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Yes Virginia, there is an Unofficial Ashland Turkey Trot

November 20, 2008
2nd Annual Most Unofficial Ashland "Jeff Sears" Trot

I'm not one to call Jeff Sears a turkey, but since he won the race last year, he gets the honor. Also, if you're planning to run the race at U of R, our race is not a comparison, there are no road closures, no official timing (self-reported), no prizes, in fact not much of anything (you may hear a cow-bell or two as you run by Carter Park). Just show-up & run.

Jeff would like to dedicate this race to a young man from his church (The Roc) who drown. Donation to The Roc Bus Ministry will be accepted in his memory.

When: Thursday November 27th

Where: Carter Park (Ashland Pool) - just past the YMCA on Ashcake - right on Maple - Carter Park is on your left

Race Number: Bring one from a past event (so people will think you're running an "Official" race).

Schedule of events:

Kids Races - .35 mile run at 8:30 a.m. - .65 mile run at 8:45 a.m. (all on paths behind the pool)

10K - 9:00 a.m. (Ashland Harvest Route)

5K - 9:07 a.m. (Ashland Harvest Route)

Please email me at tom.grant@comcast.net if you plan to attend.


You must agree to the following waiver:

I agree NOT to hold the Organizer, Ashland Track Club, Jeff Sears, or President Elect Obama responsible for any misfortunes I may encounter before, during, or after the race. I agree to yield the right-of-way to motorists (who are just trying to get to Food Lion because they forgot the canned cranberry sauce). I further agree NOT to complain about anything to do with the race or the organizer (or Jeff Sears). I agree to accurately time myself & record my time (after finishing). As always, NO wagering allowed.

Upcoming Running Events in Ashland

September 12, 2008
Hello Runners,

Below are some of the upcoming events in The Center of the Universe, hope to see you at one or more of them.

1. Tiger Trot 5K and Kid's runs
Join us for the 2nd Annual Tiger Trot 5K Run/Walk to benefit Henry Clay and John M. Gandy Elementary Schools' PTAs.

Date - Saturday, September 20, 2008
Time - 9:00 AM
Location - starts at Henry Clay Elementary - beautiful course through historic Ashland (includes a bit of trails)
Cost - $20 - register soon - t-shirts still available!!

Children's Races (1/2 mile and 1 mile):
Time - 8:00AM and 8:15AM
Location - Henry Clay Elementary
Cost - $10 - all will get t-shirts!
All children 12 and under are invited to register!

GREAT DOOR PRIZES for adults and kids including Webkinz and
an American Girl doll!

Register at www.raceit.com OR download a registration form
at www.townhound.com .

Registration forms are also available at many local Ashland
businesses as well as at the Henry Clay and Gandy school
offices.

2. Slay the Dragon 5K (9/27/2008)

Details at http://slaythedragon5k.com/default.aspx

3. Pumpkin Run (10/4/2008)

Details at http://www.active.com/page/Event_Details.htm?event_id=1627491&assetId=2c7e845e-8f87-41ad-878a-10ff9f863537

4. Blunts Bridge Challenge (Free Half Marathon part of Worldwide Half)

Details provided by Ashland Dave:

Greetings Fellow Runners! Several of us runners in the Ashland/Hanover area would like to invite all of you to participate in the Blunts Bridge Half Marathon Challenge on Saturday, October 11, 2008. This free, no frills, "fun" run will start at 8am at the train station in the Center of the Universe (Ashland, Virginia). Some of you may remember running this route last year around the same time. It is a great 13.1 mile hill workout. In fact, one of the hills is so steep, you may need a ladder! We had a pretty good sized group last year. Please join us for this run! The course is a road course and an 'out and back' so the same SAG will be used. But, there are so many rolling hills you won't even recognize the route on the way back in! Water and powerade will be provided. This run is scheduled to coincide with a larger "worldwide" half marathon event. On the same weekend, people from all over the world will be participating in an event called the Worldwide Half Marathon. Check out the following link for more information: http://www.worldwidefestivalofraces.com/cgi-bin/home I thought it would be cool to organize our own event since Ashland is nicknamed the Center of the Universe. Think global, run local, right? So, if you plan on running with us, please consider registering for the "Worldwide Half" (It's free!) Please email me at ashlanddave@gmail.com if you plan to participate so I can arrange the SAG. We hope you can make it! Please forward this email to anyone you think may be interested. We can meet for coffee, etc. afterwards at the Ashland Coffee and Tea. Dave Klisz & other Ashland runners

5. Harvest Run (10/25/2008)

Details at http://www.ashlandharvestrun.com/

Ashland has turned into quite the town for runners. I'm starting a new slogan "Run Ashland First!".

Please try to come out run or volunteer at one of the above events. Thanks.

See you on the streets,
Tom




Patrick Henry Half Marathon Team Report

August 29, 2008
Well, it's been a long time since I've posted anything to the Blog. I haven't stopped running or lost interest in this blog, but have been busy over the last 16 weeks coaching the first Patrick Henry Half Marathon Team - Ashland Division. We had 30 runners sign-up for the team. Most of the runners had not completed a Half Marathon previously.

With the help of my co-coaches, we began the 16 week journey on May 10.2008 with a 3 mile run. Over the following weeks, we watched our runners struggle through the heat & humidity of the summer building up to 12 or 13 training runs. We incorporated core workouts, hill training, and speed workouts into the schedule to further build strength in preparation for the Half Marathon.

Of the 30 runners who signed-up for the team, we had 3 runners that were no-shows or only showed for 1 training run, we had 4 runners that became injuried during the training, and 1 that completed the training but had another commitment on race day that prevented him from running the race. The 22 (73%) remaining team members runners completed the Patrick Henry Half Marathon on Saturday, August 23, 2008.

Being part of the "Team" was personally rewarding to me, as I got to experience the excitement of reaching new running distance records and goals through the other members of the team. We would trade emails about how sore we were after the core workouts, and tough the hill & speed workouts were. It was a priceless experience to watch the team members cross the finish line on Saturday & award them their 13.1 mile finisher hats.

If you ever have thought about running a Marathon or Half Marathon, I recommend joining a training team. You'll find that the team aspects will make the experience more rewarding and increase you chances of success.

Next week, I'll post all the races that are coming up in or near Ashland. If you're not busy this Sunday evening (8/31/2008), we are having an informal run from Carter Park Pool as part of the Nike Human Race. We will start at 6:00 p.m. and run the Harvest Run 10K course. Email me tom.grant@comcast.net if you want more details.

See ya on the streets,
Tom

Hi, my name is Tom and I'm a ...

June 06, 2008
It dawned on me last night. I was suppose to go to a friend's house for a men's night out, watch a “shoot em up” movie, drink beer, you know “manly stuff”. I had planned to go to a clinic on stretching that we were giving for the Patrick Henry Half Marathon Training Team (http://ashlandhmt.teamlobby.com) and then head to my friend's house. I should have known I had a problem when earlier in the day, I had thrown in my “addiction” gear into the car, just in case I needed it. I thought, as I drove to clinic, maybe nobody will show and I can just go through with my plans for the guy's night out. No such luck, there were already several others at the YMCA when I arrived. As soon as I got there, Dave, one of the other coaches said, “You gonna run after?”. Without even thinking, I said “yeah, I brought my stuff”. All through the clinic, I kept telling myself, “you don't need to do this, you ran this morning, there's no need to run again”. But as Matt, the PT from Ashland Physical Therapy, was giving his speech on the importance of stretching, I found myself getting pumped-up for what I knew awaited at the end of the clinic.

When the clinic ended, I sprinted to the restroom to change into my “stuff”. I couldn't resist. I met the others outside and we went for a nice, comfortable (as comfortable as you can be in 99% humidity) 3 mile run. After the run, we hung around a bit, and talked about running stuff. I got in my car (it was almost 8:30 p.m.) and phoned my friend. “I can't make it” I said, “something came up”, not wanted to mention my addiction. “Maybe we can do this next week”. As I drove home, I thought, I gotta get home and take a shower and get to bed, Starbucks group run tomorrow at 6:00 a.m., don't want to miss that!

If your reading this, and have read my past blog posts, I hope you know, although the story is kinda true, I have a little twisted sense of humor. I'm not really addicted to running. I can stop anytime I want ;>)

See you on the streets,
Tom

Delaware Marathon Report

May 25, 2008
Well, I was all set on the morning of May 17th to head to Delaware to run my 3rd marathon in 3 months. It was our second week of training for the Patrick Henry Half Marathon Team, so I decided to run a couple of miles with the novice team, and then wait for team to return from their training runs before heading home to pack-up the family and head to Delaware. I figured as long as we left by noon, we would plenty of time to get to packet pick-up before it closed. Everything was going according to plans. Even the traffic on the drive up was lighter than expected. We arrived at the Frawley Stadium with a couple hours to spare. There wasn't much of a race expo, but that was fine by me because I just wanted to check in to the hotel and chill for a couple of hours before heading out to the pasta dinner.

We made the drive from the stadium following the directions I had printed out from Google maps. The only problem was there was a bike race going on that ran right in front of our hotel. After a few alternative trip around the city of Wilmington, we finally found a back way to get to the parking garage of our hotel. The hotel lobby was a busy place. Not only was there a bike race, but also the hotel was hosting a barber shop quartet contest. It was pretty amusing to see groups of 4 men all decked out in matching colorful suits. As I waited in line at the check-in, I saw an elderly gentleman wearing a Carolina Mudcats hat. We used to live not far from Four County Stadium where the Mudcats played (near Raleigh, NC). As he passed by, I said “Go Mudcats”, and that struck up a conversation about what a great stadium it was, and how few people actually attended the Mudcat's games. I got to use one of my favorite jokes about how I would call the Mudcats office and ask “what time does the games start?” and they would say “what time can you get here?”. Another couple checking in overheard our conversation and said that her parents were moving to Cary, NC that very weekend. We talked about Cary a little and I found out that her husband was running the marathon and she was doing the 10 mile race. Small world.

We got checked-in, and still had plenty of time for Jill to go for a run on the treadmill, and take the kids to the pool before the pasta dinner started. The pasta dinner was great. It was “all you can eat” which is my favorite kind. I had about two and half servings of pasta, which I thought would give me plenty of fuel for the race. I wish I had stopped there, but there was desert. They had brownies and lots of cookies. I cannot eat chocolate or I'll get a headache almost every time. I decided to eat several cookies instead, this would (I think) prove to be a mistake.

We got back to the hotel and watched “Evan Almighty”. Even though, we'd all seen it before, it was still funny and kids loved watching the animals. It didn't take long to fall asleep after that. I was feeling really good and excited about the run. All my running gear was ready. I had planned to take the shuttle from the hotel that was leaving at 5:40 in the morning. All systems go. I set the alarm for 4:30 and went to sleep.

I woke-up to the alarm at 4:30 and made my way to bathroom, closed the door, and turned on the light. Then it hit me, a throbbing pain in my head. It hurt to open my eyes. I grabbed a bottle of water and sat in the bathroom, slowly drinking the water and hoping the pain would go away. My head hurt so bad I couldn't think. What did I do wrong? Then I thought of the cookies. Sometimes, I get the same reaction from highly processed sugar as I get from chocolate. The clock was ticking, what was I going to do?? I thought about just climbing back in bed. Then I decided, well I've still got an hour and half before the race starts, maybe by then I'll feel better. I quickly got dressed and headed down to the shuttle. I was the last person on the bus. I sat in the back, everyone was talking very loudly, excited about the race. I sat with my head down. I apologized to the lady next to me, saying “sorry, I don't feel very well.”
We arrived at the stadium and I quickly tried to find a quiet place to sit down and close my eyes again. Seemed everywhere I went people were talking loudly. Runner's must have thought, “man, look at that guy, he's really meditating over this race”. I borrowed a cell phone from another runner, and called Jill and said “I'm feeling terrible, not sure I can make it”. Then, I just sat on the ground with my eyes closed until I heard the announcer “okay runners, let's head to the start line”. I stood-up but kept looking at the ground as I made my way to the starting line with the other runners. I figured if I can't do it, I'll just stop at the 3.5 mile mark when I see Jill and the kids for the first time. The cannon went off to start the race, and I started running (slowly). I kept my eyes on the ground in front of me. I plodded along the first mile, and to my surprise I was starting to feel better, not great but better. As I hit mile two, then pain in my head was letting up from the constant throbbing, to intermittent pain. By mile three, I was feeling “not too bad”, which is what I told Jill as I passed at the 3.5 mile mark.

The first part of the marathon was a 10 mile loop that would bring us back to start. I couldn't tell you what the first 7 miles looked like. I kept my head down, and ran at about 30 seconds per mile slower than I had planned. Somewhere near mile 7, I started feeling normal. I lifted my head and noticed we were coming out of a park along the river. As I passed Jill and the kids for the second time, I said “I'm doing good”.

The Delaware Marathon is perfect for spectators. The race is a 10 mile loop, followed by three 5.4 mile loops. Jill and the kids were able to see me pass 7 times, all while sitting in the Riverfront Park. There was a water stop every mile or mile and half on the 5.4 mile loops, so you never go very long without hitting a water station. The volunteers that manned the water stations and traffic control were great. I remember one gentleman, that stood on a corner near the stadium. Each time I passed I noticed he was smiling and cheering for each runner that made the turn back toward the starting/finishing line.

As I started my last loop (only 5,4 miles to go) I was feeling really strong. Probably the result of going out slow, I had maintained an even conservative pace throughout the entire race. I pushed it a little on the last lap, and actually just beat the girls back to the finish line. As I approached the finish line, I unrolled a sign Jill handed me on my way out on the last lap. I held up the sign as I crossed the finish line, “Maniac”.

The race, even with my rocky start, turned out well. I finished just under 4 hours and about 30 seconds faster than my death march in Athens. It was great to feel better at the end of the race than I did at the start. The weather had held out, and although a little warm for me, definitely not as hot as the previous one. I was now qualified as a “Marathon Maniac”. I filled out my application to the Maniacs Club when I returned home that night. I got my official acceptance a day later, I'm now Marathon Maniac #947.

I look forward to helping others reach their running goals over the several months as I coach the PH HMT. I think it is just as satisfying seeing others reach their goals as achieving your own. Running is like an addiction, and it's much more fun to have other addicts along for the trip.

See ya one the streets,
Tom

Running with a Legend

May 21, 2008
The morning of May 10th was a busy and exciting morning for me. It was the first group run for the Patrick Henry Half Marathon Team, and a few of us decided to run 5 miles before the 5 mile training run (10+ miles total). This year, we added a group that runs out of the Patrick Henry YMCA in Ashland. This is my second year of coaching the team. We had pretty good weather, although there was a threat of rain. We have a very enthusiastic group of coaches and runners, and the first run went well.

After the training run was over, I hurried to downtown Richmond where the Race for a Cure events were going on. I had to run about a half mile to get where my family was because of road closures. My wife and sister had gotten the whole family together to participate in the event. It was a big surprise to my Mom when they all showed-up (including Jill's parents and aunt) wearing pink t-shirts with her picture on them and the words “I'm walking for my mother (or other relationship) Jean Grant – 10 year cancer survivor”. They had told her they were going to watch the grandkids run in a race. I missed the races, but got down there (with my pink shirt) in time to take a few pictures.

After the race, we headed to Carytown for an early lunch. I persuaded the family into visiting The Road Runner running store. I had heard that Bill Rodgers (4 time winner of the Boston Marathon) was going to be there to help celebrate The Road Runner's 25th anniversary. He was also going to be taking short runs with local runners that wanted to join him. We milled around the store for a while as others were talking to Bill (we're on a first name basis now). I never have really sought after autographs from anyone, but decided to buy a running shirt & have him autograph the back for me. He asked about my running and was really a nice guy. Jill told him I was shooting for my 3rd marathon in 3 months to qualify for the Marathon Maniacs (more on that in the next blog entry). He said he had done 58 marathons, but didn't run marathons anymore.

We left the shop, and I told Jill I'd like to go for a run with Bill, she said sure. While most people have probably never heard of Bill Rodgers, he was a legend to me. Probably the greatest American Marathoner of “my time”. I quickly took my stuff back to the truck, hurried back to the running shop. When I got there, Bill was gone. I asked Thom, the owner, where he went, and he said “oh, they just left for a run, go down that street you can catch them”. Me catching Bill Rodgers??? I ran out of the store and down a cross street from Cary Street. After a short time, I could see a group of runners about a quarter mile ahead of me. I ran faster, but every time I would get kinda close, I would have to stop for traffic. I finally made it to Bryd Park and caught the group. Bill said “hey”, and I told him I would have a story to tell the grandchildren “The Day I ran down Bill Rodgers, 4-time winner of the Boston Marathon”. He laughed.

I think Bill said he was 60 years old, but he looked younger than me (and I'm 27 ;>). He still ran with a bounce of greatness in his stride. He told some great stories in the 3 miles we ran. It's maybe hard to explain to non-runners, but the experience was something like throwing the ball around with Nolan Ryan for baseball fans, or cooking with Martha Stewart for a cooking enthusiast. I wore my autographed running shirt at my last marathon (next blog post coming soon) and got a lot of comments from other runners, some even got to hear the abbreviated version of the story I will be telling my grandchildren, although by then, Bill will have been 2 miles ahead of me and still just as fast as he ever was (you know how the stories get better with years).

See ya on the streets,
Tom

Long Solo Runs

May 06, 2008

A couple of weekends ago, we packed-up and headed to the beach for a long weekend. I was looking forward to kicking back & relaxing on the beach for a few days, but with the Delaware marathon coming up in 3 weeks, I knew I needed to get in a couple of runs, one being a long run. I didn't do any really long runs between B&A and Athens, & I think that was part of the problem at the second marathon. We didn't arrive at the beach until late Thursday night, & by the time we got unpacked it was after midnight before we got to bed. I decided to sleep in on Friday, and do a short run on Friday evening. I ran four miles on the beach Friday before dinner, but the beach was really slanted and not as hard packed as it usually is at low tide.

I started thinking about where I would go for my long run on Saturday. I had planned to just run on the beach, but the short run on Friday had changed my mind. The Island where we go is exactly 26 miles long, and our condo is at mile post 9. I decided I would head south (towards mile post 1) and if I made it to the end of the Island and back, that would give 18 miles. There's a bike path or sidewalk that runs the entire length of the Island, so I wasn't worried about traffic. Luckily, I had remembered to pack my fuel belt, so I would have water for the run. There's an old gas station at mile post 1, so I packed $5 to refuel after the turn-around.

I got out the door at 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning. It was already pretty warm (upper 60's) and kinda humid. There wasn't much wind, but it was coming out of the South which would mean I'd have a tailwind for the return trip. I started out pretty easy because I knew I'd be out there between 2 and half to 3 hours. The miles rolled by. There wasn't much traffic, but I did see a few bikers out. I didn't see any runners. As I passed mile post 1, I decided to turn back before I reached the official end of the Island. At the end, there is a small development of townhomes called Serenity Point. Jill and I have often talked about how nice it would be to own one of those. It's very quiet, & the beach is beautiful at that end of the Island. We sometimes take the kids down there to swim and bogey board. The waves are usually smaller and seem to break foreverr making for longer rides.

As I made the turn to head back, I noticed it was getting really hot. With the wind at my back now, & the sun up higher, it felt like it was in the mid 70's. I dumped the last little bit of water on my head as I made my way to the gas station. This particular gas station has been around for a long time. On the outside it looks like something out of Mayberry, with two old style gas pumps. I had never actually gone inside the store, but it was just like the outside. The uneven wooden floor and old wooden shelves had probably survived a few storms over the years.

The elderly lady behind the counter probably thought I was a wacko, dripping with sweat and wearing some kind of Batman belt. I got a Gatoraide and nutri-grain bar. She started to ask me if I wanted a bag, but then said “I guess you're gonna consume that here”. I ate the bar and filled my bottles and continued back. The rest of the run back was pretty uneventful. It continued to get hotter and I was glad I had cut it a little short because after two and half hours I was ready for it to be over.

My wife asked me what I think about for 2.5 hours. I wished I could give her a better answer, like “I solved a problem at work that has had everyone puzzled for weeks”, or “I figured out how we're gonna pay for the kids' college tuition”, but to tell you the truth, I think I have ADD when I run by myself. My thought pattern is usually something like “Is that a pain in my left leg?, how many water bottles do I have left, I wonder if that guy is going fishing?, we need coffee creamer, I hope I can make it back, I wonder what Jill and the kids are doing?, I betcha they're eating waffles, did I eat anything this morning?,...,”. All of this in the span of couple of minutes. The reason I don't have a good answer, is I think of thousands of things, but rarely do I come back with anything useful. I guess for me, it's quantity not quality.

How about you? What's the longest you've run solo? What do you think about?

Email me at tom.grant@comcast.net with your answers, I'd love to hear them.

Well, off to Delaware in a couple of weeks. I'll let you know what I think about ;>)

See ya on the streets,
Tom

Slacker

April 29, 2008
(This one is about a week old, had trouble getting it loaded)
Well, I've broken my new year's resolution (updating the blog every week). I don't have any excuses. I've sat down at the computer many times, but nothing has popped into my head. I'll guess I'll just give a personal running report.

It didn't take me long to recover from the Athens Marathon. I wasn't disappointed in my time, but running the second half of the marathon 30 minutes slower than the first is not a smart race. I really think it was a dehydration problem. Anyway, I'm trying to build up my long runs again & feeling pretty good. I ran the Cross Over 15K this past weekend in the Ginter Park area of Richmond. I bested my post 40 year old PR by about 4 minutes. It was a small race with about 120 runners, and I actually came in first in my age group (45 - 49). Two of my Ashland training partners (Dennis & Kirk) came in 3rd & 4th in the age group.

What's up next for me? The PH Half Marathon training team starts on May 10th. This is also the same day as the Komen Richmond Race for the Cure in Richmond. It kinda stinks that I can't be at two places at once. My mother is a 10 year cancer survivor, so I'd like to run that one sometime.

I'm looking forward to a family trip to the beach this weekend. I've checked the tide chart & it should be a perfect weekend for early morning runs on the beach. I need to get in a long run so hopefully I won't have the same experience at the Delaware Marathon as I did in Athens. Anyway, I'll have my family there, so at least I'll have some support.

Congrats to the Ashland Runner Girls on there outstanding performance at the Dismal Swamp Half last weekend. Also, Mary Ellen Kinser (Half Marathon Coach) & Maggie Ellis-Bland (Blunts Bridge survivor) ran excellent races at the 112th Boston Marathon. Way to go ladies!

Well, hopefully I'll be a little more deligent about updating the blog. Maybe I coax Bryan into writing something ;>)

See ya on the streets,
Tom

Sign-up for the PH Half Marathon Team (listen to Dave's podcast on the power of the Running Group). More info at http://www.quickteams.com/rrrc-hmt-ashland.

Don't Trust Weathermen

April 12, 2008
I considered several titles for this post, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Pirates Game”, “Tale of Two Halves”, “Good, Bad, and Ugly” were a few. It all started when I started looking at the schedule for Pittsburgh Pirates. I have a friend in Pittsburgh, and try to go to at least one game ever year. Then I began looking http://www.marathonguide.com/ at the marathon calendar. I noticed there was a marathon in Athens, OH the day before the Pirates home opener. I thought “that's doable”, I'll run the marathon on Sunday (for fun), then drive to Pittsburgh for the Pirates home opener. I tried to get some of my running buddies to come along, but they were all smarter than me. So after promising my wife that I wouldn't kill myself during the marathon (“I'm just running it for fun”), I made plans for the trip.

Saturday morning, I dropped Jill at the Monument Ave. 10K start, and the kids at my mom's, and headed for Athens. It was raining in Richmond when I left, but by the time I hit Charlottesville, the sun had come out. I thought about Jill doing the 10K in the rain, and hoped isn't wasn't too bad. It was about a 6 hour drive to Athens, and as pulled into town and drove through Ohio University campus, the students were out in full force enjoying the sunshine. Every roof top was covered with students, drinking and partying seemed to be the agenda for the day. I quickly found the packet pick-up site, ate my spaghetti dinner, & checked into the Hampton Inn (I didn't want to be mistaken for a “townie” by the college students).

It was still fairly early in the evening, I took a nap, watched some TV, checked out the weather forecast for Sunday's race. I felt pretty confident, even though I hadn't done a real long run since the B&A marathon, I convinced myself that a long taper would allow me to run at a comfortable pace, and the weather forecast was just about perfect (high 30's forecasted for the start and only warming-up to the mid-50's, light breezes).

I'll leave most of the race details for Dave Klisz's blog (Running in the Center of the Universe - http://www.townhound.com/blog/dave.php) as he has promised to air my race report, but give some of the highlights. The forecast was dead on at the start. It was perfect running weather, but with a 9:00 start, I knew in the back of my mind, it would warm-up pretty quickly. I ran about the same pace as B&A for the first 10 miles and felt good, but by the half-way point things started going south. The temperature was climbing rapidly. I drank plenty (even though the students manning the water stops were only putting shot size amounts of fluid into the cups). At about mile 15, I noticed I wasn't sweating enough to cool my body. I knew the temperature must be close to 70 degrees (NEVER BELIEVE A WEATHERMAN). I remembered the promise I had made to Jill (not to kill myself), so I decided to take some walk breaks.

Anyway, for next 10 miles, I walked, jogged, and ran, stopping to talk to students manning the water stations and others that were struggling like me. It was fun, but my legs were cramping badly. The last 3 miles, I ran & walked with a guy from Cleveland (he wasn't having a good day either). I found out he had run the half at B&A, and was training for the Cleveland marathon. We had a good time, joking about how bad we were feeling. I ran the last mile, and we finished with a lap and half on the university track, which was kinda cool. The announcer called out each person's name as they finished. I immediately called Jill to let her know I was still alive.

Well, another marathon under my belt. It was an experience. It wasn't my slowest time ever (I finished in just under 4 hours), but I really missed having my family and running buddies at the end. I think part of the appeal of running marathons is the “sharing” of the experience at the end. I'll give Dave a more detailed report, and maybe that'll fill the void.

I concluded my trip, by heading to Pittsburgh Monday morning to see the baseball game (the “real” reason for my trip). After struggling to find a place to park (I swear it was somewhere in western Philadelphia), I had to hustle to the stadium in time to make the first pitch. Of course the game went into extra innings, and the Pirates lost to the Cubs. I arrived back in Ashland after midnight.

What's next you ask? Well, I just signed-up for a marathon in Wilmington, DE on May 18th. That'll give me 3 marathons in 3 months, which would qualify me as a “Marathon Maniac” http://www.marathonmaniacs.com/, I hope this next one goes a little better. At least I'll have Jill & the kids there at the end. This will be my last one until the OBX marathon in the Fall, which I'll be running with Bob Brown as he makes his marathon debut (more pressure applied).

I'm looking forward to coaching a Half Marathon Training team for the Patrick Henry Half Marathon (8/23/2008). We will be having an info night this Tuesday (4/15/2008) at the Ashcake YMCA (wet Y, as the locals call it). More details can be found at http://www.quickteams.com/rrrc-hmt/. We have a great group of coaches, and will hopefully expose more people to joys of running longer distances.

See ya on the streets,
Tom

Back to the Center of the Universe

March 31, 2008
It's good to be back in Ashland after a week in “the land of a million dreams” (if my math is correct, that's about a half a dream per person that was at Disney ;>). I've done several marathons, but Disney was more exhausting than any of them. But the smiles on my kids' faces made it all worthwhile. I have to say, Disney was one of the most friendly and cleanest places I've ever visited. Just about every park worker had a “trash-picker-upper-thing”. I thought it would be nice to have those for Dave's Pick-up 150 project.

I did manage to get in a few runs during my time in Florida. The first few days, we stayed near my sister on Bradenton Beach. It was cold (50's and 60's) and windy most of the time we were there, not great beach weather. I did a 4 miler on Saturday on a really nice bike path they had on the Island. On my way back with the wind at my back, I was feeling pretty good, & was keeping up with an old couple riding their bikes. The lady looked over at me after a few hundred yards and said “nice running”.

On Monday, I started out for another run, thinking I might go 5 miles. The wind was really strong & coming from the North, so I headed up the beach into the wind. There were a lot of people out for such a cold & windy morning (not like my beach in NC which I'm sure would have been almost deserted on such a day). I noticed a few runners were out. As I got a couple of miles into the run and I could see the point where the Gulf of Mexico met Tampa Bay. Something told me I should keep running to the point, which looked like it was a couple more miles. As I made it to the point, fighting the wind gusts and blowing sand, looking out at the Gulf I noticed the waves breaking in two directions, against the shore and against the bay, it was kinda neat to see. Just before I made the turn-around to head back, I noticed a runner headed the other way. He looked to be going about the same pace, so after I made the turn, I decided to pick-up the pace a little to try to catch up with him. As I pulled up beside him, I said “a lot easier running this direction”. As we ran, we talked a little. I found out Steve was from Green Bay, and was down on vacation with friends. He was training for Grandma's Marathon, and had run about 15 previous marathons. He was an avid racquetball player, and we talked about the risk of injury when doing other sports while training for a marathon. We talked about our running groups at home, and what a great group of people they are. I learned like me, he had two daughters but both of his were grown, with his youngest in college.

We were having such a good conversation, Steve asked if it would be okay to keep running with me past where he was staying on the beach (he thought he might be slowing me down), I said that would be great. Then Steve told me that last year, he had surgery to remove a kidney that was cancerous. My dad had that same surgery about 15 years ago, and I remember how much we worried about him. Here was a guy that had the big “C” less than a year ago, and was now training for a marathon, and he wasn't just jogging. We were running along a pretty good pace. After running together for about 3 miles, Steve said he was turning back, as he had friends waiting on him. He asked if I would be running on the beach anymore that week, but I told him, we were headed to Disney the next morning. We shook hands (while still running) and he turned back up the beach.

For the next mile I thought about Steve. About how frightened he and his family must have been when they found out he had cancer. About what a tremendous recovery he had made. Sometimes I think, God must look out for runners. He must figure, we put ourselves through so much voluntarily, He'll give us a break from time to time.

Anyway, I was glad I met Steve. I had been bumming about having such lousy weather in Florida, and he completely changed my attitude. I was happy to be running. I was happy to be on vacation with my family. I was happy to see my sister, Sherry and her husband Ray, their daughter Jennifer and her two kids, CJ and Tori. I was happy that I got to spend some quality time with my parents, who rode with us on our 14 hour drive down (& the 14 hour drive back). I was even happy to go to “the land of a million plus people”. I probably wouldn't recognize Steve again if I saw him, but I will always remember running with him.

See ya on the streets,
Tom

Ashland Railroad Run Recap

March 18, 2008
The weather couldn't have more perfect Saturday morning for the 30th Ashland Railroad Run. We were all watching the weather forecast the week leading up to the race, and the threat of rain had us all worried. Our prayers were answered though, as we woke-up to a beautiful morning. I think all the races (kids' one mile, 5K, & 10K) had about double the number of participants from last year. A big congratulations goes out to Jo Ann Hunter and all the volunteers for a very successful and well run event.

I had the pleasure of running with both my daughters. Claire ran the Kids' 1 mile race, and didn't complain half as much as she did last year. She broke 10 minutes and remembered to put her hands up as she broke the tape at the finish. Mattie and a few of her friends ran the 5K, I ran behind them & tried to get them to agree on when to run & when to take walk breaks. I think they had a good time, cheering on 10K runners as they passed and trying to catch the Proffitt boys, who kept a close eye on them, and would sprint ahead every time the girls got close. I hope the girls will enjoy running as they get older, but right now I think I enjoy watching them run more. I was proud of both of them.

The whole town of Ashland should be proud of the level of support, participation, and cooperation shown with putting on this event. I think Ashland Dave's video on his blog really captures the small town spirit of the event.

The weather was not so good for the Sunday option of Ashland Railroad Run 10K. Cold and rainy for the 7:15 start, the crowds and number of participants were definitely effected by the weather. I had a chance to interview the eventual winner of the Sunday option of the Ashland RRR 10K, and here is his story.

“Well, first of all things got screwed-up with a friend of mine, who was suppose to run the race with me, but a miscommunication issue caused him not to show. I don't mind the cold and rain unless it's pouring like it was this morning at 6:00 a.m. I almost decided to bail too, but I started the race with steady pace, not too hard, but I quickly noticed I was in the lead. About a half mile into the race, I got a pain in my left hip. I actually had to stop for a second to stretch it out. The pain quickly went away, as fast as it came, and I was still in the lead.

The next couple of miles were relaxed, I didn't look back to see how close the other runners were behind me, but I knew they must be right off my shoulder, waiting for me to slow, so they could blow past me. As we ran past my church, St. Ann's, I decided to pick it up a little to put some pressure on. I felt good as I rounded the corner by Henry Clay Elementary, and the wind seemed to pushing me as I headed up Center Street out towards Gwaltney Church. I used to run this stretch of road a lot when I trained, but I forgot how peaceful it could be early in morning. I still felt good as I approached “Mount Ashland”, the only real hill on the course. I pushed up the hill to the turn-around. The wind that was a friend a minute ago, now was the enemy. I put my head down, determined not to let the wind slow down too much. The rain had pretty much stopped, and I was actually getting a little warm. I knew I only had about mile to go, so I decided to just try to keep the pace up & not look back to see how close my nearest competitor was. As I crossed Ashcake, I noticed my legs were starting to burn from the lactic acid that was building up. Running down the center of Center Street, my shoes made little squeaky sounds on the wet pavement. I concentrated on the sounds, and tried to ignore the pain in my legs. I saw the finish. I looked back, and I could not see the next runner. I knew I would win easily, and slowed a bit and smiled as I crossed the finish line. This was my first win since middle school track, and I was happy I decided to run today.”

Sometimes, you have to use your imagination to motivate you to get out there and run. I did come in first (and last) on the First Annual Sunday Option of the Ashland Railroad Run 10K ;>).

See ya on the streets,
Tom


The Marathon

March 04, 2008
It's over. The marathon that has occupied my mind & much of my “free” time for the last 18 weeks has come and gone. So how did it go, you ask? The best way I know to describe it is, “Perfect”. I can only remember a few other “perfect” days in my life, my wedding day, the birth of my two girls. Sunday March 2, 2008 ranks right behind those. I did qualify for the 2009 Boston Marathon, but if that's all there was to it, I don't think it would be such special event in my life. No, what made it “Perfect” was that my family was there to support and cheer me on. Dave, Dennis, and Alan were there to share in the “Marathon Experience”. Our support team (our families) met us at least four times on the course to cheer for us & make sure we had everything we needed. Bryan drove all the way up Sunday morning to run in with all of us. I knew many of the Ashland Track Club members were pulling for me, as well as the Grub Kitty runners. Maybe it was a “runner's high” but at some point late in the race, I could actually “feel” the prayers that were prayed for me. I feel truly blessed to have such a great family and friends. That's what made this day so special for me.

Some race details:
On the drive up Saturday, the wind was gusting at over 20 mph. The Rappahannock River literally had ocean size waves as we crossed it. I thought to myself, a injured hamstring, something like the flu, and now gale force winds, what else could go wrong. I had been able to convince myself that the hamstring injury & the flu-like illness had been blessings in disguise, forcing me to take it easy, but the wind had me rattled. I remember the wind at Shamrock last year & it was brutal for about 10 miles. Luckily, I checked the weather forecast that had originally called for the same windy conditions on Sunday, but it now said light winds. What a relief! I actually slept for a solid 5 hours that night.

Race morning went off without a problem. I got up early and ate a bigger breakfast than normal. I was determined not to run out of fuel. Dave & I picked up Alan, and made our way to the start at Severna Park High School. Dave gave us a good course report on the way. He had scoped it out a little on Saturday.

After some confusion on which direction we were to start out running, we were off. I estimated there was about 30 seconds difference between the clock starting & me crossing the start line. Just in case my timing chip didn't work, I wanted to make sure I knew how much of a time difference there was between my watch & the official clock. This happened to Dave at Shamrock, so he had to take the clock time instead of his chip time.

The early miles were a lot of fun. I ran with Dennis and talked with a bunch of local runners. One guy said he ran the route so much, he knew ever inch of it. He was only running the half, but gave me a detailed report of the second half of the course. He also let me tuck in behind him anytime the wind kicked-up & would look back to make sure he wasn't running too fast.

I've never really met a rude runner. That was until I cut over to say “hey” to Dave & Alan after the 7 mile turn-around, and accidentally, very slightly, touched the heal of an older woman. She yelled at me, “Hey, watch it”. I apologized to her twice, but got no response. I noticed she was wearing a Boston jacket & Boston shirt. The fact that she would not accept my apology was really bothering me, and putting a damper on a great day. I decide to slow a bit and try to talk with her. I apologized again, and asked if she was going to Boston this year. She said “Yes, that's why I responded like that”. I smiled. I talked to her some more and explained I was trying to qualify. I think she finally forgave me, but I never saw her again. I guess she was just doing the half.

I ate every time I saw food. Jill gave me a power bar, cut up into small pieces, at the half-way point. The miles were clicking by. I was hitting my splits within 30 seconds to minute under my goal pace. I had hooked up with a couple of local runners that were running the same pace. There was a younger guy and an older guy named Tom that everyone seemed to know. The younger guy kept saying “all we had to do is keep up with Pops”. I think I ran the from about mile 13.5 to mile 23 with these guys somewhere around me. At mile 22, the support team was there to give me my last bottle of poweraide.

It was about mile 22.5, I started thinking “this is where the wheels came off at Shamrock”. I prayed “God, please don't let me feel like that again”. Then I saw Bryan waiting for me beside the path. My spirits were lifted. We actually picked up the pace and left Tom & the younger guy. Bryan kept my mind off any negative thoughts I might have had, and the last two miles clicked by just as the first 24 had.

Something about that last right turn hit me. Maybe it was the wind, the slight up-hill, or maybe I just ran out of gas. I only had .2 miles to go, but bad thoughts started rushing in. I couldn't calculate the time I had left. I told Bryan just to run ahead of me, which he did. I focused on keeping up with him. For some reason, I thought we had to run around the track when we got back to the high school, but was very happy to see we just had to run half the way down the bus loop.

I could hear Jill yelling “You did it, you did it”. The announcer called out my name, “Tom Grant from Ashland VA”. The clock read 3:28:54. WE did it.

Dave was trying to break 4:30:00 and I was very happy to see him coming in well under that, with his famous “Baltimore Kick” that I can't keep up with. Dennis also had a PR. Alan completed his first marathon. It was great day.

If you haven't read Dave's Blog and seen the video, go do it at: http://www.townhound.com/blog/dave.php

You have to click on the word “Video” in the first sentence to get the video to load. It's great.

Well that's it. What's next? I was thinking of touring those restaurants that challenge you to eat something (like a two pound hamburger) & if you do, they give you a hat or something. That sounds like an easier sport.

See ya on the streets,
Tom


Marathon Week

February 27, 2008
First, let me apologize for not updating the blog last week. I came down with something like the flu, but tested negative. I tell ya, it's the sickest I've been since I was little.

Well, there's good that comes out of everything, right? Not only was I forced to take it easy last week, but I dropped about 5 lbs. I'm feeling pretty good going into the Marathon this Sunday, except for a lingering cough, but even that's getting better everyday.

I noticed Dave has a great write-up on "Mental Toughness" on his Blog. I'm trying to mentally prepare myself for that "moment" in the marathon ("the wall") when your brain tells you to "STOP DOING THIS". I hit that point in Shamrock last year about mile 24. I'm going to try to eat more during the race, hopefully the weather will be perfect. and the thought of pigging-out after the race will be enough to get me over (or through) the wall.

We're getting into a great time of the year for running. Seems like there is a local race just about every weekend. Judging from early registration numbers, this year's Ashland Railroad Run will draw a big crowd. We recently found out that Blue Ridge Mountain Outdoors Magazine has added the Railroad Run to it's tour to promote healthy living. They will be at the race with door prizes and lots of freebies. Should be a great event.

I'm sure Dave will have a great race report on B&A (hopefully with some video footage). I'll also let you know how we all fair.

Thanks to all that have emailed me about the blog. I'm thankful to everyone that reads this stuff.

Well, nothing left to do except eat a bunch of carbs.

See ya on the streets,
Tom

Ashland, Starbucks, and Running - these are a few of my favorite things

February 14, 2008

I've been thinking about what I should write about this week. I thought about elaborating on the adventure we had getting to the Ashland Track Club's practice this Sunday (during the wind storm), but that would be pretty short. By the way, congrats to the ladies training for the Frederick Marathon Relay, who ran 5+ miles in the 40 mph wind gust, trees snapping around them, fires breaking out, power lines down, nothing stopped these women! I also thought about promoting www.steverunner.com, who does great podcasts & organizes the "Worldwide 1/2 Marathon & Kick the Couch 5K", but I thought I'd wait until the event got a little closer. Then I thought of an old saying, "If you want to be successful and happy, you have to love what you do". I'm not sure who said it, & I'm sure I butchered the exact words, but it got me thinking, "What do I love about running?" That led me to think about other things that I love (wife & kids, Ashland, COFFEE!). As I begin to think about it more, I realized that a few of my favorite things all had some common characteristics. So here ya go, common traits of Ashland, Starbucks, & Running.

No Waiting:

I hate to wait (not sure there's anybody who loves to wait). Living here in Ashland, we rarely have to wait more than 5 minutes for anything. Even El Azteca on a Friday night isn't that bad. Try going for a quick bite to eat in Short Pump on a Friday evening. In Ashland, we can invite the whole town to a street party & not have to worry about traffic or standing in line for beer too long.

Starbucks has their system down, if you are in front of me, ordering one of those fancy drinks with a multitude of ingredients, your order is taken, but then you are quickly moved to the side so that the attendant can get me my Grande Coffee in a Venti cup. Then I can add a ton of half & half so that it's not too hot to drink right away,

For group runs, we have a 5 minute rule. If you are not there 5 minutes after the official starting time, you are left behind. No guilt, everyone knows the rule. Unlike other sports, there is no waiting to get in the game or waiting to use the field or court, the road is always open & you are always in the “game”.

It's Simple:

Living in Ashland is simple. Need groceries, there's Ukrops & Food Lion (for some, Wal Mart, but I'd rather take a beatin'). Hardware, there's Ace. Need to know something about something, you probably know someone or know someone who knows someone. Wanna know how to get somewhere, there's only one way to get there in Ashland.

Starbucks, ... coffee. Of course, they have other things, but that's for people who like to wait.

I love the simplicity of running. Shoes are about the only complicated thing that you need. No special skills are required. Oh, you'll probably see me write about interval training, tempo work, the importantance of core training, but when it comes down to it, to run better, you just have to run more (to a point).

It's Quiet:

Except for the passing trains, Ashland is a quiet town (especially where I live just outside the town limits). Of course, if you live near New Street, it hasn't been very quiet lately, but this too shall pass. Ashland provides just enough excitement to still be a quiet little town without being boring. I remember a friend of mine was visiting from the big city (Richmond). We had gone to pool, visited the library, and went for ice cream with our kids. He kept looking at his watch, and finally said “even time moves slower here in Ashland.”

I often think of taking my laptop down to Starbucks and working from there. They usually have great music playing but not too loud (I'm sure they have done a study on the type & volume of music to play to make their customers feel comfortable). You know when you go to some places & there's so much confusion and noise, that you can't wait to get outta there. I never get that feeling at Starbucks.

Even if you run with a group, there are great moments of silence (of course I've never run with that group of ladies training for the Frederick Relay, I have a feeling there's not much silence in that group). I remember running laps on a cinder track in high school, where the only thing I could hear was my own breathing & the soft crunch of my feet hitting the track. I think I could sleep to that.

No Crowds:

We may think we have crowds in Ashland, but nothing like Short Pump Town Center at Christmas. Our crowds are 20 people & we most likely know 75% of our fellow “crowdees”, so it turns into a social event.

Our Ashland Starbucks is never very crowded. I can't attest for other locations, but it seems they have the system down to move people in & out quickly. So if there is a crowd, it'll be gone soon.

A big crowd for a training run is 6 people. Of course, you could decide to run a big race like Monument Ave (gotten too crowded for me) or the Chicago Marathon, but for the most part even races are only crowded at the start. After the first mile or so, you're back down to 5 or 6 people within spitting distance.

As I thought of my similarities, I did think of one contrast. I like my coffee hot, I like Ashland when the temperature is medium, & I like to run when it's cold.

Next week? Who knows, maybe how running can bring about world peace ;>)

See ya on the streets (or Starbucks),
Tom

Tom's 5 Race Rules

February 07, 2008
I don't have much to say this week, training is going good, the weather is nice (actually a little warm & humid for me, but it'll change back soon), and I'm heading into my last long run before the B and A Marathon.

As I wondered if the weather will be favorable (35 - 40 degrees is perfect for me) on March 2, I started thinking that I've developed some habits on race day. I'll list them here, but I'm not suggesting that you follow any of them.

Rule #1: Never wear the shirt they give for the race until you've finished the race. I use this as my reward for finishing a race.

Rule #2: Never wear another race's shirt in the race you are running. I follow this one for a couple of reasons. One, I like to keep people guessing, if I see someone at a 10K race that is wearing a marathon shirt, I know they are an experienced runner, vice-versa, if I see someone in a 5K shirt lined up at a marathon, I think "better not pace off this guy, it's his first marathon". The other reason is, I would like the people who organized the race I'm running to think that their race is the most important race. It's like showing up to baseball game with a jersey from another team, other than the two teams that are playing, i.e. I'd rather be at a Yankees game, but I'm sitting here watching the Braves vs. Nationals just because it's local.

Rule #3: Never sprint past people at the finish line. If someone is slowing dramatically, I will pass them, but if they are holding their pace, I won't try to nip them at the line. I compete against the clock, & if I pace myself correctly, I shouldn't have the energy to sprint at the end of the race. Sprinting at the end is a great way to injure yourself.

Rule #4: Always ask "How did you do?", not "What was your time?" after the race. Most people will tell you their time, but you'll likely to get better conversation with the first question over the second.

Rule #5: Try to thank as many people involved with organizing the race as possible (even if you didn't have a good race). I try to say thanks to all the course marshalls, police, and water stop volunteers that are out on the course. If it's a well organized race, I'll try to find the race director & thank them, or send them an email afterwards. It is a lot of work to put on a race, & most of the time, it's done by volunteers.

There you have it, my 5 rules to race by.

The 30th Annual Ashland Railroad Run is coming up fast (March 15,2008). We're hoping for a record crowd this year, so come out & run or cheer on the runners (or even better volunteer to help). Infomation & registration at www.hanoverarts.com. The Ashland Track Club is holding practice for kids who are planning to run the 1 mile & 5K. The practices are every Sunday at 3:00 at the Gandy Track. If you have a kid that might want to run, come on out & join us.

After this weekend, I'll begin tapering (cutting back on my distance & intensity) for the marathon. I always tell people, "I'm an average runner, but a world-class taperer";>). Pray for good weather on March 2!

See ya on the streets,
Tom