Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Morgantown Marathon 2016 Race Report and Video

Here's Holly's Morgantown Marathon Race Report. Video and Dave's comments follow the report.
West Virginia has a couple of marathons to choose from. I had my eye on the Freedoms Marathon but due to scheduling I decided to try the Morgantown Marathon instead. They had their first running of the race last year and the reviews were pretty good. They decided to redo the course so course maps were not up when I signed up. That was unfortunate. They said it was hilly, but I figured how bad can it be? I’ve done some really hilly courses: Big Sur, Atlanta, Knoxville, and New Hampshire. I was wrong, oh so very wrong.

We got in to Morgantown Friday night and went to Morgantown Brewing Company for dinner and had some beer. We then hit up Apothecary Ale House and that was a fun place with a good beer list. We finished up at Applebee’s because where else would we end up? As we were driving around, it was dark, but that didn’t stop me from realizing that there were a ton of hills and they were long and steep. I was pretty sure I was going to die. Our Uber driver even agreed with me.

Saturday was a rainy morning and we did a drive around Dorsey Knob Park. Next we hit the expo which was the only negative of the race organization. It was in the middle of nowhere! We had trouble locating it on our navigation systems. The expo itself was small, but everyone was super friendly and the shirt was a very nice long sleeve quarter zip.

After the expo we headed downtown for lunch and of course one more brewery (actually two: Mountain State and Chestnut). Again we were now driving around in the daytime and I could really see the hills and I was even more certain I would die. We had my traditional pasta dinner at Puglioni's and I tried to go to bed early.

The weather forecast for Sunday was a 90% chance of Thunderstorms. Luckily when I woke up it had rained overnight but looked good for now. I was probably going to get wet at the end of race but I hoped for the best. The start was a quick drive from our hotel the Hampton Inn. They started promptly at 7 am, my only complaint was no national anthem. I was also a bit nervous for this race because my hamstring has been bothering me since the Jackson Hole marathon, 2 weeks prior. So between, the hamstring, predicted storms and killer hills, this means Holly’s head is not in a good place. It was a downhill start which was a nice way to ease into it. The first half of the course was not too bad. It was rolling for the first 5 miles or so then some big hills and I started walking up the hills and running down the hills. I was feeling pretty good, but it was hot and humid, and I was soaked early on. The humidity was really draining me.

After the first half things get ugly. The hills get bigger and I get more tired. I pretty much mentally threw in the towel around mile 14 or 15. I was done and didn’t want to do this anymore. It’s been awhile since I have been in that place and it’s not a good place to be when you still have 11 miles to go. I started walking more and more until that was all I was doing. This was a big mistake. I really should have tried to get my head back in the game. I wasn’t feeling great due to the humidity so I was worried I wouldn’t finish so I talked myself into taking it easy. But it wasn’t easy. It was harder. I’m not used to walking that much and my shins were killing me.

I also had my bib rip around the halfway point and was trying to repair that so I didn’t lose it. Also I itched my back at one point and this caused my bra to come unclipped. This was not the back part but the part that slides in at the shoulder blade. This is pretty much impossible to fix while you are wearing it. I was panicked. I kept trying to fix it and couldn’t get it. There was a cop car up ahead and I was going to ask him if I could sit in the back of his car and try and fix it. Thankfully by some miracle I was finally able to get it back together. At this point it was just comical.

I was very happy to see our friend Erinn who was volunteering at a water stop. She had a sign for me and got all the volunteers to chant my name. It was a great pick me up!
Dave was doing a great job of following me and was being very supportive. I was going so slow. Towards the end they had popsicles and I was so happy. I had an 18 minute mile while I was enjoying that popsicle! Good thing because I needed to save whatever energy I had left to walk up the last ridiculous hill. I finally made it to the top and actually ran it in to the finish. I was so happy to be done, but I now only had 45 minutes to get back to the hotel and shower and checkout. I chugged half a beer and jumped in the car. The medal was nice and the volunteers for this race were really great, except for the one at mile 18 who said “Only 8 miles to go”, UGH, that is far! If you want a super challenging race with tons of hills then this is for you. This is now going to the top of my least favorite marathon list, beating out the Indiana indoor track one. Super tough and I’m glad it’s over. And as they say, “Yes it’s hilly!!”

Dave's Comments
I flew to Pittsburgh a few days early for work reasons. I had to drop off my work rental car an hour before Holly was supposed to land and pick up our new car. Of course her flight was delayed due to mechanical reasons. She wiggled herself onto another flight, but it would be a few hours later than planned. So to kill time I found the nearest brewery. Insurrection Aleworks was in a non-descript building in a working-class suburb. Inside the restaurant was nicely decorated and the food coming out of the wood oven smelled great. I had time to have two great sour beers and some tasty chicken wings. Eventually we made it to Morgantown and decompressed in a few local establishments.

At lunch on Saturday I picked up a drink stirrer shaped like Mr. Jack Daniels. Holly had to deal with impromptu puppet shows the remainder of the weekend.

Race day navigation was hard. Most of the race occurred on back roads or neighborhoods. Almost every branch of law enforcement or national guard were out blocking roads. The early portion of the race bottlenecked a whole neighborhood for at least an hour because the half course repeated back onto itself while marathoners ran a different route. In some sections I passed Holly a few times but there were no turnoffs. The town traffic circle was closed so I had to go way out of my way to get back on course. Good thing we did this the day before getting to the expo and I had landmarks: notably the airport and the strip club.

Watching the race in downtown was surreal. The only spectators were me and a man that I guessed was homeless. He didn't seem too into it. Some of the roads in older parts of town were narrow for a kid's pedal car let alone a regular vehicle. Snacking options were lacking. There were a few options near Mile 1, then nothing until town and mile 10. Mile 15/16 had a few fast food choices then nothing again until back in town for mile 24. At the finish line I was able to buy a beer.
To visit our friend Erinn, who was stationed at a waterstop on a closed road, I had to walk up a steep hill for a 1/2 mile. This was not the worst hill I saw on the course so it showed me how brutal this race must be.

We left Morgantown as quickly as possible. We figured out that we had enough time to get to The Church Brew Works - one of my must-see breweries. It's housed in a church built in the early 1900's that was closed in 1993. The food and beer were good as usual (not much changed since Wednesday).


Monday, October 17, 2016

Charity of the Month: Avon Breast Cancer Foundation

Charity of the Month is a way Team Tizzel is helping to support some very worthy organizations. As part of this program, we will dedicate a post to a charity that we will sponsor through the month by donating Holly's training run money.

September: In September we supported the Grand Tetons National Park Improvement Fund with a $125 donation. This will help fund needed improvements to the guest areas so many others can enjoy this beautiful park. This link will describe the project.


October Charity of the Month:

Avon Breast Cancer Foundation: New York Walk to End Breast Cancer

To be fully transparent we've been late the last two months writing the Charity of the Month posts. The New York 39 mile Walk to End Breast Cancer was held this weekend making this post a tad out-of-date.

A Team AllEars (our Disney-related charity running team) teammate of ours, Christine, participated in the event. We love seeing how our teammates continue to tie charity to their running/walking lifestyles.

As members of Team AllEars we helped raise +$330,000 over a five year period to help fight breast cancer and find a cure. We have been directly impacted by the disease - parents, other family members, and many friends have fought the disease. Some of them did not win their battles.

Even though the physical walk event is over, the fight against breast cancer isn't. Visit Christine's page and consider giving a donation.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Too Many Pictures from Yellowstone National Park

After the Jackson Hole Marathon we decided it would be a great idea to spend a few days in nature. Day One would be a trip up to Yellowstone National Park with our friends (Stan, Pam, Tom, Molly, Lee, Laura). We knew the trip would be the "highlights of the southern entrance" given it was a 2-2.5 hour each-way drive from our hotel.

We started our morning with 5am wake up calls and a 6am rollout. We split into two cars and let Lee's car lead us (he's been here before) through the closed guard stations to our first stop: Jackson Lake Lodge. We arrived at sunrise and were treated to nice bathrooms, a Starbucks coffee stand, and an amazing view of the Grand Tetons.

The road we were on had just reopened after being closed due to the fires they had in the area. You could see the marks on the road where the fire jumped across to continue its destruction. We passed a large fire camp that had several helicopters at-the-ready to combat the flames. At one of the overlooks we could see and smell the smoke.

We took a short break at Kepler Falls. We timed it right to be able to see a geyser go off in the distance.

We arrived at Old Faithful early enough to have an easy time parking. After store/bathroom breaks we discovered we had lots of time before the famous geyser would blow again. We took a short walk around the area and visited the Old Faithful Lodge. We split from the rest of the group so Dave could use his fancy new tripod for shooting Old Faithful. Unfortunately it was a very cloudy day and the geyser mist blended perfectly into the grey clouds. Sadly, after the explosion, we sat there thinking "that's it?"

Turned all settings up to eleven to show the detail in the mist

We made the wise decision to get lunch when the cafeteria opened. Later on in the day the place was jammed. After lunch we hiked up to the overlook to see Old Faithful blow from a distance. While waiting we were entertained by a chipmunk and other geysers blowing in the distance.

Old Faithful predicted times are +/- 10 minutes. On our first viewing it was pretty much dead-on. This time, +10 minutes. We had a pleasant hike through the woods as we made our way back down to the geyser walkways and paths. For people who ran 13/26 miles the previous day they were sure putting the miles in today. We were pretty beat by the time we made it back to the gift shops.

We took the cars over to the Grand Prismatic Spring. The area was nuts. Cars parked everywhere on the side of the roads. We waited about 20 minutes to park. Once there the cloud cover got thicker and at times it drizzled. We really didn't get to see the full rainbow-colored effects. For decent pictures of the spring go to google images. Our photos are not that great.

Our final stop of the day was Yellowstone Lake. There were several springs right at the water's edge. Apparently people used to cook fish over them. In this area we saw 3 elk that were not stymied by the raised platforms keeping guests from the hot springs. They crossed right over to get to the springs for drinks. The slight drizzle was turning into rain. Time to leave Yellowstone.

The ride back was long. The whole group was looking forward to settling down with beer and burgers. Of course we had to hit a pull-off right at sunset with an amazing view of the Grand Tetons.

We had one more detour about 5 miles out from the hotel. A few cars were stopped on the narrow road. We strained to find the attraction in the woods and were ultimately treated to glimpses of a bear cub in a tree. Dave had put the big camera away in the trunk so the only camera we had available was the little point-and-shoot. The photos prove we saw a bear just as well as any picture proves Bigfoot exists.

We made it back to the hotel and went to the burger / craft beer joint attached to the nearby Four Seasons Hotel. Everything was great, just not cheap. After dinner we hit up The Mangy Moose for a nightcap. Why not extend a long day when another one is coming again tomorrow? We had a great time touring Yellowstone and were looking forward to touring the Grand Tetons the next day.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

2016 Jackson Hole Marathon Race Report and Video

Here is Holly's Jackson Hole Marathon report with race video embedded at the end of the post.

The first marathon of the fall marathon season was finally here! It has been a long summer of training and I was ready to race again. Dave will cover the pre and post race portion of the trip in separate blog posts. We met up with three other couples (Stan and Pam, Tom and Molly, and Lee and Laura) in Jackson for the race and a few days of National Park touring.

The full marathon and half marathon started in two separate areas. Tom and Pam were doing the half marathon so they took a shuttle bus to their start line in the middle of nowhere. Dave drove Stan, Lee, Laura and myself to the full start line in downtown Jackson. Stan and I were doing the full while Lee and Laura were going to do the marathon relay. The start was easy with the exception that the announced full service restrooms were not open as advertised leaving only two port o potties for all the racers. We thankfully got in line early! The start was right on the square and the weather was perfect. We were soon off and running.

Jackson Hole is at 6300 feet of elevation and we were all well hydrated. The first mile was uphill and we were all feeling the altitude. I was sucking wind! The other marathons I have done at elevation started with a nice downhill so I never really noticed being winded. After a few miles our breathing did get back under control.

This was a really beautiful course! The beginning miles took us through a beautiful park on a trail by a river. It was stunning. The rest of the course was a combination of road and paved trail. All of it was very pretty with mountains and wide, open spaces all around us. We were really enjoying the run. The elevation was affecting us though. I know that by the time we got to the halfway point and said goodbye to Laura and hello to Lee for the second half my legs were really tired. We decided to take our time and enjoy the day. We put in a few more walk breaks but overall we all were feeling good. By this time Pam and Tom had finished the half and met up with Molly and they joined Dave and Laura to cheer us on to the finish. It was pretty awesome to have such a big cheering section for those last miles. The last water stop even had an official beer stop. Ice cold beer of your choosing, with several styles to choose from, even for us back of the packers!

We had a short uphill climb through grass to get to the finish line and we were all very happy to be done. Great finish area right at our hotel, the Hotel Terra. This hotel worked out great for the race. The finish area had snacks and beer! We all sat around for a bit and had a beer and ate some food before deciding we needed to get some more substantial food. I can’t say enough about how great this race was. The communication before the race was great, the packet pick up was easy, a beautiful course with plenty of water stops all with wonderful volunteers. A great finisher medal and shirt and did I mention the scenery? I would now put this as my most scenic marathon, just ahead of Big Sur.

Dave's Comments

The one thing I learned this weekend is that my camera's image sensor needs a good cleaning. Aside from that we had a lot of fun pre/post race. Three couples arrived in town during lunchtime. We picked Liberty Burger (part of the Blue Collar Restaurant Group) for lunch. They had some great burger/sandwich builds along with a few local beers on tap. After hitting the "expo" in the Chamber of Commerce office we checked into our rooms at Hotel Terra and met up with Pam and Stan. On the way to dinner towards town we stopped off for beers at Q Roadhouse and Brewing. We had a nice time enjoying their picnic table area that was also home to a farm stand. Dinner was at Pizza Artisan (part of the Blue Collar Group) near town. They gave us a huge private room for the eight of us.

Race Chasing was fairly easy. With about 300 people in the full marathon and a great trail system throughout town the roads were wide open. My only pressure was to get Lee to the relay point on time. Snacks were available when we wanted them and bathrooms were easy to find. As Holly mentioned, the course was beautiful. I took way too many pictures (not unusual).

After the race we needed lunch. We were planning on Snake River Brewing in town, but upon checking their website we found out lunch ended at 3:00. We called an audible and went to Bubba's BBQ solely based on the fact Stan and Pam went there 13 years ago. This Blue Collar Group property was fantastic! After eating we walked around a few shops including Grand Teton Distillery and CocoLove chocolate store. We had a drink at the Silver Dollar Bar (lots of great Jackson history displays) and walked around the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. We watched the Jackson Hole Shootout - a cowboy show held 6 nights a week in town square. Dinner was back in our resort area at the Mangy Moose. I logged a lot of hours in there over the weekend.

Here's the video. It's a fun one.