Runner Spotlight: Shelly PerryJanuary 28, 2011
HARRC 2010 Robert Mahady Dedicated Female Runner of the Year
Shelly Perry, from Camp Hill, is the Harrisburg Road Runners Club 2010 Dedicated Female Runner of the Year. Shelly makes up what she lacks in speed with her sheer determination and heart. She usually finishes somewhere near the end of the pack, but the key word is finish, this she does in every race she enters. Shelly has completed runs of a couple miles all the way up to and including the half marathon. Last September she completed the Minich Half Marathon in a time of 3:04:48, 5th in her age group and the 2010 Summerfair 10k in a time of 84:48, 4th in her age group and the Run for the Colts 5K in 39:48.
Shelly participated in 17 Sunday club runs running distances from anywhere from 3 miles to 10 miles. The 17 Sunday club runs is not an enormous number but it is when you consider the fact that Shelly has only been running since June of 2010, which means that she has participated in 17 out of the 22 that there are online stats for. She can be seen in most of her races with a short, dark, handsome guy that goes by the name of Chuck. This very energetic, enthusiastic and faithful runner, disguised as a chocolate lab, is her constant companion. He only accompanies her on just all of the shorter runs, 10K range give or take a few, no double digit mileage.
She plans to continue to run half marathons, a little too far yet for her friend Chuck, as she will be running the Chambersburg Half this morning and plans to up her game a notch by running the Gettysburg Marathon in May.
Congratulations to Shelly Perry, HARRC’s 2010 Dedicated Female Runner of the Year!
Runner Spotlight: Mike CassataJanuary 28, 2011
HARRC 2010 Robert Mahady Dedicated Male Runner of the Year
The Harrisburg Area Road Runners 2010 Dedicated Male Runner of the Year is Mike Cassata. Mike is originally from Johnstown, that in itself should be enough to win him this award, but there is much more. Mike is a quiet, unassuming, and very steady runner who is very comfortable in races anywhere from the mile to the half marathon. He has been running for a number of years, starting in his twenties with a few years off here and there while being distracted by that nasty four letter word, “work’, like a lot of older runners didn’t get real serious about road racing until later in life. In 2010 he ran the infamous Chambersburg Half Marathon, anybody who has run this race knows the level of difficulty is off the charts, especially when Mother Nature has a hand in it. Mike did the 2010 wet, hilly and very windy race in 2:07:52, 172nd overall and 7th in his age group. He showed his favoritism for this distance by running the Harrisburg Half in September in a time of 2:03:43, 10th in his age group, and the hilly Minich Half in October in a time of 2:07:00, 3rd in his age group. Mike also showed his diversity by running the Summberfair 10K in Carlisle in a time of 55:11, 7th in his age group and the Harrisburg Mile in a time of 7:36, also 7th in his age group.
Mike, a very friendly and social guy, attended many club functions in 2010 which include 24 Sunday club runs and numerous Saturday training runs. Some of his top runs for the Sunday club runs are: 5 miles – 43:59: 4 miles – 34:28; 5K – 25:38; 10K – 56:10.
Mike also enjoys a seasonal event, where he is an avid supporter and participant in the area’s amateur ice hockey events.
Congratulations to Mike Cassata for being HARRC’s 2010 Dedicated Male Runner of the Year!
Runner Spotlight: Debbie WhittleJanuary 28, 2011
John W. Kennedy Dedicated Member of the Year
Debbie Whittle is the Harrisburg Road Runners Club 2010 Dedicated Member of the Year. Deb is a very dedicated club member. She shows up to help at a lot of area races if not walking in them. She walked in 14 of the Sunday Club events, in addition she was assistant Race Director for another 8 Sunday races. In the Sunday runs that she and Steve direct she always has a table set up with cookies, coffee and other things to eat and drink. She always has a smile on her face and is easy to engage in casual conversation.
Congratulations to Deb Whittle, HARRC’s 2010 Dedicated Member of the Year!
Runner Spotlight: Mary Lou HarrisJanuary 28, 2011
HARRC 2010 Female Runner of the Year
Mary Lou Harris is the Harrisburg Road Runners Club 2010 Female Runner of the Year. Mary Lou, a veteran distance runner, usually finishes in the top three of her age group in most races she enters. Mary Lou, who lives in Camp Hill, we won’t hold that against her, runs in a variety of road races over the year including the Harrisburg Marathon which she has run in four times. Her marathon times have been very consistent over the years, finishing the 2010 Harrisburg Marathon in 4:39:52 (2nd in age group). She ran three other Harrisburg Marathons, 2009 in 4:34:16 (3rd in age group), 2006 in 5:02:14 (3rd in age group) and 2003 in 4:33:22 (2nd in age group). In September she ran the Minich Half Marathon in a time of 2:03:44, finishing first in her age group and setting a new age group record. On the other end of the race spectrum, she also ran the Harrisburg Mile in the time of 8:02, finishing 1st in her age group. Mary Lou, a long time runner, didn’t start to run marathons until late in her running career. When asked how many marathons she has run she says about 15 or 16. She says about the only reason she keeps track at all is just to answer this very question. She will soon run in the Gansett Marathon in Narragansett, Rhode Island on April 16th, this will be her 15th or 16th marathon, or maybe 17th marathon, but then who’s counting?
Mary Lou, a pleasant soft spoken lady with a constant smile, participated in 15 Sunday club runs which include hosting two of them. Some of her best times at the Sunday runs are: 5 miles – 43:07; 4 miles – 33:51; 5K – 26:17.
She also enjoys down hill skiing, cross country skiing and snow shoeing, not a big surprise after spending a number of years living in the Buffalo area.
Congratulations to Mary Lou Harris for winning the HARRC 2010 Female Runner of the Year Award!
Runner Spotlight: JR BishopJanuary 28, 2011
HARRC 2010 Male Runner of the Year
Joseph (JR) Bishop, who hails from Dillsburg, is the Harrisburg Area Road Runners Club Male Runner of the Year for 2010. JR, who is a fairly recent club member, participated in a variety of road races last year. Only running for about a year and a half, he continues to improve with just about every
race at distances ranging from the 5K to the half marathon. He ran the Hershey Half Marathon in October, finishing with a time of 1:46:38 and in the top 300 out of a field of roughly 2000 runners. His Hershey effort represented a significant improvement from his performance in June at the Dover Half
Marathon. There he finished with a time of 2:07 – a respectable effort for his first half marathon!
JR is an enthusiastic and approachable individual who is busily involved in club activities. Last year he participated in 26 Sunday club runs as either a runner or a host. That is well over 50% of the Sunday events for which we have results. His 2010 Sunday run times have markedly improved over the year. In the 5 mile runs he shaved off over eight minutes to go from 45:25 down to 38:03. In the 4 mile events he dropped more than 5 minutes to plummet from 34:23 to 29:05. Some of his other personal bests include 22:27 in the 5K and 90 minutes in the 10 mile distances. JR’s wife Melody and their dog Griffin will occasionally run with him, including at some of the Sunday Club runs.
Presently, JR is recovering from a stress fracture, so his running is temporarily curtailed. He is keeping fit by walking Griffin and chasing his three cats around the house. I’m sure it won’t be long before he is once again out on the roads setting new PRs.
Congratulations to JR Bishop for winning the 2010 HARRC Male Runner of the Year Award!
My First Steeplechase Race — One to RememberJune 1, 2010
by Gary Grobman
A few years ago, I competed in the USATF Mid-Atlantic Regional Masters Championship, my first Master’s track meet. I ran a decent 5000, and finished second overall to Maurice Pointer, who finished the year ranked #1 nationally in the 5,000. My family was there, and it was really hot and humid, and they didn’t want to stick around for the 1500. So without really knowing what was on the schedule, I asked the officials if I could enter the next race. They said it was the Steeplechase and while the registration form said folks had to preregister, they said if I paid the 10 bucks, they would put me in the race. Assuming I got to the starting line in time, which was in about 10 minutes.
I had never run a hurdle race before at any distance or level, but it looked easy enough, and there was an almost certainty that I would medal in the race by simply finishing–not unusual for many (if not most) Masters track races. So, I ran to the car to get 10 bucks. Then I ran into the stands and changed my shoes, JUST IN CASE I was unable to completely hurdle the water jump, thus ruining my new racing flats. Best decision I made all day.
I got to the start line about a minute before showtime. I’m still drenched in sweat from my 5,000 but feeling somewhat elated as I had medaled in my first race.
Crack! The gun goes off. I race to the lead, with almost no one keeping contact with me. I come up to the first hurdle. And I stop dead right up to the hurdle. No way I can see myself getting over that hurdle the way I see it on those televised track meets, which is the only way I had even seen a Steeplechase race. It looks about nine feet high to me, and there are no steps or ladder available.
It takes what seems like a minute, but I figure out I can simply put both my hands on the hurdle and climb up and over it. Somewhat slower than hurdling, but I didn’t have any lunch plans. (Glad I didn’t have any dinner plans that evening, as well, considering my finishing time). After climbing over the hurdle, I am in last place, but I am sprinting to catch up to some of the other runners, who can hurdle, but aren’t that fast, and I spring by them. Until I come to the next hurdle. Again, it takes me a long time to get over this hurdle, and I am again in last place by the time I make it over. But I sprint pretty good, and now I come face-to-face with my first Steeplechase water jump. A rite of passage!
Confidently, I climb over the hurdle, starting to gain some technique, and this now takes me only 10 seconds or so rather than a minute. As I climb down, however, I am getting the impression that the water at the bottom is a bit deeper than I expected, based on seeing races where the athletes barely make a splash after they hurdle the jump, assuming they don’t completely hurdle the jump. And in my confusion and consternation that this is becoming another, er, hurdle in my quest to eventually become the USATF national champion (M54 at that time), I trip and fall head first into the water.
I am completely submerged.
Some of you know that the water jump is tapered, and in the area close to the hurdle, the pit is perhaps 2-feet deep. The spectators adjacent to the track (both of them, which is not a bad showing for typical Masters track meets, are laughing out of control. My family is considering placing an emergency call to River Rescue. And I’m complaining that it is ridiculous to have a nationally-sanctioned event such as this with no lifeguard on duty at the water jump. I know that next time I do this event, if I do it (and it is unlikely I will ever do it), I will be wearing floaties.
I finish in more than 15 minutes, dead last, humiliated. (Several officials at nationals know me as a result of this race, and have reminded me at both the USATF Nationals in Orono, ME and Spokane, WA how much they “enjoyed” my performance.) But I feel somewhat refreshed from the cool water of the pit. Perhaps, this might have served as a refreshing vacation if there had been some sand placed around the pit area.
My performance was good enough for the Bronze medal (as there were three in my age group).
My time was also good enough to be ranked 12th nationally at the end of the year on the Master’s T&F rankings, so I guess I can brag that I was a nationally-ranked Steeplechaser last year, slightly higher than I was ranked in the 5,000. Which tells you something about the value of national rankings that usually include only the REALLY major meets such as the nationals, supplemented by those who self-report. My guess is there have been no reported drownings of those who have raced the Steeplechase, but I know for a fact that there have been reported deaths from participants in the pole vault, including one recent case at Penn State. So, while I have had thoughts about trying this, I think I will pass, and limit my death-defying track exploits to possibly competing in the 5,000 and 10,000 at the senior games this year, which may not be as bad as my experience in the USATF Eastern Regionals a couple of years ago in Maryland, where the 5000 was inexplicably scheduled for 3 p.m. on what might have been the hottest day of the year.
Keeping On TrackFebruary 1, 2010
by Gary Grobman
Since 2007, I have been participating in Masters (35 and over) track and field competitions sponsored by the USA Track and Field Association (USATF). And I’ve enjoyed it. It is a departure from the usual 5K,10K, and half-marathon road races that have become a perfunctory exercise (pun intended) in my life. There are aspects to the competition that are more fun than road racing, and limitations as well.
Among the advantages is the opportunity to compete, REALLY compete, against some of the best athletes in the world, include world record holders. Now, I have been in races with some classy runners who have been household names. But I don’t really think Bill Rogers remembers that I raced against him because of the other 20,000 competitors who might have been in the race with us. And perhaps I caught a glimpse of him running by me the other way in a loop race. I waved to him; he didn’t. On the other hand, I distinctly remember being on the track with a former USATF Master’s Athlete of the Year Nolan Shaheed and talking some trash before he lapped me in the USATF 5K Outdoor National Championship in Spokane, Washington in 2008, running a staid and controlled 17:01 in the heat, shutting it down with a lap to go to conserve for his 1500 the next morning. At the age of 59! Among the more prominent names who compete at these meets are Joan Benoit Samuelson and Henry Rono. An occasional former Olympian will show up for kicks.
It is rare that there are more than a dozen competing on the track in a 5K or 10K, and for some reason, my medals from these meets seem to glisten more than my haul at road races. And I still get a thrill each year running in the same race as Frank Levine. Who is Frank Levine? Frank competes each year in USATF sanctioned events ranging from 400 meters to the 5,000. When I run in the Middle Atlantic USATF and Eastern Regional USATF Championships, it is not unusual for me to run in the same heat (both literally and figuratively) with Frank, who is 95 years young, and holds the world record for the 5K for his age group. And I beat him! As I look back on my running career, I think my best race ever occurred on the track, chasing down a current age-group world record holder for a satisfying win in a 1500 meter final in July 2008. And she (Lorraine Jasper) was really fast, for an old lady.
It is easier to get in a rhythm running on the track. You know exactly how much you’ve got left to run before you finish. You are given splits every 400 meters outdoors and 200 meters indoors. You don’t have to look down all of the time for potholes. And I’ve yet to get lost on a track course even once! You also know where your competition is at all times, as races are usually run by age groups, at least at the national level.
But there are some disadvantages. Running 25 laps around a 400 meter track in 95 degree heat can be a bit tedious. A typical road race 5K is part race and part festival. At track meets, there is no souvenir t-shirt or goody bag given out, unless you buy one when they are sold. There is no food. Registration can be expensive, particularly at the national level, although track clubs often subsidize registration fees.
The typical track meet competitor seems to me to be a bit more “serious” than those you might find at a 5K. While even the national USATF track and field competitions are “all comers” meets where anyone with the registration fee can simply show up and compete, few do who are not among the elite in their age groups. And it can be expensive to plan a trip to compete in a national track meet. In successive years, for example, I flew to Orono, Maine; Spokane, Washington; and Palo Alto, CA to compete in national championships of one kind or another.
Fortunately, we have two wonderful annual track and field opportunities not far from us—the Keystone Games and Pennsylvania Senior Games—which are held in late July in York, PA. I must say that even a mediocre runner can build an impressive track resume by competing in these meets, as there is a paucity of competitors, considering the prestige of being able to brag about being the state champion. I think that these competitions are among the running community’s best-kept secrets.
Comparing the Ph.D. Program to a MarathonNovember 15, 2009
by Gary Grobman
In my Ph.D. program, the director always referred to his Ph.D. program as a marathon, not a sprint. As someone who was, and still is, a competitive runner at distances from 400 meters to the marathon, I often shared my irritation with that analogy.
Yes, I would concede, there are some things in common between this program and a marathon. It does help to keep a steady pace and not get too distracted and upset by minor, mid-course corrections and strategies in your plan to complete the event. One such common mid-course correction for me during both the Ph.D. program and the marathon was the uncontrollable urge to scurry as quickly as possible to the side of the road (or out of the classroom or dissertation proposal meeting) and spill my cookies.
Both running a marathon and getting a Ph.D. require no special talent and can be achieved by almost anyone who is willing to do the training and pay the “entry” fee. Marathons and Ph.D. programs can be competitive or noncompetitive. Running the marathon, runners can work together to provide the psychological support needed to finish—many runners who have met for the first time during the race will bond, run together, and share the triumph by finishing arm in arm. Or runners who are competing engage in tactics that try to break their competitors physically and psychologically, in order to be the first to cross the finish line. Some Ph.D. programs purposely isolate their students, discourage collaborations, and pit students against each other. Other programs, such as the one in which I taught, encourage group projects, and try to build a community among their student populations.
Both finishing a marathon and completing a Ph.D. program are significant, lifetime accomplishments, which convey bragging rights to those who complete them successfully. Only a limited number of people do so—although it isn’t clear whether this is because few people can or few people choose to because they know better (or perhaps because they have read this book). It is common to hear marathoners say that in a marathon, when they reach the 20-mile mark with 6.2 to go, they’ve just started the race. In the same way, completing your classwork and comprehensive exams is a significant milestone; it only gives you a hint about whether you will finish the program successfully, as the “race” to the finish has just begun when and if you reach the milestone of starting your dissertation.
And you could make the case that a Master’s program is a sprint in comparison.
My own experience is a salient validation of this point. I was in a mid-career Master’s in Public Administration program at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. I could schedule any courses I wanted from the entire Harvard campus, provided at least four were offered by the Kennedy School. I had hundreds of courses to choose from each term, all of which would “count.” I needed just eight courses to graduate. School began in September. My graduation was the following second week of June. I hardly figured out where the bathrooms in my building were by the time I was presented with my sheepskin. I didn’t want this educational experience to end. But I knew in advance it could end, and could end with me receiving my degree if I scheduled and passed enough courses. I took 11 courses and sat in on parts of others. I learned a lot of useful skills and met some really interesting people, both student and professors. Among my professors were the Democratic Party’s standard bearer in the 1988 Presidential election, a speechwriter for Richard Nixon, and President Carter’s Domestic Affairs Advisor. Some of my student colleagues had been cabinet members of national governments and were potential heads of state. And most important, of the 165 students in the program, 163 received their Master’s degrees, as I recall.
In contrast, my Ph.D. program had no standard requirement for the credits needed to advance to the stage at which one was finished with classwork and ready to take comprehensive examinations. A candidate got to that stage when the doctoral committee agreed that it was time. There were required classes to take in the program, but they were offered infrequently, and there were many instances of students in the program being unable to even take one course that would “count.” No one really could be sure how many courses were needed to pass. Other scheduling problems tended to stretch the time students would be in the program. And, unlike in my Master’s program, it was my opinion that my colleagues tended to be all burned out losers, like I had become, with little future other than the hope that they might be able to jump-start their failing careers if they could only obtain a Ph.D. and start over. Most of my colleagues who were not burned out losers, and there were some, quickly realized that they would inevitably become that way if they didn’t catapult themselves as far away from the program as possible and as hastily as they could. And for these, finding a way to leave the program with their dignity intact became a sprint, not a marathon.
Dr. Grobman’s Ten Differences Between a Marathon and a Ph.D. Program
- In a marathon, you pay your race fee upfront and receive detailed instructions about the course and amenities available along the route. If a marathon were administered like a Ph.D. program, you would make a small payment at the beginning of the race, and you would have no idea what the final costs would be for completing each segment of the race. As you passed each milestone, you would be required to make a payment based on whatever the market would bear, and if for some reason you weren’t able to make that payment, you would be summarily removed from the race, even if you had only a mile to go to the finish.
- In a marathon, when you get to mile 25, it would be quite unusual for the race directors to make a decision to lengthen the course to 30 miles because they don’t quite think you are “ready” to finish the race or they’ve judged that you haven’t expended enough energy to justify completion.
- Marathon officials generally let you run the course unimpeded, rather than having the course monitors come out and try to trip you or otherwise knock you down so you can’t ever reach the finish line.
- In a marathon, the closer you get to the finish line, the less distance you have to go to complete the course. In a doctoral program, this is not necessarily the case!
- In a marathon, all of the competitors run the same course, at the same time, under the same conditions, and get rewarded based on their effort. You don’t win the race simply because you were physically attractive, because you brown-nosed the race director, or because the officials capriciously moved the finish line up or back a few miles only for you to meet some political agenda. Women and men alike run the same distance. In many Ph.D. programs, women are asked to do more simply because they are believed by predominantly male faculty to be more easily exploited and because they are seen to have a higher threshold for pain.
- In a marathon, the physical and emotional pain one suffers is usually temporary. In a Ph.D. program, the emotional scars almost never heal.
- In a marathon, only a few people have died trying to complete one. This is not the case for students in Ph.D. programs, who die of old age, heart disease, cancer, and other maladies before they finish their programs, either triggered by or exacerbated by the stress of being in a program. And this list does not include those who died as a result of doctoral students “going postal” or inflicting fatal wounds upon themselves.
- You can drop out of a marathon at any point for any reason with few consequences. Okay, perhaps you have wasted your entry fee, although you still get to keep the commemorative T- shirt, gorge yourself on Gatorade and energy bars, and revel at the post-race party. If things don’t seem to go right, particularly at the beginning, you can wait for the straggler bus and enter another marathon the following week. Dropping out of a Ph.D. program has more serious consequences. You’ve wasted years of your life and have virtually nothing to show for it— as the actual “educational value” (i.e., education that can be applied to making your real life decisions better) of typical Ph.D. level classes is typically only a fraction of comparable classes at the Master’s level, if there is any educational value at all. It is difficult, if not nearly impossible, to be admitted to another Ph.D. program once you drop out of one.
- You have a good chance of successfully completing your marathon once the gun goes off and you have made it to the start. It is not unusual for more than 95% of starters of a marathon to finish. This compares to well less than half of Ph.D. program “starters” in the social sciences successfully crossing the “finish line.” And finishing a marathon is mostly dependent on things within your control, such as your training, your diet, and your stick-to-itiveness. In a Ph.D. program, finishing depends on the good will of your faculty, the internal politics of the program, blind luck, and many other factors that you cannot control.
- Running a marathon is fun.
Runner Spotlight: Sean MorganApril 10, 2007
Fourteen Year Old Sean Morgan Finishes 35th Out Of 185 Men In The Ocean City Factory Outlets Half Marathon
Sean started running in 2003 by running in the Harrisburg mile and finished 3rd in the 10 and under age group with a 6:57 and ran in his first 5K at Elco High School and finished 2nd in 22:53.
He has continued to run in the Harrisburg mile and some 5K’s and 10K’s since. He won 1st place in 6th and 7th grade in the 2 mile run at Good Hope Middle school. In the fall of 2005, he joined the Cumberland Valley Cross Country team and really enjoyed the season, especially the coed part. By 8th Grade, school soccer won out over cross country though. His last 10K race was the very hilly Newport Turkey Trot where he ran a 44:50. Sean started running more regularly with HARRC in 2006 when it didn’t conflict with soccer and lacrosse.
Sean won the HARRC age group championship in 2006. After helping HARRC at the Harrisburg Marathon in 2006 and seeing several 15 year olds run, he had the itch to do one himself, but he was convinced to settle on a half marathon and see how he does with that. He started training in January for the 2007 Ocean City MD Half Marathon. It wasn’t easy getting miles in with indoor soccer and an indoor lacrosse clinic on every Sunday morning, but he still did pretty well with the training.
Race day came around and the weather was typical for this spring, 30 degrees, 15-20 mph wind and snowing. He ran a good race and finished very strong with the last 5 miles being under 8:00 min and mile 13 clicked off in 6:40. He finished in 1:43:27. Sean was 49th overall out of 419 total runners, 35th out of 185 men and 7th in the 19 and under age group. He plans on running in the Harrisburg Half Marathon this year and his goal is to run in the Boston Marathon at 18 and beat his dad’s Boston time of 3:16.
Runner Spotlight: Don HalkeJune 30, 2005
The 2005 Western States Endurance Run
by Don Halke
Several years ago, I got it in my mind to try to run 100 miles. In 2003, I achieved that goal by running the Mohician 100, which is held in Loudonville Ohio. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I looked at friend and told him, never again! That feeling lasted for a day or two, until I started thinking about trying to get into the Western States Endurance Run (WS). But being a wee bit crazy, I thought it would be really exciting to run with the likes of Gordy Ainsleigh, who started it all, running alone when his horse was injured and unable to run the distance, and also run with other super humans like Tim Twietmeyer and Scott Jurek.
To be selected for the WS, I needed to have a qualifying time in a 50 mile or 100 race, and then be selected in a lottery process. The lottery is a very big production resembling something like the NFL draft. It is held at the Placer High School, in Auburn California. In 2003, I sent my entry in for the drawing but was not selected to compete. I ran another race, which qualified me for the lottery in 2004, and I was selected. Some of my California running friends, Ken and Ellen Crouse, went to the lottery so they could be the ones to call me to give me the great news. I was so excited.
It turned out that I was one of 5 runners from PA selected to run the WS. Another runner, Marcia Peters, who once shared her lunch runs with me before taking a job in a different city, was also selected. After a local newspaper covered the story of Marcia and I being selected for the WS, Marcia called me. It had been 20 years since we had spoken and we had a lot of stories to share. Marcia invited me to join her and some of her friends from the Lancaster running community for some training runs. She is a much more proficient trail runner than I am and was a great training partner for me.
Running ultra’s requires a lot of training and a lot of help from training partners. I had the fortune to have Marcia and several other very loyal friends, Carol Varano, Ellen Sigl and Elizabeth West, to keep me out on the trails to get the “time on feet”necessary to finish a 100 mile race. Since WS is run in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, we needed to be prepared for long climbs, long descents and extreme temperature changes. My training partners trained with me in all kinds of terrain and in all weather conditions, including snow.
Finally, after 7 months of earnest training, it was time to head to California. This was a very special race for me and I was overwhelmed by all the support I had received and wishes of success from so many that have never run and many who are now too old to even try. I felt like I was running for an entire community and they were watching. And many people were watching, through their computers. WS had a webcast of racers positions that would be updated throughout the event. Many friends stayed up until late Saturday night following Marcia and my progress.
We arrived in Squaw Valley on Wednesday, June 22. On each of the three days preceding the race, informational meetings were held about the course, course conditions, crewing instructions, medical advisories and registration and medical check in. On Thursday, there is a trek up the mountain to Emigrant Pass for a flag raising ceremony and a reflection of the loved ones that have passed off the trail since last year. It was a very moving presentation and reminded everyone that just because we run, we are not immortal.
On Friday the registration is held, as well as a brief medical exam. The race directors require everyone to get weighed before and during the race. They monitor each runner for weight loss during the event, which could signal dehydration or renal problems. I never imagined that this would cause me problems during the race, but it did. By the way, the premiums are two shirts, coffee mug and a North Face back pack customized with the WS logo!
The race started at 5:00 AM. This is truly a trail race. The only roads were several to pass through two small villages and then for about a mile into the finish line. The race began by running up the ski slope of Squaws Valley. Like in the Wizard of Oz, don’t just follow other runners, follow the yellow ribbons! The lights were on to guide the way. By 5:30 the sun was beginning to brighten the sky as we were almost half way to the summit, which is approximately 9000 feet. After about 4.5 miles we crested Escarpment and began rolling along side the mountain, usually on snow. The first 28 miles had a good deal of snow, which was very hard and icy. Most runners fell at least a few times. Marcia and I proved to be good running partners through this country. We reminded each other about taking our electrolyte capsules and about when we should be taking our GU…also we kept a close eye out for of the yellow ribbons! At about this point, we saw a group of runners that had followed the wrong footpath, not the yellow ribbons, and had gone off trail. Unfortunately. They had to come back up a steep snow covered hill.
My wonderful wife, Melanie, was going to crew for me until the 62-mile point. At that time, my pacer, Paul would join me. Paul lives in the Auburn area and he volunteered to pace.
Marcia and I saw our crews for the first time at Robinson Flat (24.6 miles) and then again at Little Bald Mountain (28.6 miles). Although there had been other aid stations, it was nice to see a familiar face. At that point, Marcia and I were running comfortably and were under the 24-hour pace. But that was before the canyons. The beautiful canyons in WS are legendary. From Robinson Flat (elevation 6730) you drop into Deep Canyon (elevation 4800 feet) in 4 miles. Then you climb Last Chance( elevation 4200) only to drop into Deadwood Canyon (elevation 2800). Over the next 1.7 miles you climb 36 switch backs to Devils Thumb (elevation 4365), then drop to El Dorado Creek in 5.1 miles (elevation 1700), then climb7 switchbacks to Michigan Bluff, less than 3 miles away, elevation 3530 feet.
As Marcia and I entered the various aid stations, I started to get warnings about my weight loss. The officials would hold my water bottles and not return them until I ate and drank in front of them. Although I was drinking one or two 20 oz bottles of fluid every 5 – 7 miles, I was losing too much weight. But I was feeling full and it was difficult to drink more. Marcia thought this was funny…me losing weight! At the worse, I had loss 9 pounds and was in real jeopardy of being pulled from the race.
Marcia was always able to run down trails faster than me. Somewhere between Devils Thumb (47.8 miles) and El Dorado Creek( 52.9 miles) I was trying to catch up when I took an incredible fall and caught my right foot. It immediately screamed at me and began to swell. At about this time, something else also began to happen to me. I started to have a little problem with dizziness. It was very strange. I knew something was happening to me but could not understand it or explain it. I remember telling Marcia my foot was hurt, but cannot recall if she said anything. I recall seeing another friend, who passed me. Marcia was already ahead of me, heading towards Michigan Bluff. I do not remember how I got there or anything about the aid station. I recall Melanie was there, as well as Marcia’s husband, Larry, and pacer, Dave. I remember them getting me to sit in chair. I was dizzy and could not think clearly or explain what was wrong. Melanie told me later that I kept telling her that something was wrong, but I would not explain what it was. Somehow I got up and walked to the next aid stations, Bath Road and then Foresthill’s. I don’t think I ever ran. And looking at the elapsed times between these aid stations, I probably walked the entire time. I cannot recall Bath Road Aid Station at all.
As I approach Foresthill’s, my pacer, Paul, joined me and walked me into the aid station. I was never very interested in having a pacer, but with this race, it is an excellent idea. Besides the dangers of falling off a path, they are rattle snakes, bear and an occasional mountain lion. ((I actually saw a rattlesnake on the course.)
At Foresthill’s, I was weighed and came close again to being held. I had my foot taped by a doctor. She taped it tight with medical tape and duct tape. I could barely fit into my shoe and could not tie it, only knot it with the very ends of the laces. I do remember the doctor suggesting I get my foot x-rayed.
I could not think clearly and never went to Melanie to get my night gear. Paul made me stop and say good night to her and she then headed for the hotel. Melanie told me the next day that I arrived at Foresthills at about 9:30PM. This is the 62 mile point and from here we will drop dramatically to an elevation of well below 1000 feet. This was going to be very important to me for me to continue the race.
Melanie had explained to Paul that I was not acting right. Paul was pretty sure that I had suffered altitude sickness. He knew if I would be able to get to lower altitude and take it easy for a few hours I would be fine. I don’t remember much of the first few miles with Paul. I recall looking at my watch and seeing 18 hours 18 minutes being counted, which put us at 11:18PM. I recall doing the numbers again in my head, splits needed. I told him if we can reach 70 mile point before 1 AM, we only need to do 3 miles per hour to make it before the cut off. He asked me to repeat what I had said. He asked me how I was feeling. I told him that except for my right ankle/foot, I was feeling great. Then Paul started to laugh. He said that I had been rambling for the past hour or so and he had to hold most of the conversation. My mind had cleared and I was back in the race! It was really amazing.
I continued to have difficulty running downhill, especially with my foot taped so tightly. I was able to put a burst on the dirt road that lead to the river crossing at Rucky Chucky, and the to power walk the hill up to Green Gates. Somewhere around the 90 mile mark, I told Paul that we needed insurance. I asked him how fast he could run. I started to run, fast. I ran pass many runners. Paul asked if I saw their faces, I didn’t even try to look. My ankles hurt so bad, all I wanted to do was run fast and get as many miles in before it gave out completely. We made it to Highway 49, after passing many runners who were left wondering where we came from. Paul estimated we were running at about a 7:30, which seems fast when you are on a trail 90 miles into a race.
I was able to make one stronger surge up a hill, destroying a few more runners, crossing over a meadow and down a long trail towards No Hands Bridge, until I fell again. Once again I caught my foot on a root. After this fall, I was only able to run short bursts of a few hundred feet at a time. Fortunately we were at the 94-95 mile point.
Paul and I power walked up past Robie Point, towards the Placer High School track and the finish. About a mile from the track, my friend Ken Crouse came and took pictures of Paul of me. Ken has run the WS twice and it was very nice seeing him and talking with him as I approached the stadium.
As I entered the stadium, I gave one last burst. My name was announced and photos were being taken of my new friend, Paul and me. I asked if anyone was closing and he told me that I needed to pick up my pace. There were 4 people on the track! I was flying and pictures showed both feet off the ground.
I finished at 28 hours 32 minutes 12 seconds, in 246 place. Tim Tweitmeyer, who had run the race in 18 hours presented me with a medallion and hung it around my neck. I was a member of the WS club. A finisher!
I was immediately led away for a medical evaluation of blood pressure, weight and blood testing. The testing is to determine risk of renal failure by measuring the CPK protein. Almost every year people end up at the hospital after this race with renal shut down. Melanie and my friend Ellen, who I had not seen since 1999, came over to me. Ken, Paul and his wife Christina all gathered around. Christina was so moved she asked if she could give me a hug. (She did, despite my 100 miles of perspiration and trail dirt.) The emotions at that moment were overwhelming.
I sat on the ground, in the shade, enjoying a Coke and for the first time in 28 hours, not moving!
And I thought of all those people back home who had there fingers crossed and held up prayers that I would make it. And I thought of the 88 year old friend who told me that she was so proud of me for trying. I sat there at the finish, realizing it wasn’t the destination that was important, but the endless training and continuous struggle on the trail to get there. And I thought how blessed I am to have all these friends and family that shared in this experience….
One final note: Marcia finished with a 27:37 and was 208th place, out of 400 starters, 318 finishers. She is a great trail runner, a fantastic training partner, and a very special friend.