Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ashenfelter 8K Classic

Ashenfelter 8K Classic
     On November 28th, 2013 I laced up for only the second time to run a race in New Jersey.  Yes it may sound strange.  I was born and raised in Jersey City.  I left when I was 22 and was nowhere near a runner at that time.  The other thing keeping me from racing was the lack of popularity of the local race at the time. 
     This race is named for:
Horace Ashenfelter, the Olympic Gold Medalist that the race is named after, was one of America's premier distance runners during the 1950s, winning 17 national championships at a variety of distances. But his most remarkable achievement was winning the gold medal in the 1952 Olympic 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Ashenfelter was the first American since James Lightbody in 1904 to win the Olympic steeplechase beating the favorite, Vladimir Kazantsev of the Soviet Union. Horace Ashenfelter also won the 1952 Sullivan Award as the nation's outstanding amateur athlete.

Ashenfelter served in World War II and then attended Penn State. He won the NCAA 2-mile run in 1949, the IC4A outdoor 2-mile in 1948 and 1949, and the IC4A indoor 2-mile in 1948. He was also AAU national champion in cross-country, 1951, 1955 and 1956; the steeplechase, 1951, 1953, and 1956; the 3-mile run, 1954 and 1955; the 6-mile, 1950; and the indoor 3-mile, 1952 through 1956.

This year was the 14th edition of the race.  I signed up thinking it would be a small local race.  Wow was I surprised when I went to packet pick up on the 27th in flurries.  The crowds were pretty big.  I went back to the house and looked up the race and noticed how fast people have run it.  Further reading led me to understand why.  This race is the USATF-NJ 8K Championship. 
     On race morning this became evident as groups of race clubs were gathering in the High School Gym, they were pumping each other up getting ready.  I had already went through my race day ritual of getting up early cleaning myself up and heading to race land.  I drank some water ate a banana and was ready to go. 
     It was of course cold and knowing I was not going to win this I decided to run comfortably in sweats and two shirts.  The clubs however were in shorts and singlets.  This was another telltale sign that this was going to be a very competitive race. 
     At the start runners were spread across the entire road.  The start was a crawl to the line, but it was not chaos.  Runners were organized in PPM groups so if you knew you were fast you stayed with those runners and most others fell back. In the first 300 yards a young girl tripped over a sewer plate and nearly caused a tour de France style pile up, but runners reacted much better and got around and helped her back up and running. 
     I was just in a mode I guess running without music since my iPod was on the fritz. (Will not shut off)  After mile one I think I was just cruising.  I did not notice mile two at all thought it was the longest mile ever.  At the turn to complete mike three I woke up and just started chugging along.   
     As we headed towards the final turns the home stretch was on the right.  Runners were cheering each other on like the running community usually does.  I made the last turn and found a runner down.  Surprisingly everyone else was cruising by him.  I stopped made sure he was not in danger got him going and then went on to finish. 

     There were 2702 runners in the 8K 1400 Men and 1302 Women, The winner came across in 24:27 at a 4:55 pace pretty good. 
If in the Glen Ridge, NJ area next year I would recommend this race to you. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Run 2 Somewhere

Run 2 Somewhere

     After running the Country Music Half Marathon with the Wounded Warrior Project, we sat at Dave and Busters to discuss the run in the rain and future events.  The hosts of the event were the Wounded Warrior Projects physical health and wellness coordinators, Chris (Kuntry) and Johnna.  It was at this lunch that the first thoughts of a bigger event were talked about. 

     This is the 10th year since the Wounded Warrior Project was started.  Its basic mission is to Honor and Empower Wounded Warriors.  With over 41,000 Warriors and 5,000 plus family members the WWP is taking care of many veterans as they come home.  Here is a blurb from their site: (http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/mission/who-we-serve.aspx)

Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP)  serves veterans and service members who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness, or wound, co-incident to their military service on or after September 11, 2001 and their families. On that date, America watched in horror as approximately 3,000 people died including hundreds of firefighters and rescue workers. Many warriors note a sense of duty to volunteer for the military following these tragic events.

Sept. 11 also served as a stimulus for Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and New Dawn. Operation Iraqi Freedom refers to military operations in Iraq that began March 19, 2003 and officially ended August 31, 2010. Operation Enduring Freedom refers to combat operations in Afghanistan and other regions in support of the Global War on Terror. Operation New Dawn refers to the conclusion of operations in Iraq beginning September 1, 2010 and ending December 15, 2011.

For WWP, there is a distinct difference between members and alumni; the term alumni indicates a mutual shared experience and denotes your place in an organization was earned. There are no dues here - those were paid by wearing the uniform and on the battlefield. 


     I was wounded on June 18th 2012 in Afghanistan.  When I came to after surgery I had a Wounded Warrior package with shorts, T-Shirt, Hat and Hygiene items.  This sustained me for the next days while I awaited my flight back to my gear.  When I got to a computer I wrote the WWP and thanked them.  I also registered as an Alumni.   Since that day they have pointed me in the right directions in order to take care of the total Soldier in me.    

     Being a runner I was worried more about my next race then treatment when I got hit.  I looked for a comeback half-marathon which would be feasible and not cause more injuries.  I selected the Run the Bluegrass Half in Lexington, Ky. (http://www.runthebluegrass.org/)  This was a challenging course with rolling hills and was the perfect one to hit for a comeback race.    I was not fully satisfied that I was back, so when Kuntry and Johnna came up with the next program I jumped at the opportunity.  The Run To Somewhere program was started as an idea at Dave and Busters and came to fruition sometime in May.  I was taking part in another WWP physical health activity (SCUBA Lessons) when I was asked to run in the Marathon in Savannah.  That was it, exactly what I needed I said yes and the journey started. 

     In June while vacationing in the mountains of North Carolina my wife and running partner accepted my challenge to run the Marathon as well.  After that vacation training picked up.  I was in Maryland while my family was in Tennessee.   So we trained together via the phone most days.  Encouragement via skype pushed us both through the long days.  The final piece of the puzzle came together in September.  My mini-me who after 10 plus years of playing Soccer decided to switch to Cross-Country.  She got the bug and we signed her up for her first Half-Marathon in Savannah.  So not only had the WWP helped the Warrior but it got the entire family involved. 

     As the dreaded taper week arrived I was confident in my abilities and the training I had completed.  The entire way Kuntry and Johnna wrote to all the Warriors taking part to encourage them as well as check on us.  This boosted me to push myself harder and I am sure it pushed my fellow warriors to accomplish this great event and finish the program strong. 

     As November 9th approached excitement was rising.   I can see the finish line ahead of us.  We arrived in Savannah on the 7th got settled in and had some pasta for dinner.  That is right 2 nights prior not the night before.  On the 8th I met with my fellow warriors and Kuntry at the hotel.  We discussed the things that brought us together and how we were planning to run the next day.  We were given an awesome sweatshirt, and running shirt and hat for completing the journey.  From there I went to the expo with my family. 


    What has become our pre-run meal chicken and rice burritos was up for dinner.  Everyone ate and relaxed awaiting the morning before us.  As most runners know the night before the race is not expected to be full of good sleep and of course this was the case here.  We got going and drove the ride into the city for the race.  We walked up through the storied squares of Savannah to the start line.  The next customary event was the great line for the Porta Potties.    We then jumped into our corral and did the crawl up to the start line. 

3-2-1 gooooooooooooooooooooooo

     We were off Garmin started and taking the first miles to warm up.  At about mile 2 I ran into the first two WWP team mates.  I gave them encouragement and we rolled on.  The first water stop was very congested, I nearly ran over someone.  Out of the chaos there we were on our way.  Cruising the streets of downtown Savannah.  Nearly 20 years since we first met in this same city we were now running a Marathon together through it.  At about mile 6.5 I got startled by a hand on my back.  When I turned around it was Kuntry checking up on me.  Great motivation there.  The next 4 plus miles we fought a crazy pain in my wife’s side.  I say we but she fought it and coached herself through it.  Nearly at mile 12 we left the Half-Marathon runners and got on the expressway.  It was here we saw the winner pass us going the opposite direction.  He did not even look tired very impressive. 

     We hit mile 15 and entered Savannah State, the campus was alive with students cheering for the runners again I was pumped up.  I saw three of my Team Mates here and we all encouraged each other.  Everyone was looking good at this point.  Prior to leaving campus we did a lap around their track through three groups of cheering students, it was awesome. 

     We got a text that Lexie finished her Half.  I could not stop smiling. 


     We drove on and hit the expressway again about three miles to go.  The weather was great not too crazy hot and for a change we ran without a rain storm.   I was full of energy still and we were pushing each other.  There was even an LSU fan who at two points shouted encouragement to us.  The fans all through the course were very motivational. 

     This day was important for me for another reason.  It was the six year anniversary of my friend SSG Jonathon L. Martin being wounded in Iraq which ultimately led to him being taken from us 13 days later. 

     We passed the mile 26 marker and for some reason I was fresh like we were at mile 8.  We turned into the finisher shoot and were side by side.  I looked up and saw Lexie on the right side so I sprinted at her then back to finish together.    It was an awesome feeling crossing the finish to the Marathon with my best friend. 

     We got our medals some snacks and chocolate milk.  I then saw the WWP banner and we went over to them.  Mission Accomplished. 


Thanks Wounded Warrior Project for all you do!!!!!!!!!!!!!





Saturday, October 19, 2013

Monster Mash ½ Marathon



     Race three of the journey with the Wounded Warrior Project is in the books.  Lets recap it.  Seeing that packet pick up would be Friday night, I decided to stay in town for the night.  This was good for two reasons.  The first one I would get enough rest between driving and running.  Secondly I negated the horror show of driving during dui prime time on the worst road this side of Maryland. 

     I got to Dover and checked into the Fairfield Inn.  The ladies at the front desk were awesome, great service.  They gave me a brief like one I get in the Army I was very pleased with this.  Got settled in and headed back out to hit the packet pick up.  This was at Dover Downs Casino.  I got there and walked the maze through the slots.  I must of looked lost since a fellow runner came running over to me to right my compass.  I found it got my packet then left.  Of course in this day and age, I had to challenge myself to find a Wal Mart, again I was successful. 

     I guess I was anxious since I woke up about every hour thinking it was time.  When I finally got out of the bed I did my pre-race ritual.  Took a nice shower got dressed then ran 4 miles to warm up.  Got to the race instruction area by Miles the Monster.  The AFJROTC presented the colors and the National Anthem was performed. 


     We then all moved to track to start the race.  500 or so runners gathered in pit lane and waited for the command to start.  We started and made the 1 mile lap of the concrete track.  I soaked it in since just a few weeks ago the Sprint Cup was racing on this track.  We exited the track and hit the roads.  The course was well managed and marked.  The full course had red arrows and the half had blue.  The Dover police were out in force at every intersection.  They even directed runners when there was a split between the two courses.  The course had plenty of water points on it and cheering squads.  I hit my first water point at 8.5 miles.  I think that was the only part of the course which was long to me just open fields from mile 7 to about 9.  The last 4 went well as I linked in with about 6 runners and we stayed in a pack to the 12  mile point then broke away from each other.  Coming over the only hill on the course I could see Miles again. 


     I crossed the finish line @ 1:54:43 my best time in almost two years.  I remained pumped and finished my last three miles of the day to get my 20 for the Savannah Marathon Training.

     This was a good event and will try to get in it again next year depending on my schedule. 





Sunday, September 29, 2013

Run for The Lighthouse

As part of my training for the upcoming Savannah Marathon in November I was signed up for three races to test me along the way.  The first was early on and it was a 15K at AT&T BoMF Baltimore Sneaks Come Out at Night 15K, 3x5K Relay & Corp Challenge sponsored by Thomas.  


Today was my second event the Run for the Lighthouse ½ Marathon in Annapolis, Md.  I did not research either of these races and somehow they both were charitable races that deal with helping those who are homeless to get back on their feet.  

The Light House, a homeless prevention and support center is located at 10 Hudson Street in Annapolis. Their mission is to help rebuild lives with compassion by providing shelter and services to prevent homelessness and empower people as they transition toward self-sufficiency. They strive to break the cycle of homelessness by providing a place of belonging, life changing programs and a broad continuum of support to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

With your support, and that of others like you, the Friends of the Light House Shelter will continue to be able to provide support to the Light House and enable its staff to provide much-needed services to the citizens of Anne Arundel County. Because the Friends of the Light House consists of volunteer board members and only one staff person, a full 90% of what we raise goes directly to support the operating expenses of the Light House.

The race director and the staff on hand were very hospitable.  I wrote to her a week before the race with some questions and she immediately answered me.  I knew this would be something special at that point.  I had the option of driving down on Saturday for packet pick-up, then driving again on Sunday to race or just do it all on Sunday.  I chose to go with all Sunday.  I arrived at the venue Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis.

When I arrived at packet pick-up I was surprised to be greeted by the very race director I was writing to.  She was very happy and excited for the race.  This made me even more pumped for the race than I needed to be.  My goal was just to run as a training event.  

After pinning my number on (horribly) I went to the starting area.  The MC was on the mike and talking about the Lighthouse and their mission.  He thanked everyone for being there.  He told all the runners that their time does not start until you pass the mat.  He said this a couple times to ensure that people did not trample through the starting shoot.  There were only about 160 runners in the half and about 240 in the Jogging Joe Shafran Memorial Run, a 5K fun run in Joe's honor.  This is the sad state of races where if you are not giving some sort of bling, those who chase it will not run in your event.  

The course was rolling to say the least.  You took off and did a loop around Quiet Waters Park which was about 4 plus miles.  Then you headed out in to the Subdivision of Hillsmere.  This took you out along the water and through a peaceful neighborhood.  Volunteers were all through here and strangely through the 4.7 miles (guess) out there I only had two vehicles come by me.  You then re-enter the park and make another complete loop passing by the trail to the start finish line (psychological knock-out for some).  Since there were not many runners traffic on the trail and roads was never bad.  I even saw my first dog beach.  

At the finish there were cheering crowds and smoothies.  They also had bagels and Dunkin Donuts coffee.  I was at a limp though.  I pushed too hard early and something in my hammy popped.  Hopefully it heals in a couple weeks.  

Most of the runners on the course and in the race were friendly as were the spectators.  I recommend this race to those in the area or passing through next year. 

Honestly would you sign up for a race over 10K without a Medal at the end?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

7 Weeks To Go

     We all take challenges in our lives.  Some are work related some are family goals.  In seven weeks the Wounded Warrior project is coaching, mentoring a group of warriors heading to their first Marathon since being wounded.  

     I am training with my wife for this ride.  It will be her first ever Marathon and my first since my injury last year.  We started our joint although apart training about 9 weeks ago.  Our training right now is sort of virtual, since we are living in two areas (yet again).  This week and next we get to train together since I got some time off.  

     We are both following Hal Higdon’s Marathon plan and chat, text and Skype often to keep each other motivated.  When we decided to take this journey together we were on a whirlwind trip during June up in the mountains of North Carolina.  Sometimes we make decisions in the spur of the moment, and other times they are well planned out in advance.  

    No matter how the planning goes, whatever road you travel, it is not the decision to do it, but the journey that gets you to the finish.  In seven weeks we will toe the line together in Savannah and cross the line together, time is irrelevant for that day. 

What decisions have you made that have taken you on a journey?