Carnage on the Course: A Post in Three Parts – The 2013 B.A.A. Half

Part One(Where I tell you my tale of Woe):

So, Sunday’s BAA Half Marathon was a bit of a mess. Everything was normal to start. You know, get to the race, get your free stuff. Stand in an inordinately long line for the bathrooms until someone comes along and says line up in front of all of them. Cattle call to the corrals. Star Spangled Banner. Gun. Start running.

Then things got good. I felt great for the first 8.5 miles. The first mile was an unnecessarily fast 6:14 aided by the downhill course. But, after that I settled into a groove of solid mid 6:40s splits setting a new 5 mile and 10K PR in the process. Then, the wheels came off. I started feeling really out of it and I could feel my kidneys morph into throbbing baseballs. So, I did something I’ve never done in a race: I walked. And then I ran and then I walked. And then I ran 2 more miles and then I walked. At one point I even walked with less than a mile to go. If I looked at a reflection of myself during the race, I would have denied it was me. I crossed the finish line on the track and went straight to the medical tent, another first for me. I was the second person to go in, right after Gebre Gebremariam, which puts me literally in elite company. After taking my vital signs and asking me a whole bunch of questions which they later categorized my answers as ‘entertaining’, I was diagnosed with moderate dehydration. They had me stick around for a bit longer drinking lots of water before releasing me. I walked out to wait for Angela at the finish line sporting my snazzy space blanket that people kept asking where I got and I kept answering that it was what they awarded you when you were lucky enough to go to the med tent. But, Angela was not to be found. At almost the exact time that I was leaving the tent, Ang was arriving with an elevated heart rate that she was soon sent to the
hospital for. (She’s fine and back home, nothing serious).

I wound up finishing, even with all the walking with a 1:35:04. After being disappointed I’ve decided to be happy with it. Goals are great. I already nailed my 5K goals for the year along with running so many great races. Once I cross the finish line in Central Park, I’m going to take some solid time off and refocus on what I want to accomplish next year and then do it.

Super Low Quality Image of before I died

Super Low Quality Image of before I died

*Part Two (for those doing Google searches in 2014 and beyond on what the course is like)

Course: The first four miles are almost all downhill. Right before mile one you’re on the bridge on the Arbor Way which has a slight incline and lots of potholes. But, mostly its dead flat going around Jamaica Pond and then downhill to the first turnaround at mile 4.75. It is a sharp turn around. Then it’s a slight incline climb with variable flats until a little after mile 7, at which point the rolling hills roll more up than down. The paths through Franklin Park could use some serious repaving so watch your footing. At the next turn around (sharp turn again), the rolling hills really start to feel tedious. Entering the Zoo is also still at an incline, and then you take a narrow winding path to the top of a hill before you start a slight descent. With about a mile to go, you hit your last long, straight climb before coming within sight of White Stadium, the track, and the finish.

Part Three (Exciting Stuff)!
Lineage Restaurant in Brookline has inadvertantly become the place where my sister and I tell each other things. It wasn’t always this way. We used to just go for dollar oysters. 2 weeks ago I just wanted oysters, so I went there with my sister. But that was the day I decided I was running the NYC Marathon. So I dropped that bomb. This past week my sister lured me there under the guise of ‘just oysters’. I had my suspicions, but hey, dollar oysters. Then she dropped her own bigger bomb: She’s running the 2014 Boston Marathon! Yep, that’s right — my sister. Running. The Boston Marathon. Awesome, right? She’s doing it for out adopted hometown Team Brookline. I couldn’t be more happy for her. It’s going to be a good winter.

And, speaking of marathons and charity, if you’d like to help the Muscular Dystrophy Association when I run NY in, oh, 17 days, just click here!

Posted in General | 1 Comment

Because

What on Earth would possess a person to run 26.2 miles in less than a month? I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. Because.

Because is a great motivator. The word ‘be’ on its own is one of the shortest sentences in the English language. Be. It’s almost godlike in its command. And cause. A cause is something to strive for, something to believe in. Put these two together and it’s a beautiful concept.

Gregory Mallory, when asked why he would choose to climb something outrageous like Mount Everest in the 1920′s said “Because it’s there.”

But, back to why a marathon in a month.

Because I want to. Because it’s a challenge. Because, why not? Because I’m crazy. Because you think I’m crazy. Because who cares. Because a marathon is an everyman’s Everest. Because I can. Because I believe I can. Because I know I can.

On November third I’m going to be attacking the five boroughs of New York City. And I can’t wait.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Just Like Riding a Bike. But Not.

I survived the full 50 miles of the Rodman Ride for Kids. While this wasn’t a race, allegedly a very long charity ride, for me it was an endurance event that ranks up there with some of the most miserable things I’ve done.

But, with two days behind me. You know what? It could have been worse. I had a borrowed bike, a borrowed helmet, a full RaceMenu team kit that made me look like I knew what I was doing out there, I had only one training ride on my legs – so, all things considered I think I fared pretty well.

I woke up super early on Saturday and drove down to Foxborough and fortunately wound up only a few parking spots down from one of the other members of the team. I checked in, had the bike quickly tuned up and then milled around chatting until the start at 9:00. Once we got moving, I felt pretty good, and by about mile 3 was ahead of everyone on my team. The ride was great, the volunteers were awesome cheerleaders for having been up for so long. The course was mostly flat. The first 30 miles went by quickly. But at mile 31, I fell apart. I just felt zapped of energy. I ate some of my Cliff Bar, which made me feel moderately better, but still just couldn’t get my legs to turn over. Exacerbating this condition was that the bulk of those last 20 miles were on a moderate incline. These were not hills by any stretch of the imagination, but enough of a grade that my untrained legs just couldn’t hack it. Towards the end of the ride there were 4 different signs that all said 2 Miles to Go at different points, which was very confusing (I was definitely hoping somehow the course had been measured wrong). At 48 Mile, the two 60 year old men from the office I was riding with passed me. I did my best to muster the strength to keep up with them, but I just couldn’t. I wound up crossing the finish area in 3:23:12, good enough for 82nd place overall in a field of 317 active riders.

After the ride, I crashed pretty hard. I had water and Gatorade. Had a free Sam Adams and ate some food. But, I couldn’t shake a gnarly headache, my stomach got upset with whatever was fermenting down there, and I had my post exertion desire to just take an epic nap. The man who had recruited me into this death ride was definitely on a rider’s high – already trying to get me amped for next year. I politely told him that this was not a strike while the iron is hot situation. More of a wait until the iron is cold and completely forgotten about before even bringing it up. While I won’t say I’ll never do it again, I’m certainly not rushing out to buy a bike today or have any inclination to get on one for quite a while.

Here’s short list of things I’d do differently:
Drink more water – unlike running, it was hard to tell when I needed to hydrate because I didn’t have as much sweat pouring off of me as usual.
Better fueling – maybe gels. Do cyclists suck down gels the way runners do?
Train more than one day.
Not go out as fast. My body felt good, but my mind should have known better.

I managed to rally a little bit. Katie and I had my sister and Peter over for dinner at our new apartment, but it was still an early night. The next day we stole a friends dog and had a day out with him. Despite my legs feeling like they were on fire by the end of the ride, I felt surprisingly good – -a little tight, but not particularly sore.

So – the BAA Half is next. Looking forward to running with a home field advantage.

20130930-102523.jpg

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Hawk. Bannister. Kimmerer.

In the late 90’s in and around the Greater Hopatcong Middle Schools area, there were two distinct groups: The Skaters and The Jocks. These two diametrically opposed groups were very similar in concept to Greasers and Socs in The Outsiders. It’s easy to imagine a jock, so I won’t go into too much detail. They were most likely to play football or aspire to play football. Played basketball. Soccer was bizarrely popular in my town; we have about 3 soccer fields for every one resident. The Skaters, on the other hand, involved themselves in extreme sports and lived on the fringes of teen and pre-teen society. At the time they wore super baggy Jnco Jeans. Their hair was longer and had bleached tips that their mothers paid to have done. They had piercings. They skateboarded and rode BMX bikes with backpacks that had skateboards strapped to them. Inline skating really wasn’t cool anymore, but some kids had Soaps shoes that allowed you to slide down benches like you were an inline skater grinding a sick rail. They had possibly experimented with smoking. Both groups listened to punk and worshipped Blink 182.

I yearned to be a Skater. Living outside the law. Raw attitude, loud music, fast skateboards and faster women. I tried. I had a few skateboards. Bought way too baggy pants. Listened to Less Than Jake. But, that’s the thing with trying – when it came to the social strata, I wasn’t going to make the grade no matter how many Warped Tours I went to. I liked reading and learning, even though I didn’t like doing homework (but, who does?). I wasn’t going to experiment with smoking – I just wasn’t. I had a penchant for listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons while my family ate dinner. I liked to swim and golf and the idea of sailing. So, pretty much I was a nerd. In short order, by the time we reached high school in the early 2000’s, the Skaters morphed into just general scumbags in my mind, and the Jocks either remained Jocks or became a splinter cell called Preps, where my affinity for khakis and blue polo shirts was better suited.

But, back in the pivotal summer of 1999, something bitchin’ happened. Late in the afternoon of a beautiful summer’s day when I should have been outside swimming or practicing my golf swing, I was parked in front of my tv in my room watching the Summer X-Games. The sun was setting poetically over the half-pipe and Tony Hawk was pursuing his dream of spinning 900 degrees (2.5 rotations) and landing it successfully. After many failed attempts, his time officially ran out, the crowd said screw it and allowed him one more attempt. Hawk glided down one side, up the other, launched, spun, spun, and landed, his arms flailing for balance, but, he stayed on his board and skated away. In the months and years afterwards, many other people have landed the 900 on a skateboard, though it is still a very difficult trick. The same thing happened in the pursuit of the sub-4:00 mile. Once Roger Bannister got half a breath under four minutes, elite milers started doing it fairly frequently and it is now the benchmark by which serious milers are measured because of its difficulty and effort.

In both these instances it took one person to prove it could be done in order for others to believe it, too. Mental barriers are miserable things. They are the parts of our brains that tell us we can’t when we really want to. Desire, ability, mentality, the weather – all of these things and more when running conspire for success or cruelty, depending on the day.

As I had noted in a post about three weeks ago, I finally broke 20 minutes for my 5K time. Although I was excited to have done it, I was left immediately wondering what was next. Sub 19:30? Below 19? And then there are longer distances, too. What will my next Super Sunday 5 Miler look like? Can I go below 1:30 for the half marathon? And the big one, how can I Boston Qualify? It’s exciting and it makes your stomach tense and it makes you want to go out and do all these things tomorrow. Hell, today!

But, running, above all else, is a sport of distances. And they have to be measured in small increments – in meters and in miles. In shaving a few seconds off splits bit by bit. In maintaining a regular training routine. Taking breaks when you need to. Eating right. Eating wrong some days because, well, Taco Bell isn’t going to stay open on their own. But there’s a job that requires more than 40 hours per week. And I need to relax, watch a movie, enjoy a beer, spend time with friends so they don’t forget about me. Like distance, time is measured in small amounts that add up. And I only wish I had the time to go the distance. A healthy lifestyle is a tradeoff. My body is the broker on the exchange bidding down my 5K times at the expense of so many other things.

But, there is one thing I know now for certain. I am a sub 20 5K’er. I’ve done this convincingly twice. My mental barrier has been broken. When I went in to last night’s final Summer Series 5K, I knew I could and I did, in 19:46 – lowering my time by 9 seconds over all. And I also know I felt good, really good, and could have gone faster if this one guy I kept trying to pass on the narrow sidewalk had actually let me pass him instead of always speeding up and blocking my path (I did eventually pass him).

As long as I can keep a balance, strike a deal with energy and motivation, I know, in time, I can do everything I want. Because the only person telling me I can’t every now and then is me and the fact is, I know I can.

Posted in General | 1 Comment

A Few Firsts

This past weekend was a weekend of a few firsts.

Saturday marked the first time since I was 14 that I’ve been on a bicycle. As I had mentioned in an earlier post, I was talked into doing a 50 mile charity ride with some people from my work. Having no bike, I asked them to find me one. About two weeks ago, I followed a coworker to a client’s house where they let me borrow their absolutely ridiculous Trek road bike. I had been a little worried before for a number of reasons. Among them the 13 year gap in getting on a bike, having no experience riding distance on a bike, no helmet, no cycling gear, and generally no idea what I would be doing and how to do it. Once I took possession of the bike, my anxiety was exacerbated. This thing has multiple breaking systems, more gears than I have finger and toes combined, weighs about half an ounce. I’m a little bit out of my league.
However, on Saturday I went for a ride…and guess what? Wasn’t so bad. I rode 26.2 miles (had to see if I could ride a marathon). The first 15 miles were super easy. At one point going downhill, I cruised a mile in well under 3 minutes, which is just absurd to me. Once I rode 15, I decided to could do 20, once I did 20 I knew I could do 25 and once I set out to do 25, I just had to ride 26.2. Because. You know.
I
’ll let you all know after this Saturday if I survived and how it went.

The other first is much more exciting – Katie ran her first 5K!

One day I mentioned that there was a 5K in a zoo. This piqued Katie’s curiosity. In the past, even though I had promised to never force her to run, I had definitely been politely nudging. As she volunteered to do this one, I think I still kept my promise. For 2.5 weeks Katie poured her mind, body, sweat, and soul into training for the race. We did progressive runs of 1.5, 1.75 2 miles, 2.5, and then ran around the Chestnut Hill reservoir which wound up being 3.1 miles – but I didn’t want to ruin that at the time. Given that most people who train for a race take weeks (as in many more than 2.5) to get in shape, I’m seriously impressed with this. It definitely ranks in the top of my coaching achievements (until I get my sister to do a marathon and get Peter to embrace his natural affinity to running and brazenly ignore any pain he feels).

The day of the race we woke up to a torrential downpour. I won’t lie; I secretly just wanted to stay in bed. But, I quickly erased this thought because this was Katie’s first race! Rain, no rain. Whatever, we were doing it. We headied to the Franklin Park Zoo where there was a bit of parking confusion but it all worked out. The RaceMenu team was furiously working to get everything in order for the start. The course was set to go through the zoo, out into the park, onto the White Stadium track, and then turn onto some trails before returning and finishing in the zoo. Unfortunately, whoever had the keys to the track decided to sleep in on a rainy morning and were weren’t able to get it unlocked. So, the race wound up having a course length around 2.9 miles, according to my Garmin. The race started a little late, but that probably worked out for the best because the skies cleared and turned into a perfect running morning.
The race started and we headed out of the zoo, Katie was running a bit faster than normal, but looked strong. Once we turned on to the trails, the terrain was unpredictable and muddy and much hillier than we had thought. Once we were on the way back into the zoo, Katie picked up the pace as we ran along the paths and around the animals. Close to the finish I spotted a camel, and got very excited. Katie, in the throes of competition, was not as entertained. We made a few quick turns and then there was the finish line, Katie finished strong and I was very happy to have seen a camel.

After the race we had a few celebratory beers before 10AM and then took a walk around the zoo. Fun fact for you all: this was the first time I had ever been in a zoo, so I was pretty happy all around. We then headed to the Squealing Pig in Mission Hill for a great post-race burger.

It was a great firsts weekend. So, now I have the final summer 5K on Thursday, the ride on Saturday, and then the BAA half and maybe, possibly another big race in October, but we’ll see how I’m feeling after the half. It’s been a pretty great year of running.

zoorace

Posted in General | 1 Comment

PR, what!?

For a while I felt like I was stuck in the middle. I’m not a beginning runner any longer, still green where every longer distance is new and every race somehow becomes a personal best. Those are the golden days, when the shear excitement of beginning something new and finding out your capabilities propels you forward. It’s what gets you hooked and keeps you running.

However, I’m not a super insane runner, either. Many of you may argue otherwise, especially those I’ve sweet talked into running with me, like some scam artist. But, here’s the simple fact: I wasn’t a running prodigy in high school or college. I was mediocre, if anything. I did just enough to make me better than most. And while I love to run and always keep trying to improve, to challenge myself- it’s often times difficult. Training intensity waxes and wanes, injuries can happen, life may just get in the way, but worst of all, sometimes we get complacent.

I have decent times for the races I’ve run. Times that people who I first initiate into running think are ridiculous and out of the realm of possibility (trust me, friends, they aren’t). But, I’ve been hovering and I wanted to improve. I wanted to bust through some nearly imaginary mark and feel that feeling of “I can’t believe my I just did that!” again.

Last night I ran the fifth RACE Summer Series 5K. A pretty good crew came out. In addition to RaceMenu regulars, my sister, Peter, and my sister’s friend Alex and her boyfriend Rob came out as well. So, it promised to be a good night, no matter what.

Because I’m signed up for the BAA half in October, I’ve been training fairly consistently. And I’ve been doing different things. Hill work. Speed work at the track. I even had Lara and Angela do a 5 mile fartlek with me one night. I’ve also started running on a treadmill during my lunch time at work in order to guarantee I could get my run in and to break up the day. These past 4 times have been the only times in my life I’ve run on a treadmill. They’re straight up boring. I like being outside – changing scenery, changing season, hills, flats, reservoirs, ponds, people, dogs, the whole city of Boston passing by me and under my feet. But I also like knowing I can get a run in. So, I do what I have to do. Apparently I’ve already gotten a reputation at my work’s gym as the crazy runner guy on the treadmill who people don’t want to run next to. But, running on those treadmills the first few times indicated something: I could definitely go below 20 minutes in a 5K.

And last night, I did it! I ran 19:55 for a 16 second PR and my first time ever officially going under 20. When we started out, I characteristically went out too fast and ran 6:15 for the first mile. Usually, I’d see that and pull back. This time, I knew I could do it, just knew. I clocked the second mile at 6:28 and still felt good. I didn’t look at my watch when I ran past the third mile marker because I could see the clock and see that it was still in the 19′s, so I kicked it in and ran across the line just in time. I did my classic dry heave and then went to go find everyone else.

Lara ran twice last night, the first ladies only race, where she pr’d. Wait. Hold up. She didn’t just PR. She blew away her previous times and ran 26:51. In her own words, “holy shit!” Peter came smoking by during the coed race at 25:05. Rob was next and then Lara and Alex came across. We had our celebratory beers, courtesy of Clown Shoes at Tommy Doyle’s and then went and had dinner outside at Grendel’s Den.

Any night you PR is a good night. But, even now, the day after finally breaking through 20 minutes for the first time, I’m already thinking, “what’s next?” I’ve long been saying that I want to break 1 hour and 30 minutes in a half marathon. And I think I have a shot. But, after I catch my breath, will I find myself asking what’s next again? I hope so.

Posted in General | 1 Comment

2013 Falmouth Road Race Recap

I’m usually tired on Mondays. But, who isn’t? Today, I am especially so.

Yesterday I ran the 41st Falmouth Road Race, and I’m feeling it today, mind, body, and soul. Leading up to this race, it seemed like the running gods were saying ‘don’t do it, dude’. And here’s why: I hadn’t adequately trained (my own fault, of course). This isn’t to say that I didn’t train at all, just not as much as I wanted to, that’s all. I went to an allergist last week, was poked by 40 needles and 40 allergens and found out I’m apparently allergic to the Earth. A friend that had borrowed my gps watch during Mass Dash somehow broke or otherwise detached one of the bands and could not locate said missing band. And, it also took me nearly 5 hours of fighting Cape traffic to barely make it to the expo on time. But, after going through all that trouble of getting there, you know I had to run.

I was able to stay overnight at a friend’s place in Bourne, about 20 minutes away from Falmouth, who was also running the race. We got up early to headed over to the middle school where a fleet of school busses conveyed us to the start area in Wood’s Hole. The race didn’t start until 10am, so I had about 2 hours to kill. I wandered around the staging area. I was fortunate enough to get a low bib number (#621) and starting in the second corral, so I had liberty to roam pretty much wherever I wanted. Runners with higher numbers in higher corrals could only move from their corral area to higher corral area. I made the most of my freedom, hung out by the harbor, sat in the shade, ran into Matt Corr (who was seeded behind me. What you got now, Matt Corr? *note, Matt would shortly smoke me in the actual race). Closer to the race time, I headed over to my corral and hung out with Matt and another RaceMenu runner, Ashley. The same friend that had borrowed my gps watch let me borrow his, but I wasn’t able to locate a satellite. The wheel chair racers took, off, then the elite women, then the horn sounded and the whole race was off.

The streets for the race are narrow, so the first several hundred meters I spent weaving and dodging and trying to find a steady pace, which was not an easy task. With nearly 13,000 runners on the roads, I can’t imagine what the scene was like further back. When people tell you about the first few miles of this it tends to fall into two categories – they are 1) brutal or 2) ‘rolling’ hills. I think the truth is somewhere between. While I wouldn’t quite call them rolling, they aren’t nearly as misery inducing as I was preparing for. However, I am a sub-par hill runner (both up and down). So, between the jockeying for position, lack of pace information, doing my best to attack the hills, I knew I was far off of a competitive pace for me. So, I decided to take a different approach and just enjoy the race – take in the scenery, high five a few kids, smile even. And, it was pretty great! I saw Frank Shorter (last American to win the gold medal for the marathon in the ’72 Olympics). I ran past the Hoyts. I passed elite miler Dave Torrence out for a leisurely jog (in the last 2 miles, he picked up the pace and blew by me). All in all it was pretty awesome. But, even while taking it ‘easy’, the course will still challenging. Once the hills flatten out, we turned onto the beach road where I felt like I was running through Death Valley. It was hot, the sun was beating down without a cloud in the sky, and not a hint of breeze was coming off the water. Around mile six Meg spotted me and shouted a few words of encouragement. I hit the 6.2 mile mark but decided to just keep going steady rather than pick it up because some sadistic individual opted to have the finish line after a final hill. After making the climb, it is literally all downhill to the finish. I chugged along and up the hill, and then stretched my legs out for the downhill run to the finish. With about 75 meters to go, a woman who I had passed before the hill was coming up fast on my right hand side. I just couldn’t let that happen, and summoned the strength to give an all-out sprint that would have made even my high school self proud.

I crossed the finish line with no idea of my time, walked about another 7 miles until they give you water, had two awesome coconut Yasso frozen yogurt bars and waited for my friend to finish. On the way out, ran into Alain who clued me in to a few races I’m thinking about running in September, I’ll be sure to let you know what and when they are as soon as I check my calender. We headed back to her place, I took a quick shower and then headed out with a pretty epic sunburn with my eyes set on being in bed by 9:00 for the long workweek ahead

So, here’s the breakdown:

Time: 50:12

Pace: 7:04

Place overall: 570/12,800

And bonus! I still look like I’m wearing my singlet when I take my shirt off.

Not so shabby for taking it easy.

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment