Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Double Dipsea - Body to James: Time for a break

June has been a busy running month for me and it finally took it toll at The Double Dipsea. On Saturday, June 29th I found out that there wasn't as much endurance left in the tank as I had hoped.
The Dipsea is a Bay Area legendary trail run. It is the second oldest organized run in the US, second only to the Boston Marathon. It runs from Stinson Beach, up through the Marin Headlands and down into Mill Valley where it descends an insane set of very vertical staircases. The Double Dipsea runs the same course from Stinson Beach to Mill Valley, then back. It's only 13.7 miles but has some very challenging hills and is rarely flat. And after 3 marathons in the past eight weeks it kicked my butt.
The morning started off very promising. It was going to be a very hot weekend in the Bay Area. Friday reached 92 degrees on Friday and in Marin it was going to be topping 85 by the afternoon. But at the start of the race it was in the low 60s. The skies were clear which meant a lot of sun and it was already out. The Double, like the original Dipsea, is a handicapped race, which means that the start is broken into waves based on your age and gender, with the oldest participants getting a generous head start. My wave, 45-49 year old men was third from last and we started 8 minutes before 9am. I'm used to earlier starts and on a hot day that would have definitely been preferred, but as I said it was in the mid-60s by start time, so the temps were promising.
The start is uphill right away from Stinson Beach into the headlands. The initial climb includes some stairs which made for easier footing but a slow take off. I was feeling good and it was only a half marathon long, so I went ahead and ran as much of the climb as I could. This was probably not smart in hindsight but seemed necessary at the time as the course was a bit crowded, and it was easy to get caught behind someone going really slow if you didn't. Plus you kind of always felt like you were holding up others if you walked too much, as there were younger, more fit runners coming up from behind. Passing was a bit challenging though, as the trails were narrow and there was poison oak along the trail nearly the whole way.
Having been bitten badly by poison oak earlier this year, I had taken extra precautions for this race. I ran in tights and a long sleeve but very breathable shirt, and did my best to ensure all my skin other than hands and face were covered. And I had a bottle of Tecnu at the finish, just in case. The plan worked. Although the black running tights were maybe not a great choice. They were breathable but black and sun don't go well together.
Back on the trail and after the first major climb we were above the trees and in an open field with great views of the coast line. The trail was still narrow so I spent most of my time (here and throughout this race) looking down at my feet. It was a good thing because nearly every time I looked up or out at the view, I tripped over a root or rut in the trail. Thankfully I never went down (but saw a few folks who did). 
In this clearing there were a few Dipsea short cuts. I didn't know where they would be but followed the faster, more experienced Dipsea-ers as they cut off the main course. I felt a little bad taking shortcuts but I don't think they saved that much time or distance. Mostly they just paralleled the main trail so they were less crowded. We were in direct sun most of this section but it still wasn't much above 70 degrees...yet.
After the clearing it was back into the shadowed woods and again, a climb. This time up to the summit of Cardiac Hill, which tops out at 1350 feet. The climb was mostly pretty gradual which made it runnable but you really had to watch your step as large roots popped as much as half a foot up creating natural but very uneven steps. 
At the top we were greeted by a team of very enthusiastic volunteers handing out water, Ultima and a buffet of runner-friendly foods. I was feeling good and had my nutrition on me, so I waved them thanks and pressed on.
The backside of Cardiac was a steady and often steep decline, again filled with roots and the occasional set of man-made steps. On a couple occasions I stepped way up onto a root and literally leaped off and I couldn't see the landing site on the other side. A lot of 20-somethings were now caught up to me and passing rapidly. I stayed as far right as possible to let them pass and so we didn't collide and tumble down together. But there were times they felt the need to pass when there really wasn't enough room. I got into the habit of announcing myself before passing anyone with a friendly, "passing on your left," then a "great job."
After Cardiac it was more down as we approached the Mill Valley stairs. I was definitely feeling good and feeling fast. Shortly before the stairs there was another uphill this time on the road to Stinson, not on the Dipsea Trail. This made for easy footing and a chance to see the first place runners coming back from the stairs. They looked strong and ready for the rise up Cardiac. 
The stairs in Mill Valley are legendary. They aren't a single long set of stairs but a collection of stairways between the windy hillside roads. There are 671 stairs in all, if you count down and back up. When I got to the rest stop at the bottom of the staircase, I ran into my buddy John who was getting a quick drink. He had started 10 minutes ahead of me. It was good to see him. I gave him an encouraging shout out, ran under the makeshift shower a volunteer was providing from a garden hose and headed back to the stairs. No running now, everyone was walking back up. A few hearty folks were taking the stairs two at a time but I knew I had a long climb ahead of me so I needed to conserve energy. I double-stepped only when I needed to pass a slower participant. 
As I got about half way up the stairs I started to realize just how much harder the double would be compared to the original Dipsea, where you only go down the stairs. Going back up and then facing down Cardiac Hill was going to be a serious challenge. Why did I want to do this, again?
I made it through the stairs and was seriously winded. I was beginning to regret having run the first hill. After a short level section between the stairs and the beginning of the Dipsea trail that ran into Muir Woods, I got a welcome breather as I mentally prepared for Cardiac Hill. I needed it because the constant down we had on the way out would be a grueling up this direction. And it took me down.
I smartly chose to walk all the hills and run if flattened out. But there was a lot of climbing on this hill. About three quarters of the way up, I was getting exhausted. I could no longer run the flat sections, I needed them to recover for the next climb. Everyone was passing me at this point. As I got about 400 yards from the top, my buddy John caught up to me looking way too fresh for this point of the race. John clearly had been doing more hill training than I had and definitely had legs that hadn't been on three straight 26.2s. He was greeting everyone he passed and sharing cheery statements of encouragement. He asked me how I felt and sadly I didn't have the optimism we shared at the start of the race. 
He went on his merry way and I continued to struggle. With about 200 yards to go my legs were super heavy and each step was a push. I dropped to a very slow walk at this point and was beginning to wonder if I would make it to the finish. But I plodded along. About 100 yards from the top I was passed by an 80-year old who was gasping as well but clearly had fresher legs than I. That didn't help my mental state.
When I got to the top of Cardiac Hill, it clearly had earned its name and I was out of gas because of it. I hit the aid station to add water to my Amphipod bottle. On the way up the high concentration of electrolytes in my bottle was starting to upset my stomach a bit - this often happens to me on hot runs. So the water thinned them out. I drank about half the bottle and contemplated another hose shower but noticed that I was actually very cool. The dri-fit shirt and tights I was wearing had wicked the sweat away from my body but stuck around on the fabric creating a cooling moisture barrier around my skin. Plus most of Cardiac Hill on this side was shadowed so the water from the first hose shower was still with me. 
Having chose to pass on the second hose shower I stumbled over to the food table and grabbed a few watermelon slices. After this it was my intention to start the long decline from the Cardiac Hill ICU but I was now a bit dizzy. I slowly walked over to the medical tent and initially just stood there hoping the feeling would pass but then an aid worker asked me how I was feeling and I felt obliged to tell the truth. He quickly created an opening to the tent and ushered me inside and to a seat. It felt good to sit for a while but I was hunched over and this started to upset my stomach. I had a bout of stomach upset Friday night from too much Greek Yogurt, which I thought had passed by early morning but it was back now with a vengeance.
I leaned way back in the chair and that helped a ton but the dizziness was still there so I settled in for a while. I think I was laying this way for about 10 minutes before the bad feelings subsided. While resting I saw my buddy Kent at the aid station, getting a hose shower and some water. I wanted to call out to him and cheer him on but didn't have the strength. 
A few minutes later, an aid worker checked in on me and I said I felt better and started to get up. He looked down at me, not very encouraged and said, "Are you bored and pissed off yet?" I said no and he replied, "Then you better sit back down. We don't let people leave here until they are fully ready and you know they are when they're bored and tired."
His order was easy to follow. I wasn't bored or pissed off but nor was a really up for the 1.7 miles I had left. Had it all been downhill, maybe, but I still had Swoop Hollow, Steep Ravine and Insult Hill ahead of me, which all had significant climbing this direction. So down I went for another 5-10 minutes.
I was finally getting bored and didn't want to get pissed so I got up, refilled my water bottle, ate some more watermelon and took a deep breath. It was time to go. John and Kent now had at least 20 minutes on me and I knew I could do 1.7 from here now.
Cardiac Hill has a gradual down from here in mostly direct sun, so I walked/ran until I felt able to run/run. That lasted until Swoop Hollow, then it was back to walking up the hill. I had recovered a bit at the top of Cardiac but definitely wasn't more than 60% from here. I definitely walked more than I ran the rest of the way. After Swoop, I hit Steep Ravine and was back to walk/run - or really walk, walk, run a little, more walking. After this was the wide open flat stretch from the start that had a few short cuts. I definitely took the shortest route I could, running slowly and getting far to the right for those who weren't hurting like I was.
Then came the last up that definitely earned its name - Insult Hill. This isn't a steep climb but comes with just about a half mile to go and was very much not wanted at this stage of the race. John told me after the race that he was definitely insulted by its presence but wouldn't tolerate the insult and ran up it in spite. I had the spite but not the spirit, so I walked. 
Thankfully the rest of the course was downhill and mostly in the shade. I passed up the 80 year old who had passed me earlier but he caught back up to me at the very end and crossed the line before me. At this point I simply applauded him and crossed few moments later. I've never been so glad to finish a race.
If the Double Dipsea taught me anything it was that there is a limit to my endurance and need for recovery one race to the next. I probably didn't do enough hill training for this either. And that's the last time I scoff at a 13 mile race. 
Big congrats to John and Kent who finished strong. I'll be back for the Big Sur Trail Marathon in September - guaranteed.

Monday, June 24, 2013

San Francisco Makes Three Marathons in Six Weeks

There must be something wrong with me. In my training for the San Francisco Marathon I somehow convinced myself that it would be a good idea not to do an 18 mile training run, nor a 20 mile training run but to instead run two marathons along the way.

With six weeks to go until this my goal event, I joined my buddy John down in Santa Cruz for the Surfer’s Path Marathon. Four weeks out I nearly killed myself on the upper hills of Oakland in the Canyon Meadow Marathon. And now it was time to face down the hills of San Francisco for the event I originally intended for early summer.

After the trail marathon in Oakland my body was beat up. It took me much longer than usual to recover. My quads were talking and my ankle was crying uncle. I took it very easy the week after that one. Then I had a work trip to London the week prior to SF Marathon, so I decided to run again but super easy. My company put me up at the Lancaster London which is right across the street from Hyde Park, my favorite place to run in London. It has an endless maze of trails, all flat and all easy on the body. A perfect recovery course.

By the end of the week there I felt ready to take on another race. Or so I had hoped.

I woke on race day at about 3 in the morning. For some reason, the SF Marathon starts at the rude hour of 5:30am. This lets them clear the course and open the roads (especially the Golden Gate Bridge) to all traffic by 11am. But it still felt cruel to get up so early.

Kent and I carpooled into the city and were parked and in our corral by 4:45 and ready to go. It was an incredible morning in The City. At that hour the skies were clear and the lights on the Bay Bridge lit up the waterfront. It wasn’t windy and thus was warmer than expected. The gun went off to start the race and we were off. At this point I was immediately feeling the Canyon Meadow Trail Marathon - I was sluggish. I was barely able to hold an 8-minute mile, which is a slow start for me. Kent, quickly moved ahead.

The race starts along the Embarcadero waterfront, and follows the same course as our SF to Tiburon training run - out to Crissy Field, into the Presidio and up to the Golden Gate Bridge. The race takes the rightmost two lanes from the roadway, leaving the pedestrian pathway clear for spectators. When we hit the bridge it was still clear and calm and the sun had begun to rise in the East throwing gorgeous light across the water. About half way across, coming at us, were the first place runners. I’m always amazed at how relaxed they look, despite doing 5 minute miles. How do they do it?

When we had made the turn on the Marin-side of the bridge and were coming back, it was starting to get warm and I was beginning to worry about my wardrobe plan. The forecast had been for low 50s the entire morning so I had pulled out my SMS long sleeve running tee, PowerBar vest and black running tights. Here on the bridge it was already well above 60 degrees. But as we turned off the bridge and started heading toward Golden Gate Park, there was fog overhead and the weather turned colder. Perfect.

The next ten miles or so took place entirely in this incredible city park winding from ocean beach, through to the Haight and back a few more times. At mile 13 we split off from the half marathon runners and went West into the park for 4 miles before looping back to the half marathon finish. It’s kind of disheartening running past a finish line knowing you have about eight more miles to go. But a few of the spectators and runners who were finished, turned toward us and cheered us on. Thanks.

After the race left the park is where it got weird. This is the only race I’ve done where the course splits at several intersections. You’ll be running along and all of the sudden the volunteers who sent those before you straight ahead, now direct you to the right. The SF Marathon does this strange course splitting about 5 times. I don’t know if it actually serves any purpose. It certainly isn’t controlling runner crowds because there weren’t more than 10 of us at a time, going through. I don’t think it helped with traffic flow because while the split does shift us from Northbound to Southbound lanes, we ultimately have to cross those same lanes when we rejoin the main course. And at times it felt like these detours elongated the course. Kent said his Garmin showed 26.37 at the finish.

As I had successfully done during the Canyon Meadow Marathon, I was continuing to take advantage of my new technique for downhills - no braking. On this part of the course there was a lot of up, flat, then down. I would pass the folks around me on the ups, they would catch back up on the flats and then I’d leave them in the dust on the downs. I really like this new change to my marathon running as it really gives me a serious breather on the downhills while gaining speed and not taxing my leg muscles with braking actions.

Despite the gains of the downhills I never caught Kent. We were back and forth with each other the first 13 miles but then he was able to hold a stronger pace than I and off he went. He is really becoming such a stronger runner. Way to go, man!

The second half of the SF Marathon isn’t very scenic until you get past mile 22. It goes through some well known neighborhoods but they are mostly inland and there’s a fair amount of warehouses and body shops along the way. When it gets toward the water then it gets good. By mile 24 we were approaching AT&T Park. When I did the SF Marathon second half, a few years back, we ran on the Embarcadero to the finish moving along the road in front of the home of the SF Giants. This time we ran along the waterfront trail that encircles the park - definitely a far better trail. Being along the water always relaxes me and the views were great as there was no fog once again here in the east side of the city.

Despite the miles, my body was feeling good again as the final two miles came upon me. I held pace and pushed on as we put the ballpark behind us and could see the Ferry Building up ahead. I crossed the line in 3:36, a strong time for me. Kent, the stud, crossed 4 minutes earlier. Awesome.

Despite the hard training with the prior two marathons the SF Marathon was a very steady race for me. Usually I have a faster first half than second but in this race my splits were even at around 8 minutes a mile the entire way. I attribute a lot of things to this - good nutrition planning, the no-brakes downhills and solid, steady pacing.

Not a bad way to reach number 45 in my marathoning career.   

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Hey, it's Saturday, I think I'll run a trail marathon this time

About two weeks ago, I decided, on a whim to run the Surfer's Path Marathon in San Jose. I did well, I felt great and I recovered pretty quick. I'm two weeks out from the SF Marathon and was due for my 20-mile training run - the longest I train before a marathon but most of my SMS Running Club buddies were either out of town or committed to run Rock n Roll San Diego that weekend. So I said, "huh, what if I ran a marathon instead of my 20 miler? That would certainly be a good substitute. There's a trail marathon happening tomorrow in Oakland that would fit the bill. I can still register, it's got some hills (which I'll certainly encounter in San Francisco). Hmm, this might be perfect." And so was born a very bad idea.

The race I chose was the Canyon Meadow Marathon in Redwood Park in Oakland. It was put on by Coastal Trail Runs a great local race manager. I had run their Golden Gate Trail half marathon a couple years back in the Marin headlands, so it seemed perfect. The course was a double loop through gorgeous hills I had never been on before and Saturday had been a warm but not too hot day. Heck, I could always give it a shot and if after 13 miles I was tired or the heat got to be too much I could always quit. After all I had done a 26.2 run just two weeks earlier. Let's go for it.

I rose at 5am Sunday morning feeling good but not well rested - pretty typical for me as I never sleep well before a marathon. After obliging the dogs on a short walk (rarely can I leave the house without succumbing to their insistance) I loaded up the car and took off for the Oakland Hills. Google maps clocked the drive at 1 hour. With little traffic at 6:15am I got there by 7. After registering and prepping my gear for the run I decided to take a look at the course map just to get my bearings and see where the aid stations would be located. Unlike road races, trail runs require you to carry your own nutrition and have a good hydration plan, as they are usually very limited in where they can place an aid station. On this course there would be two such spots, roughly a third of the way through the 13 mile loop, each. The loop didn't look too challenging until I saw the elevation chart. The first 5 miles were pretty much uphill the whole way. Not one, long crazy climb like Pike's Peak Marathon or even the PG&E Trail at Rancho San Antonio Park, but more of a quick climb, leveling off, then long climb succession. In total, the race would give me about 3,000 feet of climbing per loop. I got my head around this, sort of.

Shortly before 8am the race organizer got on the loud speaker to gather the troops and explain course marking, race rules and other things. This race had 5-mile, half marathon, 30K, marathon and 50K options so if I weren't up for the full 26.2 I had outs. But who was I kidding. I'm a marathon man. While we were waiting for the start, I overheard a few veterans of this race describing the course to a few newbies - so I listened in. "You're going to be pretty much climbing the whole first half of the loop and those hills will take their tool, so I recommend walking them," he said. Good advice. "Watch out for the poison oak out there, too. It's everywhere." Yikes. After my bout with poison oak last month I wasn't excited at all about cross its path again. Good thing I brought a bottle of Tecnu. Now I'd have the chance to find out how well it really worked.

"Five, four, three, two, one...Go!" And we were off and running. Sort of. More like slowly climbing as the start was indeed uphill. It was a relatively gradual dirt climb so most people were running slowly, jockeying for position and passing those who were taking the hill more slowly. I passed a few people but was determined to heed the wise advice I had heard. When the hill got much steeper, after about 500 yards, I was walking.

Just as advertised, the first half of the first loop was a lot of up and very, very little down or totally flat. I walked all the steep ups and switched to running anytime the course flattened out. The morning was cool and overcast so there was little risk of overheating.

About two miles in, we flew past the yellow ribbons denoting the turn for the 5-milers and the runners ahead of me started climbing yet another hill. They were following the signs and ribbons designated for the half and full course and so I followed suit, until I saw those ahead start coming back down toward me. Turned out some Boy Scouts, thought it would be funny to turn the sign and send us up to a parking lot, rather than on our designated course. Thanks, kids. I was just glad I hadn't gone more than 30 yards up this detour.

I reached the first aid station in just 45 minutes, which I think was pretty good given the slow pace. I wasn't wearing a Garmin or using iSmoothRun on my iPhone so I had no idea the mileage. Since I had my own nutrition, I ran right past the aid station, putting several more runners behind me. After this stop, the course started to decline a bit and seemed to be more shaded. I propped my sunglasses atop my Honolulu Marathon visor and picked up the pace considerably.

One of the more recent lessons I'd learned about running was how to avoid braking when running downhill. It's very tempting to brake when running downhill so you don't get out of control and get going so fast you run out of energy. But braking actually costs you more endurance as your muscles have to engage in the braking motions and in doing so degrades your momentum and cadence. To overcome this, it's actually more efficient to not brake but to shorten your stride length and increase your cadence. You, at least this is how has been for me, gain better control at speed this way and let your body and gravity work together to determine your actual pace. It's much easier on the body, I felt.

So with each downhill I flew down passing folks each time, then would recover on the flats and climbs (I know, recovery on climbs? Sound strange but was actually true for me. Remember, I was walking the hills - thus the recovery).

After about the half-way point in the first loop the course got significantly more wooded and the trail more narrow. At one point the trail got so thin and had such high banks that I had to put my feet directly in front of each other. Overgrown poison oak and dry grasses sporting foxtails stuck out at all angles and you couldn't help but brush your legs against them. I think I ran through these parts a little bit faster. Come on, Tecnu, you gotta work.

I hit the second aid station 45 minutes after the first one and was feeling good. So I ran past it, leaving another two runners behind and started hearing cheering. Was I that close to the finish line for the half? Turns out, no, the cheering was for a game taking place at a family picnic just off the trail to the left. Oh well, I still told myself the cheers were for me.

From this point forward the trail was not deep in the woods but running along some picnic areas and camp sites in the park. And these trails had significantly less non-race traffic on them. Canyon Meadow wasn't closed for race day, so there were multitudes of hikers, walkers and dogs on the trail with us. Not having the competing foot traffic on these narrower trails was a good thing, though.

With about two miles left in the first loop the course ran East along the picnic grounds and far below you could see runners ahead going the other way, towards the finish. This is usually a good and bad sight. Good in the sense that a turnaround point must be ahead soon and bad because, "where the heck is that turnaround? I've been running East for twenty minutes now!" Or so it felt at the time.

We finally turned around on a very steep and technical turn. It was definitely an ankle twister so I had to be careful and take it slower than normal. After that it was flat, wide and straight away to the finish.

As I approached the half marathon finish line I was feeling great so with just under 2 hours on the clock, I confidently turned left and restarted the loop course. I ran confidently past the aid station that was here, thanking the volunteers for being here but not needing anything from them and then after they were out of sight behind me, slowly began walking up the steep hill once again.

It was around 10 am now and most of the early cloud cover had burned off. I pulled my sunglasses back off my visor and told myself to be calm and comfortable walking the hills because I still had 13 miles ahead of me and would need every ounce of energy. Yes, I could take the 5 mile cut off and just do 30km today, but no, that just wouldn't be my style.

I passed the 30k turnoff, stayed straight at the Boy Scout detour (fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me) and kept climbing. It was definitely warmer this second loop but was still in the low 70s, so doable.

By the time I hit the first aid station again, only 45 minutes had passed so I was on pace with my second loop so far. Good news. I stopped here to refill my Amphipod bottle and at least peruse the food items provided. They had the usual gummy bears, M&Ms, nuts, Reese's Pieces and other ultramarathon staples. But none of these are part of my race regimen. They also had baked potatoes which are surprisingly good race food. I didn't need anything and still had a ClifShot left in my bag so I moved on.

About a mile or so past the aid station I started feeling like the second loop was longer and definitely more exposed to the elements than I had remembered. I also realized my recollection of the first loop being mostly downhill at this point was wrong. We were still climbing most of the time and I was definitely tiring of the ups. About 30 more minutes in came the downhills. On much more tired legs these technical downs were much more treacherous. I kept to my goal of not wasting energy braking but was taking the descents far more carefully. I also started cursing my Skechers running shoes as the front toes caught on rocks or roots a few times causing me to stumble and nearly go down. My worst fear: a forward fall face-first into poison oak. Not good at all. So I kept the pace well under control.

I was about a mile out from the final aid station and feeling very tired. The hills kept coming and the downhills seemed shorter, more uneven and less forgiving. I stumbled a few more times but always caught myself and kept going. But I was definitely much slower now and got comfortable with those I had passed in the first loop catching me and drifting by. I was running my own race, and just a training race at that, so falling behind wasn't going to bother me.

Shortly before the final aid station was yet another uphill. Was this here the first time around? Sheesh! I walked up, using strong arm swings for better momentum and to assist my tired legs. By now I was also noticing that the second half of the loop which I could have sworn the first time through was all wooded and shadowy, proved to also be mostly exposed to the sun which was quickly warming the park. On a particularly sunny section, on a slight downhill, my worst fear came true. The Skecher on my right foot caught once again on a rock and this time I wasn't able to get my left in position to stop the fall and went straight down. I landed full-body down on the trail before me. Thankfully there was no poison oak here as this section of the trail was in full sun. But there were plenty of foxtails, burrs and other things there to catch my fall and inject themselves into my clothing and body. I got a nice road rash down each arm and my right leg too. What fun.

The fall sapped the energy from me and felt like I laid there about half a minute before mustering the strength and emotion to get up and get moving again.

At the final aid station I was low on energy so stopped for another full refill of the Amphipod and a couple potato wedges. I also grabbed a cup of Coke for a quick caffeine injection and found that it wasn't flat and thus would not sit well in my stomach. Oh well, too late. I thanked the volunteers who told me I had only 2.3 miles to go. Thank goodness. I couldn't take much more.

All that remained was the mental challenge of the wooded trail heading East while I watched the few ahead of me on the lower trail heading for the finish. Normally such a sight would give me a boost of energy to get it over with but I was sapped and the lower trail felt more like it was teasing me when I really wasn't in the mood. There were a few spots where I could have shimmied down the hill and cut to the lower trail and home but as tempting as that seemed in my current state of exhaustion I would never do it.  So I plodded on to the ultimate turn for home.

No acceleration to the finish was happening today. I was spent. The course had gotten the better of me for sure but I was going to finish one way or the other. I'd love to say I ran that whole last mile in but I didn't. I walked about half of it. But I ran the last 100 yards and finished in 4:25. It was sunny and hot when I crossed the line and few participants were still there so there was no cheering, except for a gracious 8 year old and his mom who were sprawled on a blanket under the tree. I smiled a thanks to them, lowered my head to receive my medal and starting walking to the car. I had only one thing on my mind -- Tecnu.

I slathered my entire body with the stuff when I got there, then changed out of the Skechers and into flip flops. After stretching a bit I walked back to the finish line to see how I did and found I finished 7th overall and second in my age group. I was super pleased and just as I was wondering who had finished first among the 40-somethings, I turned around to see an Englishman with a steel medal stating "1st" on it. We exchanged congratulations and war stories about the hills. He too had decided on Saturday to run this race, so I guess I'm not the only crazy one.

I left desperately seeking a hot shower and cool ice bath. Marathon number 44 was in the books.
And yes, Tecnu did the trick.