Thursday, December 31, 2009

Auld Lang Syne

Ok.. not to be all "mooooshy" but this year is ending on an amazing note thanks to all of YOU.

I have connected with old friends, made incredible new ones and built even stronger friendships with those around me. It's been a year of unfathomable challenge and yet equally amazing promise of new opportunity. Through a new job, a change of priorities (and all that entails) new doors have been opened and new acquaintances made that make me look forward to the coming year with an astounding vigor. Through all of it, friends old and new, family close and distant have rallied, supported, cheered and counseled, coached and cajoled me to my own triumphs and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

I have been amazed at the way technology shrinks our world and brings us closer together despite the naysayers who espouse that it takes us apart. With my view from the electronic "cheap seats" I have been party and privy to all of your own hurtles, and triumphs; your heartaches, accomplishments and successes and for that, I am eternally grateful. I can't wait to see what the new year brings each of us. Perhaps it is the challenges we face as society that drive us to reach out and connect during what is arguably the most difficult period of our current history. I don't know, but what I have experienced and witnessed is an astounding array of compassion, caring and old fashioned good heartedness that gives me absolute belief that we will triumph... always.

And after all, what fun would it be if this were all easy? To paraphrase a somewhat infamous quote about life:
"The goal is not to arrive at the end with a perfectly preserved and pristine body but to slide in sideways, beat up, totally worn out and screaming.. WOW.. what a ride!"

There is no way I can tweet and tag, email or call each of you when the circle of people who have made this last twelve months that incredible ride has grown as it has.. So, as this year draws to an end I count my blessings, and they are each of you.

My thank you, and warmest wishes to all of you for a safe, happy and prosperous New Year; may you each be half as fortunate as I am, for then, you are wealthy beyond measure.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Agony and the Ecstasy (Or why is a PR Never Enough?)

I set out to run the California International Marathon over six months ago, initially setting my sites on a “BQ” (Boston Qualifying time). Soon realizing this would mean cutting over 20 minutes off my previous best at the Paris Marathon earlier this year I scaled back just a tad. Aiming and training for the 3:45 mark I felt was a respectable advance on my Paris time and would be a full 40 plus minutes better than my first marathon.

Race morning dawned crisp and cold, around 35F. The busses to the start were unusually chaotic for C.I.M and the sweat check was like a scene from a third world country with people yelling, bags flying and a general sense of disarray quite uncommon for this event. I have run C.I.M as a relay team previously and the organizers usually have this event down to a science. Ultimately my sweat check bag would go missing and someone somewhere now has a really nice Brooks NiteLife jacket and a pair of ASICS warm up pants. But as any race participant knows, and is informed, this can and does happen in the best of events. I really couldn’t bitch. The rest of the event went off flawlessly, the volunteers, literally in the hundreds were friendly, helpful and with only one exception, a credit to the event and get my heartfelt thanks.

But we digress! Lined up at the start after a brief warm up but couldn’t find the 3:45 Pacer, Grant Carboni. C.I.M has a cadre of really amazing pacers and while I have never run with a pace group before, talking to Grant and Rae Clark at the Expo I was sold. The gun sounded and I headed off figuring I would be on my own pace wise. Shortly after crossing the timing mat I spied Grant and the pace group about a half mile ahead and spent the next couple of miles slowly reeling them in and right after that caught up with my running partner Bill E. and we settled into our group, our pace and started clicking off the miles. Grant is an amazing pace leader and knows the course like the back of his hand so I could just settle in and run.

C.I.M starts in Folsom CA at the base of the Folsom Lake dam and winds its way into downtown Sacramento to end just shy of the steps of the state capitol. It is a net downhill and advertised as a fast course and top Boston Qualifier but don’t let that fool you. It is still 26.2 miles and at times the “rollers” are still a challenge! Throw in a nice headwind that we turned right into at mile 10 and again just past the half way point and it tests you just like any other marathon.

Bill and I stayed with Grant and the pace group, sometimes even slightly out ahead, clear through to mile 17 or so. I had a couple of minutes in the bank from starting behind and reeling them in so I was feeling ok to drift back a bit and try and draft behind the group to stay out of the breeze but that was the start of my wrestle with “The Beast” as I have come to call him. The Beast, that insidious in creeping of aches, pains and second thoughts daring to become doubt and misgiving that we distance runners know all too well. The Beast gnawed at my hip, pushed a sock down to crumple and threaten a blister and called upon the cold to assist in never giving me a chance to take off my gloves and beanie.

The Beast stayed with me through to the end of the race, threatening to turn into the full fledged “Wall” and daring me to stop and walk right up to mile 22. At that point that old ally Determination finally lent a hand and from 22 to 26 I was able to call up the reserves and claw my way back to my pace. Those where the toughest miles of the race and my wife would remark later when she took this picture just 200 yards short of the finish she could only yell out “almost there” instead of her traditional “Looking good”.. that would have been such a vast overstatement!

I finished just over three minutes off my goal, and for a

time it looked as though the official time was actually further off than that. Later I would confirm that was the gun time and despite that even that time was a personal record, I had on what has been described by my lovely bride as my Cranky Pants. Later I would confirm my official chip time as 3:48:14, more than ten minutes better than Paris and a new personal record. The Cranky Pants have come off, my training saw me through to the end of arguably the toughest race I have participated in. I am uninjured and setting my sites on next year. So, why does it bug me that this guy beat me by 13 seconds? Maybe its the name thing? Or that we look so much alike? Maybe next year. ;-)