Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘race recap’

Leprechaun-5K

I had no expectations of myself coming into this race – none.  Sunday’s run would be my third of the year.  No, not my third race; my third run.  For a few months I’ve been nursing an aggravated hip that comes and goes.  In addition, I have been working hard on growing my fledgling personal training business.  The only real exercise I had done in the past two weeks has been 4 minute tabata burpees between dropping off Katie and Brooke off at school during the school week.

That.  Is.  It.

So, like I said, I had no expectations of how I was going to do or feel after 3.1 miles this past Sunday.

That being the case, I decided that I shouldn’t position myself at the very front of the pack at the start of the race, opting instead to start several yards behind the front-runners.  After a wonderful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by the race director’s daughter, the starting horn blared and we were off.

A small pack of about twenty to twenty five runners immediately separated themselves from the masses.  I had to make a snap decision to either follow and run hard or stay back and enjoy the scenery.  I focused on my hip for two or three steps, trying to anticipate whether it could handle a hard effort.

No real pain – check!

I decided to chase the group.

I had left my phone in the car and my GPS watch is on the fritz, so I had no idea just how fast I was going, and with a downhill start I really was not in a position to judge pace.  Over the first half mile, the jack rabbits began to shake out – I was now sitting somewhere around 16th or 17th.

We began a short uphill climb.  This is where I made my first move – I tend to push the hills a bit; I find it’s a great way to reel people in.  I caught up to a group of 3 or 4 runner and passed them on the inside.  As we hit the mile marker I took a quick glance at my watch before setting my sights on a few runners ahead of me.

7:25.

Okay, not a bad pace for someone who has been struggling with their running for the last few months.  My hip was fine, but my glutes and quads were already burning, as were my lungs.  I tried to ignore the pain and pressed on.

As I began to pick off runners one by one, I looked way down the road.   I could barely see the leaders.  I counted back.

1…2…3…

4, 5, 6…

7…8…9th!

I was running 9th with about 1.8 miles to go.

That’s when I heard the footsteps.  They were slowly getting louder and louder.

Thump, thump! Thump, thump!

Without turning I yelled, “which side are passing me on?”

I couldn’t make out what he said.

Thump, thump! Thump, thump!

His footsteps got louder.  I couldn’t tell how far behind he was, but it felt like he was right on my tail and gaining.  I slid to the left, encouraging him to pass me by.

“It’s all you, man!” I said.

Thump, thump! Thump, thump!

If he said something, I didn’t hear it.  Surprisingly, he didn’t pass me.

The two of us passed the guy running in 8th.

His footsteps continued to push me as I, I hope, pulled him.

Thump, thump! Thump, thump!

My legs and lungs were burning.  I glanced down at my watch.

14:30.

14:30?  I had thought we were going faster but the mile 2 marker was nowhere in sight.  Was it possible the I had slowed down that significantly?  Were we that far from 2 miles that it wasn’t in sight?  Nearly a minute later I spotted a sign that looked like a marker.  I looked at my watch.

15:15, 15:16, 15:17…

What in the world???

As we got closer, I noticed that the mile marker said 2.2 miles – 15:35…we had averaged 6:54 for that 1.2 miles.

Okay…now I get it!

I was encouraged by the fact that we only had 0.9 miles to go.  Though I wouldn’t admit it beforehand, I was hoping to break 24:00 that day.  I was sure I had that in hand, but knowing I had less than a mile to go, I decided to push it for all I had.

Thump, thump! Thump, thump!

“Footsteps” was still behind me.  I was sure he was going to pass me at any time now as we approached the finish.  He had been shadowing me for a bulk of the race, biding his time.  I was not looking forward to the finish.  I remembered from the previous year that the Leprechaun 5K ends with the last third to half mile uphill and as much as I enjoy catching people on hills, I hate finishing races on hills.

“Footsteps” began to fade…I yelled back encouragement, trying to egg him on, but his footstep continued to fade.  As I hit the 3 mile marker, I let myself enjoy the fact that I was going to comfortably finish in 8th.  The woman in 7th simply had too big of a lead on me and there was no way I was going to catch her, but “Footsteps” had been vanquished.

“Thumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthump!!!”

These footsteps sounded different.

Faster.

Lighter.

…Younger.

In a flash my joy evaporated as a kid went flying by on my left.

No. Way!  I tried to hit the next gear – I wasn’t going to give up my spot without a fight to this kid.

I dropped the hammer and pushed…

…and kept going at the speed I had been cruising along in.  The kid flew past me like I was standing still.

Sigh.

I crossed the finish line in 22:02, covering the last 0.9 miles in 7:10 pace for an overall pace of about 7:06 – good enough for a 9th place finish.

I stumbled up to the kid.

“Were you the footsteps behind me,” I asked confused.  He looked confused as well.  I turned to see “Footsteps” finishing.  I turned back to the kid.  Obviously he had started further back and finished strong.

“How old are you, kid?  16? 17?” I asked.

“I’m 13,” he said with a grin.  I shook my head.  Crap!  Taken out like I was standing still by a boy the age of my daughter.  I knew that this day would eventually come – I just didn’t expect it to happen at 13.

13!!!

I gave him a pat on the back and went to chat with “Footsteps”.  We thanked each other for pushing/pulling the other along.

In the end, despite being taken down by a 13 year old, I was pretty happy with my performance.  It was nowhere near my best in a 5K, but it was pretty darn satisfying to finish in the top 10 out of 200+ runners.  It did make me realize though that I have a long way to go to get back into marathon shape.

1609950_10152206372806598_592647749_n

Me flabbergasted that I just got passed by a 13 year old…

 

Hope you all had a fantastic weekend!

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

Read Full Post »

Holy cow!  Where to start?  I’m not even sure where the beginning really is on this one.  Is it months ago when I met with the folks from Team Up With Autism Speaks?  Is the when I began leading a training group every Sunday morning 10 weeks ago?  Is it last Saturday night when I got up in front of 220 Team Up Runners at the pre-race dinner for a pep talk?  The whole thing is just a little overwhelming, so maybe I’ll start in the middle.

***

I could feel the pain coming on.

You know, that little wet, burning feeling.  I don’t know where it happens for you, but blisters almost always start either just above my heel or near the front of my arch.  I had committed the cardinal sin in road racing – wearing footwear for the first time in an endurance event.  Last Wednesday or Thursday I had completely grossed myself out with my old Bikila’s.  They smelled so freaking bad and that was AFTER I had sent them through the washing machine…TWICE!  It was time for new ones, and considering that I would be pacing my dear friend Jersey during the race, I didn’t want  her to have to deal with my smelly shoes.  So, I went and bought a new pair; and then they sat for 4 days.

Yeah, I know, brilliant!

And so it was just a couple of miles in that I started to feel it coming on.  I tried to ignore it.  I tried to focus on my Garmin.  My friends Doug (from Really Not A Runner – even though he is) and Sassy had joined Jersey and I and my primary goal was to get Jersey to the finish line at just under 2:00.  We were clipping along at 9:00/mile pace, which translates to about a 1:58 half.

Sassy, Jersey and me early on, pacing smoothly around 9:00 per mile.

Me and Doug, who was in a showdown with Jersey – winner take all.

But the burning was growing.

I kept pushing it to the periphery.  I had a job to do: get Jersey to the finish in under 2:00 and then shuttle in the rest of the Team Up with Autism Speaks Runners.  We were having a fabulous time cheering other runners on.  I kept checking in with the Team Up runners we would pass, letting them know I would see them at the end.  We caught up with Paula from Perspicacity.  She had decided months ago that her first half-marathon was going to be Boston 13.1 with our Team.  We exchanged a quick hug and continued on.  I knew I would see her at the end.

Sharing some pavement with Paula from Tallahassee.  You can also see Superwoman Rebecca from Orlando just to the left of Paula’s ear.

As we made the turn onto the beach just after mile 3, I realized that I had two choices – either leave the footwear on and end the day with some monstrous blisters or take the footwear off.  I wasn’t sure what to do.  The farthest I had run in my attempt to rid myself of plantar fasciitis was 5 miles, and although the barefoot running had cured my PF, it wasn’t easy on the skin of my feet.  After trying to suck it up for another quarter mile, I threw caution to the wind and off came the shoes.

Surprisingly, it felt really good!  The pavement along Revere Beach is nice and smooth and the 9:00 pace meant I wasn’t pounding my feet either – a perfect combination for running with proper form!

We continued along our merry way, cheering runners we passed, all the while keeping our pace around 9:00.  Around mile 4 I saw Jess coming the other direction.  She was walking the half.  I jumped through the park that was between us and gave her a big hug, telling her I would be back.  I ran back to my charge and we continued on.  This barefoot thing was working out great.

Since we had started near the back of the pack, even at miles 5 and 6 we were passing other runners.  I would give a word of encouragement to every Team Up runner we would pass.  Through the turn arounds I got to see the runners I had trained over the past 10 weeks.  Every single one of them looked great.  All of them were smiling.

Between mile 8 and mile 9, Jersey began to fade.  Her spirit was there, but on this day her legs began to rebel.  Any experienced runner will tell you that there are days you have it and there are days you don’t.  Sometimes we can battle through the pain; others, the pain is just too much.  Sassy was on a mission to hit sub-2:00 as well, and we told her to go.  She would finish in 1:58.

Jersey and I took a little walk break.  It wasn’t her lungs, it was her legs.  We had banked enough time that we still had a shot at sub-2:00.  The next 3 miles would be a mix of run/walking.  She was determined.  I kept an eye on the Garmin.  Approaching mile 10 I said we needed to make a decision of whether to go for it or let it go.  Jersey is from, well, Jersey and she wasn’t gonna go down without a fight.  We needed to pick up the pace, which we did, but ultimately her legs said no.

I changed gears on her.  Sub-2:00 wasn’t in the cards this day, BUT her previous best was a high 2:04.  I knew we had an excellent shot of beating that.  I started doing the math.  If we could walk/run the next 2 miles at a certain pace, she was gonna come in around 2:04.

We hit mile 11.  I shortened the the distances we walked.  Even as we walked I kept my legs in a running motion, trying to pull her along.  As we got to mile 12, I said to her, “you can do anything for one mile.”  She was hurting but determined.  She kept pushing.

With a half mile to go, I shouted at her, “no more Mr. Nice Guy, let’s go!!!  How pissed are you gonna be if you miss this PR because you walked!  LET’S GO!!!”

She kept going…the clock was ticking…tic, tic, tic.  The finish line came into view.

Push, push, push.  The clock said 2:05:something but I knew we had at least a minute because we started so far back.

Tic, tic, tic.

We made the turn into the chute.  Jersey has broken into a dead run.  I tried to avoid the broken glass and pebbles that littered the ground.  On last turn in the chute, I yelled, “go get that medal! save me some beer!!!”.

Jersey’s PR was 2:04:47.  She would cross the finish line in 2:04:44.  A PR by 3 seconds.  Any runner will tell you, a PR is a PR is a PR!

I turned back to start part two of my job that day, shuttling the rest of the Team Up runners to the finish.  It was poetic that the first three runners I paced in were Roberta, Jana and Mark, followed closely by Kara, four runners who attended just about every single one of my Sunday training runs.  I was so proud of them!

What fun it was pacing people in!

Still blue afro-ed, still barefoot.

The absolutely amazing thing was just about every Team Up runner had a smile on their face.  Even after covering 13.1 miles, most for the very first time in their lives, there was a huge smile.  There was one woman who was crying, BUT it was because she knew she was A) doing something she had never thought she could do and B) knew her son was waiting at the finish line for her.  I told her that it was okay to be crying.  I started to well up as she turned the final corner for home.

The pebbles and gravel in the chute finally got to my feet, so I slipped my Bikila’s back on as slippers and continued to pace runners in.

Still blue afro-ed, but no longer barefoot with Dave from dailymile

After 5 miles of shuttling, I got a text from Jess.  She was fading.

I caught up to her at around mile 11-ish – Garmin said I ran low 7’s coming for her.  She told me she had never been so happy to see a blue afro.  I gave her a hug, told her she was doing great and we walked.  We were soon joined by her cousin John (who unexpectedly ran a PR!!!) and his girlfriend, then by our buddy Doug, then by Jersey and our friend Judith.  Over the last mile we were escorted by EMS and some State Police.

Jess crossed the finish line and then I finally did the same.  I was (and am) so proud of her.

The final numbers?  Almost 22 miles, 16 of which were run barefoot, 3:40:55 and a whole lot of love.

Next stop: New York City.

Read Full Post »

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?

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

My very first road race was the SuperSunday 5K/10K – all the way back in 2009.

I had no idea what I was doing and it showed.  I entered the 10K and finished in a respectable 46:58.  The following year I entered it again (again in the 10K) and ran what was probably my best performance in a race to date other than the Smuttynose Marathon in 2010, finishing the 10K in 39:29.

In 2011, due to bad weather conditions, the SuperSunday 5K/10K was cancelled.  I was disappointed to say the least.

This year RaceMenu Chief, Alain Ferry, decided to change things up a little.  He moved the SuperSunday Race from Downtown Boston to Cambridge and changed the distance to 5 miles (with a bailout at the 5K mark).  The course is a large, relatively flat triangle, with just a couple of tiny hills.

***

As regular readers already know, I spent the second half of 2011 struggling to find my running motivation (and if I’m going to be completely honest, I was struggling to find motivation to do anything!).   Despite having a 50-mile race in September and a marathon in November (you can also see the video of that marathon here), my training was minimal at best.  In fact, I probably only ran 50 miles total in the 6 to 7 weeks leading up to my 50-miler.  I ran even less leading up to the marathon and almost completely stopped running in the month of December.

I was at a low point.

But then I started to see posts on Facebook and dailymile of friends who were starting their training cycle for Boston 2012.  At first it hurt to see those posts.  I missed getting into Boston this year by 33 seconds.  It wasn’t fun seeing so many friends (virtual or otherwise) running toward my hometown marathon knowing that I would be on the sidelines watching the crowd go by.

But then sadness and anger turned to determination.  I may not be running Boston this year, but dammit, I was gonna get back next year – of course, with the new qualifying standards, that means taking at least 4:20 off of my PR of 3:19:19.

4:20.

260 seconds.

Nearly 10 seconds per mile.

Oh boy!

I found my Spring marathon – Sugarloaf on May 22nd (I’d love it if you would come run with me).  It is supposed to be one of the fastest marathons in the country.  I started my training, stumbling out of the gate, unable to maintain pace in a Lactate Threshold run, but determined.  After initially settling on an 18 week plan, I decided to build up my base for 6 weeks and then train in earnest for 12.

And that brings me back to last Sunday.

As of last Sunday, I am halfway through my build up period.  I was scheduled for 14 miles, but decided that I wanted to race the SuperSunday 5, not just because I have always raced the SuperSunday race, but also because I wanted to see where I was physically.

***

Having found my Vermont 50 buddy JB and convinced him that we should shoot for 35 minutes, we made our way to the starting line.  Temperatures were in the low to mid 20’s and everyone was bundled up in long sleeves and running pants…everyone that is, except for me.  I was in my usual singlet, shorts, hat and gloves.

Right before the start one racer asked me, “why the hat?”

“Excuse me,” I said.

“Why the hat,” he said, “if you’re going with the singlet and shorts, why are you bothering with the hat and gloves?”  I explained that since we lose a large chunk of heat from our heads, that wearing a hat in fact allowed me to run in a singlet and shorts.  He nodded, muttering to himself, “you know, that kinda makes sense.”

JB and I had placed ourselves well back from the front.  I had no desire to hang with the sub-6:00 milers.  7:00 miles was what I was looking for.  I figured it would be a good marker to see where I was.

After the starting gun went off and we started to go, I quickly realized that we had moved back too far in the pack.  We bobbed and weaved our way through, trying to hit out pace.  It didn’t help that both of our Garmins were getting confused by the tall buildings.  One moment we were supposedly running 8:00 miles, the next a 5:15.  About a mile out, we finally found our groove, getting there at just about 7:00.

Me and JB settling in.

At this point, with JB trailing behind me a bit, I began to go back and forth with a woman who could not have been more than 5 feet tall, and that only on days when the moon and sun aligned properly.  I would pass her and then she would pass me and then I would pass her again.  On and on it went for a little over two miles.  As we approached the 5K mark I pushed to pass her, but I knew if she passed my again, I wasn’t going to be able to catch her.

As we passed the 5K check off, I hit a wall.  We had been running 6:50’s for a couple of miles and unfortunately, my legs were just not ready.  As I watch the woman go by me, JB came up on my left.   He was looking strong.  He had been smart and maintained an even pace where I had let myself get sucked into the game of racing one individual.  I was running out of gas.

At the 5K mark...mugging for the cameras before my legs gave out.

I knew I had less than 2 miles to go, but my legs felt like lead weights.  I told JB to stay with the group that had passed us.  He tried to encourage me to stick with him, but I just didn’t have the juice.  At this point, I just wanted to finish with a 35-handle.  It wasn’t going to be easy.

The next mile was a daze.  I was simply trying to run as fast as I could without completely running out of gas.  Mile 4 came and went unnoticed (a van had parked in front of the mile marker).  When my garmin beeped 4.5 miles, I looked at my watch.

31:18.

I had 3:42 to get to the finish line.  Just under a 7:30 mile. I pushed myself to go, dragging my legs behind me.

As I came around the final turn I could hear footsteps coming up on my right.  I could see the clock with a 34-handle.

Those two things helped me find my kick.  I broke into an all out sprint (the garmin claiming that I closed out the race at a 4:16/mile pace).

All. Out. Sprint.

I left the footsteps behind me and passed a guy who had just passed me only minutes earlier.

I guy in red I think is Footsteps...the guy in green had passed me just a half mile earlier.

After crossing the finish line, I nearly collapsed.  That was a lot harder than I had anticipated.  A year and a half ago I could have done a 35 minute 5-miler with a smile.  On Sunday, I struggled.

But I did hit my goal.  In the end, the official chip time was 34:56 – good enough for 6th out of 57 in my age group and 107th overall out of 744 runners.  Not bad for someone just getting back in the swing of things.

Afterward JB and I hit the party tent and ad a couple of beers.

getting ready for some beer!

Alain knows how to throw a race and even better, he knows how to throw a post-race party – 5 different kinds of beer and all the wings you could eat – perfect for Superbowl Sunday.

***

Despite hitting my goal of 35:00 or better, I still have plenty of work to do before Sugarloaf in May.  My 34:56 only translates into about a 3:25 marathon according to McMillian’s Running Calculator.  Obviously, that is nowhere near good enough.

That being said, I’m pretty happy with the progress I’ve made so far this year.  It’s not going to be an easy road back to Boston, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

Read Full Post »

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

I am not sure where to begin.

The beginning? The middle? The end?

Honestly, there is still a lot of processing going on.

***

October 3rd, 2010 – yapping with a group of dailymilers before the Smuttynose Marathon

Doug: Seriously, you should run the Vermont 50 with me.
Me: You’re crazy, dude.  50 miles?  That’s just nuts.
Doug: Nah, come on!

After much prodding…and more to just get Doug to shut up…

Me: Fine.  Tell you what – if I qualify for Boston today, I’ll run the Vermont 50 with you.

Damn!  My logic was sound. I  figured that were I to qualify I would be set to run Boston for two years.  In addition, I think I thought this whole Vermont 50 idea would just go away.


***

Summer 2011

After running a half-marathon on Memorial Day this year, I essentially lost my motivation to run.  The summer would prove to be a time when my mileage declined significantly.  After logging nearly 1000 miles in the first 5 month of the year, I went from 100 miles in June, to 80 miles in July, to barely 60 miles in August to less than 40 miles in September.  I was not even running at maintenance pace.  Add to that the fact that by September 25th I would have a total of 6 lifetime miles of trail running under my belt, I was in no shape, NO SHAPE, to be running 50.5 miles through the mountain trails of Vermont.

***

I know tired.

No, I really do.

You run 7 marathons over the course of 21 months and you’re pretty much a partial owner of the market on tired and exhaustion.

So yeah, I like to think that I know tired…

…well, hmmm, I guess I THOUGHT I knew tired because, you know, marathons are long…26.2 miles long…long enough to kill Pheidippides oh so many years ago.

***

So with that in mind, I began my 50.5 mile trek last Sunday at 6:35AM  in the mountains of Vermont.

The start was painful…painfully slow.  As our group of six runners crossed the starting line, we took off at a blistering 10:00 per mile pace.  The only times I have ever run slower in a “race” is when I have bonked, and bonked badly.  My legs kept wanting to push the pace, but runners smarter than me kept reining me in.  I knew the first few miles would feel slow, because they would have to be slow, but I was having a hard time not running at a comfortable pace.

“Slow it down there, Luau,” JD, our experienced team leader would say.  It would become his refrain over the next 30 miles.

I really had no idea what I was getting into- and I mean that not only had I never run the distance, but also that I really had no idea what my body, mind and soul were in for.  I hadn’t had a run over 20 miles since the end of July, my monthly mileage had been dramatically dropping since the end of May.  I really hadn’t wrapped my brain around the concept of going for 50 miles (50.5 if we’re gonna get technical – the flooding from Irene forced organizers to reroute some of the course).

My goal was to have fun, enjoy the ride and get my dear friend Doug across the finish line in under 11:00.  For some crazy reason, Doug wants to be able to run the Western States 100, and one way to get into the lottery for that race is to finish the Vermont 50 in under 11 hours.  More on that later.

As we left Ascutney Mountain, I was chatting everybody up, running backwards, sideways and forwards.  At one point I found I could speed walk at the pace we were running.  I felt like I was going out for an easy morning jog.

This isn’t so bad.  I could do this ALL day! Have you ever had one of those thoughts?  The “I could do this all day” thoughts.  Think again the next time you have one.

We were a happy Gang of Six during the few several miles.  Doug (the instigator), Jeremy D (our experienced leader), Jeremy B (the barefooter – yes, he ran the whole way in VFF Treks – my hero!), me, Adam (the streaker) and Sarah (Miss Ultra).  Shuffling along, we, along with everyone else around us joked about thinking this a a 5K or a 5 miler. Everybody was all smiles.  The only distraction was a runner whose fanny pack must have had a bottle or two of advil tablets in it.

Shake shake shake! Shake shake shake!

Slow down, speed up – no matter what we did, he maintained pace with us – didn’t say a word to us, just ran in lock step.

As we were about to hit mile 1 we came to our first hill.  My inclination of course was to keep running, but everyone, not just our gang of six, slowed to power walk pace.  I figured when in Rome.  JD set the pace and we all fell in step.  It was weird to me that we were walking up this hill – it wouldn’t be so weird to me later in the race.

There are 10 aid stations throughout the Vermont 50, ranging in distance to each from 3.8 miles to 7 miles.  For my own mental well-being, I had to break up the day into 11 shorter runs.  Our first aid station came at 4.2 miles.

Doug, JD, Sarah and me

For the first time ever, I had decided to carry to water bottles.  As we pulled in, I fumbled to open them for a refill.  I would have to get better at the process.  JD pushed us to pick up the pace.  We didn’t want to linger too long at any aid station, he said.  I grabbed a few orange slices and a piece of peanutbutter and jelly sandwich and we were off.

The next several miles were a bit of a blur, running through the forest on muddy, single track trails.  We had to climb up a hill to get to the next aid station.

The next aid station (Skunk Hollow) was 3.8 miles away and was the first place we could meet our crew.  Doug’s wife and best friend, along with Adam’s wife had very kindly volunteered to crew for us.  This entailed grabbing our drop bag, helping us fill water bottles, checking on us, etc.  Without them, I don’t know that I would have made it to the finish.  As we made our way to Skunk Hollow, our Gang of Six became a Team of Four.  Adam’s heels were barking at him and Sarah stayed with him.  As Doug, the two Jeremy’s and I continued on, we laughed and joked our way through the woods.  None of us were feeling the effects yet of the rapidly warming temperatures.

In good spirits

Laughing it up

As we pulled into Skunk Hollow, I thought about changing my socks.  I had stepped into a couple of deep mud puddles and my feet were soaked.  We were only a little over 12 miles into our day, about a quarter of the way done.  I should have taken the time to switch out, but I was eager to keep things going.  We were well on pace to get Doug in in under 10 1/2 hours.

Pulling into Skunk Hollow

Still happy as a clam

I think this is me telling Doug to get his butt moving...he was greasing up his feet - I probably should have taken the time to do the same

Now came what would be one of the hardest parts of the day for me – 7 miles, no aid stations.  Garvin Hill (the next aid station) would be at the 19.3 mile marker.  Not only was it 7 miles away, but it was also all uphill – over 1,100 feet of climb.  Two things crossed my mind at that point:  1.) I had not run anywhere close to 20 miles since the end of July and 2.) the next aid station where I could change my socks was at mile 30 – almost 20 miles away.

About 3 miles into this leg I felt an all too familiar, terrifying twinge.  My left quad began to cramp.  I tried kicking my heel to my butt to try to stretch it out on the run, but to no avail.  15 miles in, 35 miles to go – there was no way I could do that on a cramped quad.  I began muttering to myself, somewhat in a panic.  What was I going to do?  Doug pulled up next to me and asked me what was wrong.  I mentioned the quad and without hesitation he told me to pop a Nuun tablet right into my mouth and let it dissolve on my tongue until I couldn’t take it anymore.

Really?  Ew!

But you know what? I worked.  Within a few hundred yards the cramp was gone and my legs were fine.  Throughout most of this leg we were in the woods, climbing, climbing, climbing.  As we came out, I thought YES! Finally some flats! But to no avail.  They didn’t call this aid station Garvin Hill for nothing.   We still had a bit of a climb before we got to the top of Garvin Hill to refill our water bottles and snack on some food.  By this time the temperatures were into the high 70’s and the humidity was intense.  Still, we knew we were 40% of the way done.

Still smiling after almost 20 miles

20 miles in, 30 miles to get back to the other side of that mountain in the distance.

Attempting to Live Tweet - lack of signal made my tweets sparse

As I paused to tweet my progress I took a look at my Garmin – 20 miles, nearly 4 hours.  Holy Cow.  6 miles less and 40 minutes longer than what I would run a marathon in.  It struck me at that moment just how different an ultra is from a typical marathon.

There were two more aid stations and 12 more miles between Garvin Hill and Dugdale’s, which was the next spot where we could meet our crew.  My feet were barking.  I could feel blisters forming.  I cursed myself for not switching socks and greasing up my feet when I had the chance. It didn’t help that the trails were muddy and tough to navigate.

Doug leading the way as I trail behind trying to step where he stepped

The heat continued to rise and on the advice of JD the Texan, I grabbed some ice at one of the aid stations and put it in my hat.  I would do that at every aid station the rest of the way.  At this point the legs and feet hurt, but the pain was manageable.  However, a couple of miles before Dugdale’s my right forearm began to tingle.  Not a lot at first, but it was definitely there.  Initially I thought that maybe it was because of fatigue.  I had never carried two water bottles before and normally, I carry my hydration in my left hand.  The tingling continued to intensify.  As it got stronger, it began to spread up my arm. I have to be honest here and say that I began to get a little scared. When we finally pulled in to Dugdale’s I went straight to my drop bag to switch socks and shoes and restock my supply of Nuun and Shotblocks.

As I squatted down to reach into my bag, that’s when it hit me.  The tingling quickly spread from my forearm to my bicep, up the right side of my neck and my face.  My nose and teeth were numb.  I looked over at Doug.  He was busy restocking.

pulling into Dugdale's aid station - I was hurtin'!

I couldn’t focus.  I couldn’t see straight.  I stumbled over to the food table to refill my water bottles.  I couldn’t get them open.  I felt like I might pass out.  My day was done.  I had made a promise to Jess a long time ago not to risk my health in these runs that I do.  There was no way I could cover another 20 miles, no less one more mile, feeling like this.  I looked around for Doug or either of the Jeremy’s to let them know I was cooked.

But that is when a woman, I wish I knew what her name was, came up to me and asked me how I felt.  I explained to her what was going on and she very calmly, almost divinely calmly (I know, that’s not English) offered to fill my water bottles.  She then brought me a cup of ramen noodles in soup.  I watched as she sprinkled salt onto the already salty soup.  Take this she said.  You just need salt.  She then handed me a couple of endurolytes.  As I began to down the ramen, the rest of my crew came over.  I looked at them, told them how I felt and that I didn’t think I would make it.  They all said there was no way they were leaving me behind, but honestly, I was cooked.

Then a funny thing happened.  As I downed the last bite of the overly salty ramen, the tingling and numbness disappeared, just like that.  And with that, I was back.  As the boys began to leave Dugdale’s, I ran back to the food table and grabbed another cup of ramen.  This stuff was the food of the gods.

I caught up to the group and we were off again.

Our pace had slowed considerably, but we were still in the running to get Doug in on time.  I don’t remember much from the next 10 miles or so.  We were all just focused on moving forward.  At this point our bodies were spent – we were moving along only because our minds were forcing us to.  I do remember that at this point the transitions from power walking the uphills to running the flats and downhills was becoming increasingly difficult.  In some ways running was much easier than power walking – maybe because I hadn’t done any power walking to prepare for the day.

Somewhere around mile 38 my Garmin conked out.  It had helped me to know how much ground we were covering and not knowing was killing me.  Mentally I kept thinking that the next aid station HAD to be right around the next corner.  More often than not I would turn a corner or come out of the woods only to see more trail.

Physically I was on empty.

Mentally I was on reserve.

Emotionally I was running out of fuel.

At around 41 we hit another aid station.

I'm in the blue shirt, looking for ramen and ice

We would now hit the second longest leg of the day – a 6 mile trip to the final aid station, where our crew would have one last chance to see us before the finish.  It was a hard push.  I kept trying to guess how far we had gone based on the time that had passed, but it didn’t help me in the slightest. Still, the views were incredible.  Occasionally I had to take a moment to take it all in.

Somewhere after mile 42, I heard Doug whimper.  Something was wrong.  His knee had decided to act up and it was affecting his gait.  As the two Jeremy’s began to pull ahead, I told Doug to set his pace and I would stay behind him.    A few miles later he seemed to right himself, though I think it was more out of sheer will than anything else.  Still, we were all struggling.  At one point I asked out loud why there weren’t any mile markers on the course…and as if the running gods had heard me…

5. Miles. To. GO!!!

5 miles to go.  5 MILES TO GO!  I have told myself in past races that I can do 5 miles.  No matter what, I can do 5 miles.  We had covered over 45 miles and were now just 5 miles away – and only a little over 2 away from the next aid station.

I was briefly energized and we trekked along, keeping our eyes open for the next mile marker.  It was at mile 46 that my complete lack of training finally caught up to me.  As I said before, I had run very little this summer and almost not at all on the trails.  Try as I might, I could not keep up with the rest of the crew.  They began to pull away.  At one point Doug turned to look at me.  I waved him on.  He had a time to beat, I just needed to finish.

I was able to keep them in my sites, but I was fading fast.  I tried to close the gap as we pulled into the final aid station.

If you look carefully, you can see me over Doug's right shoulder

Less than 3 miles to go at this point and I was spent.  Doug was on a mission.  He had 38 minutes to get to the finish to get in in under 11 hours.  Under normal circumstances I would laugh at covering 2.8 miles in 38 minutes, but with 47.7 miles under my belt, I wasn’t sure I could do it in that time.  It didn’t help that the next 2 miles would be all uphill.  Doug and JD rushed through the aid station and were off.  I took my time and told JB that if he caught the other two to tell them to get it done and I would see them at the finish.  He took off after them, I grabbed some more ramen and ice and walked back onto the course.  I could see them off in the distance, but the switchbacks made them look like they were much closer than they really were.   I power walked for about a quarter mile and realized that I had a little left in the tank – ramen, it does amazing things on the trail!  I started to jog and slowly began amping up the speed.  I didn’t let the climb slow me down.  I wanted to catch my crew.  As I ran past other runners I could see I was closing the gap on my friend.

I passed the “2 miles to go” marker and that gave me a little zip.  I broke into an all out run, bounding past other runners, receiving “WHOOPS!” and “GO GO GO!’s” as I went.  Big mistake.  Though I was able to catch my friends, I was now completely spent and there was still at least a mile and a half to go.

They were surprised to see me.  I said hello and proceeded to say goodbye.  I needed to walk.  I encouraged Doug to go.

During my all out sprint, I had managed to tweak my right knee.  I hobbled along for maybe a half mile, cursing myself but determined to finish.  With maybe a little less than a mile to go, I began to jog again.  After two more rolling hills, it was now time for the downhill ending.  I started to pick up the pace again.  With a little less than a half mile to go, I saw a sign that said, SMILE – Camera person ahead.  I did my best to smile.

less than 1/2 mile to go!

After a quarter mile of downhill switchbacks, it was straight down the mountain.

Chugging down the hill - trying to get rid of my water bottles

realizing that I might not be able to stop myself...

Thank goodness you guys caught me!

Asking myself if I really just ran 50.5 miles on no training...

I had crossed the finish line in 11:04:37.  I finished.  A moment later I was elated at what I had done.  Doug? He had finished in 10:57.  He qualified for the Western States 100 Lottery – he’s crazy.  JB actually finished first from our group with JD coming in right after Doug.

My favorite picture of the day! Me, JB, Doug and JD.

After the race, we grabbed some food.

Doug and me...happy...exhausted

20 miles of mud...the other pair are way worse!

I have never been more exhausted in my life.  At the end of the day I was completely spent on all levels – physically, mentally, emotionally.  I walked around afterward saying that this was it for me and Ultras.  Scratch it off the bucket list.  I woke up the next morning wondering, if I actually train for this sucker, maybe I could get in under 10 hours!  Watch out VT50 2012!  I’m gunning for ya!

Our friend Sarah came in just under the 12 hour cut off.  Adam unfortunately had to call it a day at 47 miles.

I had promised Jess that I wouldn’t have a beer right after the race because we had no idea what alcohol would do to me after a  day like this.  With a 3 hour drive home, I had to agree.  So when I finally got home, I pulled two bottles of my new favorite beer out of the fridge – Left Hand Milk Stout.

Finally! My post race beer!

I went upstairs, crawled into bed, kissed Jess goodnight.  I took 3 sips of my beer and I was out.

Read Full Post »

[tweetmeme source=”luau” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5D

Maybe it was  the high expectations I had of myself.

Maybe it was the fact that the heat & humidity beat me into submission.

Maybe it was that at one point in the race I quit – I simply gave up.

Whatever the reason, Sunday’s race did not go according to plan – and I’ve been struggling for over a week now as to how to write this race recap.

***

My thinking had been that since I had been able to cover the hilly Heartbreak Hill Course in 1:32 just two weeks earlier, that I would be able to take on the flatter Run To Remember course in 1:31.

Seconds before the starting gun I realized that I wasn’t excited; I wasn’t pumped.  I kept telling myself to get psyched, but it just wasn’t happening.  Yet for all the lack of adrenaline, I still felt like 1:31 was a very reachable target.

The gun went off, and after the inevitable walk, jog, run, walk, stop, run of getting across the starting line, I was off.

Somewhere before mile 2, not really paying attention to pace...oops! - photo courtesy of J. Alain Ferry (RaceMenu.com)

After covering the first 2 miles in 13:20, I realized too late that I had gone out too fast.  I would cover the next two miles in 14:00 (7:00 per mile was the initial goal), but by that time, I was in trouble.  The heat and humidity began to take its toll and every mile thereafter, except for the final 1.1 got slower and slower.

Still, through 6 miles I was still 20 seconds under target (having run miles 5 and 6 in 14:20 for a total time of 41:40).  By the end of mile 7 however (a 7:22), with my pace continuing to drop, I finally dropped behind pace of my stated goal.

For a brief flicker of a moment I thought, “it’s rally time.  Get our ass in gear Luau!” and I tried, I really did, but my calves just didn’t have it on that Sunday.

I'm faaaaaaaadiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnng! Somewhere around mile 7+ - photo courtesy of J. Alain Ferry (RaceMenu.com)

Truth be told, this race was uneventful and without the dramatics I have grown used to in my past races.  There was no reeling in of other runners; no sprint to the finish to catch somebody I had been eying for the last mile.  It was almost as if my attitude on the whole was simply blah.  Maybe it was the heat and humidity, I don’t know.

I did close with a strong final 1.1 miles, but even there I was unable to catch any runners ahead of me.  What pisses me off the most now is that I didn’t care (at the time anyway).

I would finish with a time of 1:35:54.  Well off my PR two weeks earlier.  Still I did finish 167th out of 5,248 total runners and 28th out of 474 runners in my age group.

***

In the midst of my slow implosion, I had what will be one of my more memorable racing moments:

Somewhere between miles 7 and 9 (it’s all a blur), a guy pulled up to the left of me.

He could tell I was lagging.

“Come on, Luau” he said.

“I don’t have it today,” I said trying to scan his face for some recognition, “my calves are shot.”  We chatted briefly, talked a moment about the Boston Marathon and then it was time for him to keep moving.  I was slowing him down.  He tried to get me to come with him, but it just wasn’t happening.  I still had no idea who this guy was.  As he pulled away he said, “great blog! Long time lurker!”  John had recognized me, either from my shirt or shoes or sunglasses or all three.  It was a neat moment of realizing just how inter-connected this running community is.

Lifted by this, I rallied briefly, chasing John for about a half-mile before I once again had to slow down.

After I finished, I walked back about a 1/2 mile along the course to see if I could cheer/run in a friend who was running her first half-marathon.  I settled next to some kids who I remembered cheering me in as I had passed them.  Their enthusiasm had been fantastic and nearly 30 minutes later when I had made my way back, it hadn’t waned.  These kids were cheering everybody on as they waited for their mom to come by.  As disappointed as I was in myself, my spirits were lifted by the raw energy these kids were giving to the passing runners.  You could see faces change as they approached and heard these kids yelling and screaming their lungs out.

It was standing here, cheering on the runners that I had another neat personal moment:

As I stood there clapping, shouting, encouraging, getting mildly dizzy from scanning the crowd for my friend, a tall guy with dark hair high-fived me as he went by.

“Hey!” he yelled.

I was a little taken aback, not sure what he was going to say next.

“I love your blog!”  Another runner who reminded just how small our running world is.

Between John, Dark-Haired Runner and my dailymile friend Lynda B (who recognized me before the race because of my multi-colored shoes) I was able to take a lot of positives from a performance that was somewhat disappointing.

So to John, D.H.R. and Lynda, I thank you!

***

I did learn a few things though from this race:

•when the humidity is at 89% and then temperatures are rising quickly, DON’T go out too fast.

•don’t run a hard, fast-paced 12-Miler less than 36 hours before a half-marathon you are hoping to PR at. Friday night after putting the family to bed, I hit the treadmill to watch the Bruins while running my scheduled 12-Miler. In part because it was late and I wanted to get to bed, I ran it way too fast. As I trudged upstairs after my run, and despite being excited by the Bruins game 7 win, the weight of my legs gave me pause. I wondered if I had blown my race with that run.

•sometimes the random race where there is no expectation, like The Heartbreak Hill Half I ran two weeks before, are better opportunities to PR. It didn’t hurt that there was no pressure and it was a good 15° cooler.

***

I’m thinking maybe next year, especially if it’s hot and humid like it was for this race, I may switch to the 5-Miler and call it a day.

Bookmark and Share

Why do you run?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: