NYC 2014

Fantastic day at the NYC marathon. Hondo & I ran this race in 2005, she finished, I didn’t. Fast forward nine years, I’ve won the lottery & get to give it another shot.

NYC MarathonI took a bus to New York down from Boston early Saturday morning, the day after Halloween. The expo is near my hotel at the Javit’s Center – it’s massive, and most of the cool gear is sold out before I even get there (same thing happened to me at the Chicago Marathon). I do manage to find a sweatshirt that I rather like.

Down to the start ass early the next morning. It’s a half-hour walk from my hotel to the park where a mass of runners will catch a bus to Staten Island. Which, it turns out, is a frigid, freezing place to kill a couple of hours. If I ever do this again I will bring a tyvek windsuit. Given the temps I decided to run in shorts instead of tights, which is great during the race but utterly miserable waiting for the start.

NYC Marathon

The race begins over the Verranzo Narrows Bridge. I’ve dumped my sweatshirt and warm hat well before crossing the start line – in retrospect this was a mistake. It’s *incredibly* windy up here on the bridge – I’m buffeted so strongly I have to take my (non-warm) hat off lest I lose it over the edge.

Mile 8

The first phase through Brooklyn is fairly quick. The sun peeks out for the first time at mile 4.5 and the cold stops being an issue after that. What it remains though is the wind, which remain throughout the race (particularly on the bridges). I see my people cheering for the first time at mile 8 or so and am feeling pretty good.

Cheering in Harlem

Things are going more or less fine up through Brooklyn and Queens until around mile 16, coming across back into Manhattan, a long slow bridge run without support. My pace here creeps up. There’s a huge crowd of people when we first get off the bridge, but they’re not really lifting me up the way I had hoped, and my pace stays slow. Most of the next three miles up through Manhattan into Harlem I’m busy psyching myself out thinking about my previous attempt at this race which failed in right about this location. I’m hurting and tempted to walk a little but don’t, settling for a slow pace instead. At mile 19 I convince myself I’ve missed the Bylers at our 2nd location but finally see Steven first and then the rest of the crew, cheering on the left side.

NYC Marathon

Once I’m in the Bronx I know it’s a quick turnaround then south to home. My cheerers are at mile 22 again, I just feel like crying and dying here. My pace climbs above 9:00 here, and above 10:00 at mile 23, where unfortunately it stays. The last four miles are some of the prettiest parts of the course, coming down into Manhattan along and through Central Park but I am not appreciative as one might ought to be.

Mile 19

Marathoner and his fans

I came through the finish with a final time of 3:50:54. This is not a particularly fast time for me, but it’s sub-4, and given how wobbly I feel through the medal shoot I’m going to take it and be happy with what I have. Such an amazing contrast how much worse I feel with a 12 minute slower time than three weeks ago in Hartford. I eventually end up in a medical tent where I sit for a half hour or so while the medical staff determines my enzymes are not messed up enough to merit real attention. Off I go back into the wind to find my people, celebratory pretzels and (eventually) a beer or three.

NYC Marathon

So that was that, my NYC Marathon experience for 2014. Not my fastest, my best or my strongest. But definitely the one I’ve waited for the longest. I’m glad to have done it, and very glad that Christine, Steve & the boys were there to help me make it through it.

Fifty states 2014

If I haven’t screwed up the record-keeping I’m 24 states into my long term plan to run a marathon in all fifty states. This past year I ran nine marathons or longer, adding seven new states (New York, Connecticut, Utah, Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi). Next year I have three firm race states planned (Kansas, Wisconsin & Minnesota). Colorado and Alaska are a little less firm but plans exist, and one of these days dangit I’ll up and get Florida done. So six goals for 2015!
Fifty states 2014 update


I went down to Warwick RI today for a 6 hour open-ended ultramarathon thing. This was my first timed event – as many laps of the city park as you want, as long as you finish the last before the clock hits 6:00:00. I wanted to get 12 laps for 32.4 miles, but eventually stopped at 11 (@ 2.7 miles each = 29.7 miles in total). Beautiful weather, mid-40s to 50s, mostly shaded, nice breeze. The first 16 miles were pretty solid then things started to fall apart a bit, I started walking parts of laps and ran-walked the rest. I finished at 5:11 and decided with the way my toenails and hot spots felt I didn’t need to push for a last lap. Still, good enough for 28th place for my 28th marathon, a nice bit of serendipity. Quite a contrast today, running alone (for the most part) through the woods compared to the solid masses of the field in New York City last weekend. Both, quite enjoyable, in their own way.

Rhode Island 6 hour Rhode Island 6 hour Rhode Island 6 hour

Let’s play catch up

Well I’ve done an absolute shit job of updating this blog of late.

Here are the races I’ve run since my last post. I’ll turn these into links to race recaps, eventually. Maybe. For now I’ll put a three word summary of each one.

9/5: Bird-in-Hand 5K (Unintentional 5K PR)
9/6: Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon (Heat stroke disaster)
9/13: Big Cottonwood Marathon (Downhill birthday blow-up)
9/28: Wilmington Half Marathon (Hot & miserable)
10/12: Hartford Marathon (Cold rainy fun)
10/17: COV5K (Fifth place! PR)

The race I’ve been waiting for (for the past three years) is coming up in one week – the NYC marathon. I’ll be going down a week from tomorrow – the race itself is 11/2. I am very, very excited.
Central Park

Old Port Half

Old Port HalfA brief write up of the Old Port Half Marathon in Portland, ME.

The start was fairly crowded/chaotic – I couldn’t meet up with Nate before the start but saw him up near the front. The restroom line was in a parking lot that cars were trying to cut through to get to the ferry, a mess. The start line itself was on a pier so there wasn’t really any access from the sides other than the pathway that shunted us all around to the back, so I was never able to make it further up than a 9:30 pace group.

As the race started running south along the main waterfront drag. Only one lane of this road was closed off leading to too much congestion. People starting hopping under the barrier to run free into (the fairly light) oncoming traffic, which seemed like a good idea to me. Both the main hills in the course were in the front half – at mile three there was a fairly major one and another lesser one at mile 6 or so. The second led us up to the Eastern Promenade, a new part of Portland to me with gorgeous panoramic views of the harbor. This was a highlight of the race.

Most of the second half of the race was a big loop on a dirt path around something called Back Cove. It was low tide so there were mud flats – somewhat less scenic than I had imagined. I could see myself running there regularly if I lived in Portland though. Lots of locals out and about.

The finish came along the waterfront. I had been running with the 1:45 pace group but my time was 1:40:55. My watch showed 12.7 miles, and after reading some online discussions with other people it seems as though the course was cut short (I’m pretty sure it happened between miles 4-6, as that’s where I first noticed my watch diverging from the mile markers – there was no marker for mile 5). I’m not too bothered by the discrepancy but would have been if I were running faster or trying for a PR. Post-race celebration by the harbor, free beer or two, crash in the grass. A pleasant morning altogether.



Seems I’ve been running in the wrong direction


A second weekend in a row with a decent 13+ mile long run has put a little confidence back in me for my upcoming half-marathon two weeks from today. I’ll be running the Old Port Half up in Portland for the first time. I don’t expect to be fast, both because of lingering foot pain, and the fact that it’s July. Both of the longer races I’ve run in past Julys (the Narragansett Half last year and the Mad Marathon the year before) have been painfully slow. This one starts at 7am so done before 9, maybe that will be more ok. The course looks pretty much coastal, so maybe there will be a breeze off the harbor! That would be nice.

Song of the week, The Wrong Direction by Passenger.

And soon all you’ll have is the memory

I’ve been broken for a while now, since my post from the TARC Spring Classic the end of April. The injury was more severe than I thought at the time I wrote that, worse than any of my previous ankle problems. I spent the first week post-injury trying to hobble around at work, the joint itself being completely inflexible, unable to bear weight. The next two weeks after that were spent trying to gain my ability to even walk normally back, though I found that I could tolerate a stationary bike instead. And then the last two weeks I’ve finally be able to slowly run, first on a treadmill then carefully, I’m getting back into the swing of things outdoors. My ankle isn’t exactly “fixed” per se, but I’m able to move and get some (very slow) miles in. It’s not perfect but I’ll take it. My best run of this past week was 10 miles from my hotel to the summit of Mt. Royal and back. I was very grateful to be physically able to do that, even at what feels like 50% my normal operating capacity.

I had to bail on my planned 50 mile race (which was yesterday). Which bummed me out quite a lot. My next race, by which I have set myself the goal of running pain free at a modest conversational speed, is the Old Port Half Marathon on July 13th in Portland Maine.
Song of the week, Proceed to Memory by Pinback.

My kind of life’s no better off, if it’s got the map, or if it’s lost

Pre-race meeting I'm ahead of him!
Yesterday I had the TARC Spring Classic 50K. I wanted to have a fun race report to write up today but instead it’s pretty grim. Course was fairly runnable – it was supposed to rain all night but that held off until just after the race started. I was super psyched because Nate & Steve were both running with me – I had talked them into running the half marathon. They started with an extra little loop that put them behind me, but Nate passed me at mile 2.5, flying, Steve a few miles later (Nate ended up finishing 6th!). The first lap was great, under 1 hour for 10K, a pace I was happy with. I ran into Steve again at the aid station and he & I started to run the second lap together when maybe two miles in I slipped on an easy downhill slope and sprained my left ankle fairly severely. I tried to run on it to see if it would loosen but over the next 4 miles it got worse and worse to the point where I couldn’t walk without leaning on him. I am so grateful he didn’t leave me behind when I hurt myself – I was so confident I could make it back the the transition area but by the end I’m not sure that I would have been able to alone. This probably cost him a half hour as far as his own personal finishing time went. I had to drop out of the race at 20K and hobbled my way home (sometimes I hate having a manual transmission), where I’ve been stuck gimping around my apartment since, a weekend wasted. This is at least as bad as the injury I got a few years ago on the other ankle. It friggin sucks.

So anyway. I’m two for four in finishing TARC events thus far, not a great batting average. Maybe trail running isn’t for me after all. I don’t know. I have a 50M race I was going to try in June (a repeat of my prior TARC DNF) but as of now I’m not sure if I’ll give that a go or not. I’m feeling pretty down about the whole situation.

Song of the week, Farewell Transmission from Songs: Ohia.

Boston Marathon 2014

In the past few weeks I have been asked a considerable number of times if I was running the marathon today. I am not. Every time someone says this, I respond “No, but my little sister is!” whether they know her or not. Experience has taught me this doesn’t help the flow of conversation well, as it turns out the kind of people who ask this question don’t really want to ask a follow-up question about other runners, they’re just being polite.
Organizing meeting
YJP, V&JK and I were all volunteering at mile 7 for the race today. We got down there early, just after 7am. Sweet blue jackets. We set up tables, signs for water & gatorade. The fluids for the racers are stored in lined trash cans with ice underneath, to keep it at least moderately cold. We covered our table with half-filled cups, layered with posterboard, covered again, and built skyward until we had four layers. Then we waited for the runners.
Elite women IMG_8150
The elites were first, of course. That’s Shalane Flanagan on the left, and in the men’s photo you can see the eventual winner, Meb Keflezighi. First American winner since 1983!! These elite guys weren’t supposed to take water from us as they had their own fluid stations along the way. Soon after they passed, however, we had a terrifying pack of sub-elites fly through, slamming water everywhere. I thought it was going to be a long wet day based on how many times I got splashed in this first wave. I saw Joan Benoit run through (she finished with a 2:52:10).

The race itself consisted of four waves, and given that we were so close to the start at mile 7 the gaps between the waves were quite noticeable. So the volunteers had a bit of downtime to regroup, refill, rebuild our water supplies. The second wave was decidedly less aggressive, the third even less so. The fourth wave was exceedingly polite – this is where we really started to get thank yous. Some people stopping dead in their tracks, some to chat.

The best part of the fourth wave, of course, was when Christine came through. YJP & I had been tracking her on Find My Friends so had a rough idea that she was getting closer, but the density of runners was such at the time she was near that we couldn’t really pause from our tasks until she magically appeared at our table for high-fives and hugs.
IMG_8163 Mile 13 IMG_8159
And like that, POOF she was gone, us with more water to hand out, her with 19 more miles down the road. Our tasks slowly petered out as the runner density waned, until the bitter end where we just shoveled loose cups & Gu packets from the road into trash bags. We wrapped up around 2pm, slowly worked our way back to Allston then down towards the Comm Ave mall to see Christine come by once more at mile 26. Steven & the boys were there, as were a TON more people than usual (supposedly turnout this year was double was it’s been recently). We couldn’t get a spot at the fence but managed to see both Chrissy & Marc as they went by from a few rows back.
Messages of support
After they passed, we wandered down to the Common to find the finishers at the family meeting area. Chrissy was very smiley (much more so than I expected!) and one recovery iced coffee later was ready for post-race celebratory beers. I think she ended up staying out later than I did (because I am old). All in all a fantastic day, a beautiful, safe race. Am happy for that.


Finish lineI’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.

Nine pairWhen 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.

Been down this road so many times, feels like it’s skin is part of mine.

GoofyNext 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.

At St. E's at sunsetI’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.

Still not sure what I am looking for

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.
Slight problem with my trail runners If you stick to the side-snow it's just fine Ice
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.

And you know that I’m doomed to repeat this, with all the bad habits that I’ve learned

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.

Georgia MarathonFrom 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.

BelugaThe 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.

At the startRace 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.

Flowering treesStart: 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 4: The course runs past the MLK Center for Non-violent Social Change.

Downhill by the Carter CenterMile 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.

Georgia MarathonMile 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).

Brumley BridgeMile 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.

Lake Clara MeerMile 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.

Georgia MarathonFinish: 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.

Paying my dues to the dirt

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).

Corral 1 & 2Wilmington 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.

At the startRace 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.

Over the intercoastal waterwayThe 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. My pace leader blurry as all heckThis 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). Run & doneI 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.

Carry the critterAfter 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.

Wrightsville Beach MarathonA 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.

Ban the zero, ban the noise

River ice breaking up by the MOSThe 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. Wrightsville Beach MarathonSpring 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. :/

Song of the week, In Every Direction by Junip.

I got the rooster, I got the crow. I got the ebb, I got the flow

ItsukushimaAn 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 2014

Tokyo Marathon race recap! This may go on a bit as I tend to ramble.

D 25581Flight 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).

P1010203At 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. At the start (confetti canons)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.

Tokyo Tower12K: 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.

Nat & KPH16K: 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).

Asakusa Kaminarimon Gate (just past 27K)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.

P101023135K: 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.

GPS problemsThe 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 IMG_5263even 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.

Distance Chicago Marathon cumulative split Tokyo Marathon cumulative split
5K 0:24:32 7:54 0:24:52 8:00
10K 0:48:35 7:49 0:48:52 7:52
15K 1:13:12 7:51 1:12:49 7:49
20K 1:37:37 7:51 1:37:17 7:50
25K 2:02:11 7:52 2:01:49 7:51
30K 2:27:24 7:54 2:27:32 7:55
35K 2:52:49 7:57 2:54:13 8:01
40K 3:19:14 8:01 3:23:17 8:11
Finish 3:30:25 8:02 3:36:17 8:15

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.


My family is hilarious

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.
IMG_1623 Run, Nathanael! Love, Lee IMG_1652
IMG_1654 IMG_1644 IMG_1633
IMG_1630 IMG_1624 IMG_1616
IMG_1637 IMG_1605 IMG_1603
IMG_1612 IMG_1609 Go Nathanael!
christine tate dad
eben steve Run, Uncle Brub! Love, Isaac