Thursday, October 17, 2013

Italian Ghost Runner

Wednesday I resumed my very early and very dark track workouts at school.  My mornings are always super busy but I've decided that I can afford to not go in at 0600 one morning a week.  So as long as I plan accordingly (read: get my shit done Tuesday afternoon before leaving school), I can get back after it running mindless ovals.

It felt good to get back out there after a hiatus of several weeks.  After a two mile warm-up I squeezed in 8 x 400.  Intending to run them at my I pace (about 80?) which is more appropriate, yet I got into it too eagerly and ran almost all of them at R pace (75 and lower). Oh well.  It was fun.  But the running content in this post is not about me and my meaningless exploits.

More interesting, at least to me, was that I crossed paths again with the same two older (50-60?), Italian women that come to walk and run the track.  I've seen them there with their gaudy sweat suits and little LED flashlights every single Wednesday morning I've been there, dating back to the summer. Big deal, other runners, right?  But these two lovely ladies are out for morning exercise and are most definitely not runners.  Actually, they're there running so they ARE runners but what I'm trying to state is that they do not fit the typical runner description morphologically, attire, etc.  I really hate to stereotype but hopefully you get my drift and realize my stupid notions here.  ANYONE that runs, no matter what they look like, is a runner!  But again, these dedicated dames don't strike me as the everyday runner you're likely to encounter at your next road race.Couple these misconceptions with the fact that those ladies are there every Wednesday, whether I'm there or not I'd wager, and you have yourself some devoted gals.  Are they there every single weekday morning? I wonder.....

I had the chance to slobber out/huff the proverbial "Mornin'" as we passed, me running counter clockwise in lane 1 and them jogging/walking clockwise in the outer lanes.  Misery loves company.  I completed my final reps (damn, overdid it on the last 2) and then changed direction for an easier paced two mile cool down.  As I rounded a turn I came upon the shorter and (ahem) more stout of the two.  She was running along with her flashlight off but had since moved to lane 1, which was fine considering that I was cooling down and she was upping her effort and getting after it.  Like an ass I thought to myself, "Nice. She's working hard for her but I'll just mosey around her at my easier pace (7:30ish?)."  However, I realized that all down the front stretch, I was making no ground on her--in fact, she was pulling away.  Apparently, I subconsciously picked up my pace and before too long, I was working again slightly to try and catch her (6:30 pace?).  WTF?!?!

As I moved around her I realized that she was shuffling along with a smooth and effortless (sub 7:00), low foot sweeping stride. I also became aware that I couldn't hear all.  No foot strikes. No huffing and puffing.  Nothing.....she was like a silent ghost.  Running in the dark next to her was very surreal and almost dream-like.  Shouldn't she be in a kitchen making delicious food?  I complimented her as I moved past "Wow. You have a great stride and the quietest, most efficient foot strike I've ever not heard.".  She replied with a chuckle, "Oh is that good?".  I moved past and finished the last few laps of my cool down with a big smile--happy because I was done and sort of overdid my workout but still felt good AND, perhaps more so, happy to encounter another humble, everyday runner out there in the pre-six o'clock darkness, doing her thing.

Run on, nonna.  Run on.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Waiting For Columbus

Had a great run today in both sides of Grills (Ashaway and Bradford).  Great weather. Legs and everything else felt fantastic.  Thanks for the day off.  Yet again, I refused to attend a parade to honor the guy. 

Instead I fished and ran and worked with my wife on building a rodent house (not doll house) out of  a wooden wine box for my youngest daughter.  I build bomb 5 inch total  rise stair stringers and treads if you're in the market. Not to code but I don't care.

Good start to the week on all fronts.

Click here to honor the mighty C.C. and his 1492 quests. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Hampton Rockfest Marathon (a.k.a. Smuttynose)

The day finally arrived.  After months of fairly diverse and somewhat focused training, I was finally ready to tackle my third attempt at 26.2 miles.  Going in I felt pretty ready and had three main goals:

1. Martin Luther King: a total dream but hey, you never know.  2:45-2:46:59

2. Real Life: 2:47 - 2:49:59: much more realistic and what I really knew was attainable and I could (can?) hit it.

3. Shit Show: if everything starts going downhill, just hang on and hit this one-- anything under my previous PR of 2:54:XX

My wife and sister-in-law were both running the full as well as my niece dabbling with her first attempted half marathon (never having run more than 8 miles before).  This coupled with the fact that Gazelle (26.2) and Nate (13.1) were also running on Sunday made for extra excitement, at least for me.  Secretly, I also had goals for my other running counterparts.....that's right. I'm that guy. So here they are:
Gazelle: 2:52-2:53
Nate: 1:22-1:23
My better half and her sister: 4:45ish
My niece: 2:30ish?

So with goals in my mind, (for everyone), we packed into the Yota Mothership (van) and drove up to Hampton to pick up bibs and then drove back to stay with friends in North Andover, MA about 30 minutes away from the race site.  The evening was filled with beers, pasta, and pleasant chatter. I went to bed relaxed, not at all anxious, and feeling ready to roll, despite knowing that I was most likely going to sleep like shit (which I did--about 4 hours total in intermittent chunks).

We awoke at 0500, grabbed coffee and peanut butter & bagels and headed to the site.  We parked fairly far away from the start line (less traffic) and bathroomed, changed, lubed up, etc.  I saw Nate and Gazelle run by the van and tried to yell out to them but couldn't get it together.  Instead, I ran a short 3/4 mile-1mile warm-up then headed down to the starting corral and found my fellow WTACers.  A few short strides and then we settled in and were off!

It's a little sketchy at the start because halfs and fulls run together and don't peel off until around mile 11 (course map here).  I knew there would be guys going out harder than I needed to and, given that you can't see the blue (half) vs orange (full) bibs on runners' fronts, the only option is to settle in and find out at the split who was running what.

Miles 1-5
--> I ran with Gazelle for the first several miles.  Mile 2 sucked as it was directly into a stiff NNE wind of about 20 knots.  Luckily we turned off around 2.5 miles into neighborhoods and the wind didn't really matter (until brief stints around miles 9 and 22 (back out to seashore).  I was feeling really good here and Gazelle and I parted ways around mile 4 or so.  I kept pushing a little and passed many people, still with no idea who was 1/2 and who was 26.2.  Gu at mile 5.

Miles 6-10
-->I was separated from most people now and started to settle down, at least mentally, and focused on pushing but (trying) to run smart.  I didn't bother to check most mile splits.  About every 5-7 minutes I'd glance down to guesstimate pace.  Never once did I see anything under 6:08 which, now that I look back at stupid space watch splits, I question their accuracy.  I don't think I ran a 5:56 but hey...
I could see Nate with a group of 2-3 guys up ahead and I actually closed a bunch of distance on him.  This should have been Indicator #1 that I was not running smart.  As we descended down the hill during mile 10 along the coast I actually got clipped pretty hard by a bitch on a bike, escorting/pacing a wheelchair entrant.  She screamed "Out of the way! Wheelchair racer coming through!" Are you effing serious?!?  Gu at mile 10.

Miles 11-15
-->At the mile 11+split, marathoners turned off the main course back into neighborhoods....and I found myself totally alone.  I had the fever now and was feeling really excited and pushed it through 12.  For a few minutes I wondered if I could actually be in first!  But thankfully a spectator (obviously a runner) notified me that I was about 2 mins in back of 4th place.  A few minutes later I could see him.  Subconciously I think I continued to push a little harder than necessary to try and catch him. 
Unfortunately, around mile 13 marker/just past the split I beginning feeling less than awesome.  I know that is normal but not so soon!  The unwritten rule is if you feel shitty at the half, forget it! You're done.  I tried to gauge just how shitty I was and then decided to forget about it and keep running.  I did manage to pass another guy (Ironman tats and jersey) and thought that put me in 3rd place but had conflicting information from course spectators ("You're 5th" and "4th place now. Nice job") so who really knows. Gu at mile 15.

Miles 16-20
-->Miles 16 and 17 is where I started to get a little worried.  The pain was already more than it should've been.  My left knee was hurting in that old familiar way, but still manageable.  I definitely noticed (after about 10 glances at the space watch) here that I had to work really hard to run what felt like 6:10 pace but was more like 6:25-6:28.  Finally, at mile 18, as I was all alone, I began to cave.  There was no hitting the wall at 20 or 22.  It jumped at me a little earlier than I wanted: "Here I am dickface!  Gonna be fun running with you the next 8+miles!".  Officially, my times really don't start to become deplorable until mile 20 and beyond.  The space watch shows 6:40s but many times I glanced down (doing that a lot at this point) I was running 6:55-7:00! Yikes. Gu at mile 20.

Miles 21-The End
-->I knew I was fading. My pace was rapidly getting higher than Cheech & Chong in "Up In Smoke".  It's always around this time that I begin hating everyone around me.  Even though spectators mean well, seriously, it doesn't help to hear (for the 100th time) "Almost there, only "X" miles left".  Around the mile 23 marker I could hear footsteps.  As I continued to weave in and out of half marathon walkers (UGH!) I knew right away that the person closing on me was NOT a 1/2 runner.  Triathlon guy blew by me like I was standing still.  My initial reaction was denial--there's no way he can be running 5:30 pace right now!  Unfortunately, another neurotic glance at the watch revealed that he was probably running 6:25 or so, like he was SUPPOSED TO BE DOING! I was the a-hole who was dying at 7:00 pace.  To pour salt on the wound, another guy (triathlete as well) blew by me around mile 24 marker.  Damn!  It made the suffering and pain exponentially worse. 

I did manage to shuffle in officially at 2:51:05 (full results here)  Wrapped up in the foil blanket of love, I weaved and stumbled back to the van with a Gatorade and banana to try and get my act together.  The rain was freezing.  My mind was numb (like my hands and feet) and I just wanted to crawl into a hole.

Stupid space watch says the hell does that happen?!? I really wish someone could explain that one to me.  As such, I don't really know with any accuracy, what my actual real splits were.  Many of them were a bit too fast on the watch which means I didn't run as fast as I thought first half but def ran even slower for the last 10K...UGH! After about an hour, I met up with my brother-in-law who treated me to a few beers and a "victory shot" of Patron (YUCK!).  We watched our wives finish (4:40:XX) and then packed it up and headed out to a restaurant for burgers, fries, and a few more pints.

Post-Race Pros and Cons--

1. I ran a PR of over 3.5 minutes.  Awesome.
2. My WTAC brethren crushed their races
3. I was pretty spot on with my predictions/guesses for others.  That is, if you exclude the outlier Gazelle who I think might be juicing/doping!  Amazing!
4. Finished 4th overall out of 953 runners.
5. At least (as of today) my knee pain/former injury isn't bothering me.
6. Post-race I got to run toxicology experiments on my kidneys and liver (1000mg of Vitamin I and beers). Data still pending... 

1. I totally own this failure.  I got way too excited and ran the first half too fast.  I KNOW I can run a 2:47 or so. I'm much more upset with my stupidity/tactics than my fitness or lack thereof.  As I stated, I know I was fit enough for 2:47 or so. Tough to swallow that one.
2. Missed out on cash prize. I had no idea I was in 2nd OA near the end!  One or more of the guys ahead of me must've tapped out over the last 10K or so.  If I had known  it wouldn't have helped at all-- I had N-O-T-H-I-N-G left.
3. Trashed legs now, but that was to be expected.

I'm disappointed for sure.  However, my rule is to whine and bitch and feel sorry for myself for no more than 24 hours and then forget about it.  So after I hit the "Publish" button in a few minutes here, no more complaining.  Onward and upward. I still stand by my belief that marathon training is fun.  I'll continue to do it over the summer, even if I'm not running a definite marathon.  Marathon shape but jumping into 10Ks --1/2 marathons and meeting with success is such awesome fun.

And FYI, I will NOT be listening to my wife who is now pressuring me to sign up for Philly Marathon in November.  No thanks.

As Gazelle can attest from past experience " I'm never fu*#ing doing that again."