Thursday, April 19, 2018

Volte's 2018 Road to Boston: Kristi Chen

For many runners, regardless if they ever qualify for the race themselves, the Boston Marathon is a Big.  Deal.

And even though she qualified for and ran the race two years ago, Kristi Chen has things in perspective – only worrying about the right “small stuff”.

Her training for this year’s race?

“It isn’t going bad, but I’ve not trained as fully as I would have liked,” she said.  “A newly adopted child has made it challenging to fit everything in.”

But all of that doesn’t surprise Volte founder Bill Dwyer.

“Kristi has the biggest heart for others,” he said, echoing the lives of many others in his Volte Endurance Training group.

And Chen said that she was “grateful I stumbled upon Volte when I moved here” to The Woodlands.

Boston will be her ninth marathon.

In the final miles of the Revel Mt. Charleston Marathon is Kristi Chen
(Photo courtesy of Revel Mt. Charleston Marathon)
Yet her qualifying race, the Revel Mt. Charleston Marathon just outside of Las Vegas, delivered one of her biggest surprises ever.

“I didn’t expect to do well,” Chen said.  “Friends were going and I didn’t want to miss the fun.”

And fun won.

“It was the most relaxed I’ve ever been for any distance race,” she said.  “I learned so much about leaving expectations and self-criticism behind.”

When asked what her time was, she said, “I had a PR of 3:46 something.”

Yep, don’t sweat the small stuff.

It was a sterling 3:46:14 – well under the four hours that she needed.

She had previously qualified for her first trip to the Boston Marathon three years ago at the Louisiana Marathon in January 2015 with a time of 3:47:21.

Kristi Chen digging deep in the finisher's chute at the Revel Mt. Charleston Marathon.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
Chen said this year’s Boston Marathon is about enjoying the journey with great friends.

“I have the best training partners.  I really couldn’t do this without them,” she said.  “I’m so grateful for the support and friendship of them.”

And she said that it will also be a bit bittersweet too.

“It’s kind of a last hoorah for me, Tammy (Grado), Michelle (McGill), and Erica (Coleman) before Erica’s big move to Colorado,” Chen added.

But it’s her family that sets the table of support.

“I’m so thankful (that) my husband always makes himself free if at all possible to watch the three boys so I can run.  He believes in me when I don’t.”

Yet Chen, having learned from her run down the mountain, advises any first-time qualifiers to “leave (behind) all your doubts and worries about the race.”

“Take it all in.  This is Boston and it is beyond amazing,” she gushed.  “There is just nothing like it.  The energy in that city is like nothing I’d ever experienced before.

“Then, of course, the opportunity to be there with great friends.”

Nothing major, though, is on the horizon running-wise the remainder of 2018.

And that’s perfectly OK with Chen.

“I’m looking forward to running just because I love it – and to eat more French fries.”

Volte's 2018 Road to Boston: Michael Csikos


Anybody that has been in The Woodlands running community for any length of time would know that you were talking about Mike Csikos.

This year’s Boston Marathon will be Mike’s third trip to Beantown and his 28th marathon in his running career.

Mike says that it is Boston’s community – other than it being the most elite marathon in the world – that keeps bringing him back.

“The way that the people in Boston totally embrace the event,” he said.  “From the time you step off the plane in Boston until the time you leave, you feel special and appreciated for your accomplishment.”

Our community here certainly has the utmost respect for Mike, starting with his coach, Juliee Sparks.

Mike and his coach, Juliee Sparks - alums of two different old SWC schools, Texas A&M and Baylor
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
“Mike is a happy and dedicated runner. No matter how hard or easy the run is he always has the same big smile,” she said.  “Even with a very busy personal schedule he finds the time to get his training in.

“He is a smart and consistent runner. In the majority of his training runs and races he finishes with a negative split.”

Smart indicates having a plan and it turns out Mike had two – well, make that three – to get to Boston this year.

“I really wanted to qualify for Boston 2018 as I have a nephew attending Boston College and wanted to make the trip a mini-family reunion,” he said.  “I had a plan “A” and a plan “B”.  Plan “A” was the 2017 Houston Marathon.  However, the weather on January 15 was less than ideal.

“You know if you’re sweating in the staring corral that it might not be a BQ race and it wasn’t by a long shot for me.  I started a “run/walk” routine after mile 19 and began thinking about Plan “B”.”

For many runners in the greater Houston area, it always used to be the Austin Marathon – even with its elevation changes – that runners would shift to if the Houston Marathon wasn’t as nice as it could be.

Now, especially for runners in Spring and Montgomery County, The Woodlands Marathon is an option and it quickly became Mike’s plan “B”.

“The short course issue has been well chronicled, but I can’t blame that issue on not making the BQ time in this event,” he said.  “Although my 3:19:47 looks good on paper, the extrapolated distance-corrected time would not have been a BQ anyway.

“I really like the course and the weather was nice, but it wasn’t meant to be.  After the race, I started thinking about plan “C”.

And Oregon’s Eugene Marathon started coming into focus.

“The Eugene Marathon worked as it gave me enough time to recover and a good chance of ideal running weather in May,” Mike said.  “It was one that I’ve always wanted to run because it’s “Track Town USA”.  There is so much running history there and the scenery is beautiful.  Oh, and there’s that “nice running weather” thing too!”

With his wife, Lisa, and daughter, Michaela, along for a great family trip, Mike punched his ticket on May 7 last year with a time of 3:20:52.

They are “the most awesome marathon cheerleaders ever,” he said.  “They do such a good job of navigating around a marathon course – absolute pros!

“I was able to see them four times along the Eugene route including that awesome finishing stretch on the track of Hayward Field.”

And they are all held in high regard by Volte founder Bill Dwyer.

Mike at the BCS Marathon, where he has actually appeared on one of the race's highway billboards a couple of years ago.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer.)
“He and his family are amazing,” Bill said.  “I have known Mike for many years. We met when I was coaching a group for Team In Training in 2004.

“Mike and his family went through a tragic time with the loss of their son Christopher to cancer.

“In the years since, Mike has been very positive and uplifting to everyone.”

Including himself.

“I’m not going to Boston with the intent of running a PR; therefore, I haven’t stressed too much about weekly training mileage,” he said.  “My main goal has been to get to the Boston starting line as healthy as possible.”

Although he hopes to beat 3:36, which is his Boston PR, Mike admitted before the race that his training was going “OK” as he had done a couple of the Texas 10 Series races and said he had fun with those.

He hopes to complete all seven races in the Series this year and to focus on shorter distances.

But for the moment, Boston will be all about family and a great experience.

“I consider myself fortunate and blessed to be able to share the Boston Marathon experience with my family and friends,” he said.  “I looking forward to spending time with my immediate and extended family as well as my fellow Volte runners during the weekend.”

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Volte's 2018 Road to Boston: Bonnie Scholz

Before Bonnie Scholz started taking Gu’s as fuel for running, there were Goo Goo Clusters and Yoo-hoo drinks.

“I lived in the country around family and we were always doing something, whether it was chase, baseball or gymnastics,” she explained.  “I started running to the store a mile away around age 10.  I would buy a Goo Goo Cluster and drink a Yoo-hoo then run back home.”

Throw in summer long bouts of running through the woods and the fields to get to her cousin’s house and it’s easy to see where Bonnie seeds of running were planted.

Bonnie's current love of trail running - here on the trails in Tyler this January - was disguised early in her youthful play.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
And it was a mechanical beast that almost destroyed it.

Scholz was in preparation for her first marathon, the 2002 Compaq Houston Marathon, when she got tired of following a training plan, quit running and made a unique training decision.

“I started doing the stairmaster for 30 minutes a day and thought I would be fine,” she laughed. 

Six hours and forty seconds of “fine” kept her from trying another one for 13 years.

“It was awful,” she said.  “I couldn’t walk for two days.”

But when she came back to the distance, the improvements came and her original love for running was restored as she reconnected with nature:

5:14:08 - The Woodlands Marathon, The Woodlands, 2/28/15
4:16:42 - The Woodlands Marathon, The Woodlands, 3/5/16
5:27:42 - Brazos Bend 50K, Needville, 4/16/16
4:13:11 - Huntsville Utah Marathon, Huntsville, 9/17/16
6:15:21 - Palo Duro Canyon 50K, Amarillo, 10/15/16
4:11:19 - Rock 'N' Roll San Antonio Marathon, San Antonio, 12/4/16
3:33:21 - The Woodlands Marathon, The Woodlands, 3/4/17*
4:35:49 - Brazos Bend 50K, Needville, 4/8/17

Scholz is quick to point out that the 50K distance is her favorite.

“Usually on the trails with a small group of people and low pressure feel to races,” she said.  “It just makes me so happy with dirt under my shoes near trees and it feels like everyone else in the races love it too.”

Volte founder Bill Dwyer sees the same in her.

“Bonnie is a pure runner,” he explained.  “Give her a wooded trail and she's happy. No need for a watch and any time expectations:  just run, enjoy, and be thankful to have the ability.”

And ability she has. 

Although Dwyer himself added fuel to her fire.

“I joined Volte in early 2017 and Bill said, ‘You may be able to make Boston next year but probably not this year’.  The challenge was set,” she gushed.

Thanks to a couple of cyclist going straight instead of right early in the 2017 The Woodlands Marathon, Scholz’s road to Boston was lengthened a bit after posting a time of 3:33:21, but for 25.4 miles.

“I was really happy, of course,” she said.  “But Todd (Hunter) had let me know the course was short at mile three so we kind of knew it was too good to be true.”

Truth shined bright at the Tunnel Light Marathon in late September when she was one of eight Volte Endurance athletes who qualified for the Boston Marathon with a performance of 3:39:38.

“It felt more like relief when I made it,” she said.

But Dwyer recognized and credited the sacrifice that was necessary for Bonnie to produce the effort.

“For Bonnie to put in the 17 weeks to prepare for Tunnel Light was big for her as she's such a free spirit,” he said.

Bonnie's "free spirit" is shared in her enthusiasm for the sport(s) and the friends who join her on her journey.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dywer)
And that preparation has been part of the journey to Beantown for Scholz.

“Bill's training plan:  I've never ran so much and in so much pain in my life.  Track and tempo were not part of my vocabulary before Bill,” Scholz said.

Bonnie’s goals for Boston seem to be in alignment with the free spirit that Dwyer points to.

She says there are two:  to still love running and not be last.

She credits her family, employer and the entire running community to keep her motivated and alive.

“My husband and kids are understanding of my running addiction and my bosses who encourage me to run during the weekday,” she said.  “And every single runner I see on the side of the road or in races or on Facebook or Strava reminds me how much I love to run.”

And then there’s her Volte family.

Pictured with Mayra Caamano (left) and Mary Carter (center), Bonnie was presented with the watch Camille Herron wore winning the 2017 Comrades Marathon along with her shoes that were won in an auction by Mary.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
“There was so much love and energy to chase the Boston goal,” she said.  “It was a pleasure to be part of this group and be qualified at the same time in the same race with many of them and getting to know the group with hours of running together with Mayra Caamano, Sandra Tezino, Laura Godfrey, Larry Batton, Todd Hunter and Juan Flores!”

And Dwyer’s glad to know that her running always returns to the roots, literally.

“Once she qualified (her qualification is actually good for this year and next if she chooses to go back) she was back to running her trail runs including a 33-miler January 27th in Tyler and a  50-miler on February 24 in Page, AZ,” he noted.  “While Boston is a really big deal and a wonderful experience to become part of the history of one of the greatest events in the world, trails are my personal first love and I'm excited that shortly after Boston Bonnie will be part of the team rolling out our trail group.”

Scholz hopes “to keep expanding into trails and other adventurous challenges” as she says that adding some elements of stress – mountains, mud, water and/or rain – makes her feel her strongest.

It would be a worthy bet in Vegas – if they’d take it – that more good results – and great experiences – are in store for Scholz and others who follow in the days ahead.

Volte's 2018 Road to Boston: Derek Bailey

The history.  The venue.  And what Derek Bailey says is an “epic adventure of getting there with friends”.

All of it – including “many good eats” – keeps bringing Derek back to the Boston Marathon.

In less than two weeks, for the sixth time in his running history, he’ll start in Hopkinton for road racing’s most prestigious route to Boylston Street.

This time, it’s all about the hashtag.

No, not #PortOCanMan.

But rather, #PRorER.

“2:59:08 or bust,” he says.  ’Right on Hereford, left on Boylston, medal and medical’ is the progression he’s looking for.

Bailey aims for the finish line at the 2018 The Woodlands Half Marathon.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
And then, if that happens, Bailey may be as long gone from the area as former Patriots bench-warming quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

As he said, though, “We’ll see.”

The preparation hasn’t been textbook, Derek admits.

“I typically self-coach myself,” he shared.  “I started following a high mileage program that got my friend Chris a 2:46 marathon PR.

“Midway through I realized it was only training me to run a lot of miles slowly, never letting me tap what I feel is my full potential.”

And then there’s been a nagging injury.

“I was also battling some lower ab/right hip issues and I then solicited some outside coaching advice to help me make the most of what I considered to be a losing situation, “ Derek said.

“Above all, I feel pretty good – still somewhat hurt – but I think I have isolated the hip issue to utilizing the wrong shoe and I’m going all out.”

Somebody better warn the Wellesley girls that Derek won’t even glance in their direction this year.

“The fact that my two fastest half marathons ever were done in the last four months leads me to believe I can PR in Boston.”

Bailey actually re-qualified for this year’s Boston Marathon a year ago in Beantown with a time that was only good by about 10 seconds.

“In mid-year 2017, I decided to join my Volte friends for the Tunnel Light Marathon outside of Seattle,” he said.  “I chose it for two reasons – 1.) Sandra Tezino and Laura Godfrey recommended it and said it was fast and 2.) Leanne Rosser – Volte’s friendliest “Running Bully” as she calls herself (editor added) – convinced me it would be fun with all of the Volte people going.”

The peer pressure paid off.  Bailey beat his minimum time by almost six minutes, allowing him to get in Boston for 2018.

Yet the 3:04:39 almost didn’t come together as it did.

“The tunnel – expectedly – messed up my GPS at the beginning and at one point my watch was reading over a mile ahead of the course mile markers (indicating I would have to make up a lot of distance),” he said. 

Mix in the smoke in the air from recent forest fires and the fact that he entered the race a bit banged up, Bailey gave serious thought to dialing it back.

“I strongly considered a 26.2-mile jog for a medal at the end or even waiting on Tammy Grado – one of my favorite people to pace in a race – to run the rest of it with, whom later in the race went on to get her first BQ,” he added.

No such thought, though, coming up for Boston.

Remember, #PRorER.

“If I’m running it, I’m racing it, regardless of what I say,” he said with a chuckle.  “I’m just after some adventure with my running friends.”

And many of those helped him get ready for this year’s effort.

Drawing on his faith in Jesus Christ and the love of his wife Christy and their two boys who he says “has supported me through my endeavors”, the supporting cast that roll at the bottom of Derek’s movie are long.

The pep talks, when needed, he says, come from Kate Looney, “a rival and the older sister I never had”.

Carrie Hyde, Juliee Sparks, Grado, Michelle McGill, Jen Smith, John Trocko and Becca Holt, Bill Dwyer, Ronnie Delzer, Chris Weir and “the countless other friends in Volte and team Zero Dark Thirty” also get Academy Award nominations.

As he looks ahead to the rest of an athletic 2018, he shares, though, that training through injuries is - in general - not the best choice.

“I am planning on going to the doctor and getting my ab/hip injury addressed,” Derek said, noting that he hopes it was the shoe issue he alluded to earlier. 

“I have signed up for the California Intenational Marathon in December; however, I’m going to let the prognosis from the doctor guide me in anything else I do.”

He says if he’s healthy – and the shoe was the culprit – that another triathlon or even an Ironman may be in order.

Bailey’s bottom line, though, is, “If it’s not fun, (let’s) go find something that is.”

Volte founder Bill Dwyer believes that’s the least of Derek’s worries.

“Derek is very enthusiastic about running and triathlon and is usually one of the first to step up and help,” he said.  “He is just as happy to help someone achieve a goal as when he achieves one himself.”

Perhaps we’ll see more #PRorER’s in the future as there’s only one #PortOCanMan.