Sunday, September 21, 2014

2014 Ultra Race Of Champions (UROC) 100k – Not just a check in the box...


Race report from LPTRunner Nick Weid...

Here I am, standing as far back as possible from the starting arch at the 2014 UROC 100K.  Even though it is pitch black out I have not turned on my headlamp, there is enough light from those around me.  Even though there are almost 200 people around me, all I hear is silence.  Even though it is 35 degrees (F) out I don’t feel cold.  In fact I don’t seem to feel, hear, or see anything!  It is as if I am in a dream, a dream which began as a nightmare on a hospital bed in February.

I had knee surgery in late February to repair several genetic issues in my right knee.  As the anesthesiologist finished and I began to drift off, my last thought was of me quickly descending a mountain, and then my legs seemed to no longer work properly.  I fell, or more precisely crashed, then nothing!  I realized before surgery that I may not be able to qualify for the Western States 100 Lottery this year.  Later after some research I learned that UROC, 6 months away, was a qualifier and it seemed that I might be able to recover from surgery in time to race.  Thus began my time running up and down Copper Mountain in Colorado.

[First let me take a second to do something most race reports do at the end and thank a few people.  The reason I am doing this first, is even though running by itself is an individual sport, without the love and support of others a runner would never succeed.  First I want to thank my family.  To my wife, you are not a runner and may not understand ultras, but your support is awesome.  To my two girls, thank you for inspiring me with your ability to find joy in everything.  For Trae and Jessica at Performance Running Outfitters, though I am the “weirdo” ultra guy on the team, your enthusiasm and support for my racing dreams never ceases to amaze me.  To Peter Defty of VESPA thank you for the sage nutritional advice, I truly value your counsel and support.  To Liza Howard of Team Red White and Blue, thank you from the bottom of my heart for first allowing me to represent Team RWB and second for all that you do to aid my fellow brothers and sisters in the military, they are the true heroes!  Finally to Adam McRoberts, Logan Polfuss, Ashley Erba, & Heather Moore my hosts in CO, your generosity and friendship will never be forgotten! ]

Copper Mountain Colorado a beautiful mountain, a skier’s mountain, as it is very steep and very technical.  Well it is no less steep or technical if you plan to run up and down it six times.  UROC is an exceptionally beautiful course put on by Bad to the Bone racing.  B2B did an amazing job and I would highly recommend this or any other race they direct.  Francesca, Gill, Shannon, Mike, and all the others were nothing but amazing both before and during the event.  The 100k course had us running the same roughly 50k’ish loop twice.  Knowing what’s coming the second time around doesn’t make it any easier ;).  This course had over 11,000ft of vertical gain, according to my watch, and the same amount of descent totaling over 22k of vertical change in 100k (62 miles).  The race starts at an elevation of 9800ft and goes up to the summit at 12,441ft, we then spent the rest of the day going up and down between 10,000 and 12,000ft.  Trust me there was not much oxygen.

As Francesca counted down from 10 to start the race, I suddenly could hear again, I could feel, I could see, and I was scared, really scared.  I had been telling everyone the only reason I was doing UROC was to “check the box” for the Western States 100 lottery (A sub 15 hour finish would allow me to enter the 2015 lottery).  This was a lie, well sort of.  I did want to be able to enter the lottery, but more importantly I wanted to, desperately needed to, feel like a trail runner again.  I had a lot of questions and no answers at the start of this race.  Would I even be able to run, as I had only run for 5 weeks 3 times a week prior to the race?  Would my knee hold up to the long assents and descents, as I had only been running flat trails in my runs?  Would I be able to finish, as my longest single run had been 2.5 hours?  Would I be able to breathe and how would I handle being at altitude all day, since I was coming from sea level?  Most importantly would I be able to let go of racing, expectations, and my fears to be able to enjoy my time in the mountains?

The race started pretty easy, with us running first along a golf course path, then a trail along the base of the mountain.  These early miles seemed to flow by pretty quickly and I noticed that my knee/legs seemed to be holding up.  I was able to focus on the beauty of the course, and the amazing sunrise.  Normally I would be talking to anyone and everyone nearby during these easy first miles, but today I went into my own head pretty early.  I was really nervous and decided I needed to focus.  About mile 7ish I met Matthew Young (See his awesome race video here), a West Virginia runner.  We jogged together sharing where we were from (sea level), and what our current fitness level was (mine = surgery and no running, his=severe head cold).  We both made unspoken promises to each other that, as Matt put it, the brotherhood of flatlanders would prevail in the mountains of Colorado.

Soon enough the “flat” running was done and it was time (1 of 6) to head up.  I hit the aid station and got into a great hiking rhythm.  I rolled through the mile 9 aid in about 100th place.  As the course wound up to the summit of Copper Mountain at 12,441ft I began to feel great and I started to pass people, quite a few actually.  As I was passing people I was talking to them and most of them were from places at altitude, this gave me a huge boost of confidence.  This carried over all the way up the summit.  About 900ft and 1.5 miles from the summit was the “Fat Marmot” aid station, manned by non-other than Geoff Roes.  The final approach to the summit was a lot of icy scree.

Coming down the scree, for my first sustained decent of the day, I decided I felt good enough to really push it (test the knee).  I came to CO wanting to feel like a runner and sometime during that decent off the scree, I began to feel the run, feel the trail, become one with the mountain, and I started to fly down the hill.  Descending has always been a strength, and I guess not even knee surgery could change that.  Up and down we went, first the summit, then Union Saddle, then up the back side of Copper Mountain, and back to the start.  Time to do it all again!

The miles started to pile up and I entered the mile 38 aid station ready to refuel and push back up to the summit for round 2.  Unfortunately I entered the aid station at the exact wrong time.  They were fresh out of everything, even water.  The truck that had all of their resupply had to take someone off the mountain (Altitude issues) and there would be a delay.  All they had was some energy drink.  I do not, and have never done well with any energy drink.  I decided the stack of saltines and Nutella I grabbed with both hands plus the 12oz of water I had in the bottle stuck in my shorts would have to get me back up to Geoff at the summit.  Well I almost made it; with about a half mile to go I went completely dry.  What ensued was a pretty massive dehydrated bonking mess.  I stumbled into Geoff’s aid station, massively dehydrated, low on calories and energy, and having small back pains (in the kidney area).  I was concerned as I was really dehydrated and had not relieved myself in a long time.  I leaned against, first Geoff, then the table.  Geoff worked on getting me hydrated and fueled (lots of water and broth), while I surveyed this pristine mountain environment.  It was here that I came to realize why I truly run these races, what drives me to find my limits.  Here, standing next to Geoff, I began to ramble on about why I was running this race, TRULY running this race, and what I wanted to do in the future.  Geoff listened and then uttered one small sentence that would carry me through the rest of the day and night.  What I told Geoff I will detail later, but what he said was simply this; “That was the most coherent thought process I have heard all day at this altitude, there is no way you are not going to finish this race.”  Well when Geoff Roes tells you that you are going to finish a race, you have no other option!

Well Round two of UROC went well.  I hiked a lot and managed to stay strong the rest of the day and night.  My pace never really slowed much, which was encouraging.  Also the altitude, although I had dizzy feelings and a slightly elevated heart rate, never really adversely affected me.  My stomach was strong all day and night.  I was able to run whenever I wanted which was a huge confidence boost.  One major benefits of maintaining a solid pace, hiking, and running downhill strong was that I was not passed all day.  I managed to move from about 100th at mile 8 to 40th by the end of the race.  That’s right I went to Colorado, to altitude, to a 100K race up and down a mountain, from WI, with zero specific training, more questions than answers, and I found myself and my answers.

Here was my answer, what Geoff and I talked about near that summit.  I realized that this race, which I thought was a box checker, was so much more.  For the past three years I have focused on Western States 100 as my ultimate goal for a 100 race.  Not that there is anything wrong with this, Western is awesome, the race and environment are incredible and someday I will run that course whether it’s as a pacer or for myself.  What I realized climbing up to that summit for the second time was that I had wanted “in” to States because everyone else did too, not because I did.  What truly motivates me is to push my limits, in the mountains, in places I haven’t been.  I BELONG in the mountains.  I told Geoff that I wanted to take my family to races like UROC, to immerse them in the remote beauty of these courses.  I listed off some of the races that truly inspired me.  Right there with Geoff offering me a hug, (Yes I’m sure I smelled awesome ;) I decided I didn’t care about the States qualifier; I was going to enjoy the hell out of the rest of UROC. 

Just for fun I made it to mile 57 in 15 hours, that’s right had I wanted to run harder, which my body could have handled, I would have made it.  I didn’t care.  Speaking with Geoff my plan going forward is this.  Number one, I need to rebuild all of my lost aerobic capacity from so much time off.  My aerobic pace last year was comfortably 6:45.  I want to lower that to 6:15-6:30.  I plan on taking a long time to do this.  Then I plan to add in a lot of hills both ups and downs in separate weeks.  At the last minute I will add in speed in the form of fartlek and progressive long runs.  Then I plan on taking this training, picking a 100 mile course that motivates me, and exploding all over it.  I am not going to hold back, I AM going to find my limits, and if I don’t finish, it still will be a success!  It will still be a success because I will be able to look my daughters in the eye and know that I have shown them there are no limits to your dreams and achievements if you want it.  Others may say, in my case, you should focus on a race that fits your strengths or those that you can replicate in your training area.  I say screw that, I am going to train for and race what I want, when I want, if I fail it will be video worthy, and if I succeed hopefully it motivates my girls!  This was where Geoff told me to keep moving.

Here is my race placement as well as all of the gear and nutrition info.  As always this gear came from Performance Running Outfitters.  I can never tell people enough just how much PRO means to the local Milwaukee area running community.  The work they do is incredible and without them the running scene would not be the same.  If you have the opportunity please support your local running store rather than buying online!

Gear
MB – PRO Race Singlet
North Face No Hands Arm Warmers
Craft head band
Under Armour ColdGear® Infrared Storm Extreme Run Glove
Pearl Izumi Ultra 3/4 Tights
Dry Max Trail Running Socks
Altra Paradigm shoes
Nike Lunarracer3 Shoes
Amphipod 12oz Hand Held x2
Petzel Headlamp
Garmin Fenix2 GPS watch

Nutrition
VESPA – 1 Ultra concentrate  3 hours before race
1 JR 45 min before start
1 JR every 2-2.5 hours
Coke mixed with water during the race
Crackers with nutella
Snack size snickers

Placement
40 Nicholas Wied 16:37:45 M  35 Wauwatosa WI
Out of 140 starters

As always find your own inspiration!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Superior 2014 was calling me back...


Race Report from LPTRunner Jodie Taylor...

I finally returned to Superior. It’s been three years since my debut at the Superior 50 mile. It was my first 50 mile race and I was just as nervous with butterflies this time.  My last long race was in 2012. I hardly ran in 2013 and this year I had planned on running more but injured my hamstring at the NK50K last winter. Prior to the NK50K, Marcel and I had been training in the snow every weekend and were feeling great. Of course we had runner’s high and immediately signed up for Superior when registration opened in March.  We did the same thing the year before and ended up not going, but this time we were determined to go no matter what!
It took me 2 ½ months for my hamstring to feel almost normal again, so my running was light. Needless to say, I was feeling set back in my training. By June I was ready to get back into training and started it with a good 1,000 stair climb on Wilson’s trail in Hong Kong.
Then Marcel and I then got serious about our training and made a 10 week training cram (plan). He did what he could in the little free time he had each week. I am fortunate that I work for a company that encourages us to work out sometime during the work day. Thus, I decided that I wanted to have “fresh legs” for Superior. I have gone into every race over trained and had some type of tendonitis or mild strain that I’d just brush off and pay for it afterwards.
My training involved a lot of road cycling and mountain biking with some trail running and stair repeats. At first I was doing lunges for 40 min but decided that wasn’t working the right muscles. Stair repeats at Atwater Park became the go to spot (as Marcel stated in his race report).
In addition, I completely changed my eating habits this past January. At first it was an “OMG I’m approaching 40” response; but now my new eating habits feel like the normal way and my old eating habits just feel wrong.
As we neared the race date, the more nervous and doubtful I became.  The question kept running through my head, did I train enough? Did I get enough miles in? Did I run up enough stairs? Did I ride my bike too much? Do I have the mental toughness that I had 2 years ago? (@ Hellgate). But at the same time, I was excited about going back to Superior and running on the beautiful Superior Hiking Trail.  “Jodie, just have the willpower of when you were 16 plus the wisdom of when you’re 50” (hopefully I’ll be a little wiser, but I dunno).
I had to remind myself not to panic and do something rash that would cause injury before the race.  So my race strategy was to have “fresh legs” for the race.  And keep a sane mind and eat/drink right and NOT wash my face with HEED at mile 39.5 and NOT have rocks in my socks (aka blisters).  My plan was to go slow and steady and get it done. I was determined to finish so I could wear the T-shirt!
Marcel took off from the start as expected; I can’t hang with him in long races. In fact, I haven’t been able to run with him in a race or beat him in a race since 2012.  I ran with Deb and Mary off and on throughout the race.  They are a lot of fun and keep moving. Mary was awesome with setting the pace.  There were several times she kept me going. (And if you didn’t already know, Mary Gorski is a bad ass ultrarunner!)
Most of the trail seemed new to me because apparently I had repressed my memories of the race in 2011 other than a few painful and torturous ones and the photos I took.  Thus to my surprise there were a lot of runnable sections! Aside from the many giant mud pits that slowed me down, I think I could have finished the race a little sooner. However, I did have a Superior 50 mile PR, by about 1 minute. Ha!
But the best thing about the race this time, other than finishing it, is that I finally had a 2nd wind, 3rd wind, 4th wind and so on. In all of my other races I usually burn out and really struggle towards the end. This time, I kept getting little surges of energy in each section of the race. 
Anyway, I have never felt this physically good after a race, and am excited to return to Superior in 2015 (this could be runner’s high talking).
Congrats to Marcel, Mary and Deb for running great races on tough terrain and many thanks to Angela, Tina and Matt for their awesome support and volunteering at the aid station.  And thanks to Mary’s Mantra that kept me laughing “Jodie’s got fresh legs, Marcel draws pretty pictures, Deb bakes, [Mary’s got jokes]” I altered the last part J

Superior 50 mile ...


Race Report from LPTRunner Marcel Uttech...

Superior 2014 called me back to Lutsen, with the 50 mile training absorbing every free weekend and evening hour available once school let out in late May. I had not done a 50 mile race since Bighorn in 2012, and I was plenty due. After getting the itch again and deciding that yes school is important but running long distances in the woods is what keeps me sane and relatively in good spirits, I signed up for Superior (probably after a long run went really well). Pre September training consisted of running pretty much in the Northern Kettle all winter breaking trails and getting my mileage back up, I signed up for the NK 50k in Greenbush and had a pretty good race. (Nic puts on a great one, wonderful spring race).Then came Chippewa (not to be missed EVER) and then summer online classes came along. Those put a hiccup in my training plans but nonetheless I pretty much continued to get in a decent long run on Saturdays (3x blackloops) and then a long bike ride on Sunday to flush the legs and get another workout. I would run once or twice during the week as well whenever I could to try and get my mileage up. Oh, and lets not forget the standup desk at work (which I believe was a huge help all the way around).
So, as the race drew nearer and I became a little worried that my mileage just wasn’t where it ought to be, I thought about doing stair repeats. The stairs at Atwater beach here by Lake Michigan are very steep and number about 200, plus they come with a GREAT view of the lake, accompanied by occasional cool winds off the lake. So, the first Wednesday I did them for about 35 minutes, or 15 reps. Next day I could barely walk and I knew I had found a weak link. A couple of sessions and lots of foam rolling later I was up to an hour with minimal soreness the following day. Long story short, I was able to run pretty much all the hills (except for the little mountain climbs) at Superior and never really got tired from them- this was pretty much a break-through for me although runners from the group (Kevin) always swore by them (stair repeats). They (stairs) REALLY make a difference for your ascents/descent muscles and calves. Put in the work, you will love it (at the race, probably not while you are doing the stairs J)
While there was probably only a tenth of our 2011 group up there at Superior this year, the event was just as awesome as I remember it. Starting a half hour earlier enabled me to see the stars shining so bright up there while on the bus ride to the start…Jodie and I ended up sitting next to Deb and Mary on the bus, so it was nice to catch up with them! Seeing Tina and Angela at Crosby Manitou along with Matt ‘Come Get Me’ Patten was such a pick me up!

I stuck to perpetuem and potatoes pretty much the whole race, except for the last 10 miles I switched to Heed. Vitamin B12 every 2 hrs after the first 6, and scaps and enduralytes 1 each every hour after the first one or so. Pretty smooth sailing through some of the most scenic trails this side of Canada.
The weather was perfect, and while there were some pretty muddy sections of the trail due to a wet summer and some previous rain, there were virtually no bugs and the dry sections were great. I felt perfect the first 20 miles, and then had the usual ups and downs for a bit before getting another surge around mile 35. Met some great new friends, caught up with some old ones and just had a fantastic time. Strangely enough, the hills seemed a little shorter this time around, probably because of doing Bighorn but don’t get me wrong the course is still as tough as ever.  My finish time this year was 13:33 and I felt pretty good the whole way (besides getting stuck in the woods bottlenecked for the first 1-2 hours in the morning- note to self, don’t start too far back).



To simply get up there for a couple of days and spend it running those trails is worth whatever those rocks/roots/stones throw at you, and if you get a chance to make that trip, take it. You will not soon forget it. I am still washing Superior mud off my feet I think…even so, every wince as I walk today brings a knowing smile.



Sunday, August 3, 2014

Run Report from Colorado, South Dakota and Indiana


Run Report from LPTRunner Steve Hartman Keiser...

You know we mostly run not for races but just for the fun of being outside in the woods exploring nature and the limits of our stamina.  And also so we can stop running and keep having fun eating, drinking, and whatnot. Maybe mostly whatnot.
Anyway, I’m just contributing an entry about running.  And thanks to a couple family reunions, I’ve been lucky to run in some pretty cool places this summer.
First, Snow Mountain just south of Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.  This was pretty much a hike from 9000’ to the top at 12000’, then some runnable parts along the summit ridge with amazing views, and running back down.  I’m always glad when I don’t fall.
Sunrise on Snow Mountain
Gore Range from Snow Mountain summit
 
Tiny rose (?) on Snow Mountain
Second, the Black Hills in South Dakota.  Here I got to run on the Centennial Trail for 3 hours and saw no one except this bison steaming in the morning mist.  I had to go off trail a bit to give him some room.  And an hour later when I came back he was actually lying down right in the middle of the trail.  Only in South Dakota!

My bison buddy next to the Centennial Trail
 
Black Hills meadow

Black Hills Vista
I will say that the signage on the Centennial Trail is not nearly as good as our own Ice Age Trail.  I took the wrong fork a couple times and had to backtrack.  And while the single track parts of the Centennial were awesome, there was quite a bit that was on forest roads, which wasn’t as interesting.
So we should be really really thankful that we have the Ice Age Trail!
Finally, last weekend I ran the trails at Potato Creek State Park near South Bend, Indiana which included one nice almost kettle morainish hill and a fun single track mountain bike trail.
I’d love to hear where else people are running this summer!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Kettle Report from Alison...


A race report from LPTRunner Alison Wiedmann...

My dear LPTRs,

Two years ago this past weekend I ran my first ultra! I would have never thought I would be able to accomplish such a distance, especially when not long before I thought 5 miles was a long run.  I still have memories of that first ultra…talk of squishy beds and trolleys with your favorite beverage to take you to the finish line.  Random chairs placed on the trail, but NO sitting down! Nutter butters and good friends made it possible to make it to the finish. 

Now 9 ultras later, it wasn’t all that different. Talk of being on a happy train, but no getting off till the finish, 3 teachers trying to teach the proper use of good and well - (Apparently 38 miles isn’t long enough for some students!). Glow sticks and headlamps flying through the air, olives and nutter butters, two new ultra runners and an amazingly fast last mile and a half and we made it to the finish line!

 I have learned and grown so much during these past two years.  Not just in becoming a better runner, but in many ways. Although I do now know what drop bags and s-caps are, the importance of staying hydrated, and that I better not have too much of a kick at the end of a run or I’ll be accused of sandbagging the rest of the way.  (Do they realize it’s just fun to make boys suffer once in awhile?)  On more than one occasion when runs get long, hills get taller or the snow gets deeper, Todd reminds me that it only makes me stronger. You’re so right, Todd! (Did I really just say that?) I am a stronger person- mentally, physically and emotionally!



 I’ve also been told many times- while running with boys who make me work harder than I wish to be- you’ll thank me later. I usually give a “look” and say – yayaya. But I think that later is right now.  

And so I thank each and every one of you.  Thank you for your friendship.  Thank you for your conversation on and off the trail.  Thank you for making me laugh and smile.  Thank you for your encouragement.  Thank you for giving me something to look forward to in the middle of the week in the middle of the winter.  Thank you for helping me be a better person. Thank you for running amazing races and amazing distances that continue to inspire me! And yes, thank you for making me run when I don’t want to!

Sadly, in the next month I will be saying good-bye to Lapham Peak and Wisconsin and the LPTRs and heading to new unknown trails of Florida.  I believe that each of you has helped me become a stronger person, a better runner and this will help me on my new race in life.  I will be a long ways from LP, even for ultra-runners, but you will stay close in my heart. I will certainly be smiling when I think of each and every one of you!
Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Ali


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Boston: The common person's Olympics

Race Report from LPTRunner Steve Hartman Keiser...

We knew we were into something special walking down the middle of Boylston Street toward the packet pickup on a sunny Saturday afternoon. People were everywhere, taking pictures at the finish line, bright orange official marathon jackets dotting the crowd. There was little sign of last year’s tragedy. Perhaps intentionally. Everyone seemed to want to move on and honor the past by making this year’s marathon the best ever. 

The Boston Athletic Association runs an amazingly complex and efficient event. Every step of the 118th edition has been planned and communicated to us runners via email and snail mail updates for the past several months, so I knew where to go and what to expect. Every stop along the way had plenty of super friendly volunteers, so there was no wait to pick up the race packet or to leave the drop bag or to board the buses. They’ll do just about anything except maybe stand in line for you at the port-o-potties.

And it is not just the official volunteers who take such pride and joy in the Boston Marathon—it’s the entire city.

From the bus driver early Monday morning who waved me on so I didn’t have to pay (“Hey, he’s a runner!” she said) to the random Bostonian at the bus stop on our way home later that day who congratulated me and wanted to hear all about my race. It is clear that the entire city loves this day, the marathon, and all of us runners who come to run it.

The phrase “Boston Strong” was everywhere on shirts, signs, posters, and on lips. Overused? Sure. A cliché? Never.

The most special sign of the deep connection between the people and the race was the scarf. Mary (see her story below) got hers at the Old South Church, “the church of the finish line” which initiated the Scarf Project to wrap runners in love, hope, and peace. I got mine—and a hug—directly from a friend of a friend who had missed the deadline to send it in, and for that reason she said I was meant to have it. After the horror and fear that all Boston lived through in the days after the bombings last year, this scarf is healing and hope for her, the city, the marathon, and now for me. I was deeply touched. 


I could have used the scarf at 6 a.m. Monday waiting for that first bus. But the sun was warming things up 45 minutes later as I walked out of the subway at Boston Common and found Rich, Pete, and Jose, all runners from Milwaukee. We walked past a quarter mile of double-parked buses filled with runners before finding an empty one.

That was a looooong bus ride: almost an hour. Like probably half the people on the bus I was thinking, “Man, I’ve got to run all this way to get back to Boston!” The other half was thinking, “I’ve gotta pee now!” So when we got out at the athlete’s village in Hopkinton it was straight to the end of the line for a port-o-potty. Turns out that even 790 port-o-potties is not enough.

The half-mile walk to the starting line is down a residential street. The neighbors were standing outside cheering. For us! The race hadn’t even started yet, and they were cheering us! Several had set up stands offering water and sunscreen (that one was really popular). Then there the guys handing out donuts, beer, and cigarettes. Really.

I find corral 5, show my bib to the race attendant, and squeeze in with 1000 very fit people. Everyone around me has run a marathon in 3 hours or less. It’s sunny and getting warmer, so I finally shed my Goodwill sweats and shirt. There are volunteers collecting all the left behind clothing to donate to benefit Big Brothers/Sisters.

I line up next to Meb. Okay, I’m actually lined up about a quarter mile behind the elites. When the gun goes off I hardly hear it, but we shuffle ahead and 3 minutes later we’re passing by news cameras and across the start line. We are underway. Downhill past crowds of people. A little girl and boy are holding out their hands, and I reach over for my first high-fives of the race.

Someone has said that the Boston Marathon is the common persons’ Olympics. I couldn’t agree more. For miles upon miles there are people lining the course. Some places in the early miles there are just a few standing by their driveways, but soon it is the driveways and the yards and the spaces between yards. The cheering is nonstop. Kids are handing out oranges, water, twizzlers. And we are just the first wave. The first 9000. There are over 20,000 more runners coming behind us over the next hour or more.

I find myself smiling. There are a pack of Harley Hogs standing next to their bikes outside a bar and raising their beers to us as we run by. There’s a dozen senior citizens all wearing cow hats (as in Holstein cows, not cowboy hats) for no apparent reason. There’s a Willie Nelson cover band singing “On the Road Again”. There’s lots of Boston Strong signs. And always always there are lines of children holding out their hands for high fives. I’m smiling again.

As we get into towns, the crowds are deep on both sides. They cheer anyone with a name on their shirt. I happened to be running by Rob and Henk and a guy from Australia, because I heard those names a lot. If you wave to the crowd, they go nuts and cheer louder.

I know it’s 11 o’clock, because some guy has a sign out giving updates of the score of the Red Sox game (it’s 0-0 in the 1st inning).

Wellesley College at mile 12 is famous for the screaming coeds and their signs. “Kiss me I’m kosher”, “Kiss me I’m from Iowa”, “Never been kissed!”, and scores of others on the theme of kissing. But my favorite sign had a Lord of the Rings theme: “Fly you fools!” Loved it! I might have kissed someone, but I was too busy smiling, and everyone knows you can’t kiss when you’re smiling!

I guess I haven’t said much about the running. I was in fact running. Pretty steadily at just under 7 minutes per mile. But those first miles didn’t feel nearly as easy as they did in Indianapolis in November. This was going to be a tough race. And it was getting hot. Thank goodness for the makeshift water stations—I grabbed water from kids a couple times when I needed it between the official aid stations. 



The family was going to be on the course in the last part of Wellesley, so I kept to the left side of the road and kept looking, past mile 14…15…and then right at the mile 16 marker someone started waving wildly—Lydia! And there they all were! I stopped smiling long enough to give Lori a salty kiss. High-fived some big kids for a change, and then kept going. 



Miles 17-21 include the Newton Hills, the last of which is the infamous Heartbreak Hill. And as the road goes uphill, things start going downhill for my race. It’s not dramatic. In fact, I handled Heartbreak pretty well actually, passing a number of people.

But it was getting harder to smile even though the crowds were thicker and louder than ever. There was an awesome fifty-person drum circle banging away halfway up the hill! Then it’s downhill again past screaming Boston College students.

Here’s where I hoped to kick into an extra gear to speed toward the finish, but there was nothing left in my tank except to try and maintain a 7:30/mi pace over the last 5 miles.

And then I was at the final landmarks. The gigantic Citgo sign at 1 mile to go. The underpass. The right on to Hereford. The left on to Boylston. The roar.

The roar! It’s about 5 blocks from Hereford to the finish line. 1/3 mile. About 2 ½ minutes at my pace. And the entire length of this canyon-like street is packed with people roaring. For me. For us. I’m just a guy from Wisconsin who likes to run long distances. I crossed the finish line with a 56-year-old Dominican guy from New York. And the crowds were roaring for all of us.

If I felt like a champion just for finishing, I was quickly humbled by the looooong walk back to Boston Common. It took a couple blocks just to get to the water, then bags of food. I was thirsty and my legs were very very weary. But every step of the way there were volunteers congratulating us, asking if we were okay (yes, I’m just really thirsty and tired). 

It took me a half-hour to cover the mile to the family gathering area in Boston Common. That last 30 minutes was almost as hard as the last few miles of the race! Lori and the kids weren’t there when I arrived, so I lay down on the grass in the sun and listened to the chatter of the runners around me.

An elderly Sikh gentleman came up and awkwardly hugged his son who was sitting on the ground. A chorus of “ohhhhs” burst out when one guy took off his shoes to reveal bloody socks. I drank 3 bottles of water and a protein shake and started to feel better.

Then the family arrived. They were having so much fun out on the course that Lori couldn’t get them to leave! Hugs! And hot dogs. Then the subway home. And along the way nods of respect and words of congratulations from perfect strangers. The guy at the bus stop who wanted to hear all about it.

My time? I had a good time, an unforgettable time really. Oh, you want a chronological time? A number? At the Boston Marathon that kind of time doesn’t seem to matter so much. Look it up on the BAA website. I’m bib number 4333. One of those ordinary runners who for one day felt like an Olympian.

Thanks Boston.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

BOSTON 2014


Race Report from LPTRunner Mary Gorski...

Screaming, tears…

They sure are a lot better to hear when they are based in joy rather than in shock and terror.

Coming into the last miles of the Boston Marathon this year I could barely hear my own thoughts over the screaming cheers of marathon fans along the course. I was in the third wave – many of the spectators had been cheering their lungs out for a couple of hours before I got there.

It was incredible.

And then there were the tears. Making the final turn I saw the finish, the backdrop to last year’s bombs; the stage for horrific videos and photos of pain and suffering; screaming, tears.

Remembering what was, and celebrating what is… my eyes weren’t the only ones welling up with tears in the final stretch on Boylston Street.

Last year was my first at the Boston Marathon. A bucket list item, it was a 50th birthday gift. The plan was to enjoy the experience and then mark it off the list.

The bombs changed all that. “You have to come back!” In the two days after the race Dave and I heard it from Bostonians everywhere we went: the bellhop at our hotel, the servers at meals, the store clerks and streetside hawkers. Even the security officials at the airport genuinely wanted to know “Were you able to finish?” “Will you come back?”

How could I not?

And what a delight it was, starting with Dave’s own race on Saturday: the Boston 5K. After losing most of a foot last summer to a nasty infection, the race would be his first attempt at getting back into sports. Slow and steady, he walked the course, coming in after the official finishers. But organizers still had a finisher’s medal waiting for him when he came across the line, cheered by friends.

It was a good start to the weekend. A birthday gift for him this year, just a few days before the date itself.

Saturday evening we were at a dinner with others who had contributed to a book that running guru and legend Hal Higdon wrote about last year’s marathon: “4:09:43.” I was apprehensive going, expecting sad rehashes of the day, but instead it was a fun evening of laughter, food and a couple of Sam Adams beers. It was good to put names and faces together and share our individual stories of the experience.

Sunday: Easter Sunday. Last year Dave and I went to the early service at the Old South Church, a UCC congregation. In 2013 the 9 a.m. service was a small, intimate gathering in the side chapel of the church. We experienced a wonderfully welcoming community, good music and a great sense of worship. When we realized that the marathon this year would coincide with Easter weekend there was no doubt that we would go back to the Old South Church to celebrate it.

Easter is a busy day at any church, but at Old South, it was record-breaking. Located just past the finish line, it spent several days behind crime scene tape after last year’s bombing.

Because of its location, the church has a special connection to runners. One of the ways the church reached out to them this year was through the Marathon Scarf Project. The“Old South Knitters,” a group of about 30 knitters, chrocheters and weavers, got busy making scarves to, “wrap each runner of this year’s race in love, hope and prayer,” said the church’s pastor.

With an anticipated 36,000 runners coming to Boston, they were going to have to do a lot of knitting so they invited anyone to join them in their efforts. Knitters sent their donated efforts from all over Massachusetts, and a few states beyond. Each scarf had the name of the knitter attached to it.

Mine was from Cynthia in Beverly, MA.

During the Easter service, runners were asked to stand for a blessing. Members of the UCC congregation came through with the scarves. However, they did not simply had them out. Runners had the scarves placed on them by another. Funny how a bunch of knotted yarn brought so many to tears.

But again, tears of joy. Tears of happiness.

Race morning. Time to finally lace up the shoes and go. No bags would be allowed at the start area, so runners dressed in their hobo best to keep warm. Whatever clothing you left behind would be donated to charity. Though I think that my 25-year-old saggy tights and Helly Hansen polypro shirt with the permanent stink of 25 years’ of running probably (hopefully) was donated to the trash.

I wondered how chaotic it would be to travel in a herd of 36,000 runners. Surprisingly, it wasn’t bad. Race organizers did a great job with logistics, moving us to our starting areas like expert cattle ranchers.

And then the start, and the screaming began. Screams of joy from the runners; screams of encouragement and solidarity from the volunteers and spectators. There were a few spots on the course that weren’t too crowded, but not many. Each town welcomed you as if they were waiting just for YOU.

“Boston Strong, Boston Strong!!!” You saw it on shirts, on banners, in windows and you heard it from every direction.

I wore my race shirt from 2013 (a long-sleeved shirt, it wasn’t necessarily the best choice for the quickly warming weather). People saw it and yelled “Welcome back to Boston! We’re glad you came back!! Boston Strong!”

And every mile or two I heard that wonderful Boston accent letting me know that “waTAH is just ahead.” BAHston volunteers always serve up waTAH, not water.

The Boston course is a tease. It starts with gentle downhills, giving runners a false sense of confidence.  But then,  just as the temperatures were getting toasty, the hills made their appearance. I  forgot that there was more than just Heartbreak Hill. “Is this it?” I thought, but then there would be another. “Is this Heartbreak?” said a woman next to me, but "no," she was told by a veteran, “this one is just a ‘regular’ hill, it doesn’t have a name.”

Finally, after 20 miles we came to Heartbreak. I’d run all the other hills, might as well run this one too. I put my head down and went up the middle, never looking ahead, figuring that my huffing and puffing would let me know when the hill was over.

At the top my legs were toast. But again, the cheers, the screaming from spectators urging runners to keep moving, to keep running to Boylston. To finish strong, Boston Strong.

And so I did. Even came in a few minutes faster than last year. 



Weather had been warm for running, but wonderful for lounging around post-race in Boston Commons. But eventually all good things come to an end. The Li’l Mister and I headed to the subway for the ride back to the hotel. Time for a shower and dinner.

And then there was one more treat. A subway worker pulled me away from the ticket machines and led me to an open gate.

“Congratulations on your finish! Thanks for being here. The ride is on us!”

The cherry on top of the sundae.

Boston, I'm glad that I came back.