Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Did You Get Your "Golden Ticket?"

The BAA is Willy Wonka and we are all kids hoping for a golden ticket. This week the most prestigious race in the land sold out in a mere eight hours and three minutes. Previous Boston Marathon races took months to field the race. According to the Boston Globe, and BAA executive director Guy Morse (aka Willy Wonka,) "We expected a quick sellout. We weren't able to predict how quick, but basically an eight-hour window is astonishing. Wonka attributes this year's speedy sign-up to advance publicity about the registration date and the growing popularity of marathon running. The interest in the sport in general and Boston in particular is just unprecedented, he said."

The good news is that you felt you've worked for years to accomplish something by qualifying, but it came down to a mad scramble on registration day. I've had the date electronically circled on my calendar for weeks (as apparently thousands of other runners did) that registration was Monday October 19th at 9AM EST. I was so giddy that my normal Sunday night restless sleep thinking about the week ahead was even more tumultuous thinking about getting my "golden ticket" in the morning. Thinking I'd even outsmart the computer, I tried logging in at 4AM in the morning--I was up but the computer was not. Like many others, I started logging in shortly after 9EST on Monday to attempt my registration. I thought I was doing something wrong because I'd entered the data several times (name, address, qualifying race and time, credit card info, and shirt size) only to have the screen go back to blank fields once I hit the submit button. Normally with online transactions, you get the warning not to hit the submit button more than once, so I was beginning to wonder if my credit card was being run a half dozen times for the $130 registration fee. After several attempts, I figured, it didn't sell out for months before so why bother dealing with an overwhelmed web site today. By "dumb luck" I tried again in the afternoon and I got my submission ID number. Wanting to double check, I logged into my Wells Fargo checking account and sure enough, they'd drained my checking account by $130.

I went about my day not knowing how fortunate I was to have opened a Wonka Bar, found a golden ticket and I'm on my way for my second Boston Marathon. I can't imagine the feelings of runners who worked for years to try and qualify only to find an Wonka wrapper only containing chocolate or the veteran who has a string of several Boston jackets who expected the online process to merely be a formality. What about those half way across the world that were sleeping during the Eastern Standard Time registration? Devastating.

The consolation prize is that there are several thousand charity slots available that allow a runner to enter and raise money for a good cause at the same time. I went through a similar situation last year with my first Boston qualification. I qualified in December (at CIM Sacramento,) but Boston was already sold out. There was no way that I would put the realization of my dream on hold for a year and a half so I researched the charity options.

In December with only five months to go, my options were limited, but was fortunate enough to have been accepted into the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program. Not wanted an asterisk on my first Boston Marathon, I wanted my time recognized and to be put into my proper corral. I was able to work with TNT and the Race Director to get my time submitted and got my corral number and bib in the first wave. Whew! As I blogged about it after this year's Boston, I can honestly say the charity path was almost more rewarding than the race itself.

The suggestions are flying rampant on BAA's Facebook page, twitterland and throughout the electronic world. "Why so many charity slots, what about a lottery, why do women get a 30 minute advantage over men" (I'm not going to touch that one with a ten foot Gloria Steinem pole,) staggered registration, and toughened standards. I have a feeling that the (tougher standard) New York Marathon race directors have a slight "I told you so" smirk on their faces this week.

Fortunately, I got my email from the BAA stating, "Dear Tyron: Your entry for the 115th Boston Marathon has been received, and your spot in the race has now been reserved, pending verification of your entry and qualifying information." Thank God the Condo I've already rented for Boston in April will be put to good use and I'll be trying to improve on my performance this last April. I'll pack my "everlasting gobstoppers" (or goo packs) and looking forward to the race and trying to outperform Augustus Gloop and Violet Beauregarde at the 115th running of the Boston Marathon. I think I can take on Gloop but Violet's "got wheels." Honest regrets to all the "Charlies" that didn't find their golden ticket this year.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I fought the wall and the wall won.

I keep waiting for the marathon that meets expectations or isn't a marathon effort. No such thing. There's a reason that not everyone runs marathons and even a smaller percentage that qualify for the unicorn race. This marathon thing is a humbling sport. While I ran my third Boston Qualifier, "the wall" kicked my butt in a big way in Portland this last weekend.

Leading up to marathon weekend, the big news was that Ryan Hall pulled out of Chicago. Ironically, I spoke to one of my running group's elite athletes a week before Portland (and Chicago) who also decided to pull out of Chicago--she broke down in tears talking about the disappointment. I felt for her and would have had the same reaction. In both cases, overtraining was mentioned as a contributing factor. Having hit the wall hard in my last two races, I focused my training on heart rate training and trying to get as much rest as possible including a "modified" three week taper leading up to the Portland Marathon.

The weekend overall exceeded expectations. Portland is a phenomenal city with much to offer--apparently, that includes rain. The forecast teased us all week with a potential storm and didn't disappoint. It rained most of expo Saturday and Sunday's race forecast included rain.

The sleep the night before the race is what you'd expect. Not the best sleep in the world as you're running through preparations and the race over and over in your head. As I've heard before, the most important night of sleep for a marathon is actually Friday night knowing that you will have to get up early Sunday and not likely going to sleep all that well on Saturday's race eve. I had that one covered as I slept fantastic Friday night. The condo we stayed in was on the Williamette was perfect; comfortable, relaxing, and included nearby train noises which actually provided a bit of a calming effect.

Race morning was somewhat uneventful as I went through the pre-race ritual. Light meal (or was it too light?,) extra lube considering how wet I was going to get on the course, and heading towards the race's starting corrals. Staying next to the river meant a .6 mile walk to the start through Union Station. I had the sweatshirt and garbage bag covering me up as I walked towards Taylor Street up 6th. A homeless guy yelled at me, "hey Evel Knievel!" (Evel was a legendary motorcycle daredevil from the '70's.) Must have been the shoes, but perhaps it was a Nostradamus prediction of the crash that awaited me.

I have used pace groups before and donned the 3:15 pace bracelet and sought out the Team Lizard (local running group) pacers. Arriving early, I got into my pre-race zone and watched as the rain seemed to pick up. The overhead announcer threw out some statistic on annual rainfall and that in all his years; this was one of three that had the wet stuff. In other words, if I ran the same race the next seven years, I'd be dry.

I met a couple of the other runners in the 3:15 group who were hoping for their first Boston qualifier. Sort of a "band of brothers." Like the HBO show, you knew that some would make it and others would not.

Among last minute changes (never a good idea,) I made was to wear my heart strap in the race and went with a lighter shoe (ACICS Speedstar) which didn't have as many miles on them as they should have. I've run my last two races in a lighter shoe vs. my every day ASICS 2150's. I'm glad I wore the heart strap and wished I had my old reliables after the race.

The first six miles seemed effortless, although I think I now know what "water boarding" feels like. The first few blocks the runners tried to avoid puddles as we weaved around downtown and the riverfront area, but we all quickly realized that was a moot point--our feet were going to get wet. Wearing the heart rate monitor was comforting as my heart rate was in great shape at this stage running a 7:30 pace.

The toughest part of the course as advertised was mile 16-17 with a climb towards the St. Johns Bridge. Our pace group leader warned us that many feel the worst is over and overdo it on the ensuing downhill once you crest the middle part of the large span. Only problem is that there's a short hill right after the downhill. I started to see separation with my pace leader somewhere along the bridge. My heart rate hit a spike of 158 which should have kept me below my lactate threshold, but I was just plain "tapped out," tired, exhausted.

Like Boston and Steamboat, I wound up taking a couple walk breaks which took my heart rate back down to practically nothing, but I'm fairly certain this wasn't a heart rate thing, I believe I was feeling the effects of four marathons in ten months. Considering I'm in my 40's and not in my 20's, that's not something I'll be doing again any time soon.

Like many marathons, the first 20 went somewhat as planned, but the half marathon waypoint to mile 20 my average pace dipped below an eight minute mile. A snafu with my Garmin when I got home lost the detail (an un-advertised feature of the 110 locking up at inopportune times as it choked when my home computer went into standby mode.) My recollection is that my "wall hit" was closer to mile 17 vs. mile 20. I've had a lot of crazy thoughts enter my head in the delirious phase of miles 20+ in a marathon, but this was the first time, I actually had the word "retirement" enter my head. Being an MP3 friendly race, I turned on my iPod at mile 20 thinking that would rid the bad thoughts from my head. Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold" seemed like a good idea on Saturday, but made me want to vomit, so I turned it off.

Not thinking straight, I knew that 3:15 was not going to happen, but in the back of my head, I knew that running a BQ 3:30 was possible. The downhill stretch around mile 22 with the city in view gave me a boost and I headed into the city at a respectable pace. As I hit my second bridge, the Broadway Bridge, I started to see my best friend Jim in the distance. Given the giant loop course; my friend, wife, sister (her husband and my nephew) were able to catch me four times on the course vs. a typical point-to-point course where you sometimes only see loved ones once.

As Jim's orange rain jacket came in view, I felt that I'd disappointed those that traveled far to see a PR effort. In pain and slightly embarrassed, I avoided eye contact with him. The second time that day I avoided eye contact...the other was hours earlier with the homeless guy that identified me as "Evil Knievel." Being a runner, Jim knew not to say, "you're looking good," or "you're almost there!" Good to have a veteran cheerleader at mile 24. "Grind it out" he yelled and that seemed to do it. I crossed the finish line (it was still raining) cold, sore, but literally seconds under the wire to qualify for Boston for the third time in the last four races.

The runner's trough was amply stocked with the usual fare, but I must have looked like someone who just came off a deserted island who hadn't eaten in months as I devoured bananas, cinnamon bagels, yogurt and the most awesome oatmeal cookies I have ever eaten. I know I circled back at least once to go through the line, but it may have been twice. I added my seventh marathon medal around my neck as another one that was earned for sure.

Epilogue: Something to do with the rain perhaps, but I have a wicked cold two days after the race and wound up taking a two hour nap today that seems to have helped re-charge my battery a bit. My Achilles is starting to feel back to normal and I have NOT been pouring over web sites looking for a marathon to run in two months. My plan is to rest for a couple weeks and get into a maintenance mode leading up to mid December. Mid December? Boston marathon training begins. Six months away vs. two or four months sounds much better. Getting plenty of rest and having an ample taper time will be the plan. The good news is that the heart rate plan appears to be paying off as witnessed by the low heart rate my entire race and "shaving" six minutes off my half marathon PR last month.

Author's Footnote: I acknowledge that walking on this earth is a privilege. I understand that many will never experience the euphoria of a marathon and many will never get to "don" the unicorn of the Boston Marathon. I realize that many fellow arthritis sufferers have difficulty with everyday tasks. I may have come across as ungrateful for the experience in my last race and that is not the case. I sometimes have an un-healthy dose of "type A" competitive nature that strives for the best in many things I do. Just like the desire to get to Boston, I know I can run a 3:15. The quest continues as registration for Boston is this coming weekend.

Friday, October 8, 2010

48 Hours (UPDATED AT 24 HOURS)

24 HOUR UPDATE: (Expo Day/Saturday)

Sundays's forecast? 10,000 runners and rain.

An update to my 48 hour blog post below. Friday night's dinner exceeded expectations as we took in Paragon in the heart of Pearl District. Probably the best calamari I think we've ever had; lightly breaded, not rubbery at all and boasted a spicy apricot and soy lime ginger sauce. I went with the ahi tacos for the entree with a local Syrah. Excellent food and ambiance!

Saturday is always expo day. I woke up after a great night's sleep to something outside--that call it rain. The forecast all week has been flirting with various storm front news and "mother nature" delivered. Gray skys and light rain--no problem. A cup of Joe in the condo and off to the Portland Hilton to meet the DailyMile folks for the meet-up run and breakfast. Brooks hosted us and rewarded those that showed up with a cool running hat (now I have three to pick from for tomorrow.)

We had a short three mile light run in the rain and aside from the normal ritual of getting in a couple the day before, it gave us insight into the wet conditions we'd be facing tomorrow. I took an informal poll on DailyMile and Facebook and most everyone agreed; the more clothes you wear, the more wet clothes you will be wearing. Light gloves and a hat, but avoid the rain jacket as you'll just heat up. The test run this morning confirmed that.

At breakfast, it was great to meet folks you've met in the cyberworld and we even had one of the DailyMile founders show up. A great Saturday morning activity.

After brunch, we headed out for Pastaworks in the cool neighborhood of Hawthorne. This was a little gold mine of a find for a carb-seeking runner as the name indicates, these guys know pasta. Tonight we will be hosting a small pasta dinner for 6-8 folks back at our river-front condo. (We've done this before at San Diego and it was a lot of fun to have a small group of friends/family and avoid the normal Saturday night restaurant.)

Pasta, homemade bread, marinara, puttanesca, wine, and salad are on the menu for tonight joined by family, Vince from my running group in Denver, my best friend Jim from High School (who came out for the race,) and a local ex-co-worker friend are joining us for our riverfront dinner.

In the afternoon, we hooked up with my buddy Jim at the expo to soak it in and dry off. It's a smaller expo, but did the trick. I stopped by the KT Tape booth and got a plantar fasciitis tape job (it's just a tad tender) along with my pace group pace bracelet.

An hour before dinner, and the incessant rain has temporarily stopped.

48 HOURS: (From Friday)

No turning back at this point. Arriving at Portland's International Airport, I was thinking to myself, "am I actually going to run another one of these things again?" I have arrived in the "City of Roses" and I'm a mere two days (37 hours and 12 minutes, but "48 hours" sounded much better.) Last night I woke up at 4 something in the morning wide awake staring at the ceiling--sound familiar? I watched T.V. on the couch and eventually crawled into an empty bed. You'd think my mind was occupied or something.

Getting out of Denver was somewhat uneventful vs. the hours spent packing and contemplating. "Is it going to rain on Sunday?," which gloves to bring (I brought two pairs,) should I bring tights in case it's cold (I brought two pair,) shorts, three pairs of shoes, body glide, enough goo to get me to Seattle, sunglasses, three hats, my iPod (not sure if I'll use that or not yet, but it is the MP3 friendly race,) Amphipod belt, Oakleys, and I'm sure I forgot something. On top of all that, I brought my traveling chiroprator and massage therapist in the form of "the stick" and my foam roller to iron out any kinks between now and Sunday. I generally get a lot of "what the hell is that thing for" curious looks going through the airport with a huge foam roller and for the first time a "by the book" gate agent nearly counted it as a third carry-on. I "jedi mind tricked" her into letting me board with it.

Some Sudoku, ESPN, sports page and a good snooze characterized the flight and we're here.

Once again my wife scored a coop on the accomodations and we have a condo right on the Williamette with train sounds (good sleeping sounds but it's the real thing, not the CD variety) lazy river, running path and bridge right out my window. Ahhh...runner's paradise... (see my condo interview to the left.) As I write a small speedboat just cruised by--this is the perfect place to relax and amp up for the race.

I've got to run as we're heading out for a little bit of downtown Portland and dinner. I'll update as we approach the race. Chow!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Final Countdown: Part III of Portland Marathon Countdown

This is Part III of my blog countdown to the Portland Marathon on October 10, 2010.

It's finally here. Christmas, the Federal Tax Return check came in the mail, graduation day, wedding day (or bachelor party weekend,) the Broncos win the Super Bowl again, and a big commission check all wrapped into one--it's marathon week. Six days away from my next race--the Portland Marathon. Since my last countdown update, I have been following my own advise and focused on taper and taking care of myself. As witnessed by my goldenrod colored pee (I know..TMI,) I have been infusing my body with a platoon of vitamins intent on avoiding the marathon weak (sic...or is it sick?) flu that's plagued me in my last few races.

Last Saturday's long run was an eight miler with my running group, Runner's Edge of the Rockies. I love going out with the running group the Saturday before a race because you have been through all kinds of ups and downs over eighteen training weeks with people you've got to know who share the same passion. Obviously, the eight miler was at a very slow pace maintaining Zone 1/2 heart rate throughout. There were many running friends who wished me well, provided encouragement and even predictions. My buddy Dean was so bold as to predict breaking 3:10...I think he had some adult evening beverage in his morning water bottle. The obvious question from everyone was not only, "how do you feel," but "what's your goal." I didn't exactly share it with them and wont share it here as I've become somewhat superstitious about that. I normally wait until the night before to set my final goal. What I told them was that I will have two goals in mind; one I know I can hit, and a "stretch goal" that will take the best possible performance and feeling my best on race day. Perhaps I'll start a new tradition and once the number appears race eve, I'll tweet y'all.

I thanked Dean (and Ellen) for the advise and did admit that I feel that this is the smartest training session I've had to date (incorporating Heart Rate based training,) and will be anxious to see how that translates on race day.

I rounded out the weekend with an Air Force football game with my sons on Saturday, and volunteering on Sunday for the Bear Chase 50 Mile/50K/Half Marathon organized by my running group mentor, David Manthey. I figured what better way to spend a Sunday than getting a little jolt of running adrenaline without putting in the miles a week away from the race. Seeing runners hammer out 50 miles was inspiring and humbling at the same time. I felt like a casual 5K runner (not that there's anything wrong with that) that wonders how could anyone run that far. I would highly recommend volunteering for a race and experiencing an ultra.

The race was held at Bear Creek Lake Park in Lakewood, CO. I was manning (with four others) the morning shift at Turtle Pond at the 4.5 mi mark. I arrived at 5AM and promptly got lost trying to find Turtle Pond. Once there, I felt like a Dad on Christmas day looking at an "assembly required" nightmare toy as there was tables, tents, food, five gallon water bottles, water stations, and first aid bins. I was thoroughly confused when I opened the first aid tub to find all kinds of materials I knew nothing about--I was thinking to myself, "I have absolutely no idea what this stuff is for" and hope I don't have to use it (legit first aid medics showed later before the race start.) I learned a lot through this volunteer event including, I have no desire to run an ultra (yet) and it's impossible to put up a shade tent in the dark by yourself.

Today was a Zone 1 recover run that kept my heart rate below 135 over four miles at a pace of 7:54. An interesting comparison is my VO2Max study from five months ago. At the same heart rate (135,) I was running at a pace of 8:12--an 18 second per mile improvement. As a point of reference, at my age, an eight minute mile is my BQ pace.

What does all that mean? I'm no Doctor, but the results seem to show that I'm able to run at various speeds at a lower heart rate than I did five months ago. Rising heart rates approach lactate production (no...not cat milk) which equals "the wheels come off" and the "shit hits the fan" in a marathon. This improvement combined with feeling healthy and rested gives me confidence at the start of the week heading towards my trip to Portland.

Going on trips as a kid, my Mom would help build the anticipation by setting out the suitcase the week before and would start to lay out everything required for the trip. The "apple doesn't fall far from the tree" as I've started laying out some of the essentials for my race in Portland including a new singlet which is another odd superstition/tradition I have. Do you think I'm ready if I charged my "back-up" Garmin six days before the race and I've got two pairs of race day socks laid out not sure which ones I'll go with?

As I wound down my day, I flipped on ESPN and ironically, they had the Terry Fox story on ESPN's 30 for 30. "Into the Wind" chronicled Terry's 1980 fight with cancer and his mission to run across Canada to raise money and awareness for his disease. Dude ran the thing on one leg as an amputee. An inspirational story and a timely inspiration for race week.

About Me

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Average guy w/ an above average appetite for marathon racing and triathlons. Ran my 5th Boston in '15. 3:21, 1:29, 19:21 PR;full/half/5K Opinions & wit are mine