I think Quadracool’s face was worth the trip. I strolled into Dogfish Head behind Mr. Bacon late Friday afternoon, obviously hoping for a reaction. I love the Loopsters. I love surprises. HotPinkSneakers led the charge on this weekend in Rehoboth Beach, so I had to let her in on it. She was awesome at keeping first my tentative plan, then my actual attendance, a deeply held secret.
Bacon was at the house when I rolled in at 4:30 talking to Mrs. Dave about the latest T-Rex crisis, so all we could do was shake hands and smile. It’s been a year since our last face to face at Philly. Bacon’s fast. It’s fun to be in the neighborhood when he races, neatly trimmed beard and incredibly photogenic face. He pretends to hate people like I do. One of us is serious about it.
Speaking of the house in Rehoboth, it was a sweet launching pad for a Loopster weekend. I think they’ve gotten a different one every year (can you believe this is my first time there?). Less than a half mile from the starting line and less than a quarter from the finish. Not to mention tons of room and a huge kitchen. Since it’s off season for this little beach town, the price for the dozen or so runners was amazingly affordable. Parking was a little scarce, but I was able to use the sushi place next door’s parking lot for a couple of days before they flagged me for not being a customer. By then there was room in the driveway, so no harm done.
This was the second time I’ve dropped in unexpectedly at a Loopfest. Five years ago I hemmed and hawed about going to Twin Cities, and by the time I decided for sure, it seemed like a fun idea to not let anyone know. The only trouble with that was everyone knew I was training and it was an easy guess. Plus, Loopsters are self-professed internet weirdos, and there was more than one who simply looked up Schultz on the TCM registry. I’m not the only Dave Schultz in Livonia, but the other one’s not a runner, so… Bangle asked me outright one day and since I’m not a liar and couldn’t think of a graceful way to sidestep the question, I told him, swearing him to secrecy. Race weekend he blabbed it to everyone he saw, and by the time I showed up Saturday afternoon there may have been 2-3 people who were actually surprised (I’m not bitter though).
This time was easier to keep things under wraps. Not quite as many of us are quite as active as we used to be. There was a smaller crowd going. I didn’t tell Bangle. Then there was the whole taking all of August off from running and not sure I’d even be in shape for a marathon by the end of the year.
I did drop a hint or two if anyone was paying attention. Ocrunnergirl and aschmid3 connected the dots and looked for me in the race registry. OCRG PM’d me and I asked her not to say anything. So, not a total victory for stealth, but pretty good.
By November, my comeback was on schedule. I had a couple of decent 16 milers and my other long runs were good. Speed work wasn’t up to Marshall standards, but I was finishing them and feeling pretty strong, so I paid the extra to get a late entry, found a cheap flight into BWI, a deal on a car for the weekend and had HPS sign me up for a bed in the Loopster house.
It would have all been perfect if not for the hamstring going all wonky on me with a week and a half to go. I blame OCRG. In fact, I’ve named this hammy after her and took her with me every step of the 26.2 miles I ran in Delaware for my 18th marathon in 17 states, since I started this silly 50-50 quest in 2009. It was inspiring in a way, although mostly she was a royal pain halfway down from my butt all morning, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Have you noticed how hard it is, now that we’re all social media junkies, to travel without posting selfies and status updates about airports, rental cars, landmarks and restaurants? Until the surprise was fully sprung in Rehoboth, I had to go pretty dark, in case anyone was watching fb/Instagram (and of course they were) for SIX WHOLE HOURS! I’m pathetic.
As usual, I’d forgotten to check in to my Southwest flight 24 hours before so I ended up in Group C. The meant my carryon had to be checked. However, since I didn’t have to look for an overhead bin and I knew I wasn’t going to get a window or aisle seat, I grabbed the first one available - second row middle, between a young woman and a fit looking man of about 60 (or so I thought). Turned out, he was 69, has run 3-4 times as many marathons as me and is on the board of the Ann Arbor Track Club. I brought a book to read on the plane because I don’t like talking to strangers, but the hour flight literally flew by (see what I did there?) as we talked about marathons and other running subjects.
Thanks to BWI being a smaller, not so busy airport, it was only an extra five minutes at baggage to get it and it was on the way to the rental shuttle. I should also mention that it’s about half the price to fly into versus Reagan in DC. Props to Alamo, btw, for having the most amazingly fast counter I’ve ever seen at a car rental business. Walking out to the cars, I thought about a post I’d seen earlier in the day from QC about getting an upgrade in her rental. That’s happened to me and Mrs. Dave once. And now it’s happened to me again. When I reserved my car, I’d splurged on a mid-size since it was only $5 more for the weekend. The agent gave me this guy, just because.
Turns out, this was the same guy who’d given QC her Cherokee upgrade. Winning.
I was early enough that I missed traffic getting out of town, and the 2-½ hour trip was actually 2-½ hours. Learned some amazing things about Alexander Hamilton on the way. One weird thing: I have my phone plugged in and sitting next to the infotainment screen in the Equinox and after about an hour it shut down, hot as heck and giving me the “must cool down first” error screen. I stuck it out the window for a minute to cool off, then set it in a different spot for the rest of the drive, which went by without incident.
Loopfests are so sweet. Getting to meet with old friends and getting to know new ones that you already sort of know because of the crazy internet thing. I got to add RunEatRalph to my list of Loopsters met. The more I meet and the less I travel the harder that is to do, so thanks for coming, McLuckie. Another newbie was Jay, a friend of QC’s. His price of admission is a bloop here, so stay tuned for that. No idea what his Loopster handle will be.
With race morning coming on, things stayed chill for the evening. Mostly we were anxious for NCAthlete to get there, since she was bringing the fixings for what turned out to be a killer lasagna dinner. And the best thing was there was plenty of pasta for seconds. I eat too much. Don’t judge me.
I mentioned this last week, but Friday was December 1, which means that Baconator Season has officially started. There was no Baconator weather in Delaware over the weekend, but having the contest’s namesake in the house made up for that little detail. There’s only one Mr. Bacon.
QC and running_eng had a contest for the most understated welcome.
Aschmid3 and Clark were the last to arrive. Apparently that’s a thing. With race morning looming, the rest of the evening was fairly low key and then people started heading off to bed. I was one of the last because I always get up at 5 and didn’t need an early night. Finished the book I was reading and drifted off in my top bunk, wondering what my stoopid hamstring was going to do between the start and finish.
There was no question of a finish - I’m just like that - but what sort of finish? My moderate training pointed to a reasonable 3:50-something and a 2019 60-64 BQ. I’d even thought of asking to draft off of HPS, since she’s the Queen of sub-4 now. In the end, I decided that she didn’t need to be worrying about my sorry old butt and it was even money that this would be a major bust, with lots of walking/limping for up to 6-7 hours. But, no doubt there would be a finish ... of some kind.
After breakfast I asked OCRG to use her mad KT taping skills on the hammy, which I have named Gwen, btw. I’ve no experience with this myself, so I assume her job was masterful and gave me the most I could possibly get out of it that day (spoiler: it wasn’t much). I think she was a little uncomfortable working on the back of my leg, especially when it came to attaching the tape at the upper end, so I appreciate her efforts even more. I wasn’t trying to be creepy, honest. And then there was a leisurely stroll down the block and around the corner to the starting line, stopping for a group photo, courtesy of RER’s freakishly long arms (pic shamelessly stolen from the Rehoboth Loopfest facebook page and used by almost everyone already).
I made two trips to the bathroom before we left, but apparently the Gatorade I had with breakfast was way more than I needed, and had to make a dash to the POP lines. They moved pretty well, though and I made it to the start area, just ahead of the 4-hour pace group, in time for the start. I’ve stopped having pre-marathon jitters most of the time, and rolled over the mats, counted to three and hit Hal’s start button (at the finish I wait three seconds after crossing the line to turn it off as well - that way I don’t have the silly-looking pic of my grabbing my wrist at the finish that everyone does - fine, I’m weird).
And the Great Injured Hamstring Experiment began.
If everything went perfectly, my pacing strategy for the first six miles was 9:15, 9:00, 9:00,
9:00, 9:00, 9:00. Assuming that went well, I’d cut down to 8:45s for 7-20 and then see what happened after that. Felt the first little twinge about a half mile in. It wasn’t bad, so I concentrated on staying relaxed, on pace and keeping a smooth stride. It was a delicate balance. Rehoboth has all sorts of turns, which keeps the route interesting, but probably not the best course for Gwen and me at the time.
Did I mention I wore brand new shoes for this race? Heresy! I know, but hear me out. As I reached my taper, I noticed some serious wear in my 14th pair of Cumuluses. Naturally, I checked the mileage on them and discovered they were at nearly 400 miles - quite a few more than I normally get out of them (one of only two complaints I have about these shoes - the other is the delicacy of the upper than lets my occasional toe scraping actually tear a hole in it). Repairs have been known to happen for me to get a few more miles.
I was going to keep them through the race because of what happened the week before San Francisco, and then last Monday I saw that Asics had a 30% pre-Christmas discount. A quick search showed that my beloved Cumulus 18s were on clearance for $70. Minus the 30%, I got two pair for under $100. How could I call myself a runner and pass that up? Then I rationalized that my foot issues for TSFM stemmed from the insoles, not the new shoes themselves and that if I switched out the new insoles with the Powerstep Pinnacles from the old ones, I’d be fine. Right? Right? Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I wore the shoes around the house on Wednesday and Thursday to and in Rehoboth. I felt pretty confident by that point, but still switched the insoles. And it worked. Zero issues with the new kicks.
Back to the race. Mile 1 was right on time at 9:17. Still feeling a small knot at the hamstring, though. Not great, but it was something I could definitely deal with for a few hours. Maybe it would loosen up as the day went on, the sun came up and it got warmer. Mile 2 was 8:45, exactly like I planned. This would probably be OK.
Until it wasn’t.
2.18 miles (I checked). One step and - WHAM! - Gwen said she was done with this running garbage. Hopped a couple of steps and pulled over to the side of the road, letting the stream of runners pass by as I walked/hobbled/limped forward. I was going to finish after all. Visions of walking 24 miles through the day flashed through my head and I reassessed. Walking is SO SLOW! While the pain subsided, I tried a gingerly shuffle for a few steps, experimenting with my carriage, stride and landing, searching for a way to go faster than hiking speed. Things would seem semi-OK for a bit, and then another step would result in a flash of pain. After a few starts and stops through miles 3 and 4, I discovered that fully extending my leg was the trigger for the worst of it. By keeping my knee the tiniest bit bent, the hammy would stay calm enough for me to stay at a slow trot.
It was going to be a long morning, but I knew at that point that I’d finish not walking, and might even beat my PW of 5:16. At least the weather was nice. Perfect, in fact. Short sleeves with gloves that I’d be casting off sooner or later.
At 3 miles the half and full routes separated, and I made my first of many POP stops. This one was in a parking lot a little off the race route. I almost thought the two boxes weren’t for runners they were so far away. But I also figured that speed wasn’t my friend and a little detour was a small price to pay. Had to wait for a minute outside. There was more of that to come, too.
The good news was that I was moving at more than a walk. They weren’t the 9:00 miles I’d intended, but at about 11:00, I would surely finish in under 5 hours. With Gwen screaming at my with nearly every step, that would be a significant victory.
There was a little loop and then we were into Cape Henlopen State Park. Whenever I found myself focusing on the hammy and how many more long miles were ahead, I’d force myself to ease off the effort, look around and appreciate the beauty of where I was. Earth is a great planet, isn’t it?
Right before Mile 4 there’s a sharp left and then the course runs beside Gordon’s Pond. There was a guy beside the trail, not running. He looked like a runner but wasn’t wearing a bib. As I approached, I recognized - Bart Yasso! I’d missed the announcement of his schedule (not that I watch his schedule or anything) and had no idea he’d even be in the state, let alone at Rehoboth and certainly not 4 miles into the race, far from anywhere, all by himself. Since I was in no hurry, I stopped. He smiled and shook my hand. I mentioned briefly that I was hobbled but soldiering through, hamstring and all. He either remembered me from the two other times we’ve met (LoopPhest 2011 and NYCM 2013), or he’s really good at acting like he remembers the millions of runners he meets at races all over the country. So he wished me luck and I shuffled on down the trail. Bart Yasso. smh
The next POP was at almost Mile 7. Of course I stopped. Sadly, this stop only had one machine and three other people waiting already. Seven minutes I stood there. No hurry, right? Spent the time talking with my new best friends, including a quadracool lookalike who was five months pregnant, reminding me of tinkbot baking up a little bun of her own as we speak.
Those seven minutes actually were a good thing. I don’t recommend standing motionless for such a long time as a normal race tactic, but when I started again, Gwen had actually relaxed quite a bit, and I was able to move along, while not a normal speed or cadence, at a less stilted gait and at nearly ten minute miles. I was much more fatigued than I should have been, though. My altered stride was putting a lot of stress on the quad, the inside of my knee and on the other leg. Didn’t think it would kill me, but it wasn’t the most comfortable I’ve ever been, either. I determined to walk through all the water stops and just keep going.
8-12 were my best/fastest miles of the day, although I hated the course from 9-12, running along a straight section highway next to some subdivisions. I did skip a POP though, so that was another win of sorts. Except for the Dairy Queen after Mile 10. There had just been a water stop, but I still scooped up one of the sample cups of chocolate/vanilla swirl with sprinkles and jammed it into my mouth. I immediately wished I’d taken one with each hand. Imagine how good they would have been on a hot day. Yum.
About here was where my altered gait, and the extra effort it took to maintain momentum at the slower pace, really caught up to me. Mile 10 felt like Mile 23, and there was SO MUCH FARTHER TO GO.
Mile 12 is when Abby came calling. The Mile 12 POP is directly across the road from the Mile 8-½ POP. Both were occupied with three people ahead of me. The next one was two miles ahead. Even if I’d known that at the time, there was no way I was going two more miles without a stop. So I waited again, several more minutes, did my business and (finally!) began closing in on halfway.
13.1 at Rehoboth may be the most understated halfway point of any of my 18 marathons. The timing mat was there, and a couple of guys keeping an eye on it. Not much else. I passed over at about 2:35 and wished I was done instead of halfway. I’ve always appreciated the tenacity and determination of back of the pack runners, and this day added a few more degrees to the awesome meter for people who spend this long on a marathon course. Once again, I had to remind myself to step outside the pain and pay attention to the beauty around me. It helped, while I was going a mile at a time from there to the end.
Pass a mile, listen for the Prince’s beep, walk .05, hobble off on my so-called running for another mile.
I wanted to say my brain shut off for the next few miles, but it was all too engaged. There was a guy on the trail with his two sons and their bikes. I asked to borrow one. They declined. Mean.
The second half of a race like this is a leap-frogging affair between you and your walk/run mates, and the extra slow runners who just keep going. Every once in awhile the Galloway intervals will match up and you get to talk for a few minutes with a new best friend. There was a group of women I’d been playing that game with almost from Mile 3. They all had matching blue shirts with some writing on them I never did decipher except for a large “RUN”. Passed them for good between 16 and 17. That was when someone said the five hour pace group was just ahead. I couldn’t see them.
My mile/.05 routine was still working for me when I came back into town and saw some Loopsters at Mile 18. Gwen, John and someone else I can’t remember. That was a big boost going into the final eight, as was actually seeing the five hour pacer’s sign a hundred yards or so ahead of me. Maybe I’d still catch them. This has a short section where the last half mile of the race passes alongside in the opposite direction. The clock was about 3:30 and of course I remembered what it was like to be finished at that time already, knowing that this time I still had another hour and a half on my feet. I wished to die. Stopped at the POP (of course) at Grove Park. The bridge over the canal was weird. It’s all open grating. Just weird.
Then there was some doubling back and forth through town and some housing, then into the other out-and-back section inside the park. I saw HPS, on her way through the pain cave on her way to another sub-4 finish. I’m telling you, that girl is on fire. This trail cost me a few more minutes, stopping I think four times to remove pebbles from my shoes. I always have trouble with pea or smaller sized rocks getting in my shoes when I do trails and I was worried about this for several weeks. The trail was in good shape compared to other years I was told, but that didn’t keep the rocks out. Fortunately, I was able to catch them all early and fish them out while they were still reachable without taking off my shoes, which would have cost me even more time. At Mile 20 I started leap frogging with the five hour pacer. She had 4 runners left with her, and looked all fresh and bouncy. I hated her.
Mile 21 (23 on the way back) has a bunch of state flags over the trail. I recognized Michigan and gave a mental thumbs up. They had music there and a guy yelling out names and places. I had hoped this was the turnaround but it was just a tease with the real turnaround another mile ahead. But, hey, I was going to finish. For reals. And I was mostly passing people. A few would catch me back when I had my walk breaks, which I’d extended to .1 at each mile, but then I’d inch by them again later. Still averaging about 11 minutes per mile, too, and stoopid pacer woman wasn’t passing me anymore.
Another bonus was that I’d stopped needing to spend time at every single POP. Mile 18 was the last one I saw the inside of. Win.
No disrespect intended to my trail running friends, but my feet were overjoyed to find themselves on asphalt again at 24-½. Just one more walk break and I could check Delaware off my list. And the five hour pacer was still behind me. There was a short woman in the neighborhood that I hadn’t been able to shake. She was one of those slow and steady types that I’d pass only to have her overtake me when I walked my .1. I don’t want to say I was annoyed, but I was annoyed. Fine. I’m a bad person. She was there at the end, just a few yards in front of me, and I just could not pass her that last time. So I guess you could say she chicked me, although I think technically she has to come from behind to qualify, right?
Across the line, count three, stop Prince Henry. Five hours and six seconds. And I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier to reach the end of a race.
There was some kind of uber-long pine needle something that had attached itself to my shoe in the last 20 yards, so I leaned over to pull it off, impressing the guy who had my finisher’s medal with my flexibility and balance. I’d have rather had those other six seconds.
I grabbed a bottle of chocolate milk, chugged it down, then tossed it towards a garbage can. I missed badly, and looked over at a couple sitting at the curb, shaking my head. I wasn’t going to be picking up that empty bottle. The woman smiled and walked over to get it. Thank you, ma’am.
Ronswansonsstache was in the beer line when I went past the party tent. I said something unintelligible and shuffled back to the house for a shower. I knew the party would still be going when I was cleaned up. And I needed some cleaning up. That was more time on trails than I’ve had in I don’t know how long, and my shuffling gait threw up a lot of dirt and dust along the way.
Those are my favorite race sox.
Then, it was party time. Of course I’m famous for my party skills. I ate food. I drank some Sprite and some more chocolate milk. I took a couple of photos of Loopsters.
I went out with HPS to see the last finisher come in. Mad props.
Then I napped.
Dinner was at Grotto Pizza. RER and I almost put away one between us. When the real party got going, I stayed at the house, because T-Rex had a concert that was streaming at 9:30. So I won.
I stayed up after that to watch Ohio State beat Wisconsin and greet most of the party crowd as they came back.
About 3 AM I was awoken by a noise (snoring), and ended up on one of the couches downstairs. It was fine. Sunday was pretty chill. A few went out for walks or short runs. I hobbled around the house a little, being a baby about my hamstring (and the rest of me), and taking more pics.
Aschmid3 and Bangle looking energetic.
Running_eng relaxing after smoking the Rehoboth Half course.
Quadracool being, you know, cool.
I had another pic of OCRG, but she liked this one better.
NCAthlete and her nearly perfect toes. Balloons pilfered from the race party tent (I had nothing to do with that).
Slow_running (who wasn’t very slow, btw) being stationary.
My flight out was later in the evening, but I needed to be stationary myself when T-Rex was ready to talk homework, so I left early for BWI and cooled my heels there for awhile. The good news was that quadracool was flying out at the gate next to me, so we had dinner. That let me come down a little easier from the high of the weekend’s Loopfest. Good times.
Now back to work and some healing. This hamstring is a thing, and so far it seems like I may need more than my usual two weeks off. Guess my jokes about not running this winter may not be so funny. We’ll see in a couple of weeks. Even today there’s still something wrong down there and the front of my thigh on that side is much more sore than normal after a marathon. I’d like to do a marathon in late spring, and Mrs. Dave and I are still talking about the pikermi in Surf City so she can see our Mission Viejo friends. NYCM is planned for November, but if spring doesn’t go I may do something earlier to BQ for 2019.
If I can keep from getting injured. Sigh! I may have to do some of that strength/cross training stuff everyone talks about all the time. Maybe it’s because I just don’t know what to do or how often or how much or anything about it. I know how to run.