Thursday, July 17, 2014

Woodbridge Run for Pizza 4 Mile, Woodbridge, NJ. 7/9/14

photo by Mike Mooney
This race wasn't really on my calendar, but two days before Martin texted me to ask if I was going.  Asking me if I am going to race is almost as good as compelling me to be there.  I decided that I had to go.  After all, it was about a mile away.

I had to train a client a few hours before the start and also ran with another runner in the morning.  The race would round my mileage out to 14 for the day which would make me happy.

It was hot and humid at 88 degrees, which is to be expected in July.  I almost decided to stay home because of this, but I really needed to race.  I have been sick for two weeks with a wicked chest cold.  I rarely ever get sick with colds, but someone carried some serious germs onto our unit and half the staff ended up very very sick, me included. I was worried about how this race would go for me considering the circumstances.

I told Sidney that Martin would be there and he decided he would go as well.  Martin then decides he can't make it. LOL. But then he shows up to get Joanne's packet, which some how now resides in my trunk! Sometime it is better to just not pay attention.

After a mile warm up, Iwant this race to hurry up and be over.  The gun goes off and I get a fast start off the line.  Soon one woman blasts past me and I try to stay close enough to her to get a sense of what she is doing.  She is moving very fast and I wonder if this will last.  She is pulling away from me by the half mile mark.  I can tell I am running too fast already and decided to let her go. I look at my watch and I am sub-6. I slow down.  Sub-6!  LOL

I am surprised that I don't feel horrible.  I just feel hot.  I am not as tired as I thought I would be. M1 6:25

I concede that unless the first chick blows up completely, she is going to win.  By around mile 2, a second female comes up to my side and slowly passes me.  I make this very easy for her, as I have slowed significantly. I am sitting right where I thought I should be at this point pace-wise and it is too soon for me to get back into a deficit.  I let her go and hope to stay in range by the time we crest the hill in the last mile. M2: 6:53

At this point, I am starting to fight to hold my pace and I feel the impact of the heat and the last two weeks "off".  Runners are spread out and there are enough turns that allow views of the course behind us and I can't see where the next female is.  I am glad that I have a shot at holding 3rd, but it is still to early to be sure. M3: 7:00

There is one hill to crest before a flat finish. I work hard to get my pace back down after slowing a lot on the incline. I manage to finish strong, inspired by cheering from Mike Mooney who took the photo above.  It is really motivating to hear your name when digging gets hard to do.  I was so glad to see that finish line.  It was especially nice to see Sidney and Martin cheering me in.  M4: 6:53

Last time I ran this race, I remember the awards taking a bit of time.  We got some pizza and I walked to the car to get some things to sit on.  As I got back, they had already started.  I mentioned to Sidney that they were doing awards now.  He was engrossed in conversation with Martin and Nuno.  They started with Overall Women, 3rd place first.  I was the first name called, got my plaque, sat back down and waited for Sidney and Martin to pause in their conversation, which happened promptly… giving Sidney a moment to notice my plaque and ask… "What's that? I missed it? When did that happen?" LOL!

Time 27:20
Place 3rd OA Female

Monday, June 23, 2014

Fitzgerald Lager 5k Run, Glen Ridge, NJ. 6/22/14

Friday, by the end of my work day I felt my throat beginning to sting.  I hoped it had something to do with the climate at work and not me.  But this past week was a stressful, my sleep patterns were disrupted, and by bedtime on Friday, I knew something was wrong.  I could hardly swallow.

From 2 am through my alarm at 5 am Sat morning, I was up with a swollen sore throat yet still deluding myself.  I texted Kim that I was up but wasn't feeling great.  I planned to meet her for possibly only one 5 mile lap of the Reservoir.  Then I got up (ugh) and found a thermometer.  Not terrible, but with a 99.9 degree temperature, I really started to second guess whether I should drive 45 minutes each way to run 5 miles or more feeling like crap.  We originally planned for at least 12 and I usually aim for 15-20 on weekends.  I text Alanna and she was up and able to meet Kim.  Thank you both :)  With my guilt about missing a training run assuaged I laid back down and woke up about 4 hours later, feeling horrible. I wasn't sure I was going to make it to the Lager run, but I did have until Sunday night to decide.

I had made plans with John to attempt to run from a park in Rahway to a park in Cranford and back on Sunday morning.  I guessed it would only be about 6-7 miles each way, but I wasn't sure if the route was really runner friendly. By Sat night my throat was feeling better and my temperature was normal.  I really wanted to do this run, but 12-14 miles seemed like it might be a bit far since I wasn't feeling great yet.  Not sure what would happen I asked John to meet me, and see how far we could get before I needed to turn back.

John is a good sport. :) Apparently Rahway to Cranford and back is about 13.6 miles and after that morning run, I knew I was more likely to go to the race than not.  After all, this was supposed to be the day Rich breaks 20.  I had to go!

Photo by Becky Wiechman from about .3 miles to go.
The Lager Run

I didn't check the weather, but I knew it wasn't bad.  I am becoming acclimated to warm weather now, so even at gun time (6:15 pm) it felt tolerable for a June race.

I know this course well and the first and last mile are fast, while the middle mile contains the uphill and it is slower.  But overall this course is one the fastest courses we run in the Grand Prix Race Series.  Add in mild weather and there is the potential for PRs for everyone!  Except for possibly sick chicks who ran over a half marathon in the morning… 

I arrive at the starting line, still looking for Rich. People said he was there so I wanted to find him and I did, about three rows back. We discussed some pacing ideas on the starting line… around a 6:20 first mile… expect something around 6:35-6:40's for the second mile with the uphill... and then come back hard in mile 3 for the sub-20.  Rich knew I wasn't feeling 100% so I told him to not worry about running with me if he felt good or if I was slow today.

Gun goes off and I start my watch.  I cross the start mat and split my watch. (2.4 seconds).  Now I have both Gun and Chip time. 

At about halfway into Mile 1, Rich pulls away.  I felt I was running fast enough at this point with my Garmin showing low 6s.  I knew Rich was ready to chase his PR.  I just wish I was ready to chase it with him.  M1 6:16

As we hit the uphill in Mile 2, I can feel how tired I am and there is nothing I can do about this. I just do my best and hope I have something to come back with after the hill.  The hill is early in mile 2 and there is a lot of room to recover from it if you work every decline. I see the 2 mile clock.  Rich and I talked about how we needed to be as close to 12:45 as possible to ensure a sub-20.  I see him near the clock as it read 12:49. I end up there at 13:01 (which is the same 2 mile split I ran at my last 5k).  I knew I was already too slow for sub-20 but I also know Rich still had a shot!  M2 6:44

I made a promise to myself in mile 2 to make an effort to kick hard in mile 3 and I don't think I let myself down.  My last report discussed how you can't save it for the final mile, but in this case the second mile was up hill and I knew the last was fast. I was a little slower than I wanted to be in mile 2 and had hoped to keep in under 6:40.  I just didn't have it today.  I pushed with what I had and didn't feel like I was letting up.  We entered the track and I could see Rich ahead as I approached the 3 mile mark.  M3 6:23

I noted that he was already past 3 at 19:27 on the clock.  He needed to kick hard to get it.  It was seriously going to be close!  I knew I didn't have enough time to kick for a sub-20 myself, but Esly flew past me in the last 200 meters and encouraged me on.  My chest was hurting, but not as bad as I anticipated. I gave my best effort.

As I watched the clock roll past 20:00 I knew Rich made it! 10 seconds later I was done too.

Time: 20:10
Gender 9th Female
30-39 AG 4th place

I won nothing today except the amazing experience of getting to witness a friend's entire PR race from start to finish!  Congratulations to you, Rich, for finally getting that 19:55!  It was such a joy to watch you execute it perfectly and never appear uncertain any step of the way!  You set a goal, you worked hard, and you did it!  And I got to see the whole thing unfold, like watching a movie from 10 seconds back.  Thanks for making my race extra exciting… and, um, you can stop beating me now… Thank you in advance ;)

And also I would like to wish a Very Happy (belated now but not then) Birthday to Jim O and
give a Shout Out to Ben T for being the most awesome team leader.

That is all. Thank you for reading :)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

President's Cup 5k, Millburn, NJ. 6/16

I didn't intend to attempt to pace anyone.  Besides, it isn't really pacing if you are also running as fast as you can.  All I know is I really wanted Rich to break 20.

I wasn't sure what my race would be like. I don't set goals for summer racing.  The heat and I don't get along.  I am not a 5k runner.  5k's are ridiculously hard and there is nothing I can do about that.  I have broken 20 twice. Came very close a few other times. (20:00, 20:03, and others)… but my asthma, my massive amount of slow twitch muscle fibers, and things like that Nutella sandwich on Brown Sugar Cinnamon Swirl bread I had for dinner tend to hold me back from seeing 19:xx on the clock easily or often.

My last 5k was two weeks ago and it was a 20:20. I figured my time should be around there again.  But Rich wanted to break 20.  I like Rich.  He is a nice guy and I hoped he could do it. I told him we can go for it together.  I rarely every run side-by-side with others or plan to do so from the start.  I hope to be able to pull him through 2 miles at a pace that would allow him to break 20 even if I couldn't.

I knew the course and knew it can be a fast course:  Two uneven loops. First loop is just over a mile, with a downhill start.  Turn left and run around a block to some up hills.  Continue left and head back down hill past the starting line.  Run back down the first half of that fist loop (just the downhill part). But on the second loop we turn Right and head out to a school (which is just slightly inclined out).  Turn at the school and head back (slightly declined back). Finish off the second half of the first loop at the end, by running up and over the hills on tired legs.  End with a downhill-to-level finish.

The weather was not as bad as it has been in the past.  I believe it was just under 80 degrees and the thunderstorms that usually hit us were behind schedule this year.  The humidity did not seem horrid.  I asked Rich what he wanted his first mile to be and he 6:20. Ok, I can do that.

We get up towards the front of more than 1200 runners.  It is a tightly packed start.  As we take off running, a guy behind me, apparently an expert twister player, manages to hook the front my shin with his foot? Twice?  Twice, I stumble and manage to not fall down. He was polite. He apologized. I still don't understand what exactly happened there, but I am just glad I didn't fall on my face and get trampled.

The pack goes out FAST.  This is a Men's Championship Race. There are incredibly fast runners there.   This is a downhill start and people are taking advantage of that.  Karl flies by Rich and I.  I call out to him that he has been racing awesome.  I pick up the pace briefly, out of habit of trying to run with Karl, but then I look at the pace. Whoa.

Rich asked "How fast?"

"World Record Pace!  Did you want to break 6 for Mile 1?  I think we can slow down and just let people go", I reply.

Rich agrees and we settle down.  The hill is in Mile 1 and it is not terrible but there are two hills back to back.  I joked that we had plenty of time to burn off since we started so fast. M1 - 6:18

This is pretty good. We get over the hills well. I am hoping we can keep the average pace under 6:26 and maybe have something to kick with. I am watching our average pace.  Mile 2 is tough.  At this point Rich shares his concern that the pace may still be a little fast. With over half the race left, including those same hills, I knew we had a lot of time left to manage. My asthma was already an issue, but at this point I still felt strong but tired.  I knew that going out to a school is slightly, minorly, inclined on the way out, which means we get a slight decline back to use if we can. I suggested we settle down, regroup, and then at mile 2 be prepared to fight for a strong finish.  Our average pace was still 6:22 at this point, so we could not slow much and still make it.  I feel myself pulling away, just a little.  I don't want Rich to let me go ahead because I think both our races will be better and a lot more fun if we pull each other in Mile 3. This is truly the only point in the race I made a conscious decision to slow my pace just slightly in order to stay with Rich.  M2-6:39

We made it to Mile 2 just a bit slower than I had hoped we would. But I knew we still had a shot at breaking 20 if we could really pick up the pace on the way out of the school.  But this was the point in the race where my legs were getting heavy and my asthma was causing me to suffer.  Unfortunately, even though we both knew we needed to pick it up, neither of us did so.

As we ran past Rick, he called out "Only One K to go!"  We were coming upon on those two hills and I felt like that kilometer was going to be the longest kilometer of my life.  We held our 2 mile pace in the last mile rather than find another gear. Bummer. It was clear now that I was fading a little and he was pulling ahead.  I think as soon we saw that hill, we both knew sub-20 was not happening today.  We hit the top of the hill and I encouraged him to kick!  I believe I heard an "LOL" at my suggestion ;).  But Rich has a strong finish and I knew this.  M3-6:42

After the crest of the hill, the finish mostly is downhill.  Rich had pulled away.  With half a tenth to go,  I tried to close that gap back up.  It was close but I could not catch him.  I finish a second behind. I can honestly admit that once I knew we were not breaking 20, I lost some of my desire to kick as hard as possible, especially since my place amongst ladies was secure.  Last .1 0:45

I would like to say we learned a lesson about pacing and that maybe if we didn't let ourselves get pulled out so fast in the first half of Mile 1, things would have gone differently… but I don't believe that at all.  I think the fast start is a product of it being a declined start and using it is not necessarily a bad thing.  Aiming for a 6:18-6:20 Mile 1 is reasonable goal when trying to average 6:26 overall.  Maintaining a more evenly paced mile 1 will likely be helpful but I think the sub-20 was lost at 1.5 miles into and confirmed by the start of Mile 3.

The real hinge for us both lies in our ability to find a way to stay focused, as well as tolerant and accepting of the suffering that happens in Mile 2.  It seems Mile 2 is where sub-20 (or PRs for others) happens or it doesn't.  If we can get to Mile 2 under 13 and remain confident during the first half of mile 3, we can break 20.  If we get to Mile 2 over 13, unless that mile is downhill to the finish, it will be a fight. The final mile can and will be fueled by the sense of being almost done with just tenths of go. Kicks will be dug up for that last mile.  But Mile 2 has this ominous sense of "Omg, if it hurts this bad now and it is only 1.5 miles into this thing, then how am I going to finish strong?"  The mile between M1 and Mile 2 can be dominated by self-preservation and a desire to save something for the end… and that is what needs to be ignored to a degree.  The worse that happens is we come through Mile 2 in 12:55… and then fall apart, fading in M3, and not break 20. I think I would rather lose my shot at breaking 20 in Mile 3 than in Mile 2.  So next time, I plan to run a strong 2 mile split and see how bad Mile 3 beats me down.

Time: 20:25
Gender Place: 11
AG:  1

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

BUS Joe Kleinerman 12 hour, Bayside, NY. 6/7/14

Photo by Donna Sajulga-Tablos  
I had two races on the calendar to choose from: The Joe Kleinerman 12 hour or the College Avenue Mile.

I finally started to find my grove again. I have been getting up before 5 am to meet a few awesome training partners (Alanna and Kim) at the park for early morning miles (7-9+ of hills).  I started speed work back up with Dave once a week and we work very hard out there running things like 20 x 200, 15x300, etc at sub-6 pace. I train three private clients for 30-60 minute sessions after work or on Saturdays.  Enzo, my dog, has turned into a running machine and managed to log 51.6 miles in 7 days to my 90 miles.  (But sadly, starting this week, the humidity has become too high to allow Enzo to train with me even at the earliest morning hours. He goes for walks and swims now until the temperature is under 65 and the humidity is low).

I decided to head out to the 12 hour, hoping to log a bunch of miles, but primarily to have fun and NOT get hurt.  It is hard to make "Not Get Hurt" a goal at a 12 hour because it is almost inevitable that something is going to hurt out there if you run hard.  But right now, I am just not interested in an extended recovery period, since I finally feel like am training well again.  It was only last week that I dropped my app in the mail for this race, so this was not something I trained hard for and I really wasn't sure what to expect.

On Tuesday, after running (and falling down) with Enzo in the morning, meeting Dave for speed work in the late afternoon, and then training a client after him… by Wednesday morning my achilles were upset.  But on Thursday the weather was pretty bad so I took a light day and felt better.

Late Friday night, I threw some clothes in a backpack with a box of gels and two handheld 10 oz bottles.  I just planned on using whatever was at the race.  I was not really concerned about my achilles by race day.  I was more concerned about it getting up to 80+ degrees, but ironically the heat did not bother me this time.

I chose the 12 hour because going to a BUS race is like attending a group run of familiar faces.  There are regulars that attend almost all the events and the competition can be fierce even if the events are small.  BUS events are simply my favorite events to run, even when I have a bad day.

The Gun went off and I started sub-9 pace.  There was really no need to go faster. By mile three I started forcing myself to find a spot to use as a walk break, knowing there was no way I would be running 12 hours non-stop.  I found a nice rhythm and once my pace settled to 9:40 per mile, it just stayed that way for hours. It was nice to have about .05 walk up a hill towards the S/F and run the balance of the course.

My legs felt strong. I was using a bandana soaked in ice water for cooling and it was working well.  I was taking a gel per hour plus all the liquids I could drink each lap with out stopping… a cup of gatorade some laps, a cup or two of water, a cup of coke.  I was eating a few (like 2) potato chips when feeling a little hungry.  I had some melon when available.

I spend several miles with Tim and Joe and this is probably what distracted me from my achilles issue for so long.  Joe was actually a lap ahead of us and running an amazing race. Tim was not himself and although I have a tendency run his pace when we start, I usually fade and he usually does amazing work by the end of the events.  I hope someday to be able to hang on and finish a race with Tim.

When I finally ended up running without the guys, I ended up in a hilariously well-timed game of leap frog with Lauren.  She would run the entire loop, pass me on my walk and get a lead on me. I would catch up to her on the run and pass her back. Lap after Lap we did this, but I noticed that I was catching her slightly sooner and sooner. Because I was walking already and she was not (meaning she eventually will need to walk and I may not since I was already walking) I knew I had the ability to move ahead.  After I passed her with enough time to walk up the hill and resume running again without  her catching me, something happened and she slowed a bit.  I assumed she was adding a walk break in now.

At this point it was about 4 hours into the race.  I could feel my achilles getting sore, but things get sore in ultras. I was coming up on my marathon split.  As a turned a corner, I felt something in the back of my left achilles pop, like when a knuckle cracks… not like a tear.  That was new.  It was not accompanied by terrible pain, but it did not feel good.  As I finished the lap, it was hurting.

I alway keep some tylenol in my backpack, but rarely take it.  Today I decided to give it try just to see if whatever was irritated might feel better.

I was caught by Byron and ran some with him.  He is a very supportive runner and one of the very first people I remember admiring from the ultra running world.  We talked about how things were going.  I was trying to stay positive and not mention my achilles hurting.  I really just hoped it would stop.

By hour 5, that one tylenol was futile and I really had no interest in medicating myself through 7 more hours of running.  I took an extended walk break to see if walking was less problematic. It was not.  IT hurt more to walk and then it hurt more to run. And that was all I needed to decide that I was done.

I walked the remainder of the lap, and at 33 miles in 5:25 I reported that I was done for the day.

I got some ice on the achilles and stayed for a little to be social.  That is when Trishul and Kaaren arrived.  Two amazing massage therapist who tend to show up just when I need help.  Kaaren was generous with her time and took a look a my achilles.  She stretch my calves our and just touching my achilles signaled shooting pain.  She informed me that it was swollen and it made not sense to irritated it more.

I thanked her for her time and for validating my decision to stop.  As disappointing as it is to stop so early, unless I am prepared to manage an injury, lose training time, miss out on running with the partners and clients I look forward to running with each week,  I know better than to run though significant inflammation and pain.

It is now Tuesday. I rested with one mile Sunday and three miles on Monday. I am already back to 9+ miles in the morning with hill repeats and plan for speed tomorrow.  Pain is now only fading soreness and tightness that is subsiding and clearly resolving.

Ego may be bruised, by I saved my achilles and saved my Fall training cycle. So overall a I got a really solid 33 mile LR and successfully avoided an injury and down time.  Not a bad day.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Guest Blogger: Kevin from Baltimore, On Training and Chasing a 5k PR.

Beginning a few months ago, I had the opportunity to work with Kevin, a very talented, dedicated, hard-working runner from Baltimore who is experienced in racing everything from 5k's through marathons.  He was ready to see if he could chase down a new 5k PR and asked me to help.

Kevin's race was on Memorial Day weekend.  I wanted to share his race report here on Creating Momentum.  His story is truly inspiring as he does a great job explaining how the value of working towards a goal is not always about the race day result, but rather about the lessons we learn and the relationships we build along the way.

Below is a copy and paste of Kevin's race recap.  You can follow Kevin's journey here on his blog about life, running, work, spirituality, and the connections he makes along the way. 


5K Race Recap +

So, yesterday, I ran the MCVET 5K race for the 4th time.  First two times, I paced my now 14 year old.  Last year I ran it for my own time.  This year I did the same.  The goal (as stated in my last entry) was sub-19.  I did not make my goal, but I had a great race.  Here is the story.

I had to awaken my 14 year old just before 5:30.  We had not had a chance to pick up packets in advance.  So, we drove to a little more than a half mile from the start of the race where parking is free and walked down.  Easily found the packet pick up.  Got our numbers, our goody bags, and out timing chips.  And then met up with other runners from Back on My Feet.  I wanted to get in a whole mile in adance of the race, so I left before the stretching was done and the Serenity Prayer was recited.  Not what I wanted to do.  But it gave me time for my warm up, a last trip to the rest room, and a few striders before the race.  I did not line up in the front row but a few rows back.  My goal was to go out at 6:06.

As we began the race, people sorted themselves out quickly into relative paces.  There was a guy named Duance whom I see in a lot of local races.  He didn't end up having a great day and I was surprised at how early I passed by him in this particular race.  I don't think that I was passed or passed anyone except for one person after about the first mile.  This is getting more and more typical in races I run where there are a relatively small number of fast competitive runners.  This time there were 10 out of 242 who ran sub-20. I am not in any way saying that there is not some good competition and kicking it out at the end to win among runners who take longer.  Just not usually a lot in the front.  

So, I passed a few people who had gone out quickly.  Saw that ahead of me there was at least one guy who looked clearly older than me and I knew Maurice was out there (it turns out that there were three) and I settled in.  I have tried to make it a habit not to check my watch excessivley during the run especially because it is hard to know whether the watch is measuring exact distances.  So, I came through.  A time of over 6:20 was announced by the guy at the first mile marker.  It had not felt that slow.  Adding up the time that my watch said as it beeped for one mile plus the extra time to get there to the marker, I had 6:16 based on my watch.  The second mile was all flat and involved teh turn around on Key Highway and passing the water stop.  It was very warm out on the road despite the chilly start yesterday morning.  I took a water at the water stop before the turn around (there are water stops just beorfore and jsut after the turn around) and poured it over my head.  I had just passed someone whom I would spend the rest of the race in competition with.  If nothing else, I finally had someone to push me the whole way.  That was a good thing.

We continued back along Key Highway toward Light Street and reached mile 2.  This time, my mile was right at the mark and I had a 6:09.  I had picked up nicely but still not enough to really shoot for the sub-19.  Goal was still to beat last year's time.  Running neck and neck with the woman whom I'd passed and been jsut ahead of at the turn around.  I don't know how "just ahead" of her I was, but I did worry about splashing her when I poured the water over my head.  

Now, it was time to dig deep.  The third mile is the only one with some uphill.  I didn't think I had lost that much.  And during the third mile, the woman who was running next to me offered some advice on how to fix my stance and stride.  It helped me speed up but it is hard for a 44 year old who has been running since he was 14 to make major changes on the fly during a 5K.  

We reached Calvert Street still running neck and neck.  I was looking for the three mile sign.  I don't know whether it was never put up or it had fallen down, but when all was said and done, I saw the six mile sign for the 10K race that used mostly the same course but I did not see the 3 mile sign for the 5K race.  I wasn't going to worry about it.  I had someone to outkick.  Afterwards, I looked at my watch and it said 6:24.  All that was relelvant at the time was that I not lose my place.

So, the last 0.14 according to my watch was run in 38 seconds.  Was it 0.14 or just 0.1?  It does't matter.  I held my place, and the other runner and I congratulated each other.  After having crossed teh finish line and gotten our chips removed she came over and made a further comment about my stride and mentioned to a friend of hers that it was just the coach in her coming out.  She had had enough energy during the race to encourage the woman who won the race (good for her!) and the other woman who came in before we did.  (This was after they had turned around on Key Highway but before we did.)  And then to offer me some coaching.  Not only that but she came back and was the third woman overall in the 10K as well.  I don't know if I would recognize Amy anywhere else, but hats off to her for a great race and for helping me to come in ten seconds faster than I did last year.  Goal achieved.  And the race was actually a race rather than just a hard run surrounded by others.  

A few other things beyond the race report.

First, this puts it at 837.3 miles for the year.  I am on Illinois Route 3 in Venice, IL, right near a train yard and about to cross the Missippi and enter Missouri.  

Second, I am wondering whether I make the commen I am about to make only because I didn't reach the goal, but for once I feel that the journey was as important as the destination.  Runners talk about this issue a lot.  I'd be interested in knowing from fellow runners whether they find it comes up much more when they have not reached a goal.  But the key is what is more important--for a 5K, for a marathon, or for running in general?  No simple answers here.  But I found that yesterday, I was not as disappointed as I expected to be.  I ran 16 seconds faster than a race three weeks before.  I ran 10 seconds faster than the same race a year ago.  I was eighth overall and first in my age group.  I can't complain.  My son got a medal as well.  And I enjoyed the preparation.

Why did I enjoy the preparation?  Because I had a plan that someone had helped me to develop and I worked through the plan.  Every day.  Every workout.  Each one hour experience was just right.  Why worry about whether 19 1/2 minutes was just right when for the eight weeks of preparation everything was.

I also learned something else about myself.  I have said for years that running is no longer just an individual activity for me.  The camaraderie I felt yesterday was amazing with so many runners from Back on My Feet.  The many workouts with others leading up to yesterday.  But I found during the preparation for this race, that one other thing was important.  Talking with others about running.  

The person who had helped me prepare a plan also wanted to know how each workout went.  Having someone to talk with about each run provided an opportuntiy for useful insight and feedback.  And it was nice to have someone to talk about running with who cares about it as much as I do.  (There are plenty of people out there like that but not necessarily people I engage in conversation with every day.)  It reminded me of why I like Johns Hopkins and why my oldest son has enjoyed the Baltimore School for the Arts and will attend a conservatory for college.  It is great to be around people who care about your activity as much as you do.

So, in conclusion, hats off to Coach Shannon as well--for the plan to prepare and for helping to learn some more about running and some more about myself.

The two women who are first and foremost among those who have been strong in my life and are represented by Irene rescuing St. Sebastian in my tattoo are my wife and my mother.  For my wife, every day of life with me and three boys in the house is a show of strength.  With this running experience of the past eight weeks culminating yesterday with an enjoyable race, I have added Shannon and Amy to the list of strong women who have influenced my life.  

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Stomp the Monster 5k, USATF Open Women Championship, Marlboro NJ. 6/1

Stomp the Monster is quite an event.  The organizers did a really good job putting on a 1200+ person 5k and Festival to raise a ton of money to help cancer survivors.  

Their mission statement: "STOMP The Monster™ provides financial and other support to cancer patients, their families, and caregivers when they need it most – during their fight with the disease.  We promote a healthy lifestyle with proper diet and exercise, leading by example, and provide funding for potential advances in prevention and treatment."  Here the story behind the race. Please read it if you can.  In short, it is about the inspiration for this event, Seth Grumet, and his fight and ultimate survivorship.  

Due to my involvement since 2010 as a Coach or Captain with Team in Training (a group of marathon or half runners, as well as Triathletes, Cyclist, etc, who raise money for cancer research in exchange for coaching and race day assistance), I got to see a lot of familiar faces and people I have not seen for a while.  It was so nice to see Janet and Jacqui briefly before the start.  Janet and Janet are closely connected to the cause and Jacqui did a lot of work for Smiles for Shira and inspired massive amounts people to register their bone marrow swabs in order to become a match for those in need.  Many many lives were saved as a result.  Please read that too and get swabbed if you are eligible.  As a cancer survivor myself, I am not swappable, but Sidney is and he did it.  To be able to save a life of a person in desperate need and running out of hope is truly a miracle. 

I also saw Bobby who I have not run with since he kicked my butt at the Manasquan Reservoir by agreeing to meet me for a few miles and then telling me once we got there that he needed 15 at sub-8 pace… holy crap.  :) I hung for 10 and retreated to my car, mumbling something about having to get home.  Boy was that an awesome workout.  Especially since I had not seen Bobby for about a year when he was running in the 9 minute range.  People who work really hard seem to find a way to get in phenomenal shape fast.  Bobby is now an Ironman. He too has a close connection to this cause. 

I ran into Bill and Joy, as well, who were a big part of the TNT group for a while but we lost them to Triathlons.  I blame Stella and her crazy wigs and tutus for this.  I tried to lure Bill back into marathoning with promises of a fast course in his future, but I can tell he is gone. :) 

In addition to all those I seem to have connected to my life as a survivor, this race was also a USATF Championship race for Open Women.  This means the USATF-NJ Race teams were sending their fastest ladies and the smart men, like Martin, who want to snag as many points as possible in this large 700pt race were there.  I spent at lot of time after the race "warming down" with Bill and Bob. :) Can someone please send me a link to a Runner's Lexicon for Bill.  He needs a lot of help, but we can start with just that for now :) 

The race started at 10:30.  This was my only complaint.  10:30 is like mid-day for me.  I am usually done running with Enzo by 8:00 am now and we are doing 8-9 a day at parks about 30 minutes from my house.  It was so nice and cool this morning, but by 10:30am it was getting warm, I will guess high 60's at least.  The humidity was lower than last weekend so that was great.  I was hoping to run faster than my 5k at Ridgewood since that was just a suffer-fest for me.

I line up towards the front, since net time matters in the Grand Prix Series.  I find Karl, which is easy since he is like 7 feet tall and wears orange. He has been racing incredibly well this year and I was hoping to usurp some of his energy without him knowing. (Karl those racing flats I mentioned were the ST 5 Racers). 

The Gun goes off and for the next 20 minutes I got to watch Karl fade off into the distance and there was nothing I could do to stop this. I then notice someone running near me, calling out how long we have been running to her running partner.. 1:15, 1:18, 1:20… omg, I wonder if she did that the entire way? It was also at about 1:20 that I noticed my breathing was starting to labor to much so I reigned it back and tried to settle down to a pace I felt I could sustain.  I was left to ponder how I have about 18-20 more minutes of this to go. I couldn't figure out if I thought that was good or bad.  I tried to ignore my watch until I hit Mile 1.  M1 6:22. (not bad, still a shot at sub-20)

I felt challenged but not as if I was digging for anything too hard at this time. I also felt that in another race, where my heart was ready to PR, I had some wiggle room here to work with.  But for today, I just wanted to be able to have a decent final mile.  Again I did not look at my watch. Rather, I watched the runners around me and paid attention to how fast I was moving in comparison to those nearby.  If I was gradually passing people I was doing ok.  I was passing some, but a few were passing me, including the guy who was making dry heaving noises and I was almost 100% certain he was going to vomit all over me if I did not give him room.  If there was ever a reason to NOT run the tangent, boy was this it.  M2 6:39 (I knew sub-20 would be unlikely)

I felt good, like I could hold this pace and be low 20's.  I hoped to be able to find a kick somewhere.  I could no longer plan to steal Karl's since he was probably done by now.  Unless I felt a waive of adrenaline I knew breaking 20 was unlikely to happen so now I just wanted to sit and wait to feel inspired to shift gears.  And then we hit a little uphill.  Bummer.  It made me tired, but I knew it was setting us up for a fast finish. What I lost being a wimp on the incline I regained on the decline.  But there were 2 ladies just in front of me which meant I had some decisions to make.  I started a discussion with myself on whether it was possible to pass them before the end. M3 6:37

With a tenth left to go, and my mind still observing the passionate debate between my heart and my legs, I noticed that the finish line was getting close and I had to make a decision before time did that for me. "Can I kick? Do I even have anything left? Is there even enough time to pass them if I try?  Does it matter if I pass them or not?  How much is this going to hurt?…. Oh screw it… Just shut up and Kick!"   So in the last 20 seconds or less, I ran as fast as I possibly could.  Spectators yelled to the women ahead "Run! Don't let her catch you!" (Hey what happened to cheering for the underdog! Whose side are you on? ;) )  This, honestly, just made me HAVE to catch them.  I had just enough time for one more gear, and I passed the 2 ahead of me just before we entered the shoot.  Had I hesitated more, I would have run out of road.  Had I gone sooner, they may have had time to respond… so it was the best timing of a kick I could muster despite my delay.  Last .1 0:45

With this being a fast course filled with fast ladies, I was not surprised to be 20th place and 4th in my age group.  I would have left earlier by Martin won an award and I always like to stay to cheer for him when he wins. 

Time: 20:20 (6:33)
OA place: 76/1200+
Gender: 20/855
AG: 4th 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fred D'Elia Ridgewood 10k and 5k Double, Ridgewood NJ. 5/26/14

This shouldn't be a very long report, even though I ran two races and these were both large races for local road races. There was 970 runners in this 10k. 

Coming off my best marathon last week, I road a wave of adrenaline to a 90 mile week.  I haven't run a 90 mile week in a long time.  In fact, I actually tapered a bit for Run for the Red marathon by running only 30 miles the week prior.  But I think that was more out of feeling sluggish than from me planning a bona fide taper.  Run for the Red was not supposed to be a PR for me, but rather a race to see how much work I have to do to run a great marathon in the fall.

Going from a 30 mile to a 90 mile week left me feeling flat.  I still thought I had a shot at  some 6:45's.  My expectations were not crazy. I ran 6:43 pace here last year… but that was last year when circumstances were different. 

This felt like the most humid and warmest start to a race so far for me this year.  Each week I will only be reporting the same until at some point in Sept when I hope to be reporting the decline in temps.  Strolling Jim may have gotten up to 77 degrees, but it was cool at the start.  Today was the first day I was sweating while in my car getting prepared to race.  The humidity was thick and I knew it was going to be a struggle. 

At 8:15, I line up with Rich T. and declare that we will run a bunch of random splits. Of course I was hoping that those splits would come true because they were good ones. It did happen. Bummer.  I knew miles 3 and 4 were slow for me last year, so I expected something similar.   Three wasn't so bad, but mile 4 this year was much worse.  M1 6:43,  M2 6:41, M3 6:47, M4 7:12 (ugh, LOL!).

By mile 3.5 I had managed to pair up with a guy who's name I forgot, I want to say Mike, but I just can't recall. I sorry Guy I will refer to as Mike.  We ran side-by-side in silence for a while.  I think initially the instinct racers have is to race people nearby. Usually someone breaks and one pulls ahead.  But "Mike" and I just stayed steadily on the same pace until somehow the energy changed from competitors to companions in this together.  I was clearly the weakest link for most of this final third.  At a water stop, I managed to pull ahead, but looked back to see if he was coming back up.  He was.  He asked me once about pace. I gave him the data.  M5 7:08,  M6 6:50

I was hoping to have a shot a breaking 42, but as we hit the 6 mile clock and I saw the time already in 41:xx  I knew I wasn't going to be close to breaking 42.  My breathing was labored since my asthma is triggered by humidity (most other with asthma report the opposite). I decide to just hold my pace, not let anyone pass me, and hope to survive the 5k.   Last .2 1:25 (6:38 pace)

Time 42:49
OA 91/970
Gender 13th/426
AG 1st AG ($25 Gift Card)

As I finished the race, a guy on the medical staff looks at me, very concerned, and asked "Are you OK?".  I said "Yes" and he pointed at my stomach.  I looked down and I had blood and sweat streaming down my mid-section.  I can't wait to see my race photos. 

Since running the marathon last Sunday, I had suffered from chaffing from my sports bra band. I usually I do a few successful things to protect my skin, but I did none of those things race day morning before the marathon.  By the end of the marathon, I had a raw spot that remained sore for days.  During the week my mileage ramped up so fast that my skin was not able to heal.  The small blister bandage is usually all I need to protect my skin.  But, I had run out of bandages during the week my skin was not happy.  

Before today's races, I had prepped my skin, first with rubbing alcohol before applying the bandage, hoping the alcohol would help the bandages adhere firmly before the race.  The humidity was working against me and was much stronger than the adhesive on the bandage.  By mile 1, the bandage had fallen off. By the end, my skin was torn up and I was bleeding significantly with out even realizing it. 

I went to the med tent to ask if they had anything I could use to clean up the blood and then anything that I could use to lube up the area before the next race.  They did a good job coming up with creative solutions to try to figure out what I could do to not bleed all over myself in the next race. 

The 5k started at 10:15. There was 1706 runners in this race. I am pretty sure about 900 were under 15 years old and they were all in front of me. :)  I found my way towards the front but had trouble getting into the street.  The group was loud and rowdy.  I was feeling a bit dizzy and claustrophobic being packed firmly into the group of runners.  The starting Gun was a tired little air horn that was barely audible from my location (which wasn't that deep into the start, it is just that the crowd was loud and I was smushed into a dense pack of people).   

When the boys behind me realized that the race had started, they started screaming and shoving and yelling for people to RUNNNNN!!!!  It was probably one of the most unpleasant starts I have ever had during a race, as I felt myself being forcefully pushed from behind.  Not pleasant at all.  This made me wonder if there was an effective way for RD's to share the idea that a runner's official time does not start until the start mat is cross so there is no reason to push or jostle in the starting corral when the gun goes off. 

As I started the race, my legs felt tingly and I felt surreal.  I am not sure if it was the humidity and heat increasing as it passed 10 am, or if I felt the impact of being smushed into a herd of people.  I knew this was going to be hard.

At .2 miles into the race, many over zealous youngsters were starting to peter out.  I thought it was adorable to hear a little girl encourage her friend by letting her know, "You know, it is really OK to walk some."  At this point, the crowds were thinned out and running was smooth.   

As I reached mile one I feel incredibly tired, but I am so grateful that there is only 2 miles left. M1 6:48

From here forward, I feel like I am on cruise control (set to not a very fast pace), not able to run any faster, but rather just trying to survive while hurrying to get to a place I could stop. The miles were hard. My legs were tired. But in comparison to the 10k, the 5k really does feel manageable. M2 7:12,  M3 7:02

I pass a few ladies in the last mile and decide that I really don't want to be passed back in the last tenth, so I dig a little for something more.  Last .1 37 (5:32 pace). 

Just after I cross the finish, I hear someone say "I tried to keep up with you this time, but I just couldn't catch up to you!" It was "Mike" from the first race.   

Time: 21:38
OA: 110/1706
Gender: 21/849
AG: 2/89 ($10 Gift Cert)

That was a great way to run a 15k! Not my fastest 10k/5k double.  I can't say that I am honestly thrilled with my performance, but I can't complain.  Considering both races cost me $40 and I won $35 in Gift Certificates, I am happy. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Guest Blogger: Enrique and the Art of Pacing for a PR at the Brooklyn Half Marathon, 5/17/14.

For several months now I have been working with Enrique.  I feel incredibly lucky to have a roster full of ambitious, dedicated people who truly enjoy putting in the work. 

For Enrique, primarily we are working on unlocking his inner marathon specialist, but along the way he likes to find races to challenge himself.  I was planning on witnessing him (even if just virtually online) set some new PR's one race at a time as we build up toward his Fall marathon goals, but Enrique apparently had other ideas. :)  The Brooklyn Half fell about a month after he ran Boston and I was sure he was going to have an amazing race based upon how hard he trained for Boston.    

Below you will find one the best paced races I have ever had a runner I coached run.  The splits are not perfectly even, but he thought about his race and his pace the entire time. He had a plan, he worked on progression training to prepare for a negative split, he knew how to use the terrain of the course to his advantage and his execution was inspiring.  He demonstrated self control and discipline and it paid off!  

Congratulations Enrique on running a fantastic Half and for setting many new PR's en route to a new half PR.   Thank you for allowing me to share your race report below with those who follow my blog! 


Photo provided by Enrique 
Brooklyn Marathon Report  
Official Time: 13.1 @ 1:52:46
Official race splits:
Overall Place: 8154
Gender Place: 5644
Age Place: 420
Net Time: 1:52:46
5K Split: 0:27:38 (new PR)
10K Split: 0:54:52 (new PR)
15K Split: 1:21:08 (new PR)
20K Split: 1:47:15 (new PR)
Pace per Mile: 08:37 (new PR)
AG Time: 1:40:35
AG Gender Place: 3444
AG %: 58.88 %

Splits (From Runkeeper):

1 mi 9:06 (climb: -13)
The strategy that Shannon devised for me was to run mile 1 as close as possible between 9:00 and 8:50 pace. This would ideally to set me up to break my previous PR without much pressure. But since my previous half-marathons PRs were by a few seconds, I needed to find a race where where I felt the new goal was possible, and I had more than just a lucky shot. But at this point in the race, most of the people that started the race with me in the corral were leaving me behind. I'm use to this by now. My legs need the first mile and sometimes even the second to adjust. Eventually they find a pace that will carry me for the rest of the race.

2 mi 8:59 (climb: 12)
Stay with the plan. My cousin was still holding on close to me.

3 mi 8:26 (climb: -96)
The legs were feeling light. This was the first good sign for a solid race. Next was to pay attention to the breathing and heart rate. From the middle of mile 2 through most of mile 3 there is a nice downhill. Here was my chance to apply the lessons learned from Boston (thanks John Phelan for the tips). Just glide down the downhills and let gravity do the job. Short steps. Breathing was steady. My cousin was left behind in the dust.

4 mi 8:29 (climb: 7)
This is the beginning of the hardest part of this race. Inside Prospect Park are the toughest and only hills on the race. Once again, I adjusted my pace to short and quick steps. Randomly started to talk to people around me to make sure that I was breathing properly. If I could talk without breaking the pace was right.

5 mi 8:42 (climb:68)
This was the confidence booster moment of the race. All the training and lessons from Shannon were showing off. Everything Shannon had done to prepare me for Boston helped me conquer this mile-long hill with confidence. Never lose my pace or focus.

6 mi 8:46 (climb: 23)
10k mark - At this point knew I was running a possible PR race. I caught up with all the people that passed me on mile 1 and was running next to the people from the corrals further ahead. As per previous conversation with Shannon, she suggested to play things mile per mile. I knew that the rest of the race was a combination of rolling downhills. Decided to find a pace I could sustain for the rest of the race after the next big downhill.

7 mi 8:09 (climb: -96)
As I was leaving Prospect Park, took advantage of the steep road, so while people were slowing down, I was pushing faster (I think I saw my Garmin touching the 6s), so this was the best moment for a big push.

8 mi 8:21 (climb: -7)/9 mi 8:30 (climb: -17)/10 mi 8:19 (climb: -13)
For these 3 miles I was in cruise control. Let the legs just go at a speed that wasn't pushing but were not being held back. It was very zen-like running, was mainly focusing on the breathing. I call it 4x4 breathing. Four intakes synchronized with each step and four outtakes synchronized with each steps.

11 mi 8:21 (climb: -23)
This was the moment of truth, I saw the possibility of a 1:49 race (I really suck at math). According to the plan the last 5k of the race I was suppose to let it all out. And here I discovered a new pace/gear that I've had never used before. Without leaving the "cruise control" mode started to accelerate gradually and kept doing that for the next 2 miles. Of course the pace had to be adjusted to match the terrain, crowding and people seriously racing.

12 mi 8:15 (climb: -3)
13 mi 8:12 (climb: 9)
Last .1 mi - 8:08 pace (climb: -9)

End of the race, even though I wanted to push myself further for a strong finish, the finish line was already very dense with people and eased back into my new found comfort pace. The Garmin was reading 1:53 same as Runkeeper. PR!!!!!

I am fascinated with the idea negative splits. It takes so much discipline and self control. What comes naturally to me is to start slow and quick bursts of energy. A very important lesson I've learn from training with Shannon, is to be able to keep a steady pace is far more important than anything else.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

New Marathon PR at Run for the Red, Pocono Summit, PA. 5/18/14

9th Female, 3rd in Age Group
I was a little unsure if I made the right decision. Two weeks ago I ran Strolling Jim, a 41.2 mile road race through some very hilly terrain in Wartrace TN.

I ran well, through about 32 miles. And then the heat, the hills, my lack of hill training all caught up with me.  My quads felt like they were bruising from the inside out with every step beyond that 32 mile mark.  And even then, in the midst of the suffering, I knew that the crash and burn at the end of that race was exactly what I needed to prepare myself for a great marathon two weeks later.

I found my wall.  The beauty of finding the wall and continuing to plod on beyond it, even at a slow demoralizing pace, is that it can make you really really strong for the next well timed race. I know my body and two weeks later was perfect timing for me.  At the end of Strolling Jim I saw Laz. I thanked him for a great race and I told him right there that I knew I was going to have a really great marathon soon because of it. (I didn't expect a PR, but I thought I should be faster than my Boston time).  He laughed a bit and said, Strolling Jim was going to make that marathon seem pretty short. He was right!

Despite all the good suffering I did on May 4th, I was torn because this race fell on 5/18. This is the Sunday of the same weekend Three Days at the Fair was happening.  So many friends were racing Three Days (a series of races from marathon through 72 hour timed races).  As a NJ ultra runner, it seemed like a requirement that I attend this amazing event in my state. People were traveling from all parts of the country, even other countries, to race Three Days and I was getting up at 4 am to go to the Poconos.

I had decided to register a few weeks ago, likely during the after glow of my decent performance at the Boston Marathon.  I felt that had the weather been cooler at Boston, my race would have been better even though that Boston (3:22) was one of my faster marathon times despite me still being heavier than my ideal racing weight.

A few days after Strolling Jim, I noticed my scale (the one that tells me many outright lies about my body composition) suddenly displayed a slight drop in Body Fat % accompanied by a slight increase in Muscle Percentage.  I believed the numbers had changed because my training suddenly started to feel easier and I felt stronger.  The Boston Marathon week seemed to mark a revival of good health and it has continued for some time now. I hope it lasts for a while.

It is a fast course. FAST. Very Fast. I was told it was fast by many people. I had no idea that they meant FAST!  It is the FASTEST marathon course I have ever run (clearly).  The elevation chart revealed this course is primarily a point-to-point downhill (with some minor ups in the middle) and with more significant rollers at the end, but nothing like Strolling Jim!

The first 6 miles seem to incline and decline but with no significant drop in elevation. Then at 6.5 miles, we hit an amazing stretch of descent that is just liberating.  If you love to run fast with wild abandon, faster than you know you have any right to be running in the middle of a marathon, so fast that delusion of grandeur flood your mind as you start to believe you may actually be a superhero, so fast that even you start to think about how stupid you must be to be running this fast, then this race is for you! 

But if you are the type who has trouble with downhill racing, who worries that their legs will not survive the constant pounding so they hold back, or who is just not trained to handle the descents and ends up so beat up that their legs have nothing to offer in the last 6 or so miles, then maybe you might not like this race.

In addition to the fast course, after a hot TN race, the ideal cool weather was the best gift I could have gotten.  As we drove into the mountains, the temperature dropped into the low 40s.  It was cool and dry with a slight breeze. There is not much better weather than this for a marathon.

Everything about this race seemed so easy and well organized.  Emails were responded to promptly in a friendly and helpful manner. For an extra $20 fee they allowed race day bib pick up.  I appreciated that option as it saved me a lot of money.  The Parking was plentiful at the school.  There was no stress or hassles with getting our bibs and getting ready to race.  The school was warm inside and we had access to the bathrooms, with very little wait, if any at all. The truck that brought gear to the finish area was sitting at the starting line. There were pacers available if needed.  The course was well marked.  It finished on a track, which I just love.  They announced your name as you run your final victory lap :).  Results were posted quickly. Gear Bag retrieval was next to the race results. A lot of food was available at the end, but mostly deli sandwiches and fruit.  Awards ceremony was fast and there was no wait to get on a bus back to the start. Truly, I just loved everything about this marathon.

First, it was a really nice surprise to get to meet Meghan at the starting line.  She is a member of my NJ Road Racing Team (Clifton Road Runners), but we have not yet had the chance to race together.  Funny to run into her at a marathon in PA.  She was able to share some information about the course since she ran it last year and we moved up towards the front just before the gun.

When asked what I thought I would do, I generally give the same answer each time.  "I will go out on pace to run a great race and see how long I can hold it."  That is pretty much what I always do. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it is not my day.

So I decided to start off hovering around my marathon PR pace for the first 6 miles and this is pretty much just what I did.

Before the start: I took a gel on the walk over to the starting line. Two more in my pockets for the ride
M1 7:15
M2 7:23
M3 7:25
M4 7:18
M5 7:24
M6 7:09

As we approached mile 5, another woman was near by asking about the course.  I shared what I knew, that at some point after 6 miles, we start heading DOWN.  She asked, so is everyone here pretty much just waiting for mile 6?  I said, "I don't know if everyone is, but I know I am!"  I felt truly amazing at this point, and much less stressed than I felt I should when averaging 7:20s.  I thought about Strolling Jim and how well it prepared me.

At mile 6, I decided to pass the 3:15 pace group and get ahead of them.  I was hovering a bit behind them, but reeling them it.  At the last aid station it was chaos.  About 20 guys in a pack, all trying to get water from 4 volunteers.  I was lucky I got a cup and decided I needed to get ahead of that for the next aid station.

Once I made a move to pass, the descent started so I just keep up my pace.  It felt amazing to run so freely and easily.  Mile after mile, the terrain was fast and runnable.  My biggest issue was the camber of the road and this caused me to try to find the most level location to run while still being mindful of the tangents.

With every steep decline, I pushed myself.  I passed people faster than I have ever passed anyone in a marathon.  I heard one guy comment about The LESSON he learned last year about being too aggressive to early and how it would all come back at the end in those hills.  I didn't care.  I was Stupid Aggressive… and it felt awesome.

M7 6:43
M8 6:35 (yeah, that's right…a 6:35 split at mile 8 in a marathon! Stupid Fast! Who does this!?) :)
M9 6:50  (took a gel here, even though I didn't think I needed one)

And that little block of miles right there is what I know attributed to my final time being what it was.  Sometimes it just pays off to do what other people think is stupid.  But Stupid is truly relative. I am pretty confident that there were very few people that ran a 6:35 41.2 mile long run through hot and hilly Tennessee as the peak long run, so maybe for them sub-7 paced miles were too much to handle.  But for me, I knew I could deal with it or I would take my beating when it came. 

At mile 10 we started to hit an uphill but I was having so much fun I just worked it the best I could. It was hard but I wasn't falling apart.  I did feel impacted by the ascent and knew I was in for some pain in the last 10k.  I decided that there was nothing I could do to make those hills at the end be kind to me, so instead I was going to bank a little time (despite this normally being a bad idea… but you need to run the course and take advantage of what you can)… I would spend those minutes as needed in the last 10k.

M10 7:16
M11 7:09
M12 7:14
M13 7:02  (1:34:02 half marathon split… one of my fastest half marathon times ever)
M14 7:15
M15 7:16
M16 7:05 (second gel)

At this point most of the crazy fast stuff was over and I was starting to settle down.  I can't say that I was falling apart yet. But the terrain was slower and I was tired.  I wanted to regroup because I knew Miles 21-23 were going to be very hard.  That little elevation photo suggested it was going to be challenging. I grabbed a gel at 16 and tried to stop thinking about the impending fade.

M17 7:20
M18 7:22

It was starting to warm up some and I was feeling it.  My entire body was covered in salt (a sign that I am not yet heat acclimated).

The uphills were here now and all I could was try to survive.  Some people were already walking but I refused to walk.  I passed as many people as I could in this section, even though we were all moving slow.  I noticed that my fade was not as significant or any worse at all than any one around me at the time.  In fact, I was running when many were not. This was all the proof I needed to know that my aggressive pace early on what the right choice.  I know I would have slowed anyway on these hills.  That stretch of sub-7 miles simple gave me a cushion and time to spend as needed.  It may not have been pretty but it worked!

M 19 7:34
M 20 7:37
M 21 7:40
M 22 7:47
M 23 7:50
M 24 7:47

By mile 24, I was toast.  The hills did take a lot out of me, but they are hills and that is what they do. They were not as bad as I imagined they would be.  I think I may be able to handle them better if I go back.  The temperature was up at this point and we only had a little left to go.

Some woman at the top of the last hill was handing out High Fives. She slapped my hand so hard I called out, "Man you are strong!" and the guy ahead of me thought I was talking to him. He thanked me and then encouraged me to get up with him, but I just couldn't catch him. :)  

I had to fight for these two miles. I tried to pick up the pace, but I was having a little trouble. I knew that I had worked this course to a new PR, but I just needed to say strong and finish it off.

M25 7:36
M26 7:31

At 26 miles we enter the stadium and we get to run our final lap around the track.  There were no ladies ahead.  No ladies behind me.  No men in range or threatening to pass me.  I had no more gears to dig into but tried my best to give a strong finish.  The announcer called out my name.  The crowd the stadium seats cheered as if they knew how awesome this time was for me. 

It was everything a PR Marathon Finish Should Be! 

Last .2 2:16.

Time: 3:12:56  (7:21 pace) (New PR by 3 minutes!)
OA Place: 67th 
Gender Place: 9th
AG Place 3rd.
Shoes: Brooks T7 Racing Flats, brand new right out of the box that morning
Fuel: 3 Roctane Gel and all the course supplied Power-Aid I could spill on myself.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Cross Country Flying with Enzo and Strolling Jim "40 Mile", Wartrace, TN, 5/3/14

photo from the Mooney at Take off.
Sidney and I have been wanting to check out Tennessee for sometime now.  We decided to use this race as an excuse to take a little vacation.  Well that is not entirely true… it has something to so with tomato sauce but that is a long story.

Sidney is a commercially licensed pilot, soon to be looking for official commercial work. To remain current and build his experience, several times per year we take cross country flights.  I find a race I have always wanted to run.  Sidney rents a small plane.  We load up our dog, Enzo, and take our time stopping wherever we want.  We had hoped to leave NJ on Wednesday, but whenever you fly a plane with a cabin rivaling the size of a smart car, flexibility with the schedule is important. Weather is a huge factor determining when we can leave. We were hit with some really bad rain and wind Tuesday through Wednesday.  Unfortunately that set our trip one day behind schedule.

We departed Thursday late morning.  The winds were flyable but not cooperative, as we basically flew directly in to a head wind that slowed our speed to under 100 knots… for almost 4 hours.  100 knots is like driving at 115 miles per hour.  Sure this is still faster than driving car and we get a more direct route in the sky, but generally the Mooney flies between 150-200 knots if the winds are in our favor.

Flying slower meant we were in the air for much longer and this meant we needed make a stop for fuel. I think when Sidney says "we need to stop for fuel", it really means, in part, that he needs to pee, but that's only fair because when I say "It looks like it is too bumpy for Enzo" that really means I am not appreciating the turbulence. :)

Sidney picked a random airport that he knew had fuel and we made our descent.  As he approached the airport, he checked the winds by listening to the automated weather report.  The first words I hear in the report are…"Hazard… Winds at (some speed) Coming form the (some direction) …. etc)".  I have never heard the automatic weather provide a warning before and was wondering what that meant.  Sidney wasn't concerned and I don't ask questions when he is in the middle of doing something important, like landing the airplane.

Somewhere over Kentucky

Once we landed decided we wanted to get food and see a bit of wherever we just landed.  The rolling green hills were beautiful from the sky and I was curious about what the area was like.  Often at small airports, when you purchase fuel (which can be quiet costly), the airports sometimes provides you with a free courtesy car so you can leave the airport for a short time (like to get something to eat).  Not all airports have this, but many do.  Since we were hungry Sidney asked if they had a car.  The employee said he sure does and gave Sidney a set of keys.  As we got in the car, it was immediately apparent that this man just gave us the keys to his personal car.  This is amazing and a refreshing trustworthy contrast to our experience that morning when we stepped of our house to view our neighbor's car up on cinderblocks because someone had stolen two of his tire over the course of the windy rainy evening.

The airport in Hazard, Kentucky.
Once back at the airport, I asked a guy what town this was.  That is when I discovered that we had landed in Hazard, Kentucky. Ahhhhh…. "Hazard" was the location of the weather not a warning that we were in danger. Phew! :)

Off to Nashville.  We didn't get to spend much time in Nashville but what we saw was really nice.  We stay in the Opryland section. There is a really pretty greenway that starts or ends at a dam nearby. It was a lovely trail. The weather was cool, so Enzo got a run in.  The city was a CITY and the food there was really good.  We were only there one day.  I look forward to returning for longer.

Off to Shelbyville.  On Friday, we drove an hour to Shelbyville to get my race packet and have dinner with John Price.

Strolling Jim 40 Mile
Strolling Jim is really a special race.  I really just love road ultras.  They tend to be quite the opposite of most road marathons for many many wonderful reasons.  They are small events where everyone is friendly.  When you get your bib, it feels like the RD's are now your friends and they remember you by your name for the rest of the event.

Everything is very informal and low key.  No one pretends like the event is built to cater to every runners' every needs. You need to be able to care of yourself.  If you are interested in things like exactly measured race distances, or frequent aid stations stocked to satisfy your every single need and provide stuff like cold drinks… then you may not enjoy big loop road ultras.

Also, in most cases, when a marathon says a course is "hilly" (like Boston, for example, which runners will refer to as hilly), you can expect to slow your pace some as you run the hills. A "hilly marathon" generally means, I may not PR, I you should be able to run the whole race.  When an ultra says "rolling hills through country roads", most can expect to spend some time power hiking up a mountainside that feels like you are going backwards in time and often results in your projected finish time to rapidly fading from your grasp, especially if you are not prepared for the "hills" (or at least that was my experience).

However, when you finish an ultra and realize just how much you can endure, relentlessly pounding the road for almost the duration of a full work day, with minimal aid and pampering, the feeling of accomplishment is unmatched.

Elevation Chart.  

Race Description
Strolling Jim 40 Mile is a 41.2 mile road race that travels along a figure 8 shaped, one-loop course through the scenic rolling hills of Wartrace and Bell Buckle TN.  The race also offers a 20 miler which is 19.3 miles and a 10k which is 7.2.  I believe there were about 150 runners present for all three events, but this is just a guess. Although there are some aid stations, it seemed there may have been about 5-6 manned aid stations, with some cool water or iced down sports drink that I never heard of, during the entire 40 mile race. There were unmanned water stops which consisted of only gallons of water set in the grass on the side of the these country roads.  There was a sufficient number of  port-o-potties at the start and a set of 2 at mile 28.  The course was marked with arrows on the pavement.  Runners could have a crew drive the course and provide support along the way if the wanted. I did not.   Runners were given an option to leave drop bags at three location, mile13/35 mile (where the course met itself), 21, and 28. Again, I did do that either.  I never use drop bags.

My Race Summary
I had a really great run at Strolling Jim … for the first 32 miles. :)  My last 9+ concluded with the worst crash and burn I have experienced at an ultra in a while, but it was to be expected and it was quite amazing.  I am not sure how to explain this, but sometimes it feels really really good for me to find the point where I reach exhaustion.  (Ideally that happens much closer to the end of the race).  I am still feeling the repercussions of a hard cold long winter where my body got used to training in cold weather. In fact, I am still training in colder weather than TN weather, even though the weather was awesome.  In addition, I was simply extremely unprepared for the hills.  There is not much I can do to train for the rolling terrain of SJ, since where I live does not have what SJ offers.  I just wanted to go down, do my best, and spend time with my family.

Right from the start I felt like I found a nice rhythm.  It helped to hook up with a really wonderful woman named Lisa who shared many early miles with me.  Conversation flowed as miles passed.  We rolled through hills that were quite significant to me, but together we did well.  She turned off just around 14 as she was in the 20 miler and for the rest of the race I was mostly on my own.

The second half of the race was much more challenging for me that the first 20+.  I passed the halfway point feeling smooth and strong.  I just tried to focus on one mile at a time.  I was already salt crusted.  As I approached the marathon, had a little fluid left in one bottle and thought I had fluid in my second.  I passed the gallon jugs of water, which were now sitting in full sun.  I had no desire to drink hot water, so I decided to wait until the next manned aid station to fill my bottles with something cold…

By Mile 28, I realized I was completely out of fluid as my other bottle was empty and I was really thirsty.  I really should have filled up when I had the chance.  There was a older man on the side of the road in a pick up truck.  I wasn't sure if he was part of the race aid or not.  Some of the aid stations were manned pick up trucks with coolers in the back.  He was not part of the race aid but he offered me whatever I wanted from the cooler. I took only about 2 oz of a sports drink since an aid station had to be soon.  I didn't want to take someone else aid, but I was really thirsty.  He insisted I fill up my bottle but I assured him I would be ok.  I did pass an aid station shortly thereafter and they had some cool water.

At that aid station, I took an orange slice, a shot of coca cola, and a gel I could not consume.  I took off running with 11 miles to go, truly thinking I was going to have a great run… but eventually my world imploded and I am remarkably ok with this.

I did overheat a lot at the end.  It seemed that right after that last hill, where I felt like I was going backwards in time trying to walk as fast as I could, which was still pretty slow.  There I just hit a wall and my legs were done. It came on suddenly, on the decline after the hill.  Imagine being so tired that descent become hard.  I felt dizzy and easily confused.  I felt like every running step was pounding the life from my legs and walking steps were much more tolerable.

The last 4 miles were flat but without shade and that was my final straw.  I was simply done.  Now it was just about survival.  Time goals slipped away and I was ok with that.  I was doing my best and I knew it.  I did whatever I could to keep moving.

In the final mile, I ended up taking a wrong turn which is comical. LOL.  I was so tired, not thinking clearly, saw a bunch of arrows on the other side of the highway I was on, and since I was following arrows all day long, I figured they must be telling me to turn back b/c I missed the turn, so I did.   When I turned back to get back on track, I then noticed the words Wrong Way written on the highway with arrows pointing to turn off the highway.  I guess it just wasn't clear to me at that time why there was a bunch of arrows pointing down a side street if we weren't supposed to go that way, since all day long the arrows mean "go that way"… the words Wrong Way were on the highway, not not the side street. But the arrows indicating we need to turn were coming from the opposite direction.  This made my head hurt.  The only sense I could make of this in my tired state of mind was that the arrows were there for people like me who accidentally missed the turn and needed to back track.   All I can say is I was very tired, dehydrated and ready to stop. I saw some arrows pointing back to a turn, thought I missed that turn so I followed them.  I noticed my mistake by going slow and watching behind me to see what the guys behind me did… three guys passed turn and I immediately turned back.  Oh well.  It didn't add much

Things that worked for me:

Weather (yes and no):  Even though the race for me ended at 77 degrees and this was entirely too hot for me to tolerate, the race started in the low 50s, possible high 40's and the humidity seemed quiet low all day.  I am sure this low humidity is what saved my race.  When I finished the race, I noticed how my clothing was not sweat soaked at all. I was even able to tolerate wearing a singlet under my race vest without overheating much during the bulk of the race.

My Gear/Fuel: Nathan's Race Vest (not a hydration pack) with two 10 oz quick shot bottles (one in the vest pocket, one in my hand) and 3 gels in the other vest pocket.  This set up worked  really well for me.  I prefer to not carry anything, but I wasn't sure what to expect.  I knew this was  a one loop course with spaced out aid and I wanted to make sure I had what I needed to get by. I would like use the same set up again.  I started with 20 oz of Gatorade and added water to my bottles as I ran.  I took my first gel at 14 miles, then another at 23, and one more at  33.  I did grab a 4th gel but was not able to get that down.

Sunglasses: I bought a pair of sunglasses last year because I need to do more to protect my eyes.  Again I really dislike running with things on me, so this was a big deal.  I bought a pair of Oakleys because they are made for sports and I really like them. They don't move around, and really did a great job helping me stay focused. I even suspect I felt a bit cooler too (placebo effect) since my view of my world was dimmer than it would have been had I had nothing protecting my eyes.

Shorts: At Boston, I experienced really terrible chafing, where the seems of the shorts I wore rubbed my thighs relentlessly.  This time I chose tights that looked like bike shorts.  They were just perfect. 41+ miles and not one raw spot.  Again, I think this is also a product of low humidity.

ST 5 Racer - My new favorite Road Ultra shoe… a Stability Racing Flat!

Shoes: The best thing I did was choice the ST5 Racers.  These are now my favorite road ultra shoe. I still will use the T7 for 50k and under, but over 50k the ST5s are my shoe.  The ST5 are a stability racing flat.  They weigh in a 8.6 oz, but I believe this is for the Men's sizing since this is a unisex shoe.  I believe it is closer to 7 oz for an average sized women's shoe.  The extra support under the arch did more for me that I thought it would. I normally have arch pain due to chronic plantar fasciitis. I manage it well with taping and my pain is minimal now, however after an ultra there is alway some soreness.  But not this time.  I was surprised at how perfect my feet felt after this race.  I didn't have any blisters, hot spots or any toe nail issues either.  It was very impressive.

The Shirts:  The best part of SJ for me is the Finishers Shirts.  Depending upon how many hours it takes, you will be given a shirt of a different color if you finish under 8 hours.  Blue is sub-6, Red is sub-7 and Yellow is Sub-8.  I was so proud to earn a sub-7 shirt.  I think if I work really really hard, I may have an outside chance at a sub-6 next year… but this will required low humidity again and that I can't control.  All I can say, is this race is going on my calendar and I hope to find some hills to help me be better prepared next year!

Very simple but very meaningful to me.

Distance: 41.2 (plus some extra for me)
Time 6:35:58
Overall Place 29th OA
Gender: 5th