Monday, December 5, 2011

2011 NYC Marathon Footsteps

Indescribable – A Seriously Long Illustration!
There is just no other way I can tell you how the sensation of the 2011 ING New York City Marathon felt! The build up to the race was a growth experience; one I’ll remember in forthcoming undertakings. After setting personal bests in two distance races within a month, I had reached my limit in the bleak 2011 winter. My right foot was in torturous pain. I finally went and had it checked out.

Nobody can coach desire. Sometimes the spark is gone. Life takes form in unexpected extremes. Plans are made, but never is the outcome planned. Footsteps just happen, and then they are gone, and then the next ones step. Is there always a better foot forward? Sometimes I plan such. Always the outcome takes form, regardless of my intentions. Sometimes the spark is snuffed out unexpectedly.

Surely I thought that taking two full weeks of recovery following the Miami marathon January 30, 2011 was in my best interest. I had just qualified for the 2011 NYC marathon and signed up for the race just days later! Thus coming out of the 2 week layoff I again picked up training. But something wasn’t right. My foot hurt. My footsteps were not right. Pushing through pain I again raced, four weeks exactly after Miami, in the Team Club Challenge 10-mile race in Columbia MD. Setting both personal best at Miami in 2:51:21, and the 10-mile best in 61:02, was just enough to take one footstep right out from under my feet. The combination of 36 race miles at a 6:25/mile pace, along with a full year of some 2,500+ miles, was just enough to break the footstep. Well, a sprain to my foot anyway.

A thin line exists between a runner and the word pain. I jive each other about the hurt of this and that, but sparingly self impose the word injured. Walking down the street with pain in each step for several weeks was enough - I’m going to the doctor.

Thus I went, and X-rays and two orthopedists later concluded a sprained mid-foot, a Lisfranc (Napoleon Army Doctor) sprain. Rushing late to the appointment from work I literally ran there - I left that appointment on March 8, 2011, hobbling away on crutches. The doctor prescribed rest, nothing weight bearing on my right foot, and time. He said, “It’s either do nothing for a length of time, or metal screws – those measures only can heal your foot. And metal screws may mean never running again. Even if you do recover, you may have chronic pain. Take this very serious,” he concluded.

I best used my time, aside from any cardio, to gain strength and perhaps a little mental break. I was lifting several times a week, and the crutches were a serious abs and upper body workout. One month later I went back to the orthopedist and left with a custom carbon fiber orthotic in my right shoe. That was torturous pain for three or four days; that was all of the orthotic I could handle.

Now, in the middle of April, after just about losing my mind from no cardio work for over 6 weeks, I had to run. I ran about 1/3 of a mile. Each day I would run maybe ½ mile, and after a few days I went a mile. After about 10-days I may have gone for 2-miles. The month of April yielded 26 total miles. I cumulated that much alone on January 30th. This is going to be a rough road back.

What is done is done. No words or suffering on my part can change any of my setbacks. I had to pick up the pieces, take an inventory of myself, and re-establish goals. I’m now 31 years young, and although I’ll never see the likes of an 11.31 second 100-meter dash again, I do believe I’ll hit personal bests in every distance event, even mid-distance track events, through my 30’s. I’m supposed to be in my prime; right?

Lacking all cardio I achieved over the previous year I set forth to work on my raw speed again. I have not worked my quick twitch muscles, and at that, the really quick ones, in several years. I got back to the basics. 1, 2, 3, and 400’s – I think my first track workout was literally just turning 4x100 meters. Maybe the second track day I did 1,000 meters of work. These were all quick, all short distance, but trying to get quality.

It took about a month or more until I was comfortable running just 5 miles. And it took about that long until I had over 20-miles in a week. For the longest time, I battled to get up to 30-miles in a week. Steadily, I was improving my fitness, but realizing just how out of shape my cardio systems had gotten. At this point, it’s late spring, and I’m battling through a softball season, to have a little fun, take my mind off of my current inability to race, work quicker twitch muscles, and to keep playing ball as I’ve done for about 23 or 24 years.

By now it’s May and I’ve started to bike to Tuesday night track workouts. I started doing my own workouts, short intervals, repetition work; 4’s, 2’s, sometimes 8’s. It took until June until I could do a semi-full workout.

A Late Spring Classic
I do each and every year, the Irv Zablocky Memorial Run, came at me fast and hard this year. Z’s race, a 3.55 mile race in Muncy, PA, created by Z, is always a test of my fitness entering the summer months. This year I ran about 1min 20-sec slower than last. I captured 4th place in 21:07, a 5:57 pace. That is about as good as I could expect. I didn’t show it outwardly; but I was upset.

From Z’s race (first race since February and the injury) I had to keep working hard. I threw together a track mile at the Baltimore Road Runners Meet of the Miles on July 13. 5:01 was all I could muster, but well enough for an 8-second PR. I went back on July 27th for the BRRC Summer meet 2, and eclipsed the 5-min barrier for the first time ever, running 4:57.24. While I was at it, I raced the 800 meter for a personal best 2:08.57, and also ran the 2-mile at tempo paced (PR at that simply because I’ve never raced the 2-mile) 12:35. (This 12:35 is sort of hilarious because later this summer I was doing 2-mile tempo based repeats under 12-min). As it would be, the meet was a huge motivator!

Skipping out on the Catoctin 50k, as I just was not ready for this on July 30th, I opted to run in Patapsco Park. As you would have it, my right foot, the bad one, rolled hard under my shoes. I finished the run, and of course ran more than I should have that day (about 19), but did it with a black and blue and swollen foot. It is sore, but somehow didn’t sideline me. This was pain. Not the illusive “injury” word.

At this point of the season, I’ve entered August. I’ve been throwing together solid track interval workouts, a few long runs, and just started to add in tempo workouts. I still have foot pain. It’s there every day. It hides itself often, in the form of plantar fasciitis, as well as a bruised bone.

With my eyes set on the NYC marathon on November 6, 2011, I had just 12-weeks left to train, taper, and rock it. I’m now entering into high weekly mileage; something I may or may not have been ready for – but something I had to do in order to find a better foot forward.

Humid Hot Summer
The next journey’s move was the Leesburg 10k. I was hoping for a good showing; at least enough to make Z proud. Fortunately I have not lost my desire: That intensity has grown upon stronger, more painful footsteps. The race, unfortunately, was a complete let down. I had a terrible day. It was hot, muggy, 100% humidity, and I just had no energy. I couldn’t breathe on this Mid-August Sunday morning. The disappointing 41:44 was enough to let me re-assess, get grounded, and remember humility.

I came back and 3 days later ran another BRRC road runners club track meet. Running the 800 meters in an all out effort was painful! Rolling through 200 meters in :28sec, quarter mile in :59sec (:31), 600 meters in 1:32 (:33), set me up for a gigantic piano to jump on my back and finish 2:11.8 (:39, :72). Running :28, :31, :33, and :39 is NOT how you should race. Losing to Remus just sucks. Running later in the race that day with a 56.4 leg 1 of the 4x4 was a fun time against Ed Aramanyo. Ouch.

High Mileage
After summer softball and track racing ended I had entered higher mileage running. I’m now consistently over 50+ each week, and entering into the 60’s range. On September 10th I tested my luck in the Western Maryland Half Marathon, running a 1:23:40 even effort personal best. 6:23/mile felt good – but hurt. The next day I raced at tempo pace with totally trashed legs an 18:26.8 at the RM Classic 5000meter track meet. The week ended at 72 miles and tired legs! But still okay enough to keep my legs turning over. The rest of September was a monster mileage month, running 28 of the 30 days, and cumulating 292 total miles. The camel’s back was breaking.

Or it had broken. And I knew it. I was tired. My legs were shot. I had massed an 85 mile 7-day effort in the lead up to the Baltimore Half marathon – the last true test before NYC. I was shooting for a low 1:20 at Baltimore. What a terrible day. I broke. I ran 1:31:02 – disappointment. Each mile was torture on my legs after the half way point. I had burnt out – too soon. I pushed too hard this season without enough base mileage. I was seriously ready to hang it up.

Good friends and good advice go a long way. Nobody can preach desire, but Brennan and Ryan and Ed and Chrissie and Coach Glenwright and Christa and a little help from God kept my spirit alive. My spark felt gone… Running is a game to maintain positive mental awareness of my body I push. The next 3 weeks were all about recovery, maintenance running and taper as best as possible. With my last 10 kilometer training run before NYC on Friday Nov 4th, in which my quads still had fatigue (oh shit – not good starting a marathon with tired legs) I was taking this sprung right foot of summer into this late season fall marathon. Here we go NYC!

The Trip and Expo
With bags packed and all of my idiosyncrasies queued, Christa and I set out on Amtrak to NYC. Entering New York New York Penn Station I scarfed down 2 slices of Manhattan pizza! Yes! Off to a good start. Checking bags we went to the race expo. Nothing out of the ordinary – except the dude at the line who gave me my number got me motivated. Then we watched a 20-min flick on the race itself, with a course preview. I was getting excited, emotional, and mentally prepared. I am tired, though, and need a nap. We got back to the hotel, found Diane, and checked in! After a quick debacle getting bags from bag check, I was able to crawl in bed for a brief nap – but no real sleep. Ugh.

Fortunately, Christa, Diane, Alex, and I were able to get out for an early dinner. I had a grilled chicken Caesar salad and some Veal Parmesan Pasta – good stuff! Back to the hotel, pack the rest of my gear, and into bed. It was 10pm. With an alarm set at 3:20am, this is not a lot of rest. Thank God we had daylight savings time and we fell back 1 hour.

The Shuffle of Energy to STATEN ISLAND
DST didn’t matter much, though, as I couldn’t sleep. Finally around midnight I think I dozed and had 2 dreams. I dreamt I was running. Ugh. I did my thing in the morning while Diane slept away on the pull out couch, getting her plenty of Z’s before she got her VIP sub-elite treatment lol :) I walked to the Subway, at 4:30am on November 11, 2011, and got on the Red #1 to the Staten Island Ferry. I met the first of tenths of thousands of runners I’d see that day, and 1st of over a million participating in the race, waiting for the subway – at about 4:40am. At the ferry terminal I rendezvoused with Brennan and Trisha Feldhausen. We took the ferry over to Staten Island at 5:30am.

The Ferry ride was interesting – nothing but runners getting to the Verrazano Straight Narrows Bridge, and drunks getting home from a long night in Manhattan. We got off and hung out in the Ferry Terminal to stay warm and relaxed. We saw some random lady dressed up in all 80’s punk rock pink talking about laughing and a circus act or some random weirdness. Haa! Trisha, just what was she talking about???

At any rate, we soon randomly ran into Christa’s friend Rosie from JHU. The four of us hung out, got our bags ready, and finally headed out to the busses. We got in line and boarded buses. This shuttle ride of about 25 min or so got us to within about 1 mile of the starting line. From here it was a hike to get to bag drop, then into our corals. After final gear readiness, a quick Metallica head bang, and getting my nutrition for the race in my pockets and drop bag to the UPS truck, I walked toward my coral.

We had to be in our corals at least 45min before the start. I was in Orange Wave 1 Coral 2. This meant I was in the front of the line – for the exception of the sub-elites of Diane and such - that were escorted to the start. They were given liberties to do striders and jog around. I was able to continue being smashed by the masses and sit on a cardboard box to keep my butt warm. Then there was the ever flowing urine stream that we had to dodge flowing down the bridge. Nasty! The time was approaching, and I tossed my warm up gear, including the never seen again 1994 Hughesville Soccer West Branch Champions Green Jacket - almost a classic! My legs were a bit tired, but overall felt great. Somehow any pain I’ve had all year didn’t bother me. My hamstrings were okay, no plantar fasciitis pain, and my sprained foot didn’t hurt today!!! Amazing!

The Anthem, Song and 26.2 Mile Dance Toward MANHATTAN
The magnitude of this race, the experience of 2011 to get back in shape, the scene of 9/11 we’d be running toward, and the sadness that two of my friends were no longer here because of the events following 9/11 in Iraq and Afghanistan – all brought tears to my eyes during a spectacular National Anthem. In a muffled voice I gave a little extra “Ohhh” during the Oh Say Does That Star Spangled…Banner Yet Wave!!! And the Land of the Freed, and the Home of the Brave! Immediately a loud and dignified military artillery shell shot from cannon signaled the start of the race. We were off. And no sooner did Frank Sinatra’s New York New York become playing loudly and happily! And by the way, WE GOT HIM!!!

What a feeling. In the midst of a nearly perfect sunny, breezy, crisp fall morning, we slumbered off at 9:46am. The first mile was pedestrian – with thousands of people all around, and up the hill of the Verrazano Bridge, I only crossed the first mile in 7:30. About that point I saw Brennan in the Blue wave just on the other side of the concrete barrier; we exchanged good lucks, and kept on our own race strategy. Somewhere on top of the bridge we enter Brooklyn, and kept pushing downhill.

Coming off the Verrazano Narrows Bridge with a second mile in 6:26, I felt fine, with the weather perfect and anticipation and excitement growing. The race allowed me to wear good clothing on a sunny 50 degree clear sky day with low humidity! The wind was a little strong and chilly, but overall not a significant factor. I was wearing a pair of throw away gloves and throw away orange and blue Saucony arm warmers, shorts, T-shirt, and a blue bandana headband as my armor leading me into Brooklyn.

And what a welcome! Even some kind older New York man came out to greet me (and others) at the turn onto 4th street. “Welcome ta Brooklyn, now git the Fuck Out”, he said in his WOP voice with Guido smile! Haa!

4th Avenue was awesome, and at about the 4th mile I took my first energy – a power gel Tangerine 2x caffeine. Bam! I was moving slowly at this point. I had come through mile 3 in 6:57, 5k in 21:36, and 4th mile in 6:47. My 4-mile time was 27:42, and this was already about a minute off of my Miami time from January. But this was clearly not Miami – this is NEW YORK BABY!!! Something was awesome about this race. The fans and crowd support was everywhere! I mean everywhere!!! Bands, cheers, music noises, noise makers, stereos – COWBELL!!! I had a unique feeling at about the 4th mile – I knew today was going to be fun. The diversity of the city, the race and the people running the race – it was magical. Something I’ve not expected I’d see or feel. It was awesome! I was enjoying the moment.

At this point, outside of listening to the “physical” body I was carrying, I didn’t have to think. I had to stay in tune with my pace, but really only by feel. The race kept my mind off of myself – the atmosphere kept me out of my head. It was awesome! I began racing at mile 4, and did nothing but catch people now. I was sick of running next to slow people. Time to move – and I did. 4th Avenue took me from mile 4 to Mile 8, and my pace was dropping into the low 6’s by the time I hit my first true test, Lafayette Street. I used an arrow on the hill from my quiver (Thanks Ryan), and pushed through my first milestone challenge. This mile came off slower than I thought it would, but I was still running strong. All three color starts were now running as one unified race. The race has taken full form and is underway!

In Brooklyn I would soon see Andy and Jen Koshi - and not long after Cheese! WE GOT HIM!!! Cheese, WE GOT HIM!!! We exchanged energy chants, and I kept moving.

We sure did get him, just like I got on it at mile 10 on Bedford. This was my 2nd arrow – and I had to be smart. I felt great at this point, and the throw away gloves were long gone, and the arm warmers were soon to go.

QUEENS, I think!!
Now, out of nowhere, Arjun and Melissa Mujumdar were changing Barf!!! WE GOT HIM, I would yell back!!!! I don’t remember what mile this was, and frankly, it didn’t matter. My body felt good, I was eating energy along the race with Power Gel Energy Blasts and other water and Gatorade and sport beans. I was enjoying the day – and now I’m racing well. I came through mile 10 in 1hr 6min flat – and feel good. I don’t remember if this was before or after I saw Melissa and Arjun – it didn’t matter. Now, as I approach the half marathon mark, I saw Spence Green! Spence was hurting, and I gave him encouragement, but I kept pushing onward. Approaching the half way point I had my 3rd arrow notched, went up the Pulaski Bridge, and pushed through the half way point in 1:26:22, only 17 seconds slower than my Miami marathon half way point. I felt great. I was confident. It was having fun. I’m glad half full half empty and all pumped. I had to stay smart, and through here I did just that. I tossed the arm warmers after some random dude came up to me and said only 1 in 10 people negative split the race. I was soon going to find out if I was capable of that feat.

Queensboro Bridge into MANHATTAN
At mile 15 the last arrow I had in my quiver was notched, and ready to hold steady. I perhaps could have had 1 more left for mile 24 climbing into Central Park – but previous marathon experience told me it didn’t matter that deep in a race – that’s where I’ve got left what I’ve got left. So I pulled the last arrow out, and unfortunately had a misfire. My left calf started to cramp up. And now my quads had to work harder and stronger. The bridge was difficult - HARD. Very steep, windy, isolated, and long. The bottom roadway of the double deck bridge was deceiving and difficult, and I couldn’t see the top. I slowed my pace and ran a pedestrian 3:56 from 15 to 25K (7:52 pace), but crested, and pushed down in 3:00 (6:00pace). My left calf was hurt – cramped, and tight. My quads were burning a bit, but not fatigued. This was a mental setback, but I kept pushing.

1st Avenue
A little after mile 16 I hit 1st Ave. The excitement of Manhattan is raining down! Let it rain more. I was nervous about this part. The loud crowd and anticipation of this speed stretch kept me on guard – even keel. It reminded me of the last ½ mile at Boston before the finish! But my left calf didn’t allow me to pick it up. So I kept pushing. Races of late have given me difficulty breathing when I get emotional. It happened at Baltimore. It happens at Z’s race. It happens when I don’t want it to. I kept that in check, and didn’t have any problems. I was excited, and was pushing onward. I was eating gels, and energy, and staying hydrated. I was drafting off runners, as I had all race long. Slingshot maneuvers. 70th street. BARRFFFF!!!!! WE GOT HIM!!!!!!!!! Ryan, Alyssa, and Meg McNew were there going ape shit!!! WE GOT HIM, as I made sure they heard the news!!!

80th street. 90th street, 100th street. I was sooo excited to get close to the White Castle. I was excited to see Christa. I was looking forward to this for a long while. I am getting emotional now just typing this  I saw her at 103rd Street on the left side, but oddly never saw a White Castle? Strange! Oh well, we exchanged a smile and glance, I was running strong, and she gave me a pack of Power Gel Cola Blasts. It was awesome! She said Good Work and Keep Going! I was happy. Very shortly after I passed the 30k mark, and hit my split. I was running at about 2:03:35, which was about a 2:53 marathon pace. My legs were in-tact, yet fatigue is setting in. My quads were starting to feel the race, and my left calf is in pain. Somehow in the last 6 miles my paced dropped off PR pace – this is when I realized I either had to accelerate to PR or maintain and hold a solid pace – but just not break! There is still 7.6 miles to go. YES!!! Only 7.6 miles to go! I love the 30k mark. The marathon race has now begun, and my legs are feeling just that! Focus, don’t break, DBAP - make Z proud.

BRONX Bombers
Crossing mile 20 in 2:12:45 I realized I was still in the game. I was tired, and my legs were hurting. 1st Avenue took it out of my quads. But, I was used to the pain. My quads grew strong during training this season. I didn’t have the hill training I had hoped to get, but I was still passing people everywhere. There was a guy that pushed past me at the bridge heading into the Bronx. The 20-mile bridge was tough. I was starting to feel it. But I was having fun, and still reveling in the moment. What a feeling. More than a feeling! Now I’m in a strangely familiar neighborhood; but I’ve never been here? The Bronx reminded me of Baltimore. Industrial, terrible looking, dingy… The crowd had dissipated, and the race was thinning out. At this point I’m running single file, with a now and again passing of 2 or 3 people at once – but mostly just whizzing past those who are hitting the wall. I’m approaching mile 22 at this point, and crossed the last bridge, and heading toward 5th avenue. If I had an arrow left, I’d use it… But, oh well, I can still throw my bow. I was giving all I had. I ran mile 19, 20, and 21 in 6:38, 6:48, and 6:39, respectively. But mile 22 was tough in 6:55. The bridges were hard, but now they are over. I worked on Mile 23, and right at the end of it I split 6:44.

Central Park
And then something awesome and emotional took me by surprise. Right at the beginning of the 24th mile, the mile I think was the hardest of the race (debatable with mile 16 on Queensboro Bridge), Christa was right there cheering me on. She jumped in and ran with me for a while and a few or several strides. I was hurting. I couldn’t talk, and I got emotional. The first real emotion of my race crept out. It hurt to say anything, and after she encouraged me for several awesome moments, I put my finger over my mouth for her to be quiet, gave her a glance and stare, and kept moving forward. She gave me encouragement. Her steps were awesome. I pushed my head down toward the ground, lumbered up the hill heading into Central Park, and kept my eyes on my Z’d up knee caps. This mile was hard. Again, I’m emotional just writing this. What an awesome feeling. This is why I train and push hard, for this exact feeling, to be part of this race – breathtaking!

Then I hear BAAAARF!!!! Ed was there out of nowhere screaming!!! WE GOT HIM – just to remind him!!! Ed would respond YOU GOT THIS!! Go Joel!!! My friends out of the course that day were awesome, and in just the right spots!! Nearing the top of the hill, mile 24 illuminated itself. Somewhere around here I saw Ryan, Alyssa, and Meg McNew again. WE GOT HIM!!!! We got him Joel, we got him, Ryan announced rather loudly back!!! I kept pushing into Central park, and had an awesome feeling. Except that mile 24 hurt badly and it was my second slowest mile on the course in 7:20, I was in a good place this deep in the marathon. I was still able to race, and that’s off the wall as I’m entering mile 25.

Superman. Superman. I kept hearing Superman?!! This dude in front of me, running fairly well, drenched in a superman cape and outfit, was stealing all of the thunder and crowd. That dude just frustrated me. I picked it up – ego took over, because WE GOT HIM needed to be heard. Flying past superman I pushed mile 25 in 6:45. Video evidence at 40 kilometers showed me 15 or so seconds ahead of Superman. Christa, No, I did not get beat by a superhero 

I crossed mile 25 and I had a feeling I’ve never had in a marathon. I didn’t want the race to be over. Physically, my body was tired. My quads hurt on every step, and calf that cramped up at mile 15 was still in pain (but subdued), and my hamstrings that had been sore since 30k were really pulling. My stomach was queasy, and I was tired and hungry. The abysmal feeling was peculiar because I wanted to keep running. I was full of pain, but the experience of the New York City Marathon was dazzling. I was yelling WE GOT HIM, WE GOT BIN-LADEN. People would look at me, not knowing what the hell I was talking about, and then I’d be almost by and I’d hear laughs and claps and cheers. WE GOT HIM, we sure did! Laughs cheers claps… again and again… Mile 26 was freaking awesome. High fives along endless spectators was, simply, great!!

I had realized when I came through mile 22 in 2:33:03 (Miami I was 2:30:xx), that I would not PR today. So at this point I just didn’t want to have a complete breakdown and still push a good solid time. In the last mile I thought I may be able to get under 2:55, but short of a sprint, it wasn’t going to happen. Soon enough I see the “half mile to go” sign, then “800 meters to go”, “400 meters to go”, “300 meters to go”, “26-mile”, “A set of tits…” Eerrcchhh, record scratch, a set of boobs???!! Yep – right there, some chick, standing on the fence, topless, just hanging out… WTF? Hahah!!! Okay, keep moving, “200-meters to go”, round a corner at “100 meters to go” and then the finish line unveils itself – what an exceptional emotion. In anti-climatic format I crossed the line, slowed to a halt, and about keeled over. I finished in 2:55:32, good enough for 722nd / 47,107 Starters and 146th age group. I was the 685th Male to cross the line. Now I’m breathing heavy and light-headed…

The Med Tent
I couldn’t breathe, and I was wheezing. A race volunteer helped me out, and ultimately got me to a medic. They took me to the med tent. I somehow was able to get onto the cot, and they slapped the stethoscope all over my chest and back. Nothing in my lungs was affected, but I was wheezing heavily. Ultimately it was concluded it was all in my throat, esophagus, and some sort of exercise educed (psychological and situational) asthma. They gave me oxygen, and after about 3-minutes of O2 I was up and able.

The Prize and Take Home Reward
Getting out of the long parade line until bag drop, I was ready to get changed and find Christa. To my delight, she was at my bag drop, and met me right at the gate. She met me with a kiss, and got to see Brennan, Carly, Diane, Alex, Ryan, Alyssa, Arjun, Melissa, Jen, Andy, Cheese, and Ben Ingram. The support crew, the magnitude of the race, and the experience were tremendous and humbling!!!

I had 5 goals before the race: 1) Time goal sub 2:50 – I was 2:55:32 on a significantly more difficult course than Miami. 2) Top 500 – I was 722. 3) Arrive at the starting line with energy – I was not fully energized at the start. 4) Finish Strong – I definitely did that! 5) Don’t get hurt – All signs show success after 4 weeks rest!!! All in all, I think I achieved a 2.5/5.0 from the goals. Add in a bonus point for all the fun, and also that I ran a very even and smart race – I was totally happy with a 3.5/5.0 rating. The question now becomes Boston 2012 and can I go sub 2:50??

Extraordinarily pleased with the race day experience and my second fastest marathon I can say this was (almost) INDESCRIBABLE!!! Now I’ve got 19 weeks to train for Boston 2012.

Mile      Time   Mile Split
1             7:30    7:30
2           13:56    6:26
3           20:53    6:57
4           27:40    6:47
5           34:08    6:28
6           40:26    6:18
7           46:49    6:20
8           53:16    6:26
9           59:49    6:35
10      1:06:02    6:13
11      1:12:39    6:37
12      1:19:02    6:23
13      1:25:35    6:32
13.1   1:25:21      :46
14      1:32:11    6:36
15      1:39:01    6:50
16      1:45:56    6:55
17      1:52:41    6:45
18      1:59:19    6:38
19      2:05:57    6:38
20      2:12:45    6:48
21      2:19:24    6:39
22      2:26:19    6:55
23      2:23:03    6:44
24      2:40:23    7:20
25      2:47:08    6:45
26      2:54:03    6:55
26.2   2:55:32    1:29
Pace 6:42/mile

Kilomoter 5k split total time 5k pace total pace
5k             21:36     21:36    6:58   6:57
10k           20:18     41:54    6:33   6:45
15k           19:56   1:01:50   6:26   6:38
20k           19:48   1:21:48   6:23   6:35
25k           21:07   1:42:55   6:49   6:38
30k           20:40   2:03:35   6:40   6:38
35k           21:05   2:24:40   6:48   6:40
40k           21:27   2:46:07   6:55   6:42
42.195k      9:25   2:55:32   6:55   6:42

Placed 685th Male
Placed 722th overall of 47,107 Starters
Placed 146th Age Group

7:30 for 1st Mile
64:28 for miles 5-14 (10 miles) - 6:24 Pace - 2:48:33 Pace
71:15 for miles 4-14 (11 miles) - 6:28 Pace - 2:49:26 Pace
1:51:58 for miles 2-19 (18 miles) - 6:35 Pace - 2:52:29 Pace
49:35 for miles 20-26.2 (7.2 Miles) - 6:53 Pace - 3:00:26 Pace

Slowest Miles - 1 (7:30), 24 (7:20), 3 (6:57), 16 (6:55) 22 (6:55) 26 (6:55)
Fastest Miles - 10 (6:13), 6 (6:18), 7 (6:20), 12 (6:23), 8 (6:26)

* Miles 5-13 only 1-mile over 9 miles (mile 11 - 6:37) slower than any single mile from 14-26
* Fastest single mile back half (14-26 = 6:36)
* Avg Mile 6:42 - Front half 10-miles faster, 3 slower
- Back half 3 miles faster, 10 miles slower

Monday, October 31, 2011

NYC Marathon 2011 - A Ryan McGrath Interview

1. You are preparing for the ING NYC Marathon, which will be your first (NYC). What does this race mean to you?
It means I qualified for it. I would never send my money into an open lottery system, and for that reason I’ve never attempted it. Last year just after GEER 100k I decided to give it a go and try the marathon for a qualifier. I thought NYC qualification was sub 3hr. About 8 days before Miami marathon I realized it was 2:55. I knew I was in shape at Miami, but coming through in 2:51 was a treat. I signed up for NYC just a few days later.

After a hard fought injury this year in which I was in an air cast and on crutches for 5-weeks (still hurts daily), the race really means my comeback to fitness has been filled with pain and hard work. I want my result at NYC to reflect the pain of this shell that encloses understanding, and I want it to reveal itself on race day.

2. New York is not viewed as being a “fast” marathon. How do you feel the course suits you as a runner?
I’m ready for some hills. Hills hurt. We all like pain: Right, it reminds us we’re still alive? But really, I’m a bit nervous about how my body will respond to this course after the last bridge into Upper Manhattan, about mile 22-ish. This course, on paper, reminds me of Boston. Perhaps not quite so much downhill, but in the pain in the ass factor of getting to the starting line and using too much energy in the process. I think my experience in this regard from the marathons I’ve run since 2002 will give me an edge. I think I’m as ready as I can be, and I’m going to go there and crush butts.

3. Do you have a goal time for the race?
Before my injury that riddled me out of running for 2-months I was shooting for sub 2:50. Now, I’m shooting for a PR, and still hopefully sub 2:50. This is still in line with my cue card goals from awards night last year.

4. Let’s talk about your training for this event. When did you start training specifically for this race?
January 30th, 2011 at 9:11:22 A.M.! That’s one second after I crossed the finish line @ the Miami marathon. Being a bit more realistic, I was able to put in marathon training efforts about mid-June, so right at the edge of spring/summer start. I had to spring the right (injured) foot of summer into this fall. Haha, corny – oh well, that’s what happened.

5. Do you prescribe to any training ideologies? How do they impact how you structure your training?
I tried to follow the Daniels Running Formula this year, but my injury was too much of a setback. I had a plan laid out for a 24 week program, but obviously that got scaled back, and virtually cut. I had to re-evaluate weekly, sometimes daily, just because it took so much longer to regain my fitness. It took much longer than I expected. So, in a shell, I tried to take advice of those in our awesome group including key advice from Ed Aramayo, Ryan McGrath, Arjun Majumdar, and Kris Simms. My hometown running coach Dr. Death, personal experience, and many key workout tips and assisted workouts from Brennan Feldhausen were instrumental this season.

6. What are some of the principles you feel are important to follow during a marathon training cycle?
In no particular order: Tune up races, Long runs, weekly speed workouts, Tempo runs. Obviously easy days are clutch, too. Sounds trivial, but this is the formula. Running when I’m tired, for about 2-months straight is the key to gaining strength. Let the taper recover the body, and trust the taper. Here I am, 5 days away, and my legs (quads primarily) have FINALLY rebounded from the beating I’ve delivered to them this cycle. Without training on tired legs, I’ll never push through the marathon after 30k with force and aggression needed to surmount my tired mind. The mind is the weakest ally in the marathon. It’s also the strongest supporter. Tell my legs they are NOT tired, and push through it… If I train on tired legs, I can race on tired legs (after 30k most critical for the marathon).

7. What are some of the key workouts and runs you have done, or look to do, during your lead-up to the NYC Marathon?
When I came back to fitness, I was 100% out of shape. In early May I began doing very fast and short, quick twitch muscle exercises. I didn’t have the endurance to do long workouts, and I hadn’t worked on my true sprinter speed in a few years. So I started there. With a few summer track races, boasting my first sub 5min mile, I pushed into interval workouts, and the last 2 months primarily Tempo based efforts.

One thing I did this year that I’ve never done before was the likes of this long run. 4-miles easy, 4-miles Tempo or Interval, 8-miles easy, 4-miles Tempo or Interval, and 2-4 mile easy warm down. So, long, hard runs with a workout mixed in there. The middle “easy” miles are really the hardest part – knowing I’ve got another late long run workout ahead, and I am already running on tired legs. This shit works! Thanks Brennan Feldhausen.

8. While this is your first time racing New York, this isn’t your first marathon. Can you describe your progression through marathons, and how you’ve grown from each?
Harrisburg 2002 was my first marathon. I decided at mile 18 of the race that I’d finish, as my previous long run was 16-miles, and I was only out there to pace a friend. I got to mile 21, and took a 5-minute break and ate Halloween candy. I realized the pain and agony of a 3:44 effort, and thought, hmm, I could probably do better at these if I tried, or actually trained.

So, I went ahead at “trained” for Pittsburg 2003. A disappointing 3:59 where I got passed by a fat chick on the Jumbo-Tron inside Heinz Stadium with 100 meters to go was just unnerving. This race was terribly painful, and I realized 3 critical things. 1) taper does not mean don’t run more than 6 days in the last 23 days, 2) I’m not running another one of these until I know I can qualify for Boston, 3) Don’t Fuck with the marathon or its’ distance.

Frederick 2006 was the real trial – the first marathon I really trained to race. I remember coming down mile 25 with 10-minutes to go to qualify for Boston. The 26th mile would not show itself, and I felt I was slowing. Finally, finally, I saw mile 26 and knew I would qualify. The feeling I got in the last ¼ mile was indescribable – one that keeps me seeking my best performance. I had qualified for Boston.

Boston 2007 – All I can say if F-You Boston. I had trained very hard, and was in sub 3-hour marathon shape (or so I though, in reality probably 3:02). With a noreaster and nasty weather, cold, wind, rain, I was thoroughly pissed at the city of Boston, the marathon distance, and the whole concept of training for 1 race when this can happen. Then I realized how well I had placed overall compared to my bib number… That’s what it means to race. I ultimately did not PR by 21 seconds, but ran a 3:09:59 and re-qualified.

Marine Corp 2007 – Well, I had already signed up for this, but in the summer I inflicted upon myself a debilitating injury that ever reminds me on each step of my left leg that one who pulls a split on a dance floor the day after running a PR 3.55 mile race will tear a calf muscle and strain 4 others between the calf and hamstring. So, needless to say, I DNF’d this race at 22-miles. In the process I again realized not to F with the marathon, as I came down with a stress fracture in my right foot.

Boston 2008 – With a long run of only 17 miles and lacking fitness, I really just went to Boston “well rested” and in shape only to finish. I had expected to thoroughly hate the race and city, but I actually had a great time and had a fun marathon running a leisurely 3:23. That was fun!

Baltimore 2008 – With a chip on my shoulder and trying to prove to myself I had turned a corner, I raced smart and in the hometown crowd amassed a PR 3:08:39. Later I’ll find out the chip outgrew my shoulder, and I’d have to chisel some more… in time.

Megatransect 2009 – Putting aside road marathons, I attempted this 25 mile trail effort. To simply say, it was hard, was an understatement – but it was super fun. It took me 6hours and 30 minutes – I learned how to take energy with me and to enjoy the thrill of trails

Catoctin Mountain 50k 2010– I had to endure ultra marathon pain before I could run an ultra (the true goal being GEER 100k 2010), so with the help of Alyssa Godesky and Melissa Mujumdar I was able to put a training and nutrition plan and surmount both obstacles. It took 6hours and 24 minutes to cover 35 miles at Catoctin, and another 14 hours 11min and 57 seconds to cover 100k at GEER. Both courses were nasty, and hard as shit! There were a few undercurrent reasons I ran them. First, to give myself an edge in the marathon, as my fastest marathon finishing 10k’s had been 47 minutes, typically 50, and often 1hour 30min. Terrible. Second, and more importantly, to change my lifestyle around – sometimes one must take a look in the mirror and inventory the wreckage of the past, and strive forward to a better tomorrow.

Ultra distance Relays: Reach the Beach Relay 2000, 2001, 2005, and Tussey Mountain 50-Mile 2003, 2006, and 2010 – The takeaway lesson is to learn how to run on a tired and fatigued system. The distances are mild, mostly 6 or 7 mile legs. But doing them a few times with a break in-between is difficult to adjust. The reward is the team camaraderie, the adventure, and the stories.

Miami 2011 – 2:51:21 was a 17-½ minute PR and obviously a tremendous feeling. I had worked really hard and got blessed with a great day to race. Everything fell into place. I didn’t crash in the end, and negative split the course. This race re-fueled my marathon aspirations.

9. How has your training evolved from training for your first marathon?
Simply put, I actually train for them now and I’m honest with myself. I’ve also added a lot of base mileage, and during marathon season it’s not uncommon for me to go 10 or 12 weeks over 50-miles each week. I’ve peaked at 96-miles and 85-miles in a 7-day stretch for the last 2 marathon cycles respectively. When I trained for Frederick 2006, my highest mileage weeks were 50 and 51 respectively.

10. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned through training for, and racing, marathons?
The most important is twofold – Staying healthy and consistent.

Eating during running is crucial. If I feel even the slightest bit of a queasy stomach, or nausea, or hungry – EAT. Once it’s too late, forget it, I can’t rebound.

Hydration – salt tablets, and staying completely hydrated the entire week leading into the key event is critical. I avoid caffeine for at least 7 days prior to a marathon, as the diuretics will keep you less than hydrated. Also, I take water at each and every water stop along the course – even a tiny sip.

Focus on today. Today is day 1 of training. Do that for several months on end, and race day will be fun!

Peaking at the right time is all that matters. I can have a bad day, bad race, bad workout, bad week, bad month. But, that’s training! As long as you believe in the plan and the action to do it, it should work out on race day. If not, it’s only racing, and I can scrape myself up and do it again!

11. What are some of the keys to a solid race day execution, in your opinion?
Confidence and honesty send one to their best performance. In a 5k, 10k, even 10 mile, we can go out balls hard and try to hold on. Good luck with that strategy, and it sometimes works. Marathons are so different. If I go out comfortable, stressing only the cardiovascular system in the first 5 miles, and letting the body slowly adjust, I can get stronger and stronger as the race unfolds. “Listen to your body, and let the race unfold” – Bill Martens.

More so, reflection and positivity are elements I cannot forget deep in a race. I have to know why I’m doing it; believe in what I’m doing; like doing this to myself. If I stay positive and tell myself I will do this, and DBAP along the way, I will succeed.

12. What will you consider a successful NYC Marathon, for yourself?
One or all of the following: 1) Surviving injury free 2) Race the entire race without running short on gas; ergo, finishing hard, not slumbering to the line. 3) Starting the race with energy and enthusiasm. 4) Finish in the top 500. 5) Sub 2:50 would be awesome!

13. What part of the NYC Marathon are you most looking forward to?
The race day atmosphere, including personal reflection, race day execution, and hopefully the achievement of finishing this awesome race! I’m excited for 1st Ave and Central Park. Also, I’ve never been to the Bronx – hopefully I can run fast and hard away from thugville. F You Boston. Hopefully I’ll walk away still saying eat me Skankees. Go O’s!

14. Moving away from NYC-specific questions, how have you felt about your training and results this year?
It’s been a super wavy year. I’ve PR’d in the Marathon (2:51:21), Half Marathon (1:23:40), 10-miler (61:02), 1-mile (4:57), and 800m (2:08). I’ve also come away with some upsetting performances at Leesburg 10k, Baltimore half marathon, and Z’s race in the summer. I’ve learned from them all. Injuries suck – but putting them aside, I’ve had a very successful year and have been overall pleased.

15. What is your favorite race distance, and why?
I’m not short to answer anything… So I like a few things. I like the lure of the mom and pop 5k (or whatever type distance) that benefits groundhogs suffering with hillbilly gun sights on their foreheads, “and the such.” Something about just showing up to a rinky-dink 5k and paying $25 bucks on race day for a cotton shirt and knowing that even on half ass trained legs I’ll get a top 5… those races make for a fun morning. And knowing I can just hit snooze and go for a 12 mile run later takes all the stress away from those races. But to be truly honest with myself, I thrive on the sprint. I really miss kicking the shit out of people in the 100meter dash!

16. What is your favorite race (any distance), and why?
Z’s Race is my favorite without a doubt. Held the 3rd Saturday in June each year in memory of the late Irv Zablocky, this hometown favorite is both difficult for a 3.55 mile course, luring because it’s always reminiscent of good times, family and friend packed weekend, and always over my birthday weekend. Often the race IS on my birthday! Z was my high school teacher, running mentor, inspiration, and started the Oregon East Running Club in the late 70’s early 80’s. Without that club, I would not have gotten into distance running as I did. Z dropped dead on a run in 2000, and the friends and family still talk about his running accomplishments. One of his was running every single road in Lycoming County Pennsylvania in 1 year (it’s the largest land area of the 67 counties in PA). Irv logged over 75,000 miles, and once placed overall 36th at Boston. Back then, they gave medals 35 deep, so of course he was the first loser! Not in our hearts though. I still wear Z’s on my knee caps and shoulders during big races. So, his memorial race is the most inspiring, and that race goes with me into other races each year.

17. What is the best race you’ve ever run? (best result, most memorable, hardest, etc)
GEER 100k was the hardest run I’ve ever endured. Not simply the training, which was intense, but seriously not knowing what would happen to my body after 35-miles. I can enter any marathon today knowing I can cover the distance. But at GEER, I did not know that. The 63-mile race took its toll on my system. My left knee was absolutely in torturous pain by mile 40, and it was upwards of 90 degrees that day. The 15,000+ elevation gain throughout the course was brutal. I was pleased with a 6th place overall finish of the 42 who started. Only 24 finished. GEER felt like an accomplishment.

18. People often talk about what running means to them, how it’s shaped them as an athlete or even as a person. Do you feel running has done more for you than just keeping you in shape?
Health, friendships, something to strive toward, avoidance of apathy; these are all elements of why I love it. I heart food, and lots of it, so running 10-miles a day on average during peak marathon training allows me to consume 3,500 cals per day and enjoy it! I feel inspired by other runners, and I know deep down that I inspire others around me as well. My father ran his first ever road race when he was 73 years young. I know he wouldn’t have done it if he hadn’t seen my running unfold the way it has.

19. After NYC, what are you looking forward to the most? (holidays, time off, vacation, etc)
I can’t wait to eat, sleep, perhaps watch TV (at someone else’s place since I don’t have cable), and archery hunting. I’m excited for the holidays this year to take a few days off and go out with my rifle to harvest some deer for my freezer! I just sent in for my passport renewal, so maybe a trip somewhere with Christa too.

20. Looking ahead a little bit, what do you hope to accomplish in the next year, if you’ve given any thought to it? Not necessarily specific times to run, but goal events, non-running goals, etc.
Boston 2012. Because, F You Boston. Also, not certain, but I’ve always wanted to run the TusseyMountainBack 50-mile race. The 50-mile road race at Penn State mountains is beautiful, but unfortunately it always falls on the same day as the Baltimore Marathon.

My biggest goal next year is to stay healthy and relaxed, and put some base mileage together. There has been a rumor of Germany marathon in September too – that would be MAB!!!

21. What is the hardest thing about training for a marathon?
Attrition! Putting all your marbles in one basket and trying to find the best of the bunch on one day. There are so many variables, over the course of 6 months that staying focused on 1 event is often impossible. Weather, sickness, work/life business, health, happiness, the list continues. Depression and disappointment are a fine line away from exhilaration and triumph, and the tightrope of burning out or pushing too hard, or not working hard enough, is often transparent, illusive, and opaque all at once.

22. What is the most rewarding thing about training for a marathon?
I love race day – good or bad, it’s always memorable. I cannot tell you how I felt at the 3rd kilometer of John Doe’s 5k in 2004… But I can usually take away vivid memories and feelings from the grueling distance races.

A few questions about yourself…

23. How long have you been running competitively, and how did you first get introduced to the sport?
I only ran 1 year of track and field, my rookie senior season in 1997. As a sprinter I thrived on natural speed to win, not technique, hard work, or any serious dedication. My first real distance race was the Spartan 5000, a road race, on June 7th 1997. This was the day after I graduated High School. Z came up to me after the race, and said “Eh, 21:14, well, not too bad sonny – for a sprinter!” My true distance running evolution began to take shape when I took a gym class at Penn State, “Jogging” in the summer of 2000. This was just after Z died, and I began running with OE.

24. Do you remember your first race? How did it go?
Spartan 5000, June 7th 1997. I remember rabbiting the hell out of it, dropping off, recovering, and then surviving the last mile. I ran through the finish line to my best friend’s house a block away and had my first post run explosion of my bowels; the first of many stomach issues in my running career.

25. Where is your favorite run in the world?
I haven’t found it yet!

26. Where is your favorite place to run in Baltimore?
Down shady alleys and through the hood and ghettos, which remind me to be thankful for what I have, add an element of “oh shit”, keep my guard up, and also enjoy a part of the city that most don’t venture toward.

Other than the shithole that is 80% of Baltimore, I really enjoy the Wednesday night run around the Harbor (along the bricks), and the Federal Hill Monday Night runs. These, mostly because of the company, are the most memorable. TNT kicks ass too.

Patapsco park of the days of old will always hold a spot in my mind for the days I took my training to a level of being serious, and understanding what higher mileage really means.

Thanks for taking a few moments to chat, and all the best on November 6!
No problem! Thanks for all your help Elf. You have kept me going through the years - Thanks bud!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sollicitudo: Funditus Viator Sursum Affectus


Anxiety: Totally Messed up Emotions. Winding down the racing season of 2010 seasoned the door to an open chest of curiosity: Killing that cat sought a refuge. Positivity and stemming confidence sought sanctuary, to dive deeper into understand more why I do anything: Why running lives within; why love feeling the pulse of racing? Miami two-K-one-one was French toast; the sugar sweet unhopped malt concentrate began fermenting an awesome tasting experience one year prior.

Well, 364 days to be exact. Miami half marathon, 2010, was quite an adventure. A total of 14 of our running friends and family made the adventure, and what a time we had. We all predestined a race (at least which was the excuse), as arrival in South Beach was our party vacation. Old news only warrants a blurb… I ran the January 31st 2010 Miami Half Marathon in 1:41:44 and following which I swallowed my last alcoholic beverage on the beaches of South Beach. Every Rose has its Thorn.

Signing up for the 2011 Miami marathon filled me with anticipation, anxiety, depression and excitement: Reflection. Too many thoughts wanted out of my head, and somehow my body mind and soul had to push myself to the finish line. The trip was booked and the group of Dustin, Zero, Elf, and Kevin set journey for a fist pumping French toast experience.

Saturday morning stood out among the highlights of the weekend. Kevin and I woke & watched Dustin run a 15:54 2nd place finish in the Miami 5K. Dustin put on a monster kick and closed the gap of 30 yards in the last tenth… scantily being thwarted. Had the race been 5 yards longer it was a blue ribbon. Later that day, the Everglades National Park, and of course the wonderful South Beach weather and palms, did not disappoint. Saturday night I opted to go out by myself to dinner, eat early, and get to rest.

Up at 3:00am I showered and found a breakfast full of hot water oatmeal from the bathroom sink, a little fruit, maybe a banana, coffee, and @ the race some power bar and power gels leading up to the start. Everything was perfect. Our crew got to the start early and I was feeling calm, relaxed, and super ready. I trusted the taper. The taper paid off.

About 5-minutes before the gun sounded I asked my Lord and Savior a few things in prayer. “Dear God, please grant me strength, some courage, a few pounds of guts, and may my effort today help other be encouraged. May you please grant me your Grace? Amen.”

Gun sounds at 6:20am. All of the hard work over the past 364 days is about to unfold. Without any true expectations, my objective was uncertain. I knew I had to run my heart out or I wouldn’t be happy. I wanted to break 3 hours. A week prior to the race I found out the New York City marathon qualification time period ended the day after Miami; 8 days before the race my new goal was NYC, a 2:54:59 or better.

In the first 5k of the race I felt so comfortable that I thought the 3rd mile was only the 2nd mile. I was totally comfortable and breathing fine. The race weather was favorable, in the high 50’s @ the start, and roughly 5-miles in the dark of night keeps the temps low. I crossed 5k in 21:11, and felt great. Although my right foot was a bit sore, I thought nothing of it, passed it off as a shoe tied too tight. Starting a race with 3,600+ marathon runners, and another 10,000+ half marathon runners gives one quite a group to compete against. My very conservative start put me in a pace group after 5k that allowed me to do nothing but mow people down the rest of the race.

My pace elevated, and I was clipping along. I took a tangerine power gel (2x caffeine) at mile 4. My stomach wasn’t great, but it kept me trudging along.

At mile 6 I looked up and Dustin was there to help guide me along. He asked how I felt, and I said great!! Dustin jumped in, and ran stride with me to help keep me paced. Hitting the second 5k split in 20:35 (total 41:47 after 10k) I felt great. I had begun eating the power gel energy blasts at this point, along with continuing to accelerate and clip off more and more runners. Nobody was passing Dustin or I, half or full runners, and we were clipping off miles. We came across the 3rd 5k, a split of 19:03 (1:00:36 @ 15K), and I was like WTF Dustin. He said, “Don’t think”.

Somewhere around the 11th mile I heard Dustin say I am dropping back. I hadn’t realized it, but I was clipping mileage in the very low 6-min pace range. At this moment I realized I was having a great day, and also got very nervous that I wouldn’t be able to hold on. Don’t think, just run, don’t think and just keep moving! I mean, Dustin just ran a 15:54 yesterday, and understandably he was fatigued from the effort. But to hear his say that lifted my spirits. The only bad thing was my stomach was playing games, and I knew I had to stop. Pulling into a port-O at about mile 12.5 took 45 seconds, but gave me a lower back stretch, mental refreshment, and minor break. Exiting the blue bomber put me right by Dustin once again, and we kept running onward.

Rolling through the 13th mile is a parade of crowd support. The half marathon ducks off here, and there is a flurry of fans and spectators yelling & screaming. I got very emotional through here, and had to ease off my pace. This choked me up. Having Dustin by my side was crucial at this point, as he was able to help me put on the brakes and ease the pace, until the excitement quelled off. We pulled through the half marathon split, running the last 3.8 miles in 25:29 including a 45 second splash, cumulating 1:26:05. This was now the second fastest half marathon to date I’ve run: Time to hold on for another.

About mile 14 Dustin headed back to the hotel. He had helped me with 8 critical miles in the early-mid phases, and I cannot thank him enough. Now it was up to me, in the last 20 kilometers, to gut it out, to dig to the source, to Make Z Proud, to break the shell that encloses my understanding. God is holistically wonderful when the door is opened for him. Something just felt right today.

At this point of the race I was running all by myself. The half marathon crowd had ducted off, and there was single file runners spread out in front. Maybe a handful every mile I would catch, but no more. I was up front. I had no idea where in the pack. I didn’t care. I wanted to run the eeF out of my legs; which at this point still felt great. My energy was mostly good. I had eaten a few gels, and took my 3rd one when I crossed about mile fifteen and one half. I was still eating the power gel energy blasts, and slugging Gatorade and water at every stop. The race was getting warmer, but somehow or another there was a lot of shade. The early start helped the weather temps. Crossing over Mile 16 in 18:25 for the last 2.9 miles in 1:44:30 total was a new personal best at 16-miles. Continuing to search myself I pushed through the grit, the endurance, the mental state of not being a quitter; Make Z Proud. Make your friend Chad proud. Show others what a difference just 364 days can make.

Do the things you fear, and the death of fear is certain. About this point there were three motorcycle cops sitting there, and as I ran by with fist pump and arm high I yelled give me some siren; more cowbell. They lit it up for me. I was having fun. This marathon has not yet begun; but soon to entering the last 12 critical kilometers in sharp spirit, focused mind, and keen understanding of my physical body. I had 10-miles to go. Nothing to it; just stay relaxed.

Crossing mile 18 in 12:26 was a 6:13 pace for the last two miles, and a 1:56:57 18-mile split, yet another personal best. I was really looking forward to the 30-kilometer mark. This is what I prepared for. This is why I ran the ultra last year. This was the part of the marathon I could never attack. I could never hold it together. My marathon finishes of past have been a dismal effort at best. And now I’m entering the last phase hungry, intense, ready to get some. My legs were starting to feel pain; this made me smile. I wanted to feel the burn, in a twisted sadistic way, I wanted to hurt. I didn’t want to float through this race; I wanted to know I ran it out on the course.

Crossing the 30-kilometer mark was a rush. I crossed the mat in 2:00:41, running 3:44 for the last six tenths, and had never even come close to running this fast for this far. With 7.6 miles to go I knew I would have run my best marathon today, even if I did crash and burn. That is what the ultra did. It allowed me to run my legs into pain and keep moving and mentally deal, cope, and motivate to continue and push. Emotion was building, mentally I was running the game; the marathon had begun.

Mile 19 was the beginning of the bad. My stomach was feeling queasy; it was acting up again. The sun had begun to boil a bit brighter. This is the no man’s land of racing. I was only passing 1 or 2 people every mile, mainly because the field was so spread out. Also, there was little to no crowd support. This was perfect for me. I didn’t want cheered on. I wanted to grit my teeth and get Amazing Graced coupled with For Whom The Bell Tolls ringing in my ears. It was just that. Except there was no port-O around, and I had to go. This was so frustrating, my stomach would not let up. I just couldn’t keep moving without going. I debated just pulling aside; but there were so many cops all around holding traffic at side streets. Damn stomach.

2:09:39, my fastest 20-mile time to date elapsed as I ran 8:57 for the last 1.4 miles. Although I was feeling pretty miserable in my stomach, my legs were feeling decent. At last, before mile 21 I spotted one, and ducked inside. My 60+ second stop was totally necessary. Down time or not, it recovered my breath, stretched out my lower back, recovered my queasy stomach, and got me back on my feet. Now I began to pass people I’d already passed. Ugh.

But something wasn’t right. My stomach didn’t have to ‘go’ per say, and I didn’t need to stop, but I was just not feeling right. My body needed a drink. It was hot. The sun became scorching hot before mile 22. The water stop here was ridiculously necessary. I had not felt that exhausted in the race today, but mile 20-22 was hard. The 2 mile stretch of the 21st & 22nd mile took me 14:14, which included a 60+ second stop. My pace had suffered to approximately a 6:35 pace per mile. But I just came through mile 22 in 2:23:54, posting yet another personal best. Holy crap, I’m definitely going to go sub 3-hours. My mind just tore open with jubilation, but that’s not even the right emotion. It’s just been such a long journey I’ve taken with this marathon distance. I ran my first in 2002, in a dismal 3hr 44min. In 2003 I ran my second in a heartbreaking 3hr 59min. Today, 9 years after my first, I’m finally going to break 3 hours. If I’m tough enough I can run 26-min last 4.2 miles I’ll cross under 2:50. My head wanted it. I had to test my body. But it’s fatiguing, I’m 22 miles deep, my legs are gripping the pain, and my energy level is on the brink. And looking ahead there is a nasty bridge – ugh, luckily I found out I did not have to go up. Come on. Hold on. Don’t think. Hold on. Sub 3 today! Sub 2:55?

The mile 23 turn around on the pier, 6:21 for the last mile, a 2:30:15 @ 23 miles, was yet another personal best, as I passed a runner I previously passed around mile 20. Heading back to the city I knew I’d have to run sub 20 for 3.2 miles to break 2:50. Deep down I knew I didn’t have it. But I had to find out. I pushed my throttle as hard as I could. With about 4-kilometers to go my stomach started to knot up again. I kept pace, but was hurting all over. My body was now finally feeling it all. I had been running smartly, boldly, with guts. I was proud of my effort at this point. I had no idea how it was going to play out, but I knew at this point I would get my NYC qualifier. Goal and objective complete. Now, I’ve got a little less than 3 miles to add some gravy. Don’t break. Don’t think. Run hard. Hold on. Sub 2:55! Sub 2:50?

Footsteps began pounding behind me. I was in disbelief. I hadn’t been passed by anyone since the race took geometric shape around mile 2. Now I hear it… and then two women were side by side with me, hammering it hard. I was impressed. We are 4 kilo remaining, some 91% complete, and they are kicking a new gear. It wasn’t long before I realized they must be going for a money prize. Top 5, which results later showed there were 6 females in front of my finish. Power snatches just kicked my ass hard.

Mile 24 couldn’t come too quickly, as my stomach was messing with me again. I saw the water stop and took my last shot gel here, and the strawberry calmed me down. I had 2 miles left, and ran the last mile in 6:43 and a 2:36:58 personal best 24-miler. I tried to pick up my pace. I could not. This was what the Green Dodge Dart had left. With little under 2 miles to go I tried to pick up my pace. I just had to try & break 2:50? No more holding on… Push. Pick it up. Guts = ouch.

Mile 25 surprised me in 6:41 and total time 2:43:39. Another personal best didn’t set my mind at ease, as I thought I was running faster. I was running as hard as I could, though. I was up on my calves, using my gluts, extending my hamstrings, and swinging my arms. I applied what I thought to be an all out kick; this is a relative term in a marathon haa! I had to run basically my fastest mile of my life, for 1.2 miles, in order to break 2:50. As Dr. Death has told me, run ‘til you blow.

With about ½ mile to go there is a bridge to climb, and then a descent into the finishing chute. I look up and Kevin, Zero, and Elf are screaming at me. Barf! Barf! Jarf! Joel… Barf… Meanwhile I’m thinking I hate that nickname… How about Joel? I quietly looked over, put my hands low and put a finger over my mouth for them to be quiet. Ryan was super pumped for me, and I could hear it. But one ounce more of emotion & I was going to drop right there. I would have keeled over if the emotion I had during the half way point with the crowd had hit me in the last quarter mile. Rustling through emotion of the French toast crew, my turn-over at mile 26 came in 2:50:03, a solid PR, and dropping my last mile in 6:23.

The finish chute was spectacular. I had just about qualified for NYC, had run as hard as I could, heart left on my shirt, tears deep inside were starting to seep, and knowing from whence I came a year ago I was charged and mystified; elated to run down the finish approach, a grandstand of cheering crowd supporters, and an outstanding feeling. I held one hand high, forefinger #1 high, and a strong fist pump action of the second hand.

Running the last two tenths in 1:17, I crossed the finish line strong and passionate. The back half I ran in 1:25:16 crossing the line in 2:51:21, the last personal best of the day.

The emotion of the race took its’ toll. Crossing through the timing mat I slowed down to a halt and my legs dropped from under myself. Laying down I began to cry emotion, shake with freezing cold chills, and smile from the accomplishment. The finishing time awarded me a top 25 male, and 5th in my age group, and 31st overall finisher of some 3,600 finishers. The memory remains.

Almost, Finally

So, I've been writing & need to just post my Miami marathon write up... In a few days or less hopefully. Then there is the dreaded turn of bad luck with running & whatnot. Sometimes humility is the basis for finding a new fresh outlook. Keeping the faith as best I can, for if I do not stand firm in faith I should not stand at all. Isaiah 7:9

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Memento Mori Carpe Diem

2010 started very bumpy, to say the least. I had an awful diet, my previous hamstring/calf and shoulder injuries were chronic in the pain category. The hammy/calf wouldn't allow me to run with full stride, good form, and without serious discomfort & hurt. Mentally I was out of it. Spiritually I was bankrupt. Physically I wasn't treating my body well. Travel had me beaten up. I wasn't sleeping. I was depressed, and ugly inside and out. I was in a dark lonely place with emotional apathy. Life was totally predictable, how I'd feel (miserable), scared, full of fear, anxiety, hurt, and lonliness.

To avoid a long story, I was simply touched by an angel; given another chance.

My diet bounced back from the help of Melissa, and my injuries became manageable through PT with Denise. Church and support groups gave me a resurgance of my mental and spiritual maladies. Physically I was improving 1 day at a time. I began to show signs of hope and recovery, and the ugly began having less space within as the good & hopeful took residence once again. My fitness began to improve with hard work. Work situations changed and I didn't have to travel any longer...for at least a while. I was begining to feel rested, and well on my way to a happier lifestyle. I still did struggle, at times, but to say the least, life was getting good again.

Then work hit, and I was in Charleston SC for approximately 4 months over the late spring/majority of summer. I found new friends there, and was taking life in stride. Moving back home I struggled with life once again, but, kept on the bright path and ultimatley worked myself through the halloween season with two feet under my head, still six feet up. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years were a blessing, and very fruitful with a new way of living 1 day at a time. I had had a spiritual awakening.

Sometimes, as an engineer, I need to see the numbers to show the results. Simply looking at my running, here are the stats:

Total Mileage = 2,361 (Previous best over 10 years 1,439. 10-year average 905)
Total Races = 20 (not even sure what previous best was, but likely only 14)
PR 5k - 17:13
PR 5M - 29:40
PR 8M - 49:51
PR 9M - 55:52
PR 10M - 1:02:35
PR Half Marathon - 1:24:08
PR 50K - 6hr 24min
PR 100k - 14hr 11min 57sec

In all, I raced:
5k's - eight (8)
3.55M - one (1)
5M - one (1)
10k - one (1)
7M tough mudder - one (1)
9M - one (1)
10M - one (1)
Half marathon - three (3)
50-mile relay (28M) - one (1)
50k (35M) - one (1)
100k (62.8M) - one (1)

All in all I raced 230 miles, and three alone accumulated more than half. Placed 2nd or 3rd in a number of races, and took one (1) victory at the 5k. I've never run longer than 26.2 miles in my life prior to this year, and within 11 weeks I surmounted 35-mile trail race, 35-mile road training run (4hr 34min), 63-mile trail race, and 28-mile dirt road relay. I set personal best records in eight (8) different race distances ranging from the 5k to the 100k and everything in-between.

On new years day 2010 I raced a 5k in 20:41. The same exact course, exactly 365 days 0-hours later I ran 17:37 (3min 4sec faster). What a difference some hard work and focus accumulates.

I got fit, healthy, found new friendships and regained trust in those previous, a new more productive way of living, and I have learned to help others along the way. I give to my church in offerings, and have God on my side and inside each and every day. My new code of love, tolerance, and kindness toward others is a rule. As the wisest part of wisdom is kindness.

As we head back to Miami in 1 week, I will have time to reflect and give thanks. Also, to be reminded of whence I came. I will not forget the past, nor wish to shut the door on it. For this is who I am now, and all that other stuff was not of me. Miami 26.2 - let's see what a year has chissled.

Goodbye 2010, you were the best year I've even known. Your takeaway gift will be carefully handled...for in a glimpse I can throw it all away. Looking forward to the unknown grace of each day in 2011. The best is yet to come!