Sunday, April 19, 2009

End of the Road

Well, this blog has served it's purpose. With your help and support I was able to raise $4,777 to help in the fight against Prostate Cancer! This is $385 over my goal of $4,392. Thank you once again for all your support!

I don't know when I'll blog again but any future posts will be at my other running blog. You can find it here.

Thanks for reading!

Ouachita Trail 50 Mile Race Report

"Enjoy the weather, it's the only weather you've got"
~Joe Bastardi

When I picked up my packet on Friday afternoon one of the race directors, Stan Ferguson, told me the forecast called for rain, which meant we wouldn't be able to go over Pinnacle Mountain for safety reasons. I was really disappointed! I wanted to complete this race in its normal format, including Pinnacle Mountain. But there was nothing I could do about it so I just adjusted my mental plan.

The next morning I woke up at 4:00 AM to get ready to run. There was no rain! I drove to the race start and stood around with the other runners ready to go. Race Director Chrissy Ferguson, in her usual style, said the weatherman was "an idiot" and that since there was no rain we were going over Pinnacle Mountain! Most people cheered, a few groaned. She went over a few other details of the race, then we lined up on the road and were off.

We ran about 2.5 miles to the trailhead and then entered the trail. This part of the trail is nice, mostly downhill. We ran another 1.5 miles to the first aid station. I grabbed a PB&J, refilled my bottle, then began the long climb up Pinnacle Mountain. Pinnacle Mountain isn't that high, but you can't run or even walk up it. You have to scramble up, hands and feet and arms and legs. The picture below is of runners cresting the peak. You can see the large boulders that make up most of the ascent and descent - there's no trail, just boulders to scale.

On the way up there was a guy above me running in a kilt. I told him I was really glad he was wearing bike shorts under his kilt otherwise I'd be staring at his "equipment" all the way up the peak.

I finished the climb, had my picture taken by a photographer, then quickly started down, passing a few people who were more cautious than me on the descent. Once I reached the bottom I felt like the biggest obstacle of the race had been overcome. My legs were tired but didn't feel trashed, and I took off running at a reasonably fast pace. We returned to the aid station at the base of the mountain and then headed off on the Ouachita Trail. The weather was mid-60s, overcast and humid. I was drenched already.

The next section is not very hilly but very rocky. I had forgotten how rugged this trail was. My feet were hurting from the rough terrain (I don't like my trail shoes - I need something with a little more support and cushioning). Around mile 6 my right knee started hurting. This was my other fear for this race, after Pinnacle Mountain. Two weeks ago when I ran the Texas Marathon twice I had pain in my right knee and thigh toward the end of the race. I only ran two times after that race, short runs, and on the second one, an eleven miler, my knee started hurting again. I decided to take the rest of the week off and try to heal before OT. But going into the race I knew things didn't feel right and I might have some problems. I was discouraged that they were already starting at mile 6. I was carrying Advil but I wanted to wait as long as possible before taking anything. So I ran on.

The next major milestone in this race is the North Shore aid station at mile 16.0. If you are a 50 mile runner you are allowed to switch to the 50k at this point and still be considered an official finisher. Considering the pain in my knee it was tempting - I would already be halfway finished instead of 1/3 through. But I knew I wanted the 50 mile finish so I ran right past the 50k cutoff and into the aid station. I refilled my bottle again, had some coke and a jelly biscuit, then headed out. My knee was killing me and I knew I couldn't wait any more so I took two Advil. That left four more in my pack, so I needed to pace myself.

After leaving North Shore we ran into a section that was much wetter than the previous sections. In this section there were large puddles and muddy spots covering the whole trail. Sometimes you could go around but often you couldn't. There were also many, many water crossings that you couldn't jump across, so you just had to splash through the streams. I accepted that there was no way to stay dry and just started splashing through the mud and water.

Next I made sure to stop at the unmanned aid station around mile 19.2. This is where I made my mistake last year - I didn't top off my bottles here, thinking the next aid station was closer. I got dehydrated and had to drop.

This section, from North Shore at mile 16 to Hwy. 113 crossing at 24.2, is the most runnable part of the course. I did some good running here, still feeling the ache in my knee and now my hip and quad.

I ran into the Hwy. 113 aid station and chatted with the volunteers a bit. One of the women said, "You're the happiest person we've seen in here all day." Then one of the guys said, "Are you Marshall King?" I was surprised and said I was. He said a friend had forwarded an email to him last night about my fundraising efforts. Apparently he had told the other aid station volunteers and they had been talking about it. He said, "We were talking about the prostate earlier." I replied, "Wow, I'm sorry I missed that!" After a few more seconds chatting I headed out for the 2.4 mile section to the turnaround.

I hated this section. The trail is confusing and not that runnable, there are at least a dozen water crossings (that you do twice, out and back), and I was impatient to hit the turnaround. It was also during this section that a gentle mist began to fall.

In this section I passed a guy named Paul that I met at Three Days of Syllamo. He had been running strong earlier but he looked like he was struggling. We talked for a bit and he said it just wasn't his day, that he wasn't having the kind of race he wanted to have. I asked him if he'd seen "The Big Lebowski" (one of my all time favorite movies) and he had, so I reminded him of one my favorite lines: "Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes the bar eats you." After a few more seconds I took off (Paul would later get his second wind, and after we passed each other a few times he took off for good and finished somewhere ahead of me).

Finally, the turnaround, at mile 26.3. My marathon split was about 5:22 or so. Time to head back to the start. I found that while running my knee felt pretty good, but after standing around at aid stations it was painful to get going again. I usually had to limp out of the aid stations and it felt bad. But after a few minutes things felt better and I was able to run normally again.

The mist continued and I continued splashing through mud and water. My feet hurt but I didn't feel like I was getting any blisters. It started to rain a little harder and the rocks got slippery so I had to be more careful with my footing. About a mile out of the Hwy. 113 aid station (28.4) I slipped a short way down a creek bank. The fall was minor but on the way down I put my hands out to stop myself; my water bottle hit a rock, the top popped off and all my water poured out. Dang! I had about 4 to 4.5 miles to the unmanned water drop. Not much I could do but keep going. Luckily it was a cool, damp day and I had been hydrating well.

Other than having no water the next section was uneventful. It rained gently off and on. I got pretty thirsty but eventually I made it to the unmanned drop (mile 33.4) and refilled my bottle. I ate a gu, drank a little extra water, then took my next pack of Advil.

At the next aid station, North Shore (36.6) I joked with a volunteer as I ran in, "Could I get any wetter?" At that moment a huge downpour started. Clearly the answer was YES. Again I ate, drank coke, refilled my bottles, then took off. I couldn't believe I only had 13.4 miles left. I told another runner, "Now I know we'll finish; the question is, how long will it take and how painful will it be?"

The next section is pretty rocky, and the rocks were really slick by now. Also, the heavy rain created puddles everywhere! There was no such thing as dry trail any more - it was wet, really wet, and submerged. I was walking more than I wanted to in this section but I was really getting tired.

The rest of the run was uneventful. I ran into the last aid station and chatted briefly with the volunteers, including the same guy who had received the email about my fundraising. They told me there were four miles left. Four miles! Sounded too good to be true. I ran/walked the 1.5 miles of trail to the park road, then ran/walked to the finish. I was so close to finishing under 11 hours but I just couldn't muster enough energy to run much. I ended up running into the finish at 11:03. Because of the rain the finish line had dissolved. I ran up to a tent with volunteers inside and said, "Where do I stop?!?" They said, "Here! You're done!" And so I stopped. RD Chrissy Ferguson handed me my beautiful, handmade finishers award, I talked to her briefly, but all I really wanted to do was get my drop bag, get in my car and get in a bathtub!

Fortunately I only had one small blister on the tip of one toe. My knee and hip are still hurting and I will probably see a doctor this week. Other than that I am feeling pretty good and don't seem to have any other issues.

This is a great race with a challenging course, great volunteers and great race directors. I don't know when I'll be back but I definitely recommend it!

Ouachita Trail 50 Mile Mini Race Report

I finished Ouachita Trail 50 Mile in 11:03. Mini race report: 1 small mountain, 1000s of rocks, 100s of mud puddles, 2 shoes pulled off in the mud, dozens of water crossings, 5 hours of rain, 1 minor fall, no vomiting, 44 miles of knee and leg pain, 4 Advil to mask the pain. Happy to be alive.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

We Did It!

With your generosity and support, we exceeded my original goal of raising $4,392 to fight Prostate Cancer!!! I've now raised $4,702, $310 over my goal, and donations are still coming in.

I want to sincerely thank everyone who offered me financial support and encouragement. None of this would have been possible without you. We haven't beat Prostate Cancer yet, but strides are being made everyday. I know the money we've raised will be a small drop in the big bucket that will lead to a cure. So thank you for making a cure possible.

My final race is Saturday; I'll post an update as soon as I'm able.

Thanks again!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Final Race: Ouachita Trail 50 Mile

My next and final race is on April 18th: Ouachita Trail 50 Mile. I have a history with this race; last year I DNFd (did not finish) due to dehydration (you can read last year's race report here). This is a nice race on the Ouachita Trail northwest of Little Rock. The race is a pretty typical trail race except for the BIG FREAKIN' MOUNTAIN at mile 4. It's not really that big as far as mountains go, but it is more or less straight up - last year I had to use hands, arms and legs to get up and over that sucker. Below is the elevation profile from last year's race (click the image to see the whole chart):

This year I intend to run a smarter race and avoid dehydration. I feel like my training has gone well and I am in good shape to finish this race well. But you never know! So I'll take it easy getting over Pinnacle Mountain.

What's even more exciting than my final race is that I have almost reached my fundraising goal! With your help I've raised $4,139, which is 94% of my goal of $4,392. I only need to raise $253 to reach my goal and make this whole effort a huge success.

So if you haven't donated yet, now is the time to step up and make that donation here. If you've already donated but feel like you could give a little more, just go here. If you know someone who has been affected by Prostate Cancer and who might want to donate, please send them here. You get the idea. I'm so close to my goal! It would be great to run this last race knowing that with the help of family, friends and strangers, we have contributed to the fight against Prostate Cancer!

Thank you again for your help, support, encouragement, and your money. It's been a long endeavor but it has all been worth it. I can't wait for the day when Prostate Cancer is no scarier than a cold or the flu, and no one loses a father, husband, brother or friend. Thank you!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Big D Texas Marathon Double Race Report

Sunday I completed my sixth goal race in my "Racing Against Prostate Cancer" series: The Big D Texas Marathon. But since my goal was to run an ultra every month, I decided to run this race twice!

My plan was to run the race once on my own, then join all of the other runners to run the "official" race. This meant I would be running in the early morning hours without course support; this was fine with me except that I would need some water and food on the route. My good friend Megan agreed to sacrifice her Sunday morning (and some of her Saturday night festivities) to drive around East Dallas and meet me every five miles. All she asked for as payment was a Cosmo magazine. Done. One hurdle overcome.

Saturday night I had to pick up my in-laws from the airport at 10:45 PM and drive them back to their house after a long vacation. Before I did that I was able to catch about a 45 minute cat nap at home, then head to Starbucks for a Venti Soy Latte, then the airport. Once I got them settled at home I drove around a bit killing time and getting pumped up to run.

I was really worried about where I was going to park my car. I didn't know if Fair Park (where the race starts and finishes) would be open that early, and I didn't know where else to park in that area. I drove down to the race start and luckily the gate was open. I told the security guard I was there for the marathon and I think he thought I was there to setup for the race. In any case, he let me in and I was ready to go. I parked, put on my gear, grabbed my bottle, updated my Facebook status ("So I took off running, I ran over the hills, My odyssey through concrete and steel. Gonna keep on going, I don't wanna stand still." - The Heartless Bastards) and started running.

The race starts inside Fair Park and quickly leaves the park for the streets of East Dallas. I ran about 0.2 miles to the park exit and discovered that it was still gated and locked! Uh oh. I looked around for another way out and couldn't find one. I was seriously considering scaling the gate when I noticed that there was a gap between the road and the gate; it was a little wider where the road sloped off, so I took off my running vest and my hat and slid under. It was a small enough gap that I almost didn't make it! I reached back through the gate to get all of my gear and get dressed again. I took off running again and then realized I had forgotten my course directions (which were printed front and back on a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 paper and laminated)! Back again, got the directions, and I was finally ready to go.

The run itself was uneventful other than being chased by a couple of dogs (which for me is a common occurrence - I'm always being chased (and once bit) by dogs when I run). Megan was waiting where we arranged at about mile 4.2. I got more water, ate a 1/4 PB&J, then took off again. The weather was nice (60s) and it was so quiet and peaceful running by myself. I met Megan again a little after mile 10, then again at 15. At mile 15 she fell asleep while waiting for me; she woke up and got confused and thought I had already been through that stop so she almost left! Luckily she got her head together and waited for me. At this point a cold front started coming in and the wind really picked up. It was a really cold wind. The wind would get worse throughout the morning.

One last refueling stop at mile 20 and then back to the start. I asked Megan to bring me a cheeseburger and coke at the finish/start.

Around mile 20 my right knee and thigh started hurting. I was wearing my Newton Motion shoes, which I love. But I think that they don't have enough support for all of this road running. I was also feeling some rubbing on one of my small toes. So I knew I needed to do some maintenance after I finished marathon 1.

I got back to the finish with a time of about 4:38. I walked to the car, taped my small toe, changed to my more supportive Asics GT 2140s, ate my burger and drank my coke, then walked to the race start to find my brother (who ran the half) and my friends from TNT. I ran into a bunch of people from TNT who asked me how I was doing and were very supportive and encouraging. Philip, one of the TNT coaches and the person who got me started coaching with TNT, told the race announcer about my Big D Double and the he announced it over the loudspeaker! It was pretty cool.

After a few more minutes it was time to line up for the official 8:00 AM start. I spent the last few minutes talking to more TNT friends and then the horn went off and it was time to start again! This time the gate was open and there was no need to shimmy under.

Things started out well and I was running strong, feeling really good and going probably a little bit too fast. I ran into coaches Caron and Philip around miles 3 and 4, and saw Megan again at the TNT cheer stop at mile 4. We left the roads and ran on the path around White Rock Lake. The wind was BRUTAL! It felt like I was running uphill on the flats. After a few miles we left the lake and headed into the neighborhoods of East Dallas for some nice running with a little less wind. I saw coaches Kathy and Manuel here.

I was slowing a bit but still feeling OK. I wasn't eating enough because I was starting to feel a little queasy. I should have tried to eat more but didn't feel like eating what I was carrying (PowerBar Gel Blasts and a PB&J). I really missed the opulent aid stations that we have at ultras.

Around mile 15 I started walking a little more. Up until that point I was running 0.90 miles and walking 0.10 miles, unless there was a big uphill when I also walked. I started taking a few more walk breaks, and they were longer. I walked the most in the next 2-3 miles. I passed another TNT cheer stop and saw several people I knew, including Brian. The TNT people were great.

After that we started running down Mockingbird Lane and I knew I needed to get some more calories, so I ate three PowerBar Gel Blasts. As I was chewing them I accidentally inhaled the pieces and started coughing and gagging. The entire process made me feel nauseous and I thought I would feel better if I threw up. So I stood on the side of the road, made myself throw up, and did feel better. I started running more, getting back to the 9/1 pattern. I entered the neighborhoods north of the lake, where the worst of the hills are, and I ran into Philip again! He ran with me for about 2-3 miles and he really motivated me up the hills. I still took some walk breaks but I took fewer breaks and they were shorter. It was a huge help. I also continued to see TNT people on the course like Janet, Elizabeth, Kim. It's so awesome to have people who know you cheering for you.

Finally I left the Lakewood hills and headed into a nice, gradual downhill on Swiss Avenue and south to Fair Park. I still walked quite a bit but did some decent running in this area. As I got close to the finish I knew I would see another TNT cheer stop and I was really looking forward to one last cheer from people I knew. I saw TNT Coordinator Ryan there who yelled out, and then coaches Kathy and Manuel again. Finally the finish was in sight. A few more turns and I could see the finish line. A short burst of speed and I was across! Official time was 4:47:23, only 9 minutes slower than the first marathon. I had really wanted to do both races in under 5 hours, so I was happy with my time. My estimated unofficial 50 mile split was 8:53, and I was REALLY happy with that.

As I walked back to the post-race area I saw someone carrying a cup of beer. Beer! That sounded so good! I quickly found the beer table, grabbed a cup, then headed to the TNT tent to sit down. Felt sooooo good. After a few minutes I staggered over to grab a piece of pizza, then Elizabeth got me some gatorade and I sat around talking with some of my friends. It felt really good to be finished.

Eventually I motivated myself up out of the chair and back to my car for the drive home. Once home I took a hot bath and fell asleep in the tub. Then I took my daughter Lela to the movies and fell asleep again. After a big dinner at Blue Mesa I went to bed and slept like a baby.

Thanks again to everyone for your financial support and your encouragement. Knowing that you guys believed in me enough to give your money and your time helped me through the rough spots in the race. I can't thank you enough for your help.

It's not too late to contribute. My final race is less than two weeks away and I still need more donations to reach my goal of $4,392. I'm so close! Please consider making a donation to help fight prostate cancer! Click here to make a secure online donation. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Next Race: Big D Texas Marathon Double

This weekend is the sixth race in the "Race Against Prostate Cancer" series. On Sunday I'll be running the Big D Texas Marathon. But since my goal is to run one ultra per month I'll be running the race twice. I plan to start at 2:00 AM and run the course once on my own. Then I'll refuel and rest a bit before starting the official race at 8:00 AM. I'm only nervous about two things with this plan:

1. Finding water - with my running vest I can carry plenty of food/energy chews, but I can't carry enough water. I'm considering either stashing some water every five miles or asking a friend to crew for me and meet me every five miles with food and drink.

2. Getting lost - this race has a lot of turns! I'll have to carry directions and be very careful.

I'm pretty excited about running the first marathon solo. I love the solitude of running alone at night. Then I'll jump right in with the crowds and enjoy the cheering and excitement of the second race. I'm also excited because my dad, his wife, my brother and his wife and kids will also be there. My brother is running the half marathon. So it will be fun to see family this weekend and maybe on the course at some point.

On the fundraising front things are still going well, but I'm not finished yet! I've raised $3,747, which is 85% of my goal! I'm only $645 from reaching my financial goal, and that is the reason I'm doing this - it's not about the races, it's about saving lives. So please help me reach my goal! You can donate here.