduated from Penn State the day before. Talk about a fun way to celebrate your college graduation. Anyway, it was just another great example of how running can bring total strangers together in a way that helps both of them out. I thanked her for waiting on me and then headed off to find my dad. He was waiting for me at the end of the food line after I had grabbed a Panera cinnamon crunch bagel and one of the famous Smiley cookies (they are really good) as well as an assortment of other food they had available. The race organizers did a great job of keeping the lines moving and funneling people into the celebration/family reunion area. My dad and I hung around for a couple of minutes there and I got a picture taken at the Dick's Sporting Goods tent (very nice to give each person a free picture that was emailed to them immediately), and then we realized that we still had time to high-tail it back to the Holiday Inn Express in time to catch the free breakfast before it ended at 10 a.m. (Yes, you know I wasn't passing up free food).

After I got cleaned up, we headed for home and I began to check all my messages that had poured in thanks to the live runner tracking system that the race had in place for people to follow via text messages, Facebook postings, or tweets. People from all over had been following my progress and chimed in with encouragement and congratulations. Races that have yet to embrace this technology are really missing out as it's a great way to get the event in front of a lot of people.

I would be remiss if I didn't say a big thank you to Toyota and the Pittsburgh Marathon social media people for making this race possible for me. I would highly recommend this event as a very well-organized, fun race to be a part of. While I'm not sure if I'll come back and attempt the full, I will definitely try to come back and run the half again as it is a challenging but really fun course. Besides, I still have something left to prove to that final hill that surprised me at the end. :) I'm really happy with the way that I ran this race (thanks for the pre-race advice, Bart Yasso), and while this was not a PR for me I feel like I executed a lot of things in this race that will lead to a PR on a flatter course if I follow the same plan. I can't wait to get back out and embark on the next amazing race!