Wednesday, January 30, 2019

My Marathon Journeys: The Kansas Relays 1975

In my ten plus years of blogging I haven't detailed the 20 plus marathons I have attempted in the course of my running career.  When I ran my first one in April 1975 there was still a great deal of mystique to grinding out 26.2 miles.  Break three hours was the seminal barrier for most runners in that era and was generally enough to get a begrudging nod of approval for top regional runners and even elites.

When I made the decision to run the K.U. Relays Marathon I was poorly trained.  My running career had been derailed by a couple bouts of serious illness in my senior year of high school.  My efforts to walk on the Kansas cross country team a little more than six weeks before coach Bob Timmons gave me the boot despite beating most of his scholarship freshmen in time trials.  Soon after I got a nasty case of strep throat and I was putting on my freshman 20.

I had never run more than 15 miles in training and only had a couple of ten mile road races under my built.  I hadn't raced a step since the previous spring and in the buildup to this particular race I was putting in 20 to 30 miles a week.  A lot of the runs were tempo efforts on the indoor track at Allen Field House.

I had only one thought on the morning of Saturday, April 19th when I lined up on Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence a hundred to 200 runners.  I wanted to finish instead Memorial Stadium and to do that I had to hit the stadium gates before the 3:15 mark.  I had no idea what I was in for on this sunny spring day..

Much to my surprise one of the running heroes of my youth showed up at the start, on a lark, looking to run his first marathon.  Kirk Duncan held the city's junior high record for the 880.  He had been a very good high school runner and went to Stanford going for pre-med.  He told me his plan was to run easy, seven minute mile pace and he promised to toe me along as he could.

The course was flat and gentle up to about six mile before we started a very hilly seven mile stretch that ended in Vinland, south of the city. At the turnaround, still feeling fresh, we made our way back to the hills and you could see the ravages of the race taking its toll on our fellow competitors.

You always hit a wall, unless you are a super fit, and I hit mine at 18 miles.  I began to fade and Kirk said he was sorry and must be on his way.  He ended up running just over three hours.  I struggled really badly over the last three miles.  I was famished dreaming of a big, juicy steak.  I faced the daunting task of heading up the steepest part of Mount Oread that would lead me down the other side to the stadium and the finish over the last mile.

Despite my unrelenting fatigue and legs of lead I was aglow as I saw the gate still open as I rolled down Campanile Hill into the stadium.  I was the last runner granted entry to the finish line on the track clocking 3:14:15.  It is one of my most cherished finishers medals.

I hurt.  I ate everything in sight.  Then I painfully climbed the stairs to the stadium press box where I helped broadcast a full afternoon of track and field at the Kansas Relays.  I couldn't walk right for a couple of days.  But in the back of my mind I knew I would have to give the marathon another try at next year's Kansas Relays.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Knee

Running may not be a contact sport, but it can exact a toll on your body.  I see it every day in my store, usually in the form of plantar fasciitis.  It's a problem that can make life difficult for even non-runners, who I meet on a near daily basis looking for answers or relief.  But this isn't going to be about plantar, that post will come later.  And yes, I've had three bad cases of it over the last 25 years.

No, this is a personal tale about my latest running injury that shelved me for nearly three months.  It all started the week of October 8th.  I finished a three mile run and as soon as I started to walk my right knee started popping.  It was audible, pop, pop, pop.  The knee popped and cracked the rest of the evening.

The next day I got up and the knee felt great.  That night I went on another three mile run and the exact same thing happened.  Day three and it was a repeat performance.  The run went fine and then the knee started popping.

Day four after a nice four mile run my knee almost completely seized up after the run.  It was stiff and sore.  I started with the ice and Advil.  I figured a week of rest and I could get back at it.  When I gave it a go seven days later it felt like someone had shoved a knife under my knee cap.

I could tell after a couple of more weeks of rest that the knee wasn't going to get any better.  I finally went to my orthopedic surgeon who had surgically repaired both of my Achilles tendons more than a decade before.  The MRI showed a right knee with a minor tear in my meniscus.  The surgery was set for November 30.

Surgeon Eduardo Gomez took about 45 minutes fixing the knee.  I later found out that I have signs of arthritis in the knee, not unusual for a runner my age with almost 50 years of mileage under his belt.  I was back at work three days after the surgery and was on an exercise bike that same day.

I did the usual round of physical therapy.  I tried a short run the day after Christmas and it wasn't exactly an uplifting experience.  The eliptical was my friend.  I gave running a real go five weeks after the surgery.  It was slow, slower than slow but I crushed two miles without anything that resembled real pain.

I consider myself lucky.  Yes, I still feel the need to ice and Advil is always at the ready but I'm ready to start training again.  I need to pick a goal, a half marathon or maybe, dare I say it, a marathon.  But I will admit, at age 63 coming back from this surgery is a bear, much more difficult than the invasion abdominal surgery I had 15 years ago.  Running an 11 minute mile is a slap in the face.  I never thought I would get excited over the prospect of breaking 8 minutes in the mile.  Getting old sucks!

Friday, January 4, 2019

Track Is Back

2019 could be a historic year for high school middle distance running in Southwest Florida.  The main cast of characters from the spring of 2018 are all back and each athlete has a shot of accomplishments that will unfortunately fail to capture the kind of media attention from the area's sports loving public they deserve. 

We all know the old refrain, good things come in threes.  That certainly sums up the trio of state champions that will compete for more titles and perhaps, perhaps some stop watch making history.
The 800 meter distance is the bulls eye for all three.

Ladies first and Evangelical Christian's Sierra Oliviera, who faces a tough task as she looks for her second State Class 1A 800 title.  The ECS junior captured her first State title as an 8th grader.  2017 saw her finish second at State in a personal best 2:15.51.  She'll be pushed in practice by junior teammate Elizabeth Wetmore who was a State qualifier last spring in the 800. 

Oliviera will need that practice pressure as she chases the sophomore who goes to school just three miles away from ECS.  Cantebury sophomore Jessica Edwards beat Oliviera in capturing her first State title last spring.  Edwards ran 2:13.05, which ranks as one of the fastest 800 meters ever run by a Lee County girl. 

A logical step for Edwards would be a sub 2:12 clocking with an eye on 2:10.  She seems a lock to break 5:00 in the 1,600.  Her current best at the 1,600 is 5:07.68 and she finished 2nd at State in the event.  A sub 5:00 clocking would put her in elite Lee County company that includes her sister Emily, Fort Myers High's Krissy Gear and two Estero distance aces, Kacy Smith and Katie Slater.

The King of the Hill among Lee County boys is Hugh Brittenham.  As a junior he laid claim as the fastest 800 and 1,600 runner in county history.  Brittenham captured his first State title at 800 meters.  The biggest question is how much faster the Estero senior can run  His current PR's stand at 1:51.92in the 800 and 4:09.38 in the 1,600. 

Brittenham aspires to join a select list of Florida preps to break 1:50 in the 800.  Certainly breaking 4:05 in the 1,600 has to be among his goals.  The future Gator showed improved endurance over last fall's cross country season.  The question is whether this middle distance talent will take a shot at a fast 3,200 during the course of his outdoor season. 

The first outdoor meet of the season is six weeks away with the Ida Baker Indoor/Outdoor meet.  Don't look for any major fireworks until the Florida State Relays that stretches over two days the third weekend in March.  Until then, history will just have to wait.