Sunday, December 14, 2014

Triple Titanium

The Rocket City Marathon was my 52nd marathon or ultra of 2014.  That was one of my goals for this year.  Those races were in 30 different states or countries.  That was another of my goals for the year.  I happened to reach them both in the same race.  I still have one more race this year, and by chance it’s in another different state.  That’ll be the icing on the cake.

In 2010, I joined Marathon Maniacs.  That's a club for people who run marathons frequently.  (Ultras also count.)  To join, you have to qualify by either running two marathons within a 16 day span or three marathons within a 90 day span.  There are several levels, each with more difficult criteria.  Each one is identified by the name of a precious metal and a number of stars.  The highest level is Titanium (10 stars).

There are three different ways to reach the Titanium level.  The first is to run 52 marathons in 365 days.  The second is to run marathons in 30 different states, provinces or countries in 365 days.  The third way, which very few people have done, is to run marathons in 20 different countries in 365 days.

In 2012, my big goal for the year was to reach Titanium.  Since I live in the Midwest, it was easier to run in 30 different states than to run 52 marathons.  It’s expensive to travel to that many different states, but to do 52 marathons, I would need to travel long distances to most of them anyway.  The Midwest has a short racing season compared to other parts of the country.  That year, I ran 32 marathons or ultras in 30 different states or countries.  My Titanium streak didn’t have to be done in a calendar year, but it worked out that way.

Once you attain a particular level in the club, you don’t need to do anything else to maintain it.  You’ve earned it for life.  Inspired by a friend who had earned Titanium in two different ways, I decided to do the same thing.  In 2013, I ran 53 marathons or ultras, reaching Titanium for a second time, but doing it a different way.

As I thought about goals for this year, I was intrigued by the idea of doing 20 countries in a year.  It’s more difficult than it sounds.  The closest countries are in North America, but it’s difficult to schedule very many of them in the same year.  A surprising number of countries in Central America and the Caribbean  have races on the first weekend of December.  There are numerous countries in Europe with marathons, but most European races are on Sundays.  Unlike the United States, where there are opportunities to do weekend doubles, on most other continents, it’s difficult to schedule two races in one trip.

Doing 20 countries in one year probably would have been prohibitively expensive, but I never added up the cost.  I never put together a workable schedule.  International trips require more days away from home than domestic trips, and Deb didn’t want me to spend that much time away from home.

I eventually decided to do something different instead.  I put together a race schedule that included 53 marathons or ultras in 31 different states or countries, achieving two different Titanium criteria in the same year.  Having already completed 52 of them, I’ve met at least one Titanium criterion in three consecutive years.

Here’s a brief review of the races I’ve done so far this year.

On January 12, I ran the Zoom! Yah! Yah! Indoor Marathon in Northfield, MN.  It was less than two weeks after last year's Across the Years 48-Hour race, and I was still pretty banged up.  In particular, I didn’t know if I was fully recovered from an ankle injury.  I wasn’t able to run as fast as usual, but I was able to finish.
  • Time:  3:43:34
  • Races finished:  1
  • States/countries:  1

On January 25, I ran the Running From an Angel Marathon near Boulder City, NV.   This was a big goal race for me, as Nevada was the only state where I had not yet qualified for Boston.  It was a hilly course, which challenged me, but I did it.
  • Time:  3:29:01 (BQ)
  • Races finished:  2
  • States/countries:  2
  • Award:  First in age group

On February 2, I ran the Rock N Roll New Orleans Marathon in New Orleans, LA.  I ran wearing a Mardi Gras mask and a colorful hat.  Weather was a bit on the warm side, but I held up OK and ran a fairly consistent pace.
  • Time:  3:26:50 (BQ)
  • Races finished:  3
  • States/countries:  3

On February 23, I ran the Tokyo Marathon in Tokyo, Japan.  This was my first trip to Asia.  I’ve had some of my best performances in international races, and this was no exception.  I ran my second fastest time of the year.
  • Time:  3:18:19 (BQ)
  • Races finished:  4
  • States/countries:  4

On March 8, I ran the Red Rock Canyon Marathon near Summerlin, NV.   This course has long hills, and I wanted to see if I could qualify for Boston here.  I couldn’t.  I did manage to place in my age group.  I also completed a Calico Slam by doing four Calico races within a year.
  • Time:  3:40:23
  • Races finished:  5
  • States/countries:  4
  • Awards:  Second in age group and Calico Slam

On March 22, I ran the Antelope Island Buffalo Run 50K in Antelope Island State Park in Utah.  This race gave me some good work on trails and long hills.  I wasn’t able to run it very fast.
  • Time:  6:18:17
  • Races finished:  6
  • States/countries:  5

On April 5, I ran the Yakima River Canyon Marathon near Yakima, WA.  I placed in my age group, but I was hoping to run faster.
  • Time:  3:25:48 (BQ)
  • Races finished:  7
  • States/countries:  6
  • Award:  Fifth in age group

On April 21, I ran the Boston Marathon in Boston, MA.  Returning to Boston after the bombings in 2013 was an emotional experience.  I tried to run fast, in spite of a cold, but I faded in the late miles. 
  • Time:  3:38:01
  • Races finished:  8
  • States/countries:  7

On April 26, I ran the Run for the Lakes Marathon in Nisswa, MN.  It was a Minnesota race I had never done before.  I still had the remnants of a cold, but it was no longer slowing me down.  I finished second in my age group.
  • Time:  3:27:06 (BQ)
  • Races finished:  9
  • States/countries:  7
  • Award:  Second in age group

On May 3, I ran the Darkside 8-Hour race in Moreland, GA.  This was the first time I ran a race on my birthday, and I was hoping to run my age in miles.  Halfway through the race, I was forced to slow down.  I struggled the rest of the way, but still finished second among the men.
  • Distance:  46.92 miles
  • Races finished:  10
  • States/countries:  8
  • Award:  Second place male

On May 12, I ran the Pine Tree Marathon in Portland, ME.  This was the first race of the five day New England Challenge.  I held back, so I would have something left for the next four days. My goal was to do each race within four hours.
  • Time:  3:45:50
  • Races finished:  11
  • States/countries:  9

On May 13, I ran the Granite State Marathon in Nashua, NH.  This was the second race of the New England Challenge.  It took a little more effort, but I still wasn’t running all out.
  • Time:  3:51:16
  • Races finished:  12
  • States/countries:  10

On May 14, I ran the Red Island Marathon in Warwick, RI.  Day three proved to be the most difficult.  I was fatigued from lack of sleep and had to fight for this one.
  • Time:  3:48:40
  • Races finished:  13
  • States/countries:  11

On May 15, I ran the Nutmeg State Marathon in Hartford, CT.  Even though it was my fourth straight day, I felt better than I did on day three.  The course was a two mile loop that was downhill on one side and uphill on the other.  It proved to be good hill training.
  • Time:  3:50:12
  • Races finished:  14
  • States/countries:  12

On May 16, I closed out the New England Challenge by running the Old Colony Marathon in Westfield, MA.  Steady rain made this one more difficult, but I kept my time under four hours for the fifth straight day.
  • Time:  3:53:01
  • Races finished:  15
  • States/countries:  12

On June 1, I ran Comrades Marathon in Durban, South Africa.  This race is approximately 89K.  This year it was run in the downhill direction, from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.  I finished within nine hours, to earn a Bill Rowan medal.
  • Time:  8:50:00
  • Races finished:  16
  • States/countries:  13
  • Award:  Bill Rowan

On June 7, I ran the FANS 6-Hour race in Minneapolis, MN.  I’ve done the 12 and 24 hour races before, but this was the first time they offered a 6 hour race.  I wasn’t recovered from Comrades, but dragged myself through 32 miles in wet, muddy conditions.
  • Distance:  32.36 miles
  • Races finished:  17
  • States/countries:  13

On June 20, I attempted the Bighorn Mountain 100 near Dayton, WY.  I didn’t finish.  After falling into a cold stream with temperatures in the low 30s, I had to keeping moving for four more miles just to drop out after 48 miles.
  • Result:  DNF

On July 4, I ran the Foot Traffic Flat Marathon on Sauvie Island in Portland, OR.  This was the first race of a triple, but I pushed just hard enough to get a Boston qualifier.
  • Time:  3:26:50 (BQ)
  • Races finished:  18
  • States/countries:  14

On July 5, I ran the Stars and Stripes Marathon in Beaverton, OR.  Even though it was the second day of a triple, I was able to win the race.
  • Time:  3:43:48
  • Races finished:  19
  • States/countries:  14
  • Award:  First overall

On July 6, I closed out the Firecracker Triple by running the Cook Park Marathon in Tigard, OR.  I chased the leader until his pace broke me.  After that, I faded, but I still ran fast enough to have the fastest combined time for the triple.
  • Time:  3:57:09
  • Races finished:  20
  • States/countries:  14
  • Award:  First overall in Firecracker Triple

On July 13, I ran the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon in North Bend, WA.  A lightning fast course was nullified by hot weather.  The net result was a time similar to what I might have run on a flat course in cool weather.
  • Time:  3:23:23 (BQ)
  • Races finished:  21
  • States/countries:  14
  • Award:  Third in age group

On July 19, I ran the University of Okoboji Marathon in Okoboji, IA.  This race sometimes has hot weather, but this year it was reasonable.  I paced myself well and won my age group.
  • Time:  3:23:51 (BQ)
  • Races finished:  22
  • States/countries:  15
  • Award:  First in age group

On July 26, I ran the Heatbreaker Indoor Marathon in Milwaukee, WI.  I ran well from start to finish and finished second overall.  It’s not a Boston qualifier, because you can’t qualify in an indoor race.
  • Time:  3:24:27
  • Races finished:  23
  • States/countries:  16
  • Award:  Second overall

On August 9, I ran the Paavo Nurmi Marathon in Hurley, WI.  The combination of heat and hills wore me down, and I blew up in the late miles.
  • Time:  3:39:32
  • Races finished:  24
  • States/countries:  16

On August 17, I ran the Revel Rockies Marathon near Denver, CO.  This was an opportunity to see how fast I could run on a sharply downhill course.  Despite being hot in the late miles, I ran my fastest race in three years.
  • Time:  3:08:46 (BQ)
  • Races finished:  25
  • States/countries:  17
  • Award:  First in age group

On August 23, I ran the Wausau Marathon in Wausau, WI.  Humidity was 100 percent, and I blew up so badly I had to fight to keep my time under four hours.  Despite my disappointing time, I still placed in my age group.
  • Time:  3:54:50
  • Races finished:  26
  • States/countries:  17
  • Award:  Second in age group

On August 30, I ran the Marquette Marathon in Marquette, MI.  Crappy weather was offset by a fast course, and I placed in my age group.
  • Time:  3:26:16 (BQ)
  • Races finished:  27
  • States/countries:  18
  • Award:  Third in age group

On September 6, I ran the Elroy Apple Dumpling Day Marathon in Elroy, WI.  After a conservative start, I ran strong in the second half, moving up to second overall and first in my age group.
  • Time:  3:27:31 (BQ)
  • Races finished:  28
  • States/countries:  18
  • Award:  Second overall and first in age group

On September 12, I ran the Emerald Bay Marathon near Spooner Lake in Nevada.  This is the first race of the Tahoe Triple.  I fought hard on the long final climb to break four hours.  That earned me first place in the Masters Division.
  • Time:  3:55:18
  • Races finished:  29
  • States/countries:  18
  • Award:  First in Masters Division

On September 13, I ran the Cal-Neva Marathon in Tahoe City, CA.  I broke four hours for the first time in three tries.
  • Time:  3:56:41
  • Races finished:  30
  • States/countries:  19

On September 14, I finished the Tahoe Triple by running the Lake Tahoe Marathon in South Lake Tahoe, CA.  I went in with a relaxed attitude, carrying a camera and taking lots of pictures.  I still had my fastest time in three tries.  I also won a jacket by placing in the top 25 men.
  • Time:  3:56:41
  • Races finished:  31
  • States/countries:  19
  • Award:  Top 25 men

On September 20, I ran the Tamarindo Beach Marathon in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.  Although it wasn’t unusually hot, the sun, hills and high humidity combined to make me overheat.  I struggled to the finish, with my slowest time ever in an international race.
  • Time:  4:14:37
  • Races finished:  32
  • States/countries:  20

On September 28, I ran the Quad Cities Marathon in Moline, IL.  Running with a cold, I worked too hard in an attempt to stay on a Boston qualifying pace.  I blew up in the last six miles.
  • Time:  3:39:18
  • Races finished:  33
  • States/countries:  21

On October 5, I ran the Twin Cities Marathon in St. Paul, MN.  It was the 11th time I did this race, and I finally felt like I ran strong in the last three miles.
  • Time:  3:26:06 (BQ)
  • Races finished:  34
  • States/countries:  21

On October 11, I ran the first race of the Appalachian Series in Bluefield, WV.  This was another series of five states in five days.  My goal was to run all five within four hours.  The first race was much hillier than I expected, so I had to work fairly hard.
  • Time:  3:51:57
  • Races finished:  35
  • States/countries:  22

On October 12, I ran the second race of the Appalachian Series in Bluefield, VA.  The combination of hills, rain and strong winds forced me to go all out just to break four hours.
  • Time:  3:57:15
  • Races finished:  36
  • States/countries:  23

On October 13, I ran the third race of the Appalachian Series in Morganton, NC.  This race had a flat course, giving me a much needed opportunity to recover from my all-out effort on day two.
  • Time:  3:54:22
  • Races finished:  37
  • States/countries:  24

On October 14, I ran the fourth race of the Appalachian Series in Seneca, SC.  Torrential rain and deep puddles made this one tiring.  I broke four hours, but I had to fight with everything I had.
  • Time:  3:56:20
  • Races finished:  38
  • States/countries:  25

On October 15, I ran the fifth and final race of the Appalachian Series in Unicoi State Park in Georgia.  I had nothing left after the first four days.  On top of that, this was a cross-country course, and the grass was wet.  I couldn’t come close to four hours.  I had to work to break five hours.
  • Time:  4:52:20
  • Races finished:  39
  • States/countries:  25

On October 19, I ran the Mankato Marathon in Mankato, MN.  I couldn’t resist adding this race to my schedule at the last minute, so I could run another Minnesota race that I had never done.  I wasn’t sufficiently recovered from the Appalachian Series, and I faded in the late miles.
  • Time:  3:39:05
  • Races finished:  40
  • States/countries:  25

On October 27, I ran the Dublin Marathon in Dublin, Ireland.  I was finally recovered from the Appalachian Series, and I had another good result in an international race.
  • Time:  3:26:23 (BQ)
  • Races finished:  41
  • States/countries:  26

On November 1, I ran the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis, IN.  I was pacing my friend Stefanie to her first Boston qualifier.  She had a huge PR and beat the qualifying standard by almost six minutes.
  • Time:  3:29:09 (BQ)
  • Races finished:  42
  • States/countries:  27

On November 8, I ran the Soldier Marathon in Columbus, GA.  This was supposed to be a measured effort, since I was doing a 50K the next day.  Instead, I picked up my effort in the second half to compete for a place in my age group.
  • Time:  3:23:44 (BQ)
  • Races finished:  43
  • States/countries:  27
  • Award:  Second in age group

On November 9, I ran the Peachtree City 50K in Peachtree City, GA.  I was fatigued from my all-out effort the day before.  My time wasn’t particularly fast for a 50K, but it was good enough to win my age group.
  • Time:  5:25:41
  • Races finished:  44
  • States/countries:  27
  • Award:  First in age group

On November 16, I ran the Rock N Roll Las Vegas Marathon in Las Vegas, NV.  I was leading the 3:30 pace group.  I never strayed too far from the target pace and finished in 3:29:12.
  • Time:  3:29:12 (BQ)
  • Races finished:  45
  • States/countries:  27

On November 23, I ran the Philadelphia Marathon in Philadelphia, PA.  I improved upon my time from the Soldier Marathon to give me my best qualifying time to date for the 2016 Boston Marathon.
  • Time:  3:21:46 (BQ)
  • Races finished:  46
  • States/countries:  28

On November 27, I ran the Wattle Waddle in Seattle, WA.  This was the first race of the Seattle Quadzilla.  My time was about what I wanted, but it was much harder than it should have been.  I may have been dehydrated.  I also might not have been fully recovered from the Philadelphia Marathon.
  • Time:  3:43:47
  • Races finished:  47
  • States/countries:  28

On November 28, I ran the Wishbone Run in Tukwila, WA.  In addition to being the second race of the Seattle Quadzilla, this was also my 250th lifetime marathon or ultra.  At the end of the day, I wasn’t celebrating finishing so much as surviving.  I got hypothermic running in a cold rain and strong winds.  For the last six miles, I didn’t know if I could make it to the finish before collapsing.
  • Time:  4:20:29
  • Races finished:  48
  • States/countries:  28

On November 29, I ran the Ghost of Seattle Marathon in Seattle, WA.  It was 20 degrees colder than the day before and the winds were just as strong.  Thankfully, it only snowed for the first few miles.  Once again, time became secondary to finishing.
  • Time:  4:23:17
  • Races finished:  49
  • States/countries:  28

On November 30, I finished my second Seattle Quadzilla by running the Seattle Marathon in Seattle, WA.  It wasn’t wet, but it was colder, and it was still windy.  I didn’t care about my time.  I just wanted to finish.
  • Time:  4:17:21
  • Races finished:  50
  • States/countries:  28

On December 7, I ran the Cayman Islands Marathon in George Town on Grand Cayman.  It was 84 degrees and humid at the start and hotter by the finish.  I wasn’t complaining.  It was just what I wanted after freezing for the last three days of the Seattle Quadzilla.  I managed the heat well, winning my age group by about 20 minutes.
  • Time:  3:37:42
  • Races finished:  51
  • States/countries:  29
  • Award:  First in age group

On December 13, I ran the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, AL.  It was my 19th straight weekend with at least one race, and I just wanted to get one more BQ.
  • Time:  3:28:59
  • Races finished:  52
  • States/countries:  30

So there you have it.  It was my third straight Titanium year.  In the first half of the year, I had a reasonable race schedule.  I had enough time between races to recover, so I was always ready to give it my best effort.  In the second half of the year, I was making up for lost time.  I ran 36 races in 24 weeks.  I didn’t always have time to recover between races, and my times sometimes suffered.  Over the last 19 weeks, I ran 29 marathons or ultras.

I have one more race on my 2014 calendar.  As crazy as the past few months have been, I think this race scares me as much as all the others put together.  I’ll be running a 48 hour race with a goal of 200 miles.  I’ve never run that far, and I’ve never been on my feet for that long.  It’s way beyond anything I’ve done.  I attempted it last year, but had to stop after 121 miles, because of an ankle injury.

I often have a cavalier attitude about tapering, but I’m actually going to taper for this race.  I wrote this post before waiting until the year was over, because I want to put everything else behind me and just focus on being ready for the Across the Years 48-Hour race on December 30.

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