Friday, April 30, 2010

The Long Run

I'm taking a week off and skipping a duathlon I'd really like to do- Greenwich- to get in a long run.

It wasn't any easy decision, but my coach asked me if I was racing this weekend, and after racing two of the last three (Danbury Half Marathon three Sundays ago, a 90 minute run two Sundays ago and duathlon last Sunday, it was a no brainer that I needed to get in a long run.

When I emailed him my response, his reply was one word 'Agreed.'

That's all I need to know.

I'll be running two hours Sunday- say hi if you see me...

Frank Deford- A Rebuttal

Frank Deford- who is a fantastic and venerated sportswriter- recently returned to a topic that the Ben Roethlisberger debacle provided an opening for- that athletes should not be role models.

While I respect Deford immensely, I could not disagree with him more in his conclusion.

I think it's fairly simply really. Athletes- professional athletes- are paid millions of dollars to be in the public eye, to be the face of multi-million dollar partners in a multi-million dollar enterprise. It's not about being role models to children, although there's no reason they shouldn't be that as well.

They are being paid a large sum of money for the privilege of being professional athletes. It's not unreasonable to expect them to behave.

The idea that they should be given a pass because they are 'only athletes' just doesn't hold water. Now, if they'd like to play for free, then I think we could be a little less demanding that they, say, not the same laws we are not allowed to break without consequence.

iPad- More New Apps

A few days later, I added these three, all of which I recommend:

1 Toy Story Read-Along, v1.0.1, Seller: Disney Publishing Worldwide Applications (4+)
2 Star Walk for iPad - interactive astronomy guide, v4.1, Seller: Vito Technology Inc. (4+)
3 The Guardian Eyewitness, v1.0, Seller: Guardian News & Media Ltd (12+)

iPad- New Apps

When I first got the iPad, I immediately added more apps, and here's an unedited list of the very first things I added to what was brought over from my iPhone apps:

1 iBooks, v1.0, Seller: Apple Inc. (4+)
2 NYT Editors' Choice, v1.0.1, Seller: The New York Times Company (iDP) (12+)
3 Color & Draw for kids: interactive artistic springboard with 4 apps in 1 for iPad, v1.0, Seller: Martin de Santos (4+)
4 ABC Player, v1.0.1004, Seller: ABC Digital (12+)
5 StumbleUpon, v1.21, Seller: StumbleUpon, Inc (17+)
6 Twitterrific for iPad, v1.0, Seller: The Iconfactory (4+)
7 NPR for iPad, v1.0.1, Seller: NPR (4+)
8 Zinio Magazine Newsstand & Reader, v1.2, Seller: Zinio LLC (12+)
9 USA TODAY for iPad, v1.0.1, Seller: USA TODAY (4+)
10 BBC News, v1.1, Seller: BBC Worldwide LTD (12+)
11 WeatherBug Elite for iPad, v1.0.0.7, Seller: AWS Convergence Technologies, Inc. (4+)
12 Chop Sushi! HD - Small Sushi Big Screen, v1.0.20, Seller: THQ, Inc. (4+)
13 InHouse, v1.0, Seller: FOX Broadcasting (12+)
14 Meebo, v1.2, Seller: Meebo (4+)

Guest Blog- Brian Talon: 50 Mile Race Report

Just Another Run in the Woods!

Strange things can happen when you sit down to enjoy a few beers with good friends. For some it may be a time to relax, have good conversation and reminisce of past experiences. For myself and my core group of friends it is always an opportunity to plan out our next big adventure. Back in 2008, our good friend Ben traveled to Connecticut from Boston for a weekend visit. After a full day of playing with the kids, we all retired to the deck for a campfire, some s’mores for the kids, and beers for the adults. Of course, after the beers started flowing, the conversation started getting interesting and the topic of ultra-marathoning came up. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, an ultra-marathon is any running event over 26.2 miles. For Ben (an experienced marathoner) and myself, this is a topic that has come up before but never acted upon. From my wife Jen (another experienced marathoner), I just received “the look”, but Jen who has always been very supportive, let Ben and I continue our conversation. I believe that this night planted the seed for what became reality on March 27, 2010.

After a few more visits from Ben and many more empty beer bottles, we had decided that our first ultra marathon would be the Umstead 50 mile trail race held every March in Raleigh, North Carolina. For those of you who may think that running 50 miles is for crazy people, you may be right. However, as one of those crazy people, it is always nice to know you are in good company. This race with 250 slots for the 100 mile or 50 mile race options sold out in 5 minutes after registration had opened. Lucky for Ben and I, we were fortunate enough to secure one of those elusive 250 spots before the race was sold out.

Next came the hard part, training for a 50 mile trail race. With 16 marathons under my belt I had become accustom to training for the 26.2 mile race. The ultra-marathon training plans called for a similar structure only with a lot more miles and some really long runs. The core of my training came through the winter and that added a bit more of a challenge to get in the necessary miles. Many of the ultra training plans called for back to back long runs. To accomplish this I would run the 16 mile journey into work on Friday morning, work a full day, head home in the evening and wake up at the crack of dawn on Saturday to run another 30+ miles. The first few months of training were going great, I felt good and remained healthy and injury free. The last couple of months were a bit more of a struggle, as the miles, sleep deprivation and other life commitments started to wear me down. In total I peaked at running 90 miles in one 6 day week and capped my long run at 36 miles. Taper time (3 weeks prior to the race) could not come soon enough as I was battling fatigue and I felt like an injury was around the corner. Thankfully, I made it to the taper and eventually to race day. In the days leading up to the race Jen cooked about 30 pounds of pasta for me to make sure I was nice and plump for race day.

On March 26, 2010, I met Ben at the airport in Raleigh and we proceeded to race registration. We entered Umstead State Park on the fringes of Raleigh and were surprised with the number of hills that we encountered; little did we know that those same hills would be compounded to following day as the miles proceeded through the race. Ben and I picked up our numbers and tried to get a lay of the land to be prepared for race day. The trail race was run entirely within the park and consisted of a 12.5 mile loop that was run 4 times for the 50 mile racers and 8 times for the 100 mile racers. The trail surface was nearly perfect for runners as most was hard packed carriage trails or dirt road. The topographical profile seemed a bit cruel to the runners but fair as it was a loop course and there were as many down as up hill sections. Before leaving the park, Ben and I looked around to see where we could stash our gear to access during each lap of the race the following day. For those of you who know me well, you know that I am very competitive and I always look for advantages to give me an edge, whether it be in training or race strategy. This race was no different, I knew that I would be looping around to the starting area another three times after the race started. I also knew that I was going to be carrying a water bottle with me the whole race to stay hydrated. Most people had the same strategy but planned to take the extra minute (each lap) to refill their empty water bottle. I decided to save those extra 3 minutes and pre-fill four water bottles so I could just dump the empty water bottle and grab a full one. It may seem silly to worry about loosing those three minutes at the aid station, but as you read on you will clearly see that those three minutes could come in handy later in the race.

March 27, 2010 – It is race morning and Ben and I up at 3am. The day is finally here which was a relief for both of us. We arrive at Umstead park shortly after 5am to pitch darkness and temperatures in the high 30’s. The temperature never got beyond the 50’s that day and we were treated to nearly perfect running conditions. We were very fortunate to get the weather we had since only days before temperatures soared into the 80’s and the days after the race saw torrential down pours. After getting ourselves settled in, we were called to the start line and the gun sounded. Everything seemed to have been in slow motion from what I was accustomed to with the shorter races. After only a couple of miles I found myself in no-mans land as there was one runner way in front of me and the rest of the field behind me. Now because the race started at 6am, the first hour or so was run in darkness, many of the runners had head lamps to see where they were going and to follow the signs that outlined the course. This was the first of a few rookie mistakes that I made. Since the guy in first place was long gone, I really had to concentrate to see the shadows of the course directional signs. Once a bright pink sign was spotted, I literally had to put my face about 1 foot from the sign so see which way the arrow was pointed. Thankfully I stayed on course until the sun rose approximately 45 minutes into the race. About 10 miles into the race I caught up to the guy who was in first place. We ran together for a few miles, nice guy who I found out was running the 100 mile race that day and had lots of experience under his belt. Along the way he provided lots of pointers and encouragement to me as we ran. I later found out that the runner was Zach Gingerich, one of the countries elite ultra-marathoners who placed 3rd at the Badwater Ultra a couple of years ago. Not sure I really had any business running with him, except for the fact that I was only running the 50 mile and he was running the full 100 mile race. About the 13 mile mark, Zach put in a serious surge and dropped me again, not sure how fast he was running but for the 5 miles between mile 13 and 18 I was averaging 6:50 pace and he was long gone. Around mile 22 I caught back up to Zach and we ran together for a couple of more miles until he had to make a pit stop and I continued.

I was alone in the front again but feeling ok this point. Before I knew it I rolled past the marathon (26.2 mile) mark in 3 hours and 8 minutes. Faster than I was planning on with all of the hills but I was still feeling confident at that point. As with any long distance race you can be feeling great one minute and not so great the next. A few miles later at about mile 31 I started to get tired and thought to myself, “only another lap and a half”, then I started to do some calculations in my head and said out loud, “crap, I still have 19 miles to go!” Shortly after that I rolled up to an aid station and grabbed a turkey sandwich that was pretty difficult to get down. At this point I really started to feel the hills that didn’t seem to be much of an issue the first couple of laps. For the last 15 miles my legs were cramping with nearly every step, they were not cramping to the point where the muscle locked up but I felt they were on the verge of locking at any moment. I got a little surge of energy when I saw Ben out there on the course; he was looking good and running well. Finally I rolled up to the race starting area again and completed my third lap. Only one more lap to go!!!!, but it sure was not going to be easy. As I rolled through the starting area there was a big aid station with every drink imaginable, hamburgers, hotdogs, cookies and everything else you could imagine. I should have stopped for a moment and refueled, but I didn’t (another rookie mistake). I did save another minute by grabbing my pre-filled water bottle and not having to stop at the aid station for fluids – I was on my way. With 12.5 miles to go I knew I was hurting but was doing my best to keep my head in the game (once your mind goes the body is quick to follow). At the start of the last lap there was an out and back section where I saw Zach (the second place runner – who I need to remind you was running the full 100 miles that day). He was about 8 minutes behind me with 11 miles to go. He provided lots of encouragement to me but looked much better than I felt. I wanted to hold him off for that final lap and also had the time of 6 hours and 19 minutes in the back of my mind that I was pushing for (you will see the significance of that later). That goal time was still attainable but with the way I felt I had to push my body WAY beyond the comfort level. The first few miles of that final lap were uneventful, my running form was long gone, it was more a matter of forcing one leg in front of the other. At mile 41 I hit a long (mile and a half) uphill section that really took the wind out of my sails. Struggled to the top but managed to run the whole hill and was rewarded with a nice downhill section, gravity is a beautiful thing! This brought me to the last aid station which I just ran past. Not sure if that was a mistake but all I really wanted to see was the finish line. The last 5 miles of the loop were the most difficult; you were either running straight up hill or straight downhill. Before I knew it, I turned the corner and hit a really steep section of the course. My mind was saying just run it slow, but my body did not get that signal. I physically could not run that steep section and had to resort to walking, I attempted to speed walk but I am guessing that I looked pretty foolish out there. Legs were cramping and screaming at me, I had never had so little energy in my life but made it through the next couple of miles while walking the very steep uphill sections. Walking actually felt worse as I would become very light headed. At mile ten there was a nice long downhill section which I tried to run fast, I really think I was just thrusting my legs forward and letting gravity do its job. I was feeling a little better about myself at the bottom of that long downhill but then once I started going up again I literally felt like I hit a brick wall. I have hit the wall before in marathons but this was different. I managed to grit my teeth and let my mind take over my body to get up that last hill before the finish. A short reprieve from the hills, before the final 100 yards to the finish (of course the last 100 yards were up hill). I crossed the finish line in 1st place with not even enough energy to raise my arms. Reported my number to the scoring table and basically collapsed into the arms of some volunteers. They brought me inside and laid me down on a mattress in front of a huge fireplace to warm me up. I started eating and drinking anything they could throw my way (cheeseburgers, yogurt, chips, etc). This is the point were Jen always takes good care of me but unfortunately she had to stay home with the kids. Ben’s childhood friends Sarah helped me out after the race and kept Jen updated on my status throughout the race. About 45 minutes later I was feeling human again and one of the race committee members came over and said congratulations on the win and you also broke the course record. As I mentioned before, going into that last lap I was hoping to finish at 6 hours and 19 minutes eclipsing the 15 year old course record of 6 hours and 20 minutes. I finished at 6 hours and 18 minutes (avg. 7:34 per mile) for the new records (remember those three minutes I saved by pre-filling my own water bottles – they came in very handy). Reviewing the results later I saw that I barley held off Zach for my final lap by only 40 seconds (he continued on to smash the 100 mile record by over an hour). Ben had a great race, especially after battling injuries; he finished 40 minutes ahead of his goal pace and ran to a top ten finish. Just to put this whole 50 mile adventure into perspective, for those who have run a 5K race, just consider that 50 miles is sixteen 5K races back to back. On a larger scale, if you started on the Connecticut shore in New Haven and started running due north, you would hit the 50 mile mark at the Massachusetts border.

Great trip and race over all for Ben and I. Hats off for the race Director and his team of volunteers (there must have been one volunteer for every runner!). I know the reason this race sells out in 5 minutes. I made some pretty big rookie mistakes which were mostly around fueling and hydration. Jen and Ben’s finance Julie may never let the two of drink beers together again…….on the ride back to the airport in Raleigh we were already starting preliminary talks about the next adventure!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Du It Duathlon

Some days you want to race. There may or may not be a race that day, but everything is perfect. You're rested, you're pumped up, the weather is awesome.

This was not one of those days. I'd done a two and a half hour ride/half hour run yesterday, then spent two or three hours on yard work. Because it was a beautiful day. 60s and sunny, a great day to ride, even a decent day to clean up the yard with a handsaw.

When I got up at 5:30 I was actually pretty hopeful. The road was wet, but it wasn't really raining. It was cool, but not really cold. I was thinking that 'hey, this isn't going to be so bad.'

That kind of glass 3/4 full optimism took its first hit about half a mile from the house when it started raining for real. But as Marty said on the race website, just because it's raining at your house doesn't mean it's raining in the park.


On the highway, at 65mph, of course a steady rain seems like a monsoon. There was no way to talk myself into the idea that I was going to get to Bridgeport and it was going to be nice there.

It wasn't. I dutifully set up my bike, stood in line to get my numbers, and then went back to the car to get as much gear as possible on. However, after warming up it became clear the Asics techical running jacket was going to be one layer too many so I took it off. I'd be racing in my thinnest pain of tights, an underarmour short sleeve under my Hosdka cycling jersey and arm warmers. I offered my jacket to Michael D'Addetta, who was wearing nothing but a singlet and bike shorts and he declined.

Tough, but not the right call as he later admitted.

To Marty's credit he got the race going right about on time, which had seemed impossible at about 7:20.

The course is flat, but it's flat with a kind of steady uphill incline of about half a percent going out (and obviously, half a percent decline coming back).

I've written about this before. The start of every duathlon seems to be the same for me. The run starts and I'm engulfed- I go from starting right in the middle in the front to having 10 or so guys swarm around me. My goal is to run steady, to have two runs very close to each other time-wise. But it's difficult to have so many people running as fast or faster than you at the start of your race and either not get sucked in or panic.

I'd gotten a little panicky at Brian's at the start and let my heart rate get too high. Not today. I actually felt good as we started the first run. Except of course for the number of people in front and around me.

Early on I was 8th or 9th and I was trying to just stay calm and evaluate the people around me. I actually liked most of what I saw, except for two guys, both of whom were running away from the rest of us, one moderately, and the other, significantly. This would be another case for me of misjudging a book by its cover. The guy that was really running away from the rest of us on this first loop had kind of a stocky look and was wearing a cycling jersey with Cannondale on it.

I kind of gave up on winning the race right there. I mean here was this guys who looked totally like a biker, too stocky for a runner, wearing a cycling jersey- and yet he was crushing us. What would happen when this guy got on a bike ?

The majority of the other guys around me were Tri-Fitness guys.

There was a lot of back and forth on the first run, which is an out and back. I was as high up as fourth and back and forth with one Tri-fitiness athlete in particular- Bryan French. He was on me, breathing pretty hard, audible cadence, and I was holding him off in the first half for the most part. After we broke around the cannon and started back, running slightly downhill now, a younger guy went by us and all I could think about was how bright green the outsoles of his running shoes were on the heel. He proceeded to drop us, putting an amazing 30 seconds on us in about 1.5 miles (or so).

Finally, Bryan passed me. I didn't want to pick it up any more. We had about a quarter mile left and I was not interested in picking it up. Not at all. I wanted to get on the bike and blast out of transition.

I settled in and finished a second behind him.

I had a good transition. I did have to abandon the sunglasses I'd worn because they got hung up on the hat I'd had on and I didn't want to waste a few seconds. I got my shoes and helmet on and ran through transition while others were walking. the guy with the lime green outsoles was struggling to change his shoes.

I moved up two or three spots coming out of transition.

The course is flat with a lot of turns. I got out there and I worked on closing down the guy in front of me. I took the turns very aggressively because I'm light, my bike is light and there aren't a lot of crosswalks in the park where you have to worry about sliding on the paint. The first loop was pretty uneventful until the back part. I passed one opponent, but then on the back I started getting pressure form two of the tri-fitness guys. As I rounded the turn to the second loop I had to stay left to avoid people feeding out onto the course- there were actually people just starting the bike after I'd done an entire loop, which is hard to get the math on but...

Someone yelled 'drop your gear' as I went by, standing up to regain my momentum. If this advice was for me it was exactly wrong. I needed to go to an easier gear but I wanted to grind it out to get that speed back up. I was going right through the puddles, not veering like the other riders. Yes, the puddles slowed me down but I was cutting nice straight lines.

As we got to the area where the run turn around was, someone said 'Go left or around the island ?' I thought it was a first looper, so i said nothing. it turned out it was Bryan, who was just about to pass me. He went the long (wrong) way as I followed the arrows on the road, oops. I felt bad, but not too bad.

Especially when Bryan passed me before the turn-around. I did keep him close, but I was unable to reel him back in, however, suddenly I was going past the guy that had crushed us all on the first loop. He was using toe-clips and was on- well, it didn't look like a great bike. The guy that looked like he had to be a biker first was actually a damn good runner and...

I passed him and I'd see him again.

We went into transition in a group and Bryan left first, then me, then Ron Lombardi, the fastest runner.

Do you know the phrase dead legs ? I have never in my life had dead legs like i'd had when I got off my bike. My right shoe went on easy. My left not so much.

When I started running, it was amazing. My legs felt like they were simply not going to respond at all. They did. Dead or not, I found my usual turnover. Within a minute, as I downed a Gu, I was running at my normal pace, my long stride. I was closing on Bryan and holding off Ron. But not for long. I passed Bryan and moved up into second and I fought to hold off Ron but it wasn't happening. He went by me and then started to gap me.

I was running hard. Despite the fact that I was basically having the race I wanted to have, and my second run was close to my first (just about 3 seconds difference between my run 1 time and my run 2 time), I was afraid of being caught.

By Bryan, or the other Tri-Fitness guy, or the guy with the green shoes. I ran the back half of the loop, where I was actually comfortably in third, like three other guys were breathing down my neck, and it was that fear that allowed me to put 37 seconds on the next finisher in a 3 mile span. Really, it was the fear of being caught that pushed me on, that allowed me to actually cut my time on the course by over a minute.

I did learn something in the cold and the rain.

Sometimes fear is good.

I watched my teammates- Dick Korby, Michael D'Addetta (@poycc), and Susan Wines finish- all placing in or winning their age groups- then I put on some warm clothes and enjoyed the feeling of having raced in miserable conditions but come through with reasonable results.

Sometimes that is enough.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I've had my iPad for 7 days now, so I thought it was time to share my impressions of it.

Everyone assumed that I would have the iPad on day one, but I resisted the urge to pre-order one. I'd already committed to a triathlon camp in June and felt that dropping an equivalent amount on another computing device was just not justified. I have two work-issued laptops, a personal desktop, a work desktop, and two iPhones. What would I need another computer for.

I even asked my 5-year old son if he was interested in the iPad and he said 'it's too iphoney'.

He knew because I did go as far as to go to Best Buy the day they came out and check one out with the family, all three of us taking turns on the iPad. I was impressed, but I walked out without one.

That wasn't easy. Apple didn't win me over that first day, but it was mostly about the cost and not about the features. The truth was, I thought it was pretty cool, and I certainly think keyboard-less computers are the wave of the future. It had just the right feel, just the right weight and heft in your hand, just the right richness of texture as you held it one hand and manipulated it with the other. The screen was brilliant, the apps were clean and crisp.

If you have an iPhone your first response after using an iPad is 'how am I ever going to go back to the iPhone...'

Instead of buying one I used my connections with one of our vendors to get one on what is basically a perpetual free demo.

It came on a Friday morning. I unpacked it, plugged it right into my MacBook Pro, decided against setting it up with same apps I have on my phone and in about 10 minutes fro the time I'd opened the box, I was configuring the wireless network and setting up my .Me email. This is the great genius of the iPanything that Apple sells. I'd read reviews that knocked the iPad for not being a stand-alone device. Consider me among those who prefer the instant on, media available, easily configured and managed Apple-eco system centered around the computer to be an advantage.

My computer isn't going anywhere and even if I'd bought an iPad it would not have been to replace my computer but to augment it.

At lunch I went to Best Buy and bought an open-box Apple iPad case for 33% off. A lot of people don't like the case, but I love it. I never take the iPad out any more except to show it to people. What's great is that it's thin. You can hold the iPad while it's in the case- major win.

I started hunting for apps right after lunch and one of the first ones I installed was Color&Draw from Tipitap Apps. I then started looking for apps that had iPad versions, like Weather Bug, because an iPhone app at 2x is not equal, in most cases, to an iPad native app.

If there's one piece of advice I can give, it's that. Focus on adding iPad native apps to your iPad. The difference is tremendous, especially when apps are in landscape mode.

Case in point- Twitterffic. While twitterrific is a great iPhone app, the iPad app version takes advantage of the extra real estate to deliver a superior experience.

Even Apple's Mail App makes great use of landscape mode to provide a mac-like experience for your mail that allows message list and message reading- at the same time. How can you beat that- it's the biggest shortcoming of the iPhone app solved.

The real test of the iPad was going into Starbuck's after work with my son. I don't even tell him when I install apps on my iPhone or iPad. he's perfectly capable of finding new apps on his own, and after about thirty seconds, he'd found, opened and was using Color&Draw. Now, when he has a choice between the iPhone and the iPad he almost always takes the iPad- and that's the real test. watching him on it, I knew right then, Apple gotten it right.


I'll be posting what apps I've added and my impression of some of the best of them in another blog entry.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Boston Marathon

Just a quick shout-out to everyone running the Boston Marathon today, hoping you all have a great race.

the weather looks good, and it should be a great day to race.

Make it your day.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Danbury Half-Marathon

I didn't even start thinking about running Danbury until Monday and didn't make a decision on Thursday night. My longest race of the year had been last week's 1/4 marathon and my longest run all year was probably only 14 miles and that was maybe a month ago.

So why was I running a half-marathon ?

Three reasons- I was able to get great babysitting from the race director's daughter, I thought maybe it would be easier on Margit if Ian and I were out of the house a good hour or two before she had to leave for the airport for a week-long business trip, and I'm still trying to race the stank off.

Why ? The funny thing is, I looked up my Shamrock and Roll times and they consistently suck, with this year's being less than 20 seconds worse than last year's on a harder course. And I had a good race at Brian's, so I am told.

I'm funny like that. Once i get it in my head I had a bad race...

My goal was to run around 1:24. That's a modest goal. I'm still capable of running in the 1:22 or 1:21 range, but I ran two last year and had a 1:23 and a 1:24 and I had a much better running base for those (Fairfield and Niantic Bay). It looked like a perfect day was on tap- maybe a high of 60 at race time, low to moderate wind, and a mix of sun and clouds. A little cool for me, but I wouldn't even need the arm-warmers.

The course is kind of interesting in that you run a right hand loop that takes you back to the War Memorial from the starting line- past the finish line- and then around. This allows them to get the bulk of the first two miles and then the rest of the 11 mile course is sort of an out and back (not really, but close enough).

Some people don't like this because it adds a little redundancy to the course, I suppose, however, despite not exactly being one of the great glass-half full people of my generation, I saw this as a plus.

I knew that I would go out too hard. After the race Tim Cote used exactly the same term I use- 'it's in the bank'. Meaning, in my case- not his- I'm going to go out there and quite possible lay an egg or two with some 6:30ish miles and it doesn't really matter if I ran the first mile in 6:00 or 6:20, except I'll finish 20 seconds later. This type of thinking is quite probably wrong but hey- 6:00 mile the first mile !

At around four minutes we ran past the 2 mile mark of the 5K course and I quipped 'Two minute miles. Right on pace.' Everyone around me laughed, probably as a courtesy.

Still, after a mile, I started to back it off. I knew that whatever I was going to run, it was not going to be a 1:18 flat. I went through two miles at around 12:15 and then backed it off a little more.

Of course, backing it off isn't easy. In order to do that, you come back to people. You get passed by people. You wonder if they are all thinking how you're a jackass, starting on the line, running a 6 minute first mile, then coming apart like two miles into the race. Of course you are out there for you and not for them, and who cares, right ?

Of course you care. It's just how it is. Between two and three miles Tim Cote, who's clearly got some talent, came up behind me. I could tell it was him and gave him a shout out, then he passed me. We chatted briefly about our respective strategies and then he started to pull away. I didn't consider running with him, because I knew I had to hold my pace in check. That and a few seasons ago I came to a conclusion I've pretty stubbornly stuck to, which is that I do not race with people in long races (anything over five miles.)

It's just been my theory that three miles into a long race like New Haven or a half-marathon, racing with people early is a recipe for disaster. Either they are better than you, or you're smarter than them, and it's going to be miles and miles before you find out. Not the case with Tim- he was going to beat me. But I was getting passed by other people I was not so sure would beat me, or should beat me.

It wasn't long before Johnny Camacho, Maximo Veiga, and Pedro Cobos had all passed me. They were getting coaching help from a guy on a mountain bike. That's legal in a road race and the guy wasn't interfering with us- there have been plenty of races where I've wanted to stiff-arm some bike-riding doufus who gets on the course and gets in everyone's way, but this wasn't like that. Still, it's a little demoralizing to have most of the guys running around you getting good vibes while you're trying to beat them.

I took my first Gu right around 4.5 miles, just when I was being passed by some guy I don't know in a lime-green jersey. And a fun thing happened on the way to the middle of the pack. For whatever reason, although this guy had caught me, he wasn't pulling a way. The wind had picked up a little, and this guy like guys in general, was taller than me. I tucked in. I hung on, and then we started, finally, to hit some hills, the first hills since mile two.

Let me stop and say something about this race. You run downhill. A lot. And for the first four or five miles you run downhill so much that you really start to worry, because you know sooner or later, bad things are coming...

I believe guy in bright green and I pulled up on Pedro together, but pretty soon I was pulling away from both of them on an uphill. Between miles 5-7 there was a decent amount of uphill work, mixed in with some downhill rollers. I pushed the uphills to keep people like Tim in site and moved up as I could, leaving behind these two.

I had two more people between Tim and I thought I could catch and it was nice to be coming back on people. Especially because I was expecting to fade once I got to around 7 miles. I hadn't run a race of this length since the Ironman and it was hard to imagine I wouldn't fade.

The real challenge was yet to come though. Fairfield has its killer hill, and so does Danbury. Not long after I'd taken my second Gu, I reached the mile 9 mark, and the killer hill is well, basically it's mile 10. I was running well, holding one runner fairly close to me, and I was surprised how strong I felt. The extra nutrition hadn't hurt, however, two GUs plus mango-orange performance Gatorade- the best I could get at the store- did start to rile my stomach a little bit. I hit the mile 10 mark and I still had a short at running in the 1:24s, but I was going to have to hustle and run around a 19 minute 5k to do it.

Then mile 11 hit me. If there's a bad mile in every long race, it was mile 11. I started to get that over-extended feeling that's oddly unique to endurance sports. My heart rate was maybe 5 beats too high, I was mildly dehydrated, I felt myself to be struggling. I'd decided at mile 7 to break the balance of the race into two-mile segments, and here I was, halfway through that and melting down.

But a funny thing happened. I didn't melt down. I didn't let the guy in front of me go. I even got a little encouragement from the guy on the bicycle, who told me I looked strong. Then I started to feel strong. The bad moment , or bad mile passed, and if mile ten was one big uphill, mile twelve was one big downhill.

I was chasing a guy about 7 or 8 inches taller than me and younger. But he was coming back to me steadily. At first I was going to close him down and hang, after all, I must be over-extending myself to make this catch against a runner who should be stronger than me on downhills. However, as I got close, I realised this was not the case. I was out-running him and although it was too early, I had to make my move. I went by, we exchanged encouragement, and I hammered with everything I had to open a gap that could not be closed down.

The last mile was tough. I was sure that a strategy that involved making a big move with more than a mile left in a half-marathon would backfire. I kept running hard but the course started to roll again and I was worried. Which is a good thing. I worked that last mile hard and was never challenged, while I continued to come back on people- although I didn't catch anyone else.

In the end, I was pretty satisfied. I'd run my goal time, and I'd running very strong late in the race when I expected to fade. I'd have been a lot happier running a 1:22 but that would required actually training to run the race, not jumping in at the last minute.

My son was right near the finish line playing with Sophie Bysiewicz. He was happy. I got few minutes to chat with Tim and Mark Satran and then do a warm-down and after that ?

Straight to Barnes and Noble in Milford 90 minutes of reading with my son.

Not a bad day at all....

Monday, April 05, 2010

Hartford Quarter Marathon

Some races you run because they mean something to you or because they fit right into your schedule. And then, when you are on a team, sometimes you run a race because you have to.

Saturday fell into that category. If I'd had my choice, I'd have gone to Hammonessett and tried to win the Feed the Need 5k for a 3rd time. I definitely wanted to race. I've been trying to blow the stink off ever since Shamrock and Roll, although on Thursday I'd finally checked my times at that race and they've been consistently some of the slowest 5Ks I've run every year- last year was just 15 seconds faster on an easier course.

In other words, I'd let a result from a race that wasn't important in my training, and wasn't even that much outside the norm, really get under my skin.

So I wanted to race, and after all, this was one of the races I voted for to be a part of the USATF-CT state championship. Because of scheduling issues at home I found myself hopping in the car at 8:30 for a 10:00 race that was 50 minutes from home.

Fortunately, because of the way they changed the parking at the reservoir, you can't actually park near the race start, or rather, you can't get to the race start from where you park because on of the main gates were closed. The run to the porta-potties was a great warm-up. Unfortunately, everyone seemed to have the same idea- get in the park and take care of business before making their way to the starting line.

That done, it was now twenty of, so the rest of my warm-up was doing strides.

I didn't honestly know what the course was like, however, I knew it would be rolling and two loops, with a downhill start. I got right on the line and pretty soon we were off.

I expected to be nervous. And I was. My heart rate spiked, really spiked, more like the start of a triathlon than a road race, but that's what happens when you are not really sure you're in race shape. I felt pretty uncomfortable, but unlike my last road race, I settled in as much as I could.

The course, while not really hilly (nothing like the cross-country race held in the same park), is pretty rolling. It's not easy to really just settle in and run. I went out hard, and I like where I was relative to the people around me. When Jim Zoldy went by past a mile, and then Mark Hixson, both faster runners, I felt like I was settling in.

I wanted to run on perceived effort, but I think I made the mistake of letting the course dictate my strategy.That is to say, it was a two-loop course so I was determined to run it as two halves. That makes sense if you are running, say, the two loop Lake Placid IM course. Not so much a race that is 6.55 miles.

Maureen Terwilliger started to push me and normally this would be bad. Maureen is a great runner but usually not quite as fast as me. However, looking at the other people around me, I just din't think it was that bad.

Just short of 3 miles, Rob Barker went by and he encouraged me to hop on and catch some people, but I told him I was working on my own plan. This is where the mistake of seeing the course as two halves came in. I should have just gone with him.

I went through the first loop at over 20 minutes. I was feeling a little spent, uh, well, kind of like I was in the middle of a race. I had a Gu and some water and was back at it. I was basically settled in, no one pushing me from behind. There was a Housatonic runner about 40 meters in front of me, and Barks and Maureen were in sight but out of range. Maureen was running a solid back half, running the hills steady and with more intensity then the first loop. I wasn't catching her or Barks.

I felt like I'd settled in and was starting to remember how to race. This was only my third race in two months, and my longest race since Ironman Arizona. I race well when I race and I haven't been racing- this was my first back-to-back racing this year.

I managed to close down the Housatonic running at about 5.9 miles and passed him. This is a downhill section of the course and I did my best to open a gap. I held that gap until after the 10k mark, but then we came back out onto the main path and now the first loop people were in the way.

The Housatonic runner used a 'rather large' first loop athlete to do a blind split on me and ended up beating me by 4 seconds.

Still, I managed had a top 25 finish at a very well-attended state championship, certainly ran better than my last road race, and with a few more races, I think I'll have forgotten this year's slow start.

Which really was just once race.

After all, I ran a good quarter marathon coming off a two-hour die and hard half hour run the day before.

And perhaps more important, the next day I had an awesome run-bike-run. After all, the goal isn't good road races in April. It's a good IM in Lake Placid in July...