Saturday, October 31, 2009

I came in 2nd and all I got was a hat

Technically though, I got the hat for first in my age group, not my second place finish. There were no prizes for placing except for first.

The race was the first Norfolk Monster Dash 5K. Checking out the crowd at the start I figured I had a good shot at a top 3 finish and this was confirmed after finding myself in the lead early on. Of course by that I mean it was myself and a few young kids who managed to keep a 5 minute pace for about 50 yards.

Soon I was joined by an actual rival, the president of the Wamps and as he put some distance my dreams of a win were fading. But all that was ancillary to the fact that the lead motorcycle was turning onto the wrong street! "No!" I yelled, but at those speeds the sound was quickly left behind. This was going to knock some distance off.

I settled into second place as our positions solidified. The Wamp was a bit too far ahead to catch and third place was far enough back for me to hold him off. They took a different route back so it actually ended up being almost exactly a 5kn it was maybe a tad long (3.12 miles).

So I finally captured my first top 3 spot which is great even if I didn't run particularly great. Ended up at 19:28 which is around a 6:15 pace. Ok, but I was hurting the whole race. Some days you are on and some days just take more work.

The second place finish was definitely a treat, the trick was the on-the-fly course redesign. Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Apparently drinking heavily the night before... not a recommended pre-race routine.

Catiefest '09 went till the wee hours Saturday night and involved far too much beer, brandy, and Bouncy Castle. Sunday morning, and the Canton Fall Classic, came way too early.  Before I knew it I was being told by the guy to go find parking somewhere else, the lot was closed.  Great.

Gingerly tying my shoes, so as not to get too dizzy on the way back up, I made my way over to the road with the rest of the crew for the start.  The weather was great and it was a good day for a run.  Except for the hangover part.  Not too bad, but still.

Soon enough we were off and running through the streets of Canton.  Decision time was at hand, do I coast it and take it a bit easy or do I push for a PR.  Talking to some of the other competitors earlier they made out the course to be moderately difficult with some decent sized hills so I wasn't sure if I wanted to kill myself.

Mile three rolled around with my split at exactly 20 minutes.  A quick calculation using all available fingers and toes led me to believe that I had a shot at besting my previous PR of 41:46, so I vowed to keep up the pace. And that's when the alcohol decided to take its toll.  I began to develop quite the cramp in my side.  Nothing too bad at first, but each hill we climbed made it grow successively more and more painful.  But I was committed so I toughed it out; apparently a bit too hard though.  The next morning I woke up and my muscles between my shoulders were really sore.  I guess I was trying to power through it a little too much.  (Bad form, sir!)

Mile 4 and the motorcycle cop yelled at all of us.  Yeah, yeah, I'll get over to the right side eventually.

Mile 5 and they called out my split, 33:50.  So according to that I could do about a 7:10 pace and still get the PR. Awesome.  Or so I thought.  I made one tactical error, while I had been watching my pace I never actually looked at the time on my watch.  I had been relying solely on the splits being called out at the miles.  I kicked up my pace to a 6:30 for the last mile, which should have given me plenty of time, but imagine my surprise when I rounded the corner into the parking lot for the finish and the clock read 41:50.  I couldn't believe it, how could I have miscalculated so badly?  I don't know if the split they called out at mile 5 was wrong, but I should have looked at my watch because it was identical to the clock.  Needless to say I was a bit pissed.

Afterwards as I made my way home I kept smelling something odd.  It took me awhile to place it.  Turns out it was all that brandy and scotch making its way back out through my pores as I sweat it out.  I almost got drunk from the fumes on the way home, good thing it was such a nice day that I could open the windows and get some air.

Final note:  I ran into Zac after the race and asked how he did.  "Good, but it was just a tempo run". Since he is running the NY marathon this Saturday that makes sense.  It wasn't until that night when I checked out the results that I found that his "tempo run" was a 5:55 pace which was good enough for 5th place overall.  Must be nice.

Friday, October 23, 2009

So what have we learned?

That is the big question now isn't it.

So what has my recent 3:29 marathon time taught me?

I am a better runner than I thought I was.  Sort of.  Obviously, one of the objects of daily training is to get a handle on current fitness levels and overall ability.  The past couple of months my training has been spotty and significantly less difficult than I had originally planned.  this, along with my steadily declining performances in races, (not that they were terrible, just that I felt that I peaked around July) led me to believe that I was not ready for a fast marathon.  Going into the race I had planned on hitting somewhere between a 3:40 and 3:50 and had no allusions of trying for PR.

So naturally I was surprised when I managed to take 5 minutes off my best time.  The question is, how?  I think part of it may have been the weather.  As cold and as rainy as it was it was, well, not hot.  It sounds like it sucked but other than losing feeling in my fingers, and occasionally my thighs, the weather was good for pushing the pace.

But that alone can't account for my performance, after all I was expecting a much slower race based purely on my training runs.  The fact that I hadn't been able to run farther than 18.5 miles in months was a sure sign to me that I just wasn't ready for a fast marathon.  So it was quite a shock when not only did I run a new PR but I actually felt good.  No muscle cramps, no serious fatigue, and I ended the race feeling like I could have gone a bit faster.  What made this different.

Maybe it was the rest.  Because of my niggling injuries I hadn't been able to put in the mileage I wanted to.  Perhaps that translated to muscles that were more rested and able to run better.  Combine this with the steady increase in training and racing over the last year and that could account for a strong run.

But all of that is almost a moot point when I start to think about the mental aspects of the run.  This was my third marathon so I now know what to expect and what it is going to feel like.  Each race builds confidence and allows me to hone my technique and strategy.  Going into BayState I had no plans at all about how fast I was going to run so I think that this removed any pressure there may have been about what pace was needed,  whether or not I was hitting my splits, etc.  I could, in essence, just run.

By also deciding to completely hand control of my pace over to another runner I was able resolve myself of any responsibility for how fast we were running.  I became a sort of traffic cop, other than making sure we weren't running too fast I didn't have to worry about what our pace was.  This was completely liberating.  It didn't matter what I did, I could just enjoy and make sure I stayed next to Tracey to get her to the finish.

Could be the reason why I did so good?  Without the distraction of pacing, and finish times, and pressure of trying to hit a certain time could I have been in that good mental state that allowed me to run faster than  I would have thought?  Maybe many of my issues are completely mental.  One thing I have been thinking about is the fact that I have never not hit a target goal in a race.  Never.  I wanted to do a 1:35 half, I ran an exact 1:35.  I wanted to do Boston between 3:30 and 3:40; I did exactly in the middle of that range.  I began to believe that I was in tune with my training and that this was evidence that I knew what I should be running.

Then some anomalies started to make me think that maybe I was wrong.  One month after the Boston Marathon I ran the Boston's Run to remember half-marathon and knocked a minute off my PR.  Without trying to.  It was just easy.  I did the last mile in 6:29.  In August came the Marshfield 20K during which I managed to suffer a bad calf injury half way through.  But once again, I ran the last mile and a half in less than 9 and a half minutes.  Then came BayState.  These were all instances where I was running significantly better than I thought I was capable.

So perhaps the reason I am consistently hitting my target goals is simply because they just aren't difficult enough.  Not that they need to be difficult for the sake of being difficult but more that I have been underselling myself and setting goals that I know I can achieve.  Maybe I have been holding myself back this whole time by setting goals that I can reach in order to feel better about myself when I do so.  Perhaps I need to revise my goals to challenge myself.  Right now the only one I have that is questionable is qualifying for Boston but even that is more of a "one of these days" type of goals, not something I have a definite plan for.

BayState has made me stop and think.  I had planned on just coasting for a bit and taking things as they come to get back in a rhythm.  Now I just don't know.  I am tempted to start planning for my next marathon and soon.  I want to see what I can do.  But then again, I don't want to get caught up in the pressure and anxiety that comes with setting a tough goal.  Part of me believes that I have done my best when I had no preset plans, so maybe that should be my plan for my next big run.

Monday, October 19, 2009

So I ended up with a PR

And did it in under 3:30.

What, do you want to fight about?

After all my bitching and whining about this and that injury, my up and down training, and a pretty bad attitude going into it, I managed to knock off 5 minutes from my best marathon time.  But the best part was that I actually felt good (relatively speaking) throughout the whole race.  I didn't have to stop because of leg cramps and I wasn't a total zombie at the end.  I never hit the wall.

Unfortunately I can't take the credit for my time.  Going into the marathon I only had one goal, stick with Tracey and see her through to the end.  Being her first marathon she had two goals, finish, and qualify for Boston.  No problem, the time she needed was a 3:50 so we would be aiming for around a 3:40.  That would make for a decent pace but nothing too crazy.  I could get another marathon under my belt, get in a long run, and help Tracey qualify, all while taking it a bit easy so as not to hurt my already flaky knee.

That plan lasted about two miles.  The first mile was an 8:00 pace.  So was the second.  The third was faster.  I started to get nervous that Trace was caught up in the excitement and pushing it too fast but we let her run.  About mile 8 Michael told me that he wouldn't be able to hold that pace and that it was going to be down to me.  Suddenly I went from having options to being committed, there was no way short of injury that I could let her do it on her own.  By mile 10 Michael and John had dropped back and we were on our own.

We crossed over the second bridge and hit halfway around 96 minutes.  So far the miles had been coming off real easy.  Most of the mile markers were on us before I even realized it.  Still, our pace was almost exactly 8 minute miles. After 13.1 Tracey was officially in the longest race she had ever been in.

The cold and the rain didn't seem to be slowing us down any as we continued on.  Finally, the 17 mile marker came up, we were down to single digit miles left to go.  A psychological boost for sure, but it was definitely starting to get harder.  The nice easy stride took a little more energy, my breathing was a bit more labored, and the miles seemed to be getting longer.  At some point Tracey got a little too excited and I had to yell at her to slow down, now was not the time to be pushing it to a sub-7 minute mile pace.

Over the bouncing bridge for the second time and it was the final turn for the finish line 8 miles down the road.  (The bouncing bridge is a metal bridge where the pedestrian walkway hangs off of the bridge side and looks straight down to the river.  It literally was bouncing up and down as we ran over it which, while fun, also wreaked havoc on our knees and was a bit scary to run on due to the metal plating that was coated in rain)

Mile 20 approached.  This was the big one.  I hadn't done twenty miles in over two months and Tracey had never run farther than that.  Up until now we had averaged an 8 minute pace with the last few miles faster than that.  It was no longer a matter of if she was going to qualify for Boston, it was a question of just how much faster than that we could finish.  As long as she didn't hit the wall 3:30 was a definite possibility.  Now I was starting to question the earlier pace. Tracey was heading into unknown territory but so far seemed to be holding up really well.  It turned out that my knee was a total non-issue and the only worry I had at this point was my calf that had started to get sore.  As long as that didn't seize I up I was going to be ok.  I was tired, I was sore, I couldn't feel the fingers in my right hand but I still felt strong.

All of a sudden Tom Rooney starts running next to us looking pretty damn energetic for mile 20.  Turns out he wasn't running the marathon, just running with the club members to help keep us going on the back stretch.  I was starting to doubt myself so it was a relief to have him along for a few miles to take some of the pressure off of me, even if just for a little while.  This is where the race really begins, and Tracey just kept on going.

We said goodbye to Tom around mile 23 and I tried to mentally prepare for the last few miles.  I could tell Tracey was getting tired, her questions about our pace were coming much more frequently, but our pace stayed the same.  At mile 25 we could see the arena where the finish was across the river.  The next half mile was a gradual turn to the right on a banked road which is exactly what my legs wanted right then, a nice uneven running gait after 25 miles off steady, even, and flat running.  Luckily nothing seized up on me.

Finally, the turn into the stadium.  All we had left was a lap around the outfield on the warning track and the finish line awaited us.  Well, actually, all we had left was a lap around the outfield and a couple of tarp covered mounds of dirt that we had to hurdle and then the finish line.  As we turned around right field towards home plate I could see the clock, it was right around 3:29:22.  I yelled at Tracey to pick it up and beat 3:30; and she did.

We crossed at 3:29:38.  A new PR for me by over 5 minutes and an amazing first marathon finish for Tracey.

We met up with the rest of the group, froze our asses off, and reveled in the performances of the day.  A very impressive day for all including several Boston qualifying finishes.  And I managed to finally run a marathon in which I didn't have to stop for a bit due to muscle cramps: those didn't hit until I tried to step up into the minivan.  Still, that was nothing compared to the ensuing quest for a Dunkin' Donuts.  But that's another story all together.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Go time, again.

Two days from BayState and my attitude still sucks.  Then I got this post this morning from el Presidente and thought to myself, "You know, suck it up.  Either you finish or you don't.  You destroy every bit of your legs or you learn from the experience.  Deal with it."  And then I began to feel a bit more positive.  I don't have to set a PR.  I don't have to run fast.  Technically, I don't have to run at all.  So if I'm going to do it, do it right and have some fun (as much fun as you can have running 26.2 miles that is).  Think positive, run positive, live to run another day.

Now if only the weather would cooperate...

The post:

What it takes

Just because you seem to be at a disadvantage is no reason to give up. Instead, resolve to push forward with consistent, focused effort.

Those who achieve are not necessarily the smartest, or the wealthiest, or the best connected. Those who achieve are those who are the most persistent.
Your level of commitment over the long term is a much bigger factor than any relative advantages or disadvantages that may exist when you first start. Choose where you would like to go, and keep making the effort until you get there.
Be willing to do what it takes, and you can achieve whatever you wish. Instead of worrying about where you are when you begin, put your energy into making steady progress.
If you can take one step and then another, you'll get where you choose to go. So take the first step right now, and then begin working on the next one.
You owe it to yourself to live life at its best. Now is your opportunity to make that life happen.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Seriously, make up your mind

Once there was a time I ran without injury.  I really can't remember that time but I'm sure there had to have been some point in the past.

So I don't think I ever formally announced it (not that I have to) but any dreams of trying to qualify for Boston at BayState have long since been abandoned.  The litany of injuries over the past two months has just been ridiculous.  First some bad shinsplints which then segued nicely into a pulled calf during the Marshfield 20K and has since morphed into a persistently annoying knee pain.  I just hope to finish BayState without killing myself at this point.

Which leads to today's run.  A very simple and easy four miler down by the Charles.  Except for the crazy wind it was by all respects moderately paced and relaxing.  But I quickly noticed that something was missing; no knee pain.  I figured it would come later.  Mile 2, none.  Mile 3 no pain.  Up the long hill back to the office and nothing.  Not the slightest twinge, creak, or ping from a knee that was absolutely killing me on Tuesday.

And therein lies the frustration.  Why now?  Is it gone for good or just today?  Why can't I just settle into some sort of routine without wondering what calamity is waiting to derail me tomorrow.  The second half of the summer and now sliding into fall has been a great frustration as I have watched my times slide and ability suffer.  My latest 5k times are a good thirty seconds off where they should be.  I haven't done any speedwork for fear of breaking something.  The longest I have gone in about two months is 18.5 miles and that was originally supposed to be 20.

At this point I don't know what to do.  Looking forward I am still undecided as to a plan of action.  Do I keep training for marathons but keep the pace slow?  Or do I scale back to Halfs as the longest I go and focus more on speed?  Bot have their draws but I have no idea which is better for me at this point.  All I know is that next week is the first race that I have planned that I have no excitement about running. I'm pretty confident that BayState is going to wreck me but I'm going to do it anyways.  I'm basically just doing it because I already signed up for it.  That's a bad sign.  This cycle of training-injury-recovery-training has got to stop because it's really fucking with my head.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tips for Marathon success!

Here are some surefire tips on how to make that marathon day extra-special.

Two weeks before the marathon do a 20 miler after work.  Do not do the whole 20 miles, make sure to stop after 18.5 because of the pain in your knee.

The next day enjoy the constant, painful reminders that you have done some real damage to your leg.

Remember that the marathon is not, in fact, 18.5 miles.  It is much longer.


Well, maybe not profit as such.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rome Blvd 5 Mile

My first post-High School team event. And there was money on the line. 5 brave GNRCers embarked on a journey to best the evil Wamps and capture the prize at the Rome Blvd 5 Miler; previously the Ro-Jacks race.
Weather-wise it was a typical October day, if your typical October day is overcast, warm, and humid. But at least it was the first 5 miler of the year that it wasn't raining for. Unfortunately we were beset with bad new on arrival: due to severe nerves Tracey had dropped out of the race. Well, it may have been a back injury but whatever. Fortunately Maureen was more than willing to anchor the team.
9:45 rolled around and we were ready for the start (seriously, who starts a race at 9:45?). Then there was a reshuffling of the runners: 2 milers on the right, 5 milers on the left. Ok, sorted, let's begin nope, still more people coming. La la la. Now? No, more people? Ok.
Hey look, Al Cerrone is going to talk. Ok, let's go. Oh yeah, national anthem time. Excellent. Now can we go? No. Really?
Oh a guest starter. Did you bring the pistol. No worries, we can wait for you to find it. Ok, go time. Pull the trigger and...try again. Still nothing. Crowd's getting restless, just say go.
So 20 minutes later we start. Within the first half mile my legs were dead due to all the standing around. It was going to be a long race.
And it was. Had to fight the whole way and just couldn't get into a stride.
Oh and a tip for all you new, young runners: if you plan on doing 8-minute miles do not take off doing a 5:30 pace. You will get tired, quickly.
Fast forward, after weaving around large packs of walkers I entered the track in time to hear Andy and David's names being called as they finished. Held on for the next 300 meters, again, dodging walkers (thanks for not giving me the inside lane!) and spurred on by the gaggle of GNRC juniors I finished with an exact time of 32 minutes. A bit slower than hoped, but respectable.

The team finished as follows:
Place Time Average AgeGrp AgePlc SexPlc Bib Name Town
  3   28:50  5:46    1 30-39    3 M    33 Zachary Laidley             East Walpole,MA                         
  7   30:05  6:01    1 40-49    7 M    31 Andrew Wilson              Westwood,MA                      
  9   30:22  6:04    5 20-29    9 M    34 David Woodruff              Westwood,MA                       
14   32:00  6:24    5 30-39   14 M   32 Jeff Putt                         Norfolk,MA  
21   33:38  6:44    2 40-49    2 F   113 Maureen Larkin              Walpole,MA

Unfortunately the Wamps beat us out. I know, anti-climatic end to my story but you'll just have to deal with it.

P.S. Shout-out to the wife for completing the 2-miler while pushing both of the kids.