Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Boston Hangover

So how is it possible that I'm feeling down within a few hours and now one week later from one of the biggest moments in my life--running the Boston Marathon? I believe it’s a combination of post partum depression and “hello, my name is Ty and I am a running addict.” Okay…there, I said it. Whew!

I’ve had this happen to me before with other races that had a lot of anticipation. San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon in 2007 comes to mind. It was my first marathon and as I’ve written here before, I had delusions of qualifying for Boston in my first ever marathon. Yeah, right! I remember the feeling right after that race which was a 3:47 time. I just broke four hours in my first marathon, so why was a feeling a bit off?

Considering I never ran growing up, it was my first marathon, and I trained 100% by myself without a running group or coach I should have been elated. I remember my cousin, Kristine emailing me “all I can say is the boy’s got wheels!” Being an individual sport and a VERY competitive person I was perhaps far too critical of my performance and wanted to quickly “get back on the horse.” The only problem was that I could barely walk after San Diego and felt like Indiana Jones after the scene where he was dragged by the German military truck.

I’ve “seen this movie before” with other goals in my life that I’ve achieved where it sometimes leaves you with a bit of an empty feeling. The chase and getting the goal is 99% of it. Then you are left with a feeling of “what do I do now?” The other analogy is looking forward to Christmas as a kid. The closer you got, the more excited you got.

The day after Christmas is the best way to describe it; no more presents to open, the gift or two that didn’t quite meet expectations, and Christmas wrapping paper carnage (or in the case of running, your smelly clothes and thousands of paper cups and goo packs to sweep up.)

Like San Diego, I have been far too critical of my Boston performance. I ran a respectable 3:23 which qualifies me for Boston again next year (seven minutes short of my 3:30 qualification time.) I felt my training session was my best yet, and thought I was in a position to run 3:15-3:20, but even race morning, I didn’t feel I had the energy. Within an hour of the race, I was celebrating by downing a cool one from my version of the Boston chalice and began to wonder, "did I over train...did I start out too fast?"

As my DailyMile buddy (Bobby) from the Boston area (and water volunteer at mile 15 this year) put it, “I don't know the stat but a lot of BQers don't usually re-qualify on the course. Well done.”

Has this happened to you? How often do you finish a race and either feel, I need another racing fix, or want to improve on what I just did, and pour over the internet to find your next race? That would be me again.

Being a running junkie that needed a fix, I posed the question to Twitterland and my DailyMile peeps and got a number of interesting suggestions on my next marathon, and narrowed it down to Grandma’s Marathon (in Duluth, MN) or more locally, the Steamboat Marathon. Another true confession…I’ve lived in Colorado my whole life and I’ve never been to Steamboat. I also met a woman once who lived in Vail and didn’t ski.

After a virtual "coin flip," I’ve punched my card to run my next Marathon in Steamboat in June.

The other thing I eventually do after a race and after the post partum neurosis subsides is to try and objectively look at what went right, what went wrong, and what can I do to improve. I’ve scheduled myself to go in for an “Oxygen Consumption and Body Composition Analysis” at the University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Human performance lab. One of the women in my running group (Blondie) went through this analysis and actually resulted in a 1st place performance in her age group at Boston this month. Wow…as the woman in “When Harry met Sally” said, “I want what she’s having.”

I believe this is part of the next plateau of my training and that is to move beyond Garmin’s mileage and pace statistics to a heart rate monitoring approach to my training. I have no idea what to expect in this lab, but suspect it will look like a Gatorade commercial with some guy in a lab coat and clip board looking over me huffing and puffing on a treadmill. Minus the part of me looking like a Gatorade model of course.

The good news is that I’m trying to pull out of the doldrums and move the energy towards improvement, so stay tuned.

A Final Comment

Do not get me wrong, I am not complaining as I feel privileged to have qualified and run in the most prestigious race in the land, but it’s another 354 days until my next Boston Christmas.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Running a Dream

This has been a tough blog to write. I was somewhat worn out (overtrained?) prior to Boston and the course took it’s toll on me as I’m still feeling the effects of the notorious Boston Marathon course three days later. There’s much to talk about, the city, prior to the race, the race and course itself and feelings once I hit the finisher’s area on Boylston Avenue in downtown Boston.

The first comment or impression is
that raising money for a worthy cause made this one extra special. I raised over $4,500 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as part of Team in Training (TNT.) On race day, I wore the name Kyra Meyer on my purple TNT singlet. I got to know her story by getting re-acquainted with her Dad, Tim Meyer through my fund-raising campaign. Kyra unfortunately lost her battle to Leukemia last year at the young age of 16. The “icing on the cake” for my Boston race came after the finish line when I was approached in the runner’s finish area by a man who identified my purple “Team in Training” singlet. He told me that he is in remission with his Leukemia and had just completed the race. He thanked me for running and raising money for this charity and said the drug/treatment he was taking was made possible by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. WOW! My only regret is not getting his name or getting the marathon foto team to take a picture with this guy. I wasn’t exactly thinking straight at that point and a bit wobbly. Way cool!

The Race Itself

Like other “point to point” races, there’s the usual bus ride that gets you to the starting point. In this case, the starting point is the High School in Hopkinton, MA. My sleep the night before was what you might expect; not the best in the world. Fortunately the more important night of sleep was the “night before the night before” which was solid. Similar to the bus ride in Sacramento, you’re thinking to yourself, “if this is a long bus ride, how am I going to run back?” The BAA has been doing this thing for 114 years so they have this “down to a science.” Once arriving in Hopkinton, you’re ushered off to a grass field where you try and chill (literally) until race time. Huge tents, grass fields, vendors, the PA announcer, and baseball infield characterize the setting as you mentally prepare for the biggest race of your life. Boston had a couple of days of “off and on” rain so the field was quite damp and my space blanket came in handy. Others at camp Hopkinton brought inflatable mattresses and some cocooned up in blankets to chill out for rest prior to the corrals being called out which is over a ½ mile away. The first aid tent came in handy as the one thing I forgot was lubing up the nipples. Cold weather and no lube is a bad combo. Fortunately, I applied an ample supply on the feet earlier that morning before putting the Smart Wool socks on. I hung with a couple running buddies and took my customary “photo opp” shot in front of the It all starts here sign on the Hopkinton grass fields.

The corrals were well managed and I settled into corral #9 which was actually a tad downhill from the start line. It would be an eventual
5ish minute walk before getting to the actual start line after the corral #1 would take off. The setting around the start line gives you a sense of the small town charm and history of the historical race. Once the F15 flyover and National Anthem were taken care of, the extra clothes started flying off the runners and gathered by the ample number of volunteers that covered the entire event.

The first six downhill miles of the course went as expected as the sound bites of “don’t start out too fast” played over and over in my head and I continually had to tell myself to slow down. Apparently I didn’t listen very well as I set PR at the half marathon point. The only problem is that Boston is a marathon, not a ½ marathon and the infamous Newton Hills were yet to come.

I’d have to say, I’d heard it before and it lived up to the billing, the best fan support of any marathon I’ve run. Could be tradition, could be that they get the day off from work (one of the few cities in the country that recognize Patriot’s day,) the annual morning Red Sox game, or the evening beverages being consume
d in the early morning. Let’s just say there were quite a few small cups extended by fans along the way that held suspect liquids. Fans young and old lined up pretty much the entire course; bikers, children, cheerleaders, charity support and of course college students.

I caught a crowd of Boston College students somewhere after Heartbreak Hill that gave me quite a boost with the gradual five into downtown Boston, but nothing rivals the infamous Wellesley college gauntlet around the halfway point of the race. You normally hear the screaming women of Wellesley a mile away, but with the tailwinds (or was it crosswinds) it literally crept up on me, but quickly realized where I was at once I saw the mania. They were going absolutely nuts and donned many signs asking for a kiss. This must be what it feels like to be a Jonas Brother as you feel like a rock star at times on this course. It’s impossible not to run fast through this stretch.

The other section of course that caught up with me was the infamous “Heartbreak Hill.” I literally had to ask a fellow runner if we had passed the notorious hill. Whether it was the fast downhill start, or late hills, I hit the infamous “wall” during the hills and last 10K of the race (my first 5K was 22:39 and my last was two minutes slower.)

This is definitely one of those courses which I wish I knew better or where experience pays. As we got into downtown, I was happy to see Beacon street but it seemed to go on FOREVER. Once I hit the short Hereford, block, I knew I merely had to turn the corner for the final stretch along infamous Boylston Avenue. Again the crowd was absolutely insane and was able to catch my wife and brother in the last block before crossing the finish of my first Boston Marathon.

My Time Goal and Performance

I had three goals going into race day (set a PR, run a 3:15, and re-qualify for Boston.) The good news is that I will be back at Boston in 2011 as I turned in a 3:23:44 time which is six+ minutes faster than the 3:30 time I needed to qualify. For that, I am thankful. The competitive side of me feels disappointed for not turning in a faster time. My running buddy Tim who logged his 19th consecutive Boston tells me that I should feel proud for running a 3:23 on such a tough course. Another buddy, Wayne told me the story of his Boston run last year. The night before he was in the hot tub trying to relax the night before the race and was chatting with a Boston veteran who inquired what his time goal was. Like me, Wayne felt strong and that he could have a very fast time the next day. The wily veteran said, “take your PR and add 10 minutes.” Setting a PR here was probably about as smart as me thinking I'd qualify for Boston in my first ever marathon three years ago.

What’s Next?

My blog title (and Twitter) indicate I was seeking a Boston Marathon and kn
ow myself well enough to know that you have to be careful what you ask for as you can sometimes walk away with a sense of accomplishment, but also walk away feeling a bit empty wondering what do I do now. I definitely enjoyed the reward and finally being able to wear the prestigious Boston Marathon Jacket.

I have already begun to evaluate what I need to do to train better, and get stronger in my next race(s.) Like many runners, I have been pouring over the running web sites to figure out which races I can fit in over the next 12 months preparing for my next Boston Marathon. Like the couple we flew into Boston with, the wife indicated that she first thought her husband was fulfilling a once in a lifetime dream and it turned into a lifestyle.
If Forrest (who I saw on the course) describes life is like a box of chocolates, then Boston is like potato chips—you can’t have just one.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Down to the wire

Holy crap! Am I really running this thing on Monday? I’m somewhere in the surreal stage of visualizing myself actually running the Boston “frickin” Marathon. My first marathon was in 2007 (San Diego Rock and Roll) and I had a delusion of qualifying for Boston in my first marathon race. I remember my goals were;

1) Complete the training. Sixteen weeks and 500-600 training miles can be intimidating in and of itself. Getting through it injury free by race day is an accomplishment.

2) Sub 4 hour marathon. Again. Dilusion. I didn’t know any better and certainly didn’t know that only a small percentage of people run a marathon and even smaller percentage can run a sub 4:00.

3) Qualify for Boston which required a 3:30 time. What the hell was I thinking? Fantasy, delusion, insanity.

I accomplished #1 and #2, but #3 would take three more marathons, but I was obsessed with the goal from the very start as witnessed by my blog name.

I’m in the second week of my taper period (shortest taper I’ve used before) so I’ve had less time on the road, and more time to mentally prepare for my trip and race. Monday and Tuesday’s short runs felt sluggish despite the 7:24 and 7:38 pace respectively. How can I feel sluggish when I’m arguably in the best shape of my life? 1,255 would be the answer to that. Since last July, I have trained for two marathons (CIM and Boston) and logged 1,255 training miles. That tends to wear a dude out, so I’ve enjoyed the taper and catching some rest, and good sleep.

Last night was the start of laying out the race day gear which I will undoubtedly go over several times prior to leaving Denver and a number of times leading up to Sunday night. Apparently, I’m a bit OCD when it comes to this part of my marathon preparation according to my wife. The weather report earlier in the week was ideal (58 degrees with a tail wind. Today? Not so much as the weekend rain may spill into Monday. My gear with some variability based on the final weather report Sunday night;

1) The singlet. I’ll be donning the purple jersey honoring Kyra Meyer as part of Team in Training and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Kyra lost her battle to Leukemia last year at the age of 16.

2) Cold weather hat. I likely won’t be wearing this if there’s sun or rain, but better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

3) SmartWater. I won’t be packing it, but it will be one of the pit stops we’ll make in Boston to keep myself hydrated up to race time.

4) Glove Option #1. A lighter glove should cool race temps come Monday.

5) Nutrients. I go with Shot Bloks every four miles and hold out for reward around mile 20 with a PowerBar banana strawberry gel pak. Something to look forward to later in the race. Kinda like dessert.

6) Amphipod belt. Should cold weather prevail and I run in tights, I’ll use this to carry #5.

7) Garmin. Remember the charger, cable and to charge the night before. Hopefully, it won’t go out like it did two years in a row at Mile 16 in San Diego.

8) ASICS DS Racers with tuned orthotic. A lighter race day shoe than the normal ASICS 2150 I’ve typically run in. It has worked well for me this last month. I’ll let you know how it performs in a race. One shoe adorns the TNT toe tag. My ID that will hopefully serve no purpose on Monday.

9) Nike briefs. Only used if I have to use #13. I’ll go “commando if I run in #11.

10) Running shorts. These have a zipper pouch in the back that are the perfect size for the nutrients I’ll need throughout the race. I won’t pack beer money in there like I did in San Diego (which I lost on the freeway pulling out goo.)

11) Arm sleeves. These are the nylon/wicking variety. If race temps are cold, I’ll wear these. They worked well in Sacramento (CIM,) but don’t buy the cotton ones.

12) Skins running tights. I’ve worn these in warm weather and in the cold. They help keep the leg muscles happy. Race day decision on whether I run in these or shorts.

13) Saucony Heavier gloves. I don’t think I’ll need them, but will dictate this one.

14) Race jacket. Will likely stay in the bag unless we have rain or really cold weather.

15) My foam roller. Not the kind you put in your hair, but a portable chiropractor/masseuse that I’ll carry on the plane and use frequently prior to the race to un-kink the back and stretch out the leg and IT band.

16) Race day hat. Depends on the weather. My favorite training hat.

17) Oakley Flak Jacket Sunglasses with two lens options; sunny day or cloudy day. Hoping for sunny day.

18) Smart wool socks lined with body glide. Sorry Thorlos—cotton is not a distance runner’s friend. Smart wool minimizes the chances of producing “cherry tomato” blisters over 26.2 miles.

19) Power Balance bracelet. I’ve talked about this one before. It’s supposed to have magical powers for athletes. I qualified for Boston wearing one, so this one’s making the trip.

This afternoon’s race was a brisk 7:17 pace. Don’t tell my running coach I ran that fast today, but I couldn’t help it. You know it’s a good run when you’re doing the “air drums.” Tomorrow I will visit my running PT and guru, Mark Plaatjes in Boulder for a last minute adjustment to my left ham/glute as well as last minute tips on running the Holy Grail of marathons; the 114th running of the Boston Marathon. Gulp!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fast that like a lowfat donut?

Eleven day countdown. Yesterday presented something I hadn't seen since December--a "goose egg." The first Wednesday I didn't have a run scheduled since December. It's interesting...I've had a ton of people comment and lament on the aspects of taper including; Matt (from DailyMile,) "hate it hate it hate it!!! my log says 0 as well...resisting the urge to drop a 10 miler tonight..."

Me? I am enjoying every minute of it.

Today brought what was supposed to be a recovery run of four miles. After yesterday's odd layoff day and this week's snow, I was bound with energy to run outside on an absolutely gorgeous Colorado day.

I had already got an email and verbal "slap on the hand" (deservedly) from my running coach that I modified his training plan to use level 4 miles during the week and level 5 (long run) miles on the weekend. I took off like a jackrabbit who had been kept in the coop too long with the sun out, cool air, and my new iPod playlist.

What should have been a 8:00 minute average run turned into a 6:49 average paced run. If I was a catholic, I'd be getting wooden ruler on my racing rump by Sister Catherine. "You have been a bad boy!"

I couldn't resist. I'll blame it on the weather, The Who's "Eminence Front" on my iPod and this constant stream of Boston emails and links that has me in a frenzy.

Another "goose egg" day tomorrow followed by a short long run on Saturday. Short long run? Another oxymoron just like the "fast recovery run" I had today.

I know, I know, I know...taper is for rest not for racing. I'll stick to the plan here on out.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Taper Time

As I write, I am 13 days away from the Boston Marathon. Thirteen days sounds kinda catchy so I ask the “crack” marketing department to Google research “13 days” and the best I could come up with was the Cuban Missile Crisis (and related Kevin Costner movie) and “13 Days in Hell” video game. I guess I should have waited until tomorrow, then I could have compared to the 12 days of Christmas since I’m feeling more festive than combative.

Last weekend was a “circle the calendar” run for me—my last long run before starting the much needed and deserved “taper” period. A taper period is the 2-3 weeks prior to a marathon where the miles drastically reduce and you rest the body. Many runners have anxiety over the taper because they feel they will lose their conditioning—I am not one of those runners. I relish the time off and take full advantage of the rest.

The last long run was not one for the timid as it was one of the Runner’s Edge of the Rockies most notorious tough and hilly courses. Our starting point was the Runner’s Roost Aurora and sported a pure asphalt/concrete course that traversed hilly Parker, Colorado, boasted 2,245 feet in elevation gain and decline over 20 miles. Just to make it a tad more challenging, “Mother Nature” threw in some heavy headwinds and crosswinds on the return of our “out and back.” I traded off “drafting” with my running buddy Tim. My peers in the 3:15 pace/training group and I all had a jubilant feeling once we completed the run knowing it was our last long one. I also felt good about the 8 minute a mile average considering how tough the course was..

I recall my first marathon back in 2007 (San Diego Rock and Roll) and one of my goals was to “complete training” which should be every distance runner’s goal as charting 600 miles over 16 weeks and running or cross training six days a week is an admirable goal in and of itself. Given that, you can see why the last long run is a “circle the calendar” event.

My Monday run was another “good omen” as it tends to be one of the better energy runs of the week. I felt I was “holding back” yet averaged a brisk 7:37 pace. Monday also delivered my second Christmas in April surprise—my Team in Training racing singlet for the race complete with a custom screenprint of “Kyra Meyer” who I’m racing in honor of. Kyra lost her life to Leukemia at the age of 16 just last year (catch the blog story at; “I didn’t See This One Coming.”) That was a nice gift indeed. Purple is not my first color choice, but I will wear it proud in honor of her.

Today’s run was a 2/2/2 (two mile warm-up, two mile goal pace, and two mile cooldown)—once again, my energy level was strong and finished with a 7:32 average pace.

My second (or is it third) gift is that my brother Todd has booked a flight to see me run Boston—it will be the first time he has seen me race and combined with my wife cheering me on, that will make it all the more special.

I have to admit with only 30 training miles to go, I am looking forward to not setting the alarm early a few extra mornings in the next week and a half. The exception will be the early alarm for my flight to Boston. Ahhh…the thirteen days of Christmas!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Christmas in April

The anticipation is starting to build. Fifteen days and counting before I board that plane heading to running mecca, or my running Nirvana--the 114th running of the Boston Marathon.

My week started on a "high note" with Ben Haber from the Examiner.Com emailing me to tell me that he'd highlighted me as one of the "Faces of the Boston Marathon" in his online series that writes about the runners that make up the majority of the field in the race--the non-elite runners. The other "high" of the week was hitting and exceeding my fundraising goal for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society totaling $4,497.

The last boost I got showed up in a brown box at my home yesterday. As I've blogged previously here, I didn't understand the constant emails from Adidas promoting the Boston Marathon apparel--the BAA is such a tease. Looking at my travel schedule and Boston schedule I started to get paranoid that I would show up at the expo in search of the long awaited Boston Marathon jacket and they'd be sold out--kind of like the dream where you have to give a speech and you forgot your clothes--PANIC!

Given that, I ordered online from Adidas the "celebration jacket" and running beanie which came in the mail yesterday. You'd think that I would have ripped open the package like a grade schooler at Christmas, but I stared at it for awhile and tended to some other things. I'm "sticking to my guns" and swearing that I will NOT wear the jacket until after the race. I stare at the box for another 15 minutes while I check email and consult with my twitter world and get the following two responses;

DP_Turtle Look, but don't wear! RT @seeksboston26mi: superstitious about get'in my #bostonmarathon jacket b4 the race-should I open the adidas box?

petfxr @seeksboston26mi I am glad u went ahead & bought jacket. It will save u a ton of time standing in line 2.

Given the "green light" from DP_Turtle and petfxr, I open the package. I'm not overcome with excitement because I know that I've got 64 training miles to go including my last 20 mile long run tomorrow, two taper weeks and a the little matter of actually completing the race before I can break the plastic wrapper on the jacket and hat. It would be kind of like looking at the 2010 medal--you can look, but you can't put it on.

This week's adjustments included adding a 1/2 size (to an 11 1/2) to my ASICS DS Racer shoes. While my training 2150's are 11's, the racing shoe has a slightly more narrow fit around the toes and the 14 miles I put on the 11's resulted in some blisters. I broke in the new 11 1/2's on my 8 miler yesterday and I'm digging the lighter weight and it "feels" faster.

Tuesday's track workout was blazing fast by my standards as I ran ten 800's with a 200 recovery between each. I averaged a 6:02 pace which Yasso mathematicians would predict a 3:15 finish. I think I have a 3:15 finish in me, but likely not on the tough and hilly notorious Boston course. Nevertheless, a big confidence booster three weeks away from the race.

I am also going to test drive a pair of Zoot compression shorts with my 20 mile long run tomorrow in Parker, CO with Runner's Edge of the Rockies. I ran the CIM in a pair of long Skins which I've become dependent on in a race. From what I've read, you cannot predict the weather in Boston in April, so I will go equiped with long and short compression tights and make a "gametime" decision on what to wear. I'll update here or on my twitter on how the Zoot compression shorts work although I'd have to admit, it looks like a black girdle. Whatever it takes!

I end the evening last night by tossing the Adidas box with the un-opened jacket and hat in the corner of the bedroom. Christmas will have to wait until roughly three hours and 15-30 minutes (hopefully) after the ninth wave starts on April 19th.

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