Friday, April 17, 2015

Boston Marathon Day Two: Three Days to The Race

Day two in Boston: Expo Day at the Boston Marathon.

I call it the expo day, but it's normally "expo days" (plural) as it's tough to cover everything in one day at the world's greatest expo for the world's greatest race. I was also traveling with my 18 yr. old son who is not a runner (he was polite, but likely got bored soon after we entered.) I probably would have stayed there much longer, but I also have a built-in timer that wants to conserve the amount of time on my feet.
Emotional bib pickup

Getting in on Thursday night has its advantages as we didn't set an alarm for Friday morning and slept fantastic. We headed out for a morning cup of joe at Thinking Cup right off the Boston Commons. My son tuned into his iPhone tunes while I knocked out the last work stuff (not entirely true) while we both eavesdropped on a very awkward first date (she was an international student who loved to club and network with the club owners and bouncers. he was the son of a Dr. She asked what his best attribute was and he replied, his sense of humor. Nothing funny came out of his mouth. The date ended shortly. Nothing to do with Boston, but entertained us while we both did our thing over a great cup of joe.) While I was wrapping up, Jesse (my son) waited outside, and as he often does, engaged in conversation with Pahkah (heavy Bostonian accent version of "Parker.")

Pahkah, was from the rough side of Boston. Ex-Marine collecting $4,000 a month from the government who was either 55, 56, or 60 (all ages he shared with us.) He also spoke about how Jesse should stay out of prison as he wouldn't last very long (pointing to his slight frame.) I bragged that Jesse was a black belt (true,) and Pahkah, said, that wouldn't do you any good as he'd be dealing with street fighters. He showed his red, cracked knuckles and his crooked nose. This part I believed. Pahkah knew how to fight. I chose my words carefully as to avoid raising his ire...this is after he told us about serving 24 years in prison. 

I tried to relate and said said something about "The Town" movie about the Charlestown neighborhood robbers who tried to rob Fenway. He told us about a a real-life version of that by the name of Costa who pulled off the crime of the century which was the famous Brinks robbery. Parker went on to tell about another heist that Costa got away with by wheeling a case into a diamond store with a small-sized man inside. At night, he stole all the diamonds, crawled back into the case and was wheeled out later. I doubted all this likely due to the 11 AM strong stench of alcohol on Pahkah's breath but google returned facts of a hoodlum named Costa associated with said Brinks crime.  "Get the f**k outta here!" Pahkah would likely say. True story. 

We lucked out and coffee and saw a bus for the convention center pulled up right in front of our hotel. Jesse and I hopped on, and the bus seemed to be going in the wrong direction. Avoiding traffic perhaps, I thought. We eventually pulled up to the Boston Convention Center and I asked the portly woman sitting next to me, what convention she was going to. "The math teachers convention," she replied. No worries, we hopped on Route 3 which got us a half block away from the Hynes Convention Center back downtown.
Acting ourselves in the Boston Library

After the "selfie" outside, and security check of my backpack, we headed through the thin crowds to get my bib. The lines were short as we arrived within the hour of the convention opening. Once I had the bib in my hands, I completely lost it. I bawled there staring at my bib amazed at the journey that 2014 was to get me back here in 2015. Jesse patted me on the back, and told me "you went through a lot to get here, I'm proud of you." Not as proud as I am.

For the rest of the convention, I was pretty much robotic, as I knew what I wanted from the Adidas official souvenir store including skull cap, singlet, and coffee mug (I'd already ordered my plum purple jacket.) I had a few spots I wanted to hit; KT Tape (on how to properly adhere the therapy tape for my hip...don't ask,) SOS Hydration who will help me fuel on Monday, and an impromptu stop at Roll Recovery. Sorry honey (wife,) we're $100 poorer as this thing felt amazing on the hip as I'm sure I will use it a lot over the next four days as it can really dig in at all angles that my foam roller can't (sorry "foamy.") Roll Recovery is a Boulder-based company started by the elite runner husband and wife team of Jeremy Nelson and Adriana Nelson. Adriana has been training in Mammoth and will race with the women elite on Monday. 

After the race, I kept emotions in check, but showed Jesse the famous turn Hereford onto Boylston, and where both bombs had gone off two years ago; Marathon Sports at the finish line, and in front of Starbucks where my wife normally watches (but thankfully didn't that year.) Before taking the subway back to the theatre district where our hotel is, we stopped in the Boston Public Library which was one of the top ten things to do in Boston. It's right in Copley square, but I'd never been inside. AMAZING building.

Sorry for the length of the post, but Jesse is enjoying a beer and videos on the internet in our room as Dad writes after a fantastic Italian dinner at one of our normal restaurant stops, Grotto in Beacon Hill. Below sidewalk level, Grotto is dimly lit, and more apt to be a romantic setting, but was a great stop for night number two after having sushi last night. The spaghetti and meatballs were delicious.

I've went on too long about Pahkah, but both Jesse and I have laughed and reminisced about his stories all day. He also couldn't believe I was running on Monday, right after I told him I didn't smoke.  "What is that, 23 miles?" "You're gonna run 23 miles without stoppin'?" That's my plan.
Massachusetts State House at Night overlooking Boston Commons

Boston is Coming

Seeking Boston is seeking another Boston Marathon. Today was a travel day. I always like to arrive early to get acclimated and this is actually the latest I've arrived to the area in recent marathons. I normally combine with some business travel; in this case, that's on the "back end" of my trip.

This year is a bit happy and sad in that my wife who's watched every single one of my marathon's has a major project back home and it was impossible for her to attend. While I'm totally bummed about that, her proxy is my 18-yr-old son, Jesse. This is his 16th birthday trip present...yes, a little late. Last year I got to go on my first trip ever with my Dad...just the two of the Super Bowl. I told Jesse that his father-son trip may be two years late, but thirty some years sooner than the once-in-a-lifetime trip I took with my Dad. Hashtag; #special.

Completely "rolling the dice" we went to the airport early to standby since the flight we were supposed to be on didn't arrive until nearly midnight on Thursday. What was I thinking!? Having over one million miles on United with a 1K status paid off as we not only got on the 12:40 flight (leaving snow behind,) AND got the exit row.

Before taking off, I had to snap a pic of my famous foam roller. Jesse looked at it and suggested I needed a new one. Growing up with a stepdad that grew up during the depression (I was cryogenically frozen for 15 years as was he which would explain how that's possible math-wise) would explain why I can't depart with my roller even though it sags in the middle. It still has firm parts on the ends so it still does the trick.. (Insert metaphor joke here.) My stepdad didn't throw away anything which is half the point, and the other half is my foam roller is famous!
Boston is Coming!

Why is the foam roller famous you ask? You'd have to go back to the archives to the 2011 Boston Marathon when I was connected from Philadelphia to Boston for the race. Someone asked if I would mind if he snapped a picture as he found it amusing. It was none other than Mark Remy from Runner's World (see photo HERE.) I was still new to the sport and had no idea who he was. Back home, Steve (from my running group) recognized the back of my head, and the picture went mini-viral. My all-time record 1471 "Likes" including comments such as "That's Hot!" Not really; good thing it was the back of my head. (my better side.)

Anyway, a couple movies later on the plane and a quick cab ride, we've checked into our downtown hotel which is a mere five minute walk to the Boston Commons where we load the bus on Monday to head towards Hopkinton. We ended the day with a little sushi and a bit of a walk with an early night back in the room.

Making memories with my son.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Boston Marathon Packing Fun: Flat Stanley and Noah's Ark

You would think I was going to the President's coronation. I have been packing for several days setting things aside, and doing laundry. Tonight, I actually have to pack as I'm heading out early as I normally do for the Boston Marathon on Thursday. My Mom used to do the same thing when we'd get ready for a big trip. The spare bedroom would have an empty suitcase, and bit by bit, things would be laid out on the bed getting ready.

I started the process with a trip to the Vitamin Shoppe (see POST: Fuel For Boston) and my local running store, Runners Roost to load up on supplies for snacking while in Boston, Vitamins, pre-race ritual stuff, and race-day nutrition. Not that most everything I don't pack won't be at the largest running expo in the land come Friday.

One snafu with my Boston Marathon last year, was not reading the "fine print" on transportation to Athlete's Village in Hopkinton. NO BAG CHECK. What I didn't think through last year was the clothing to keep me warm hanging out in the village for two hours. I had the warm clothes, but not stuff I wanted to throw away. I didn't realize this until later Sunday afternoon when everything was closing downtown, so one of the things Mr. Brilliant bought was women's panty hose. Hey...don't knock it, and desperate times call for desperate measures.

What you don't want to do, is throw away expensive gear; nor do you want to run in a cotton hoodie that you don't want to throw away. I wound up donating a hoodie in the Village before heading to the corral. Believe it or not, I actually saw runners under the white tents with their commemorative jackets. As ugly as they are, they weren't going to be thrown aside, but that was not the weather to be wearing a jacket--last year was hot!

Given that, last night I made a trip to the local Goodwill store and found the perfect clothes to keep me warm. My "flat Stanley" shown above. If you're looking for me in the village, I will be easy to spot. Six dollars was an investment well worth it that will get shed either in the village or in the world's largest strip tease in the corral moments before the race.

I won't bore you with everything I'm packing, but safe to say, I have virtually two of everything and a variety of combinations for weather variations. A runner's Noah's Ark if you will. Not leaving anything to chance, I'm charging three Garmins at the moment (I always pack two) as one had gone missing for a short while. #Panic

Today was crazy busy with work and I made trips to both the massage therapist and chiropractor to work on the bum right wheel (hip.) All seems good but suffice to say, I've "laid low" during this taper so I should hopefully go out with a full battery on Monday.

That's it for now..will try and post more frequently as we lead up to the big day.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Boston Marathon One Week Away: Tears and Air Drums

The race I write about all year long on this blog is here in one week. There have been many twists and turns over my training and even more over the last few weeks. A month ago, I took a "tumble" on a Saturday long run on the road in San Diego. I had traveled to Seattle for work that week and caught up with my family for Spring Break. As I took off that morning in San Diego, I was tired. I had "lazy legs" and as I entered downtown Ocean Beach an old buckled sidewalk section caught my toe and I fell...hard.

Fortunately, I took the brunt of the fall with the butts of my hands and a slight scuff on the knee. It torqued my back but I was happy I didn't land on my ribs or right shoulder which still ache at night from my accident. After a couple witnesses asked if I was alright, I got back up and headed out but struggled mightily with the intense tempo run. I had no energy, and my back continued to tighten up. I was scheduled to go long the following Sunday morning but I crawled out of bed like an old man. I emailed my running coach and told her I wasn't going to run that day. I headed down the hill in my rental car to pick up donuts for the house that hadn't woke up yet, and moving around just a bit gave me unsubstantiated confidence to give the long run a try. Not the smartest thing, but I ran twelve miles along the San Diego harbor at a 8:27 pace.
Advice from Meb

From San Diego, my wife and I went on to Palm Springs for the rest of our break. We focused on getting rest and spent a lot of time by the pool. I continued my Boston Marathon training and the back started to feel better as the week went on. Friday, we had a long ride in the car to the airport before flying home; three hours in the car, three hours on a plane, then an hour in a car. Things were starting to tighten up again Friday night, and I woke up Saturday morning back in Denver with a twenty mile simulated Boston run. The pain in my back had migrated to my right hip. I quite often go ahead with a run even when my body is slightly tweaked thinking, it will loosen up.
Hard miles in Palm Springs

This was not the case and my hip was wretched in pain by the end of the run. Since then, I've been the chiropractor, massage therapist, and running physical therapist...multiple times. The pain was not going away, and panic started to set in. I ran twelve the following Saturday (after the 20) on March 29th. Brutal. It was not happy. The following weekend, I opted for a long bike ride (April 5th.) Same outcome. At this point, I started taking two days off at a time and figured, this is basically a three week taper. Heal that hip. My moods swung wildly (translation: grumpy.)

Last week, I tuned into Runner's World, #ChatRW with Meb Keflezighi. I knew the answer, but I asked anyway, "what do i do?" "PT, Stim, and Rest." I continued to listen to Meb and my coach. With the hip feeling slightly better, I went out last Tuesday (April 7th.) Crappy run, wonky hip, and same outcome. I went to the chiropractor again on Wednesday for adjustment, stim, and ice packs. My hip was still purple from the physical therapist that dug down to the bone around the hip and glute area. I took another rest day, then seemed to feel better than I had since the San Diego tumble. Despite Meb's advice, I wanted one decent length run before Boston. Even though I'd already logged over 700 training miles, "mind games" messed with me and I didn't want to lose the endurance I'd built up for this race.
Leaving the "air drums" studio

On Saturday (4/11,) I laced up my new slightly broken in Adidas Ultraboost and despite the nice weather in Denver, I took it indoors to the treadmill for an eight mile run. (Don't be a treadmill hater.) I wanted the softer landing of the treadmill. The hip felt loose. As I started into the miles, my energy felt fantastic. I was certainly rested so that likely had something to do with it. A mere 2-3 miles into it, I realized my hip was better. I started to become reflective and thought of how far I'd come since my accident in July. I started to realize, my training was done, and that barring any further setbacks, I'll be racing in my fifth Boston Marathon. I got a little choked up...tears welled up. Not because my hip hurt, but because I was happy. My worst fear from my accident was that I wouldn't be able to return to the sport I loved. I realized I was back. Tears didn't advance beyond watery eyes, and likely motivated by my new iPod and playlist, I turned the music up, and went into "full on air drums."

Yes, I was "that guy" at the gym who was doing air drums. I didn't care. I went out for an anniversary dinner with my wife that night at Flemings. The steak was fantastic, the wine was even better, and I was with the woman I love who'd help nurse me back to health and dealt with all my ugly mood swings getting me back to this place. My ribs still hurt at night when I sleep on my right side, so I simply roll over. The good news was that when I woke up on Sunday, my hip didn't hurt.

Seven days to Boston at this point, and only three nights left in my own bed before I head to "beantown." Bad hip, bad ribs, sore shoulder. Don't count me out.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Fuel For Boston

When we were kids, there was often a road trip. Load up the family in the wood panel station wagon, load up the cooler, and the last thing you did before you went out of town was fuel the tank. I must be in some sort of "nesting" mode as I've begun some of the preparations for this year's Boston Marathon in eleven days. Part of that preparation is leaving "nothing to chance" by having all my gear ready, but also loading up on some of the fuel needed for race weekend, and race day.

Fortunate for me, I was selected to be a #Fithappens Ambassador for The Vitamin Shoppe with Fitfluential. I'm fairly new to Fitfluential which matches up healthy lifestyle bloggers and social media influencers with complementary brands. Talk about perfect timing.

Speaking of timing, I'd attended a Runners World online chat with the 2014 winner of the Boston Marathon, Meb Keflezighi earlier in the week and just as he did in his book (Meb For Mortals: Review HERE,) he spent a lot of time talking about proper nutrition and fuel for a big race such as Boston. Meb was the first American to win Boston since 1983 at the age of 39!

Fresh off of reading his book, and chatting with Meb on Tuesday, I headed to my nearby Vitamin Shoppe in Lone Tree, Colorado to "load up my cooler" for the Boston Marathon road trip (leaving next Thursday, April 16th.) One thing I've learned from the many experts I've learned from is that your big race should not try anything new that you haven't tried before over your training period. I kept this in mind as I entered the store. Mentally I was distracted as the store was a cornucopia of health products and it's certainly tempting to look for some special elixir to give me some unique edge, but I held to my shopping list.

Being a bit of a run scientist (uneducated mind you) I have had Vo2Max, nutrition, and body chemistry tests done before. My previous body chemistry test showed that I was low on iron which is rare for men, but can lead to premature fatigue. Bad thing to have for a runner. As part of my routine before a long run, I will take Iron and also take Vitamin B. I added Floradix Iron (the Gluten-free liquid version) to my cart. Floradix has traveled with me the last two years to the Boston Marathon along with my trusty foam roller.

The second item on my list was something sister-in-law recommended was oregano oil to draw out toxins. Two years ago at Boston ('13,) I was sick all week and the woman that rented our loft in Beacon Hill gave me something similar to rid myself of the crud I was carrying around. While I'm not sick now, this is something I don't want to leave up to "chance" and wanted to have some "insurance" on hand. The Vitamin Shoppe had plenty to chose from. Homeopathic oil? Check!

I picked up some CoQ10 for my wife, then consulted with the store associate on cleanses. NOT something I would do this close to a race, but something I've been interested in. Loads of options there, but I got back to my main mission.

The other area I was shopping for was snack fuel for the trip. Have you ever learned a new word, then you start seeing it everywhere? Fortunately, the new word I learned (from Meb) was Krave. The store employees probably thought I was a bit whacked when I found it on the shelves and grabbed three different flavors. Krave is a "jerky" product that's an all natural source of protein that's also gluten-free. While I'm not allergic to gluten, I discovered that loading up on pasta and bread before races tended to wreak havoc on my stomach. My other gluten-free pleasure are Kind Bars and I was pleased to find a wide selection of my favorites on the shelf. My latest guilty pleasure (yet healthy alternative) is the Caramel Almond and Sea Salt. #yum. I added some Clif Shot Bloks which will be in my Boston Marathon fuel belt for the race itself.

With over 700 miles trained for my upcoming race, I am officially in my taper mode, and will continue to prepare for my departure in seven days. The last thing I want to happen is to run out of fuel in my tank!

This post is sponsored by FitFluential on behalf of Vitamin Shoppe.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Boston Marathon Rock Lobster

Okay, okay, I have issues with monogamy when it comes to shoes. In the dating world of shoes, I
sleep around alot. I was recently "Outted" by my wife as being a bit of a shoe slut. I went out of town, and she needed my car.
From the airport, I see an Instagram post that went viral on the family and friends channel. I have a lot of shoes in the back of my a lot a lot. They all have a special place in my heart; sponsor shoes, four-wheel drive shoes (with sheet metal screws,) everyday running shoes, race day shoes and with the days counting down to the Boston Marathon, quite possibly the baddest of them all. Brooks Running was kind enough to send out their Boston-themed version of the Launch 2.

Each year at the Boston Marathon, each of the major shoe companies compete for the coolest commemorative shoe. This contest may be over before it started with Brooks lobster shoe. Let's start with it shipped with a foam lobster claw which I'm sure will be on my son's hand for much of the marathon itself. Inside the normal shoe box, the bright lobster-red shoes came wrapped in a white fisherman's net. Aside from the bad-ass lobsters, there's the blue ocean midsole, laces in red and white reminiscent of fisherman's rope, and wood lace aglets that represent the fishing traps used to catch lobsters.

I must admit, the words "Red Lobster" conjures up images of the restaurant, cheap date, and indigestion however these lobster shoes rock! Right on Brooks Running!

Why can't the people that designed this shoe replace the morons that design the Adidas celebration jacket every year? People might wear it beyond the few days past the marathon (see last year's creamsicle disaster.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

I Wanna Be Like Meb: Meb For Mortals Book Review

The 2014 Boston Marathon was an emotional race for many; particularly those that raced the year before in the Boston Marathon Bombing year. Two days before the 2014 race, I had a decision to make. A blogger meet-up, or meet Meb Keflezighi at a Generation UCAN sponsored speaking engagement at a downtown Boston hotel. I chose the Meb event and considering he won the race two days later, I had made the right decision.

There were two things I noticed about Meb (and his wife;) one was what a genuine person the guy was (#mancrush) and secondly was the confidence he carried (along with his water bottle.) Hollywood could not have scripted the race and ending any better to have the first American since 1983 win the greatest race in the land on such an emotional day. The previous American winner was not Bill Rodgers, but Greg Meyer...think big 80's hair and beard and short shorts.

When Runner's World asked me if I was interested in an advance copy of his book, Meb For Mortals, I trying to remain composed and professional with my response. Heck yeah!

With the 2015 Boston Marathon, less than two weeks away, as I was reading the book, I must admit, I had two conflicting feelings; 1) What an inspiration, I'm getting totally amped for this race, and 2) Oh crap, "I didn't do that," or "I didn't do this" as I read his cookbook for run success. As Meb would likely say, at this stage of training, your training is essentially done, and it's not time for the mental preparation for the race. There were quite a few sections that helped from this regard; including routine leading up to race day. There are quite a few things that he talked consistently about through the book that were also confidence builders as my coach implements many of the same aspects (such as strength training.)

The book was a fast and easy read logically broken down into all aspects of success; think, run, train, race, eat, strengthen stretch, and cross-train like Meb.

Meb brings credibility not only with the Boston win, but a win in the New York City Marathon and Olympic medalist in the marathon event...his Boston win came at the ripe age of 39! As mentioned above, much of what Meb wrote about I could relate to starting with the first chapter on "Think Like Meb." I have always been very goal-oriented so I set both long-term and short-term goals for myself. Qualify for Boston, Qualify for New York, sub-twenty minute 5k and sub 1:30 half are all goals I've set and accomplished myself. The other uncanny resemblance is the goals for a given race itself. He likes sharing with a small group of close friends to hold himself accountable not only to himself but others. He also likes to set multiple goals as I do within a race starting with a "stretch goal" and a handful of others that are still not easily attained, but if you happen to struggle within a race, you still have something to shoot for that's attainable.

Dedication is a word used throughout his book and is common mantra to a runner
yet it pointed out areas I could improve upon; particularly around diet. Meb will reach for a banana or fruit when the recreational athlete will grab something less healthy when a "sweet tooth" craving happens. Meb breaks down his diet week-to-week, pre-race, and recovery.

There were a couple other areas that reinforced my thinking, training and confidence going into this year's Boston Marathon. For me personally, coming off major injuries sustained in a triathlon crash this last July ('14,) I knew that Boston would be tough if I didn't work hard on my strength. Meb talks about how he's had to overcome similar adversity including a pelvic stress fracture in 2007, 2008. Meb For Mortals provides a wide range of strength exercises (with straightforward explanations and photos) for runners of any distance.

The second area of his book that seemed to resonate with me was the pace you should run your various type workouts; with particular emphasis on recovery days. Meb does not provide a full sixteen week plan for a marathon, but a representative four week schedule for 5K, half marathon, and marathon distances. He also incorporates a nine day training week--NOT something I've ever done.

I clearly need to improve on a few areas in my next race; more stretching (he spends a ton of time on this in the book and in his training routine,) more hills (I'm perhaps critical of myself too much here,) and how to modify a training run when you're feeling run down, injured, or short on time. He's a big believer in cross-training which suits me well as I typically rotate in 1-2 days a week of cross-training which helps me as I transition in triathlon season after Boston. Aside from the major topics in the book, there are several Mebism's throughout; like how to handle the sleepless night before the race; he actually starts fueling when he wakes early to get a head start on digestion.

Great things tend to happen to great people and Meb is a breathing example of this. His book gives you inspiration and a recipe to hit your goals regardless of your level. I wanna be like Meb.