Monday, September 21, 2015

2015 Newport Liberty Half Marathon Race Report

This was my 10th Newport Liberty HM, 2005-2015. Funny, I never planned to run the same race 10yrs in a row, but hey, there it is. I have placed inside the top 10 at this race 7 times.We have our ups and downs, don't we? Sometimes, the competition gets tougher, ready or not. Anyway, the weather yesterday was fairly ideal, cloudy and 72 degrees F. While it kept us cool, the wind was too strong, it definitely put a slow down on things between miles 6-10.
Shortly after the start: Far left, Steve Mennitt takes an early lead, 3 different styles of GSTC singlets on display.
 Today's splits 5:50, 5:39, 5:41, 5:36, 5:34, 5:36, 5:41, 5:51, 5:55, 6:02, 6:07, 6:01, 6:33 last 1.1 miles (5:57pace). Battling Sciatic nerve pain was a factor, time to see the Chiropractor. Maybe I haven't thrown myself into hard enough workouts yet this year. I am trying to avoid having excuses. I would prefer proper execution of a solid race strategy. Anyway, read on. Check here for Full results.
At least 7 GSTC men in this photo, we all were somewhere around 25-30th position here at about 1.75miles. Anthony Harris is looking at You!
My reaction: This didn't feel so great. Knowing I had pushed too hard too soon and was over my threshold into the wind in the middle of Liberty State Park, but let's talk about where I was in the field early versus the end. I was easily somewhere back around 30th before we had made it to 1 mile. Noticing that I had taken off too quickly, I corrected my pace within the first minute of the race. From there I was running along with a well formed pack of teammates and competitors, probably somewhere between 12-15 at times. Everyone in this clump seemed fairly content to keep it tight for the first 3.5miles...
That's when I had had enough of the little tea party. I swung a turn wide allowing me out from behind 7-8 guys and I started to move to the front. I made a push from there until we were near the 5mile mark. I felt surprisingly comfortable with the first three miles. By the 9th mile I might have been in roughly 14th or15th position, but I was clearly a pretender, fading back to 19th by races end. All in all, it was good battling with some great runners.
I proved to myself the following, I'm not at my all time best and I can't run at that pace right now. Which, is admittedly frustrating. But at least I have a better idea of where I am working from. Truth be told, I wasn't ready to race a HM. There has been little in my training this year to lead me into this.  But, I've had worse efforts and worse endings for sure.
I was impressed with the effort I saw out there today from so many people. The teamwork I witnessed and took part in was great! I still dislike the course itself, and if they change the championship race location ever, it won't break my heart. I could happily close the book on a race I have run 10 times.
Somehow, from here, I will find a way to make training happen each day until The Club National XC Championship in December. It shouldn't be impossible, I've got inspiring teammates around me!
Finishing in 1:16:05, glad this one came to its end.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Living a Runner's Dream

People remark to me when they learn I am "A Runner", that they "hate running", "couldn't run down the street", "would only run to catch the bus", etc.  Or sometimes, they ask simply, "Why do you do it?"
I find the why a more interesting thing to respond to, it is open-ended. Perhaps they actually want to gain some insight. 
 I'm going to cut to it now. Nevermind specific race goals for the year, nevermind why I started. Let me tell you why I won't stop.
 I am living the dream: Every time I get going, even when the weather sucks and I am alone wishing I had a buddy out there with me, I am at least 51% glad that I made the effort.  The pain comes with the territory, and there are far more painful things than running injuries and pushing yourself to the limit over and over again. Every step is worth everything I get back from it. I see things that most people won't see, I continue to meet exceptional people because we run. Goals always seem just around the corner, adventures are in every direction. I have been doing this for almost 20yrs, I've run enough miles to encircle the earth and then some.  I can look back on it so far and realize I have accomplished a lot for myself and with teammates, on my terms, in my own time, on my level. Why Would I ever stop?

My team, the distance runners at least, we roll deep.

Now I ask You, "Why do you NOT run?"
That's enough, chew on it...and get your ass out the door, the world probably needs you to run all over it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Team Bloke 5k for Brain Cancer Awareness

I learned recently, that one of the toughest and most accomplished Triathletes I have ever competed against has been stricken with brain cancer.  The man's name is Doug Clark. Some of you may know him, he is a Family man, former team member from the Old Sneaker Factory Club team, and a fellow that enjoys a beer mile.
Doug Clark himself

I had a terrific duel finish for 2nd place at a road race once years ago at a Road/trail 10k race in Mendham back in 2004.  I nipped him at the line, he is a good sport and took it well.  Doug's presence at a Road race always brought the competition up a level. We always had a friendly chat during warmups or cooldowns at the races. Take a look at the results below, these are the results of the 2011 Newport Liberty HM. I had a rough day, Doug was hunting me in that last mile, no easy task staying ahead of him then.


05:00 PACE(min/mi)   5:00   6:00   7:00   8:00   9:00   10:00   11:00   12:00

                                                                         Gender     Age Group    Age Graded
Place    Runner           City/Town,State  Age Sx U Code    Time    Pace Place        Place          PLP     ChipTime
   1.John Thou            ,NJ                38 M       1:08:03.27  5:11 1/1227    M35-39:1/193     89.18   1:08:03.27  
   2.Jeff Perrella        Westfield,NJ       23 M U     1:10:44.99  5:24 2/1227    M20-24:1/37      83.64   1:10:44.99  
   3.Michael Rolek        Maplewood,NJ       25 M U     1:10:45.31  5:24 3/1227    M25-29:1/197     83.63   1:10:45.31  
   4.David Nash           Jersey City,NJ     30 M       1:11:14.00  5:26 4/1227    M30-34:1/221     83.07   1:11:14.00  
   5.Rich Burke           Morristown,NJ      44 M U     1:15:00.82  5:43 5/1227    M40-44:1/199     84.85   1:15:00.82  
   6.Matthew Bach         Jersey City,NJ     24 M       1:15:21.17  5:45 6/1227    M20-24:2/37      78.53   1:15:21.17  
   7.Jason Holder         New York,NY        27 M       1:15:37.08  5:46 7/1227    M25-29:2/197     78.26   1:15:37.08  
   8.Elliott Frieder      Montville,NJ       40 M U     1:16:10.25  5:48 8/1227    M40-44:2/199     80.93   1:16:10.25  
   9.Mike Carriglitto     Pottstown,PA       36 M       1:16:52.63  5:52 9/1227    M35-39:2/193     77.93   1:16:52.63  
  10.Michael Anis         Highland Park,NJ   30 M U     1:17:16.02  5:53 10/1227   M30-34:2/221     76.59   1:17:16.02  
  11.Doug Clark           Morristown,NJ      42 M U     1:17:20.17  5:54 11/1227   M40-44:3/199     80.99   1:17:20.17  
  12.Tim Morgan           S. Plainfield,NJ   27 M U     1:17:37.64  5:55 12/1227   M25-29:3/197     76.23   1:17:37.64  
  13.Diego Vanegas        New York,NY        36 M       1:17:40.06  5:55 13/1227   M35-39:3/193     77.13   1:17:40.06  
  14.Thomas Yakowenko     Metuchen,NJ        42 M       1:17:57.68  5:57 14/1227   M40-44:4/199     80.34   1:17:56.59  
  15.Steven Geiger        Pine Beach,NJ      34 M U     1:18:12.21  5:58 15/1227   M30-34:3/221     75.97   1:18:12.13  

I am running this race, if it means we might save his life or just to support him and his family as they go through this, I owe it to him. If you are a competitor, know the joy of running competitively, and most of all ever met Doug or raced against him. Be there, support this.

Sign up or donate here.

Thank You.

The 119th B.A.A. Boston Marathon

If you aren't careful you can easily ramble from one year's race into another. If you are a creature of habit and tradition, as I tend to be. You think of the first time you ran the Boston Marathon when you start thinking about the one you just ran. My mind does that anyway.  Read my previous post, and you'll see how this year's race was very uncertain for me. I didn't think I would make it to the starting line with a reasonable hope of running more than half the distance. In the end I ran a brilliantly executed 2:52:13 (1:28/1:24).  Far from my best, and a decent bit better than my worst.  The truth is, if systems aren't failing and you put forth the best effort you feel that you can at the moment; then you ran a good race.  As a competitive runner, I tend to mark myself against recent or long past results. It is a practice of mental torture we inflict upon ourselves. We want the feeling of knowing we've made a new achievement. Maybe we won't admit that we're all "PR" addicts.  If you aren't a runner...well, whatever, let's just say, "It's a runner thing."

"The Belgian Bullet" Johan on the right, and Me on the Left, before the ride to Hopkinton.

My Employer, TomTom, required my support for the marathon expo, Inevitability was knocking. I'll say this, being at the expo center for several days was a great feeling! I've worked several other big race expos for TomTom by now, but this was my first chance to work at the Boston expo! I had a blast teaming up with my coworkers to help sell our product! But I also had a good time meeting runners from around the world who were there for their first Boston; or their 10th! You really do get to appreciate the dedication it takes for people to qualify or raise money to be at this event.  Also, over the course of the five days I was in Boston, I had a chance to see two games at Fenway Park, I'd never taken the opportunity to do so in the past. I bought the official Boston Mararthon commemorative jacket! Despite this being my fifth, I'd run in 07', 10', 12', and 14'. Many reasons lead to the gaps between years, so I was very excited to make it back to back years for the first time!
 I managed to arrange a very comfortable couch to crash on with last year's host, Dave Moyer. Again, I made my way with Dave and Will Appman to the Boston Commons on the morning of the race. In one of my favorite moments of the day, Dave says to Will and I "We'd better hurry or we're going to miss the train and the next one isn't for another 15mins". Which resulted in the three of us running Tempo pace for roughly .3-.4miles (thankfully downhill), into the station, and I managed to swipe my "Charlie card" for Will just in time to get through the turnstile. We bounded down the stairs and onto the train, doors closing with about 3seconds to spare! We'd told a bunch of friends, also racing the marathon, to meet at a specific time. Ironically, most of them were late anyway. So, our mad dash "warm-up" was largely pointless. But, hey, we got there!
 I met up with my friend and running protege, Johan "The Belgian Bullet" Ghillebert, who had qualified for Boston after numerous attempts across a span of 2yrs, made the "hop across the pond" from the UK. His goal of 2:58-2:59 roughly lined up with what I figured I might be able to run safely, all moderately scientific speculations. But I figured, "30min slower than my PR, 20mins slower, what's the difference?".  Finding myself in the scenario I was in (recent surgery for a sports hernia), I decided: help my friend, offer to run his pace. Johan was very glad when I told him I would run his pace and help guide him to goal. So, a crowd of us, Dave, Will, Johan, and numerous others from NJ dropped our gear at the gear check tents in the Boston Commons, lined up to board a school bus to ride out to Boston. All of us getting simultaneously nervous and excited.
The weather was not favorable, a raw 43-44degrees with 20mph gusts at times and a steady light to moderate rain for more than 90 mins before the race start. This forced us all under cover, an interesting scene. Thousands of runners trying to stay dry and warm.  Sadly for many waiting on a line for a bathroom at the wrong time, they had wet feet long before the race started. As for myself, I was quite on the edge of barely comfortable before we moved from the athlete's village at Hopkinton HS to the starting line. Still the time passed as Johan and I made acquaintance of a couple decent fellows. The one guy, Ethan, followed us all the way to starting line as it turned out he was in the same corral with Johan. We chatted with Ethan and the other guy, finding that we had some connections through other runners, trading stories about our prior marathons and attempts at big goals. The numbers may be different but the experience is usually all about the same. Talking about some of this stuff before a race like this helps me get through the seemingly endless waiting that takes place beforehand.
Ethan, followed Johan, and I up to the start corral. As we marched along, I reminded them both to keep on a throw away layer for as long as they felt comfortable, as got near the start there were a lot of random articles of clothing being tossed aside as per the usual before a marathon. I noted that poor Ethan had just a cotton short sleeve shirt over his race singlet, and I spotted a long sleeve tech tee for him! He agreed it was a better choice and swapped his cotton throwaway for the tech long sleeve.  As we stood at the edge of the entrance to the 4th corral, the national anthem played, Air Force fighter Jets soared overhead, and many runners wished luck with a hearty hand shake to anyone within reach. They announced the start and we were off...kinda. No one really starts to run until they are right at the start mat. So, about 2mins after the gun went off, we were finally started!
Ethan hung with us for about a mile or two, and he settled into his own pace, later I found out from him that he finished in 3:12, "not my best, not my worst.", he told me. Johan, was very locked into his pace, if anything I might have possibly sabotaged his race, and he would remind me several times "we're speeding", I did edge about 3-5 seconds per mile faster at points than he had in mind in a best case.  So, I kept tapping the brakes. At one point, I simply just had to pee, I thought it over for about a mile. There was no point in holding out, I let Johan know I would catch back up. I stopped into some trees alongside the road, did what I had to do, and hopped back into the fray. Trying to catch a friend in a marathon, that has just developed a 30second gap on you is a challenge when running through other evenly paced runners on a race course.
I did catch him after about a mile or so, that was my fastest mile of the race by far, something probably in the 5:40-50 range.
Johan had a moment of doubt around 12 miles and decided he had to hit the Porta-John, I told him, "I will lock up from the cold if I stop and wait, You got this, I'm gonna' roll." And so I did, I started methodically picking off runners constantly throughout the rest of the race.  I was touching 6:10's later in the race, and felt pretty decent doing it. This all was quite a surprise, I kind of figured it would be a bigger struggle after the surgery. As the miles went buy and I realized, I can get 2:56, 2:55, on pace now for 2:54, faster, 53, 52!  It is exciting to exceed your expectations on a race and do it in smooth, commanding fashion. 
Pushing up Heartbreak Hill, on my way to my big negative-split run!
 I knew with 2miles to go that I was going to stay on the pace I'd been running for the past 3-4miles, which is a great feeling compared to the typical fade that I have experienced in most of my marathons. Running down Boylston Street, weaving through some slower runners, I crashed the line like I was racing a Mile!
Will, Dave, Katie, Me, Stephen, and Nick! Runners and Supporters, good times after the race!
So, there you have it. A great time in Bean Town, with friends near and far. I'm motivated to get truly healthy, strong and fit to go back next year to chase the magical 2:29:xx!
More stories about relatively recent things coming soon!
Hope the Summer Training is going well for all!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Club XC Nationals 2014, Hernia Repair, and proving you can still run that darn marathon

A career change can change a lot more than who you work with and for, or where your work happens. It has taken much of my mental focus away from running.  Honestly, that is fine.  I can balance it all out eventually.
So, as you may wonder "Have you been running, Mike?" Some of you know, yes  I have a bit.  But here's the catch up:

December: I limp into Club Cross Country Nationals at Lehigh University and run a sub-par effort on a painful hip/groin or some mysterious still undiagnosed thing. I won't even give it the legitimacy it yearns for and call it the "I-word". Shh, they can hear you and it makes them grow larger, angrier, vengeful! Just don't talk about them and they will leave you alone!
So, really, from step one to the end of the race I felt like I was running with a tear somewhere in my hip socket/groin or perhaps an attachment point between my glutes and hamstring. Despite this, I shaved 3 seconds from my personal best at 10k xc on a course that was somewhat slick an loaded to the gils with fast guys!
To provide a temperature of things: Olympian, Matt Tegenkamp, didn't win the race.  There were some very high quality professionals and rising amateurs in this race.  Flatly, I was mid-pack, in the low 300's of almost 600 runners.  At this level, I guess I can't complain.  Had I finished 100 spots further ahead, it would have made little difference in my life overall. Of course, yes, I would like to finish inside the top 200 at Club Nat XC, maybe in the 2015 race.
Finishing the last 100m of The Club National XC Championship at Lehigh University, I swear I beat at least one of the guys in front of me here! Photo credit to Michael Scott
One of the great things about this race for my team was that it was a fairly short trip for a national championship, we had more Athleles in the races than any other club by far!  It was really a lot of fun to be surrounded by all of them for the weekend.  Many shenanigans and laughs.
The Men's Teams at 2014 Club National XC Championship at Lehigh University, so many fast guys!

Winter: In the time since that race, I simply shut it down for a while, figuring somewhere in between Jan 1-8 I would get rolling again into training for the Boston Marathon.  Bad weather is always a challenge to training. Developing an inguinal hernia while shoveling snow was a show stopper.  While helping my housemates shovel about 8 inches of heavy snow in Mid-January, I felt something funny in my lower abdominal/groin area. Symptoms were obvious, and so running became very scary and awkward.  It is a weird sensation to have your intestine pushing through your abdominal wall, even if it is "minor".  That night and the next I had runs planned at a couple of running stores that I deal with for my job as a Technical Representative for TomTom GPS; I couldn't back out.  After these runs, it took me a few days to stew on what to do about this problem.  I tried taking a week off thinking maybe it was an inflamed muscle, and in that time my delusional theory was clearly proven false.  I was able to get an appointment in a couple weeks with Dr. Tomer Davidov at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick.  The Dr. recommended surgery, no surprise. But he told me that I can run until the surgery date, just take it easy. This was a relief, but I had already not run a  step for 2-3 weeks at this point.  I ran 4-6 days per week until surgery on March 18th, no runs longer than 9-10miles. It still felt weird/bad to run for more than 70mins. Honestly, it felt weird from the 1st stride every time, but I had to maintain my sanity and fitness until this was dealt with.

Surgery/Rebounding: Surgery itself wasn't stressful, the tightness of the muscles afterward was awkward for the better part of 10-14 days. But My follow up visit with the Dr. went smoothly. I had already been trotting across streets to beat changing traffic lights. He gave me the go-ahead to start running. So, I went home and did a 6mile run.  Not so bad.  I felt plenty rested over the several weeks and not sore from that run, so the next few days I went 8, 8, 3, 0...and 15. Yes, I decided I had to see how a longer run would feel. Along the way, I could still feel the muscles around the surgery site being stiff, but it was more simply this, I hadn't gone 14 miles since early December. So now here in March, 15 was admittedly unwise. I trudged the last 3 miles in a fading state of mild hunger and general bonkiness. Mike Dixon ran the middle 9 with me, so it was a bit like going off a cliff. You know the feeling, suddenly, you are alone and slowing down against your will...bummer.  3miles in the hurt box did not deter me.

One more try: At this point the Boston marathon was now just 8 days away, I had done a few moderate runs since the 15 I suffered through. I figured, my body will adapt quickly from this recent return to moderate mileage. I was leery of attempting 18miles. So I gave myself the "range" option, "Try for 16, feel alright , go as far as 18, feel bad stop as early as 14."  I met with Adin Mickle and Joe Zeoli and I ran 13miles with them at a fairly casual pace on the Wissahickon trail. When they were done, I quickly grabbed another energy gel and some more water that I had in a crumpled 16oz Poland Springs bottle to reduce sloshing; and soldiered on. I ran downhill on the trail toward the Schuykill River. As I approached the intersection of Lincoln Dr and Ridge Ave, I saw my good pal, Michael Daigeaun running by headed toward East Falls. Now somewhere around 16miles into my run, I was feeling alright and he was too far away to shout at...I gave chase. Thankfully, he wasn't going too fast and in about 1/2 a mile I was able to run him down to his surprise. "Too slow kid, too slow!", I said as I rolled up on him touching a low-6min pace. He laughed, "Mike Anis, always good to see you!" He told me about his recent running/races, I explained how I was testing the waters to see if I could/should still run Boston. It was about time to turn back, I was already too far out and we parted ways. I realized then, that yes, this run was going to be 19 miles, not 18, the last of which was all uphill. Which is actually fine, it rounds out the effort, all flat is bad. Heading uphill to end a run changes the angle of impact, engages your muscles differently, all good. I pushed it a bit, wanted to feel like it was a real effort, running in the 6:00-6:19 range for the last 2 miles felt good.

The significance of a single run: I couldn't tell you how many runs I've done that have been close to or over 20miles, just because I care to not over-stress these facts. Many of them blur in the mind and have little significance due to their repetitive nature. Familiar faces and places are a happy thought always, but this run will last in my memory. Simply because I figured it would be much tougher and would be a lot shorter, and fate brought me to bump into a friend at the right moment, to pull me past where I thought I could go on the day.  The feeling of accomplishment and thankfulness for a run like this can't be matched. The fact that I ended it by myself and most immediately had just myself to celebrate it with more firmly entrenches it into its place in my memory of long runs.
Afterward, I got together with my girlfriend, Anna, showered, ate/rehydrated and then went to a Phillies game. I ran for 2:16:00 that day, that's long enough to prove you can run a marathon.  And I'll tell you about that one...when I have a little more time to sit and write some more.  You might have heard, the Boston Marathon is kind of a big deal. ;)

To be continued...