2006 Bizz Johnson Marathon Race ReportLook, it wasn’t my idea. A month and a half ago I was just innocently sitting there one day, minding my own business, when an e-mail came across my screen confirming my entry for the “Bizz Johnson”. What? Bizz Johnson? Needless to say, I assumed that I’d become the victim of some porn site’s spamming software but then I don’t surf porn. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t look at porn on someone else’s computer but I don’t spend time purposely pursuing porn sites. Alright, I know there’s no winning this point and now I’m going to be an accused porn surfer…but I’m not. Whatever.
Anyway, after my lovely wife, Paula, asked me if I’d seen my entry confirmation, I suddenly realized that it wasn’t a porn site but a real race. Not just a race but a marathon. Not just a marathon but and off-road marathon. Not just an off-road marathon but an off-road marathon with a total elevation loss of approximately 1200 feet. Yeeeehaaaaaaaaaw! Finally, a marathon for me – the human bowling ball. You can ask anyone who I’ve ever run with – I can go down hill. I might be a quarter mile behind you at the top of the hill but I guarantee you that I’ll have you overhauled and in my rear view mirror before the bottom. Understand that I’ve spent the past 5-years cultivating an additional 10lbs on my svelte frame as what some say is fat but what I know is my built in wetsuit. If you’re going to surf in Southern California, you need a wetsuit. Mark Montgomery had one and he could stay in the water all day no matter how cold it was. I wanted this level of cold water imperviousness. Besides, imagine the money you could save if you had your own built in version…I digress.
So I get this confirmation and, in addition to the unbridled anticipation and excitement of rolling down hill on a forgiving surface to a new marathon P.R., I feel a sudden sense of panic. My training at this point has consisted of three or four weekly 4(or so)-mile jogs (at ~12-minute/mile) with my new canine “training” partner, Gidget (the Wonder Dog), two strength training sessions per week (just trying to see how much I can bench & to selflessly provide a little eye candy for the ladies at the gym), the Tuesday track or fartlek session with the local neighborhood pros, and, of course, all of this was supplemented by a daily two beer minimum. I learned the beer thing in ’87 from the ’95 Hawaii and Olympic distance world champion, Karen Smyers. Since adopting her daily beer regime, I hadn’t really gotten faster but I was definitely putting on some lbs – which were making my downhill prowess downright untouchable. Without knowing it, I’d been engaged in optimal preparation for this event…kind of like a Kenyan child running the 20-mile round trip to school every day in bare feet that inadvertently leads to a 2:04 marathon in adulthood. After assessing this, I realized that all I needed to add to my weekly Bizz Johnson Performance Plan (again, nothing to do with porn) was a long run. Genius.
Let’s see, 7-weeks ‘til the marathon. I’d have a week of consistent bliss at home, a week of no running around working Ironman Wisconsin but then we’d have our Ironman Florida Camp where I’d get to not only run 2-hours but ride 5-hours AND get to eat at the Waffle House. That had to count for something. Then, I’d have a couple of weeks at home with Paula dragging me out the door for various runs at various paces. By now, our intrepid off-road endurance neighbor, Jason, would also be joining the fray. I love how we all enter and train for these things under the guise of “fun”. It will be fun. The training will be fun. The trip will be fun. Doesn’t anyone remember grade school P.E. or high school football? Running is punishment. You don’t remember this? Let me refresh your gray matter with one phrase: “Take a lap.” Now is it coming back to you? Anyway, after a month and a half of “fun”, we jump on a plane to Reno (ok, I can see the potential for fun in Reno) and promptly hop in a car to drive to Susanville (Pop. 14,000) - the fun disappearing behind us on Hwy. 395.
Let’s say you’ve been running for a while and done every road 5km, 10km, half-marathon, and marathon ever known to man. Ok, let’s say you are relatively new to running and have only experienced this great sport on the road. Ok, let’s say you love running on trails but have never done a trail race that didn’t have gnarly hills and, just once, would like to be out in the beautiful wilderness but don’t need goat trails up the side of mountains to appreciate it. Let’s say you are trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon but can’t handle the pounding of a down hill road course. After all, qualifying is one thing but qualifying without a stress fracture is even better, right? Enter the Bizz Johnson Marathon.
Race director Eric Gould has founded a true gem among the running race choices available on the calendar. What was a logging railroad has been turned into a beautifully graded trail that gently descends from 5400-feet down to Susanville at an elevation of 4200 ft.). This was the third edition of the event and it lived up to our expectations in every way. Perpetually in search of new and different events that keep us off the beaten path, Paula found the Bizz via a friend’s suggestion. After perusing the website (www.bizzjohnson.com) she immediately entered us in the marathon, though there is a 5km, 10km, and two half marathons.
The marathon is a point to point affair so we had to get on busses at 7:15am for the hour drive to the starting line just outside of Westwood. At 8am, we unloaded near the starting line which, consisted of a fire road with an adjacent village of blue porta-potties - thank goodness. Let’s just say we had been well hydrated when we got on the bus an hour earlier. We quickly renamed the race “The Wizz Johnson” based on the seemingly endless nature calls. By 8:15, race director Eric Gould was announcing that we’d be starting at 8:45am instead of the original 9am start time. No one was complaining as groups of runners milled around in search of a warm sun beam. There was frost on the ground and temperatures were estimated to be around 25 to 30-degrees. As we all threw our pre-race warm clothes bags into the transport vehicle, you didn’t sense the normal level of nervousness that precedes most marathons. Trail events seem to permeate a more relaxed atmosphere and sense of community with your fellow runner. This spirit of camaraderie came to a head when we all sang the National Anthem together just prior to the start. After attending many great sporting events and listening to some great National Anthem singers, I vote for the group sing along. As bad a singer as I am, it didn’t sound so bad with 350 other voices around me. It was a moving way to start the day.
As we got underway, it felt like our neighborhood morning run as Jason, Newby and I settled into 7:20 to 7:25 miles that felt a little harder than they should have – perhaps due to the 5400-foot elevation and slight uphill grade that defined the first 8 or so miles. The surface varied from smooth, sandy dirt to gravelly sections with marble sized rocks – a perfect surface and beautiful pine tree lined trail. Well stocked aid stations came without fail every two miles and there were no chances to get lost as every intersecting dirt road was staffed and/or well marked. If you chose to take advantage of it, there were also “special needs” bags that you could place at three points throughout the course with your own nutrition needs and, for those of us who chose to keep a long sleeved t-shirt or vest on, there were drop boxes that we had access to after the finish. At 8-miles, the trail plateaued and started to descend at varying degrees all the way to the finish line. The middle sections had brilliant vistas and, in the final 10-kilometers featured a dozen or so bridges and tunnels that helped take your mind off the fact that your legs were falling off of your body. It was at this point that I was thinking, "Let's get back to golf."
In the end, we all finished and had “fun”. In fact, the farther away from the pain of that final 10km we get the more fun it was. While Paula and I agreed that the half-marathon probably would have been more fun – especially at the end – we wouldn’t hesitate to come back and do this marathon again. Espousing the post race mantra of endurance athletes everywhere, hopefully, we’ll both be a little more prepared the next time around. Don’t let the results below dissuade you – this is a FAST and fun race!
Results – 2006 Bizz Johnson Marathon
Place Div/Tot Gend/Tot BibNum Name Div Time Pace
1. Kenny Brown 2:49:04
2. John Leuthold 2:51:35
3. August Brautigam 2:55:34
4. Mark Van Loan 2:59:58
5. John Ostezan 3:02:36
6. Paul Huddle 3:02:58
7. Jim Reed 3:03:44
8. Harris Goodman 3:09:19
9. Scott Stemple 3:10:04
10. Jason Tuffs 3:10:26
11. William Korthof 3:10:35
12. Erick Roeser 3:10:51
13. Nancy Fiddler 3:10:57
14. Scott Reisdorf 3:11:03
15. Mark Sertic 3:14:40
16. Shannon Rahlves 3:16:20
17. Brian Gruenemay 3:17:01
18. Dan Meyers 3:17:41
19. Andrew Shelton 3:17:50
20. David Pinnick 3:19:37
21. Jonathan Bourne 3:21:41
22. Paula Newby-Fraser 3:22:51
23. Randall Vander Tuig 3:22:59
24. Brian Vanderzanden 3:23:07
25. Dan Stumpus 3:23:18
If you want to hear more, check out our pre Hawaii Podcasts where Paula and Huddle talk about their Bizz Johnson experiences.