Monday, March 30, 2009

Clinton Lake 30 Mile - 3/28/09

Don't let the fact that this race is one mile short of a 50K fool you. It's tough! But . . . I liked it! The profile from the race's website (above) says it all. It's a 10 mile loop that's repeated 3 times. You're either running uphill or downhill. There are very few, flat sections, so you never get a break. The course is very runnable actually, because I witnessed the elite runners as they lapped me, flying up and over these hills like it was nothing. There are lots of hills, but the climbs and descents are relatively short lived. It just becomes a problem cumulatively, lol.

Dewitt, IL (population: 200) is about a 6.5 hour drive for me. I left after work on Friday and arrived at the Clinton Lake State Recreation Area about 1:00 a.m. There was a sign clearly posted at the entrance to the North Fork Boat Access Area that said "no camping was allowed." Hmmm . . . . No cops followed me into the area (the problem I had last weekend), and the area was quite remote. So . . . I parked my car, grabbed my comforter, and settled in for a 5 hour nap. However, just like last weekend, it was cold (below freezing) and very windy, but this time, I was toasty under my comforter.

Morning came too quick as I heard Chris (race director) and Jeff (volunteer) setting up for packet pick-up. I was taking the one hour early start along with 22 other runners. The entry limit for the race is 125 runners, but there were a lot of DNSs and DNFs. Only 87 runners finished the race. The one hour early start allows 9 hours to complete the race.

It boggles my mind when a race director can charge a low entry fee ($45) and give the runners so much in return. The goody bag had the race t-shirt (with that awesome course profile on the back) and a Marathon and Beyond (sponsor) running hat and rain poncho. We also get a 6-month subscription to Marathon and Beyond, which is cool. I've been a subscriber for years and absolutely love the magazine. There were two, fully stocked aid stations per loop and nice volunteers, and the course is permanently marked with white trail blazes. It was impossible to go off-trail on this course. There were also permanent mileage markers every mile, which helps in pacing. And the finisher's medal at the end was pretty neat. Some of the bigger and more expensive races could learn a lesson or two from the low-key events.

Getting back to the race. We start off from the parking lot and go out onto the highway (uphill, of course) before we enter the trail section, and then it's all single track. There were lots and lots of bridges, which means no stream crossings, and very few rocks and roots. The trail circles Clinton Lake, so the course is very scenic and absolutely beautiful. It's a good thing, too, because I was alone most of the day, except when other runners were lapping me, lol. Because of the single track, I had to move off-trail a lot to allow other runners to go by. That's a little nerve wrecking, but you would think that I would be used to that by now, lol. I watched the faster runners pass me and disappear down the trail, out of sight within minutes. It was like they were well-trained mountain lions running effortlessly up and down hills, and I was an elephant out of my territory, plodding along, lol.

Jeff (IL) was out on the trail, hiking the course in reverse. I met Jeff a few years ago in KY at the Love 'n the Hills 50K, another one of my favorite races. It had been a long time since I'd seen him. He was at the LBL 60K a few weeks ago, and now he was helping out at Clinton Lake. He had warned me before we started about the relentless hills, and he was right. When we saw each other on the trail, I commented to him that these hills were worse than Love 'n the Hills. Now that I think about it, that may not be exactly true. Love 'n the Hills has very long uphills and downhills, but you do get a break ever so often. With Clinton Lake, the hills are shorter, but you never get a break. They keep coming at you one right after another.

I finished the first loop in about 3 hours. That meant that I could not slow down on the next 2 loops. So I headed out for my second loop, knowing what was ahead of me for the rest of the day. About half way through the second loop, it started to rain. Great! By the third loop, it was raining so hard, I could barely see through my glasses. The runnable trail was now becoming a mud pit. Going up the hills in the slick mud was hard enough, but coming down the hills in the mud was nearly impossible. And it was so cold! I couldn't feel my fingers and toes for the entire 3rd loop! I just knew that I would have frost-bite at the end of the race. I ran when I wanted to walk just so that I could generate enough body heat to combat the cold and rain. And the ridges! Once you reached the tops of the hills, the wind coming off the lake would nearly knock you over. This was insane!

And then the unthinkable occurred! Four miles from the finish, I slipped and fell . . . sprawling, spread-eagle, a perfect 10 face-plant. I was down before I knew what happened. My head bounced back onto my spinal column, and the forest started dancing before my eyes. I yelled out, knowing no one could hear me. "I've snapped my spine into pieces" and "I'm paralyzed" are the worse thoughts that ran through my mind. I laid there trying to get my bearings as the rain continued to fall, and the mud began to soak into the fronts of my thighs, my stomach and my chest. I had to get up. I had to finish. Goodness . . . I only had 4 miles left, and I probably could finish under the 9 hour cut-off if I hurried.

I slowly got up, pain shooting down my neck and spine. I had laid there long enough to get cold again. I spat out mud and tried to wipe my face. Leaves were stuck to me, and I tried to brush them away. The rain was actually good for something; it helped to wash the mud from my clothes, lol. I slowly started to run, to generate some body heat. My toes and fingers were numb from the cold and rain. Four more miles and I could pull off my soaked clothes, dry off, put on warm, dry clothes, and turn the heat up in the car full blast. Those thoughts got me to the finish line.

I made it! I was the 85th finisher in 8:55:02. Chris and Jeff met me at the finish with my medal. I thanked them both and headed for the car. I quickly got a towel and my duffle bag, went into a porta potty, and began the long process of getting clean and dry enough to drive home.

As I drove home, the adrenaline wore off, and the pain from the fall started to intensify. Sunday morning I could barely move my neck. I had a headache all day, and my back and chest hurt so badly I could barely breathe. Today, I'm better. I can breathe deeply without too much pain. The headache's gone, and I can move without my chest and back protesting too much. The plan is to take it easy this week, as I have the Umstead 100 Mile starting on Saturday. The adventures never end.

Clinton Lake is a beautiful area, and Chris, Jeff, and the other volunteers did a wonderful job. I would like to go back one day. Next time, however, I'll have to have a little discussion with Mother Nature about the weather, lol.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Lt. J.C. Stone 50K - 3/21/09

This was my first time running the Lt. J.C. Stone 50K near Pittsburgh, PA. It was a small race, with only 45 finishers. I was #44, finishing in 6:55:56. I thought I was the last person, but near the last turn, I passed another lady, whom I thought was just out enjoying the day. When I heard someone right at my heels as I approached the finish line, I turned to see the lady with a number on her front. I was embarrassed. I told her I did not realize she was in the race (i.e., I couldn't see her number as I passed her), and if I'd known, I would not have done so. She said that was okay, but I still felt kind of bad about it.

The course winds around a lake through North Park on roads. Since the park is so close to the city, there were more community people than racers out on the bike lane, walking, running, cycling, and roller blading with family, friends, and dogs. They probably were wondering who we were with our numbers on our fronts and fluid bottles in hand or in a pack on our waists. It was down right cold at the start, below freezing, but it warmed up to about 50. It was overcast all day, so it felt cooler than it probably was. I never got rid of my gloves, headband, or jacket, and I was comfortable.

We did a 1 mile loop at the beginning of the race, followed by six relatively flat 5-mile loops around the lake. It's a pretty park, but it did get boring by the last 2 loops. There's a section of the loop that goes along the highway, where the bike lane narrows. As the day went on, that highway got pretty busy, but the locals seemed to be accustomed to giving everyone in the bike lane the right of way. The neat thing about this course is that every half mile of the 5-mile loop is permanently marked on the pavement, so you knew exactly where you were every 5 minutes or so. It made pacing simple.

The cut-off for this race was 7 hours, and when I started the last loop, I really thought I'd finish over the cut-off. Lou, the race director, assured me that someone would be at the finish line when I came back and that I'd get an official finish time even if I arrived 5 or 10 minutes over the cut-off. Lou, btw, ran his own race and finished 8th overall in {gulp} 3:54:55! Knowing that I would get an official finish must have eased the pressure on that last loop, because I cruised in about 4 minutes under cut-off. I'm glad his nice volunteers didn't have to wait a minute longer. Thanks, Lou!

The finisher's medal is pretty neat, and I love the black technical shirt in the goody bag. I passed up the pizza at the finish and headed for the airport. I was tired. I worked most of the day on Friday, and when I arrived at the airport, my flight was delayed. When I realized that I would not make my connecting flight to Pittsburgh, Northwest switched me to Delta, where I waited another hour, before taking off. I made it to Pittsburgh about 11:30 pm, picked up the rental car, and was planning on sleeping in the car in the park at the start/finish area. However, a cop followed me into the park. When I pulled up to the boathouse, which was the start/finish area, he pulled in behind me. I already knew I shouldn't be there when he asked if I was lost. I explained to him that I had just gotten into town, was participating in the race on Saturday morning, and wanted to locate the race site before morning. It wasn't necessarily a lie, right? He said that he had to run kids out of the park, so he was just checking.

Well . . . it was obvious that I couldn't stay there. I headed back out of the park and found a little strip mall and slept in the parking lot. With it being so cold, I woke up every 30 minutes or so to turn the heat on. When I got warm, I turned the car off and went back to sleep until it got cold again. When morning came, I changed all of my layers and put on my running gear and headed back to the park. I think I've mastered the art of changing clothes in the car, without scaring anybody that passes by, lol.

Even though I didn't know anybody at the race and ran all day by myself, it was a good day. As usual, I was grateful to be out there again, doing what I can do, and enjoying it.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Land Between the Lakes 60K - 3/14/09

Steve, Race Director
Terri (SC)
Norman (IL)
Jim (CA) and Frank (MN)
The LBL 60K is one of my favorite races. I missed it last year, after a freak snow storm in the middle of March prevented me from making the 2 hour drive to Grand Rivers, KY. Steve, the race director, is one of the nicest (and fastest) guys you will ever meet. Since a lot of his runners could not make it to the race last year, he offered to either send them their goody bags or allow them to register for the 2009 race with a 50% discount on the entry fee. I took the 50% discount and crossed my fingers for no snow storm this year. Well . . . there wasn't any snow, but the heavy rain the morning of the race was the issue. Granted, by the time we started, the rain had slacked off and the temperature was pretty comfortable, but the mud was unbelievable!

My friend Terri (SC), who is also a race director for a great 4 race series of ultramarathons in SC, drove to my house on Friday. We awoke early Saturday morning to drive up to KY for the race. It rained the whole time, and all we could think about was that the trail was going to be messy. This trail is very runnable, a few ups and downs to keep it interesting, very few rocks or roots, and no stream crossings, even with the heavy rain. When dry, the trail is so soft it's like running on cotton. So you know if it rains, it just turns into glue, sucking the shoes right off your feet.

A whole slew of my running buddies were there: Frank (MN), Bonnie (MN), Larry (TX), Gene (IL), Norman and Joyce (IL), Meg (KY), Danny (KY), Jim (CA), Houston (TN), Diane (TN), and Kevin (TN). There are four distances to choose from: 23K, marathon, 60K, and 50 Mile, corresponding to 1, 2, 3 or 4 loops of the 11 mile course. Everybody does the 2 mile out-n-back on the highway at the beginning and end of their chosen race. There were about 367 runners over the 4 distances. All those feet, running those multi-loops, in all of that mud . . . sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.

And I loved every minute of it! It was one of my better races for the year so far. I felt great all day. The rain did not bother me, and the mud only gave me more opportunities for walk breaks. Even on such a gloomy day, the views of Kentucky Lake and Barkley Lake were still amazing. I felt like a kid, just as happy as could be, slipping and sliding (not falling . . . wahoo!), playing in the mud, like a pig wallowing in the mud sty. It could not have been a better day.

On the first loop, I mainly ran with Danny and Frank. By the 2nd loop, Frank was feeling good, so he went on ahead, and Danny was enjoying the trail a little more than I was, so he dropped back. But I was never lonely. There were mountain bikers out on the course, and they were very courteous, pulling off to the side and allowing us to pass on the trail. The volunteers were wonderful, and the food . . . ahh . . . trail mix, brownies, bean and cheese wraps. Delicious!

My third loop was humbling as the 50 Milers passed by, finishing their 4th loop. It was amazing that they were a good 11 miles ahead of me. I was happy for them, but I secretly wished that I was fast enough to make the 11 hour cut-off to run this beautiful loop a 4th time.

I checked the results, and all of my running buddies finished their chosen distance. Congratulations, my friends! I finished in 10:38:45, not bad for 37 miles on a muddy course. I'm happy with it. In 2006, I ran 9:32:31 at this race, but I can't even compare the two times. Steve gives out beautiful buckles to the 60K'ers and 50 Milers. I now have a matching set! The red technical tank top, tan and white hat, and red drop bag are very nice additions. I need to put this race on my schedule every year. Maybe one day I'll be fast enough to run the 50 Miler here, lol!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lower Potomac River Marathon - 3/8/09

It seems like a lifetime ago, but I ran this marathon in 2005, its inaugural year. That year, I was the 10th female out of 23 female finishers, with a finish time of 4:30:27. This year, my finish time was 5:42:46, placing me at 158 out of 159 total finishers. I finished just minutes before the official cut-off of 5:45. I was stressed the entire race! I still have my RR100 DNF looming over my head, and I couldn't stomach another DNF so soon. I pushed and pushed and pushed some more, coming close to tears during some portions of the race, constantly looking at my watch, re-evaluating, and trying to make the math work out in my favor. This was definitely not fun.

I saw my running buddies Larry (TX), Lauri (PA), and Tammy (VA). Even though Larry and Lauri had run the Greenway Trail Marathon in Damascus, MD the day before, I couldn't keep up with either one of them. Larry was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2008 for completing the most (105) marathons/ultramarathons in one year. If you're counting, you'll notice that he had to run some triples on a few weekends to accomplish that many in a year. He's a remarkable man and is as humble as they come. Lauri is a tough cookie as well. She completed 65 marathons/ultramarathons last year. She was in a car accident on Friday, wrenching her back, and had been on bed rest all week for a kidney infection, but she completed a double this weekend. Amazing woman! Tammy set a new PR last month at the Rocky Raccoon 50 Mile. Although we started out running together (see photo above), she soon pulled away, posting a sub-5 hour finish.

Piney Point, MD is about a 2 hour drive from Baltimore. There's not much main highway between the two cities, so driving there from the airport took longer than it should have. This weekend, the clocks went back an hour for Daylight Savings Time, and being on the east coast, I lost an additional hour. Come morning, I was a little out of it, to say the least, lol.

Piney Point is a quaint, little town. The course is relatively flat. We did 3 different out-n-backs, 2 of which were pretty scenic. The last and longest out-n-back is along the local highway, which is not scenic at all. After my brief running stint with Tammy, I was pretty much alone for the remainder of the race. When I got to the last out-n-back, I suddenly saw a lady walking just ahead of me. I let her be my target and finally caught her. She was walking, but I knew that walk. I call it "dead (wo)man walking." She said her legs were bothering her and that she was dropping from the race. She was hoping that her husband would be at the next aid station to take her back to the start/finish. I felt bad for her and invited her to run with me, since I wasn't moving all that fast either. I would have enjoyed her company, but she told me to go on. She would not make it. I reluctantly left. I've had days like that. She had made up her mind, and there was no amount of coaxing on that day that would have changed it.

Maybe a mile or two from the turn around, I saw two ladies on the the other side of the highway. They looked like they were moving well, but at the next aid station I found out that they had also dropped from the race once they made it to the turn around. I was now in last place. I heard the "sag wagon" behind me before I saw the big, black truck of death. The driver asked if I was okay. "Oh, yes," I responded. "I'm just slow."

"Do you want to get into the truck?" he asked. Is he pulling me from the race? Impossible! Oh, no . . . I can't be pulled from the race. I try not to argue with the volunteers, because I know that they are only doing their jobs and looking out for us on the course. But I was determined not to be pulled from this race!

"Am I over cut-off?" He told me that I was way over cut-off for the last aid station that I had passed. I looked at my watch, doing the math, and then looked at him. I never stopped power-walking. I didn't want to give him any reason to force me into the truck. Think, girl, think!

"I have one hour and 20 minutes to finish the last 6 miles. If you let me go, I really think I can make it. Will that be okay?"

He looked at me, hesitating, it seemed, for far too long, and then he asked again, "Are you sure you're okay?" I assured him that I was. He then told me to enjoy the rest of my run. He was going to allow me to keep going! But he was also going to follow me into the finish . . . ugh! This is so nerve wracking! I was now motivated to actually run!

I ran hard, and by this time, it was freaking HOT! I was drinking a couple of cups of water at each aid station and sucking down Honey Stinger Gel and M&Ms every chance I got. I gave up on the Ultima Electrolyte Replacement Drink early in the race. I really do hate the taste of Ultima, and after a while, it just upsets my tummy. I prefer Gatorade or Powerade, but in absence of that, water and as much sugary foods as I could get would have to do.

I kept running and taking a couple of walking breaks here and there, but I was determined now to make the finish line cut-off. Lo and behold, I was actually catching up to another lady. She was doing the infamous walk that I talked about earlier. As I passed, neither one of us said a word, but inside, I wanted her to keep going. Neither one of us could afford to expend the energy, telling each other "you're looking good" when we both looked like a disaster waiting to happen, lol. Once I passed her, of course, I was no longer in last place, and best of all, the sag wagon was off my A$$!

About a half mile down the road, something did not feel right. I try not to look behind me in races, but I had to make sure that the lady that I had passed was still behind me. She was crossing the street, headed for the truck.

"Oh, no . . . don't get in the truck! Please . . . don't get in the truck!" Did I just say that out loud? It definitely sounded like my voice. I was losing it! Did she hear me? No, she could not have heard me, because she was now in the truck. Tears were building up in my eyes. I was again in last place, and I was afraid that the sag wagon would sweep me from the course. How many miles were left? How much time did I have?

The truck passed me, taking the lady that I had passed back to the start/finish. I ran some more. I could see a man in front of me, and I could see Lauri a good little ways in front of him. I couldn't catch Lauri, but I could catch the man if I put some fire under my feet. I finally caught up to him and asked if he could tell me how much time we had left. We were just passing Mile 22. I needed some assurance that we would make it. He confirmed that we had less than 55 minutes to run 4.2 miles. At this point, I really needed a whole hour, but I would just have to work with what I got. I told him we would make it, and I took off running. Push, girl, push!

When I saw the Mile 25 marker, I was spent. How much time did I have now? Dejected and panic-stricken, I saw Tammy approaching Lauri ahead of me. She had finished, was wearing her medal, and was coming back out onto the course to check up on us. She said something to Lauri, and then she came toward me. She walked and ran with me that last 1.2 miles. And she assured me, as I had tried to assure the guy directly behind me, "you're going to make it. The finish is just around the corner." Thank you, Tammy. That meant a lot to me.

I've decided that, until I can figure out how to get some "speed" back, I'm only doing marathons that have an early start or have at least a 6 hour cut-off. The Lower Potomac River Marathon is definitely off the list for now. This race was too stressful for me. It doesn't bother me to battle the course or my own insecurities, but it does bother me if I'm battling time.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Cowtown 50K - 2/28/09

The Cowtown in Fort Worth, TX was this year's annual reunion run for the National Black Marathoners' Association (NBMA). The Cowtown offers a 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, and 50K - essentially a run for everyone. Tony (TX) and Charlotte (GA), the founders and directors of the NBMA, choose races that offer multiple distances so that everyone in the club can run. It is not a requirement to actually run a marathon to be a member of the NBMA. Those who walk 5K's are welcome.

Even though I've been a member for years, I had missed every reunion run. I decided last year that no matter what I'd participate in the 2009 reunion run. The NBMA has previously gathered at the Cleveland Marathon, Lewis and Clark Marathon, New Jersey Marathon, and Lost Dutchman Marathon. Next year the reunion run will be held at the ING Atlanta Marathon.

When my plane landed at DFW, I picked up my rental car and headed to the Expo. I was going to meet my running buddy, Fred (OH), as he was allowing me to share his suite on Friday night before the race. Fred is such a sweetheart! He gave me the bed, and he slept on the couch. And Fred is tall, so he could not have been too comfortable! When I offered to give him something on the room, he refused. You can't ask for a better buddy than that.

When I arrived at the Expo to pick up my packet, I was told that, yes, I was registered, but no, there was not a packet available for me. With over 17,000 people registered for the various distances, this is bound to happen every now and then, I thought, so there was no need to panic. I was pointed to the "solutions" table to get the issue resolved. On my way there, I saw Fred. Bless his heart, unbeknownst to me, he had already picked up my packet, along with a few of his other running buddies' packets. He and his back pack were loaded up with race numbers, t-shirts, and goody bags. See, I told you he was a sweetheart!

We then proceeded to the NBMA booth to chat with other members. I am not an Expo person. Unless I specifically need something (shoes, new socks, new tights, etc), I do not spend time wandering around the Expo. You can spend so much money at the Expo, which is the whole purpose for the exhibitors. To avoid the temptation, I usually pick up my packet, go get dinner, and take it back to my hotel room. Once I eat, it's usually time for bed. Most of these races start at the crack of dawn, and a few of them will start in the dark, lol. And since I'm out there all day it seems, getting a good night's rest is essential. I also normally don't go to the pasta parties, if they're offered. If the price is not already included in the fee, the price is always more than what I'd normally spend on dinner. But the main reason I don't participate in the pasta parties is that I'm basically a shy person. One-on-one, I may talk your head off, but put me in a room with a bunch of people that I do not know, and I climb back into my shell. It's crazy, I know, but I've never claimed to be of sound or sane mind, lol. Fred, on the other hand, is very social. Since we were staying together, I was basically following his lead. So we go to NBMA booth.

It's been a long time since I've seen Tony. This year's Cowtown Marathon was his 100th marathon. Congratulations, Tony, on a job well done! He's completed the Cowtown Marathon 19 times, and I believe, the Cowtown Marathon was his first marathon. So, he's come full circle, so to speak. Tony is also the first black person to complete a marathon on all 7 continents, a very elite group, I might add. Another special thing about Tony is that he has basically cured himself of diabetes through his running. He's been featured in Runner's World magazine, owns his on CPA firm, written several books, and is a professional speaker. A truly remarkable man in my eyes!

Tony contacted me a few years ago after we ran the Eisenhower Marathon in Abilene, KS. We were the only 2 black people there if I remember correctly, and the internet makes it so easy to find anyone these days that, even though we didn't have the opportunity to talk during the marathon (we were on slightly different paces), he found me and told me about the NBMA. I've been a member ever since.

I also finally met Charlotte. My first thoughts - wow, she's tall and thin, a beautiful sister. We chatted for a while and I found out that she's a triathlete. Not being a swimmer, I admire anyone that can balance three sports and still have a life. I also met her husband, and I even ran a little with him during the race. He's tall and thin as well. They are a wonderful set of bookends, lol. Marvin (I hope I remembered his name correctly) admitted that Charlotte's the speedster in the family. She certainly sped by me during the race, lol, asking if I'd seen her husband. He was slightly ahead of me after he continued to run, while I took a walk break. I told her that he was ahead of us, but I'm sure she caught up to him in no time. I look forward to seeing them next year at the NBMA's reunion run in GA.

I had met Gillis (OH) at the Tupelo Marathon in MS a couple of years ago. Gillis is a speedster as well. We checked into our hotel in Tupelo at the same time, and I introduced myself. Tony had told me previously to look for him at the race. Even if we hadn't met at the hotel, the Tupelo Marathon is small enough that we would have eventually seen each other. It was good to see him again at Cowtown. He sped past me during the race on his way to a 4:08:46 marathon finish. Nice work, Gillis!

I had not seen Lillard (KS) for a while. We ran a lot of the same races when we were both pursuing the States. He told me that he broke his ankle(?) during the NYC Marathon(?) and had been out of commission until it healed. It was good to see him out on the roads again. We ran together a little at the start of the race, but I had to drop back before his pace killed me, lol. He went on to finish the marathon in 5:26:53. Way to go, my friend!

I met several other members, notably Gerald (TX) and Nancy (TX), whose also Fred's running buddy. All in all, hanging out at the NBMA booth was a good idea.

We then proceeded to the Jubilee Theatre, about a block from the Expo, for the NBMA's "meet-and-greet". There were probably about a 100 members seated in the theatre, an awesome sight for my sore eyes. I was so proud to sit with so many of my running sisters and brothers, all ready for the challenge of running their chosen distance.

Tony made his opening remarks, introduced the board members (Tony, Charlotte, Gillis, and Gerald), and told us that we had "celebrities" among us. First, he introduced us to another black male who had also completed a marathon on all 7 continents. It just so happens that he and Tony have the same birthday. How cool is that!

Next up was a guy I've seen before, but had never met, who runs with the Achilles Track Club. I had seen him with my running buddy, Cathy (NY), but what I did not know about Don (NY) was that he had run 35 marathons AFTER his heart transplant. Good grief! If anyone ever gives me a lame excuse about why they don't exercise, I will point them in the direction of Don. Don took an early start to complete the marathon. About 2 miles from the finish line, I passed him giving him some encouragement. He said he was ready for this to be over! The cold wind had taken a lot out of all of us, so I understood the feeling. Don finished the marathon in 7:52:19. Congratulations on a wonderful performance!

And then Tony started telling the story of the Eisenhower Marathon. My heart started beating really fast. Oh, no! He was going to introduce me. Where's my shell?! He tells them that I've completed 221 marathons/ultramarathons, that I've finished a marathon in every state, that I'm currently pursuing an ultramarathon in every state, and that I've done a few 100 mile races. He then asks me what's the most marathons/ultramarathons that I've completed in a year. I have to speak? In front of everybody? Can't we talk about this one-on-one, in private, lol? I tell him that the most I've completed in one year is 52. The guy next to me jokingly asks, "why?" A little laugh from me eased the pressure around my heart just a tad, but all I wanted to do was hide. I wanted to point to Fred sitting next to me and say: "no, look at Fred. He's a much more accomplished runner than I'll ever be. He's run 358 marathons/ultramarathons and the majority of his runs were ultras. He's done several 100 milers, 48-Hour and 72-Hour races, and even 6- and 10-Day races. So please, I don't deserve to be in the same category as the other 'celebrities'." But everyone was looking at me, smiling, clapping, and welcoming me into the circle. I was so freaked out, and so uncomfortable with the attention. I'm a nobody in this sport. I can list 10,000 reasons why I'm no one special. But yet, this love from my sisters and brothers was drawing me in. I wish I had done something spectacular to deserve it.

Finally, Tony moved on to Fred. Phew! Wipe off the brow; the heat is off, lol. After Tony told everyone of Fred's many accomplishments, the guy next to me told me to ask Fred the same question he had asked me earlier, "why?", lol.

Tony then moved on to several door prizes. I even lucked up and got one, a $130 gift certificate for Spira running shoes. The guy next to me said, "As much as you run, you need those." I laughed again and agreed with him.

Another winner of one of the door prizes was a guy who was pursuing the states but was doing it a little differently. He was taking his family with him (wife and 2 sons) to all of the states, and I believe the whole family was running some of the shorter distance races on his trips. That is so cool! This brother is a celebrity to me.

Next we gathered for the group photo above (last photo). What a beautiful bunch!

We mingled some more, and then it was over. Fred and I headed to his suite in Irving, about 30 minutes from Fort Worth. Thank you, Fred, for pulling me out of my comfort zone. I'm so happy to be a part of such a wonderful group of sisters and brothers.

The next morning, prior to the start of the race, we gathered at the Jubilee Theatre for another group photo (3rd photo above). We all ran in red tops and black bottoms with our "Free to Run" bibs attached to show our unity. Very cool!

It was windy . . . and cold at the start. I hung out in the theatre up until the last possible minute. I talked with Maurice (OK). He's a fascinating and fast brother. He talked about the Boston Marathon which, of course, I've never run because I'm not fast enough to qualify, lol. But it turns out that he ran the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile in February, and that it was his first 100 mile race. I must have been completely out of it at RR100 to miss another person of color, but I did. He also paced someone at the Mother Road 100 Mile last November, but since that's a point-to-point race and he was pacing someone a lot faster than I was running, I never saw him there either. I need to start paying more attention at my races. I can't be missing any brothers and sisters, lol.

The Cowtown is a nice race. There are some hills, but nothing impossible. I started out running with Lillard, and then I ran some with Marvin. A little while later, I hooked up with Karen (TX). Karen is another one of Fred's running buddies. I met her at the Burning River 100 Mile Race a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, we both DNF'd that year, but we've run some of the same races since then. Soon Laura (TX) joined us. Laura owns a business selling marathon charms and gifts. I've run with her in quite a few races as well. Tony also joined us, making it a foursome. Laura and Tony were running the marathon, and Karen and I were running the 50K. Both races follow the same route up until Mile 23, where the 50K'ers take a 4.8 mile out-n-back along the river, on a crushed gravel, dirt path, before rejoining the remainder of the marathon course. This 4.8 mile section was my favorite, even though I ran it alone. Tony and I parted company at Mile 23, after running and talking for several miles. He went on to finish in 5:34:05. His wife, Debra (TX), ran her first half-marathon at the Cowtown. They definitely had a lot to celebrate at the finish.

I saw Fred on the out-n-back. He was a good hour in front in me and looking strong. Fred finished the 50K in 5:42:47, winning his age group. Congratulations, my friend! Fred even had enough energy left over, and waited for me at the finish line. He gave me a hug, welcoming me back. A perfect ending to a perfect day.

I felt good all day, finishing in 6:41:57. This was one of my faster road 50K's within the last couple of years. I credit my finish to all of those good vibes from the NBMA. I hope all of the members enjoyed their Cowtown experience as much as I did.

Note: I'm still slowly learning how to format my Blogger posts, and adding photo captions is not one of my skills yet, lol. The first photo above, from left to right, is the brother who has also finished the 7 continents (sorry, I can not remember his name), Charlotte, Fred, Don, Me, Tony, and Gillis (kneeling). The second photo shows Fred and me actively recruiting, lol. Cowtown would be this sister's first half-marathon, and her two sons were running also. That's what I'm talking about - make it a family affair!