Saturday, June 21, 2008

So long.

On Wednesday I ran my monthly noontime 3K race around the Tidal Basin in 13:28 (7:17). My hamstring was tender from where I strained it last weekend at the Lake Tahoe Relay but it held up well enough. I was pleased with my time since I was still a little jet-lagged. I flew out of LAX on Sunday night at 10:30 pm, arrived at IAD at 6:30 am on Monday and went straight to work.

But here’s some real news. I’m going on another trip, the trip of a lifetime. I’m flying to Las Vegas today to hook up with my college freshman roommate and ten other freshman dormmates for a rafting trip down the Grand Canyon. Eight days and seven nights on the Colorado River. Most of us are divorced (surprise! In America?), and the wife of the one guy that I can think of who never got divorced isn’t coming. No girls allowed. Or ROTC guys either.

Here’s a picture, circa 1971, of part of the gang. I’m on the far right. Yes, we seem to be on somebody’s lawn. No wonder we all were handed our divorces.

The Sewell Hall Rafters. Sewell Hall was the first coed dorm there at CU-Boulder, a freshman dorm at that. Swell Hall, we called it. In 1970 it was a wild and crazy place.

Those were different times. I could tell you some stories, but I won’t because our society has become so intolerant. But I will tell you that Guy could tell a whale of a sea story. He would stand and make Steve’s waterbed rock with his foot while the rest of us lay atop the mattress being buffeted by the mountainous waves that Guy caused, as the strobe light created a stormy effect and Jimi’s guitar clashed and crashed on the stereo in tune with the rise and fall of Guy's tale about gales and shipwrecks and monstrous ocean dwellers.

Steve got to have a waterbed in the dormitory because he had a bad back supposedly. It was prescribed, by a doctor. I’m not sure that Steve ever got to actually sleep on it.

No laptops on the rafts in the Grand Canyon. I’ll see y’all next month.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Bye, Lake Tahoe

The shock was unbelievable. The instant I hit the surface, I thought I was going to die.

I was still sinking into the frigid water. I kicked my legs and waved my arms and arrested my progress towards the bottom of Lake Tahoe. I started to come up. The water was incredibly blue, and incredibly cold. "Only one degree above freezing," Brian had said just before he jumped in, twice. "A day ago it was probably snow in the high country." (Above: The perfect tonic for a long run. Photo credit Brian.)

I had never experienced total immersion in water this cold before. My head popped above the surface. Brian and the rest of the Band of Outsiders were laughing and waving at me from the pier I had jumped from.

No time for chit-chat. The ladder to the dock was 12 feet away. Like a triathlete crawling over everybody impeding his progress in the water, I flailed my way to it. I couldn't climb up it fast enough. (Right: Do I look cold? Photo credit Brian.)

"Aren't you going to go in again?" Brian asked. "I jumped in twice."

I looked at this young man, figuring that since he was about half my age, he was far better suited to repeated shocks to the system than me. "No," I said, standing there dripping on the dock, the 60 degree air feeling positively tropical after being submerged in the freezing water. (Below: Mission Accomplished. L-R, the 2008 BOO and the legs we ran in the Relay, B (7), Bex (3), E (5), Brian (1) and yours truly (6). Missing, Tami (2) and J (4).)

But it had been fun. Fun like going up the last hill on Leg 6 of the Lake Tahoe Relay had been fun. Sort of like, a highlight of my trip to Lake Tahoe, you know?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Two years at the Lake Tahoe Relay

The DeCelle Memorial Lake Tahoe Relay:
Ratings 1 easiest to 7 hardest.

Leg 1–9.6 miles. 3 hills in last half. Long downhill at end.
Rating: 2. Should be given to novices.
Leg 2–8.2 miles. The last half is an unrelenting uphill.
Rating: 6. A weak runner will kill you here.
Leg 3–10.3 miles. 7 miles of downhill onto flatlands.
Rating: 1, although going downhill is hard.
Should be given to an injured or weak runner.
Leg 4–12.3 miles. Longest, with a monster hill in it.
Rating: 4. You need a runner with a good base.
Leg 5–10.6 miles. Starts off with a tough hill.
Rating: 3. Give to a weak runner, go slow the first mile!
Leg 6–10.5 miles. 9 miles of sharp hills leads to a killer hill.
Rating: 7. Give to a strong runner, or expect runner to walk.
Leg 7–10.5 miles. Tough, long hill, dizzying, dangerous run.
Rating: 5. Give to a strong runner or you’ll lose places here.

Band of Outsiders, Team Captain Bex.
2007-------------------- 2008
1:19:37 (8:18) 43/97--1:30:41 (9:27) 91/113
1:32:27 (11:16) 77-----1:08:56 (8:24) 70
1:30:30 (8:47) 68------1:27:29 (8:29) 59
1:56:02 (9:26) 65------2:14:00 (10:54) 88
1:44:59 (9:54) 71------1:37:23 (9:11) 79
1:53:45 (10:50) 84----1:37:44 (9:18) 77
1:34:45 (9:01) 76/97--1:54:30 (10:54) 83/113

72 miles
11:32:00 (9:36)-------11:30:43 (9:35)
76/97 78%-------------83/113 73%

Thanks Tahoe Bliss!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Denouement

As I hit the final hill on Leg 6 of the 2008 DeCelle Lake Tahoe Relay, I had a Net-Plus Two going, having passed three runners and been passed once. The last hill is a mile and a half straight up, ‘nuff said.

To run this hill in a race after nine miles is to go see the elephant, to engage in running combat. On this last raw hill, one and a half miles of nakedness as you continue up to the top without respite, you either pass, maintain your position or get passed. There is no other alternative, besides quitting. You can see who is ahead, and who is approaching.

Round and round the S curves I went, knees hurting, muscles aching, breath whistling sharply in and out. I heard some huffing and chuffing behind me and a runner smoothly went by doing sub-eights. He had come from a long way off and there was no keeping up with him. I returned to grinding up the hill. There was a runner ahead that I was approaching, however, and I went by her halfway up. I was back to Net-Plus Two. (Left: Early in my Leg 6 run.)

Then, to calm my racing heart and gasping, labored breath, I walked 50 yards when I saw my support team, imbibing some needed fluids. I broke back into a painful trot again. A runner had been gaining on me and he ran past. Revived by my walking spell, I passed him back immediately. I elevated my pace slightly and up the hillside the two of us silently toiled, sweat dripping off our noses and chins. Up ahead was a woman, whom we both passed. The warrior behind me clung desperately to me, six feet back. At one point he dropped to twelve feet back but then by a force of will, he closed the range again.

My leg muscles were screaming from the unaccustomed task of a solid mile and a half climb. I had trained for this race by running up hills, but nowhere in DC could I find a steep hill of such length that started out at a mile high already. Life became elemental, listlessly watching the roadway eight feet ahead of me, listening through pounding ears to the breathing and footfalls of the runner behind me.

We were approaching another runner. We got to within 30 yards of her when I saw the Bliss State Park sign heralding the top of the pass just ahead. A quarter mile to go! Close quarter combat was about to commence on top of the mountain between the three of us.

The runner behind me was steady as he matched my pace and trod on my heels. The woman ahead had attained the summit but she had not increased her speed despite having only 200 meters of flat terrain to go. I reached the level ground and saw my teammates at the exchange point, cheering me on. (Right: To get this beautiful medal, you're just gonna have to run the Lake Tahoe Relay yourself. If you want to have quiet satisfaction forever, run Leg 6 for your team.)

The top gained, I was now at Net-Plus Three and I hoped to pick off the runner ahead and hold off any charge from the runner behind. There wasn’t much space to operate in anymore. I pushed off on the level ground to begin a two football-field sprint to the exchange point.

My left hamstring muscle immediately clenched into a painful balled fist and brought me up short instantly. I hopped to a stop and started murmuring "OMG! OMG! OMG!" as I grabbed the back of my leg and tried to massage the fiery ball away. It was rock solid and incredibly painful. I was down, and out of the battle. The runner ahead went off towards the finish. She never increased her pace. The warrior behind, who had doggedly hung with me on the hillside while I was trying to drop him, swept by me. I didn't begrudge him benefiting from my sudden injury.

(Left: Late in my Leg 6 run. E has water for me.) I couldn’t even walk until I got my hamstring to relax a little. I stretched my leg and kneaded it for perhaps a minute. The grains of sand run out fast when you’re under pressure. Having just lost a place in the last 200 yards, and failed to gain another place, I started to worry about who was coming up the hillside next. I trotted down to the exchange chute as best I could and slapped B, the anchor leg.

We were in 77/113 place after my 10.5 mile leg. My 1:37:44 (9:18) run had gained two places. It wasn’t perfect, nor did its modest outcome seem very compelling, but I had just finished the hardest competitive run of my life and I hadn't let anybody down that day, including myself.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Approach

Last year I ran Leg 1 at the Lake Tahoe Relay and got my part in the race over with early. It was 4.6 miles of gently climbing grade followed by three formidable hills in the next five miles. Or at least, the hills would have been formidable at any race back in DC. On this mountainous 72-mile course, these hills were practically laughable.

I finished Leg 1 last year in 1:19:37 (8:18), leaving BOO in 43/97 place. After tough Leg 2 we were in 77th place however, and in 84th place after hellish Leg 6. But Team Captain Bex muscled past eight runners in the anchor leg and we finished in 76th place a year ago. (Right: Leg 1 has a nice downhill at the end.)

This year Bex decided to place our strongest runners on the hardest legs to minimize our damage there. I drew Leg 6. Thanks, I think.

(Left: Leg 6 ascends seemingly into the heavens.) I admired Brian for running Leg 6 last year. Anyone could see from looking at the topographical map that it is pure runner's hell. Brian ran at altitude with attitude, because although he is an athlete, he is a non-runner who came up to 6200 feet from sea level to vanquish it. He faced down the 600 foot climb in the last mile and a half when his legs were rubbery from already running nine miles of sharply pitched hills to get there. Last year each BOO member did his or her own leg with its unique difficulties, but only Brian conquered The Hill and earned a swagger akin to, in another much more serious context, a Screaming Eagle at Bastogne or a Leatherneck at Tarawa.

(Left: Brian soldiers on last year on Leg 6.) So on Saturday as I waited in Homewood for for the tag, The Hill was nine tough miles away waiting for me. After running his 10.6 mile leg in 1:37:23 (9:11) which began with a monster hill the very first mile, E came sprinting into the chute at 3 pm in 79th place with four other runners closely chasing him. One was a mere eight seconds back. E had picked off nine runners. He slapped me and off I went.

I set off at an unhurried pace so I could get my breathing adjusted to the altitude, well aware that thirty-six hours earlier I had been residing happily at sea level. Within a quarter mile I was run down by a strong runner whom I didn't even try to go with as he was clearly running seven-minute miles to my nines. I had my sights on a runner up ahead. By the time I caught her that first mile, the other runner had disappeared from sight. I was back at Net-Zero. After overhauling another runner in the second mile, there was nobody else in sight anywhere. In eight hours, 113 runners can get incredibly strung out. (Right: Leg 6 starts at 6200 feet at lake level but climbs to over 6800 feet the last mile.)

I ran at Net-Plus One for the longest time, over hill and over dale. I alternated running on the uneven canted surface of the sandy shoulder and the roadway, depending upon whether traffic was approaching. The first little hill I came to disheartened me because climbing it took my breath away, but then I settled in and ran easy on the flats, purposefully on the uphills and hard on the downhills.

My support team was excellent, watering me every two miles. About every seventeen minutes I would start to look for them. They later said that I was all business, using one word guttural commands to indicate my preference for either Gatorade or water as I ran up.

I knew the course intimately, having studied it on the map and driven it several times. I put away the three teaser hills leading up to the The Hill one after another while running down one more runner. Finally I rounded a bend and came to the bottom of The Hill with its 1.5 miles of sharply ascending S turns stretching ever upwards. After well over an hour of running I was at Net-Plus Two as I started up.

The long approach done, a battle for position was about to commence on the hillside, with major combat awaiting on the hilltop. (Right: Last year's BOO. Three team members wouldn't be back.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

The 44th Lake Tahoe Relay

Update: I am back from my trip west to run on Bex's team in the Lake Tahoe Relay. I consider my handling of its most difficult leg a success, although I am slightly injured from it. It was the hardest competitive run of my life, a truly transforming experience. My team did great, shaving over a minute off last year's time with an 11:30:43 (9:36), finishing in 83/113 place (73%).

The Setting: The 2008 DeCelle Memorial Lake Tahoe Relay. 113 teams of seven runners each race counterclockwise the 72 miles around the lake, with each team member taking a leg ranging from 8.2 to 12.3 miles.

The Battlegrounds: Leg 1: In the coolness of the early morning, a 9.6 mile run from South Lake Tahoe, California, to Zephyr Cove in Nevada, passing through the shadows of the tall casinos at Stateline enroute. Three substantial hills at the end make this second easiest leg a challenging run. Leg 2: Starting at Zephyr Cove at lake level at 6200 feet, this 8.2 mile leg tops out past Castlerock at the course's highest point of over 7,000 feet. The last half of this next to hardest leg is just an unbroken uphill slog. Leg 3: A 10.3 mile return to lake level down a seven mile shelf road followed by 5K of flats at the end. The "easiest" leg. Leg 4: The longest run in the heat of the day, a 12.3 mile run from Incline Village up a significant hill, past the old casinos where the rat pack would sometimes croon and clown, and back into California. Of moderate difficulty. Leg 5: 10.6 miles of flat running after climbing a 250 foot hill in the very first mile, from Tahoe City to Homewood. Of moderate difficulty. Leg 6: This hardest leg is comprised of 10.5 miles of difficult terrain, ending in a hill climb that seems to go straight up after a nine mile warmup of long and steep rollers. Leg 7: Downhill past Emerald Bay then uphill on a killer shelf road, past a series of switchbacks with steep dropoffs on both sides, then miles of running through pine forests to the start/stop line in South Lake Tahoe 10.5 miles after the handoff. The hardest leg after Legs 6 and 2. (Right: Last year K tackled tough Leg 2, where we tumbled from 43rd to 77th place, in 1:32:22 (11:16). Here K emerges from the tunnel running through Castlerock.)

The Team: The Band of Outsiders (BOO), flatlanders all, sea level dwellers, assembled by Bex before she abandoned the east coast a year ago to return to her roots in the Golden West. Last year we finished in 11:32:00 (9:37) in 76/97 place (78%).

My Mission: To tackle tough Leg 6 where we lost 13 places last year, and either minimize the damage on this impossible ten and a half mile stretch or actually pick up places. The time to improve upon was the 1:53:45 (10:50) turned in by Brian, a non-runner who had a a transforming experience during his leg, running the whole way and arriving at the end exhilarated, having encountered both what running takes from you and what it gives to you. He had seen the elephant on his leg like none of the rest of the Band had. He became a warrior. (Left: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. Brian going to see the elephant last year.)

Next: My skirmishes on the "flats" leading to the battle for position on the hillside and close quarter combat on top of the hill.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Still hot hot hot

The temperature reached 96 yesterday but the dew point pushed its effect way over a hundred for the third day in a row. At noon I led the running group at work out on its regular weekly run but since it was so hot the group only went two and a quarter miles, up Capitol Hill so I could practice on a hill one more time before Saturday's hilly Lake Tahoe Relay, where I will be a guest runner on Bex's team. The heat reduced participation in the group to one, that being me.

(Left: Bex passes by Emerald Bay as she anchors her team at last year's Lake Tahoe Relay.) A couple of years ago I organized a running team at work to participate in the 2006 Capitol Hill Classic 3K Team Competition. I invited Bex to be a guest runner and she came in third in leading our team to victory. As I picked up the team's medals later, the race director asked me if I wanted a gold medal for Bex because she took first in her age group, or a bronze medal because she was third in the race. Which would you choose?

I chose the bronze race medal over the gold age-group medal for Bex. I hope she agreed with my choice. For the first time in my life I am in a similar conundrum.

You remember that yesterday I described Sunday's 3-Mile Survivor Harbor Race around Baltimore's Inner Harbor? I finished the three miles in 23:17 (7:45) amidst a steady stream of dozens of runners. Finishing amongst the runners from the much larger 7-mile race, I couldn't tell which runners were from what race.

It turns out that I finished in third place in the 3-miler, seventh overall, the first Master. I beat the next Master by over a minute, and the next person over 50 by more than five minutes. So gold medal for the Master's win, or bronze medal for finishing third in the race?

If they send me an award, I hope it's a bronze and not a gold.

People seemed to enjoy the finish-line photo of the 2006 7-Mile Survivor Harbor race I posted yesterday. Here's another view of that finish. (Right: Ryun/Keino? No, just two mid-age mid-packers feeling the momentary return of old glories.)

I'll check back in with y'all when I get back from Tahoe.

Monday, June 9, 2008

More hot hot hot

It only got up to 94 degrees yesterday, but the dew point reading made it feel like way over one hundred. At 8:30 am I was on the lovely Baltimore Inner Harbor walkway, watching some sweat-soaked race leaders in the Survivor Harbor 7 Seven Mile Race go by. The two front-runners were neck and neck; both had their faces contorted with the strain even at mid-race.

I love this scenic race through historic Baltimore, but it is always hot. It runs from the harbor waterfront out to Fort McHenry, around that park along the water, back down to the harbor, past all the ships in the Inner Harbor along the brick-lined Promenade, and out to the Can Company, an abandoned manufacturing center that was converted into a vibrant hub of commercial and residential units.

I just had to do its inaugural running in 2004 because I had never done a 7-mile race before. You know, part of life's checklist, seven-mile race, got it. All of my 10K times except for the first one had been run at a sub-8 minute per mile pace, so I figured I'd easily extend that pace to a 7-miler. Not so fast.

The first year I ran 58:29 (8:21). It was hot. The second year it was even hotter and I was even slower, 58:34 (8:22). The third year the weather finally cooperated a little and I ran 54:17 (7:45). Mission Accomplished.

The race has a 3-Mile Race component, which joins the main race in progress at the Inner Harbor after the race leaders have gone by. I signed up for that this year. (Left: Running along the Inner Harbor in the 2006 race.)

Once again it was so hot that I wilted. I went out fast but didn't arrive at the first mile marker until 7:25. Then my time for the second mile slipped to a 7:45. My third mile time deteriorated to an 8:05 for a 23:15 (7:45) finish, a PW. Notice the steady 20-second per mile downward progression in my pace. My five other 3-milers had all been run in under 23 minutes.

After the race I was wringing wet. I went into a nearby Starbucks for coffee and the frosty air-conditioned interior hit me like a frigid arctic blast. I'm sure they appreciated me leaking water droplets all over their counter as I handed them damp bills from my pocket.

This wonderful race, requiring a 100 mile round-trip drive, has become an expensive luxury in our new times, unfortunately. I think that with gas going from 97c to $4.03 on W's watch, a new dawn has arrived in my racing life. No longer can outlying races be done casually. Good going, Decider and Just-Get-Over-It Tony. (Can you tell that I don't think January 20, 2009 can get here fast enough, otherwise known as BLD, Bush's Last Day?) (Right: Although the guy in blue blew me away at the finish in 2006, he still dragged me along to my seven-mile PR.)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Hot hot hot

I ran my eighth consecutive DC Race For The Cure yesterday, in 27:54 (8:59). That time includes the two minutes it took me to get across the starting line in this gun-timed "race." I couldn't get to doing more than a lot of sideways running before the last mile because of the crush of people on the course. Actually, Race for the Cures are big social events (I've done twenty scattered about the country from NYC to Denver), a chance to get outside and move around some. They're fun.

The day tied a heat record at 98 degrees and the heat was unbearable even at 8 am. An hour earlier I had been at Iwo Jima across the river in Virginia where my club starts its SLRs, to cheer on the participants in my club's Marathon Training Program. There were about ten coaches and about 30 trainees there for their first training run that will, hopefully, lead them all across the finish line of the MCM in the fall. I don't have much to do with this program as it is run on a different model (a "mentoring" approach) than the programs I direct (which have been described by some club members as "chaperoned running groups"). The MTP is ably directed by Ben and Kristin. They put together a great-looking training sheet for it, covering all the weeks. The first run was ten miles. Off they all went in the early morning heat. Welcome to marathon training.

Then I jogged over to the start of the DCRFTC 5K about two miles away. Five minutes into the run I was sopping wet. Five minutes into the actual race I was thinking, Where is the finish line? It's never a good race for me when that thought strikes me so early.

That's what I did yesterday. That jaunt in a sauna just wore me out. It's supposed to approach one hundred degrees today.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


I was tagged by my good friend NBTR. Here goes:

1. How would you describe your running 10 years ago?

Ten years ago I ran my first race since high school (I was a JV harrier for two years). On a whim, my oldest son Jimmy, 12 at the time, and I ran in the 1998 Memorial Day Falls Church 3K Fun Run even though neither of us were runners. However, I had coached Jimmy's team in soccer (I hold a Series-D soccer coaching license) and conducted soccer workouts and basketball shootarounds with him. We finished in 18:48 (10:05) and were so proud of ourselves!

2. What is your best and worst run/race experience?

My best running experience is always my last run. Yesterday morning I did my last long run in preparation for the next Saturday's hilly Lake Tahoe Relay which I am going to run in as part of Bex's team. I did 11 miles in 1:36:25 (8:46), running six easy miles on the flat W&OD Trail in 49:16 (8:13), and five miles of hills in 47:09 (9:26) wherein I ran up every hill within a mile of my house.

My worst race experience was the December 2003 Tidal Basin 3K. Because it was the last race of the year, I started "reviewing" as I ran and began thinking about the endless litigation I was enmeshed in--her divorce filing in 2001 after she took our minor children out of state for "Spring Break," my lack of any visits in almost a year despite having full joint custody with standard visitation, the staggering legal bills with no end in sight--and for once, running wasn't a solace. Totally overwhelmed, I stopped to walk for awhile, practically crying.

3. Why do you run?

I feel like it. Almost always.

4. What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running?

The best advice I was ever given was, Run early. That way, reasons not to run don't constantly crop up as the day progresses.

The worst advice is that advice which I give freely and for free. Remember what it cost. However, the following two pieces of advice reside on the Facebook profiles of two of my former running students, under their "favorite quotes" section and each is attributed to me by name: In order to run fast, you gotta run fast; and, If running were easy, it'd be easy.

5. Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know.

During the 1972 presidential campaign, I ran a branch office of Staten Islanders for George McGovern. Tricky Dick Nixon's subsequent crushing victory in the election taught me everything I needed to know about the American populace. Therefore I wasn't surprised in 2000 or, especially, 2004.

There ya have it. I tag the next five readers who feel like doing the exercise.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

You've got mail.

The t-shirt I won for donating blood arrived (see my next to last post). It's a beauty, too.

Standard white all cotton, size large so it's slightly too large, with the airline logo on the front in whose terminal I donated, and their motto printed across the back, "Safe. Clean. On Time. [Airline name.]" Hmm, this catchy saying isn't trademarked.

Well worth the wait and the worry.

But here's what I truly think. I'm glad this airline, or it's employees, are so well-intentioned and community-minded that they organized a blood drive. Kudos to them.

In other news, I recently received something in the mail from the Chicago Marathon. It was a certificate grandly certifying that on October 6, 2007, I "officially completed The 2007 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon." [Notice the capital T.] In 4:34:06 at a pace of 10:28 M/M. Ouch. It would have been even worse if my former running buddy A hadn't found me walking the course at MP 24 and brought me in at a trot. (Left: The dog days of summer, or fall, in downtown Chicago.)

They're trying to make nice now, after blaming the runners for a debacle of their own making? What a fraud. That was The Chicago Fun Run. They said so at the time, when they sent uniformed police officers wading onto the course to force runners to walk upon the threat of felony arrest. Now it's back to having been a marathon again? (Right: A kept me barely ahead of the No-More-Running Police in Chicago.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

It's over, for now.

Mission Accomplished. Major running is over. For now.

Nine runners, myself included, ran the Capitol Hill Classic 10K on May 18th in a winnowing down process that started with thirty-one running wannabees showing up early one raw Saturday morning in February atop the parking garage at the West Falls Church Metro Station three months earlier for the start of the DCRRC 10K Group Training Program. Although we all took the elevator down to the ground level to begin our two mile run that day, some of us ran up the structure's six ramps upon our return.

We originally had seven volunteer coaches, but one acquired a stress fracture beforehand, another tore her ACL in a skiing accident and one developed IT Band problems. So we imported a volunteer coach from the Reebok SunTrust National Half-Marathon Training Program I was associated with after that Program ended in March, along with three runners who wanted to keep up their training.

Our running venues included the W&OD, Mount Vernon, Custis and Capital Crescent Trails, the C&O Canal Towpath, the National Mall and the race course itself. The last few weeks it seemed like the coaches would be fighting over who would accompany the few runners who showed up but order always prevailed. Quiet, unassuming Mary Alice, who is about my age, always showed up and she threw down a sub-hour performance on the hilly race course and kicked the rest of the students' a**es, finishing second in her age group.

Our times ranged from 47 to 75 minutes. Three were under an hour and six met the qualifying standards for the SunTrust National Marathon and Half-Marathon next year. This third-year marathon is an interesting race, it has the second best average finishing time (behind Boston) of any major American marathon, undoubtedly because of its qualifying standards.

Additionally, two more Program participants who didn't run the CHC broke two hours at the SunTrust National Half-Marathon. Congratulations to the performers, and thanks to the volunteer coaches Kristin, John, Renee, Linda, Bob, Sasha, Alexandra and David.

Pretty good. As for me, the Memorial Day weekend was the first Saturday I had off since early December when the overlapping Half-Marathon Program started. It was a long six months but the results of the two programs showed that it was well worth the effort. Next up: The fun of running the Lake Tahoe Relay in less than two weeks on a team put together by my former running buddy Bex, an MIA blogger, and then the start of the club's 10-Mile Group Training Program on July 12th. (Above: Relaxing after the Falls Church Memorial Day 3K Fun Run during my first free weekend in half a year.)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Bloody Worry

It was a worrisome call. My voice-mail message at work disclosed that it was Patti at the Cincinnati airport and it was about the blood donation I made there in early May. Could I call her please?

What would you think? Returning home from the Flying Pig Marathon, I had a couple of hours to kill at the airport so I followed some signs to a local blood donation center. They raised their eyebrows at my blood pressure ("Is it always this high?") but took my blood anyway. I left a pint lighter, my 75th lifetime donation (I'm a runner. I write this stuff down). I really do it for the cookies and soda you get afterwards.

If you actually read all the stuff they tell you to beforehand, it would scare you. It's bad to have gone to Africa, England, Europe, or the Channel Islands, to have been in the American military since 1980, to have decorated your body, to have had sex, to have treated baldness, to have taken drugs, or to have cavorted with certain people. (Oh no, I don't think any of them ever did any of that. Shall I call them up and ask them?)

And if you have AIDS or something, they'll not only tell you but they'll report you too. You'll never get insurance in this country again! No good deed goes unpunished!

As I listened to Patti's message, I was hoping that it was the West Nile Virus they were going to tell me I had, and not something awful like Hep C or HIV. Not that I do ever do anything fun beyond running 26 miles to be at risk for those diseases. That's plenty of fun, right?

I finally got ahold of Patti after her days off. She knew exactly who I was the instant I said my name. "Oh, yessir, I have your file right here! Do you remember giving blood earlier this month at the airport in Cincinnati?"

I swallowed hard. "Yes," I whispered.

"You won a t-shirt. Where shall we send it?"