Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memorial Weekend Mishaps: The Minnow Would be Lost

I would say that I'm in "way over my head," but that's probably not the analogy that a beginning triathlete wants to use when one of the three events is in my next race is in open water.  With the Denver Triathlon two weeks away and no travel over the Memorial weekend, I had plans to hit all three disciplines hard.  As a runner, I'm least worried about the third leg of my tri--running a 5K.  Been there, run that.

Some call it swimming, others call it drowning
Saturday, was my first day back with my regular running group and the last run of their Spring session.  More of a social run, I planned to run eight which was "no problemo" even after a marathon and pacing a half within the last three weeks.  I ran a brisk but comfortable 7:51 pace in Denver's Cherry Creek area.  With an early start and some humidity and cloud cover, it was a great sweaty run.

The rest of the afternoon, I spent time test driving a triathlon bike at the local bike shop.  Winds were gusting in the heat of the afternoon at 25 mph and literally blowing in forest fire smoke from New Mexico.  I was dehydrated from the run earlier in the day.  Not exactly the blissful experience I was looking for.  The price was too high, and they didn't have my size in the model I was interested in.  They could order one in, but it wouldn't be in until after my race.  No way I was going to use my brother in-law's 20 year old road bike again.  I'd try again tomorrow on Sunday to find my cycling "soul mate." #epicfail

The next objective of the weekend was getting in an open water swim.  Gulp.  For this leg of the triathlon weekend, I'd received an email from local Runner's Roost that they would be demo'ing wetsuits out at Grant Ranch on Sunday along with Mile High MultiSport.  The Denver Triathlon swim is at Sloan's Lake in Denver's City Park.  Unsure about the water temps on race day at Sloan's, I figured I'd better be prepared to do the wetsuit. In my first ever triathlon last year, (the BEC TRI,) I chose an open water swim and it would be the first time I'd wear a wetsuit.  Not smart.

In marathon training, you never try something new on race day and I figure there's a lot more that can go wrong in a triathlon--as in three times as many things can go wrong.  The weather for my "three hour tour" for the swim was absolutely fantastic--sunny skies and no wind.  After checking in, I saw a lot of people that looked like they knew what they were doing.  The 14 year-old kid that checked us in looked like he knew more than I did.  "Act casual...pretend like you belong here," I was telling myself.

I met up with Matt from Runner's Roost and he sized me up for a wetsuit, but had already given out my size so I started to stretch on the next smaller size in the Blue Seventy suits.  Talk about "tight pants."  At least I'd be popular with the ladies...until I got into the cold water.  I stared out at the buoys and according to the map, a full loop would be a one mile swim.  Shit...that looks more like two miles.  I'd done that umpteen times before but it was in the safe confines of my heated local pool.  After stalling for a bit, I started out towards the first buoy.  Similar to last year's BEC Tri, I was having my Gus Grissom moment...not a full on panic, but my heart was racing, and I felt a bit nauseous.  #WTF

"Settle down" I told myself as I started to rely on muscle memory and get into a groove on my stroke.  Things settled down.  Second issue was there was no blue line below me to guide my path.  This was some murky water and there were no swim lane rope buoys either.  Over the course of the mile, I probably swam 1.2 miles at least as I continued to veer off course and redirect to the buoy waypoint.  I felt like a drunk sailor with one leg as I was swimming in an oval pattern--not a straight line.  No.  These aren't Yasso 800's at the local track.  "You need to swim towards that giant orange thing bobbing in the water," I mentally told myself.  I finished with much smoother strokes and breathing, and didn't have an issue with the distance.  That day's course was twice that of the route I'll swim on race day (1/2 mile.)  If I was the Skipper, this minnow would be lost.  More like Gilligan...not as smart as the Professor.

On Sunday I was determined to get a true triathlon bike.  No more 20 yr-old clunker with pedals with their fashionable straps.  I can't believe I podium'ed last year on that thing.  Another local bike shop, Bicycle Village, had a huge sale so I headed there.  I looked and looked, test drove, then looked some more.  I finally found my bike with a killer deal on the price as it was a 2011 model.  Wrong size.  Look some more.  I finally found the sizing pro (Scott) who was kind enough to get me in the right size in the right bike.  This guy knew his stuff.  I did not.  Intimidating.

After almost leaving a couple of times, I was determined to NOT leave empty handed, but also not to leave with the wrong fit.  I finally test drove a Trek Speed Concept 7.0.  This one felt just right.  I sheepishly confessed to Scott that I'd never rode on clips before.  It felt like I was telling the guys in my fraternity that I'd never been with a girl before.  I was a bike clip virgin. Intimidating.  I mumbled to Scott that I'd just use a pair of flat pedals for my race as it was only two weeks away and there's no way, I could learn by then.  "You'll look like a dork with a $3,000 bike and flat pedals."  Too late for that...I didn't tell him I'd already bought a pair with of alloy flats with straps on sale for $29.99.  I would later return them when he wasn't looking. 

Pedals I almost put on my new bike
While they were tuning my bike, I went across the street to REI and bought my first pair of shoes and toe clips as the sale had wiped out Bicycle Village.  Similar (I don't know what the hell I'm doing) experience, but I felt more comfortable dealing with people that also sold camping gear. I walked out with some Shimano toe clips and Giro shoes with some guidance from an employee who was an Ironman triathlete himself.

Back at Bicycle Village, Scott (the fitter) did part one of the fitting for me.  After five hours, I finally owned a "real" bike, but I was late for the family BBQ.   Her maiden voyage would have to wait until Monday.

One of the tips I'd picked up when shopping and sharing my intimidation around toe clips was to practice clipping and un-clipping in a doorway.  With support on both sides, you can't really do any damage.  I also watched a YouTube video which suggested practicing in a grassy area (kind of like when I taught my kids to ride bikes in the park on the grass.)

After the doorway practice, I spun around the neighborhood sidewalks a few times and figured I was ready for this.  I must say, this was probably the most fun I've had on a bike since I was a kid.  I understand why they call it the "Speed Concept."  My rusty 20 yr old bike sulked when I took off.  This thing was flipping fast.  I passed a couple cyclists and didn't topple over when I had to hit the intersection stoplights.  Within a half mile from home on a ten mile loop, I had a flat and had to come to an abrupt stop.  No time to clip out, I fell over.  No damage to me or the bike (thank God,) but slight damage to my ego as cars drove by as I struggled to gracefully get back on my feet.

As I checked the stats on my ride, I showed an 18.1 mph average pace with a fairly hilly route.  Given the 3-4 times I had to slow down to stop, I figured on a course with race adrenaline, my pace can only get faster.  The similar route a week before on the rust bucket really pushing it?  17 mph.  I think I'm gonna like this new one.  Three least three mishaps, but one of my better Memorial weekends.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wolf Pack

Expo at new home of Peyton Manning; Sports Authority
Sloans Lake at dawn in Denver's City Park
BRC Getting Pacers Organized as the sun came up
"You guys might not know this, but I consider myself a bit of a loner. I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack. But when my sister brought Doug home, I knew he was one of my own. And my wolf pack... it grew by one. So there... there were two of us in the wolf pack... I was alone first in the pack, and then Doug joined in later. And six months ago, when Doug introduced me to you guys, I thought, "Wait a second, could it be?" And now I know for sure, I just added two more guys to my wolf pack. Four of us wolves, running around the desert together" (Alan Garner)

I ventured out of my comfort zone again this last weekend and tried something for the first time.  As I blogged about last week, ("Slow is a Four Letter Word,") I had used pace groups in marathons before following the lead wolf--most notably in my first BQ and (still my) PR in a marathon at Sacramento's California International Marathon (CIM)  at 3:21.  Given that experience, you might say I'm a fan of the concept.

Some running buddies at Boulder Running Company had picked up duties as pace group leaders for the Colfax Marathon and were looking for a few good men (and women) to help pace the "Ultimate Urban Tour."

Knowing how much I relied on pacers myself before, I mentally started to place a lot of pressure on myself realizing that people who used pacers had very specific goals in mind.  It's one thing to have a disappointing race myself, but another to let other runners down that may have be running their first every race, or trying for a PR.

Having just run Ft. Collins two weeks prior at the Colorado Marathon, I didn't want to run a full, nor did I want to push the pace as it's obvious that you should be able to run comfortably at the pace you've signed up for.  I went back-and-forth with the pace organizer and was dubbed the 2:45 the half.  A few twit peeps thought I was actually pacing the 2:45 no...not in this guy's lifetime.  My PR in a half marathon is a 1:32 which is just over a seven minute mile pace.  A 2:45 finish would be a 12:30 pace.

Freaking out a bit, I went to the gym on Saturday before the race and set the treadmill to 12:30.  My cooldown is not even that slow, so I wanted to make sure I could consistently hit that pace.  Just above my fast airport pace walk, I shortened my stride and managed to find a cadence that would work.

I checked and double-checked my calculators to make sure I had my math right.  Coming in after the stated goal would be bad...very bad.  The night before I went through the normal rituals of pasta, and going to bed early after making sure the Garmin was charged and clothes were laid out along with contingent clothing for colder than expected weather.

It was an extra early alarm (3:30 AM) as I needed to rendezvous with my partners in crime at the race start in the early Denver darkness to grab my pace group sign with 2:45 half pasted on it.  Prior to joining up, I used a Sharpie to write my intervals on my arm.  I realized before that you can't do math after mile 20 in a marathon, and now know you also can't do math in the car at 4AM.  Twelve and a half minutes after 2:17 is NOT 2:22.  I gave up on that plan and figured I'd be able to add 12:30 and 12:30 over a span of twelve and a half minutes.  Not that I was freaking out under the pressure.

Even though I'd scoped out the corrals at the expo the day before, I was doubting I supposed to be in corral D or E?  What's 12:30 plus 12:30.  Sweating and I hadn't started to race yet.  I nestled into corral E behind the 2:30 guy and started to twirl the sign wondering where the 2:45's were.  I engaged in conversation with nearby runners using my sense of humor to lighten the anxiety of the start and anxiety of being a pacer.  Stomach don't fail me in this race!  No time for bathroom breaks.

Is more than one Elvis called Elvi?
As our corral started, it was clear that some were "cloaking me" but didn't want to acknowledge that 2:45 was their goal.  I had two runners who were running their first ever half marathon.  Meg made the trip from Colorado Springs and her husband was supposed to run the full.  Babysitter plans fell apart so she was the only one with a shot at a medal on Sunday.  No pressure.  A third runner (Kristin?) was running her second marathon.  Doug verbally jousted with me throughout the race sometimes running ahead, sometimes behind me.

I was told I didn't need to carry the stick for the whole race since I had 2:45 pinned to the back of my singlet as well.  Knowing that this was a fairly large race and runners may be looking for the "beacon" to keep them on track, I planned to carry the sign for the whole race and figured it would work my forearms.  The weather was perfect for a race with cool temps at the start, so I skipped the gloves and arm warmers and went with a singlet.  My plan was to not let anyone down and have fun for once in a race.

Another first?  I was going to bring my iPhone to capture some pictures and big video along the way.  Within the first few miles, it was clear that this race was going to warm up.  A couple of the 2:45's who committed to sticking with me for the duration were wearing long sleeve shirts...uh oh.  " you have something under that?"  "You may want to lighten the load as it's going to warm up."  Once the engine overheats, it's hard to cool it down.  I violated a couple pretty basic man rules...never tell a woman what to wear, or telling them to take their clothes off without getting to know them first.

Entering Aurora
With the weather warming up, I was planning on hitting every water station and in fact announced that we would walk through some of them should we be running too much ahead of schedule.  I consistently hit splits over twelve minutes until I hit City Park and the last two miles of the race.  One aspect of the course that I'm not sure I was a fan of was that the full and half only shared City Park in common as the start and finish.  The half went East on Colfax into Aurora and had decent crowd support, but I would have liked to have run through the Broncos stadium with the marathoners.

The advantage of the half course over the full was my first ever route that literally ran through a fire station. (Insert "you're on fire" pun here.)  Very cool and great to see the firemen cheering us on as we ran through the pump house--that definitely pumped us up along with the band outside (see the big video above.)  Somewhere along there, Meg informed me that we'd "lost" Kristin.  Shit.  Bummer.  One wo(man) down.  I'd asked her about her heavy long sleeve shirt and if she'd popped any nutrition on the course.  She didn't ditch the shirt, didn't take in any nutrients and I could tell that she began to struggle with her breathing.  I'm no expert, but I know that if we're on our feet for two hours and 45 minutes, you're gonna need to pump more than water in your system.

I didn't get her Kristin's last name or bib number so I don't know how she fared.  As we were heading back towards City Park on the out and back loop, the sun was fortunately at our backs as the sun was still coming up.  I tried to veer towards the shade.  The sun also cast a shadow on my sign as runners ahead of me would joke, "there he is again, I gotta speed up."  I saw a group of Elvis' and even Little Orphan Annie was out there cheering us on.  I had a few onlookers ask what 2:45 meant and a few nearby runners asked me all sorts of questions? 

How many marathons have you done?
How fast do you normally run?
Are you really gonna carry that sign for the whole race?
Have you run Boston?
Have you done this before?

Long shadows approaching City Park
I tried to keep things light and not talk too much (or more importantly, have them talk.)  I had one veteran runner who kept trying to engage in too much conversation.  At one point, he was on his phone, talking to his buddy about fishing.  Really?!?  Another first.

Two from my wolf pack; Meg and Doug
The math was easier than I thought and as we entered the City Park finish area, with two miles to go, I knew we were good on time, but I wasn't going to cut it too close.  Meg and Doug were right by me and others were still cloaking ahead or behind me.  I told our group we were going to cut the corners on the curves in the park and finish strong.  I told Meg she was looking strong and "you got this!"  We came in to the finish area and as hard as it was, I resisted the "kick" I always throw into gear trying to grab whatever time I can, pass some runners, and look strong for the photo finish.  Final time was right around two minutes under goal.  Better than two minutes over.

Best part of the race was a post on my blog the next day, "I appreciated you being out there today. I have no doubt that had I been running alone I would have given up somewhere around mile 11 and walked. Thank you."

Footnote to the race:  Having suffered from plantar faciitis combined with a high arch, I'm constantly looking for orthotics or insoles to use in my running shoes.  I figured Colfax would be a good time to test out a new pair from Sof Sole.  The name explains the concept in that in a low-profile format, their inserts work with any shoe and provide additional cushioning.  Being worried about having run a marathon a mere two weeks prior, this was the perfect chance to test drive them.  I've used them on training runs, and it was hard to tell a big difference, but I must say that my recovery and condition of my legs and body the day after the race were great.  The gel pads helped with my mid-foot strike and clearly provided a smoother ride.  My only mistake was getting a standard pair...upon looking deeper at their site, they have a high arch version as well.  I have been trending towards more of a minimal shoe and these work great with my race day Brooks Racer ST5's.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Slow is a Four Letter Word

I got myself in trouble again this week.  I've always had a sense of humor that teeters between sarcasm and "foot in mouth disease.  Combine that with the limitation of 140 characters on twitter and I'm often misunderstood in twitterland.

I have long been a fan of the pace group concept in a marathon.  In fact, I owe part of the credit for my first ever BQ to a guy named Peter who lead the 3:20 pace group at my Sacramento, California International Marathon (CIM) race. (2009 post: "I'm Going to Get That Boston Jacket.") 

If you haven't used a pace group leader before, it's fairly straightforward, someone who's comfortable running a certain pace per mile will lead a group over the entire race (normally carrying a sign with the posted finish goal time.)  The one's I have used all used "even splits" over the course.  I fell short in Chicago of qualifying for Boston, but Peter got me there in Sacramento.

With several full and half marathons under my belt, I've often thought it would be fun to be a pace group leader myself.  Through some running buddies, I learned that Boulder Running Company was looking for pace group leaders for the Colfax Marathon.  I was assigned the 2:45 half marathon pace assignment. 

The first thought that popped into my mind was "can I run that slow?"  My PR in a half marathon is a 1:32 which is roughly a seven minute per mile pace.  A 2:45 is a twelve and a half minute pace which is around my airport walking pace--years ago, a travel companion labeled it "Ty's airport pace."  I spend a lot of time in airports, so I move pretty quick to either catch a flight or get out of there.  In training and in races, my brain is wired to run fast.

Enter the controversy.  Getting nervous about the expectations from the runner's I'll be responsible for, I tweeted, that I was worried that I could actually run that slow.  Scott from iRunnerBlog (and #runchat) was confused and thought I was running a slow 2:45 full marathon pace--yeah, right!  Melissa responded, "I think it's awesome and admirable. My first half was 3:02. I wish I'd had a great pacer to help me! PR: 2:04."

Then came the hashtag, #SMH from another twit peep.  I had to look that one up.  "Shaking my head."  I sensed she didn't think my volunteer effort was noble.  Uh-oh.  I offended another runner with my term, "slow."  I sent a few retorts and apologies, but I kept digging a deeper hole. "worried I can actually run that slow." Seriously??? That SLOW?? Such a negative slap to runners like me."  She went on to tell me, "Yeh, if u said that at the beginning of the race to those people struggling to do 12's u would look like a dick & people wld feel like losers."

Wow!  That's some serious wrath.  First off, I "volunteered" for this duty because I wanted to give back to the sport I love.  I'm not getting paid, and I don't expect an honor badge or medal.  Secondly, I don't want to disappoint.  When I relied on pacers, I had high expectations that they would help me hit my goals.  I don't know how many will be in this group, but just as I've always said, before training for any race, my first goal is to actually complete the training.  Whether you are Ryan Hall or running your first ever half marathon at a goal of 2:45, you have accomplished a lot by getting to the starting line.

Another thing about running, is that there is always someone faster than you, so fast or slow is a relative term.  For me, a 12:30 pace is slow, but that doesn't mean you're not a runner or any less of a person than I am.  There are people who are slower than you at 12:30, or don't run at all. 

Despite the "asshole" persona I apparently have with some twitterland folks, I will not strut in like some pompous ass who's better than them.  If you knew me at all, you'd know that's not how I'm wired.  I'm excited for tomorrow and hoping that someone might remember me, like I remember Peter.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Planes, Training, and Automobiles

What's more rigorous than a marathon training plan?  Try logging 50,000 miles a year in the air and fitting in 500 miles on your feet to train for a race.  My take on Planes, Train(ing,) and Automobiles.

Part of the challenge of a marathoner is how to fit in a time-consuming plan with the day-to-day life requirements; family, kids, jobs, applications for "American Idol" and carnival ride operator job applications.  Okay...I made up the part about the carnival job, but the point is life is busy and you're constantly getting tugged in various directions.  We'd all admit family comes first (or it should,) then very quickly running competes with that J word thing that funds our addiction.  No job, no shoes, no races, no bueno.

For many a working man and woman, the job requires you to take whatever talent you have on the road.  This requires a bit of extra planning when you're deep into a training plan and have runs plotted out for the week yet you have to hit the road.

For those that know me, you know I'm a bit anal about my training plans--bordering on OCD.  Regardless of the plan (Higdon, local running coaches, or my current FIRST plan) I have plotted out the usually 16 weeks of training in a spreadsheet.  As I check off the runs, I enter in actuals, and compare to previous runs (with comments noting previous performance, mileage, time, heart rate, how I felt, menstruation cycle, etc.)  As trips come up, I stare down the spreadsheet and compare to my Microsoft Outlook calendar and say to myself, how am I going to do that?

What results is the following (these actually happened.)

1)  Treadmill runs at midnight on a crappy treadmill in a crappy hotel.
2)  Swimming 1500 yards in a kidney shaped motor lodge hotel that's a mere 20' in length.  I'm not that good at math (third lie in this blog,) but that's a lotta laps.
3)  Dreading the Eastern time zone.  Live in Colorado (plus!)  Breakfast meeting in New Jersey at 7:30 AM, means getting up at 3 something in the morning according to your body clock. (Not a plus.)
4)  Fly on Saturday?  No running group that weekend, you're gonna get up early on Friday and run by yourself with two hours of water strapped to your body.  Bleech!

Another crappy self portrait in a great run town
I'm sure there are more (share yours,) but you get the idea.  The good stuff you say?  Pack your run (and swim gear) for every trip and you will get to absorb some amazing runs.  Some of my favorite "training runs" not counting destination marathons?

Barcelona in March.  That didn't suck at all.  Amazing city and way better than that crappy hotel treadmill.
San Francisco.  You kidding me!  All kinds of great routes around that city--none better than the run over the Golden Gate bridge into Sausalito or continue on to Tiburon.
New York's Central Park?  Simply one of the greatest places in the world to run.
Las Vegas.  Not what you'd think as run friendly, but there's something about running down the strip (at the right time of the year) in the morning.  Considering Vegas is a late night town, this is a rarity, but something you need to try once.

Those are at the top of the list, but I've found great routes almost wherever I go.  Ping your virtual world of DailyMile and twitter for suggestions or go to popular sites like MapMyRun and you'll find routes as I have in Kansas City and Seattle (Alki Beach is a "day at the beach" for sure.  Two thumbs up.)

Tips for the traveling runner?  A few to share;

1)  Lunches are rarely an option.  With few exceptions, you're running early or at the end of your business day.
2)  Plan dinners and breakfasts wisely.  Client dinner on Monday and a breakfast meeting on Tuesday means you better run Monday morning and will have to push it to Tuesday evening.  Otherwise, you will curse the 3AM wake-up.
3)  Pack smart.  Check the weather, and pack light for only what you need.  I'm a carry-on only guy when I travel, so don't forget anything, but don't take everything.
4)  Don't forget the Garmin.  If you did, iPhone has an app for that.  It's called Runkeeper.  Solid, but I don't like to always carry something that heavy.  I prefer the iPod or shuffle.
Why don't they have gyms in airports?
5)  If you are a triathlete or cross train with swimming, keep an extra swimsuit, goggles, and cap in your bag.  I've got all that, and a small cheap lock (for the 24 Hr Fitness) in a string backback in a pouch of my travel bag.
6)  Shop the hotels.  You normally don't count on much for the hotel workout facility, but every once in a while, you can score a great hotel at the same price as a Marriott Courtyard as I did this week in Walnut Creek, CA at the Renaissance Club Sport.  They didn't even ask if I actually worked for Oracle when I used that rate.
7)  Dry clean bags in the hotel closet are your friend for the soiled and smelly workout clothes.  I usually keep an extra in my travel suitcase.
8)  Plan smart on the back end.  This is sometimes unavoidable as you will often get home on a Friday with an ominous run on Saturday.  Rest!  Travel will wear you out all on its own.  I've paid for this one with late night client dinners and a long one on Saturday.
9)  Just as a race, be prepared for change.  I have shown up at a hotel in Canada after midnight only to learn I didn't have a room.  Luckily, I did not have to shack up with Del from "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles."

Neal: Del... Why did you kiss my ear?
Del: Why are you holding my hand?
Neal: [frowns] Where's your other hand?
Del: Between two pillows...
Neal: Those aren't pillows! 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Rocky Mountain High

My foam roller ready to assist
Last Sunday was my first marathon in over a year.  My ninth marathon and my attempt to grab my fourth Boston Qualifier.  I have always wanted to run the Colorado Marathon since it's in Ft. Collins, Colorado which is where I attended Colorado State.  A reunion of sorts.  Much to write about as we made a family weekend out of it and my dad would finally get to see me run a marathon--my ninth, his first.  I had quite the entourage that included my dad, stepmom, wife, all three of my kids, sister, brother (their spouses,) and my niece.  A lot of people to either impress or hopefully not disappoint.

Blog warning.  There are running bathroom details that as a runner you've dealt with and understand.  To the general reader, I'll warn you (Potty Paragraph) so you can skip the section if it's TMI.

We decided to drive up to "Fort  Fun" on Friday and settle into the Armstrong Hotel in downtown on College Avenue.  An excellent choice as we needed six rooms in total and the Armstrong provided a boutique hotel environment with a blend of modern and traditional styles.  More importantly as a runner they had comfy beds, and it was walking distance to the buses and finish line.   The hotel sits above a "speakeasy" style jazz club, deli, and Mug's Coffee.  My kinda digs.

One of the many comic moments on Friday night was the waitress at the "Drunken Monkey" who'd overheard that I was running the marathon on Sunday and asked, "have you been training for it?"  Normally, my quick wit and smartass nature would have had some clever retort, but I'd never heard that one before.  "Yes, I have," I politely responded.  Thinking to myself..."just sixteen weeks and over 500 miles if you'd call that training."

Saturday morning, we loaded up the "Griswold wagon" and headed up Poudre Valley to scout the course.  The Colorado Mary is essentially all downhill as it mirrors the Poudre River winding back towards Ft. Collins. (Catch my video describing the course at the first aid station mark below.)

Saturday afternoon, the rest of the family clan started to roll into the city and we caught lunch at Avogadro's Number before heading to the expo.  Avo's was a regular weekend stop when I attended school so it was fun to share my frequent college hideaway with my family.

The Colorado Marathon is definitely a small town affair that sells out quickly with less than 2000 runners in the race.  Having run the Steamboat Marathon which is comparable in size, I knew to expect small crowds along the course and a smaller expo.  The expo was quite cool as Brooks had an old british double-decker bus peddling their kicks and giving some swag away.  I was surprised to find jackets and I "caved" and added another cool running jacket to the run wardrobe. 

The bonus at the expo was a DailyMile  and twitter meetup with some runners I've met (Jon,) and others I felt like I knew well from the virtually run relationships online (Ellen and Lara.)

Post expo, I started to get into my race eve "zone."  I'd joked with my family members that were seeing me race for the very first time that apparently, I'm not much fun to be around as I start mentally preparing for the race in the morning.  Surprisingly, I was quite relaxed as we took in the traditional pasta dinner at Bisetti's a short walk away from the hotel.

The second comical question of the week came from my brother's wife over dinner.  "How often do you change out your tennis shoes?"  I giggled and said, that, "first off, we don't call them tennis shoes."  "Normally 500 miles or six months."  Laughter ensued and good times were had over good food.

Sleep on Saturday night was crap, but I'm kind of used to that.  Having to catch the bus at 4AM, I got up early to dress and get some food into my system.  Auto-pilot kicked in and I headed out into the morning darkness with a banana, bagel and oatmeal into my belly after my first bathroom stop at the hotel.  First grumblings of a not so happy tummy. 

The bus ride was non-eventful as it weaved up the valley towards the point-to-point course start 26.2 miles outside of town.  It was still dark as I hit the porto-potty for the second time that morning.  Shit.  Not good.  Why today?  Telling myself, "happy thoughts, happy thoughts" as I tried to convince myself all was okay.  After peeing in the bushes a couple more times, the hour went by quickly. After sharing "good luck" with my local running club, the race was off.
My plan was to set a PR on this fast course so I set out at a 7:30-7:35 pace and held to it consistently after the first four miles were a bit too fast which I'd expected. 

As I approached mile ten, I had to pee again and figured I would jump into the green voting booth at the next aid station to take a quick pit (piss) stop.  BATHROOM WARNING (skip.)  The problem was I realized this was not a number one issue, but I needed a number two.  Even letting out some air I could tell would have let out more than air.  Shit.  What do I do here.  I can't get in and out of a bathroom in any less than 5-10 minutes without reading my wife's US magazine or tuning into my SeekingBostonMarathon Facebook feed at home (don't mock me, I know you do that too.)  My bowels were grumbling and my mind was racing.  This not only would jeopardize a PR, but my secondary goal of notching my fourth Boston qualifier.  If I sat down, PR and BQ would be out the door, so I was out the door.  Butt cheeks clenched.

Captured my niece Maya around mile 18
BATHROOM Language over (Resume Reading.)  Glancing at the GarminConnect splits after the race showed the bathroom spike accounted for a minute lost on my race.  My pace seemed to slow after mile 14.  As I approached mile 17, Ted's Place was on the horizon along with the first crowds for the race.  Parking was sparse around Ted's and I'd told the ten family fans that they didn't need to get up early and meet me at 17...they could be there at the end of the race.  As I neared the crowd, I was hoping they didn't listen as I needed to see some friendly and supportive faces.  They didn't disappoint and it literally gave me a boost as I headed up the hilly section of the course with their cheers.

My running buddy Steve quiped on Facebook after the race that it's impossible to do math after mile 23.  I'd say my math started to dwindle around mile 20.  While I felt my body was strong going into the race with the FIRST training plan, I was hitting the proverbial wall.  I tried to do the math in my head for what it would take to salvage a BQ.  Eight minute miles would certainly do it...what if I dropped to nine..what's two plus two?  I didn't know.

After mile 20 at Cache La Poudre
At mile 20, I was still at a sub eight minute pace.  My stomach was in knots and my brain was more like Don Knotts. Coach Dave and his wife were at the Cache La Poudre Middle School snapping photos and I got the final dose of encouragement I needed.  He also told me to get on my toes.  Ironic since I'd been working on more of a mid/forefoot strike over this last training session.  With all the swimming, and crosstraining, I needed my strong legs to take over for my depleted system and the tip seemed to help. 

My mind was racing with all kinds of imagery akin to the start of HBO's True Blood.  I had what I considered an "off year" by qualifying for the 2012 Boston Marathon, but not running it.  A tough year emotionally.  I had ten people waiting for me at the finish line.  They were expecting me to qualify again, and I didn't want to face them if the clock had spun past 3:30 which was my BQ qualifying time .  Legs and stomach burning.  I slipped to a nine minute pace around mile 24 then told myself that I have merely a two mile run left to qualify.  Mind over body kicked in and I picked up the pace again. 

Cooling off at the finish
As I rounded the corner and saw that beautiful finish line, I threw in my final kick and passed some old dude who I'd been cloaking for the last mile.  I wanted to finish strong and make my Dad proud.  My emotions as I crossed the finish line overcame me as I slumped to my knees.  I cried.  Perhaps I'd exorcised some demons including the elusive unicorn. 

I skipped the beer tent (a first time for me after a marathon) and finally took care of my bathroom business back at the Armstrong along with a bath.  I had to force lunch down as my stomach was in revolt, but my mind told my gut that it won out.  Take that!

This one was perhaps my most rewarding performance to date.  I missed my PR by seven minutes and thirty nine seconds, but more importantly, I was 58 seconds under the newer (and tougher) qualifying times for the 2013 Boston Marathon.  BQ number four at marathon number nine.  Musical numbers to my ears...I'm back in the club.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Down to the Wire

The votes are all in, but the jury is still out.  All but three miles have been logged in my 16 week training plan and I'm rapidly approaching the Colorado Marathon on Sunday.  So how will I do?  I have an idea yet I have no idea.

Here's what I do know.  As I've talked about frequently here, I've used the Furman University based FIRST training plan which was the basis of the book from Runner's World, "Run Less, Run Faster."  With a book title like that, how can you go wrong?  I'm still waiting for the sequel, "Work Less, Have More Sex."  People keep asking me what I think of the plan.  Those that have used it, swear by it and many PR stories emerge.  Those unfamiliar look at me like I have a third eye, "what do you mean, you only run three days a week?!?"  Complete opposite approach of the Pfitzinger plans which boast up to 70 running miles in a week.  Radical.  Hard for me to say for sure, but my most common answer to what do I think about the plan is "ask me after the race."

Being on the north side of 40 years old vs. the south side, the idea of fewer "pounding" miles was quite appealing. The other 2-3 days of cross-training was also attractive as it; helped the body recover, built core strength, and put me in the pool frequently which is preparing me for triathlon season.  Don't get the impression that the FIRST plan is easy.  The three runs are all quite aggressive and the long runs get progressively faster.  Five 20 mile training runs is also on the "high end" for number of 20+ runs I've done over a given plan.

Even though I'm in "taper" mode, last Saturday was ten miles at marathon pace.  While skeptical running that fast a week away from the race, I stuck to the plan and felt great.  Monday or Tuesday is normally my speed work day and this week had (6) x 400 intervals at a sub six minute pace.  Not exactly my normal "take it easy" taper week.

Over 531.5 training miles have been logged from Colorado, Texas, North Carolina and all the way to Barcelona over sixteen weeks.  It's now up to fate and a few other things.  Rest.  While I could have taken another business trip this week, I did everything in my power to avoid it.  My goal was to get good sleep all week in my own bed.  Sorry Dallas, I'll visit you another week.

Diet?  While I've read Matt Fitzgerald's Racing Weight book, diet has always been the weakest part of my training.  This week, we've laid out a meal plan and will eat right to fuel for this weekend.  From Matt's book, I should weigh around 165 on race day.  I'll be within five pounds of that, but arguably have picked up some muscle mass from all the swimming.  I had no idea what swimming could do for core strength, but imagine being on a weight machine at the gym that works arms and legs for 30-40 minutes straight.  I'm confident the core strength will help me on Sunday as I navigate the downhill course. 

Tuning the temple.  Appointments have been made over the next three days with my chiropractor, massage therapist, and nutritionist.  You might say I've "pist" a lot of money on this.  It's tough to keep an old car in shape, but this will smooth out the remaining tightness and hopefully have me ready for race day.

I have checked and double-checked my registration for the hotel and the race itself.  Even though Ft. Collins is "just up the road" from Denver, it's long enough away to get up there the night before.  We are staying downtown in my College Alma mater's town at a great little boutique hotel, the Armstrong Hotel.  Pasta reservations have been made.

The only items remaining on my list are the items above, figuring out race day gear, and hopefully hooking up with some DailyMile peeps on Saturday.  This isn't Boston, so there's no race day tracking, but I'll do my best to update activities on Twitter and Facebook up to and on race day.  How will I do?  I can tell you one thing, I will be Seeking Boston Marathon.

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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