Rest Week!

I'm looking forward to the downtime this week. After my longest run ever (18 miles), my longest week ever (45 miles), and my longest 30 days ever (180 miles), I'm a hurting puppy. Nothing major, just lots of aches and pains from the long hard training regimen I've been following. This week I'm running every OTHER day, lower intensity (no speedwork) and low milage (28 miles planned)! Sweet. I need it. Lots of healing going on this week. I'm going to rest (a lot), ice (a lot), eat (properly), and generally enjoy myself. I might even get a massage and have a couple of beers (not at the same time, of course)! Yay!

Sunday's 18-mile long run was interesting to say the least. Logistically it was almost perfect. I bought a 4-bottle Fuel Belt this week and brought 16 oz's of Gatorade and 16 oz's of water with me. I pulled-out the outer shell of my Columbia (Waterproof?) Winter parka and threw it on over my running gear, thew a long(er) billed baseball cap on under the parka hood to keep the rain our of my eyes, and headed-out into the breech! Running in a Nor'Easter is an interesting experience to say the least. Needless to say by mile 6 my Columbia was dead weight, of no use to me whatsoever. A certain scene from Caddyshack kept looping over and over in my head throughout the run...

As I came upon the halfway mark of my run, soaked and chilled to the bone, I thought (however briefly) about calling Lex to come and pick me up. I had just about enough of this shit! All of a sudden I jumped out of my skin as I heard a car honking their horn behind me in one of the few spots on my route I was forced to run on the Right side of the road! It was Lex! She pulled up a bit further to where it was safe and got Isabelle out of the back to stand out in their rain gear to cheer me on! A quick kiss from my girls and some high fives and I was back underway. It was just the emotional lift I needed at just the right time!

They continued driving ahead of me and stopping every 2 or 3 miles giving me something to look forward too. Although, I have to say I was jealous when I ran in to my regular pit stop at the donut shop and saw them drinking hot cocoa and eating a blueberry muffin. It was sweet of Lex to offer to go home and get some warm, dry clothes for me, but I didn't see the point. I just slogged ahead. Around the 14 mile point they warned me of a technical stream crossing ahead and advised to to cross from the Left side of the street. When I got to where the tributary of the Assabet River had overflowed it banks, there were literally whitewater rapids flowing over the street. The Left side was the "shallow" part, but it was almost knee deep. The water was ice cold, and believe it or not... It felt AWESOME! Which gave me an idea for post-run recovery - ICE BATH! The Northborough DPW crew was literally waiting for me on teh other side and closed the road as I passed them. I'm pretty sure I heard one of them say "you're nuts!" As I wished them a good day. I couldn't help but think they were right.

Anyway, I kept going up the road and saw my girls again around mile 15, just as I was starting to hit my "physical" wall. I told them I was okay, but as they headed on down the road I was screaming inside of my head "Wait! Come back! Don't leave me!" I think I actually teared-up, but it was probably just the rain. I came across them again around 16.5 right by my favorite part of most of my runs. there's a reservoir and a waterfall there and I stopped to tell them I loved them. Lex looked at me and said "Don't stop now, get your ass moving you're almost home!" Which again was just what I needed as I faced-down the third of my four 200 ft climbs. After which they pulled-up next to me with the Dropkick's cranking on the radio and told me they'd meet me at home because Iz had to pee! LOL! After they left for good I really turned it on and ended-up negative splitting my last 3 miles (11:42, 10:46, 9:43). I felt really good when I finished, but I took that ice bath anyway. Heaven!

Like I said... I'm looking forward to my rest week!


Work Smarter, Not Harder!

I learned a lot about myself last week, but especially during my long run on Sunday. It was the third time I'd run at least 16 miles and the first time I'd run that far by myself, completely unsupported. I need to fill in with a little back-story about my week first... After the Hyannis Half Marathon I was speaking with one of my friends who inspires me by his example. He's got a couple of marathons under his belt and has faced a lot of adversity in his life and training. He and my Coach's wife (an experienced marathoner in her own right) jokingly stated that they "might be done with marathons." Saying 13.1 was the perfect distance and that "marathons just suck."

Now, I know that they were kidding, but I couldn't help but think they were only half-kidding (most likely about being "done" with marathons). I finished the half marathon feeling extremely confident about my performance, training and ability. I felt like I was in a good place and would be perfectly ready for Marathon Monday (as it's referred to in these parts). However, after talking to them, I started to question everything. I mean, I trust my coaching and I'm confident in the training that I've put-in so far, I just have this nagging self-doubt that has been plaguing me my whole life, and it's starting to creep back in.

When I saw this same friend at work shortly after Hyannis, he told me his quads were killing him as they frequently do. Now, I know that my friend is in shape. I'm familiar with his work ethic and I know he's putting in the tough training hours. So, just trying to gauge where he is at I said "Really? My quads never bother me." I wasn't saying this to be a smart-ass, I just found it curious. He said his quads always  kill him after long runs or races, and mine would eventually too. Now, I'm probably jinxing myself, but I don't seem to have a lot of the problems that most distance runners seem to complain about: no "shredded" quads, no black toenails, no blisters, etc. So, of course I began thinking... "Either I am just made for this endurance thing, or I am doing something wrong."

So, of course, me being me, I decided I must be doing something wrong. Never mind that I've been putting in the miles and the paces/workouts given to me by my coach since October, like a machine. He gives me a workout and I carry it out with the utmost precision. I haven't skipped or altered a workout, ever (well, there's been the occasional run that I've run faster than prescribed, but...)! Never mind that I map out my runs so that at the beginning of the last mile of every run I climb a huge hill on Birch Brush Ln. that rises almost 200 ft. in 0.35 miles. Forget the fact that even if I tried to avoid running hills like this here in Shrewsbury, I couldn't. Yet somehow I felt like I must be doing something wrong and if I didn't figure it out quickly, I would somehow fail in my attempt at running my first marathon (the Boston Marathon no less) in under than 4 hours. A goal I've only recently set for myself. Originally, I just wanted to finish the marathon, which has become somehow just not good enough. Go figure.

So, this is the mind-frame I entered into my training last week with. I noticed that most of my runs scheduled were 4 miles, and found that odd. But after my 4-mile recovery run Monday and a second 4-miler at my E pace on Tuesday, my coach had put-in a "Treadmill Hill Repeat" workout for Wednesday! However, he didn't advise me on what pace to run and I almost killed myself at my M pace with the mill on a 5% incline, and halfway through the 1st repeat adjusted it down to my E pace for the remainder. Thursday I set-out for another 4-miler @ E pace, but after I had charged up the hill in front of my house I decided it was too cold to run without my gloves and remembered I hadn't put my mail out when I saw the mailman coming. So, I sprinted back down the hill to get my gloves and mail. When I returned to the road, I decided I was going to tackle as many large downhill's as I could (which of course meant going uphill first) in this 4-mile loop.

I realized how much fun this was going to be when 5 minutes into my run it started snowing heavily. I had also decided to leave my sunglasses at home, so suddenly my 4-mile E pace hill run turned into an M pace sprint (I really just wanted to get home). Friday was a day off anyway. So, sticking with the mindset that I must be doing something wrong, I went to the gym and totally thrashed myself with an insane core/hips/quad routine (that I'm still sore from). Saturday was my M pace tempo run. This tempo run was my longest to date (8 miles + warm-up and cool-down). It ended-up being a beautiful day, sunny and almost 50 degrees! So I went out in shorts, but kept my long sleeve shirt, vest and Winter running hat on. Big mistake. I knocked out the run, but I almost knocked myself out in the process. I was really overheated and dehydrated afterward. i spent most of the evening trying to recover, rehydrate and replenish lost electrolytes. Ugh. Calves. Cramping. Badly.

So, Sunday morning rolls around and I decide to stick with the theme of the week and mapped out a 16-mile course through Shrewsbury and Northborough that included no less than 4 - 200 ft. climbs, and a couple of long, sweeping descents. Gathering my things together for the run, I realized that I had drank all of the Gatorade in the house on Saturday evening, and had been out of my Accelerade for a week. Ugh. Water was just going to have to do. I had my regular long-run breakfast of oatmeal with blueberries, walnuts, maple syrup and skim milk a couple hours before heading-out, 20  oz's of water, and a banana about an hour prior. I ate a GU 15 minutes before heading out (with some more water), filled my 2-6 oz water bottles and stuffed 3 more GU's in the belt pocket, figuring I'd be all-set.

I checked the weather on the news and then stepped outside. It was between 30-32 degrees, and the weather report said it would "begin" to warm-up this afternoon. So I headed out in my tights and wind pants, long sleeve shirt, vest, gloves and warm hat. Poor decision. After the second 200 ft. climb around the 5-mile mark I hit my usual "mental" wall. I pushed myself through this as I am very familiar with how to get through this one. Once I had talked myself through it, I ate my next GU and drank a little water and thought I was good. Around the 6.5/7-mile mark, I started getting hot. I took off my running gloves and my hat, and opened-up my vest. I noticed I was cooling-down way to fast while descending a hill into a headwind, so I put my hat back on but flapped the side up over my ears.

I was trying to conserve water (as I only have 2-6 oz bottles on my belt) yet also listening to my body and drinking when I felt thirsty. Unfortunately, as it got warmer and warmer, I found myself sweating more and more and feeling thirsty often. I finished my second bottle of water with another GU around mile 10, rolled-up the sleeves of my long sleeve compression shirt and began planning where and when I could acquire more water. I knew there was a donut shop somewhere around mile 11 and decided I'd stop there and grab a Gatorade. As I ran into the store, I realized I hadn't brought any money with me. Water from the restroom sink it would be.

After the third 200 ft. climb of the run I hit my 14-mile "physical" wall just like I did in the BP 16. The floodgates of pain opened-up and I didn't think I could go any further. I just kept telling myself "These runs make you stronger!" But, just lifting my feet off of the pavement one at a time was excruciating. It was at this point that the brief thought of calling for a ride crossed my mind. I decided to push-on remembering that the vail of pain lifted for me in the BP 16 right around the 15-mile mark. I downed another GU and the remainder of my water. At this point all I could think about was what lie ahead of me. My old nemesis, the Monster... Birch Brush Hill. I was determined to not let that hill beat me. I focused all of my energy on keeping one foot in front of the other until I'd successfully blocked-out the pain and slowly began to pick-up the pace.

When I got to the bottom of Birch Brush, my watch beeped off a lap and I knew I was about a mile from home yet staring a 0.35 mile, 200 ft. climb straight in the face. I felt a surge of energy as I went to the dark places that I have to go to mentally to push past challenges such a this. Every step up that hill I was vanquishing a demon from my past. With every step came a flush of emotion as I relived the pain of stolen childhood, and lost innocence. With every step I healed an old festering wound on my soul, or erased a scar from my heart that remained there despite the years of therapy. As I crested that hill and began running my homestretch I felt a huge release and it felt like over 30 years of weight lifted from my shoulders. As tears streamed down my face, I knew that I would be alright. I have become the conqueror, the survivor. I have taken back some of the power the monsters hold over me to this day. That last mile was only 10:30, but it felt like the fastest mile I'd ever run.

When I walked in the door and saw Isabelle's face, suddenly everything was right again in my world. When i started peeling off my layers of soaked clothing, and noticed that my black tights and compression shirt were covered in white salts I realized that I had probably been delusional from dehydration syndrome. I found it incredibly difficult to rehydrate properly after this run. It seemed no mater how much I drank I couldn't get enough. I've been craving salty foods all week, and I still feel thirsty. I've even been avoiding coffee (my lifeblood) like the plague this week. And as a side note: my quads have been properly thrashed! I vow from this point on to trust in my training, plan better, and try to not make the same mistakes going forward. This Sunday I will attempt a solo 18-mile training run. It supposed to be raining. Let's see what new lessons this one has in-store for me! I believe in working smarter, not harder. In fact, I'm headed-out today to buy a 4-bottle Fuel Belt and to try and pick-up some Gatorade Endurance formula so I can get used to it prior to running Boston.

I'm reminded of something Ray Zahab said (I think) in Running the Sahara: "Running is 90% mental and the rest is in your head!"


New Run Playlist

Another good run today, fueled in-part by an excellent new running playlist. This playlist, as all of my running playlists starts out with a warm-up song and a "fun" song, then goes into the running songs. In order to run this playlist and keep up a good cadence, you actually have to have decent rhythm and be able to listen and break down the different beats into 1/4's. 1/8's and sometimes 1/16's. There's even a 3/4's otherwise known as a waltz thrown in for good measure. Sometimes I put my years of DJ'ing (dissecting beats) to good use. Without further adieu, here's my rocking new running playlist:

1) Just Breathe - Pearl Jam
2) Say Hey (I Love You) - Michael Franti and Spearhead
3) Hey Soul Sister - Train
4) The Kill - 30 Seconds to Mars
5) New Divide - Linkin Park
6) Tear You Apart - She Wants Revenge
7) Sex on Fire - Kings of Leon
8) New Fang - Them Crooked Vultures
9) Mountain Man - Crash Kings
10) Ain't No Rest for the Wicked - Cage the Elephant
11) Rise Up - Cypress Hill (feat. Tom Morello)*
12) Suck My Kiss - Red Hot Chili Peppers
13) Riot - Three Days Grace
14) B.Y.O.B. - System of a Down
15) Wish - Nine Inch Nails
16) Boom Boom Pow - Black Eyed Peas
17) 6 in the Morning - D12
18) Lose Yourself - Eminem

Now, this playlist was created for a 6-miler at about a 10 min/mile pace. I only ran 4 today, but I did a long warm-up and a good stretch after and pretty much got through the whole playlist. Made the time pass really quickly. Enjoy.

*Definitely my favorite song of the day! Excellent!

RACE REPORT: Hyannis Half-Marathon

OFFICIAL Time: 1:54:14 
Finished 1088/2706 overall, 10/50 in the Clydesdale Open Division

My goal going into this race was simply to break 2 hours in my first 13.1 race. My 13.1 split in the Boston Prep 16 was 2:12:53 (which was right after all of the most brutal hills son the course), so I felt fairly confident that this was a solid goal for me to shoot for. I planned to run the first 10 miles at or around a 9:00/mi. pace and then run negative splits running as hard as I could for the last 5k. I was pretty happy that I was able to execute my plan and achieve my goal for this race.

Going into the weekend, I of course lost the battle over when we would head down to my In-Law's Cape house (I wanted to leave on Friday) and we ended-up leaving on Saturday. We all woke-up early on Saturday as I was determined to get there as early as possible and settle in BEFORE heading over to the race expo to pick-up my number and timing chip. Of course it was snowing, and from the radar on weatherunderground.com it didn't look any better down Cape. So, I was faced with my first dilemma of the day. I needed to get in my pre-race facilitation run. So, after much internal debate I chose to do it here in my neighborhood, rather than down the Cape, and strapped my YakTrax Pro's onto my Newton's Stability Trainer's and put-in the work. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the two worked together. I had better traction in the snow slush and ice than I normally have on the dry pavement (or so it seemed). In fact, I had such an enjoyable run I vowed to make it a point to run more of my training runs in the snow and ice (weather-permitting of course). My pre-race went smoothly and I felt ready to knock-out a great race.

Of course as soon as I walked-in the door it was apparent things were not so smooth on the homefront. Something was wrong with the dog! he hadn't eaten, he wouldn't go outside and ostly just stood there shaking. So we called the vet and waited until noon to take him to be checked-out. Of course, as soon as Lex got there he peed, stopped shaking and really seemed to perk-up. The combination of Dexter apparently feeling better and the vets office being a mad house was apparently enough for Lex to just say screw it and come home.  But, this means we didn't get on the road until after 1pm. So we made it down to the Race Expo around 230/3pm, got my number, chip and shirt, and walked around a bit. We were just overwhelmed by the masses of people and vendors, etc. It was pretty crazy in there. We did get to meet Mary McManus (@gracefullady), and found her to be one of the most positive, charming and inspiring people I've ever met. I even picked-up a copy of her book (which she signed for me).

By the time we got to the house it was 4 pm and we were all starving. I was pretty focused on my nutrition all week, but against my better judgement we hit our favorite spot for lobster rolls (George's Fish Market makes the BEST lobster rolls anywhere) and they were CLOSED for vacation! Ugh! The nerve of some people! But, by this time we had the craving for a REAL lobster roll and got on the phone with the In-Law's and asked where they would go if George's was closed? They directed us down the road to "The Original Seafood Restaurant". It certainly wasn't George's, but it was decent. The lobster rolls were over-priced for the size, but tasty, and the fried clam strips were abundant and melted in your mouth! It really hit the spot let me tell you! But afterward I became anxious and a little worried about how/if it would affect my performance. 

Later, I made a nice ground turkey spaghetti sauce and whole grain bowtie pasta and had a small dish of it (I made it mostly for my post-race meal). I ran around the rest of the night setting out all my possible options for clothing (cold/warm/wet) and getting the rest of my stuff in order, and didn't get to bed until after 11p. Ugh. I really wanted to get to bed early. It didn't matter as I really didn't sleep well. I was up at 3a and again at 5a then tossed and turned until 6:30 when Iz came in to the room. I guess a good nights sleep just wasn't in the cards. 

The morning was an absolute cluster trying to get the family up and moving, getting our stuff together and on the road. However, the sun was up and it appeared to be a beautiful day even if it was a little on the cold side. I had intended on getting there by 8a, as the organizer's said they were closing the main parking lot across from the hotel and the start at 845a, but we ended up not leaving until 815. By the time we got there they had closed the main parking lot and we had to drive around looking for a spot. Then on a whim I drove back by the main lot just as they were opening new spots. they used us to start a new row and we ended-up with "You Bob" parking right across from the porta-potties at the starting line.

Inside the Ballroom of the hotel, the cluster-&*^#*& of a day continued. Between trying to go to the bathroom myself, finding a spot on the floor to start stretching, Lex going to the bathroom and finally Isabelle deciding (when it was to late of course) she wanted to go too, meeting up with the Breakthrough Performance crew, I didn't get out the door moving toward the start until well after 930. Therefore i didn't have the time to do a proper warm-up, but did manage a little light jogging followed by a couple of sprints in the parking lot before finding a tree and heading over to my corral at the start.

Once I was in the corral, I ate my first GU gel and drank a little water, then waited and waited some more (for what seemed like forever). It was right around 32 degrees, overcast with a slight headwind at the start. Someone was screaming instructions over a barely audible PA system and the crowd kept surging backward (even though race organizers said the corrals would CLOSE promptly at 950). Finally, after listening to everyone complaining about how horribly organized this race is every year, etc. there was a very anti-climatic start, I said "did he just yell- GO!?!?" The only clue any of us had that the race was started was seeing the runners at the front moving forward, and the fastest runners taking off down the road (we didn't hear a gun, an announcement, nada). Finally, we all started moving from a very slow walk to a slow jog as we crossed the start little over 2 minutes later. Thank god the race was chip-timed. Ugh.

This was by far the largest field of runners I'd ever been in and I quickly realized that hitting my goal pace in the first couple of miles may be next to impossible. In-between the slow jog, I was running in quick bursts as I would see a lane open up and take it, jockeying for the best position. Several times I ended-up on the sidewalk running around spectators trying to find some breathing room to run. I don't do crowds well, period. Crowds make me anxious and angry. This was no exception. I noticed my first mile was 8:59 and I spent the entire second mile (8:40) trying to get forward and into position with others who were actually running my pace. I finally found my spot somewhere in the third mile, and ran into a couple of other Children's Team members whom I'd met at the BP 16 and a couple of our "team" runs. We shared some nice conversation and camaraderie until we finally found some breathing/elbow room just before mile 5.

I started to hit my "usual" 5 mile wall and began to question whether or not I could keep up this pace or even finish. So, I ate another GU and grabbed some water at the aid station (throughout the course, I alternated Gatorade and water and each aid station). My mind started playing the usual "what are you thinking? You can't do this! You're not a runner!" games with me. And then I picked my head up and saw Coach Cap and his kids standing with Lex and Isabelle on the right side of the road cheering me on! I thought about stopping for a hug and kiss my wife and daughter, but opted for the high-five's. As I pulled away from them I heard Coach yell something like "Looking good Doug!" Seeing them really gave me a needed emotional lift right when I desperately needed it. Soon after this we moved into the beach side section of the run and I just ran taking-in the beauty of it all.

Around mile 8, as I was coming-up one of the few small hills on the course, when I looked over to the right shoulder and saw a sign that said "Go Doug, GO!" And I thought to myself, "Oh look! There must be someone else running near me named Doug." Then I realized the sign was for me! It was my friend Sarah from the Children's Team and her husband Frye! They were literally going nuts for me, screaming, yelling, ringing a cow bell, so cool... It was great and really buoyed my spirits. Right after I passed them I started my iPod again only to have it die. I've never run a race or even a long run with my iPod before, and I never will again. Between the iPod and my spare sunglasses (I apparently lost my good ones) constantly fogging-up, it was very frustrating, and like Coach Cap said afterward, I probably could've run 10 minutes faster without the "computer" strapped to my arm (I have a 2nd or 3rd gen, huge)... LOL!

There was an aid station about 9.5 miles and there were so many people stopped there that I just decided to skip it. It was ridiculous, I would've had to come to a complete stop and wait for some Gatorade or water and I just didn't want to. A decision I soon regretted when i realized I was starting to run out of steam around mile 10. I tried to step on the gas and didn't go anywhere. So, I decided to eat another GU and drink some of my 50/50 Gatorade mix I brought with me. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the damn bottle back into the belt smoothly and ended-up dropping it, only to have it kicked by another runner into the bushes. After I retrieved my bottle, it was on! Even with the stoppage, mile 11 was 8:50.

I decided it was time to just let go and started running as hard as I could. Just after mile 11 I reeled my friend Erin (from the Children's Team) back in. Her boyfriend jumped in to run with her at mile 10 and she started pulling away from me at a steady rate. I didn't think I'd be able to catch her, but I did. Once I got by her I really turned it on. Mile 12 was 8:17. it was at this point I really started to feel great. It was around here that I started focusing on my "power" word of the day (which happened to be "Monster" courtesy of Isabelle, LOL)! 

This race was so much better than the Boston Prep. I was actually passing people by the droves at this point instead of being passed by little 70 year-old ladies in sweatpants and headbands (a very humbling experience, btw). As my watched beeped the end of mile 13 (7:43) it seemed like everyone was ringing cowbells and I suddenly had visions of the American Nordic Combined Team (weren't they awesome!?!?) flashing through my head and I really started to kick hard to bring it in. Turns out I ran 13.25 miles, but that last 0.25 was at a 6:41 pace, and my Garmin says I reached a top speed of 12.7 mph in the final 100 meters or so. The last thing I remember hearing was the announcer saying "Whoa, I didn't catch that guys bib number but he sure woke me up, alright!"

After I finally collected myself enough to figure-out that my family and everyone else were probably waiting for me inside, I stopped looking around for them in the parking lot and went in to look for them. On the way in I saw Sarah and Frye who were looking for their friends that they had actually come-down to cheer for, and told them thanks for the sign and the cheers! Once I found everyone, we made our way out of the ballroom, down to the other side of the hotel and up to the second floor for the post-race party. We grabbed some food (Meatballs and Chicken Wings), and I quaffed the best tasting bottle of Sam Adams Boston Lager I've had in a long time (thanks Thin!), then headed home. All-in all it was a great race. It had a great course which was relatively flat and fast, gorgeous scenery, and awesome finisher medals. I'll definitely do this race again...

Lex took this with her Blackberry as I was finishing...