Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wherever You Are, There Is No Fog

Cindy has wanted to take a canoe ride on our lake while the fog was emanating from the warm water on a cold, fresh day. This past Saturday, we awoke to a cool, crisp day with the lake looking like something you would see in an eerie movie about a swamp monster wrecking havoc on a community from the depths of a lake.  Ahhh, the perfect time to canoe! Fog had enveloped the lake and the sun was just about to break the horizon. A brilliant splotch of light peaking through the trees to energize the fog and eventually disseminate it from the lake.

Casey, our dog has taken to riding in our canoe with us.  No small feat with him being a long, tall dog of 65 pounds.  He does stay still for the most part, follows the birds and geese and stays on the lookout for the swamp monster. with me in the back, I just make slight adjustments to my balance at times to accommodate his excitement.

We boarded the canoe and started our journey.  Cindy wanted to be in the middle of the fog to get the feeling of trolling through a Louisiana swamp in the silence of first daylight.  Only dueling banjos would have brought it to life even more.  Once we started canoeing, it seemed like wherever we were there was no fog, like it dissipated with the stroke of our oars and our radiant bodies.  She said, "I want to be in the fog."  I said, "wherever you are, there is no fog." Frankly, I had no idea if this was true or not but our initial venture to the lower end of the lake did seem to prove this. As the sun rose, the rest of the canoe ride was filled with brilliance, not in our mind brilliance, but in the physicality of nature and being in the middle of it, swamp monster and all.

After these pictures, I'll write about how this relates to running.  It is, after all, a running blog.

Sun peeking through at sunrise

On our way

The back of our house on the left

Two lone ducks amidst the fog
The foggy cove
Off the bow

Momma and dog

Casey boy enjoying the morning

Heading home


So after our foggy bottom journey, I went for an 11 mile run on the American Tobacco Trail, a fine trail that stretches 22 miles from Durham to Apex.  We live near the middle of the trail.  As I was running I thought about what I said to Cindy, "wherever you are there is no fog."  This is the essence of running.  Removing the fogginess from your brain to give you clarity in life.  In a run, "wherever I am there is no fog" only clarity.  I become a different person while running, more social, more engaged, a better problem solver.  The fog of the world lifts. In my mind I've created new businesses while running, solved complex work problems, volunteered for those in need or want, contemplated the bible, prayed with God and Jesus.  It is like the Johnny Nash song I Can See Clearly Now:

I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It's gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.
It's gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.

Oh, yes I can make it now the pain is gone.
All of the bad feelings have disappeared.
Here is that rainbow I've been praying for.
It's gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.

(ooh...) Look all around, there's nothing but blue skies.

Look straight ahead, there's nothing but blue skies.

This is what the day was like when I was on my run, a bright, bright sunshiny day, nothing but blue skies. Each step dissipated the foggy, noisy way of the world.  Quiet among the tall North Carolina pines, the pattering of footsteps on the trail and an occasional smile and good morning from other runners while their fog lifts.  Wherever they are there is no fog.

But, my biggest challenge is to bring that clarity back into a foggy, noisy world, a world where zero visibility is the norm while being constantly connected. In some case I have been able to meet the challenge, in others, not so much but will continue to try.  It is ironic that as connected as we are, we are ever further from reality and clarity.  Running is the one time of day that I can at least contemplate reality, truth, be a visionary, address my own deficiencies and sins and see the world as a bright sunshiny day. Running is not the only way to lift the fog but I will argue that some form of exercise outdoors lifts the fog from the valley. If you can't run (or hate it) then walk, hike, canoe, just something so that you are not a foggy bottom boy (or girl).

Wherever you are there is no fog.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 NIV

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

City of Unrest at Rest - Baltimore Marathon in Charm City

In April, Baltimore was a city of unrest due to the Freddy Gray incident.  I'll never understand, even in tragedy and unfortunate circumstances, why the people of a city destroy their own neighborhoods with fires, looting, violence, etc.  I even find it rather ridiculous that people do the same when their sports teams win the big title.  Who are these people with such anger, even in the wake of celebration, that results in communities being destroyed?  They are not the same people I saw lining the streets during the Baltimore Running Festival.  Or, maybe they are but the running festival brings out a different demeanor.  With the vivid exception of the 2013 Boston Marathon where violence from terrorism brought the pinnacle of marathons to its knees in prayer on Patriots day, marathons are joyous, harmonized events that bring people of all classes, religions, races, nationalities, political views, sexual orientations, etc. together as one unique symphony - united we stand (and run). Recently, Afghanistan held its first marathon and a woman (who are largely confined to the indoors) defied danger and went the distance. It was held in the safest area of the country but shows what marathons and running in general can do for a community, individuals, and equality.  In the good ol' USA, we take it for granted that the majority of runners, marathoners, half-marathoners are women.  My point to all of this is that running makes the world a better place.  It makes individuals happier people.  It harmonizes diverse groups. It brings peaceful attention to our concerns. It honors, in life and death, our loved ones. There is no other sport quite like it.  I am convinced that the world would be a better place if everybody ran.  I've posted this infographic before.  Granted, it is from a shoe manufacturer, but imagine if...everybody ran...

The Baltimore Marathon

With the unrest in April, Corrigan Sports Enterprises, the producer of the Baltimore Running Festival, and the City of Baltimore wanted to showcase that the city seen splattered all over the news in April was not the same city depicted in those violent images. Baltimore is nicknamed Charm City which was a promotional effort in 1975 (pre-harbor place, -aquarium, -science center) by then mayor William Schafer to change Baltimore's image.  Is it truly Charm City?

Being born and raised in Hagerstown, MD in the 1960's and 70's, Baltimore was not a place to venture to except to catch an Orioles game at the classic 33rd street memorial stadium.  Riots were everywhere during that time period of civil unrest, Hagerstown included, and care was taken when venturing into big cities.  My dad was born in Baltimore in 1919 in an area where lower income projects are now located.  The picture below shows the harbor in 1919. I suspect runners would have had to side-step horse manure along the course making it more of an urban trail run.

No, there was no Baltimore marathon in 1919.  The first Maryland Marathon was in 1973 and Bill Rodgers won the event in 1976. Dave Cooley ran 3 Maryland Marathons but more impressively produced and directed over 600 events in the Baltimore area.  He was tapped by Lee Corrigan of CSE to direct the inaugural Baltimore Marathon in 2001, just 30 days after the 9/11 attacks.  The inaugural Baltimore Marathon was just that, a marathon.  There was no other event that year.  It was going to be my second marathon and first since NYC in 1994.  However, it wasn't my first choice. I should say it wasn't our first first because my nephew, Shawn Doub (whose PR is on the Baltimore Marathon course at 3:36 in 2003), and I wanted to run the Marine Corp Marathon. It was sold out and the overflow of runners came to the Baltimore Marathon as we did.  To this date, the 2001 marathon has had the most number of finishers - 4,829.  It was also the hardest course presented and the drop-off of runners in 2002 by over half reflected this.  Little did I know that I would be running the marathon year after year for 15 consecutive years.

The Baltimore Running Festival

The BRF now  has an event for everyone - kids run, 5K, half-marathon, relay, marathon and in 2015, the .05 with 20,000 - 25,000 participants.  For a few years UnderArmour was the title sponsor and they still give unmatched technical shirts to the runners.  I still wear my inaugural shirt to the expo each year in support of the longevity of the event, the longevity of me running it and in memory of those lost on that tragic day - 9/11/2001-  as the shirt has a simple remembrance on the front.  As streakers (those of us who have run any event year after year), CSE has recognized us every 5 years and on the 10th anniversary, we were given the name of MoVeRs or Most Valuable Runners.  This year, on the 15th anniversary, was no exception.  There are now about 69 MoVeRs and 29 who have streaked the marathon.  CSE along with UnderArmour provided us a goodie bag likely worth around $300. But, it was the person who presented it to us at the expo that made it special.  Dave Cooley, the famed Baltimore race director mentioned above, who directed the event from 2001-2005 was there to chat with, sign autographs, and give us our goodies.  I wore my inaugural shirt and brought my 2001 bib for him to sign. He is 83 and I hope that I am that spry when I'm 83.

Dave (green shirt), me and another MoVeR
The goodies included an UnderArmour jacket with 15th anniversary logo, hat, $15 discount on merchandise, 2 free entries to the 2016 BRF, and VIP tent access at the finish.  Thank you CSE for recognizing us and our participation over the years.


The Expo is held either at the Baltimore Ravens stadium on the club level or the convention center.  The stadium provides for a unique experience but is getting more crowded.  The convention center allows for more room but takes the uniqueness away.  The stadium needed better guidance this year as the line to pick up half marathon bibs was extremely long but there was no guidance as to what the line was for.  I figured that it couldn't be for the marathon so I kept walking past it.  Sure enough, when I found the marathon line, I was the second runner in it. When the expo is at the stadium, I enjoy walking through Camden Yards and seeing all of the Orioles "stuff."  Growing up with the Orioles, it brings back some fond memories.  The walk down Eutaw street through the finish line lets you visualize and feel the line that needs to be crossed in the morning.

The UnderArmour sponsored race shirts were quite nice this year being their soft technical material with a brushed red finish.  The course runs in and around Underarmour's world headquarters at mile 11.

Pratt Street Ale House

It has now become tradition to have lunch at the Pratt Street Ale House and drink one of their cask ales.  It is difficult to find cask ales here in America and what better way to celebrate a marathon than with a cask ale.  The food here is also good.

Pratt Street Ale House
USS Constitution at Harborplace
Bromo Seltzer Tower - when you see it the finish is near
The Harbor
Brooks Robinson outside Camden Yards
Race Day

There are many things to like about this running festival.  I am big on smart logistics and the BRF has them.  The inner harbor is a wonderful place to visit even without a running festival.  There are plenty of hotels within walking distance of the inner harbor and the stadiums where the Ravens and Orioles play.  CSE has made sure that these areas remain the center of activity for the festival and takes advantages of the close proximity of area hotels.  When you arrive in Baltimore either by plane or car, there is no need to use a car after you get into downtown.  Everything, including the festival activities like the expo, start/finish lines, celebration village is all there.  I have stayed in 5 different hotels over 15 years and never had more than half mile to go to anything.  My biggest pet peeve with marathon logistics when determining which marathon to run relates to how conducive they are for convenience to me as a runner and ALSO to the person who cheers me on.  I have said this before but I cannot stand a course that starts at one place and ends like 5-8 miles away with the exception of point to point courses that take advantage of course highlights, topography, etc.  The Rock n Roll courses tend to be logistical nightmares for participants and spectators, like DC, New Orleans to name a couple.  Charleston, although not a Rock n Roll course is another non-nonsensical course.  The Baltimore marathon course is not a pure loop but a serpentine course that allows spectators to see their people at the start, mile 8, mile 13 and the finish. It highlights the good and the bad of the city, starting at Camden Yards, runs through the zoo, Druid Hill, around the harbor, through Underarmour, Federal hill, 33rd street, Lake Montebello, Johns Hopkins, near Little Italy and Fells Point to name a few and finishes in between Camden yards and Ravens Stadium.  It is not an easy course but a fair one.

Although I was looking forward to the marathon, I was unsure how the day would go.  I really had not run well since Montana in July and had some severe issues in Kauai for my 50th state in September.  I just kept the faith that I could get through the marathon.  I felt decent through the first 9 miles being right on a 4:20 pace which was also faster than what I had planned. The course then sent runners out 2 miles to UA Headquarters and back to the harbor for the half-way point.  Cindy was waiting between miles 8 and 9 and then at the half.  When I got to the half, I was starting to feel a little drained, again, not good for a marathon to be feeling like that so early.  I had her walk with me a bit, which was kind of an added touch, while I ate a banana.  I ran the half in 2:10 and still ahead of my projected finish.  Miles 13-16, to me, and as I heard others say are the worst miles mentally of this course.  They are flat but just kind of there. The excitement of the harbor at halfway is behind and the hardest pat of the course lies ahead.  these miles are like the calm before the storm.  I started to incorporate some walk breaks after mile 16 which is where the hills start to kick in.  I figured if I could keep the running up with minimal walk breaks, I would be fine.  It worked well up through about mile 22 and then I kind of fell apart again, the second marathon in a row where I would struggle to the finish.  It was still a great feeling running down Eutaw street, seeing the Bromo Seltzer Tower, the entrance to Camden yards, the serenity of the outfield between the warehouse and finally Cindy just outside the finish line.  They double barricaded the area around the finish so no hug or kiss this time.  I crossed the line in 5:05, the worst of my 15 Baltimore Marathons, a course I had run 3:47 on at one time.  My, how age and having 89 marathons on your body affects your times but I would not trade those experiences for anything.  I Did tell Cindy at the end that I thought I needed a break because it was becoming difficult to enjoy the 26 miles.  I realize that most of it is me.  I can't blame it all on age. I should be training better, eating better and maybe altering my running form to compensate for the aches and pains.  But truly, I don't want to stop.  I do enjoy even the worst days, the ones that show your character, the ones that require a faith beyond yourself but in God, the ones that preserve hope for the future.

I have run 15 marathons in 2 years including some of the most difficult marathon courses in the country.  We have traveled to Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming.  How can this not be fun?  It is fun but outside of the marathon, we make it fun also.  I guess fun is in the eye of the beholder.

So, back to the title of this post.  Events like this bring people together, not just the runners and their families but the people of the city including all the volunteers, citizens, police, and city workers, There was no unrest to be seen.  It was truly Charm City.  The people of Baltimore cheering us on, even in the worst areas, were welcoming and inviting, encouraging us with each step.  The police did the same and as I thanked them they were gracious in return with their smiles and accolades.  We were also told at the restaurant we went to that the police have a choice of either working or running on festival day.  I admire them being involved either way.  The city,even the media welcomes this day more than any other mid-sized city.  WBAL televises the entire marathon and people in the neighborhoods just love the worst parade ever.  It was rest, play and joy in a city that has known its share of unrest. That's what marathons do.


The start
Cannon of Confetti and Oriole man holding his flag 

Hope this guy did well - kind of felt for him

All dressed up and 26.2 to go!

Snipers at the start on the Hampton and Camden Yards

One last selfie

Protected by Baltimore's finest

Our penguin friend when running through the zoo.  I saw him in person, Cindy saw him on TV

The masses coming down St. Paul street mile 8.5

Oriole man - yes he runs like this every year

Half way

Cindy seeing the faster people from our hotel room

A casual stroll to the finish - yes I can still smile after 26 miles

Celebration dinner at the Rusty Scupper on the Harbor

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Rejoice, It Is Finished - Kaua'i Marathon and 50 States

I could have named this post "The Walking Dead" just as easily as from Jesus' last words upon the cross when he took a drink knowing that the Scripture had been fulfilled. "When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." John 19:30 NIV.  I could have given up my spirit many times in the Kauai Marathon.  It was by far my most challenging marathon.  The 15 year journey before it had its peaks and valleys running through the 50 states culminating in this run in paradise. But it was an extremely low valley that I had to run through in this marathon.

Kaua'i, the garden island, is paradise.  The overabundance of rain and sun make it a lush tropical garden with vibrant flowers, crashing waterfalls and piercing hues of green. One area in the middle of the island is one of the wettest spots on Earth with rain 340 days a year and an average of 384 inches.  Yet, the sunny south of Poipu (meaning hole in the sky) sees quick showers, enough to keep the garden lush and abundant sun.  Kaua'i is also the home of the only coffee plantation in the U.S., Kaua'i Coffee.  Kaua'i is also the oldest of the Hawaiian islands potentially dating back 5 million years. It has left the island with unparalleled beauty from its deep canyons like Waimea Canyon (the Grand Canyon of the Pacific) to the spires and caves of the gorgeous Na Pali Coast.  The cliffs around Shipwreck Beach in Poipu have been battered by high surf leaving jagged colorful volcanic ruins as backdrops to the best sunrises on the island.  We could not help ourselves but to get up every morning for the sunrise.  There is no better place to start a day.

Waves just outside of resort
Volcanic landscape
I joined the 50 states marathon club in 2005 after completing marathons in 10 states. Even then, my plan was to run the last of the 50 states in Hawaii.  At the time I wasn't sure where it would be although Maui appealed to me, having been there before.  Wherever it was going to be, I really wanted to finish somewhere in Hawaii to combine the finish with some rest and relaxation on a beautiful tropical island. The Kaua'i marathon started in 2008 and it wasn't long after, with some research, that it was the one I was going to target for my 50 states finish.

Going in, I knew that this was going to be a tough marathon with the predominant 3 H's; hills, heat and humidity.  Living in North Carolina and running through the soup of the summer, I thought, "How much hotter and more humid could it actually be than North Carolina?"  They have trade winds, right?  I am a terrible runner in humidity, particularly, high humidity combined with heat.  Then, when you add in the hills, it becomes the perfect storm for a disastrous day.  To say the least, from mid-July after Missoula to marathon morning in Kaua'i, I was concerned.  As it turned out, rightly so.

Kaua'i is a long, long trip from the east coast, nearly 17 hours of travel time and they are 6 hours behind east coast time since they do not observe daylight savings time.  I would suggest going a few days earlier to rest and adjust from the travel and time difference.

Landing in Honolulu
The Grand Hyatt Kaua'i is a wonderful resort and certainly one of the best places that I have stayed.  It also serves as the host hotel for the marathon.  The rooms are heavily discounted, much less than Boston or New York hotels.  We had an ocean view room with a balcony that overlooked the grounds and surf.  Since the surf was so high early in our stay, the sound of heavily crashing waves at night was like being serenaded to sleep. There are a myriad of restaurants from Hawaiian cuisine to Sushi to Italian to basic American.  The resort has a cascade of pools including a lazy river and a salt water lagoon.  It sits on shipwreck beach, not really conducive to swimming but has stunning views during walks, hikes and relaxation.  There is an open air terrace that serves drinks, light food, has nightly entertainment, and a resort cat that somewhat befriended us for breakfast.  A full-service spa is also on the grounds amid lush gardens.  The reason I wanted Hawaii as my last state was to not only enjoy a run in paradise but to vacation, rest, relax and have some fun as well.  We were happy that we made the Grand Hyatt our base hotel for the entire vacation. Later, I will show something very special that the Hyatt did for me in recognizing my 50 state achievement.

Room with a view
Sunrise -  a guy fishing
Crashing waves and Cindy
Heavy surf

Grand Hyatt from the lagoon
Resort bird
The Hyatt also held the marathon's expo.  Although relatively small, the marathon merchandise was top notch.  It was the most I had ever spent at an expo on the marathon's branded merchandise.  It was moderately priced and pretty special. Two of the prized items were beach towels and shirts with branded logos under the name imprinted in white of every participant in both the half and full marathons. Another item was a beautiful branded technical shirt done in blue with the Hawaiian islands on the back and a large rooster imprinted on the side wrapped around the front.  Chickens run wild and feral all over the island so it is appropriate that one adorns a marathon shirt.  The actual marathon shirt ran really small so size up to get the right fit.  I ended up buying a towel, two shirts, a hat and then a shirt and visor for Cindy. She is as much of this marathon process as I am in the most supportive way.

The Expo
A chicken trespassing
The two days prior to the marathon we just relaxed.  Friday was a pool day using the lower level pools and the slide.  I can't remember the last time I was on a water slide in a pool but this one was quite fun and fast.  With 6 hours time difference, we were also up early to see the beautiful sunrise over Shipwreck beach nearly every morning.  We just could not get enough of the sunrises over the jagged cliffs, harsh surf, and palm trees.  Saturday, after the sunrise and a short walk toward Poipu beach to catch 8-10 foot waves crashing on volcanic rock, we ventured to the Expo.  We decided to drive to Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific after the Expo and explore the west side of the island. As I mentioned earlier, the island gets a lot of rain so the farther we drove on the ridge of the canyon, the foggier and wetter it got.  There were breaks to tease us with the beauty of the canyon but we truly could not see much of it.  We were able to see one of the stunning waterfalls along the 14 mile long, 3000 feet deep canyon but not in all its glory.  That would come on our doors-off helicopter ride on Monday.  On our way back, we had some "shave ice", a giant snowball type thing packed with flavor over finely shaved ice.  And yes, it is actually called shave ice and not shaved ice.

The slide and Cindy
8-10 foot waves
Race day came early with a 6 AM start.  I would have even welcomed a 4 AM start.  I was still feeling nervous after now experiencing the humidity and heat for two days and knowing that the weather is more intense than North Carolina weather, particularly amidst their heat wave that was even making Hawaiians uncomfortable.  Obviously, this marathon, being my 50th state, had been on my mind for quite some time.  I wanted to make it special and dreamed of all kinds of things to do so before, during and after.  I know, in the grand scheme of things of life and death, it is not really a big deal.  It is really, as we would call it in sales, a so what kind of thing.  But, when you have spent about a third of your life (15 to 20 years for me) aiming to achieve something, no matter what it is, sticking to it, not quitting through the lows, enduring, persevering and meeting the challenge, then it becomes pretty special. So, here I am in Kaua'i with Cynthia Anne to make this special.

I wanted to wear something Patriotic to show that this was an American journey, running  a marathon in all 50 states, thus visiting this great country of ours in its entirety.  No, one doesn't have to run a marathon to do that.  Some people visit every state capital, some go to state parks, etc. However, I do think running a marathon in each state gives you a unique experience particularly when you combine the marathon with local culture.  I was going to wear a 50 States Marathon Club shirt for the finish but InkNBurn produced this wonderful Uncle Sam tuxedo type shirt that fit perfectly with the USA theme.

The start is at the Poipu shopping village, about 2 miles from the Grand Hyatt.  Shuttles ran from the Hyatt but only available to runners.  There was ample parking at or near the start (and finish) so we drove and parked along Plantation Road right across from the shopping village.  The spread for breakfast prior to the marathon was the best I had ever seen presented at a marathon.  As a a matter of fact, I've never seen breakfast at a marathon. We chatted with a few maniacs and 50 states finishers and then went about our normal routine.  The start was lead by fire dancers along tiki torch lighted Poipu road.  It truly looked like what an island marathon is supposed to look like.  Ironically, after my day, maybe even Survivor-like.

Waiting for the start
Almost time
Knowing that this was going to be a difficult marathon, even in the best of conditions, my strategy was to do 11 minute miles where generally I am between 9:45 and 10:15 these days.  Gosh, how age slows us.  Even for the first half, I could not hold an 11 minute per mile pace.  I ended up at nearly 12 minutes per mile which is unheard of for me.  I am typically between 9 and 10 minute miles for the half and a sub 2 hour half-marathoner.  For Kaua'i I thought that I would finish around the 5 hour mark seeing that the winner in my age group last year was around 4:25, my normal finish time for a marathon these days.  If I could have run that, I would have been about 35th overall.  The half marathon time of 2:36 was putting me outside of the 5 hour finish range.  I knew that I had the hardest part of the marathon ahead of me although the first half was no picnic.The second half was a walk, stop, walk not even a run, walk, run.  It took me nearly 4.5 hours to do the second half finishing in 7:04.  To this day, it is hard for me to fathom.

A depleted finish
So what happened?  In essence, it was the 3 H's, the perfect storm as described earlier.  But lets dissect it.  The first 7.5 miles was uphill so that was the first challenge.  Starting at 6 AM helped but the humidity was still high without the troubling heat.  I say without the heat but it was still over 70 degrees.  I managed the first 11 miles well, running 10:30's to 11:00's as planned.  All things considered I felt decent.  I took in water, Powerade and Gu in the appropriate amounts and times. At 7.5 miles, we got a reprieve from the hills for the next 3 miles.  I felt decent running downhill but I was starting to feel the effects of the humidity and hills and then I hit mile 10.8.  I say specifically mile 10.8 because this is where the half marathoners and the marathoners split.  They went downhill and we went uphill and hence the difference between running a half and a full. I've been "done" early in marathons before but not at mile 11.  For the next 3 miles I tried to combine running and walking and then I just gave out and resorted to walking.  Even when I tried to start running again, my body would not accommodate it.  I knew then that the mental struggle was going to be as difficult as the physical one.  The course continues to climb through miles 16-17 with some downhill areas although few and far between.  The sun was also hot and there was no shade.  At mile 19, on a prolonged uphill, I knew I was in trouble.  this is where I seriously considered a DNF.  In 88 previous marathons, not only have I never DNFed but I hadn't even had to consider it.  My upper back was aching but more than that, my muscles just didn't want to move and I started feeling nauseous  now thinking that digestion was shutting down.  I have had that feeling before in Ultras and knew it was to become a problem.  The only other time I had thrown up in a marathon/ultra was in Clearwater on a very humid Florida morning and I did it just after crossing the finish line. Bad, bad, bad.  I continued my trek up the hill and thinking I might be at the top turned a corner to more hill.  More hill please! I passed some local residents who were cheering on the runners. I ventured halfway up the hill to 20 miles and then needed to sit on a guardrail as I felt like collapsing.  As I sat, one of the race volunteers on a scooter attended to me and asked if I was OK.  I said that I thought so but asked for some ice.  As I sat for a few minutes, I could tell that I was going to be sick.  I must have thrown up 5 times at that point removing nearly everything from my stomach. The more I did, the better I felt. The thought of DNF still crossed my mind.  The resident came to my aid as well with a wet towel and more ice.  the volunteer helped with the ice and gave me some more fluid.  I decided to keep going.  Another crew of runners came by and one happened to be another guy finishing the 50 states, the guy who couldn't get bib 50 because I requested it just days before he did back in October.  He was encouraging and said to keep it going and said to the volunteer, "don't let him stop."  Miles 20-22 were downhill and I felt better.  Even the volunteer who was sort of watching after me said that I had a little more spring in my step.  It was still not a running type of spring but enough to keep going.  There was a slight hill at mile 22 and it seemed that anytime I had to go uphill, I became exhausted and taxed. At mile 22, the same volunteer asked an aid station crew if i could sit under their tent for a few minutes.  I sat down, head nearly between my legs and felt the nauseousness again.  I stepped away behind a bush and let go again, throwing up 3 times.  I am sure it wasn't pleasant for the volunteer aid crew to listen to but at least I went out of sight. Being closer to the finish, I knew that I had to keep going.  The scooter lady said that there were only two more small hills around mile 23.  So, off I go to get to the finish.  I was worried about Cindy worrying about me.  I did not have my phone.  As I write this now, I am thinking I should have just borrowed one to call her - stupid me.  The small hills came and went at mile 23 and the course finally started to go downhill and flattened out.  Of course, by this time I was a dead man waling, zombie march, you name it.  I got to mile 25 and started to feel really bad and saw an actual aid van.  I walked over and they asked if I am OK.  I said that I wasn't sure but did they have any ice.  They got me some ice, packed it under my hat and on my neck. I was sitting on the side of the van and then went down to the ground to sit.  Nauseous again, I went to the back, walked over behind a tree and threw up again.  I heard them say to another scooter volunteer, "we could take him down to the finish" and the other one say, "but he is so close to finish."  Obviously at this point, there was no way I was going to come up 1 mile short of a 50 states finish.  Although the upside would have been that I would need to come back to Hawaii to run again - OK maybe that would not be such upside. I told them that I had thrown up before and each time I felt better afterward.  So, again, I continue my journey for the last mile seeing some familiar buildings and then the beautiful ocean-side finish.  A scooter guy came by and told me Cynthia was waiting.  I felt bad because she had to wait so long and didn't know my status.  I turned a corner, ocean waves crashing on one side and the finish line in sight.  I could not even garner enough energy to run through the finish - first time ever.  There was hardly anyone there, some cheerleaders who I high-fived and Cynthia Anne who I hugged.  An announcer still called out my name and accomplishment - All 50 states.  I guess it is fitting that this final 50 states marathon was the toughest and took the most grit and determination to get to the finish.  Thank you volunteers and residents for helping me throughout.

Looking good from the start
Lush green in the first few miles
The day brightens
Sunrise at mile 5
The finish is truly beautiful
Says it all
Finally to the finish and still people cheering - I didn't finish last
After an IV in the medical tent

After crossing the finish line, I went straight into the medical tent initially to sit down a bit and  to get more ice. They asked if I wanted an IV and I said no.  I have never had an IV for any reason.  Once they learned that I had thrown up multiple times and was cramping, they suggested I get an IV.  As it turned out, I needed two.  I felt much better after those infusions.  We went back tot he hotel and I napped.  Usually we go do some other activity like hike, take in a zoo, etc. but those 7 hours were enough for both Cynthia and me.  She is a trouper and is always there at the finish and is in essence, why I keep striving for the finish.  God was with me this day for something as trivial as a marathon.  When I was walking along I kept thinking of the fleeing refugees walking hundreds of miles with their belongings and kids just for one iota of a better life.  There was no reason for me to quit from something as minuscule as a marathon when they are waling for their lives.  We are so blessed living in this country and the life and opportunities that we have.  All said and done, I would still highly recommend this marathon as a destination marathon.

Engraved Koa wood box given to me by the Grand Hyatt (Bryce Bertoli) for my 50 states achievement - quite special
The rest of our vacation was quite special with a doors off helicopter ride (Mauna Loa Helicopter tours) over the entire island, a venture to a beach to enjoy some surf, a catamaran snorkel sail (Capt. Andy's) to the Na Pali coast and then a zip line safari (Outfitters Kaua'i) that involved flat water kayaking, hiking, platform and swing jumping into fresh water ponds and zip lining (800 feet and 1800 feet.)  We also did a 4 mile hike along the ragged coast of shipwreck beach to a secluded beach where a endangered monk seal was lounging.  On our snorkel trip we saw spin dolphins and sea turtles. We toured the only coffee plantation in the United States - The Kaua'i Coffee company. The island's beauty was everywhere and we tried to take advantage of it at every opportunity.  There were over 2000 pictures taken (darn those digital cards!) wo I had to choose a few to show the beauty.

Fantasy Island falls - appeared on the show
Cynthia Anne

 These photos were taken from our helicopter tour.

Ready for our doors-off helicopter tour
Jurassic Falls - yes from the movies

Waimea Canyon

Falls are truly spectacluar
Na Pali Coast, maybe the most beautiful coastlines in the world
Na Pali Coast
Na Pali Coast
Na Pali Coast
Na Pali Coast
Jurassic Falls from a different camera :)

Twin falls

These photos taken from our catamaran snorkel trip

Sea turtle
Spinner dolphins - they were everywhere
More spinners
The Na Pali coast from the boat
Beautiful cave
The spires
Sailed right along the coast

Cindy sporting the island chicken hairdo

These photos were taken on our zip line safari - kayaking, hiking, zip lining, swimming  

Flat water kayaking down Huleia Stream
I'm doing the work as Cindy is taking the picture :)
Fountain of youth - we used a rope to swing into the middle and jumped in
Look for the sleeping guy in the mountain
Geared up to go zip lining (800 and 1800 feet zip lines
First look - only 800 feet
Double zip line 1800 feet - gravity stop - few hundred feet in the air
Not us here but we did the same thing and also used the upside down technique
We jumped off the 18 foot platform on the left here
Hiking back
These photos were taken on our hike on the Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail, the most beautiful hike that we did on the island.

Heading to that beach way over there
Made it and we were the only ones there except for the Monk Seal
I hope to properly write about my 50 states adventure and truly all of my marathon adventures.  So what's next?  I'll be running my 15th consecutive Baltimore Marathon in October while celebrating their 15th anniversary.  With 89 marathons after Baltimore, my next quest will be 100.  I am also at 96 marathons/ultras.  I can't run fast, relatively speaking, any longer but I can certainly still run and as long as I can beat the finish cutoff time and be healthy doing it, I'll keep going and Cynthia will be my rock.

Wild island pigs/boars

Loved this lighthouse picture on the east side of the island
Grand Hyatt
Sunset from our dinner
Fine vacation