Sunday, December 29, 2019

Check out my first blog post 785 days!

Time for the year-end review; and this time, bonus years! 2017-2019, all rolled into one. Now I don’t have to listen to any more comments around the dinner table at holidays about how I don’t write any more. To be honest, I spent plenty of time writing since my last post on November 5, 2017. If you’d like to read some of it, head over here.

2017

Not a whole lot to say about 2017 that wasn’t said then. I ended the year by dropping out of the Marine Corps Marathon—my first DNF. I took time off for the rest of the year, running less than two dozen times before the year ended. The end.

2018

We moved to Earlysville in March. I thought I’d be able to run out here, but it turns out I need to be physically fit in order to be mentally fit enough to run repeats in cult de sacs. I messed around for a while, never gaining fitness, until the summer when I finally started to run with some regularity. I participated in the United Ways Relay at Albemarle High School, a 4x800 meter relay carnival. Without looking it up, I recall that the warm-up was my longest run in a while, followed immediately by the cool down, which was much longer. I was gassed afterwards.

I started a new job in July (still with Albemarle County Public Schools) and successfully proposed for my capstone in September, which slowed my running back down again. The fall and winter were spent writing and researching, and I kept on not running. Right before Thanksgiving, I joined a cult, F3. On Monday mornings for a while, I was going to Hollymead Elementary school at 5:30 AM to do push-ups, bear crawls, and carry around cinder blocks. It was nice to have some “fellowship” when I was at the low point of my fitness, especially considering the stuff we were working on wasn’t stuff that I was particularly good at even when I was in good running shape.


In December, I participated in the Bill Steers Men’s 4 Miler. It was rock bottom for me, a real wake-up call. I was barely able to break 24-minutes for the four miles, lost to Matt, Shawn and Stew, and almost lost to John and Mateo. It was a lot of fun and reminded me of how much I love running races, but man, it was a disaster. Nonetheless, it got me motivated for 2019.

2019

The thing about being at rock bottom is that you have no where to go but up. Barely able to make it four miles in six-minute pace, I decided that I needed to run ten miles faster. The plan was to run the New Year’s Day race in Free Union, the Haven 8K, and then the Charlottesville 10 Miler. Each race would be faster. I was going to go to cult meetings on Mondays and Thursdays (a new running-focused cult meeting), run on Wednesdays with the Dad Running Club (we reunited), and do a longer run on either Saturday or Sunday, but run both days. Tuesday and Friday I’d take off.

January 1 started off right at the Free Union Footrace. Barely under 18 minutes but a solid effort. I finished third after going through the mile in maybe 5th? 1st place was a very talented D3 runner visiting his girlfriend and Peyton got 2nd. I went out too fast but held on without dying too hard.

I got my long runs up to 15-17 miles leading up to the Haven 8k, where I improved my place to 2nd behind Thomas. I was running behind Ann for the first mile, and honestly worried that Laura was going to beat me during the last mile. She was closing on me, partially because I was dying and partially because a car almost hit me as I went into an intersection that was poorly guarded by a volunteer.

The week between the Haven and the Charlottesville 10 Miler, I went out to Green Springs and threw down a 19+ mile long run. It was the most fun I’d had all year long. I wish that I could do it each week. I don’t think it had much of an impact one me as I went to the 10 Miler and accomplished my goal of breaking 60 minutes. I got 20th place and ran 58:41. It’s probably the slowest I’ve ever run for 10 miles (except for Hartwood days). It was tough, but I was happy to accomplish my goal. After that, the spring racing season was over and it was back to low miles and writing like a machine. I had a deadline to make.

I finished writing in the spring and successfully defended in May, less than two weeks shy of the deadline to graduate that month, but that didn’t matter. The degree was conferred at the defense, according to my committee. I spent the day celebrating and went to the beach for Memorial Day weekend carefree for the first time in years!

Summer Racing Season

I started off the summer running the Bruce Barnes Mile. I’d heard it was fast but had no clue how fast it would be. Sean ran like 3:52 there before, and Alec has run 4:03, each of which is insane. The week of, I went to the track to attempt some 400s at five-minute pace and felt optimistic about my chances. The race was faster than I could have thought. I wanted to go out in 72 with the pack, but instead hit a 67 and was in 5th place! Thomas was way ahead and I just decided to stay in the game as long as I could since I’d already gone in head first. I ended up going 67, 2:16, 3:23, 4:31 to get passed at the line by a kid half my age. But again, so much fun.

Two weeks later, I was back at the United Ways Relay. I thought I’d do better than last time, but it didn’t go much better. We had a rag-tag group after several people were injured or had to stay with their dog because it bit another dog, but in the end, the ladies ran faster than I did. And one of those ladies was pregnant! Stew crushed it though, running something like a 58 for his first lap.
I spent the end of June trying to decide what to do on July 4, whether to race in Fredericksburg or Charlottesville. I think I made the right choice not going after the white whale, as Tim ran very fast there and I ran very slowly here. I got 2nd at the Kiwanis 5K at Hollymead after going out way too hard behind a dude in compression shorts and no shirt. He was on the track team at Penn and looked much younger and fitter. But I ran much faster than I had in January, so that was a win. If I’d gone out more slowly, I might have been able to get under seventeen minutes, but I didn’t and it was hot.

Things were going pretty well though. I decided that I was going to run the half-marathon in Richmond, and was using the summer months to get fit. I also committed to running with the Charlottesville F3 team for the Colonial 200, a relay race from Preddy Creek Park in Albemarle to Jamestown Beach in Williamsburg. But one morning at the track, I pulled my hamstring and then pulled the plug on Richmond. Then, at the beginning of September, a week before the relay, I hurt myself again at F3, doing mountain climbers of all things. It was sore that day, but really manifested the next morning in the midst of a nineteen mile long run that I quit after ten miles.

Gloom Horn Explosion

I ran two times between that and the relay, and thought I’d be able to make it through. My first leg was 8 miles in Fluvanna. Fifteen minutes in, I heard a pop in my calf. I hobbled the rest of the way through (in 6:32 pace) and then put my leg on ice for as long as I could. I was supposed to run a longer leg for my second turn, but my van made some accommodations for me and I bumped down to 3.8 miles in Hanover. That run was even more painful than the one where my leg popped, as my form was a mess and I hobbled around in the dark for a half-hour. But I went as hard as I could, running 9:07, 7:49, 6:59 and 7:22 pace starting at 10:23 PM. Spooky.

Back on the ice, we went to a hotel near the Diamond and slept for about 15 minutes before we had to head off to start the last round of legs for Van #2. I was first up. We’d been studying the rules and my plan to was to start, and if I needed to drop out, someone from Van #1 (Wolverine) would finish for me since no one in my van would be able to without cheating. I took it out in what felt like a very slow pace, and tried to focus on getting my form as close to normal as possible. I ended up finish the whole leg, as I never felt like it was going to get worse than it already was. That nine-mile leg through Charles City started in the dark but finished in day-light. I found a cell phone which I later recycled for like $20 at a kiosk at the mall.

We ended up winning the whole race by something close to two hours, I think. They stagger it so that the fastest team starts last, which was us, and we passed our first team on the 10th leg (I ran leg #9). There was a team that was running fast and started earlier than us, but despite how much we worried about it, we were never really in danger. I had grand aspirations of live blogging during the race or taking a GoPro and recording all our wacky hijinks, but the injury a week out really put a damper on my mood. Matt asked me last week if I looked back on the experience fondly, which I do, and I’d like to do it again next year if I can.

When it was over, I took off two weeks completely. Then I ran one mile and felt pain, took off two more days, ran another mile, and called the doctor. I was diagnosed with “Tennis Leg,” which is apparently a real thing. Bob Wilder told me to take another two weeks off but that I could cross train. One day I went to aqua jog, but that hurt too, and another day, I rode my bike while the DRC ran, which was just a nuisance. I started my return with a week of walk-jogs, and then after 2 weeks, ran 4 miles and was told by my watch to take 3 days recovery for 7:19 pace. Pathetic!

Fall racing season

I stuck to running for a while after F3 seemed to keep me in the injury cycle (no way I can pretend that it is F3’s fault). Since I wasn’t going to run Richmond, I signed up for the inaugural County/City Connecting Communities 5K at Hollymead, a race for which I served on the organizing committee. It was free and I knew that Stew wasn’t able to run, so I thought I had a chance to win. Van #2 swept the top two spots, as I wore a t-shirt to hide my fat from the cold (it was REALLY cold and windy). I ran much slower than I did on July 4, but that makes a lot of sense when you consider how little I’d been running again.

One week later I went to my favorite race of the year, the Wattey. This is a two-mile cross-country race at Panorama Farms, running the same loop as the kids run for the Ragged Mountain Cup. It’s the one time a year that I put on spikes and really make myself suffer. It was cold again, and there was some humidity in the air as they were calling for rain, but the weather was all-in-all more pleasant than it was the week before. I saw Andy before the race, so I knew that I had no shot of winning like I had last week. Honestly, the fact that I even though I could win real races this fall just shows how delusional I am. I ended up running pretty well, despite how slow it was. Andy went out hard running away from a recent WAHS grad, Tommy. An older guy and two other kids also went out ahead of me. It was only two miles, but there was a lot of time to think. The older guy came back after 800, and I was sitting behind these two kids at the mile. Going through in 5:45, I laughed and said out loud to them, “didn’t it seem faster than that?”

I moved past them quickly and saw Tommy coming back hard on the long hill that is the regular course’s starting straight. I gave it everything that I had to catch him over that last mile, but coming down the finish straight, I knew I didn’t have it and shut it down, as you can see.

Last but not least was the Earlysville Turkey Trot. I was again delusional in thinking that I might win this race, even though I caught a cold from running around in the wet grass at Panorama a few days before. Spoiler alert, I didn’t win, I got 4th and ran slower than I had at Hollymead two weeks before. But I think the course at Hollymead is short and the course in Earlysville is long. My pace was faster on Turkey Day. They had a race within the race, where Ann Dunn got a head start while dressed as a turkey, and you’d get a special prize if you beat her. I didn’t know about this beforehand, thus I didn’t warn KC and the boys. So I needed to make sure that I was ahead of her before I got to my street so they didn’t think I was losing to a turkey (Henry has never let it go that I lost to a monkey chasing a banana at Marine Corps.) I ran the tangents and tried to be smart about it, but I was still toast for the last mile.

Wrapping up

I managed to write all of this about a year where I didn’t even run 1600 miles. Even though the training wasn’t there, I still participated in 10 races and had a lot of run at each one. I’ve gotten injured a hand full of times from pushing when I shouldn’t have or doing something stupid (like falling down the stairs). Eight months ago, I was planning to run a half marathon in the fall and then a marathon this coming spring. I didn’t run the half and I’m definitely not running a full any time soon. 2020 is going to be a down year for running, as we’re expecting two additional members of the family in January, and I’m not talking about puppies. I'm running the January 1 5K in Free Union again, but beyond that, you will have to check back in a year to see if I go running again.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Four words

I’d been saying four words to myself for a week. Four words, over and over again. It’s just a marathon. And it’s not as though the weeks prior had gone exceptionally well either. I went to NYC and got sick. When I came back, I got an antibiotic that proved unsuccessful. While on that, I had to take some days off (including a day off of work) and I had a glorious bonk in the last four miles of a my last 23 mile long run. Several days later, I was still sick and got another antibiotic. That one really took it out of me. Two pills a day, ten days. Those pills were awful. I had to take the second pill before 5pm if I wanted any hope of falling asleep at a reasonable time or waking up in time to go running. If I had the strength to run at all. But I was going to finish up that medication nine days before the race, so I knew I’d have time to bounce back.

I made the mistake of not doing a workout one day when I couldn’t the next, so it got pushed to that Friday. When I started my warmup, my right hamstring was really tight. I thought nothing of it and went about my run. But after two of my intended eight intervals, it was getting worse, so I stopped the workout. I wish I could have stopped the run, it was hurting that badly. The next two days, the pain did not go away and I was limited to about 30 minutes before it got to be too much. I decided I’d take the next few days off of running and instead get in the pool So Monday - Wednesday, I was at the YMCA—first one in the water at 5am. I swam and I aqua jogged, and told myself those same four words. Wednesday afternoon I had my leg worked on. Thursday, I would run.

23 minutes, after school, at the warmest part of the day, with full tights on. It didn’t feel good. I went slowly, but picked it up at some point to see if running 6:30 pace felt better than running 8:00 pace. It did not. Four words. Same thing on Friday. No better. Four words. I knew I was going to make my final decision about participation as late as possible, so Saturday morning, I got up early and went for the same 5k jog. It hurt less. I was all in. I was going to run this race.

Sunday morning, I left my hotel in a Lyft and got to the Metro Station to ride to the Pentagon. The station opened two hours early for the race and the place was packed already. Being with these other runners who were hoping to finish, ready to tackle the grueling effort, made me realize that the four words I’d been saying all week were relative, and did not apply to these folks. For the first time in years, I felt like I was the least serious runner around me. They had trained, they were ready! They were running with a purpose, to prove something, to honor someone. What was I doing this for? I was very emotional in realizing that this event, today, was about so much more to so many people than I’d ever realized. I'd been really selfish getting here, trivializing the event and not considering how big of a deal it is to so many people. I just haven’t been in this situation before, with these masses of runners, all working to finish. It wasn’t about the clock for them, or if it was, they weren’t’ showing it. It was about the challenge, the course, the commitment. I didn’t know what it was about for me. Those four words were coming back to haunt me. It was a tough pill to swallow.

Early risers
Fast forward to the race. Justin Neibauer was running too, still chasing sub-3. I asked him if it would be OK if I ran with him for at least the first 10K, to keep myself under control and warm up into it slowly. He was happy to have the company. We met up in the athlete’s village, I warmed up for a little bit, stretched, and applied some KT tape to my hamstring. I’d been wearing a hamstring sleeve that I borrowed from Charlie, and in hindsight I should have kept it on. We dropped our gear and made our way up to the starting line—which itself was an incredible experience. Thinking back to the races I’ve run, it’s most similar to Boston. The numbers of people around are incredible—more so than in Hopkinton, because they stagger the start times there. In Chicago, I’ve always been ahead and in the sub-elite Olympic developmental group (or whatever it’s called these days) so I haven’t seen these crowds. But this was incredible. Having the helicopters and jets and stuff fly overhead was cool too. I thought of my kids and hoped that they were getting to see it all. They left the hotel early that morning to make it to the course to spectate.

Computational thinking on my mind?
There was a delay in the race because of something on the course, during which I convinced Justin we needed to move up closer to the start. We weren’t going to finish behind 500 people so we shouldn’t start behind them either. I borrowed a strangers phone (first of three times today—spoiler alert) and texted KC so she wouldn’t think I was dead already when I was 5 minutes behind where she expected me to be.


The gun went off and I was in trouble. My hamstring wasted no time in reminding me that it wasn’t 100%. But the adrenaline got me off the line and Justin and I began our race. I encouraged him not to look at his watch a few times in the first half mile. We saw a runner running the wrong way on a road next to the course and then pass us. I hoped he wasn’t cheating. Turns out he and a bunch of other runners took a wrong turn almost immediately and had to backtrack. I looked for my family as we went through Rosslyn. I was completely lost in that effort and was unaware of where I was on the course until my watch vibrated to alert me of the first mile—I’d forgotten to turn off autolap and did not even know where the mile marker was relative to that split. It gave me a 6:56 and we’d already passed the mark, so we were going too fast. We’d agreed that he should run over 7:00 for the first few miles BEFORE I got hurt, and here I was ruining his race plan. But then I saw my family with the Crafts, cheering at me in the crowd, and I forgot all about being off pace.

©MarathonFoto
We started up the only significant hill of the race and were passing a lot of people, but getting passed by a lot of people too. I tried to slow down as the pain started to creep up, but we split a 6:44 second mile up the hill (again, GPS, not mile markers). And then things just sort of started to settle. Justin would run next to me or right behind me, we’d chat a little every once in a while, but we just kept running. I was hurting, but honestly it was less than it had hurt at all in the past week. I was bored to death with how slow we were going (no offense, rest of the world) and we just plugged along. I was looking around, taking in the sights of DC as Justin regaled me with tales of Marine Corps Marathons he’d spectated when his dad ran them, and I thought of my dad running this same race before I was born.

I looked along the route at the spectators to see if I knew people, always looking for my family. There was one girl who I saw three times in the first nine miles. I told her that, too. I chatted with other racers as we grouped together. I did math in my head as we passed mile markers to get actual splits, but never touched my watch. I was actually starting to feel better—noticing my hamstring less, feeling more confident. KC and the kids had a great view of the course on some bridge (Rt-66) right around mile 10, and I waved up at them, smiling. I told Justin our gun time for 10-miles (I don’t remember what it was). He told me that his brain didn’t work anymore and asked me the pace. We were somewhere under 6:50 probably, but I felt ready to keep up the pace and he did not. So I consciously let go of him (from ahead of him) and just started to run. My GPS was more closely mirroring the clock splits, and I was running in the mid-sixes. My 11th mile was a 6:21. I thought that I could conservatively keep that up, and then maybe in the second half of the race get closer to six-flat or faster.
©MarathonFoto

I was wrong. 77 minutes in, I felt a pull. OK, too soon, I thought. Let’s back it down to 6:30-6:40, maybe group back up with Justin. Nope. For the next four minutes, I slowed down until I was running over 7-minute pace until I just had to stop. I came to a complete stop. Let’s review other times I’ve come to complete stops during a marathon:
  • Boston 2004 – Had to go into a bathroom
  • Shamrock 2006 – Had to tie my shoe
  • Chicago 2009 – Had to stretch (twice)
Not a track records of success during those races. Tying my shoe wasn’t that big of a deal, but this didn’t bode well. I stretched, then got back on my way, briefly. Somehow, I managed to split 6:30 for the 12th mile, with walking. I did not stop my watch. I approached the Blue Mile, which the course website describes as “the emotional blue Mile of the course where fallen service members are commemorated in photographs along the roadway decorated with American Flags." What a place to have to walk through. Looking at those pictures, passing people standing every two feet holding up flags. There was nowhere for me to go but in the grass. I couldn’t walk on the road past all of those people. It was embarrassing.

Justin had already passed me and I walked across the 20K mat. I was still in this race. Over the next nine minutes, I continued to attempt running, but it would only last for a few meters. I could not continue to run. But I knew I had to be looping back at some point, I just didn’t know the course well enough to know how far. It was over. I stopped my watch at 12.82 miles, after 90:43 of running.

I started my watch over for the walk that I was about to do in order to get back to my family. I walked for a few minutes until I got to the half way mark… somewhere around 96 minutes gun time. There were two spectators there—one kind enough to let me use his phone. I sent KC a text to let her know I was no longer running the race. For the next 55 minutes, I walked along the course. I took a gel, I took water, I almost took some Halloween candy, I almost took a mimosa, but I didn’t want to stand around drinking with their actual glass champagne glasses, nor did I want to take that with me. I was passed by thousands of people. People offered words of encouragement, trying to get me to continue. I saw other people stop to walk/stretch and jump back in. I tried to do the same, just to get this nightmare over with. But I couldn’t even jog two strides. Running was not an option.

Once I got off of the Hains Point area, I was excitedly looking for KC everywhere, but also growing more and more embarrassed as I walked along the course. Sometimes I popped up onto the sidewalk to get out of the way of the actual runners. I made sure to cross the timing mat at the 25K so that she’d get a text message to let her know I was still alive, but she didn’t—they only went out at the 10K and 20K. She’d planned to see me at 16, so I thought there was a chance that maybe they were walking towards me, but I also just thought that’s where I would find her. 16 was right around a 180-degree turn, and she was nowhere to be found. I borrowed my third and final cell phone, but this time to call her. She was at mile 16 too, we’d just missed each other. So, I kept walking.

We reunited somewhere after 16. She said I looked great, considering. I offered to keep walking the course (I only had 10 miles to go!) if they wanted to wait and I told her I was in high spirits, mostly because I’d already had an hour to be depressed and sad, now I just wanted to go home. I made a tough phone call to my mom, who was at the finish, to let her know that I wouldn’t be arriving by foot and apologize for wasting her day. We continued to walk along the course until past mile 17, where I officially dropped out of the race and we headed for the metro. Four words.

My GPS splits
The metro station was a tough place to be. There were people walking around with their medals on from the 10K, and even a few people who had already finished the marathon. I was standing around in my racing kit, looking like an idiot. I came out and went to get my bag, and who should pop up but Justin! He was going to get his bag too, and said he’d had some watch issues so he wasn’t sure whether he was under three hours or not. I pulled my phone out of my bag, and the last text that I’d received was his finishing result, 2:59:53! We celebrated briefly before he announced his retirement from marathoning. His result made my day a whole lot better, and I felt less sad for myself.

We loaded up into the car, went to the hotel to pack, get lunch, and hit the road. While I was in the hotel room packing up, KC was in the car with the kids, who had fallen asleep. I came down to the lobby to find them all inside, because the car had started smoking and she had to get them out and shut it off. The day continued to get worse. Who gives a shit about dropping out of a marathon now? My mom called to tell me that my grandmother had taken a turn for the worse and probably wouldn’t make it much longer. Who gives a shit about dropping out of a marathon now?

Long story short, we got the car “fixed” after a brief wait ($$)—thank goodness there was a place open on a Sunday! We had a stressful lunch, got to Fredericksburg to see my grandmother one last time (she passed away the following Wednesday morning at 92 years old), and I haven’t run in two weeks. I talked to a few people while I was waiting for the car to get fixed and KC was entertaining the kids in the hotel lobby/an ice cream place, and it’s all about perspective.

The Internet is still waiting
for me to finish the race.
Those four words though. It’s just a marathon. Well, now that it was over, I had new four words I was thinking about. I’ll never drop out. I’d given a lot of shit to people who dropped out of marathons. Sean. Alec. Rachel. Chris. Sean. I always said I wouldn’t. I told Charlie before that I wouldn’t line up if I didn’t think I could finish. If I started the race, I was going to finish it. Well you know what, I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I could NOT finish that race. I tried! And it wouldn’t have been worth it to walk from mile 11 to mile 26.2. What would that prove? That I’m a stubborn ass, probably. KC said she was proud of me for dropping out. That sounds silly, but it was the smart thing to do. The only thing to do, really. Am I eating crow? Absolutely. But there’s nothing I could do about it. And none of those people who I’ve given so much crap to have said a word to me (granted I don’t talk to any of them much anyway). But if they did, I’d welcome it.

I had some really good training until the end of September. It doesn’t matter what I thought I could run, but I was feeling good about it. Then I got sick, and I got injured. I did the absolute best I could to rehab and make it to the race healthy, but it wasn’t meant to be. Now I can say that I’ve dropped out of a marathon. I’m in that club. I’m embarrassed about it, but at the same time, I’m not, because I tried. I didn’t drop out because I was slowing down or I wasn’t feeling well. I could not run. Period. I probably shouldn’t have even lined up, but I would have never known. This way, I knew for sure and I have little regret.

2018 is going to be the year of the 5K. Take that as you will. I’ll come back to the marathon in 2019, somewhere. I have unfinished business at Marine Corps, but that may have to wait until another year.

I welcome any and all trash talk about me dropping out. I deserve it. Just say it to my face (or directly to me electronically)—that’s what I would do to you.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

All I do is win

It is the third weekend of November and I ran my third race of the month today, the Kelly Watt Memorial Race. My fall racing season has ended with a third place finish over the two mile cross country course. I'd consider the season a success. Today's race first:

The seriousness with which I approached this race was tremendously lacking compared to years past. Two years ago, the team was preparing for Club Cross Country Nationals at Lehigh and we did a 3 x mile workout prior to the race to get in a bunch of intervals on the grass. Last year, I probably arrived well in advance and warmed up adequately before hand, although I wasn't in the best of shape at the time as indicative of my adjusted racing schedule. This year, I didn't set an alarm, slept in (thank you, Sam & Henry), hung out with the family before realizing I needed to leave for the 9:00 AM race.

I briefly allowed myself to entertain the idea of winning today on my drive there. I didn't think that Sean was going to be there. Matt, Charlie and Thomas are all in Philadelphia getting ready to run the marathon tomorrow morning. Adrian and Alec had tried to psych me out earlier in the week about the fitness of the Albemarle boys XC team, but I'm not about to start worrying about what high school kids can do. But then I remembered that there were several other RMR guys who could show up-- namely Dave, Andy or Steve, and the moment was lost. Arriving at Panorama Farms though, Lee pulled in next to me and I knew for sure that I wouldn't be breaking the tape-- his miler kick had been my undoing many times before. With a marathon in my legs from a week ago and only one run since then, I knew that today was likely to have a similar result.

Saturdays are for cross country
Lee and I had a very short warmup with Lindsey Graybill that was a few minutes too early for my liking. We finished and I had way too much time before the race was going to start. During that way too much period of time, Nick Ward came over to our pile of stuff and asked me what I was planning to go out in. I laughed a little and told him that I had no idea, but that I'd just run a marathon the week before so it might not be too fast. He said he'd heard about the marathon, but was hoping that someone would be going out fast, as in, 5:10 pace, so that he could go out with them but not have to lead. I definitely laughed in his face. Go out in 5:10? Me? Not today, my friend. I suggested that he talk to Lee, or see if maybe Sean was around and running, because I would be doing no such thing today. Nick meant business though, as the Western boys had run their annual post-season mile time trial and Nick went 4:34. Today's race was going to be the longest race of his life and the tipping point on whether he tried his hand at the 5K at Foot Locker South in a weeks time.

Everyone was trying to psych me out before this race, as even Lindsey was doing strides and drills getting ready to go to the line. I was just not in the mood for such seriousness. The weather was warming up and it was a perfect morning for a short little jaunt around Panorama.

After Kelly's best friend and mom gave their memorial speeches, we were off. As is typically the case, there were some eager beavers going hard out of the gate, and one of them actually started throwing some elbows at me as the path narrowed 200 meters in before the first turn. Nick was doing exactly what he wanted to do/didn't want to do and got out hard and built a sizable lead immediately. I made my way around the turn and found myself running in 6th place behind Nick, three children, and Lee. I decided to hug the rail on the left side and try to run the shortest path possible, and found myself breathing easier than I did on the warm up, so I thought I'd make a go of it. Just like two weeks before in the Men's 4 Miler, I found myself running on the left side of a crowd with Lee running on the right, the two of us working off of each other, striding along effortlessly.

I saw Cass on the course taking pictures (two out of three photo credits go to him) and a couple of other folks cheering, including Beth Keith, librarian TA at Cale and mother of Monticello runner Eli. I'd talked a lot of trash over the last year and a half to Eli and the other Mustang Harriers, so a trio of them came today to try and take down this old man. I gather that Eli must've been close to me somewhere in the first 800 meters as I heard Beth cheer his name while I was approaching her. He was not one of the three who went out in front of me though.

It look a little longer to pass all those kids than I thought it would, but then it was just me and Lee, chasing down Nick. As we continued to head away from the start/finish area, I mentioned to him that it looked like we were gaining on him. Lee agreed, and we focused on trying to reel him in. I knew in my heart of hearts that I wasn't going to be beating either of these guys today, but I might as well hold on for the wild ride for as long as I could. Lee and I kept moving up and back on each other... not necessarily surging, just doing a better job on different parts of the terrain than the other one. There was no mark for the mile on the course. I had an idea about where it was, but not enough confidence to bother looking at my watch ever. We just kept pressing on.

Around a mile and half in (maybe), we take two 90 degree turns to the left. This is when Nick had the opportunity to see how much ground he had on us, and when Lee decided he wanted to cut the course. He was right behind me as I took the first left, but then he was right on top of me because he was treating it like a cone instead of two turns. (I filled an official protest after the race to Adrian Lorenzoni but I think it fell on deaf ears. Not really.) This part of the course is fast and downhill, so Lee started to separate in his effort to catch Nick. I didn't have a whole lot to give at that point so I just leaned in and tried not to fall as I rolled down the hills. We hit the bottom of the course and the stream that's probably a quarter mile to go and then headed straight uphill to the finishing stretch.

Nick and Lee were clear 1-2 at that point, and I'm sorry to say that I looked back going up the hill to see that I had a lot of ground on #4. The question as just about who was going to break the tape first. I entered the gate to the last 200 (thousand) meters and watched the race unfold like a freakin' spectator. Tick, tock, tick, tock. Lee couldn't quite catch Nick and I just strolled on in, losing so much ground on Lee that Alec was shocked to hear that I'd even been with him at the mile. I finished in like, 10:46 or something like that, only a few seconds slower than I was last year.

Maybe I had the wrong attitude in thinking that I wasn't going to beat either of those guys, but I know my body right now isn't going to let me do those sorts of things. This was my second run post-marathon and I was just happy to get it in. I had a lot of fun, got to see some friends I don't see as often as I would like (Lee, Lindsey, Nick, Cass), and got my heart rate up for about 10 minutes. My (sanctioned) racing season is officially over for 2016. As I've mentioned before, I'll run the Turkey Trot with KC (CASE RACE AGAINST TEAM RESNICK!) and then I think I'll celebrate Boxing Day three days early with my friends.

Somber reflections of the year to come in about 6-8 weeks.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

RVA AFTERMATHmatics

I got a little fatigued in that last blog post, wrapping up the Richmond Marathon. I'd written up to mile 21 in one day and the last 5 miles the next, so I apologize if there was a lack of continuity. I just wanted to get it done, honestly. The race and the write-up. So I'll wrap up some of the minutiae here: I finished in 19th place, 5th in my age group. I averaged 6:05 pace. I've run 9 marathons faster than I did on Saturday, and placed higher than 19th in 7 marathons. Richmond was the 15th marathon that I've run. It is the third marathon I've run since becoming a father, and the first one since becoming a father of two.

Up

I said I had mixed feelings about the race, and maybe I didn't go into enough detail about that. I am generally happy with the way that I ran. I was patient during the first 17 miles, got after it during the last 10K to pass just about everyone, almost running with reckless abandon. It felt like racing, which is not a feeling I've had before at the end of a marathon... strength. I enjoyed it. I ran a decent negative split, which hopefully will net me a new pair of New Balance shoes courtesy of Strava. I was smart and was able to finish strong (ish) at the end because of it. I got under my time goal of 2:39:59 with several seconds to spare.

Additionally, Matt ran great. He was a little banged up coming into the race, skipping the Men's 4 Miler and a couple of other workouts around it. Alec and I were really worried that Matt killed his chances with our 12 mile tempo at Riverview, because things were looking really bad for him for a while after that. But he took care of himself, listened to his legs, and showed up on race day. Maybe he was a little over his time goal (I'm disappointed to say I'm not 100% on what it was), but he ran a massive PR. His wife said afterwards that it was a great success because they weren't going to the emergency room (which has happened in the past.) That's certainly one way of looking at it, but either way he did a good job and I'm proud of him.

Down

But then there is Alec. All jokes about not finish the race aside, I'm just sad that my friend had a tough day and walked away disappointed. I've run marathons with guys who had a bad run before. Hell, I've been that guy a bunch of times (Chicago 2009, Outer Banks 2009, Twin Cities 2010, Boston 2015) and it sucks. But usually those guys finished the race and just ran slowly. It's another beast when you can't get to the finish line. And it's not like he ran like an idiot like some people I know who consistently drop out of marathons for going out too fast. We were doing what we were supposed to do-- running controlled and hitting the paces. It just wasn't in the cards that day for him.

Up

Back on the positive side of things (wait for it, it's coming), I ran a few seconds slower than the Three Bridges Marathon. The point of that race was to run under 2:45 and I ended up going faster than necessary and running 2:39:44. When I realized that on Saturday or Sunday (re: looked it up), I was pissed. How did I not run faster this time? I only trained to run 2:45 then, and this time I was shooting for a faster time! Well today I realized a couple of those reasons but the number #1 difference to look at is this: During the 3BM, I broke my foot at mile 17. I FELT IT BREAK during the race! I couldn't walk for a week and was in a boot for months after that. It was awful. Thinking about Richmond, I walked away sore but pain free. I was ready to go running Sunday (didn't) and actually ran this morning. No boot. No break. Just tight and sore.  So who cares about 7 seconds? I can run tomorrow morning if I want to.

Left Right A B A B Start

So what is next? People always ask that after a big race. I wonder if the 5K Weekend Warriors get that a lot too. I'm not signing up for another marathon this week, if that's what people are wondering. I'm going to run the Kelly Watt Memorial 2 Mile on Saturday morning at Panorama. I love racing on the grass and definitely plan to spike up, regardless of how embarrassing it will be. I'll probably still beat Alec though. Although this is his chance at redemption-- I've got an extra 9 miles in my legs that he doesn't have. I'm going to run the Turkey Trot in FXBG with KC on Thanksgiving. Then I just want to stay in some semblance of shape through the winter and keep the injury bug away. The Charlottesville 10 Miler will be in March and I'd like to run that without worrying about Rachel catching me at the line. Then who knows? There's always the White Whale. Maybe I can train for that. I'll be 34 years old then, but that's still plenty young. I mean, geez, Matt Boyd is about to get second place overall in the FARC Grand Prix... anything is possible in this day and age. I'm definitely going back to Mekong to get some more crispy pork spring rolls.

For the first time in a while though, I definitely mean it when I say it: Onwards and upwards.

Race Photos