Although I had been a "runner" for about eight years, I took it to a whole new level on December 9, 2007 when I ran in Dallas' White Rock Marathon. It all started about 4 months before when our friends, Jason and Lori, were over for dinner. He had ran a marathon before and suggested I should run one. We decided that night to go ahead and train for The Rock together. Even though it wasn't what I expected, I got the bug and I decided to make it a goal to run at least one marathon in all 50 states.
1) 12/9/07 White Rock Marathon, Dallas, TX, 3:53:54 (Training Goal 3:40:00), State #1
2) 4/27/08 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, Oklahoma City, OK, 4:06:51 (Training Goal 3:30:00), State #2
3) 10/19/08 Heart of Wichita Marathon, Wichita, KS, 3:44:26, (Training Goal 3:40:00), State #3
4) 12/14/08 White Rock Marathon, Dallas, TX, 4:15:11, (Training Goal 3:30:00)
5) 3/15/09 Little Rock Marathon, Little Rock, AR, 3:54:29, State #4
6) 10/17/09 Waddell and Reed Marathon, KC, MO 3:38:52, State #5
7) 1/9/10 Mississippi Blues Marathon, Jackson, MS 3:34:33, State #6
8) 3/20/10 Grasslands Trail Marathon, Decatur, TX 6:27:42
9) 4/25/10 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, OKC, OK 3:47:38
10) 10/10/10 Inaugural Prairie Fire Marathon, Wichita, KS 3:55:45
11) 12/5/2010 Dallas White Rock Marathon, Dallas, TX 3:35:13
12) 2/13/2011 Rock n Roll New Orleans Mardi Gras Marathon, 3:39:17, State #7
13) 12/4/2011 Dallas White Rock Marathon, Dallas, TX 3:58:45
14) 12/9/2012 Dallas Marathon (FKA White Rock) 3:57:36
15) 12/8/2013 BCS Marathon, Bryan/College Station, TX, 3:33:02 (Training Goal, 3:25)
16) 2/23/2014 Cowtown Marathon, Fort Worth, TX 4:24:16
17) 12/14/2014 Dallas Marathon, 4:22:35
18) 12/13/2015 Dallas Marathon, 4:15:10
12/13/2015 Dallas Marathon, 4:15:10
I had not ran more than 16 miles all year, and I only did that once about 6 weeks before the race. I had not signed up for Dallas, but the Monday before I got nostalgic and since I had not missed one since I started running marathons 8 years ago, I decided to go ahead and run. I set out with a goal of running 4:15, and as it turns out, this was one of my best managed races. I'm glad I did it.
12/14/2014 Dallas Marathon, 4:22:35
Had signed up several months before then never got into a strict training regimen. So, I showed up on race day and struggled, shuffled and stumbled through it.
12/8/2013 BCS Marathon, Bryan/College Station, TX 3:33:02, (Training Goal 3:25)
I had signed up for Dallas but there was an ice storm and Dallas was cancelled on Friday. So, I immediately contacted the people at BCS and they opened up registration for what turned out to be a couple hundred extra runners. The weather was perfect and I was in great shape, but the drive down to BCS, crappy food the night before, bad hotel room, all messed up my mojo and broke about mile 23. Up to that point, I was running close to a 3:25 pace.
12/9/2012 Dallas Marathon (FKA White Rock) 3:57:36
Terrible conditions for a race... 65 degrees and 95% humidity. I slipped and fell at a water stop around mile 6, bent my right knee up underneath me resulting in a very sore and bloody knee and a bloody ankle. Couple that with the heat and it all made for a very slow race. Kind of mad about the weather because I was trained and ready to run my fastest race ever. That said, I still was able to pass 134 runners and only be passed by 25 over the last 6.2 miles which means I managed my race well.
12/4/2011 Dallas White Rock Marathon, Dallas, TX 3:58:45
I hadn't ran a marathon since New Orleans for multiple reasons. It was a very hot summer (70+ days in a row over 100), I was in a state of depression about my friend Ken's death, www.thepedalingpastor.com, I didn't feel fast, etc. But since I had already signed up, I sucked it up and ran the marathon in less than 4 hours with only having had three long runs incorporated into my training. (I say that not to brag, but to establish the foundation for understanding what was really wrong with me.) The weather that day was not that great, about 35 and exceptionally rainy. I was completely soaked by the first mile so I shed my outer garment and ran the race in shorts and a t-shirt.
Now, a word about the training. I had some really bad stomach cramps/back spasms in August. I had been fighting stomach aches all fall and I just kept chalking it up to stress, not training enough, depression, whatever. Then a few days after Christmas (after the marathon, obviously) I woke up very dizzy and I was seeing evidence of an upper GI bleed (google it if you want to know more.) So we went to the ER. After seeing my pulse rise from 78 to 107 upon standing up (base is normally about 48), they pulled some blood and ran some tests. My hemoglobin was around 10 and it should be around 15. I was very anemic and I was obviously losing blood somewhere. The hemoglobin dropped to 8.7 and I had a single transfusion. An endoscopy and a colonoscopy came up negative. The doctor put me on an industrial strength acid inhibitor and the evidence of bleeding ceased and my levels stabilized. I also had to swallow a camera, and the results of that showed evidence of an ulcer in my small intestine.
So, without knowing if there were any other ulcers that the camera missed, here's what likely happened. I had an ulcer caused by NSAIDs (ibuprofen) and it was slowly bleeding throughout the fall. I ignored the symptoms. Then, with the over-indulgence that comes with the holidays (at least for me) I further exacerbated the problem and increased the bleed to a level that could not go unnoticed.
To summarize, I spent NYE 2011 in the ER. On 1/1/12, I had an endoscopy and a blood transfusion. On 1/2/12, I had a colonoscopy. I left the hospital with a hemoglobin level of about 9.2, and instructions to take iron, vitamin C and Protonix. I was told I could still run, but not to expect to be able to run very fast. On January 9th, I ran 2 miles. First mile was at 9:45, next half was at an 8:30 pace, final half was a 9:45 pace. HR was up around 90% of max. As a reference, my HR generally wouldn't hit 90% of max until the 3rd mile of a 5k at a 6:45 pace. I wonder when my next marathon will be and how fast I'll be able to run. I have certainly dug myself quite a hole!
2/13/2011 Rock n Roll New Orleans Mardi Gras Marathon, 3:39:17, State #7
What a treat is was to run through a city like New Orleans. It is an amazing experience to be able to put one foot in front of the other for 3 or 4 hours, not having to worry about traffic or water, just being able run along and enjoy the people and their city. This wasn't my fastest race yet like I had wanted it to be, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself nonetheless.
The course was flat, total elevation change of 25' for the entire six miles, meaning all of the uphills added together equaled only 25' total. I had hoped that the flat course would mean a PR for me. I ran well enough, but I just petered out the last few miles. The flat course offered no chance to change my stride and between the expo and sightseeing, Kristi and I had walked about 10 miles the day before, neither of which helped my performance. Kristi was able to get another PR at 2:34:20!
12/5/2010 Dallas White Rock Marathon, Dallas, TX 3:35:13
I don't get it. I hadn't run more than 14 miles at one time since the Prairie Fire. I had not trained hard and even had only run that 14 mile distance twice. I had run a 10 mile race at a 7:30 pace and a 5k at a 6:46 pace, but nothing else to speak of.
The day of The Rock was chilly at about 35 degrees, not too windy, either. It was perfect weather. I went out around 8:00-8:10 per mile, Gu-ed regularly, took plenty of fluids and stayed strong. After the big hills around 21 and 22, I still felt ok so I sped it up a little with my last three miles being 8:01, 8:00 and 7:51. According to the stat-tracker, I passed about 120 people and was passed by 6 in the last 1/4 of the race. I have never finished as strong as I did in this race.
Kristi had been ill the week before, but she ran really well and had a good time, only missing a PR by a minute or two.
I was helped by the cool weather. I had switched to a more minimalist shoe which caused me to shorten my stride, which in turn allowed me to run as fast if not a little faster but still avoid significant fatigue. I had minimized my Gu and fluid intake on my training runs which may have allowed me to extract more benefits on race day (maybe?). Maybe my legs were completely fresh. I don't know what it could have been, but I had trained very little yet still ran a strong race that was only 40 seconds slower than my PR.
10/10/10 Inaugural Prairie Fire Marathon, Wichita, KS 3:55:45
This was the first year for this marathon, although it actually replaced the Heart of Wichita Marathon that I ran 2 years ago. They have a new course and moved it up a week. It was flat and probably fast. I say "probably" because I was not fully trained due to the heat of the summer. The heat impacted my ability to get out and run more than a couple of long endurance runs. Additionally, I didn't do near the amount of training at tempo pace that I needed. So it was hard for me.
But, it was a marathon and I finished healthy. Also, it was my 10th marathon... and it was on 10/10/10. (Didn't realize that until way later!)
Oh, and Paul ran. (See previous Wichita race.)
4/25/10 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, OKC, OK 3:47:38
Ouch. I hurt myself this time. This is first time I've actually had something come up that threatened to force me to pull out of the race. I was going along fine at about an 8:00 minute per mile pace when my calf popped around mile 19. My calf has "popped" before, but only during training and I just stop running and walk home. When it popped in the race, I tried to keep running on it. Then I was forced to stop for about 30 seconds and stretch it some. I wasn't able to maintain any kind of a stride and for the last 6 miles and I slogged my way through at about 11 minutes per mile. I am very glad to have finished.
I can't say whether or not I would have been able to maintain the pace had I not had the injury, but it seems to me that I ran a pretty smart race up until that point. After that, I did the best I could to maintain and finish the race without doing any significant damage. But it's frustrating to have something other than fatigue or weather impact my performance. Oh well, there's always the next race!
3/20/10 Grasslands Trail Marathon, Decatur, TX 6:27:42
Regarding Texas weather, I frequently joke that if you don't like it, just wait five minutes. About 12 hours before the race, it was 65 degrees and very pleasant. But that evening a horrendous cold front blew through and when race time rolled around, it was about 35 degrees and got colder throughout the day. There had been a fair amount of rain overnight and it was still raining that morning. It didn't last too long though because it turned to freezing rain. But that wasn't too bad because it eventually turned to snow. The winds could have been worse, they were only about 30 mph.
This was a trail marathon, its name is "Grasslands" and it was held in the LBJ National Grasslands in North Texas. The route was a horse trail. But with the rain, sleet and snow combined with the churning of about 200 runner's feet, the trail was ankle deep mud about 70% of the time. This was amazing mud, I'd say the consistency was a combination of pudding and pizza dough. The density was roughly comparable to the core of a star and I'm guessing my shoes each had an additional pound of mud by the end of the race. I had to stop and dig the finer grained mud out as it had seeped in through the meshy part of the shoes above the toes and in doing so had severely shrunk the available space for my foot. Oh, and when the trail wasn't muddy, it was either under water or full of briars.
The plan on this race was to treat it like a training run for OKC coming up in about a month. Part of marathon training is the "long run" and I figured if I was going to run 26 miles while training anyway, I may as well get a medal for it. The medal is the smallest marathon medal I have ever received, but it was by far the hardest earned. It took me about six and half hours to slog through this thing. It was hard... very tough and I am glad to have finished it in one piece. I took some mud from my shoes and smeared it on my medal which is now hanging with the others. Every time I look at that medal, I'll remember the difficulty of the run, the relentless mud, the biting cold, the mental and physical exhaustion and the ethereal feeling of numbness I had when I finished. (That numbness eventually faded and although my body ached, my mind was exhilarated at having persevered.)
1/9/10 Mississippi Blues Marathon, Jackson, MS 3:34:33, State #6
When I think of Jackson, MS, I either think about the heart of Dixie or that duet by Johnny Cash and June Carter (although I'm not sure it was actually about the Mississippi Jackson.) Being in the heart of Dixie, one would tend to assume that the weather would be hot and humid in the summer but relatively pleasant in the winter. Baloney. It was 18 degrees when the race started and it got no warmer. With the water in the cups at the water stations being the consistency of slush, any spilled water on the street immediately becoming a sheet of ice and many people dressed in clothing that covered every bit of skin, this was quite an experience to say the least.
Jackson was hilly, and that was definitely evident the first 5 miles and the last 5 miles. Those last miles were rough, it was hillier than anything I have ran so far. It was hillier than Little Rock. Although the race was small, there was a decent amount of support and the race organizers did a great job. The governor of Mississippi and his wife were there to help start the race. The week prior, about 200 soldiers ran the "first wave" of the marathon in Iraq. There was a large video screen at the start where we could see about 100 soldiers videotaped in Iraq counting down for us "5...4...3...2...1...GO." That was cool.
Kristi ran the half, got another PR, and was waiting for me at the finish line shivering. We didn't hang out long, I cried for a few seconds and then we headed back to the warmth of the hotel.
I finished about 20 steps behind a guy with shaggy gray hair, a beard, cut-off shorts and shoes. That's all he wore. It was 18 degrees and that is all he wore. I'm guessing he was the kind of guy that ate worms in grade school and did things like jump off the roof of the gym just to prove that he wouldn't die. But, he still finished in front of me and this was my fastest race yet.
10/17/09 Waddell and Reed Marathon, KC, MO 3:38:52, State #5
Kansas City is known for its fountains, which explains the inordinate number of port-a-potties along the course. The course took us through some very beautiful areas and you can get a feel that KC must have been a happening place during the early part of the 20th century. They've done a nice job of revitalizing their downtown, keeping it clean and safe.
The course was a hilly one. But I stuck with the 3:40 pace group and got a PR by about 6 minutes. I was able to stay strong the whole race, which is the first time that has happened. The reasons I ran well are likely these, 1) the weather... it was 40 and very little wind, 2) proper hydration... took fluids at every opportunity, taking care to drink even when I didn't necessarily feel like it, 3) proper fueling... 1 Gu before the race and 6 during (did the math on carbs during training and realized that I was burning through them quickly), 4) pace group... the variable smart pace helped reduce some of the muscle fatigue and focusing on staying with the pacer helped eliminate the mental fatigue.
Kristi has been training for the White Rock half in December. She had planned on running the 5k in KC, but since her running group was going to have to do 12 that day, she just decided to go ahead and run the full 13.1 miles in the half marathon!!! Her first half marathon and I wasn't even there to see the end of it! Oh well, our plan has been for me to run the White Rock half with her so I am looking forward to that.
It's nice to have Kristi involved in my ridiculous hobby. We were able to get a weekend away and eat some really good food... lots of it!!
5/9/09 40 at 40 Personal Challenge, 41.73 miles, 8 hours
May 10, 2009 was my 40th birthday. Several months before I had decided to do something special on my 40th birthday and originally I had wanted to do a marathon. But there was only one marathon in the states, presumably because of Mother's Day, and although there were a few in Canada, I decided that it would be smarter to save money and just do something locally. About that time our church started a campaign called "Ministry Mile" which emphasized ministry outreach on a local scale. So, I set a goal of running for 8 hours with the hopes of hitting 40 miles and I sent out a video to my friends asking them to pledge a little money per mile that we would then donate to GRACE, an incredible local charity. Then, BOOM!!!!, it just took off. Many, many people got on board and we were able to raise over $7,000.
Covering this distance took me somewhere I had never been, both mentally and physically. It was awesome. The neat thing was that the run actually became irrelevant compared to the number of people that stepped up and offered their assistance to GRACE. That said, I am very, very happy I was able get more than 40 miles in the bag and I know I wouldn't have been able to do it without the help of my friends. That's not surprising, because that's why God gave us friends, isn't it? To help and be helped.
The prayer ("Dear God, thank you. Now please help me get back up.")
Glad to finally be sitting down (Again, "God, please help me get back up.")
My constant support crew
3/15/09 Little Rock Marathon, Little Rock, AR, 3:54:29, State #4
This was an enjoyable race. Little Rock is a very pretty area. The run started us in downtown, gave us views of the Presidential library, ran us past the Governor's Mansion and the Capital Building and through many neat, old neighborhoods. This was the hilliest race I have ever run and therefore the most difficult course I have ever run. Miles 15-17 were a continuous uphill and there were two pretty decent hills within the last two miles. The common response when asking if the course is hilly is "Hills? What hills?" Now I know why, Arkansas is full of wisenheimers.
I didn't really have a time goal. I had been doing a different training method that involved a run .95 miles / walk .05 miles for my long runs. It helped to build endurance because I was able to take my long training runs from a max of 20 to 29 miles with an additional 26 thrown in as well. My goal was to finish the race, not be too tired and enjoy spring break with the kids since we were going camping for a week immediately following the race. I accomplished my goal.
Little Rock is known for having the largest finisher's medal in the world. I'm proud of my medal, but I have to say that it is surprisingly ugly. I have taken to calling it the "hardware that's too hard to wear."
12/14/08 White Rock Marathon, Dallas, TX, 4:15:11, (Training Goal 3:30:00)
Isn't it ironic??? It was hot, temperatures approaching 80 degrees by the end of the race. And it was windy, 25-30 mph winds out of the south, which was more or less the last half of the race. It's funny that I was so cold last year and then I get my tail kicked by the heat this year!
In training for Wichita I had to start in August in order to be ready for the race in October. The first few runs I had were just awful. I couldn't figure out where all of my strength and endurance had gone. But in researching the physiology of running in the heat, I learned that my skin was competing with my legs for the limited amount of blood that was being pumped, and my skin was winning. I guess I don't cool very efficiently, even though I sweat profusely while running in the heat. In fact, one of my long runs in September resulted in a gross weight loss of about 12 pounds, or 6 pounds net when taking into account the fluids I consumed.
So, during the first few miles of White Rock I couldn't figure out why my heart rate was so high but I was running so slow. I didn't run smart and I just kept up the pace. I plowed through miles 13-18 running dead into the gusting wind. (I can still see the white caps on the lake and the birds battling against the wind but still flying backwards.)
I was done with the race by mile 19 again, and from that point forward the goal was to finish. I did finish, albeit more slowly than I ever have before.
10/19/08 Heart of Wichita Marathon, Wichita, KS, 3:44:26, (Training Goal 3:40:00), State #3
On this day, Wichita, KS was a great place to run a marathon for many reasons. The weather was sunny but not too warm. We had a tailwind most of the way except for a horrendous half mile stretch somewhere around mile 19 that was dead into the 25 mph wind and slightly uphill. The terrain was relatively flat, but I have to say that it wasn't as flat as I had imagined (hoped) Kansas would be. The point to point course took us through McConnell AFB and several nice neighborhoods before ending in a neat district called "Old Town."
It was a small race, only about 400 runners and relayers. For the first half of the race, Jason and I paced ourselves about 20 yards behind "Paul." Paul got a ton of things shouted at him like "Hey Paul," "Good to see you, Paul," "Good job, Paul." We couldn't figure out what the deal was, but it seemed like everyone knew Paul. As it turns out, Paul had run in every Heart of Wichita Marathon, all 29 of them! "Good Job, Paul."
On the out and back portion of the course where the runners that were ahead of us on the course were running parallel to us but in the opposite direction, I saw a gentleman and his daughter who had started an hour early. He was shuffling along at a respectable pace and she looked to be about 35 or so. A few miles later we caught them. As we approached them from behind at about mile 17 I began to cry. I noticed that the backs of their shirts said "Dad" and "Daughter" respectively along with a Bible verse, Isaiah, 40:31, "but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Jason and I slowed down beside them, I showed them my hand and told them that I was praying for them. Some time after I had finished, I glanced over at the finish line and I saw them coming. I hobbled over to the gate and hugged the daughter and shook the man's hand. A short while after that, the man sought me out and walking over with his hand out he says "You really helped us out there, thanks." I got a picture with him, it's below between the two of me and my two oldest kids, Grant and Reagan finishing their first 5k. On October 19, 2008 at about mile 17 of the marathon, I not only prayed for Mr. Orndorff and his daughter, but also that I would be so lucky to be shuffling through a marathon some 30 years later with one, if not all, of my kids. God is amazing.
A few things I learned in this marathon: 1) smiling makes the pain more bearable, 2) when someone at mile 25 yells "You're almost there!," don't believe them, and 3) M&M's do not provide the same benefit every race.
4/27/08 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, Oklahoma City, OK, 4:06:51 (Training Goal 3:30:00), State #2
The weather was much better than it was for The Rock. I don't know if I mentioned it, but The Rock was really cold. OKC started out a little rainy, maybe upper 40's and by the time the race was done it was sunny and in the upper 50's. I consider myself fortunate to have finished this race intact and under my own power. I had strained my hamstring about three weeks before and I was very worried that it wouldn't heal enough for me to be able to run. Consequently, I only logged about 12 miles the final three weeks of my training. I had been training pretty hard with a goal of 3:30:00. I hadn't had any more eye issues like before (I now know that it was an ophthalmic migraine and is rather common) and I wanted to run a fast race. Well that all went out the window with the hamstring.
We got stuck in traffic the morning of the race and had to run about a half mile to the start line. We got in with the 5k walkers and got bogged way down, starting about six minutes after the gun time. I had no time to stretch so I just started running. Well not really running, I was jogging. Within the first mile I knew that my goal needed to be to finish without reinjuring the leg. I ran slow, my fastest mile was around 8:30 or so about half way through the race (first five averaged about 9:30). I started carrying a piano around mile 22 and with the knowledge that I was on track for 4 plus hours, I lost any drive or competitive spirit that I might have had.
This time I learned the benefit of those orange slices and a bag of M&M's. Also, at about mile 14 I passed a guy who was walking and pulling a sulky with his oxygen tanks. He was an older gentleman and had apparently started two hours prior with the marathon walkers. I don't know what disease he had, but he had an oxygen tube taped under his nose. I ran past him and about 20 yards later I stopped and jogged back to shake his hand. (Darn near pulled my groin muscle with the abrupt stop and turn, though.) It amazes me what people can do.
It was a great experience. OKC is a beautiful place, at least where the course took us.
12/9/07 White Rock Marathon, Dallas, TX, 3:53:54 (Training Goal 3:40:00), State #1
It was cold, very cold. It started in the low 40's and got colder as the day went on. I learned a lot about my body. Have I said it was cold? Everything was going fine through about mile 16 when I started seeing flashes in my peripheral vision. I didn't know if I was having a heart attack or a stroke or if I was just having some sinus issues related to the cold. It was cold, by the way. I stopped running and started walking. (Which, incidentally, is perfectly acceptable behavior for an amateur marathoner, thank goodness!) It never went away, I'd run some, walk some, etc. Through 16 I was at 8:09 per mile. At mile 19, right before the aptly named "Dolly Parton" hills, I wanted to quit. If I would have seen Kristi, I think I would have quit. Luckily, she was already waiting at the finish line so I had no choice but to keep going. It was cold, though.
One of the funny things I learned is exactly what defines a hill. It's a dynamic definition that changes as the mileage increases. A 6% grade for 300 yards may not be a hill within the first few miles, but I can tell you that conquering a speed bump at mile 22 requires the help of three experienced sherpas.
I struggled in this race, but I finished. And that was my first real lesson about marathons... just because the planets don't line up and you don't run the best race you may be capable of on another day does not mean that you failed. For me, the success of a marathon lies in two things. First, getting to the starting line healthy. With all of the training that is required, this is no small feat for some middle-aged fool like yours truly. But once I've done that, the next goal is to get to the finish line. That's it. I've got a feeling some runs will be good and some will be not so good. But the only ones that are bad are the ones I don't finish. I hope to never have a bad run.
(Note: I need to mention that although he is pictured with me in the close-up below, that is NOT Jason crossing the finish line with me. He finished around 3:40.)