Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Boston Marathon to remember

This past weekend I was entered in my second Boston Marathon. Some of you have access to my training log or hear my online rants about my training. For this marathon, I was really trying a different philosophy than some of my prior cycles. I felt fast, but I had not put in the high mileage that my training was accustomed to. I was struggling to find the confidence to be strong in this marathon and waffling back and forth about whether I was under trained or had fresh legs. I had procrastinated in planning the Boston trip so I ended up with a hotel far afield from the locale of the marathon epicenter, Copley Square. This was my first mistake, if we don't count the training.

Dinner at the Hyatt Regency

My choice of hotels was the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge. It was a beautiful room with a great view of the Boston skyline as you look across the Charles River.

Having gotten to the hotel and unpacked, I decided to get in my Saturday workout. Simple enough, just 10 minutes with 6 strides. I love running along the Charles when in Boston. I stayed on the Cambridge side and ran to the bridge that the Red line crosses, I'm a landmarks guy, not a street name guy. While headed back to the hotel I met a runner from Amsterdam. He and I chatted for a couple minutes, wished one another well and then parted ways. Once back at the hotel, I wanted to stay off my feet so I decided to stay at the hotel and have dinner. I looked over the menu and they had some meaty fish (salmon), shell fish, creamy pasta burgers, ack none of this looks appealing, so I ask the bartender if they have any white fish, he responded that they had salmon; harumph! But wait, hostess to the rescue. She interjects before I could mock the barkeep and says they have a whitefish on the specials menu; lobster stuff Dover sole. I said, "sold." So I drank a Fisherman's Ales and waited for dinner. When it arrived it had an overwhelming odor of fish. Now strange as this may sound fish should never smell fishy. I kind of have an iron gut, so I decided not to make waves and accepted the plate. My second mistake. More on that later and later.

Packet Pickup

Saturday morning I awoke and set out on my last workout. 10 more minutes and 4 strides at MP. We really just need the legs to get through a range of motion and show a little turn-over. This was a strange run. I made it from the hotel to Mass Ave. across to Boston and reverse without seeing a single rower nor runner.
After returning to the hotel, I showered and set out for breakfast. I cannot visit Boston without stopping at the South Street Diner for at least one meal. The great thing about diners is that the one meal can always be breakfast. Granted it was breakfast time, but I always get breakfast there. It was scrumptious. After breakfast I had to get to the convention center to pick up my number. The real reason for the expo is to sell the crap out of stuff. I picked up my number, took a lap and left without spending a dime. As I stated on facebook, that is unless you count the $2000 in entry fees, airfare and lodging. As I exited, I was pleasantly surprised by Bash and his wife. It made me smile.
Now I had to find some Beet Juice, my new magic bullet and since it comes in big bottles I couldn't get it on the plane. I decided to try a GNC in Cambridge. The GPS showed me where it was, but did not mention it was in a mall. No biggie the mall opens in 3 minutes, so I can wait. And wait I do; while the mall opened at 11:00, the GNC store opened at noon; crap sandwich!!!!
When the store finally opened I was saddened to discover they don't carry Beet Juice.
Next up, I have to get to Durgin Park to meet up with bhearn, a runner from my imaginary running club, the Swamp (www.runningahead.com). After lunch I continued my pursuit of Beet Juice and there was a Vitamin Shoppe right near there. Vitamin Shoppe carries Beet Juice near my house so this should be good. The good man at the store says no sale, but the store in Harvard Square might have it.

Finally, Some Beet Juice

I hop on the red line to Harvard Square and find the store. Viola, they have one bottle of Beet Juice left. I snatch it up and start back for the hotel. Hmm, this is another mile and a half walk, the mileage on my feet is adding up much more than it should be. One the route back I stopped at a convenience store and got some oatmeal, my marathon breakfast, and a couple bottles of water for the mornings bus rides. Something is not right, my stomach is not happy and let's just say I had that not so fresh feeling. Hmmmm. That night I stayed at the hotel for a pasta buffet then head upstairs to bed. I did not sleep well this night.

Marathon Monday

I woke before the alarm again and I can tell something is not right, but I have not quite pinpointed the issue. I open the beet juice to get my marathon day boost. It's brown!!! Fek, broken seal; all that walking and for naught. Ok, let's do oatmeal. Uh oh. One bite in and I can tell this isn't staying down. No biggie, all I have to do is race 26.2 miles on no calaries, what could possibly go wrong? The hotel has a courtesy bus to Tremont street where the buses load for Hopkinton. Some of you not in the know, may be unaware that the Boston Marathon starts in Hopkinton and meanders through small towns on the way back to Boston where it's right on Hereford; left on Boylston. I next board a bus headed to the start line. I sat next to a young lady who I chatted with for 45 minutes and we never got one another's names. This is not strange, we're runners, names mean little, what you've run and want to run is all we really care about. Next stop Hopkinton, Athlete's Village. They put all 27,000 runners on the property of the connected high school and middle school. You sit outside with some tents, a couple hundred portapotties and 27,000 of you closest friends. My training Partner Tammy texts me her location and I meet up with here to wait out the 90 minutes to start.

New Town Remembered

The Boston organizers, this year, decided to pay tribute to the 26 lives lost in the New Town massacre. They dedicated the 26th mile mark and had a moment of silence in the village. What foreshadowing.

It's Go Time

The start line is little over a half mile from the village; Tammy and I head down. We find our chute, well my chute, she'd dropped back from chute one to run with me. Once in the chute I look for a couple more of my imaginary friends, the massholes. They run for the Greater Lowell running club. I find their spiritual leader BadDawg, and we chat a bit then I head back to find Tammy, she says, let's go start with the massholes, so we head back to BadDawg. There's more banter, the Anthem and giddy up GO!!!
The race starts and Tammy and I set off, this is going to be the shortest race report ever. We hit our time for the first mile, we're within 3 seconds at mile 2. Couple more quick miles and woohoo, we're gonna own this thing. Then comes mile 5. I concluded this mile by depositing my dinner and the bite of breakfast on the side of the road. This can't be good. By mile 6 or 7 I am in walk/run mode. This is going to be a long day. By mile 10 I feel like I am in the way of other runners and that continuing is just going to do harm. This marathon is over for me.

I'm OK

Most people would imagine this to be a tragic event. I too am not proud to DNF, but I really knew that only bad things could happen from here on in. My big concern now, is those monitoring my progress. The marathon keeps tabs on you and reports progress to those who may be tracking you. It took me 2 hours to get back to the start line after dropping out and my phone had already blown up with people wondering where I was. I quickly posted to Facebook, to let everyone know I was OK. I DNF'd and it was probably a good thing.

Post Race Party

My imaginary running club decided we'd meet at Jose McIntyre's downtown. Since my day was over and I'd let people know my status, I headed to Jose's. En route, I kept getting perplexing texts:
"Are you OK? There were bombs at the finish."
What? did I read that right?

Now It Gets Real

Folks, the rest of this blog is my recollection of what happened on and after 2:50 pm in Boston on Monday, April 15th. The Boston Marathon is run on Patriots Day. A day commemorating the start of the revolution and in essence the birth of a nation. This is a special day in Massachusetts. They have an early start baseball game as well.
The texts were correct, at 2:50pm, two bombs had been detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The finish is a highly accessible area where friends and fans wait for those they care about to finish the marathon and snap that memorable photo. I was stuck walking the sidewalks of the city trying to figure out what happened, craving more information. When I got to the bar, bhearn and Nemo ME were already there and they flagged me down. The mood in the bar was surreal. The bar area was more blue collar than white and I didn't detect that they fully realized or had the same concern for what had just taken place. I am merely conveying my opinion, and as a member of the running community, I may have been more sensitive to the situation, but I fully feel this was a world event not a running event. The three of us there were trying to make sense of this. These two guys just ran races that were better than expected, and yet there was no joy. The sense of accomplishment was stolen and I assume that was a common feeling at the end of the day for most runners.
We were about 1.5 miles from the finish, but a world removed. While we were at the bar, we kept hearing troubling news. Much of the news turned out to be false, but it was tragic. This was a very fluid story in the first few hours. Additional bombs found, the JFK library set afire as an additional attack, hotels on lock down, bombs being intentionally detonated. We all had friends in that area, staying at those hotels. We were scrambling to communicate by whatever means necessary to make sure our friends and family were OK, and that our friends and family knew we were OK. Who do we know that's a 4 hour marathoner? Have they reported in yet? And all the while still trying to really understand or comprehend what is happening? After about an hour we felt that we had accounted for everyone in our running clubs both imaginary and real and their families and that everyone knew we were OK. This was supposed to be such a great marathon, the weather was near optimal; the stories at the end of this day should have been epic. Did you hear how fast so-n-so went? so-n-so set a PR. Not the horror than unfolded. My stomach was still upset from what caused me to withdraw earlier that day. Regardless I, nor anyone at the bar was really in a mood to celebrate.
xhistopher, bhearn, wannaberunner, Nemo ME and me
I can tell you, this is the most labored set of smiles I can think of. Brave faces from brave people, runners! I left and headed back to the hotel. On the train back to my hotel I saw a woman in her Boston 2013 shirt, I offered my congratulations, because that's what runners do. She returned the sentiment. we were both eyeing the ground, because the world just wasn't right. I asked her how she did and if she'd avoided the mayhem. It turns out she was one of the last finishers. She finished between the two blasts. This is really starting to get REAL to me, now I know people directly involved. I posted this on FB:
Just road the train with woman who finished between the two explosions she was almost catatonic. She was on the train with her young son and husband. You new they understood how grateful they should be that they are together at this point.
When I got back to the hotel, I just turned on the TV and consumed the stream of information. It was a bad idea, but it's something I do to cope, I want to know more. I know some of it will be conjecture, wrong, unintentionally misdirecting, but I want to hear it all. I probably drifted off to bed by midnight.

What Did I Notice From The Coverage

Runners Rock!!!
Bostonians Rock!!!
People Rock!!!
The response was quick decisive and effective. Police, volunteers, first responders, runners and spectators all rushed in to give aide. I heard an interview coming home from the airport tonight. It was a doctor who was 25 yds from the finish when the blasts occurred and he thought, I'm going to be first on scene. By the time he'd covered the 25 yds, there was a crowd of other Samaritans already there. I firmly believe that the immediacy of the response saved lives and limbs. The reality is that lives and limbs were lost, but some were saved. It made me proud to be a runner, a weekend Bostonian and a human.

Then Came the Sunrise

This morning when I awoke, as my imaginary friend mikeymike said, I did what runners do, I ran. I again took to the Charles. This was a far different experience than Sunday morning. I heard birds. There were rowers rowing on the Charles, there were runners running and cyclists cycling. There were students with backpacks heading to coffee houses. I saw a group of out of town officers congregated in a parking lot where the lechmere line crosses the Charles, there were guardsmen and officers from several jurisdictions there. I'd brought a $20 bill with me today, because I was gonna get a cup of coffee when I was done running. Seeing these people who came to stand guard I chose to by all the coffee $20 could by and bring them back for the forces. All I could think to say to them was good job and catch them. The streets were packed with vehicles; they were the people who work in the city and they showed up to work. I admired the ethic. They chose not to let this senseless act stop them from doing what they do. I don't think they were ignorant of the fact; I really think it was just a city saying, "we will move forward." It was a cheerful morning to me. The terror did not take root. The most eloquent words I heard to this effect so far are from my non-imaginary friend Brian:

The faith, hope and joy of that finish line in Boston and every other place we celebrate will never be taken by those cowardly pawns who mistakenly believe that their hate exceeds our love.


I walked along Newbury Street today, it parallels Boylston. There was a pronounced police presence; not intrusive, just a presence that said you're safe now.
I'm sure that this will take more time to be fully absorbed and processed, but those are the events as I recall them.
While I don't have a qualifying time for Boston, having DNF'd I may take a charity bib next year or just run the Sunday 5K, but I will be in Boston in 2014. You, whomever you are did not strike fear in me. You, whomever you are lit a fire under most of my friend to make sure they too are in Boston in 2014.
For another more eloquent account of the activities, here's my hillbilly philosopher's blog: The Logic of Long Distance

Monday, November 19, 2012

The carnival that is Monkey

Here I sit with my crotch(et) monkey, a Chaser Pale from Blackstone Brewing Company and watching the Bears in the background. I just spent the last 8 hours driving back from a great weekend and I wanted to share it. Since it is my story, I can and will embellish (lie). Many of the cast of characters will be members of an online community and I'll be using their screen names, but we all know who we are.

What is Monkey?

Let's start with what the weekend revolved around. Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey marathon is a mythical if not legendary exercise of pain and abuse on runners. While it's open to any runner, there is a group of virtual friends who reside in the swamp at www.runningahead.com The denizens of the swamp make it their joy in life to sometimes support others in the group, but more often shame them into self-loathing. Starting in August the entry opens up and about 15 minutes later the field is set. This is a very small marathon with ~300-350 runners. It is run in a very beautiful park in Nashville, TN; more on that later.
This marathon is a bit tilty, and Tammy Faye Bakker used to wear a bit of eyeshadow. I looked at the attached map and felt, meh. It doesn't look much worse than the Morton Arboretum where my running club, Glen Ellyn Runners, often do their Saturday run. I was very wrong about this. This course has literally no flat spots; it goes both up and down and it's overly winding. We'll talk more on that soon.
I made it into the race, and the first announcement of the event was how we'd lost the lottery by gaining entry. Trent Rosenbloom is the Race Director and he has a sense of humor that he's in love with and a demented desire to fully break the will of every entry in the race. We grew to know how unfortunate we were to gain entry into this exercise in futility.

The beginning of the end

I drove down on Friday, and shortly after getting in the car, I received a text from WrigleyGirl asking when I'd arrive. I said 5:00p and she said get there by 4:30, because Trent is taking us out for drinks. This was the first of many demands from this duo. The ride down was uneventful and I arrived in Nashville at about 4:45 and made my way to Yazoo brewery, try their Dos Perros. Their I was met by Jessica, Sr. Lopez, WrigleyGirl, Trent and Dallas. Dallas was a local and the rest of us were visiting competitors. Next to show up were DrewEOB and his wife. We stayed here for a couple rounds and then Trent had to tend so some RD duties and Dallas was gonna take us on a tour of Broadway, Nashville's nightlife strip. Part of the tradition of Monkey is to bring Trent his tribute, that tribute is in the form of beers that he has not had or has difficulty obtaining. My tribute was two growlers from Two Brothers brewery. Having handed of the quarry, I headed downtown. Dallas first took us to "The Stage". The band here was more interested in picking up chicks than entertaining so we then moved onto Honkey Tonk Central. This is a three story bar with bands on each floor an balconies with great views of the strip. We had a drink here and moved on. Next stop, so terrible dive with a diner where I tried Jackelope's brown something-or-crap. I was not impressed. So we moved on. The final stop was a neat lil bar just past Honkey Tonk Central where we had the last couple rounds. Dallas lived at the end of Nashville's light rail system and it was getting near the last departure of the night so we sent Dallas home and headed to the hotel.

Saturday morning, Sr. Lopez, WrigleyGirl, Jessica set off to meet a group at the park were the marathon would take place and met up with about 20 runners for a little pre-race shake-out run. This was our first exposure to the course and for many of us, one another. I met Extra Cat, Tea Olive, and a few others. The course is rather steep and very tilty. We ran about 4.5 miles. I knew that tomorrows marathon was going to be a test. This park is beautiful. On the back side of the park is a horse Steeplechase course with looks majestic. After the warm-up we went to Waffle House for breakfast, took a ride over to Opryland for lunch and then were off to packet-pickup. This was a fun experience, because my number was -i; it was supposed to be the root of -1 which is an irrational number and this was an irrational race. Trent hands out swap up the whazoo. We got a magnet two shirts, one super personalized with our name and the number of times we'd run the event. The women had an additional surprise:


After picking up the packets, we got some beer and headed back to the hotel. About this time the MassHoles had shown up. The MassHoles hail from the Bay area and there leader seems to be BadDawg. Their ranks include MikeyMike, EricM, Doug, Bash, and Sully. BadDawg is even older than I, but far less infirmed. We spent the next couple hours corrupting the MassHoles with beer. I think the only thing that exceeded the number of miles run this weekend was the number of liquid carbs that were consumed.

In comes the Big Horse

About this time DoppleBock and his wife, Mrs. DoppleBock show up. DobbleBock runs a billion miles a year, and he's worn the USA uniform and scored for them at world's in ultra running events. He's kinda a big deal. BadDawg was smitten enough that he was compelled to give DB a warm embrace. DB was a tad surprised. So we continue drinking and then we head for the pasta party. When we get to the pasta party we are joined by schneidr and wife. schneidr was won this race 5 years in a row, more on that later. And his wife Candy S. has a victory under her belt as well. Dinner was rather uneventful, except that I won a raffle prize: a banana slicer. Like I'd slice bananas ever. Anyhow we finish dinner and head back. On the way back we need to stop at Target, because someone *ahem* WG & SRL have a secret project they are working on and have to get more supplies.

The secret project was creating a set of signs with plenty of inside jokes and to then head out to the course overnight and post them. Some of the signs:
  • Trent Sucks x3-4 (duh!)
  • Last Hill x3-4 and placed well too soon
  • Almost There

All that's left is the running

On race day, we get up and head off to the park. It's gonna be a great day for racing. it's mid-30s at 7:30a and sunny. As race time approaches, we take a number of group pictures for the larger clubs represented and the streakers (those who have run and finished all prior monkeys). And 5 minutes late we take off.
I'm in yellow rabbit tee. Can you see the fear in Ben's (blue) eyes

We're off and we start the first 1/4 mile on the course that hosted the SEC regionals just weeks earlier. We then leave the grass and start only the paved road.

It's gonna be all about me for a bit, because I only recall my personal hell. This course reminds me of the anecdotal stories about the Tour de France organizer added the high mountains, "murderers". The course starts up what would become a mild hill. At the time, I was breathing a tad heavy. I started onto the trails in 4th place. I was pretty sure there would be a pack to run with as a number of guys hinted that they were targeting a 3 hour marathon as was I. I'm hoping my watch is wrong, because it's claiming a 7:30 mile and I feel that I am at 6:40 effort. This is not good. After about 5 miles we finally hit a switch back and I get to see who is chasing me. There's nobody. Oh, crap!!! All that is going through my mind is that the other knew how tough this course was and that I was gonna fall back quickly. I did not feel stressed yet so I kept on running be feel. I would try to conserve up hill an let the legs out on the downhills. When I say downhill, it's so steep you can't help but try and stop yourself, because gravity will pull you too fast. It is always fun to happen upon one of the signs right about now, stating "Last Hill". Every time I saw one I giggled and said, "still funny". The balancing act is that braking is really tough on the quads. You're damned if you do and all. My only real advice before the race was. Try to start getting on a roll between 14 and 18. then there's a 2 mile hill from 18-20, go conservatively up and it's a net downhill to the finish. Yes, I said 2 mile hill. So at this point I start a mild panic because I am running fairly easy, but the times seem way too fast. There were a couple 6 flat miles and that is too fast. This course only has two terrains: uphill and downhill, so you just can find a place to relax with a flat stride. Those terrains are subdivided into two classes: steep, and so fucking steep you wanna cry. Well I keep rolling on and still no sign of anyone coming back on me. As I go through the half my watch is off by over a half mile and Trent warned us that the marking were approximate, so I was now worried that I had more to go that the course was telling me. Some of the hills had me very worried and I knew I had to slow down, but slowing down brought back the fear that those behind me would gain on me. I just kept telling myself that everyone behind me still has to go up this too, so just keep going.

I finally get to the 18 mile mark and settle in for the 2 mile slog. I kept trying to slow down and relax so that I can top the hill and race to the finish, but I also fear slowing to much. Near the top of the ascent we do a little lollipop route and on my way back from this, I see my first competitors that are still behind me. It's A1 and Leah, the first female. I was warned before the race that I was gonna get chicked, because Leah is an olympic trials qualifier. At this point I don't know the guy is A1, but I do know he looks very unphased.

Ok, we only have 6 miles to go, so all I need to do is to get back into my 6:30-6:40 pace and hold off the others through the finish. There is only one problem, I'm Done! I did not preserve my quads as I thought I had and every step down hill had a bit of a sting. At this point I had thought a 2:55 was possible and that would have been a killer result to me. However, I am just bleeding time with 7:00-7:40s. As we approach the Steeplechase I realize that one of the runners from the lollipop is gaining on me. I have already summited the last real hill and he still has it ahead of him, so I try to surge a bit. I failed. within 400 meters A1 passes. I try to grab his shoulder and 3 steps later realize, that's is not happening. A1 would put another 90 seconds into me in the remaining 2 miles. Now I am worried about 2 things, can I still stay sub-3 and how do I stem getting chicked. I keep fading in and out of surge and submit to suffering then surge then suffer. I have no real idea what is left and that's killing me too, since my watch seem very out of sync with the course markings. I finally see cars and think we're done. Trent SUCKS!!! the trail is gonna run past and switch back again, but I am finally directed into the grassy start/finish area and start to feel like I can make it. I run up the gentle grass slope cursing the gentle grass slope and make the corner for home. This is a gentle downhill and I can see the finish shoot and a clock that says 4:30 something, and I'm like WTF!!! It turns out there were some early starters, they start early to make sure that can finish while the rest of us are still sober and have not yet drank all the beer. I now see there is a second clock and the time is 2:58 something. I now know the sub-3 is safe and cruise through the shoot. I know collect my wooden medal and a silicup. and try not to pass out. I am fully cooked. This was a miserably tough run. I was simultaneously relieved that I did break three on this tough course and I was not fully dead.




And my bounty:

Wooden Medal
Crotch(et) Monkey
Silicup

Recap:
2:59:01 - 5th overall - Top Master - NOT chicked
My story so I get to brag:
Only the second master to break three
Oldest person to break three

You must run this once in your life, the race will suck, but the experience is awesome




Monday, July 16, 2012

I am an Ironman (at least a Tin man)

Some Background

Some of you may know me, and I apologize for that. I am traditionally a runner. I enjoy track more than cross country and road racing, but I have succumbed to the growing fad of longer road racing. This past weekend I ran my first real triathlon. I say real because this past winter I did two indoor triathlons, but those involved pool swims and stationary bikes. This was an Ironman 70.3 (half-Ironman).

Last year at our running club's end of year banquet, we were all asked to set goals for 2012. Mine were to log another 2000 miles injury free and to complete a 1/2 Ironman. I am well on my way to the to the 2000 mile mark:

Running Log powered by RunningAHEAD

...and this past weekend, July 15, 2012, I completed the Racine 70.3.

When I first made the goal, I was going to do everything right, I was going to train my biking and swimming and even hit the weight room. The one caveat was that I was not going to relax my running training; so all tri training must be in addition to running training. It was an awesome plan and it was held fast to for almost a week.  "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley." (The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry.)

My training schedule leading up to Racine was: on June 24th I went swimming at my dad's lake. Beautiful Lake Wauhob in Indiana. I swam like 40000 centimeters which was basically the distance from his dock to the neighbors and all the was back. On July 4th, I did a social bike ride of a metric century (62.7 mi/100 km). I started the ride with a duathlete, a young buck from the running club and a third rider who was about my age. The duathlete and young buck schooled me, but in my defense I only wanted to ride 20-21 mph and they kept going 24-26 mph. I was not that fast. This ride also had three rest areas, where you got off the bike lined up to refill fluids, sample fruit and local baked goods and the rejoined the route at your leisure. Triathlons have no rest areas. Additionally, I got to take turns riding in a pack here, but for a triathlon, they're tyrants about not allowing drafting. An Ironman is just a straight up test of how much stress can you handle alone. I then had another solo ride of 40 miles on July 8th. I think that sufficiently trained one for the needs of a 70.3 triathlon.

Race Weekend:

On Saturday, I headed up to Racine from the suburbs of Chicago, it was a pleasant day and the projected weather for Sunday was possible rain, but hot. I was kinda feeling OK about this. I had already decided I was not going to compete this, I just needed to complete this. Triathlon check ins are similar to marathon expos, but there are a couple additions. In the triathlon, you sign a waiver about there being lots of ways to get injured or die, but it's on you. Secondly they tag you at the check-in with a band that has your number on it so that only you can enter the transition area and lay claim to you bike afterwards. They also have a race prep meeting, that is not mandatory, but goes over all the rules in the 23 page Athlete's Guide. I read the guide and there are really only two important rules, don't draft and don't litter. There is also the implied try not to die. Having read the entire guide I skipped this, but in retrospect I bet it would have helped to attend to get a feel for what transitions are like. Another element unique to triathlon is that you basically have to impound your bike the day before the race as well. This was strange to me, because my bike is my single biggest expense piece of athletic gear.

While dropping off the bike, I took note of where the different legs of the event enter and exit transition. Simple logistics dictates that there is some rhyme and reason to how swimmers come in, bike leave and re-enter and runner exit so that there aren't huge bottle necks. At this point it should be noted that I was very impressed by how well organized the volunteers and processes in general were. More on that later. I also took the time to walk down to the water and check out the water temperature. C-O-L-D!!! I'd read that the water temps were unseasonably warm, but having forgotten that Lake Michigan is a very cold like, warm is relative. At this point, it should be noted that I did not plan on wearing a wetsuit. I don't own one and have never practiced in one. Besides this a sport of bravado; surely only the weaker athletes need wetsuits. Even though the water was cold I figured my efforts would raise my body temp enough to muscle through.

All that's left is to get some dinner and sleep. This triathlon has a swim that is basically a mile long and parallels the beach, you walk about a mile north in the morning and swim south to the transition area. Also the transition area is open from 5:00a to 6:30a. Roughly converted, that's early. While the bike went to transition the day before, you have to bring the day-of gear on the morning of the event. The day-of gear is cycling shoes, helmet, gloves and socks for the bike running shoes and socks for the run, sunglasses and nutrition for both and a towel to sit on and dry off with during transitions. Space is tight so you have to decide how you want to lay this all out and I think I did OK. I also left gum and suntan lotion on the towel to use before the last two legs. Basically this is not the type of event where you rub the sleep from your eyes, don some shorts and running shoes and you're set for the day.

What about the Race?

Ok, so race morning, I wake up and drive into town to prepare my transition area. We get to the transition area at about 5:30. My race support for the day is a club runner and she has a 1 hour run that she has to do for the day. She also wanted to get the run in before the race so she could cheer me and several other club runners on. One I set everything out, and I was fortunate my allocated space was on the edge of the transition area, I asked her to give me a heads-up on whether it was a good layout. I pumped up the tires and we walked the pump back to the car. She then got ready to run and I decided I would walk towards the start area, but I did not want to sit in the sun an extra 90 minutes so I walked to the zoo that borders the beach and has a walking path that is shaded and just layed down for about 45-50 minutes. I was close enough to the start to hear the starter. Triathons are started in waves to spread out the density of athletes over time. Basically, a new group starts every 5 minutes. The pros were first at 7:00a and I was slated for 7:50. I did get up to watch the pros start, but then returned to my shaded restful state. About 15 minutes before my start time I headed to the beach. I wanted to acclimate myself to the water. The water was cold for the first few seconds but after dunking myself all was well. Looking around I have just noticed that everyone has a wetsuit, not a lot, literally everyone. I'm starting to get nervous about my choices now, but it's a lil' to late.

I head to the corral for my start wave and walk through the arches. This preps you chip to get a race time. We then all wade into the water a bit and wait for the starter to send us off. At the gun, I had the best high knee run to get into swimming mode. I think this is as useful as sprinting at the marathon start and waving your arms screaming, "I'm winning!" I start into the swim and feel there is still a lot of adrenaline. I am probably in the front third of my wave at the first turn buoy. The swim course is setup that you swim out 200 yds turn parallel to the beach for approximately a mile and swim in the 200 yds. the turn buoys are Red. Then along the long leg they start yellow and turn to orange at the halfway point. After passing two yellow buoys, I start to realize, I can't swim a whole mile like this. I also start to realize the buoyancy of a wetsuit would be very welcome right now. I'm the only topless athlete in the water and I'm pretending to think that's why every lifeguard and paddle boardist asked if I was OK. It was either that or the fact that I was drinking the lake one mouthful at a time and thrashing about like a seal looking to be a meal. The yellow buoys just kept coming so I kept thinking, you're not even half-way done you idiot. The swim continued this way until I came to the orange buoys, then the game changed to, "where is the red turn buoy?" Finally, the next buoy turns red and I feel as though I may escape the swim leg. On the leg back to the beach the sunlight reflecting through the water played tricks on me. I felt as though I could see the bottom so I kept testing to see if I could stand yet. Each test had the same result; you're over your head and this how to start the drowning process; there is not bottom. I eventually make it to the beach and fully expect that I was in the water for an hour. It turns out I was done in 46 minutes; my goal was 40, so not terrible.

Time to Bike

Once out of the water, you have to traverse the deep dry beach to get to the boardwalk of 1/4 mile to enter the transition zone (7 mins). This was my fastest run segment of the day. I now have to clear my thoughts and prepare for the bike. I rinse my feet of sand and put some socks on. I apply some sunscreen, put on my race shirt (harder than anticipated due to exhaustion) and my helmet and shoes and grab the bike. I push it to the transition exit and there is a bit of a bottleneck. Everyone knew to get the bike to here, but some forgot that they must now mount the bike and ride it. The start of the bike is straight up hill, but I was in a good gear and got up to the first turn where I started to sit back and take inventory of the situation. I feel pretty good, I have my breath back from swimming, feel confident that I did not lose too much time on that leg and had an OK transition. Now I start setting my tempo, I decided for 20mph but only if it was easy, I did not want to red zone. I am really passing a lot of people and finally see a guy doing about my pace so I sit in 4 length back and we start rolling. We were rolling all the way until about 4 miles in...

The Nightmare

At 4 miles we have a right hand turn, while the course is open to traffic, at the intersections they are controlling traffic through. This one had a cop and two volunteers and I feel they were admiring the flowers growing in the ditch because they allowed an SUV to come through the intersection at the same time that the rider ahead of me was there. Since physics dictates that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time; we were about to see if we could create a Higgs Boson. The rider ahead of me tried to stop using the brakes, but the merging truck did not give way and he hit the ground and slid into the truck. Btw, I am riding 20 mph and only 20 feet back so I have to figure out how to avoid the same outcome. I grabbed too much rear brake, and did a bit of fish-tail. I ended up unclipping as the slide started, but the steel clip on my shoe was a skate on the pavement, so I ended up with the clipped foot under the SUV and my unclipped foot spread eagle into the splits, which I cannot do naturally. Half-way through the skid I heard a pop; that was my rear tire. Things happened fast here, so I have to try hard to remember the events. Step one, get out from under truck, step two, accidentally, kick truck with as much force from a steel bottom shoe. Step three, assess me for brokenness (no issues, thankfully) step four check on downed rider. He thinks he is OK, but he got a lot of rash. I am very confident that through this process I bitched out the driver and kinda let the cop and two volunteers know that I was not particularly happy with their work product for the day. While it is poor taste to rant at a volunteer, I feel he put lives at risk and didn't do what he volunteered to due and the cop just straight up flubbed the task at hand. At this point I am shaking and upset and realizing that something really bad was narrowly avoided just now. Since the other rider claimed to be OK, I started determining my next steps. Given all that had just occurred I was not thinking straight, so my first gut response was great there's $$$$ down the drain and I took of my shoes and started walking back to the transition/starting area. Very quickly a race official in a pickup came by and asked if I was OK and needed help and I was dejected so I just said I was disappointed with the traffic control and though I had to bag the day. He asked if I wanted to fix the flat and I then started to realize, wait, maybe I can salvage the day. He then asked what happened and I explained and pointed him to the downed rider. Until this point he thought I was the downed rider; and he was here to investigate the accident announced on race radio. So he was done with me, but he did plant the seed. I quickly got the tube and CO2 cartridge out of my saddle bag and proceeded to change my tire. At this point I am down about 10 minutes between sulking, ranting and walking, but I changed the tire in 2-3 minutes and was putting air back in when I heard a rather loud POP! FEKKITY FEK FEK! While I had changed tires before it's a rarity for me and after getting the tube partially inflated I did not check to insure the tire was properly seated before fully inflating. That one's on me, but could have been avoided had the idiot in the truck paid attention. OK, so I am shifting blame a bit on the second tire pop. Well now here I sit with a flat and no tube and an empty CO2 cartridge; now my day if definitely over. I continue the walk of shame back to the start line. After about 10-15 minutes, a Trek Shop support team asks if I need help and I am very dejected and not polite or friendly, but I finally break down and ask if they can get me back on the road. Hearing this they jump into action. This time they took the back tire off and completed the tire/tube change and said good luck. Based upon this alone, everyone, go check out the Trek Stores of Madison; they were my hero for the day.

Bike ON! OK, I walked back about a mile of the course and my attitude stinks and I have expended a lot of useless energy, but I am peddling again. Because of how long I was down, I did nothing but pass people for the next 52 miles. I think I was only passed by a handful of riders who could make the pass stick. Again, this is not due to my cycling prowess, rather it's because I sunk back far enough that all the proficient cyclists where already ahead of me. the course was moderately rolling, no sharp hills and I was planning on carrying an 18 mph and ended up with about 18.5 moving average.

As the bike ride was coming to an end, I tried to loosen up my back which had been hunched over all day. I was also nursing my quads which were acting up. I was pretty good taking in nutrients and salts on the ride, but not good enough to avoid slight cramps. The bike ride ends with the same downhill that I rode up to start, so I'm gonna try something new on race day. What could possibly go wrong? I loosened my shoes so that I could pull my feet out and leave the shoes clipped. I see triathletes do that all the time. It turns out I could do this, but as I tried to pull my feet out, it fired calf muscles like standing on the ball of your foot, because I was standing on the ball of my foot. I got to the transition, dismounted and quickly pushed my bike to it's rack. I then changed shoes, not socks as I had planned, discarded garbage and took on nutrients. My support team handed me a half-melted bottle of water and I was on my way (5 mins).

Time to Run

My plan for the day was to swim and bike conservatively enough to try and carry 7 minute pace for the half marathon. I felt like I was in OK shape and this course was mostly flat. There are a couple hills near the transition, but otherwise it's flat. It's two out and back loops to a light house that you can see from the start. The T2 inventory told me my legs were in pretty good shape and I had not yet redlined for the day, so I'm gonna crush this run. As I launch out of transition, I tried to be slow. Bzaganjo at Running Ahead warned me to run the first mile or two 30 seconds over projected pace. That was my intention; I failed. I also did not experience the "my legs don't want to run because I just cycled" phenomena. My first mile was 6:54; I was passing people by leaps and bounds, these people are all death marching. What a bunch of maroons. Somewhere between 1.5 and 2 miles I realized, it's hotter than the face of the sun out here, I'm tired and my energy stored are depleted. Oh, Lord, this is gonna be a long run. I very quickly started a run walk regime, I don't think I ran another full mile on the first 6+ mile loop. As I passed through the T-zone my support crew said I was 1:08, btw I have a watch I knew that ;( I did respond back to not expect the second to be any better. The quads that were signalling on the bike were in full on cramp mode and they didn't show signs of letting up. I was taking on too much liquid and food as a crutch and really giving myself no chance to get into a running rythm. During the second lap I kept trying to mount a resurgance, but could only get a mile of running in at a time. At about 11 miles I decided I was gonna run this thing home. Run mind you not this hobby-jogging death march. Raising the pace did feel better, but I could tell it was consuming more energy than I seemed to have. The last two miles were at 7:30s so I have that and a medal to show for the day. The run segment was a glorious 2:14 for a half marathon, uuugh!

Lessons

For starters, I cannot run a triathlon on fitness alone, I need more bike and swim time. 24 hours ago, right after the race I swore off triathlons. I have softened my stance since then, but I am still more out than in. I will get a wet suit next time.

MTA: As the sub-title suggests, I am only a Tin Man now, need to do the full to move up to the Ironman.

That's my story...

Monday, June 4, 2012

KM100 and FANS24

This weekend was really cool. I got up stupidly early on Saturday morning after
being out til midnight the night before with my new 3 week old girlfriend. F-U
to everyone who just said "Awww". Double F-U to everyone who just
journied to creepy land.

Kettle Moraine 100

I was kinda debating what I was gonna do. We had a club mate running the KM100
miles race and he wanted a pacer for 38 miles. Ok, no way I am running 38
miles and no way I would run 38 miles and it not be a race for me. Anyhow, I
ride up to Kettle Moraine. As per usual with the mcy, I took a circuitous
route. I got to the Nordic Area and it was filled with cars, but a ghost town.
Unlike FANS24 the KM100 don’t run in tiny girlie man loops, such that a man
with binoculars could watch the entire race from anywhere on the lake. I
decided to take the MCY out to the Bluff road aid station. By this time it
might be 1:00p and I run in to confusion corner, maybe a mile.

KM100 Map

The little Y-intersection is confusion corner, and in addition to the orange trails there is a horse trail that passes through this intersection as well.



I was going to alert my club mate that I’d wait here until he went into the start of the second lap and came out, then pace him out to Rice lake and back (miles ~70-92). As I waited, a runner coming down the trail asks if I have water. I was wearing bright yellow running shorts and a bright yellow singlet. So I said to myself, “WTF, would I be carrying water you maroon?” He looks uncomfortable, so I run him into the aide station to make sure he gets to water ok. Then I ran back out to
confusion corner and continued my wait. About 30 minutes later two other guys come through. One is very concerned about the other and wants to know if I have water. About this time I remember, these idiots just ran 50 miles, they may be tired and not in their right mind. We all know there’s no maybe about it. The second runner is a relay guy, so I let him know I’ll take responsibility for
the suffering guy and excuse him to continue his race. I walked new guy into the aide station and made sure the official heard the first runners concerns. I’m pretty sure the ailing runners name was Eric, but since none of you were there, it’s what we’re gonna call him. Eric was fine, very mild dehydration and a banged up ankle. Running not only ruins your knees, but ankles are suspect too.  Crap, now I need another mile to get out to confusion corner again. On this pass, I see Christine Crawford. I kinda think that chick is a stud. I met her on a bike ride last year and she crushed me on the bike while telling me what a stud ultra-runner she was. Christine had a tough week, not unlike DB, with colds or viruses or whatever and was taking antibiotics from a pez dispenser most of the week. She looked rather good though and she’s just like that on race day. Task to be done and
she’s gonna do it. I wave and get back to confusion corner.

A while later, btw, I am concerned that I sat in the woods so long by myself that day, but that’s
another story. Anyhow, later comes down the hill another club mate who I did
not even know was entered, so I run him to the aide station to catch up and see
how he’s doing. He screwed up putting his drop bag in the wrong pile so he
couldn’t get his hydration pack and was relegated to using a hand-held. He said
he could not carry the thing a foot farther, apparently running 50 miles with a
2 pound weight wears on the arms. I take his bottle since he only has another 7
miles and he feels ok, plus there is one more aid station midway to the finish.
I ran his bottle to my mcy, and hustled back to confusion corner.

I am worried because my runner has not come through yet, then I get selfish. I start doing
math and at his current rate and waiting another 15 miles to then join him for 20 miles, that would be like about well forever til I could get on the bike and head to Minnesota. So I decide I’ll run the 15 miles to the start and back of round two (7.5 both ways) and then I can get on the bike. Well finally, he gets to me and I explain my plan, to wit he responds, Oh, I’m just doing the 100K.
What!?!? Ok, fine, well I’m all dressed up to run and have no place to go, so I decide to trek out to Rice Lake on my own. Secretly, I’m kinda happy, because as a pacer, I’d have had to run 11-12 minute miles and those don’t typically go well for me.

Ok, I go back to the mcy, stow my keys and head out on the trails. I was a tad harsh with my no place to go, this Kettle Moraine area is pretty cool for running. Well I head out and having stood around for 3 hours, I was a tad tight, oh, and I’m old and recently found out, I need to warm up to run now a days. The section I head out on has only had a couple relay teams head out onto it so it’s not going to be crowded. About 3 miles in I start to do the math that I did before and figure at 10 min miles, this will take 200 minutes (that assumes it was a 20 mile route, oops) and 200 minutes is well several hours and I started at 5:40p and given that the sun sets at sunset, it might be dark before I get back. You know, I shoulda brought the headlamp; oh well. Btw, water probably would have been a good idea too, you dolt! Well I head out and I’m managing mid-8 minute miles and it feels pretty good, then a few sub-8s snuck in. I was thinking that I could go 15 or 20 and was gonna play it be feel. Well at the 7 mile mark, I have passed all the relay teams, but one. I was feeling ok, and wanted to see what the rest of the course looked like so I forged on. It really was an enjoyable course to run on. As I was running I kept thinking about how these rocks were laughing at me, because while I was now still strong and it was light out, when I started weakening and it got dark, they were gonna bite me. Runners have the strangest inner dialogues. At about 10 miles I could tell that I was feeling under hydrated and was a tad tired, but well we’re at 10 and since this is the turn around point, too late. Wait a second, there’s no turn-around point here. Maybe it’s around the corner, nope. Well it turns out It’s 10.8 miles to Rice Lake from where I started. Well I get to the turn round and everyone cheers, then I remind them that I did not run 4 minute miles for the first 80 miles and therefore was not the race leader, but I’d enjoy a glass of water. They laughed and fawned over me to get me water. I will say this is typical for ultra aid stations, they treat competitor like rock stars. I felt bad because I was not entered and did not want to take from runners behind me who deserved and paid for the hospitality. So a cup of water and I was on my way. The run back was every bit as enjoyable as the way out, and I played games trying to recall what was around the next bend. I did find
out that I would be a terrible ultra runner, I could only muster the will power to walk up 3 hills. At mile 13 I pass through an aid station that was there on the way out, but now it’s starting to attract a lot of spectators, so again I remind them that I am not race leader, but I did see Eric, ailing guy from
earlier. He opted out at the 100K, probably a good call. But he saw I was thirsty and ran and got me two glasses of water. Karma is pretty cool, sometimes. So freshly hydrated I head out for the last 7-ish miles. At about mile 19.5 the rocks finally won. I didn’t lift my foot enough, the rock grabbed
it and “Down Goes PaulyGram!” But it was a cool fall. It was on a downhill section, I tucked pretty well, rolled across one hip on a rock and then the other hip. But then something awesome happened, the momentum brought me to one knee and one foot and I just took the next stride and away we go. I was reminded last night that a video of the fall would be great. Well I finish the run, get back to my mcy and set the directions for FANS into the GPS.

Somewhere in my mind I though Minneapolis was only another 3 hours away, oops. It’s just after 9p and I am on my way. No I didn’t skip telling you about the stretching I did before leaving, I just didn’t stretch, oops. Well I do the calculations and it looks like FANS is optimistically a 3:00a arrival time, but I need food first, so closer to 4:00a. First order of business, get off these forested roads while on the mcy; big safety concern running into animals on a mcy. Once I get to the highway, I start charging west northwest. About the time, I hit the Dells I realize I need food. I stop at a Denny’s, couldn’t find a 24 hour greasy spoon and I was off my range, so Denny’s had to suffice. I looked at the phone and Wrigley left a text so I could contact her when I got close and Willie mentioned she had to change plans for our morning run, but that DB was doing well and Don was, well more on that later. It took the entire breakfast to stop shivering. Once I got back out to the bike I opted for putting on the lower fairings and chaps for the rest of the ride. It was pretty eventless; at about Tomah, where the highway splits, it seemed to drop temps. This was the last noticeable time I felt a temp change.

Beer Me!

I arrived at Lake Nokomis just after 3:30a, I try to find WG, and by proxy, Don, DB and Mrs. DB. They are living La Vita Loco. Step one: I’m offered a beer. I love swamp rules. It way very good, it was the Surley that has been on the boards recently. At this point, I have no idea what DB nor
Don looks like so WG had to point them out. It took about 6 laps before we found Don and at that time I finally realized that Don’s support tent was not the same as DBs. Runners are stupid when sleep deprived and cold. WG gets me up to speed. Apparently, she ran, and I will remember that eventually. DB had a knee go wonky and he’s really just doing loops now and Don should be dead but somehow he was resurrected and is now reeling off laps fairly well. It’s neat seeing how this event runs and I encourage you all to watch or enter it someday; great people. Well the end time is going to be 8:00a and late in the 5 o’clock hour we start to see hints of light. By about 6:30, I’m too antsy and need to get a run in. I fear I am not well, this never used to happen. So I go
get on a pair of shorts and run a couple loops. By now it’s warm enough that I can stay in shorts and a sweat top. The race is closing in on the final hour.

The way this race works is that these buffoons are running ~2.4mi loops, but you only get credit for a full loop. If you are caught out on the course with 95% complete in a loop, but the gun goes off, you revert back to the prior lap. So once you feel you can no longer do full loops in the allotted time, you run “short” loops. These are 220yds out and back from the start finish line to the 220yd mark and its right through the area where all the support tents are. This is kinda cool, because everything is really starting to come alive again. There’s a great deal of activity and it’s impossible not to be engaged. So that’s it right? NO!!! with about 5 minutes to go, those still moving really start to move. Even DB ran the last few legs. The guy who won, probably ran a close to 30 second 220yd leg for his last dash. Please don’t forget that he just ran 14X miles in the past 23 hours 59 minutes and 30 seconds and now he’s busting out a 30 second 220? Sight to behold.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Just a Parade of Monkeys

...It all started... well I've told that story before; go look it up.

The first two Monkeys

Last year I qualified to run "THE" Boston Marathon. It took two tries and they were night and day. My first attempt was the CMM in Nashville. There is a race report somewhere around here to detail the events, but the short version is FAIL. The temperatures were 85 degrees before I finished and I'll say that being my first, I didn't correctly respect the distance. Now I felt confident I trained right for it, but it turns out I wasn't prepared for it. 15 days later I signed up for a local marathon solely because the weather was just what I had trained in. The forecast was cold, overcast and rainy, and race day was 37degrees and overcast the whole way. There was a brutal wind out of the north gusting from 20-30 miles too. But I felt that I had trained in this weather and I was better than Nashville demonstrated.

It turns out, runners are just sick. They tend to be hyper critical of themselves and often times unjustifiably to those outside their skin. It was my first marathon; unless you're an elite runner, you're really not supposed to be good at these on your first try, but I like to think I am better than the average bear.

Before Nashville, I actually talked myself into thinking I could BQ. For my infirmed age that required a 3:20 and I was probably in 3:05-10 shape. So my first monkey was the BQ Monkey. The events of the day in Nashville returned me a 3:32. Additionally, I resorted to walk running before I even hit the 20 mile mark. Now all of that was not being fully prepared, even though I had fully trained. With this result, I quickly paired up my BQ Monkey with an adorable little buddy, the Run the Whole Thing Monkey. I was kinda distraught that I had resorted to walking so early and moreso that I really never mustered enough fortitude to mount a running finish. As you can see you don't always stay married to your monkey.

How to Get Rid of a Monkey


As the story opened, you saw that I did qualify for Boston and it was at this make-up marathon. The weather was in my wheelhouse and I finished the entire marathon while running. I posted a 3:05:50 which was almost 15 minutes faster than needed for Boston. Well that killed two monkeys, end of story right? Oh so wrong!!! When you attain a goal, you're super elated. The endorphines are overwhelming; you're pretty sure you can leap tall buildings. Then about 5 minutes later you start thinking. What if...
...I didn't wear that second layer
...I didn't run 10 miles yesterday
...I didn't have to do a make-up marathon and would have been tapered and rested for this one
...I didn't have to run the last two miles uphill against a 20-30 m.p.h. wind

You don't know it while you're in "what if" mode, but you're manufacturing the next monkey. In my case it was the Sub-3 Monkey. Sub 3 is a fairly significant barrier for a marathoner. It's no 4 minute mile, but it's still big. Don't get me wrong; there are other significant milestones like finishing. Finishing should be theonly goal of a first time marathoner. And some people start their journey trying to break 3:30, 4:00 or in some case longer times. Now that I'd run 3:05 and change, could I be a sub 3 marathoner? In order to do all I could to become a sub 3 guy, I asked some of the faster local marathoners I knew how they trained. It turns out there is no one plan nor philosophy, but I did grasp on to the training of one guy in particular. He was doing high mileage (90+) and slower pace (nothing faster than 8:00/mile). In the months up to his marathon it was much of this and one 5K at 5:28/mile pace. I took this information and designed a plan around it. I was going to do high mileage, but I was also going to keep a more aggressive pace on my training. I was able to maintain my weekly distance from 75-90 miles for 4 months leading up to Boston. Boston would be my next chance to go sub 3. In addition, to this mileage, I got a few members to buy into some really town track workouts:
  • 12x1 mile @ 5:40-6:00 pace
  • 4-3-2-1 miles @ 6:10-5:30
  • 5x2 miles @ 5:45-6:10
And our Thursday night runs were sometimes just as silly 6 mile temp on hillier streets with a 2 mile c/d. Some of the guys and I did a 4 mile w/u for these as well. Again they were agressive tempo runs. For each of these workouts that I created, I felt there was less than a 50/50 chance of surviving them. In the end, we always survived them. I was running 25-40 miles on the weekends. I was really going at this hard.

The Lead up to Boston

As the early spring progressed, mid-April was looming on the horizon, and I did everything possible to ensure a successful race for my first Boston. I'd run far, fast and over hills. My diet was very reasonable. I watched my sleeping habits. and 10 days out we get the first forecast. It's gonna be 60 and overcast. Now 60 is a tad hot, but well within reasonable. So now I am armed with great conditions and great training. I am starting to feel really stoked and I have announced publicily that I think 2:50 is within my realm. Privately and to a select few I even toy with 2:40. Heck the training indicated it was feasible. So a few days later I recheck the weather, maybe it will be cooler.

Uh uh! 70 degrees. Well the next 8 days just keep bringing worse news until the temps hit the mid to high 80s. Good grief! an entire training cycle down the tubes. Since this is my first Boston, I am going regardless. The expo is laced with warning about how we're doomed. The message from the BAA is strongly worded that only the fittest athletes should even attepmt to run this event. None of this bodes well for me. I typically fold in warm/hot weather. One guy in the club reminds me, "you are in the best shape of your life, the heat should affect you but fitter people should do better than the rest." This relieves me a bit and I decide to really just slow down my start and see what the race has for me. The race had nothing but doom for me. I ran the first 4 miles super easy and then felt good so I thought maybe I did train well enough to be immune to this heat. I start reeling of miles at my original target pace, then about mile 11 I realize that I am wilting. So I go to plan B: forget the 2:40-50 and just preserve a sub 3. You can do that just be holding 7:15-20 and that's a walk in the park for you. Well I got parked on, and walking became a reality. I had succumbed and being in the best condition of my life, I was blowing my sub 3 marathon. I tried to shut it down, but kept thinking this is Boston. I whimpered home with a 3:17. It was still a BQ for me, but I no longer cared about that monkey. My Sub-3 Monkey had trounced me.

I was dejected to say the least. Sure my supporters tried to placate me with it was a great time for the conditions. But I wasn't here for the conditions it was just a marathon and I wanted sub 3. What do I do now? Well last year I ran the Chicagoland Spring marathon. This time the Chicagoland Spring is too far out, what about Illinois, crap sold-out DOUBLE CRAP 40 degrees on race day. So why not find another small local marathon? That sounds great but what if the weather sucks there too? So I waited until the Wisconsin marathon was within 8 days and liked the temperatures so I pulled the trigger. My mindset here was that I was just making an investment in a great day, if the weather turned sacrafice the $80-90 whatever bucks and wait for Rockford or Chicagoland. If those don't work screw it get ready for your triathlon and the Masters Championships in August. Run a marathon next spring.

Well it turns out that Wisconsin's weather stay in great shap high of 60 with a 7:00 start and moderate chance of rain, aka. overcast. Heck I'm gonna toe the line. I went up with a younger guy in my running club who had done every bit of the crazy workouts I had and we were gonna be conservative. Everything to preserve the sub 3. We made a pact, nothing faster than 6:40 through 8 miles. My buddy is every bit the talent I am, but he's gunshy because his only marathon prior to this is last years Chicago and he blewup. I shared with him how different the weather was and the hell I put him through in training and explained these were totally different circumstances.

Ok, so we get ready and the obligatory 3-2-1 BANG! We're off. We really eased over the start line and both felt like we were jogging. I looked at my watch and there was some disbelief. I assumed the clouds must be playing with my GPS, because we were through the mile in 6:22 and not breathing. The next couple miles we deliberately backed off to 6:30s. By mile 5 I was back in the 20s and he was getting nervous, he begged off a bit and I proceeded on without him. Something good was happening this day. I went through 8 miles and we reach the northern turn around on the out and back. I'm just not breathing yet and still comfortable running low 30s. At this point a half marathoner is drafting off me and worse yet he'd clipping my heals. I grew annoyed and dropped another 10 seconds. for the next 4 miles I was sub 20s and still not breathing. I am not doing it intentionally, but I am passing a lot of fading halfers. We separate off and I find myself in no man's land. I think I am in about 8-10th place, but it's really 12th. The next person ahead of me is out of sight and I can see 3 city blocks. I think this was a help. I really just focused on looking at the corners and running to them. I'm ticking off miles in the teens and 20s. At 19.5 we hit the southern most point and we are right on lake Michigan. We travelled down about a block inland, but the whole way back was going to be right on the lake. Fek!!! a head wind. I started passing people here and moved up to 9th place. I was falling to mid 40s now, but still pulling away from those behind me so I am embolded by knowing I am strong this day; stronger than them and stronger than I thought I could be, but I am rolling towards the finish and I still may go sub 2:50. Those dreams pass by quickly as I just can't overcome this wind and drop back into the 30s. I remember crossing the finish line and being so elated. I had just defeated another monkey. I was no longer capable of running a sub 3, I had run a sub 3. It was just amazing for all three steps until I hit the lil guy passing out medals whereupon I started thinking, how could I have shaved off that last 1:25. Really? you can't just grit out an 18 minute 5K? Why couldn't you be sub 2:50? As I said earlier, runners are sick. About 4 minutes later my clubmate finishes. Seeing the joy and sense of accomplishment on his face was the greatest point of my running career. I saw him come to the realization of what he had just done and I felt I was a part of that. It took some of the sting out of the 1:25 I was in search of.

As we left the finish area to get our gear from check, I had cast aside that silly Sub-3 Monkey, sadly another weight rested upon my shoulders why not 2:50 and this new B@sturd had a buddy, if you can do 2:50 two weeks after Boston why not 2:40 on fresh legs. Later than night I looked up my age graded results and found yet another monkey, I was not yet a national caliber marathoner (80%).

So here I sit hours after accomplishing a goal I could not have conceived of 2 years ago and said never to 20+ years ago, and all I can do is carry around 3 new monkeys:
  • Sub-2:50 Monkey
  • Sub-2:50 Monkey
  • 80% Monkey
Why can't we just relish a job well done?

Ternt I want another Monkey, The Harpeth Hills one, please <-- the sole reason I wrote this blog ;)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Circular reference

Since rejoining the running community in Oct '10, I have been running trails and roads. They are fun and ever ending. Well with the winter this year I was reminded that some folk run track, and worse yet indoors. My Alma Mater hosts one of these said events.

One of my old teammates of the kinder gender who I reconnected with since running said she ran one last year. So armed with this information I decided to see what these tired old legs could do.

Step one contact the current coach to verify it was an open event. His response, "you ran here when? "Did they have a track team back then?" Ok with that kind welcome over I asked if there were masters events and the reply was, "no we'll just seed you based upon time." So now I decided to sign up, but I have to put a seed time in. Well how the Fek do I figure out what my seed time is? I could use my last indoor mile, (4:08) but that was 20 years ago. Hmm, this summer the track club did a few mile repeats and I was 5:20 on those. That probably is no good either, it was run on a crushed gravel path and they were repeats, not all out. Ok, let's try to figure this out. Ummm....4:40 it is. And for the 800M, we'll use 2:15.

Now that I'm registered, I notice there is one other entrant in my two events. His times are 4:2x and 1:58. Oh crap, Ima get lapped in this thing. During the week both events fields fill out and my seed times are in the mix. I'm in the bottom 25% but I'm also old enough to be every other competitors father. I'm pretty sure in reality I am none of their fathers for those wondering. The whole time I am planning this soiree, I was under the impression it was a Saturday event, but about 2 weeks out I realize it's a Friday night run. Hmm, go to work then scramble south to the meet and run, Harumph.

The week of the meet I decide to taper a tad.
  • Sat: 15+ miles between 7:00 and 6:33,
  • Sun: 20 miles at 7:40s
  • Mon: 3 mile morning run and 8 mile run at lunch
  • Tue: Speed work I chose to do 10 x 200 just to see if the legs had speed. They were all between 30-32 and breathing was measured. I might be ready.
  • Wed: easy 3 mile morning shake-out
  • Thu: Tough run in the snow on the trail so there was a lot of lateral running.
  • Fri: It's Race Day Fans!!!
So I show up at the old campus. Now when I left Lewis, we had a 90% ashphault outdoor track, and a handful of promises about how great they were going to build up the facilities. It turns out that only our class was lied too, because they eventually did build a very nice indoor track 4 lanes around and 6-8 on the straight away. They also have a beautiful new outdoor track that look Olympic in stature. After parking it took me a long time to walk around the building to find the entrance, but I made it. Once on the track I looked up and saw two banners that made me a tad proud. They had the National Qualifying team banners and right there at the top was 1988, Oh crap I was out of running for 2 yrs. longer than I had originally thought. But it was nice to be recognized as the first team to qualify for Nationals in cross-country. The next banner was the GLVC conference champs banner and again at the top (first team) was the 1988 team. I also found the top ten lists for the track events and my Steeplechase time from 1988 was still hanging on to 7th place.

Ok, enough of the trip down memory lane, I need to get ready. I find a spot at the end of the sprint straight-away and drop my bag. It was at the far end of teh arena, and I did get some curious stares and to paraphrase those stares, "How old is that guy?" or "Is that Moses other brother?" I settle in and get my shoes, socks and singlet laided out. There are 45 minutes to warm up before the sprints start. As I get dressed a gent walks over to introduce himself and asks, "What are you running tonight?" I respond, "The mile." It was comical how big his eyes got. He then felt obliged to ask, "How old are you?" He was again surprised by the answer. He mentioned something to the effect that usually old people can run that fast. I chuckled, but deep down hoped he was in my race. It turns out he was running the 3000, so there would be no duel this day.

He goes on his way and I get prepared to do a couple miles outside for a warm up. It was chilly that night. After the warm-up, I came back and checked in to get my hip number and lane assignment. I am really starting to feel the days of yore and the excitement of racing. Well we get called to the start line and I am in the 3rd position, there are 2 unattached runners inside me and 7 college runners. The unattached runners are only one year out of college. Turns out I am as well, since only last year I decided to go back and complete my degree. But they were only 1 year away from competing too.

The gun goes off and it's on. I have a lot of adrenaline and settle into third position. I am not able to keep on the leaders but I am only losing about 1 second per lap. I came through the 200 in 32, quarter in about 65, the half in 2:23 and then I started to soften. I was gasping for breath and was just now remembering, "You're old, you idiot!!!" Well in this quarter I finally get a challenge from one of the runners behind me. I think I slowed more than he passed but the net result is the same; he passed me. By the start of the 4th quarter he had about 20 yards on me. Well I know it's only a little suffering left so I decide to try and reel him in. While I did not catch him I did gain a tad and my last two laps were increasingly faster. I was optimistic with my seed time of 4:40, but I crossed the line in 4:58.7. At the age of 44 and a 1/2, I had just run an indoor mile in sub-5. I wanted something better, but I could be proud of this.

My college buddy Kevin, came down to watch, so I went up to chat with him. It was just about now that I realized how dry indoor try air is. I opened my mouth and formed words but no sound came out. I was so dry I couldn't get air through my passages. I mouthed, I'd be back and went to get some water. It would be about 4-5 hours before I truly recovered from the breathing. But the night is not over. I signed up for the 800M too. After the mile I did not do any of the necessary tasks. There was no cool down, no stretching I just wandered around the track. About 15 minutes before the half I decided to get a few blow-out sprints in. I was feeling something, but for now I was going to ignore it.

The start of the 800M was more daunting. Most of the guys in my heat had a much faster seed time. I lined up in the outside lanes and the gun sounded. I could feel the inside lanes making up ground on me and knew I'd have to step it up a bit to be able to fall in with them when the lanes merged. As we finished the first curve I settled into 5th place behind a solid group of guys jockeying for first. This lap was much faster than any I had run tonight, but I felt so loose. As we crossed the start/finish line the first time, I had A. run a sub-30 200 meters and B. felt that twinge that I felt during the warm-up. I decided I should pull up, and took the first opportunity not so as not to disrupt the runners behind me. The twinge was not a pull or strain, but this spring was all about Boston and I was not going to sacrifice that for a silly indoor half.

Well the racing was done for the night. I had a really good time and love that excitement that track offers. I did not do as well as anticipated, but I'll take it for a guy who's 44 and only 16 months back to running after a 20+ year break. I also know I can do better and next year they'll be a reconciliation.

For now it's back to training for the Boston Marathon. Can I go sub 3:00? Threaten a 2:51? Only the shadow knows.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Borderline too much...

OK, so Nov. 18th through Dec. 3rd got a wee bit out of hand. A couple months back I was at the Morton Arboretum which is the local hangout if you want to run hills. I was with a few runners in the club and we were plotting out our end of season events. I was talked into Hot Chocolate Chicago in early November and Tecumseh Trail Marathon in early December. This seems reasonable.

About a week later, I was goaded into running a trail race in Palatine, by a club member. He's a tad preachy about how none of the club members have the gumption to wander off of roads or the Prairie Path. I took his challenge and added an 8K trail run to the end of October, 10/29. In addition, I had not yet run a 5K since returning to running and that's the kind of race I am built for so I added the Roadrunner Challenge in early November, 11/12.

So that was three weekends in a row with races and it turns out I did OK at them. The first was the 8K trail run and I finished in 4th overall. This race is stacked with old farts, because despite being 4th overall, I was 3rd in the 40-45 age group. Old folks rock. The next weekend was the Hot Chocolate 15K and I was fine with finishing in under an hour. I was 6th in the AG and 82 out of something like 13,000 runners. That was a fair showing, but it was the first time this season that I did not bring home hardware. At my return to running last October this was not a concern, but as I kept excelling, my expectations grew too. The next weekend was a 5K and I won this overall, by more than 4 minutes, so it was basically a solo effort. I started feeling good about myself and had no real plans for Thanksgiving, so I started playing with the idea of a Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim run. Thanksgiving, because I had no plans, time that I needed away from work and a need to get away. After about 48 hours I pulled the trigger and booked hotel and airfare. Only then did I recall that I was committed to the trail marathon the following weekend. What evs, I was gonna run the canyon.

So I went down and ran the Grand Canyon, 48 miles in one day for my first ultra and it offers some hilly elevations along the way. It was the experience of a lifetime and you can read about it here and here. If you read it, you'll note that I struggled to recover quickly from the canyon; old folks were passing me in walkers. I took 4 days off running after that first ultra and then started back with modest runs on Tuesday and Wednesday the following week. On Thursday night, I was feeling better and ran with my running club, Glen Ellyn Runners. This was a great night, I set out with Todd, Tim and Jared. Todd was very curious about the R2R2R and we chatted while we ran. I was actually doing OK while talking and running low 7s. By the end of the run we were doing 6:40s and the overall was 6:55 pace. I was almost back to normal and just in time to run a freaking hilly trail marathon two days later.

So off to southern Indiana we go. The Tecumseh Trail marathon is known for being exceedingly tilty and having less than perfect traction. The night before the marathon we stayed in a club member's (Sherry) family home. Another clubmate, Francesca, made dinner. It was a boatload of pastas and full of YUM. The rest of us, Tara, Brian, John and myself, just sat back and shovelled in food while sharing great stories.

Race day started well; it was dry, no wind and mid 40s on the way to 50s. This is a point to point marathon so we had to drive to the finish to board a bus to the start. Our driver took two wrong turns, thankfully we had some veteran racers onboard. When we got to the start, I darted off to find some fresh forest real estate to unleash the mornings liquids. With that task done, I chose the warmth of the bus, rather than stand around outside.

When the race director called everyone to the start, I chose to wear compression shorts, a tech tee, a Swamp2K singlet with a lightweight outer shell. I also picked my Adios shoes over my PureConnects. They give me confidence. I had 5 Stinger honeys with me and no gloves. The start is a tad sophomoric; guy stands up, move his lips, but not loud enough to hear and then a horn goes off. It's On!

I was running this race without my Garmin. Those of you who read the R2R2R reports know why ;) I think I went out in 7:15-7:30 pace and that was a lot of adrenaline, but there were 6 guys that shot out even faster. I was told to expect about an hour slower than a road marathon, but was going to run solely on feel today. The race starts in one state park travels through it, some private land and into the other state park where it finishes. This race is highlighted by a lot of run up this hill, so that you can run down it. I doubt we have a level 100 yard segment the whole day. The net elevation is -300 feet so it's a downhill race; please note the tongue planted firmly in my cheek. I think the elevation is like 3500 feet up and 3800 feet down. After about 4 miles the adrenaline wears off and I start to assess how I feel. Surprisingly the assessment is pretty D@mn good. I am in like 15-17th place. and running comfortable to the point where I am not passing nor being passed. This is important, because most of the course is single track and you don't want to get stuck. Shortly after this I start hearing some young folk whooping it up. I'll soon learn that there are 8 kids from Wabash College running the race; 7 athletes and 1 coach. They are having a grand time and yapping up a storm. They are a TEAM; it's easy to see. They are floating up hills but my girth has me quickly catching back up on the downhills.

We keep this accordion pattern up through about mile 16. Don't ever look at mile 16 before committing to this race. It's a beast of a hill, on gravel, but this is nugget sized gravel so you can't even plant your feet levelly. The hill goes up about 600 yards at 12% grade. The it turns and goes up another 3-400 yards. I knew it was in my best interest to walk some of this hill. Blasting up it would only hurt me later in the day. The college kids got a good quarter mile on me here. Fortunately, one of them need a bio break and the rest waited for him so we hooked up again. At about mile 16 you start ascending some pretty steep stuff. So steep that they built switchbacks into the trail. Here I chose to walk one length and run two to conserve energy. This was the first time since the Wabash team that I had been passed today. But even this person walked a bit in this section. From here we're OK til about 18 where the last ugly switchback section is and I employ the same strategy. A few of the Wabash kids were falling back here and I started passing them again. I reminded them to run a few of the switchbacks just to keep the legs warm. At the top of this section it's runnable for a bit and I realize that I am really only able to keep a moderate pace so the younger guys start passing again. We stayed within about 1/4 mile through here as I would still gain downhill, but I was losing ground overall. At we passed through 20, I just decided to go low and slow to finish this day. I felt I was looking pretty good in the AG and was well ahead of what I had planned for. The last 6 miles are in The Yellowwood State Park and like the rest of the run it's quite beautiful. The race is well organized and they have a lot of aid stations towards the end of the race. I had been fine with water since the temps were low and was good about my calorie replacement so I was sore, but never felt like I was cramping. I will say, the hell I went through the week before made this run tolerable. I saw a deer in this section of the run and seeing it bound was disheartening as I felt the earth had a rubberband attached to me to prevent me getting off the ground. I catch up to the last two Wabash runners and their coach. I think he'd just twisted an ankle so he was in walk mode. I encouraged the other two to keep me company to the finish. We chatted about their season and how we were feeling and it really helped tick off a few miles. At about 1.5 miles to go the trail tilts up again; enough that I chose to walk. the guys stopped too and at the top we started back to trotting and they got all the way to run. I never really got back to run for the rest of the race. As I approached the last turn, I saw Francesca, she actually saw me, I was probably bleary eyed. Francesca had volunteered at the 9 mile aid station and was just now getting back to the finish area. It was a pleasant surprise. She cheered me on and I ran up through the chute. I forgot to look at the time, oops. About 10 feet further I was handed an award, 2nd in the 40-45 age group ;) Then some guy expected that I had the energy to lift my foot so he could take off the chip. He was wrong, there was some bending down in his future.


I was done. That was 75 miles of hilly trails in less than 10 days and I was a tad proud of the accomplishment. At the finish, there was warm soup, homemade. Also a number of sandwiches. The lady there had been up since 4 making everything. I think she said the name of her business was The Bread Lady. I was OK with soup and water at this point but the sandwich was too much bread for me at this point. Francesca found me and offered what ever she could to help me recoup. After a few minutes we walked to the car and I got some dry clothes on. I then started out of the finish area to cheer on others in the group. The next person I knew was Mike Theil. He had a heart valve surgery the year before and was deferring to this year. Yup, this guy X years my senior and one year out on heart surgery was about to finish this beast of a marathon in under 4 hours. You all should be impressed by that. As Mike passed I took a few steps to try and run him in, when I realized, "That ain't happening". I could walk, but no more than that. I then wandered back to the finish to greet mike and support him, He already had hot cocoa and a sandwich. I went and got a sandwich too. Mike was 3rd in his AG. We then stood around chatting and waiting for Brian Bottomly. He finished with a smirk and realized today was possibly harder than anticipated. I started getting a tad tight so Francesca and I decided that we'd wait for Sherry, Francesca's childhood friend and Rita, Mike's wife, then we'd take off for the house.

When we got back to the house, Francesca went out for a run and I took two beers out of the fridge. I was gonna walk one beer down the road and one beer back. It felt and tasted great. I then took a shower and got into some comfy pants. I was done for the day. We got a call that Tara had finished, but not John yet and he was past his expected time. The nature of this course causes it to be difficult for communicating up and down the course. A short while later we got the call that John was in. He's a very kind man and he'd passed a woman in her first marathon, who was only running it to honor a fallen soldier. John helped her complete that task. A+ John!!!

Overall Place: 21
Age Group Place: 2
Time: 3:37:57

Once we all got back to the house we had food and wine and merriment. I was feeling rather good for the strain that I'd put on my body over the last month or so. I turned in first as I was really tired. The following morning at about 6:00 I awoke. I couldn't sleep so I did what every person having just run a marathon would do. I ran 5 easy miles. It was still very dark there, but we were so far out in the country that I didn't fear traffic and it was very enjoyable to just plug away some 9 minute miles. The rest of that day was food, driving home and doing homework for school.

I had just closed out what I believe was a pretty good year for my return to running after the 20+ year hiatus.

I went from miserable 9:00 minute miles last October to Qualifying for New York and Boston, winning a road race overall and pulling hardware out of all but one event, and I did an Ultra. The only thing left is to get the rest of my 2000 miles in for the year.