Thursday, December 24, 2009

Athlete of the year

Well, it's happened. Fresh on the heels of golfer Tiger Woods being named by the Associated Press as Athlete of the Decade, race car driver Jimmie Johnson is named by AP as male Athlete of the Year. Both of these selections are a travesty and an insult to true athletes everywhere, especially athletes who don't participate in the big-money sports.

To some degree, this raises the question of what is a sport and what is an athlete. In my mind, these are two very different questions. Many recreational activities might be considered sports, while their participants would not be considered athletes, due to a number of factors which might include lack or low level of physical exertion or reliance on machinery or motorized vehicles, or some sort of propulsion other than self-propulsion. I don't want to fall into the trap of listing who is an athlete and who isn't, and comparing different sports in terms of athleticism can be a fool's errand, needless to say golf and race car driving, while requiring great skill and training, do not require the high level of athleticism required for running, swimming, biking, etc.

I've seen some of the defenses of Johnson's selection, and it is both ludicrous and fascinating. On ESPN's web site (for what credibility ESPN has left), NASCAR writer David Newton compares Johnson to past winners. He writes, "Michael Phelps won it last year. Does swimming laps instead of driving laps make him more deserving?" Then, "Lance Armstrong won from 2003 to 2005. Does pedaling a bicycle make him more of an athlete than a man who mashes a pedal?" Yes, yes, YES!!!! What planet is he on? He does also say, "Tiger Woods won it in 1997, '99, '00 and '06. Is he more of an athlete because he drives a golf ball instead of a car?" He's got me there.

In his own defense, Johnson said that his 5-mile run time (34:55) would beat most NFL players. If he's basing his athleticism on that, then even I've got him beat! So why not give it to a runner?

It's a troublesome world where the mainstream media give such recognition to golfers and race car drivers while runners are apparently misfits whose only value is to crawl out of their holes every four years for the Olympics or the occasional big marathon, and where even in the running world ultrarunners are treated as second-class citizens. Ultrarunners, keep running, keep spreading the good word. You are all incredible athletes, what you are doing is noble, and you are not misfits. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Poor People's Dinner

Yesterday, Nov. 23, my Aunt Mac O'Callaghan invited me to Project Hospitality's "Poor People's Dinner". Project Hospitality is an interfaith charitable organization on Staten Island that provides food, shelter, and other services for the poor and homeless on Staten Island, and assistance for those with HIV. Mac and her late husband Pearse and their 10 kids have been very involved with this organization for more than 20 years, and I raised some money for them this summer running Badwater.
In the spring I attended a luncheon for them at the Hilton on Staten Island, a very nice meal. Mac had invited me to this latest event several weeks ago and I accepted for the sake of the event, without really asking about the nature of the event, which was also to be held at the Hilton.
So I have a light lunch, go to Mac's house and ask about the event, and I'm glad I did. Otherwise I'd be embarrassed asking, where's the main course?
The Poor People's Dinner is a fund-raising dinner where instead of a fancy several-course meal, what is served is a tasty but simple vegetable soup, bread (no butter) and water, a typical "poor person's meal." This event has been a tradition for 10 years on the Monday before Thanksgiving, as we prepare to stuff ourselves bloated.
I realize Mac had told me about this event before, but attending it, and hearing the speakers, makes me give it a little more thought. While one cousin who sat with us (who shall remain nameless) sneaked some cookies in from the front desk, and one attendee was seen bringing in a glass of wine from the bar (a faux pas), it reminded me of the Catholic fasting during Lent. In fact, many religions have some tradition of fasting, which may have different roots but all serve to put us in mind of more important things. And what a great time to be thinking of fasting, to help us think about those for whom soup and bread is a feast, and for whom an apartment or house of their own is a far-off dream. Perhaps we can be moved to provide some sort of assistance for such people, while at the same time acknowledging the waste in our own lives - the waste not only of food, but of time and energy spent on petty things and misguided priorities. Maybe we can catch ourselves before we go overboard for the holidays.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Knickerbocker 60K

Nov. 21, 2009, today, was the Knickerbocker 60K, a race in Central Park that was sponsored by the New York Road Runners and worked by John Garlepp and Millrose AA. This race had its first running in 1978 (I'm told), and was conceived as a distance roughly halfway between a marathon and 50 miles.

Having run the New York Marathon three weeks ago, a 6-hour two weeks before that and a 24-hour two weeks before that, I wasn't sure I was up for another ultra just yet, but I was feeling good this week so I signed up. I thought I might have a chance at a win, depending on the competition. With this race being in Central Park and on the NYRR calendar, it has lately had a large turnout, and mostly runners who don't regularly run ultras, including a lot of first-timers. Possibly a lot of marathoners looking for another challenge. This is exciting, since it could be a start to a long-term ultra career for some of them, and it was a similar race back in 2002 (Kurt Steiner 50K) that served as my introduction to ultrarunning.

At the start, I said my hellos to some of my friends, and it was good to see them all there. One of them, Kevin Shelton-Smith, I thought could be a contender for the win, and I knew he'd be one to keep an eye on. But with so many new face (new to me), you never know who might pop up and have an incredible race.

At the start at the Engineer's Gate at 90th St., the runners take a 1.5 mile out-and-back to 102nd St., then return to the start to begin the first of 9 4-mile clockwise loops on the park road to 72nd St., to the west drive, up to 102nd St., across to the east drive and back to 90th. After the turnaround, I was surprised to see the number of runners. I'm told there were about 200!

Soon after the start, a group of four runners pulled ahead of me, including Kevin, two men I didn't know, and one man with "Dominguez" on the back of his shirt. I'd say I ddin't know him either, but I think I remember running behind him for a while towards the end of the Queens Half Marathon in September. I think I eventually passed hime there, but I'm not sure. (After the race, I learned his name is Jesus.) I felt like I was on a good pace, so I didn't chase, and sure enough, my first 4-mile loop was about 27:30, faster than I would be able to maintain, but it was feeling pretty comfortable, so I stuck with it.

I passed one of the lead group after a few laps, and back at the start was told I was in 3rd place. I don't remember passing anyone else, but it would turn out that I passed Kevin while he was taking a pit stop. After a couple more laps, I passed one of the other leaders, putting me in 2nd behind Dominguez, who I was told was moving at quite a speed. Thinking back to Queens, I was hoping I could just wait him out till he slowed.

At the middle of the race, I saw my cousin Kirstin and her boyfriend Sal (both marathoners themselves from New Jersey), who were lending me support and cheering for me. It was real nice hearing that in the middle of the race. This would also be a good time to mention all the great volunteers. No doubt most of them were there to fulfill their volunteer requirement for automatic entry to the NY Marathon, and at first it seemed like there were a lot more course marshalls than necessary, but boy, a lot of them were really cheering, and it felt great! There were three really great clusters, one at 72nd St., just before and at the turn north on the west side, a group at the turn onto 102nd St. on the west side, and especially a great bunch of people on the west side at 95th St. If any of you are reading this, thank you!

One volunteer on 72nd St. kept me apprised of the lead of Dominguez. On the 5th lap he was 7 minutes ahead of me, and on the 6th 5 1/2 minutes, so I was hopeful my patience would pay off. Then at the turn onto 102nd St., I was passed by a runner I didn't know who said "You can do it" as he passed me. Nice words, but not nice to pass me! (After the race he told me his name was Sebastian.) I trie dnot to let him get far ahead, and I kept him within 10 seconds, my pace now being about 28:15 per lap. On the 7th lap, I was told Dominguez was now just four minutes ahead, and at a point I passed Sebastian but he passed me back again. He was only about 7 seconds ahead when at the start/finish aid station he stopped to drink. I don't know why he stopped, but I saw my chance to move ahead at the start of the 8th lap. But I was worried this could come down to a sprint to the finish.

About halfway around on the 8th lap I passed Dominguez who was not crashing but not moving at his old speed. I felt conifdent, and was still moving at a good speed, but couldn't take any chances. On my final lap, I felt myself tighten up a little, but figured this was the final push, no reason to save anything. I finished first with a time of 4:22 and change, and had my first Central Park victory. I was very happy about winning, not just for the win itself, but because this is a historic race that speaks to the history of ultrarunning itself in the US. And it was a beautiful day, upper 50's, and lots of people in the park, who might not be classified as spectators as much as curious observers.

But a good day overall. Great to see my friends Frank C., Frank D., Emmy, Rob, Tony, Sal (another Sal), Kevin, Tony, Wayne, Harry, Lucimar, Shishaldin, my friend Ralph who came by, and of course Kirstin and Sal, and a few others I'm sure I'm forgetting, and to make some new friends. And of course, Richie, our regular MC. Special kudos go to Nick Palazzo, who Emmy told me ran his 200th ultra today!!! Congrats Nick! Nice hanging out with the terrible trio of Frank C., Emmy and Rob afterwards for burgers and beer. Thanks for the ride home!

Friday, November 13, 2009

City life

I was awaken at 3:30 this morning by someone playing loud music from their car, and I'm on the 5th floor! I got up and looked out the window and sure enough, they were right below me - man and woman on the sidewalk and one person in the car. Last time this happened I was wishing I had something to drop on them. Fortunately, this time I had some rotten fruit in the fridge. (Don't even say it - you've all got something rotten in the fridge!) Fortunately or unfortunately, by the time I realized this, they turned off the music and drove away. Even a rotten pear could've done some damage to a convertible top or falling on someone's head. Even a warning shot could've brought on massive retaliation. Still, it's convinced me not to throw away that rotten pear! Maybe I'll go get some balloons, just in case.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Visit home

Last week I finished up a quick trip to Norfolk, Nebraska to visit my family, visit my old school, see some football, and basically just come home for a bit. Right when I got into town on Thursday the 22nd I got to see my HS football team, the Norfolk Catholic Knights, finish up an undefeated regular season, in cold wind and rain.

Friday I drove down to Lincoln to see by brother Tim, his wife Jane and their kids. Tim and I went to the Husker game Saturday, my first in 16 years! Of course, it turned out to be an embarrassment against Iowa State (no offense to Iowa State fans). But by any stretch, 8 turnovers, including four fumbles within the opponent's 5-yard line is an embarrassment. And we lost 9-7. Ugh. But I'm nothing if not loyal, and I will always bleed Cornhusker crimson (as if I had a choice).

Sunday was very special as I got to speak to my HS cross-country team at their annual year-end banquet. Just a few days before the boys' team had won their 4th state championship in a row!!! This is in Class C (out of A, B, C, D), so it's a smaller school, which I only mention because senior Jarron Heng won the all-class gold medal for the second year in a row! He ran a time of 16:05. He could be one to watch, folks. So I was honored by coach Doug Zoucha (who was my junior high social studies teacher) to be asked to speak, and I told a few of my ultra adventures, and hopefully convinced the students and their parents that I wasn't crazy and that there is something of value here. (Full disclosure - I didn't run XC in high school, I played football - poorly - but I was a sprinter on the track team.)

So it was a very nice trip, but went by fast. But it was good to see my Dad and my brothers and their families, and since I usually only get back at Christmastime, it was good to see Nebraska in the fall.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I neglected to mention that Richie Innamorato was one of the 60th birthday honorees today, and he responded by running the whole race, about 25 miles. He said it was the most he's run at one time since 1995! Way to go Richie!

6-Hour 60th Birthday Run

Today was the 10th annual 6-Hour 60th Birthday Run at Sunken Meadow State Park, Long Island. This is always one of my favorite races, it's the last event of the year in the Grand Prix, everyone finishes at the same time, and there's always lots of great food at the end.

Now for me, who loves running in the rain, and I generally prefer cold weather, even I say this was really crappy weather. Low 40's, light but steady rain, strong winds. The trail sections of the 2.11-mile loop were in pretty good shape at the start but got pretty muddy by the end.

I haven't run more than 6 miles at one time since the 24-hour two weeks ago, but I thought if things went well I might be able to get 40 miles. The first two hours were quick and comfortable, but soon enough the miles caught up to me. But I was able to keep running and did finish with 40.6 miles, good enough for 2nd place to who else but Byron Lane. Since I won this race in 2005 and 2007 I was secretly hoping to keep winning the odd numbered years, but that just wasn't to be. Jodi Kartes-Heino won the women's race for the third (or fourth?) time. In the tradition of this race, special recognition was given to the runners who turned or turn 60 this year - who were born in 1949. The men's 60-year-old winner was veteran and good friend Grant McKeown with 34 miles and change. (I apologize that I don't remember the name of the women's 60-year-old winner. Results will surely be up soon at

The food at the finish didn't disappoint, with 6-foot subs, rice and pasta dishes, and birthday cake that the 49'ers were willing to share. It was a good race, a good hard run, and I'm happy to be back and warm and clean in my toasty apartment!

Monday, October 12, 2009

North Coast 24 Hour Run

October 3-4 was the date for the first North Coast 24 Hour race, and it also served as the 2009 national championship. I was very excited about running this one, as those involved in organizing the race had a great reputation, and it was indeed a great event, a real pleasure to run. You couldn't hve asked for better with the course, the weather, the aid station o the staff and volunteers, not to mention the other runners who were a real pleasure to spend a day with.

Speaking of whom, another aspect that excited me was the depth of the men's field. There were a number of runners who'd run t least 140 miles in the last couple of years - Bill Allen, Michael Henze, Serge Arbona, Akos Konya as well as myself. Also present were last year's top three - Byron Lane, defending champ (and my roomie the night before the race), veteran John Geesler and Dan Rose. There were also Matt Chaffin from this year's national 24-hour team, Todd Baum and Keith Straw from this year's Badwater, Umstead winner Dave James, Scott Jurek (no introduction needed) and current recordholder Mark Godale. My apologies to anyone else I missed, there were so many great runners. Admittedly, I wasn't paying as much attention to the women's field, but Connie Gardner was going to shoot for the women's record, and Deb Horn and Jill Perry were also among the favorites.

I admit I was going for that men's record of 162.4 miles. On the .9-mile course, 181 laps would do the job. I was feeling healthy, ready and confident at the start. The course looked perfect, the weather was perfect - cool and cloudy, with a chance for scattered showers during the day, and a projected high of about 60. I tried not to go out too fast, and there were a number of runners who quickly pulled ahead of me. After the first lap, I noticed that I did indeed have room to slow down a bit and stay on schedule for a potential record run. I had the assistance of Tania Pacev, who was supporting what seemed like a dozen runners, and who kept imploring me to slow down. Mostly just smiled at her and said "I will". Among those in front of me were Mark Godale, who lapped me quicklya number of times, although I was told that he didn't intend to run more than 100k, Dave James who was also zipping around nicely, Scott Jurek and Serge Arbona, who were running together about half a lap ahead of me.

I continued on my schedule, and all felt good for several hours. At some point I passed both Serge and Scott, and had lapped most of the other runners, and by 9 hours it looked like my main competition would be Dave, several laps ahead. It looked to me like he was shooting for afast 100-mile split, and I was hoping he might slow down after that. After about 9 hours, I started slowing down off record pace, so I let that happen and continue at a relatively comfortable pace.

At about 11:30 into the race, I felt pain on my left foothill from something in my shoe. I stopped into the medical tent, and it was not a serious problem, apparently a malplaced seam on my shoe, but Dr. Andy and the wonderful staff there pt on some lubrication, and while I was there they took care of a couple blisters and gave my legs a quick rubdown. After about a 2-minute delay I was back on my way, now with a long-sleevd shirt, which came off again after one lap.

Dave got his 100 miles in an incredible (and certified) 13:06, one of the best times ever by an American, and kept on truckin. I hit my split (uncertified) in 14:48 and was now running at the same speed as Dave, who was 11 laps ahead of me. At this point all I could do was keep on and see if Dave would tire. At one point Bill Allen told me that he saw Dave going into his tent to lay down. This was confirmed as time went on and Dave's total laps stayed the same at 133 laps. What a feeling it was when I overtook the lead at 134 laps! So I just kept plugging away. I felt more relaxed and was checking the screen for placement of other runners, and saw that Bill was second male runner on the course. Jill Perry was very high in the overall placement as well, and for a while was second overall. As time went on, Bill stepped off the course but John Geesler and Dan Rose were moving strong. By the end of the race, they would repeat their 2nd and 3rd place finishes from last year, but this time each with over 139 miles, enough to qualify them for the US team. Keith Straw, who was giving some very nice words of encouragement finished 4th with 137 miles. Jill won the women's race and 5th overall with 136 miles. Anna Piskorska and Deb Horn were 2nd and 3rd women.

It was a great race, and there were many friends there - from the New York area and beyond. A particularly good representation from BUS (Broadway Ultra Society), and from the state of New York in general! A special thanks to Byron for his support - and looking forward to our next battle, and to Frank and Annette for their friendship, and to Deb and Roger, and also to Ray Krolewicz, who seems to be my good luck charm, as he seems to be present at my best races, and always helpful in keeping track of all the runners.

This was my first 24-hour win, and I admit that this was one race that I really wanted to win. I felt relaxed and confident throughout. I didn't get the record, or even a personal record, but it was maybe the most satisfying race I've ever had, and I hope I'm able to build on it and have continued success at the next race!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day weekend (Labor Weekend)

Howdy all (if more than one person is reading this!). Having computer problems so it's tough to update this, on top of my laziness. It's been a good weekend for running. I'm still not hitting the real high mileage, last week and this past week up to about 80 miles each. Still want to enjoy myself. But I did get a nice 6-hour training run in yesterday. Ran to City Island in the Bronx, then up to the Westchester (the New Rochelle, the Mt. Vernon) before coming back to the Bronx and the Van Cortland Park and finally back to the Manhattan. About 37-38 miles roughly, I never measure too carefully. Felt great, though and finished up Ft. George Hill (a steep 1/4 mile hill - roughly). I'm in the office now to get on the computer, don't want to spend too much time here. It's a beautiful day out. Have a nice Labor Day!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Percy Sutton 5K

Howdy! Today I ran the Percy Sutton 5K in Harlem, my first 5K in quite a while I think. It was a nice course, fairly hilly, but through nice streets, mainly St. Nicholas Ave., Edgecomb, Convent Ave. , and St. Nicholas Terrace, and nice to get out of Central Park, no offense. Plus these races outside of CP are generally smaller in turnout which gives me a better chance at placing. So today I ran 18:03, not a PR at all, but good for 19th place overall, and 2nd in 40-44 age group. It rained a little at the beginning, but it was SOOO STICKY!!! Really nasty humid day today. Didn't see any of my regular running buddies there, but I did say hello tosome of my West Side teammates, including Lilan Kroner, who finished a few seconds behind me and was second woman, and 14 year old Luis Porto and 13 year old Alberto Rivera, who both finished just ahead of me in under 18 minutes - wow!!! Congrats, team!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Running good for the knees?

Found in the New York Times:

August 11, 2009
Phys Ed: Can Running Actually Help Your Knees?
By Gretchen Reynolds

An article in Skeletal Radiology, a well-respected journal, created something of a sensation in Europe last year. It reported that researchers from Danube Hospital in Austria examined the knees of marathon runners using M.R.I. imaging, before and after the 1997 Vienna marathon. Ten years later, they scanned the same runners’ knees again. The results were striking. “No major new internal damage in the knee joints of marathon runners was found after a 10-year interval,” the researchers reported. Only one of the participants had a knee that was truly a mess, and he’d quit running before the 1997 marathon (but had been included in that study anyway). His 1997 knee M.R.I. revealed cartilage lesions, swelling and other abnormalities. In the years that followed, the knee became worse, showing augmented tissue damage and more serious lesions. His exam prompted the researchers to wonder whether he would have been better off persisting as a runner, because, as they speculate, “continuous exercise is protective, rather than destructive,” to knees.

You can’t be a runner past the age of 40, as I am, without hearing that running will ruin your knees, by which doomsayers usually mean that we’ll develop “degeneration of the cartilage in the kneecap, which ­reduces its shock-absorbing capacity,” says Ross Tucker, a physiologist in South Africa and co-author of the new book “The Runner’s Body: How the Latest Exercise Science Can Help You Run Stronger, Longer and Faster.” In other words, we’ll be afflicted with arthritis.
It’s not an unreasonable supposition; other sports have been linked with early-onset arthritis in knees. In a British study, almost half of the middle-aged, formerly elite soccer players were found to have crippling, bone-on-bone arthritis in at least one knee. Former weight lifters also have a high incidence of the condition, as do retired N.F.L. players.
But despite entrenched mythology to the contrary, runners don’t seem prone to degenerating knees. An important 2008 study, this one from Stanford University, followed middle-aged, longtime distance runners (not necessarily marathoners) for nearly 20 years, beginning in 1984, when most were in their 50s or 60s. At that time, 6.7 percent of the runners had creaky, mildly arthritic knees, while none of an age-matched control group did. After 20 years, however, the runners’ knees were healthier; only 20 percent showed arthritic changes, versus 32 percent of the control group’s knees. Barely 2 percent of the runners’ knees were severely arthritic, while almost 10 percent of the control group’s were. “We were quite surprised,” says Eliza Chakravarty, an assistant professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine and lead author of the study. “Our hypothesis going in had been that runners, because of the repetitive pounding, would develop more frequent and more severe arthritis.”

Instead, recent evidence suggests that running may actually shield somewhat against arthritis, in part because the knee develops a kind of motion groove. A group of engineers and doctors at Stanford published a study in the February issue of The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery that showed that by moving and loading your knee joint, as you do when walking or running, you “condition” your cartilage to the load. It grows accustomed to those particular movements. You can run for miles, decades, a lifetime, without harming it. But if this exquisite balance is disturbed, usually by an injury, the loading mechanisms shift, the moving parts of the knee are no longer in their accustomed alignment and a “degenerative pathway” seems to open. The cartilage, like an unbalanced tire, wears away. Pain, tissue disintegration and, eventually, arthritis can follow.

So, the best way to ensure that your knees aren’t hurt by running is not to hurt them in the first place. “The biggest predictor of injury is previous injury,” Tucker says, and one of the best deterrents against a first (or subsequent) knee injury is targeted strength training. “The hip stabilizers, quads, hamstrings and core must all be strong enough. As soon as there is weakness, some other muscle or joint must take over, and that’s when injuries happen.”
If you’ve injured your knee in the past, particularly if you’ve ever torn an A.C.L. (an injury that, in the Stanford gait study, was closely associated with misalignment and cartilage degeneration), talk to your physician before running. But for most runners, the scientific observations of Chakravarty will ring true. “What struck me,” she says, “is that the runners we studied were still running, well into their 70s and 80s.” They weren’t running far, she says. They weren’t running frequently. They averaged perhaps 90 minutes a week. “But they were still running.”
Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Team Championships

Howdy! Today was the annual NYRR Team Championships, a 5-miler through Central Park. I was running as a proud member of West Side Runners (WSX), and it was one of my teammates, Bado Worku Merdessa who won the race! The men's team still finished 2nd, and is still in 2nd place for the year, but closing in. I finished in an even 30:00, about 45 seconds slower than I ran in late June, but not bad. The best part was the picnic afterwards and chatting with my West Side buddies, as well as many of my ultrarunning friends who were there: Frank Colella, Emmy Stocker, Frank Deleo, Sal Caretta, Admas Belilgne (also WSX), Lucimar Araujo, Ruth Liebowitz, Al Prawda. But I really should work on my Spanish before the post-marathon party.

Oh, and Frank, can I put your pics up on my blog? ;)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

First post on my new blog. Hello, everyone. Start off with a bang with my Badwater report. Pardon me if it sounds like you dropped in in the middle of a conversation.
PRE: I arrived in Las Vegas Thursday afternoon, picked up my rental van and met up with a high school classmate, a recent Facebook friend, for dinner. After a nice dinner of catching up and eating tapas, I met my brother Ted and his wife Becky who'd arrived earlier in the day and would be staying at the Flamingo for a couple days before heading to Death Valley. After chatting and strolling with them a while, I was off for another bite to eat before picking up crewmate Mike Costello at the airport at 12:30 am and driving to his mother's house in Henderson to crash. Friday morning Mike and I went for a 3-4 mile run in the Henderson heat, then drove to Walmart for food and supplies. Friday afternoon we picked up New York ultra running buddy Tim Henderson at the airport and the three of us high-tailed it to Stovepipe Wells. Saturday morning the three of us ran up to Mosaic Canyon and explored a bit, about 5 miles round-trip. I felt like the heat wasn't bothering me too much, but the sun was intense. Later as I was in the pool, Ted and Becky arrived with crewmate Ralph Lewis, who they'd picked up at the Vegas airport. Hurrah, the gang's all here! That part of the logistical maze went off with no problem! In the evening we all drove to Panamint Springs for dinner and to see part of the course. We opted not to drive up as far as Father Crowley. Sunday was check-in and pre-race meeting, and it was good to meet some of my running friends there. Back at Stovepipe, we met up with Marshall Ulrich and his wife Heather who gave my crew and me advice on electrolytes, blister care, and various other issues with the race. It was very nice of them to have spent the time with us. Then all the supplies were organized and set up and ready to get into the vans in the morning.

RACE: Start - Furnace Creek
The 10:00 start was pretty warm. My little joke to Ted about getting down in a sprinter's starting position (we were both sprinters in high school) went out the window the instant I stepped onto the asphalt and could tell how hot it was. I started at a compfortable pace in my whites from top to bottom. I was keeping pace with Adrian Belitu and was secretly entertained by the bananas hanging off the back of his van! I was also leapfrogging with Charlie Engle before he would leave me behind. It was hot, but this stretch was fairly comfortable and smooth. I arrived at Furnace Creek in 2:42.

Furnace Creek - Stovepipe Wells
Mike joined me as a pacer here. He and Tim would switch off pacing duties every five miles. This would keep them both fresh, made it easier to crew them, and it also was nice for me because it broke things up a little more. Three years ago I'd paced Jody-Lynn Reicher on this 25-mile stretch, and it seemed endless. So the alternation in pacers was very nice. Along this stretch I was leapfrogging a bit with Pam Reed and Perry Edinger, and Jamie Donaldson passed me here for good. Food and drink were going well for me, but I was concerned about how I would get enough real food in. That was even more of a concern at about the 30-mile point when I threw up for the first time. It was mostly fluids, but I knew I had to replenish. But as is usually the case, I felt much better after throwing up, and continued on. I arrived at Stovepipe at 7:04 on the race clock, 5:04 pm.

Stovepipe Wells - Panamint Springs
The climb up the first hill was a killer. The hill I think I could manage, but there were huge wind gusts coming down off the mountain as well. And I don't think I'm crazy or was just overworked, those were strong winds! I also felt my heart rate rise, and I didn't want to hurt myself this early. Ted ran with me a bit here, as did Ralph. When I noticed that Ralph was walking and keeping up with my running, it was time to walk a bit. At least I tried to hold a decent walking pace, which in past races has been a weakness of mine. And there were certainly runnable sections. At 6:30 pm I went to the van and changed out of my whites and into shorts and my green running tshirt, and the reflective vest. I also had a minor blister area looked at and taken care of before it got out of hand. Those 3000 and 4000 foot elevation signs just weren't coming quick enough, but by the time I reached the very top at Towne's Pass I was feeling great again and running strong. At times coming up the hill my legs felt like rubber and I was worried I'd have trouble on the downhill, but I flew and my quads were giving me no trouble at all! Still, we arrived at Panamint Springs later than I'd hoped in 14:07, just past midnight.

Panamint Springs - Darwin Turnoff
Tim got me started up the hill from Panamint Springs, and I was fascinated by the road. I'd been there before, but the hairpin turns, the close edges, and the incredible views that were vaguely hinted at in the moonlight were quite impressive. The slope on the road in many places, however, was wreaking havoc on my ankles and knees. One foot would land 2-3 inches higher or lower than the other. Still, I did my mix of running and walking and felt like I was making good progress. I even passed a couple of runners from the 10:00 start. But I'd forgotten my study of the course map and description and thought that Darwin was just a few miles after Father Crowley, when it was actually about 10 miles. I kept cursing that check-in station that wouldn't come and was getting increasingly tired (sleepy) and irritated. But by this time I was also a bit amused by the vests that I bought for the crew, which had the flashing lights on front and back in a sort of V shape, which made them look like intergalactic travelers. At least it made my crew easy to spot from a distance! I was worried about another blister here, so I stopped to have that taken care of, which gave me an excuse to sit and rest a couple of minutes. The downside was that I started getting chilled and had to put on my long-sleeve shirt. But not more than 5 minutes after running again the long sleeved shirt came off, and back to green tshirt. We finally got to the Darwin Turnoff in 18:47, or 4:47 am.

Darwin Turnoff - Lone Pine
No need to tell anyone who's been there how endless this stretch seems. But it was a long easy downhill to start, and the sun was coming up, so I felt refreshed and with a bit more energy. I don't know how fast I was actually running, and Mike and Tim were telling me I was starting to walk more and more. But I felt like I was running well. My legs still felt strong, but I was occasionally having issues with my stomach, and at about 95 miles I did throw up again, this time nasty stuff, a mixture of chocolate gel, protein bar, turkey wrap and an orange slice that just went down. But again, I felt great afterwards, I just had to replenish. Eventually we spotted Pam Reed not far ahead of us and were pulling her in. We were leaprogging a while again and I thought I was ahead of her for good before she passed me and left me behind at about Keeler. All the traffic on the road here was a bit unnerving, and I was ecstatic to finally make the right turn to Lone Pine! We got the time station in 25:29.

Lone Pine - Finish
I don't seem to remember from 2006 this road going up so steeply so soon, but it sure did. For a few miles, I would try to run the runnable sections. But I couldn't trust my eyes, as I couldn't tell if those parts were actually flat or just less uphill. But again, when my pacer could walk an dkeep up with my running, I figured it was better to power walk, or what felt like power walking. Ralph had taken one of the vans to the finish line and was texting Becky with finisher updates. I could see Pam up on the mountain, only a few minutes ahead of me, but I wasn't able to get any closer to her. I was trying to get up as fast as I could, and didn't think I was worrying about the competition, at least until I saw Perry Edinger's van pull up beside me, and I knew I should get moving. At this point I was only interested in taking fluids to finish up the race. Ted walked the last couple of miles with me, which was very nice, and I wish I could've enjoyed it more, but I was too exhausted, sleepy, worried about walking off the side of the cliff, worried about Perry catching me, and wondering how many gosh dang campground tunroffs there were before the finish! I kept telling Ted the finish was right around that corner, but it never was. Then Connie Gardner came down the road with Jorge Pacheco's crew and said the finish was right past thos pine trees, and for some reason I believed her - and she was right! The rest of my crew joined Ted and me for tha jog the last few meters to the finish, and I was done! 22:29:12, 8th place overall, 6th man. Jamie and David Donaldson were right there at the finish to congratulate me, as was Pam, who finished nine minutes ahead of me. She said I was her inspiration because when she saw my van with the green sign she was motivated to push a little harder. Glad I could help! Perry came in just seven minutes after me. Not long after that was Nick Hollon, at 19 the youngest Badwater finisher ever and with a time of just over 33 hours (having started in the 6:00 wave). I was surprised to see Akos Konya on his crew, and we had a nice little chat. I would have loved to stay, but I wanted to get down to the medical team in Lone Pine to have them check out the swelling in my hands. Fortunately, it ended up being nothing serious and it went away shortly.

After checking into the motel, cleaning up and sleeping for a few hours, my team and I went out for a nice steak dinner. I wasn't quite up to eating a full steak yet, but it was a great time spent with the gang. Wednesday morning after cleaning up the vans a bit, Tim and Mike, having just run about 58 miles each over the past two days, decided to go back up to Mt. Whitney and do some hiking/running. They took the trail as far as they could without a permit, up to Lake Whitney (is that the right name?) and back. Ted and Becky relaxed by the pool and looked in some of the gift shops. Ralph and I went to the Film Museum, Ralph being a big film buff. All the memorabilia from the old westerns filmed there in the Alabama Hills was very impressive. I'm not as much into westerns myself, but they also had the actual foam fake worm thing from the Kevin Bacon movie "Tremors" which was also filmed in the area, so I was tickled. The awards in te evening were very nice, but I was getting restless sitting still. But it was another good chance to chat with the other runners, crew and race staff. But even better was Jake's Saloon afterwards, where "one or two beers" turned into five, inspired in no small part by the party spirit of Lisa Tamati's team from New Zealand. A little chalk on the face never hurt anyone! And more chatting and laughing with other race folk, as well as locals. The one thing that really suprised me at this event was not the quality of the runners in the race (which is expected), but the quality of the runners who were crewing the race! Connie Gardner, Akos Konya, Danny Ripka, Bonnie Busch, Matt Chaffin, Jenn Shelton (on Shannon Farar-Griefer's highly enthusiastic Moeben team), and I'm told Valmir Nunes was helping Cas Camara up the mountain, all among those here for other runners. Of course, I'm very proud of my crew who really worked their tails off. But I'm told I didn't get too cranky. They did give me good feedback, I've learned some things I can use for future races. Thanks to them, and thanks to all who were out there and made it an unforgettable experience! I'm ready to go right back and do it again!
Not to Forget:
For this race I was raising money for Project Hospitality, an organization on Staten Island that provides food, shelter and services to the homeless and hungry, and assistance to those with HIV. It's an organization that my aunt and uncle and cousins were very involved with from the beginning. A big thanks to all those who donated, especially to my employer, Boosey & Hawkes, who matched all employee pledges, and tossed in some extra to boot!