December 14, 2014

Boston...or Bust?

About a week ago, I posted a somewhat vague status on facebook that left many guessing. I apologize.  I hate when people do it.  I did not intend to bring attention to myself, but rather make a general statement about difficult decision making.

It's been a long, difficult, challenging and stressful week and I appreciate all of you that have taken the time to ask privately.  I also appreciate those that I have confided in for advice.  Many will be quick to call this an easy decision, but I feel to do so would be selfish, reckless and irresponsible.

Here's the scoop...

As I was finalizing my goals and plans for my 2015 race schedule, the unthinkable happened...

I've been blessed with opportunity to run the Boston Marathon.  The story of how we got to this point is indeed a good one, but one that I will save for another blog post if and when we get there.

John Hancock is the title sponsor for the Boston Marathon, and through my connections with their company, I have been granted access to the race...with VIP access!

Unlike my other sponsors, there is no financial support for this race...only an invitation to register.  Because Boston is a race that you can only get in to by qualifying on time, I will likely never qualify for Boston.  That's what potentially makes this a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Or is it?...If I got in on the 2015 race, is it unreasonable to think that I could get in to the 2016 race?  Is that a chance I'm willing to take?

I am responsible for every penny of expense, which normally wouldn't be an issue, but at this point is a real financial burden.  Two weeks before Christmas, and after I just scheduled our Spring Break vacation (which is 4 weeks before the race).  On the flip side, we're just seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of our medical expenses from the past two years, the kids orthodontics are about to come to an end and I write the last check for my student loan payments next month.  Yet, it still feels like bad timing (Is there every a good time?).  Hotels in Boston are not cheap to begin with for race weekend (downtown starts at $450/night), but worse yet, my last minute offer has me late to the search; so much so that the best option I have is a hotel that is still being built!  Not scheduled for completion until Feb 2015.  (What happens if they don't get it done in time?)  Saving grace on expense may be that I have enough airmiles to pay for my flight, and with Molly's miles her flight will be less than $200.

Additionally, and as I've said before, my pursuit of these endurance events continue to be somewhat selfish.  It's not just the money either.  If I'm going to continue to uncover these opportunities, I also have to train for them.  That takes time.  Time away from my family.  They've been very patient with me and I would never do any of this without their blessing and support.  I'm very thankful to have Molly's blessing and support on this one!

Finally, I question my own abilities.  My knees won't hold up forever.  I've lost significant speed in the last two years.  Just look at my PR list to the records in 2014!  I kind of thought I had run my last marathon this past fall.  Having Boston potentially be my last full would be a great way to "go out", but if I don't do it now is it realistic to think I would be able to (or have the drive to) get back into marathon shape for 2016?  Besides, it's Boston, if I'm going to run it, I want to RUN it!  I know I would put a lot of pressure on myself to go under 5 hours and PR, and that of course adds more stress.

So at this point I continue to weigh my options, but it seems more likely today thanks to some good news I just received.  I was supposed to register by this coming Friday, but my invitation deadline has been extended through next month which will give me the necessary time to confirm I have my priorities straight and make the RIGHT choice.  For now I'm feeling optimistic that everything will work out, so...I begin training TOMORROW for marathon #6.  I hope it's in Boston, but if not, and I can stay healthy, maybe I'll give Carmel another try!  And now you know...

October 20, 2014

Indianapolis Marathon 2014 Race Report

Marathon #5?  How did that happen?

Well let me tell you...  A year ago after the 18th running of the event, a $5 discount code was tweeted for the 2014 Indianapolis Marathon.  However, the first person who registered found out that the $5 discount, was not a $5 discount.  It was a $5 entry!  Yes, that's right, you could sign up for the full or the half for just $5 (plus processing fee, made it $6.25 for the entry)  That makes a $60 discount!  Many were tweeting and sharing about the obvious error, and I couldn't turn down the opportunity to sign up for a race for $5!  Within a couple hours, the error was discovered and the price was corrected.  I kept waiting for an email from the organization asking me to pay the error difference, but it never happened (thank you organizers)!  So I kept it, but was never really sure I would race the full....spoiler alert...I did!

Race day included the normal butterflies as I got parked at the corner of Post Road and 56th street around 7:30 for the 8:30 start.  Long lines for the portalets but made it through and to my corral in plenty of time.  It was chilly and windy so I went with toboggan cap and gloves, and long sleeve base shirt.  Found the 5:00 pace group leader, Melanie, among the over 2000 participants, and hoped to keep an eye on her all day.  This was a weird feeling being in the starting corral with NO ONE around me that I knew.  No one racing, or standing around to support me.  Just me and my music (Thanks X-1 earbuds!)


The goal today is #1) to finish, #2) to have fun, #3) to beat my previous worst time 5:22, and #4) to break 5 hours if possible.  I'm watching the Garmin close to keep every mile under 11:25, and if possible start banking time early.  Would like to have 5-7 minutes cushion at the halfway mark.

Mile 1-5 is a big loop into and out of Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park.  It's all downhill on mile 1 into the park, and it's all uphill at mile 3 coming out of the park.  I had been on this road before, doing 40+ mph on a bike coming down the hill in a sprint triathlon 2 years ago.  Mile 4 travels along 56th street with some rolling hills bringing us right back to where we started.  I ran the downhills hard all day, and was fine to run the uphills in these early miles.
10:24, 10:40, 11:15, 11:08, 11:17 (5 mile split - 54:39 - 10:56 pace - perfect!)

Mile 6-13 - the course takes 59th street away from the park.  Cadets can be seen running laps on a cinder track nearby while their superiors are barking out orders to pick it up.  We turn north on Lee Road out to a VFW building for a short out and back before jumping a short gravel path onto a trail in Fort Harrison State Park.

The area is vastly covered with the most beautiful canopy of color I've ever run through!  The trees were so tall and the valley was so deep, you couldn't see the bottom.  And when you come out you run around a gorgeous lake at the bottom (check out the photo that was recently tweeted of the lake!!)   I would love to come back and walk/hike this trail.  Better yet, it was all downhill past mile 8.  Mile 9 brings us on to a trail that runs alongside where we were at mile 2, but this time we stay on the trail and circle back out of the park.  Just after mile 10, I heard someone say "I guess this is the mile 10 hill I was warned about", Um, no one warned me about this hill, but I had such a solid steady pace going, I decided to push it, so I ran the hill passing walker after walker and as I neared the top I check my HR to be 180!  Way too high - I was under 165 all day until now.  I might regret this decision later, but I want to hold pace.  Didn't matter, I pushed on and emerged back onto Lee Road to find my fan club waiting for me just before mile 12.

I was feeling strong already, but when I spotted Carter along side the road ready to run with me, Morgan with her cowbell, and Molly with her camera ready, I perked right up and was on top of the world at that point!  Amy Olson also came down to cheer me on.  I had a 4:30 cushion built up over my 5:00 goal pace, and was plenty warm at this point, so threw them my gloves, but kept the cap.  The course backtracks to the park and the half splits off at mile 12.5 for the finish while the full goes straight back into the park (downhill) for a 3rd time down to mile 13.

11:10, 11:00, 10:49, 10:56, 11:19, 11:22, 11:16, 11:15 (13.1 mile split 2:25:12 - 11:05 pace - perfect - and my fastest half marathon since last October)

Mile 14- 19 - this is the out of the out and back section.  Miles 14, 15 kick out of the park, under I-465, my legs felt fine, but my stomach was not settled.  I kept running, but the pace fell below 11:25 for the first time.  I checked my HR monitor to see how out of the zone I was, but it wasn't reading correctly.  I adjusted it to get a better reading, 173!, and then it went out again.  I twisted the strap to try and get a better reading AND IT BROKE!  COMPLETELY SNAPPED OFF!  My shirt was tucked in, so it just flopped around inside my shirt while I pushed on, but my stomach was too upset, and I took my first walking steps to try and calm my stomach that now felt like a brick!

We're now on Fall Creek which features the Fall Creek Greenway, and some of the lead returning runners have only a 5k to go, and are very supportive as they pass by, but I just can't run as much as I want.  The 5:00 pace group passes me at mile 16, and runs away from me, and at mile 17, my Garmin watch confirms that all of my 4:30 cushion is now gone and I'm actually behind the 11:25 pace.

I spot my son and find my fan club waiting for me just past mile 17 (did I mention it was cold and started spitting rain?)  I shrug my shoulders to say "I tried" - My legs were tired, but the stomach was the real issue.  Goal #2 is becoming questionable!  I soldier on all the way to the turnaround at mile 19 implementing a run walk strategy and fighting to keep every mile under 14:00 in hopes of meeting goal #3, beating my previous worst time.
11:42, 12:28, 12:39, 13:43, 13:35, 13:51 (19 mile split 3:44:46 - 11:43 pace - not where I'd hoped to be)

Mile 20-26.2 - The aid stations and the turnaround on the out and back were manned by military men serving water and Gatorade.  They were extremely motivating as they barked out, "You got this sir, keep it up, dig deep, keep running, you can do this" - It was like it was my job to push on.  I found my fan club patiently waiting for me at mile 21 which now included my long time running partner Pete.  Not much to say at that point, just keep moving!  I hurt!  My left hamstring was tight and my right quad had some pain that was causing me to limp pretty noticeably.   My nutrition was a mess by this time.  I started with 6 powerbar gels and 4 salt tabs.  Salt tabs were going down on the hour and were fine, but my powerbar gels were in my race belt and two of them had fallen out.  I was taking one every 45 minutes, and was now without any.  The last Gu on the course was offered at mile 21 and I should have grabbed an extra.

The course was thinning out as I watched the last walker heading out with the sag wagon following behind picking up the cones.  I know I'll finish and I'm calculating that I need to remain committed to this run/walk strategy to get me in under 5:22 (my previous worst).  I get passed by Martha, a 40 something Purdue faculty member who is running her first marathon.  She starts her walk just ahead of me and my walking pace is faster than hers, she walks with me.  We exchange hellos and brief intros, but not much more is said until we start to gain on a couple more in front of us.  Sensing that we're both hurting, but wanting more I offer, "let's go get 'em", she agrees, and we did.  For the next 2 miles we continue this idea, of whoever feels good pulls the other, and at the end of the day, she's what got me to the finish line to meet goal #3.  She eventually moves on and I get passed by a guy with an M-dot tattoo.  I ask, "which Ironman did you do", "Louisville" he replies, "Me too!" with a fist bump!  Then I realize he's wearing a Chicago marathon shirt - from last weekend!  He confirms and tells me he'll earn "Marathon Maniac" status today!  And then he runs away from me!  I hit mile 25 just about 5:05, and know I have to keep pushing to meet goal #3, and of course it's all uphill coming out of the park.  But I keep the press on and as I reach the top of the hill, I hear Pete's voice encouraging me.

I gallop my legs into a run/jog up to him and around the corner with mile 26 in sight where Amy and the kids are waiting for me.  One last walk to the sign and then I'm running it in.  I see and hear Molly near the finish.  It hurts.  It all hurts, but with the finish less than 1000 feet around the corner, I hold it together with the kids on each side of me, I cross the line.

13:39, 13:59, 13:39, 13:36, 13:04, 12:58, 12:56, 4:27 on the last .2 (which was actually .38 on my Garmin)
Official time 5:19:57 - 12:08 pace

Check out how consistent I was:
5 mile split 406/487
13.1 mile split  403/487
19 mile split 410/487
26.2 mile split 409/487
240/276 among men
38/42 men 40-44

Successfully completing 3 out of 4 goals for the day was very satisfying.  Having my family at the finish line with me was BEYOND satisfying!  So thankful for all the support of my friends and family!

The post race food was great!  Brats, Burgers, Pizza, and sides.  Was bummed there was no Chocolate Milk to be found anywhere!

Here is how my mile by mile pace compares to my other marathons

Love the fall colors that this race embraces!

Recovered with an endless pasta bowl at Olive Garden afterwards.

Set a new one day record on my fitbit - over 49,000 steps!

September 2, 2014

RnR Virginia Beach Recap

What a weekend!  Where to start - How about THANK YOU to Team Chocolate Milk for hooking me up once again with the free race entry into the Rock n Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon!  If not for their sponsorship, no way, I'd be doing this.

So, we decided to make this one a family event, and despite the 13+ hour drive, it went off without a hitch!

Upon arrival late Friday night, we got checked in and went straight to bed!  With the alarm set for 6:30 a.m. for the first ever MILE ON THE SAND!

This was a last minute decision for me to jump in, but for only $30 you get a medal, a beach towel and a free beer at the finish, PLUS, for doing two races for the weekend, you earn a third medal!  I'm a sucker for a good medal, and this was a good one!  More on that later.

The out and back course was on the dry sand by the sea wall, and not the packed sand by the beach! 

 It was super challenging to get a good footing.  The average finish time was over 17 minutes.  I was happy to get it in in 12:15, with my HR over 180 bpm!!  

Check out this great clip that Rock N Roll posted on their Instagram!  I'm the one in the yellow shirt!  ;)

 As promised, super cool medal, awesome beach towel and post race beer!

With that done, it was family time on the beach!

 The boy and I made our way to the expo to get my race packet and meet up with my Team Chocolate Milk teammates!

 Saturday night was all about carbs and friends.  Still can't believe I forgot to take pictures, but it was great to see a high school classmate, Justin Smith, and his family.  Then off to bed early for the 5 a.m. alarm!

It was super dark when I arrived at the start line, but with my VIP pass, I found the air conditioning and the breakfast buffet!

The temperature was already about 78 and the humidity was 97% at the start!  I was in corral 9, and was seriously sweating just standing there.  I had hydrated so much in prep for it, that I already had to pee, but once the gun went off, my body quickly absorbed everything I gave it!

The plan was to start slow and back off (inside joke), but the real plan was to run the first 6 the same way I do all my long runs, nice and smooth, with no heavy effort.  The race course starts at the convention center and runs East toward the water before going North on Pacific Avenue and South on Atlantic Avenue, which runs right by our hotel and through the tourism gut of the city!  A fair number of fans lined both sides of the street, especially given that it was 7:30 a.m., I assume some were on their way to bed from the night before!  

Around mile 4, you leave the crowds and head inland by going over the only hill/bridge on the course.  A whopping 30 foot incline!  But it was enough to raise my HR !

All jokes about pretty girls aside, the view really was awesome.  I stuck to the plan perfectly, and my HR was right on track in zone 3 at this point.  I stuck with this plan through mile 6 before I realized that it was elevating a bit too much.  No clue what the real temps were, but the water aid stations were getting hammered, and they had city buses parked along the route labeled "cooling station" that anyone could get in to rest and bring their core temp down!  The course dries up a bit as we run past the aquarium.  No thanks, I'm still moving, and have an average pace in the low 11s/mile.

Miles 7-9 were in line with a typical long run as of late which is walk the HR down to around 145 and jog it back up over 160.  Needless to say, it took a while to walk it down and no time at all to run it back up, but this dropped my pace by almost a minute per mile.  The course itself runs past a golf course and through some welcome shade, and other than a KOA campground, the crowd is pretty thin.

 In contrast, this next part of the course brought a unique experience as we made our way through a military base.  Uniformed military stood by almost as if monitoring our safety was their #1 job of the day.  We ran past their living quarters and around the fields they train in.  It was unlike anything I'd run through before, and while I enjoyed it, I did not enjoy miles 10-12.  

I struggled to run as my cramping had worsened, and as I exited the base, mile 11 was like a buffet of aid.  Water and gatorade, followed by trays of ice and sponges, followed by skittles (blood sugar) and Fla-vor-ice popsicles (how can I say no) - sprinklers, hoses and squirt guns were offered from every other homeowner as everyone knew it was a hot one (hottest and most humid ever on record in fact!)

Mile 13 was mile 13, you know, suck it up and run!  So I did, but it was too late.  The goal of 2:40 was out of reach, so I limped in for a 2:46 finish!  And so, my 17th half marathon will go down as my slowest in over 2 years, but I will tell you honestly, I am NOT disappointed.  The heat and humidity were unlike anything I had trained in, and should be unlike anything I will deal with in the coming months, and so, I press on!

 Post-race, of course, I refueled with delicious low fat chocolate milk!  3 bottles to be exact, and visited with some teammates in the VIP lounge!  But didn't sit too long, because it was back to the beach with the family before the early morning departure.   My sponsorship also included VIP entry into the headliner concert, Train, that evening at the American Music Festival, but I was so exhausted I fell asleep by 9:00 and missed the fireworks display on the water at 10:00!  Shoot!

As promised, some exceptional hardware collected for the weekend, the picture doesn't do it justice, so I made a short video to demo the medals!

If you've not been to Virginia Beach, I highly recommend it, and if you're a runner or music lover, Labor Day weekend is the best time to go!!   We will be back...but next time, maybe we'll fly!  ;)