Monday, December 26, 2011

The 24 Hours of Christmas Adventures Returns for 2011...... Or Not

Christmas 2011 and Looking Back at the Year


Wow, what a year!  Many ups and downs throughout with lots of new experiences.  Two months ago I thought I would be in a different place.  Well, how things change....again.  Life is full of changes and challenges.  So once again, due to unforeseen circumstances, I'm back running to celebrate this Holy Day of Christmas with plenty of time to reflect on the past year and think about all of those special people, family and friends who have been a great help for me for whatever.  Merry Christmas!!

One change on the 24 hour run, since I have signed up to run a 100K two weeks from now I thought it might be a good thing not to run 100+ miles on Christmas.  Instead I've entered The Holiday Marathons in NYC organized by Mike and Mike and will run the marathon plus some more to make it just a 50K or so and then spend time with family in CT.

Just before driving down to CT on Friday I stopped by the post office to get my mail.  On the display board there were sayings from the 1st grade class at CCS.  One of them caught my eye.  It said:

Where there is honesty, there is understanding.
Where there is fairness, there is peace.
Where there is sharing, there is friendship.
Where there is love, there is fulfillment.

Pretty good for a first grader and great not only for the holidays but all year long.  Too bad adults can't always think this way.  This one's for you Kelly.

Mom's tree
Christmas Eve with mom in CT, very nice.  The sun was shining during the day so I got in a pre-dinner easy run on the golf course.  Not always a possibility as usually when there is no snow, they are golfing but not today.  So I got to chase the geese hanging out on the course.  Afterwards, Mom and I had a great Christmas Eve dinner.  We haven't been together on Christmas Eve for 15-20 years??  And since Dad passed away 5 years ago Mom has been on her own.  Myself, the last two Christmas's have been a bust so it was great for mom and I to connect and chat about life over some wine, ending with the traditional Drambuie after hot fudge Sundays.  After dinner I retired to watch one of my all time favorite classics, " A Wonderful Life".
Then is was "The Santa Clause", another movie favorite.  I sometimes wish I could have the job of Santa Claus.  I would do that in a heartbeat!  Then off to bed for some sleep before Santa arrives.

Christmas Marathon/50K Race Report:
Christmas morning, up early and on the road to the Holiday Marathons to be held this year at Tibbetts Brook Park in Yonkers, NY after a waffle and banana breakfast.  Just over an hour drive which isn't bad and sure beats sleeping in the cold at hotel Ford.  I arrived just before 9:00 AM and ran into friend, race director and former pacer for me at the WS 100 years ago, Mike Oliva.  Mike was getting the start area set up and about to head out to mark the course.  The other RD, Mike Arnstein hadn't yet arrived.  There were two trees at the start area designated for gifts.  One was for a grab bag after you were done with your race.  If you brought a gift, you could get one at the end.  The other tree was for Toys for Tots.  It was fun going out Christmas Eve to buy toys for some child who might not have a Christmas.  After the race, the toys were going to be delivered to the children.
Holiday Headsweats
The official start of the event wasn't until 11:00 AM but they encouraged runners who were doing the marathon distance or who needed extra time to start early, especially with sunset around 3:30.  Runners had the choice of doing a 1/8 marathon, 1/4 marathon, 1/2 marathon, 3/4 marathon or full marathon.  Each lap was 3.275 miles on a paved rec path which circled around a lake.  So in an effort to get to my sisters for Christmas dinner at a decent hour, I was ready to go by 9:00 AM.  It was still chilly out, maybe 32 degrees but warm enough for shorts and anticipating that the day would warm up.  I wore my custom Headsweats Holiday Mid Cap for the occasion in holiday red with a white pom pom.  I took no water or gels with me to begin with but had a bag at the start area with some basic provisions which is where you would return after each loop.  The first few loops were quiet as not too many runners were out and I enjoyed the scenery.  In the middle of the lake was a huge swan that just swam around.  All the other birds seemed to have great respect for this big bird and stayed out of it's way.  The way the paved path was, there was enough of a dirt shoulder along much of it so I seemed to gravitate to the dirt to make it a bit softer.  By the fourth lap, more runners were out and I could feel my pace picking up and was starting to warm.  Before heading out for loop # 5, I grabbed my water bottle with GU Brew in it and  some electrolyte tabs.  I could already see the salt accumulating on my skin so I started taking the electrolytes just in case, even thought it was still cool out.  I also grabbed one GU gel and on that loop tried to eat in but it was rather cold and stiff and was a challenge to eat.  Usually I put it in my pocket before to warm up but not today.  Lap 5 and 6 were the fastest yet, averaging around a 7:10 pace, not that this was a "race" but more of an event but I felt good just running along.  Also after I started lap 5, the official start began so there were a lot more runners and some fast ones too so that kept me moving along at a good clip.  I was over the 20 mile mark and on lap 7 cruising along again, when I started getting incredibly hungry.  I knew I hadn't had much to eat and should have had more GU's to start but didn't.  Then the energy was being sucked out of me.  It turned out to be one of my slower laps but as I headed to the turnaround, I grabbed a banana which definitively seemed to help matters.  I finished lap 8, the marathon distance at a comfortable 3:13 and only 2 laps to go.  I seemed to focus more on eating at each turnaround and managed to eat a half a banana each time through.

20 " Candy Cane
It was fun watching the other runners too with about 450 runners signed up to run on this Christmas Day!  Some in full Santa attire, others with Grinch like green outfits and most in some kind of Santa hat.  All kinds of runners, young and old, fast and slow but they all seemed to be having fun!  By the time I was doing my last lap # 10 it was getting quiet out there again as most had done the shorter distances and were done.  When you did finish, you had to hit the gong with the hammer and Mike was there to supervise.  For finishing each runner was awarded a candy cane, the more laps you did, the bigger the candy cane.  For me, I got the 20" candy cane.  In the end I ran just over a 50K; 32.75 miles averaging a 7:30 pace rather comfortably.  I thought if I could keep it under 8 min. miles it would be good so I figured this was a good trainer for the 100k in two weeks.

More pics of the Christmas Marathon .

RD and friend Mike Oliva and Jack at the finish by the finishing Gong

After the race it was just over an hour's drive to spend Christmas with my mom and sister and two nieces.  Dinner, more champagne and to end it all watching "National Lampoon's Christmas".  Another one of my movie favorites.

So ends the race season for 2011, I think??

As I end the year, I sit back and think of the year gone by.  It had some great moments and it had some not so good times.  I had a great trip to Europe, my first ever while competing in the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc.  The scenery was like I've never seen before.  That was definitely a high point. Throughout the year I had some good races and some not so good races but it's always a great day on the trails.  Besides my trip to Europe, I traveled around to places like Texas, Virginia, NY and Washington state.  I had some great times running with new and old friends throughout the year and have met some wonderful folks from all around the world.  I had some foot issues mid year that slowed me down and even a DNF at the Finger Lakes 50K, not good, but I was able to work through it with the help of Doc Rinaldi and changed my work schedule and bounced back.  Energy levels were up and down.  So as an experiment this meat and potatoes guy, has now gone without meat for three months.  So far so good.  I changed my residence and purchased some real estate this spring and hope to build a new home on the land this coming year.  I thought I was to be married in October, (a high point) only to find out that the person who I thought I knew for eight years has totally different values and beliefs than me about commitment, honesty, fidelity and trust, values which I believe are key to any successful relationship.  So no marriage.  A sad ending to the year and the end of another chapter of life.  But to finish on a positive note it is a New Year ahead and another chapter begins!  I have a lot to look forward to and a lot of great friends to be thankful for :)  Now it's time to plan out the race schedule for 2012.  So far on the horizon, it's the Bandera 100K in two weeks in Texas and the MMT 100 in Virginia in May.  The rest of the schedule to be determined.  Just last week I did receive my new passport, so who knows where in the world I may end up :)

A little Karma to end the year and to start the new year with, one of my favorites.  (I have one of these happy Buddhas and rub his belly at least once a day):

The decisions you make and the way you treat people will someday come back to stare you in the face.  If you are good and kind to people they will treat you kind. If you are cruel to people and make bad decisions then life will not be so kind to you.

Happy New Year to All !!

And remember "Impossible is Nothing!"

Monday, December 19, 2011

2011 USATF National Club Cross Country Championships

and USA Masters Men's 10 km Championships

December 10, 2011
Jefferson Park Golf Course - Seattle, WA

2011 GMAA National XC Team

As a GMAA Team we were finally somewhat organized and ready to head to Seattle for the Nationals.  It was not easy to get a full team together this year with injuries and conflicting activities but in the end we brought over 6 runners for our 50’s age group team.  Our captain, Norm Larson along with Tony Bates, Kevin McMahon, Lyman Clark, Keith Woodward and myself.  You need 5 to officially score as a team.  More than 100 clubs and 1,100 competitors were to compete at Jefferson Park Golf Course in the Emerald City, Seattle. USATF Pacific Northwest, Club Northwest, the Seattle Sports Commission, the Seattle Parks & Recreation Department, and ProMotion Events worked hard to provide a complete championship experience with a Northwest flavor!

Snow Covered Ground at BTV

On Thursday morning five of us flew together from Burlington to Seattle with a short layover in Chicago.  It was a cold and snowy morning in VT.

Kevin enjoying some Dakin Farm munchies in Chicago.

Thanks to Sam at Dakin Farm for sponsoring our trip with lots of goodies to munch on throughout the weekend.  Waiting in Chicago we broke out the incredible cheese, beef sausage, maple kabanos, crackers and more.  We also ran into Christine Reaser, an awesome women’s master runner from Maine.  She kindly offered to give us a ride to the hotel once we landed in Seattle instead of us taking a train.  Sounded like a good idea.  Once we landed in Seattle we were joined by Lyman Clark at the airport.  I’m not sure Christine knew what she was getting into when she first offered us a ride.  There were six of us plus Christine.  She was confident that her full size rental would work.  So 7 of us jammed into a Chevy Impala plus luggage that would not all fit in the trunk.  Not a pretty sight!

In the Chevy

Friday was an easy day, a morning run with Norm and Kevin touring Seattle, heading down towards the waterfront and the famous Pikes St. area including the throwing fish market.  It was still early so things were quiet at the market.  On our way back to the hotel we found a coffee shop as Norm and Kevin were craving coffee.  I had a great cup of hot chocolate.  After that Norm and Kevin headed back to the hotel but I still needed some more miles and headed this time a little bit north to see other parts of the city.  

Downtown Seattle

As usual I have a hard time going to someplace new without exploring and this was no different.  I was in search for the “Needle” and thought I could keep running north to find it but no luck.  Finally I headed back to the hotel but not before stopping in at a waffle shop for some breakfast.  Awesome strawberry topped homemade waffle!  Later that day we took the shuttle over to the race course to pre-run part of the course, which on race day would be a five loop run along a golf course.  And a great sunny day it was which allowed great views all around including the snow capped mountains not far away.

Full Moon in Seattle

Saturday Race Report and more by Kevin McMahon, GMAA Masters Runner:

The race was on a golf course, most of the energy we wanted to spread across it was going into the softening ground. By the 5th 2K lap, the course was ragged and muddy on several curves and took down several runners trying to take the tight high line. The 40 degrees was a mist by the time we started. It didn't bother as much as expected, but I also took the precaution of finding a community center down the street in which I laid warm and low until race time. I had planned on sneaking into the enormous VA hospital across the street, but was scared off by the idea of possibly being profiled as a TB patient and then detained.  On the jog to start, I felt like the race season should have ended weeks ago, perhaps in June. Dull, twanging, tight and tired. But damn thankful to be healthy enough to line-up one more Nat time with the VT M50's. I thought of Jim our #2, still injured, and Tony our #3, with us but too injured to go under the gun. Doesn't get better than running free of anything that could stop you. And how great to have both Lyman and Woody step up for the run! So tough.


At the 5K mark, I wondering how I could possibly run that distance again without stopping. By 8K, the run became be a sideways climb into the black hole. Kept repeating Norm's instructions to 'be in the moment' and when any moment sucked too much, I repeated his suggestion to 'embrace the pain'. Finally, it was just shameless pleading to not pass out before crossing the line or be passed by too many M55's. 

Jack and Kevin

Didn't pass out but got passed like I was.  My eyes were still crossed 40 minutes later but the lips were no longer purple. I ran 60 secs slower than last year, but so did Norm. But he won the M55 gold and I ended up 12th place in the M55's. Pilla ran fast and faster than last year, Woody chased in Bill Dixon! another reminder that Keith is truly a legend among us Vermonters. Lyman finished his first XC Nats running the critical 5th slot for our injured engine. Tony managed every support detail and I'm sure he ran at least 10K, cheering, reporting and taking pictures. Results.



The best part of the day was joining Pilla and Kasie Enman for a 10 mile run back to the hotel along the shore of Lake Washington. I figured I'd remember better running with two of the world's best, than running ho hum in the nationals. And I was right. By the time we returned to the hotel, we had seen spectacular neighborhoods and houses. The gardens with palm trees reminded us Vermonters that the growing zone in Seattle is the same as their running zone: no ice, no snow, no slow. The downside of the run was the upside: once we turned away from the Lake Washington and headed a straight 3 miles back into the city, the roads became hills. Big ass hills, like running up the length of Main Street in Burlington.  On the second climb, Kasie and I shouldered up together behind Pilla the Goat. Since Kasie was on my shoulder and not with Jack, I was sure she was casting a pity line to drag me up. This really helped, I was feeling the team and after the 3rd hill, she was still there. But when I began to whine against Jack his hill-hell tour, her pity turned off. She started to describe racing up Mt. Washington and began swapping details with Pilla. I folded into a shuffling whimper and she scooted ahead. Alone, things got tougher still. I even tried to regurgitate the Snickers bar I had eaten an hour ago, hoping to recycle some sugar. Looked out for bus stops and started to finger the coins in my pocket. When I began to badger Jack with the question: 'Where the hell is the hotel?”, those two seemed to get a second wind and surged.

Kasie running in the Women's Open

Anyhow, the brutal straight line delivered us exactly into the lobby, setting for me a single day record of running a total of 20 miles, 6 of it at race pace. I turned to hug and high-five my mates, but they were heading back out the door, Jack to shop for Tequila and Kasie to put in more miles. So much for my new spot on the mountain running team.


Dakin Farm goodies and more for post race
After a little post race celebrating we headed over to the official award ceremony.  The post race awards featured our very own Norm Larson receiving the gold for the 55-59 age group.  Way to go Norm!  And in the end our team ended up 9th out of 17 teams from across the nation.  

National Champ Norm!!

At the post race party I had a great chat with Max King, the World Mountain Running Champion this year.  
Max and Jack

Afterwards, the team went for a late night hot tub and swim.  Our big kid, Kevin, was having a little too much fun showing off his breast stroke and scared off some other younger kids.

Kevin having fun in the pool.

Special thanks again to Dakin Farm for sponsoring us with fabulous snacks that got us through the entire weekend.  Also thanks to Headsweats for supplying us with the bright red midcap which was perfect for the cool Seattle weather.  It was very easy to spot us running on course chasing Norm.  And thanks to GMAA for helping us out as well.

If you want to see the video of the master's race, click here.

And to the USATFNE Board of Directors,

On behalf of the entire Green Mountain Athletic Association, let us express our sincere appreciation for the USATFNE grant that enabled us to compete in the 2011 USATF National Club Cross Country Championships last weekend in Seattle.

As you know, most running clubs in New England are small, with limited funds to send their athletes to Championship events.  The GMAA is one of those clubs.  Your grant enabled our 50-59 team, (the 2009 National Champions) to represent New England on a national stage.

With each individual member responsible for his own flight, room, meals, entry fee, and ground transportation, your $1,000.00 grant eased the burden on working/training men with families and allowed us to take the trip.

Thank you once again.


Norm. Larson
Tony Bates
Kevin McMahon
Jack Pilla
Keith Woodward
Lyman Clark

Next up for me, who knows?  Will it be the 2nd Annual 24 Hours of Christmas or some other Adventure?  Time will tell.

Happy Holidays and stay tuned.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Santa Claus 5K Run and final training race for Seattle

Burlington, VT Dec. 4, 2011

Who would have thought over 1200 runners would have signed up for this first ever festive race on the first weekend in December!!

Well, it turned out to be an awesome day to start.  The sun was out, the temps in the high 30's and warming, a bit windy, but what the heck.  It wasn't raining!  The race started at 9:30 AM but by 8:30 AM there were mobs of Santa's cruising around Church St. in Burlington.

Church St. in Burlington, VT

I arrived shortly after 8:00 AM, got my race number and went out to preview the course, without the Santa outfit.  About halfway through Santa Bob drove by who then tried to catch up but we must have crossed paths and didn't find each other til the start.  I finished the loop and then suited up in full Santa attire to get ready for the run.  Once I had the suit on I noticed it was rather long and baggie.  I headed over to the host site, Ri Ra's and found some pins to customize the suit.  I folded up the pant legs, as every pair of pants that I own were too long to begin with, so this was no different.  And then attached a safety pin to keep them together.  I cinched up the waist with the attached string but made sure I hit the bathroom before and good thing as it took a good 5 minutes to untie myself after the race.  And the jacket, I attached numerous pins across the chest to keep it from flopping open.  The belt set up was marginal but held on with a simple tied bow.  Good to go.  Back out on Church St. the Santa's were everywhere and singing Christmas Carols.  The Holiday spirit was definitely alive.  It was hard to recognize anyone you knew as obviously, we all were wearing the same outfit.  Finally it was time to get to the start line.  I did see some folks I knew and hooked back up with Santa Bob.   Bob and I do a lot of
Santa Bob Ayers
running together.  And then we were off and running.  A quick run along lower Church St and then down on Main St. towards the lake.  And yes, the winds were blowing pretty good but no worries.  The front pack of Santa's took off rather quickly.  I wasn't too far behind and noticed I was having trouble breathing.  The beard and mustache was getting sucked up my nose and into my mouth.  Finally for survival I had to pull it down just enough to get some oxygen in.  And this was no flat and easy 5K run, once you got down to Battery St. it was a good up hill for the next mile and a half and into the strong headwinds on South Willard.  But after that, it finished up with the wind at your back on a downhill which was great.  In the end I believe it was Ray Webster and Jason Baer tying for the win.  Full results are here:

Afterwards we were all treated to an awesome breakfast hosted by Ri Ra's with plenty of food to go around.  Then with belly's full, Santa Bob and I went out to run the course again, in our Santa attire of course.  It was fun and relaxing.  We had numerous folks honking the horn at us and waving.  In all, a great day and an event that should grow over the years.  An event you won't want to miss!

Here's a story from the Burlington Free Press with video: .

Next up, the USATF National Club XC 10K Championships in Seattle, Washington.