Sunday, August 29, 2010

Santa Rosa Marathon

I ran my third full marathon today. That sounds so absurd to me. THIRD FULL MARATHON. How did I do at this race? THIRD. Third overall!!! Yup, you read that correctly, I finished THIRD overall! Third from the bottom, that is!! Yes, I struggled to get to the finish line, but I got there. I say all the time that I am not the fastest in the pack, but I always finish, and when I do, I feel like I've won the Boston Marathon. That's right!

I'm quickly becoming a regular on the marathon circuit! I like that I see familiar faces at these events. For the second straight week, I got to see Yolanda "Walking Diva" Holder. This lady is a big inspiration to me, so seeing her instantly motivated me! By now, I may sound like a broken record, but Yolanda is pretty amazing. This woman is walking her way into the Guinness Book of World Record. By the end of this calendar year, she will have walked 101 marathons. Never underestimate the marathon walker. These people are athletes.

The other person I bumped into was an old college friend. I had not seen Kathy in about 20 years, so it was a very pleasant surprise to see her at the Santa Rosa Marathon. The funny thing was that I recognized Kathy pretty instantly, so I called her name. She kinda looked my way but went on her way. I then called her name again and she looked again, so I knew it was her. I then approached her. What a small world. We ran together for the first mile before I had to bail. The girl is fast!

Finally, the last familiar face that I saw is a face I see quite frequently! The half marathon poster girl, Christine Clark, kicked some major butt and scored a PR at her 6th half marathon. I bumped into her at the cross over, and she looked strong. Christine did not look like she broke a sweat. She's been working very hard and the dividends are really beginning to show. Next up for Christine: The Lake Tahoe Marathon. Yes, you read that correctly. Christine Clark will be doing a FULL marathon.

I love seeing people I know on and off the course on race day. It always gives me that boost to keep plugging along.

I really enjoyed the first half of this race. 13.1 miles has become pretty routine for me, so I knew what I needed to do to get to the halfway point. I was actually doing pretty well all the way up to mile 17. My problems started at mile 18. I'm not really sure what it was, but I experienced a colossal meltdown. I believe it was all mental. I walked for about four miles and then something happened at mile 25 that I did not expect.

After I took a little break at the aid station, I picked up my sluggish body and embarked on that final mile. I turned around and noticed someone struggling just like me. Introduced myself to this person and he boldly said to me, "let's just do it!" With that, my tired legs became a non-issue. The two of us picked up our pace and plowed our way to the finish line. I swear, we were like soldiers in combat who saved each others' lives. Seriously.

Marathon guardian angels come in many different forms. At the Modesto Half, I had Erin Hardie Sperry. On the Extraterrestrial Highway, there was the Walking Diva. In Santa Rosa, an IT guy from the Silicon Valley saved me. Thanks Pete, you're my hero.

I am not bothered by the fact that it took me 6 hours and 45 minutes to finish. I'm new to this marathon thing, so every race is a learning experience. I've mastered the half marathon, so now I just have to work on the full. The good news is that I improved my time by a full hour from my last race, so I know I'm doing something right.

Wow. Endorphin Dude finishes his third full marathon. By crossing that finish line in Santa Rosa, I not only get another cool medal, but I earned my credentials. I am now officially a Marathon Maniac. I am very excited to be initiated into the insane asylum as Marathon Maniac #2810! I worked hard for this, and I deserve it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Run For The Blue & Gold 5K

I am deviating from the norm with this post. No picture of me. I'll wait 5 minutes for you to get off of the floor and recover from shock ..... ready? Ok.

So as I was saying, I am deviating from the norm and posting a picture of my friend Michelle. This girl did something spectacular this morning: Michelle ran her first 5k, and she did it in a little over 42 minutes! I ran by her side and paced her, and throughout the whole 3.1 miles, she focused on the task at hand and ran the distance. You have to understand Michelle's background to fully appreciate why this feat is so spectacular. Long story short, Michelle's health was quickly deteriorating, so she made some healthy changes in her life. She started the Couch To 5k program and is now training for her first half marathon. On October 17th, Michelle will be running her first 13.1 miler at the Nike Women's Half Marathon, and if she does what she did today on race day, she should have no problem crossing that finish line.

Congratulations Michelle on completing your first 5k! Keep up the good work. Fans and supporters of Endorphin Dude, please check out Michelle's Team In Training site, and please feel free to throw some coins at her.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Extraterrestrial Full Moon Midnight Marathon

For my second full marathon, I wanted something unique and quirky. I got exactly that on the Extraterrestrial Highway in the Nevada desert. How could I go wrong with a description like this?

Running along the fringe of the mysterious Area 51, this stretch of highway (375) has an overwhelming number of reported UFO sightings. So much so, that in 1996 the federal government officially named highway 375 the "Extraterrestrial Highway". The ET Highway has become a gathering place for UFO enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. With elevations ranging from roughly 4000-5600 feet, the high desert will enchant you with gorgeous vegetation, surrounding mountains, and stunning vistas. An additional treat is the cooler temperatures. Rachel, NV is generally 15 degrees cooler than the Las Vegas Valley; coupled with a midnight run, temperatures should be in the 60's in August!

So here's my weekend schedule: fly into Las Vegas Saturday afternoon, jump on the bus to the start line in the evening, run the race at midnight, cross the finish line at the crack of dawn, jump back on the bus for the 2 and half our drive back to Sin City, and fly out Sunday afternoon. Busy itinerary, yes, but tis the life of the marathoner! With the exception of my flight being two hours delayed, everything went as planned.

When I arrived in Vegas, I was greeted by 100-plus degrees of fiery Fahrenheit hell. I'm from San Francisco, so I'm not used to this kind of boiling point heat. Thank God this was a midnight marathon! If I had to run in this heat, I probably would have melted into a puddle of Vietnamese GU.

After stepping off the plane, I quickly made my way to the Thrifty Car Rental, got my economy car, and jetted off to The Hard Rock Casino for the Expo. The first person I saw there was Yolanda "Walking Diva" Holder, my marathon hero. This lady is going for the Guinness Book record for most marathons walked in one calendar year: 101. This Extraterrestrial Highway marathon will mark her 72nd for this year.

I also made some new friends at the expo--Ray, Sarah, and Hector--all from Long Beach. While we waited for the bus, I got to know these three, and it was great hearing their stories. I know I will be seeing these folks on the SoCal circuit in the fall, starting with the Long Beach Marathon.

When the shuttles arrived at 9pm, we all got on the "quiet" bus so that we could rest. It was a two and half our drive to the start line, so any second of shut eye I can steal, I will!

Being out in the middle of the desert in the dark was fun. All you could see were neon glow necklaces! At 12am sharp, the race director shouted out "GO!" and we all took off. I was feeling pretty good the first 6 miles, but once I hit mile 7, the altitude sickness started to kick in. We were at about a 5000 feet elevation and I was really beginning to feel it. I got very light headed and I had a very hard time breathing. So I listened to my body and walked the next few miles.

Along the way, I bumped into Yolanda and a bloke from Down Under named Anthony. Anthony is from Sydney, Australia, and is on holiday in the states. He decided to run this midnight marathon while in Vegas for the weekend. The poor guy blew out his knee at mile 6 and had to walk the rest of the way. By mile 11, he was feeling pretty delirious from the altitude, just like me!

As the sun started to rise, I continued to plug along. After mile 8, I walked about 10 miles with slight bursts of jogging here and there. My legs were fine and under other circumstances I probably could have run to that finish line. However, the sleep deprivation and exhaustion got the better of me. I still was able to get a good shot in front of the Rachel, NV sign!

I kept plugging along, but by mile 23, I was really beginning to lose it. Runners and walkers were passing me up one by one. My eyes were throbbing and my head felt like it was about to explode. I couldn't breathe. I removed the Endorphin Dude head band hoping to get some air circulation to my head. It took me 24 minutes to get from miles 24 to 25, and 31 minutes to get from miles 25 to 26. The remaining runners and walkers who passed me were concerned and asked if I needed medical attention. One runner, who is a nurse practitioner, even stopped to take my pulse. I was grateful for all the concern, but I was so close to that finish line. I thanked everyone for their concern and continued to inch along the Extraterrestrial Highway.

Just when I thought I was about to collapse, who do I see? My marathon guardian angel is who. Yolanda, who had finished an hour before, walked out to the the 25.8 mile mark with her friend MG to escort me back! I couldn't believe it. Seeing Yolanda and MG gave me that second wind to jog those final .4 miles to the finish line. The Walking Diva said to me, "Good Work Tony! You made it this far! You can do it. You're almost there. You are so close to completing your second marathon!" She then snapped a picture of me and continued to cheer for me as I desperately jogged to end.

When I finally made it to the finish line, I pretty much collapsed. There was nothing left in me. I'll be honest and say that I really did not experience any runner's high, for I was too exhausted. That, however, does not mean that I am not proud. Believe me, Endorphin Dude pulled out all that he had to complete this arduous race, and I am damn proud of myself for finishing!

Yolanda later sent me the picture she snapped when I struggled at mile 25.8. She wrote a little inspiring note on it, and I choked up a bit when I read it. I'll be honest and say that E.T. kicked my ass. I wish that alien would just phone home and go away! It took me 7:46:48 to finish this grueling race. I learned something valuable this weekend: don't expect a PR on the Extraterrestrial Highway. The high altitude, the gradual incline of 1000 feet over the first 13 miles, and sleep deprivation, don't really make for ideal marathon conditions. I also learned that it's not a good idea to attempt to stay up through the night a few nights before. On Thursday and Friday nights, I stayed up to 3am, but as it turned out, my internal clock automatically woke me up at 7am. In the end, I lost sleep, which negatively affected my performance. In spite of all this, I still crossed that finish line and earned my second 26.2 miler medal. Woo Hoo!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Walt Stack Trail 10K Run

I spent a good part of Saturday night doing laundry. I didn't realize how much dirty laundry I had. At the end of the night, I cranked out three loads. I started this laundry stuff at about 10pm, thinking I'd be done in one hour. I was wrong! I ended up finishing at about 3am. I blame dirty laundry for my poor showing at the Walk Stack Trail 10k Run!

I jest. Not about the laundry, because I really did stay up until 3am doing laundry. I jest about blaming the laundry. I blame myself for poor time management. I knew I had a 10k to run in the morning, yet I still stayed up through the night. At least I had clean shorts for the 10k!

I am proud of myself for getting out of bed and making it over to Crissy Field for this race. When I crossed that finish line, I cheered! I don't care if it's 6.2 miles or 26.2 miles, I'm always happy when I'm done! I had to work for this one. I was tired and at times my mind kept telling me to stop. However, I persevered. I pushed through and completed the 10k in a little over one hour and 17 minutes. Yay!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Presidio Cross Country 3.5M

That's me in the Mr. Potato Head t-shirt sprinting to the finish line. I really wanted to finish under 40 minutes. I pushed hard and I did it! What made it sweeter was that this was actually at 3.5 miler, and not the 5k that I had initially thought. The course was rough, too. There were not only hills, but sandy hills. And, to top all that off, I had just run a half marathon the day before! Glad to be done with another race with my running club. I love Dolphin South End Runners!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Salinas Valley Half Marathon

After experiencing one the greatest moments of my life two weeks ago at the San Francisco Marathon, I seriously feared that this weekend's half marathon in Soledad would be a big let down. Thankfully, the Salinas Valley Half Marathon delivered! I got out there and had fun. I did experience a little bit of shin splints early on, but I quickly recovered from it. I kept thinking back to mile 14 of my first marathon when I cramped up, so I took it a notch down and relaxed. It worked. After mile three, I was able to breeze through. It helped that my running buddy Erin and her friend Naomi were out there with me. I finished the race with a gun time of 2:38:26, a time I am very happy with.

I hope this does not sound too cocky, but running this half marathon was pretty easy for me. I've already run a full 26.2 miler, so running half the distance definitely felt significantly easier. I'm much more relaxed out there now. I have nothing to prove to anyone anymore, not even myself. The Salinas Valley Half Marathon is my 22nd half marathon, and I'm still loving it. Life is sweet!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge

I ran the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge with 30 of my co-workers this evening. How awesome was it to return to the scene of the crime where I crossed the finish line of The San Francisco Marathon, my inaugural 26.2 miler. I ran this race with about 30 Dolby Peeps, and we had an awesome time. I finished this 3.5 miler at 36:31, and am feeling good!

Running is fun for me, but it's a whole lot more fun when I'm doing with people I like! There was definitely a sense of camaraderie. I hope there is another opportunity in the near future to run with this group.