YJP & I drove up from Balitmore, arriving in New Jersey on Saturday for the expo, which was located at horse race track (Monmouth Park). Saturday was coincidentally the same day as the Kentucky Derby. I didn’t place any bets, and we also decided against waiting around three hours for the race to go off.
Dinner was had at some rando Italian place that was packed with seniors at 6pm. I lost my headphones in Bethesda earlier in the week so we stopped by Target to grab a pair – they didn’t have exactly the right kind of cheapo Sonys but the ones I got are close enough.
This week’s race started a bit later than last week’s, so I slept until 4am. Up with coffee, trying not to step on either YJP or Turtle, both of whom were condemned to sleep on the floor of an otherwise fairly nice hotel room.
YJP dropped me at Monmouth at 6:30, just in time to see the half marathon start at 6:45. It’s not exactly clear to me why the half went 75 minutes before the full buy the upside was all the massive lines at the porta-potties cleared out immediately leaving plenty of access for nervous peeing. I snagged a discarded sweatshirt from the side of the road as it was a good it colder than I had realized.
At 8am, we were off. I was supposed to be in corral B but think I started in C as my group was the third to go. Somehow I was behind the 3:50 pace group, it was not my intention to start this far back.
The first seven Miles were winding around neighborhoods, pretty zig-zaggy. I worked my way up to the 3:30 pace group, faster than I intended to run for the day.
I saw YJP at mile 5.5, a good thing. No signs this week, but this one crossed my mind. I couldn’t see Turtle at first but realized she was staked out in a median grass strip.
For miles 7 to 11 were spent slaloming around the slower half runners/walkers. Mostly this was fine, less so at some water stops. So yeah, definitely unsure about the logic of sending them first. At 11 the full course split off and headed south.
At 12 I saw YJP again. Again, a good thing.
At the half mark I was at 1:43:34. This is pretty quick for me for the first half of a full, 40+ seconds faster than I was last week in Nashville where I set a new marathon PR.
At mile 15 I see the lead male runner (and eventual winner) coming back the other way. Not exactly sure what mile he’s at but I guesstimate he’s six miles ahead of me. Dude is ripped, later I find out that that was Oz Pearlman, magician & marathoner. I knew of him earlier because a while back I watched this video about him running the Athens to Sparta “Spartathlon” race in 2012.
The bottom of the course did a bit if weaving around various water obstacles, Deal lake, Wesley Lake (which was really more of a canal). Some parts of the course was on small footbridges, they had volunteers specifically in place to warn of footing issues, step down, etc.
At mile 17 I made eye contact with someone along the course – he says, “You look fanTAStic Nathanael!” There’s no way this is true but it’s appreciated, really nice to have direct support coming straight to you at a moment of weakness. I like having my name on my number.
Somewhere around here in Asbury Park the course passes what looks like a couple of interesting venues. There’s the Wonder Bar (presumably unrelated to the Allston dance club), and also the Stone Pony, where I learn that Limp Bizkit still exists, and is playing Monday night. A band on some porch is covering Michael Jackson, Billie Jean. I like these informal spontaneous bands a lot.
The turn around is at mile 19. I’ve been slowly losing speed, but things start to come apart a mile later at 20 (this is where I first calculate how slow I’d be if I walked the last six miles). Someone handed me a half-banana here (my emergency rescue food of choice) and I was so happy to have it, before it dropped out of my hand uneaten. There’s no bending over and picking things up at this point, like your keys in a lava flow, let ‘em go, because man, they’re gone.
I see YJP again at 22, she’s all supportive but I’m really hurting here. My splits for the last four miles are all in the 8:30-9:00 range, and I decide not to push. Christine had sent me a text the night before asking me not to kill myself and I agreed, telling her my goal was sub-3:40, so I try to stick with that number and recalibrate my math. The last few miles are head down focus & finish. The sun has coming out and I’m losing a steady stream of water off the brim of my hat. These miles are along the waterfront, to my right I can see where the boardwalk used to be – for all the “Boston Strong” stuff I’ve heard down here (which, don’t get me wrong, is appreciated) it’s easy to forget that Hurricane Sandy really hit this area quite hard only six months ago, killing 37. The marathon shirts here say Run * Restore * Rebuild for a reason.
There’s another band and a good amount of positive atmosphere at mile 25 that makes it feel like this should be the finish area – unfortunately it was not. At 25.5 someone yells something at me about Austin because of the shirt I’m wearing – I try to throw them horns but there’s a good chance I screwed it up and said ‘I love you’ in sign language instead. Either way I’m hurting and barely making it. The photos from the finish line photographers are not flattering this time around (other than these).
I see YJP one last time in the crush of people at the finish (no idea how she got there so fast) then pull through to the end. Sweet medal. My finish time is 3:39:38, an 8:23 split, almost six minutes slower than last week. The sun is out in full force and is really too bright for me at this point – I’m sick, nauseous for a solid 45 minutes or so before we stumble back to the car to find a Mexican place for Cinco de Mayo & the long ride back to Baltimore. I’m so very glad I don’t have to drive.
So, not my fastest race, but for sure my fastest marathon on one week’s rest. And while going out too quick is usually my archnemesis, today I felt happy to have tried it – if I could have hung the last six miles I would have PR’d, and also I think these crash & burns can teach a bit about the boundaries of possibility we’re working with.
Thanks one last time to superfans YJP & Turtle for coming out to cheer for me, for driving up from Balto & for tolerating the hotel floor so that I could sleep. That was really above and beyond.
This was my third marathon of the year – I’ll be taking a break from this distance for a while to work on some different things. Next up for me race wise, a Reach the Beach ultra relay in two weeks. I’ve really been looking forward to this race.
Song of the week, Wagon Wheel, the Old Crow Medicine Show version from a 2010 Mixcorp mix. I only learned just prior to this race there’s another version of this song by Darius Rucker – who I further just learned is a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Those two facts are officially TMI about Darius Rucker. For exhaustiveness sake, here’s the original Bob Dylan version as well.
Unlike most of the races I do, the Country Music Marathon in Nashville was on a Saturday. Maybe it’s a Southern church thing, I don’t know. Its cetainly not to help coordinate with other regional races as the nearest two others this weekend (Louisville and Champaign/Urbana) were both on the same Saturday as well. Regardless, I took the day off Friday to head down to Nashville for expo & some top-secret poking around town business.
Also unlike most of the races I do, part of my family came with to cheer – I was really psyched about this. My mom has wanted to see a race for some time but the Sunday thing has been a problem for them. We scored fairly cheap nonstop flights ($160?!) so were able to grab a third for Christine, who brought the free-ridin’ Tate along for the trip. This is his second marathon (he came to Newport last year) which is pretty good for someone who isn’t even one yet.
The original idea to run Nashville came from YJP, as part of an extension of our Austin plan. Timing being fortuitous, we met up at the airport and headed to the expo. This is a Rock ‘n’ Roll event which for better or worse leads you to expect a certain consistency. Which was what we had. No surprised. Shirts were white and IMO boring, which seems to be a trend in this race series. I haven’t worn the New Orleans or St. Louis shirts since those races, and don’t see myself wearing this one either. The hat Christine bought me, however, is pretty sweet.
My family has a few relatives living south of Nashville so Friday afternoon was spent down there. Our Louisiana cousins drove up as well, a sort of semi-impromptu family reunion. I was glad to see everyone but at the same time happy to be able to call it an early night, heading to bed at my hotel around 7pm.
3am, up and at it. My hotel was freezing. I checked out the window, rain seemed to be gentle. Ok maybe this won’t be bad.
5am, YJP showed up at my hotel. We met a third friend who ran Ragnar Florida Keys with us last January, and walked down to the finish line for a shuttle to the start. By now it was raining heavily. As I got on the bus I realized that I had left the clear gear check bag required by post-boston security upgrades back at the hotel. This was a problem. I ended up checking my jacket, the only warm item I brought with me to Tennessee, in yjp’s bag.
The start was near a scale model of the Parthenon just west of downtown. I was in corral 2 as I had been a bit over optimistic with my finish time back when I registered. Start was delayed five minutes or so for last minute car towings. This is fairly common and I try to roll but the pouring rain makes it hard to be easy going about the wait.
Mile 4: I see Christine & my mom on the left side, I’m over toward the right if a fairly wide course that’s still fairly dense so can’t make my way over. Not thinking much about pace at this point.
Mile 9: I see them again here – this time I get a high five. I tell Christine I’m feeling awesome, which is surprising given the rain. Which remains heavy. There’s a mat at 9.9 miles for some reason, later I’ll see I’m under 8:00 splits.
At half I’m at 1:44:21, a 7:58 split. This is pretty decent for me – I didn’t realize at the time this is some 80 seconds faster than my half time in Austin, my standing marathon PR. Just past the half mark we’re heading down a steep hill that’s being bisected by what’s basically a little ankle-deep river and some dude cruising past me says “this is totally the log flume of marathons”. Yeah.
Mile 17: we cross over the river into East Nashville. I look for the cheer squad here but no luck. The Titans stadium is right across the river, this part of the course gave pretty good views of it. I’m talking to some guy here about Boston qualifying times – he’s running with his son who is 19.
The course from 17-20 winds up through a quite nice neighborhood. I know there’s a chance mom & Christine will be at 20 when I get there but they’re not – this is fine, actually the thinking about it serves a purpose of occupying the brain whether I see them or not. Mile 21-25 is a loop around a big park with a lake in the center – it’s raining quite heavily here and most of the paths are flooded, it’s hard to say where the lake ends and the park begins. YJP told me later she saw ducks padding on the grass, I completely believe that.
The race starts to get difficult for me at mile 23 which is later than usual. I know there’s a cheering squad at 25, so I break the remainder up into 2 & 1.2 mile segments. At 25 these kids are going nuts (enthusiasm was high all along the course today but here particularly). This last 1.2 I’m really pressing – I think I’m just shy of a PR but am not really sure. At 26, just prior to the left turn into the stadium I see Christine on the far right side of the course screaming at me. I can’t really put it together mentally why or how she’s there but she is. Three seconds later YJP is also in the same peripheral view, coming the other direction heading out towards 20. Having not seen anyone since mile 9 – this is really pretty remarkably awesome coincidence right before the finish & gives a boost – you can see from the GPS map above in the last half mile I go from 8:30 splits to a finish of 7:09 – that’s all the cheer squad’s doing.
Across the line, final time of 3:33:46, an 8:09 split – this is a new marathon PR for me by 24 seconds! Though I don’t realize this for almost an hour. I’m 244 of 2705 overall, top 10%, and top 15% by sex & age division. I score some chocolate milk and a mushy banana and trip over to the family meeting area. It’s hard to make it there – the rain is more obvious & painful once I stop running, it reminds me a lot of the Maine Marathon & that post-race desire to GTFO. I sit in the meeting area for a few minutes trying to get it together before realizing I should motivate before I start to freeze. It’s another mile walk from there to the hotel & I’m frozen solid shaking by the time I make it there. Tennessee was supposed to be warm but this is NOT.
The one downside of getting so cold from sitting in the rain is I didn’t get to wait at the finish line for YJP. I think she forgives me, kinda, but it’s not 100% certainty. I’ll have to figure out a way to make it up to her.
We took a bonus day in Nashville the day after & visited the Grand Ole Opry, bought some new boots, went line dancing, the works. I liked this, hanging out a bit instead of flying home immediately, legs cramping. A small luxury. And Nashville totally is an interesting place that deserves future exploration.
Song of the week & a reliable member of my long run mix, An Argument with Myself by Jens Lekman.
Texas was colder than I thought it would be. I did not bring a long sleeve shirt with me – clearly this was a mistake. I’m down here to run the Austin Marathon – following, a brief recap.
Woke at 2am. Too early. Woke at 3am. Much better. I do not want for sleep the morning of a race. I can sleep later. YJP does not share this worldview, a fact I learn at 3:30am when she tells me to go away.
We have a rough plan to leave at 5am & be at the race site at 5:30. Stepping outside, I’m sure I can see my breath. I cannot get independent verification of this fact. I’m guessing she wouldn’t humor me just because she’s grumpy in the morning.
We park right off the interstate in downtown Austin, maybe four blocks from the capitol building. The start is north of the structure, the gear check to the south, by the finish. The problem here is without sleeves, dropping my thin jacket at gear check leaves me exposed. I compromise and retain my gloves.
There aren’t starting corrals for Austin. YJP & I have decided to start together, as we did for Baltimore. She humors me by moving up – we find a spot a dozen yards behind the 3:40 pace group. I briefly contemplate hiding my gloves in the bushes here but eye contact with a state trooper makes me change my mind. They’ll come along.
The star spangled banner, a press forward, and we’re off. The timing of the start is perfect, with early sunlight starting to hit the tips of the taller downtown structures.
The first few miles are spent winding around downtown. At mile 2 we cross the Congress St bridge (aka Bat Bridge) and begin a two mile climb south. This street is fascinating – keep Austin weird is a city motto and the businesses here fully embrace this ethic. I have no idea what any of them sell but I’m guessing retro lava lamps.
I’m running the hill with the 3:35 pace group. The leaders all are wearing cat in the hat headgear and are exhorting the crowd to cheer for them (the crowds obliges, which is actually kinda nice). I hadn’t planned to run this fast and wonder if I could run the whole distance with these guys.
At 5.5 we make a turn over and begin the descent back to the river. Here I pick up speed and leave the 3:35s behind. My GPS shows I was running in the 7:30s for this part of the course – this is closer to my half-marathon speed, not something I can sustain for the full.
At the half-marathon mark I’m across at 1:45:41, a decent pace, 8:04 per mile. I don’t calculate this average until later – had I I would have most certainly thougt it was too fast. For the next few miles after the half mark I follow behind a group of four people that I eventually learn are with Gilbert’s Gazelles, an Austin running group. The oldest dude here knows everyone along the course, random people along both sides of the course shout out to him from behind fences and BBQs. It’s pretty cool.
YJP and I had talked through the second half of the course the night before, which was far more helpful than me reading it solo. Maybe it’s auditory recall that helps. Regardless, I know two facts. At mile 18.5 I’ll be as far away from downtown as we’ll get, and at 19 it’s all downhill from that. The former turns out to be true, the latter not so much.
I’m struggling a bit at 18 and am worried about fuel. I take a half banana from a lady on the right of the course and a twizzler from two girls on the right. I pass up oranges everywhere – the acid of citrus holds no appeal to me. I’ve finished two of my three Gu’s and no more are forthcoming on the course which makes me nervous.
The hills beyond 19 are not large, but they are dispiriting. Since I dropped the 3:35s at mile six I’ve been telling myself I just need to build enough cushion between myself and them so that if I struggle later, the downhill will be my saving grace. Unfortunately this plan doesn’t work – I can hear them coming before they steamroll me at 21.5. I’m running 8:20 miles here, eight seconds off their pace, and won’t be able to regain them.
At 23 though, I turn a corner, taking my last gu. It really is almost all downhill from here, and by some magic I’m able to keep the 3:35s in sight. I know I started behind them at the beginning, so on some level am aware I can finish behind them and still be under their pace time.
The last mile is surprisingly desolate. I drop my headphones and focus on not breaking myself. On cue I have left calf & thigh twinges, threats of muscles that are contemplating seizure. This had happened a couple times before (the threat, not the follow through), and luckily enough that eventuality can wait for another day.
Crowds started to build around 25.5. I’m aware that YJP & her friends are likely here somewhere but I can’t see them, can’t focus on the crowd when I hear someone shouting at me. An unofficial pacer who ha been running nearby for the last mile exhorts his runner enthusiastically – at the second to last bend a race official escorts him off the course. We needed him, dude!
But there it is. Last hill, corner, corner, finish. Final time, 3:34:10, an 8:10 split and new marathon PR for me. I’m paces behind the 3:35 group and hear one of the girls in that group tell the pacer that she qualified for Boston with his help, this almost makes me cry in the moment. I’m still a long way from that myself, I’ll have to knock almost a minute per mile off my pace to get down to 3:10 that men my age need to run, but there’s such an odd feeling of possibility – this goal is simultaneously unfathomable and completely achievable. Two years ago I could not have thought I could run a marathon through with strength, one year ago I had never broken 4 hours or run a marathon under 9:00 minute splits yet here I am. I can’t run a 7:15 pace for a marathon yet, but in the bigger sense I know I can do it, it is possible, I am on a trajectory that will take me there. It’s an achieveable goal.
Post race is blur. I stumble through grinning deliriously and find my people. Reclaim bag & phone and drink some water. The finish line band is The Derailers playing to mostly empty tables in the middle of an empty street. We rest a while and progress onward for beers and other less important calories.
I had a big (for me) race this week – the Boston Prep 16. Last year VK ran this with me but this year he’s too busy having a baby or whatnot so I drove up to Derry alone. It was bitter cold but I wore my new black longsleeve top which has some magic flocking inside it so I was pretty much alright once we got moving. My water did freeze near the end of the race though, which was unfortunate.
This course is fairly hilly, or “moderately challenging“, but I like it. Next time I’ll remember that mile 9 has a particularly wicked turn up a hill – pretty much 9 through 12 was up up up but the last few were fast. You can see the turn I’m talking about above – three quarters of the way through where the green line of my pace takes a dive and the blue line climbs in elevation – that’s a serious hill at 10 1/2, the 9 mile hill is just prior to that. Regardless, I ended with a 2:02:39 (a 7:40 split), some 7+ minutes faster than I ran last year. It’s not exactly a fair comparison but for context my half marathon PR split is 7:18 and my marathon PR split is 8:13 so this was comfortably in the middle of those two. I came in 116th overall (of 555) and 24th of 66 in my age/sex group. From these numbers it’s clear that the folks who are motivated enough to run this particular race are a little more serious than many of the others I do.
Mileage this week was pretty decent. Austin Marathon is three weeks from today.
Song of the week, 1940 by The Submarines. Very motivational when this song kicks on in my long run mix.
One day shy of the one year anniversary of my run at the Baltimore Running Festival, I found myself in the state of my birth running the Amica Newport Marathon. I’ve been looking forward to this since last December, Newport has been my primary focus for a fall marathon. My expectations have been tempered of late as I’m not done dealing with my birthday ankle sprain, and to boot I’m not quite over this dumb cold.
I drove down to Newport arriving at 5pm the Saturday before the race. The expo was at the Newport Yachting Center, which really just meant it was in a big tent in the parking lot outside. It was surprisingly cold here! The weather channel said race day would be 60+ but the afternoon before feels more like 40. I am underdressed.
Race day! I got up at 4:30am, hyper hydrated per usual, breakfast of two bagel halves + extra crunchy Jif. I brought iced coffee with me – maybe a bit too much as my anxiety was running high. I could hear the wind roaring outside and for whatever reason really managed to psych myself out about the conditions. Inside the house I was staying at it was quite cold, and it wasn’t until I went out to the car at 6:30am that I realized the wind itself wasn’t as bitter as I thought it would be.
In addition to my cough & congestion problems I’ve been feeling fairly nauseous lately, pretty much ever since the finish of the BAA Half (I wasted the entire Columbus Day holiday sick in bed). Some of this morning’s sickness may have been normal nerves but overall it was worse than usual, I seriously felt like barfing, before/during/after. The series of texts I sent Christine before she was even up was particularly pitiful but fortunately she was able to snap me out of it somewhat with breathing exercises.
I headed down to the start, arriving at 7am. There was a schoolbus shuttle to the start from the parking lot at Second Beach – I stood in line for the bus for about 60 seconds before I made the executive decision that today would be a two-shirt + long sleeve kind of day.
Bus to the start. Part of the reason I have been so excited about this race is it started right on the spit of land where I stayed for Nate & Lucy’s wedding a few years ago. In fact, the start line is exactly where I sprained my ankle the day morning of the wedding, stepping off a curb and almost into a oncoming car. This pavement, it has long been reasoned, owed me.
So. The race. I was late to the chute and couldn’t figure out how to get in – there were no gaps anywhere on the side I was on. Eventually I limbo’d through the fence somewhere behind the 9:00 split sign. The start was delayed for 10-15 minutes for reasons unexplained – I never heard an anthem, an announcement or even a go. This is a sign of poor organization. But eventually, we went.
The course starts up a small hill into Newport proper. At mile two we were just south of downtown Newport, mile four a small loop through the parking lot of Fort Adams State Park (I had never been there before). Mile 6 was a bit more interesting – this passed by Castle Hill, the area I explored earlier this summer during a wedding I was filming.
Miles 6 to 7.5 was to my mind the most difficult stretch of road I can recall running. The course here was along Ocean Ave, wrapping around the southwestern-most bit of Aquidneck Island. The wind off the ocean was absolutely brutal. I know this area is breathtakingly beautiful – when I was here in July I hung out on these rocks for hours. Today, it was miserable, only way to run was with head down. I thought I was going to lose my glasses, and kept a hand to my number lest that tear off.
Miles 8 through 10 were more sheltered, winding through some cool ponds and houses. At 10 the course turned north on Bellevue, alongside the mansions of Newport. We passed Breakers at 11, and the crowd began to build here. This was one of the more exciting parts of the race, the buildup to the finish of the first half. People around me were picking up their pace and people were screaming that we were almost finished – I actually would have been happy to have been done at this point. I think in general I prefer if there’s a split earlier in the race where the half & full diverge so we don’t have to get all excited about a false ending. Anyway, we turned east past the entrance to the Cliff Walk and the halfers finished roughly where we started.
Mile 15 was the next notable point for me – coming into this downhill I started looking for my people and eventually found them at 15 3/4ths along Second Beach. I tried to high-five Ebs but missed again – this bothered me because the same thing happened at Quincy earlier this year and I learned later he was upset.
The 16-17 stretch was pretty miserable. This out & back was so windy, similar to 6-7.5, but now with the bonus of blowing sand. Steven told me later that sand gets airborne at 25mph wind – if so the gusts were well above this. Sandblast to the face – I was picking it out of my ears nose and mouth for the next 24 hours. Some guys on the leeward side of the dune were parasailing – this is a smarter choice for an entertainment option than running on a day like today.
At mile 17.5 I saw my peeps again – Steven on the right and Christine & Tate on the left (Eben hiding from the wind in the car). I wasn’t too familiar with the course (I hadn’t looked at the map in some months) so didn’t realize until here that pretty much the rest of the course was one long out & back along the eastern coast. Rolling hills here, fairly reasonably sized but not horrible. More depressing was just how long this backtrack was. I was feeling fairly sick by this point. I saw Nate & Lucy at 20 & again at 22 – those two miles felt like they were 40 minutes apart. I was ignoring my GPS completely by this point but in retrospect it looks like I was above 10:00 splits when I saw them both times. Soon after mile 22 I let myself walk for two minutes, something I’m loathe to do. The urge to vomit was strong, in retrospect I should have done it and gotten it over with.
At mile 24 I saw Team HB again – they had recruited some random old people to scream & shout for me which my brain wasn’t really able to process. Why are these strangers so excited to see me?! I finally got my high five with Ebs, and turned for home. I made it past 25 and the wheels really started to come off. As you can see from the red in the heat map I ended up walking half of the last mile – the entire uphill bit, trying to get my nausea under control. I was vaguely aware that I was giving up what would have been my third sub-4hr marathon but it was the decision I choose to make. Or had to make? I’m not sure. Eventually I picked up to a trot for a looping finish back by the starting beach.
This marathon was my 9th overall and 8th in the past year. It wasn’t my strongest, wasn’t my fastest, wasn’t the prettiest. But it was important to me nonetheless, both in terms of overcoming my adversity-de-jour (wind/sickness/ankle) and in that my people came to cheer for me. And finally doing one in Rhode Island was personally very satisfying. My final time was 4:04:17, 11 minutes faster than Maine, 40 seconds faster than Vermont but well slower than New Orleans and 30 minutes off my PR in Traverse City in May.
After a slightly longer than normal requisite recovery time at the finish, my crew & I packed up & headed over to a Wendy’s for some empty celebratory calories. I felt so lucky that we ended up at this random fast food place that happened to have a large flatscreen TV turned to CNN so that we could watch Felix Baumgartner’s record setting leap into the stratosphere. Utterly amazing. I’m so glad we didn’t miss this.
So that’s Newport. My next marathon is in Philadelphia, five weeks from today.
Saturday, I didn’t have much going on. Rainy & gray & no plans. I had written to the New Hampshire Marathon organizers earlier after I sprained my ankle and asked if could defer to 2013 – surprisingly enough they said yes. So that’s great news, but it left me with nothing but a marathon-sized whole in my day, a feeling that I should have been doing something BIG this weekend. Instead I was just sitting watching rain outside the window. Around 1pm I decided to go run my reservoir loop, my first time running outside since the ligament damage. I felt totally fine, slight tightness, but no pain. A mile out I converted to a shorter loop, from five miles to a short shakeout run. I went up to talk to my parents about the possibility of running the Maine Marathon in Portland on Sunday and it came down to this – it’s a known danger, a known potential mistake to put stress on the injured joint, but I was going to let myself be ok with making a potentially wrong decision.
Sunday, I woke up at 3am, had my toast & coffee & hit the road. It’s just over 100 miles to Portland from Burlington, I arrived at 6am & found one of the last parking spots in the USM lot closest to packet pickup. The morning was dark & gray but no rain. Somehow I am assigned the #12(!) which gives me momentary panic attack. I cannot live up to this number today, for sure. I really prefer races like this where we can kill time in a gym before the race starts, but there are always too few bathrooms, here as well.
At 7:15 I meander around to the race start. There’s roughly 1000 marathoners in this race and twice that many half runners – we’ll all start & stay together for the first six miles or so. With three minutes to go before start, it starts to rain. OK. A screechy anthem later there’s a serious cannon bang and we’re off!
Start: The first few miles the rain is light – we’ve got water on the right and heavy foot traffic. I’m not pushing anything, letting the crowd flow around me instead of the other way around. I spend the first three miles thinking about my ankle, trying to decide if we’re really ok or if I’m deluding myself. I decide it’s ok.
Mile 4: I get passed by this dude who is (no joke) dressed like a moose. Technically the front half of a moose, the back half is bobbing along behind him. Funny guy. Reminds me I need a costume for my Halloween race.
Mile 10: I don’t pass many people all day – but here I move past a dude running in a soaked and extremely bedraggled superman costume. I run with him a while and leach off the energy he creates from the few soggy spectators along the road – people LOVE to cheer for superman and I pretend it’s for me.
Mile 13: My least favorite part of the race – a brief out & back on a dirt road that someone has tacked on to get the mileage right. I was having difficulty seeing the road due to wet glasses and this feels incredibly dangerous ankle-wise. Slow slow careful, it doesn’t last all that long before we’re back on pavement heading south again. Endomondo puts my half time at 1:57:03, an 8:56 pace. This is not fast for me but really not all that far behind where I was at the halfway point for New Orleans earlier this spring.
Mile 16: My iPhone (safely ziplocked in my camelbak) dies, so no more music or endomondo mile splits from this point. No idea why it went so fast – to blame iOS6? It was fully charged when I started. At this point I decide to mentally split the remainer of the race into two five-mile chunks and deal with them one at a time. The worst thing about running without music is the shuffle ended on an Adele song which was stuck in my head for the next two hours.
Mile 18: Rain lets up a bit, to a light sprinkle. I have a terrifying thought that the sun might break out and steam us like a lobster, fortunately it does not. Since I’m without headphones I can interact better with the few supporters out on the course – they’re cheering for me mostly with Go Chicago! since I’m wearing my Chicago half shirt. I like this.
Mile 21: Five to go. Pouring again. Now I’m manually doing splits on my watch and they’re creeping up mile by mile, and I simply do not care. First to high nines, then low tens. I start doing worst case contingency planning at 11:00/mile (so 55 for the last five miles) and decide I really don’t even want to do that math – instead to just focus on finishing carefully without injury.
Mile 25: We’re back on the USM campus and there’s almost nobody here. Usually the last mile of even smaller races have some runners who have finished drifting back to cheer but the rain has driven them away. Also – and this is going to sound bitchy but by this point I am – the road here has an appreciable crown to it. Even running as close to midline as I can I feel like I’m being pushed one way or another. It’s like running on the top of a big pipe and my ankle is starting to burn. I had promised myself I’d walk if there was pain but so close … this is the first time since mile 3 I’ve even felt it complain.
Finish: Stumble across the line. It’s a deluge. I’m less coherent than usual, and there’s nowhere to sit that’s not floating. It normally takes me ~30 minutes to recover but I don’t want to stay here. I grab a half-banana and two granola bars from the foot tent and a wave of water from the roof of the tent channels straight down my back, I take that as a sign that it’s time to move on. I stumble the last few blocks back to my car to dry out before driving back to Boston, to some ice & the Pats game. Abandoned is my original plan to spend the evening & Monday poking around Portland but given the weather and the immediate onset post-race calf cramping I just want to get outta dodge.
All in all – I’m quite happy with the race despite the rain, despite the injury. I paced myself from slow to slower and survived, no harm no foul no long term damage. I didn’t get to see as much of the Maine foliage as I had originally hoped but will make an effort to get back up next year. My official chip time was 4:15:20 (matching the watch time exactly!), a 9:44 split. Next up, the BAA Half next weekend & the Amica Marathon in two weeks!
The good news: Back above 40 for the first time in a month The bad: Cut my 20 miler short on Saturday d/t heat. Best run of the week: 8.2 mile river run last Tuesday at 7:35 pace (just above my half marathon goal pace). Worst: 3.3 Sunday in Burlington, dropping water like it’s nobody’s business. Newest new news: Registered this week for the Chicago Half, less than a month from now.
11 of 18 weeks done for the New Hampshire / Maine double cycle. I need to get serious about running two morning longs next weekend. I talked to someone who is running a 50 in Vermont that same weekend – she’s peaking at 75 miles beforehand. I have to do better than 42.
There’s something immensely satisfying about a “last long run”. In reality there’s no real last to it at all, of course – next weekend will bring a much longer long run but for all the weeks of preparation culminate with the penultimate effort the weekend before a race. I started the 18 week training cycle for this race on Halloween of last year, the day after I couldn’t quite PR in Cape Cod, my last marathon of 2011. It might seems like an arbitrary distinction, to roll from racing on day X to training on X+1, and to some degree it is. But these are the mental tricks that have to be played to maintain motivation, to provide a structure on which to build progress. It takes 18 weeks to get ready – and today I’m done with all but the last of those, in the process having run some 662 miles.
Today’s last run was 16 miles, and though not a PR for that distance (Boston Prep 2012 was that) today was my fastest non-race time on my regular 16 mile route. This despite some pretty gnarly winds. It leaves me feeling quite optimistic about next Sunday. My stated goal is to break 4:00 hours but a part of me I don’t know whether to trust or not thinks that might be too conservative.
The highlight of the day was supposed to be the Patriot’s winning the Superbowl, but in the end, it was not to be. In retrospect, the highlight was today’s Super Sunday 5 in Kendall Square. This was my first race with a sub-7:00 split, a vast improvement from my last 5 miler in 2007. Bitter cold and tons of fun, I’d definitely like to run this guy again.
Training-wise, this marks the end of 14 of 18 weeks of prep for New Orleans. Less than a month to go.
I was in the South End last night watching the Cardinals win the World Series (!) when it came out that my oldest friend Nate hadn’t realized that I was in St. Louis last weekend. Or that I had run a marathon there. Both of these things are true. So for posterity, a recap.
Saturday 10/22: I took an early Saturday flight from Logan to Lambert on Southwest. There’s a very new looking & shiny metrolink train from the airport that runs you straight downtown. I wandered around a bit, finding America’s Center & the race expo. This was the inaugural year of the race being Rock ‘n’ Roll series event which means loud radio-style rock blasting everywhere. It was crowded and I had all my luggage with me so people kept asking if I was from out of town. Yes, I am.
I decide to wait for Monica at the expo, but that means I have to kill a few hours. The arch is not far from the convention center and the sun is shining so I go hang out with the rest of the STL tourists for a while. I’ve been to this place so many times – I went up with my family as a kid, stopped here with Jill after a post-college road trip, came here to get dizzy with AZ. Lots of strange mashed-up memories of love & loss.
I find Monica, we get her number but frustratingly they won’t let us have Lydia’s. After that a long drive out to O’Fallon where we meet up with the rest of the cousins & kids and dogs and husbands of cousins. We chat about life & the race and then I’m off to my hotel for an early bedtime, despite the Cardinals/Rangers game. I get to see Pujols hit two of his three home runs, one of the best personal performances in World Series history. FORESHADOWING.
Sunday 10/23: Up at 3:20am. I didn’t really sleep much after 1am, waking up every few minutes to check my clock, eventually getting up well before the first alarm went off. Natalie & a friend of hers picked me up and we drove the 40 minutes down to the start, luckily finding a free meter within a block of the action. It’s still dark out still but there are runners massing everywhere. There’s a stage set up and inappropriately loud music being blasted for the hour – presumably Rock ‘n’ Roll people can only have events where there aren’t residential neighbors. All the cousins met up for one last photo.
I decide for one last cycle through the bathroom lines after we split for our respective corrals – this turns out to be a mistake because the line takes more than 30 minutes, pushing me past the 7:30am start time. It takes a long while to get this many people started (half & full marathoners all start together here) but still I’m on the wrong side of the start line when the gun goes off for the wheelchairs. I work my way back to corral #11 which is really too slow for me – my pace group is two ahead in #9. Lydia is supposedly in #11 with me but it’s too packed, I can’t find her. I’m actually in the overflow off the course at the very back of the pack.
We get rolling maybe twenty minutes later, in my mind I’m estimating two minute gaps between corrals. By this math, if I can catch & hang with my pace group (4:10) I’ll finish well under that. The first few miles are downtown, near but not quite to the arch, tall buildings. I find and pass both 4:20 and 4:10 pace groups, trying to put some distance between myself and them. A bigger problem is the half pace groups – I get stuck behind 2:05 for a while as these guys cork up the entire width of the course.
The biggest difference between St. Louis and Baltimore the week prior is I don’t really have anyone to look for on this course. So it’s much more focused on distance, my splits and breathing properly. I’m definitely more tired in this race than last week – I notice myself dragging by the half mark, but my time is still good, under two hours. I’m more or less successfully trying to keep all my splits between 9:00 and 9:30 – each mile in this range means I’m moving incrementally ahead of my pace group. It’s a bit like the swimming events in the Olympics where they have the colored bar in the pool trailing the swimmers with the record time – I know there’s a invisible line sweeping along behind me and I know that I’ll drop off near the end so need to be as far ahead of that as possible before that time comes.
Anyway – race highlights. Mile 5 we pass through SLU, I recognize this from my previous visit and realize I’m not far from AZ’s house. Mile 8 we dump the half marathoners, which turns out to be the vast bulk of the field. From here on we’re a straggly group running through residential neighborhoods. Somewhere around Mile 11 I see some fat guy on the front porch who has set up a bunch of angry signs in his yard (“26.2 Miles – No One Cares”, “You’re Wasting Your Sunday And Mine”, etc). Mile 15 is the start of the loop-back part of the course in Carondelet Park. At Mile 18 right before the overlap ends I see Monica (actually, she sees me) – she’s about 3 miles behind at this point which is about what we thought would happen. I’m about 100 meters from the Mile 22 marker when I realize I’m running even with the 4:10 guys – I had hoped to put them off for at least one more mile. I push ahead of them past that marker and keep them off for another half mile, but I’m fading and not able to run with them anymore. Just after this we meet up with the tail end of the “half marathoners”, quotes necessary as these are all overweight walkers. It’s tricky to maneuver through this slow field. The last few miles are mostly downhill, I’m constantly doing the calculations on the shrinking gap between my projected finish and my goal. This is much, much harder without SMHB to double check my math. I had almost 13 minutes to spare at mile 25 which even I can tell is more than an easy 10:00 split – I kick that home with minimal trauma. Final chip time, 4:09:21, 136th of 339 in my M35-39 division. I could not be happier than I am, solidly under my goal of 4:10 and with considerably less sickness than I did the week prior in Baltimore.
Post race – I find Natalie almost immediately in the finish chute, she’s beat her goal of 4:00, by 10 seconds. I see a few moments of the “rock ‘n’ roll” headliners, Sugar Ray. There’s some requisite stumbling around before we find Monica and Lyds. Some celebratory photos later – and that’s it. I bummed a ride to AZ’s place where there was celebratory pizza and beer and watching the Cardinals lose and embarrassingly falling asleep on the floor in front of her friends.
So, there’s the St. Louis Rock ‘n’ Roll. Marathon #2 in two weeks. Tomorrow will be my third and final of the month, if the pre-Halloween snow storms and coastal flooding and 55mph(!!) expected wind gusts will lighten up a bit. I definitely don’t expect to set another PR and will be happy to finish strong in non-frozen form. We shall see.
I was chatting with someone about the upcoming BAA Half (come cheer on October 9th!) and they politely inquired as to what my goal was, and my best prior time. The latter of which, I curiously couldn’t recall. Fortunately, the internet remembers everything so after some poking around I was able to compile a dataset of various races long since finished. Below is a plot of all my prior half marathon times (that upward-bound curvy purple line). For fun I’ve added in the last few years worth of Gobble Gobble Gobbles (in orange) and two miscellaneous points (in 2004, there’s a public record of a very fast 1/2 time that was in reality Nate running for me incognito, and in 2009 I’ve plotted a dot of my SF marathon split).
So for the record, my 1/2 marathon PR is 1:42:52 (a 7:51 split), running with team Dana Farber back in 2003. I don’t anticipate besting that this year.
I successfully enrolled in the 2010 BAA half-marathon this morning, along with the rest of Team HB, plus special guest star LZ. The race is October 10th, a short twelve weeks from this Sunday. This will be my fourth (?) BAA half, and will meet the latter part of resolution #2.
I’m going to need all 12 weeks, as my mileage has alternated between sad and horrific as of late. I last ‘ran’ the day before Nate’s wedding, where approximately two minutes in (just as I was telling KKV of my plan to register for this race) I stepped on the edge of a 5-inch curb and snapped the ever living hell out of the few remaining ligaments in my right ankle. Which would have been fun in and of itself, but for bonus thrills I came just about this close to doing a header into an automobile of the large, fast, oncoming type. What is the proper wedding protocol when a groomsman bites it hours before the rehearsal dinner? I would expect, at the least, some sort of tux discount for the funeral.
Point being, the race is twelve weeks from Sunday, and as of today I’m still not really able to walk comfortably. Can this be done? With the psychic help of the bicoastal* runaholics support group, I’m a confident maybe.
*Speaking of which, only six months later, the hevelonian tag line is no longer “bicoastal, bimodal, bionic”. Help me think of a better one or we’re gonna get stuck with the bouncing baby crap that’s up there now.
**Double speaking of which, Team HardCortex are triathalon-ing it up out in California this weekend. The east-coasters are very psyched for this and are looking forward to hearing of their top ten finish (in the money baby!).
The second annual Jingle Blast has finally found a date that makes most folks happy. So henceforth we’re officially on for Saturday January 2nd, 9am. We will be meeting in the North End to get our run on, followed by coffee & crumpets. Bring your tattered remnants of Christmas spirit and residual hangover, along with your present for me if you accidentally forgot to give me one before. Much like it’s cousin-in-spirit, the “Super Bowl”, the Jingle Blast now faces the challenge of being located in a different calendar year than the regular season, making it inappropriate to dub it Jingle Blast 2010 (since the inaugural was held in 2008 that makes it look like we skipped a year). And since nobody wants to end up running the Jingle Blast LDCXXXII I’ll stick this year’s race with the played out but technically accurate 2.0 suffix.
For posterity, here are the specs from last year’s race. I don’t assume the route will be identical but it should be similar in spirit. 4.2 BLAZING kilometers!
Fuzz and I did our last joint SF run this morning, through the park, by the beach, up and around Land’s End. It occurs to me that we’re right at one month post-marathon, and somehow I’ve taken a few giant steps backwards in that time. I’m running like I have a giant anchor around my neck. I would have thought cutting the miles back like I’ve done would give more spring in step, more go but this hasn’t been the case.
Yesterday was National Running Day so the dogbrake and I did a midweek 8 to celebrate. It was surprisingly warm out, finally fog free, some welcoming summer sun. The run was unremarkable until near the end, where we found the wind coming off Ocean Beach to be in full-on sandblast mode.
Along the sea wall there are a series of stairwells down to the beach, some of which fill up with sand forming a ski jump-like spout for the rest of their gritty neighbors to ride up and out of, into the face of everyone passing by. So despite gorgeous, magic hour lighting at sunset, turning to look towards the water was not really an eyesight preserving option.
Eventually, DPW will send a truck out and someone will languorously shovel the sand that builds up on the sidewalk back to the beach through these smaller spouts that must be designed just for this. They don’t worry about job security – the wind is always going to blow in from the ocean, making its incremental effort to inch San Francisco eastward. Will this work? Look at the geographic change in the last 15,000 years. It almost seems inevitable that, given enough time, all of this will eventually just blow away.
But for now, we keep our heads down and earn back our elevation up along the cliffs, turn east along Point Lobos, the wind now at our backs and gravity taking us the rest of the way home.
Dog-brake made a case for increasing her mileage quota cap from five to six miles tonight.
Pros: it’s nice to have company, and she was enthusiastic about coming even after I told her I was going to leave her fuzzness home.
Cons: her tendency to throw in random ankle snapping lunges towards the omnipresent holes of invisible pocket gophers throughout Golden Gate Park is getting old.
In the end though she didn’t crap out on me, I didn’t have to drag or carry her at the end, and we finished the massive post-stairs uphill bit by the VA without any walking.
On a related note, one of the surgeons at work mentioned that Robin Williams lives (or possibly, used to live) in Seacliff fairly near to my house (despite them being vascular surgeons and him needing an aortic valve replacement we were just discussing it in terms of running landmarks). It turns out I’ve unknowingly been by his house many times – it’s near the end of my long run route, a huge walled mansion amongst more modest mansions. From a pedestrian perspective his place is notable for the fact that the (very narrow) sidewalk on the left ends a half block before the more normal sidewalk on the right begins making it an optimal location if you’re looking to get run over by a speed-racing luxury automobile. That’s it below.
Given the tiny mileage bread snatcher and I did this morning and the fact that this half is in just over two weeks away I’d have to increase my daily rate by a mere 8 percent(!) each day for the next 19 days to be ready for the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon. The power of compound interest leads to delusions of grandeur. It’d be easier with a MBF to foolishly Yes We Can along the way with me.
Dogbrake & I modified our route a little tonight to avoid the GGP stabfest and instead extend down to Ocean Beach. I didn’t have my camera (obviously, and not that it’s working anyway) but this is shot is roughly representative of the color the sky was. The last surfers were packing up and out when we turned back up Cabrillo.
As is custom, an annual moment of gratitude. I’m thankful for my family – specifically my parents who with characteristic kindness were (without comment) willing to wake and take me to the airport at 4:30am. I’m thankful for my various sisters & their assorted hangers on. I’m uber-thankful to see the fuzzy one after a too-long break, thankful for getting to see both NYC & DC during the holiday. I’m thankful to have been able to see so many CNY & EPfriends over the break (& Z!) and am immensely thankful to finally get my girl out to California (& to VC for rescuing both of us from SFO).
I’m also thankful for Team HB for a fun and motivating realsgiving race at the Gobble Gobble Gobble this morning, thankful the city of Somerville has fairly modest hills, thankful for the grandma rocking the double stroller who passed me on the homestretch. I have to say though – grandma, if I see you (or your ilk) at the Bay to Breakers, you’re going down.
In yet another thing in a long series of mundanity that only matters to me, I managed to fix the busted DSLR tonight (perfect timing for my little trip to NYC* tomorrow). I was playing with the body with the lens off tonight, and could see that one of the bits of the shutter was sticking about 3/4 of the way down (which made perfect sense given how odd looking the exposures have been. I set the camera to a 30″ exposure, reached in and gently flicked the edge and it popped right up. Took a bunch of test shots, all seems to be well. The downside of which being it weakens my already underpowered case for a Canon 5D Mark II*.
In other photo-wise news, I’m looking forward to seeing CNHB’s shots from her gig at the SRI Charter Member’s meeting tonight (in conjunction with the GreenBuild Conference). I notice the GreenBuild guys are having a 5K race tomorrow to conclude their program – don’t they realize any optional burning of calories for fun, sport or celebration of life is not environmentally sound? My reductio ad absurdum-dar says let’s do the math showing that exercise by it’s very nature is not and cannot be a green activity. There’s a lotta fuel going into making those calories you’re burning up there racers. At least they’ve wisely opted not to loop over the Longfellow as any sudden motion or stiff breeze may well cause that to collapse into the Charles*.