12.29.2010

Writer's Block (again)

So, once again I find myself with so much to say and so few words to say it. I guess everyone goes through periods like this, only mine seem more frequent than others. I will soon resume blogging as usual, but I want to give a preview of what I need to write about:

I'll be putting together a 2010 year in review of course. I also have a couple of race reports that I can probably combine into one to highlight my quest for and achievement of a new 5k PR. I also have to kick it  into high gear in the fundraising arena with a bunch of product donations to give away in exchange for financial donations to my "Miles for Miracles" campaign. I'll be giving away some more Brooks Running shoes, a pair of calf sleeves and a tech shirt from Zensah, a running watch from Soleus Running, some Punk Rock Racing gear, a runnerd headband from Go Headband, signed copies of Mary McManus' books,  and many more to come...

I'll also be doing my very first product review! Yay!

So, lots to look forward to here, if I can just get the words out of my head.

12.01.2010

A New Month Brings a New Challenge

It's hard to believe it's December 1st already! Crazy! There's so much that I haven't gotten done. My life has been such a whirlwind since Charlotte was born at the end of August, I really don't know which end is up right now. I have to admit I'm in complete shock over where the time has gone. Literally. So, when I was uploading my workouts from last night and this morning, I noticed something peculiar. As of this morning (prior to running 4 miles), I was at 1116.7 miles for the year. I had noticed much earlier in the year that I was on-track for hitting "at least" 1200 miles this year. With the rough Summer, lack of training and the birth of our second child I kinda lost sight of 1200 as a goal (frankly, at one point I'd figured I'd blown my chances).

This morning I realized two things: 1) I'm only 83.3 miles away from that nice round number and 2) I have 3 short(er) races planned and they are all in the beginning of the month (the last one is the 19th). What this means is I am going to need some help staying motivated (especially after the 19th) to reach this BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). What better way to stay motivated than to drop the gauntlet so-to-speak and put a challenge out to the running community on dailymile. You can view and join the challenge here... The basis of this challenge is a slightly existential one: Can someone who calls himself "Really Not a Runner" actually run 1200 miles in one year? If he does, can he continue to call himself @reallynotarunnr

Along with the challenge I am inviting feedback. In fact I'm hoping to stir much feedback and even spirited debate. As I've stated before, the reason I chose the moniker and thus the title of this blog was that I often used the statement "I'm really not a runner" as an excuse not to run. After all, I'm 6'1" and what you would definitely call "big-boned." I was an athlete my whole life (even a collegiate wrestler), and had all sorts of nagging sports-related injuries. I had "bad" knees, back, and hips, I was 275 pounds when I started running (and had been over 300 lbs. at different points in my adult life), and certainly didn't fit the mental or physical profile of a runner. In fact, when people started noticing my weight loss and asked what I was doing, you should've seen the looks of absolute horror on their faces when I told them I was running. I certainly wasn't the picture of what a runner was. I'm still not much of a specimen to look at, even though I've lost almost 80 lbs. I guarantee that "runner" isn't the first thing that comes into anyone's mind when they look at me.

Which kind of brings me to my point. I started this blog with the intention of inspiring every day people to follow my example and start running for their health. I want to provide a positive living example of what is possible when you put your mind to it. I want everyone who says "I'm really not a runner" to look at me, see my accomplishments, and take up the mantle on their own. Because, as cliche' as it has become, "if I can do this, anyone can." Truly. I also want to provide a blueprint for them to follow so that they can train smart and not make the silly mistakes I made when I was starting out. I realize everyone is going to make their own mistakes because that's the best way to learn and gain "experience," but not everyone has to go all out, end-up overtrained and needing knee surgery, before deciding to get a coach, learn about pacing strategies and developing a proper training plan that will cater to their needs and minimize the chance of injury. Hopefully they can use my knowledge of different gadgets, shoes, websites, formulas, nutrition, products, gear, etc. to at least get started on the right foot and headed in the right direction (out the door).

So, in a nutshell, that is the challenge and the existential dilemma I am looking for solutions to this month. I am 100% confident that I can count on you all to help me with both aspects of this challenge!

Speaking of challenges, that leads me to my next blog contest! Did you not get into Boston because of the record 8 hour sell-out? Or are you just looking for a challenging marathon to train for and run in the spring? Then have I got a prize for you: The Blue Ridge Marathon on April 16, 2011 in Roanoke VA might be just what you're looking for! This marathon calls itself "America's Toughest Road Marathon." With 3620 ft of elevation gain and 7234 ft of total elevation change, through one of the most beautiful scenic mountain ranges in the country, running it might just give new meaning to "the runner's high!"


The race chairman Pete Eshelman (@BRM26pt2) has graciously donated one race entry for me to give away in support of my "Miles for Miracles" campaign! So, much like my last contest, I will be giving away this entry (an $80 value and a priceless experience) to one lucky donor and contest entrant!  To enter this week's contest, go to my "Miles for Miracles" page and make a donation, any donation at all (although, I'm kinda' partial to the $26.20 donation which would be even more appropriate for this particular contest). No donation is too small or too large to enter this week! Once you've made the donation, come back to this blog post and make a comment stating that you've made your donation and you are entering the contest! On Monday December 13 (that's right, I'm giving you 11 days on this one) I will assign a number to all of the entries that correspond with the order they were received in and use the Random Number Generator to select the winner! Now, to get you as pumped-up for this contest as I am, I'm going to leave you with the promotional video for the marathon featuring Ronny Angell, the most fired-up race director in the country! Seriously? If this video doesn't get you excited to run this race, nothing will. And if this race gets you as stoked about running as this guy is, I can't wait to run it in 2012! It must be something in the mountain air...


Blue Ridge Marathon: America's Toughest Road Marathon from Pete Eshelman on Vimeo.

11.29.2010

This Week's Contest Winner!

First of all I 'd like to thank those of you who entered my first blog contest! As follows:

1) Mary McManus
2) Nina Coolidge
3) Private (I have the name and address, but it was requested to be kept private)
4) Lisa & Clark Wright
5) Alett Mekler
6) Ruth Ann McManus

This is the order that you entered and the numbers I entered into the Random Number Generator...

...And the winner IS: #6 - Ruth Anne McManus!

Thank you all VERY much for your donations! Ruth Anne, you've won an AWESOME prize package and I am incredibly jealous! I will forward your contact info to Melody and Heather so that they can get your size requirements and color choices, etc. After all this is a CUSTOM, hand-knit Hat, Mittens and Scarf set!

An extra-special thanks, of course, goes out to Melody (@MrsKnitpho from knitphomaniacs.com) and Heather (@wickedphysics from pinsneedlespaperclips.com), without you this contest and the money raised this week would not have been possible! I have one thing to say... "Glacial Kettles!" ;-)

Everyone needs to stay tuned for my next contest and future contests. I've had some incredibly generous donors who've donated some really great prizes including Brooks Running who've donated 3 pair of shoes for me to give away (actually donated from the Brooks ID program, of which I am a sponsored athlete), Go Headband, Soleus Running, and Zensah who've all donated some of their incredible products to my "Miles for Miracles" campaign, which I will give away right here on this blog to the wonderful people who support my cause with donations to Children's Hospital.

11.28.2010

What it Takes

I've been trying to figure it out since the 8-hour registration closing controversy, but I haven't been able to quite put my finger on it. I know that I wrote in my blog post on the subject that there was something special about Boston. There was history, tradition, the crowds, the stories. But somehow, that didn't seem to be enough. Somehow I felt like I was missing something. I mean, there are plenty of other marathons with tougher qualifying standards. Many marathons like NYC, or even Fukuoka where the "qualifying" standards really set qualifiers apart from the rest a truly "elite." However, when you talk to runners, real runners, about their goals, inevitably the subject of the running a Boston, or even a BQ (Boston Qualifier) comes up. Runners and non-runners alike often refer to Boston as simply "the marathon."

When I stepped-out of my door this morning it hit me. The first several breaths I took in the pre-dawn 18 degree (F) silence burned my lungs. It was a lot colder than I had anticipated, but it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks... This is what it's all about! Training for the Boston Marathon takes a special kind of person. that special kind of person has to also have a certain level of dedication. They have to be just a little "off." Not all of us are "elite" runners, you can't even say that we are the "best of the best." But in order to train for the Boston Marathon you do have to be the "cream of the crop," definitely the "salt of the Earth" type, and most importantly, you really have to love running.

Ok, well, maybe you don't have to love running necessarily (I know I didn't love running while I was training last year), but you certainly have to be motivated by something. You have to be "on a mission" so to speak. In other words, you have to love your cause, you have to be driven by it in order to get out on the roads at all times and in all weather conditions. If you aren't blessed enough to be independently wealthy and you have to work for a living, and especially if you have children and a family that means you often find yourself on the roads at 4:30 or 5:00 am before work, even 7 or 8pm after work and family obligations. You end-up running in every weather condition imaginable, from 10 below zero runs where your water bottles freeze halfway through, to blizzards, ice storms, or even Nor'Easter's with 6-8 inches of rain and 40mph winds.

Statistics show that only 1/10 of 1% of all people will ever run a marathon. And less than 1% of all marathon runner's will ever run the Boston Marathon. So, whether you are a qualified runner, a charity runner, or even the beneficiary of one of the nearly 5000 "invitational" bibs and you train for and run the Boston Marathon, you are an elite runner. You may not be "elite" because you are particularly speedy, but you are elite because you are a breed apart. You have something in you that almost nobody else has, even most other marathon runners. It's almost overwhelming when you think about it in those terms. For me, I don't know any different. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

For those of you that are like me and training throughout the Winter for the 115th Boston Marathon, the weather is turning COLD. Wouldn't it be great to have your own custom, hand knit hat with matching mittens and scarf to get you through the drudgery? And I mean custom... If you win my blog contest this week, you'll be put in touch with my friends Melody (@MrsKnitpho), and Heather (@wickedphysics) and give them your sizes and you can even specify the colors you'd like to have used in the set! How completely AWESOME is that? In fact, I'm more than a little jealous of the fact that I have to give this prize package away! If you want to enter, you have 2 hours left! Go to my "Miles for Miracles" page and make a donation of $26.20 or more, then come back here and make a comment in the comment section letting me know you've entered the contest. I'll assign all of the entries a number based on the order I received them and use the Random Number Generator to determine the winner!


I'm going to sign-off this post with a lyric from the Katy Perry song "Firework." I know what you're thinking, but I heard it on Radio Disney the other day when I was driving Isabelle to school (of course, like every other song that comes on, she said it was her "favorite" and sang along). The chorus really stuck with me and I put it on my iPod. It came on in the first couple of miles of my long run this morning and got me thinking...


 "Baby, you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go, aye, aye, aye
As you shoot across the sky

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colors burst

Make 'em go, oh, oh, oh
You're gonna leave 'em falling down"

I am really not a runner, but I am a firework!

11.25.2010

Trying not to be Cliche' on this day of Thanks

On Thanksgiving I believe we all have so much to be thankful for. In my humble opinion, if you're alive and kicking, you are sure to have a whole host of things for which you should give thanks. However, I also believe that for those things we are most grateful for (our families, friends, health, etc), we should give thanks each and every day. We should consciously walk in an "attitude of gratitude" for those that mean the most to us. When our feet hit the floor each day we should begin to give thanks and with every action, and most especially those fleeting moments between every action, throughout the day we should live in a way which honors those that give purpose and meaning to our lives. I try to do this every day. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that we have a day in which we can make "giving thanks" the focus. I just feel that for me giving lip service to it on one day a year isn't enough.

I sat down to write this post with every intention of writing a comprehensive list of who and what I am thankful for. I was even going to try and be witty and come-up with something unique and thoughtful to describe and summarize each person and thing. As I started writing, I found it to be tedious, often redundant, and incredibly boring to read. I also realized that it would turn out to be quite possibly the longest blog post in the history of blogging. I decided that if you are a part of my life, you should know and hopefully already do know how much I love and appreciate you. Whether my family or friends in real life, or if we are strictly "virtual" friends, be you follower of my blog, tweep or dailymiler, you should know how much you mean to me. The love and support I receive on a daily basis is what keeps me going. In fact there is literally nothing I could do without you. You know who you are. Period. 'Nuff said...

What I am going to give lip service to is that I am thankful that I am able to run. For so many years I didn't believe I could run. The simple act of running means so much to me. Running makes me a better person. Running is therapeutic and far cheaper than a therapist. Running helps me to heal all of the pain and wounds of my past. It forces me to deal with all of my emotional baggage in a way that is healthy and empowering. Running makes me want to stay active to set a good example for my children. Running ensures that I will be around for a long time to share in all of the memories to be made. There was a time when I was doing all of the wrong things and I just didn't care. When I was pushing 300 pounds I couldn't even think of the future. When I run now, I plan my future. Running makes me feel connected to my family, my friends, the Earth, the Universe and to God. I feel as though I am an integral part of his grand design.

I am thankful that I am able to run, because I am able to run for those who can't. I am able to use my legs, my heart, my strength and determination to raise money to help others. This is something I feel so passionate about. It may not be huge, but I like to feel as though I am making a difference no matter how small. Over the past year or so, between Lex's Run and "Miles for Miracle's" Lex and I have been able to raise nearly $15,000 for the MDA and Children's Hospital Boston. Running for charity helps me to see the kindness and generosity of the human spirit in action every day. Every day, I have friends, family, acquaintances, and most astonishingly, perfect strangers make donations to one or another of my campaigns. They send me emails and notes thanking me, blessing me and telling me how much my work means to them, has touched them or inspired them to do the same. It's these interactions that make it all worthwhile.

This is why I continue to challenge myself daily. This interaction is what fuels my fire and drives me to do more; to run faster and farther, to raise even more money, to take on more causes, which spurs my creativity. Whatever I do somehow doesn't feel like it's enough to be complacent with what I achieve. While running my double 5k this morning as part of the dailymile "Feed the Turkey" Virtual Turkey Trot for St, Jude's Children's Hospital (there's still time to participate and donate, so check-out the link), I had a brilliant idea that I will be implementing during my training for the 115th Boston Marathon. It's an idea that I have been tossing around in my head for months now, but I finally figured-out how to make it unique and therefore ensure it's success. Let me assure you this is going to be huge! So, stay tuned for the news once I work out all of the details...


I've come-up with several creative ways to raise money for my "Miles for Miracle's" campaign this year and I am going to raise $10,000 before I get to the starting line in Hopkinton this year. Hopefully, many of you will be the beneficiaries of said creativity. The first of many creative "angles" I've taken is to raise donations through blog contests and giveaways. I've already received several items from some awesome individuals and companies to give-away through these contests and I am so thankful to all of them.

Speaking of which, we are in the middle of my first contest now. I've received a handful of donations and entries this week, but I need to get more. It's getting cold outside and nowhere has it been more apparent than on my pre-dawn runs this week. Brrrrr! If you're like me, you'll be out there tomorrow, or some time within the next couple of weeks putting-up your holiday decorations and it's going to be apparent to you that we are done with the "indian summer" portion(s) of the Fall. Could there be a more perfect time to enter this weeks blog contest?

Goto: https://howtohelp.childrenshospital.org/bostonmarathon/pfp/?ID=wd0030 and make at least a $26.20 donation ($1/mile) then come back here and leave a blog comment letting me know that you donated and you will be entered. I will assign each entry a number correlating with the order they were received in and use the Random Number Generator to select the winner of this weeks prizes <<<>>> A custom, hand-knit hat, mitten and scarf set donated to my campaign by my friends Melody (@MrsKnitpho) and Heather (@wickedphysics)! And these two aren't just casual knitters, these girls are the real deal! Checkout their work on their knitting blogs: "Knitphomaniacs" and "Pins, Needles and Paper Clips." I'm totally psyched that they've donated this set, and I am able to offer their work to you (and even a little jealous)! A very timely contest indeed! but there's not much time left, so get those entries in asap! I'll be cutting-off entries at Midnight 11/29.

I'd like to sign-off this evening with with a quote from my friend Sarah Stanley (@sarahstanley) of http://sarahstanleyinspired.com/:



"Time does not heal all wounds, 
but it does bring you a step closer 
to turning them into a beautiful scar."
-Sarah Stanley

When she tweeted this the other night I was instantly moved because I completely identified with it. One more reason I am thankful that I am able to run... Running helps me buff and polish all of my scars! Every scar has a story behind it. When I tell the stories of my "beautiful scars" there's always the possibility that someone can identify with that story and/or benefit from it.

I'm really not a runner, but I am a warrior! Bring it.

11.21.2010

My NAKED Turkey Trot and first blog contest!

It's the Thanksgiving season and I am incredibly thankful for so many things in my life. I was going to spend this post listing all of the things I was thankful for. However, I realize it would simply be an exercise in futility. It would take-up too much time and space and I would eventually leave out enough people to get offended and I'd just hear about it in one way or another. So, I'll just say that I am thankful for my life, my family, my job, and my friends. And by my "friends" I mean every one of you who's helped me along my journey, supported me in any way, given me advice or encouragement, reached-out when I needed a hand, etc. No exclusions. Period. Thank you.

To start-off this week of thanks, I entered the Norwood Turkey Trot 4-miler. This is a race that I ran last year with Isabelle in the jogging stroller and finished in 36:32. I knew that I was going to set a PR this year, that wasn't in-question. I was hoping I could maintain a 7:00/mi pace and finish with a sub-28:00 time. However, heading-out the door this morning I knew it was going to be rough. The laundry monster ate one of my Zensah leg sleeves, I haven't run a race or a long run since Boston 2010 without them. Ugh. When I got to the race, checked-in and got my number and went back to the car to get dressed and head-out on my warm-up. I grabbed my Garmin 405 out of my bag and found it frozen in time about an hour earlier (9:21am to be exact). Nothing I could do would un-freeze it. I pushed both buttons, tried them one at a time, pounded on the bezel (probably not a good idea in retrospect), yet nothing worked. So, I stripped-off my HR Monitor and the foot pod and pinned my number on my Brooks ID Singlet and reached into my bag to grab my iPod only to find that I'd lost the cushion part of my right earbud. Ok. This is going to be a totally naked race. I haven't run a race without at least my Garmin since, well, since this race last year!

So, I got my warm-up in, used the port-a-potty, and headed to the starting line. The race director announced a slight delay so I moved to the front and did some striders and dynamic stretching in front of the starting line (with all of the "elite" runners as the race director announced). So, when it was time to start, I found myself lined up in the front, yet again, with the "elite" runners. There are positives and negatives with lining-up at the front of the start of any race. I've found that it is great to get you out in front so that you can run your own race. At the same time, it makes you feel like you should go out way too fast. You don't have to wade through crowds until you find people running at or around your pace. But, then, you end-up being passed by droves until the people running at or around your pace find you, which can be pretty emotionally trying, so...

The gun goes off and I find myself sprinting with the fastest 20 or so runners for the first mile. I knew I was going too fast but I felt good so I just went with it. The first mile came in at 6:45 according to the guy announcing splits at the mile marker (unfortunately it was the only split time I got for the whole race). The next 1.5 miles was basically all uphill. Most of it was a long slow climb, but when we turned the corner around mile 2 (they had the miles spray painted on the ground) I was looking at a fairly steep uphill that lasted about 0.25 miles, and then went back to the gradual climb for another 0.25 until we hit the downhill. I knew I had slowed significantly during the long climb. So as soon as we hit the section I knew was all downhill I really turned it on. I started passing handfuls of people who had passed me on the climb which only energized me.

I passed the 3 mile mark and decided to just let it all hang out and run the fastest mile my legs had in them. I hurt so bad I needed a distraction. I just focused on the people in front of me. One by one I'd single them out and pick them off. I stayed focused on my cadence, my mantra being "cadence, faster, pick it up, GO!" I just kept repeating it until the finish line was just about in sight. I picked-out my next target and felt someone literally breathing over my shoulder. A quick turn of the head and I saw a woman in her mid-40's with the eye of the tiger and I surged... No way anyone was passing me at this point. Not with my Kenyan kick! Not today. As I pulled away I swear I heard her whimper as she broke. 200 meters left and I had pulled-even with the next guy I had targeted and he surged but quickly broke and dropped-off the pace. Next thing you know, I heard and felt breathing over my left shoulder. It was her again. Awww... Hell's no! She was not going to get me! I surged again and pulled away right before the finish. I got through the shoot, and almost collapsed. My new friend Jen grabbed me and said "Thanks for pulling me through to a PR!" To which, of course, I said "Thanks for pushing me through to a PR!" According to the official results I ran a 29:07 (7:17/mi) and finished 19/75 in my Age Group and 92/559 Overall. Jen finished in 29:11, 6/74 AG.

The temperature at post time was all of 37 degrees (Fahrenheit for my Canadian friends). And that reminded me. We've probably seen the last of the nice warmish Fall weather. It's turning colder, almost all of the leaves are off of the trees, and you know what that means right? It's almost full-on Boston Marathon training season. Time to break-out the cold weather training gear and get out on the roads and remember what it's like to really suffer. It's time for pre-dawn sub-zero runs with frozen water bottles, runs in blizzards and Nor 'Easters. Time for all of the really fun training runs that get us all totally pumped! So, I'm going to make everyone's Winter life and cold-weather lives a little warmer! My friends Melody (@MrsKnitPho) and Heather (@wickedphysics) have been kind enough to donate a custom hand-knitted hat, mittens and scarf set which they will knit to size for the winner of this week's contest!

So, here's how this is going to work: if you would like to enter this week's contest, simply go to My Marathon Page  and donate $26.20 or more to enter the contest, come back to this blog and make a comment letting me know you donated and entered the contest. I will assign numbers to the entries in the order that I received them and use the Random Number Generator to determine the winner of this week's contest. That's it! It's really that easy! So get over to My Marathon Page  and donate now to enter! Even if you just want to donate, but don't want to enter, don't worry, all donations are accepted and appreciated. There are no donations too small, it's all for the kids!

11.17.2010

The Horizon

A lot of people have been asking me "what's next?" I mean, I started this blog last year to chronicle my journey from lazy, overweight, average guy with bad knees, bad back, and every excuse in the book to NOT be a runner, to Boston Marathon finisher. Something happened on the way to that finish line. I fell in love with running. I lost 80 pounds. Lex and I had added another child to our family. Isabelle ran her first one mile race (in 12:34) at four years old. We had yet another successful Lex's Run and raised $5000 for the MDA. Lex and I decided we were going to train together and run the Grand Island Trail Marathon on July 30, 2011 as Lex's first marathon. Life happened. I got off of my training schedule for well over a month. I got back on the bus. I put-in over 100 miles in October and am well on my way to over 100 miles for November as well. I set 2 new PR's in the 5k distance and am currently busting my ass to run a sub-20 minute 5k before the end of the year.

I discovered a love of running trails. I've decided that 2011 is the year that I will become an Ultramarathoner by running the Vermont 50 (50-miler) on September 25, 2011. I've also decided I'll be doing a lot of trail and mountain races as a lead-up to the Vermont 50, including the Wachusett Mt. Race, the Cranmore Hill Climb and possibly the Ascutney Mt. Challenge. I've assembled and continue to assemble a great group of friends to run Vermont with, along with a great group of friends and wives (Lex included) to crew and pace our team. It would be great if we could find a sponsor or two for the #NERTs Ultrarunning Team!

Anyway, in the immediate future, I've decided to train for and run the 115th Boston Marathon as a part of the Children's Hospital Boston "Miles for Miracles" team and raise money once again to honor the memory of my good friend's daughter Brenya Elizabeth Sullivan (03/02/09-10/18/09) who died at the age of just 7 months of complications related to a genetic brain malformation called polymicrogyria. Children's Hospital works miracles every day. Most of those miracles are funded through private donations and programs like "Miles for Miracles" which raised over $1.1 Million last year. What this means is I have to committed to raising $3500 by the time of the Boston Marathon on April 18, 2011.  Although, me being me, I have set my goal at $10,000 (double what I raised last year)! So, I'm going to need all the help I can get.

I've got a lot of ideas of how I'm going to do this. One thing I plan on doing is holding a fundraising party, with a band, dj, dancing, drinking, silent auctions for things like Red Sox and/or Patriots tickets, and other auction-able items. I'm going to hold a virtual 5k, 10k and maybe even Half-Marathon challenge via dailymile where everyone who wants to participate will donate their "entry fee" to my "Miles for Miracles" campaign and the winners will win some nice donated prizes. And last but not least I'm going to have contests here on this blog whereas donors from that week will get the chance to win some really cool prizes of which I already have ready to give away in the upcoming weeks from Zensah, Go Headbands, the Blue Ridge Marathon, and custom knit hat, scarf, and gloves set from @MrsKnitPho and @wickedphysics, just to name a few.

Keep your eyes glued to this space to win some really cool stuff by donating to a good cause. And most importantly follow along to see if this average guy can cash the checks his butt has been writing lately: the sub-20 5k, cutting almost an hour off of my time and running a BQ in Boston this year, and becoming an ultrarunner without really trying (yeah, right)!

And if you just want to donate please go to my "Miles for Miracles" page - https://howtohelp.childrenshospital.org/bostonmarathon/pfp/?ID=wd0030 and donate whatever you can. No donation will be refused for being too large or too small! Although $26.20 has a nice ring to it, and it's only $1/mile run DURING the marathon (never mind the 1000 miles that I will put-in during training)!

I'm going to sign-off of this blog post with a tag line stolen from my friend Mary McManus...

Be Well, and Live Like You Were Dyin'!
From My Heart to Yours, with Love and Gratitude!

Doug

11.13.2010

2 Weeks, 2 Shiny new PR's

So, I'm going to try to make this one short and sweet (yeah, right). I set a goal shortly after running the Boston Marathon that I was going to run a sub-20 min 5k. After speaking with a friend, teammate and co-worker who told me in no uncertain terms that I couldn't do it and should probably re-adjust my goals, I decided I was going to go for it and either accomplish it, or die trying. The Summer went by, and once the air started to get crisp and I decided I was going to spend the fall working on my speed and going after that goal. Besides, it's the fall 5k/charity run season and if I run the same races I ran last year I'll have 3 maybe even 4 opportunities to get it done, on courses that I'm familiar with.

I started to really believe that it was possible at the beginning of October. My coach, knowing what my goals are, scheduled me for 800 meter repeats and mile repeats in back-to-back weeks. I learned something. Actually, I don't know if I "learned" something as much as I had a realization, an epiphany really, or learned something about myself. We'll call this "the BIG moment." During "the BIG moment" it was suddenly clear that in order to be fast, in order to actually run fast, I had to suffer. I mean, I had to really BURN! Everything had to burn: My legs, my lungs, my arms, my stomach and even my hair had to feel like it was on fire. Over the past year I'd read, talked about and heard runner's talk about "suffering" and "pain" while they were turning-in the best performances of their careers. I truly didn't know what they meant until somewhere into the second or third 800m repeat at a 6:40/mile pace.

My instructions from my coach were to run these 800m repeats at my "all-out 1 mile pace." Since I had no idea what pace that was, I just went out as fast and hard as I could and tried to settle into a pace I felt I could hold onto for 1 mile. The first one I ran at a 5:54/mi pace. I knew that this was too fast. I went out too fast (after the first lap I saw 5:25/mi pace on my Garmin) and basically crashed on the second lap of the track. I could barely even jog my recovery lap. I found my "all-out 1 mile pace" to be about 6:40/mi on my second repeat. But it was really starting to hurt. Everything was on fire. Then my third 800 repeat hurt a lot more and I felt a lot slower, but it came in around 6:40/mi again. I had to do everything I could not to collapse. Lex ran over to me with Iz and Chralotte in tow and asked if I was okay and I said "no!" She said "what's wrong?" To which I replied simply "it BURNS!!!" Of course she said, "what burns?" I replied "EVERYTHING!" and took off on my recovery lap.

It was on this recovery lap that I realized I was truly running outside of my "comfort zone" for the first time, I think ever. I was on fire. I was deep into the pain cellar with no way out and I was able to keep going by simply focusing on things like my cadence, breathing and foot turnover. In fact, I had to focus on those things in order to move past the pain. If I had even acknowledged the pain I would've quit. Plain and simple. It was this pain that had creeped into me in previous races that had caused me to back down, caused my self-doubt to override my training and ability, and kept me from performing at what I know could have been my best. I mean, I've felt pain before, what I've called my "mental" and even "physical" walls. I've described them before as the "lactic acid flush" where suddenly everything just explodes in pain. But usually I've felt this, as many others have, late in a long distance race like a half-marathon, a 16-miler, or a full marathon. This pain was different. 

Honestly, the "walls" that I had previously pushed through, in retrospect, were most likely do to nutrition or electrolyte imbalances often experienced by endurance athletes. The kind of pain that caused my epiphany, was the kind that sets-in immediately. An exquisite pain that causes you to battle with yourself mentally the whole race or workout. It's uncomfortable from the get-go, and the only way to get over it is to get through it. Let me tell you it is all about mental toughness. With every step you take your mind and body want to quit. The internal monologue can be summed-up like this: "Quit. No. Please quit. No. If you don't quit you're going to injure yourself. Shut up! Really, this sucks, there's no shame in backing down.  Goddamit! You are not going to rule my life. No, really, if you don't quit, I will. I'm not quitting! Don't you feel your heart pounding? It's about to explode! Knock it off! I'm going to run this race with or without you! Your lungs are burning. I know. Your legs are burning. Get used to it! How do you like that diaphragm cramp? I love it!" And, well, I think you get the picture...

The next week during my mile repeats (at 6:40 pace) it was there again, from start to finish. But on my 800m recovery jogs, my heart rate returned to normal, the pain went away, and I felt like a million bucks by the time I started my next repeat. And there it was again. I realized, in order to run fast I had to live in this place for whatever length of time the race was. But I suddenly had a knowledge that I didn't have before: I would survive. I could live with this level of pain for however long I had to, and not die. This was the key. I decided I need to love the pain. I know now that I have to expect it, even welcome it. Bring it on! So I added "Bring the Pain" by Method Man to my running soundtrack:

"I came to bring the pain hardcore from the brain
let's go inside my astral plane...

Check it... Just how deep can shit get?
Deep as the Abyss and brother's mad fish, accept it...

Is it real son, is it really real son


Let me know it's real son, if it's really real..."


So, on Saturday October 30th when I toed the line at the Oak Scare 5k, the sight of my first 5k race just one year prior (29:00), I knew how I was going to feel for the next 20 minutes or so.  I lined-up at the front of the pack for the first time. As soon as the horn went off, so did I. I took off. Fast. When I passed my friends Mary and Tom McManus, who were cheering near the finish area, I was in first place (about 0.25 mi into the race)! Things changed fast. Two really fast guys passed me going into the Oak Square rotary, as if I was standing still, and steadily pulled-away from me going up Washington St. Suddenly, I found myself in third place, I looked around and noticed I had about 100 yards on the rest of the pack. As I got to the first hill going up to Foster, I got passed by a guy dressed-up as Steve Prefontaine. For a second I thought I was hallucinating and it really was Pre. I couldn't get pissed, after all it was Pre so I didn't even try to answer. What really pissed me off was when Spider Man passed me like I was standing still, but it wasn't in fact Spidey that got to me, it was the asshole with his 5 year-old kid in the jogging stroller who was keeping pace with him while chatting away with his kid about the plot line of the Spider Man movie as if it was nothing. I know how heavy those things are.

Passing the 1 mile marker in 6:50 I was still around 6th place. Then we headed-up the huge hill onto Comm Ave. and I lost it. No matter what I tried, I couldn't keep my pace, or my cadence. It seemed like people were passing me in droves on that hill. Nothing got to me until these three girls, all wearing bright pink Saucony Kinvaras and coordinating outfits went by me holding a full-on conversation. Really? I could barely breathe and here they were having a chat about what they did last nioght and what they were doing later. Ugh. By the time we turned onto Comm Ave. they had about 100 yards on me and I made it my mission to reel them in and pass them on the downhills before the finish. Apparently they had the same idea and the reeling-in was slow. 

My second mile came in at 8:00 even, which surprised me because it felt like I might as well have been walking up that hill. At this point I knew 20:00 was out of the question. Actually, I knew it on the hill. It was bigger than I had remembered. I resolved myself to at least finishing with a PR (< 23:32) which meant I only had to run faster than 8:40'ish for the last 1.1 miles. I really turned it on once I adjusted my goal. Turning onto the homestretch the girls were within 40 yards or so. I began reeling them in. Mile 3 came in at 7:14 and I started to really kick.  They didn't even know what was coming, 30 yards, 20 yards, 10... I could hear them still jabbering away and it infuriated me. I ran the last 0.1 miles in 46 seconds (6:26/mi pace) faster than any portion of the race so far. But it was just too little too late. They all finished just ahead of me. I think i actually bumped into them in the chute. but I did have a new PR by 40 seconds (22:52). Not to mention a 16th place OA finish and 4th in my AG.

The following Sunday saw me lining-up here in my hometown for the Veteran's Memorial 5k. A race I had run last year in 30:04. It is a notoriously tough course that starts with a long sweeping downhill for the first mile, followed by a nice, rolling section for about 0.5 miles until all hell breaks loose. Right at the 1.5 mile mark you are brought to a hill that is somewhere in the range of an 8-10% incline for 0.25 miles, followed by an equally steep downhill section and a long, steady uphill for the final mile or so.  (with a slight downhill to the finish). My plan was to go out as hard as I possibly could and then just hang on through the hills and finish strong. this time I lined-up "toward" the front as there were a lot of my fellow Central Mass Striders (who I knew were fast) and literally 50 or 60 ROTC kids from all branches there trying to impress their CO's. I knew I couldn't compete. However, when things started to shake out around the first mile I found myself near the leaders (6:24). As soon as we hit that first hill I got passed for the first time. It was a female ROTC cadet, so I was totally okay with it.

I hit my second mile in 7:41 even with the huge hill and I'd only been passed once. Heading-up the long hill, I turned the corner and was eventually passed by the pink Saucony Kinvara mafia once again. This time there were only two of them and they were both wearing Timberman finisher shirts. This didn't piss me off as much as you'd think it would. Instead, it actually helped me as I latched onto them and let them pace me up the hill as I drafted them. The third mile clicked off over the top of the hill in 7:46 and I turned it on. I reeled-in and passed one of those Saucony mafia girls and almost got the second one, running the last 0.1 mile in 0:48 seconds (6:41 pace). After the race I saw the mafia and the girl I passed (there were actually about 5 of them). She said "there he is" out loud so I turned and shook her hand and she gave me a "good race." When I read the results on-line later, I found-out she was only 15. Awesome! Most importantly, I had garnered another PR with a 22:42, a 35th OA and 16th in my AG.

I've got at least one more shot, possibly two at that 20:00 BHAG! And at least one of those races is almost perfectly flat! Consider it done.

10.24.2010

Groton Town Forest Trail Race and 1 year of Racing

So, today I celebrated my one year running anniversary by running the Groton Town Forest Trail Race. First, let me say that I love running in the Town of Groton. Every time I run there I run a PR! I ran my 10k PR of 49:19 at the Groton Road Races 6 days post-Boston, and this race is a 9.5 mile trail race, a distance I've never run before, guaranteed to be a PR! Love it! That's the best part of being a new runner, it seems that just about every race is a PR!

Before I get started with the race report I just want to reflect a little on this past year. What an amazing year! I've been truly blessed! I can't believe how far I've come. I ran my first race on October 24, 2009. It was the Oak Scare 5k in Brighton (I'll be running it again this Saturday) and I ran it in 29:00. To be fair, I had only been released from Physical Therapy for my knee surgery and back to work for 1 week. I ran a few more races in the fall, and the last 5k of 2009, I set a 5k PR of 25:38 at Walter's Run less than 2 months later. All in all I've run 14 races in 12 months... a bunch of 5k's, a couple of 5-miler's, 2 10k's, a 9.5 miler, 3 Half-Marathon's, and the Marathon (Boston).

I've made leaps and bounds as a runner, and I've logged a lot of miles (1207.3 to be exact). I've lost almost 80 pounds and dropped my blood pressure by nearly 20 points. But I think the fact that I'm most proud of is that between Lex's Run for the MDA (the charity race that my wife and I organize and direct), and the Children's Hospital "Miles for Miracle's" Boston Marathon Team I've raised almost $15k for charity! No small feat in this economy... And I'm doing it all again this year!

Enough of that, now on with the race report:

I arrived early with every intention of getting a good warm-up in. However, I picked-up my number and t-shirt, went back to the car to get ready (I had a spot right in front) and ended getting into a conversation with my friend Chris Russell (@cyktrussell) of RunRunLive podcasting fame. We had talked (or tweeted, actually) about running this race together, along with a bunch of our twitter friends who are part of our New England Running Twits (#NERTs) group on twitter: Adam (@adamm9), Sandy (@Trifatlete), Melody (@MrsKnitpho), Heather (@wickedphysics), and Jonathan (@thinmedic).Chris said he was "banned" from racing this one hard, so we would make this a social run/race. Little did I know that his "not racing" would be my "racing as hard as I can."

Anyway, we chatted, and I tweeted and IM'd everyone to figure out where they were and get some ETA's. Adam and Jonathan were running a bit late and someone "got a little lost" without actually being lost. Sandy, Melody and Heather showed-up, Thin was the next to show and as we were making our way toward the start Adam finally showed-up. We milled about the start chatting it up about the course with Chris since he was the most familiar with these trails (his running club, the Squannacook River Runners, put on the race). Adam showed-up right before the start and we were finally all together. Thin moved-up to take his place near the front for the start (he ran a ridiculous time around 1:09:xx).

At the start we all took off at a nice comfortable pace, which soon picked-up to comfortably hard as the field spread out. By the time we hit the first single track Chris was in front, I was behind him and Adam and Sandy filed in behind us. Chris took-up the role of tour guide letting us know all about the features and topography of the trail coming-up (which was great actually), and even a bit of the area like the Dead River and the Groton School. I could tell he really wanted to push the pace at times and I was doing my best to keep-up and hold conversation. The four of us passed a bunch of people here and there and hung together pretty well. There was one girl in particular that didn't want to yield the trail to us, and got frustrated when we'd pass her on the uphills and then she'd come flying by us on the downhills. This only lasted a short time though as she finally gave up and we left her behind.

Around about the 2-2.5'ish mile mark (our Garmin's weren't exactly accurate) I noticed Adam starting to fade (he ran the Bay State Marathon only 1 week ago), I just assumed Sandy was hanging back with him as I didn't hear him on my heels anymore. I was pretty proud of myself for hanging with Chris this long. We were running together pretty smoothly and the conversation helped the time and miles go by. We hit the first set of glacial kettles and I was impressed. They were much larger and steeper than I'd even imagined and seemed to cover much more distance. I knew it was going to be a bitch coming back through the second set near the end of the race. It was somewhere past the first set of kettles that I noticed Sandy was right on my heels, like a silent assassin. The three of us hung together for the majority of the race.

Chris really was a gracious host. He'd get a bit ahead of us and either stop or slow down and wait for us to catch-up, but he never really got more than 50 yards or so ahead of us. It was great. However, after the last time he stopped for us at a fork in the trail, he let us go ahead and Sandy took the lead. Sandy really started pushing the pace and Chris was more than willing to keep up. This is about where the pain really started creeping in during one of the steep uphill sections for me, and I just had to let them go. Somewhere between 6.5 and 7 miles I just watched them steadily pull away from me. I did pretty well through the first part of the second set of kettle's. I was getting pretty good at just flying down the hills, keeping-up my cadence and running light on my toes just barely touching the ground as I went.

In between the last set of kettle's we came to an nice flat, wide section of trail. I relaxed and picked-up my pace a bit, until I turned my left ankle. So I walked for a minute until the ankle felt ok and I figured I could get going again. Problem is, I also saw the annoying girl from earlier closing in on me and thought to myself "Oh, no! That is just not going to happen!" So about 100 meters or so into running again... I turned my right ankle! This time it felt like it might have been bad, so I stopped. As I stopped, "annoying girl" flew by me. I swear I heard her chuckle too! So, I started walking, figuring I'd at least get my butt across that finish line no matter how I had to do it. Even if I had to crawl. By the time I hit the last kettle I was running again, not nearly as fast, but running none-the-less.

After that final kettle I thought we had to be done with the hills, but I was wrong. There were quite a few long steep climbs followed by sharp descents. Somewhere around mile 8 I resorted to power-walking the uphills and letting myself fly on the downhills. I figure it was good practice for my future Ultramarthon career, right? As I was rounding a corner after a downhill I heard Adam yelling my name, so I stopped and waited for him. We stayed together for the rest of the race. Adam turned his ankle once, but we ended-up finishing together, in a dead sprint! As soon as we saw the finish, Adam said to me "so, you wanna run it in?" To which I replied "Sure, but I don't know what I have left!" As we got closer, we got faster. I felt him surge so I surged, and on it went. I think I almost ran over someone's dog. We finished in 1:32:50 according to my Garmin, a 9.5 mile PR for both of us!

I've decided I love trail races. They might just be my niche. I'm going to do as many as I can. I felt like a kid running through the woods. I'm going to buy some trail shoes though, with a low profile and some sort of reinforcement under the forefoot. The Brooks Launch were probably the wring choice for this race. My feet are destroyed. All of my toes are hurting and the balls of my feet are ridiculously bruised. But it's all the kind of pain you feel after a job well done. After the race we hung out by my car, took some pics of the NERTs, had a beer then went in to re-fuel with some carbs provided to us by the race organizer's. I'll definitely be running this race again. Good times! Thanks to all of the NERTs who showed up and made this such a great day. I wouldn't have celebrated my anniversary any other way!

On The Running Boom...

"Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment
Would you capture it? Or just let it slip?"
- Eminem


From where I sit, I see that we are in the middle of what is quite likely the biggest running "boom" in history. All over the country, the World even, races of all types, distances and purposes are selling like never before. Races that have never sold-out before are suddenly closing registration months ahead of time. Races that always sell-out are getting even harder to get into. Muddy Buddy's, Warrior Dash's, Charity 5k's, odd-distance races, beer, burrito, and even juggling challenges are having their infrastructure's pushed to the limits by a ground swell of running enthusiasts looking for new and interesting races, even just your everyday "run like your hair is on fire" tests of endurance and stamina are in high demand.

So, it should be of no surprise to anyone that the 115th running of the Boston Marathon, April 18, 2011 sold-out in less than 8 hours. After all, Boston isn't just any marathon, it's the marathon! Months ago I read a blog somewhere that was having a "contest" to guess how long it would take for Boston to sell-out this year. My guess was 24 hours. Boy was I wrong! It really was a stroke of marketing genius by the B.A.A. if you think about it. A triumph! One that may eventually backfire unless they respond to the current state of running in the proper manner. I saw this coming (and personally, I have no thoughts of BQ'ing before I turn 50), so why didn't the thousands of disappointed BQ'ers that just let it pass them by?

This is how they did it: The B.A.A. sent out an email and press release in October of last year (after registration had been open for a month, and only about 10k had registered) which said something to the effect of "The Boston Marathon is close to selling out! Get your registration in NOW!" And lo-and-behold, the 114th Boston Marathon was sold-out by November 13, 2009. A whole two months earlier than the 113th running. This year the BAA made several high profile public statements and announcements that should have been a clue to the clueless, starting with the fact that they would not open registration until October 18th (a full month later that the traditional mid-September opening) in order to "give everyone a chance to qualify during the fall marathon season."

This year, every running magazine I picked-up, seemingly every article I read has talked about the current running "boom," and the surge of runner's attempting to BQ. You only have to have half an ear to the ground in the blogosphere, twitterverse, podcastia and around the office water cooler to hear someone, anyone, everyone broadcasting their private quest to BQ publicly. I hate to say it, but running a BQ has become "trendy." Just like the hula hoop, cabbage patch kids and zu-zu pets. So, if you've worked your butt off for two, three or even 5 years to get there and actually run a BQ, only to have your hopes, dreams and hard work dashed because 2500 runner's per hour registered and you didn't even log on for whatever reason, sorry for your loss.

I truly feel sorry for so many runner's who were shut-out of the process, especially the European runners who were probably asleep while registration was open (first the volcano, now this?), but really? Not surprised. Not one iota. So why are you? What I am surprised about is the backlash that subsequently ensued against charity runners. Shocked is more like it. Dismayed, distraught over, flabbergasted, disturbed, insulted, offended, stupefied and outright disgusted is more like it. I don't even know if all of those synonyms adequately describe how statements on facebook, twitter, bulletin boards, and several blogs affected me. It shook me to the core. I wasn't going to get into this in this post because so much has already been said by people far more eloquent and diplomatic than I on the subject (my friend's MattTy and Sam on their blogs), but I can't help myself.

Some of the things that I saw I'm simply not going to re-print, but some of the more tame things that were said by my own friends, in which I entered into debate with, were things like: "They need to decide if this is going to be a race or a charity event!" This, from a friend who said (after just missing a BQ by 23 seconds last year) he would run for charity but he didn't think he could raise the $3500 (he subsequently qualified by running a 3:17). Another friend who's been trying to BQ unsuccessfully for 3 years said "I would never run Boston for charity, it would cheapen the experience for me!" Someone else was discussing the merits of charity runners and relating the fact that many of the charity runner's are running run to conquer their own disabilities (much like my wife Lex and my friends Mary and Donna, for whom every race completed is a victory). And one of my fast friend's (a sub-3 hour marathoner) said "when did the 'everybody wins' mentality creep into our sport?" To which we went into a lengthy debate on what running is, what racing is, and the definition of "winner." And we just ended-up agreeing to disagree.

I'd just like to say that all of these conversations I saw and had were in direct conflict with my experiences to this point in the running community. Which is part of the reason I felt it cut so deep. So far I've found the running community to be incredibly inclusive, supportive and receptive to new runners and encouraging to all those just getting started or conquering disabilities, losing weight, and overcoming addiction to achieve their goals. The running community I know would never say that some are worthy while others just don't cut it. I guess human nature is just that and you see the true soul of a man in how he deals with or reacts to adversity. I have to say my heart broke just a little bit every time I felt I had to defend myself and "charity" runner's as a whole that day.

I think a lot of the backlash was started unwittingly or unknowingly by statements from the race organizer's in a couple of forums and different media. They made statements that there were an average of 2500 runner's per hour registering for the race, so do the math... 2500/hr x 8 hrs = 24,000 runner's. Everyone knows the field is limited to 30,000. So when they were put on the spot and asked about the discrepancy, somebody in the organization said something to the affect of "20% of the entries are reserved for non-qualifying runners." What wasn't said was that somewhere around 5000 of those entries are given out as "invitational" bibs to towns and municipalities, corporations, sponsors, local running clubs and volunteers. Yet, almost immediately, BQ'ers with sour grapes and an axe to grind literally started hammering the charity runners.

Let's just talk about number's for a minute. From my understanding, there are a fixed number of charity slots - 1350. The number hasn't changed for 2011. The BAA accepted more charities this year (24), but cut back on the number of bibs they gave to many "underperforming" charities. Each charity accepted into the program gets a minimum of 15 bibs. Luckily, Children's Hospital, raised $1.1M last year and received the same number of bibs (165) as last year. Each charity runner has to raise a minimum of $3250 + $250 entry fee. Since 1989 when the B.A.A. pioneered the charity program, they've raised over $100 Million for charities. Since then, nearly every marathon in the World had added a charity program to their marathon, but from what I've seen, Boston does it best.

Charity runners have a place in EVERY race, not just the Boston Marathon. Some people have the mistaken impression that charity runner's don't work as hard, or sacrifice as much as the BQ runners. Here's a little perspective- As a charity runner, I put-in over 800 training miles on the road. I ran in snowstorms, sub-zero temperatures, and even ran my 18-miler in a strong Nor'Easter in which I had to perform several stream crossings over the road as all of the rivers, streams and tributaries were overflowing their banks. My family sacrificed time, love and energy to get me to my goal. They were my road support, my pregnant wife and 3 year-old daughter always met me in the middle of my long runs to help me re-fuel. They were my emotional support always encouraging me along the way and cheering me on in my build-up races (I set a lot of PR's too)!

I know that my story isn't unique, in fact the overwhelming majority of charity runners also put-in the miles. How do I know this? The B.A.A. sponsors 2 long-runs and there were somewhere around 800 charity runners at the 17-miler and nearly 1000 charity runners at the 21-miler. I also raised almost $5000 for Children's Hospital in the process. My wife hated this part the most. Not only because of the stress of knowing if I didn't accomplish my goal the balance would be put on my credit card, but because she said the fundraising was "all-consuming." I had my own reason's and inspiration for choosing to run for Children's, and every runner has a story of how their charity has touched their lives. There were many, many runners who raised over $10k and if memory serves me, our top fundraiser raised something like $36k. Insane.

Much to my wife's chagrin I've chosen to do it all over again. Partly because my 4:14:09 finish fell short of my goal, but mostly because doing this for Children's Hospital to honor the memory of my friend's daughter Brenya Elizabeth Sullivan is something I feel called to do. It feels great to be involved in something so much bigger than myself. It has grown into an emotional and passionate mission for me, one that I plan to continue for many years to come. I am absolutely sure that even if I am graced with the ability to run a BQ some day, I will still run for the Children's Hospital "Miles for Miracles" program. Even if I am given an invitational bib from my running club one year, I'll still raise money for Children's. This year I plan on raising $10k. You can help me by going to my fundraising website and donating- https://howtohelp.childrenshospital.org/bostonmarathon/pfp/?ProfileID=WD0030

Again, I really do feel sorry for those who ran a BQ and didn't get in. It sucks. But, such is life. It's not the end of the World, and there are other options available to you. If you ran a BQ and were unable to get in this year, why not run for charity? There are 24 charities you can run for. Many of them still have spots open on their team. And it won't "cheapen" the experience for you since you've already run a BQ! What's holding you back? Let's see what type of commitment you are capable of, huh?

I also hope that the B.A.A. makes note of all that has transpired this year (in fact the past couple of years) and makes the proper adjustments accordingly. I don't think that the answer is to make the BQ time standards stricter. Like I said earlier, we are in the middle of a running boom, and these things are always cyclical. With a few minor adjustments I'm sure the B.A.A. can weather the storm. I know that since they broke-up the start into two waves, they've been working with the towns and municipalities along the course trying to increase the field size limit. I know that would be helpful. but why not also extend the length of time that running a BQ is valid for to say 2, 3 or even 5 years (but, of course, as soon as you use it, you lose it). I think these two adjustments might just solve the problem altogether.

There are a lot of races out there that have stricter qualification standards, but I argue they just aren't the spectacle and prestige of Boston. But, if you're really interested in qualifying for and running a truly "elite" and "World class" event, as many have expressed, then why not shoot for the Fukuoka Marathon in Japan? Think you have it in you? Be my guest! My point is that it's NOT the qualifying times that make Boston what it is. It is in fact Boston itself. Nowhere will you have anywhere near the experience of the Boston Marathon. The course, the fans, the people, the volunteers, the organization, you name it. Everything that encompasses the Boston Marathon is in fact the draw, not the qualifying times. Besides, if you run a BQ does that mean you expect to win the race? Do you even expect to win your age group? Probably not. So, who in fact are you racing against when you run Boston? Yourself? That's what I thought. You're no different than me or any other charity runner in the race. We are all runners. Yet I argue that the charity runner may have a little more invested.

Who does the Boston Marathon belong to after all? It belongs to Boston. It belongs to history. It belongs to tradition. It belongs to stories told for years to come. It does not belong to you just because you happen to be athletically talented, genetically gifted, or well-trained enough to have run a BQ.

10.13.2010

Worcester Half Marathon - "If you can't say anything nice..."

I've been sitting on this one for a long time because I've been a bad blogger and had such an incredibly hectic Summer. I'm turning over a new leaf by getting this post together (finally) I promise!

I entered this half-marathon on a whim. After the Boston Marathon I couldn't stop running. In fact, I ran a recovery run of two miles the next day and a 10k PR at the Groton Road Races 6 days later. My coach literally had to force me to take a week off of running activities completely. Actually he banned me from running. So, when I started running again 8 days later, I felt completely unfocused. I suddenly didn't know why I was running and became very inconsistent in my training. Which is highly unlike me. While I was training for Boston, coach used to say I was a machine. I did exactly the workouts he gave me. I mean to the "T." Religiously. After my "break" I found myself deciding whether-or-not I "wanted" to do the workouts he gave me, and I felt horrible about it. So, I felt I needed a goal race to shape-up my training, and I signed up for Worcester. It was close to home. It was a half marathon and wouldn't require me to be gone all day. Perfect. I still felt woefully unprepared when race weekend arrived.

On Saturday, after navigating the 3 or 4 different websites put together for the race (all with different information) I figured out where the "Race Expo" was and headed-out to pick-up my packet and bib#. Upon arriving at the Hilton Garden Inn I didn't see any signage directing me where to go, but was directed to the second floor ballroom by the kindly front desk clerk. When I got to the "Expo" it was literally a bib#/packet pick-up, period. Oh, there were a couple of tables with some information on the race's "charities," etc. but no vendors, no guest speakers, no pre-race excitement, nothing. I was given my bib# and an office bin liner ("goodie bags" were promised on the website) with a  few flyers in it to put my race shirt in (I won't even get into the quality or color of the "High Quality Tech Shirts" advertised).

I milled about for a minute and met a big happy guy named Andy Sharry. He said he was the coach of the YMCA Marathon Team. He had put together a large group to run this half marathon, most of which were first-timers. He really seemed like a great guy, and was surrounded by a group of enthusiastic runners, one of which made mention of how they were up late putting together the packets and putting demographic stickers onto the bib #'s the night before. I thought to myself "Really?" This is a professional "sports group" (Reinke) producing the race (the 15th out of 16 in the series, btw) and they had to rely on the free labor of a group of eager participants to get the work done?

As I was leaving the "Expo" I noticed something posted on the wall in the hallway, it was a course change notification. Now, I had been following the progression of the course since at least February when I first heard of the race and this was at least the 4th change that I had noticed to the course and I still wasn't clear what the actual course would be. However, there was a nice note attached to the latest changes that said something to the effect of "the USATF finally made it out to certify our course yesterday and we've had to move the Start again." This struck me as odd. As a race director myself, I know that if you simply perform your due diligence, the USATF course measurers (there are 9 of them in MA) are more than willing to take your money and certify your course in a timely manner.

Anyway, I went home, ate dinner and got into bed early. I can't remember what time the race started, but I do remember that the time posted at the expo was the correct time. However, I saw at least two other "start times" in different places, and was glad I checked the notice at the expo. I also checked one of the websites and noticed a link for the "parking plan." When I clicked on it, I just had to chuckle... it simply stated something like "there are several municipal lots and metered spaces in downtown Worcester, and all public parking is free on Sundays." Great plan.

On race day, I woke-up early as per my usual. I ate my bagel with peanut butter around 5 am with 16oz of HEED. I sipped on my 20oz. bottle of water the rest of the time I was getting my things together and trying to get out the door. I arrived at what I thought was the start area (there was zero indication that there was a race about to take place) about an hour before gun time. I ate a banana and downed the rest of my water and headed toward the square to figure things out, stretch, and get in a little warm-up.

I jogged around and found the guys from All Sport Central setting-up the finish line area and asked them if they knew EXACTLY where the start was going to be. Funny, but they pointed-out that it was going to be right in front of where I parked my car (convenient) and someone would be "setting it up soon." Soon? It was already less than an hour before gun time! So, I set-out on my warm-up and by the time I got back to the port-a-potties they were all backed-up. It didn't help that they only had like 10 of them for over 1000 runners. Really? I mean, port-a-potties are always busy before races, but 10/1000 was kinda' ridiculous IMHO. If I continued waiting in line, there was absolutely no way I was going to make the start. So I headed over to the Start and made a pit stop at my car and a Gatotade bottle. At times like this I'm really glad we bought the Honda Element!

After finding some relief, I ran some striders and milled about the starting area. I found Andy Sharry and his incredibly pumped-up group! I was so happy for them all and their excitement rubbed-off on me! They had these great shirts made up that said something like "A half marathon is a 5k race with a 10-mile warm-up." It's funny, but that's exactly what I came-up with when my coach asked me my game plan for Hyannis (my first half). I kept this in mind while I was out there, and really helped get me through some tough spots! The shirt of the day award has to go to the group from Crossfit Center Mass that read "Ruck Funning!"

They didn't have any "corrals" so-to-speak, so I just settled in somewhere in the middle of the pack. Just so happens I ended-up right next to Andy and his group when the gun went off. We slowly made our way to the starting line and of course, as we crossed the mats you could hear everyone's watches beeping in sync. My typical large-crowd anxiety kicked-in and I took off. The first couple of miles I spent just weaving in and out, up on the sidewalks and around just trying to find some breathing room. The first mile clicked-of in 8:13, then the second came in 8:09. I knew I was running way too fast and felt like I needed to put the brakes on (I remembered that my PR in Hyannis was an average of an 8:44 mile). However, at this point we were running down Chandler and I just wanted to get out of there in one piece (Really? Did they have to route the course through that section of town?)

I knew somewhere after the third mile we would be turning up Haviland to Beechmont up one of the more serious hills on the course, Mile 3 came in at 8:19. As I made the turn onto Haviland and and started the ascent (more like climb) I was overcome with a sense of dread. I got through it by reminding myself that Haviland has nothing on Birch Brush (the hill that I finish nearly all of my training runs with)! This seemed to propel me effortlessly to the turn up Beechmont. And when I say up, I mean up. Almost straight up, for well over a quarter mile. Which brought back memories of the hill at the left turn of 9 miles in the Boston Prep 16-miler. No sweat. I got to the top of Beechmont and my lungs were burning, my legs were on fire and I literally thought I was going to blow-up or spontaneously combust on the spot. Thank goodness what goes up, must come down and I was appropriately wearing my Newton Motion Trainers... I just focused on keeping my cadence high and "flying" down to the bottom of the hill at Salisbury St. Mile 4 clicked-off at 8:55! Strong work!

We made the left onto Salisbury and I realized that we were put into a very dangerous situation. I saw no police officers controlling or directing traffic. Salisbury St. is a winding narrow wooded road with little to no shoulder that driver's absolutely fly down. My wife is a paramedic for Worcester EMS and she's told me horror stories about that street. Everything seemed to be going well for about the first quarter-mile or so until the first series of asshole driver's came barreling down the road seemingly shocked to see a whole heard of runner's plodding along in the oncoming shoulder. After lots of honking, swerving and middle fingers, they passed without anyone getting killed. At this point, most of us moved onto the sidewalk. I hate running on the sidewalks. Then the sidewalk ended and we all lined-up single file on the white line. After a few more harrowing run-ins with speeding cars we finally made the left turn onto Flagg St.

There were a couple of volunteers at the intersection of Flagg and Salisbury, but the roads weren't closed
(yet again), and we were relegated to riding the white lines or the left shoulder, which became a bit hectic, wobbly and uneven. It was somewhere around here that I first experienced a sharp, shooting pain in my right ankle after navigating some uneven pavement. My ankle didn't turn or anything and I'm a forefoot/midfoot striker so how it happened kinda' puzzled me. I was hoping it would get better or just go away but unfortunately it only got worse. Every time I found myself running on uneven pavement or a left-cambered section of road, the pain became almost unbearable. I held my pace up the hill on Flagg and mile 5 was 8:25.

From Flagg all the way to just before Worcester State College was mostly downhill and we finally came to the 2nd water stop. I took a GU, downed a water and dumped one over my head. Mile 6 clicked-off at 8:27 just after we turned back onto Chandler. I knew the next few miles was mostly downhill, rolling hills, but mostly downhill. I also knew that the LONG hill on Franklin St. after the fire station was coming-up shortly after 9 so I picked-up the pace a little bit and mile 7 came in at 8:07, then we hit the third water stop and it was so chaotic that I missed/dropped the water hand-off's from two of the small children volunteering and had to turn back and wait for someone to fill more so I could get some water. Mile 8 still clicked-off at 8:13. No problems.

At this point, the ankle was really bothering me. At least every other stride or so, a searing pain shot up from under my ankle. Somewhere around 8.5 miles I was contemplating pulling-out of the race due to injury. I was in a fairly large group of runner's when an elderly woman in a Lexus had her left turn signal on and seemed to be waiting patiently as the hundred's of runner's made our way up Chandler St. Of course that is, until I got up to her. As soon as the group I was running in got up to her bumper, the look on her face said "fuck it" and she turned left directly into us, sending about a dozen of us scampering and jumping out of the way. She missed my left knee by maybe an inch. If I hadn't jumped at just the right moment she would have totally taken me out. Crazy bitch. It was just then that I realized the police presence was really minimal this whole race. I mean, all up and down Chandler, there were police at every major intersection stopping the cross-traffic, but that's about it.

Again, as a race director myself, I know that the police detail can cost a major chunk of your budget. The  detail Lt. from the asks you how far the race is, how many streets you're going to need closed, how many runners and how many hours. As this was the second time in the race that I actually felt like I was in danger, it occurred to me that the race organizer's did everything they could to protect their bottom line. Everything suddenly made sense... The lack of road closures, the lack of water stops, and the bare minimum's in everything else, along with the several course changes were, I'm sure, all a part of their (Reinke Sports Group) efforts to make sure they had a race that would cost them the least amount of money to produce. I'm glad I came into this with little to no expectations.

Anyway, I digress... As I approached mile 9 I started to pass a family that had been maintaining their pace in front of me the whole race. Mother, Father, Son and Daughter. The boy couldn't have been more than 9 or 10. They were awesome! I later found-out that they were fellow Central Mass Striders members the Mastromatteo's who all run 22-23 minute 5k's. Simply amazing! I can only hope that my family will be so into running together. So as I made my "move" on them, I passed mile 9 at 1:15:13 (8:23) and turned the corner onto Franklin passing the new firehouse that stands on the site of the Worcester Cold Storage fire. I said a prayer for my fallen brothers and headed up that monster hill.

A short way up the hill I found a woman in her late 40's/early 50's and locked in step with her. We were matching each other stride for stride. Whenever one of us noticed we were slowing down we would pick-up the pace a little for the other, and this was how it went all the way up. She'd start moving slower, I'd step it up. I'd start moving slower she'd step it up. We basically took turns pacing each other all the way up Franklin St. About halfway up my watch beeped at me for mile 10 (8:57). When we got to the top we looked at each other and fist-bumped. I said "Thanks! I couldn't have made it up with out you!" She said "I was just trying to keep up with you!" She then proceeded to take-off down Plantation toward Shrewsbury St.

Halfway down Plantation was the fourth (and I believe final) water stop. I noticed people were lining-up again waiting for water so I stopped, grabbed one water and dumped it over my head, grabbed another off the end of the table, downed as few swallows and took off again. It was here where I decided to go into race mode. I knew that Shrewsbury St. was all downhill and that most of the course after that was basically flat. I gave it all that I had and turned in 8:23, 8:13 and 8:22 miles for the final 3. I was passing runner's by the handful, and even passed my friend from the hill. Then I turned off of Foster onto Franklin and the crowd was outrageous! There were so many of them and they were LOUD. Cow bells and all. It was cool. I turned onto Salem and saw that the gun clock read 1:49:49 so I sprinted through the finish. I ran the last 0.12 miles in 51 seconds (7:08/mi pace) and when I crossed the mats the clock read 1:50:11. I was dejected. So close. For the first time ever after a race, I just kissed Lex and Iz and collapsed onto the chairs at the end of the chute and fell apart. I literally had nothing left and my ankle was killing me.

Once I was able to, I gathered myself together and got some bananas, pretzels, water, etc. I even had a couple of the little plastic shot glasses full of Michelob Ultra they were handing-out. I waited to see the results posted and the listed my "unofficial" time as 1:50:02. Dejected again. Now, I realize that I had earned a PR by over 4 minutes, but something about getting in under 1:50:00. I dunno. Call me crazy. So, I gathered Lex and Isabelle and headed over to the Hilton Garden Inn where I could swear I'd seen listed as the location of the award ceremony/after party. Nope. Nada. Nothing. The sign about the course change was still up on the wall though. They had a band playing in the square, and they had your basic post-race chips, pretzels, bananas, and other staples. Could that have been the after party? Apparently. According to some friends who'd tweeted and texted me wondering where I was. Oh well.

I just wanted a burger and a beer. We hunkered-down at Pizzeria Uno and I had my ritual post-race burger and a beer, and we went home. I woke-up in the morning to an email saying the "official" results had been posted... 1:49:42!!! I was ecstatic! Bouncing off of the walls, I was on cloud 9 for a week. Funny how 20 seconds can make such a difference.

9.18.2010

I'm SOOOOO behind!

So, it was a crazy-hectic Summer, and I've been a horrible blogger. I have so many race reports to post that I don't know where to begin. I started writing my report on the Worcester Half-Marathon, but decided to shelf it until after Lex's Run because there were so many things that I learned (as-in what NOT to do when organizing/directing a race), but I wanted to refrain fro fear of jinxing myself. So, look for that report to be published soon, because I think it's important that some of those things be said.

I also had a great time running in the Marathon Sports 5-Miler (team challenge was fun) and that report is also forthcoming. The most important race report of the Summer which should be highly entertaining is the report of the birth of my second daughter Charlotte. Lex and I had a beautiful home-birth experience, and there is a lot that NEEDS to be said about our experience specifically but also many things we learned about the home-birth -vs- hospital birth, sticking to your birth-plan, and remembering that obstetrician's are surgeons after all...

I'm also going to put-up a race report and some pictures of Lex's Run 2010. Although it will be a race report from the perspective of the Race Director, it should be a fun and interesting read. Maybe it will inspire others to go out and put on their own races, or maybe it will scare people enough that they will never want to go out on that limb. Hopefully, it will at least inspire people to raise money for charity. The experience is so worthwhile...

And last but not least there is another post I've been working on about "What's Next?" What does the future hold for me, what are my plans, where do my running/racing plans fit-in with my family, and what does my schedule look like for the next year.

Man, I've got a lot of writing to do... Better get to work!

7.14.2010

Bad Blogger...

I'm thinking about changing the name of my blog to "Really Not a Blogger."