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Dear Boston 13.1 Team Up with Autism Speaks Runners,

I am truly sorry.  I have not kept up my end of the bargain we made last Spring.  I was supposed to lead you through your training, inspire you to run long, ready you for the 13.1 miles you will conquer next month.  I have done none of those things.  Unfortunately, lung issues have put me on the shelf for the last month and I have not been able to lead long runs, any runs really, at all.  It has been 28 days since I last laced up; and truth be told, the week leading up to that last run was labored at best.

No, I have been neither a good leader nor team captain, and for that I am truly sorry.

I hope you have been training.  I hope you have been running at least three time a week with one long run on the weekends (you should shoot for 10 slow miles this weekend).  I hope you’re on target with your fund raising goals.

I’ve got one last challenge for you.  I know it’s a lot to ask, particularly as I have been an absent leader, but I ask you nonetheless.  As of this coming Sunday, there will be three weeks until Boston 13.1.  I want you to convince a friend to come join you in our little jaunt by the sea.  It’s okay if they say they are in no shape to run 13.1 runs because you know what?  Neither am I!  But I will be there – despite the complete breakdown of my running since mid-July, the Blue Afro and I plan on being on the course with you.  I may have to walk, but I will be there – and if I can do it, so can a friend.

I can’t promise dinner with Jess (adiaryofamom) since she is not running this year, but I can promise that the team dinner the night before the race will fill you with words of inspiration and feelings of hope and promise…oh, and a chance to break bread with the Blue Afro and me.

I look forward to seeing old faces and meeting new friends on the 14th and 15th.

Sincerely and Apologetically,

Luau

PS:  If you can’t join us for Boston 13.1 but would like to contribute in some way, please consider donating to my fund raising page (link below).

—>Luau’s Fund Raising Page<—

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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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On Saturday afternoon, after getting the refrigerator working again and half fixing a half-broken washing machine, I finally got out for a run. The temperatures were in the low 40’s but the 20 to 40 mph winds were making it feel much, much colder. Over the course of 8 miles I felt like I was running into the wind almost the whole time, which was quite a feat considering I was running an out & back route.

My plan was that I really didn’t have one. A few weeks ago I decided that I was simply going to run miles when I could before beginning a 12-week program for Sugarloaf.  This past Monday was the beginning of that program.

As I started my run, I thought of Sugarloaf and what it would take to re-qualify for Boston.

A sub-3:15 marathon – sub-7:25 per mile pace…for 26.2 miles. I haven’t run that pace consistently in so long…how the hell am I going to do this…

As I ran past 1 mile, I looked down at my watch – hmmm…7:34 – that’s not so bad – I kept moving at a pace that felt comfortable, focusing on my form, not really paying attention to pace.  I looked at my watch as I passed mile 2 – 7:30.

I decided to have some fun and push the pace a little, just to see what I had in my legs.

Miles 3 and 4 went by in a snappy 7:18 and 7:29.  Somewhere before reaching the turn around I started to tire.  As good as it felt to be running sub-7:30’s, I didn’t feel particularly strong.  I thought about the fact that at Sugarloaf, I would have to run faster than this for over 6 times the distance.

I began to reevaluate the very idea of attempting a BQ and a 5-minute PR in May.  Was I crazy?  Was I fooling myself?  At this point I just wanted to jog it back home at a slow pace and mope.

For no apparent reason I decided to push the pace for 2 more miles.  I wasn’t sure what I had in me, but I figured let’s just run this one out.

I looked at my watch at mile 5 – 7:16.  My fastest mile of the day.  Mile 6 came even faster at 7:06.  At this point however, I felt spent.  I was happy I was able to close strong, but a bit disheartened that I felt so tired.

2 miles from home, it was time to jog it in.  I covered the next 1/2 mile at 8:30 pace – a comfortable pace for me.  I started to relax and felt my breath coming back to me.

My mind drifted.  I let my body just roll along.  My watch beeped at the next 1/2 mile interval – 3:37.

3:37?  That’s 7:14 pace!

I went with it – trying not to exert too much, just letting gravity and momentum do their job – next 1/2 mile? 3:32 (7:04 pace).

As I made the final turns for home I felt a burst of energy run through me and decided I needed to finish this run strong (despite the fact that the last 1/2 mile is uphill).

I covered the last 1/2 mile at 6:58 pace and felt great – spent, but great.

Suddenly Sugarloaf didn’t feel so daunting anymore.  Suddenly I remembered that I just might have it in me to hit my BQ, despite the fact that I will need a nearly 5-minute PR.  Suddenly, the spark was back.

Now all I needed was a plan…

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Throwing Out the First Pitch at Fenway on Autism Awareness night.

Eck. Mariano. Pap. …Luau.

That could’ve been me on that list if only my father had put a baseball in my hands when I was little. I’m not particularly gifted athletically, but being left-handed, all I really had to do was get the ball over the plate and I’m sure I could’ve been a major league pitcher, even an all-star reliever…

…ok, probably not.

But as a kid, I used to dream about being a closer. Coming in at the end of the game, bases loaded, no outs, my team desperately clinging to a 1 run lead in the bottom of the 9th…the crowd going wild…

9 pitches. 9 strikes. 3 outs. Game over.  The clubhouse erupts as the ballpark goes silent.

Okay, okay, at age 42 I still have those dreams, but it’s a little late for me to pick up a baseball.

***

Recently however, I’ve picked up a new way to become a closer.

As you may recall, last November, at the New York City Marathon, after finishing my 26.2 miles,

I ran back to mile 23 to wait for my girl Jersey and run her in.

As spent as my legs were, it was an absolute thrill to help her get to the finish line of her very first marathon.

Look at the huge grin on my face

A week later I hopped in as a bandit at a local half-marathon.  After finishing, I intended to run home. Part way there, I was spotted on course by a friend who had just read my race recap of New York.  She asked if I could run her in.  Who was I to say no? and then on the way home, I saw another reader and I did it again.

Not long thereafter I received this message from a dailymile friend:

Hi,

We met at the Run to Remember, just briefly. I’m a big fan of your blog. While I was out on my run today I had a crazy idea/request….Would you consider running me in the last 5 -10 miles of Boston next year?

It will be my first marathon. I’m really excited to run it but I know I will be pretty beat at the end. And it would just be super cool to have one of my local running heroes help me achieve this goal.

Crazy, I know; I’m basically a total stranger. So, what the scoop? I’m on the Dana-Farber team and will be running a slow 11 min pace (possibly slower). I would gladly make a $100 contribution to Autism Speaks for your kindness…

I figured the worse you could say was no, and that’s not so bad.

Thanks!
L

How can I say no?  Especially since she’s offering to make a donation to my favorite charity!

And so it seems that I may have found a new way to become a closer.  Barring an unexpected trip on Patriots Day, I plan to run L in to the finish, helping her over the last 9-10 miles of her first marathon and then run home (a good way to get one of my 20-milers in before Sugarloaf).  It may not be quite as riveting as watching Mo or Eck or Pap break the hearts of the opposing teams, but it is pretty damned satisfying AND it helps one more person achieve their goal of 26.2 miles.

Maybe this is the start of a new trend/business venture/charity fund raiser – Luau’s Closers for Charity.  On race day, we guarantee we will get you to the finish line!

Who’s with me?  Do you need a closer? Do you want to be a closer?  I do need to start raising funds for Team Up! with Autism Speaks for the New York City Marathon this November!  You name the race – for the right donation, I’ll be there to bring you home!  Email me!

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On Sunday I ran Boston 13.1.

When the alarm went off at 4AM, I thought, this is NOT going to go well. In fact, I had had that exact same thought as I finally drifted off to sleep just a little over 3 hours earlier. Despite having plans to run on Sunday, the wife and I had gone out to dinner with cousins and stayed out relatively late. 4AM arrived way too quickly.

After a shower and a quick bite to eat, I was off. Despite having to wake up at 4AM, I was thankful for the 6:15 race start. With temperatures quickly rising to 80° by 10AM, anything later would have made the race simply unbearable.

Turns out that the 13.1 Marathon Series Boston Edition didn’t actually take place in Boston. Instead, it was in the rolling hills of Milton and Canton. Rolling hills is putting it lightly, but more on that later. After failing to find my teammate Chris (the one who came in 4th last week) and my buddy Erin (in from Georgia), I made my way to the starting line. The starting corral was organized into pace sections (6:00 mile, 7:00 mile, etc). I wasn’t sure what my game plan was yet, nor did I have any clue as to how I was going to run. 3 hours of sleep and already rising temperatures made me a little nervous about going out too fast. I essentially wanted to beat 1:40, with my secret “time to beat” for the day a 1:35. With summer in full effect I knew there was no way I was going to challenge my Half-Mary PR of 1:33:14. So I placed myself at the front of the 8:00/mile pack, figuring I’d run somewhere in the 7:30 – 7:45 range for the race.

After a few minutes we were off. Unlike last week where I got sucked out by the Kenyan leaders, this week I was careful to go out with a little patience – or so I thought. I looked around for someone to latch onto but much like the Boston Run To Remember, nobody seemed to fit a pace that was comfortable for me. After a few minutes of bobbing and weaving, I found a couple that was running together and seemed to be moving along at a decent clip. I settled in behind them and focused on form. When we hit the first mile marker I was a bit surprised – 7:18. Huh! I was feeling pretty good, so I figured why not keep it up. As we hit the second mile in 7:19, I heard the guy say to his girlfriend that he thought they should pick up the pace. Again, I figured I was still feeling pretty good so why not keep up?

Just before mile 2 the hills started to kick in. They weren’t nasty – not yet anyway – but definitely provided a bit of a challenge this early in the morning. The course had several out and back branches, the first one starting at mile 3. This first branch was only about 2 1/2 miles altogether and was uneventful except that I was able to get a glimpse of the leader as he ran past in the other direction. This early in the race, it appeared that he already had a good 3 – 4 minute lead. I was happy to see my RaceMenu teammate Chris sitting comfortably in 2nd. We’ve exchanged hello’s as we passed each other. As I made it back to the start of this first branch, I realized that I was running steadily in the low 7’s. Much faster than I had planned, but feeling good nonetheless. Visions of a PR started to dance in my head – that is until I turned the corner onto out and back branch number 2 at mile 5. I took a deep breath as I stared at a hill that simply went up and appeared to continue up as the path turned around another corner. I found out over 7 1/2 minutes later that the hill went up for a full mile. For the non-runner, a 30 second drop in pace may not seem much, but add it up over 13 miles and you’re talking about a 6 1/2 minutes swing in your time.

While tackling this hill I was struck with doubt. I seriously wondered if I had been unwise to run the first 5 miles at the pace I had with as little sleep as I had had the night before. I tried to employ my falling uphill technique with mixed results. I could only do it in spurts, but it was carrying me past dozens of people, and even when I had to straighten up, momentum continued to carry me. I must have passed 30 people on the way up the hill. When I realized this, my attitude began to change for a second time.

As we approached the turnaround just past mile 7 I began counting the runners coming the other way. The leader had come and gone minutes earlier. Chris was in a battle for 2nd place some 5 – 6 minutes behind. We slapped 5 as we passed each in a neat moment I will not forget. A minute or so after that came the rest of the pack. 4, 5, 6…10, 15, 20…25, 26, 30…35, 40…45, 50, 60…69, 70, 72…77, 78, 79… I was sitting in the 80th spot. Okay, I can deal with that. 80th. That’s not bad. But then I started thinking about the previous week’s race. I didn’t want to get passed. My goal had been to finish in the top 100 in this race, and yes, I was sitting at 80th, but there was another 6.1 miles to go.

After the turnaround, there was a slight uphill, where my falling uphill technique helped my catch 4 or 5 runners, and then it was downhill for the next 2 1/2 miles. It sounds great, but it is tough on the quads! As I hit mile 8 I heard a woman yell “LUAU!!!”. I turned just in time to see my Twitter/Dailymile buddy Erin go running by in the other direction. I waved as best I could and kept going.

By this time, the runners had spread out pretty thinly. There were two runner about 30 yards ahead of me. I set my sights on reeling them in. At about mile 9 I caught them. As I contemplated whether to run with them or try to pass them, one of them looked at me and said, “Hey! Are you that guy with that blog on dailymile?” I did a double take. Well, uh, yeah, actually I am. He told me that he had just stumbled onto my blog not 4 or 5 days before. In fact, he had sent me an email asking me a question about running in Vibrams (Eric, I promise I’m getting around to answering that email very shortly!). We chatted over the next mile about running marathons (I found out he had run a 3:09 marathon and qualified for Boston) and running in general. At about mile 10 he backed off and I looked ahead to the next group of runners in front of me. Our pace had closed the gap significantly on the next group. As we rounded a corner at 10.5 I realized that I was probably sitting now somewhere around 60th. I chugged along to mile 11, blissfully clipping along.

Then came mile 12. Ever since mile 6, the hills had been relatively mild. But mile 12 made mile 6 look like a wannabe. It just went and went at a much steeper incline. Again I took a deep breath, but this time I was determined to take the battle to the hill. I shortened my stride, controlled my breathing and went. Leaning into the hill, I passed 5 runners just as the hill started. I felt like I was either moving at a decent clip or the runners in front of me were losing their fight with the hill (turns out it was a little of both – I wasn’t going as nearly as fast as I would have hoped, but it was fast enough to pass these runners). I passed another group of 4 or 5 runners. Now there were no more pods in front of me, just lone islands of single runners struggling to make it to 12. One by one I picked them off. I tried to control my breathing, softening it as I went by those that were struggling. I didn’t want them to know that I was feeling the pain too. I kept running and I slowing kept passing runners. As I approached the top of the hill I came upon the last water station.

1.1 miles to go.

I saw 3 or 4 runners slowing down to grab a drink. Did I have a strong enough 1.1 left in me to pass up this last water station? I decided to gamble and blew right through.

1.1 miles to go. I knew I was less than 8 minutes from the finish. I could suffer through 8 minutes.

I caught a few more runners. There in the distance was one more runner in blue. He had to be at least 50 – 60 yards ahead of me. At this point, there was about a quarter mile to go. There was simply no way to catch him. It couldn’t be done. But I again flashed to the Father’s Day 10K from the previous week. I remembered how I had been passed in the final mile. I remembered how I gave up trying to catch him with about 200 yards to go. I remembered how that guy cost me a 2nd place finish in my age group.

NOT. THIS. FRAKKING. TIME!

I turned the engine into overdrive. I had already kicked it up a notch at the start of the hill, but I was able to find another gear and then another after that. I kept looking at him and then at the finish line and then back at him again. He was in cruise mode, settled into his place.

I was closing, but running out of real estate.

I kept pushing. My legs were screaming, my lungs were burning.

I heard the crowd pick up the volume. They knew what I was trying to do.

With 70 yards to go, he was still a good 20 yards in front of me.

Suddenly he sensed something was wrong. Maybe someone in the crowd tipped him off. His head turned slightly as he pick up his pace. I covered 20 yards in the time it took him to cover 10. We were now 10 yards apart, with 50 yards to go. He tried to turn on the gas but it was too late. I was flying and his engine was in cruise control. I passed him with 1 yard to go. It was close enough that both of our guntimes read 1:33:58. But I know I beat him to the finish.

He came over and patted me on the back. I chatted with a few of the runners that came in right after me, exchanging congratulations. As I left the finishing chute, I ran into Chris. He had finished in second, pulling away late in the race from his rival. I waited and cheered Erin in. We exchanged big sweaty hugs. She PR’d by 10 minutes!

In the end, I didn’t PR. Officially my time was 1:33:47, a half minute off my PR, but I managed to finish 41st overall out 2681 finishers and 4th in my age group (out of 106 men ages 40 – 44, and out of 188 men in their 40’s). Yes, another 4th place finish in my age group and unfortunately, this time there were no 40 year olds in the top three overall finishers. That said, I felt pretty damned good about my result, especially considering that when I woke up Sunday morning, I was pretty convinced that this race was not going to end well for me.

The race itself, though great for me, was somewhat of a disaster organizationally speaking. The finishing chute was too crowded with no easy exit. The medals, usually handed out to runners as they finish, were only available across a large field in an unmarked location. The usual amenities one expects at a half or full marathon (i.e. massage tents, food and beer) were only available to runners who ran with Team Challenge. But the very worst mistake that I heard about later was that the organizers ran out of cups at the water stations midway through the race. Though I wasn’t carrying my own hydration, I was lucky to be ahead enough to have missed that, but many of the runners were forced to take swigs out of gallon jugs as they went through the water stations. I can’t imagine having to drink from a bottle that the sweaty stranger in front of you just slobbered all over. And from what I understand, a couple of the stations actually ran out of water all together. A definite liability in the hot and humid weather.

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was able to run much faster than I expected and the hills that I was so worried about turned out to help me in the end.

Here’s the elevation chart:

Miles 6 & 12 were killers

With this race out of the way, it’s time to concentrate on my five miler coming up at the end of July. I’ve never run a race that short, and I realize that I have to work on speed – a topic for another post.

Erin & I right after she PR'd by 10 minutes. You gotta love a girl who's willing to give you a big, sweaty hug and not care!

I also ran into Eric post-race. I promise that email reply is coming!

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So as runners, we tend to find new and interesting ways to keep ourselves motivated. Whether it’s an attempt to beat our previous month’s mileage or outrun an online friend (you hear me @5KJunkie?), we use what we can to motivate ourselves.  As young sports fans growing up, many of us believed in “the jinx”.  When watching a game, if you were sitting in a certain spot when your team got hot, you didn’t move for fear of jinxing them. If you were holding a certain beverage, even if it was your girlfriend’s girlie drink, when your team came to life, you continued to hold that drink, despite your girlfriend’s protests, for fear of jinxing your team.  If you were wearing a ratty old t-shirt when your team upset another, you were sure to wear it for the next game for fear of jinxing them.

Yes, the idea that you or I could have a profound effect on the outcome of a professional sporting event is completely ridiculous. We know that but we continue to act as if the outcome could depend solely on us.

I attempted to combine these two things (motivation and superstition) this week in an attempt to help my hometown Celtics get one step closer to their 18th NBA championship, however I made one fatal mistake, at least when it came to game 3.  On Monday and Tuesday, with the series tied 1 – 1, I ran a total of 18 miles, thinking that the my running those miles would bring luck to the Celtics.  What I failed to realize was that one cannot create the luck.  My running the 18 miles had nothing to do with the lead up to the C’s win on Sunday.  PLUS, for Tuesday’s game, instead of sitting on the couch where I was for game 2 (a win), I went to a buddy’s house to watch the game.

So now I’m re-jiggering.  I went out this morning and ran 6.03 miles, the same distance I ran the day after Boston lost game 1.  All I have to do now is follow it up tomorrow with a 9 miler (like I did the morning of game 2) and then make sure I am on MY couch tomorrow night for game 4, a definite must win for the Celtics.

Do you believe?

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Last night the Boston Celtics ousted the Cleveland Cavaliers from the NBA playoffs with a 94 – 85 victory. The Celtics did it with a full team effort on both ends of the court.

That’s great Luau. What’s that have to do with running?

As a Celtics fan I was thrilled, but as a sportsfan and as a runner I was extremely disappointed in the Cavaliers. Not because they lost. I wanted them to lose. No, it was the fact that the Cavaliers gave up with 75 seconds left in the game down only by 9 points. Conventional wisdom states that you foul your opponent in that situation with the hopes chipping away at the lead. It is a tactic that rarely works, but when you are about to be eliminated from the playoffs, it is what you do. A lot can happen in 75 seconds, anybody who has every watched a basketball game knows that, but the Cavs simply gave up, never giving themselves that chance.

It got me thinking. I hope I never, NEVER give up like that at the end of a race. I am not a super fast runner. I won’t ever win a big-time footrace, but I can place well and beat my previous efforts. If I had given up in my last half marathon, I wouldn’t have PR’d by over 7 minutes. Had I given up in my last 10K I wouldn’t have managed a sub-40 race. Had I given up in Boston or Providence I wouldn’t have PR’d twice.

What the Cleveland Cavaliers did last night was competitively unacceptable. I feel for the Cleveland fans. It’s never easy to have your team eliminated from the playoffs. However, I have no sympathy for LeBron James and the rest of the Cavs after they simply gave up with so much time left.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being a participant or pacer for a friend, but if you are there to compete, and injury doesn’t take you out, then don’t just finish. Especially if you are being paid millions of dollars to play a game, don’t just finish.  Fight to the end and finish strong.

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