Drifting like a fire
I brought my mileage back up this week after some downtime last. The most substantial run of the week was 8 miles with some TARC folks at the Fells Saturday morning as a way of starting to prepare for my next race. I started the run with aspirations of doing two laps of the Skyline Trail for something closer to 15/16 miles but two miles in I knocked the contact lens out of my left eye (how, I’m not sure exactly). It turns out it’s very difficult to run trails with one eye in focus and one eye very much out of focus. I tried closing the bad eye but that just made things worse, killing my depth perception. I was also glad to have stopped when I realized I had quickly developed three blisters on my left foot – perhaps new socks or badly tied shoes, I’m not sure. Fortunately with the shorter run I was able to deal with them before they got ugly.
The most exciting running news of the week wasn’t my own but rather YJP’s latest marathon down in Savannah. I know she’d rather I not mention her time but regardless, it was a strong PR and I’m very proud of her. Plus she now has a state I don’t! Until March 23rd, anyway. :)
Song of the week, Moth’s Wings by Passion Pit.
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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.
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 4: The course runs past the MLK Center for Non-violent Social Change.
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.
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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).
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.
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I got the rooster, I got the crow. I got the ebb, I got the flow
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.
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You can’t deny the shore its tide
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.
Song of the week, Tides by Hey Marseilles.
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Get your Moderately on
YJP told me two things of note yesterday: 1) although she accumulated a metric ton of race swag in 2013, she didn’t get any gloves! And 2) she’s taking January 2014 “off”. Both these things are a shame, as the very much enjoyable if frosty frozen Boston Prep 16 is on January 26th! As of today, I’m in for my third shot at that course.
A quick look at my spring long race schedule as it currently stands.
I might try to add another 50K type race in there before the 50M if I can find one that works (the TARC Spring Thaw 6 Hour would have been perfect, but conflicts with Wrightsville).
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Everything’s bitter like sweet things should be.
This week was much better than last. Work went well, I managed to sleep better & with the cooler weather had some good runs after taking Monday off. I have two somewhat new routes – one to the river via Cambridge St, to Mass Ave & return (~6.3 miles) and the new Chandler Pond loop I did today (5.2mi). Trying to mix things up from my normal short options. My long run this week was 17.7 trail miles with TARC on Saturday in the Fells – quite a bit more challenging and mentally engaging than a usual river run of this length. More social as well – the TARC group stopped every loop for a break and to reorganize, no one was left behind. I liked that, and want to do more runs with these guys.
I’m not entirely serious about this at this point but I’ll go ahead and say – I did in fact put an entry into the Tokyo Marathon lottery today. It’s possible to enter the lottery without committing with a credit card, so I just went ahead and did it. The lottery drawing is next month, and the race, if I end up doing it, is near the end of February. The biggest concern is 1) the flight, which is not remotely cheap, and 2) taking the time off from work. The race is just three weeks prior to the start of my current spring racing plan, which was to run the Wrightsville Beach & Georgia Marathons in mid-March, with a week off in the Outer Banks in between. I’m not entirely sure I can afford do both.
My next for-sure race though is two weeks from tomorrow: the TARC Summer Classic 50K. Should be fun. Hopefully the weather will be forgiving.
Song of the week, Sweet Sweet Heartkiller by Say Hi to Your Mom. The lyrics are kinda dumb but the loop has been stuck in my head all week.
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