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Archive for the ‘boston marathon’ Category

I could blame it on my focus on getting my personal training and boot camp business up and running.

I could blame it on my studies for a nutrition certification.

I could blame it on the weird pain I’ve been suffering through in my left foot.

I’m sure if I really thought about it, I could find a lot of reasons.

But if I’m going to be honest with myself (and with you), I have to simply admit, I haven’t been motivated.

I have a half-marathon next weekend, a full marathon and a 100-miler in October.

Bay State (the marathon) was supposed to be my attempt to return to Boston.  Ghost Train (the 100-miler) was supposed to be my attempt to go sub-24 hours.

After watching my social media feed back in April, as many of you ran a glorious Boston Marathon, I got excited.  I got psyched.  I was pumped at the prospect of running a competitive (for me) marathon and getting myself back to the starting line in Hopkinton.  With the added 10 minutes allotted to me because of my impending age bracket change, I knew I had it in the bag.

I bought new shoes (Go Mebs).

I announced my plans.

I pulled out my calendar and worked my way back from October to determine my base building runs and then my Bay State specific runs.

I planned it out.

My early morning runs.

My late night runs.

I was going back to Boston…

.

.

.

…and then I wasn’t.

My calendar began to fill.  Early morning runs became a problem.  With 6AM clients, 4 to 5 days a week, I was already getting up at 4:30AM to prepare.  Late night runs became a problem for the same reason.  You can’t give your clients your best on only 4 hours of sleep.  I was studying at night.  My feet were (are) suffering from an undetermined ailment.  The list could go on and on.

Honestly though, those are just excuses.  The fact is, as excited as I initially was to run both Bay State and Ghost Train, that motivation abandoned me at the first hurdle I faced.  Perhaps I really didn’t want to run, I merely wished I could.  We make priorities in life in part because there are only 24 hours in a day.  We make choices.  Maybe it a day was 30 hours, I would have found the time…maybe…probably, the results would have been the same.

At this point, if it isn’t obvious, I will not be running Bay State in an attempt to qualify for Boston.  I may still run it, depending on my feet, but it will be simply to enjoy a long run through the town of Lowell, MA.  Ghost Train is out of the question.  Attempting to run 100 miles on zero training would be foolish.  As for Boston 13.1, which happens next weekend, I am not sure.  Like Bay State, we’ll see how the feet hold up over the next week.

 

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After my missed BQ at Sugarloaf this year it was suggested to me that maybe I could make another go at it at Smuttynose in the fall. The thinking was that with the new qualification standards for Boston, registration wouldn’t necessarily be closed as of September 30th.

I never did sign up for Smuttynose, and truly, even though there is space left, I would have no shot at training properly with only six weeks to go. I do have another marathon on already the schedule. Early November I am running New York. Conceivably, with about 11 1/2 weeks to go, I could consider running New York as a qualifier but that is a tough race to run at that pace. The truth is between studying for my CSCS certification, the girls being home from summer camp and dedicating my Sundays to training runs for the Team Up with Autism Speaks charity runners (if you haven’t signed up, please do —>– HERE –<—!!!) I haven’t had much time to train period. Early mornings are spent studying, days are spent keeping the kids active and entertained and evenings are spent cooking, dishwashing, putting everyone to bed and writing.

I know, I can hear you telling me, well, why not after everyone goes to bed?

Yesterday I wrote about finding your H-Spot – your happy zone. The place where you look at yourself in the mirror and are happy with the physical you that stares back. That H-Spot can be applied to everything. I’ve reached a place where I know I BQ’s once and came close on two other occasions. My happy place with running right now is helping others reach distances they never have before and getting the occasional personal run in.

And I’m finally okay with that.

Boston will wait. Training to qualify for Boston is on indefinite hold.

This satisfaction will not last forever. I know that eventually, I will want to get back to the pursuit of that elusive unicorn; I will want to toe the line in Hopkinton once again as a qualifier. It might be next year; it might wait until I’m 45. Whenever it is, I know I’m in a happy spot right now – plus, there is a certain satisfaction in having no fear of the 26.2 mile distance when I am running just for fun as I will be once again doing in New York.

There’s only room for so much on one’s dinner plate – and right now, I am satisfied with what’s before me.

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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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What follows is a convergence of both Lynda’s and my writing – mine will be in italics.

***   ***   ***

I arrive at my designated spot early.   I don’t want to be the guy who promised to run someone in over the last 10 miles and then NOT be there.  I find a spot just after the runners pass Newton-Wellesley Hospital and watch the throng.  It is bitter sweet to say the very least.  I want to be out there with my people – with all of those runners.

All I could think of as I watched everyone go by was, "I wish I was out there!"

But the looks on their faces says it all.  Today is not a race.  Today is a battle for survival.  Some are walking, some are trudging, some are just trying to put one leg in front of the other.  No one is running fast. 

And there is still 10 miles to go.

Just standing there watching them, I am already sweating.  I can only imagine what the heat had been like in Framingham and Natick.

My phone buzzes.  The athlete alert text tells me that Lynda has just passed the half-marathon mark.  She iss moving more slowly than she had hoped – quite honestly, I am happy to see that.  It means that she is running smart and bending to the heat instead of fighting it.

While waiting for Lynda I see several of my friends go by.  Marathon Brian sneaks up on me and give me a big hug.  He is looking strong in this heat.  Moments later I see Ally Spiers, who this year took over for Really Not a Runner Doug Welch’s spot on the Children’s Hospital Team and Team Brenya.  With her is 2-time Cayman Island Marathon winner (and her husband) Steve.  He is keeping her company for the duration.  We do a sweaty group hug before they move on.  A few minutes later I see my friend Mike.  He, like Brian, is running for the Liver Team.  I am surprised to see Yoda (yes, Yoda) attached to his back – I can see him whispering in Mike’s ear throughout the race, “there is no try…there is only do or do not!”.

Mike and Yoda post-race. He carried Yoda the whole way.

I know I’ve got a little while before Lynda arrives, so I run about a quarter-mile with Mike to chat.  He tells me how brutal the heat as been, but he is looking strong.

I make my way back to my spot and start looking for Lynda.  I’ve been eyeing the Dana-Farber singlets the whole time.  I see a pair approaching me.  One of them is waving at me.

——————————————–

Our 2 roads are about to converge…

———————————————

Wellesley seems to stretch out for a loooong time.  I’ve run this part of the course a few times, but the landmarks look different.  My running partner Patty agrees.

There is an ambulance just before Newton-Wellesley Hospital.  The back door is open and there is someone on a stretcher.  I feel good but it seeing this makes me really nervous.  This is my first marathon.  I don’t know what to expect and it is crazy hot.

We are close to meeting Luau, so I scan the sidewalk.  Just past the Woodland T stop is a bright orange shirt.  Getting closer, I wave.   It’s him!

I’m running pretty slow, almost half of his normal race pace, but he is cheerful and tells me about his last Boston, when I ask.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to maintain a 3:15 (or thereabouts) pace for the duration.  I would love to be faster but my goal today is just to finish.

***

Lynda has been running a slow and steady race.  The heat is definitely been taking it’s toll, but she is smiling and happily waving at anyone who either shouts out her name of yells “Go Dana Farber”  My goal at this point is to keep Lynda entertained and distracted from the growing fatigue of being on the course for this long.

It is charity runners like Lynda that I find are the most endearing and moving heroes of any marathon.  Many of them are not typical runners in that they don’t go out there year round and run 30 – 40 miles per week.  In fact some aren’t runners at all.  These are people who, for whatever reason, found inspiration and decided that they could help make the world a better place by doing something that seems almost inconceivable to any non-runner. 

Many of the charity runners like Lynda will run at a much slower pace that those of us so obsessed with qualifying for Boston.  Despite having to spend sometimes twice the amount of time running their long runs, they do it – and they do it with a smile on their face because they do this not just for themselves, but for those that need their help.

In addition to the long training they must endure, they must also commit to raising a certain amount of funds.  Should they not meet the minimum set by their charity, they are responsible for the balance.  Some charities require as much as $5,000 to be raised.  That’s not easy, especially when they must balance that with their training AND the every day demands of their lives.

Lynda was running last Monday, scratch that, Lynda has been running and raising over $6,000 for the last several months in honor of her mother, who passed away from cancer.  In battling the Boston Course on this brutal day, she breathed life into her mother’s memory and deserves to be called a hero.

***

Luau is like the Mayor, saying hi to people he knows along the way, and even picks up a beer from the Race Menu “water” stop. We get to the top of the hill and he helps me figure out how to find my husband in the next few miles.  It makes a funny photo – me holding his beer, Luau running and texting.

Nothing like a little Pabst Blue Ribbon at Mile 20.

Kind of erases any shred that I’m taking this marathon seriously, but hey, whatever works!  I feel relieved to know where husband will be at mile 25.

***   ***  ***

As we approach Heartbreak Hill, I am looking forward to yelling “On On” to the Hash House Harriers.  They traditionally cheer from a spot about halfway up Heartbreak and hand out shots of beer to any takers.  I plan on taking a whole beer.  Unfortunately, on this hot day, it seems that all the runners before us have decided to partake and by the time Lynda and I arrive, they are out.   I am disappointed to say the least.  Fortunately, the RaceMenu team is at the top of Heartbreak giving cold sponge-baths to anyone who wants one.  I see team member Brendan and relay my earlier disappointment.  He smiles, and says they have beer, pours me a cold PBR and send me on my way.  This would be the first of three beers along the way to getting Lynda to the finish line.

At mile 22, Lynda decided she needed to walk.  A very large college student started yelling at her to keep running. 

I looked at him and said, “if you’re going to yell at her and you want her to run…give me your beer!” 

He was taken aback.  “But, it’s a Whale’s Tail.”

“I don’t care, give me your beer!” 

He hesitantly handed me the very full cup. 

It is ice cold. 

I smile. 

I chug. 

I hand him the empty cup. 

I turn to look at Lynda who fortunately has started running.  I turn back to the very large kid.

“Thanks, dude.”  And I’m back at Lynda’s side.

As we make our way through the course, I make sure that Lynda’s water and Gatorade bottles remain full, zipping up ahead to fill them whenever they are close to empty.

***   ***   ***

The last miles are a blur.  There are now four of us running together, Luau, Patty, her husband, and me.  I take a few walk-breaks during which Luau runs ahead, asking what I need.  I gratefully take cups of water and dump them on my head.  I try to drink more Gatorade and hold some ice cubes.  It’s very slow progress, but Luau enthusiastically notices we are passing some walkers and Team Hoyt.  He says, “Chomp, chomp, you’re eating them up!  Only 2 more miles to go!”

***   ***   ***

Lynda’s slow and steady pace is now paying dividends.  She may be exhausted, she may be fatigued, but she is passing people left and right.  Every medic tent we pass is full of people.  I briefly wonder if I would have been one of those people has I got in this year. 

Just after Mile 25, I see Jess’ hair stylist, Marisa of Stilisti (the awesome woman who donated turning my hair blue for New York last year!).  We have found Lynda’s husband now and he is running with us so I feel like I can stop for a second and say hello.  Marisa offers me a beer and I eagerly accept (my third of the day) chugging it down in 2 or 3 gulps.  I give her a sweaty hug and I race back to Lynda.  I’m gonna let Lynda finish this post – Boston 2012 was her race!

***   ***   ***

In Kenmore Square we find my husband and Luau takes a bunch of photos and a video.  He takes more photos throughout the last mile.  In some, I barely look like I’m running, but I am **so happy**.  I have a huge smile on my face.  I don’t really remember the last mile, but these photos are the best.  I cross the finish line with my teammate Patty.

Lynda and her training partner Patty getting ready to cross the finish line.

I did it!  With a big assist from Luau, my family, and teammates, I just ran a marathon!  My legs are so ready for a rest and I’m suddenly starving.  There are quick hugs and Luau slips away to head home.

Almost a week later, I’m still wowed by the complete kindness of a stranger and the powerful common thread that all runners share.  Running Boston was amazing.  And… (don’t tell husband) I’m thinking about training for MCM next year!

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4:30AMI imagine that many are already up, awake after a sleepless night.  They are stumbling about their homes or hotel rooms, checking, double checking, triple checking their gear for the day.  I am asleep.

5:30AMSomewhat bleary-eyed, but full of excitement, thousands head for the buses at the Boston Commons.  As sleepy as they may be, their bodies are buzzing.  I am asleep.

6:00AM The buses for the first wave are now leaving, with buses for the second and third wave leaving at 6:30 and 7:00. My alarm finally goes off, only because Jess still has to work today and I need to go down to the kitchen to pack her a breakfast and lunch.

6:00AM –  8:00AM – They will sit on the bus, some sleeping, some chatting a mile a minute, some silently staring off into space, contemplating what lies ahead.  I will make myself a simple breakfast, have some tea and wait for my kids to wake up.  No school for them on Patriot’s Day.

8:00AM – 10:00AM – They wait.  This is one of my favorite parts of the Boston Marathon.  They will nervously wait in the athlete’s village.  If they are running with a charity, they will all sit together, otherwise, they will find friends who they only see once or twice a year – friends who they know through the blogosphere or Facebook or dailymile or Twitter.  It will be comforting because these are people that, despite not knowing each other, they know each other. Some will be relaxed, others will be nervous, most will be a combination of both.  Despite the comfort of the village, all will want to get this race started.  I’ll shower and lay my running gear out…maybe I’ll double check it, maybe I won’t.

10:00AM – The first wave is off.  I say a little prayer for all of the runners as the temperatures look to climb into the high 80’s.  I am not so worried about the elite runners and those that will be near the front of the first wave.  Though they will not necessarily have banner days, they will be finishing just as the temperatures get brutal.  It is the later runners like my charge Lynda, who I will be pacing from mile 16 to the finish line, and my dear friends Mike and Judith and Brian who are experienced marathoners, but starting in the third wave, that I am concerned about.  They are the heroes of Monday who will be subjecting their bodies the tough, hot, extreme elements.  Meanwhile, I will drop one of my kids off for a play date and bring the other with me to run some errands.

10:40AM – The third wave will be under way.  For those all the way in the back (as I was in 2010 – I was literally the last person to start in 2010) it may take as much as 20 minutes to cross the starting line.  Brooke and I will finish up our errands and go home to play a little – maybe a little painting, maybe some reading.

11:30AM – The elites are probably somewhere near Wellesley College at this point – almost half way home.  If they’re smart, they’ll stop for a kiss in the scream tunnel.  Depending on how long it took to get to the start, my friends in wave three are somewhere between 4 and 5 miles in.  Hopefully they are taking their time, soaking in the crowd and not worried about their pace. The babysitter arrives and I begin to check my phone for alerts on my charge Lynda.  She is hoping to run at 11:00 to 12:00 pace.  I check to make sure I have my Charlie Card so I can get back home via the T after I run her to the finish.  I check the interwebs for the T-stop I need to drive to. 

12:15PM – The alerts have been coming in, not just of my friends from wave three, but of my other friends as well.  Maddy, Steve, and many more. At this point, Lynda is anywhere between 5 and 8 mile.  She probably won’t be at mile 16 until 1:40ish, but I don’t want to take any chances. I hop in the car and head to the local T-stop, dressed to run, shuffle, walk – whatever it takes to get Lynda to the finish line. 

1:00PM – Arriving at mile 16, I will make my way through the crowd and cheer on the runners, looking for friends, keeping track of Lynda.

Our 2 roads are about to converge…

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…goes through Sugarloaf – at least for me.

5 days until one of the greatest annual road races takes place.  After traveling from all over the world, thousands will take the slow, what feels like forever bus ride from the Boston Commons to the town of Hopkinton, where they will wait – wait for their turn to run one of the greatest marathons on the planet.

I must admit, I have been more than a bit jealous as I’ve watched people post their bib numbers and complain about their tapers on Facebook, Twitter, dailymile and other social media.  There is a part of me that feels like I belong right there with them, but I know that I do not.  Under the modified registration process, I missed getting in by 33 seconds and I chose not to run for a charity – somehow, that doesn’t make the pangs of jealously hurt any less; especially since the new standards mean I will have to PR by 4 minutes and 20 seconds to re-qualify for next year.

The deceptive early downhill, the women of Wellesley College, the brutal hills of Newton, the deafening crowds in Boston – these are but a few of the highlights Monday’s marathoners will experience.  What will I miss the most about Boston this year?  I think it might be the waiting in the Athlete’s Village – seeing my friends Mike and Brian, who are running for the Liver Foundation; hanging out with the amazing Suman, Maddie, Steve S., and Andy O.; finding dailymile and Twitter friends along the way.

I will definitely miss you guys on Monday.

Have fun.  Run strong.

If everything goes the way I hope it does at Sugarloaf, I will see you next April in Hopkinton.

Hopefully on May 2oth, I ‘ll be making this face –

BQing at Smuttynose October 2010

as I hit a sub-3:15, so I can get back to this place

somewhere on the Newton Hills - Boston 2010.

and share the journey with you once again.

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I remember way back in high school when I would get up in the mornings before a big test – I’d be a little nervous, wondering if I had studied what I had needed to, wondering if I’d remember anything…

…that’s how I felt two Sundays ago when I woke up before the Quincy Half Marathon.  Several weeks ago I made the transition from the Pfitz Marathon Training Program to the FIRST Marathon Training Program.  I’ve been fairly determined to make sure that I followed the new program as closely as I could.  The very concept of running less to run faster struck me as counter-intuitive, but I needed to do something to get me out of what had turned into an 8 month funk.

3 days a week – that is all I was allowed to run; complimented by 2 days of cross-training – it seemed insufficient, but I was determined to give the program a chance.  Really, what choice did I have?  What I had been doing before was no longer working.

On Super Bowl Sunday I ran the Super Sunday 5-Miler in Boston and finished with a 34:56.  My goal had been to comfortably cruise to a sub-35 minute finish, but in fact, I struggled to make it, pretty much leaving everything I had on the course.  That 34:56 translated into a 3:25:30 marathon according to McMillan’s Running Calculator.  A couple of weeks later I started the FIRST program.  Quincy was going to be my first real test of how much progress I was truly making.

***

Upon arriving, I looked for my buddy JB.  You may recall JB as one of the foursome I ran with at Vermont or the buddy who ran the Super Sunday 5 with me.  Our plan was to run about 7:15 miles throughout, with the hopes of scoring about a 1:35:00 for the race.  It would be a 2 minute PR for him, and would be an incremental improvement on my cardio-health from Super Sunday.  Although a 1:35 half-marathon only translates to a 3:20 marathon (5 minutes long of my goal), I figured that it would be a step in the right direction, especially for only 3 weeks on the program.

JB & I pre-race.

We made our way to the starting area and stood silently for the National Anthem – and then it was time to go, literally!  Not more than a second after the anthem was done, the starting horn blared.

We were off.

Fortunately for JB and I, we hadn’t moved too far to the front.  We were forced to start a little slowly.  After a quarter mile of jockeying for position, we turned up the pace and hit the first mile marker right on target at 7:15.

Perfect!

Without really realizing it, we slowly began to pick up the pace.  It was still a bit crowded, but the two of us maneuvered our way through.  Mile 2 arrived in a quick 7:07…maybe I was a little too enthusiastic?

We slowed it down just a touch for the next three miles, averaging about a 7:10 pace.  Somewhere around mile 5 we saw the leader coming the other way…he must have had a good 30 seconds on the guy behind him.  At this point, JB and I hit our first hill.  My philosophy on hills has been to attack them, lean into them and don’t let them slow you down too much.  For this first hill, that plan worked perfectly. I leaned in, JB followed and we passed over a dozen runners before cresting and allowing gravity to feed our recovery.

Once we flattened out, we hit the 6-mile marker (7:06) and we were able to see the rest of the field heading for the hill.  At this point, my legs started to feel a little heavy.  JB asked me how I was doing.  I feel like I’m fading, I said, but only 6 miles in, I knew that it had to be more mental than physical.  We continued to press the pace a little.  I knew we had some time in the bank to hit 1:35, but I also kept reminding myself that this race was a test of how I was progressing.  If I let up too early or left too much out on the course, there would really be no way for me to know just where I was with respect to where I want to be for Sugarloaf.  I needed to know if the FIRST program was increasing my cardio-fitness or if I was stagnating.

We covered the next three mile at 7:06 pace.  With just over 4 miles left to go, I started doing math in my head.  I realized that I could slow down significantly and still hit my goal – but what would that tell me?  I knew I had to keep pressing.

Unfortunately, that pressing came just as we hit a final group of hills – despite continuing to pass runners on a regular basis, we slowed into the 7:20’s.

starting to fade a little at mile 11

With 2.1 miles to go, JB started to pull away.  He looked back at me as if to say, come on dude! but the hills had taken their toll on me.  I shouted at him to just go.  He was well within range of not just beating his PR, but shattering it.  I pressed as hard as I could – I was determined to come in under 1:35 no matter what.  Mile 12 went by in a surprising 7:15.

1.1 miles to go.  It was leave it all on the course time.  I knew I was less than 7:30 away from the finish.  I also knew that I could suffer for that long too.  My legs felt heavy and my breathing was labored, but with each tick of the clock, I knew I was that much closer to being done.

As I made my way back into downtown Quincy, I could see JB in the distance.  With about 800 meters to go, he was looking great and I had run out of real estate to catch him.  I focused on finishing strong.  Coming out of the final turn, I realized it was literally downhill to the finish and let it all hang out.  Gravity pulled me along at a pace I hadn’t run all race.

With less than 100 yards to go, Racemenu Chief Alain stepped out of the crowd with words of encouragement and a high five.  I could see JB waiting at the finish.

Sprinting to the finish

I barreled through the finish, and without slowing down grabbed a bottle water being held out…I couldn’t brake…staring at a table that was closing in fast, I panicked slightly.  Fortunately a random runner stepped in to grab me and slow me down.  It was enough for me to get my footing and stop.

I looked at the clock.

1:32:forty-something.

Huh?

I wasn’t convinced that I had run that fast.  I hugged JB, asking him his time.

1:31:59 – a nearly 7 minute PR for him.  When the official times went up, mine was a 1:32:31.  I had missed a PR by a mere 8 seconds.  In most situations, I would have been mildly disappointed in missing a PR, but considering that just 4 weeks beforehand I wouldn’t have even considered the possibility of PR-ing, and that I had come into the day with an expectation of finishing in the 1:35 range, I was thrilled.

The FIRST program was working.  My legs and lungs were getting stronger.

The very next day, I officially signed up for Sugarloaf.  To be honest, I had been putting off registering because I was full of doubt as to whether I could even potentially run a sub-3:15 in May.  Quincy convinced me that I was on the right track.  My 1:32:31 translates into a 3:15:07 marathon.  Just a touch on the wrong side of the clock, but a vast improvement from where I was on SuperBowl Sunday.

This Sunday I will face my next test of fitness when I was a local 5K.  The goal is to hit 19:54 – which translates into a 3:14 marathon.  If I hit 20:00, that still translates into a 3:15.

***

I still may ultimately fail at Sugarloaf come May, but I finally truly believe that I have a 3:15 or better in these legs – and that is a wonderful feeling.

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