Dave Cowee

Dave and Emily at the family's Mile 20 milepost, circa 2001.

Describe your experience with the Equinox.  Have you participated in the full marathon, the relay, and/or the ultra?  How many times?

I think the Equinox itself, at least 13 or 14 times, going back to the first one back in 1983.  My second Equinox is the single best marathon I’ve ever run in my life.  Unfortunately, I did it in the Equinox which time-wise means that the fastest marathon I’ve run was in the range of 3:27 which put me in the top 20, but believe it or not, in my age group, that was only good enough for a 6th place finish.  I was in the 40s age group and it was full of extremely fast runners, including Corky.  When we got to the top of Ester Dome, I remember John Estle was up there shouting times and places out to people, I was in 13th place in the race which was really amazing for me.  I flagged a little bit towards the end.  First time I ran it my time was just over four hours.  

I’ve run the relay a number of times.  I think my group of runners has won men’s masters.  Dan Callahan, Ron Johnson, and I won that one year.  

In recent years, I’ve run that relay as part of Team Cobra with my oldest daughter and her husband.  Actually, just four or five years ago, both my daughters; Scott, our son in-law; and I ran the marathon together.  I ran with my youngest daughter.  I proved something to myself that year: that I can actually run for seven hours.  It was great; a wonderful experience.  That was one of my top Equinoxes, just for the experience of the four of us doing it together.  And Jo (Dave’s wife) was a part of it, too, taking pictures.  

Another interesting experience: I don’t remember what my time was, but I just started running my normal marathon, and all of a sudden, I realized my friend, Andy Blossy was running next to me, and we started talking. One thing led to another and the two of us ended up running that entire Equinox together, crossing the finish line right at the same time.  We had a conversation that lasted for four hours.  

When do you start training for this race?  How much of the course itself do you incorporate into your training?  How often do you incorporate the Dome into your training?

At one time or another I try to do every piece of the course at least once before the race to give me an idea of the hazardous portions of it, checking out the roots on the early trail.  That’s something I run frequently.  That piece that connects Lawlor Road behind Henderson’s Black Sheep Lane and down to Goldstream Road.  That can be really treacherous on a frosty morning. Leaves on the ground, frost on the leaves – it’s very easy to slip off of them if you’re not careful.  Coming down the chute is another place I’m careful at.  I try to run that too fast, and I pay for it later.  I need to take that a little more cautiously and then I can speed up again when I get on the Alder Trail and come along the contours there and come down along the Dome.  It’s so beautiful in there from year to year.  Some years the leaves are off the trees and you have a nice view out.  Other years, the leaves are still there and it’s a comfortable, sheltered trail to run down, out of the wind, if it’s a windy or chilly day.  

It’s just built into everything I do during the summers, all summer long.  If you’re having a good running year, everything you do is keyed towards the Equinox.  If you’re at the point where you can run 11 to 12 strong miles early in the year, then you’re probably going to have a good Equinox as long as you take care of yourself.  Don’t push yourself too much and overextend.  

What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?

Nothing in particular.  Try to do the different parts of the race.  I try to get out on the trails early in the year.  If you’re not out there doing your regular paced trails,  you’ll have a hard time with the race.  I’m never adverse to walking on any part of that course, I think that’s the key to it. You don’t have to run the whole thing.  I’m better off if I don’t.  It’s not a race that you have to show off.  You don’t have anything to prove to anyone except yourself.  

What’s your favorite thing about this race?

The course profile.  The time of year makes it challenging, the unknown being the weather.  Now having lived through one year when there was so much snow before that race that it had to be cancelled (the 1992 snow year).

It’s really a community event and it doesn’t just accommodate hard-core trail runners.  It accommodates everyone.  It started out as an event that accommodated a lot of walkers, and it still does.  There’s satisfaction in participating in one of the community’s bigger events.  The addition of the kids’ marathon the past several years, allowing them to participate, has made it even more of an all encompassing event.

What’s your favorite part of the course? Your least favorite part?

No least favorite part.  No real favorite part.  I like to push a little bit on the first relay leg, the first eight miles or so up to Ann’s Greenhouse, and then carry myself part way up the hill and then pace myself properly through that.  Probably the least favorite part of the course is dropping down on the turnaround there, where you have to run down on the hill and then turn right around and go back up.  I recall one year, someone manning the checkpoint at the turnaround there and they had a pickup truck parked just beyond the turnaround facing uphill right in the middle of the trail.  It was icy and slippery that year, and as I came running down that hill and tried to come to a stop in front of the truck, I grabbed the hood and fell down and slid right under the front of the truck.  I didn’t injure myself, but I do have an Equinox finger here that I fell on during one of those snowy, icy, cold, frozen years.  I slipped coming down the hill and landed right on my finger.  I think I ended up breaking it at the last knuckle, but it kind of reset itself.  I wore gloves that year and filled up the glove with snow to ice it.  

Describe the best moment you’ve experienced during this race. Describe the worst.

The most satisfying moment would be the year I ran with my family, and all of us finishing that. Irregardless of the time, that didn’t matter.  Just in the doing it, and we were all there together at the finish, with Jo out waiting for us all.  

The other would be the year I ran so well, I think in 1983/84, when I was in the top 10 to 15 runners at the top of the Dome, and finishing around 3:27.

In 2002, Jo and I got the Spirit of the Equinox award.  That was a total surprise to me when they announced it at the banquet after the race.  It was really important to Jo, being recognized for all those years of work on the running club’s website and taking pictures and posting them.  My winning it was just for the work I had done on the website.  Three of us started the website back in 1996 – Bob Vitale, Sandy Murray, and I worked on putting the thing together in the first place, but I ended up working on it.  Did it for about 12 years.  

Worst is falling on that finger.  I remember that one year, it was so icy out there, we were helping each other up some of the hills.  I remember helping Jane Lanford get up some hills.  We’d just grab onto each other and pull.  The out and back got pretty icy that year and that’s where I fell on my finger.  

Do you consider yourself a competitive runner? What are your running goals/fitness goals?

I am not super competitive.  I compete for the pleasure of seeing how well I can do, relative to others, but if I don’t win then it’s no big deal to me.  It’s more in the pleasure of doing it, rather than competing, trying to win, trying to beat someone.  I can be competitive on occasion when the need arises if I have to, but it’s not in my nature.  

Running is something I enjoy doing.  I try to pace myself now so I can keep myself able to run.  I’ve cut back a lot on the mileage over the years.  

What’s the best advice or training tips you can share with others who are new to this race?

Knowing the course is one thing because that allows you to pace yourself.  If you don’t know the course and you just looked at a profile of it, you can’t really tell what it’s like.  You need to start months ahead of time training for it.  The Equinox training runs are one of best things someone can do, other than running to get distance in and preparing.  You can’t just start at that point of the training runs though.  You have to have your mileage in before that starts, and then you can carry the mileage you have built into you out on that course and go from there.  You really do need to know what you’re getting yourself into.  The big unknown on race day is conditions.  You don’t know what you’ll be faced with, whether it’s favorable or extremely unfavorable.  

Have you made any big training errors, or race day flubs that adversely affected your enjoyment or time in this race?

Not that I can recall, but just in general, the years when I was less well-trained, my time reflected that and the way I felt after the race very definitely reflected that.  It’s not a race to just go out and do on a whim or at the last minute.  

Any plans on participating in the Equinox this year? This race has been described as one of the most grueling marathons in the country!  What keeps you motivated to participate in this event?

I’m not doing it this year, but I plan on doing it in 2012 as I slide forward into another age group, joining Corky in that same group (70).

I do it for the challenge of it.  It’s just nice to say that I have done it, can do it.

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