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

Friday, September 11, 2009

8 Years

Everyone remembers where they were eight years ago today. On that clear September morning terrorists hijacked four planes and created human missiles, killing nearly 3,000 Americans in less than three hours. One plane flew into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, a second flew into the South Tower, a third was directed toward Washington, DC and exploded into the west side of the Pentagon, while the fourth and final plane was driven into an abandoned field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

I can remember that morning like it was yesterday. I was on my bike, finishing an early morning training ride. At that point, I was two weeks into my first year of law school, but more significantly, my father--a retired Colonel and career Army officer--had died three days earlier on September 8th, after a valiant battle with a brain tumor. My world was already upside down and the ride was intended to be cathartic. As I got home, I turned on the television to pick up live coverage of the attacks. I immediately thought it was a prank in the vein of an Orson Wells, War of the Worlds broadcast. Every channel was running coverage. The first plane had just hit the North Tower. At that point, commentators were openly debating whether or not it was an errant plane that had flown off course. No sooner did they say that, then I saw the second plane fly into the South Tower on live television. It was surreal. 

Time stopped. I was already in a fog that morning and the two days prior to that, but when you see events unfolding before your very eyes that look like a scene from a Hollywood film, it takes your breath away. Forty minutes later, Flight 77 hit the side of the Pentagon, less than two miles from my law school. It was an all-out attack. Twenty seven minutes after the Pentagon explosion, the news commentators reported that a fourth plane had just crashed in a Pennsylvania field. It was sometime later that we discovered that American passengers had valiantly stormed the hijackers and forced the plane into the ground, sealing their own fate, but saving the lives of everyone in Congress, the White House, or both--each was the presumed final target of the militant terrorists. 

The objective? Crumble our financial markets, destroy our elected political leaders, and drive a plane into our center of national defense, all while striking fear and terror into the hearts of a captive American television audience that numbered in the hundreds of millions.

Those images ran over and over on television and yet despite the repetition, they never became real. Families huddled around their set, entire offices gathered in a single cubicle, by-passers stopped in stunned amazement outside of electronics stores--each group was paralyzed with disbelief at the acts which they had just witnessed, all the while wondering about the untold number of American lives that were lost in the process. 

Like so many things, it seems more recent than eight years ago. At some point time loses meaning, or at the very least, it loses perspective. In this case, no period can pass where this day will be meaningless. No event can transpire where this will not evoke tears, anger, nausea, and that fleeting sense of helplessness that we all experienced eight short years ago. 

News stations are no longer supposed to run the footage. We are supposed to be in a "time of healing" and some have claimed that by replaying the footage we are rehashing and reopening a wound that we otherwise want so desperately to heal. As the smoke hung over Ground Zero, we were a bruised and battered nation, and yet within hours, we rose from the rubble with a resolute determination, a heightened sense of patriotism and commitment to our fellow man, and a clear sense and consciousness that our liberty, democracy, and freedom are an intimidating threat to many people around the world. 

Today, eight years later, our armed forces and intelligence community have captured and/or killed many if not most of the alleged masterminds behind the brutal attacks that killed so many helpless Americans on September 11th. As we move forward, these actions provide comfort, if not some sense of revenge, and yet some things will never be forgotten, some things can never fully be made whole. 

To our troops abroad that continue to hunt down, capture and bring to justice all those that would do similar harm to our country--we thank you. For without your dedication to our continued protection, we would continuously fall victim to any and all such attacks upon our citizenry. 

For those of you who have forgotten the initial nature of their deployment, or the necessity of their mission, I remind you of the following:

First plane

Second plane

People jumping to avoid being burned to death

Collapse of South Tower

Collapse of North Tower

This campaign has been--and will continue to be--completely apolitical. I have avoided partisan politics, which might derail an otherwise bipartisan issue and endeavor: the continued treatment and care for those American soldiers who are injured in the line of duty...injured while protecting not only their fellow citizens, but those abroad, who might be harmed by the coward, reckless acts of extremists, just as we were eight short years ago.

Today is not a day of mourning. Today is a day of remembrance.  Today is a day of affirmation of purpose. 

And in that, we salute those who have fallen and we salute those who continue to stand watch for our protection. 

Doug Eldridge
DLE Sports

Monday, September 7, 2009

Colorado Springs: 2.5hrs away

As I type this, I am sitting at my window in the Broadmoor Hotel, looking out over a sea of twinkling lights as the rest of Colorado Springs is still fast asleep. Yet, in less than 90 minutes, I will be driving to the start line of the eighth (and unquestionably hardest) marathon of the ten races that comprise the 10-12-100 Campaign: the American Discovery Trail Marathon.

Colorado Springs sits at approximately 6,200 feet above sea level, while the start of the race--some 20 miles and 40 minutes away in Palmer Lake--is closer to 7,200 feet. Though 1,000 feet, spread over 26 miles does not seem alike a lot, that's not really the point; the point is the difference between 7,200 feet and sea level (0 feet) which is what I come from in D.C. The difference is staggering. 

I did two training runs out here and I was wheezing like a fat kid in gym class who dreaded the "mile day" every semester. For a guy who already has a deveated septem and the beginnings of a sinus infection, the thin, dry air has caused nose bleeds, shortness of breath and overall lethargy...not the makings of a solid marathon by any means. 

Then again, that was the entire premise of this campaign from conception to execution: courage in the face of self-doubt, success in the face of near certain defeat. Not so much for me, but for the thousands of young soldiers for whom this campaign is dedicated. It is their courage, their tenacity, their unwavering commitment to the completion of the mission that inspires me. That is what drives me when my right knee hurts, when my back seizes up in the middle of the night, when my breathing wheezes and whistles at elevation and my heart rate soars through the roof. It is the certainty that if roles were reversed, those very young men and women for whom I am doing this, would themselves be up and making their way to the start line as well. That is the commonality of purpose we all share, the binding nature of American citizenship that runs through our veins. The commitment to God, country, and each other. 

My hotel is located a few short miles from the Air Force Academy, on what I assume to be Parents Weekend. All the young cadets are in their dress blues, visiting with their parents and girlfriends for a few hours of precious leave from campus. Their pride in their uniform is apparent by their posture, presence and bold smile as they greet family and friends. The next generation of American defenders, tyranny's liberators, and the real providers of hope and change across countries and continents that have long since forgotten the meaning of such words. 

We have a lot to be proud of as Americans. 

So here goes number eight. 26 miles of muddy trails at nose-bleeding altitude with an aching back and a throbbing knee. When I think of these young cadets who today know Parents Weekend and next month might know deployment, I am inspired, I am refocused, and I am ready. 

I am only one man running these marathons, but I have an Army to my back and a sea of faces in my heart. 


Doug Eldridge
DLE Sports