Monday, August 22, 2011

Fall Marathon

I finally made up my mind, this year's fall marathon will be BayState.  Again. It was a hard decision to make and came down to the Smuttynose marathon or BayState for the third time. Smuttynose was really appealing as I would know several people running it, it was being billed as super flat, you got a jacket instead of a shirt, and it wasn't in Lowell. Overall it looked like pretty good marathon and it remained my first choice for awhile.

So how did I end up with BayState?  A pretty boring, drab run (as I may have mentioned previously) in Lowell. Two things finally tipped the scale in BayState's favor; timing, it is two weeks after Smuttynose which means I get two extra weeks of training, and familiarity.  I've run the course twice before (four loops in total) so I am familiar with it. The last thing I want is a surprise out on the course and with BayState I know what I am getting into. Everything from the crappy start, to coming off the second bridge at mile 13, to the banked road after mile 25, to the painful last lap around the outfield in the stadium.  I've done it twice before so it is one less thing I need to worry about.

Hopefully that will help me on the day of the race and let me focus on getting the job done.  Because I'm certainly not doing BayState for the lavish after party.  Now we just need to cross our fingers and hope for decent weather; I'm one for two at this race.  First year was cold and snowy, the second was cool and sunny.  Which will it be this time?

Edit: Mere minutes after posting this I found this on the BayState website:
Note: starting this year (2011) we are making a change to the Baystate Course to make it easier to run and easier for the runners by moving the finish to the Tsongas arena.  This puts the finisher and the start in the same area and makes it much easier for you to leave the race area.
So much for "knowing" the course.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rock N Roll Providence Pt 3

It hit me all of a sudden in one big wave; I had screwed up this race really badly.  Coming into and during the first ten miles of the race I kept telling myself that I can't.  I can't run a 1:24.  I can't keep a 6:24 pace for 13 miles.  I just can't.  But at mile ten I realized that I felt too good.  The fatigue that I had been expecting the entire time hadn't appeared yet and here I was seeing the runners near the lead passing by me on their way to the finish which I could almost just see. What the hell had I been thinking this whole time?

In essence, I had sabotaged myself before this race had ever started and it took me ten miles to realize what I had done.  It was never a case of I can't but rather a terrible example of I won't.  Of course I can't run a 1:24 if I don't ever try. I spent so much time convincing myself that I couldn't that I never took time to believe in myself.  The lessons of the Ultra relay were completely forgotten and I chose the route of self-pity and doubt instead.

I had failed myself.

The last mile ended up being my fastest, I still had energy to burn.  I turned up Francis street and prepared to battle the long hill to the finish.  But it wasn't that long and it wasn't that hard.  I wasn't totally spent, I didn't want to puke on the side of the road.  As I ran to the finish virtually by myself I threw my hands out to the crowds on both sides and enjoyed their cheers. The announcer called out my name and I crossed the finish line as the clocked ticked off 1:26:25.  A four minute PR.

This is where it gets difficult to explain.  There is no doubt that I was thrilled with that PR but I was conflicted.  My race was lost before it had ever begun and I was pissed at myself for that.  I could have done better, I should have done better but I chose to play it safe.  There was no confidence in my own abilities and for the first time at an important race I felt like I hadn't left it all out on the course. I should have been more attentive to my pacing and stuck to a 6:24 instead of settling for less.  I'm still torn, I did great, but not good enough.  Next time I won't doubt myself so much; if I fail then that's alright as long as I fail trying my hardest. There is nothing comforting about getting a good time in a race but knowing you didn't give it your all.

One final bright spot helped to cheer me up a bit after the race. Later that night I was sitting on my bed icing my heel when Jen came in.  "Have you seen the results?" She asked. I had not, they only had individual results when I had last looked.  She told me to go and look.

There I was, still a 1:26:25.  But what the hell was that number 1 doing next to my name?  "You won your division!" Jen said.  "Huh? But... Huh?" was basically all I could muster up.  This was a big race, over 7000 people, I couldn't possibly have won my entire division.  Could I ?  I was still doubting myself.  But there it was on their website and there it remains this morning.  I had won the 35-39 age group in a pretty big race. Me. Wow. Maybe I can do this running thing after all.

1st AG
33rd Overall

Side notes:

Pace5 Km10 Km10 Mi12 MiChipTimeClockTime

5K time was 9 seconds faster than my last 5K race (granted this was a comeback race after injury)

CVS/Caremark Downtown 5k5K00:20:27

10K time was only 35 seconds slower than my previous 10K PR

James Joyce Ramble10K00:40:25

10 Mile time was 90 seconds faster than my best 10 mile race

Old Fashioned 10Miler10 Mile01:07:44

Rock N Roll Providence Pt 2

The day had arrived, the time was now.  No more lead up, it was race time.

The arrival of race day brought with it a lot of rain. Warming up beforehand it was a slow rain so it wasn't too bad; enough to keep us cool but not enough to slow us down.  At least that was something. We had meant to meet up with some friends, including Mel B. but circumstances conspired to not make this happen so I kissed Jen who was on her way to her first half marathon (yeah!) and I went off by myself to get ready. So far so good.  Got in my warm up, took my Gu, and headed for the corral where I ran into Vin making his way to his corral.  He left me with an amusing story of how that morning he was applying Glide to his nether regions when he began to feel everything getting a bit warm down there.  He looked at the stick and realized there was a red cap.  That wasn't Glide, it was the warming pain relief stick he had just rubbed allover himself.  Several painful minutes passed of which I imagine him to be hopping around wanting to die and then he was ok. That brought a smile to my face.

As I stood in the corral waiting for the start, which was so pleasantly delayed for almost 20 minutes due to who knows what, I kept running through the plan in my head: start out at a 6:24 pace, hold that for a bit, and then it will slow down when I get too tired.  Seriously, my plan was to not run a 1:24.  I had actually managed to talk myself out of running an aggressive race.  Never before have I entered a race convinced that I couldn't do it so I shouldn't bother to try.  The longer they held us at the line the more annoyed I got and the closer I came to smacking the overly-perky girl next to me.  Seriously, shut up for a freaking second I'm trying to get prepared here.  I was at the point that I wanted them to start just so I could get this over with.

Finally, we ran.  Surprisingly I found that my pace very easily settled into the low sixes.  That was a good sign but, as I kept reminding myself, there was no way I could hold it for the entire race. It's good to start in the front of a race; much fewer people to have to navigate around so after the first mile the road had opened up quite nicely and I had lots of room to work with.  From here on in I was never in much of a pack and even though there were a few times I wish I had some people in front of me to break the wind it was nice to have so much breathing room.

The first few miles ticked off and I had already become lackadaisical about my pace; if I saw that I was in the 6:30s I just accepted it and figured it was good enough.  After all, I was bound to get tired at some point and crash.  Around mile 5 the weather stopped being a mild annoyance and decided that it was time to step it up a bit.  From here on in it cycled through periods of light rain and pelting downpours that stung your eyes and really made things miserable.  Blasts of wind were always at our front, even though parts of the course doubled-back on itself.

I kept running. I stuck to the hydration and Gu schedule.  I liked where I was in the race and knew I was doing ok.  Heck, I might even make it into the top 50 of a Rock N Roll race.  Wouldn't that be a rush!  Through the wind and rain and flooded streets I kept on picking up one foot and putting down the other and I actually felt pretty good.  Even though I kept expecting to peter out I was doing alright and continued to pass more people.  After the first couple of miles I don't think anyone passed me that I didn't then overtake a bit later.  I felt a bit too slow on the uphills but was usually able to make up for it on the descents and the flats were still fast and strong. But I knew it couldn't last, inevitably you begin to wear down and get tired.  The last part of a half is always a challenge and it was going to be a struggle to maintain a good pace.  The thought of that last hill in front of Providence Place at the finish was filling me with dread.  That hill is a killer at the end of the 5K so I could only imagine what it was going to be after 13 miles.

At mile 9.9 I took my second and last Gu packet and ran on to the 10 mile marker.  And as I crossed the Point St Bridge I suddenly realized that I had made a colossal mistake; I had run this entire race all wrong.

P.S. 200th post!!

Rock N Roll Providence Pt 1

I am going to split up my report on the Rock N Roll Providence Half Marathon into a few posts.  There is a surprising amount of stuff I want to cover with this race so bear with me.

The Lead Up
I signed up for this half almost a year ago.  "They're having a Rock N Roll half in Providence?" I thought when I first found out. "Sign me up!" So I did and then anxiously looked forward to it for months.

Meanwhile I got injured real bad. But I recovered! I got faster, I got stronger, I kicked some ass (with help) at the New England Relay! Everything was going great.  Until July.  Suddenly it didn't feel the same.  I felt slower, workouts felt harder, the needle on the scale was going the wrong way. All of my workout times and distances were perfect on paper but they just didn't feel right.  What was going on?

As the race got closer and closer I stopped looking forward to it and began to dread its inevitable arrival.  What had once been something to look forward to (another half marathon, yeah!) had become something I wanted to avoid.  Sure I could run it and I was reasonably confident that I could set a new PR but it was that number on my schedule that had me worried. My target time had been set at an alarming 1:24. No freaking way was that happening.  I kept saying that to myself.  No way I could run 6:24 miles for 13 miles.  Impossible.

I kept repeating that.  Wasn't going to happen.  Can't happen.  Way too fast.  I did my last half around a 6:55 pace. 30 seconds a mile faster just couldn't happen. The more I though about it the more depressed about it I got.  How could I be expected to run that kind of pace, that's just crazy.  I am nowhere near the kind of shape I need to be in to run that fast of a race.

Sometimes everything just seems to line up and fall into place for races, this was definitely not the case for this one.  My training felt off, my weight was off, I wasn't sure what shoes to wear, I didn't have a good shirt to wear, and to top it all off, the forecast called for rain and then more rain. The perfect storm of self-doubt was brewing in my head.

As I toed the line on Sunday morning all of this uncertainty and doubt remained.  I had no idea what to expect over the course of the race but I wasn't too confident in myself.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


God I hate you so much. You are the bane of my life. All shiny and happy with your fancy stripes and colors.

"Oh, look at me." you seem to yell out "Look how comfortable I am!"  Naturally I am drawn to your sleek lines and promises of fast running.  I see myself putting on a pair and running along the tops of clouds on my way to a magical realm where marathons are easy and every run is a new PR.

First the box is opened.  Delicately the tissue paper is peeled back to reveal your splendor as you slumber in your box just waiting to provide me with hours of running joy. I pick you up, gently remove the paper inside that helps you maintain your figure (a girls gotta look good!) and lace up your last two eyelets.  Sometimes you have a big anti-theft tag attached to you, don't worry baby, it's nothing to be ashamed of; you're still sexy.

Just for a moment I cradle the shoe, the anticipation building.  This is it, this is pair I have been searching for.  My quest is at an end, I have found the perfect pair. I slowly slip the shoe onto my foot, barely able to breathe.  The soft insole rises up to meet my toes, the tongue gives way as I move my foot further into the shoe. Every stitch is felt, every seam explored, every texture sampled.  Finally it is on, fully encasing my foot.  Is this the one?  Could it be?

Daaaaaammmnit! Too tight. Too loose. Heel sits funny. Weird bump rubbing my foot.  Etc and fucking etc.

I rip them off, stuff them back in the box. "Next" I call to the salesman who scurries off to the dungeon for another pair.

And then he is back, holding another box of shoes.  This is it, this is pair I have been searching for...

Repeat until all pairs have been tried on.  Leave store empty handed.  Fuck you shoes, I hate you.