Race Report: Columbus ULTRA Marathon 50

Only 0.5 percent of Americans run a marathon in a year. Yesterday; I was ready to join that rank.

 IMG_2503My intention when I woke up race morning was to run 50 miles. This same weekend, I had planned to run the Fall 50 in Wisconsin, but we were unable to make the trip. Rather than lose four months of training, i decided to create my own 50-mile route, using the Columbus Marathon for the first 26.2 and running back to and around Hilliard for the last 23.8.

 

This year in Ohio we had no spring and now we have had no autumn. Two weeks ago, it was in the 90s, now I scrape ice off my car in the morning. Race morning was below freezing. I debated whether to wear shorts or compression running pants. I walked outside in shorts and felt fine, so went with that. That would turn out to be the biggest mistake of the day. In the cold, my leg muscles tightened up and never let go. I kept thinking that surely after 10 or 40 miles my legs would warm up, but they never did. All day long, I never felt like I found my natural stride. 

 

With these tight legs, I considered quitting at the marathon finish line. That would still be a solid accomplishment, nothing wrong with counting myself among the 0.5 percent. Or so my brain told me.

 

My friend Johnny Rutherford wasn’t buying it.

 

I knew Rutherford was tracking me and had planned on running with me at some point. I sent him a text saying I was planning on stopping at the finish line and got this reply:

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Unbeknownst to me, Rutherford had also setup a chat group. While I was whining about my tight legs, he was lining up people to run the final 24 miles with me back to Hilliard.

 

Even by this time, I ran with several amazing people. The Team Possum motto is that if you get IMG_2505to the end of the race and haven’t made a new friend, you are doing it wrong. About two miles in, I started talking with a woman running next to me. She was running her first half marathon on a dare. A few miles later I found out the dare came from my friend, Jonathan Flores, who she works with. There were 18,000 people on the course and the first person I talked to is a mutual friend.

 

About 14 miles in, after the half marathoners split off and left the course deserted, I ran with a woman named Marilyn who was having a hard time. I gave her the two Motrin I had with me and we promised to pray for each other.IMG_2507

 

Not long after, a church friend named Sean ran up behind me. He injured his hamstring at Burning River 100, recovered from that to assist his wife, Julie, with the Columbus half marathon, and now encouraged me for about 10 miles. I probably pushed him faster than he needed to go, but we both would finish.

 

I came across the finish line while loudly rapping the Public Enemy song, “I shall not be moved.” Darlene met me there with some Gatorade and a peanut butter sandwich. She later said she didn’t see me cross the finish, but she heard my distinctive scream of victory. This marked the third time Darlene met me. She brought me food and hydration on the desolate part of the course around mile 22 and cheered with David and Stephanie Connor in German Village.

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By the time I finished the marathon, I had given in to Rutherford’s persistent texting and was going to give the 50 a shot. I made my way out of the secure area, back to the Scioto Trail, and met Jennifer and our friends Jon and Lisa. Jon served as my crew chief for the day and helped me with gear change, nutrition, and hydration. Seasoned boiled potatoes, Nutella wraps, and Tailwind infused water had me ready to go. All day long, I managed my nutrition well. I began the race overhydrated (thanks to a large Tim Hortons coffee) and took three porta-potty breaks in the first 12 miles. However, throughout the race I ate before I was hungry, drank before I was thirsty, and walked before I was tired. The sweetness of tailwind got tiring, but overall I did well in nutrition and hydration management.

 

IMG_2521At my crew chief led stop, a fellow Possum known as Goat met me. Goat is a remarkable man who recently overcame a significant injury and successfully completed Hallucination 100. Goat ran with me for about the next 12 miles, keeping me laughing and entertaining me with his stories.

 

As Goat and I approached the Culvers in Hilliard we saw a gentleman with a Team Possum hat waiting for us. I first met Michael near mile 10 of the marathon. He asked if I was doing the full, I replied “that and some extra,” and in typical possum style, he gave up the next few hours of his day to help me run my final 13. A couple of miles later we stopped for another bathroom and nutrition break at Erin’s house. Wil made chorizo burritos (my favorite) and Gatorade waited on the table.

 

About 4 miles later we picked up a phenomenal runner and human being named Morgan. IMG_2517Morgan recently completed the Hennepin Hundred in just over 21 hours. She is amazing and in a class beyond me. Yet, she was so supportive and complimentary of me. She kept saying, “you don’t look like someone who has run over 40 miles”. High praise from a high-end athlete.

 

Michael and I dropped Morgan off with her husband at Heritage Park and headed toward downtown Hilliard for the last five miles to the finish. We made an ill-advised stop in the nicest public bathroom I have ever been in. The warmth of the bathroom contrasted the cold outside. In the short time I stood in the bathroom, my legs tightened up again and it took a mile to loosen back up.

 

Nevertheless, press on we did. While my legs were never right all day, I never once felt tired or winded. I had a positive spirit, energy, and experience all day. Although cold, it was a beautiful day that began with fireworks at the start line and ended with a beautiful sunset.

 

IMG_2519Michael and I ran the last two miles at a solid pace, finishing at the Beer Barrel. Jennifer, Erin, Wil, and Kye cheered. Cold beer and warm food waited for us. But I would have never savored this experience without the dozens of people who carried me on race day. The Possum community shined with its true colors, the church community rallied around me, and my friends and family fueled me with much more than potatoes and Tailwind.

 

Running may seem like the most individual of sports, but there was nothing individual about completing this 50-mile run. 2018 marks the 10th anniversary of when I started running and this was my 10th marathon or ultra. This one is the most special of all, not because of what I did, but because of what we did together.

 

I am blessed beyond measure.

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Run CBus 50K-ish Report

“How fast do you want to go?” I asked Johnny, Jake, and Morgan as we set out on the Run CBus 50K.

“Sub 12”, said Rutherford.

Perfect, i thought.

Then we ran the first mile in 10:51 and the second in 10:09, the third in 10:02. We didn’t run a single mile close to 12 minutes until mile 16, and that was as we navigated city traffic. I thought to myself, technically this is sub 12, but over a minute per mile faster than i would’ve done by myself.

This was my pinnacle training run for the Fall 50 in Door County, Wisconsin. I shared with the group my anxiety about having to make the 11 hour cutoff. I did 50 miles around the OSU oval last year, but went well over 11 hours. It scares me a little to wonder if i can make the cutoff, which is part of the reason i signed up for the race. As we ran the faster pace around Columbus, i thought that if i can maintain this, i can do the Fall 50.

The high temperature in Columbus on Friday was 86, on Saturday we ran in the mid 60s. The perfect weather was coupled with laughter and good conversation. Four people who come from different backgrounds and live different lives came together to not only run, but to enjoy each other’s company.

We stopped at three breweries along the way for dehydration, with special thanks to Sammie at Knotty Pine for opening up early for us (as we were ahead of schedule) and being gracious as we made a mess of the place.

But most importantly, thanks to Morgan, Jake, and Johnny who pulled my older body around Columbus. I expected we would finish at four, and we were done before 2:30. Our overall pace was 12:42, including stops. I need to average 13:08 for the Fall 50 and won’t be making beer stops, so that now seems more possible.

Running might be the most individual of sports, but once again the running community proved that we can achieve things together that we can never do alone.

Relive the run: https://www.relive.cc/view/1858972079

Running the Album: Bambara Shadow on Everything

On Sunday I saw my favorite punk band of the century in concert, IDLES. The show was remarkable with the band offering a playful spirit to their often-serious, justice-oriented messages. The crowd was as much a part of the show as the band, with a camaraderie of singing, stage diving, and moshing that felt like 1983. The latest IDLES album came out at the end of August, yet everyone at the concert seemed to know every word.

One of the great surprises of the concert was the opening band, Bambara. Opening bands usually have a thankless act of warming up a crowd that is paying little attention. However, Bambara caught our attention. In between acts, the crowd talked about how good Bambara was. One woman compared the lead singer to a punk Jim Morrison. I think Jim Morrison was punk rock and Bambara almost seems in on the comparison.

shadowBambara’s aptly titled 2018 album, “Shadow on Everything,” lays a foundation of depth from the opening song “Dark Circles”. Bambara’s music builds layers upon layers, complimented with a powerful beat. By the second song, “Doe-eyed girl” the album moves to full throttle, accelerating further on my favorite song “Monument” and continuing with “Wild Fires”. These songs would provide great adrenaline for a speed workout or the soundtrack for a 5K PR. As I listened to the album for the first time today, I was only trying to remain stretched out for a 50K on Saturday and had to practice unusual restraint.

Throughout the album, Bambara contrasts post-punk music with long, dark vocals. An album full of liminal space holds in tension  songs fast and slow, clear vocals and mumbled words, and male and female vocals that play off each other in “Backyard”. These combinations are enchanting as the album slowly discloses the underside of life in a small town. Join Bambara for a dark journey that will move your feet, mind, and soul.

Darby Creek Bison 10K Race Report

Three reasons I ran the Darby Creek Bison 10K trail race:

  • The Battelle Darby Creek Metropark is one of my favorite places to run.
  • The Ohio River Road Runners Club puts on great events.
  • Trail running is my favorite running.

I didn’t specifically train for this 10K, I haven’t done any speed work in weeks or longer. I didn’t want to derail my training for the Fall 50 and did a 22 mile run on Wednesday. I was up until midnight last night. My plan was to treat this as a training run, if i finished at an 11 minute mile pace i would be happy.

And then the race director said go.

I assumed my legs would be sore from having already run over 40 miles this week. I was surprised how easily my legs turned as the energy of 75 other runners pushed me forward. I looked down at my watch after the first mile and was at an 8:30 pace.

Time to change plans.

While the first stretch of the race was a paved trail that looped around the parking area, the rest was what great runs are made of: trails of dirt, hills, rocks, and roots.

I have run these trails many times. The trail paralleled Darby Creek and i recognized the climb we were making toward an open meadow. I was less than excited to know we’d be running a mile through prairie grass. A couple of weeks ago i bonked out after bushwhacking through some high grasses. Fortunately it was cut lower than I expected and we returned to the cover of trees without losing pace. My favorite part of the course featured some steep hills, before returning back to the creek.

Coming out of the woods, and to the finish, i was able to sprint hard. Unfortunately, this segment was very short and i could’ve gone longer and harder. As the timing chip was cut from my shoe, i was asked “how old are you?” I replied, 51. A pint beer glass was handed to me with the statement “congratulations, first place in age group.”

First place in age group? I was shocked.

In my 51 years, i have never gotten first place in anything athletic. Not in an individual or team sport. I was the last kid picked as teams divided in elementary school and our little league team went 0-16. I didn’t train or rest for this race. And yet, a run on a beautiful course with great people resulted in an unexpected affirmation.

Hilltop USA 5K Race Report

I rarely seek out 5Ks.

Over the years, I’ve grown to enjoy longer distance trail runs more than anything. I will run a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot, or participate in an event like the Hangry Race Series solely for the cause, but haven’t planned my race schedule around a 5K in several years.

However, it is good when opportunity pushes me to do something I normally wouldn’t.

At the invitation of the unofficial leader of the Possum Racing Team (Mark Carroll), about 10 Possums participated in the unofficial 5K club championship. As a group more oriented to community than competition, and distance to speed, none of us saw this as battle for the fastest time, but as an opportunity to get together, benefit local veterans, and support the Hilltop neighborhood.

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Some of the pre-race Possums

For me, the most enjoyable part of the morning was simply the opportunity to hang out with really cool people who share laughter and a running addiction. About half of us were either running home after the run or planning another run for later in the day. We are people with a running problem and it was this 5K that gave us the opportunity to come together.

The Hilltop USA 5K took place on the recently completed Camp Chase Trail. The segment we ran was flat and relatively unremarkable, compared to the wooded trails I’ve been racing in this year. However, the trail is part of the Ohio to Erie Trail that stretches from Cincinnati to Cleveland and US Bicycle Route 50 that goes from Indiana to Washington DC.

Over 250 people crowded on the narrow sidewalk and after counting down from five we were off.

My “A” goal was to break 24 minutes, my “B” goal was to set a personal record faster than the previous mark of 24:20, and my “C” goal was to take whatever the day would give me. I set these goals without specifically preparing for this event. I did not curtail my higher mileage training for the Fall 50 or pursuit of the Run the Year 2018 ambition. I did not do specific speed work or take any rest in preparation for the 5K. Instead, I truly decided to take what my body would give me. My plan was to run the first two miles around a 7:45 pace and then put the hammer down as much as I could for mile three and some change.

All went to plan for the first two miles, but when it came time to kick it up a notch for mile three, there was nothing extra there. Part of this came from drinking an iced mocha before the race. The milk and cream of the mocha were not making my stomach happy in the third mile. In fact, I coughed hard numerous times and started to worry that I was going to puke. I started to do math in my head, wondering if I could throw up and still make a PR. Fortunately, I did not have to test this theory.

By the end of the third mile, my stomach settled down. From a distance, I could see the IMG_1129finish line clock. As I got closer, the numbers clicked to 24 minutes. If I gave it all I had, I could set a personal record. I ran the last tenth of a mile as fast as I could and finished with a chip time of 24:09, breaking my best by 11 seconds and coming in 20th overall.

With no intentional preparation for this race, I finished ecstatic with the result and celebrated with a 10K run back home. In contrast to the race where I carefully monitored my speed, I ran home leisurely and simply enjoying the day.

Left to my own devices, I would have never signed up for a 5K in July. But thanks to the Possum community, I had a great time, got to see good friends, and help out veterans in one of the more disenfranchised neighborhoods of Columbus. People coming together is the best of America.

Top 10 Albums of the year (so far)

I normally wait until the end of the year to do this, but there has been so much good music this year and it is too hot to do yard work. So without any thought or analysis, here are my top 10 albums of the year (so far). Let me know what I’m missing.

  1. Remember Sports-Slow Buzz
  2. Ministry-Amerikant
  3. Kendrick Lamar-Black Panther
  4. Arndales-Shops
  5. Grouper-Grid of Points
  6. Jack White-Boarding House Reach
  7. Starcrawler-Starcralwer
  8. Sarah Mary Chadwick-Sugar still melts in the rain
  9. Florence + the Machine-High as Hope
  10. David Byrne-American Utopia

Running the album: Florence + the Machine, High as Hope

I was asked today if I ever get bored running. The simple answer is no. The more complicated answer comes in the fact that I am always training for something, which brings intention. Also, through running I discover something new every day and running gives me the opportunity to listen to great music.

One of my favorite things to do is to design a run to match the length of an album. I like to leave the house on the first note of a record and time the run so I am back at the door on the final beat.

Today, I woke up and remembered today was the release of the new Florence + the Machine album, High as Hope. I’ve been a big Florence fan for many years and have run to her previous albums countless times. Yet, I wondered if the new album could live up to the old favorites. Florence-2

I was not disappointed.

At a time where so much music seems polished, clean, and over-produced, Florence is honest, emotional, and raw. She lays open a broken heart, apologizes to her sister for ruining her birthday, and even cries out for a Big God, “big enough to fill you up”. She crashes to the ground in “Sky Full of Song” admitting, “I’ve been flying for too long I couldn’t hide from the thunder” while her solitary voice soars in “No Choir,” with honesty, “And it’s hard to write about being happy, ‘Cause the older I get I find that happiness is an extremely uneventful subject.”

Not every Florence song has the RPMs of a typical running anthem (although the Machine’s powerful, signature bass drum makes its appearances) but the emotional edges create a greater depth of motivation.

Florence embodies the angst of a teenager coupled with the hard-earned wisdom far beyond her years . Her beautiful voice and literal confessions combine for what might be the best Florence album yet.