Sunday, December 6, 2009

2 hours until the last marathon...

It's 0408hrs in Las Vegas and the sky is black, the air is cold (33 degrees), and the Strip is completely blocked off with police cars and race officials. In two hours and seven minutes, the gun will go off and the final marathon of this ten race, twelve month campaign will be underway. 

I've had mixed emotions about this race in the weeks leading up to it. I've had little if any time to focus on the logistics, or anything really having to do with the race itself. Work has been relentless and my drained body is struggling to multi-task more than two items at this point. That said, client needs won out completely, and Vegas has been an after-thought at best. Once you land here though, it's impossible not to be taken in by the 'Vegas experience.'

The course itself is perfectly flat and despite a meandering tour around the Strip--which amazingly, will be entirely closed off to traffic--the full marathon course winds through the desolate communities and desert landscape that surround the glitz, glamour and neon lights of this poker-fueled desert oasis. I must say, Elite Racing has done an excellent job putting together not only a Vegas-centric course, but also a first-class event in general. Dan Cruz, the PR director for the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon series, is one of the hardest working guys in the business and it's reflected by this inaugural race selling out in spectacular fashion. 

Right now, my eyes are welling up from the Icy Hot on my legs, and the Vicks Vapo rub on my congested chest, throat and sinuses. My body is exhausted and since the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 25, it's been revolving more and more each day. Tired turned to fatigue. Aches turned to consistent pain. Motivation...well, that hasn't changed. I have the same clarity of purpose this morning, that I did on January 25th down in Miami as I was waiting to start the first of ten marathons. There, the air was warm, the city lights were bright, my head was shaved, the excitement was palpable. Now, eleven months later, the air is cold, the lights are bright, my hair has grown out, the excitement is building, but the bouncing, nervous legs of January, have been replaced by a sense of peace, pride, and dedication to the fulfillment of a promise I've made to young service men across the country.

Twelve months, ten marathons, thousands of miles, dollars, smiles, tears, Aleve, icebaths, Icy Hot, hugs, high fives, low tides, midnight cramps, Nikes, 180s, Nasal strips, workout logs, break-ups, make ups, shreaded shoes, broken hearts, and uplifted spirits, I can finally see the proverbial finish line in sight. It will take me quite a while to wrap my head around the totality and depth of this transformative journey--both intellectually and emotionally. To say it's been an experience, would be a dramatic understatement. Until then...

26.2 miles to go.

Doug Eldridge
DLE Sports

Monday, November 2, 2009

Race Recap: Marine Corps Marathon

The ninth marathon in this ten-race journey brought me back home to Washington, DC for the Marine Corps Marathon. Besides being a much-anticipated return to home soil, it was a poignant and steadfast reminder of just why I started the 10-12-100 Campaign in the first place.

Service and Sacrifice.

The race started under clear, but cool skies. After losing 11lbs during last year's race, I was appreciative of the temperatures and despite dead, heavy legs, I was optimistic about the day ahead. I decided to pop in and run with the 8min pace group (3:29:45 end time) and it was a decision that paid off in large part. Why? For a couple reasons, all of which are best explained by what is a literal transcription from my private pre-race notes and goals in my training log:

MCM: Race #9--Sun. Oct. 25, 2009

1. Run sensibly, finish strong. 

2. Run under 3:35 [Note: on dead, ever-sore legs, that'd be a 3min PR from last year and still keep me in the general 8min pace vicinity I've targeted for all 10 of these marathons.]

3. Beat Mayor Fenty

The first two might seem self-explanatory and in large part, they are. The third, however, is a personal point of pride. You see, Fenty passed me during last year's race at mile 25.5 and then again earlier this year at the National Marathon in Washington, DC at mile 24. Each time, he did so with effortless cool, which for any athlete, that's the worst way to get overtaken; with the steely look of effortless precision. 

Objective one: Check. Finished strong

Objective two: Check. Ran 3:32:34

Objective three: Check. In a poetic twist fate, I passed the good mayor at mile 24, as his wheels slowly began to fall off.

While it might seem like I'm making light of the race, at this point, that's all I have left. My body is exhausted. I can't find anymore time in the day. My personal relationships have suffered and I'm pretty sure I've developed a twitch or shake in the process. To make jokes is what keeps it light. 

The levity of the situation was with me every step of the way. All the way down to mile 25.5. I'd just passed the mayor and in so doing, I wove between the west side of the Pentagon and the steep hill at Arlington National Cemetery, where my father is buried and was overlooking the scene on that day. The weight on my heart could only be displaced by laughing out-loud at the insanity of this year-long undertaking.

As I crossed the finish line, I realized that this was perhaps the most sane I have ever been. Sure, blurry with pain, but no less certain of purpose. 

Each step has a reason. Each finish line has a purpose. Each laugh, and tear, and ice-pack is a reminder of what and who I am doing this for. 

Nine down. One to go.

Doug Eldridge
DLE Sports

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Marine Corps Marathon: 2 hours away

The temp is right around 50 degrees and I hear the wind whipping outside my window across a dark Arlington skyline. Yet in just over two hours, the gun will sound and some 28,000 people will charge off in their own mission of commitment, fatigue, challenge, exhaustion and accomplishment. The Marine Corps Marathon is upon us.

For me, this will be the 9th marathon in this 10-race campaign. It has been a long journey and with the completion of this race, we'll be one step closer to our goal. I've travelled across the country trying to spread the message of hope and support for our wounded servicemen returning home from a tour abroad. I have done television, radio, newspaper, magazine, internet and podcasts. 

I have run eight marathons in eight states across four time zones over ten months.  

I have met soldiers with the stone-faced resolution that could only come from a 18-year old boy that is about to be shipped off to war and I have seen the unbounded joy, and tears of happiness that come from men and women as they return from abroad to the loving embrace of friends, family, spouses and loved-ones. 

As I type this, every inch of my body is sore and tired. My eyes are watering because I have put so much icy hot on my quads, hams, knees and hips. I'm sitting with an ice pack on my left knee and a can of 180 Energy Drink at my side. This has been a campaign of advocacy, yet this last week has been rather introspective leading up to my hometown race.

The troops in service, the monuments to those who have fallen, the colors and the presence of those who stand watch over us and our liberty and freedom as we sleep at night. They're all here on display during the Marine Corps Marathon. 

My head was clouded and my heart was full yesterday morning, so I went and sat down for a talk with my long-time confidant, my father. As you drive across the cobblestone entry way and make a left through the iron gates to Arlington National Cemetery, you are overcome with a sense of reverence, peace and patriotism. Each of the marble headstones is arranged symmetrically so that no matter what direction you look, they form perfectly straight lines. Among the soldiers, there are no unique or ornate headstones. Each is a marble template with name, DOB, DOD, service recognition medals, wars fought and religious affiliation. Officers are buried next to the Enlisted. Catholics next to Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Protestants. Black next to white. Young next to old. It is the epitome of the military. Some color, same flag, same mission, same commitment.

My father, was laid to rest on top of a hill, which overlooks the western side of the Pentagon. Ironically, the very side where in 2001, terrorist highjacked a commercial US airliner and drove it into our nation's military headquarters, some three days after my father died following a valiant battle with a brain tumor. 

So there I stood. The wind was blowing. The air was humid. The rain was coming in. 

We had our talk. I spoke my mind. I listened to the blowing wind. I found my peace.

So today, as we wind through the closing miles of the Marine Corps Marathon, we will actually pass between the western side of the Pentagon and the hilltop where my father, and thousands of his fallen brothers will be looking down on us. All of us. It is no coincidence that this comes at mile 25, with barely one mile remaining in an agonizing 26-mile endeavor. 

Courage is not blind. Commitment is not conditional. Service does not come without sacrifice.

To those who have fallen. To those who have returned. I salute you. One mile at a time.

Doug Eldridge
DLE Sports

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Recent Media Coverage

This last week has been a busy week for DLE Sports. Between meetings with current and future clients, hours and hours on the phone with NFL personnel, a Thursday night fundraiser, a Friday television interview, and the hundreds of other details, that don't merit listing or otherwise mentioning, this week has flown have the six weeks since I completed the eighth marathon of this campaign, in Colorado Springs over Labor Day.

By this time tomorrow, I will be six miles into my ninth race, the Marine Corps Marathon. Being a local race, and because of the military sponsorship and tremendous presence, the 10-12-100 Campaign received more coverage this week across the DC media landscape:

News Channel 8: Let's Talk Live. Yesterday (Fri. Oct. 23, 2009) we went live in the studio to do the lunchtime show. Natasha and Doug made a very conversational and warm atmosphere and Courtney did a great job setting up the entire piece. I enjoyed being in studio and having the chance to talk about this campaign and the young, injured soldiers we are working so hard to benefit. Click below for the link, and then just click on the teaser for the "10 marathons" piece. 

The Springfield Connection. This was my local newspaper, growing up. It's funny how things come full circle sometimes. I used to scour this paper for their broad coverage of high school sports. Now as a 31 year-old man, I'm reading it for a different reason. 

The DC Examiner. The connection used to come to the edge of our driveway when I was young. The Examiner, is available just outside our office. This segment was called the "3 Minute Interview" and ran in yesterday's edition. 

The Docket. This was my law school newspaper and our campaign was the cover story. 

It's been a busy week and tomorrow will certainly prove to be an inspirational, motivational and very emotional 26-mile venture. I have invested thousands of dollars, thousands of hours, and thousands of drops of blood, sweat and tears in this campaign. I can only hope that others will be inspired to action and join in our efforts.

I cannot do this alone.

Doug Eldridge
DLE Sports

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Back from Orlando

Last week I was all over the map. Literally.

In the early part of the week, I was in Alabama scouting some college football players and getting to spend some much-needed time with my 93 year-old grandmother, Honey Bunch. On Thursday, I drove back to Atlanta and hopped a plane for Orlando, Florida and more specifically, the hidden academic paradise that is Rollins College. 

Some time ago, I was contacted by JC Beese, who is a student at Rollins and a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity. JC had expressed an interest in the 10-12-100 Campaign and said that he would like to know how he could help the cause. When I told him that word of mouth was the best thing (short of writing a check) that anyone could do, the young man took my words to heart. Not long thereafter, he contacted me again and said that he had raised the issue with his fraternity brothers at their weekly chapter meeting and that it was unanimous consent that Phi Delt would dedicate their annual charity reception to the Wounded Warrior Project, via this campaign. 

For those of you who have never been to Rollins, it is located in Winter Park and sits on one of the many beautiful lakes which cover the Orlando area. The trees have spanish moss hanging from their limbs, the buildings are stucco with spanish tiles, while the narrow streets are packed with small boutiques, great restaurants, ample BMWs and Benz, and a surprising youthful presence given the relatively small 2,000 student population. Regardless, it's a virtual oasis, equipped with an outdoor pool, which--thanks to the cooperative south Florida weather--is frequented by the student body almost year round. 

You get the point, the setting was pristine. 

The event was well organized, well publicized and consequently, well-attended by both students and members of the Board of Trustees. I enjoyed talking to all of them as we sipped a beer and had some great BBQ off the grill. The evening was a tremendous success, and was an outstanding example of what I have said all along:

It's only one man running these marathons, but it takes an army of supporters in order for this mission to succeed.

J.C. Beese and the brothers of Phi Delta Theta are a shining example of that. Patriotism has no partisan preference, or geographical limitations. It is not the car we drive, the views to which we subscribe, or in this case, the major we choose to study. 

It's simply who we are as Americans.

A very special thank you to Phi Delta Theta, JC Beese, Courtney Beese and the administration at Rollins College for putting this event together. Your attention to detail and commitment to excellence were obvious to everyone there and in the process, we raised both awareness and funding, in an atmosphere that was enjoyed by all. 

Thank you for all your hard work.

Doug Eldridge
DLE Sports 

Friday, September 25, 2009

Race Recap: Colorado Springs

I'll keep it brief. 

In a word: ugly.

As I mentioned in postings leading up to the American Discovery Trail Marathon--which was held on Monday, Sept. 7 in Colorado Springs--I live and train at sea level, here in Washington, DC. By contrast, 'the Springs' is over 7,000 feet above sea level. When I say I'd feel winded after a long flight of stairs, I'm not kidding. The elevation made a huge difference and it was felt from mile one of the 26 mile race. 

What started out at 8-minute pace gradually rose to a semi-comfortable 8:30 pace. By mile 14 I was averaging 8:30 overall (meaning the last couple miles had slid into 9-minute range). The wheels fell off this apple cart by mile 16 and by mile 17 I needed the meat wagon. Perhaps ugly is an understatement. It was a battle of attrition, a fight for the willing, replete with multiple instances of self-questioning: why am I doing this to myself?! This is beyond painful!

To back up, the reason it hurt so bad was the thin air. Here's why: at elevation there are less oxygen molecules per cubic milliliter of air. By contrast, at sea level where the air is thick, there is a lot more oxygen in each gasp of air we take, so we don't need to breathe as hard to get the oxygen into our lungs and muscle groups. For it is this "oxygen deprivation" (the relative absence of oxygen molecules) that creates muscle fatigue and cramping and eventually leads to the gasping, panting, and the hands on knees position to which all athletes are painfully familiar. When the air is then, there are less oxygen molecules per inhalation, meaning you have to take 1.5-2 full breaths for every breath you would take at sea level. The increased respiration rate eventually leads to an increased heart rate, as the breathing and the beating go hand in hand. Over a long enough time line (such as 26 miles) this leads to increased fatigue--both muscular and cardiovascular. Consequently, at altitude, mile 16 mentioned above felt like mile 22 usually does at a sea level marathon. Therefore, the dead man shuffle I'm usually reduced to at mile 22 came much earlier and I was in a fist fight over the last 10 miles, instead of the last four miles. 

I crossed the line in 4:12 and was totally and completely wiped out. (Note: this was 30 minutes slower than my slowest time previously and was 40 minutes slower than my fastest time of the campaign!) Colorado Springs was difficult, but in a way that was very different from the previous seven marathons. It was almost like comparing apples and oranges. I took 10 days off afterwards (off from running, not from cardio) and only recently began jogging easy. The recovery time is getting longer and longer after each of these ten marathons. 

I'll do 60 minutes tomorrow and will get back into the swing of things next week. I still need to see Natalie at Schrier Physical Theraphy to get back in alignment (and therefore alleviate this knee and low back pain) but I also need to get my sleep, diet and training back on line. 

This is a hectic time of the year for me with NFL placement, college recruitment, client maintenance, and now marathons and fundraisers. The good thing is that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel...even if it is rather faint. Marine Corps Marathon is now one month away (to the day) and I am hell-bent on beating Mayor Adrian Fenty, who unceremoniously passed me at mile 25.5 of last years MCM and mile 23 of the National Marathon, which was the third of ten marathons in this campaign and was held her in DC this past March. He's in good shape this year, so I'd better get back to it, and quick!

That said, I'd better run...

Eight down. Two to go.

Doug Eldridge
DLE Sports

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Colorado TV Interview

Below is an interview I did with Fox 21 in Colorado Springs two days before the American Discovery Trail Marathon. Brittney Hopper came out and did the piece at the Broadmoor Hotel, which provided a beautiful backdrop for the shot, though a lot of it was eventually cropped out. Suffice it to say, the mountains, pond, swans, bridge, and various vacationing blue hairs made for an eclectic locale for a shoot. I enjoyed meeting Brittney and think she put together a great piece. Check it out and let me know what you think:

Doug Eldridge
DLE Sports