Wednesday, September 26, 2007

RR: 2007 Disney Goofy Challenge

The Goofy's Race And A Half Challenge
1 Half Marathon - 1 Full Marathon - 2 Days - 4 Disney Theme Parks
Combined Mileage: 39.3 Miles
Combined Time: 5 Hours 59 Minutes
One Hell Of A Time! - One Long Report
Dedicated to Moe and Mr. Walt Disney 
In Honor of diabetics everywhere including Sarah Chretien 
And young Sophie Carloni (18 Months Old - Newly Type 1) as well as 
The undying spirit of Hans Bern Bauer (Run With Scissors!) 
Friday, January 5, 2007 

I worked half a day at the high school and then rushed to my future in-laws house for a ride to the airport. I flew Southwest out of Manchester, NH and found myself in Orlando, Fla by 5 PM. It was a hot muggy night in Orlando, weather that I personally love and running my best in, especially so with 90% humidity. We headed to Disney's Wide World of Sports where I needed to pick up my Goofy's Race and a Half bracelet. A small plastic wrist band that signified Disney owned me for the next 2 days as I ran through their properties. Annoying as the band was to have on all weekend, the thoguths of what was to come made it worth while. After dinner with my father and step mom, I spent a little time in the Vacation Village pool and hot tub relazing under the stars while watching the fire works fly from Kissimmee's "Old Town" area. The scent of a BBQ wafted through the air and I sipped on a lemonade. It's Januray and I miss summer. 

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Walt Disney World Half Marathon
The Magic Kingdom and Epcot
13.1 Miles - 2 Hours 6 Minutes
1,821st place out of 12,282 Finishers (top 14%)
1,199th out of 4,826 Men - 98th out of 395 men ages 25-29

The alarm went off at 3 AM. I woke up to grab a quick rinse, put on my gear (including a pair of Dirty Girl Gaitors, running with scissors, to honor my buddy Hans) and then eat a bagel before heading over to Epcot's parking area. This area was the staging area for the races start and finish. After parking in the mass sea of cars, my father, step mother Helen and I all made our way to the "holding tank." Runners were all about, stretching, filling water bottles, sharing war stories and fixing their numbers to their shirts or shorts. The porta-john lines were immensely long as they usually are before a race. On a stage near the back of the area was a band playing some great music of all genre's, followed by music videos of various "fun" artists like Weird Al and MC Hammer. 

Runners were then ushered through the back check tent and into a second holding area before they released you to walk the mile or more to the corals at the starting area. My father was in Coral B and Helen in C. I found myself in A-1. This shocked me because I never thought of myself as that kind of runner… to be placed up front in the starting group. As they made their way into the second area and towards the start, I waited for a new friend of mine. Jeff Genova is from Arkansas and is an Ultra-Marathon runner having completed various races including at least two runs of 100 miles that I know of. 

As he arrived with his brother Ken, and a few other friends of which included Glen. Glen is a proud marine veteran from New Mexico who has been travelling the world to run in marathons from Russia, to Poland to Sri Lanka, it's amazing hearing of the places he has been. Jeff, Glen and I made our way quickly through the 2nd staging area and jogged a bit to our starting coral of which seemed like 2 miles away. There we stood patiently preparing for a great time on a humid January morning. The temp was all ready at 81 degrees with 100% humidity. I was loving it while the moans and groans could be heard through the crowd. 

The pre-race ceremony sent chills up my spine. As the thousands of runners hurried into their starting areas, a wonderful rendition of our National Anthem was sung followed by Fire Works. We then counted down the start for the wheel chair division and then counted down to our start. 3,2,1 BOOM! Fireworks shot up from the starting line in a colorful display in the dark morning air. Enough glitz to make everyone smile with childish excitement. We were off! 

The race ran along the public access roads from outside Epcot Center, around the Disney Race Way and towards The Magic Kingdom. These road sections were a great time to yuck it up with various other runners who had made the trip to Disney. We all talked and laughed and shared stories of the lack of winter in places like Ontario and New England. We ran relaxed along the way, Glen sang old military songs "Woke up in the mornin' for a 2 mile run.." and told us more about the countries he's been to. At Mile 3 we ran past The Richard Petty Experience and Disney's race way then past the Wilderness lodge and the Contemporary Resort. Not long after, Cinerella's castle could be seen in the distance as well as space mountain (I knew there were mountains here somewhere). The best part was seeing the many who had come out to cheer us on, and all of the characters were giving high fives "HEY GOOFY!" What a great way to reconnect with childhood after many many years. 

As we rounded the corner under the monorail and through a tunnel, we ran back up to level ground and headed through the backstage area's of The Magic Kingdom. We then ran down Main Street USA, through Tomorrow Land, through the gates of Cinderella's Castle, down through Frontier land and Splash Mountain. Then back behind the scenes past where they store the parade floats and back out onto access roads. We had run a short mile through the kingdom and were now back on the access roads heading for Epcot. We ran the access roads past some golf courses and back to The Richard Petty Experience. It was here that I saw Helen trying her best and with a smile and a high five we continued on our way. Somewhere around here Jeff had stomach issues and needed to stop and walk while Glen and I carried on. 

We soon ran through the backstage area's of Epcot, right past the giant ball and past fols dressed in the various attires of the countries represented at Epcot. After running past the choir and through a shaded area, there was a huge crowd cheering us to the words (FINISH). I gave it my hardest effort at the end for a comfortable finishing time. I received my Donald Duck Medal and traded my orange goofy wristband for a blue one. Jeff treated Glen and I to 7 minutes of magical post race massage. We ate food and then sat in the parking lot traffic for an hour. We then went and played 9 holes of golf at an Orlando Area Golfcourse called Wedgewood. A truly "Magical" Saturday. To bed early I went as I had to do it all over again tomorrow. 


Sunday, January 7, 2007

Walt Disney World Marathon
The Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, MGM Studios and Epcot
26.2 Miles - 3 Hours 53 Minutes 28 Seconds
937th place out of 10,936 Finishers (top 8%)
742nd out of 5,780 Men - 81st out of 538 men ages 25-29

I woke up feeling great but knew it wouldn't last for long. Even though I had run the half marathon yesterday easy.. then played 9 holes of golf… there was still a great level of physical exertion put on my body given the elements. I still had a goal for this race and that goal was to run my personal best which currently sits at 3 Hours 40 Minutes at the 2006 Vermont City Marathon. Yesterday Jeff told me there was no way to PR at Disney given the crowds, nevermind having run a half marathon the day before. Either way, today I was going to run my best possible race and leave it al out there for those I am running in honor of. 

Sophie Carloni is an 18 month old girl who fell very hill recently. The daughter of a co-worker, they took her to the hospital to discover she has Type-1 diabetes. A terrible disease for someone at such a young age. I learned of the news on Thursday after her daddy was out of work all week. My heart and prayers are with them as I continue on my mission for Diabetes Research. 

The race started the same as the day before. I stood in the first coral talking to a few folks from New Hampshire. As the race started I ran off to the side of the road in the grass, giving my legs and feet a breaks from the horrible pavement and to stay out fo the crowd and motor along. We made a huge loop around the outside of Epcot and at one point saw Judy. We had been staying in Judy's time share in Kissimmee and she is also going to be the JP for Sarah and I's wedding in July. On the second rounding of this loop I made sure to say hello once again, she was so excited. 

The course then follows the same route at the half marathon except once you reach the Disney Race track for the 2nd time, you bear right instead and head for the animal kingdom. I had my GPS watch on and closely monitored my pace at 7.2 MPH. Around mile 5 I was feeling terrible. The foggy morning air was thick, humid and hot once again which I liked… but it was the rock stiff sore quads that was what took the biggest mental challenge to overcome along the way. For what it was worth, it was worth good tolerance training. 

The Animal Kingdom is a park I hope to return to. I ran past a White Rhino, Llama and Blue Parrot. I laughed as I ran into a town designed to look like Nepal where a man dressed as a sherpa dance outside his area. I stopped to give him a high five as I wore my "Team Sherpa" shirt. It was great to feel like I was running through a tropical rain forest while the fog finally began to lift. Soon the sun came out and started to bake the runners. I was glad to have finished more than half the race before this happened as my pace began to slow to 7.1 then 7 MPH. 

After the AK, I ran into an aid station handing out Banana's. I grabbed one and dropped it on accident. I picked it up and started to eat it at which point I chomped down hard on a large pebble. CRUNCH! OUCH! I'll never do that again! At this point in the race, many of the runners were feeling the heat as the sides of the course began to look like a war scene. Runners to the left and right were leaying on the ground, stretching, crying in pain and some receiving medical attention. I even saw one guy leaning on the safari's electric fence while stretching… I mean… THINK! 

Outside the AK we wound our way through the parking lot and headed back out on the access roads. My quads still tight I managed to maintain my 7 MPH pace. I ran past the gates to the Disney Property and to the turn around near Wide World of Sports. The sun was roasting us as I struggled up the many long, drawn out hills and overpasses. We then ran into MGM studios where we ran behind the scenes once more and then into the park. I saw Darth Vader and some storm troopers. We ran down through some movie set areas and then around Mikey's big magic hat. Out into the parking lot and towards the many resorts. The sun beating down on me and my quads getting tighter and tighter with each step, I knew I needed to finish the race soon. My PR pace was falling off as I had now dropped to 6.9 MPH. My goal was now to complete my secondary target of under 4 hours. 

I plodded along through the various resorts surrounding The Swan and Dolphin as well as the Boardwalk Inn. The water looked perfect as guests sun bathed on the beaches of white sand. Through the shopping areas and past many applauding by standers. I couldn't help but get choked up thinking of my childhood and coming to Disney (a total of 9 times). I never thought I would have run all this way through these parks, behind the scenes, high fiving characters and just being a kid. It was by far one of my favorite running experiences. 

Too bad I was getting a bit slower in my steps as I entered Epcot. I looked at my watch and I has passed by PR by a few minutes but knew I had my other goal in hand. As I ran by the choir, they swayed back and brothed clapping hands in unison. I pumped my fist in the air to thank them and they gave a huge applause and cheer. Around the final corner and there was the crowd. In excitement I screamed loudly and raised my arms in the air. I had done it again… 2 days and 40 miles. 4 Theme Parks. Re-connected with my childhood. Made some new and great friends and one heck of experience I would suggest anyone do. My step mom was so excited for me as was I. She took my picture and reached over the fence for a high five. My legs locked up and I could barely walk as my hamstringshad knotted up. What pain… I LOVE IT! I then received my Mikey Mouse Medal, was ushered into the Goofy tent and received my Goofy Challenge Medal. 

I had a blast during this entire weekend. Many thanks to Jeff and his brother for their friendship and extended hospitality. Many thanks to Judy for giving us a place to stay and dad and Helen for one kick butt weekend in Florida. Life is all about experiences like this and the ability to have fun and perform is a feeling like no other. Thanks Walt Disney, because of you, we'll forever be Children. 

Goofy's Race And A Half Challenge
39.3 Miles - Combined Time of 5 Hours 59 Minutes
I was 259 out of 2,480 Goofy Finishers (520 DNF)
194 out of 1,392 Men
11 out of 86 Men Ages 25-29

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

RR: Grand Tetons 100


Grand Teton 100 Mile
September 1-2, 2007
Alta, Wy

30 hours 44 Minutes
16th out of 31 Finishers
(39 Started)
3rd of 4 in my Division (Males 20-29)

Officially and forever the youngest Finisher of the 2007 Grand Teton 100

It’s dark and a touch cold this morning as I stand in the starting line cloud. I know a few names and had just met a few faces yesterday. It’s not what I’m used to. I have no crew, no pacer and though I know a few folks it’s not like the typical Ultra Party I’ve come to love out east. However as with any race, tie will change this I’m sure as each one of us tends to lean on one another for support on this Grande adventure we are about to share in such a small way.

I’m pretty warm, it’s warmer than I thought it would be and my arm warmers are enough to cover my fat-deprived body. I weighed in at 145 pounds yesterday, a number at which I was shocked. With my head light on and the fog from 39 exhales rising to the heavens above, we heard the command start and the game had begun.

Section A: Fred’s Mountain
5.6 Miles
1,840ft Elevation Gain and Loss

As we started up the access road I didn’t see very many lights in front of me. I looked back and saw too many behind me, I was going too fast but feeling good nonetheless. I hooked up with Clem Izurieta from Fort Collins, Co; we talked and talked as we made our way up the access road. The road traveled parallel to a gorgeous mountain with many unique geographical features created through thousands of years of erosion. We turned sharp left and made the final ascent to the top of Freds (elevation 9,840’).

At the top of Fred’s was an aid station and two EMT’s. Augie and Steve were awesome guys with TONS of energy. They almost made you WANT to go to Fred’s to start every loop. I appreciated their volunteerism and motivation throughout the race. I checked in and right out and made a quick side trip to the observation platform where I saw the glowing orange from the sun rising up from over the Grand Teton mountain range. Turning back around afforded a grand view of Idaho and its various ranges, The Big Hole Mountains and the Snake River Range.

As the access road snaked back around the top, I said hi to as many runners as I could even giving a “Good Morning” to a few as it was indeed an amazing morning. But as I continued on down the road, there it was… rising up before me in probably the most majestic display of godly works, was the Grand Teton’s. I was super excited and began to yell and hoot even pumping my fists in the air. It was the single most magnificent view I had ever seen in my life. I stopped so a fellow runner could take a few photos for me and as we did so, the sun continued to rise. A cloud shrouded the Grand Teton’s summit and as the sun rose and hit the underside of the grey matter, what appeared to be a golden rain was falling on the mountain range. For those who don’t associate themselves with a religion.. I feel for you because this place, this day and this scene was work only a god could create.

I carefully ran down the access road stopping to walk all of the steeper sections in order to save my quads from the pounding they would have otherwise received. With over 90 miles to go… I knew this journey would be tough and I had a long way to go. Just above the base area, the 50-Milers had started their race and they were no passing us. The sun, now raised enough to afford manageable daylight, I turned my lamp off and wished them all luck as they passed by. Including Bob Gentile, from Florida, who had bit off a monster piece by making this his first Ultra (or anything over a 10K in his life) distance race.

After checking back in at the Base Aid station, I ditched my headlamp and carried on with my arm warmers on. I was a complete mess in the station without my crew. Deep down I had planned to run this race as a fun adventure… a sub 28 time goal I knew was out of reach and over the top.. but sub 30 was do-able. I needed to be in and out of these stations but it just wasn’t happening. Typically my races are won there.. but this one I knew was going to have to be won with my legs and my mind.

Section B – Mill Creek (Aka. Hell On Earth)
14.4 Miles
1,270’+ of Elevation Loss
1,300’+ of Elevation Gain

I left the base area and began to walk quickly up the road which leads towards “Lightning Ridge” and places further down the mountain side. After much power walking up hill through a fabulous drainage area, we emerge near a ridge where the course dumps us off the service road and onto some single track. As we traverse the area we are afforded with great views into Idaho, seeing the valley far below. We could even see the patch of land marking the farm which was home of our “Rock Bottom” aid station.

Up and over the ridgeline, we were back on the service road and wound our way down into the Mill Creek Canyon. But before we really got into it again, there was a Water Only Aid station called Cat Ski Platform. I was now alone and the field had spread out quite a bit in just the short while we’ve been on the course. I step onto the platform and pour some water into my bottle. I looked down through the grate below my feet and noticed a creature. I froze in fright and prayed to not spook the bugger… because if I had spooked this monster Porcupine… my race was sure to have ended. I took a break from the running to watch him waddle out from underneath the platform and crawl up an evergreen. Such a cool experience.

I carried on down through the valley running into occasional runners and enjoying some conversation with them. Mostly I ran with Ernie Stolen from Ancourage, AK. He kind of reminded me of an old western prospector searching for gold. This guy could sure pound out some miles, moving a bit fast for me so I backed off a bit. We were too far away from each other to really talk as we wound through the glades of Aspen, but that was ok.. it was a gorgeous morning.

As we reached the bottom of the hill, we come out onto a gravel road. A quick look to the left and we saw one of the better views of the tetons that we had all weekend. The course turned right, running past some campsites before approaching the Ski Hill Road Aid Station. I was warm now and the day was getting hot. I reached into my drop bag which they had sitting out in the sun.. I wished another tarp or tent had been over these to keep things cool. Ever drank a warm boost or slurped down a lava hot gel pack? I did.. and it was early.

As I left the aid station we then began a 4 mile long uphill walk to the Cold Springs aid station which sat 725’ higher elevation. The terrain around us is all sage brush and open range. The sun beat down on us from above and the heat from the pavement beat us from below. It was HOT. My stomach started to do flips from the warm aid I gave myself… but I pushed on running some of the uphill for a time. I caught back up to Clem and we talked each other into Cold Springs.

After checking in and out of cold springs, we headed back into the woods where we went what seemed to be up and over 2 ridges before we met back up with the trail we had run down on earlier. From here we turned left and ran back up out of the canyon area and past the Cat ski platform, to the top of Lightning Ridge. This single climb out of the Mill Creek section was the toughest climb of the day both physically and mentally. It was the race maker for sure.

As I wound my way down towards the Base area, I mentioned to Mike Evans my stomachache. He offered some “TP” but I declined thinking I’d make it back to base. Thing was… I couldn’t. I bounded off into the woods to answer nature’s call and I used a leaf foreign to me for obvious reasons. As I got back on course and started to run, it started to BURN. I’m not sure what it was but it burned and burned bad. I checked into the Base Area station and then ran into the main lodge to wash. Thankfully this helped and I avoided another disaster. The way the day was going, I knew I needed to just take it easy and enjoy the ride.

Section C: Rick’s Basin
5 Miles – Rolling Terrain

Rick’s Basin was the one section of the course I really looked forward too each time around. A collection of service roads and single track the wound it’s way up and over various pointless ups and downs, yet gave runners a chance to stretch out and actually RUN. There was no walking down hill here, a few power hikes but nothing over exerting. I really enjoyed the basin and it helped me speed things up and maybe even make up a little time I had lost on the course at aid stations.

Before long I had finished all three sections of the course loop. All 25 Miles in 5 Hours and 46 Minutes. My target time for the loop was 7 hours at the most. I knew I needed to slow down. I took my arm warmers off and put them in my bag. I got what aid I needed and headed back up Freds… yes.. to do it all over again.

Remaining Highlights/lowlights:
Loop 2:
After descending from Fred’s I was welcomed into the base area aid station by Danielle. She is a good friend with my former personal trainer. It was nice to have a friendly face at the aid tent. I sat down to re-fuel myself as a young child started to chew on my camera. This was the child of Barb Lundquist, Olympic Gold Medalist who was also a pleasure to have met.

Had to rinse my hat off with the water from a nearby stream at the bottom of Mill Creek. It was insanely hot in the afternoon and very dry. Dust from the trail was in every place I could think of and getting uncomfortable. I felt like I was in a dust storm. But very cool none the less. Danielle met me at Ski Hill Rd as well and walked me into and out of the aid station. I appreciated her assistance since I had now been running alone.

At Cold Springs one of the aid volunteers asked me if I was “starting high school this week.” She obviously thought I was 16 and not 26!

Loop 3:
I made it to the top of Fred’s in time to watch the sun set out in the Idaho side of the scene. It was beautiful I got a little choked up. Now that the sun was down it got REAL tough out there. Over 55 miles into the race and I was all by myself. No crew, no pacer. As the night wore on I grew increasingly frustrated with those who did have a pacer as they seemed to just whiz by me on the trail and out of sight.

When I reached the bottom of Mill Creek I had finally caught up with the 2 sisters who were running together. The Pyle’s from Denver. They left Ski Hill Rd before me and it took me quite a while to catch them on the road. It was neat because even though we were mid-packers we were obviously racing. Just before cold springs I caught Holly who was starting to tail off from her sister and their pacer rather quickly. When Laura saw me behind her I noticed she kicked it up a bit and her sister fell even further back.

I reached Cold Springs at 2AM where I asked if I could take a nap. I lay down but it was too noisey. Becky Clements from Salt Lake was lying down and they got her up and pushed her out. I followed as quickly as I could. Holly Pyle tried to drop at the aid station and they encouraged her on. I caught up to them not far down the trail, Holly had her shoe and sock off as she examined a blister in the night. It was 2am… and I heard her pacer say, “If you continue to run on that you won’t be walking for a week.” This annoyed me because he just cost her the race. She dropped right there and ended it walking back to Cold Springs.

As I was coming OUT of Mill Creek and back onto Lightnin Ridge I ran into Al Kader who was pacing the ridgeline. He wanted nothing to do with heading back down in there and it was comical as we both tried to laugh at how much this section of the course sucked. But he carried on. I laid down and tried to sleep back at the base Station. I slumped down in a chair and Lisa the RD covered me up. I sat there for 13 Minutes before they got me up with some soup down my throat.

I headed out into Rick’s basin where I fell asleep while running. I crashed to the ground, got up, ran to base to finish loop 3 and laid back down on the ground. Lisa yelled at me to get up and follow Becky up Fred’s. I rushed and followed but Becky was a machine (with her pacer of course) while I trailed behind. On my way up the mountain, I remember looking up to see the moon illuminating the clouds. I remembered being a child again, staring up at the clouds trying to determine what they resembled and what I saw was the PERFECT cloud Giraffe and Hippo… obviously a hallucination but it sure was fun to see these puffy creatures floating across the night sky. On Fred’s I watched the sun-rise again before heading down the mountain.

Loop 4:
The sun was out again and I was trying my best to run in the morning heat. I caught up to a runner down at the bottom of mill creek who was suffering from an asthma attack. He asked that I not tell anyone so he wouldn’t get pulled. I knew better and I told the EMT’s at the next aid station. They gave him oxygen and he ended up pulling through good enough to finish the race.

After checking in at Base, I ran the final 5 Miles in 1 Hour 21 Minutes… which I thought was fantastic. I even passed a few folks running in the trail marathon. “Is this your first trail marathon buddy??” “Nope.. I’m actually 98 miles into my third 100.” And then to see them get frustrated and pick up the pace was fun. I finished in 30 Hours 44 Minutes… just over my time goal. I’ll take it.. only next time I won’t spend so much time in the aid stations telling jokes and trying to sleep. As I ran down the final hill to the finish line, I began to cry and sream. I raised my arms in the air, ran across and jumped into the air pumping my fist. I lept into the arms of Lisa Batchen and she cried with me. Such an amazing experience.

The course was marked to perfection. How anyone got lost is beyond me… I think a few of us could have run it with our eyes closed. Jay Batchen, Zach and Lisa Smith-Batchen are top-notch race directors. Everything was perfect. Fully stocked aid stations, mental support everything. If there was ever a 100 miler to run again and again, this is it.

I want to especially thank Lisa Smith-Batchen. Her guidance, enthusiasm and motivation throughout the race is what helped me make it through. Her publicist Colleen as well, who in a moment at night where I was home-sick, tired and on the verge of tears, lifted me up and gave me the strength to get back out there. Olga Varlamova from the Montrail Ultra-Running team was amazing support as well. She got every run in and out of the base area with what they needed.

My hats off to the other east coasters, Tony who ran his 1st 100 and Merigayle from Pennsylvania who was solid from start to finish. Al who didn’t finish in under 36 hours but still had the passion to finish none the less. And Ira, who went to bed after running a night loop with lanced feet, only to wake up and return to the course Sunday and finish the race himself. All of these folks put on magnificent performances as did my new friends Lee and George and the 2 Lori’s (Lauries?).

Race photos HERE
Area photos HERE