Monday, April 29, 2013

The Jay Lyon's 5k...the race that started it all

If you follow my exploits, you'll know that the last few weeks have had me doing my best impersonation of a "rhesus monkey" or "patient zero". Yes, it seems that I've run myself a little ragged a little earlier in the season than usual. Well, maybe my training regimen left me more susceptible to getting sick at least. Post Boston Marathon day, I have been struggling with fevers, congestion and a level of lethargy that is way worse than normal for me. I've spent the last 2 weekends not racing (you know that kills me) and the last 2 weeks forcing my way through workouts. All that came to a head this past Friday with yet another fever broken and trip to the doc. Seems I have not been resting as I should (a shocker I know), partly due to my training and partly due to my coughing throughout the night...every night...for 2 weeks. Enter my new friend cough syrup with codeine. I forgot what sleep really was! Two solid nights of it and I feel like a new man.

At least I looked fast
Enter the Jay Lyon's 5k. A local race, a rather large one that draws around a thousand runners, that was this weekend. It is the race that got me back into racing.It was the first race I put on the calendar and trained for after my realization that my "blossoming" up to 245lbs was unacceptable After running it at a snail's pace, somewhere around 24 minutes, I got bitten by the bug and knew I had to get into better shape and get back into racing. I have tried to run that race ever since (except in '11 because it fell the weekend before my running the Boston Marathon) as a testament to my weight loss.

I knew I wasn't going to be 100% but if I could stand, I had to run this race. So, I got up on Sunday, headed over and got ready to run...I had run a 20:52 on the course last year and was trying to do that math to see what pace I'd need to beat that. A few times quickly scrawled on my hands and it was time to line up. Oh ya, did I mention that it was 71 degrees at the 2pm start? It was hot! A welcome change considering the weather of late but it was a new thing to encounter on race day. I got there my customary hour early, got a great parking spot which gave me plenty of time to go get my number and registration stuff...and get antsy. Did I feel good? Could I get a PR? Did I remember the course right? Where are the bathrooms?!

I seeded myself toward the back in an attempt to keep my first mile pace down and see how I felt after. The fire truck siren goes off (the race is in memory of firefighters), I look down at my range and try to hold a 6:20 pace. I hit the first mile on a 6:20 exactly and felt pretty good as the course flattened out. It dawned on me that my Polar RC3 GPS (as do all GPSs it seems) figures the course longer than mapped out. Realizing there was no marked mile marker or time board at the mile mark for reference, I'd need to try and run around a 6:05 for the rest of the race to hit the time I was looking for. As I went into the 2nd mile and looked at my HR I knew this wasn't going to be a PR kind of day. I was redlined already. That came right as I made the turn onto the hill of the second mile. I was surprised that I was feeling decent as I crested the hill only to see that it was a false flat and there was still more climbing to do (damn I hate hills). Right turn, only one more 'til the finish and that's when I realized my lung function was NOWHERE near where I need it to be. My legs felt great, my lungs felt like lava mud. Guess today won't be a PR afterall so I'll focus on picking off people. Final right turn into the finish...whatever I do have in my lungs, time to get all of it out! I crossed the finish in 20:59, 25th overall (out of 890) and 7th in my age group. I was excited that for the second year in a row I finished in the top 50 which garnered me a race pint glass (small things make me happy). Guess the heat had an effect on everyone else too because it seems everyone was running slow today. Not bad, not great. 17 seconds off last year's race, 31 seconds off my 5k time back in March. Other than my lungs, I felt pretty darn good. Amazing what some rest and healing can do. Now to continue to get better and back to training and racing strong.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Unfinished business...

This post started in my head on Sunday the 14th because I have a number of friends running the Boston marathon this year. All the talk of the everyone's training leading up to race day, the talk on everyone's social media, going to the Marathon Expo seeing all the new running schwag and hearing runners talk nervously about "Monday" reminded me why this marathon is so special.

Then comes Monday...even though I rarely watch the Boston Marathon live, even though I live 5 miles from the start in Hopkinton and work about a mile away from the 10-12 mile markers on the course, I wanted to go down this year to cheer on my friends: Greg, Nat, Nooch and Lisa as they made their way through the race. Standing on the side of the road, seeing the faces of determination and pride on the runners' faces made me anxious, jealous and angry all at the same time. Not at them of course but at myself. I tackled the Boston Marathon in 2011. Going into a divorce, wanting to focus myself, hoping to do a "bucket list" race and looking for a driving factor to focus my training, I put Boston on my wall when I found a charity number about 5 months out. The race did not go to plan at all (you can read about it here). That picture sums up my marathon. It was sheer agony towards the end as the wheels fell off! Add insult to injury, try as I might, I didn't raise the required amount of money for the charity so I ended up spending just under a grand out of my own pocket to make up the difference. No, not ideal results at all...

I walked away from Boston saying I'd never do another marathon...period! That also meant that a full Ironman was out because of the marathon distance run leg of the event. I was disappointed, angry and ashamed of myself and my "performance".  As time passed I reevaluated myself and knew that I couldn't let that course and race have the better of me. I've run long distances since, to include 50k during a 12 Hour Ultra marathon and started to think I had at least another marathon in me. My 2012 race calendar is pretty full with distance events (including the Marine Corps Marathon with that signup not fazing me at all) and dealing with the aforementioned I decided I needed to relook doing Boston...not just doing it but BQ'ing a marathon in order to get in...because that race and I had some unfinished business...and then Monday afternoon happened.

No, this will not turn into some self important rant or "what they did to us" speech. Rather, the event was the catalyst to ensure I'll toe the line in Hopkinton in 2014. I'm a military guy first, athlete second...both of which espouse the "never give up" and "don't let anything scare you" mentality. Upon hearing of what happened I tweeted immediately to the BAA that I'll toe the line next year come hell or high water and have since been tweeting and FaceBooking my butt off about my idea that all those that were First Responders, medical personnel, those that were injured and the families of the injured and the dead should not only get their own special numbers in next year's race but should be the first wave so we can cheer them for their hard work, and run with them. I will shift my calendar around and try to get ni a BQ time before the cutoff for 2014's race. If not, I'll run on a charity number...and if I'm short the money I need to raise...I'll pay it out of pocket... with a smile on my face.

We will prove to everyone that the we are all strong and...and that we need to take care of some unfinished business...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

We are runners

We are runners,
We wake up at 5am to get training runs in,
We squeeze training runs in at lunch,
We get in the gym late at night to make sure we get the needed mileage on the day,
We spend tons of money on training gear/food/shoes,
We run with our training partners and friends to push them...and oursleves,
We run in the heat, cold, rain and wind becuase that is what has to be done,
We fly all over the world to participate and be a part of races with other runners,
We wear our race shirts and clothing with pride...for years,
We revel in each other's successes,
We console each other when we fail,
We are a part of the "running family",
Running binds us all, makes us stonger and is somehitng the people that did this horrible, spineless attack in Boston will never understand,
We are runners

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler...the best laid plans…

I will admit that most…if not ALL…of the pressure on me for race performance is created by me. I fell like every time I toe the line I should be posting a faster time…a PR…not just for me but for the people who follow me, show interest, or ask me for training/racing advice. I mean how am I worth following…or worth advice giving if I’m not crushing it every time I step off right?! Ya, dumb I know.
Ya, that number freaked me bout a bit
But…after throwing up a pretty good 5 Miler time and feeling good, I thought my season was off to its best yet and I wanted to have a great 10 miler showing too. So, the plan after realizing there would be "pacers" in the race was to get near the 7min mile pacer, sit on his shoulder for 3 or 4 miles and then take off. One, to keep me calm since I have a terrible habit of taking off at the start of…EVERY race and settle into a good base pace for a few miles and the start running negatives. Good plan right? Ya, I thought so too.

I…slept…like crap Saturday night. I kept tossing and turning thinking about how the race would go and fearful of oversleeping. In order to get to the race, a trip on the Metro was involved. More variables? Great! Breakfast, jog to the Metro station and got to Mall with over an hour to spare. That gave me plenty of time for portapotty trips and stress out about the start. J and I met up with fellow runner and DC local Emily and milled around before the start. Race time closed in so I headed to my corral. I was seeded 1968 out of over 15,000 runners had me a little jazzed. Even more so when I toed the line and realized how small my corral was. I was standing 4 deep from the start line behind the pro’s….and surrounded by “legit” runners. You know, the tiny ones the run like deer and look fast standing still…the ones wearing all the “club gear” from clubs up and down the East Coast…ugh. I found the 7 min/mile pacer, took deep breaths thinking about my “plan” and waited for the gun to go off.

We turned the first mile around a 7:20 and I got a bit concerned. Were we running slow to start? Did this guy know what he was doing? He didn’t seem too fazed so I just stayed on his shoulder. We hit the second mile on a 14:05 and figured we were "settling in". I was already gearing up for the upcoming turn of the course…and then…for the first time ever during a race…it hit me...I had to pee. Are you kidding me?! I’ve been hitting portapotties ALL morning! I knew I could either take care of it now or try my luck and run until it was too painful to deal with. I could see a row of portapotties about 800 meters ahead so I sprinted out of the race and into the blue box of sadness. Counting seconds out loud while I was in there…what...I needed to know how much time I was losing…getting out at 25. Ok, ok…this is dealable. Get back into the race, settle into a good pace and reel the pace group back in over the next couple miles. After the aforementioned, on the turn I saw the group and started counting…about 15 seconds ahead..this will be easy…and then my brain just shut down. I have no idea where the pace group went but I never caught them. I stopped looking at my watch. I stopped looking around.  

That smirk says it all
I focused on a person ahead of me and ran to them, then picked out another and did it again. I hit the 5 mile mark on a 36:04. Some quick math in my head (well, let’s be honest, I’m not math smart so it wasn’t quick) and that’s a 7:12 pace. Not bad, not great either. Then the 10k mark on 44:50, a 7:13 pace. Ok, I’m holding pace…but it’s the wrong one! I want to be sub-7’s by this point. Then we turned down to Haynes Point. Those 4 miles were out by the water, where the Cherry Blossoms were supposed to be in full effect. Instead there were no Cherry Blossoms, it was windy and quiet. Weird quiet. There was no one cheering, few if any people out on the course in that section at all. All you could hear was runners’ foot strike and an occasional “on your left”. It was surreal. I have no idea what I was thinking or where I was. I just zoned out. I guess I should take some solace that my “auto-pilot” is set on a 7:12 pace. I admit the one thought I did have was “why in the hell do I do this to myself, why don’t I just sleep in and eat cake?!”. As I approached mile 8, my brain turned on and made me realize what was going on. Look at the watch, start checking times, calculate the finish, don’t have a crappy time, come on..get into the game Dutch! All those thoughts got me to the 9 mile marker and I realized whatever I had left I need to spend it now. As I turned right onto the final mile it was a slight rise (of course there was a slight hill masking the finish. Sonuva do I hate anything that looks like a hill in any shape, form or fashion!) and then I could see the finish. Not only could I see it but I could see the finish clock! It was at 1:12 and change and I knew that I couldn’t let it hit 1:13. I ran as hard as I could and crossed the line in 1:12:33. 32 seconds off my 10 Miler PR, not bad…nowhere near the great I had hoped. 

I hadn’t told anyone but I was really gunning for 70 or 71 minute 10 Miler. Well, that did not happen. I guess I can take away that given that course, the speed bleeding turns, the bathroom break and only being 32 seconds of my PR…it wasn’t a bad performance. I’m hoping this means I have lots of room for improvement by the time the Army 10 Miler rolls around. Now I just have to find a 10 miler in the next couple months to gauge how fast I’m getting…

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The athlete's realization...

All the early morning training sessions
the late night ones too...

The sore muscles, scrapes, cuts, bruises black and blue...

Every weight pushed/pulled, foot strike, pedal turned, swim stroke...

Evenings out skipped, dates with friends broke...

Eating this not that, always worried about protein, carbs and fat...

The deals you've made with yourself,
things you say you'll do, the things you say you won't...

The fear, the worrying, the tears shed over what you can do...what you don't...

Things thought in silence, never shared with anyone else. Deepest darkest concerns only known by you...

All that got you the start all by yourself...what are YOU gonna do?!

- A reading from the Book of Dutch
#TheChurchofFit #findyourstrong #unleashthebeast

Monday, April 1, 2013

The 30th Annual LAMB 5 Mile Road Race...never underestimate waiting until the last minute to race

Ya, little nervous
Now I'll admit that while I want to race every weekend, I battle with whether or not it's a good idea. I knew there was a 5 miler this weekend but hadn’t committed to doing it. Then I had my discussion with Rinny Friday night, got fired up about racing while taking in the MultiSport Expo Saturday in Boston…so it seemed only right that after waking up on Sunday I talked myself, and J, into doing the race (which started at noon).

A 50 minute drive to the race start (the GPS said it was a 90 minute drive…but who has time for that?!) and I was registered and ready to run. Even though the sun was out it was still chilly so I dressed a little warmer than usual and pinned on my number. J wanted to do a mile warm up, something that I never do but know I should, so we stepped off to stretch out legs and warm up on a chilly March morning.  Warm up done, it was time to head to the start.

I've said it a million times before on my race recaps but I have a tendency to start too fast...going in the tank too early and spending the rest of race trying desperately to hold on. That problem is even more prevalent at the beginning of the season (reared its ugly head at the Celtic 5k which I just realized I still owe a recap for) when I'm filled with race jitters. So I figured I'd hang back in the front half of the group and try to start slower and work into negative splits. Great idea...until the gun went off. I quickly found myself with the lead group by the 1/2 mile mark and realized this was  going to be a long day.

The lead pack was filled with high school track runners (you know, the skinny, fast, world hasn’t crushed their soul, running a 5:45 mile with a smile on their face is no problem kind of kids) and a few legit looking racers (of which I guess I can now include myself) as we approached the 1 mile mark. As we climbed up the first short hill (yes…first. The course was rolling hills...and yes I've been training on hills but I hate them in any shape form or fashion) the guy at the mile marker was calling out times. 5:48, 49, 50, 51...wait, did I hear that right?! Am I hitting the first mile of a 5 mile road race on a sub 6 min mile pace?!  Even more incredible…I'm doing it and actually feeling good?! Ok, well I’m going to pay for this later I’m sure. No sooner did the thought to prepare myself for pain cross my mind did 2 of the guys in the lead pack break off to the side and start throwing up. Seems like I'm not the only one pushing hard here.

I hung with the lead group as we went into the second mile...11:56,57,58...holy crap are we running fast! I rarely look down at my Polar GPS for fear I would see the pace or heart rate and think it’s way too face and I should lay off. Rather, I just tried to focus on breathing, an upright body position, staying relaxed and keeping up with the lead group

As we hit the third mile...18:01, 02, 03...the track kids hit another gear and pulled away and I was starting to feel the effort. To be honest I was surprised at how good I felt up until this point. I was running at an effort just below red line and holding it. Harkening back to the conversation I had with Rinny a few days ago, if I could run through the pain I could end up with a good finish. It didn't feel great but it didn't feel like I was at the bottom of the tank either. I just focused on keeping the lead group in sight and running hard. Another runner of the lead group peeled off to throw up. Ha, at least it wasn't me. Seeing guys younger than me falling off and throwing up from the effort…priceless! The second half of the race seemed to be more windy and hilly course. Nothing I could do but dig in and run faster.

I crossed the four mile mark and couldn't hear the time hacks because my heart was pounding in my ears. What I did know however was that I only had a mile if I had anything in the was the time to empty it. Pick the guy in front of me (I was very happy that at no point did I get passed) and focus on running him down as we ran to the finish. A couple of quick turns went by, I could see the high school we started at and knew that the end was near. Empty the tank and go, go, go. I didn’t catch the guy in front of me. I closed the distance but needed another hundred meters to catch him and glanced up at the clock as I crossed the line. Wait…did I read that right…did the clock read 33:56?! I can be honest and say that I didn’t think I saw the time correctly because I couldn’t see much well at all. My heart was pounding in my ears and all I could see was those little whisps of light you get from max effort (I’m not the only one who sees those right?). 
A deep breath, some Coke and I looked down at my watch to see that was indeed my finishing time. I ran almost the whole race at max effort to include a 200 beat per minute heart rate I held for the last 1/2 mile. Then is when the pain set in. I felt like I just got hit by a truck! But the pain was the best I’d felt in a while because I realized I just took 3 minutes of my 5 miler PR and I finished high overall. How high? Even better than I thought...17th overall with 3rd in my age group. I had a great effort, result, placing AND I got to take home a trophy. That was a good race day…especially considering I didn’t decide to even race until about 90 minutes before the race started! What does a grown man do with a trophy? I display the hell out of it…I earned it!