Archive for July, 2010

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This post is written somewhat stream-of- consciousness style. I have had two streams in my life running parallel to each other the past few weeks. I’m not sure what one has to do with the other, but they somehow feel connected…at least to me.


So a few weeks ago I tweaked my right knee again. I’ve been trying to ignore it, thinking that if I run more slowly, if I run more lightly, if I stretch more regularly, the pain will eventually go away. I’ve been following a training schedule for the upcoming October 3rd Smuttynose Marathon, and my rest days have helped, but honestly, after every run lately, I battle with varying levels of soreness.


Over the past several weeks, autism has raised its open hand on several occasions and slapped me pretty hard in the face. Every time it did, as much as I tried to put on a brave, happy face, it hurt. A lot.

I have, for the most part, long been the happy-go-lucky member of my family. As a kid growing up, I just kind of rolled with the punches. Now, with a family of my own, I still am the one who stresses the silver lining in any situation. I am the one who emphasizes the positives and ignores the negatives, almost to a fault. It’s not always easy, but I work hard to remain positive in just about any situation.

Even when autism slaps me in the face, I will often turn the other cheek and smile. Even when my Brooke goes to hide in the bathroom for 25 minutes, shredding a plastic bag meant for her wet bathing suit, because both the visual and auditory stimuli from a camp activity is overwhelming, I say, “well, at least she’s using her tools to remove herself from the situation instead of having crying fits like many of her typical peers.”

Even when she goes to a birthday party for one of her classmates and just can’t seem to appropriately break into the social interaction of several of her friends, awkwardly trying to insert herself and ultimately failing, I say, “She’s socially motivated! She’s not shying away!”

See? Silver lining – quite possibly augmented with a dose of mild denial. Though denial may be the wrong word. I am not in denial of the fact that my baby girl has autism. Shoot! I’ll tell anybody who will listen about it. But maybe I’m in denial about some of the aspects of her autism that affect her life.

I have never been one to dwell on the negatives. At least, not on the outside.

But I’m tired. I try not to show it. I try to re-frame it. And very often, I convince myself everything is going to be all right – even when things look bleak. But those slaps get harder and stronger. As she gets older, the gaps become bigger and more noticable. My attempts at smiling have become less genuine. The tears that I shed in private when no one is looking have become more common.

I wonder and worry about the future (both immediate and more frighteningly, distant) of my little Brooke.


On Tuesday night I attended the Kick-Off for the Autism Speaks Boston Walk. Don’t worry. I’m not here soliciting donations (that’s the topic of another post). The Kick-Off is meant to pump up the walkers as they get ready to shift their fund-raising into high gear, usually done with inspirational speeches from parents and politicians. I think they did a good job of that, but for me, it was Autism Speaks’ President Mark Roithmayr’s speech that struck a chord with me. He talked of the scientific research Autism Speaks funds and the recent findings that are helping to unlock and solve this puzzle we call the Autism Spectrum. There may never be a “cure” so to speak for autism, but the more scientifically based knowledge we have, the greater we will understand this disorder. The greater our understanding, the better equipped we will be to help our autistic sons, daughters, siblings and friends. It gave me renewed hope.

That hope was buoyed by news of the passage of an Autism Insurance Bill in both the State House and Senate (unanimously I might add) and a video-taped promise by our governor that he would pass the bill if it made it to his desk. Awareness is making a difference!


Yesterday I had the great pleasure of meeting a scientist who has been working in the field of autism research for over 35 years. She was delving into solving this puzzle long before most people had even heard of autism. Dr. Helen Tager-Flusberg spoke to a small group of us who have been touched in some way by autism. We had been invited to see firsthand where the dollars go and how they are used. She spoke of her ongoing research, concurrently studying the receptive language of non-verbal children and the infant siblings of children with autism. Her enthusiasm, even after 35 years in the field, is infectious. She is still eager to learn, to discover. I could feel myself get excited for the research she was doing, thinking, “gee, I wish I were 22 years old again so I could apply to graduate school and come work with her!” But the most joyful part of my experience of meeting Dr. Tager-Flusberg and touring her lab, was seeing the fire and energy of those that worked for her. These young women are the future of autism research, they are excited by what they are doing and they quite obviously knew their stuff.

It was somewhat bitter-sweet to see this because much of what they do will more directly help those that come after me and my little Brooke, but there are bound to be some things that come out of their research that will help all people on the spectrum, whether it is directly or indirectly.

I walked out of the meeting with renewed strength. Autism will continue to takes its swipes at me, of that I have no doubt. The private tears will continue to be shed, but my resolve to help has been hardened. I can feel that resolve bleeding into other aspects of my life as well.


I have long compared our family’s personal journey with autism as a marathon, not a sprint. This was long before I started running regularly. A year after Brooke started receiving therapies to help her cope and communicate better with the world, I said that we were no longer crawling a marathon, we were walking. We still have a very long way to go, but we are walking. Her progress has been phenomenal, but it has had its up and downs. We will often take 3 steps forward, 4 steps backward and then 2 step forward again. A painful but ultimately positive path.


What does this have to do with running? with my preparation for Smuttynose? With my troublesome knee?

2 days ago, I sat looking at my knee. I’m pretty sure it’s not a joint issue per se. I pulled, possibly ripped, something over a year ago in my hamstring. Something actually popped behind my knee. The doctors never found anything, but it’s never been quite the same. 3 marathons, 4 half-marathon and several shorter races later, I am faster and stronger overall, but my knee hurts. 2 days ago, I wondered how I was going to deal with this. 2 days ago, emotionally hammered by the recent trials of autism, I wondered what I was doing. Why was I running? Smuttynose is 10 weeks away. New York, 15.

After the event of the last two days and speaking to Mark and seeing his enthusiasm about my running for Autism Speaks this November, the purpose became clearer. I need to do what’s right to be ready to run in October and November. Maybe these last few days were about not having to be in denial to have hope? Maybe one doesn’t need to be Pollyanna to be positive? I don’t know.

What I can tell you is that after the Kick-Off and after my tour of Dr. Tager-Flusberg’s laboratory, the pain I have been ignoring (both autism and the knee), have my full attention again. The focus is back. I’m going to take a week and really let the knee heal through real rest, massage and stretching. How else this is going to manifest itself over the next 3 months, I am not sure, but I want to thank Mark Roithmayr, Erica Giunta, Kelley Borer, Christine Pecorella, Dr. Tager-Flusberg and the rest of the Autism Speaks team for helping me regain my footing.

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…when it comes to speed. What is fast for some is slow for others and visa-versa. Still, the one standard you can compare yourself to is, well, yourself. Part of the reason many of us enter footraces is to see just how fast we are. Once we have finished one, we use each subsequent race to measure how our speed has waxed or waned.  Much of our change in speed can be attributed to diet, hydration, training, weather and quality of sleep & recovery.

But what about Mars Blackmon’s eternal question, “Is it the shoes?”

Can what you wear on your feet make a significant impact on how you perform on the streets?  Nike, along with Blackmon (Spike Lee) and Michael Jordan, tried to sell us on that idea way back in the early 1990’s.  “It’s gotta be the shoes” was everywhere.

Runners today have a myriad of shoes to choose from when they enter a running store.  Every shoe has it’s selling point, whether it’s support or cushioning, firmness or flexibility.  And of course, we all have different feet, so the range of choice is a good thing, right?  But what if you are simply looking to increase your speed.  You feel you are close to whatever goal it is you have set for yourself, but you have fallen just a little bit short.  Is there a shoe for that?

People are constantly asking me, “Can you run fast in those, uh, things?” They point at my Vibram Bikilas or Treks, not sure what to make of them.

Commercial hype and celebrity endorsements aside (Joe Montana – it is so sad to see you pitching those Skechers Shape Ups), let’s do a simple thought experiment.  Let’s pit twin brothers against each other in a long distance race.  Each has had the exact same training, eaten the exact same foods, and received the exact same amount of sleep.  They are wearing the exact same outfits and weigh exactly the same.  They also both incorporate the same running style.  Which one would you bet on to win this race?  You can’t, because any bet you make would be a complete guess.

Now, let’s take one of the twins out of his traditional shoes and put him in a pair that weigh half as much (12oz to 6oz each).  This is now the only difference between the twins.  One is literally carrying 3/4 of a pound less than the other.  Now you may wonder, what difference can 3/4lb make in a footrace?  Well, based on certain calculators out there on the internet, for a 175lb man like me, it can mean 9 seconds in a 10K, 22 seconds in a half-marathon and as much as 45 seconds in a full marathon.  For a 150lb runner, the time difference is even greater.  What’s 9 seconds?  Well, it can mean the difference between placing in your age group  or not (I’ve missed placing in my age group twice 5 seconds or less).  It can also mean the difference between qualifying for Boston or not.  I still have over 9 minutes to make up, but if I ran in traditional shoes and clocked a 3:21:40, I’d be pretty ticked off!

So what am I getting at?  Vibram Fivefingers are my racing shoe.  They literally are half the weight of my old Brooks trainers and I am convinced that they have helped me reached times that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  Between the  forcing me to run in a more efficient manner and allowing me to carry less weight, my speed has picked up.  At the age 40 and with only a little over a year of consistent running under my belt, I was able to record a sub-40 in just my second 10K.  I was not a runner before November 2008.  Was it solely because of the shoes?  No way!  But I don’t doubt that they had a huge part in my race that day (of course, I still missed the podium by a few seconds).

If you are a dyed-in-the-wool heel striker with no desire to change your stride, then the minimalist shoe is probably not for you.  But if you are naturally a mid- to fore-foot striker, or are like me, a partially reformed heel-striker, and you are looking for ways to cut down your times, the Vibrams, and more specifically the Bikilas or Treks, may be the shoe for you.  I’ve heard people say that as heel-strikers they cannot possibly run in the Vibrams.   I would have to disagree.  I have always been a heel-striker and although I’ve  tried to alter my mechanics, using a cross between chi-running and barefoot techniques, I will still land just ever so slightly on my heel.

Providence Marathon

Boston 13.1

Boston Run To Remember

That said, my heels have been fine.  I am a faster, stronger and more efficient runner than I ever was.

Taken to extremes, you may ask, well why not toss out the shoes altogether? Go barefoot!  That’s another 45 seconds right there!  The problem with that for me is I don’t have natural tread on the bottom of my feet.  Both the Treks and the Bikilas have enough tread so you can run hard and still maintain traction with the ground.  If I tried that barefoot, I think I’d rip the skin right off the bottoms of my feet.

I’ve put well over 1000 miles in VFF’s over the last 12 month, with close to 400 in either Treks or Bikilas, interspersed with some runs in my traditional Brooks.  I know my comfortable pace in my VFF’s is about 20 seconds faster than my Brooks.

Based on my personal experience therefore, I have to agree with Mars. “It’s gotta be the shoes!”

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Last night night I ran the Marathon Sports 5 Miler.  It was, to say the least, a very new experience for me.  I had never raced anything shorter than a 10K, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to approach this.  I was running on two teams last night.  One was the RaceMenu/mix1 team that I have been running with since April, the other was an informal coming together of friends to form a coed foursome to compete in the team competition of the race.  We had no actual chance of winning the competition outright, but we did have a friendly wager with some friends who had formed a team of their own.  It was Team We Run This Shizzle (with Doug, Jamie, Nina and myself) versus  Team Runners Through The Jungle (with Hugh, Michael, Alett and Lizette).  The winning team was to buy the losing team a beer.

When Jamie and I arrived at the high school where the race was starting, I looked around and knew placing high was going to be tough.  I have never seen so many high school and just out of high school runners at a race since, well, high school.  And these kids looked serious.  There are some races that bring out the more hard core runners, and I think that the Marathon Sports 5 Miler is one of them.  We finally managed to find both Team Shizzle and Team Jungle, and the smack talk began.  At one point I asked Hugh what the strategy was for running a 5 Miler, and he looked at me deadpan and said, “run faster than a 10K.”

Soon we were called to the start.  The race started at a local high school on one of its fields.  As the Marathon Sports website describes the course:

The course is a moderately difficult certified 5-mile combination of hilly roads, grass, and trails, starts like a shoulder-to-shoulder cross country classic, and finishes with a flourish on the High School track.

RaceMenu leader, Alain, called me up to the starting line.

“How fast you running this,” he asked.

“I’m hoping around 32:30”

“Ok, I’m running with you.  Stay up here.”

I put my toe on the line and looked around.  I remember thinking to myself, “I do NOT belong with these guys.”  All around me were “real” runners.  Next to me were a pack of BAA (Boston Athletic Association) runners.  It was intimidating.  I looked back to wave at Teams Shizzle and Jungle but couldn’t find them in the sea of runners.  As I scanned the crowd I realized more and more that this was a serious crowd of hard core runners.  More doubt began to creep in.

The starter raised the bullhorn…

Now, this was the first race since the Manchester Marathon in November that I ran naked.  No, for you non-runners, that doesn’t mean without my clothes.  No, naked means running without music or your GPS enabled phone or watch.  I did cheat a little by wearing my stopwatch, but running without music and more importantly Runkeeper, meant that I wasn’t going to have my normal half-mile splits to tell me just how fast I was going.

…and we were off!

Alain and I took off like jackrabbits across the large field.  As we made the first turn off the hill, the course dipped drastically and it was all I could do not to slide down the grass.  Within 90 seconds were back on road and looking around I knew I was in trouble.  I was huffing and puffing already while getting passed by scores of high school runners.  I thought to myself, “man, it sucks to be old!”

3 minutes in I asked Alain if his garmin said how far we were.  He looked but couldn’t tell.  I was hoping to hear we were on a 6:00 – 6:15 pace.  A couple of minutes later I saw the 1st mile marker.  From a distance I could make out the first number.  A “5”.  Crap! Alain and I passed the marker at 5:35 – way too fast for me!  Alain tried to pull me along, but I had to ease up and recover.  I waved him on and watched him slowly pull away.

Mentally I was in crisis mode.  I realized that I had truly screwed up my race plan by going out so fast.  To be nearly 45 seconds faster than my planned pace was too much.  Part of me wanted to stop, but I knew I couldn’t let Team Shizzle down.  As I approached the 2nd mile marker I heard Hugh yell from behind me.

“Hey Luau!


“When I told you to run faster than your 10K pace, I didn’t mean twice as fast!”

I tried to laugh but I was still recovering.  My whole body was aching, but I was determined to just get to mile 3.  As long as I could get to mile 3 I knew I could finish.  Hugh paused for a beat and then moved on.

I hit mile 2 at 12:26 (a 6:51 second mile).  At this point I knew I was on my own for the rest of the race.  I had originally hoped to run with either Alain or Hugh, but had burned through too much fuel in the first mile.  I was just going to have to hang on for dear life.  At the next water stop I grabbed one cup and downed it and then a second cup and poured it over my head.  As I left the water stop I heard a little boy say, “Dad?  Why did that man pour it on his head?”  I laughed.

Mile 3 came quickly in 6:02, though I wonder if that mile marker was misplaced.  18:28 through 3 miles.  Despite having killed myself in that first mile, I still had a shot at a 32-handle if I could just maintain a 7:00 minute pace.  Normally, that’s a pace I can manage, but man, I was hurting.  I focused on just staying steady, keeping the feet moving.

Mile 4 arrived in 7:04.  I was fading and fading fast.  At 25:32, I knew I just needed to maintain to reach my goal time, but it was a struggle.  I was getting passed and I wasn’t passing anyone; psychologically that can be a game crusher.  But with about 3/4 of a mile to go, something happened.  Up ahead I could see I was actually gaining on some people.  I wasn’t the only one struggling this late in the game.  I found new energy and kicked it up just a bit.  I wasn’t going to try to catch them in one fell swoop.   I knew I had a little bit of time to reel them in.

My engine was sputtering but I was determined.  My legs and lungs were yelling, screaming at me, but I mentally plugged my ears and yelled “lalalalalalalala!” as loud as I could in my head.  A young blond girl passed my on my right.  I latched on and stayed with her.  With a half mile to go, the course returned to grass for a little over a quarter mile before finishing on the local high school’s track.  The girl started to pull away (I’d find out later that she is a nationally ranked high school miler) as we hit the track.

The moment my feet hit the track, a flood of memories came back.  I had not run competitively on a track in over 22 years, but it all came back.  The crowds, the pain, the adrenaline.

The adrenaline!!!  Thank God for adrenaline.  As we rounded the turn to head for the final straightaway, I heard Alain cheer me on.  It was time for the kick, and man did I kick!  I passed the girl and three other runners as I stretched out my stride and just went.  The last guy in my sights got away by 2 seconds.  I patted him on the back and we shook hands.

You want to know what those 2 seconds cost me?  A top 100 finish overall and a top 20 finish in my age group.  I finished with a 32:14 (16 seconds faster than my goal), 101st of 915 overall and 21st of 156 in my age group.  By far not my best finish, but to accomplish that in this field felt pretty good.  I found both Alain and Hugh.  In the end they had each finished about a minute ahead of me, so I didn’t feel too bad.

I went back out on to the field to cheer on the rest of the runner.  In came Mike, then Jamie, Doug, Alett, Lizette and Nina.  Team Shizzle initially thought we had lost, but when I checked the scoreboard later that evening, Surprise!, we had actually beaten Team Jungle by 98 seconds.

After taking a few photo-op shots with the RaceMenu/mix1 team and O-Water, Teams Jungle and Shizzle made their way to my car where we cracked open a few beers to celebrate the competition.

Jamie, Doug, Me, Nina, Alett, Hugh and Lizette

Despite having run for RaceMenu for several months now, this was my first race where I was running in a team competition.  I absolutely loved the extra motivation it gave me to run hard.  Before the race, Jamie was telling me that she was concerned about how she was going to run and that she didn’t want to let her teammates down.  This despite the fact that she was a last minute addition and didn’t actually know the runners.  It is great motivation to run your best, and she did!  She ran a 36:20, coming in over a minute faster than what she was hoping for.  I know that when I wanted to give up at mile 2, knowing that I’d be letting the team down was a huge motivator to keep going.

So now it’s back to training for the Smuttynose Marathon, but I already have my eye on next year’s Marathon Sports 5 Miler, and I’m hoping we can have the same friendly bet again, because next time Hugh, I’m taking you down…I’m taking you down to Chinatown.  Let the smack talk begin!

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[tweetmeme source=”luau” only_single=false http://www.URL.com]

A little over a month ago I asked for your help.

I asked you to help me help my little Brooke and all the families out there affected by autism. I asked you to click


a link which takes you directly to my fund raising page for this year’s New York City Marathon.

I had committed to raising at least $2600.

I asked that you help support me as I tried to make the world just a little more aware, a little more understanding, a little more compassionate.

Out of my past and present you came.  Out of the known and unknown you came.  Friends, friends of friends, friends I have never met in the real world and total strangers.  You all came, and in just a little over a month, took me over the initial goal of $2600.

I hope that this is not the end of my fund raising, but I wanted to make sure that I acknowledged, publicly, those that put me over the top and sent me to New York this coming November.

Thank you.  I will think of each and every one of you as I journey through the five boroughs on November 7th,

The 2600 Club:

Alan Kessler, Andrew Vogel, Arthur Hsu, Bob Votapka, Grammy & Grandpa DD, Catherine Schembri, Christa Lind, Courtney Buie, Courntney Fredericks, Danielle Hair, Elizabeth Blecker, Eva LaBonte, Hugh Hallawell & Stinky, Ingrid & George, Jennifer Ethirveerasingam, Mo, Jack Wack, Jonathan Amir, Judith Ursitti, Kate Mead, Kevin Franck, Kim Borer, Cat Brown, Matt Geller, Michael Kim, Michelle “Miss Joy” Jacobs, Michelle Genin, Mollie Niess, Nancy De Sa, Rachel Thuemling, Randy Price, Rick Reilly, Roxanna Shershin, Russell Levine, Sarah Werner, Sarah Johnson, Stef Nathanson and Yigal Agam

I am in your debt.

I promise to run strong!

Thank you.

Although they do not appear on the list above, a special thank you must go to Blake Jones and Jonathan Harrington.  Each of you in your own way have made a huge contribution to my fund raising goal and for that I am grateful.

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This one is for the mommies and the daddies.  The uncles and the aunts.  The grandparents and family friends.  And for those who may one day become any one of those things.


Watching the cycle all over again…~2033 and beyond.

Spoiling little ones… ~ 2033

Motherhood… ~2033 – 2035

Wedding Day…~2031 – 2033

Engagement…~2028 – 2032

The first job…2023 & 2025

College graduation…2023 & 2025

First day of college…2019 & 2021

High school graduation…2019 & 2021

Driver’s License…2017 & 2019

First Boyfriend…hmmm…maybe that happens when the wife finally allows me to buy a shotgun and a rocking chair.

What’s your reason to run? Or swim? Or bike? Or walk? Or generally live a healthy lifestyle?

I have two:

Brooke & Katie

I am taking care of this old body of mine because I don’t want to miss a single milestone.

Are you?

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Not Smart

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So yesterday I tackled the first workout of my 12 week plan leading up to the Smuttynose Marathon. On tap: an 8 mile aerobic run (somewhere between a 8:45 – 9:15 per mile pace) followed by 10 x 100 meter strides. Sounded easy enough. Shoot, I’ve been doing 10 and 11 milers regularly lately between 8:00 and 8:27 per mile pace.

I was eager to get started. I truly believe if I can follow Peter Pfitzinger’s plan, I’ll have a good shot at 3:20. So after I fed the kiddies, packed Brooke her lunch for camp, sent the wife and Katie off to a water park, cleaned the kitchen and did the laundry, I was ready to get running. It was 11:50 when my feet hit the pavement. My plan was to finish my 8 by 1:05, get my strides in and be back home by 1:30.

24 hours earlier

Katie was finally getting over a fast working virus that knocked her out of commission on Saturday and Sunday. Now my head was starting to pound. It spread from my temples to my eyes. I was having trouble focusing. Soon the nausea hit. Katie had thrown up twice and I feared it would shortly be my turn. Although I managed to avoid praying to the porcelain god, I did end up spending the next 18 hours in bed. I drank little and ate even less.

As I ran past the first half mile mark, I realized I was going too fast for what this run called for. I tried slowing it down a bit. The first three miles were an interesting struggle of the mind calling for a slower pace and the legs pushing for a faster one.

But at the end of those three miles however, the struggle had flipped. Suddenly my breathing became labored and the legs dragged. This was supposed to be an easy run, but it was quickly turning into a battle. The temperature continued to rise, 84°, 86°, 87°. The humidity wasn’t helping.

I considered calling it a day, but I thought of the post I had just written about Heart and the fact that this was the first workout of the program, and so I trudged on. I thought about the marathon pace long run scheduled this Sunday and I wondered how could I possibly do that. I was ready to quit.

But this was day 1. I couldn’t quit on day 1. I struggled on. From mile 6 on, I had to stop and walk for 30 seconds to a minute after every half mile. After arriving at the track at 7.5 miles, I stumbled through one lap and had to stop. My easy 8 miler had turned into a brutal, oppressive 7.75 miler.

I drank the last of my nuun water and stared at the other end of the football field 100 yards away. I needed to do 10 of these?

I felt woozy. I glanced over at 3 kids, recent graduates from the local high school, running a hurdles drill.

“Do you know where a drinking fountain is,” I asked.

One of the boys answered that there wasn’t one but they could give me some water. They filled my bottle half way up as I thanked them. It was all I could do not to sit on the ground, but I was afraid if I sat down, I wasn’t getting back up.

Another wave of nausea and the ground started to spin. I straightened myself out, but the ground continued to tilt. Suddenly with every blink came black spots. I gulped down the water, hoping it would help hold the world still.

The ground stopped moving, but it didn’t feel steady. The spots didn’t go away for several minutes. I focused on the conversation I was having, trying to breathe normally. Another spin, another wave.

I suddenly had a vision of these three kids making the front page of the local paper because they had rescued some poor old, passed out, aspiring marathoner from his own stupidity.

I again straightened up, thanked the boys, and proceeded to stumble home, skipping the strides. When I weighed myself at home, I was nearly 5lbs lighter than when I had left for my run. This despite having drunk a bottle and a half of water and a bottle of mix1 recovery drink. I had obviously been sweating – a lot!

It took me the rest of the day and part of the evening to get back to feeling normal.

So why am I writing about this awful experience? What’s the point?

I should have waited until today to run. Aside from the marathon itself, schedules are not set in stone. If you’ve been sick, and not consuming liquids or calories, maybe it’s best to take the next day off.  Don’t be stupid like I was yesterday just because you can’t wait to get started.  If it hadn’t been for those boys at the track, I may well could have ended up passed out cold in the middle of the football field.

Hopefully the 9 miler tomorrow won’t be such a struggle.

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Last week, a little over 12 weeks out from my next marathon, I suddenly had a crisis of confidence.

It’s not like I fear the marathon like I used to.  I know I am capable of finishing.  Yes, there is always a part of me that wonders “can I finish this marathon today” but for the most part, I know that if the fate of the world depended on me running 26.2 miles in one shot, I could do it, and the planet would be saved.

No, the crisis wasn’t about completing a marathon.

It was about finishing, more specifically, finishing strong.


I am close.

Real close.

Just over 9 minutes close to calling myself a Boston qualifier (3:20:59).  Yet many of the metrics used to project marathon times based on shorter races like the half-marathon and 10K indicate that I should be capable of running anywhere between a 3:07 and a 3:17.  My best to date?  A 3:30.

So what’s the problem?

I supposed I could reason that Boston is a tough race to qualify with.  I could argue that maybe I would have BQ’d in Providence had I not just run a Boston 2 weeks earlier.

But those would just be excuses.

Is Boston really 12 minutes harder?  Did running Boston really cost me 9 1/2 minutes in Providence?  I have a hard time believing that.


Many in my life will attest that I have struggled through much of my adult life with the concept of finishing.  I will start dozens of projects and finish a few.  One of the “few” things that I have maintained an almost laser-like focus on has been running.

Running has brought a certain amount of order to my life that was definitely lacking before.  With each race I have signed up for, I have been able to focus on a goal and follow it through.  The success or failure in achieving that goal (a sub-40 10K – SUCCESS!, a 1:30 half-marathon and a 3:20 mary – not yet) has almost been secondary to following the task to the finish line.

When I briefly ran cross-country in high school, I did it begrudgingly.  I ran because I really wasn’t any good at any other fall sport.  Unfortunately, I was expected to do something in the fall to stay fit for the spring track season (I ran the 330 IM hurdles – I was too slow for the 100, 220 and 440).  To say I didn’t like it is an understatement, plus, I really wasn’t any good.  I dropped out of a few races, a few because of injury, others because my heart was just not in it.


My heart was just not in it.


That statement has been floating around my head for the last few days.

Is that my problem?  Is it a heart issue?  A twitter friend said to me recently that she thought that heart was represented through determination.  I’m pretty sure that I have that.  Another friend said to me when I first started this marathon quest, that the last 6.2 miles of a marathon are where you really discover just who you are and what you are made of. The last 6.2 of Manchester showed me that I could finish what I had started, even if it meant doing so on frozen quads.  But as I look back at Boston and Providence through the lens of time, I wonder, what did those last 6.2 miles really tell me?  Did my body fail me, albeit to a lesser degree, again? did I error strategically? or was it my heart?

I am going to tell myself it was the first two, and I now have 12 weeks to prove it.  For my Boston/Providence double this Spring, I did not follow any particular training plan.  I simply ran.  I logged a tremendous amount of miles, but never followed any schedule, and quite honestly, never did much in the way of speed or threshold work.  That changes for this fall.

Yes, I am again pulling a double (this time 5 weeks apart), but my approach is going to be different.  I am running the Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon on October 3rd followed by New York City in November.

For the next 12 weeks I will be following a plan (the Pfitz 12/55) that works on endurance, speed and strategy.  Something I have come to realize, just now, is that race day strategy doesn’t start when the gun goes off.  It starts with the beginning of your training cycle.  I tried to execute a smart strategy in Boston on race day, but the training I had done (essentially all long runs) didn’t lend itself to doing that.

The training isn’t going to be easy.  There will be hard runs and easy runs over the next 12 weeks, but maybe that is what heart is all about.

To go back to my twitter friend, determination is where it all starts.  It’s time to train hard, and more importantly, train smart.

I’ve got 12 weeks to make my body match my heart.

My heart is set on 3:20.

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…the Need for Speed.

The primary training tool in the marathoner’s tool box is mileage. The more miles you put in the bank, the more likely you will be able to successfully complete a marathon. Logging 60 miles a week (something I’ve never done) will force your body to adjust to the concept of 26.2 miles much more aggressively than running 20 miles a week. That’s not to say that you can’t complete a marathon on 20 miles per week training, it’s just makes the task a bit more painful.

That said, my goal really has never been to just complete a marathon.  Don’t get me wrong.  Completing a marathon is huge.  HUGE!  But from the very start, I wanted to eventually be able to call myself a Boston Qualifier.   As much as I have improved over the past 8 months, dropping 24 minutes on my marathon time, I am still 9 minutes and 12 seconds short of accomplishing that goal.

As banged up as I was at the end of both Boston and Providence, my legs recovered quickly and I was upright and walking down stairs within a day.  Fitness is not the issue.

Speed is.

I have a need and the need is speed.  At both Boston, but especially at Providence, I had opportunities late in the game to pick up the pace and finish close to 3:20.  As much as I tried, the speed just wasn’t there at the end.  I never stopped running, but in both cases, the last three miles proved to be my undoing.

Enter Yasso & Galloway.

My hopes are that this fall, Bart Yasso and Jeff Galloway will take me to the promised land.

Both are running experts and both have “discovered” certain indicators that can tell you if you are ready and able to hit your desired marathon time.

I plan on using their methods as part of my speed training this summer to help me get to where I want to be.

You can find their indicators here & here, but in a nutshell they work as follows:

Yasso 800’s: Once a week you go to the track and run a series of 800 meter intervals.  Starting with 4 intervals and adding one each week, you try to run each 800 in minutes and seconds in the time that you would like to run your marathon in hours and minutes.  I would like to run a 3 hour 20 minute marathon or better, so I will run 800 meter intervals in 3 minutes and 20 seconds or less.  In between each interval you walk the same amount of time.  Eventually you build up to 10 intervals, and if you can do that, you should be ready to run your marathon.

Galloway’s Magic Mile: Once every 2 weeks or so, you run a mile about as hard as you can.  Galloway says that at the end of the measured mile you shouldn’t be able to maintain that pace for more than another 100 yards, though he does emphasize no puking.  Over the course of you training, you do 4 magic miles, eliminate the slowest, and average the remaining 3.  From there he has a program that calculates what your magic mile average indicates.  I need to average a 5:53 mile or better to run a 3:20 marathon.

The indicators alone won’t be enough speed work by themselves, so I plan on throwing in some shorter intervals along the way (some 400’s and 200’s).  If you have any suggestions, please let me know.  My goal this summer is to do Yasso 800’s once a week, running 3:20 splits or better and check my Magic Mile at least 3 times.  Hopefully come October (I’m looking at the Smuttynose Marathon on October 3rd) both of those indicators will tell me that I am more than ready to break the 3:20 barrier in the marathon.

Stay tuned!

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