Sunday, November 04, 2012

Why I'll never run the NYC Marathon

Wow. Let me say this after reading the email letter from the NYRR (below, from the Gothamist at about canceling the NYC Marathon. I will never run the race as long as they are in charge of it:

Letter from the New York Road Runners:
It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that the 2012 ING New York City Marathon has been canceled.

The decision was made after it became increasingly apparent that the people of our city and the surrounding tri-state area were still struggling to recover from the damage wrought by the recent extreme weather conditions. That struggle, fueled by the resulting extensive and growing media coverage antagonistic to the marathon and its participants, created conditions that raised concern for the safety of both those working to produce the event and its participants. While holding the race would not have required diverting resources from the recovery effort, it became clear that the apparent widespread perception to the contrary had become the source of controversy and division. Neither NYRR nor the City could allow a controversy over the marathon to result in a dangerous situation or to distract attention from all the critically important work that is being done to help New York City recover from the storm.

NYRR, in partnership with the Rudin Family and the ING Foundation, has established the "Race to Recover" Marathon Fund to aid New Yorkers impacted by the storm. Over $2.6 million has been raised, including a $1 million donation by NYRR. We are asking you to join us by making a $26.20 donation, or whatever you can afford, to help bring recovery and hope to those communities and families most affected. Proceeds will go to Hurricane Sandy Relief, administered by the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City. You can also donate to the relief effort through NYRR's fundraising platform, CrowdRise, which includes the American Red Cross and other charities.

NYRR will redeploy the marathon resources and materials toward the recovery effort. We will share the details of this project as they are finalized in the days ahead.

We all recognize this has been a very challenging time in New York City that has impacted so many people, including you, our runners. Please know that this is one of the toughest decisions we have ever made, and that we deeply appreciate your support.

My take: Two things here- the resources being used and reserved for the marathon (including desperately needed generators and gasoline) were by default not being used for the recovery effort. And blaming the media for basically asking a very common sense question that was not antagonistic is- wow.

When John Hirsch wrote a note explaining his reasoning for the race going on, it really gave me pause. He was talking about charity and things like that and I thought 'maybe I'm looking at this the wrong way thinking the race should be cancelled'.

Then I read this letter. I was ready to hold NYRR blameless and chalk this whole thing up to Mayor Bloomberg, who isn't always willing to reverse decisions, especially high-profile ones.

The donation is great. But this letter should have been a mea culpa, not an ode to the media misunderstanding the poor NYC marathon. Just my take, but I really am just not impressed.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Guilford Sea Legs Shuffle 10 Miler

You know it's hot, like crazy hot and humid, when 4 miles into a 10 mile road race, a state championship no less, you set your goal to be to run under 70 minutes.

I'd ridden 101 miles the day before and then run 40 minutes and the only goal of that run had been to avoid heat stroke. I weighed myself after that Saturday workout, which I finished at 2:30 PM, and I was under 130 pounds for the first time in- forever. So that lead me to drink everything that wasn't nailed down to the inside of the fridge. Beer, water, Pelligrino. I knew if I was going to race the next day I needed to get back about 5 pounds of water weight.

Still, I had moderate expectations. I got up in the morning and felt my overall recovery from the ride had been moderate at best, but that's how it is with this race, which I'd run more than once the week after doing IM Lake Placid or the day after the Block Island Tri.

We started out and where it was pouring rain last year, it was bone dry so when we turned into the fairgrounds- there's a 90 degree tight turn inside a wooden fence post maybe 100 meters from the start. Runners around me were complaining about the dust JB's van was kicking up, but what are you going to do, have him lead the race out on a bicycle ?

It's a tough first mile because it's a state championship, so you have fast young guys that know what they are doing, fast young guys that don't, and some really fast older guys. We all know you have to take it out easy, but there's a lot of adrenaline out there. I went through a mile in 6:03 and I was at best in 30th place.

We hit the first water stop and there were two people at it. Trying to pour the water into cups and hand it out to everyone going by. Two people cannot adequately staff a water station when it's like 90 and 100% humidity with the sun blazing. I reached for a cup, and it wasn't even close- the guys in front of me got water, and I got nothing. I said 'Damn it' out loud, not yelling at the volunteers- it wasn't their fault, but still, I needed to pour that water on my head. Jim Zoldy heard me and told me all he could think was 'I know that's going to show up on alan's blog...'

Probably it's just a hangover from being at IMLP, where they know how to handle water stops.

What really was surprising to me was how hard some people were pushing it. The way most races start out, I get out there pretty fast, then I get passed by people in the back half of the first mile that are going to crush me- like Jim Zoldy as an example. That's OK. But there were people I was not sure would be finishing ahead of me really taking it out and I just shut it down a little because I wanted to run the 10th mile closer to the what I ran the 2nd.

There were some traffic issues but in a race you're going to have to a) wait b) drive around me. I really want to run the tangents during a race, especially one that's ten miles long. I don't have a ton of patience with traffic and the way the race is set up there is only one or two places where there would be any chance of conflicting with oncoming runners (faster) unless you are well towards the middle or back of the pack.

There are some rollers in the first two miles and then the race gets as hilly as a race in Guilford near the water can get. The truth is in a road race a 50 or 60 foot elevation gain is a serious hill that will start to break people and sure enough even before the fourth mile some of the same guys that had passed me and that I questioned (in my own head) passing me started coming back to me. I passed one guy who- I swear- was weaving up a hill, not going in a straight line but climbing at angles back and forth.

My focus was really totally on me though. I was really fighting the urge to run hard up these hills and the downhills on the other side. But when I hit the 4 mile mark I reset my goal of under 65 minutes, which was not a very aggressive goal- to breaking 70. It was that kind of day- I only had my 24-25 runners ahead of me, and I was bleeding time like  a stuck pig, running 6:40+ a mile mile after mile.

The back part of the course is a loop, and it's where the biggest hills are and that's where a lot of damage that gets done. I was really running with two guys. Now when I saw with, they were running 50 meters in front of me and no one was any closer, but for me, that's close. I tend to run in the deep space between the packs, like the dark matter physicists are always looking for.

They were back and forth with each other while I watched both of them get closer to me. Towards the end of this back loop we came up on a guy who had been in that top 15 group and he was walking. I tapped him on the shoulder and told him to stick with it, and then went back to watching the wheels come off one of the guys in front of me, who I caught and passed.

It's a real relief to head down the long sloping downhill back towards Guilford and you can also see well ahead of you- I was passing the second guy now and setting my sights on a group of three further up the road. At this point I was getting good water. At one stop I told them to just hit me with the water and got three cups in the torso, and yes, that's exactly what I want.

I got back into town and because I'm an idiot who'd forgotten the course despite running it last year, I was confused as to why I had not yet hit 8 miles. At this point, I was already having trouble holding it together. I'd passed several more guys on 146, but now the only two guys still within range were down the street as I made the corner and the heat was like a giant hand pushing down on me. I was thinking that no, they couldn't possibly have us run up over the bridge- a giant hill really, in both directions before the turn home.

Yes, yes they could.

You run into a little neighbourhood in that mile 8 area and there was- I kid you not, the nicest 80-year old woman handing out cups of water at a water stop.


Her attempt to get me a cup of water was- unsuccessful.

The first guy to pass me in at least 5 miles, and the last one that would- went by and said something to the effect of how ineffective the water stops had been. I agreed.

I was glad to be carrying my own bottle.

Heading towards the hill I could see two guys in front of me, one with a familiar freckle pattern on his back. I knew who it was and it's someone I never beat, but I passed him going up the hill and then I passed another guy. I kept thinking the turnaround was coming but it wasn't...

The turn around was actually that you run around the old Stone House. Brutally far away. I made that turn and passed another guy in the parking lot and then just ran as hard as I could to the bridge and just kept running hard. No one was going to catch me. Going the other way, people, lots of people, were walking up the hill.

I made the second to last turn and saw a 5K athlete in front of me. I had to run her down- I was about to pass a 5k running after running 10 miles. I got the pass, turned into the fairgrounds and had gapped the people I passed, so I just finished, grabbed a bottle of water, poured it over my head and then grabbed another, mixed up some recoverite, and sat by my car exhausted drinking it.

I got a chance to talk to some friends, but the whole thing was sobered by watching an ambulance pull in to deal with one of four athletes who collapsed after the race.

Four. None serious affected but still, something like that reminds you that all you achieved or endured, or whatever, it's small. It's secondary...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fairfield Half-Marathon

I signed up for Fairfield only after pulling a wrong-way at Lake Placid. Running a half two weeks after a marathon is not the smartest move, but I was well-trained, felt I'd kept up my volume without pushing too hard- I ran 11 miles Friday but then just spun for 90 minutes Saturday morning so I'd be fresh for the race.

Fairfield is an interesting half. I've run it more times than any other half-marathon, to the best of my knowledge anyway, and most of then have ended with me struggling in the last few miles to keep my dren together. I hate that and that's really been a focus this year for longer races, to hold it together and not fall apart at the end of races. This was my 3rd half-marathon and I'd held up OK at Disney and really well at Chesire, so I knew Fairfield would be a test. The course is definitely the hardest of the three, and it was going to be hot. I may like the heat, but it does effect everyone, no matter how acclimated they are, and I felt after running in last week's heat, I was ready.

I didn't need much of a warm-up with the heat. The starting line is packed, even though men and women have different starting lines (and different first miles of the course) I was right on the line at the start. Yes, it's a big race with a lot of good people, but 20-30 men fit on the starting line and I have a reasonable chance of being in the top 30 men. The press of bodies was a little much, but I was able to get off the line hazard-free.

I'd seen Don Gustavson before the race and he asked me what I wanted to run and I said I thought I'd run around 1:24 although in theory I was capable of 1:21. He was coming off a monster Friday of swimming, biking, and I think running, so he was aiming for 1:29 or so.

The start was cramped but not difficult. I was able to get off the line with no issues. It's a tough start because the first mile is extremely flat with about one turn. So the tendency is to cook that first mile, which in this race, is a really bad idea. I've run some 5:40s there and come back and been over 7 the last two miles....

I went out and ran over 6 minutes the first mile and that was actually about what I wanted. I didn't feel overcooked after a mile. I like that

At the next turn we merged in with the women. There were eight women in front of me right off the bat- Mary Lynn Currier- who I passed but never saw, and two other women that were in visual range. I hit the second mile marker feeling like I was running a good pace but the clock said 12:30 and that meant I'd run a 6:20. So I was off the pace in the second mile. Huh ?

There's a hill then, and experience tells me at this point in this race that this hill is not to be charged up, but rather handled a little bit carefully.

Al Metro was there and he yelled something out that really stick with me the whole race and I'll thank him for when I see him. 'You have experience on this course.' I thought about that the whole race, about how yes, I do have experience on the course and as I watched people racing each other this early in the race, breathing hard and struggling to stay with each other, I really questioned their judgement. There was one guy, running in shorts and a bandana, that would keep surging like this, getting caught and then chasing people, pulling ahead of me and then getting caught by me, for more than six miles. He was breathing so hard while I was mostly thinking about maintaining my form. Eventually he went off the back. The two women that I could see I also passed. I'd had a brief glimpse of the lead

The real big moment in the race was just after the 6 mile mark for me. I'd been watching people running all crazy and thinking I'd let them have their moment, because in the end a race is about minutes, not moments. I got swarmed by a guy and a woman that I thought must be running together. We were going up a hill, I'd established the inside line, the exact line I wanted and then went around me on both sides and totally cut my line off. I was pissed.

I actually said 'You took my line'.

I think sprinted around them, and took the line back. I was thinking that these two were definitely going to beat me. They'd caught me from behind about halfway through the race, this woman had someone pacing her. Therefore sprinting around them was stupid.

I did it anyway.

At the top of the hill there's a turn and we went around that and they tried to pass again and this time I was towards the middle of the road because that's where the tangent was. The guy bumped me. I looked at him and said 'Really ?' and then picked up my pace again.

This really was the most critical part of the race. The next thing I knew we were heading to a water station. The guy ran in front of me and cut me off- again.

That was it. I was running at another level now, the same way I ran at Disney. The guy picked it up and eventually separated from me. By the way he was responding to questions from spectators, they were looking for her to be with him. He turned around and looked for her and gestured in my direction because she was, for a few miles, right on my heels.

After that, the increased pace brought people back to me. I was not passed by anyone else after about mile 7 and started picking people off.

Going up the hill in the 10th mile, there were some cyclists riding right at me, and this was right after I passed the guy that had repeatedly bumped and cut me off. I was frantically waving them out of the way. The guy said to me 'You're wasting a lot of energy.' I didn't respond. Instead I cranked up the engine and separated on the hill, got a gap, and then at the top of the hill blistered down, catching more guys. I didn't see him again until the chute.

I ran those flat last two miles really hard, never backing off and not feeling like crap like I usually do at the end of the race.

At 12 miles, I could clearly see Wantuil Souza. He looked like the heat had gotten to him- he'd been far out ahead of me and I just set my sights on him and caught him before the turn and then took that last turn and really ran as hard as I could the last half mile or so.

When the guy that had told me I was eating energy crossed the line I put on my hand and shook his and then asked him what he'd been saying about 'wasting energy...'

I was surprised a few hours later when I got home- Ian wanted to leave right away so I was gone before the race was even two hours old- that not only had I won my five year age group but I was first master- that was a pleasant surprise. Although it was my slowest half this year, I felt like it was one of my better races.

And I enjoyed running it...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Running in the Heat

It's 95 degrees here in the heat today and I have to say that unlike most people, I love it. I can't wait to get out and run on these hot and humid days. But it's not easy, and you have to do it the right way. So here are some tips humbly offered.

Throw the GPS in the drawer 
It's so easy these days to track every step, analyse the distance and speed of every workout, and of course, when we do that, we start to develop specific expectations. Despite being the first person to post his routes and times to facebook, let's face it, you're the only person that cares how far or how fast your workout was. Don't get me wrong, self-expectations can be great, but on an extremely hot day you should always run for a set time, not a set-distance. Why ?

Lower your expectations
It's important to moderate your expectations, especially this time of year when you might be running in extreme heat for the first time. The heat will affect you because it's not physiologically possible for you to completely ignore it. When it's 80 and you go out and start your run you'll feel the heat eventually. When it's 95 and you step out the door it will hit you in the face the first step. And keep hitting you.

I recommend picking either a different route that you usually run or doing a strict out and back with the goal of turning around halfway through the run. Don't try and negative split. I went out today and picked a route I knew I could normally easily run in under 75 minutes with the goal of running it in 75 minutes. You are not going to run as fast. Accept it. Start the run with the goal of surviving the run.

That may sound lame but 95 degree weather, especially humid 95 degrees is no joke. It's more than most people can handle. Add the fact that this kind of humid heat invariably drives down air quality and you have every reason to reduce your expectations.

Carry a full-sized water bottle, not a fuel belt
I'm a big advocate of a full-sized water bottle under all circumstances, but in the extreme heat, I think it's a must. This is just a question of mass and um, kinetic energy (?) 4 small bottles with 6-8 ounces of fluid will heat up very quickly, where as a single 20 ounce bottle will stay cool longer. Keeping your fluids cool as long as possible helps provide maximum benefit when you drink them. Drinking 85 degree sports drink is not cooling to help keep your core body temperature regulated.

I know for a lot of people, carrying a water bottle is not something they like to do, but my advice is to do it anyway.

Stay in the shade
Try to pick a route with a lot of shade. Shade is 5-10 degrees cooler (or more). Every minute you spend in the shade improves your chance of success. It's not wimpy or anything, it's common-sense smart.

The first 10-20 minutes of the run may not feel very good. You are going to run slower. Live with it. Settle in and run steady- running fast is not what you are looking to do. Don't think about the heat, don't think about the low air quality. Getting panicky will raise your heart rate 5-10 beats a minute and by far the most important thing is keeping your heart rate down. Don't push, don't time your miles, ignore any other runners out on the road.

Concentrate on Your Form
One of the best ways to stay relaxed and get the most out of your run is to work on your form. I'm not a very zen type of guy, but with the heat, your muscles and joints are going to be lose and it could be your best chance to run with really good form. Really good form in turn makes you more relaxed. Being relaxed in turn keeps your heart rate down. This is especially important on hot days. Cardiac drift is going to work in an accelerated fashion on hot days and keeping your heart rate low is essential. If your form is good you will run strong, and if you run strong you'll feel confident.

Back off on the hills
Your heart rate is always going to elevate on hills. In the extreme heat, you have to be especially careful not to let your heart rate get away from you. If you push a hill, your heart rate will soar, and you may not be able to get it back down. In the heat, your heart rate will stay elevated longer, perhaps significantly. Don't charge up a hill only to have to walk after you crest it, or spend the entire rest of your run with an unproductively elevated heart rate.

Don't let the fact you're feeling good goad you into anything
15-20 minutes into your run, even if you felt like crap at the start, you may start to feel really good. That's great. Don't start pushing hard. That's your body settling in. If you start pushing as soon as you start feeling good, you will stop feeling good. Again, cardiac drift will occur. That good feeling, at the same intensity, will leave you in the dust later. Keep your intensity level the same, run and enjoy the fact that for a few minutes, you feel good. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that if it doesn't hurt it's not hard enough.

Listen to your body
Normally I am the first person to tell my body to go frak itself. But on an hot day it's essential you listen to what your body is telling you. If it says you need to walk, walk. Heat stroke is not some kind of weird joke, it's incredibly dangerous. Runners and triathletes sometimes get a little superman complex going. Don't. If your body says slow down, even walk, it beats an ambulance ride to the ER.

Replenish, then reward
It's essential that you replenish as soon as you get done runner. I recommend two scoops of Recoverite in a glass with cold water.

My rewards are: Red Bull, @stepehenathome's American Dream, or a Root Beer.

Get some calories in right away. Then sit back and put your legs up and rest and relax.

You earned it.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Marathon that Wasn't

Sometimes you go to a race, and something goes wrong. It happens to everyone. It can be a 5K in the middle of nowhere with 100 people where they don't really mark the course right, it could be an Ironman where your tire blows up in transition 15 minutes before the race starts.

It could be a race that's a throwaway or the race that you spent six months training for and at the end of the day, random chance, your own penchant for the occasional mistake or something else can step up and bite you in the ass.

I'd been training for the Lake Placid Marathon, well, since the day after the Disney Half Marathon. I started out the year with a 1:21 there, trimming 5 minutes off my last half-marathon in September, went on to win 3 races in the spring, and then got in the type of training a lot of people can only dream of finding the time for- a 22 mile run in the middle of the week,  5 10-plus miles runs in 10 days. I was ready to run this race, my legs were in good shape, mentally I wanted to be in the top 5.

I don't know that I'll ever write the actual race report for this race, because well, I didn't run it.

I ran most of it. Over 25 miles of it, but that's not a marathon.

Due to an odd fluke of the course the turn-around is not at 13.1 miles but at around 12 miles (or something).

I had it in my head exactly where the turn-around was, and when I got there, I turned around and headed the other way. There were some super-sized cones at the turn-around, I saw the lead runners going the other way.

I had a brain fart. This was an epic one, the biggest race-day mental error I have ever made.

I didn't know it, really know it, until I ran past the actual turn around.

Wow. I finished the race, I talked to the runner closest to me when I made the turn, I sat on the bumper of the timing truck for a minute, and fought back a few tears. I'm a bit of neanderthal, I don't guys should ever cry, but that was pretty close.

I went to the timer, gave the my pull tag, and told then I'd missed a turn. They wanted to really check it out and make sure I was wrong. I told them I was sure, and went back to the hotel.

I don't deserve a pat on the back or anything for that. I totally frakked up out on the race course. Plain and simple. I made a mental error you just can't make. This race has three turn-arounds and you have to get all three right. Going to the timer and disqualifying myself wasn't something I could decide whether or not I wanted to do.

Physically, I felt like I'd run a marathon. Mentally, I'd faced the same challenges, the fatigue and the self-doubt. Emotionally, there was no satisfaction.

I can't say it didn't suck. I can't say it didn't remind me that this was the same place where I'd passed on what is probably the only Kona spot I'll ever earn. I can't say I wasn't stupid embarrassed.

I can say that I got showered and took Ian and played 18 holes of Pirate Golf (I won). I can say that the next morning I signed up for the Branford Road Race and the Fairfield Marathon.

I can't get that race back. I can't forget that what I did was stupid, but I can't let it affect me either. I have raced before and now, after this morning, I have raced again.

And that is all you can do.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Durham 10k

There's last minute race decisions and there are last minute race decisions.

My season started with one- the New Year's Day 5k, then went to the ultimate in pre-planned, the Disney Half-Marathon. I feel like I am repeating that pattern, running the Durham 10K today and then going to Lake Placid to run the marathon on the tenth.

That's because after debating about what to do this morning, it ended up that I'd be going to the race alone, I thought I had plenty of time to get there, and in the end I did, but not without some serious misadventure. I decided to go up 22 to 17 to Durham, only there was a detour in North Branford/Northford, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, for a parade.

Without getting into too many details I went to Durham via Wallingford, which if you are from the area you may know is not a way you'd ever intentionally go. I got to the race 27 minutes ahead of race time, which is not kosher at all. By the time I got through the registration line, the bathroom and dropped my stuff at the car it was 9 minutes to race time.

9 minutes.

I did some strides, some knee lifts, then I got on the line. After last year's kid-choked start that saw one runner (not me) take a kid out, I pushed my way into the spot I wanted, intentionally walling off a couple of kids behind me. It's great to see young boys interesting in keeping the sport alive. It is not great tripping over them at the start of a race that beats you silly coming out of the gate.

It was hot and humid, which is fine with me, but I was coming off a long string of workouts- 6 hours on the trainer in 3 days, followed by a 12 mile run the day before the race at 6:36 a mile.

I knew that I'd be hard-pressed to accomplish much and to be honest, I felt like my goals for the race should be moderate. The run the day before was the real prize- after turning in some 12 milers at 7:15 or 7:30 I was starting to worry that maybe I was overtrained, or mis-trained, or just didn't really have the energy left in the tank for the marathon.

Pounding out those 6:30s and feeling really good when I got done was everything, so adding the race the next day was really just a nice way to get in 10K.


The start of the 10K has you blast up a hill, and there's always a couple of fast youngsters in the mix, and I'm always looking to get as much separation from the field in this part of the race so the whole thing comes together. Pretty quickly it was just four of us blowing up this long hill. I could feel my heart rate spiking and I didn't care. We made the turn, finished the climb and then we were on a straightway on 17 and I was starting to lose contact with all three of the other guys.

I've done the race so many times that i spend the whole race anticipating the next turn, the next hill, the next mile marker. I'm not sure if this is good or bad, but it completely changes the perspective. You are evaluating what's going to happen as much as what is happening. I could tell as I went through the back part of the first mile that I was flagging slightly and that was verified when Chris Schulten went past me. I thought right then there was a chance he could win.

I knew there was no chance I could.

Honestly, the next 5.2 miles was about hanging on, about survival.

We turned off the main road and the run to the next turn seemed to take forever and a day. Then it was down hill all the way to the next turn and after you take that you get to look at where you'll be going at the finish. But you run by it and start climbing again, and now the climb is for real. I was taking water when I could get it (some volunteers are better than others).

You climb until the halfway point, then blast down another hill. Chris moved from 3rd, to 2nd, while I hung at fifth.

We went down hill and then the fun begins. The toughest hill in the course, and it's a doozy, is in that 4th mile. It's .75 miles long, it's steep, and you cannot overcook it without melting down, especially when it's 80 degrees, sunny with 100% humidity. I could see the guy leading Chris out and I was thinking either this guy is for real, or he's going to break on the hill.

He broke on the hill.

Chris went by him, the guy in second went by him, the guy in third went by, I went by him. He started trying to run, but it was a weak jog, and in road racing, there is no mercy. I went by him and I didn't even look at him, because I was in enough distress of my own.

We went down the hill, hit the fourth mile mark and I just couldn't close on the guy in front of me. Usually I blast through the last two miles as fast as I can and I feel really good, but the truth is I was just hanging on. There was no movement in the field. I wasn't gaining on anyone, and as far as I could tell, no one was gaining on me.

The girl doing the five mile split time had driven to the spot, but then set up, I kid you not, at about 4.9 miles. I didn't listen to what she said. I knew there was one more climb, and I got up it, not quite shuffling, (and feeling a little sickish) but also not quite really running.

Then it was downhill and I felt good but I had this idea that someone was bearing down on me. We turned back in- the same place we'd run by earlier- and headed for the finish line and sure enough, I got caught at 6 miles. The guy went by me and in a very sportsmanly way asked me to go with him- 'Let's take it in', but truth be told, I was already thinking about my marathon in less than two weeks, and I let him go and finished fifth.

Chris won the race, and our age group, but I was still second overall and 5th in my age group, running 38:59 in a race where the winner didn't break 37. I did pick it up a tiny bit to get under 39:00.

And that was good enough. Now I'm ready to run a marathon...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cheshire Half-Marathon

I wasn't planning on running this race. In fact, this race was not even on my radar until JB called me on Friday to ask me an insurance question. That was when I looked into the race and realised that 1100 people had pre-registered to run the half, which is just a crazy number, considering it was the first year for it.

But when JB offered a free entry, I kind of had to take him up on it. I had been planning to do a long run Sunday morning anyway, and the idea of running a half at race pace month and a half before my marathon seemed like a possibly good idea.

I went out Saturday and did 30 (road) miles on the mountain bike, hard but not too hard, so I went into the race only a little bit tired. I really had no clue what the course was going to be like so it was going to be one of those races that could really go just about any way.

We got off to a late start. The race was a 1/2 marathon and a 5k, with the 5k start at the back of the pack of the the half marathon, basically the same set-up as the New Haven Road Race, with the two races starting on the same street but going off in opposite directions. Given the overwhelming response to the race there's not really much surprise that the race start area was overcrowded. Still, there's nothing worse than being all warmed up for a race and then having to wait to start. The only bad thing I can really say about the race as it affected me was that the start was delayed probably about ten minutes, and standing around surrounded by athletes better than me was not bringing any happy thoughts.

We got off to a fast start. At the start you go up a little hill, and frankly with some of the actual talent at the race I was concerned about a fast start. It was fast. As always happens in a race this long, fast is relative, so we started out running maybe 5:45-5:50. That doesn't really feel 'fast' until you've gone about half a mile, at which time the alarms start going off in your brain and you accept that you're going to have to back it off to around six minutes flat.  At my skill level trying to bust out less than a about a 5:55 mile isn't a good way to go.

I settled in by around a mile and a half with two other guys and we ran 6:05s for three miles. The course had us out on the canal path by three miles, and I was running right behind or at times aside these two. They were clearly working together, but they were pretty relaxed about me semi intruding. No one said anything.

By around 3 and half miles, I knew that they were running too fast for me and although I didn't want to let them go, I did. They slowly pulled away and pretty soon, as so often happens in longer races, even when 22000 people are in the race (Disney), I was running alone. At about 4 miles, I saw one of the race favorites on the side of the road. He wasn't running, in fact, he was trying to stretch his quad or calf or something. One of the guys that was now running ahead of me stopped and talked to him for a minute and I actually ran by.

This is one of the reoccurring themes in races like this- carnage. Guys that drop out from injury or meltdowns or whatever and the one thing I believe is that you have to ignore that and focus on yourself, unless it's one of your own friends, in which case you stop.

By 5 miles, I was starting to get passed by people. This is another staple of long races. I was really trying to be disciplined and run 6:15s, because at this point the mile marks seemed, well, fairly accurate. Sticking to your plan means getting passed, and of course that's never fun, but it's part of the game. The run seemed to be on a downhill as we continued on the canal path and the miles just ticked off.

Five and six came and went and the sun was bright now and the run was still downhill.

Then I got my next time check and I knew it was wrong because at the 7th check I was under 42 minutes. The two girls with the stopwatch yelling out times and the actual 7 mile mark were in no way associated.

I love the 7 mile mark of a half-marathon because you are officially on the backside, but in the case, the fun was about to start. It wasn't long before we finally left the canal path and started running on roads, including finally doing some climbing, which is more to my strengths then a long downhill run. I still wasn't gaining on anyone, but I'd pretty much arrested any slide against other runners, save one, who was slowly closing. More on that later.

Around 8 miles, I saw a guy ahead of me that didn't well- he didn't look like he should be in front of me. True, he was wearing a hartford half-marathon shirt, and yes, he'd been ahead of me for miles, but he has an awkward running style and he looked beyond his limit. At one point he pulled off and quickly peed, allowing me to close the gap.

Then he stopped a second time to- I don't know- vomit ? He didn't, but it was a near thing. Then he started running again but he was struggling. I wanted to feel bad for him.

I didn't. I do what you do. I passed him.

Shockingly, he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and passed me.

Stupid stupid stupid. I was running well. I was not trying to hold in the orange I'd eaten at breakfast. But he was determined to turn up and be heard and he went by me and I didn't alter my stride in any way. It took me 15-20 seconds, but I passed him again. No kick, no effort to demoralize him because he was in no way a threat. I felt sorry for him. He was trying as hard as could but he was letting his ego get in his way.

After that was some more climbing. We hit 9 miles and then-

I'm not exactly sure where the 10 mile marker was. When I got to it, two things happened. First, my brain which at 9 miles had calculated that I was on 1:22 pace, recalculated that I was at 1:25 pace. Almost immediately after that, my brain rejected the location of the mark, deciding it was at possibly 10.35 or so.

Now I was running well too. Rejecting that mark was key to my race. I went after the guy in front of me, who had passed me maybe in mile 6. He was coming back to me and I caught him and passed him going pretty fast. But behind me was the first woman and of course you always know when the first woman is behind you because it's all 'go girl' and 'first woman'. She drew to within maybe twenty meters.

Then we hit the 11 mile mark and we were back on the canal path. I really opened it up here, and so did she, but she never got any closer. Guys in front of me were coming back to me though. I'd sunken to about 20th place at one point, but now I was coming back, pushing for top 15. I went through the 12 mile marker and I had two guys in my sites.

I passed the first early in the 13th mile, but the last guy, the guy in 14th place was harder to reel in. We entered the track and had to do about 3/4 of a loop. I waved to John Bysewicz, passed the guy, and then, as I was running down the straightaway, he passed me back. Really ? I couldn't believe it as he tried to cover over my right shoulder, outside me in the next lane. I could hear Mark the announcer saying the first woman was on the track and catching the men.

Not me.

I sped up and the guy on my shoulder dropped off. In under 200 meters I put 3 seconds on him and beat the first woman by 7 seconds, and I pulled away from both of them in that last two hundred.

That felt good.

So did running a 1:22 half. It wasn't the 1:21 I'd pulled at Disney, but I hadn't trained for this race at all.

I took 3rd in my age group, had a very solid run. Overall, I was unusually happy with the effort. I might even want to go back and do this one again next year...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Brian's Beachside Boogie

These race reports will be coming out of order for a while. 6 days before I ran the Feed the Need 5K, it was a cool but sunny Sunday morning in Hammonassett.

I always look forward to Brian's, not because I've won the race- I'm pretty sure those days are gone- but because I like duathlons and this one supports Myelin research and is put on by some great people. I had a new bike this year too, so expectations were a little higher- on the other hand, with the long running I've been doing helping Maureen prepare for Boston runs of up to 22 miles), it was suggested to me that I hadn't seriously or properly trained for the race.

I had put about 100 road miles on the mountain bike, including riding it out to Madison and then posting up a stinker at the Madison 5 miler (30:18). So I had a brick under my belt, but nothing to write home about and I hadn't raced on a bike since Florida in November.

I rode about 3 miles warm up, on the sand towards Meigs Point and the road back to the start. It was cold and I had on riding gloves, and they seemed like the right call. Until I started doing strides to continue my warmup. I go through this every year- the gloves are perfect for the bike but too hot for the run. I've run with them and gotten so overheated I toss them off at the end of the run and then suffer.

It seems like a small thing, but these are the small things you obsess about before your first multi-sport race of the season. So I looked at the tope men there, I looked at Coach Kelli. They were all wearing gloves like mine so I decided to stop worrying about it.

The race is different each year, depending on how many pure runners are there. Some years a large pack bolts out at the start of the race, making thing difficult, other years, most of the athletes seem to understand they are at a duathlon and you can't just blow up the first 2 mile run. This was one of those years were no one really went out and ran above their ability level.

That is to say, two of the guys were crazy good- the race winner was Yale and a guy that's run on Hitek USATF team, and they took off right away, leaving Dave Ellis, myself, a guy named Graham and one or two others running in the B group. And Kelli Montgomery, initially. I wasn't really sure exactly what Kelli was doing as I watched her running ahead of me. I thought it was an aggressive first run for her, and imagined that she would fade, still, I put in a little bit extra to pass her.

We got out on the back part of the run and I have to say that it felt good. I was worried that it was going to feel extremely hard running like that. But it didn't. I felt good- ready to get on the bike. But I have to say in the bike of my mind I'd heard a lot of chatter about the sand and I was thinking about it as I ran in 5th on the 1st run.

I'd decided to go with bike shoes this year and the change was quick and easy.

I made it out of transition no problem. And then, within 30 seconds, my race was off the rails. There was a lot of sand on the course, and I tried to dodge some. Instead I went right into it and as I tried to torque my way out I threw the chain off front ring. This was not a good thing. Assuming it was the back ring I tried to reset it without getting off. Between the wasted time trying to torque it back on and the time actually getting off and resetting it, I lost 30 seconds, lost any contact with the guys in front of me, got passed. I was then tentative all the way to Meig's point, after which I was on the road. I was able to attack again on the road and claw my way back into 5th from 7th.

Then we got in the woods and I dropped a place again. I was on the aerobars almost the whole time- that's just how I ride. If it's flat grass, well then, why not stay efficient. I did pass the guy that was second on the first run and if was a tiny bit tentative, he was flat out tentative.

The worst part of the course for the sand was the very back of the course, just before transition. The sand was deep and I kind of had to baby my way through it. Then I was riding by transition.

My second loop was definitely better than my first. I lost a little ground out to Meig's Point, absolutely screened my way down the road to the woods, and then lost only one place again the entire way back. However, when I got close to transition on my second loop, I was coming up on people who were just completing their first loop, and some of them had gotten off their bikes and were walking. This pretty well sucked, trying to pick my way through the heaviest sand on the course, riding, while other people were walking, and not leaving much of a hole.

I still managed 5th on the bike, but I've been fastest bike there on maybe 2-3 occasions, and this was not one of those days. I give my bike effort low marks.

I came into transition, swapped my shoes for my running shoes, and headed out. Graham was just ahead of me, maybe 5 or 6 seconds, and that was nice to be honest.

The second run at Brian's is a monster. It's dead flat, it's two miles, and except for the twists and turns it's super easy. But, if you went hard on the bike, you're shelled. When you go out on the run alone, and I've done that both leading and not leading the race, you don't run well. I had a man to chase down and that was incentive.

I worked the catch patiently. I knew my only options were 5th place or 6th place and I wanted fifth, so I took my time and made the pass when it made sense to do it, and then I tightened the screws and ran as hard as I could. For the next mile I felt pretty confident, but about half a mile from the finish I started regretting not taking a gel at the start of the run.

The wheels did not come off, but they sure as hell wobbled a lot. That last half mile was hard work. But I got the gap I needed and inched out Graeme by a mere 17 seconds. I have a feeling that once he gets into full race shape, he's the one that will be inching me out at races (or maybe yarding me out).

Despite the bike mishap I cut 36 seconds off last year- trimming 12 off the run and 24 off the bike. I could have cut a full minute off the bike I think.

After the race I had a chance to talk to the race winner and Graeme, among others, and I have to say, this race might be small, but it draws some fast guys and a lot of nice people, all supporting a great cause.

I really love this race...

Monday, April 09, 2012

Feed the Need 5k- 3 for 3 !

I prefer to plan ahead for my races, kind of have a plan during the week, and certainly I like to get up in the morning and know I am going to a race. Such was just not the case.

I got up late for a Saturday morning- almost 7 am, and instead of heading right for the bike I settled in, had a banana and some coffee, then got on the computer. Maureen Terwilliger imed me and asked me if I was going to do either of the races at Hammonessett. I was confused because as far as I knew there was just a race at 11:00 sponsored by Soundrunner. That didn't work out with the scheduled egg hunts for the morning, and in fact, no workout plan seemed like a good one.

So I looked the race up on line and it was at 9:00 and the entry fee was 25 cans or boxes of food. It was 8:00 AM. This is what a bad plan looks like. I got dressed and got my stuff together. That took 15 minutes, making a bad plan worse. Bolted out of the house, stopped at Walgreens and bought 24 single-serving boxes of cereal and drove at high speed to the ark.

I managed to get there about 25 of 9 and it was windy and cold and there was a long line for the porta-potties. It was kind of odd, being in exactly the same place as my last race just 6 days earlier, but instead of an off-road duathlon, I was running just a 5k. There was no time for a proper warm-up so I just went over to the starting- where I was alone- and started doing strides. The wind was definitely going to be a factor and I was trying as much to stay warm as get warmed up. Finally people started coming over, first the wheelchair athlete and a few stragglers, then the other 300 people doing the race. The crowd was big- a lot bigger than I remembered from the other two times I'd run the race.

I was listening to Evanescence as usual. But I decided that I was going to put the music away for the race. I had some small hope of winning the race- I'd won it twice before and although last year's winning time was 16:55 which let's face it, I will never see again, I didn't see that guy. People lined up fairly quickly and they started giving instructions. When they described the course the wheelchair athlete said 'Don't worry, I'll be in front', and I have to admit, based on my my recent experiences, including Disney, I wasn't sure that was going to be the case.

The race starts in the opposite direction from Meig's Point- you run all the way to the end of the road for the east pavilions, hook a left and head back. They gave the wheelchair athlete a minute head start, and with the wind blowing it just got colder and more raw, but finally, we were off.

I didn't waste any time. I got out in front and started running hard, not crazy hard, but hard. I had control of the race right from the start and my first fear was that I would not be able to maintain a steady, hard pace. It's easier for me at this stage in my racing to run under 18 minutes chasing people than it is being chased. I reached the turn around and took it massively wide, too wide, sloppy running, but I didn't care. I re-established my line and went for it....

The wheelchair had come back to me right away- I was going faster than he was, and I ran him down not because I think it's cool to out-run a guy in a wheel chair (it's not, although it is cool to outrun someone on a bicycle), but because he was in front of me.

I could hear the footsteps behind me...

While most of the field had already separated, there were a few guys on my heels and I tried to settle in as I ran back by the pavilions headed west. This was that dangerous time in a 5K, the first maybe half mile where you can simply blow your race up and end up wishing you actually had a brain in your head... so I found my stride and really just pushed it. I was almost to the round-about when I got caught from behind, run down and passed...

I hate that... I rarely have a chance to win a race, and when I think I do think I can that moment where I realise I am wrong is a bitter one.

The guy that went by me was wearing a Coast Guard Academy cross-country uniform. However, instead of thinking how I was up against a college kid- a college cross-country runner- I looked at his form. It's slightly uphill to the round-about and as soon as he passed me I felt like he slowed a little. With the wind mostly in our face I considered tucking in for about two seconds. The I just attacked again.

I was able to re-establish my lead, and hold it. I made it through the roundabout and was running hard. They had told us to stay right and I was on the yellow line, running as steady/hard as possible. I heard his footsteps and he was cutting the tangents through the curves, so I let him lead from behind in that respect and did likewise. It was hard running, there was no lead car or lead bike, just me hauling as much as I could and his incessant footsteps.

While I like to lead, there is something nerve-wracking about being in front and having someone so close behind. We reached the tear drop and I was still holding a few seconds. One of the volunteers said 'You're almost there' as I went through the drop and it always amazes me how the perception of the course they have and you have could be so different. I felt like the finish line was a forever away.

I ride my bike in the park a lot, time-trialing from the entrance around Meig's Point and back out, and I'd just done Brian's last week, so I know the road and it's an advantage. As I went through the point Brad, the Coast Guard runner, was close enough that I didn't see him at all. I burst out through the point and started right down the middle of the road.

There were people everywhere, headed out as I was headed back and they were cheering but some of them were also in the way. No worries. I just picked my way through the crowd, most of whom seemed to be in a half-mile stretch, then just ran as hard as I could. The road finally splits with a median and I stayed on the left side until we got close to back to the roundabout, when I crossed because I knew that we'd have to go right around it. I plowed through the median starting to feel like the gas tank was nearly empty.

On the straightaway, pavilion in sight, I finally looked back. I loathe looking back and think it sends the wrong message, but I needed to know if I was going to have to make a tactical decision.

I wasn't. He wasn't in contact.

I heard 17:28 and I was getting close to the final turn into the parking lot, maybe 20 seconds from winning the race. I hit the turn, went through, saw the clock, and knew I could beat 17:50 so I keep pushing and got a 17:49. I waited for Brad in the chute, who finished 7 seconds back, we talked for a few minutes and then warmed down together.

I know it was small race, and not the most competitive field, but I was pushed the entire way, I ran my fastest 5K in a long time, and most of all, had fun with a last-minute, unplanned and slightly crazy decision.

Plenty to be happy about...

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Winter Wonderland 5 Mile Road Race

I haven't raced since Disney, and I was really on the fence about doing a 5 mile race instead of stick to my long Sunday run.

I emailed Maureen Terwilliger, who was having the same thoughts as me. The long run is definitely always the best option, but if you never get in any real speed work, you have to race, both to keep up your confidence and to well, build your speed. It's one of those balancing act things.

For me, I'd just come off three days of training in Florida, running about 40 minutes a day in the heat, with two runs the middle day, so I was feeling pretty good, because I've come into a January race off three days of training in Florida, well, never. Add in Eric's strength training regimen every day and the fact I'm a good seven pounds under my normal winter weight and well, I wanted to race.

So Maureen and I agreed to race rather than do a long run It is a USATF championship race after all...

Racing on a Sunday is such a mixed bag. The race was going to start a good hour after my long run is usually in the can, and with a bib-timed race, who knew when I'd get to leave. It was also the opposite of the carefully planned Disney Half-Marathon. I'd done about 2:15 on the bike the day before and was just going to jump into a race at the last second.

Fortunately I got Eric's strength training and was able to get that done before I jumped in the car and drove out to Milford. My plan was to run in shorts and singlet, with arm warmers, but it was still a shock how cold it was.

After warming up by myself and running a little with Maureen I was ready to go. The wind and the cold was interfering with my plan to be warmed up and ready to run, especially because unlike all the hardcore runners, I had no gloves on. But a few strides fixed that and eventually we were off. I had no real plan, except to switch my iPod back on as soon as we'd gone a few hundred meters, which I did. One guy jumped way out in front.

Then one guy jumped out into second. That guy was me.

So there I was, running frak all, just going hard but not crazy hard or anything. Knowing that there were still maybe ten guys behind me that had the wheels to leave me eating their dust. I threw my hands out as if to say where is everyone but I didn't back off. We were running into the wind and I just didn't care. I was waiting for the swarm, and it came, and it included a woman training for the Irish Olympic Marathon team and I just kind of weathered it.

I went from second to about 15th, but I ran a 5:38 first mile, so I was happy with that. If I can be happy. Which I can't.

Anyway. Some people went by me, but I felt like I was running steady. The goal was now to run the next 4 miles in under 20 minutes.

The course seems to have a lot of downhill in the first 1.5 miles or so and then you hit a hill up and that was when I really got a look at the people in front of me and an idea what to tuck away for later. The @Evanescence was pounding away in the headphones and I felt like I was suffering a little bit.

I went through two miles at around 11:30 or so. I was already reeling in some of the people who passed me, and although I was running alone, there were people in front and behind me that were in contact. I felt like I was really racing, not just out there running. I felt the same way at Disney, but overall it's been a long time since I felt like I was in the thick of it, really not until I came back from Florida in November after the Ironman and really started racing more seriously.

I went through three miles at 17:18 and that's easy math. I had to take one headphone out of my ear at each marker to hear the the call out, but I knew I just needed to hold to around 6 minute miles just as the fun began. I mean, I wasn't planning to drop off to 6s or let anyone by me but with the hills there was no question of a drop off.

I didn't change my cadence. But when we got to the hills I didn't attack all out. Maureen and I talked about this during our warm-down and I think we both have the same strategy. Station-keep going up the hill, a nice steady 90%, and then hit people cresting and going downhill. I mean, you spike your heart rate up the hill, max out at the top, and you will get beat coming down.

I hit four miles at around 23:24. I'd fallen back to 15th but then I surged and as we crested the hill and hit the turn towards the finish I really tried to pick it up. I felt like the last mile was short, because I was running hard, not because it was actually short. I knew this guy from BRanford who is in his 30s was hot on my heels, so I really tried to focus. I pulled the headphones out of my ears as we hit the Platt Tech parking lot and managed to hold the guy off by 4 seconds.

13th overall, but a disappointing 4th in my AG.

Oh well.

Maureen finished soon after and we did a nice easy warm down while finding her husband Gary, then a bunch of us shared training advice for our upcoming Ironmans.

Fun times. Glad I went.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Disney Half Marathon

Some races are automatically an adventure and I'd say the Disney Marathon weekend races definitely fall into that category. Let's face it, you have to travel to Disney to do them, and you don't simply go to Disney to race, then go home.

And that's not it. The races start at about 0530 AM, and my 1/2 had 22K+ finishers (who knows how many started).

So I got up at 0310, which is the earliest I've been up in a very long time and two hours earlier than what I am used to.

I couldn't get a banana at the cafe in the resort the night before so I went with an orange, because the three things I eat every morning are, in order, a banana, 1/2 to all of a grapefruit, and then an orange. Now I had never raced after eating an orange, but then again, I have never raced after getting up that early.

You have to get up so early because although you're probably only about 2.5 miles from the start, it's very difficult to get to the start on foot. You have to take a resort bus to the race, and they come only every 5 or 10 minutes. It was cold in the morning, under 50 degrees at the time I went out to the bus stop, around 0330. I'd decided no throw away shirt, no gloves, just the EH kit, arm warmers, my IM Florida finisher's cap and my Tifosi sunglasses with the red lenses.

They have transportation coordinators at each stop. This helped us not get a bus in a timely fashion. The first bus that stopped was empty and was supposed to be going to the race, however, someone from a previous stop had gotten off the bus and left a bag. Rather than taking the bag off the bus and letting us get on, one of the two coordinator sent the bus, empty, back to the previous stop to deliver the bag. We were all waiting at the designated event stop, which is purposely separate from the little cabana bus depots where you wait for buses to other parts of the resort. Some people who arrived at the back of the line we were in decided they didn't want to be at the back of the line and went on to the depots and when the next bus came, half full, the coordinator waved it past us and to the depot, rewarding us for staining by the Run Disney sign with more waiting.

The next bus was empty, but the driver he wasn't sure if was supposed to be going to the starting line, so the coordinator waved him on. The people in front of me said something to one of the coordinators, who responded with a law enforcement style 'Excuse me, what did you say to me ?' that conversation did not go well, and included the coordinator telling the people that a bus was guaranteed to come every 5 minutes even though we'd now been waiting twice as long. We all walked sullenly to the depot.

I was sitting cross-legged at the depot, eating my orange, willing myself not to be cold. Two buses came. One was full. The next one fit up to the four people in front of me. Finally I got on the bus after waiting half an hour.

It took the next 50 minutes to drive two and a half mile. Yeah. I spent the entire time from 0330 listing to Evanescence's latest album. As the bus pulled into the parking lot I slipped into the bathroom to, well, TMI. you know. I wasn't in there long but as I opened the door the bus jerked and the lights went out. It was the hydraulics being bled out. I went right to the front of the bus and sure enough the door was locked.

Long story short I think I was the last guy off a bus at this year's Disney half-marathon. The buses park a good mile from the start so I started running, and I passed about 5K people just too get to the A corral.

They started the wheelchair people, allowed the elite athletes to get right on the line, then let the A corral get right behind them. So I was within a second or two of the start line when the fireworks and the flames shot up from the starting arch. I went out hard. I had an ambition goal, to finish 3rd or better in my AG in a race with 22K people.

I worked my way up through the other A corral people and locked on to one of the elite women. I was soon well out in the front, maybe 40-50 people total plus the wheelchair athletes. The wheelchairs were kind of in the mix and at one point to hold my line with this woman, one of the two who would ultimately beat me, i had to execute a somewhat dicey shaving pass around 5 of them that had me about six inches from the wheels and accelerating hard.

I was right at 6:00 for the 1st mile...

Of course, no of my other miles would be anywhere near that. By two miles I was at 12:05 and that progression would continue for the entire race. My 5K, 10K and 15K splits are part of the result so even if I want dot exaggerate about what I accomplished, I couldn't.

The course starts out pretty straight forward. You're running on an highway and you run for quite a while. The miles are marked with nice big signs that make your life easy. I was back and forth with people a bit but I was trying not to lock in an compete with anyone because as my coach says 'Your job is to do your job.' I let the elite woman go. I let a few other people go as well. Because I went out fast, every once in a while someone would pass me. At five miles I was still under 31:00 minutes and I really felt like I was running fairly well. I took a cliff shot and actually drank some water from the aid station rather than just dumping it over my head.

I was running farther outside my comfort zone than usual but this was good because I was planning on that.

I kind of got into a little bit of a back and forth with one guy but in general I was running alone, in fact, in a race with twenty-two thousand people I was running in a large gap (50 meters in each direction) for at least three full miles, which more than anything tells me that I was truly running my own race. At some point we wound our way into what I think was the Magic Kingdom and the thought came into my head that I had no idea where in the Kingdom I was- and I didn't give a frak. All I cared about was the back of the guy in front of me and running my ass off.

I do remember running through the Magic Kingdom. The truth is the in theme park areas were the most treacherous. Because they don't turn off the sprinklers, the pavement is wet in a lot of spots in the parks and that where all the twists and turns are.

Back out on the highway, I just ran, hard and steady. I took more gel at 10 miles and really, there's not a lot to tell. I was chasing other people's back, being passed by someone every two miles or so. I had my sunglasses on and the Evanescence was keeping me in such a groove, such a steady sort of raw emotional frenzy, that I was able to just keep running with no real stress. Yes, it hurt, and yes, I was berthing hard, but I wasn't in any distress. There'd been a point where about half a mile in I was struggling to stay calm, one moment where I thought about the thousands of runners behind me, but then I reminded myself this wasn't a swim.

Somewhere around 11 miles a spectator yelled 'You can do it' to me and I have to admit I wanted to stop and scream at her. I can do it ? I was trying to run in the 1:20s. Doing it wasn't a question. Crushing it was the question. The idea that I would see a half-marathon as some kind of challenge that I might or might not conquer, or that I would need positive affirmations just to achieve, was as laughable as it was infuriating. I reminded myself that person was trying to help and maybe didn't relate to my motivation.

We hit an off ramp and then we were headed toward Epcot. I got passed by two guys and I knew instinctively that I was not going to hold with them. I hit 12 miles at 1:14:52 or thereabouts and knew my chance of breaking 1:21 was slim. I was chasing these two guys, one of whom I was afraid was in my age group, and we were winding our way back through Epcot's parking lot to the finish.

I caught the time in the arch and it was high 1:20, way too high so I started running my ass off, like you can see it in the pictures, in my face that I was giving everything I had, and I cherish that because in that moment I cared, so much, about how I was running, well, you cannot beat that. I crossed the mat at exactly 1:21:00 chip time, a big fat 1 second disappointment but hey, I busted my ass for 13.1 miles.

I was 52. I was beaten by 49 men and 2 women. I placed 3rd in my age group out of 1215 men, and how can I complain about that.

I want to go back next year, and if I do, I'll be second in my age group and in the top 30.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Spinervals Challenge Finish/Frosty 5K

So I'd been planning since Christopher Martins to run the Frosty 5K, but then I started backing off the idea based on the feedback I was getting from people around me...

I also was determined to get that last spin in the set in and what I had left was Have Mercy, a 2 hour compilation of some of the 'best' (hardest) sets from spinervals 1-8. Acceleration sets ? Both the 4 second on, 4 second off variety (joy!) and the 10/10 second variety (rainbows and unicorns). Sprints, tempo builds, plyometric squats. You name it.

I'd had one too many beers on New Year's Eve so I was not hungover but I was a little under the spell, definitely dehydrated. I was no longer doing the 5K. I was 'maybe' doing the 5k.

I had to go there, back it down to a maybe. Have Mercy is a hard spin and if I was going to do it right I could not have the certainty of a race- which started an hour and ten minutes after the spin finished- hanging over my head.

There were a few points during the spin where I really had to dig deep to go at the effort level that Coach Troy was demanding, largely because of the Hardcore 100 the day before. I really felt like this was one the best day of the challenge for me because I really had to go to a higher effort level, and I did. My legs were pretty toasty when I got done.

I hopped off the bike, downed some Recoverite, put on my racing kit, and the family headed to Guilford.

I got to the 5K ten minutes before it was supposed to start, registered, and then benefited from a 10-minute delay in the start...

I could tell I was pretty drained. But I was listening to Evanescence and trying to amp myself up for whatever I was worth. I lined up alongside the Guilford Cross-Country team kids, thinking I might benefit from their initial pace.

Finally the race started and right away it was obvious who the race winner was going to be. I latched onto his wake and ran my ass off for as long as I could, until about the first turn, after which he started to separate easily. No surprise as he was going to run in the 16s. I was not. I was back and forth with the kids and all of the sudden a woman went by me.

Like I was standing still.


Then JT (running as Juan Tolberto) went by my. Again like I was standing still. I kind of thought I must be running like, well, shit. But I didn't go into a hole at that point like I have in the past. I tried to minimize the damage as much as possible, watching JTs back, but I felt like I settled in really well, went up over the bridge, down to the turnaround, and headed back.

We humped our way over the same bridge going back and I pushed the downside as much as possible, worried I was going to be run down. But that never happened. Not only did no one catch me, but I managed to reel in one guy at the Fairgrounds.

Back after the turn I heard someone call out the time- 17:30. I had half a minute to run maybe hundred meters. Not really sure.

I ran my ass off, but then I saw the clock turn over to 18:00 and oh well, I wasn't there. I ended up running an 18:06. And while I was bummed that I ran over 18:00, let's face it, I started the day with a really hard workout, and had done another hard workout the day before.

After the race I shared some music with Kerry Arsenault, talked to several friends, and hung out long enough to pick up my and Juan's trophies. I had a chance to push myself to just a crazy level, see friends, and hey, beat 119 other guys in my ten year age group.

Not the worst way to start the New Year.

Eric's Strength Challenge/Spinervals Day 31

New Year's Eve.

I started the day the way anyone would. I got up at 0520, made some coffee, ate 1/2 a banana, and took a bunch of food and honey stingers downstairs to my bike. By 0540, I had started the Hardcore 100.

I'd done the Hardcore 100 one other time, prior to IM Florida, on a Saturday morning when Margit had a swim meet and I couldn't get out and do a long ride on the road. It was a little harder than I had expected to spend that long on the trainer. So I was prepared for it to be difficult. Still, starting in what still seemed like the middle of the night and being a little stressed out that I was kind of abandoning the family for the entire morning was a little stressful.

The workout starts off with a lot of SR15 work, which is good because it is a long day in the saddle. About an hour in, a stray cat came to our back slider and started antagonizing one of our cats so I had to get off very briefly to encourage it to leave. I also hit the bathroom. Then it was right back on the first bike. I was watching Facebook and waiting for the strength training workout to come in, and when it did, it was the 100 sit-ups and 100 pushups we knew were coming.

So I formulated a plan. I knew there was no way that I would want to do 100 sit-ups and 100 push-ups after finishing the hard core 100, so starting with 2nd break I used the 3 minute break to d0 20 sit-up, 20 push-ups, and meditate for 90 seconds. I know the idea of me meditating probably bring tears of laughter to everyone's eyes, but I actually do after long workouts sometimes sit down, close my eyes and just unfocus.

In this case I was simply trying to bring my heart rate down and allow my muscles to relax. The truth was that I was really feeling this workout and I wanted to actually give it a good showing.

Around the 4th hour parts of my butt cheeks started to get a little irritated and I did what I could to keep moving around on the saddle.

By the last hour, I was really, really looking forward to the soon being over.

And then I got to the end, hopped off the bike, jammed my way through 40 more sit-ups and push-ups and finished up Eric's challenge!

Let me say that the challenge was very good for me. I needed it.