Tuesday, April 27, 2010

2010 Boston Marathon Race Report

As I begin typing this report I’m sitting in the Midland International Airport waiting for my flight to California. Where I will be when I finish I have no idea. Ironically, it symbolizes my running life. When I ran my first marathon just over 4 years ago, Boston was nothing more than a big race for really fast people. Today, it is the most awesome sporting event that I will ever be a part of and it has given me a second chance at athletic accomplishments that I never fulfilled as a youth.

This weekend was incredible to say the least. I had been so looking forward to meeting the whole 3:20 group and it was fantastic. Two special shout-outs to Stevi and Tina for their work this weekend. Chris & Ron, you guys have great wives. To the rest of you, thanks again for the getting to Boston. Joe, sorry we didn’t get to meet, but congrats on your race.

The group of 3:20 Sunday at Ron's.......

On to the race and I’ll try to keep it short (coming back to edit because I blew that). In the weeks leading up to the race I sort of fished around for someone to team up with that was shooting for a sub 2:50, but found no takers. I knew by the time I got to Boston that if it was going to happen I was going to be on my own. No big deal, but running about 14 miles with one particular runner in Tucson was huge as we fed off of each other’s energy at certain points. I was hoping to gain the same advantage for Boston.

Nick and Ron spent Sunday night at the house we rented so that we could drive right to Boston Commons and catch the buses. Kevin Fox joined us at the house that morning for the short ride in. Once at Athlete’s Village, we laid claim to our space, dropped a couple of tarps and started getting our game faces on. Hitting the portta-pottties, getting clothing/bib situated with shoes, body-glide, hydrating, writing splits on arms, whatever it is we do to get ready. The time in Athlete’s Village flew by way too fast. What I anticipated as a long wait was over almost as soon as it started. When Fox stood up and said his “good-byes” to head to the corrals it hit me that it was gametime. I tried to quickly gather my stuff and head to the gear check buses. It was still a little cold for me so I kept on a nice running pullover that was not meant to be a “throw away”, oops. Comfort at that point was what I needed so I went with the decision of keeping it on and to toss it as I reached the corrals. Dropped of the bag and headed towards up the street. Actually jogged that way, as I knew I needed to make one last important pit stop to take care of business. Talk about stress. The line moved so slowly and the clock was ticking. By the time I got into one of the portta-potties, the jets were flying by and time was running out. I darted out of the portta-potty like Superman out of a phone booth and started weaving my way at a pretty decent run pace up the hill ‘til I finally made my way to corral 2.

Hanging with the crew from "3:20".....Nick, Paul, Ron & me.

Athlete's Village final preparation writing splits on my arm........

Once in the corral, relief set in as the National Anthem was just getting started. I stripped off my arm warmers and gloves and handed them to some kid hanging on the rail next to me. He was about 7 or 8 and I’m sure that’s just what he wanted, arm warmers from some wannabe. All of a sudden we were off. Per my finishline photo it appears I crossed the starting mat 1:02 behind the elites.

5k split – 20:06

My goal was to not go out too fast. Did anyone hear that this weekend or was I possibly on to something? Based on my Maclin spreadsheet, I hit both mile 1 & 2 10 seconds too fast. Not what I planned, but I got my self to settle in after that and I was fairly close to pace. I had run the right side of the road in the early miles in ’09 and liked that option again for passing if needed. I went with the same strategy this year, passing people on the very far edge of the road.

10k split – 20:05

Mile 4 was a bit fast at 6:14 and I could already see that the distance between my Garmin miles and the markers was widening. I knew this would be an issue, just not sure how much at this point. It was somewhere in the 2nd 5k that I noticed Minnie Mouse pass me. What? Minnie Mouse and she was a he?

15K – 19:56

I don’t remember anything significant about this section of the course other than the fact that Minnie continued to stay ahead of me. This being the flattest part of the course I noted to myself that I should be at a pretty even pace and wanted to stay as close as possible to my splits so as to save everything for the last 5 miles. My goal all along has been to drop the hammer at Boston College. Keep in mind that I’m not getting the 5k splits, but the miles instead. The body is feeling decent and no signs of the hip acting up yet. My concern is proper hydration and gel usage. I was trying to get an even mix of Gatorade and water while skipping about every 3rd water station. Took my first gel somewhere between mile 6-7.

20k – 20:06

Another solid 5k. Not far from Wellesly and feeling decent still, but maybe a bit concerned that I still had a long way to go and I wasn’t too confident that I could carry this pace all the way in, especially not in Newton. Somewhere in the 10-11 mile area I believe I finally passed Minnie Mouse for the last time. I had told my daughter Marisa in each of my last two marathons that I beat Superman. I didn’t want to have to tell her I got beat my Minnie, whew! Ran past the girls of Wellesly and scooted over to the left side of the centerline on the road. I think I high-fived enough my first year to last a while and didn’t want to expend any energy doing it again this year.

Half split – 1:24:35

My Maclin half split was 1:25:00; Garmin was 1:24:36. Just the perfect amount of time ahead of pace. Not really much I remember from this area other than I was running along side two guys for quite some time with one of them being named Chad. His name was being screamed out constantly. I told myself that the name was going on the singlet next year. Turns out the two guys were Chad Silker and Blake Whitney.

25k split – 20:06

Yet another even split 5k, but then it fell apart. It was around mile 16 that I looked at my Garmin and thought to myself “10 more miles, no way, I can just quit here for a while”. Welcome to Newton young old man. These hills have eyes and they can spot the weak.

30K split – 20:54
35K split – 20:47

From miles 17-21 I lost 1:16 to my average final pace. I knew it, I didn’t do much uphill work and I paid for it. I tried to latch on with a guy midway through the hills, but he couldn’t run downhill, his quads were dead, and I didn’t want to push it uphill as my calves were a bit tight. I told him we would stick together and then bring it home from Boston College, but he said no, he didn’t have it left to go hard. Heartbreak was longer this year I think? I don’t remember seeing anyone pass me, but my time for mile 21 was 6:54, about 13 seconds slower than desired pace. That was pretty much the theme of each of those 5 miles.

Heartbreak Hill......

40k split – 19:36

There it was, BC, the destination I had been holding back for for 21 miles. Drop it now and go get that 2:49 I thought to myself. Miles 22-26 splits were as follows: 6:17, 6:13, 6:18, 6:14, 6:20. I think more than anything about the race, I am most proud of this effort I gave to finish hard. 31:12 for that 5 mile stretch and I was passing runners left and right like they were standing still. The calculations in my head were almost impossible at this point as I could barely add 2 + 2. I saw Stevi at her post an it was like a shot to the arm. I felt revived and a second wind. Mile 23 was the fastest for the whole race at 6:13. Unfortunately by the time I hit the mile 24 marker I started to feel like I was barely hanging on. Really getting light headed at that point. I decided to forego any hydration in the final few miles with the hopes of saving every second that I could. This was a familiar feeling as I had pushed myself in Dallas and Tucson to the same point where I didn’t know if I would hit the finishline or the pavement first, but that was the plan. Besides, if I crashed here, there were plenty of people around to help.

In addition to Heartbreak be longer, somehow the good people of the BAA managed to lengthen Commonwealth? I was desperately looking for the turn onto Hereford Street, but I hadn’t even hit the underpass yet. To show you how the mind works, I momentarily thought that maybe it wasn’t part of the course this year? But there it was and then the turn onto Hereford. The family was to be camped out right on the corner of Boylston and Hereford directly across the street and sure enough as I came up the hill I could see my little bro waving his arm. Then I saw the rest of them. Some fist pumping and a surge of speed took me around the corner onto Boylston and headed down the homestretch.

Turning the corner onto Boylston.....

As soon as the energy hit me it was gone and my body almost came to a screeching halt. About 50-100 yards past the gang I thought my body was going to fail me. The faint and lightheaded feeling was back and I thought I might have just blown the whole race right there. I seriously had visions of people crawling down Boylston and now that possibility was upon me. I shook it off and gave one last surge with everything I had until about 200 meters away I looked at the Garmin and could see I was 12 seconds away from 2:50:00. I lost my 2:49 was the thought. Wasn’t going to happen this year. At that point I was almost relieved as much as disappointed in knowing that the pressure was off.

I hit the finishline at 2:50:22 per the Garmin and I didn’t know whether to cry with joy or disappointment. Some members of the medical team were trying to give me some assistance, but I just wanted a few moments to myself along a rail to clear my head. Turns out there was no crying, but relief instead. The hip had held up without issue, I was just short of my goal and I saw my family on the course. Best of all, they saw me. The last part meant a lot to me as this was the first time the kids had seen me in a marathon and the first time I had seen any of my family while running a big race. Another afterthought was that I will get my Corral 1 seeding that I was looking for n Tucson. Very happy about that. 2:50:20 official time and 546th overall, 46th in the 40-44 age group out of 2,146 that started.

Meeting up with family after the finish......

In analyzing my data in the following days, it turns out that my miscalculation was in using the auto lap function. The extra .17 miles cost me just over a minute of time. I’m not saying I could have run any faster, but I just might have tried to pick up a few extra seconds in the first half of the race where it was relatively flat. When I run Chicago I will allow for some extra distance as well as turn off the auto lap function.

Overall summary of the race, well it was great. Nothing went wrong, the weather was all that I could have hoped for and the body held up just fine. I wish I could have completed the training cycle without the injury issue, but that’s part of the game so no excuses there. Hanging out with the crew in Athlete’s Village was just awesome and has me looking forward to our next big race together.

I’d like to say thank you to my family for who I could not do this without. My wife Gina is so accepting of this whole craziness I put our family through to pursue my dreams. Thank you so much G! To my children for enduring the stories of running, training, crazy diet and more running. I want to thank my brother Billy for being there to witness my passion for the sport. It meant more than I can I can say for him to be there. I hope you're back next year. I think he undersatnds now why I do all the things I do for this one day. I'd also like to thank my physical therapist John Schlaffer who worked on me for 4 weeks told me he would have me ready for race day. I wasn't convinced as late as my Saturday morning run along the Charles River, but on Monday when it counted, my hip was never an issue. To the group from “3:20” that made it to Boston, thanks for making the experience complete. I get so much motivation from you each and every day and you’re a great group. Looking forward to seeing you guys in Chicago! And lastly, to all of those that supported my cause of Midland Children’s Rehab Center, thank you so much! I had a thank you card waiting for me when I got home from the center signed by the staff and children and it almost brought tears to my eyes, seriously. Thanks for all the interest and support.

Take care,


Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Madness has Officially Taken Over

Taper Madness? What is that you say? Well, if you've ever trained for weeks, or months for an event and then tapered off the the last couple of weeks to get rested up and ready, then you obviously know what I'm referring to. If not, let me explain.

Weeks and weeks of high intensity, high mileage training. Hours and hours on the road, in the gym, tempo runs, VO2 max runs, long runs, weights, core work, dieting, more running all while taking in tons and tons of calories. Then all of a sudden you start hitting the brakes. Backing off the mileage, backing off of the weights, hopefully backing off of the calories. The amount of time spent training is decreasing and all of a sudden you find yourself filling that time with all sorts of crazy thoughts. Did I train enough, am I using the right shoes, should I try a different electrolyte gel, do these shorts make my butt look fat? Okay, maybe not the last one, but you get the idea. It's mayhem between the ears. Weighing yourself two or three times a day, checking the 14 day weather forecast and contemplating clothing options for every 10 degree change. It's just crazy how it gets in your head.

You start feeling all sorts of aches and pains, everything is exaggerated. Slight aches and pains all of a sudden feel like debilitating injuries. Minor soreness? Is that a stress fracture, oh no, I've got a stress fracture. Bump your leg on a piece of furniture and the next thing you know you're flopping around on the floor writhing in pain with a broken leg. This can't be happening, I have a race to run and I just broke my leg.

And if it's not the thoughts of pain and injury getting to you, it's the urge to buy "stuff". Stuff you don't need. Stuff you won't use. Stuff you'll later pick up and just shake your head wondering "what in the world was I thinking".

Well, madness has set in here folks. Bad. It's not a spending madness, but the injury madness. As I've previously discussed, the hip has been an issue. Seeing the PT twice a week has me feeling better some days and others not so much. This past Monday I went ahead and decided to go with the cortisone shot in the left hip/glute area to see if that would help with the inflammation. That was gonna be it. The "magic" I needed to get me through this.

I must have been smokin' crack! I went out yesterday with a couple of training partners and did and easy 6.25 mile run and low and behold, my hip reminded me for the last 6.24 miles that it was not all healed up. What in the world? I thought that was going to take care of it? It bothered me running a 7:45/mile pace. How in the world am I going to run 6:18 and survive?

Well, there in lies the reason for the madness. Another 6+ mile run today and pretty much the same feeling. I honestly don't know what to do. I don't know if I'm going to go with my original goal and just run thru the pain and discomfort out or back off a bit and try to find some middle ground. Or better yet, do I back off a lot and just enjoy the run being sure to save enough for Big Sur?

If I wasn't so damn competitive that would be no brainer. Easy run both days, collect two finishers medals, challenge completed, thank you very much. See you next year. But it's not that easy. That's just not the way this boys brain operates. It's a legitimate competition. And if it's a competition, it's not for fun. And that doesn't mean that I won't have fun, it just means that I don't do it for fun. I am having a real problem grasping the concept of doing something for fun. I wish I could. I wish I could embrace and love it. But it ain't happening. At least not yet.

In the back of my head I know I did my last 20 miler with a fair amount of discomfort and pain at a pretty good clip. I've got that in my back pocket for confidence. If I run that pace for 26.2, I break 3 hours. But if I did that, can't I knock 10, 15, 20 or even 30 seconds per mile off? Maybe still get my goal? That's the dilemma right now. How long can my body hold up and allow me to carry that intensity? I'm pretty certain that I have a fairly high pain threshold so that doesn't concern me. But instead, I have that little part of me that wonders if parts will break or tear. Will the inflammation get so bad that I just have to shut it down? That's what I want to avoid. That's what I must avoid.

So as I sit here today, I am seriously thinking I will go out a bit slower than goal pace, maybe something in the 6:30 - 6:40 pace and see how that feels for the first 5-7 miles, maybe more. I think my body will communicate with me loud and clear how it feels and we'll just take it mile by mile after that.

While I really want to go as low as possible with my time, I have to be realistic. I'm not 100%, not close, and in all reality, I'll be pretty thrilled when I cross that finshline on Boylston Ave and my family is there to celebrate with me. I'm sure the sight of my wife and kids and crossing that line will bring a lot of emotion to me no matter what the clock says when I cross.

So let me get back to my madness, not to mention the madness of tax season thrown in there just to make it interesting. I plan on getting in maybe 50 miles of easy running over the next 10 days in effort to maintain some level of fitness in this taper mode. I'll be back before Boston to let you know what I have decided on for sure.......until I change my mind again of course.

And thanks again to those contributing to the Center and for all the support I've got on a daily basis. The interest level from so many friends has been overwhelming. I appreciate that very much!

Take Care!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Is this April Fool's Day or what?

Well, I'm a little behind in my posting so I apologize for the delay, but I've been sulking a bit this week. I wish this was some horrible April Fool's Day joke being played on me, but unfortunately it doesn't look that way. Seems the hip/glute issue is not getting any better and may actually be worse today than it was last week. And the worst part is that it may be my own fault.

The crazy thing about it is that Sunday I went out for my last long run and had an absolutely awesome 20 mile training run. I started off just under 8 minutes for the first mile and worked my way down for 3 more until my 5th -20th mile were all sub 7 minute pace. I knocked out a 20 mile run in just over 2:16 with an average of 6:49 a mile. Cruising through it in pretty good shape all the while knowing that a taper for resting the legs and a huge crowd to get the adrenaline flowing would get me down into the sub 6:30 miles.

Monday's PT visit was a success as he tried something different and used some of his bodyweight and elbow in my glute area. Painful yes, but effective. By Monday afternoon I thought "this is it, I'm almost there". Then Tuesday morning found me at the track for a short workout including 4 800m intervals. That's when things went terribly wrong. After a 2:43 first split for the first, I felt some twinge in my left hip on the 2nd interval and then some pain that wasn't good. I finished the interval and shut it down. I probably shouldn't have done the intervals looking back, but that morning I was feeling pretty good and with all the pressure I was putting on myself to perform well, I wanted to stay sharp with my speed. Where's the rewind button on life when you need it?

So no running Wednesday, a PT visit this morning and a lot of icing, foam roller, stretching and ibuprofen in the meantime. I went out for a easy run this afternoon, but the discomfort was more than what I had hoped for so I turned around, headed back to the Y and jumped on an elliptical for an hour. Nothing like an hour on an elliptical for a little soul searching.

What did I figure out? Well, I decided I'm not running for the next week unless by some miracle I wake up one morning and have absolutely no discomfort in my hip. Until then, it will be continued self treatment, the PT and a lot of elliptical time along with the usual strength training and core work. My goal has all of a sudden gone from a healthy PR (personal record) to just getting there and finishing with a nice decent time and still being able to enjoy Big Sur 6 days later.

Of course a lot can happen in two weeks, but I have to live with the fact that these things happen and if I don't get to the starting line 100% this time, there's always the next race. Or in this case actually, the race after the next race. However, the important this is getting some recovery time for the hip/glute and still getting both marathons completed.

I still have a lot to work for and look forward to as I have this great Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge to complete on behalf of the the Rehab Center and I have about 15 or so friends that my family and I will be hooking up with in Boston that will be running as well. We've been talking about this for over a year and I don't want to miss it for anything. A double incentive to be abe to run the morning of April 19th.

Take care and have a great Easter weekend!