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OK, so I have been a bad blogger. It has been over a month since the 2010 San Francisco Marathon and too much work has gotten in the way. My apologies to those that I promised my recap and photos weeks ago.

The Golden Gate Bridge appears through the fog as we near mile 2

This was one of those marathons that I looked forward to for some time.  First, I was heading to one of the favorite cities of my wife, Ali. That meant she was in tow. Additionally, having run over the Golden Gate bridge a couple of other times, I looked forward to running in the actual roadway. I also knew it would be cool, so I thought that would be a good trade off for the hills that inevitably come with San Fran. Finally, after the race we were going to spend a couple of extra days touring some of the niche wineries of the Napa Valley. What more could one ask for?

We spent our time in the city in the Omni Hotel (500 California Street) which was an affordable and comfortable choice for the race.  It was about a half mile from the Start/Finish, which was on the Embarcadero near just north of the Bay Bridge. It was reasonably priced for San Francisco, and offered runners complimentary bananas and bagels on race day. It was also a short walk from Starbucks and the Hyatt, which is where we caught a shuttle to the expo.

Temps in San Fran were as expected – low 60s and breezy during the day and low 50s and also breezy in the evening – and was perfect for running.  According to Ali, much less perfect for spectating.

The expo was nice sized and had Bart Yasso, Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World, as one of the featured speakers.  Bart is such a cool guy, and no matter how many times you hear him speak he always makes it enjoyable and inspirational. Somehow I can go through an expo by myself and manage to never spend a buck, except maybe the necessary GU. Bring along Ali, and well…  This time it was a TRX workout gizmo.  She had started training on it in Sarasota and (off course) they were demoing it at the event. Cha-ching. $200 later…

The race shirt was pretty cool – a short sleeve technical shirt in royal blue with light blue lettering.  The back design had a depiction of the Golden Gate Bridge and is one that I will definitely wear.  In my opinion however, the trend continued with the nicer shirts going to the half marathoners.  They were basically the same design but the colors were reversed and looked much nicer.

Ali (barely visible), Mary Beth and Paul Fournier, Lisa Reid, Ann Sloan, me and Tom Scott at the Maniac pre-race pasta dinner. That is Tory Klemensten's hubby Roy visible at the other table.

In advance of the race a bunch of MMs had been coordinating online to rendezvous for a pre-race dinner.  Actually, it turns out there were a couple of MM dinners that night.  In any case, the friends I have made in the NW this summer were kind enough to include me.  Tory Klemensten remembered a cozy Italian restaurant in North Coast, Café Bejoule, and she and her husband Roy set up reservations for 12 of us. Lisa Reid (also running for wine), Ann Sloan, Tom Scott, all who we dined with in Portland, joined in the fun. Also along were Paul and Mary Beth Fournier from the Chicagoland area. It was good to see Paul again and he was celebrating the running of his 150th marathon.  Tory’s sister and brother-in-law rounded out our party. We had a great time, laughed until we cried, and probably wore out our stay with management as we probably occupied about 25% of the restaurant and there was a long line outside.

Giz, Erin Ali and I outside Cafe DeLucio

One side note. In that long line, as we were walking out, was my cousin Loraina Miller, and her family from Mesa, AZ.  Neither of us had any idea the other was in San Francisco, let alone dining in this small little restaurant – at that particular time. What a neat surprise! We should have played the lottery that day, for sure.

Race day came early. I was up at about 4:30 am as the first (elite) runners were off at 5:32.  I was in Corral #7 and got to my corral early (for me) at 6:25 am for our 6:32 start. (Note to self, next time fib on your anticipated finish time like everyone else did so that you can run with your friends… )  We finally got away about 10 minutes late, with yet another wave behind us. Oddly, I didn’t see anyone that I knew, including fellow Sarasotan Donna Loud who was supposed to be in the same corral as I was.

Ali was also up early. She was taking the spectator shuttle, which was really a great feature. She was able to buy a ticket for a shuttle bus that allowed her to navigate the course and would allow me to see her at a number of places. Also being a Marathon Maniac, she had her new Sarasota Chapter MM jacket on as well, so I knew that she would be spotted by a number of MMs as well, which would make it more fun for her.

The first few miles were really congested – reminiscent of Miami where I was continually dodging people. The first hill came at mile 2.5 and was a sign of what was to come.  Unlike Tacoma with its 83 hills, San Fran didn’t have as many hills, but the ones that were here definitely were more challenging.  Steep ups and steep downs.  I am a pretty decent downhill runner. Give me a quarter mile hill up and quarter mile hill down and while I will give way to a bunch of people on the upside, I will generally pass all of them back and then some going down. SF was different. With the grade steeper on the decline, there were a lot of times I either had to land on my heels or almost run sideways to stay in control.

We got to the bridge around mile 5.5 after a big climb.  We would make the run over, loop around the SF Lone Sailor Memorial, then return back.  Part of that I really enjoyed as for the entire time we were running against runners going the opposite direction, which meant I got to see a number of my friends that were either ahead or behind me.  The down side was that it was REALLY congested, the bane of an interval runner.  I was running 5/1s and for five minutes I would be running faster than everyone else in my group, then for one minute I am slower. I could pretty much find a way to duck out of the way along the curb when I walked but it really presented problems while I was running. C’est la vie.

I intentionally was trying to leave something in the tank for the back half of the course. Everyone told me the hills were early but the elevation chart told me differently. Coming off the bridge back towards Golden Gate Park we finally got some good downhills where I had a ball running. It was easy and I made up quite a bit of time keeping my pulse rate low (for me).

I saw Ali for the first time at mile 12.25 shortly before we entered Golden Gate Park, and it was a welcome site! She joined me for a walk break and she said she indeed had been seen a number of MMs. It was a great vantage point for her as the course actually converged on itself three times.  She would see me just before I turned into the park, again at mile 13, and then again right after I entered the park, and then as I came out at mile 16.75.

Oh, the park.  First, the entry was a bit confusing. It was where the first half marathon (there were two halves – one starting with us, and the second starting later at the mid-point of the course) and the full split.  We turned right and the half went straight (more on that later). Oh the hils! The highest point and biggest climb was in the park.  It seemed to me like we were either going up or down, primarily up, since we had a net gain of 200+ feet in the park. My goal of saving something for the park was a good idea, I just didn’t save enough. It was obvious by mile 16.75 this was definitely not going to be a PR day.

GG & Dave Mari - striking the pose!

Coming out of the park I got to spend another couple of minutes with Ali and then I was off towards the finish.  About mile 17 I caught up with MM Dave Mari from Chicago. He truly knows how to enjoy a marathon! Perhaps only Bart Yasso and Dick Beardsley have had their photo taken with more marathoners.  Dave’s pose with outstretched arms, double peace signs and puckered-face has become legendary.  I absolutely had to stop and join the club.  Shortly thereafter I caught the “Walking Diva” Yolanda Holder.  Yolanda and I tried to “self shoot” with her iPhone. Fortunately Dave caught us and saved the day.  Yeah, time consuming, but fun.

GG & Yolanda Holder imitating Dave Mari

About mile 19 I caught Paul Fournier.  We ran together for a few minutes, but Paul was still having some nagging foot problems and I was out to at least do a sub-5, so I was off again.

Finally the big downhill that I had been waiting for arrived around mile 20.  I was ready to set sail but once again it was a tough downhill.  I did pick off about 100 runners, my guess many were runners in the second half marathon, but nonetheless it felt good to be able to pick up the pace.

By mile 23 mile quads had clearly had enough of the hills.  What I wasn’t expecting was the big hill that appeared there. It was SUPPOSED to be basically flat to the finish past mile 20. Uh, not so much.

A scan of my Garmin told me that it was going to be close.  I had clearly dilly-dallied too long taking pictures, walking with Ali, and walked up a couple too many hills.  I had 36 minutes to get in the last 3.2 miles, and I knew that was going to be tough.  I basically went into survival mode, the fun was gone, and even if I had to resort to 15 seconds/15 seconds I was going to keep moving as fast as I could.

By mile 24 it was basically flat. A few nameless runners leapfrogged back and forth with me the last 3 miles, providing the additional competitive incentive to keep the pace up. Running in along the waterfront and Embarcadero was a nice distraction as well.  I needed it.

At mile 25 I was pretty well shot and had 11 minutes to go 1.2 miles.  At the beginning of the race a no-brainer.  At the END of SF, hardly.  I kept churning using every mind game there was to keep pushing.

As I hit mile 26 my watch turned 4:58.  I had been running as hard as I could go for the previous 0.3 and was just mad at myself for letting a sub-5 slip away.  I could see another 5:00.21 like Chicago looming. I decided if I collapsed and puked at the finish I was still going to make it.

My finish video shows me zipping past 12 – 15 runners in the last 200 yards (well, maybe not zipping, but definitely at a much faster clip than everyone else) while my finish line photo shows I had absolutely nothing left in the tank.  I crossed the line, looked down and stopped my watch. It simply read 5:00 (as the seconds weren’t display). Crap.

Following the finish we filed through the chute, got my food, and met Ali who had my congratulatory hug and kissed for another one finished.  A few minutes later she got a text from the marathon – my official finish time.  4:59.58.  I had made it and it took me three seconds to stop my watch! I always say if my time starts with a “4” and I am not injured that I will be happy. Both of those had occurred so a big smile crossed my face. I guarantee you I don’t ever want to cut it any closer!

GG with his bling

The medal was a nice sized one, and also had a depiction of the bridge.  Compared to a few others I saw displayed at the expo of upcoming events it was a disappointment, but it was definitely a decent medal compared to many that I have received.

So the question is, would I do it again? The simply answer is, probably not.  I am definitely happy that I can say I ran San Francisco, but there certainly wasn’t enough luster to bring me back. Perhaps if I had been able to run with someone else that I knew, it may have helped.  The run over and back across the bridge definitely wasn’t nearly as exciting as I had hoped.  Actually, with the congestion, it was a pain. Then there are the hills. Those in Golden Gate park definitely weren’t any fun, and there were plenty of others. Then, with the exception of Haight Ashbury the city really didn’t even know there was a marathon going on, making for some scenic but mind numbing running. Sometimes the allure is much better than the experience.

One final note – I want to again congratulate Paul Fournier on completing marathon #150.  That is simply fantastic!

My scorecard:
Organization:    4
Expo:        4
Course:        3 (hills/congestion)
Fan Support:    2
Aid Stations:    3
Entertainment:    1
Race Shirt:    4
Medal:        3
Omni Hotel    4
Post Race:    2
Overall Cost to Run:  1
Total:    31/55

Everyone has their favorite marathons, and certainly so do I.  Here are my top 25 favorites, and interestingly enough, it has nothing to do with my fastest events, but more importantly, the ones I had the most fun in and/or that I felt had the best courses.  Mind you, I have only run 36 marathons (and unless something drastically changes) the 2008 Albuquerque Marathon will always be the worst.

My Top 20 (after 43 marathons):

  1. 2010 Boston Marathon – Boston, MA
  2. 2010 Zoom Yah! Yah! – Northfield, MN
  3. 2008 Marine Corps Marathon – Arlington, VA
  4. 2008 26.2 with Donna – Jacksonville, FL
  5. 2009 Marine Corps Marathon – Arlington, VA
  6. 2009 Chicago Marathon – Chicago, IL
  7. 2010 Des Moines Marathon – Des Moines, IA
  8. 2010 Quebec City Marathon – Quebec, Quebec
  9. 2008 Milwaukee’s Lakefront Marathon – Milwaukee, WI
  10. 2010 InStep Icebreaker Indoor Marathon – Milwaukee, WI
  11. 2010 Tacoma Marathon – Tacoma, WA
  12. 2010 Southern Indiana Classic – Evansville, IN
  13. 2009 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon – Indianapolis, IN
  14. 2010 Athens Classic Marathon – Athens, Greece
  15. 2010 Steamtown Marathon – Scranton, PA
  16. 2010 Rock ‘N’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon – New Orleans, LA
  17. 2010 Casper Marathon – Casper, WY
  18. 2009 Myrtle Beach Marathon – Myrtle Beach, SC
  19. 2009 Snickers Marathon – Albany, GA
  20. 2009 Rock ‘N’ Roll Arizona Marathon – Phoenix, AZ
  21. 2010 Omaha Marathon – Omaha, NE
  22. 2008 Missoula Marathon – Missoula, MT
  23. 2010 Foot Traffic Flat Marathon – Sauvie Island, OR
  24. 2009 MS Gulfcoast Marathon – Bay St. Louis, MS
  25. 2009 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon – Indianapolis, IN
    (and forever last) 2008 Albuquerque Marathon – Albuquerque, NM (fittingly no longer in existence)

OK, this is a quick post.  I have had a multitude of questions as to what the rest of 2010 looks like, and if I really am going to get to 50 states (plus DC) before the end of 2011.

I have attached the latest edition of my schedule as a .PDF file. I hope it is readable.  Please pardon the various colors – they really do mean something to me.

The surprise when I updated things today is that if things go as planned (always a big ‘if’) that I will actually run 29 states in 2010.  My goal was 23 (I have said 24 to give myself room for error).  That is Level 8 in the Marathon Maniac association.  There is no Level 9. (I didn’t make the rules…) Level 10, the highest level is, you guessed it, 30 states in a 12 month period.  So, who knows. IF I stay on track, being the Type A that I am (OCD, too?), I will probably find a way to wedge #30 in.

Believe me, just to get 50 + DC choreographed in a two year period was tough enough.  One marathon missed makes this whole thing a house of cards.  We’ll see.  It will be all fun trying.  At this writing I am 14 marathons into the program, seven months after returning from all my health issues in 2009.  I know there is no guarantee they won’t pop up again so in the meantime I will just keep pounding the pavement with my running buddies, and with the terrific support from my wonderful family!

The enticement to the 2010 Foot Traffic Flat Marathon was that it was a) in Oregon, a state that I still needed; b) billed as a “flat” marathon in the otherwise hilly Northwest; and c) a place in the U.S. that on the 4th of July should be temperate. I knew it also to be a small marathon, having just over 100 or so finishers in 2009.

After registering a few months back, I looked forward to it as I would have my chief supporters – wife Ali and youngest daughter, Alex in tow, and, after running a number of northern and western events where I had made so many new friends from the NW, I  knew many would be there. With that, we decided to take advantage of the 4th of July and make the trip a long weekend – arriving on Friday and returning on Tuesday.  Besides, it was the best way to amortize the ridiculous airfare (and 8 hours on a plane) required to get to Portland from Tampa.

Our home for the stay was the Silver Cloud Inn – the race hotel.  While certainly not a Ritz, the hotel was more than serviceable, was inexpensive ($109 a night) and one of the closest to the race.  Sauvie Island is located just to the north and west of Portland where the Willamette River, the Columbia River and the Multnomah Channel off the Columbia River all converge. With a decent free breakfast each day (even at 4:30 am on race day) for three people it certainly was a good value.

Packet pickup for the race was held at two of the three Foot Traffic stores in Portland. Saturday it was at the northeast store which was about 15 minutes from the hotel.  While it didn’t have an expo, the store is a nice running store with all the supplies runners need and reasonably priced.  Truth be told, with Ali and Alex in tow, I bought more than I would at most expos. The store had pink missiles (hot dogs) and beer available (at 10 am) and it was at packet pickup where I met fellow Sarasotan, Donna Loud, who had just flown in, along with fellow Maniac and Yuma, AZ runner, Tami Harmon.  Tom Scott who we had gotten to know in Tacoma also appeared, so it was obvious that we were going to have plenty of Maniacs on the course.  Donna and Tami were staying at fellow Maniac Morgan Cummings’ parents’ home, which they so kindly opened up to runners looking for inexpensive accommodations for the weekend. Maniacs (and their parents) rule!

Seven Maniacs at a Pre-Race Dinner - Rick Kahn, Lisa Reid, Ann Sloan, Marc Frommer, Ali Goebel, Greg Goebel and Tom Scott at Justa Pasta in Portland.

Portland native MM #9, Marc Frommer, aka the Maniacs Gatekeeper, had sent out a message on Facebook offering to organize a pre-race dinner at a quaint nearby pasta house – appropriately named Justa Pasta.  We took him up on his offer, as did Tom, and other MMs Lisa Reid, Ann Sloan, and Rick Kahn.  It was a great and inexpensive dinner, and great to get to know Lisa, Ann and Rick.  While posing for this photo we met Tom and Carol Fabian, a couple from Port Charlotte, FL – 45 minutes from our home, who were not only also running the event, but would become the newest Maniacs following the race. It is a small world. (All counted we had 11 Floridians run the event.)

Race day came and while I moaned about getting up at 3:45 am to be ready to catch the 5:00 am shuttle (which left from the hotel) it was a good choice. This was the first year for the shuttles, and 250 of the some 2500 people running the event used it. The shuttles were instituted this year due to the horrible congestion entering the island over the single bridge that accesses it.  A two-lane road circumnavigates much of the island (what became our course) and cars were backed up for 10 minutes when the busses arrived at 5:25 am.  There were many runners for both the full and the half (which started 15 minutes after the full) that missed the start by 15 minutes or more due to arriving late. Some got the pleasure of running ¾ of a mile to the start, to turn around and run back out.  If you are reading this and decide to run in 2011, definitely take the shuttle!

Interesting Floral Planter on Sauvie Island

The Engine Bay and Bed of an Old Farm Truck Become the Planter for Flowers on Sauvie Island.

A bit about Sauvie Island.  It is the antithesis of Portland. It is rural farmland in the middle of a river – very much like we would see in the Midwest where we lived for 50 years. The race started and ended at the “Pumpkin Patch”, a privately owned farmers market on the south end of the island.  It did provide a quaint setting.  We had driven the island Saturday to scope out some viewing spots for Ali and Alex, so I knew it wasn’t exactly flat – although for the NW, I suspect it is as flat as it gets.  I certainly pointed this out at the pasta dinner to the groans of my NW friends.  It did provide a scenic route, especially where it split from the half marathon and ran 6 miles up and down the Multnomah Channel where we got to see a number of large river “house-boats” that looked like suburbia floating on the water.

Can You Find the Floridians? GG & Donna in garbage bags, with Tami Harmon, Ann Sloan, and Lisa Reid

The extra time we had at the start gave MMs plenty of time to congregate, as the accompanying photos show.  Larry Macon and Yolanda Holder were both in, doing day two of a triple marathon weekend. I got to meet so many new MMs that space won’t let me list them all, but it was once again a sea of yellow and black on the course.

Slightly over 400 marathoners took the start, up four times over the previous year. Another 2000+ ran the half, and a number were also in a 5K event.  The course took one lane of the two-lane roads around the island, meaning we had to share the road with the natives.

Foot Traffic Flat - the course along the river during the out-and-back portion.

This was not a problem at all as the organizers did a good job with traffic control throughout. The first 5 miles were basically flat, followed by the out and back that had some “rolling hills” that weren’t flat, but again very tolerable. We rejoined the course at mile 16.5 where I got to see Ali and Alex for the first time. We headed inland to cross the island but to my surprise, a quarter mile down the road was a “detour”.  This year the organizers added a 1.5 mile in-and-out. As soon as I made the turn, I saw them. Hills! WTH?? I had no doubt that when I saw them that my NW buddies were thinking of me when THEY saw them, too. (They all told me they were laughing after the race.)

The hills were official gut-checkers for me.  I had decided when I came out this was going to be a go-for-it PR attempt. I was well on pace at mile 16.5 and I knew these could take the starch out. I trudged through knowing that the next 1.5 miles after the hills included a steady mild climb as well.  Out of the hills I had given back some of the time I had banked.  I pushed myself through the next three miles knowing that if I hit mile 21.2 at something under 3:45 I had a good chance.  I cleared 21.2 at 3:44 and the final push was on.

Here I have to thank two women – Emile and Vicki – and fellow Floridian MM Peter Corduan who I had first leapfrogged the course with until the hills.  They were my carrot – I kept chasing them thinking I had to keep them in sight.  I finally caught and passed Peter in the last mile and nearly caught the gals, and that was the ONLY thing, until I FINALLY saw Ali and Alex screaming for me near the finish that kept my mind somewhat diverted from my exploding legs. Without those three folks, who never had any idea, I would have never set my new PR of 4:44.05!

Maniacs Post Race

Maniacs Tom Fabian, Melissa Williams, Peter Corduan, GG, Cat Schwartz, Tom Scott and Marc Frommer celebrate a bunch of PRs post race.

The post race spread was pretty decent as well.  More pink missiles were served, along with some very good strawberry shortcake. MMs gathered afterward celebrating a bunch of PRs.  Marc Frommer, who has over 85 marathons over many years running actually lowered his PR to 3:20.31. To do that after running that long is amazing! Lisa Reid also PRed with a 4:14, and Tom Fabian, turned a 4:46.  The only downside was that Donna had a miserable race limping in with a 5:26.  It just goes to show it happens to us all some days.

It was also great to finally get to meet Dana Casanaves after the race. She is a 28 year old from Virginia that is taking on the daunting task of running 52 marathons in 52 weeks to raise funds for the charity 25:40 – helping save South African AIDS Orphans.  I saw her after the turnaround at mile 10.5 and recognized that familiar ITB syndrome limp. She suffered in WAY off her healthy pace but smiling as I have always seen in her race photos.

GG and Donna post-race

GG and Donna Loud moments after Donna finishes Foot Traffic Flat

Now to the bling. It sucked. OK, I am from the Midwest originally and now Florida. I favor things that support the environment but my race bling is where I stop.  The shirt, bamboo I am told – though it feels like cotton, was a putrid pastel blue with purple print. It was so bad that I didn’t see anyone wearing one on the course. Only Maryville, MO keeps this from being the worst I have ever received.

The medal wasn’t much better. It was made out of recycled bicycle chains with a recycled cardboard insert and a key-ring clasp attaching it to the ribbon.  Seriously?

The third complaint was the aid stations.  The people were friendly and enthusiastic, but there were only 14, not an issue, but they didn’t offer a sports drink at them all.  On a day that bordered warm for many (from the north) it wouldn’t have cost must more, and would have been appreciated.

The final comment is that while the director was far from a jerk, you could certainly tell the race was being put on by a business rather than a running group. To be sure, he was cordial, as were most of the people that I talked with, but there is a difference to an event put on by people that want to do it rather than by employees. I don’t know how else to put it, but the warmth that has been extended by other events – Zoom! Yah! Yah (of course), Tacoma, Casper, Southern Indiana and the Instep Icebreaker – was missing.  The best real comparison was the Icebreaker as it was a running store event as well.  All I can say is there was a noticeable difference.

All in all, with those few negative comments aside, I would certainly encourage people to run this event. Yeah, it was a PR for me, but beyond that, I had a lot of fun and may never have made it to Portland otherwise.  Portland is certainly an eclectic city, and as a sidebar, gave me an opportunity to meet another Greg Goebel – a jazz songwriter, musician, bicyclist (and nice guy) – who just happened to be playing in Portland while we were there.  What a treat!

My Sauvie Island scorecard:

Organization:     4
Expo:                   3
Course:                4 (a PR has to at least get a 4)
Fan Support:      1
Aid Stations:       3
Entertainment:  1
Race Shirt:           1
Medal:                  2
Hotel:                    4
Post Race:            4
Cost to Run:         2
Total:                 29/55

I just finished a speed run doing mile repeats with quarter mile bursts with my running group to get ready for the Sauvie Island marathon next weekend and got news that just made me sick.

Many of the Marathon Maniacs have gotten to know Morgan Cummings from Houston, TX.  She has been on a mission to become the youngest female ever to finish all 50 states.  She will turn 23 in December, the day after the Las Vegas Marathon which was scheduled to be her 50th state. She would be breaking the record set by a friend of hers (and fellow Maniac), Laura Skladzinski who completed her 50th state about a month ago before she turned 25.

I had the chance to run a few miles with Morgan in Olathe, KS, as she talked about her goal, and she is a great gal.  Alas, I learned today that she was running Grandma’s Marathon last weekend and felt a pain in her hip at about Mile 2.  She went ahead and finished, albeit at a pace very unlike what she normally runs (to put it in perspective she was about an hour and a half behind what she ran in Casper).

It turns out that the pain is a stress fracture of her hip. Boom.  The one major catastrophe she could ill afford for her goal, and worse yet – a a broken hip at age 22 doesn’t exactly portend good things for when you hit my age in life. I just feel sick for her as she has completed 32 states already.

Rest is the only treatment I understand, and knowing that a running friend here in Sarasota who IS a doctor had the same thing occur, it takes a while to get back on your game.  The even more worrisome thing is that it seems like every week I talk with someone that I know that is recovering from a stress fracture of something, or has had one.

It certainly reminds me that no matter how well conditioned you are, you can’t take a marathon for granted.  I am nearly 2/3 of the way to my goal of 30 states/countries in 12 months, but I realize (especially after my running came to such an abrupt halt last year over non-running health issues) that every time I lace offers the potential to be my last race for a long while.  One misstep, one calamity and one is revisiting their goals. At least with me, I am now happy with whatever I wind up with.

My heart goes out to Morgan, and all the other friends I have nursing injuries – especially stress fractures. Get well, give yourself time to heal, and keep your heads up. I can say that I have been there, it is no fun, but everyone truly is pulling for you!

Swan Lake Christian Camp

Swan Lake Christian Camp - in the middle of nowhere!

More coming soon, in the meantime, here are some photos from my 32nd marathon, and 26th state, and my 3rd double-marathon weekend.

Simple stats: 4:58.45, 51st out of 87, and for the first time EVER I received an age group award – 3rd in class (out of 5)! I will take it!  Better yet, I took an hour and 31 minutes off my fastest double, set two months ago!

You can’t miss the fact that we ran in the rain nearly the entire race. Good news is that it was cool. Bad news is that 16.6 miles were on gravel, which was really dirt, which became good old-fashioned mud with all the torrential rains.

6 Maniacs

Six Marathon Maniacs at the Swan Lake Pasta Party and no one in a MM shirt!

Viborg, SD. Population 832, 141 cows, 63 hogs, and a bunch of Green Bay Packer Fans!

Cowboy Jeff

Cowboy Jeff Prepares to Run #150!

Contradictory Signs in a Flooded Field. Rain Washed Out Half the Course.

All Lined Up and Ready to Go

Many of the Marathon Maniacs Lined Up Ready to Start. (Most were doing doubles.)

Swan Lake Mud...you get the picture?

We Saw Signs of Intelligence All Around. They Love the Packers!

Diane Bolton, Jeff Bishton, Donna Jacobs

Our "Gravel" Road Start (and mile 14)

What it Looked Like All Race!

The 2010 Swan Lake Scorecard:

Organization:     5
Expo:                   1
Course:                2 (16.6 miles of gravel/mud)
Fan Support:      1
Aid Stations:       4
Entertainment:  1
Race Shirt:           4
Medal:                  3
Hotel:                    2
Post Race:            3
Cost to Run:         3
Total:                 29/55

This one is going to be short. I promise. My parents taught me that if I couldn’t say anything good about something, I shouldn’t say anything at all.  That doesn’t leave much for me to say.

I arrived in Maryville, MO after being away from my home for essentially 2 weeks.  With two weekends of previous marathons under my belt, I really wasn’t looking forward to a double-marathon weekend.  I wanted to be home.  With that, as I pulled into town after an hour drive from the Kansas City Airport I couldn’t help but notice all the hills that I had been driving over.  Great. Can you say Tacoma? To top it off, the thermometer was hovering at 99 degrees on my rental car.  Did I mention the heat index was somewhere around 110?  Yippee. Can’t wait.

Maryville Marathon Shirt

The Fugliest Marathon Shirt on the Planet!

After virtually no help on the race web site, I finally found the Chamber of Commerce where packet pickup was being held.  You can imagine in a town of 10,000 how big that office was.  The “expo” was two card tables and little info past that.  It was, however, where I received the FUGLIEST marathon shirt that I have ever seen.  The photo won’t begin to show the putrid color of this off-white shirt that looks more like it had yellowed from years of aging.  The pink and black writing was the icing on the cake.  It will never see the light of day.

I stayed at one of the three hotels in Maryville (population 10,000 and home of the Northwest Missouri State University Bearcats), the Super 8.  Actually, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. At $59 I have stayed in worse for four times as much.

I walked down the block to Applebee’s.  THE restaurant.  At least it was a decent pre-race meal.

While bored to tears in my motel room, I did get on Facebook and learned that Justin Gillette, his wife Melissa and his brother Jake were in town to run.  I wished them well figuring that I probably could say I knew the men’s and women’s overall race winner. It was Justin’s 60th marathon to boot, certainly a heckuva milestone for someone so young.

Race day came and so did the rain. Actually, thunderstorm.  The good news is that the rain killed the heat…thank goodness.  We got to run in mid-70s weather, which was good.  What was not good was that we started in a thunderstorm.  I was just a little concerned about the lightning. Usually races (like the race in Marathon, IA the same day) are held up when lightning is in the vicinity, and a downpour is taking place.  Not in Maryville.  Giddy-up!

The course was actually twin 13.1 mile hilly loops around the town.  The half and the full ran together on the course the first pass.  With all of 66 people registered for the full, we needed the company.

Outside of the storm, it was absolutely the most dangerous course I have ever run on.  We ran about 10 miles (5 miles twice) along the edge of a four-lane highway – WITH traffic.  A good portion of that time we were running on the shoulder.  The shoulder would make cobblestone roads in the Old Country look good.  Fortunately, most of the way we had cones.  At least 2 miles we did NOT, and we were directed to cross the unrestricted highway traffic as well. To top it off there were many, make that the majority of intersections that had no traffic control.  Then we ran through neighborhoods where the “crossover” signs were frequently used…again without traffic.  It was there at mile 11 that I nearly was hit by a car from behind, when I errantly crossed over in front of it.

The best thing that I can say about this race is that the aid stations were great, well stocked, and enthusiastic.

I did decide to let ‘er rip for the race, figuring I could always take it easy on day 2 of my double.  My goal was to beat Olathe (even with the heat and hills) and then try to come in on day 2 with a time within 25 minutes of that.  If I could, I would take an hour off my best previous double time.

I completed the first 13.1 in 2:15, so I knew I had a shot.  The question would be how much was left in the tank after marathons the two previous weekends.  Apparently enough as even though the hills of the last four miles were killers (and there was precious little company out on the course) I did manage to turn in my second fastest marathon time at a 4:49.55!

As far as Marathon Maniac friends – I didn’t see a single shirt. I did talk with a young couple from Arkansas that scooted by me in the last couple of miles to finish in the two positions immediately ahead of me.  I did get to see Justin at the starting line, and managed to keep from getting lapped by him!  I was thrilled to see Justin and Melissa take the overall men’s and women’s titles.  It is nice to say you know the winners, especially when they hail from Indiana.

That is it.  The medal was a joke – not quite as bad as the T-shirt, but nearly.  I spent less than 24 hours in Maryville and the best thing that I can say was that server at Applebee’s was nice.  Don’t put this race on your calendar – even on a dare.  It doesn’t supplant Albuquerque at the bottom of my list, but it is darn close!

My scorecard:

Organization:     3
Expo:                   1
Course:                1 (just flat dangerous)
Fan Support:      1
Aid Stations:       3
Entertainment:  1
Race Shirt:           1
Medal:                  1
Hotel:                    2
Post Race:            1
Cost to Run:         4
Total:                 19/55

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