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Archive for May, 2012

Um, we’ll get back to the title of this post in a while.  Yes, this is in fact my race report for the 2012 Sugarloaf Marathon.

After not getting into the 2012 Boston Marathon by a mere 33 seconds (a blessing in disguise in retrospect), I began searching for a marathon that could get me back to Hopkinton in 2013.  With the Fall marathons occurring too late and the Summer marathons simply being to hot, I settled on the Sugarloaf Marathon – a late Spring marathon ranked as one of the 15 fastest marathons in the country.  Perfect!

I began my training a little late, switching from one program (the Pfitzinger 18/55) to another (jumping in on week 5 of the Furman FIRST program).  Training, aside from the last two weeks, was pretty solid, so when I made my way to the starting area with fellow RaceMenu members Jeremy and Tommy, I felt pretty confident that I was going to hit, or at the very least come very close to my BQ.

Team RaceMenu at the Sugarloaf Marathon – Jeremy, Me, Tommy

The three of us were all shooting for sub-3:15, and if there was one thing I learned at Smuttynose a year and a half ago it was that marathons go much better when you have a familiar face running with you.  After snapping a group photo, we made our way to the starting area.  Somebody asked out loud, “I wonder when we’re gonna start?”  Moments later, without warning, the starting gun went off.  We looked at each other – I guess it’s go time!

We had unfortunately not made our way to the front when the gun went off so we had to make our way through the crowd.  We still managed to hit the first mile marker in 7:37.  Our plan was to run the first 8 miles between 7:20 and 7:30 pace, not stress about our pace over the steady uphill climb from mile 8 to 10.5 and then cruise over the last 16 downhill miles to a sub-3:15.  An overall pace of 7:24 per mile would get us in at just under 3:14.  Despite a slow first mile, I wasn’t too worried.  The second mile came and went in an easy 7:22.  I noted that the temperature, though relatively cool at sixty some odd degrees, was still much higher than the online advertised 40° starts.  The scenery was absolutely beautiful – the Western Mountain of Maine, lakes that were so still you could see the reflections of the trees around it as if it were a glass mirror.  The three of us hung together as a loose pod with Tommy leading the way.

Miles 3 and 4 went by in a zippy 7:20 and 7:22 .  This was all within range of our plan.

At around the 5th mile, the rolling hills began to kick in.

I took in a Gu – my plan was to have one every 5 miles.  I started the race with two Gu’s in hand.  The race director had said they would be handing out Gu’s at around mile 9 and at around mile 17.  I would take my Gu at 5, grab one of theirs at 9 and take it at 10, take my last Gu at 15, grab theirs at 17 and take it in at 20.  I wasn’t going to worry about the final 1.2 miles.

As Tommy began to pull away a bit, Jeremy and I felt like we wouldn’t worry too much about our pace going up any hills.  There was still over 20 miles to go, so we didn’t want to kill ourselves simply to keep pace.  There would be plenty of time to make back the time on the final 16 miles.  Mile 5 was a bit slower at 7:35, but we got right back into our range with a 7:29, a 7:23 and a 7:20 over the next three miles.

We were feeling great as we hit the mile 8 marker.  Everything was going according to plan and we had avoided that cardinal marathon sin of going out too fast.

Meanwhile, the temperature was rising.

We looked up to see the “big hill” of the marathon – a steady climb from mile 8 to mile 10.5.  I looked at Jeremy.  “This is it,” I said, “make or break.”  And I truly believed that.  Not having run this race before, I really believed that how we did on the hill would determine how we would finish.  The back 16 was calling to me – just make it over the hill and it’s cake the rest of the way.  All I had to do was to remember to grab a Gu at mile 9.

The sun was rising, so a group of us shifted to the left side of the road to stay in the shade.  We hit the hill with a steady pace, but I refused to attack it.  I wanted to be comfortable and not expend too much energy this early in the race so we ran at what was a comfortable effort.  We manage 8:06, 7:54 and a 3:54 (7:48 pace) over the next 2.5 miles.  Fantastic!!!

As we crested the hill, I looked at Jeremy – this is it.  We. Are. Golden!!!

As we passed the aid station at 10.5, I asked where the Gu’s were.  The volunteers shrugged.  Somehow we had missed the Gu Station – this would be one of my 3 complaints about this particular marathon – if you are going to be handing out Gu’s, you must have your volunteers actively handing them out.  I would find out later that they did in fact have Gu’s around mile 9, but they were on a table in the grass.  That doesn’t work for those of us running for time.

I knew we needed to take it easy over the steep initial half mile, but gravity pulled us along at 7:00 pace and it felt like we were hardly working.  The realization that I would have to take my last Gu at 10 and wait until after 17 to take another weighed on my mind.  Psychologically I let it get to me.

As I looked out at the road ahead of us, I noticed something was missing – shade.

Jeremy started to fall back a little, but he was still within shouting distance.  I forged ahead comfortably, images of me fist-pumping as I crossed the finish line with a BQ-time running through my head.  The next 6 miles were a steady downhill and my pace reflected that – miles 12 through 17 went in 7:06, 7:21, 7:12, 7:16, 7:11 and 7:15.  The plan was working flawlessly.  But there were couple of things I hadn’t accounted for with this plan.  One was the Gu issue, the other was the heat.  As we made our way through Carrabassett Valley, the temperature began to soar right into the upper 70’s.  With no shade to protect us, it felt like we were running in 80-plus degree heat.

Still feeling good somewhere around mile 15 I think.

As I reached the water station after 17, I looked back for Jeremy.  He had dropped back significantly, falling victim to cramping in his calves and thighs – unfortunately, he would have to drop out at mile 25.  I had to push on – I could taste my BQ.  Going through the aid station, I grabbed a Gatorade and a Gu, and I tried to grab a water and another Gu, but the volunteer, for whatever reason, did not let go of the cup or the Gu.

I tried not to get upset, but as I took in what would now be my last Gu 2 1/2 miles after I had planned and with no extra to take at mile 20, doubt started to creep in.  As the heat continued to beat down on me, I could feel fatigue setting in.  I didn’t want to slow down because I knew my BQ was within reach.  I was on target with just over 9 miles to go.

As I passed miles 18 and 19 I looked at my watch – 7:33 and 7:37.  I was slowing down and I knew I was working harder than I had over the previous 6 miles.

That would be the last time I saw a 7-handled split.

Going into mile 20 the wheels simply came off of the bus – I covered the mile in 8:36, nearly a minute slower than the previous mile – it’s cliché isn’t it?  I hit a wall, I knew it, and there was nothing I could do about it.  The combination of the psychological and physiological effect of not taking in a Gu at 15 (as I had trained for) and the heat overwhelmed me.

At that point I knew my BQ was out the window but I still had a shot at a PR.  Up until mile 20 I had been on target to hit sub-3:15.  Now I just needed to hold on to beat 3:19:19 to score a PR. If I could just get back into the mid to high 7’s I’d be okay.

Approaching the next water station my legs overrode my brain and stopped running.  Suddenly I was walking.  I shook my head, half in anger, half in despair.  I sucked down the watered down Gatorade (why the HELL to they water it down???) and poured some water on my head and back.  10 yards out from the water station I was trying to run again.

This would be my pattern for the rest of the race – walking through the water stations, trying my best to run between them.  The next 6 miles would go 8:08, 8:04, 8:34, 8:21, 8:37 and 8:22.  The last four miles were absolute misery.  By the time I hit mile 23 I knew my chances of a PR were out the window and once again, I adjusted my goal – now I simply want to beat my second best time (2011 New York City Marathon – 3:26).  I desperately had to fight to keep my pace under 9.  As I made the final turn for the finish, I was overcome with a sense of resignation.  I would not be running Boston in 2013.  I would not be toeing the line in Hopkinton next April – and to a degree I was at peace.  I knew I only had one more marathon on the calendar this year, and New York City 2012 was not going to be run as a qualifier.

As I crossed the finish line, I hit stop on my watch – it read 3:22:56.

a few feet from the finish line

Officially my time would be 3:23:00 (my last complaint about the marathon was that there was no starting mat – time was based solely on guntime, so if you started in the back of the pack, you lost nearly 30 – 40 seconds.  Tommy actually covered the distance from the starting line to the finish line in 3:15:30, but because we had started in the middle, his official time was 3:16.  I can’t imagine how I would feel if I had missed qualifying for Boston by mere seconds because I didn’t start at the very front).

I would finish 68th of 574 total finishers (I heard that there were over 700 registrants), 60th out of 313 men, and 15th out of 59 men aged 40 – 44. Not bad for a guy who really didn’t get back into regular training until February.

3:23:00 is my second fastest marathon ever, but it was still 8 minutes off my goal of a 3:15 BQ, which brings me to the title of this post.

Dear B.A.A.,

I am wondering if you would be too upset if we pretended that I was two years older than I actually am.  Although my birth certificate indicates that I will be 43 come April 2013, I am willing to tell people that I will be 45 if you are willing to look the other way – I sometimes like to think of myself as an old soul anyway.  If you are willing to believe that I will be 45 next Patriot’s Day, my 3:23:00 will allow me to register during the second week of registration, and I’m pretty sure that as long as there aren’t a whole lot of people asking to do the exact same thing as me, that the time should be good enough to get in as a BQ-2.

Sincerely,
Luau

Whaddaya think?  You think the B.A.A. will go for it?

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Hmmm.

Hmmm.

That’s what I kept saying to myself as I drove up to last 16 miles to Sugarloaf today. The description online of the marathon is 5 flat miles, 3 miles of rolling hills, a 2 mile steady climb and then 16 miles downhill.

The 16 miles downhill, though potentially quad shredding, we’re very appealing to me when I signed up for Sugarloaf. It would hurt, but my heart wouldn’t have to work as hard, which means I might be able to hold off “the wall” just that much longer.

Hmmm, I said to myself as I drove what is essentially those last 16 miles. I was driving away from the finish line and it sure didn’t feel like I was driving uphill. That wouldn’t be bad if the road were flat, but for 10 of those miles (what will be the final 10 miles) it sure felt like I was driving downhill – which of course means, going the other direction, toward the finish, I would be running uphill.

Hmmm.

The river that flows next to the course does flow toward the finish line, so maybe what I perceived as driving downhill was some sort of optical illusion. I really hope so.

It doesn’t help either that the temperature right now is nearly 80°.

Hmmm.

*I apologize for any typos – this post was written from my phone

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It’s been on the calendar for months now.  I had been checking off the weeks, putting in my training, focusing on my attempt to return to Boston.

But then a couple of weeks ago I got sidetracked.  It wasn’t for anything bad.  In fact, it was a pretty cool trip to our Nation’s capitol where our family got a private tour of the West Wing of the White House (you can read about the trip over at Jess’ blog).  The side tracking was that the trip came in the middle of the week and require over 18 hours of driving in less than 60 hours.  I was exhausted and my shoulders and back were a wreck.  A massage helped, but for the last two weeks, I’ve been having trouble staying focused.

Just last night I realized that Sugarloaf is not weeks, but only days away – and that scares the crap out of me.  I aches and pains the body goes through at the end of a taper I can deal with – I’ve been there before, many times.  But with only 11 weeks of training, and that training being a new plan, I am unsure at best.  I don’t know how my body or mind is going to react to Sunday’s race.  I know my last couple of 20-milers didn’t go as planned…neither did my last couple of 15-milers.

I am dreading “the wall”.  I know it’s out there, waiting for me.  Over the last couple of 20-milers, it hit me just before 17 – the first without gels, the second time with.  I’m trying to take comfort in the reality that the last 16 miles of Sugarloaf are essentially downhill, but I’m not convinced that will be enough.  Will my quads hold up under 16 miles of pounding?  Will I be able to take advantage of gravity?

The good news is is that I will have my friends with me.  My buddy and teammate JB decided that after running several half-marathons and several ultra-marathons, maybe it was time to run a marathon-marathon.  Although he is much younger than I am, his goal on Sunday is the same as mine – sub-3:15.  In addition to JB, I also found out a couple of nights ago that another RaceMenu teammate, Tommy, will be joining us as well, and his goal is also a sub-3:15.

If there is one thing I have learned over the last couple of years of road racing, it’s that having friends with you is a huge help…as long as you follow “the plan”.  My mistake at Boston 2011 was that I went out with friends (Tommy was one of them) who were running faster than I had trained for.

Not gonna happen this time.

The plan is to average 7:24 – 7:30 over the first 8 miles (the first 5 being flat, the next 3 rolling), do whatever it takes to not kill ourselves over the next 2 miles (uphill) and then slowly pick up speed over the final 16.  Here’s a shot at the elevation chart:

Elevation Profile of the Sugarloaf Marathon

 

The key to this race I think that stretch from mile 8 to about mile 10 1/2.  I’m not sure what “not kill ourselves” will mean.  Do we slow down to 8:00 miles?  8:30’s? 9:00’s?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that when we reach the crest, we’ll have some time to make up.  Should JB, Tommy and I manage to run 7:30’s over the first 8 miles and fight through the hills with 9’s, that will mean running just a smidge over 7:12’s the rest of the way – even with the downhill, I’m not sure I can do that.  If we can maintain 7:24 pace through 8 and then only drop to 8:00’s on the hills, we only have to run 7:23’s the rest of the way.  Sounds more reasonable, but again, the hills are the X-factor.

We’ll see.

One more little jog tomorrow and then it’s countdown ’til go time.  Who am I kidding, the countdown started 3 months ago…I just forgot.

This weekend?  Really?

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If you can close your eyes and see the person you want to be, you can be it.

That was one of my posts the other day on Twitter and Facebook.  It came to me after watching two inspirational videos about two gentlemen who transformed themselves over the course of a year.  I hash-tagged my posts with #starttoday, hoping that somewhere, somehow, someone would be inspired to #starttoday and begin their personal transformation.  At first, my thinking was “if you want to lose weight, go out and run!” but as I sat thinking about the videos with the song “Fix You” running through my head (the soundtrack to both videos), I realized that these videos represented so much more and that the concept of #starttoday was about more than just throwing on some running shoes and going.

#starttoday is about doing something, anything to start yourself on the path of transformation – for some that mean dropping some pounds and gaining cardiovascular health.  Yes, #starttoday can mean throwing on your dusty running shoes and putting in a few miles but, it can also mean getting off of the couch, heading to the kitchen and today, just TODAY choosing to grab an apple instead of a bag of Doritos.  #starttoday can mean taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.  #starttoday can mean taking the dog around the block instead of to just the corner.  #starttoday can simply mean purposely changing your mindset – that this week, this day, this hour, this minute I will choose to live well; I will choose activity over inactivity; I will choose to eat healthful foods instead of junk; I will embrace the light that is life instead of the darkness.

Our bodies were designed, whether by God or by Nature, to move.  Today’s society inadvertently conspires to keep us still, idle – whether it be the TV, the computer, or the smartphone, when we are engaged with these devices we tend to stop moving.

Technology is not a bad thing.  It is a wonderful, beautiful thing that has helped bring the world together and can be used to make life easier.  We should not however mistake ease of life with complacency.  Contentment has its place, it is what we all strive for, but it cannot (and ultimately does not) come at the cost of our health.

In 2010 66% of the population of the United States was overweight, half of which was obese and we spent 2.6 trillion dollars on health care related issues.

That’s $2,600,000,000,000.00.

THAT is a lot of zeroes.  That’s close to $1,000 per person.  Would you rather be spending $1,000 on health care issue that were preventable or on items your family could use or want?  $1,000 per person pumped back into the economy could go a long way toward bringing America’s health back to where it once was – but that recovery starts with you, and your friends, and your neighbors.  I know that it’s not that simple.  Getting healthy is not that simple.  The numbers ($2.6 trillion, ~$1,000 per person) are not that simple. But we must start somewhere; we must start some time.

What better time to start than now?

Make a promise and #starttoday.

And then when you wake up tomorrow morning, do it again.

You can do it.

I dare anybody who loves running NOT to cry at 3:50 of this video.

***

Don’t wait.  Take a walk…play with your kids…jump…run…dance…make love…swim…bike…have a water balloon fight…

…and if you still don’t know how to start, just ask.

#starttoday

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It ain't just a river...

Denial is often viewed as a negative word – one that implies that someone is hiding from an apparent truth. We’ve all been there. If you are a special needs parent, you know exactly what I am talking about – that stretch of time when you kept telling youself, no, not my kid…not my child…he/she doesn’t have XYZ!!!

We’ve all been in denial about our jobs or our relationships.

Denial, typically, is not a good thing.

But I’ve found a new way of using denial in a positive way. A while back I started using the Furman FIRST training program for my upcoming marathon (3 weeks away as of the day before yesterday – YIKES!!!) and I have come to the conclusion that denial can be good.

A regular reader of this blog will know that I went through a bit of burnout throughout the second half of 2011.  Sure I ran the Vermont 50 (as in 50 miles) in September and then New York in November, but the truth is, I did both of those runs on almost no training whatsoever – we’re talking a total of 180 miles in the 12 weeks leading up to Vermont (that’s 15 miles per week for a 50 mile race!) and 120 miles in the 12 weeks leading up to New York.  That’s 10 miles per week before a marathon.  No runner can expect to do well at the 26.2 mile distance on 10 miles per week.  Like I said, I was burnt out.

The training programs I had followed required five to six days of running.  I just couldn’t get myself out of bed to do the runs.  I would skip one, thinking there’s no harm in missing a run and before I knew it, the week would have gone by and I would have maybe run once.  Staying in bed, doing laundry, cleaning dishes, preparing dinner – all of these activities were much more appealing than dragging my butt out the door for the required run of the day.

Then I switched to the Furman FIRST program.  The first thing that struck me about the program was that I was only allowed to run 3 days a week.  That’s it.  3 DAYS ONLY.  And like anything that you are told you can’t have, I suddenly wanted to run more.

The program allows for one interval based run, one tempo run and one long run.  I mix in two days of cross training, be it swimming, biking, rowing or ellipting (is that the word?).  Throughout the program (I came in on week 5 of the 16 week program) I have regained my speed and endurance.  My race times have dropped and my legs feel relatively fresh.

So with my last 20-miler done this past Sunday, let the taper begin…sorta.  Funny thing about this program, because you only run three days a week, each run is done with a lot more intensity, particularly the long runs – which are generally run at 10K Race Pace + 60 to 75 seconds per mile.  That’s a good 30 – 45 seconds faster per mile than typical programs.  So that being said, despite officially being on my taper, I still have two interval sessions (one 7 x 800m at 10K – 45 to 50 seconds and one 3 x 1600m at 10K – 35 to 40 seconds), two tempo runs (a 4-miler at 10K pace and an 8-miler at 10K + 30 to 35 second per mile) plus a 15 and 10 miler.

A lot more intense than my past tapers.

Despite the increased intensity, I’m enjoying running again.

And I credit denial for my revival.

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