Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The 121st Boston Marathon

2:53:35. fading from mile 7...
This year's Boston Marathon was one that I truly was under-prepared for. Arguably, that statement would have been false if I hadn't fallen ill with a sinus infection and a stomach flu right before the race. It was completely in question as to whether or not I would toe the line on Monday the 17th. On the Friday prior, I was thinking about going to a hospital. By Saturday evening my intestines seemed to be regularizing, Sunday it was better but still not fully normal. Let's just leave it at that. Sunday morning I felt so weak from all of what I was going through I couldn't run a full mile and just jogged around the hotel parking lot of maybe all of 8 minutes covering possibly .75miles. That was my first attempt at a run since a short, slow, dizzying 3mile jog in a nature preserve six days earlier.
But as on Sunday evening I felt "almost normal", so I figured, this is as good as it gets and I have to try.
Another large motivator was my team. Knowing the guys we had going into the race, I figured I would be an important player in our best chance in the team competition. But Most importantly my housemate/teammate, Brendan Conway. This was his first Boston and we had traveled together to the race. In my first Boston Marathon I didn't go solo. I wasn't about to bail on him. It can be overwhelming figuring out all that crazy city marathon stuff early in the morning, and everything is better with a teammate!
Ready to go, ready or not! Brendan Conway on the left, Yours' truly on the right.
At the least, I would start the race and go as far as I could. Caution be damned! So, we left our hotel, moved the car to a train station, hopped on the T that brought us to Chinatown and walked down to the bag drop on Boylston St and then back over the the street between the Public Garden and the Common. After a little while, we were on our way to Hopkinton! Right now, I can't recall a whole lot of what we talked about along the ride, but yea I was worried. I tried my best to put on a happy face. We both knew I was a big question mark, would I finish? would I end up in a hospital?
As the time came to leave the Athlete's village, we walked/jogged toward the starting corrals and found a couple of our teammates Woody Kongsamut and Brian Weitz also waiting to jump into a toilet one last time. Woody broke off early, then the remaining three of us moved the rest of the way up toward the starting corrals. We were each in separate corrals and so I wished them luck and ran off to the last toilets to be found before the start, did what I could in there and hoped for no incidents along the way. I did see a few familiar faces that have a tradition of gathering in that small park right before the start. More good luck exchanged (By the way Patrick Walsh, if you're reading, the guy from Seattle was Jarrett Kunze and I found him moments after we parted, small world indeed).
Entering the first corral, I shimmied my way forward a bit and found the aforementioned Jarrett Kunze, another GSTC stud. I asked Jarrett, "What's the target?" He says, "2:39/40." I tell him, "I'll try to hang." I knew when I said it, that this was a bad decision for me, but this wasn't going to be a banner race for me either way. So as I am a fool, and I did a foolish thing. The race started and we were jammed up by a lot of wild action all around us, and surprisingly, we hit a slow 6:20 first mile, both of us knowing this too slow, so we picked it up into the downhill, by the 5k mark, we were back on target for a 2:39.
It was warm and I felt hot and not happy, over the next 5k I could sense this pace was not truly mine to keep, I warned him I was going to probably slip back, my 7th mile was 10 seconds off the 6th and I thought "hold this pace and you're making honest work of it", my body simply didn't agree. I held that pace for the 7th and 8th mile and then it was a bad time that got worse along the way. All in all, I've had worse days, but it sucks knowing you are doomed with 19 miles to go. (I'm smirking as I type that). Sadly for Jarrett's part, I passed him around the 18th mile as he was walking up one of the infamous Newton Hills, for him the wheels came off in vicious fashion.
So, yea, I fought the good fight, and it just wasn't my day. I didn't stop for anything, but I was passed by a lot of people and that is a humbling pain that sometimes you must suffer in this sport. Like the truckers say "Sometimes you're the windshield, and sometimes You're the bug!"
There was a lot of dumping of water over my head along the way, smearing cold water under my arms and on my thighs, whatever I could do along the way to stay cool. As usual, the crowds were incredibly supportive and supplemented the aid stations with wet paper towels, orange slices, bottles of cold water, ice cubes, ice pops. Incredible, absolutely incredible. I love the Boston Marathon, love it! Take a look at splits and images below. I finished 2nd man on our team by 1 second, so that is amusing. This was one of my worse results among the seven times I've raced here, bearing zero shame in it. Again, I didn't think I could even start, I thought I would cramp up or pass out sooner or later, but it was like Hanukah or something, with enough in the tank for 1 mile I managed to run 26.2. Interesting thought-my first go in Boston was ten years prior to this year's. It doesn't feel like it's been that long...but ten years is more than a blink. I'll be back for #8 next year and my 5th in a row! Hope is alive, 2:29 is still possible. Perhaps I'll be slaying another Unicorn in September...let's have a talk with Pat McCloskey about that.
It was hot out there for a guy who was dehydrated for 3-4 straight days. 
good start but it was all a bluff

slower slower, death march city

Ladies and Gentlemen, We have lift off! That's turning on Hereford, almost 26 miles deep and I can fly!

Giving it all that was left, a proper marathon kick, as you do.
Count em! That's 7, and I ran each one of them MYSELF!

A bit closer, 07', 10', 12', 14', 15', 16', 17'  I ran each race, I deserve 7 medals because I ran 7 marathons in Boston. See how that works? Nuff said. ;)
Congratulations to all my running friends who competed, it is a difficult task no matter what happens on race day. Thanks to the many friends and strangers that cheered for me along the way, it put a smile on my face when I felt like I should quit running altogether in certain moments.
Now if my lungs clear up from this Upper Respiratory Infection, maybe I'll have some other spring/summer races to talk about. Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Daniels' Running Formula

If you've read a post or two on my training, you know I've talked about Daniels' Formula before. I spit "Vdot" and "I pace, M pace, T pace" around when I'm blogging here. Some of you know about him and why the Formula has made an enormous difference in running athletics. For those who do not know; if you are a runner with any goals at all, you MUST own this book!

At the Garden State Track Club annual Gala event, we were fortunate enough to have an ACTUAL Dr., Jack Daniels, attend to speak about his experiences as a modern Pentathlete and the breadth of his studies through 45yrs with many incredible athletes. So, last night, I met the man himself! He signed a new copy of his book for me! It was truly an incredible experience hearing his perspectives on training methods as he experienced them while serving in the Army in Korea and as a Pentathlon Olympics Hopeful. He went on to medal at two separate Summer Olympic Games.
He is a truly remarkable man!
The man that truly opened my eyes to proper training methods

Today I'm reinvigorated about training. Sitting to write to you about this. I'll probably ignore the first 1/2 of the Super Bowl to lay pen to paper on a official plan for my Boston Marathon training; as I've been flying by the seat of my pants for the past month on that. I'm going to make wise choices and live to fight another day, and another and another. Seeya out there!

He signed it! He signed it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Interview with Adirondacks Marathon Champion, Matt Cheney

Hey everyone at long last I got around to talking with/about another runner here on the blog! 
I got a hold of recent Adirondacks Marathon winner, Matt Cheney. I find him to be a fascinating runner! Here's a Q and A we did! Enjoy the read!
The winner, Matt Cheney! His prize, a hand carved wooden bear!

Anis: Matt, as mentioned, we hear you won a marathon; but first, where did you grow up? Who is Matt Cheney?

Matt: I grew up in Beaver Falls, NY located a few minutes west of the beautiful Adirondack Park and about an hour south of the Canadian border. I come from the most supportive and loving family imaginable. I ran cross country and track in high school for Beaver River. I then went to college at Cedarville University where I received my degree in Geology and continued running. I currently live in Princeton, NJ with my amazing wife, Rachel. She is getting her Master's degree from Princeton Theological Seminary. I work at Princeton Running Company.
Matt and Rachel post race with Matt's time still on the clock, a blazing 2:32:06 on a tough rolling course!

Anis: Who or what led you into competitive running?

Matt: I began running when I was 7 years old. My Dad and I trained and raced together in local road races. It was during these times I found I had some natural ability and fell in love with the sport. My Dad encouraged me to run a specific race in 6th grade to see how I stacked up against some other kids my age from surrounding towns. The seed of running to win was planted after I crossed the finish line in 1st place that day.

Anis: I know you ran in college, through those years did you think you would go into marathons later?

Matt: There were a lot of trials for me in college, running-wise. I had difficulty with food, body image, injury, and disease within my family. Through it all, I trusted God and His plan for my life. I knew I had the work ethic to be a good runner. I suppose I just didn't know how to tie running into every other area of my life in a healthy, sustainable way. I did know that I longed to be out in nature for extended periods of time so the increased distances came naturally for me. 26.2 miles is a great distance to race. You learn important traits about yourself through a powerful medium such as a marathon.

 Anis: Is your training similar or different to your collegiate training methods? How so?

Matt: Thanks to my coach, wedding officiant, and long-time friend, Will, my training methods have become what some would consider, unconventional. It fits my personality absolutely perfectly. I have been vegan for well over a year now, which I see as part of my training. Also, we incorporate many taxing, long-distance sessions over the course of a build-up for a race. This is quite different from college where we would do the same workouts week after week and have many recovery days each week. Short answer: It is extremely different.

Just running up a Mountain, no big deal. Matt trains like a real man!

Anis: If you could be any animal with super powers, what animal and what super Power?

Matt: Falcon with Atmokinesis (control of the weather)

Anis: That would be incredible! Tell me, why is running important to you?

Matt:  Running gives me purpose, peace, autonomy, time to play, a chance to see the world around me, a sense of God's presence. Running cuts through everything else going on in my life. When I am moving quickly over the earth, it simplifies life and eliminates what is not important.

 Anis: In regard to runners and coaches , who do you look up to?

Mattt: I look up to my current coach, Will. He has taught me to never lock an idea or method into my mind. It is important to always evolve and treat your body like an experiment to see what works and what you can learn. Each body is unique and responds to training methods in different ways. Find what works for you. In regard to athletes, Brendan Brazier, Scott Jurek, and Kilian Jornet. Brazier's book Thrive transformed both my life and my running. I still use many vegan recipes from his book to this day. Jurek has a powerful life story that really speaks to me, he's a legend in trail running, and he's also plant-based. I enjoy Kilian's love and fervor for the world around him. He is like a little kid on the playground when running up a mountain. It is a joy to watch.

Anis: Where you live these days, what is your favorite loop or trail system?

Matt: Sourland Mountain Preserve. Rocks, hills, and geese. What's not to love?

Anis: The readers should know you enjoy a good laugh, what is your favorite Comedic film?

Matt: The Princess Bride

Anis: Inconeivable! I know you are a faithful man, can you tell us if this guides your running and life equally?

Matt: My faith in God certainly guides my running. I believe I have been given this running ability for a reason. This life is not about me. I long to use my running to share the Gospel and help individuals in need around the globe. At this point, I don't know how that will occur, but I trust God's plan and timing. It is important to see the world through God's eyes in difficult times like these. I was very moved by Kilian Jornet's plan to help the Nepalese after the devastating landslides and flash floods a few years ago. I believe running should be about giving back.

 Anis: Do you have a life goal for running?

Matt: I have many life goals for running including races, course records, and FKTs. I look forward to racing the Boston Marathon, Western States 100, and Olympic Trials among others. However, my main goal in running has already been mentioned. I want to help people in need around the globe in whatever capacity I can.

Anis: Do you think Pheidippides took walk breaks on his run to Athens from the plain of Marathon?

Matt- Pheidippides actually ran from Athens to Sparta (250 km), which is a much more impressive feat of endurance. The Spartathlon commemorates this epic journey every year. And I'm sure he, as well as every runner each year, takes walk breaks!

Anis: What is the Marathon you most want to compete in while you are on the way up the ranks?

Matt: The Boston Marathon!

Anis: I heard you are starting a coaching business, can you please tell us about that?

Matt: It is called TerraMotus Endurance Coaching. You can find me at www.terramotusendurancecoaching.com. I really want to help individuals realize their potential. We are all capable of much more than what we ask of ourselves. I want people to see that in some small way through running. I have a number of different plans to choose from. If you ever wish to talk about running or ask questions about an upcoming race, adventure, etc. feel free to email me at terramotuscoaching@gmail.com.

So there ya' have it folks! That's Matt Cheney, what a guy!!! He's a unique runner, glad to say I know the guy. Reach out to Matt if you need a coach, if I were you I would do it!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Summer's Top 5 reasons for more running

1-Warmup time is shorter
2-People are getting fitter and wearing less, the eye candy improves!
3-Jumping into some water after a hot run feel like being born again (the non-religious way)
4-A cold beer has deeper meaning after a hot run, riding the Runner's High and catching a buzz from your favorite summer brew...pure heaven. This week's selection: Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro!
5-You get to run with the sunset at 8pm just as the temps are as good as it's going to get.

Yeah, it's hot out there, but bring an insulated bottle for after or carry during if you need it. You'll survive. Have fun, be safe, see ya' out there!

Some guys I run with. Somehow I ended up being the only man to start this run with a shirt, it ended up wrapped around my hand for the last 2-3miles.
Image result for left hand milk stout nitro
The good stuff, when I'm done running, we shall become one!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Bernard Lagat: Defying age or just breaking new ground?

Image result for bernard lagat 2016 trials
Hmm, final lap 52 high...and he's 41? What do you think? (Photo: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports)

Has anyone been paying attention lately? The guy wins the U.S.Olympic trials 5000m race with a closing lap under 53 seconds. He is 41. He is one of the all time greats, but still it is simply stunning . There are a lot of skeptics out there that are quick to judge. I will admit, it is very hard to believe it is all on the up and up. I just watched a video of a Golden League 1500m race from 2001 featuring none other than Hicham El Guerrouj. The race had a rabbit, who seemed to more or less do nothing to help the pace from 1100m-1200m . The 3rd lap was 56, they closed in 54. Guerrouj wins by a narrow margin, .12 off his WORLD record of 3:26:00. They ran the 2nd and 3rd fastest times ever recorded on that night. Since that race, only Absel Kiprop has come close, running 3:26.69

Fifteen years later, Lagat beats a lot of very good athletes in a 5000m race, catapulting from 6th to 1st with a 52high last lap. A faster final lap in a race more than 3x longer than one of the fastest 1500m races ever run. Even if the 2016 OT 5000m race started in absurdly slow pace, the disparity of which I speak is still clear from my perspective. When you factor that Lagat has continued to perform at his current age, you might make a case to say he is the best 1500-5000m man ever!

I want to believe that it is possible to continue to develop past your late 30's into your early 40's for some top rate performances. I am just not sure what is probable here. I know of one fellow who has run lifetime PB's and he's 41-42 right now, it's incredible, but he wasn't training at or near the level that Lagat has for his entire career. It isn't a fair comparison.

Perhaps very few coaches and athletes have known how to adapt training methods for older athletes for enough years with willing and able subjects available. Still, performances in track and field have certainly been put into question and not since yesterday either. Cheaters are just getting to be more clever as testing methods are improved.

You might be thinking, "Hey Mike, don't pick on Bernard, what about Meb or that Australian guy, he's 40 too!?" Well those guys are marathoners, and that is a whole different story.

Truly, I want to see Bernard Lagat come through with no funny business in his testing samples. It would be amazing. Longer careers for track and field athletes would possibly mean that kids could grow up believing a "Hall of Fame" career in this sport is possible, the kind where you see a 20year span of excellent performance year after year. Maybe Track & Field could be like baseball in that way. In another generation will it be common place to see guys contending for Olympic teams past the age of 40 against people half their age? I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

What do you think? Let's hear it!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Your Foot has three arches: treat them equally

It is true. Three. Lateral, Transverse and Medial. Most people are concerned with their medial arch. Those of us who work in running shop either hear from a customer or have fallen into the habit of saying "You have a high/medium arch" or "Your arch is low", "Your arch is flat" "Your foot doesn't have an arch". Any of these ignore that there are two other arches that can be imbalanced or needing support if pain exists.

The Medial arch is the one where most people experience the majority of pain or think the root of their problems in the rest of their legs/feet are stemming from.  We shouldn't ignore that the lateral arch, while difficult to support shouldn't be entirely ignored.  The Transverse arch is the one just behind the metatarsal bones or ball of your foot.  My meaning is not to drag us into a line of thought that helps sell insoles, I hold no stock in those anyway!

For general well being and certainly, enjoyment of running, realize you should roll and massage all three of these parts of your foot. But don't ignore your body's signals indicating that more support to any part of the foot is needed. As we age, continually forcing your foot into unnatural positions will cause a worsening of pain in the feet and toes.

So, sometimes, one of those insoles with the "funny bump" in the middle of your foot...can actually benefit you more than you think. I am  not a proponent of orthotics that elevate the heel, I believe this creates a greater challenge for overall foot balance. Support and protect all three arches, it will make a difference.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The 120th Boston Marathon: My 6th

I haven't felt like there is much to say lately, nothing worth reading anyway.
"How ya' doin'?" "How ya' been?"...
These are the two hardest questions for me to answer lately. Can I even say "I'm injured.", just smirk and say thanks when someone expresses some empathy? The worst kind of injuries are the ones that seem to just linger or morph in a way that leaves you still able to run, albeit slower and shorter distances than you'd like.
I'm trying to figure it all out. Medical treatment isn't in the cards for me currently, considering all things financial. I know I can't complain too much, lots of people have worse circumstances than I do. But running well makes me happy, so I am a lot less happy.  That's it, that's what's real. 

It took me a while to decide if I wanted to do a write up about my 6th time racing the Boston marathon. I just felt less and less motivated as the days went by afterward and I am simply floundering in its wake. Yeah, it's July now and I'm running some easy miles and riding my bike some. No racing, no workouts. The cycling has been a fun change from everyday running. After these photos there is a bit more, so don't go quitting on me just yet, read on.
Fancy trinket of which I am quite proud

People feeling out the last 100m by the finish line on Boylston St

Me letting out everything that was left in the tank heading to the finish. As you can see, I had some company creep up on me. It was on the telly, proper famous now I is.

Walking away from the finish line post race, exhausted. To my left, good pal, Geraint Davies.

The GF and I doing the tourist photo op thing.

 My performance was better than average, but could have been so much more. I know there are still great races in me, but damn it; I need to get healthier to make them happen.  The winner of the race was 2:12:xx, this race has had top finisher 5-9mins faster. I'll tell myself, it was a hot day and I didn't execute entirely that well and was stricken by a classic pit stop around mile 9, certainly costing me 2mins. If I can speculate a 8min faster time than the 2:42:18 that I finished with, it exactly matches my PB. I still believe in myself, there is still plenty of time to achieve my lifetime goal in marathoning. It isn't that far away.

The race itself went like this:
I lightly jogged up to the starting corrals with teammates and friends, had my last visit to the Porta-john (before the race), and went into the 2nd corral where I was assigned. It was too warm already, we thought we would have low 60's, it was already 70.  Standing among the hundreds of other great runners in that corral I found a few who were simply beaming with excitement about being there and knowing that they were about to embark upon their goal of "running the Boston Marathon". I wished luck to anyone that surrounded me where I stood. The jets flew over as the national anthem was sung and applauded. Volunteers dropped the ropes separating the corrals and we walked forward about 10m to blend into the back of the 1st corral.

The race was started and we were off! I moved to the edge of the road when possible to find open ground to run; having decided that keeping pace with Will Appman would be a fine idea...if I could just find him in the thick of the 1st mile. Luckily, I caught him after about 1/2 of a mile and we stuck to 5:48-5:52 per mile. Jeremy Klapper ran along with us for about 5k, deciding to back off once the downhills were completed; ultimately finishing ahead of us both in 2:38. My GI tract was not on board with running 26.2 miles non-stop, so I bid Will a farewell and stopped for about 2mins at a Porta-john around mile 8-9.  This was a bit of a downer, I had trained a lot with Will this past winter and had hoped to run much of the race with him to shared success. Ultimately, Will ran a 2:40.

After I got back on the road, I simply struggled to maintain a sub 6 pace. I was in the low 6's and feeling decent. I was passing people, but I just couldn't go any faster. Running past Wellesley College was a fun experience as always, kisses for luck, why not?! I worked up the hills the best I could and held back from speeding down past Boston College. But sure enough, the higher than normal temps just started to hurt me too much. The Newton Hills were nasty as ever, I passed teammate Tim Seeley, and that was a double bummer. I could tell he was having a terrible time by that point (near mile 18 I believe), I caught and passed him with suddenness. We expected him to be our lead man, I've been in his shoes, it's a hard thing to finish a marathon when the wheels are coming off. Credit to him, he finished it up. I have to say that Tim trained better than any of us, and his consistent excellence in training motivated me to stay honest in training and not slack. After climbing all the Newton hills my pace faded a bit, the last 2 miles were verging on ugly, last mile in 6:53. Once I had calculated a sub 2:40 was not salvageable, I was definitely less motivated.

Yet, I saw some friends along the way at Cleveland Circle and the crowds just before turning on Boylston St were so thick with screaming fans, you just can't NOT run faster. I turned it on, gave what was left when I knew it meant I wouldn't collapse before finishing. So, now, this is the first time I have managed to run this race 3 consecutive years, hoping to keep the streak going. I was glad it was over, very happy to have another shiny medal to add to the collection. Later, I celebrated with my girlfriend, Anna, Will, Jeremy, various friends and everyone's supporters. Anna and I bumped around town to see some old historical stuff, got some Cannoli and just enjoyed the sunny spring day.

I hope this can inspire you, the moment you read this, that is drives you a bit; gets you to step outside when you are procrastinating for too long or feeling tired or sore. There are going to be good days and bad days, right?

Coming soon: Attempts at rehab for mysterious un-diagnosed injuries and prepping for XC!