Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Mile

It had been 25 years since my last track race when I finally made it to one of the BU mini meets on Saturday.  Now all I can wonder is what took me so long.

Having never done one of these meets I had no clue how it would flow and so I got there really early (9am for a 10am meet) not knowing what time I would run. I asked one of the BU athletes at check in for her best guess on when the mile heats would start and she said, "Eleven-thirty, maybe?" Yikes. I had a lot of nervous energy so after a quick jog over to Star Market for some quarters to feed the parking meter, I shed some layers and did some jogging on the 1-lane warm-up track that surrounds the actual track. At just past 10 o'clock, they started with the 3000m heats.

They called the first heat as the "8:35 and under" section and I thought a bunch of the guys must have given some wishful seed times. But no. The whole field was comprised of college runners or recent college grads, mostly D1 guys. Eric Ashe of the BAA, and BU alum, won the heat in 8:06.07 (!) and every guy in the heat was under 8:35. Wow. I was a bit intimidated at that point but as the heats wore on, it became clear that there really were runners of all ages and speeds and that with so many runners in each event, you wound up with really tight grouping in the heats so there was real racing going on throughout, with almost nobody ever running in no man's land. The heats went fast with very little down time in between--as soon as the last runner in a heat went by, they called the next section onto the track like clockwork. And so it went.

The last 3 heats of the 3000 had 16-20 runners each so they got through it in 4 heats and immediately started with the 400. They announced that there would be 12 heats of the 400 but I figured those would fly by so it was probably only 15-20 minutes until the mile heats would begin. I moved my gear bag down onto the infield and intermittently did some more jogging and some strides and drills to stay loose. I still had no idea how many mile heats there would be, or which section I would be in but judging by the number of skinny people still warming up or stretching on the infield, I knew there would be a whole bunch.

The 400 indeed went by in a flash and they called the first mile heat to check in--the sub 4:20 heat. As the heats went by the seed times were only inching up incrementally and by the 4th heat they were still calling 4:40 and under. Apparently the calendar worked out such that a lot of high school kids were able to make this 2nd of the 3 mini meets and most of them were running the mile. Around this time I bumped into Kieran Murphy, a friend from the Shamrock Running Club. He had run these before and it was good to see a familiar face and get some coaching on how things would go.

Eventually they called my seed time (I had given 5:05 which was a wild guess based on my best 5k from October) and I found out I was seeded 11 of 12 runners in the 8th of 13 sections of the mile. After waiting around all day, everything seemed to speed up now and the next thing I knew they were calling the 7th section onto the track and I would be up next. I took off my watch, stuck my lane number on the shoulder of the ole Greater Lowell singlet, moved over toward the starting line and watched the end of the 7th section.

Then they called us onto the track and, just like that, the waiting was over. My seed time put me into a crazy mix of a heat with about 3 other masters men, a whole bunch of high school boys, and a couple of recent college grad women. On the line I had a tall high school kid to my left and a petite New Balance Boston woman to my right. The official checked each of our numbers, confirmed our last names and then the starter gave us our instructions.

"Bang!" We were off.

Immediately the tall kid inside me on the line threw a flying elbow right into my chest and it was game on. Within 30 meters I was near the back of the pack just hanging on for dear life as this crazy organism hurled itself around the roller derby track. When we came around the 2nd turn onto the front straightaway I was near panic but once I saw the clock I settled down. I hit the finish line at 38 seconds which was right where I wanted to be--except in the haze of racing I didn't even process that that was actually my 209 meter split, not the 200, so I was ahead of schedule. I was just fine where I was near the back. I went through 400 (again, actually 409) in 74/75 and by the 800 I was sitting dead last but hit it right at 2:30. Now it was all starting to get fuzzy. Kieran was doing some really good in-race coaching for me, yelling splits and telling me what to do. He told me to "stay on that CSU guy!" and I obeyed, moving past someone to get on the CSU guy's shoulder. People were coming back and I was passing them and having to run in lane 2 for most of the time now.

The last split I remember was 1000, which was about 3:06/3:07. Kieran was telling me 600 to go and for a split second I heard it as 6 laps and momentarily backed off before I processed what that meant--holy shit it was go time. Kieran yelled again, "You have to go by him, NOW!!" and as utterly insane and crazy as that sounded, I moved out and started grinding my way past the CSU guy. The entire rest of the way was one giant mess of trying to work past other runners and none of them giving in--just complete and utter hand to hand combat for the entire last 600. By the time I was on my last lap I was trying to go by another tall high school kind and his coach was screaming at him from the infield not to let me go by. The kid never gave in and as I whipped myself around the last turn I got ready to throw every last gasp of energy I had at the final straight.

I simultaneously could not even believe how much my throat and chest (and whole body) were burning at this point, or how totally unfazed I was by it.

Off the final turn I think I remember seeing the clock at 4:51 and just running out everything that was in me, practically throwing myself through the finish line. It was all blurry and messy but I just did inch past the kid I had been racing for the whole last lap even though that didn't matter any more. It was all about the clock now. I knew I had broken 5 and only at that moment did I mentally acknowledge how important it had been to do that, and how, deep down, sub 5 had been the only goal I had from the moment the idea of entering this meet even took seed in my brain. The hit of adrenaline, the knowledge that I had done it, and the unbelievable burning in my chest and head was quite the rush--I recommend it.

I managed to let go the railing without falling down (nice!) so I staggered down the banked turn onto the infield where Kieran congratulated me and I kinda-maybe gasped some words of thanks or at least tried to. It was a while before I could breathe somewhat normally and the dry air triggered a whole avalanche of asthma and allergy issues for me that I'm still dealing with and probably will be until mid week. Whatever. It was completely worth it.

At the end of the day I ran 4:58.94 for 6th out of 12 runners in the 8th of 13 sections at a low-key, holiday all comers meet. It was one of the best running experiences I have ever had--my first track race and first sub-five-minute mile since high school.

As I drove home from BU I felt like Zeus standing on Mount Olympus throwing thunder bolts at the tiny people below. If my throat hadn't been so sore I might have yelled out the window at people on the street, "Hey, I just ran a sub-five-minute mile, what did YOU do this morning??"

It was that awesome.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mill Cities Relay (and a bunch of other stuff)

I woke up on the morning of Tuesday, November 20th (the day after Monkey Weekend) covered in glitter, with a splitting headache and stinging quads, to find I had joined the Greater Lowell Road Runners.

Well, not really, but that's sort of how it happened. I was pretty sure I was going to join GLRR for 2013 anyway, for a bunch of reasons both competitive and social, and after spending all weekend with EJ, Sully, Bash and Eric, the deal was sealed. I came home, signed up, and emailed Jason Bui, who was organizing the club's entries for Mill Cities, and told him I was available if he needed any masters runners.

The next thing I knew I was slotted for the 9.5-mile leg (the long leg) on GLRR's scoring men's masters team along with Titus Mitunda, Carlos Flores, Ken Cain and Keith O'Brien. No pressure.

Long before this I had committed to John Bogosian, who is a board member at the Special Olympics, that I would run the Jolly Jaunt, a big fund raiser for them, which falls the day before Mill Cities. I had initially planned to race it but changed plans to a tempo run once I committed to Mill Cities. On race morning I carpooled in with Chris Ritondo, we did a nice long warmup around the common, and then I ran a nice-n-easy 19:09--a solid 2 minutes slower than my best recent 5k. It was cold, snowy and mostly fun, and afterward our fund raising team, "Johnny's Angels," went to the Bean Town Pub for some post-race refreshments.

Team Johnny's Angels
I've never done a 5k tempo the day before a race but I had a feeling I wouldn't feel any worse for wear on Sunday morning. Luckily, I was right. I had to leave the house early to meet my teammate, Ken Cain, who was running the leg before me. We dropped my car at the 4th exchange (where I would finish) and he drove me to the start of my leg where I met some of my new GLRR teammates and did a short warmup jog before getting ready to roll.

This race epitomizes everything that is awesome about the New England running scene--it is 100% for runners by runners. Mill Cities is a 28-mile, 5-leg relay that starts in Nashua, NH and follows the Merrimack River through Hudson, Tyngsboro, Lowell and Methuen to the finish at the Claddagh Pub in Lawrence, MA. The race is organized by the 20 or so clubs that make up the Mill Cities alliance, and is open only to teams from those clubs. There are awards (bricks) for the top 3 teams in each division, and for the top 3 clubs in the overall championship.

Expecting a 9:15-ish hand-off, I got up front to the exchange zone at around 9 as runners--mostly sunshine starters from the older age groups at first, but then some men's open teams--started to come through. Before I knew it I heard people yelling "66, Greater Lowell" and I jumped down onto the path and got ready to run. I got the hand-off from Ken and took off and just like that I was racing.

Clearly Titus, Carlos and Ken had killed it on their legs because I was in some elite company when I got the stick. Just ahead of me was Joe Navas of Whirlaway's men's masters team, soon after starting I was passed by Pat Moulton running for Gate City's men's open team, and Ben Ndaya of our coed open team. I had to just chill out and relax and not worry about any of that--most teams naturally put their fastest runner on the long leg and we hadn't done that so I just needed to run my race. I figured we were in the top few teams but I wasn't sure where since it was hard to tell who was on a men's masters team that had gone through before I got the hand-off. I was pretty sure Somerville and Whirlaway were ahead of me, and probably Gate City.

The miles were very well marked along the (sometimes icy) bike path and on Route 110. My first mile was really slow (6:35) as I was basically frozen. I left too much time in between my brief warm-up and getting the hand off and I was practically shivering. After that first mile, though, I started to loosen up and everything was between 6 and 6:10, which was right around where I had planned to be for the first 7 miles or so. For the last 2.5, I definitely got down under 6 pace but had stopped looking at my watch and was just running to the barn at that point. I probably got passed by 5 or 6 runners throughout the leg (and passed a bunch too) but I *think* they were all open division folks. So I held serve and reached the exchange zone in about 57:55 (6:06 pace)...where I did not see Keith, whom I was supposed to hand off to. Uh, oh. I stood there waiting for someone to track him down. It seemed like forever but it was probably only 30-45 seconds and we didn't lose any places to MM teams, so no harm / no foul I guess.

I felt pretty good about my run given that I was about 6 weeks past my peak for the season and really should be in recovery mode at this point. It was the perfect exclamation point to a condensed come back season that was only designed to give me a starting point to build on for next spring. Mission accomplished and then some.

I did a short cool-down with Bash and then put on some warm clothes and drove to the Claddagh. The short  drive to the Claddagh was actually one of the coolest parts of the day for me. Seeing that long string of different colored club singlets stretching off into the distance was a cool sight and made me really appreciate all that we have here in the New England running community. So cool.

At the end of the day, our men's masters team finished 4th--so no brick for us. We chipped in 10 points toward the club championship, though, and GLRR wound up 3rd overall.

The Brick
The after party at Mill Cities is pretty epic as far as road race after parties go and it was especially cool since I was meeting a lot of my GLRR club mates for the first time. I am utterly convinced this is the best club for me and I am really psyched for 2013. I'm not gonna lie, I'm already looking forward to Mill Cities 2013.

The after party!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Weekend That Was MONKEY

The RunningAhead crew before the start of Monkey 2012. Photo credit: Elly Foster
In October of 2010, upon finishing the Baystate Marathon, I declared myself retired from marathons for good. I had every intention of continuing to run and race at the more sensible distances, but I decided that I was done putting a season's worth of training eggs into one basket and then hurling them at the brick wall that is the 26.2 mile distance.

It took me a while, but after about a year and a half of floundering with sporadic "training" I figured out how to continue to get into a decent training rhythm without the over arching doom of a marathon to motivate me. This season, I finally returned to what I consider a decent level of racing, putting down a 1:20:37 half marathon and a 17:06 5k in October, hopefully building blocks for next Spring's racing season.

So naturally the only thing to do now is to screw up a good thing by running a marathon--this time without actually training for it and without any long runs over 15 miles in the last 2 years. But not just any marathon, no, the hilliest and most ridiculous marathon available.

Monkey, a.k.a. The Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon is the creation of a crazy person named Trent Rosenbloom. It is run in Nashville's Percy Warner Park and is built on the famous "11.2", an 11.2-mile run on a scenic road that makes a winding loop through this very hilly and beautiful 2,500 acre wooded park. I first met Trent and a lot of the other Nashvillians at this race in 2008 when I decided to find out what all the fuss was about, having read about it endlessly on the forums. That first trip to monkey was incredibly fun and I made a lot of friends and not too many enemies--so I always wanted to go back at some point.

This year, a crew of runners I know from MA were heading down, so it seemed like a good year to go. EJ, Bash, Sully, Eric and I became known as Team Masshole, and we did everything we could to live up to that name.

Upon landing in Nashville on Saturday mid-day we pointed the rental car straight to downtown and tried to find a typical Nashville tourist joint to eat some barbecue, hear some live music and drink some beer. Done. That was incredibly easy to do. We stumbled upon Rippy's, went to the roof deck and sat outside enjoying a beautiful Saturday afternoon. After leaving Rippy's we immediately made our presence known when we interrupted the shooting of a scene from the t.v. show "Nashville" on our way to our rental car. If you're watching that show in the near future you may hear a couple of Boston accents in the crowd noise yelling, "Hey that guy is from Nashville!" and "All these people are from Nashville, you asshole!" Yeah, that was Sully and me. Alas.

After going to number pickup where we met lots of RA'ers and drank more beer, we headed to the luxurious Microtel on Route 70, where we met even more RA'ers and drank even more beer (see a theme developing here?) Two RA'ers Steve and Tony were good enough to share some of their beer with us since we hadn't made it to the store yet. Tony joined Team Masshole for dinner at a local pub and then we headed back to the Microtel for more socializing in the lobby. I lost count, but it's safe to say that was the most beers I have ever consumed the night be fore a "race." All in all though it was a relatively early night and when Eric (my roommate for the weekend) and I woke up at around 6, we had had a decent night's sleep.

Ben (in blue) would win. Pauly (in yellow) would be the only master to break 3.
The starting area was like a big reunion of hugs, high-fives and handshakes. I saw a lot of friends and met a bunch of new ones. Eventually, after several rounds of pictures and announcements, Trent got us underway and we were off and a runnin'.

Just before pulling the pin and dropping out of the lead group

Even though I told myself repeatedly that I was in no condition to think of this like a regular marathon, that it was just going to be a 26 mile long run, I got sucked out a little fast. Over the first 3-4 miles, I had the leader and eventual winner and course record holder, Ben Schneider, in sight and all of the lead pack including EJ, Sully, my nemesis Andy (aka Thunder), John Ramsay (aka the King of Beasts), another RA'er named Pauly and the eventual women's winner Leah Thorvilson and a bunch of others,  was strung out over a few hundred yards in front of me. Even though the pace was incredibly easy at that point, I knew that with a longest run of 15 miles, if it felt easy it was probably way too fast. I started looking over my shoulder and trying to find a group to fall back with--it was too early to be running in no man's land already. One one of the switch backs I saw Bash and another RA'er, Candice, running together and decided to drift back to them. Bash and Candice caught me around mile 5 or 6 and it was nice to have some company. We ran together until around halfway when Candice dropped back a bit but Bash and I were joined by another RA'er, Abe. The three of us ran together until about 16, when Abe took off and decided to try and hammer the last 10. At that point Bash sped up a bit too and I was by myself. Having to only run the last 10 alone was a lot more manageable than the last 20, though, so I was okay with it. The pace was still feeling pretty easy but every step at that point was my longest run in 2 years and I was starting to feel it in my knees, quads and feet.

You mean I'm finally done?
The bottom line is that there really is no way to run a marathon "easy" when you're not prepared for the distance, and so I paid the price that I knew I would have to pay and that was yet so much harder than I thought it would be. Every downhill over the last 5 miles felt like someone was hitting me in the quads with a ball-peen hammer. Eventually I made the turn onto the field and made my way gingerly to the finish line where someone put a woody around my neck, handed me a rubber pint glass and filled it with beer. Thank God. Training matters: EJ and Sully had finished 20-minutes ahead of me and had that much more time to drink more beer, Alas. My time was 3:22--not a personal worst, but my slowest by far since my first, woefully under trained marathon at Big Sur in 1999.

Can we get a van like this at every race, please?
From there we cheered in the rest of the runners, consumed lots of good food provided by the locals and drank Yazoo beer poured from taps attached to the side of a van designed specifically for that purpose. In other words it was a runner's heaven.

It got warm, we hung out for hours socializing, getting stung by yellow jackets and laughing. It was all way too much fun to describe and I saw way too many friends to name here. Really, you had to be there.

The awards at Monkey are hand-made crotchet monkeys, of course. I did not win one, of course. For reasons I cannot quite explain, this bothered me and I sat there thinking that if (when) I come back to this race I want to be in decent enough shape to be able to compete for a goofy looking crochet monkey. Yes, yes I did think that. Runners are weird, what can I say.

EJ with his crotch monkey for 2nd master. So envious.

At some point we made our way back to the Microtel for showers and to put our feet up for a minute. The Patriots game was not being televised so Team Masshole decided to head downtown (via taxi) to Mafiaoza's pizza joint where they had the game on and, oh yeah, 2-for-1 Yazoo beers, which was just what we needed. As the game wound down, we joined the rest of the Monkey group on the deck of Mafioza's for some fireside drinking, story telling and shoving down brick oven pizza.  The gastro-intestinal abuse I did to myself this weekend was probably not wise the weekend before Thanksgiving, but hey. As the crowds began to thin, Team Masshole got a cab back to the hotel for, you guessed it, a few more beers in the lobby before crashing. There was talk of a morning trail run, but at that point I didn't think I'd be able to walk in the morning and declared myself out.

Yeah that didn't take. At 8am the next morning there we were dressed in running gear and heading over to PWP again for some off-piste shuffle jogging. It actually turned out to be just what the doctor ordered--the downhills were painful but all in all I felt a million times better after that little 4.6 mile jog than before it.

Trent, Bash, me, EJ, Eric, Drew, Jen, Jessica, Paul (photo by Robert Lopez)
All that plus when we made it back to the airport (minus Sully who had for reasons we still can't understand flown out the night before) Southwest Airlines had found my kindle, which I'd lost on the flight out. Bonus. Everyone went home with a smile, and sore legs.

I have left out a tremendous amount of details here but hopefully you get the picture. Monkey was too much fun not to do again at some point.

Friday, November 2, 2012

It's a hard world

Occasionally it becomes obvious how trivial this whole project of trying to run faster over measured distances really is. Like when there's a massive natural disaster that devastates a region, for example.

Most of us here in northeastern Massachusetts got off easy during Hurricane Sandy. At my house we lost power for less than two hours and had, basically, no damage unless you count a small puddle in the basement. All of the trees that would have been knocked down had already come down last Halloween, during that freak snowstorm, so all I had in my yard was a lot of sticks and leaves all over the place.

Obviously in New York and New Jersey, and a few other places, the folks weren't so lucky. The scenes on news sites and on friends' Facebook pages and whatnot are just incredible. And yet, for those of us who survived, life goes on.

Last Saturday morning, during the calm before the storm, I got up early and drove up to Stratham, New Hampshire. I parked my car in a field behind a park and got out, walking gingerly to keep from soaking my feet in the dew that had formed on the long grass. I jogged over toward the park, occasionally weaving in and out of the crowd that was mostly walking in the same direction I was running. When I got there, I waited in line for the port-a-potty then headed out onto the roads for some more jogging before I retraced my steps back to my car, changed into lighter shoes, stripped off some layers and pinned a number on the front of my shirt. Then I jogged back through the park and crossed the street toward the starting line of yet another 5k road race.

I breathed in the cool morning air, breathed out, and tried to clear my mind of all external goals and distractions. And when the gun fired I ran. I allowed myself to become consumed with the effort of running as fast as I could over five thousand meters. For a little while there was no other place, no other time--there was only right then and right there. It was beautiful.

I ran as hard as I could, maybe as hard as I ever have, and put myself into quite a bit of difficulty at the end and yet I missed my goal by 7 seconds. I was completely happy. I was happy because for nearly 17 minutes I ran free in the belief that I had given myself a chance to accomplish a goal that I had set for myself many years ago. During those 17 minutes I did not wish that I was anyone else or that I was anywhere else. I didn't worry about the bills to be paid, whether my kids were doing okay in school or whether the hurricane charging up the coast would destroy my home. For those 17 minutes there was only the road, and the cool fall air, and the crisp New England sky, the other runners. I experienced every one of those 17 interesting minutes to the fullest.

Don't get me wrong--things like electricity, running water, education, food, shelter, presidential elections and smart phones are all interesting and necessary to sustain modern day life. But once in a while it is helpful to remind ourselves what it feels like to actually be alive.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Racing my way into shape

I am essentially cramming. It is not ideal and I know the limitations of this approach but it is what I need at this point.

After slacking off since Baystate 2010, and hardly racing at all in that time, I have strung together a minor build up of mileage over the summer and in September I have simultaneously turned up the intensity on workouts AND raced three times with plans for a fourth race in the month. The results of these races has not been my primary concern--getting out and really running hard has--but it has been tough at times to turn in results that are well below my expectations for myself, and made worse by the fact I am running them on tired legs that are still in shock from the increase in training intensity. All three races have been on courses I have run multiple times, by design so that I could also get some sense of where my fitness is.

The races so far:
Street Faire 5k --17:49 for 4th. This is not a fast course (it starts up hill for the first 2/3 mile) but I have run 17:18 here when I was in good shape and it runs through my neighborhood so I basically have no excuse not to run it. I ran fairly even splits but just had no pop in my legs. My main goal was to make sure I was back under 18 minutes so mission accomplished, I guess.

Lone Gull 10k -- 37:35 for 7th. Blech. Close to if not a personal worst. This IS a fast course but I was in no condition to take advantage of it. I did two big LT workouts during the week after the 5k the Sunday prior, so my legs were just barely hanging on. I ran okay through 5 miles--I was on sub 6 pace to that point--but then the week caught up to me and I kind of imploded. I was running hard the whole time and never gave in, but the 6th mile was about a 6:30 and I was about done. It was my third really quality workout of the week, though and capped my first 70 mile week in ages (maybe since 2010?) so no complaints. This was a very different experience from the last time I ran this race in 2009 when it was part of the Grand Prix. That day I ran 35:59 but came in 79th. This time, a minute and a half slower was good for 7th and I was alone for most of it. It's still a great race on an absolutely beautiful course in Gloucester.

Wilmington Half Marathon -- 1:21:08 for 8th. Also a fast course and one that I have run a few times when in good shape (including having won it in 2010.) I came into this race feeling much better than the two previous weeks. I am starting to adjust to the training load and I unintentionally skipped my big Thursday workout due to meetings at my daughter's school so I was well rested by comparison. I had hoped to be around 1:22 so was pleasantly surprised to be clicking off miles in the 6:10-6:15 range (after the first mile which is probably short) with relative ease. I went through 6 miles in 37:05, which means I ran remarkably even splits, and felt good almost the whole way. The weather didn't hurt as it was a spectacular early fall day. This was faster than I ran on the same course in 2008 (1:21:29) when I was arguably in the best shape of my life though not nearly as fast as when I won it in 2010 (1:19:12). At least I am within the range of previous results instead of in personal worst territory, so that's good. And there's really no better workout in the world than a hard run half marathon.

The plan right now is to try and close out September with the Paddy's 5k on Sunday the 30th and then move on to October where the results will start to matter to me a little more.  Onward.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Training through

He came home to an almost empty house (he could hear the faint sound of music from his teenage daughter's room upstairs) and immediately set to work making an egg sandwich. He ate it with some re-heated coffee and fruit juice. Then he sat at the laptop and entered his warm up and cool down mileage, then his race--such as it was--into his running log.

Alas. He gave himself the requisite pep talk about trusting the process then looked at the time. He had 90 minutes before he needed to be at the field to coach micro soccer. 

"Fuck it," he said to the empty room.

Then, if for no other reason than to declare emphatically that he was, in fact, training through, he changed his t-shirt, put on his trainers and headed out the door for another 5 mile recovery run. "Besides," he thought, "those runs when you're bonking and having protein sweats from the first step are the ones in which the money gets made." 

He wasn't entirely sure it was a great idea and his knees and ankles protested for a mile or so. But despite the light headedness and sweating the run served its exact purpose--he felt much better when he finished, than he had when he started.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July 3rd Training Update

It has been a little over a month, 250 or so miles and couple of races since my last update.  The truth is there is not a whole lot to report about the training thus far except that I'm just punching the clock.  That's kind of just how it works at this stage of the game.  Since this blog has pretty much turned into a training diary, that leaves me without a whole lot to say most of the time.

I guess I should mention the races.  On June10th, I ran the Samantha's Harvest 5k because it was right here in Reading and I know the people who put it on.  Last year my buddy and training partner Dan was the one who measured the course and helped organize it on race day.  This year Dan was just a tad busy with his growing family and lets just say the organizational and logistical proficiency of the race committee suffered as a result.  They laid the course out all wrong and it wound up being more like a 3.2-mile race.  I thought I was in "about 18 flat" shape and wound up at 18:28 on a warm day with no competition.

Even though I knew that course was long and it was just a rust-buster, the 18:28 wasn't sitting right with me (that would be personal worst) so a week later I jumped in another 5k, this one on a certified course and with more professional organization.  I ran 18:01 (actually 18:00.08) at the Brendan's Home Run 5k in Belmont. I guess I was right about being in about 18-flat shape.  Even though it's what I thought, it is still a bit of a let down to think that I'm struggling to break 18 right now when the goal is more than a minute faster.  It's okay, I keep telling myself, there is time.  Maybe I will do it tomorrow at the Lynnfield 4th of July 5k--it would be nice to get that off the plate--but it won't change my approach at this point.

May and June were all about building a fire--check. July and August will be about forging the steel. September is for sharpening and polishing the blade. And if all of that goes according to plan then in October I may just have a chance to ride into battle and settle an 8-year-old grudge with a certain windmill.  So it goes.

Here's the thing though: I'm starting to feel my age.  Up until now I can't honestly say that I've had to make a single concession to father time. All of the limitations I have ever put on my training were to do with life, work, family--never what my body could handle. But at 42 I can definitely say the training feels different and I am not responding as fast as even two years ago. I can definitely see I will need to pace myself on this buildup. I may even have to be somewhat conscious of my diet which will be totally new territory for me. I have always been able to eat basically whatever and whenever I felt like when in any kind of serious training and the weight would just melt off of me.  This time it's proving a bit stickier.  I am still only about 8 lbs away from racing weight but that's only down about 2 lbs from 2 months ago when I really got underway.  I am pretty sure some minor adjustments will take care of that, but it's still a new wrinkle for me.

There are upsides too--I am much better at reading my body, knowing what I can and can't get out of it on any given day. But to be sure there's the nagging feeling that maybe, just maybe I waited a year or two too long to give an honest go at this. I don't think that's the case, but right now I'm only 90% sure.

Either way it should be a fun summer. The family has some good stuff planned, we have already had some good beach days, and I am looking forward to getting after it on the roads, trails and track.  It feels good to be a runner. Onward.

Friday, June 1, 2012

June 1st training update

My dog and "Mr. Glove"
To the dedicated reader of this space, two things will jump off the screen from the title of today's post.  One, that it's frickin' June already (how did that happen?) and, two, that I used the word "training" to describe what I have recently been doing.

Well now.

At first glance, the 248.8 miles I ran in May did not stand out to me as anything special, but then, because I'm a dork, I went and did some research in the old running log to find it was my highest mileage month since (gulp) September of 2010.  That was the month before my last marathon and the last time I was really racing at an acceptable level.  And, yes, I am very proud of the fact that when I logged my run last night after Thirsty Thursday, I did not immediately put my running shoes back on and go out and jog a quick 1.2 miles to make it an even 250 for the month. I may geek out over training stats at times but I at least know my limits.

The good news is it was a remarkably easy 248 miles.  It took a little creativity at times to squeeze runs in early, late or occasionally in the middle of the day, but somehow I managed to run every day of the month except one (Mother's Day) and did not feel like I was in any way stressing myself out.  I also had some decent workouts and mixed up the paces pretty well.  By the numbers it was 31 runs, mostly in singles (one double the day before the off day), with generally two moderate workouts and a "long" run per week.  My long runs these days are topping out at around 12-13 miles and my workouts are nothing serious yet, mostly timed intervals, fartleks and a few turnover type workouts on the track.  All my easy runs have been under an hour, mostly a lot of little 6-7 milers that you barely notice.  This was just laying a base layer for the real training that's still to come.  That's the plan anyway.

In June I may actually even run one or two of those "race" things that runners are always talking about.  Crazy, I know.

As for what the picture of Jasper with his friend, Mr. Glove has to do with any of this?  Nothing, really.  I just thought it was a cool picture and really you can never go wrong with cute dog pics.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

New post

It is now spring in New England (and elsewhere in the northern hemisphere I suppose.)  I mention this because when I look at my own "blog" I see an image of one of the few winter storms we had this past winter with my kids and dog playing in the yard and whatnot.

There is no snow in my yard  now.  The grass is actually quite green as it has been a very wet and cool spring--except, unfortunately, for Marathon Monday for those unlucky enough to have been running the annual Hopkinton-to-Boston footrace.  Alas.

I am a couple of weeks into one of what very well may be just another start in a series of fits and starts.  I am really hoping it will stick this time, though.  Tonight I wasn't able to make it to Thirsty Thursday workout because of an open house and my daughter's middle school but I made sure to get home in time to get a run in before the open house and then I showed up at Grumpy Doyle's to meet the Thirsty Thursday crew around 9pm when they were a couple of beers ahead of me. Mark informed me that from now on we do workouts on Thursday.  It seems I'm not the only one fed up with being a regular person and looking to get back to some kind of training.

We'll see.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

25,000 Miles Later

The title of today's post is not just a ripoff of one of my favorite running blogs, 39,500 Miles Later.  No, it does in fact represent a milestone of sorts.

It appears that about 120 miles ago--which would have been around the week of Feb 20th--I logged my 25,000th mile on RunningAhead since 2002.  Not all of those were originally logged on RunningAhead since I don't think it even existed in 2002, but Eric, the most excellent founder and developer was good enough to import my Coolrunning (blech) log a back around mid-2006 or so, and every mile since then has been logged right there.  Give or take.

This is what 25,000 miles over 10 years looks like:
My graph

That's a lot of running in circles, going nowhere.  You can see I took a little hiatus there from the 2nd half of 2004 until the middle of 2006.  And I'm kind of in a big slump right now and overdue for one of those clumps of 300 mile months that usually go before a period of decent racing.  But hey.  I've stayed on the road and kept at it.  So there's that.

In honor of this momentous accomplishment I will now head on over to RunningAhead and hit the Donate button to the tune of $25,000--a dollar per mile.  (Okay not really but you should feel free to.)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Not a zero

I had a nice little 11-day streak going but then a busy work week, some kiddie drama, and some sketchy weather put an end to it.  On Thursday night, after not running at all Wednesday, I was in grave danger of putting up the dreaded, momentum killing, double goose-egg.  I was in running clothes with bag packed, on my way out the door to Thirsty Thursday when Gina yelled from the other room that I had to "deal with Emma" before I left.  Emma--who we later found out was running a fever and coming down with something that would keep her out of school on Friday--was in full blown homework meltdown mode.  It was 6:23pm and I was due to meet the guys in 7 minutes at the high school.  Alas.

An hour later, after calming her down to a manageable level and helping her through her math and Spanish work, I finally sprung from the back door.  The snowstorm had picked up and it was almost laughable to be heading toward the track to run.  At the traffic light a couple hundred yards from my house I debated turning around, going back home to change into my jeans and heading to Grumpy's to wait for Mark and Dan--since I was pretty sure they would be done running by the time I got to the high school anyway.  "No," I thought, "I need to earn it."

It took a few minutes to drive across town since the DPW seemed to be sitting out this storm and the roads were a total mess.  As I rolled slowly down the hill in front of the school, I could see that Mark and Dan's cars were still there but they were nowhere in sight (out running the roads) so I parked in front of them and headed over to the track to run circles in the snow until they came back.  I got in two and half miles before they showed up on the track, then another mile or so with them before I felt like I had enough call it "not a zero" in the running log and we all headed to the pub for some beers and food.

That's an honest day's work.

On Friday I got out for a quick 7 after the snow stopped and before I had to head to a meeting.  Not a great week mileage mileage-wise but at least I never gave in.  With a solid weekend I'm back on track.

And also, this happened:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Look at me go

Don't look now but I've run 7 days in a row.  After Sunday's 14-plus-mile Lynnfield loop with Mark and Mike, which was probably a couple of miles longer than I needed, I just took it really easy all week with only one goal: get out every day. On Wednesday, I even met Dan for my first o'dark early run in months.  Will need to do much more of that. Now with just a 20 mile weekend I can wind up in the 50s the easy way for the week. That's respectable.

On another note, I have noticed that the worse the weather, the less considerate drivers are of runners. Today was about as lousy as it gets--35 and pissing down rain.  I'd honestly rather bitter cold or snow.  I had to wait several minutes, in a marked crosswalk mind you, to get across Lowell Street as driver after driver saw me standing in the rain getting colder and colder and couldn't spare the energy to pump the brakes.  It seems strange to me but I guess I only see it from the runner's perspective.  Probably weather like that just puts people in a foul mood.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Time for a personal decision

Many of you will be relieved to know that I am getting closer and closer to making a personal decision to train again in a way that is more than just some disorganized fitness jogging.  I'm not sure what the training will look like, or what the short-term and long-term goal will be, I just know that I have that uneasy feeling of unfocused energy that has preceded several bouts of semi-serious training.  I don't see gangbusters all-in crazy training, and certainly no marathons (those are just dumb) just something semi-organized that lets me feel like a runner and race whenever I want at whatever distance without embarrassing myself.  You know, hobbyjoggerhood.

I will take some serious organizing this time--I need to get back to being an early morning runner, which I really haven't been with any consistency in almost a year.  Life is busy, things are going well.  I have a pretty big day job, my four daughters range from high school freshman to kindergarten and have active extra-curricular lives and of course there's The Beast, the 100 year old house, the aging parents, the real-life stuff we all have.  The hardest thing, oddly, is trying to always be the first one up in the morning and the last one to bed.  Somehow I feel like that's part of my job.  Those are things I know I will have to manage and it wont be easy.  But it beats the alternative of being a regular person, I'm finding.

In the mean time, my friend Jeff has been on a tear lately both with his running and his blogging.  It's great to see him having success with the program he's on, and best yet believing in the program and believing he can make a lot more progress.  That's all you can really ask out of this sport.  I remember what it's like to be in that place and it's inspiring to see. None of us but a handful of elites will ever do anything truly significant in this sport so it mostly comes down to how you want to see yourself, how you want to experience the world.  As Jeff said:
Running and racing is a way of leaving the ordinary behind. To speak romantically, we transcend the ordinary by plunging deeper into it, finding out what the limit is through surpassing it. Running and racing gives us a chance to talk about what we think matters: heart and effort, courage and fear, hope, suffering, and determination.
That and maybe running and racing is a way of appreciating a few laughs and a few beers with our friends a little more.