Sunday, February 6, 2011

Vermont City Marathon

Is anyone out there going to run Vermont City this year?

I am 1/3 of the way through my 12 marathon 12 month challenge and am trying to finalize my race schedule...if so let me know!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Roxbury Marathon

Let's just say I'm glad this marathon is finished!

I was told by several accomplished runners that this course was tough, and to add 30 to 40 minutes to my average marathon time to determine what a projected finish would be. They were right.

Despite all of the running I've done over the last year, nothing I did prepared me for the Roxbury Marathon course. The course record, set by a top ultramarathon runner, was 3:02. This would be my most challenging marathon of the year without question. How challenging? I'll start from the beginning...

Our little man was sick with strep so Cheryl stayed with the kids and I hauled down to CT Friday night. My parents greeted me with a wonderful pasta dinner, and after catching up for a while, I hit the sack around 10pm. Couldn't sleep, and up at 4am and at 6am went to Starbucks for some coffee. Picked up my sister Amy, who accompanied me to the race.

Roxbury is a gorgeous bucolic town in Litchfield County, maybe a 40 min drive from Trumbull. Arrived at Hurlburt park, where registration was. This is as informal as a marathon gets - pay $5 and wait for the start. They had a fire going in the outdoor fireplace, but it was so cold the ink in the pens was frozen. I was the 9th person to register, and was given #9 as a bib. I joked that they had me mixed up with the elites. Probably the only time I'll ever have a single digit number, ever!

It was cold at the start (19 degrees) but clear skies. 72 runners ready to run, and at 8:30 the race director shouted GO! and we were off.

The race consisted of an 8 mile out and back (4 up turn around, 4 back to the start) which was hilly and mostly run on a rural dirt road. It felt more like a trail marathon than a traditional road marathon at that point. 7:49, 8:08, 8:14 first three miles and I felt pretty good.

After the turnaround, the hills were grueling - some runners were walking them already - and my mile 6 time was 9:11 - the earliest I have ever run a 9 minute mile. NYC for example I didn't record a +9 minute time until mile 15. So I knew then it was going to be a very l-o-n-g morning. The elevation profile resembles an EKG chart.

After I returned to the mile 8 mark, which also served as the start and finish, Amy was there and handed me a PowerBar gel and a cup of water. She was also yelling 'David is King!', and made a mock bib with that written on it, a joke that goes back to our childhood, and also brought sleigh bells and was jingling and jangling them with great enthusiasm. It was wonderful to have her there!

The remainder of the course consisted of five 3.5 mile loops, so Amy would meet/greet me at the same spot and hand out a gel each time. I recorded a 9:14 for mile 9, which included the hilliest part of the loop - approximately 200+ feet of elevation gain in a little under a mile. I'd be running that four more times? That was when I came to the realization I probably would finish +4 hours.

After rambling up the hills of Hemlock Rd (which was steep and then unpaved for a 1/2 mile stretch) we banked right onto North St, across Wellers Bridge Rd to South St, then curved up Apple Lane where the start/finish was.

My 13.1 split was around 1:55, but my mile splits were now consistently in the low 9's and getting slower. Just try to enjoy it, I told myself. Forget time. Enjoy the scenery. What a great way to spend a Saturday morning in December! But that is a very difficult thing to do when I know the clock is ticking.

Despite my sister handing me a gel every 4th mile, and being a small race there were several water stops but only one gatorade stop - which for me wasn't enough. I need it every 2 miles or so, and when my legs started to get heavy I knew I had a problem on my hands.

By mile 16 I felt like I was running in mud up to my waist. My cardio felt fine but between the hill repeats and the lack of gatorade, my leg muscles were tight, almost numb. 'Dead' is how I would describe them. I was shuffling along, not really running with a purposeful stride. Ten miles to go, and the goal became just to finish and be done with it already.

I was frustrated because by this point I wasn't really enjoying the experience, the first time I ever felt that way in a marathon. This brought back memories of this summer's ultra, when every step past mile 44 was sheer, unadulterated agony. After completing my 4th loop at mile 19 I had to walk the steepest grades on Hemlock - and that got me down because in my previous three marathons, I ran each and every step as fast as I could. Here I was walking. Aggravated. Looking at my Garmin and watching my avg. mile per minute time slip away. I kept thinking about how after all of my running, nothing I have done properly prepared me for these hills. I also, however, kept fast forwarding to Miami, and how much I was looking forward to ripping along a flat course, going for a personal best, instead of being stuck in survival mode. Dean Karnazes, in his 50 marathons/50 days book, put up some big, crooked numbers as well - so that helped keep it in perspective. It's more than this one race. It's the entire twelve month journey.

Mile 25 was my low point, 13:13, but knowing I had 1.2 miles to go I kept shuffling, shuffling, the soles of my Brooks scuffing the pavement every step. Every slight grade increase, each small rise in the road seemed like Everest.

As I approached the finish - which of course was at the top of a hill - I sprinted, for lack of a better word, the last 50 yards or so. There was Amy cheering me on, and I gave her a big hug when I finished. I can't say enough about her, how wonderful her support was, how every 3.5 miles she greeted me with smiles and positive words of encouragement. You're a rock star!

4:21:14 was my official time, 37th place out of 72 runners. Nearly 35 minutes slower than NYC, but I will train hard to make sure this is the only marathon where my finish time is greater than 4 hrs. The course record was broken that day - 2:52 I believe, and the 2nd place runner finished in 2:54 or so - very impressive, because it is a beast.

This was also my 12th road race of 2010 - something I am also very proud of. 4 Marathons, 1 20 Miler, 1 Half, 2 Ten Milers, 3 5k's, and 1 50 mile Ultra.

I have finished the first quarter of my 12 marathons 12 months - now it's onto #4 in Miami January 30th!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

16.25 on Sunday, plus a few other runs

I haven't posted in about 10 days or so but yes I have been diligent and running, just not blogging. I did my two treadmill runs in NYC, a 7.5 miler in 1hr and a 3.5 miler in 30 mins. Did not do a Thanksgiving day race, but should have. Then in CT I did a 9 mile run the Friday after Thanksgiving without my Garmin, and on Saturday did my 4.3 loop. On Sunday, I did a big 16.25 long run - temps were mid 20's and it was blustery - but cranked it out in 2:27:02, or 9:02 pace. I can run a very comfortable 9 minute mile, but am to the point now where I need to pick up the pace and get faster.

I am testing for my Blue Belt on Dec. 18, a week after running my 3rd consecutive monthly marathon - this one is in Roxbury, CT. It's a small race, 60 runners or so, and it's a hilly track. I think it is five 4.5 mile loops, and I understand it's hilly. This should be good training for the Miami Marathon 1/30, which I hope to set a personal best at considering it will be flat, flat, flat. Need to beat my Sugarloaf 3:39:19.

Cherry Blossom registration begins tomorrow Dec. 1st! It a rolling lottery registration, I think we have a week long window to get our team together and register.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thursday 13

Got 13.06 in today in 1:58, or 9:02 minute/mile. Felt ok, this was an evenly paced run that I just cranked out. We're taking the little ones to NYC for their first visit, staying at the Mariott Marquis so I'm sure they have a good gym. I plan two very early a.m. treadmill workouts for Mon and Tues of next week.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuesday 4.3

Today's run followed a tough Taekwondo class last evening so I debated if I should skip altogether, but decided to do my infamous loop here in Kittery (4.3 miles).

Decent time of 33:51 (7:52 pace) but tried to keep each mile under 8:00 and did 7:29, 7:56, 8:06 and 8:17 with a good kick at the end.

Next run will be 13, but it is supposed to rain cats and dogs tomorrow. It might wait until Thursday.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday run

My 1st run post NYC was pretty decent one overall - 8:32 pace, mile splits fairly even, and the out-and-back route had a good amount of hills to keep me working hard.

I am going to work on lengthening my stride a bit, even a small increase might improve my speed as all of those steps with extra distance add up, even if just a fraction of time. Also going to keep my back upright more, I have a tendency to lean forward, head down, when I tire and will try to keep my shoulders back and run with a straighter, more proper gait..

So next up is the Roxbury Marathon in CT on Saturday, December 11th. I am approaching this as a hilly training run in preparaton for Miami at the end of January - so of course I want a good time, but I am running this small backroads race to keep my marathon streak alive and challenge myself on what I understand is a tough, tough course.

Monday, November 8, 2010

2010 NYC Marathon

Where to begin?

Running 26.2 miles with 45,000 other runners through the greatest city in the world is an experience difficult to articulate, but I will do my best and attempt to relive the race as I remember it.

My final week leading up to the marathon was a difficult one, as my grandmother passed away and we had services on the Friday prior to the race. On Saturday, Cheryl and I took the train in from Fairfield, checked in to our hotel in Battery Park, and made our way to the expo at the Jacob Javitz center. Picked up my bib, 33411, a very nice goodie bag, and back to the hotel where I saw a timely piece on the history of the NYC Marathon on PBS. Later that evening we took the subway to Union Square and had dinner at a nice trattoria in the West Village called Crispo. I started with some arancini (fried risotto balls with mozzarella) - amazing. Then I had a proscuitto, arugula, tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad, spaghetti all carbonara (my favorite pre-race meal), as well as a piece of grilled chicken with a side of broccoli rabe. Big, delicious dinner.

I was asleep by 9pm, and woke up at 12:30 just charged with excitement and anticipation. I tossed and turned until about 4:30am when I finally got out of bed, showered, and got ready for the day. Had a banana, clif bar, and blueberry muffin I'd picked up from a Whole Foods near the Union Square stop for breakfast the night before, and washed it down with some gatorade. Walked over to the Staten Island Ferry terminal, which was just steps away from the hotel.

The logistics of the event were impressive. I was on the 6am ferry, and we orderly boarded on time. I was surrounded by international runners - Italians mostly, but Dutch, Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, South Africans, Canadians. At one point on the ride I chuckled when I heard all of these different sounding languages at once.

Once the ferry arrived, we were led to buses (mine was a Rutgers University shuttle) and it drove us the 3 miles to Ft. Wadsworth, in the shadows of the Verranzano bridge. There, we were divided up based upon our bib color - orange, blue, green. 15,000 runners gathered in the orange village, where we had free coffee, bagels, and gatorade. What I underestimated was how COLD it would be! Ridiculously cold. I had my fleece pants and North Face running jacket, hat and gloves, and it didn't cut it. The wind was fierce. I had thought about buying some thrift clothes and just discarding them at the start, but didn't - but the other 14,999 in the orange village did. People were wrapped in blankets, trash bags. anything to stay warm. I checked in my pants and jacket at the last minute at my designated UPS truck before heading to the orange corral, and froze by tail off. I waited a good 45min -1:00 in the corral for wave 2 to begin, and we were herded to the start like stockyard cattle. Our cannon went off at 10:10, and off we were, and I still get chills just thinking about the beginning.

Mile 1 was slow because of the sheer mass of people on the bridge at the start, 8:57 min mile. I decided early on that I would run to the far left of the road, right along the crowd line, to faciliate passing slower runners and for the simple fact that I loved being right next to the crowd, feeding off their energy. Brooklyn, I love you! Their enthusiasm was 'off the hook' as they say. Insane. The intensity of the cheering, the bands playing, the overall vibe was tremendous. Bay Ridge, they were four deep and little children had their hands out for high fives - but so were adults, elderly folks, it was awesome. I was in a sweet early groove and must have slapped 5,000 hands if not more. I had on a yellow Livestrong techinical tee and people would yell "Go Livestrong!" and it was a rush.

My 1st eight miles were as follows:

1 00:08:57 08:57
2 00:08:02 08:02
3 00:07:38 07:38
4 00:07:38 07:38
5 00:07:43 07:43
6 00:07:53 07:53
7 00:07:57 07:57
8 00:08:03 08:03

After mile 8 in downtown Brooklyn I felt amazing and flew the next mile - turns out I did a 7:39. I didn't check my time or pace often, I just ran, slapping high fives. Gatorade stops were plentiful and I hit them all, and I had 6 GU's on me and took one every 4th mile. My 13.1 split time was 1:46:42, and I was pleased with that. In fact, the 3:40 pacer and I passed each other several times, so I knew I was running a good pace despite a near 9:00 first mile. I felt like I could keep it up.

Miles 9-14:

9 00:07:39 07:39
10 00:07:56 07:56
11 00:08:35 08:35
12 00:08:06 08:06
13 00:08:17 08:17
14 00:08:27 08:27

Then I hit the Queensboro Bridge. Ouch.

I knew it would be tough based upon the elevation charts I'd seen before the race, but wow - I felt like I wasn't moving. For the first time since the start I stopped running in the far left lane like a Porsche on the Merritt Parkway; instead I edged to the middle like a cement mixer in a lower gear just trying to climb the steepening grade. This is also where marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie dropped out with his injury just hours earlier.

My times for the bridge Mile 15 and 16 were 9:08 and 10:33, respectively.

Once we entered Manhattan, however, it was a different story. I will never forget the feeling as the darkened bridge (we ran on the lower deck) opened up to bright sunlight and throngs of cheers. I was also excited because Cheryl was waiting at 86th street, so I had a burst of energy up 1st Ave and clocked 8:09 and 7:56 for miles 17 and 18 so I felt rejuvinated. Unfortunately I didn't see her, as that stretch was a bit downhill and I let it rip on that section of the course. She saw me though, and since I was back to the left lane strategy, she could have touched my shoulder as I flew by.

Mile 19 I entered Spanish Harlem, and started to feel tired. Not the infamous wall, but yes, some fatigue was starting to set in. I wasn't sure if I was tired because I just ran 17 and 18 quickly, or if this was something more.

It was something more. Mile 19 was 9:19, but Mile 20 in the Bronx was 10:01, and I was feeling it. Just like that. The Maine Marathon I had a similar experience at the 20 mark, and yes, that dreaded wall we hear so much about. Ugh. Crossing over the Major Deegan I was feeling it, and when we took the turnaround loop at E138 St Grand Concourse and started to head back to down, I said I would look up at the street signs as they progressively got smaller for encouragement - except it wasn't going as fast as I wanted it to. I stopped, put my head down, and was in full-out grinding mode.

Central Park began at 5th and 110th Street, so that was encouraging to see because I knew we were less than 5 miles from the finish. The crowds were getting larger again, and around E 90th St the course entered the park.

Miles 21- 25:

21 00:09:57 1.00 09:57
22 00:09:29 1.00 09:29
23 00:09:43 1.00 09:43
24 00:10:04 1.00 10:04
25 00:09:31 1.00 09:32

After my Garmin buzzed Mile 24 10:04 I said the rest of the way I will finish sub 10:00 miles. Mile 25 was 9:32, and I knew the final 1.2 miles was where I had to dig deep. Once we hit Central Park South and Columbus Circle, I was sprinting. Sprinting! I did Mile 26 in 8:39, which I was elated over, the hardest mile of the marathon and I ran it in what was my overall average min/mile pace. Just .2 to go as we banked into the Park for the finish, and my legs and knees were rubber. I crossed the finish in 3:48:35. I had done it.

I had read several months ago about predicting a NYC marathon finish time - someone, I can't recall who, said take your best marathon time, and add 10 minutes. That will be your NYC finish time. Well, for me it was add 9 minutes, four seconds. And checking the NYRR site, I finished 10,100 out of 45,000+ runners. That surprised me, and something to feel good about! I finished ahead of Justin Gimelstob (pro tennis player), Amani Toomer (former NY Giants WR) , Ethan Zohn (pro soccer player/Survivor winner) and well ahead of Jared the Subway guy and the Chilean miner, Edison Pena.

We were ushered through a finishers maze with medals, photos, swag bags with gatorade/water/apple/pretzels, until we saw our UPS truck that had our check-in bag. We had to keep moving, and it was tough - I had nothing, zero left. I was just trudging along, maybe 15-20 minutes or so, until I got my bag. I called Cheryl, and 15 minutes later we met up around 81st Street. Hopped a cab, back to Battery Park.

I showered and just chilled under the covers for an hour and watched the Detroit Lions pull defeat from the jaws of victory against the Jets, and then we headed over to The Palm for a ridiculously tasty 24oz bone-in ribeye. Body was craving protein.

So it's the day after, and I'm sore, mostly in my quads which makes going down stairs a handrail event but other than that feel fine. I can't say enough about how incredible it was, the way the city embraces the race, the rush of pushing yourself to the limit and then pushing a bit more.

How good was the experience? So good that I've already registered for the 2011 lottery!