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Archive for September, 2010

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

In a few days I will be traveling up to Hampton Beach, New Hampshire to run the Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon. I have worked hard this summer, following a proven plan, hoping that it will translate into a Boston Qualifying time. During this week I have actually been surprisingly unfidgety with my taper. In previous marathons I have dreaded this week before a marathon, but with every workout on the Pfitz 12/55 plan planned right up to Marathon Day, I have had a sense of calm I have not experienced in the past. That’s not to say that I’m not very excited.

But as excited as I am about running this thing and hopefully achieving my goal, I am just as excited, if not more so, about running Smuttynose with two friends, Pete and Brendan. The interesting part about this though is that I have only met Pete once and I have never met Brendan. Still, I plan on putting much of my Smuttynose experience in their hands.

Our plan is to run together for as long as we are able. We have agreed that if someone falls off the pace (7:38/mile) we will not all slow down for them, but we do plan to try to carry each other to a sub-3:20 finish, which would be a PR for all three of us (Pete’s PR is a 3:24, Brendan a 3:27 and mine is a 3:30). Unfortunately for Pete, he’s a bit younger than Brendan and I, so a 3:20 doesn’t qualify him for Boston.   I won’t blame him if at some point he is feeling it mid-race and takes off.  In the meantime, we will run together – strangers in the real world, good friends within our online running community.

I feel lucky that I live in an age where a site like dailymile exists.  The three of us have become friends because of dailymile (and to some extent Twitter).  Pete (of Runblogger fame) was the first person in the ether to reach out to me a year ago when I was stumbling blindly on Twitter looking for advice on the Manchester Marathon.  Through him I was introduced to dailymile.  On dailymile (a social site for active people) I was able to connect with many, many other people who, like me, found joy in regular physical activity.  I eventually connected with Brendan, who just might be one of the most positive people on dailymile that I have ever interacted with (which says a lot because as a whole, the people you find on dailymile are a very positive bunch!).

Over the past few months, the three of us have encouraged each other through good runs and bad, through health and injury.  This Sunday will be the first time I go into a marathon with a solid plan to run with friends.  Hopefully we will draw strength from our numbers when we all inevitably hit the wall at around mile 20.  Regardless of what happens, I know that the experience of running together will be a positive one and will help us run faster than had we been alone.

Wish us luck…hopefully there are 2, maybe even 3 BQ’s waiting for us on the other side of this weekend!

Stay tuned!

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

Since 1992 I have been waiting.

Waiting for what you say?

I can’t specifically say. To be discovered? To be handed fame and fortune? To win the lottery? I have been waiting. As a youngster, I always felt I was destined for something big, but I never did anything about it. In 1992 I said to some friends I wanted to go to New York, become a soap opera regular and become a star. My friends were all for it. I did eventually go to New York, but not until 1996, and only for a job as a paralegal at a midtown law firm. I did finally make it on to a soap opera, but only as an extra and only because a dear friend of my sister-in-law happened to be the head writer and was kind enough to get me on (Thank you Lil’ Jess and Tom!).

Yup, that's me in the background...

Still, I waited. Waited for greatness, for fame, for fortune.

***

It’s not coming, is it? There is no Justin Bieber fairytale waiting for me, is there? (part of that may be because I don’t sing…details.) Random House is not going to stumble upon my blog and decide they MUST have a book written by Luau. Foxnews is not going to decide that they MUST talk to me about the minimalist movement and make me a media darling. Oprah is not about to come calling, asking me to talk about how we can get America healthy again…is she?

No.

The lottery, both figuratively and literally, is not about to call out my numbers. My blog may be just under a year old, but at nearly 41, I’m no longer that fresh face with potential.

And yet I have waited.

***

For the last 11+ weeks I have been following a training program aimed at helping me run a 3:20 or better at the Smuttynose Marathon on October 3rd. I have not followed the program to a tee, but I have worked very hard and made re-adjustments along the way to keep me on track, both in mileage and types of workouts. Injuries and travel have required me to make some changes, but my numbers are lining up correctly and I am feeling very confident. If I don’t manage to qualify for Boston, it’s going to be very, very close.

If I do run a 3:20 or better I will have to face an ugly, brutal truth: to achie—

-<<record stratch>> – Wait…what?  Luau, um, did you just said that if you ACHIEVE your goal, you’re going to have to face an ugly truth?

Yup. That’s what I said. The ugly truth is this: to achieve your goals, most of us must work for it. If I run a BQ (Boston Qualifier), it will have been achieved through sweat and pain, hard work and determination and even a little bit of blood. There has been no “waiting” this time around for a BQ.

As much as I like to pull the “back when I was your age” card on my children and younger friends, the truth is, my generation really was the beginning of the immediate gratification/MTV society (I can’t say generation anymore because we have had children that also carry this need for immediate gratification…Video on Demand?  DVR’s? 24 Hour News?).

My father didn’t raise me this way, but somewhere along the way, I lost the thread.  I left the path and I got lost.  Things came too easily too early for me and I got comfortable.  Well, these 11 weeks have brought me a new perspective.  Barring a twisted ankle on the course, I will run close to, if not achieve a BQ.  Regardless, I know I will run a personal best (Providence is my current PR at 3:30:11), and it will all be because of hard work.  I feel like I’ve cut away the fat, more mentally than physically.  I am ready.

So Random House, Foxnews and Oprah, watch out.  After I hit this BQ, I’m coming.

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

The training schedule I’ve been following for the Smuttynose Marathon called for an 8-10K race this past Saturday. The idea being that running a race this close to the actual goal race would help me work through any pre-race jitters. The problem was that local race directors didn’t get the memo that I was in a training cycle that called for an 8-10K and all that was available close by were a few 5K’s. I picked what I thought would be one of the flatter ones and away I went.

Now I have this friend, let’s call her Teri*, who I have been trying to get to come to one of these road races with me for over a year. There was always some excuse, but she kept telling me to ask her the next time. She hadn’t run a race in a decade, so when I came across this race, an inaugural one, I thought it was the perfect opportunity for her to re-enter the road race arena. The description of the Glio Blast Off 5K was fast and relatively flat. When I showed her the website, she was hooked. She’s been running around 6 miles lately as her regular runs, so she had no excuses with a 5K.

Still, as I drove by her apartment on Saturday morning to pick her up, I was half expecting her to tell me that something had come up. I was pleasantly surprised to find her waiting for me on the curb.

She was, to say the least, a bit nervous. She had no idea what to expect from herself. I reminded her that for a first race, she should push herself hard, but know that this was simply a bar-setter. Once she got through this one, she would know what she was capable of and be able to go on from there. She thought that she would be happy simply coming in under 30 minutes. I asked how fast she had run her fastest 3 miler – 25 -26 minutes.

I thought about that for a minute and told her that I wouldn’t be surprised if she could hit a 25-handle. She looked at me like I had a screw loose.

We arrived at the race, checked in, got our numbers and began to warm up. As the start time edged closer and closer, I could see Teri getting more and more nervous. I tried distracting her by trying to pick out who we thought the winner would be. An older gentleman, in his 50’s, flew by warming up.

“There goes your winner,” I said. She laughed. It was actually good for me that she was so nervous because it kept my mind off my own thoughts about the race. Though my plan was to try to improve off of last week’s time (20:27), I essentially had no idea what kind of giddy-up I would have, having raced a 5K race and run a VO2Max interval workout in the previous 7 days.

As the starter called the runners to the line, I left Teri in the middle of the pack – just run strong and slightly out of your comfort zone, I told her. I went to the front and instinctively checked out who else was there. There was the older gentleman, a 20-something year old, a larger guy in his 30’s and me. I found out in our short conversation before the start, that all of them had been long timecompetitive runners. The larger guy mentioned that he use to run 5 miles in about 27 minutes in college. Oh, boy! My strategy had been to go out with the leaders and see what happened. After our brief discussion I realized that I would be fighting for 4th place, even with a PR. The gun blared and we were off.

Right out of the gate the big guy pushed the pace, with 20-something right behind him, then me, then the older gentleman. Before the first turn I once again found myself running with the front pack of a race. After an initial flat 200 yards, the course went uphill for the next 300 yards or so. The big guy didn’t flinch and I tried to keep pace. 2 turns later and we started down a mild downhill. The big guy was about 10 yards ahead, 20-something was maybe 2 or 3 yards ahead and I could hear the older gentleman closing in.

Just before hitting the mile 1 marker, the older gentleman flew by me. I check my watch, 6:00. Phew! A little fast!

I watched as our group of 4 began to look more like 4 groups of 1. The big guy continued to pull away, with the other two hanging on. I had two choices at this point. Do I follow, push myself to the limit and possibly injure myself, or do I continue along at what I perceived as max effort? I know that sounds contradictory. Luau, if you’re already pushing at max effort, how can you push any harder? I’ve always felt that what may feel like a maximum effort isn’t always so. That said, despite my training program saying I needed to approach this race as an all out effort, to paraphrase old Obi-wan, this wasn’t the race that I was training for. I would have kicked myself if I had maxed out my legs and ended up pulling something with 2 weeks to go until Smuttynose. Having come to that conclusion, I pushed on at the effort I was putting forth.

As the other three began to pull away, I glanced over my shoulder. Nobody. I once again found myself in the position I did at Lex’s Run. Barring disaster, or a huge rally by the guys behind me, I was sitting in the spot I was going to finish. Mile 2 came and went uneventfully in 6:24. I did some quick math and realized I had 7 1/2 minutes to cover 1.1 miles and get in under 20 minutes (my stated goal). It was going to be close. I felt my legs slowing down and I began thinking of the uphill near the end of the race. I could still see the leaders.

At this point the older gentleman had passed the 20-something. I realized too late that I was closer to them than I had thought. With a little over 1/4 mile to go, I saw that I was only about 200 yard behind he big guy and a little over 100 yards behind 20-something. I had no shot, but I pressed on the gas anyway. As I hit the final hill, I could feel gravity slowing me down. I could only watch helplessly as 20-something crested over the hill and used gravity to his advantage. Once I hit the downhill, I did the same. It was too late to catch 20-something, but I still had a shot at my first sub-20. Two more turns and I saw the clock just under 200 yards away. It was just clicking over to a 19-handle. The finish line looked so far away. Physically I felt like I had left it all on the hill, but I knew, I knew, I had something left in the tank. I forced myself to sprint. I’m not sure how I looked, and I didn’t really care. I was getting that sub-20 dammit! As I closed in on the finish line, I realized that not only was I going to finish in under 20 minutes, but I had a shot at 19:30! I could hear the people gathered cheering me on as I flew through the chute. I pressed my watch and looked – 19:30. Official time: 19:27. I found the other 3 guys, congratulated them and nearly threw up.

After taking a moment, I jogged back to the last turn and cheered runners in, encouraging them to either hold off the person behind them or catch the person in front of them. A few minutes later my friend Teri came around the corner. She was struggling – holding her own, keeping pace, but definitely struggling. As she came around the final turn, I broke into a run with her. Let’s go Teri! There’s the finish line! She wanted to stop. I wasn’t about to let her do that with just 150 yards to go. Come on! Let’s go! Look at the clock! LOOK AT THE CLOCK! The clock read 25:–. She kept moving. I started running backward right in front of her. You’ve got this! You’ve got your 25, but you can hit 25:30 Teri! Let’s go. She would later tell me that at that particular moment, she hated me and wanted to hit me. Intuitively, I stayed just out of reach, mentally trying to pull her along. At about 10 yards to go, I peeled off so she could run through the chute. 25:27. For about a minute or so she was miserable. Then she realized what she had done. You could see the pride and excitement grow in her face. She had achieved her goal and she felt great. She called her trainer to share the news. About 10 minutes later, the timekeepers put out the premiminary results. Teri had finished 30th overall (out of 185 finishers!), 10th among women, and 1st in her age group. 1ST IN HER AGE GROUP?!? She was ecstatic! I have to admit, I was just as happy for her and I was for me when I found out that I too had won my age group, finishing 4th overall.

For an inaugural event, this race was extremely well run. My only two notes of criticism would be that they didn’t have any course maps to check out (something they said would be addressed next year) and the race directors chose very odd age groups (31-40/41-50?). The course was fast and fun but challenging. Hopefully Teri and I can go back next year and defend our age group wins!

Did I learn anything? I was reminded that as a running community, we take pride in the achievements of others. I truly got a huge thrill from Teri’s age group win, knowing that in a small way I had helped push her a little harder than she was going to push herself.  Hopefully this is the first of many races for Teri.

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*Named changed, though not arbitrarily.

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

Many of you know that I am running the 2010 ING New York City Marathon on November 7th. I will be able to do so because a great number of you helped me raise the required funds for Autism Speaks to get me there as a charity runner. Through your generosity I have raised over $3,000. I am deeply grateful. A few people however have asked me to remind them where to go to send donations. I would like to request that you send them to a new destination.

Before I run, I will walk.

Next Sunday, our little family will be participating in the Greater Boston Autism Speaks Walk at Suffolk Downs. I have to admit I have been hesitant in writing this post. After all that you did for my drive to run New York, I did not want you to feel that I was going back to the well too soon and too many times. That said, if you have already donated to my New York fundraiser, please know this post is not directed toward you (though please feel free). If you did not have a chance to donate to my run, but want to help, please consider donating here. It is our team’s fund raising page for this year’s walk. We are Team Umizoomi (my little Brookelet’s choice). Last year you helped us raise so much that I was allowed to throw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game – an opportunity of a lifetime.

Throwing out the first pitch on Autism Awareness Night at Fenway in 2009

I’m going to steal the wife’s letter from her page:

Because autism awareness is as important to my baby girl as any other tool we can give her.

Because she desperately needs acceptance, encouragement and understanding.

Because she deserves compassion and love.

Because with the right tools, there is nothing she can’t do.

Because 1 in 110 children is just too many.

Because no child should have to hurt.

Because there is nothing we wouldn’t do for our girl, but we can’t do this alone.

Please, donate whatever you can. Join our team. Walk with us here in Boston or join us in raising funds and walking virtually from wherever you are.

Because together, we CAN and we WILL make a better world for people with autism.

On behalf of my family and so many others like us, thank you. From the bottom of our hearts. We couldn’t do this without you.


My Little Super Brooke

Once again, if you have already given, please don’t feel like I am coming back to you, but maybe you could pass this post along. But if you haven’t donated yet, please consider giving to, joining and walking with (virtually or IRL) Team Umizoomi.

The link is —>HERE<— or click on the picture of Super Brooke!

Thank You,

Luau

PS – just let me know if you do, that way I can thank you properly!

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

I never saw the movie Sliding Doors. If I had, maybe I wouldn’t be writing this post. For those that have never heard of it, the plot of the movie centers around the two possible lives a woman may have had depending on whether she made it on to a subway car or not on one fateful night.

How many sliding doors do we make or miss every day in our lives?

According to some physicists, every decision we make is Sliding Doors in the making.  Every decision we make creates two or more possible outcomes, with every possible outcome actually occurring in separate universes.  Some of those sliding doors lead to minor, almost undetectable changes in our lives; others can have dramatic effects.  It’s enough to paralyze one’s decision-making ability, which I’m sure is one of the sliding doors.

It makes you wonder what your life would be like now had you taken a slightly different path early in your life – a poetry course instead of American Lit in school; or a skiing trip instead of the beach or home for Spring Break; the drug store instead of the grocery store to pick up some Advil. Would you still be you?

What does this have to do with running?

Nothing really, except this – many of us go through life not really thinking about the sliding doors we may or may not be going through. We don’t think about what doors may be closing for good on us as we walk past them. I am making an effort to make sure that I do everything I can to maintain my health and my ability to run.  I am actively looking for the sliding doors that I think will make me a better, stronger and more enduring runner and in the long run, a healthier old man.

It’s still a guessing game.  You never know for sure which sliding doors lead where, but you can make educated, pro-active guesses, and do what you know is right for you.  Sitting on the couch with a pint of ice cream after dinner or going for a walk?  On any given day, either choice will probably not have long, rippling effects, but making the same bad choices on a daily basis certainly will.

What doors did you walk by today?

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

I’m looking around at the crowd of runners gathering at the start of Lex’s Run for MDA. Like any race, there is a wide variety of runners. Every shape, size and age is represented. There are about 75 of us milling about. I’m looking to see who I think the lead runners will be. There’s my buddy Chris from Run Run Live. He’s fast, strong and experienced. There’s another, younger guy who has a team shirt on that looks pretty fast. I eavesdrop on his conversation with another fast looking kid. I’m doing the numbers in my head. I’ve got myself in 4th. That is, until I hear their conversation. They are talking about a man named Sawyer. From what I can gather, he’s 48 and he’s fast…real fast. I see them look over and nod. I follow their gaze and there he is. All 5’4″, maybe 120lbs on a day the sun and the moon are on the other side of the planet.

“There’s your winner,” I thought.

“There goes your winner,” said my friend Adam. I laughed. We would later joke that Sawyer had negative body fat and that every time he walked by, we all lost a pound.

Hmmm, okay, 5th place looks about right.

Another slender runner walked by. I would later find out his name is Jonathan. Much like the Sawyer, Jonathan is built like a your stereo-typical runner – long, lean, slender.

6th…shooting for 6th!

***

Before long, Doug called the runner to the starting line. I don’t necessarily like starting at the front of the pack, but Chris urged me to join him on the line. Sawyer and Jonathan positioned themselves to my left. As Doug blared the foghorn you could hear our four stopwatches beep just slightly out of sync with each other. We were off! Within about 400 yards, the four of us had created a gap with the pack. I had run this part of the course with Doug earlier so I acted as the navigator. Chris took the lead with the three of us following close behind.

I had no real strategy for this race. My friend Sheila had suggested running like my hair was on fire. Chris kept the pace hard as we worked our way through the first several turns. The first half mile, on a park trail, was relatively narrow, not allowing for a lot of movement, but then the course opened up a bit. It was at this point that Sawyer made his move and took the lead. Almost immediately he began to push the pace. The three of us held on for another quarter mile or so, but I got the sense that had he wanted, Sawyer could have left us completely in the dust 10 yards into the race.

Coming out of the park at 3/4 of a mile we hit “the hill”. The hill was a 154 foot climb over a quarter mile stretch. Sawyer pushed the accelerator down. Jonathan stayed closed behind him. I heard Chris yell, “Good luck boys” or something to that affect. I decided to try to run with the big boys. I was only about 3 or 4 yards behind them, but I couldn’t close the gap. 2/3 of the way of the hill, I yelled that I didn’t think I was gonna be able to keep pace. Jonathan yelled back words of encouragement, but it was no use. These two guys were simply much faster than I was. Little by little they began to pull away. As we hit the top of the hill, an EMT cheered us on. With my lungs and leg on fire, I remember thinking, I may need this guy soon!

Legs burning, lungs on fire...

As we made the turn I looked down at a glorious downhill. Nearly a mile of downhill grade. I thought maybe I could use gravity to close the gap a little with the two leaders, but they must have been thinking the same thing. Part way down the hill I glanced over my shoulder to see if Chris or anybody else was closing in on me.

Nobody.

I was sitting comfortably in third, and this is when my head started to play games with me. Barring a stumble, there really was no way I was catching Jonathan or Sawyer. Looking back, I had created about a 200 yard gap between me and the next runner.

What are you running so hard for? Ease up on the gas. You don’t need to be going this fast. You can’t catch those guys. That guy can’t catch you. These were the thoughts that drifted through my mind as I tried to push through. I got so lost in thought that I almost missed the water station. I had no intention on grabbing a drink, but I yelled at one of the kids there to throw the water in my face. She missed and hit my chest, but it was the refreshing jolt that I needed. I heard the girl and the mother laugh as I flew by.

Re-focused, I concentrated simply on finishing strong. As I hit 2 miles, the course flattened out and took a turn back toward the start. I could see both Sawyer and Jonathan in the distance and decided that I would try to, at the very least, keep them in sight. With a little over 1/2 mile to go, I glanced over my shoulder. I had stretched my lead on the next runner to about 300 hundred yards. As I went into the final turns of the race, I was aware of people cheering but could not hear them. My hair was on fire and the only way to put it out was to cross the finish line. At the final turn I saw the clock. My goal had been to run a 19-handle, but the clock had already rolled over to 20. I sprinted through the chute at 20:27. 3rd overall out of over 70 runners. Not bad for a first 5K. Initially I was disappointed with my time, but after some reflection, I realized that the course was not considered an easy one. The climb on the hill probably took more out of me than I was willing to admit, especially since most of my training this summer has been on flat roads.

After crossing the finish line, I found Jonathan. Sawyer had gone out for a cool down, but I wanted to cheer everybody in (easy to do when it’s 70+ people). Over the next 30 minute Jonathan & I (joined a few minutes later by my dailymile and twitter bud Adam) chatted and cheered everybody in. Jonathan, it turns out, had started running only recently. A few years ago, pushing 250 lbs, he had decided to change his life. He went out the door and ran 5 minutes from his house, stopped and then turned around and ran back. He slowly built up to 10 minutes, then 15. After being able to run consistently for 30 minutes, he started running for distance. The miles added up, the pounds dropped off, and now he’s running 5K’s in 19 minutes, along with running marathons and competing in triathlons. Adam actually has a similarly inspirational story you can find here.

As the rest of the racers came in, I got to meet several other runners, a lot of them with neat, interesting stories of their own. One woman, Mary McManus, had run Boston 2009 after being diagnosed with post-polio syndrome in 2006. You can find her on the web here.

So what did I learn from this race? I’m not sure yet. That a 150 foot climb over a quarter mile is hard? I don’t think I needed this race to learn that. What WAS reaffirmed was that the running community is vast and varied, and that running brings us the peace of solitude and the joys of community.

I hope that if you are relatively local, you’ll consider running Lex’s Run in 2011. Doug’s wife Lex, suffers from adult onset muscular dystrophy, and they have created this race to give back to the association that has done so much for them. You can find their homepage here.

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Jonathan, Me and Adam post-race courtesy of Chris

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

On this day,

Run to honor those whose feet no longer touch the earth,

And now run with angels.

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