Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Guest Blog- Brian Talon: Clarence DeMar Marathon Report

This race report was so good I wanted to share it with everyone- and congrats, Brian, on a great race.

Took the family to Keene, New Hampshire over the weekend of September 26, 2009 for the Clarence DeMar Marathon. It was a great weekend overall, Saturday was a beautiful day and Jen and I took the kids to Santa's Land for a visit with Santa and lots of rides and wild animals to visit. After the race number pick up in Keene, we met with friends Ben and Julie for dinner at the Olive Garden.....Back to the hotel to get the kids down and Emma was having a rough night with lots of crying until about 10PM.....not exactly the pre-race relaxing I was looking for but it is what it is especially with Emma's back molars coming in (Jen was much more understanding than I was). Ben and I were up well before dawn to catch the buses to the start. Before the race ran into some old friends from Somerville Road Runners and some new friends from the Thirsty Irish Runners (they are great at keeping you entertained and keeping your mind off the fact that you are about to run 26.2 miles - ask them about the textile free race)! Rained for the whole day on Sunday (race day), which was not necessarily a bad thing....the temps were cool and for the first 18 miles+ it was more of a drizzle that cooled you off more than being a nuisance. 18 miles and beyond it became more of a steady rain that started to waterlog the shoes just at the point when I was starting to get really tired anyway.

First 5+ miles were a net down hill with the rest of the course consisting of flat sections with lots of rollers. Wanted to go out in 6:45's for the first three miles and then settle into a 6:25-6:35 pace (with all of the rollers I realized that it would be difficult to maintain a consistent pace). The gun went off and there were a good 12 people or so ahead of me after a couple of miles. One runner was long gone, figured he was shooting for the low to mid 2:20's with the early pace he had set (was a bit surprised to see him again at mile 10 obviously running much slower - not sure how he finished). The first 5 miles were closed to traffic and we were treated to the start of some fall foliage with part of this section running along a slow running stream. Around mile six, I started to chat with a guy for a few minutes - he told me he was shooting for a 3:30 - told him he was out too fast so he slowed a little bit, hopefully it was not too late for him. Kept running along, chatting with a few folks along the way. Ran with the 4th place finisher for a couple of miles, nice guy who gave me the inside scope on the lead pack in front of us (included a 2:27 marathon) - decided I was fine with them dueling it out and I would maintain my pace. The 4th place guy also said he ran a 2:42 in Boston this year - so I thought best to let him fade away and continue to run my own race. Miles 13 through 18 were pretty uneventful; I was more just going through the motions without too much effort but pushing the pace just a bit. Somewhere around mile 18 I started to get that feeling that my glycogen stores were getting a little low. At this point in the race I needed to switch from "going through the motions" to making a conscious effort to keep my mind in the race. For miles 18-23 I willed my legs to maintain somewhere in the 6:20-6:40 range. Somewhere around mile 22-23 the race organizers threw in a cruel joke by winding the course over to a very steep hill that lasted a couple of hundred meters. I just took very short steps and kept moving forward. Not surprisingly that was my slowest mile of the race (6:51) but not as slow as I expected. What ever gas I left in the tank was pretty much gone after that hill and I still another 3 miles to go! Shortly after, I saw Jen, Lily, Emma and Julie drive by - yelling out the window in support….unfortunately I was not really in the mood for chatting but there presence was very much appreciated. Around mile 24 there was a right hand turn that I nearly missed, but fortunately noticed the arrows last minute (side note – the course was very well marked with volunteers at many intersections). Mile 24 (or so there was a slight downhill) so picked up a little speed on the pace (might have just been gravity working in my favor). The mile 25 sign came and I was toast, had no energy left in my body and unfortunately my mind (that kept me in the race the last several miles) was starting to slip as well. Still I am too damn stubborn to throw in the towel so I took my water soaked shoes one step at a time doing my best to thrust each leg forward as fast as I could. After what seemed to be about 20 minutes (from the 25 mile sign) I ran by another sign that said “only” .7 miles to go! I think I swore at that sign and it made me feel a little better. Shortly after, I turned onto the Main St. in Kenne….all I could see was orange traffic cones (indicating the finish) that seemed to stretch for about 12 miles or so. At the very end of the cones I could see a large group of people and thought to myself FINALLY, the finish line. Of course that would have been too perfect…..as I approached the group they all pointed me down another street to the actual finish line. I took that last turn hard and my mind was back in the race….100 meters to go and I could see the finishing clock at this point. My mind was ready to have a nice strong finish and get in under a 2:48. Unfortunately, my mind did not signal my legs of that plan. In my head I was running a lot faster than my legs were actually running so I must have looked pretty foolish out there with the top half of my body completely leaning forward with my legs doing there best to keep up. I had no form and was far from graceful at that point but finally crossed the finish at 2:47:54. I could tell I was not looking my best as about 5 volunteers tried to usher me over to the medical tent. I sat down for a minute, caught my breath and was fine a couple of minutes later – although I sure am happy that the marathon is not 27 miles because I cannot be sure what would have happened. Great day overall with good conditions, wish I had gone out the first three miles a little slower, might have helped me those last few miles. I pushed my limits in the race to the very edge and it worked out in the end. I learned lots from this race which I will apply to the next race and continue to improve the mental aspect of the marathon. Ben had a great race as well, hit his goal time of 3:30 on the dot and the Thirsty Irish and Somerville crews all ran well as too, an impressive feat since they all will be running between 2 and 4 more marathons over the next month of so. Before the drive home, we hit a local brewery for pub food and a couple of pints of beer.

My splits are below – as mentioned, it is hard to maintain a consistent pace on this course with lots of varied terrain. The splits alone don’t tell the story as the 1st half was much easier than the second.

6:21, 6:39, 6:22, 6:38, 6:22, 6:12, 6:14, 6:25, 6:17, 6:10, 6:20, 6:46, 6:16, 6:18, 6:17, 6:14, 6:26, 6:13, 6:26, 6:14, 6:20, 6:19, 6:42, 6:51, 6:13, 6:41, 1:24 (last .2 miles)

1st half 1:23:48
2nd half 1:24:08
Finish Time 2:47:54
5th place overall

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Niantic Bay 1/2 Marathon

I started this blog when I was getting ready to run Mystic back in 2006. That's what the Niantic Bay half-marathon started out as- Mystic Places Marathon.

The race is a good three weeks earlier than it used to be, and it utilizes only a small part of the course the whole marathon used.

I was standing at the starting line- the 5K had already gone off and we were waiting for them to get far enough out into the park to start. Next to me, one of the runners says to the eventual race winner Jeff Wadecki 'I ran 115 miles this week. I'll be i up to 120 next week.'

Huh ? I thought doing a 3 hour ride yesterday from 3-6 pm and riding 100 miles in two days plus running put me at the wrong end of the race prep spectrum and this guy had run 115 miles in a week coming into the race?

The race started a little late and it was still raining lightly. I wanted to go out hard the first two miles, then settle in and wait for the second loop. So it's no surprise that I found myself sitting just behind the EKG team and few other top runners thinking the same two things that I'm always thinking in these races. 'This doesn't seem hard at all,' and 'Man, you are running way too fast.'

Then the third thought creeps in and that's the accurate one ' you are about to get dropped like a rock.' And that's what happens. The quality runners leave me behind like a bad date (truth is, I may smell bad by a mile or so).

I was already starting to back and forth with some people by a mile.

You run a little over two miles in the park and I think this was about when I got passed by the leading woman. It wasn't too long before I was back in 15th or 16th place. The EKG guys and the usual other top runners were running away and there was no one else from Hitek, so I was running both for myself and as the lead runner for the team. Ouch.

There was a little wind in our face on the way out after we got out of the park and I felt like I was still jockeying with other people. The course is pretty flat but every elevation change reshuffled the deck. There's one real climb on the course, between mile 3 and 4. I took a Clif Shot in here and fond myself losing ground to a larger guy in white, a guy in his 30s in black and the lead woman. I tried to be patient as we passed the mile marker. Then another runner settled in behind me.

Right behind me.

I don't like someone using me as a wind-block, especially when he's about a foot taller than me. I started running on the yellow line, which was coned. That's probably, well, just dickish, but I don't like being tailed. I then picked up my speed and closed the gap between me and the three people I'd been losing ground on. I made up about 75 yards and when I'd dragged this guy across the gap he settled in on the back of someone who wasn't dodging cone.

We went back in the park and all four people started gapping me. The uneven effort had taken its toll. I passed six and just stayed focused, but I was losing ground. I hit the turn-around and Dick Korby said afterwords 'Yeah, you, uh, didn't look too good there.'

But I felt good and as we went out of the park, I settled in and started closing the gap slowly. once I passed the seven mile mark at the turn-around my plan had been to pick it up, and I did.

I closed down about half the hundred yards I'd dropped on these people by mile 8 and then I turned it on, opening my stride. I made a pass of the group- minus the guy in white- who would elude me the whole race- just at the 9 mile mark. I was running really well for me and the best moment of the race was when I went by and one of the runners looked at me and said 'Jeesh.' That felt good.

As we got into the back section of the second loop I saw a runner in a blue t-shirt in front of me. It looked like Steve Swift, but of course I knew it couldn't be. But it looked like him. But it couldn't be.

But it was. I'm sure Steve was coming off a big training week or that coaching is taking its toll on training time. I made the pass and then just ran hard.

I missed the mile 10 marker entirely. I saw 11 and I knew I was in good position. I had a good long stride going, I was dumping water over my head at the aid stations and took another Clif Shot. Once I hit Mile 12 back in the park, I tried to close down the people in front of me- the guy in white and Natali from Guilford.


That didn't happen. But I held my gaps on the people behind me, finishing up to two minutes in front of people I'd only passed at Mile 9.

I definitely had a really solid back half of the race and although my 1:23 was not a great half-marathon time, my run in last 4-5 miles and my 16th overall place were both things I was really satisfied with. I can honestly say that I was really happy with my effort, especially being the fourth 'long' race in 21 days.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Toughness

In some ways, my son is certainly not lucky to have me as a dad. As an athlete and former coach, he sometimes gets the 'benefit' of my critical analysis.

He's four. He probably doesn't need my critical analysis.

I have to be honest. I often question his toughness. I mean, he's four, so he probably is not required to actually be tough that often. But he doesn't always seem to quite- well, he gets back up after he falls down, but he still cries.

Again, he's four.

Still, on Sunday, he ran in a fun run and he ran almost the entire mile. He didn't fall down once and he took a lot of pride in what he did. He even was humble the next day, saying he didn't want to show the trophy off because people might not like him.

But I learned something about him later that afternoon. We were playing frisbee. He has no predictive ability- when you throw a frisbee it usually breaks and I was trying to basically place it in his hands so that he could catch it it. Like many four year olds catching is the act of slapping your hands together and hoping something ends up in between them. On one throw the frisbee broke, his hands closed late- and he got drilled in the mouth.

He started crying. He cried, he asked for his 'momma', who was at the store. I hugged him, he calmed down, and then we played for another ten minutes.

He kept saying, one more throw, one more throw. He wanted desperately to catch the frisbee and it took ten minutes, but we kept playing until he made that catch. Then we were done.

Maybe he's a lot tougher than I think...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hammerfest Triathlon

For a lot of people, Hammerfest is an end of season race. In a sense, it felt like one for me as well. After racing a half-ironman last week, and with ten weeks of training in front of me to prepare for Arizona, I wanted to just have a solid race today and then get down to business.

It was a cool morning. I was up early considering the race is about three miles from my house, because my son had woken up briefly. So I was pretty relaxed by the time I got to the race. And as I started setting up in transition, I didn't think that it was that cold until I took my shoes off and stood on the grass. Man, the ground was cold. Really cold.

The water was flat, but the tide was still out- even though low tide had been two hours earlier, the water was extremely low. It wasn't a question of whether you'd start out walking, but how far you'd walk.

I hate this. I'm short. It's not as easy for me to walk in the water as a taller guy. I prefer to swim anyway. You start walking and your heart rate goes up. Or mine does.

But this has happened before at Hammerfest and other races and what have I learned ? I start losing time early. Whatever. It is what it is. About 200 yards out I banged my hand on a rock. I just kept swimming and pretty soon I was in the mix with the other guys in the first wave. That was when I started hear a 'whump' 'whump' 'whump' in front of me.

I did everything I could to try and get away. I've been racing triathlons for about seven years and I have always feared getting kicked.I don't understand why people have to kick so hard, why they don't get how dangerous it is. It is you know ? There's a difference between using your legs to aid propulsion and thrashing with your feet. Or so I think. And this guy was swimming erratically, turning left and right. He turned in towards me and kicked me hard in the face.

And I was fine. I put my head up, missed a stroke to adjust my goggle and that was it.

There was no panic, no water in my goggles. Yeah, I got kicked. No big deal.

After we turned around the final buoy it was a long swim back. For me. Maybe not anyone else, but for me it was.

I exited the water and as soon as I got up off the beach I was struck again by how cold the ground was. This also has happened at Hammerfest and other early and late season races before. I cut my left foot twice but didn't feel it, and then I was on my bike, after a slightly slow transition getting off my wetsuit.

This is the course I time trial on all year, so I know every inch of the road.

It's a tale of two loops, this race. Even more so, finding myself in the first wave. I was working pretty much solely to pass people in the wave after me and in my own wave, and for the first half of the first lap, it was a series of straight passes with no one challenging me. I lost 3-4 minutes on some of the top finishers in the water and this was my big chance to get back into the race.

You can't relax in a sprint, you can't rest or reset yourself and it's worse when your swim is slow. I was on the nose of my saddle a lot, really pushing on the flats and mostly gentle grades.

I was moving up steadily, and then I passed two guys without shirts. One was in his fifties and the other one was in his late thirties and from my vantage point, the younger guy spent his entire ride drafting the older guy. This was in contrast to the 55 year old that I was back and forth with on the bike- we took turns passing each other, then dropping, then passing again. And even that was tough for me. I mean, I was having a really good bike in my opinion but some 55 year old guy was basically not letting me get away from him after I'd caught him- which meant that he'd already out swam me by 3 minutes.

I continued to move up on the second lap, when you're out there with people who are on their first lap. That creates some congestion. It's not, however, an excuse to latch onto a guy almost 20 years older than you and follow him like a shadow. Again, that's my perception of what happened with these other two riders. I'd make a pass and the next thing I knew I'd have three guys going by me, one who'd earned it, and...

Whatever. Truth is the drafting was nowhere near as bad as last year. It juts happened near me, that's all. As Steve said to me, I went by and there were three guys right behind me...

I had a good bike- 8th overall including relays if you eliminate the guy that only did one loop. He was on a hybrid with straight bars and he was headed back to transition at the same time as me. I told him he had to go out and do a second lap but he probably didn't even hear me and I'm sure in the excitement he just lost track. That's too bad, you hate to see that happen to someone.

My feet were numb when I dismounted. I took my helmet and discarded it less than gently on the ground and did the same with my shoes. After the race one of the race directors asked me if something was wrong and I just said I needed to put some things aside before I started the run. Which I did. I left any frustration with my bike and my wetsuit.

My left shoe went on without issue. But the right shoe ? I looked down and the smallest toe on my numbed foot was outside the shoe. The other toes were inside. My opponents were heading out on the course, I was losing time...

I shoved the foot into my shoe with my hand and started running. My feet were dead to me. This meant that I was getting zero giveback when I took a step. Have I mentioned how much my calves have been aching ?

When I started the run, I was pretty sure that I was going to frak my calves once and for all and it would be at least a week before I could get back to training for Arizona. Screw that. In for a penny, in for a pound. I was racing and I was damned if I was going to save anything. I had five guys in front of me that were in range. I passed one guy I didn't know, then I passed Max, who had just a great race, then I passed two more guys, including- ah, let's not go there.

As I neared the turn around, I saw what seemed like four Heat guys running together. Then I saw Scott. I hit the turn and he was in my sites now. Of course, he'd started a wave behind me and-

This story is starting to sound old. That's what happened to me at Firmman- I buried myself catching a guy from a later wave and nearly did myself in. But this wasn't an half. This was a sprint. Go hard or go home. My dead legs had me worried. It was a while before I could run hard enough that I felt like I was in aerobic deficit. I continued to push and as we wound our way around the back of the course, I closed Scott down, then passed him. Of course in a mile and an half I was never going to put three minutes on him or the other two fifty-somethings I'd passed.

I ran steady, my legs half-numb and half-soar, but in the end it was a good run, a fast run, and for a sprint seven days after a fairly decent half, I'll take 11th overall and second in my age group (thin competition do to other races not withstanding).

I'm satisfied that I at least gave it what I had.

Now, it's time to get serious about the task at hand.

Arizona.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Firm-Man Half Ironman

I woke up at 4:20 this morning and it was pouring rain in Warwick, just north of Narragansett. I mean, it was raining hard.

The forecast when we left for the race on Saturday was clearing with a high of 80.

Given the sound of the rain, it, well it just sounded cold, and the thought of riding in the rain in singlet and bike shorts was not appealing. I'd travelled to the race with one of my teammates, Steve Surprise. He got up, made some coffee, and I sat on my bed checking email. We didn't rush, but by 5:30, when we were ready to leave, the rain was already a drizzle, and while the road was a little wet on the bike, it was never a factor.

I was one of the early people down at the water and the white caps were a little viscous. I was having trouble figuring out how to deal with them because it was low tide and it was hard to decide whether to walk or combine knuckle-dragging and putting your head down and just swimming through them. I got some helpful advice from someone in my own age-group, which was awful nice.

When I came out of the water people were just walking down to the start. One of the Firm principles was in the hospital with appendicitis, and the call to get down to the water came late. We started about 15 minutes late.

Everyone walked quite a ways out. This isn't good for me. I take it easy when I'm walking to keep my heat-rate down. People were way too far to the left of the buoy on the outside- I was too far inside and had to swim to get back around the buoy. Then we turned...

The swim is basically about 2/10th of a mile out, a little under a mile over, then in. When I'd been walking down at 6:40, the intermediate buoys were still on the beach.

They might just as well have left them there. I saw one or maybe two buoys between the turn and the end of the swim. People were everyone- way too far inside, way too far outside. It was a just a mess. You couldn't sight. Not just me, other people I talked to said the same thing. Every once in a while I saw the far buoy and just out my head down and went- I swim a lot better when I aimed at something- anything.

Depending on which set of results you looked at after the race, my swim was somewhere between 30 and 33 minutes. 30 would be great, and considering that my bike split was not right either, well, who knows. It was a decent swim for me. For the second straight race, I swam through a rough ocean start, stayed calm and settled in nice.

As soon as I got out of the water and was running on the beach my calves started to cramp. I knew why. The last time I did Firm Man I swore I wouldn't run New Haven and Firm Man ever again..

I had a decent transition- under two minutes. I skipped the wetsuit stripping station (nice touch, however), had no problem with socks or shoes or helmet, and headed out on the start of the bike. I was riding about a minute when I saw Steve, who'd started 3 minutes ahead of me. He had 4-5 minutes on me at that point, headed in the other direction. We did a short loop and then I was on the chase.

After the turn-around I was passed almost immediately by a guy- there was a 48 on his calf- I was busy eating Clif Blocks, but as usual, I was annoyed that I'd been passed, so I finished eating, followed the guy from about six bike lengths back, and then attacked after the turn that takes us out onto the course. My calves, even when hurt or sore, don't bother me on the bike I was riding well, not great, but well. I wanted to be sensible on the bike.

We worked our way onto route one and there were some packs. I passed them one by one, picking off people, some in my age group, some in the wave that started in front of me, seemingly more than the wave that started behind me.

I passed one of a number of Cyclonauts that I'd pass during the race. It's a large team, I'm sure that most of them race clean, just as I'm sure there are people on my team that have drafted once or twice in a race. But today- well that didn't seem to be the rule. This guy, who I believe was 28, wouldn't drop. He would ride off my left shoulder, right behind me. He passed me at least three times, with me dropping, at which point he'd slow down and I'd pass him again.

Point is- motorcycle came up next to us, and official assessed him a penalty- awesome.

Finally I got to the turn off. The road at the turn-off is not nearly as good as Route 1. There's also some decent climbing and it was here that I ran into someone that would be with me for the last 35 miles of the ride. I never did get his name, but he was a team athlete, on a road bike with a green kit- clearly a cyclist.

We would go back and forth the rest of the ride. He was better climber, yet I was beating him some of the hills because he wasn't aggressively attacking the downhill rollers leading into many of the hills in this section, where I was going all-out to get up[ as much speed as possible. Steve said he noticed the same thing about some of the riders around him.

There's a point in this section where you came back and cross in front of the cyclists going out. Very weird.

At the end, you hump back out onto Route and and start heading north (?) again. Two guys in my age group went by me working together, and I did get a little aggravated. They started to separate and I picked off the slower one. He didn't drop and the next time he passed me, the team guy also went by. I was sitting up, arms out, just gliding so that I could drop. The guy in green looked at me and asked if everything was all right and I told him I was just dropping back five bike lengths.

Then I got up and nice acceleration and never saw my competition again. The team guy was never too far away however, and as on one pass he said 'It's nice to have you along.'

That last out section on route 1 is not easy. You feel like you're going uphill and there's a cross wind.I was chasing this other guy in my age group, knowing I couldn't just let him go. I started seeing people headed back the other direction and that makes the wait to the turn around more painful because those people are moving away from you twice as fast- in your head- as the people in front of you, since you are going in the opposite direction.

This guy was bigger than me, so he was picking up time on the downhills and I was picking up time on the uphills. I finally made the turn-around and then it was more slanting uphill work into a crosswind.

I was still riding well, and in fact in this section my speed was going up, but the guy in blue seemed to be pulling slowly away.

I caught a woman from the Bethel Bikes time around 44 miles in, and another woman a few miles later. I was doing my best to be patient but the road is long and pretty straight with clear sight lines and you can see people in front of you.

I finally started to gain on this guy just before the turn-off back to Narragansett. Three or four of us made the turn in sequence, and I was able to get a couple of final passes in before we got back to transition.

One thing I've noticed doing duathlons and triathlons is that no matter what feels wrong with my legs, it just disappears on the bike. And it's not fair to blame New Haven for my trashed calves. It was the 200 miles of riding in six days before New Haven with just one easy day the day before the race that out me in a bad place, and my legs never feel good after New Haven.

But when I started to run, my calves hurt so bad that the first thought I had was that there was no way they'd not cramp and I'd never finish. But I started running and re-evaluated. They weren't crampy at all. The muscles were just all torn up. I know how that works. You run a long hard run and you get a lot of tears in the microfibres of your muscles, or micro-tears in the fibres of your muscles. Whatever.

Point- they were going to hurt the whole run. Once I accepted that, everything was a lot easier.

At about 1 mile- and one mile seemed to come quickly- I ran by a Cyclonaut. He was walking and rubbing something- hamstring or calf. I just ran by- I didn't want to get sucked into that misery. I was running well, really well. I hit two miles quickly. Between two and three miles I was thinking that if it wasn't for the fact that my legs were just plain sore, this was a chance for me to have a great race because aerobically, I felt really good.

I drank a bottle and a half of heed on the bike, ate two Clif Shot block bags and took maybe 4 endurolytes. This is not enough.

Even though I took a clif shot in transition, I think at about three miles, I started to fade. It came on me slowly so I thought I'd take some endurolytes and race caps and fight it off. I grabbed a cup of water but by the time I got the pills out all the water had shaken out of the cup. I dropped the pills in and considered bending down and scooping water out of one of the puddles on the road. Yeah, I was considering drinking puddle water. But I remembered there being another water stop before we go into the woods and I was right.

I was on a really slow fade at that point. Around four miles, just before the turn around, I saw Peter Daly. He was running pretty well headed towards me. We exchanged a hand slap. This would have been great if he hadn't started like nine minutes behind me. I believe he passed me- wait for it- on the swim.

I was feeling a like throw-upish as we headed back up the hill out through the woods and towards the 'main' road again. It was the Heed plus the blocks plus the cliff shots (I'd taken one at three miles). We broke back out onto the road that becomes the second out and back. I was going downhill, and there were two guys in front of me, a 44 year old and Peter. I was scratching the 44 year old. Finally I made that pass at 5 or so. By six, I was getting close to Peter, and the feeling that I was coming apart was gone. I threw away my hat at an aid station. Then I saw the ten mile mark coming back and I passed Peter around 7. I knew the turn around was coming soon.

But after fighting off feeling like crap once, it hit me again. I passed Peter and he asked me how I felt and I said 'Not good.' He told me I looked good, but I almost immediately started to fade.

I wanted to not only catch Peter but put time into him. I knew he'd started well behind me and I wanted to use the run to reduce the serious gap between us.

This was silly. I was not competing with Peter. I'd just passed a guy I was competing with. What's more I think Peter's a great guy and-

Uh, I'm always competing with everyone. That's my weakness in long races. Instead of focusing on my job- beating the guys with numbers 41,42,43, and 44 on their legs, I was trying to take time out of, well, myself.

Peter passed me back before 8. Disheartened, I stopped to pee. I'd needed to pee the entire run, and I'd needed to go number two since before the swim, although that had faded a bit.

I peed. The guy with the 44 on his leg ran by.

I started running again. I felt marginally better.

I ran a lousy mile 8-9, but I kept those two in my sights. It was getting to be long range vision. Peter was a good 200 yards ahead of me.

At nine, I took a cup of water and drank the whole thing. Amazingly, I felt better right away. I starting working back into the run and by ten- well, I'd had two down points in the run but suddenly I felt OK.

And then we were climbing again, and I was closing on Peter and the guy with the 44.

I kept them close to mile 11, we crossed the road and then it was almost over. I thought both of them had just enough on my to beat me in. I started running harder. Amazingly the guy with the 44 on his calf was coming back. I passed him around mile 12 and he tried his best to hang but now I was running.

Peter was ahead, but we reached the beach just feet apart. He started across the sand and his family was there, the girls and his wife and we running maybe two-three yards apart. At that point I was not going to pass him, on the beach, with his family watching. How cheesy would it be to pass him when he'd beaten me by almost nine minutes ?

But as we got off the sand he urged me on and I made it and around the turn and went over the line at 4:40:57, which was 4:36:57. A PR by less than a minute and an half, and a good race, I suppose.

Really, it was a learning experience more than anything else. I melted down twice on the run, each meltdown last for about a mile. I might have run three minutes faster if I'd had no troughs on the run, but in the end, I had what was overall a decent race because when I felt my absolute worst, I didn't panic. I didn't walk, not even in the rest areas- in fact, I closed the gap on people when they slowed. I did stop to pee and that did help make it easier to take on water, although it was psychological given that I was clearly dehydrated.

It was a missed opportunity- almost. It certainly wasn't my best, but it was not a disappointment either.

And it was fun to race long again...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Haven Road Race 2009

Any race where I can listen to Nine Inch Nail's Sin prior to the start is a good one.

I turned off my ipod and waited for the race to start. the elite women standing around me were giving me that 'you don't belong here' look, and well, maybe I should be a row farther back than I was, but I don't feel bad about being there.

The race has such a quick start and you can't help but feel like you're in trouble a little bit as men, women, children and who knows who stream by you. And you know you are going to get beat by all kinds of people. Or well, I do. Of all the races I do this is probably the one where the most women beat me.

I really was committed to running a slower first mile. Mary-Lynn Currier and Cheryl Anderson were behind me, I think, chatting. I saw Chris Schulten go by. I saw David Pantin and Jim Zoldy, Rob Barker, George Buchanan and others. Some where running around me but most were passing me.

I hit a mile in 6:01. That was perfect. I mean, I knew I was going to run slower miles then that. I was looking for 6:20s. But I also know that if I run mile 1 at 6:20 instead of 6:01, that's just 19 seconds slower I run the whole race.

After a mile, Rob Barker went by me. We spoke for a while after the race and he said that part of his plan was to be behind me at mile one, no matter if it was just a second. "Because I go out too fast ?" I asked, and he agreed, that yes, I do. And that is and isn't true. There's a fine line between running a hard first mile that's faster than your race average and blowing yourself up.

However, as Jim and Chris and then Jeremy Howard ran away from me as I headed towards mile two you can't help but feel that you're taking a chance and that, well, you just aren't that good. One of things I'm learning to accept is that guys like Jim and Chris that I know are better- guys that are nice guys, people I like, after all- I have to be willing to run my race and not let it get in my head that I'm getting beaten. After all, in this race tons of guys are going to beat me.

I went through two miles at 12:03 and then started to feel my way towards that slower pace. You climb to the clock at two miles and then power your way downhill.

I hit three miles with a 6:20 mile, my slowest one of the day, and I was feeling OK. Ryan Freitas from UNH Cross Country was somewhere near there cheering people on.

I was sipping at my bottle of Vitalyte by this time.

The section through the bridge is a tough section. It's downhill, there are a lot of people, and they tend to start to push in this area. But I don't want to race or contend with people here, I want to run a nice steady pace. I was having some back and forth with a guy in a green shirt. For the most part, at this point, I felt like he was on my heels, which I don't like.

So when we got to the 4 mile clock I ran straight at the clock, trying to scrape him off. Next time I saw him he was basically in the middle of the road, although as I was running tangents, we would meet again.

I took the hill at just about 85%, not going all out, knowing I would have to run hard on the downhill.

It was here that we picked up a throat-clearer. you know the type. Every three or four strides he has to clear the phlegm out of whatever location it has lodged in his throat. Not his fault. Doesn't change the fact I cannot stand it. The guy in green made a move. I sprinted across the gap to get with him. Next thing I know throat-warbler mangrove (Monty Python) is along for the ride.

Coming down off the bridge you have to be careful. You are running so hard off thebridge but then it flattens out and your instinct is to maintain that stride.

I didn't. I saw people pulling away a little, but that was okay. It turns into an uphill, then winds back towards Long Wharf.

I held my position and took a Clif Shot as I headed to the 10K, which I hit at about 38:37. I was in a pack. Judging from a picture I was sent and will post here tomorrow, Frank Tiorello was right behind me. The green shirt guy started to pull away as we made our way onto Long Wharf. There was a good bit of wind.

I kept on the tangent here and ran solid. People who had passed me earlier were starting to come back to me. I went through 7 miles and I knew I had a shot at a sub 1:18 run, which was great, and I felt like I was solid and in control of my run. James Beaubrun went by me somewhere in here I think.

As we went into the eight mile and there is some more uphill slanting road, I was really working on steady pacing. I watching James pick people off and my goal was to go after those same people even as he separated from me. That was a good strategy. I knew what pace he was running and what pace I was running so it allowed me to set expectations as to how quickly I should be making catches. At each water stop I poured one or more cups of water over my head and pushed on.

There wasn't much tell until we hit East Rock. I saw James catching a guy in my age group that I often have problems beating, so I closed that gap and them we entered the park. there were two guys together and I realised one of the guys he was drawing even with was Barks as they went up the hill.

The hill in East Rock is very short, much shorter than you think, and then it's a long, hard downhill, complete with photographers. I knew I would have to work just to stay even on the downhill, but that if I wasn't careful I would blow up here. I worked it hard, gave a peace sign to the cameras and then enjoyed the bagpipes.I was able to use a long stride to basically hold position. After we turned, now in mile 11, I made my move on Barks and was able to close the gap. As I went by, I reached out and gave a gentle pat and a 'Come on, Barks.' I was hoping he would be able to stay with me.

The last 1.4 miles of this race are cruel because they are downhill, you are running hard and yet, you are not running as fast as you think you should be and there are so many people in front of you.

I was caught by a small number of people in mile 12 (two maybe). But in that last full mile I closed on several people. Right about at mile 12 I heard one of the Hartford Track guys say 'Go Frank' to someone less than 50 yards behind me and I knew he must mean Frank Tiorello.

I got into the last four tenths of a mile and really turned it one. I had a guy right in front of me and I passed him and beat him into the line and overall, it was a good race.

Barks finished right after the last guy I passed.

It was a great day for a race with beautiful weather, lots of sun but not too much heat and I think a lot of people had tremendous days, both in front of and behind me, and certainly the race was a huge success- a nice benefit as a board member. Too bad I'm not fast enough to have seen the top three guys finish within seven seconds of each other- what a race.

Monday, September 07, 2009

New Haven Road Race 2009- Quick Shout Out

What a perfect day for a race. And what a race- three guys finish within seven seconds at the top and eight break an hour- for 20K !

First as a board member, I want to thank everyone who gave me such great feedback on the race. I've rarely heard such uniformly positive buzz about a race, but I agree that today's race, with John Courtmanche and John Byzsiewicz leading the way, went off great.

Second, I wanted to mention a few people I saw or didn't see today. Ryan Pancoast ran a 1:12 ! Jim Zoldy- 1:13- just awesome. Chris Schulten, another great race today as you and George Buchanan came in at 1:14. Psst- George is in his fifties ! He's unbelievable...

James Beaubrun- awesome smart race. Having never run a race over 10K, coming in with a 1:16 in your first 20K and running strong in the back 10K was the way to go.

Barks- thanks for pushing me and for hanging out afterwords.

Charlie- going to do Hammerfest ?

In all the years I've run the race, I think today's race itself might have been the most enjoyable one yet. I'll post a race-recap tomorrow and rate the race on Racevine.com...

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Lake Placid Hangover

If you asked me, I'd have said that you can't get a hangover from a place. The idea is a little silly.

I've been up to Lake Placid a lot. At least six times for the ironman, including the four I did there myself, plus camps and training trips. And Lake Placid is special for me because I grew up in upstate New York, spent most of my first 30 years there. Lake Placid reminds me of home, if home is where you grew up. Oh, the hills we had at home were a little less severe, their peaks a little less formidable, but I did grow up in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains.

The last time we didn't go to Lake Placid for the Ironman, I didn't regret it. I remember being relieved, because July is one of the busiest times of the year for us at work, because the entire University is on ultra-high stress alert level due to orientation for new students, when the entire institution's staff is pushed to the maxed. And I suppose since the students tuition pays the bills, there's good cause for that. Being away when my department is responsible for providing services however, is very stressful.

Besides, the truth is I have trouble being at races I'm not doing. It doesn't matter if I trained or not, ready or not, mentally I'm always ready because the off switch I should have, the one that would be a healthy thing, is missing. That selfishness bothers me, and I try my best to compensate for it by being a good spectator, getting out there and rooting people on and being happy for them.

But come that third or fourth weekend of July, I feel myself pulled to the spot. I was so glad to be back there this year, even though I was going to watch the race, even though it was undetermined who was signing up for next year. Forgotten was any negative thoughts about the rain that had pounded down on us hour after hour last year, the pain, the expense. Something heavy just came off my shoulders when we pulled into the parking lot behind the condo. The sun was out, it was hot, bright, the place is just so- so fucking beautiful- I can't think of another way to describe it.

Sometimes there's something deeper inside us, some instinct, something that occurs at that first level below the thoughts we articulate.

That's Lake Placid.

And of course it's not, not really. It's just a place, and you see the beauty and not the warts when you're there for five days, when you don't have to get up and go to work in the morning, and when it's July, not January. Which isn't to say there's not a tremendous beauty to the place then as well, but when you start thinking Connecticut's summer is too short...

Being there was great, training there was great- going back next year will be great.

However, I'd felt kind of funky ever since I got back. Part of it is probably just having sighed up to race next year. Standing in line for four hours with Steve Surprise just to get into the race made that a big deal. Not an ordeal, just a big deal. That shifting sand of focus and the way priorities gets subtly re-shuffled...

But that's not really it. I'd just- it's sentimental, and silly- but I just missed the place. I thought it was just me.

And then one day last week Margit said to me that she really hadn't felt quite right since getting back from Lake Placid.

Maybe you can get a hangover from a place...

I guess the only cure for a hangover like this one is to remember all the great friends you have, to remind yourself that this home of your has plenty of nature beauty as well. That job you almost love most days.

And hydrate well. Always hydrate well.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

My other Elite Bike



Thanks, Bruce- had a great five hour ride yesterday while my race bike was in the shop...