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Archive for November, 2010

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I’m mad.

Okay, maybe I’m just a bit on the miffed side right now.

But the more I think about it, the madder I get.

Over the last year or so I’ve oscillated in my hydration between Nuun Water and my home-made Honey-Water™. Both drinks do exactly what they are meant to do, they hydrate without overwhelming you with sweetness and sugar.

Part of what makes Nuun Water great is that it comes in little tablets. “Portable Hydration” is what they call it, and that’s exactly what it is. You carry the tablets with you so you don’t have to carry bottles and bottles of the stuff; simply fill your bottle with water and drop in a tablet.  It’s that easy.  The only drawbacks are if you lack a source of water on your run.

My secret formula Honey-Water™ may not be as convenient (I don’t really see myself carrying a little honey bear with me on my runs), but when mixed just right, with my added secret ingredient, the flavor is light and refreshing, and the sugar gives you an extra boost of glucose to keep running hard.  I also find that I don’t have to drink as much per mile as I usually do with plain, old water.

Both are great.

I love them both and it pisses me off to no end.

Although I have run every marathon initially carrying my hydration (two with Nuun and two with Honey-Water™), the truth is eventually I run out before the end of the race.  The simple solution would be to carry more, but that means more weight, which means more work.  That doesn’t sit well with me, especially when I’m running for time.  Carrying 48 ounces of hydration is one thing on a LSD 20 miler, but it’s a completely different thing when you are racing a marathon.

The reason I’m mad is that Gatorade has cornered the market on hydration stations at just about every half and full marathon I’ve been too; if it isn’t Gatorade, it’s the ugly step-brother Powerade. Both drinks are heavy on sweetness and hit my stomach like a round of buckshot. I’m not a huge fan of either and I generally don’t drink the stuff.  Unfortunately, I’m afraid that I am going to have to start.  They don’t hand out cups of Nuun or cups of my Honey-Water™ at races.

I think that one of the contributing factors to my physical breakdown in New York was due to last minute nutritional changes – that included switching to Gatorade mid-race when I realized that I was going to have to find an alternate source of carbohydrates when I was unable to stomach the banana flavored honey stingers I was trying for the first time.  Though I don’t blame Gatorade completely, I’m sure that my stressed system didn’t take to it too kindly.

So what’s the solution?

Unless I can come up with a better plan, I am going to have to train my body to accept Gatorade.  Plain old water is not a practical choice.  When I run for distance, I sweat like a LeBron James before a Celtics game.  I need the nutrients and minerals that water alone can’t replace.

Honestly, it would be nice to not have to carry anything in a long race other than a few Gu’s or Honey Stingers (just not that damned banana flavor though!), but I wonder if Gatorade is really the answer.

What’s your hydration strategy at the half- and full-marathon distances?

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A Runner’s Thanks

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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving – a time to give thanks to those that have blessed you over the course of the past year.

I give thanks first and foremost to my family – my wife, who doesn’t get my running at all, but knows that it is important to me, and therefore not only puts up with it, but even takes the time to read this blog on a regular basis (talk about love); my girls, who cheer me on unconditionally, even if they don’t quite get my passion either.

I give thanks to my running friends – Mike, who has always been somewhat of a running GUIDE to me; to Pete, who was the first runner in the Twitterverse to reach out to me and introduce me to a WORLD of RUNNERS; to Brendan, whose bright spirit and kind words always encouraged.

I give thanks to Doug and Adam, who showed me what DETERMINATION looked like; to Alain, who showed me what TEAM looked like; to Steve and Caleb, who showed me what ASPIRATION looked liked; to TK and Michelle, who showed me what FRIENDSHIP looked like; to Lam and Kirsten, who showed me what HEART looked like; to Mary, who showed what GRACE looked like; to Chris and Chaz, who showed me what WISDOM looked like; to David, who showed me what friendly COMPETITION looked like; to Sarah and Brian, who showed what INSPIRATION looked like; to Sheila, who show me what MOTIVATION looked like; to Alett, who showed me what CAMARADERIE looked like; to Jennifer and Erin who showed me what STRENGTH looked like; to Josh, who showed me what KARMA looked like; to Paula, Judith, Jenn, and Alysia, who showed me what COMMUNITY looked like; to Rhonda, Sandra, and Gaby, who showed me what SHARING looked like; to Linda, Barb, Rachel, Sandra, Eva, Teresa, Bekah, Lauren, Melissa, Ryan and Magda who showed me what SUPPORT looked like. The list could go on and on. I know I’ve forgotten many, but please know that if we have crossed paths through running, I am thankful for it.

I give thanks to Vibram and Saucony, who protected my feet and carried me this past year to 7 minute improvements in both the 10K and Half-Marathon distances, a 35 minute improvement at the marathon distance and a BQ.

I finally give thanks to RUNNING, which has been my outlet and therapy. Would I be alive without running. Sure. Would I be happy without running. Undoubtedly, I’m a generally happy guy. But I do know that I would be neither AS happy nor nearly as healthy. Because of running, I am in better shape than I was 20 years ago, physically AND mentally. I am lighter, I am stronger, I am faster – I am better. Without running, I would not have met most of you! I am thankful that running has introduced me to a group of people that I firmly believe are the nicest, friendliest, least judgmental group of human beings in the world.

Tall or short; big or small; fast or slow; it doesn’t seem to matter to runners – as long as you run, you are one of us – and for that, I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

If you are traveling this weekend, be safe and don’t forget your running shoes!

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Typical

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On Sunday night my family and I caught a show at the theater.  We sat as a family of four, Jess, Katie, Brooke and I, listening to actors sing and dance as they told their story over the course of almost 3 hours.  Nothing particularly unusual about that.  Actually, it was a dress rehearsal of the musical Godspell being put on by a local theater. For the background on this, please take a moment to read —>>>this.<<<—

***

The bottom line is that we were able to sit through an entire show…as a family. Little Brooke watched, completely rapt. After every song she would clap or make her little Jesus doll clap.  For three hours on Sunday night, life felt blissfully typical.  For three hours, autism took a back seat to Jesus, John the Baptist and the rest of the “Godspell workers”.

Jesus and Brooke

After the show, Jesus came down and handed Brooke a mini-poster of the show signed by members of the cast.  She introduced him to his mini-me.

It was a gift. A blessing. A glimpse into a different world from the one we know.

Interestingly enough, despite the fact that Jess and I sat not two feet apart from each other throughout the show, our experiences were dramatically different though both incredibly positive.  She did a much better job describing our magical evening —>>>here.<—

This week I have a lot to be thankful for, but I am especially thankful to my Jess for making this evening possible.  That we were able to experience this little piece of heaven, this little piece of what I imagined part of parenthood would be like, was all on her and the kind, wonderful people at the theater who let us come into their rehearsal and have our own show.

We have tickets for this coming Sunday with a live audience, but for now, I’ll take this private performance for our little family.

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***For those curious why Brooke’s “Jesus” doll looks like that, here’s a picture of Jesus from the movie Godspell:


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In recent months Brooke has struggled with her environment. The Fall transition has not been particularly easy. Brooke’s autism is infused with pervasive anxiety.  Over the last several months, her anxiety levels have increased just ever so slightly, leading small trickles to compound into crashing waves when the environmental conditions are just so.  A baby’s cry, a child calling for its mama, or even big sister Katie sniffing because of a runny nose – all these things can lead to meltdown.

Little things becoming big ones.

Glitches becoming catastrophes.

Jess and I are working hard to anticipate and re-direct, attempting to keep those trickles as just that…sometimes with success, sometimes in vain.  We’ve learned to identify some, but not all, of what induces the paralyzing anxiety.

I tell people that being the parent of a child with autism has made me a better father, a better husband, a better man. You learn patience. You learn compassion. You learn to suck it up.

***

What I never thought, was that being a parent of an autistic child would make me a better runner. Brooke has taught me perseverance, tenacity, and drive. She wants to be able to break through her walls.  The perfect example is when she insisted we get  a dog – this despite the fact that she was deathly afraid of them.  We spent the first three weeks of having a dog with Brooke’s feet never touching the ground when our dog was in the same room.  Today, she has overcome that fear and now loves dogs.  I mean she LOVES dogs!  Perseverance, tenacity and drive – I used all of those things at both the Smuttynose AND New York City Marathons. In one race I used those lessons to cruise to personal victory, in the other I used them simply to survive.

Something else I did not realize until recently that I learned from Brooke as it relates to running was anticipation.  I don’t meant the “licking you chops can’t wait for this dinner” kind of anticipation.  No, I mean preventative anticipation, defensive anticipation.  As runners we can often be hyper-focused on the training at hand.  We will pay close attention to the pace, the distance, the training, but if presented with a niggling pain we will brush it off as just part of the training.  Much of the time, that is just what it is, but how often have you suffered an injury and in retrospect known exactly when it happened?   Prevention is much more powerful than reaction. The time spent ahead of the curve packs so much more wallop than time spent recovering from disaster.  We (I) need to learn to anticipate which of those niggles are an indication of more to come.

In Chaos Theory there is something called the Butterfly Effect. Put in very, VERY simple terms, the idea is that in a closed system (like our planet’s environment or our bodies) we are all connected. Because of that intra-connection (and explained with a lot of high level math I don’t pretend to understand) the flutter of a butterfly’s wing in Brazil can initiate events in our atmosphere that eventually lead to a class 5 hurricane off the coast of South Carolina. The problem of course is that the math is so complex that in the end, the connections seems to be random, chaotic. Trying to determine which butterfly’s wing will cause the next Hurricane Andrew is practically impossible.

The math isn’t quite as complex when it comes to our running and our bodies. I am learning to filter out the normal aches and pains of running and focus on those that feel like they could be more serious; those that could be evil butterflies.

***

Watching my little Brooke recently, I’ve seen the little things that set off a chain of events leading to disaster. Our (Jess & my) job is to attempt to anticipate which little things, which butterflies will cause the hurricane. Sometimes it’s a single event; sometimes, like many pebbles thrown into a once calm pond, it is many events. The difficulty is knowing which pebbles to catch and which butterfly to squish.

***

Awareness makes us better people, in all things. The more we know, the more likely we can manage to stay calm in the face of adversity, the more likely we make the choices that lead to a desired ending.

Whether it’s protecting my little one or protecting my body from injury, it’s about looking out for the “right” butterfly – and squishing it.

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With New York in my rear view mirror, I can now firmly set my sights on Boston.  The New York Marathon was a bonus.  I hadn’t planned on running 2 marathon this Fall, but when the opportunity to run New York presented itself, who was I to say no?  The thing is, I trained all summer for Smuttynose, not New York.  It isn’t a bad thing.  It paid off in spades.  I was able to qualify for Boston at Smuttynose.

But New York taught me something.  Well many things, really, but it taught me this one thing in particular – you must train for the terrain.  I purposely spent the summer and early fall running on flat surfaces.  Every recovery, tempo, interval, marathon-paced, and long distance run was done on ridiculously flat roads or trails, or on the treadmill.  Training this way allowed me to cruise through Smuttynose with relative ease (I stress the relative of course because as my good friend Mike reminded me recently, a marathon isn’t supposed to be easy).

But when it came to New York, I suffered  Yes, I had some nutritional and GI issues, but I think that, despite that, had New York been a flat marathon, I could have managed a significantly faster marathon.  I may have even been able to come close to a PR.

Which brings me to this winter.

***

I look to Boston, with it’s early, deceptive downhill and it’s late, heart-breaking uphill.  Training starts either in December or January, but either way, I know there is going to be one “must” in my training.

Hills.

I must train for the terrain.  It will require doing runs of all kinds on the hills that are available around me.  Fortunately, being from the Boston-area, I will be able to drive over to the Newton Hills and do hill repeats without too much juggling of my schedule.  Heck, living in the Boston-area means that I can make sure my long runs make their way by those hills.  It’s not going to be easy; it may not be fun, but that is what I am going to have to do  if I want to take a shot at a 3:15 at Boston.

In Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathoning he states several times that you must try to emulate the conditions you will face in your goal marathon.  What better way to emulate the terrain of your goal marathon than actually run on the terrain of said goal marathon?

I’m curious to see how my body will adapt to this kind of training.  Will it accept it as a necessity?  Will it rebel after a summer of flat running?  Will it adjust?

Train for the terrain.

That’s gonna be the mantra this winter.

Train for the terrain.

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A Good Day

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

-the Beatles

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Yesterday morning I woke up with a sense of hope.

Hope that things were gonna turn around. Hope that the sun was rising.

In the morning I met with an old friend. Not getting into too much detail, but there’s a distinct possibility that I may be starting a new path in 2011. I am excited at the prospect. In the evening, on the way to have some sushi, the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” came on the radio. I smiled.

Yes, here comes the sun.

Over dinner, we ate a lot, shared some sake. I filled my belly with amaebi (sweet raw shrimp), deep fried shrimp heads and plenty of uni (sea urchin guts)…mmmmm!

Upon returning home, having put the kids to bed, I looked at my beautiful wife.

She was spent.

So, I sent her off to bed and…

…I ran!

As I stepped into the cool night air I could feel myself wake up.

My belly protested. Sake and sushi, especially my choice of sushi, aren’t exactly power running foods. Shoot! They are any kind of running foods!

My legs, though still a little creaky from New York, pleaded with me to let them go.

I forced them to start slowly…

…but I couldn’t hold them back for long. It was time to go. In the dark I couldn’t see my watch. I tapped it every time I hit what I knew to be a mile, but I was essentially running naked. It was a wonderful freeing feeling.

Returning to my front door, I tapped my watch one last time. 29:17 for 4 miles, with steady negative splits (8:00 / 7:27 / 7:07 / 6:40).

***

This on a half a bottle of sake and a boatload of sushi.

***

…yes, yesterday was a good day.

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6.5

<1.8%

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The average American sleeps over 106 days per year.

The average American watches almost 78 days of television per year.

The average American surfs the Internet nearly 30 days per year.

The average American eats for nearly 23 day per year.

How much time does the average American spend on exercise?

Less than 20% of the American population participates in regular exercise. Of those 20%, 65% spend less than an hour doing it. For 80% of this Great Nation, the average amount of time spent during the year on truly sweating is less than 1 day.

***

Sleep and food are necessary. Television and the Internet are not.

***

And no, it’s not just lack of exercise; it is also what we are doing with the time we COULD be spending exercising (staring at a screen, mindlessly eating). It’s a double-whammy.  Mindless eating is not about hunger or nutrition. It’s not even about pleasure, as a fine meal can be.  But junk/fast-food is not the enemy. It’s what we are doing with it that is – a topic for another post I suppose.

I digress.

***

So what’s your health worth to you? 20 days? 10 days? Would you believe that you could significantly help yourself with just 6.5 days a year? 6.5 days.

Can you spare 6.5 days?

That averages out to 3 hours per week.

I can already hear some people saying, “I don’t have an extra 3 hours per week.”

I hear you. Loud and clear. Time is precious. Choices have to be made. Issues must be tended to. But I take you back to the statistics above. How many hours per week do you spend in front of the television or the computer?

Be honest.

I have friends who are constantly traveling, constantly working and literally don’t have the time. They don’t watch TV and time spent on the computer is for work. For them, I’m not sure what the answer is. Some kind of multi-tasking?

But there are others. Other who complain or come up with excuses.

3 hours a week.

Not only are you receiving the benefits of physical exertion during that time, you’re getting the added bonus of not sitting in front of a screen, munching on HFCS (high fructose corn syrup).

So let me re-phrase – can you re-allocate 3 hours per week?

***

Isn’t your spouse/child/parent/friend worth 6.5 days?

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Itchy

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I took the entirety of last week off from running. My body didn’t fight it. In fact, during the first 5 days after New York I never had a strong urge to put the running shoes on. This is quite unusual for me. In the four previous marathons I’ve run, I have been eager to get right back out there on the pavement the next day, whether I am physically able or not.

I don’t know if it was just the beating I took running the five boroughs or the cumulative effect of running 5 marathons and 3 Half-Marathons in 53 weeks, but physically I just didn’t want to run. I think after what I’ve put it through though, I owed it to my body to listen.

A full eight days out now, however, and I’m starting to get itchy. I woke up yesterday morning and seriously thought of jumping in as a bandit in a local half-marathon that goes right by my house.  I chose to be smart, knowing I wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to let the throttle out.  I could have paced a friend of mine as well, but at that distance, at some point I wonder if I might not have felt the need to just go.

Yes, I am getting itchy. My shoes (both my Bikilas and my Kinvaras) are calling to me; or maybe it’s my feet that are calling to them. Either way, before this day is through, there will be miles run.  It is time.

What’s my point in all of this?

Just that after beating your body into the ground, maybe it is best to listen to it when it is asking for a break.  Recovery and rest are no joke.

Like I mentioned earlier, in the past four marathons I have been eager to get back out running as quickly as possible.  I wonder if it that urge has more to do with fear than desire. I wonder if some small part of me was afraid if I didn’t get out there as soon as possible, I simply wouldn’t.  Some runners (and I know I have been guilty of this) also have this irrational fear that if they don’t run as often as possible they will lose fitness*. It can sometimes border on the edge of compulsion.  And seriously, aside from maybe flushing out some built up lactate, I can’t imagine just how productive those post-marathon runs really are.

So this week, I’m taking a new approach. Mentally I know I’m ready to run. My plan for my assault on Heartbreak Hill is coming together. Boston is only (only?) 5 months away.  I may not PR at Boston, but I know I’ll improve on last year’s performance.  My official training cycle doesn’t start until mid-December (or mid-January, depending on whether I follow an 18-week or 12-week program).  Until that training cycle starts, I’m gonna listen to the legs and let them lead the way.

This last week has been luxurious, surprisingly pleasant really.  This coming week I will take it slow and easy.  And if my legs are ready? Next week it’s back to some real mileage…but only if my legs (and the rest of my body) tell me so.

***

How long do you take to recover after a marathon?

***

*I don’t mean the “oh my God I’m gonna gain weight!” fitness.  I mean the “oh my God, I’m gonna lose the ability to run a certain distance at a certain pace” fitness.

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No, no, no, no, no, no, NOOOooooo!!!

-Somewhere near mile 22

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I ran my very first marathon (the Manchester City Marathon) a little over a year ago. I went into it not really knowing just what I was getting myself into. Over the course of the next fifty two weeks I ran three more marathons (Boston, Providence and Smuttynose). In each of those I learned a little bit more about the 26.2 mile distance.

One full year after running the Manchester City Marathon, and with one week to go until New York, I thought I had the knowledge, determination and discipline to conquer the five boroughs. Unlike Meatloaf, I only got one out of three right.

I would love to go into detail of my whole weekend experience, but in the interest of time and space I will just say that on Friday and Saturday I got to catch up with the always inspiring Sarah Stanley, had the honor and pleasure of meeting my buddy Michelle, running with both her and TK, and having a fabulous brunch with a roomful of runners (too many to list here) and attended the Team Up with Autism Speaks Pasta Dinner.

Me and Sarah Stanley at the Expo

Me and "Miss Joy" Michelle meeting for the first time at the expo...we later attended a wedding together!

At the dailymile/Twitter Brunch where I got to sit with THE Running Laminator!

At the Autism Speaks pasta dinner with my sister and Autism Speaks President Mark Roithmayr

Got to sit and eat with fellow autism parent and twitter friend Rhonda aka @train2tri

Let’s get right to the race.

As I stood, shivering in the starting area, I tried to visualize my journey before me.  Much like Smuttynose, I had a plan – I was going to break the race into 5 mile segments.  I knew in my head that no matter how I felt, I could run 5 miles.  In my head I told myself the moment I take that first step in each 5 mile segment, I was now down to 4+ miles.  It worked to perfection at Smuttynose.  I was sure it would work in New York.  If could replicate my Boston Qualifying race, New York was going to be a breeze.  Part of the plan also called for taking a Honey Stinger at the beginning of each of those 5-mile segments.  Easy enough.  I had run Smuttynose in 38-minute 5 mile segments.  My plan for New York was to attempt 37 minute splits.

Although I had never run New York, I tried to imagine myself taking a Stinger and a swig of my homemade Honey Water at the designated spots.  I saw myself crossing the finish line in Central Park.  The clock read 3:16, which was fine, because I was about a minute back from the starting line.

After the introductions of the elite runners, the gun went off, and we were OFF! waited for the wave to make it’s way back to corral 12.  I took one last look around for DP_Turtle, hoping to find a running partner, but to no avail.  The sea of people began to surge forward and as we crossed the starting line, I hit my watch and we broke into a jog and then a run.  My New York City Marathon had officially started.

People had warned me about the mass of humanity that I would be part of.  I thought having run Boston from the very back that I already had a grasp of what that meant.  As I began to climb the Varranzano-Narrows Bridge, I realized just how wrong I was.

The view of people ahead of me and behind me was almost overwhelming.  Reaching the peak of the bridge, I looked out over the water at Manhattan.  Having lived there in the late 90’s, I felt a tinge of sadness.  Even today, almost a decade after 9/11, I still expect to see the Twin Towers standing there.  I said a quiet prayer for those who lost their lives and loved ones that day and moved on.

As I passed the first mile marker, I took a look at my watch – 8:14.  A nice, slow start.  Unfortunately the second mile was downhill and gravity did it’s thing.  Coming off the bridge I hit mile 2 in a too fast 6:43.

Too fast! I thought. But then I reconsidered, thinking that I was now on target for sub-7:30 miles.  It had worked at Smuttynose.  It was going to work in New York, right?

Shortly thereafter we got our first dose of the crowds.  The cheering was absolutely amazing.  The next 3 miles went quite smoothly.  I hit the 5 mile marker at 36:02…a little ahead of schedule, but I felt good.  Real good!  Too good.

I pulled out a Stinger.

***

Now here’s the thing.  I am a huge fan of NRG’s Honey Stingers.  I am convinced that they helped propel me to my BQ at Smuttynose.  Before traveling down to New York, I decided to defer picking up my Stingers until I got to New York.  I assumed the local running shop would carry my brand.  They did…just not in the original flavor I was looking for.  My choice was banana and chocolate.  I settled on a mix.  But what could go wrong, right?  They were Honey Stingers!

***

As I passed mile 5, I pulled out my Stinger, tore off the top, sucked the the honey and washed it down with Honey Water.

It.

Was.

Awful.

I grimaced and washed it down with another swig of Honey Water.

Much better.

That is until a mile later.  At mile 6, it started mildly.  Small tiny waves brushing on the shore.  But with every passing minute, the waves of nausea became bigger and bigger.  They were soon crashing down on me.  I tried to stay focused on putting one foot in front of the other, but I could feel myself starting to fade.  Somewhere in the next mile or so I had to stop at a port-a-potty.  I didn’t feel good.

44 seconds later, I was back on the road.

At mile 8 the three starting groups (for the uninitiated, the New York City Marathon starts in three waves, each wave broken down into three separate starting areas that run their own routes for the first 8 miles) came together.  The crowds and runners became more congested.

Mile 10 was coming.  The nausea wasn’t going away, but I knew I needed to take a Stinger.  I tried to psych myself up for taking in sugar, but the closer I got to 10, the sicker I felt.  Mile 10 came and went, and I decided to push the Stinger off until mile 15.  I took a swig of my Honey Water, but even that was now making me sick.  At the next garbage can, I chucked my bottle.  I looked at mile split – 73:35 – that was a 37:33 split.  Despite the urge to hurl for the last 4 miles, I was still on target.

I slowed down a touch, trying to give my body the opportunity to re-group.  After about 10 minutes I started to feel somewhat normal.  No longer feeling green, I pressed a little to make up for lost time.  As we crossed the half-way mark I looked at my watch.  1:37:19.  Sub-3:15 pace!!!

Ok!  I can do this!

Just after the half, I spotted my friend TK.  I ran over, gave her a hug.

Looming in the distance was the Queensboro Bridge.  I took a deep breath.  I was going to take the ascent slowly and let gravity do it’s thing on the back side.  Passing mile 15, I realized that I needed to take in some nutrition.  The very thought of taking a Stinger brought back a wave of nausea.  I decided to wait just a little longer.

I took a look at my watch – 1:52:20 – a 38:45 split.  Still within striking range and ahead of my Smuttynose pace.

As we began to climb the bridge, I was surprised to hear music.  Led Zepplin’s Kashmir began pounding through my earbuds.  I had forgotten that I was listening to music.  The bands and crowds are so loud along the course that unless you have your music pumped up all the way (something I do NOT advocate), it is completely drowned out.

But on the bridge there were no fans, no bands, no sounds save the quiet pounding of running shoes on the asphalt.  Robert Plant wailed away in my ears.  I couldn’t help but smile.  For some reason, it felt like the perfect song for the moment.  Reaching the peak of the bridge, I forced myself to take another Stinger.  The thick honey was so unappetizing to me that after forcing half of it down, I spit out the rest.  My level of nausea kicked right back up.

I had been told that I would hear the cheering in Manhattan long before I came off of the bridge, and I did.  Momentarily I was uplifted.  Coming off of the bridge, I race over to the crowd and high-fived a number of kids.

The high was good enough to keep me going for a couple of miles, but I knew I was starting to pay for the lack of carbs I was putting in.  At this point I realized I needed to put some kind of sugar into my body, so I decided to start drinking Gatorade at each water station.

I never drink Gatorade.  Ever.

Through 18 miles I had manage to keep my mile splits under 7:50.  I was still averaging under 7:30 per mile.  Mile 19 came in at 7:57.  I wouldn’t see another 7-handle the rest of the way.  As I entered the Boogie Down Bronx, almost on the nose at mile 20 I nearly doubled over from pain in my stomach.

Stomach cramps?  Really? My lack of drinking Gatorade while training was coming back to haunt me.

I had never suffered from stomach cramps before in a race.  These were sharp and painful.  I knew that my game plan had to change.  Even as I had approached mile 20, I had been thinking that a PR was still a possibility despite the ongoing nausea.  I had fought through it for 19 miles.  I knew I could fight through it for another 7.

But this was different.  I went into survival mode.  I just needed to keep moving.  Time was no longer the goal – finishing was.

We weren’t in the Bronx long, quickly returning to Manhattan and Fifth Avenue.  I’m not sure how it is physically possible, but it felt like both going up First Avenue and going down Fifth Avenue were both uphill.  Is that possible?  It sure felt that way.  The stomach cramps weren’t going away, but I felt like I could make it through to the finish…that is until somewhere before mile 22 when I felt a twinge in my quads.

Deja vu!

My mind flashed to mile 20 of the Manchester City Marathon when my quads froze, leaving me with my legs planted to the ground like tree trunks for 10 minutes, unable to move.

The twinge became more intense.  I could feel both quads tightening up.  This is NOT good! As I passed mile 22 I thought about quitting.  I was in official death-march-mode. 

Is it worth trying to get to the end?  I’m nauseous, my stomach has sharp pain and now my quads are seizing up.  Maybe I should walk.  Maybe I should stop.

But something kicked in.  I knew that the Team Up with Autism Speaks cheering section was just a mile away.  Autism Speaks, the families that battle autism every day and all those who had helped me raise nearly $3,500 had brought me to New York.  I couldn’t let them down.  I looked down at my singlet.  “Run Luau Run” it said right above the Team Up with Autism Speaks logo.  I thought of Brooke.  I thought of my friend Greg and his son.  I thought of my friend Sheila and her son.  I thought of Jersey Jenn and her family….and Judith…and Drama…and Gaby…so many families…

No.  Walking was not a choice.  Stopping was not an option.  I wasn’t running for me.

Each stride brought a shot of pain in each leg.  I looked up to see a sign: Pain is temporary. Pride is forever! followed by Your Feet Hurt Because You’re Kickin’ Ass!!! Two better placed signs I could not have asked for.

I caught the Autism Speaks cheering section by surprise (they were still setting up) and soldiered on into Central Park.

Now, I love a good set of rolling hills as much as the next guy, BUT after 23+ miles?  Oh my frakking God!!!  The uphills simply brought a more intense pain to my quads, and the moment I began going down the hills, my hamstrings decided to join the party.

Gee! Thanks Hammies!  I’m glad you could make it to the Pain Party!

Up and down.  Up and down.  But as intense as the pain was, I knew I had less than 5K to go.

Somewhere around 24, something made me look left.  There was my sister!  A sight for sore eyes!  I ran over to her and gave her a hug.  A big part of me wanted to stop right there and call it quits, but I knew I couldn’t.

A hundred yards later, I spotted my mother-in-law (Grammy) and her husband (Grandpa DD).  I tried to put on a brave face.

"Gotta keep moving...I think the finish line is this way" (photo courtesy of Grandpa DD)

"Maybe if I flap my arms, my legs won't have to work so hard!" -courtesy of Grandpa DD

I had nothing left.  My body was working on sheer muscle memory.  At this point, my hair could’ve been on fire, and it wouldn’t have mattered.

We exited the Park and ran along Central Park South.  I knew that we needed to go back into the Park at some point, but it felt like it was taking forever.  Finally, as we approached Central Park West, we cut into the Park for the last 400 or so meters.  This was the final test of the New York City Marathon, because this very last portion was painfully uphill. Really!?!

Usually I have a kick at the end of these races.  Heck, I even had one at Manchester for the last few hundred yards, but on this day I would have to be satisfied with just keeping a steady pace.  There would be no passing people at the very end.  No triumphant sprint across the finish line.

I looked at my watch – 3:26:31.

I mustered a smile.  Despite everything, I had managed my second best marathon time.

I didn’t hit 3:15.

I didn’t PR.

But I have to say, that in many ways, I am more proud of what I did on that day than of my BQ time at Smuttynose.  New York pushed me past what I thought was my limit.  I could have quit.  Heck, maybe I even should have quit, but I didn’t.

Yes, pain is temporary and pride is forever (at least I hope the pain is temporary – my legs and shoulders are still hurting as I write this!).

I wandered out through the bag pick up section, briefly checking into medical, probably leaving before I should have, woozy but proud.

How I felt through much of the race

I found my family, thanked them for coming.

Me and my sister (who took care of me after the race!)

Me and my Mother-in-Law

We made our way back across the park to cheer in other Autism Speaks runners.

Hanging out at the Autism Speaks cheering section, cheering other runners in

I got to see Edison the mining runner.  Talk about a story of perseverance.

So what did I learn in New York? At least four things (though I’m sure others will reveal themselves):

1. Don’t mess with your nutrition.  Last minute changes to what you put in your body can really mess you up.

2. Train for the terrain.  Truth is, I spent the summer training on very flat roads in anticipation of Smuttynose, which is billed as the flattest marathon in New England.  That was great for Smuttynose as I cruised to a BQ, but not so much for New York with it’s bridges, slow, long climbs and rolling hills in Central Park.

3. Running with someone makes a huge difference.  At Smuttynose I was blessed to be able to run with my friend Brendan for nearly 15 miles and then with some strangers for another 7 or 8 or so.  I ran New York without a partner and I’m pretty sure it didn’t help.

4.  No matter how good you feel, if you’ve been targeting averaging 7:24 per mile, it’s not wise to run a 6:43 in the second mile.

As beat up as I am though, I’m already strategizing for Boston.  Just this past Wednesday, I received my Confirmation Notice in the mail.  Mentally I am ready to start running again!  I am ready to start training for Heartbreak Hill!  I plan on kicking it’s ass!  The only problem is that my legs haven’t got the memo yet.

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Some other photos from the race:

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Veterans Day

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Thank you Captain Scottie…thank you Captain Paul…thank you Major Brandon…thank you to all who have served, past, present or future. Because of you, I get to run free.

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Why do you run?

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