I’ve been having more problems with the bombing anniversary than I thought I would. It’s been causing intrusive thoughts the past few weeks. I stand at the bus stop after work and watch cars illegally part in front of us and wonder which of them is a bomb. I was running my race in Tokyo in February and passed a lone backpack on the side of the road and thought ‘there’s the bomb that’ll take me.’ I see the face (face!) of people that look even a little bit like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and flinch. Who am I, what am I to be judging people based on their faces?! I don’t want these thoughts, but they’re there.
After work today it was raining, but I decided to run down to the finish line anyway. It’s not been a particularly good week, professionally, and I missed the all events the hospital had lined up to commemorate the anniversary. So much immaterial work BS going on that honestly no one cares about, and no time to pause for the moment of silence. I’m ashamed of myself.
When I got to Boylston Street it was raining & the wind was quite strong. I just wanted to see it, the finish line and the structure. Lots of people down there, heavy traffic, hard rain & inverted umbrellas. I was soaked through. A woman next to me asked if I was there for One Run finish. I had worn that shirt without realizing they were coming in again today. I only stayed a few minutes to pay my respects then was on my way. Rain & wind on the esplanade home was forceful to the point of unpleasantness.
I got home and turned on the news with dinner. This (presumably) crazed individual was on the news, having thrown two backpacks down by the finish. It’s never going to end. Whatever his point, a pushback against “boston strong” (which I can completely understand, in abstract) or a violent urge to insert himself into our psyche. I don’t know or really care.
So. Here we are a year later. I’m still sitting in Allston, still listening to the sirens outside. I thought this year’s marathon would be a victory, a defiant celebration of our city & community. But for me I think that may have to wait a little bit longer.
Next weekend is the Boston Marathon! An exciting time in Boston. The weekend after that is the TARC Spring Classic 50K (just a smidge less famous). And the weekend after that is the (Cox) Providence Marathon that YJP is running. Which means the extended three-person readership of this blog is going to each have a busy weekend here in the next month. Hondo, you’re up first… (nobody’s nervous). I’m really excited to be volunteering at mile 7 with VK & YJP, and hopeful that everyone I know who is running stays safe, and is happy with their effort.
I’ve been trying to slowly transition myself from my old running training plan into something more aggressive. Nate is using a variant of Hansons marathon plan to get ready for the Boulder Marathon this October, and I’m adapting some elements of his schedule. Specifically, I’ve been trying to do mile repeats on Tuesdays (two weeks thusfar) and then running goal marathon pace pieces on Thursday. Since my ultimate goal is to qualify for Boston, I’d need to run sub-3:10 for that. I’ve been thinking to aim for 3:08 to give myself a little cushion, which is just over a 7:10/split. This is fairly quick for me, much faster than I current can sustain. Particularly outside on a non-race day where I inevitably find myself stuck at traffic lights and so on. But it’s a goal. It doesn’t have to be easy.
Song of the week, Snookered by Dan Deacon. Within the last mile of my Saturday long run my ipod died, right after the key change 6:30 in. What an awesome song to run to, takes it’s time getting where it’s going but once it goes it just goes.
A good week in Boston. Spring is still struggling to find it’s footing but there are enough hints to give hope. The rain this weekend was not snow, nor unpleasantly cold. I ran along the marathon course today, a great many people preparing for the race coming April 21st. I’m not running it with them, but it’s so easy to feel like we’re all on the same team, all with the same goal, part of this community of likeminded people. It’s the best time of the year to run in Boston. I’m very excited for Christine and the other people I know running the marathon, and for the city as a whole. It will be a good, restorative day for us all, something we’ve needed since last year.
Yesterday was quite nice as well, a chance to (holes in my trail runners aside) get off the pavement and into the woods. NP and I went out to Weston to run from Burchard Park to check out the trails on site of the forthcoming TARC Spring Classic 50K. They were soft where melted, and slick where not. No injuries but I almost bit it a number of times. Hopefully today’s rain and a mild week ahead will knock this ice out a little more. I also heard from the RD today, and got an official map of the loop. Next week I’ll try to run it again, to hew a bit more closely to the actual course.
Song of the week, the lovely Run Run Run by Michelle Lewis.
My trip to Atlanta for the Georgia Marathon got off to a rough start as I overslept my 4:30am alarm by a solid hour, making a real question of whether I’d make my 7am flight. I threw on whatever clothes were nearest, grabbed my bag and without taking time to think twice was out the door & driving to the airport. I got lucky with traffic, with the parking shuttle and TSA stuff and though my flight had boarded by the time I got to the empty gate I was still able to get on & head on down south.
From Hartsfield I went straight to the expo at the Georgia World Congress Center. I got my number, grabbed the obligatory samples, browsed the racing baubles but couldn’t find a hat I liked. The most interesting thing about the expo was speaking with an ultramarathoner named Joe Fejes at the USATF booth. He was pitching a dome race he’s putting together in Anchorage in August – Six Days in the Dome. If six days are too much for you, there’s also 48 and 24 hour races available, all on a 1/4 mile track. I’m getting dizzy just thinking about it. If I make it to Alaska, it’ll be for Moose’s Tooth.
The rest of the pre-race day was spent at the Georgia Aquarium (pretty awesome) and managing the logistics of pre-race food. The place I chose for lunch ended up hosting a furry convention at the same time. I’d like to think I’m not judgmental about people’s preferences, but it does takes some getting used to all the tails being wagged about.
Race morning, no problem getting up at 4am. I was staying at the Atlanta Hilton, at worst a 15 minute walk from the start. Not bad, but up and over a sizable hill. I accidentally packed creamy peanut butter. :/ Nobody likes creamy peanut butter.
Race conditions – it was fairly warm, maybe 59 degrees? I checked my phone and jacket at the gear bag drop and didn’t miss them as I waited in the corral. Nice, to be this warm, but more humid than I’m used to.
I was in Corral B, which was pretty much at the front. In retrospect, I probably should have been back a bit, given how many people passed me. Most of the people around me seemed to be half runners – this half was taken seriously, it was some sort of regional championship.
Start: The thing that strikes immediately is the start is up a hill. This wasn’t an anomaly – the entire course was up down up down. At some point I thought to myself that 90% of the course had been uphill. Within the first mile we were running down a street by Georgia State University in a shower of these little white flower petals – coming from still frozen Mass this is lovely. There are several of these petal showers along the course.
Mile 6: The Carter Center is here. Very attractive area near this part of the course. Maybe I just like it because it’s downhill.
Mile 7: The half marathoners split off here. This is one of those races where that’s the bulk of the field, leaving a lonely stream of marathoners for the rest of the morning. We run through Little Five Points, which you can tell without any prior information is a cool neighborhood.
Mile 8.2: My favorite sign along the race course was here in some place called Candler Park – it says something like “No Trespassing, No Jogging, No Dogs!” Fortunately we don’t jog, we run. I don’t even know any joggers!
Mile 10: I snag a ziploc bag of gummi bears from a family of three (the father says “your wel-come dude” in an awesome stoner way). This is excellent race food, though my mouth is dry and I have a hard time with them, breathing in some bear bits. I’m not entirely unconvinced there’s not a gummi bear tree growing in my lungs right now.
Mile 12: The course passes Agnes Scott, a private women’s college. I was a little confused with a sign along that part that said something like “smart girls are hot”. I don’t disagree with that sentiment, exactly, I’m just not sure that it’s a joke that needs to be made right outside a women’s school. Maybe I’m humorless.
Mile 13.1: I’m four minutes behind last week (1:48:35, an 8:17 split).
Mile 15: In to the Emory campus here.
Mile 17: Oreo station. I get mine from a little girl wearing a white tutu. Super cute. This neighborhood (Druid Hills) is absolutely gorgeous, apparently they filmed Driving Miss Daisy here. The homes here are massive, impossibly large by even Brookline or Newton standards. In one front yard I see two young girls romping with friggin ponies. I’m too stunned to get a photo. Plus there are giant hills to worry about, and I’m struggling. My pace here is starting to slip from the respectable (mile 16: 8:21) to the less so but let’s just finish this dang thing (mile 19: 9:12).
Mile 19: Light rain starts here. I’m happy for it. The next few miles a bit of a blur as I’m totally out of steam, a solid hour too early. No number of gummi bears is going to bring me back.
Mile 22: Into Piedmont Park – we’re heading back downtown and there are nice views of the Atlanta skyline here though my only photo is crappy. Small out and back here so I get to see that there are actually people behind me.
Mile 24: On to Georgia Tech’s campus. They have a giant inflatable Yellow Jacket. I am dead and more dead. The cheerers here are enthusiastic which is a good thing, as I am not. They will have to be cheerful enough for the both of us.
Finish: I come across the line just under my mid-race hastily arrived at goal of 3:50 – 3:49:40. This is an 8:45 split, which feels infinitely slow after last week’s 3:34 effort in North Carolina but in reality it’s just about what I ran at Marine Corps last fall, a very similar-feeling race. Final place is 277th among 1629 finishers, 17%.
After the race I was feeling bad, much worse than last week despite the slower time. I can tell I’m way more dehydrated than I should be, and not to get too graphic but I briefly wonder if I’m having a rhabdomyolysis issue (I wasn’t). I grab my jacket & a food bag and limp my way back to the hotel to shower/rehydrate (by the time I get there I’m freezing, and glad that I somehow packed my gloves). I only have one hour to get stuff together and find the train to the airport, which is just not enough time for the amount of energy it requires. I’m not cutting things this close in the future.
Speaking of the future. This was my fifth marathon of the year, and I’m feeling a little burnt on it. Maybe it’s just because I was sick after, but I’m glad to have a break in my schedule. Not necessarily from running, but definitely from this distance. I have two ultras already booked (4/26 & 6/7) but those are on trails, low key, no travel required. For the rest of the summer I think I’ll stick with halves and shorter. I’m in the NYC Marathon lottery next Wednesday and if I don’t get into that maybe I’ll register to run the Rhode Island half marathon triple crown series with YJP. I want to improve my speed before the fall, and I think shorter and faster races are a good way to do that.
So – my next marathon will be on 9/13/14 just outside Salt Lake City. Go big, Big Cottonwood, kicking off my western expedition plan that will also include a stop in Boulder. Hopefully I’ll have more life in my legs for those two then than I did today.
Song of the week, Wait So Long by Trampled by Turtles.
Briefly, some notes on this weekend’s Wrightsville Beach Marathon.
I took a short hop from Boston down to Raleigh-Durham early Saturday morning, meeting up with YJP & Turtle at the airport. It being noon we started to look for food pretty soon, and settled on Noodles-R-Us Inc or what have you. From there, we drove two hours of backwoods North Carolina down to Wilmington. We got off the highway once to find ourselves in a town that I excitingly misunderstood to be named Hog Slat (that’s actually just the name of a company).
Wilmington itself was nicer – after some unnecessary hotel clerk drama we checked in to dump the dog before heading down to the expo down near the finish line. The expo location was in a large tent in a field near a development of high end stores called the Mayfaire Town Center that seemed a little out of place with the surrounding area (which was mostly undeveloped). I couldn’t find a Wrightsville Beach Marathon hat which I was a little grouchy about. Also bummed because we got there a little too late to see Frank Shorter (two time Olympic medalist in the marathon).
Post-expo, we grabbed a light deli dinner then went to watch the Lego Movie (somewhat more than mildly amusing). Bed by 10pm.
Race day – I was woken up pretty much every hour through the night as it was the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day and our hotel was regional headquarters for drunks far & wide. I finally got up for good before my alarm went off at 3am. At 5 we left for the finish line, where we caught a shuttle bus a few miles up the road to the start. It was lightly chilly, kinda nice actually, my first race in some time in short sleeve shirts and no gloves.
The race start was in two corrals. Frank Shorter was there and gave us a little conflicting advice (“it’s no excuses weekend!” followed by “start slow then ease off”). It was almost pitch black at the start – daylight savings time + 6:45am gun = no sunglasses. It’s a fairly small race so I just stayed at the back of the first corral, then fairly quickly worked by way up to where I wanted to be with the 3:30 pace group. I hadn’t really thought prior to the race that I’d run a 3:30 throughout, but after screwing up the math so badly in Tokyo I was happy to have someone else do the heavy lifting on thinking for once. Plus it was nice to run with company.
The course is fairly flat – I ran two roughly equal 13 mile loops. Even though the event is the Wrightsville Beach Marathon you only run along the beach for just over a mile on each loop, and you can’t actually see the water from that road. But there were some pleasant bridges over the intercoastal waterways you can see on the map. Pleasant might not be the right word – visually appealing, but one issue was the drawbridge surface which was a fairly large, sharp grate. On my pace group’s second pass through the biggest bridge one of our members fell and tore up her leg pretty well, she was bleeding down her ankle for the rest of the race. This is the same issue that Chicago solves by putting out their fancy colored carpets. Our pace leader mentioned the local DPW didn’t want the race folks to do that due to some regulatory issue – if that’s true it’s just dumb. YJP also saw someone who had gone down in the same location, it’s definitely a spot where the course could be better.
The aid stations along the course were themed with local college teams (mostly UNC, Duke & NC State. Amusingly enough it didn’t even occur to me that running in my Kansas shirt might get me some negative reactions (I had some gentle boos at mile 21), but generally the volunteers were supportive. The stations themselves were well stocked, though I mostly stuck to their water turning down several chances for gels (Hammer, I think). I took one of my own Gu’s around mile 7 and then a pack of sports beans starting at 13. I should have taken my second gel later when I started to bonk but was having stomach issues so I just didn’t. Next time I think I’ll do one Gu & two beans, those are easier to deal with stomach-wise near the end. I didn’t find any bananas on the course but did snag a twizzler from some kind soul somewhere in the 20s.
Because I was running with a pace group I really had an easier time of things, and pretty much turned off the math side of my brain during the race. I felt myself struggling with the pace around mile 20 (after picking up an orange wristband to show that I was on the final lap). I was debating stopping for a restroom from mile 18 on but didn’t want to lose my group, unfortunately by mile 22 they were escaping from me anyway, and my pace dropped from ~8:00 to 9:00+. At that point pretty much just slogged it home death-march style. Finish was unspectacular, other than YJP being there for a high-five as I came across the line.
After the race I felt surprisingly good (one might even say “happy”), much better than I felt in Tokyo. My final time was 3:34:23, my fastest of the four I’ve run this year – good for 85th place among 477 finishers (~18%). The mats were at odd locations (mile 3.5, 11.3, 24.1) so I’ll just say that I know I was safely under the 3:30 pace at half (1:44-something), and Strava’s breakdown of my GPS data showed 8:00 or under splits until mile 20 (with three sad looking 9+ miles at the end). Sometimes you kick, sometimes you get kicked.
A much needed warm shower later (thank you late checkout!) YJP, Turtle & I went down to see the actual ocean and found beer & burritos at a Mexican place called Tower 7, pretty decent post-race grub. By this point though it had started to rain for real so we just bagged it back to Durham for the airport so that she could drive on home. It’s not a perfect experience, to fly in & out on consecutive days, I would have rather stuck around a while to have seen Wilmington a little better. Maybe next time.
Next up, oh hey it’s next weekend, the Georgia Marathon. This is my last road marathon of the spring, last at this distance until next September. I won’t be off completely though – I’ve registered for two ultramarathons – a 50K (the TARC Spring Classic) in April and a 50M (the TARC 50) in June. The latter of these is the same race I DNF’d last summer, hopefully it will go better this time around.
Song of the week, On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons.
The mental effects of skipping across fourteen time zones have been surprisingly persistent. Maybe this is a normal part of getting older but it’s taken me a solid week back from Japan to renormalize my internal clock, sleep & energy-wise. Passing out at 9pm and wide awake at 3 or 4am. Only one run of note this week was my long on Saturday. I pushed the first 11 miles, either at current marathon PR pace or (for miles 8 & 9) at goal BQ pace. Last three I started to feel sick and pretty much cruised it home. But honestly the best part of the run was HOW FRIGGIN WARM it was. Spring has come, winter has fallen. Even the certainty that we’ll have more snow before it’s finally finally over can’t dampen my mood.
I got my number for next weekend’s marathon in Wilmington, North Carolina – I’ll be number 113, which I’ll take as a good sign. I don’t think there’s online running tracking, but here’s the map of the course. This will be the first double loop marathon I think I’ve done. I’m hoping to go faster than Tokyo, if even by a minute or two. 3:33 would be a nice round goal (an 8:07 split). We’ll see. Still dealing with a small left knee hyperextension issue. :/
An off mileage week coming off my third marathon of 2014. I’m not too bothered by this as I spent pretty much the entire week on my feet. I’m not sure of the proper way to do a restful vacation but my way tends to be to carry my camera as far as I can before I collapse. A brief recap of my week – last Sunday I ran the Tokyo marathon. Monday I kicked around Tokyo, Tuesday spent the day running & walking in Yokohama, Wednesday took the Shinkansen to Hiroshima, Thursday took a ferry to Miyajima, Friday back to Yokohama for dinner with Keiko’s sister’s family, Saturday did Yokohama again (with company this time) and Sunday flew home. I flirted with the idea of doing a long run Sunday after arriving back in Boston but my internal clock was screwed up enough that the final decision was for an extra rest day. My full set of photos from the trip (were you so inclined) is here.
Next up race wise, one week off then another pair of marathons – Wrightsville Beach in Wilmington, NC on 3/16 followed a week later by the Georgia Marathon in Atlanta on 3/23. When I originally set up the plan for these two races I didn’t realize I’d be going to do Tokyo so now they feel a bit like afterthoughts but I’m excited about them regardless for a few reasons. First off, I’m stoked to see YJP in North Carolina – she’s picking me up in Raleigh & running the half in Wilmington. Second, I haven’t been to Georgia in a good number of years. I’ve had mixed emotions about the state since things fell apart for me there however long ago. I won’t be going to Athens on this trip, but I’m still excited to see Atlanta again. Both trips are structured as quick in & outs, flying down on Saturday and home Sunday after the race, which is good for work purposes but maybe not so good for smelling pretty on the airplane.
Song of the week, Big in Japan by Tom Waits.
Tokyo Marathon race recap! This may go on a bit as I tend to ramble.
Flight to Tokyo was interesting – a long non-stop from Boston on the Japan Air 787 Dreamliner. The trippy thing was the sun out my window stayed at the same angle in the sky for like eight hours, before climbing again as we lost latitude.
Day before the race was the expo (which was huge, and packed), then after that we met up with KPH for carbo loading purposes at an “Italian” place called Agio in Shinjuku. Despite our best efforts we learned at the last moment that the plain non-meat tomato sauce did, in fact, have chicken stock in it. It’s difficult to eat vegan in Japan.
Race morning I woke up at 2am and could not go back to sleep. The race had a late start (9:10) so I had hoped to sleep until 6 but my internal clock is still messed up. At 4am I gave up going back to sleep and decided to get up for real. Had coffee & bagel (with travel peanut butter courtesy of Chrissy).
At 8am I walked the few blocks to the start. I was able to find D right outside security, fortuitous. We went in, found our baggage trucks then split up as our respective corrals were in different directions. I was in Corral D which was on the same street as the start – I could see the grandstand and so on while the announcer was doing their thing. At first they were doing both Japanese and English but at some point just switched over to all Japanese. Still, I got the jist. I was standing next to a woman from Columbus, OH here – I thought it was interesting that I ran Columbus last year while she ran Boston. Also interesting, she was one of the few women in the whole corral – the ratio was easily 100:1 or worse. I don’t know what ratio for the whole race was but my view it was almost all dudes.
Start: The race gets underway with a cannon burst of confetti. As I got closer I realized they were little paper hearts. It was incredibly dense, lots of traffic. I don’t think they started the corrals in waves, I think they just let everyone go at once. People were zigging and zagging every which way. It was clear there were slower runners in the earlier corrals, I had read about & expected this and just worked through it while trying to get up to speed. Start itself was in Shinjuku, then through Shibuya, then on eastward.
12K: The race ran past the Tokyo Tower here, but I completely missed it even though it was right next to the course. I’m not sure how. Sometimes running and being a tourist are contraindications.
15K: I’m looking for KPH & Natsuko here but couldn’t see them in the crowd. Later Natsuko told me she saw me but only when I was on the far side of the course, not when we looped around nearer to where they were standing. Still helpful to know they were there even if I didn’t find them. The crowd was several people deep all along this section.
16K: Some Japanese guy yelled Rock Chalk at me here. Awesome.
20K: “Go Kansas!” Excited to hear this and a push through the half. Around here I give up hope that I’ll magically run into KPH.
Half: There was not timing mat at the half mark so I’m missing that point! Interesting. Not sure what my splits were as the GPS data was unreliable (more on that further down).
27K: There’s a shrine here. Actually this is the Asakusa Kaminarimon Gate (the Thunder Gate), which leads up to Senso-Ji, a shrine I visited the last time I was in Tokyo.
30K: Back along the flow of the course again. Here I start actively looking for D coming back the other direction, and this occupies my time (I never see him, unfortunately). I’m starting to struggle a bit here, and take two half bananas, which help. I don’t finish my sports beans, which was probably a mistake. I have some nausea from here on out.
32K: I swear to you, it was snowing here. Or frozen misting, or something. I felt it hitting my face. Generally speaking, this race was cold. I was thinking I’d warm up as the day went on, but never really did. I’m really glad I decided to wear the long sleeve compression layer. After the race was over I was fairly well hypothermic in the finishing queue.
35K: Struggling. Crowds are sparser but not non-existent like I had read happened in the past. I decide to kick my headphones in around here for the first time in the race though. It’s more anti-social but I’m running head down focused on the road trying to hang on to my dwindling pace at this point.
Finish: I finally find the 42K marker around the final turn. There’s a false finish structure type thing here you run through that says 195M to go til the real finish. I pull it together and finish things the best I can. My final time (both watch and chip) is 3:36:17. Not a PR, but it’s among my faster times (it’s actually my 5th fastest behind Chicago, Nashville, Austin and Bayshore). There’s quite a walk from the finish to get medals, water, swag bag. I am sick sick sick during this part, and am freezing. Much like Nashville, severe thermal regulation issues for the next hour, even after I make it inside the conference center. Which for whatever reasons has concrete floors and no places to sit.
The numbers: I don’t want to get too hung up on the numbers for this race since my main goal was the experience, not as a goal race. But still, I am the type of person I am so here’s some of my thought process on my race results. First, I couldn’t get a GPS lock at the start, so I knew from the beginning that my distance might be a bit off. Hindsight being what it is, I should have planned to switch the watch to kilometers, or even just skipped GPS for a watch and 5K split goal list. Anyway. I thought I was running 7:30 miles for the first half of the race, which would have been well below my PR pace. But the “miles” my watch was reporting were less than a mile, due to the interference from tall buildings (you can see my “path” zig zag around like crazy on the above blowup of my GPS map. That said, looking at official the 5K mat splits I actually was under PR pace through 25K, and only 8 seconds behind at 30K. I didn’t realize this, unfortunately. I thought I was well ahead of PR pace and at what I thought was the ~20 mile mark (in actuality, it was closer to 19) I calculated I could run the last six miles at an energy conserving 8:30 split and finish under my best – this was not the case. At each mark where I was able to recalculate the goal kept shifting, and it wasn’t until the last 4K or so where I realized I had fallen off pace. That was a little disappointing. I think part of the mistake was giving myself mental permission to ease off. This isn’t the end game mindset that’s going to be required to BQ in the future, and merely beating my own prior best shouldn’t be a sufficient goal. Finishing as strong as possible should be. I know this sounds obvious but I’m writing it now so that the next time my race-fuzzeled brain is dealing with this scenario the decision will already have been made.
Official splits from here, in comparison to my current PR race from Chicago.
All in all, the race was a positive experience. My 20th marathon. It kinda blows my mind when I think on them in aggregate.
Next up! A week of vacation in Japan. But next up race-wise, Wrightsville Beach Marathon in three weeks (with YJP!), and the Georgia Marathon a week after that.
At least, I am thoroughly amused. I’m in Tokyo to run the marathon tomorrow and just got back to my hotel from my long day of logistics (way too much time on my feet) to find these waiting on the photoblog. This is awesome. Thanks to whoever was the ringleader behind this art project, it is my favorite thing ever.
Edit to say: OMG there are so many more, added ‘em all.
My last long run is done. Next weekend, Tokyo. I’m not sure what I’m going to aim for yet, time-wise. I’d like to be fast, the course looks fast, but I’ve also read it can be crowded and that costumed club runners fill the first corral and can impede the flow. So executive decision to not be upset if my time is above where it might otherwise be. Let’s do this for the experience, and worry about blasting away on a quieter day.
I’m not sure if I’ll be posting updates here, but will for sure on twitter/instagram. See you on the other side.
Song of the week, Everything is Free, by Gillian Welch.
I’m leaving in 11 days for Japan where I’ll be running in the Tokyo Marathon. Assuming all goes well, this will be my 20th race at this distance. I like that, a nice even number. The pace of preparations has been picking up this past week. More reservations made, more plans finalized, more hotels, more papers and passes bought & sold. We will travel by bus and cab and shinkansen. By freaking Dreamliner! This is the first time I’ve ever run overseas, and while I’m nervous in the same way I’m always nervous before a marathon, I’m nervous in new and different ways. Lots of things are unforeseeable. I am trying my best to guess my way through what will happen based on misunderstandings I’ve had in Japan in the past. I guess we’ll see.
Training this week was pretty good. I got a solid 17 miles in Saturday for the “last long” of any real effort of this cycle. I’ll probably run 13 miles next weekend to come down into my taper. I’ve been trying to do some up-tempo work on the treadmill at the end of a mid-range run – this week that was my Thursday run where I did three sub-7:00 miles after 4 @ 8:00. I wanted to do more by the treadmill kept shutting down on me while running at the higher rate, entering cool-down mode at random times. This has been happening more often at my Longwood gym (the BodyScapes in Coolidge Corner has newer treadmills and I’ve had fewer problems there).
I haven’t discussed it here much as it’s hard to see past this trip, but two weeks after I get home from Japan I’ll be doing the Wrightsville Beach Marathon, and the week after that, to Atlanta for the Georgia Marathon. No need to stress about those two quite yet. But still, they’re coming. Fortunately YJP will be in North Carolina with me.
The past two years on Superbowl Sunday I’ve run the Super Sunday 5. This year I decided against it, and I’ve been trying not to regret that (I’ve rather enjoyed that race). That said, I had two good runs this weekend, the first 9+ with Christine on Saturday that ended a bit prematurely with coffee in the North End, the second 15.1 miles out on the marathon course.
My last race to tune-up for the Tokyo Marathon was today, the Boston Prep 16 miler (my third time running this event). I didn’t get my best time, finishing in 2:06:54, 136th place of 508 finishers. So slower than last year, faster than two years ago. But today had it’s own special set of challenges, with extreme cold and packed snow scattered throughout the course. I had some trouble breathing (I couldn’t breathe at all through my nose, and my lungs weren’t working quite right). Anyway. A few photos.
Song of the week, Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way? by Waylon Jennings.
I’ve wanted to do a double marathon since October 2012 (when my original New Hampshire/Maine plan was foiled by gravity and shitty ankle ligaments). This weekend, I finally got it done. I’ve tried & failed to be brief, regardless, my double recap.
I flew into Mobile, Alabama early on Friday morning and drove three hours (in a super tiny Fiat 500) to Jackson, Mississippi. A more culturally inappropriately vehicle I can’t imagine. Despite having lived in Georgia for three years I’ve only ever been to Alabama once before (on a cross state road trip slowed by one of our tires melting to the highway), so was excited to see the state.
Race #1 on Saturday in Jackson was the Mississippi Blues Marathon. My hotel was a half mile from the expo and start area at the Mississippi Museum of Art. The expo itself was on the small side of things, but did have a stage with couple guys playing blues which was great (I sat for a while but didn’t catch their name). The swag bag had the normal crap but also a blues cd and a harmonica, which is sweet. For dinner I found a local “healthy” restaurant (Adobo) on the way back to the hotel – I had the pre-race special, turkey lasagna.
Race morning #1, I woke at 1am to the sound of heavy rain, not what I had been hoping for. The weather report the day before had maxed at an 80% chance of precipitation on race day. I went back to sleep until up for good at 3am, and fortunately the rain had stopped (it never came back). At 4am I went downstairs for a cup of the “24 hour” coffee but the lady setting up breakfast chased me out of the kitchen for ‘health code reasons’. I lurked around the lobby until she acquiesced.
At 6:15 I walked down to the start, weather was low 40s, gently cold, short shirt sleeves. The race started west, through Jackson State where there was a university band playing. The course runs through the center of campus, past where the two students were killed by police in 1970. Looping back around past the start, where there’s a bunch of people who we just left 3 1/2 miles earlier are cheering.
Most of the rest of the course had rolling hills throughout. A study of contrast, neighborhood-wise, running through some extremely wealthy neighborhoods at mile ~7 and ~17 between poorer neighborhoods closer to the highways. The elevation profile didn’t look horrible but the hills were definitely tiring. Half was at 1:54, about where I had been hoping.
Nearing the end of the race I had some doubts of sticking my four hour goal, particularly around miles 21-23 where we were running parallel to the interstate in direct sun (my splits went above 10:00 for two miles here, I don’t like this). Fortunately I was able to bring down the pace for the last few miles to finish with a 3:57:38, good for 172nd (of 828 finishers). The announcer guy said my name as I’m coming across the finish line, I love this! Contrary to my registration he says Boston not Allston, which makes me happy.
After the race I grab some salty soup & Gatorade and sit for a bit in the art garden. I talk to a woman from Nashville who ran the half in last year’s downpour – she says she would have liked a little light rain today for the cloud cover but I can’t really agree, the Jackson weather is lovely. Unfortunately I have to pass up a trip to the interesting looking Iron Horse as well as a blues crawl the race puts on to head back to Mobile for race #2.
After a painfully crampy drive I roll into Mobile at 5pm. Race #2 is called the First Light Marathon, a fundraiser for L’Arche Mobile, an organization that supports individuals with intellectual disabilities in the Mobile area. The expo itself is pretty much adjacent to my hotel which is fantastic, as after the morning’s race and a 3+ hours in the car I’m of strongly mixed emotions regarding my need to simultaneously stretch my legs and rest. I get my bib, shirt and a pretty sweet handmade plaque for the Back2Back runners and then wander down towards the waterfront to find food. The bar I end up in for dinner has football on, and as Mobile is only two hours from New Orleans everyone there is big into the Saints. Who unfortunately are in the process of getting pounded by Seattle. At 7pm I migrate back to my hotel hoping to sleep early but end up staying up til 10:30 watching the Patriots beat the Colts.
Sunday morning I wake a little later than usual, at 4:30am. Force myself to eat despite no desire whatsoever. Force down coffee, unpleasant. I have strong nausea, like my gut has been tipped off to the day’s plan and is objecting the only way it knows how. I text with Hondo & YJP a bit, fishing for an out but they talk me back from the edge. The line that does it – “You knew this would be a scary undertaking.” I don’t want to be afraid of failing just because something is hard or tough or scary. I will try.
The race start is two blocks from my hotel, super convenient. It’s a fairly small race, 1100 people total, roughly half of those in the full. I’ve decided to wear the Back2Back shirt because it’s the lightest long sleeve I have. This has two benefits – one it’s white so when it gets sunny later in the race it’s not so bad. Two people keep talking to me about Jackson throughout the course of the race, which is cool. I know 400+ people are running Back2Back so it’s not terribly unique but having the shirt on opens it up as a topic.
As for the race itself – it was just tough. The simplest way to explain it is like this – a marathon is usually hard at the end, when the body starts running out of gas. Sometimes that happens earlier, sometimes later, and super rarely, it never quite happens. This second race was tough from the very beginning. Tough at the start, tough at mile 3, at 9, 12. I mentally broke the race into 9×3 and tried to run it 1/9th at a time.
Mile 10 was notable – we crossed over the interstate and passed by a large church playing a bell tape. This was a strong reminder of my dad’s old church in Wamego. I took my headphones out and listened till they faded.
I hit the half mark around 1:59 (5 minutes behind day 1) but I had no illusions well before then regarding my 4 hour goal for this second day.
Pre-race Hondo & I decided that 14.5-17.5 was all downhill – I spent a lot of time thinking about this in the first half. It turned out to be mostly accurate, and this part of the course was also a race highlight, looping down through Spring Hill College. There were swamps here several signs here say Beware Snakes & Alligators! Sadly I saw none.
A note on the trees – Mobile reminded me of New Orleans in that there are these giant oaks everywhere with huge beautiful branches covered in moss or some other kind of green growth. None of the photos I have of them are particularly good but it’s a striking visual, and they make for really great shade.
At mile 18 I looked east and saw the mobile skyline and was like holy hell that’s a far way off, we have to run back there? Luckily around this point I scored a banana and a cup of gummi bears – the gummi bear song occupies my mouth and brain for the next three miles. These are my single most favorite “I’ve run too far but have to keep going” emergency race food – thank you, whoever it was that handed me these.
The last five or so miles were dull compared to the gator zone, mostly a straight shot back along some road we had already run and decent stretches without shade. Not much in the way of cheering along the course, but this was made up for by the crowd in the last couple blocks of Dauphin Street. The field was so spread out far enough that I’m pretty sure the crowd response was for me. The guy on the mic shouts “finishing the double, I’ve been there man” and with that finish it I do. My final time was 4:08:09, a 9:28 split, good for 156th place of 533 finishers. It’s the slowest time I’ve run in the last half dozen or so marathons but I’m not particularly bothered by this, all things considered.
The race medal is awesome. At first I wasn’t sure about my pink ribbon but then I noticed it matches my new 1400s perfectly, a sign. The medal, like my plaque, was handmade by a resident of L’arche Mobile. I honestly like it much better than the giant guitar from Jackson.
Post race, grubbed up some food and liquids in the park, listening to a zydeco-type band. My choice of a powdered donut is a poor post-race snack, hydration-wise, it turns out. I reluctantly had to limp back to my hotel far too soon to address some gnarly left foot blister issues and check out before they confiscate my luggage.
After dealing with the hotel I come back down to the finish area to find a beer & real food and some more football. After that I found my way over to tour the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park for a while, though I’m in pain and not terribly mobile to be scrambling up metal ladders. And lastly two interminable connecting flights back to Boston which is where I’m writing this up.
So that’s it. Two marathons in two days. Easy as falling off a bike, you could definitely do it if you wanted to. That said, I don’t know that I’ll be trying this again, but I know better to not rule it out while I am as bone dead tired as I am right now.
Song of the week, You’re The Only Thing In Your Way by Cloud Cult.
I’m not sure that I’ve done the absolute best I could do to prepare for my races next weekend, but there’s not much I can do about it at this point. For the next four days I’ll try to taper down, taking an easy week. Friday early I’m flying to Mobile, AL and then will drive up to Jackson, MS. On Saturday I’ll be running the Mississippi Blues Marathon, then drive back to Mobile. Saturday night I hope I’ll be able to stay awake to watch the Patriots play (and beat) the Colts. And Sunday morning, I’ll wake early again and run the First Light Marathon. And then I’ll fly home.
That’s the plan anyway. It could work out well. Or blow up in my face. My goal is to finish both races in under four hours.
This past week was pretty good for me. I got some more miles in Melrose through the snow without getting hit by a snowplow. Today’s long run in Boston along the Charles was less perilous, sun was out and it almost felt like spring. The river is frozen still but really wanting to melt. The bar chart below shows 8 & 34 miles for weeks 53 & 1 but in reality that’s a normal 42 mile week to start 2014.
Running resolutions for 2014:
Run however many marathons it takes to make me happy (five scheduled thus far).
Finish a couple ultras, including at least one 50 miler.
PR in the half, full and 50K.
Take part in another ultra-style Ragnar or RTB.
Better upkeep of my living environment. Maintain a household clean enough for people to stop by unannounced.
Car maintenance & improvements (get the rear wiper fixed & resolve wiper fluid spray situation).
See all my nieces & nephews at least once a month. The smaller the group, the better (though I’ll still count chaos mobs towards this goal).
Six publications in 2014.
Develop at least one new discrete skill to increase my overall employability.
November was a bit of a downtempo recovery month for me after October’s excesses. I only ran one race, Thanksgiving’s Gobble Gobble Gobble (an annual favorite), raked a bunch of leaves and generally enjoyed the extended fall we were afforded this year.
I love the month of September. It’s got all the best things, like mybirthday, and Isaac’s. This past September also had the Wilmington Half Marathon, and in September I found out I’ll be going to Tokyo early next year. Like I said, all the best things. :)
Merry Christmas! Holiday or no, the year in photos doesn’t take a day off. Highlights of June include: my first attempt at an ultramarathon (my 31 mile DNF in the TARC 50) and (the surprisingly challenging) One Run for Boston.
April was a difficult month for Boston. The positives first: the BAA 5K with Chrissy, the Ring Around the Neck 5 miler and our trip to rainy Nashville for the Country Music Marathon (with YJP, my momma, Chrissy & baby Tate). April was also a low point of 2013 as well as we went through both the bombings at the marathon and the citywide lockdown a few days later.