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April was a busy month, just the way I like it. My plan included 3 races, all with one purpose, training and building miles towards the 24-hour race I plan to do in May.
The first race was the Trail Breaker Half-marathon. Doesnt sound like it would be too helpful, but it was more than just the mileage I was looking at. The race was an attempt at breaking the Guinness World Record for most runners linked together. We tethered 103 runners, 68 women and 35 men and completed the task in 2 hours 58 minutes, including a short toilet break and broke the record.
The purpose for the group was to raise funds for Life Striders Therapeutic Riding Center and the hook was to get people to join the attempt at the GWR by asking them to commit to raising $250 each. We raised over $30,000.
Running a climbers rope through a climbers apparatus attached to our race belts, we strung out nearly 300 meters from start to finish. Along the route there was a road of pea gravel to which we diverted. In the distance I saw one portable toilet and thought, you have got to be kidding.
Once the final runner, Robin Gohsman, the organizer, cleared the running course, we made a gentle U-turn and then stopped. We were instructed to let out some slack in the rope, ladies step to the right, gents to the left, turn our backs to each other and take care of business. The road was then known to be one consisting of pee gravel. It was probably another GWR, but because it could not be documented, there would be no submission.
A week later, I participated in a few activities at the Boston Marathon Expo. I joined Wigwam and ShoeBuy.com at their booth to draw the winning ticket for a gift basket of socks, a gift certificate and other goodies.
Just prior to that, my wife and I had our photo taken with Dick and Rick Hoyt of Team Hoyt and I had Dick sign the book his son wrote, One Letter at a Time which chronicles his life as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. Told he would be a vegetable, by doctors at birth, his parents ignored their prediction and he went on to a life of accomplishments.
As I was leaving the Team Hoyt booth, I heard my name called and turned to see a familiar face, Brigette Sharp. We chatted and said I had to go to draw a ticket for the raffle. She said, draw my name and I told her I could not guarantee that. I then departed and worked my way over to the Wigwam booth.
While there, my host Dave Krueger, of Hopkinton, MA and my wife purchased several pair of socks. Dave also threw his ticket in the raffle box. Then the time came for the drawing. Two interns from Northeastern, helping at the booth, held the box of tickets. I jumbled the tickets and drew the name of Brigette Sharp, of Texas and Mary Gustafson, the Wigwam representative, announced the winner.
Brigette was injured and unable to run and would be cheering for her husband Jerry this year. Winning the prize took a bit of the sting away of not being able to participate. She thanked me and her smile beamed from ear to ear.
Monday morning, Patriots Day, I ran with a controlled pace. I decided to pick it up a little and run a bit faster over the final 10k. The Newton hills and Heartbreak behind, it felt good to run with the sun shining and a nice breeze on a warm day. Well, warmer than Wisconsin had been for training.
Finishing, I made my way to meet Dave and my wife Chris and Kathie and Bob Norman who both finished and had traveled with us. I saw Dave sitting outside soaking up the sun and waiting for me. He took me inside the atrium of the Westin Hotel and Chris had my warm-ups ready for me. I changed and was making up a drink of Life Shotz when there was an explosion.
I was on the second floor overlooking Copley Square and the Boston Marathon finish line medical tents, when the second one exploded. I looked out and saw people running from the finish line area. Because the hotel had shaken, we thought the explosions might have been in the building, and went outside.
It was there we learned more, from spectators that were fleeing the scene. A well-orchestrated team of first responders took action. We then were told to clear the streets and went back into the hotel where we met the Normans. Now, all reunited, we got the car from the parking garage and attempted to make it back to Hopkinton, where the race starts, to gather our luggage and head for the airport.
It took 2 hours to negotiate the blocked streets and the traffic congestion, as the police locked down the area. We had time to pack our things and leave for the flight that was scheduled to go off on time. Until we got home we had not seen anything of what happened on Boylston Street, near the finish line. We watched for an hour once we got home and were saddened by the useless loss of life and the injuries to innocent bystanders, those there to cheer for us.
The following Saturday, I was in Madison, WI, to participate in the Mad City 100k USATF National Championship and WI-USATF State Championship. I brought along an object I picked up at this venue on April 7, 2007, when it first hosted the championships.
In 2007, I was going after the 55-59 American age group record for my wife, who was dying of cancer and did not have long to live. I was doing what she wanted me to do. I felt uneasy out there, nervous too. I noticed a soccer ball floating along the shore of Lake Wingra, on my left. The ball was pushed by a wave and I saw the name Wilson on it and thought of the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks.
Each lap I was talking to Wilson and telling him I would be back to get him. I remembered Hanks character had lost him, not recalling it was a volleyball, at sea and I had found him and would not let him go. Following the race and breaking the record, I went back and got Wilson and he has been with me since.
Honoring my wifes memory, I have returned to the Boston Marathon each year. She passed away on April 19, 2007, two days after I returned from Boston and many times I spoke to Wilson to help clear my head. This year I wanted to honor the Boston Marathon victims and decided to bring Wilson back to Lake Wingra to help me.
Timo Yanacheck asked for 26.2 seconds of silence before we started. He gave me the honor of starting the race, among those assembled and ready to race, as I had been in Boston on that tragic day.
My wife, Chris, crewed for me at the finish post. On top of the post she propped Wilson. It was good seeing her there on each of the ten laps of the 10k course, but also knowing Wilson was there, as he was the day I broke the record for Gail, my wife of 39 years.
I had a steady run at the pace I hope to maintain at the 24-hour run in Steenbergen, NED, and won the national title for my age group and for open and masters in the state championship.
We all will experience tragedy in our lives, but dwelling on the negative will not do any of us any good. Dwell on the positive and create better memories.
If you would like to help the victims of the Boston Marathon explosions, go to
See you in a few miles.roy
When people read or hear the words March Madness they conjure up the NCAA basketball tournament, 64 teams getting whittled down to the Final Four and then the final game to determine the national championship team.
For me, March madness means the beginning rather than the end of the season. Grass can be seen after the white covering of winter, sunshine seems warmer and the air fresher.
Spring training also starts for professional baseball players. The layoff from their abundance of playing time throughout the year means shaking off the cobwebs and oiling up the baseball gloves in preparation for what is once again, ahead of them.
Running, although a year long sport, for those of us in the northern climes, March means a stepped up training schedule and racing on roads and trails void of the white powdery snow and ice-slipping training sessions.
After an early test run, doing the Cowtown Marathon in Ft. Worth, TX, I started my season off, as I have the past seven years, by running the Caumsett Park 50K, USATF National Championships in Lloyds Harbor, NY on Long Island, the first Sunday in March.
I have found, just like the baseball players in the Grapefruit League that those first events let me know where I am at in regards to my level of fitness and competitiveness. Repeating the 50K race for the eighth time, I was pleased with the results.
Two years ago, coming off of a poor year, with some struggles due to injuries, I ran a 5:16:18. Last year, with increased mileage I produced a 4:39:05. This year, because I ran a marathon the week before I finished the 50K in 4:44:26, in the ball park, so to speak, of what I did the previous year.
I was satisfied with the results. I placed 29th overall and won the national title for my age group, my nearly 20 minutes. It sure was nice to win my 72nd national title, but to me, more important to run to the level I believed I was capable with the training I had done to prepare.
Keeping with the theme of March Madness, I decided to sign up for 2 more races. The inaugural running of the Two Rivers (WI) 10-mile took place on St. Patricks Day. The course was relatively flat, with a downhill in the second mile that we returned on in the ninth mile.
I was having a good race, the roads were ice-free for the most part, but the temps were hovering in single digits. At about 9.5 miles I made a hard left turn and tweaked my right calf and slowed down as I made the finish line in 1:16:59.1. Good enough for 1st in 60-64. I immediately did a cool down and headed for the massage therapist on hand.
Being a smart runner is something I pride myself in, so I took the next two days off and swam laps. By Wednesday it felt better and I attempted to run, but several miles into it decided to turn around, massage it and use the hot tub after stretching. I repeated this the next day, but the third day, using the same course, I needed to walk back the last half-mile.
Frustrated, I took Saturday as a swim day, then totally off on Sunday. On Monday I ran 10-miles, very slowly, using trails. I noticed the miles to and from the trails, done on the road, was not as forgiving. I knew Id be in the pool again the next day.
I also went for, what I call a killer massage. I knew my masseuse would dig into my calf and it was going to hurt. And it did! Getting off the table though, and stepping on the floor, I noticed she had released the tightness and my calf felt much better. Hopefully wearing my Wigwam Compressor socks will help me get through the half-marathon ahead.
A few days before the massage, I offered a friend a saying I had heard when he spoke of how much pain his trainer put him through. It went like this, We endure the pain for the joy that comes with discovering ourselves.
I am sure as an athlete, you understand, just like the players participating in the NCAA finals, the baseball players in spring training and others, is that we must explore our limits and pain can be a limiting factor.
Enjoy your personal March Madness in order to be ready for what the months ahead have to offer you, because you took those steps in spring that put spring in your step and allowed you to discover yourself.
When I first started running races, back in 1981, I found that raising funds for different causes kept me on track to do the training and make a commitment. The reasons changed over the years, but the commitment did not.
Altruism in itself is a great goal, but sometimes it is difficult to keep asking others to support your causes. Going to the well too often sometimes is very difficult, even if we have good intentions to help others.
Most races that I undertake have meaning to them. Many are all about performance. Doing ones best every time is noteworthy, but after several great performances, the next undertakings will suffer and for that reason, not every race should truly be a race.
Using certain races as part of training for future races is one of the things that keeps me racing. Doing several marathon races prior to an ultra marathon event is very beneficial, if done with that intent in mind.
Racing should be fun too! Busting your butt at every race you do will not only wear you down physically, but mentally, as well. Keep in mind the only person you should ever attempt to outdo is yourself.
We all know how difficult it is to set a personal best or personal record (known as PB or PR) in anything we undertake. Setting reasonable goals to reach our ultimate goal is the perfect way to accomplish it.
Recently, I ran the Cowtown Marathon in Fort Worth, Texas as part of my training for an upcoming 50-kilometer race. I wanted to run a controlled pace on a rather hilly course. For the most part, I accomplished that. The weather for one trained in a northern climate was not beneficial in the performance, but I got out of it what I expectedand more.
I latched onto the pace group leader for 3 hours 40 minutes who the race provided. That would be the pace I felt I would be capable of holding at the 50K. I stayed with the group through the halfway point when the sun threw its rays at me and made me slump a bit.
Eventually, the 3:45 pace group thundered down on me. I hooked up with them, but could not hold on. When we reached the hills between 18 and 22 miles, I was pretty much spent. Overheated, my pace slowed even more. At that point I just tried to remain as steady as possible.
I finished in 3:52 and change based on chip timing. My watch said 3:53:24, but it took nearly 45 seconds to reach the start line with the 12,000 runners starting with me.
I look back at races to see what I can glean from them for future reference. One of the things I look at is how I was dressed for the race. I knew going in choosing what I was wearing would be a key to a successful run.
I put on Wigwam Compressor socks and over them a pair of Ironman Surge Pro socks. Two pair for one reason; performance under the conditions I was expecting. I knew the course was hilly, so wanted the support of Compressor. I also wanted a bit of extra warmth as it was near freezing at the start. Yet, it was expected to reach the mid 60s by the time I finished, so I wanted something breathable and fast drying.
On top, I wore Wigwams Windbreak Sleeve, and a tech shirt over a singlet. When the temps rose, I removed the tech shirt and tied it around my waist. I then rolled the sleeves down as the temperatures rose further. I managed to stay comfortable in the beginning and middle, but my body not being adapted to the warmer climate hindered my performance.
The next morning at breakfast in the hotel with my wife, we were browsing through the local paper, the Star-Telegram and I noticed the coverage of the Cowtwon Marathon. I scanned for the results and found, to my surprise, that I had taken 3re place in my age group.
No matter which race or how many races you do, always look for some meaning to them. You will be surprised how helpful each experience is on reaching or setting your next goal.
Have you made any New Years resolutions? Going into the final week of the month of January, are you still holding to it?
We all make resolutions to change things that we feel are not right in our lives. Some of them are very difficult to change.
Instead of the usual, lose weight, exercise more kind, I decided to lock into a goal I have set in the past and have not been able to accomplish. We all know that feeling!
This is the year I AM going to complete a book I started back in December of 2009. I had a good start to the book and then hooked up with an editor who told me to scrap it and start over. I got going on it again and then floundered. Finally, I lost interest.
I think that is the case with many of us, especially at the start of a new year. We feel things will be different if we start the year off on the right foot. But, keeping the feet going in the direction we intended is not always easy.
I, for one, am a person who does best with a set goal and a set schedule. Tell me something needs to be done by a certain date and I get it done. Now, leave the schedule up to me and things are not as easily accomplished.
Working with someone who has the same interest as you, can make a huge difference. Whether you are on the student end or the teacher/mentor end of the goal setting, you will find they both work well for both parties, as you both are accountable.
To me, that means as a mentor, I can help another realize his/her goal while using the interest I have in the person I am working with to my advantage as well.
I am currently training another individual to run an ultra marathon trail race in a few months. The weather is terrible, trails snow and ice covered, temperatures hovering near the single digit mark and wind chill factors dipping into the 25-30 degree below zero range.
Having another to train with means I will get out there and run with him, even on the days that are less than comfortable weather-wise.
I can use my knowledge and experience to teach the person to dress appropriately for frigid conditions, making it comfortable to be outdoors in those severe conditions.
Superior clothing allows us to exercise outdoors under frigid conditions. Without the proper foot wear, head wear and hand wear, along with wind suits, tights and high tech tops, those 20-mile runs would be impossible, at this time of year.
Sharing my love of the products Wigwam produces comes naturally. I shared how to place a pair of liner socks next to the skin, such as Wigwams Gobi or Dry Foot Liner socks made with polypropylene that keeps feet dry and comfortable, while shielding the foot against outside air, enabling body heat to be retained.
Next, I told him to put one of Wigwams great merino wool socks over it, to receive additional warmth and insulation. Using the Merino Airflow Pro, Merino Trailblaze Pro or the Merino Airlite Pro, I explained, would make his runs in the frigid temperatures much more comfortable, allowing him to run the miles required.
Having the tools to accomplish a goal is very important. Being accountable is also very important. Sharing the goal and working with someone who has the knowledge and ability to steer us in the right direction and keep us on track, possibly is the most important.
I can remember a young neighbor girl commenting to my wife about my successes at running. She said, He is always first!
Well, not by a long shot, am I always first. However, I always try to be competitive and give it my best. But there is no one alive that has probably always been firstespecially at something he or she is noted to be the best.
Yet, there are other firsts that should not be overlooked. In running circles we call them PRs or PBs; Personal Records or Personal Bests. Now there is a true definition of always being first. When I do better than I have ever done before, then it is truly a first, at least for me.
There are also the times I do something for the first time, like running a certain marathon that I have not done before.
Lately, I try to key on a few first time events or events that I have not done before. This year I participated in two events that were run for the first time this year, The Maritime Marathon in Manitowoc, WI and the No Frills Marathon in Minocqua, WI... I also ran in two others that have been going on for three decades, the Florence (Italy) Marathon and the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, AL.
Nowadays, new marathons seem to be popping up everywhere, but way more in Wisconsin than elsewhere. At one time I had on my to do list, Do every marathon in Wisconsin, but with a proliferation in recent years, I dont know if Ill ever get them done.
One thing I do know, when I do those new ones, or those I have not yet had the opportunity to complete, they will be firsts in my book.
Another thing on my to do list, is to run a marathon or ultra marathon in every state and DC. I am only a little over half way there. I hope they dont add more states!
Trouble with running a marathon with lots of amenities, such as great volunteers and fan support, as well as a great course, is that I tend to go back to those. I completed my 26th Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon and my 20th Paavo Nurmi Marathon in Hurley, WI this year and my tenth Boston Marathon.
With 125 marathons under my shoes, there are other firsts ahead, but that will mean passing some of my favorites up in order to do so. The 3 above will be repeated frequently though Im sure.
Over the past few years I have also been adding some foreign races to my resume. The first one I did was Athens, then I went back, which was another first, as it was the first time I repeated a foreign marathon. Reykjavik, Iceland and Rome followed.
Returning to Italy for our wedding ceremony at St. Peters Basilica, Vatican City coincided with the Florence Marathon, the weekend before saying our religious vows.
A week later we returned from out two-week Italian trip and the next day I headed for Rocket City with 2 InStep teammates, Kane Baker (running his 49th sub 4 marathon of the year, each in a different state) and Rick Stefanovic, whom I have known for a long time and have traveled with often.
When Kane asked me, I didnt hesitate to take the opportunity to run my first marathon in the state of Alabama, but also to notch my 125th career marathon. I guess every time we add another marathon to the list of finishes it also becomes a first, as well.
We should all realize that we will not always be first, but cherish the firsts we create, along with those rare first place finishes, either in age group or overall.
How about each time you put on a new pair of Wigwam Socks? Now there is a first you wont forget!
I grasped my chest with the sound of gunshots exploding and deafening me. I was not hit, just startled and automatically quickened my pace. Certainly this was not something youd expect during the 50th running of a 50-mile race.
One of the races I had on my wish to do list (not bucket list) was the JFK 50-mile in Boonsboro, MD.
Named after President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who commented that anyone who could complete 50-miles on foot, was physically fit. He actually got this idea from President Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy had actually challenged his military officers to cover 50-miles in under 20 hours, to prove to him that they were fit to command troops in combat, 50-years earlier.
After JFK made the comment, the race popped up in 1963 with many others, some on military bases. This one however, stood the test of time, as the others were short lived. It remains a model of consistency and excellence. (
The starting point of the John F. Kennedy Memorial 50-mile race, in the town of Boonsboro, MD, founded in 1792 by George and William Boone, cousins of frontiersman and legendary mountain man, Daniel Boone, has remained since the races inception. The town lies in Washington County, Maryland.
Having seen JFK during a campaign stop in my hometown of Sheboygan, WI, I was attracted to this race the moment I saw its name. But over time, it slipped down on my list. Then, as fate would have it, the race director, Mike Spinnler, also a previous champion and course record holder at JFK, served as my assistant team manager of the 24-hour national team at the world championships in 2010.
When Mike extended and invitation to me for 2011s race he told me it would be the 49th running. I thought about it and realized Id rather be a part of the 50th running and told him to save me a spot. The race fills to its capacity each year and the spots are limited.
On hand, for this special edition of the race, was a descendant of the Roosevelt family, to fire the pistol at the start line and a great nephew of JFK to hand out the awards at the post race ceremony. It really pleased me to be a part of this historic and significant event. It was more than just a race, to me.
The night before the race, I picked up my race packet and met some of the folks I have run with in the past. Tom Possert, whom I first met in 1989, at the US 100-mile road championship had returned to this race after an absence of 27 years. Tom placed third to my second place and masters title at the 100-mile national championship in 89 and we hung out and caught up.
Eric Clifton, another former champion and course record holder, made the trip from California to be a part of the 50th running, as did Ian Torrence a long time participant with 18 finishes, and Dink Taylor whom I met in 1988, while winning my first 24-hour national championship and masters title in Atlanta. It was meant to be a special edition and it turned out to also be a reunion.
One person on the start line was going for his 44th finish. One of the guys I passed on the C & O Towpath had a sign on his back that said, Going for # 25. As I passed him, I noticed his bloodied face and asked how he was doing. His response was, I fell a couple of times, but that wont stop me!
After the shots were fired, I realized, grabbing my heart and not feeling any blood or pain was a good thing. I looked in the direction of where the shots had been fired; there on the Potomac River was a small boat with three guys, holding shotguns and a number of ducks flying away from them. What a way to pick up the pace though!
Covering about 14 miles on the Appalachian Trail and a climb of over 1,000 feet of elevation in the first 5-miles certainly took its toll on many, including me. And then, of course, we had to come back down the mountain.
One of the things I was concerned about was the large and abundant spattering of rocks on the trail. I hopped from one to another, but would often slip as they were covered with wet leaves. It was ankle twisting, but fortunately not ankle turning.
Again, I put on my trusty Compressor socks to give me the support I needed on this hilly course and then again on the flatter section of crushed gravel and dirt covering 26.3 miles on the towpath. Over those, I put the Silver Wool Runner for its cushiony sole and foot hugging fit; two qualities that I found helpful on the variety of terrain the course threw at me.
Fifty years running, for any event or product, says a lot about excellence and consistency. Like the JFK 50-mile, Wigwam has stood the test of time with superior design and construction and will be running for another 50 years, or more and keeping people coming back!
Following a failed attempt to break 3:45:00 at a marathon in September, in an effort to gain an additional day to register for the Boston Marathon, it happened.
As we sometimes find, we can expect the unexpected. I got the 3:45 a few weeks later at Milwaukees Lakefront Marathon. I was hoping to get the 3:45, as I had been ready to run that time at the No Frills Marathon, but I messed up and did not wear my Wigwam Compressor socks and I paid the price with a 3:46:06, on the gradually up hill, crushed granite course.
What I was not expecting was a 3:35, which was my ultimate goal going into the No Frills race. Where did that come from?
Well, each one of the marathon races I did this year, starting with Boston in April, I lowered my previous races time. The first two were in hot weather, Boston a 3:56:47, and Cellcom Green Bay Marathon 3:56:18, in May.
I tried again at the inaugural Maritime Marathon, the following month, in Manitowoc, WI and brought my time down to 3:51:31, bettering the qualifying time of 3:55 required for those in my age group. Unexpectedly, I experienced hamstring cramps in the final mile and needed to stop and stretch them out.
In August, I ran my 20th Paavo Nurmi Marathon in Hurley, WI. The course is one of the toughest in Wisconsin and also its oldest. For me the hills were not any tougher than before, as I actually enjoy the variation of terrain. Using different muscles means less fatigue. There I pressed on and broke the 3:50 barrier with a finish time of 3:48:29.
All along I was thinking, I am in 3:30 shape, whats wrong with me? because the times I was trained for were not coming to me.
Then on Oct 7, 2012, I went through the half feeling good and on pace to run 3:30. Of course, I faded a bit and came in at 3:35:58.
One thing I had forgotten, was the standard I was chasing, now would be for the next age group because the window for qualifying for 2014 had opened. My age for the 2014 Boston Marathon will be 65 and that meant an additional 15 minutes or 4:10.
The pressure is now off for 14s registration as I have surpassed the 20 minute standard to be eligible to enter the day registration opens. A bonus is that the 3:35 can be applied to the 13 race and possibly move me up a corral and possibly the first wave.
Two weeks later I wasnt thinking about marathons any longer. I was at Gills Rock, the tip of the Door County peninsula that juts into the waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan.
The seventh running of The Fall 50, a 50-mile solo or relay race has seen substantial growth, the team relay filling to capacity in 2 weeks. The solo run grew from 80 runners to 171 in one year.
For me, I was doing it for the 4th time, but it was my 175th career ultra marathon run. A special number, by most peoples standards and something I never expected when I moved up from the marathon to ultra distance running in 1985.
Because the solo event had limited numbers, the age groups had been open, for those under 40 and masters for those over 40. This year super masters was added and this included those 50 and over.
In my first 3 races at The Fall 50, I had placed in the 40+ at age 58, 59 and 61 respectively. The inaugural run in 2006, I placed 2nd overall and first masters. In 2007, I was 3rd overall and top masters and in 2009, 4th overall and 2nd masters. This year I was not expecting to place in the masters or super masters.
From the start the 50+ competitors pulled away immediately. In the first 3 miles my shoe became untied, twice, even though double-knotted. The second time I triple-knotted it. After the first stop, I could no longer see the fifty-year-olds.
I plugged away, feeling good, not fast, but steady. I chose to wear the Compressor and because of the wet leaves and cooler temperatures, decided to put a pair of Silver Wool Runner socks over them.
My feet were dry, comfortable and blister free the entire 50-miles, run mostly on roads, but a few of the aid stations were located on wet grass and I also had to cover a few foot paths with crushed gravel.
Passing a few people in the last 10-miles perked me up and I picked up the pace thinking I might break 8 hours. I finished in 8:03:51, knowing there were at least two guys in the 50+ who finished ahead of me. We met a friend, who had won the race previously and after talking realized he had turned 50. Now I thought I was in 4th place, but he thought I may have finished 3rd as one of the 50 year-olds had dropped out.
We headed for the motel for a well-deserved shower and some warm, dry clothes. I knew Id be standing on wet ground, as the awards ceremony and the party to follow, were under the big top, several large tents side-by-side, so I put on a pair of Wigwam Rebel Fusion Crew socks.My wife, Chris, who had crewed for me, joined me for the ceremony and celebration. As we walked into the tent someone informed me I had taken 3rd. I received a large medallion with a ribbon, but more than that, I had the satisfaction of knowing I was the oldest person in the solo to receive an award.
Its nice when the unexpected is a good experience. It is even better when what we expect, such as a great pair of Wigwam Socks does not surprise us with something unexpected.
How often have you heard it? You cant do this or you cant do that? I recall the words, from a friend, a physical education teacher, when I said I was going to run a marathon as my very first race. He said, You cant Roy! He told me I must do a shorter race first. It is my nature to respond to someone telling me I cannot do something, by going out and proving him wrong.
Most people would not recognize the names Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton and Brookline if placed in that orderunless you were from Massachusetts or have run through those en route to a finish at the Boston Marathon.
For many marathon runners, or aspiring marathon runners, their goal is to qualify for the grand daddy of all marathons. To do that, it means running a Boston Qualifying time, or as most seasoned runners say, a BQ.
Each age category has a set goal time to reach in order to earn the right to enter the race. The standards have changed several times in the last few decades and it is getting tougher again, to qualify and also to gain entry.
With entry procedures being changed after the race filled to capacity a couple of years ago, the 59 seconds of grace allowed has been terminated. Now when they say 4:00 hours it means just that, not 4:00:59.
Those running 20 minutes faster than their BQ can enter on the day race registration opens. Those between 10 and 20 can enter during the next 2 days and those between their actual time and 10 minutes can enter on the 5th day.
When I ran Boston this year, it was a very hot day. They gave participants and extra hour to finish, asking them to be cautious and just run to finish and not for a goal time. I ran 3:56 and change, just over a minute slower than what I would need to qualify.
My next marathon, same conditions, the race was black flagged meaning the clock was turned off and no results would be posted. I was just past 21-miles when I got the news, so I jogged in and again finished in 3:56+.
Another marathon and finally I got a 3:51. I had qualified. However, I wanted to gain an earlier entry day, so I went after a faster time, hoping to break 3:45 at least. Another one and the time was lowered to 3:48. One more time I toed the line in hopes of a faster time.The marathon turned out to have considerably more up hill than I anticipated and I managed just over 3:46.
The following day I had trouble with my ankle. I thought the final 18.2 miles on an old railroad bed that had been converted to a crushed granite trail, would not bother my legs, so I opted for the Ironman Velocity Pro II. I should have worn my Compressor socks, as the constant use of the same muscles tightened by calf muscles and shortened my stride. My feet felt great, but my legs could have used more support.
The next day my ankle was telling me something. It said, dont run today! I listened to my body. Over the next few days it worsened. I could barely walk on Friday. Early Saturday morning I awoke and the pain was nearly unbearable. I touched the inside of my ankle and almost screamed.
Finally, I went back to sleep. Then, in the morning I stepped out of bed and expected more pain. To my amazement, I felt no pain and the ankle actually felt like nothing was wrong with it. I went to a 5K race I had signed up for a few weeks earlier, picked up my race number and elected not to pick up the timing chip.
I lined up at the very back, with the walkers, right next to a vet in a wheelchair. I told him I would walk alongside if he wanted, but he said Id only have to slow myself down. I went through the mile in just under 18 minutes, then cut it down to 15 for the second and 15 for the third mile and finished with a 49:29. More importantly, there was no pain and I had fun doing it.
Two weeks later I ran a half-marathon with a goal of finishing in 1:42 to 1:45, but surprised myself and finished in 1:39, placing first in my age group. This would be a test run for another marathon 2 weeks later.
The temperature at the start was 40 degrees. I wore my Compressors not only to help survive about 9 miles of cement roads, but also to ward off the cold on my legs.
There are always obstacles and challenges in life. I have learned to face them instead of not trying to do anything. I continue to race to the best of my ability, using the best socks in the world to help me reach the finish line as quickly as possible.
During those marathon attempts and set backs, I was thinking back to times I was told, You cant Roy! and how I have changed the letters around a bit, taken the apostrophe out and turned it into You can try!
Traveling to the north woods has been my summer tradition for more than 3 decades. For the 20th time, the destination was Hurley, Wisconsin. This border town nestled by Ironwood, Michigan, Hurley plays host to Wisconsins oldest marathon, The Paavo Nurmi Marathon.
In its heyday, the race, a stand-alone marathon event, hosted more than a thousand runners. Heck, there were not that many marathons to choose from, so as the running boom surged, runners traveled long distances to participate.
Not exactly a Boston- or Disney-type destination marathon, Paavo Nurmi is nevertheless a true destination. As with other destination marathons, there is historic significance not only for the race, but also for the city itself.
In the days of mining, the city was a boomtown complete with a bustling saloon trade, dance hall girls and trouble. It is said that Al Capone, the Chicago gangster and bootlegger, frequented the area to lay low and enjoy his time away from the big city.
Silver Street was where the action was, both sides with wall-to-wall bars and restaurants. Today, not every building is a saloon or restaurant, but there are quite a few. On the second Saturday of August, for more than 44 years, it has been the final straightaway of The Paavo, as it is affectionately known by locals and veterans of the race.
Taking its name for the The Flying Finn known for his world records and Olympic feats, many of which are unmatched even to this day, the Finnish community felt it was only appropriate to name the event in his honor.
My first Paavo was back in 1988 and by 1999 I had run my 10th, so its apparent that its a regular on my summer circuit. Returning to a race year after year proves there is a good reason to pack up for the weekend and drive nearly five hours to run 26.2 miles in a footrace.
The race has a reputation for its tough hills, heat and humidity. This year was a pleasant surprise with temperatures in the low 40s at the start and only reaching 71 for the post race party in Ricelli Park.
One of the traditions I was fond of partaking in was the finish line celebration. A sprinkler fed from an army tanker truck and now attached to a fire hydrant, helped me cool down quickly if needed. A tent filled with massage therapists was also a bonus.
The post race food is unusual. Like Boston did in the past, The Paavo serves something warm, even on hot days. The traditional Finnish mojakka soup contained fish. The Paavo version is made with beef, unlike the kind taken down the shafts by the miners as a source of replenishment. It also includes potatoes and lots of other vegetables.
Each year that I finished the race I added another cup of the miners treat to my tally. Following my 10th finish, I swore off the stuff after forcing down my 10 cups! Not until my 20th finish did I allow myself to partake in this special treat with just one cup. It probably will be my 30th when I once again consume the post-race soup, as I typically avoid beef and products from it.
I look back at the times I ran back in the 80s and early 90s with fondness. I ran between 2:46 to 2:48 through the mid-90s and am now trying to get back to the sub 3:30 range. This year, my goal alluded me again as I continued to have issues with my ankle, sprained two-weeks earlier during the 100-mile trail national championships.
The downhill sections that I normally hammer, I ran more conservatively, holding back to avoid pain. The last 5-miles on US Highway 51 are normally a death march for the average runner, but I love to push this section and pass people, especially on the final climb at 25 miles. This final uphill is known as cemetery hill because theres a cemetery on the opposite side of the road. Ironically, at this point, runners can truly relate to the saying I died, referring to legs that no longer want to work.
My goal was to run sub 3:35, but I hoped to at least break 3:45 and gain an advantage on the entry process for the Boston Marathon. Hampered by headwinds, I fell short with a 3:48:29. I knew when I crested the hill and looked to my left at the war memorial honoring Vietnam vets, with its helicopter flying above, that Id have to run another marathon to achieve my goal time.
I also knew I would be returning to this location, Wigwam socks on my feet, ready to add another H, that of being part of Paavo history in this small- town marathon, half marathon and relay, which has captured many runners hearts.
As my namesake, Roy Rogers used to say, when singing the closing song of his television show, Happy trails to you! The rest of the song said, Until we meet again.
I had never run on the Buckeye Trail and some of the others I would compete on at the Burning River 100-mile endurance run, so I did not know if they were happy trails or if Id be meeting them again.
When I arrived at the packet pickup at the citys natatorium, one of the first people I met was the race director, Joe Jurczyk, who also is involved with other fine races.
Joe commented he was surprised to see my entry because he thought I was a road guy. I told him that I had run many trail races, including more than 20 times on the Ice Age Trail 50-mile, the White River 50, Golden Gate Headlands 50K and Wheres Waldo, to name a few. He just said he just did not think I was known for trail racing because of my accomplishments on the road.
I guess I am primarily known for 24-hour and 100-mile races on roads and tracks, but if you would examine all of the 174 ultras I have done, a considerable number of them were off road.
Trails are part of my daily training. Roads beat people up, especially high mileage runners such as myself. I did those big miles on the roads when I was younger, but now take it easy on the trails and save my joints from the punishing concrete and asphalt.
Using different muscles because of the constant variations of the trails surface improves muscle tone and function. On the other hand, it also can mean tripping and falling. I have done my share of that as well.
As the coach and mentor to a runner who asked me to help him prepare for the BR100, I was fortunate to have a place to stay in Cleveland, about 30-minutes from the 5 a.m. start at Squires Castle. Greg Kearney and I first met as members of the Badgerland Striders Running Club based in Milwaukee, while he was working there. Eventually, he returned to his hometown of North Olmstead, a suburb of Cleveland, just off I-480 and began work with NASA. Last year, he saw I was entered in the North Coast 24-hour Run, in Clevelands Edgewater Park and we went to dinner the night before the race. At that time, he asked me to train and coach him to run the BR100 this year, which once again was serving as the USATF 100-mile Trail National Championships.
That was the start of a new friendship for us. We had been casual friends, but during the months of preparation we became closer, he gained confidence and always asked questions and listened to advice.
We ran the first 6 miles together as planned and once it was light he took off. I expected him to do well. He ran lots of miles, long runs that were required and also walked many miles at my suggestion. His walking actually paid off when he became so chafed he could no longer run. His strong training background moved him forward and he broke 22 hours to win the Masters (40-44) and his first national title, in his first ultra.
He then waited, and waited, and waited for me to finish. He was there, just before I crossed the finish line and the first to congratulate me on my finish. After getting out of all of my wet clothes, caked with dirt and mud, we talked about our races on the drive to his house, for a shower and a few hours of sleep, before returning to the finish area to see the final runners complete their adventures on the trails, across many streams and on the roads connecting the Metro Park System between Cleveland and Akron.
Greg told me of his problems and how he overcame them and then it was my turn.
Just before reaching 75 miles, I was blinded by anothers headlamp and went down hard. Stubbed my toes, scraped my knees, gashed my chest and ribs, sprained my right ankle, left thumb and 2 fingers on the right hand and then planted my chin firmly on the ground.
I shook it off and continued. I found the worst pain and most annoying too, was the chafing caused by the stream crossings depositing sandy soil on my skin. Greg agreed. I went through 4 small tubes of Aquaphor to keep me from stopping. The chafing actually helped keep my mind off the other things that were hurting.
My feet were starting to burn once we reached the Ohio-Erie Tow Path, which had both asphalt and crushed limestone surfaces. The shuffling meant the sand deposited between my Compressor socks and the Wigwam sock liners I chose to wear on the outside acted like sandpaper and ground away at my foot bottoms.
I wore the liners on the outside to help pull away the wetness I knew I would experience with the many stream crossings. Both the Compressor and the liners performed as expected, wonderfully. No blisters. My feet looked white and mushy from being wet most of the day and night, like my skin looks after pulling a wet bandage off a finger.
An aid station volunteer at the final aid station, mile 96.1 miles along, sent me the wrong way when I asked which way I had to go. After 2.5 miles I finally reached an intersecting road. I told Greg I thought of looking for the road to the finish, but knew the rules said to return where I went wrong. I ran an extra 5 miles before doing the final 4.8 to finish.
Managing what happens during a race has been something I have been accustomed. Keeping going to see what happens is all part of the journey from the start to the finish. In this case it took 24 hours 15 minutes and 29 seconds, but was good enough to win the national title for my age group, my 71st to date. It was my 174th ultra finish and one I certainly will not forget.
I was thinking of Roy Rogers singing, wondering if Id ever meet these trails again and after I finished I knew I would. In spite of what goes wrong, there is always more that goes right and they truly are happy trails.