Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hundreds of my closest friends

Saturday was a big 22 miler so I decided that I would run along the marathon route to see how it all unfolded. The plan was to get dropped off in Ashland, run 22 miles to the Common in Boston, and then head in to the office to do some work. Apparently I was not the only one with this idea.

As we pulled onto 135 in Ashland I was amazed to see people streaming along the road. Hundreds of people were running the route. WTF? I thought.

I got dropped off, stretched out, and took off along with all the others. After a bit I finally asked another runner what was going on. Turns out it was an organized event with a lot of the charities and running clubs. They had water stops and support people from the start in Hopkinton all the way to BC. It was actually quite nice because it felt like a mini-marathon with all of the other runners out there keeping me company. The only bad part came when we reached mile 21 at BC and I had to keep on running right through the finish they had set up. 5 miles more after that; no lai for me.

The course was nice. Interesting enough and no industrial/strip mall/porn shop areas to sully the route, unlike some other races I have done (cough, Phoenix, cough Providence, cough). The turn onto Comm Ave in Newton was a bit of a wake up call. As soon as you turn there is a nice hill waiting for you to climb up. It was quite the welcome to the Newton Hills. Oh, and Heartbreak Hill really is that long. I never thought that thing would end. But then there you are at the top looking at BC. Yeah! All downhill from there!

Well, sort of. There are actually a couple of tough hills after that, noticeably the overpass of the Mass Pike just before Kenmore Sq. That sucked.

After BC the roads got noticeably crappier with lots of potholes and a lot more crowded as I made my way into the city and had many more people and cars to dodge. Tip of the day: if you are running along Beacon St follow the train tracks, do not run along the service road that parallels it. That service road goes up a pretty steep hill at one point while Beacon St stays relatively flat. My mistake.

Crossing over last year's finish line in front of the library I gave a little "hurrah" but had no time to celebrate, I still had a half mile or so to go. Reaching the end of the Public Gardens I was finally finished. All in all a good day out. I can only hope that the weather is identical on race day, partly cloudy in the low 50's. Perfect. 3 hours and 4 minutes for 22.25 miles along the actual course. I think I am ready for the main event. Three weeks to go!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

26.2 to go

Got an email from the BAA reminding us that there is only 26.2 days to go until the marathon. I can only hope that my body stays together long enough to make it.

The past couple of runs I switched up my shoes and have been using a pair of Asics GT-2130, size 10(4e). I had originally bought these as a pair of regular wear sneakers but they never fit right; too much movement in the heel and a weird arch feeling in the right foot. But when I wear them with a thicker pair of socks they seem alright. Unfortunately I am still dealing with the healing blisters so it is hard to tell if they are making it worse or if they will turn out to be ok. I have a 22-miler scheduled for Saturday so that will be the deciding factor on whether they become the go-to shoes.

I did my first set of hills today in a long while. I guess the benefit of working on Beacon Hill is that the available hill routes aren't lacking. This is the elevation chart of what I did today:

Why yes, there are a couple of 19-20% grade sections.

The Inguinal has been silenced to a low murmur, the calves are feeling alright, and only the shins are aching so things are looking good. Two more weeks of hard training and then the taper into the race. Now we just have to start thinking about the weather for Patriots Day.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The shoes from hell

I know. There seems to be a theme here. Stick with me for a bit.

Put in a great 20 miles on Sunday. It worked out that I didn't get on the road until about 9:30, so I was able to take my time and not feel rushed. The weather was a bit cool but it got warmer as I ran and the sun kept flitting in and out from behind the clouds. All in all a nice day.

I had planned on doing around 8:30/mile pace but didn't realize until I got home that I actually ended up doing an 8:08 pace. The run felt great and that pace really surprised me. I am thinking of doing Boston at an 8:00 pace so being able to bang out a twenty miler at almost race pace was a big confidence booster.

Now with that said, my Inguinal ligament started to hurt again after the run. Not too happy about that. I'm paranoid about it now and every little ache in it gets me to worrying that I could have a relapse. I'm just going to take it one day at a time and keep a close eye on it. It feels better today but I don't trust it.

Ok. So, the shoes. For the second week in a row my shoes have failed me. Three quarters of the way through the run and I knew that the growing blisters were going to be a problem. Once I got home and took off my shoes I found out how bad they were. A few quarter-sized blisters on both feet have proven to me that my new running shoes just aren't going to work out. I got blisters during the New-Bedford Half and now after my 20-miler. This is unacceptable. And extremely annoying.

There really is nothing more annoying than blisters on the end of your toes.

Evil shoe

Friday, March 20, 2009

Tick, tock...Tick, tock...

One month until the marathon. Yipes.

Today I am going to talk about shoes. My wife thinks that I am obsessed with shoes because a have quite a few pairs, but she is wrong. In fact, I am obsessed with finding a pair of shoes that actually fit properly. Every pair I own has something wrong with them. Some are too tight, some are too loose, some do horrible things to my feet.

At some point in the past few years my feet have become significantly wider which has made finding a comfortable pair of shoes a nightmare. Ones that used to fit just fine have suddenly become unwearable. Every new pair I have bought for the past two years have been poor fitting. Just recently I bought my first wide (4e) pair which seemed to fit pretty good. A week later I have come to realize that the heel slips so I have to keep the laces too tight to stop it which leads to a pain on the top of my foot. Add to that the weird arch that is digging into my right foot and then you realize what I have to live with. Constant pain and annoyance.

Not a good situation. After some hard running the last thing I need is crappy shoes. I need shoes which will pamper my feet and make them feel like they are warm and snug. But don't think this is limited to casual shoes, I have just as much problem with my running shoes. The blisters they leave are always a fun treat.

How hard can it be to find shoes that fit? That's all, just fit! I don't care if they are some super cool brand or if they make everyone jealous, just fit and feel good.

So for now I will hobble along on my ill-fitting shoes dreaming of a day when a magic fairy will wave her wand and give me the best pair ever.

Oh yeah, run went ok today. Heck of a headwind on the Cambridge side on the way back that had me struggling. One month to go. One month to go.

Monday, March 16, 2009

New Bedford Half roundup

The day started with cloud cover overhead and the tantalizing rays of sunshine just out of our reach. The front had decided to park itself over us and keep it cool and cloudy. We could see the end of the line of clouds just off to the North, so close, but the chill of the morning persisted.

We headed down to the start and took our places amongst the crowd and waited through the normal pre-race announcements, anthem, etc. Soon enough it was go time. Off went the gun and the crowd began its surge forward.

Now, when it comes to races, one personal rule that I have managed to stick to almost without exception is that I never wear anything that I have not previously worn on other runs. I managed to break that rule in two ways this race. I wore a new shirt during the race but fortunately that turned out ok and actually helped keep me warm during some of the cold, windy spells. The other item, which I was obligated to wear, was a velcro ankle bracelet that had the timing chip on it. I knew this was going to be an issue as soon as I saw it. Between miles 2 and 3 I had to stop and readjust the strap because it had cut up my ankle so much that the blood was freely flowing. Thanks for that organizers, it felt really great in the shower today.

Other than the bloody sock (and some blisters, but they didn't show up until later) the race went really well. I came out a bit faster than I thought I would and decided to stick to the pace. I didn't start to feel tired until about mile 8 and it was mostly easy until about mile 10. The long (read: loooong) hill that started just before mile 12 really didn't help much but I overcame it. At that point I was ready to be done and it was just a quick jaunt to the finish.

And what a finish. 1:36:10 was my final time. That's about 5 or 6 minutes faster than I had originally planned and my second fastest Half yet. So apparently I am doing a little better in my training than I had thought. I was really happy with my time and am looking forward to my next Half (after the marathon that is).

One last jab at New Bedford: I know it is a tradition and all, but could you please expand your post-race refreshments to include something other than fish sandwiches and clam chowder. There surely is nothing more appetizing after running your ass off for 13.1 miles than a steaming bowl of clams and milk. Yum. Even some plain crackers would have been nice.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Back in the Saddle

I haven't done a half-marathon since my PR at Virginia Beach in August and my next one is this Sunday in New Bedford. I'm looking forward to it, not the least bit because it will actually be a step down in mileage for my weekend run, but also because it will be the first half since my injury. It will mark my return to the circuit and banish the bad mojo built up from the months I was forced off.

Unfortunately it is in New Bedford. Hi, I'm New Bedford, home of Anthony Athanas and we used to catch a lot of whales.

But it has to start somewhere.
What better place than there.
What better time than this Sunday.
Can't stop us now.

Couple of runs this week went off without any problems, although the shins are being predictably cranky. Wet on Wednesday, cold on Friday. Blah, blah, blah, same story.

Five weeks to the marathon. So far I'm not even close to being ready for this but I don't think they will reschedule it for me. So it's time to suck it up and train hard for the next three weeks. That taper is going to be here quicker than I can imagine.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Legal age run

Protip here; don't eat a buffalo chicken calzone the night before an 18 mile run. Luckily I can swing by the Mobil bathroom at mile 6. And 12. And 18. Let that be a lesson to you all.
Next week is the New Bedford half so a little reduction in the mileage this coming week. After that it starts to get interesting. 20 miles has always been a dividing line in my head. Anything up to 19 still starts with a one so it just doesn't have the same impact as 20. 10 is 15 which is 19.
This is the same phenomenom that has us seeing prices in odd ways. $199 is still in the hundred range so we think, "Hey, it's only a hundred bucks!". Not, "Holy jeebus, that's two hundred dollars!". That's what 20 miles does to me; it makes me say "Jeebus that's freakin' long." And then I have a buffalo chicken calzone for dinner.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What Ho Boston!

The snow on Monday may have kept me from getting out (running that is, work was not cancelled) but the sun was out today. The perfect day for doing some mile repeats! Even the bitter cold felt like a warm tropical breeze by the time I was finished.

Mmm, tropical breeze....

Which brings me to my F-U of the day. Today's recipient to feel my scorn is the City (or People's Republic) of Cambridge. Somehow Boston manages to keep the entire length of the river mostly free of snow and ice but Cambridge has apparently decided to selectively plow their sidewalks. Some parts are great while other parts require a team of sled dogs to get through. Thanks for (not) going that extra mile Cambridge. F-U.

Whoever made the cross-country skiing tracks that I was running next to seemed to have the right idea. Oh what fun it is to slide on a wide-open patch of snow! Ho!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The long and winding cliche.

The miles are piling on now. 16 miles on Saturday made me a tired guy. It's nice to have people along during the run to keep me going. Although that brings up the debate of which is better, running with people or alone.

Saturday runs with the group have been nice I will admit. It definitely keeps me motivated (what else could get me to wake up at 5AM on a Saturday). Conversation helps keep the boredom of the long runs at bay and helps to make the time go by.

But there is also something to be said for getting out on the road alone. Some of my favorite runs have been by myself. Without any distractions it is easier to get in to a zen-like trance where the running keeps my mind focused on the rythym and cadence of my footfalls.

So I guess the debate about which is better will go on. Either way it's fun.