The Weatherman Predicted it Perfectly

I started Memorial Day morning at 6am at Youngstown’s Channel 27 WKBN. I was guest on The Morning Show with weatherman, host, and runner, Rich Morgan, who predicted a passing shower at 9am and then stopping before the first heat of the Memorial Mile at 9:35. He was exactly right. At 9:05, the heavy rain came and then finished by 9:30. The skies cleared leaving wet streets and a bunch of excited runners. Rich Morgan’s prediction of the weather was right on the mark.

This was the 18th year of The Memorial Mile in Boardman, Ohio. The race is put on by the gracious owners of JockStop, Lenny Krispinsky and Don Whitman, and race director and runner, Phil Pillin. I was joined by Anthony Velardocchia (you remember him as my pacer for my first race) who flew up to participate in the race. The challenge of the Memorial Mile is the sharp incline around the middle of the race. Phil told me before the race that it is a very deceiving course – and he is right. Once you topple the incline, you still have 1/3 of the race to go. Only one participant was able to break 4:40 on this course this year. I finished 6th overall and the first Master’s runner in 4:47. When the elite heat is finished, the Memorial Day parade began down the same course. It was a wonderful day to commemorate the troops past and present that have fought for our freedom.  Here is a photo of the gift that JockStop gave Anthony and I for making The Memorial Mile one of our stops on the 20/20/20<5@45 tour.

After the race, Anthony, Sekyen,and I flew back to Florida. I have a couple of days off before I fly across country to California for a race on June 1st. Here is a video from our time during the Memorial Day holiday…

McColloch’s Leap

Major Samuel McColloch’s famous leap in 1777 off the summit of the hill that overlooks the West Virginian city of Wheeling was the start of The Ogden Mile. To avoid an Indian onslaught, Major McColloch’s lept with his horse  surprising many that he survived and rode away from disaster. On the Friday evening of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, The Ogden Mile begins with a half mile downhill. My strategy of taking it easy on the downhill and accelerating on the flatter part of the course allowed me to avoid disaster, as well. I ran a negative split (not something I customarily do in the mile race) running 2:15 on the faster first half, and a 2:13 on the second half. I finished in 4:28 winning the Master’s division and the first place check. The 20K race that takes place on Saturday in Wheeling is undoubtedly one of the most difficult courses I have seen in the United States. With extreme uphill and downhill, I hope the participants have prepared properly for this challenging route.

Thanks to Stacie Nevelus, my trusty massage therapist in Sarasota and on my panel of Consultants, I was able to recover from the race in Austin. Coupled with my new pair of orthotics from my sponsor, Faklis Orthotics, my feet are starting to feel better. Stacie also gave me traveling “cups” and an air gun to suction certain trigger points. I always get my periformis and gluteus minimus “cupped” every week, but after a downhill race here I am suctioning my quads as well. I believe “cupping” began back in ancient Greece. Now massage therapists can be certified in this technique that reduces the pain in certain troubled spots before they dig in with their hands and elbows. Stacie will soon write a blog on the use of “cupping” and other of her recommended techniques before and after races.

Sekyen and I are spending the day in Pittsburgh on Saturday. On Sunday, we will pick up Anthony Velardocchia, the future fastest priest in America, who is joining me at The Memorial Mile on Monday morning. This two-day break will be my shortest turnaround between races this summer. Short rest might not be a big deal for younger runners, but for a 45 year-old runner, sufficient recovery is a key to five months of racing.


Twists and turns added to Congress Avenue Mile

I have always wanted to run the Congress Avenue Mile. It seemed like such a cool course. Starting at the Capital Building and running down the six-lane Congress Avenue, slightly downhill for about 1200 meters. It sounded like great fun…but when I arrived in Austin, I found out the disappointing news. Fox7 anchor, Dennis de la Pena, told me the news on Friday afternoon that Run Tex had to change the course due to Paramount Theaters having an earlier permit to use the upper portion of Congress Avenue. So Run Tex did what they could and made an out and back course with four turns and with the second quarter slightly uphill. This is not what I expected for the course, but after feeling “deflated” on Friday – it was time to center my focus to run under 5 minutes on this new course.

I won the Master’s Heat in 4:50 (the heat was 40-59 years old). Right behind me was Austin resident, Ros Hill, who also felt “deflated” on hearing about the course change. Ros and I did a cool down run together. He showed me the “old” course and the University of Texas football stadium. It was inspiring to meet Ros as he coaches older athletes to reach their own potential, can still dunk a basketball at 48 years old, and has a passion for art as well. I love the logo on his shirt for the older athlete “45 and Up.” I will have to return to Austin next year for the Congress Avenue Mile to not only defend my Master’s title, but also to finally run the “old” course from the Capital building .

I flew back to Florida on Saturday afternoon to prepare for two races next weekend. I race The Ogden Mile in Wheeling, West Virginia on Friday evening and then race the Memorial Mile in Boardman, Ohio. This will be my quickest turnaround time for recovery between two events this summer. My plan will be to “go low” on their quick course in West Virginia and hang on under five minutes in Ohio.

I have been having problems with my racing orthotic over the past month as it is not providing enough support. I actually ran the Congress Avenue Mile in my heavier training orthotic as I was feeling tightness in my heels due to plantar fasciitis (I had a bad case of it in 2003 after trying a light, small heel racing shoe). I do not want to feel that discomfort again, so I am trying to “nip it in the bud” and rebuild a new racing orthotic this week. Thanks to my sponsor, Faklis Orthotics, I will be pain-free very soon.

Greek hospitality for race #1!

Tarpon Springs, FL made the ceremonial first race a very special day. The course went from Faklis Department Store to the Sponge Docks. Twenty minutes before race time Fox News Show “Good Day” ran a LIVE feed to the start of the race. So I had a 4 minute interview with Good Day anchor, Ray Collins.

Vasile Faklis who put the whole event together said a few words, Father Michael blessed the proceedings, and Mayor Beverly Billiris inaugurated the event. The race was filmed by Bayou Productions. The film crew at Bayou Productions used a “clown car,” an electric, cool golf cart that goes 30mph down the road, to shoot the race. We had a police car leading the race and a policeman on a Segway following the racers. 

Running with me in the event was a few of Tarpon Springs finest young athletes: my race pacer was Anthony Velardocchia, a former Tarpon Springs high school cross country and track athlete who is now the assistant coach and will be attending Hellenic College in Brookline, MA in the fall.  We were graced by two beautiful runners, Marianna Karavokiros and Kailand Cosgrove. Marianna is a Tarpon Springs high school student who is a member of the Greek Junior National Track and Field Team. Kailand is also a Tarpon Springs  high school student who is a member of Team USA Triathlon team and is ranked #1 in the world in her age group (14-18) by USA Triathlon Association.


I followed Anthony down to the Sponge Docks and finished in 4:42. During the closing ceremonies, Tarpon Springs showered us with Greek gifts as we all received unique “Art In Granite” plaques to commemorate the mile event and Mayor Beverly Billiris donned each runner’s head with a traditional olive wreath.

I wanted to thank everyone involved with the event. It was truly a spectacular beginning to our summer journey. I could not have chosen a better place than Tarpon Springs to host the event and make us feel part of their close knit community.

I finished the day with a book signing at Faklis Department Store, lunch at the Greek Pizza Kitchen, and a boat tour of Tarpon Springs. Well, it’s 1 down and 19 more to go…see you all in Austin!

45th Birthday Time trial

A few of my friends got together to celebrate my 45th birthday on April 10, 2008. We started the morning at the Booker High School track doing a 1200 meter time trial trying to establish the rhythm I need for the mile. You will hear from a couple of my training partners who are turning 50 in 2008, Wayne Lee Johnson and David Putnam. Also, you will hear fom the Training Consultant, Ray Helsing, and watch Kim Sheffield, 40-44 Indoor National Champ in the 800 and mile, perform a few medicine ball exercises.