Friday, April 28, 2006

Know When To Hold Them

Blogger has been a little b**** the last day. I had a long post to put up, but it ate it numerous times. For the time being, just help a brother out. (thanks Tom)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Teach Your Children Well

I appreciated all the comments and feedback from my experience in Boston last weekend.

Moving onto another topic, however, I use this blog mainly as an outlet for my own thoughts/doings/etc. As much as I like to toot my own horn, every once in awhile I do like to promote others' activities. As my readership grows from close friends, to colleagues, to random folks I don't really know, I realize that I can give enhanced exposure to things.

Today's item is from an email I received from a friend. She's an art teacher in a public school system. As with most public schools, she has a limited amount of funding. She has taken the initiative to seek outside sources of funding through the website Donors Choose. Here, teachers can submit prject proposals with the amount of funding required. Members of the public can then choose how much they would like to donate to a given project(s). And donations are tax-deductible! So, here is a list of the projects she has submitted. I encourage you to browse them and consider a donation.

Check It Out! Art Supplies To Borrow And Return
What A Bunch of Knit-Wits! Knitting Needles for Art Class
Traveling Artists Need Drawing Boards
Draw…Erase…Save a Tree in Art Class!
Elementary Art Class Library-Part One

Elementary Art Class Library- Part Three

Philanthropy is important, we all know that. We can give in any way we can. Yes, a lot of us have limited incomes and can only donate so much, but something is better then nothing. Some folks choose to donate to large organizations such as those geared toward medical research. These are great organizations, but there are other areas that can be of equal importance. In these projects above, however, you can actually decide where your money is going and see the tangible result. One thing I've learned throughout the years is the importance of the nonacademic courses in school -- the art classes, the music classes, the gym & health classes. These are all important and crucial to developing well rounded students. When budget cuts come, these are the classes that are often the first to be reduced and eliminated. We need these classes to encourage creative output and living a healthy lifestyle. So again, I encourage you to check these projects (and others on the site) out and considering helping a friend of a friend out.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I Run the Marathon to the Very Last Mile

Circa 2003. I was a year out of college and it had been a year since I "retired" from 12 years as a competitive swimmer. During those years I achieved some modest success. For 12 months from February of 1995 to February of 1996 I held a school record (high school) in the 200 Freestyle Relay -- fancy that, me a sprinter! I was decent enough to swim at the NCAA Division III level. There I experienced days, nights, weeks, and months of putting my body through lot of intense training and mental anguish. At one point I was in the all-time top 5 in the 1650 at CWRU. Right now I'm unofficially 9th, but still good enought for top-10. The success I found in swimming at college was more through what the team did as a whole and not necessarily my individual achievements. I was fortunate enough to swim with some talented people and be part of a wonderful team. That is one thing I will never trade in.

So it was spring of 2003, a year out of job...a little life not headed in any sort of direction. I watched that years Boston Marathon and thought to myself "geez, just to qualify you have to average 7:14 a mile for 26.2 miles!! That's unbelieveable!!!" My dad had done some marathons back in the '80s and doing a marathon was always something I wanted to do as a life goal. You know those -- things you only want to do once, but it helps to complete your life by saying you did it. So I went to the library and got a book about how to do a marathon. Hal Higdon's Beginner 18-week training program maxed at 40 miles a week with one run of 20 miles all meant for you to complete a marathon. I went and ran Columbus in 2003 and finished with a very respectable debut of 3:25:46. Not bad.

With very little training and no speed/pace work, I thought that a BQ (Boston Qualifier) of 3:10 was within reach. This time around I stepped up the training, with Hal Higdon's Intermediate II program. This featured heavier mileage with some pace training. So I went out and ran the Detroit Marathon in the fall of 2004 and finished with my BQ of 3:04:42. Boston offers an 18-month window to qualify. This meant I could either run in the 2005 version or the 2006 version. I decided to put the training off for a year to fully rest my legs and be able to tackled the Michigan winter training with full steam and vigor.

The Training
For my 3rd marathon I wanted to step up the training even more. I bought this book and used the 18-week program that maxed out at 70 miles a week. Again, this training featured more speed work, more marathon pace training, and more and longer long-runs. Yes it was hard at times and not necessarily the most fun thing to go out and run 15-20 miles in the middle of the winter, but I did it. I did not miss any of the workouts and only dropped maybe 5-10 miles from the whole program. I had heard from people the success they had from his programs, so I was confident. The only drawback to the training was living in Michigan -- the place is pretty darn flat and I was unable to do any hill training -- a certain prerequisite for running Boston! A month or so before the race I had 17 miles scheduled with 14 @ marathon pace. The pace on this run equaled out to a 2:52 and change finishing time. This gave me confidence heading into my taper that going sub-2:50 was feasible.

The History
The term Boston Marathon is really a misnomer. This race is held in such high regard that just saying "I'm running Boston" is all that is needed. In the running world, the singular word "Boston" means the marathon. Name drop it that you ran/are running/are trying to qualify and others automatically give you added respect. This is the pinnacle of the marathon world. Certainly other races have more entrants, more hokey course entertainment, flashier medals, but this is the one that people put above all others. This race people come to year in and year out; others run to qualify for; and certainly there are thousands upon thousands of others that try year in and year out to qualify but fail. Its gut-wrenching but it is competition and it is life.

The Boston course is a unique one. Not only it is a point-to-point race, but it is famous for its hills. The race has an overall drop of ~480 feet but that is not gradual over the whole course. The first mile is the steepest drop and the first 16 miles are steady downhills. From mile 16-21, there are a series of four hills -- the fourth being the infamous Heartbreak Hill. From 21 to the end, the course runs downhill. Its not that the hills are especially bad, but it is their timing in the race and the downhills before them that make it tough. The Boston course is not a fast course, but it is a strategic and tactical course. Run it right and you can feel good; run it the wrong way and you are in for a load of hurt.

The city is swarmed upon with 20000 runners plus their families and friends. Everywhere you go you see runners -- svelt men and women with nary an upper body muscle to be found, but legs that can churn out miles and miles of consistent performance. People wearing jackets from their first Boston 20 years ago and those wide-eyed first-timers who just want to take everything in. Just being there a short time, I understood why people come back year in and year out. This is a special place.

The Weekend/Expo
The OFOMOL (for you new readers, this is the Official Female of Metamorphosis of Life, aka my girlfriend) and I arrived friday night and stayed with my buddy Miller in Cambridge. I hadn't seen him in almost 2 years and I've never met his fiancee so it was nice catching up. I had some work obligations at the Expo, so saturday was busy. OFOMOL and I were able to catch a quick lunch and browse at all the merchandise one can purchase there. Saturday night we attended an Indian cultural show that Miller and the missus were participating in. Sunday we hit church (btw it was Easter) and had a nice brunch before I headed back to the Expo. While there I schilled $110 for an official jacket (can't go home without one) and hat. I also picked up 2 race posters -- these posters have every entrants name on it, pretty cool stuff. Later that night I did the requisite carbo-loading. I had 2 dinner rolls, a side cesar salad, a full order of focaccia bread, and a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. I was feeling well fed. Then it was off to bed.

I made my way over to Boston Common for departure to the start. For whatever reason I got a seat to myself and immersed myself in some Sudokus for the hour ride out to Hopkinton. Waiting at the start for 3 hours really was not that bad. The time went by pretty quickly. The weather was a bit cool and I wished I hadn't left my gloves at home. Despite the chill at Hopkinton, it was a PERFECT day to run. I was able to meet up with some forlks from the Runner's World Online Forums and we placed names with forum aliases. I then hopped in line for the next 50 minutes for the bathroom. After that it was time to head to the start. I changed into my race clothes -- red shorts, royal blue singlet, white long-sleeve t for the start, navy blue headband, my blue 26.2 mile racing socks, and my blue Brooks Axiom shoes. I made sure I had my Gu packets ready to go and dropped my bag off at the bus. I did a real minor warm-up. As I headed to the start I saw a little outcropping of bushes where guys were heeding to the call of nature. I watered the plants one last time and left to the sounds of a policeman yelling "those of you urinating in the bushes, we'll take your race number andyou'll be disqualified." I made sure to blend into the crowd to be on the safe side. I found my corral (#3), did some final stretches, lost the long-sleeved T, and headed in to join the throngs. I say a quick prayer to Saint Sebastian, and a few minutes later we were off.

The Race
My strategy was to run conservatively at the beginning -- especially that first mile where the course drops 140 feet. I don't want to go out too fast, get caught up in the excitement and pay for it at the end. I check the split -- 7:09...oops, a bit TOO conservative. I pick it up the 2nd mile and put up a solid 6:32. Mile two I also intake my first Gatorade of the day. I know from my training that 6:40 pace means that 3 miles = 20:00. Mile 3 is a 6:29. Great. I'm running in control and I'm feeling nice and relaxed. I'm not pushing it at all and I'm not letting the hills take me for a ride. Mile four comes in at 6:27 and at that time I'm right at the 6:40 pace of 26:39. This is alright, but not ideal for running a sub-2:50. I'm going to need to pick it up at some point. I also know that after mile 4, the course stays relatively flat with some rolling hills. This is where my true pace will come in. The disappearance of the downhill cost me a bit with a 6:38 in mile 5. I take my first Gu here and wash it down with some water. I notice that my stomach seems a bit full of water and I may want to monitor the liquid intake. From here on out I take a Gu washed down with water every 5 miles and a Gatorade 2 miles later. I didn't feel I needed anything more.
Miles 1-5 -- 33:17 (7:09/6:32/6:29/6:27/6:38)

During my training I got in the habit of counting my steps -- I'd count the number of single (right or left) footfalls in a 2-minute period. The optimal number is 90 footstrikes per minute so the goal was always 180. A couple miles into the race I would look for the 3:00 mark of the mile and count for the next 2 minutes. This proved useful as once I got to 5:00 I could start scanning the distance for the next mile marker. It was also around mile five or so that I made a friend. He was from some African country that started with a G -- he had a thick accent so I couldn't quite make it out. But searching the results I couldn't find him. He told me I was looking good and we were both shooting for 2:50 so we hooked onto each other. Miles 5-10 were pretty uneventful. I was staying controlled, but the pace was still a bit slower then I would have liked. 2:50 pace is averaging 6:30 per mile so I was going to have to start picking it up at some point...but not here. I was still content to hold my position and not push it. Those hills had scared me and I didn't want to bonk.
Miles 6-10 -- 32:58/1:06:15 (6:25/6:33/6:39/6:36/6:42)

My African buddy is still with me as we dodge racers, cups, and give random high-fives to spectators. That last mile of 6:42 I did not like and wanted to go faster. I was able to get in some of my faster miles of the day thus far and the pace was right at 6:30. Mile 13 presents a special part of the course. That is, the girls of Wellesley College. All they do is scream. Seriously. You hear them a half-mile before you get to them and it's like this wall of sound. It is quite invigorating as you run past them. Numerous girls hold "Kiss Me" signs. I refrained from that, but did provide plenty of high-fives. One of the guys near me pulled up his top -- I don't know if it was meant as to provide humor for them, or if he wanted to see them do it. It was also during the 13th mile that I looked over to my left (the girls were on the right) and noticed an African guy who was obviously hurting. I checked his bib -- #4. Yeah, they only give those bibs to the elite guys. I hit the halfway point with a split of 1:26:20. I'm gonna have to do some work to go under 2:50. I'll have to run 1:23:39 to do it. A long shot, but we'll see how it goes. The OFOMOL was getting my splits on my cell phone and this split failed to register. She later told me that when she did not receive it, she started looking for me at the medical vehicles as they passed by. Somewhere around miles 12/13 I lose my African guy.
Miles 11-15 -- 32:31/1:38:46 (6:32/6:26/6:27/6:27/6:36)

Mile 16 is the last downhill before the hills. The calm before the storm, if you will. I gather my troops and gain some momentum after the 16th mile. This is where I start working. I've brought my guns and we're ready to do battle. I know the stretch from 16-21 will be the toughest. I'm taking it a mile at a time and one hill by one hill. No sense in thinking about the end when I still have 10+ miles to cover. I keep it steady and I'm going strong up the hills and recovering during the downhills. I'm keeping my cadence check at minute 3 of every mile and this helps mentally. I'm right there at 180 up the hills so I'm in check. The crowds are giving you support as they know this is the toughest part of the course. I'm determined to beat these things to the ground. I stay with it, not cedeing any ground. Amazingly I'm only 3 seconds slower then the previous five miles.
Miles 16-20 -- 32:34/2:11:20 (6:25/6:37/6:36/6:27/6:36)

Mile 21. This is the infamous Heartbreak Hill. Yet today my friends, it was not my heart that was broken, but the hills. I owned this baby. As I'm heading to the summit, I pass the Hoyts. This is their 25th Boston -- a crowd favorite and certainly an inspiration to anyone. BTW, their fastest marathon was a 2:40, not too bad for someone pushing another someone in a wheelchair. This was my strategy -- ok, I'm feeling pretty good, I know HBH is not officially done until we hit the mile 21 marker; we'll see how I'm feeling once I get to 21. I'm feeling good and as I approach the marker I see the downhill of the course. I hit 21, take my last Gu, and I turn on the jets. The next miles are a blur. I'm running like there is no tomorrow and the legs are responding. I'm passing all sorts of people. For awhile another redhead tries to stay with me for about a half mile or so but again I leave him. I'm playing for the crowd, feeding off their energy. The drunk college kids who have nothing better to do. They're cheering but I feel as if they are cheering for me. Every once in awhile I hear someone say "Look at #3178." I keep it going. I calculate the splits...OK 2:50 is doable. Just keep going man. This is where those VO2 max training runs come in; this is why I did mid-week 15 mile runs; this is what I trained 4 months for.
Miles 21-25 -- 31:20/2:42:40 (6:36/6:08/6:12/6:03/6:09)

I hit the Citgo sign, 1 mile to go. From the last split I know I am right dead-on 2:50 finishing time. Pre-race, various split calculators had me at about a 1:18 for the last .2. This means I need a 6:00 last mile to do this thing. I'm burning along. I turn right onto Hereford, and then left onto Bolyston. I see it -- the yellow and blue of the finish line. Spectators are everywhere on both sides of the street. I'm pushing and pushing and then silence. Call it divine intervention, call it whatever you like but I turn my head and I see her, the OFOMOL, sticking out like a diamond among the throngs. I go crazy and this drives my adrenaline up. I'm racing to see either a 2:49.XX or a 2:50.XX and seeing her gives me the that last push I need to finish.
Last 1.2 miles -- 7:17. Final time of 2:49:56. Halfs of 1:26:20/1:23:36. I place 416th out of 20117 that started the race.

I roll in and I'm ecstatic. I'm about 99.99% sure that if I had see her right then, I would have hugged her and immediately would have burst into tears. I was that happy. I knew a 2:50 was doable and did it. Neve once did I doubt myself. I got my mylar blanket, the refreshments and made my way over to the family meeting area. I sat down on the curb to wait, afraid I wouldn't be able to get up. Then I saw her and immediately shot up to hug her. We made our way back to the apartment, showered, made some calls, and went out for a celebratory dinner.

Where do I go from here? Short term -- get a much needed break from running, get back in the pool, and relax. It turns out I'm a much better runner then I was a swimmer. Would I trade that in? No. Swimming is my true passion. That is the sport I know and love. I now run to see how fast I can get. I know I haven't tapped out my marathon potential. I know on a flat course I could have gone 2:48 or faster. I know with more training I can go faster. The question is, how fast? Tell the 2003 edition of myself that in 3 short years I'd be a sub-2:50 marathoner. that guy would have laughed. Is sub-2:40 out of the question? I certainly don't think so. I've done all my training would be nice to find a person or persons who are at that speed to push me during training. I also know the next logical step -- buy a bike. I think the triathlon world would like to see what I can do.

I know this has been long winded (and emotional), but I wanted to share the joy I experienced yesterday with you folks. As hokey and stupid as this blog can be at times, I realize that you guys (the fam, the swimming alums, friends) do read this and pay attention. It meant a lot when I hopped online last night and saw all the comments during the race. You guys are great. I want to thank my parents -- I don't know where it came from, but whatever athletic genes you gave me, THANK YOU! My sisters for their support and interest and good luck to the OLSOMOL as she does her first 10K (trained by me!) in a month. I want to thank Miller for putting up with us for 4 days. We felt like we were imposing at times, but you were flexible with us. Lastly I want to thank OFOMOL for being understanding with me and my training -- getting up early on cold winter mornings, adjusting spring break schedules. You dealt with my athlete quirks and gave me all sorts of support. I love you with all of my heart.

Thats it for now. Whoever made it to the end of this...well give yourself a pat on the back.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Whoomp There It Is!

In the 110th running of the Boston Marathon, I finished in 2:49:56.
I'll be following up tomorrow with a detailed (prepare to do some reading) report about the weekend. For those stats gurus out there, my 1/2 split (it didn't register on the mats) was approximately 1:26:20. So I negative split it like a madman.
I enjoyed all the commentary. It was a welcomed surprise and its nice to know you care. You guys rock!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Did you know that I'm running the Boston Marathon on monday? Heading out friday morning. For those that have nothing to do, or want to waste time at work, you'll be able to follow my progress online. BTW, you can search for me by name or by bib number -- I'm lucky number 3178. It is being televised on OLN, but none of the cable systems I know (here, home) carry it. SOL. Here are some pertinent links:

BAA/Boston Marathon
Idiot's Guide to the Boston Marathon
Boston Marathon Split Calculator

The last one calculates splits based on the variable terrain of the race. Feel free to play around with it. If you don't want to waste time at work, here are a range of splits that I will be in:

Pace 10K Half 30K Finish
6:40 41:25.5 1:27:20 2:04:16 2:54:48
6:30 40:23.4 1:25:09 2:01:10 2:50:25
6:20 39:21.2 1:22:58 1:58:03 2:46:03

Of course these splits are based on even splitting. I've negative-split my first two marathons and want to run a strategic race in Boston. The first part of the race features a significant downhill. People have a tendancy to run too fast and trash their quads. By the time they get to the hills from miles 16-21 they are paying for it and till the end they are in a world of hurt. I plan on running very conservatively (if that first mile was right aroun 6:45 I'd be VERY happy) at the beginning so that when the time comes I can attack.

I probably won't update this until I get back on tuesday -- look for a full-fledged, more then you can handle recap and race review.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Waiting is the Hardest Part.

8 days out. I've finished up all of my hard workouts and now its all nice and easy until next monday. I'm feeling ok. The legs were a bit off today, but that's taper. I just want to run this damn thing. The weather is looking good, but we're still a week away. Taper, for those who do not follow the training habits of swimmers, runners, or triathletes is the gradual decrease of mileage during the last 3-4 weeks of training. You basically abuse your body for 3-4 months then use taper to rest up. It does sound a bit counter-intuitive to the everday lay person, but it is a proven training method. Your body feels wacky...pluse an increase in energy makes people behave in peculiar ways. Of course I need to adhere to the traditional taper eating after 10, watch what I eat so I don't put on a couple of extra pounds, no ending or beginning relationships, and all that stuff that tdc3 used to preach to us that I'll preach to my swimmers when I'm a coach.

How to cheat at Sudoku. Oh no I didn't!

A couple of things for those of you who pay attention to stuff like this. I've added some links, namely World's Most Tortured Fans which is a blog about all things Cleveland sports. Yes I think I've found someone who is more cynical about this subject then myself! And under Music Blogs, I've added Indoor Fireworks. Good stuff there. I also finally added a counter down at the bottom.

Deadliest Catch has returned for it's second season. This is about the only reality show where you might see someone die. Seriously, its that intense. These guys work their butts off in some extreme conditions all to make as much money in a few weeks to support them for the rest of the year.