Sunday, February 14, 2016

7 Continents 7 Ultra Marathons

January 2016 marked the end of a journey for me.  My quest to run 7 ultra marathons on each of the 7 continents.
In 2010 I ran the Comrades Marathon (ultra marathon) in South Africa.  After running, the question came to me, could I run an ultra on all seven continents.  I mulled this around in my head for a while.  I wanted to pursue this goal, but I also wanted to run Comrades again, to try to complete both the up and the down courses.  I did decide to run Comrades again, and also decided to pursue the 7 and 7.
I won't go into each subsequent continent here, but will link to all the blogs about them below.
I completed 5 continents leaving only South America and Antarctica to finish.  I purposely left these two for last because I knew there was a tour package that would allow you to do both races in one trip.  I had done all the planning and execution for the previous races on my own, registering for the races, booking travel and hotel, but knew I couldn't do that for Antarctica.
There are at least two companies that put on ultras in Antarctica, but only one that I was able to find offered ultras on both continents in the same trip.  So I went with Marathon Adventures.  Note that Kathy Loper Events also offered this package, but it was the same trip.
I started working on booking the trip in early 2015.  In past years these trips have sold out early.  Mainly because most of the participants are people doing marathons on the continents.  I paid my deposit to secure my space and then started looking for air fare.  I eventually used their recommended travel agency to book my flights.  Trip booked, airfare and insurance taken care of, nothing left to do but train, and worry.  Worry because it was going to require that I race two 50k's (31 miles) within 5 days.  Also, I didn't know what conditions to expect in Antarctica.
I left Oklahoma City on the evening of January 21.  I connected in Houston to Santiago Chile, and then to Punta Arenas Chile, my final destination.  I arrived with no problems and checked into my hotel.  On Sunday we had a dinner and briefing in the hotel.  Our original plan was to leave for Antarctica the next morning and run there.  The tour operator, Steve, stated they we did not have a weather window to fly out Monday morning, and to meet in the hotel lobby Monday at 9 for an update.  Monday morning we were told that we still didn't have clearance to go, so we were going to run the race in Chile in one hour.  A lady asks if there is any chance we'll leave for Antarctica today.  Steve answers "we're not going to Antarctica today."  So, I get dressed to run my first race and report to the start line across the street from the hotel.  We start the race which is a 4 times out and back for the marathon and a 5th shorter out and back for the 50k.  I'm running the race at a moderate pace and come in for the finish of my second loop which is the half marathon mark.  The timer at the start finish line tells us we now have a weather window, and we might be going to Antarctica today.  But he says keep running because it's not his decision.  As we're going back out, Steve, who was running the race, is coming in telling us to turn around.  Needless to say we weren't happy campers.
He has to hire a cab to go out and get people who are farther out into the course.  We have one hour to get ready to go to Antarctica.
We took a bus to the airport and boarded our plane.  This was a small jet but was staffed with flight attendants and we were served a meal.  The flight was about 3 hours.  As we neared Antarctica we started to see small icebergs.  It was overcast when we landed.  We put our coats and gloves on and stepped out into a howling wind and very cold conditions.  The plane does not stay because it could get stranded due to weather conditions.  I honestly under dressed for the conditions, and we had about a mile walk to our campsite.  The campsite consisted of a large tent.  We had to wait in this tent while they put up our individual tents.  We were sleeping 3 to a tent and since we arrived in the afternoon, we were going to spend the night and run our race in the morning.
It is only dark about 4 hours there and even then it never got pitch dark.  I didn't sleep well, but while I was awake I listened to the wind gradually subside.  We assembled to start our race at 5 the next morning and we're off.  It was cloudy, a light wind, and a lot of snow on the ground.  Our race consisted of an out and back in one direction, and another in the opposite direction.  For the marathon it was 6 complete loops, and a short out and back.  For the ultra it was 7 1/2 loops.  I started at a very easy pace just wanting to see what this course was like.  The course was snowy, icy, and muddy in spots.  There were small stream crossings, and one large snow bank that was taller than me that had a single trail through it.  So if people were coming from opposite directions, one had to wait for the other to come through.  And there were rocks, lots of rocks.
The course wound past the Chilean, and the Chinese research bases.  we saw lots of penguins and a couple of sea lions.While the conditions were tough, I didn't ever have a really hard time.  It took me 8:45 minutes to run the 31 miles.  After everyone finished, we boarded the plane to return to Chile.
Back at our hotel, we still had another race to run.  Steve said that he'd look at the weather forecasts for Thursday and Friday, and if they were similar, we'd run our race on Friday.  And that's what we ended up doing.  Friday, I again started out easily, but started feeling pretty good, so I picked up the pace and finished this race in 5:23.
On Saturday, we went on an all day excursion to Torres del Paine National Park, in Chile’s Patagonia region.  I won't go into details about this trip, but it is a beautiful park.
I made my way back home with no problems.

The List 

1. North America - Mother Road 100 (miles) - Catoosa Oklahoma USA - 2010
2. Africa - Comrades (56 Miles) - Durban South Africa - 2012
3. Europe - G2E (55 miles) Glasgow Scotland UK - 2013
4. Asia - Mt. Banahaw 100k (62 miles) - San Pablo City, Philippines - 2014
5. Australia - Gold Coast 100 (50 miles) Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast - 2015
6. Antarctica - White Continent 50k (31 miles) - King George - 2016
7. South America - Punta Arenas 50k (31 miles) - Punta Arenas Chile - 2016

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Dallas Marathon & RRCA Coaching

I was fortunate enough to win a free registration for a RRCA coaching certification in Dallas.  This opportunity was provided by the NBMA, National Black Marathoners Association.  The only requirement upon certification is to give back to the organization. 
This was also the annual awards banquet of the NBMA.  So I decided to run the marathon also.
The classes were before the marathon, and the banquet was the Saturday before.
The course was interesting and informative.  I learned a lot more about training and look forward to implementing that information.
I had one month to take the online test and get certified in First Aid and CPR.  I completed both tasks within the time required and am now certified.
Back to the marathon itself, I had my usual goals.  Boston qualify, run sub 4, finish healthy. 
I felt sick the night before, but not too bad.  Rain was predicted early morning, but to leave the area before the start.  Woke up to rain, but since I was only a few blocks away from the start, I figured it would stop before I had to go out.  I left the hotel to a gentle rain.  Started and it did rain off and on during the entire race.  I never felt really well so just decided to try for sub-4.  Final time 3:58. 
Next up, 7 continents journey.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Pocatello Marathon Race Report

I wanted to run a late summer marathon for several reasons.  Mainly to try and better my Boston Qualifying time by more than five minutes.  While I've qualified for Boston, it's only by about 3 minutes.  And that may or may not get me in.  I also wanted to keep up my general long distance training, and while I don't have to run an official race to do that, a race does keep me more accountable.  Thirdly I'm on an unofficial 50 states journey.
I had narrowed down my choices to two races in Idaho, Pocatello and the Freakin Fast Marathon in Boise, both downhill races and both run on Sept. 5.  I finally decided on Pocatello because it's a more gradual downhill, and a more established race.  That turned out to be a better decision than I thought as the Freakin Fast Marathon cancelled with less than a week to go because of road construction.
My travels to Pocatello included flying into Salt Lake City, then driving to Pocatello.  There were no problems with that, and I went straight to packet pickup/expo which was held in the host hotel.  I was staying across the street so I was near the pickup/drop off area.
The morning of the race I walked across the street to catch the bus to the start.  It was somewhat cold at the start area, but part of the race swag was a backpack that served as our drop bag.  So I wore warm clothes to the start, put them in the backpack and picked them up at the finish.  This was just one of the little extras that made this a well run race.  The start was fairly normal, Star Spangled Banner then a gunshot.  The time I was hoping for was sub 3:50, there were pacers, but no 3:50.  So I ran with the 3:45 pacer for a while.  In retrospect, it would have been better to just keep my 3:50 pace.  I ran with the pacer for about 5 miles before I decided I should slow down.  Besides, the pacer was really running a 3:35 pace and he planned to slow up once the course evened out.  I passed the 1/2 mark around 1:51, but could tell I was starting to fade.  The first 13-14 miles are downhill, then gently rolling terrain after that.  Around mile 20 I was beat.  I started walking/running.  My pace dropped to 11/mile and I watched my sub 3:50 go out the window.  Around mile 24 the 3:55 pacer passed me.  I thought I'll try to keep up with her.  I was able to start running without stopping, and ended up finishing just under 3:55.
The finish area had plenty of food and drink, but I'm seldom hungry right after a long distance run.  I did get the "Steak on a Stick"  by Sizzler, but it was cold and tasteless.  I decided to go back to the hotel for my car and clothes and head back to Salt Lake City.  Again, no problems getting back home.
This is a nice small marathon that doesn't skimp on extras, I would recommend this race for almost any reason you run marathons.  The state, the swag, a fast time, a good time.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Win For The Ages

Quite a lofty title for what really wasn't a big deal.
For some time I've felt that I could win a small or out of the way race.  I wanted to do it and spotted one in which I thought I might have a chance.  It was a race in Spencer OK, a suburb of Oklahoma City, called the Faded, Educated and Fit 5k .  The race was to benefit an organization that give free haircuts, maybe hairdos, and supplies for school children.  Because it wasn't a typical runner's race, I felt that I had a chance to win.  I did tie for 1st in a 12 hour race, but didn't win it outright.
I arrived at Spencer High School which was the finish line and they had a bus to take us to the start.  Since the start was only about a mile away, I decided to run there.  It appears I was the only one to do so, which only solidified my belief that this wasn't going to be a runner's race.
After a warm up workout, we went to the start.  A young man, 16, approached me and asked me how fast I planned to run the race.  I told him I hoped to finish in the low 22's.  He said he had run a 16 minute 5k and I thought, oh well, I guess second will be ok.
We start and a bunch of kids take off.  I know this won't last long so I just hold my pace.  By the first block most of them have slowed down.  At the one mile point only 2 people are ahead of me and one guy is running with me.  I pull away from him and start to gain on the only female ahead of me.  I pass her by mile two, but the young man I spoke with is still more than a block ahead.  As he begins climbing a hill, he starts looking behind every few seconds.  I think "he's slowing down," I have a chance to catch him.  I pick up the pace a little, and he starts walk/running.  I catch and pass him with about 1/4 mile to go.  I turn it on and don't look back least I see him gaining on me.  I cross the finish line first.
I win the trophy in the picture, and a $50 gift card to Red Coyote running store.
They treated me well after the race, and I let the director know that they ran a great race considering it was their first time.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Gold Coast 100 - Australia

To continue my goal of completing ultras in different parts of the world I decided to do one in Australia.  This one wasn't my first choice because it's a multiple out and back.  While I have done this type of race before, I don't like the format, I call it multiple chances to quit.  But the first race I tried to get in was a lottery and I wasn't chosen.  As it turns out this was for the best because at the last minute the other race did not get the proper permits.  While the race ran anyway, it did so without insurance.
The Gold Coast of Australia is south of Brisbane.  I flew into Brisbane, about a 12 hour flight from Los Angeles, the Friday before the Sunday start.  I arrived with no real problems.  I took a shuttle to my room at  Tallebudgerra Recreation Centre.  While inexpensive, this was not a good choice.  The room was like a dorm room, no wi-fi, no heat, no radio television etc.  A bare bones room.  It was however only a short distance from the ocean.
I arrived in the morning, but Brisbane is 15 hours ahead of CDT and so it was late evening/night at home.  I did my best to stay up, but by 4 pm I was asleep.  I woke up in the middle of the night, but stayed in bed.  The next morning there was a knock at my door at 7, it was the race director inviting me to breakfast.  I went and talked to her about the race.
There was a dinner before the race and I met the owner of the race who used to direct it, but moved to Bali and hired the young lady I'd met that morning.  He talked with me some and told me that he gives an award to the first finisher over 60, and I had a 50/50 chance of winning it.  I wish he hadn't told me that, and also introduced me my competition.  As it turned out, I was no competition for him.  
I was not feeling well while there, had some stomach and equilibrium issues, so I decided to drop from my planned 100k to 50 miles.  I was told that was not a problem. 
For 50 miles it is a 3 time 25k out and back, and then a 5k to finish.  At the start I didn't feel bad, but didn't feel great either.  I started the race trying to hold 10 minute miles.  In retrospect I should have dropped that to 12 and then if I felt better, try to pick it up.  Oh well, hindsight and all that.  Still I passed the marathon in under 5 hours, but was feeling bad and almost no energy.  There's no need to drag this out, from about 50k on, it was simply survival mode.  One problem is I didn't take my own fuel, it's a white power, and I didn't want to explain what it was to customs.  Again, in retrospect, I should have bought small packets and that shouldn't have been a problem.  The energy drink they had did not agree with me, it tasted like a heavily sugared water but with an odd after taste.  I just quit drinking it after a while.  I did survive, finished in about 10:30, rested at the finish line before I made the one mile walk back to my room.
I rested the next morning, then headed back to Brisbane where I spent the night in an airport hotel.  Ah, back to internet access and civilization.
This is a well run race, although it runs on both city streets and some along the ocean.  
I made it back to Oklahoma with no problems.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Running Across the Panhandle - 42 Miles

In preparation for my 100k race in Australia, I decided to run a revival of the Okie Relays.  This is a race across the Panhandle of Oklahoma, from Texhoma TX to Elkhart KS, about 41.5 miles.  You can run this race solo or as part of a relay team.  For my purposes, I decided to run it solo.  It's over 300 miles to the race, so I felt that it didn't make sense to drive it alone.  So I joined two friends for the almost 5 hour drive.  We made it with no problems, went to the spaghetti dinner and race instructions.  I had a hotel room to myself, so I slept well and got up the next morning to preapare for the bus ride to the start and the race.
It was chilly at the start, and the forecast called for cloudy to partly cloudy skies.  We start and I run with a couple of friends to the first aid station.  I felt good and decided to try to pick it up some.  I ran to the second aid station still feeling good with less than half the race left.  The sun would peek out, but it stayed fairly cool the whole race.  I reached the third aid station and begin to run/walk with more walking than in the past.  I was making a effort to keep my miles below 12 minutes and was mostly successful.  A friend who was driving a support vehicle told me that it would probably rain soon.  I told him I hoped to be done before then.  I came into Elkhart and had a little over a mile to go.  I finished in 7:31 and was happy to be finished.  I went to the friends car to rest a while and talked to other friends who were finishing.
Shortly it began to rain hard and they were bringing some of the runners end.  The rain didn't last long and I took our other rider out to when he had been picked up so he could finish.
Nice awards and then it was time to go home.  We stopped in Guymon to eat at Mr. Burger, I thought it was pretty good.
All the way home we were just behind storms.  But we made it with no problems and I was finally able to shower and then rest.
A great race that I would encourage others to run.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Boston 2015

So once again I decided to do Boston.  This would make my 5th time overall, but 2nd in this cycle.  I missed two years of qualifying, 2012 and 2013 which was the year of the bombing.
I'm going to back up a little bit because it's been almost four months since I last wrote here.  I've run one other marathon this year, Myrtle Beach, and didn't write about it.  Nothing really special, it was a good run, I had but one goal and that was to finish under four hours.  I finished MB in about 3:53.  Back to Boston.
I waited trying to find good deals on air and hotel and never really did.  I ended up flying out of DFW which saved me over $200 per person, I took my wife with me, and booked my hotel through Hotwire.
The hotel was the best bargain, overlooking the course right at the one mile to go mark.
Everything went according to plan as far as getting to Boston, and picking up my bib and shirt.  The weather forecast was for rain and I hadn't planned for that.  I looked up the nearest bargain store, Goodwill, and went to buy sweats and a jacket, $9.00.
I rode the bus to Hopkinton wit a lady from Duluth.  I don't recall, but I think it was her first Boston.  It rained off and on during the ride, but when we reached the village, the rain had stopped.  I got in line for the port-a-potties and by the time I got out it was time to head to my corral.  It started raining just as the gun sounded and it was to rain off and on, sometimes heavily, for the entire race.  It was also windy and cold.
My initial goal was to try to run sub 3:45, but with the rain I settled on a sub 4 hour goal.  I hit the half around 1:57, still felt good, so I decided to go for  a BQ time, which for me is sub 3:55.  I was on track the rest of the race, and as always had ups and downs, but I never hit the wall, and finished in 3:53.10.  When I stopped running I started getting very cold.  They had really good finisher blankets, but still I had to step inside a building to warm up before heading back to my hotel.  All and all a successful Boston.  I hope to be back next year. 

I suppose I'll just segue into my next running adventure which was to run the Oklahoma City Memorial Half Marathon a mere 6 days after Boston.  Ordinarily I wouldn't do that, but I had volunteered to participate in our running club's "Oh What A Ride" program.  This is where someone pushes a person who is otherwise unable to participate in a running event like this.  I and a lady agreed to push Mary.  It was a great time, I enjoyed both the company of my co-pusher and Mary, our talkative rider.