Wednesday, November 5, 2014

2014 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon Race Report

Training Details
18 Weeks Total
8 weeks with more than 80 running miles
2 week in a row at 100 running miles
10 runs of 20 miles or more
2 runs of full marathon distance

Race Details
Finish Time 2:49:46
5th/354 Age Group (40-45 male)
Negative Split (My first in a marathon)
1st half 1:25:15
2nd half 1:24:31

The best short description of this race would have to be the perfect end to the perfect training cycle. The long description follows.

My goal for this race was simple. Crush my PR by running under 2:50 and show the marathon who's boss. Based on my training and tune up races everything looked to be set. All I had to do was go out and execute. Then the weather forecast stared coming in. Cold and windy. In fact the forecasted winds were 15 to 20 MPH and the wind chill a cold 18* for the start and it wasn't going to warm up much.

At first I was a bit disheartened but then I decided I had worked way too hard to sacrifice my goal and the first thing I had to do to not make that sacrifice was change my attitude and embrace the challenge. No problem, I have long associated distance running with work. That's how I look at it and it drives me. I have never shied away from hard work, in fact my entire life I have embraced it. From Thursday on all I could think when I thought about the race was that I just needed to "Be the Work Horse." A work horse doesn't care what obstacles are placed in front of it it just puts its head down and does the required work.

The weather not with standing the very first thing that I noted about this race was the complete lack of any anxiety what-so-ever. I always get nervous before races. I put a lot of pressure on myself to reach my goals and the people closest to me sacrifice a lot to allow me to prepare to meet those goals. Also, I know it is going to hurt. Pain is just part of it.

My training went better than expected so I knew the goals were within reach and I have become very comfortable friends with the pain of racing. I no longer fear it at all. So, in the days and hours leading up I felt nothing but calm confidence. I was prepared, sure it would hurt but I know how to deal with that pain and I know it will end when the work is done.

I carb loaded like a champ this time. I spent an entire 3 days loading up and calculated my specific needs and made sure I hit that number each of the 3 days.

We stayed downtown near the start. I was up at 5:00 AM to eat breakfast and top off my stores. It was cold so we stayed in the hotel until the very last minute and walked down to gear check where I was meeting Garrett. Garrett and I had planned to work together to run under 2:50.

We lined up in the corrals and Garret took the role of pace maker and told me we were going try to run an even or negative split. That we would run each mile at 6:30. Each mile starts a new race and it lasts for 6 minutes and 30 seconds. Then we run the last 10k with everything we have left. I've seen Garrett pace and I've seen Garrett race. He's good at both so I put my trust in his strategy. With that we were off.

I could list all of the splits but the fact is they all came in close to the goal of 6:30. In mile 6 we hit about 6:20 and I exclaimed "time in the bank!" but Garrett was having none of it and chided me "There is no bank! This is a new race."

Based on twitter and facebook everyone was worried about the wind. Honestly it didn't play that big of a role. I really only noticed a couple of times and when I did notice it I just focused on the Work Horse. There is enough architecture and turns on the course that you never really have to deal with a full on headwind.

Nothing to remarkable about the race, just working hard but well within my capabilities. I never once felt like the goal was over my head or out of reach and the miles were just clicking off. Much like I noticed the lack of anxiety in the days and hours before the race I noticed this thing they call the marathon no longer felt daunting. It felt completely doable.

Running is funny. I have met more people and made more friends in the short time I have been running than I did the entire rest of my life. If you are a runner then running is a big part of your life so when you meet other runners you already have a lot in common. I was already running with Garrett who I met during the 2013 Carmel Marathon and I got the opportunity to run with a local running coach I met via twitter for a few miles as well.

We had passed Glenn while we were still downtown. I knew it was him from the "Work Works", a phrase I've seen him use several times, on the back of his singlet. By mile 9 he had caught back up with us and he stayed with us through about mile 17 when we passed his wife and she gave him a big boost with a little encouragement. I know the feeling well myself and have blogged about it many times. To see another guy's wife have the same kind of effect on his race as mine has on mine was pretty neat. Anyway He picked it up here and started separating.

For me at mile 22 it was go time. I was amazed at how good, how strong  I felt. "It's only four more miles" is something I think I have said in every marathon. This is the first time I bought the "only" part of it though. I honestly couldn't believe that this thing was almost over.

About mile 23 and I felt very strong!

It's all about guts!

I shifted into the last gear I had and thanks to Garrett's flawless pacing I was able to drop down about 7 seconds per mile into the low 6:20's. About mile 23 I see my wife and youngest daughter holding a sign asking "Do you have the guts?" Meaning, could I dig deep enough and suffer long enough to finish this thing out and meet my goal or would I wimp out and let myself off the hook? All I can do is point to the sign and nod my head. Oh yeah, I've got this! Hannah runs with me for about 300 or 400 feet I can hear her but I am too focused to acknowledge. Did I mention it was go time? I was on pace but I had no time to spare. This would have to be a perfectly executed race from here to the finish.

I hit Meridian St and notice that Garrett has dropped off. He got me this far and now I've got to close this thing. "Head down, get to work", "Be the work horse", "This is what it's all been about" just kept repeating over and over in my head. I began to pass a few runners here and this solidified the feeling of being in control. At some point in the last few weeks the idea of "showing the marathon who is boss" got into my head and that is exactly what I planned on doing.

I make the turn onto New York. A PR is in the bag but I'm getting a little nervous that I'm going to cross at like 2:50:30 or something. I know I'm between 25 and the finish but at this point I am not sure where I am at in that final stretch and my goal could get submarined. So I dig in harder. And boy did I my last mile was my fastest at 6:16.

I hit the turn for West St, check my watch and felt confident that I've got the goal in hand but still go ahead and find that very last gear and start to kick. Then I see Charlie! Back to the friends I've made while running, Charlie is the backbone of Club Kokomo Road Runners, our local running club. Charlie always makes me smile and didn't disappoint me here. He exclaims "Christian!" as he reaches out for a high five. I oblige and return an exclamation of "Charlie!"

Hit the timing mat, pause the watch, Sign of the Cross. It is done! 2:49:46! Goal met, PR set. Congrats to and from other runners and I turn around and wait for Garrett. He crosses in about a minute and we celebrate, both of us glad to be done.

Garrett's flawless pacing played a key role in my strong marathon. I learned a lot from him this day that will serve me well in marathons to come.

Here I sit just a few days later. I am ready to get back to it. I'm going to work on some top end speed through the end of December and then I'll turn my focus to April and the Carmel Marathon. I'm thinking that a 2:47:xx marathon in April is very doable.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

2014 Indianapolis Half Marathon Race Report

1:21:07 Chip Time (PR by 2'46")
1:21:13 Gun Time
3rd/1432 Overall
3rd/635 Men
1st/97 40-45 AG
Indiana State RCAA Masters Half-Marathon Champion

This was my big tune up race for the 2014 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon next Saturday 11/1/2014 and my goal for this race was to run under 1:23. That time would give me a solid PR and put me right where I need to be to feel confident in my ability to run the Monumental in under 2:50. That's it and all indications from my training pointed to success.

I have been training for the last 6 weeks in a pretty big calorie debt trying to shake about 10 pounds that snuck up on me. I've always raced at 128 or under and I knew that I didn't want to carry that excess weight for 26.2 miles. In addition, in the 2 weeks proceeding the half marathon I logged 100 running miles each week. The first time I had ever run 100 in a week and I put together 2 weeks in a row at that mileage. The point is between the weight loss and the big mileage weeks I had become familiar friends with a very deep level of fatigue. 

Luckily, this race was at the end of my first week of tapering for the Monumental so I had cut back to 75 miles and for the 3 days leading up I ran super easy and I picked up the calories. So when race day rolled around I was feeling good to say the least.

This year we stayed in a hotel near the race. All the usual's the night before and I slept pretty well with no complaints. I was up at 5:00 AM to get dressed, drink some coffee and eat the ritual cliff bar and banana. They have really good parking at this race and we picked up our packets the night before so no rush in the morning as we were only about 5 minutes from the race and I know the area well.

We got to the race walked to the start area and I went off for a short warmup with 4 x 20" strides. This race has a great feature for guys. A walk in urinal trough. This means no waiting in a port-a-pot line. Additionally, I was seeded in corral A so no need to get in early and jockey for position. This combination means that at this race I can finish my warmup literally 5 minutes before the start and that is just what I did. Perfect.

I got lined up at the start and my wife pointed out my old friend Garrett that I met and ran a lot of the 2013 Carmel Marathon with. He was pacing the full for 3:15. We talked for a minute and planned to work together in the Monumental to reach our mutual goal of running under 2:50. I was very happy to see him and also excited about the plans we made.

With that we were off. It was about 40 degrees and I stripped my long sleeve throw away shirt off and ran this race shirtless. I really just prefer to run without a shirt. You want to get a lot of comments during a cold fall race, go shirtless. 

Within the first mile the lead packs had settled a bit and I was just behind the first group in about 7th or 8th place. I picked out several runners that I would keep my eye on and try to pass before it was over. Around mile 3 there is a nice long hill and I watched a friend and fellow CKRR member move from 4th to 1st over the course of that hill while shedding clothes. It was a thing of beauty and something I will always remember. 

I wasn't passing anyone in the first 5 miles or so and no one was passing me. It seemed like the gap between the 7 or 8 in front of me was getting smaller except for my friend who now was solidly leading the race. I just kept the rest of them in sight knowing that I run stronger as the race goes on. About mile 5 I caught my first target. 

This marathon has a relay element with the first handoff around 4 miles and at about the same time I was passing a guy I got passed by 2 other runners and I assumed them both to be in the relay. They just looked way to fast. I was wrong. Only 1 was in the relay, the other would be the eventual winner of the half marathon. 

Around mile 7 there is a turn around. My friend was in the lead with no one even close. I shouted some encouragement to him and from here I started whittling down the runners in front of me. Passing most between 7 and 10 miles. At mile 10 there is another good hill and last year it took my legs out and I never recovered. This year I attacked it again but faired much better.

I made the turn for mile 12 and saw the last guy I thought I would have a chance at and I knew it would put me in either 3rd or 2nd place but I had lost the exact count. Still, I hate to see a guy falter this close and I tried to get him to rally and finish strong. I could tell though that he was probably done. I passed him with maybe 3/4 of a mile left and my legs were beginning to feel weak. I've been running right around 6:11 the whole race but the adrenaline of another pass gave me a bit more determination. I made another turn and saw a CKRR member who was spectating. She let me know I was 3rd overall and with this I found a little more strength and was able to keep the faster pace trying to hang on to the podium finish.

I made the final turn and even though I couldn't see her yet I could hear Hannah! Always my loudest supporter. Then I hear and see my wife and she is letting me know that I am 3rd overall but I have someone close so I need to pick it up, "Every second counts! GO!" I find a whole lot of strength here and drop down to about a 5:30 pace. He couldn't cover so I extended the gap and secured a podium finish, a humongous PR at 1:21:07 and the title of RCAA Indiana Half Marathon Masters Champion. Apparently this was the Championship half marathon race for the state. I think that I knew that but wasn't really aware and didn't really know how it worked. I received an email letting me know and a nice medal in the mail a few days later.

Full of confidence from my 2 tune up races this season I am nothing but excited for Saturday. Time to show the marathon who's boss!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Level Up: 2014 Indianapolis Monumental Training Update

I am about 6 weeks out from the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. I haven't blogged to much about my training to date but I am currently on week 12 of an 18 week cycle that peaks at around 90 miles per week.

As usual I have been running a lot of 20 and 20+ mile runs. More than prescribed because it works well for me. I have also been pushing the pace because my primary goal is to drop about 3 minutes and 30 seconds from my marathon PR which is currently 2:53:28. While that might not sound like I knew when I set it that it would require a lot of work...hard work.

With that in mind, this morning I ran a tough workout that was not on my schedule. The workout was a total of 22 miles and required me to run at goal pace and faster for about 8 miles after I was already 12 miles into the run with my legs good and tired. In this workout each 6 and a half minute segment begins at 10k pace, pretty hard but sustainable, for a minute and a half and then finishes with 5 minutes at goal marathon pace. No rest between just continuously alternating between the 2 paces.

The point of this post isn't a single workout however. Instead it is about where I am as a whole with running and marathon fitness. I have been wanting to run this workout for about a year but until now I haven't made room for it in my schedule. It is not actually a part of the training plan that I use, rather, I found it at RunnersConnect. My thought was that I didn't want to sacrifice a workout that was part of the plan in order to substitute this one and it looked tough enough that I didn't know how it would affect the rest of my training to insert it into an otherwise standard paced long run.

But I have noticed in the last couple of weeks that my conditioning has reached a point that I am recovering very quickly from workouts. For instance, last Friday I ran the full marathon distance at a quicker pace and was ready for another hard workout by Monday. This is no doubt the accumulation of fitness from the last couple of years spent training hard and running high mileage for 2 marathon cycles a year.

When I was able to run that workout on Monday there was no longer any doubt about how quickly I was recovering and that it was time to increase the workload to reap even more fitness.So this morning I substituted a standard easy pace and less than 20 mile long run with this tougher, longer workout with full confidence that I will be recovered and be ready for another hard interval workout on Monday.

More importantly than getting to run a single workout that I have been putting off for a year is this new level of fitness I have reached which allows me to increase my total work capacity. In terms of marathon training this should continue to produce faster and faster times. So, I am excited, both for the rest of this cycle and the race it is aimed at and also for the marathons to come in the future and the potentials I can see.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

2014 Boston Marathon: Training Review

OK, let's get it out of the way to begin with. The race was the definition of suffer-fest. It took me nearly a month to recover mentally. If this is the first post of mine you have read, I spent the last 8 weeks of the cycle literally limping by with a strained groin muscle so when I toed the line on 4/21, muscle still pulled, I was as under-trained as I have ever been heading into a race..

All of that aside, before the injury I was in the best shape of my life and by a whole lot at that. I had a very aggressive goal of 2:49:59 and the week or so before I got hurt I was thinking that I would be in shape to make 2:49:59 look like child's play. I had 8 or 9 weeks left and I could have run a 2:49:59 at  that point. In fact on 2/22/2014 I ran a very tough workout. It was supposed to be 16 miles with 12 at marathon pace. I felt so good I tacked another 4 on the end for a cool down. I just remember how satisfied I was with that run. You can read about it yourself here. This was no anomaly. I was literally exceeding my expectations on every run.

I've never written a training review before but I am recovered and looking for revenge on the marathon. I'll start with the Indianapolis Monumental in November but make no mistake, I am looking to give Hopkinton, Heart Break Hill and Boylston Street a big smack down. They abused me terribly and I want satisfaction. Oh yeah, it's personal. I'm not looking at 2015 because it was so expensive that my bank account will need adequate time to recover. Aside from that, revenge is a dish best served cold. So maybe 2016?

Back to the point of this post though. The point is a whole lot of stuff went right this time and this will serve as a way for me to summarize so that I can repeat the steps that lead to such success. First of all, I came off of a PR at the Indianapolis Monumental. I took only 2 recovery weeks after that race and promptly got back up to 60 miles per week. I have long been a believer in what I term "running piles of miles." 60 or more per week even in between training cycles. The big miles give you a solid base to work from. They familiarize your body with the necessary levels of fatigue that marathon training entails so that you can adapt. Once the cycle begins again you don't have to get you body used to the number of miles and you can focus on getting your body used to the number of miles at a faster pace.

Along with "running piles of miles" I didn't shy away from big long runs. It's tough to get out there and run for 2 or 2.5 hours by yourself. For me, when I don't have a regularly scheduled 20 + mile run I start to fear them. When I run them regularly that fear goes away. So while I prefer to keep them on my schedule for that reason alone the more important reason is just like running lots of total miles, the more familiar my heart, lungs, legs and feet become with those distances the faster I can start running them. They begin to take much less out of me so that I don't need long recoveries. I did this between the Monumental and the start of the Boston cycle by running 3 20 mile runs between the Monumental on11/2 and the start of the Boston cycle on 12/23.

Another ingredient was a lot of the miles were faster than "easy" pace. While a lot of training advice says that most of your miles should be "easy" I feel like that is short changing myself. Now, I know what you are thinking. You are thinking "but you hurt yourself." I did, but not while running. My injury came from me stupidly acting like a power lifter at the gym and trying to squat heavy weight and get down super low. I have suffered only 1 running injury in the several years I have been running and that was during a race taking a hairpin turn while trying to maintain pace.

For me a steady diet of progressive pace, marathon pace and tempo paced runs is important. Progressive meaning starting out a bit slower and ending up down around marathon pace in the last few miles. Marathon pace meaning somewhere within 10 to 15 seconds of the pace I want to hold in the race and tempo meaning the pace that I can race a half-marathon at(about 10 to 15 seconds faster than marathon pace).

Finally, running while in a fasted state and taking no nutrition or fluids during the run. I don't think that I can overstate the importance of this. I would go out for a 16-20 mile run first thing in the morning without taking any food and maybe just a sip of water to wet my mouth. Sometimes I would finish and feel like I had been in a heavy weight title boxing match. Sometimes in the last couple of miles I would be unsure how I was going to finish. This isn't necessarily the safest thing to do as you really start to become confused and unable to think straight. I would literally not be able to make the decision of whether or not to cross the street. But the body is a wonderful thing and will adapt to whatever you throw at it. My body learned to run 20 miles fasted. It does this by learning to burn fat at a faster rate. We've all got plenty of that. This makes it stretch the much easier to access carbohydrates further allowing me to run longer before running out and slowing down. I'm not doctor or scientist but that's how I understand it.

So training for the Monumental starts on 6/30/2014 and the race is on 11/1/2014. I will be employing these training techniques between now and then and I'm going to come looking for the marathon. I've got a score to settle and I'll just put it out there now. 1/11/2014/Me vs. Monumental Marathon/2:49:59

Monday, May 19, 2014

2014 Boston Marathon: A Thank You Note.

Running; for me it is not an individual effort. I have said it many time and many ways and I'm going to say it one more time. I couldn't run like I do with out a whole lot of help and this year the Boston Marathon and the training cycle that proceeded it just magnified that fact. If you haven't already read the race report you can find it here. As you might imagine I had support and encouragement from everywhere, social media, work, church, the gym I belong to. It was the Boston Marathon after all. Even people who have no interest in running know about and respect this historic road race. But when I got hurt 8 weeks out there were 3 people who really stepped it up and helped me limp through the last 8 weeks and without them I wouldn't have been able to run Boston at all and I'd like to take a minute to thank them.

First of all, to deal with my injury I went to St. Vincent Sports Performance in Carmel which is about 45 minutes from my house. The doctor set me up with one of their trainers to keep me patched up and running through the injury allowing me to maintain enough fitness to actually go and finish the race. Scott Hudson is a trainer at SVSP. Scott kept me running with a variety of joint manipulation techniques and soft tissue work. I would literally limp in after a 15 mile run and after an hour with Scott I would walk out. It was pretty amazing. I don't think just any trainer could do this. But as as a 100 mile utlra-marathon finisher,  Scott understands running. Thanks Scott!

All of the time I spent with Scott including driving to an from the facility brings me to my boss, Dave McChesney. Before my initial visit to the doctor Dave said "right now, Boston is top priority. Do whatever you need to do." What I needed to do was visit Scott twice a week during business hours. So on Tuesdays and Thursdays Dave allowed me to come in at 10:00 AM after I had been to see Scott. Getting into to Scott could have been much more complicated and Dave would have been justified in not letting me miss so much work. But instead he invested himself in my running and gave me the freedom I needed to get through. Thanks Dave!

Now, if you read any of my race reports or follow my training in any way you know who the 3rd person I need to thank is. Do you ever get sick of how thankful I am for my wife? This woman puts as much if not more in my running than I do. From making sure I have the things I need to run and coordinating all of the details for races, keeping me honest when I don't have the motivation and giving me a kick in the butt when I need it. Even getting up early to ride her bike along side me in the last 5 miles of a stupid long run. She truly makes me feel like a pro.

This injury was no different. She watched and learned from Scott so that the 5 days a week I wasn't seeing him she could work on me to keep it all held together. She spent her evenings and even lunch hours working on my injury so that I could get back out there in an effort to maintain as much fitness as possible. She listened to me whine, she listened to me wallow in self pity, she provided the assurance that I would run Boston. That I would finish, and that it would all be OK. Not one complaint. The whole time. Not one. Thanks Honey, you are the best!

Running is often seen as an individual sport and I suppose in many ways it is. I suppose a person could run without support, without a team, For me though, I know that I couldn't run like I do without a whole lot of help. To all of my social media friends, dailymile people, church friends, and especially the 3 people mentioned in this post. Thanks!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

2014 Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini Marathon

This half marathon was less than 2 weeks out from the Boston Marathon. When I got my entry for Boston I knew this wasn't going to be a half that I would PR in but past that I wasn't really sure how I would do so I held off on setting any goals for this race until late last week.

If you read my Boston race report you know it took a lot out of me. Honestly, I am usually way more recovered by now. I think it was Wednesday or Thursday before the race that I even attempted to set some vague goals. I was still feeling pretty beat up and on top of that I had gone to a couple of CrossFit classes earlier in the week and was suffering from a bad case of DOMS. So, I settled for the goals of sneaking in under 1:30 and getting a top 500 finish (special "500 club" medal for that). Even these goals were based mostly on vanity and not really on what I was confident that I could go out and do and as such they actually caused me a great deal of anxiety.

This race has become a family affair. My wife and daughters all were running the 5k. My Uncle was also running the 5k and a close friend was coming in from out of town to support us all. We met up for dinner and packet pickup in downtown Indianapolis Friday evening. We headed over to our hotel, the Westin, which is the host hotel for the event. As the host hotel, all of the pros were staying there and we saw several of them. They were being lead around by event officials. It was pretty neat to see actually.

Laying in bed I was more nervous for a half-marathon than I have been in a very long time. Boston really scarred me. When I woke up around 5:00 AM race morning, I laid there contemplating just lining up for the 5k.  I just didn't feel like I had it in me yet to go out and race a half-marathon and I wanted no part of a slow 13.1 miles. Instead I just decided to quit thinking about it, shut down, put it in auto-pilot mode and pretend like nothing was happening. So I got dressed and ate my ritual cliff bar and banana pre-race breakfast.

We headed down to the corrals. The 5k starts about a half hour before the half so I saw my family into the start area and watched the 5k take off. They cleared and we started loading the corrals for the half. I was seeded in corral A and apparently we have a lot of fast runners in Kokomo because I started seeing several guys that I know. I made small talk with a few of them as we were waiting to run. I was still nervous and unsure how the race was going to go here and still trying to pretend nothing was happening.

We started and I had no trouble holding back. I was shooting for under 1:30. The course is pancake flat so I knew I could run even splits around 6:50/6:51 and hit my goal. First mile in 6:46. I dropped the pace from there averaging around 6:40 for the next few miles. Each mile I hit and was below pace was a surprise. I was working hard and surprised I was able to maintain a 6:40ish pace. Each mile started with an uncertainty about how much longer I could keep up the act.

About mile five I got a true humongous blessing for the day. I had been a few steps behind a guy I was pretty sure I recognized as another runner from Kokomo. I have known Jay's name for a while from local race results and the Club Kokomo Road Runner newsletter but had never met him until a few days ago in Boston through a mutual friend. We ended up side by side right at the mile 5 mark. Remember, there are over 25,000 runners in this race and Boston was packed. The fact that we met there and then ran into each other in this race right where I needed something I in no way count as a coincidence. We reconnected and exchanged a few words about the Boston race. Mainly that we both still felt pretty beat up. He told me that the pace we were running was right where he was looking for and I said I was happy here too. I needed this as I was just about to give up the sub 1:30 and relax the pace a bit. But with someone to push me on I knew I could maintain.

We didn't really talk much but just kind of stayed side by side. There is not a whole lot to say about the rest of the race. We just kept clicking off miles and were in a good place; passing other runners and not really being passed ourselves. I think it was mile 11 I realized that we could let up a little and still hit 1:30. But Jay pointed out that if we could maintain our current pace we were on track to finish in under 1:28. The difference between 1:28 and 1:30 in a half is pretty big on a good day and seemed huge under the current circumstance. I was happy and fearful at the same time. Finishing the day at 1:28 would be a huge confidence boost but the next couple of miles were going to be uncomfortable.

Making the turn to hit the last mile it was all business. I was right on the verge of puke threshold and was hanging on for dear life. As soon as the finish line clock became visible I knew we were going to miss 1:28 by just a few seconds. Kicked anyway and finished the last .1 in 35 seconds for a 5:42 pace. Frustrating but not devastating with an official time 1:28:10. Hit the timing mat, paused the watch, Sign of the Cross, dry heave, nearly puke and done! I gave it a good go and for starting with such a lack of confidence to finishing nearly 2 minutes faster than my goal for the day, all in all I was happy.

Mile 13 and starting to kick.
Jay and I ran most of the race together and I think we were both glad it was over.

It was a good day for racing in my family. My wife has been battling endless injury for a nearly a year now and she had a good race in the 5k. My oldest daughter Kasey was supposed to run the half but has been fighting shin splints for the last 4 weeks or so and dropped back to the 5k. She had a good race on very little training in the last month and best of all no shin pain at all in the race. My youngest daughter Hannah has been out of the sport for a while but is getting back to it and this was a good baseline race as she is gearing up for Cross County in her freshman year of college.

A great day for racing for the whole family.
Thumbs Up!

So highlights abounded this Saturday. A successful race for my whole family. And it is always a good race when you make a new friend. I also met an old friend after the race. Fr. Hasser, maybe my favorite priest, moved on from our parish a few years ago. He recognized me and came out to greet me from the Race for Vocations club tent. To say I was very happy to see him and spend a few minutes talking to him would be an understatement. It was the explanation point on the day.

Meeting Fr. Hasser after the race. A great surprise!
No real training. Just coming off of the Boston Marathon 12 days prior. I spent most of that time either not running at all or running very easy.

Overall -- 304/25525
40-44 Age Group --32/1594

Saturday, April 26, 2014

118th Boston Marathon: Race Report.

It took a long time to get to Boston. This is true both of the training and the actual trip. I have been preparing for this race for 2 and a half years and on Friday the 18th we left home and began the journey to Boston. Because there are no direct flights from Indianapolis to Boston we drove to my parents who live about 45 minutes from the Detroit airport and stayed the night. At 3:00 AM we we "outta bed, clothes on and out the door" and headed the airport to catch a 6:30 AM flight.

We arrived in Boston around 8:00 AM and got a cab to our hotel. Checked into the hotel but of course that early there were no rooms available. My wife and I changed into running clothes in the bathroom, stowed our luggage and headed out for an easy run. We ran up and around Boston Commons where I would need to load up on the bus on race morning to head to the start line. First hour in Boston and I already had an easy 4 in the books.

The remaining time between our Saturday arrival and the Monday morning race was spent at the expo, sight seeing, Easter Mass, and of course eating. We did a lot of walking and by Sunday afternoon my wife was insisting that I take a cab to give my legs a break. I slept pretty good for the night before a marathon and got up around 5:00 AM Monday to get ready for the race.

If you didn't know, the BAA buses runners from the Boston Commons to the start in Hopkinton. We stayed at the W Boston because it was close to the pickup spot. So I got up, dressed and set out for the short walk to the pickup spot. After about 20 minutes waiting and a 40 minute ride we arrived at Athletes Village where we would wait for a couple of hours before the start of the race. I spent the time laying on a blowup raft just trying to relax and conserve energy.

I have been dealing with a strained groin muscle on my right leg. I knew that my original goals were out the window. I just hadn't been able to train at the level I needed to. Over the last 8 weeks I have been flailing just trying to hold onto as much fitness as possible. My main goal for this race was to start and finish. Based on a half marathon I ran a couple of weeks ago I thought a sub 3 hour race might be in the cards and set up my goal splits based on that.

The course is hard. But I thought I was immune. It was hot and sunny, but I thought I was tougher than the heat. Even with the tough course, the heat, my injury and a lack of quality running over the last 2 months I thought that I could will myself to that sub 3 hour finish time.The course starts with a big downhill and I have read 1,000,000 warnings against letting the downhill fool you into running fast and subsequently trashing your quads. But it didn't help. I went out way to fast, feeling good just like all of the warnings said I would. I barely noticed the injury as it is on the way to being healed and I was loaded up on Advil.

Their are not crowds lining 100% of the course. In fact the first couple of miles their is only a smattering of spectators.However, where there are crowds and they are big and they are loud. Kids stand at the ready for high-fives and how can you resist being their hero. The problem with crowds and kids high-fiving you is that it makes you run faster. Not good when you are already out too fast and don't have the fitness to sustain the pace or any where close to it for the marathon distance. You can see from my splits below that we hit a patch of spectators between miles 2 and 4. I didn't control myself and would pay dearly for it.

By mile 8 I knew I was in for a long day and the mental games began. Even then I had no idea how bad the suffering would be. About this time we hit another crowd and kids waiting for high fives. I started to fade to the left to oblige and some Australian woman yelled at me that I was "running her off the road." and that she was trying to "get into a rhythm." I am not a particularly nice person when I run. I tend to get very aggressive and this situation was no different. I said things to her that I now regret and wish I could take back. I understand her frustration to some degree but I think it is a good lesson to learn that we are all sharing the road in this or any race and none of us owns the direct line between us and the finish. Anyway, in my anger I tried to pick up the pace but saw how futile that was.

From mile 8 on my pace just began to drop. The negativity was daunting and no doubt played into how bad I felt. I knew this. I knew letting my mind wonder to the place of "You've got a long way to go", "No way you can finish this today", "You are so out of shape", "Told ya not to go out to fast but you wouldn't listen would you, superman" was not going to do any good but I just couldn't force the positive thinking that I knew I needed. To make matters worse, I am very unaccustomed to being passed in a race. But in this one I was being passed by droves of runners.

Not much else to say here except that I would get a shot of energy from the crowds but it never lasted and my pace just kept steadily dropping. I was making deals with myself. "Hold the best pace you can until half way", and at the half way point, "If you need to walk you can but not until mile 15", After mile 15 "You are not walking until you get through the hills, you at least want to  be able to say that you ran the hills".

Finally saw some family, I would later learn that I missed my wife at the bottom of heartbreak hill and I really could have used seeing her there. But my daughter Kasey was at the top and when I saw her she reassured me that the hills were over and told me "pick up the pace" and "racing hurts." I was suffering bad here. My legs were shot and my cardiovascular system was under duress. None-the-less, these women in my family have a way of giving me a huge boost in a race. I did pick up the pace but it didn't last for long.
Lies, all lies.

I knew I was getting close here and told myself that I needed to finish this thing out. Just finish. My mantra for this race was "Head down, get to work" and I just started repeating that to myself over and over. I shut everything out and embraced the pain. "Head down, get to work. Head down, get to work. Head down, get to work" No crowds, no landmarks no mile markers just "Head down, get to work."

By mile 23 no mantra, no crowds, nothing would allow me to escape. My legs were shutting down. I saw a guy walking and patted him on the back, "Let's go." He thanked me and picked it up and left me in his dust. Saw another guy hobbling. Patted him on the back, "Come on we are almost there." Again, he thanked me picked it up and pulled away. I would come across both guys and repeat the scene a couple of more times.

Mile 24, I walked. For about 2 or 3 minutes I just couldn't run anymore. I have never walked in a marathon, ever. I'm not happy about it but it is what it is. Thankfully, when I saw my parents in this mile I had already started running again and no one had to know that I had walked.

I saw the famous Citgo sign but in the "head down, get to work" mentality of shutting everything out I missed Fenway. At this point I just kept thinking about a shirt I had seen. Right on Hereford. Left on Boylston. And this became my mantra trying to shut out the pain and reassure my mind that this was almost over. That the finish line was in fact merely minutes away.

Right on Hereford and there she is. Hannah screaming and cheering for me in a hoard of spectators. I made a beeline to the left side of the road for a high five. I can't believe it. Just what I needed to carry me through. Left on Boylston. The finish line is in sight. I am going to finish this thing and I'm going to finish it strong. I pick up the pace. Fist pump, sign of the cross, hit the finish mat, pause the watch and finally, relief. All I could say to anyone I saw was, "it's done, it's done."

This was my 5th marathon. Because of my injury I have never toed the line so under-trained and it was obvious. Never has a marathon treated me so badly. Abused me so heartlessly. I have never seen "finishing" as a victory. But I'll take it here. I know how bad it hurt and what it took for me to get through. Because of this, as odd as it may sound, I am more proud of this marathon than any other.

Finish time: 3:14:11
5080/32456 Overall
4538/17828 Men
889/2660 Age Group

Splits 6:54,6:37,6:38,6:32,6:42,6:32,13:33(miles 7 and 8),6:51,6:54,7:06,7:04,7:11,7:16,14:44(miles 15 and 16),7:47,7:43,7:43,7:58,8:20,7:37,8:02,8:01,9:15,8:48,1:45

18 weeks (with a 10 day break due to injury)
972 miles
105 runs
128 hours and 22 minutes
20+ mile runs -- 6
longest run -- 22 miles

Thursday, April 24, 2014

118th Boston Marathon: My Experience

For the last 2 and a half years I have had a singular focus; to run the Boston Marathon. Why? Because it is the super bowl of running. Because it is a legendary and challenging course and because it is the most iconic marathon finish line in the history of the sport. Merely qualifying for the marathon is a badge of honor among runners and is something that they aspire to and once they have completed it, it is a cherished moment for the rest of their lives. It was a lofty goal by most accounts and one a lot of people didn't think I could achieve given my background and fitness level.

In order to accomplish my goal, I ran. A lot. I ran 2700 miles in 2012 and 3000 miles in 2013 and about 900 in the first 3 and a half months of 2014. I trained in the early morning hours well before the sun was up and in whatever Mother Nature threw at me. I wore out countless pairs of running shoes and although they never complained I’m sure I wore out my wife and daughters’ patience. But on Monday April 21st, 2014 my goal became a reality.

The whole experience was something that I will always remember and it began, much like my training, well before the sun came up. For various reasons we flew out of Detroit at 6:00 AM Saturday morning. Our flight to Boston was full of Marathoners and their families. It was a sight to see as we were all beginning our carb-loading rituals. Most runners were eating the customary Bagel for breakfast but I also saw one guy eating plain pasta with a plastic fork from a quart sized zip lock bag. Carb-loading is serious business, fueling to run 26.2 miles is not easy and I guess this guy wanted to make sure he got it right.

As soon as we landed it was obvious that the city of Boston had its arms open to the runners. The airport was lined with signs promoting the marathon and welcoming the runners making the pilgrimage. The taxi ride from the airport just reinforced the feeling of being welcomed because I was coming to run their beloved marathon. Street signs, store front signs and billboards all continued the welcoming. The taxi driver treated me like a star. Telling me how I was a champion because I was there to run.

As the taxi approached the downtown area it was apparent that there were over 35,000 runners in town. Runners were everywhere doing what runners do. Running. Checking into our hotel, we stood behind other marathoners. Later we would find even more runners doing that other thing runners do a lot. Eating. Restaurants from Dunkin’ Donuts to high end steak houses were full of, you guessed it, marathoners. Even Mass on Easter morning was full of Marathoners. We were joined by Boston champ Joan Benoit Samuelson.

I had 2 days before the marathon and in my usual training regimen these 2 days call for nice easy short runs just to keep everything loose. I cannot explain the feeling of running in Boston at this time of year. Running in a new city is always a great way to become familiar with the area. But when you are surrounded by thousands of other runners with a singular focus, even these easy runs become something special. I ran to find where I would load up on the official bus to the start line, I ran to find the Church where we would attend Easter morning Mass and I ran past restaurants and bakeries we were planning to visit. On these easy runs I ran down the legendary Boylston Street, the famous Newbury Street and a lot of side streets. Just taking it all in and enjoying the company of my compatriots.

The expo, where we go to pick up our official race number, shirt and visit various exhibitors’ booths was packed. I somehow ran into the only other 2 people running the marathon form Kokomo. There were a lot of big names from the world of running and I was lucky enough to meet a few of them. I met Olympic marathoner and American marathon record holder Ryan Hall. I met a well-respected running coach and author Jack Daniels and Runner’s World writer Mark Remy.

Monday morning I was bused, along with all of the other runners, to Athletes Village at about 6:30 AM to wait for the start of the race. I ate Bagels, drank Gatorade and hung out with 32,000 of my best friends waiting for the race to start. The people of Boston and the other small communities along the route really get into the marathon. The way to the start line was filled with well-wishers giving out encouragement and high-fives some even tried to make sure we had everything we needed offering free dounuts, beer and cigarettes.

We got lined up, did the national anthem with a military flyover from a national guard troop that assisted after the bombing last year and were off on our trip back to Boston. The course is tough but lined with people screaming, cheering, high-fiving, and handing out oranges, bananas and water. The day was sunny and hot which made a tough course all the more so. The first 15 miles of the course is mostly downhill which really puts a strain on your legs. The next 5 miles are uphill and that finishes your legs off. Dead legs or not there are still over five more miles to go and at this point finishing becomes a thing of sheer will but crossing the finish line of this marathon is a feeling I will never forget.

The experience didn't end there. As I said, Boston loves its Marathon and the people who run it. We were treated like royalty afterward by everyone we saw. Congratulatory sentiments flowed from everyone including our hotel staff who crowned us with laurel wreaths and restaurants who welcomed us in to refuel and replenish our spent, dehydrated bodies. Even the Red Sox opened their home to us. The evening after the race the marathoners had run of the storied Fenway Park.

I made a decision 2 and a half years ago to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon. I have really and truly experienced the joy of making a long term commitment and seeing it through to completion. The thing that I would like everyone to understand is that I was not a particularly good runner. I wasn't fast, I didn't have a high endurance threshold. Heck 2 years prior to committing to this goal I couldn't even run a mile without stopping. When I first expressed this desire, more experienced runners told me that I was getting in over my head. That this was something that would take years to accomplish. But understand this, limits are for other people they are not for me and they are not for you.

Monday, April 14, 2014

2014 Carmel Half Marathon: Race Report

I originally signed up for the full marathon way back last May for half price. I knew at the time that there was a very good chance that I would switch to the half because if I got into the Boston marathon I would be running that 10 days later. That is exactly how it played out. Little did I know back in May that I would be battling a pulled groin muscle. But I was/am and this was the hardest I have run in over 6 weeks.

Picked up my packet Friday over a long lunch and headed back to work. On the way home my wife was looking though and saw that my bib had the name "Brittney" printed on it. I contacted the RD and arranged to pick up a blank bib in the morning before the race. Got up Saturday morning and headed to the race. By the time we got there, picked up my new bib and stoped at the port-a-pots it was about 5 minutes to race time. As such I couldn't get up past corral C. I met an older guy, probably late 50's, who was running his 25th full here and his 26th next weekend. Inspiring to say the least.

Normally I don't get to worked up for half marathons but given my current situation and my goal race only 10 days away I was pretty nervous leading up to this race. With the lack of quality running I knew anything resembling a decent time was going to be uncomfortable. Normally, I am OK with that. That's part of racing, whether it's a 5k, half, or full marathon being uncomfortable is part of the process. I can accept that when a PR or age group win  is on the line. It's a little harder to take when you know you won't even get 5th in your age group and a PR isn't even in the discussion. But this is where I am at so, fine, it is what it is.

The race started right on time, I love that! I hit the start mat and was off.  I wanted to run under 1:30 but went into it knowing I would let my injury and legs determine the final outcome. Again, this was not a goal race and more so my goal race was only 10 days out. This was not the time to try and prove anything.

You've got to love a race that starts on time.

I used the first mile to kind of work my way up the pack which was a challenge given that I had started back in corral C. In the first few miles I was judging my pace by how I was doing in regards to various pace groups, making my way past the 2:00 half, the 3:45 full, the 1:40 half. By about mile 3 I had caught the 3:10 full pace group so I know I was settling into a good pace and there was no real trouble from the groin yet.

It was a lonely race for the most part as I was working my way up through various packs of runners. Catching 1 and targeting another was a good way to keep my mind occupied. I wasn't really noticing the groin injury which was a very good thing. I just kept working the pace down. I could tell I was running hard but no where near max effort and it didn't feel as bad as I was worried it would.

Around mile 8 I took some water from a water stop. I never drink during a half but I am taking lots of ibuprofen right now due to the injury and the doctor told me to be sure not to dehydrate as this would concentrate the medicine and be hard on my kidneys. This was a terrible mistake. I swallowed wrong and fought the next 1/4 of a mile to maintain a run without the luxury of actually breathing. Once I could breath again I was able to get my pace back on track.

At mile 9 my wife and youngest daughter were waiting to cheer me on. They can pick me out a long way off because they know my gait so well. I swear I could hear Hannah cheering nearly a 1/4 mile away. This always breathes new life into my run. I really hope she doesn't get drowned out in Boston but if I'm going to hear her there she's really gonna have to bring her A game.

Mile 9 ready to high-five my loudest supporter, Hannah!

Mile 10 I saw a guy in front of me start to walk. I got my best drill Sargent voice out in an effort to spur him on. I do this to help others along but it is also a big help to me. How can I slow down when I have just ordered someone else not to? He picked it back up but no doubt he was suffering and I passed him pretty quickly. At this point there were no packs of runners left just loners and I began passing several of them. I was continuing to work my pace down as the finish drew nearer and I felt more and more confident that I was not doing any harm to my pulled muscle and that I could keep up the effort to the end.

Between mile 11 and mile 12 I passed a guy waring the shirt from this years Sam Costa Half. The Sam Costa shirts list last years AG winners and top 3 over all and masters division. I took 3rd in masters and this was the first time I saw the shirt in person. Pretty cool and gave me a little extra pep.

With about a mile to go you hit a nice long 2.5 or 3% incline. I dug in knowing that 1:30 was closing in on me. It felt good to work hard and I was running the hardest pace of the day at around 6:30. I saw the "1/2 mile to go sign" and made the final turn and turned it on. Finishing the final 1/4 of a mile at near puke threshold and under my mile PR pace at around 5:44. I crossed the finish line in 1:30:17 42nd/1431 overall 6th/105 in my age group. For an injured guy, I'll take it.
Best sign I saw all morning

Digging in trying to secure a sub 1:30 half. I missed by 17 seconds but I was giving it all I had here

It's been a disappointing season to say the least. I worked hard over a very harsh winter and was on track to smash PR's in the half here or in an earlier race that I had to skip because of the injury and full at Boston. For the last 6 weeks I have been flailing trying to maintain enough fitness just to finish Boston. I was happy to get this race under my belt. It was a little bit of a confidence boost and while I won't be able to hit my initial goal of 2:49:59 at Boston, I think I can mange a sub 3:00 hour effort and based on this race that will be my goal.

Onward to Boston!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Feast of the Annunciation: God is serious about our salvation!

The Feast of the Annunciation. More properly the "Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord."  This is a real and tangible event. Not some vague feeling or thought or word. Not some story that could have no real impact but an actual historical event. In other words, God did something for us to show that he meant business, that he would provide a real means for our reconciliation and salvation that we may once again be untied with Him.

He gave us freedom, He gave us laws and commandments, He gave us covenant after covenant. It wasn't enough to salvage the wreck we had made. Finally, He gave us Himself and today we celebrate that particular moment in time when He became human in flesh and blood; that real moment in history when God became man. Think about that. That He would come down and become like us that we may go up and become like Him. Praise you God for giving us your Son and thank you Mother Mary for you unconditional Yes

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her. LK 1:26-38

Friday, March 21, 2014

Getting Healthy isn't Complicated so Quit Making it that Way.

I feel very sorry for people who get hung up on fad exercise and diets. I watch you flail and fail and try again with the next fad. Never getting where you want to be. Never getting to know what it feels like to be healthy. Never understanding what fitness is and how it changes every aspect of your life. You never get there because the fads get in your way. 

If you really want to get healthy I'll tell you how. It is plain. It's simple. I can't write an entire book or books about it and I can't dedicate an entire website to it. There just isn't that much to say about it. Remember, this is coming from a guy who was 50 lbs over weight and growing, smoked 2 packs a day, guzzled Coke like you can't even imagine and ate pizza more days a week than not.  Here is it, don't blink because you'll miss it. Move more, eat less and eat better.  That's all.

OK, fine a little explanation. Just to prove it really is that simple because I know you think there has to be more to it than that.

Moving is the really simple part. Just move your body. We spend way to much time sitting and laying. Way to much time watching TV and surfing the Internet. Instead go walk, run, bike, elliptical or swim. Don't complicate it more than that just make sure you get your heart rate up, your breathing faster and your body fatigued doing it. 20 minutes minimum but really you should go for more than that.

The diet isn't that much more complicated. Eat simple, single ingredient foods. If you do this you don't need to worry about paleo, vegan, low carb, low fat, blah, blah, blah. Just figure out how much you need to eat and then focus on getting most of your daily calories from things like vegetables, fruits, eggs, lean meat like chicken breast etc. You know, real food. Quit shoving junk in your face and drinking more calories than you should even be eating.

By doing these two simple things you will see phenomenal gains in health and fitness. Sure, at first you will miss the salt, fat, and sugar but trust me after a while you won't.  It's not that we eat what we like it's that we like what we eat. At first you may not like the exercise. Don't worry, it will grow on you just give it time.

There may come a time that you plateau on this simple program. For most people, when you do, you will be a very good place and if you just focus on maintaining you'll be in better shape than 95% of the people in this country. If you get here and you want to progress further you may have to complicate things and do more specific training and eat in a special way. But for the majority of Americans who have a very unhealthy baseline, this will get you to a much better spot and because it is so simple you won't burn out, fade away or confuse yourself in the process. Instead, you will finally know what it feels like to achieve your goal and be healthy and fit.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Faith and Reason

All of the talk lately about evolution/creation and the framing of the debate as either faith or reason once again makes me glad to be Catholic where these debates have long ago been put to rest. Science in general is not the domain of the atheist. In fact paragraph 159 from the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it plain that there is no reason for the Christian to ever fear science. (Emphasis mine)
159 Faith and science: "Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth." "Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are."