Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's One Day

I decided to do something a little different for New Year's Eve this year. While everyone else got dressed up to the nines, I went for the twelve. Twelve hours, that is. To close out 2010, I ran around a lagoon for 12 hours. Yup, you read that correctly. Endorphin Dude registered for the New Year's One Day race and ran in circles at Crissy Field in San Francisco from noon to midnight. My biggest fan was there to cheer me on. If you look a little bit to the right of her ear, you will see the marathon caped crusader zoom on by.

I arrived at Crissy Field half an hour early to pick up my bib and timing chip and to claim my spot on the field. All I had with me was a lawn chair and my duffel bag filled with bananas, nuts, Gatorade, and a change of clothes. To my very pleasant surprise, the folks at Dolphin South End, my running club, had a tent set up! Seeing all the DSE peeps and having our own designated tent made me feel like I was part of a team. Ok, I'll say it, I felt like I was on the Olympic team!

Also at the start line were fellow Marathon Maniac, Russ Johnson and Chewbacca's nanny, Christine. Russ came all the way from Georgia! Christine came all the way from Antioch, CA! Ok, that didn't sound as dramatic.

When noon rolled around, we all gathered at the start line. When the race director shouted out "GO!", it made me laugh a little to see all the runners casually jogged out of the gates. I'm so used to seeing elite runners sprint out, but since this is a multi-hour ultra race, this pace is appropriate. I'd like to send a shout out to Mother Nature for not throwing buckets of water at us. She did provide us with some air conditioning, but I'll take that over a shower any day!

The Coastal Trail Runs folks noted that "each lap is 1.061 miles around the lagoon at Crissy Field with spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Alcatraz and the San Francisco Bay." I have to admit, even though I see these San Francisco landmarks all the time, I didn't mind seeing them over and over again as I ran each loop. They all reminded me of why I love this city so much. My goal was to hit 50k, and I knew I had plenty of time, so I took it nice and slow. I ran a little, I jogged a lot, I walked a lot more. Why kill myself, right? It's an endurance race, not a test of speed.

What I love about this run in laps concept is that I know that I could never get lost. I also know that I will never be alone because there will always be someone ahead or behind me. Every time you cross the mat, your time is registered on a big monitor so you can keep track of where you are at all times. The clock was a little off, but as my runner partner of the day puts it, I am a "human calculator" and am able do the math in my head. This gift for number crunching came in handy towards the end of the race! After crossing that mat, you were taken back to what I call "DSE Headquarters," which is where our tent was located. The DSE cheerleaders hung out in this tent and every time anyone crossed, they would cheer us on. Across from the our tent was the snack shack. Another thing I love about the Coastal Trail Runs peeps is that they feed you with every type of snack imagine. You need sugar? They got it. Salt? Swing on by. Protein? It's right there on the table. I never had to worry about bonking.

I had a lot of fun the first half of the day. I stopped at DSE Headquarters quite a bit to socialize. It's hard not to when you are surrounded by your friends. At the half marathon mark, though, I realized that I needed to get somewhat serious! As a result, I limited the socializing and focused on each lap. By this time, my running partner, Alva Woof, found her groove and we ran the rest of the way together. Alva had to deal with some demons early on, so I was happy to see her mentally get over those issues.

The two of us jogged to about mile 18 when we decided to try what we call the speed walker booty shake. You know what I'm talking about--this is the hip gyrating motion that speed walkers do to get their groove on. And yes, you know that you've secretly laughed to yourself every time you see this. I have to tell you, it works. I tell people all the time, never underestimate the walker. These people are athletes. Do you know how many times Yolanda Holder, the Guinness Book of Record holder for most marathons in one calendar year, has passed me up in a race? In any case, Alva and I adopted this technique and it carried us many many times around that lagoon. Functional, yet SASSY!

By about mile 20, I had to change out of the Marathon Maniac gear. I replaced the red with the black Endorphin suit. The funny thing is that I really wasn't planning to go all out with the cape. I really only reserve the full on super hero gear for the big races where thousands of runners and cheerleaders come out. When I arrived at the start line, something told me I had to do it. With all the tourists out at the Golden Bridge that day, it was fun to see the all the curious glances. At one point, a large group of visitors from the East Coast asked if Endorphin Dude would pose for a picture with them! I obliged.

What added to the allure of the endorphin suit was all the fan mail that I received throughout the day. One of the great things about this race is that the folks at home could check on each runner's progress every hour. They can also send emails directly to the race director, and those messages would be printed out and handed to the runners. I was so happy to have received a truck load of emails from all my Marathon Maniac and Half Fanatic friends. One of the race officials even commented that I received, by far, the most fan mail of the day. I felt like the Justin Bieber of ultra marathons. Thank you all who sent words of encouragement and jokes to me!

As the day went on, people came and went. Chewbacca and the dog nanny left about five hours into the race. I am very lucky to have Christine because there are not too many people whom I trust with my dog. I am also fortunate that the chiweenie totally digs her nanny. Newly minted Marathon Maniac, Martha Arnaud, also showed up to cheer on her fellow maniacs and DSE peeps. Notice in the photo below that Alva and I are still smiling. Also in the photo is Ken, another fellow DSE member. Ken kept passing us up on the course. Alva refers to him as Mr. Fong. By the way, did you notice the wardrobe change?

When I hit my 50k goal, I did the dance of joy. I had never run anything past 26.2 miles in my life before, so this was a big deal! However, I looked at the clock and realized that there was till two and half hours left in the race. I said to Alva that it was still mathematically possible for us to hit 40 miles if we kept focused for the final nine miles. She was totally up for it, as she is turning 40 this year and what better present could she possibly give herself than an ultra marathon coaster with 40 miles printed on it? We had to hustle though, so the booty shake went in high gear. At times, it looked like we were America's Next Top Model rejects, banished to the lagoon by Tyra Banks because of our awkward runway strut. Believe me, there was nothing high fashion about that booty shake, but we didn't care. EYES ON THE PRIZE and not on the booty! Alva and I kept plugging along.

It got colder and colder as the night went on. I didn't even think to bring gloves, so I had to use my extra pair of socks as mittens. I felt like I was baking cookies with those things on. Alva and I continued to plug along. We were pulling in a solid 14:30-15:00 pace, which was enough to get us to our 40 mile goal. However, when we got to mile 36, I felt we were slowing down and I feared that we wouldn't hit our goal. I went into mild panic mode in my head, though I tried to hide any signs of nerves from Alva. I continued to crack jokes to keep our minds off the fatigue. Alva contributed by telling me stories of her childhood and how her older cousins would torture her by putting fish eyeballs in her 7-Up. At the time, I thought that story was hilarious, but now that I think about it, it's kind of gross and mean. I probably would have guzzled down that 7-Up thinking the eyeball was an olive! Alva and I did what we could to stay focused, and slowly but surely, we racked up the miles.

At 11:45pm, the two of us hit the 39 mile mark. I quickly did some math on that calculator in my head and realized that, even though we were mathematically on track, exhaustion and pain kicked in big time. I sensed that Alva was mentally and physically drained, so I had to work extra hard at not only keeping myself strong, but her as well. I told her that for the final loop, we are not going to chit chat. We are just going to keep our eyes on the prize and the booty gyrating like Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show. The only problem was that when we made it to the half way point of the loop, we had lost about 40 seconds. I knew that if we had continued to walk, we would not make our goal, so I told Alva that we had to pick it up.

I cranked it up to a jog and Alva tried as well. I felt her get further behind me and I could hear the tremble in her voice as she repeatedly chanted "you're about 20 steps ahead of me. You're going too fast." Alva was clearly losing it, but there was no way I was going to leave her behind. We were both in this together and if I had to settle for 39 miles, I would, but for the life of me, I wanted the 40! I just kept telling Alva that I believed in her and to focus on my cape. I don't know how she did it, but she was able to keep up.

We made it around the bend and saw the finish line in sight. At that point, the race director announced, "ONE MINUTE!!" Mind you, it had consistently taken us two minutes to get to the finish line from that point in the previous rounds, so I shouted to Alva, "WE GOTTA SPRINT THIS ONE IN. YOU CAN DO IT! I BELIEVE IN YOU!" It was do or die. We only had 60 seconds on the clock left. I cranked it up to a full sprint and ran like my life depended it. I could see the crowd cheering me on. I sprinted all the way to the finish line with 31 seconds to spare. I then quickly turned around and cheered Alva on, as she approached the end! Nine seconds later, she crossed! The crowd roared for 11 seconds and then everybody counted down to the new year. Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!! Auld Lang Syne, WOO HOO!!

What an epic end to an epic year. I couldn't believe it. I just ran 40 frickin' miles! What a way to close out this incredible year: 32 half marathons, 7 full marathons, 1 ultra. Alva and I were in complete shock. It wasn't until moments later that we fully realized what had just happened. I looked around me and hugged everybody in sight. It was a complete out of body experience, and the last time I felt this level of runner's high was when I ran my first full marathon here in this awesome city. At that race, I had all my friends out there to cheer me on. At this race, I was blessed to have people I care about at the finish line cheer me on. My good friend and upstairs neighbor Lydia was there. Fellow maniacs Valerie Hower and Dane Rauschenberg stood by me. Mr. Fong and fellow DSE member and first female finisher for the 12 hour race Noriko gave me high fives and hugs. Ultra runner and fellow DSE member Chikara Omine brought me Chicken McNuggets! How perfect is that?

Now get this. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, the race director announced my name as the ninth overall finisher and first in my age division! NEVER EVER before had I ever placed in the top 10, let alone finish first in my age division. Not bad for my first ultra marathon, eh? Alva ended up finishing tenth and third in her age division, a first for her too.

I have proven to myself that with a lot of hard work and perseverance, I can accomplish just about anything. I had an incredible year and to close 2010 out in this fashion is beyond my wildest dreams. I have lofty goals for 2011. I will be going for the Titanium, which is the highest level in Marathon Maniacs. In order to achieve this, I will need to complete 52 marathons in one year. I can do it. I firmly believe I can do it. By this time next year, you will see 10 stars by my name.

Happy New Year!


  1. WOW, WOW, WOW!!! What an experience! Congrats on the distance PR and on your age-group and overall awards! This post was awesome to read! You are the man!!!

    Will you be wearing your cape in Cincinnati at the Flying Pig on May 1? I'll see you there! Feel free to Facebook me:

  2. AWESOME TONY!!! A huge congrats!!! Believe you can and anything is possible!!!

    Love your blog too!
    Yolanda "Walking Diva"

  3. That's awesome Dave!! looks like a fun run!!! love that coaster!!

  4. That is so awesome!! You made me cry!!

  5. Hey Endorphin Dude!
    I love your posts! I found out about you throught The Marathon Show, and you totally inspire me. I love your positivity!
    Are you doing Myrtle Beach, Little Rock, or Knoxville?
    If so, then I'll see you there!