Sunday, May 17, 2009

Marathons, Mountains and Microbrews, Part 2

Well, I tried to get into the pasta dinner, but the place was jammed and they didn't have room for me.  Imagine that.  I decided to head back to my hotel and find something on the way.  Bertucci's!! My favorite pizza place.  More from nostalgia than anything--Mark Boyce, a friend from Boston, took me to Bertucci's after I finished my first Boston Marathon in 1996.  Good memories.  So whenever I'm out east and find a Bertucci's I go eat there.
But, you don't come here to read about me eating pizza.  (Why do you come here, anyway?)  The Christiana Healthcare Delaware Marathon, Sunday morning.  Big goal for the day: be under five hours for the first time since I started having my knees operated on.  
They rearranged the course this year.  In the past, it's been a 10-mile loop followed by a bunch of short loops repeated 5 times or something like that.  What was in my brain is that they were going to do the 10 mile loop twice instead, then the short loops.  
The race and the rain both started at the same time.  Flat short loop to the west for the first two miles, then we headed east.  The rain was steady and the wind was right in our faces.  There was one block of buildings where the wind-tunnel effect nearly blew us backwards.  Fortunately it was short-lived.  
After only a couple miles, I found Edson Sanches, a guy I first met in Caracas, Venezuela.  He was going easy this week in preparation for running Comrades next week, so I was able to keep up with him for a few miles.  We ran together into a nice park area, then crossed the river on one of those nice bouncy pedestrian suspension bridges.  I didn't know whether to expect hills on the course or not.  Definitely hills.  We set off through a hilly section and I lost Edson.  Rather, he lost me.  We went through a little neighborhood, seemingly farther and farther away from the starting area.  I kept wondering how we were going to get back there in only 10 miles.  Then we headed off into a business area.  The math wasn't working.  Finally, I realized that the signs for the second loop were acutally 13 miles off from the signs for the first loop.  Seems like a guy as smart as me would have figured that out a few miles back--say maybe at mile 1?  OK, so it's a half-marathon loop, followed by another one.  Now the math is making sense.  But the confusion sure made it seem longer.
Heading back to the end of the loop, we ran past the 25 mile mark and the 12 mile mark, and then started uphill for about 4 blocks.  The half-marathoners soon turned off to the finish as we were directed back onto the riverwalk for our second time around.  I was moving well and a little ahead of my 5 hour pace.
Funny thing about hills.  They always seem bigger the second time.  And longer.  I didn't remember that we went around quite so many blocks near the 21 mile area.  I kept checking my watch and doing math, making sure I worked hard enough to keep under five hours.  It was starting to be a struggle.  I had a bit of emotional capital invested, however, and really wanted to finish within my goal time.  By 23 I had enough time in the bank and enough gas in the tank to do that.  Just concentrate and resist the urge to take a break.  Mile 25.  I know we'll start up hill soon.  I looked ahead.  The up hill section seemed way longer than the first time.  Finally starting downhill, I knew I'd finish under 4:58.  The 26 mile mark.  Usually you can see a finish line from the 26 mile marker.  Not here.  Down the street, turn left, then turn left again before you see the FINISH LINE.  My friend Harriet yelled for me when I turned the last corner.  Nice--final time was 4:57:55.  
A few good eats, a Michelob Ultra, and a conversation with RD Wayne Kursh and Steve Boone from Texas, and I headed back for a quick shower and a quick nap.  One more thing to accomplish this weekend.  I need a beer glass from New Jersey.  Since my flight was in Newark, I headed up to the Gaslight Brewery and Restaurant in East Orange.  What a satisfying meal.  French onion soup and a seared salmon steak salad.  And a couple pints of Black Bear Lager.  Yummy!  Marathons - 34 states the second time around, 176 total, 75 consecutive months.  Mountains - 32 state summits.  Microbrews--beer glasses collected from 30 states now.
Headed home tomorrow morning, where the lovely Francine awaits my return.  :-)

and the adventure continues....

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Marathons, Mountains and Microbrews

Impatience. That's what I've been feeling lately. It happened when I was about two-thirds of the way to doing marathons in all 50 states. Now it's twice as bad--I have marathons in 34 states for the second time around. I also have summitted 30 of the state high points. So, I'm now in Delaware, indulging my impatience by knocking a few more things off my list.
I arrived at Newark, NJ airport about 9:30 last night, and headed north to High Point State Park, the location of the most unoriginally named of the state high points. High Point. Elevation 1803. Approaching the park from the south, the obelisk monument at the top is well lit and visible from several miles away. Unfortunately, the gate was locked so I'd have to come back in the morning.
It's only about five miles to the New York border, where I spent the night. In the morning, no monument to be seen. Not much fog until I got to the park entrance, but then everything fogged in.
Well, it's a not-very interesting story from there. I drove to the monument, parked and walked about 100 yards or so up hill to the highest point in New Jersey. Hung out with a couple kids who were filming a little school documentary.
Next stop, Wilmington.

I enjoyed a relaxing drive south through Pennsylvania and into Delaware, straight to the Iron Hill Brewery for some lunch. Oh, and a pint of Pig Iron Porter and another of Ironbound Ale. I sat at the bar talking with a runner friend Kenny, and another guy who was a member of the brewery's mug club.

Turns out the Delaware high point is only about five miles from my hotel here. I followed the easy directions and arrived right at the spot. Only the second lowest of the state high points, at 488 feet, Ebright Azimuth is really just a USGS marker on the edge of a sidewalk, and a sign a few feet north. I took a couple pictures and went to leave before being caught on the way back to my car by Doreen Kupchick. She owns the house across the street and is the self-appointed guardian of the pinacle of Delaware. She offered to take my picture by the sign, and then shared with me many stories of the high point and the people who had visited there.
And the high point is only about 200 feet south of the Pennsylvania border. Back in the 1960s, the TV show Candid Camera set up there and told people coming in from Pennsylvania that because Delaware is a small state and there wasn't enough room, they'd have to wait until a car drove out before they'd let one in.
Doreen also knew of nearly every rock or bit of dirt that had been moved or rearranged anywhere around the area. The "high point" isn't really very well defined--more of a little plain rather than a hilltop, so there are ongoing discussions of where the "real" high point might be.
She started to tell me about an Austrian guy who had done all kinds of things, climbing, marathons.... Sounds like Helmut, I said. She showed me a picture of him in a magazine--I told her about him. Helmut's a good friend who I met on a trip to the North Pole. So I got to share a couple stories with her as well.
We parted after a very pleasant half-hour or so. State high points 31 and 32. And a beer glass collected from Delaware.
Tomorrow morning it's the Delaware Marathon.
and the adventure continues....

Monday, May 04, 2009

More Misc Stuff

It was early in the morning.  The coffee shop I was headed for wasn't open yet, and I was jonesin' for a blueberry muffin from Starbucks.  I parked across the road in a spot that, during business hours, is a loading zone.  The traffic lights were still blinking instead of doing the normal green-yellow-red thing.  The White Walking guy wasn't wasn't awake for the day yet, so there was no one in the little box above the crosswalk to tell me it was ok to cross the road.  Guess I was on my own.  Fortunately there wasn't much traffic.  
They've changed the muffin wrappers at Starbucks.  A square sheet of paper shoved into the bottom of a round muffin tin.  The sides of the muffin go straight up, instead of mushrooming out like they did when they used the regular cupcake cup papers.  They don't put as much of that crumbly stuff on them either.  I think it screws up the ambiance.  I don't like the change.  Their coffee's still the best though.
I stood at the corner after leaving the coffee shop.  The Red Hand telling me, "NO!  Don't come across now.  Wait for the little White Walking guy.
There wasn't much traffic.  I went across the road.  The Red Hand be damned!

I crossed the road.  I didn't die.  It's going to be a great day.

I have these moments that I break out into laughter.  It's the total amusement with the coolness of my life.  
I was hiking across the ridgeline in the Patriot Hills one time.  Patriot Hills is a very small mountain ridge--maybe 2 or 3 miles long, that protects an ice runway in Antarctica.  I was there for a marathon at the South Pole.  While we had some time, a bunch of us were hiking across the length of the ridge.  I suddenly started laughing.  Doug looked at me and said, "What!?"  I told him.  "Right now, my friends are back home, going about their normal day, working, dealing with the day-to-day stuff, and I'm here, walking along a mountain ridge in Antarctica!"  
Pretty freakin' cool, I think.
I was standing alone in the airport in Tromso, Norway, wondering how I was going to get into town, where the registration for the marathon was, where I was going to stay when I got there.  
A guy there who seemed to be looking for someone spotted my Columbus Marathon shirt and figured maybe I was one of the people he was looking for.  I wasn't.  But while he waited for two other runners that he'd never met before, we struck up a conversation.  He was a race staffer, there to pick up a couple runners from the airport.  He offered me a ride, dropped me off at race headquarters, and pointed out the information desk so I could find out where a nice place to stay might be.
I was there for the Midnight Sun Marathon.  Because it was so expensive to get an international funds money order, I decided to just wait until I got there to register for the marathon.  So I showed up in Tromso for one of the northernmost marathons in the world, with no registration, no place to stay, and no advance notice.
My friend from the airport told his buddy at the local newspaper.  He tracked me down at my hotel, interviewed me, and came out and took my picture.  I was in the paper the next day--an American who had just showed up to run their marathon.  I was getting quoted in Norwegian.  I don't even speak Norwegian.  
A sad moment this morning.  My friend Susie's mom died this weekend in an accident.  She was 80.  My thoughts are with you Susie.
It's my responsibility in life to help move the human race forward.  I don't know if there's anything after this--I'm thinking there isn't.  But whether there is or not, it's my obligation to help people become more than they are--to help our species--my fellow human beings, actually move ahead.  That, in my ideal world, is what I'm moving toward--to make everyone I come into contact with a little better, a little stronger, a little more capable, a little more confident.  (From "Devotions for Athiests" by Jackson Timbers)
If you're not well fed, you're in no position to feed others.  If you're not full of life, it's hard for you to fill other people.
It's important for us to do things to feed ourselves--not just physically, but spiritually.  We need to have big dreams and goals and work toward them.  
In the process of accomplishing big things, you bring other people along with you.
(Incomplete thoughts--I'll edit later)