Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The 120th B.A.A. 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.

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.

Twins
 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!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hire Me as Your Running Coach

Thinking about it, aren't you? You wonder if having a coach will make a difference. There is something that someone said to me once that resonates in my memory. It went along the lines of:

"Just because I coach other runners and know how to make a training plan, doesn't mean I will make the best decisions as the weeks go by, that's why I pay someone to coach me."

Chew on that thought. If you are an ambitious runner, looking to set new PB's in any distance from 1mile to the marathon; chances are that you have picked up some general idea of what to do to improve speed and endurance. However, it is very likely that you will shy away from areas of weakness and work your way into overuse injuries. Or it is equally likely that you will over train because "it's on my plan"

Hey, straight up, right now I have not run in a week (not counting a super slow jog for 16mins a few days ago that was effectively an aborted run) due to a flair up of my Achilles tendon. I haven't always had that discipline to swallow my pride to keep a setback from becoming a real injury. Even the most knowledgeable and seasoned veterans in the sport breakdown. I think a dentist probably lets another dentist work on his/her teeth, right?

So think, do you always do the smart thing for body regarding training? Are you really able to analyze your training objectively? Do you want some continual guidance?

I am saying all this because simply, I am good at running because I took the time to learn more about training and worked myself through it. Continual consultation along with a plan is worth paying for.  A veteran of more than 20 HM's and an upcoming 13th marathon (6x Boston) could make a difference for you. In my estimation, having done a physical task counts most of all, those are my certifications, thousands of miles and all the learning that came along with each one of them.
Training plans for a 5k race are 12 weeks, anything longer will be best set for 12-16 weeks (depending on when you start and when the upcoming race is scheduled), all plans are $10 per week, full plan paid in advance. Reach out if you're serious and ready to commit.


Monday, March 14, 2016

What Corral and Bib will I get for the Boston Marathon? Waiting on that Postcard

The weather is warming up and I am starting to wonder when the B.A.A. is going to send that lovely post card in the mail. The one that tells you what your corral and bib number are. Having run this race five times already, I have largely ignored the waiting game about it. The first time in 2007 I didn't think of it at all, until the day it was there.
"Oh, okay, 1899, corral 2, sure."
More recently in 2014, I ran a fast qualifying time to gain entry back into the 2015 race. See below, yea, seeded 202 out of thousands. Pretty cool, huh?  (sidenote of minor bragging, I walked into the 2014 Boston race with the 381 bib and finished 138th male)
Well, if you have been following along, you know I had a hernia repair surgery a month before the 2015 race. Later, in August, I tried to get a faster qualifying time and managed just a 48 seconds improvement over my post-surgery run from the spring. I know there will be a very small chance of getting into the first corral this year. Each Corral holds 1000 runners (for those who don't know what happens at larger races like this)
That post card arriving feels like another little reminder: "You are doing this", "They are glad you are coming", "You had better stay focused on your preparation", "Get excited". Somehow it feels like things are taking shape more firmly when it arrives.

    
Last yr's race bib, couldn't find the post card. What will this year's number be?!

So, like thousands of other qualified runners for this year's Boston Marathon, I've been training steadily and once in a while thinking "When is that post card coming?" "What will my bib # and corral assignment be?" The excitement for the journey to Boston is building. I haven't seen friends posting photos of this information yet. But I know that day is coming soon; just 35 days until we run from Hopkinton all the way to Boyleston St.

Share your thoughts about the spring race that you are counting down to. Are you thinking about it when you wake up in the morning?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Strava is fun

I have been using Strava since January 1st. I had been recommended to do so by a teammate, Josh Neyhart. Several of our other teammates also started tracking their training there recently too. With my old running journal having vanished into "virtual" thin air, I wanted to utilize another free resource.

The user experience in the App is pretty solid. I access it through my iphone 5s and haven't have any problems so far. There are some layout snags I don't like when operating from the website itself, and when I run let's say as far as 10.09 miles according to my TomTom GPS watch and Strava's data sometimes tells me I ran 9.9 (they only display tenths, not hundreths), that annoys me quite a bit. I understand the reasons with GPS measurement's challenges, but now I'm running .1 extra on most of my runs like a crazy man.

Overall, it is very useful to glance back through the past recent weeks to see trends in my overall training volume. Following and liking the training of friends and Pro Athletes is awesome!
Here are some screen shots from the App. I enjoy seeing what people are doing out there; the maps, the graphs, the paces, who's going out on big hills and crushing it like a beast!
I couldn't help but share my own stuff. Yup, bragging on a Monday. This was one of my best 20milers in a long time, I am proud of the effort. Boston training is going pretty well! Get on Strava, join the party!

Yesterday's LR, general stats and first 5mile splits

splits from 6-20, it also tracks your best efforts for a variety of distances

aaaand the segments created by the network of users!

Monday, February 15, 2016

The 2016 US Olympic Team Trials Marathon: the inspiration is cyclical

My Sunday run was a success. It wasn't perfect, I had a couple of unplanned stops to relieve myself. Those always frustrate me, but it happens, right? The surprise upside to the 2nd stop was then deciding, stay at a controlled slow pace or chase after the 3 guys I was out there with who are now almost a minute ahead of me. I didn't want to end the run solo, I gave chase...hard.
 I have probably done about 20 runs of 2hrs 30mins or more in the past ten years of marathon training. Few of them have I walked away from feeling "okay" and feeling "not beat up" the next day. But this Sunday, despite the absurd low temperatures, I ended the last 5miles of my run like a dog off the leash. Today, I felt no worse for it.
 If I told you I wasn't inspired by watching the Olympic Trials marathon race the day before, I would be a liar. Will, Jeremy, Brandon, and I were discussing the Us Olympic Trials Marathon race somewhere along the way. Then as I knew I had ground to make up, I imagined myself the 6th man in the OT race. Running a calculated faster pace to reel in my competition and get a spot on the team. After about 1.5miles I passed Jeremy and Brandon (who were left by Will who had decided to pick it up), exchanged some words of thanks and encouragement and I kept at it. Another 1.5miles later I caught Will, he was surprised and glad I had reeled him back in. 
He asked "Do you have another 3 left in you?" 
I said "Hell yea!" 
And we stuck the fast pace until we hit 22 miles. We congratulated each other on a great effort and quickly parted ways, it was still only12 degrees by that time. It was a lot of fun to finish a run that way. Most often I have been just grinding to get the last 10-15mins finished and hating it. Not today, today was like a 17mile warmup and great 5mile tempo!
In running, I can appreciate that there are a couple of levels above my head. That greatness is an inspiration that has always been in front of me, simultaneously pulling and pushing me to new achievements. I have always looked at being "far from the best" as a built in bonus, keeps the pressure of being the one who most others expect big things from.
So, what is the inspiration for those who are the champions? The best of the best? I think the ones who keep striving to win and stay at the top level are the ones who know that Victory or any achievement becomes a memory as soon as the next newspaper is printed. As soon as the next race comes, or the talk of the next championship upcoming. So, they recognize this, enjoy the day and get ready to do it again because it is a great challenge to have repeated success or just to have the chance to compete with a field of the best.
I think they can also be inspired by those that are chasing them, competitors, training partners, or just other athletes that have the common bond of making the effort to be a great as you can be. 
You need your rivals as much as you need your teammates, because without them; what would any win or medal be worth? Who would you beat to get it? Who would it matter for?
On Saturday I was amazed to see Meb Keflezighi run with all the younger challengers and beat all but one, simply inspired to see Tyler McCandless push to the front, Tyler Pennel making his surge and leading for several miles. Jared Ward's patience and strength that ultimately led him to the 3rd spot on the team. On the Women's side, Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan working together the whole way until Flanagan began to struggle. Seeing Desiree Linden's push into 3rd and then 2nd as the race wore on in its' later miles had me on the edge of my seat. I am continually impressed by Kara Goucher's drive, running hard stuck in 4th is a mental kick in the gut. She never backed down and I think we'll see her do amazing things still!
Seeing the emotion of these Athletes in triumph or failure reminds me: They are just like me, the numbers are different but we go through it just the same. Like they say, the struggle is real.  Training for years to hopefully have a shot to run with your country's best for one of three slots into the Olympic Marathon race is a dream. I can only imagine how a runner may handle it when the outcome is sour. Many vow to come back again no matter what happens out there.
All of it is an inspiration, and makes me think "one more mile today", "three seconds faster today", "run more hills you sissy". Yeah, I say Inspiration is reflexive and cyclical, it is NOT a pyramid scheme.
Hey, I was thinkin' about it, it's 1:35am now, having sufficiently emptied my brain, I bid you a good night.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

12k essential to success in long distance running

Today was my first workout of the year that I walked away feeling solidly accomplished from. Recent running has been consistent and I'm gradually putting the pieces where I want them to be. I have had a hard time plotting when I wanted "big workouts" to start for my build up for the Boston Marathon (to be my 6th, and overall my 13th). Recently losing my job has put my mind in a spin, and running often has felt like a stress break, but I haven't really drafted "a plan" other than run a little bit longer each Sunday if I feel up to it.
A lot of times, you get out there and do workouts that just feel too fast or mundane as you have run them more times than you could guess. I look at training like eating, sometimes you are hungry and want to take huge bites and devour something like a glutton. But even in those instances, if one bite is too big, it can get ugly. Going too fast on long intervals is a similar concept.
The whole workout could be going very well up to a point, and then you just get greedy. You start pushing a pace that is a little bit too fast and then you are over your Threshold. Some of us are foolish enough to stretch down from Half Marathon pace to10k pace or quicker. It's easy to let it happen, and I am pretty sure I have been guilty of this at least once. But not today! Today was brilliant, I covered 2k, 6 times, jogging 2:00-2:30 between reps (partly due to Middle Distance Runners needing to start their 200m reps without crashing into us). The slowest interval was 7:04, the fastest was 6:53.
Threshold pace shouldn't hurt that much if you are running the correct pace and taking ample recovery. Look at it like this, To run at your Threshold isn't easy running, but it has a much bigger margin for comfort and error. Small miscalculations in pace can be corrected throughout a long interval, and don't amplify as harshly when you go too fast. You may ask "Why 2k, why not 1600m, it seems long to keep going for such a while?" Because I like getting a mile split and then continuing on at the same pace, it has the hidden benefit of race day preparation. If I check my watch for "my mile", I want to imprint in my mind "good mile, keep going", over and over and over again. That is one reason, and having your head in the right place about your pacing is a damn good reason to do something.
Many inexperienced runners might be reading and asking "Wait, we run Half Marathons kinda slowly, that doesn't sound like a speed workout!" Well, don't ignore the fatigue factor kids! by the 5th and 6th interval I started to feel the pressure. For you, a similar effort might be just 2 or 3 times 2k, but try them, see what it feels like to keep on your pace for 400m longer after getting that mile split, then take your recovery of 1/3 the interval time. Total volume for these types of workouts are well explained in Daniels' Running Formula.
I had originally considered running a 7th interval, but the track had some icy spots on it, and the 6th went very well! I decided, that's it, I did work, I don't hurt right now. It's done. This workout is over. I'm a happy guy tonight.
And for your viewing pleasure: Anis runs on a relay team!
Anchoring the 4x800m B team at the Frank Colden Invitational on 2/6/16. Absolutely a rust buster, I am not a Mid-D guy! Earlier in the day I raced 3000m in 9:17, yea that was a rust buster too, working on it!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Sciatic Nerve Pain or Piriformis Pain

Sciatic Nerve Pain feels like maybe an alien impregnated your upper ass. You know, you wake up one day and think "Did Aliens abduct me, and implant their unborn inside my lower half? This hurts! Shooting pains down your hamstring, into your calf, your arch, etc. Oh, it's terrific when this manages to simultaneously hurt your buttock, hip flexors and groin. Marvelous mess to manage.
Why am I talking about this you wonder? Those who know me well, have heard the story. "I jumped awkwardly over a stream during a trail race, landed hard, felt the shot of pain and have never been the same since". That summarizes it, that happened in 2010. To avoid the pain entirely I am fairly sure that quitting distance running would have been in order. To hell with that!
It is incredible how much pain distance runners are willing to deal with...just so they can bring on more pain by hard racing. The workings of this mind state probably resembles a skipping record (for the kids in the crowd, research 44 and 78rpm records, ya know that old crap before digital download).

 Age telling metaphors aside, I am convinced of the following:
1)Chairs were a bad invention and most of them suck.
2)Our lives have come full circle from hard-easy-way to easy-hard because we made it too easy.
3)I am more than ever considering that training as a survivalist is probably the way to go.*

Managing this is a challenge. Periodic and repeated stimulation of the upper gluteus, hamstring and calf seem to help a bit. Stretching/Yoga also seem to help. It is difficult to tell sometimes if in fact my Piriformis muscle is the culprit of these pains, or if it is only the sciatic nerve that is affected from my the discs in the L4/L5 area
being impinged.
For certain, one of the most effective treatments overall is just digging into the my glutes with my thumb or rolling on a lacrosse ball.
I have managed to crank out some decent mileage despite the pain in recent weeks. But that my friends, will be the topic of another discussion.
 

*Moderately held belief in an impending Zombie Apocalypse.  ;)