Sunday, November 9, 2008

What a great day at the Harrisburg Marathon with my friend Dave!

Tammy and Dave after the finish
With our personal "Go David and Tammy" sign on the pavement

Tammy and David at the start

Today I had the privilege of running with my runner friend Dave Zbel. We met just over 2 years ago at the special Delaware Marathon during Dean Karnazes 50 Marathons in 50 States in 50 Days. We both were quite a bit slower than the main pack that ran the marathon in 4 hours (we ran in over 5 hours). I think we both got lost at different points during our first lap, so decided to stick together to help each other with the missed turns. Also, we had one other gentleman, Matt at times during our marathon and also had the philosophy if we stuck together they could not stick us in the SAG vehicle that had only 2 seats:-)

During Delaware Dave and I had a great time chatting, running and just enjoying a great day. Well today we picked up where we left off. It was great to hear my name about 10 minutes before the start. Next thing I know I am getting enveloped in a great big bear hug. Dave had spotted me. I am unsure I would have spotted him as easily although I knew he was wearing a bright yellow "Livestrong" shirt . And on the back was "Melanie 5X Survivor" and that for sure would have made him easy to recognize him from behind. His wife has been battling a variety of cancers but she is doing relatively well now. And she is TOUGH! I met her briefly at Delaware and she is very determined and positive.

Melanie was expecting a grandson to be delivered any day/hour so she was unable to spectate at Harrisburg, but Dave's mom and stepdad were there. His mom was really cute and so ENTHUSIASTIC! At every place we passed by them, she would be hooting and hollering. And at one point she stumbled on some unused chalk and created a sign on the asphalt for us. Near the finish line she was using a divider cone as a loudspeaker and was cheering "Go Dave and Tammy" it was GREAT! His stepdad cheered us on enthusiastically and took lots of picture. It was so nice to see them supporting Dave (and me) so well.

Spending 5.5 hours of my day with Dave was so AWESOME! It felt like the last time we saw each other at Delaware was just yesterday. We have kept up fairly well using e-mail although there have certainly been times when I have not be as active about doing this. Life passes me by so quickly. My lame excuse is too much running, too much work and trying to do too much:-)
Dave somehow spotted me in the 2000+ Marathon runners and relayers. After a few pictures, the race somehow started. I asked Dave what his goals were. I was hoping he would say somewhere between 5-5:30 because I have not been able to break 5 hours recently and I know I have Richmond and JFK50 miler coming up. He said he was fine with whatever pace I wanted. He also mentioned his longest training run was 15 miles. Sadly I haven't had a training run in about 7 months, but I have had some marathons which hopefully could help me:-). We decided to just go out and have fun. As we finished our race "lack of" strategy, the runners moved forward enmass and we joined in.
The first part of the course was a lap around the City Island. I was really lucky, Dave had run this marathon last year (with my encouragement because he had been unable to finish Chicago due to the excessive heat). When he was discouraged about the race, I suggested that he might consider a race about 3 weeks after Chicago and Harrisburg fit well. Last year I could not run Harrisburg because it was the day after the Richmond Marathon; however, in retrospect considering the course I should have driven up Sunday morning and cheered him on. This course is very spectator friendly. After a lap on the island we headed out to a river walk and went East/South along the river.
During the out and back portion of this section we saw the first place runners. They were quick! On the "out" section, we ran facing the wind then looped around and then headed back to City Island for another lap the Island. City Island was really cute. It has some Christmas decorations, a mini-golf course, a small train, a carousel, a baseball field and lots of other activities that I assume make for a fun place to go in warmer seasons. At the begining and the end of our lap on the Island, Davids mom and stepdad were cheering enthusiastically with many others runners familys. Pretty soon we were back running along the river in the opposite was as earlier in the race. It was really pretty. But the wind was at our face the entire time. Somehow when we had faced the wind before we had been behind 3 guys. I think they had been acting as a windbreak which had made it easier. Around mile 18 I mentioned to Dave that perhaps we should have run single file for bits and drafted off each other. But alas we did not--guess we just wanted to make our race as challenging as possible.
Dave having run this race before warned me that after a beautiful section along the river and another section through some residential properties, we would go through a not so nice industrial section. He was right. But it all went relatively quickly because we were busy catching up. We talked about races, life in general, our family and our friends. It was just a great time and is the spirit of running that I enjoy so much. As we ran we would pass and be passed by a handful of runners. We chatted with many of them as we traded positions. One of the runners we ran with had run many 100 milers. Dave found it highly amusing when we were talking about 100 milers as: "easier" (such as Umstead, Lean Horse or Heartland) "manageable" (Vermont 100) or "harder" (Wasatch, Western States, Hardrock). I guess until you run a 100 miler you don't realize that there definitely is an ordering depending on the terrain, support, likely weather, etc.
As we continued running we kept up a pretty good conversation. Dave talked about some of his charity events including a bike ride with Lance Armstrong to raise funds for cancer research. We also talked about Dean Karnazes. I have been really lucky in the DC area to have run a few fun runs with Dean and also attend some book signings or talks. Dean is just an amazing athlete but just so kind and makes you believe in yourself. Both Dave and I really think this is a wonderful quality and really does serve as inspiration to so many.
As we headed through the industrial park, we briefly saw Tristan. He was running quickly. It was not clear how far ahead of us he was; however over the next several miles it became clear he was at mile 18+ when we were barely at mile 14. But I don't think Tristan had as great a time as us. As we made it to the end of this out and back Dave mentioned we had some hills coming up. He did not make it clear that we had some "HILLS" coming up. At the turn around point we saw his family and they were cheering us on. They also had lots of food, beverage and treats. I had a half banana and Dave had a little bit of food and beverage. We had less than 10 miles to go! But I was oblivious to the mountain range we were about to stumble upon.
Well, in my innocence I happily jogged along. We were running at points with a bunch of different people. They all were friendly and was a great day! Right before we got to the park, we saw his mom & step dad. They had found some chalk and wrote "Go David and Tammy" it was my first chalk sign and it made me happy. We took pictures and chatted briefly. But soon enough it was time to get back to running (bad decision in retrospect). We head around the lake and we get to the biggest mountian I have seen in the last few days. Apparently I was supposed to know there were a series of hills in this section. I did not. Also, Dave seriously never made it clear how big these mountains were! The entire back of the lake was either up or down. A nice feature of the lake is that there is a visitor center. We had just used the porta-potty about 3 minutes before we got to the visitor center, otherwise I would have made use of it (I love running water in my bathrooms).
After the lack we started retracing our steps through the residential area and then along the river. At this time we were going slowly but to me at least it was bittersweet. It meant our time together was coming to a close. It was so nice to be able to hang out Dave, run and just enjoy being in the moment. I always think during every marathon how lucky I am to know and have run with many wonderful people. I am so blessed to have my health, a great family that supports me and to know such wonderful people.
As our run continued we continued our conversation. We talked about upcoming events including Dave's next marathon, perhaps the Pittsburg Marathon. My lofty running goals: marathons, 50 milers and 100 milers. We talked about doing Niagara Ultra 50 km in June and I am feeling optimistic that Dave may sign up. I think he and Melanie would have a nice time and that race really treats the runners very well.
All too soon, we were back on the Island. I think Dave was happy to be so close to the finish. He was really tough but it was obvious he was in pain. His mom was cheering using a cone as a loudspeaker. Tristan was there as well clapping and cheering. It was time for our "victory lap". Less than half a mile later we were finishing. Crossing the finish line was just amazing. Running a marathon with a person you have run every step is special. We went through the ups and downs, the head winds (and the lack of tailwinds...I still can't understand how we never had the wind at our back!). It was great to finish together.
It was just a wonderful day which I will cherish forever!


Jamie Donaldson said...

Sounds like a great race! Congrats to you and Dave. I get kind of the same feeling when I match up with someones pace during an ultra. It makes it a lot of fun to run with someone. Have a great week and enjoy the candy!

CTmarathoner said...

Tammy --you are unstoppable!! BTW, it sounds like you are on your way to running all 50 states. I agree -it is very special indeed when you can run with and catch up with a special friend. I hope your friends does some more of the same races your do. So you are running the Richmond marathon the week before JFK?? Well, why not -good training for Umstead.
Funny about 100s -- so true.