Chasing Santa Claus Part 2 (pics only)

On the way to the summit of Temple
Summit Temple
First peak looking at the second peak on Temple
Just South of Temple
Climbing windblown...
Stream Crossing
Another climb...
View from 16

I fell somewhere around here...

Running after my fall around 16

the climb up Watatic




I've officially moved my blog over to Wordpress since I've written several new posts over there and I even have my own URL now. So, if you haven't done so, check out my new digs:

Just Keep Moving (originally published 7/23/11)

Vision Quest (originally published 8/25/11)

Endurance (originally published 8/29/11)

Providence (a rumination from 2005)

Never Forget (published 9/11/11)

I'll keep posting links to my new blogs here as I publish them. That is until I figure-out how to change my "networked blogs" page and get everything completely moved over (which could be a while).

There is no tomorrow, go out and get it today!



Chasing Santa Claus (Wapack and Back part 1)

So, when Blogger went down for "maintenance issues" last week, I lost more than half of the following published race report from the Wapack and Back Trail Races (part 1) and all of the comments. I also lost ALL of the draft of the conclusion of the race report which I had almost completed. I've been SO thrown for a loop by this that I haven't even wanted to sit down and re-write the work that I had done. I'm guessing this will be a turning point of some type for me as a blogger.

I'm either going to stick with blogger, but make sure all of my posts are backed-up on Word, or as many have suggested "don't use blogger!" I am exploring all of my options including Wordpress (which has always scared me). But I've also been putting a lot of though this week into podcasting. I've thrown the idea around before but I honestly just don't know where to start. I'm just finding it harder and harder to sit down at the keyboard and keep churning-out blog posts, but I never seem to have a problem talking (excessively, even to people who don't care) about my running experiences, lessons, philosophy and adventures.

So, anyway, without too much further ado, here's the restored and "fixed" to the best of my recollection race report from the Wapack and Back Trail Races (part 1)...

One of the first climbs
I ran my first long-distance trail race on Saturday! The Wapack and Back Trail Races are in one word... Challenging! I ran the 21.5 mile version with my buddy Jeremy (@silentproject). The course runs the length of the Wapack Trail from North Pack Monadnock Mountain in Greenfield, NH in the North to it's Southern terminus at the base of Mt. Watatic in Ashburnham, MA. There is also a 50 mile version of this race for the truly insane. It goes the full length of the trail South to North and back again (that's right, that's only 43 miles), then BACK out to the aid station at 3.5 (after a wicked climb to the top of Mt. Watatic) and back AGAIN (a BRUTAL descent) to make it an even 50 miles.

For obvious reasons, the race organizers let 50-milers drop-out and give them "credit" for a 43 mile finish should they choose not to leave the relative comfort of the finish line/aid station to tack that extra 7 miles on. From what I saw, this is the finish that most of the 50 mile runners opted for. There were 35 entries this year in the 50-miler and only 9 finished. 16 others opted for the 43 mile finish, which means 10 runners dropped completely. There were 65 entered in the 21.5 mile version, and 56 finishers. Said Steve Pero about the race:
"Wapack is without a doubt one of the most difficult trail 50 milers in the country...and I've run Zane Gray, San Juan Solstice (my absolute favorite), Jemez,Bel Monte and Pittsfield Peaks for comparison."
Indeed the toughness of this race was far beyond what I could even imagine. It was also by far the most rewarding race I've ever run! As we forged-ahead up and down 5 peaks, walking some, climbing some more, running the "runnable" (loose definition) downhill sections (at first because we could, but later because it hurt too much not too). My Garmin 405 read 10750 feet of elevation gain and 11500 feet of elevation loss. Jeremy's Garmin 310 gave him 7500/7800, so even if it were say, somewhere in-between the two (or if Jeremy's was more accurate than mine) holy crap! That's some EPIC shit right there.

The view from North Pack

Everything started-off well enough coming off of Mountain Road in Greenfield, NH and hitting the trailhead going up and down North Pack Monadnock, everyone was keeping-up a good pace, some friends we met on the bus (yes, I said friends, it's funny, but at an event like this everyone is talkative and becomes fast friends) were hanging with us, keeping-up a good pace. When we hit the first climb up Pack Monadnock, the trail got decidedly trickier and some of our new friends took off ahead of us and some dropped back. Jeremy and I settled into a group of about 8 runner's who were keeping the same pace (generally) and kept moving forward making small talk as we passed some on the climbs and some passed us on the descents. This is where we met out nemesis of this race. We called him... Santa Claus!

Santa Claus was a sixty-something mountain goat. Running in broken-down, beat-up old running shoes, gym shorts and a cotton shirt, and carrying no hydration or nutrition. Every time he's pass us on a descent he was huffing and puffing so hard I thought he was moments away from a massive MI. I imagined we'd be carrying him off of the trail at some point. His small talk focused on the weather and conditions of years passed (he was obviously a seasoned Wapack veteran), how he hadn't trained enough this year, or how he had "nothing left in my legs for these climbs," and how he's "just not gonna make it if I keep up this pace!" We passed him on the treacherous descent of Pack going down into the first aid station, and thought we'd seen the last of him and I swear I heard him say he was going to "drop at Miller."

The "trail" going up Pack Monadnock
(notice the yellow triangle blaze marking the "trail")
Coming down North Pack we hit it pretty hard. Jeremy told me that most of that downhill segment we had run at sub-9 minute mile pace and said that we should probably take it easier from here on out. But, I was just running on instinct, letting my feet fly, minimizing the braking forces as much as possible to try and save my quads for later in the race. I was able to get into the incredibly focused "zone." It was a lot like Zen meditation for me. JB made mention of how awesome it was to have his brain going just as fast as his feet as he was trying to find his foot falls. I told him "man, I wasn't thinking at all! It just felt instinctual for me." And it did. It really felt like I just knew how to do this and I was totally relaxed letting it all happen naturally. And it was exhilarating.

Summit of Pack Monadnock
Mount Monadnock in the distance (I think)
On our way up Pack Monadnock, we made our first of three eventual wrong turns. The trail kind of forked and we went to the left. Next thing I noticed was a lot of blue blazes, instead of the yellow we were supposed to be following for the Wapack. So I said something to Jeremy and he yelled to the guy in front of him and so on... This is where we met and co-opted the third member of our "team," Jonah. We'd been following him, for a while, but now we really started hanging together and talking. Come to find out we had similar senses of humor, taste in television/sketch comedy, and could quote all of the same movies. Yes, he was one of us (even if he was a leg-shaving cyclist)! We made it back to the trail and continued the rest of the way to the summit of Pack.

It's all downhill from here...
On the way down Pack the trail got really rocky and technical. We were basically climbing down, but we did manage to pass Santa Claus. We knew that the aid station at Miller State Park (5 miles) was quickly approaching and ran as much as we could as hard as we could. We ran it in to the aid station and one of the ladies manning the station was taking pictures and said "hey, here comes the Red Team!" And that was it, we'd found our moniker for the day. 

Coming into Miller
As we stopped and lingered probably longer than we should have, Santa Claus came in grabbed a cup of Coke and headed back out. He was a wily veteran! We didn't give it much thought as we figured it wouldn't be a problem to catch-up to him again. We ate a  couple of pb&j's which were heavenly. It was here that we were introduced to the potatoes! Plain boiled, quartered potatoes which you dip into a vat of salt and eat. Apparently they are a staple of this race (or maybe of ultra endurance events in general, I dunno) and as bad as they sound, they were awesome! Something to look forward to at each of the other aid stations...

The Santa Claus
In the meantime I put some more water and a couple of Nuun tablets into my massive 3L Camelback H.A.W.G. hydration pack. I think that I will be buying a more suitable pack for future races as soon as I can, this thing was just too big. And of course, since I had the room, I packed it with a bunch of shit that I didn't end-up needing. As we left the aid station, the volunteers reminded us to "be careful crossing the road!" Good advice. As we were running the rest of the way down, we were quite suddenly dumped to the side of State Highway 101. We joked around at playing Frogger with the cars trying to cross the road and how maybe this was the race organizer's way of thinning the herd!

Deceptively runnable...
Once we crossed the highway we headed-up what appeared to be an old ski area. Most sections of this trail up looked deceptively runnable. Compared with what we'd been navigating it was wide and clear of rocks, roots and debris. But it was steep! Too steep to run most of it. As we were climbing, we'd catch glimpses of Santa claus that would give us hope that we were actually making progress. At the point that we headed back into the heavily wooded trail heading up Temple Mountain, the trail became rocky again with lots of roots and heavy pine debris. The thing about Temple was that it actually has two peaks  we had to summit.

Climbing up Temple
I recall Temple being one of the more mentally challenging sections. On the way up to what appeared to be the summit, we discussed the formation of our new team and somehow our surroundings and "Red Team" turned the conversation to the movie "Red Dawn" and we went screaming "WOLVERINES!!!" down just far enough for us to realize we had another climb steeper than the first. This was also where I realized my shoes were getting full of pine needles and starting to get a bit irritated. At one point during this summit attempt we all caught a glimpse of Santa Claus. We all thought we were going to catch him on this climb, until at once he looked back over his shoulder gave us a wink and a hearty "Ho, Ho, Ho!" as he disappeared down the other side. I swear.

(to be continued...)


My Soul is Thirsty

"Send some rain, would you send some rain?
'Cause the earth is dry and needs to drink again
And the sun is high and we are sinking in the shade
Would you send a cloud, thunder long and loud?
Let the sky grow black and send some mercy down
Surely you can see that we are thirsty and afraid
But maybe not, not today
Maybe you'll provide in other ways
And if that's the case . . .

We'll give thanks to you
With gratitude
For lessons learned in how to thirst for you
How to bless the very sun that warms our face
If you never send us rain

Oh, the differences that often are between
What we want and what we really need"

- from Gratitude 
by Nichole Nordeman

Lately I've been feeling like a horrible person. I've been trying to figure out where all of these feelings are coming from. What I know is that something has been missing. Something has been missing from my writing and something has been missing from my running for some time now. More importantly something has been missing from my life and all of my interpersonal relationships.

I think I may have figured it out, but it has been a slow, painful realization. What I've been missing is myself. More specifically, I've been missing the "attitude of gratitude" that I adopted over the years. That attitude of being thankful for all that I have, all that I am, and all that I am able to do for myself and others is what has helped to make me who I am. It is at the core of my being and somewhere along the line, I lost it. Well, maybe not lost it completely, but I certainly misplaced it.

When I started on this journey I was just happy that I was able to run. Once I realized that I was able to run and could use my running to help others, I started figuring out exactly how I was going to do that. Whether it was using my sales/marketing background and organizational skills to help produce Lex's Run with my wife Lex in order to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, or using my physical talents and my heart to raise money for Children's Hospital by running the Boston Marathon, running had a purpose in my life greater than serving myself.

Somewhere along the line I lost sight of that. 

I know it was there when my friend James (Brenya's Father) said he wanted me to run Boston for Brenya again. He was supposed to run for Children's Hospital this year but was halted due some health issues of his own and was unable to continue his training. I didn't even hesitate. Even though Lex and I had just welcomed our second beautiful daughter into this World, and I knew that training with a new baby in the house was going to present distinct challenges to both me and my family. Even though I knew how difficult it was going to be in these tough economic times to raise the $3500 again. Even though there were so many variables that could upset the apple cart and become huge obstacles to my success this year, I signed-up. I knew full well what I was getting myself into and I did it anyway. Because that is who I am.

Then, as they say, something happened on the way to Hopkinton. There was the whole Boston Marathon registration debacle where many people who had earned their way in and truly deserved the opportunity to run Boston got shut out. The backlash was almost instantaneous against charity runner's of all people. A small group of runner's on twitter, facebook and their own blogs started to wage an ideological war against people that they felt didn't belong in a  race like the Boston Marathon. It is a race after all and if you couldn't qualify then you shouldn't be there. I wrote a post about it, so I don't want to rehash it all here. But it seemed that suddenly some of my "friends" on twitter, Facebook, dailymile and elsewhere had an axe to grind with me. 

Of course, if you know me, you know I can be outspoken. So, I had a lot to say and was involved in a few heated back-and-forth arguments with people who seemed to consider themselves above everyone else in the running community because they were able to run a BQ. This discourse devolved into runner's that I respected and admired actually trying to define what an "actual" runner is, and feeling like they had the right to differentiate between runner's and jogger's for instance, or defining running and racing differently. It all became very pernicious and demeaning, and as a result I ended several on-line friendships and even "blocked" certain people from my facebook page and twitter feed. I even went so far as to make my twitter stream "private" after all of this. It deeply saddened me. But is also motivated me.

I fear it motivated me in the wrong way. I got frustrated. I got angry and gave in to it. I suddenly had a renewed focus. I felt like a new person. I set new goals. I decided to work on my speed in the Fall before starting my Boston Training in earnest in December. I began to perform in ways I hadn't dreamed of since high school. I trained harder and faster. I ran faster. I set PR after PR. I brought my 5k PR down from 25 minutes, to 20. Even after I started my endurance phase, I set a 23 minute PR in Derry, NH at the Boston Prep 16-Miler. I was psyched. I was ready. Ready to run my BQ and prove to all those people whom I no longer even had anything to do with that I could do it! I know. Insane, right?

In retrospect, I wasn't focused at all. I was obsessed. even driven by my anger. The crazy part is that it was anger over perceived slights by (mostly) total strangers. Slights against not only myself, but slights against the running community. Slights against people who inspire me through their running or just living every day, even though they run 12, 13, or even 15 minute miles. People who run to overcome. People who run despite being told they'd never walk. People who run through excruciating pain. The same people who don't give a second thought to giving kind supportive words to others. People who do it all with a smile.

I realize now that I internalized all of this anger, frustration and pain and used it.  I used it to push myself throughout the most difficult training cycle I can imagine. Through the longest, darkest, harshest Winter I can recall. Through blizzards and sub-zero runs. Through 18-miler's on the treadmill.  Through illness and injury. Through every conceivable challenge and obstacle placed in my way. I was driven to the point of madness. I neglected friendships. Relationships that should have been given extra care and nurturing, were instead chalked-up as "high-maintenance" and disregarded entirely. People I should have been leaning on, I instead pushed away. I ignored so many other things in my life that should have taken priority. I adopted a "run more, everything else will take care of itself" mantra. 

It became like an addiction. And like all addictions, it didn't end well.

I've spent the last couple of weeks in a funk. In withdrawal. Miserable. Depressed. Disappointed. Hurt. Disgusted. I realize now the mistakes that I made. I alienated people. I disregarded others. I only hope it's not to late to repair certain relationships. I'm hurting. I'm hurting because I've been hurting when I should be elated. I should have been celebrating! For Pete's sake! I raised almost $5000 again for Children's Hospital Boston. I kept Brenya's memory alive. I saw James and his wife Shana holding a sign that said that I was their "hero." I was Brenya's hero... I high-fived a whole group of "Miles for Miracles" Patient Partner's and their family's at Mile 24 and saw the hope and excitement in their eyes. I suffered. I crossed that finish line. And that's all that should matter. I had a great day. The only thing I regret is getting so down on myself that I couldn't enjoy it. Idiot.

I've said this all before, but, running is transformative. Running is healing an growing. Running makes me want to be a better person, a better husband and a better father. I need to remember that as I move on to my next phase, my next challenge. One in which I am sure I will find myself again. Spring and Summer will be spent on the trails and in the mountains. Reconnecting with that which gives me life. When I run on the trails it's so much more than running. It is primal. It is instinctual. Most of all it is fun. I run with wild abandon. I run with meditative peace. I run as if I'm a child again. I run happy. 

I will be running a whole host of trail and mountain races in preparation for running the Vermont 50 on September 25. We'll see what life has in store for me after that. No time goals necessarily. Just running. I'm going to ditch the Heart Rate Monitor and the Foot Pod for now. I'm also going to set the Garmin so that I can only see Total Time and Total Distance. I'm just going to run and having a great time doing it. 

My first running "adventure" will be this Saturday, May 7. The 21.5 mile version of the Wapack and Back Trail Race with my friend Jeremy (@silentproject on twitter). They say it "runs like a road 50k." I have a feeling it is going to be an excellent adventure! I'm co-opting a line from my friend Logan(@the_UnaRunner)'s blog post about, well, actually a picture of a t-shirt someone bought for him before, the Lumberjack 100 that he posted on his blog, as my theme for the foreseeable future... "DO EPIC SHIT!" My soul is thirsty...

There is no tomorrow... Go out and GET IT today!


Relentless Forward Motion Part 3 (The Agony)

Splits for miles 16-20 (8:51)(10:09)(9:55)(9:08)(11:03)

I charged-up the hill over 128 and past the Newton-Wellesley Hospital feeling refreshed and full of vigor. Then the first sense of trouble. Coming into 17 I felt a slight twinge of a hamstring cramp. I walked a bit. Then I ran. Then I had no choice but to walk through the Powerade Energy station as it was SWAMPED, and yet somehow I only managed to grab a Strawberry-Banana flavored gel which made me want to puke. Immediately. It was gross. So, I ran to the aid station and walked through grabbing several waters. One for my head, one for my belly and one to rinse out the nastiness of that gell from my mouth. 

Once I got running again I felt pretty good. I rounded the corner at the firehouse and started looking for my coach and his family. The first person I saw was Coach Vin going nuts, which was awesome, then I saw Coach Capo and his wife Sam. They were all cheering me on and it gave me a boost. i gave them a double-handed wave and a smile and just kept trucking. As soon as I passed them I realized just waving and smiling took a lot out of me right there. Once the carriage road broke-off to the left and we went right starting up the hill, I was overwhelmed with this feeling that I needed to power-walk if I was going to finish. As soon as I started to power walk Coach Capo came running-up beside me and said "let's keep it up! Focus on your cadence and get up this hill!" So I did. I found out later he came running-up after me to catch my teammate Timmy and tell him to catch me so we could run the last 9 together. But by the time he caught me Timmy had passed me and was running up the hill ahead of me. I ended-up walking the aid stations and portions of the hills from here on out.

Splits for miles 21-25 (12:27)(9:51)(9:57)(9:55)(12:09)

Right after 20 I walked throughout eh aid station and started running again. Just as I started running again I saw my friend Alett and she came running at me cheering and waving a sign that said "You are a heartbreaker!" It was so good to see a familiar face that I almost broke down crying immediately. I remember saying to her something about being locked into a "death march" and her giving me encouraging words to get me going again (but for the life of me I can't remember what she said). Once I started running again I saw my friend James and his wife Shana (Brenya's Parents) and their signs telling me I was Brenya's Hero and their hugs and kisses reminded me of why I started doing all of this craziness and all sorts of emotions came rushing to the surface. I left them and I was a hot mess. As I started up Heartbreak Hill, in tears, walking, my heart was definitely broken as it was then that I realized my A, B and C goals were likely out the window.

I'd heard stories and been told on more than one occasion that if you keep running the pain goes away. All pain is only temporary after all, right? It was here that I turned on my iPod and put Eminem's "Till I Collapse" on repeat.

"... 'cause sometimes you feel tired, you feel weak. 
And when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up.
But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength
and just pull that shit out of you, and get that motivation to not give up
and not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse.

I got to the top of Heartbreak and took off running. As soon as I started running I felt an exquisite pain in my quads. The gremilns had shown up with their ice picks early this year, but I pushed on. I started drinking as much Gatorade as possible at every aid station an dashing it down/rinsing my mouth out with water. I decided to turn this into a race between the aid stations, 1 mile at a time all the way to the finish. Right around mile 24 I saw a whole group of Children's Hospital kids and their families (later I found-out that one of them was my friend Tom's patient partner), i gave them all high fives and fed off of their energy. At the aid station after 24 I stopped to try to stretch my quads. It didn't work because my hamstrings cramped. So I kept walking. I looked at my watch and for a second thought that I wouldn't even beat my time from last year.

Turning-off the iPod
Running again...
Then in an instant, in my delirious state, I realized if I ran as hard as I could for these last 2 miles I could break 4 hours. With a quick "Suck it up, Buttercup!" I took off running again. Even though every step was excruciating... Even though I got sick of Eminem and ripped the headphones out of my ear with a "this shit isn't working anymore!"... Even though every cell in my body was screaming at me to stop... I KEPT. RUNNING. Under the Mass Ave. overpass, right on Hereford (which was the longest hill on the course at that moment), and left on Boylston. Someone said the clock on the far right was the "wave 3" clock and it had just ticked over 4 hours. I knew it had taken me a few minutes to start, but I was unsure of the exact delay so I pushed harder. I passed one of my brother's from the Needham Fire Department and his wife spectating in front of the Mandarin Oriental. He yelled my name, I acknowledged, but I can't for the life of me remember what I said. I would have stopped to get a picture or something, but I was on a mission.

I looked at my Garmin right after crossing the finish line and knew I had done it, 3:58:25! A new PR by almost 16 minutes. Elation and sadness at the same time. I was just glad it was over. The first thought that crossed my mind was "I'm done with Boston!" Meaning no more, never again. It had broken me twice and I resigned myself to leaving it that way. Sometimes it's best just to admit defeat and walk away. Upon further evaluation, I've decided that I'm definitely not running Boston again... Unless I just happen run a BQ somewhere else. Over the past week I've gone back an forth agonizing over whether or not I'd ever run another road marathon. I really don't feel drawn to the 26.2 distance, but road marathons are especially suck-y. On the other hand, I love the half marathon distance, it's the perfect distance to race. 10k's are fun too, and if I really feel the need to suffer, I'll just run as hard and fast as my legs, lungs and heart will take me in a 5k and work on breaking 20 minutes! There is simply no need to subject myself to the sheer torture of 26.2 miles on the roads. None. I can't think of a more unpleasant thing to do with 4 hours of my life that I'll never get back.

Then again. One thing I've learned on this crazy journey is the old adage that "Runner's are Liars!" And I am a runner after all...
I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong

I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

By the way... I found my Endurolytes. When I got to my bag and opened it up, there they were right on top. When I hit the porta-potty that one last time I must've pulled them out of my waistband and put them there for safe keeping. At least that worked-out for me, right!?!

There is no tomorrow. Go out and get it today!

Relentless Forward Motion Part 2 (The Ecstasy)

So, I headed back down the hill from the Athlete's Village to my cozy hole at the Masonic Lodge (side note: If I ever run the Boston Marathon again, I will run it as a qualified member of the Miles for Miracles Team, I can't imagine NOT having my cozy hole to retreat to and get ready to run, plus all the other amenities). When I got inside it was just in time for the Coach's speech which is always inspiring! Once the speech was finished, I turned to open my bag and get myself prepared to warm-up and head to my corral. I opened-up my bag only to find that 2 out of my 5 Honey Stingers were opened and had leaked all over my gear and equipment inside of my bag (I cut the tabs so that they are easier to open). I had to get into the private bathroom and wash EVERYTHING off.! My visor, my iPod, the other Stingers, my bag of Endurolytes, my Breathe Right Strips, my Mission Sunblock, all of my clothes, my gloves, you name it, they were covered in honey. Ugh.

By the time I got everything cleaned-up and got myself ready, I'd missed the first wave start. I was pretty disappointed by this as I really wanted to see all of my friends get through the corrals and start. I also wanted to head next door to the church like I did last year and meet the Elites before they made the walk to the start. Oh well. Anyway, I got upstairs and the second wave was getting into the corrals and the coaches made their call for the third wave to get warmed-up with our "group" active stretching routine. I made sure everything was packed into my bag so I could put it on the bus, or that it was on my person if I would need it. I made my last call to Lex. I told her that I had dropped 2 Honey Stingers in her purse in case I might need them when I saw her at 14 (come to find out later, in my "inner voice" I told her about my debacle and said I would DEFINITELY need them when I saw her at 14).  I hit the porta-potty one last time then put my bag on the bus, and joined my friend Tom McManus for our warm-up and march to the corrals.

Once I arrived in my corral, I found I was relaxed and at ease. I was cool as a cucumber and ready to go. Eerily cool. I usually get a lot more nervous before the start of a local charity 5k than I was in the corral at the Boston Marathon. I just knew everything was going my way today. It only took about 5 minutes or so from the start of the third wave for me to get to the line form corral 7 (much better than the 12.5 minutes from about the same corral in last year's 2 wave start). Once across the line, I tried to settle into a relaxed, easy pace. About 1/4 mile in, I realized that the crowd I'd settled with was on a 9-930/mile pace (much slower than I wanted to be). I remembered something Luau told me that Chris Russell mentioned about sticking to the left hand side/shoulder and hitting a better pace, so I found my groove on the left and stepped-up to hit my 8:00/mile pace for the first few miles.

My splits for miles 1-5 (8:06)(8:01)(7:45)(7:47)(7:52)

Somewhere in the first couple of miles of running on the left, I settled in behind a guy I recognized as @RangerDutch from twitter. I knew it was his first Boston, but I thought we had similar goals to the best of my recollection of his tweets. However, I didn't want to step-up and say "hey! You're @RangerDutch right" So I just settled-in behind him and drafted until around mile 9 when I made a move around him and he didn't answer. I had my first Honey Stinger at mile 7, and when I reached into my waistband to grab my Endurolytes, they were GONE! I had dropped them somewhere along the course and didn't realize it. After I got through Natick Center I looked all around and couldn't find @RangerDutch, so I kept moving forward.

Looking good at 15k
Splits for miles 6-10 (7:50)(7:45)(8:00)(8:00)(7:58)

I felt amazing coming into Wellesley, and the "scream tunnel" lived-up to it's name this year! Wow! it was AMAZING! I don't remember it being quite so crazy last year, or maybe I was just in a different head space. I was on a true "runner's high" and everything was firing on all cylinders. I was feeling great. I felt like I was running stronger, more effortlessly and more gracefully than ever before. I passed 13.1 in 1:45:02 and was instantly overcome by a sense of impending doom! It took me more than a couple of minutes to get my head around the nearly 5 minute PR for the Half Marathon and to just accept that it was where I wanted to be. My first thought was "oh shit! I probably shouldn't have PR'd the front half of the Boston Marathon." Accompanied by a sinking feeling in my stomach. Once I realized that 1:45 was where I wanted to be, and if I negative split the back half I would be on-track for breaking 3:20 I settled-down a bit.

Splits for miles 11-15 (7:58)(8:18)(8:15)(8:43)(8:53)

I found my girls just after 14 on the right hand side in front of St. Pauls Parish right where Lex said they would be. I gave them all hugs and kisses, grabbed a couple of orange wedges and asked for my Honey Stingers... Lex said they were in her pocketbook... in the car. Ugh. I shook it off and just settled on grabbing a gel from the mile 17 Powerbar Energy Gel station. Lex asked me how I was feeling and I responded "too fast!" And she said "then slow-down!" So I did. I thought that if I slowed my roll for a couple of miles I would conserve some well-needed energy for the Newton Hills. I also knew that I would soon be able to tell EXACTLY how I was doing when I came to the first big downhill at 15 into Newton Lower Falls. I decided to start walking through the aid stations. By the time I got there I was feeling strong again. No issues at all. No cramping, no quad soreness. I was good. I hadn't gone-out too fast and was ready to tackle these hills...


Relentless Forward Motion Part 1 (The Stars Were Aligned)

I've been putting-off writing my 2011 Boston Marathon  Race Report, partly because I already wrote it, partly because I didn't live up to what I'd written, but mostly because I've been trying to get my mind around it to figure-out how I feel and what I want to write about.

Should I write about the exhilaration I felt having run a sub-4 hour marathon, or the disappointment of not having reached my goal of running a 3:20 BQ.

Should I write about how awesome it felt to be running with ease and strength and grace for the first 13.1 miles and how I was surprising myself as every mile ticked-off and I was on-target with my pace and ready to close the second half with negative splits just like I planned? Or should I write about the wheels coming off mentally when I saw my family at mile 14 and and the downward spiral to the crash right after I saw my coach around mile 17.5 just past the firehouse in Newton?

Should I write about the sheer pain and torture of the last 9 miles of this death march as the gremlins once again attacked my quads and even had a good time with my hamstrings this year? Or should I write about how I pushed myself through and past the worst pain and suffering I've ever felt to finish the race on my feet and running even though every cell in my body was screaming for me to quit?

Should I write about the emotional euphoria of running down Boylston St. and crossing the Finish Line, or the demons I had to overcome on the way through Brookline?

Without further ado...

I should probably start with my final 20-miler, the Eastern States 20. Everything went swimmingly. I had a GREAT run! I was instructed to treat it like a training run and under no circumstances was I to race it, no matter what. I went out and kept the pace around 9 min/mi (only slightly faster than E Pace) for the first 10 miles. It was cold. Much colder than I thought it would be. Right after the start when the wind hit me, I started to think that just maybe the short sleeves and shorts were a bad idea. Later as the sweat would freeze on the inside of my arms causing intense, stabbing, needle-like pain on the insides of my arms and thighs, that thought would be confirmed.

Anyway, I held onto the 9:00 pace through the first 10 miles, then I started stepping it up and negative split each subsequent mile, passing other runners by the drove and running my last mile at an even 8:00. I pushed it, I got what I wanted out of it, but I didn't go crazy. I felt really good about my performance. I entered my taper with a great deal of confidence, having run 20 miles or more on 2 separate occasions and seemingly overcome the impediment of a tumultuous February that left me with only 76 miles on the road. I finished with my longest training month ever in March and over 800 miles total for the training cycle.

Taper was just awesome. I started with a little bit of taper madness where the doubt started to creep in, but all-in-all I was actually pleasant and upbeat for most of the three week taper. I didn't beat myself up and I even had a great 10k 8 days out from the marathon which was a HUGE confidence-booster. I hit everything right on the mark with my nutrition during taper, I even got to bed before 10 pm on most nights, didn't drink any alcohol and lost almost 5 pounds, weighing-in at 192 pounds on race day, leaner than I've been since my collegiate wrestling days in the early 90's.

Running Royalty at the DM Meetup

Marathon weekend, I went into town on Saturday and walked around the Expo for only a couple of hours before heading-over to the dailymile meetup. I had a great time and I didn't gorge myself on the awesome food. However, I did have 2 Guinness after not having a drop of alcohol during taper. We tried to go back to the Expo afterward but it was crazy-hectic and Adam, Luau and I headed-out quickly. But not before we ran into @SpeedySasquatch, @NYCe, and @nycbklyngrl and snapped a quick pic. They are just as awesome in person as they are on twitter!
Eissa, Josh and Us (Elyssa took the pic)

I headed home from the Expo and stayed there. On the couch. Really! All day Sunday I was on the couch with my legs elevated watching Netflix Streaming (Saint Ralph, Run Fatboy Run, Without Limits and Spirit of the Marathon). I tried to get to bed early. I went to bed at 9, but got up 3 or 4 times to add something to my pile of stuff I had laid-out. Then I laid there inexplicably awake for the rest of the night. I tossed and turned but tried to relax. I got up when Lex came to bed around 11:30 only to realize I hadn't turned-on the alarm that I had set for 4 am, phew! This year, instead of having Lex drop me off in Hopkinton, I decided on driving in and taking the busses with the Children's Team out. This would help me avoid the Green Line ride from hell afterward. Totally worth it.

I got out of bed, ate my banana, took a hot shower, got dressed, packed my bag, ate my first Honey Stinger waffle, finished my 20 oz bottle of Nuun and headed-out the door. I arrived at the Westin and valeted the car with plenty of time to spare. I ate my second waffle while waiting for the bus. Arrived at the Masonic Lodge, ate my third waffle and started sipping on my Gatorade while I set myself up in the same corner I secured last year. I went downstairs and grabbed another banana and asked where the coffee was. They didn't have any. I swear they offered it last year. I mean they put together this HUGE spread with everything any marathoner might need pre-race including food, drinks, vaseline, body glide, tylenol, you name it it was there, but no goddam coffee? So, I saw several people walking around with coffee and asked where they got it. Apparently there was a small coffee shop/stand about 1/4 mile down the road. 

I got my coffee and decided I'd head up the road a piece to Athlete's Village and see if I could find Luau and the rest of the dailymile crew. They say it's only 0.7 miles from the finish and I didn't make it over there to check it out last year, so...

Holy crap! It was just a mass of humanity. I've rarely seen such a spectacle. Through the miracle of twitter, I was able to pinpoint their location and head directly to them. We talked, exchanged well-wishes, hugs and other niceties. As they started to announce times for the different waves to start heading to the corrals, I figured it was time for me to head-out and get back to the relative comfort of my cozy-hole with private bathrooms and no-line porta-potties at the Masonic Lodge. I was feeling GREAT after seeing everyone and I was pumped-up and ready to run my BQ. It felt like it was definitely going to be my day! Nothing could stop me now...
Aww... The Porta-Pottie hug!


Working Title: The Bataan (Boston) Death March

I'll be writing a full and proper race report as soon as I get my head around everything that happened out there today. In the meantime here's a quick summary:

Today I ran my second Boston Marathon (and my second-ever marathon). I completed it in 3:58:25 which is a 15:44 PR for me, which is HUGE! However, the time is a bit deceiving . I made a few critical mistakes, but I've learned from them. I had what I thought was a solid plan going in and all indications this morning were pointing to a great day for me... until I realized I'd set a Half-Marathon PR by almost 5 minutes (not what I thought I wanted to do) and paid for it later. The last 10 miles were literally a "death march" through the Newton Hills and up Beacon St. It's really hard to be disappointed with a 15:44 PR, but things did not go my way today. I'm going out on a limb and saying that think I'm done with Boston for now. At least until I run my BQ. It's just so sad that my training was there to take me to that BQ, but today just wasn't my day.

There is no tomorrow! Go and get it TODAY!


2011 Boston Marathon Race Report

I know. I haven't run it yet. However, as so many people are writing their "goals" blog posts, I figured since I'm never one to do what is expected of me (especially when it comes to writing this blog), I'd do something a little different here. I'm writing my race report now. Hopefully, it will give everyone a glimpse into what happened to me last year, my strategy in training for Boston this year, as well as my goals and expectations for the race. Most importantly it will be an exercise in visualization for me. Well, at least putting the visual down in black-and-white and therefore making it concrete. Truth is, I've been visualizing this for months now. So, here goes...

After months of analyzing and over-analyzing all of the things that went wrong last year, I decided that I was mostly full of shit when I wrote my race report. I made a lot of mistakes. I screwed-up everything from my in-race nutrition and hydration, to keeping myself cool, to pacing and effort (especially through the hills). The blister on my right foot and the cramp in my left calf that disabled me at mile 21.5 were just excuses to stop. I had hit the wall. My race was over. I threw in the towel. I flew the white flag. The course had beaten me. I knew that my "A" goal of 3:45 was out the window, yet once I got my head together (after a couple of "get your ass moving" texts from my wife, and hard smacks on the ass from the drunk BC kids) I still thought that maybe, just maybe my "B" goal of a sub-4 hour marathon was within reach. I told myself I would walk through a couple of aid stations and then run as hard as I could down Beacon St. to the finish. I ended-up walking through all of the aid stations and then some until 24, as the dreaded "gremlins with ice picks" attacked my quads. I ran through the aid station at 25 and kept running as fast as I could to the finish. It was somewhere on Beacon St. that I realized my "A" and "B" goals were out of reach and I just settled on my "C" goal of just finish. I ended up running a pretty strong final 1.2 miles all things considered and a "respectable" first marathon finish of 4:14:09.

Going into this training season I decided that I was going to learn how to run hills. I mean really learn how to run hills. All my training and racing on the hills the first time around wasn't good enough because I just "did" the hills. I didn't learn anything from them. I also decided I would go 20 miles or further more than once in training. This time around I studied. I studied everything I could get my hands on about good hill running form and efficiency. What I gathered was eyes slightly down, slight forward lean, keep your cadence high, shorten your stride and drive through the hill with your hips. And I repeated this to myself on every single hill I ran in training and my preparatory races (and I picked two of the toughest, hilliest races in the Boston Prep 16, and Stu's 30k). But the most important aspect for running hills, especially pertaining to running Boston, was how to run downhill. A piece of advice that I believe was critical, I found in my friend Chris Russell's (@cyktrussell) Race Report from the 2008 Vermont 50.
"When we say run the down hills we means race the down hills.  It is very important not to fight gravity.  Stay light and have a rapid turnover.  Try to ‘fly’ without hitting the ground too much or braking... All this is done to preserve the quads."
I also received a little personal instruction from Chris and a lot of practice on this technique during the Groton Town Forest Trail Race (Chris was an excellent host as well as good company). We ran nearly the whole race together and he imparted much of his "ultra" and "trail racing" hill running knowledge upon me. It made quite an impression and I was even able to incorporate his technique into my road racing and training. I found that I've gotten so good at this type of downhill running that I am able to increase my speed while relaxing and recovering on the downhill sections. My heart rate tends to drop to nearly full-on recovery levels of around 100-120 bpm on most downhill sections depending on how long they are.

So, as for the race, I'm going to run it more like a really long Fartlek (my favorite) workout. I'm going to start-out nice and relaxed for the first 5 or 6 miles of downhill running. I'm going to let my feet fly while minimizing braking forces and the damage to my quads. I'll turn-in varying splits between 7:15-7:30/mile. I'll alternate taking water and Gatorade from every aid station along the route. I'll also make sure to take at least 1 cup of water an dump it over my head at each aid station.

The fairly flat part of the course from miles 6-15 I'll just focus on running nice and easy while taking it all in (especially feeding off the energy of the "Scream Tunnel" in front of Wellesley College). But I'm going to maintain a nice steady pace turning in splits in the 7:30-7:40/mile range, and probably even a couple miles a little on the slower side of that. I'll start taking-in my Honey Stinger's at mile 7 and every 5 miles thereafter (7, 12, 17, 22). At mile 14 I'll get see my family and get quick hugs or high-five's and turn on the emotions.

The long, sweeping downhill after mile 15 going into Newton Lower Falls (which I've run no less than 4 times in training) is where I will finally start to push the pace a bit on the downhills and put into practice the good hill running form I've worked so hard on while coming-up over Route 128 toward the Newton Wellesley Hospital (where I hope to not have to visit). I'll be running 7:15-7:20/mile splits until after the turn onto Comm. Ave at the firehouse. Here's where all of my preparation will pay-off. I'm not going to put a lot of pressure on myself to maintain my speed or splits from 18-21. I fully expect each of these miles to be of varying paces, but I will keep my foot cadence steady at at least 90 fps ("Eye's Down, Cadence Up!"). I may even run at least one or two of these over 8:00/mile. But that's okay. I look forward to seeing a bunch of my running friends and Brenya's family in the 20-21 mile area.

From 21-23 until I make the turn onto Beacon Street, I will be using my newly acquired downhill running skills to put in a little speed and do some serious recovery. I'll be turning-in 7:15-7:20/mile splits through this fairly steep downhill section into Cleveland Circle. Once I'm on Beacon Street I will be really pushing the pace. I'm going to hammer it home just as fast as my legs will take me! If I've done everything right and I'm firing on all cylinder's here (and those damn gremlins haven't shown-up with their ice picks) I'll be running negative-splits the last 3.2 miles and when I cross that finish line on Boylston Street my Garmin will read sub-3:20 and I will have run my BQ! And yes, I will remember to pump my fist in the air and look up for the camera's!

But, if bad things start to happen as they frequently do, I won't worry, won't stew. I'll keep right on moving until I start happening too! Hammering-out the miles until I start again to race! I'll make sure that my "B" goal of 3:30's in place. If bang-ups and hang-ups should happen to me, I'll keep grinding along to reach my goal "C" (3:45). If the day's not my day and it's not meant to be, I'll ref-fix my sights and accomplish goal "D" (Just Finish)! 


I. Am. Ready.

Groton, MA. I'm running to the finish line. I've run the last mile of this 10k at sub-7 minute/mile pace. I round the corner and enter the High School track and it's 300 meters or so to the finish. I see my wife, daughter's and some friends cheering. I throw my shirt at them (I've been running shirtless since mile 2, there's a first time for everything) and take off. I mean, I really kick it up a notch. This is what I like to refer to (tongue-in-cheek) as my "Kenyan Kick." Next thing I know, with 100 meters to go, I hear this guy come out of nowhere, and by his heavy breathing and stomping I know he's trying to take me at the line. But I know he just gave all he had. I stay even with him until I know he has literally nothing left and I surge (a friend who witnessed it actually told me "I tried to get your picture and then you went in to God mode!") and break him with 20 meters to go. I crossed the line. By myself. And I said it. Out loud. "I'm ready! I'm ready." My good buddy Chris Russell (the race director) practically had to catch me and said "Yes you are! Great race Doug!"

That's "the guy" over my left shoulder! I had NO idea.

And that was it. It was over. All of the pressure I had been putting on myself. All of the crushing self-doubt. All of the feelings of inadequacy and questioning of my training for this year's Boston Marathon, out the door. Gone. It was as if in that one instant my soul became as light as a feather. Fact is, I know. I've known all along. I've done everything that I can do. Through all of the adversity that has been thrown in my path this training season, I've come out on top. It hasn't been easy. It's been a long, dark Winter. The "Winter of my discontent" as I have often referred to it. The marathon Gods have thrown everything they can at me. They tried to break me. And yet, here I am. 5 days away from the starting line in Hopkinton. I. Am. Ready.

This Winter I've suffered through more snow than I can remember seeing in my adult life, crazy storms, bitter cold, my wife's abdominal surgery and subsequent 6-week recovery (when we decided we needed to buy a treadmill), both children's illnesses (my seven month-old's illness ended in hospitalization and two weeks of diligent neb treatments, suction and chest PT, etc. once we got her home), followed by both my wife and my own lengthy battle with the same illness. All of which lead to a 76 mile February and a horrible race at Stu's 30k on March 6. A race I had high hopes for after my 23 minute PR at the Boston Prep in Derry, NH at the end of January.

So much of my training was forced into the "dungeon" on the treadmill. It just didn't feel right. I was running in place. I wasn't going anywhere. It was complete and total drudgery. Thank God for Netflix on the Wii. It was the only thing that made it slightly tolerable. On the bright side I did get through all three season's of Whale Wars and Paranormal State, and watched such kick-ass action flicks as Bitch Slap, Dark Rising, My Name is Bruce, Zombie Strippers, both Charlie's Angels movies, and last-but-not-least... Bachelor Party in the Bungalow of the Damned! 

After my confidence-building session, I came home determined to get some perspective, so I crunched some numbers...

Even with the 76 mile February, I still ran 800 miles this training cycle which is almost 200 miles more than my last Boston training cycle. I also ran an average pace of 9:05/mi throughout with almost 90% of my training runs performed at my E Pace (9:40/mi. last year my avg. pace was 10:35/mi). I found the biggest hill in the area (0.37 mi. with a 12% average grade) and attacked it on a regular basis. I PR'd every 5k that I ran and brought my 5k PR down from 25:38 to 20:42 (did I mention the 23 minute PR in Derry, at the Boston Prep 16-miler? That was HUGE)! Twice I went 20 miles or further, my "36k for Miracles" Challenge where I raced a 5k, 10k and Half Marathon all in one day with a total time of 3:11:28 (and my Half Marathon was less than ideal). I ran a 10 mile M Pace (7:36/mi) less than 18 hours prior to the Eastern States 20 where I actually stuck with a plan and ran the first 10 miles at 9:00/mi and negative-split the back half of a race the first time ever. I spent the last 3 miles of that race passing runner's by the handful and felt great afterward. 

And now, it's just a matter of cruising into Hopkinton. Now working-out race day logistics for the family is another matter altogether. At least Lex doesn't have a pelvic stress fracture this year. Although she does have an additional 25 lbs. (the baby, silly) to drag around with her. It will all work itself out right? Now, relaxing and getting to bed early is the plan from here on out.

I. Am. Ready.

There is no tomorrow! Go out and get it TODAY!