Monday, April 28, 2008

Lessons Learned

OK, everyone can stop sitting, cease chirping, quit whining and start reading - without further a due, here's my much ballyhooed race report from last Monday's 112th running of the Boston Marathon.

So where to start? Good question, and not sure I have the answer to it, so let's begin by piggybacking off the same question every other person asks me after congratulating me on my incredible 56th-place performance a week ago.

(For the record, I'd use a few different adjectives to describe my own race, but since a 2:30:24 seemingly hinges on the border of incredible that's what we'll go with for the time being.)

Am I happy with my race?

For now, let's just say I'm not totally unhappy with it. I'll explain.

It's hard to be happy when 25 or so people pass you over the last 10 miles of a race, regardless if you still finish 56th in a field of 21,963. It's tough to crack a smile when you look at the results afterward and see that two guys you beat in a 10 miler nine weeks before were the same two guys who finished 23rd and 24th overall while you crossed the finish line a good 5 minutes and twenty some-odd places behind them. Sorry, but those are tough pills to swallow for any competitor, regardless of the circumstances. If they went down easy then I'd need to find myself a new hobby.

Disappointments aside, there's still a lot to keep my head up about. Aside from the incredible and unforgettable experience of my first Boston Marathon, I walked, err, hobbled, away from this race having learned a lot things - a lot about the marathon itself and a lot more about the guy who wore #1063 on his chest.

Lesson Learned # 1. Boston will beat the shit out of you. Run wisely.

The marathon experts - and there are many of them - seem to agree that the most efficient plan of attack for conquering a 26.2-mile footrace is to keep an even keeled approach from one mile to the next, that is running consistent splits, every 1,609 meters, for as long as your road-hardened legs will allow. Boston is no exception.

Let me repeat, slowly.

I'm no expert, or apparently I just had a hard time practicing the lessons that those who are preach, but I did anything but run even splits from Hopkinton to Boston last Monday. Hell, the first and second halves of my race were about as uneven as my sideburns from that bad haircut I got in the eighth grade. Yep, that bad.

Going into Boston I figured that I was fit enough to average 5:35 per mile for 26.2 miles. In retrospect, it did me no good to average 5:26's for the first 10K only to muster 6:04's for the final 6.2 miles.

The lessons here? Never let the new girl at the barber shop cut your hair and don't go out in 1:12:13 for the first half of a marathon if you're gonna come back in 1:18:11. Both choices make for a long day and neither is worth the embarrassment.

Lesson Learned # 2. Once you commit, you're committed. Oh, and you're an idiot for doing so.

So if I was fit enough to run 5:35 a mile for 26.2 miles, why the hell did I commit to a pack that was running at a pace much faster than that?

It's called racing, and as we all know sometimes racing makes people do stupid things. Salazar said, "Standing on the starting line we're all cowards." Well, ol' Al was wrong. Standing on the starting line we're all idiots, at least I was last Monday. But hey, sometimes stupidity pays off. Idiots can win races, too, ya know.

The lesson here? You can get away with being an idiot in a mile, maybe even a 5 or 10K, but longer than that and it's likely you're gonna be in trouble. Big trouble.

Lesson Learned # 3. Sticking it out is well worth the effort, even if it damn near kills you.

At 15K into last Monday's 26.2 mile affair, the clock read 50:50, or 14 seconds faster than I had run two weeks prior at the Boston Tuneup 15K in undulating Upton, Mass. I'm not gonna lie, I knew at the 9.3-mile mark in Natick that I wasn't feeling as comfortable as I should have with roughly an hour and a half of running still ahead of me, but I was determined to keep going at the pace I was running for as long as my legs would allow. By the time I reached Wellesley three miles later I could feel the funkiness starting to creep its way into my legs, and when I crossed over 128 at 16-1/2 miles my pace had slowed considerably and I knew I was in big trouble. Good pal and former teammate Fran Guardabascio, taking it all in from the convenience of his employer's sidewalk, told me afterward that I "didn't look good." I sure as hell didn't feel good, either, and a few miles later I would feel, and look, much worse.

Cue Mile 19. This picture - taken by soon-to-be new momma Melissa Kinney - pretty much sums up my last 10 miles. The head is down and I'm hurtin' - bad. I covered the 5K stretch from 30-35K in 19:25, yep, an average of 6:19 a mile. I was suffering.

But I kept going. By Mile 20 all I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and call it a day, but I didn't. I couldn't. I wouldn't let myself. I might have been dying but I sure as hell wasn't quitting.

I knew my brother was stationed at Mile 22 and my New Balance Boston teammates were camped out at Mile 23. Looking forward to seeing these people got me through those next few arduous miles.

That's when it happened.

What happened? Damned if I know, still trying to figure it out in fact, but something clicked. I hit Cleveland Circle and suddenly I was moving again. No, I didn't start dropping 5:30 miles - hell, I barely snuck back under 6's - but all of a sudden I had a new outlook on life. No longer was I feeling sorry for the idiot who went out way over his head, but instead I was charging toward the finish line with whatever life I had left in my legs, which admittedly wasn't much. I quit looking at my splits but I didn't quit on myself. I might have died - and died hard - to 2:30:24, but I can honestly say I gave it all I had for 26.2 miles, and that I can live it.

The lesson here?

Don't give up, though the pace seems slow
You might succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor's cup.
And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out -
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt -
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit -
It's when things seem worst that you mustn't quit.

So back to that question everyone wants the answer to...

...Am I happy with my race?

All things considered, yeah, I guess you could say that.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Race Report: Boston Marathon

It's coming, I swear. Maybe tonight, most likely tomorrow or possibly even Friday if I continue to keep getting distracted. Sit tight.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Training Log: April 13-19

Sunday, 9:30 AM - 13 miles, 1:32:00. Relaxed romp on the trails with Ryan and Christy Mae. Legs didn't feel too bad, but they're not feeling good quite yet either.

Monday, 9:45 AM - 7.2 miles, 50:00. Six passes of Lake Park's perimeter, finishing up with 4 x 35-second strides on the track. Hopefully it's a little less windy a week from now.

Tuesday, 8:05 AM - 4.4 miles, 31:00. 4-banger around the block before work. Legs are starting to show some signs of life again.
7:10 PM - 4.5 miles, 30:00. Twilight trot around Westboro after work. First 10 minutes easy, 1 minute on/1 minute off for the next 10 minutes, last 10 minutes easy back to the store.
9:00 PM - Ice bath on Shadrock's suggestion. Filled the tub with cold water and a 10-lb bag of ice and sat there for 15 numbing minutes. I'll do this again on Thursday if my lower extremities thaw out before then.

Wednesday, 7:40 AM - 6 miles, 44:30. Slow going before work. Felt a bit on the flat side this morning.

Thursday, 8:50 AM - 9.3 miles, 1:03:00. 21:00 warmup, 3-mile PMP in 16:21 (5:26, 5:29, 5:26), 25:40 cooldown. 10 seconds faster per mile than I should have been, but better to make stupid mistakes now than on Monday.

Friday, 10:35 AM - 6.4 miles, 45:00. Out-n-back on the Rail Trail with Rob. No aches, no pains, but no life in the old legs either.

Saturday, 7:45 AM - 6 miles, 42:00. Sunny 6-miler solo before work. 6 x 20/40 strides on the way home to wake the legs back up again.

Totals: 56.8 miles, 8 runs. The week is over, the work is done and I'll be ready to rock & roll on Monday morning. For those of you also about to rock, I salute you.

Quote of the Week

"You can get serious about running Boston. It has a way of taking possession of your senses, of your life."
- Bill Rodgers

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Training Log: April 6-12

Sunday, 8:50 AM - 8.1 miles, 1:03:50. Easy does it on the trails with Ryan, Christy Mae and special guest Jeff Caron. Everything felt pretty good except for the perpetually tight left calf and persistently pesky plantar of the same leg.

Monday, 11:45 AM - 22.2 miles, 2:25:00. Last long run before Baahstin out at the Sterling Rail Trail, where the ratio of crushed gravel to pavement was 14:8, or 7:4 for you mathematical purests. Did the 6-mile loop three times and finished up with a 4-banger so I could practice taking fluids and fuel at regular intervals. Took water at 3, 9, 15, and 20 miles, Gatorade at 6, 12 and 18, a GU at 8 and another at 15. The strategy worked out very well, no GI troubles and no lack of energy. Had to stop and stretch the calf a few times but felt fantastic otherwise. Finished the run in 2:25 on the nose, which is hopefully a good omen for two weeks from now.

Tuesday, 8:30 AM - Spinning, 30:00. Quick spin before the soccer moms took control of the bikes.
7:30 PM - 5.5 miles, 44:30. Short shakeout from the store with Rich after work. Legs felt pretty good despite going long yesterday and being on my feet all day today.

Wednesday, 7:50 AM - 5 miles, 36:30. Easy does it from home before work, 6 x 20-second strides on the way home. Calf finally seems to be loosening up a bit.
7:30 PM - 5.3 miles, 38:00. Short loop through Westboro, then four loops of the plaza so I could practice taking fluids from paper cups I set up on the back of my car. Might need to look into a Fuel Belt.

Thursday, 8:45 AM - 10.2 miles, 1:08:30. 19:00 warmup, 5-4-3-2-1 halftime fartlek, 27:30 cooldown. Started at low 5-minute pace for the first couple pickups and gradually got down to 4:50-5:00 pace for the last few. Felt strong, just not fast. Good news is I'm racing a marathon and not a 5K, so better to be strong than fast anyway.

Friday, 7:45 AM - 7.7 miles, 54:00. Steady 7's on the Bike Path before work. Legs are finally starting to come back around.

Saturday, 7:45 AM - 6 miles, 41:00. 20:00 easy, 4 x [1:30 on/1:30 off], 1:00 easy, 4 x [30 sec on/30 sec off], 4:00 easy back home. "On" stuff at 5-minute pace, if that.

Totals - Running: 70 miles, 8 runs. Spinning: 30:00, 1 session. Last real week of training for Boston as I'll be keeping things pretty low key through next Sunday. Monday's long run was the main focus of the week and it was good for my legs - and perhaps even more so, my head - to be on my feet and feeling good for 2-1/2 hours. I needed that. I recovered quickly too, which was also encouraging. All in all I'm happy with my last 5 weeks of training, and despite the mid-winter injury hiccup I believe in my fitness and am confident that I'll run well a week from Monday.

Finally, a BIG thanks to everyone who helped keep my head - and body - inline these past couple months. Physically and mentally I would have folded without you guys.

Quote of the Week

"Many times I had asked the question, 'Why me?' Whether it be after poor races, struggles in life, injuries, etc. It tends to be an easy question to ask when you feel sorry for yourself. In this moment, on the verge of my first U.S. title, I finally had the courage to put my arms up in the air and say, 'Why not me?!'"
- Andrew Carlson, 2008 U.S. 15K champion

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Race Report: Boston Tuneup 15K

[photo courtesy of Ted Tyler]

Didn't originally have this race on the pre-Boston schedule, but given the unexpected hiccup after Foxboro I decided that it was necessary to include it. The plan was to run 10-15 seconds per mile faster than goal MP (5:35-40), so anywhere from 5:20-30 pace at a "comfortably hard" effort would suffice this morning. Well, the first 3 miles felt hard, the last 6.3 were a lot more comfortable and my average pace was 5:28 per mile, so in the end everything worked out pretty nicely. Tapply took off right before the 2-mile mark and I just let him have fun with that while I stuck to the plan of hitting pace, which was tricky at times with the unrelenting undulations this course is known for. Happy with the overall effort but even happier that my left calf, which was expectedly tight from the get-go, never blew up on me at any point during the race, or even afterward. Good day.

1. 5:30
2. 5:27 (10:57)
3. 5:40 (16:37)
4. 5:20 (21:57)
5. 5:32 (27:29)
6. 5:27 (32:56)
7. 5:34 (38:30)
8. 5:26 (43:56)
9. 5:33 (49:29)
9.3. 1:35 (51:04)

Training Log: March 30-April 5

Sunday, 8:15 AM - 19miles, 2:04:30. For a complete recap of this morning's long run, see the entry directly below this one. And when you're done with that, stop by the space of the newest member of the running blogosphere, my former high school rival turned college teammate and eventual roommate, best bud and one of the nicest all-around good guys you'll ever meet, Sean McKeon. Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.

Monday, 4:45 PM - 6 miles, 44:00. Easy jog around Pakachoag in a light drizzle. Left calf has been tight, sore and noticeably swollen since yesterday but didn't bother me much once I got going. Plan is to keep running until the leg falls off, explodes or just stops working all together, which isn't entirely unlikely.

Tuesday, 8:55 AM - 6 miles, 45:00. Easy does it on the dirt at Lake Park before work. Calf soreness/tightness still lingers in both legs and anterior left shin feels tender to the touch. Legs feel worse standing around than when running.
7:40 PM - 5.5 miles, 45:00. Easy run from the store after work with Rich. Knock on wood but everything felt pretty good tonight.

Wednesday, 8:20 AM - Spinning, 30:00. Worked just hard enough to get the blood flowin' and the sweat drippin'.
8:05 PM - 6.2 miles, 45:00. Short run after a long day. Felt good to get some fresh air, even if that air was 20 degrees colder than it was 24 hours ago.

Thursday, 9:15 AM - 10.2 miles, 1:11:30. 24:30 warmup to AHS track, 7 x 400m w/200m jog recovery, 4 x 200 w/1:00 jog recovery, 26:30 cooldown back home. 400's in 75.15, 73.09, 75.10, 75.90, 75.57, 75.68, 75.15. 200's in 36.54, 35.44, 35.57, 35.82. The idea was to spin the wheels a bit without taxing my legs too much for Saturday's longer effort. Left calf tightened up on the cooldown but otherwise the legs felt pretty good. 5-minute pace felt more awkward than anything else.

Friday, 10:00 AM - ART, adjustment and e-stim with Dr. V. She ripped my lower left leg to shreds but it was all for my own good.
11:50 AM - 9 miles, 1:01:30. Rainy run around the Fells with Jeff. Nice to get off the roads. Left calf tightened up again the last 20 minutes or so, otherwise no issues.

Saturday, 11:00 AM - 14 miles. 18:00 warmup w/strides, Boston Tuneup 15K (2nd, 51:04), 15:00 cooldown with John Brown and Tim Tapply. Race report can be found in the entry above this one.

Totals - Running: 76 miles, 8 runs. Spinning: 30:00, 1 session. Second straight week of solid running/sucky cross training, but I'd rather have it that way than in reverse so I won't complain too much. Got in two quality longer efforts covering 21 miles at MP pace or faster, along with a short turnover workout on Thursday, making this my most complete week of training in a long time. I'll get in one last long run this coming Monday and then start scaling things back so I'm ready to roll at Boston in two weeks. My tricky left leg seemingly finds a new way to annoy every couple of days but as long as I can keep it under control I don't think it will be an issue come race day.

Quote of the Week (courtesy of John Brown)

"I like running because it's a challenge. If you run hard, there's the pain – and you've got to work your way through the pain. You know, lately it seems all you hear is 'don't overdo it' and 'don't push yourself.' Well, I think that's a lot of bull. If you push the human body, it will respond."
-Bob Clarke, Philadelphia Flyers General Manager, NHL Hall of Famer