Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sycamore Pumpkin Festival 10k

I been childish
And all mean to the fools
Myself as acting as
Daniel the Cruel
I've taken attendance at
Finishing schools
Filled with children who go beyond the rules

Lyrics from "Kids Pushing Kids" by Danielson

I got into a physical fight for the first time since the 9th grade (some of you who witnessed this fight, also refer to it as Hugfest '96) on Sunday at the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival 10k.  It was a little embarasing at the time, but now its something fun to laugh at.  Imagine it from Verdo's perspective if you will.
Verdo continues his incredible streak of races and finishes 3rd overall with a 34:29 (Results) then in typical Verdo Zen fashion watches at the chute to see his teammates come in.  I finally arrive right at 36 flat everything seeming normal.  Except that I carry most of my speed through the chute and then push the person in front of me with gusto and a few curse words flying around.  I can only imagine what Verdo is thinking at this point.
To make a long story short, the eighth place finisher passed me twice in the last mile.  No big deal, right?  Well, he did so by cutting the course significantly both times.  I called him out on it verbally during the race and then he called me a few names while running.  We ran next to each other exchanging elbows (soft ones) until he pulled away over the last .2 miles.  If I had self-control I would have said something to him at the finish and let that be it... 
But if there's one time I don't have self-control its when I'm pushing myself in a 5,000 meter or 10,000 meter race.  These are times when I fill with rage at the people running near me.  It's happened all year.  The thing is, as soon as I reach the line, this rage turns into joy.  I'm usually thrilled to shake hands with the person who has pushed me and broken me (when they beat me to the line) or the person who has pushed me and made me go that much faster (when I get to the line first).  This time however, that rage didn't go away.  I hope I see this kid again at another race soon.  I won't let him have the joy of beating me twice. To his credit he didn't let things escalate by backing away from me. I hope its because he felt like slime inside knowing he cheated.
Lost in the drama (in my mind anyway) was scoring a nice PR in the distance despite brutally difficult winds.  The course is very rural, and this allowed for the strong winds to both make me fly (miles 2 and 3) and drag heavily in the last mile.  The wide open course was very enjoyable.  I loved running on the centerline of Bethany road while fighting it out with other runners.  I enjoyed watching Verdo, DP and some others duke it out in front of me over the expanse of the course.
Next up is the NYC marathon on Sunday 11/2.  You can watch it nationally at 3pm eastern on NBC (replay show of the race). After that, I'm looking forward to my last Chicago area race before I move, the Veterun in Westchester. Sign-up and race me!
Lastly, I leave you with this video to get pumped up for NYC and a picture of my dad, brother and I playing hockey last week.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Victory and Sleep

I had the chance to run a 5k in my old neighborhood (for one summer) in TN this weekend. I had an easy time cruising to victory. And I won't lie, it was a lot of fun. I wish I could say that I ran faster to earn the win, but the competition was just slower. The course was hilly by Chicago standards, but I enjoyed the rolling terrain.

There is a really impressive trail system that is forming in the Nashville area. Yesterday I did a 13 mile run from a trailhead near my parents' house to the Shelby Bottoms area, and I didn't have to stop at any crossings. There were some neat bridges, tunnels, wetlands areas that provide neat views. Today I went out for an easy 6 mile run along the Stones River.

I shared a victory nap with my youngest nephew, Drake. That was a better prize than the free oil change that I won.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

2008 Chicago Marathon & Beyond

Happy in the Heat

Wow. In my mind this was a celebration to end all celebrations. Most people running in this year's Chicago Marathon probably didn't see it that way as Mother Nature brought difficult conditions to the city of broad shoulders for the second straight year. But, in the end Sunday brought so many wonderful people together on the same stage, with an amazing city as its backdrop, I couldn't help but to be happy. (Jason is shirtless in the middle of this pack, and Verdo is on the right in the blue)

Of course, recording a personal-best time always makes it a little easier to see the bright side of things. I was hoping to crack into the 2:40's and I think if conditions had been a little cooler I would have succeeded. Instead I ran a 2:53:24, which was good for 245th overall. I can also proudly say that I've taken over 25 minutes off of my marathon time from the 2006 Chicago Marathon. It's nice to have something tangible to take from the two years straight that I've spent training since my debut race. That is, if you consider a race time to be tangible.

Race Notes
I ran a large portion of the race with Ric Nielsen. He is such an intense guy at the races. He calls out mile splits for all to hear, and does a countdown as markers approach. I owe him a huge debt, as he did a great job of urging me to stay at 6:30 pace and not to get carried away early on. He pulled away from me around mile 12 before the heat got to him a bit and I reeled him in around mile 19. He still managed a 3:01 despite blowing up a bit.

I ran mile 6.5 through 11.5 alongside Chris Woods (pictured with me after the race). This was very comforting as I consider him to be one of the smartest and smoothest runners in Chicago. One of the highlights of the race was passing the Fleet Feet aid staion around mile 10. Whoever was on the microphone at this point said, "ladies and gentlemen, let's hear it for Fleet Feet Racing and Dan McDowell" as I began to pass through. The crowds were huge here and a big roar came out and I have to admit I felt really cool. By this point the field was thinning, as many decided to pull out and avoid the heat (Chris was one of several who made this decision) so when I passed large crowds who were applauding, I felt they were all cheering for me since very few runners were around me (and I was delusional by this stage in the race).

At mile 12 my friend Mark Dolgin hopped in to join me. This was pre-planned and he delivered in a big way. He gave me gel and stayed by my side until mile 18. In this stretch I began to hurt and pulling 6:30's became a chore. The good news was that the runners around us were really starting to slow. I began to catch a lot of runners who had secured "Top 100" bibs. I recognized many of them as runners who usually beat me in area races, so this was a good boost to my confidence. Three T100 latched on to Mark and I as we passed them by. I don't want to sound sexist or crude... but they were amazing to look at. They were conversing in a language other than English, and I enjoyed the thought that perhaps I would be in their memories of Chicago as the guy they paced behind for the difficult western and southwestern parts of the course. Mark dropped off and said he'd meet me near the end. (It should be noted that Mark gave Ashley a great boost for the last two miles of her race as well. They are picture on the right later that night at Stanley's. More on Ashley's race below)

I spent the next three miles just trying to hold on to my pace until Chinatown. I slowed slightly and ran a few 6:40's. It was at this point that I knew I wouldn't make the 2:40's and I began tyring to hold on to a PR. I was still passing a lot of runners, so this was a huge boost mentally. I also saw Paul, Brent, Robert, Carolyn, Mike, Ken, Toney, Abbe, Liz, Alicia, Jenn, Joyce, Charles, Ken, and so many others. Their cheers did a lot to stir me on.

Mark rejoined me within 2 miles of the finish, and Robert also hopped in. Robert was looking spry (fresh of an incredible 2:47 in Berlin a few weeks before) and he urged me in vain to speed up. I picked it up slightly until I let out a dry heave and then I just put it on cruise control to the end. After climbing Roosevelt and turning onto Columbus I heard Mike and Brian yelling for me and I tried to give them a wave.

After the Finish
A I walked through the finishers chute a few tears began to fall. When I finish a 5k I am always filled with rage. Pushing myself for 17 minutes makes me want to punch small children. But, the endurance battle of the marathon brings on two things. The desire to throw up... and also an incredible happiness that results in tears. There was so much in those tears besides salt. I wish I could describe everything on here, but I feel like my poor writing ability wouldn't do it justice. I saw Jason and Verdo as I walked out and got the news that J had run 2:39:47 (good for 99th) and Verdo (pictured with me after the race at the CARA tent ran a 2:40 (102nd).

There were so many amazing performances by friends of mine at the race I could go on and on. But, this is a pretty self-indulgent blog (could anything be less a oxymoron?). Ashley (pictured with me before and after the race) and I found one another after the race and she brought good news. She ran a 3:20. This was a 17-minute pr. This came as no surprise to me, as I have the huge pleasure of getting to run with her pretty often. She seemed to be running well, and whenever friends told me they saw her running at other events, they always reported that she looked strong.

Team Tiara
I am proud to say that I raised $558 for Girls on the Run. But, I feel a little silly saying that. As the people who should feel proud are those that contributed. A huge thanks goes out to:

Erica Agran, Phlip Kepler, Ashley Boyle, Betsy Armstrong, Carolyn Wrobel, Michael Swisher, Christy Wessel, Dan Maurer, Chuck Aron, David Carlson, Jason Gromski, Lynn Rogers, and Jim and Brenda McDowell

Sometimes I drink a beer and eat bad Mexican Food
After the race Phlip had several of us up to his place along Michigan Ave. We had a view of the last mile as thousands and thousands of people continued to finish. We also had a chance to celebrate at Stanley's later in the evening. Here are a few additional photos. Jason and some blondes and Mike, Paul and myself hamming it up.

Autumn, second in my hearth to June... oh June!
It's hard to believe that my work at CARA is done. But, having some time away from work has allowed for some great things. I'm working on a few interesting projects (making a little more money will help my move) I may talk about later. I am also running while everyone is stuck in their offices. I ran 8.5 miles today (not bad for two days after a marathon) at 7:15 pace and took a camera with me along the way. Chicago was truly beautiful today (see pictures for visual evidence). It was the absolute perfect day to run. Leaving here will be very hard. Jason is coming with me (as far as Vegas anyway) and we'll be leaving on 11/11. But don't worry, that will allow for me to run the last two 10k's on the CARA circuit.

Here is a short video I took on my run today. This is just south of the Waveland Clock Tower, at Belmont Harbor.

My life has certainly been a blessed one so far. I have much further to go.