Number 30 was the Hatfield and McCoy Marathon on 9 June 2012. I finished in 3:18.25 after running the first half in 1:32:15  and the second in 1:46:10. I placed first in 50-54 age group, 14:34 ahead of the next finisher, who was in turn 13:11 ahead of the next finisher. 21 people ran in the age group. This was the first marathon at which I placed in my age group. 

This run was the culmination of an unexpected transformation. As previously mentioned, I began experimenting with diet in the summer of 2011. After trying Atkins for a week or two, reading the China Study I tried veganism. After reading critics of the China Study, I explored numerous other books, ultimately liking Eat, Drink and be Healthy the best. In the meantime I saw New York Times Magazine articles and Sixty Minutes stories on Robert Lustig's work and watched his lecture Sugar, the Bitter Truth, on youtube. Rachael and I settled into a "slow carb" diet, emphasizing fruits and vegetables, snacking freely on nuts and dried cherries, eating as many greens as  as possible, minimizing but not totally avoiding red meat, choosing fish more often and totally avoiding bread and potatoes. Of course, I had given up sugar water and beer years ago. Strangely, no limits on wine. The upshot was that even though I already thought I was thin, I lost 20 pounds over 10 months, going into this race at 153.

I had planned to run a marathon in December 2011, but pulled a hamstring in late September. This led me to try barefoot running again. As also previously discussed, I tried minimalist running after reading Born to Run to disastrous results. The seeds of the second attempt began the evening of the Santa Rosa Marathon. I needed to drop off the rental car in downtown San Francisco that afternoon. Arriving downtown at 4 pm in flip flops, I realized that it would be more efficient to stay downtown ahead of a dinner date at 6. I needed new footwear asap. I saw some good looking shoes in the window of the Merrill Store at Union Square and went into to say I wanted some nice causal shoes. The salesman guided me to some clunky things. "What about the shoes in the window?" I asked. "Those aren't for you, they are the latest minimal running shoes." was the answer. "Give me a pair," I replied. Thus began my love affair with Merrill True Gloves. I began running in them in September. In late October I bought Vibram Five Fingers and another pair of True Gloves at the REI store in Mountain View. Starting with 1 mile runs, building through 3 and finally back to normal, I transformed my running style over a 6 month project. Successful transformation is beautiful and unexpected. 

Between the weight loss and new stride, I am suddenly faster than ever. I ran several 19:30-20:00 5K's this spring.

The Hatfield and McCoy Marathon is in a remote location. The nearest interstate is over 80 miles away. Even after a 80 or 90 mile evacuation, one finds oneself in such less than cosmopolitan centers as Charleston or Bluefield, WV or Summit KY. Rachael and I drove there through Bluefield, following the Tug River valley along US 52. The 100 miles from Bluefield takes 2.5 hours. On the way in and on the way out we repeatedly listened to Patty Loveless singing "You will never leave Harlan alive." We got lost a couple of times while in eastern Kentucky and drove increasingly narrow roads up increasingly dark canyons listening to Patty cry "where the sun comes up about 10 in the morning and the sun goes down about 3 in the day." We wondered if we would ever escape Harlan alive.

Finally arriving at the Belfry High School in Goody, we picked up our race packet on Friday evening and drove 30 miles to the Holiday Inn Express in Pikeville, which was the closest hotel we could arrange (the marathon coincides with other Hatfield and McCoy Festival events.) Pikeville is Patty Loveless' hometown. She is literally a coal miners daughter.

Saturday, race day, morning we parked near the finish in downtown Williamson, WV and caught a convenient shuttle to the start at Food City in Goody, Ky. Most of the  course runs in Kentucky, which is good because that is the state for which I am counting this run. My West Virginia race was in Huntington in 2006. I had previously run a mile or so in Kentucky during Ohio's Flying Pig in 2000, so stepping out of state for a mile or so during the Kentucky run seems quite fair. Unfortunately, I forgot to change glasses as we left the car in Williamson. I normally run in sunglasses and had put my restraining strap on them. I complained to Rachael that I had the wrong glasses as we rode the shuttle, but thankfully we remembered that there was no problem because the sun wouldn't come up until about 10 in the day.

I once again used Adidas MiCoach to train. In my lightened state, I had a disastrous long training run with no nourishment and so for the first time trained with strong reliance on gel packs. I experimented on one long run with real food (cookies and chocolate) but found that I had an immediate gag resistance to eating while running. I had read other blogs commenting on this effect, sometimes its good to listen to experience. So packaged cake frosting (gel packs) had to be used. I had an excellent 22 mile training run 3 weeks before the race with gel every 4-5 miles. I took a gel at miles 3, 6, 10, 14, 18 and 21 during Hatfield McCoy. I also started the race with a major training violation as shown here:

donut time

88 was the forecast high for Williamson on race day. Worried about the heat, I entered the race with no time goal and went shirtless. The temperature at the 7 am start, however, was in the  mid-50's. After the requisite rifle and pistol shots by impersonators of Devil Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy to start the race, I decided to run as felt natural and easy, which strangely was a sub-7 minute pace. I basically ran a 7 minute first half and an 8 minute per mile second half, despite a major climb in the first half, as shown here:
Hatfield McCoy pace
            and elevation

The stops in the 16th mile were restroom breaks. The stop at mile 18 is because I took a fall coming of the 2 mile gravel trail stretch from miles 16-18 on to a golf course. (Actually the slowing before the stop is the fall, the dead stop is time at a water station to wash out the wounds. Water stops came every mile and included ice in the drinks in the second half.) I was opening a gel pack at the time, which distracted me enough to scrape me knees and hands. At the time I was expecting things to fall apart at any moment since I had gone out so fast. I limped most of the golf course, but recovered fine and was surprised that things were not falling apart after all. The main impact of the fall was that I was overwhelmed with paramedics and helpful bandage volunteers at the finish.

I believe that 1:32:15 is the fastest half I have ever run. I am not sure why it felt so good. I was flying as we came by the funky half finish area in Matewan, WV. From miles 7-13 I was, for the first time in my life, surprised to see mile markers appearing so quickly. Only at miles 22-26 did I begin to wish for the marker before it appeared. The first half was by far the fastest I have ever run during a marathon. In contrast with early disasters such as Minneapolis, Cinncinatti and Memphis, however, I don't think that I made a mistake to go out hard in this one. The morning was cool and I attracted running buddies. The first was a half marathoner from Richmond that labored to stay with me until mile 6. I then passed a marathoner with gray hair (probably my age group). He worked hard not to let me drop him until shortly before the half. I thought he would be on me until the end, I am not quite sure what happened to him. I don't think that he was Kevin Berger, who did pass me in the second half on his way to winning the 45-49 group, but perhaps I am confused. The mystery runner was from Philadelphia, Mr. Berger seems to be an accomplished runner from the middle of Pennsylvania. I think that he was the generous runner that congratulated me at the finish, where folding chairs are set up in the shade for recovery (an unimaginable luxury at big city runs).

Given the rising heat (the temperature in Williamson did eventually climb to 87), I could not have maintained the first half pace in the second. Juggling paces might have got me another 3-5 minutes, but 3:18 is great and 3:10 was probably not meant for this course on this day.  I ran the entire second half completely alone. This, combined with the rising heat and the fall at mile 18, explain the drop in speed. It wouldn't have been easy to go alot faster, but something more could have been done. I had visions that this race would lead to a new PR after the half, but I it comes in only as the second fastest for me. Not bad on a warm day on a challenging course. The race raises interesting questions about the future of this project. I have been inclined not to race marathons (i. e. to run them easy) but, hmmm.....

Devil Anse and Randall hand slapped every finisher, as shown, for example, here
Devil Anse and Randall

I looked and felt fantastic at the finish. Since this year's transformation has been so complete and unexpected and since, so I have heard, 50 is the acme of life, I present this image of a happy finisher:
Hatfield and McCoy

Notice the overwhelming number of volunteers. This is an incredibly well organized and friendly race. It is hard to believe that so many turn out to support it. After climbing over the mountain on rural roads, the course follows the Tug river closely from mile 11 to the finish. The golf course is generous to allow the run along the cart paths and over a swinging bridge in the 19th mile. Just as my transformation was unexpected, I unexpectedly found Hatfield and McCoy to be among the favorites of all the marathons I have done. If I had hit the PR, this would be run number 1.

It was wonderful that Rachael came along on this trip. She also trained with MiCoach and took second in her division in the half. We had an delicious lunch after the race at Key Ingredients restaurant in Bluefield, had dinner at Chateau Morrisette Winery, stayed in a B&B just of the Blue Ridge and drove the remaining 120 miles home at civilized speeds Sunday afternoon. We used to think that the Blue Ridge was remote, but now we know that it is just the edge of the wilderness.

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