Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Winning a Marathon

So, I won a marathon, again. You might be wondering, how does that feel? I can say, mentally and emotionally, it is great. As for Sunday while doing it, physically, it gradually felt quite bad. Yet, the discomfort and pain were well worth the internal reward of knowing you can be a Champion!
And we're off! Letting them know I mean business!

Through pain with determination, I arrive victorious!

Through the course of the past year I have had some nice successes in running, some PR's last fall in a couple of XC races, most notably having had a good day racing the Boston Marathon this spring and getting a long overdue PR.  I have similar goals for later this fall.  It is interesting to stop and think, In one year; I ran 3 marathons and won 2 of them. I will allow myself to be impressed.  Now, some of you who know me and my times relative to "what is a good time", or "elite" you might ask, "Who was in the race?"
True enough, yesterday at Chasing the Unicorn in Washington Crossing, PA, I took the lead right from the gun and lead the race wire to wire.  However, it is a difficult thing to force yourself to stay on a fast pace when you are following a cyclist who is clearing traffic in front of you.  At points, you start to wonder if you are falling in with the pace of the cyclist or if the cyclist is doing a really good job of listening for your footfalls.
Yesterday's race was one that I felt quite ready for. I have had quality long runs and many uptempo runs with my GSTC teammates throughout the past 6 weeks when they resumed training after their mid-yr break. I believe I went on long runs of 19, 20, 23, 19, 16, and 15 miles in the 6 weeks prior to the race. Most people will train in a bigger block for a marathon, and if I were keying on it as my premier race for the year, I might have bumped long runs a few miles about 10 weeks sooner. I ran this race for several reason.
1-I was asked to come and defend the title. The Champion, the "Unicorn Slayer"!
2-The park is beautiful, the Delaware River and the canal path are very nice to run alongside between Washington Crossing and New Hope.
3-I love the concept of a race where people are looking to qualify for Boston, it is new and I have a pioneering spirit, I love to make history in my sport! Small as this may be in memory years from now, it is a note on a page...somewhere.

Along the way from last yr's, less challenged victory (winning by 11mins), I got to know the President and race director of RunBucks, Pat McCloskey while last yr's race was in progress, he rode the lead cycle and I chatted with him at times during the race. We have communicated here and there about the CTU, and the running scene in general. Pat's genuine enthusiasm for running and putting on these events is magnetic. I have heard only good things about his events and plan to run others in the future.
For many of us, all over the country, that are marathoners, we felt the shock of the Boston Bombing April 15, 2013. It took about 18hrs before I decided I would run the race in 2014. Judit Ward (a runner friend of course!) posted a link in a fb group about this race, it had all the items on my checklist for a Boston Qualifier, not too far from home, relatively low cost compared to many other marathons, and it was placed on the calendar at a time of year when I didn't have other big goals that it conflicted with. So, I bulked up the mileage through the summer, started runs at 6:00 on the ultra hot days to get them done without suffering a heat stroke, and just got myself ready to run a bulletproof race in August. That is precisely what I did; a negative split race and nearly a PR! It was terrific to get the BQ, run a race where I felt strong and WIN!

At this yr's Boston Marathon, a number of people I know from NJ travelled up to Boston, to be there in support of all those who were racing, and I heard them, and saw them. Michael Loenser, an old training partner and teammate with Raritan Valley Road Runners was on the course somewhere around mile 15. His excitement for my performance was such a great boost to my spirits in that moment! He later told me how he was inspired to see me run by, looking strong and seeing all the other racers going by as well. It's true, the atmopshere of the Boston Marathon can breathe life back into running for you! For him, it rekindled that desire to train hard again and qualify for Boston in 2015. Loenser was an all-star for South Plainfield HS and ran for DII East Stroudsburg University, posting times that I will forever admire him for. His best marathon to date is a 2:37 and I tell him all the time he can get faster! We competed against one another in Middlesex County dual meets and Championships as High Schoolers. He is a knowledgeable runner who trains smart, an easy going guy that I am glad to call a friend.

At some point some months ago, in the middle of a run, Loenser was telling me about how he was trying to decide which race to run to enter in the hunt for a BQ. I reminded him about Chasing the Unicorn, as the race apporached sell out I urged him again, and he signed up. On a recent run, it occured to me that we should share a ride to the race, and so we left Sunday morning at 5am and made our way in my trusty old 5spd Honda Civic through darkness to Washington Crossing, PA. We listened to Black Sabbath Vol.4 and Coheed and Cambria-2nd stage Turbine Blade to get revved up to kick ass, Loenser reminisced about how he would always carry a walk-man around in high school and college to psych up for his races!  The mood was: On a mission. As Loenser put it, this was "a business trip", but I find a way to keep laughing going into these scenarios, you have to, or you get extra nervous and can get kinda' panicked.

On our 2nd to last run together before the race, Loenser tells me he has been battling Plantar Fasciitis, and admittedly hadn't done too much for it. Mostly taking 2 weeks off just a few days prior. This surprised me coming from a veteran like him. However, I was not going to let my buddy slip through the cracks, I know what to do for this. I told him all about KT tape, and how this can help get you through such problems. I convinced Loenser to come see me at the Westfield Running Company, where I taped his foot for him. We ran again the next day, Friday before the marathon, and he gave me some feedback. He felt the tape could have been tighter, so he re-did 2 of the 3 tape strips at home on his own. Apparently it worked, Loenser ran 3:01:08! Which, I believe should be a safe time to get in, and I hope it will be.  I am proud of Loenser for making it happen! I am very confident we will see him come in under the 2:50 mark next spring!

My own efforts at this year were more challenging than the previous year's. I think I might have over eaten the night before and at too late a time as well. There is a chance that the tomatoes I added into the Ragu might have gone bad.  Oops.  Yea, I had some GI troubles during the race.  I'll get into some of that in a bit. But on with race scene, prep, start, etc.

Loenser and I walked from the parking area in the last moments of the night toward the registration/start/finish area, the area was incredibly peaceful and the only sounds were some other runners arriving in their automobiles and the faint hum of a power generator for the finish line clock.  We were greeted by Pat, who gave me a big hug! I introduced him to Loenser, and we chatted briefly. Pat had race director business to handle. Loenser and I both got our race bibs, walked back over to the Civic and did the typical things. Pin the bib to the singlet, apply anti-chafing balm, put on the racing socks/shoes, put on a cammo head band in honor of Andrew Capizzi, put on a gps watch, pinned energy/electrolyte gels to our shorts, and then began a slow/easy warmup jog toward the porta-johns.  My nerves were now getting to be on edge. I have to admit, I feel better at "big marathons" where you have a large amount of down time being shuttled to the start site with a later start time. This allows more time for the Gastro-Intestinal Tract to do what it has to do before you start the race.
So, I ran about 1/4mile, hit the toilet, ran another 1/2mile easy, did some light dynamic stretches and hit the toilet one last time.  I saw the first wave of 50 or so runners was gathered up behind the starting line, and so I made my way through the crowd to the front. I found some other very fit looking fellows clustered up near the front, I was unphased; I had my plan, their presence would not intimidate me.

Pat McCloskey, spoke over the PA system, welcoming everyone, giving last minute instructions. Kindly, he introduced me to the crowd as "The Unicorn Slayer", and to "try to stay out of his way" because "he is going for a 2:30". I can't recall that I ever actually told Pat that I was going to aim for 2:29-2:30, but he knows the score. The national anthem is played over the PA, Pat says "Ready, set, go!" I took off quickly, I wanted to set the tone for my legs immediately, I was definitely out kind of hard for the first 1/2mile, but I settled down and clipped a 5:52. I figured I could run a 5:45vg over the first half, and if things were going well, run the back half around 5:37avg, for the magic 5:42(2:29:5x). But none of that was in the cards for me this day, and that's alright. Things were alright through 11miles, up to that point avg pace of 5:49, and then suddenly, I was suffering from GI distress, I knew I was going to have to stop, but I was 2miles away from the start/finish and toilets near them. Those were a rough 2miles.

Halfway split 1:16:32(ironically the same as my split from Boston this spring), after the pit-stop, I had lost about 2minutes already. I knew the sub 2:30 was gone, a PR was likely gone as well. Over the next few miles I realized, I was not totally alright, and I had to stop again, the next opportunity didn't come along until mile 17.7. I lost another 90seconds there no doubt. Now I was fairly sure that breaking my course record from the previous yr was also out of the question. I chatted a bit with the lead cyclist when there were no runners ahead and the view was clear for a while.  I told him that the goals were out the window, but I was fighting to stay on pace to be as close as I could and to hold the lead that I had from the first step.
He said, "I'll be your carrot", so he stayed ahead a little bit and I fought to bring the pace back to the 5:50's, I got a few miles in there back under 6. At the 20mile turn around I saw the 2nd place runner, who was now closer than he was when we had turned at 6.55 and 13.1 (no surprise, I stopped twice). Naturally, this prodded me and I pushed once again, clipping a 5:51and 5:58 for miles 21 and 22. That was the last of my best. My calves felt like crap from about 10miles and they just got progressively worse.

The last 4 miles were 6:09, 6:16, 6:28, 6:40, the last .2 was probably a touch slower.  I looked over my shoulder a few times in those last few miles, I knew I was fading hard and fought to hold it together. So, yea, I actually separated from the 2nd runner (Rafer Dannehauer, 23 of Shutesbury, MA) a bit after all, while he was actually 1:06 back at the 20mile turn-around, in the moment; it felt and looked like less. In the end I beat him by 2:37, but you don't let yourself think you have it in the bag when you are hurting.  There was surrprising crowd support for a small Sunday morning race, and  more than the previous year! Also, I have to say, most all the other runners I passed as we ran back and forth along the 6.55mile stretch; encouraged me as they themselves were working to get their own BQ or PR.

As I made the last turn back into Washington Crossing Historic Park, I thought, "Just another couple minutes and your done." My left foot was hurting, my calves were like dead wood (and 3 days later, they still are), and I was glad to have the win. I cruised through the finish line to applause, got my finisher's medal and a bottle of water. I took my socks and shoes off immediately, and shortly thereafter sat my tired ass down. Pat came over and asked how I was, with honesty I told him, "I had a rough time out there". But I was relieved. It was nice that the 2nd and 3rd finishers came in just a few minutes later, we posed for a few photos for the sponsors and family members of the other two guys Last year, I thought, "I never thought I would win a marathon", and a year later I am equally surprised to have done it again. I mean, seriously, who WINS a marathon?! Again, it wasn't my best day, but not far off. Given the struggles I experienced on a warm/humid morning, I'll say it was a strong run. I am proud of my 2:38:57!

After Loenser finished, we walked back over to the car, got on some dry clothes and regathered with Jeff and Ardena Blough for the post race meal that was provided. Chatted with other runners and saw some great moments of other proud finishers reuniting with one another and their supporters! Numerous people came by to congratulate me, and I congratulated them as well. There accomplishments' are equal to mine. I am just the lucky guy who got the W!
Left to right, Kevin Hoyt 3rd, Mike Anis 1st, Rafer Dannenhauer 2nd.


and some more photos:
The shoes that won the race, the singlet they gave everyone, and my Bib!

Sunrise at Washington's Crossign Park

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Cranford Jaycees Firecracker 4 Miler 2014: My story

Across this great Country we celebrate our day of Independence in our own ways. Runners race. Why not? You have the day off, and you probably don't need to "start the party" at 9am.(although I'm sure I've done it at least once myself.) So, start a tradition for yourself, go run your local road race on the 4th of July!

I have run the Cranford Firecraker five times. 2006, 07', 09', 13', and this year's race.  I have placed no worse than 7th and no better than 2nd...until yesterday.

You may have seen on Nj.com an article that told you I won the race by .3 seconds, narrowly beating Elias Howard, a Cranford native. The truth is, it was a tie. If you saw the photos of us holding hands, you may wonder, "wait, it looks like they tied!" Yes, I won, but in my opinion he did too. So, I will tell you what happened. Since the author of that sad excuse-of-an-article did not bother to interview me "the winner" or "Eli", as he is known by the many people who cheered him on throughout the 4 mile course.
Elias Howard and I linked in Victory. Photo credit to nj.com
We are #1! photo credit to nj.com

First Mile-The temperature for racing in July was about as good as it gets, low-mid 70's, a bit humid, but hey, it's July, good enough, I can hope for a good time in this. The race literally started with a BOOM from a cannon! It always does, and with no count down, so it startles me every time.  In the first 600m, I followed a guy who stopped a the turn from Springtfield Ave onto Kenilworth Blvd. Leaving me with the lead into the wind. I do not always enjoy trying to win a race wire-to-wire. So i eased off a touch, and let a couple of guys ahead of me a bit for two reasons: 1) Let someone else eat the wind we were heading into 2)visually inspect my competitors and hear their breathing.
From 600m-1mile, there were perhaps four or five of us(including Eli) in a pack. As the 1 mile clock came into view I glanced at my watch and saw already 5:08, and by the time we passed it, 5:23 was the split. My personal time goal for this race was 20:59, looking for 5:15 here. I know I have to make a move, quickly.

Second Mile-I make a surge to begin the 2nd mile and have no intention of allowing anyone to stay close. I'm pushing solo into the wind, Eli is following or running alongside me. Everytime he pulls even I surge ahead. He gets ahead as we turn onto S 21st St/Orange Ave, but I refuse to let him hold the lead for long, we are running even again as we pass the 2mile mark, splitting a 5:08 and back on track for the 20:59 I was hoping for. Eli grabs a cup of water and splashes himself, I press on running evenly with him as volunteers and spectators cheer us on. "Go Eli!" I'm clearly not the favorite here.

Third Mile-Just a few steps before the turn onto Birch St, a narrow, wooded street that allows access to a school parking lot; I surge ahead again to take the best line into the turn. About 120m later we make another 90 degree turn onto a narrow bike/foot path that later ends onto Belmont Ave. We headed straight down this path dodging puddles, and a few overzealous volunteers further compressing the already narrow path.We split a 5:22, I figure the 21:00 is out the window. I'm still holding a narrow margin and not relenting.

Fourth Mile-Eli is still hot on my heels, I know he is right there. We approach a left turn onto Riverside Dr, which is followed by a climb onto a roadside path, onto a very narrow footbridge that crosses the Rahway River. We make a right off of the bridge down a short steep decline onto Balmiere Pkwy and another sharp incline onto a path that cuts back through some woods and dumps onto Park Dr. These four turns all come in a short distance and as soon as we hit the path through the woods I gave it another push, still no separation. We cover the 100m on Park Dr before the last 480m. Now after trailing me for a mile and a 1/4, Eli runs alongside and maybe gains 1/2 a meter on me now. I take the inside of the turn and pull even for the final time...
We have a bit more than 400m left now, what's at stake? The thrill of victory? Another cheap medal and low-cost tech tee? Yes on both counts.
Eli, calmly says to me "Want to hold hands and tie?"
I say, "Alright, sure."
"It will probably be the first time that's ever happened here", he says.
"They will probably give it to one of us, but I'm fine with whatever happens", I say.
So we motor along looking to even our stride, and with about 40m to go, I reach out and say, "Ok" Eli grabs my hand, we raise them up between us, We raise our other hands in triumph. We cross the finish line to light applause. I'm shot, glad this one is over. We hit 21:09, last mile in 5:15, shy of my goal, but that's alright. It was still my fastest time on this course in five tries.
Moments later, nearby volunteers congratulate us both, I congratulate Eli on a great race. And it was, neither of us were sand-bagging, I know I ran it hard to the end.

Frank Short and Bill Rodgers finish in a hand-holding tie at the Virginia 10 miler in 1975
Do I wonder who would have won it if I had said, "Nah, let's rumble!" and put on the after burners? Not really. There are times in life when you can show the strength of the human spirit in sport, and we were evenly matched throughout this race. It was Eli's idea, and I hadn't thought of it at all, but I liked the idea just fine. In my mind, we were both the victor of this race.  He's a very good runner, and a nice kid for the times I've interacted with him(having met him at a road race while he was still a HS runner). Now competing for Dickinson College in PA, he has proven his ability through dedication and hard work. That is something that I can respect in a younger runner. I took his gesture as a nod of repsect and recognition, and was glad to oblige him and reciprocate. Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers did it! Why not Eli and Me?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Presidents Cup Nite Race 5k Race Report

Going into this race I was confident that it should have gone well. I have done a good amount of quality speed work since the Boston Marathon, and I did a 14mile run the morning of the College Ave Road Mile. All signs pointed to a road 5k pr. But sometimes, you just get unlucky with an illness.  A couple of days after the College Ave Road Mile I suddenly started feeling symptoms of a sinus infection.  Instead of going to see a Dr. a few days after when I was free to do so; I stayed home and tried to sleep through it. Well, that was dumb. It didn't work.  This turned into an Upper Respiratory Infection(which I only confirmed two days after the race upon finally seeing a Dr.)

What can you do? If you are too ill to compete, then don't. I was still undecided 36hrs before the race. The day before I did a 32min easy run. I felt relatively-okay, despite the lung butter. Yuck.

Established: I was far from 100% healthy to race a highly competitive 5k road race. But this is the President's Cup! The most competitive long distance race in the USATF-NJ Club Championship Grand Prix! If you have no fever and your legs are not broken, you run!

From the start, I felt decent enough, surprisingly not struggling to breathe while pushing to a 5:04 at 1mile. Hard to know how much to back off when your breathing is compromised by illness, and it proved to be too much. Through the 2nd mile I was fading a bit and clicked off a 5:11, I knew this meant I was in for a difficult last 1.1075. I found myself stuck running alone from the 2mile mark until I had crested the long incline for the second time with about 600m to go. There I was re-joined by John Welsh, Jarrett Kunze, and later on, Peter Bolgert. Kunze blazed away from us with a very strong last mile, and Bolgert passed me late with a blistering kick. Yes, I struggled, but avoided total implosion. 16:07 was my time, 17th position. Neither are my best at this race, but I am proud of my effort given the tough competition and my poor health.
Check out my progression at this race through the yrs:

2004-17:30-58th
2005-17:05-46th(2 spots and 5 seconds behind Olympian Julie Culley!)
2006-16:40-26th
2007-16:24-22nd
2008-15:57-16th
2009-16:10-26th
2010-16:24-17th(day after a 24hr relay run where I ran more than 30miles)
2011-16:09-14th
2012-DNR
2013-16:01-12th
2014-16:07-17th

I've had my ups and downs, but the excitement of the event draws me back! The best part is the Free Sam Adams beer after you finish! Events like this really bring the whole running/racing community together to enjoy a good battle and an even better post race buzz! Much fun was had by all!
Perhaps most impressively, the GSTC Men's teams finished 1-2-3-4-8.  The first four teams were separated by only 26 seconds.  The 2nd and 3rd team by less than 1 second! The calculation in creating those teams is uncanny!
Enjoy the photos!

The start, some real studs on the front line, aaand a few pretenders. Even at "Open Championships" things can be a bit too relaxed. I call for reform. Note, I am in the 2nd row, behind people that I know are faster than me.

1st time around on the two loop course, unknown runner in Sneaker Factory singlet challenges the eventual winner, Chris Johnson (center-white shorts). Closely following in a loose pack, Will Griffin, Mike Soroko, Ken Goglas, Adam Gruchacz, and a couple others.

A solid chase pack led by Chris Schneider, Myself, Zak Martins, Jarrett Kunze, Matt Eder, and Rob Nihen at the rear.

Running the No-Man's Land around 2.5miles

Evening the score with John Welsh, as he had beaten at this race the previous yr.

Chris Johnson pulling away from Thomas Young for the win!

Friday, June 13, 2014

The College Ave Road Mile Race Report

The start of the Emerging Elite heat at the College Ave Road Mile June 7, 2014.
As usual, Peter Bolgert runs a short distance faster than I do.


The College Ave Road Mile was an incredibly fun event.  I enjoyed the very fast racing of both 1mile and 1/2mile during the two person relay. My Partner, Karen Auteri, and I, ran roughly 4:56 combined.  We took third the in Mixed M/F division!  As an individual, in the Emerging Elite heat I ran a 4:40.25(3rd in the heat). I am reasonably pleased with this result. I had hoped for 4:39. Pretty darn close.  Eight 90 degree turns will do that to you. The weather was good, not too hot, no noticeable wind to speak of. Many of my GSTC teammates had very fast performances in the Elite heat pior to mine.  I was immediately inspired to produce my best.
Equally as important, numerous USATF-NJ clubs teams came to compete. Men and Women of all ages toed the line. In many cases, I wa impressed by the speed and determination of others!
 I'd say this was a good kick-start in a uptempo period of training, but I have since fallen ill with a sinus infection. The past three days I have mainly been jogging, and resting whenever possible. This past Tuesday, feeling lousy, I still ran a workout. 4x400 @5k pace, 2k at threshold pace, 4x400 @5k pace.  Some days you will feel lousy when it's time for a workout, and you will have to work though them. Sunday will be a nice loooong run. Time to amp the endurance back up for Chasing the Unicorn Marathon!

That's all for now.
Happy Running!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Get a Mile PR and a Boston Qualifier this Summer!

The College Ave Road Mile takes place on Saturday June 7th, sign up now, click the image below. This is a club team championship event.  If you are not a club team competitor, come anyway, race a mile! Watch others race a mile! You can even run with a partner on a 2x1/2mile relay team! Or do both! If you haven't raced a mile "since High School", you might surprise yourself, relive some moments of Glory! Take a chance at outkicking someone! Let's race!
http://collegeavemile.org/signup.html
Sunday August 17th, Washington Crossing Historic Park, PA 7am start-flat flat flat, cruise control get er' done, get that last chance BQ!

Unicorn.jpg 
 
During the in between, there will be:
President's Cup Nite Race-5k Mon June 16th-NJUSATF club team championship all divisions
Cranford Firecracker 4 miler-Fri July 4th-a great local race in Union County that actually starts with a BOOM!

If all goes according to plan, I will set new PR's for the road mile, 5k road, 4mile, and break my own CR at CTU. At the least, these are good springboards into tougher cycles of training for the fall. Summer racing isn't easy, but these are great events in their own right! I encourage anyone reading this, as a competitive runner of 18+yrs I can say that it is worth testing yourself at a variety of distances.

Mark Parisen and Jaris Rousseau showing me a clean pair of heels at the 2013 College Ave Road Mile

Hope to see some of you at one or all of these races!
 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

News from the 2014 Stockholm Marathon

The Belgian Beast did work today!  Below are splits for my friend, Johan Ghillebert, who ran the Stockholm Marathon today! This was his first sub 3hr marathon! His pace was astoundingly even through most of the race! I'm super proud of him! He's been working hard for this. Who won the race? I dunno. All that matters is Johan has entered into the realm of the sub 3hr marathoner! Yup, 2:59:00. Please note, he was in 762nd position at the 5k split. Midway, had moved up 157places, and then lowered the boom on another 272 runners until in the 2nd half of the race! He passed an average of 11.5 runners for every 1k from 5k-42k. 

Here is a photo of Johan from today, crushing it...Why? He has a beard, and follows training plans like a smart runner does. 
 Three cheers for Johan and Beards!

Split time of day time diff min/km km/h place
5K 12.21.14 0.20.57 20.57 04.12 14.32 762
10K 12.42.20 0.42.03 21.06 04.14 14.22 662
15K 13.03.23 1.03.06 21.03 04.13 14.25 635
20K 13.24.30 1.24.13 21.07 04.14 14.21 609
Half 13.29.08 1.28.50 04.37 04.13 14.24 605
25K 13.45.41 1.45.23 16.33 04.15 14.15 529
30K 14.06.59 2.06.42 21.19 04.16 14.08 468
35K 14.28.20 2.28.03 21.21 04.17 14.05 376
40K 14.49.43 2.49.26 21.23 04.17 14.03 335
Finish 14.59.17 2.59.00 09.34 04.22 13.77 333

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The 118th B.A.A. Boston Marathon

Post race Celebrating with Will and Dave at The Rattlesnake on Boylston St
Monday, April 21st, 2014 I ran and finished the 118th running of the B.A.A. Boston Marathon. I knew I had to run this marathon within hours of the bombings that took place at last year's race. I know many runners felt the same way, and not only Americans, running crosses boarders, language, and culture. The Boston Marathon is one of the special events in the world's culture.  We all run, we all love. When we run the marathon distance we celebrate the strength of the human spirit and will to push on through pain to achieve our best. I outright refuse to allow anyone to rain on the running parade, I had to be there this year.


Of all the marathon races that take place in our great country, this has to be the best one. Maybe the best in the world! The people that live in each town along the course come out to the roadside en mass. Spectators and volunteers cheer you on through the entire course. The race organizers provide essentially all the things you need to get through, but that doesn't stop the good people of Massachusetts from offering more food, drinks, ice, wet sponges. It is a nice reminder that there are good people everywhere. There were moments during Monday's race that I felt as if I was moving faster from the force of the voices alongside the course lifting my feet and pushing me forward.  The cheering will give you chill, trigger an adrenal response. If you ever wondered what the Runner's High was, it's kinda' like that.

Going into this race, I had a new and mysterious pain in my right quad. The drive up wore me out rather badly and by the time I got out of the expo I was feeling shaky. A bottle of some fruit/veggie stuff helped a good bit and by the next morning I felt ready for one last pre-race run with teammates and friends along the Charles River. The run was okay, my right quad still tight and stiff near the IT band, left knee always questionable.

Fast forward to race morning: 5:08am-wake up. Dress for the morning chill, eat my oatmeal and banana. 5:55a.m.-walk over to the "T" down and ride to Boston Common. Teammate Will Appman and his fellow Penn State Alum, Dave Moyer, and I , meet up with Ken Walsh, we check our gear for the finish and get on a line for a school bus ride to Hopkinton! Spirits are good on the bus ride, people make new acquaintances and tell stories of their other marathon and running experiences. Just runners being runners on a school bus.
8:10a.m.-Arriving at the Middle School in Hopkinton, the Runner's Village is already hopping, people grabbing last minute food and drink, using toilets, laying out surrounded by heat-sheets biding the time until they called Runners to move out toward the starting corrals. Will, Dave, Ken and I meet up with the Penn State University XC/TF club athletes (about 10 representing).
9:10-9:59a.m.-We start walking with the hoard of runners in Wave 1 toward the start corrals, I'm overly nervous, anxious to a point of discomfort, also a bit emotional. But I laugh at the sign on a front lawn that offers "Cigarettes, Donuts, Beer", no lie, one guy had a pack of Marlboro Menthol open and free for the taking. Still nervous, my body is reacting, you might say I was "shit-scared". Final pit stop done, retieing my shoes about 2-3 times, I walk into the start corral after the National Anthem has played. I slink through the back half of the first corral and find the PSU gang with Will and Dave. We wish each other good luck, and finally the starting cannon fires!
10:00 and 11seconds a.m. I get across the starting mats, I can figure I'm probably sitting around 500-600th position. For a brief few seconds, I can see the front of the elite pack up the road. I do not think, "Who will win? Will it be Meb?" I am pleased to learn after I finish, Meb won! Meb is definitely someone to look up to!
The race itself unfolded with much apprehension for me. So now I move to mile splits:
Mile 1-5:56-being cautious, warming up the legs, letting the maniacs make regrettable surges all around me.
Mile 2-5:42-legs are warmed up, oops too quick, "when will my right quad start to tighten?" I think.
Mile 3-5:45-another downhill mile, but it's alright, 5-10secs fast on downhill miles will happen, gravity.
Miles 4, 5, and 6 -5:44, 5:47, 5:47, the last of 6 consecutive downhill miles and I feel alright, crowd support has been amazing already and I spot former GSTC teammate and RSG coworker of yrs past, Mark Del Monaco, we run together for about 2.5miles before he picks up the pace, I'll see him later on.
Mile 7 thru 9- all 5:49's-virtually flat ground through Framingham heading into Natick
Mile 10 thru12-5:55, 6:01, 5:54-my left knee suddenly hurts sharply on a single footfall, this worries me and I back off the pack a touch favoring it, now I'm thinking, "how will I finish this race if this gets much worse?" not long after this I hear/see the Decarlo's, Rob and Meghan, thanks guys!
Mile-13 thru 15-5:54, 5:53, 5:57-Knee still hurting a bit, I can't resist kissing a couple girls at Wellesley College, thanks girls! Great tradition! In the town of Wellsley, I pass the halfway point in 1;16:32 and I think "Wow, I'm on pace for a PR! Don't F*ck it up!"Just before you start the first of four climbs in Newton, there is a significant downhill, but I will say that I definitely got a boost around mile marker 15 from my friend and former teammate, Mike Loenser! You definitely have highs and lows in long races and Mike's voice and energy kept me smiling for at least a 1/2mile!
Miles 16, thru 21-5:48, 6:06, 6:08, 5:53, 6:01, 6:09-Down one hill and up four! The infamous Newton hills! Where many runners fade and crumble. Where the strong ones remember, after each climb there is a brief respite and they take advantage, or at least manage to recover a bit for the next climb. I worked through this section with methodical caution, legs are starting to get heavier here. But Morris Co Strider, Randy Miller was out there around mile 18 on one of the climbs, high-fived Randy! Cathy Stutzman of GSTC was out there around mile 19.5, snapped a nice shot of me climbing.
Working up the hills, battling for bragging rights with another son of NJ, I think I got him in the end.

Miles 22 thru 26.2 5:43, 5:48, 5:47, 5:57, 5:58, 1:15(final .21875miles-5:42pace)  After the last incline "Heartbreak Hill", a runner says to me "Was that Heartbreak?" I say, "I think so, but don't quote me on that." We both chuckle, we're both tired, but sure enough that was it. Funny how you can loose count of hills you are climbing in the middle of a marathon. I manage to comfortably roll down into Brookline. At the 21mile split my elapsed time is 2:03:49, 5.2 to go. I think, "keep em' under 6 and you've got it!" I'm blowing by faders along the way. This is a good feeling past 20 miles in a marathon. I see a guy with a Runner's High Singlet, I push to reel him in, I'm battling a guy wearing the colors of the Chinese National flag, he gets away but I keep passing runners, including Mark which was a bit of a bummer. I'd hoped he would hit his goal, he is very dedicated to his training. For the rest of the 26 mile I continue to pick off some faders, and find myself too far away to pip anyone at the line. I have the last .2 miles to myself, I know I've got some fast twitch muscles that I haven't completely trashed yet, and I open it up as best I can. I raise my arms up as I run the last 50 meters or so, I pump my fist! I finish! I take 2 steps and my left calf is donezo! Almost fall over, but keep it moving...somehow. I shout to the crowd, "PR! That's a PR!" Few moments in life match breaking a 4yr spell of "No PR today".
I try to linger to congratulate those who I had narrowly beaten, I recognize a few that I had run near or alongside going up the hills for several miles. Mark does catch up to me and we chat, pose for a photo, he's disappointed, but I tell him, "I'm glad we were able to run together for a while and that we both were here on this day."  We walked back to the gear check area, and then just spent some time waiting for others on Boston Common. On the walk to the gear check from the Finish line to I chatted with a guy from Alaska, and a guy from Scotland. And the aforementioned Chinese guy, Liangwu Ma, I saw later at the gear check, I had to congratulate the guy for running so well over the last 2k, but he spoke no English! As I spoke to him, we were both smiling, he showed me his finish time on his Garmin watch, and I congratulated him and shook his hand again. Running speaks volumes across the world.


Final Numbers
Finish time: 2:34:18 splits of 17:59, 17:56, 18:06, 18:33, 18:18, 18:45, 18:25, 18:09, 8:09
Position: 160th overall, 137th male, 128th 18-39AG, 3rd NJ Male
Am I happy with this? YES!! I wanted to crack the top 100 this yr, and honestly, this race went better than I expected given my mental and physical state 48hrs before the race.

Statisticians will find this race was faster in my range, simply lots of good runners came to Boston this yr. 4yrs ago I finished 145th overall, 131st male, and my time was 2:15 slower.

Did I say that the Boston Marathon is the best Road Race on the planet? Well I just said it, it is. If you can't Rock n' Roll, then start running, and you will know what it feels like to be a Rock Star!

Thereafter: Celebrated at the Rattlesnake on Boylston, went to a rooftop party in the Fenway neighborhood, went into another bar near Northeastern. And today, Wednesday, my knee hurts...a lot. Worth it.

Thank you to Rob DeCarlo for coaching me, GSTC, RVRR, Randy Miller, Jess Hyland, Mike Loenser, Pat McCloskey for both organizing the race that qualified me for Boston but for also shouting my name in the 25th mile, Cathy Stutzman, Meghan DeCarlo, Mrs, Appman, the Moyer family and anyone else who I couldn't spot out of the corner of my eye as they cheered for me. Thanks and Congratulations to Meghan Bruce, Will Appman, Dave Moyer, Erin Higgins, Karen Auteri, Aysha Mirza, and all my teammates who were in the race, tracked us online, made the trip with me, celebrated with me, and sent the good vibes that carried us through 26.2miles of awesome! I didn't win the race for real, but I sure feel like I did!
A Northeastern student congratulates me on a rooftop near Fenway. I'm working on growing the fanbase in New England.