Monday, July 30, 2007
In the meantime, here's something pretty cool. The day before the marathon, I sent an e-mail to my friend Michael. Here's what it said:
Placing any bets on finishing times, Michael?
I predict a 4:19 finish for me.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Wow--by the time my son is my age, I'll be 60 years old.
Wow. Wow. Wow.
After the runners had taken off on lap one, we had about 15 minutes or so to get our bearings before they made their way back around. I spent about 5-10 minutes being interviewed by a reporter with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about El Scorcho.
And then I received a panicked call on my walkie-talkie.
"We're just about out of water at aid station two!"
A mad scramble ensued where we tried to get in touch with David, our official water volunteer, to ensure that he was on top of it. (The park did not have a good water source, so we had assigned a volunteer to pick up water jugs from the aid stations and take them to my house--a few miles away--to fill them up throughout the night as needed.) Naturally, David was one of the few volunteers without a walkie-talkie. So Jballs got on the cell phone and found David--who was already on top of things.
I spent the next hour and a half running around like a chicken with my head cutoff. More water... toilet paper for the porta-potties... 350 pounds of ice... post-race bbq and pasta.... As things happened, we dealt with them.
Greg Maschal, the 25K winner, crossed the finish line in 1:41:20. Absolutely smoking the course amid humid, sticky conditions. Ten minutes later, Megan Newsom became the first 25K female finisher with a time of 1:51:52. I recall announcing over the PA system that both runners were way too fast.
Around 3 a.m., Jballs and I decided to borrow David's truck and go for a water run. It was strange leaving the park--where so much activity was taking place--and entering the "real" world where most folks had long since retired for the evening.
We filled up 7 water jugs at my place and made our way back to the park just in time to catch the 50K winner, Steven Richard, claim his victory in 3:51:07. Laura Nelson, the female leader, crossed the tape in 4:28:43.
As more and more runners finished, the course began to quiet down. I decided to hop on my bike and ride the route backwards to check on runners and visit some of the volunteers. It was a great decision. Over the next two and half hours, I circled the 3.1 mile loop. I got a completely different sense of the run and what the runners and volunteers were going through. The runners still on the course had been going for more than 5 hours since the midnight start. Fatigue was setting in, but they were gutting it out. It was inspiring. They trudged along throughout the night, gritty and determined.
At the same time, the volunteers were incredible. We had chosen to donate all profits from El Scorcho to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, so Team in Training had gotten on board to provide us race volunteers. (Team In Training is the world's largest endurance sports training program. The program provides training to run or walk a whole or half marathon or participate in a triathlon or century bike ride in honor of blood cancer patients and survivors.) The TNT folks were cheering, excited. I even had one runner ask if we had "liquored up" the volunteers to increase their enthusiasm! Throughout the night, their devotion to the runners never wavered. As the sun was coming up, we decided to let several of the volunteers go home, especially those who were out to help guide runners along the dark course. They all chose to stay until the end.
"We've bonded with these runners," one volunteer told me. "We know each of them as they come by and we're not leaving until they finish."
Fantastic, unbelievable, and inspirational.
The last official runner crossed the line in 7 hours, 43 minutes. The sun was shining. The city was stirring. Runners and bikers, oblivious to our midnight run, were making their way to the park for a morning workout.
As we folded up the aid station tables and loaded up the last of the trash, I took in a deep breath. We'd done it. We'd pulled it off. It felt great.
Just as I was getting into my car to head home, one of the last runners hollered at me from the parking lot, "Hey! When's next year's El Scorcho?"
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
With the megaphone in hand, I decided to give the group a friendly greeting:
"You're all officially nuts!" Some laughter and applause. "Thank you all for coming out to run circles around the park while the sensible world is sleeping comfortably in their beds! Thanks to our foreign visitors for making this the first annual international El Scorcho!"
"Are you ready?!"
"ARE YOU READY?!?!?!"
More, louder, more enthusiastic cheering.
"On your mark... get set... GO!!!!! GO!!!!! GO!!!!"
The gun fired and the runners were off. Lap one was underway. El Scorcho had begun.
To be continued....
Thursday, July 19, 2007
The hour and a half before the start of the run was a blur. Setting up aid stations, the PA system, packet pickup, etc. I was running from place to place, introducing myself to runners, coordinating with volunteers, and generally acting like a chicken with my head cut off.
The first semi-major problem surfaced just after 11:00 p.m., when we were informed that the City of Fort Worth had not turned on all of the lights along the trail. A big reason we had chosen Trinity Park for the race was the proliferation of streetlights throughout the park. We had told entrants on our website that the course was lit. So discovering large pockets of darkness was not good. And it was extremely frustrating, since we had made multiple calls to the City about lighting for El Scorcho and had paid extra money to ensure that the park would be well-lit. We had even insisted and were given the cell phone number of the City electrician responsible for Trinity Park. Naturally, he didn't answer when we called.
Brief moment of panic, but after a quick brainstorm, James at FWRunCo sent Mary, one of FWRunCo's wonderful employees, to the store to raid their supply of headlamps and clip-on lighting. I think Mary must've been flying down Camp Bowie Boulevard, as she made it to the store and back in record time. We made an announcement over the PA system about the darker than anticipated conditions and offered to give out portable lighting to anyone who felt they needed it. Our supply was diminished in about 2 minutes. $300 worth of inventory was given away. That kind of sucked, but runner safety was the main concern.
To be continued....
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
Midnight run was a shot in the dark
By RICKY TREON
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
More than 200 runners ran under the lights in the inaugural El Scorcho at Fort Worth's Trinity Park.
By 11:30 p.m. Saturday, more than 225 people were gathered in Trinity Park, waiting for the clock to reach 12.
They were there for Ryan Valdez's birthday party. But instead of beer, chips and dip, everyone brought sports drinks, oranges and bug spray.
It was a midnight jog through the park. Or, to be more specific, a midnight ultramarathon in July.
The appropriately named El Scorcho 25K/50K started as a laughable idea dreamed up by Valdez and his buddy Jason Constantino during a long run together. Both are ultramarathoners, so Valdez posed the idea of running 30 miles before today, his 30th birthday.
"Jason was the only guy crazy enough to say, 'Sure, sounds like a good idea,'" Valdez said. "You brainstorm when you run for three or four hours at a time, and by the end we thought maybe we could turn this into just a small little event."
With a guest list of 30 or 40 people, tops. After all, they thought, how many people would be far enough out of their minds to run on one of the hottest days of the year?
That's exactly what James and Jim Newsom, who own and operate Fort Worth Running Company, said when Valdez first e-mailed them the idea for El Scorcho and asked for organizational help. But a midnight run seemed crazy enough to work.
"From a safety standpoint, we wanted to make sure nobody died," James Newsom said. "So we knew we wanted to run it at night, and we figured midnight was as good a time as any."
Jim Newsom also helped Valdez find a suitable charity for his event, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
With a clear plan and someone to help him, Valdez decided to get word out about his project by putting up a Web site and a blog.
That and some word-of-mouth were enough to rope in more than 200 runners, including first-time ultramarathoners such as Robin Hudson of Tulsa.
Like many runners in Trinity Park, Hudson learned of El Scorcho on an Internet message board. She then e-mailed Teresa Ellington, and soon the Tulsa Area Trail and Ultra Runners, or TATURs, were in on the action.
"Where else could you go with this many people around and enjoy yourself and be goofy?" Ellington said. "We're just enjoying the camaraderie. It's nice."
Although the 225 runners made for a great party, it was all Valdez, a lawyer with the Cantey Hanger firm, could handle.
"I'm a first-time race director, so I'm doing what I can here," Valdez said. "I was not expecting it to be this crazy."
Although he'd been at Trinity Park for hours, and he'd likely be there until 9 a.m. cleaning up, Valdez was excited and already thinking about next year.
At 11:50 p.m., Valdez thanked everyone for coming, then began herding runners toward the 3.1-mile course's start/finish line.
Then at midnight he thanked everyone for coming and watched as the gun signaled the start of his "grassroots ultramarathon."
It was big. It was fun. And it was one heck of a birthday party.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Last night, we had an information Q&A session about El Scorcho at Double Dave's, the pizza joint next door to Fort Worth Running Company. About 20 or so runners showed up, including Sid, a dedicated fella who drove to Fort Worth from South Caroline for the run.
It was fun chatting with the runners and hearing their stories. We (Jason, James, Jim, and I) gave a short presentation about where the idea for our crazy all-night ultramrathon came from and then fielded inquiries ranging from the location of the aid stations to the number of portapotties to a description of the course. Everyone was visibly excited about the event.
At the conclusion of the meeting (around 8 p.m.) I bid everyone farewell, reminding them to get plenty of sleep before the start of the race--which began in 28 hours!
Friday, July 13, 2007
Plenty of interest in El Scorcho
El Scorcho will test endurance runners' tolerance for heat
Ryan Valdez planned to celebrate his 30th birthday by running 30 miles.
He and running buddy Jason Costantino, 24, figured a few people might join them for a 50K in July. The concept evolved into El Scorcho, 25K and 50K runs set for midnight Sunday in Fort Worth.
"An ultra event at midnight in the middle of July in Texas sounds pretty bizarre, but we've got a lot of interest," said Jim Newsom of the Fort Worth Running Company, which is assisting with the event.
With more than 200 runners registered, officials cut off entries.
"It's surreal," Valdez said. "It has astonished all of us involved."
Valdez and Costantino, both of Fort Worth, approached Newsom in November about an endurance run in July. Newsom told them they were crazy because of the heat.
"We rode the Hotter 'n Hell Hundred a few years ago," Valdez said of the 100-mile bike event that's held in Wichita Falls every August. "That's where the name came from. We thought this could have the same kind of appeal as the Hotter 'n Hell."
Valdez and Costantino persisted, proposing to start at midnight and run through the night. Eventually, Newsom and his son, James, agreed to help.
"So many people thrive on a challenge," James Newsom said. "It will be a challenge with the heat and humidity. You can't cool off. The heat doesn't evaporate. You get hotter and hotter."
James Newsom suggested a 5K loop through Trinity Park to keep runners in close proximity to water and first aid stations. Valdez and Costantino also endorsed Jim Newsom's idea of making the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program the race beneficiary. Team volunteers will help on race day.
Valdez and Costantino said they won't participate because they need to make sure the event goes smoothly. Valdez, who turns 30 Monday, completed his birthday celebration endurance run at the 50K Waco Trail Run in March.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
But it was Kevin Polin's story, "Pulling the Trigger at 40," and his quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon that most inspired me. Why? Well, first of all, you should know that I'm not 40. Heck, I'm not even 30. Not for another 6 days at least. Nonetheless, there was a lot I could identify with in Polin. Here's how he described himself:
Like Polin, I'm not a thin runner. I weigh in somewhere between 190-195 lbs. Ideally, I should weigh around 180-185.
As I approached my 40th birthday, I reflected on these questions and also on my so-called athletic achievements: over 30 marathons (12 in one year), two 50-milers, two 100-milers, half a dozen triathlons, and a few mountaineering expeditions. But looking back at my race photos, I noted that I looked distinctly overweight in several of them, especially in a couple of triathlon photos where a definite paunch was hanging over my tight triathlon swim trunks. Yes, I had done a lot of running over the last 12 years, but had I really given everything I could to training, even just for one race? I didn't think so.
. . .
I wanted to give everything I had to a training plan to see what this 40-year-old body could do. I had plenty of excuses to avoid the challenge, including three young kids and being constantly on the road with my consulting job, but I wanted to give it one big push since it occurred to me that a personal-best time is more likely earlier rather than later in your running career. For the first time in my life, I even changed my diet and paid attention to what I was putting in my body. Even more astounding: I moderated my pub drinking! I was a regular at one of Atlanta's well-known pubs but quickly discovered that I could still make appearances and say hello to everyone even if I limited myself to just three pints once a week. I even experimented with long runs and drinking and found that I could still do a decent early-morning long run after consuming four pints the previous night. Three pints was better, but five pints tipped me over the edge and made it difficult to even get up early enough for the run. So I made it a point to tell the barmen that four pints was my limit, and they and my friends began to respect my self-imposed limit.
I'm also busy with my working life as an attorney, and the pace is only going to quicken when our first child enters the world in about 6 weeks or so.
Also, I don't pay enough attention to my diet. I'm good about 2 of the 3 bigger meals I eat in a day. (I also tend to eat a couple of snacks at the office, but they're usually almonds or a Kashi bar.) While I tend to eat a healthy breakfast, I usually give in to temptation and gorge on junk for lunch or dinner. Way too much junk. I know it's counterproductive and it negates the time I put in at the gym or on the trails, but I do it anyway.
Oh, and I like cold beer and a nice glass (or two or three) of wine. Which is fine, except when imbiding takes precedent over training. I've definitely had those mornings, like Polin describes, where getting up early is hard enough, let alone running.
So what does all this mean? Am I going to give up Tommy's burgers and Mexican food? Am I trading merlot for prune juice?
No. Not a chance.
But I'm going to try to make a conscious effort to pay attention to what I put into my body and how it affects my overall physcial well-being. Maybe even drop a few pounds.
(Of course, I'm already making an exception for the annual golf trip with the guys planned in two weeks. But we'll just call that a four day, momentary lapse of reason.)
In closing, I'm reminded of a quote I read a few months back in Outside magazine:
"If it's potato chips in, it's potato chips out. You eat garbage, you're probably going to perform like garbage."
Sunday, July 08, 2007
I managed to get in a 21 mile run Saturday morning. No rain! But the Texas heat is back. The last few miles were rough. 90 degrees sucks. No complaining, though. At least I was soaked with sweat and not rain.
Monday, July 02, 2007
El Scorcho is less than two weeks away. We (J, the FWRunCo folks, and I) are scrambling to take care of all the last minute details. And there are lots of them. We've got police officers, a medical staff, permitting, insurance, chip-timing, 40+ volunteers, etc. to tend to. It's nuts.
Oh, and work is heating up yet again. When it rains, it pours. Literally and figuratively.