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.


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!


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.


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!


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!



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.